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in the pamphlet, as to exempt it from the punishment which had been inflicted on similar doctrines ?
An insinuation had gone forth, that a wish to oppose Mr. Reeves had existed, and a noble lord (Sheffield) had stated, that that gentleman was to be prosecuted because he had counteracted the views of gentlemen on his side of the House. Now, he would fairly own, that Mr. Reeves had counteracted his views. His views had been to put an end to all religious differences. Mr. Reeves's association, however, had tried to light up the flame of religious discord all over the kingdom. His own object had always been to preserve the balance between all the parts of the governinent. Mr. Reeves, by the circulation of Mr. Soame Jenyns's doctrines, and other pamphlets, bad tried to destroy that balance. He was, therefore, not ashamed to say, that Mr. Reeves had counteracted his views. He had mentioned Mr. Soame Jenyns's pamphlet; he had read it when it first came out; he thought it ingenious and innocent. But though Mr. Jenyns wrote it innocently, did Mr. Reeves circulate it innocently? The material difference lay in that circumstance altogether.
Arguments had been used to shew that the House, if they adopted the motion, would, at the same time, be judge and jury. Was it not in the nature of things that it must be so ? And in a case which related to its own privileges, how could it be otherwise ? Could any of the courts below vindicate their privileges, in any other manner than by acting both as judge and jury? If he were asked, whether he would stop there, his reply would be, that he had no objection. He had no objection also to sending for Mr. Reeves to the bar. At the bar he might make his defence, and comment upon the evidence that had been adduced against him, in order either to disprove it or abate its force and application. About punishment he was little solicitous, and he should even have cared little about burning the pamphlet, if Mr. Reeves had not been at the head of these associations; and if this and other pamphlets, circulated by those associations, had not proceeded from the same shop. The removal from a place of trust was certainly a severe punishment; but was it not inflicted in cases where particular tests were not taken? Had it not been inflicted in similar cases to the present. In the case of the Bishop of Worcester, who had interfered in an election, did not the House petition the Queen to remove him from the office of almoner to her majesty ?
Mr. Sheridan's motion was put and negatived; after which Mr. Dundas's motion for the attorney-general to proceed against Mr. Reeves was agreed to.
KING'S MESSAGE RESPECTING A NEGOCIATION WITH THE
PRESENT GOVERNMENT OF FRANCE.
ON the 8th of December
, Mr. Pitt presented the following message from his majesty:
“ GEORGE R. “ His majesty relying on the assurances which he has received from his faithful Commons, of their determination to support his majesty in those exertions which are necessary under the present circumstances, recommends it to this House to consider of making provision towards enabling his majesty to defray any extraordinary expence which may be incurred for the service of the ensuing year, and to take such measures as the exigency of affairs may require. His majesty, on this occasion, thinks proper to acquaint the House, that the crisis which was depending at the commencement of the present session has led to such an order of things in France, as will induce his majesty (conformably to the sentiments which he has already declared) to meet any disposition to negotiation on the part of the enemy, with an earnest desire to give it the fullest and speediest effect, and to conclude a treaty of general peace, whenever it can be effected on just and suitable terms for himself and his allies.It is his majesty's earnest wish that the spirit and determination manifested by parliament, added to the recent and important successes of the Austrian armies, and to the continued and growing embarrassments of the enemy, may speedily conduce to the attainment of this object on such grounds as the justice of the cause, in which this country is engaged, and the situation of affairs, may entitle his majesty to expect.
On the following day the said message was taken into consideration, when Mr. Pitt moved, “ That an humble address be presented to his majesty, to return his majesty the thanks of the House for his most gracious message: To acknowledge, with the utmost gratitude and satisfaction, his majesty's condescension and goodness, in haying been graciously pleased to acquaint us, that the crisis which was depending at the commencement of the session, has led to such an order of things in France, as will induce his majesty, conformably to the sentiments which he has already declared, to meet any disposition for a negociation on the part of the enemy, with an earnest desire to give it the fullest and speediest effect, and to conclude a treaty of general peace, whenever it can be effected on just and suitable terms for himself and his allies : To assure his majesty, that, until that desirable period shall arrive, it is our firm determination to continue to afford his majesty that vigorous support which we are persuaded is essential to the most important
interests of his kingdom ; and that it will yield us the highest gratification, if his majesty's powerful preparations and exertions, added to the recent and important successes of the Austrian armies, and to the continued and growing embarrassments of the enemy, should have the happy effect of speedily conducing to the restoration of a general peace on such grounds as the justice of the cause in which this country is engaged, and the situation of affairs, may entitle his majesty to expect.”
Mr. Sheridan avowed himself of opinion, that the intention of the minister was to frustrate the motion for peace, of which his honourable friend Mr. Grey had given notice. What other motive, he asked, could induce the minister to this change of language respecting the French, whom he had so lately represented as unable to continue the war, and on the brink of destruction? The men who governed that country were the same who had put the king to death, and with whom, our ministry had declared, no settled order of things could ever take place. But, whoever were the governors of France, Mr. Sheridan insisted, that no reason of that sort ought to prevent an accommodation. On that ground he would move the following amendment: “ Your majesty's faithful Commons, having thus manifested their determination to give your majesty the most vigorous support in the further prosecution of the war, in case just and reasonable terms of peace should be refused on the part of the enemy, and having declared the cordial satisfaction they feel at your majesty's gracious intention, to meet any disposition to negociation, on the part of the enemy, with an earnest desire to give it the fullest and speediest effect, cannot at the same time avoid expressing the deep regret they feel, that your majesty should ever have been advised to consider the internal order of things in France to have been such, as should not have induced your majesty at any time to meet a disposition to negociation on the part of the enemy: And your
faithful Commons feel themselves at this conjuncture the more forcibly called on to declare this opinion, because, if the present existing order of things in France be admitted as the motive and inducement to negociation, a change in that order of things may be considered as a ground for discontinuing a negociation begun, or even for abandoning a treaty concluded:
Wherefore, your majesty's faithful Commons, duly reflecting on the calamitous waste of treasure and of blood, to which it is now manifest the acting on this principle has so unfortunately and so largely contributed, and greatly apprehensive of the grievous and ruinous consequences to which the
persevering to act on such principles must inevitably tend, do humbly and earnestly implore your majesty, that it may be altogether abandoned and disclaimed; and that the form of government, or internal order of things, in France, whatever they may be, or shall become, may be no bar to a negociation for restoring to your majesty's subjects the blessings of peace, whenever it can be effected on just and suitable terms for your majesty and your allies : - And as the principal bar to a negociation for peace appears to have been your majesty's having been hitherto advised to consider the order of things in France as precluding your majesty from meeting a dis
position to negociation on the part of the enemy, your faithful Commons now humbly beseech your majesty to give distinct directions that an immediate negociation may be entered on the above salutary object."
The amendment was seconded by Mr. Grey, who advanced a variety of facts and reasonings upon them, to prove the propriety of treating. Mr. Pitt replied, that until the present opportunity, none had offered to encourage ideas of peace, which, however, had not been prevented by the mere existence of a republic in France, but by a total absence of any species of regular government. The change now was manifest: the new constitution was contrary to the doctrine of universal equality; the French had now a mixed form of government, admitting of distinctions in society; and their legislature was not constructed on a pure democracy. This fully authorized ministry to consider them in quite another light than formerly; but did not furnish any pretence for depriving ministers of their right to act in the name of the executive power, without undue interference, which must certainly be the case, were the amendment to be adopted.
Mr. Fox said, that however he might differ from much of what had fallen from the right honourable gentleman, however he might object to the terms of the address which had been moved, there was one thing which must give him pleasure; he must congratulate the House and the country on the complete change which had happily taken place in the language and in the system of government. The House would believe him when he said that he rejoiced, and when he congratulated them upon this change, since he had also to congratulate himself upon the occasion, as this change of language and of system pronounced his pardon, and was a complete absolution of all his past sins. Ministers had made a total retractation of all the charges they had brought against him for the motions he had made, and for the doctrines be had held from the commencement of the war to the present day; they had fully acquitted him, and had positively declared that, in every sentiment he had uttered, he was right, and that the House should have acted upon his opinion; for all along he had maintained the doctrine now laid down in his majesty's message. Three years ago, namely, on the 15th of December 1792, he had made a motion for a negociation for peace. In June 1793 he had done the same thing; he had also moved an amendment in the course of the same session, tending to the same purpose. In January 1794 he had supported the motion of an honourable friend; and in the latter end of the same session he had maintained and supported in argument the same sentiment as that now conveyed in his majesty's message, namely, that it was fit and proper to negociate with the existing government of France.
It had been his uniform argument, that, at every moment from the first commencement of hostilities to the present, it was wise and politic to make the declaration which had been now submitted to the House, – that France was in a state to negociate with this country. He had, therefore, at present, this triumph, that ministers retracted by this message all the language they had held in answer to his motions, and all the imputations which they had thrown upon him. 66 What !” they said, “ treat with men whose hands are yet reeking with the blood of their sovereign! What! treat with men who would come here with principles that are destructive of all government !" Such were their arguments, and yet mark their conduct: they now declared themselves ready to treat with the new directory of France, four members of which had actually participated in the judgment and death of their sovereign, and were directly implicated in that act. He regretted exceedingly the absence of some gentlemen from the House this evening, who had signalized themselves by reprobating his sentiments and conduct in the severest terms, because from them also he might have received the same sentence of pardon and absolution, and because they might now have been ready to confess, that the censures in which they had so liberally dealt were the effect of sudden irritation, or gross misapprehension. Other modes of attack had been practised; not the least remarkable of which was, that he and his friends left nothing to the discretion of ministers. When by their motions they had merely called upon the House to consider the existing government of France as capable of maintaining the relations of peace and amity with their allies, a complaint was made on behalf of ministerial discretion, and the supporters of the motions were accused of a wish to deliver over his majesty's advisers bound hand and foot, to the governors of France. They did no such thing; neither his two amendments, nor the motions of his honourable friend (Mr. Grey), went so far as the present message from the crown. His amendments did no more than declare, that there were no embarrassments to treating in the form of the government of France; nothing that made it impossible or improper for this country to treat. The motion of his honourable friend was still more gentle. It was, that there was nothing in the government of France that tended to retard a negociation. But the present message declared at once their readiness to treat under certain circumstances, and the House were now called upon to do what had then been declared to be so improper, so degrading, and so ignominious. All these foul epithets, however, were now completely retracted, and justice was done to the good