The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons: Volume 8, 1733-1734. Originally published by Chandler, London, 1742.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Mr Sandys's Motion for the Instructions given to the British Minister in Poland, to be laid before the House.
Jan. 25. Mr Sandys mov'd, that the Instructions given to the British Minister in Poland, Anno 1729, might be laid before the House: He introduced the said Motion as follows:
'We have been told, not only upon the Occasion of our Address, in Answer to his Majesty's Speech from the Throne; but have likewise heard from Gentlemen in a late Debate, that the principal Causes of the War now carrying on in Europe, proceeded from those Obstructions which were thrown in their Way, at the late Election of a King of Poland: I shall therefore beg Leave to move, That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, that he would be graciously pleased to give Direction, that the several Instructions to Mr Woodward, his Majesty's Minister in Poland, in the Year 1729, be laid before the House.
'It is very well known, Sir, that the late King of Poland was at that Time in a bad State of Health, so bad, that even his Life was despair'd of, and therefore we need not doubt, but that there were some Measures then laid down for regulating, or at least influencing the Election of a new King: As we had a Minister there at that Time, it is as little to be doubted, but that we were at least consulted, perhaps, by all Parties concern'd; we had a Right to intermeddle, because there are, I believe, some Treaties subsisting between us and the Republick of Poland; and we were certainly interested in that great Event, because of the extensive Trade carry'd on by our Subjects in that fruitful Kingdom: 'Tis true, the then King of Poland happen'd to live for a few Years after; but it is probable, that the Measures then agreed on, were much the same with those which have been since pursu'd; or at least, that the Measures then concerted, very much influenced some of those Measures which have been since carry'd into Execution: For this Reason, I should be glad to see, and I think it is absolutely necessary for this House to see the Instructions, at least, that were sent to our Ministers at that Time, before we can determine any Thing as to the State in which we stand at present, with respect to the War now unhappily begun in Europe; and therefore I have taken the Liberty to make you this Motion, which I hope the House will agree to.'
This Motion being seconded by Mr Chetwynd, a Debate ensued, in which Mr Henry Pelham spoke to this Effect:
Mr H. Pelham.
'The Motion now made by the worthy Gentleman, can, in my Opinion, bear but a very short Debate. For my own Part, I really think it a most improper Motion, nor can I apprehend what the Gentleman means by going so far back as the Year 1729. I do not, indeed, remember any Thing of the King of Poland's bad State of Health at that Time; but let that be as it will, it is certain that if he was then indisposed, he recovered of that Indisposition, and lived a long Time after in a State of perfect Health; and even when he did die, I believe it will be granted, that but a few Days before his Death happened, he was in as good a State of Health, and likely to live as most Men of his Age in Europe.
'I wish, Sir, as has been wished in a former Debate, that Gentlemen would be so candid as to declare what they really intend by such Motions as they have made of late: If they would once fairly tell what they mean, we might form some Judgment, whether what they asked for was necessary for attaining the Ends they propose; and in that Case, if any Thing necessary or reasonable should be refused them, they would then have some just Ground of Complaint; but thus to move, Day after Day, for all Letters, all Instructions, sent to his Majesty's Ministers at the several Courts of Europe in general, is a Method of Proceeding altogether new in this House; and if these Motions were comply'd with, I can see nothing they could possibly tend to, but to the increasing of those Troubles and Commotions which are already begun in Europe: This would, as I take it, be one of the certain Consequences of the Motion now made to us; and therefore, as a Person no way concerned in the Administration, but as a Member of this House, I shall heartily give my Negative to the Question.'
Mr H. Walpole.
Mr Horatio Walpole spoke next.
'After what has been said by my honourable Friend, it may, perhaps, be thought that I give both this House and myself unnecessary Trouble, in urging any thing farther against the Question now before us. If we should agree to this Motion, it would, in my Opinion, shew a very great Disrespect to his Majesty; for as his Majesty has from the Throne assured us, that he had no Share in those Measures which have occasioned the present War, other than by his good Offices; and as this Motion, if it means any thing, means to insinuate that his Majesty has had a Share in the late Transactions relating to the Election of a King of Poland, our agreeing to it would plainly be to tell his Majesty, that we suspect he has had a very great Share in those Measures which gave occasion to the present War; and therefore, Sir, I must say, that I have a better Opinion of this House, than to believe that they will ever agree to a Motion so inconsistent with that Duty and Respect, which we have expressed in our Address of Thanks to his Majesty.
'There are some Gentlemen, who seem to have laid it down as a Principle, that every thing that's wrong, happen in what Corner of Europe it will, must be owing to the Mismanagement of the Ministers of Great Britain; and those Gentlemen do all they can to persuade other People to think in the same manner; but to imagine, that if any wrong Steps have been made by any Power in Europe, with regard to the Election of a King of Poland, they must be owing to the Misconduct of our Ministers; to think that any Instructions given to our Minister in Poland in the Year 1729, can have the least Relation to what has lately happen'd, either in that or any other Kingdom in Europe, has really something so ridiculous in it, that I can hardly believe the Gentleman was in earnest when he made the Motion. From such Motions it may be expected, that in a few Days some Gentlemen will rise up and move for the Instructions sent to the Lord Kinnoul at Constantinople, in order to prove the Victory of the Persians owing to them.
The same Gentlemen have of late pretended to be very artful and dexterous, not only in discovering the hidden Causes of Things past, but in prophesying and foretelling future Events. When ought comes to pass of Moment, they cry, O! this we told you long ago; and thus they pretend to have foretold every great Event that has lately happen'd in Europe; but I would gladly ask them, Where or when any of them have prophesy'd, what Potentate, or in what Manner any Potentate, would interfere in the Election of a King of Poland? Have any of them prophesy'd that the King of Sardinia would grant a Passage to the French Troops through his Territories to Italy; or did they prophesy, that he would join with France in declaring War against the Emperor? Have any of them prophesy'd, that the two strong Forts of Milan and Pizzighitone, that might have been reasonably supposed to have held out a Siege of five or six Months, should have been taken in a few Weeks? In short, Sir, they have pretended to foretel every Thing, and have really foretold nothing; I've lately seen a Pamphlet to this Purpose; but being a Digression from the Question, I shall say no more about it. As to the Motion itself, it appears to me in such an odd Light, that I dare say, the Gentleman who made it, when he considers better of it, will rather withdraw it, than have it stand in the Votes of this House; if he does not, I shall certainly give my Negative to it.'
Sir Charles Wager.
Sir Charles Wager spoke next against the Motion as follows:
'The honourable Gentleman, who spoke last, having mentioned Pamphlets, brings to my Mind that I have lately seen one, [Intitled, Observations on the Conduct of Great Britain, with regard to the Negotiations and other Transactions abroad. 1729] which I believe I should not have read, had I not been told that my Name was mentioned in it. 'Tis true, that, about the Times mentioned in that Pamphlet, we were obliged to fit out some Squadrons of Men of War; and tho' I thought myself then old enough to be laid aside, yet I had the Honour to be appointed by his Majesty Commander of some of them: With one of these Squadrons I failed to the Baltick, for the Relief of Sweden, which was then in a very dangerous Situation, the Muscovites having then a large Squadron at Sea, with which they were plundering and ravaging their Coasts, at the same Time that they were attacking them with a numerous Army by Land. The very News of our fitting out such a Squadron for the Baltick had so good an Effect, that before I arrived at Stockholm, the Muscovites had agreed to conclude a Peace with Sweden, upon reasonable Terms; so that when I came to Stockholm, I was told by the Court, that they had no farther Occasion for our Fleet; but the Fright the poor People were in, where I touch'd, and their Joy on the seeing our Fleet, was a plain Demonstration of the Danger they thought themselves in. I went afterwards to the Coast of Spain, [In Dec. 1726] with another Squadron, where I cruiz'd, and look'd out with all possible Care for the Spanish Flotilla, then expected home; they, indeed, had the good Fortune to escape me; but if the Gentleman who wrote that Pamphlet, knew the Place I was obliged to cruize in, and the only Place I could possibly cruize in, for the intercepting of the Flotilla; and if he knew the great Seas that roll there in the Winter Time, he would not have had Occasion for long Nights, or foggy Weather, as a Reason for my having missed meeting with the Flotilla; he would have known, that at that Time of the Year they might have passed even within my View, without its being in my Power either to come up with them, or to fire a Gun at them: But Gentlemen often censure other People's Actions, because they know nothing of the Matter about what they take upon them to criticise. I have served as an Officer in the Navy ever since the Revolution, and, I hope, I have hitherto served without the least Reproach: I am sure I have always endeavoured to serve my Country to the utmost of my Power; and therefore, I hope, Gentlemen will take Care not to throw any Reflections upon my Conduct: But some People seem to think, that, with our Squadrons, we may do what ever we please, and that if a Squadron is fitted out we must fight, whether there be any Occasion for it or no; I believe they think, that with the last Squadron we had at Spithead, we ought to have fought the Dutch, who came and join'd us, rather than not to have fought at all; but surely this, as it is a very monstrous, cannot be a good Opinion: We may, perhaps, this Year fit out a Squadron, and possibly they too may go no farther than Spithead, they certainly will not, unless there be a Necessity for proceeding farther; but when all our Neighbours are fitting out Squadrons, and making great military Preparations, it would surely be very imprudent in us, not to put ourselves, at least, in a Posture of Defence,'
Mr W. Polteney.
Then Mr William Pulteney spoke in Behalf of Mr Sandys's Motion:
'I am very apt to believe, my honourable Friend over the Way, who made you this Motion, was very serious, as he always is in every Motion he makes in this House. The Reason he gave for his Motion was a very strong one, so strong, that it has not as yet met with any Answer; for if it should appear, that we, at the Time he mentions, concerted Measures in Conjunction with other Powers, for regulating or influencing the next Election of a King of Poland; and that the Plan then laid down has been since pursu'd, these Instructions will certainly inform us, and from thence we may know a little more of our present Situation than we do at present: But I find, if the Opinion of some Gentlemen prevail, we are to have no Information at all; and in that Case, how we can answer his Majesty's Expectations, who desires our Advice and Assistance, I leave to every Gentleman to judge.
'The honourable Gentleman, who spoke last but one, talk'd of Prophecies, and ask'd what those Prophets had prophesy'd: Had they, said he, prophesied this? or had they prophesy'd that? What Prophets or Prophecies he means I do not know; but I may say, that without any great Spirit of Prophecy, the Moment you separated the Courts of Vienna and Spain, every Thing that has since happened might have been easily foretold. The Gentleman likewise talk'd of Pamphlets: I have likewise seen a Pamphlet, lately publish'd, and whether from the Stile it is wrote in, or the Perplexity in the Way of Thinking which is discover'd in every Part of it, I think I can be almost certain as to the Author of it. [Here he gave a Description of the Person he supposed to be the Author of it.] The whole of this fine Performance results in this, That the Nation is in a very bad Situation; something must be done, but what is to be done the Author does not know: If we do one Thing, we are still in the same Situation we were before, perhaps worse; if we do another Thing, our Case will still be the same: In short, he at last leaves us in the same wretched Condition he found us; upon which, Sir, I must suppose this Case: Suppose a Physician to have a Patient for some Time under his Hands; the Patient lingers and decays, and at last finds himself in so low and weak a Condition, that he begins to despair; the Physician is sent for; the Patient complains, and asks what's to be done; the Doctor answers gravely, Sir, you are indeed in a very bad State: There are but two or three Ways of treating your Distemper, and I am afraid neither of them will do; a Vomit may throw you into Convulsions, and kill you at once a Purge may give you a Diarrhea, which would certainly carry you off in a short Time; and to bleed you, Sir, I have already bled you so much, and so often, that you can bear it no longer: In such a Situation, would not the Patient probably exclaim against his Doctor, and say, Sir, you have always pretended to be a regular Physician, but I have found you an arrant Quack; I had an excellent Constitution when I first came into your Hands, but you have quite destroyed it; and now I find I have no other Chance for saving my Life, but by calling for the Help of some regular Physician.
'But, Sir, to be altogether serious, for the Subject is really of a very serious Nature; if Gentlemen have a Mind to do something for the Safety of the Nation in our present melancholy Circumstances, and seriously to ask the Advice and Assistance of Parliament, those Things that are necessary for our Information must not be deny'd: Their being refus'd by a Majority, which seems to be almost the only Argument urged by Gentlemen who oppose these Motions, will not have any Weight with the Nation; Gentlemen, 'tis true, must acquiesce in what is done by the Majority, but it will not have all that Force without Doors, as some may imagine. I know, Sir, it is not allowable to say any Thing against what is done by a Majority of this House; but there are certain Methods of Speaking, which are not against Order, and which might, notwithstanding, make Gentlemen feel, that an Answer could be given, even to that unanswerable Argument, of its having been done by a Majority.
'I have known, in former Parliaments, most scandalous Things done by a corrupt Majority; any Thing's being done or resolved on by a Majority, even of this House, will not make it right, nor convince the Nation that it is so: We know what Opinion the whole Nation had of that wicked Scheme, which was before us last Session; we know what Abhorrence they still have of it, and of many of those who voted for it; and yet that Scheme, to use an honourable Person's own Words, was attended with a Majority in every Division; but this is foreign to the Question, I only mention it to shew how unfairly that Argument of a Majority is urged by those of the other Side.
'In a late Debate, Sir, Gentlemen found fault with the Question then moved, because of its being too general. They desir'd that we would be a little more particular, and lay our Finger upon some Paper or Papers relating to some particular Transaction, which might give us the Information we desir'd, with respect to our present Situation: The Election of a King of Poland, and the Measures that have been taken by certain Powers, for influencing, or rather for directing that Election, has been owned upon all Hands to have been what has given Rise to the present Troubles in Europe; and now when the particular Instructions, relating to that particular Affair, which were sent to our Minister at that Court, only for one Year, and that too, several Years ago, are moved for, still we are told by the same Gentlemen, 'You are not particular enough, your Demands are unreasonable; ask but what is reasonable, and we will give it you, provided the Majority agree to it:' At this Rate it is impossible for Gentlemen, who are intirely ignorant of our late foreign Transactions, to ask for any Thing; for it is not to be presum'd, that any Man can ask for any particular Paper, from which this House could get a proper Information, even as to any particular Transaction, unless he knew very exactly the whole Series of that Transaction, and all the other Transactions relating to it.
'The honourable Gentleman by me, has been pleased to declare his Willingness to enter into the most strict Inquiry; and for that Purpose has promis'd a great deal of Condescension, as to the laying before the House whatever Papers might be thought necessary for their Information; but what has all this come to? Why, he and the Majority have condescended to give us a Treaty, which has long ago been in Print, and publish'd in, I believe, most of the Countries of Europe. I must say, Sir, that such Treatment is intolerable; I do not know what Name to give it; but I shall avoid giving Names: I would not willingly fling the first Stone; but if any Stone be flung at me, I shall always be ready to fling it back again.'
Mr H. Walpole.
Mr Horatio Walpole spoke next,
'The honourable Gentlemen who spoke last, ended his Speech with saying, that he would not willingly fling the first Stone; but it seems he had then forgot what he had said but a very little before; by which, if he did not fling a Stone, he at least, in my Opinion, threw a very great Peeble at the whole House: After having told us, that it was not allowable to say any Thing against what was done by the Majority of this House, he said, 'That there were, notwithstanding, some Methods of Speaking, which were not against Order, and by which Gentlemen might be made to feel, that an Answer might be given to what the Majority had thought unanswerable;' Then he talk'd of scandalous Things having been done in former Parliaments by a corrupt Majority: Now, Sir, I would be glad to know how this House can feel any Thing that is said of former Parliaments, unless it be meant, that the present Parliament is of the same Nature with the former Parliaments talk'd of: This, Sir, as I have said, seems to be a very great Peeble thrown at the whole House; besides the Dirt he had before flung at the supposed Author of a Pamphlet lately published, whom he took care to describe so particularly, that, I believe, every Gentleman thinks the Author, or at least the supposed Author of that Pamphlet, is now speaking to you; but I can freely declare, that I am not the Author of it; I have, indeed, read it; and I believe the greatest Quarrel that Gentleman and his Friends have with it, is, that they do not know how to answer it.
'The honourable Gentleman likewise mentioned the Case of a Patient and his Physician; but I leave the World to judge, who most deserve the Appellation of Quacks, they who have the proper Degrees, and practise in a regular Manner; or that Gentleman's Friends, who have been for some Years past dispersing their Quack Bills round the Country, exclaiming against all those in the regular Practice, and endeavouring to persuade People in good Health that they are in a dangerous Condition; and that if they do not immediately discharge all their regular Physicians, and swallow their Quack Powders, they must inevitably perish.
But, Sir, to be serious, as the Gentleman said, upon this Subject, though I cannot think that the Subject now before us is so serious as he would represent, if those Gentlemen would fairly and openly enter into the Consideration of the State of the Nation, I will defy that Gentleman, or any other Gentlemen to shew, that those in the Administration have acted any Part, or entered into any Measures, but what were, at the Time they were transacted, the most consistent with the Interest of Great Britain of any that could then be thought of, or entered into. Gentlemen may give to the present Administration the Name of a shifting Administration; Gentlemen may say that they have wheeled about from Court to Court; but upon Inquiry, it will appear, that they have never shifted or wheeled, but when the Interest of their Country required it; and that if there has been any shifting or wheeling, it was always owing to a Change of the Measures at other Courts: As long as any Power in Friendship or Alliance with us, continued to act agreeably to the Interest of Great Britain, so long we continued firm to them; but when any of them began to enter into Measures which were directly opposite to our Interest, we then likewise changed our Measures, and had Recourse to other Powers, who, from that Moment, became our more natural Allies: This, Sir, has been the Method always observed by those in the Administration; but I know who they are who have shifted and wheeled with quite another View than that of the Interest of Great Britain; when we were in Friendship with France, they were caballing with the Ministers and Agents of the Emperor; when the Face of Affairs changed, and our Friendship with the Emperor was restored, they then caballed with the Ministers and Agents of France; and thus they have been always in the greatest Friendship with those who have been most at Enmity with their native Country.
'In short, Sir, I find, that those Gentlemen who call themselves Patriots, have laid this down as a fix'd Principle, that they must always oppose those Measures which are resolved on by the King's Ministers, and consequently must always endeavour to shew that those Measures are wrong; and this, Sir, I take to be the only Reason why they have been as yet so silent as to a certain Subject, in which the Interest of their Country is very much concerned: Their Language at present is, as I suppose, 'Do not let us declare our Opinion; let us wait 'till we know what Part the Ministry takes, and then let us endeavour to shew that they ought to have acted quite otherwise:' If I may be allowed to use a low Simile, they treat the Ministry in the same Way as I am treated by some Gentlemen of my Acquaintance, with respect to my Dress; if I am in plain Cloaths, then they say, I am a slovenly, dirty Fellow; and if by Chance I have a Suit of Cloaths with some Lace upon them, they cry, what, shall such an aukward Fellow wear fine Cloaths? So that no Dress I can appear in can possibly please them. But to conclude, Sir, the Case of the Nation under the present Administration has been the same with what it always has been, and always must be; for to use another Simile, which my worthy Friend over the Way, whom I have in my Eye, will understand: As long as the Wind was fair, and proper for carrying us to our designed Port, the Word was Steady — Steady; but when the Wind began to shift and change, the Word came then necessarily to be, Thus — Thus, and no near.'
Sir W. Wyndham.
Sir William Wyndham stood up next; Hereupon the Speaker rose up, and said, that Gentlemen had departed so much from the Point in Debate, that he would beg Leave to read the Question again. This done, Sir William Wyndham proceeded as follows.
'I shall take Care in what I have to offer, to confine myself as strictly to the Question as possible, though I must say, that those Gentlemen who have spoke against it, have made such long Digressions, and have traversed so many Parts of Europe, that it is a difficult Matter to say any Thing in Answer to what they have been pleased to advance, and at the same Time to keep close to the Question. As to the Digressions which the Gentlemen have run into, I shall not give the House much Trouble about them; and as to Arguments, the only two that I have heard made use of, or so much as hinted at, against the Question, are, that the agreeing to the Motion now made to us would be shewing a Disrespect to his Majesty; and, that if it should be agreed to, it could be of no Service, as to the giving us any Information about our present Circumstances.
'It is said, Sir, that the agreeing to this Motion would be shewing a Disrespect to his Majesty, because it would be shewing a Sort of Suspicion, that his Majesty has had a Share in those Transactions which have given Occasion to the present War; though he has, in his Speech from the Throne, declared, that he has had no Share in them. The Answer to this Objection is plain; we all know, it has always been allowed in this House, that Speeches from the Throne are the Speeches of the Minister, and upon that Supposition it has always been thought, that neither this House, nor any Member of this House is guilty of any Disrespect to his Majesty, in examining and canvassing with all possible Freedom every Sentence of the Speech from the Throne; even the Facts there asserted may be deny'd, and if upon Examination it should be found, that they are false, the Minister ought and certainly would answer severely for it. This is the very Case now before us: It is allowed on all Hands, that the Election of a King of Poland is the principal Cause of the War now broke out in Europe; and to tell us, that his Majesty has said, that he has had no Share in that Transaction, and that therefore we must not inquire into it, is a direct begging of the Question: The Ministers are the only Persons we can suppose to have said so, and there are other Gentlemen who affirm, or, at least, suspect the contrary: This is a Fact then that is controverted; this is the Fact which the House is to inquire into; and when a Motion is made for having those Papers laid before us, which are necessary for giving us some Lights into this Affair, shall Gentlemen be told, that such a Motion is improper, because it is inconsistent with that Respect which we have professed for his Majesty, in our Address of Thanks? If this House can be persuaded to accept of such an Excuse, if a Majority of this House can be prevailed on to join in such a Method of Proceeding, those Gentlemen who can so prevail upon them, may throw out as many Defiances as they please: They are the sole Masters of all the Proofs that are necessary for, or can be made use of upon any Inquiry; and they are, it seems, resolved to continue so.
'Whether this House, Sir, can have any proper Information from the Instructions now called for, as to the Fact in Dispute at present, is what I shall not take upon me to determine; nor can it be, in my Opinion, determined by any Gentleman in this House; but to me it seems very probable, that we may from these Instructions receive some Lights, which may enable us to determine how this Nation stands engaged, with respect to the War now carrying on in Europe, since the principal Reason of that War is allowed to be founded upon the late Election of a King of Poland. Gentlemen may, if they please, pretend Ignorance, but it is very certain, that the late King of Poland was in the Year 1729 in a very bad Condition, with respect to his Health, and therefore it seems certain, that some Measures must have been concerted, relating to the then future Election of a King of Poland; whether we had any, and what Share in those Measures, is what this House now wants to inquire into, and to me it seems as evident as any Demonstration whatever, that the seeing of those Instructions is absolutely necessary for this End. 'Tis true, the King of Poland did recover a little, and did live for a few Years after, but he never was after that in a State of perfect Health, and, consequently, it is most reasonable to believe, that the Measures then concerted were the same with, or, at least, did very much influence the Measures actually pursued upon the Demise of that King: If we had no Share in the Transactions at that Time carried on in Poland, surely no Secret can be discovered by the laying of those Instructions before this House; and if we had any Share in those Transactions, it cannot be said, I think, that we have no manner of Share in those Transactions which have occasioned the present War in Europe.
'What Share we had in those Transactions, 'till I see those Instructions, it is impossible for me to say; but from the Lights I already have, it appears evident to me, that we have had a very large Share in all the other Negotiations, which have been lately carried on in Europe. Did not we procure the Introduction of the first Spanish Forces into Italy? Are not we Guarantees for all Don Carlos's Rights and Possessions in Italy? Are not we Guarantees for all the Emperor's Rights and Possessions in Italy? Are not we Guarantees even for the Pragmatick Sanction in its full Extent? I believe we are under Engagements to every one of the Northern Powers; and I have heard, that we are under some Engagements to the Court of France; so that let a War have broke out between any two Powers in Europe, it will be difficult to shew, that we had no Hand in the Transactions which gave Occasion to that War; upon the contrary, I believe it will appear, that each of them might have justly made Demands upon us; and this, Sir, is our present unhappy Situation: If this shews great Wisdom, or regular Practice, as the Gentleman was pleased to call it, in those at the Helm of our Affairs, I leave to the World to judge: We have been running all over Europe, and entering into Engagements with every Prince and State in Europe, and all this without any national Benefit in View, but generally to the great Detriment of our Domestick Affairs, and often to the great Interruption of our Trade in all Parts of the World; and how probable it may be, that the same Wisdom, which has brought us into this Situation, will be able to extricate us out of it, is a Question which may be easily resolved.
'We were told, Sir, the first Day of the Session, that we were to concert Measures, and to act in Conjunction with Powers who are under the same Engagements with us, and have not taken Part in the present War, more particularly the States General: But I would gladly know, if we have hitherto taken any one Step in Conjunction with them? Is it not well known that in most Cases we have lately made the first Step by ourselves, and then have, with great Difficulty and Expence, prevailed on them to follow us, which they never did, but upon their own Terms, and under very great Restrictions and Reservations: They have now indeed done something for their own Security, but what they have done was, I believe, done without any Thing of our Participation; they did not so much, I believe, as consult with us upon that Head, which really looks as if they had some Distrust of our Power, or as if they thought they could not put any Confidence in the Counsels of this Nation; and if our most natural Allies should once begin to harbour such an Opinion of us, we may then conclude, that there is no Dependence to be had upon their Friendship or Alliance.
'In short, Sir, if his Majesty expects our Advice upon the present State of the Affairs of Europe; if his Majesty expects the Assistance of Parliament in the present Exigency of Affairs, we must be informed how our Affairs stand, before we can in a proper parliamentary Way give either our Advice or Assistance: It was with this View, and with this View only, that some Papers have been already called for, which have indeed been refused by a Majority; it is with this View only, that the Papers mentioned in the Motion now before us are asked for, and if they likewise be refused by a Majority, we may, perhaps, give his Majesty such Assistance as his Ministers shall please to ask; but I am sure we can give no Advice, nor can we give a Reason for what we do.'
Sir R. Walpole.
Sir Robert Walpole spoke next,
'I will agree with the honourable Gentleman who spoke last, that the present Posture of Affairs does require, and his Majesty expects the Assistance of Parliament; but I will say, that the present Motion, and some such lately made, had the House agreed to them, would have tended to increase the present Troubles and Confusions Abroad, rather than to have given any real Assistance either to ourselves or others. I believe, Sir, there is not a Court in Europe, whether engaged in the present War, or otherwise, but expected to have known by the 17th of this Month, what Part Great Britain was to have taken in the present War; as yet it remains unresolv'd, or, at least, a Secret, and it is the Interest of Great Britain it should continue so; but some Gentlemen seem inclined not only to precipitate their Country into a Resolution, but to publish that Resolution, as soon as taken, to the whole World; and which Side deserves most the Thanks of their Country, those who are for our coming to no Resolution 'till we have fully examined the Circumstances of Affairs, and even then concealing our Resolutions till we are just ready to carry them into Execution; or those who are for our coming to a hasty Resolution, and immediately publishing it to the World that our Enemies may have Time to provide against it, I leave to the World to judge.
'Whatever other Gentlemen may think, it is my Opinion, that our Situation is much better than can well be expected; and whenever that Matter shall come to be examin'd into, I believe it will appear, that our present Situation is the very best the Nation could possibly be in, with relation to the present Posture of Affairs in Europe. The Gentleman who spoke last, was pleased to mention the States of Holland, and that they had done something for their own Security; 'tis true, they have done something, they have enter'd into a Treaty of Neutrality; whereas we have remain'd entirely in a State of Inaction; but upon this very Account, I think, we are in a much better Condition than they are, for by that Neutrality they have engaged not to act at all, nor to concern themselves in the present War; we are still at Liberty, and may, upon any Event, take that Part which shall then appear to be most for the Interest of Great Britain: In this then our Case is better than theirs, because they are engaged by an express Stipulation not to concern themselves in the present War, whereas we are under no Engagement, but that natural Obligation which lies upon every Country not to concern themselves in any War, unless they find it for their Interest so to do.
'I do not believe, Sir, that the States General, or any other foreign Power has less Trust in the Strength, or less Confidence in the Counsels of this Nation than they formerly had; but if it were so, I should not wonder at it, when every Post tells them, that we are a divided Nation, and that there is no Dependence to be had upon our present Counsels, because great Alterations are soon to happen, which must necessarily produce a thorough Change in all our publick Measures; and upon this Consideration I leave it to every impartial Man to judge, if we are in any unhappy Situation, who have contributed most to it, those who have honestly and faithfully served the Crown, or those who have made it their Business for some Years, to do all that was in their Power to distress every Measure of his Majesty's Government; and that too in Conjunction with a Person who I believe will never be trusted by any Court in Europe.
'His Majesty, in his Speech from the Throne, has told us, that he is not any Way engaged in the present War, and that he will take Time to examine the Facts alledged on both Sides, before he comes to any Determination; when he has done so, it is not to be doubted, but that he will lay all the Informations he can get before his Parliament, and will take the Advice of Parliament, what Part the Nation ought to take in the then Conjuncture; why then should we endeavour to anticipate his Majesty's wise Designs? Why should we run headlong and plunge the Nation into a War, by joining either one Side or other, before his Majesty has had any Time to examine into the Posture of Affairs abroad? This seems, indeed, to be the View of some Gentlemen; but surely such a rash Proceeding would rather increase than diminish the Unhappiness of our present Situation; and is very far from that Coolness and Temper which ought to be shewn, when the very Safefy of our Country depends upon the Prudence and Unanimity of our Resolutions.
'An honourable Gentleman, Sir, who spoke some time ago, took indeed a great deal of Liberty in talking of Majorities of Parliament; but I would have Gentlemen to know, that when they talk of such Majorities at present, they speak of their Equals as Members of this House, of their Equals on any Ground in England; let Gentlemen but cast their Eyes round the House, and they will find a Number of Gentlemen superior to the highest Number of their Minority, who can as little be suspected of Corruption, as any of those who generally appear upon the Minority Side of the Question.
'It is, Sir, an easy Matter for Gentlemen to represent the Measures, lately taken by the Government, as unwise, inconsistent, and the like, or to give them what other Epithets they have a mind, but when the Day comes for inquiring into them, which I as heartily wish for as any Gentleman in this House, I believe those Measures will appear in a quite different Light; and those Gentlemen, who may perhaps have hearkned to every little Whisper of some of the foreign Ministers at this Court, which is, I believe, the only Foundation they have for what they have asserted, will find themselves at last disappointed. Whenever such an Inquiry shall be resolved on, I make no Doubt, but that the Majority of this House will agree to call for every Paper, that can be thought necessary for giving the House a full Information of the present State of the Nation: But this is not the Question at present, nor are we now to inquire whether his Majesty has had a Share in those Transactions, which have given Occasion to the present War in Europe; and therefore I cannot think we have, at present, any thing to do with any Instructions given to his Majesty's Ministers in Poland or elsewhere.
'His Majesty, 'tis true, Sir, expects the Assistance of his Parliament, but for what? He does not immediately expect such an Assistance as to enable him to take any Part in the present War; he wants only such an Assistance as may enable him to put the Nation in a proper Posture of Defence; and furely we may determine what Assistance will be necessary for that End, without inquiring into any of our foreign Negotiations. It is for this Reason, Sir, that I think the House has done right, in rejecting all the Motions hitherto made for Letters and Instructions relating to our foreign Affairs, and, for the same Reason I make no doubt, but that they will likewise reject the present Motion.'
The Question being then put upon Mr Sandys's Motion, it was carried in the Negative by 202 against 114.
Mr Waller's Motion for an Address to know, how far the King was engaged, by his good Offices, in the Causes of the War against the Emperor.
Then Mr Edmund Waller, Member for Great Marlow, rose up and moved, That an humble Address should be presented to his Majesty, that he would be graciously pleased to communicate to the House, how far he had been engaged, by his good Offices, in those Transactions, which had been declar'd to be the principal Causes and Motives of the War, which was then begun and carried on against the Emperor, with so much Vigour, by the united Powers of France, Spain, and Sardinia. This Motion was seconded, but, being opposed by the Courtiers, it was carried in the Negative, without a Division.
Mr Sandys's Motion for an Account of what Application had been made to his Majesty, by the Parties engaged in the War. ; Debate thereon.
Then Mr Sandys stood up again, and said, 'That though the Motion he had just before made had been rejected, yet, as he never proposed any Thing in that House, but what he thought just and reasonable, he was not therefore apt to be discourag'd; and for that Reason he would beg Leave to make another Motion, which he hoped would meet with better Success, which was, That an humble Address should be presented to his Majesty, that he would be graciously pleased to communicate to the House, what Application had been made to him by the several Parties then engaged in the War, founded upon Treaties or other Engagements.'
Sir J. Rushout.
This Motion being seconded by Sir John Rushout, the same was opposed by Mr Henry Pelham, who spoke as follows.
Mr H. Pelham.
'It is very true, that the honourable Gentleman, who made you this Motion, is not very apt to be discouraged, but however he may flatter himself with Success in his present Motion, it is, in my Opinion, so much of a Kin to his former Motion, which the House has already rejected, that I can see no Reason he has to expect, that the present should have a different Fate. His Majesty has already told us, that he was no way engaged in the present War, nor had had any Share in those Transactions which gave Rise to it; and therefore 'tis not to be presumed, that any Power engag'd has made any Application to him founded upon Treaties or other Engagements. Some of them might perhaps have made an Application to his Majesty for his Assistance; but even such Application was not to be presumed, because, had any such Application been made, it was not to be doubted, but that his Majesty, in his Speech from the Throne, would have taken some Notice of it. As this Question, Sir, is of the same Nature with the former Question moved by that Gentleman, and founded upon the same Jealousy of his Majesty's Conduct, it is impossible for me to have any thing new to urge against it; but I believe it is as impossible for any Gentleman in this House to say any thing new in Favour of it; and therefore I shall give the House no farther trouble, only to declare, that I shall give my Negative to it, as well as I did to the former.'
Then Mr Pulteney spoke in Favour of the Motion.
'In whatever Light the honourable Gentleman, who spoke last, may take the present Motion, I think it must bear a very different Consideration from the Motion formerly made by my worthy Friend. I believe it will not be denied, but that we are under some Engagements to every one, or, at least, to most of the Powers concern'd in the present War; and whatever we may at present pretend to think of those Engagements, it is very probable, that those to whom we are engaged think otherwise: It is not to be doubted, but that some of them think that we are, by the Engagements we have entered into, obliged to assist them, upon the present Emergency; and it is pretty well known, that they have made Application for an immediate Performance of those Engagements. I have heard, that ten thousand Land-Forces, or some such Number, has been actually demanded by one of the Powers engaged in the War; I will not, indeed, affirm the Truth of it, though I have something more than the Whisper of a foreign Minister to confirm what I say.
'It is well known, Sir, that in most of the Engagements we have entered into with foreign Powers, it is left to the Choice of the Power we are engaged with, to demand a Quota in a Squadron of Ships, a certain Sum of Money, or a certain Number of Troops; and as we are to go into a Committee upon the Supply on Monday next, there is nothing more reasonable, than that the House should be informed of what Demands have been made upon us, and whether those Demands have been for Ships, Money, or Men, before we go into that Committee; for, without such Information, it will be impossible for us to know how to come to such Resolutions, as may be most for the Safety and Honour of the Nation. The Motion is therefore so far from being unreasonable, that it is necessary it should be complied with; and if it is not, I cannot really see how we can properly go into the Committee upon the Supply on Monday next.'
Sir W. Yonge.
To this Sir William Yonge replied:
'I can see no Reason, why the House may not be fully prepared for going into the Committee of Supply on Monday next, though this Motion should be rejected as the others have been; and therefore I do not think it necessary to enter into the Debate at present, whether the Motion be reasonable or no; there may be another Time for that Question, for which Reason I shall now only move for the previous Question.
Hereupon Mr Pulteney stood up again, and said:
'I find the Gentleman, who spoke last, has avoided entering upon the Merits of the Question, and, by a Sort of parliamentary Trick, by moving for the previous Question, he intends, it seems, to put off the Question for this Day, at least; this, in my Opinion, is treating the Question with much greater Indecency than if it were to be fairly argu'd, and afterwards rejected; for if the Question be delay'd 'till after Monday next, it will then be too late to enter upon the Consideration of it; it will really be in Effect, first to resolve, and then to enter into the Consideration of what ought to be resolved; and therefore I must desire, that the Question may be fairly debated, that Gentlemen would, at least, give us a Reason for what they are to do, and then let the Motion stand or fall upon its own Merits.
Sir W. Yonge.
To this Sir William Yonge answer'd as follows:
'I did not intend any Trick when I moved for the previous Question; it is what has been always practised in this House, when any Question has been moved, which Gentlemen have a Mind to favour so much as not to put a Negative upon it: But even as to the Merits of the Question; it cannot, certainly, have any Relation to any Resolutions we can possibly come to on Monday next in the Committee of Supply; for all the Resolutions we come to in that Committee, are founded upon Estimates given in, or Demands made by the Crown; and if any Demand were to be made upon this House, to enable his Majesty to send a Quota either of Ships of War, Money, or Troops, to any Power in Europe, such Demand would certainly be laid before this House by his Majesty's Orders, without putting us to the Trouble of presenting any such Address as is now moved for; there is therefore no Necessity for entering this Day upon the Merits of this Question; the Gentleman may renew his Motion when he thinks proper, and then I do not doubt but other Gentlemen will debate the Reasonableness of it; and as it appears to the House, it will certainly be agreed to or rejected; but as I do not think this a proper Time for debating it, I must insist upon my Motion.'
Mr W. Plumer.
Then Mr Walter Plumer said,
'As we shall probably come on Monday next to some Resolutions with respect to our Seamen, I should think it necessary for this House to know what Demands have been made upon us by our Allies, before we come to any Resolution on that Head; otherwise we may leave Room for those extraordinary Messages and Demands towards the End of the Session, which this Nation has of late been too much accustomed to. The Gentleman who moved the previous Question, says, 'That this is not a proper Time for entering upon the Merits of the Motion now made to us, because, if any such Application had been made by any of our Allies, and his Majesty had resolved to grant what was asked, he would have ordered this to be laid before us, together with the Estimates and Demands of the current Service of the onsuing Year.' Is not this directly to tell us, that after his Majesty has come to a Determination what Part to act, he will be graciously pleased to take the Advice of Parliament. It is true, his Majesty has by his Prerogative the Power of making Peace or War: But in a Matter of so great Consequence, it has always appeared to be the Interest, nay, I may say, it has always been thought to be the Duty of the Kings of England, to take the Advice of their People in Parliament assembled, and not to trust entirely to the Advice of their Ministers; and if any such Demand, as is mention'd in the Motion now before us, has been made by any of his Majesty's Allies, I cannot think that it would be any Way derogatory to the Prerogative of the Crown, or to the Wisdom of the Ministers, to lay it before the Parliament, whether it ought to be comply'd with or not.'
Mr Cockburn, Knight of the Shire for Haddington, spoke next.
'I was against the first Motion, because some Gentlemen had assured the House, and I was myself a little afraid, that at present it might tend to increase the Confusions and Troubles that are now in Europe; but the present Motion I take to be of a very different Nature; I am sure that, should it be comply'd with, no Secrets can thereby be discovered, nor can it possibly tend to increase the present Troubles of Europe.
'I am old enough to remember the Beginning of the first great War against France, and I remember, that as soon as the Dutch applied to us for our Assistance, King William immediately laid the Case before the Parliament, and took their Advice, as to what was proper to be done upon that Emergency, before he came to any Resolution: Upon the breaking out of the second War, the late Queen did the same; and I must say, that I think every King of this Nation ought to follow that Example; if they expect the Assistance of Parliament, they ought to take the Advice of Parliament; and our Histories will inform us, that where they have done so, they have generally done well, and where they have done otherwise, they have had but little Success; for which Reason I am for agreeing with the Motion now made to us.'
The Previous Question being then put upon Mr Sandys's Motion, it was carried in the Negative, without a Division.