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The substance of the speech of the Marquis of Lansdown, in the House of Lords, on the 14th of December,… Lansdowne, William Petty, Marquis of, 1737-1805 1790

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THESE notes of what latety paffed
in the firft aflembly ofthe kingdom, do hot pretend to accuracy, but
to fomewhat more corredtnefs than any
which have appeared in the public papers.
The publication of them is not occafioned by any thing which has been
faid upon the fpeech in queftion. But
the corporation of the city of London,
and a part of lhe public, appearing to
have been hurried into a precipitate
judgment upon the prefent fubjed, and
the moft important confequences having
often arifen from an imperceptible
change in the direflion of national opinion j the Editor fuppofes that a fepa-
A 2 rate RSI' (   4   )
rate publication of the following fads
and arguments may be of ufe, in Tup-
port of a fyftem which, has, for ages,
received the fanction and governed the
pra&ice of the wifeft ftatefmen. It
may ferve likewife to prevent the. public from catching too eagerly at doubtful advantages in trade and commerce,
where none are wanting to national,
profperity; efpecially at the rifque. of
what we already poftefs, and the (till
greater rifque.of a war, which muft:
ever be confidered as the greateft of all
poffible evils to a manufacturing and
commercial .country ; the very dicuf-
fion of. the, matter in queftion, as will
foon be felt, having already ferioufly
added to our burthens.
•   . >
The T     H     I
r%J     S'to or TBi
S    P    E    E     C    H
lN the 14th of December, 1790, a mo-
J tion was made in the Houfe of Lords,
for. the production of papers refpecling the
Convention with Spain, which had been figned
on the 28th of October. This motion was
quickly negatived j and was immediately
followed by another from a different quarter, for an addrefs of thanks to his Ma-
jeft'y on the fubjeel of the Convention j which
occafioned a motion for the1 previous qucf-
t»n ( 6 )
tion, and a debate, in wbSA nuniftry» during
a long interval, feemed inclined to take no
part. The Marquis of Lahsdown then ad-
drefled the houfe in a fpeech, of which the
following are the principal particulars t
HIS LORDSHIP faid, that he did not
trouble the houfe, when the queftion refpect-
ing Nootka-Sound came before it in the laft
feffions) confidering the executive power as
intitled, in the firft inftance, to conduct the
negotiations with Spain. The conftitution
gave them that power; good fenfe gave it
them. But it belonged to the legiflative body
to pafs a judgment on what was done. .A
judgment was even called for;. but none could
weigh with the public which was not founded
on information.. Papers had been refufed,
and miniftry feemed equally difpofed to refufe
all verbal information. To expect a vote of
approbation under fuch circumftances, was
clearly a violation of conftitutional princi-"
pies, which could never be admitted. It reduced the houfe, therefore, to the neceffity of
taking up the queftion upon the footing of
notoriety and general information.
A noble Vifcount (Sidney) had juft given
aflurances, that the general fentimcnts of miniftry were pacific, when he was lately a
member of it.    Miniftry certainly fet out
upon (   7   )
.upon the principles of the peace in 1782-3,
and had built, and taken credit with the public upon that foundation. It was neither
juft, nor was it his inclination,. to try their
proceedings by catching at general words, or
even aflurances; but by comparing their general conduct with the general fyftem of the
late peace, upon which they had thus folicited
and obtained the public confidence. This
could only be done by reviewing. the great
features of their admimftration on the fubjeel:
of foreign politics; and as the points were
foon fummed up, the public would eafily
judge for themfelves.
With refpect to France, the object of the
late peace had been, to extinguish all mistaken ideas of rivalfhlp, which had hitherto
prevailed j to leave nothing, if poffible, undefined ; nothing of confequence, mixed ; nothing to commifiioners to fettle; and no room
for foreign powers to interfere. The refult
wis, that never was there a period when ani-
mofity io foon fubfided, when fo few fubjects
of difcuflion, much lefs of difpute, had occurred with France as fubfequerit to 1782.
With refpect to Spain, the defign had been
to fuffer the chief of what was conceded at
the peace, to remain in the hands of the weakeft
power. He had no hefitation to fay, that after the independence of the North American
colonies, North American pofleffions no longer
ftood ( 8 )
ftood in the fame pofition with regard to
Europe; nor. from that time could any European fettlcments in thofe parts be deemed of
a permanent tenure. Every thing however
was referved of which the negotiation admitted, for two purpofes; firft, • to collect the
public opinion, which has a right to be consulted where it can be done with fafety in
all great occurrences, efpecially commercial,
a diftinction ftrongiy founded in the nature
of things and in the practice of our government) and fecondly, to, alfift the terms of
our treaty of commerce with Spain.
Regaining Holland, the object was to remove the reproach which hung upon us from
de Witt's treaty, and to ftipulate for freedom
and extenfion of trade, by the article refpect*
' ing the, Spice-Iflands; and, by the third article
of the treaty with them, to 'make them fen-
fible of the confequence of treating' through
a third power.
As to the reft of Europe, the ftate of it
was juft.fuch as could have been wifhedj
being without a fingle engagement upon our
hands, and free to adopt any or none as
might be found eligible.
It remained to he inquired how far. the
conduct of minifters fince 1781, had been
conformable or not to thefe principles, and
this (   9    )
this fituation. in regard to their general fyftem
in foreign politics, ■ and their particular proceedings with Spain.
In the early affairs of Holland, the memorials they prefentcd had been faid in that
houfe to have-been milk and water, and in his
own opinion they might have been more
pointed; but,' if there was any error in this,
it was on the right fide, and correfponded at
leaft with the bafis of their profeffions.
The next concern was the Germanic league
entered into to check the growth of the empe-
ror!s power in Germany; which was an in-
ftance of the higheft diplomatic wifdom to
he found in the hiftory of Europe. Pruflia
had every merit in projecting it, and it
was highly becoming England to have been
among the firft to fupport it; but mmifters
appreherifive, of a clamour reflecting Hanover, confined themfelves (in the language
of one of their body) to a bow upon paper.'
Hanover and England ought certainly to.
be kept diftinct, yet in this cafe they had
agreeing intercfts. The whole of Europe
was indeed comprehended in the queftion;
for Germany under a fingle head, not to
mention the emperor's other pofleffions,
menaced the fafety of Europe; and the league
operated accordingly.— The conduct ufed by
miniftry upon this occafion, if miftaken, was
another miftake on the right fide) the prevailing intereft of this country being peace.
B Next (    io   )
Nest fucceeded the commercial treaty with
France j- which'together with "the language
ufed in Arpport of it, was fo perfectly eoftfift-
ent with the fundamental principles profefled,
as to leave nothing to remark, except as to'
the neotrtleodej the evils of which might
be prefumed to have been fufficfcntly felt by
minifters in theif commercial negotiations
with Holland j and mull have been more fo,
had oar difpute with Spain ended hoftilely.
• The next proceeding of minifters, calling'
for notice,   was the memorable  convention;
with Spain in 1786,  refpecting tbe Mofquito
fhore; a treaty Which was umfartite.   It had
no precedent in hiftory,  except in the ceffion
of Bucovina to the late emperor by the Turks,
and was not to be explained' upon any fyftem
of civilized or European politics.   In ail this'*
however there was nothing to offend againft
pacific fentiments.
• But the king of Pruflia dies, and a total
alteration of Englifh politics enfues. From
this sera, the pacific fyftem became rejected;
the antient language revived; France was
again treated as a natural enemy j and dtlenda
tfi Gartbag; Still more; England ukt'
thought equal to dictate to the whole world.
Our minifters and meflcngers overfpread alt
Europe*. Every court was to feel terror at
the name of Britain j our refources were in-'
exhauftibfcj and our power not to be refilled,
efpcially (    ix    )
efpecially without the balance of France*
Holland was obliged by. force to return to
our alliance, principle and- perfuafion being
deemed equally unneceflary to be ufed with
that free country; France was dictated to;
the Turks were excited to murder the Ruffians,
while proclamations at home were iffued
for retraining vice and immorality; the
Swedes were to complete the humiliation of
this devoted power; Denmark was ordered
not to intermeddle; employments for.the
emperor was found in the Belgic provinces,
in cafe the Turks had proved infufficient for
the purpofe; and all this was finally made to
terminate in Nootka-Sound.
Some young gentlemen at China, attached to geography and a Utile commercial
advantage, fit out a veffel caUed the Sea-Otter,
for the North-Weft coaft of America.* Some
Bengal adventurers fit out two other fhips,
with fine names, under Portuguefe papers
and colors. Some fpeculative merchants,
men of letters perhaps, fit out two other
fhips, and the whole falls under the com- *
mand of a young gentleman of the name of
Mears; who is inftructed and inftructs his
followers, in terms becoming the form and
pomp of office, to violate a fyftem regarding . Spanifh America, which it has been
the policy of Europe, and in particular of
this country, to adhere to for ages. " Ruf-
•   B 2 ? fian, (      12     )
•' ,fiah, ' Engtijbt  and Spanifh, veflels were
- directed to be treated with like civility in
" the firft inftance; but in cafe of an attempt •
** to turn the adventurers out of their way*
" force was tobe repelled by force, the parties
" to be feized, and their fhips'brought in
" to be condemned as prizes and4*their
" crews as pirates. In planning a -factory,
" it wks declared that they looked to a folid
" eftablifhment, and not one to he abandon-*
" ed at pleafure ; and they authorized the
" fixing it in the moft convenient ftation;
" only, placing their colony in peace and
" fecurity, fully protected from the fear of
" the fmalleft finifter accident." .
It was faid that this had appeared by papers,
laid hy minifters before the houfe of Commons . but this was impoflible.—Occurrences,
arifing out of this enterprize of a few individuals, begun without any due warrant for
it, or any proper fubordination to the public
at large, form the oftenfible ground of a
difienfion with Spain. We arm in a manner
regardlefs of expence, and fummon Spain to
fubmit in a manner alike unprecedented and
infulting. The convention then follows,
■ which. parliament, with pretty . much the
fame peremptorinefs, is called upon to approve.
The (   '3   )
The facts, thus ftated, admit the following
obfervations: Firft, as to the late, change
made, in the general fyftem of our politics
, fince ^782; and, fecondly, as to the departure
from the particular fyftem obferved for ages
by this country reflecting Spain and Spanifh
America. .
With regard to the firft object, namely the
change in our general fyftem, that which had
been fubftituted appears to have wanted both
vigour and confiftency.
The fituation of France had produced a
crifis not unworthy the deliberation either of
Greece or Rome. One plan, evidently offering for this country, was to have remained
quiet and laida foundation of gratitude and refpect, with France and Spain, and of reputation
with Europe at large, by affuming a tone of
dignity, moderation, and policy, united. On
the other fide-were to be urged old practice,
antient prejudices, revenge, and difabling
poffible enemies; motives juftified by hiftory,
and even by civil-law writers. He undoubtedly was for.the firft fyftem; but, feeing ad-
miniftration had not adopted it, he had been
one of thofe alluded to by the noble Vifcount,
who was duped by the language of the minif-
teriai prints t and imagined that the affairs of
the Baltic had had a large fhare in our armament,   vifb   ■
As (   H   )
As every thing .was left free by'the peace
upon a pacific fyftemv by the fame ink every
thing was left open Upon one that was warlike. We had alliances before us to choofe;
we were the only power in Europe looked
up to; and we nad only to have ^ imitated
the Pruflian plan of the Germanic league
to have impofed whatever conditions we in-
clined to,, and to have been reftrained by nothing but our own regard to juft ice and reputation. Sweden met us more than half-way;
Denmark had nO option; France, Ruffia, and
Auftria were .occupied) and we might have
obtained what,terms we pleafed from France
and Spain, or have ftruck a blow which muft
have put it out of the power of either to have
molefted us for an immenfe period to come.'
Inftead of this, what is the ftate of Europe ?
We have mortally wounded the pride of Spain,
who will always think that we have taken an
unfair advantage; we. haye fhaken our infant
confidence with. France) we have alienated
both the fovercien and the country of Ruffia;
Sweden has been betrayed; Denmark infultcd j
Portugal driven into a clofer connection with
Spain by our language, (while ;both Our complaints and our merchants appear notwith-
ftanding, dropped and forgotten;} and Pruflia,
our only efficient ally, will not fay (he is obliged to us. Europe, which, in 1782, was
open to us throughout on pacific principles,
and {    *5   )
and the balance at our command on warlike
principles, has the fcale turned againft us, and
ftands on principles of alienation and perfonal
hoftility. Such has been the conduct ufed
reflecting Europe at large.
As to Spain, no relation of this country
has undergone more complete difcuffion than
our connection with Spain, and particularly
refpecting Spanifh America. * Our friendfhip
with Spain, without referring to remote antiquity, was the object of our policy fb far
back as the reign of Henry VIII. and, upon
the foundation of the treaty which then took
place - between -the refpective fovereigns, we
have never furrendered our right of trading
to the Spanifh Weft-Indies, in the fame manner that we have infilled with Portugal upon
a right of trading to the Brazils; nor have we
ever yielded up the right to either, in any negotiation* till the prefent convention. The
navigation in the Spanifh American feas was
expreffly ftipulated by the 15th article of the
treaty of 1670; which was recognized by the
Spanifh minifter in 1749, and by their em-
baffador here, Mr. Wall; and of late years we
have notorioufly exercifed the right itlelf both
in voyages of difcovery and for fifhery. Sir
Benjamin Keene, one of the ableft foreign
minifters this country ever had, ufed to fay,
that, if the Spaniards vexed us in the firft in-
ftance, .(   >*   )   .
ftance, we had means enough to vt* them without infringing upon treaties, and the firft ftep'
, "fee.would re^comXncnd would be to fend out
jhiospf difcovery to me^SouthSeas. — Thus
ftands the queftion, lone eftablifhed as to die
right, which is plainly, therefore,' not a point
obtained fbr us by the'prefent convention:—
But let us now fee with what cautious wifdom. this avowed right has uniformly been
managed.      .    '
J A lucceffion of able minifters at the 'court
of Spain in Charles the Second's reign, Sir
Richard Fanfhaw, - Lord Sandwich,' ■ and Sir
William Godolphin, all united in advifing
forbearance as to the ufe of it. < Sir. 'William
Godolphin did this in moft pointed terms,
after much converfation with the wifeft of our
London Merchants) whofe unanimous opinion
had long beqn, that it was better to trade
with Spanifh. America, through Old Spain,
than to have. a. direct intercourfe with that
part of the world ourfclves. lie was fo much
in earneft upon the fubject, that he1 wrote to
the^king to prevent his being mifled, directly
or indirectly, by interefted advifers) afiuring
him. that there, was no Way more certain of
fundamentally: alienating - the Spaniards, (as
Sjr, Benjamin Keene. afterwards confirmed,)
. and., throwing our rivals in navigation into
.ftri&er'c&tyejpondence and more frequent in-
| 1^cour(e.3Prithtnem, than-by toterftrjng in
•   • South (    *7   )
South America. It. was as clear then as it is
now, that whatever we obtained for ourfelves
was not obtained for ourfelves fingly, but that.
other nations muft participate in it. Perhaps
there was wifdom, in more refpects than one,
in fuffering the great ftake, contained iii the
Spanifh-American poffeffions. to lie to a certain degree dormant and unimproved in the
hands of Spain. In any event, as long as
Spain held the revenue and commerce arifing
from her colonies to be preferable to her manufactures, it was our intereft to be content
•with commercial advantages in Europe as a
compenfation for fufpending our claims respecting the South Seas, fince our rights in
•that quarter might always be revived-and
brought forwards when opportunity called for
. This policy was fo wife, that it was confidered by fubfequent minifters as fundamen-
■ tal and not to be departed from.   Accordingly
-it was followed all through the reigns of King
William and Queen Anne,   and it governed
the negotiations, fuch as they were, at Utrecht)
'Where Lord Bolingbroke confidered it as the
intereft of England to uphold, as high as poffible,  the claims of Spain, with the idea of
fecuring a preference to ourfelves over the
• other nations in Europe-Sir Robert Walpole's ,
opinion is notorious, for he fell a facrince to
it.—The Duke of Bedford, a warm minifter,
C who (   i8   )
who had nrojects of difcovery, was fo cautious
tha he confulted the Spanuh minifter here,
as well as fent to feek the opinion ofthe court of
Madrid)  and found our rfcht fairly acknowledged, but the exercife of it deprecated as likely
to be productive of war. He was not backward
in infifting upon our large claims in thofe parts,
and dwelt upon the good to arifc to fcience,
and to the world, and even to Spain, from
proceeding in them; but, wth great wifdom,
he flopped fhort, faying that amity with Spun
was important enough to fuperfede every other
confideration, where the rights of the king's
fubjects were not immediately and intimately
concerned.—Next came Lord Chatham; and,
to his own intimate knowledge, being then fe-
cretary of ftate,    and without   alleging his
own opinion or conduct as authority,-  this
■principle was what governed Lord Chatham
in the early part of the negotiation reflecting
Falkland's iflands; and it finally appeared to
influence Lord North's conduce at the con-,
clufion of that negotiation.*
* The natter of Falkland has frequently been mentioned
In both houfes of parliament, but has never been fully iUted.
The truth is, that the negotiation was embarrafled by the dan -
, ger of a general war, for which preparations were then -ana*
king in trance;  a fad not ealy to be believed at the ripe, bat
: which is now well afcertained. The change of miniftry.
Which took place at thit crifii, facilitated the conclufion ofthe
pacification, which was effeaed on Our fide by recurring to the
tyftem fo particularly infurced by Sir William Godolphin,
As (   19   )
As to the particular terms ofthe Conven*
tion juft concluded, it ftipulated, with refpect
to Nootka-Sound, what was either pernicious,
Or trifling. It appeared a madnefs to think
of colonies after what had paffed in North
America; biit, if there were even two opinions upon this fubject, there could be but one
about our power of affording it'. we. could
not do it.
As to the fifhery, it was defined to our
detriment, ten leagues being a new ftipula-
tion in the Spanifh-American feas. Such a
boundary deprived us of ail fifhery of confequence, excepting that of whales, and even
of that in a Confiderable degree. Grotius,
and ail the civil law writers, joined to what
had paffed with Spain upon the fubject, rendered any conceflion on this head ufelefs; particularly as we had been in the habit of exer-
cifing the right of fifhery for fourteen years
back, under the avowed fanction of our acts
of parliament.
Another obfervation which he defired to
offer was, that we endangered our commercial' treaty fo long depending with Spain.
We put" to hazard our Spanifh Wade in
woollens, hardware, cottons, and even jijb
itfelf; not whales indeed, butfomething more
material, namely the cod of 'our. fifheries of
C 2       Newfoundland* (,ao   )
Newfoundland. And the proceeding was
the more unfortunate, as our trade in Soain
laboured under many hardfhips, particularly,
the Alcavala duty, which was a ter-centage,
upon every transfer of our articles fold in
Spain, fo as fometimes to amount to two-
fifths of the prime coft.
But whatever increafe of fifhery or trade we
had obtained, if it were even true that it was
gained by means of the Convention, the gain .
is not exclufive, but may be partaken in by
other'nations. The Americans had already
been as active in thefe feas, as they had been'
accuftome'd to be in their own; and, by the
accounts of Mr. Meares, had even fome claim
of difcovery in their favour, by proving
Nootka-Soimd to be part of a large ifland.
Ruflia had perhaps a Bill clofer intereft in the
cafe. '
It was farther to be' noticed, that, if
trade and fifhery fhouid increafe under the
convention in thefe diftant feas, the experience bf Newfoundland made it clear that a fleet
muft be provided to protect both of them;
which yet, in cafe of'wa^ would together with
the objects defined to be protected by it, be
likely to fall' into the hands of a fuperior
force, always on the foot) arid thus lofe to
us the the very' naval ftrength we defigned to
create by them.   In fhort, every thing proved
the (     **      )
the abfurdity of having a nurfery for feamen.
at fo great a diftance.
The experience of Newfoundland had fer-.
ved to convince us of another thing admitted,
under the prefent convention, namely, the
mifchief of concurrent rights. There was
not a fea-officer, who could not witnefs from
his own experience, or what he had heard, the.
fucceffive difputes which had occurred at New-,
foundland, till diftinct lines were drawn, and
all interference prohibited by the peace of.
It was lingular to find the convention fti-
pulating, on our fide, that the moft effectual
meafures fhouid be taken to prevent our navi-..
gation and fifhery being made a pretext for
illicit trade with the Spanifh colonifts, when
it was notorious that we could not prevent
contraband upon our own coafts at home,
clofe to the very feat of our government.
How then was it poffible to prevent quarrels..
upon this fubject, arifing from the guarda-
coftas of Spain ?
The convention, in fhort, feemed big with
evils, and this was the more to be lamented,
as the Spanifh poffeffions in the parts in
queftion were probably not worth many years
purchafc to Spain. Before pur engaging therefore in the difcuffion, it would have been wife
had the matter been properly inveftigated,
and (     2*     )
and the public opinion duly taken, as well as
thcyaJue pf the whole property weighed) ef-
pecially taking into confideration theamfe-
quences of war in regard to taxes which no
man could tell, let our fuccefs be what it
His lordfhip then ftated the following rea-
fons for calling on every reflecting man to
vote on the prefent occafion, however difpofed he might be on other points. Firft,
to manifeft to Spain, that the public of this
country had not changed its opinion ad vi fed 1 y
whatever might be the conduct of its minifters ; and difdained to take any ungenerous
advantages. Secondly, to prove the fame
things to Europe at large) and that weare
as forward as any nation whatever to liften
to the voice of philanthropy, and philofbphy,
and peace, which as a noble Lord (Rawdon)
had ftated, was fo happily for mankind gaining ground fa ft in every civilized nation.
Laftly, to affift in preventing future minifters either from railing into difficulties
of a fimilar magnitude with the prefent, by
the acts of unauthorifed individuals, on the
one hand, in times lefs favorable to the event
of them; or from being forced into them, on
the other, by a fen fe lefs clamor, as happened to that great minifter of his day,   Sir
Robert V    23   )
Robert Walpole, though living in dole confidence with Cardinal Pleury; and whofe fate
therefore it would be difficult for minifters,
lefs able and lefs refpected, in fuch cafes to
avoid, "... •••


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