Page images
PDF
EPUB

any decree, full as competent to discuss and decide upon the distinction he had taken respecting Austria, as head of the Empire and as King of Bohemia, as the Noble Lord himself, or any of their Lordships.

In reply to what the Noble Secretary of State had said of Sir Frederick Eden's mission, that it proved that the republic of France was not only incapable of maintaining the accustomed relations of amity anil peace with other nations, but that they were incapable of carrying on war like a civilized nation, the Noble Lord did not seem to be aware of the tender ground he trod on, and that when he intended to brand the French government with barbarity and want of seeling, he was in fact fixing the very stigma he meant to aim at others, deeply on the characters of himself and his colleagues in office. If it were true that the French acted inhumanely in refusing to agree to an exchange of prisoners, how much more inhumane, how much more barbarous and unfeeling had been the conduct of his Majesty's ministers, who had suffered the war to continue for two years without ever once attempting to negotiate an exchange of prisoners! The reason why the French refused to accede to the proposition of Sir Frederick Eden was obvious, and proved their prudence, and the wife policy that directed and influenced their conduct. Several of the public measures of the British Government taught them that the great object of this country was to man their navy, that there was a deficiency of seamen at this time, and that Great Britain was willing to submit to extraordinary and even oppressive internal means of procuring them. Just at that moment his Majesty's ministers propose to the French republic an exchange; the French government cannot be so blind as not to fee the object of such a proposition at the commencement of a naval campaign. They have abundant reasons to know, that the wish of Great Britain is to recover her seamen, which they had suffered to rot in the prisons of France, destitute of the common necessaries of life, without the least expression of remorse, for two years together. The French therefore, upon a principle of self-interest, refuse to accede to such a proposition j but by their treatment of Sir Frederick Eden and by the other circumstances, they give him very sufficiently to understand that they are willing to negotiate with him on other and more important points. He appealed to the Noble Secretary of State, whether that was not the fact} and if that were so, what was there in the conduct of the French government mor>; ferocious, more uncivilized, than in the conduct of his Majesty's ministers, who had with so much cruelty and neglect suffered their brave fellow countrymen,

hien, the seamen of Great Britain, to perish in French prisons, without one effort to relieve them for two years together? Another cause of ill conduct in his Majesty's ministers, and which particularly applied to the present topic, was their having flighted the advice given them early in the war, to let the crews of merchant-ships consist chiefly of foreign sailors, by which means the captures made by the French would not liave operated in a manner so injurious to the navy, nor would any thing like so large a number of British seamen have been lost to the service, and been suffering the most unparalleled hardships and miseries under confinement in France.

'Lord Grcnville said, he was sorry to find himself under the necessity of troubling their Lordships with a rejoinder to the Noble Earl's reply, but some observations which the Noble Earl had thought proper to use, made it absolutely necessary for him not to suffer them to pass unanswered. He had certainly placed the argument respecting the different conduct that the Emperor might hold as head of the Germanic body, and in his individual capacity of King of Bohemia, in the manner described by his Noble Friend (Lord Mulgrave), andargued that the Emperor acting according to the instructions and declared wishes of the Diet of Ratisbon, might as Emperor negotiate with the French republic for pence, because he in that case acted under delegated authority: But was the cafe the fame with him when he was to act for himstlf only, subject to no controul but that of his own judgment and inclinations I Undoubtedly it was not. Another charge urged against ministers by the Noble Earl was, that they had not distressed the merchants, and impeded the commerce of the country more than they had done, by taking away a great number of British seamen from on board the merchants fliips. He believed few men besides the Noble Earl would think his Majesty's ministers had been blameable for acting as they had done in this respect. The Noble Earl had made several other observations, which, as he did not wish to detain their Lordships, he would pass by, and come to the last, a matter of charge against his Majesty's ministers, so important, that in comparison with every other remark of the Noble Earl, it sunk them to nothing—he meant the charge that his Majesty's ministers had wantonly and cruelly suffered numbers of Britisti seamen to remain in French prisons, and there perish for want of the common necessaries of life for two years together, without making one effort to rescue them from the dreadfulriess of their situation. If that charge were true, he was ready to acknowledge that his Majesty's ministers were guilty of the most atrocious barbarity, and criminal in the highest degree; but was the fact as the

Noble

[ocr errors]

Noble Earl had stated it? When, he desired to know, had an opportunity offered to attempt a negotiation for an exchange of prisoners till of late? Would the Noble Earl have goaded ministers to treat for that purpose, when the Convention pasted a decree to put all their prisoners to death? Was that a sit moment to appeal to French humanity? Would the Noble Earl have had them tender the proposition when this country sent cartel-sliips full of French prisoners to France, and the French, in defiance of the law of nations, not only detained those ships as lawful prizes, but sent the officers and the crews who navigated them to prison, in like manner as they would have done enemies taken in battle? [By the almost universal shouts of Hear! Hear! which echoed through the House, it was evident that their Lordships coincided in sentiment with the Secretary os State.] In fact, his Lordship said, no opportunity had offered that promised a probability of success to any such proposition from the commencement of the war to the present day. Of late, when so much had been said , in Parliament of the moderation of the present governing powers in France, and of the return to reason and humanity manifested in the speeches of the different members of the Convention, some os his Majesty's ministers had been induced to think a negotiation for an exchange of prisoners might possibly be practicable, and had proposed at least to try the experiment. He owned for one, he had uniformly been of a different opinion, and the event had justified his sentiment. Sir Frederick Eden had been sent, and the experiment had failed, as he had returned without accomplishing the object of his mission. The fact was, that his Majesty's ministers felt as anxiously as the Noble Earl or any other of their Lordships could do for the unhappy sufferings of the numbers of their fellow-subjects at this time lingering in French prisons, and they endeavoured, but fruitlessly endeavoured, to relieve them. With regard to the question that the Noble Earl had thought proper to put to him, whether, though Sir Frederick Eden failed in his object of negotiation, that negotiation had not been attended with circumstances that indicated pretty plainly an inclination on the part of the French government to negotiate on a more important subject, certainly it was a matter to which upon his own feeling he should not have adverted; but as the question had been put to him, he had no objection to give an immediate and a direct answer—he had not heard of any such circumstances.

The Earl of Louderdale-rose again; and as there was a considerable call for the question, said he could not suffer their Lordships to depart without hearing a word or tWo of reply

to

to the Noble Secretary of State's rejoinder. Some Noble Lords, his Lordstiip observed, had certainly had their patience taxed by him that day; but he was rather surprised at the extreme eagerness for the question expressed by others, who had but just entered the House.

Notwithstanding what the Noble Secretary of State had said respecting the sending of Sir Frederick Eden to negotiate for an exchange of prisoners a short time since, he did charge, and seriously charge; his Majesty's ministers with a wilful and scandalous neglect of their duty in not having during two years continuance of the war made any one attempt to procure an exchange of prisoners, till they found it necessary to do so on the spur of the occasion immediately previous to the commencement of a naval campaign, and after their own measures in Parliament had announced to the French the extreme distress of this country in respect to seamen. Under such circumstances it was no wonder that the proposition for an exchange of prisoners was rejected; he thought the French acted wisely in rejecting it, and in saying as they did in fact by implication, "We understand what you mean; you never proposed an exchange of prisoners, when it might have been our mutual interest that an exchange should take place; and now, when it is notorious to all the world that you want your seamen, you are ready enough to come forward with such a proposition, but we will not be such dupes as to let you have them."

Lord Grenvilh restated the circumstances of the decree to put all British prisoners to death, and the seizing and detaining the cartel-ships; and asleed if either of the periods when these facts occurred had been propitious to the trial of such an experiment as a proposition for the exchange of prisoners? In fact, no one occasion that seemed likely to be attended with success had offered, and it was evident from the late trial of the experiment and its entire failure, that the French were equally incapable of carrying on war as a civilized nation, as they wer« of maintaining the accustomed relations of amity and peace.

The House divided on the question:

Not- Con tents - - 53

Contents - - ^ g

Adjourned.

HOUSE OF COMMONS;

Friday, June 5.

This being the day appointed for the Call of the House, previous to the doors being opened, a conversation of some Vol. III. 3 kng»b length took place on the question, whether the House should be called over.

The House divided:

Ays - 68
Noes - - - - 182

Mr. Secretary Dundas pronounced an eulogium on the memory of General Dundas, in which he alluded to the treatment which his remains had experienced from the French: They had attempted to six the charge of cruelty upon the character of a General who, to the greatest gallantry, added the most amiable disposition, and the most gentle manners. He said, he had risen to move that a monument should be erected to his memory; he was aware that those motions had only been made in cafes of brilliant success; but he was persuaded that to the loss of that brave General might in a great measure be ascribed the calamities which had followed in the West Indies. He spoke of the services and character of the late Major-General Thomas Dundas, who died in the West Indies in the service of his country. The House, he was sure, was in possession of enough of the General's character to rescue him from suspicion of any partiality in the warm eulogiums he was in justice bound to bestow on a deceased and most dear friend. The services he had rendered to this country, in along military career, even before the present war, remained written in the memory of many Gentlemen then in the House, while all ranks of people bore testimony to his merit and services in the war we were now engaged in—Those services were not more impressively denoted by the applause and affection of the British army, even to a man, than by the rancour and animosity of his enemies, who, with a fury more than diabolical, carried their revenge beyond the grave, tore his body from the sacred place of interment, and gave it a prey to the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air. He did not, it was true, actually-die in the field of battle, but he died in the service of his country; and as his life was devoted to the service of his country, so his death was succeeded by many calamities. A character so glorious, viewed th the light of public capacity, was rendered more illustrious by his private conduct; for in all the various relations in which he stood, his life was one uniform tissue of excellence, in which it was difficult to fay whether the patriotic, the social, or the domestic virtues were most predominant.—To sum up Iris character in a few words, he was wife, yet unassuming, brave, mild, and generous.

Perceiving, as he did, that the feelings of the House went hand in hand with his own, the Right Hon. Secretary said he would (much though he felt interested in the subject) trespass

on

« PreviousContinue »