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x scrvation of peace, and not by the breach of it. The party at present in power was that which was peculiarly favourable so peace, more so probably than any which could be supposed to succeed them, and consequently more likely to negotiate on terms that would be at once reasonable and honourable to both countries.
Mr. Wilberforce, having spoken as the consequences of pursuing the war, next turned to those which might be expected from making peace. He said, that wherever we turned our view, the most evident advantages seemed likely to result from it. In the West, in the East, in Ireland, and at home, much was to be expected from it. He particularly noticed, that our markets, which the prolongation of the war might deprive us of, remained still open. If then peace was so desireable, what obstructed it? Would not the people of this country be persuaded to agree to it? If they should see Government treating for peace, did the House think the nation would feel disappointed? He had already noticed their wishes on the subject. Were the allies unwilling? The chief doubt was, whether, if we pursued the war, and even paid them for it, they would continue to join us. Were the French unwilling? either the French people or the French government? He was firmly persuaded, that if any such pacific language was held out, as that which his motion conveyed, means would be soon taken to try by some neutral powers the effect of a negotiation. There hail been in France a growing spirit of moderation. In Bourdeaux, British property to a great amount had lately been suffered to be taken away, though known to be British, and that part of it which the Convention had taken for its own .use had been restored in value, upon an appraisement made hy the brokers usually employed by the merchants. lie could liot help wishing for his own part, to hail any thing like a cessation of frenzy, and to take care lest we ourselves, by our •high language, should again bring on the paroxysm. Hitherto •our language had been, that though we would not refuse to make peace with France, even under the form of a republic, yet we were decidedly against making peace wit>h Uic present men in power, and with the present republic; for. we have implied that the present government is incapable of maiAtajrPing the accustomed, relations of peace and amity with other stations.'
The motion which he meant to submit to the House, he said, would not oblige Government to treat; it would merely prepare the way for it. It would do much lets than., the Emperor had done; for the words of it were much Weaker thart those used by him in his rescript. He had expressly declared ■} .. France
France to be capable of maintaining these relations, by the whole spirit, as well as words of that state paper. What the Emperor had done thus strongly, and at the fame time partially, Mr. Wilberforce wished the House to do in a more dignified manner, by declaring itself not unwilling to entertain negotiation, with a view to peace with all the allies. The following was, he said, the motion which he should conclude with before he fat down:
"That it ii the opinion of this House, thnt the present circumstances of France ought not to preclude the Government of this country from entertaining proposals for a general pacification ; and that it is for the interest of Great Britain to make peace with France, provided it can be effected on fair terms, and in an honourable manner."
Mr. Wilberforce proceeded to offer something that might serve as an answer to what probably would be the arguments advanced against the measure he recommended; particularly adverting to the objections to peace urged by Government in former debates. Many of these he remarked were now turned in a great measure, through the change of circumstances, against those who used them. For instance, it had been urged as a reason for continuing the war, that if we would not continue it while we had the advantage of so many allies, we should in the end have to make war alone. That argument would not be pressed in the fame degree at present: Because that very event was approaching, not through our making peace, but through our too long continuance of the war; and if we wished to secure a future co-operation of allies, the way would be to dissolve what remains of the confederacy by consent, before it entirely dissolved itself, as the only chance of resuming it, if hereafter it should be necessary: He might therefore in this particular instance retort their own argument on themselves. Another argument, always hitherto used, would not at that time be repeated, viz. that we could not make peace with France without acknowledging the republic; and without acknowledging it as founded on the principles of liberty and equality, and the rights of man. Dut had the Emperor of Germany, had the King of Prussia, had the King of Sweden, had the Duke of Tuscany, in this fense acknowledged the republic? Had they signed, or proposed to sign (as nil who acknowledged the republic were said to do), their own deposition? No; the treaties entered into had been mutually #gned as other treaties usually are, and it had been shewn that no impediment os this kind had existed.
Again, the safety of Europe had been declared to be a principal ground of war; but it Europe was determined to tnkt
care, care of itself, and to make peace as the best means of consulting its safety, did it belong to Great Britain to fight her battles for her, and to fight them alone, or almost aione i
The declining resources of France had been stared as another encouragement to go on with the war—but when was tl« cessation of them to arrive? Their armies did not want fresh requisitions, and every thing went on (till much as heretofore.
There was one view of the subject, which he had not yet taken, which seemed Co highly important that he must here touch upon it. He alluded to the prospect which naturally' presented itself to some minds, of a general war in Europe, as likely, ere long, to arise. Russia, it might be supposed, would take paTt with us. Turkey, on the other hand, and other powers, with France; and a new scene of the most ex-' tensive hostilities might in that cafe follow. Humanity shuddered at such a scene j but even putting humanity out of the question, it seemed to him, in the view of dry policy, that such a course of events must be highly prejudicial to Great Britain. Who could fay what might be the consequence of strengthening Austria and Russia, as their successes might do; or of the irruption of French troops into almost every part of Europe, if the other side should prove superior? The very opposing urmies might catch the spirit of French democracy j and when it was considered that the French revolution owed its rife to a great pressure on the lower orders of die people in that country, what might not be the consequences on tlie happiness as well as on the minds of all the lower order of people in Europe, if an expensive, destructive, and almost universal war should prevail? Certainly the effects would be incalculable.
Mr. Wilbersorce here observed, how important a duty it was to endeavour to stop the flames of war from thus extending themselves over the world, and how ardently he wished to prevent the extermination of so large a p*rt of the human race. Never did he more strongly seel his obligations to his constituents, than in such a crisis as the present; when by sending him to Parliament they enabled him'perhaps to be an instrument (however unworthy of it) of lessening the destruction of mankind, and promoting the attainment of the peace of Europe. And what were the objects to be effected by our pursuing wars' To obtain a government in France worthy of trust? Every nation almost might carry on eternal war on this principle. Might not Turkey fnv the fame of Russia, y/ho had uniformly broke faith with her; a:id even Russia of
Turkey, Turkey, of whose religion it was the professed principle never to make peace with infidels
Mr. Wilberforce concluded, by remarking what would, in his opinion, be th: true line of policy for this Court, namely^ to cultivate our domestic resources, to consult the happiness, the good morals, and the comfort of the lower orders of the, people; and to excite their confidence in Administration:— To abstain on the one hand, as much as might be, from continental connexions, on account of the general uncertainty of them, the character of foreign Princes, and the situation of the affairs of Europe. He ended with observing, that what he had said had been distinct, as he trusted, and determinate— he hoped that those who made objections to his arguments, Would treat the subject in like manner, and not resort to any subtle distinctions; nor merely advise the House in a general way to go on, hoping that things (though they knew not why) might turn out better. Predictions of the success of war had seldom answered. Predictions of the advantages on the fide of peace had generally been fulfilled. In the case of America it had been said, and by high authority, that if we made peace, and recognised her independence, "the sun of Great Britain would be set for ever;" but by the operation of the most fimple and common causes, the greatest prosperity had followed our pacification with that country. The same he believed Would happen, if they would make peace with France; and the motion which he proposed would hardly fail, if it were carried, to bring about that object.
Air. Duncombe rose to second the motion. He adverted to fin argument that had often been urged, that it was impossible to have a permanent peace with the present Government of France, and asked whether we had ever had a permanent pence with France, or whether during the last half century we at any time had a peace that had lasted for more than seven years I The fact was, that we had been continually embroiled in wars for the ambition of that very Monarchy which we were dt this time so anxious to restore. Thtre was only one difference, he observed, between former wars and the present) formerly we were at war with the Kings and ministers of Fraoce; at present we. were at war with the people. He remarked on the state of the confederacy against France, and on the absurdity os any reliance on the proffered assistance of the Empress of Russia. .Such an offer on her part, he said, could only proceed from a strong presumption of British credulity. Had Raffia really wished to lend any effectual assistance to this country in the prosecution of the present contest, she had opportunities sufficient to have eviuced the sincerity of her intention*. tenttons. Far was it from his intention to reflect on the character of the soldiers and officers who had been engaged in action; their conduct was such, in his opinion, as added fresh lustre to the military fame of the country; but he could not help thinking that there had been something remiss in our naval operations. He quoted the conduct of the fleet which under Lord Hawke in 1759 gained the celebrated battle of LaHoche, and which during almost all the winter had been out at sea, cruizing oft' Quiberoon Bay and Brest, and preventing any depredations upon our commerce. Mr. Duncombe considered the present motion as a call upon ministers to put a stop to the scene of misery and calamity which was going on; to conciliate the public mind by adopting measures to bring about a peace, and to preclude the necessity of making any addition to those burdens, which had already increased-to such an extent, that they could not much longer be borne. Amidst the. distress created by these burdens, he adverted to a Bill brought in for paying certain debts, which had excited an honest and a general indignation in the country,—a Bill which, if it was allowed to pass, must for ever stain the character of the Housei He obliquely censured the recent dismission of a gallant officer^ and asked, on what particular circumstance ministers built their hopes of success in the prosecution of the present contest, whether on the situation of the West Indies, or the superiority of our fleet in the Mediterranean, which had derived so much advantage from the Spanissi co-operation? He concluded with stating, that he had long been a warm friend to the administration of the Right Hon. Gentleman, and was so at that moment, but he must confess that he ssiuddered at the prospect before him.
The Secretary at War declared, he was much surprised at the reasons which had been urged, and considered the motion as extraordinary, not only in itself, but extraordinary when compared with the opinions and late decision of the House, and still more extraordinary when compared with the former, opinions of the Hon. Mover. He certainly agreed with the Hon. Mover in the general propriety of bringing forwards such questions during a war, and particularly a war like the present; and he thought with him too, that such questions might be brought forward in opposition to the ostensible objects adduced against them, although his own objects should be drawn out like charges in a bill of indictment, and that the iflue should be tried whether they could be attained or were unattainable. The grand subject for consideration then was, whether the probable evils of carrying on a war were greater than the more certain evils of remaining at peace.
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