Page images

their country, which never, he thought, tant crisis the decision, skill, and valour
was placed in so honourable a point of of this country, broke through the com-
view, or had come off with a greater ac- bination which he been formed against
cession of character than in that instance. her wealth and greatness. A glorious
He particularly applauded the vigorous naval victory opened our way into the
and decided measures adopted by minis- Baltic; an armistice ensued with Den-
ters on that occasion, in which a noble mark: our moderation was evinced in the
and gallant viscount then present, and to very moment of our success and triumph.
whom their lordships' thanks were so Other favourable circumstances occurred,
justly given, had shone with so much which were all carefully improved by our
lustre ; he fully agreed with the noble lord government. A negotiation was opened
who preceded him, as to the situation of with Russia, and thie treaty which ensued
peril in which the country stood at the had been laid before the House. Hap-
commencement of the year : The dark pily, the first blow we gave in the Baltic
cloud that hung over the country at that led to a termination of the contest; a ter-
time, in consequence of a dire domestic mination highly advantageous and honour-
calamity, an unsettled administration, the able to this country. The scruple that
dread of approaching famine, and the se free bottoms made free goods, and the
vere pressure of the public burthens, exemption claimed by our late opponents,
darkened the cloud still more, and might were happily resisted, and these questions
have disheartened minds less firm than completely decided by the present con-
those of his majesty's ministers ; but in- vention, which, on the ground he had
stead of feeling despondency, they felt stated, he fully approved of.
that the situation of the country was pe- Lord Grenville rose and said:
rilous in the extreme, but in proportion
to the magnitude of the danger, they felt My lords ;-If this convention offered
that it ought to be looked manfully in the to us any prospect of those advantages,
face, and met with measures of prompt which have been so liberally ascribed to
vigour and energy. Undismayed by the it by the zeal of its supporters, they
new war that menaced from the North, would, in my opinion, be well justified in
they determined at all hazards to maintain having claimed for it from parliament an
the national honour, and assert her just unqualified and unanimous approbation.
rights; they shrunk not, therefore, from The ultimate establishment and recogni-
the complicated conflict in prospect, but tion of those principles, for which Great
made ready for the occasion, and were Britain fought and conquered at Copen-
prepared to fight France and her allies hagen, would undoubtedly offer an occa-
with the one hand, and the powers of the sion which we ought gladly to embrace,
North with the other. One could hardly for just congratulation from this House
suppose, but a few months ago, that it to his majesty; and, far from opposing
were possible to stand on the proud emi. such a motion, I should think myself
nence upon which we now find ourselves peculiarly called upon to concur in the
placed. If we looked back, what was our praises of any statesmen, who had really,
situation ? After a long and expensive in the words of this Address“ secured to
war, we found ourselves without any us those essential rights, for which we
prospect of its termination : Ireland in a have contended," and which I believe to
most unsatisfactory state, affairs at home be inseparably connected with the exist-
in a very critical posture : our allies mak- ence of our naval power. Great, indeed,
ing peace with our worst foe: the northern and sincere would be the satisfaction,
powers of Europe, to crown all, preparing which I should derive from the opportu-
for a general maritime war, in which we nity of expressing such commendation.
were to fight single-handed. France, too, To the subject of this treaty it has
was in a singular situation. She had, at been, for many years, my duty to allot a
the commencement of the war, all the very large proportion of my thoughts and
but by various events, it had so happened, of its importance to the interests of my
that she had no open enemy left. Dissa- country, makes it impossible that I should
tisfied, indeed, were many of the conti. now look with indifference to the mode of
nental powers; but it suited not their cir- its final arrangement, or consider myself
cumstances to take an active part any an unconcerned spectator, of a transac-
longer against France. At this impor- tion, which is to decide, what rank we

[ocr errors]

shall hereafter maintain among the nations these imaginary advantages are, in fact, of Europe. It is therefore with sincere injurious to the very interests they are concern, that I am about to deliver the supposed to promote, and that the whole opinion which I have formed, on a re system against which Great Britain bas peated examination of the convention contended, the whole code of projected now offered to the consideration of your innovations in the public law of Europe, lordships. But, on an occasion like the is mutually dangerous to both empires, present, I think myself obliged to declare, and can be profitable only to their comwithout reserve, my full conviction, that mon enemies, and rivals. In attempting, should these stipulations remain unaltered, therefore, to state to your lordships what our system of maritime law, instead of I conceive to be the defects of this Conhaving been confirmed by the issue of a vention, my purpose is certainly not in successful contest, will be found to have any manner to obstruct the king's governbeen, in all its parts, essentially impaired; ment, but to convey suggestions which its principles shaken, its exercise embar- may, I trust, be advantageously improved : rassed, and its clearest regulations made not to call the attention of your lordships matter of eternal dissension and contest. unnecessarily to the censure or disappro

There is, indeed, one circumstance bation of the past, but to propose what which renders the discharge of this duty may still be successfully attempted, and much less painful to me than it has been beneficially accomplished. on a former occasion. It is obvious to There can be little doubt that, upon all who hear me, that, in the examination the grounds which I have already stated, of this convention, we are engaged in a the emperor of Russia will readily consent task, widely differing from that which was to any reasonable proposal for the explaimposed upon us by the consideration of nation, or amendment, of this convention. the preliminaries of peace. Whatever Even from those points, which have been objections any man may have felt to the intentionally conceded by Great Britain conditions of the French treaty, the pub- in this negotiation, I think it manifest lic faith was pledged to its immediate that no advantage will arise to our ally. execution. And those who most lament. Whatever inconvenience or detriment may ed, what they thought a wanton sacrifice result from them to the commercial naviof the public interest, security and gation or military marine of the British honour, were, perhaps, the last to hope empire, the loss indeed will be ours, but that any farther discussions with the the benefit will not be enjoyed by Russia. French government would provide a re- It will be transferred to other powers, in medy for dangers which threaten, in their whose hands, according to the natural opinion, the independence and existence course of such events, it is far more likely of this country. In the present instance, to produce uneasiness at Petersburgh, we have treated, not with an ener, but than to afford to that country any source with an old and natural ally: not with the of profit, or any solid ground of security, government of an usurper, who is still or strength. But, it is not so much for manifestly looking for his security in our the acknowledged concessions, as for the dangers, and for his glory in our humilia- dangerous uncertainty of these stipulations; but with a lawful sovereign, who tions, that we are deeply concerned to has no real interest opposed to ours, and provide an immediate and effectual remedy. who has shown a decided attachment to And in this respect, at least, we may conthe ancient system of connexion, so long fidently hope to find at Petersburgh disestablished between the two countries. positions completely favourable. Since, So obvious is, indeed, the natural princi. in addition to all those considerations of ple of union between the two empires, general policy, which the present state of that even if the errors of this convention, Europe must inevitably suggest to every while they threaten the subversion of the well-regulated mind, the mere wish to British naval power, did promise some maintain peace, and to promote, by comcommercial advantages to Russia; we mercial connexions with Great Britain, must believe that an enlarged and liberal the internal improvement of a great and policy, duly appreciating the permanent extensive empire, must naturally dispose and solid interest of Russia herself, would its sovereign to co-operate with zeal for reject the benefits to be purchased by the final termination of these irritating such a sacrifice. Much more, if it shall and hostile discussions. A great, and appear, as I am confident it will, that even truly glorious work; but which can be accomplished only by such a distinct and powers were soon renewed with increased definite arrangement, as being founded in hostility; and it was at last become manijustice, and constructed with provident fest, upon the signature of the Convenand comprehensive wisdom, may afford to tion of 1800, that, unless this country both countries a confident expectation of could then resolve to meet the necessity its continuance, and may remain for ever of the case, by bringing these questions a solid bulwark of mutual security. Such to a distinct and final settlement, they is certainly the only conclusion of this would always be found to impede our business, to which we, on our part, can operations, and embarrass our exertions in look with any reasonable satisfaction. every future period of difficulty or danger.

By the weak and temporizing policy, It should also be observed, that the which Great Britain had pursued towards confederacy which we had to encounter, the Baltic powers, in the last years of our at that time, was far more formidable in contest with America, their inadmissible appearance than in reality. It was, inpretensions had been encouraged and deed, well adapted, if we shrunk from augmented. At the commencement of the contest, to dictate to us the most disthe last war, we did indeed obtain, by graceful and ruinous concessions; but negotiation with all the principal govern- little was to be feared from its hostility, if ments of Europe, a renunciation of claims, it was only met with fortitude, and rewhich have never been advanced but with pelled with energy. The marine of purposes hostile to this country. Even France and Spain, crippled by constant the wish to re-assert these claims appear- defeat, during a war of unparalleled suced, at that time, to be abandoned at cess to England, was less able, than it may Petersburgh; and this, not only from perhaps be found at any future period, to motives of friendship to Great Britain, support the exertions of a Northern but from a juster sense of the real inte- league. The union of the Baltic powers rests of Russia. The principles in question was neither cemented by common interwere indeed within a few years after the est, nor by mutual confidence.

And even armed neutrality of 1780, renounced by the untoward circumstances of personal the practice of almost every state * which disposition and character, with which we had been a party to that league; and in had to contend at Petersburgh, justified some of the official communications with the expectation, that the resolutions the Baltic powers, during the war with adopted in that quarter would be found France, pretensions were advanced, both no less unsteady and fluctuating, than by the empress and her successor, which they were rash and violent. Every cirwent to the full extent of the ancient ma- cumstance, therefore, appeared to indi. ritime law of Europe. † The effects of cate, that those who had been most eager this change of sentiment ensured to us, to provoke the mischief, would, in fact, for several years, the undisturbed exercise sustain the whole weight of the contest, of our rights, in those quarters where in the success of which they were, indeed, they were the most important, both to alone concerned, and to the risks of which our own interests, and to those of the they were evidently the first exposed. common cause in which we were engaged. It was on these grounds of obvious poBut when caprice and groundless disgust licy that the persons then in his majesty's were suffered to interrupt this well-consi- service, formed their plan, and prepared dered system of policy at Petersburgh, all the means of its execution. They had the former pretensions of the neutral very soon the satisfaction of seeing it jus

tified by the most complete success. * By Russia, in her war with Turkey in Scarcely had the contest commenced, 1787 ; by Sweden, in her war with Russia in when it was decided by the victory of Co1789; by Russia, Prussia, Austria, Spain, penhagen. The events which followed Portugal, and America, in their treaties with were still more favourable. At the very Great Britain during the present war; by moment when the Baltic powers had inDenmark and Sweden, in their instructions curred the penalty of their own precipiissued in 1793, and in their treaty with each tation, when their colonies were already other in 1794; and by Prussia again, in her trealy with America in 1799.

in our possession, when their commerce + Šee Russian declaration to Sweden, July

was annihilated, the defences of their own 30, 1793. Instructions to admiral Tchatcha- ports destroyed, and the productions of goff, July 21, 1793. See also Russian Treaty their territories accumulating at home 1797, Articles X. XI. and XII.

without purchasers, and therefore without

value; and when their revenues, sinking our future strength, this warrant of assur. under this total stagnation of trade, were ance for the undisturbed enjoyment of unequal even to their ordinary peace ex. rights essential to our naval power, be penditure, much more to the exertions of still deficient in that precision and cerà war against Great Britain : In this criti- tainty, which could alone constitute its cal and decisive moment, a change took value, it behoves us to pursue with earplace at Petersburgh, which removed nestness the means of full and satisfactory every obstacle to the restoration, not only explanation, now, while the circumstances of peace, but of friendship, and alliance are still propitious, while the opportunity with that court. A new reign commenced is still such as the most ardent hopes in Russia; the very first measures of could hardly have anticipated. which unequivocally proved, that princi- Such ought, more particularly, to be ples of justice and policy had reassumed the anxious wish of those who have borne their influence in the councils of that any part in the formation of this treaty, great country; a country which has al- and whose characters must answer to posways much to gain by friendship with terity for the consequences of all its imGreat Britain, and much to offer in re- perfections. And let me add, such I am turn; but which can never attempt to pro- convinced is accordingly, at this very fit by our losses, or to engage in hostility hour, the conduct which the king's goagainst us, without the utmost detriment vernment is actually pursuing. That some to herself.

additional explanations have been proIn this situation the negotiations began, posed, and some fresh negotiations entered which have terminated in the present into upon this subject, even if it were not convention. More favourable circum- matter of public notoriety, would, to any stances have never offered themselves to man conversant in such transactions, be any negotiators. No one can deny that sufficiently apparent from the single cirwe had at least the opportunity of effect- cumstance of the long delay in the official ing what this address asserts, that we have publication of the treaty. Far from imin fact accomplished ; and although this plying a censure, I hope I am understood convention be in truth very far indeed to express, as I feel, the fullest approbafrom meriting that panegyric, yet even tion of this endeavour. No sentiment, no this failure is not, I am persuaded, to be word shall fall from me, which can impede attributed to the designs, or dispositions its success. My first desire is to assist it, of either party, but to the unfortunate and my only object is, by these observaprecipitation produced by a mutual im- tions, to impress on the minds of those patience, to accelerate the restoration of who are to conduct it, the duty of pursuharmony and confidence.

ing it with zeal, and of extending it as far It is, however, manifest, as I have al. as the necessity of the case does really ready observed, that the occasion did require. I must, however, agree with a most urgently demand a full and final noble lord behind me, that the course of settlement of the questions in dispute. proceeding, which under these circumTo obtain this, as the reward of success, stances is proposed to parliament, is, to was the only rational object of the con- say the least, extremely inconvenient, as test; to relinquish it after victory, is to I believe it is wholly without example. deprive our country of the fair benefit of We are called upon to consider this arber own exertions. The means of such rangement, before it is possible that we an arrangement as we ought to wish for, should know its extent and operation, or were completely in our hands ; the dispo- satisfy our minds how far it will affect the sitions were such as we could ourselves essential interests of our country.

The have most desired ; and we had nothing to fact of the accession of Sweden and Denask but what we bad recently claimed in mark to this treaty has been stated to us; concert with Russia, what we had enjoyed but the noble lord has truly observed, in common with her, and what her true that until we shall know the precise terms interests would always lead her to assert of that accession, we must remain ignoand to maintain for herself as well as for rant whether one material point of diffeGreat Britain. Fortunately, the same rence be not left without even an attempt advantages are still, in great degree, sub- to explain, or to adjust it. The British sisting. The dispositions, I trust, are the government has differed from that of Swesame; the interests certainly are un den as to the true interpretation of an archanged. If, therefore, this charter of ticle in our former treaties, which contains the enumeration of contraband. I which this country was publicly pledged have myself no doubt on which side the not to abandon but with its existence: justice of that question rests; I am clear and I will then submit to your lordships, it is with this country. But to assert, in the same order, what appears to me to that the question has not been disputed, be the effect and bearing of these articles, would be to violate the truth; and whe- as they now stand, upon each of the prin-, ther it be settled or not by the present ar- ciples so stated. But before I enter on rangement, no man can pronounce with this inquiry, there is one farther observacertainty till the Swedish instrument of tion, which I wish to impress upon the accession shall be laid before him. minds of all those who may consider any

But, if the noble lord's remark be part of this question as worthy of their thus evidently just and striking, when ap- attention. In examining the tenour and plied only to a single and detached ques- effect of these articles, and in stating the tion, perhaps intended to be left unsettled, sense, which will, as I think, hereafter be what shall we say, if the same observation affixed to them by neutral powers, it is be equally true with respect to the very not my wish to persuade your lordships, substance and essence of the whole treaty, (nor am I, indeed, myself persuaded), which we are now called upon to approve that such are the only interpretations of If some of the essential rights, for which which the expressions themselves may we have contended, are, as I trust and possibly be susceptible. I do not even believe, to be secured to us by the result assert that they are, in every instance, of those explanations which are still de- those which, on the result of a doubtful pending at Petersburgh, it manifestly balance, might be adopted by an impartial follows, that the extent and value of that arbitrator, if such could ever be found to security must be judged of by an exami. determine national questions between innation, not of this treaty, which we are dependent governments. now considering, but of some new arti- It is more than enough, for every pur. cles, declarations, or notes, of which we pose of this statement, if it shall appear are as yet completely ignorant. It would that these articles are, in fact, ambiguous, surely have been a more natural, I may and that they will fairly admit of contrary add, a more respectful, conduct on the constructions. The subject is one which part of government, to have stated these requires the utmost precision; the public circumstances openly lo parliament, and interests call loudly for it, and, if that to have postponed our examination of has not been obtained, no time should be the measure, until it could be presented lost in endeavouring to supply the defect. to us in that more perfect form, in which I cannot too often repeat, that this is my it is intended finally to stand. What we sole view in addressing your lordships, on are now desired to do is nothing less than this occasion. The noble lords in governthis : to pronounce upon the merits of a ment will not deny, that they themselves treaty, of which we know not what the have thought some farther explanations conditions may, ultimately be; and to necessary, for more effectually securing declare those stipulations to be complete the objects which were in the contemplaand satisfactory, which their authors them- tion of both the parties to this convenselves consider as requiring farther ex. tion. What I urge, is, that the same planations, additions, or amendments. precautions may be extended to all the And if the discussions now depending points to which the same uncertainty shall, as I trust they will, be attended applies. To do this while the dispositions with success, your lordships must again of the parties remain the same, and the be called upon to thank his majesty, for intentions of both are fresh in their recolobtaining, by fresh negotiations, that lection, will be not only practicable, but identical security, which this address easy. If, on the other hand, from modeclares to be now completely acquired tives which I am unwilling to suppose, by the conditions of the treaty in its pre- from any real, or any affected indifference sent form.

to these great national interests, from any Not wishing to dwell more on this false security, or any mistaken pride, topic, I will now endeavour to lay be this favourable opportunity be suffered to fore your lordships, as clearly as I can, pass away, the publie mischief may be and in the order pursued by the treaty, such, as no future diligence, or ability, those principles of maritime law, for the can retrieve. maintenance of which we armed, and When these discussions are once closed


« PreviousContinue »