« ZurückWeiter »
preparations for war, as at the forbearance of the king and his ministers. The order for seizing French property, which did not issue till May, ought, in their opinion, to have preceded the signing of the definitive treaty; the measure was no more than an act of self-defence, justified by the unlawful seizure and condemnation, in the ports of France, of four British vessels.
The Fame, a packet from Southampton to Guernsey, was forced by stress of weather into Cherbourg; and in pursuance of a decree of the infamous Robespierre, was confiscated, and the captain condemned to six months' imprisonment, although his entry into the port was from distress, and on the very day, December 19, 1801, that the French fleet, by our permission, sailed for St. Domingo! In January following, another vessel, the Jennies, Captain Muckle, freighted in England with coals for Charente, and other merchandise for Spain, was, on her arrival at Rochefort, seized and confiscated, under pretence of her having on board prohibited or British merchandise. In July following, after the definitive treaty had been signed, the Nancy, an English vessel, bound to Rotterdam, with a cargo of foreign merchandise, which had been made prize of during the war, legally condemned and sold, with the proper cautions to the purchaser, that it was for exportation, was driven by stress of weather into Flushing, where she was seized by the French, and confiscated. The last case we shall
mention is that of the brig George, which had arrived at Charente, in ballast, purposing; to return with a cargo of brandy; this vessel was seized under pretence of having English goods on board, these were the plates, knives, and forks of the captain's mess, and not more than sufficient for himself and passengers. All the representations of Lord Whitworth, Mr. Merry, and Mr. Jackson, to the minister Talleyrand, were unavailing. The Chief Consul observed, with the most insolent contempt of every right of nations, "that justice must take its course."
The history of Sebastiani's Egyptian tour, and; the gang of spies, or "commercial agents," as they were called, is well known. These gentlemen were distributed in all the sea-ports of the united kingdom; their whole system was one tissue of intrigue and. deception; they were not called by name in the despatches of the French government, but by number, as 1, in London, 2, in Dublin, &c. Their orders were to make themselves acquainted with the nature of our commerce, the number of vessels in eaeh port, and the state of the manufactures. This> was fair and justifiable, but they went farther; being enjoined to furnish a plan of the harbours, the depth of water, and the winds required to take a vessel in; and out; all which they accomplished.
These people carried on their inquiries not unknown to our government, whose patience or apathy appears to have exceeded all just bounds; and we can account for such conduct, only; by supposing that those who made the peace were resolved to keep it*
Many and grievous were the insults put upon us. The Prince of Bouillon, a captain in the British navy, was arrested and imprisoned in Paris, and after six days' confinement, ordered to quit France without delay. The last, though not the least affront, was an attack on the liberty of the press; the British government being desired by the Chief Consul to prevent that abuse of his person and measures with which our periodical publications abounded.* Mr. Otto, too, the French minister, was offended at meeting in the drawing room of St. James's, the unhappy princes of the house of Bourbon, decorated with the orders of their murdered, monarch.!!! Tor what could all this tend? in what could it be ex^ pected to terminate? War was not only unavoidable, but just and necessary to preserve the honour* and even the existence, of the empire, If we had the time i or the patience, it; would be foreign to our plan,, to detail the innumerable insults offered to the British government. Ministers at length, roused to indignation by the voice of the people, called forth the energies of the empire; and France was made to feel the danger of disturbing the slumbers of the British lion. It was a fortunate circumstance, that the detachment of British ships sent to the West
* In the weekly publication, called the Ambigu, by Peltier.
Indies in 1802, to watch the movements of the French fleet, was not ordered home on the signing of the definitive treaty. Some indeed were sent to England, and others to Halifax in Nova Scotia, but the best of them remained on the station, where their services were soon required. To the early and impolitic display of his temper and views, on the signing of the preliminary treaty, the Chief Consul might attribute the abortion of his plans. Some portion of St. Domingo might have been reconquered by the army of Le Clerc, had the French not been viewed with a jealous eye by the British Admiral; and Pondicherry, in the East Indies, might have received a French garrison; the British fleet might have been paid off, and our army disbanded, had the First Consul not been thrown off his guard, and disclosed his plans prematurely. We are not writing a defence of ministers, but a history of events; and wish only to raise this conviction in the minds of our countrymen, that, instead of blaming our government for going to war, we should wonder they remained so long at peace.
Having shewn the conduct and feeling of the French government towards this country, we must advert to the proceedings of the British parliament; where we shall perceive that the flame of honour and patriotism was still burning, and soon burst forth with astonishing effulgence and overwhelming power.
On the 2d of December, the resolutions of the committee of supply were brought up. The first was, that fifty thousand seamen be employed for the service of the year 1803, including twelve thousand marines. 1
On the resolution being put, Mr. Grenville expressed his astonishment at the conduct of ministers, who proposed a vote of so many additional seamen, without stating the necessity for it; he considered such an explanation was due to parliament, before they agreed to the proposition of the minister. "The speech, in fact, contained no sentiment or opinion applicable to the present times, or to any former period of our history; it was a mere collection of truisms. In former speeches, delivered at critical periods, there were some declarations of the opinions of ministers, with respect to the state of Europe; in the present there was not even the attempt made. Last year, the minister said he considered thirty thousand seamen sufficient for our peace establishment, at present he demanded fifty thousand. Parliament ought to be informed of the reasons of this excess. If we were likely to continue in peace, parliament might think it too much; if we were likely to be soon at war, they might think it too little."
He wished the house to consider the vast exertions that both France and Holland were making for the restoration of their navies. Spain and Portugal too, were so completely under the influen ce of France, that she would be enabled to di
VOL. III. o