The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons: Volume 10, 1737-1739. Originally published by Chandler, London, 1742.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
SPEECHES and DEBATES
In the Twelth Session of the Second Parliament of King George II.
Thursday, Feb. 1. A Message came by Sir Charles Dalton, Usher of the Black Rod, to the Commons, commanding their Attendance in the House of Peers; and they attended accordingly. Being return'd, Mr. Speaker reported his Majesty's Speech, which was as follows:
The King's Speech.
My Lords and Gentlemen.
"I Have, upon all Occasions, declared, how sensibly I have been affected with the many Hardships and Injuries sustained by my trading Subjects in America. I have the Honour of my Crown, and the true Interest of my People too much at Heart, to see either of them suffer any Prejudice or Diminution, without pursuing the most proper and advantageous Methods for their real Security and Preservation.
"These Considerations alone were sufficient to incite me to exert my utmost Power, in vindicating and protecting our undoubted Rights and Privileges of Navigation and Commerce; and nothing could add to my own Zeal in so just a Cause, but the due Regard I always have to the Petitions and Complaints of my Subjects, and the Advice of my Parliament. The Wisdom and Prudence of your Resolutions, upon this great and national Concern, determined me to begin with the more moderate Measures, and to try, once more, what Effect and Influence my friendly Endeavours, and pressing Instances would have upon the Court of Spain towards obtaining that Satisfaction and Security, which we were intitled to demand and expect; and your Assurances to support me in all Events, enabled me to proceed with proper Weight and Authority.
"Thus supported by the concurrent Advice of both Houses of Parliament, I lost no Time in making Preparations to do my self and my People Justice, if the Conduct of the Court of Spain had laid us under that Necessity; and at the same Time I did, in the strongest Manner, repeat my Instances for obtaining such Justice and Reparation for the many Injuries and Losses already sustained, and such an effectual Security for the future, as might prevent the Consequences of an open Rupture.
"It is now a great Satisfaction to me, that I am able to acquaint you, that the Measures I have pursued, have had so good an Effect, that a Convention is concluded, and ratified between me and the King of Spain; whereby, upon Consideration had of the Demands on both Sides, that Prince hath obliged himself to make Reparation to my Subjects for their Losses, by a certain stipulated Payment; and Plenipotentiaries are therein named and appointed, for regulating, within a limited Time, all those Grievances and Abuses, which have hitherto interrupted our Commerce and Navigation in the American Seas; and for settling all Matters in Dispute, in such a Manner, as may for the future prevent, and remove all new Causes and Pretences of Complaint, by a strict Observance of our mutual Treaties, and a just Regard to the Rights and Privileges belonging to each other. I will order the Convention, and the separate Article to be laid before you.
"It hath been my principal Care, to make use of the Confidence you reposed in me in this critical and doubtful Conjuncture, with no other View, but the general and lasting Benefit of my Kingdoms; and if all the Ends, which are to be hoped for, even from successful Arms, can be attained, without plunging the Nation into a War, it must be thought, by all reasonable and unprejudiced Persons, the most desirable Event.
Gentlemen of the House of Commons,
"I have ordered the proper Estimates to be prepared, and laid before you, for the Service of the current Year. I heartily wish, that the Posture of Affairs would have permitted me to retrench the publick Expences, for which I am obliged to demand the present Supplies: And I make no Doubt, but your experienced Zeal and Affection for me and my Government, and the proper Concern you have always shewn for the publick Good, will induce you to grant me such Supplies, as you shall find necessary for the Honour and Security of me and my Kingdoms.
My Lords and Gentlemen,
"I cannot but earnestly recommend it to you, not to suffer any Prejudices or Animosities, to have a Share in your Deliberation at this important Conjuncture, which seems in a particular Manner, to call upon you to unite in carrying on such Measures, as will be most conducive to the true Interest and Advantage of my People."
Motion for an Address of Thanks.
Upon a Motion made by Mr. Campbel (fn. 1) of Pembrokeshire, the following Address of Thanks was agreed to.
Most gracious Sovereign,
"WE your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Commons of Great Britain in Parliament assembled, do beg Leave to return your Majesty our unfeigned Thanks for your Majesty's most gracious Speech from the Throne.
"We acknowledge your Majesty's great Goodness in the constant Regard your Majesty has been pleased to express to the Petitions and Complaints of your Subjects, and the Advice of your Parliament, and in pursuing such Measures for the Honour and Dignity of your Crown and the true Interest of your People, as your Majesty in your great Wisdom judged to be most proper and advantageous.
"We congratulate your Majesty on the Success of your Royal Endeavours, in concluding a Convention with the King of Spain, whereby Reparation is stipulated to be made and paid to your Majesty's injured Subjects, and Plenipotentiaries are appointed for regulating all those Grievances and Abuses, which have hitherto interrupted our Commerce and Navigation, and for removing all future Causes and Pretences of Complaint.
"We beg Leave to assure your Majesty, that your faithful Commons will effectually support your Majesty in accomplishing and bringing to Perfection this great and necessary Work, in such a Manner as may answer the just Demands and Expectations of your Majesty and your People.
"And your Majesty may be assured, that your faithful Commons will grant to your Majesty such Supplies, as shall be necessary for the Honour and Security of your Majesty and your Kingdoms; and that we will endeavour to avoid all Heats and Animosities in carrying on the Publick Business at this critical and important Conjuncture."
Debate upon the Motion for the Address.
The Motion for this Address produced the following Debate. Sir William Windham.
Sir William Windham.
'Tho' no Gentleman in this House has a greater Regard for his Majesty than I have, nor would be more ready to agree to every Expression of Zeal and Duty to his Person, yet I can by no Means agree to an Address in the Terms of this Motion. In the first Place, Sir, give me leave to observe, it looks a little suspicious, that the Meeting of Parliament has been put off at this critical and important Juncture for fourteen Days. Tho' I am not very apt to believe vulgar Reports, yet I am sorry to say, it is but too probable, that the Court of Spain had dar'd to trifle with us in a most egregious Manner, notwithstanding the Resolutions both Houses came to last Session; and that they could not be brought to make the least Concession in our Favour, till we had given up every thing that we ought most strenuously to have insisted on. I say, Sir, it is but too probable, that this is the true Reason why we did not sit fourteen Days ago. The Spaniards knew well, that something must be done to satisfy the Expectations of the Parliament and the Nation; they knew that our Ministry would purchase this at any Rate; they knew at the same Time, by repeated Experience, that we are so far from being fond of Fighting, that we would give up almost any thing rather than enter into a just and necessary War. Therefore they put Things off from Time to Time, till they brought us to the very critical Day, I may say Hour, when it was necessary for us to grant them their own Terms. I beg leave to give my Reasons for thinking so, and these Reasons shall be founded upon the greatest and most unquestionable Authority, the Words of his Majesty's Speech. We are told there, Sir, that a Convention with Spain is concluded and ratified; and that in Consequence of this Convention, Plenipotentiaries have been nominated for redressing within a limited Time all our Grievances and Abuses. I have no Manner of Design to forestal the Opinion of the House upon this Convention; I hope we shall be soon favoured with seeing it, and I wish that it may be found a good one. But I beg leave to take notice, that our Ministers would have shewn a much greater Regard for the Sentiments of Parliament than they have done, if this Convention had been communicated to the House before it was ratified. By this Means, Sir, we should not have been put to the ungrateful Task of perhaps condemning a Measure which has had the royal Sanction, and which is now in some Sort irrevocable. But how have our Ministry managed? Why, Sir, they put off the Meeting of Parliament for fourteen Days, in order to throw this, I may call it, unsurmountable Difficulty in our Way; and then we are told, that this Convention is concluded, not only concluded but ratified, and not only so, but that Plenipotentiaries are appointed to see it executed, and to carry it into a definitive Treaty. This is a very bold Stroke, especially as the Parliament has already pointed out what our Rights are. If Regard has been had to the Resolutions of Parliament, I can see no Manner of Reason for appointing Plenipotentiaries for settling all Matters in Dispute. The Parliament, I think, has already done that, by expresly ascertaining what the Rights and Privileges of this Nation with regard to our Navigation in the Indies are. Therefore I cannot conceive what these Gentlemen our Plenipotentiaries are to settle, unless they intend, by virtue of their full Powers, to give up some Part of what the Parliament has already found to be the undoubted Right of this Nation. I am certain, Sir, that if they had made the Resolutions which the Parliament came to last Session the Foundation of their Demands; if they had discovered a Resolution to break off all Treating, rather than depart from the Sense of Parliament, either a definitive Treaty might have been obtained, or we should by this Time have known the worst. But by what appears from his Majesty's Speech, this Convention is no other than a Preliminary; and in all Probability a very bad Preliminary too; and the Minister has ventured to clothe some of his Creatures with full Powers to give up the Rights of this Nation; for they may do it, if they dare.
'I know, Sir, it will be said, that if these Plenipotentiaries should act in so scandalous a Manner, they are liable to the Censure of this House. But will it be any Satisfaction to our injured Country, that two or three Persons, who have but very little Property, and perhaps as little Reputation to lose, shall fall under the Censure of this House, after they have shamefully sacrificed her most valuable Privileges. Besides, Sir, how easy is it for a State Offender to skreen himself from the Justice of his Country by flying from it, when he has made any Step to its Disadvantage or Dishonour? This is no uncommon Thing; and I should not at all be surprised, even if the Authors, whoever they are, of this Convention, should find it necessary to keep those Underlings, whom they have employed in concluding it, at a Distance, and not suffer them to return, lest they be obliged to discover some Secrets which certain Gentlemen may think necessary to be concealed. Should a dishonourable definitive Treaty be concluded upon the Footing of this Convention, our most valuable Rights, even the Independency of this Crown, may be given up, without our being able either to save them, or to bring the Authors to condign Punishment. I remember to have heard or read, that the Gentleman who concluded the American Treaty, the Observance of which is all we now contend for with the Crown of Spain, and which was in those Days looked upon as a very bad one, never thought fit to return to England, for Fear of a Parliamentary Censure.
'From these Considerations and many other, I believe Gentlemen will find it no easy Matter for them to agree to the present Motion. With what Propriety, Sir, can we congratulate his Majesty on his Success, in concluding a Measure, before we know what Kind of a Measure it is. No Gentleman here can, or at least will, take it upon him to inform this House, what are the particular Heads of this Convention; what are the Sums stipulated to be paid, or in what Manner our Grievances, which have been so fully proved in Parliament, and are so loudly complained of by the Nation, are to be redress'd. If we can suppose the Sum that is stipulated by this Convention, to amount to one tenth Part of what we have suffered by the Spaniards; if we can suppose that there is a Clause in the Convention, which leaves all the former Treaties betwixt us and Spain at the Mercy of those Plenipotentiaries; if we suppose farther, Sir, that some Part of our Rights and Possessions are actually given up by this Convention, will any Gentleman say that we ought to agree to this Motion, and return Thanks for Measures, not only before we know what they are, but after the strongest Reason for prosuming that they are bad. I hope therefore, Gentlemen will think it sufficient, if we shall upon this Occasion, consine ourselves to those Expressions, that are respectful and dutiful to his Majesty's Person, without adding any Thing in our Address, that may look like an Approbation of this Convention. For this Purpose, I think, we ought to leave out all the Words of this Address, but the first and last Paragraphs.'
Sir Robert Walpole.
Sir Robert Walpole.
'The Importance of this Juncture, the Expectations of the House, and the Share I have the Honour to bear in his Majesty's Counsels, make it proper and necessary that I should say somewhat on this Occasion: But at the same Time, I own that I am able to say nothing that can give any Gentleman, who judges coolly and impartially, any additional Conviction of this Address without the Amendment being proper, besides what he must receive from reading the Words of the Address itself.
'We have now, Sir, enter'd into a Debate about a Measure, the Event of which must, in some Degree, influence Posterity in the Judgment that they shall form of the Wisdom of the British Government during his present Majesty's Reign. The Wrongs we have recieved from Spain have been great, and the present Age expects that the Satisfaction we are to receive, or the Revenge we are to take for these Wrongs, will be great also. Future Ages, Sir, in case the present is disappointed in this Expectation, will look upon us as a dispirited, corrupted, mean People; in short, they will look upon us in the same Light in which some Gentlemen take the Liberty to represent the Ministry. But, Sir, if on this Occasion his Majesty's Ministers have obtained more than ever on like Occasions was known to be obtained; if they have reconciled the Peace of their Country to her true Interest; if this Peace, Sir, is attended with all the Advantage that the most successful Arms could have procured, as I hope to make appear, I will be bold to say; that future Ages, always impartial in their Censure or Praise, will consider this as the most glorious Period of our History, and do that Justice to the Counsels which have produced this happy Event, which every Gentleman who divests himself of Passion and Prejudice is ready to do, and which I have great Reason to believe the present Age, when rightly informed, will not refuse.
'This House and Parliament, Sir, is his Majesty's greatest, safest, and best Council. A Seat in this House is equal to any Dignity deriv'd from Posts or Titles, and the Approbation of this House is preferable to all that Power, or even Majesty itself, can bestow: Therefore when I speak here as a Minister, I speak as possessing my Powers from his Majesty, but as being answerable to this House for the Exercise of those Powers. I have often, Sir, on other Occasions, profess'd my Readiness to submit to the Justice of my Country, and shall chearfully acquiesce in the Judgment this House shall form of our Negociations; because while I do that, I am sure to suffer no Wrong. But, as the best and most equitable Intentions may be perverted by Misrepresentation of Facts, and as the most impartial Mind is susceptible of Prejudice when artfully instill'd, I hope it will be look'd upon as a proper Piece of Justice done to myself, if I shall endeavour, by stating one or two Facts, to set this Affair in a Light that may remove all Objections.
'The chief Consideration, Sir, that arises from the present Question is, Whether, as Great Britain is now circumstanced, it had been more proper for the Government to have enter'd into a bloody and uncertain War, or to lay such a Foundation for a Peace, as no Gentleman can regularly pronounce is not a safe and honourable Foundation. In order to consider this Question rightly, we must take a View of the Advantages we could propose to ourselves in case of a War with Spain, and in case that War was even to be successful.
'I know that Gentlemen, who are otherwise very candid upon this Point, are apt to imagine, from the military Glory of this Nation, that our Arms are invincible: And I own, Sir, that this is a most prevailing Argument, especially in a popular Assembly. There is somewhat in it, that flatters the Ambition which People generally entertain of acquiring Fame and Riches by the same Means that raised their Ancestors. In the History of our Wars with Spain, we see great Navies defeated, great Treasures, and still greater Glories, acquired by our Soldiers and Sailors. But in the mean while, we never reflect that the Situation of Affairs betwixt Britain and Spain is intirely different from what it then was. Spain at that Time was the Dread, was the Envy of Europe; as she had then powerful Armaments, which excited the Courage of the Brave, and immense Treasures, all her own, that prompted the Avarice of the Rich. She had not one Ally in the World who bore her Good-will enough to assist her with any Zeal, and her Views were so dangerous, that her Enemies borrowed Courage from Despair.
'At present, Sir, if I may advance a Paradox, her greatest Security lies in her visible Weakness. The Preservation of the Spanish Monarchy entire and undismember'd, has, for almost an Age past, seem'd to be the general Inclination of all the Powers in Europe, because, were the Riches that flow into Spain, to fall into the Hands of any other People, the rest of Europe must soon be drain'd of all its Treasure. Whereas, at present, there is scarce any Nation in Europe, who has not a larger Property in her Plate-Ships and Galleons, than she herself has. It is true, all that Treasure is brought home in Spanish Names, and the King of Spain generally imposes a large Indulto upon it; but Spain herself is no more than the Canal through which these Treasures are convey'd all over the rest of Europe. Should therefore we pretend to seize these Treasures, we could not fail to meet with a powerful Opposition. Even our best Allies, Sir, I am afraid would look with a very indifferent Eye upon such a Step, and be the first that would enter their Complaints against it.
'But I have heard it objected, that if this is a good Reason now for our not endeavonring to distress Spain by intercepting her Treasures, the same Reason will always exist; since the other Powers of Europe will always have a Property in these Ships: therefore there never can be a Time proper for us to do ourselves Justice in case we are denied it by Spain. I think this Argument rather plausible than solid. For my own Part, Sir, I am of Opinion, that though this would not have been the proper Time for such a Step, yet it is not impossible but that a Time may come when such a Step may be proper and necessary. But give me Leave to say, that this Necessity can arise only from our suffering more from the Violence and Injustice of the Spaniards, than we can suffer from a Confederacy of all the rest of Europe taking their Part. It never can be proper, Sir, for us to seize the American Treasures, until their Court shall absolutely deny us Justice, and tell us in downright. Terms, that she is resolved to have no Regard to Treaties, and that she is determined to do all she can to ruin our Trade, and to disturb us in the Possession of our American Dominions. If she should proceed, Sir, to that Height of Injustice, we might very naturally conclude, that here our All was at Stake; that if we should look tamely on while our American Commerce was ruin'd, our European must soon follow; for there is not a petty Republick, a petty Prince, in all Europe, who will pay any Regard to a People who suffer such Insolence, such Injustice, without resenting it; and that, if all our Trade is gone and ruin'd, the Nation is in effect undone. Therefore we have nothing in the worst Event to fear, worse than what must unavoidably happen if we suffer this Treatment any longer. I say, Sir, when we shall be brought thus low, and when the Spanish Insolence shall run so high as to render this Way of Reasoning just and natural, then is the Time for us to venture upon so bold, I had almost called it so desperate, a Step as the seizing the Spanish Treasures. But, will any Gentleman take upon him to pronounce, that the present Juncture comes within this Description, or that its Circumstances admit of any Parallel with those of the Time I have just now figur'd? No, Sir; Spain, far from supporting any just Claims that are inconsistent with the Interest of this Nation, has actually relinquished those she before set up: She has actually, I say, Sir, relinquished Claims which she maintained for these threescore Years past. I believe I may go higher, I may say, she has now, by this very Convention, relinquished a Claim which she has maintained ever since she possess'd her American Dominions. But that is not all, she has not only given up this Claim, but has paid Damages for the Injuries which the British Subjects have suffer'd, in consequence of her pretended Rights, as founded upon this Claim. This, Sir, is such a Point gain'd, that Gentlemen must be wilfully blind, if they don't see that any Administration in Britain must have been mad, had they desperately plung'd their Country into a War, while it was in their Power to conclude a Peace, where this great, this decisive Concession was to serve as the Foundation. Upon what Grounds, Sir, could we have proceeded to Extremities with Spain? Had we pretended that, because some of our Merchants had suffered by the Injustice and Rapaciousness of her Subjects, therefore we were resolved to be deaf to every other Way of making up the Difference that follow'd upon this Injustice, than that of the Sword: Had we made such a Declaration, and such a Declaration we must have made if we had gone to War, would not Spain have had a very plausible Pretext for interesting the other Powers of Europe in her Favour? Might she not then have told the French Court, ' It is true, some of the British Merchants suffer'd by my Subjects, but without my Knowledge, and against my Intention; but I was no sooner inform'd of the true State of the Affair, than I offer'd her all imginable Satisfaction; I even offered to indemnify the Merchants for the Losses they have sustained; I offer'd to tie myself down to a strict Observance of Treaties; but it seems that these Concessions do not answer the Views of Britain. She therefore certainly entertains some dangerous Design; she is forming some Project that may be destructive to your Interest, and which I shall never be able to disappoint but by your Means.'
'This, Sir, I say, would have been the Language of Spain, had the Administration here rejected all her Offers, and turn'd its Back upon the most favourable Proposals. The Court of France, in the mean Time, shews too plainly, by her own Conduct, what her Sense of the Matter is. She shews plainly that she is of Opinion, the Spaniards may seize a Ship on the open Seas, and that such a Ship, if concern'd in an unlawful Trade, may be brought into the Spanish Ports, and there condemn'd. I say, that France, is plainly of that Opinion, because we know that Ships belonging to her were actually taken and confiscated by the Spaniards; nay, Sir, I can venture to affirm, that Seizures have been made of French Vessels, as much in Violation of all Treaties and Justice, as any British Subject ever yet had Reason to complain of; but we never heard that France reclaim'd those Ships. I don't know whether that happen'd because her Ministry was of Opinion that these Seizures were justifiable, or because they thought it would be impolitic to embroil themselves with Spain on account of any private Quarrel. I don't at all deny, that we have suffer'd a great deal more from the Spaniards than the French have; but I mention this to inform the House that, in all Appearance, the French would have been our Enemies, had we gone to War before we had treated; and if we had rejected all Terms of Accommodation, or insisted on those Terms that no People, not absolutely reduced, would have granted.
'Even the Dutch, Sir, who depend as much upon Trade as we do, have never thought fit to come to Extremities, tho' their Sufferings are as great, and. as unjustifiable, as ours are. They have been contented to make Applications, and repeat Remonstrances at the Court of Spain; but we have never yet heard of their being able to obtain so much as a Cedula to American Governors for the Restitution of one Ship of theirs unjustly seized. We, Sir, it is well known, have obtained many; and if some of them had not the desired Effect, I am convinced it was owing more to the Arts of the Governors themselves, than to the Intentions of the Spanish Court. So that I cannot see, upon what Foundation Gentlemen proceed, when they represent Britain as under an Administration so weak, that she has been for these twenty Years past forc'd to put up with the grossest Affronts and Injuries, without the least Satisfaction or Reparation. Had the Dutch obtained as much as we did even before this Convention, I am convinc'd, that they would have been perfectly contented. I am convinc'd their Government would not have indulged the Complaints of private Traders so far, as to make a public Enquiry, which might have occasion'd a Rupture; nor would their Ministers have insisted on immediate Satisfaction. They know too well, Sir, that very great Abuses are daily committed in the American Trade; they know too well that publick Complaints and Remonstrances might produce an Enquiry that would turn out no way in their Favour.
'After what I have said, Sir, is it to be imagin'd that any of our Neighbours would have been well pleased, had we all at once, without hearing, or at least weighing the Terms proposed by Spain, come to Extremities? The French, so far from countenancing such a Conduct in us, would not, I am afraid, have been prevailed upon to remain neutral. And however Gentlemen may flatter themselves, however great an Opinion they may entertain of the Power of this Nation, we are not invincible. The French have Men; they have Money; they have Allies to support them. The Spaniards have Revenge; they have Pride; they have Resentment to gratify. Gentlemen won't find that it would have been an easy Matter for us to have grappled with both these Powers, supported by such Advantages, and prompted by such Motives. I believe our Land-Forces are equal to any Body of Men in the World of the like Number; but I have not so good an Opinion of them as to venture the Honour and Interest of a whole Kingdom on the Bravery and Skill of the small Handful which we keep, against the vast Bodies of well-disciplin'd Veteran Troops, which France and Spain in conjunction can bring into the Field.
'As to the Dutch, they in all Probability would have been determined by the Conduct of France, in case we had come to an open Rupture with Spain. Every Gentleman here is sufficiently sensible of the present low Circumstances of that Republick. The late glorious War left them prodigiously involved in Debt; this Debt obliged them to encrease their Taxes, and disband all their Troops, excepting what are absolutely necessary to keep up their Garrisons. Their Fleet lies in their Harbours in a very bad Condition, and requires more Money than they can furnish to rig it out. Besides, Sir, it would at this Time have been extreamly dangerous to herself, had she acted for an Interest separate from that of the French; who have a fine Army on Foot, which they can with almost no Expence or Danger march down into Holland. At this Time, Sir, the Emperor is no longer in a Condition to give any Diversion that Way. His own Army and Finances are in the utmost Disorder. And the other Powers, who may be inclinable to prevent such an Attempt, lie at too great a Distance, and have too strict Engagements with France, for us to expect any Diversion from them. Thus, Sir, if we argue upon the Principles of Reason, if human Forefight can determine any Thing, if the strongest Probability is to have any Weight, it must have been impolitick and imprudent in us to have hazarded a War, so long as we had any Prospect of concluding an honourable Peace
'I shall now beg Leave, Sir, to consider what Effect a precipitate Declaration of War must have had at Home. In the first Place, our whole Spanish Trade must have sunk at once; our Portugal Trade must have been greatly embarrassed, and our American very much endangered. Suppose that the Administration had joined last Session in the popular Outcry for War; and that a vigorous War was actually entered into; Can any Gentleman say that this would have stopt the Mouths of those who are resolved to find Fault at any Rate? In such an Event, may we not easily imagine to ourielves that we hear a violent Opposition Man declaiming on the Benefits of Peace; telling the World that a trading People ought by all manner of means to avoid War; that nothing is so destructive to their Interests, and that any Peace is preferable, even to a successful War? He might argue, the Spaniards have offered fair and reasonable Terms: They have even offer'd to indemnify our Merchants for the Losses they have sustained. They have offer'd an amicable Meeting to adjust all Points in Difference; they have offered to come into all reasonable Terms; yet our Ministry, rather than listen to what might have proved so beneficial to the Nation, has blundered into an expensive and hazardous War.
'This, Sir, I own would have been blundering; and those Gentlemen, once in their Life-time, in such an Event, would have applied that Term right. It requires no great Art, no great Abilities, in a Minister, to pursue such Measures as might make a War unavoidable. That is a very easy Matter; but, Sir, how many Minsters have you had, who knew the Art of avoiding War by making a safe and an honourable Peace? How many Kings, Sir, have you had, who knew how to make Choice of such Ministers? If those Gentlemen who are very fond of Parallels desire to know what Figure we make in the Affairs of Europe at present, when compared with the Figure which we made in former Times, let them dip into our History under James the First, a Reign, famous for Negociations and Treaties: Let them compare, Sir, the Insolence of Spain at that Time, with what it is now: Let them compare the Resentment we then shew'd, with the Manner in which we have borne their late Treatment. If any Gentleman will do this, and do it impartially, he will find that the very worst Treaty made under his present Majesty is more advantageous, and more honourable, than the best that was made under that long pacific Reign. It will perhaps be thought that the Parallel ought to be run with the Days of Queen Elizabeth, rather than with those of King James. But, as I observed before, that is a very false delusive Way of Reasoning. So many Circumstances concurred to raise the Reputation of that Princess, that it is next to impossible they should ever again meet in one Person, and at the same Time. She had to do with Neighbours, every one of which was of a different Interest from another: By artfully fomenting their Differences, it was easy for her to keep the Balance of Power in her own Hand. The many open and secret Attempts made by Traitors at home upon her Life and Crown, endeared her Person to her Subjects; and her Ministry, who found their own Interests inseparably connected with hers, run all Risques in her Service. It is true, they were great and wise Men, and they served a great and wise Mistress. But still, Sir, give me leave, to say, that a great deal of the amazing Success that attended her Reign was owing to Fortune. Had not the Winds and Waves fought more effectually for her at the Time of the Spanish Invasion, than her Sailors and Soldiers, though it must be own'd, they were very brave Men, I am afraid the Character of her Reign would have suffered, and that not a little. The World, Sir, is very apt to judge of Measures and Characters by Events, and as Events depend on Fortune, it is the Part of a wise Minister to leave as little as possible to Fortune: Too much must be left to her, even in the most cautious Manner a Minister can act. In the Negociation we are now considering, Sir, had we acted in any other Manner than we have done, we must in effect have left every Thing to Fortune, since all the Reparation we could expect, by any other Means than those of Negociation, depends upon a Thousand Accidents, and is liable to a Thousand Disappointments. Therefore give me leave say, Sir, that the Success which one Ministry has met with from the Favour of Fortune, is no Reason why another Ministry should tread the same dangerous Paths, especially when they can compass the same Ends by the more safe and more certain Way of Negociation.
'Upon the whole, Sir, I will venture to say that this Negociation has been the best conducted, and the most happily finished, of any we meet with in History. For we have not left the Payment of our Merchants to the Arbitration of Commissaries, or Plenipotentiaries; we have not accepted of an Order upon any of their Chambers in Spain; but we have expresly ty'd down his Catholick Majesty himself; we have obtained his great Seal as a Security for their Payment; and so tender was his Majesty of his Subjects Property, that his Ministers refused to enter into any Negociation relating to this Affair, till such Time as Reparation for the Losses of our Merchants was fully and expresly stipulated. Such an express and full Stipulation is obtained, to the great Confusion, I believe, and Disappointment of some amongst us, who, rather than not see their Country involved in a War, would be content that she were involved in Calamities, and embroiled with every one of her Neighbours. These Dispositions are more dangerous to our Interests than all the Force of Spain; and it must be owing to these Dispositions, if the Endeavours of his Majesty for the Peace and Happiness of Britain are rendered ineffectual. As yet we may thank Heaven, they had no other Effect than to unite the Friends of our most happy Establishment more firmly together; and while they continue united, I hope the Efforts of Malice and Faction will be always disappointed.
'But it is some what very surprizing, Sir, that this Address should meet with such Opposition; for I don't see any Thing in it that can in the least preclude Gentlemen from making what Objections they please to the Convention, when it shall be laid before them. We thank his Majesty for the Success of his Royal Endeavours in concluding a Convention, whereby Reparation is obtain'd for his injur'd Subjects, and Plenipotentiaries appointed for regulating all those Grievances that have hitherto interrupted our Commerce and Navigation, and for removing all future Causes of Complaint. Are not all these very desirable Consequences of a Negociation? Is not Reparation for past Injuries one of the two Points we have always insisted on? And what can be more done towards obtaining Security against future Encroachments, than to remove all future Causes of Complaints by proper Regulations? But, say Gentlemen, this is only referred to Plenipotentiaries, whereas it ought to have been positively insisted upon, as a Foundation to all future Negociations upon that Subject, that the Spaniards had no Right whatsoever to search our Ships upon the open Seas. Really, Sir, no Gentleman in this House would have been better pleased than I, had Spain thought sit to have given up this Point by a clear and positive Renunciation. But when two People treat upon an equal Foot, I believe it very hard to produce any Instance wherein one Party could be brought to give an absolute Renunciation of a Point which they once insisted on as their Right, and to give such a Renunciation too, even before it was so much as examined into, whether they had such a Right or not. The Spaniards have usurped a Claim of searching our Ships for many Years past; for many Years, Sir, before the present august Family came to the Throne; for many Years before I was concerned in publick Affairs: And are we to imagine that they will give up this Claim by a positive Renunciation, even before we give them any Reason why it ought to be abolished? I say, Sir, are we to imagine that Spaniards will do this, a People who are obstinately fond of Power, and even of the Shadow of it? a People scrupulously attached to formal Enquiries and Discussions? I do not know, whether after a War successfully carried on by us, we could have made them yield to any Treaty to which a positive Renunciation was to be the Preliminary. At least I remember to have read, that notwithstanding their being reduced to the lowest, the most despicable Circumstances, at the Time the American Treaty was concluded; yet all the Art, all the Threatening, all the Representations of our Court and Ministry at that Time, could not induce them to confirm our Right to Jamaica by a positive Renunciation of that Island in our Favour. How unreasonable then is it to expect that Spain would have hearkened to any Accommodation, where it was laid down as a Preliminary, that she should give up a Claim which she had immemorially possess'd, and which she look'd upon, perhaps, as absolutely necessary to the Preservation of her Interest in America?
'Thus, Sir, I have, I hope, set this important Objection in a clear Light. I don't know what Effect it may now have upon Gentlemen, but the Reasons I have given against the preremptory Method of Proceeding had such a Weight with me, that I did not make the least Difficulty in agreeing to this Convention. I will venture to say, that when it was concluded, I thought it my Happiness that the Nation would look upon the Influence I have in the Government as one of the principal Means that brought it about. Nay, I should not be sorry if it was looked upon as a Measure entirely my own. But, Sir, whether this Convention is a good or a bad Measure, a few Days will determine. Whatever Judgment this House may think fit to pass upon it, I hope the Address, as mov'd for without the Amendment, will be agreed to. We have great Reason to believe that this Convention is for the Honour and Interest of the Nation; we have as yet no Reason to believe the contrary, and therefore no Reason to oppose this Address. Last Session, Sir, I remember that I undertook to be answerable for the Measures which the Government shall pursue while I have the Honour to be a Minister. I am prepared to make good my Promise. I desire no more than a fair Hearing; and this I hope will not be deny'd me. But, Sir, if Gentlemen may, by agreeing to the Amendment, raise a Prejudice without Doors against the Convention, and perhaps with such a Ferment, as would in the Event give them great Uneasiness; in such a Case, many who, I know, are otherwise Friends of the Government, would be sorry to find themselves instrumental in heating the People to such a Degree, as to admit of no Reasoning upon this Subject, and thereby render a War unavoidable. Such, Sir, I am afraid would be the Consequence of our agreeing to this Amendment; and it is a Consequence which every Man who understands, and desires to promote the Interest of his Country, wishes to see avoided.'
George Lyttelton Esq; (fn. 2)
'I am very ready to agree, with the honourable Gentleman, that Posterity will judge of the Figure which Britain makes in the Affairs of Europe from her Behaviour at this Juncture: There is no Doubt that if we have entered into a scandalous Negociation with Spain, Posterity will think that we have a very weak Ministry. But let the late Negociations that have been carried on with that Court be never so honourable for this Nation, I am afraid Posterity will not be persuaded that we are at present blessed with a very firm disinterested Ministry. Taking the right honourable Gentleman's Account of this Negociation to be genuine, and that we have made a safe and an honourable Convention, I believe Posterity will be apt to enquire by what Means, by whose Management, the Reputation and Power of Britain were sunk so low as to be forced, after suffering a Series of Insults and Injuries during almost 20 Years, to think herself happy in procuring Common Justice to her Subjects from a Power always found inferiour to her own. Posterity, I am afraid, Sir, will be at a Loss to account for the Management that reduced Great Britain so low as to be obliged, even before she could obtain this bare Piece of Justice, to fit out a Fleet at a vast Expence, to send this Fleet abroad, to keep it on the Coasts of Spain, and at last, to take up with a Convention, wherein no Regard has been had to all this vast Expence, and not a Shilling stipulated to desray it Sir, I think that when the honourable Gentleman was displaying his Impartiality and Candour, he should have favoured the House with his Thoughts in what Manner Posterity will account for all these Circumstances, without taking it for granted, that some Part of the Blame lies at the Door of our Ministry.
'The same right honourable Gentleman, in stating his Arguments against the Amendment, said, that all History could not furnish an Instance wherein a People not only own'd themselves in the Wrong, but actually paid Damages. I cannot say, Sir, that I can at present bring particular Facts and Parallels to disprove this Assertion; but I dare say there is no Gentleman ever so little versed in History; who does not know that there is nothing more common than for one Nation to indemnify another for the Expence of a War, or even the Preparations of a War. Let us consider; Sir, how either of these Cases differs from what lately was the Case betwixt us and Spain. We were not, it is true, in a State of open War; so far from it, that the Spaniards were, during the Time of their most violent Depredations; our faithful Allies; we caressed them; and they were so very obliging to us, that they accepted of all the Offices of Friendship and Kindness, which we so profusely heap'd upon them. They were even so civil as to accept of our Assistance in placing a Son of their Family upon the Throne of an independent Kingdom; but in the mean time they took care not to give us one Opportunity of shewing our Complaisance in the same Manner. I need not descend into Particulars; Gentlemen; I believe, have not forgot what was proved at the Bar of this House last Session; they have not forgot the Inhumanities and Insults practised on our Fellow Subjects by this haughty Neighbour. Now, Sir, will the right honourable Gentleman say, that because the Spanish Barbarities and Injuries were committed at a Time when we were not only at Peace with them, but shewing them the most excessive Marks of Friendship, therefore it was unprecedented that they should make any pecuniary Acknowledgments for our real Damages? Will he pretend that our Ministers, for that same Reason, ought not to have insisted on having some Reparation for the Injuries our Sailors have received in their Persons, and some Satisfaction for the wounded Honour of this Nation? Let us suppose, Sir, that we had shew'd our Resentment by repelling Force by Force, and that we had; as we ought to have done, enter'd immediately into a vigorous War. We shall suppose, Sir, that an Accommodation was set on foot, and Plenipotentiaries on both Sides appointed. I shall in that Case appeal to every Gentleman, who knows the least either of the History of his own or any other Country, if the Spaniards could have objected to us, that our being indemnify'd, not only for our preceding Damages; but even for our Expences of the War; was unusual and unprecedented. It is a Claim that is made almost in every Negociation that follows upon a War, and is commonly admitted. Now, Sir, if this is the Case, what becomes of the extraordinary Merit of this Negociation in obtaining this boasted Reparation for our Merchants Damages? I am afraid, Sir, Posterity will think we are so far from having obtained what we could not have expected, that we have not obtained what we might have justly claimed. If we were not at War with Spain, Sir, during all these Transactions, it is so much the worse for our Negociators; for that is the very Reason, Sir, why our Claims ought to have been the more extensive, and our Satisfaction the more ample.
'However, Sir, I entirely agree with the honourable Gentleman when he said, that if we look over all the Histories of Europe, we shall not find one People paying Damages to another in the Manner (the honourable Gentleman must mean) stipulated by this Convention. I believe we shall not, Sir, because if we look over all these Histories, we shall not find any Parallel to this Convention itself. We shall not find that any People, without shewing the least Resentment, but in the Memorials of their Ministers, have tamely for so long a Time born such Treatment, and that their Ministry were at last satisfied with a Convention, wherein no more than bare Reparation for the real Damages of their Subjects was stipulated. His Majesty, indeed, has told us in his Speech, that Plenipotentiaries are to meet and settle every thing upon the Foot of Treaties subsisting betwixt the two Crowns. Is this, Sir, so mighty a Point gained, that we are to treat with Spain upon an equal Foot? The simple Consideration of this, Sir, is in my Opinion a full Answer to all that the right honourable Gentleman has advanced. He has allowed that our Wrongs have been very great, and he says that our Satisfaction ought to be adequate to our Wrongs.
'Now, Sir, as it is undoubted that we have suffered greatly, I own that I don't think myself at Liberty to approve in any Shape, of the Measures that have been pursued for obtaining us Satisfaction, till my Judgment is sufficiently informed that these Measures have been both expedient and successful. When the Convention shall be laid before us, if it then appears that the Nation has received ample Satisfaction for her Losses and Injuries, I shall be willing to vote not only for a zealous Address of Thanks to his Majesty, but that the Thanks of this House shall be returned to his Ministers. But at present I can challenge any Gentleman to shew, from the Speech we have heard, that the Nation has by this Convention obtained one Concession in Favour of her Trade and Navigation, excepting that Spain is willing to treat. A very great Concession indeed!
'I cannot take my Leave of this Subject, Sir, without making some Observations upon what fell from the right honourable Gentleman, with regard to what he said of the Reign of James the first. That Reign was the poorest, the weakest, and the most disgraceful in the English History: And what have they to answer for, Sir, who have reduced this Reign so low, as to admit of a Parallel with that of James the first? This Convention, Sir, from all we yet know of it, may one Day swell the Charge against those who have brought us to this Pass; and, till I am more thoroughly acquainted with its real Merits, I am entirely against taking any Notice of it at all.'
Sir John Hind Cotton.
Sir John Hind Cotton
'I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman, who spoke last against the Amendment, would inform the House what greater Security we have for the Performance of this Convention than we have had for the Performance of every Treaty we have for these twenty Years past entered into with Spain. I speak this upon the Supposition that the Convention is in our Favour, and that it answers all the just Demands of the Nation. The right honourable Gentleman said, indeed, that we had now obtained the Great Seal of Spain. Really, Sir, I believe the Great Seal of Spain to be a very pretty Thing; I believe we have obtained somewhat that may do very well to divert a Boy or a Girl; but I don't see how the Great Seal of Spain can be any greater Security to us for the Preservation or Recovery of our Rights, than what we had before by the Treaties in Force. Was not the Great Seal of Spain affix'd to all these Treaties? Do we find that the Spaniards pay any Regard to it? And has the right honourable Gentleman given the House any one Reason why we should believe that they will pay any Regard to this Convention, supposing it is in our Favour? Therefore Sir, till I am informed in what Manner the Rights of this Nation are better secured by this Convention than they were by former Treaties, I must be for the Amendment.'
Sir John Barnard.
Sir John Barnard. ; The Address carried without the Amendment.
'I shall not detain the House, as it is now late, in entering very far into the Merits of this Convention; but I cannot help observing that it seems to me to be a very extraordinary Measure: All I can find that has been done by it, is a Sum of Money obtain'd for our private Merchants. Every Thing else is referred to a future Discussion, whose Event is very uncertain. It is true, that this Address, as it stands without the Amendment, seems to point out, it gives at least some Hints of what will be the Business of these Gen tlemen the Plenipotentiaries when they meet. It is there said, Sir, that they are appointed for regulating Grievances and Abuses. I have many Times heard of removing Grievances, but I think this the first Time I have met with such an Expression as regulating them. The Regulation of Grievances must imply that some Conveniency attends them, and therefore it is proper they should exist, provided they are regularly imposed. Therefore, Sir, I own that I cannot consent to our inserting any such Expression in an Address from this House to the Throne.'
Division Yas 239, Noes. 141.
The Question being put, the Address was upon a Division carried without the Amendment: Ayes 230, Noes 141.