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Motion in the House of Commons for Papers respecting the Evacuation of Egypt—negatived.—Motion for the same Purpose in the House of Lords negatived.—Motion in the House os Copiviuns. for a separata Peace— negatived.—Motion in the same j or a Dismijsal ns his Maje/ly's Ministersnegatived.—Navy and Army, and other Estimates.—Supplies granted for three lunar Months.— frays and Means.—Army Pteturns.—Army and Navy Sedition Bill.—Suspension of Habeas Corpus.—Alien Bill.—Prorogation oj Parliament.— Proclamation rejpeeling the Composition and thr. Mt cling of the Imperial Parliament of the United. Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.—New Arrangements required by that great Eve/it.
ON (lie 13th osNovember, 1800, copies of the correspondence between his majesty's ministers and the French government, respecting overtures towards opening a negotiation lor peace,* were presented to (he house of lords by the secretary, lord Grenvilse, and to the house of commons by Mr. secretary Dundas.—On the 18th, as no motion had been made by ministers for taking that correspondence into consideration,
Mr. T. Jones begged the attention of the house to the subject of the evacuation of Egvpt; a subject to which he had already called that attention last session, and which had now become, by the incapacity of his mnjestv's ministers, the bone of contention between England and France, and the stumbling-block of peace. From the correspondence on the table, it was evident that
those counsels which opposed (lie evacuation of Egypt by the invading army, presented a very serious; obstacle to the conclusion, and even to the negotiation of a peace. Of the two points most insisted on by France, and which operated as impediments to peace, one was the demand of sending succours to Egypt j and it remained for tho house to inquire, why that difficulty had not been precluded, by accepting the terms of the convention agreed on, by general Kleber and the grand vizier, and guarantied by the lanction of a general officer, Mr. Jones, after six motions that he had made on the 23d of July, last session, on the subject of the evacuation os Egypt, were read by the clerk, said, that the object of his motion this day would be, the production of a letter, on the subject of which almost the whole
• The suhstance and result of that correspondence is given in our last volume, Hittory •f Europe, p. Z13: and the correspondence itselt in the Appendix.
es the voluminous correspondence which he held in his hand turned. Having read a number of extracts from the correspondence, and particularly lord Grenville's instruction to Mr. Hammond, for holding a conference with Mr. Otto,, on the Itfbject os the proposed armistice btluteen Great Britain and France, fce-atked if sir Sidney Smith was not jointd with his brother Mr. Spen-i ce» Smith, as joint plenipotentiary ot Great Britain at the court «£. Constantinople? • Had he not power to treat at Acre? Did not ministry know that, in conjunction, with the bashaw Ghezzar, fir Sidney ot&red to convey the French ojt.of Egypt,-individually or in the aegeegate-i Did his majesty's ministers, previous to January Ut, ISOOs cnanterruand the orders under which, it was presumed, he acted from the beginning of May. "in :the preceding > ear, as if not warranted, in his conduct? -Did they, to prevent a repetition of such conduct, express their anger widiin the eight Mfowing • months, or even some time after he had acceded.to the convention? Did not lord JJgin, bet/ire and since I lie present year, instruct sir Sidney Smith, to get the French rjit. Bs E^vpt by all possible means? Was not the. intention of the cf-urtiof London,, not lo. ratify the original .treaty, sent immediately lo general Kleber in the first instance? • Ought it .not to have hœn lent to the French general through fir Sidney Smith? Ought cot aar ally, the Ottoman Porte, to have had the earliest, notice? And, farther, did not La Constance galley .deliver the letter ol lord Keith, first to Kleber, at Alexandria, and loen proceed with the fame instructor to sir Sidcry, who was on : . 1
dutv at Cyprus? What wa> the consequence? Did not eigh. or nine thousand of our good tilict perish in the field? Was not the very existence of the Ottoman government threatened at its cenre? Jn Mr. Hammond's letter to ord Grenville, alter the conference vith Mr. Otto, which letter referred, almost in every line, to Egypt, there was this particular assertion, "Brj Otto added, that lie would not c-nceal from me, that the rcinforement which France intended to send to Egypt amounted tol200mcij and that the (upplvosniiiitary sioe» consisted chiefly of 10,00() muskes. The language of Mr. Otto, in i i i part of our conversation, and of Mr. Talleyrand's lelter, appeaed to me to be so decisive, and perenptory, that I was induced to aQtof him, distinctly, whether I was '.a understand, that this stipulation vai a point from which the French pvermnent would not recede? \r. Otto replied, that, in his opinin, the French government would i>t recede from it." Mr. Jones lining recapitulated the whole of to correspondence, moved, "That to letter alluded lo in general Klebe's letter to the Kaimakan of the lulime Porte, be now laid on tile tab os that house."
Mr. Pitt replied, that it would e hardly poliiole for his majesty's t»» lusters to comply with the objet of the present- motion. It wind be a very difficult thing for government to undertake tor the prodution of a setter referred to in oe from general Ksebcr to the Kairr.kan, even supposing the reprefc. tation given of it to be true, al the description of it in the rr>tion proper, which it wis ut. But i the answer he had to giveo » te the reasoning of the honourable gentlem;n was exceedingly stiort. The motbn appeared to be altogether unnecessary. Hi- was not aware of any good end (hat could be answeed, nor of any blame that could he lxed on ministers, in consequent of a French general being refirred to a letter, which, evideitly, on the lace of the tranfictioi, must have been written befor government was acquainted will the convention alluded to having been ligned by any Britifli officr. The letter therefore could no state any new fact: nor had M; Jones offered -any thing in act iliciii to what he had urged unsucesssully in the last session of paliament. As soon as it was irvwn in England, that the French geeral had the faith of a Britifli offcer pledged to him, and was dibofed to act upon it, instructions wre sent out to have the convention excused, though the officer in qestion had, in fact, no authority to fign it. The contents of lord Kith's letter were far from being a ."cret. It was printed, quoted, art universally known in July last, wen Mr. Jones brought forward a qestion on the fame subject, which th house thought proper to negatie. The next thing for the house toconsider, was, in what manner th present subject was connected irth the late correspondence between France and this country rekive to an armistice. By the obIcvations accompanying the motion, hv.is shewn, that, in making the jDpolal, the French government inanl to derive great advantage Adi the rehef> it might be enaUri to sand^'both to Malta and Hvpt; a r«liet which it could not hoe lor, while our fleets aud ur
mies pursued their operations against them: and thus, it was evident that France set great value on reinforcing those places, which we hadl an equal interest in preventing them, from doing. As we had, fincer the; conventipn of El-Aristi, taken Malta, from the enemy, we were, in a degree proportionate to the importance of that island, masters of preventing them from sending any reinforcements to Egypt, the maritime* places" of which were, besides, blocked by our fleets. So far then it was plain, that, in respect to Egypt, France was not on higher ground, now that we were in pop. session of Malta, than it was at the* time when general Kleber first entered into the capitulation. And he could not conceive what it was that gentlemen thought they could complain of. When parliament considered the conduct of his majesty's ministers, in refusing to acqui«fce in a convention which they did not know to have had the sanction of a British officer, it should discuss that conduct with a reference to what was the state of Kleber's army at the time; with a reference to the condition of the war in Italy at the beginning of the campaign, when it was extremely doubtful whether the issue might be favourable to one side or the other; and most of all in this doubtful state of the termination of the contest, with a reference to the effect which such a reinforcement as that of the army' of Egypt might be likely, under all the circumstances, to have on the war on the continent.
Mr. Grey, in answer to these positions, respecting the position os Kleber's army, the state of the belligerent armies in Italy, and the existing circumstances of the war,
all ■I together, said, that the present Bouoti did not preclude the consideration of any of these topics, but only asked for such information as would enable the house to judge of admiral Keith's instructions. It was not to be supposed, that the present motion would stand alone; bat, if carried, be followed by others of a more comprehensive mtare. With respect to sir Sidney Smith's powers, it was not necessary for him to lie specially instructed, either to sanction or to reject a convention. Sir Sidney was the British officer commanding on the loot. And nothing was more undeniable, than that every military commandant had power lo. accept any stipulations, which his prudence night direct him to agree to with the enemy, without having any special authority h»r the purpose. On such occasions, government were bound, in good faith, to admit what their officers stipulated: and, if it were otherwise, the conseqoeoces would be subversive of those principles on which war was now conducted between civilized nations. On these and other grouads, Kir. Grey defended, the propriety and the necessity of the notion: which he considered as a preliminary step to farther inquiry into the.the cofkluct of ministers on tiiis important and interesting subject. Mr. Grey's observations on the power; ot sir Sidney Smith, were lupporicd by Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Tierney, and Mr. Hobhouse. Mr. Sheridan, observed, that the hoase of commons could not, without a neglect of its duty, omit entering into an inquiry into the matter before them: for he held it as • principle, which should never be lus; fight of, that when aa officer,
either general or admiral, was employed, to take it for granted, that whatever luch an officer did in name, and on the behalf of the country he served, was done according to his instructions, until the contrary was proved; otherwise nations could never conside in any proposal. Mr. Tierney said, that it was a part of the national compact to regard officers under government, abroad upon service in time of war, as having a certain portion of power, to be exercised according to their dilcretion, for the purpose of alleviating, or perhaps putting an end to, the horrors of war. What was observed by Mr. Hobhouse, had a reference lo what had been asserted by Mr. Pitt, who had spoken a second lime in explanation, on the present subject. Mr. Pitt, (aid, that, before the order to lord Keith went out, there was no supposition that sir Sidney Smith was then in Egypt, nor that he would be a party to the treaty between the Ottoman Porte and the French general. When he did take a part in that transaction, it was not a direct part. He did not exercise any direct power: if he had done so, he would have done it without authority. He had no such power from his situation: for he was not commander-in-chief. Large powers, for obvious reasons, must be given to a commander-in-chief. subject to the discretion of the person with whom they were intrusted. But lhat neither was nor ought to be the case with every officer of inferior station. Such person, however great his talents, should not go beyond a specified point; for otherwise he might treat for whole provinces, and counteract his superior in comraad. But Mr. Hobhouse Jiouse observed, (bat if even a subordinate officer, intrusted with the direction os a particular enterprise, entered,as lir Sidne) Smith haddone, into a convention, which, strictly speaking, he had no powers to conclude, niitnv example* could be •found, of cases in which the coinmander-in chief thought himself bound to ratify what the subordinate officer had done, and in which government had ratified the consent os the commanding officer. Was not this the cale at Cape Nicola Mole, when general Whitlock, though a subordinate officer, without any specific powers, and without the consent of the commanderin chief, agreed to a convention which general Williamson, the commander-in-chies, afterwards thought himself bound to ratify, and which was afterwards ratified by government? An objection had been made to the form in which the motjon-was- worded. This, indeed, Mr. Hobhoufc did not think quite •so accurate, and recommended it to his honourable friend to make iomealteiation in it.
Mr. Yorke, after observing that the motion was not of a parliamentary foem, because parliament could have no power'over a leUer which must be in the possefuon os general 'Kseber, exprclled his astonishment that any one could have the confidence to fay, in that house, that the Britiflj steel was in the least degree injured bvitkat whfchtouk.place, on our,behalf, in Egypt; and that tiie more especially after.,-we had been in poficstion of the intercepted Freijcb correspondence on that subj,ect.- •.,-,. .7 1 . li-ja-.i it ty.ic/ ,•; ,'.M*- tfercival skid^ that the Englisli, after the orders irom governmenl |i^d been communicated to ....,-( - •
them by lord Keith, had done no* thing to break the treaty. The English committed no act os hostility. But the French, on receiving the communication from lord Kertbj had chosen to break it themselves. If there was any breach of faith,, it was on the fide ofthe French. When government heard-' that the French had trussed and acted on the belief that this country would consent to the convention, it sent out orders not to ratify, but to respect, it* With regard to the motion before the house, he could not recollect that he had ever heard ono supports ed by less argument He readily allowed, that the publication of a letter was not a sufficient means of information for the purpose of found* ing on it any specific motion. xBut* if this was the intention, the fujM porters of the motion ought to have argued from the contents of tbet> letter, that ii would afford ground on which to rest a motion. .■■„•.» !■ •
Mr. Jones, as a proof that this country was a party in the convene tion of fcl-Arifh, fiated, that it was* an article in this, that passports should be given to the French !<v the Porte, and by its allies, Ruiiia and England. As to the form.-of the motion, said Mr. Jones, Lara prepared. On such occasions..a* these, I generally go doubly armed, and now move, "That an humble address be presented to his majesty, that he will be graciously pleased to give directions, that copies of'alt. setters from the commander-in-chief of the fleet in the Mediterranean to" general Kleber be laid on the table of this house." This motion was rejected by 80 noes against IJ ayes. . i «• iM
The repeated miscarriage of Mrji
Jones's motions, in the house of
. . commons.