The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons: Volume 10, 1737-1739. Originally published by Chandler, London, 1742.
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That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, that he will be graciously pleased to give Directions that there be laid before this House, I. Copies of all Representations, Memorials, or Petitions, made to his Majesty, or his Secretaries of State, since the Treaty of Seville, relating to any Losses sustained by his Majesty's Subjects, by Depredations committed by the Spaniards in Europe and America, which have not already been laid before this House.
II. Copies of all Representations, Memorials, or Petitions, made to the Commissioners for executing the Office of Lord High Admiral of Great Britain, or Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, since the Treaty of Seville, relating to any Losses, ut supra.
III. Copies or Extracts of any Letters from any of the British Governors in America, his Majesty's Ministers in Spain, and Consuls in Europe, to the Secretaries of State, Commissioners for executing the Office of Lord High Admiral of Great Britain, or Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, since the Treaty of Seville, relating to any Losses, ut supra.
IV. Copies or Extracts of any Letters from any Commanders in chief, or Captains of his Majesty's Ships of War, to the Secretaries of State, Commissioners for executing the Office of Lord High Admiral of Great Britain, or Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, relating to any Losses sustained by his Majesty's Subjects since the Treaty of Seville, by Depredations, ut supra.
'The Resolutions which this House has now come to, are in my Opinion extremely proper. It is very proper that we should see all that has been offered from our Merchants by way of Complaint, or Representation to the Government since the Treaty of Seville, relating to the Spanish Depredations. It is likewise very proper we should know what Representations have been made by our Governors, Ministers and Consuls abroad, upon the same Subject: and likewise every Thing that may have come from our Admirals, or Captains of Men of War. But give me Leave to say, Sir, that now you have come to all these Resolutions, you are but half thro what you ought to do upon this Occasion; the most important Part is still behind, and that is our knowing what Measures have been pursued in Answer to these several Applications and Representations. Without our knowing this, Sir, it is impossible for us to judge either of the Sincerity and Diligence of our own Ministry at home, or how far the Insolence and Injustice of the Spaniards have reached abroad.
'All these Points must be fully and clearly comprehended by this House, before we can venture to proceed in giving our Opinion upon this Convention, which his Majesty has been pleased to acquaint us of, and to promise that it shall be speedily laid before us. If from what shall appear upon the Face of the Papers I intend now to move for, our Ministers have done every Thing to prevent a War, without sacrificing any Part of the national Honour or Interest; if it shall appear that they have stated the Differences betwixt Spain and us, in a true Light to that Court; if it shall appear that they have given the Spaniards no Encouragement, by their dilatory and irresolute Way of Proceeding, to insist upon their own Terms, and to go on in ruining our Trade and Navigation; I say, Sir, if all this should appear, we can easily determine upon the Merits of this Preliminary Treaty, which we have accepted of. The Stipulations contained in it ought to be founded upon the Justice of the Claims of either Party; but if these Claims never have been made, or if they have been shamefully given up on our Part, and if this Conduct has encouraged the other Party, to oblige us to accept of a Preliminary, instead of a definitive Treaty, then the Question with us, ought not to be how far the Spaniards, but how far our Ministers are to blame.
'Besides, I cannot conceive that the Papers, which you have already resolved to address for, can be of any Manner of Service to us, or indeed that they can be intelligible to the House, unless we shall see the Instructions that have been sent from hence to our Governors, Officers and Ministers abroad; because a great Number of the Complaints and Representations contained in the Papers, which you are to address for, must refer to, and sometimes be founded on the Nature of these Instructions. Therefore I will be so free as to own, that I shall not be at the Pains so much as to look into any of the Papers we have resolved to address for, unless I shall see at the same Time the Papers, for which I intend now to move; and I shall think it very suspicious, if any Gentleman shall oppose such a Motion; because I am sure that there can be no Harm, in a British House of Parliament's sceing all the Papers relating to any Transaction that is past, which have gone thro' the Hands of British Ministers. Therefore, Sir, I take the Liberty to move,
Motion that Admiral Haddock'a, &c Instructions be laid before this House.
'That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, that he would be graciously pleased to give Directions for laying before this House, Copies of all Letters written, and Instructions given by the Secretaries of State, or Commissioners for executing the Office of Lord High Admiral of Great Britain, to any of the Governors of the British Plantations in America, or any Commander in chief, or Captains of his Majesty's Ships of War, or his Majesty's Minister at the Court of Spain, or any of his Majesty's Consuls in Europe, since the Treaty of Seville, relating to any Losses sustained by his Majesty's Subjects, by Means of Depredations committed by the Subjects of the King of Spain in Europe or America, which have not already been laid before this House.'
Horatio Walpole Esq
'The present Motion seems to contain two separate Articles, and I shall beg Leave to offer my Reasons to the House, why I dissent from both. One relates to the Letters and Instructions sent to our Ministers at the Court of Spain, our Consuls in that Kingdom, and our Governors in America, and the other to those sent to our naval Officers. As to the first, Sir, I hope Gentlemen, before they agree to this Motion, will consider, that in such Differences as subsisted lately betwixt our Court and that of Madrid, a Minister is furnished not only with publick but private Instructions, and these private Instructions commonly contain Things no Way proper to be communicated to the Court where he resides. It has been many Times known in Negociations, that a Minister has been instructed publickly to insist on very high Terms, and yet has had private Instructions to abate very much of these Terms, provided he could obtain an Equivalent, or compass a favourite View of his Court.
'I don't know, Sir, whether this is or is not the Case with regard to the Instructions sent to our Minister at Madrid, because I never had any Concern in our Transactions with that Court; but, Sir, it is both very possible and very probable that it may be the Case, and if it is, his Majesty will no doubt have very good Reason to be offended at an Address, which, should he comply with it, might lay open the most private Transactions of his Cabinet, and discover Secrets that ought, for the Good of this Kingdom, to be concealed. But the present Motion, not only includes Instructions given by our Ministry and Admiralty to our Plenipotentiaries at the Court of Spain, but likewise to all our Consuls and Governors of our Settlements abroad. This might be attended with very bad Consequences to the trading Part of the Nation. Gentlemen know very well, that, in case of a Rupture betwixt Spain and us, the Spanish Court immediately confiscates the Effects of our Merchants residing there. It has therefore been always thought proper to let our Consuls know, either by our Ministry here, or our Minister at Madrid, that as soon as the Differences betwixt the two Courts shall arrive at such a Crisis, and not before, they are to give the Merchants notice to make the best of their Way with their Effects. Now, should such an Instruction as this come to the Knowledge of the Spaniards, it is a kind of Watch-word to put them on their Guard, and must unavoidably occasion the ruin of Thousands of our Subjects. It must have another bad Effect, Sir, by letting the Spaniards know the Ultimatum of our Demands and Concessions, and the Kingdom may thereby be depriv'd of many Advantages which she might reap, were no such Discovery made.
'I shall now examine the Propriety of this Motion, so far as it relates to the Instructions given by the Government here to our Admirals and Captains. These Instructions, Sir, are very probably yet unfulfilled, and it would be doing a very imprudent Thing, should we put it out of the Power of our Officers abroad to fulfil them; which must be the Case if they are now discover'd to the Public. Besides, there is nothing more easy than to find Fault. Objections may be raised to the best concerted Plan that ever was laid down, and the Approbation which it meets with generally depends upon the Event. Therefore, Sir, it ought not all to surprize Gentlemen, if they whose Characters, perhaps their Lives and their Fortunes, depend upon the Success of these Schemes, oppose the Motion. On the other hand, it must be surprizing to those without Doors, as well as to us within, to hear that such a Motion has been made in this House. Have not the Ministers been cried out against for not entering into vigorous Measures, as they are called; and should we agree to this Motion, don't we take the most effectual Method to disable them from pursuing any Measure with Vigour? I am far from denying, that the Motion we are now considering; would be a proper Motion, if all Danger of a War were over; and if we had concluded a definitive Treaty with Spain: Were that the Case, there would be no Inconveniency in our addressing for these Papers, because there would be no farther Use for the Instructions contain'd in them. But, that is far from being the Case at present. The Treaty that is concluded is a Preliminary, and the Conclusion of a definitive Treaty depends upon our Unanimity and Resolution to pursue the same vigorous Measures that we would have done had this Preliminary never taken place. But; Sir, give me Leave to say, that if we should agree to this Motion, we put ourselves under an Incapacity of pursuing these Measures, because we expose them to the Public; and thereby give Spain and her Allies an Opportunity of defeating them.
'There is still another Inconveniency which must arise from our agreeing to the present Motion. We are to consider, Sir, that though the Stipulation for our Merchants Redress is a positive Stipulation, yet that the Performance of it is in reality but eventual. I don't mean that there is any Ambiguity in the Terms of that Article in the Convention, or that any Event can happen which will justify the Court of Spain in refusing to pay the Sum there specify'd; but we all know very well, that Princes are often determin'd by Interest, without Regard to the strict Laws of Justice and Equity. Now, if our exposing these Papers should afresh embroil us with Spain; if she should imagine, upon being informed of their Contents, that she could prevent our distressing her in the same Manner we might have done had they been kept secret; in such an Event, Sir, who can answer for it that she will not create Pretexts and frivolous Excuses, to put off the Payment of the stipulated Sum? I am sure, I have heard that Court charg'd in this House with as gross Violations of her Faith, and I dare say that if our agreeing to this Motion were to have that Effect, Gentlemen would think that they had a great deal to accuse themselves of.
'In the mean time, I am far from thinking that there will be no Occasion for our seeing any Papers at all before we come to a Resolution with regard to the Convention. I know we shall have Occasion to see a great many; and we have no Reason to doubt that his Majesty, as he has ordered the Convention to be laid before us, will likewise order those Papers to be communicated to the House which are proper for us to see. But, Sir, I think we should act with great Precipitancy, should we address for any Papers that may draw a Refusal from his Majesty, and may occasion an Interruption of that Union betwixt his Majesty and this House, which in the present Juncture of Affairs is our best and greatest Security.
Sir John Barnard.
'I have sate long enough in the House to hear many Debates on this Head, but I never knew one good Effect attend our giving a Negative to a Motion of this Nature. Did Experience tell us, that the Councils of a Ministry have been always more advantageous to the Nation than the Resolutions of Parliament; had this Nation never sound the Misfortune of being governed by a Ministry, who preferred their own Interest to her Honour; had there never been an Instance when the Interposition of Parliament rescued the Nation from the wicked Effects of Mal-administration; then might I have had so much Confidence in the present Ministry, as to agree in my Sentiments with the honourable Gentlemen who spoke last. But, I have seen the Complaisance of Parliament to the Ministry attended with so many bad Effects, especially of late, that I think it is high Time for us to our alter our Measures, and to judge from what we see, and not from what we hear.
'I own all that has been said rather confirms me to agree to the Motion, than otherwise. All that the honourable Gentleman has said, in my Opinion amounts to this, that the Papers, now mov'd to be address'd for, relate to an unfinished Negociation, and therefore it will be doing an Indignity to his Majesty to address for these Papers; that it might likewise put Spain on her Guard, should the Manner in which we are to attack them come to their Knowledge; and thereby the Ends of the Convention might be frustrated.
'The very Reason why this Motion ought to be agreed to, is because these Papers relate to a Negociation that is still in Dependance. Had the Negociation been finished, the Reasons for our agreeing to this Motion would not have been near so strong with me as they are now, But, Sir, I have not heard yet any one Reason given, why the just Expectations of Parliament and the People have not been answered, and why we are not at present in a State of Certainty with regard to our Differences with Spain; why we are not carrying on either a vigorous War, or reaping the Advantages of an honourable Peace. These are Considerations that offer to me, previous to all other Considerations. When once this House is satisfied in these Points, it will be easy for us to come to a Resolution as to every other Point that relates to this Affair. But these are Points we never can come to the Knowledge of without our seeing, in the first Place, the Papers now moved to be addressed for. I say, Sir, in the first Place; for if our Admirals and Captains have had no Orders to act with Vigour; if our Consuls and Governors have had no Instructions to stand by the Rights of this Nation at all Events; or if they have been instructed, to wink at the Calamities of their Fellow-Subjects, and, as many suspect, to connive at the Barbarities inflicted on them; then, Sir, the House must be led into another Enquiry, by what Means it has happened that such a Conduct has been observed. We are then no longer to wonder why the Spaniards have not been brought to do us Justice, and why our Merchants are still expose to the Insults of their Enemies.
'If, Sir, there had been any Comparison betwixt our Strength and that of the Enemy, if the Spaniards had bad the least Pretext in Justice or Equity for the Barbarities inflicted on the Subjects of this Nation, some Excuses might have been pleaded from the Imprudence of hazarding our Strength and Reputation on a doubtful Event; some Excuse, Sir, might have been pleaded from the Injustice of supporting Claims that are inconsistent with the Treaties and the Law of Nations. But, since we are as evidently superior in Strength, as in the Justice of our Cause, the Reasons of our Forbearance since last Session, and our accepting this Convention, must be attributed to some Cause of which the Parliament ought to be the Judges, and which, I am afraid, the Parliament alone can remove, Are we forever to trust to the Courage and Honesty of our Ministry? Are we never to interpose, and let his Majesty know the Sense of the Nation? Have we for these 20 Years past ever offered our Advice to the Throne upon any doubtful Exigency? Have we not as often as such Advice was proposed, been told, that we had no Reason to doubt the Prudence and Zeal of the Ministry; that it was an Affront upon his Majesty for us to interpose in those Points where the Crown by its Prerogative was to be the sole Judge. Let Gentlemen, Sir, look over the History of England, and they will find this is the Language that has brought on all the Inconveniencies which we have felt. This is a Language that honest Ministers never use; it is the Language that wife Ministers reject. Honest Ministers would be glad of having an Opportunity to take Advice, better Advice than it is possible for them to give; and wise Ministers never think themselves so happy as when they have the Advice of Parliament, to give a Sanction to their Proceedings.
'As to the putting the Spaniards on their Guard, I am not so much either of a Soldier or a Sailor, as to pretend to determine precisely what Weight may be in that Objection: But I have read a little, and have heard a great deal with regard to the Management of a War betwixt us and the Spaniards: And, so far as I may be allowed to judge, there is but one Way in which we can possibly attack them, and that is by Sea. We have already fatally experienced the Effects of a Land War with Spain. It was indeed attended with Glory; it was attended with Success; but, Sir, it was attended with an Expence which we feel to this Day. Therefore I think it is quite out of the Question to suppose that any military Operations of ours against Spain, which were to have taken effect by Land, should be discovered by our agreeing to this Motion. It is possible that we may discover by it, whether our Government defign to act in earnest. But I can see very little Advantage Spain can reap from this, though I think I see a great Benefit which must arise from it to Britain.
'We can never imagine, Sir, that the Spaniards have been so stupid as not to take all possible Precautions to defend themselves in case of a Rupture. They know very well, I believe every Gentleman in this House, every Man of common Sense without Doors knows, where and in what Manner we can attack her, if we are in Earnest. Therefore, Sir, I think it is of very little Consequence whether the Spaniards shall come at the Knowledge of the Plan of the Operations or not. But Sir, I said I could easily see an evident Advantage which our being well assured that the Ministry were in earnest to act against Spain must be attended with: Such an Assurance would inspire the People, I had almost said, with a Veneration for the Ministry; I am sure it would for his Majesty; when they saw that they were resolved to take Satisfaction for the Injuries we have received. This must be attended with the best Effects. The Opinion which the Subjects will then entertain of the Honesty and Abilities of those at the Helm, will make them contribute their Share of the Expence with Alacrity. Our Sailors, Sir, who have long acted with Reluctance, would then serve with Chearfulness. There would be then no Occasion for pressing Men aboard for our Navy. That Reluctance, Sir, so visible in our Sailors, intirely proceeds from the numberless Disappointments they have already met with; and give me leave to say, Sir, that there is no other Method of removing their Distrust on that Head, than by our Government's letting the Publick see that they intend to act honestly and fairly, that they do not design to amuse the World any longer with idle Parades, or sham Expeditions.
'There is another good Effect, Sir, that our agreeing to this Motion must have; it will make Spain cautious how she trifles any longer with us. Can any reasonable Man believe, Sir, that if she had thought we dared to act vigorously, she would have treated us in the Manner she has done? She must be conscious, that by herself she is a very unequal Match for us, and that it is in our Power to humble her before she can receive any Assistance from her Allies. Her Ministers must be concicu that we have been treated in a Manner that directly violater all the Law of Nature and Nations, and every Treaty substing betwixt us and them. Give me leave to ask, Sir, from whence can the motives of their Proceedings arise, if they do not arise from an Opinion of the Weakness and Irrosolution of our Ministry? But, Sir, our agreeing to this Motion will set them right in that Respect. I hope we shall see Instructions to our Aamirals and Captains that will make the Spaniards, and all the World sensible, that we have Ministers both too wise and too honest to be any longer tristed with. This, instead of obstructing, must facilitate every Negociation with that Crown. As we want nothing of them but what is fair and right, they would be more ready to grant it willingly, when they find, if they resuse, we are determined to command it by Force.
'But, Sir, as no Arguments are so good as those drawn from Experience, I am sorry to say that in this Case we have fatal Experience of the Reasonableness of this Motion. I see many Gentleman here who may remember our Expedition under Admiral Hosier. How many of our brave Seamen perished, how many of our best Ships rotted, and how much of the national Honour was lost in that Expedition, is not my Bussines at present to enquire into; but I will venture to say, that it had been happy for this Nation, that either that Expedition had not been made, or that the Parliament had been before hand acquainted with the Nature of our Admiral's Instruction. But, Sir, this is a very ungrateful, a very melancholy Subject; therefore I shall only observe, that while the Memory of that expendition is so recent in the Minds of the People, it will be impossible to cure them of their Suspicions; it will be impossible to convince them that our present Measures are not in the same Strain they were then in, unless the Parliament is made acquainted with the Nature of the Instruction that have been given to our Admirals and Officers abroad.
'I have little more to add, Sir; but I cannot help observing, that there is a very wide Difference betwixt common Report, and the Arguments that have been advanced against this Motion. These Arguments have been all built upon the Supposition that the Negociation with Spain is still depending upon the Supposition that the Convention is no other than a Preliminary, and that we have still a good deal to fear from Spain. But, Sir, if any Credit is to be given to common Report, our Ministry are acting in a Manner which shews that they think all Differences with Spain are accommodated. If we are to believe common Report, Sir, they have so much Confidence in Spanish Honour and Faith, that they look upon a definitive Treaty to be as good as concluded, and have already recalled our Squadron from the Mediterranean Sea. I shall not warrant the Truth of this Report, Sir; but if it is true, in my humble Opinion it entirely overthrows all that has been advanced by the Gentlemen on the other Side. However, whether it is true or not, I think the Reasons I have already given, and those I have heard from my worthy Friends, are more than sufficient to determine me in giving my Voice for the Motion.'
Sir Robert Walpole.
'If Gentlemen knew of how little Consequence it is to the Interest of the Minister (for I see no Reason why I may not use that Word too) whether this Motion is or is not agreed to, they would think they had spent their Time very indifferently in this Debate.
'The honourable Gentleman who spoke last, said, with that good Sense which he always discovers when he speaks either in publick or in private, that if at this Juncture we recalled our Fleet from the Coasts of Spain, our Negociations with that Court ought to be looked upon as at an End, and consequently that no Argument could arise against this Motion for our addressing for Papers relating to a depending Negociation. If that were the Case, if our Fleet was recalled, I should be of the same Opinion: But, Sir, I can take it upon me to affirm that no such Orders have been sent, and that I never heard of any such Orders before I heard them now. I believe, Sir, Gentlemen will not suspect that Orders could have been sent without my Knowledge; and they are mistaken, if they think that I can have any interested Views in concealing them. However, Sir, I cannot omit taking Notice of the Views with which such Reports are propagated, and how easy it is for the best Intentions in the World to be defeated by any malicious Fellow, who shall take upon him, from his own Conjectures, to affirm Things for Facts that never had any Existence but in his own Brain. I am sure the honourable Gentleman himself did not invent so improbable a Story; but, on the other Hand, I am sure that with all the Discernment he is Master of, he was very much affected by it, and that if I had not taken this Opportunity of undeceiving him, most Gentlemen here might have believed it.
'That honourable Gentleman was pleased to bring the Case of Admiral Hosier's Expedition, as a Parallel to our present Circumstances. Sir, I am as much affected with the Hardships and Calamities which befel my Fellow Subjects in that Expedition as any Gentleman here; but no Prince, no Minister alive can guard against Accidents. If a Scheme is well digested, and properly executed, that is all which Ministers can answer for: The Elements are not under our Direction, and tho' that Expedition did not answer all the Ends it was designed for, yet I believe the Nation feels the good Effects of it at this Day. It happened at a Time when the Situation of the Affairs of Europe was very different from what it is at present: But I need not descend to Particulars; I believe most Gentlemen present remember what the Motives of it were, and that as often as it came under the Consideration of this Excuse, the Objections to the Conduct of the Ministry, on that Head, were always fully and solidly refuted.
'In short, Sir, if the Spanish Treasure at that Time of caped our Fleets, it was owing to Accidents which no human Forefight could prevent, and may serve to let us see, that however some Gentlemen flatter themselves with the Thoughts of always having it in our Power to bring Spain to our Terms, yet it is not so easy a Task as these Gentlemen imagine. Our Admirals and Captains at that Time, Sir, did their Duty, and I believe would have exerted their Courage too, had the Plate-Ships come in their Way. But their Escape at that Time is a Proof that neither the Goodness of Ships, the Number of Men, the Skill of our Officers, nor the Bravery of our Sailors can avail, when the Winds and the Weather favour the Enemy. If Gentlemen would make due Reflections upon this, I dare say they would be much cooler in their Debates and Proceedings upon those Questions that relate to our Differences with Spain. Mean time I think the Arguments which I have heard in Support of the Motion are not sufficient to warrant my giving Assent to it.'
The Motion rejected Upon a Division Yeas 183, Noes, 113.
Mr. Sandys moves for the Papers laid before the Court of Madrid.
It was then moved by Mr. Sandys, That an humble Address should be presented to his Majesty, that he would be graciously pleased to give Directions, for laying before the House, Copies of such Memorials or Representations, as had been made, either to the King of Spain or his Ministers, since the Treaty of Seville, relating to Losses sustained by his Majesty's Subjects, by Means of Depredations committed by the Subjects of the King of Spain in Europe or America.
Henry Pelham Esq;
'After the House, for very good Reasons, had given a Negative to the last Motion, I did not expect to hear one of this Kind; because the Reasons for not agreeing to the last, hold, in my Opinion, much stronger for rejecting this.
'Gentlemen, before they make such Motions as these, ought to consider two Things principally; first, whether this House has a Right by the Constitution to agree to Motions of this Kind, for calling for Papers while a Negociation is depending; and in the next Place, how far such an Address will be complied with on the Part of the Throne. His Majesty by our Constitution certainly has a Right to make Peace or War, and consequently, to take such Steps as may enable him to do both with Honour and Success; but if we call for those very Papers that contain the whole Transactions with regard to either, Gentlemen are to consider, whether this be not an Attempt to wrest this Prerogative out of the Royal Hand, where it is now so well lodged. At the fame Time, Sir, admitting we had such a Power, if for Reason best known to his Majesty, he should refuse to comply with our Address, Gentlemen cannot but foresee, that such a Refusal has often produced a Misunderstanding betwixt the Crown and Parliament; which on this Occasion must produce the very worst Effects.
'It becomes therefore, Sir, a prudential Consideration with us at present, whether these Papers may not be of such Nature as to require the utmost Secrecy, and whether or agreeing to this Motion, may not defeat all the good Ends proposed by the Convention; for as the Convention is no other than a preliminary Treaty to a definitive one, there must consequently be a great Number of Points still unsettled betwixt his Majesty's Ministers and those of Spain, and therefore calling for the Copies of any Papers that are now, perhaps, lying before the King of Spain's Council, is calling for Papers that relate to an unfinished Negociation. Besides, Sir, the Papers that have been laid before the Court of Spain by our Ministers, will necessarily discover a great Part of the Contents of those Papers, which have been communicated to this Court by that of Spain. Making such Papers publick, must be interpreted by Spain as an Affront done to her, it being an Indignity done to a Court, after a Negociation is concluded, to publish all the Demands which, either from a Misinformation, or a Desire to advance her own Interest, it may have made. This might make them shy of entering into any farther Negociation with a Court, that is capable of treating them so unhandsomely. Besides, Sir, a wise Ministry will always consider the Character of the People with whom they treat: If the Spaniards were under the same Form of Government with ourselves; if they had the same Notions of Liberty, and the same Rights to secure it, the Motion would not have been so improper. But we are to consider, that we have to do with the most jealous People under the Sun; we have to do with the Ministers of an absolute Prince over a Country where every Thing is transacted with the utmost Secrecy, and who would be startled that any Paper of State should be expos'd to public View: This, Sir, might render, not only Spain, but every Nation in Europe, averse from entering into any Negociation with a People, who cannot keep their own Secrets, or those of their Neighbours.
'I shall now consider a little how consistent such an Address would be, with the Regard and Decency we owe to his Majesty. Give me leave here to observe, Sir, that nothing can contribute more to obtaining a Definitive Treaty, on a safe and honourable Footing, than a good Correspondence betwixt his Majesty and his Parliament; and nothing will be a greater Encouragement for Spain to insist upon high Terms, and to be obstinate in her Demands, than even the Appearance of Coldness between them. Now, Sir, if we should resolve to address his Majesty for these Papers, before we are sure, that he will think fit to comply with our Request, I don't know any Measure we could pursue, which might be more detrimental to the Public: They who are dissatisfied with the present happy Establishment, under the Colour of being dissatisfied with the Ministry, will take Occasion to insinuate, that a Difference has arisen betwixt his Majesty and the Parliament: This Insinuation will be industriously propagated amongst Foreign Courts, till this Nation shall be in Danger of losing much of that decisive Weight which every good Subject would wish she enjoy'd abroad. Nothing, Sir, could give Foreign Powers a fairer Opportunity of uniting among themselves, than this Opinion; and such an Union is what Great Britain ought by all Means to guard against. We should not then have to deal with Spain alone; we should soon see France entering her Claims likewise: I am not sure but our good Allies the Dutch might endeavour to obtain some Concessions to our Prejudice: For, give me Leave to say, Sir, that the Union which has always subsisted betwixt our Court and the Parliament since the Accession of the present illustrious Family to this Throne, has been the Means of our enjoying many Advantages in Commerce, unrival'd, and uncomplain'd of by our Neighbours: And Gentlemen ought to be more cautious how they give Occasion for our Neighbours so much as to suspect any Difference betwixt his Majesty and Parliament, when they reflect that there never was a Time when any Difference happen'd betwixt them, in which our Neighbours did not do all in their Power to improve it to their own Advantage.
'I have insensibly fallen again into the Consideration of Foreign Affairs; but every Domestic Incident has such anInfluence upon our Foreign Situation, that it is almost impossible to separate the Consideration of one from the other. There is indeed one Consequence entirely Domestic, that may attend our agreeing to the present Motion, and that is the Opinion it might give his Majesty of the Wisdom and Moderation of this House. His Majesty has always, in every public Transaction of his Reign, consider'd the Parliament as his great Council; he has advis'd with us, he has paid a just Regard to our Sentiments; and has inform'd us of every material Transaction of his Reign. Now, Sir, if we don't, on our Parts, answer those gracious Dispositions; if we don't act within our own Sphere, his Majesty has great Reason to think, that we requite the Deference and Esteem he has always express'd for us very ungratefully. He has inform'd us, that a Convention has been enter'd into with Spain; he has told us, it is a Convention for settling all Matters in Dispute betwixt them and us, in such a Manner as may, for the future, prevent and remove all new Causes of Complaint. He has likewise informed us, that the Convention shall be laid before us. If we should agree to the present Motion, Sir, in what Manner shall we requite his Majesty's Royal Endeavours for the Interests of this Nation? If, before we have come to any Resolution about this Convention, before we have deliberated whether it is, or is not, for the Advantage of the Nation, we fall to examine into the Papers and Instructions that have, in order to bring it about, pass'd betwixt his Majesty's Ministers, and those of Spain? Nothing, Sir, can be a more preposterous Way of proceeding. It is telling his Majesty, that we won't regard the Merits of the Convention, by itself; we will be determin'd in the Judgment we shall form of it, as we are pleas'd or displeas'd with the Conduct of the Ministry previous to its being concluded. Sir, give me Leave to say, that when this House deliberates upon approving, or not approving any Measure, we are to consider that Measure as it stands by itself; if we find it in itself to be a good Measure, we are to approve of it, and we are not to regard its Connection with any other Circumstance. If we were to suppose that this Convention, which will be consider'd in a Day or two, has been brought about by the most abandon'd Set of Men in the World; yet if we find it to be for the Public Good, we are not to enquire into, and censure the Means by which it was brought about. The best and the most reasonable Method of Proceeding, and the Way in which this House has always proceeded in such Cases, is to examine the Measure itself; and if it is found to be a destructive Measure, let us petition his Majesty to have all the Papers relating to it laid before us, that we may inflict a suitable Censure upon the Advisers and Managers of such a Step: But if we find it a good Measure, I don't see what we could propose to ourselves by calling for any Papers previous to it: unless it were to let his Majesty see, that we are resolv'd to fish for Faults, and to take upon ourselves a Power unknown to our Constitution. I shall suppose that we are now to agree to this Motion; what might be the Consequence? I am afraid such as would give the Crown no very favourable Opinion of our Prudence and Candour. For his Majesty may very justly conclude, that, being conscious we could find no Fault with the Convention by itself, we were resolved, rather than not find Fault, to fall upon his Ministers for what they had done before it was concluded. This, Sir, give me Leave to say, might, with very good Reason, be looked upon by the Crown as a very great Piece of Disrespect, and be resented by a Denial, which, I am sure, would be very disagreeable to his Majesty, however just it would be in itself.
'I shall beg Leave only to add a very few Things to what I have already said: It has always been the Rule of this House, never to call for Papers relating to a Negociation while that Negociation is in Dependance. I know Gentlemen will consider the Convention as a Negociation entirely separate from the Definitive Treaty that is supposed to follow it; but I must humbly differ from those Gentlemen. All Preliminaries, in their own Nature, have a Relation to the Negociations to which they refer; and it frequently happens, that Preliminaries contain the Substance of all that follows after; and that the subsequent Negociations are only to extend the Stipulations, and give them a more authentick Sanction: Tho' I am not to suppose that this is the Case with the Convention, yet no Gentleman, who has looked into it, but must see that, tho' it is not a definitive Treaty, yet all the material Points, upon which a Definitive Treaty is to proceed, have been adjusted betwixt the Ministers of the two Crowns by this Convention: Therefore the Instructions that have passed betwixt our Court and that of Spain, relating to the Convention, may very reasonably be presumed to relate likewise to the subsequent Definitive Treaty.
'This being the Case, by agreeing to the present Motion, we call for Papers relating to a Negociation still in Dependance, and thereby assume to ourselves a Right by no means belonging to this House. We assume to ourselves a Right of directing and of censuring the Conduct of his Majesty's Ministers upon a Measure that is not yet concluded; in short, we assume to ourselves a Right that is already lodged in the Royal Hands; in Hands, Sir, that have been always so far from making a bad Use of it, that this House has always been Sharers in that Part of the Prerogative.
'My Opposition to this Motion, Sir, must by every Gentleman who judges impartially, be looked upon as proceeding from no Consciousness of any Thing amiss in the Papers to be addressed for by this Motion; because, if we should find the Convention to be a Measure against the Honour and Interest of this Nation, there is still Room for us to go into this Address.
Sir W. Windham.
'I am sorry that I am obliged to differ from the honourable Gentleman who fits over against me, in almost every Proposition he has advanced. I readily admit, that to know the proper Boundaries between the Sovereign and the Parliament, is a Part of Knowledge very requisite for a Member of this House; but I think the Constitution has pointed out those Boundaries, it has pointed them out in plain and intelligible Characters, impossible to be mistaken by any Man who does not wilfully mistake. Our Constitution plainly presumes, that in political Transactions the Minister's Conduct alone is to be canvass'd, and if any Thing is found amiss, the Sovereign is always supposed to have been misled or misinformed by the Minister. I could not help saying thus much, Sir, because I have observed Gentlemen, upon Questions relating to Papers proper to be laid before this House, still advancing that such Motions tended to encroach upon the Prerogative. For my Part I know no Prerogative that this Motion can affect; I know no Difficulties which it can lay us under but with regard to the Minister, and I hope this House will never know any Difficulty upon this Head.
'The honourable Gentleman who spoke last appears to me to have been under two very great Mistakes; first, in supposing that his Majesty would take it amiss, if we should address in the Terms of the present Motion; secondly, in taking it for granted that the Contents of any Papers cannot be communicated to this House without their being known to all the World. I am convinced that this House never did, and I hope it never will, give his Majesty Reason to suspect, that we are capable of pursuing any View inconsistent with the Respect we owe to him, or with the Duty we owe to our Constituents. While these are the Maxims by which we regulate our Conduct, his Majesty, I dare say, would never take any Proceeding of ours amiss; because if we should ever address for any Thing that is improper for his Majesty to comply with, he will not look upon it as proceeding from Want of Affection, but from Want of better Information.
'This leads me to tho second Mistake the honourable Gentleman seems to be under. If by agreeing to this Motion we should address for Papers unfit to be communicated to the Publick, there is no doubt but we shall be informed from the Throne, in a regular Manner, that the Contents of some of the Papers we addressed for ought not to be divulged. In the mean time, it is to be hoped that his Majesty will order those Papers that are proper for our Inspection to be laid before us. If it shall be sound by the House, that the Papers thus communicated are sufficient for our Information; if it shall be found, they are sufficient to give us a full and a clear Detail of the Negociations that have preceded this Convention, there is no Occasion to trouble his Majesty any farther. But if these Papers should relate to other Papers without which we must be still in the Dark, there is a Method by which this House may be informed of all that is proper for them to know, and yet the Ministry be in no Danger of having their Secrets divulged to the World. I mean the Method of a secret Committee, who may be appointed to make Extracts from these Papers relating to the Affair in Question, as far as shall be necessary for the Information of this House. I hope, Sir, Gentlemen don't suppose that the Breast of a Minister is the only Cabinet where a Secret of State can be safely deposited. I dare say, Sir, every Gentleman of this House, who shall have the Honour to be of a secret Committee, will conceal the Proceedings of that Committee as inviolably as any Minister alive.
'I think I have already obviated the most material Difficulty that can possibly arise on this Point of Secrecy: But, Sir, I confess, that I can see no Grounds for supposing, that if our Ministry have honestly done their Duty, there can be any Secrets to be concealed from the Publick, or any Difficulties whatsoever. The Wrongs that we have suffered from Spain were committed in the Face of the Sun. They were avowed by her Government, they were justified by her Ministry; the Means, Sir, which we pursued to obtain Justice, were long concealed from the Knowledge of the Publick; longer I'm afraid than was strictly consistent with the Interest, with the Honour of this Nation; and the more they were concealed, the Injuries, the Insults and Barbarities committed on our Subjects grew the more flagrant; and Spain by her Conduct seemed to aim at nothing so much, as to render it impracticable for our Ministry any longer to stifle the just Complaints of our Merchants. At last, Sir, after a long and fruitless Expectation of obtaining Redress by means of our Ministers, our Merchants were obliged to lay their Case before Parliament. We heard them fully, we heard them impartially; and they proved their Allegations to the Satisfaction, and entire Conviction, of every Gentleman in this House; to the Conviction, I believe, of those who had the greatest Reason to wish that they had not succeeded so well in their Proof as they did. Upon this the House came to certain Resolutions, very plain, very practicable in their own Nature, which we then understood were to serve as a Direction to our Ministry in the succeeding Part of their Negotiations. If they have used proper Means for obtaining the Concessions pointed out by these Resolutions from the Court of Spain, if they have unalterably pursued the Scheme which the Parliament laid down, where can be the Harm, where the Difficulty, of publishing their Conduct to the World? Give me leave, Sir, to say, that it will be for their Interest that the Publick be informed of their having acted zealously for the Rights of the Nation. This will inspire the Subjects with an Alacrity; it will induce them to second his Majesty's Endeavours with Vigour, should Matters proceed to an open Rupture. This is an evident Advantage, which both the Ministry and the Nation will gain; and if they have acted in the Manner which I hope they have, it is impossible that there can be any prudential Considerations for not agreeing to this Motion.
'When this House came to the Resolutions which were presented to his Majesty laft Session, all the Treaties in Force betwixt us and Spain, were fully considered and debated. I could have wished that our Resolutions had been conceived in stronger Terms, and that we had been more peremptory in our Demands: But the Ministry must be acquitted by every impartial Man, if it shall appear that they have faithfully and zealously conformed themselves to what appeared to be the Sentiments of the Majority of this House. Now as these are no Secrets to the Publick, I cannot conceive why any Proceedings whatever, in Consequence of these Resolutions, should be improper to be communicated to this House. It will found very strange to the World, if this House should refuse to call for Papers, the Contents of which we have Reason to presume chiefly relate to a Negotiation that ought to have been carried on in Pursuance of the Resolutions of Parliament. Will not this, Sir, give a Handle to our Enemies to suggest, that some Scenes of Iniquity may be discovered from these Papers, and that his Majesty's Ministers have had Views distinct from, and inconsistent with your Resolutions.
I shall go so far, as to admit that these Views may be more advantageous for the Good of this Nation, than those that the Parliament then had in View: But give me leave to observe, Sir, that however specious they may be, no Measure founded thereon can be so solid, or so efficacious, as those founded on the Resolutions of this House. All Concessions that are obtain'd from Spain, if not founded on the Resolutions of Parliament, will be no longer binding upon her, than she shall find it her Interest not to break them. This, Sir, is evident from our past Negotiations with that Court. Gentlemen, I believe, will have some Difficulty to prove that she has observed one Stipulation in any Treaty we have made with her these twenty Years past. What was the Reason of this? Did it not proceed from her Opinion that our Parliaments would never support the Ministry, in obliging her to an Observance of Treaties concluded without their Advice, and against the Sense of the Nation? This gave them Encouragement to break thro' every Obligation of Faith and Honour. But the present Case is quite otherwise. The Parliament has laid down Resolutions, which are, or ought to be, Guides to our Ministry. We have declared, that we will effectually support his Majesty in obtaining Redress from Spain on the Foot of these Resolutions; therefore give me Leave to say, Sir, that there ought to have been no Negotiation carried on with Spain, whereof these Resolutions did not serve as a Foundation: and as these are known to all the World, I can see no Reason why any Part of the Negotiations founded on them ought to be kept secret, or should be thought unfit to be communicated to this House.
I am sorry to hear the Manner in which the Court of Madrid may resent our Proceedings urged in this House as a Reason why we ought not to proceed according to our known Privileges: If ever one Court had Reason to observe no Delicacy with another, and to break thro' all Forms of Decorum, we have received Provocatious enough to justify us in such a Behaviour towards that of Spain. She has violated the Law of Nations and her own Honour; she has done violence even to Humanity itself, by her outrageous Treatment of our Fellow-subjects; and shall we, Sir, at this Time of Day, refuse to enter into right and proper Measures for our own Safety, because they may be disagreeable to some Punctilios of that Court? But, Sir, we do no more now than we have done in former Times, we do no more than we have done in almost every Session of this Parliament. Did we not last Session, Sir, address for Papers that had passed between the Spanish Ministers and ours? These Papers were communicated to the House; but I think we never heard that the Court of Spain resented it in the Manner the honourable Gentleman seems to insinuate. The Convention is a Proof that they have not; and I could wish we had used the Privilege we enjoy of addressing his Majesty for Papers that have passed betwixt his Ministers and those of any other Court, oftener than we have used it. The Nation, I am persuaded, would have felt the good Effects of it. If foreign Courts apprehended, that all the Transactions betwixt us and them were to be laid before this House, I am apt to believe, that they would be much more sincere in their Protestations, and that they would not dare to trifle with this Nation in the Manner which some of them have done.
'The honourable Gentleman was afraid, that if we should agree to this Motion, and the Papers were refused us, such Refusal might beget a Misunderstanding betwixt his Majesty and the Parliament, which might give other Powers of Europe a Handle for insisting upon somewhat to the Disadvantage of our Commerce.
'As to the American Trade, which the honourable Gentleman has been pleased to mention, I am sensible with how delicate a Hand that ought to be touch'd upon by a Ministry treating with other Powers. But, Sir, it is certain that we have just as good a Right to our Share of that Trade as any other People in Europe, except the Spaniards themselves: And give me Leave to say, that it would not be amiss should we let our Neighbours know, that we are determined to suffer none of them to enter into any collusive Bargain with Spain, to enjoy Advantages which we do not. If we have any Reason to suspect this, I think it would be right in us to oblige, not only the Spaniards, but these Supplanters, to a due Observance of the Treaties concerning that Trade, let the Consequences be what they will. While I am on this Subject, I cannot help taking notice, that it has become a general Excuse in the Mouths of a great many for not entering into a War with Spain, that it is in her Power to seize the Property of our Merchents on board her PlateFleet. Sir, I shall admit that it is. But I think it is against the Maxims of sound Policy, for the Sake of any private Man's Advantage, to expose the Honour of the Nation to Infults.
'As to the Effects this Address might have upon Affairs at Home, I am so very unfortunate as to differ widely from the honourable Gentleman's Way of Thinking. A good Correspondence betwixt his Majesty and the Parliament, is what I shall always wish to see continued. But in my Opinion, Sir, it is no very great Compliment to this House to suppose, that if his Majesty shall refuse to lay these Papers before us, we should express any Dissatisfaction, or give our Enemies any Handle to exult or triumph. We may be perfectly satisfied, that if his Majesty should refuse to lay these Papers before us, it is for very important Reasons; for I am persuaded, no Minister durst be so bold as to step between his Majesty and this House, and be an Instrument of creating any Misunderstanding betwixt them on this Head.
'But, says the honourable Gentleman, we are not sure that his Majesty will comply with the Prayer of such an Address. Sir, this is an Argument that may equally serve against all Addresses of this Kind; we are not sure, before they are presented, that his Majesty will comply with any of them; but it is reasonable to believe that he will comply with this Address as soon as with any other. In this Case Sir, I am apt to think that foreign Powers will entertain a very different Opinion of the State of our Affairs from what the honourable Gentleman infinuates. It will give them to understand, that his Majesty and his Parliament are resolved to act in concert. As to foreign Powers uniting amongst themselves on this Occasion, I think we have no great Reason to dread them: We have a Fleet, Sir, sufficient to prevent all the bad Effects of such a Union; sufficient to protect our own Trade, and to defeat all the Attempts of our Enemies. I should be glad to know, if we have nothing to apprehend from our Enemies, for what Reason the Nation is at so much Expence in fitting out and maintaining so great a Fleet? But I am afraid that the Union among the Enemies of this Nation is already as strong as possible to be; if it is not, the Arguments I have heard advanced for our late Measures are very inconsistent and inconclusive. Was it not urged last Session, in favour of our pacific Dispositions, that France and Spain were so closely united, that their Interests were become inseparable? And have we not been lately told, that this Union is now upon the Point of being rendered still more strict, by a Daughter of France's marrying a Son of the King of Spain. Thus, Sir the Union hinted at, is not only already formed, but perhaps as strong as it ever can be. However, if we admit this Union to be of so much Weight, as to influence and over-awe the necessary Proceedings of this House, we shall not in the least keep off, but the sooner feel all the Effects of it. Nay, shall we not invite the Danger we ought to prepare against?
'The honourable Gentleman seem'd apprehensive that France might have some Claims to make prejudicial to our Interest. I believe, Sir, if we were to settle Accounts, the Balance would be found very much in our Favour. We have therefore no Reason to delay the Discussion of all Claims that can possibly be betwixt us. We must not expect any of their good Offices, and we cannot guard so well against their ill in any other Manner, as by obliging them to come to a Declaration one way or other. By this Means, if we are not served by their good Offices, we cannot be betray'd by their dissembled Friendship; and if we had pursued these Measures sooner, I am of opinion that we should have had but very little Reason now either to court or to fear them. The honourable Gentleman says, that we now enjoy many Advantages in Commerce unrivall'd and uncomplain'd of by our Neighbours. I wish, Sir, he had pointed out what these Advantages are. I have many times of late heard that our Neighbours have engross'd several Branches of Commerce to which we had a natural and undoubted Right, but I could never yet learn that we have gained one Advantage over them in that Respect. Therefore I think it would not at all be amiss, if all our Treaties of Commerce and Navigation, with the other Powers of Europe, were examined, and the Encroachments made upon our Rights strictly enquired into: I am convinced, if this Enquiry were vigorously set on Foot, it would be highly for the Interest of this Nation.
'As to our Neighbours improving our Divisions to their own Advantage, I can see no Room, from what has been yet said, to suspect that our presenting such Address can produce any, whatever the rejecting it may do.
'The next Argument against the Motion, Sir, is drawn from the Impression it might give his Majesty of our Moderation. I dare say his Majesty knows too much of the Constitution of Great Britain in general, and of this House in particular, to be displeased at such a Proceeding. If his Majesty shall find that we have done nothing more by it, than what has been usual for this House to do on like Occasions, where is the Ground for insinuating, that his Majesty will have Reason to think we do not make a proper Return for the many Instances of Affection he has shewn us? I am very sensible of the Tenderness which he has always expressed for the Rights of this House. Give me leave to say, Sir, that we have never yet been wanting in our Returns of Gratitude to the Government. We have put it in their Power, to secure themselves in the Affections of the People; we have put it in their Power, Sir, to make themselves as popular as any Government that ever was in Britain, by furnishing them with the Means both of retrieving and asserting the Honour of this Kingdom. If, at an immense Expence to the People, we have thus strengthened the Hands of our Ministers; if we have thus clothed them with Power almost unknown to any of their Predecessors, is it not just, Sir, is it not necessary that we should have all the Light communicated to us, that may be proper to inform us in what Manner these Expences and this Power have been applied? And can any Gentleman, who impartially considers this Affair, doubt that our agreeing to the present Motion is the most proper Means of attaining that End?
'The honourable Gentleman says, that the Convention is not a definitive Treaty, but a preliminary one. Now this very Reason which he has urged against the Motion, is to me one of the strongest Arguments in its Favour. We furnished the Ministry with means of reducing Spain to Reason, and of obtaining a definitive Treaty with the most advantageous Terms. Will any Gentleman deny this to be the Situation of Affairs at the Close of last Session? I dare say he will not. What then, Sir, do we intend by the Address now moved for? We intend no more, than to get as full Information as possible, why the firm and well-grounded Expectations of the Parliament have not been answered.
'The honourable Gentleman, Sir, reasoned on a Supposition, that we were to address for these Papers for no other Reason than to fish for Faults in our Ministry, whose Conduct he seems to think is irreproachable. I wish with all my Heart, that it may be found so; but I must differ from him in this Particular. I am of Opinion this House may address for these Papers with the most sincere, the most upright Intentions of doing Justice to the Merits of the Ministry, I am apt to think, Sir, that we shall be sincere both to our Approbation and Censure, and that whether our Ministers deserve one or the other, we have no Intentions to act any otherwise than shall appear from the Reason of the Thing itself.
'I have heard Gentlemen frequently insist, that it is very unfair to condemn the Conduct of Ministers before we know the particular Reasons and Motives from which they act. I myself am entirely of that Opinion. I believe a Minister may be so embarrass'd by Accidents in the Course of a protracted Negotiation, thro' the Caprice, thro' the Obstinacy of those he has to do with, that he may be obliged to follow Measures, that to a Person not in the like Situation, and unacquainted with the Difficulties he had to encounter, may appear very absurd; and yet, Sir, that very Person, upon better Information, may be convinced, that if he himself had been in the like Circumstances, he could not have acted so prudently. The Convention is, I dare say, such a Measure as what I now talk of. The World in general, and I believe not a few Gentlemen in this House, I own myself to be of their Number, have but a very indifferent Opinion of it. However, I will not as yet absolutely pronounce it to be a bad Measure, because I do not know the Difficulties which our Ministers may have had to encounter. I do not know what Reasons Spain might have had to urge; nor a thousand other Circumstances, which might be proper for me to be instructed in, before I can deliver my final Judgment of it. These Difficulties, Sir, are only to be known from the Papers now moved to be addressed for. For my own Part, I will take them upon no Man's Representation; they who may be most proper to represent them to the House, are known to be too strongly interested in the Fate of the Question about this Convention. They who are not interested, cannot represent them to the House, because they are not in the Secret of Affairs. How then, Sir, are we to receive right Information? We are to receive it from the very Papers, which we have reason to believe were penned with no Design of imposing on this House. This, I own, Sir, is the only Method by which the Objections I have already formed in my Mind against this Convention can be removed.
I shall only trouble the House with a Word or two more, with regard to the Indecency of our addressing for Papers that relate to a Negotiation not yet finished. This is an Argument, that I own has had of late great Weight with this House; and I do believe that formerly it was not very usual to address for such Papers. But I must at the same time observe, that formerly our Negotiations were quite of a different Kind from what they seem now. Our Forefathers acted with Resolution; they acted with Prudence; they did not suffer themselves to be deceived by the outward Protestations, or undermined by the secret Treachery of their Enemies; therefore the first Notice which the Public commonly had of a Negotiation, was by its being notified to the Parliament that it was concluded: So that it was almost impossible for them to call for any Papers relating to a Negotiation that was depending. But we, Sir, have got into a new Method of Treaty-making; we are always negotiating, but we never conclude. We have been negotiating with Spain these twenty Years, without making one definitive Treaty, that has not been broken before the Parliament could have an Opportunity of calling for any Papers relating to it. For the Breach that followed (such was our Policy) always gave Rise to new Negotiations, which were set on Foot before the next Meeting of Parliament; then, Sir, when we called for Papers relating to the former Negotiation, we were told that these Papers related to the Negotiation in dependence, and that therefore they were very unfit to be communicated to the House; — his Majesty would take it amiss; and the Spaniards would be displeased. This, Sir, I take to be the very Case now, The Treaty of Seville, tho' called a definitive Treaty, was indeed as properly a preliminary Treaty as the Convention; for the most material Point, that then created the Difference betwixt us, were left to the Decision of our Commissaries, in the same Manner as they are now left to Plenipotentiaries. The Stipulations in the Treaty of Seville, being either violated or not fulfilled by the Spaniards, gave Rise to a new Negotiation, which produced the Convention; and the Convention itself is but a Preliminary to a Negotiation, which Negotiation may continue Heaven knows how long. Thus, Sir, it is evident, that, in the honourable Gentleman's Sense of the Words, this House has not been able for these ten Years past, to call for any Papers relating to Spain, that might not be said to regard a Negotiation not yet concluded.
'But, Sir, I must beg Leave to trouble the House with one Reason more why I am for the present Motion. If we may give any Credit to our public News-papers, and to common Report, our Ministers have met with great Difficulties in obtaining from Spain even this Convention, poor as it seems to be; nay, if some People are not very much misinformed, we could have had better Terms from Spain eight Years ago, than we have got by this Convention. Now, Sir, what Indignation must it raise in the Breast of every considering Man, who reflects that our vast Preparations and Expences have had no Effect but to our own Detriment ! To what can this be attributed? It must be to one of two Causes: The first is, that it is possible Spain may have so thorough a Contempt of us, as to tell us, that if we will be but peaceable and quiet, she will do something for us from pure GoodWill; but that we are to expect no Terms, except the most dishonourable and disadvantageous, if we should pretend to do ourselves justice by our Arms. If that, Sir, is the Case, we are in a more miserable Situation than any People under the Sun; because there is no People, however weak, whose Resentment is not in some degree or other regarded, even by Powers vastly superior to themselves. But it would seem that we are reduced to so despicable a Situation, that, tho' we are in a Condition to do ourselves justice, and tho' we may be at an immense Expence in putting ourselves in that Condition, yet our Enemies know so well that we dare not make use of our Power, that they despise and insult us for making such vain Preparations. This is a very singular, and I believe an unparallelled Case.
'But this Behaviour of Spain may be attributed to another Cause; it may proceed from our Ministry being so earnest to obtain some Treaty or other, that rather than want one, they were willing to take up with the very worst that could be offered; that when the Parliament met, they might say something had been done in Consequence of the vast Expences we had been at But Sir, it is impossible for us to know any Thing certainly of this Affair without agreeing to the present Motion, which I heartily give my Voice for.'
Sir William Yonge.
'I wish with all my Heart that Gentlemen would confine themselves to the Subject of the Debate: I am sure it would save a great deal of Time and Trouble to themselves and others. We have been told, Sir, that the Reason why we ought to agree to this Motion, is because we did not bring the Court of Spain to agree to a definitive instead of a preliminary Treaty; tho' Gentlemen have not been so kind as to give the House any Reasons why this Preliminary may not answer all the Ends we could have proposed by a definitive Treaty.
'But we are told that the Resolutions we came to last Session ought to have directed our Ministers in insisting upon a definitive Treaty, or they ought not to have treated at all. This Sir, I can by no Means agree to. We did not mean by these Resolutions, to tie the Ministry down to enter into an immediate War; they were intended, as the honourable Gentleman well observes, to serve as a Direction to the Ministry in the succeeding Part of their Negociation: But how does it appear to him, that they they have not? We have, says he, got a preliminary Treaty instead of a definitive one. Give me Leave to ask that Gentleman, Sir, if there was any Thing in these Resolutions that ty'd our Ministry's Hands from making a preliminary Treaty till such Time as a definitive one could be drawn up? If there is not, wherein are our Ministers to blame, if they have concluded a preliminary Treaty, in which a strict Regard has been had to the Resolutions of Parliament? If the Situation of Affairs betwixt Spain and us absolutely required that we should accept of this preliminary Treaty, can the honourable Gentleman pretend, that the Ends for which we came to the Resolutions he has mentioned, have not been answered? But, says the honourable Gentleman, why was this a preliminary Treaty, and not a definitive one? Did we not furnish Money enough? Have we not fitted out Fleets strong enough to oblige Spain to accept of our own Terms? I think, Sir, that this Objection admits of a very plain Answer. The Resolutions of a House of Parliament and its Proceedings, are founded on the Interests of the Nation, as they appear from her Laws, her Constitution, and her Treaties with other Powers: But Ministers, Sir, have a harder Task; they are tied down to the Resolutions of Parliament, and at the same Time they are obliged to consider how far the Interest of their Prince may be affected by other Circumstances, which the Parliament, let their Intentions be never so up right, and their Discernment never so just, can have no Opportunity of knowing. These Circumstances, Sir, may depend on the Characters of those with whom they are to negociate, and the Dispositions that are made at other Courts for entering into or strengthening Alliances. They may depend on Intrigues, which they who are at a great Distance can have no Notion of, and to which perhaps a little must be yielded in order to gain a great deal. For these Reasons it would be the most absurd Thing in the World in us to find Fault with our Ministers for any Measure they shall enter into, unless we are absolutely sure that they had none of the Difficulties I have mentioned to encounter with. 'Tis likewise for this Reason that our Constitution has vested the Crown with the Prerogative of making Peace or War; because it never can be presumed that we, who are confined to an Island, who can know nothing but from Hearsay, whose Deliberations are so flow, and whose publick Capacity determines at a certain Period, can be thoroughly instructed in every Particular that may make more vigorous or more peaceful Measures necessary. But, Sir, should this House always assume to itself, without having regard to any of these Considerations, a Power of censuring the Measures of the Ministry, for not acting strictly up to what they conceive would have been proper; should we on all Occasions, prescribe Rules to the Ministry in what Manner their Negociations are to be carried on, and on what Terms they are to insist; I think it would be very hard to point out wherein the Prerogative of the Crown in making Peace or War consists.
'I hope, Sir, I shall not be mistaken, as if I meant that we are never to offer our Advice to his Majesty, and that we are to wink at every Thing the Ministry shall do. I think the Greatness of a King of Britain depends on his always acting in Concurrence with Parliament, and that the Safety of this Nation consists in our having it always in our Power to censure the Conduct of wicked Ministers. But at the same Time, Sir, we are not to prescribe the Manner in which his Majesty is to act, nor, under the Pretence of calling wicked Ministers to account, are we to persecute or oppress good ones. But, says the honourable Gentleman, if our Ministers had real Difficulties to struggle with, if they met with unreasonable Opposition, why ought this to be concealed from Parliament? This House can make Allowances for that; we will even applaud them, if they have dexterously surmounted those Obstacles; and therefore these Papers ought to be laid before us, that we may know the true State of the whole Affair. Sir, I am of Opinion, that before there is Occasion to call for any Papers whatsoever relating to this Negociation, we ought to consider if the preliminary Treaty which has been concluded, is, or is not a proper Measure in itself: If we find that it is a proper Measure, if we find that it answers all the Intentions of the Resolutions we presented to his Majesty last Session, where is the Necessity, where is the Expediency of calling for any Papers at all? If on the other Hand, it should be found a destructive Measure, we are at Liberty to do as we shall think expedient; and his Majesty will doubtless have a great Regard to our Sentiments and Representations.
'I cannot help observing, Sir, that had the Convention been a definitive instead of a preliminary Treaty, the honourable Gentleman, according to his own Way of arguing, would have had no Pretence for agreeing to the present Motion. Had it been a definitive Treaty, the Question then, it seems, would have been upon the Merits of the Treaty itself; but as it is a preliminary one, the Question now is not about the Merits of the Treaty, but upon those Steps that were taken previous to it. I am not inclined to anticipate the Debate upon the Convention, by pointing out the small Difference that is betwixt it and a definitive Taeaty: Give me Leave to say, Sir, that the Foundation that is therein laid for a definitive Treaty, is entirely agreeable to the Resolutions of this House; and I dare venture to say, that when it shall come to be considered, Gentlemen will think it the best Measure that could have been pursued in our present Circumstances.
'But, says the honourable Gentleman, why may we not appoint a Committee of Secrecy for perusing the Papers to be addressed for, who shall make such Extracts from them as are proper for the Information of this House? I am very far, Sir, from questioning the Honour of any Gentleman who may be of such a Committee, or from thinking that they could be capable of making any bad Use of these Papers: But I am humbly of Opinion, that such an Expedient would be far from answering the Ends proposed. A Committee of Secrecy might indeed satisfy themselves; but I cannot see how any Information from them can be satisfactory to the rest of the House. The honourable Gentleman himself says, that he can form a right Judgment of the Convention no other Way than by seeing and perusing these Papers; but, Sir, if he himself were not of that Committee, he must be satisfied with the Report of the Committee, so that he can have it only at second-hand. Besides, there may be such a Connection betwixt those Matters that are improper to be communicated to the House, and those that are necessary for our Information, that the Extracts must be mangled, incoherent, and unintelligible. For my Part, if an Affair happened where it was absolutely necessary that Papers should be communicated from the Crown for the better Information of this House, I should not think my self at Liberty to form any decifive Judgment of that Affair upon the Report of the Committee, any more than the honourable Gentleman thinks himself at Liberty to form such a Judgment of the Convention on the Report of the Ministry. The Reason of this will be evident to any Man, who considers what a vast Difference there is betwixt the seeing Things, of which we are to be Judges, with our own Eyes, and seeing them with the Eyes of other Men.
'As to our foreign Interests, which have been so much talk'd of on this Occasion; I think it would be against every Maxim of sound Policy, to revive any manner of Difference that may be betwixt us and any of our Neighbours at this Juncture. I own, Sir, that I am not of Opinion, that the sooner we oblige France to come to a Declaration either one Way or other, the better for this Nation. I think that if we gave France any Handle to join Spain on this Occasion, it may tend very much to our Detriment. Every Gentleman who reflects how much our Trade was ruined by the Privateers of that Nation in the last War, will give his Voice against this Nation being again exposed to the like Calamities, if we can consistently and with our own Honour avoid it.
'The honourable Gentleman, Sir, took up my worthy Friend who sits near me, for saying "that we enjoy many Branches of our Commerce unrivall'd, and uncomplained of by our Neighbours." Sir, I can't help being of this Opinion, especially when I consider the late vast Increase of our Shipping, and Extension of our Trade. These two Particulars, Sir, are undeniable, and must be evident to any Man, who has liv'd along enough to be able to compare the Figure which the Trading Part of the Nation made 30 or 40 Years ago with what it does now. Any Gentleman, Sir, who can do that, must be convinced that it would be the Height of Folly in us to endanger these Advantages by a precipitate ill-timed Breach with any of our Neighbours.
'The honourable Gentleman allows that the Spanish West-Indian Trade, so far I presume, as we are concerned in it, ought to be touch'd upon with a very delicate Hand; yet at the same Time he seems to be of Opinion, that we ought, upon this Occasion, to inquire into the Abuses that may have been introduced by other Nations into that Trade. I think, Sir, it would be going quite out of our Road if we should make the least Enquiry of that Kind. I believe, Sir, the great Abuses committed by our Merchants in the Spanish West-Indies are not unknown to many Gentlemen in this House; and that the vast Circulation of our own Specie in our Colonies in America, that the vast Plenty of Bullion here, and the great Quantities of Spanish Money current in our West-Indies, are in a great Measure; if not wholly, owing to the Advantages which we have reaped by that Trade, and which, if we are to be determined by the Words or Intentions of Treaties, may not be strictly justifiable.
'The honourable Gentleman's Jealousy of the French; and his Insinuation of their being indulged in Privileges that are denied to us, appear to me to be very ill grounded. If that had been the Case, we must before now have heard of it from our Merchants trading in those Places; and we must have perceived it in the sensible Decay of Trade amongst ourselves. I'm afraid, Sir, that if we should proceed to settle Accounts, as the honourable Gentleman says we ought to do, we should find ourselves under very great Disadvantages in some Particulars. If all our Treaties of Commerce and Navigation with the other Powers of Europe were to be canvassed, Sir, I believe other Powers would have more Encroachments to complain of, and with more Justice too, than we can. Every Gentleman in this House; I dare say; knows very well that by the Treaties betwixt us and Spain, every Ship of ours that is found trading with the Spanish West-Indies is confiscable. But will any Gentleman, Sir, take it upon him to affirm, that our Merchants don't carry on that Trade in Defiance of all Treaties? This is an Abuse, Sir, that not only the Spaniards but the French and other Nations have a Right to complain of: For we are tied down by our Treaties with them, as well as by those with Spain, not to attempt or carry on such a Trade. Therefore, Sir, I think it would be very unadviseable in us, at this Juncture, to awaken any Differences that may be betwixt our Neighbours and us, as the honourable Gentleman advises. But, Sir, this Nation has nothing to dread as long as that happy Union, which has always subsisted betwixt his Majesty and the Parliament still continues: For tho' I am persuaded that his Majesty will never encourage any unjust Encroachments in his Subjects on those of any other Power, yet we may be very well assured, while such a Union subsists, no other will dare to make any such Encroachments upon us.
'The honourable Gentleman himself allowed, that it never was the Custom of this House to call for Papers relating to a Negociation not concluded; yet he seemed to be surprized how any Body could think that his Majesty would take our agreeing to this Motion amiss. In the mean Time; Sir, he did not think fit to give us any Reason why the Papers now moved to be addressed for, ought not to be looked upon as Papers relating to a Negociation still in Dependance. If, Sir, we are to look upon them as such; is there the least Doubt that his Majesty will have very good Reason for taking our Proceeding in this Manner amiss?
'It is true, Sir, that after the Treaty of Seville was concluded, the Papers relating to that Treaty were laid before this House; but I am far from thinking that that Treaty was but a preliminary one. The Stipulations contained in it appear to be full, express, and definitive. Some Points, indeed, were left to be adjusted by Commissaries, but these were far from being the material Points of Difference betwixt us and Spain at that Time. They related not to national, but private Property; therefore that Treaty can never be brought in as a Parallel with the Convention, which so far as it relates to private Property, is definitive; tho' so far as it relates to national Property, it is preliminary. His Majesty, who is the Guardian of our national Property, has thought fit to refer the Points relating to our Commerce to a future Negociation; and shall we so far express our Distruft of his royal Intentions, as, in a Manner, to take the Negociations out of his Hands? Shall we set a Precedent which in future Times may be so far abused as to deprive his Successors of the fairest Jewel of their Prerogative, that of making Peace or War, independent of any other Branch of the Legislature?
'The honourable Gentleman, who spoke last, said that we never yet had been wanting in our Returns of Gratitude to his Majesty for the Regard he has expressed towards us. I hope, Sir, we never shall be wanting in such Returns; if we are, we shall be wanting to ourselves; but unless it can be proved to the House, either that the Papers, now moved to to be addressed for, do not relate to a Negociation still in Dependance, or that it has been usual for this House, to address for Papers relating to such a Negociation, I must be of Opinion, that his Majesty will have Reason not to think it a grateful Return, should we agree to the present Motion, but to look upon it as a Mark of our distrusting not only his Ministry's but his own Intentions.
'If we have strengthened his Majesty's Hands, Sir, it is only in order to secure our own Property; if we have been at any extraordinary Expence, it is in order to save a much greater Expence to the Nation. Had this House always acted in the same Manner, had the Parliament always given the Prince, when they had no Reason to think he would make a bad Use of it, sufficient Power to make our Enemies hearken to Reason, the great Waste of Blood and Treasure expended in the late War might have been prevented. To what was the bad Success of all the Measures of King William attributed, but to the unreasonable Jealousy which a Party entertained of his and his Ministry's Intentions? If he set a Negociation on Foot, if he entered into Measures that tended visibly to advance the common Interest, he immediately met with Opposition, the Measures were divulged to the Enemy, and himself disabled from reaping Advantage from the best and most publick-spirited Schemes that ever were laid down. And shall we, Sir, at a Juncture, which requires the most prudent Conduct of our Government, to oppose perhaps a more formidable Power than he had to grapple with, fall into the same Errors that rendered all his Endeavours ineffectual? He had only to do with France; she was weaker then than she is now, and he was strengthened with Alliances which it is impracticable for us now to form. If this, Sir, is rightly considered by Gentlemen, as I hope it will be, they will find that the Powers with which we have cloathed his Majesty and his Ministry, are so far from being extraordinary, that they are very moderate, and that if we have any Thing to repent of, it is our not extending them farther.
'I shall now, Sir, beg Leave to add one or two Reasons to those of my honourable Friend who spoke against the Motion. The Dangers which this Nation has to apprehend in her present Situation, are not entirely from abroad. These Dangers, tho' they are indeed formidable, would be but inconsiderable, were not our Enemies abroad supported by a turbulent, disaffected Faction at Home. A Government, in such a Situation as our Government is now in, would be justified by Posterity, if they made some Stretches of Power not strictly agreeable to Law; since their Enemies commit so many Abuses of Liberty, which are so absolutely destructive of all Subordination and Duty. But notwithstanding the Difficulties this Government has to encounter, the Ministry may appeal to their most inveterate Enemies, if they have ever yet made any such Stretch, if they have ever yet taken any Measures that are not strictly agreeable to the Spirit of the Constitution.
'This is what I believe no former Ministry, under the like Discouragements, could boast of But, Sir, I think, in the mean Time, that his Majesty's Ministers would be very much wanting in their Duty, both to their Prince and Country, if they should not oppose every Step that may give their Enemies an Advantage to their Prejudice. The Animosities in this Nation are now raised to so great a Height, that a certain Faction amongst us will join with any Enemies, provided they could gratify thereby their unjust and invincible Hatred towards his Majesty's Ministers. I am apt to believe, that the Faction among ourselves would be the first to cry out against us for laying all the Secrets of a depending Negociation open to our foreign Enemies, when at the same Time they perhaps are concerting Schemes, from the Discovery they thereby make, for the Destruction of their Country. This is no new Game of that Faction; we have known them before this railing at a Ministry for giving Advantages to their foreign Enemies, while in the mean Time they were entering into Plots and Conspiracies with that very Enemy, in order to improve these Advantages. For these Reasons, Sir, I am against the Motion.
'As his Majesty, in his Speech from the Throne, acquainted us, that the Treaty or Convention lately concluded with Spain, would be laid before us in this Session of Parliament; and as we must presume, that when it is laid before us and taken into Consideration, some Sort of Proposition or Motion will be made, either for approving or disapproving of that Treaty; we ought therefore to have every Thing laid before us that may any Way relate to it, or to the long Negociation that was carried on for bringing it about. When I say so, Sir, I do not mean that we are either to approve or disapprove of any Thing that has been done by his Majesty. In all such Cases we are to look upon what has been done, as done by his Majesty's Ministers, and their Doings we may censure, we may condemn, we have often too good Reason to condemn. What may be the Fate of this Convention, or what Fate it may deserve to meet with in this House, I shall not now pretend to determine; but that we may neither justify nor condemn, applaud nor censure, without a good Reason, I think it is absolutely necessary for us to know how Matters stand, at present, between us and Spain: What are the chief Causes of the Disputes that have so long subsisted between the two Nations: And what Measures have been taken for clearing up, or putting an End to those Disputes.
'I am surprized any Gentleman can think, that we can know any Thing of the Convention that is to be laid before us, or of the Negociation that has been carried on for bringing it about, without seeing the Memorials and Representations that have been made to the King of Spain, or his Ministers, relating to the Spanish Depredations. I hope, that on our Part at least, there are no Secrets between our Ministers and the Court of Spain, but what may be divulged to this House, or even to the whole Nation; I hope the Memorials and Representations drawn up and sent to Spain by our Ministers, contain nothing but a plain Representation of our Rights, and of the Injuries we have suffered, and an honest, tho' preremptory Demand of Satisfaction, Reparation, and Security. If this be the Case, laying them before this House can be attended with no bad Consequence: It can no way interrupt the Course of our Negociations, nor can it bring a Censure upon any Man that was concerned in drawing them up. If I had moved for the Memorials, Representations, or Answers, that had been delivered to his Majesty, or any of his Ministers, in the Name, and by the Order of the King of Spain, it might perhaps have been said, that laying such Papers before this House would interrupt the Course, and might prevent the Effect of our peaceable Negociations; because the Court of Spain might from thence draw Pretence, for refusing to correspond or treat any longer with those, who could conceal nothing that was wrote or said to them. Tho' I am of Opinion, that we ought, upon this Occasion, to see even these Memorials, Representations, or Answers, yet I purposely avoided including them in my Motion, that there might be no Pretence for making an Objection against it.
'It is not so much as pretended, Sir, that the Treaty or Convention to be laid before us is a definitive Treaty. His Majesty, in his Speech from the Throne, has told us, that it is not a definitive Treaty: He has told us, that those Grievances and Abuses, which have hitherto interrupted our Commerce and Navigation in the American Seas, and all other Disputes. between the two Nations, except that of Reparation to our Fellow-Subjects for their Losses, remain yet to be regulated and settled by Plenipotentiaries. I wish the only Article that is settled, may not appear to have been settled to our Disadvantage. But this is not the only Thing we are to enquire into, when we come to examine this Convention, If the Court of Spain appeared to be in an Humour to give us full Satisfaction, with respect to all the other Matters which they have been allowed of late Years to dispute with us, our agreeing to such a preliminary Convention, and even our yielding a little with respect to the Article that is settled, may perhaps be justified: But if, on the contrary, the Court of Spain appeared to be in no Humour to give us a proper Satisfaction, with respect to any one of the Matters now in Dispute between us, considering the Danger our Trade and Navigation lies exposed to by the unjust, and hitherto unheard-of Claim they have set up of searching our Ships in the open Seas, it was ridiculous in us to agree to any Preliminaries, without having that Point first settled to our Satisfaction, and still more ridiculous to accept of any partial Reparation for the Losses our Merchants and Seamen have already sustained by their Depredations. Therefore, when we come to examine into this Convention, the chief Point that will come under our Consideration must be, to know what Humour the Court of Spain seems to be in, and what we may expect by the Delay which this preliminary Convention must occasion; and, I should be glad to know, how we can form any Judgment as to this Point, without seeing at least those Memorials and Representations, which our Ministers have thought fit to make to the King of Spain and his Ministers; for, from what his Majesty has told us of the Convention, I am sure we can form no Judgment as to this Point, from any Article in the Convention itself.
I do not know, Sir, what some Gentlemen may think his Majesty means by ordering the Convention to be laid before us. Perhaps they may think, that we ought only to read it ever, and thereupon present a polite Address in the modern Way, applauding the Wisdom of his Majesty's Measures, that is to say, the Wisdom of those who advised him to take such Measures. But, I must think, his Majesty does not mean any such Thing He means, I am sure, that we should not only read it, but examine it thoroughly, and that, after we have examined the whole Affair to the Bottom, we should give him our honest and sincere Opinion. This, I am convinced, is what his Majesty means by ordering the Convention to be laid before us; and this we cannot comply with, till at least the Papers now moved for be laid before us; therefore in Duty to his Majesty, as well as out of Regard to our own Honour, we ought to agree to the Motion.
Sir Robert Walpole
'I believe no Gentleman who has the Honour to be a Member of this House supposes, that we are not to examine into the Nature of the Convention lately concluded with Spain, or that his Majesty intends we should not. I am sure I do not suppose any such Thing: On the contrary, I hope, that when it is laid before us, we shall not only examine thoroughly every Article of it, but also that we shall examine into the present Circumstances of Affairs both at home and abroad; which we must do, before we can form a right Judgment of the Convention his Majesty has agreed to. When the several Articles are particularly examined, and all Circumstances duly considered, we ought then to give our most sincere Opinion and Advice to his Majesty; and, from the View I have of our present Circumstances, and what I have heard or know of that Convention, I believe the Opinion of this House will be, that the concluding and ratifying the Convention was one of the wisest Measures his Majesty could take; and our Advice, I doubt not, will be, that his Majesty should proceed upon the Foundation laid by that Convention, and endeavour, by peaceable Methods to put an End, by a definitive Treaty, to all the Disputes now subsisting between the two Nations.
I shall grant, Sir, that in order to examine thoroughly into the Nature of the Convention, and into the Circumstances of our Affairs both at home and abroad, it will be necessary for us to have a great many Papers laid before us. But in calling or addressing for Papers of any Kind, we ought at all Times to be extremely cautious, especially in calling for Papers relating to any Transaction which is not then finally concluded. The Gentlemen who have already spoke against this Motion, have said so much with regard to the Danger and Inexpediency of it at this Time, that I have nothing to add on that Head. Only, Sir, I beg Leave to advance one general Observation upon what they have said, and that is, that when we find ourselves obliged to take an Affair into our Consideration, before it is brought to a final Conclusion, I do not think it would be bad Policy in this House, to lay it down as an established Maxim, never to address for any Papers upon such Occasions, but to leave it entirely to his Majesty, to order such Papers to be laid before us, as he might think necessary for giving us a proper Light into the Affair, and such as he knew might be safely communicated.
'To apply what I have said to the Case now before us: It must be allowed, Sir, that the Convention lately concluded with Spain, relates to an Affair not yet finally ended. It relates to an Affair now under Negotiation between the two Courts; for, I shall readily agree, that the Articles of the Convention can at best be called but a Sort of preliminary Articles, which are to be further explained and perfected by a definitive Treaty; and if a satisfactory Treaty may be obtained by peaceable Means, and in Consequence of these preliminary Articles, which no Man can say is impossible, it would be wrong in us to do any Thing, or to call for any Paper, which by being made publick, might disappoint so good an Effect. Now, as this Convention was, as every preliminary Agreement must be, preceded by a Negotiation, some Things may have passed during that Negotiation, which the Court of Spain would not desire to be made publick,' and would even look on it as a high Affront, in case they should be made publick. We know how jealous Princes are even of what is called the Punctilio of Honour; and therefore we must know, that it is always dangerous to publish the Transactions of a Negociation till some Time after it has been concluded. While such Transactions remain secret, many Things may be said and done by both Parties without much Notice, which either Party would think himself in Honour obliged to resent in the highest Manner, in case they should be made publick. Therefore, with regard to those Memorials and Representations that have been sent to the Court of Spain, and must consequently be already known to that Court, it would not, perhaps, at present, be very prudent to publish them; because it might alter the present good Humour which the Court seems to be in, and might render it impossible for us to obtain either Satisfaction, Reparation, or Security, any other Way but by Force of Arms.
'I shall grant, Sir, that in order to know how Matters stand at present between us and Spain, the Causes of our present Disputes, and the Measures his Majesty has taken to put an End to them, it would be proper for us to see all the Papers that have been mentioned, and a great many more than have been now moved for. We cannot propose to acquire a full and perfect Knowledge of these Matters, and of the Circumstances of Affairs at home and abroad, without having a compleat Knowledge of all the Negotiations that have been lately carried on, or are now carrying on, not only between us and Spain, but between us and every other Power in Europe; but this is a Knowledge, which every one must admit, his Majesty neither can, nor ought to communicate to Parliament. I have shewn, that the communicating all those Papers that are now moved for, might be of the most dangerous Consequence; and even the honourable Gentleman himself who moved for those Papers, allows, that we ought not to desire all the Memorials, Representations, and Answers received from the Court of Spain, to be laid before us; because our rendering the Contents of some of them publick, might put a stop to our Negotiations, and make the Court of Spain refuse to treat any longer with us. Are not we, Sir, to apprehend the same Consequence, from our rendering publick the Memorials and Representations that have been made to the King of Spain, or his Ministers? For the Memorials and Representations that have been made by us, must relate to, and may probably recite a great Part, if not the whole Substance, of those we have received.
'What are we then to do in such a Case, Sir? We cannot desire a full and perfect Knowledge of all such Affairs. We must content ourselves with such a Knowledge as may be safely communicated to us, without injuring the publick Affairs of the Nation: And we must leave it to his Majesty to judge, what may be safely communicated. We may depend upon his Goodness, and the Regard he has for his Parliament, that he will, upon this Occasion, communicate to us every Paper, and every Transaction relating to the Spanish Depredations, that can be safely communicated: But his Wisdom, and the Regard he has for the Honour and Interest of his Kingdoms, must prevent his communicating to us any Thing that ought not, that cannot be safely made publick; and we ought not, by an unseasonable Address, to raise a Contest in his Royal Breast, between his Goodness and Wisdom, or between the Regard he has for his Parliament, and the Regard he has for the Honour and Interest of his Kingdoms.
'The Resolutions we have already come to, I did not, it is true, oppose; but it was not, Sir, because I entirely approved of them. It was, because I did not see any Thing in them, but what his Majesty, I thought, might comply with: I did not apprehend that by any of them, there were Papers called for that might not be safely made publick: But with regard to the last Resolution the honourable Gentleman has been pleased to propose, the Case is very different. At first View of it, I see, that there are Papers called for, which it may not be safe to make publick: Some of those Papers, I think, may probably be such, as would disclose the Secrets of our Government, or interrupt, if not put a full Stop to, the Course of our Negotiations: Therefore I must look upon the Addresses proposed by that Resolution, to be of such a Nature, that there is the highest Probability of his Majesty's not being able to comply with them; and whilst I have the Honour to have a Seat in this House, I shall always be ready to give my Testimony against our resolving to desire any Thing of his Majesty by an Address, which I think he cannot, consistently with the Honour of his Crown, or the Interest of his Kingdoms, fully comply with.
'From what I have said, Sir, I hope every Gentleman will see, that there is a great Difference between the Addresses we have agreed to, and the Address now proposed. By the former we desire nothing of his Majesty, at least so far as we can comprehend, but what he may comply with, without divulging the Secrets of his Government, and running the Risk of defeating those Negotiations he is carrying on, for securing the Trade and Navigation of his Kingdoms. By the latter we are to desire of his Majesty, what I think I have shewn he cannot, in all probability, safely comply with. This is the proper Distinction between the Addresses we have agreed to, and the Address now proposed; and every Gentleman that makes this Distinction, may easily see a good Reason for his giving a Negative to the latter, notwithstanding his having given his Assent to the former; for all those who think there is any Thing desired by the Address now proposed, which his Majesty cannot safely comply with, must, I think, in Duty to their Sovereign, give their Negative to the Question.
'I shall conclude with observing, Sir, that it would be highly imprudent in us at present, to present any Address that his Majesty could not fully comply with; for if foreign Courts, and particularly the Court of Spain, should be informed, that the Parliament had begun to present Addresses which the King could not comply with: If they should hear that his Majesty had, in the least Article, refused to comply with the Request of his Parliament, they would immediately begin to presume, that a Breach was to ensue between King and Parliament: They would then begin to believe, that there is some Truth in what they have so often been told, by the Libels spread about this Kingdom; that the People of this Kingdom are a divided People; that they are disaffected to their Sovereign; and that the Parliament had now begun to do, what they have often done, what I hope they will always do, when there is a just Occasion, which I am sure is far from being the Case at present: I mean, that the Parliament had begun to espouse the Cause of the People against the King and his Ministers. This Presumption, Sir, would make not only the Court of Spain, but every Court we have any Difference with, less pliable, or more unreasonable than they are at present; and at the same Time, it would give the other Courts of Europe such a contemptible Opinion of us, as would of Course prevent their joining in any Alliance with us; by which Means, we should render it not only impracticable to obtain Satisfaction from the Court of Spain by fair Means, but impossible to obtain it by Force of Arms; and as this would be one of the most unfortunate Situations this Nation could be reduced to, I am fare every Gentleman that has a Regard for his native Country, and views the Question now before us in this Light, will join with me in putting the Negative upon it.'
William Pultney Esq;
'I wish his Majesty's Name were not so much made use of in this House, as it usually is. Some Gentlemen seem to affect talking in his Majesty's Name of every publick Measure that happens to be mentioned in this House, tho' they know that when we enquire into any publick Measure, or into the Management of any publick Transaction, we enquire into it, and we pass our Judgment upon it, as a Thing done, not by this Majesty, but by his Ministers. Therefore, I wish they would alter a little their Manner of talking, and instead of the Word Majesty, make use of the Word Ministers, or if they please, Minister. If they should say now, for Example, in the present Case, that we ought never to desire any Thing of the Minister, which we think he cannot safely comply with; it would be a more proper Manner of expressing themselves, and more conformable to the Rules of Proceeding in Parliament, than to say, that we ought never to desire any Thing of his Majesty, which we think he cannot safely comply with; and I must leave it to Gentlemen to consider, what Sort of a parliamentary Maxim it would be, to resolve, that when we find ourselves obliged, when the unfortunate State of the Nation is in makes it necessary for us, to take an Affair into Consideration before it is finally concluded, we ought never to call for any Papers upon such an Occasion, but to leave it entirely to the Minister, to lay, or order such Papers to be laid before us, as he knew he might safely communicate to those whose Business it is to enquire into his Conduct. This, I confess, would be a Maxim extremely convenient for Ministers, and therefore I am not at all surprized to hear it come from the Corner from whence it does.
'But, Sir, to be serious upon the Subject now before us; for considering the unfortunate Situation the Affairs not only of this Nation, but of Europe, are in at present, it is a Subject of as serious a Nature, as ever came before a British Parliament: I must observe, that when, this House resolves to take any particular and extraordinary Affair into Consideration, it is impossible for his Majesty to know what Papers, or other Things may be necessary for giving us a proper Light into the Affair. His Ministers may perhaps know, but in former Ages, Ministers have been known to conceal industriously from their Sovereign, many Things they knew; and such as they ought in Duty to have acquainted him with; and therefore our Parliaments never trusted to the King's Ministers for giving him Information in this Particular. They considered themselves the Affair which was to come before them; they considered what Papers, or other Things, would be necessary for giving them a proper Light; and if those Papers were such as must be communicated by the Crown, they addressed his Majesty, that he would be pleased to give Directions for laying such or such Papers before them. It is therefore from the Addresses of this House only, that his Majesty can know what Papers may be necessary to be laid before us upon any such Occasion; and, when his Majesty sees what we address for, he may then judge, whether the Papers called for, or any of them, be such as ought not to be made publick;
'If the honourable Gentleman's Maxim were to be admitted as an established Maxim for our Conduct in this House, we could never address for Papers relating to any publick Affair that had been transacted within the same Century; for there is no publick Affair but what may probably have some Papers belonging to it that ought not to be made publick. At this Rate, Sir, we must always leave it entirely to his Majesty, that is to say, to his Majesty's Ministers, to lay no Papers before us but such as they think may be safely communicated to Parliament; in which Case, every one must see, that we could never enquire into the Conduct of any Minister, while he continues a Favourite of the Crown; for no Minister will ever think it safe to lay any Paper before Parliament, that may be a Foundation for, or may any way support, an Accusation against himself; and, upon this Maxim, he would always have an Excuse for not laying such Papers before Parliament, by saying, that they contain Secrets relating to some Affair in Agitation, which must not be discovered till the Affair is brought to a Conclusion.
'This shews, Sir, how ridiculous it would be to establish such a Maxim, and therefore, I hope we shall continue to follow the antient Maxim of this House, which has always been, to call for all such Papers as we thought might contribute towards giving us a full and perfect Knowledge of the Affair we were to enquire into, without regarding whether or no the Papers we thought necessary for this Purpose were such as might probably contain some Secrets of State. If any of them are of such a Nature, we may appoint a secret Committee for examining into them, and reporting such Parts of them as are necessary for our Information; but, till his Majesty has acquainted us that some of them are of such a Nature, we have no Occasion for appointing such a Committee. This therefore can be no Objection against our addressing for all or any of the Papers now proposed to be addressed for; but, for my own Part, I cannot so much as imagine, that there are any important Secrets, I mean such as the Honour or Interest of the Nation is concerned in keeping; I say, I cannot imagine, that there are any such in our late Negotiations with Spain, or in any of our late Transactions relating to the Spanish Depredations. I am sure they have made no Secret of the Claims they have lately set up against us, nor of the Insults they have put upon us: On the contrary, they seem to be fond of publishing them, that the World may know how contemptuously they have used us. I do not know but that there may be some Secrets that ought to be discovered, Secrets, in the discovering of which, both the Honour and Interest of the Nation may be deeply concerned; but this surely can be no Argument against our calling for Papers by which such a Discovery may be made; and, if any of the Papers now called for can be supposed to contain Secrets of such a Nature, it is a strong Argument for agreeing to the Motion; for, without such an Address, we can hardly expect to have them laid before us.
'If a Presumption, that the Papers to be called for were such as ought not to be made publick, should be allowed to be an Objection of any Weight against the Resolutions now proposed, it must be allowed, Sir, that it was an Objection of equal Weight against every Resolution we have agreed to. If the Governors of our Plantations, or any Commander in Chief, or Captains of his Majesty's Ships of War, had not got a full Reparation, nor so much as the Promise of a full Reparation, for the Losses our Merchants and Seamen have sustained: If it should appear, that we have got no Security, nor so much as the Promise of any Security, for our Trade and Navigation in Time to come; it would then, Sir, be incumbent upon us, to appoint a Day for resolving into a Committee to take the State of the Nation into our Consideration; and, in that Case, I shall grant; that it would be necessary for us to address his Majesty, that he would be pleased to give Directions for laying before a secret Committee to be appointed for that Purpose, a full and exact Account of all our late Negotiations; in order that we might have a full View of the Circumstances the Nation is in, not only with respect to its domestick Affairs, but also with respect to foreign Affairs. Without such a View, it would be impossible for this House to come to any proper Resolutions, or to give his Majesty any proper Advice. If the Nation has been brought into such Distress, as to be obliged to accept of such a dishonourable and disadvantageous Treaty, rather than attempt to vindicate our Honour and our Rights by Force of Arms, we cannot expect that those who brought us into such Distress will ever be able to relieve us. If any Relief be possible, it must come from Parliament; and it is not the first Time the Parliament has relieved this Nation from the utmost Distress. But, in such Cases, we must have a full View of our Affairs; we must not shew such a Complaisance for our Ministers, as to deny ourselves any necessary Information, for fear of bringing them into Difficulties.
'From what I have said, Sir, I hope it will appear, that there is nothing in the Address now proposed, but what his Majesty may comply with, but what he certainly will comply with. If there be any of the Papers now proposed to be called for, of such a Nature as ought to be kept extremely secret, his Majesty may tell us so, and we may then appoint a secret Committee for inspecting them, and reporting such Parts of them as may be safely communicated. This may perhaps be the Case, with regard to some of the Papers we have already resolved to address for: There is as great a Probability, that this may be the Case with regard to some of them, as there is of its being the Case with regard to some of the Papers now proposed to be addressed for: But if there were not, it would be no Reason for our not calling for a Sight of Papers that are absolutely necessary for our Information, in a Case that is to come before us, a Case in which both the Honour and Interest, I may say, the very Being of this Nation, make it necessary for us to be fully informed.
'In all Parliamentary Enquiries, the Sovereign of these Kingdoms can never be led by Motives founded upon the Honour of his Crown, or the Interest of his Kingdoms, to refuse his Parliament any Thing they think necessary for their Information, with respect to the Affair they have resolved to enquire into: He may be led so to do, by the Advice of bad Ministers, who never give him such Advice, but for the Sake of sereening themselves from that national Vengeance that is ready to fall upon them. But his present Majesty has too much Wisdom and Goodness to follow any such pernicious Advice: He knows, that the following such Advice, has sometimes proved fatal even to the Crown itself; and has never as yet, thank God! long preserved the guilty Criminal. His Majesty's Goodness will in all Cases induce him to give the utmost Satisfaction to his People, and from his Wisdom we must presume he knows, that in giving Satisfaction to his People, consists the Security of his Crown and the Happiness of his Kingdoms.
'Therefore, Sir, what his Majesty may, or may not comply with, is a Question that cannot enter into the present Debate. The only Question that can enter into the present Debate is, what Papers may, or may not be necessary for our Information, with regard to the Affair that is soon to come before us; for whatever Papers we may think necessary for that Purpose, his Majesty will, upon our Request, signified to him in the usual Manner, cerainly order to be laid before us.
'For this Reason, Sir, the only Question now under our Consideration is, Whether the Papers now proposed to be addressed for, are such as are necessary for giving us such a Light into the present Circumstances of our Affairs, with regard to Spain, as may enable us to form a right Judgment of the Convention that is, I hope, soon to be laid before us? And with respect to this Question, Sir, the honourable Gentleman who made the Motion has fully shewn, That the Papers now proposed to be addressed for, are not only necessary, but more necessary upon the present Occasion, than the Papers we have already resolved to address for. Nay, it is a Question that seems not to be disputed, even by those who have spoke against the Resolutions now proposed; for they have grounded the whole of their Reasoning upon a Supposition, that some of the Papers now proposed to be addressed for, may be such as ought not to be made publick; and as I have shewn that this can be no Argument against our addressing for them, I am persuaded every Gentleman who has a real Design that we should examine thoroughly into the Nature of the Convention, that is be laid before us, or that we should be able to form any Judgment of it, will be as ready to give his Assent to the Resolution now proposed, as he was to give his Assent to those we have already agreed to.
'As there is nothing, Sir, in the Resolution proposed, but what his Majesty may comply with, as there is nothing but what he will certainly comply with; therefore, from our agreeing to the Resolution, no foreign Court can presume, that a Breach is like to ensue between his Majesty and his Parliament; nor can they from thence be induced to believe, what the honourable Gentleman says has been told them by some Libels lately published in this Kingdom. For my Part, I know of no such Libels: I do not know that it has been asserted in any Libel lately published, that the People of this Kingdom are generally disaffected to his Majesty and his Family. I am persuaded no such arrogant Lye has been asserted in any Libel lately published, unless it be in some of those lately published in Favour of keeping up numerous Armies in Time of Peace. But suppose such a Lye to have been published in some such a Libel, I do not believe that foreign Courts are such minute Politicians as to build any Hopes upon, or give any Credit to what is asserted in such villainous Libels. They build upon a better Foundation, because they generally send such Ministers here, as can give them a true Information of the Disposition of the People; and from them they know, that the People are generally well affected towards his Majesty and his Family, how ever much they may be dissatified with some of his Majesty's Ministers.
'This, thank God! Sir, is as yet the Disposition of our People. But if they should long continue under the Insults they have met with; if they should be long amused with tedious and fruitless Negociations, or sham Treaties; if they should find the Parliament supporting and applauding such Measures, God knows where they may fly for Relief. They may then, indeed, become generally disaffected, as well as dissatisfied; and this perhaps is what some foreign Courts are driving at; but it is to be hoped they will, by the Wisdom and Integrity of this House, be disappointed in their Aim. If they are not, the most perfect Harmony between King and Parliament, would add but little Weight to our Negociations at any foreign Court; for it is upon the Affections of the People that the Weight and Credit of our Government must always depend.
'From hence we may see, Sir, that we may happen to be in such Circumstances, that a Harmony between King and Parliament would be a Misfortune, instead of being a Blessing to the Nation; for, if our People should ever become generally dissatisfied with an Administration, the happiest Thing that could befal this Nation, would be the Parliament's espousing the Cause of the People, not against the King, but for the King, and against his Ministers; for the Cause of the King and People must always be the same; but that Cause and the Cause of a Minister may often be different, may sometimes be in direct Opposition. Therefore, if this Nation should ever happen to be so unfortunate as to be under an Administration generally disliked by the People, the wisest Thing the Parliament could do, would be to advise, or even render it necessary for the King, to make a thorough Change, as to the Persons employed in the Administration. Such a Breach as this would be, upon such an Occasion, the only Means that could effectually restore the Influence and the Character of the Nation, at all foreign Courts; because they would then expect to see, in this Nation, a new Set of Ministers, and new Measures. They would expect to see a Ministry chosen, and Measures concerted, by the Advice of a free and independent Parliament, and with the Approbation of a brave and a free People; and from such a Ministry, and such Measures, this Nation has always reaped great Honour, and great Advantage.
'I shall conlude, Sir, with supposing the worst that can be supposed from our agreeing to this Resolution: Suppose that his Majesty should be induced by bad Counsel to refuse so reasonable a Request in his Parliament. This indeed, is hardly to be supposed; but if it should unfortunately happen to be the Case, it would be a full Proof that there are some bad Counsellors about his Majesty, and this Discovery would be a great Advantage to the Nation; for it would then become our Business and our Duty to find out those bad Counsellors, and to remove them from his Majesty's Counsels. Could the removing of bad Counsellors from about the Person of our King, any Way derogate from the Weight or Influence of his Negociations at foreign Courts? No, Sir, it would give great Satisfaction to his whole People, and new Vigour to all his Counsels, and consequently would greatly add to the Weight of his Negociations at every Court in Europe. So that in the worst Light in which we can put the Question now before us, we must allow, that our agreeing to it is not only necessary, but that it will be attended with great Advantages to his Majesty in particular, and to the Nation in general; and as this plainly appears to be the Case, I therefore hope it will be agreed to.'
Division ; Ayes 120, Noes 200.
The Convention laid before the House.
The Reports for employing twelve thousand Seamen for the Year 1739, agreed to.
An Address for Memorials &c, since the Treaty of Seville, ordered.
Feb. 13th. Ordered an Address to his Majesty to lay before them Copies of several Memorials, &c. since the Treaty of Seville, touching the Rights of Great-Britain or any Infraction of Treaties which have not been laid before them.