« PreviousContinue »
tained on a subject of such universal interest as that of the present transactions in Spain. He thought that nothing was more to be desired than a distinct expression of the sen. timent of that house upon a subject of such importanice, and he could not help expressing his surprise that no communication had been made to the bousc by his ma. jesty's ministers, as it was upon such a communication that the declaration and the sentiments of that house could best be founded. When this subject was submitted to their consideration on a recent occasion by his right bog nourable friend (Mr. Sheridan), be (Mr. Whitbread) had felt it to be liis duty frankly to state his objections to the impropriety and inexpediency of then agitating it, as he was apprehensive that the discussion atthat time might have prematurely committed she whole Spanish nation with France; since that period, however, the case was materie ally altered; the Spanish nation was now committed with France; never were a people engaged in a more arduous and honourable struggle, and he earnestly prayed God to crown their efforts with a success as final as their efforts were glorious! He could not help thinking, that under such circumstances, it would have been well to have given an opportunity of manifesting to the brave Spaniards the sympathy that glowed in every British heart in favour of their cause, through the proper channel, the legitimate organ of the British people. He thought there had been reason to have expected that a message from the king would have been ere rɔw brought down for a vote of cre, dit, to enable the government more effectually to second the wishes of all ranks of Englishmen, by aiding and assisting the Spaniards. He had no doubt that had such a message been sent down, it would have been met with the unanimous concurrence of that house, and he was equally certain that that concurrence would have been echoed throughout the country. He would, however, abstain from saying more upon this subject, or going the length his feelings on such a subject would naturally lead him, as he might be liable to misrepresentation ; but he would repeat, that from the bottom of his soul he wished success to the patriotic efforts of the Spaniards, and that their present glorious struggle might be crowned with the recovery of their liberty as a people, and the assertion of their independance as a nation, and in thus expressing his own, he felt assured that he spoke the wishes of that house and the country. Vol. III.-1808.
Lord Castlereagh said, that upon a recent occasion, when the present subject was brought before the consideration of the house, be had felt it his painful duty to express bis disapprobation of the tone and manner in which the honourable gentleman bad thought fit to comment on certain circumstances, the recapitulation of which could not bave been attended with any good consequences ; it now, however, gave him considerable pleasure that the grateful task had devolved to him of expressing his complete coincidence in the feelings manifested by the honourable gentleman, as to the issue of the great and glori. ous struggle in which the Spanish people were at present engaged. He differed, however, from the honourable gentleman as to the justice of the animadversions in which ħe had indulged on bis majesty's ministers, because they had not felt it necessary to call for an expression of the sense of parliament on the subject; for his part, he was free to confess, that in his opinion there did not exist a necessity for such a proceeding. The honourable gentleman had himself in a slight degree travelled out of the ordinary course of parliamentary usage, to express bis surprise that no further vote of credit had been asked for; he did not despair, bowever, of being able to satisfy the honourable gentleman upon this head. The reason why the government had not thought it necessary, was simply, that the provision already made by parliament had been so liberal, that the government were not without the means of giving to the cause of freedom and independance, by assisting the Spaniards, that aid which the public voice, and the wishes of every friend to liberty throughout the world, demanded should be promptly and uncondition-ally offered. He could assure the honourable gentleman and the house, that no means would be left untried, that
no exertion would be wanting on their parts, to make all 2 the resources which they had it in their power to apply, subservient to the great object, as much wished for by them as by his majesty, by the parliament, and by the country. It was not for him at present to anticipate the opinion of that house upon the manner in which the mi. nistry should acquit themselves of the great and solemn obligations, in which they might be said to stand bound to their country and to Europe ; how far ministers upon this great occasion bad done what they could do and ought to do, parliament upon a future occasion would have an opportunity of deliberately judging and determ mining.
Mr. Whitbread observed, in explanation, that the turn which the noble lord had been pleased to give to what he (Mr. Whitbread) had said on a late occasion, when the same subject on a former evening was brorght before the house, must be imputed solely to a feeling of political ani. mosity. On that occasion, he had disapproved of the motion brought forward by his right honourable friend. In that feeling of disapprobation be had it in his power to plead the authority of the chancellor of the exchequer, though neither of the principal secretaries of state in that house had thought the agitation of the subject at that. time would have been attended with any improper conse quences.
Lord Castlereagh, in explanation, denied that he had put any unfounded construction upon the sentiments of the bonourable gentleman, as expressed on this subject upon a former evening. In any observations that might have fallen from him, he was far from being influenced by any motive of political animosity.
Mr. Wilberforce confessed that the sentiments he felt on this great subject were very similar to those of the ho. nourable gentleman opposite. He could not avoid ex. pressing his concern that no communication bad been made to parliament, in order that a proper opportunity might bave been afforded of giving a sort of authoritative publicity to the unanimous feeling of the nation, that all that England could do for Spain and her cause, should be done with equal zeal, promptitude, and disinterestedness; and to shew to Spain, and to the world, our generous sympathy in her sufferings, our anxious interest in her struggles, and our hearty and undivided wishes for her complete success. And he was at the same time particu. larly anxious that Spain should be satisfied, that whatever means we should resort to, to second her efforts, were not the result of any narrow self-consulting policy, any cold and interested speculation, but that they were the spontaneous effusions of British sympathy in the cause of that freedom and independance Britons valued beyond their lives; the cause of Spain was the cause of all those who, from enjoying, knew how to value liberty. But he was particularly anxious that the Spaniards should not be fur. nished with the slightest pretence to believe, that because of the state of hostility which had but recently terminated between the two countries, there still lurked in the breasts of Englishmen any hostile disposition towards that coun.
tty; and above all, it was desirable that the Spaniards should have good reason to confide in our assistance, and not distrust the manner of it, or question the motives that occasioned it; every possible means should be resorted to to convince them that, at such a crisis, we were not base enough to avail ourselves of their difficulty and danger, in order ultimately to render their noble efforts subser went to onr own interests (hear!); and he could not but confess, that he thought an unanimous vote of that house, to that effect would have materially contributed to the confirmation of such a disavowal on our part. But there was some consolation in reflecting that, though this vote had not been called for, the feeling in favour of Spain was so unanimous, zealous, and decisive, that it was next to an impossibility that it could be mistaken; it was so notorious, that every Briton joined in enthusiastic pray. ers to the great Ruler of events, to bless with its merited success the struggle of a gallant people in behalf of every thing dear to the christian, the citizen, and the man; and, indeed, the notoriety itself had been so extensive, as perhaps to su persede the necessity of any formal annunciation on the part of that house upon a subject concerning which the population of the empire entertained but one sentiment, great and generous as the glorious cause that gave it birth.
Mr. H. Thornton gave notice, that in consequence of much misrepresentation having gone abroad with respect to Mr. Pearce's contract for great coats for the army, itwas his intention, early in the next session, to move for the production of the correspondence between the secretary at war and Mr. Pearce on that subject. • Mr. Wilberforce moved that an humble address be presented to his majesty, praying that he would be graciously pleased to cause to be laid before the house the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th reports of the commissioners of naval revision. Ordered.
The deputy usher of the black rod then summoned the house to the house of peers. The speaker and all the members present attended forth with. On their return, the speaker read a copy of bis inajesty's speech from the chair at the table to the members assembled round him ; after which they severally bowed and retired.
END OF VOL. III, 1808.
T. Gillet, Printer, Crown Court.