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HISTORY OF EUROPE,
Debates upon the King's Speech, and upon the
^ Ever since the commencement of the war had the affairs of this country, of Europe, and of the world, worn to dark an aspect, as at the entrance of the new year. The continental war, which had excited such high, and at one time such reasonable hopes, had ended not more triumphantly for France, than disgracefully ror the ally of England and for England herself. The total sacrifice of all honourable feeling made by the house of Hapsburg, in uniting itself to Buonaparte, as yet was not even suspected ; but it was apparent that that house was at bis mercy, and that Austria, havingthrown down her arms, existed by his sufferance. In the peninsula, i campaign which opened with the Surest auspices, had terminated disastrously: the golden opportunity, when by one great effort proportionate to the occasion, Great Britain 'night have exterminated the French VOl. UI. PAST X.
in Spain, was gone by; and the defeats which the Spaniards had sustained were far more disheartening than those of the preceding winter, because they evinced that neither had the armies improved in discipline, nor the government profited by experience. It was but too plain, that, notwithstanding the show of resistance made at the Sierra Morena, the kingdoms of Andalusia were in fact open to the enemy; so supine was the central junta, as to make it even probable that Cadiz itself might be betrayed or surprised j and if, now that Buonaparte had no other object, he should march a great force against the English in Portugal, there were few persons who had sufficient knowledge of the country, and of the character of the people, to look onward to the issue without dismay. In all parts of the world, even those which were secured by distance and the seas from
the restless ambition of France, the prospect was little less gloomy. Spanish America was on the point of civil war, a crisis which the detestable misgovernment of the old court had long been preparing, and the junta, by their culpable neglect, accelerated what they might now so easily have prevented. Our own affairs in America were hardly in a better condition than those of our allies; the dispute withtheUnitedStateshad been renewed with fresh violence, at a moment when it seemed to be closed, and the temper of the president, and of that part of the people whom his conduct and language encouraged in their insults and outrages, was such, as rendered accommodation more difficult than ever. From India intelligence of a more painful nature had arrived, disputes had arisen there between the civil and military powers, and though those disputes were now concluded, or at least suspended, it was not till a part of the Madras army had broken out in actual rebellion. But of all calamities, foreign or domestic, none so deeply affected the English people as the lamentable expedition to Walcheren; every thing which could excite astonishment, and anguish, and indignation, was united in that deplorable history: its origin, progress, and termination, were alike intolerable to recollect; it began in folly, it was conducted by imbecillity, and it ended in disgrace.
The common council voted an address to his majesty upon this unhappy expedition, praying, that an early and strict inquiry might be instituted into the cause of its failure. The livery also voted an address, but in a different temper. It was couched in intemperate language, attributing all our failures and disasters to the abuses and corruptions of the state ; and
the lord mayor and sheriffs pledged themselves to deliver it into the king's own hand, unless they were refused. The city remembrancer accordingly waited upon the secretary of state, to know when his majesty would receive it, and stated a wis to present it at the next levee. At the next private levee, the secretary, having consulted his majesty, informed the lord mayor and sheriff, it was the king's pleasure that their petition should be delivered at the secretary of state's office, his majesty having, for the last four years, discontinued public levees on account of his loss of sight. Thejr then offered to present it at the private levee, when they presented the petition of the common council, but they were not permitted, and the secretary offered to take it, and save them the trouble of calling at his office. This they, on their part, declined, saying they could not present it, except to his majesty personally. The sheriffs afterwards waited upon the secretary, and requested that he would apply for a private audience. He replied, his majesty had already signified his pleasure. Upon this the livery assembled again, and passed a string of resolutions, declaring that it was their undoubted right to present their petition to the king sitting upon his throne, though out of personal feelings they had at the last common hall waved the exercise of this right; that the denial which they had received was a flagrant violation of the right of petitioning, and whoever had advised his majesty not to receive their petition, had committed a scandalous breach of duty, violated one. of the first principles of the constitution, and abused the confidence of the sovereign. They resolved also, that the sheriffs, attended by Mr Remembrancer, should forthwith wait upon his majesty,* and deliver these resolutions into his own hand. The sheriffs accordingly addressed a letter to Mr Secretary Ryder, informing him, that they should attend at the next private levee to present the resolutions, unless it should be his majesty's pleasure to receive them at some other time and place for that purpose. The secretary returned for answer, that having laid their letter before the king, he had it in command to inform them, that his majesty had .lbrady signified his pleasure that all addresses (excepting only those of 'he body corporate of London and the two universities) should be transmitted to the secretary of state, to be by him laid before the king; his majesty did not think it fit to depart from the same conduct in respect of the resolutions of the livery. Had they been deputed from the body corporate, he would have received them as he was in the habit of doing, and as be had recently done; but, deputed as they were, he could not, without admitting communicatiops to be made in like manner by other classes of his subjects, and thereby exposing himself to that personal inconvenience, in the present state of us sight, which the discontinuance of public levees was intended to prevent. To the address of the common council, of which the language and the spirit were equally becoming, the king replied, he regretted that apart only of the important objects of the expedition had been effected; but he did not judge it necessary to direct any military inquiry into the conduct of the commander: it was for parliament in their wisdom to ask far such information, and take such measures upon the subject as they might deem i»it conducive to the public good. Things were in this state when par
liament was opened by commission on January 23. The speech expressed deep regret that Austria had been compelled to conclude a disadvantageous peace. "Although the war was undertaken," it said, "by that power without encouragement on the part of Great Britain, every effort Was made for the assistance of Austria which his majesty deemed consistent with the due support of his allies, and with the welfare and interest of his own dominions. An attack upon the naval armaments and establishments in the Scheldt, afforded at once the prospect of destroying a growing force, which was duly becoming more formidable to the security of the country, and of diverting the exertions of France from reinforcing her armies on the Danube, and controuling the spirit of resistance in the north of Germany. These considerations determined his majesty to employ his forces in an expedition to the Scheldt, and although the principal ends of the expedition had not been attained, he confidently hoped, that advantages materially affecting the security of his dominions, in the further prosecution of the war, would be found to result from the demolition of the docks and arsenals at Flushing. Upon this subject, such documents and papers should be laid before parliament, as would afford satisfactory information. With regard to Sweden," it was said, " his majesty had uniformly notified to that power hit decided wish, that in determining upon the question of peace or war with France, and other continental powers, she should be guided by considerations resulting from her own situation and interests; while therefore he lamented that Sweden should have found it necessary to purchase peace by considerable sacrifice, he could not complain that it had been concluded without his participation; and it was his earnest wish, that no event might occur to interrupt those relations of amity, which it was his desire, and the interest of both countries, to preserve." Touching the peninsula, the speech continued, "the efforts of Great Britain, for the protection of Portugal, had been powerfully aided by the confidence which the prince regent had reposed in his majesty, and by the co.operation of the local government,.and of the people of that country. The expulsion of the French from that kingdom, and the glorious victory of Talavera, had contributed to check the progress of the enemy. The Spanish government had now, in the name and by the authority of Ferdinand VII., determined to assemble the general and extraordinary cortes of the nation. This measure, his majesty trusted, would give fresh animation and vi
four to the councils and the arms of pain, and successfully direct the energies and spirit of the Spanish people to the maintenance of the legitimate monarchy, and to the ultimate deliverance of their country. The moat important considerations of policy and of good faith required, that as long as this great cause could be maintained with a prospect of success, it should be supported, according to the nature and circumstances of the contest, by the strenuous and continued assistance of the power and resources of GreatBritain." Concerning America, his majesty regretted the sudden andunexpectedinterruptionof the intercourse between his envoy and the government of the United States; he had, however, received the strongest assurance from the resident American minister, that the United States
were desirous of maintaining friendly relations between the two countries, and that desire would be met by a corresponding disposition on his part. Speaking of domestic affairs, the king expressed his hope, that parliament would resume the consideration of the state of the inferior clergy, and adopt such farther measures upon that interesting subject as might appear expedient. "The accounts which would be laid before them of the trade and revenue of the country," he said, "would be found highly satisfactory, for whatever temporary and partial inconvenience might have resulted from the measures which were directed by France against those great sources of our prosperity and strength, those measures had wholly failed of producing any permanent or general effect. The inveterate hostility of the enemy continued to be directed against this country with unabated animosity and violence; to defeat the designs which were meditated against us and our allies, would require the utmost efforts of vigilance, fortitude, and perseverance ; but at every difficulty and danger, his majesty confidently trusted that he should derive the most effectual support, under the continued blessing of Divine Providence, from the wisdom of his parliament, the valour of his forces, and the spirit and determination of his people."
The address in the Upper House was moved by the Earl of Glasgow, and seconded by ViscountGrimston. Earl St Vincent rose to oppose it; he had, in like manner, opened the campaign at the beginning of the last session, and on that occasion had taken leave of the house, bidding their lordships good night. "My Lords," said he, alluding to that circumstance, "when I addressed youlast, I thought my age and infirmities would prevent me from ever again presenting myself to your consideration; but such have been the untoward and calamitout events which have since occurred, that I am once more induced, if my strength will admit, to trouble you with a few of my sentiments on the present occasion. Indeed, we have wonderful-extraordinary men in thesedays, who haveingenuityenough to blazon with the finest colours, to sound with the trumpet and the drum; in fact, to varnish over the greatest i of the country, and endeato prove that our greatest misought to be considered as our greatest blessings. They talk of the glorious victory of Talavera, a which led to no advantage, all the consequences of deThe enemy took prisoners the tick. and the wounded, and our own troops were finally obliged precipitately to retreat. I do not mean to condemn the conduct of the officers employed either in Spain or Walcheren; I believe they did their duty. There is no occasion to wonder at the awful events which have occurred:— they are caused by the weakness, infatuation, and stupidity of ministers. We owe all our disasters and disgrace to their ignorance and incapacity. But what could the nation expect i came into office under hypocrisy, and have ir places by imposture The first instance of the pernicious influence of their prin
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with us; in a state of they attacked her unbrought her into a state "open hostility. This j; and the day may repentance will be- too next achievement was to
send one of the ablest men who ever commanded an army into the centre of Spain, unprovided with every requisite for such a dangerous march. If Sir John Moore had not acted according to his own judgement in the perilous situation in which he had been wantonly exposed, every man of that army had been lost to the country. By his transcendent judgement, however, that army made one of the ablest retreats recorded in the page of history; and, while he saved the remnant of his valiant troops, his own life was sacrificed in the cause of his country. And what tribute have his majesty's ministers paid to his valued memory, what reward conferred for such eminent services ? Why, even in this place, insidious aspersions were cast upon his character: People were employed in all parts of the town to calumniate his conduct. But, in spite of all the runners and dependents of administration, the character of that general will always be revered as one of the ablest men this country ever saw. After this abortive enterprize, another, equally foolish, equally unsuccessful, and no less ruinous, was carried into execution ; another general was sent with troops into the heart of the peninsula, under similar circumstances ; and the glorious victory alluded to was purchased with the useless expenditure of our best blood and treasure. But what shall I say, my lords, when I come to mention the expedition to Walcheren ! It was ill advised, ill planned; even partial success in it was doubtful, and the ultimate object of it impracticable. It is high time that parliament should adopt strong measures, or else the voice of the country will resound like thunder in their ears. Any body may be a minister in these days. Ministers may flow from any corrupted source;