Page images

established it as a maxim, That the king can do no wrong. The reason of this, my lords, is plain; because the constitution has provided a proper council, who shall advise with the king as to the executive part of government : and it is, my lords, always to be supposed, that the persons who compose that council, are well skilled in the laws, the constitution, and the interests of their country. Therefore, my lords, if any wrong is done in the government, it is presumed to be done by those who advised the king. It is true, the nature of our constitution requires that public acts should be issued out in his majesty's name; but, for all that, my lords, he is not the author of them. Therefore the publication of this treaty in his name ought not to indemnify the authors, or to make us swallow what we can never digest.

The approbation of this treaty is brought in by way of an address of thanks to the crown, and is, it seems, no more than a compliment to his majesty. A compliment for what, my lords? For making this convention? His majesty did not make it, the ministry made it, This address, therefore, will tell the world that we return thanks to the minister for this convention, which gives up the security of our trade, and puts us in the power of our natural and hereditary enemies.-Let who will approve of such a measure, I never will.

The noble lords who have spoken for this address, appear to have studied the point. It is no easy matter for one, who speaks occasionally, to answer them. My lords, I don't trouble myself about little niceties and distinctions; about a right and the exercise of a right. For what end do we enjoy a right, if we cannot exercise it? Do we pretend to hinder the Spaniards from searching our ships, when found in their ports or harbours, which is the utmost they can claim by treaty? My lords, we don't. Do the Spaniards suffer us to exercise that our natural and undoubted right, of sailing unmolested on the open seas? No, my lords, they don't: so that the question is not about right, or the manner in which a right is exercised, but betwixt an unreasonable claim and an un,

doubted privilege; betwixt an oppressive usurpation and a lawful title. There is, indeed, another part of the doctrine preached by the reverend prelate, which admits of a very wide difference, though his lordship has been pleased entirely to suppress it; and that is, the differ ence betwixt a visit and a search. Visiting a ship, my lords, is, when a ship of any force accosts a trading ship of another nation, and sends five or six persons at most in a long-boat, in order to visit her; that is to say, to enquire whence she is come, whither bound, what she has on board, and how long she has been at sea. To all these the master must give explicit answers; and if the captain of the visiting ship still doubts, he may call for his ship's papers, and bills of lading; but has no right to insist any further. If he does, my lords, he commits an act of piracy. A search, on the other hand, is a rummaging the cargo with an intention to confiscate; and this, my lords, is what no treaty betwixt Spain and us subjects our ships to. This, my lords, is what no nation in Europe will suffer from another, and we ought, least of all, especially from the Spaniards. It is shameful that we have suffered it so long If we suffer our seamen to be insulted or interrupted, we give up the honour of the nation, we give up all that formerly gave us success, conquest and glory.

People, my lords, talk of Cromwell, that he was an usurper: I don't deny that; but he still had many valuable qualities, and wanted nothing but a lawful title to have made him one of the greatest men that ever governed this nation. He, my lords, had one maxim from which ne never deviated; and that was, never to suffer even the appearance of an insult upon this nation to pass unobserved. Notwithstanding, my lords, his disputed title to the government, a formidable opposition at home, and powerful alliances against him abroad, he kept up the dignity of the sovereignty, and carried the reputation of the British flag to as great a height as ever it has been carried. He, my lords, had to do with three powerful states, France, Holland, and Spain; each of them more power

ful than they are now: but, my lords, he never entered into any inglorious treaty, he never submitted to any ig

nominious terms.

He told them what he was resolved to have, and what he would do, if he had it not. This positive way of proceeding, my lords, effected all the nation could desire: for we don't find in history, that any power was so bold as to slight his menaces; they knew him too well to take him for a bully; he never fitted out any armaments, either by sea or land, with which he did not strike some decisive stroke. I will tell you, my lords, one instance: when the Spaniards fitted out a fleet to conquer an isle in the Mediterranean, for want of provisions of their own, they seized upon corn that belonged to a British subject, to the value of 30,000l. On our consul's remonstrating against such a procedure, they clapped him in prison. What did Cromwell do upon this? Did he send plenipotentiaries, at a great expence to the nation, to examine into the nature of the complaints on both sides? Did he patch up a convention for regulating the grievance? No, he ordered his resident at that court to tell them in plain terms, that he gave them so many days to consider, if they would make him satisfaction (upon the terms, my lords, which he himself prescribed,) and if they did not in the time limited, that he would come with his squadron and demand it, upon their coasts, from the mouth of his cannon. This blunt speech had its desired effect; the Spaniards knew whom they had to deal with; therefore they did not treat, but submit.

Supposing, my lords, we had acted with the same spirit, do not your lordships think it would have had the same effect? And why did we not act with the same spirit? We are more powerful now, than we were in the days of Cromwell. The Spaniards are weaker, and our provocations are much greater now than they were at that time. What insults, what barbarities, what breaches of faith have not the Spaniards committed of late? They have plundered our merchants, they have destroyed our

ships, they have murdered our sailors; nay, what is more insufferable, they have chained, they have tortured our countrymen: a method of punishment this nation has ever detested; a barbarity, which even our worst malefactors are free from, by undergoing a punishment in all respects more desirable; that is, death itself. My lords, it will astonish posterity, that we have suffered all these indignities, while we have a fleet able to defy not only. Spain and France, as I said before, but all the nations in Europe.

.. It is said, my lords, that we may want other forces to carry on this war to advantage. It is very possible we may; but has the parliament ever yet refused to comply with any demand of that kind, when land-forces were necessary? I dare say, the parliament would allow 100,000 men, if there were occasion for them. But the misfortune is, my lords, that the nation, I am afraid, will not be persuaded, even though these were raised, that we are in earnest people will think that our land-army will continue as inactive as our fleets have hitherto been; and that our raising forces before we shew that we dare to do ourselves justice, will but expose the nation to greater inconveniences, and enhance its expences.

Last year, a strong squadron was sent to the Mediter-. ranean, under the command of a gentleman, against whom, I am sure, nobody can have any exception. I know him to be a brave officer, and that he has the interest of his country much at heart. But, my lords, of what use are all these qualifications to the nation, if his guns are muzzled, if his hands are bound up by his instructions from the ministry? What service have the ships under his command performed to his country? What ends have the vast sums of money we have expended, served, if not to weaken us while we are inactive; so that we shall not be able to furnish the necessary expences when we shall come to action? What plea then, my lords, can there be for not declaring war? Is it to avoid the profusion of money? Money, my lords, we daily expend to extrava

gant and useless purposes. Is it to avoid the profusion of blood? No: yet you have suffered your own sailors to be daily insulted and murdered. My lords, it is time enough for us to shew our tenderness to Spain, when we have revenged the wounds given to the honour of Great Britain.

My lords, as I did not propose, and as I find myself incapable, especially on this occasion, to speak, in order, to every thing that has been suggested in this debate, I shall take them just as they come into my mind. The differences betwixt Spain and us are not of such a nature as to affect only one set of men amongst us. It is not our West-India merchants, my lords, alone, that must suffer, should we approve of this convention. Give me leave to say, that there is not a merchant of whatever denomination in this kingdom, there is not a shop-keeper, there is not a house-keeper, there is not a tradesman, nay, there is not a landed gentleman in the kingdom, whom it will not affect. Consider, my lords, that the balance of our trade to almost all other places in the world, except our own settlements, is against us. But a noble lord has, I think, demonstrated, that if we approve of this convention, we leave our trade and settlements in the West-Indies, entirely to the mercy of Spain. What resource can we then have for supplying the nation with those necessaries of life, which we now import from our own settlements, and which, if they are ruined, we must have from other nations, in what manner, and upon what terms they please? Therefore, my lords, it is no wonder if all ranks, and all degrees of men turn their eyes upon your lordships at this important juncture. If, I say, they look on their all as being at stake, if they have expressed some impatience under the apprehensions of its being given up, I do not wonder at it. The reverend prelate said, that the advocates for the opposition had great advantages over those for the ministry, by means of certain sounds and words. My lords, I am afraid there is something in this case, more than bare sounds and words. I am afraid the real things themselves are in danger, and

« PreviousContinue »