A Petition to the King for the
Removal of Sir Robert Walpole
as written by Samuel Johnson
from p. 292 [in the previous issue].
The Opposition, which for a long time had been made in the senate of Lilliput to the measures of the administration, was on the 50th day of the last session, pushed to a crisis, and produced a motion in both houses. In the House of Hurgoes it occasioned the following debate, which we insert out of the order of time, a parallel debate in the British Parliament (See p. 106, 254) rendering it much desired by our readers.
The Hurgo Quadrert [Lord John Carteret, 1st Earl Granville] began in this manner:
As the motion which I am about to make is of the highest importance, and of the most extensive consequences; as it cannot but meet with all the Opposition which the prejudices of some, and the interest of others, can raise against it; as it must have the whole force of ministerial influence to encounter without any assistance but from justice and reason; I hope to be excused by your lordships for spending some time in endeavouring to shew, that it wants no other support, that it is not founded upon doubtful suspicions, but upon uncontestable facts; that it is not dictated by private interest, but by the sincerest regard to publick happiness; not abetted by the personal malevolence of particular men, but enforced by the voice of the people; a voice which ought always to be attended to, and generally to be obey'd.
To endeavour, my Lords, to remove from places of public trust all those who appear to want either the virtues or abilities necessary for executing their offices, is the interest of every member of a community. And it is not only the interest but the duty of all those who either by the choice of the people, or by the right of birth, invested with the power of inspecting public affairs, and intrusted with the general happiness of their country. That therefore every motive combines to make it the duty, and every argument concurs to prove is the privilege of your lordships, is too evident to be doubted.
How often this privilege has been exerted by this House, and how often it has rescued our country from oppression, insolence, and rapine; how often our constitution has been reanimated and impending ruin been averted by it, a superficial acquaintance with history may inform us. And we are now called upon by the universal cry of the nation, and urged by the perplexed and uncertain state of our foreign affairs, and declension of our wealth and attacks upon our liberties at home, to recollect these precedents of magnanimity and justice, and to make another effort for the relief of our country.
This House, my Lords, has proceeded against ministers, whose conduct they disapproved, by methods of greater or less severity, according to the necessity of affairs, or the supposed malignity of the crimes alleged against them; and therefore have sometimes thought it necessary to deter posterity from imitating them by rigourous censures, and exemplary punishments, and sometimes have thought it sufficient to set the nation free from its distresses, without inflicting any penalties on those by whose misconduct they imagined them produced.
What were the more violent and vindictive methods of proceeding it is not necessary, with regard to this motion, to examine; since I shall only propose, that we should, in imitation of our predecessors, in cases of this nature, humbly address his Majesty to remove the Minister from his presence and counsels.
Nothing, my Lords, can be more moderate or tender than such an address, by which no punishment is inflicted, nor any forfeiture expected. The Minister, if he be innocent, if his misconduct be only the consequence of his ignorance or incapacity, may lay down in peace an office for which nature has not designed him; enjoy the vast profits of long employment in tranquillity, and escape the resentment of an unhappy people; who when irritated to the highest degree, by a continuation of the same miscarriages, may perhaps in the heat of a more malevolent prosecution, not sufficiently distinguish between inability and guilt.
Those, therefore, among your Lordships, that think him honest but mistaken, must willingly agree to a motion like this, as the best expedient to appease the people without the ruin of the Minister. For surely no man who has read the history, or is acquainted with the temper of this nation, can expect that the people will always bear to see honours, favours, and preferments, distributed by the direction of one universally suspected of corruption, and arbitrary measures; or will look only with silent envy upon the affluence of those whom they believe to be made great by fraud and plunder, swell'd to insolence by the prosperity of guilt, and advanced to wealth and luxury by public miseries.
Such of your Lordships who join with the people in ascribing our present unhappy state not to the errors, but to the crimes of the Minister, and who therefore think a bare removal not sufficient to satisfy the demands of justice, must doubtless give their consent to the motion, for the sake of obtaining proper evidence of his wickedness, which cannot be expected while he stands exalted in prosperity and distributes the riches of the nation and the gifts of his Sovereign at his own choice; while he is in possession of every motive that can influence the mind, enforce secrecy, and confirm fidelity; while he can bribe the avaricious, and intimidate the fearful; while he can increase the gratification of luxury, and enlarge the prospects of ambition. For, my Lords, if it be considered from whom this evidence must be drawn, it will soon appear that no very important discoveries can be made, but by those whom he has intrusted with his secrets, men whose disregard of virtue recommended them to his favour, and who, as they are moved only by interest, will continue faithful while they can hope for recompense; but may, perhaps, be willing to buy their won security by sacrificing their master, when they shall see no farther prospect of advantage from serving him, or any other method of escaping punishment.
But, my Lords, all must allow this motion to be reasonable, whatever they think of the Minister's conduct, who are of Opinion that a free people have a right of complaining when they feel oppression, and of addressing the Crown to remove a Minister that has incurred their universal detestation.
That such is the condition of the present Minister, I believe will scarcely be denied, or may be discovered by those who find themselves inclined to doubt it, by asking any man whom they shall accidentally meet, what are his sentiments on the situation of national affairs, and of the hands by which they are administered. What answer he will receive is well known to most of your Lordships. Let him not be satisfied with a single suffrage, let him repeat the question to ten thousand persons, different in their ages, their conditions, and religious opinions, in every thing that produces contrariety of dispositions and affections, he will yet find them unanimous in complaining of public misconduct, and in censuring one gentleman as the author of it.
Let us not imagine, my Lords, that these accusations and murmurs are confined to the lowest class of the people, to men whose constant attention to more immediate distresses, hinder them from making any excursions beyond their own employments. For tho' perhaps it might be made evident from the accounts of past times, that no general dissatisfaction, even among men of this rank, was ever groundless; tho' it might be urged that those who see little can only clamour, because they feel themselves oppressed; and tho' it might not unreasonably be hinted that they are at least formidable for their numbers, and have sometimes executed that justice which they had not interest to procure, and trampled upon that insolence that has dared to defy them; yet I shall not insist upon such motives, because it is notorious that discontent is epidemical in all ranks, and that condition and observation are far from appeasing it.
Whether the discontent thus general is groundless, whether it is raised only by the false insinuations of the disappointed, and the wicked arts of the envious, whether it is in exception to all the maxims of government, the first dislike of an administration that ever overspread a nation without just reasons, deserves to be enquired into.
In this enquiry, my Lords, it will be necessary to consider not only the state of domestic affairs, increase or diminution of our debts, the security or violation of our liberties, the freedom or dependence of our Senates, and the prosperity or declension of our trade, but to examine the state of this nation, with regard to foreign powers; to enquire, whether we are equally feared and equally trusted now as in former administrations; whether our alliances have contributed to secure us from our inveterate and habitual enemies, or to expose us to them; whether the balance of Europe [Johnson also refers to Europe as "Degulia"] be still in our hands; and whether, during this long interval of peace, our power has increased in the same proportion with that of our neighbours.
Blefuscu [France], my Lords, is the constant and hereditary enemy to Lilliput, so much divided from her in religion, government, and interest, that they cannot both be prosperous together; as the influence of one rises, that of the other must by consequence decline. Alliances may form a temporal shew of friendship but it cannot continue; for their situation produces a natural rivalship, which every accidental circumstance has contributed to increase. Long wars for many reigns after the conquest established a radical and insuperable hatred between us, nor did those wars cease till the Reformation produced new occasions of jealousy and aversion. Blefuscu was by these reasons obliged for many ages to employ all her influence and policy in strengthening herself against us, by treaties and alliances; and in our times has given us a new reason for jealousy by extending her commerce and improving her manufactures.
It has been therefore, my Lords, the settled principle of every wise administration, of every Lilliputian, whose opinions were not regulated by some other motives than those of reason, to attend with the highest degree of vigilance to all the designs of the Blefuscudians, and oppose with incessant diligence every attempt to increase their force, or extend their influence, and to check their conquests, obstruct their alliances, and forestal their trade.
For this great end it has been our constant endeavour to support the Auristan [Austrian] family, whose large dominions and numerous forces make a counter-balance on the continent to the power of Blefuscu. For this end we enter'd into a long war, of which we still languish under the consequences, squandered the lives of our countrymen and mortgaged the possessions of our posterity. For failing in the prosecution of this purpose, for leaving Blefuscu too formidable, and neglecting the interests of the Emperor, was the treaty of Ultralt [Utrecht] censured, and the authors of it prosecuted by the present Minister; but how much he has improved the errors of his predecessors to his own advantage, how diligent he has been to rectify the miscarriages of their conduct, and supply the defect, I shall endeavour to explain.
It is well known, my Lords, that during the regency of the duke of Orleans, we had nothing to apprehend from Blefuscudian machinations; his interest, a tye which that nation is seldom found to break, held him steady to his engagements with us; nor is it less known how much he distrusted Iberia [Spain], and how little by consequence he favoured her. We had at that time no necessity of anxiously attending to every whisper of the Blefuscudian court, which was sufficiently engaged in regulating their domestick affairs, and repairing the ruins of a destructive war; but, my Lords, we ought to observe, that it had been happy for us had our Minister laboured with equal address at the same employment.
After the death of this duke, the affairs of the Blefuscu were restored to their former situation, her old schemes were revived, her ancient alliances cultivated, and her general interest persued. Iberia was again considered as the power which had the same views with her, and which could never rival, but might always assist her.
This alliance, my Lords, was intended to have been unalterably confirmed by a marriage, but as no human policy can form measures certain of success, an irreconcileable hatred was nearly produced by the measures intended to confirm a settled and indissoluble friendship. The Infanta was sent back after her arrival in Blefuscu, an affront which no nation would have forgot, but which the general character and habitual sentiments of the Iberians inclined them to resent beyond any other people. To any one, acquainted with their character in this respect, it will readily appear, that no other insult or injury could so sensibly affect them, or excite so eager a desire of revenge. This, my Lords, the sagacity of our Minister should have discovered, this opportunity should have been improv'd with the utmost care, by which Iberia and Blefuscu might possibly have been disunited for ages, and Lilliput have gained such advantages as would have made her the sole arbitress of Degulia [Europe].
The Iberians were not deficient on their side, nor did they neglect to court our friendship, but gave us the highest proof of their confidence by offering us the sole mediation of their differences with the Emperor of Allemannu [Germany]; but at this time it was, that the gentleman whose conduct I am examining, obtained the chief influence in our counsels, and by his peculiar penetration discover'd, that nothing was to be done which might give the least offence to the Blefuscudians. We therefore refused to mediate, unless Blefuscudian ministers might be associated with ours, which the Iberians had too much spirit to consent to.
Thus, my Lords, was neglected the first opportunity of forming against the Blefuscudians, an alliance by which they might have been awed in all their designs, and by which the peace of Degulia might have been long preserved.
The Iberians finding that we would not undertake to reconcile their differences with the Emperor of Allemannu, and continuing their abhorrence of Blefuscudian mediators, concluded without the intervention of any other power, a treaty both of peace and alliance with his Imperial Majesty.
This, my Lords, was the famous Treaty of Vinena [Vienna], the source of so many projects and expedients, of so much terror and solicitude, of such immense expences and perplexed negotiations. This treaty, a paper innocent and well-meaning, which related only to the contracting parties, kept for some time this nation in alarms, in apprehensions of conspiracies and expectations of invasions.
To this treaty, had we singly regarded our own affairs, without applying to Blefuscu for instructions, we ought to have acceded, by which we should have divided the interest of the House of Buorbon, broken the combination of these Pontifical powers, and by improving one lucky incident obtained what our arms and our politicks had never hitherto been able to accomplish.
But the Blefuscudians, sensible of their danger, and well acquainted with our Minister, contrived an expedient which indeed would not often have succeeded, but which was so well adapted to the intellects of this gentleman that it extricated them from all their difficulties.
They told us, my Lords, and what is yet more wonderful, they prevailed upon us to believe, that in this dreadful Treaty of Vinena, it was stipulated between the Allemannuan Emperor and Iberia, that they should employ their joint forces against Lilliput, that they should exalt the Pretender to the throne, take immediate possession of Grablitra, and without mercy debar us for ever from our trade both in Iberia and in the Western Idnies. This his late Majesty was advised to assert in his speech from the throne, which I desire may be read.
Who would not have been terrified, my Lords, at a treaty like this, our religion was to be destroyed, our government subverted, and our trade reduced to nothing. What could a ministry thus intimidated do, but resign themselves implicitly to the direction of a kind neighbour that promised to shelter them from the storm?
There have been ministers, my Lords, in former times, who, upon hearing such a representation, would have considered, that Lilliput was an island, that the Pretender could not be forced upon us without an army, and that an army could not be transported without ships, that the emperor of Allemannu had neither navies nor ports, that Grablitra might be easily supplied with every thing requisite for its defence, and that any attempt made by Iberia to injure our trade, might easily be punished by intercepting their pirate fleets.
They would then have considered whether attempts so improbable, and stipulations so absurd and ridiculous ought to be credited upon the information of an ambassador's secretary, who as he proposed to reveal his master's secrets for a bribe, might as probably take another reward for imposing upon those whom he pretended to inform. Those therefore who advised his Majesty, to assert to the Senate, what they knew from no better authority, those whose daring insolence could make their sovereign instrumental in alarming the people with false terrors, and oppressing them with unnecessary burthens, well deserve to feel a senatorial censure.
But our ministers, my Lords, were too much frighted to make such reflections; they imagined that destruction was hanging over us, and in a dread of arbitrary government, oppression and persecution, concluded at Hanenvro [Hannover] a treaty with the Blefuscudians.
Thus the Blefuscudians gained our confidence, and raised in us a distrust of both the powers with whom it was our interest to be united, but the alliance of the emperor of Allemannu with Iberia made them feel uneasy; and therefore they determined once more to make our credulity instrumental in procuring a reconciliation between them and the Iberians.
To effect this, they kindly gave us intelligence, that when the Iberians should receive their treasures from the Western Idnies, they designed to employ it in favour of the Pretender, and that therefore it was necessary to intercept it. This advice was thankfully listened to, a fleet was fitted out, and thouands were sacrificed without any advantage; for the Blefuscudians not only forbore to assist us in the expedition, but forbade us to seize the treasure when we had found it.
The Iberians apprehending themselves attacked, omitted no opportunity of shewing their resentment; they seized our ships, and laid seige to Grablitra, while our new allies looked quietly on, and expected the event of their own scheme, which was far from being defeated by our policy; for the Iberians finding the return of their Columbian revenues insuperably obstructed, and knowing that the emperor of Allemannu, that emperor who was to invade Lilliput, had not any power even to assist them, were obliged to have recourse to the nation which they then hated, and to forgive the past affront that they might obtain their good offices in this exigence.
But, my Lords, it was not sufficient for the designs of the Blefuscudians, that they had recovered their ancient allies the Iberians, unless they could disunite them from the emperor of Allemannu; this it was likewise our interest to prevent, and yet this likewise we enabled them to effect; for they prevailed upon us to promise in our stipulations with the Iberians, what they had not least claim to demand, that Iberian, instead of neutral troops, should be introduced into Itlascu [Italy], to secure certain successions there to a son of the queen of Iberia.
With what reluctance the emperor of Allemannu would consent to see troops placed in the provinces bordering upon his dominions, which would certainly on the first occasion be employed to invade them, it was easy to foresee, and with what degree of good will he would regard those by whom they were introduced; yet my Lords, such was the influence of Blefuscu, and so ardent our desire of diverting Iberia from setting the Pretender upon the throne of Lilliput, that we complied at all events, without any prospect or promise of advantage.
Thus were the Iberians, by being persuaded to make this demand, and we, by granting it, brought equally to ill terms with the emperor of Allemannu; and Blefuscu was, by procuring such agreeable conditions to the Iberians, again considered as their most useful ally.
That nation, my Lords, is in a very unhappy state, which is reduced to admit such terms as mediators are pleased to prescribe. We durst not refuse the introduction of Iberian troops, nor durst we introduce them without the emperor of Allemannu's consent, which, however, he granted at an easy rate, for he demanded only that we should become guarrantees of the pragmatic sanction. This we gladly agreed to, and thought ourselves happy in purchasing so cheaply an opportunity of ingratiating ourselves with Iberia, that we desired no other recompense.
This treaty with the emperor of Allemannu was, however, by no means improper, nor could we, after the errors which had been committed, do any thing more effectual to preserve the balance of Europe, and reestablish our credit.
But, my Lords, this only treaty which it was for our interest to make, seems to have been made without any intention of observing it; for about this time all the northern powers were alarmed by the approaching election of Poldrand [Poland], and every nation that had any thing either to hope or fear from the event of it, endeavoured to influence it.
How this election was determined, my Lords, and by what means, it is unnecessary to relate; but it may not be improper to remark, that whatever cause we may have to congratulate ourselves upon the choice, it does not appear that we had any part in promoting it. Nay, as it is not common for ministers to keep the best part of their conduct secret, there is reason for suspecting that they were not altogether without foundation reported to have favoured Blefuscu.
The emperor of Allemannu, sensible of his own interest, promoted the election with vigour and resolution, proportioned to the greatness of the danger that might have arisen from neglecting it. By this conduct he drew upon himself the resentment of the Blefuscudians, who had now a pretence for taking measures which might effectually reunite them to Iberia, and as the event shewed, alienate us from the emperor, and therefore, in vindication of the claim of Stansinlaus [Stanislaus], declared war upon Allemannu, in conjunction with Iberia.
Now, my Lords, the emperor learned to set the true value upon his alliance with Lilliput, and all Degulia [again, Europe; Johnson has been inconsistent in calling it Europe or Degulia] had an opportunity of remarking our spirit, our power, and our vigilance. The troops which we prevailed upon his imperial majesty to admit into Itlascu, were now drawn out of the garrisons against him, his dominions were attacked on each side, by formidable enemies, and his Lilliputian allies look'd with tranquillity and unconcern upon the difficulties into which they had betrayed him. The liberties of Degulia were endangered by a new combination of the houses of Bourbon; and Lilliput, the great protectress of the rights of mankind, the great arbitress of the balance of power, either neglected or feared to interpose.
Of the event of the war, my Lords, I need only observe, that it added new strength to Blefuscu, and contributed to such an union between her and Iberia, as the most artful politician cannot hope to dissolve.
Thus, my Lords, whether by negligence, ignorance, cowardice, or treachery, it is not easy to determine, we were made the instruments of the Blefuscudian policy. Thus was that power enabled by our alliance to retrieve all that she had lost by the ill success of her arms, and by her indecent and contemptuous treatment of Iberia. Thus was the Allemannuan emperor dispirited and weakened; thus were we deprived at once of our allies and our reputation.
Our loss of reputation, the greatest loss that bad measures can bring upon a nation, is made evident beyond controversy by the insolence with which the Iberians have treated us while we were flattering, enriching, and supporting them. While we were fitting out squadrons to convey their princes to Itlascu, and increasing their dominions at our own expence, they seem to have considered our good offices, not as the benefits of friends, but the drudgery of slaves, and therefore could scarcely refrain from insults while they employed us, at least when they no longer wanted our immediate assistance. They renewed their contempt and cruelty, their robberies and oppressions, they prescribed laws to our navigation, and laid claim to our colonies.
To these ravages and injuries what did we oppose? What but humble intreaties, pacific negotiations, and idle remonstrances? Instead of asserting our just claims, and uncontestable possessions, instead of preventing war by threatning it, and securing ourselves from a second injury by punishing the first, we amused ourselves with enquiries, demands, representations, and disputes, till we became the jest of that nation, which it was in our power to distress, by intercepting their treasure, and to reduce to terms almost without bloodshed.
Thus, my Lords, did we proceed, new questions ever arose, and the controversy became more intricate, commissaries were dispatched to Iberia, who returned without obtaining either restitution or security, and in the mean time no opportunity was neglected of plundering our merchants and insulting our flag: accounts of new confiscations, and of new cruelties daily arrived, and the nation was enraged amd the senate itself alarmed, and our ministers at length, awakened from their tranquillity, sent orders to the envoy at the Iberian court to expedite an accommodation; these directions were immediately obeyed, and produced the celebrated Convention.
What was given up or what was endangered by this detestable treaty, your Lordships have often had occasion to observe, and the consequences of it were so obvious, that the nation was astonished. Every man saw, that we were either treacherously betrayed by our own ministry, or that the ministers were almost the only men in the kingdom utterly unacquainted with our claims, our injuries, and our danger.
A war could now no longer be avoided, it was not in the power of the ministry any longer to refuse to send out our fleets, and make an appearance of hostile measures; but they had still some expedients remaining to shelter the Iberians from our resentment, and to make their country yet more contemptible: they could contrive such orders for their admirals as should prevent them from destroying their enemies with too little mercy; and if any one was suspected of intentions less pacific, there were methods of equipping his fleet in such a manner as would effectually frustrate his schemes of revenge, reprisals, and destruction.
These, my Lords, are not the murmurs of the disappointed, nor the insinuations of the factious; it is well known to our countrymen and to our enemies how ill Admiral Venron [Vernon] was furnished with naval and military stores, and how little his importunate demands of a supply were regarded. What opportunities were lost, and what advantages were neglected, may be conjectured from the success of his inconsiderable force. A very little reflection on the situation and state of those countries will easily satisfy your Lordships how far a small body of land forces might have penetrated, what treasures they might have gained, and what consternation they might have spread over the whole Iberian Columbia.
That our squadrons in the Mediterranean have been at least useless, that they have sailed from point to point, and from one coast to another, only to display the bulk of our ships, and to shew the opulence of our nation, can require no proof: I wish, my Lords, there was less reason for suspecting that they acted in concert with our enemies that they retired from before their ports only to give them an opportunity of escaping, and that they in reality connived at some attempts which they were in appearance sent to prevent.
There are some miscarriages in war, my Lords, which every reasonable man imputes to chance, or to causes of which the influence could not be foreseen; there are others that may justly be termed the consequences of misconduct, but of misconduct involuntary and pardonable, of a disregard perhaps of some circumstances of an affair produced by too close an attention to others. But there are miscarriages too for which candour itself can find no excuse, and of which no other causes can be assigned than cowardice or treachery. From the suspicion of one, the past actions of the admiral who commands our fleet in those seas will secure him, but I know not whether there are now any that will attempts to clear the minister's character from the imputation of the other.
All the insolence of the Spaniards, a nation by no means formidable, is the consequence of the re-union of the Houses of Bour-bon; a re-union which could not easily have been accomplished, but by the instrumental offices of our military, whom therefore the nation has a right to charge with the diminution of its honour and the decay of its trade.
Nor has our trade, my Lords, been only contracted and obstructed by the piracies of Iberia, but has been suffered to languish and decline at home, either by criminal negligence, or by their complaisance for Blefuscu, which has given rise to our other calamities. The state of our woollen manufactures is well known, and those whose indolence or love of pleasure keep them strangers to other misfortunes of their country, must yet have been acquainted with this, by the daily accounts of riots and insurrections, raised by those who having been employed in that manufacture, can provide for their families by no other business, and are made desperate by the want of bread.
We are told, my Lords, by all parties, and told with truth, that our manufactures decline, because the Blefuscudians have engrossed most of the foreign markets, and it is not denied even by those whose interest it might be to deny it, that the cloth which they ruin us by vending, is made of our own wool, which they are suffered to procure either by the folly of an unskilful, or the connivance of a treacherous administration.
If our own manufactures, my Lords, had been carefully promoted, if the whole influence of our government had been made to co-operate with the industry of our traders, there had always been such a demand for our wool, that they could not have afforded to purchase it at a price equivalent to the danger of exporting it. And if any means were now steadily practis'd to prevent the exportation, our trade must consequently revive, because, cloth is one of the necessaries of life, which other nations must have from Lilliput, when Blefuscu can no longer supply them.
But, my Lords, notwithstanding the decay of trade, our expences have never been contracted, we have squandered millions in idle preparations, and ostentatious folly, we have equipp'd fleets which never left the harbour, and raised armies which were never to behold any other enemy than the honest traders and husbandmen that support them. We have indeed heard many reasons alleged for oppressing the empire, with standing troops, which can have little effect upon those who have no interest to promote by admitting them; sometimes we are in danger of invasions, though it is not easy to imagine for what purpose any prince should invade a nation, which he may plunder at pleasure, without the least apprehension of resentment, and which will resign any of its rights whenever they shall be demanded: Sometimes, as we have already heard, the Pretender is to be set upon the throne by a sudden descent of armies from the clouds. And sometimes the licenciousness and disobedience of the common people, requires the restraint of a standing army.
That the people are to the last degree exasperated, and inflamed, I am far from intending to deny, but surely they have yet been guilty of no outrage so enormous as to justify so severe a punishment; they have generally confined themselves to harmless complaints, or at least to executions in effigy. The people, my Lords, are enraged because they are impoverished, and to prevent the consequences of their anger, their poverty is encreased by new burthens, and aggravated by the sight of an useless despicable herd, supported by their industry for no other purpose than to insult them.
By these useless armaments and military farces, our taxes, my Lords, have been continued without diminishing our debts, and the nation seems condemned to languish for ever under its present miseries, which by furnishing employments to a boundless number of commissioners, officers, and slaves to the court under a thousand denominations, by diffusing dependance over the whole country, and enlarging the influence of the crown, are too evidently of use to the minister, for us to entertain any hopes of his intention to relieve us.
Let it not be boasted that nine millions are paid, when a new debt of seven millions appears to be contracted; nothing is more easy than to clear debts by borrowing, or to borrow when a nation is mortgaged for the payment.
But the weight of the present taxes, my Lords, though heavier than was perhaps ever supported by any nation for so long a time, taxes greater than ever were paid, to purchase neither conquests nor honours, neither to prevent invasions from abroad, nor to quell rebellions at home, is not the most flagrant charge of this wonderful administration, which not contented with most exorbitant exactions, contrive to make them yet more oppressive by tyrannical methods of collection. With what reason the author of the excise scheme dreads the resentment of the nation, is sufficiently obvious, but surely in a virtuous and benevolent mind, the first sentiments that would have arisen on that occasion, would not have been motions of anger but of gratitude. A whole nation was condemned to slavery, their remonstrances were neglected, their petitions ridiculed, and their detestation of tyranny treated as disaffection to the established government; and yet the author of this horrid scheme riots in affluence, and triumphs in authority, and without fear as without shame lifts up his head with confidence and security.
How much, my Lords, is the forbearance of that people to be admired, whom such attacks as these have not provoked to transgress the bounds of their obedience; who have continued patiently to hope for legal methods of redress, at a time when they saw themselves threatened with legal slavery, when they saw the legislative power, established only for their protection, influenced by all possible methods of corruption to betray them to the mercy of the ministry!
For, that corruption has found its way into one of the houses of the legislature is universally believed, and without scruple maintained by every man in the nation, who is not evidently restrained from speaking as he thinks; and, that any man an be of a different opinion, that any man can even affirm, that he thinks otherwise would be, in any other age, the subject of astonishment. That an immense revenue is divided among the members of other house, by known salaries and publick employments is apparent, that large sums are privately scattered on pressing exigencies, that some late transactions of the ministry were not confirmed but at a high price, the present condition of the civil list, a civil list vastly superior to all the known expences of the crown, makes highly probable. That the Clinabs [Commons] themselves suspect the determinations of their assembly to be influenced by some other motives than justice and truth, is evident from the bill [the Place-bill;—GM] this day sent hither for our concurrence; and surely no aggravation can be added to the crimes of that man who has patronized our enemies, and given up our navigation, sunk his country into contempt abroad, and into poverty at home, plundered the people and corrupted the legislature.
But, my Lords, the minister has not only contributed by his wickedness or his ignorance to the present calamities, but has applied all his art and all his interest to remove from posts of honour and trust, to banish from the court, and to exclude from the legislature all those whose counsels might contribute to restore the publick affairs, without any regard to the popularity of their characters, the usefulness of their talents, or the importance of their past services to the crown. Had any of these considerations prevailed, we had not seen the greatest general in Lilliput dispossessed of all his preferments, dispossessed at a time when we are at war with one nation, and in expectation of being attacked by another more powerful, which will doubtless be encouraged, by his removal, to more daring contempt, and more vigorous measures.
What were the motives of this procedure, it is easy to discover. As his open defence of the present royal family in the late rebellion exempts him from the imputation of being disaffected to the crown, the only crime with which he can be charged is disaffection to the minister.
Perhaps, my Lords, the minister may have determined to have no need of generals in his transactions with foreign powers, but in proportion as he relies less upon the sword, he must depend more upon the arts of peaceable negotiation, and surely there has been another person dismissed from his employments, whose counsels it had been no reproach to have asked, and to have followed.
The nature of my motion, my Lords, makes it not necessary to produce evidence of these facts, it is sufficient that any minister is universally suspected; for when did an innocent man, supported by power, and furnished with every advantage, that could contribute to exalt or preserve his character, incur the general hatred of the people? But if it could ever happen by a combination of unlucky accidents, what could be more for the happiness of himself, his master and the nation, than that he should retire and enjoy the consciousness of his own virtue.
His own interest in such a retirement I have already considered, and that both of the prince and the people is no less apparent; while a hated minister is employed, the emperor will always be distrusted by the nation, and surely nothing can so much obstruct the publick happiness, as a want of confidence in those who are intrusted with its preservation.
That common fame is in this case sufficient will not be questioned, when it is considered that common fame is never without a foundation in facts, that it may spread disquiet and suspicion over all the empire, and that the satisfaction of millions is very cheaply purchased by the degradation of one man, who was exalted only for their benefit.
The objection, that there is no sole minister, will create no greater difficulty, if there be many concerned in these transactions, respondeat superior; but it is too apparent that there is in reality one whose influence is greater than that of any other private man, and who is arrived at a height not consistent with the nature of the Lilliputian government; it is uncontested that there is one man to whom the people impute their miseries, and by whose removal they will be appeased.
The affairs of Europe, my Lords, will probably be so much embarrassed, and the struggles between the different designs of its princes be so violent, that they will demand all our attention, and employ all our address, and it will be to the highest degree dangerous to be distracted at the same time with apprehensions of domestic troubles; yet such is the present unhappy state of this nation, and such is the general discontent of the people, that tranquillity, adherence to the government, and submission to the laws, cannot reasonably be hoped, unless the motion I shall now take leave to make your Lordships, be complied with: And I move, That an humble address be presented to his majesty, most humbly to advise and beseech his majesty, that he will be most graciously pleased to remove the Right Honourable Sir Rub. Walelop [Robert Walpole], knight of the most noble Order of the blue Ribband, First Commissioner of his Majesty's Treasury, and Chancellor of the Exchequer, and one of his Majesty's most honourable privy council, from his majesty's presence and councils for ever.
He was seconded by the Hurgo Adonbing [Abingdon] in the following manner.
The copiousness and perspicuity with which the noble Lord has laid down the reasons of his motion, make it neither easy nor necessary to enlarge upon them. I shall therefore only offer to your Lordships a few thoughts upon the authority of common fame, as the evidence upon which the motion is in part founded.
That all the miscarriages of our late measures are by common fame imputed to one man, I suppose, will not be denied, nor can it, in my opinion, be reasonably required, that, in the present circumstances of things, any other proof should be brought against him.
Common fame, my Lords, is admitted in the courts of law, as a kind of auxiliary or supplemental evidence, and is allowed to corroborate the cause which it appears to favour. The general regard which every wise man has for his character, is a proof that in the estimation of all mankind, the testimony of common fame is of too great importance to be disregarded.
If we consider the nature of popular opinions on publick affairs, it will be difficult to imagine by what means a persuasion not founded on truth, should universally take possession of such a people, it will be yet more difficult to believe that it should preserve its empire, and that in opposition to every art that can be made use of to undeceive them, they should pertinaciously adhere to an error not imbibed in their education, nor connected with their interest. And how has any man been originally prejudiced against the present minister? Or what passion or interest can any man gratify, by imagining or declaring his country on the verge of ruin? The multitude, my Lords, censure and praise without dissimulation, nor were ever accused of disguising their sentiments, their voice is at least the voice of honesty, and has been termed the Voice of Heaven by that party of which those affect to be thought whom it now condemns.
Let it not be urged, that the people are easily deceived, that they think and speak merely from caprice, and applaud or condemn without any calm enquiry or settled determination; these censures are applicable only to sudden tumults, and gusts of zeal excited by fallacious appearances, or by the alarms of a false report industriously disseminated, but have no relation to opinions gradually propagated, and slowly received.
If the credulity of the people exposes them to so easy an admission of every report, why have the writers of the minister found so little credit? Why have all the loud declamations and the laboured arguments, the artful insinuations, and positive assertions which have been for many years circulated round the nation, at the expence of the government, produced no effect upon the people, nor convinced any man who was not apparently bribed to resign his private opinion to his patrons? Whence comes it, my Lords, that falsehood is more successful than truth, and that the nation is inclined to complain rather than to triumph? It is well known that the people have been charged in all former ages, with being too much dazzled by the glitter of fortune, and the splendor of success, and bestowing their applauses not according to the degrees of merit, but prosperity. The minister, my Lords, has defeated his opponents in almost all their attempts; his friends have sounded victory every session, and yet the people declare against him; his adversaries have retired into the country with all the vexation of disappointment, and have been rewarded for their unsuccessful efforts with general acclamations. What is it, my Lords, but the power of truth, that can preserve the vanquished from ridicule, and influence the nation to believe them the only patrons of their commerce and liberty, in opposition to all the writers and voters for the ministry?
If we consult history, my Lords, how seldom do we find an innocent minister overwhelmed with infamy? Innocent men have sometimes been destroyed by the hasty fury, but scarcely ever by the settled hatred of the populace. Even that fury has generally been kindled by real grievances, though imputed to those who had no share in producing them, but when the tempest of their first rage has subsided, they have seldom refused to hear truth, and to distinguish the patriot from the oppressor.
But though it should be acknowledged, my Lords, that the people have been blinded by false representations, and that some causes yet undiscovered, some influence which never has been known to operate in any state before, hinders them from beholding their own felicity; yet as publick happiness is the end of government, and no man can be happy that thinks himself miserable, it is in my opinion necessary to the honour of his majesty , and to the tranquillity of the nation, that your Lordships should agree with the present motion.
The Nardac Secretary [Duke of Newcastle] answered to this effect.
It is not without wonder, that I hear a motion so uncommon and important; a motion which may be reasonably supposed to have been long premeditated, and of which such affecting expectations have been raised, so weakly supported by evidence. I cannot think that any other attestation is needful for the vindication of the right honourable gentleman, whose conduct is this day to be examined, than the declaration of the noble Lord, that there appears no positive evidence against him.
The pretence that no evidence can be expected while he continues in his present station, is too openly fallacious to impose upon your Lordships; for why should his influence be greater, and his power less reliable than that of other ministers, who are well known to have found accusers in the height of their authority, and to have been dragged to punishment almost from behind the throne?
It is sufficiently known, that during the continuance of this administration many have been dismissed from their employment, who appear not altogether unaffected with the loss, and from whom whose resentment a discovery of wicked measures might be reasonably expected, as their acquaintance with the secrets of the government must have given opportunities of detecting them. If, therefore, no particular crimes are charged upon him, if his enemies confine themselves to obscure surmises, and general declamations, we may reasonably conclude, that his behaviour has been at least blameless. For what can be a higher encomium than the silence of those who have made it the business of years, to discover something that might be alleged against him on the day of trial.
I suppose no man can question the penetration of those noble Lords who have opened this debate, and I, my Lords, shall be very far from insinuating that cowardice suppresses any of their sentiments. As the highest reproach that can be thrown upon any man, is to suggest that he speaks what he does not think, the next degree of meanness would be to think what he does not speak, when the public voice of his country calls upon him.
When therefore popular reports are alleged as the foundation of the address, it is probable that it is not founded in reality upon known crimes or attested facts, and if the sudden blasts of fame may be esteemed equivalent to attested accusations, what degree of virtue can confer security?
That the clamour is so loud and so general as it is represented, I can discover no necessity of admitting; but however the populace may have been exasperated against him, we are surely not to be influenced by their complaints, without enquiring into the cause of them, and informing ourselves whether they proceed from real hardships, unnecessary severities, and calamities too heavy to be born, or from caprice, and inconstancy, idle rumours, and artful representations.
I very readily allow, my Lords, that nothing has been left unattempted that might fill the people with suspicion and discontent. That inevitable calamities have been imputed to misconduct, or to treachery, and even the inconstancy of the winds, and severity of the weather charged upon the right honourable gentleman, the daily libels that are in every man's hand are a standing evidence; and though I should grant that the people never complain without cause, and that their burthens are always heavy before they endeavour to shake them off, yet it will by no means follow, that they do not sometimes mistake the cause of their miseries, and impute their burthens to the cruelty of those whose utmost application is employed to lighten them.
Common fame is therefore, my Lords, no sufficient ground for such a censure as this, a censure that condemns a man long vers'd in high employments, long honoured with the confidence of his sovereign, and distinguished by the friendship of the most illustrious persons in the nation, to infamy and contempt, unheard, and even unaccused; for he against whom nothing is produced but general charges, supported by the evidence of common fame, may be justly esteemed to be free from accusation.
That other evidence will appear against him when he shall be reduced, in consequence of our agreeing to this motion, to the level with his fellow-subjects; that all informations are now precluded by the terrors of resentment, or the expectations of favour, has been insinuated by the noble Lord who made the motion: Whether his insinuation be founded only upon conjecture, whether it be one of those visions which are raised by hope in a warm imagination, or upon any private informations communicated to his Lordship, I pretend not to determine; but if we may judge from the known conduct of the opposition, if we consider their frequent triumphs before the battle, and their chimerical schemes of discoveries, or prosecutions and punishments, their constant assurance of success upon the approach of a new contest, and their daily predictions of the ruin of the administration, we cannot but suspect that men so long accustomed to impose upon themselves, and flatter one another with fallacious hopes, may now likewise be dreaming of intelligence which they never will receive, and amusing themselves with suspicions which they have no reasonable expectation of being confirmed.
And to confess the truth, my Lords, if I may be allowed in imitations of these patrons of their country, to indulge my own imagination, and presume to look forward to the future conduct of those who have exerted such unwearied industry in their attempts upon the administration, and so long pursued the right honourable gentleman with enquiries, examinations, rhetoric and ridicule, I cannot but find myself inclined to question whether, after their motion, shall have been received in this House, and their petition granted by his Majesty, they will very solicitously enquire after evidence, or be equally diligent in the discovery of truth, as in the persecution of the minister.
I am afraid, my Lords, that they will be too deeply engaged in the care of making a dividend of the plunder in just proportions, to find leisure for pursuit of the enemy, and that the sight of vacant posts, large salaries, and extensive power, will revive some passions, which the love of their country has not yet wholly extinguished, and leave in their attention no room for deep reflections, and intricate enquiries. There have been formerly, my Lords, been patriots, who upon a sudden advancement to a place of profit, have been immediately lulled into tranquillity, learned to repose an implicite confidence in the ministers, forgotten to harangue, threaten, enquire, and protest, and spent the remaining part of their lives, in the harmless amusement of counting their salaries, perquisites, and gratuities.
How great, my Lords, would be the disappointment of the people, that unhappy people which has been long neglected and oppressed, which so justly detests the minister, and calls so loudly for vengeance, when they shall see their defenders remit the vigour of the pursuit, when once the minister flies before him into exile, contend about his places.
Unhappy then surely, my Lords, would the nation be; the administration, we are told, is already universally abhorred, and its hope is only in the opposition; but should the zeal of the patriots once grow cold, should they discover to the public, that they have been labouring not for general liberty, but for private advantage; that they were enemies to power only, because it was not in their hands; and disapproved of the measures of the government only, because they were not consulted: how inevitably must the people then sink into despair; how certain must they then imagine their destruction?
It seems therefore, my Lords, equally prudent and just to reject this motion, till better proof shall be brought to support it; lest by complying with it, we should heighten, rather than appease the discontent of the people; lest we should too soon deprive them of their only consolation, and expose the patriots to censure, without vindicating the ministry.
In my opinion, my Lords, all who have approved the conduct of the present ministry, must necessarily join in rejecting the motion, as cruel and unequitable, and incline to support a just, and continue a wise administration; and all those whom the restless clamours of the opposite party, have persuaded to regard them as arbitrary, corrupt, and perfidious, must, if they are true friends to their country, and steady exactors of justice, resolve to defer their compliance, in order to bring to light the evidences necessary for a legal conviction, and severer punishments.
That these evidences will never be found, and that therefore no legal punishment will ever be inflicted, we may reasonably collect from the injustice of the labour'd charge, which your Lordships have now heard; a charge drawn up with all the assistance of senatorial and political knowledge, and display'd with all the power of eloquence, a collection of every occurrence for many years, of which any circumstance could be shewn in a favourable light, and a recapitulation of all the measures which have miscarried by unforeseen events, or which the populace have been persuaded to dislike.
In the administration of governments, my Lords, many measures reasonable and just, planned out in pursuance of a very exact knowledge of the state of things then present, and very probable conjectures concerning future events, have yet fail'd to produce the success which was expected; they have been sometimes defeated by the inconstancy or dishonesty of those who were equally engaged in them, and sometimes frustrated by accidents, of which only Providence has the disposal. It will even be allowed, my Lords, that the ministry have been sometimes mistaken in their conjectures, and perhaps deceived by their intelligence, but I will presume to say, it never will be discovered that they willingly betrayed or heedlessly neglected their country with unnecessary burthens, or exposed it to be insulted by foreign powers. Nor will it, perhaps, be found that they ever appeared grossly ignorant of the public interest, or failed to discover any obvious truth, or foresee any probable contingencies.
But, my Lords, I am willing to confess that they cannot judge of events to come with such unerring and demonstrative knowledge as their opponents can obtain of them after they have happened; and they are inclined to pay all necessary deference to the great sagacity of those wonderful prognosticators, who can so exactly foresee the past. They only hope, my Lords, that you will consider how much harder their task is than that of their enemies; they are obliged to determine very often upon doubtful intelligence, and an obscure view of the designs and inclinations of the neighbouring powers; and as their informers may be either treacherous or mistaken, and the interests of other states are subject to alterations, they may be sometimes deceived and disappointed. But their opponents, my Lords, are exempt by their employment, from the laborious task of searching into futurity, and collecting their resolutions, from a long comparison of dark hints and minute circumstances. Their business is not to lead or shew the way, but to follow at a distance, and ridicule the perplexity, and aggravate the mistakes of their guides. They are only to wait for consequences, which, if they are prosperous, they misrepresent as not intended, or pass over in silence, and are glad to hide them from the notice of mankind. But if any miscarriages arise, their penetration immediately awakes, they see at the first glance the fatal source of all our miseries, they are astonished at such a concatenation of blunders, and alarmed with the most distracting apprehensions of the danger of their country.
Accusation of political measures is an easy province, easy, my Lords, in the same proportion, as the administration of affairs is difficult; for where there are difficulties, there will be some mistakes; and where there are mistakes, there will be occasions of triumph, to the factious and the disappointed. But the justice of your Lordships will certainly distinguish between errors and crimes, and between errors of weakness, and inability, and such as are only discoverable by consequences.
I may add, my Lords, that your wisdom will easily find the difference between the degree of capacity requisite for recollecting the past, and foreknowing the future; and expect that those whose ambition incites them to endeavour after a share in the government of their country, should give better proofs of their qualifications for that high trust, than mere specimens of their memory, their rhetoric, or their malice.
Even the noble Lord, who must be confessed to have shewn a very extensive acquaintance with foreign affairs, and to have very accurately considered the interests and dispositions of the princes of Degulia, has yet failed in the order of time, and by one error very much invalidated his charge of misconduct in foreign affairs.
The treaty of Vinena, my Lords, was not produced by the rejection of the Infanta, unless a treaty that was made before it could be the consequence of it; so that there was no such opportunity thrown into our hands as the noble Lord has been pleased to represent. Iberia had discovered herself our enemy, and our enemy in the highest degree, before the Blefuscudians provok'd her by that insult; and therefore how much soever she might be enraged against Blefuscu, there was no prospect that she would favour us, nor could we have courted her alliance without the lowest degree of meanness and dishonour.
But we are told, my Lords, that the dangers of the confederacy at Vinena were merely imaginary, that no contract was made to the disadvantage of our dominions or of our commerce, and that if the weakness of the Iberians and Allemmannuans had contrived such a scheme, it would soon have been discovered by them to be an airy dream, a plan impossible to be reduced to execution.
We have been amused, my Lords, on this occasion with great profusion of mirth and ridicule, and have received the consolation of hearing that Lilliput is an island, and that an island is not to be invaded without ships. We have been informed of the nature of the emperor's territories, and of the natural strength of the fortress of Grablitra; but the noble Lord forgot that tho' Lilliput has no dominions on the continent, yet our sovereign has there a very extensive country, which, though we are not to make war for the sake of strengthening or enlarging it, we are surely to defend when we have drawn an invasion upon it.
The weakness of the Iberians, my Lords, has been also much enlarged upon, but the strength of the Jacomites [Jacobites] at home has been passed over in silence, though it is apparent how easily the Pretender might have landed here, and with what warmth his cause would have been espoused, not only by those whose religion avowed and professed makes them the enemies of the present royal family, but by many whom prospects of interest, the love of novelty, and rage of disappointment might have inclined to a change.
That no such stipulations were made by that treaty, that no injury was intended to our commerce, nor any invasion proposed in favour of the Pretender, are very bold assertions, and though they could be supported by all the evidence that negatives admit of, yet will not easily be believed by your Lordships, in opposition to the solemn assurances of his late Majesty. It is evident from this instance how much prejudice prevails over argument, they are ready to condemn the right honourable gentleman to whom they give the title of sole minister, upon the suffrage of common fame, yet will not acquit him upon the testimony of the King himself.
But, my Lords, the arguments alleged to prove the improbability of such a confederacy, are so weak in themselves, that they require no such illustrious evidence to overbalance them. For upon what are they founded, but upon the impossibility of executing such designs?
It is well known, my Lords, how differently different parties consider the same cause, the same designs, and the same state of affairs. Every man is partial in favour of his own equity, strength, and sagacity. Who can shew that the same false opinion of their own power, and of our intestine divisions, which now prompts the Iberians to contend with us, might not then incite them to invade us, or at least to countenance the attempts of one, whom they are industriously taught to believe, the greatest part of the nation is ready to receive?
That they might have injured our trade is too evident from our present experience, and that they would have supported the Odsten [Ostend] Company, which they espoused in an open manner, is undeniable. Nor is it in the least unlikely that elated with the certain power of doing much mischief, and with the imaginary prospects of far greater effects, they might engage in a confederacy, and farther attempts against us.
I am far from imagining, my Lords, that it was in the power of the Allemannuans and Iberians united to force the Pretender upon us, tho' we had stood alone against them; but the impossibility of succeeding in their design was not then so apparent to them as it its at present to us; they had many reasons to wish, and therefore would not be long without some to believe it practicable; and it was not the danger but the insult that determin'd his late Majesty to enter into an alliance with Blefuscu.
War, my Lords, is always to be avoided, if the possessions and reputation of a people can be preserved without it; it was therefore more eligible to oblige them to lay aside their scheme while it was yet only an idea, than to defeat it in its execution. And an alliance with Blefucscu effectually restrained the emperor, as our fleets in America reduced the Iberians to desire peace.
Why we did not seize the cargo of the galleons, has often been asked. Answers have been returned as ought to satisfy any rational examiner. We did not seize them, my Lords, because a larger part belonged to other nations than to the Iberians, and because the interests of our trade made it convenient not to exasperate the Iberians so far as to render a reconciliation very difficult.
In the terms of this reconciliation, my Lords, it is charged that they were guilty of contributing to the power of the house of Buorbon, by stipulating that Iberian instead of neutral troops should be introduced into Itlascu. That those troops were less agreeable to the emperor cannot be denied, but it has already been shewn how little reason we had to consult his satisfaction, and with regard to the advantages gained by the Blefuscudians and Iberians in the late war, a very small part of them can be ascribed to six thousand troops.
With as little reason, my Lords, is the charge advanced of neglecting to preserve the balance of Degulia, by declining to assist the emperor against the Blefuscudians; for the intention of the war seems to have been rather revenge than conquest, and the emperor rather exchanged than lost his dominions.
That we declined engaging too far in the affairs of the continent, proceeded, my Lords, from the regard to the trade of the nation, which is not only suspended and interrupted during the time of war, but often thrown into another channel, out of which it is the business of many years to recover it.
Nor have the ministry, my Lords, deviated from their regard to trade, in their transactions with Iberia, which have been the subject of so much clamour, and such pathetic declamations; they always knew what the nation now feels, that the merchants would suffer much more from a war than from piracies and depredations, which however, they were far from submitting to, and for which they constantly made demands of satisfaction. To these demands they received such answers, as if they had been sincere, would have left the nation no room to complain; but when it was discovered that nothing but verbal satisfaction was to be expected, the security of our trade, and the honour of our country, demanded that war should be declared.
The conduct of the war, my Lords, has been frequently the subject of censure; we are told of the inactivity of one fleet, and the imperfect equipment of another, the escape of our enemies, and the interception of our trading ships. War, my Lords, is confessed to be uncertain, and ill success is not always the consequence of bad measures; naval wars are by the nature of the element on which they are to be conducted, more uncertain than any other; so that, tho' it cannot but be suspected that the common people will murmur at any disappointment, call every misfortune a crime, and think themselves betrayed by the ministry, if Iberia is not reduced in a single summer, it might be reasonably hoped, that men enlightened by a long familiarity with the accounts of past, and instructed by personal experience in national transactions, will produce stronger arguments than want of success, when they charge the ministry with misconduct in war.
But, my Lords, they have not any misfortunes to complain of; nor is the accusation that we have been defeated ourselves, but that we have not enough molested our enemies. Of this, my Lords, it is not easy to judge at a distance from the scene in action, and without a more accurate knowledge of a thousand minute circumstances, which may promote or retard a naval expedition. It is undoubtedly true, my Lord, that many of our merchant-ships have been taken by the enemy; but it is not certain that they do not murmur equally that they have been obstructed in their commerce, and have been so little able to interrupt ours, since they have so many advantages from the situation of their coasts. When we reckon those that are lost, let us not forget to number those that have escaped. If Admiral Venron's [Vernon's] fleet was ill provided with arms and ammunition, even then, let all censure be suspended till it can be proved, that it was ill furnished by the fault of the ministry.
Nothing is more common, my Lords, in all naval wars, than sudden changes of fortune; for on many occasions an accidental gust of wind, or unexpected darkness of the weather, may destroy or preserve a fleet from destruction; or may make the most formidable armaments absolutely useless; and in the present disposition of some people towards the ministry, I should not wonder to hear an alteration of wind charged upon them.
For what objections may they not expect, my Lords, when all the disadvantages which the nation suffers from the enemies of his Majesty, are imputed to them; when daily endeavours are used to make them suspected of favouring arbitrary power, for maintaining an army which nothing has made necessary but the struggles of those men, whose principles have no other tendency than to enslave their country. Let not our domestic animosities be kept alive and fomented by a constant opposition to every design of the administration, nor our foreign enemies incited by the observation of our divisions, to treat us with insolence, interrupt our trade, prescribe bounds to our dominions, and threaten us with invasions, and the army may safely be disbanded.
For the ministry, my Lords, are not conscious of having consulted any thing but the happiness of the nation, and have therefore no apprehension of public resentment, nor want the protection of an armed force. They desire only the support of the laws, and to them they willingly appeal from common fame and unequitable charges.
I mention the ministry, my Lords, because I am unacquainted with any man who either claims or possesses the power or title of sole minister. I own in my province no superior but his Majesty, and am willing and ready to answer any charge which relates to that part of the publick business which I have had the honour to transact or direct.
A great part of what I have now offered was therefore no otherwise necessary on the present occasion, than because silence might have appeared like a consciousness of misconduct and have afforded a new subject or airy triumph to the enemies of the administration; for very few of the transactions which have been so severely censured, fell under the particular inspection of the right honourable gentleman against whom the motion is levelled; he was not otherwise concerned in counselling or ratifying, than as one of his Majesty's privy council; and therefore though they should be defective, I do not see how 'tis reasonable or just, that he should be singled out from the rest for disgrace or punishment.
The motion therefore, my Lords, appears to me neither founded on facts nor law, nor reason, nor any better grounds than popular caprice, and private malevolence.
If it is contrary to law to punish without proof, if it not agreeable to reason that one should be censured for the offences of another, if it is necessary that some crime should be proved, before any man can suffer as a criminal, then, my Lords, I am convinced that your Lordships will be unanimous in rejecting this motion.
Continued in the August 1741 issue of the Gentleman's Magazine.