« PreviousContinue »
bill, proposed by the learned gentleman who was so great an enemy to every species of novelty, and who thought our laws so extremely wise that they coull not be in roved. He wished to bave time to consider the clause more than the hearing it now read from the table afforded.
Mr. Burton supported the clause.
Mr. J. Abercromby was of opinion, that as little as possible should be left to the judge; and that purish. ments should, as much as possible, be deter:nined by the law. He esteemed the transportation to Botany Biyo be a matter of such importance, that it was his intention, and he now'gave notice of it, early in the next session of parliament, to call the attention of the house to the state of Botany Bay; his object being to ameliorate the con. dition of the persons sent there, and if that coull not be accomplished, that another and better mode of disposing of them might be adopted.
Mr. Wharton subinitted to the committee, this being a bill to repeal the depriving of the benefit of clergy pero sons guilty of the crime of privately stealing fro:n the person, that the clause on which this discussion arose could not in this stage be introduced into the bill.
After some further discussion, it was settled, that the chairman should report progress, ask lerve tó sit again, and that it should be an instruction to the cornmittee to make provision for the clause in question. Thus was ic. cordingly done, and the house immediately again resoly, ed into the committee.
The clause was added, the bill was reported, ordered to be printed as amended, and to be taken into further consideration this day se'nnight.
SPAIN. Mr. Sheridan rose to call the attention of the house to the affairs of Spain. It had been proposed to him to put off the subject, on the ground, that the gentlemen from that country now residing here, were this day gone to para take of the hospitality of his right bonourable friend the secretary of state for foreign affairs. He believed, lo. ever, with all the enthusiasm they must naturally fiel on such a subject, they would be equally well entertained with his right honourable friend's dinner, as they would have been with listening to what he had to say. He could, VOL.III.-1808.
therefore, on that ground feel no hesitation in persevering in the motion of which he had given notice. "He understood, besides, that his right honourable friend had dispatched a general belonging to Ireland, to represent him at this entertainment. That these noble foreigners would feel themselves particularly happy in the company of that gallant othcor, he could have no doubt ; the more especially as it was understood, that his right honourable friend had not sent him to represent himself at his hospitable board alone, but that he was also to be sent to represent this country in fighting the battles of Spain, where he (Mr. Sheridan) was satisfied his services would be unfeigned. He beyged leave to correct an idea that seemed to have gone abroad, that he meant to make an harangue or exhortation to ministers on this subject. Nothing was fur ther from his intention. He simply meant to call the at. tention of ministers, and of the house, to the subject, not to lecture them into it. All that he had to say, he had communicated some days ago to his right honourable friend. The right honourable and learned gentleman op, posite (Mr. Perceval) did not give credit to this; and be had also had the misfortune to fall under the odium of his honourable friend near him, as if by his present notice he had meant to save government from all responsibility on the subject. Thus, on one side, he had been suspected of wishing to injure, on the other to save from any sub. sequent stigma, the existing government. In neither of these conjectures, however, was there any truth. Notwith, standing the high opinion he had of the probity, zeal, ability, and estimable qualities, of his honourable friend (Mr. Whitbread), and with all his promptitude for busi, ness, he could not say that he was particularly distinguished by a promptitude to go into the opinions of others, or to doubt bis own judgment. His honourable friend must, therefore, excuse bim, if he did not, on the present occa. sion, yield to his recommendation. He had no other de. şire but to bring under discussion a subject to which the attention of the people of England was called at the present important moment. He did not ask ministers to em. bark in any foolish or romantic speculation; but he was satisfied that there never was a time, since the con mencement of the French revolution, taking it for granted that the flame would spread, there never was, he was satis. fied, so great an opportunity and occasion for this country to strike a bold stroke, which might end in the rescue of ihe world. It might be asked, if he was inclined to trust to the conduct and prudence of ministers, why did he bring the matter before parliament ? He confessed that he was not frie dly to ministers; but still this was not a subject for party. He therefore wished to express his opinion to ministers, and that opinion was, that they should not deal in dribbles; but if they could not do much, that they should do nothing. There never was, he believed, in this country, a government, except during the administration of his dear friend now no more (Mr. Fox), in which one object only was pursued. When they should have been aiming a blow at the heart of France, there was always something else to distract the attention ; when they should have been at the crise of the heart, they were always found niblyling at the rind. There was hardly a sit gle person, except his right hononrable friend near him (Mr. Wind: ham) and Mr. Burke, who since the revolution of France, had formed adequate notions of the necessary steps to be taken. The various governments which this country had see during that period, were always em loye. in filching for a sugar island, or some other object of comparatively trilling moment, while the main and principal pursuit was lost sight of and forgotten. Let Spain seç, iliat we were not inclined to stint the services we had it in our power to rén. der hero; that we were not actuated by the desire of any Fetty advantage to ourselves; but that our exertions were to be solely direcied to the attainment of the grand and general object, the emancipation of the world. He again repeated, let not our assistance be given in dribblets Bu the also agnin repeated, let it not be romantically and foolishly bestowed. Let it be seerr, that the entirusiasın of the people had been fairly awakened; without that our efforts could avail nothing.' But if the flame were once fairly caäght, our success was certain. France would then find, that she had hitherto been contending only against principalities, powers, and authorities, but that she had now to contend against á people. The right honourable gentlemañ saia le brought nothing on for discussion; he only wished to call the attention of ministers to a subject in which the feelings of the people of this country were so deeply interested. If they acted properly, they might dede end on having his most steady and sincere support, Would any man tell him that there was no use in agitat,
‘ing a question of this kind? Would it not be known in
Spain, and would it not preserve and even rouse the spirit of the people of that country to know, that the unanimous Toice of arliament, as well as of the people of Great Bri. tain, was raised in their favour, and their cordial assistance and co-operation ready to be afforded them? Was he then tu be told, if an opportunity should arise of affording effectnal aid to Spain, ibat it was not of importance that the subject had been agitated in that liouse?' He bad en. tire confidence in the right honourable gentleman (Mr. Canning), that nothing on his part would be wanting. The crisis was the most important which could be conceived : tbestand made in the Asturias was the most glo. rious, the hoped that the progress of it would be closely wached, and not a single opportunity lost of adding vi. gour and energy to the spirit which seemed to exist thete. The symptoms could not be long in shewing tbemselves, their prngress must be rapid ; probably the very next dis. patch might be sufficient to enable a decisive opinion to be formed. If the flame did not burn like wildfire, it was all over. He hoped ministers would act as circumstances required ; and if so, thy shoull, as he had already said, receive' his suppor. He concluded by moving, that an humble address be presented to his majesty, that he will be graciously leased to direct that there be laid before this house, copies of such proclamations as have been received by his majesi y's secretary of state for foreign affairs, and which have been issued since the arrival of the French army at Madrid, whether by the Spanish government, the Freuch commander in chief, or by persons since claiming tv act on bebalf of the Spanish nation.
Mi. Secreiary Canning. Mr. Speaker, I am disposed to give every credit to my right honourable friend for his motives in agitating this subject, and I can assure lvim, that he is very much mistaken if he imagines that it was intended to check or rebuke him, by any thing that was said on'u recent evening from this side of the house. At that time, although I was in possession of my right honourable friend's communication, my right honourable friend near me was not so. Sir, I could very easilyshow my right honourable friend that it is impossible to produce the papers for which he has moved; some, becaqse they have not reach, ed his majesty's government in an aụthenticated form; others, beeause they are not accurately described in the -motion ; and all, because, if we were in possession of the information which they contain, it would be highly impro. vident in us at the present moment, to communicate that information to the world. While I state this, howeyer, ssir, I hope my right hon urable friend will not misunder. stand me so much as to suppose that I impute to him any blame for this proceeding, or that I undervalue the pledge which be has given us of his support in any plan of active operations which it may be deemed advisable to adopt with respect to Spain; the more especially when it is considered, that in that pledge may be implied the support of those persons with whom my right honourable friend is cagoustomed to act in parliament, and of whose body he is so eminent and distinguished a member. Sir, I should have been far from charging my right honourable friend with blame, even had be gone so far as to chalk out to his majesty's ministers the line of conduct that in his opinion it would be expedient for them to pursue. From this he has abstained. Indisposed as I should have been to censure my right honourable friend, had he proceeded to that extent, I cannot but feel that his speech, moderate as it has been, calls for such a general disclosure of the sentiments of his majesty's ministers as may be made without bazard, without a dishonourable compromise, and with
out exciting expectations which may never be realised. It 5 is therefore, sir, I declare to the house and the country, } that his majesty's ministers see with as deep and lively an
interest as my right honourable friend, the noble struggle which a part of the Spanish nation is now making to resist the unexampled atrocity of France, and to preserve the independance of their country; and that there exists the strongest disposition on the part of the British government to afford every practical aid in a contest so magnanimous. In endeavouring to afford this aid, sir, it will never occur to us to consider that a state of war exists between Spain and Great Britain. We shall proceed upon the principle, that any nation of Europe that starts up with a determi. nation to oppose a power which, whether professing insidious peace or declaring open war, is the common enemy of all nations, whatever may be the existing political rela. tions of that nation with Great Britain, becomes instantly our essential ally. In that event his majesty's ministers will bave ihree objects in view : the first, to direct the syaited efforts of the two countries against the common foe;