Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

in this island; of every country gentleman of a limited income; of every tradesman ; indeed, of every man in it who did not possess a very large fortune ;-have we already forgotten how the late war pressed upon them ?

Let us recollect these things; let us recollect the circumstances which occurred in the course of that war ; what we all suffered by the immense loads that were laid upon us to support it—their grievous and most intolerable weight, and the cruel and grinding measures of every description, under which this country has groaned during so many years. Can ministers, with these recollections in their minds, bring themselves again to precipitate their country into miseries, which, after all, might so easily be avoided? What have we now to expect? I have heard, indeed, some talk of an economical war. But even this economy (difficult as the word is at all times to understand, when so applied) is now explained to consist in the adoption of measures leading to an immense and immediate enlargement of our expenses. We are told that we must make great exertions. And what exertions? Exertions beyond any thing we have ever yet known; far beyond what were found necessary during the glorious war of Queen Anne; far beyond those by which we obtained that pre-eminence, which has immortalized the name of the late Earl of Chatham ; far beyond even those of the late war itself.

And by whom are we told all this? If by some gentlemen who have had no experience in politics, and under whose guidance we had not already suffered; if by some orator, as a mere figure of speech, without a and meaning, by way of a flourish in debate,- for such a purpose it might do well; but we are told this, not by a novice in the art of extortion, but by an artist ! If a man without experience or reputation examines my case when I am ill, and tells nie, “ You must have a limb cut off, to save your life,” I might still hope for a cure, without having recourse to so dreadful a remedy ; but if the skilful practioner, the regular doctor himself tells me so, after consultation,-if the experienced operator, under whose prescriptions and directions I have already suffered, tells me so, I know what I must endure. If he tells me, “ I must pull out all your teeth; I must cut off part of the extremities, or you will die,” I have only to prepare for the operation. I know the alternative is death or torture. This great artist, this eminent doctor, (Mr. Pitt,) has told us, that, much as we have already been distinguished for exertion, what we have hitherto done is nothing. We have hitherto only been fighting for morality and religion, for the law of nations, for the rights of civil society, and in the cause of God. Resources fully adequate to such minor objects, the right honorable gentleman assures us, we have already employed; but now, we have a contest to sustain of a higher order-a contest which will compel us to strain every remaining nerve, to call for sacrifices new and extraordinary, such as have never before been heard of in this country. We are told, that within a month, within a fortnight, perhaps, a plan must be formed for raising many millions of money, in a mode different from any that has hitherto been attempted. It is not to be a pitiful expedient for a single year; it is not to be an expedient similar to those adopted by Lord North, during the American war; or by the right honorable gentleman himself for nearly the whole of the last war; but it is to be a plan which will last forever, or at least until two or three hundred millions be raised by it. Severe measures for general defense too, are announced to us as necessary within a fortnight; plans of which no man can as yet form a conception, but which ministers are to reveal to us in due time, and when they shall have reached their full maturity of wisdom.

The income-tax was felt heavily by most of the members of this house; heavily, indeed, by all descriptions of persons in the country. I am speaking of the poor old income-tax, not the tax now about to be imposed. I speak of that mild and gentle operation, which seized only upon one-tenth of a man's income, and not of a measure which may exact a fifth and possibly a half; a measure, too, which must be improved in the mode of its execution, since the greater the sum to be raised by it, the more rigorous must be the inquisition. Let no man now look to his holding a pound without giving possibly fifteen shillings of it to government, towards the support of the war; let no man be too confident that an inquisitor may not be empowered to break open his desk, in order to search for the other five.

And all this for what? For Malta ! Malta ! plain, bare, naked Malta, unconnected with any other interest! What point of honor can the retention of Malta be to you? Something of that nature may be felt by France; but to you, I aver, it is, as a point of honor, nothing. “But it may be prudent to keep it.” Is the keeing it worth a contest? Does the noble lord think it so? On the contrary, is he not of opinion that it is not? “Oh! but we are to oppose the aggrandizement of France, the ambition of Bonaparte, which will destroy us like liquid fire.” We have, indeed, heard some splendid philippics on this subject; philippics which Demosthenes himself, were he among us, might hear with pleasure, and possibly with envy; philippics which would lead us directly to battle, without regard to what may follow : but then comes the question,—What shall we have to pay for them? What is the amount of the bill? I remember an old French proverb, and I am not afraid of being deemed too much of a Frenchman if I should quote it, the proverb seem almost an answer to one in English, which says that “ things are good, because they are dear.” The author of the French one, however, tells us that, let things be ever so good, yet if they are dear, he has no pleasure in eating them. Now so it is with me, when I hear the harangues of the right honorable gentleman, in favor of war, I think the articles drest up are exquisite, but that the cost spoils the relish." While I listen to all these fine and eloquent philippics, I cannot help recollecting what fruits such

speeches have generally produced, and dreading the devastation and carnage which usually attend them.

The right honorable gentleman, when he appears before us in all the gorgeous attire of his eloquence, reminds me of a story which is told of a barbarous prince of Morocco, a Muley Molock, or a Muley Ishmael, who never put on his gayest garments, or appeared in extraordinary pomp, but as a prelude to the murder of thousands of his subjects. Now, when I behold splendor more bright, when I perceive the labors of an elegant and accomplished mind, when I listen to words so choice, and contemplate the charms of his polished elocution,-it is well enough for me, sitting in this house, to enjoy the scene ; but it gives me most gloomy tidings to convey to my constituents in the lobby. For these reasons, sir, I wish, previously to our entering into this war, to be told what event it is that will put an end to it.

XLII.

EXTRACT FROM THE SPEECH OF SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH,

IN THE BRITISH PARLIAMENT, IN WHICH HE CONDEMNS THE BURNING OF THE AMERICAN CAPITAL BY THE BRITISH TROOPS.

Mr. Speaker-I must begin by avowing, however unfashionable such principles have now become, my partiality to AMERICA, because she is not only bound to us by the ties of common origin, but by the closer fellowship of civil and religious liberty. The spirit of liberty gave us an American empire; the spirit of domination has robbed us of it. Peace with America, I consider as one of our greatest national advantages; for of all separate objects of our foreign policy, I think friendship with America the second in importance; the strength and security of Holland I allow to be the first. I have therefore at all times equally lamented and reprobated those vulgar prejudices, and that insolent language against the

[ocr errors]

people of America, which has been of late so prevalent in this country, and which has reached so extravagant a height, that men, respectable in character as well as station, have spoken in this house of the depositon of Mr. Madison as a justifiable object of war, and have treated a gentleman of English extraction and education with a most unjustifiable scurrility, for no better reason than, that we happen to be at war with the great republic over which he presides.

Sir, we have lent ourselves to the miserable policy of protracting that war for the sake of striking a blow against America. The disgrace of the naval war, of balanced success between the British navy and the new-born marine of America, was to be redeemed by protracted warfare, and by pouring our armies, victorious in the mighty contests of Europe, upon the American shores. That opportunity, fatally for us, arose. Had the negociation commenced sooner, we should not have sent out orders for the attack on Washington. We should have been saved from that success, which I consider as a thousand times more disgraceful than the worst defeat. This success I charge to the delay of the negociation. It was a success which made our naval power hateful and alarming to Europe. It was a success which gave the hearts of the American people to every enemy who might rise against England. It was an enterprise which most exasperated a people, and least weakened a government, of any recorded in the annals of war.

For every justifiable purpose of present warfare it was almost impotent. To every wise object of prospective policy it was hostile. It was an attack, not against the strength or the resources of a state, but against the national honor and public affections of a people. After twenty-five years of the fiercest warfare, in which every great capital of the European continent had been spared, I had almost said respected by enemies, it was reserved for England to violate all that decent courtesy towards the seats of national digpity, which, in the midst of enmi

« FöregåendeFortsätt »