Изображения страниц

but they were all frustrated by the wise regulations of that princess and her councils.

When the second reading of the Alien bill was moved by lord Grenville on the 21st of December, the marquis of Lansdowne expressed a wish that government would enter into an immediate negotiation with France, for two important objects. 1st. To propose to the ruling powers in that country to receive back the people whom they had thought proper to banish, or to contribute to the means of their support in exile. The other was an object which interested every man of virtue, justice," and humanity. He alluded, he said, to the fate of the unfortunate king, whom it must be the wish of every noble lord in that house, and of every man in the nation, to save from the horrid fate which appeared to menace him. He accordingly moved two resolutions, recommending the house to address his majesty, entreating his royal interference, by way of negotiation, with the executive power of France, for the purpose of avert ing the fate of Louis XVI. and to receive back, or make some provision for, the French emigrants in Great-Britain.

Lord Grenville opposed the first of them with great spirit and energy. He reprobated the proposed resolution for describing the unfortunate monarch under the simple appellation of Louis XVI. which was no more than was done by those who were heaping every indignity upon him, in order to manifest their abhorrence of the kingly office, which they had sworn to maintain to him and his posterity. He was also at a loss,

from the strange and fluctuating affairs of France for some time past, to whom an ambassador must address himself. His lordship said, that he had another very substantial objection to the resolution, which was, that it contained the words, "consistent with the respect due to an independent nation," which implied at least a recognition of the government at present subsisting in that unhappy country. Besides, the opinion of this country concerning the devoted monarch was already known in France, and precluded all necessity of sending any minister or remonstrance thither.The duke of Norfolk admitted that there was ground for the objections made by the noble secretary of state; but thought that they might be so altered as to be deemed unobjectionable. At the same time he thought that a direct communication with persons in power at Paris might be productive of the most happy consequences. He could not, however, but wish that the first motion might be withdrawn, as tending perhaps to hasten the catastrophe it was designed to avert. this proposition the noble marquis complied. The second resolution, relative to the French emigrants, was opposed by lord Loughborough, on the principle of its being impracticable; and by the duke of Norfolk, as interfering with the internal government of France. It was accordingly negatived.


The alien bill, in its progress through the House of Lords, was supported by the dukes of Richmond, Leeds, and Portland, and the lords Carlisle, Spencer, Stormont, Hawkesbury, Loughborough, and Grenville. It was op


posed by the duke of Norfolk, the marquis of Lansdowne, lord Guildford, and lord Lauderdale; and finally passed without a division. As the subject of this bill was debated in a more comprehensive manner in the House of Commons, than in the Upper House, the abstract of the debates on it which we shall think it necessary to give, will be taken from those of the former.

While the House of Lords were engaged in considering this important bill, the House of Commons, among other business of moment, had been employed, with that magnanimous and humane spirit which is such a distinguished feature of the British character, in contemplating the horrid and merciless catastrophe, with which the king and royal family of France were threatened, in order, if possible to avert it. Mr. Sheridan first suggested such an interposition, but without offering any specific proposition: Mr. Fox supported his friend's suggestion, and the conversation which the union of such eloquence rendered truly affecting, ended in a motion from Mr. Pitt, to address his majesty to communicate the orders lord Gower received when he quitted Paris, after the deposition of their most Christian majesties.

On the following day the communication from his majesty was brought up by Mr. Dundas, and consisted of the copy of instructions sent to lord Gower, dated August 17, 1792.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

"His Majesty has been very deeply afflicted in receiving the information of the extent and the deplorable consequences of the troubles which have happened in Paris, as well on account of his personal attachment to their most Christian Majesties, and the interest that he has always taken in their welfare, as for the earnest desire he has for the tranquillity and prosperity of a kingdom, with which he is on terms of friendship.

"As it also appears, that in the present state of affairs, the exercise of the executive power has been withdrawn from his most Christian Majesty, the credentials which have hitherto been made use of by your excellency can no longer be valid. His Majesty is therefore of opinion, that you ought not to remain any longer in Paris, as well on this account, as because this step appears to him the most conformable to the principles of neutrality which he has hitherto observed. His Majesty's pleasure therefore is, that you should quit that city, and return to England, as soon as you shall have been able to procure the necessary passports for that purpose.

"In all the conversations that you may have occasion to hold before your departure, you will take care to express yourself in a manner conformable to the sentiments herein communicated to you; and you will take especial care not to neglect any opportunity of declaring, that at the same time his Majesty means to observe the principles of neutrality in every thing which regards the arrangement of the internal government of France, he does not conceive that he departs from those principles in manifesting,

nifesting, by every possible means in his power, his solicitude for the personal safety of their most Christian Majesties, and the royal family. He most earnestly hopes that his wishes in that respect will not be deceived; that the royal family will be preserved from every act of violence: the commission of which would not fail to excite sentiments of universal indignation throughout all Europe.

"I have the honour to be, &c. &c.


Mr. Pitt suggested to the House, whether a vote passed on the occasion, and framed in those indignant terms which became them might not, in the present furious temper of the French people, serve to disguise the atrocity of their conduct, and hurry them on to the commission of that very crime, which it is the object of that House to avert. He should, therefore, do no more than propose, that the paper which had been graciously communicated to them might be laid on the table of the House.

Mr. Fox expressed his concurrence with the minister's proposition. It was better, he said, that we should proceed no further, than we should engage ourselves too deeply. He thought the proceedings against the king of France to be highly unjust, and not only repugnant to all the common feelings of mankind, but also contrary to all the fundamental principles of law: for he regarded it as a principle of natural justice, an essential part of all human policy never to be departed from under any circumstances or pretence whatever in any country, "That "the criminal law shall be rigidly

"construed according to its letter; "that subsequent laws shall be "adapted to crimes, but that all


persons shall be tried according "to the laws in being, at the time "of committing the acts charged

as criminal." If there was a point on which his opinion was more clear than on any other, it was upon the abstract, rule of justice with respect to the trial of persons for offences against law, and he was sure it was impossible to keep up that rule without condemning, from the beginning to the end, the proceedings against the unfortunate king of France.

On the second reading of the Alien bill Mr. Secretary Dundas rose to state the objects of it. He observed, that so very great and extraordinary an influx of foreigners into this country must, at any time, have called for the attention of government, and rendered some measures on their part necessary. That attention was still more requisite, and the necessity of adopting some particular measures was still more urgent, when it was considered that this influx of foreigners had come from a country which had lately been the scene of very extraordinary transactions; where their constitution had been overthrown, the most convulsive proceedings taken place, and actions of the most dreadful enormity been perpetrated. In these transactions a very great number of the people, either from compulsion or inclination, had taken an active part. It was likewise to be considered, that the revolution which had been brought about was not confined to the country itself where it had first originated; that it af


fected the whole of Europe, and was connected with principles which were directed against every government, and consequently against the government of this country. It became then a matter of serious attention, if the foreigners who had come into this country were influenced by those principles; and it was his duty not to conceal from the House, that many of those who had fled from their own country were liable to suspicion; many indeed had fled from persecution, and had come hither for refuge from those scenes of calamity and violence which they were compelled to witness in their own country; but there were likewise many of a different description; many who had been engaged in those very transactions of cruelty and outrage which, he was confident, none would set their face to defend. And this was not all: it became matter of still more serious consideration, since there had been found men in this country so infatuated as to have adopted those very principles which, in the country where they originated, had overthrown the constitution, and which were inimical to the principles of every government. There existed likewise those, in the acting government of that neighbouring country, who encouraged the addresses of the discontented and disaffected in this against our constitution, and who published decrees tending to favour their views, and flatter them with hopes of support. When he had stated those circumstances, he trusted that it would not be thought that there was not sufficient ground for some degree of caution in the present

moment. If it was allowed that there was ground for some measures to be taken. it would then only remain to be determined how far the measures brought forward by ministers, on the present occasion, were too strong or too excessive.

He then briefly stated the several active clauses of the bill. It was intended, in the first instance, to make all foreigners, arriving in the kingdom, give an account of themselves; to make them explain or give up such arms as they may have in their possession; he did not mean such arms as were natural for men or gentlemen to wear, but such as might naturally excite suspicion against the owners. It was also intended, that, in their several removals through the country, they should use passports, by which their actual residence, or occasional movements, might be notorious. For the same reason it was also intended to distribute those who received support into certain districts, where also they would be more liable to the cognizance of the civil power. Finally, it was proposed to pay particular attention to those foreigners who have come within the present year, or who may hereafter come without obvious reasons, and thus be rendered more liable to suspicion. He then entered into a detail of the particular regulations of the bill, which he concluded with stating, that he hoped the general principles upon which it was founded would, in the present circumstances, be considered as moderate and requisite to the safety of the state, and not giving a power to the executive government greater than the occasion justified. He


added, that as this bill was ground- He founded his hopes of this on

ed on suspicion, and authorising the executive government to act upon that principle, it would be impossible, with any degree of propriety, to lay open the particular sources of information.

The debate which ensued was chiefly interesting from the apologies made by some of those members, who now ceased to act together, and was very remarkable for that very splendid, though desultory speech of Mr. Burke, in which, to enforce his account of the three thousand daggers manufactured at Birmingham, he threw down one of them on the floor of the House, and bid them look to it, as a sample of the fruits to be obtained by an alliance with France. At the same time, he exclaimed with great vehemence, that he would, to the utmost of his power, keep French infection from our country, their principles from our minds, and their daggers from our hearts.

On the motion of the third reading of the bill, it was supported by the marquis of Titchfield, the lords Mulgrave, Beauchamp, and Fielding, the hon. T. Grenville, Mr. Windham, Mr. Hardinge, Mr. Mitford, and Mr. Pitt. It was opposed by lord Wycombe, Mr. Grey, Mr. M. A. Taylor, Major Maitland and Mr. Fox. As the speeches of Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox may be supposed to comprehend the commanding strength of argument on either side, we shall confine ourselves on the subject of this debate to extracts from them.

Mr. Fox said, that whatever progress the doctrines of France might make in other countries, they would make but little here, where rational liberty was enjoyed and understood.

his own opinion of the constitution, and the attachment of the people to it, and the event had justified his hopes instead of the fears of some other persons. If real danger had existed, if those from whom it was apprehended had been proceeding to action, if they had been rising in arms, if they had been going to take possession of the tower, then indeed calling out the militia would have been a wise and a necessary measure. But if no such act was impending, to what purpose was a military force prepared? To repel opinion? Opinions were never yet driven out of a country by pikes, and swords, and guns. Against them the militia was no defence, How then were they to be met if they existed? By contempt, if they were absurd; by argument, if specious; by prosecutions, if they were seditious; although that certainly was not a mode which he would recommend, but it was a mode which ministers had before resorted to, and which they had still in their power. If, then, no act, founded on these opinions, was believed to be committed or intended, they who voted against the address on the first day of the session were right, for no good ground had been laid for the measures which they were called upon to approve. Could not ministers have prosecuted Paine without an army? Was any apprehension stated that the trial would not be suffered to go in the usual course? He had been asked by a learned gentleman whether or not a book with an evil tendency was to be declared innocent, because not coupled with any act, and without proof of extrinsic circumstances?

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »