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Debate On Supporting The Queen Of Hungary Post by :Bill999 Category :Nonfictions Author :Samuel Johnson Date :September 2011 Read :2981

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Debate On Supporting The Queen Of Hungary

HOUSE OF COMMONS, APRIL 16, 1741.

DEBATE ON A MOTION FOR SUPPORTING THE QUEEN OF HUNGARY.


His majesty went this day to the house of lords, and after his assent to several bills, he, in a speech from the throne to both houses of the senate, acquainted them, that the war raised against the queen of Hungary, and the various claims on the late German emperour's succession, might expose the dominions of such princes as should incline to support the Pragmatick sanction to imminent danger. That the queen of Hungary required the twelve thousand men stipulated by treaty, and thereupon he had demanded of the king of Denmark, and of the king of Sweden, as sovereign of Hesse Cassel, their respective bodies of troops, of six thousand men each, to be in readiness to march to her assistance. That he was concerting such farther measures as may disappoint all dangerous designs forming to the prejudice of the house of Austria, which might make it necessary for him to enter into still larger expenses for maintaining the Pragmatick sanction. He, therefore, in a conjuncture so critical, desired the concurrence of his senate, in enabling him to contribute, in the most effectual manner, to the support of the queen of Hungary, the preventing, by all reasonable means, the subversion of the house of Austria, and to the maintaining the liberties and balance of power in Europe.

The house of commons, in their address upon this occasion, expressed a dutiful sense of his majesty's just regard for the rights of the queen of Hungary, and for the maintaining the Pragmatick sanction; they declared their concurrence in the prudent measures which his majesty was pursuing for the preservation of the liberties and balance of power in Europe; they assured his majesty, that, in justice to, and vindication of the honour and dignity of the British crown, they would effectually stand by and support his majesty against all insults and attacks, which any power, in resentment of the just measures which he had so wisely taken, should make upon any of his majesty's dominions, though not belonging to the crown of Great Britain. They farther assured his majesty, that in any future events which might make it necessary for him to enter into still larger expenses, they would enable him to contribute, in the most effectual manner, to the support of the designs he proposed.

His majesty, in his answer to this address, observed their readiness in enabling him to make good his engagements with the queen of Hungary, and the assurances given him not to suffer his foreign dominions to be insulted on account of the measures he was pursuing for the support of the Pragmatick sanction, etc.

In consequence of this procedure, the house, pursuant to order, resolved itself into a committee, to consider of the supplies granted to his majesty.

Upon this occasion, a motion was made by sir Robert WALPOLE for a grant of three hundred thousand pounds, for the support of the queen of Hungary, on which arose the following debate:

Sir Robert WALPOLE supported his motion by a speech, in substance as follows:--Sir, the necessity of this grant appears so plainly from the bare mention of the purposes for which it is asked, that I can scarcely conceive that its reasonableness will be disputed. I can discover no principles upon which an objection to this motion can be founded, nor the least arguments by which such objection can be supported.

The indispensable obligations of publick faith, the great ties by which nations are united, and confederacies formed, I cannot suppose any man inclined to invalidate. An exact performance of national promises, and inviolable adherence to treaties, is enforced at once by policy and justice, and all laws both of heaven and earth.

Publick perfidy, sir, like private dishonesty, whatever temporary advantages it may promise or produce, is always, upon the whole, the parent of misery. Every man, however prosperous, must sometimes wish for a friend; and every nation, however potent, stand in need of an ally; but all alliances subsist upon mutual confidence, and confidence can be produced only by unlimited integrity, by known firmness, and approved veracity.

The use of alliances, sir, has, in the last age, been too much experienced to be contested; it is by leagues well concerted, and strictly observed, that the weak are defended against the strong, that bounds are set to the turbulence of ambition, that the torrent of power is restrained, and empires preserved from those inundations of war, that, in former times, laid the world in ruins. By alliances, sir, the equipoise of power is maintained, and those alarms and apprehensions avoided, which must arise from daily vicissitudes of empire, and the fluctuations of perpetual contest.

That it is the interest of this nation to cultivate the friendship of the house of Austria, to protect its rights, and secure its succession, to inform it when mistaken, and to assist it when attacked, is allowed by every party. Every man, sir, knows that the only power that can sensibly injure us, by obstructing our commerce, or invading our dominions, is France, against which no confederacy can be formed, except with the house of Austria, that can afford us any efficacious support.

The firmest bond of alliances is mutual interest. Men easily unite against him whom they have all equal reason to fear and to hate; by whom they have been equally injured, and by whom they suspect that no opportunity will be lost of renewing his encroachments. Such is the state of this nation, and of the Austrians. We are equally endangered by the French greatness, and equally animated against it by hereditary animosities, and contests continued from one age to another; we are convinced that, however either may be flattered or caressed, while the other is invaded, every blow is aimed at both, and that we are divided only that we may be more easily destroyed.

For this reason we engaged in the support of the Pragmatick sanction, and stipulated to secure the imperial crown to the daughters of Austria; which was nothing more than to promise, that we would endeavour to prevent our own destruction, by opposing the exaltation of a prince who should owe his dignity to the French, and, in consequence of so close an alliance, second all their schemes, admit all their claims, and sacrifice to their ambition the happiness of a great part of mankind.

Such would probably be the consequence, if the French should gain the power of conferring the imperial crown. They would hold the emperour in perpetual dependence, would, perhaps, take possession of his hereditary dominions, as a mortgage for their expenses; would awe him with the troops which they sent under a pretence of assisting him, and leave him only the titles of dominion, and the shadows of empire.

In this state would he remain, whilst his formidable allies were extending their dominions on every side. He would see one power subdued after another, and himself weakened by degrees, and only not deprived of his throne, because it would be unnecessary to dethrone him; or he would be obliged to solicit our assistance to break from his slavery, and we should be obliged, at the utmost hazard, and at an expense not to be calculated, to remedy what it is, perhaps, now in our power to prevent with very little difficulty.

That this danger is too near to be merely chimerical, that the queen of Hungary is invaded, and her right to the imperial dignity contested, is well known; it is, therefore, the time for fulfilling our engagements; engagements of the utmost importance to ourselves and our posterity; and I hope the government will not be accused of profusion, if, for three hundred thousand pounds, the liberties of Europe shall be preserved.

We cannot deny this grant without acting in opposition to our late professions of supporting his majesty in his endeavours to maintain the Pragmatick sanction, and of assisting him to defend his foreign dominions from any injuries to which those endeavours should expose them; for how can he without forces defend his dominions, or assist his ally? or how can he maintain forces without supplies?

Mr. SHIPPEN next rose, and spoke thus:--Sir, as I have always endeavoured to act upon conviction of my duty, to examine opinions before I admit them, and to speak what I have thought the truth, I do not easily change my conduct, or retract my assertions; nor am I deterred from repeating my arguments when I have a right to speak, by the remembrance that they have formerly been unsuccessful.

Every man, when he is confident himself, conceives himself able to persuade others, and imagines that their obstinacy proceeds from other motives than reason; and that, if he fails at one time to gain over his audience, he may yet succeed in some happier moment, when their prejudices shall be dissipated, or their interest varied.

For this reason, though it cannot be suspected that I have forgotten the resentment which I have formerly drawn upon myself, by an open declaration of my sentiments with regard to Hanover, I stand up again, with equal confidence, to make my protestations against any interposition in the affairs of that country, and to avow my dislike of the promise lately made to defend it: a promise, inconsistent, in my opinion, with that important and inviolable law, the act of settlement!--a promise, which, if it could have been foreknown, would, perhaps, have for ever precluded from the succession that illustrious family, to which we owe such numberless blessings, such continued felicity!

Far be it from me to insinuate that we can be too grateful to his majesty, or too zealous in our adherence to him; only let us remember, that true gratitude consists in real benefits, in promoting the true interest of him to whom we are indebted; and surely, by hazarding the welfare of Britain in defence of Hanover, we shall very little consult the advantage, or promote the greatness of our sovereign.

It is well known how inconsiderable, in the sight of those by whom the succession was established, Hanover appeared, in comparison with Britain. Those men, to whom even their enemies have seldom denied praise for knowledge and capacity, and who have been so loudly celebrated by many, who have joined in the last address, for their honest zeal, and the love of their country, enacted, that the king of Britain should never visit those important territories, which we have so solemnly promised to defend, at the hazard of our happiness. It was evidently their design that our sovereign, engrossed by the care of his new subjects, a care which, as they reasonably imagined, would arise from gratitude for dignity and power so liberally conferred, should in time forget that corner of the earth on which his ancestors had resided, and act, not as elector of Hanover, but as king of Britain, as the governour of a mighty nation, and the lord of large dominions.

It was expressly determined, that, this nation should never be involved in war for the defence of the dominions on the continent, and, doubtless, the same policy that has restrained us from extending our conquests in countries from which some advantages might be received, ought to forbid all expensive and hazardous measures, for the sake of territories from whence no benefit can be reaped.

Nor are the purposes, sir, for which this supply is demanded, the only objections that may be urged against it, for the manner in which it is asked, makes it necessary at least to delay it. The ministers have been so little accustomed to refusals that they have forgot when to ask with decency, and expect the treasure of the nation to be poured upon them, whenever they shall think it proper to hint that they have discovered some new opportunity of expense.

It is necessary, that when a supply is desired, the house should be informed, some time before, of the sum that is required, and of the ends to which it is to be applied, that every member may consider, at leisure, the expediency of the measures proposed, and the proportion of the sum to the occasion on which it is demanded; that he may examine what are the most proper methods of raising it, and, perhaps, inquire with what willingness his constituents will advance it.

Whether any man is enabled by his acuteness and experience, to determine all these questions upon momentaneous reflection, I cannot decide. For my part, I confess myself one of those on whom nature has bestowed no such faculties, and therefore move that the consideration of this supply may be deferred for a few days; for if it be now pressed upon us, I shall vote against it, because I do not yet fully discover all the reasons for it, nor all the consequences which it may produce, and I think myself obliged to know for what purpose I give away the money which is not my own.

Mr. VYNER spoke as follows:--Sir, whatever may be the necessity of maintaining the Pragmatick sanction, or whatever the obligations of national pacts, of which I hope no man is desirous of countenancing the neglect, yet they cannot oblige us to arm without an enemy, to embarrass ourselves with watching every possibility of danger, to garrison dominions which are not threatened, or assert rights which are not invaded.

The expediency of maintaining the house of Austria on the imperial throne, it is not at present necessary to assert, because it does not appear that any other family is aspiring to it. There may, indeed, be whispers of secret designs and artful machinations, whispers, perhaps, spread only to affright the court into treaties, or the senate into grants; or designs, which, like a thousand others that every day produces, innumerable accidents may defeat; which may be discovered, not only before they are executed, but before they are fully formed, and which, therefore, are not worthy to engross much of our attention, or to exhaust the wealth of the people.

The Pragmatick sanction is nothing more than a settlement of the imperial dignity upon the eldest daughter of the late German emperour and her son; and if she has no son, upon the son of the second daughter; nor has the crown of Britain, by engaging to support that sanction, promised any thing more than to preserve this order of succession, which no power, at present, is endeavouring to interrupt; and which, therefore, at present, requires no defence.

The dispute, sir, between the king of Prussia and the queen of Hungary, is of a different kind; nor is it our duty to engage in it, either as parties or judges. He lays claim to certain territories usurped, as he alleges, from his ancestors by the Austrian family, and asserts, by force, this claim, which is equally valid, whether the queen be emperess or not. We have no right to limit his dominions, or obligation to examine the justice of his demands. If he is only endeavouring to gain what has been forcibly withheld from him, what right have we to obstruct his undertaking? And if the queen can show a better title, she is, like all other sovereigns, at liberty to maintain it; nor are we necessarily to erect ourselves into judges between sovereigns, or distributors of dominions.

The contest seems to have very little relation to the Pragmatick sanction: if the king of Prussia succeeds, he will contribute to support it; and if the queen is able to frustrate his designs, she will be too powerful to need our assistance.

But though, sir, the Pragmatick sanction were in danger of violation, are we to stand up alone in defence of it, while other nations, equally engaged with ourselves by interest and by treaties, sit still to look upon the contest, and gather those advantages of peace which we indiscreetly throw away? Are we able to maintain it without assistance, or are we to exhaust our country, and ruin our posterity in prosecution of a hopeless project, to spend what can never be repaid, and to fight with certainty of a defeat?

The Dutch, whose engagements and whose interests are the same as our own, have not yet made any addition to their expenses, nor augmentation of their troops; nor does a single potentate of Europe, however united by long alliances to the house of Austria, or however endangered by revolutions in the empire, appear to rouse at the approach of alarm, or think himself obliged to provoke enemies by whom he is not yet injured.

I cannot, therefore, persuade myself that we are to stand up single in the defence of the Pragmatick sanction, to fight the quarrel of others, or live in perpetual war, that our neighbours may be at peace.

I shall always think it my duty to disburse the publick money with the utmost parsimony, nor ever intend, but on the most pressing necessity, to load with new exactions a nation already overwhelmed with debts, harassed with taxes, and plundered by a standing army.

For what purpose these numerous forces are maintained, who are now preying on the publick; why we increase our armies by land when we only fight by sea; why we aggravate the burden of the war, and add domestick oppressions to foreign injuries, I am at a loss to determine. Surely some regard should be had to the satisfaction of the people, who ought not, during the present scarcity of provisions, to be starved by the increase of an army, which seems supported only to consume them.

As, therefore, part of our present expense is, in my opinion, unnecessary, I shall not contribute to aggravate it by a new grant, for purposes of which I cannot discover that they will promote the advantage of the publick.

Sir Robert WALPOLE replied to the following effect:--Sir, the Pragmatick sanction, which we are engaged to support, is not confined to the preservation of the order of succession, but extends to all the rights of the house of Austria, which is now attacked, and by a very formidable enemy, at a time of weakness and distraction, and therefore requires our assistance.

That others, equally obliged by treaty and by interest to lend their help on this occasion, sit reluctive, either through cowardice or negligence, or some prospect of temporary advantage, may, perhaps, be true; but is it any excuse of a crime, that he who commits it is not the only criminal? Will the breach of faith in others excuse it in us? Ought we not rather to animate them by our activity, instruct them by our example, and awaken them by our representations?

Perhaps the other powers say to themselves, and to one another, Why should we keep that treaty which Britain is violating? Why should we expose ourselves to danger, of which that mighty nation, so celebrated for courage, is afraid? Why should we rush into war, in which our most powerful ally seems unwilling to support us?

Thus the same argument, an argument evidently false, and made specious only by interest, may be used by all, till some one, more bold and honest than the rest, shall dare to rise in vindication of those rights which all have promised to maintain; and why should not the greatest nation be the first that shall avow her solemn engagements? Why should not they be most diligent in the prosecution of an affair who have most to lose by its miscarriage?

I am always willing to believe, that no member of this assembly makes use, in any solemn debate, of arguments which do not appear rational to himself, and yet it is difficult to conceive that any man can imagine himself released from a promise, because the same promise is broken by another, or that he is at liberty to desert his friend in distress, because others desert him, whose good offices he has equal reason to expect, and that the more his assistance is needed, the more right he has to deny it.

Surely such arguments as these deserve not, need not a confutation. Before we regulate our conduct by that of others, we must either prove that they have done right, which proof will be a sufficient defence without the precedent, or own that they are more capable of judging than we, and that, therefore, we pay an implicit submission to their dictates and example; a sacrifice which we shall not willingly make to the vanity of our neighbours.

In the present case it is evident that if other nations neglect the performance of their contracts, they are guilty of the breach of publick faith; of a crime, that, if it should generally be imitated, would dissolve society, and throw human nature into confusion, that would change the most happy region into deserts, in which one savage would be preying on another.

Nor are they only propagating an example, which in some distant times may be pleaded against themselves, but they are exposing themselves to more immediate dangers; they are forwarding designs that have no tendency but to their ruin, they are adding strength to their inveterate enemies, and beckoning invasion to their own frontiers.

Let us, therefore, instead of hardening ourselves in perfidy, or lulling ourselves in security by their example, exert all our influence to unite them, and all our power to assist them. Let us show them what they ought to determine by our resolutions, and teach them to act by our vigour; that, if the house of Austria be preserved, our alliance may be strengthened by new motives of gratitude; and that, if it must be that the liberties of this part of the world be lost, we may not reproach ourselves with having neglected to defend them.

Mr. PELHAM spoke next to this purpose:--Sir, it is not to be supposed that such members of this assembly as are not engaged in publick affairs, should receive very exact intelligence of the dispositions of foreign powers, and, therefore, I do not wonder that the conduct of the Dutch has been misrepresented, and that they are suspected of neglecting their engagements at a time when they are endeavouring to perform them.

The Dutch have now under consideration the most proper methods of assisting the queen of Hungary, and maintaining the Pragmatick sanction; it may be, indeed, justly suspected, from the nature of their constitution, that their motions will be slow, but it cannot be asserted, that they break their engagements, or desert their confederates.

Nor is there any reason for imagining that the other princes, who have incurred the same obligations, will not endeavour to perform their promises; it may be easily conceived that some of them are not able at a sudden summons to afford great assistance, and that others may wait the result of our deliberations, and regulate their conduct by our example.

Not that we ought to neglect our engagements, or endanger our country, because other powers are either perfidious, or insensible; for I am not afraid to declare, that if that should happen, which there is no reason to suspect, if all the other powers should desert the defence of the Austrian line, should consent to annul the Pragmatick sanction, and leave the queen of Hungary to the mercy of her enemies, I would advise that Britain alone should pour her armies into the continent, that she should defend her ally against the most formidable confederacy, and show mankind an example of constancy not to be shaken, and of faith not to be violated.

If it be, therefore, our duty to support the Pragmatick sanction, it is now the time for declaring our resolutions, when the imperial crown is claimed by a multitude of competitors, among whom the elector of Bavaria, a very powerful prince, has, by his minister, notified his pretensions to the court of Britain.

The ancient alliance between this prince and the French is well known, nor can we doubt that he will now implore their assistance for the attainment of the throne to which he aspires; and I need not say what may be expected from an emperour, whose elevation was procured by the forces of France.

Nor is this the only prince that claims the imperial crown upon plausible pretences, or whose claims other powers may combine to support; it is well known, that even the Spanish monarch believes himself entitled to it, nor can we, who have no communication with him, know whether he has not declared to all the other princes of Europe, his resolution to assert his claim.

It is far from being impossible that the pretensions of the house of Bourbon may be revived, and that though no single prince of that family should attempt to mount the imperial throne, they may all conspire to dismember the empire into petty kingdoms, and free themselves from the dread of a formidable neighbour, by erecting a number of diminutive sovereigns, who may be always courting the assistance of their protectors, for the sake of harassing each other.

Thus will the house by which Europe has been hitherto protected, sink into an empty name, and we shall be left to stand alone against all the powers that profess a different religion, and whose interest is opposite to that of Britain.

We ought, indeed, to act with the utmost vigour, when we see one of the most powerful of the reformed princes so far forgetful of the interest of our religion, as to cooperate with the designs of France, and so intent upon improving the opportunity of distressing the house of Austria, as to neglect the common cause, and expose himself or his posterity to the danger of becoming a dependant on the house of Bourbon.

For this reason, I cannot agree that our army, though numerous and burdensome, is greater than the necessity of affairs requires: if we cast our eyes on the continent, nothing is to be seen but general confusion, powerful armies in motion, the dominions of one prince invaded, of another threatened; the tumults of ambition in one place, and a panick stillness in another.

What will be the event of these commotions who can discover? And how can we know what may determine the course of that flood of power, which is now in a state of uncertain fluctuation, or seems driven to different points by different impulses? How soon may the Dutch see their barrier attacked, and call upon us for the ten thousand men which we are obliged to send them? How soon may the house of Austria be so distressed, as to require all our power for its preservation?

That we are to leave nothing unattempted for the security of our own religion and liberty, will easily be granted, and, therefore, unless it can be proved that we may be equally secure, though the house of Austria be ruined, it will necessarily follow that we are, with all our power, to enforce the observation of the Pragmatick sanction.

This is not an act of romantick generosity, but such as the closest attention to our own interest shows to be necessary; in defending the queen of Hungary we defend ourselves, and only extinguish that flame, by which, if it be suffered to spread, we shall ourselves be consumed. The empire may be considered as the bulwark of Britain, which, if it be thrown down, leaves us naked and defenceless.

Let us, therefore, consider our own danger, and remember, that while we are considering this supply, we are deliberating upon nothing less than the fate of our country.

Mr. PULTENEY spoke next, to the effect following:--Sir, I am on this occasion of an opinion different from that of the honourable member who spoke the second in this debate, though on most questions our judgment has been the same. I am so far from seconding his proposal for delaying the consideration of this supply, that I think it may justly be inquired, why it was not sooner proposed.

For the support of the house of Austria, and the assertion of the Pragmatick sanction, no man can be more zealous than myself; I am convinced how closely the interest of this nation and that of the Austrian family are united, and how much either must be endangered by the ruin of the other, and, therefore, I shall not delay, for a single moment, my consent to any measures that may reestablish our interest on the continent, and rescue Germany once more from the jaws of France.

I am afraid that we have lost part of our influence in the neighbouring countries, and that the name of Britain is less formidable than heretofore; but if reputation is lost, it is time to recover it, and I doubt not but it may be recovered by the same means that it was at first obtained. Our armies may be yet equally destructive, and our money equally persuasive.

We have not yet suffered, amidst all our misconduct, our naval force to be diminished; our sailors yet retain their ancient courage, and our fleets are sufficient to keep the dominion of the ocean, and prescribe limits to the commerce of every nation. While this power remains unimpaired, while Britain retains her natural superiority, and asserts the honour of her flag in every climate, we cannot become despicable, nor can any nation ridicule our menaces or scorn our alliance. We may still extend our influence to the inland countries, and awe those nations which we cannot invade.

To preserve this power let us watch over the disposal of our money; money is the source of dominion; those nations may be formidable for their affluence which are not considerable for their numbers; and by a negligent profusion of their wealth, the most powerful people may languish into imbecility, and sink into contempt.

If the grant which is now demanded will be sufficient to produce the ends to which it is proposed to be applied, if we are assured of the proper application of it, I shall agree to it without hesitation. But though it cannot be affirmed that the sum now demanded is too high a price for the liberties of Europe, it is at least more than ought to be squandered without effect, and we ought at least to know before we grant it, what advantages may be expected from it.

May not the sum demanded for the support of the queen of Hungary be employed to promote very different interests? May it not be lavished to support that power, to which our grants have too long contributed? that power by which ourselves have been awed, and the administration has tyrannised without control?

If this sum is really intended to support the queen of Hungary, may we not inquire how it is to be employed for her service? Is it to be sent her for the payment of her armies, and the support of her court? Should we not more effectually secure her dominions by purchasing with it the friendship and assistance of the king of Prussia, a prince, whose extent of dominions and numerous forces, make him not more formidable than his personal qualities.

What may be hoped, sir, from a prince of wisdom and courage, at the head of a hundred and ten thousand regular troops, with eight millions in his treasury? How much he must necessarily add to the strength of any party in which he shall engage, is unnecessary to mention; it is evident, without proof, that nothing could so much contribute to the reestablishment of the house of Austria, as a reconciliation with this mighty prince, and that, to bring it to pass, would be the most effectual method of serving the unfortunate queen that requires our assistance.

Why we should despair, sir, of such a reconciliation I cannot perceive; a reconciliation equally conducive to the real interest of both parties. It may be proved, with very little difficulty, to the king of Prussia, that he is now assisting those with whom interests incompatible and religions irreconcilable have set him at variance, whom he can never see prosperous but by the diminution of his own greatness, and who will always project his ruin while they are enjoying the advantages of his victories. We may easily convince him that their power will soon become, by his assistance, such as he cannot hope to withstand, and show, from the examples of other princes, how dangerous it is to add to the strength of an ambitious neighbour. We may show him how much the fate of the empire is now in his hands, and how much more glorious and more advantageous it will be to preserve it from ruin, than to contribute to its destruction.

If by such arguments, sir, this potent monarch can be induced to act steadily in defence of the common cause, we may once more stand at the head of a protestant confederacy; of a confederacy that may contract the views and repress the ambition of the house of Bourbon, and alter their schemes of universal monarchy into expedients for the defence of their dominions.

But in transacting these affairs, let us not engage in any intricate treaties, nor amuse ourselves with displaying our abilities for negotiation; negotiation, that fatal art which we have learned as yet very imperfectly, and which we have never attempted to practise but to our own loss. While we have been entangled in tedious disquisitions, and retarded by artful delays, while our commissaries have been debating about what was only denied to produce controversies, and inquiring after that which has been hid from them only to divert their attention from other questions, how many opportunities have been lost, and how often might we have secured by war, what was, at a much greater expense, lost by treaties.

Treaties, sir, are the artillery of our enemies, to which we have nothing to oppose; they are weapons of which we know not the use, and which we can only escape by not coming within their reach. I know not by what fatality it is, that to treat and to be cheated, are, with regard to Britons, words of the same signification; nor do I intend, by this observation, to asperse the characters of particular persons, for treaties, by whomsoever carried on, have ended always with the same success.

It is time, therefore, to know, at length, our weakness and our strength, and to resolve no longer to put ourselves voluntarily into the power of our enemies: our troops have been always our ablest negotiators, and to them it has been, for the most part, necessary at last to refer our cause.

Let us, then, always preserve our martial character, and neglect the praise of political cunning; a quality which, I believe, we shall never attain, and which, if we could obtain, would add nothing to our honour. Let it be the practice of the Britons to declare their resolutions without reserve, and adhere to them in opposition to danger; let them be ambitious of no other elogies than those which may be gained by honesty and courage, nor will they then ever find their allies diffident, or their enemies contemptuous.

By recovering and asserting this character, we may become once more the arbiters of Europe, and be courted by all the protestant powers as their protectors: we may once more subdue the ambition of the aspiring French, and once more deliver the house of Austria from the incessant pursuit of those restless enemies.

The defence of that illustrious family, sir, has always appeared to me, since I studied the state of Europe, the unvariable interest of the British nation, and our obligations to support it on this particular occasion have already been sufficiently explained.

Whence it proceeded, sir, that those who now so zealously espouse the Austrian interest, have been so plainly forgetful of it on other occasions, I cannot determine. That treaties have been made very little to the advantage of that family, and that its enemies have been suffered to insult it without opposition, is well known; nor was it long ago that it was debated in this house, whether any money should be lent to the late emperour.

No publick or private character can be supported, no enemy, sir, can be intimidated, nor any friend confirmed in his adherence, but by a steady and consistent conduct, by proposing, in all our actions, such ends as may be openly avowed, and by pursuing them without regard to temporary inconveniencies, or petty obstacles.

Such conduct, sir, I would gladly recommend on the present occasion, on which I should be far from advising a faint, an irresolute, or momentary assistance, such supplies as declare diffidence in our own strength, or a mean inclination to please contrary parties at the same time, to perform our engagements with the queen, and continue our friendship with France. It is, in my opinion, proper to espouse our ally with the spirit of a nation that expects her decisions to be ratified, that holds the balance of the world in her hand, and can bestow conquest and empire at her pleasure.

Yet, sir, it cannot be denied that many powerful reasons may be brought against any new occasions of expense, nor is it without horrour and astonishment that any man, conversant in political calculations, can consider the enormous profusion of the national treasure. In the late dreadful confusion of the world, when the ambition of France had set half the nations of the earth on flame, when we sent our armies to the continent, and fought the general quarrel of mankind, we paid, during the reigns of king William and his great successour, reigns of which every summer was distinguished by some important action, but four millions yearly.

But our preparations for the present war, in which scarcely a single ship of war has been taken, or a single fortress laid in ruins, have brought upon the nation an expense of five millions. So much more are we now obliged to pay to amuse the weakest, than formerly to subdue the most powerful of our enemies.

Frugality, which is always prudent, is, at this time, sir, indispensable, when war, dreadful as it is, may be termed the lightest of our calamities; when the seasons have disappointed us of bread, and an universal scarcity afflicts the nation. Every day brings us accounts from different parts of the country, and every account is a new evidence of the general calamity, of the want of employment for the poor, and its necessary consequence, the want of food.

He that is scarce able to preserve himself, cannot be expected to assist others; nor is that money to be granted to foreign powers, which is wanted for the support of our fellow-subjects, who are now languishing with diseases, which unaccustomed hardships and unwholesome provisions have brought upon them, while we are providing against distant dangers, and bewailing the distresses of the house of Austria.

Let us not add to the miseries of famine the mortifications of insult and neglect; let our countrymen, at least, divide our care with our allies, and while we form schemes for succouring the queen of Hungary, let us endeavour to alleviate nearer distresses, and prevent or pacify domestick discontents.

If there be any man whom the sight of misery cannot move to compassion, who can hear the complaints of want without sympathy, and see the general calamity of his country without employing one hour on schemes for its relief; let not that man dare to boast of integrity, fidelity, or honour; let him not presume to recommend the preservation of our faith, or adherence to our confederates: that wretch can have no real regard to any moral obligation, who has forgotten those first duties which nature impresses; nor can he that neglects the happiness of his country, recommend any good action for a good reason.

It should be considered, sir, that we can only be useful to our allies, and formidable to our enemies, by being unanimous and mutually confident of the good intentions of each other, and that nothing but a steady attention to the publick welfare, a constant readiness to remove grievances, and an apparent unwillingness to impose new burdens, can produce that unanimity.

As the cause is, therefore, necessarily to precede the effect, as foreign influence is the consequence of happiness at home, let us first endeavour to establish that alacrity and security that may animate the people to assert their ancient superiority to other nations, and restore that plenty which may raise them above any temptation to repine at assistance given to our allies.

No man, sir, can very solicitously watch over the welfare of his neighbour whose mind is depressed by poverty, or distracted by terrour; and when the nation shall see us anxious for the preservation of the queen of Hungary, and unconcerned about the wants of our fellow-subjects, what can be imagined, but that we have some method of exempting ourselves from the common distress, and that we regard not the publick misery when we do not feel it?

Sir Robert WALPOLE replied, to the following effect:--Sir, it is always proper for every man to lay down some principles upon which he proposes to act, whether in publick or private; that he may not be always wavering, uncertain, and irresolute; that his adherents may know what they are to expect, and his adversaries be able to tell why they are opposed.

It is necessary, sir, even for his own sake, that he may not be always struggling with himself; that he may know his own determinations, and enforce them by the reasons which have prevailed upon him to form them; that he may not argue in the same speech to contrary purposes, and weary the attention of his hearers with contrasts and antitheses.

When a man admits the necessity of granting a supply, expatiates upon the danger that may be produced by retarding it, declares against the least delay, however speciously proposed, and enforces the arguments which have been already offered to show how much it is our duty and interest to allow it; may it not reasonably be imagined, that he intends to promote it, and is endeavouring to convince them of that necessity of which he seems himself convinced?

But when the same man proceeds to display, with equal eloquence, the present calamities of the nation, and tells to how much better purposes the sum thus demanded may be applied; when he dwells upon the possibility that an impolitick use may be made of the national treasure, and hints that it may be asked for one purpose and employed to another, what can be collected from his harangue, however elegant, entertaining, and pathetick? How can his true opinion be discovered? Or how shall we fix such fugitive reasonings, such variable rhetorick?

I am not able, sir, to discern, why truth should be obscured; or why any man should take pleasure in heaping together all the arguments that his knowledge may supply, or his imagination suggest, against a proposition which he cannot deny. Nor can I assign any good purpose that can be promoted by perpetual renewals of debate, and by a repetition of objections, which have in former conferences, on the same occasion, been found of little force.

When the system of affairs is not fully laid open, and the schemes of the administration are in part unknown, it is easy to raise objections formidable in appearance, which, perhaps, cannot be answered till the necessity of secrecy is taken away. When any general calamity has fallen upon a nation, it is a very fruitful topick of rhetorick, and may be very pathetically exaggerated, upon a thousand occasions to which it has no necessary relation.

Such, In my opinion, sir, is the use now made of the present scarcity, a misfortune inflicted upon us by the hand of providence alone; not upon us only, but upon all the nations on this side of the globe, many of which suffer more, but none less than ourselves.

If at such a time it is more burdensome to the nation to raise supplies, it must be remembered, that it is in proportion difficult to other nations to oppose those measures for which the supplies are granted; and that the same sum is of greater efficacy in times of scarcity than of plenty.

Our present distress will, I hope, soon be at an end; and, perhaps, a few days may produce at least some alteration. It is not without reason, that I expect the news of some successful attempts in America, which will convince the nation, that the preparations for war have not been idle shows, contrived to produce unnecessary expenses.

In the mean time it is necessary that we support that power which may be able to assist us against France, the only nation from which any danger can threaten us, even though our fleets in America should be unsuccessful.

If we defeat the Spaniards, we may assist the house of Austria without difficulty, and if we fail in our attempts, their alliance will be more necessary. The sum demanded for this important purpose cannot be censured as exorbitant, yet will, I hope, be sufficient: if more should hereafter appear necessary, I doubt not but it will be granted.

The question passed without opposition.


(The end)
Samuel Johnson's Writing: Debate On Supporting The Queen Of Hungary

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