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HOUSE OF COMMONS.
Monday, Maj 4.

The Bill for granting Stamp Duties on Sea Insurances was read a third time, and passed.

WEST INDIA ISLANDS,

Mr. Lujbltigton presented a petition from the West India merchants, requesting a disavowal of the proclamations of Sis Charles Grey and Sir John Jervis. The petition stated, that they had presented different memorials to ministers on the subject, and had lately received for answer, that, as the property confiscated by these proclamations, was ordered to be restored, no further measures were necessary; but in consideration of the unpleasant state of warfare in which the islands were involved, they trusted that the House would take such measures as to their wisdom might seem meet, in order to come to a formal disavowal of proclamations, which had been found to be so mischievous in their effects. The petition was read, and ordeicd to lie upon the table.

AUSTRIAN LOAN.

Mr. Fox moved, that an humble address be presented to his Majesty, that his Majesty be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before the House, an account of the different sums of money paid to the Emperor, or to his commanders, for the service of the Imperial forces, with the different dates at which such sums were advanced.—Ordered.

SIR CHARLES GREY AND SIR JOHN JERVIS.

Mr. Barham said, that he was deeply impressed with the importance of the subject which he was to bring forward, and at the fame time sensible of the weakness of the hand into which it had fallen.—He rose, therefore, not without anxiety on the present occasion, but, conceiving the object which he had in view to be no less simple than it was important, he trusted that the strength of the cause would counterbalance the weakness of the advocate. He did not bring forward a motion calculated to lead to inquiry, without having such grounds as appeared to him fully sufficient to warrant investigation. He would first take notice of the time which he had chosen for the purpose, in answer to the question put to him upon a former occasion, Why he had so long delayed bringing forward imputations against the conduct of the commanders who had been employed in the West Indies? It was

Vol. III. R - not not his intention to throw out nny imputation against the conduct of those commanders. He certainly moved for papers with a view to ulterior proceedings. But without the production of those papers nothing could be done. Perhaps from the' result of their contents it might appear that there was not even the smallest ground for imputation. When lie introduced the subject on a former evening, he stated that he then proceeded on the ground of public report; it was notorious, that it was a subject on which meetings had been convened, and memorials presented. Such being the case, the motion which he had to propose, was, in either point of view, proper. Whether the imputations wl.ieh had been thrown out were well or ill founded, the effect of his motion would be in the one cafe to shew the innocence of the parties unjustly accused, and in the other to induce the House to take such steps as to their wisdom might seem meet. lie was rather surprised that the intimation he h.ul formerly given had been received with some degree of asperity by Gentlemen interested in the issue of the question. The asperity had been hasti'y shewn, and he assured them would by him be readily forgotten. So far from shewing any asperity on his part, he was desirous to adopt that mode of proceeding whicli might be deemed most respectful to the Gentlemen concerned in the business. If the result of the investigation should be, that no transaction had taken place inconsistent with their fair same, or derogatory to the laurels which they had so honourably acquired, nobody would rejoice more than he would. But reluctant ab he might feel to undertake any thing that appeared like a personal attack, the present proceeding seemed to him necessary, both in order to rescue their character, and to vindicate the honour of the country. He should move for certain papers relative to the conduit that had been observed towards the French West India islands, which had submitted themselves to the British arms. The papers for which he should move came under the following descriptions: Copies of the Proclamations issued by Sir Charles Grey and Sir John Jervis during their command in the West Indies; Copies of the Memorials to Officers, containing Instructions relative to their conduct; Copies of the Memorials sent home to Ministers, respecting the transactions in the French West India Islands, with their Answers; Copies of the Answers of the Lawyers to whom thole Memorials were referred.

Mr. Barham proceeded to state the grounds on which he moved for these papers; I ft, because they might be granted without danger or inconvenience j 2dly, with a view to further proceedings. The subject of investigation to which these papers related, was itself of the greatest importance | it was not merely founded on idle conjecture; complaints had been received both from those who were the sufferers, and those who were the victims of retaliation, in consequence of the proceedings said to have taken place in the West Indies. There had been laid upon the table that day, by one of the Members for the city of London, a petition from the planters and merchants in those islands, praying for a public disavowal of these proclamations— it was therefore the duty of that House, to have them produced. If the voice of the colonies could be disregarded, we ought never to be deaf to the voice of our enemies; they directly and clamorously charged us with a breach of the laws of nations, and of war. It was a subject, , which involved the fame, the honour, and the humanity of Great Britain. The charge made was no less than that the conduct of the British troops had given rife to a new fort of war in those islands. It was of consequence to ask, Whether the solitary successes which had relieved the uninterrupted disasters of last campaign, had brought along with them more disgrace than advantage to the country. In consequence of the system pursued, we were told, that we had already lost one island, bought with the expence of blood, and maintained at the expence of character-, and the others, if not already gone, were at least greatly endangered. If suc h was the importance of the subject, it would remain with the House to decide, whether it ought to be allowed to pass without further consideration. There was only one point more on which he should touch. At a time that the war seemed more to be carried on from feelings of animosity, than inducements of interest, we should by such an investigation shew to the enemy our moderation and humanity, and that we thought ourselves bound to persevere in the contest only from the operation os necessity, hut that it was on our part a war of justice, and not of plunder. He concluded with making his first motion for copies of the Proclamations, &c.

Mr. Manning rose to second the motion. In order to shew that no charge of delay attached to them in bringing forward the subject, he mentioned that lie was one of the Committee of West India merchants; that they had presented one Memorial on the i8th os August 1794, and a second in the month of Februarv 1795, and had received no answer from ministers till within thele four days. The proclamation issued by the commanders led to a system of general confiscation. Measures had indeed been taken to restore the property, but these had been conveyed in a private and confidential way. The

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persons concerned were not satisfied with this mode of proceeding: They asked why a direct and open disavowal of the original system was not adopted, in order that it might be conveyed to foreign nations. At present the obnoxious proceedings were still considered as public acts, and the object of the proposed investigation was to obtain a clear and distinct disavowal of them on the part of this country. Mr. Manning here referred to the Proclamation of the Commanders on the icth of May 1794. He quoted the King's Proclamation of the 1st of January, which promised to those islands which {hould submit themselves personal security, and security for their property. How well the latter promise had been kept, would appear from the proceedings that had actually taken place. He said, he had, last year, concurred in the vote of thanks to Sir Charles Grey and Sir John Jervis, for their naval and military conduct; in the capacity of Commanders, he highly approved of their gallantry and exertions. Their subsequent conduct, however, appealed to him to call for inquiry. In that conduct, something might be traced like a justification of the late Proclamation of the French Comniander^and pro. bably the new sort of war carried on in the islands, was only a retaliation of the proceedings which had first taken place under British auspices. If we looked to Conde and Valenciennes, nothing like confiscation or contribution had been adopted, with regard to the inhabitants of those places. Nothing of that sort had taken place in Tobago. The Proclamation, with respect to its local operation, had indeed been annulled by the measures taken to restore the confiscated property, but with respect to the character of this country, it could only be annulled by a public disavowal.

Mr, Secretory Dtindas said, that he could have wished to have previously heard something from an Hon. Member, who, it could not but be supposed, was most deeply interested in the present subject, Imputations had certainly gone forth, inconsistent: with the honour which through life had guided those gallant persons upon whom they had been cast; but if an inquiry had not already taken place, it was at least no fault of the Commanders interested, who had testified the greatest anxiety to vindicate their character from the various imputations that had gone abroad, impeaching the purity of their conduct. It was impossible for him to concur in any thing that might seem to imply censure of Sir Charles Grey and Sir John Jervis, while he remembered for how many pleasant hours he was indebted to the dispatches conveying accounts of the numerous trophies which they had so gallantly acquired in the service of their country- At the fame time he was aware, that if he should attempt to negative the present motion, he might seem desirous to cover what he was not able to defend. If there were in the Proclamations some inaccuracies of expression, from v?hich improper constructions might be drawn, it was at the fame time to be remembered, that some of the strongest charges, which had in the first instance been brought against the conduct of the Commanders, had afterwards turned out not to be true. The first Proclamation of his Majesty, which had been referred to, was addressed to the islands, on the idea that they would make no resistance; Martinique, however, had been disputed, every inch of ground; it had not surrendered, but was captured, and it was evident that the troops had a just claim to every advantage which they acquired by the right of conquest. Mr. Dundas stated, that though, in justice to the Public, to the gallant officers, and to the respectable persons whose petition had that day been presented, he should not refuse copies of the papers which had been moved, there .were various objections which he should have afterwards to urge to going into an inquiry to any extent. Those were—the immediate call upon officers for the public service, whose testimony might be desired by the Commanders whose conduct was called in question; the advanced period of the feffion, which would necessarily occasion the absence of many respectable Members; and the impropriety of taking up in that House, the discussion of the claims of individuals with respect to West India property, which were at present in a train of decision before the proper Courts. One of the evils as stated to flow from the conduct of those Commanders, was the loss of Guadaloupe, &c. Surely no man could be so irrational as to suppose this. Because the French had landed large reinforcements from Europe, did that flow from their Proclamations? Because privateers had landed men on the island of Grenada, and the Caribbs had joined them in plundering and devastating the country; could that be attributed to their measures? Nothing so absurd. He had flattered himself, that the letter which had been written to 4 Noble Duke, in answer to the Memorials, would have satisfied Gentlemen, that there was no necessity for such a measure as the present. In these Memorials the merchants certainly called for a public disavowal of the Proclamations issued by Sir Charles Grey and Sir John Jervis; but whatever tended to a disavowal, tended also to a censure on the conduct of the two Commanders, and to any such censure he should have had a decided objection. He should have thought it sufficient that the Proclamations had not been acted upon, ?.nd that affairs had returned to the fame situation on which they were previously to such Pcoclamaisons. la justification of the Noble Duke, he

begged

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