Imágenes de páginas

resistance ridiculous, and at once demanded and obtained possession. The first account of any discontent expressed by the Spaniards was brought by captain Hunt, who arriving at Plymouth, June 3, 1770, informed the Admiralty that the island had been claimed in December by the governor of Port Solidad. This claim, made by an officer of so little dignity, without any known direction from his superiors, could be considered only as the zeal or officiousness of an individual, unworthy of public notice, or the formality of remonstrance. In August Mr. Harris, the resident at Madrid, gave notice to lord Wcymouth of an account newly brought to Cadiz, that the English were in possession of Port Cuizada, the same which we call Port Egmont, in the Magtttanick sea; that in January they had warned away two Spanish ships; and that an armament was sent out in May from Buenos Ayres to dislodge them. It was perhaps not yet certain that this account was true; but the information, however faithful, was too late for prevention. It was easily known, that a fleet dispatched in May had before August succeeded or miscarried. In October captain Maltby came to England, and gave the account which I have now epitomised, of his expulsion from Falkland's Islands. From this moment the whole nation can witness that no time was lost. The navy was surveyed, the ships refitted, and commanders appointed; and a powerful fleet was assembled, well manned and well stored, with expedition after so long a peace perhaps never known before, and with vigour which after the waste of so long a war scarcely any other nation had been capable «f exerting.

This' preparation, so illustrious in the eyes of Europe, and so efficacious in its event, was obstructed by the utmost power of that noisy faction which has too long filled the kingdom, sometimes with the roar of empty menace, and sometimes with the yell of hypocritical lamentation. Every man saw, and every honest man saw with detestation, that they who desired to force their sovereign into war, endeavoured at the same time to disable him from action. The vigour and spirit of the ministry easily broke through all the machinations of these pygmy rebels, and our armament was quickly such as was likely to make our negociations effectual.

The prince of Masseran, in his first conference with the English ministers on this occasion, owned that he had from Madrid received intelligence that the English had been forcibly expelled from Falkland's Island by Buccarelli, the governor of Buenos Ayres, without any particular orders from the king of Spain. But being asked, whether in his master's name he disavowed Buccarelli's violence, he refused to answer without direction. The scene of negociation was now removed to Madrid, and in September Mr. Harris was directed to demand from Grimaldi the Spanish minister, the restitution of Falkland's Island, and a disavowal of Buccarclli'a hostilities. It was to be expected that Grimaldi would object to us our own behaviour, who had ordered the Spaniards to depart from the same island. To this it was replied, that the English forces were indeed directed to warn other nations away; but if compliance were refused, to proceed quietly in making their settlement, and suffer the subjects of whatever power to remain there without molestation. By possession thus taken, there was •nly a' disputable claim advanced, which might be peaceably and regularly decided, without insult and without force; and if the Spaniards had complained at the British court, their reasons would have been heard, and all injuries redressed; but that, by presupposing the justice of their own title, and having recourse to arms, without any previous notice or remonstrance, they had violated the peace, and insulted the British government; and therefore it was expected that satisfaction should be made by public disavowal, and immediate restitution. The answer of Grimaldi was ambiguous and cold. He did not allow that any particular orders had been given for driving the English from their settlement; but made no scruple of declaring, that such an ejection was nothing more than the settlers might have expected; and that Buccarelli had not, in his opinion, incurred any blame, as the general injunctions to the American governors were, to suffer no encroachments on the Spanish dominions. In October the prince of Masseran proposed a convention for the accommodation of differences by mutual concessions, in which the warning given to the Spaniards by Hunt should be disavowed on one side, and the violence used by Buccarelli on the other. This offer was considered as little less than a new insult, and Grimaldi was told, that injury required reparation; that when either party had suffered evident wrong, there was not the parity subsisting which is implied in conventions and contracts; that we considered ourselves as openly insulted, and demanded satisfaction plenary and unconditional. Grimaldi affected to wonder that we were not yet appeased by their concessions. They had, he said, granted all that was required; they had offered to r£r store the island in the state in which they found it; but he thought that they likewise might hope for some regard, and that the warning sent by Hunt would be disavowed. Mr. Harris, our minister at Madrid, insisted that the injured party had a right to unconditional reparation, and Grimaldi delayed his answer that a council might be called. In a few days orders were dispatched to prince Masseran, by which he was commissioned to declare the king of Spain's readiness to satisfy the demands of the king of England, in expectation of receiving from him reciprocal satisfaction, by the disavowal, so often required, of Hunt's warning. Finding the Spaniards disposed to make no other acknowledgments, the English ministry considered a war as not likely to be long avoided. In the latter end of November private notice was given of their danger to the merchants at Cadiz, and the officers absent from Gibraltar were remanded to their posts. Our naval force was every day increased, and we made no abatement of our origmal demand.

- The obstinacy of the Spanish court still continued, and about the end of the year all hope of reconciliation was so nearly extinguished,that Mr. Harris was directed to withdraw, with the usual forms, from his residence at Madrid. Moderation is commonly firm, and firmness is commonly successful; having not swelled our first requisition with any superfluous appendages, we had nothing to yield, we therefore only repeated our first proposition, prepared for war, though desirous of peace. About this time, as is well known, the king of France dismissed Choiseul from his employments. What effect this revolution of the French court had upon the Spanish counsels, I pretend not to be informed. Choiseul had. always professed pacific dispositions, nor is it certain, however it may be suspected, that he talked in different strains to different parties*

It seems to be almost the universal error of historians to suppose it politically, as it is physically true, that every effect has a proportionate cause. In the inanimate action of matter upon matter, the motion produced can be but equal to the force of the moving power; but the operations of life, whether private or public, admit no such laws. The caprices of voluntary agents laugh at calculation. It is not always that there is a strong reason for a great event. Obstinacy and flexibility, malignity and kindness, give place alternately to each other, and the reason of these vicissitudes, however important may be the consequences, often escapes the mind in which the change is made. Whether the alteration which began in January to appear in the Spanish counsels, had any other cause than conviction of the impropriety of their past conduct, and of the danger of a new war, it is not easy to decide; but they began, whatever was the reason, to relax their haughtiness, and Mr. Harris's departure was countermanded. The demands first made by England were still continued, and on January 22d, the prince of Masseran delivered a declaration, in which the king of Spain disavows the violent enterprise of Buccarclli, and promises to restore the port and fort called Egmont, with. all the artillery and stores, according to the inventfaryn

To this promise of restitution is subjoined that this, engagement to restore Port Egmont, cannot, nor ought m any wise to affect the question of the prior right of sovereignty of the Malouine otherwise called Falkland's Islands.

« AnteriorContinuar »