HC Deb 26 January 1808 vol 10 cc106-9

No. VI.—Note from Mr. Secretary Canning to the prince de Starhemberg, dated Jan. 8, 1808.

The undersigned, his majesty's principal secretary of state for foreign affairs, has laid before the king his master, the note delivered to him the second of this month by the prince de Starhemberg, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of his majesty the emperor of Austria.—In stating himself to be charged to propose to the British government the immediate sending of plenipotentiaries to Paris, the prince de Starhemberg has omitted to explain from whom he has received that commission, whether from his imperial master or from the government of France.—If the prince de Starhemberg has, in this instance, acted under the specific and immediate orders of his court, and if the proposal to his majesty to send plenipotentiaries to Paris is to be considered as originating at Vienna, the undersigned is commanded to express his majesty's concern that so little reference should appear to have been had, in framing the proposal now offered for his majesty's consideration, to the correspondence which has already taken place between the courts of London and Vienna, upon the subject of a negotiation for peace.—After so long an interval has been suffered to elapse since the acceptance by his majesty, in April last, of the offer of his imperial majesty's meditation, his majesty could hardly have expected that the same offer should now be repeated (if indeed the prince de Starhemberg's note is to be construed as a repetition of it) without any notification of the acceptance of those conditions which were at that time stated by his majesty to be indispensable preliminaries to the opening of a negotiation. And while the note of the undersigned of the 23d of November last is cited by the prince de Starhemberg as the foundation of the present proposal, his majesty observes with surprize, that this proposal nevertheless extends only to the powers combined with France in the war against Great Britain, and not to the allies of Great Britain in the war with France.—If, on the other hand, the court of Vienna is no otherwise concerned in the step which the prince de Starhemberg has taken, than as having generally authorized that minister to receive and to convey to the British government whatever communications the government of France might think fit to intrust to him, the undersigned is commanded, in that case, to remark to the prince de Starhemberg, that although the character which the prince de Starhemberg holds from the court of Vienna, and the formalities by which he is accredited to his majesty, entitle him to immediate and implicit confidence in every exercise of his diplomatic functions, in the name and on the behalf of his imperial master; yet that when he professes to speak in the name of another power, the statement of some precise authority, and the production of some specifick and authenticated document, could alone justify the court to which he addresses himself, in founding a publick and important measure upon such a communication. From the tenour of the prince de Starhemberg's note it appears, that the note of the undersigned of the 23d of November has been communicated to the government of France.—The government of France is therefore in possession of a solemn and authentick pledge of the pacifick dispositions of his majesty. It follows that a pledge equally solemn and authentick of the reciprocal dispositions of France, is reasonably to be expected by his majesty, before his majesty can be called upon to make any further advance.—The proposal to his majesty to send negotiators to Paris, unac- companied as it is with any ostensible and unequivocal return on the part of France for the declarations already made in his majesty's name, is so far from being a proof of any such reciprocal disposition, that it can be construed no otherwise by his majesty than as implying an unjustifiable doubt of the sincerity of his majesty's professions.—Nor is the want of such formal authority and of such reciprocal assurance, the only, or the most material defect in the prince de Starhemberg's communication.—His majesty is called upon to send plenipotentiaries to Paris to negotiate for peace, without the slightest intimation being given to his majesty of the basis on which it is proposed that such negotiation should be founded.—If it could ever have been matter of doubt whether the previous settlement of a basis of negotiation were necessary to the hope of its successful termination, the experience of the last negotiation with France would have placed that question beyond controversy.—The experience of the last negotiation has further demonstrated the disadvantage and inconveniency of a negotiation conducted at Paris.—His majesty is willing to treat with France: but he will treat only on a footing of perfect equality. He is ready to treat with the allies of France: but the negotiation must equally embrace the interests of the allies of Great Britain.—As soon as the basis of negotiation shall have been satisfactorily ascertained, and an unexceptionable place of negotiation agreed upon, his majesty will be prepared to name plenipotentiaries to meet those of the other powers engaged in the war: but his majesty will not again consent to send his plenipotentiaries to a hostile capital.—But while his majesty has permitted the undersigned to address this frank and unequivocal exposition of his majesty's sentiments to the minister of the emperor of Austria, the undersigned is at the same time charged to state distinctly to the prince de Starhemberg, that not having received any authentic proof of the prince de Starhemberg's commission to enter into any explanations in the name of the French government, or to afford any assurance by which that government could be bound, his majesty has not directed the undersigned to give any authority to the prince de Starhemberg to speak in the name of his majesty to the government of France. The undersigned has the honour to request the prince de Starhemberg to accept, &c. GEORGE CANNING.

No. VII.—Note from the prince de Starhemberg to Mr. Secretary Canning, dated London, Jan. 12, 1808, Received the 13th.

The undersigned has the honour to inform his excellency the secretary of state for the foreign department, that in consequence of orders from his court, the present circumstances oblige him to demand passports for himself and all the individuals of the Austrian mission at London. The undersigned purposes to make use of them as soon as he shall have received from the French government the passports which he demanded by the messenger whom he dispatched yesterday. The undersigned, &c.