On May 26, 1815, the Committee of Supply of the British House of Commons debates and passes a report to authorizing subsidies for the European allies in the war against Napoleon.
HC Deb 26 May 1815 vol 31 cc454-74 454
Lord Castlereagh moved that the House should resolve itself into a Committee of Supply for the purpose of taking into consideration so much of the Message of his royal highness the Prince Regent as related to the subsidiary engagements entered into with our Allies.
§Mr. Bankes rose to oppose the motion, but Lord Castlereagh observed, that though it was no doubt competent to the hon. gentleman to object to the Speaker leaving the chair, he wished to suggest that it would be better perhaps to debate the principle in the committee, as he had some information to communicate to the House respecting the mode of executing the Treaty, which the hon. gentleman himself would perhaps wish to be in possession of.
§Mr. Bankes expressed his willingness to give way.
§ The Speaker having left the chair,
Lord Castlereagh said, he felt an anxious desire to pat Parliament in possession, so 455 far as it was possible, of the extent of the charges likely to be brought on the country in the present session of Parliament, and to explain to them the general nature of the arrangements which had been entered into. He considered it a duty he owed the House to apprise them now of any other, description of service or expense connected with the foreign expenditure of the country as arising out of these treaties, that he might find it his duty in the present session to bring before Parliament; and he was bound, therefore, in candour, when the. House, were making provision for this foreign expenditure, to inform them now of the whole extent of the service. When the other sums came to be submitted to Parliament, it would be found that they were neither a subsidy nor a gratuitous grant to another country, but a payment in consequence of an arrangement between this country and other states, equally advantageous to all parties. He should, in the present session of Parliament, and as soon as this Convention was ratified, and in a shape to be laid before Parliament, bring this matter forward. The arrangement related to the cession of the colonies of Holland to this country. From the moment that Holland returned to her ancient state, and became connected again with this country, there was nothing so little congenial to the feelings of the House as a wish to apply the rights of war rigidly to Holland, and to continue in the possession of its colonies without an equivalent; and if no arrangements could be made for such an equivalent, it would be perfectly foreign to this country to retain them- This was not, therefore, a payment on the principle of a subsidy—it was not a gratuitous grant, but an arrangement between two Crowns, in which certain colonies were ceded to this country, in consideration of our paying the half of certain charges which would otherwise have fallen on Holland alone. These colonies were materially connected with the interests of this country. They were important with a view to our possessions in the East Indies; and in Demerara, Berbice, and other Dutch settlements in the West Indies, three fourths, of the whole British capital in West India colonies might be considered to be vested. It became important, therefore, to bring these colonies under the natural protection of this country. This was not a proposition connected with war, but Parliament would be called on, in the course of 456 the present year, to contribute one million in consequence of that arrangement. That was the only part which would come into consideration in the course of the present year. There was another arrangement, which was not in the nature of a grant, of a specific sum—the interest of the loan obtained by Russia in Holland, which was applied towards the fortifications in the Low Countries. The total sum borrowed was three millions; but two millions of it only were applied to these fortifications, and one million belonged to Sweden. One hundred and fifty thousand pounds had been agreed to be paid as a consideration for that loan for a certain number of year. The object of that outlay, was the rendering that, part of Europe less vulnerable than it was when it was obtained possession of by the Allies. The Emperor of Russia was to be relieved of the charge of this loan, which was to be borne jointly between Great Britain and the King of the Netherlands, but only so long as the Netherlands should belong to the House of Orange. The price for the colonies could not be considered excessive; and it would not only go to create a system of fortification on that barrier, but it would make it the interest of the Emperor of Russia, as well as his duty, to prevent the Low Countries from falling into the hands of France, at least for a number of years. There was, therefore, this security for that country, in addition to the advance of Prussia to the Rhine, by which she became also interested in the safety of Holland. He had thought proper to apprise the House of these circumstances, though but a small portion of the charge would come into operation in the present year. The House would feel that they had not made greater sacrifices than the value of the colonies called for.
§Mr. Tierney wished to ask the noble lord, what possessions Russia had in the Low Countries to give her such an interest in their safety?
Lord Castlereagh said, that Russia had, indeed, no possessions in the Low Countries; but the part of her debt in Holland, which was borne by Great Britain and the King of the Netherlands, was contingent on the preservation of the Low. Countries to, the House of Orange, as he had already stated. He would now proceed to the other points, namely, the operation of the arrangements entered into with the Allies. By treaty, the armies of the Allied Sovereigns were, to amount to 150,000. But 457 the efforts of the principal Allied Powers were not to be confined to this; and he should best consult the interests of Great Britain and the Confederacy, by stating what was the nature and description of the efforts which the Powers of Europe were making under the present circumstances. It would be taking a very unsatisfactory view indeed of the state of affairs, if we were to suppose that the Allied Powers only intended to bring into the field the number of 150,000 each, as settled by the Treaty of Vienna. As far as he was enabled to give the House information on this subject, he could state, that all the three great Powers were likely to bring into the field a very large number beyond what they were bound to by the stipulations of that Treaty. He did not mean to include those which might be cantoned in their own dominions, but such as would be in the field, and employed in the active exertions of the campaign. Taking, however, even the numbers in the Treaty, the assistance of this country could be no rational ground for the Powers to bring such a force into the field, and the subsidy could only be a secondary motive with them. But this view would be still strengthened, when the House should be informed how much their efforts went beyond the stipulated numbers.
As far as Austria was concerned, there were in full operation, ready to act and to be put in motion, an army of 150,000 in Italy, sufficient of itself to satisfy the stipulations in the Treaty. But this Power would have an army of equal extent in another quarter, towards the Rhine; so that instead of 150,000, we might consider the operating and effective army of Austria to amount to 300,000 men.
With respect to the Russian force, he had the satisfaction to state, that the Emperor had engaged in the present contest with that decision which marked the whole of his illustrious progress throughout the late eventful war, and had resolved to call out a great part of the forces of his mighty empire. General Barclay de Tolly was at the head of as fine an army as ever was called out on service in any country, having such ample means of selection in his power. The force in the ranks under him, which would arrive at the Rhine, amounted to 225,000, and as this army was accompanied by a number of volunteers, it would arrive at the Rhine as complete in numbers as when, it left the Russian empire. There was assembled besides, on the 458 frontiers, another army of 150,000 men, under general Wittgenstein; and the Emperor had signified to his royal Highness the Prince Regent his readiness to put in motion this army, if exigencies should render such a measure necessary. No money that it was in oar power lo grant could create such an army; all that we could possibly do was to assist them in their efforts. That force of 225,000 men was very nearly advanced to the Rhine, and in such a state of military efficiency as never was exceeded by any army. If there had been some delay in the arrival of the Russian force, it was to be considered that it was drawn not only from remote quarters, but from points extremely distant from each other. If we looked to the other great power, he meant to Prussia, it would be seen, that she had as little confined herself to a cold attention to the strict letter of the stipulations. Prussia had now an army consisting of six corps, and amounting to 236,000 men.
But the House were entitled to inquire from him, and he was anxious to anticipate them in their wish for information, whether our pecuniary assistance was to be confined to the three great Powers, and whether such other Powers as might join the common cause were to share all the difficulties Without receiving any extent of assistance? He thought it right that the House should know what was the extent of that description of force, and what was the value of the aid which they were likely to receive from us. Having stated the force of the great Powers, he did not wish to enter into a statement of the force of each subordinate Power. Considering Great Britain and Holland separately, he would estimate the other Powers together—some of them would bring considerable forces into the field: Bavaria, for instance, had an army of 60,000 men; of the very best description. The force which that Power, with Wirtemberg, Baden, Hesse, Saxony, the Hanse Towns, and the small states on the Rhine, would bring into the field, amounted to 150,000 men, besides what was already stated. That collective mass was independent of the force of the three great Powers, and the force of Great Britain and Holland. The British force would be 50,000 men, and the King of the Netherlands was to furnish an equal amount of 50,000 men to the Confederacy. There were actually 30,000 of them in service in the field, and the remainder of the force was in a state of 459 preparation, and was expected to be soon ready. Taking, therefore, the whole collective force—
States of Germany 150,000
Great Britain 50,000
it formed a total of one million and eleven thousand men exclusive of the army of the Emperor of Russia assembled on the frontiers of his dominions, and ready to act in case of exigency. He had been asked across the table, what additional subsidy was to be paid to the other states. The House were aware that we were bound to furnish 150,000 men, or to advance a subsidy to the other Powers for the numbers in which we might be deficient. If we furnished only 50,000 men, we had to pay for 100,000 men, according to the rate in the schedule of the Treaty of Chaumont. This amounted to 2,500,000l. We should apply that sum in aid of the confederacy, in such a manner as would be calculated to produce the most satisfaction. By distributing this sum among them, we should give for the 150,000 men of the smaller slates nearly the same as was paid to the great Powers, which was 11l. 2s. a man. This, although an inconsiderable portion of the expense of bringing their troops into the field, would serve as a considerable encouragement, and would remove any feeling that some were preferred and others neglected. It might be wished, perhaps, by some, that our own genuine and national efforts should be greater in this contest; bat, from the manner in which our force was at present distributed, we could not expect to bring more into the field. The country, however, was greatly a gainer, in a pecuniary point of view, by this commutation of the service. He well knew that the glory which the country derived from the creation and exertions of a gallant army was incalculable; but our army, with all its merits, was not the cheapest in Europe. It required from 60l. to 70l. to bring each British soldier into the field—so that on a principle of producing the greatest amount of exertions for the smallest sum of money, this commutation was very advantageous for us. The House would be aware that 11l. 2s. a man, which was the rate paid to the great Powers, was 460 exceedingly moderate, compared with former subsidiary allowances. The subsidy to Sweden was calculated at 40l. aman. Even the subsidy of 1,800,000l. to Prussia, in 1794, for 60,000 men, was 30l. a man. In no other case was it ever so low as on the present occasion; it formed but a small proportion of the whole charge of rendering those armies moveable. Formerly we had given sums in addition to the subsidy to put the armies in movement. It was customary to give what was called a friendly ‘mise en campagne’ for the equipment and artillery of the armies, and afterwards to continue the subsidy. But so far from the armies being at present as it were abstract ideas of armies, they were fully equipped and in a situation to move. The right hon. gentleman (Mr. Tierney) had thought it improvident to make the provisions commence with the 1st of April. But the armies were in motion on the 1st of April. Orders were given for their march as early as the Declaration was issued, which was whenever the advance of Buonaparté was known; and they were now near the seat of war. With respect to the length of time these subsidies might continue, the Allies had a greater interest than we had in not idling or wasting their time; and therefore there was not likely to be any abuse from that source. He hoped the House felt the arrangement was as fair and reasonable as could possibly be made.
He trusted the House felt how extremely encouraging it was to see such a force as this arranged against the enemy with whom we had to contend. And though France by the Treaty which she had violated had got back many soldiers, yet her acquisitions from all her prisoners bore but a small proportion to the augmentation of force which the Confederated Powers had obtained in the interval between the cessation of the last war and the present moment. There was a very great improvement in the situation of the Allies: for formerly the very position occupied by the French, which diminished the forces left for the defence of France, imposed at the same on the Allies a greatly-multiplied inconvenience. The French held garrisons from the Vistula throughout Germany and on the Rhine. They gave up, by the convention with the Allies, 56 fortresses, many of them most important bulwarks. In these garrisons, they had daring the last war great armies 461 distributed throughout Europe; and the resources of which the garrisons gave them the command, were greatly beyond the wants of the armies, and prevented those armies from being any burthen on France. Besides, these garrisons reduced the Allies to the necessity of detaching a much greater force for the purpose of masking them than the force which they respectively contained, that a line of communication might be kept up from the frontiers of Russia and the extremities1 of Austria to the French territories. He had seen supplies arrive at the Russian army, actually brought from Russia, by the communication so kept up. More than 40,000 men were employed before Dantzic; and more than double the number of the garrison of Dresden were also employed in masking and besieging it, When we compared the then situation of the Allies with what it was at present, we1 must see the immense augmentation which the possession of these garrisons gave to their means of carrying on foreign war. The House would not forget, also, that on the very frontiers of France we had four of the strongest places in our hands, whence in advance we could draw strength, or in retreat could secure our safety. Were the fortresses of Luxemburg and of Mayence of no value? Was the restoration of that chain of fortifications, destroyed by an infatuated Prince, along the Belgian frontier of no importance? He had the satisfaction to state to the House that many of the chief places in that part of the Netherlands were now in a state that would enable them to make a vigorous and regular defence. Behind these we possessed Antwerp, Bergen-op-Zoom, Breda, and Maestricht—powerful in aiding success, and most advantageous in redressing calamity. He had therefore a right to say, that though Providence alone could prevent reverses, we had not only a just cause of war, but means worthy of such a cause. The military force of all the rest of Europe was combined against the half of France, which could look alone to the Allies for ultimate liberty and happiness. The noble lord admitted, that it would be most unjust and unnatural that all our Allies should be provided from the resources of Great Britain, but such a statement would be in opposition to the fact; other countries were making parallel exertions, and we were contributing only in oar fair, wholesome proportion. Under these circum- 462 stances, without detaining the House further, he should only think it necessary simply to move the Resolution for granting a sum of five millions to be distributed between the three great military Powers he had named. On a future occasion the House would be called upon to provide Ways and Means for raising this sum. The noble lord concluded by moving,
“That it is the opinion of this Committee, That a sum not exceeding five millions be granted to his Majesty, to make good the engagements which his Majesty has entered into with the Emperor of Austria, the Emperor of Russia, and the King of Prussia.”
§Mr. Tierney asked for some information respecting Denmark.
Lord Castlereagh said, that he wished now to avoid entering into particulars with regard to the minor Powers.
§Mr. Tierney wished to know what part Spain was to take?
Lord Castlereagh answered, that Spain had signified her acquiescence in the Treaty; but to what extent she would engage in the war, he was not able to state.
§Mr. Tierney inquired whether any part of the disposable sum of two millions and a half was to be given to Portugal, and, if so, for what purpose?
Lord Castlereagh was not able to state the arrangements with all the minor Powers who would, during the contest, come into the field.
§Mr. Tierney thought that, in point of candour, the noble lord was called upon to give the House some information respecting all the subsidies for which Parliament would be called upon to provide. He had not stated whether any, and what sums Sweden or Portugal were to obtain. At least he could enable the House to form a wide guess at the amount.
Lord Castlereagh was not empowered to give any specific answer, by stating what share they would take in the general disposition. Whether Sweden or Portugal would be subsidized at all, he was not able to state.
§Mr. Tierney requested to be informed whether any great addition was likely to be made to the disposable sum of two and a half millions, by subsidies to minor Powers?
Lord Castlereagh felt every disposition to satisfy the curiosity of the right hon. member, but he declined pledging Government to any principle of policy that might hereafter be found injurious.
§Mr. Whitbread understood the noble lord to have stated distinctly that Sweden and Portugal were acceding parties to the Treaty: he wished to know in what proportion they were to furnish a contingent, so as to unite the whole of Europe, in the words of the noble lord, against half of France. Was Denmark also an acceding party to the Treaty?
Lord Castlereagh added, that he had received the most unqualified assurances from them, and they had signed the Declaration of the 13th of March. He was not prepared to state what force Sweden would put in motion; he apprehended she could not now receive from us the aid she had obtained in the last war, and without it he doubted whether she could provide a large contingent. If the hon. member meant to intimate that there was any doubt of the part Sweden would adopt, his lordship begged to state that he had no more hesitation as to the line of politics she would pursue than he had with regard to Austria, or any of the other Powers.
§Mr. Bankes admitted that we had a just ground of war, but he doubted the expediency of insisting upon it in the mode recommended. As the cause was common, and all the Powers had the same interest in its success, in his opinion all ought to be upon a perfect equality; and although he concurred in the Address of yesterday, it did not necessarily, as the noble lord had observed, pledge his opinion as to the propriety of voting the subsidies now demanded. His chief objection was, that though our Allies were to be equally benefited, the principal burthen fell upon England only, and the system of, subsidy of late years had been carried to an extent severely felt by the nation. It appeared by documents upon the table, that since the year 1793, Great Britain had expended in subsidies to foreign states 46 millions, not including many other sums advanced under other names. Of these 46 millions 26,600,000l. had been voted by Parliament within the last three years, besides an immense quantity of clothing and arms supplied to the minor Powers, and arms and money to Holland.
Lord Castlereagh observed, that Holland had only received arms and stores, but no money.
§Mr. Bankes continued. He said he was decidedly hostile to any exertions or sacrifices on the part of this country, that 464 exceeded those of our Allies, more especially in the present state of our finances: though he did not despond, it was fit to look our affairs in the face, and we should then find, that though, our revenue had augmented, our expenditure had increased in more than a double proportion. Our revenue in 1812 was 63 millions, and in 1814, 72 millions, being an addition of nine millions. What was our disbursement? In 1812 it was 97 millions, and in 1814 117 millions, an increase of 20 millions within the last three years. This was by no means a cheering prospect at the moment we were voting five millions to our Allies for a new war, besides what we should be compelled ourselves to expend. It was true that we could not provide 150,000 men; but were it in our power, though it might drain our population, it would not drain the radical resources and wealth of the country. The noble lord, and with him the other side of the House, seemed to make up their minds only to one alternative, viz. that the war would be short. It might be so, but it would be fit to provide for its prolongation; and although he might consent to vote five millions if it were to be “the be-all, and the end-all,” it ought not to be forgotten that that sum and more would be required every year that hostilities were continued. The money could only be raised by loans, which depressed all commodities of sale, and raised all those of purchase. If, from the long struggle she had maintained, England was not able to join with equal vigour in this new contest, why was it not fairly stated? and if her inability had the effect of deterring her Allies, who professed to be so hearty in the cause, we might be sure that their spirit, even with her aid, would scarcely be equal to the contest. Would they not fight with such assistance as our means fairly viewed would afford? and if so, why did we volunteer the squandering of our money when we could so ill afford it? Contemplating the comparative dangers of peace or war, he confessed that his fears of the former were not by any means so great as those of the noble lord, though, he was by no means desponding as to the result of renewed hostilities. If the Allies had turned their mind to security, he thought they might have obtained that end without making war upon Buonaparté. A treaty with him now would be much, safer than at the time when terms were offered to him at Chatillon. He was 465 weaker in a military point of view, and there had been an interruption in his title, which, by making him insecure at home, would render him unable to engage in attacks on other Powers. The French, too, were now, it was said, divided; but foreign invasion would unite them, and increase his power, by making it necessary to give Buonaparté such influence as would enable him to direct their forces effectually. He did not think, also, that the chances of success against France were very great. However great the force brought against France might be, that nation would, when firmly united, baffle all attempts of foreign invaders. It was said, that only one half of the population of France was in favour of Buonaparté. If the other half would rise against him, there would then be hopes of success; but if invasion, as he thought it would, united all France, his power would be strengthened by it. All alliances, also, contained within themselves a principle of dissolution; neither were we to believe that our present Allies were elevated far above their predecessors. If we have now the magnanimous Alexander, we had formerly the magnanimous Paul. The King’s speeches for the last 20 years have been full of praises of Allies, who have afterwards deserted us. In one of those speeches we were told to look at the wisdom, the vigour, and the magnanimity of our great Ally. And who was this?—The Ottoman Porte. In 1799, the King’s speech was full of praises of the decision, the magnanimity, and the abilities of the emperor Paul; and before the end of 1800, complaints were made to Parliament, by the Crown, of the unjust detention of British goods at Petersburgh, and the imprisonment of British subjects there. Our system should be to husband our resources, and not lavish them on Allies, on whose adherence to us we could never depend. The sum, too, which was demanded was larger than that which had ever been granted to the three Continental Powers in one year. Even in the last year, the sum granted, according to one of the papers, was less than five millions, though, according to another account, it was something more. He would not consent to act on the idea, that the resources of this country were inexhaustible, that we were to pay the whole expense of the war; and he thought it also unadvisable to pay a subsidy, which, if the war continued long, (and there was every proba- 466 bility that it would) we should be obliged to withdraw, and thus give a ground of offence to our Allies, who were unacquainted with our real situation. Though, the danger of peace was great, and the causes of war just, he did not think that there was any impossibility of continuing at peace with Buonaparté, if the Allies had chosen to treat with him. He should not divide the committee himself; but if any other gentleman chose to divide it, he should certainly vote against the motion of the noble lord.
Mr. Baring said, he was at a loss to know how the hon. gentleman who spoke last, reconciled his speech of that evening with his vote the night before. The question had been, whether they should interfere to put down a military system in France; but when a vote had been given in favour of an attack on France, it was the duty of the House to provide the means of carrying on that attack in the most efficient manner. He was not over-sanguine in his hopes, but he thought there was a fair prospect of success. It was, however, to be recollected that, half a century ago, Frederick of Prussia, by the superior power of his mind, supported himself against all the great nations of Europe, although there was nothing of that enthusiasm in his people which constituted the great strength of the French at this moment. He was convinced, however, that it was impossible to remain at peace; and he therefore thought it better to attack France unprepared, while our alliance was firm, than to wait till France was prepared, and our alliance was dissolved. Still less should he hesitate on the second question, of granting a subsidy to the other Powers of Europe. Setting aside the subsidy which we might grant, we should be a very inconsiderable state in the alliance. The whole of the force we had in the field was 50,000 men, which was not greater than that of Bavaria. It was necessary to contribute a fair share, which we could best do in money. A sum of five millions, too, would be of immense service to put the large armies of the continent, in motion; for though the Allied Powers were immensely strong within their frontiers, the state of their finances, and the paper currency of several of those states, rendered it a matter of great difficulty to move even small armies beyond their frontier. One circumstance not so satisfactory was, that the whole of the subsidy was paid by this country, and 467 that none of the other commercial countries, especially Holland and Portugal, had contributed. Holland had formerly borne a large share in the expenses of the alliance against Louis 14, and was now very well able to come forward with a considerable subsidy. Her contingent at present was small, considering that she was the most in danger from the military power of France. The prince of Orange had been enabled to relieve the Dutch from a part of their burthens, while the burthen of this country had been progressively increasing. Portugal, too, in gratitude for her deliverance, should contribute to the ends of the alliance. As to Spain, he thought any direct efforts on her part could only be productive of evil. No army which she could send into France would be strong enough to occupy the gendarmerie, much less the national guards, and would merely rouse a warlike population in favour of Buonaparté. There were other arrangements which were not brought in a definitive shape before the House, which he could not exactly approve of These were the grant of sums to Holland for the repair of her fortresses, which she herself was well able to provide for; and a grant of money to Russia, to pay her for the colonies we might receive from Holland, which seemed a most fantastical and incomprehensible plan. These measures would be better discussed when the treaties, in which they were arranged, came before the House; but as to the general measure of subsidy, he fully approved of it.
Mr. Bennet condemned the policy of granting subsidies to continental nations to enter into wars foreign to their interests—and this, too, at a time when the situation of our finances was such, that if the war continued long, the stock-holders could not receive their dividends. It was the duty of the Chancellor of the Exquer, before the House was called on to vote such enormous subsidies, to show what the state of our finances really was, and what would be the consequence of a long contest. He admitted, that if by a short effort those paragons of justice and policy, which were to transfer the theatre of their operations from Vienna to Paris, succeeded in speedily re-instating the Bourbons, the finances of the country might still be supported; but it was not by a peace establishment of 19 millions a year that they could in that event be preserved. The object of the war was to 468 re-establish a family which had shown, the greatest enmity to freedom in every country where it had been established—in Spain, in France, and the two Sicilies. The conduct of one branch of that family in Spain had produced in the minds of the people of France, the most disadvantageous impression towards the dynasty in general, and had contributed more perhaps than the Congress itself, to the deposition of Louis 18. He observed how different the state of feeling in Europe must be at the present moment, since the Allied Powers had shown what was their own construction of the declarations which they had issued in favour of the independence of nations. The proclamations at Dresden and other places, to suppress the manifestation of public indignation against the Allies, were indications of the kind of spirit with which the people of Europe received them. As he did not think the war just, nor that the resources of the country would be sufficient to maintain the contest into which we had been plunged, he should vote against the grant.
Mr. Douglas urged the necessity of going to war with Buonaparté. When it was said, that he had been reformed by misfortune, and that he might be restrained by the circumstances of the present times, he wished that the House would consider his conduct at the moment of his landing in France. Then he stood naked and undisguised, and avowed in his proclamations views that he had since thought politic to conceal. After going into the general question at pretty considerable length, he concluded by saying, that, in his opinion, the tranquillity of Europe could only be settled by the extermination of the military despotism now existing in France. He concluded by saying that he should certainly vote for the motion.
§Mr. Whitbread said, that although he had intended to offer some observations to the House yesterday, yet he should not now follow the example which the hon. gentleman had set him, of repeatiug the speech that he intended to have spoken the day before. The question now before the House was for granting a sum in the way of subsidy, for the purpose of carrying on the war, into which ministers appeared determined to rush. He was surprised that the hon. gentleman (Mr. Bankes) who voted for the war, should now vote against the subsidies necessary for carrying 469 it on. It appeared to him, that the sum of five millions, mentioned by the noble lord, was a very moderate sum indeed, for an undertaking so great. As to the merits of the war, his opinion upon the subject was already sufficiently known. It was therefore unnecessary for him, on this occasion, to argue against it. He disapproved of it most strongly, and the more so, because it was his decided judgment that the object was not so much to remove Buonaparté as to restore the Bourbons—as the object of it qualified was to dictate a government to France. But it was probably apprehended by those who endeavoured to disguise this object, that if it were distinctly avowed, this country would shrink from the undertaking. It seemed, however, if the statement of the noble lord-were correct, that this undertaking was to be commenced with no less than 1,011,000 men. What a force! and yet the distinguished orator (Mr. Grattan) who had last night unshrouded the meridian blaze of his eloquence, had only collected 600,000 men against France; but the towering imagination of that right hon. gentleman was quite overtopped—and who would have thought it—by the noble Secretary for foreign affairs. The right hon. gentleman had, however, extinguished the money, the credit, and the cavalry of France at one dash—and there he exceeded the noble lord. The object of the proposed subsidy was, it was said, to enable the, confederates to make a great, a sudden, and a decisive effort. But how came this sudden effort to have been so long postponed? Two months had already elapsed since the return of Buonaparté, and yet, according to a gentleman on the other side, two months more must elapse before this sudden effort could take place. It was to be recollected, that all the force about to act against the French must be supplied with means by this country; for Austria, Russia, and Prussia, had neither money nor credit. This supply, too, must not only be furnished at present, but as long as the war continued—and how long it might continue, no one could say! He was aware that ministers held out an expectation that the war would speedily terminate. Indeed, this prospect had been distinctly presented by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others—no doubt with a view to reconcile Parliament and the country to the insane project in which we were about to engage. Yes insane he would call it, especially 470 as to the calculation upon its speedy conclusion; for, supposing Buonaparté were actually destroyed at the outset, who could say that his destruction would tend to put an end to the war? who could say that the French armies or the French people would therefore submit to the dominion of the Bourbons, or to the dictation of foreign government? that all the enthusiasm and energy of the French nation would immediately disappear? Such a hope could not be rationally entertained; and would it not, then, be wise rather to look for security from an armed confederacy, than resort to actual war? The boast of the noble lord as to the power of the Confederacy formed at Chaumont, must have been quite vain, if a similar confederacy would not now produce a sufficient security against Buonaparté, without plunging into the calamities of war. Why, then, have recourse to war, the duration or end of which no one could foresee? It was impossible, indeed, that any one, that the noble lord himself, could look for the termination of the war within the year, as some sanguine persons seemed disposed to expect. Yet the committee were now called upon to grant a large sum of money to those persons upon whom so much of our money had already been squandered—each of whom had, on former occasions, accepted our subsidies, and deserted us immediately after. Such had been the conduct of Prussia in 1794: the conduct of Austria and Russia towards us was quite notorious. But the noble lord seemed to think, that he had hit upon a notable expedient with regard to Russia, upon the subject of the Dutch loan; which expedient was, truly, to ensure the steady co-operation of Russia, in securing the possession of Belgium to Holland. From that expedient, however, he (Mr. W.) could expect no such result: so far from securing the adherence of Russia, that Power must laugh at those who entertained the calculation. But it would not be amiss to call the nature of the Dutch loan to the recollection of the committee. The Empress Catharine borrowed a certain sum of money in Holland, with a view to provide for the invasion of Turkey. With a part of which loan she contrived to take possession of Oczakow—of that very Oczakow, to recover which the warlike genius of Mr. Pitt, upon whose principles the noble lord professed to act, would have involved this country in hostilities—and with the remainder of this loan Ca- 471 tharine invaded Poland, and committed that spoliation which all great and good men throughout the world had unanimously and unequivocally reprobated. Yet England had now undertaken to pay a part of that loan. Yes, in this day of morality, when we were about to wage war in order to put down that arch fiend of Europe, Buonaparté, this country undertook to pay a debt contracted by Russia for such an abominable purpose as the dismemberment of Poland! Let gentlemen combine these facts, which could not be denied, with the conduct of Austria, which had never paid the loan she had obtained from this country, and ask themselves whether they could consistently grant the proposed subsidy to such Powers? whether they could safely rely upon their adherence, or upon the faithful performance of their engagements? These Powers had deserted us already—they would desert us again if it suited their interest, and it was probable, also, that they would desert each other—that they would split upon their own views of aggrandizement. This, indeed, was naturally to be expected from their conduct at the Congress of Vienna, where each of those Powers sought his own views with the utmost rapacity. And let the committee look at the effects of that rapacity. Those Powers had, by their conduct towards Saxony, discarded the wishes, and alienated the affections of the Saxon people. This effect was but too glaring in the transaction which had recently led, to the execution of 37 unfortunate Saxon soldiers, and the dismissal of 1,500, who were sent home to Saxony from the Prussian army in such a manner as to prevent them from influencing the opinion of the German people, and especially of their countrymen as they passed. But the opinion of these people was known, and the opinion of all mankind had been outraged by the conduct of the Powers by whom they and their Sovereign had been so grossly treated, with the consent of that boasted punisher of ancient dynasties, the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs. The hon. member concluded with expressing his resolution to vote against the grant of any British money to such Powers.
§Mr. Bankes, in explanation, said, that although he thought the war necessary yet considering the situation of our finances, he thought that all the confederated Powers should make what exertions they could from their own resources.
Mr. C. Grant junr. denied that the restoration of the Bourbons was the object of the war, and asserted, that that principle was totally contradicted in every Treaty before the House. He begged he hon. gentleman, who had dwelt so much upon the twenty-six millions of subsidy granted to foreign Powers during the last war, to recollect also the triumphant effect to which that subsidy led; and, recollecting that effect, he trusted the committee would not hesitate to grant a subsidy, which promised to lead to a result still more triumphant and decisive. The hon. gentleman sat down amidst a loud cry of ‘Question, question!’
§Sir John Newport said, that however disagreeable it might be for gentlemen to hear any discussion on the question, who not having known a word about it, came now to decide it, still they must submit to the privation it imposed, and bear the irksomeness of listening to the debate. On the former night, the brilliant oratory of his right hon friend (Mr. Grattan), who on that occasion displayed himself in the meridian lustre of his transcendent genius—who manifested the same glow of fancy, the same creative imagination, which distinguished him on every question which he undertook to illuminate—that oratory had prevented him from venturing to occupy the time of the House; but he would now venture to express his decided disapprobation of the general principle of the war. The interference of foreign nations in the internal government of another country, was not reconcilable to any principle of equity. How would England have received the declaration of Louis 14, if he had presumed to prohibit them from choosing William 3, at the same time declaring that there was no intention of forcing James 2 on their throne? This would not be dictation, according to the opinion of certain gentlemen, because only one was excluded; but our ancestors showed their indignation at even this negative mandate, for they termed it an insolent attempt to appoint their Government. As to the object of the war, he believed it was the restoration of the Bourbons. If not, why was Louis 18 asked to accede to the Treaty, and why was he required to appoint his contingent of troops to the grand Alliance? This was a manifestation of the principle that actuated their conduct. He agreed with the hon. member (Mr. Bankes), that if the Allied Powers meant to unite in one common 473 effort against the individual at the head of the French government, they ought to 6ght with their own resources, and had no right to call on us for additional burthens. Having divided against the war, he should certainly divide against the subsidy for carrying it on. Of this he was persuaded, that when gentlemen proposed to levy war against the military power of France, they were taking the most effectual means of making the French an armed people, capable of destroying the independence and tranquillity of Europe. The personal character of Buonaparté should not, be said, preclude us from attempting to secure a peace with France, and we had no right to force the Bourbons upon the French, contrary to their wishes.
§Mr. Stuart Wortley could not avoid expressing his surprise at the comparison which the right hon. baronet—a Whig—had made between the landing of William 3 in this country, and the landing of Buonaparté in France—two cases the most dissimilar that could be imagined. William 3 was invited to the throne by the people of England. No treaty existed between him and Louis 14, similar to that which Buonaparté had entered into with the Allies—no treaty subsisted between him and the inhabitants of England, like that which, by implication, Buonaparté had contracted with the people of France. In conclusion, the hon. gentleman stated his determination to vote for the subsidies, without which no efficient exertion, could be made against the common enemy.
§Mr. William Smith was of opinion, that if the hopes of an efficient co-operation against France depended on our readiness to pay the stipulated subsidies, then the hopes of a successful result were very slender indeed. The only true foundation of success could be looked for in the ability and determination of the respective Sovereigns to pay their own armies, and in the spirit of their people to prosecute the war. If the Allied Sovereigns were influenced in their proceedings by the prospect of procuring subsidies from this country, the moment we ceased to pay those subsidies, that moment, perhaps, they would cease to fight. He had one other observation to make. After an arduous struggle, the Allies had completely beaten Buonaparté—they had got him within their power—they had almost incarcerated him—still, however, he had contrived to escape: and, he should be glad to know, what security they were to 474 have, if he were again discomfited, that he would not afterwards disturb the peace of Europe.
§Mr. Peter Moore did not doubt that we were able to pay the subsidies; but he thought, before the committee agreed to the vote, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to stand forward, and state explicitly the situation of the finances of the country. In the name of his constituents, he protested against this war, which would cover the national character with disgrace, and plunge them and their families in poverty and ruin.
§ The Committee then divided:
For the motion 160
Against it 17
§ The House resumed, and the report was ordered to be received on Tuesday.