Oldalképek
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

enemy; an opportunity which no human

wisdom could have produced, and which the most zealous of her patriots could scarcely have hoped for. But it is not simply the opportunity of reducing Great Britain which France will lose by her present inactivity; for her own safety, and that of all her Alerican possessions, will be endangered the moment in which a reconciliation takes place between Britain and America. The King and ministry of Great Britain know and feel that France has encouraged and assisted the colonists in their present resistance; and they are as much incensed against her, as they would be, were she openly to declare war. In truth, France has done too much, unless she intends to do more. Without giving the colonists effectual assistance, it would have been better to have left them wholly unassisted. The British nation, naturally inimical to the French, is anxious for peace with America, that she may turn her arms against this kingdom; and at once gratify her revenge and her avarice. This is now the general language of the people, and of the leaders of the opposition. But any one, who reflects upon the preceding observations, cannot doubt but that whenever peace with America is obtained by Great Britain so may be the conditions of it) the whole British force now on the continent of America will be suddenly transported to the WestIndies, and employed in subduing the French sugar-islands there, to recompense the losses and expences which Great Britain has suffered and incurred in this war, and to revenge the insult and injury France has done her, by the encouragement and assistance which she is supposed to have

secretly given the colonists against Great Britain.” This Memorial was presented about the middle of August. It had no effect; but, on the contrary, as the French ministers saw that the distresses and apprehensions, which the Americans felt, began to press hard upon them, they took that occasion (profiting by their distress) to try to drive a hard and inequitable bargain with them, on the ground of their necessities. Instead of assisting them, they rather added to their apprehensions, by seeming disposed to give up their support. When the account of general Burgoyne's advance, and of his taking Ticonderoga, arrived in France; when the Americans had almost lost all hopes; the French wished to see them driven to despair. They reasoned, that, from necessity, the Americans must surrender their interests into their hands without conditions. On this occasion all negociation with France was at a stand; and mutual reproaches arising, had almost driven matters to an open breach betwixt the commissioners and the French ministry. The commissioners wrote to the Congress, stating their situation. Here, Sir, was a moment that Providence seemed to offer to the good fortune of this country. In this moment, communications of this state of things came to a very private and very inconsiderable individual; they were made to me, with direct explanations, that the Americans were willing to open a treaty with this country, for reconciliation and re-establishment of peace; and that although the acknowledgment of their independency was a causa sine quá non, yet on that point, and on all such points, with which the affairs of America and this country were entangled, they would do every thing to save the honour of their parent country. In what I now disclose I betray no confidences; I discover no man’s secrets; I am authorised and at liberty for all I say. The overture was made by communication of a letter, with explanations thereupon. The letter was dated Paris, 11th September, 1777. It represented, that “ the French ministry still kept them” (the American commissioners) “by their conduct, in a very perplexing state of uncertainty; for although they continued to afford very considerable assistance, yet their caution to avoid a war with England seemed to be redoubled. That if the Americans urged them upon the subject, they shrugged up their shoulders, and said, the Newfoundland ships and the Spanish galleons were not yet arrived. The Americans saw that the Congress would undoubtedly be much

disgusted at this conduct; and suggested

in the letter, that if the English ministers had wisdom enough immediately to acknowledge the independence of America, there was good reason to think that such a treaty might be made with her, as would put Great Britain in a happier and more flourishing situation, than she could possibly arrive at by pursuing any other conduct; and as to the mere point of honour, America, they said confidently, would help them out in that matter. This opportunity, however, they feared would |. irretrievably lost in a short time; as it was natural to think that general Burgoyne's temporary success would probably rekindle the frenzy which had begun to abate in England; the event, therefore, seen in this view, might be considered as equally unfortunate to both countries.”

Overtures of such a nature coming thus to me, an unconnected individual, who had no communications with ministers, as such, nor any right to such communications, what was I to do, or not to do? I decided, in the moment, that the suppression of such an important communication would have been criminal to my country. And yet, Sir, as I would neither commit myself to any individual, nor be so unjust as to commit any person in employment by such a communication, I did not communicate with the minister; I did communicate this matter where I thought it most proper so to do; and by means of which I knew I should have an authentic answer. I said, that communications had come to me, by which I knew positively that there was now, in the present moment, an opportunity of opening a treaty with the Americans; but that an acknowledgment of their independency was a causa sine quá non. I explained, however, that every method to save the honour of the mother country, which could be devised or proposed in the points and forms of business, would be adopted and accepted, so as to cover appearances; and even to aid ministers in the execution. Thus far I went in what I communicated; and said I was ready to go into a full explanation of the whole; but would make that only to cabinet council. I had my answer, “ that the ground was inadmissible in the first instance.” And there this matter dropped; and this one opportunity (such as can never happen j was lost for ever.

After this, in the latter end of September or beginning of October (so my information says; but I will not be positive as to the precise period) the American commissioners renewed their negotiations with the French ministry on a new line of treaty. They formed and communicated a project of a treaty, consisting of several articles, respecting commerce, and the necessary support and protection of it, if entered into. Several of these articles, I think eight or nine, were accorded to, (in November), as a kind of stipulation, or convention; but with conditions annexed, to be reciprocally expected from the Americans. }. therefore stood ad referendum. Several copies of this project in convention were (Dec. 27), by different ships, sent to America; and in this state this matter remained before Christmas. May I be permitted here to refer myself to the House, and to ask, whether, . I had seen the Americans, through extreme pique at the conduct of the French towards them, and in despair of their own affairs, almost of the further existence of their cause; coming to England, and wishing once more to treat: yet when under circumstances by which they were reduced to the lowest ebb; when they had lost all hope in their own resources; when the despaired of any assistance from abroad; still refusing even to have propositions made towards the opening a treaty, unless on the ground of their independency; and when afterward I had known that they and the French had convened in articles and stipulations for commerce, which totally superseded our Act of Navigation; whether I had not ground for saying what I did before Christmas, when I first announced to this House, and perhaps to the country, “ that our supremacy over America was gone for ever; and that our Navigation Act was abolished and abrogated;" and as to the particular state of the negotiations, had I not ground to say that they remained as a convention on a project of a treaty sent to America, but not signed, precisely as I stated it? I wish the fact had been attended to, and acted upon, at the time. It was perhaps even then not too late.

Although the French had continued thus to train on the Americans, and refused to sign any treaty; yet in the moment that the noble .." North) brought forward, in this House, his idea of reconciliation between Great Britain and America; and that the French saw it was such as might be made the basis of a reconciliation; they immediately sent to the American commissioners, and at once told them, they were ready to make and sign an actual treaty with them, on the ground of the project which had been proposed. This is the treaty referred to in that paper which the French minister delivered to his Majesty’s Secretary of State. This treaty, receded by such conduct as the French j towards the Americans, before they saw that they had drawn themselves into the necessity of “signing it; this treaty, into which the French have been precipitated before they'really intended; does not alter my idea of the probability of our having even yet peace with America, if we will but it. the way that leads to it, and the only one that is open. Nothing but the perverseness of our own conduct can cross it. We know that the Americans are, and must be independent; and set we will not treat with them as such. Y. acknowledge it in our own acts, and act and enact under the influence of this idea; and yet we are not to recognise it in the only place where it can be of use, and where the crisis of our affairs demands it. So far as the measure of reconciliation has its basis in the acts which are passed, the legislature of this country has actually and in deed (however we may cover our shame in ...) given up all right of government over the Americans. If government itself retains the least idea of sovereignty, it has already gone too far for that; if it entertains the least hope of peace, I say it has not gone far enough; and every step we shall take to put the Americans back from independency, will convince them the more of the necessity of going forward. Look into the four great acts of their proceedings; slow, but in measured steps; feeling their ground before they set their foot on it; yet when once set, there fixed for ever. Their first great act was their Declaration of Rights, in 1774. The rights there “declared, claimed, and insisted upon,” are incompatible with provincial, and inapplicable to any other than a sovereign independent government, having all the powers necessary thereto within itself. Their next great act of state was the deduction of their reasons for taking up arms in defence of these rights, published in a Manifesto to all the world. Can those reasons and allegiance stand on any ground of agreement? Can they and supremacy stand any where on the same

ground 2 Their next act was the Declaration of their Independency; not suddenly taken up as an ebullition of enthusiasm, or in the bitterness of passion and revenge; but rather as coming on of course, by a train of events, linked together by a system of politics. This Declaration was not made till two years after the first Act, and not until July, 1776; and not even then until they were prepared for their next great Act, their Act of Confederation. After having renounced their allegiance to the crown of Great Britain, and all political connection with the nation; each province (thus become an independent community) formed and co (as an original act and compact of the people) their respective governments; and these, thus formed by a mutual and indissoluble Act of Confederation, have established a great republican empire; which, by principles of mature, and not of politics, necessarily sprung up from the ground whereon their affairs stood. If these people, when they viewed their cause abandoned, as to all assistance which they looked to in Europe; when sinking, as to all appearance of what the utmost exertions of their own resources had done; when clouded with despair; would not give up the ground of independence, on which they were determined to stand; what hopes can there be, and from what quarter, that they will now, when every event of fate and fortune is reversed to us, and turned in their favour; when they feel their own power able to resist, to counteract, and, in one deplorable instance, superior to, and victorious over ours; when they see their cause taken up in Europe; when they find the nations, amongst which they have taken their equal station, acknowledging their independency, and concluding treaties with them as such; when France has actually and avowedly done it; when it is known that Spain must follow, and that Holland will—what hopes can there be, and from what quarter, that they will, all at once, pull down their own new governments, to receive our provincial ones? That they will dissolve their confederation ? That they will disavow all their reasons for taking up arms? And give up all those rights which they have declared, claimed, and insisted upon, in order to receive such others at our hands, as supremacy on one hand will, and defo. on the other, can admit them to ? t is nonsense, not even to be listened to 1 And as to that silly story of their having been willing to rescind their vote of indendency, it has not even ground to set its foot upon. If they give up their independency, they must rescind their whole system, contained in the four great acts of state. That there was a period, in last autumn, when they deliberated whether they should wave the ground of independency, in order to get on the ground of treaty, is true; but the proposition itself went no farther than that; nor was that proposition adopted. Although I am certain, that we shall never conclude any peace, or come to any settlement with the Americans, but by treaty with them as independent states: yet I do not think that parliament should immediately declare them independent. What I wish to urge is, that parliament should extend the powers of the commissioners, to the enabling them to treat, consult, and finally to agree, and acknowledge the Americans as independent; on condition, and in the moment, that they will, as such, form a federal treaty, offensive and defensive and commercial, with us. If the commissioners are not so empowered, they had better never go ; their going will be a mockery, and end in disgrace. I say not these things to embarrass the business of the commission: on the contrary, I wish to give efficiency thereto, and to make plain the way of the commissioners. I hope nobody in the House will think I am acting this part, as though I was to be one of them. I most certainly shall not be one of them; yet I wish the business to have a good issue. Such we may have ; we may have peace with America, if we will but once quit the ground of theory, and take that which lies open before us in fact. Although the French, in order to take advantage of that time which we have lost, have, on a sudden start, signed a treaty with the American commissioners at Paris; it is not however yet ratified by the Congress in America. And if we do not lose more time, we may yet be in America with our propositions before it is ratified. If we do get there in time, and our propositions are such as I have sug. gested, such as come up to the point which the present crisis demands, I have every * confidence, that we shall find in the Americans a preference and a predilection in favour of their old connections. Beside this, if every other part of the ground be taken equal, it will be more their interest to form commercial connections with us,

than with the French; at least, to have, at the same time, such with us as they have with the French. In all the maritime towns of America, commerce is diffused at large ; almost every man that keeps a store is a merchant; but of these, not five, I believe scarce one, in a hundred, understands one word of the French language. How are these, then, to carry on this French commerce : It must fall into the hands of the few who accidentally understand this language. The understanding French, not the having a capital; the having had French, not the having had commercial connections, must become the requisite qualification of a merchant. The many will say to the few: All this is mighty well for you, gentlemen; but it will not do for us; we can have nothing to say to propositions which must be impracticable to us. This, I say, will be the case, if we admit their independency; but if we do not, the greatinterest of the states will not give way to the private advantages of this or that set of merchants; and every other consideration will vanish before their zeal for independency, which they have fought their way up to, and will maintain. Although I may appear perhaps to some to have made a long digression; yet I hope I have brought it to the point under consideration, and have shewn, that if we will take our measures according to the actual circumstances of our situation, which, I say, are not altered by the invidious conduct of the French, we still may have o: with America. The conduct of the rench is a still stronger and additional reason why we ought to adopt this system: and every thing which has relation to our safety, honour, and even perhaps existence, requires that it should be adopted on the instant, directly, without losing one moment, or hazarding the cast of one single event; a hazard which is not within the rules of insurance to calculate. If you do not adopt this-idea of a foederal treaty with an independent nation, let us see how the treaty will commence. The Americans will, before they begin any conversation towards treaty, demand, 1st, That the commissioners withdraw the troops. 2d, That they open the treaty as taking an equal station with the Americans, as one sovereign state with another. 3d, That they engage to reimburse them the expence which we have put them to ; and to secure to them dédomagement for the losses which they have suffered. They know that we are not in circumstances to

[ocr errors]

make either this reimbursement or dédo- and interest of this country is yet on safe magement by actual payment of money; and good ground, if we have the wisdom they will therefore propose that the com- to take it; if we do not, it matters little missioners engage to give up to them Ca. what change we make of our ministers; . nada, Nova Scotia, and the Newfoundland / or what commissions or commissioners we fishery, in lieu thereof; and this they will send to America. If we do adopt it, the insist upon. This I know, and this I affirm. measure will execute itself; and it signifies Now what answer can any of the commis- very little what ministers we keep, or sioners devise to give to these demands ? | whether there be any at all. Some genIf they treat with the Americans as with | tlemen, I see, laugh. I remember the revolted subjects whom they wish to re- time, and a very critical one, too, in the claim, and whose peace they must pur last war, in actual time of war, when for chase at any rate, they must either risk all several days there was no minister in this peace in the very threshold, or agree to country. When, in the year 1756, I came these cessions. On the contrary, the ac-over from America, with the plan and pro. knowledging the Americans as independent posal of changing the object of the war, states debarrasses this business of all such by making a direct attack on Canada, difficulties; for what claim of any such commenced by the siege of Quebec; I was sort can any independent state with whom in town for several days, without any body you are at war ever have? Had any nation being able to tell me to whom I was to ever such? And did any ever make such? address myself. Mr. Fox was just then It is not only become necessary to our gone out, and no successor was as yet situation, and the state of things, that we fixed upon. At last I had the pleasure to should acknowledge in politics what does find that Mr. Pitt became the minister ; actually exist in event; but, rebus sic stan- and from that happy moment commenced tibus, it is become the wisest and most the era of all the successes and glories of politic measure that Great Britain, re, the last war. Now here, if an individual specting herself, can now take. Her may be permitted to express his private Act of Navigation, which I must always wish; I should wish that the present midistinguish from the acts of trade, which nisters would advise his Majesty to take is an Act to encourage British seamen and that same great man, now lord Chatham, shipping, will then give to British seamen to his councils, and to their aid; and that and shipping those preferences and advan- they would, as the ministry of the former tages which the American seamen and reign did, lend him their majority. In the shipping have now the sole profit of; and moment in which it was known that he she will not lose, in the profits of her own had a lead in the councils, and the directrade, more than she now incurs expence tion of the forces of this country, in that in protecting that of America. If this was moment we should have peace in America, the proper time for such discussion, I could and should lower the haughty crest of shew this to demonstration throughout the France. whole system. If I could entertain an Thus much as to the state of our negoidea that any man in this House hoped to ciations with America. In my opinion, regain the dependency of America, I would the state of the French negociation does shew what that dependency would be. It not make any alteration in them. We is enough now to say that it would be a never could have obtained peace without delusive and a ruinous one to the interest acknowledging the American indepenof this country; and that the supremacy | dency; we never could have obtained any would become dangerous to the constitu- exclusive terms of commerce. The French tion of it. It is enough, perhaps too much, I treaty is not exclusive ; and the ground is to bave said and stated what I have done. now open to us, if we are not too proud to I only throw it out to try the sense of the tread upon it. If we lose no more time, House. If they should so see their inte- we may now have just as good terms as we rest, as to think this measure a proper one, could before have had. And whether we I should be ready to explain the whole, do it at first or last, with a good grace, or and to move it; nay, I am even ready grudgingly and of necessity, the event will now. I have a motion to that purpose in be the same; we must finally acknowledge my pocket: but it is too much to be risked the independency of the free states. On hastily. The only use, therefore, that I the other hand, there is rather an advanwish to make of the doctrine I have held, tage to be derived from this French nois, to convince the House, that the power tice; it may oblige ministers to think of

« ElőzőTovább »