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ON A MOTION FOR AN ADDRESS OF THANKS AFTER THE BATTLE OF DETTINGEN.
DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.
DECEMBER 1, 1743.
THE battle of Dettingen was the last in which any English monarch has appeared personally in the field. It was fought near a village of this name in Germany, on the banks of the Mayn, between Mayence and Frankfort, on the 19th of June, 1743. The allied army, consisting of about thirty-seven thousand English and Hanoverian troops, was commanded, at the time of this engagement, by George II. Previous to his taking the command, it had been brought by mismanagement into a perilous condition, being hemmed in between the River Mayn on the one side and a range of precipitous hills on the other, and there reduced to great extremities for want of provisions. The French, who occupied the opposite side of the Mayn in superior force, seized the opportunity, and threw a force of twenty-three thousand men across the river to cut off the advance of the allies through the defile of Dettingen, and shortly after sent twelve thousand more into their rear, to preclude the possibility of retreat. The position of the French in front was impregnable, and, if they had only retained it, the capture of the entire allied army would have been inevitable. But the eagerness of Grammont, who commanded the French in that quarter, drew him off from his vantage ground, and induced him to give battle to the allies on more equal terms. When the engagement commenced, George II., dismounting from his horse, put himself at the head of his infantry, and led his troops on foot to the charge. "The conduct of the King in this conflict," says Lord Mahon, "deserves the highest praise; and it was undoubtedly through him and through his son [the Duke of Cumberland], far more than through any of his generals, that the day was won." The British and Hanoverian infantry vied with each other under such guidance, and swept the French forces before them with an impetuosity which soon decided the battle, and produced a complete rout of the French army. The exhausted condition of the allies, however, and especially their want of provisions, rendered it impossible for them to pursue the French, who left the field with the loss of six thousand men.
The King, on his return to England, opened the session of Parliament in person; and in reply to his speech, an Address of Thanks was moved, "acknowledging the goodness of Divine Providence to this nation in protecting your Majesty's sacred person amid imminent dangers, in defense of the common cause and liberties of Europe." In opposition to this address, Mr. Pitt made the following speech. In the former part of it, either from erroneous information or prejudice, he seems unwilling to do justice to the King's intrepidity on that occasion. But the main part of the speech is occupied with an examination,
I. Of Sir Robert Walpole's policy (which was that of the King) in respect to the Queen of Hungary and the balance of power.
II. Of the conduct of the existing ministry (that of Lord Carteret) in relation to these subjects.
III. Of the manner in which the war in Germany had been carried on; and,
IV. Of the consequences to be anticipated from the character and conduct of the ministry.
The speech will be interesting to those who have sufficient acquaintance with the history of the times to enter fully into the questions discussed. It is characterized by comprehensive views and profound reflection on the leading question of that day, the balance of power, and by a high sense of national honor. It has a continuous line of argument running throughout it; and shows the error of those who imagine that "Lord Chatham never reasoned."
From the proposition before the House, sir, we may perceive, that whatever alteration has been, or may be produced with respect to foreign measures, by the late change in administration, we can expect none with regard to our domestic affairs. In foreign measures, indeed, a most extraordinary change has taken place. From one extreme, our administration have run to the very verge of another. Our former minister [Walpole] betrayed the interests of his country by his pusillanimity; our present minister would sacrifice them by his Quixotism. Our former minister was for negotiating with all the world; our present minister is for fighting against all the world. Our former minister was for agreeing to every treaty, though never so dishonorable; our present minister will give ear to none, though never so reasonable. Thus, while both appear to be extravagant, this difference results from their opposite conduct: that the wild system of the one must subject the nation to a much heavier expenditure than was ever incurred by the pusillanimity of the other.
The honorable gentleman who spoke last [Mr. Yorke] was correct in saying, that in the beginning of the session we could know nothing, in a parliamentary way, of the measures that had been pursued. I believe sir, we shall know as little, in that way, at the end of the session; for our new minister, in this, as in every other step of his domestic conduct, will follow the example of his predecessor, and put a negative upon every motion which may tend toward our acquiring any parliamentary knowledge of our late proceedings. But if we possess no knowledge of these proceedings, it is, surely, as strong an argument for our not approving, as it can be for our not condemning them. Sir, were nothing relating to our late measures proposed to be inserted in our address upon this occasion, those measures would not have been noticed by me. But when an approbation is proposed, I am compelled to employ the knowledge I possess, whether parliamentary or otherwise, in order that I may join or not in the vote of approbation. What though my knowledge of our late measures were derived from foreign and domestic newspapers alone, even of that knowledge I must avail myself, when obliged to express my opinion; and when from that knowledge I apprehend them to be wrong, it is my duty, surely, to withhold my approbation. I am bound to persist in thus withholding it, till the minister be pleased to furnish me with such parliamentary knowledge as may convince me that I have been misinformed. This would be my proper line of conduct when, from the knowledge I possess, instead of approving any late measures, I think it more reasonable to condemn them. But supposing, sir, from the knowledge within my reach, that I consider those measures to be sound, even then I ought not to approve, unless such knowledge can warrant approval. Now, as no sort of knowledge but a parliamentary knowledge can authorize a parliamentary approbation, for this reason alone I ought to refuse it. If, therefore, that which is now proposed contain any sort of approbation, my refusing to agree to it contains no censure, but is a simple declaration that we possess not such knowledge of past measures as affords sufficient grounds for a parliamentary approbation. A parliamentary approbation, sir, extends not only to all that our ministers have advised, but to the acknowledgment of the truth of several facts which inquiry may show to be false; of facts which, at least, have been asserted without authority and proof. Suppose, sir, it should appear that his Majesty was exposed to few or no dangers abroad, but those to which he is daily liable at home, such as the overturning of his coach, or the stumbling of his horse, would not the address proposed, instead of being a compliment, be an affront and an insult to the sovereign? Suppose it should appear that our ministers have shown no regard to the advice of Parliament; that they have exerted their endeavors, not for the preservation of the house of Austria, but to involve that house in dangers which otherwise it might have avoided, and which it is scarcely possible for us now to avert. Suppose it should appear that a body of Dutch troops, although they marched to the Rhine, have never joined our army. Suppose it should appear that the treaty with Sardinia is not yet ratified by all the parties concerned, or that it is one with whose terms it is impossible they should comply. If these things should appear on inquiry, would not the address proposed be most ridiculously absurd? Now, what assurance have we that all these facts will not turn out as I have imagined?
I. Upon the death of the late Emperor of Germany, it was the interest of this nation, I grant, that the Queen of Hungary should be established in her father's dominions, and that her husband, the Duke of Lorraine, should be chosen Emperor. This was our interest, because it would have been the best security for the preservation of the balance of power; but we had no other interest, and it was one which we had in common with all the powers of Europe, excepting France. We were not, therefore, to take upon us the sole support of this interest. And, therefore, when the King of Prussia attacked Silesia--when the King of Spain, the King of Poland, and the Duke of Bavaria laid claim to the late Emperor's succession, we might have seen that the establishment of the Queen of Hungary in all her father's dominions was impracticable, especially as the Dutch refused to interfere, excepting by good offices. What, then, ought we to have done? Since we could not preserve the whole, is it not evident that, in order to bring over some of the claimants to our side, we ought to have advised her to yield up part? Upon this we ought to have insisted, and the claimant whom first we should have considered was the King of Prussia, both because he was one of the most neutral, and one of the most powerful allies with whom we could treat. For this reason it was certainly incumbent upon us to advise the Queen of Hungary to accept the terms offered by the King of Prussia when he first invaded Silesia.1
Nay, not only should we have advised, we should have insisted upon this as the condition upon which we would assist her against the claims of others. To this the court of Vienna must have assented; and, in this case, whatever protestations the other claimants might have made, I am persuaded that the Queen of Hungary would to this day have remained the undisturbed possessor of the rest of her father's dominions, and that her husband, the Duke of Lorraine, would have been now seated on the imperial throne.
This salutary measure was not pursued. This appears, sir, not only from the Gazettes, but from our parliamentary knowledge. For, from the papers which have been either accidentally or necessarily laid before Parliament, it appears, that instead of insisting that the court of Vienna should agree to the terms offered by Prussia, we rather encouraged the obstinacy of that court in rejecting them. We did this, sir, not by our memorials alone, but by his Majesty's speech to his Parliament, by the consequent addresses of both houses, and by speeches directed by our courtiers against the King of Prussia. I allude, sir, to his Majesty's speech on the 8th of April, 1741, to the celebrated addresses on that occasion for guaranteeing the dominions of Hanover, and for granting 300,000 to enable his Majesty to support the Queen of Hungary. The speeches made on that occasion by several of our favorites at court, and their reflections on the King of Prussia, must be fresh in the memory of all. All must remember, too, that the Queen of Hungary was not then, nor for some months after, attacked by any one prince in Europe excepting the King of Prussia. She must, therefore, have supposed that both the court and nation of Great Britain were resolved to support her, not only against the King of Prussia, but against all the world. We can not, therefore, be surprised that the court of Vienna evinced an unwillingness to part with so plenteous a country as that claimed by the King of Prussia--the lordship of Silesia.
But, sir, this was not all. Not only had we promised our assistance to the Queen of Hungary, but we had actually commenced a negotiation for a powerful alliance against the King of Prussia, and for dividing his dominions among the allies. We had solicited, not only the Queen of Hungary, but also the Muscovites and the Dutch, to form parts of this alliance. We had taken both Danes and Hessians into our pay, in support of this alliance. Nay, even Hanover had subjected herself to heavy expenses on this occasion, by adding a force of nearly one third to the army she had already on foot. This, sir, was, I believe, the first extraordinary expense which Hanover had incurred since her fortunate conjunction with England; the first, I say, notwithstanding the great acquisitions she has made, and the many heavy expenses in which England has been involved upon her sole account.
If, therefore, the Queen of Hungary was obstinate in regard to the claims of Prussia, her obstinacy must be ascribed to ourselves. To us must be imputed those misfortunes which she subsequently experienced. It was easy to promise her our assistance while the French seemed determined not to interfere with Germany. It was safe to engage in schemes for her support, and for the enlargement of the Hanoverian dominions, because Prussia could certainly not oppose an equal resistance to the Queen of Hungary alone, much less so to that Queen when supported by Hanover and the whole power of Great Britain. During this posture of affairs, it was safe for us, I say, it was safe for Hanover, to promise assistance and to concert schemes in support of the Queen of Hungary. But no sooner did France come forward than our schemes were at an end, our promises forgotten. The safety of Hanover was then involved; and England, it seems, is not to be bound by promises, nor engaged in schemes, which, by possibility, may endanger or distress the Electorate! From this time, sir, we thought no more of assisting the Queen of Hungary, excepting by grants which were made by Parliament. These, indeed, our ministers did not oppose, because they contrive to make a job of every parliamentary grant. But from the miserable inactivity in which we allowed the Danish and Hessian troops to remain, notwithstanding that they received our pay; and from the insult tamely submitted to by our squadron in the Mediterranean, we must conclude that our ministers, from the time the French interfered, resolved not to assist the Queen of Hungary by land or sea. Thus, having drawn that princess forward on the ice by our promises, we left her to retreat as she could. Thus it was, sir, that the Duke of Bavaria became Emperor.2 Thus it was that the house of Austria was stripped of great part of its dominions, and was in the utmost danger of being stripped of all, had France been bent on its destruction. Sir, the house of Austria was saved by the policy of France, who wished to reduce, but not absolutely to destroy it. Had Austria been ruined, the power of the Duke of Bavaria, who had been elected Emperor, would have risen higher than was consistent with the interests of France. It was the object of France to foment divisions among the princes of Germany, to reduce them by mutual strife, and then to render the houses of Bavaria, Austria, and Saxony nearly equal by partitions.
It was this policy which restrained the French from sending so powerful an army into Germany as they might otherwise have sent. And then, through the bad conduct of their generals, and through the skill and bravery of the officers and troops of the Queen of Hungary, a great improvement in her affairs was effected. This occurred about the time of the late changes in our administration; and this leads me to consider the origin of those measures which are now proceeding, and the situation of Europe at that particular time, February, 1742. But, before I enter upon that consideration, I must lay this down as a maxim to be ever observed by this nation, that, although it be our own interest to preserve a balance of power in Europe, yet, as we are the most remote from danger, we have the least reason to be jealous as to the adjustment of that balance, and should be the last to take alarm on its account. Now the balance of power may be supported, either by the existence of one single potentate capable of opposing and defeating the ambitious designs of France, or by a well-connected confederacy adequate to the same intent. Of these two methods, the first, when practicable, is the most eligible, because on that method we may most safely rely; but when it can not be resorted to, the whole address of our ministers and plenipotentiaries should tend to establish the second.
The wisdom of the maxim, sir, to which I have adverted, must be acknowledged by all who consider, that when the powers upon the Continent apply to us to join them in a war against France, we may take what share in the war we think fit. When we, on the contrary, apply to them, they will prescribe to us. However some gentlemen may affect to alarm themselves or others by alleging the dependency of all the European powers upon France, of this we may rest assured, that when those powers are really threatened with such dependency, they will unite among themselves, and call upon us also to prevent it. Nay, sir, should even that dependence imperceptibly ensue; so soon as they perceived it, they would unite among themselves, and call us to join the confederacy by which it might be shaken off. Thus we can never be reduced to stand single in support of the balance of power; nor can we be compelled to call upon our continental neighbors for such purpose, unless when our ministers have an interest in pretending and asserting imaginary dangers.
The posture of Europe since the time of the Romans is wonderfully changed. In those time each country was divided into many sovereignties. It was then impossible for the people of any one country to unite among themselves, and much more impossible for two or three large countries to combine in a general confederacy against the enormous power of Rome. But such confederacy is very practicable now, and may always be effected whenever France, or any one of the powers of Europe, shall endeavor to enslave the rest. I have said, sir, that the balance of power in Europe may be maintained as securely by a confederacy as it can be by opposing any one rival power to the power of France. Now, let us examine to which of these two methods we ought to have resorted in February, 1742. The imperial diadem was then fallen from the house of Austria; and although the troops of the Queen of Hungary had met with some success during the winter, that sovereign was still stripped of great part of the Austrian dominions. The power of that house was therefore greatly inferior to what it was at the time of the late emperor's death; and still more inferior to what it had been in 1716, when we considered it necessary to add Naples and Sardinia to its former acquisitions, in order to render it a match for France. Besides this, there existed in 1742 a very powerful confederacy against the house of Austria, while no jealousy was harbored by the powers of Europe against the ambition of France. For France, although she had assisted in depressing the house of Austria, had shown no design of increasing her own dominions. On the other hand, the haughty demeanor of the court of Vienna, and the height to which that house had been raised, excited a spirit of disgust and jealousy in the princes of Germany. That spirit first manifested itself in the house of Hanover, and at this very time prevailed not only there, but in most of the German sovereignties. Under such circumstances, however weak and erroneous our ministers might be, they could not possibly think of restoring the house of Austria to its former splendor and power. They could not possibly oppose that single house as a rival to France. No power in Europe would have cordially assisted them in that scheme. They would have had to cope, not only with France and Spain, but with all the princes of Germany and Italy, to whom Austria had become obnoxious.
In these circumstances, what was this nation to do? It was impossible to establish the balance of power in Europe upon the single power of the house of Austria. Surely, then, sir, it was our business to think of restoring the peace of Germany as soon as possible by our good offices, in order to establish a confederacy sufficient to oppose France, should she afterward discover any ambitious intentions. It was now not so much our business to prevent the lessening the power of the house of Austria, as it was to bring about a speedy reconciliation between the princes of Germany; to take care that France should get as little by the treaty of peace as she said she expected by the war. This, I say, should have been our chief concern; because the preservation of the balance of power was now no longer to depend upon the house of Austria, but upon the joint power of a confederacy then to be formed; and till the princes of Germany were reconciled among themselves, there was scarcely a possibility of forming such a confederacy. If we had made this our scheme, the Dutch would have joined heartily in it. The Germanic body would have joined in it; and the peace of Germany might have been restored without putting this nation to any expense, or diverting us from the prosecution of our just and necessary war against Spain, in case our differences with that nation could not have been adjusted by the treaty for restoring the peace of Germany.
II. But our new minister, as I have said, ran into an extreme quite opposite to that of the old. Our former minister thought of nothing but negotiating when he ought to have thought of nothing but war; the present minister has thought of nothing but war, or at least its resemblance, when he ought to have thought of nothing but negotiation.
A resolution was taken, and preparations were made, for sending a body of troops to Flanders, even before we had any hopes of the King of Prussia's deserting his alliance with France, and without our being called on to do so by any one power in Europe. I say, sir, by any one power in Europe; for I defy our ministers to show that even the Queen of Hungary desired any such thing before it was resolved on. I believe some of her ministers were free enough to declare that the money those troops cost would have done her much more service; and I am sure we were so far from being called on by the Dutch to do so, that it was resolved on without their participation, and the measures carried into execution, I believe, expressly contrary to their advice.
This resolution, sir, was so far from having any influence on the King of Prussia, that he continued firm to his alliance with France, and fought the battle of Czaslau after he knew such a resolution was taken. If he had continued firm in the same sentiments, I am very sure our troops neither would nor could have been of the least service to the Queen of Hungary. But the battle of Czaslau fully convinced him that the French designed chiefly to play one German prince against another, in order to weaken both; and perhaps he had before this discovered, that, according to the French scheme, his share of Silesia was not to be so considerable as he expected. These considerations, and not the eloquence or address of any of our ministers, inclined him to come to an agreement with the Queen of Hungary. As she was now convinced that she could not depend upon our promises, she readily agreed to his terms, though his demands were now much more extravagant than they were at first; and, what is worse, they were now unaccompanied with any one promise or consideration, except that of a neutrality; whereas his first demands were made palatable by the tender of a large sum of money, and by the promise of his utmost assistance, not only in supporting the Pragmatic Sanction, but in raising her husband, the Duke of Lorraine, to the imperial throne. Nay, originally, he even insinuated that he would embrace the first opportunity to assist in procuring her house an equivalent for whatever part of Silesia she should resign to him.
This accommodation between the Queen of Hungary and the King of Prussia, and that which soon after followed between her and the Duke of Saxony, produced a very great alteration in the affairs of Europe. But, as these last powers promised nothing but a neutrality, and as the Dutch absolutely refused to join, either with the Queen of Hungary or with ourselves, in any offensive measures against France, it was still impossible for us to think of restoring the house of Austria to such power as to render it a match for the power of France. We ought, therefore, still to have thought only of negotiation, in order to restore the peace of Germany by an accommodation between her and the Emperor. The distresses to which the Bavarian and French armies in Germany were driven furnished us with such an opportunity: this we ought by all means to have embraced, and to have insisted on the Queen of Hungary's doing the same, under the pain of being entirely deserted by us. A peace was offered both by the Emperor and the French, upon the terms of uti possidetis, with respect to Germany; but, for what reason I can not comprehend, we were so far from advising the Queen of Hungary to accept, that I believe we advised her to reject it.
This, sir, was a conduct in our ministers so very extraordinary, so directly opposite to the interest of this nation, and the security of the balance of power, that I can suggest to myself no one reason for it, but that they were resolved to put this nation to the expense of maintaining sixteen thousand Hanoverians. This I am afraid was the true motive with our new ministers for all the warlike measures they resolved on. Nothing would now satisfy us but a conquest of Alsace and Lorraine in order to give them to the Queen of Hungary, as an equivalent for what she had lost. And this we resolved on, or at least pretended to resolve on, at a time when France and Prussia were in close conjunction; at a time when no one of the powers of Europe could assist us; at a time when none of them entertained a jealousy of the ambitious designs of France; and at a time when most of the princes of Germany were so jealous of the power of the house of Austria, that we had great reason to apprehend that the most considerable of these would join against us, in case we should meet with any success.
Sir, if our ministers were really serious in this scheme, it was one of the most romantic that ever entered the head of an English Quixote. But if they made it only a pretext for putting this nation to the expense of maintaining sixteen thousand Hanoverians, or of acquiring some new territory for the Electorate of Hanover, I am sure no British House of Commons can approve their conduct. It is absurd, sir, to say that we could not advise the Queen of Hungary to accept of the terms offered by the Emperor and France, at a time when their troops were cooped up in the city of Prague, and when the terms were offered with a view only to get their troops at liberty, and to take the first opportunity to attack her with more vigor. This, I say, is absurd, because, had she accepted the terms proposed, she might have had them guaranteed by the Dutch, by the German body, and by all the powerful princes of Germany; which would have brought all these powers into a confederacy with us against the Emperor and France, if they had afterward attacked her in Germany; and all of them, but especially the Dutch, and the King of Prussia, would have been ready to join us, had the French attacked her in Flanders. It is equally absurd to say that she could not accept of these terms, because they contained nothing for the security of her dominions in Italy. For suppose the war had continued in Italy, if the Queen of Hungary had been safe upon the side of Germany, she could have poured such a number of troops into Italy as would have been sufficient to oppose and defeat all the armies that both the French and Spaniards could send to and maintain in that country; since we could, by our superior fleets, have made it impossible for the French and Spaniards to maintain great armies in that country.
No other reason can therefore be assigned for the Queen of Hungary's refusal of the terms proposed to her for restoring the tranquillity of Germany than this alone, that we had promised to assist her so effectually as to enable her to conquer a part of France, by way of equivalent for what she had lost in Germany and Italy. Such assistance it was neither our interest nor in our power to give, considering the circumstances of Europe. I am really surprised that the Queen of Hungary came to trust a second time to our promises; for I may venture to prophesy that she will find herself again deceived. We shall put ourselves to a vast unnecessary expense, as we did when she was first attacked by Prussia; and without being able to raise a jealousy in the other powers of Europe, we shall give France a pretense for conquering Flanders, which, otherwise, she would not have done. We may bring the Queen of Hungary a second time to the verge of destruction, and leave her there; for that we certainly shall do, as soon as Hanover comes to be a second time in danger. From all which I must conclude, that our present scheme of politics is fundamentally wrong, and that the longer we continue to build upon such a foundation, the more dangerous it will be for us. The whole fabric will involve this unfortunate nation in its ruins.
III. But now, sir, let us see how we have prosecuted this scheme, bad as it is, during the last campaign. As this nation must bear the chief part of the expense, it was certainly our business to prosecute the war with all possible vigor; to come to action as soon as possible, and to push every advantage to the utmost. Since we soon found that we could not attack the French upon the side of Flanders, why were our troops so long marching into Germany? Or, indeed, I should ask, why our armies were not first assembled in that country? Why did they continue so long inactive upon the Mayn? If our army was not numerous enough to attack the French, why were the Hessians left behind for some time in Flanders? Why did we not send over twenty thousand of those regular troops that were lying idle here at home? How to answer all those questions I can not tell; but it is certain we never thought of attacking the French army in our neighborhood, and, I believe, expected very little to be attacked ourselves. Nay, I doubt much if any action would have happened during the whole campaign, if the French had not, by the misconduct of some one or other of our generals, caught our army in a hose-net, from which it could not have escaped, had all the French generals observed the direction of their commander-in-chief; had they thought only of guarding and fortifying themselves in the defile [Dettingen], and not of marching up to attack our troops. Thank God, sir, the courage of some of the French generals got the better of their discretion, as well as of their military discipline. This made them attack, instead of waiting to be attacked; and then, by the bravery of the English foot, and the cowardice of their own, they met with a severe repulse, which put their whole army into confusion, and obliged them to retire with precipitation across the Mayn. Our army thus escaped the snare into which they had been led, and was enabled to pursue its retreat to Hanau.
This, sir, was a signal advantage; but was it followed up? Did we press upon the enemy in their precipitate retreat across a great river, where many of them must have been lost had they been closely pursued? Did we endeavor to take the least advantage of the confusion into which their unexpected repulse had thrown them? No, sir; the ardor of the British troops was restrained by the cowardice of the Hanoverians; and, instead of pursuing the enemy, we ourselves ran away in the night with such haste that we left all our wounded to the mercy and care of the enemy, who had the honor of burying our dead as well as their own. This action may, therefore, on our side, be called a fortunate escape; I shall never give my consent to honor it with the name of victory.
After this escape, sir, our army was joined by a very large re-enforcement. Did this revive our courage, or urge us on to give battle? Not in the least, sir; though the French continued for some time upon the German side of the Rhine, we never offered to attack them, or to give them the least disturbance. At last, upon Prince Charles's approach with the Austrian army, the French not only repassed the Rhine, but retired quite out of Germany. And as the Austrian army and the allied army might then have joined, and might both have passed the Rhine without opposition at Mentz, or almost anywhere in the Palatinate, it was expected that both armies would have marched together into Lorraine, or in search of the French army, in order to force them to a battle. Instead of this, sir, Prince Charles marched up the German side of the Rhine--to do what? To pass that great river, in the sight of a French army equal in number to his own, which, without some extraordinary neglect in the French, was impracticable; and so it was found by experience. Thus the whole campaign upon that side was consumed in often attempting what so often appeared to be impracticable.
On the other side--I mean that of the allied army--was there any thing of consequence performed? I know of nothing, sir, but that of sending a party of hussars into Lorraine with a manifesto. The army, indeed, passed the Rhine at Mentz, and marched up to the French lines upon the frontier of Alsace, but never offered to pass those lines until the French had abandoned them, I believe with a design to draw our army into some snare; for, upon the return of the French toward those lines, we retired with much greater haste than we had advanced, though the Dutch auxiliaries were then come up and pretended, at least, to be ready to join our army. I have heard, however, that they found a pretext for never coming into the line; and I doubt much if they would have marched with us to attack the French army in their own territories, or to invest any of the fortified places; for I must observe that the French lines upon the Queich were not all of them within the territories of France. But suppose this Dutch detachment had been ready to march with us to attack the French in their own territories, or to invest some of their fortified places, I can not join in any congratulation upon that event; for a small detachment of Dutch troops can never enable us to execute the vast scheme we have undertaken. The whole force of that republic would not be sufficient for the purpose, because we should have the majority of the empire against us; and, therefore, if the Dutch had joined totis viribus3 in our scheme, instead of congratulating, I should have bemoaned their running mad by our example and at our instigation.
IV. Having now briefly examined our past conduct, from the few remarks I have made, I believe, sir, it will appear that supposing our scheme to be in itself possible and practicable, we have no reason to hope for success if it be not prosecuted with more vigor and with better conduct than it was during the last campaign. While we continue in the prosecution of this scheme, whoever may lose, the Hanoverians will be considerable gainers. They will draw four or five hundred thousand pounds yearly from this nation over and above what they have annually drawn, ever since they had the good fortune to be united under the same sovereign with ourselves. But we ought to consider--even the Hanoverians ought to consider--that this nation is not now in a condition to carry on an expensive war for ten or twelve years, as it did in the reign of Queen Anne. We may fund it out for one, two, or three years; but the public debt is now so large that, if we go on adding millions to it every year, our credit will at last (sooner, I fear, than some among us may imagine) certainly be undone; and if this misfortune should occur, neither Hanover nor any other foreign state would be able to draw another shilling from the country. A stop to our public credit would put an end to our paper currency. A universal bankruptcy would ensue, and all the little ready money left among us would be locked up in iron chests, or hid in by-corners by the happy possessors. It would then be impossible to raise our taxes, and consequently impossible to maintain either fleets or armies. Our troops abroad would be obliged to enter into the service of any prince that could maintain them, and our troops at home would be obliged to live upon free quarter. But this they could not do long; for the farmer would neither sow nor reap if he found his produce taken from him by the starving soldier. In these circumstances, I must desire the real friends of our present happy establishment to consider what might be the consequence of the Pretender's landing among us at the head of a French army. Would he not he looked upon by most men as a savior? Would not the majority of the people join with him, in order to rescue the nation from those that had brought it into such confusion? This danger, sir, is, I hope, imaginary, but I am sure it is far from being so imaginary as that which has been held out in this debate, the danger of all the powers of the continent of Europe being brought under such a slavish dependence upon France as to join with her in conquering this island, or in bringing it under the same slavish dependence with themselves;
I had almost forgotten, sir (I wish future nations may forget), to mention the Treaty of Worms.4
I wish that treaty could be erased from our annals and our records, so as never to be mentioned hereafter: for that treaty, with its appendix, the convention that followed, is one of the most destructive, unjust, and absurd that was ever concluded. By that treaty we have taken upon ourselves a burden which I think it impossible for us to support; we have engaged in such an act of injustice toward Genoa as must alarm all Europe, and give to the French a most signal advantage. From this, sir, all the princes of Europe will see what regard we have to justice when we think that the power is on our side; most of them, therefore, will probably join with France in curtailing our power, or, at least, in preventing its increase.
The alliance of Sardinia and its assistance may, I admit, be of great use to us in defeating the design of the Spaniards in Italy. But gold itself may be bought too dear; and I fear we shall find the purchase we have made to be but precarious, especially if Sardinia should be attacked by France as well as by Spain, the almost certain consequence of our present scheme of politics. For these reasons, sir, I hope there is not any gentleman, nor even any minister, who expects that I should declare my satisfaction that this treaty has been concluded.
It is very surprising, sir, to hear gentlemen talk of the great advantages of unanimity in our proceedings, when, at the time, they are doing all they can to prevent unanimity. If the honorable gentleman had intended that what he proposed should be unanimously agreed to, he would have returned to the ancient custom of Parliament which some of his new friends have, on former occasions, so often recommended. It is a new doctrine to pretend that we ought in our address to return some sort of answer to every thing mentioned in his Majesty's speech. It is a doctrine that has prevailed only since our Parliaments began to look more like French than English Parliaments; and now we pretend to be such enemies of France, I supposed we should have laid aside a doctrine which the very method of proceeding in Parliament must show to be false. His Majesty's speech is not now so much as under our consideration, but upon a previous order for that purpose; therefore we can not now properly take notice of its contents, any farther than to determine whether we ought to return thanks for it or not. Even this we may refuse, without being guilty of any breach of duty to our sovereign; but of this, I believe, no gentleman would have thought, had the honorable gentleman who made this motion not attached to it a long and fulsome panegyric upon the conduct of our ministers. I am convinced no gentleman would have objected to our expressing our duty to our sovereign, and our zeal for his service, in the strongest and most affectionate terms: nor would any gentleman have refused to congratulate his Majesty upon any fortunate event happening to the royal family. The honorable gentleman would have desired no more than this, had he intended that his motion should be unanimously agreed to. But ministers are generally the authors and drawers up of the motion, and they always have a greater regard for themselves than for the service of their sovereign; that is the true reason why such motions seldom meet with unanimous approbation.
As to the danger, sir, of our returning or not returning to our national custom upon this occasion, I think it lies wholly upon the side of our not returning. I have shown that the measures we are now pursuing are fundamentally wrong, and that the longer we pursue them, the heavier our misfortunes will prove. Unless some signal providence interpose, experience, I am convinced, will confirm what I say. By the immediate intervention of Providence, we may, it is true, succeed in the most improbable schemes; but Providence seems to be against us. The sooner, therefore, we repent and amend, the better it will be for us; and unless repentance begins in this House, I shall no where expect it until dire experience has convinced us of our errors.
For these reasons, sir, I wish, I hope, that we may now begin to put a stop to the farther prosecution of these disastrous measures, by refusing them our approbation. If we put a negative upon this question, it may awaken our ministers from their deceitful dreams. If we agree to it, they will dream on till they have dreamed Europe their country, and themselves into utter perdition. If they stop now, the nation may recover; but if by such a flattering address we encourage them to go on, it may soon become impossible for them to retreat. For the sake of Europe, therefore, for the sake of my country, I most heartily join in putting a negative upon the question.
After a protracted debate, the address was carried by a vote of 279 to 149.
1. This, it is now known, was the course urged by Walpole on the Queen of Hungary. He strongly advised her to give up Silesia rather than involve Europe in a general war. She replied that she "would sooner give up her under petticoat;" and, as this put an end to the argument, he could do nothing but give the aid which England had promised --See Coxe's Walpole iii., 148.
2. The Duke of Bavaria was elected Emperor on the 12th of February, 1742.
3. With all their forces.
4. The Treaty of Worms was an offensive and defensive alliance concluded on the 2d of September 1743, between England, Austria, and Sardinia. By it the Queen of Hungary agreed to transfer to the King of Sardinia the city and part of the duchy of Placentia., the Vigevanesco, part of the duchy of Pavia, and the county of Anghiera, as well as her claims to the marquisate of Finale, which had been ceded to the Genoese by the late Emperor Charles VI. for the sum of 400,000 golden crowns, for which it had been previously mortgaged. The Queen of Hungary also engaged to maintain 30,000 men in Italy, to be commanded by the King of Sardinia. Great Britain agreed to pay the sum of £300,000 for the cession of Finale, and to furnish an annual subsidy of £200,000, on the condition that the King of Sardinia should employ 45,000 men. In addition to supplying these sums, Great Britain agreed to send a strong squadron into the Mediterranean, to act in concert with the allied forces. By a separate and secret convention, agreed to at the same time and place as the treaty, but which was never ratified nor publicly avowed, it was stipulated that Great Britain should pay to the Queen of Hungary an annual subsidy of £300,000, not merely during the war, but so long "as the necessity of her affairs should require." The terms of the Treaty of Worms relative to the cession of the marquisate of Finale to Sardinia were particularly unjust to the Genoese, since that territory had been guaranteed to them by the fourth article of the Quadruple Alliance, concluded on the 2d of August 1718, between Great Britain, France, Austria, and Holland.--Coxe's Austria, chap. civ. Lord Mahon's Hist. of England, vol. iii., p. 231. Belsham's Hist. of England. vol. iv., p. 82, et seq.
*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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