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hilate and annul the authority of parliament, in which the existence of the constitution was so intimately involved.”
After some farther debate, the question on Mr. Pitt's motion was put and agreed to.
CHAP: CHAP. XI.
COMMERCIAL TREATY WITH FRANCE.
HE House having, on the 12th of February 1787, resolved itself into a committee of the whole House, to consider of so much of His Majesty's speech as related to the treaty of commerce concluded with France, Mr. Pitt expressed a confidence, that when the House considered the magnitude of the subject, they would not only forgive him for trespassing upon their patience with an extended investigation, but would encourage him in his attempts to throw all necessary lights upon its nature and its possible effects. Convinced that he could not enter into details without employing much time, he should on this account, avoid needlessly prolonging the hours of debate, by the introduction of any extraneous matter whatsoever. If the treaty should be found to comprehend principles hostile to the received notions and doc. trines of British commerce, and that thereby a general spirit of objection and discontent had spread abroad over the country, he was assured that it would little avail him to stand up in that committee, and argue for the acceptance of a negociation which was generally offensive. The committee would not be seduced, by any thing which he might be able to advance, from the exercise of their clear and 'independent judgments; and certainly they would not be bound in any degree to the confirmation of this treaty, unless, after the most deliberate and solemn disa cussion, they should perceive it supported by the most rational principles, and by the most incontrovertible policy ; and so finding it, declare their sense of it, by adopting the means necessary for carrying it into effect.
“On this occasion, he should not hesitate again earnestly to contend, that the treaty, in its commercial aspect, had been between four and five months before the public, and it was on that ground that he had confidence in going into the committee, and commencing its discussion. For if, after remaining between four and five months in the hands of every manufacturer and merchant in the king, dom, after being freely discussed in various publications, it should turn out that no one complaint had been heard ; that no great manufacturing body of men had taken the alarm ; and that nothing whatever had happened to prevent the discussion, save the petition presented that day, praying for time, from a few manufacturers collected in a certain chamber of commerce, he should certainly think himself justified in calling the attention of the committee to the discussion. If even that very chamber, who thus presented the petition, did not at the same time state any reasons against the treaty, but leaned itself simply on the vague and unsatisfactory ground, that after four or five months they had not had time, he was sensible that gentlemen would not think it a substantial ground for delay; after the expiration of such a period of time, it appeared that all upon which they had determined was to entertain doubts, and of course, avoid bringing forward an opinion upon the subject. But another transaction had been mentioned and coupled with this, he must say, in a very singular manner; he meant the Irish propositions. Did the honourable gentleman (Mr. SHERIDAN) mean to insinuate that there was any analogy between this treaty and those propositions ? Surely he did not intend to VOL. I.
conclude from that experience, that the manufacturers were a body of men slow to apprehend their own danger, or to communicate their apprehensions to parliament ; or did the honorable gentleman wish to keep the resemblance in another way? Those propositions, after being canvassed, discussed, and debated, were at length, on the most solemn deliberation, and he thought with the most perfect wisdom, approved by the parliament of Great Britain, as a set of resolutions, salutary and political, for the basis of an intercourse. But those pro. positions, so evidently opposed by the manufacturers here, had in the end been rejected by another kingdom as injurious and inimical to her interests. Was this the part of the precedent which the honorable gentleman meant to select ? But, in truth, there was no similarity. The manufacturers, who were in general not a little watchful of their interests, and he rejoiced that they were vigilant, had taken no alarm. The woollen trade, so properly dear to this country, had manifested no species of apprehension. The manufacturers of cambrics, of glass, the distillery, and other members and branches of our domestic trade, though, in fact, particularly affected by the treaty, had made no complaint, much less had they re. ceived any notices from the manufacturers, from the hardware, the pottery, and other branches, of any objection. If after four or five months nothing like an objection had been heard ; and if at the same time gentlemen were sensible that in many parts of the country, many descriptions of men were now eagerly looking forward for the conpletion of the business, forming exclusive speculations on the foot of it, and all waiting in readiness and anxiety to avail themselves of the benefits, and with themselves greatly to benefit their country, he begged of gentlemen not to think that they rashly entered into the
consideration of the subject. Under these circumstances, therefore, he felt himself justified in declaring, that a reference to the case of the Irish propositions, made more for his arguments, and against his opponents, than was perhaps suspected. While the propositions were agitating, and they were not surely more injurious than gentlemen would represent this treaty to be, the manufacturers of the kingdom came forward to parliament; and at a time when they experienced every attention and in. dulgence from the House; exhibited themselves the most incontrovertible, and indeed, laudable proof, that, while they fancied themselves endangered, or saw their interests at stake, they possessed the most unremitting vigilance in watching over their concerns, and at least a sufficient de. gree of firmness in maintaining their objections. There was not a body which thought itself concerned, but instantly took alarm, and joined in the general remonstrances. Was it not fair then to conclude, that if any such apprehensions at present existed, instead of supineness and negligence, they would apply to parliament again with redoubled earnestness ? But so far were the public from entertaining any dislike, or even doubts, concerning the merits of this treaty, that from the very best information, he could assert, in the presence of many of the members from great commercial towns, that in most parts of the country they looked with sanguine wishes for the speedy ratification of it. Great and various were the objects of this treaty, but the resolutions which he should have the honour to propose that evening, would lie in a narrow compass, and be easily embraced. It was not his intention to draw the committee to any general resolution which should involve the measures necessary to be taken in future, nor need gentlemen be alarmed by the groundless idea of being committed by one question to all the