The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons: Volume 10, 1737-1739. Originally published by Chandler, London, 1742.
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Mr. Alderman Perry presents the West India Merchants Petition upon the Spanish Depredations.
Wednes. March 3. Mr. Alderman Perry presented to the House, a Petition of divers Merchants, and Planters, and others, trading to, and interested in the British Plantations in America, on behalf of themselves and many others, setting forth that Application was made to this House, in the Year 1728, against the many unjust Seizures and Depredations, that had, for several Years preceding, been committed by the Spaniards in America upon his Majesty's Subjects, whilst they were carrying on their fair and lawful Trade in those Parts; upon which Application, this House came to a Resolution, 'That from the Peace, concluded at Utrecht, in the Year 1713, to this Time, The British Trade and Navigation to and from the several British Colonies in America, has been greatly interrupted by the continual Depredations of the Spaniards, who have seized very valuable Effects, and unjustly taken and made Prize of great Numbers of British Ships and Vessels in those Parts, to the great Loss and Damage of the Subjects of this Kingdom, and in manifest Violation of the Treaties subsisting between the two Crowns:' And that this House was pleased humbly to address his Majesty thereupon; and that the Spaniards continuing their Depredations on the British Subjects, and no Satisfaction having been obtained for those before committed, a farther Application was made to this House, in the Year 1730, complaining of the great Interruptions given by the Spaniards to the Trade and Navigation of this Kingdom, and their cruel Treatment of the British Subjects; and that this House, having again taken this Matter into their Consideration, and examined into the same with the utmost Deliberation, came to a Resolution: "That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, that he will be graciously pleased to continue his Endeavours to prevent the Depredations of the Spaniards, for the future; to procure full Satisfaction for the Damages already sustained; and to secure to the British Subjects, the full and uninterrupted Exercise of their Trade and Navigation to, and from the British Colonies in America.' Which Address was presented to his Majesty accordingly; and representing to the House, that the Spaniards have paid so little Regard to his Majesty's most gracious Endeavours, that they have continued their Depredations, almost ever since the Treaty of Seville, and more particularly last Year have carried them to a greater Height than ever; they having arbitrarily seized several Ships, with their Effects, belonging to his Majesty's Subjects, on the high Seas, in the destined Course of their Voyages to and from the British Colonies, amounting to a very considerable Value; and that the Captains or Masters of some of the said Ships were, according to the last Advices of the Petitioners, and are (as the Petitioners believe) at this Time confined by the Spaniards in the West-Indies, and the Crews are now in Slavery in Old-Spain, where they are most inhumanly treated; and that that cruel Nation make it their Practice to attack and board all British Merchant Ships, they meet with in the American Seas, under Pretence of searching for Goods, which they deem contraband or not, according to their own arbitrary Will and Pleasure, contrary to the Law of Nations, and in manifest Violation of the Treaties subsisting between the two Crowns; and that by these unjust and violent Proceedings of the Spaniards, the Trade and Navigation to and from America is rendered very unsafe and precarious; insomuch, that the Insurance from Jamaica has greatly risen on these Accounts only; and that, without some speedy and effectual Remedy, the American Trade and Navigation will be (together with the Revenue of the Crown arising therefrom) very much diminished, if not entirely lost; and farther representing to the House, that, although his Catholick Majesty has stipulated by the Treaty of Seville, and by the Declaration of 1732 relative thereunto, to cause Reparation to be forthwith made to the unhappy Sufferers, yet there is no Instance of its having been done; so far from it, that, whilst the British Subjects have been amused with vain and fruitless Hopes of Satisfaction, the Spaniards have committed farther Insults and Depredations upon them, and still continue the same unjust Practices; and that the Cedulas or Orders given by the Court of Spain to their Governors in America, are only calculated (as the Petitioners by Experience have great Reason to apprehend) to evade giving Satisfaction to the British Subjects; for there has never been one of the Cedulas complied with, nor any Governor recalled, nor punished for his Disobedience, as the Petitioners ever heard; and that, for any Nation to assume the Power of detaining or rummaging the British Ships upon their lawful Voyages in the American Seas under Pretence of searching for contraband Goods, is in Effect (as the Petitioners conceive) claiming and exercising the sole Sovereignty of those Seas; and that if the Spaniards be suffered to act in this injurious Manner, to insult the Persons of his Majesty's Subject, or to plunder them of their Property, the Petitioners apprehend, the same will be attended, not only with great Obstruction to this valuable Branch of our Commerce and Navigation, but also with Consequences very fatal to Great-Britain itself, and as the Measures hitherto pursued have proved ineffectual, praying the House to take the Premises into their mature Consideration, and provide such timely and adequate Remody, for putting an End to all Insults and Depredations on the British Subjects, as to the House shall seem meet, as well as procure such Relief for the unhappy Sufferers, as the Nature of their Case, and the Justice of their Cause require; and that they may be heard by themselves and Counsel thereupon.
Upon this the Chair said;
Debate upon Form. ; The Chair.
'Tho' my Office, while I am in the Chair, deprives me of having any Share in your Debates, yet it obliges me to declare what are the Forms of the House. As I conceive this to be a Point of Form, it is my Duty to acquaint you, that so far as I have yet observed, it never was the Method of this House to admit Parties to be heard by themselves and Counsel. The Motion that is always made in such Cases is, that the Petitioners be admitted to be heard by themselves or Counsel. If therefore the honourable Gentleman who made the Motion, is not satisfied that I put the Question, Whether it is your Pleasure that the Petitioners be heard touching the Matter of this Petition by themselves or Counsel, I must beg Leave to take the Sense of the House with regard to the Terms in which I am to put the Question upon the present Motion.'
Sir John Barnard standing up, spoke to the following Effect:
Sir John Barnard.
'I do not pretend to be so well acquainted with the Forms of the House, as to give my Opinion whether the Petitioners ought to be heard by themselves and Counsel, or by themselves or Counsel: But, Sir, I know that this Petition is founded upon Facts, and I should be sorry to see the Design of it defeated by a scrupulous Adherence to any Points of Form whatsoever. The Request of the Petitioners, Sir, however as to Form it may be extraordinary, yet in Point of Reason, in my Opinion, is justifiable. Most of the Petitions upon which Counsel is prayed to be heard at the Bar of this House, are against Bills depending before the House; and Gentlemen, in the Course of such Bills passing the House, have Opportunities of making themselves Masters of the Case; so that the Counsel have little else to do, but to prove from Facts that the Bill depending is either unjust in itself, by affecting the Property of the Persons that petition, or by clashing or being inconsisient with some former Law. But, Sir, the Case of the present Petitioners is widely different; the repeated Losses they have met with, and the Injuries they have sustained in their Trade, can never so well be understood from the Mouth of a Lawyer, as from their own; because, Sir, it is impossible for the ablest Lawyer either to be so well instructed in the Interests and Claims of the several Petitioners, or to explain the several Terms of Commerce and Navigation that must necessarily occur in this Affair, so as to be understood by Gentlemen unacquainted with these Matters. Therefore, Sir, I humbly think it will be a Hardship upon the Petitioners, to deny them a Request of so little Importance as the present, merely because it interferes with a Matter of Form. I beg Leave to say, Sir, that Forms cannot be better known than by Precedents; and I believe it will puzzle any Gentleman to find a Precedent of a Case parallel to the present, whether we consider the long Course of Injuries which some of the Petitioners have sustained, the melancholy Situation to which others of them are reduced, or its Importance to the Trade, the Honour, and Safety of Britain. Therefore, Sir, I am of Opinion we ought to make no Difficulty of agreeing to the Request of the Petition.
This occasioned some Hesitation, and then Sir William Windham said:
Sir Wm. Windham.
'I think, Sir, that Gentlemen are extremely obliged to your Care, in putting them in Mind of the usual Form of Proceeding, and am intirely of your Opinion with regard to the present Motion. I believe no Gentleman here can suspect that I have not as warm a Sense of the Injuries our Merchants have sustained, as any Gentleman here; but, Sir, I think we ought to proceed in a parliamentary Method, and not make any Innovations in our Forms, except where it is absolutely necessary. For my own Part, Sir, in the present Case, I judge it is so far from being absolutely necessary, that it would do the Petitioners a Prejudice. As to what my honourable Friend mentioned about a Counsel's not being able to put mercantile Affairs in such a Light as to be thoroughly understood by Gentlemen, I am intirely of his Opinion; but then I think the Petitioners ought to appear at our Bar not as Counsel, but as Evidences for themselves. This, Sir, will effectually answer all the Ends that my honourable Friend proposes, and will preserve our Method of Proceeding in its ordinary Form—If therefore, Sir, the Counsel shall advance a Fact that requires Proof, or touches upon a Point that wants Explanation, I think it is highly just that the Petitioners should be admitted as Evidences, and be allowed to answer such Questions as shall be proposed either by Gentlemen, or by their Counsel. This, I conceive, Sir, is but fair, and would inspire our Merchants with a Confidence in the Justice of this House, and let the World see that we are resolved to leave no Means untried which may contribute to give us right Information, in an Affair that so nearly concerns the Properties of our Fellow Subjects, and the Dignity of the Nation.'
Sir Robert Walpole spoke next, to the following Purpose.
Sir Robert Walpole.
'I must humbly beg leave to differ in my Sentiments on this Affair, from both the honourable Gentlemen. The Judgment, Sir, which, in my Opinion, we should form in this Case, ought to be grounded on Facts as they are fairly represented, not as they are artfully aggravated. Every Gentleman, Sir, I believe, from his bare Reflection on the Injuries our Merchants have received from Spain, feels within his own Breast an Indignation arise, which there is no Occasion to increase by the Power of Eloquence, or the Arts of a Lawyer. When Gentlemen, Sir, see an Affair through the Mist that Passion throws before their Eyes, it is next to impossible they should form a just Judgment. I believe there is scarce any Gentleman here who is not acquainted with as much Geography, and as much of the History, both of Britain and Spain, as may enable him, from a plain Representation of Facts, to judge whether the Allegations in this Petition be true or false. Now, Sir, are not the Merchants themselves the most proper Hands for giving in such a Representation? Are they not most immediately interested in the Facts? Where then is the Necessity, Sir, of having Counsel to do this? Or what Occasion, Sir, is there to work upon the Passions where the Head is to be informed? I believe, Sir, every Gentleman will find his Heart as much affected by the artless Accounts of the Sufferers themselves, as by the studied Rhetorick of the most eloquent Counsel. However, Sir, I shall not take the Liberty to make any Motion on this Head, but intirely submit it to Gentlemen's Consideration.'
Alderman Willimot answered in Substance as follows:
'I think the Petitioners ought to have Liberty to be heard, not only by themselves and Counsel; but if it were possible that we could indulge them in other Advantages, we ought to do it. To talk of working upon Passions!—Can any Man's Passions be wound up to a greater Height, can any Man's Indignation be more raised than every free-born Englishman's must be, when he reads a Letter which I received this Morning, and which I have now in my Hand. This Letter, Sir, gives an Account that seventy of our brave Sailors are now in Chains in Spain. Our Countrymen in Chains! and Slaves to Spaniards! Is not this enough, Sir, to fire the Coldest? Is not this enough, Sir, to rouse all the Vengeance of a national Resentment? And shall we, Sir, fit here debating about Words and Forms, while the Sufferings of our Countrymen call out loudly for Redress?'
The Petition referr'd to a Committee of the whole House.
Ordered that the said Petition be referred to the Consideration of a Committee of the whole House, and that it be an Instruction to the said Committee that they do admit the said Petitioners to be heard, if they think fit, by themselves or Counsel, before the said Committee.
Mr Coster. petition from Bristol.
Mr. Coster, one of the Members for Bristol, then presented to the House a Petition of the Master, Wardens, Assistants, and Commonalty of the Society of Merchant-Adventurers, within the City of Bristol, under their common Seal, and the same was read; setting forth, that for some Years past, the British Trade and Navigation, to and from the British Colonies and Plantations in America, hath been greatly interrupted and exposed to the continual Insults and Depredations of the Spaniards in those Seas, where they have taken and made Prizes of great Numbers of British Ships and Vessels, in their Passage to and from the said Colonies and Plantations (several of which did belong to this Port) to the great Damage of his Majesty's Subjects; whereby the said valuable Trade is in Danger of being lost; and that, notwithstanding the Resolutions of this House, and his Majesty's most gracious Endeavours to obtain for his Subjects just and reasonable Satisfaction, yet the Spaniards still continue their Depredations, and have lately taken and plundered several Ships and Vessels, belonging to this and other British Ports, and have treated such as have fallen into their Hands, in a very cruel and barbarous Manner; and therefore praying the Consideration of the House, and such timely and adequate Remedy in the Premises, as to this House shall seem fit.
Order'd to be reffer'd to the Committee.
Ordered, That the said Petition be referred to the Consideration of the Committee of the whole House, to whom the Petition of divers Merchants, Planters, and others, trading to, and interested in, the British Plantations in America, on Behalf of themselves and many others, is referred.
Ordered, That it be an Instruction to the said Committee, that they do admit the Petitioners to be heard, if they think fit, by themselves or Counsel, before the said Committee.
Petition of the Owners of the Ann Galley.
Next was presented a Petition of Samuel Bonham, Christopher Astley, Benjamin Weal, and Joseph Crowcher, Owners of the Ship Ann Galley, Joseph Spackman Master, Burthen one hundred and thirty Tons, or thereabouts, on Behalf of themselves, and the Mariners, and Seamen of the said Ship, and the same was read; setting forth, that the Petitioners on the 4th of December 1728, and since, have delivered to his Grace the Duke of Newcastle, one of his Majesty's principal Secretaries of State, seven Memorials and Petitions addressed to his Majesty, and four others delivered at the Council-Board, each Memorial and Petition setting forth the great Loss and Damage, the Petitioners have received by the unjust Capture and Seizure of their Ship Ann Galley and her Cargo by the Spaniards on the 13th of June 1728, in her Way from Guinea to Jamaica, after the Pacification between the Crowns of Great Britain and Spain was not only agreed on, but notified to the respective Governments in the West Indies, the same being notified at Jamaica the 3d of June, and at Carthagena, in New Spain, the 10th of the same Month; and the Value of the said Ship and Cargo, with the Freight, &c. hath been attested on the Oaths of the Master and several of the Officers and People belonging to the said Ship Ann Galley, when taken by the Spaniards, to be worth 10,500 l. Sterling, and upwards, besides the Loss of Interest for that Sum to this Time, being upwards of nine Years; in all which Memorials and Petitions, the Petitioners most humbly besought his Majesty's Favour, Interest, and Protection, in recovering their Loss and Damage from the Spaniards; yet that, notwithstanding his Majesty's Goodness in endeavouring, by all peaceable Ways and Methods, to obtain Satisfaction for such their Loss and Damage, it plainly appears to the Petitioners, that those Cedulas are no more than Delusions and Shews of Justice; for his Majesty hath been graciously pleased to send several Ships of War from Jamaica to demand Restitution at St. Jago de Cuba, and by his Minister Benjamin Keene, Esq; at the Court of Spain, hath made Demand of the said Ship and Cargo, or the Value thereof, and hath obtained several Orders from the King of Spain, and his Minister Don Joseph Pantinho, to his Governor and Royal Officers at St. Jago de Cuba, one dated at Seville the 28th of December 1730, one dated the 23d of February 1733, wherein his Catholick Majesty allows the Ship to be an unjust Capture, and orders his Governor, &c to cause immediate Restitution to be made, without making any Reply to those Orders; and that, notwithstanding all this, and contrary, as the Petitioners apprehend, to the second separate Article of the Treaty of Seville, and those made by his Majesty's Royal Predecessors, and particularly the fourteenth Article of the Treaty of 1670, between England and Spain, and confirmed by the other Treaties, particularly that of Utrecht in the Year 1713, by which fourteenth Article it is stipulated, that, if Justice is denied, or unreasonably delayed, it shall be lawful for that King, whose Subjects have suffered, to take any Rules and Methods according to the Law of Nations, until Reparation be made to the Sufferers; notwithstanding his Majesty's Goodness, no Satisfaction could be obtained; and that therefore on the 17th of January 1733-4, the Petitioners again addressed his Majesty in Council, setting forth the Hardness of their Case; and that his Majesty, by the Advice of his Council, the 21st of February 1733-4, did signify his Royal Pleasure to his Minister at the Court of Spain, that he, in his Majesty's Name, represent to the Catholick King, that his Majesty looks upon himself as obliged, by his Failure of Justice in the West Indies to his Majesty's Subjects, to insist, that the Catholick King do forthwith cause Reparation to be made to the Petitioners for their Loss and Damage; on which another Order was forwarded to St. Jago de Cuba, to the Governor and Royal Officers, to make full Restitution for the said Loss and Damage; by which the Factors of the Petitioners, about June 1734, received out of the Royal Chest at St. Jago, two thousand three hundred and sixty Pieces of Eight, and two Negro Men, the Value of which doth not exceed 531l. Sterling; and that the Petitioners finding that nothing more is ever to be expected out of the West-Indies (after nine Years Sollicitation and Expence) as appears by their several Letters, the Copies of which have from Time to Time, as they came to Hand, been sent and delivered at the Council Office, and to the Office of his Grace the Duke of Newcastle; therefore, since his Majesty was graciously pleased to lay the several Memorials and Petitions relating to this unhappy Capture before the House, the Petitioners on the 24th of March 1736-7, brought their Petition into this House, which was read, and on a Motion made, was ordered to lie on the Table; but that they have neither received, nor have any probable Expectations to receive, from Old or New Spain farther Satisfaction, than as before mentioned, for this their great Loss, which is too severe and heavy for them to bear, and which is attended with this aggravating Circumstance, that the King of Spain hath agreed, that the Capture was unjust, and hath ordered Satisfaction to be made, but at a Place, where Experience shews, by repeated Demands and Endeavours, it cannot be obtained; and therefore praying the House to take this their unhappy Case into Consideration, and grant them such Relief, as to the House shall seem meet.
Referr'd to the Committee.
Ordered, That the said Petition be referred to the Consideration of the Committee of the whole House, to whom the Petition of divers Merchants, Planters, and others trading to and interested in the British Plantations in America, on Behalf of themselves and many others, is referred.
Ordered, That it be an Instruction to the said Committee, that they do admit the Petitioners to be heard, if they think fit, by themselves or Council, before the said Committee.
Petition of the Owners of the Robert Galley.
Then was presented a Petition of Edmund Saunders, Henry Tongue, and Richard Farr, of the City of Bristol, Merchants, in Behalf of themselves, Henry Lloyd deceased, the Insurers, Master, and Mariners of the Ship Robert Galley, of Bristol, Burthen one hundred and twenty Tons, whereof Story King was Master, and the same was read; setting forth, that on the 20th of May 1729, (which was almost a whole Year after the Pacification between the Crowns of Great Britain and Spain being not only agreed upon, but notified to the respective Governments in the West Indies) their said Ship, proceeding on her Voyage from Guinea, by the Way of Barbadoes, to Jamaica, was taken on the Coast of Hispaniola, six Leagues out at Sea, by a Spanish Guarda la Costa, and, as the Petitioners presume, contrary to the Law of Nations and Treaties then subsisting, and the Ship and Cargo carried into St. Domingo, and there condemned as Prize; the Value of which, with Freight, &c. when taken, as attested upon Oath by the Master, was 10,664 l. Sterling, and upwards, besides the Interest thereof for near nine Years; and that Admiral Stewart, when he was Commander in Chief of his Majesty's Ships of War stationed at Jamaica, on Notice of taking of the said Ship and Cargo, sent his Majesty's Ship the Trial to St. Domingo, to demand Restitution; but that the Commander of her received for Answer, that the Ship and Cargo had been condemned by the Audience, and there could be no Redress, unless obtained in old Spain; and that the Petitioners, having made Application to his Majesty by Petition in November 1729, complaining of the unjust Capture of the said Ship Robert; and begging his Majesty's most gracious Interposition, that Justice and Restitatition might be done them; but receiving no Satisfaction, and the Spaniards continuing their Depredations, the Petitioners joined in a Petition with other Merchants of Bristol to this House in 1730, and then, as they conceived, proved the Allegations thereof, when this House thought fit to address his Majesty, that he would be graciously pleased to continue his Endeavours to prevent the Depredations of the Spaniards for the future, and to procure full Satisfaction for the Damages sustained; whereupon, Commissaries were appointed, by Virtue of the Treaty of Seville; and that the Petitioners having made Application to them, as well as to Mr. Keene his Majesty's Minister at the Court of Madrid, by a Memorial setting forth and authenticated Papers annexed thereto, proving the Unjustness of the Capture of the said Ship, and the Loss sustained; which was delivered to his Grace the Duke of Newcastle, about the Month of July 1731; but that, no Relief being had thereupon, the Petitioners again petitioned his Majesty in the Month of September last; which was also delivered to his said Grace, and has been since transmitted to Mr. Keene; but no Answer being returned thereto, there is no Probability or Expectation of receiving any Satisfaction; and therefore praying the House, as the Measures hitherto pursued have proved ineffectual, to take the Premises into farther Consideration, and grant such Relief, as to the House shall seem meet, and that the Petitioners may be heard by themselves and Counsel thereupon.
Referr'd to the Committee.
Ordered, That the said Petition be referred to the Consideration of the Committee of the whole House, to whom the Petition of divers Merchants, Planters, and others, trading to, and interested in, the British Plantations in America on Behalf of themselves, and many others, is referred.
Ordered, That it be an Instruction to said Committee; that they do admit the Petitioners to be heard, if they think fit, by themselves or Counsel, before the said Committee.
Mr. Pulteney. ; Moves for a Call of the House on the 16th Instant.
'We have now before us an Affair, in which, tho' it is solicited by the Merchants only of one Denommation, yet there is not a Merchant in Great Britain who, in some Degree or other, may not be said to be concerned. It is not, Sir, as has been suggested, an impotent Clamour of a few Smugglers, whose Effects have been justly sequestered for carrying on an illicit Trade; but an humble and a just Re monstrance of a very considerable Body of the best Friend both to the Interest and Constitution of their Country. It would wrong the Honour and Justice of this House, Sir, to suspect, that if the Petitioners prove the Allegations contained in their several Petitions, they shall not receive all the Relief that it is in our Power to give. But, Sir, there are other Places where an effectual Redress for their Injuries must be solicited. I shall not, Sir, go about to accuse any one before I am certain that the Allegations exhibited in the Petitions are true; but one Petition that has been now read, makes a very extraordinary Impression upon me. The Petitioners, Sir, pretend that the King of Spain's Officers in America have dared to disobey the most positive Orders obtained from their Master at his Majesty's Instances. Can any Gentleman, Sir, imagine, that the Spanish Officers durst have acted in this Manner without the Connivance of their Court? or that their Court would have presumed to trisle in such a Manner with any Ministry, but one which they thought wanted either Courage or Inclination to resent such Treatment? As I said before, Sir, I shall not take upon me to give my Judgment of the Affair till I have heard the Allegations in this Petition made out. If they cannot be made out, Sir, I think the Petitioners deserve the Censure of this House for so gross an Imposition. But if they are proved, Sir, which I think we have too good Reason to expect, I cannot help saying, that I think our Ministry have been guilty of a scandalous Breach of Duty, and the most infamous Pusillanimity. In the mean Time, Sir, as the Affair itself has on all Sides been confessed of the greatest Importance, and it is highly requisite that every Gentleman, who has the Honour to fit in this House, should be present while it is in Agitation, I think, Sir, we ought to subject every one, who is absent without indispensible Necessity, to the severest Censure we can inflict: Therefore I humbly move, that the House be called over on the 16th of this Month.
The honourable Henry Pelham, Esq;
'I do not rise up to oppose, but to second the honourable Gentleman's Motion; and, Sir, as he has been pleased to give us his Thoughts upon this Affair as it now appears to him, I hope I may be indulged in the same Liberty. It is a Liberty, Sir, which I should not have asked, were I not apprehensive, that if something is not said with regard to what fell from the honourable Gentleman, it might too much anticipate the Judgment which Gentlemen may form upon the present Affair. I have, Sir, heard of the Case which the honourable Gentleman has hinted at, and I do not doubt of the Truth of the Allegations contained in the Petition. But, Sir, supposing them true, how do they affect the Characters of those concerned in the Ministry? Must the King of Spain, or his British Majesty's Ministers be answerable for the Conduct of their Governors in America, and for every wrong Construction which these Governors may make of the Orders they receive from their Principals? It appears upon the Face of one of the Petitions, that our Ministry were as active as Men could be in demanding Satisfaction for the Petitioners. If their Instances had not the desired Effect, the Blame cannot be laid at their Door; for upon the delaying of Justice, one of these two Ways must have been taken: They must either have acted as they have done, or declared Hostilities must have commenced betwixt the two Crowns. Now, Sir, I believe, the Gentlemen who talk so much of entering on this Affair with Vigour, would have been cautious, had they been Ministers, of engaging in a War upon the Transaction of a single Governor or Officer, contrary to the Will and Intention of his Sovereign. If upon the Representations that were made by his Majesty's Ministers at the Court of Spain, the Spanish Ministers had answered that the Capture was just, and they were resolved to seize all other British Ships trading in the same Manner: This, Sir, being looked upon as the Sense of their Court, might have afforded very good Grounds for a Rupture. But it appears, Sir, from the Petition, that the Thing was quite otherwise, and that the Ministry were only blameable for not attacking the Court of Spain, because his Officers either did not understand, or would not obey his Orders. I agree with the honourable Gentleman, as to the Necessity of our making a strict Enquiry into this Affair; and I think the Motion he has made is highly reasonable. But, Sir, I believe that Enquiry will produce a different Effect from what is expected by the honourable Gentleman. I have Reason, Sir, to be confident, that it is the Interest of the Ministry we should examine the Allegations contained in these Petitions; for I am persuaded, that thereby they must be cleared from every Imputation of acting either a cowardly or a negligent Part; and let the Blame fall where it will, I dare say it cannot justly fall upon them.'
Motion agreed to.
Upon this the Motion was agreed to; but the Call of the House was put off when the Day appointed came, because it was rightly judged, that when the Call was over, many Members would drop off; whereas, if it was delayed from Day to Day, it would be a Method to detain them in Town.
After dispatching some private Bills, Sir John Barrnard spoke to the following Purpose:
Sir John Barnard moves for the Instruction relating to the Negotiations with Spain.
'As the Petitions now presented to us have been so unanimously referred to a Committee of the whole House, and a proper Day appointed for taking them into Consideration, I make no doubt of our entering seriously into an Examination of the Grievances complained of; but, as those Grievances are of a foreign Nature, as they are Grievances which have been long complained of, and as they are Grievances our Government, we know, have endeavoured to get redressed, have applied to the proper Court for that Purpose, I must be of Opinion, that we cannot examine thoroughly as we ought to do, into this Affair, without having before us the whole Thread of that long Negotiation which has been carried on with the Court of Spain, for obtaining Redress in an amicable and peacable Manner.
'The Abuses complained of by the Petitions now before us are, I must say, Sir, of a most extraordinary Nature: They are such as the most pitiful Prince in the World would not suffer from the most powerful, without taking the first Opportunity for shewing his Resentment. By these Petitions we are told, that the Spaniards have not only seized our Ships, with their Effects, in a most arbitrary Manner, but that they have inhumanly treated our Seamen. Nay, we are told, that with respect to one Ship in particular, though the Court of Spain itself has acknowledged her being wrongfully and injuriously seized, yet they have hitherto refused or delayed making any proper Reparation, notwithstanding its being now almost ten Years since the Ship was seized, and near eight Years since the Court of Spain itself acknowledged the Injustice of the Seizure.
'But why should I talk, Sir, of what has been done eight or ten Years ago, or but lately? These Insults and Abuses have been continued, I may say without Interruption, ever since his late Majesty's Accession to the Crown, which is near twenty-four Years since. This is not the first Time that our Merchants have been obliged to sue to this House for Redress in this Affair. In the Year 1728 we may remember that Application was made to this House, against the many unjust Seizures and Depredations, that bad, for several Years preceding, been committed by the Spaniards in America upon his Majesty's Subjects, whilst they were carrying on their fair and lawful Trade in those Parts; and upon that Application, this House came then to a Resolution, 'That from the Peace of Utrecht in 1713 to that Time, the British Trade and Navigation to and from the several British Colonies in America, had been greatly interrupted by the continual Depredations of the Spaniards, who had seized very valuable Effects, and unjustly taken and made Prize of great Numbers of British Ships and Vessels, in those Parts, to the great Loss and Damage of the Subjects of this Kingdom, and in manifest Violation of the Treaties subsisting between the two Crowns: Upon which Resolution an Address was presented to his Majesty,' Beseeching him to use his Endeavours for obtaining Satisfaction and Security for our Merchants. But what was the Consequence? The Spaniards not only refused Satisfaction, but continued their Depredations; and therefore a new Application was made to this House, and a new Address prefented to his Majesty by this House, in the Year 1730, which must now appear to have had as little Effect as the former, if the Facts charged in the Petitions now before us shall, upon Examination, be found true.
'After having thus stated the Case in its proper and true Light, I must take notice, Sir, that when we go into a Committee upon this Affair, the first Thing we enquire into, is, to know whether the Facts, as represented in the Petitions, are true; for which Purpose we must examine the Petitioners, and such Witnesses, or other Vouchers, as they shall please to bring or lay before us. This we must certainly do; but when we have done this, we shall have heard only one Side of the Question; for, surely the Spaniards have some Pretence for what they have done, or something to say in their own Vindication. As there is no War, nor has been for several Years, between the two Nations, they would not certainly have seized any one Ship belonging to British Subjects, without some Pretence for so doing; and from the Wisdom, the Penetration, and the Courage of our present Ministers, I must conclude, that those Pretences were such as carried some Shew or Colour of Reason; because if it had been otherwise, I am convinced, our Ministers would have advised declaring War against them long before this Time. These Pretences therefore we must examine into, before we can come to any proper or just Resolutions with respect to this Affair; and these Pretences we cannot examine into without having before us all the Letters, Memorials, and other Papers, that have passed between the two Courts upon this Subject.
'If the Facts set forth in the Petitions be found to be true, and exactly as represented; and if the Pretences made use of by the Spaniards for treating our Merchants and Seamen in such a thievish and barbarous Manner, be found to be frivolous and groundless; the next Thing we are to inquire into, is, how it comes that no Satisfaction has yet been obtained, and what Prospect we now have of obtaining Satisfaction? For in such Cases there are but three Ways of obtaining Satisfaction, which are, either by Negociation, by declaring War, or by a middle Way between these two, I mean that of granting Letters of Marque or Reprisal to such of our Subjects as have been injured. The first we have certainly tried; and if that should be now in such Forwardness as that a proper Satisfaction may, in all Probability, be soon expected, I should be against this House's coming to any Resolution at present, lest it might disturb or interrupt the Course of that Negotiation; but this we cannot enquire into, without having before us those Letters, Memorials, and other Papers, that have lately, or indeed those that have last passed between the two Courts upon this Subject. In this Case, I say, Sir, I should be against our coming to any present Resolution; but if it should appear, that we have now no Hopes of obtaining Satisfaction or Security in a peaceable Manner, I must think it would be very proper for us to inquire into what Prospect we ever had of obtaining Redress by Way of Negotiation; for considering that our Negotiations for this Purpose have continued, or at least ought to have continued, for above these twenty Years, I cannot but be of Opinion, that we have been bamboozled with fair Promises; and in that Case I do not know but it may be thought proper to inquire into the Nature of those Promises, in order to know whether they were such as a prudent Man ought to have depended on; because if they were of such a Nature, or so often broken, as that no prudent Man would have depended on them, I am sure it ought to stir up the Resentment of this Nation against some other Persons, as well as against the Spaniards. This likewise is a Piece of Knowledge which we cannot come at, without having before us all those Letters, Memorials, and other Papers, that have passed between the two Courts, relating to the Depredations, Insults, and Cruelties now complained of.
'I think I have now shewn, Sir, that we cannot seriously and thoroughly examine into the Grievances complained of in the Petitions now before us, or come to any proper Resolutions for obtaining Redress, without having before us the whole Thread of the Negotiation between Spain and us, relating to the Depredations committed by the Subjects of Spain upon those of Great-Britain; but before I make any Motion for this Purpose, I must beg leave to observe, that this very Affair has occasioned many Complaints among our People, not only against the Spaniards, but against our present Administration. Those Merchants and Seamen who have been plundered and abused, and have been at so much Trouble, and so great an Expence of Time and Money, in applying for Redress both at the Court of Great Britain, and, by Encouragement and Recommendation from thence, at the Court of Spain, are apt to think, that both the Honour and Interest of their Country lie neglected and forgot. Nay, this Opinion prevails too much, not only among those who are the Sufferers, but also among their Friends and Acquaintance, and I am afraid, among all those who have heard or read of these often-repeated Depredations. This Opinion not only renders our People discontented with our Administration, but, what is of much worse Consequence, it may render our People disaffected towards his Majesty and his illustrious Family; and it must be confessed, that Gentlemen who are no way acquainted with the Secrets of our publick Transactions for several Years past, do not well know what to say to those who thus complain, or how to make an Excuse for the many Losses, Disappointments, and Delays our Merchants have met with.
'This Inability which most Gentlemen in the Kingdom are under, must be a real Grief to all those who have a true Regard for his Majesty, or for the Royal Family. This, Sir, of: itself is, in my Opinion, a sufficient Argument for Genlemen's being desirous to examine into the late Negociations, that have passed between Spain and us. I hope every Gentleman will from thence see, that every thing has been done for obtaining Satisfaction for past Injuries, and Security against future, that could be done by a wise King and a disinterested Administration. From thence every Gentleman will be able to give a satisfactory Answer to all those who think they have Reason to complain; by which Means, Disaffection will be prevented, and those Discontents, which I am afraid fall heavily at present upon our own Administration, will then, I hope, be all converted into a just Resentment against the Shuffling, and repeated Breaches of Faith, which the Spaniards have been guilty of. This, I say, Sir, will, I hope, be the Consequence of having these Papers laid before us; but whatever may be the Consequence with respect to those who have been entrusted with our Administration, I am sure every Gentleman will see, and from thence will be able to convince others, that his Majesty has all along acted the most prudent Part, according to the Information he has had from Time to Time; which will of Course remove every Ground of Disaffection; and this is what, I am sure, the Majority of this House have chiefly, if not solely, at Heart; for the Majority of this House will, I hope, always have a much greater Concern for vindicating the Honour of their Sovereign, than for screening or concealing the Faults of any of his Ministers, either abroad or at home.
'In full Confidence of this, Sir, I presume the Motion I am to make will be unanimously agreed to, and therefore I shall add no more, but move:
"That an humble Addreses be presented to his Majesty; that he would be graciously pleased to give Directions for laying before the House Copies or Extracts of the several Petitions, Representations, Memorials, and all other Papers relating to the Spanish Depredations upon the British Subjects; which had been presented to his Majesty, or delivered to either of his Majesty's principal Secretaries of State since Midsummer last; together with Copies, or Extracts of such Memorials or Representations, as had been made either to the King of Spain or his Ministers; and the Answers returned by them to the same; and together with Copies, or Extracts of the Letters written to his Majesty's Minister at Madrid, with the Answers received from him relating to the said Depredations."
This Motion being seconded by Mr. Alderman Perry, Sir Robert Walpole rose, and spoke to the following Purpose:
Sir R. Walpole.
'I do not stand up to oppose the honourable Gentleman's Motion, because there are many Papers have passed between the Courts of Great-Britain and Spain, relating to the Subject of Complaint now before you, which it may be proper for the Committee to see; but there are certainly some which you ought not as yet to call for; and therefore I must think the Motion rather too general and extensive; for tho' we have a full and unlimited Power of addressing for whatever we may think proper, yet we ought never to desire any Thing but what the Crown may probably be able to comply with, without doing an Injury to the publick Affairs of the Nation.
'I am sure it cannot be supposed, Sir, that I have any Objection, on my own particular Account, against calling for any Letters, Memorials, or other Papers, that have been contrived and drawn up by the Court of Spain: I am no Minister at that Court, nor can it be said that I have the least Influence on any of their Councils; and therefore I cannot be made to answer for any Step they have been pleased to take, relating to the Thing now before us. If I had had the least Influence on any of their Councils, I am sure I would have advised them, even for their own Sakes, to have observed a very different Sort of Conduct with respect to this Nation. In my Opinion, if the Spaniards were governed by prudent Councils, if their publick Affairs were under the Management of those who had nothing else in View but the true Interest of that Kingdom, they would find it as much their Interest to avoid picking Quarrels with us, as it is our Interest to avoid picking any Quarrel with them. They would have long since found, and they may probably at last find, to their Cost, that their own Proverb will always hold true, 'Peace with England, and War with all the World besides.' This has long ago become a Sort of Proverb in the Spanish Language, and will always be found to be a just and a prudent Maxim; for it is the Interest of both Nations to be well with one another; but Nations have often the Misfortune to be governed by those, who have nothing less in View than the Interest of that Country they govern.
'For this Reason, Sir, every Gentleman must allow, that a War with Spain ought to be avoided if possible; and as his Majesty has not as yet told us, that he has given over all Hopes of obtaining Redress by Negociation, we ought to take no Step, nor call for any Paper, that may render ineffectual, or perhaps put an intire Stop to all future Negociation. We cannot suppose that any Step taken by this House; or any Paper laid before us, can be kept a Secret, because there are generally great Numbers of Persons present, besides those who have a Right to be here. This, I say, can never be supposed; and therefore it has always been observed as a Rule in our Proceedings, never to call for any Paper relating to an Affair then in Agitation. The last Memorial or Answer from Spain is a Paper of this Nature: It arrived but on Saturday last; and, I believe, I may venture to acquaint the House, that it is far from being satisfactory; but if kept private, and no violent Measures taken in the mean Time, it may be explained so as to render it satisfactory, by which means an open Rupture will be prevented: Whereas, if it should be laid before this House, it may inflame the Nation, or even this House, so much, as to hurry us into some violent Measures; and even suppose we should be able to govern our Resentment, yet the rendering it publick, which would certainly be the Consequence of laying it before us, might make the Court of Spain think their Honour concerned in adhering peremptorily to the Terms of this Answer, without giving such Explanations as they might otherwise in prudence be induced to give.
'I shall most readily agree, Sir, that our Merchants and Seamen have been often treated most unjustly and most inhumanly by the Spanish Guarda Costas, and that both the Honour and Interest of the Nation are deeply concerned in obtaining Reparation for past Injuries, and a proper Security against being exposed to any such in Time to come; but we certainly ought not to have Recourse to Arms as long as there is any Prospect of obtaining Redress in a peaceable Manner. It is without Doubt a very popular Way of arguing, to talk highly of the Honour, the Courage, and the superior Power of this Nation; and, I believe, I have as good an Opinion of the Honour, Courage, and Power of this Nation, as any Man can, or ought to have; but other Nations must be supposed to have Honour as well as we, and all Nations generally have a great Opinion of their Courage, and Power. If we should come to an open Rupture with Spain, we might in all Probability have the Advantage; but Victory and Success do not always attend upon that Side which seems to be the most powerful; there fore an open Rupture, or declared War, between two potent Nations, must always be allowed to be an Affair of the utmost Importance to both; and as this may be the Consequence of our present Deliberations, we ought to proceed with great Coolness, and with the utmost Caution.
Prudence and Pusillanimity, Sir, are two Words which are easily understood in private Life; but in publick Life, and in national Affairs, it is not so easy to sorm proper Ideas for these two Words, and to determine the exact Boundaries between them. If a private Man should think his Honour injured, he may, he ought to resent it immediately; because, as he has nothing but his own Life to lose, his own Opinion is a good and a sufficient Reason for putting it to the Venture: But in national Quarrels the Lives of many Thousands are concerned; and those who are to deliberate and determine in what Manner, or how soon, an Injury ought to be resented, are generally those whose Lives, in Case of a Rupture, will be the last of being brought into Danger. For this Reason, they ought not to depend so much on their own Opinion; nor ought they to insist upon such Punctilio's as may be insisted on in private Life. They ought to consider the Circumstances of both Nations, and they ought to weigh thoroughly the probable Consequences; for it may sometimes be the Interest of a Nation to pocket an Affront, or at least to defer their Resentment, till they find a more proper Opportunity for taking Vengeance. This is what we cannot be competent Judges of, even though we had all the Papers now moved for before us; because from them we could not guess how we stand with respect to the other Powers of Europe. We could not from thence know, but that our coming to an immediate Rupture with Spain might unite several Powers against us; and, in that Case, surely, it would be Madness in us to call for any Paper, or to make any Step, which might hasten that Rupture.
'From this Consideration it must appear, Sir, that even with respect to a Nation, whose Friendship we have no Reason to be fond of, it may not at all Times be proper to shew an immediate Resentment; but with respect to a Nation whose Friendship we have Reason to be fond of, and not only a Nation we ought to endeavour to be well with, but likewise a Nation whose real Interest it is to cultivate a Friendship with us, we certainly ought not to be quick in shewing our Resentment, upon every Misunderstanding that may happen between us. If such a Nation should be hurried into wrong Measures with respect to us, either by the particular Circumstances they happen to be in, or perhaps, by weak or treacherous Councils, there may be many Reasons for our delaying to shew a proper Resentment; because the Circumstances they are in may alter, or they may come to be governed by more prudent or more upright Councils, in which Case they will court a Reconciliation, and for that Purpose will be glad to make us all the Reparation they have in their Power. This will certainly be the Case with Spain, as soon as they begin to consider seriously, and to pursue solely that which is the true Interest of the Spanish Nation in general. The present Misunderstandings between us, would then be easily and speedily removed; whereas if we should hurry ourselves into a War with that Nation, the Violences, Rapines, and Massacrees, which would be committed on both Sides, might establish a Sort of national Enmity and Hatred between the People of the two Kingdoms, which both Courts, if they were never so well inclined to each other, might find difficult to remove for many Years after.
'For this Reason, Sir, we ought to avoid as much as possible coming to an open Rupture with that Nation in particular; and, therefore, I do not know any great Necessity there is for our calling for any Papers; for I do not think we can come to any Resolution upon the present Occasion, except that of addressing his Majesty to take those Measures which he may, in his great Wisdom, think most prudent and necessary, for obtaining Redress to his injured Subjects. I hope no Gentleman will think, that this House ought to declare War against Spain, or that we ought to advise his Majesty to declare War, till he applies to us for our Advice upon that Head. Such a Proceeding would not only be an Incroachment upon one of the most certain Prerogatives of the Crown, but it would likewise be a Sign of great Rashness and Imprudence; for no Man can prudently give his Advice for declaring War, without knowing the whole System of the Affairs of Europe as they stand at present, and how the several Potentates of Europe now stand affected towards one another. It is not the Power of Spain, and the Power of this Nation only; that we ought in such a Case to consider and compare: We ought likewise to know what Allies our Enemies may have, and what Assistance we may expect from our Friends; neither of which we can know from the Papers now moved to be called for, if they were all laid before us; therefore we must leave it entirely to his Majesty, to take the most prudent Measures for obtaining Redress; and, when his Majesty finds that no peaceable Measures will prevail, he will without doubt apply to this House for Advice as well as Assistance; and, will then certainly give the House all the Information that may be necessary for giving us a full View of our Circumstances both abroad and at home.
'From what I have said, Sir, I hope Gentlemen will be of Opinion, that we can come to no Resolution upon the present Occasion, but that of addressing his Majesty in much the same Terms this House has heretofore done upon a like Occasion; and this, I am convinced, every Gentleman will think we may do, without having before us any of the Answers from the Court of Spain, especially that which arrived only on Saturday last. There is, therefore, not the least Occasion for our calling for that Paper; if we do, we may have Reason to repent it; but, I am sure we can never have Occasion to repent our not calling for it; because, we may hereafter have that, and every other Paper relating to the Affair now in Hand, laid before us; and, if any of his Majesty's Ministers, either abroad or at home, have been to blame, or have injured the Nation by their Ignorance or Neglect, or by any criminal Step, in the Course of these Negociations, it will then appear; and the Person guilty may be punished according as the House shall then see just; for no one of his Majesty's Ministers either does, or can expect to have his Failing skreened or concealed by a British House of Commons; I hope no one of them has any Occasion for such Skreening or Concealment.
'As for the Discontents that may be in the Nation, on Account of the Depredations committed by the Spaniards, I cannot think that any of them are directed against the Administration; I am sure they cannot with any Justice be so directed; and therefore, I am convinced, that none of them are so directed by any Person who is not disaffected to his Majesty, as well as discontented with the Administration. But I hope most of them are levelled where they ought only to be levelled; I mean against the Spaniards, who have been guilty of, or have connived at, those Depredations; for even from the Papers we have already seen, I must be of Opinion, that our Ministers, both abroad and at home, have been at as much Pains as it was possible for them to be at, and have used all proper Means for convincing the Court of Spain of their Error, and for prevailing with them to make full Reparation. This, I say, I am convinced of from the Papers now upon our Table, which in my Opinion may furnish any willing Mind with Matter sufficient, not only for vindicating his Majesty's Government from any Aspersion that may be cast upon it by the Disaffected, but also for vindicating the Measures pursued by the Administration. With respect to his Majesty's Government, tho' there are some without Doors who, for the Sake of spreading Disaffection, are ready to impute the most casual Misfortunes, to some Fault or Neglect in his Government; yet I am sure there is no Gentlemen within Doors, who will not be ready to vindicate it upon every Occasion; but with respect to the Administration, I cannot say so much: I am afraid there are some within Doors as well as without, who are not very willing to vindicate it upon any Occasion, and who upon most Occasions are even unwilling to admit of those Excuses, which the Administration may justly lay claim to.
'As I do not oppose calling for any Papers, in which our Administration can be supposed to have a Concern, I hope, what I have said, Sir, will have the more Weight. If I opposed calling for any Papers that have been penned or advised by any of our Ministers, it might perhaps be suspected that my Opposition proceeded from some selfish End, in order to prevent an Enquiry into my own Conduct, or into the Conduct of some of my Friends; but as I oppose calling for some of those Papers only, which have been penned and advised by the Ministers of Spain, I cannot think my Opposition will be liable to any such Suspicion; I hope it will be thought, I have nothing but the Good of my Country in View. I really think, and I protest I speak it sincerely, I say, I really think it inconsistent with the Interest of the Nation, to call for any Paper so lately arrived, as the last Dispatch which came from the Court of Spain to this Court. It may be attended with terrible Consequences, not only in the Case now before us, but in many future Cases, because it will be a dangerous Precedent for all Time to come. Who knows, Sir, should we make a Precedent of this, but that a future House of Commons may assume to themselves a Power of calling for Papers during the Dependance of a Negociation; and if this should ever come to be our Case, I am sure no foreign Prince or State will ever enter into any secret Negociation or Treaty with our Government, the Consequences of which I shall leave to every Gentleman to form to himself a Notion of; for they are beyond what I can pretend to express.
'I am far from thinking, Sir, that a Negative ought to be put upon the Motion the honourable Gentleman has been pleased to make; but from what I have said, I hope even he himself will be convinced, that his Motion ought to be confined, and that therefore he will agree to the Amendment I am to propose; for in the Affair now before us, it will be a great Advantage to the Nation, and therefore I wish, that we may proceed in every Step with the greatest Concord and Unanimity. The Amendment I propose is, That those Words which relate to the answers from Spain may be all left out; and in that Case the latter Part of the Motion will run thus: 'Together with Copies or Extracts of such Memorials or Representations, as had been made, either to the King of Spain, or his Ministers; and of the Letters written to his Majesty's Minister at Madrid relating to the said Depredations.'
Mr. Pulteney spoke next.
'The Motion made by my honourable Friend over the Way, is not only so just in itself, but so much calculated for vindicating the Conduct of the honourable Gentleman who spoke last, that I wonder to hear him oppose calling for any Papers, or any one Paper, that can be supposed to have the least Relation to the Subject of Complaint now under our Consideration. If I were to advise him, and I speak it with the utmost Sincerity, I would advise him, for his own Sake, as well as for the Sake of the Nation, to advise laying the Affair fully before the Parliament, in order to have the Advice of Parliament upon such an important Occasion. We have in this Kingdom several Councils; we have a Privy Council; a Cabinet Council; and, for what I know, a more secret and less numerous Council still, by which the other two are directed: But the Parliament is his Majesty's great and chief Council: It is the Council which all Ministers ought, both for their own Sakes and their Masters, to advise his Majesty to consult with, upon every Affair of great Weight and Importance; for, from all our Histories we shall find, that those Kings have been the most happy and glorious, who have often consulted with their Parliaments; and that those Ministers have always gone through their Administration with the greatest Ease and Applause, and have divested themselves of their Power with the greatest Safety to themselves, which seldom happens to any but those who have advised their Masters to depend chiefly upon the Advice of their Parliaments.
'In our Privy Council, Sir, in our Cabinet Council, and in any more secret Council, if there be any such, the honourable Gentleman may be supposed to have a Sway; nay, it may be even suspected that he has, under his Majesty, the chief Direction of each; and therefore he may, some Time hereafter, be made to answer for their Determinations; but it cannot be suspected that he has the Direction of either House of Parliament, nor are we to presume that he has any other Sway in this House, but that which proceeds either from the Solidity and Strength of his Arguments, or from his superior Art of Persuasion: For which Reason he can never be made to answer for any Resolution of Parliament, or for any Thing that is done pursuant to the Advice of Parliament. In all Cases therefore he ought to be fond of having the Advice, or at least the Approbation, of an independant and free Parliament; but more particularly in a Case such as the present, where the most prudent Councils may not be always attended with the wished-for Success. In such Cases, I say, more particularly, he ought in common Prudence to chuse and desire, that his Conduct should proceed from the Advice and the Resolutions of Parliament; because, whatever may be the Event, he cannot be made to answer for our Conduct, nor can he be blamed even by those who judge of Things only by the Event, which is the Case of the greatest Part of Mankind, in this as well as every other Country.
'I am very sensible, Sir, the honourable Gentleman is no Minister in Spain; I believe he has but very little, if any direct Influence upon that Court; and I am sorry it is so, because if he had any Power over their Councils, I find he would have advised them to have acted in a very different Manner towards us, and in a Manner more consonant to their own Honour and Interest as well as ours: But yet I would not have him to depend so much upon his never being brought to answer for any of those Memorials or Answers, that have been drawn up, or any of the Measures that have been pursued by the Court of Spain, because both might, and, I believe, did very much depend upon the Memorials or Representations we sent them, and the Measures we pursued; and if by any Fault or Mistake in our Conduct, they have been induced to send us wrong or evasive Answers, or to pursue Measures that were contrary to the Honour or the Interest of this Nation, those who were the Authors and Advisers of our Conduct towards them, may justly be made to answer for their Conduct towards us; especially as no Part of our past Conduct can be said to have proceeded from the Advice, or from the Resolutions of Parliament. When I say this, Sir, I would not have it thought, that I intend to blame any Part of our late Conduct towards Spain, or to charge any Gentleman with having been the Author and Adviser of that Conduct. This is what neither I nor any Gentleman can do, till he has fully and thoroughly enquired into the Affair now before us, and particularly the Papers now called for.
'The Interests of Trade and our Situation, Sir, makes a Friendship betwixt this Nation and the Crown of Spain, to be wished for by every honest Englishman, and by every true Spaniard; but, Sir, if we have neglected to cultivate a Friendship with that Nation, or if it should be found, that we have even wilfully or causelelly disobliged them, for the Sake of cultivating a Friendship with other Nations, whose Friendship can never be of any great Service, but has been still found ruinous to this Nation, or for the Sake of encouraging or protecting a particular Set of Men amongst ourselves, I believe it will be generally agreed, that the Authors and Advisers of such a Conduct, ought to be enquired after by, and ought to fall under the Censure of, a British Parliament: I believe every Man will likewise agree, that we cannot in Justice expect Reparation till we are ready to give it; and that, if we were the first to offend, we ought to be the first to offer an Attonement. I am far from thinking that this is the Case, but I am sure it will be allowed, that it may; and surely, this House can come to no Resolution, with respect to the Affair before us, till we know whether this be the Case or not. Now, I would be glad to know, how it is possible for us to determine, whether this be the Case or not, till we have seen all the Memorials, Answers, and other Papers, drawn up by the Court of Spain upon this Head; for, from these, and these only, we can acquire a sufficient Knowledge of the Demands they have upon us, or the Complaints they make against us.
'Tis true, Sir, we cannot presume that any Paper laid before this House can be long kept a Secret, nor can we tell whether the last Answer from Spain be a Paper which ought to be kept secret. The hon. Gentleman has been pleased to tell us, it is far from being satisfactory; but if I have been rightly informed, it is something more than dissatisfactory; I have been told it may even in some Measure be called Menacing and Insulting. I shall be glad to find I have been misinsormed. I hope it is, as the honourable Gentleman says, such a one as may admit of an Explanation. But I am sure, if a Negociation of twenty Years has not been able to procure a satisfactory answer, or proper Explanations, it is high Time for us to take other Measures; and, no Measure can be more effectual than an explicit and strong Resolution of a British Parliament. Such a Resolution has always hitherto had a great Effect upon the Councils of most States in the World, especially such as have any Territories bordering upon our Dominion in the Ocean: I hope it will still have the same Effect; for whatever little Divisions may be amongst us, with respect to our own domestick Affairs, I am convinced those Divisions will never prevent our shewing a firm Resolution of being unanimous against any foreign Power, that shall dare to encroach upon or insult us. Upon such Occasions, I hope, we will always shew ourselves as ready to support the Honour of our King, as he is to support the Interest and just Rights of his People.
'It may, Sir, have been generally observed as a Rule in Parliament, not to enquire into any foreign Affair while it is upon the Anvil; but, even this Rule is not without Exception, especially if any Affair should be continued too long upon the Anvil; for its being so, may be a good Reason for a parliamentary Enquiry. But, after either House of Parliament has resolved to enquire into any Affair, foreign or domestick, was it ever pretended, that they ought not to call for every Paper necessary for giving them a full Light into that Affair? Does not every one know, that it has always been, and always must be, the Custom of this House, when any Affair is, according to Order, to come before us, to call for all Papers which we can suppose to have any Relation to that Affair? In such Cases, if among the Papers called for, there be any which ought not, for the Sake of publick Good, to be exposed to publick View, it is the Business of the Crown to tell us so; but, this is an Answer we ought not to take from any of our own Members, let him know ever so much of the Secret of Affairs. That, Sir, is a Knowledge I don't envy him for; but I speak as a Member of this House, and therefore say that no Gentleman can take upon him to dictate what Papers are proper, and what are unproper for our Inspection. The Answer last arrived from Spain is certainly a Paper which relates to the Affair we have resolved to enquire into; it is, in my Opinion, the most principal Paper, and a Paper without which we cannot come to any proper Resolutions; therefore we certainly ought to call for it; and, if it be of such a Nature as that it ought not yet to be made publick, his Majesty, in his Answer, will certainly tell us so. When his Majesty has told us. so, we may then consider, whether it may not be proper for us to put off an Enquiry into this Affair, till we can have a Sight of that Paper; but, till we have such an Answer from the Crown, and from the Crown only it is that this House can take such an Answer, there cannot, in my Opinion, be any Colour of Reason for our not calling for a Sight of it. What the Answer from the Crown may be, I shall not pretend to guess at; but I must say, I cannot at present suggest to myself any one Reason for thinking that Answer of such a Nature, as that it may not be safely communicated to this House. If it be merely dissatisfactory, it can neither inflame nor hurry us into any violent Measures; and, if it be menacing or insulting, it ought to be exposed for that very Purpose. In private Life, a Man may be my Friend, and may have been so for many Years; but, if once he begins to menace or insult, from that Moment he ceases to be so; and, nothing but an abject, sordid Spirit, will patiently submit to such Treatment, for the Sake of any self-interested View whatever.
'There is therefore, I think, Sir, not the least Foundation for being afraid, lest our Resentment should be stirred up beyond its just Bounds, by that Paper's being laid before us; and, us for the Honour of the Court of Spain, I with some Gentlemen may not have had both formerly and of late too great a Regard for it: I wish they may not have sacrificed some of the most substantial Points of English Honour, to some of the most romantick Punctilio's of Spanish Honour. For my Part, I shall always think, that, in national Affairs, as well as in private Life, even the Punctilio's of Honour ought to be insisted on, when we have to do with those who, on their Parts, do insist upon them; for then they become material. But, Sir, as I shall always have a much greater Regard for the Honour of this Nation, than for that of any other, if the Court of Spain, or any other Court in Europe, should entertain such whimsical Notions of their Honour, as might prevent their doing Justice to us, I should think it inconsistent with the Honour of this Nation, not to take such Measures as might be proper for giving them different Notions, both of their own Honour and of the Justice that is due to us.
'I am as much averse, Sir, to the involving of this Nation in a War, especially with Spain, as any Gentleman can be; and therefore, notwithstanding the many Injuries and Insults we have suffered, I am against coming to an open Rupture, if there be any reasonable Hopes left of obtaining a proper Redress in a peaceable Manner; but, for God's sake, Sir, when are these Hopes to be at an End? In this Respect, I am sure, it cannot be said, but that we have already hoped sufficiently; we have hoped, and hoped, and hoped again; but, by what yet appears, we have, I think, hitherto hoped in vain. What if we should now put a Period to our pacifick Hopes, and begin to put on other Hopes, I mean those of acting such a Part as may become a brave but injured People: It is true, that Means may be fallen upon to disappoint even those Hopes. Nay, Sir, it is certain that no Nation can be assured of Success, even in the justest Quarrel, and supported with the greatest Force; but will this Uncertainty ever be a Reason with any brave Man, or powerful Nation, to bear tamely with repeated Injuries and Insults? When there is a just Cause for War, we ought certainly to take all prudent and necessary Measures for securing Victory on our Side, and when we have done so, we must trust the Event to Providence. Now, Sir, I should be glad to know, whether, in our Deliberations on this Affair we are to enquire what reasonable Hopes we may have of obtaining Redress in a peaceable Manner; because, if this be one of the Points that is to fall under our Consideration, and that it is, I can hardly think any Gentleman will seriously deny, it is absolutely impossible for us to determine this Question, without seeing the last Answer from Spain; and therefore, it is absolutely necessary for us to call for that Answer in particular, if we are seriously resolved to make a thorough Enquiry into this Affair, and to come to such Resolutions as may be worthy of a British Parliament.
'Prudence and Pusillanimity, Sir, in private Life, is what every Gentleman well knows to be widely different, and even with Respect to national Affairs, are not Words of such an intricate or unintelligible Nature but that they may be understood by Parliaments as well as Ministers. Even a Parliament may avoid Pusillanimity, without running into rash or precipitate Measures; and if our Cabinett, or any other of our private Councils, have been guilty of Pasillanimity, our Parliament may correct it by their Prudence. The Wisdom of Parliament, is the Wisdom of the Nation; and in all national Affairs of great Importance, surely the Wisdom of the Nation ought to be consulted. We are not to conclude, that such a Step must necessarily and unavoidably throw us into a War; and much less are we to conclude, that the laying of this last Answer, or any Answer, from Spain, will necessarily produce such an Effect. On the contrary, a strict Parliamentary Enquiry into this Affair, may prevent an open Rupture. The Court of Spain, if it is in the Wrong; will then see we are serious; they will from thence conclude, we are no longer to be dallied with, and may probably shew more Respect to the Interposition of Parliament, than they have ever shewed to the Negotiations of our Ministers. If they are not in the Wrong, which may be the Case; for tho' they have certainly done us many and great Injuries, yet their having done so, may, for what we know, proceed from our having first done Injuries to them; and their refusing or delaying to make Reparation to us, may proceed from our refusing or delaying to make, or so much as to offer, any Reparation to them: If this be the Case, if our Ministers have been guilty of any Misconduct or unjust Obstinacy in this Respect, which I am far from suspecting they have, we cannot expect that they will immediately, and of themselves, acknowledge their Error, and change their Conduct; but whatever Faults they may have this Way been guilty of, will certainly, upon a proper Enquiry, be rectified by the Resolutions of Parliament; so that by laying this Affair fully before Parliament, a War may be prevented, which would otherwise be unavoidable; but without a thorough Enquiry into the Disputes between Spain and us from first to last, we cannot discover whether our Ministers have been guilty of any Misconduct or unjust Obstinacy, and consequently can come to no proper Resolutions for rectifying their Mistakes; and I am sure, without seeing every Paper that has passed between the Court relating to these Disputes, we can make no thorough Enquiry.'
The next who spoke on the same Side was Lord Polwarth:
'My honourable Friend has so fully opened the Reasonableness of the present Motion, and so clearly answered the Right honourable Gentleman over the Way, that I am persuaded I need to say very little.
'It is very true, Sir, as the Right honourable Gentleman seems to insinuate, that we cannot guess from the Papers now called for, how the other Powers of Europe stand affected towards us, or what Assistance either we or the Spaniards might expect from any of them, in Case of an open Rupture between the two Nations. But as the Disputes between Spain and us, have been depending for above these 20 Years; as the Obstinacy of the Court of Spain has been very great, and as the Interests which we have depending upon a satisfactory Accommodations of these Differences are very great; we cannot but suppose, from the known Wisdom and Foresight of his Majesty's Ministers, that Care has been taken, by proper Treaties and Alliances, and by the many Negotiations we have lately carried on, to provide and secure to us all the Assistance we may stand in need of, or at least to prevent any other Power in Europe from endeavouring to support our Enemies, in any unjust Measures they may have been guilty of towards us. But suppose it were otherwise, which I am sure no Gentleman will willingly suppose; are our Merchants to be plundered, and our Seamen cruelly used, for many Years together in the Time of profound Peace? Are they to come frequently to Parliament with Complaints of such Treatment? And is a British Parliament always to content itself with presenting an humble Address to the Throne, praying that his Majesty would use his Endeavours, for obtaining Satisfaction to his injured Subjects?
'Sir, This would be inconsistent with the Honour and the Duty of Parliament. In the Case of a domestick Grievance, if the Parliament should address to have it removed, and if, several Years after, a Petition should be brought to Parliament, representing that notwithstanding their Address, the Grievance remained, and was more heavy and frequent than before; what then would be the Business and Duty of Parliament? Would not they be in Honour obliged to enquire, how it came that the Grievance was not removed, to enquire at whose Door the Fault lay, and to punish those who had been guilty? With Respect to any foreign Grievance, our Duty is the same. The Grievances, the Injuries now complained of, and so often before complained of, are such as no Nation ought patiently to suffer, if there be any Way of redressing them, either by fair or foul Means; and if there be no Way of redressing them, if by any Misconduct the Nation be brought into such a melancholy State, that we must suffer them, which God forbid! the Parliament ought to enquire into the Affair, if not to find a Remedy, at least to punish those who have made our Case remediless. Therefore I must think it incumbent upon us, to proceed now a little further. We have twice already addressed for having this Grievance removed: It is now high Time for us to enquire, how it comes that it has not been removed: But if we should be so good-natured as to rest satisfied with presenting a third humble Address, surely that Address ought to be in different Terms from any of the former. I shall not pretend to tell what we ought to do, or in what Terms we ought to address, nor can any Gentleman pretend to tell, till he has seen and deliberately examined every Paper relating to this Affair.
'The honourable Gentleman over the Way seemed to be in a mighty Panick, as if we could not agree to this Motion without breaking with Spain. For my Part, Sir, I have very few Apprehensions of that Kind: Not that I should wish, that we were to plunge ourselves inconsiderately into a War with Spain: But, I believe, the Court of Spain knows too well the Way to prevent Things coming to an open Rupture. They at the same Time know what the Consequence of going to War with us at present might probably be. Therefore, Sir, tho' we were to see these Papers, and to come to some vigorous Resolutions, I am afraid they might, by a few fine glossing Overtures, bring us to treat again, and then we should be just where we are now. But, Sir, let us suppose that we should go to War; yet I do not foresee any bad Consequences for the Nation, for a just and casual War never produces a settled Enmity between two Nations: Nothing but a perpetual Clashing of national Interests, can produce such a one; and even tho' a War should produce such an Enmity, it will always be more for the Interest, as well as Honour, of this Nation, that the People of Spain should hate and fear us, than that they and every other Nation in the World should contemn and despise us.
'I should be extremely sorry, Sir, to think that all those who complain of our long Sufferings, with Respect to the Depredations committed by the Spaniards, are such as are disaffected to his Majesty and his Family: It would be a melancholy and a dreadful Prospect, to every Man who has a true Regard for our present happy Establishment; but I am sure they are not. I know many of them, who would venture their Lives and Fortunes for the Support of our present Establishment, with as much Alacrity as they would venture them in revenging the Insults, that have been lately put upon us by the Spaniards. Most of those who complain are fully sensible, and most will readily acknowledge, that his Majesty can be no way to blame in this Affair. They know how ready he is, upon every Oceasion, to vindicate the Honour of his Crown, or assert the just Rights of his Subjects; but I doubt much if any of these People will make the same Acknowledgments with respect to all his Majesty's Ministers. Who are to blame, or what way they are to blame, those who complain do not know, nor can I tell them, till I see the Papers now called for; but considering the Power of this Nation, when compared with that of Spain, and considering the many Opportunities we have lately had, for obtaining or compelling from Spain a full Satisfaction and Security, every Man concludes, that some Persons amongst ourselves must be to blame, for our having so long and so patiently submitted to such Indignities. If the honourable Gentleman has a Mind to remove all Cause of Suspicion from himself, the best Thing he can do is, not to oppose any Thing that may tend to the clearing up of this Affair; and therefore, I think, if he has any Regard for the Opinion his Countrymen may entertain of him, he ought to withdraw the Amendment he has been pleased to offer, and join with us in calling for the late Answer from Spain, as well as every other Memorial or Answer they have sent us upon the same Subject.
'What may be in the Papers relating to this Affair, which are now upon our Table, or what Justification any Gentleman in the Administration may expect from any of them, I do not know; for, I neither have been at the Pains to examine them strictly, nor shall be at any such Pains, till the Whole be laid before us; and, I hope, the honourable Gentleman will not think, that this Neglect or Indolence in me, proceeds from any Unwillingness to vindicate him or any other Gentlemen concerned in these Transactions; but really from an Opinion, that I cannot make myself Master of the Affair, or pass any Judgment relating to it, till the Whole be laid before the House; and, when that is done, I can assure him, I shall be extremely glad, tho' I must say, I shall be a little surprized; to find, that we have been guilty of no Mistake or Blunder, in this long, tedious, and perplexed Negociation. If this should be the Case, it must be allowed, that, if we have not, within these twenty Years, added much to our Character of Fighting, for which we were always famous, we have acquired a new Character, for which we were never famous, I mean, that of being cunning Negociators, and cautious Treaty makers; this at least is some Comfort to the Nation; and if our long Negociations with the Court of Spain have been carried on with the Firmness, the Resolution, and the Prudence, which so delicate, so material, an Affair required, I shall then congratulate the honourable Gentleman upon the new Honour the Nation has acquired by his Means, or by the Means of some of his Friends. However, Sir, I cannot help thinking it somewhat suspicious, that none of the right honourable Gentleman's Friends have attempted to vindicate his and their own Conduct from the Papers lying upon our Table, since they seem to think it would be very easy to do it. This I think would be of very great Service to him; and I am sure it cannot be said, he wants Friends, who have Hearts to undertake, and Heads to execute such a Design, in the most elegant, the most polite, and the most convincing Manner.
'Upon the Whole, Sir, there is nothing can contribute more to the Good of the Nation, nothing can so effectually prevent our being obliged to come to an open Rupture, as our shewing that we are unanimous, and peremptorily resolved to be at the Bottom of our present Disputes with Spain, and to put an immediate End to them, either by the Pens of our Ministers, or the Mouths of our Cannon. If we begin, in the very first Step, with mincing the Matter, and seeming to be afraid, lest we should disoblige the Court of Spain, by any Resolution we may come to, no Man either abroad or at home will believe we are serious, nor will the Court of Spain think of making any new Offers, or giving plain and explicit Answers. Therefore, if there were no Necessity for our seeing the last Answer from Spain; I should be for calling for it, for this Reason only, because it has been moved for.
'The calling for the last Answer from Spain, Sir, or any other Paper relating to the Affair we have agreed to enquire into, is not against any Rule observed in our Proceedings; it can be attended with no present Danger, nor can it be a Precedent of dangerous Consequence in Time to come; because, all those Papers, and the last Answer in particular, are absolutely necessary for the Enquiry we have resolved to make. If Gentlemen indeed will say, that an Inquiry is improper and needless, with all my Heart, let them put it on that Footing; but it would be ridiculous for us to think of enquiring without seeing every Paper that has been sent from the Court of Spain.
'What Interest, Sir, or what private End, the honourable Gentleman, or any of his Friends, may have, or if they have any, for concealing any Memorial or Answer from Spain, I shall not take upon me to determine; but, I have already shewn, that he and his Friends are not absolutely unconcerned, even as to the Papers that have been penned or advised by the Court of Spain; because the Measures of every Court are always influenced by the Measures of others, especially those with whom they negotiate: Therefore, his present Opposition may afford some Suspicion of his being afraid, lest the laying of those Papers before the House should occasion an Enquiry into his Conduct, or into the Conduct of some of his Friends; but, I am far from conceiving any such Suspicion; I hope his Conduct and Behaviour has in this Respect, as well as every other, been so wise and upright, that he fears no impartial Enquiry into his own Conduct; and, I cannot allow myself to think, he would desire to prevent an Enquiry into the Conduct of any of his Friends; because, if they have behaved in the same Manner he has done, an impartial Enquiry into their Conduct would redound to their Honour; and, if any of them have behaved otherwise, I am sure he would scorn to think of endeavouring to skreen the Guilty.
'Having said thus much, Sir, I shall conclude with my carnest Wishes, that the House would agree with my honourable Friend's Motion; indeed I think it will be for the Honour of Parliament, and, I hope, the honourable Gentleman has no private End to serve by opposing the calling for, or even publishing any one of them: Therefore, for the Sake of Unanimity, and for the Sake of persuading the World that we are serious in what we are about, I must hope, he will withdraw the Amendment he has been pleased to offer, and agree to the Motion as it was at first proposed.'
The next that spoke was Horace Walpole, Esq; whose Speech was in Substance as follows, viz.
Horace Walpole, Esq;
'Tho' it would be very reasonable to put off the Consideration of so important an Affair, and so unexpectedly brought before the House, as the present Motion has been, to another Day; yet, as the right honourable Gentleman, who is principally concerned in the Fate of this Question, has made no Motion for that Effect, neither shall I, but proceed to consider what has been advanced by the honourable Gentleman who spoke last against the Amendment. I must say, I am glad to hear the honourable Gentleman who spoke last, acting so much the Part of a Friend towards the honourable Gentleman that spoke before him, as to offer him his sincere Advice. Whatever Advice the honourable Gentleman may be pleased to offer, either upon this or any other Occasion, will always, I am convinced, be gratefully received, and will be of great Weight with my honourable Friend near me; but, in the present Case, I doubt much if his Advice will be taken; I do not, indeed, think it ought. I shall readily grant that in all Cases a Man ought to consult, and have a Regard to his own Safety, and that he ought to chuse that Method of speaking and acting, which will least expose him to Danger; but, in all Matters of a publick Concern, I hope it will be allowed, there is a superior Consideration: The Safety of a Man's Country is what he ought to prefer even to his own Safety; and every Gentleman in this House, especially those Gentlemen who pique themselves upon their Patriotism, will certainly do so upon all Occasions.
'Considering the Uncertainties of War, as well as the Uncertainty of all Events which depend upon foreign Negociations; and, considering how much the Judgment of the inferior Sort, and the Resolutions or Behaviour even of the better Sort, depend upon the Event of Things; I do not know, Sir, but that, if my honourable Friend near me consulted only his own Safety, he would take the Advice that has been given him: He would chuse to have our future Conduct proceed from the Resolutions of Parliament, and would for that End advise laying every Paper relating to the Affair now under our Consideration before Parliament: But if he really thinks, the laying of all those Papers before Parliament, would tend to the Prejudice of his Country, he ought to oppose it, whatever may be the Event of that Opposition with respect to himself; and if, in such a Case, for the Sake of his Country, he runs the Risk of drawing upon himself the Resentment of his Country, it must be allowed, he acts the Part of a true Patriot.
'I know, Sir, the Part which the honourable Gentleman upon the Floor has acted all along in the Difference betwixt Spain and us, to be such as gives him no Room to fear any Discovery to his Disadvantage, from the Papers that have been moved to be laid before us. Therefore, Sir, the right honourable Gentleman's Opposition to this Motion, must proceed from other Motives than personal Fear. I am convinced, Sir, that he is persuaded, that if the least Answer from Spain were laid before us, it would produce Consequences inconsistent with the Peace of Britain: And I own, Sir, that I myself am of the same Opinion; I am of Opinion Sir, that our calling for these Papers is absolutely against the usual Forms of our Proceeding; for I believe there is no Precedent of this House having called for any Paper that relates to a Negociation, while the Event of that Negociation was in Suspence. Therefore, Sir, by our calling for all the Papers relating to this Negociation, we shall in Effect tell the World, that we are of Opinion, that his Majesty's Endeavours to procure an honourable and safe Peace, are disagreeable to the Nation, and contrary to the Sense of Parliament. For, I believe no Nation would publish such Papers with any other View, than that of breaking off all future Conferences upon that Subject; and the State with whom they had been in Negociation, would certainly look upon it as done with that Design, and would therefore resolve not to treat with them any longer in a friendly and peaceable Manner: Therefore, if it be more for the Good of the Nation to have this Affair accommodated in a private and peaceable Manner, than to have recourse to an open and warlike Method, it must be inconsistent with the publick Good to have all the Papers now called for laid before the House.
'Sir, the publishing of all the Answers from Spain, relating to the Affair now before us, would not only be looked upon by them, as done with a Design to break off all future Conferences upon that Subject; but, I believe, it would be looked upon by them as, and would really I think be, a Sort of Declaration of War. The publishing of those Papers, would, in my Opinion, be the same with publishing a Manifesto; for if War were to be declared, and a Manifesto to be published, that Manifesto must be drawn up chiefly from those very Memorials or Answers which are now called for; and I can see no great Difference between publishing a Manifesto, and publishing the Grounds and Reasons upon which it must be founded, if ever it be published. The Design of such a Manifesto, if any such Thing were to be published, would be, to represent in the strongest Light the Insults and Injuries put upon us by the Spaniards, and the Injustice and Frivolousness of the Pretences they made use of, for behaving in such a Manner towards us, or for delaying to give Satisfaction; and this can be done only from the Papers now called for. As for the Insults and Injuries we have suffered, they are already too publick: They have been published, and, I believe, even aggravated, with great Care and Industry; and therefore, those Papers that give an Account of them, may be laid before us without any Danger. But as to the Pretences made use of by Spain, either for justifying those Insults and Injuries, or for delaying to give a full Reparation and Satisfaction, they are not yet publickly known, nor ought they to be made publick, as long as there are any Hopes of getting the Spaniards, by peaceable Means, to pass from the Pretences they now make use of, and to make Satisfaction for past Injuries, as well as to give a proper Security against any such in Time to come. When we can no longer entertain any such Hopes, it will then be Time to publish and expose the Frivolousness of the Pretences they make use of; but this ought to be done only by Way of Manifefto from his Majesty, in order to justify the Force he then finds himself obliged to make use of; and I am sure no Manifesto, nor any thing like a Manifefto, ought to published, till we are prepared to back it with such a formidable Armament, as may be suitable to the Power of this Nation, or necessary for compelling our Enemies to submit to reasonable Terms; otherwise, Sir, we shall appear not only weak, but ridiculous.
'It is very easy, Sir, to talk big, either within Doors or without; and, considering the Spirit of Resentment that has been industriously stirred up in the Nation, I know, it would be mighty popular in us, to come to vigorous Resolutions immediately; but I do not know, if it would be mighty wife. I am sure, it would not be wife, as long as there are any Hopes of obtaining Redress by peaceable Means; and even when we are come to an End of all our Hopes in this Way, we ought not to begin to talk, till we are ready to act. In this we ought to follow the Example of that Sort of Animal which is peculiar to this Island; and therefore I am not ashamed to recommend its Example to my Countrymen: I mean, our brave English Bull Dog, who always seizes upon his Enemy at once, and without making the least Noise before hand. Threatening Speeches, or even threatning Resolutions, are but Words. They are Vox & præterea nibil; and therefore the less they are made use of, the better: But if any such are ever made use of, they ought to be instantly followed with suitable Actions; for if they are not, those who have injnred us, will despise our Menaces, and the whole World will laugh at our Folly.
'When one Nation, Sir, has been insulted or ill-used by another, and no Redress can be obtained by fair Means, it is without Doubt extremely proper, and even necessary, for those who are concerned in the Government of the injured Nation, to publish and set the Injuries they have suffered in the strongest Light. This Method has been always thought adviseable, as it gives the Subject a good Opinion of the Cause, and makes him contribute with Pleasure towards carrying on the War; but this ought not to be done till the Court is both resolved and ready to come to an open Rupture. Now, as those who are concerned in the Government of a Nation are the best, if not the sole Judges, not only of the Time when they ought to resolve, but likewise of the Time when they are ready and prepared to come to an open Rupture; therefore, in my Opinion, they are the only Persons that ought to be allowed to endeavour to stir up what is called a national Resentment. For this Reason, I cannot but think, that some of those Gentlemen who have been lately so busy in stirring up the Resentment of our People against the whole Spanish Nation, have gone a little beyond their Sphere: They have been acting a Part they were no Way qualified for, either by their Knowledge of publick Affairs, or the Station they happened to be in. They have been doing all that they could to involve the Nation in a War, when, for what they knew, we were in a fair Way of obtaining Redress by peaceable Measures; or perhaps, when our Circumstances, neither at home nor abroad, could allow us to come to an open Rupture. In either of which Cases it must be allowed, they have been doing their Country an Injury; for, with respect to the former, if we should have obtained, or should yet obtain Redress by peaceable Measures, they have been doing an Injury to their Country, by endeavouring to stir up and establish among our People, an Enmity to a Nation, with which an honourable Member, who has spoke in this Debate, has owned it is our Interest to be in perpetual Friendship; and even those who should at last be obliged to come to an open Rupture, yet they have done an Injury to their Country, by beginning too early to stir up the Resentment of our People; because, when the Resentment of a People is too soon stirred up, it is apt to evaporate before it produces the proper Effect.
'Thus, Sir, it must appear, that those busy Intermedlers in publick Affairs have been doing an Injury to their Country, whatever may be the Effect of our present Negociations; and supposing we were in Circumstances proper for encouraging us to declare War: But, if we were not in such Circumstances, they were endeavouring to do a most notable Injury to their Country; for surely, no greater Injury can be done to a Country than that of involving it in a War, when it has no Prospect of being able to prosecute the War with Advantage. It was a Maxim with Julius Cæsar, never to venture even a Battle, if the Disadvantages that might ensue from a Defeat appeared to be greater than any Advantages he could expect from a Victory; and in Africa, we are told, that he bore with many Insults and Indignities from the adverse Army, only because by a little Patience he had Reason to expect being able to obtain a Victory with less Blood-shed. In resolving upon War or Peace, the same Maxim ought to be observed; which makes the Question of such an intricate Nature, that none but those who are thoroughly acquainted with the Circumstances of a Nation, can, or ought to deliberate upon it: Therefore as we cannot pretend to be thoroughly acquainted with the present Circumstances of the Nation, we ought not to do any thing, nor desire any thing to be done, that may tend towards involving the Nation in a War; and till his Majesty acquaints us that he is resolved upon, and prepared for an open Rupture, we ought not to call for any Paper, that may, for what we know, tend to confirm, and even irritate that national Resentment, which has been already most imprudently, if not seditiously, stirred up.
'From what I have said, Sir, I think it is evident, that the Memorials or Answers from Spain, especially the last, are in all Probability Papers of such a Nature, that they cannot yet be communicated to this House. So far indeed I agree with the honourable Gentleman, that the House is not obliged to take my Word, nor that of any other Member, as to the Contents of those Papers; but it has always been observed as a Rule in this House, to call for no Papers, but such as we had Reason to believe, the Crown might safely communicate to us. Surely we are not to court a Denial from the Crown; and upon the present Occasion, we ought to be more cautious in this Respect than at any other Time. Every one knows how loth his Majesty is to deny any Thing to his Parliament. Nothing but the publick Good will ever prevail with him to do so; and even in such a Case, it would be with the utmost Reluctance and Uneasiness. I am persuaded every Gentleman that hears me, has such a dutiful Respect for his Majesty, that he would not propose or agree to any thing, that might unnecessarily give him a Moment's Disquiet; but in the present Case, a Denial from the Crown might be attended with Consequences still more fatal. It would make all other Foreigners, as well as the Spaniards, who do not well understand our Constitution, imagine, that there was no good Harmony between his Majesty and his Parliament; which would of Course render the Spaniards less pliable than they are at present, and consequently might not only prevent our being able to obtain Redress in a peaceable Manner, but might even prevent our being able to form proper Alliances for obtaining it by Force of Arms.
'It has been said, Sir, that all the Papers now called for, are absolutely necessary for the Enquiry we have already resolved on. This, in my Opinion, is very far from being the Case. We have resolved to take the Petitions now presented to us into our Consideration. In pursuance of this Resolution, we cannot regularly enter into any Enquiry, but that which relates to the Truth of the Facts set forth in the Petitions; and surely we can expect no Proof of those Facts, from any of the Spanish Memorials. When we have examined into those Facts, and found some or most of them to be true, which, I believe, will be the Case, such a Discovery may give a Foundation for our resolving upon another Enquiry; and upon that future Enquiry, it may be thought necessary for us to see the Memorials or Answers from Spain. If this should be the Case, they may then be called for; but till then, I cannot find we have the least Occasion to examine into any one of them.
'As for an Enquiry into the Conduct of those who have been concerned in our late Negociations with Spain, Gentlemen may enter into it when they please; but I hope they would not, for the Sake of punishing our Negociators, supposing they have been guilty of Mistakes, resolve to punish the Nation, by involving it in a dangerous and expensive War, which in all probability might have been otherwise avoided. I have had some Hand, Sir, in several Negociations; but, I think it cannot be said, I had ever any Share in any of our Negociations with Spain: However, I know something of them, and from what I know, from what is publickly known, I must observe, that some Gentlemen seem to be in a surprising Mistake as to these Negociations. They seem to insinuate, as if we had been negociating with Spain for above twenty Years without any Effect. Surely, Gentlemen cannot have forgot, that, within these twenty Years, there have been two publick and famous Treaties between Spain and us; by each of which they promised full Reparation for all past Injuries, and that no such Injuries should be committed for the future. We all know, that in the Year 1721 a Treaty of Peace was concluded at Madrid between Spain and us, which was the same Year confirmed by the Treaty of Alliance between Great Britain, France, and Spain; that by the second Article of the said Treaty, 'all former Treaties were confirmed; and that by the third Article, his Catholick Majesty expresly promised, 'that all the Goods, Merchandizes, Money, Ships, and other Effects, which had been seized, as well in Spain as the Indies, should be speedily restored in the same Kind, or according to the just and true Value of them, at the Time they were seized.
'I am not, Sir, to answer for every Stop that brought on that Treaty; some Gentlemen, perhaps, know more of them than I do, but I will venture to say, Sir, that we must from hence suppose, that by this Treaty an End was put to all Negociations before that Time; and that from this Treaty our Ministers had Reason to expect full Reparation for all past Injuries, and a Security against all such in Time to come; but some new Differences having afterwards arisen between the two Nations, a new Treaty was set on Foot, which was afterwards concluded at Seville, in the Year 1729. By this new Treaty a Reparation for past Injuries, and a Security against future, were again expresly stipulated; for, by the first Article, 'all former Treaties of Peace, Friendship, and Commerce, are renewed and confirmed;' and they expresly promise, 'not to do any Thing, nor suffer any Thing to be done, that may be contrary thereto, directly or indirectly.' By the fourth Article, it is stipulated, 'particularly, that the Commerce of the English Nation in America should be exercised as heretofore; and that Orders should be dispatched, without any Delay, as well for the Execution of the said Treaties of Commerce, as for supplying what may be wanting for the entire Re-establishment of Commerce, on the Foot of the said Treaties and Conventions.' And by the sixth Article it is agreed, 'that Commissaries should be nominated within four Months after the Exchange of the Ratifications, for examining and deciding the respective Pretensions which related to the Abuses supposed to have been committed in Commerce, as well in the Indies as in Europe, and all the other respective Pretensions in America, whether with respect to the Limits, or otherwise;' and they promise, 'to cause to be executed punctually and exactly, what should be so decided by the said Commissaries, within six Months after their making their Report;' which Report they were, by the eighth Article, to make within three Years, to be computed from the Day of the Signing of that Treaty.
'Accordingly, we know, Sir, that, Commissaries were respectively nominated; but by various Accidents the Meeting of these Commissaries was delayed till the Beginning of the Year 1732; and therfeore the Time for their finishing their Commission, and making their Report, was prolonged to the End of three Years after their first Meeting; so that the Negociations, upon the Footing on which they are at present, cannot be said to have commenced till the Beginning of the Year 1735, and therefore cannot be said to have lasted above three Years; and from considering these Treaties, especially the last, and the several Steps that have been made by us since that Time, it must be granted, I think, that we have done all that a prudent and wise People could do for obtaining, in a peaceable Manner, a full Reparation for all past Injuries, and an absolute Security against our being exposed to any such in Time to come. If there is any Fault therefore, it must be wholly attributed to the Spaniards, who have refused or neglected to perform the repeated solemn Engagements they have entered into with us; but with regard to their Behaviour towards us, or whether the Breaches of Promise they have been guilty of can warrant an immediate Rupture, is an Enquiry which cannot, come regularly before this House; nor ought we, by our Constitution, to attempt any such Enquiry: It is an Enquiry which ought to be left entirely to his Majesty's Wisdom and Justice; because, from thence it is that Peace or War must be determined; and, I hope, it will be admitted, that our pretending to determine in this Case, would be an Incroachment upon the Prerogatives of the Crown.
'The Parliament, 'tis true, Sir, is the great and the supreme Council of the Nation, and consequently it is the Council in which our King ought to put his chief Confidence, and which he ought to consult upon all important Affairs, when those Affairs are brought to such Maturity, or to such a Crisis, as to be ripe for being made publick; but, no Man will pretend, that the Parliament is a secret Council, or, that any Affair ought to be laid before Parliament, till it can be safely communicated to the Publick. Negociations of all Kinds are of such a Nature, that while they continue in the Shape of Negociations, they ought to be kept inviolably secret; and, it is for this Reason that, by the Excellence and Wisdom of our Constitution, the Power of making Peace or War is lodged solely in the Crown; because, for the Good of the Nation, it is absolutely necessary, that all the Steps we make towards a Peace, should be kept secret, till a Treaty is actually concluded for that Purpose; and likewise it is necessary, that all the Steps we make towards a War, nay, even our Preparations for War, should be kept as secret as possible, till a War is actually declared, or at least just ready to be declared. In the present Case, if our Negociations with Spain should end in a Treaty, which I hope they will, and I dare say every Gentleman here wishes his Country so well as to hope the same, his Majesty will then, without doubt, communicate that Treaty to his Parliament; and, on the other Hand, if our present Negociations should prove abortive, if his Majesty should at last find, that nothing will prevail but the Ultima Ratio Regum, he will certainly make such Alliances, and take such Measures, as he in his great Wisdom may think proper or necessary, for rendering the Issue of that War advantageous and glorious to this Nation; and when he has not only fully resolved upon War, but is fully prepared for coming to an open Rupture, he will then communicate to his Parliament the several Steps he has taken, and all the Papers that may be necessary for giving them a sufficient Light into the Affair. This, I say, Sir, we may be assured of, from his Majesty's known Wisdom, and from the Condescension he has always shewn towards his Parliaments; therefore, we ought to be extremely cautious in calling for any Papers, that may tend towards rendering publick any present Negociation his Majesty may beengaged in; and as this would probably be the Consequence of laying any of the late Memorials or Answers from Spain before us, we ought to suspend our Curiosity, till his Majesty may think it proper to communicate them.
'I hope, Sir, I have now clearly shewn, that none of the Memorials or Answers from Spain can be said to be necessary for any Enquiry we have as yet resolved on; and that the communicating of any of them to this House, or even our calling for them, would be of dangerous Consequence. Then, as to the Unanimity of our Proceedings, I cannot but think it is as strong an Argument for prevailing with the honourable Gentleman who made the Motion, to agree to the Amendment proposed, as it can be for prevailing with my hononourable Friend to withdraw the Amendment he has offered; therefore, whatever. Regard he may have for the honourable Gentleman who was so good as to offer him Advice, I hope he. will, upon the present Occasion, take the Liberty to refuse it; and, I hope that, for the Sake of Unanimity, the honourable Gentleman who made the Motion, will be the first to agree to the Amendment that has been offered.'
Sir William Windham spoke next:
Sir Wm. Windham.
'When the honourable Gentleman who proposed the Amendment, first gave his Reasons against some Part of the Motion that has been made to us, I was pretty much inclined to agree with, him in Opinion; but since I have more fully considered the Circumstances of the Case before us, and have heard what has been said on the other. Side of the Question, I must be for agreeing to the Motion without any Amendment; therefore I hope the honourable Gentleman will take the Advice that has been offered him, and give up his Amendment, notwithstanding what has been said to the contrary by his worthy Friend near him; for, I think, no Man can more effectually shew his difinterested Regard for the Good of his Country, than by contributing as much as he can towards shewing to the World, that we are not only serious but unanimous upon the present Occasion.
'If Peace, Sir, be a desirable Thing, there is, in my Opinion, nothing that will contribute more towards our being able to procure a proper Redress, in a peacable Manner, than our agreeing unanimously to the Motion now made to us. I make no Question but that an Express will this very Night be sent to the Court of Spain; and I hope that Express will carry the News not only of our having agreed to this Motion, but of our having unanimously agreed to it. This, I say, I hope, nay I most heartily wish it may be so; because I am convinced, that nothing can contribute more towards preventing our being obliged to come to Extremities; for I am sure no Man will say but that we ought to come to Extremities, rather than continue any longer to sit tamely under the Insults and Indignities that have been put upon the Nation, in the Persons of some of our most useful Subjects; and the best Way of obtaining Reparation and Security by fair Means, is to shew that we are resolved to have it by foul, if it cannot be otherwise obtained. If by our Behaviour upon the present Occasion, it should be made apparent to the World, and particularly to the Court of Spain, that this is our Resolution, it may probably render that Court a little more pliable than our Negotiators have ever yet found them; for in publick as well as private Life, the surest Way of living in Peace and Quiet, is to gain and preserve the Character of being ready, upon any just Provocation, to try the Fate of a Combat.
'I cannot comprehend, Sir, why it has been so much infisted on in this Debate, that it is the Interest of this Nation to keep up a good Correspendence with Spain: I am sure it is as much the Interest of Spain to keep up a good Correspondence with us, as it is our Interest to live in Friendship with them; and former Experience has often shewn, that they have more Reason to be afraid of a Rupture with us, than we have to be afraid of a Rupture with them. They have, 'tis true, of late Years, set up some Pretences which are inconsistent with Justice and the Rights of this Nation: They have plundered our Merchants, and maletreated our Seamen; and they have refused, or unreasonably delayed, to give us any proper Satisfaction. What can this be owing to? It is not owing to their being ignorant of their own Interest, or of the Danger they may expose themselves to by coming to an open Rupture with us. It must be owing to some unaccountable Notion they have begun to entertain, that we are afraid of coming to an open Rupture with them; and while they entertain such a Notion, they will never do us Justice in a peaceable Manner. How they came at first to conceive such a Notion I do not know; but I must say, that by our late Patience and Forbearance, not only they, but all the World, I believe, begin to think that we will submit to any Thing rather than engage in a War; and while this Opinion prevails, we may live in Peace, but I am sure we cannot live at Ease, or in Quiet. It is therefore high Time to resume the antient, and what, I hope, will always be found to be the true Character of this Nation. It is high Time, it is even become necessary for us to do something for convincing the World that we are now, and always will be, ready to vindicate our Honour by Force of Arms, when we cannot obtain a full Satisfaction by peaceable Means; and upon the present Occasion we can do this, only by agreeing unanimously upon the most vigorous Resolutions, upon such Resolutions, as ought to be the immediate Consequence of the Treatment our Merchants and Sailors have met with. This is what has already been too long delayed; and it is what cannot now be regularly done without our having first seen, or at least called for, those very Papers which, by the Amendment, are proposed to be left out of the Motion.
'From what I have said, Sir, it will appear, that the chief, I may say the only Argument made use of against our calling for the Answers or Memorials from Spain, is really one of the strongest Arguments for it. The chief Argument made Use of against our calling for these Papers is founded on a Supposition, that the laying of such Papers before us may interrupt the Course of our peaceful Negotiations, and involve the Nation in a War. Now will not our refusing, or even delaying, for such a Reason, to call for Papers, which are certainly extremely proper to be look'd into, upon the present Occasion, be a Testimony of our being terribly afraid of involving the Nation in a War? Will it not confirm the Notion, which I am afraid the Spaniards now entertain of us? Will it not make them conclude that we are more afraid of coming to an open Rupture with them, than we are fond of doing Justice to our injured Merchants? And as an Account of this Day's Debate will certainly be sent to the Court of Spain, will not they presume from thence, that they may still put off agreeing to any reasonable Terms, or offering any proper Satisfaction? This will of Course make it necessary for us to come to Extremities; so that like those private Men, who have the Misfortune to have a sheepish Look, or too much Medesty in their Behaviour, we may probably draw ourselves into a Quarrel, which a little decent Boldness might have prevented. From whence it is plain, that our agreeing to the Amendment the honourable Gentleman has been pleased to offer, will most probably lead the Nation into what he seems to be most afraid of; unless he thinks, which I am sure is far from being the Case, that we ought to bear patiently with all past Injuries, and submit tamely to all future, rather than run the Risk of a War.
'I shall grant, Sir, that no Negotiation, nor any material Paper relating to it, ought to be made publick, till that Negotiation be brought to a Period; but where neither Party has a Mind to amuse and deceive the other, every Negociation must soon be brought to a Period. The Protracting of any Negotiation, for a Number of Years, is a certain Sign, that one of the Parties at least has a Mind to amuse and deceive, as might be proved by a vast Number of Examples; but one I cannot forbear mentioning upon this Occasion, because it is an Example drawn from an Affair that happened between us and the very Kingdom with which we are now said to be, and with which we have long been carrying on, what I am afraid will at last appear to be a fruitless Negociation. The Example I mean is that Negociation which we carried on with Spain, in the Reign of James I. about the Marriage of his Son the Prince of Wales. That Negociation continued for near eight Years; and as we have now sent Commissaries, so we then sent the Prince of Wales and the Prime Minister to Spain, without any Effect: But at last it appeared that the Negociation was carried on with a Design to amuse us, and to keep us quiet, till the House of Austria found Means to ruin almost entirely the Protestant Interest in Germany; and I do not know but their Design may now be, to amuse us, and keep us quiet, till our Trade be entirely ruined; which will be the Case, if we go on with Negociating, and they with Plundering and Seizing our Merchant Ships, but for a few Years longer.
'For this Reason, Sir, as the present Negociation has already continued for so many Years, its not being brought to a Period, is so far from being a Reason for our not calling for any Papers relating to it, that it is a good Reason for our enquiring into the Negociation itself. From the long Continuance of our present Negociations with Spain, there is great Reason to suspect they have hitherto been amusing us only; and from the Circumstances of our present Disputes with that Nation, this Suspicion must be considerably increased: For as we may be said to be Plaintiffs only, and they Defendants, which I am sorry for, it is their Interest to amuse and protract, because upon the Issue they will not only have a large Sum to pay us, but must give up some valuable Rights they have lately begun to lay claim to; whereas we have been of late so just and so complaisant to them, that we have already left them nothing to ask.
'Now, Sir, if this be the Case, if there is but Ground to suspect that any of our inferior Councils have allowed themselves to be amused and deceived, it is high Time for the supreme and chief Council of the Nation to take the Negociation itself into their Consideration; and for that Purpose to call for all Papers relating to it; in order that we may give his Majesty such Advice as may be thought proper upon such an Occasion. Such a Resolution can no way tend to make the Court of Spain break off Conferences with us: If they have a Mind to do us Justice, rather than come to an open Rupture, it would make them begin to treat with us upon a fair, a candid, and a serious Footing, which, in my Opinion, they have never yet done: But if they are really resolved to come to an open Rupture, rather than do us Justice, the Effect of such a Resolution would then indeed be, not to make them break off Conferences with us, but to make us break off Conferences with them; for as they are Defendants only, it is their Business to negotiate, as long as we will negotiate with them; and as we are Plaintiffs only, it is our Business to insist upon a speedy and a categorical Answer; and in Case of Refusal or Delay, to break off all Conferences, and betake ourselves to those Means, which may probably prove more effectual. Can either of these be called an Effect which we ought to be afraid of? No, Sir, even the last, is an Effect which we ought to be fond off; for if a sufficient Redress is not to be obtained without a Rupture, the sooner we come to it the better: A State of War is more eligible than the uncertain, mongrel State we are in at present.
'But we are now told, Sir, that the present Negociations between Spain and us have not continued for above three Years; and to prove this, the honourable Gentleman who spoke last, has been pleased to give us a long Account of the many Treaties lately concluded between the two Crowns. No Man, 'tis true, is more able than he to give an Account of our late Treaties and Negociations; and I shall own my Obligation for the exact Account he has given of some of them; but, 'tis certain, and even that honourable Gentleman will, I believe, allow, that the Spaniards have been continuing their Incroachments and Depredations almost without Interruption for above twenty Years; and he will, I believe, likewise allow, that as yet we have obtained no Reparation for past Injuries, nor any Security against future. What is it then appears from the long Account he has given us of the late Treaties between Spain and us? Does it not from thence appear, that we have been for above twenty Years not only negociating, but actually concluding Treaties, in vain, and without the least Effect? What Hopes other Gentlemen may put in our present Negociating I do not know; but for my Part I must declare, that I put no great Hopes in any Negociation we can carry on, or any Treaty or Convention we can make; and I must think I am justified in this Way of thinking, by the Account the honourable Gentleman has been pleased to give us of the late Treaties concluded between Spain and us. By these Treaties they have two or three Times already expressly promised full Reparation and Security: They have as yet performed none of these Promises. What Reason have we to think, they will be more faithful in the Performance of any Promise they may make by the next Treaty, or by any future Treaty? I am sure, if they do shew themselves more faithful in Time to come, it will not proced from our shewing such a Backwardness in coming to an open Rupture with them, as some Gentlemen seem to shew upon the present Occasion. No Nation in the World will perform a Promise, tho' made by the most solemn Treaty, if it be against their Interest to do so: They will always find Pretences for delaying or evading it, if they think they can do so with Safety; and they will always think so, if they have any Reason to believe, that the Nation, in whose Favour it was made, is so impotent or so cowardly, that they dare not attempt in a hostile Manner to revenge an Infraction of a solemn Treaty.
This, I am afraid, Sir, is the Case between Spain and us. We have been of late so passive, that, I fear, they have begun to think we will not, or dare not come to an open Rupture with them; and if this be then Way of Thinking, there is nothing will alter their Opinion, but a vigorous and well-conducted War; so that by our Long-suffering and extreme Readiness to oblige them, instead of avoiding a War, we have already made it become necessary. They may grant us the Favour of a new Treaty; they may by that Treaty again promise full Reparation and Security; but if they continue in the same Way of Thinking, those Promises will be as ill-kept as any of the former. In my Opinion, it is therefore absolutely improper for us, upon the present Occasion, to shew the least Concern about what may be the Consequences of any Resolution proposed. An unanimous and hearty Concurrence in the most vigorous Resolutions, may make them alter their Opinion of us, or may make them think, that we are resolved to alter our Conduct with respect to them; and this I take to be the only Way of avoiding a War, which will otherwise, either now or very soon hereafter, become absolutely unavoidable; unless we are resolved always to submit tamely to the same Sort of Injuries we have already suffered, and to forfeit our Character and our Trade in every Part of the World.
'I shall readily admit, Sir, that it would be ridiculous in us to talk big, or to come to vigorous Resolutions, upon this or any other Occasion, unless those Resolutions were to be followed by suitable Actions. Nay, I believe, it would be ridiculous in us to fit out formidable Squadrons, or to take great Armies into our Pay, unless those Fleets and those Armies were to be furnished with proper Orders or Instructions for enabling them to follow Words with Blows, in Case of any Denial or unreasonable Delay of Justice. I know that threatening Memorials, are but Words; and, I believe, the honourable Gentleman talks from Experience, when he says, that such Words will always be contemned, if People imagine they are not to be immediately followed with suitable Actions: But whatever Disrespect may have been shewn to the threatening Words or Memorials of other Councils, I hope no Sign of Disregard will ever be shewn to the threatening Resolutions of a British Parliament. I hope no Nation will ever imagine, that such Words are not to be followed with suitable Actions. The Kingdom of Spain, as well as one of her next Neighbours, has still Reason to remember the Resolutions of our Parliament in the Year 1701-2. From the Behaviour of the Nation at that Time, and for some Years after, they must conclude, that the threatenning Resolutions of a British Parliament will be followed, and speedily followed, by suitable Actions, They have from thence good Reason to conclude, that, even at this Time, our Words will not only be followed with Blows, but that every Blow will be followed by another, till we bring our Enemies to reasonable Terms; and as the Justice of our Cause is now as great as it was then, I am sure our Enemies have no Cause to expect greater Favour from Providence, than they met with at that Time: Therefore, if they have any Hopes of Success, it must be in our Misconduct, or in the supposed Weakness of our Councils; and if they should bring Things to Extremity, I hope they will find themselves disappointed in both.
'With respect to the general Resentment, that now prevails over the whole Nation, against the Depredations committed by the Spaniards, however disagreeable it may be to some Gentlemen, I must declare, that it is extremely agreeable to me; and it is so, because I think it is just. I do not really know what the honourable Gentleman means by saying, that it has been stirred up by those who had no Title to stir it up, or who did not know what they were about. I believe it has been stirred up by none but the Spaniards themselves; for I have so good an Opinion of the Understanding of my Country-Men in general, as to believe, that their Judgment, and consequently their Resentment, as well as their Gratitude, depends upon the Nature of Things, and not upon what may be said or wrote upon any Subject. For this Reason, if none of the Actions of the Spanish Guarda Costa's had been unjust, if their Behaviour towards our Merchants had not been cruel and barbarous as well as unjust, I believe it would have been impossible to have strirred up such a general Resentment as now prevails against them, tho' all the best Pens in the Nation had been as much employed to throw their Actions into a malicious and invidious Light, as some of the worst have been to palliate and excuse, or rather justify their Behaviour towards us. I must therefore think, that it signifies very little who they are that endeavour to stir up the Resentment of the People; because, if there is a just Cause for it, their Resentment will rise of Course; and if there is no Cause for it, no Art or Persuasion will be able to raise it. The Resentment of the Nation is, 'tis true, come to a very great Height upon the present Occasion, and if it should evaporate before it produces the desired Effect, it is easy to foresee who will deserve to be blamed; but tho' there are no People of a more generous and forgiving Temper than the People of this Nation, yet, I hope, they will never allow their Resentment to evaporate: I hope they will neither forget nor forgive, till they see Justice done to such of their CountryMen as have been injured, and a full Satisfaction made to the Nation for the Insults that have been put upon it.
'I have now, I hope, shewn, Sir, that if we have a Mind to take the best Method for preventing a War, or obtaining Redress in a peaceable Manner, we ought to agree unanimously to the Motion without any Amendment. What the Answer from the Crown may be, I shall not pretend to determine, because I know nothing of the Nature of any of the Papers called for; but surely our Addressing to have them laid before us can be of no Prejudice. Suppose his Majesty should think it inconsistent with the publick Safety to lay some of those Papers before us, his being obliged to tell us so can give him no Disquiet; because it is a proper Answer, and an Answer which this House has generally been satisfied with: It is an Answer which cannot make any Man, that has a Weight in any foreign Council, nor any Man of common Understanding at home, suppose that there is the least Disagreement between his Majesty and his Parliament; because we cannot suppose the Ministers of any foreign Court we have to do with, nor any Man of Common Sense at home, so ignorant of our Constitution, as not to know that the Parliament always leaves, it to the Crown to determine, what Papers are fit to be laid before them; and never insist upon a Sight of any Paper, after the Crown has told them that it is not safe to make it publick, unless when they have Reason to suspect, that such an Answer proceeds from evil Counsel, and from the selfish Ends of a Minister, in order to conceal some criminal or false Step he has been guilty of. Then, indeed, the Parliament would probably insist upon having such a Paper laid before them, and might perhaps address the King to know who advised him to send such an Answer; and then it might be supposed, both abroad and at home, that there was no great Harmony between the King and his Parliament, or at least between his Ministers and his Parliament; but surely, neither the honourable Gentleman who spoke last, nor any other, has the least Ground to suspect that this may be the Case at present; and if it were, it would be the strongest Argument for agreeing to the Motion, to the end that the Parliament might have an Opportunity of removing such Ministers from his Majesty's Councils; for if such Men were at the Helm of our Affairs, which I am sure is not the Case at present, we could neither expect Regard or Confidence from foreign States, nor any Honesty or good Conduct in our own Affairs, with respect either to Peace or War.
'Thus, I think, it appears, Sir, that our calling for the Memorials or Answers from Spain can be attended with no bad Consequence, even supposing them to be such as cannot be safely communicated; and I have shewn, that our not calling for them may be attended with the most fatal Consequence, by confirming the Court of Spain in the Notion they seem to entertain of us, that we are afraid, and will rather submit to any Thing, than come to an open Rupture with them. But we are told, we ought not to call for them, because we have now no Occasion for them; and to shew we have no Occasion for them, it is said, that in Pursuance of the Resolution we have come to, we cannot regularly, at first, enter into any Enquiry, but that of the Truth of the Facts set forth in the Petitions now presented to us. This I am surprized to hear from a Gentleman so well acquainted with the Facts set sorth in the Petitions, and so much a Master of the Customs and Methods of Proceeding in Parliament. Sir, we have no Occasion for such an Enquiry but for Form's sake merely. We all know the Facts are true; and if we proceed no further, I shall be sorry we have gone so far; for we shall then only leave upon Record, in the Journals of Parliament, a Testimony of the Insults and Injuries we have tamely suffered, which is a Testimony that can no Way contribute to the Honour of the Nation; and therefore we ought to be so far from recording, that, if it were possible, we ought to prevent its being handed down to Posterity. If we look but into the Prayer of the Petitions presented to us, we must see we have something else to do, than merely to enquire into the Truth of Facts. The Petitioners beseech us, 'To provide such a timely and adequate Remedy, as may put an End to all Insults and Depredations on the British Subjects; and to procure such Relief for the unhappy Sufferers, as the Nature of their Case, and the Justice of their Cause, require.' Are we not then, in Pursuance of our Resolution, to endeavour to provide such a Remedy, and procure such Relief ? And is it possible for us to determine what may be a proper Remedy, what may be a proper Relief, without seeing what the Court of Spain have offered, and what they pretend in Justification of themselves ?
'There are but two Ways, Sir, of providing a Remedy or procuring any Relief: It must be done either by Force of Arms, or by Negociation; and which of these Methods may be most proper, is what we are to determine; it is what we have in some Measure already resolved to determine, by resolving to take the Petitions into our Confideration: For this Purpose we must necessarily examine into the Whole of our past Negociations, whether they appear in the Form of Negociation or of Treaty, as yet neither fulfilled, nor any Way observed. Which of those Methods may, upon the Enquiry we have resolved on, appear to be most proper, I shall not now take upon me to determine; but in this Affair we have already made use of so much Ink and Paper without any Effect, that I am afraid it will appear necessary for us to begin to make use of another Sort of Ammunition. We have already found there is no Trust to be put even in Treaties, and therefore, after we have thoroughly examined into this Affair, it may be the Opinion of this House, that we must now have Recourse to that, in which we have always found, in which I hope, we always shall find, our chief and greatest Security, I mean, Sir, the Weight of our Metal, and the Sharpness of our Swords.
'Now, suppose, Sir, we should come to such a Resolution; suppose we should upon Enquiry find that no effectual Remedy can be provided, nor any sufficient Relief procured, but by Force of Arms; that Resolution, to be sure, is to be offered to his Majesty by Way of Advice. In so doing we incroach upon none of the Prerogatives of the Crown: We do that only which is our Duty; for we are obliged to offer what we think the most wholesome Advice to our Sovereign. Neither do we communicate to the Publick the Secrets of any Negociation, while it continues, or ought to continue, in the Shape of a Negociation; we only give our Opinion that it ought not to be continued in that Shape any longer; and surely, if the Parliament think so, they have a Right to say so, and to communicate their Thoughts, by Way of Address, to his Majesty. The Power of making Peace or War may be solely lodged in the Crown; but the Parliament certainly have a Right to advise and address against the Continuance of Peace, when they think it cannot be continued with Honour, as well as they have a Right to advise and address against a War, which they think cannot be prosecuted with Advantage. This is, in my Opinion, the principal Enquiry we are to make, when we take these Petitions into our Consideration: We are to enquire, whether there be any Probability of obtaining what the Petitioners pray for, in a peaceable Manner; and upon such an Enquiry, I am sure, we can come to no Determination, without seeing those Papers that are proposed by the Amendment to be left out of the Motion: Therefore, I hope, the honourable Gentleman will withdraw his Amendment, and leave it to his Majesty, who is the only proper Judge, to determine, whether the Papers now moved for, are such as may be safely communicated to the House.'
The next who spoke was the honourable Henry Pelham Esq;
'I must say, I am sorry the honourable Gentleman, who spoke last, did not continue in his first Opinion; for I am always fond of having an Opportunity to join with him in the same Sentiments; but upon the present Occasion I cannot; because, I think, the honourable Gentleman who proposed the Amendment, gave such Reasons for what he proposed, as neither have, nor, in my Opinion, can be answered. I shall admit, Sir, that it is as necessary for a Nation to preserve its Character among Neighbours, as it is for a private Man; but whatever Opinion the Court of Spain may entertain of our Courage, or of our Unwillingness to come to an open Rupture with them, I shall never be for doing any Thing that may tend towards involving this Nation into an unnecessary War, for the Sake only of making that Nation believe we are no Way afraid of them. The Character of this Nation for Resolution and Courage is already so well established, that we have no Occasion for making use of any Sort of hectoring Expressions, in order to convince the World, that we are not afraid of the Spaniards, whom the Gentlemen who are for a War represent as a very feeble Enemy. Therefore, if upon any false and ill-grounded Opinion of our Timidity, they should absolutely refuse to do us Justice, we may easily persuade them, that our Patience proceeded not from our Fear, but from our Prudence; but this is not to be done by any Resolutions of this House; it is to be done only by Fleets and Armies, after his Majesty has told us that nothing else will prevail. For this Reason, as long as there is the least Ground to hope, that the Court of Spain may be prevailed on by peaceable Means to give Ear to Reason, we ought not to do any thing that may tend to interrupt or retard any Negociation, that may be carrying on for that Purpose: And that we are not as yet intirely destitute of such Hopes, must be presumed; because, we may be assured, that as soon as this comes to be our Case, his Majesty will apply in the most solemn Manner to his Parliament, both for Advice and Assistance.
'As for the last Answer or Memorial from Spain, I do not pretend, Sir, to know what it is; but I have been assured from Authority which I have no Reason to suspect, that it can no Way be looked on as a final Answer. It is so far from being a flat Denial of Justice, that it seems to shew an Inclination towards doing Justice, as soon as some disputed Facts can be cleared up; and I am told it may admit of such Explanations, as may put an End to all our Differences in a peaceable Manner: Nay, I have good Reason, I think, to suppose it such a-one; for if it had been otherwise, I am convinced his Majesty would have directly ordered it to have been laid before the House. Suppose it then such an Answer as, by proper Explanations, may lay a Foundation for our obtaining full Satisfaction and Security, in a peaceable Manner; I should be glad to know how those Explanations are to be obtained. The only Way of obtaining any such, must be by a new Memorial from this Court to that of Spain, by Way of Reply to their last Answer; but if we order their last Answer to be laid before this House, we shall, in a great Measure, put it out of his Majesty's Power to send any such Reply; for in that Case, I believe, none of his Majesty's Servants would venture to advise him to send a Reply, or to give their Opinion what Sort of Reply ought to be sent, until the Parliament had thoroughly examined into the Affair, and had come to such Resolutions as they should think proper upon the Occasion. This the Parliament may not be able to do till towards the End of the Session, during which Time the Negociation between the two Courts must be at an intire Stand; whereas, if it be left to his Majesty, to send such a Reply as he may think most proper, the Negociation may before that Time be brought to some Period or another; and in our present Circumstances, I am sure, nothing can be of Advantage to this Nation, that will necessarily, but needlesly, occasion a Delay in adjusting our Differences with the Court of Madrid.
'From hence, Sir, I think it is evident, that our calling for the last Memorial from Spain would be imprudent; and whatever Necessity there may be for our seeing the last or any of the Memorials from that Court, before we can come to any final Determination, relating to the Petitions we have resolved to take into our Consideration, yet that Neceffity neither does, nor can now appear; and therefore, I do not think there is, as yet, the least Occasion for our calling for any of these Memorials. In the Course of the Enquiry we are resolved to make, it may appear necessary for us to have all those Memorials laid before us, and when that does appear, I shall be ready to join with other Gentlemen in any proper Motion for that Purpose; but till then, I think it ought to be delayed, because our immediately calling for them, especially the last, may be attended with some Inconvenience, and because such a Delay can but very little, if any Way, retard our Proceedings with respect to the Affair now before us. By the Resolution you have come to, it will be near a Fortnight before you begin to take this Affair into your Consideration; and as some Things may intervene, that may oblige you to put off the entering upon it for some Days longer; and likewise, as you may meet with Interruptions in the Course of your Enquiry; I must reckon it will be near three Weeks, it may be more, before you can know positively, whether there will be any Necessity for your having any of those Memorials laid before you; therefore you may, I think, without the least Inconvenience, delay calling for any of them for two or three Weeks at least. In the mean Time, his Majesty may have sent to the Court of Spain a Reply to their last Answer, and then your calling for that Answer can no Way interrupt the Course of the Negociation, nor can it be attended with such dangerous Consequences, as your calling for it now may be attended with: Nay, I do not know but that, if a Reply be immediately sent, demanding the necessary Explanations, and insisting upon a categorical Answer, which I am convinced his Majesty will do with all possible Dispatch; I do not know, I say, but that in this Case, a new Memorial may arrive from the Court of Spain, before it be necessary for you to come to any Resolutions relating to this Affair; and that new Memorial will certainly have a great Influence upon your Resolutions, as well as upon his Majesty's future Conduct with regard to Spain.
'I shall grant, Sir, that in case of our calling for any Papers, it is a proper enough Answer from the Crown, to tell us, they are of such a Nature, that they cannot be safely communicated; but on the other Hand, I believe it will be allowed, that such an Answer from the Crown is unusual; and the Reason of its being so, is, because both House of Parliament have generally taken care to call for no Papers but such as might, in all Appearance, be safely communicated. Now, though I do not pretend to know what is in the last Memorial or Answer from Spain, yet from its having arrived so lately, we may, I think, with Probability, if not with Certainty, conclude, that it is a Paper which ought not yet to be made publick; and therefore, however proper such an Answer from the Crown may be, I must think such an Application from this House would not be altogether so proper at present For this Reason, I think, it would be more agreeable to the Custom of Parliament, and more proper for us, not to call for any of the Memorials from Spain, but to leave it intirely to his Majesty, to order such of them to be laid before us, as he shall think may be safely communicated; and this he will certainly do in due Time, if there be any Thing in any of these Memorials, that may require the Consideration of Parliament.
'After what I have said, Sir, I hope Gentlemen will excuse me if I say, that I think it would be rash and precipitate in us, to call for all or any of these Memorials at present; and though we had them all before us, I must think, it would be still more rash in us to come to any violent or threatening Resolutions, unless his Majesty had before told us, that he had no farther Hopes of obtaining full Satisfaction in a peaceable Manner; for even in private Life, let a Man be never so much inclined to do Justice, or to make Reparation, he would not like to be publickly threatened into it: The Attempting to make use of such a Method, would probably make him stand upon a Panctilio of Honour, and refuse, at least for that Time, to do, what he would have done with great Alacrity, if it been required of him in a discreet and prudent Manner.
'It is true, Sir, the Negociations between Spain and us have already continued too long, and it must be granted, they have not as yet had any great Effect; but if we consider the Multitude of Complaints that are upon both Sides, (for the Court of Spain have their Complaints, and have Demands to make, as well as we) and the great Distance of the Places where our mutual Complaints are to be examined, we cannot think it strange, that our Negociations have not, as yet, been brought to a final Issue. I do not mention this, Sir, with a Design to make any Excuse for the Behaviour of the Spaniards to us, or to justify all the Delays they have been guilty of. I mention it only to shew, that, notwithstanding the Length of the Negociations between us, we ought not to conclude, that the Court of Spain designs only to amuse and deceive us; but, on the contrary, that we ought to presume there may still be some Hopes of our being able to obtain, in a peaceable Manner, as much as we can expect by the most successful War: And if this can be done, it will certainly be a great Saving both of Men and Money to the Nation. That his Majesty thinks he has still good Reason to entertain some such Hopes, we may be assured of; otherwise he would have provided, before this Time, for obtaining by Force, what he found he could not obtain by peaceable Means, and would have applied to Parliament in the most solemn Manner for that Purpose. Therefore, rather than do any thing that may put an End to all such Hopes, I think we ought to return Thanks to his Majesty, and extol the Wisdom and Goodness he has hitherto shewn, by putting a Force upon his natural Inclinations, and sacrificing that dazling Glory which is obtained by Victories and Triumphs, to that solid and true Glory, which is the just Reward of those Kings, who make the Preservation of the Lives and Properties of their Subjects, their chief and greatest Concern.'
After Mr. Pelham, several Gentlemen spoke for and against the Amendment proposed; but I shall give you only what was said by the two following, viz. Sir John Barnard, and Sir Charles Wager; the former of whom spoke to the Effect as follows, viz.
Sir John Barnard.
'In all Debates of this Nature, Gentlemen ought to be very cautious how they run any Parallels betwixt public and private Transactions. We have heard a good deal with Regard to the prudential Consideration of our agreeing to the present Motion: But give me leave to observe Sir, that the Character of a Nation is very different from that of a private Man. A private Man that has once established a Reputation for Wisdom and Courage, may easily, and generally does, preserve that Reputation as long as he lives; but whatever Reputation a State or Kingdom may acquire at any one Time, is so far from continuing as long as that State or Kingdom subsists, that on the contrary, the Reputation acquired under one King, or one Administration, always expires as soon as that King or Administration expires; and the Successors must always begin afresh to acquire and establish a Character for the Nation under their Administration. A Nation may acquire the highest Character, the greatest Esteem, under one Reign or Administration, and yet sink into the lowest Contempt under the very next. This was the Case of this Nation, in the Reigns of Edward I. and Edward II. in the Reigns of Edward III. and Richard II. in the Reigns of Henry V: and Henry VI. and in the Reigns of our wise Queen Elizabeth and her Successor James I.
'It is in vain therefore, Sir, to pretend, that the Character of this Nation is established, or that we can now depend upon the Character we acquired in any former Reign, or under any former Administration: For our present Character, we cannot look beyond the Date of the present Administration. Now as his Majesty's Name ought never to be mentioned in any of our Debates; as nothing that is said by any Gentleman in this House, can be supposed to relate to the King, but to the Ministers for the Time being only; I may therefore beg leave to desire Gentlemen to lay their Hands upon their Hearts, and declare, what Sort of Character they think this Nation has acquired under our present Administration, which, I must observe, began before his Majesty's Accession, and began with a Treaty of Peace between Spain and us, which I never did, nor over shall intirely approve of. If upon this Footing, Gentlemen will examine into the Character we may at present be supposed to have among our Neighbours, I am afraid it will be found not to be a very advantageous one, at least with respect to our Courage, or Readiness to try the Fate of War, in case of any Injury or Insult's being put upon us.
'I shall grant, Sir, that generally speaking, Peace is better than War; but it is not always so: A dishonourable Peace is worse than a destructive War; It is better for a Nation, as well as a private Man, to cease to be, than to subsist in the wretched State of suffering continual Insults and Indignities; and if, under the present Administration, we have lest a great Part of the Character we gained in former Times; if our Neighbours have begun to think, that we will bear with any Infractions of Treaties, rather than engage in a War, which I hope is not the Case; we may cajole and flatter ourselves with obtaining Redress by peaceful Negociations or Treaties; but while our Neighbours entertain such a Notion of us, I am fully convinced it will be impossible. If our Enemies are not yet fully prepared to ruin us, if they think they may soon have a better Opportunity than the present for giving us some finishing Blow, they may for some Time amuse us with Negociations or Congresses, they may even vouchsafe to grant us a Convention or a Treaty; but these will appear at last to be nothing but Expedients, artfully contrived by them, and foolishly or treacherously submitted to by us, for making our Ruin the more compleat and the more inevitable. During these very Negociations, and notwithstanding the Treaties they may vouchsafe to grant us, being convinced they may do it with Impunity, they will continue to put the same Indignities upon us, till we are reduced so low by our Sufferings, that, like a Man who has too long neglected a wasting Distemper, we shall not have sufficient Strength left for making use of that Remedy, which, if it had been applied in Time, would have produced a certain Cure.
'I shall not pretend, Sir, to be a competent Judge of our Conduct for several Years past; I shall not pretend to say positively what we have done, or what we might have done; but, in my Opinion, we have had several Opportunities for inducing, if not compelling the Spaniards, and likewise some other of our Neighbours, to give us full Satisfaction for Injuries past, which would have been the best Security against any such for the future: Nay, I am of Opinion, we might have prevented most of the Indignities put upon us, without involving the Nation in a War. If my Information be right, our Neighbours the Dutch have fallen upon a Way of preventing such Indignities, without involving themselves in a War: I shall not affirm it for a Truth, but we have been told, that they have lately taken a Method with the Spanish Guarda Costas, which will make them a little more cautious, at least with Respect to them, in Time to come: They have fitted out Ships proper for the Purpose, and when they have found Guarda Costas not properly commissioned, or such as had seized or plundered any of their Ships, contrary to the Law of Nations, and to the Instructions they had from those who gave them their Commissions, they have treated them as Pirates, and have hung them up at the Yard's Arm as soon as taken. This is what has been commonly reported; and it calls to my Mind a Story I have heard of a Gentleman, who received a Box on the Ear from a famous Bully at a Coffee-House. The Gentleman, it seems, had not so much Courage as a Gentleman ought to have, and therefore took it patiently: He thought only of obtaining Satisfaction in a peaceable Manner; but soon after he heard, that the same Bully, for such another Piece of Behaviour, had been caned and kick'd out of the Coffee-Room, by another Gentleman. Gods so! says the Poltroon, if I had known that Fellow would have been treated in such a Manner, I should not have taken the Blow he gave me so patiently.
'All Nations, Sir, are apt to play the Bully with Respect to one another; and if the Government or Administration of a Nation has taken but one Insult tamely, their Neighbours will from thence judge of the then Character of that Nation, without any Regard to their Behaviour under a former Government or Administration; and will accordingly treat them as Bullies do noted Poltrons; they will kick and cuff them upon every Occasion: And as a private Man, who has once got the Character of a Poltroon, can never wipe off that Character, or avoid such Treatment, but by drubbing those who have dared to insult him, I am afraid it is now become in vain for us to expect to recover our Character, so as to obtain Satisfaction for Injuries past, or to avoid meeting with future Injuries, by any peaceable Means: At least, I am sure, it is not fit for us at present to shew ourselves so anxious about avoiding a War, as our agreeing to the Amendment now proposed will clearly shew us to be.
'Having thus, Sir, shewn, that we have no former Character to depend on, and that nothing will more probably make a War necessary than our appearing any Way anxious to avoid it, I shall next examine some of the Arguments made use of, against our calling for any of the Memorials or Answers from Spain. As to the last Answer from that Court, which we are told arrived but a few Days ago, tho' certainly it might and ought to have arrived several Weeks ago, it has been said, that we ought not to call for it, because by so doing, we shall prevent his Majesty's being able to send any Reply, till after we have examined into the Affair before us, and have come to such Resolutions as may be thought proper upon the Occasion. Sir, for this very Reason we ought, in my Opinion, to call for it. I think no Reply ought to be sent but by the Advice of Parliament. The Affair is now brought, and regularly brought before Parliament; and I hope no Minister will advise his Majesty to send a Reply, till he knows the Resolutions of Parliament. If any Minister does, I am sure it will not be prudent: It will be a Peice of the highest Disrespect he can shew to a British Parliament; and whatever Posillanimity he may have been guilty of with respect to foreign Affairs, I am sure there will in that Case be no Reason to accuse him of Pusillanimity with respect to domestick. Our obtaining Redress, or our obtaining a speedy Redress, does not depend upon our speedily sending a Reply of some Weight. Our Ministers have already sent many Memorials, many Replies, without any Effect: Our Business is now to send a Reply that will have some more Weight than any hitherto sent; and surely a Reply from his Majesty, founded upon the Resolutions of his Parliament, will have more Force than any Reply he can send by the Advice of his Ministers only. Therefore, considering how little Regard has hitherto been shewn by the Court of Spain, to the Memorials of our Ministers, I must think it high Time, even for them, to take the Aid of Parliament, and to wait for the Resolutions of Parliament, before they advise his Majesty to send any Reply to the last Answer from Spain; and for this Reason I should think, that our Minister, of all others, would be the most fond of having that Answer laid before Parliament.
'I am surprized, Sir, to hear it said, that the Necessity of our seeing all the Memorials or Answer from Spain, relating to the Affair before us, does not now appear. It appears, Sir, upon the very Face of every one of the Petitions we have resolved to take into our Consideration. Does not every one of them expresly affirm, 'That the Spaniards have unjustly seized and made Prize of our Merchant Ships, in the destined Course of their Voyages to and from the British Colonies?' Do not we know that an unlawful Trade may be carried on by our Merchant Ships, in the Spanish West-Indies; and if any of them are detected in the carrying on of such a Trade, they may not only be justly seized, but justly condemned and made Prize of? And do not we know that the Spaniards pretend, all or most of the Ships they have seized, were not in the destined Course of their Voyage to and from the British Colonies, but were detected and proved to have been carrying on an unlawful Trade upon their Coasts? Shall we then proceed to determine, that any of our Merchant Ships have been unjustly seized and made Prize of by the Spaniards, without examining what the Spaniards have to say in their own Justication? Don't, for God-sake, Sir, let it be in the Power of our Enemies to tax us with Injustice; let that be all on the other Side; but give me leave to say, that such a Conduct would be unjust, and therefore highly unbecoming a British House of Parliament; and as we can no way examine into what the Spaniards have to say in their own Justification, but by perusing the Memorials they have transmitted to this Court, therefore, upon the very Face of the Petitions we have resolved to take into our Consideration, it appears necessary for us to see every one of these Memorials, before we can come to any Resolution relating to the Petitions now before us.
'As I have shewn, Sir, that it is absolutely necessary for us to see all the Memorials or Answers from Spain before we can proceed to any Determination or Resolution relating to the Affair we have resolved to enquire into, I think it very needless to dispute, whether or no there be any Appearance of its being safe to communicate all or any of them to this House. If his Majesty should think it unsafe to communicate any of them, we must put off our Enquiry, till his Majesty finds that he may safely enable us to proceed in it, by laying all the proper Materials before us: But surely, Sir, we ought to proceed upon the Steps that are previous to that Enquiry, 'till we shall receive the disagreeable Information from the Crown itself, that it is not yet safe to lay all the proper Materials before us. For my Part, I think we have no such Measures to keep with regard to Spain, as some Gentlemen seem to think necessary. I put no Confidence in any Negociation we can carry on, no nor in any Treaty we can conclude. I think our past Behaviour has already made a War unavoidable; and I hope his Majesty has taken care that this Nation shall be as powerfully supported by proper Allies, in Defence of our own Rights and the Rights of Mankind, as Spain can expect to be, in the Incroachments she has made upon us, and upon the known Rights of all Nations; I mean, an undisturbed Communication between the different Parts of their own Dominions, and a free Navigation in the open Seas.
'For this Reason, Sir, whatever Shame or Danger might arise to some particular Men, I cannot see the least Danger that could arise to this Nation; nay, I can see many Advantages that might accrue to her, if all the Memorials, yea all the Transactions, that have passed between Spain and us, for these twenty Years, were printed and published, as were not only laid before this House, but before the Publick. I will even go so far as to say, that it would be neither an unbecoming nor a rash Step for us, to come to a Resolution by Way of Advice to his Majesty, that War ought to be declared against Spain, if, within a short limited Time, they did not promise Satisfaction and Security in the most express and the most explicit Terms.
'In private Life, if a Man has been often and for several Years sollicited, in the most complaisant Manner, to do Justice, he ought, nay he must be threatened at last, whatever may be the Consequence: If he should then indisercetly stand upon a Punctilio of Honour, a Court of Law would compel him not only to do Justice, but to pay the Costs of a Suit, which he had brought upon himself merely by his own Obstinacy; and I hope the Fleets and Armies of this Kingdom will always be as effectual against obstinate Foreigners, as the Officers of Justice can be against obstinate Subjects.
'I am sorry, Sir, to hear the Multitude of our Complaints made use of as an Argument for prolonging our Negociations. Every one knows that the Length of our Negociations has added greatly to the Number of our Complaints; and now, it seems, the Multitude of our Complaints ought to prevail with us to continue our Negociations yet a while longer. At this Rate our Negociations can never come to an End; for while they continue, the Number of our Complaints will certainly increase daily, because our Subjects, as long as they have any thing to risk, will be making use of those Rights they think they are intitled to, and this will give their Enemies a Pretence and an Opportunity to plunder them. Therefore the Multitude of our Complaints should rather be a Reason for cutting short our Negociations at any Rate, than for drawing them out to still a farther Length. The Ministry, Sir, had better strike a bold Stroke at once, (and indeed it will be a bold Stroke) by giving up those Rights that are in Dispute, rather than continue them in Suspence, as a Snare for making our Subjects a Prey to their Enemies.
'Then, Sir, as to the Distance of the Places where our Complaints are to be examined, surely it can be no Excuse for the Spaniards not having made Satisfaction, with respect to those Captures at least, which they themselves have above eight Years since acknowledged to have been unjust. This too may be made a Reason for an eternal Negociation, as well as for lengthening our Negociations yet a while longer; for if the Distance of Places be an Excuse for not having made Satisfaction for an Injury done ten Years ago, and acknowledged as such above eight Years ago, it will be an Excuse for delaying for ten Years to come, to make Satisfaction for the Injuries done last Year, and so on in infinitum; and as we are not, it seems, to have full Satisfaction for any Injury done, till the whole be adjudged and ascertained at the End of the Negociation, we must never at this Rate expect full Satisfaction for any Injury past, present, or future.
'What Complaints, or what Demands the Spaniards may have against us, as I know nothing of them, I shall not pretend to say whether they are frivolous or not; I am apt to suspect they are; but, Sir, if they are not, they may then be a Pretence, and a just Pretence too, for the Injuries they have done to us, or at least for their not having made a full Reparation; therefore those very Complaints or Demands ought to come under our Consideration at this Juncture; and as they can appear no where but in those Memorials, which have been transmitted from the Court of Spain to this Court, they furnish us with a new and an additional Reason for shewing, that it is absolutely necessary for us to see all the Memorials from Spain, before we can properly come to any Resolution relating to the Affair we have resolved to enquire into.
'Thus, Sir, in every Light, in which the Question can be put, it appears, it now appears, necessary, to have all the Memorials or Answers from Spain, laid before us, if we are seriously inclined to get at the Bottom of the Affair we have resolved to enquire into: But I must say, that for my own Part, I am very easy, whether any one of these Memorials be laid before us; because there is one Fact suggested in one of the Petitions, which to me appears a sufficient Cause for an immediate Declaration of War, and will therefore, in my Opinion, make it unnecessary for us to enquire into any of the other Facts, set forth in the Petitions now before us. In the Petition presented by the Merchants trading to our Plantations, it is suggested, 'That the Crews of some of our Merchant Ships are now in Slavery in OldSpain, where they are most inhumanly treated.' This, Sir, is an Indignity, a barbarous Cruelty, which a simple Release of the Prisoners cannot excuse. Nothing but Vengeance can atone for such a cruel, such an unchristian Behaviour. It is a Cruelty, which the Court of Spain cannot pretend to palliate or excuse, by imputing it to the Misbehaviour of their Governors in America. The Government of Spain itself must be loaded with it; and as it cannot be justified by any Pretence, or by any Memorial whatsoever, if it be proved, which I believe it will, I shall think it a sufficient Reason for giving it as our Opinion, that War ought to be immediately declared against that Kingdom, without enquiring into any of the other Facts complained of, or seeing any of the Memorials or Answers they have sent us. It is not enough, Sir, if a Man has not only injured me in my Property, but basely attacked and maltreated me in my Person; I say, it is not enough, if I shall obtain bare Satisfaction for what I have suffered in my Property. But Nations, Sir, have no Courts of Justice to which they care to appeal; they must take the Remedy that their Power presents them with, which is Satisfaction by Arms.
'Therefore, as I have said, I am extremely easy, whether any of the Spanish Memorials be laid before us or not; but if, out of an ill-timed Complaisance for the Court of Spain, and for fear of intruding upon their Punctilio's of Honour, we now refuse to call for any of these Memorials; I am afraid this poor Nation can at present neither meet with Reparation for past Injuries, nor can it expect a proper Security against being exposed to Injuries of the same Nature, for some Time to come.
Sir Charles Wager spoke in Substance as follows:
Sir Charles Wager.
'I must say, that whatever the present Character of this Nation may be, I think we ought to do nothing rashly, either for preserving or recovering it. A Man of real Courage and good Sense is never jealous of his Character; and therefore is not so apt to take Things amiss, or so hasty in resenting Affronts, as one who has only a brutish Temerity, or a falle and affected Courage. I do not know but that all the Facts mentioned in the Petitions may be proved; I believe they will; but if they were, I should not take upon me to say, whether or no they could justify an immediate Declaration of War against Spain. This is a Judgment which no Subject ought to make, because the judging and determining in such a Case, is, by our Constitution, lodged in the Crown only. But so far I may say, that whatever may be in these Facts, whatever may be our Case at present, we ought not to show our Teeth till we can bite.
'No Nation in the World, I believe, Sir, ever declared War, till they were ready to enter upon Action; and as we at present have neither a Fleet nor an Army ready, sufficient for attacking such a powerful Nation as Spain, I think we ought not as yet to do any thing, that may look like a Declaration of War, or even like a Resolution to declare War. I believe no Gentleman will suppose, that I can be induced, either by Interest or Inclination, to be against a War, when I think it is become necessary: On the contrary, I shall then be as much for it, and as ready to take my Share in it, as any Man in the Kingdom; but if a War were now become absolutely necessary, I should not be for giving any publick Testimony of our being resolved upon a Rupture, till we are fully prepared, and just ready to enter upon Action. Every Man knows we are not so at present; and as our calling for all the Memorials transmitted hither from Spain, would be a Sort of publick Intimation, that we are resolved upon a Rupture, I must therefore be for agreeing to the Amendment, and leaving it to his Majesty to communicate those Memorials to us, when he thinks it safe and convenient; which he may do, and certainly will do, without any Address from us for that Purpose.'
Division. Yeas 99 Noes 164.
The Question being put upon the Motion as it stood without the Amendment, it was carried in the Negative, Yeas 99, Noes 164. And the Amendment was then agreed to without Division.