« ForrigeFortsæt »
to Ireland, he must have fallen in with the French; and what account he would have given of them, in fuch an event, no body would be at a lofs to guefs. Had lord Bridport failed, even with nine fail of the line, when he firft received orders fo to do, nothing could have prevented his falling in with a very great part of the enemy's fleet, and, thereby, totally annihilating all their hopes of any fuccefsful attempt at invafion. The earl of Albemarle concluded with expreffing his firm perfuafion, that the facts to which he alluded, and the particulars he had mentioned, were amply fufficient to induce their lordships to enter on the inquiry he was about to propofe. He fhould, therefore, move, "that a committee be appointed to inquire into the measures which had been taken by government for the naval defence of Ireland when an invafion was attempted."
The earl Spencer faid, it was impoffible for any government to obtain, at all times, correct information respecting the plans and defigns of an enemy. In the prefent inftance, the admiralty had acted according to the best of their information. With refpect to admiral Colpoys fquadron being long at fea, he confefied, that he was friendly to the fyftem of making fleets frequently change their station; in the prefent cafe, however, the fquadron, under the command of that gallant admiral, had been kept out of port longer than ufual, in confequence of fir Roger Curtis, who had gone in queft of admiral Richery, and who was to fucceed admiral Colpoys on the Brest station, being a fortnight later of arriving in port than was expected. He affirmed, however,
that that fleet was not forced to come into port by a want of neceffaries, but that it was driven up the channel by tempeftuous weather. After the French fleet had eluded the vigilance of admiral Colpoys, to whom he wished to give every degree of credit, for his active and enterprizing fervices on his station, he had adopted the wifeft course it was pofiible for him to take. His lordship next proceeded to vindicate the conduct of the fleet under lord Bridport. As foon as the admiralty received intelligence of the failing of the French fleet, orders were fent lord Bridport to prepare for fea, with all poffible expedition. The fhips under his command, however, could not be got ready till the twenty-fifth of December, five days after the date of the order. The earl Spencer read extracts from feveral letters from fir Peter Parker, the port-admiral at Spithead, the fubftance of which was, that the fhips, deftined to joined lord Bridport, at St. Helen's, could not fail on account of the adverse winds. From all thefe circumftances, it fo happened, that lord Bridport could not put to fea till the third of January; and it fo happened, alfo, that the enemy eluded his vigilance: he could by no means allow, however, that Ireland owed its fafety to the winds; on the contrary, it was the winds, and the winds only, that prevented the French fleet from being deftroyed, either by admiral Colpoys or lord Bridport. Having entered into this explanation, he was perfuaded their lordfhips would confider the paper upon their table as fuperceding the necef fity of any inquiry. He fhould therefore give his decided negative to the motion of the noble lord.
Colpoys's return, why were not fuch
The earl of Carlisle did not think abled him to face the French with that the felected documents on the ta-complete fuccefs. Even after admira ble could communicate the fatiffaction which was required. He la mented that minifters had not come forward with them fooner, and offer their explanations when it might have been poffible to collect information from other sources, and efpecially when they had an opportunity of hearing what the noble lord who commanded the fleet knew on the fubject. He wifhed to have it fatiffactorily explained, why minifters, when they had information of the preparations made by the enemy and the failing of the Breft fleet, had not provided a force, under lord Bridport, fufficiently ftrong to have been fuperior to the confequences of two fhips (the Prince and the Sanfpareil) running foul of one another, and which would have guarded again the delay which fuch accidents had occafioned? ile wifhed likewife to know why it was four days before the fleet was ready to fail, after the news of the French fleet being at fea had arrived? Why, too, minifters had not given admiral Colpoys fpecific orders to make Ireland the chief object of his regard? It was the duty of minifters to watch over the fafety of Ireland with the fame care which was demanded for the fafety of Great Britain. When they knew the defigns of the enemy to be pointed against that country, why was not admiral Colpoys fent directly for its defence? Had they given fuch a pofitive order to admiral Colpoys, there would have been no occafion for any delay in lord Bridport's failing; becaufe, in proceeding directly to Ireland with the force he could mufter, he must have fallen in with fome of admiral Colpoys's fquadron, which would have en
The earl Spencer, with refpect to admiral Colpoys, would only fay, that if his fleet, together with that of lord Bridport, had gone to Ireland, the channel would have been left open to the Dutch fleet. One of the caufes of lord Bridport's fleet not hav ing been ready in time was, the damage which feveral fhips fuftain ed in a hard gale of wind in the channel.
'The earl of Moira confidered the real point in question to be, why admiral Colpoys had not received orders to proceed to Ireland, as foon as he received information that the French fleet had failed. A noble earl (Spencer) had contended that, from the mafs of intelligence which ministers received, it was impoffible to decide on the real object of the enemy's expedition. But did not the noble earl know, that it was the province of talents and ability to deduce caufes and confequences from the materials with which they might be furnished, and that on fuch occafions only true fagacity was to be. difcovered? He had been at Dublin when the preparations of the enemy were going on, and the arms, ftores, and other articles with which they were provided, demonftrated the real point of their deftination. That their defign was to furnish the difcontented in Ireland with arms was evident. But if the beft means of fecuring Ireland had not been taken, this did not affect the admiralty exclufively, but the adminiftration in general. He fhould vote for the inquiry in the hope that the houfe would proceed farther, fhew to whom the difafters of the war were to be attributed, and why minifters did not feize and improve the favourable opportunities which were prefented.
The earl of Liverpool maintained that a channel fleet, equal to that of the enemy, had always been deemed fufficient for our defence. Such was the understanding in the last and all our former wars. That the fleet under admiral Colpoys was fitted to face the enemy's was a point that did not seem to be much difputed. As to the place to which he was to direct his force, he begged leave to
fay, that it was not intended for the defence of Ireland exclufively, but for every part of his majefty's European dominions. With regard to the question, where the fleet could be beft ftationed for general defence, he maintained that it had actually been ftationed in a place and fituation where it could operate to the best advantage for the defence of this nation, and was in readiness to come to the defence of Ireland, as foon as that of any other part. Admiral Colpoys had orders to intercept the enemy's fleet going to any part of the world, and although it appeared doubtful, at that time, whether they were intended for Ireland or Portugal, was it poffible to imagine, that if admiral Colpoys thought they were going to Ireland, he had fuch orders as did not leave him at liberty to follow them to Ireland? The ad, miral, viewing all circumftances, formed the refolution of remaining on his ftation. From all the infor ination he had, the admiral was right in fo doing: and all that happened to difappoint his hopes and expectations was owing to the wind.
The duke of Bedford confeffed that he was but little fatisfied with the confolation held out by the noble earl, who spoke laft, that it was always held fufficient in former wars for us to equal the enemy with a channel fleet; thereby infinuating that it would be fufficient for us to do fo in this.
Such doctrine ap peared to him to be but frigid confolation, after the repeated affertions which had been made, that we had almoft annihilated the maritime power of France. It had been faid, that at the time the armament was preparing at Breft, it was uncertain whether it was intended for Ireland
or for Portugal, and that the chance was equal. Now he would afk, whether, fuppofing the chance to be equal, there was a man in this world who thought it would be wife in us to put Portugal in the fcale against Ireland? Whether there was a man upon earth rash enough to put thefe two chances upon an equality. With regard to the intereft of this country in thwarting the expedition, admiral Colpoys, he had no doubt, acted well, according to the information and inftructions he received; but he must contend, that, from the information which minifters received, he ought to have had pofitive orders to fail to Ireland: and here it was notorious, from the documents which minifters themselves had laid upon the table, that this fleet ought to have been in Ireland when the French were there; for minifters had early information of the Breft fleet being to fail, and probably, at leaft that they were deftined for Ireland; indeed they could not even deny that they had information, or that they ought to have had it, confidering the vaft fums of money that they were allowed for obtaining intelligence. They might have judged, they ought, indeed, to have known, from the arms that were on board, and from the nature of the equipment, that it was destined for Ireland.
Lord Hood expreffed his conviction, that the motion, if adopted by their lord hips, could be of no fervice, but, would do mischief. He was convinced that every poffible measure had been adopted, during the course of the war, by the naval department, for the good of the nation. He said, that, while his mental faculties, fuch as they were, continued, he should have been glad
to ferve in the prefent just and ne, ceffary war, if he had been pers mitted to do fo.
Lord Auckland could fee no reafon for confidering what had happened on the coast of Ireland, as a mifcarriage on our part. The advantage was all on our fide. The enemy had failed in their expedition, and loft one-fourth of their hips, and nearly five thousand of their men.
The earl of Guildford obferved, that fome fort of inquiry had been judged to be neceffary even by adminiftration: for no fooner had the fubject been mentioned in the house, than the noble lord, at the head of the admiralty, was ready to produce the papers that had been laid on the table. That thefe had been garbled, he would not fay; but he would at leaft contend that, for the purpose of conveying information, they had been very badly felected. He could not find, in thofe papers, any good reafon for admiral Colpoys being kept io long at fea. With respect to the real deftination of the Breft fleet, the minifters were, he believed, the only perfons who entertained any doubt. He concluded with obferving, that, unless their lordships felt the propriety of the inquiry propofed, themselves, from the papers themselves, and the speech of the noble earl a the had of the admiralty, nothing that could be said on the fubject, could have any effect on their lordship's minds.
Lord Grenville, after declaring the harmony and concert that fo happily reigned among the miniftry, and the fhare he himfelf had taken in the tranfaction in queftion, and his readiness to take alfo his thare of refponfibility attached to it, complained, that whenever any expe
dition failed, the whole blame was thrown upon minifters, without ftopping to ascertain, whether they were, in fact, guilty. It was fuppofed, that they could, at pleasure, command the winds and waves, and fend a fleet up or down the channel at a moment's warning. It had been reprefented, though without lofs on our part, as a national difgrace: yet whatever failure there was, it was on the fide of the enemy; who had loft, in all, he belived, eleven armed veffels. It might have been fuppofed, from the manner in which fome noble lords had spoken, that this was a complete triumph of the French fleet over ours: whereas, in fact, their only boaft was, that they had fucceeded in escaping from our fleet. When, before the adminiftration of the prefent ministry, would the French have condefcended to make fuch a boaft? When, before the existence of the prefent miniftry, would they not have confidered it as a difgrace? Noble lords had complimented miniftry justly, though unintentionally. You have not, faid he, been able to catch this miferable wreck of a French fleet." Who, exclaimed lord Grenville, made it a wreck The prefent government. In no former administration, he obferved, had this country ever been able to keep two fleets in the channel; each of them equal to that of the French: the one ready for failing, the other blocking up Breft. But if noble lords fuppofed, that becaufe our fleet was fuperior, the enemy, if the adminiftration had directed it properly, could not have got to the coaft of Ireland, he would refer them to two inftances-one in 1689, in which year the French
landed in Ireland, notwithstanding that lord Torrington was at fea with a formidable fleet: and, one in the fucceeding year, when the fame" attempt was made with fuccefs, although admiral Ruffel did every thing in his power to prevent it. As to Ireland, lord Grenville was ready to allow, that its defence, as well as that of England, depended on the fleet: but the internal state of Ireland, notwithstanding all that had been alleged, he had the fatiffaction to affure their lordships, was by no means fuch as to render fuch an invafion at all alarming. The French affected to have fome hopes of being joined in Ireland; but the event fhewed how much they were miftaken. This was a convincing argument in anfwer to those who declaimed on the discontents in Ireland, and would, he hoped, prevent or be recollected in all future difcuffions on that fubject. He begged leave, in juftice to his majesty's minifters, to bring to their lordfhip's recollection, the different inftances in which the naval undertakings of the French had, in the courfe of the present war, been defeated. The fhameful and cowardly conduct of Richery, after he left Toulon, and the manner in which he avoided the British fquadron till he was ftrengthened by the acceffion of a British fleet; the event of the first of June, one of the moft memorable in the hiftory of nautical affairs; and the late decifive victory, were evidence on which the defence of the country particularly depended. Whatever we might feel for the mifcarriage of the undertakings of our allies on the continent, in our naval undertakings there was nothing but tri