Short Stories
All Titles

In Association with Amazon.com

Home > Authors Index > Browse all available works of Samuel Johnson > Text of Debate On An Address To The King

A non-fiction by Samuel Johnson

Debate On An Address To The King

Title:     Debate On An Address To The King
Author: Samuel Johnson [More Titles by Johnson]


Parliament having met, according to the royal summons, on this day, his majesty made a speech from the throne, which being afterwards read by the president, lord TWEEDALE rose, and spoke as follows:

My lords, it is not without the highest satisfaction, that every lover of mankind must look upon the alterations that have lately been produced in the state of Europe; nor can any Briton forbear to express an immediate and particular pleasure to observe his country rising again into its former dignity, to see his own nation shake off dependence, and rouse from inactivity, cover the ocean with her fleets, and awe the continent with her armies; bid, once more, defiance to the rapacious invaders of neighbouring kingdoms, and the daring projectors of universal dominion; once more exert her influence in foreign courts, and summon the monarchs of the west to another confederacy against the power of France.

The queen of Hungary, who was lately obliged to retire at the approach of her enemies, to leave her capital in danger of a siege, and seek shelter in the remotest corner of her dominions, who was lately so harassed with invasions, and so encircled with dangers, that she could scarcely fly from one ravager, without the hazard of falling into the hands of another, is now able to give laws to her persecutors, to return the violence which she has suffered, and instead of imploring mercy from those who had no regard but to their own interest, and were determined to annihilate her family and divide her dominions, now sits in full security on her throne, directs the march of distant armies, and dictates the terms on which those who have entered her dominions shall be suffered to escape.

Such, my lords, is the present state of the German empire; nor have the affairs of the rest of Europe been less changed; the power of the house of Bourbon has been diminished on every side, its alliance has been rejected, and its influence disregarded.

The king of Sardinia has openly engaged to hinder the Spaniards from erecting a new kingdom in Italy; and though he has hitherto been somewhat embarrassed in his measures, and oppressed by the superiority of his enemies, has at least, by preventing the conjunction of the Spanish armies, preserved the Austrians from being overwhelmed. Nor can the situation of his dominions, and the number of his forces, suffer us to doubt, that in a short time he will be able entirely to secure Italy, since he has already recovered his country, and drove back the Spaniards into the bosom of France.

The condition of the other Spanish army is such, as no enemy can wish to be aggravated by new calamities. They are shut up in a country without provisions, or of which the inhabitants are unwilling to supply them: on one side are neutral states, to which the law of nations bars their entrance; on another the Mediterranean sea, which can afford them only the melancholy prospect of hostile armaments, or sometimes of their own ships falling into the hands of the Britons; behind them are the troops of Austria ready to embarrass their march, intercept their convoys, and receive those whom famine and despair incite to change their masters, and to seek among foreign nations that ease and safety, of which the tyranny of their own government, and the madness of their own leaders, has deprived them. Such is their distress, and so great their diminution, that a few months must complete their ruin, they must be destroyed without the honour of a battle, they must sink under the fatigue of hungry marches, by which no enemy is overtaken or escaped, and be at length devoured, by those diseases, which toil and penury will inevitably produce.

That the diminution of the influence of the house of Bourbon is not an empty opinion, which we easily receive, because we wish it to be true; that other nations, likewise, see the same events with the same sentiments, and prognosticate the decline of that power which has so long intimidated the universe, appears from the declaration now made by his majesty of the conduct of the Swedish court.

That nation which was lately governed by the counsels, and glutted with the bounties of France, which watched the nod of her mighty patroness, and made war at her command against the Russian empire, now begins to discover, that there are other powers more worthy of confidence and respect, more careful to observe their engagements, or more able to fulfil them. She, therefore, requests the British monarch to extricate her from those difficulties, in which she is entangled by a blind compliance with French dictates, to restore to her the dismembered provinces, and recall that enemy which now impends over her capital, and whom the French have neither interest to appease, nor strength to resist.

Such, my lords, is the present prospect which offers itself to him who surveys Europe with a political view, and examines the present interest and dispositions of neighbouring potentates; such is the order which has been produced from general confusion, and such the reestablishment of equal power, which has succeeded these concussions of the world.

It is no small addition to the pleasure which this change must afford every man, who has either wisdom to discover his own happiness, or benevolence to rejoice in that of others, that it has been the effect not of chance but of conduct; that it is not an unforeseen event, produced by the secret operation of causes fortuitously concurring, but the result of a political and just design, well concerted and steadily pursued; that every advantage which has been gained, is the consequence of measures laid to obtain it; that our happiness has been procured by prudence, and that our counsels have not been lucky but wise.

If we reflect, my lords, upon the causes which have contributed to the rescue of Europe from impending slavery, which have reestablished the queen of Hungary in her dominions, enabled her to lay waste the territories of her invaders, confirmed her friends in their fidelity, and intimidated those whom rival interests inclined to wish her fall, or the hope of sharing in the plunder, had incited to form designs against her. If we inquire to what it is to be ascribed, that she is able to form new alliances, and defend her dominions with confederate armies, we shall find it easy to trace all these revolutions to one cause, the steady and prudent conduct of the king of Britain.

Our sovereign, my lords, has looked on the troubles of Europe with that concern which publick virtue inspires; he has seen the sufferings of this illustrious princess with that compassion which is always due to magnanimity oppressed, and formed resolutions for her assistance with that ardour, which courage naturally kindles; but with that caution, likewise, and secrecy, which experience dictates. But he remembered, my lords, that, though he was the friend of the queen of Hungary, he was to consider himself as the father of the people of Britain; that he was not to exhaust the forces of this nation in romantick expeditions, or exhaust its treasures in giving assistance which was not needed.

He therefore waited to observe the event of the war, and to discover whether the incessant struggles of the Austrians would be able to throw off the load with which they were oppressed; but he found that their spirit, however ardent, could not supply the want of strength; he found, that they were fainting under insuperable labours, and that, though they were in no danger of being conquered by the valour of their enemies, they must, in a short time, be wearied with their numbers.

His majesty then knew, my lords, that, by sending them speedy assistance, he at once promoted the interest of his people, and gratified his own inclinations; he therefore supplied the queen with such sums as enabled her to levy new forces, and drive her enemies before her. By procuring a reconciliation with the king of Prussia, he freed her from the nearest and most formidable danger, and gave her an opportunity to secure herself against the menaces of other powers.

But though she was set free from domestick dangers, though invasion was driven from her capital, though captivity no longer pursued her flight, nor usurpation hovered over her throne, her more distant dominions were still a prey to her enemies. The Spaniards had already landed one army in Italy, with which another was hastening to join. The success of this enterprise, which would have gained the greatest part of Italy, could only be hindered by the king of Sardinia, who was, therefore, solicited by the Spaniards and French to favour their design, with the strongest protestations, and the most magnificent promises. But these were overbalanced by the influence of the king of Britain, whose name was of sufficient importance to make the weaker part most eligible, and to counterbalance the force of immediate interest.

Thus was the passage into Italy barred against the Spaniards, by obstacles which they can never surmount, while the other army is besieged by our fleet, and by the Austrians; and reduced, instead of conquering kingdoms, to change their camp, and regulate their marches, with no other view than to avoid famine. While that prince, whose dominions might most commodiously afford them succour, and whom all the ties of nature and of interest oblige to assist them, is awed by the British ships of war, which lie at anchor before his metropolis, and of which the commanders, upon the least suspicion of hostilities against the queen of Hungary, threaten to batter his palaces, and destroy his city.

In this manner, my lords, has the king of Britain assisted the house of Austria with his treasures, his influence, and his navy; thus does he subdue some enemies, and restrain others; thus does he hold the balance of the war, and thus does he add the weight of power to the scale of justice.

But to secure the success that has been already obtained, and to take from the enemies of liberty all hopes of recovering the advantages which they have lost, he has now no longer confined his assistance to negotiations and pecuniary supplies. He knows that alliances are always best observed, when they confer security, or produce manifest advantages; and that money will not be always equivalent to armies. He has, therefore, now acted openly in defence of his ally, has filled Flanders, once more, with British troops, and garrisoned the frontier towns with the forces of that nation by which they were gained. The veteran now sees, once more, the plains over which he formerly pursued the squadrons of France, points the place where he seized the standards, or broke the lines, where he trampled the oppressors of mankind, with that spirit which is enkindled by liberty and justice. His heart now beats, once more, at the sight of those walls which he formerly stormed, and he shows the wounds which he received in the mine, or on the breach. The French now discover, that they are not yet lords of the continent; and that Britain has other armies ready to force, once more, the passes of Schellembourg, or break down the intrenchments of Blenheim; to wrest from them the sceptre of universal monarchy, and confine them again to their own dominions.

To the British regiments, his majesty has joined a large body of the forces of his own electorate, without regard to the danger which may threaten his dominions in the absence of his troops, having no other view than to secure the publick tranquillity at whatever hazard of his own, and being convinced that private interest is most effectually secured by a steady attention to general good.

These measures, my lords, undoubtedly demand our gratitude and applause. Gratitude is always due to favourable intentions, and diligent endeavours, even when those intentions are frustrated, and those endeavours defeated; and applause is often paid to success, when it has been merely the effect of chance, and been produced by measures ill adapted to the end which was intended by them. But, surely, when just designs have been happily executed, when wise measures are blessed with success, neither envy nor hatred will dare to refuse their acclamations; surely, those will at least congratulate, whom the corruption of their hearts hinders from rejoicing, and those who cannot love, will at least commend.

Here, my lords, I suspect no inclination to depreciate the happiness that we enjoy, or to calumniate that virtue by which it has been obtained; and therefore doubt not but your lordships will readily concur in the reasonable, motion which I have now to offer:--

"That an humble address be presented to his majesty, to return him the thanks of this house, for his most gracious speech from the throne.

"To declare our just sense of his majesty's great care and vigilance for the support of the house of Austria, and for restoring and securing the balance of power.

"To acknowledge his majesty's great wisdom and attention to the publick welfare, in sending so considerable a body of his forces into the Low Countries, and in strengthening them with his electoral troops, and the Hessians in the British pay; and thereby forming such an army as may defend and encourage those powers who are well intentioned, and give a real assistance to the queen of Hungary, and to assure his majesty of the concurrence and support of this house, in this necessary measure.

"To express our satisfaction in the good effects which the vigour exerted by Great Britain in assisting its ancient allies, and maintaining the liberties of Europe, hath already had on the affairs of the queen of Hungary, and on the conduct of several powers; and our hopes that a steady perseverance in the same measures, will inspire the like spirit and resolution in other powers, equally engaged by treaties and common interest to take the like part.

"To give his majesty the strongest assurances, that this house has the honour and safety of his majesty, the true interest and prosperity of his kingdoms, the security and advancement of their commerce, the success of the war against Spain, and the reestablishment of the balance and tranquillity of Europe entirely at heart. That these shall be the great and constant objects of our proceedings and resolutions, this house being determined to support his majesty in all just and necessary measures for attaining those great and desirable ends, and to stand by and defend his majesty against all his enemies."

Lord MONTFORT spoke next to the following effect:--My lords, the motion offered by the noble lord, is, in my opinion, so proper and just, so suitable to the dignity of this assembly, and so expressive of the gratitude which the vigilance of his majesty for the publick good, ought to kindle in every heart not chilled by ungenerous indolence, or hardened by inveterate disaffection, that I cannot discover any reason for which it can be opposed, and therefore hope that every lord will concur in it with no less alacrity and zeal than I now rise up to second it.

It may, indeed, naturally be hoped from this house, that his majesty's measures will be readily approved, since they are such as even malice and faction will not dare to censure or oppose, such as calumny will not venture to defame, and such as those who will not praise them can never mention. If it be allowed, that the interest of France is opposite to that of Britain, that the equipoise of power on the continent is to be preserved; if any of the counsels of our ancestors deserve our attention, if our victories at Cressy or at Ramillies are justly celebrated by our historians, the wisdom of our sovereign's conduct cannot be denied.

The French, my lords, whom our armies in the reign of Anne saw flying before them; who, from dividing kingdoms, and prescribing laws to mankind, were reduced to the defence of their own country; who were driven from intrenchment to intrenchment, and from one fortification to another, now grown insolent with the pleasures of peace, and the affluence of commerce, Have forgotten the power by which their schemes were baffled, and their arrogance repressed; by which their fabrick of universal monarchy was shattered, and themselves almost buried in the ruins.

Infatuated with the contemplation of their own force, elated with the number of their troops, the magnificence of their cities, and the opulence of their treasury, they have once more imagined themselves superiour to resistance, and again aspire to the command of the universe; they have now for some time assumed the haughty style of the legislators of mankind; and have expected, that princes should appeal to them as to the highest human tribunal, and that nations should submit their claims to their arbitration; they have already assumed the distribution of dominions, and expect that neither peace shall be concluded, nor war proclaimed, but by their permission or advice.

By this gradation of exorbitant claims and oppressive measures, have they at length arrived, my lords, at the summit of insolence; by these steps have they ascended once more the towering throne of universal monarchy; nor was any thing wanting to complete their plan, but that their ancient rival, the German empire, should be reduced to acknowledge their sovereignty, and that the supreme dignity of Europe should be the gift of the French bounty.

The death of the late emperour, without sons, furnished them with an opportunity of executing their design, too favourable to be neglected. They now imagined it in their power, not only to dispose of the imperial dignity, but to divide the dominions of the house of Austria into many petty sovereignties, incapable singly of opposing them, and unlikely to unite in any common cause, or to preserve a confederacy unbroken, if they should by accident agree to form it.

They, therefore, sent their armies into Germany, to superintend the approaching election, and by hovering over the territories of princes unable to resist them, extorted voices in favour of their ally; a prince, whose dominions must, by their situation, always oblige him to compliance with the demands, and to concurrence in the schemes of his protectors, and who will rather act as the substitute of France, than the emperour of Germany.

But it was to no purpose that they had graced their dependant with titular honours and ensigns of sovereignty, if the house of Austria still retained its hereditary dominions, and preserved its strength when it had lost its dignity. They well knew that armies were equally formidable, whether commanded by an emperour or an inferiour sovereign; and that a mere alteration of names, though it might afford a slight and transient gratification to vanity, would produce no real increase or diminution of power.

They, therefore, thought it necessary to improve the present time of confusion, and excite all the princes of the empire to revive their ancient claims upon the Austrian territories; claims, which how long soever they had been forgotten, howsoever abrogated by long prescription, or annulled by subsequent treaties, were now again to become valid, and to be decided by the arbitration of France.

But this project being defeated by the heroick constancy of the queen of Hungary, whose wisdom and resolution, which will equal her name in future histories with those of the most successful conquerors, rejected their mediation, and refused to own her right doubtful, by submitting it to be tried; they were obliged no longer to dissemble their designs, or make farther pretences to respect or tenderness. Her fall was necessary to their own exaltation; they, therefore, kindled a general conflagration of war, they excited all the princes to take arms against her, and found it, indeed, no difficult task to persuade them to attack a princess, whom they thought unable to form an army, whom they believed they should rather pursue than engage, and whose dominions might be overrun without bloodshed, and whom they should conquer only by marching against.

Such a combination as this, a combination of monarchs, of which each appeared able singly to have carried on a war against her, nothing but the highest degree of magnanimity could have formed a design of resisting; nor could that resistance have procured the least advantages, or retarded for a single day the calamities that were threatened, had it not been regulated by every martial virtue, had not policy united with courage, and caution with activity.

Thus did the intrepidity of this princess, my lords, support her against the storms that shook her kingdom on every side; thus did those, whom her virtues gained over to her service, and whom her example animated with contempt of superiour numbers, defend her against the forces of all the surrounding nations, led on by monarchs, and elated with the prospect of an easy conquest.

But the utmost that could be hoped from the most refined stratagems, or the most exalted courage, was only that her fate might be deferred, that she would not fall wholly unrevenged, that her enemies would suffer with her, and that victory would not be gained without a battle. It was evident, that bravery must in time give way to strength, that vigour must be wearied, and policy exhausted, that by a constant succession of new forces, the most resolute troops must be overwhelmed; and that the house of Austria could only gain by the war, the fatal honour of being gloriously extinguished.

This his majesty's wisdom easily enabled him to discover, and his goodness incited him to prevent; he called upon all the powers, who had promised to preserve the Pragmatick sanction, to have regard to the faith of nations, and by fulfilling their engagements, to preserve the liberties of Europe; but the success of his remonstrances only afforded a new instance of the weakness of justice, when opposed to interest or fear. All the potentates of the continent were restrained by the threats, or gained by the promises of France; and the disposal of the possessions of the Austrian house, seemed, by the general consent of Europe, to be resigned to the family of Bourbon.

But our sovereign was not yet discouraged from asserting the rights which he had promised to maintain, nor did he think the neglect or treachery of others a sufficient reason for refusing that assistance, which justice and policy equally required. He knew the power of his own empire, and though he did not omit to cultivate alliances, he was conscious of his ability to proceed without them; and therefore showed, by sending his troops into the Austrian territories, that the measures of the sovereign of Britain were not to be regulated by either his enemies or his confederates; that this nation is yet able to support its own claims, and protect those of its allies; and that while we attack one of the kingdoms of the house of Bourbon, we are not afraid to set the other at defiance.

The effects of this conduct, my lords, were immediately apparent; the king of Sardinia engaged to oppose the entrance of the Spaniards into Italy; the king of Prussia not only made a peace with the queen of Hungary, by whom he was more to be dreaded than any other enemy, but entered into an alliance with his majesty, who has made no small addition to his influence, by another treaty with the most powerful nations of the north.

Thus, my lords, are the dreadful arms of France, which are never employed but in the detestable and horrid plan of extending slavery, and supporting oppression, stopped in the full career of success. Thus is the scheme of universal monarchy once more blasted, and the world taught, that the preservation of the rights of mankind, the security of religion, and the establishment of peace, are not impracticable, that the power of Britain is yet undiminished, and that her spirit is not yet depressed.

By his majesty's conduct, my lords, the reputation of our country is now raised to its utmost height; we are now considered as the arbiters of empire, the protectors of right, the patrons of distress, and the sustainers of the balance of the world. I cannot, therefore, but conclude, that no man in this illustrious assembly will be unwilling to acknowledge that wisdom and firmness, which not only this nation, but the greatest part of the universe, will remember with gratitude in the remotest ages, and that the motion, which I now second, will be universally approved.

The speaker then read the motion, and asked in the usual form, whether it was their lordships' pleasure that the question should be put; upon which lord CHESTERFIELD rose up, and spoke to the following purpose:--My lords, though the motion has been, by the noble lord who made it, introduced with all the art of rhetorick, and enforced by him that seconded it, with the utmost ardour of zeal, and the highest raptures of satisfaction and gratitude; though all the late measures have been recommended to our applause, as proofs of the strictest fidelity, and the most sagacious policy; and though I am very far from intending to charge them with weakness or injustice, or from pretending to have discovered in them a secret tendency to advance any interest in opposition to that of Britain, I am yet not able to prevail upon myself to suppress those scruples which hinder me from concurring with them, and from approving the address which is now proposed.

I am less inclined, my lords, to favour the present motion, because I have long been desirous of seeing the ancient method of general addresses revived by this house; a method of address by which our princes were reverenced without flattery, and which left us at liberty to honour the crown, without descending to idolize the ministry.

I know not, my lords, what advantages have been procured by an annual repetition of the speeches from the throne, however gracious or excellent. For ourselves, we have certainly obtained no new confidence from the crown, nor any higher degree of honour among the people. The incense, which from our censers has so long perfumed the palace, has inclined the nation to suspect, that we are long enough inured to idolatry, to offer up their properties for a sacrifice, whenever they shall be required; and I cannot dissemble my suspicions, that a long continuance of this custom may give some ambitious or oppressive prince in some distant age, when, perhaps, this beneficent and illustrious family may be extinct, the confidence to demand it.

I cannot but be of opinion, and hope your lordships will be convinced upon very short reflection, that there is a style of servility, which it becomes not this house to use even to our monarchs: we are to remember, indeed, that reverence which is always due from subjects, but to preserve likewise that dignity which is inseparable from independence and legislative authority.

That we ought not to descend to the meanest of flattery, that we ought to preserve the privilege of speaking, without exaggerated praises, or affected acknowledgments, our regard not only to ourselves, but to our sovereign ought to remind us. For nothing is more evident, my lords, than that no monarch can be happy while his people are miserable; that the throne can be secure only by being guarded by the affections of the people; and the prince can only gain and preserve their affections, by promoting their interest, and supporting their privileges.

But how, my lords, shall that monarch distinguish the interest of his people, whom none shall dare to approach with information? How shall their privileges be supported, if when they are infringed, no man will complain? And who shall dare to lay any publick grievances, or private wrongs before the king of Britain, if the highest assembly of the nation shall never address him but in terms of flattery?

The necessity of putting an end to this corrupt custom, becomes every day more and more urgent; the affairs of Europe are hastening to a crisis, in which all our prudence, and all our influence will be required; and we ought, therefore, to take care not to perplex our resolutions by voluntary ignorance, or destroy our credit by a publick approbation of measures, which we are well known not to understand.

I suppose, none of your lordships, who are not engaged in the administration of affairs, will think it derogatory from the reputation of your abilities and experience, to confess, that you do not yet see all the circumstances or consequences of the measures which you are desired to applaud; measures which have been too lately taken to discover their own tendency, and with relation to which no papers have been laid before us. We are told of armies joined, and treaties concluded, and, therefore, called upon to praise the wisdom of our negotiations, and the usefulness and vigour of our military preparations; though we are neither acquainted on what terms our alliances are formed, nor on what conditions our auxiliaries assist us.

This, my lords, is surely such treatment as no liberal mind can very patiently support; it is little less than to require that we should follow our guides with our eyes shut; that we should place implicit confidence in the wisdom of our ministers, and having first suffered them to blind ourselves, assist them afterwards to blind the people.

The longer I dwell upon the consideration of this motion, the more arguments arise to persuade me, that we ought not hastily to agree to it. My lords, the address proposed, like the speech itself, is of a very complicated and intricate kind, and comprises in a few words many transactions of great importance, crowded together with an artful brevity, that the mind may be hindered by the multitude of images, from a distinct and deliberate consideration of particulars. Here are acts of negotiation confounded with operations of war, one treaty entangled with another, and the union of the Hanoverians with our troops, mentioned almost in the same sentence with the Spanish war. This crowd of transactions, so different in their nature, so various in their consequences, who can venture to approve in the gross? or who can distinguish without long examination.

I hope, my lords, that I shall not be charged with want of candour, in supposing the motion not to be an extemporaneous composition, but to be drawn up with art and deliberation. It is well known, that the address is often concerted at the same time that the speech is composed; and that it is not uncommon to take advantage of the superiority which long acquaintance with the question gives those who defend the motion, above those who oppose it.

We are indeed told, that the visible effects of his majesty's measures prove their expediency, and that we may safely applaud that conduct of which we receive the benefits. But, my lords, the advantages must be seen or felt before they can be properly acknowledged; and it has not been shown, that we have yet either intimidated the enemies of the queen of Hungary, whose interest we have been lately taught to believe inseparable from our own, or encouraged any new allies to declare in her favour.

The Dutch, my lords, are not yet roused from their slumber of neutrality; and how loudly soever we may assert our zeal, or with whatever pomp we may display our strength, they still seem to doubt either our integrity or force; and are afraid of engaging in the quarrel, lest they should be either conquered or betrayed. Nor has the approach of our army, however they may be delighted with the show, inspired them with more courage, though they are enforced by the troops of Hanover.

The addition of these forces to the British army, has been mentioned as an instance of uncommon attention to the great cause of universal liberty, as a proof that no regard has been paid to private interest, and that all considerations are sacrificed to publick good. But since no service can be so great but it may be overpaid, it is necessary that we may judge of the benefit, to inform us on what terms it has been obtained, and how well the act of succession has been observed on this occasion.

Though I am too well acquainted, my lords, with the maxims which prevail in the present age, and have had too much experience of the motives, by which the decisions of the senate are influenced, to offer any motion of my own, yet these reasons will withhold me from concurring with this. I cannot but be of opinion, that the question ought to be postponed to another day, in which the house may be fuller, our deliberations be assisted by the wisdom and experience of more than thirty lords, who are now absent, and the subjects of inquiry, of which many are new and unexpected, may be more accurately considered; nor can I prevail upon myself to return to general declarations any other than general answers.

Lord CARTERET answered in substance as follows:--My lords, as there has arisen no new question, as his majesty in assisting the queen of Hungary, has only followed the advice of the senate; I am far from being able to discover, why any long deliberation should be necessary to a concurrence with the motion now before us, or whence any doubt can arise with regard to the effects of his majesty's measures; effects which no man will deny, who will believe either his own eyes, or the testimony of others; effects, which every man who surveys the state of Europe must perceive, and which our friends and our enemies will equally confess.

To these measures, which we are now to consider, it must be ascribed, that the French are no longer lords of Germany; that they no longer hold the princes of the empire in subjection, lay provinces waste at pleasure, and sell their friendship on their own terms. By these measures have the Dutch been delivered from their terrours, and encouraged to deliberate freely upon the state of Europe, and prepare for the support of the Pragmatick sanction. But the common cause has been most evidently advanced by gaining the king of Prussia, by whose defection the balance of the war was turned, and at least thirty thousand men taken away from the scale of France.

This, my lords, was a change only to be effected by a patient expectation of opportunities, and a politick improvement of casual advantages, and by contriving methods of reconciling the interest of Prussia with the friendship of the queen of Hungary; for princes, like other men, are inclined to prefer their own interest to all other motives, and to follow that scheme which shall promise most gain.

That all this, my lords, has been effected, cannot be denied; nor can it be said to have been effected by any other causes than the conduct of Britain: had this nation looked either with cowardly despair, or negligent inactivity, on the rising power of France and the troubles of the continent; had the distribution of empire been left to chance, our thoughts confined wholly to commerce, and our prospects not extended beyond our own island, the liberties of Europe had been at an end, the French had established themselves in the secure possession of universal monarchy, would henceforth have set mankind at defiance, and wantoned without fear in oppression and insolence.

These, my lords, are consequences of the measures pursued by his majesty, of which neither the reality nor the importance can be questioned, and, therefore, they may doubtless be approved without hesitation. For surely, my lords, the addition of the Hanoverian troops to the forces of our own nation can raise no scruples, nor be represented as any violation of the act of settlement.

Of the meaning of that memorable act, I believe, I do not need any information. I know it is provided, that this nation shall not be engaged in war in the quarrel of Hanover; but I see no traces of a reciprocal obligation, nor can discover any clause, by which we are forbidden to make use in our own cause of the alliance of Hanover, or by which the Hanoverians are forbidden to assist us.

I hope, my lords, this representation of the state of our transactions with Hanover, will not be charged with artifice or sophistry. I know how invidious a task is undertaken by him who attempts to show any connexion between interests so generally thought opposite, and am supported in this apology only by the consciousness of integrity, and the intrepidity of truth.

The assistance of Hanover, my lords, was, at this time, apparently necessary. Our own troops, joined with the Hessians, composed a body too small to make any efficacious opposition to the designs of France; but by the addition of sixteen thousand men, became sufficiently formidable to oblige her to employ those troops for the security of her frontiers, with which she intended to have overwhelmed Italy, and to have exalted another Spanish prince to a new kingdom. The Spaniards, deprived of this assistance, harassed by the Austrians with perpetual alarms, and debarred by our fleet from the supplies which are provided for them in their own country, must languish with penury and hardships, being equally cut off from succour and from flight.

Thus, my lords, it is evident, that the true and everlasting interest of Britain has been steadily pursued; that the measures formed to promote it have been not only prudent, but successful. We did not engage sooner in the quarrel, because we were not able to form an army sufficiently powerful. An advantageous peace is only to be obtained by vigorous preparations for war; nor is it to be expected that our enemies should court our friendship, till they see that our opposition is really formidable. Such, my lords, is our present state; we may reasonably hope that the French will desist from their designs, because they will have a confederacy to oppose, more powerful than that by which their immortal monarch was lately humbled; and I hope that conduct will always be applauded in this house, which enables us to repress the arrogance of France.

Lord WESTMORELAND then spoke to the following purport:--My lords, though the warmth with which the noble lord has defended the motion, and the confidence with which he asserts the propriety and efficacy of the measures to which it relates, are such proofs of the strength of his conviction as leave no room to doubt his sincerity; yet as the same arguments do not operate upon different minds with the same force, I hope I shall not be thought less sincere, or less studious of the publick happiness, or the honour of the crown, though I presume to differ from him.

In the motion now before us, I cannot concur, because, though it should be allowed to contain a just representation of foreign affairs, yet it appears to me to omit those considerations which I think it the duty of this house to offer to his majesty. This nation is, in my opinion, exposed to enemies more formidable than the French; nor do I think that we are at leisure to defend the liberties of Europe, till we have made some provisions for the security of our own; or to regulate the balance of power, till we have restored our constitution to its ancient equilibrium.

That there are flagrant proofs of the most enormous corruption throughout the whole subordination of publick offices; that our publick funds are only nurseries of fraud, and that trust of every kind is only considered as an opportunity of plundering, appears evidently from the universal prevalence of luxury and extravagance, from the sudden affluence of private men, from the wanton riot of their tables, the regal splendour of their equipages, and the ostentatious magnificence of their buildings.

It is evident, likewise, that corruption is not confined to publick offices; that those who have lost their own integrity, have endeavoured to destroy the virtue of others; that attempts have been made to subject the whole nation to the influence of corruption, and to spread the contagion of bribery from the highest to the lowest classes of the people.

It is therefore necessary, before we engage in the consideration of foreign affairs, to prosecute the inquiry which was begun in the last session, to trace wickedness to its source, and drag the authors of our miseries into the light.

These, my lords, are the inquiries which the general voice of the people importunately demands; these are the petitions which ought never to be rejected; all parties are now united, and all animosities extinguished; nor is there any other clamour than for inquiries and punishment.

The other house, my lords, has been engaged in the laudable attempt to detect those who have betrayed, or plundered, or corrupted their country; and surely we ought to have so much regard to our own honour, as not to suffer them to toil alone in a design so popular, so just, and so necessary, while we amuse ourselves with applauding the sagacity of our ministers, who, whatever they may hope themselves, or promise others, have not yet prevailed on any foreign power to concur with them, or to interpose in the affairs of the continent. And, therefore, I cannot conceal my suspicion, that instead of furnishing any subject for panegyricks on our policy and caution, we are now wasting our treasures and our strength in a romantick expedition.

Since, therefore, my lords, our domestick evils seem to me most dangerous, I move, that in order to their speedy remedy, and that the people may see we do not forget their immediate interest, this addition be made to the motion now before us:

"And humbly to assure his majesty, that we will apply our constant and persevering endeavours to calm and heal animosities and divisions, unseasonable as they are at all times, and most pernicious in the present juncture, which the true fatherly tenderness of his majesty, out of the abundance of his constant care for the rights and liberties of his people, has so affectionately at the close of last session recommended from the throne, by searching thoroughly and effectually into the grounds, which are or may be assigned for publick discontent, agreeably to the ancient rules and methods of parliament."

This additional clause being delivered in writing to the speaker, he read it to the house, but said that the noble lord spoke so low, that he could not tell where he proposed to have it inserted. Lord WESTMORELAND then directed him to read the motion, which done, he desired that his clause might be added at the end.

Upon this lord RAYMOND spoke as follows:--My lords, the addition which the noble lord has offered to the address proposed, cannot, in my opinion, be properly admitted, as it has no relation to the preceding clauses, but is rather inconsistent with them.

Nor do I think it only improper with regard to the other part of the motion, but unnecessary in itself; since it has no reference to his majesty's speech, now under our consideration; since it will facilitate none of our inquiries, which may be carried on with equal vigour without any such unseasonable declaration of our design.

If, therefore, the motion for the amendment be not withdrawn, I shall move, that the first question be first put.

[The question was then put with regard to the first motion, and it passed in the affirmative, without any division.]

[The end]
Samuel Johnson's Writing: Debate On An Address To The King