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and of persons whose low condition necessarily be permitted, without dishonor, to act in opposicurbed the independence of their minds. That, tion to the sentiments of the city of London, of the then, I take to be the most perfect system which city of Westminster, or of the city of Bristol, but if shall include the greatest number of independent he dares to disagree with the Duke, or Lord, or electors, and exclude the greatest number of those Baronet, whose representative he is, must be be who are necessarily, by their condition, depend considered as unfit for the society of men of honor? ent. I think that the plan of my honorable This, sir, is the chicane and tyranny of corrupfriend draws this line as discreetly as it can be tion; and this, at the same time, is called repre. drawn, and it by no means approaches to univers. sentation! In a very great degree the county al suffrage. It would neither admit, except in members are held in the same sort of thraldom. particular instances, soldiers nor servants. Uni. A number of peers possess an overweening inversal suffrage would extend the right to three terest in the county, and a gentleman is no lonmillions of men, but there are not more than ger permitted to hold his situation than as he seven hundred thousand houses that would come acts agreeably to the dictates of those powerful within the plan of my honorable friend; and when families. Let us see how the whole of this stream it is considered, that out of these some are the of corruption has been diverted from the side of property of minors, and that some persons have the people to that of the Crown ; with what contwo or more houses, it would fix the number of stant, persevering art every man who is possessed voters for Great Britain at about six hundred of influence in counties, corporations, or boroughs, thousand; and I call upon gentlemen to say that will yield to the solicitations of the court, is whether this would not be sufficiently extensive drawn over to that phalanx which is opposed to for deliberation on the one hand, and yet suffi- the small remnant of popular election. I hare ciently limited for order on the other. This has looked, sir, to the machinations of the present no similarity to universal suffrage; and yet, tak- minister in this way, and I find that, including ing the number of representatives as they now the number of additional titles, the rigbt honora. stand, it would give to every member about fif- ble gentleman has made no fewer than one hund. teen hundred constituents.
red and fifteen peers in the course of his admin. It has often been a question, both within and istration ; that is to say, he has bestowed no fewer Objection to without these walls, how far repre- than one hundred and fifteen titles, including new
sentatives ought to be bound by the creations and elevations from one rank to anoththeir represent atives are com instructions of their constituents. It er. How many of these are to be ascribed to na. the instructions is a question upon which my mind is tional services, and how many to parliamentary of the proprie tors who send not altogether made up, though I own interest, I leave the House to inquire. The coun
em. I lean to the opinion that, having to try is not blind to these arts of influence, and it is legislate for the empire, they ought not to be impossible that we can expect them to continue altogether guided by instructions that may be to endure them. dictated by local interests. I can not, however, Now, sir, having shown this to be the state of approve of the very ungracious manner in which our representation, I ask what reme-' Re
Reform secI sometimes hear expressions of contempt for the dy there can be other than reform. essary and es opinion of constituents. They are made with a What can we expect, as the neces.“ very bad grace in the first session of a septenni. sary result of a system so defective and vicious al Parliament; particularly if they should come in all its parts, but increasing calamities, until from individuals who, in the concluding session we shall be driven to a convulsion that would of a former Parliament, did not scruple to court overthrow every thing? If we do not apply this the favor of the very same constituents by de- remedy in time, our fate is inevitable. Our most claring that they voted against their conscience illustrious patriots--the men whose memories in compliance with their desire, as was the case are the dearest to Englishmen, have long ago of an honorable alderman of the city of London. pointed out to us parliamentary reform as the But, sir, there is one class of constituents whose only means of redressing national grievance. I instructions it is considered as the implicit duty need not inform you that Sir George Savile was of members to obey. When gentlemen represent its most strenuous advocate ; I need not tell you populous towns and cities, then it is a disputed that the venerable and illustrious Camden was point, whether they ought to obey their voice, or through life a steady adviser of seasonable refollow the dictates of their own conscience; but form ; nay, sir, to a certain degree we have the if they represent a noble Lord or a noble Duke, authority of Mr. Burke himself for the propriety then it becomes no longer a question of doubt; of correcting the abuses of our system ; for genand he is not considered as a man of honor who tlemen will remember the memorable answer does not implicitly obey the orders of his single which he gave to the argument that was used constituent ! He is to have no conscience, no for our right of taxing America, on the score of liberty, no discretion of his own; he is sent here by my Lord this or the Duke of that, and if he
9 Mr. Burke's Bill of Economical Reform took does not obey the instructions he receives, he is
away a very large number of sinecore offices, which
ministers had been accustomed to use as means of not to be considered as a man of honor and a gen
patronage and reward. Mr. Pitt therefore resorted tleman. Such is the mode of reasoning that pre to the expedient of raising men to the peerage, as a vails in this House. Is this fair? Is there any means of influence, to an extent wbich was general. reciprocity in this conduct? Is a gentleman to i ly and justly complained of.
the expense of
ed to withdraw,
their being virtually represented, and that they ! propose the remedy, and fatal will it Peroration : were in the same situation as Manchester, Bir- be for England if pride and prejudice of things, for mingham, and Sheffield. “What!" said Mr. much longer continue to oppose it. ears, bus been Burke," when the people of America look up to The remedy which is proposed is sim- the Crown at you with the eyes of filial love and affection, will ple, easy, and practicable; it does not the people. you turn to them the shameful parts of the Con- touch the vitals of the Constitution; and I sin. stitution ?" With the concurring testimony of cerely believe it will restore us to peace and harso many authorities for correcting our abuses, mony. Do you not think that you must come to why do we hesitate? Can we do any harm by parliamentary reform soon ? and is it not better experiment ? Can we possibly put ourselves into to come to it now, when you have the power of a worse condition than that in which we are? deliberation, than when, perhaps, it may be exWhat advantages we shall gain I know not. I torted from you by convulsion? There is as yet think we shall gain many. I think we shall gain time to frame it with freedom and discussion; it at least the chance of warding off the evil of con- will even yet go to the people with the grace and fusion, growing out of accumulated discontent. I favor of a spontaneous act. What will it be think we shall save ourselves from the evil that when it is extorted from you with indignation has fallen upon Ireland. I think we shall satisfy and violence ? God forbid that this should be the moderate, and take even from the violent (if the case! but now is the moment to prevent it; any such there be) the power of increasing their and now, I say, wisdom and policy recommend numbers and of making converts to their schemes. it to you, when you may enter into all the conThis, sir, is my solemn opinion, and upon this siderations to which it leads, rather than to postground it is that I recommend with earnestness pone it to a time when you will have nothing to and solicitude the proposition of my honorable consider but the number and the force of those friend.
who demand it. It is asked, whether liberty And now, sir, before I sit down, allow me to has not gained much of late years, and whether Loumation that make a single observation with re- the popular branch ought not, therefore, to be Mr. Fox design spect to the character and conduct content ? To this I answer, that if liberty has to some extent of those who have, in conjunction gained much, power has gained more. Power from the House.
· with mysell, felt it their duty to op- has been indefatigable and unwearied in its enpose the progress of this disastrous war. I hear croachments. Every thing has run in that direcit said, “You do nothing but mischief when you tion through the whole course of the present are here; and yet we should be sorry to see you reign. This was the opinion of Sir George Saaway." I do not know how we shall be able to vile, of the Marquis of Rockingham, and of all satisfy the gentlemen who feel toward us in this the virtuous men who, in their public life, proved way. If we can neither do our duty without mis- themselves to be advocates for the rights of the chief, nor please them with doing nothing, I know people. They saw and deplored the tendency of but of one way by which we can give them con- the Court; they saw that there was a determtent, and that is by putting an end to our exist- ined spirit in the secret advisers of the Crown ence. With respect to myself, and I believe I can to advance its power, and to encourage no adalso speak for others, I do not feel it consistent ministration that should not bend itself to that with my duty totally to secede from this House. pursuit. Accordingly, through the whole reign, I have no such intention ; but, sir, I have no hes- no administration which cherished notions of a itation in saying, that, after seeing the conduct of different kind has been permitted to last; and this House ; alter seeing them give to ministers nothing, therefore, or next to nothing, has been their confidence and support, upon convicted fail- gained to the side of the people, but every thing ure, imposition, and incapacity; after seeing them to that of the Crown, in the course of this reign. deaf and blind to the consequences of a career During the whole of this period, we have had no that penetrates the hearts of all other men with more than three administrations, one for twelve alarm, and that neither reason, experience, nor months, one for nine, and one for three months, duty, are sufficiently powerful to influence them that acted upon the popular principles of the early to oppose the conduct of government; I certain part of this century : nothing, therefore, I say, has ly do think I may devote more of my time to been gained to the people, while the constant curmy private pursuits, and to the retirement which rent has run toward the Crown; and God knows I love, than I have hitherto done; I certainly what is to be the consequence, both to the Crown think I need not devote much of it to fruitless and the country! I believe that we are come exertions, and to idle talk, in this House. When to the last moment of possible remedy. I believe ever it shall appear that my efforts may contrib- that at this moment the enemies of both are few; ute in any degree to restore us to the situation but I firmly believe that what has been seen in Irefrom which the confidence of this House in a land will be experienced also here; and that if we desperate system and an incapable administra- are to go on in the same career with convention tion, has so suddenly reduced us, I shall be found bills and acts of exasperation of all kinds, the ready to discharge my duty.10
few will soon become the many, and that we shall Sir, I have done. I have given my advice. I have to pay a severe retribution for our present
pride. What a noble Lord said some time ago 10 Mr. Fox did for some time discontinue a regular of France may be applicable to this very subject attendance on the House.
“What !” said he, “negotiate with Franco? with
men whose hands are reeking with the blood of to remain in place. Let them retire from his their Sovereign? What, shall we degrade our. Majesty's conncils, and then let us, with an earnselves by going to Paris, and there asking in hum- est desire of recovering the country, pursue this ble, diplomatic language, to be on a good under- moderate scheme of reform, under the auspices standing with them?” Gentlemen will remember of men who are likely to conciliate the opinion these lofty words; and yet we have come to this of the people. I do not speak this, sir, from per. humiliation ; we have negotiated with France; sonal ambition. A new administration ought to and I should not be surprised to see the noble Lord be formed : I have no desire, no wish to make a himself (Hawkesbury) going to Paris, not at the part of any such administration; and I am sure head of his regiment, but on a diplomatic mis- that such an arrangement is feasible, and that it sion to those very regicides, to pray to be upon is capable of being done without me. My first a good understanding with them. Shall we, then, and chief desire is to see this great end accombe blind to the lessons which the events of the plished. I have no wish to be the person, or to world exhibit to our view ? Pride, obstinacy, be one of the persons, to do it; but though my and insult, must end in concessions, and those inclination is for retirement, I shall always be concessions must be humble in proportion to our ready to give my free and firm support to any unbecoming pride. Now is the moment to pre- administration that shall restore to the country vent all these degradations; the monarchy, the its outraged rights, and re-establish its strength aristocracy, the people themselves, may now be upon the basis of free representation; and theresaved; it is only necessary, at this moment, to fore, sir, I shall certainly give my vote for the conquer our own passions. Let those ministers proposition of my honorable friend. whose evil genius has brought us to our present condition retire from the post to which they are On a division, the numbers were, Yeas, 93; unequal. I have no hesitation in saying, that Noes, 253. Mr. Grey's motion was therefore rethe present administration neither can nor ought | jected.
OF MR. FOX ON THE REJECTION OF BONAPARTE'S OVERTURES FOR PEACE, DELIVERED IN THE
· HOUSE OF COMMONS, FEBRUARY 3, 1800.
1799 ; and, as an air of moderation seemed appropriate under these circumstances, be made overtures of peace to the King of England, in a letter written with his own hand. Mr. Pitt, who had no belief in the permanence of his power, rejected his offers in terms which were certainly rude, if not insulting. Some of them will be given hereafter in notes to this speech.
The correspondence in question was laid before Parliament, and, on the 3d of February, 1800, a motion was made by Mr. Dandas approving of the course taken, and pledging the country for a vigorous proseca. tion of the war. After Mr. Whitbread, Mr. Canning, and Mr. Erskine had spoken, Mr. Pitt rose, and held the House in fixed attention for nearly five hours by one of the most masterly orations he ever pronounced in Parliament. Mr. Fox then delivered the following speech in reply; and never were these two great orators brought into more direct competition, or the distinctive features of their eloquence exhibited in finer contrast.
Mr. Pitt, instead of entering at once on the reasons for refusing at that time to negotiate, treated the rise of Napoleon as only a new stage of the French Revolution, and thus dextrously prepared the way for going back to consider,
1. The origin of the war, maintaining that France was the sole aggressor throughout the whole conflict.
II. The atrocities of the French in overrunning and subjugating a large part of Europe during the preceding eight years.
III. The genius and spirit of the Revolution, as “an insatiable love of aggrandizement, an implacable spirit of destruction against all the civil and religious institutions of every country."
IV. The instability of the system, as marked from the first by sudden and great changes.
V. The past history and character of Napoleon, whom he depicted in the darkest colors, as devoid of all faith, the inveterate enemy of England, and the cruel oppressor of every country he had overran. His power he represented as wholly unstable, and insisted that England ought never to enter into a treaty with him until, “ from experience and the evidence of facts, we are convinced that such a treaty is admissible." On these grounds he defended his refusal to negotiate. This speech should be taken up previous to the one before us, if the reader intends to enter fully into the merits of the case.
Mr. Fox, in reply, without the exactness of Mr. Pitt's method, touches upon most of these points, and adverts to others with great pungency and force.
He condemns Mr. Pitt for reviving the early animosities of the contest as a reason for refusing to treat, since on this principle the war must be eternal.
He censures the severe and unconciliating terms in which a respectful offer of negotiation had been rejected.
He insists, in regard to the origin of the war, that Austria and Prussia (so long the allies of England) were undeniably the aggressors ; that England provoked the contest by harsh treatment of the French minister; that, in relation to her grievances, she ought from the first to have stated definitely to the French what would satisfy her; that she ought, especially, to have accepted the mediation urged upon her by France, before a single blow had been struck, with a view to prevent the contest; that the English were, therefore, far from being guiltless as to the origin of the war, while the French, in all their aggressions, had been simply carrying out the principles taught them by the Bourbons, whom Mr. Pitt now proposed to restore.
While condemning the atrocities of the French, he sets off against them the outrages practiced on Poland and other countries by the powers in league with England; and exposes the inconsistency of refusing, on the ground of character, to treat with the French, while such rank oppressors were taken into the strictest alliance,
He dwells upon the fact, that Mr. Pitt, who now refused to treat on account of the outrages of the French and the instability of their government, had himself twice opened negotiations (in 1796 and 1797) in the midst of these very outrages, while the existing governments were confessedly of the most unstable kind, and comments with great severity upon Mr. Pitt's explanation of his conduct on those occasions.
Finally, in reference to the question, “When is this war to end ?" he considers the grounds on which Mr. Pitt bad intimated a willingness to treat with Bonaparte, if the Bourbons could not be restored, viz., "experience and the evidence of facts ;" he adverts for a moment to some of the charges brought against the First Consul; and, recurring again to the grounds stated, inquires, “Where, then, is this war, which is pregnant with all these horrors, to be carried? Where is it to stop? Not till we establish the house of Bourbon"-or, at least, not until we have had due "experience" of Bonaparte's intentions. "So that we are called upon to go on merely as a speculation'--"to keep Bonaparte some time longer at war, as a state of probation"_" to try an EXPERIMENT, if he will not bebave himself better than heretofore!" With this thought he concludes, in the boldest and most eloquent strain of mingled argument, irony, and invective which he ever produced.
The speech is admirably reported, and was considered by most who heard it as the ablest Mr. Fox ever made.
SPEECH, &c. Mr. SPEAKER, -At so late an hour of the enumerated and advanced as arguments for our night, I am sure you will do me the justice to continuing the war. What! at the end of seven believe that I do not mean to go at length into years of the most burdensomo and the most cathe discussion of this great question. Exhausted lamitous struggle in which this country ever was as the attention of the House must be, and un- engaged, are we again to be amused with noaccustomed as I have been of late to attend in tions of finance, and calculations of the exhaustmy place, nothing but a deep sense of my duty ed resources of the enemy, as a ground of conficould have induced me to trouble you at all, and dence and of hope ? Gracious God! were we particularly to request your indulgence at such not told five years ago that France was not only an hour.
on the brink and in the jaws of ruin, but that Sir, my honorable and learned friend (Mr. Er- she was actually sunk into the gulf of bankrupt.
i skine] has truly said, that the present cy? Were we not told, as an unanswerable ar. A new era in the war, but the is a new era in the war, and the gument against treating, “that she could not hold used for its con: right honorable gentleman opposite out another campaign—that nothing but peace
to me (Mr. Pitt) feels the justice of could save her that she wanted only time to the remark; for, by traveling back to the com- recruit her exhausted finances that to grant mencement of the war, and referring again to her repose was to grant her the means of again all the topics and arguments which he has so molesting this country, and that we had nothing often and so successfully urged upon the House, to do but persevere for a short time, in order to and by which he has drawn them on to the sup- save ourselves forever from the consequences port of his measures, he is forced to acknowl- of her ambition and her jacobinism ?” What! edge that, at the end of a seven years' conflict, after having gone on from year to year upon we are come but to a new era in the war, at assurances like these, and after having seen the which he thinks it necessary only to press all his repeated refutations of every prediction, are we former arguments to induce us to persevere. All again to be gravely and seriously assured, that the topics which have so often misled us—all we have the same prospect of success on the the reasoning which has so invariably failed — same identical grounds ? And, without any othall the lofty predictions which have so constantly er argument or security, are we invited, at this been falsified by events—all the hopes which new era of the war, to conduct it upon principles have amused the sanguine, and all the assuran- which, if adopted and acted upon, may make it ces of the distress and weakness of the enemy eternal ? If the right honorable gentleman shall which have satisfied the unthinking, are again succeed in prevailing on Parliament and the
country to adopt the principles which he has ad- could be more proper nor more wise than this vanced this night, I see no possible termination language; and such ought ever to be the tone to the contest. No man can see an end to it; and conduct of men intrusted with the very im. and upon the assurances and predictions which portant task of treating with a hostile nation. have so uniformly failed, we are called upon not Being a sincere friend to peace, I must say with merely to refuse all negotiation, but to counte Lord Malmesbury, that it is not by reproaches nance principles and views as distant from wis and by invective that we can hope for a recondom and justice, as they are in their nature wild ciliation ; and I am convinced, in my own mind, and impracticable.
that I speak the sense of this House, and, if not I must lament, sir, in common with every gen- of this House, certainly of a majority of the peoMinisters cen- uine friend of peace, the harsh and un- ple of this country, when I lament that any unusing harsh conciliating language which ministers provoked and unnecessary recriminations should Inngangen in have held to the French, and which be flung out, by which obstacles are put in the declining to negotiate. they have even made use of in their way of pacification. I believe it is the prevail. answer to a respectful offer of a negotiation. ing sentiment of the people, that we onght to Such language has ever been considered as ex- abstain from harsh and insulting language; and tremely unwise, and has ever been reprobated in common with them, I must lament that both by diplomatic men. I remember with pleasure in the papers of Lord Grenville, and this night, the terms in which Lord Malmesbury, at Paris, such license has been given to invective and rein the year 1796, replied to expressions of this proach.3 sort, used by M. de la Croix. He justly said, For the same reason, I must lament that the " that offensive and injurious insinuations were right honorable gentleman (Mr. The originala! only calculated to throw new obstacles in the Pitt) has thought proper to go at cestora way of accommodation, and that it was not by such length, and with such severity now the questwa. revolting reproaches nor by reciprocal invective of minute investigation, into all the early circumthat a sincere wish to accomplish the great work stances of the war, which (whatever they were) of pacification could be evinced." Nothing are nothing to the present purpose, and ought not
I The lanmuage referred to was of the following to influence the present seelings of the House. I kind. As a reason for refusing to negotiate, Lord certainly shall not follow him through the whole Grenville goes back to the origin of the war, de of this tedious detail, though I do not agree with claring it to have been "an unprovoked attack" on him in many of his assertions. I do not know the part of France. He says it sprung out of “a what impression bis narrative may make on other system, to the prevalence of which France justly gentlemen ; but I will tell him fairly and candidascribes all her present miseries, and which has in- liv
? | ly, he has not convinced me. I continue to think, volved all the rest of Europe in a long and destruc
and until I see better grounds for changing my tive warfare, of a nature long since unknown to the practice of civilized nations"-he assumes that this opinion than any that the right honorable gentle. system "continues to prevail; that the most solemn man has this night produced, I shall continue to treaties have only prepared a way for fresh aggres- think, and to say, plainly and explicitly, “ that sions ;” and ascribes to the French those “gigantic this country was the aggressor in the the per
The Erithal. objects of ambition, and those restless schemes of war." But with regard to Austria Les, Austris destruction, which have endangered the very exist and Prussia-is there a man who, for dently the us. ence of civil society." In addition to this, he tells
one moment, can dispute that they sressors. the French people, through their new ruler, that
were the aggressors? It will be rain for the they ought at once to take back the Bourbons; that
right honorable gentleman to enter into long "the best and most natural pledge" they can give of a desire for peace, is “the restoration of that line and plausible reasoning against the evidence of of princes which for so many centuries maintained documents so clear, so decisive--so frequently, the French nation in prosperity at home, and con. so thoroughly investigated. The unfortunate sideration and respect abroad.” He tells Bona monarch, Louis XVI., himself, as well as these parte in direct terms, that England can not trust who were in his confidence, has borne decisive him; that there is “no sufficient evidence of the testimony to the fact, that between him and the principles by which the new government will be Emperor
"be Emperor (Leopold of Austria) there was an intidirected; no reasonable ground by which to judge
mate correspondence and a perfect understandof its stability.” Such language deserved the cen. sures passed upon it by Mr. Fox. Nothing could
ing. Do I mean by this that a positive treaty
" more irritate the French people than to talk to them was entered into for the dismemberment of of restoring that hated dynasty against which they France ? Certainly not. But no man can read bad so lately rebelled. Nothing was more calcula- 3 Warnly as Mr. Wilberforce was attached to ted to provoke Bonaparte to the utmost, and to foster Mr. Pitt,
rte to the utmost, and to foster Mr. Pitt, he expressed himself still more strongly a desire to invade England (which he attempted on this subject in a letter to a friend. “I must say some years after), than personal reflections of this I was shocked at Lord Grenville's letter; for though kind on the stability of his government.
our government must feel adverse to any measure ? This is one of Mr. Fox's characteristic argu. which might appear to give the stamp of our author. ments, ad hominem. It was Mr. Pitt (through bis ity to Bonaparte's new dignity, yet I must say that embassador) who thus reproved the French minis. unless they have some better reason than I fear they ter, M. de la Croix, for certain harsh expressions possess for believing that he is likely to be hurled used during the negotiations for peace in 1796; and from his throne, it seems a desperate game to play Mr. Fox now turns the reproof back upon Mr. Pitt, – to offend, and insult, and thereby irritate, this vain in language dictated by himself.
man beyond the hope of forgiveness."-Life, 213.
and Prussis, 10