« ForrigeFortsæt »
enemy had put to fea; or that admiral Colpoys was not defirous to fee it? Was it likely we should be unwilling, when he had a fleet, under his command, fo fuperior to that of the enemy? It was the wifeft refolution he could take, not to follow them to Portugal, or Ireland, till he knew their certain deftination; and he kept his ftation for the chance of intercepting all, or part, of the fleet, in cafe of difperfion by a ftorm; he recollected alfo, that the circumftance of their having failed would be known to the admiralty, and, by remaining where he was, he fhould receive fuch authentic intelligence as he could not otherwife expect to obtain. With regard to the charge of the want of provifions, Mr. Dundas could not but admit the fquadron had remained longer on its ftation than was at firft fuppofed neceffary, and not relieved as foon as the admiralty had intended; the reafon was, fir Roger Curtis fhould have been in port the beginning of November, and did not come till the eighteenth. He had been appointed to cruize off Rochford, where he remained a fortnight longer than was expected, to intercept the return of Richery's fquadron from Newfoundland.
Sir Roger's fquadron confifted of feven fail of the line, and was to have been sent to the relief of the fleet off Breft; but the wind was fo adverfe as to rende. it impoffible for them to come to Spithead before the eighteenth of November. As to the interval which took place between the arrival of admiral Colpoys and the failing of lord Bridport, the inftructions of fir Edward Pellew reached the ad
miralty on the twentieth of December; and on the twenty firft he received information of the failing of the French fleet from Breft, and immediately returned for anfwer, that all the fleet would be ready four days after, namely, the twenty-fifth. [Here Mr. Dundas read the orders of the admiralty, iffued on the twenty-firft, and another order iffued after, counteracting fome part of them, and defiring him to proceed off Cape Clear immediately.] He wifhed it to be obferved, that, although the French fleet arrived off the coaft of Ireland on the twenty-first of December, intelligence of them was not received, in this country, till the thirty-firft. The admiralty had taken the chance of finding admiral Colpoys on the ftation where they expected him to have been, off the Lizard, in case of any adverfe winds removing him from the French coaft. Lord Brid port had always been not only a gallant but a fuccefsful admiral; yet it fo happened, that, although admiral Colpoys had been hovering, with his fquadron, off Breft, to intercept the enemy upon their leaving that harbour, although lord Bridport afterwards proceeded off Cape Clear and the Irish coaft with the fame defign; and although the Duke and the Majeftic, with two other fhips of war, were fent in fearch of them, they were fo covered by the fog, and protected by fortune, as to escape them all. The honourable gentleman, Mr. Whitbread, had faid, that Ireland was faved by the elements; but he fhould have remembered, that the fame wind which difperfed the enemy, prevented our fleets from meeting them,
Mr. Dundas confidered invafion as nothing but a bugbear; yet did not with us to relax in our precautions on the one hand, or to defpond on the other. Exclufive of our naval forces in the Eaft and Weft Indies, the North Seas, and the Mediterranean, we have had fifty fail of the line for the defence of Britain and Ireland, and upwards of two hundred thoufand men under arms. Hitherto both the government and force of this country had been calumniated; he hoped he had proved, fatisfactorily, that no blame was imputable to the admiralty, or to the officers, though he by no means wifhed to prevent inquiry; their conduct, he thought, could well fuftain the
Mr. Grey took occafion, from Mr, Dundas's bugbear, to animadvert, with great feverity, that is, the feverity, not of expreffion, but of truth, on the verfatility of minifters in conjuring up, and magnify. ing, dangers, or in deriding real dangers as phantoms, juft as it fuited their purpofe; whether to gain confidence, or provide for their own fafety. He then obferved, that in the place where an attack of the enemy was apprehended, and where it was actually made, there was neither a cavaly nor a fupplementary militia bill; in a place where there was no apprehenfion of an attack, there were both.With regard to the inftructions fent to lord Bridport, to put to fea immediately, Why did he not do fo, when the wind was fair, on the twenty fecond, twenty-third, and twenty-fourth of December? It was no excufe to fay, that his fquadron was not ready, or that admiral Curtis had not returned from his cruize:
the admiralty ought to be im peached for not having a ready to fail on the twenty-fecond. Mr. Wyndham affirmed it to be impoffible to keep a fleet, for any length of time, in fuch a state of preparation as to be ready to fail at a moment's warning, and that it would have been rashness to have fent lord Bridport out with an inferior fleet, when government did not know but that the French were out with fixteen fail of the line. He denied the poffibility of Cork falling into their hands, even had the enemy landed; complimented the inhabitants of the fourthern parts of Ireland on their loyalty; and cbferved, that it was fingular that thofe very men who were fuppofed the most oppreffed, in that kingdom, had manifefted the most firm attachment to government; while those in the north, who were not faid to have any caufe of complaint, had fhewn a difpofition to infurrection. He thought this went a good way towards proving, that it was poffible for men to make groundlefs complaints against thofe by whom they were governed. He did not abfolutely charge the oppofition with evil intentions, when they talked of thofe parts of his majesty's dominions moft liable to attack, but he wifhed them to recollect, that obfervations of this kind partook of the nature of a two-edged fword; they might happen to convey information to the enemy what place might be moft fuccefsfully attacked, as well as expofe the negligence of minifters. Mr. Wyndham infifted, on the whole, with the greatest confidence, on the impoffibility of our being invaded, when we were in poffeffion of fo great a fuperiority of naval force,
Yes: but that is no reafon for not removing their juft. grounds of complaint. Mr. Fox ridiculed the fe
we poffibly be invaded, having a fuperior naval force? when the fubject propofed for inquiry was, how we came actually to be invaded? Without expreffing diffatisfaction at the conduct of admiral Colpoys, he faid, we ought to have had a fecond fleet at home, ready to fail from Portsmouth, as foon as news of the French fleet reached England."
Mr. Fox, adverting firft to the laft part of Mr. Wyndham's fpeech, faid, that, if members of that houfe, when they charged miniftry with neg-cretary of war's queftion, how could lecting the defence of the country, were to be confidered as holding out an invitation to the enemy to invade the country, they had better, at once, put an end to the forms, as they had done to the fubftance, of the conftitution. The right honourable gentleman has talked of" twoedged tools." In a flate of war, every complaint against adminiftration must be of the nature of a twoedged tool. A complaint of weaknels conveys information to the enemy. To whom then am I to make my complaint? and to ftate my opinion? I wish to know whether minifters are the only perfons to be permitted to give advice? If what I hear be true, Ireland is, at this moment, more difcontented than before the attempt of an invafion. I fuppofe I fhall now be told, that I am holding out an invitation to the French. No, fir, I am not inviting the French: I am inviting his majesty's minifters to take meafures for removing that difcontent which the enemy may regard as an invitation. But we find that Ireland is divided into two parts: the contented and discontented. Upon that subject we shall hear more in future: but let not the right honourable gentleman, who fpoke laft, ftate his opinion as ours. I have faid, that the Catholics were in a state of unjuft exclufion; but I never have faid, that the proteftants had no reafon for complaint, and that they were not excluded from the effence and fubftance of the British conftitution. But, the right honourable gentleman fays, "may not men have unreasonable grounds of complaint?"
Mr. Sturt faid, that the repeated infults offered to our coafts fully juftified the inquiry moved for. He afferted, that admiral Colpoys's fhip, notwithstanding the pofitive affertion of Mr. Dundas to the contrary, did, in fact, come into port, for lack of provifions; particularly of fuel, which was as bad as any want: for, he did not think that the treafurer to the navy would like raw beef any more than the failors. But he was aftonished at nothing that this gentleman affirmed: fo great was his boldnefs, confidence, and affurance. His whole ftatement of the fecurity of Ireland was a mifftatement; in proof of which he read a letter. He hoped in God he would not much longer have the direction of naval or other affairs. "He might wriggle and grin, [Mr. Dundas (hewing fymptoms of uneafinefs] and twift and tofs his head about as much as he pleased, but he hoped it would foon be twisted fomewhere else."
Mr. Pitt, after applauding and confirming all that had been advanced by Mr. Dundas, than which he thought there was nothing more neceffary to be urged in the prefent queftion, obferved, that the
neral question was this, whether or not fufficient preparations were made by the admiralty to be ready against any poible expedition, which might be fitted out in the ports of France? It was admitted, he faid, that either Portugal or Ireland was the point of attack: the one, our faithful ally; the other, as dear to us as Great Britain itself. What was the nature of our preparation Why, we had our fleet actually watching the enemy on their coafts, and ready to follow them wherever they might go, in cafe the weather had permitted that we could have known their direction; and we had another fleet in fuch a forward ftate of prepartion, as to have been ready to have failed in five days after we knew that the Breft fleet had failed, had the wind been fair. Had either one fleet or the other been fo fortunate as to have met the enemy, what prodigies of valour might we not have expected? In refpect to the, navy of Ceat Britain, it ought to be recollected, how many and various objects, and what rich and important poffeffions, it had to protect. This circumftance must leffen our fuperiority in fome points, efpecially, when the enemy had, fo lately, been reinforced by the fleets of Spain, What more could be done than to have one fleet on the French coafts, and another ready for fea? Having no pofitive information of the deftination of the enemy's fleet, occafioned by the mere circumftance of fogs and tempeftuous weather, was it extraordinary that we should have been fo long in the dark, and unable to find out their place of rendezvous, when the French admiral and general Hoche, who were in poffeffion of the fecret,
and failed in the fame expedition, as well as other captains of the fleet, had, from the fame causes of weather, never been able even to join it. Admiral Colpoys fleet was in a ftate and condition to follow the enemy, and the papers offered to be produced would prove it. Pitt concluded his fpeech, on this occafion, by complaining of Mr. Fox's manner of fpeaking, concerning Ireland, which he confidered as violent and inflammatory. On a divifion of the house, on Mr. Whitbread's motion, the previous queftion, against it, was carried by 201 against 62.
On the fame fubject; a motion was made, on March 16, in the houfe of peers, by the earl of Albemarle. Before he proceeded, however, he affured the house, that he did not mean to offer, or even hint, the fmallest disrespect, either to any of the gallant officers employed in any of our fleets, or to the admiralty. The only object he had in view was, an inquiry. It was the univerfal opinion that blame lay fomewhere. It was only ne ceflary for him to remind their lordfhips, that minifters must have been informed, even long before the meeting of the prefent parliament, that an invafion, of either Ireland or this country, or both, was intended. Why, then, was no fleet of ours ftationed on the coaft of Ireland for its protection? This queftion appeared to him to be of ftill greater importance, from what had fallen from the first lord of the admiralty, who had declared, his belief, that if the thing was to be done over again." Lord Albemarle then entered into a circumftantial review of the whole proceedings of the enemies of our own fleets. The
following are the the moft ftriking of his obfervations and arguments. On the twentieth of December, news arrived, in England, of the French fleet having left Breft; on the twenty-fecond, orders were fent to lord Bridport to fail immediately, with the fleet under his command: and, by a letter from his lordship to the admiralty, then on the table, it appeared, that lord Bridport could not fail till the twenty-fifth, on account of fome of the hips of his fquadron not being ready. He arrived, however, with his fquadron, feventeen fail of the line, and fome frigates. The French fleet confifted of eighteen fail of the line, feveral frigates, and numerous tranfports, all full of troops. Lord Bridport, after cruizing in queft of the enemy, finally returned to port, without having fallen in with, or feen, a single fhip of the enemy. The French fleet had remained at anchor, in Bantry-bay, fome of them during a period of eleven or twelve days. On account of adverse winds, and very ftormy weather, the greateft part of it was difperfed: but had a force of only five or fix thoufand men been able to effect a landing, it was very probable, from the internal state of Ireland at the time, that Cork, with all its ftores and provifions, muft have fallen into their hands. The earl of Albemarle faid, that he had no doubt of the great anxiety of lord Bridport to fail as fpeedily as poffible. He had been told, however, that our fleet was never known to have carried fo little fail: from whence he could not but fuppofe, that this mode of failing down the channel was adopted in confequence of orders received from the admiralty. If fufficient fail had been
carried, lord Bridport might have been off Bantry-bay two days fooner than he was. Another thing, which appeared very extraordinary, was, that after the noble admiral had found that the whole of the enemy's fleet had left the Irish coaft, he still continued to cruize off Bantry-bay, during a day and a half, before he proceeded any where in queft of them. Lord Albemarle then adverted to the fituation of the fleet under admiral Colpoys: many of whofe fhips were in great want of thofe effential articles on hip-board water and fuel. When the fog cleared away, and it was difcovered that the French armament had fet fail, edmiral Colpoys had immediately failed, with his fquadron, for the Lizard, as the moft likely place for gaining intelligence of the enemy: but, when he came thither, he found feveral of his fhips fo much in want of effential neceflaries, and the weather fuch that he could not provide them froms other; and, after fending away first one and then another, had aftewards found it moft advisable to return with the whole. And, he actually arrived in port on the very day that lord Bridport failed. It appeared very strange, that lord Bridport had not, much fooner than the twenty fecond of December, been ordered out, with a fleet fufficient to have replaced all thofe fhips, under admiral Colpoys, which were in want of neceflaries, and taken the reft under his command, to have continued on that station, while other hips were fent out to him as they could have gat ready. It was clear, from the whole face of the tranfactions that had pafled, that, if admiral Colpoys had found his fleet in a fuitable condition to have proceeded directly