The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons: Volume 10, 1737-1739. Originally published by Chandler, London, 1742.
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Mr. Alderman Perry.
March 30th, the House resolved itself into a Committee of the whole House, to consider of the said Report, which Mr. Alderman Perry, (according to Order) made from the Committee of the whole House, to whom it was referr'd to consider of the Petition of divers Merchants, Planters, and others, trading to and interested in the British Plantations in America, in behalf of themselves and many others.
Mr. Alderman Perry being in the Chair, several Witnesses were examined to prove the Allegations of the Merchants Petition. Mr. Murray the Counsel for the Merchants made a Speech at the Bar, to shew the Justice of their Complaints, and they being directed to withdraw, William Pulteney Esq; rose and spoke as follows:
'The amazing Instances of Cruelty, Barbarity, and Injustice, which we have heard proved at the Bar of this House, to have been exercis'd by the Spaniards upon his Majesty's Subjects, might justify mein making a Motion, for our enquiring into the Causes of the Nation's having suffered so often and so long, without having ever once shewed a proper Resentment: But as some Gentlemen might perhaps think, this would be carrying the Thing farther than it ought to be carried at present; I shall leave those who are to blame, if there be any such, to the Reproaches of their own Conscience, and proceed to examine the several Sorts of Insult, and Injuries, that have been put upon the Nation; because I am sure, the least we can propose to do upon this Occasion, is to vindicate and establish, as far as can be done by any Resolutions of this House, those Rights and Privileges, which the Spaniards have, either by their own Rashness or our Pusillanimity, been encouraged so frequently, so manifestly, and so contemptuously to violate.
'But before I begin, Sir, I must observe, that this is not the first Time our Merchants have applied to this House for Redress; forthey applied twice before, but, I am sorry to say it, ineffectually. Upon each of their former Applications they represented to us, how they had been ravaged and plundered; and as they, at each Time, fully proved their Allegations, they ought then to have met with Redress: A full and immediate Reparation ought then to have been peremptorily insisted on; and upon its being refused, or unreasonably delayed, our Ministers ought to have advised his Majesty to declare War: This, Sir, they would have done, if they had not had a greater Regard for their own Ease and Security, than they had for the Honour and Interest of the Nation.
'The Rights of this Nation, Sir, upon which the Spaniards have already encroached, and which they now dispute, are in themselves distinct; and though they come under several separate Heads, yet each of them is of Importance enough to have roused any Ministry, excepting our own, before this Time, to a just Resentment. The first Right I shall take notice of, is that which our Merchants and Sailors have, to sail with their Ships on any Part of the Seas of America, provided they do not touch at any Place possessed by the Spaniards, with a Design to carry on a Trade or Traffick with the Inhabitants. This is a Right, Sir, which is common to us with all other Nations; and therefore, by allowing ourselves to be disturbed in the Enjoyment of such a Right, we not only betray the Right of our own Subjects, but we betray those of Mankind in general. A Nation may, when not restrained by particular Treaties, forbid Foreigners to sail to, or traffick in, the Ports, Hawens, or Creeks, within their Dominions, because in these they may have an absolute Property; but no Nation can have such a Property in the open Seas, as may intitle them to interrupt the Ships of other Nations, in their Passage to and fro, upon those Seas, about their lawful Business. A Man's Ship is his House, and it is by the Law of Nations a Trespass to enter into it against his Will, unless he that enters has some Dominion or Jurisdiction over him. Accordingly, the Spaniards have, ever since they first got any Possessions in America, made it unlawful for the Ships of foreign Nations to sail to any of the Ports or Havens, or other Places possessed by the Subjects of the King of Spain, in that Part of the World, in order to carry on any Trade or Traffick with the Inhabitants, excepting when the Subjects of a Nation at Peace with them were driven by Stress of Weather, or Want of Provisions, or Pursuit of Pyrates into their Ports or Harbours; but they never could have, by the Law of Nations, nor have they ever, till of late Years, pretended to any Dominion or Jurisdiction over the open Seas of America, nor to any Right or Title to enter into and search the Ships of foreign Nations sailing upon those Seas. They therefore can have no Right to interrupt, much less to search any British Ship, sailing upon the open Seas of America, unless they have got it by some particular Treaty between the two Crowns.
'This, Sir, naturally leads me to examine, whether by any Treaty now in Force, they have acquired any such Right; and to me it appears they have not. The 8th Article of the Treaty made in the Year 1670, which is the Foundation of all our succeeding Stipulations with Spain, relating to the American Trade, says, 'That the Subjects of the two contracting Parties respectively, shall forhear and abstain from failing to, and trafficking in, the Ports and Havens, which have Fortifications, Castles, or Warehouses, or in other Places possessed by the other Party.'— Consequently the Subjects of both may lawfully, with regard to one another, sail to, and traffick in, every Port, Haven, and other Place in America, not possessed by the other; and that both Subjects may do this the more freely and securely, it is, by the 15th Article of the same Treaty, expresly stipulated,— 'That the Freedom of Navigation ought, by no Manner of Means, to be interrupted, when there is nothing committed contrary to the true Sense and Meaning of that Treaty.'— Which evidently shews, that no British Ship ought to be so much as interrupted in her Navigation by any Spanish Ship, unless she is actually found trafficking in some Places possessed by the King of Spain. And this will be still more evident, if we consider the whole of this 15th Article; for by the first Part of it, it is declared, — 'That that Treaty shall no Way derogate from any Preheminence, Right, or Signiory, which either the one or the other of the contracting Parties, have in the Seas, Straights, or fresh Waters of America; and that they shall have and retain the same, in as full and ample a Manner, as of Right ought to belong to them.'— Then follow these Words: 'Be it however understood, that the Freedom of Navigation ought, by no Manner of Means, to be interrupted, when there is nothing committed contrary to the true Sense and Meaning of this Treaty.'— From hence we may see, that the last Part of this Article is by Way of Exception to the first; and that though each Party is to continue to enjoy every Preheminence, Right, and Signiory, he before held, yet neither Party is to make use of any such Preheminence, Right, or Signiory, so as to interrupt the Freedom of Navigation, when nothing has been committed contrary to the true Sense and Meaning of the 8th Article before-mentioned.
'From what I have said, Sir, it is evident, our Subjects have such a Right as I have mentioned; and therefore my first Motion shall be, that it is the Opinion of this Committee, that it is the natural and undoubted Right of British Subjects, to sail with their Ships on any Part of the Seas of America, to and from any Part of his Majesty's Dominions; and that the seizing and confiscating such Ships, as are not sailing and trafficking in the Havens and Ports which have Fortifications, Castles, Magazines, or Warehouses, or in other Places possessed by the Subjects of the King of Spain, is contrary to Equity and Justice, and a manifest Violation of the Treaties subsisting between the two Crowns.
'But, Sir, as it would not, perhaps, be thought fair to desire a Question upon this Motion, without having previously given you Notice of all the following Propositions or Motions, I intend to make upon this Occasion, I shall state and explain every one of them regularly, in the Course I am to make them, before I desire your Opinion upon the Proposition I have now made. For this Purpose I must acquaint you, that the next Right, which I think now ought to be established by a Resolution of this House, is, that which the Subjects of Great-Britain have, to carry in their Ships all Sorts of Goods, Merchandize, or Effects, from one Part of his Majesty's Dominions to any other Part of his Majesty's Dominions. This Right, Sir, is likewise a Right, which we enjoy in common with all other Nations; for the Subjects of every State have a Right to carry in their Ships whatever Goods they please, from one Part of their Dominions to another, unless the Transporting of such Goods be prohibited by a Law amongst themselves. In this Case it is ridiculous to talk of Goods made contraband by the Laws of any other Nation; because no Nation has a Right to prohibit the Subjects of any other independent Nation, to transport any Sort of Goods from one Part of their own Dominions to another. The Spaniards may as well pretend that we shall not transport Gold or Silver, or Logwood, from Bristol to London, as to say, that we shall not transport any such Commodity from Jamaica to London; and they might as well send their Guarda Costa's into the British Channel, to search our Ships in their Passage from Bristol to London, and to seize them, if any such Goods should be found on board, as to send Guarda Costa's to search our Ships on their Passage from Jamaica, or any other of our Dominions in America, to London, and to seize them, in Case of their finding any such Goods on board. Indeed, as Usurpations are Things of a quick Growth, and extremely fertile, if we continue in our present Lethargy but a few Years longer, I do not know but I may hear, that the Mouth of the Thames is beset with Spanish Guarda Costa's, in order to seize all British Ships, sailing in or out, that shall be found to have on board what they may please to call contraband Goods: Nay, I do not know but this might have happened already, if it had not been for our Neighbours the Dutch, who, I believe, draw most of our Spanish Gold and Silver away from us; and therefore would not tamely allow a Trade, even of ours, to be interrupted, by which they are so great Gainers.
'Contraband Trade, Sir, is a Trade that never can take Place but in Time of War. To talk of a contraband Trade in Time of Peace, is ridiculous, because all Treaties, not only betwixt the Spaniards and us, but betwixt us and any other Nation, define contraband Goods to be Arms and Provision carrying to an Enemy. These Goods are specified in the Treaties, and it is expresly declared that these, and no other, shall be deemed contraband. The Trade therefore in Dispute betwixt us and Spain is properly a prohibited Trade, and there is no manner of Doubt that any Nation not restrained by particular Treaties, may make a Law for prohibiting the Importation or Exportation of any particular Sort of Goods they please, into or from their own Dominions. Of these Foreigners who trade with them are obliged to take Notice; and may be punished, if they trangress the Laws of the Country with which they trade: But Foreigners who have no Design to carry on any Trade in that Country, nor to touch at any of its Ports, have no Occasion to take the least Notice of what Goods are prohibited in that Country; nor can they be punished, tho' they sail, in the open Seas, along the Coasts of that Country, with such Goods on board; for it is the Law of a particular Country alone that makes Goods prohibited; and where the Laws of that Country have no Force, the Goods cannot be supposed to be prohibited.
'Now, Sir, with regard to British Ships, trading to or from any Port in Old Spain, they may have prohibited Goods on board, and may, in a proper Manner, be searched by any Spanish Officer, properly commissioned for that Purpose; but with regard to any British Ship trading to or from any Port in New Spain, or in any of the Spanish Dominions in America, it is ridiculous to say she can have any particular Sort of prohibited Goods on board, and consequently all the Goods on board, of whatever kind, must be so, and Ship and Cargo may be seized and made Prize of: Nay, if she had not one Shilling's Worth of any Sort of Goods on board, the Ship may be seized and made Prize of; but in either Case, she is not seized for having contraband Goods on board, but for having been engaged in an unlawful Trade.
'This, Sir, is the State of the Case with respect to prohibited Goods; and if we examine the two fundamental Treaties between Spainand us, I mean the Treaties of 1667 and 1670, we shall find them exactly agreeable to the Case as I have stated it. In the Treaty of 1667, which regulates the Trade between Britain and Spain in general, there is Mention made of prohibited Goods; but every one may see, that wherever there is any Mention made of the Word Prohibited, it relates to the Trade between Britain and Old Spain; and with respect to that Trade, it is determined by that Treaty, what Sort of Goods shall be deemed prohibited; and a Method is particularly prescribed, which the Spaniards are obliged to observe, when they visit British Ships, bound to or from any of the Ports of Old Spain, in search of prohibited Goods. Whereas in the Treaty of 1670, which was made expresly for regulating our mutual Affairs in America, the Word Contraband is not so much as once mentioned in the whole Treaty; and the Reason is very plain; for where there is no Trade, there can be no such Thing as prohibited Goods; and as all Trade in that Part of the World, between the Subjects of the two contracting Parties, was by that very Treaty expresly forbid, therefore it would have been absurd to have made any particular Regulations with regard to the Species of Goods, in which their Trade was to be carried on.
'I know, Sir, the Spaniards pretend, that those Goods which they ridiculously call contraband, are Goods which can be had no where but in their Plantations in America; and that therefore, if any such Goods be found on board any of our Ships in those Seas, it is a certain Proof that such Ships have been carrying on an unlawful Trade on their Coasts in that Part of the World: But I likewise know, Sir, that this Fact is false. There are no Goods that can be found in the Spanish Settlements, but what may be found, and may be purchased, in our own Settlements; even Spanish Pistoles and Pieces of Eight may be found in our Settlements, without any of our Subjects having been engaged in an unlawful Trade with their Settlements; because, besides the lawful Trade now carried on between our South-Sea Company and their Settlements, the Spanish Governors themselves often send to our Settlements for Provisions; these Provisions they purchase either with the current Coin of Spain, or with the Goods of the Produce of their Settlements in America; nay, I am told, Sir that it wou'd be found impossible for the Spanish Settlements to subsist, for want of the Necessaries of Life, were they not supply'd by our Plantations in this Manner. These Goods, or this Money, being thus lawfully brought to our Settlements surely our Ships may take them on board, and may bring them to Britain, without having ever been engaged in an unlawful Trade with the Spanish Settlements in America.
'But supposing, Sir, that some Spanish Gold or Silver, either Barrs, or in Pistoles and Pieces of Eight, or a Parcel of Goods of the Growth of the Spanish Settlements in America, had been originally brought from thence by means of an unlawful Trade; suppose such a Thing could be fully proved, which I think is impossible; yet if those Effects be once landed in any of our Settlements, and there sold to a fair Purchaser, and by him put on board a Ship, in order to be carried to any other Port in the British Dominions, I insist upon it, that the Spaniards have no Right to search that Ship, and much less to seize and make Prize of her, or of any Part of her Cargo; for nothing can intitle them to seize, and make Prize of a British Ship, but her being actually found trafficking in the Ports, Havens, or Places possessed by the Subjects of the King of Spain in America. Surely, Sir, an illicit Trade with the Spanish Settlements in America, does not fix such a Vitium reale upon the Goods so brought from thence, that they may be seized or reclaimed by the Spaniards, wherever, and whenever, they can afterwards find them; and that notwithstanding their having been sold to a fair Purchaser in an open Market. This would be allowing the Spaniards a greater Privilege with respect to Goods purchased from them at an equitable Price, though by means of an illicit Trade, than is usually allowed to an Owner of stolen Goods by any Law in the World. It is a Priviledge which was never granted them by any Nation; and if we should through Fear of a War make them such a Concession, I should expect that they would soon pretend to come and search our Bank, and all our Goldsmiths and other Shops in London, in order to seize and carry off all the Spanish Gold and Silver they found; for if they can, by the Means they have used, but once obtain one unjust Concession, no Man can tell how far they may afterwards go, or where their Compassion towards us may induce them to stop.
'Upon this Point, Sir, I have been the more particular, because I think the Spanish Ministers, and our Ministers together, have by their Memorials quite confounded it. By confounding the Treaty of 1667, with that of 1670, the Spanish Ministers have insisted, and ours seem to have admitted, that there may be such a Thing as contraband Goods on board British Ships, sailing in the Seas of America; which I have shewn to be impossible: With respect to our South-Sea Company's Ships, they may I admit carry on a prohibited Trade, because they are by Treaty allow'd to have a Trade under certain Restrictions with the Spanish West-Indies; but no other Ship of ours being by Treaty allow'd to have any Trade with them; they never can fall under the Intention of the Treaties made to regulate the South-Sea Trade: Therefore, I am surprized to find, that our Ministers allowed the Word Contraband to be brought into the Dispute; at least I am surprized, that upon its being first mentioned, they did not explain the Point much more clearly than I find they have done in any of their Memorials; for this seems to be the principal Point in Dispute between us, and ought therefore to have been explained in the most clear and succinct Manner.
'As this has not, in my Opinion, yet been done, and as it is a Matter of great Importance, I think, Sir, it ought to be done by this House; and for this Purpose, the next Motion I shall make, shall be for this Committee, to resolve that it is the indisputable Right of the Subjects of Great Britain, to carry in their Ships all Sorts of Goods, Merchandize, or Effects, from one Part of the British Dominions, to any other Part of the British Dominions; and that no Goods, Merchandize, or Effects so carried, are by the Law of Nations, or any other Treaty subsisting between the two Crowns, to be deemed or taken as contraband Goods, and that the searching of such Ships on the open Seas, under Pretence of finding contraband Goods, is highly injurious to the Trade of this Kingdom; a Violation of the Law of Nations, and an Infraction of the Treaties subsisting between the two Crowns.
'I must now take Notice, Sir, of the Right which the Subjects of Great Britain have to Possessions in the Province of Jucatan, and to cut Logwood in the Bay of Campechey. This is a Right peculiar to this Nation; but it is a Right which the Spaniards cannot, with the least Shadow of Reason, controvert, because we were in Possession of Lands in that Province, and were in Use to cut Logwood wherever we pleased in that Bay, long before, and at the Time of the Treaty of 1670; and since by the 7th Article of that Treaty it is expresly stipulated, — 'That the King of Great Britain, his Heirs and Successors, shall have, hold, keep, and always possess, in full Right of Sovereignty, Signiory, Possession, and Propriety, all the Lands, Countries, Islands, Colonies, and other Places, be they what they will, lying and situate in the West-Indies, or in any Part of America, which the said King of Great Britain and his Subjects now hold and possess; insomuch that they neither can nor ought hereafter to be contested or called into Question, upon any Account, or under any Pretence whatsoever;'— Therefore it must be granted, we have an uncontestable Right to possess the same Lands in that Province, and to cut Logwood in that Bay; unless it could be shewn, that we have by some Treaty since that Time given it up. But so far otherwise, that this Treaty, and this very Right, has been confirmed by every Treaty, between the two Crowns, since that Time; and by the first Article of the Treaty of Commerce at Utrecht, this Right is not only confirmed, but farther explained, by the Addition of these remarkable Words: — Without Prejudice to any Liberty or Power, which the Subjects of Great Britain enjoyed, either through Right, Sufferance, or Indulgence.'
'But, Sir, to put this Matter beyond all Dispute, I must acquaint you, that as soon as the Spaniards began to contest this Right with us, which was very soon after the Treaty of Utrecht, notwithstanding the Words I have mentioned, his late Majesty referred it to the Board of Trade, and that Board, after a strict Enquiry, and full Information, reported,— 'That the said American Treaty did establish a Right in the Crown of Great Britain to the Languna de Termines in the Province of Jucatan, and the Parts adjacent; those Places, at the Time of the Treaty, and for some Years before, being actually in the Possession of the British Subjects.'
'From what I have said, Sir, it is plain, that this Right is still in the Crown of Great Britain, and therefore the 3d Resolution I am to propose shall be, That it may be resolved, that the Subjects of Great Britain did hold, and possess Lands in the Province of Jucatan in America, antecedent to and at the Time of the Treaty of 1670; which Treaty confirmed the Right, to every contracting Party, of such Lands or Places, as either did at the Time hold and possess. And that the Subjects of Great Britain then had, and have at all Times since claim'd a Right of cutting Logwood in the Bay of Campechey, and enjoyed the same without Interruption till of late Years: Which Right seems further particularly secur'd to us, by the Manner in which the first Article of the Treaty of Commerce at Utrecht, confirms the Treaty of 1670, with these remarkable Words;— 'without Prejudice to any Liberty or Power, which the Subjects of Great Britain enjoyed, either through Right, Sufferance, or Indulgence.
'I am now come, Sir, to the last Right, which I shall take Notice of upon the present Occasion; which is that Right our Subjects have to gather Salt on the Island of Tortugas, an uninhabited Island in the West-Indies, which the Spaniards say belongs to them; but by what Right I do not know; for they have neither Fort, Castle, nor Warehouse, upon the Island, nor any other Sign of Possession that I know of. However, suppose they have the Property, or rather the Dominion of that Island, 'tis certain we were in Use, and claimed a Right, to gather Salt there, before and at the Time of the Treaty in 1670; therefore this Right was confirmed to us by that Treaty, and reconfirmed by the Treaty of Commerce at Utrecht: But this is not all, Sir, with respect to this Right; we have an express and a particular Convention between Spain and us to plead in its Favour. By the 3d Article of the Treaty of Commerce between Great Britain and Spain, concluded at Madrid in the Year 1715, this Right or Privilege is expresly confirmed in these Words: — 'His Catholick Majesty permits the said Subjects (meaning British) to gather Salt in the Isle of Tortugas, they having enjoyed this Liberty in the Reign of King Charles II. without Interruption.'
'From all these Treaties, and from a Possession almost uninterrupted for above 60 Years, one would have thought, Sir, the Spaniards would never have attempted to disturb us in the Possession of a Right, so often, so expresly, and so particularly confirmed; but no Words, no Treaties, can defend the Rights of a Nation, when their Sword seems to be rusted in its Scabbard. Notwithstanding all these Treaties, the Spaniards, about six Years since, attacked our Fleet of Merchant Ships, that was gathering Salt on that Island, fired several Broad-sides upon one of his Majesty Ships of War, serving as their Convoy, took and made Prize of four of the Merchant Ships, and would have taken a great many more of them, if it had not been for the good Conduct and valiant Behaviour of the Gentleman that commanded the Man of War, then serving as their Convoy; who, notwithstanding the great Superiority of the Enemy, kept them in Play, till most of the Merchant Ships got off; and thereby shewed to the Spaniards, that their Impunity was not owing to the Cowardice of our Sea-Captains, but to the Tameness of our Ministers. As that Gentleman then shewed that he had Courage to offend, as well as Conduct to defend, I hope if we do come to a Rupture with Spain, he will be one of the first that shall be commissioned.
'This Outrage, Sir, was not committed by Stealth, or by Persons not properly commissioned: It was not committed by common Guarda Costa's, who, often, have their Commissions only from the Spanish Governors in America. No, Sir; it was committed openly, avowedly, and by Spanish Men of War, bearing the King of Spain's Commission, and having express Instructions from his Governors for what they did.
'These Instructions, Sir, were not to persuade, but to compel, as all Instructions to Ships of War ought to be; for Fleets or Armies were never, till of late Years, sent out as Orators or Ambassadors; they were never sent out but against those that had been found to be obstinate; and the Obstinate were generally at last obliged to pay the Charges of sitting them out.
'For my Part, Sir, I am surprized, that such an open and avowed Insult upon the Flag of the Crown of Great Britain, was not pursued with immediate Vengeance: I am surprized we had the Patience to send to the Court of Spain to demand Satisfaction and Reparation; and yet, Sir, I don't find that we have hitherto received any Satisfaction for the Affront, nor any Reparation for the Damage done. Nay, the Spanish Court seems to mind it so little, that they have not so much as once mentioned it in their last Memorial. This Affair, I must say, Sir, puts me in mind of the Story of a Gentleman, who, upon receiving a Box on the Ear, asked him that gave it, if he was in Jest or in Earnest; and upon the other's answering, he was in great Earnest, the honest Gentleman replied only, I am glad you are, Sir, for I do not like such Jests. Whether we had our Joke upon this Occasion, I do not know; but I hope the Nation will not content itself with returning a Joke for such a serious Blow.
'It is not Restitution, Sir, it is not Reparation, that can atone for such an avowed Insult; nothing can satisfy the Honour of the British Flag, but the Inflicting of a condign Punishment upon those Captains that committed the Outrage, or upon the Spanish Governor that gave the Instructions. Either the one or the other must be hung up, and, I think hung in Chains too, upon the Island where the Outrage and Robbery was committed, as a Monument of British Resentment. If we are negociating, if we continue to negociate, this ought to be insisted on as a Preliminary; and if it is not granted as a Preliminary, we ought immediately to break off Negociations, and revenge ourselves upon the Country, that dares to protect such Criminals; for if we allow such an Affront as this to pass unrevenged, I will take upon me to foretel, that the Spaniards will perform no Promise they make to us, nor observe any Treaty they conclude.
'However, Sir, I shall be for leaving it entirely to his Majesty to determine, what Satisfaction or Reparation ought to be deemed sufficient; but as to the Right we have of gathering Salt in that Island, I think it ought to be asserted by a Resolution of this House: Therefore the 4th Proposition I shall make to you, shall be, to resolve, that the attacking of a Fleet of Ships gathering Salt in the Island of Tortugas, then under Convoy of one of his Majesty's Ships of War, by two Men of War belonging to the King of Spain, firing on the Convoy, and taking four of the said Ships, was a notorious Infraction of the Convention sign'd at Madrid, December 14, 1715, and a high Insult on the Honour due to the Flag of Great Britain.
'Having thus, Sir, mentioned and explained the several Rights of this Nation in America, which I take to be of such Consequence, that they ought to be particularly established and asserted, in the most solemn and the most explicit Manner, by the Resolutions of Parliament; I shall next take Notice, that it appears that the Court of Spain, though it does not in direct Terms deny that we are entitled to some of these Rights by the Treaties I have mentioned, yet that it raises so many Difficulties, and claims such Privileges as in the main amount to a total Prohibition of all the British Navigation and Trade in America. It has likewise been proved at our Bar, that the Subjects of this Nation have been disturbed and interrupted in the Exercise of every one of them, by the Spanish Guarda Costas in America. The Spaniards have of late Years not only seized and confiscated our Merchants-Ships for carrying on their lawful Trade in the Island of Tortugas and Bay of Campechey; but they have stopt, searched, and plundered them, for sailing upon the open Seas of America; and have even seized and made Prize of them, for transporting some Sorts of Goods from one Part of his Majesty's Dominions to another, in manifest Violation of the known Rights and Privileges of the British Nation.
'These are Rights, Sir, which are all so firmly established to us by Treaties; they are Rights which we have been so long in Possession of, that I am surprized how the Spaniards could find a Pretence for controverting any one of them; but when I consider the great Superiority of our Naval Force, and the great Expence we have been at of late Years in supporting that Naval Force, and in fitting out almost every Year formidable Squadrons, I am much more surprized to find, that the Spaniards have been so long allowed not only to controvert, but actually to interrupt and disturb us in the Possession and Exercise of those Rights. If they had rested satisfied with denying that we had any such Rights; if they had refused to acknowledge them in direct and explicit Terms, we might, for the Sake of Peace and Conveninency, have submitted for a short Time to such a Piece of Injustice; but their plundering and making Prize of our Merchant-Ships, for exercising any of those Rights, is an Injury which we cannot in Honour submit to; and their pretending to stop, search, or seize, under any Pretence whatsoever, those British Ships, which they find sailing upon the open Seas, either in America or elsewhere, is an Usurping of a Right or Dominion which is inconsistent with that Trade, which is the Life and Soul of this Nation; and therefore claimed our utmost Attention, in the very Beginning. We all know, Sir, how soon Proscription establishes a Right: Usurpations of every Kind gather Strength from their Continuance, and that which was at first a most unjust and a most violent Usurpation, may at last become a settled and an uncontrovertable Right.
'I must confess, Sir, that from our Conduct of late Years, I am apt to suspect, there are some against us, who think the Matters now in Dispute between Spain and us, of so little Consequence, that no one of them is worth our contending for. If there be any such Gentlemen in this House, it would be easy to shew, that they are most egregiously mistaken; it would be easy to demonstrate, that every one of the Rights I have mentioned, is of such Consequence to our Trade (which is the chief Support of our Riches and Power, and the only Support of our naval Power) that we ought to contend for it as if we were contending pro aris & focis,; but I cannot well suppose there are any such Gentlemen in this House, and therefore I shall not at present enlarge upon this Point; because by our being now in a Committee, I have a Privilege of speaking again upon the same Subject; and that Privilege I shall beg Leave to make use of, if I hear any Gentleman pretend to insinuate (for I know it will not be directly asserted) that none of the Rights I have mentioned, are worth the Care of a British Parliament.
'For this Reason, I say, Sir, I shall not now insist upon the great Consequence of all or any of the Matters which the Spaniards have been of late tamely allowed to dispute with us; and as I believe no Gentleman will say, but that it has been fully proved at our Bar, that our Merchants have been plundered, our Ships unjustly seized and consiscated, and our Seamen cruelly used; therefore, without making an ungrateful Repetition of the Indignities and Injuries which have been proved at our Bar, I shall mention to you the 5th Motion I design to make; which is, That for many Years last past, the Liberty of Navigation in the American Seas hath been unjustly disturbed by the Spaniards, under Pretence of searching for and finding illict Trade; the British Ships unlawfully seiz'd upon the open Seas, plundered, and confiscated; the Sailors robb'd, and inhumanly tortur'd, imprison'd, and made Slaves, to the grievous Loss of the Merchants, the Obstruction of the Commerce, and the Dishonour of the Nation.
'And the last Proposition I shall make to you, Sir, upon this Occasion, shall be, that notwithstanding the repeated Application to Parliament, the Treaty of Seville, and the Assurances so frequently given to the Merchants, of procuring Reparation for their Losses, and ill Usage, and notwithstanding the Expectation of the Nation of receiving just and ample Satisfaction for the Cruelties exercis'd on its Subjects, and the Insults offer'd to itself, nothing has in so many Years been obtain'd from the Court of Spain, effectually to satisfy the Losses, repair the Injuries, or retrieve the Honour of the Nation, tho' the said Treaty of Seville, so advantageous to Spain, hath been punctually executed on the Part of Great-Britain,
'This likewise, Sir, is a Proposition which I cannot think any Gentleman in this House will pretend to oppose; at least, I cannot suggest to myself any plausible Reason for opposing it. Every Gentleman knows, how many Petitions have been presented to this House by our plundered Merchants and Seamen: For several Years, we have seldom been a Session without having one or more such Petitions presented to us. Upon these Applications we haveal ready twice addressed the Crown: We have already twice declared, that we would support the Crown in any Measures that should seem necessary for vindicating the Rights and the Honour of the Nation; so that if our Fellow-Subjects still remain unsatisfied, if those Ravages and Depredations are still continued and multiplied upon us, if the Honour of the Nation still lies grovelling in the Dust; the Fault cannot be laid at our Door. Former Ministers have been known, Sir, to excuse themselves, sometimes with Reason, oftner with none, by saying that the Parliament refused to support them in those Measures that were necessary for protecting the Trade, or vindicating the Honour of the Nation; but our Ministers never can plead that Excuse. Indeed I must say, if Negotiations, if Letters, Memorials, and Representations, had been Methods proper or sufficient for obtaining Redress, it appears from the Piles of Papers that have been laid before us, that our Ministers have not been remiss in endeavouring to obtain Satisfaction and Reparation for the Injuries and Insults we have met with; but, in my Opinion, they have very much mistaken the Methods proper to be made use of upon such Occasions.
'It is amazing, Sir, to take a View of the Heaps of Letters, Memorials, and Representations, which we have already before us, relating to this Affair. They look more like the Papers belonging to an hereditary Suit in Chancery, than like the Papers belonging to a Negotiation between two sovereign and independent Nations. In a Suit at Law, or in Equity, it is the Business of those who carry on the Suit, to prevent its being speedily brought to a Conclusion, because they get so much by it yearly, and termly, as long as the Suit continues, and those annual Profits must cease as soon as the Suit is at an End; and as they are paid by the Sheet, without any Regard to the Matter, it is their Interest to heap Process upon Process, and in every Paper, to be as verbose and prolix as their Invention can suggest. But Negotiators are never paid by the Sheet, nor ought they to be made to expect their chief Reward till after the Negotiation is brought to a Conclusion; therefore it is not their Interest to be verbose, or to heap Memorial upon Memorial; nor is it their Interest to spin out a Negotiation. I hope Sir that no Negotiation in which we have been lately concerned has been spun out for the sake of continuing Salaries to the Negotiators: I hope that none of those Letters, Memorials, or Representations have been multiplied or extended, for the sake of adding to, or increasing the Salaries of those who were concerned in drawing them up; therefore I cannot avoid being surprized at the Multitude and the Length of those Papers, which seem to belong to the late Negotiations between Spain and us.
'Besides, Sir, in all Negotiations it is generally the Duty of the Negotiators, of one Side or other, to bring the Negotiation to a speedy Issue; but where a Nation has been injured, and is in a Condition to revenge itself, it is more particularly incumbent upon its Negotiators to bring the Negotiation to an immediate Issue, of one kind or other; and for that Purpose, to be short and substantial in every Memorial, Answer, or Reply, they deliver, and peremptory in every Demand they make. When the known Rights of a Nation are invaded, it is ridiculous to enter into a tedious and metaphysical Discussion of the Point of Right; and still more ridiculous to make long Answers to every Quirk, because there would in that Case be no end of Cavilling; for the Councils of Nations are never to be swayed by subtle Arguing, nor is it consistent with the Dignity of Sovereigns to plead their Cause, like Barristers pleading for their Clients before a Court of Justice.
'When an independent and a powerful Sovereign has been injured, he that speaks in his Name, Sir, may explain the Nature of the Injury that has been done, and ought to wait a reasonable Time for an Answer: He may even go the Length of a Reply; but if any sophistical Arguments or delusive Evasions have been made use of in the Answer given him, he ought to think it beneath the Character he bears, to take Notice of them in his Reply; and the Conclusion of his Reply ought always to be a peremptory Demand of Justice within a Time limited. This is the utmost Length a Sovereign ought to go, if he be at that Time in any tolerable Condition for doing himself Justice; and if we had made use of this Method of Negotiation with Spain, I am convinced the Insults and Injuries put upon us by that Nation, would have been far less numerous, and less dishonourable for us, than they are at present.
For this Reason, Sir, if our Negotiations must be continued yet a while longer, I hope they will be put upon a different Footing, and carried on in a different Manner, from what they have been; but for my part, I do not see what Security we can expect from any Negotiation or Treaty; for tho' the Treaty of Seville be not such a one as it ought to be, and might have been, if the Squadrons we were at the Expence of sitting out about that Time, had received Orders to compel as well as persuade, yet by that Treaty the Crown of Spain engaged itself, almost as expressly as it can, I believe altogether as expresly as it will, be engaged by any Treaty we can now obtain by peaceable Means, to give Satisfaction for all the Depredations that had been committed before that Time, and to prevent any such for the future. By the very first Article of that Treaty, all former Treaties were renewed and confirmed; and by the first separate Article, most of the Treaties between the two Crowns are particularly mentioned, and again expressly confirmed; from whence we may see, that the Crown of Spain was engaged by that Treaty, as much as it can be by general Words in any Treaty, to prevent any Injuries being done by the Subjects of Spain to the Subjects of Great-Britain. 'Tis true, the Treaty of 1670 is not mentioned among the rest in the first separate Article of the Treaty of Seville, nor is it mentioned in the other famous Treaty, made between Spain and us in the Year 1721. Whether this happened by Neglect, or if there was any hidden Design in not mentioning that Treaty among the rest, I shall not pretend to determine; but I cannot think the Spaniards will from thence pretend to say, we have passed from, or given up that Treaty; because I do not think it is their Interest to say so: For if it could be supposed, that there is no such Treaty now subsisting between the two Crowns, there is nothing to hinder us from trading with their Subjects in New Spain by open Force; any Laws or Prohibitions they could make against such a Trade, would be of very little Signification: Even all the Guarda Costa's they could send thither would be far from being able to prevent our carrying on such a Trade; because we could send sufficient Squadrons of Men of War to protect all our Merchant-Ships employed in that Trade, without a Breach of any Article either in the Treaty of 1721, or in the Treaty of Seville.
'Then, Sir, with respect to the Depredations that had been committed upon our Merchants before the Conclusion of that Treaty, we know that by the 6th Article thereof, Commissaries were to be appointed to examine and decide what concerned the Ships and Effects taken at Sea, and also all our Pretensions relating to Abuses committed in Commerce, and also all other Pretensions as well in the Indies as in Europe; and his Catholick Majesty expressly engages, to cause to be executed punctually and exactly, what should be decided by the said Commissaries, within six Months after the making of their Report. These Commissaries, this Nation has Reason to know, were accordingly appointed; but as the Spaniards had never, I believe, an Intention to perform this Engagement, they took Care that their Commissaries should never agree to any Report; and upon this frivolous Pretence, I suppose, among others of the same Kind, they have ever since refused to make us the least Satisfaction for any of the Depredations committed before the Concluding of that Treaty, tho' it be now above eight Years since the Treaty was concluded, and above five Years since the Commissaries ought to to have made their Report, according to the eighth Article of the same Treaty.
'From what I have said, Sir, it will appear, I think, that we can have no great Expectations from any future Treaty we can make; but whatever may be the Success of our present Negociations, whatever we may expect, whatever Advantage we may reap from any future Treaty, it is certain we have as yet received no Satisfaction or Reparation, notwithstanding the express Promises made by the Treaty of Seville, and notwithstanding that Treaty's having been performed by us in the most punctual Manner; nay, in a Manner prejudicial to ourselves, and highly advantageous to Spain: Therefore I hope no Opposition will be made against that Part of the Resolution I am to move for. Then as to the Assurances that have been given our Merchants, of procuring Reparation for their Losses and Ill-usage, they have been so frequent, so express, and are so well known, that I cannot think I have the least Occasion for repeating or explaining them; for which Reason, I shall for the present conclude with begging, that Gentlemen would consider for what Purposes we sit here. We assemble in this House, in order to receive the Petitions, and hear the Complaints of our injured Subjects; but we are not to receive and hear only, we are likewise in Duty bound to provide a Remedy for the Grievances they justly compain of, and to take the most effectual Measures for that Purpose. We have twice already come to general Resolutions upon this Subject: We have twice already found, that such general Resolutions have produced no Effect; therefore it would be unpardonable in us to proceed no farther upon the present Occasion. Perhaps some Gentlemen may think, we ought now to go much farther than I have taken the Liberty to propose; but I cannot think any Gentleman will oppose our going thus far; for the least we can do is, to assert those national Rights which seem of late to have been neglected; because, after such a solemn and publick Declaration of our Rights, I hope no Minister will hereafter dare to give up any of them by Treaty, or to allow them to be any longer incroached on and violated, under the Pretence of a Negociation'
The Answer to this was by Sir Robert Walpole, to the following Effect:
Sir R. Walpole.
'I do not rise up to oppose, or in the least to dispute any of the Rights or Privileges which the honourable Gentleman has been pleased to mention. I am fully convinced, that this Nation has an indisputable Title to all those Rights and Privileges, and I shall always be as zealous for defending them as that Gentleman or any other: Nay, I am convinced, that no British Subject will pretend to controvert any one of them; and therefore I shall readily agree with the honourable Gentleman in every Thing he has said in Support of those Rights and Privileges; but I cannot agree with him in thinking, that upon this Occasion they ought to be so particularly vindicated and asserted by the Resolutions of this House. I cannot think there is at present the least Occasion for our coming to any such Resolutions; because, I believe, there is no British Subject that will pretend to question any of the Rights he has mentioned, or that will dare to say, that any one of them ought to be given up. It is, to be sure, unnecessary, and I must think inconsistent with the Dignity of this House, to come to any Resolution for determining a Question that is not disputed by any Subject of Great Britain; and with respect to Foreigners, our Resolutions cannot be of any Signification; because Foreigners are no way bound, nor can they be fore-closed by any of our Determinations.
'But this is not all, Sir; our coming to such particular and peremptory Resolutions, is not only unnecessary, but it would be hurtful. It would be pushing the Thing a great deal too far; because it would, in my Opinion, make a War unavoidable. Though every one of the Rights and Privileges the honourable Gentleman has been pleased to mention, be secured to us, either by the Law of Nations, or by solemn Treaties, or by both; yet we all know, that they are now, and always have been, so far disputed, that the Court of Spain has never yet acknowledged them, in explicit Terms, notwithstanding its having been brought often to a very low Pass. In treating between sovereign and independant Powers, there are certain Methods and Forms to be observed, which are absolutely necessary for bringing any Treaty of Peace, Commerce, or Alliance, to a Conclusion. A sovereign Prince or State may often be prevailed on to acknowledge a Right or Privilege, or even to make some new Concessions, by general Words, which may be equivalent to, and as effectual as, the most express and particular Declaration; and yet that Prince or State would perhaps engage in, or continue the most dangerous and destructive War, rather than make such an express and particular Declaration. For this Reason it is usual and frequent in all Treaties, to make use of general Words, in those Cases where either of the contracting Parties think they cannot in Honour agree to acknowledge a Right, or make a Concession, in express and particular Terms.
'This, Sir, has often been the Case, particularly between Spain and us. I believe no Gentleman will doubt of our Right to the Island of Jamaica. I believe no British Subject will say, that it is not absolutely surrendered and sufficiently secured to us, by the Treaties now subsisting between the two Crowns; and yet it is a Right which the Spaniards still pretend to dispute. It is a Right which they have never yet acknowledged in express and particular Terms. Even in the Year 1670, when they were suing for a Peace, and for some new Regulations in the West-Indies, and suing for it, Sir, in as humble a Manner as ever a Nation, not absolutely reduccd, could submit to, they would not acknowledge our Right to that Island in express Terms, nor did we think it necessary they should. They thought it was inconsistent with the Honour of their Crown, to make an express and particular Surrender of that Island; and we indulged them so far as to rest satisfied with that Surrender and Acknowledgment contained in the general Words of that Treaty, by which it is declared, 'That we should hold and keep all the Lands, Countries, Islands, Colonies, and other Places in the West-Indies, or in any Part of America, which we then held and possessed.' This we then thought a full and sufficient Acknowledgment of our Right to that Island; and it seeems our Opinion was the same at the Time of the Treaty of Utrecht; a Treaty, which, I am sure, some Gentlemen that hear me will not pretend to find fault with; for though by that Treaty we may in some Measure be said to have given the Kingdoms both of Old and New Spain to that Family, which has since given us so much Disturbance, yet we did not then desire by Way of Retribution an express and particular Acknowledgment of our Right to that Island, nor of any other of our Rights or Privileges in America: The Authors of that Treaty, Sir, being of Opinion, it seems, that the Stipulations contained in other Treaties sufficiently secured them.
'From the Practice of all Nations therefore, and from our own Practice in former Treaties, we not only may, but sometimes ought to satisfy ourselves with general Words and Expressions, in Cases where such general Words or Expressions may be as effectual, and may render what we aim at as secure and indisputable as if it had been declared or regulated in the most particular and explicit Terms. But, Sir, if in the present Case, this House should come to such Resolutions as have been proposed, it would render it impossible for us afterwards to accept of, or propose, any such general Acknowledgments or Concessions. The Resolutions presented by the honourable Gentleman, would cramp our Ministers and Negociations, who would regard them as Rules from which they could not depart. In such a Case, I believe no Minister would take upon him to advise his Majesty to make a Proposition to the Court of Spain, relating to any of the Matters now in Dispute between us, that was less explicite or less particular than the Resolution this House had come to upon that Head; nor would he take upon him to advise his Majesty to approve of or ratify any one Article in a Treaty, unless it was as full and as particularly expressed as the Resolution we had come to upon the subject Matter of that Article. Whether this would be an Incroachment upon that Prerogative of the Crown, by which it has the sole Power of making Peace or War, I shall leave to others to determine; for my own Part, I must think, that it would not only be a taking from his Majesty the Power of making Peace, but that it would be taking from him the Power of judging what Sort of Iustructions would be most proper to be sent to his Ambassadors or Envoys at any foreign Court, or to his Plenipotentiaries at any future Congress. But this is not the only Disadvantage such a Method of Proceeding would be attended with: In my Opinion, it would not only make War unavoidable, but it would likewise make Peace unattainable, till one or other of the Parties engaged, were almost utterly destroyed; for though the Spaniards may probably in the Way of Negociation be brought to acknowledge and confirm all the Rights and Privileges held in Dispute between them and us, in general Terms, or perhaps in more particular and express Terms than are to be found in any former Treaty between the two Nations, yet I am convinced, they will never agree to Acknowledgments so very explicite and particular, as those contained in the Propositions that have been now laid before us. At least I am convinced, they can never be prevailed on to do so, unless we should have the good Luck, by a long and successful War, to bring them to as low an Ebb, as every any Nation, not absolutely conquered, was brought to. We may with as much Probability of Success propose forcing them to sign a Carte Blanche, as to propose, either by fair or foul Means, to compel them to make such particular Concessions as are mentioned in the Propositions now before us; and I do not think it is our Interest to endeavour to bring that Nation so low, even though we were certain of Success, and that the other Powers of Europe would sit still, and tamely behold our Triumphs, without either Jealousy or Envy.
'Now, Sir, as I think every one of the Rights at present in Dispute between Spain and us, may be as fully secured to us by general Words in a future Treaty, as by particular Declarations and Concessions: As I think we may, in Consequence of such a Treaty, continue to enjoy those Rights, with as little Disturbance as we now enjoy the Island of Jamaica; therefore, if our Ministers can obtain such a Treaty, without putting the Nation either to the Hazard or Expence of a War, I must think they will do their Country a Piece of good Service; and consequently, I must think, it would be wrong in this House, to put it out of their Power to negociate, or to advise his Majesty to approve of a Treaty, that may attain all the good Ends proposed by the honourable Gentleman's Resolution, and avoid all their Inconveniences. I have, I have always shewed a very great Regard for the Merchants trading to and from our Plantations: I have as great a Regard for them, and I think them as useful a Body of Men as any in the Kingdom; but we must consider, Sir, that we have a great Number of Merchants concerned, and a very considerable Trade, a most beneficial Trade to this Nation, in Spain and the Mediterranean. The former might, perhaps, be no great Losers, they might even be Gainers by a War; whereas the latter would certainly be undone; and if the War should be of any Duration, some Branches of our Spanish and Mediterranean Trade might perhaps be irrecoverably lost. I hope I may be allowed to have some Regard for our Spanish, Italian, and Turkey Merchants. Upon their Account I shall always be for avoiding a War with Spain, as long as possible, and shall never give my Consent to any Measure or Resolution, that I think will breed such a Quarrel between the two Nations as must end in the Destruction of one or other.
'For this Reason, Sir, I shall be against our coming to any particular and peremptory Resolutions, with respect to any of the particular Rights the Spaniards now pretend to contest; but I shall most readily agree to any Motion that can be proposed, for shewing it to be our Opinion, that our Merchants have fully proved their Losses, and that the Depredations that have been committed are contrary to the Law of Nations, contrary to the Treaties subsisting between the two Crowns, in short, that they are every Thing bad, and without the least Pretence or Colour of Justice. This, I say, I shall most willingly agree to, because I think the Petitioners have fully proved the Allegations of their Petition; I think they have fully proved, that the Subjects of this Kingdom have met with such Treatment from the Spanish Guarda Costa's and Governors in America, as deserves the highest Resentment; but still, I think, if proper Satisfaction and full Reparation can be obtained by peaceable Means, we ought not to involve the Nation in a War, from the Event of which we have a great deal to fear; and the utmost we can hope for from the most uninterrupted Success, is a proper Satisfaction for past Injuries, and a proper Security against our meeting with any such hereafter, both which we are bound to think there are still Hopes of obtaining by way of Negociation; because, if it had been otherwise, his Majesty would certainly have acquainted us with it, and would have desired us to provide for obtaining by Force, what he saw was not to be obtained by fair Means.
'As for the Method, Sir, in which our Negociations have been hitherto carried on, I do not think an Enquiry into it can, upon the present Occasion, come properly before us; but if it could, I believe it would be easy to shew, that they have been carried on in that Manner, which was the most proper for producing an Accommodation of all the Differences subsisting between the two Nations. I shall grant, that there are certain Periods, and certain Circumstances, which may make it the Interest of a Nation to be peremptory in every Demand they make, and not to be at any great Pains to shew the Reasonableness of their Demands, or to answer the Objections that may be made to them; because as a Nation may sometimes have a Conquest in View, and may think they have got a seasonable Opportunity for accomplishing their Design, it may be more for their Interest to come to an open Rupture, than to continue in Peace upon the most equitable Terms; but this can seldom or never be the Case of this Nation; I am sure it is not our Case at present, nor has it ever once been our Case for above these twenty Years past; and therefore, it would have been, and still would be, Madness in us; to go to War with any of our Neighbours, if there be any Probability of obtaining Justice in a peaceable Manner.
'From this Consideration we may see, Sir, that it would be imprudent in us to be peremptory in the Demands we make upon any of our Neighbours; and for the same Reason, we ought to be at some Pains to explain the Reasonableness of our Demands; and to answer all the Objections that may be made against them. But with respect to Spain, we ought, in my Opinion, to have more Patience; and to treat in a milder Method with them, than with any other Nation in Europe; not only because of the Advantage we reap by our Trade with that Nation, but because his Catholick Majesty is, I am convinced, as much inclined to do Justice, and to preserve Peace, as any Prince in Europe. Our not having obtained Redress before this Time, does not, I believe, proceed from any real Intention in his Catholick Majesty to do this Nation an Injury, or to allow any of his Subjects to injure us, but from the Nature of the Disputes between us, which depends upon Facts, that must be fully enquired into, and certainly known, before it can be determined whether they are injurious or not; and as all those Facts happen at a great Distance, it is impossible to have a particular and distinct Account of them in a short Time, especially as it is very much the Interest of the Spanish Governors in America to misrepresent them. Considering therefore the Justice and the Uprightness of his Catholick Majesty's Intentions, considering his Friendship and good Inclinations towards us, it would have been wrong in us to make peremptory Demands at first; it would have been wrong in us not to answer every Objection that was made against any of our Demands: On the contrary, our own Interest made it incumbent upon us to make a full and particular Answer to every Objection, in order to convince his Majesty of the Justice of our Demands or Pretensions; because, from that Conviction we had, I hope we still have, great Reason to expect full Satisfaction.
'Having thus, Sir, laid my Thoughts before you, upon the Matter now under our Consideration, and having given you my Reasons for not approving of all the Propositions, the honourable Gentleman has told us he is about to make, I shall now beg Leave to offer an Amendment to his Motion, which is, That the first Part of this Motion should stand as it is in these Words: 'That it is the natural undoubted Right of British Subjects to sail with their Ships on any Part of the Seas of America, to and from any Part of his Majesty's Dominions.' So far I entirely agree with him; but in my Opinion, all that he has proposed to follow after these Words, ought to be left out; and instead thereof, I propose, that these Words or Resolutions ought to be inserted, 'That the Freedom of Navigation and Commerce, which the Subjects of Great Britain have an undoubted Right to by the Law of Nations, and which is not in the least restrained by Virtue of any of the Treaties subsisting between the Crowns of Great Britain and Spain, has been greatly interrupted by the Spaniards, under Pretences altogether groundless and unjust. That before and since the Execution of the Treaty of Seville, and the Declaration made by the Crown of Spain, pursuant thereunto, for the Satisfaction and Security of the Commerce of Great Britain, many unjust Seizures and Captures have been made, and great Depredations committed by the Spaniards, which have been attended with many Instances of unheard of Cruelty and Barbarity. That the frequent Applications made to the Court of Spain, for procuring Justice and Satisfaction to his Majesty's injured Subjects, for bringing the Offenders to condign Punishment, and for preventing the like Abuses for the future, have proved vain and ineffectual; and the several Orders or Cedulas, granted by the King of Spain, for Restitution and Reparation of great Losses sustained, by the unlawful and unwarrantable Seizures and Captures made by by the Spaniards, have been disobeyed by the Spanish Governors, or totally evaded and deluded. And that these Violences and Depredations have been carried on to the great Loss and Damage of the Subjects of Great Britain trading to America, and in direct Violation of the Treaties subsisting between the two Crowns.'
'I do not know, Sir, if I shall have the good Luck to meet with the Approbation of this House; but what I have proposed will, in my Opinion, be as strong a Vindication of all the Rights and Privileges now in Dispute between Spain and us, as if every one of them had been particularly mentioned: And, I think, it will be a sufficient Testimony of its being the Opinion of this House, that the Facts set forth in the several Petitions now before us, have been fully proved; and that we look upon those Facts to be such as are contrary to the Law of Nations, and to the Treaties subsisting between the two Crowns. It will likewise, I think, testify fully to the World, the Resentment of this House, against the Depredations that have been committed upon our Merchants, and the Cruelties that have been used towards our Seamen; and that we are resolved not to suffer such Practices to be continued in Time to come, nor to allow those that are passed to go unpunished. This, I think, Sir, is the utmost Length we can go at present; it is the utmost Length this House ought to go, because it will answer all the Ends we can propose by the most particular Resolutions; and at the same Time it will leave Room for putting an End to all the Differences between Spain and us, in an amicable Manner, which, I have shewed, would very probably be rendered impossible, in case we should now come to such particular Resolutions, as the honourable Gentleman near me has been pleased to propose: Therefore I hope even the honourable Gentleman himself will approve of the Amendment I have offered, to the end that we may appear to be unanimous in every Resolution we may come to, upon an Affair, which is of so great an Importance to the Trade and Happiness of this Nation, and to the Tranquillity of Europe in general.'
After this, Mr. Pulteney stood up again, and spoke to the following Effect:
'I find the Debate upon the Affair now before us, is like to take that Turn, which I from the Beginning imagined it would. After I had opened and explained the several Rights and Privileges of this Nation, which ought, in my Opinion, to be established by the Resolutions of this House, I said, I knew it would not be directly asserted, that they were not worth the Care of a British Parliament, but such a Thing I supposed might be insinuated; and now I find it is pretended, they are so little worth our Care, that there is no Occasion for establishing them particularly and distinctly, but that we may satisfy ourselves with general Words and Expressions, which, it is said, will be found as effectual, as if every one of these Rights and Privileges had been distinctly and particularly mentioned and explained.
'After the Experience we have had, for many Years past, I am surprized, Sir, to find it even so much as insinuated, that general Words or Expressions, in any future Treaty, can be supposed to be as effectual, as particular and distinct Acknowledgments or Declarations; and I am equally surprized to find it asserted, that this House may, upon this third Application, content itself with coming to a general Resolution.—Sir, there is not one of the Rights or Privileges, which are asserted in the Propositions I have now offered, but what is collected from the general Words of former Treaties, and have been confirmed to us over and again. These general Words we have, by sad Experience, often found to be ineffectual; and shall we again put our Trust in that, which we find has so often deceived us? Shall we allow the Freedom of our Commerce, and the Properties of our Fellow-Subjects, to depend any longer upon that, which has for many Years subjected the former to continual Interruptions, and has often made the latter a Prey to our Enemies?
'Those Rights, Sir, which depend upon the Law of Nations, are certainly confirmed by the general Words of every Treaty of Peace and Friendship, that can be made between two Nations; and while neither pretends to contest, or to incroach upon, such Rights, both may rest satisfied with such general Confirmations: Because a tacit Acquiescence on one Part is generally, and with Reason, regarded as sufficient Security for the other. But if either of the two begins to contest any one of those Rights, or to usurp a Power, that is inconsistent with any of them, it then becomes necessary for the other Nation to have that Right particularly explained, and of new established, in the most distinct and explicit Terms: They are bound in Duty to Mankind, as well as to themselves, to compel the usurping Nation to pass from that Power, which they have usurped, and to pass it from such Terms as shall leave no Room for setting up any such Pretence in Time to come. Of this Nature are the two first Rights, which I proposed to be established; I mean, 'That of its being the Right of British Subjects, to sail with their Ships on any Part of the Seas of America, to and from any Part of his Majesty's Dominions;' and, 'That of its being the Right of British Subjects, to carry in their Ships all Sorts of Goods, Merchandize, or Effects, from one Part of his Majesty's Dominions, to any other Part of his Majesty's Dominions' These, Sir, are two Rights, which depend upon the Law of Nations, and therefore, while neither of them was contested or incroached on by Spain, it was sufficient for us to have them confirmed by general Words; but of late Years, the Spanish Guarda Costa's have been so arrogant, that they have usurped a Power of entering in a forcible Manner, and searching every British Ship they meet with in the open Seas of America; and they have likewise usurped a Power of determining what sort of Goods, or Merchandize, may be carried in British Ships, from one Part of the British Dominions to another. For this Reason, it is now become absolutely necessary for us to compel them, either by fair or foul Means, to pass from both these Usurpations, and to establish and confirm to us those Rights we are intitled to by the Law of Nations, not by general Words, as formerly, but particularly and distinctly, and in the most express and explicit Terms.
'Then, Sir, as to those Rights which may be peculiar to one Nation, and which it may have acquired, by Occupancy, Purchase, Conquest, or otherwise, the Nation that has made any such Acquisition, may at first rest satisfied with having their Right acknowledged by other Nations in general Terms; but if any neighbouring Nation should begin to contest their Right, or should begin to interrupt and disturb them in the Possession of a Right they had lawfully acquired, it would then be incumbent upon them to have their Right particularly, distinctly, and expresly acknowledged, by that Nation at least, that had begun to contest their Right, or disturb their Possession. To apply this, Sir, to the two last Rights I proposed to be established: It is well known, that we have long since acquired a Right to make Settlements in the Province of Jucatan, and to cut Logwood in the neighbouring Bay of Campechey; and it is likewise well known, that we have long since acquired a Right to gather Salt in the Island of Tortugas. Those Rights we not only acquired by a lawful Title at first, but they have since been oftentimes acknowledged and confirmed to us by the Crown of Spain, in as express Terms, as they can be, by general Words or Clauses, in any future Treaty. While Spain did not pretend to controvert them, or to disturb us in the Possession, it was sufficient to have them confirmed by general Words, in those Treaties that were made between the two Nations; but of late Years, Spain has not only begun to controvert these Rights, but has actually disturbed us in the Possession, by seizing our Ships, and murdering or maltreating our Seamen, for no other Reason, but because they were found in the Exercise of those Rights, which belonged to them as Subjects of the Crown of Great Britain. We cannot therefore now satisfy ourselves with having such Rights acknowledged in general Terms: If we ever come to any Treaty with that Nation, we ought to have both of them particularly and expresly acknowledged. This, I say, Sir, we ought to have; this we will have, if we treat upon an equal Footing, and shew a due Regard to the Honour and Trade of our native Country.
'Every one must grant, Sir, that we have as good Right to cut Logwood in the Bay of Campechey, and gather Salt on the Island of Tortugas, as we have to the Island of Jamaica: The former has been as often confirmed as the latter, by the general Words of the Treaties subsisting between us and Spain. But the Difference at present is, that the former has been of late not only contested but invaded, whereas our Right to Jamaica has not of late been openly contested, nor our Possession disturbed. I am glad it has not; for I am convinced, that those who are so fond of Peace, as for its sake to give up our Right to cut Logwood in the Bay of Campechey, and gather Salt in the Island of Tortguas, would likewise for the same Reason have given up the Island of Jamaica, if the Spaniards had revived their Pretensions to that Island, and had insisted upon its being restored, as one of the Preliminaries.
'Thus, Sir, I have shewn that, if we judge by Experience, we can put no farther Trust in general Words or Expressions; and I have also shewn that, from the Nature of Things, we cannot now rest satisfied with general Acknowledgments or Declarations. If we have any Regard for the Honour or Trade of this Nation, if we have any Regard for the Lives, the Liberties, or the Properties of our Fellow-Subjects, we must insist that, in any future Treaty to be made between the two Nations, every one of the Rights or Privileges now in dispute, shall be particularly and distinctly acknowledged: And if this be the Case, what Harm can there be in our coming to a distinct and separate Resolution with respect to every one of the Rights I have mentioned? But this is not all, Sir: If this had been the first Time any Application had been made to us, against the Insults and Depredations of the Spaniards; if this had been the first Time we had found it necessary to come to any Resolution upon that Head; there would be some Pretence for saying, we ought to rest satisfied with a general Resolution: It might perhaps be supposed, that such a general Resolution as the honourable Gentleman near me has been pleased to propose, would be sufficient for procuring a Remedy for those Evils, our injured Countrymen complain of; but we have twice already come to such a general Resolution; we have twice already found that such a general Resolution has proved altogether ineffectual; and therefore wo are now both in Honour and Duty bound to think of some other Method, for giving Relief to those who, we find, have so justly complained. Even the Resolutions I have proposed, may prove ineffectual; I am afraid they will, even though they were much more express and strong than they are, unless we alter our Conduct; but surely, the least we can do, upon this third Application, is, to endeavour to vindicate and establish, by the Resolutions of this House, those Rights, which the Spaniards have so long dared to dispute with us, and which have so long given them a Handle for plundering our Merchants, and cruelly using our Seamen.
'These Rights, it is true, Sir, are not disputed by any of our own Subjects; though I do not know, but there may be some, who, for their own selfish Ends, would be glad to give every one of them up. I shall likewise grant, that we cannot pretend to bind or foreclose Foreigners, at least in a legal Manner, by any of our Determinations or Resolutions; but if either of these were a good Reason for our not coming to the Resolution I have proposed, there would be no Occasion for our coming to any Resolution at all, relating to the Affair now before us. Is there any Subject in the British Dominions, that says, dares say, that our Merchants have not been plundered, and our Seamen maltreated, by the Spaniards in America? Does any Subject of Great Britain say that a proper Satisfaction has yet been obtained for the Insults and Injuries, that have been put upon us? What Occasion can we then have, according to the honourable Gentleman's Way of Reasoning, for coming to any Resolutions, for ascertaining the Truth of Facts, which none of our own Subjects doubt of? For, with regard to Foreigners, we can as little pretend to bind or foreclose them, with respect to the Truth of Facts, as we can pretend to bind or foreclose them with respect to the Justice or Validity of any Right we pretend to. Therefore, if this Argument were of any Weight, there would be as little Reason for our coming to the Resolution the honourable Gentleman has been pleased to propose, as for our coming to any one of the Resolutions I have mentioned.
'But in the Case now before us, Sir, we are not to come to Resolutions with a Design to determine absolutely any Matter of Right, or to foreclose either our own Countrymen or Foreigners. The Design of our Resolutions ought to be, to shew both to our own Countrymen and Foreigners, that we are resolved to vindicate and assert, to the last Drop of our Blood, those Rights, which we think belong to us; and that both our own Countrymen and Foreigners may know, what we look upon as the undoubted Rights and Privileges of the Nation, those, at least, which are now contested, ought to be particularly and expresly established by the Resolutions we are to come to upon this Occasion. This, Sir, will have a good Effect upon Foreigners, as well as our own Countrymen. If there be any among the latter, who think they may sacrifice the Honour and Interest of the Nation, to their own Ease and Security, by giving up all or any of the Rights now in Dispute between Spain and us, or by allowing them to be any longer incroached on or violated, they will from thence see, that they must expect the utmost Resentment and Indigdignation of this House; and if any Foreigners, particularly the Spaniards, have been, by our late pacifick Conduct, led into a Belief, that we dare not vindicate our known Rights and Privileges, such Resolutions will shew them, that, however pacifick, or rather pusillanimous, some People amongst us may be, however much afraid some may be of a War, the Nation itself is neither become pusillanimous, nor is the Parliament of Great Britain afraid of a War, when it becomes necessary for preserving the Trade, or vindicating, the Honour of the Nation. This will make the Court of Spain seriously consider the Consequences of an open Rupture with this Nation; and if they do, I am sure they will give us full Satisfaction and Security, rather than come to an open Rupture, unless they have got a greater Advantage from our late Negociations and Conduct, than is yet generally seen through.
'I shall not pretend, Sir, to know, or even to guess at, the present System of Politicks in Europe: It has been of late so entirely turned topsy-turvy, and so little of our foreign Politicks have been communicated to this House, that no Gentleman can say he has any Knowledge of them, if he knows no more than what he has learned by being a Member of this House; but this I may venture to say, that if we consider and compare the two Kingdoms of Great Britain and Spain only, and the respective Power of each, even as it stands at present, we can have no Reason to be afraid of a War with Spain, nor can they have Reason to expect any Triumphs over us. Indeed, if the political Affairs of Europe have been negotiated into such a System, that Spain is now provided with powerful Allies, ready to support them in all their Pretensions upon us, and this Nation not provided with any one Ally, whose Assistance we can depend on, even in defending our just Rights and Privileges, we may have some Reason for continuing to submit tamely to the most cruel Indignities, rather than come to an open Rupture; but if this be our unfortunate Case, which God forbid! I wish some of those Gentlemen, who know something of the present System of Politicks in Europe, would rise up and make us acquainted with our unlucky Circumstances, before we proceed to do any Thing, that may render them worse. In such a Case, I shall admit, we ought to be extreamly cautious of doing any Thing, that may tend towards involving the Nation in a War; but if this be our Case, if we cannot extricate the Nation out of those Difficulties it labours under at present, I am sure we ought to deliver it from the Counsellors who have brought it into those Difficulties; and for that Purpose, we ought to enter into an Enquiry very different from that we have been upon, and we ought to come to Resolutions very different from any that have been proposed.
'But I have the Pleasure to think, Sir, that this is far from being our Case at present; because, if the Nation were in such a melancholy Situation, it would be absolutely necessary to reveal it to this House, upon the present Occasion; and as several Gentlemen amongst us, must be acquainted with it, I am persuaded they have a greater Regard for their native Country, than to conceal what is now so necessary for us to know. I am convinced, some of them would have laid our Circumstances fully before us, whatever might have been the Consequences, either with respect to themselves or Friends. I cannot therefore suggest to myself the least Shadow of Reason, why we ought to be so much afraid of a War, as to accept of, or agree to, any future Treaty, that does not in the most effectual Manner secure to us the Possession of those Rights, which have been lately contested. We have, 'tis true, been told, that Spain may think it inconsistent with the Honour of their Crown, to make any express and particular Declarations. Sir, this Honour can at best be said to be but an imaginary one: But suppose it otherwise, they ought to have considered this before they began to contest any of those Points with us; for their very starting that Dispute makes it inconsistent with the Honour of the Crown of Great Britain, to accept of any general Acknowledgments for the future, at least with respect to those Rights they have dared to contest; and I hope this House will never hesitate upon the Alternative, whether the Imaginary Honour of the Crown of Spain, or the real Honour of the Crown of Britain, should be supported: Nor will this Nation, I hope, ever be in such Circumstances, as to be under a Necessity of wounding its own Honour, in the most sensible Part, for the Sake of avoiding a War with Spain, or with any other Power in Europe.
'For this Reason, Sir, we have no Occasion to avoid coming to particular Resolutions, for fear of tying up the Hands of our Negociators. On the contrary, it is one of the strongest Arguments for our coming to a particular Resolution, with respect to every Right now in Dispute between Spain and us; for of late Years, our Negociators seem to have minded the Forms and Ceremonies of treating between sovereign Powers, more than the Substantials; and therefore, if, in the present Case, no particular Directions be given them by this House, I am afraid they will accept of such general Acknowledgments or Declarations, as will make those Rights more disputable and precarious than ever they were heretofore. I am far from thinking, that our coming to particular Resolutions, or our obliging those who may be hereafter employed to negotiate for us, to insist upon having those Rights now in Dispute particularly acknowledged and confirmed, will make a War unavoidable; because, I believe, if the Court of Spain be once fully convinced, that nothing less will satisfy us, they will agree to such particular Acknowlegments, rather than come to an open Rupture: But they will certainly wave and put off agreeing to any such, as long as they think we will bear with it; because, in the mean Time, they will every now and then be getting something by the Plunder of our Merchants; and as our Ministers have, I think, already allowed them to dally with us too long upon this Head, I hope this House will now interpose, in order not only to convince the Spaniards, that nothing will satisfy this Nation, but a particular Acknowledgment of every Right they have taken upon them to dispute, and to convince the Ministry that a British Parliaments are better Negotiators than themselves.
'But suppose, Sir, that the Spaniards, by presuming upon our Weakness, Timidity, or bad Conduct, should absolutely refuse to come to any particular Settlements with us; will any Man say, that for the Sake of avoiding a War, we ought to accept of a Treaty or Convention, from which we can expect no Satisfaction for past Injuries, nor Security against future? The Treaty of Seville may convince every Man, that we can expect nothing from general Acknowledgments, or general Promises: From that Treaty, we were told, I believe I have an honourable Gentleman now in my Eye who affirmed it in this House, that the Nation was to reap great Advantages; but I know of no Man in the Kingdom, that has as yet found any Advantages from that Treaty, unless it be the Commissaries and their Attendants; and if our Ministers should now procure, or accept of, such another Treaty, as that of Seville, I hope they will pardon me, if I think, that they will do a notable Injury to their Country, instead of doing it a Piece of good Service. I have as great a Regard as the Honourable Gentleman can have for our Spanish, Italian, and Turkey Merchants; but our suffering our America Trade to be ruin'd, is not the way to protect them. I am afraid Sir, that, if we shall lose our American Trade, the Ballance of Trade to all other Countries will be very much against us; I with it is not so now.
'Therefore, for the sake of our other Merchants trading to the Mediteranean and Levant, I think, we ought to insist strenuously upon the Protection of our Merchants, and the Freedom of our Navigation, in all Parts of the World; for if we allow our Merchants to be plundered, and our Navigation interrupted in any one Part of the World, our Fate will soon come to be the same in every other Part of World; and even in the Mediterranean, as well as the American Seas, the Spaniards have of late begun to make more free with the British Flag, than ever they, or any other Nation, durst do in Times past. Let no Gentleman therefore pretend, that his Regard for our Merchants trading to one Part of the World, ought to prevail with him to allow our Merchants trading to any other Part of of the World, to be plundered and abused.
'Sir, it is to our Trade and Navigation we owe the Whole of our Riches, Power, and Splendor. Before we had any Trade or Navigation, this Island was little better than a Desart; and if we should allow both to be destroyed, it will be soon reduced to its former Condition. The extensive Trade and Navigation we now have, is not so much owing to our Situation, which has always been the same, as to the great Care we have taken in these latter Ages, that our Merchants and Seamen should meet with Safety and Respect in all Parts of the World. Our great King Edward III. shewed such a Regard for our Trade and Navigation, that upon a Complaint from our Merchants, of their having been plundered by the Spanish Pyrates or Guarda Costa's of those Days, he immediately fitted out a Fleet, and went in Person to revenge the Depredations that had been committed upon his Subjects; by which he restored the Freedom of our Commerce, and added a Naval Triumph, to the many Triumphs he had before obtained at Land. The Protection of Trade and Navigation has always been one of the chief Concerns of all great Kings and all wise Nations. Even the Romans, who could never be said to be a trading People, shewed a great Regard for it, as appears from the Reproof Cicero gave them in his Days, for Neglecting to suppress the Pyrates, and to assert the Honour of their Flag.
'His Words, Sir, upon that Occasion, are so applicable to this Nation at present, that I shall beg Leave to repeat them.
'In advising his Countrymen to support the Cause of their injured Merchants, in his Oration for the Manilian Law, among many other beautiful Expressions, he makes use of the following: Majores vestri sæpe, Mercatoribus, ac Naviculatoribus injuriosius tractatis, bella gesserunt.—Quare videte, num dubitandum vobis sit, omni studio ad id Bellum incumbere, in quo Gloria Nominis vestri, Satus Sociorum, Vectigalia maxima, Fortunæ plurimorum Civium, cum Republica defenduntur —Videte ae, ut illius pulcherrimum suit, tantam vobis Imperit Gloriam rolinquere, sic vobis turpissimum sit, illud, quod accepistis, tueri & conservare non posse.
'These are Words, Sir, which no true Englishman will ever forget; and I am sorry to say, that I think there is too much Occasion for enforcing the Remembrance of them at present. We have been negotiating and treating with Spain for these twenty Years, about nothing that I know of, unless it was about Reparation and Security for our Merchants; and yet, during that whole Time, they have been plundering and abusing our Merchants, almost without Intermission. If a Nation's being subject to daily Insults and Injuries is not a Circumstance, that ought to make it peremptory in its Demands, I am sure no Circumstance can. This has been our Case for many Years, and will be our Case, till Spain be made to acknowledge, in the most express and particular Terms, every one of those Rights they now pretend to dispute. Ought not this to make us peremptory in our Demands? Ought not it to have made us peremptory long ago? —Sir, if we had peremptorily insisted upon full Satisfaction and Reparation, for the very first Injury that was offered us, I may venture to affirm, we should never have been exposed to a second. Nay, if we consider that our Insults and Injuries, were inflicted without any Ceremony, we ought to have used as little Ceremony in the revenging them; and to have taken Satisfaction, without being at any great Pains to demand it. But I hope Sir, that is not even yet too late.
'This was what Oliver Cromwell did in a like Case, that happened during his Government, and in a Case where a more powerful Nation was concerned than ever Spain could pretend to. In the Histories of his Time we are told, that an English Merchant-Ship was taken in the Chops of the Channel, carried into St. Maloes, and there confiscated upon some groundless Pretence. As soon as the Master of the Ship, who, we are told, was an honest Quaker, got home, he presented a Petition to the Protector in Council, setting forth his Case, and praying for Redress. Upon hearing the Petition, the Protector told his Council, he would take that Affair upon himself, and ordered the Man to attend him next Morning. He examined him strictly as to all the Circumstances of his Case, and finding by his Answers that he was a plain, honest Man, and that he had been concerned in no unlawful Trade, he asked him, If he could go to Paris with a Letter? The Man answered, he could. Well then, says the Protector, prepare fory our Journey, and come to me to-morrow Morning. Next Morning he gave him a Letter to Cardinal Mazarine, and told him he must stay but three Days for an Answer. The Answer I mean, Sir, says he, is, the full Value of what you might have made of your Ship and Cargo; and tell the Cardinal, that if it is not paid you in three Days, you have express Orders from me to return home. The honest, blunt Quaker, we may suppose, followed his Instructions to a Tittle; but the Cardinal, according to the Manner of Ministers when they are any way pressed, began to shuffle; therefore the Quaker returned, as he was bid. As soon as the Protector saw him, he asked, Well, Friend, have you got your Money? And upon the Man's answering he had not, the Protector told him, Then leave your Direction with my Secretary, and you shall soon hear from me. Upon this Occasion, that great Man did not stay to negotiate, or to explain, by long tedious Memorials, the Reasonableness of his Demand. No, Sir, tho' there was a French Minister refiding here, he did not so much as acquaint him with the Story, but immediately sent a Man of War or two to the Channel, with Orders to seize every French Ship they could meet with. Accordingly, they returned in a few Days with two or three French Prizes, which the Protector ordered to be immediately sold, and out of the Produce, he paid the Quaker what he demanded for the Ship and Cargo: Then he sent for the French Minister, gave him an Account of what had happened, and told him there was a Balance, which if he pleased, should be paid in to him, to the end that he might deliver it to those of his Countrymen, who where the Owners of the French Ships, that had been so taken and sold.
'This, Sir, was Oliver Cromwell's Manner of Negociating; this was the Method he took for obtaining Reparation: And what was the Consequence? It produced no War between the two Nations: No, Sir, it made the French Government terribly afraid of giving him the least Offence; and while he lived, they took special Care that no Injury should be done to any Subjects of Great-Britain. This shews, that Oliver Cromwell had a Genius and a Capacity for Government; and however unjusty he acquired his Power, it is certain that this Nation was as much respected abroad, and flourished as much at home, under his Government, as it ever did under any Government: But when a Nation has the Misfortune to have a Man set at the Head of her Affairs, who knows nothing of Foreign, who knows nothing but the little low Detail of Offices, and has neither Capacity or Knowledge beyond what can qualify him for being a Clerk in the Treasury, or some other publick Office, it is then no wonder to see that Nation despised and insulted abroad, and dissatisfied, mutinous, and seditious at home.
'I wish, Sir, those who have now the Direction of our Negociations abroad, would assume, if possible, a little of the Spirit and Courage of Oliver Cromwell. He had as powerful a Party to struggle with at home, as ever any Minister had; but he never allowed the Danger he was in from that Party, to deter him from vindicating, upon all Occasions, the Honour and Interest of his Country abroad. He had too much good Sense to manage in such a pusillanimous Manner; for he knew that such Management would have increased the Party against him, and would have made them more daring, as well as more numerous. If our present Negociators, or those who have the Direction of our Negociations, take Example by him, I am sure they will not accept of any general Acknowledgments or Promises; and therefore there can be no Danger in our agreeing to the particular Resolutions I have proposed. But I am afraid, Sir, they will not. I am afraid they will, for the Sake of patching up a Peace, accept of such Terms as will rather be a new Affront to the Nation, than an Atonement for the Insults and Injuries we have suffered. From the Resolution the honourable Gentleman has been pleased to propose, (for I deny it to be an Amendment to mine, unless we judge of Resolutions or Motions, as we judge of Men of War,) we may see what he thinks will be a sufficient Acknowledgment of the Rights now in Dispute between Spain and us: He has reserved only what I may call one Beam, or one Plank, of what I proposed; he has reserved only the first two or three Sentences, and this, he has told us, will, in his Opinion, be as strong a Vindication of all the Rights and Privileges, now in Dispute between Spain and us, as if every one of them had been particularly mentioned. I confess, Sir, the Words he proposes to reserve, may be some Sort of general Acknowledgment of the first two Rights I proposed to be established, by the Resolutions of this House; but but how they can be called an Acknowledgment of the last two, I cannot comprehend The Words are, 'That it is the natural and undoubted Right of British Subjects, to sail with their Ships, on any Part of the Seas of America, to and from any Part of his Majesty's Dominions. For God's Sake, Sir, how is it possible to imagine, that these Words can any Way relate to our Right of cutting Logwood in the Bay of Campechey, or to our Right of gathering Salt in the Island of Tortugas? It is impossible to imagine any such Thing; and therefore, if we agree to what he has offered, it may be supposed, that we have left our Negotiators at Liberty, to make a Sacrifice of those two valuable Rights to their own Ease and Security.
'But with respect, Sir, even to the first two Rights, which I proposed to be particularly established, what Security can we have from such a general Acknowledgment, more than we have at present? Suppose these Words, which are, by the honourable Gentleman's Proposition, to be the only Words that relate to any of our Rights in America or elsewhere; I say, Sir, suppose these Words dressed up in the Form of an Article in a future Treaty, they would then stand thus: 'His Catholick Majesty acknowledges and declares, that it is the natural and undoubted Right of the British Subjects, to sail with their Ships on any Part of the Seas of America, to and from any Part of his Britannick Majesty's Dominions.' Now let us compare this new Security for the Freedom of our Commerce, with that which we have already, by Treaties now subsisting between the two Crowns. By the 15th Article of the Treaty of 1670, it is expresly declared, 'That the Freedom of Commerce shall not be interrupted by no Manner of Means, nor under any Pretence of Preheminence, Right, or Signiory, which either Party claims in the West Indies, or in any Part of America.' And by the 6th Article of the Treaty of Utrecht, it is expresly declared, 'That as the Subjects of their Majesties are to enjoy on both Sides an entire, secure, and unmolested Use and Liberty of Navigation and Commerce, as long as the Peace and Friendship, entered into by their Majesties, and their Crowns, shall continue; so likewise their Majesties have provided, that the said Subjects shall not be deprived of that Security, for any little Difference which may possibly arise; but that they shall, on the contrary, enjoy all the Benefits of Peace, until War be declared between the two Crowns.' From this Comparison, can any Man say, that this new Security, which is all the honourable Gentleman seems to propose for us, will be any Way more extensive, or more explicit, or more effectual, than the Security we have already? Can this House then propose, that the Nation should now content itself with a Renewal only of that Security, which by dearbought Experience, we have found to be no Security at all.
'Sir, I insist upon it, that such a general Acknowledgment or Declaration, would be so far from being a Security, that it would be nothing like a Determination of the principal Affair now in Dispute between Spain and us. His Catholick Majesty never pretended, that British Subjects have not a Right to sail with their Ships on any Part of the open Seas of America; nor do we pretend, that we have a Right to sail to and traffick in the Ports, Havens, or Places possessed by the Spaniards in America, any farther than is allowed us by the Assiento Contract. But the King of Spain pretends, that, in order to discover whether any of our Ships have been sailing to and trafficking with his Subjects in America, he has a Right to enter and search our Ships upon the open Seas; and that, if upon such a Search it be found, that they have any of those Goods on Board, which he says can be found no where but in his Dominions in that Part of the World, it is a full Proof that they have been carrying on an illicit Trade with his Subjects, and that therefore he has a Right to seize and confiscate the Ship and Cargoe. On the contrary, we contend, and with Justice contend, that he has no Right to search any British Ship on the open Seas, either in America or elsewhere; but that in all Cases, and in all Seas, if a Spanish Ship of War, or Guarda Costa, meets a British Ship at Sea, the Spanish Ship is by the 14th Article of the Treaty of 1667, 'not to come within Cannon Shot of the British Ship, but shall send their long Boat or Pinnace to the British Ship, with only two or three Men on board, to whom the Master or Owner shall shew his Passports and Sea-Letters, whereby not only the Ship's Lading, but the Place to which she belongs, and as well Master and Owner's Name, as the Name of the Ship, may appear; by which means the Quality of the Ship, and her Master or Owner; will be sufficiently known, as also the Commodities she carries, whether they be contraband or not, to the which Passports and Sea-Letters intire Faith and Credit shall be given.'
'And supposing, Sir, it should appear, by the British Ship's Passports and Sea Letters, that she is sailing to or from any Spanish Port, and has prohibited Goods on Board; by the 15th Article of the same Treaty, 'Those prohibited Goods only are to be seized or confiscated, and not the other Goods; neither shall the Delinquent incur any other Punishment, except he carry out from the Dominions of Spain any Gold or Silver, wrought or unwrought.' Or, supposing it should appear by the British Ship's Passports and Sea-Letters, that she is bound to a Port belonging to some Power, then at War with the King of Spain, and has concontrand Goods; by the 23d Article of the same Treaty, 'Such Goods only shall be taken out and confiscated; but for this Reason the Ship, and the other free and allowed Commodities, which shall be found therein, shall in no wise be either seized or confiscated.'
'I must observe, Sir, that this Treaty of 1667, was a general Treaty, which comprehended America as well as every other Part of the World; therefore the Methods thereby established, for visiting our Ships at Sea, ought to be observed in the American Seas, as well as the Mediterranean, Bay of Biscay, or any other open Sea; and I must likewise observe, that tho' by this Treaty we get no Permission to trade with the Spanish Plantations in America or the West Indies, yet we did not, by that Treaty; lay ourselves under any express Obligation not to trade with them: We did not lay ourselves under any such Obligation, till the Year 1670; so that the Spaniards have no Right either to search or seize our Ships, but what they have by the Law of Nations, or what they got by the Treaty of 1670. By the Law of Nations, they have no Right to search or seize any Ship, unless she be found within some Part of their Dominions; therefore they have no Right to search or seize any of our Ships, upon any Part of the open Seas of America. And by the Treaty of 1670, we obliged ourselves only not to navigate or traffick in the Havens and Places, that are in the Possession of the Catholick King in the West-Indies; therefore, as the open Seas of America are not, as we can never allow them, or any Part of them, to be in his Possession, he can have no Right, by that Treaty; to search, much less to seize, any of our Ships, that are sailing upon the open Seas of America.
'On the contrary, Sir, by the Articles of the Treaty of 1667, the Spanish Men of War and Guarda Costa's are expresly, and very particularly, obliged not to come within Cannon Shot of any British Ship sailing upon the open Seas; and if they have a Mind to visit or see the Passports or SeaLetters of any such Ship, they are expresly obliged not to send above two or three Men on Board for that Purpose; and to those Passports and Sea Letters they are expresly obliged to give entire Faith and Credit; which last Words cut off every Pretence, they can have, for making a Search; and by the very Nature of the Thing, they can seize no Goods, even of those that are mentioned in the Bills of Lading, unless the Ship be bound to or from some Port of Spain, or to some Port belonging to the King of Spain's declared Enemies; because she can have no Goods on Board that can, by the Spaniards, be called prohibited, unless she be bound to or from some of their Ports; and she can have no contraband Goods on Board, unless she be bound to a Port possessed by their Enemies. Nay, even in these two Cases, they cannot pretend to make Prize of Ship and Cargo: They can seize and confiscate only those Goods, which are prohibited or contraband.
'From what I have said, Sir, the Injustice of the King of Spain's Pretensions must evidently appear. It must appear evident, that he has no Right to search any of our Ships sailing upon the open Seas of America; and much less has he a Right to limit and prescribe, what Sort of Goods they shall carry from one Part of the British Dominions, to another or to determine, that their carrying any one Sort of Goods, shall be a Proof of their having been carrying on an illicit Trade with his Subjects in America. These are Usurpations lately set up in direct Opposition to the Law of Nations, and notwithstanding the general Acknowledgment of a free Commerce and Navigation, so often and so solemnly repeated, in the Treaties now subsisting between us; and these, Sir, are Usurpations which they have set up, under the false and frivolous Pretence, that such Practices are not inconsistent with the Freedom of Commerce or Navigation, and therefore not contrary to the general Acknowledgments and Declarations contained in those Treities. Does not this shew, Sir, that a general Acknowledgment of our Right to sail on any Part of the Seas of America, will not determine the Question in Dispute between us? Does not it shew, that such a general Acknowledgment will leave us as much liable to Insults and Depredations, after it is obtained, as we have been for these twenty Years past? Therefore, we ought, we must insist upon having these Usurpations given up and passed from, in the most particular, express, and explicite Terms; otherwise we must give up our Trade and our Plantations, not only in the Islands, but also upon the Continent of America; and if we are so cowardly as to give up such a valuable Branch of our Commerce, I will foretel, that we must soon give up, not only our Turkey, Italian, and Spanish Trade, but also our Trade to Portugal and the Coasts of Africa; for the same Pretences may be set up for searching and seizing our Ships in the Mediterranean, Bay of Bascay, and African Seas, as are now set up for searching our Ships in the open Seas of America: Nay, I am convinced, Spain, or some other of our Neighbours, will soon set up the same Pretences for ruining our Trade in the East-Indies.
'I have been the more particular, Sir, upon this Subject, and have taken up more of your Time, than I would otherwise have done, because I have Reason to suspect, that the honourable Gentleman who made you the second Proposition, which I find he has a Mind should pass as an Amendment to mine, in order to avoid putting the Question upon what I took the Liberty to propose; I say, Sir, I have Reason to suspect, that he may have some Hand in directing our future Negociations with Spain; and as, by what he has been pleased to propose, he seems not to be so zealous in the Defence of the Rights and Privileges of this Nation, as, I think, he ought, I hope this House will come to the Resolutious I have proposed, in order to prevent, as much as possible, the Effect his Counsels may have upon our future Negociations with the Court of Spain; for if we are so good-natured, and so pacisick, as to continue our Negociations yet a while longer, I believe, most Gentlemen that hear me will admit, that they ought to be carried on with more Vigour, and in a more peremptory Manner than they have been for many Years past; and that whatever may be the Result of this Day's Debate, our Negociators, at least, ought to insist upon particular Explanations and express Declarations, with respect to every Matter of Right now in Dispute: but more especially with respect to that Right the Spaniards have lately usurped, of searching our Ships upon the open Seas.
'For this Reason, Sir, among many others, if the Question is to be put upon the Amendment proposed, I hope Gentlemen will disagree to it, in order that we may come at putting the Question upon the several Resolutions, I have taken the Liberty to lay before you.
The Right honourable Sir Robert Walpole likewise stood up again, and spoke in Substance as follows, viz.
I wish, that Gentlemen, in their debating upon the Affair now before us, would take care to keep to the Point really in Dispute; for by so doing, I am sure they would very much shorten the Debate. In what I took the. Liberty to trouble you with upon this Subject, I am certain, I did not drop the leaft Word, that could intimate so much as a Doubt about any of the Rights or Privileges, which the Court of Spain now pretends to contest with us. So far otherwise, I expresly declared that I agreed with every thing the honourable Gentleman had said in Support of them; and I am still convinced; that no Gentleman, either within or without Doors, will so much as insinuate, that our Title to any one of those Rights and Privileges, is in the least doubtful; therefore I must think, that whatever the honourable Gentleman has since been pleased to add, whatever may hereafter be said, in Support of any of those Rights or Privileges, or for explaining or demonstrating the Justice of our Title to all, or any one of them, is a Sort of fighting with the Wind: It is arguing without an Opponent; and consequently, I must beg leave to say, that I think it is taking up a great deal of your Time to no Purpose.
'The only Question in Dispute among us, Sir, is, Whether we ought now to come to a particular Resolution, upon every particular Right or Privilege, which the Court of Spain pretends to contest with us; or, if we ought only to come to one general Resolution; which may virtually include them all, and so leave it intirely to his Majesty, and those employed by him, to obtain such farther Explanations, and such particular Acknowledgments, as the present or future Circumstances of Affairs may make proper for him to insist on? This, Sir, is the only Point now in Dispute amongst us; and therefore, without taking notice of what the honourable Gentleman has now been pleased to add to what he formerly said, for explaining and enforcing the Justice of our Title to those Rights and Privileges, which the Spariards have lately taken upon them to contest, I shall only add a few Words for enforeing what I have said before, in favour of the general Resolution, I proposed, and then I shall endeavour to answer the few Arguments that have been made use of, for shewing that we ought to come to particular Resolutions upon every particular Right or Privilege, now contested by Spain.
'The honourable Gentleman has told us, that not only our Negociators ought to insist positively and peremptorily upon particular Explanations and express Acknowledgment, with respect to every particular Right or Privilege lately contested, but that this House ought now to come to such Resolutions as may make it absolutely necessary for them to insist upon such. I wish, Sir, with all my Heart, I believe every honest Subject of Great Britain wishes, that it were in our Power to give Laws to every Potentate in Europe, and to prescribe to them how they should behave, in every Case, not only to us, but to one another. But this is at present impossible; and even though we had a Probability of Success in any such Attempt, I do not think it would be prudent in us to attempt making use of our Power in a Manner too positive and haughty, left by so doing we should provoke the other Powers of Europe to unite together, in order to reduce the Power of this Nation, and to make us submit to such Laws as they might be pleased to prescribe to us, instead of our prescribing to all or any of them. For this Reason, Sir, in all our Negociations, we must have a Regard to Policy, as well as to what we think Justice, and we must take care, in the Demands we make upon any one of our Neighbours, not to insist so positively and so haughtily, even upon those Terms we may think reasonable, as to excite the Jealousy of the rest. In Contests between Nations, it is the same as in Contests between private Men: Each Party thinks himself right; and as there is no Judge or Judicature, that has a Right to determine finally in those Contests, that happen between two independant Nations, both ought to consult the Sentiments of their Neighbours, and both ought to limit Demands, or extend their Compliances, according to that Opinion, which they find prevails generally among their most impartial Neighbours. This may often be a Reason for a Nation's accepting of general Declarations, in Cases where particular Explanations, and express Concessions, would not only be just, but much more to their Honour and Advantage.
'I shall, I believe, Sir, every Gentleman in this House will, readily acknowledge the Justice and Reasonableness of every one of our Demands upon Spain; but whatever Opinion we may have about the Matters now in Dispute between us, it is certain the Court of Spain does not as yet think our Demands either reasonable or just; I am persuaded his Catholick Majesty, at least, does not think so, otherwise his natural Propensity to Justice, which is so well known, would certainly have induced him to comply with our Demands. Even the other Courts of Europe cannot perhaps be prevailed on to think of them in the same Way we do; and if we should too peremptorily insist upon our present Demands against Spain, and should resolve to compel them to agree to such Terms as we had a Mind to propose, and to acknowledge our Rights and Privileges in such a Manner, and by such Words and Expressions, as we should think fit to prescribe, it might stir up some of the other Powers of Europe to join with Spain, who would otherwise have remained neutral; and it might prevent our best Friends and most natural Allies from giving us their Assistance, in a War which we had unnecessarily and imprudently brought upon ourselves.
'What the present System of Politicks in Europe may be, I shall not pretend, Sir, to determine: I do not believe any Gentleman in this House can. It is a System that depends upon the Humour of so many Courts, and upon so many Accidents at every one of these Courts, that it must be altering and changing every Day. Therefore it is impossible to communicate it to this House; nor can we, if it were now communicated, in common Prudence, allow it to have any great Influence on our Resolutions. It may be at present in such a State, as might make it prudent in us to lay hold of the Opportunity, in order to have all Matters in Dispute between Spain and us settled and determined, in the most particular and explicite Manner; and yet, before we could possibly take Advantage of the Opportunity, which the then System of Politicks had furnished us with, it might be so much changed to our Disadvantage, as would make it prudent in us to lower our Crest, and accept of any Expedient, for putting off our being obliged to come to an open Rupture with Spain, at such an unseasonable Juncture.
'This, Sir, shews the Wisdom and the Excellence of our Constitution, which has trusted intirely to the Crown, the Power of making Peace and War; and at the same Time it shews how imprudent it would be in us to encroach upon that Prerogative, by laying the Crown under a Necessity to make War, however unseasonable, however perverse the Conjuncture may be. All Matters relating to Peace and War, besides the Secrecy that is requisite, are liable to so many Changes, and to such sudden and unlooked-for Alterations, that nothing but a single Person, or an Assembly that is continually subsisting, can be exactly informed of every Incident that occurs, or can have such a thorough Knowledge of foreign Affairs, as to be able to foresee the lucky or the cross Incidents that may probably occur, so as to take an immediate Advantage of the former, or so as to take such Measures as may prevent the dangerous Consequences of the latter. Therefore, while our happy Constitution remains intire, while the Parliament meets but once a Year, and does not continue assembled above three or four Months in the twelve, it is impossible for either House of Parliament to intermeddle, much less to prescribe to the Crown, in any Affairs relating to Peace or War, without exposing the Nation to imminent Danger.
'I shall grant, Sir, that after the Rights of a Nation have been contested and invaded, or after an unjust Claim has been actually set up, there is a greater Occasion for particular Explanations, and express Concessions, than there was before; but Nations must chuse proper Times and Seasons for insisting even upon that, which they are most justly intitled to; and whether the present be a proper Time for our insisting, in a peremptory Manner, upon the utmost we are intitled to, with respect to Spain, is a Consideration which this House cannot pretend to be a competent Judge of; because no Man can judge in such a Case, without knowing thoroughly the Circumstances and Complexions of all the Courts in Europe, which is a Knowledge no Man can pretend to, without having previously been made fully acquainted with all the Secrets of the Cabinet; and I am sure, no Man who wishes well to his Country, would desire, or can expect, that his Majesty should communicate all the Secrets of his Cabinet to such a numerous Assembly. Nay, if he should, it would not enable us to determine what might be proper to be done a Month hence; for that very Communication might probably occasion a thorough Change in the Face of Affairs all over Europe; which Change might make those Measures destructive to the Nation, which at present may be justly thought the most salutary and prudent. In my Opinion, therefore, the best Thing we can do upon the present Occasion, is, to come to some general Resolution, in order to shew the Resentment of the Nation against the Insults and Injuries we have met with, and to leave it entirely to his Majesty's Care and Wisdom, to get such Satisfaction, and to get our particular Rights as fully acknowledged as Time and future Circumstances will permit. I hope, Sir, that such an Opportunity will soon present; but if it should not, and if the Spaniards should prove more obstinate than we have Reason to expect, his Majesty will, no doubt, take the first proper Opportunity for compelling them to do, what in Justice they ought. Our coming to a general Resolution can no way oblige his Majesty to accept of general Acknowledgments, if he finds that he can, either by fair or foul Means, obtain particular and express Concessions; but our coming to particular and explicit Resolutions, will render it impossible for his Majesty, either to propose or accept of general Acknowledgments, even tho' he should then be convinced, that the Nation could not come to an immediate Rupture, with any Prospect of Advantage; so that our coming to a general Resolution cannot possibly be attended with any bad Consequence, whereas our coming to particular Resolutions, binds up his Majesty's Hands, and may force the Nation into a War at a very unseasonable Juncture, which of course may be attended with the most fatal Consequences.
'I shall likewise admit, Sir, that the first Part of the Resolution offered by the honourable Gentleman, which I propose should stand Part of the Resolution of this House, does not comprehend the Rights or Privileges we have to cut Logwood in the Bay of Campechey, and to gather Salt in the Island of Tortugas; but as our Claim to both has never yet been prescribed, the Disturbance we have met with in the Exercise of these two Rights, will I think, be sufficiently comprehended under the following Words, in the Resolution or Amendment I have proposed, by which we are to declare, 'That before and since the Execution of the Treaty of Seville, and the Declaration made by the Crown of Spain, pursuant thereunto, for the Satisfaction and Security of the Commerce of Great-Britain, many unjust Seizures and Captures have been made, and great Depredations committed, by the Spaniards.' For all the British Ships that have been seized and confiscated, for cutting Logwood in the Bay of Campechey, or for gathering Salt in the Island of Tortugas, ought to be reckoned among those unjust Selzures and Captures, which we complain of. But if in the Course of a future Inquiry, our Rights to both these Privileges are thought proper to be particularly ascertained, this general Resolution never can preclude his Majesty from insisting upon a particular Acknowledgment, if the Circumstances of Affairs will permit.
'The Freedom of our Commerce and Navigation, Sir, is the principal Affair in Dispute between the two Nations, and that which, in our Resolution, we ought to shew the greatest Regard to. For this Reason, I proposed keeping in the first Part of the Honourable Gentleman's Proposition; and, I think, the Words I have proposed to be kept in, will be a sufficient Vindication of our Right to a free Commerce and Navigation in the open Seas of America, without adding any Explanations. His Majesty may nevertheless, if he finds it proper, insist upon Explanations; but I do not think we should, by our Resolution, so limit his Majesty, that he cannot hereafter agree to any Treaty, without such Explanations; because, if the Spaniards should make Satisfaction to us for what Injuries they have done, and agree, even in general Terms, to a Renewal of all the Treaties now subsisting between the two Crowns, we ought to accept of it, rather than engage in a War; especially if it appears, that they agree to such a new Treaty with a real Design to observe it; for if we should afterwards find ourselves deceived; if they should begin to play the same Game over again, we may, in all Probability find a more favourable Opportunity than the present, for punishing their Breach of Faith, and enforcing the Observance of Treaties.
'For my own Part, Sir, I do not pretend to know any Secrets about the present Circumstances of Affairs in Europe; I do not pretend to know what Allies Spain may expect, or what Assistance we have to depend on, in Case of a War between the two Nations; but from what is publick and west known, I think every Gentleman ought to conclude, if the Spaniards had not private Encouragement from Powers more considerable than themselves, they would never have ventured upon those Insults, and Injuries, that have been proved at your Bar. Besides, Sir, the, present Circumstances of Affairs in Europe, are none of the most favourable for this Nation, and many Accidents may occur, which may render them much more favourable, than they are at present; therefore, however much some Gentlemen may take upon them to ridicule the Tediousness of our Negociations, I think it is much more prudent to protract and draw them out to a Length, than to run the Nation headlong into an unequal War, or to give up any of our Rights and Privileges by a precipitate Treaty.
'I am indeed surprized, Sir, to hear it insinuated, that, because I am not for such particular Resolutions, as I think may force the Nation into an unnecessary or unseasonable War, therefore I do not think the Matters now in Dispute between Spain and us, worth the Care of a British Parliament. Sir, I think every one of them greatly deserves the Care of every Branch of our Legislature; but, I think, we should not take an improper Opportunity, or improper Methods, for shewing that Care; we should not, like an overfond Mother, destroy our Child, by taking imprudent or unseasonable Methods for preserving it. While the Dispute remains in the Shape of a Negociation, the only proper Way we can take for shewing our. Care, is, by general Resolutions and Addresses, to assure his Majesty, that we will support him in whatever Measures he may think proper, for asserting the Rights and Privileges of the Nation; and after his Majesty has declared to us, that he finds he can vindicate those Rights and Privileges no other Way but by Force of Arms, which certainly he will not do, till he finds he can engage in a War, at least upon an equal Footing, if not with a more than probable View of Success, we are then to shew our Care and Concern for the Rights and Privileges of our Country, by enabling his Majesty to vindicate them, with that Vigour which becomes such a powerful Nation.
'I hope, Sir, I am as zealous in the Defence of the Rights and Privileges of my Country, as any Man in the Kingdom; but I shall never allow my Zeal to carry me beyond the Bounds of Prudence and Discretion. I shall never affect Popularity so much, as to be guided by those popular Prejudices, which; I think, if indulged and followed, might involve the Nation into great, perhaps insuperable Difficulties. Such a Conduct I shall always look on as imprudent in the Authors, as well as pernicious to the Nation; for if, upon the present Occasion, or any such Occasion, we should unnecessarily hurry the Nation into a War, and the Event should not answer the People's Expectations, I know who would be blamed, I know who would be the first to move for an Enquiry into the Conduct of those who had allowed the Nation to be led into a War, which it could not prosecute with Advantage; and as we cannot judge, whether, upon the present Occasion, the Circumstances of Europe are such as may enable or permit us to prosecute a War against Spain with Advantage, therefore I must be against our coming to such Resolutions as will, in my Opinion, make a War with Spain, not only unavoidable, but imminent.
Walter Plumer Esq; spoke to this Effect, viz.
Walter Plumer Esq;
'The Resolutions proposed by my honourable Friend over the Way, were so very reasonable in themselves, and so becoming the Dignity of this House to insist upon, that I dare say they would have met with no Opposition, had it not been for what was said by the honourable Gentleman, who spoke last, and who offered to amend the honourable Gentleman's Resolutions with understanding them; at least I will venture to say that he seems to mistake the Point in Question. This, Sir, we shall be fully sensible of, if we consider the Affair now before us, and how it came before us: The Affair now under our Consideration was brought before us by Petitions from our injured and plundered West India Merchants; and the Petitioners, after representing their Sufferings, pray for such a timely and adequate Remedy, as may put an End to their Sufferings, and such Relief for the unhappy Sufferers, as the Nature of their Case, and the Justice of their Cause, may require. The chief Question now before us is, therefore, What we shall do, or what we may be able to do, for answering effectually the Prayer of their Petitions? For the Petitioners have so fully proved their Allegations, to the Regret and Sorrow of almost every Man that heard them, that no Question can be made about the Truth of what they have set forth.
'Upon this, Sir, which I take to be the first and chief Question, it seems to be the Opinion of this House, that the only Thing we can do at present, for procuring them any Remedy or Relief, is, to come to some Resolutions, relating to the Rights that are contested, and the Injuries that have been done to our Merchants. My honourable Friend over the Way has proposed a Set of particular Resolutions, which, I think, may in all probability produce some Effect; and the honourable Gentleman near him has proposed a general Resolution, which, from Experience we know, must be altogether ineffectual; so that the real Question now in Dispute is, Whether we shall come to such Resolutions an may probably be effectual, for procuring that Remedy and Relief which the Petitioners pray for; or if we shall come to a Resolution, which, if we judge by Experience, we must conclude to be ineffectual. It is now ten Years since the same Sort of Complaint was made to us; and we then came to such a general Resolution as the honourable Gentleman has, by his Amendment, proposed: It is eight Years since a second Complaint of the same Nature was made to us, and we again came to the same Sort of general Resolution: These general Resolutions have been so far from procuring any Relief for those who had then suffered, that many Insults have been since put upon the Nation, and many new Depredations committed; therefore, from repeated Experience we must conclude, that such a general Resolution will never prove effectual for putting an End to the present) or obtaining Satisfaction for the past Sufferings of our Merchants. Shall we then, upon this third Application, amuse the unhappy Sufferers with such a Resolution as, we know, can have no Effect? Shall we tell all the World that we dare come to no Resolutions, but such as they know can procure them neither Reparation nor Security? What Effect, Sir, might that have upon our Planters and Merchants? Might it not render them desperate? And yet this is the Question, and the only Question now before us; and to such a Question I shall be proud of giving a Negative.
'Sir, upon the present Occasion, I could wish it were in almost the Power of this House, to act as well as resolve. I could almost wish it were in our Power to send out Squadrons and Armies, and to give such Orders and Instructions to those Squadrons and Armies, as might be worthy of the British Nation, and sufficient for enabling them to revenge the Injuries their Country has received. This, 'tis true, is not in our Power, but surely we may, and, I think, we ought to come to such Resolutions, as may give our Merchants and Seamen some Hopes of meeting at last with Reparation for what is passed, and Security in Time to come. For this Purpose we must come to Resolutions, stronger and more particular than any of those we have yet come to: If we do not, we must expect, that our Planters, Merchants, and Seamen, will give over having any further Concern in Trade, or fly to foreign Countries for that Protection, which they see they can no longer hope for in their own. The particular Resolutions which my honourable Friend was so good as to move for, may have some Effect: They will administer to our Fellow Subjects the Comfort at least of hoping for Redress; and they may perhaps convince Foreigners that this Nation is not now in a Humour to wait another 10 Years, for that Justice and Satisfaction, which we ought to have had 10 Years ago; whereas, if we should now come to no other Resolution, but such a general one as we have twice already come to without any Effect, our own People will despair of ever meeting with Redress; and I can see no Reason why we should expect it will now have a greater Effect upon the Conduct of Spain, than it had 8 or 10 Years ago.
'We have been told, Sir, that such particular Resolutions as were at first proposed, will put it out of the Power of his Majesty's Ministers, to advise him to accept of general Acknowledgments or Declarations in any future Treaty, and may consequently involve the Nation in a War at a very unseasonable Juncture. What the present Conjuncture may be, I must confess I am quite ignorant of; but considering our Situation, and the many Disputes that must necessarily happen, as well as the Jealousy that must continually subsist, between the several Powers upon the Continent, I must think, that, without some very imprudent Sort of Conduct, we can never long want a proper Opportunity for vindicating and asserting our Rights and Privileges, against any Nation that shall dare to invade them; and therefore, while we have the good Fortune to be under an Administration, that knows so well how to take Advantage of the Blunders of their Neighbours, and is so well instructed in the most secret Views of the several Powers of Europe; I must think, we can never be in Danger of being involved in War at an unseasonable Juncture. Indeed, if we were under the Government or Administration of one sole prime Minister, and that Minister quite ignorant of foreign Affairs, or such a one whose Integrity none could trust, whose Faith no foreign State could rely on, whose Ignorance of all the Arts of Government, except one, had appeared from every Step of his Conduct; I say, if we were so unlucky as to be under the Government of such a prime Minister, there might be some Reason for our avoiding to come to any Resolutions, that might tend towards involving the Nation in War; because in such a Case, we could expect no Assistance from any of our Allies, nor Success from our own Conduct. But, Sir, if this were our Case, which it neither is, nor can be as long as our Constitution subsists, what would then be the Duty of this House? Would it not be our Duty, to enquire into the State of the Nation, and deliver our Country from such polluted Hands? Would not we be in Honour and Conscience obliged, to exert that Power which is placed in this House by our Constitution? Would not we be obliged to call such a Minister to an Account, and pull him from the Summit of his Power? For while he continued in the Administration, we could never expect Confidence or Assistance from any of our foreign Neighbours; and consequently, we could never expect a seasonable Opportunity for doing ourselves Justice, against those that had invaded our Rights or Privileges.
'Whatever may be the present Conjuncture of Affairs in Europe, however unfortunate it may be with respect to this Nation, I must think, Sir, we can neither in Prudence nor Honour continue to sit tamely under such Insults and Injuries as we have lately suffered, nor can we now trust to general Acknowledgments, Declarations, or Promises. As we have already been convinced by Experience, that no general Resolution of this House can be effectual, for procuring Satisfaction or Security to our Merchants; so we have by Experience been convinced, that no general Acknowledgment or Promise, in any Treaty between us and Spain, can be effectual for such a Purpose. There is not a Right or Privilege now contested between us and Spain, but what has been acknowledged by general Words or Clauses, in almost every Treaty that has been concluded between the two Nations; and by the Treaty of Seville we were promised Satisfaction, in general Terms, for all the Injuries they had done us before that Time. How then can we expect, that general Acknowledgments or Promises, in any future Treaty, can prove of any Effect? And can we in Honour or Prudence accept of that, from which we can expect neither Satisfaction nor Security?
'The present Circumstances of Europe may, for what I know, be unfavourable: We may perhaps, be reduced to the Necessity of engaging in an unequal War; but the Fortune of War, Sir, does not always attend that Side which appears to be the most powerful; and I hope we have not yet negotiated the Affairs of Europe into such a System, as may have produced a formidable Alliance against us, without any one Ally to assist us; therefore, if we should now be obliged to enter into a War, for the Preservation of our Trade and Plantations, the Event may disappoint our Fears, or do more than answer our Expectations: Whereas, if we wait for a more favourable Opportunity, till our Trade and Plantations be quite undone, I'm afraid, we must wait for that which never will happen. While we remain in our present unsettled Condition, while we continue subject to such Insults and Depredations, our Trade must daily decay; and the more our Trade decays, the less will our Power be to assist ourselves, the less ready will any of our Neighbours be to assist us. It may then be out of the Power of the best and wisest Ministers we can have, to break or prevent any Alliance, that may be formed or forming against us, or to defeat the Design of it, by a counter Alliance; but at present, if any powerful Alliance be formed against us, and we cannot form a sufficient counter Alliance, it must be owing to some late Weakness or Mistake in our Conduct; and I hope we have been guilty of no late Mistake, but what may be rectified by the Wisdom and Power of Parliament, if a Resolution should be taken to enquire seriously and freely into the Affair, in order to take proper Measures for rectifying our Mistakes, and for punishing those that had been the Cause of them.
'The hononrable Gentleman wishes it were in our Power to give Laws to every Potentate in Europe, and to prescribe to them how they should behave to one another. I wish so, Sir, as well as he; but if it were, it would be ridiculous in us to make use of our Power, in Cases where our own Interest could be no Way concerned; and in Cases where our own Interest is concerned, especially where, common Justice is denied us, we ought to make as much Use of our Power as we can, however inconsiderable it may be. There is a very great Difference betwixt prescribing to others, and allowing others to prescribe to us. I am afraid, Sir, we have of late begun to allow a certain neighbouring Power to prescribe to us, particularly with regard to Spain: I am afraid it is to these Prescriptions we must impute the peaceful Behaviour of the many expensive Squadrons, we have lately fitted out; and I am convinced, if we continue long in the same peaceable Disposition, the same Power will become able to prescribe to others, as well as to us.
'I shall confess, Sir, I am sorry I must confess, that this Nation is not at present in a very good Condition for entering into an expensive War. Our publick Debts remain yet unsatisfied; our Taxes are, most of them, as high as in Time of War, and more numerous than they ever were during the most heavy War; and what is worst of all, a great Part of them are mortgaged for paying the yearly Interest of our publick Debts; yet nevertheless, when Self-preservation comes to be at Stake, we may find a Fund sufficient for supporting a new War; for I should, and I hope most of my Countrymen would, I am sure every British Subject ought to chuse to live upon Bread and Onions, rather than see the House of Bourbon giving Laws to Europe. This is a Misfortune, which every Nation in Europe is equally obliged to guard against, and therefore in guarding against it, we can never be destitute of a powerful Assistance, if this House do but its Duty, which is, to take care, that our publick Councils may always be directed by Men of known Abilities and unsuspected Integrity.
'From what I have said, Sir, I hope Gentlemen will see that it would be both imprudent and pufillanimous in us, to allow the Fear of a War to over-awe us, with respect to the Resolutions we are to come to upon the present Occasion; and I hope it will appear, that no Minister ought to advise his Majesty to agree to any future Treaty, that contains nothing but such general Acknowledgments and Promises, as have already been found ineffectual; therefore, to tell us that we ought not to come to such Resolutions, as may prevent any Minister's advising his Majesty to agree to such a Treaty, must be the same as to tell us, that we ought not to come to such Resolutions, as may prevent a Minister's doing what he ought not to do, which cannot surely be an Argument of any Weight in the present, or any other Debate.
'Whatever other Gentlemen may think of Popularity, whatever Regard they may have for the Opinion of the People, I must confess, Sir, that I should be not only afraid, but ashamed of being an Object of publick Hatred or Contempt; and I should be extremely doubtful about my own Opinion, if I found it contrary to the Opinion of most of my Countrymen. Upon any sudden Emergency, the People may form a wrong Opinion, or they may upon some Occafions be misled by artful and designing Leaders; but when the People have Time to consider, and when they enquire into any Affair, without Prejudice, the Opinion that prevails among the Generality of them, has in most Cases been found to be right. As to its being a seasonable Opportunity for entering into a War, the People may not be sufficiently able to judge; but as to the Causes of a War, the People are always able to judge, whether they are just and reasonable or not; and for this Reason most Nations, when they declare War, endeavour to justify their Conduct by publick Manifesto's. As it is the general Opinion of this Nation, that we have now sufficient Reasons for declaring War against Spain, as most Men think that we ought long since to have revenged, in a hostile Manner, the Affronts that have been put upon us, those amongst us who affirm the contrary, may, for what I know, have some Prudence, but I am sure they are not overburthened with Modesty.
'With respect to the Event of a War, the Case, Sir, is, indeed, very different; for neither the People, nor the most clear-sighted Ministers, can pretend to form any certain Opinion about it; and as the People of all Countries have generally too good an Opinion of their own Courage and Strength, as this is an Opinion which all wise Governments endeavour to promote, therefore the People have for the most Part greater Expectation from the Event of a War, than they can reasonably hope for; so that the Event of almost every War must be such as will not fully answer the People's Expectation; yet when a War becomes necessary, when the Effects of continuing in Peace must be as fatal as the most unfortunate Event of a War, can any Man be so sollicitous about his own Safety, and so regardless of that of his Country, as to advise continuing such a destructive Peace, only for fear the People should blame him, and enquire into his Conduct, in case the War he had advised, should happen to prove unsuccessful?
'Sir, our late peaceable Conduct, our same Submission to so many Insults and Injuries, deserves to be enquired into, and may, for what I know, deserve the Censure of Parliament; I am sure it has already met with the Censure of the People; but neither the honourable Gentleman that spoke last, nor any other, I believe, can have the least Reason to apprehend an Enquiry or Censure, for advising us to try the Fate of War, in case we should find that we cannot by peaceable Means obtain full Reparation for all past Injuries, and effectual Security against any such in Time to come; and as Experience has taught us, that we can expect no Reparation or Security from general Acknowledgments, or bare Promises, we ought, by our Resolutions upon this Occasion, to prevent, if possible, its being in the Power of our Ministers, to allow themselves to be amused with such Acknowledgments or Promises, in any future Treaty. This, Sir, is the more necessary, because from this very Debate, I think, we have Reason to suspect, that some of our Ministers are inclined to accept of any Thing, rather than run the Risk of a War. What Reasons they may have for being so much afraid of entering into a War, I am no Judge of; but I hope they are peculiar to themselves, I hope they are not such as may affect the Nation, or such as ought to induce us to submit to the most cruel and contemptuous Peace, rather than have recourse to an open and declared War. If they are, I am sure our late Negociations and Conduct is a Subject highly worthy of the Enquiry and Consideration of Parliament.
'In order, therefore, Sir, to put it out of the Power of, or at least to make it unsafe for, any of our Ministers to advise his Majesty to ratify such a future Treaty, as can neither procure Reparation for what is passed, nor Security in Time to come, we ought to agree to the Resolutions first proposed; and if they could be made more particular and explicit, I should be for any Amendment that would make them so; but as they now stand, the agreeing to them is, I think, the least we can do upon the present Occasion. From our agreeing to such Resolutions, our Fellow-Subjects will be convinced that we are serious, and they will from thence begin to conceive Hopes, that their Rights and Privileges will soon be vindicated and asserted, either by a vigorous War, or by an honourable Treaty: Even the Spaniards will be convinced, that they can no longer pretend to amuse us with tedious Negociations, or general Promises: Whereas if we curtail these Resolutions in the Manner the honourable Gentleman has, by his Amendment, proposed; our FellowSubjects will despair of ever meeting with Redress or Security; and the Spaniards will conceive Hopes, they may continue to negotiate and treat with our Ministers, and at the same Time plunder our Merchants, for ten Years to come, as they have done for ten Years past.
'I shall conclude, Sir, with observing, that the Resolution, as it will stand by Means of the honourable Gentleman's Amendment, or rather the new Resolution he has proposed, will, upon Examination, appear to be in the same Terms with the Answer, which our Ministers have sent to the last Spanish Memorial; from whence it will of Course be supposed, that the Resolution of this House was dictated by the same Person that drew up that Answer; and I cannot think it consistent with the Honour and Dignity of this House, to give People without Doors any Shadow of Reason for suspecting, that the Resolutions of this House are dictated by our Ministers of State; for in all our Resolutions, but especially upon the present Occasion, we ought to speak our own Sense, the Sense of those we represent, the Sense of the Nation, and not the Sense of Ministers.'
The honourable Henry Pelham, Esq; spoke next in Substance as follows, viz.
H. Pelham, Esq;
'Gentlemen may give what Turn they please to the Question now before us; but, in my Opinion, it is plain that the true Question is, Whether we shall come to one general Resolution; or, if we shall come to a particular Resolution upon every particular Right in Dispute between us and Spain? If any Reparation or Security is to be procured in a peaceable Way, it is to be procured by Negociation only; and no Negociation can be carried on but by those employed by his Majesty: If it is not to be procured in a peaceable Way, it must be sought for in a hostile Manner, which is not to be governed or directed by the Resolutions of this House, but by his Majesty only; therefore it is not the Resolutions of this House, that can be supposed effectual for procuring our Merchants either Reparation or Security, but the Measures which his Majesty shall please to take for that Purpose.
'Thus, Sir, it appears, that there are but two Methods of obtaining Satisfaction from Spain, one by Way of Negociation, and the other by Force of Arms; and of these two, I hope it will be granted, the first ought to be preferred. Now it has been said, and, I think, justly said, that if we should agree to the Resolutions first proposed, we shall put it out of his Majesty's Power to obtain Satisfaction for our Merchants and Seamen, or Security for our Trade and Plantations, in a peaceable Way; whereas, if we agree to the Amendment proposed, we shall leave it in his Majesty's Power to obtain what the Petitioners pray for, by Means of a Negociation, without laying him under any Obligation, or even a Temptation, to accept of any thing less than what is contained in the particular Resolutions proposed. From whence I must conclude, that the proper Question now before us is, Whether we shall by our Resolutions make an immediate War unavoidable, let the present Conjuncture be what it will; or, if we shall leave it in his Majesty's Power to endeavour to obtain Redress by Way of Negociation; and I hope there is no Gentleman within these Walls so fond of fighting, as to be for involving the Nation in a dangerous and expensive War, even though every Thing we could ask, should be previously offered in a peaceable Way.
'Whatever the honourable Gentleman who spoke last, may be pleased to say upon the present Occasion, with respect to the Power of the Crown, or of the Power of this House, I hope, Sir, that neither he, nor any other Gentleman who has the Honour of sitting here, wishes we had any more Power as Members of this House, than what is vested in us by the Constitution: And if Gentlemen would but reflect upon the Confusion and Tyranny that ensued, within the last Century, from this House's having assumed more Power than it ought to have, I am sure they would not desire to see the least Step made towards a Re-assumption of the same Power.
'But supposing, Sir, that we should succeed in re-assuming such a Power, why in the Name of Goodness should we make a wanton Use of it, by sitting out Fleets and Armies before we find that no other Arguments will prevail? I believe there are very few in the Nation that question in the least, but that his Majesty has all the Inclination in the World to procure full Satisfaction by way of Negociation, or that he will take proper Measures for obtaining it by Force of Arms; so that we have no Occasion for coming to any Resolutions, and much less for putting the Nation to any Expence, in order to revive the Hopes of those that are drooping, or to prevent any Man's despairing of ever meeting with Redress; and with Respect to Foreigners, it is certain nothing can in a more forcible Manner influence their Councils, than their perceiving that the Parliament puts an entire Confidence in his Majesty's Conduct, which they will necessarily presume from our coming to a general Resolution only, upon the present Occasion; whereas if we should enter into a Discussion of our several Rights and Privileges, and come to a particular Resolution upon each, it will be of Course supposed at all foreign Courts, especially at that of Spain, that we doubt either of the Abilities or Inclinations of those that are employed by his Majesty in the Administration of our publick Affairs.
'I shall with Pleasure grant, Sir, that our being situated in an Island, and in a Manner detached from the rest of the World, furnisheth us with many considerable Advantages, and among the rest, with that of having it often in our Power, to make an Advantage of the Disputes and Jealousies that happen to arise among our Neighbours upon the Continent. This may often furnish us with a proper Opportunity for vindicating or asserting our Rights and Privileges; but it cannot at all Times, and just when we stand in need of it. The Affairs of Europe may take such an unlucky Turn, as to unite two potent Neighbours against us, at a Time when the rest are at Variance among themselves, or so much engaged or entangled, that they cannot give us any Assistance; and therefore we may sometimes be in Danger of being involved in a War at an unseasonable Juncture. Whether the present be such a one, I shall not take upon me to say; but if it is, I am sure the wisest Thing we can do is, to continue our Negociations, or even to accept of a Treaty of Peace, though it should contain nothing but general Acknowledgments and Confirmations, in hopes that a short Time may produce such an Alteration of Affairs in Europe, as will afford us an Opportunity for insisting upon such new Explanations and particular Concessions, as we may then think reasonable; But it would be wrong in us to do any Thing that might bring an immediate War upon the Nation, without knowing whether the present Conjuncture be seasonable or not; which is a Knowledge we can acquire no Way, but by a Declaration from his Majesty; and surely no Gentleman that has a Regard for his Country, would desire his Majesty to declare, before such a publick and numerous Assembly, that we cannot at present propose to enter into a War with any Prospect of Advantage; because, not only the Spaniards, but all those with whom we have now any Dispute, would certainly take Advantage of such a Declaration: They would from thence presume, they might force us to agree to any Terms of Peace they pleased to prescribe, or at least they would become much less tractable than they were before they heard of such a Declaration.
'I shall consess, Sir, that some Branches of our Trade, and likewise some of our Plantations, have suffered a little by the late Behaviour of Spain towards us; but their Sufferings are not, I believe, near so considerable as some People seem fond of representing; and had these Sufferings been much more considerable, we ought not to expose the Whole to the Fate of War at an unseasonable Juncture, for the Sake of preserving a Part; especially when we consider, that we can hardly fail of getting an Opportunity in a short Time, for endeavouring to recover our Losses, with a probable View of Success. If the Spaniards were always to behave towards us as they have done of late Years, and we were always to allow them to behave in the same Manner, the Whole of our Trade and Plantations might at last come to be in some Danger; but can it be supposed, Sir, that unless we immediately declare War, the Spaniards will always continue to treat us as they have lately done? By no Means; for there were neither Equity nor Honour at that Court, yet as soon as they become sensible, which they must soon be, of their own Interest, they will certainly court our Friendship, instead of provoking our Resentment.
'But, suppose, Sir, the Spaniards should go on in the same Way for some Time longer, then can it be supposed that we shall always bear such Treatment, with the same Patience and Good-nature? Suppose we have as yet some Hopes of obtaining Satisfaction by peaceable Means, or suppose the present an unseasonable Juncture, for us to declare War against Spain; are we from thence to presume, that we shall always entertain the same Hopes, or that the Affairs of Europe will always continue upon the present Footing? No, Sir, it is impossible, but, from the clashing Interests of the several Powers, some new Scene must in six or eight Months happen in the Affairs of Europe.' It may then be a proper Season for us to declare War; and if full Satisfaction is not made us before that Time, we may be assured his Majesty will take hold of it, and make the proper Use of it, for glutting the Revenge, as well as repairing the Honour of the Nation. As this Season cannot, from the natural Course of Things, be supposed to be very remote, neither our Trade, nor our Plantations, can suffer much in the mean Time; and therefore we may yet wait a while, in Hopes of obtaining Satisfaction by peaceable Means, or in Hopes that a more favourable Opportunity will soon offer for obtaining it by Force of Arms, without the least Ground for supposing that our Trade and Plantations will thereby be utterly undone.
'I shall always be as ready, Sir, as any Man, to sacrifice my All, for preserving the Honour and Independency of my Country; but if the Nation be in such a melancholy Condition as the honourable Gentleman has been pleased to represent, surely we ought at least to be cautious of doing any Thing that may tend to involve the Nation in a War. We ought to avoid doing any Thing that may seem to have such a Tendency, unless it appear absolutely necessary for our immediate Preservation; which I take by no Means to be our Case at present. If it is either necessary or expedient that our Rights should be particularly asserted in any future Negociation, his Majesty will certainly do so: But I am far from thinking, that it will be necessary for his Majesty to insist upon such particular Acknowledgments, Declarations, or Promises; for the Behaviour of two independent Nations to one another, does not so much depend upon the general or particular Stipulations that are between them, as upon the Necessity they respectively think they have, for cultivating a reciprocal Friendship. If the Spaniards begin to think that they ought, for their own Sakes, to cultivate a Friendship with this Nation, (and, as soon as they begin to think justly, they will think so) they will then perform any general Promises they may make, or any general Engagements they may enter into with us, more strictly and faithfully than they would perform the most express and particular Stipulations, if they should think otherwise.
'We have at present, Sir, and must always have, Disputes with other Nations as well as Spain; and, without doubt, it would be extremely convenient for us to have all the Rights and Privileges, which any Nation pretends to dispute with us, fully explained, and particularly declared and established: But, I believe, we never made any Treaty, where we could obtain all that was convenient for us; I believe, no Nation ever did; for a Carte Blanche is not properly a Treaty; it is the Law which the Conqueror prescribes to those he has conquered. In every Case where a Treaty is to be made, both the contracting Parties must accommodate themselves to Times and Circumstances; and neither Party can, or will, insist upon all they can ask, lest by so doing they lose what they may have. This must be our Case, if we ever come to any future Treaty with Spain. We must accommodate ourselves to Times and Circumstances, and must insist upon no more than they will then admit of; but if this House should agree to the Resolutions first proposed, it will put it out of the Power of any Minister, to advise his Majesty to accommodate himself to Times and Circumstances, in relation to any future Treaty with Spain; which will of course make a War unavoidable; for it is not to be supposed we can prevail with Spain, to agree to every Thing we propose, unless we force them to it by a successful War. Nay, after we have entered into a War, tis great Odds if we meet with such Success, as may intitle his Majesty to insist upon every Thing, that may be supposed to be contained in these Resolutions; so that it would be impossible for his Majesty, or any of his Successors, to put an End to the War by a Treaty of Peace, or to agree to any Preliminaries for that Purpose, without first laying those Preliminaries before this House; and such a Publication might put it in the Power of those that are Enemies to both Nations, to prevent the Negociation's taking Effect.
'I hope, Sir, I have now made it appear, that there is no Necessity for our coming to such particular Resolutions as were at first proposed; and that our coming to such, might be attended with the most fatal Consequences, because it might not only involve the Nation in a War, but involve it in a War, perhaps, at a very unseasonable and unlucky Juncture. I know I am arguing against that, which seems to be the popular Side of the Question; I know that by some Means or other, a very great Resentment has been stirred up among the People, against the Depredations committed by the Spaniards, and, I confess, they deserve our highest Resentment; but we ought to shew our Resentment by Blows, not by Words; and if we chuse an improper Time for giving the Blow, we may receive a greater than we can give. I shall always have a great Regard for the Esteem, and likewise for the Opinion of the People; but, I shall never do what I think contrary to the Interest of my Country, for the Sake of an immediate Esteem; because, I know, it can never be lasting; and I should follow any popular Opinion rather than that relating to what Provocations may be sufficient for declaring War. In every such Question, the People may be compared to a Number of Generals assembled in a Council of War, and deliberating, whether or no they ought to attack the Enemy. Many of them may, and often do, give their Opinion for attacking, not because they think it the most prudent, but lest their Courage should be suspected, in case they should give their Vote for the other Side of the Question.
'Though his Majesty's Servants may be against this House's attempting by any of their Resolutions, to tie up his Majesty's Hands, so as to make an immediate War unavoidable, let the principal Conjuncture be never so unfavourable, it is not from thence to be inferred, Sir, nor, do I believe, that they are inclined to accept of any Thing rather than run the Risk of a War; nor do I believe, they have any Reasons against a War, that are peculiar to themselves. Whatever Reasons his Majesty may have, for not resolving upon an immediate Declaration of War, whether they proceed from the Hopes he may yet have of obtaining Redress in a peaceable Manner, or from his being sensible that the State of Affairs in Europe, will in ashort Time afford a much more favourable Opportunity for declaring War, they must be such as affect the Nation in general; and, they may besuch as ought to induce us to try, for a while longer, the Method of Negociations, or even to protract and continue our Negociations, after we are convinced that that Method will at last prove ineffectual, without being such as ought to induce us to accept of a cruel and contemptuous Peace, rather than have recourse to an open and declared War. The Space of half a Year only, may so change the Face of Affairs all over Europe, as to enable us to enter then into a War with great seeming Advantage, and yet the present Conjuncture may be such a one, that we cannot immediately enter into a War without apparent Ruin. Suppose, then, this to be the Case at present, would it not be highly imprudent in us to do that, which must immediately involve the Nation in a War? Would it be reasonable in us, to desire his Majesty to communicate to such a numerous Assembly, the present State of Affairs in Europe, or the Alterations which he expected might in half a Year's Time be brought about? Such a Request, his Majesty could not surely comply with; because, such a Communication would certainly render our present Condition worse, and might probably prevent those Alterations, from whence only we could expect to make it better.
'From the Reasons I have given, Sir, and, I hope, they will appear sufficient Reasons, for our not agreeing to the Resolutions first proposed, I think it is evident, that the only Resolution we can come to upon the present Occasion, must be such a one as my honourable Friend has by his Amendment proposed. By such a Resolution, we shall leave it entirely to his Majesty, to insist upon particular Acknowledgments of all our Rights and Privileges, now contested by Spain, or to accept of general Acknowledgments, in case the present should appear to be an unseasonable Conjuncture for our declaring War against that Kingdom. By this we may avoid a War, at least we shall avoid being engaged in an unequal War; for, if we trust to his Majesty's Wisdom, we may depend on it he will not involve the Nation in War, unless he sees that he has got a proper Opportunity for so doing. At the same Time, we shall, I think, by such a Resolution, sufficiently assert the principal Right, now in Dispute between Spain and us, and we shall sufficiently shew our Resentment against the Usage our Merchants and Seamen have met with. This will convince the Court of Spain, that his Majesty will meet with the Approbation and Assistance of his Parliament, in whatever Measures he may take for obtaining Redress, which may probably make them alter their Conduct towards us; and, from such a Resolution, all those who understand any Thing of our Constitution, will see, that we have, in this House, done as much as was possible for us to do, upon such an Occasion; from whence, every Man, who has not something very dismal in his Constitution, will conclude, that he has no Reason to despair of seeing Justice done to himself and Fellow-Subjects, and the Rights and Privileges of his Country established.
'Before I have done, Sir, I must take Notice of the Objection made by the honourable Gentleman that spoke last. He says, the Resolution, as it will stand by Means of my honourable Friend's Amendment will appear to be in the same Terms with his Majesty's Answer to the last Spanish Memorial; and, that therefore, we ought not to agree to it, lest it should be thought that the Resolution of this House was dictated by our Ministers of State. I cannot say, Sir, that I have compared the two together, so as to judge whether they be in the same Terms or not. But, suppose they are, is there any Scandal in our agreeing with the Crown, or even with our Ministers of State, when that which they have done appears to be right? Sir, in my Opinion, this is so far from being an Objection to the Resolution my honourable Friend has proposed, that it is a strong Argument for our agreeing to it; for, surely, it must administer Comfort and Encouragement to our own People, to see his Majesty and his Parliament agreeing upon the same Measures for their Relief; and, as it will convince the Court of Spain, that there is a good Agreement, and thorough Understanding, between his Majesty and his Parliament, it will be an Argument of the greatest Weight with that Court, for prevailing on them to agree to what his Majesty has proposed, or may propose, towards an Accomodation; therefore, if we have a Mind, that our present Differences with Spain should be settled in an amicable Way, if we have a Mind to incline them to hearken to Reason, or the Voice of Peace, we ought to agree to the Amendment proposed: Nay, unless we have a Mind to encourage or encrease their Obstinacy, by making them and all Europe believe there is a Disunion and Distrust between his Majesty and his Parliament, we must agree to the Amendment proposed.'
The next that spoke was Sir William Windham, whose Speech was to this Effect, viz.
Sir W. Windham.
'I am extremely surprized to hear the present Debate so much mistaken, as I find it is, by the honourable Gentleman who spoke last. Is there any Gentleman in this House has supposed, is there any Gentleman can suppose, that the Resolutions of this House can be effectual in the Case now before us, without the Concurrence of the Crown? We may, by our Resolutions, which we offer only by Way of Advice to the Crown, determine indeed, what are the Rights of the Nation, we may determine what are the Injuries we have suffered; we may go farther, we may determine or rather declare, what Methods we think ought to be taken for asserting those Rights, for revenging those Injuries; but, unless they are carried into Execution by the Crown, or by those employed by the Crown, they cannot of themselves be supposed to be effectual.
'In the present Case, Sir, Complaint has been made to us, that our Trade has been interrupted; that many of our Merchant-Ships have been plundered, and many seized and consiscated; that many of our Seamen have been cruelly used; and that some of our most valuable and most undoubted Rights and Privileges have been invaded: The Petitioners pray, that we would procure them Relief, and that we would provide a Remedy for these Evils. What can they mean by such a Prayer? Surely they do not mean, that this House should declare War, or send Ambassadors to Spain to demand Satisfaction. Either they must mean, that, if these Grievances have been occasioned by the Fault or Neglect of any of our own Subjects, we should enquire into it, and punish those that have been to blame; or they must mean, that we should enquire what Injuries they have suffered, and what national Rights or Privileges have been invaded, that we should represent to the Crown those Injuries and Invasions, and that we should give such Advice to his Majesty, as, if followed, will be effectual for procuring the Relief and Remedy they pray for. Upon supposing that his Majesty will follow our Advice, it may be said, that one Resolution, or one Set of Resolutions, will be more effectual than another; and, therefore, the Question now under our Consideration is, which of the two Propositions made to us, contains the fullest and truest Representation of the national Rights and Privileges, that have been invaded, and of the Injuries, which our Trade and Merchants have suffered.
'In this Light, Sir, let us compare the two Propositions together, and we shall soon see which ought to be preferred. The first contains a particular Enumeration of the several Grievances we labour under, mentions the Pretences that have been made use of for putting such Grievances upon us, and particularly asserts, as well as sets forth, every Right or Privilege that has been invaded. The second contains only a general Representation of the Injuries we have suffered, without mentioning any one Pretence that has been made use of, or properly asserting, or so much as mentioning, any one Right or Privilege, that has been invaded. The first shews it to be our Sentiments, that the several Rights and Privileges of this Nation, which have been invaded, ought to be particularly acknowledged; that the several Pretences made use of for invading them, ought to be particularly explained, and expresly given up; and that an immediate and specifick Satisfaction ought to be insisted on: The second, if agreed to, will make it be looked on as the Opinion of this House, that a general Acknowledgment of our Rights, and a general Promise of Satisfaction, may be accepted of.
'Upon such a Comparison, Sir, can any Gentleman, after the late Experience we have had, think, that such a general Acknowledgment of our Rights, will be effectual for securing our Trade in Time to come, or for redressing our injured Merchants for what is past? Let any Man, Sir, read any of the' Treaties, from the Treaty 1667, to the Treaty of Seville, and then think that general Acknowledgments or general Promises are sufficient for our Purpose. His Majesty, 'tis true, may, I hope he will, insist upon particular Acknowledgments of our several Rights, that have been lately contested or invaded; upon a sufficient specifick Sum, by Way of Reparation to his injured Subjects; and upon an exemplary Punishment's being inflicted upon those Spanish Governors or Commanders, that have injured them: His Majesty, I say, may insist upon such Terms, notwithstanding any Opinion we may now give, or any Resolution we may now come to; but certainly, it would be wrong in us to give, as the Opinion of this House, what cannot be the real Opinion of any Man in the Kingdom. To offer such an Opinion by Way of Advice, would be a Misleading of the Crown, or enabling Ministers to do so; therefore, in Duty to our Sovereign, in Justice to our much injured Country and Countrymen, in Honour, in Conscience, with respect to ourselves, we are bound not to give any such Advice.
'Peace, Sir, is certainly preserable to War; and every good Man must wish, that his Majesty may be able to procure Satisfaction and Security by Way of Negociation: But War is preferable to an ignominious Peace; and every Man who has a Regard for the Honour of his Country, or the Safety of his Fellow-Subjects, would chuse to see the Nation involved in War, let the Event be what it will, rather than see it insulted and abused, as it has been by Spain for almost these twenty Years. By agreeing to the Resolutions first proposed, we do not put it out of his Majesty's Power to obtain Satisfaction in a peaceable Way, we only put it out of the Power of, or at least make it hazardous for, Ministers, to advise his Majesty to agree to an ignominious Treaty of Peace; which any Treaty will be, that does not procure ample Satisfaction to our injured Merchants and Seamen, and future Security to our Commerce. For this Purpose, every Man must be sensible from what's passed, that general Acknowledgments or bare Promises will not be effectual: Nay, I am of Opinion, that even the most particular Acknowledgments and Explanations, will not of themselves prove effectual. We must insist upon the punishing of those Spanish Governors or Captains of Guards Costa's, that have injured us, and upon some signal Atonement's being made to the Nation, for the many Affronts that have been put upon it; for I am afraid the Spaniards have, from our late Behaviour, conceived such an Opinion of our Fondness for Peace, that they will shew but little Regard to the most particular and solemn Engagements they may make with us. Their Attack some Years since upon Gibraltar, at a Time when our harmless Fleets appeared upon their Coasts, without any hostile Intention, I believe, against them, or any of their Allies; and their late Attack upon our Ships at the Island of Tortugas, notwithstanding its being a Time of profound Peace between the two Nations, and notwithstanding one of the most particular, and most explicit Concessions, that could be made by one Nation to another: These two Attacks, I say, with the continual Attacks they make upon our Ships in the Bay of Campechy, give me some Reason for suspecting, that they do not now think themselves under a Necessity of standing upon Ceremonies with regard to us, or of observing the most particular and express Stipulations they can make with us.
'I shall not pretend, Sir, to dispute the good natural Disposition of his Catholick Majesty, or his Inclinations to do Justice to this Nation; but I must say, we have as yet felt none of the Effects, either of the one or the other; and I am afraid, those who have so good an Opinion of his Inclinations, will at last find, they have trusted to them more than they ought to have done. However, let his Catholick Majesty's natural Disposition be never so just, let his Inclinations towards us be never so favourable, if his Governors and Captains in the West-Indies are allowed to imagine, that they may plunder, or unjustly seize and consiscate British Ships, without any Fear of Punishment, if they find they have nothing to apprehend, but being simply obliged to restore, they will every now and then be nibbling; for Restitution is seldom made complete, something will always stick to the Fingers of the Tellers; and as such Disputes are, we find, extremely tedious, Possession in the mean Time will in every Case be worth something. For this Reason we must, in my Opinion, insist upon condign Punishment, as well as complete Restitution, otherwise our future Security will always be precarious; and our insisting upon such Terms, or our obliging our Ministers to insist upon such Terms, will not, I hope, make an immediate War necessary. Unless we have, by some very odd Blunder in Politicks, cooked up such a System of Affairs abroad, as has united some of the chief Powers of Europe with Spain, and has at the same Time detached from us, every Ally we formerly had, or at least every Ally that can afford us any Assistance, I am sure the Spaniards will agree to such Terms, rather than come to an open Rupture; so that our coming to such Resolutions as were first proposed, instead of making War necessary, will make Peace, I mean a real and an honourable Peace, more quickly attainable; because if Spain has nothing but her own Strength to depend on, and if our Ministers have taken Care that we have such Allies as we ought to have, and always may have, our Resolutions will make Spain think it necessary, to agree immediately to what is just and reasonable, in order to prevent a Rupture; for tho' that Court may believe, and may perhaps have found, that they can cajole and amuse a British Minister, I hope they are not so vain as to think, they can cajole or amuse a British Parliament.
'Altho' we have not the Power, Sir, to send out Fleets or Armies, or to give Orders or Instructions to Fleets or Armies; yet, as Members of this House, we have, by our Constitution, a Power to enquire into the Conduct of those, who, by their Employments, are to give his Majesty their best Advice in such Cases; and, if upon Enquiry it should appear, that they have not advised his Majesty to send out proper Fleets or Armies, or have not advised him to give them proper Instructions, for revenging the Affronts that have been put upon the Nation, we have a Power, and we are in Duty bound, to remove such Counsellors from his Majesty's Councils. But, if it should appear, that such Counsellors advised pacifick Measures, when immediate Vengeance ought to have been taken, if it should appear that the Affronts offered were of such a high Nature, that it was dishonourable for the Nation to submit to a Negociation, we would, in that Case, have a Power, and it would be our Duty, to punish such weak or wicked Counsellors. In publick Life, as well as private, there are some Affronts that cannot, by the Custom of Nations, admit of a peaceful Accommodation, or of any Negociation for that Purpose. If a Gentleman should be caned in the open Streets, and should, instead of making a proper Return, send a Clergyman next Morning to the Aggressor, to beg that the Affair might be made up in an amicable Way, the Aggressor might, perhaps, look upon his Patient as a good Christian, but I am sure he would not look upon him as a Gentleman, or Man of Courage; and therefore he would probably offer no other Satisfaction, but such a one as no Man of Honour could accept of, or perhaps, and most probably too, he would bully and say, the Fellow deserved what he had met with. A Man of true Honour, upon meeting with such an Affront, would immediately take his own Satisfaction, and that too with the very first Opportunity.
'In publick Life, and in national Affairs, the Case is the same. There are some Affronts that may be put by one Nation upon another, which ought to be immediately resented in a hostile Manner. All Attacks or Insults ought to be resented in such a Manner, when it appears evident that it was done by publick Authority. When an Insult is committed by the Subjects of any Nation, without an apparent Commission, or other Authority from their Government, the injured Nation may send Ambassadors to demand Satisfaction; and ought not to resent the Injury in a hostile Manner, till the other Nation has made the Act its own, or has taken the Guilt upon itself, by denying or unreasonably delaying to punish or give up the Offenders. But when the Insult or Attack appears, from the very Nature of it, to have been committed by publick Authority, Satisfaction ought not to be sued for by Ambassadors; it ought to be immediately taken by Fleets and Armies, properly instructed for that Purpose. And such, I am of Opinion, we ought to have reckoned several Insults put upon this Nation by Spain, within this last Dozen Years: Nay, I may say, that the Court of Spain seems to have been ingenious enough, to fall upon the most effectual Method for provoking a national Resentment on our Part, by making every Injury, that has been done us by any of their Subjects, the Act and Deed of the whole Nation; for tho' they have acknowledged some of the Injuries done, to be such, yet I do not hear that they have, in any one Case, made a compleat Restitution of all Costs and Damages, or that they have punished, or given up any one of the Offenders. From hence, Sir, I must think, that those who ought to advise his Majesty, have been to blame, in not advising him to resent some of the Affronts that have been put upon us, by immediate Hostilities, or an immediate Declaration of War; I must think they have been to blame, in not advising his Majesty, in most of the other Cases, to insist more peremptorily upon a speedy and compleat Restitution, and upon a severe Punishment's being inflicted upon all those Spanish Governors or Commanders of Guarda Costa's, that had any Way injured the Subjects of this Kingdom; and, if I am right in my Opinion, we ought upon this Occasion, to go farther than any Thing yet proposed: We ought to enquire into the Conduct of some of those who are, by their Posts or Employments, obliged to give his Majesty their best Advice. This, I think, Sir, is our Duty; and if the Resolutions first proposed be agreed to, I hope, that Agreement will be followed by a proper Motion for this Purpose; which would, I believe, tend more to revive the drooping Spirits of our injured Fellow Subjects, than any other Resolution we can come to.
'For this Reason, Sir, were there no other, I hope the Resolutions first proposed will be agreed to: For if they are not agreed to, I am sure no Gentleman can expect to succeed, and therefore no Gentleman will make any Motion for such an Enquiry. The present unlucky State of Affairs in Europe, or the Danger this Nation may be in, of being involved in a heavy War, can be no Argument against such an Enquiry; for it was upon such Occasions that the Roman People, while they retained their Virtue, got their guilty Magistrates punished, and their own Liberties secured. In their Histories, we have many Examples of their insisting obstinately upon a Confirmation, or Enlargement of their Privileges, or upon an Enquiry into the Conduct of their Magistrates, when the Enemy was almost at the Gates of their City. This Obstinacy never did that brave People any Damage; for as soon as they got their Liberties secured, or their guilty Magistrates punished, their Armies went out with Alacrity, and returned with Victory. In this Country, I hope upon the present Occasion, the Case would be the same: Give the People but Satisfaction: Put our Fleets and our Armies under those, in whose Wisdom and Conduct they have a Confidence, and I promise for them, they'll give a good Account of their Enemies. Whereas, if you go to War, while your People are discontented, and consequently dispirited; if your Fleets and your Armies are under the Conduct of those, who by their past Management have forfeited their Character, both among your Soldiers and Sailors, you can expect no Success, either from your Fleets or your Armies. Therefore, in case a War should become unavoidable, I am afraid it will be necessary for us, to enter into such an Enquiry as I have mentioned, in order to give Satisfaction to our People, either by justifying our late Conduct, in case it should appear to have been prudent and wise; or by removing or punishing those, that have been the chief Advisers of it, in case it should appear to have been pusillanimous and imprudent.
'But, Sir, I am of Opinion, that the best Method we could take for preventing a War, would be, to resolve immediately upon enquiring into our late Conduct; because, if the Enemies of this Nation have got any Advantages from our Conduct in Time of Peace, they may reasonably hope for greater in Time of War, and therefore may now refuse to give us a proper Satisfaction or Security, because they are desirous of coming to a Rupture; whereas, if we this Day resolve upon an Enquiry, our Enemies will expect a Change in our Managers, and from thence a Change in our Conduct, which must diminish, if not destroy their Hopes of getting any Thing by a War, and may consequently alter their Inclinations.
'To tell us, Sir, that the Court of Spain cannot, in a peaceable Manner, be brought to agree to such particular Acknowledgments, and specifick Promises, as they have, by their own Conduct, made necessary for the Satisfaction and Security of this Nation, is to tell us, that they despise us. If this be the Case, we can expect no real Peace, notwithstanding any new Treaty we can make with them: We must expect, that after the next Treaty, they will continue to treat us as they have done since the last. We can expect nothing but repeated Insults and Depredations, till by a vigorous War we convince them of their Error, and compel them to alter their Behaviour. But this, Sir, is not the Case; they may perhaps despise our Negociators; but, I am persuaded, they do not, I think they cannot, despise the Nation. They may hope, that our Fleets and Armies will be bound up in Time to come by pacifick Instructions, as they have been upon some former Occasions; but they know too well the Alacrity and Courage both of our Soldiers and Sailors, not to be afraid of their being sent against them with proper Instructions: The best Thing therefore we can do upon the present Occasion, is to lay our Negociators under a Necessity of treating with them, upon a Footing different from what they have done; and our Ministers under a Necessity of furnishing any Fleets or Armies, they may hereafter put the Nation to the Expence of sending out, with such Instructions as shall make them spread Terror, instead of Laughter, wherever they come. For this Purpose, the Resolutions first proposed, are so far from being too particular or explicite, that, I think they ought to be made more particular and more explicite. If we should add to each of them in express Terms, that it is the Opinion of this House, War ought to be declared against Spain, unless such a Right or Privilege should be particularly acknowledged, or unless such a Violation of the Law of Nations, or such an Insult should be attoned for, by punishing or giving up the Authors, I do not think we would be in the least to blame; and, with regard to the Damage that has been done to our Merchants and Seamen, if we should appoint a select Committee to take a particular Account of it, and to state the specifick Sum they thought it amounted to, and if we should upon their Report come to a Resolution, that such a specifick Sum ought to be demanded and peremptorily insisted on, for making good that Damage to the Sufferers, I am convinced very few Persons in this Nation would think we had gone a bit too far, nay, that we had done wisely, by avoiding being the Dupes of Spain and the Scoff of all Europe.
'However, Sir, I am confident, that as soon as those Resolutions are laid before his Majesty, he will order and empower some proper Persons to examine particularly into the several Depredations that have been committed upon his Subjects, and to state the specifick Sum they amount to. I am likewise confident, that in any future Treaty his Majesty will insist upon this specifick Sum's being immediately paid, and upon every other Reparation for satisfying the Honour of this Kingdom. These Things, I say, Sir, I am confident his Majesty will insist on; at least, our Resolutions, in case we agree to those that were first proposed, will, in some Measure, shew that they ought to be insisted on.
'I am surprised, Sir, to hear his Majesty's Name mentioned in the Manner it has been in this Debate. His Majesty's Wisdom and Conduct is so well known, that if it were possible for him to see every Thing with his own Eyes, and to execute every Act of Government or Power by himself, without the Interposition of Ministers or Servants, there would be no Occasion for our entering into any Enquiry, or coming to any Resolutions. We are not, Sir, so much as to doubt of our Sovereign's Wisdom or Conduct in any Affair whatsoever; but, the Wisdom and Conduct of his Ministers or Servants we may doubt of, we ought to doubt of it: It is what we ought often to enquire into; and, I must think there never was greater Occasion for doubting of it, and enquiring into it, than at present. For this Reason, whatever I have said, or may say upon the Subject now under our Consideration, will, I hope, be supposed to be meant only of the Conduct of his Majesty's Ministers; and that Conduct, I hope, I may freely examine into, and freely censure, without giving any just Offence. I believe there is no Man in the Kingdom questions but that his Majesty would have long since obtained full Satisfaction and Security, either in a peaceable Way, or by Force of Arms, if he had not been misinformed, and misled by Advice, which now, I think, appears to have been none of the most prudent; and, if Foreigners have begun to presume, which I am afraid they have, that our Ministers are weak and imprudent, and upon that Presumption have begun to treat this Nation in a haughty, unjust, or contemptible Manner, their perceiving that the Parliament continues to put an entire Confidence in the Conduct of such Ministers, will not, I am sure, prevail with them to alter their Conduct, with regard to this Nation, in Time to come.
'I am of Opinion, Sir, that our Situation, as an Island, will always furnish us with an Opportunity, if we have the good Luck to be under a prudent and wise Administration, for asserting our Rights, in case of Encroachments from any of our Neighbours; because, while we hold the Balance of Power in Europe, we shall always be provided with such an Opportunity; and, we can never lose holding the Balance of Power in Europe, but by a long Series of egregious Blunders. However, supposing that our Situation does not aways furnish us with such an Opportunity, if, as the Gentlemen say, it often does, I cannot comprehend how it has happened, that we could find no such Opportunity for these twenty Years past; for, every one knows that it is more than twenty Years since the Spaniards first began to incroach upon or invade some of our Rights or Privileges; and, it must be granted, that since they first began, they have continued without any long Intermission. I am therefore very suspicious, we have of late Years neglected several good Opportunities for compelling them to settle all Disputes with us to our own Liking; and, from thence, there is, I think, great Reason to fear, that those who have neglected past Opportunities, will not make a good Use of any future, unless we lay them under a Sort of Necessity for so doing, by the Resolutions we come to upon this Occasion.
'In deliberating what we ought to do upon the present Occasion, we are not, Sir, to consider, whether the present Conjuncture be a proper one, for repairing our Wrongs, and vindicating our Rights and Privileges. We are to consider what Rights and Privileges of this Nation have been invaded by Spain, and what Injuries they have done us, in order to declare them to his Majesty, in what Manner the former ought to be asserted, and the latter resented. This we are to do, that his Majesty may from thence see, the Rights and Privileges of his Kingdom that have been invaded, and the Injuries that have been done to his Subjects; and that he may know what we think ought to be done upon such an Occasion. His Majesty only is to consider whether the present be a seasonable Conjuncture, for doing what ought to be done; and if it is not, he will of course consider, how it comes that the present Conjuncture of Affairs in Europe happens to be so unfavourable for this Nation. This will naturally make him reflect upon the late Informations and Advices he has received; and if they appear to have been wrong, it will make him change his Measures, and perhaps his Councillors. If his Majesty should, upon Examination, find, that the present is not a proper Season for insisting upon such Terms as we ought to have, he cannot, by the Resolutions proposed, or by any Resolutions of this House, be obliged to insist peremptorily upon such Terms, nor can his Ministers be exposed to any Danger, for advising him to accept of more general Terms, though they may be neither so honourable nor effectual. But it is still to be understood, that they had no Hand in rendering the Conjuncture so unfavourable for their Country, nor had neglected to take advantage of any preceding Conjuncture that was favourable. With regard to his Majesty, the only Effect our Resolutions can have, will be to give him a full and true Information, and, I hope, a wholsome Advice; and, with regard to his Ministers, the only Effect our Resolutions can have, will be to make it dangerous for them to advise him to accept of, or ratify a dishonourable or ignominious Treaty, at a Time when the Circumstances of our Affairs both at home and abroad, afforded him an Opportunity for insisting upon honourable Terms; and for both these Purposes, I must think the Resolutions first proposed will be much more effectual than the Resolution proposed by the honourable Gentleman's Amendment.
'I must grant, Sir, that if a Motion were to be made in this House, for an immediate Declaration of War, I should be against agreeing to such a Motion; because, I really believe the Affairs of Europe are, at present, in a State not very favourable for this Nation; but I must say, I am of Opinion, it is pretty much owing to our own Conduct. I am afraid it will be found, that for many Years our Neighbours, the French, have had the Art to make us fall out with Spain whenever they had a Mind; and after they had set the two Nations by the Ears together, they have had Authority enough, to make us carry on the War in such a Manner, and agree to an Accommodation upon such Terms, as they were pleased to prescribe. By this Management the Spaniards have found, that they can expect nothing from our Friendship, nor need fear any Thing from our Enmity; which has been the chief Cause of their insulting Behaviour towards us, and will always, while it subsists, produce the same Effect; and by the same Management, I am afraid, our Character has been so much lessened at all the Courts of Europe, that none of them are now fond of an Alliance with us, nor ready to give us their Assistance. If I have been rightly informed, even our good Allies the Dutch begin to look cool upon us; for I have been told that an Application was lately made to them, to join with us against Spain, and that they answered coolly, 'If Spain pretends to do us an Injury we know how to right ourselves without your Assistance.' Whether this be true or not, our Ministers know much better than I can pretend to; but if it is, I must from thence conclude, we have not an Ally in Europe, we could trust to for Assistance, in Case of a War; and therefore I must conclude, that the present is a very unseasonable Conjuncture, for us to declare War against Spain; because we cannot foresee what Assistance they might, in such a Case, meet with, from some of the other Powers of Europe, especially from those who are naturally no great Friends to this Nation. However, Sir, our agreeing to the Resolutions first proposed, can have no other Effect, than to shew his Majesty what we think ought to be done; and as our coming to such Resolutions will be an Argument for convincing our old and natural Allies, that the Nation has at last got out of its Leading Strings, as the Resolutions of Parliament will have greater Weight, and will be more consided in, than the Resolutions of any of his Majesty's other Councils, our coming to such Resolutions, may probably restore our Character at foreign Courts, and enable his Majesty to bring about such an Alteration in the Affairs of Europe, as will furnish us with a good Opportunity for resenting the Injuries we have met with, and for vindicating and asserting every one of the Rights or Privileges of the Nation, that has lately been invaded, or any way incroached on.
'I am extremely surprized, Sir, to hear the least Infinuation made, that we ought always to approve of what appears to be the Sentiments of his Majesty's Ministers, or that we ought, upon all Occasions, to speak their Sense only. To establish this, as a Rule for our Conduct, would be such a Disgrace, as, I hope, this House will never incur. I have so good an Opinion even of this Parliament, that I cannot imagine we will approve of this Maxim; because, no Parliament that establishes or observes such a Maxim, can be of any Use, either to their King or their Country; therefore, I hope, we will, by our Resolutions of this Day, convince the World, that we are no way under the Direction or Influence of our Ministers of State. It is a Maxim, Sir, that we ought not to speak ill of the Dead; but, this Maxim relates to dead Men, not to dead Parliaments: Of Parliaments, we must say nothing amiss, while they are living; but, after they are dead, we are allowed to tell the Truth, and to give our Sentiments of them freely. This Parliament will soon come to die, as others have done before it: It can live but a very few Years longer; therefore, let us consider what People will say of us when we are dead, if we should give the least Reason to suspect, that we approved of such a Maxim. Some former Parliaments have seemed, by their Behaviour, to approve of this Maxim: They seemed to speak, upon all Occasions, the Sense of our Ministers, and their Sense only; but, I am sure, the Character now generally given to those Parliaments, can be no Encouragement for us to follow their Example. If we have a Mind to produce, by our Resolutions, any Change in the Conduct of Spain towards this Nation, we must not, upon this Occasion, shew a thorough Approbation of the Measures or Sentiments of our Ministers. For above this Dozen of Years past, it has appeared, that there was a thorough Understanding and Agreement between our Parliaments and our Ministers: The Resolutions of the former have been nothing but echoing back the Resolutions of the latter, and the Sentiments and Measures of the latter have been all, I shall not say implicitely, approved of by the former; yet, during a Course of so many Years, it has not produced the least Variation in the Conduct of Spain, with regard to their Behaviour towards this Nation. On the contrary, I believe it has encouraged them to continue their Insults and Depredations. It is therefore now high Time for us to alter our Method, in order to convince the Spaniards, that, whatever Hopes they may have of being still able to amuse our Ministers, they can no longer hope for being able, even with the Assistance of British Ministers, to amuse a British Parliament.
'Having said thus much, Sir, I shall observe, that, if we consider the last Spanish Memorial, and the Estimates for the Service of the ensuing Year, we shall find, in my Opinion, an irresistible Argument for coming to the most vigorous Resolutions upon the present Occasion. By the last Spanish Memorial it appears, that the Court of Spain are as far from yielding to grant us either Satisfaction or Security in a peaceable Way, as they were seven Years ago; and yet, by the Estimates for the ensuing Year, it appears that we have no Design to seek for it in any other Way. It is an old Maxim in Treaty-making, that the best Method of treating is to treat Sword in Hand. We have been treating for these eight or nine Years, without Sword in Hand, and the Event has shewn the Mistake we have been guilty of; for, by what I can find, we are not now so near our Purpose, as we were when we first began; because our Complaints, and consequently our Demands, increase daily, and the more they increase, the more difficult we shall find it to obtain full Satisfaction. It was therefore in my Opinion high Time for us, at the Beginning of this Session, to think of altering our Method of Treating: It was high Time for us to think of putting ourselves in a Condition to treat Sword in Hand; and for this Reason, I was surprised to find, by the Estimates for this ensuing Year, that no more than 10,000 Seamen were demanded for that Service. I expected that 20,000 Seamen at least would have been demanded; nay, if 30,000 had been demanded, I should have been for agreeing to it; because, I think even that Number may be usefully employed. But as no greater Number has been demanded, than what is usual in Time of Peace, I am from thence convinced, that our Ministers have no Thoughts of altering their Method of Treating; which I think it is our Duty to oblige them to do; but we never can do it by agreeing to the Amendment proposed by the honourable Gentleman. Therefore, I hope the Amendment will be disagreed to, in order that the Question may be put, and agreed to, upon the several Resolutions that were first proposed.'
Edward Wortley Montague, Esq; spoke to the following Effect:
'As I do not pretend to know the present Views of the Spanish Court, nor the Opinion they have of this Nation, I shall not take upon me to determine which of the two Propositions made to us, will be most effectual for procuring that Remedy and Relief the Petitioners pray for. I am afraid neither of them will prove effectual: Nay, I doubt much, if an Order or Resolution for 20,000 Seamen for the Service of the ensuing Year, or even the sitting out a formidable Squadron, with Fireshipe, Bomb-ketches, and all other Utensils of War, would procure such a Satisfaction or Security from that Nation, as we ought to insist on; for they have of late seen us fit out so many expensive and hostile-like Squadrons, without any hostile Intention, that, I believe, they will not now think we are in earnest, till they not only see our Squadrons, but feel the Effects of the Orders that have been given to such Squadrons. I believe a British Squadron sent into the Mediterranean, and another into the West-Indies, with such Orders as that British Squadron had which was sent into the Mediterranean in the Year 1718, would soon make them feel the Effects of British Resentment; and, would prove more effectual than any Resolution now proposed, or any Resolution we can come to.
'But, Sir, if this Nation should be put to any such Expence, by the Obstinacy of the Spanish Court, I hope that Expence will be added to the other Demands we have upon that Nation; for whatever Man or Nation refuses to satisfy a just Demand, ought to be loaded with the Costs and Charges, which the other Party is necessarily put to, in recovering what is due to him. Therefore I hope I shall never hear any Gentleman in this House pretend to charge that Expence upon this Nation as a new Debt; nor will it, I hope, prevent our paying off any Part of the old.
'I must confess, Sir, that I believe the present Conjuncture of Affairs in Europe to be a very unfavourable one for this Nation; and, I believe so, because I find the honourable Gentleman, who proposed the Amendment, so much afraid of our doing any thing, that may tend to involve the Nation in a War with Spain. Those Fears must either proceed from a Consciousness of the bad State of Affairs abroad, or, from a Consciousness of the Weakness of this Nation, when compared with the superior Power of the Kingdom of Spain; for, I am sure, no Gentleman that knows him, can suppose them to proceed from any natural Pusillanimity of his own.
'Now, Sir, as neither he, nor any Man else, can suppose the Power of Spain any way superior to the Power of this Nation; therefore, his Fears must proceed from his being conscious, that the present Conjuncture of Affairs in Europe is not a favourable one for us; and, as I must suppose, from the Station he is in, that he is fully apprised how Affairs stand abroad; therefore, upon the Credit of his Judgment, I believe they are at present in a Situation very unlucky for this Nation; but this is so far from being a Reason for our not coming to vigorous Resolutions, that I think it a good Reason for our coming to more vigorous Resolutions, and Resolutions of a more domestick Nature, than any yet proposed; for the Affairs of Europe can never be brought into a bad Situation for us, without some Mismanagement of our own; and if we are, by our own Mismanagement, brought into such Difficulties, that we must suffer the most cruel Usage, without daring to shew a proper Resentment, I do not think it would be prudent in us, who are the Representatives of the People, I do not think it would be consistent with the Duty we owe to our Sovereign, to trust entirely, for our Deliverance, to those who had, by their Blindness, Ignorance, or Wickedness, led us into the Mire.
'What Reasons the Spaniards may have for treating us in such a Manner, or what Reasons we may have for suffering such Treatment, and for suffering it so long, I do not know; but to me, Sir, the two Nations seem to have entirely changed Conditions since the Year 1667. As I have had a particular Opportunity, for making myself acquainted with the Transactions between Spain and us about that Time, I must let you know, Sir, that at the Time of settling the Treaty, which was that Year concluded between the two Nations, and for some Time before, we treated the Spaniards in the same Manner, in which, I believe, they now treat us. Our Ships in the American Seas, under some Pretence or other, plundered or made Prize of almost every Spanish Ship they met with in those Seas. The Spaniards justly complained of this Treatment, and, by their Minister here, presented several Memorials to our Court upon the Subject. Our Court did not pretend to justify such Depredations, but pretended Ignorance, and that they would order Satisfaction as soon as the Complaints could be enquired into. In the mean Time, to keep the Spaniards easy, and to amuse their Court, Orders were issued to our Governors, and to the Commanders of our Ships of War, in the West Indies, expresly enjoining them to forbear all such Depredations or Hostilities for the future. These Orders were shewn to the Spanish Minister here, and were sent to our respective Governors, and Commanders of Ships in the West Indies; but at the same Time private Letters were dispatched to those Governors and Commanders, not to regard the Orders sent them, but to follow such Orders, as they should from Time to Time receive from our Governor of Jamaica; so that the Depredations were continued, notwithstanding the Orders of our Court to the contrary. I believe, if the Court of Spain now sends any Orders to the West Indies, they play the same Game upon us; but the Difference is, that our treating them in this Manner, continued but a very short while, and they were in no Condition to resent the Injury; whereas their treating of us in this Manner, has continued ten Times as long, notwithstanding our being, the whole Time, in a Condition to revenge ourselves.
'This, Sir, is a Circumstance which very much alters the Case; and, since we have so long made use of our persuasive Power in vain, I think it is high Time for us to begin to think of making use of our compulsive Power, and to take proper Measures for that Purpose; for, let the present Conjuncture of Affairs in Europe be never so unfavourable, I am certain, that, by Prudence and good Conduct, we may very soon bring about such an Alteration in the Affairs of Europe, as will furnish us with a favourable one. As to the two Propositions now before us, if you proceed no farther, I am easy, Sir, about which of them may be agreed to; but, as the Resolution the honourable Gentleman has by his Amendment proposed, contains nothing more than what was in the Resolutions this House has formerly come to upon the same Subject; and, as neither of those Resolutions has had any Effect, I am sure the Resolution he has proposed can have none; and therefore, I cannot agree to it. Then, Sir, with regard to the Resolutions first proposed, as I do not know, but they may have some Effect, and especially, as I hope they will be followed by some other Resolutions of a different Nature, I am therefore for agreeing to them; and for this Reason, shall give my Negative to the Amendment.'
Several other Members spoke upon this Question, but having given the most material Arguments, we shall omit their Speeches; but the Question upon the Amendment being put, it was carried.
Sir John Barnard, Mr. Pulteney, and Sir Will. Windham for recommitting the Resolutions as amended.
March 30, 1738. Mr. Alderman Perry reported the said Resolution, as it passed amended in the Committee, to the House; upon which Sir John Barnard; Mr. Pulteney, Sir William Windham, and several other Members were for recommitting it; and a Debate ensued, in which the same Arguments on both Sides, with very little Alteration, were advanced: We shall not, therefore, trouble the Reader with repeating them. But the Question for recommitting the Resolution being put, the same was carried in the Negative.
The same Day, upon a Motion of Mr. Alderman Perry from the said Committee, it was resolved,
Mr. Alderman Perry moves for an Address to his Majesty.
That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, humbly beseeching his Majesty, to use his Royal Endeavours with his Catholick Majesty, to obtain effectual Relief for his injured Subjects, and to convince the Court of Spain, that, how desirous soever his Majesty may be to preserve a good Correspondence and Amity betwixt the two Crowns (which can only subsist by a strict Observance of their mutual Treaties, and a just Regard to the Rights and Privileges belonging to each other) his Majesty can no longer suffer such constant and repeated Insults and Injuries to be carried on, to the Dishonour of his Crown, and to the Ruin of his trading Subjects; and to assure his Majesty, that, in case his Royal and Friendly Instances, for procuring Justice, and for the future Security of that Navigation and Commerce, which his People have an undoubted Right to by Treaties and the Law of Nations, shall not be able to procure, from the Equity and Friendship of the King of Spain, such Satisfaction, as his Majesty may reasonably expect from a good and faithful Ally, this House will effectually support his Majesty in taking such Measures, as Honour and Justice shall make it necessary for his Majesty to pursue.
Resolution for prosecuting the Address.
Resolved, That the said Address be presented to his Majesty by the whole House.
Ordered, That the aforesaid Resolution of the House, be humbly laid before his Majesty at the said Time with their said Address.