The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons: Volume 9, 1734-1737. Originally published by Chandler, London, 1742.
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SPEECHES AND DEBATES IN THE House of Commons, DURING The First Session of the Eighth Parliament of Great Britain.
The Parliament meet.; Mr Arthur Onslow re-elected Speaker
ON Tuesday, January 14, The King came to the House of Peers, and the Commons being sent for and attending, his Majesty's Pleasure was signified to them by the Lord High Chancellor, that they should return to their House and chuse a Speaker: The Commons being return'd accordingly, unanimously chose Arthur Onslow, Esq; Speaker of the last Parliament.
January 23. The King came to the House of Lords, and the Commons presented their Speaker to his Majesty for his Approbation: His Majesty having approv'd their Choice, open'd the Session with the following Speech.
The King's Speech at opening the First Session of his Second Parliament.
My Lords and Gentlemen,
"The present Posture of Affairs in Europe is so well known to you all, and the good or bad Consequences, that may arise, and affect Us, from the War being extinguish'd, or being carried on, are so obvious, that I am persuaded you are met together fully prepared and determined to discharge the great Trust reposed in you at this critical Conjuncture, in such a Manner, as will best contribute to the Honour and Interest of my Crown and People.
"I opened the last Session of the late Parliament by acquainting them, that as I was no ways engaged, but by My good Offices, in the Transactions that were declared to be the principal Causes and Motives of the present War in Europe, it was necessary to use more than ordinary Prudence and Circumspection, and the utmost Precaution, not to determine too hastily upon so critical and important a Conjuncture; to examine the Facts alledg'd on both Sides, to wait the Result of the Councils of those Powers, that are more nearly and immediately interested in the Consequences of the War, and particularly to concert with the States General of the United Provinces, who are under the same Engagements with Me, such Measures as should be thought most advisable for Our common Safety, and for restoring the Peace of Europe.
"We have accordingly proceeded in this great Affair with the mutual Confidence which subsists between Me and the Republick; and having considered together on one Side the pressing Applications made by the Imperial Court, both here and in Holland, for obtaining Succours against the Powers at War with the Emperor, and the repeated Professions made by the Allies on the other Side, of their sincere Disposition to put an End to the present Troubles upon honourable and solid Terms, I concurred in a Resolution taken by the States General, to employ, without Loss of Time, Our joint and earnest Instances to bring Matters to a speedy and happy Accommodation, before we should come to a Determination upon the Succours demanded by the Emperor. These Instances did not at first produce such explicit Answers from the contending Parties, as to enable Us to put immediately in Execution our impartial and sincere Desires for that Purpose: Resolved however to pursue so great and falutary a Work, and to prevent Our Subjects from being unnecessarily involved in War, We renewed the Offer of Our good Offices in so effectual a Manner, as to obtain an Acceptation of them.
"In consequence of this Acceptation, and of Our Declaration made thereupon, to the respective Powers engaged in the War, no Time has been lost in taking such Measures, as should be most proper to make the best use of their good Dispositions for re-establishing the Tranquility of Europe: And I have the Satisfaction to acquaint you, that Things are now brought to so great a Forwardness, that I hope in a short Time a Plan will be offered to the Consideration of all the Parties engaged in the present War, as a Basis for a General Negotiation of Peace, in which the Honour and Interest of all Parties have been consulted, as far as the Circumstances of Time, and the present Posture of Affairs would permit.
"I do not take upon Me to answer for the Success of a Negotiation, where so many different Interests are to be considered and reconciled; but when a Proceeding is founded upon Reason, and formed from such Lights as can be had, it had been inexcusable not to have attempted a Work which may produce infinite Benefits and Advantages, and can be of no Prejudice, if we do not suffer Ourselves to be so far amused by Hopes, that may possibly be afterwards disappointed, as to leave Ourselves exposed to real Dangers.
"I have made use of the Power, which the late Parliament intrusted Me with, with great Moderation; and I have concluded a Treaty with the Crown of Denmark, of great Importance in the present Conjuncture. It is impossible, when all the Courts of Europe are busy and in motion, to secure to themselves such Supports as Time and Occasion may require, for Me to sit still, and neglect Opportunities, which, if once lost, may not only be irretrieveable, but turned as greatly to Our Prejudice, as they will prove to our Advantage, by being seasonably secured; and which, if neglected, would have been thought a just Cause of Complaint. This necessary Confidence, placed in Me, has given great Weight to my Endeavours for the Publick Good.
Gentlemen of the House of Commons,
"I have ordered the Accounts and Estimates to be prepared and laid before you, of such extraordinary Expences, as were incurred last Year, and of such Services, as I think highly necessary to be carried on and provided for: And whatever additional Charges shall be found necessary shall be reduced, as soon as it can be done consistently with the common Security.
"And as the Treaty with the Crown of Denmark is attended with an Expence, I have ordered the same to be laid before you.
"I make no doubt but I shall find in this House of Commons the same Zeal, Duty, and Affection, as I have experienced through the whole Course of my Reign; and that you will raise the necessary Supplies with Chearfulness, Unanimity, and Dispatch.
"The Sense of the Nation is best to be learned by the Choice of their Representatives; and I am persuaded, that the Behaviour and Conduct of my faithful Commons will demonstrate, to all the World, the unshaken Fidelity and Attachment of my good Subjects to my Person and Government.
My Lords and Gentlemen,
"It is our Happiness to have continued hitherto in a State of Peace; but whilst many of the principal Powers of Europe are engaged in War, the Consequences must more or less affect Us; and as the best concerted Measures are liable to Uncertainty, We ought to be in a Readiness, and prepared against all Events; and if Our Expences are in some Degree increased, to prevent greater, and such as if once entered into, it would be difficult to see the End of, I hope My good Subjects will not repine at the necessary Means of procuring the Blessings of Peace, and of universal Tranquility, or of putting Ourselves in a Condition to act that Part, which may be necessary and incumbent upon Us to take."
Mr Harris's Motion for an Address of Thanks.
Jan. 27. Mr Speaker having reported his Majesty's Speech, Mr Harris, Member for Fowey, mov'd, 'That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty to return his Majesty the Thanks of that House, for his most gracious Speech from the Throne: To acknowledge his Majesty's Wisdom and Goodness, in pursuing such Measures as tended towards procuring Peace and Accommodation, rather than involve this Nation and all Europe too precipitately in a general and bloody War: To express the just Sense that House had of his Majesty's tender Regard for the publick Repose and Tranquility, and of his unwearied Endeavours in forming, in Concert with the States General, such a Plan of a general Pacification as his Majesty, in his great Wisdom, conceived was consistent with the Honour and Interest of all Parties, as far as the Circumstances of Time, and the present Posture of Affairs would permit: To assure his Majesty, that that House would chearfully and effectually raise such Supplies, as should be necessary for the Honour and Security of his Majesty and his Kingdoms. And whatever should be the Success of his Majesty's gracious Endeavours to procure the Blessings of Peace and general Tranquility, would enable his Majesty to act that Part which Honour and Justice, and the true Interest of his People should call upon him to undertake.'
Mr Harris being back'd by Mr Campbell of Pembrokeshire, several Members objected to some Expressions in the Motion, which, as they thought, imply'd a too general Approbation of former Measures: And upon this Occasion Sir William Wyndham propos'd, That the last Paragraph should run thus, 'To assure his Majesty that, after a full State of the Affairs of the Nation had been laid before them, and consider'd by them, they would chearfully and effectually raise such Supplies, as should be necessary for the Honour and Security of his Majesty and his Kingdoms, and in Proportion to the Expences to be incurred by the other Powers, who were under the same Engagements with this Nation, and not then involved in the War: And whatever should be the Success of his Majesty's gracious Endeavours to procure the Blessings of Peace and general Tranquility, would enable his Majesty to act that Part, which Honour and Justice, and the true Interest of his People should call upon him to undertake.'
Sir J. Jekyll.
But some Gentlemen disliking the first Part of this Amendment, Sir Joseph Jekyll offer'd an Amendment to the Amendment propos'd by Sir William Wyndham, as follows:'To assure his Majesty, that that House would chearfully and effectually raise such Supplies, as should be necessary for the Honour and Security of his Majesty and his Kingdoms, and in Proportion to the Expences to be incurred by the other Powers, who were under the same Engagements with this Nation, and not then involv'd in the War: And, whatever should be the Success of his Majesty's gracious Endeavours to procure the Blessings of Peace and general Tranquility, would enable his Majesty to act that Part, which Honour and Justice, and the true Interest of his People should call upon him to undertake.'
The Motion for the Amendment was strenuously supported by Lord Morpeth, Lord Noel Somerset, Mr Shippen, Sir Thomas Aston, Mr Dundass, Mr Gibbon, Mr Sandys, Mr Walter Plumer, and Mr William Pulteney: The Reasons they gave for their Exceptions to the Address as first propos'd, and for the Amendment offer'd, were as follows:
'As this is a new Parliament, I hope we shall begin with shewing a little more Regard to the ancient Custom and Dignity of Parliaments, than has been shewn of late Years. In former Times, the Addresses of this House, in Return to his Majesty's Speech from the Throne, were always conceived in the most general Terms. Our Ancestors would never condescend upon that Occasion, to enter into the Particulars of his Majesty's Speech: When they were to approach the King, and to declare their Affection and their Fidelity to him, they thought it was inconsistent with that Fidelity they were to declare, to approve, upon that Occasion, of any ministerial Measures, and much more so, to declare their Satisfaction with Measures they knew nothing about. This House is the grand Inquest of the Nation, appointed to inquire diligently, and to represent faithfully to the King, all the Grievances of his People, and all the Crimes and Mismanagements of his Servants; and therefore it must always be a Breach of our Fidelity to our Sovereign, as well as a Breach of our Duty to his People, to approve blindly the Conduct of his Servants. When we have examined diligently, and considered deliberately the Conduct of any Minister, and are at last fully convinced that he has acted prudently and wisely for the publick Good, it is then our Duty to return him the Thanks of the Publick, and to represent him as a faithful Minister to his Master; but to make Panegyricks upon the Conduct of any of the King's Servants, before we have examined into it, is more like the Language of Slaves and Sycophants to a prime Minister, than that of loyal and faithful Subjects to their Sovereign.
'I must acknowledge, Sir, that the Motion now made to us is more general, and more adapted to the ancient Custom of Parliament, than most I have heard since I have had the Honour to be a Member of this House. I hope we shall not find that this extraordinary Modesty proceeds from a Consciousness of Misconduct: For the Sake of the Publick I heartily wish we may find that it proceeds from superior Merit; which is, indeed, generally attended with superior Modesty; but as I have always been, upon such Occasions, against general Encomiums upon Ministers, and as the Proposition now before us, or at least a great Part of it, implies a general Approbation of all our late Measures, particularly those relating to the present War, which the Majority of this House are, in my Opinion, intirely ignorant of, I cannot agree to it; because I have not yet learned Complaisance enough to approve of what I know nothing about, much less to approve of what I violently suspect to be wrong.
'I had the Honour, Sir, to be a Member of this House in the last Parliament; and I remember several Motions were then made, for getting some Insight into the State of our foreign Affairs and our late Transactions: Motions which appeared to me highly reasonable, and even absolutely necessary to be complied with, before the House could reasonably comply with the Demands that were then made upon them: But every one of these Motions had a Negative put upon it. I have always had a Suspicion of the Works of Darkness; I do not like any Conduct that cannot stand the Light at Noon-Day; and therefore I am afraid some of our late Transactions are such as no Man could approve of, if they were exposed to publick View. We have been long amused with Hopes of some extraordinary Benefits, that were to accrue to the Nation from our many tedious and expensive Negotiations: We have been long in Expectation; but when one Negotiation was over, we have been always told to have Patience, the next was to accomplish all our Desires; we have accordingly had a great deal of Patience; but, so far as I can comprehend, I can observe no Benefits that have accrued, or are like to accrue; but, on the contrary, many Dangers and Disadvantages; So that the whole Train of our late Negotiations really seem to me to have been calculated for no other End, but to extricate a Set of puzzled, perplexed Negotiators, from some former Blunder, by which they have generally been led into a second, of worse Consequence than the first: Every subsequent Negotiation seems to me to have had no other View or Design, but to get rid of some Dilemma we were thrown into by the former; and happy have we thought ourselves, after a great deal of Money spent, if we could but recover our former Condition. In short, Sir, if any Gentleman will rise up and shew me any Addition, or any new Advantage, with respect either to our Trade or our Possessions, that this Nation has acquired by any of our late Transactions, I shall agree to the Motion; but considering the great Expence this Nation has been put to, and the great Losses many of our Merchants have, without any Redress or Satisfaction, sustained, I cannot agree to pass Compliments upon, or declare my Satisfaction with, our late Management in general, 'till it be made appear to me, that these publick and private Losses have been some Way ballanced by National Advantages.
'The second Paragraph of the Motion I am, indeed, surprized at upon another Account, to make our Acknowledgements to his Majesty, for not involving the Nation too precipitately in a bloody War, is, in my Opinion, very far from being a Compliment to his Majesty; It is impossible, it is not to be presumed that his Majesty can do any such Thing; but if it were possible, and if any such thing had been done, to be sure it would have been doing the Nation a very notable Mischief; and according to the Idiom of our Language, at least in private Life, to thank a Man, or to make our Acknowledgements to a Man, for his not doing us a notable Mischief, is a contemptuous way of expressing ourselves, and is always an Insinuation, that from such a Man's Malice, or his Weakness, or Imprudence, we expected some notable Mischief; and therefore when we are disappointed, when the Mischief is not so great as we expected, we say, by way of Contempt, that we are obliged to him. If none but Ministers were concerned in this Part of the Motion, I should have let it pass without any Remark, nay, I should readily have agreed to it; but as his Majesty is concerned, I hope the Gentlemen who made the Motion will take Care to have it some way altered, if they are resolved to have it stand Part of the Address. This shews, Sir, how apt People are to fall into Blunders, when they attempt to make extravagant and forced Compliments; and therefore I wish we would resolve to avoid such Dangers, by confining our Address to a general Acknowledgement of Thanks to his Majesty, for his most gracious Speech from the Throne, and a Declaration of our Affections towards him, of our Attachment to his Family, and our Zeal for his Service.
'However, Sir, as it has been granted upon all Hands, that nothing contained in our Address can prevent the future Inquiries of this House, or can be a Bar to our censuring what we shall upon Inquiry find to be amiss, therefore I shall propose no Amendment to the former Part of the Motion: But I must take Notice of one Thing which is apparent, without any Inquiry, to every Man in this House, to every Man who knows any thing of publick Affairs; and that is, the great Charge this Nation has already been put to on account of the War, while the other Powers of Europe, not yet engaged in the War, have not put themselves to one Shilling Expence: Nay, even our Allies the Dutch, who, as his Majesty has been pleased to tell us, are under the same Engagements with us, have not put themselves to the least Charge on account of the present War. Now, Sir, as his Majesty has told us, that we had no Concern with the Causes or Motives of the War, we cannot therefore be involved in it, unless it be for the Preservation of the Balance of Power; and as all our Allies are as much interested in this Respect as we are, it is reasonable they should bear their proportionable Share of the Expence: And as they have yet done nothing like it, I think it is become necessary for us to take some Notice of this Matter in our Address to his Majesty, for which Reason I shall move for this Amendment to the latter Part of the Address: viz. 'That this House will chearfully and effectually raise such Supplies, as shall be necessary for the Honour and Security of his Majesty and his Kingdoms; And in Proportion to the Expences to be incurred by the other Powers who were under the same Engagements with this Nation, and not then involved in the War; And whatever shall be the Success of his Majesty's gracious Endeavours to procure the Bessings of Peace and general Tranquility, will enable his Majesty to act that Part, which Honour and Justice, and the true Interest of his People shall call upon him to undertake.'
In Answer to these Objections, and in Support of the Motion, Mr Winnington, Mr Henry Pelham, Sir William Yonge, Mr Danvers and Mr Oglethorpe urged the following Arguments.
'As Gentlemen, who have spoke in this Debate, seem to want a much more thorough Reformation in the Motion now before us, than that proposed by the Amendment, I must beg Leave to take Notice of what they have said in general, before I come to speak to the Amendment proposed. We have been told a great deal, Sir, of the ancient Usage and Custom of Parliament, with respect to their Manner of addressing the King, by way of Return to his Speech from the Throne: What the Gentlemen may mean by this ancient Usage, or at what Time they have a Mind to fix it, I do not know; but I am very sure, that ever since I had the Honour to sit in Parliament, I never knew an Address proposed in more general Terms than that now before us; and therefore I am apt to conclude, that no Address can be proposed in this House, but what some Gentlemen will find Fault with. I shall agree with the honourable Gentlemen, that one of the chief Ends of our Meeting here, is to inquire diligently, and represent faithfully to the King, the Crimes and Mismanagements of his Servants, as well as the Grievances of his People; but when his Majesty has given us an Account of his Conduct, surely that does not hinder us from making him such general Compliments, for the Accounts he has been pleased to give us, as will not obstruct our future Inquiries, or prevent our Censures, in case we should afterwards find, that any of his Servants had acted unfaithfully or imprudently, even with respect to those very Affairs he had been pleased to give us an Account of in his Speech.
'It has been acknowledged, that the Motion before us is more general than what is usual upon such Occasions; but it is to be feared, it seems, that this extraordinary Modesty proceeds from a Consciousness of Misconduct. At this Rate, Sir, the Gentlemen who have the Honour to serve the Crown must have a very hard Task: If they or their Friends propose a long and particular Address, they are then accused of endeavouring to impose upon the Honour and Dignity of this House; and if they propose a short Address, and expressed in the most general Terms, Insinuations are then made, that their Modesty proceeds from a Consciousness of Guilt; so that let them chuse which way they will, it is impossible for them to avoid Censure: Yet, even this Address, general as it is, is, it seems, to be looked on as an Encomium upon the Ministers, and as an Approbation of what we know nothing about; but, in my Opinion, if we examine the several Paragraphs, it will appear to be neither the one nor the other.
'By the first Paragraph found Fault with, it is proposed to acknowledge his Majesty's Wisdom and Goodness, in pursuing such Measures as tend towards procuring Peace and Accommodation: By this, Sir, we do not declare, that his Majesty has pursued such Measures, nor do we approve of the Measures he has pursued; but when those Measures are made publick, if it should appear that they were such as tended to procure Peace and Accommodation, surely this House, nay the whole World, ought to acknowledge his Majesty's Goodness and Wisdom in that Respect; and all that can be supposed to be meant by this Paragraph is, to acknowledge that there is more Wisdom and Goodness in pursuing such Measures towards procuring Peace, than in pursuing such Measures, as might tend to involve the Nation and all Europe too precipitately in War: This then cannot, I think, be supposed to be an Encomium upon any Minister, nor an Approbation of any of the Measures that have been pursued.
'By the other Paragraph it is proposed, to express the just Sense we have of his Majesty's Regard for the publick Tranquility, and of his Endeavour to form, in Concert with the States General, such a Plan of Pacification, as his Majesty conceives is consistent with the Honour and Interest of all Parties, as far as the Circumstances of Time and the present Posture of Affairs will permit: Here again we approve of nothing: We do not approve of the Plan that is to be offered; we do not so much as approve of any one Step that has been taken in the forming of that Plan; we only acknowledge his Majesty's tender Regard for the publick Tranquility, in endeavouring to form such a Plan as may restore it: This surely is what no Man can deny, nor hesitate one Moment in acknowledging; and I believe that it will be as readily granted, that it was better to form this Plan in Concert with the States General, than to form it without any such Concert. So that I cannot really comprehend how this Paragraph can be interpreted to be an Encomium upon any Minister, or an Approbation of any Measure: And therefore, tho' we knew nothing of the Measures that have been pursued, nay, tho' we even had a violent Suspicion that wrong Measures have been pursued, neither our Ignorance nor our Suspicions can be any Objection to either of those Paragraphs.
'As to our Ignorance of the Measures that have been lately pursued, it is certain we are ignorant of a great many of them, and it is necessary it should be so; for with respect to publick Transactions, especially those with foreign Courts, it is absolutely necessary that many of them should remain secret for several Years after they are passed; nay, there are some that ought for ever to remain a Secret: And that any Transaction can remain a Secret long after it has been communicated to this House, I believe no Gentleman will pretend to affirm; for tho' the Members of this House might perhaps depend upon the Fidelity and the Secrecy of one another, yet we cannot answer for the Strangers that may be amongst us. This, Sir, was the only Reason, why this House was pleased to put a Negative upon the Motions pointed at by the honourable Gentlemen; and as I had likewise the Honour to be then a Member of this House, I heard such Reasons given for not complying with those Motions, as convinced me, that a Compliance with any one of them would have been one of the greatest Injuries we could have done our Country: It was not that the Authors of those Transactions were afraid, on their own Accounts, that the Transactions they had been concerned in should be exposed to publick View; it was impossible it could be so; for if they had been possessed with any such Fears, if they had given the least Ground to suspect they were so, it would have been a good, and I am persuaded a prevailing Reason for this House to have complied with those Motions.
'But, Sir, as to the Suspicions that some Gentlemen may entertain, with regard to all or any of our past Measures, it is impossible to say any Thing of them, unless the Gentlemen will be pleased to acquaint us with the Grounds of their Suspicion: When they do that, it may perhaps be in Gentlemen's Power to shew, that those Grounds are very far from being solid. They talk of our having been for a long Time amused with Hopes, and of our having been desired to have Patience: 'Tis true, Sir, there are some amongst us, not in the House I hope, but in the Nation, I will say, there are a great many who have been long amused with Hopes, who have had a great deal of Patience: They have, indeed, been under a continual Course of Patience ever since the Beginning of the late Reign: They have not yet seen, and I wish they may never see that Event happen, which they have been so long hoping for, which they have waited for with so much Patience: And, in my Opinion, the many Disappointments they have met with, is one of the best Reasons that can be assigned for our having no Cause to suspect any Misconduct in our late Measures.
'I do not think it the Interest of this Nation to be fond of adding much to our Possessions; and considering the Ambition of foreign Courts, and the Disturbances given to our Government by a disaffected Party at Home, our having preserved entire our foreign Possessions, and prevented all Invasions upon our People at Home, is an Argument, that all our late Measures have been concerted and pursued with the utmost Foresight and Prudence. To this we may add, that tho' our Trade has been sometimes a little interrupted by the ambitious Views of foreign Courts, yet it is certain, it has greatly improved in every Branch within these last twenty Years, and is now, I believe, in as flourishing a State as ever the Trade of Great Britain was in any Age: So that to return the Compliment to the Gentlemen of the other Side of the Question, if either of them will shew me where the Nation has lately suffered, either in its Possessions, or in its Trade, by any Mismanagement of those at the Helm of our own Affairs, I shall agree to any Amendment they please to propose; but I cannot think it reasonable to load our own Ministers with the little Disturbances we have met with, or the small Losses we may have sustained by the ambitious Projects of foreign Courts.
'With regard to the Impropriety of Expression taken Notice of, I cannot think there is any good Foundation for the Criticism; but if there were, we must see that it proceeds entirely from the great Care the honourable Gentleman, who made the Motion, took, to avoid every Thing that might look like an Approbation of any late Measure: For this Reason he would not propose that we should thank his Majesty for not involving us in the War, because it might have been said, that for what we knew it was necessary, it was incumbent upon us, to have engaged at the very Beginning of the War; therefore, to avoid this Objection, he only proposes that we should make our Acknowledgements to his Majesty, for not having engaged too precipitately in the War; and as this might have been done, and would, as the honourable Gentleman says, have been doing a very notable Injury to the Nation, I cannot find that there is any Impropriety in our making our Acknowledgements to his Majesty, for his not having done so.
'I come now to that which I take to be the only Question now before us, I mean, Sir, the Amendment proposed, as it now stands amended. I shall readily grant, that all the Nations of Europe are equally concerned with us in supporting the Balance of Power, and that therefore it is very reasonable, that every one of them should bear a proportionable Share of the Expence necessary, or that may become necessary for that Purpose; and I am persuaded his Majesty will use his utmost Endeavours to prevail with every one of them, to do what is incumbent upon them in that Respect; but I must leave it to Gentlemen to consider, whether our putting such a Caution into our Address, would not shew to the whole World a sort of Diffidence in his Majesty's Conduct. I am convinced we have no Cause, from any Part of his Majesty's past Conduct, to shew any Diffidence in his future; and I am very certain, we never could have chosen a worse Time than the present, to begin to shew any such Diffidence: The Nation is in great Danger of being involved in a bloody and expensive War, unless his Majesty succeeds in his Endeavours for restoring the Peace and Tranquility of Europe; and it is certain, that nothing can contribute more towards rendering his Majesty's Endeavours successful, than an established and general Belief, that a perfect Harmony and entire Confidence subsists between him and his Parliament: While they are convinced of this, every one of the Parties now engaged in War will be cautious of giving too great a Scope to their ambitious Views, or of pushing too far the Success they may have, for fear of drawing upon themselves the united Force of the King and Parliament of Great Britain; but if any Reason should be given for them to believe, that the Parliament puts no Confidence in his Majesty's Conduct, they may then conceive Hopes of disuniting the Power of Great Britain; and in that Case they will not much regard the most reasonable Terms of Peace, that can be offered to them, by means of his Majesty's Mediation: Nay, I have good Reason to believe, that some of the Powers engaged in the War, particularly Spain, will give no positive Answer to the Instances lately made to them, 'till they hear of the Opening of the British Parliament, and the Addresses made upon that Occasion; and if any Mistrust in his Majesty's Conduct should appear in our Address, we may believe their Answer will not be such as ought to be wished for: Thus, by acting too cautiously, we may not only prevent the Success of his Majesty's Endeavours for restoring the publick Tranquility, but we may give such Encouragement to the ambitious Views of some of the Powers of Europe, as must necessarily at last involve this Nation in a most expensive, and even a most dangerous War.
'But this, Sir, is not the only Objection against the Amendment proposed; for though all the Nations of Europe are equally concerned with us in preserving the Balance of Power, yet some of them may be blind to their own Interest; nay, it is very probable some of them always will; and are we to neglect what is necessary for our own Security, or to refuse contributing any Thing towards preserving or restoring the Balance of Power, because every one of the other Parties concerned will not contribute their proportionable Share? This, in my Opinion, would be a very odd Sort of Maxim for us to lay down; it is such a one as I hope will never be insisted on in the Councils of Great Britain. Suppose, for Example, our Neighbours, the States General, should be so blind to the real Interest of their Country, as to look quietly on till they saw any one of the Powers of Europe extend their Conquests so far, as to be able to give the Law to all the rest; would that be a Reason for our behaving in the same Manner? No, Sir, let our Neighbours do what they will, it is incumbent upon us to look in Time to our own Security; and I hope we shall always be ready to do what our Honour and our Safety may require, upon every such Occasion; for if ever we should resolve to put ourselves to no Charges for preserving the Balance of Power, unless the States General, or any other Nation in Europe, would agree to join with us, and to bear a proportionable Share of the Expence, we should from that Moment become dependent upon that other State, and consequently should be neglected and despised by all the other Powers of Europe.
'Therefore, Sir, as the Amendment proposed tends, in my Opinion, towards shewing a Diffidence in his Majesty's Conduct; and as it tends towards placing this Nation in a Sort of Dependency upon other Powers, I cannot but be against it.'
Ld Morpeth. ; Ld Noel Somerset. ; Mr Shippen. ; Sir Tho. Aston. ; Mr Dundass. ; Mr Gibbon. ; Mr Sandys. ; Mr W. Plumer. ; Mr W. Pulteney.
To the above it was replied by the same Members, who were for the Amendment, as follows:
'Although I have had the Honour to be long a Member of this House, yet I find I never knew the whole of my Duty till this Day; for I always imagined that we met here to do Business, and not to make Compliments. I shall never be against expressing our Loyalty and our Fidelity to our Sovereign, upon every proper Occasion; because I take it to be no Compliment, I take it to be our Duty, and immemorial Custom has established it as such, at the Beginning of every Session of Parliament; but to applaud his Majesty's Wisdom, his Goodness, and his tender Regard for his People in every Part of his Conduct, which he may be pleased to mention in his Speech, is a Method of expressing ourselves which ought indeed to be called Complimenting; it can be called nothing else, because it cannot be sincere, when we bestow those high Epithets upon what we know nothing about. This, indeed, I never before understood to be any Part of our Duty, and I am sure the Custom is not immemorial; for if Gentlemen will look but a very little Way back in our Journals they will see when it began; and I must say, I am sorry it was ever begun; for, in my Opinion, it derogates highly from the Honour and Dignity of Parliament, and from that Sincerity and Simplicity, for which this Nation was, in ancient Times, so deservedly famous.
'The honourable Gentlemen appear under a great Concern for those who have the Honour to serve the Crown: Perhaps my Concern for them is not so great; and for this Reason it may be, that I do not think their Task so hard; I confess that when I observe any Modesty in them, I am apt enough to suspect that it proceeds from Consciousness of Guilt, rather than from Consciousness of Merit; and in their Motions for Addresses they have of late so very seldom shewn any Modesty, that I was surprized to find the least Appearance of it upon the present Occasion. However, Sir, it cannot be said that the Modesty they have now shewn is in any Degree excessive; for as the Speeches from the Throne are, by the Custom of Parliament, supposed to be Speeches from the Ministers; and as his Majesty's Conduct, when it comes to be consider'd in this House, is always supposed to be the Conduct of his Ministers, I cannot allow that those, who propose that we should talk so much in our Address of their Wisdom and Goodness, and of their tender Regard for the publick Repose and Tranquility, have testified any excessive Degree of Modesty, though it may perhaps appear to be a little more than what has lately been usual upon such Occasions. If the Gentlemen had been pleased to have left out the two Paragraphs in which these Compliments are contained, their Modesty surely would have been greater, and their Task would certainly have been easier, because the Motion would have been shorter; and I am convinced it would have given more Satisfaction to the Majority of the Nation, and I hope, to the Majority of this House.
'I must say, Sir, I am not a little surprized to hear any Gentleman undertake to shew, that neither of the two Paragraphs found Fault with, contain an Encomium upon any Minister, or an Approbation of any Measure: I am persuaded, every Man without Doors that reads them will think otherwise; nay, I am convinced, that all those, who are not acquainted with our modern Refinements in Politicks, will think that we could not with any Sincerity express ourselves so, without having been made acquainted with all the late Measures relating to War or Peace, so as to be able to see that they deserved those fine Epithets we are to give them: They will not consider that these fine Expressions are designed only as Compliments, and therefore do not require any Sincerity.
'As to the first Paragraph, the honourable Gentleman has acknowledged, that if the Words too precipitately had not been put in, it would have been a Declaration, at least, that it was neither necessary nor incumbent upon us to engage in the War, which was a Declaration this House could not decently make, without knowing something more of our late Transactions than have been yet communicated to us: And an honourable Gentleman, who spoke before him, has shewed, I think, to a Demonstration, that the putting of those Words in our Address will carry an Insinuation, which I hope no Man will apply to his Majesty, whatever may be done with respect to the Ministers: But the Paragraph, even with these Words, imports a Declaration from us, that it would have been precipitate, it would have been rash, to have involved the Nation in War before this Time; which is a Declaration we cannot, in my Opinion, make, without more Lights than we have at present before us: But suppose that we are convinced of the Truth of this Declaration, what are we then to do? We are to acknowledge his Majesty's Wisdom and Goodness, or rather the Wisdom and Goodness of his Ministers, in not having been guilty of a rash Action; and whether such an Acknowledgment be consistent with the Dignity of this House, or even with common Sense, I must leave to Gentlemen to judge?
With regard to the other Paragraph, allow me to suppose, Sir, that we were by the Treaty of Vienna, or otherwise, obliged in Honour to send immediate Succours to the Emperor, would it not look very odd in us, to make our Acknowledgments to those who advised his Majesty to interpose only as a Mediator, when he was in Honour obliged to engage as a Party in the Dispute? Let me suppose again, that there were several Disputes and Differences subsisting between this Nation and any one of the Parties concerned in the present War, which Disputes and Differences we had no Hopes of accommodating in a friendly Manner; and which were of such a Nature as could not be given up, without injuring both the Honour and the Interest of the Nation: In such a Case, could we have had a more proper Opportunity to vindicate our Honour and our just Rights? and if so, can we make any Acknowledgments to those who have advised his Majesty not to lay hold of such a fair Opportunity? Then, as to our Concert with the Dutch, whether there has been any such or not, does not, I am sure, appear from any publick Step they have taken; and therefore I do not see how we can make our Acknowledgments on that Account: I hope, however, it is so; I hope they have acted in every Thing in Concert with us, as well as we have done with them. I believe it is their Interest as well as ours to act in that Manner; but a Nation may mistake its own Interest, and therefore I may suppose that they have been from the very Beginning of this War, and even before it broke out, engaged in a separate Interest; if so, can we make any Acknowledgments to those who have advised his Majesty to concert any Measures with them? All these Suppositions may be true, for what we know; and yet by agreeing to this Paragraph we must presume every one of them to be false, otherwise we must appear to be inconsistent with ourselves.
'Thus, Sir, even to take these two Paragraphs in the Sense that the honourable Gentleman has put upon them, we must suppose we were no way engaged, either in Honour or Interest, to take a Share in the present War; that it would have been precipitate and rash in us to have engaged in it, and that the Dutch are engaged in the same Interest, and have acted in every Thing in Concert with us; which are Suppositions we have not, I am afraid, any great Reason to make: But our Constituents, the People who sent us hither, and whose good Opinion we ought to preserve, will go farther: They will, from these two Paragraphs in our Address, suppose, that the Measures pursued by the Ministers, for procuring Peace and Accommodation, have been wise and good; that the Plan of Peace is such a one as it ought to be, and that the most prudent Measures have been taken to make it effectual; and if they should afterwards find themselves mistaken, what Opinion can they have of our Wisdom and Goodness? I am afraid it will be but a poor Excuse, to an honest, sincere Country-Gentleman, that he is never to look for Sincerity in the Addresses of this House, and that we never mean any Thing but Compliment by any general Expressions in them.
'From what I have said, Sir, I think it will appear, that both our Ignorance and our Suspicions are good Arguments against our making such high Compliments to the Ministers; for it is upon them these Compliments are, by the Custom of Parliament, presumed to be bestowed: His Majesty has no Concern in the Debate, and therefore we may treat the Subject with the more Freedom. Our Ignorance, as to all our late Transactions, is very great, and if future Parliaments should be always of the same Opinion the last was of, we are like to remain for ever in the most profound Ignorance; for I did not hear one Argument made Use of in the last Parliament against the Motions then made, for some Insight into our Foreign Affairs, but what will for ever he as strong as it was at that Time: The Motions then made were not for a Discovery of any of the Transactions then upon the Anvil: These Motions were only for some Papers, relating to Transactions that had been quite finished several Years before; and the only Reason I heard given for refusing us that Favour was, that the publishing of such Papers, the discovering of such Transactions, might open old Sores, they might relate some way or another to the present Transactions, and therefore it was not proper they should be laid before us; nay, we were not so much as allowed to call for them, in order to have had that Answer from his Majesty, from whom only it was proper for this House to take any such Answer. At this Rate, Sir, we shall never have any Account of the Transactions of any Minister 'till some new Favourite starts up, and resolves to disgrace his Predecessor, by exposing the Wickedness or the Folly of his Conduct.
'That our late Conduct has not been quite so prudent is, I am sure, very much suspected by the Generality of the Nation. whatever it may be by the Majority of this House. We have been long amused, Sir, we have had a great deal of Patience, but it is not, Sir, that Sort of People, meant by the honourable Gentlemen, who have been so amused: It is not the Disaffected, the Enemies to his Majesty's Family and the present happy Establishment, who have been obliged to have Patience; no, Sir, such Men are, I believe, glad to see such Measures pursued: It is those who are well affected towards his Majesty, those who are real Friends to the present Establishment, who have been lately amused, and it must be acknowledged they have had a great deal of Patience. That the Nation has been affronted, that our Trade has been interrupted, that our Merchants have been plundered, and our Seamen most cruelly used, are Facts not to be controverted. Whether they have proceeded from the ambitious Projects of foreign Courts, or from the Blunders of some of our own People at home, is a Question this House ought to look into; and for that Purpose we ought to insist upon having all necessary Lights laid before us. But for the present, I shall suppose, that they have all proceeded from the ambitious Projects of foreign Courts: What Satisfaction then have we obtained for the Insults and Indignities we have suffered? What Reparation have our Merchants got for the Losses they have sustained? Is this Nation brought so low, that we must submit to suffer, to be disturbed, by the ambitious Projects of foreign Courts, without daring once to insist upon an adequate Satisfaction, a full Reparation? I hope not, Sir; and 'till an adequate Satisfaction and full Reparation be obtained, I shall not be ready to agree to pass Compliments upon our late Conduct. If we have met with so few or so small Disturbances, if our Trade has so greatly increased, what Advantage hath the publick reaped from the happy State we have been in? What Part of the publick Debts have we discharged? What Taxes have we relieved the People from? Surely, Sir, if we have been for so many Years in such a happy State, a great Part of our Debts might have been discharged, and several of our most grievous Taxes taken off. But the Fact is otherwise; we have been every Year keeping up great Armies, fitting out great Fleets, and putting the Nation to a vast Expence. In short, Sir, we have been for these several Years in a very odd Sort of State; we have had War without Hostilities, and Peace without Quiet; and while the Nation continues in the same mongrel Sort of State, shall this House pass high Compliments on the Conduct of our Ministers?
'To pretend, Sir, that the Amendment offered will shew a Diffidence in his Majesty's Conduct, is to tell this House, that we must never recommend any Measures to our Sovereign, or rather to the Ministers of our Sovereign; which is a Maxim no Member of this House will, I hope, admit of. Surely, Sir, we are not to neglect our Duty to our Country, or to our King, for fear of giving foreign Courts Cause to think that we have a Diffidence in his Majesty's Conduct: Such Surmises we are always to disregard, even tho' the Nation were in much greater Danger than it is at present; and for this we have many Precedents, but one I shall take Notice of, which I think directly to the Point. I believe it will be granted, that in the Year 1702 this Nation was in greater Danger than it can be supposed at present; we had then actually declared War against France and Spain, who had at that Time in Alliance with them the King of Portugal, the Duke of Savoy, and the Duke of Bavaria, whereas we had none but the Emperor and the Dutch; yet in that Year this House not only recommended to the late Queen, to prevail with the Dutch to prohibit Trade with France and Spain; but actually made it one of the Conditions of the Power they gave her to augment her Forces, and that no foreign Troops she should take into her Service, should enter into English Pay 'till that Condition was complied with. I do not doubt but the House was then told, that such a Recommendation, much more such a Condition annexed to this Grant, would shew a Mistrust in her Majesty's Conduct; but they thought it their Duty to do so, and therefore they had no Regard to such Insinuations; and we all know, that their Behaviour was attended with no bad Consequence.
'The Balance of Power in Europe is certainly of as much Consequence to other Nations as it is to this; and when it comes to be really in Danger, it is not to be questioned but we shall find other Powers as ready to join with us as we are to join with them, for its Preservation; and unless we shew too much Readiness to bear all the Expence, it is also certain, that those who are in equal Danger will never refuse to bear their proportionable Share of the Expence. But if ever this Nation should set itself up as the Don Quixote of Europe, we may then expect that most of the Powers of Europe, who are not immediately attacked, will leave the whole Burden upon us; and this, I am afraid, is too much the Case at present; for as our Neighbours the Dutch are more exposed to the Danger than we are, I must conclude from their Inactivity, that either they do not think the Balance of Power in Danger, or otherwise we have given them Room to believe that we will take upon us the Defence of this Balance, without putting them to any Trouble or Expence; and for this Reason I think it is become absolutely necessary for us to give some such Recommendations to his Majesty, as is proposed by this Amendment, in order to convince the World, that we are resolv'd not to set ourselves up as the Dupes of Europe. Such a Resolution can subject us to no Dependency, because it is a Resolution we can alter whenever we have a Mind; for if such a Case should happen, as it is hardly possible it ever will, that most of the Nations in Europe should resolve to look tamely on, and see the Balance of Power quite overturned, I should then think it the Duty and the Honour of this Nation, rather to play the Don Quixote of Europe, than to see our own Liberties swallowed up in the Ruins of those of our Neighbours.'
Then the Question being put for agreeing to the Amendment, it passed in the Negative by 265 to 185. Whereupon the Address was agreed to, without any farther Debate; and a Committee was appointed to draw up the same.
An Address of Thanks agreed to;
Jan. 28. The Address was reported to the House by Mr Hedges, and agreed to.
Jan. 29. The same was presented to the King as follows.
Most gracious Sovereign,
We Your Majesty's most Dutiful and Loyal Subjects, the Commons of Great Britain in Parliament assembled, beg Leave to return Our humblest Thanks, for Your Majesty's most gracious Speech from the Throne; and to acknowledge, in the most grateful Manner, Your Majesty's tender and affectionate Concern for the Welfare of Your People, in steadily pursuing such Measures as have tended towards Peace and Accommodation, rather than to involve too precipitately this Kingdom, and all Europe, in a general and bloody War.
'Among so many differing Interests and contending Powers engaged in the present War, it is Your Majesty's Wisdom and Goodness alone, which could have secured to Us Our present happy Situation; and the Crown of Great Britain could never appear with greater Honour and Lusture, than by Your Majesty's interposing Your good Offices between the contending Parties: And as they have received them with due Respect, we cannot but hope, their own Prudence will help to compleat so desireable a Work.
'It is our Duty, and we beg Leave to express the greatest Gratitude to Your Majesty, for the Care and Concern, which must have attended Your unwearied Endeavours, both in beginning and carrying on these good Offices, which being accepted, have brought Things to so great a Forwardness, that a Plan, in concert with the States General, may in a short Time be offered to the Consideration of all the Powers engaged in the War; which, notwithstanding the great Difficulties that must attend so great a Work, may serve for the Basis of a general Negotiation of Peace, consistent with the Honour and Interest of all Parties, as far as the Circumstances of Time, and the present Situation of Affairs will permit.
'If these Measures, concerted for the common Repose and Tranquility of all Europe, should unhappily meet with any Disappointment, Your Majesty's Wisdom and Care must be acknowledged to have deserved that Success, which the wisest Counsels cannot always command. But, whatever the Event may be, We beg Leave to assure Your Majesty, That this House will Chearfully and Effectually raise such Supplies, as shall be necessary for the Honour and Security of Your Majesty and these Kingdoms, and enable Your Majesty to act that Part, which Honour, and Justice, and the true Interest of your People shall call upon Your Majesty to undertake.'
To this his Majesty made the following Answer ♦
His Majesty's Answer thereto.
I Return you my Thanks for this dutiful and loyal Address. I depend entirely upon Your Fidelity and Affection, and Your due Regard to the publick Welfare, that I shall be supported in such Measures, as I may be obliged to pursue. And You may be assured, that the Honour and Interest of My Crown and People shall be the Rule and Guide of all My Actions and Resolutions."