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ON TAKING THE HANOVERIAN TROOPS INTO THE PAY OF GREAT BRITAIN.
DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.
DECEMBER 10, 1742.
GEORGE II., when freed from the trammels of Walpole's pacific policy, had a silly ambition of appearing on the Continent, like William III., at the head of a confederate army against France, while be sought, at the same time, to defend and aggrandize his Electorate of Hanover at the expense of Great Britain. In this he was encouraged by Lord Carteret, who succeeded Walpole as prime minister. The King therefore took sixteen thousand Hanoverian troops into British pay, and sent them with a large English force into Flanders. His object was to create a diversion in favor of Maria Theresa, queen of Hungary, to whom the English were now affording aid, in accordance with their guarantee of the Pragmatic Sanction.1 Two subsidies, one of £300,000 and another of £500,000, had already been transmitted for her relief; and so popular was her cause in England, that almost any sum would have been freely given. But there was a general and strong opposition to the King's plan of shifting the burdens of Hanover on to the British treasury. Mr. Pitt, who concurred in these views, availed himself of this opportunity to come out as the opponent of Carteret. He had been neglected and set aside in the arrangements which were made after the fall of Walpole; and he was not of a spirit tamely to bear the arrogance of the new minister. Accordingly, when a motion was made to provide for the payment of the Hanoverian troops, he delivered the following speech, in reply to Henry Fox, who had said that he should "continue to vote for these measures till better could be proposed."
Sir, if the honorable gentleman determines to abandon his present sentiments as soon as any better measures are proposed, the ministry will quickly be deprived of one of their ablest defenders; for I consider the measures hitherto pursued so weak and so pernicious, that scarcely any alteration can be proposed that will not be for the advantage of the nation.
The honorable gentleman has already been informed that no necessity existed for hiring auxiliary troops. It does not appear that either justice or policy required us to engage in the quarrels of the Continent; that there was any need of forming an army in the Low Countries; or that, in order to form an army, auxiliaries were necessary.
But, not to dwell upon disputable points, I think it may justly be concluded that the measures of our ministry have been ill concerted, because it is undoubtedly wrong to squander the public money without effect, and to pay armies, only to be a show to our friends and a scorn to our enemies.
The troops of Hanover, whom we are now expected to pay, marched into the Low Countries, sir, where they still remain. They marched to the place most distant from the enemy, least in danger of an attack, and most strongly fortified, had an attack been designed. They have, therefore, no other claim to be paid, than that they left their own country for a place of greater security. It is always reasonable to judge of the future by the past; and therefore it is probable that next year the services of these troops will not be of equal importance with those for which they are now to be paid. I shall not, therefore, be surprised, if, after such another glorious campaign, the opponents of the ministry be challenged to propose better measures, and be told that the money of this nation can not be more properly employed than in hiring Hanoverians to eat and sleep.
But to prove yet more particularly that better measures may be taken--that more useful troops may be retained--and that, therefore, the honorable gentleman may be expected to quit those to whom he now adheres, I shall show that, in hiring the forces of Hanover, we have obstructed our own designs; that, instead of assisting the Queen of Hungary, we have withdrawn from her a part of the allies, and have burdened the nation with troops from which no service can reasonably be expected.
The advocates of the ministry have, on this occasion, affected to speak of the balance of power, the Pragmatic Sanction, and the preservation of the Queen of Hungary, not only as if they were to be the chief care of Great Britain, which (although easily controvertible) might, in compliance with long prejudices, be possibly admitted; but as if they were to be the care of Great Britain alone. These advocates, sir, have spoken as if the power of France were formidable to no other people than ourselves; as if no other part of the world would be injured by becoming a prey to a universal monarchy, and subject to the arbitrary government of a French deputy; by being drained of its inhabitants only to extend the conquests of its masters, and to make other nations equally wretched; and by being oppressed with exorbitant taxes, levied by military executions, and employed only in supporting the state of its oppressors. They dwell upon the importance of public faith and the necessity of an exact observation of treaties, as if the Pragmatic Sanction had been signed by no other potentate than the King of Great Britain; as if the public faith were to be obligatory upon ourselves alone.
That we should inviolably observe our treaties--observe them although every other nation should disregard them; that we should show an example of fidelity to mankind, and stand firm in the practice of virtue, though we should stand alone, I readily allow. I am, therefore, far from advising that we should recede from our stipulations, whatever we may suffer in their fulfillment; or that we should neglect the support of the Pragmatic Sanction, however we may be at present embarrassed, or however disadvantageous may be its assertion.
But surely, sir, for the same reason that we observe our stipulations, we ought to excite other powers also to observe their own; at the least, sir, we ought not to assist in preventing them from doing so. But how is our present conduct agreeable to these principles? The Pragmatic Sanction was guaranteed, not only by the King of Great Britain, but by the Elector of Hanover also, who (if treaties constitute obligation) is thereby equally obliged to defend the house of Austria against the attacks of any foreign power, and to send his proportion of troops for the Queen of Hungary's support.
Whether these troops have been sent, those whose province obliges them to possess some knowledge of foreign affairs, are better able to inform the House than myself. But, since we have not heard them mentioned in this debate, and since we know by experience that none of the merits of that Electorate are passed over in silence, it may, I think, be concluded that the distresses of the Queen of Hungary have yet received no alleviation from her alliance with Hanover; that her complaints have excited no compassion at that court, and that the justice of her cause has obtained no attention.
To what can be attributed this negligence of treaties, this disregard of justice, this defect of compassion, but to the pernicious counsels of those who have advised his Majesty to hire and to send elsewhere those troops which should have been employed for the Queen of Hungary's assistance. It is not to be imagined, sir, that his Majesty has more or less regard to justice as King of Great Britain, than as Elector of Hanover; or that he would not have sent his proportion of troops to the Austrian army, had not the temptation of greater profit been laid industriously before him. But this is not all that may be urged against such conduct. For, can we imagine that the power, that the designs of France, are less formidable to Hanover than Great Britain? Is it less necessary for the security of Hanover than of ourselves, that the house of Austria should be re-established in its former splendor and influence, and enabled to support the liberties of Europe against the enormous attempts at universal monarchy by France?
If, therefore, our assistance to the Queen of Hungary be an act of honesty, and granted in consequence of treaties, why may it not be equally required of Hanover? If it be an act of generosity, why should this country alone be obliged to sacrifice her interests for those of others? or why should the Elector of Hanover exert his liberality at the expense of Great Britain?
It is now too apparent, sir, that this great, this powerful, this mighty nation, is considered only as a province to a despicable Electorate; and that in consequence of a scheme formed long ago, and invariably pursued, these troops are hired only to drain this unhappy country of its money. That they have hitherto been of no use to Great Britain or to Austria, is evident beyond a doubt; and therefore it is plain that they are retained only for the purposes of Hanover.
How much reason the transactions of almost every year have given for suspecting this absurd, ungrateful, and perfidious partiality, it is not necessary to declare. I doubt not that most of those who sit in this House can recollect a great number of instances in point, from the purchase of part of the Swedish dominions, to the contract which we are now called upon to ratify. Few, I think, can have forgotten the memorable stipulation for the Hessian troops: for the forces of the Duke of Wolfenbuttle, which we were scarcely to march beyond the verge of their own country: or the ever memorable treaty, the tendency of which is discovered in the name. A treaty by which we disunited ourselves from Austria; destroyed that building which we now endeavor, perhaps in vain, to raise again; and weakened the only power to which it was our interest to give strength.
To dwell on all the instances of partiality which have been shown, and the yearly visits which have been paid to that delightful country; to reckon up all the sums that have been spent to aggrandize and enrich it, would be an irksome and invidious task--invidious to those who are afraid to be told the truth, and irksome to those who are unwilling to hear of the dishonor and injuries of their country. I shall not dwell farther on this unpleasing subject than to express my hope, that we shall no longer suffer ourselves to he deceived and oppressed: that we shall at length perform our duty as representatives of the people: and, by refusing to ratify this contract, show, that however the interests of Hanover have been preferred by the ministers, the Parliament pays no regard but to the interests of Great Britain.
The motion was carried by a considerable majority; but Mr. Pitt's popularity was greatly increased throughout the country by his resistance of this obnoxious measure.
1. See note to Walpole's speech, p. 40.
*Scanned for Classicpersuasion.org from the first edition of Select British Eloquence, edited with notes by Chauncey A. Goodrich (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1852)
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