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House of Commons Hansard
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Dispute With America
21 June 1811
Volume 20
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resumed his observations, with respect to the Report of the Committee on the Wearers' Petition. He was quite convinced that that Report was a proper one, and that no measure, particularly one of pecuniary aid, could be adopted for the relief of the sufferers. To attempt such a mode of assistance would be to throw water on a furnace, the necessary cones- quence of which would be, to increase the fierceness of the flame. Nevertheless, feeling that the question was not one in which the weavers alone were concerned, but that it involved the whole commercial community—feeling that the weavers were but the heralds of the manufacturers, and that the manufacturers would be but the heralds of the merchants—knowing that the whole trading interest of the country was in the utmost dismay—having heard that the strongest representations on the subject had recently been made to the right hon. gent. opposite, by the merchants of Liverpool, by the merchants of London, by the West India merchants, and by all connected with those various branches of commerce—knowing the very unfavourable state of the exchange with foreign countries—having observed the avidity with which the public, catching at a straw, interpreted an accidental remark in a late speech of the right hon. gent. opposite into an expectation of an approaching accommodation with Russia, and of a consequent vent for British manufactures and produce in that country—knowing that the expedient resorted to of issuing Exchequer bills, as a loan, for the relief of commerce, had failed, none of those bills having reached their destined objects, the operative manufacturers,—he could not conceive it possible that the House could be blind to the difficulties of the situation in which the country was placed. The Report of the Committee, although it deprecated any pecuniary aid (in which deprecation he completely concurred), fully acknowledged the extreme distress of the petitioners. Persuaded, as he was, that all this distress was the effect of the ruinous commercial policy which had been pursued by ministers, it would have been impossible for him, had it been in his power to attend on Monday next, not to enter largely into the consideration of the subject, it was impossible for the House to conceal from itself that there was a growing disposition in the country—a disposition which, he confessed his regret, that any administration should be exposed to—to make that compulsory on government which ought to be optional. Still, however, knowing that all the markets for English commodities were closed against them—having observed the final adjudication of the ease of the Fox, by which adjudication the scabbard was thrown away by this country with reference to America—remarking the manner in which the commercial relations I between Great Britain and America had been treated by ministers—having in his hand the documents ministers had refused to produce, and which had since been published in America, comprising the diplomatic correspondence between the two countries—and seeing in that correspondence the most gross and wanton neglect of the true interest of England, he declared it to be his intention before he sat down, to move for the production of all the papers in question. On the production of those papers, he was convinced it would appear to the House that America, a country deserving the highest consideration and respect, had been treated by Great Britain more as an humble dependant on an illiberal protector, than as an equal state. Indeed, the whole of our political relations with America had been carried on as if war were the ultimate expectation. How far the probability of such an event was increasing, the recent intelligence from America might enable the House to judge; although he allowed it to be possible that the occurrence to which he alluded might have originated in accident. The weavers, complaining of deep distress, proposed desperate remedies. A Committee of that House declared it as their opinion—an opinion in which he coincided—that nothing could be done for them. But let the House recollect some prior circumstances. Let them recollect that but a few days before the presentation of these Petitions from so numerous a class of the community, complaining of such unexampled calamity, the right honourable the Chancellor of the Exchequer had amused the House by extolling the financial state of the country, by expatiating on the increase of the Customs and Excise; and, as if in sport, by attempting to impose a tax on that very raw material which was the foundation of the manufactures in which the Petitioners were engaged! It was true that the right hon. gentleman subsequently abandoned his intention; but even this he did in a boastful manner, asserting that the revenue of the country was so flourishing, as to allow him to wave the imposition of the proposed duty. What did the House suppose the distressed manufacturers must think of this empty vaunt? Would it be easy to persuade them that general prosperity and such individual suffering could be co-existent? He hoped the Mouse would do him the honour to listen to extracts from the correspondence for which he was about to move, in order that they might see the necessity of having the whole on the table; not with a view to found any proceeding upon the documents this session, not with the expectation of rousing the apathy of parliament on the subject, but from the conviction that America would soon force it on the attention of this country, and the wish that he, and those who thought with him might, not be found so neglectful of their duty as to have omitted an attempt to lay on the table of the House such papers, as might enable the nation to understand the subject, and might prepare parliament to come to some decision upon it in the course of the next session. It would appear in the correspondence, that on Jan 2, 1810, Mr. Pinkney wrote a letter to lord Wellesley on the subject of the recal of Mr. Jackson. To this letter no answer was returned until March 14. On this tardiness the American minister observed," although I was aware that an answer would not be hastily given, I certainly did not expect such a delay. Unquestionably it was a delay which ought to be accounted for. On February 15, Mr. Pinkney wrote a letter to lord Wellesley on the subject of the blockade, which letter was not answered until March 2. On April 30, Mr. Pinkney wrote a letter on the subject of the Berlin and Milan decrees, to which he received no answer. On May 14, he wrote a letter complaining of the countenance given to the forging of American papers, to which he received no answer. On June 23, Mr. Pinkney wrote a letter to lord Wellesley, referring to his letter of April 30, and requesting a reply to it. To this second letter on the same subject, he received no answer. On July 7, he wrote a letter complaining of the delay in the nomination of a British minister to America. To this letter a verbal assurance of an immediate appointment was the only return. On August the 18th, he wrote another letter, referring to his former letters of April the 30th, and June 23d, respecting the Berlin and Milan decrees. To this third application on this subject, Mr. Pinkney received no answer. On August 21, he addressed lord Wellesey again on the subject of blockade, but received no answer. On August 25 Mr. Pinkney announced to lord Wellesley the revocation of the Berlin and Milan decrees, and demanded the abolition of the British Orders in Council. This letter was not answered until the 31st. On September 15 Mr. Pinkney wrote to lord Wellesley on the three several subjects of the mission of sir James Saumarez to blockade Elsineur, the condemnation of an American vessel, and the impressment of some American sailors. This letter was not answered until Sept. 26, and then only as it regarded the blockade of Elsineur; the matter of the American vessel was referred to sir William Scott, by whom it was subsequently restored; and no mention whatever was made of the impressed seamen, although they were afterwards released by an order from the Admiralty. This last circumstance was a most gross neglect. A minister from a foreign state made a representation to government; of the justice of which their ultimate conduct was an acknowledgment; and yet they did not condescend to notice the representation itself! How would such conduct be characterised in private life? would it not be termed most insulting and degrading to the party towards whom it was manifested? On Sept. 21, Mr Pinkney again addressed lord Wellesley on the subject of the blockade, referring to his former applications, and urging a reply to them. On Decembers, he wrote on the subject of the Fox. To this letter no answer was returned, although the proceedings were suspended until after Mr. Pinkney quitted the country, when the adjudication took place. The last of Mr. Pinkney's letters was dated on December JO, to which not obtaining what he conceived a satisfactory reply, he desired his audience of leave. The hon. gentleman said he thought that after having heard these memoranda, the House would see the expediency of procuring the documents in an official form. But whatever might be the sentiments of the House on the subject, knowing, as he did, the serious evils which existed—foreseeing the dreadful events which might possibly take place in the course of the summer among those who were enduring such evils—being aware that hunger was a sharp taskmaster, and might drive to acts which he prayed God to avert, he felt it to be his duty to move," That an humble Address be presented to his royal highness the Prince Regent, praying that The would be graciously pleased to direct that there be laid before the House, copies of all correspondence between the Secretary of State for foreign affairs, and the minister of the United States of America, during the year 1810."

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trusted the House would not be disposed to entertain such a motion as that made by the hon. gent without any previous notice having been given, and more especially when the hon. gent. himself stated, that he did not conceive his motion could be followed by any thing in the present session, but merely the production of the papers. If ever there was a case in which a notice of motion was peculiarly requisite, it must be when no other proposition was speedily to follow. If it were necessary to do any thing immediately, that necessity might be reasonably urged to induce the House to entertain a motion without notice. Here, however, there was no such necessity, and he was persuaded that the House felt too strongly the benefit to public business, which was derived from the practice of giving notices of motions, to depart from their usual course on the present occasion. The hon. gent. could have had but two motives in bringing forward this subject. The one was to make a speech, the other to obtain the production of the papers in question. In the first part of these objects the hon. gent. had succeeded; and with respect to the second, as he himself declared, that it was not his intention to found any motion upon the papers during the present session, it appeared unnecessary to produce them until the next session. Such would have been his argument at any period, but if there ever was a time at which it was peculiarly incumbent upon the House to resist a motion of this nature, it was the present period, when no opportunity had been afforded for judging of the effect which might be produced by Mr. Foster's mission to America. Vet, at such a moment did the hon. gent. come forward with his tirade. At such a moment did he tell the American government not only that their interests, but that their honour, had been injured by Great Britain. At such a moment did he attempt to give an impression of the negociation which had taken place, of such a nature as might be fatal to the negotiation which was still carrying on. With respect to the hon. gentleman's observations on the different parts of the correspondence, the present was not the period for commenting upon them. When the negociation should be terminated, that would be the time for discussing its merits, and not while it was pending. Indeed, those observations might well have been spared. Thinking, as he did, that the whole of the existing evils of the country arose out of the commercial policy of the British government, the hon. gent. had a right to avow that opinion; but at the present critical juncture, when the hon. gent. himself had admitted that no parliamentary proceeding could immediately follow his motion, he was not justified in making remarks, the tendency of which could at least not be beneficial. With respect to that portion of the hon. gentleman's speech, in which he declared his opinion, that the existing evils grew out of the commercial policy of the British government, did the hon. gent. consider that there was at least considerable doubt, whether, had this country not pursued the system which had been adopted, her trade would not have suffered as complete an exclusion from the continent as at present? In that case, the same pressure would have been endured by this country, as she sustained under the existing circumstances, with this aggravating consideration, that the enemy was suffering no inconvenience whatever, but that from the advantage of neutral carriage he was relieved from the pressure which he endured at the present moment, a pressure which he contended, was infinitely greater than that sustained by Great Britain, and which he was satisfied could not much longer be endured by the enemy. He urged this the more Strongly, because he did not wish those unfortunate individuals who were suffering in this country from the suspension of commerce, to be impressed by the hon. gentleman's speech with the notion that their evils were attributable to their own government alone; that there was nothing in the conduct of France which had a tendency to occasion those evils; but that their own government were the real and sole enemies of their interests, Did the hon. gent. consider "the effects of such a representation on the minds of the sufferers The hon. gent. had alluded to a misrepresentation of what he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had said on a former night, and had dwelt on the alacrity with which the observation had been interpreted, as holding out the prospect of an accommodation between Great Britain and Russia. Certainly he had held out no inch expectation. What he had stated was simply, that, in the present aspect of affairs in the north of Europe, it would be impossible for Buonaparteé to make those exertions in Spain and Portugal to which be might otherwise be equal, as it might be dangerous for him to send all his force thither, leaving the other quarter without an adequate guard. This was the extent of his statement. The hon. gent. reproached him for the favourable description, which, on a former occasion, he had been enabled to give of the finances of the country. How was this reproach founded? Would he have been justified, because there existed considerable distress among the manufacturers, in stating the receipts of the Exchequer at an amount less than that to which they had reached? His duty was to lay before the House the actual situation of the finances of the country, and not to misrepresent that situation. The hon. gent. reprobated the duty which had been proposed on cotton wool, although that proposition was afterwards withdrawn, not from the slightest conviction that the manufacturers would have sustained any injury from it (for he was persuaded that it would not have diminished, by a single pound, the consumption of the raw material), but because a disposition to think that it would be injurious to their interest, had grown up among the manufacturers themselves, and had been encouraged by those to whom they looked up for advice and support. He should certainly oppose the production of the papers at present, although the motion was one which might perhaps be repeated, with great propriety, in the next session of parliament.

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stated in explanation, that he had not given notice of his present motion, because he had become possessed of "the correspondence as published in America, only within the last forty eight hours. When the right hon. gent. opposite (Mr. Canning) had the seals of the foreign department, although as much indisposed to grant papers as any man, he never refused his assent to their production on the assertion that they had already been published in another form. He denied the possibility of his remarks producing any ill effect on the negociation with America. The object of his motion was to prevent the right hon. gent. from putting into the mouth of the Regent at the opening of the next session such assertions as he had put into his mouth at the commencement of the present session. The right hon. gent. taunted him with hostility to his own government. If "he had sworn allegiance to ministers, the accusation might have been well founded; but his allegiance was due to the throne; he would not call ministers the government; nor did he see when by their commercial folly they had brought the country to the state in which it at present stood, why he was called upon to palliate their conduct, and to represent things otherwise than as they appeared to him. To ministers he would say, that the distresses of the merchants and manufacturers originated in their conduct, and then turning round to the merchants and manufacturers he would say, that they had contributed to bring those distresses on. They had cheered at the Royal Exchange when the negociation for peace was broken off. To themselves a considerable portion of their misfortunes was ascribable. He never extolled the conduct of the enemy. What he contended was, that while that conduct was unjustifiable, the consequent proceedings of ministers were unwise. Affecting to tread in the steps of Mr. Pitt, ministers had fallen into the trap which he had cautiously avoided. Unless the country could retrace its steps, it was undone as a commercial, and would be undone as a warlike people. He declared that he would not withdraw his motion, although he should not give the House the trouble of dividing upon it.

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observed that it was unfair to tell the suffering manufacturers that English commerce was excluded from the continent because ministers would not rescind their Orders in council, when the hon. gent. well knew that the revocation not only of the orders in council issued under the present, administration, but of those issued, and wisely issued, under the last administration, was demanded, as well as those national rights with respect to blockade, &c. which Great Britain had so long and so indisputably possessed.

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declared, that most of the principal merchants with whom he had the honour of being acquainted, were of opinion that the orders in council had been most wise and salutary.

The motion was then put and negatived without a division.