Page images
PDF
EPUB

cers.

Spanish point of honour, as if they had been the complainants, as if they had received the injury. I think he would have done better to have told us what care had been taken of the English honour. My lords, I am well acquainted with the character of that nation, at least as far as it is represented by their court and ininistry, and should think this country dishonoured by a comparison of the English good faith with the punctilios of a Spaniard. My lords, the English are a candid, an ingenuous people. The Spaniards are as mean and crafty, as they are proud and insolent. The integrity of the English merchant, the generous spirit of our naval and military officers, would be degraded by a comparison with their merchants or offi

With their ministers I have often been oblia ged to negotiate, and never met with an instance::of candour or dignity in their proceedings; nothing but low cunning, trick, and artifice. After a long experience of their want of candour and good faith, I found myself compelled to talk to them in a peremp. tory, decisive language. On this principle I submitted my advice to a trembling council for an immediate declaration of a war with Spain. Your lordships well know what were the consequences of not fol. lowing that advice. Since, however, for reason's unknown to me, it has been thought advisable to negotiate with the court of Spain, I should have conceived that the great and single object of such a negotiation would have been, to have obtained complete satisfaction for the injury done to the crown and peo. ple of England. But, if I understand the noble lord, the only object of the present negotiation is to find a salvo for the punctilious honour of the Spaniards. The absurdity of such an idea is of itself insupportable. But, my lords, I object to our negotiating at all, in our present circumstances. We are not in that situation in which a great and powerful nation is per mitted to negotiate. A foreign power has forcibly robbed his majesty of a part of his dominions. Is the island restored? Are you replaced in statu quo ? If that had been done, it might then, perhaps, have

been justifiable to treat with the aggressor upon the satisfaction he ought to make for the insult offered to the crown of England. But will you descend so low? Will you so shamefully betray the king's honour as to make it matter of negotiation whether his majesty's possessions shall be restored to him or not? I doubt not, my lords, that there are some important mysteries in the conduct of this affair, which, whenever they are explained, will account for the profound silence now observed by the king's servants. The time will come, my lords, when they shall be dragged from their concealments. There are some questions, which, sooner or later, must be answered. The ministry, I find, without declaring themselves explicitly, have taken pains to possess the publick with an opinion, that the Spanish court have constantly disavowed the proceedings of their governour; and some persons, I see, have been shameless and daring enough to advise his majesty to support and countenance this opinion in his speech from the throne. Certainly, my lords, 'there never was a more odious, a more infamous falsehood imposed on a great nation. : It degrades the king's honour. It is an insult to parliament. His majesty has been advised to confirm and give currency to an absolute falsehood. I beg your lordship's attention, and I hope I shall be understood, when I repeat, that the court of Spain's having disavowed the act of their governour is an absolute, a palpable falsehood. Let me ask, my lords, when the first communication was made by the court of Madrid, of their being apprized of their taking of Falkland's Island, was it accompanied with an offer of instant restitution, of immediate satisfaction, and the punishment of the Spanish governour? If it was not, they have adopted the act as their own, and the very mention of a disavowal is an impudent insult offered to the king's dignity. The king of Spain disowns the thief, while he leaves him unpunished, and profits by the theft. In vulgar English, he is the receiver of stolen goods, and ought to be treated acoordingly.

If your lordships will look back to a period of the English history, in which the circumstances are reversed, in which the Spaniards were the complainants, you will see how differently they succeeded. You will see one of the ablest men, one of the bravest officers this or any other country ever produced (it is hardly necessary to mention the name of sir Walter Raleigh) sacrificed by the meanest prince that ever sat upon the throne, to the vindictive jealousy of that haughty court. James the First was base enough, at the instance of Gondomar, to suffer a sentence against sir Walter Raleigh, for another supposed offence, to be carried into execution almost twelve years after it had been passed. This was the pretence. His real crime was, that he had mortally offended the Spaniards, while he acted by the king's express orders, and under his commission.

My lords, the pretended disavowal by the court of Spain is as ridiculous as it is false. If your lordships want any other proof, call for your own officers, who were stationed at Falkland Island. Ask the officer who commanded the garrison, whether, when he was summoned to surrender, the demand was made in the name of the governour of Buenos Ayres, or of his catholick majesty ? Was the island said to belong to Don Francisco Bucarelli, or to the king of Spain ? If I am not mistaken, we have been in possession of these islands since the year 1764, or 1763. Will the ministry assert, that, in all that time, the Spanish court have never once claimed them? That their right to them has never been urged, or mentioned to our ministry? If it has, the act of the governour of Buenos Ayres is plainly the consequence of our refusal to acknowledge and submit to the Spanish claims. For five years they negotiate; when that fails, they take the island by force.

If that measure had arisen out of the general instructions, constantly given to the governour of Buenos Ayres, why should the execution of it have been deferred so long?

My lords, if the falsehood of this pretended disavowal had been confined to the court of Spain, I should have admitted it without concern. I should have been content that they themselves had left a door open for excuse, and accommodation. The king of England's honour is not touched till be adopts the falsehood, delivers it to his parliament, and makes it his own.

I cannot quit this subject without comparing the conduct of the present ministry with that of a gentleman* who is now no more. The occasions were similar. The French had taken a little island from us, called Turk's island. The minister then at the head of the treasury took the business upon himself. But he did not negotiate. He sent for the French ambassadour and made a peremptory demand. A courier was despatched to Paris, and returned in a few days, with orders for instant restitution, not only of the island, but of every thing that the English subjects had lost.+

* Mr. George Grenville.

† The state of the fact was as follows. When the advice arrived in England of the French having seized Turk's island, in the year 1764, a debate arose in the British council upon the measures necessary to be taken with France upon that occasion. The whole council, one only excepted, were for a remonstrance to the French court, and they founded their opinion upon an apprehension, lest a spirited conduct might induce that court to break the peace, and by some unforeseen means, precipitate us into measures which might terminate in a rupture between the two nations. The one who ventured to differ from all the rest was the right honourable George Grenville. He urged the necessity of a spirited conduct as the only means of preserving the peace. That France, who was unable to continue the late war, was equally incapable of beginning another That if we did not immediately show a spirited and warm resentment to her behaviour on this occasion, she would certainly repeat her insults, and accompany them with language that her pride would oblige her to support, and thus, silence or tameness on our side would infalli. bly lead to a rupture.

Upon this, the two secretaries of state (at that time lord Halifax and lord Sandwich) committed the whole negotiation to Mr. Grenville. He undertook it, and sent for count Guerchy, who was at that time the French VOL. I

с

[ocr errors]

Such then, my lords, are the circumstances of our difference with Spain; and in this situation, we are told that a negotiation has been entered into, that this negotiation, which must have commenced near ее months ago, is still depending, and that any insight into the actual state of it will impede the conclusion. My lords, I am not, for my own part, very anxious to draw from the ministry the information which they take so much care to conceal from us. I very well know where this honourable negotiation will end;

ambassadour at the Brftish court. In a short conversation which immediately ensued upon this subject, Mr. Grenville told the ambassadour in plain terms, that the French forces who had invaded and seized Turk’s island must immediately evacuate the same, and restore it to the quiet possession of the English. The ambassadour said in excuse for the conduct of his court, that the king; his master, had claims upon that island, and that he was ready to enter into a negotiation upon them. To which the English minister peremptorily answered, whatever claims you have, set them up, we will hear them. But first, the island must and shall be restored. We will not hear of any claims or negotiation while the island is in the hands of the French king. It is absurd to seize the island, and then talk of a negotiation about claims. When the island is restored to his Britannick majesty, then, and not till then. will a single word about claims be heard or admitted. He concluded in a firm and determined manner to this effect. Sir, I will wait nine days for your answer, in which time you may send and receive advice from your court, whether the king will immediately order his forces to evacuate Turk's island, and restore it to the full and quiet possession of the English, or not: and if I do not receive your answer at the end of nine days, the fleet that is now lying at Portsmouth* shall sail directly to the island and reinstate it in the posses: sion of the king of Great Britain. The ambassadour went away, and soon after returned to show the British minister the despatches he had prepared upon the occasion. Mr. Grenville gave him leave to insert the conversation that had passed between them. On the sixth day, a copy of the orders signed by the French king, for restoring the island to the English arrived.

A similar measure of spirit was adopted by the same minister with the aniards, who had drove our settlers from Honduras, to whom fourteen days had been allowed: upon which, all was instantly and amicably adjusted.

* There was a fleet then at Portsmouth waiting for sailing orders.

« PreviousContinue »