Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Never were points in trade settled upon a larger scale of information. They who attended these meetings well know, what ministers they were who heard the most patiently, who comprehended the most clearly, and who provided the most wisely. Let then this author and his friends still continue in possession of the practice of exalting their own abilities, in their pamphlets and in the newspapers. They never will persuade the public, that the merchants of England were in a general confederacy to sacrifice their own interests to those of North America, and to destroy the vent of their own goods in favour of the manufactures of France and Holland.

Had the friends of this author taken these means of information, his extreme terrors of contraband in the West India islands would have been greatly quieted, and his objections to the opening of the ports would have ceased. He would have learned, from the most satisfactory analysis of the West India trade, that we have the advantage in every essential article of it; and that almost every restriction on our communication with our neighbours there, is a restriction unfavourable to ourselves.

Such were the principles that guided, and the authority that sanctioned, these regulations. No man ever said, that, in the multiplicity of regulations made in the administration of their predecessors, none were useful: some certainly were so; and I defy the author to show a commercial regulation of that period, which he can prove, from any authority except his own, to have a tendency beneficial to commerce, that has been repealed. So far were that ministry from being guided by a spirit of contradiction or of innovation.

The author's attack on that administration, for their neglect of our claims on foreign powers, is by much the most astonishing instance he has given, or that, I believe, any man ever did give, of an intrepid effrontery. It relates to the Manilla ransom; to the Canada bills; and to the Russian treaty. Could one imagine, that these very things, which he thus chooses to object to others, have been the principal subject of charge against his favourite ministry? Instead of clearing them of these charges, he appears not so much as to have heard of them; but throws them directly upon the administration which succeeded to that of his friends.

It is not always very pleasant to be obliged to produce the detail of this kind of transactions to the public view. I will content myself therefore with giving a short state of facts, which, when the author chooses to contradict, he shall see proved, more, perhaps, to his conviction, than to his liking. The first fact then is, that the demand for the Manilla ransom had been in the author's favourite administration, so neglected as to appear to have been little less than tacitly abandoned. At home, no countenance was given to the claimants; and when it was mentioned in parliament, the then leader did not seem, at least, a very sanguine advocate in favour of the claim. These things made it a matter of no small difficulty to resume and press that negotiation with Spain. However, so clear was our right, that the then ministers resolved to revive it; and so little time was lost, that though that administration was not completed until the 9th of July, 1765, on the 20th of the following August, General Conway transmitted a strong and full remonstrance on that subject to the Earl of Rochfort. The argument, on which the court of Madrid most relied, was the dereliction of that claim by the preceding ministers. However, it was still pushed with so much vigour, that the Spaniards, from a positive denial to pay, offered to refer the demand to arbitration. That proposition was rejected; and the demand being still pressed, there was all the reason in the world to expect its being brought to a favourable issue; when it was thought proper to change the administration. Whether under their circumstances, and in the time they continued in power, more could be done, the reader will judge; who will hear with astonishment a charge of remissness from those very men, whose inactivity, to call it by no worse a name, laid the chief difficulties in the way of the revived negotiation.

As to the Canada bills, this author thinks proper to assert, " that the proprietors found themselves under a necessity of compounding their demands upon the French court, and accepting terms which they had often rejected, and which the Earl of Halifax had declared he would sooner forfeit his hand than signo.” When I know that the Earl of Halifax says so, the Earl of Halifax shall have an answer; but I persuade myself that his lordship has given no authority for this ridiculous rant. In the mean time, I shall only speak of it as a common concern of that ministry.

In the first place, then, I observe, that a convention, for the liquidation of the Canada bills, was concluded under the administration of 1766; when nothing was concluded under that of the favourites of this author.

2. This transaction was, in every step of it, carried on in concert with the persons interested, and was terminated to their entire satisfaction. They would have acquiesced perhaps in terms somewhat lower than those which were obtained. The author is indeed too kind to them. He will, however, let them speak for themselves,

9 P. 24.

10

and show what their own opinion was of the measures pursued in their favour". In what manner the execution of the convention has been since provided for, it is not my present business to examine.

3. The proprietors had absolutely despaired of being paid, at any time, any proportion of their demand, until the change of that ministry. The merchants were checked and discountenanced ; they had often been told, by some in authority, of the cheap rate at which these Canada bills had been procured; yet the author can talk of the composition of them as a necessity induced by the change in administration. They found themselves indeed, before that change, under a necessity of hinting somewhat of bringing the matter into parliament; but they were soon silenced, and put in mind of the fate which the Newfoundland business had there met with. Nothing struck them more than the strong contrast between the spirit, and method of proceeding, of the two administrations.

4. The Earl of Halifax never did, nor could, refuse to sign this convention ; because this convention, as it stands, never was before him.

The author's last charge on that ministry, with regard to foreign affairs, is the Russian treaty of commerce, which the author thinks fit to assert, was concluded "on terms the Earl of Buckinghamshire had refused to accept of, and which had been deemed by former ministers disadvantageous to the nation, and by the merchants unsafe and unprofitable ?."

Both the assertions in this paragraph are equally groundless. The treaty then concluded by Sir George Macartney was not on the terms which the Earl of Buckinghamshire had refused. The Earl of Buckinghamshire never did refuse terms, because the business never came to the point of refusal, or acceptance; all that he did was, to receive the Russian project for a treaty of commerce, and to transmit it to England. This was in November, 1764; and he left Petersburgh the January following, before he could even receive an answer from his own court. The conclusion of the

[ocr errors]

10 “ They are happy in having found, in your zeal for the dignity of this nation, the means of liquidating their claims, and of concluding with the court of France a conven. tion for the final satisfaction of their demands; and have given us commission, in their names, and on their behalf, most earnestly to entreat your acceptance of their grateful acknowledgments. Whether they consider themselves as Britons, or as men more particularly profiting by your generous and spirited interposition, they see great reasons to be thankful, for having been supported by a minister, in whose public affections, in whose wisdom and activity, both the national honour, and the interests of individuals, have been at once so well supported and secured.” Thanks of the Canada merchants to General Conway, London, April 28, 1766.

1 See the Convention itself, printed by Owen and Harrison, Warwick-lane, 1766 ; particularly the articles two and thirteen.

2 P. 23.

treaty fell to his successor. Whoever will be at the trouble to compare it with the treaty of 1734, will, I believe, confess, that, if the former ministers could have obtained such terms, they were criminal in not accepting them.

But the merchants “ deemed them unsafe and unprofitable.” What merchants ? As no treaty ever was more maturely considered, so the opinion of the Russia merchants in London was all along taken; and all the instructions sent over were in exact conformity to that opinion. Our minister there made no step without having previously consulted our merchants resident in Petersburgh, who, before the signing of the treaty, gave the most full and unanimous testimony in its favour. In their address to our minister at that court, among other things they say, “ It may afford some additional satisfaction to your excellency, to receive a public acknowledgment of the entire and unreserved approbation of every article in this treaty, from us who are so immediately and so nearly concerned in its consequences." This was signed by the consul-general, and every British merchant in Petersburgh.

The approbation of those immediately concerned in the consequences is nothing to this author. He and his friends have so much tenderness for people's interests, and understand them so much better than they do themselves, that, whilst these politicians are contending for the best of possible terms, the claimants are obliged to go without any terms at all.

One of the first and justest complaints against the administration of the author's friends, was the want of vigour in their foreign negotiations. Their immediate successors endeavoured to correct that error, along with others; and there was scarcely a foreign court, in which the new spirit that had arisen was not sensibly felt, acknowledged, and sometimes complained of. On their coming into administration, they found the demolition of Dunkirk entirely at a stand: instead of demolition, they found construction ; for the French were then at work on the repair of the jettees. On the remonstrances of General Conway, some parts of these jettees were immediately destroyed. The Duke of Richmond personally surveyed the place, and obtained a fuller knowledge of its true state and condition than any of our ministers had done; and, in consequence, had larger offers from the Duke of Choiseul than had ever been received. But, as these were short of our just expectations under the treaty, he rejected them. Our then ministers, knowing that, in their administration, the people's minds were set at ease upon all the essential points of public and private liberty, and that no project of theirs could endanger the concord of the empire, were under no restraint from pursuing every just demand upon foreign nations.

The author, towards the end of this work, falls into reflections upon the state of public morals in this country: he draws use from this doctrine, by recommending his friend to the king and the public, as another Duke of Sully; and he concludes the whole performance with a very

devout

prayer. The

prayers of politicians may sometimes be sincere; and as this prayer is in substance, that the author, or his friends, may be soon brought into power, I have great reason to believe it is very much from the heart. It must be owned too that after he has drawn such a picture, such a shocking picture, of the state of this country, he has great faith in thinking the means he prays for sufficient to relieve us : after the character he has given of its inhabitants of all ranks and classes, he has great charity in caring much about them; and indeed no less hope, in being of opinion, that such a detestable nation can ever become the care of Providence. He has not even found five good men in our devoted city.

He talks indeed of men of virtue and ability. But where are his men of virtue and ability to be found? Are they in the present administration ? Never were a set of people more blackened by this author. Are they among the party of those (no small body) who adhere to the system of 1766? These it is the great purpose of this book to calumniate. Are they the persons who acted with his great friend, since the change in 1762, to his removal in 1765 ? Scarcely any of these are now out of employment; and we are in possession of his desideratum. Yet I think he hardly means to select, even some of the highest of them, as examples fit for the reformation of a corrupt world.

He observes, that the virtue of the most exemplary prince that ever swayed a sceptre can never warm or illuminate the body of his people, if foul mirrors are placed so near him as to refract and dissipate the rays at their first emanation." Without observing upon the propriety of this metaphor, or asking how mirrors come to have lost their old quality of reflecting, and to have acquired that of refracting, and dissipating rays, and how far their foulness will account for this change; the remark itself is common and true : no less true, and equally surprising from him, is that which immediately precedes it: “it is in vain to endeavour to check the progress of irreligion and licentiousness, by punishing such crimes in one individual, if others equally culpable are rewarded with the honours

[ocr errors]

3 P. 46.

« ZurückWeiter »