said, he rose in pursuance of the notice he had given, to move for such information as could be furnished, with reference to any instructions that his Majesty's ministers might have given to our naval commanders in the Mediterranean, on the subject of the Island of Elba, and for information as to any disclosure which might have been made to them with respect to the projects of Buonaparté, while en that island, together with the means which had, in consequence, been taken, to counteract those projects, simply on these grounds—because the return of that individual to the throne of France was an event of such awful importance, and so deeply affected the interests of Europe, that the House would desert the duty they owed to their constituents, to themselves, and to Europe in general, if they did not attempt to ascertain, whether, by greater prudence and greater foresight, 717 on the part of his majesty's ministers, that occurrence might not hare been prevented. The Message from the Throne informed the House, that in consequence of the events which had recently occurred in France, it was necessary that a great disposable force should be placed in the hands of the executive Government, and that a closer concert should be entered into with his Majesty's Allies. Not one dissenting voice was raised against the Address; and, under these circumstances, he conceived he was entitled to call on the House to determine, whether his Majesty's Government should not be put on their defence, and compelled to show, whether they had not received information as to the intended departure of Buonaparté, and whether they had or had not taken steps to counteract the projects of which they had been apprised. If he asked the House to enter into the consideration of the terms of the Treaty of Fontainbleau—looking to the change of circumstances which had taken place since it was entered into—looking to the alteration of the brilliant prospects which last year opened to the country—he did not think he should be too late even for that discussion. Because, by so doing, he should be calling on those who had claimed the applause and gratitude of the country, as having assisted in the deliverance of Europe, to state why they had placed their fame and the repose of the world on so insecure a foundation. But, as it might be alleged, that he had passed by the proper period for such a discussion, he would not introduce it now. He should, therefore, merely look to the rights which the different parties to the Treaty of Fontainbleau derived under that Treaty, and, in particular, what rights accrued to us, under its provisions. Having ascertained the latter point, it would be for the House to consider whether his Majesty's ministers had exercised due and proper vigilance, in conformity with the rights given to this country by the Treaty. This being his object, it could not be said, that he came forward too late; because, if he had asked for the information he now sought for, at an earlier period, he would then have been told on official authority, that to answer such questions would be a direct breach of public duty, and would tend to defeat the very object which it was proposed to attain. He, therefore, came to the House, with the present motion, most strictly and 718 properly in time. What he proposed was, to call on his Majesty's Government to produce such information as would enable the House and the country to decide, whether, in point of fact, they had exercised a sound discretion, and made use of all those precautionary measures which prudence and reason directed.
It was impossible to discuss these subjects with advantage, without adverting to the circumstances under which the Treaty of Fontainbleau was concluded without, however, entering into the propriety of the terms or conditions of that Treaty. On the subject of the terms, they had heard two statements, directly contradictory of each other. By some persons it was contended, that they proceeded from a mistaken magnanimity on the part of the Allies; while others, and amongst them the noble lord (Castlereagh) asserted, that the Treaty was dictated by hard necessity. He was not inclined to accede to either of these propositions. He thought it was a nearer approximation to truth to suppose that, when the Treaty of Fontainbleau was agreed to, though Buonaparté was not in such a situation as to be immediately compelled to accept any terms that might be offered to him, yet the Allies possessed such superior strength, that, if he had refused those terms which appeared to them calculated to insure the security of Europe, they would have been very speedily enabled to enforce their demand. They, in this situation of affairs, deemed it more wise to accede to the terms which he was willing to take, than to expose Europe to the evils of a protracted contest. At this time, however, Buonaparté had lost his capital, and they were told that he had lost the confidence of his troops, and, above all, that the authority of opinion was no longer in his favour. Disaffection, it appeared, had spread amongst his officers; and his army at Fontainbleau, even if it were joined by the remnant of the force under Mortier and Marmont, did not exceed 50,000 men, to oppose which the Allies had an army of 140,000. Soult was driven from the south of France by the duke of Wellington, and the army of Augereau was opposed by superior numbers. This was the picture drawn at the time by the accredited ministers of this country. They exultingly declared, that Buonaparte, who so recently commanded a mighty empire, then stood alone, and that the Allied Sovereigns were received 719 with such delight in Paris, that they were almost eaten up with the enthusiastic manifestation of public affection. Then came the Treaty of Fontainbleau, which puzzled every one. The noble lord denied that the favourable terms given to Napoleon in this Treaty, arose from any misplaced feeling of generosity; but that it was an act of necessity, dictated by the unabated attachment of the French army to their late ruler. Some persons, indeed, had stated—he knew not whether their information was correct, but that they possessed the means of obtaining accurate intelligence, was indisputable—that so great were the zeal and attachment of the army to Napoleon, that, if favourable terms had not, at the moment, been granted to him, the whole armed population of France would have rallied round his standard. From this it would appear, that he stood upon very high ground, and that a civil war must have ensued, if he were pushed to the utmost extremity. Under these circumstances, then, the Treaty was said to have been formed—and it was necessary to bear them in mind, in order to judge correctly of the conduct that ought subsequently to have been adopted.
Napoleon must have left France, well knowing that his friends had arms in their hands. He must also have been aware, that a large proportion of the people would view his departure with regret, particularly those who were proprietors of confiscated lands, and who, though they might not have been much attached to Buonaparté, must have viewed with apprehension the return of the Bourbons, as threatening the destruction of the tenure by which they held their property. There was another point most material for consideration. It was now admitted, that the Treaty was founded in necessity—that the strength of Buonaparté commanded it. It was stated, that he possessed, at the time, a large force, and yet, in that situation, he preferred negociation to resistance. Now, it was impossible for any person, who knew these circumstances, and was aware of the state of France at time, to entertain a doubt, that Buonaparté felt it better to cherish the future contingent hope of returning back to France, instead of holding out to the last against the Allies, and thus putting all to hazard. At the time the Treaty of Fontainbleau was signed, these several facts were known. It was known that a great 720 number of persons in France were zealously devoted to Buonaparté and they felt, as he did, that it would be better for him to run the chance of returning to France, at some future period, rather than by pertinaciously opposing the Allies, to destroy all hopes of such an event. Now, it could not be supposed, when he left France under such circumstances, that, if a favourable opportunity presented itself, for his return, he would not be most anxious to avail himself of it. The noble lord contended, that, as the Treaty of Fontainbleau was made with an independent sovereignties country had no right to watch him: that having gone to the island of Elba, he had an unimpeachable right to proceed afterwards where he pleased, except to the coast of France. If this were the case, what security was there for his keeping the Treaty of Fontainbleau? If it were said, that his abdication of the throne of France afforded the necessary security, he must state, that this argument would not serve the noble lord or his colleagues, who had all along described Buonaparté as a person who never would abide by a treaty prejudicial to his interests, if he possessed the means and power of breaking it. But he did not think the construction given to the Treaty of Fontainbleau by the noble lord, was the true one. On the contrary, he conceived, that the right of watching and detaining Buonaparté, under certain circumstances, did arise out of the Treaty The spirit of the Treaty was not confined merely to his abdication of the throne o France. What necessarily followed from that stipulation? Assuredly, that he should not be suffered, hereafter, to disturb the peace and security of that country. No one could suppose that, at Elba, Buonaparté could devise the means of invading France, as those sovereigns might do, who possessed more extensive means. He hopes rested alone on the people and the army of France; and these engines could not be rendered dangerous to the peace of that country, unless he was personally present. His personal movements ought therefore, to have been watched with scrupulous jealousy, since it was by personal exertions alone that he could effect any ambitious project. The Treaty, he contended, gave us a right of remonstrant and representation, and even an authority to watch Buonaparté. But, even if no such right existed under the Treaty, at although it might be considered defective 721 as providing no regulation on this subject, yet, the moment you made him an independent sovereign, you could have treated with him—you might have remonstrated with him—you might have procured concessions, from him. If it appeared that the Treaty was, in any degree, defective, you might have entered into stipulations with him on that point. But, if his sovereignty were not of sufficient force to admit him to the right of treating with other Powers, how did it exclude him from that system of watch, which, he contended, ought to have been established, in order to prevent him from endangering the peace of France?
On the other hand, those who entered into a treaty with him, ought strictly to have abided by it. And, he would ask, had the Treaty of Fontainbleau been faithfully observed by those who entered into it? The first violation of that Treaty, was one which, perhaps, technically, might be questioned—but, as to the meanness of the conduct pursued, no doubt could be entertained. He alluded to the stipulation by which a certain annual salary was to be paid to Buonaparté. Here a technical objection had been made, that it was to be paid annually, and could not justly he called for before the expiration of the stated period. But this was an objection, which those who administered the affairs of France, ought to have blushed to resort to. They ought not to have suffered him to borrow money from the traders and bankers of Genoa—and, by this means, to have assisted in weakening the affections of the people of Genoa towards, the Allies. Another article of the Treaty he conceived to be violated, when the wife and son of Buonaparté were separated from him. His family, it was true, wished to leave France, but it was not contemplated, by the Treaty, that they should be placed in a state of captivity. From the first moment, however, it appeared, that an intention existed to violate this article. And he should be glad to know, on what authority (Buonaparté being an independent sovereign) his wife and child were kept from him? It was a circumstance almost without example; and it was the more remarkable, because the marriage with Maria Louisa was negociated by that celebrated statesman, prince Talleyrand, who considered it a very advisable measure, in the time of Buonaparte's prosperity—but who, in his period of adver- 722 sity, described him to be a monster, not fit to be trusted with the custody of his wife and child. There was another part of the conduct of the Allies, with respect to this Treaty, which, though not perhaps a direct violation of it, was certainly extremely unjustifiable. He alluded to the non-performance of the stipulation relative to the duchies of Parma, Placentia, and Guastalla. This was most important to Buonaparté, since it was the provision for the wife and son of him who had made such a distinguished figure on the continent of Europe. On this point, almost more than any other, good faith, should have been inviolably kept with Buonaparté and if, as it was rumoured, a scheme was proposed in Congress for the purpose of giving another direction to this part of the Treaty, he could not conceive any thing more unjust or impolitic, since it tended to excite resentment in the minds of those military chiefs, who, at the period of the signing of the Treaty, pledged their honour to see its provisions fulfilled.
The only other point on which he meant to touch, was one of very great importance. It was said—and, if it were not the fact, it ought to be disproved on the best authority—that, during the discussions in Congress, a scheme was proposed for the removal of Buonaparté from the island of Elba, and placing him in St. Helena or St. Lucia. He did not rashly pledge himself to a fact that certainly could not come within his knowledge; but that some intention of removing Buonaparté did exist, might be gathered from several publications. In proof of this assertion, the hon. Gentleman read extracts from a proclamation, issued by general Dessolles, at Paris, on the 7th of March, the day after the news of Buonaparté's landing in France had reached that capital; he also alluded to the authority of persons holding situations under the present French Government, who pledged themselves that such an intention had existed; and, with a similar view, the hon. gentleman quoted passages from a proclamation published by Louis the 18th at Ghent, and from the defence of sir Neil Campbell, recently given to the public through the medium of the news papers. Whether the removing of Buonaparté would or would not have been a wise measure, he should abstain from discussing. But, if this Government knew that such a project was contemplated, was 723 it not a strong argument for increased vigilance on their side?
Now, if he had at all established the fact, that, under the Treaty of Fontainbleau, we had a right to watch Buonaparté and if that individual had succeeded to the utmost of his hopes and wishes, in again placing himself on the throne of France, he conceived that a sufficient case was made out, to induce the House to inquire whether every necessary precaution had been taken by his Majesty's ministers to prevent the occurrence of this event. The hon. and learned gentleman ridiculed the argument which had been made use of by the noble lord, "that the whole navy of England could not hermetically seal up the island of Elba." Was it just reasoning to say, "because we cannot hermetically seal up this island, we ought, therefore, to have no watch upon it?" English vessels might have gone every day into the Elbese ports; and, if that privilege were refused, our cruisers might have applied for information to the ships of those Powers that were admitted. It was said, that France should have watched Buonaparté. But, if the Government of that country did not choose to do so, we had sufficient interest at stake to impel us to look towards him with jealous vigilance. Besides, if the French Government had sent out vessels for that purpose, the loyalty of their crews would have been put to a very severe test; and it was very probable that Buonaparté would have escaped. It was necessary, therefore, that the House should know what instructions had been given to our naval commanders, in the neighbourhood of Elba—what information ministers had received with respect to the intended project of Buonaparté—and the precautionary steps which they took in consequence thereof. And here he must observe, that he totally contemned the trash published by a person of the name of Playfair, which he conceived to be altogether unworthy of notice; but, he believed, that ministers had, on a variety of occasions, received information, which ought to have excited the utmost exertion of their vigilance. It was right that the House and the public should know whether they had performed their duty properly, aye or no; and for that purpose it was expedient that they should be furnished with the most extensive information. The hon. and learned gentleman concluded by moving, 724
- 1. "That an humble Address be presented to his royal highness the Prince Regent, that he will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, copies or extracts, or substance of any instructions which may have been given by his Majesty's Government to any of his Majesty's naval commanders, respecting Napoleon Buonaparté and the island of Elba.
- 2. "That an humble Address be presented to his royal highness the Prince Regent, that he will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, copies or extracts, or substance of any information which his Majesty's Government may have received respecting the design of Napoleon Buonaparté to escape from the island of Elba, together with the date of the reception of the said information."
said, that with respect to that part of the hon. member's speech, which related to the alleged violation of the Treaty of Fontainbleau, it was sufficient to observe, that Buonaparté, at the time he quitted the island of Elba, did not complain of any breach of that Treaty. That individual took a more dignified course—a course, at least, more worthy of his character. He put his proceeding on this broad ground, that he withdrew from France for a temporary purpose, and that he had returned to claim his indubitable right to the throne of that country. Latterly, however, he had set up the plea of breach of treaty. The hints on that point, he had received in the course of the discussions, to which recent events had given rise; and certainly a very copious brief was afterwards sent into this country, the composition of Mons. Caulaincourt, in which the argument of breach of treaty was pushed to its utmost extent. The hon. and learned gentleman, and those with whom he acted, were always either too early or too late, in the moment which they selected for the discussion of public questions. Nothing appeared so abhorrent to their nature, as to discuss a measure, at the period when it ought to be entertained. The wisdom of the Treaty of Fontainbleau they were fully prepared to argue against at the time; and they were equally prepared now to arraign the conduct and acts of the Congress, although that transaction was not at present in a state in which it could be argued. But the honourable member wished to know whether this Treaty was a measure to which his Ma- 725 jesty's ministers had made themselves a party. He would say for himself, that the moment he (lord C.) was brought to look at that question, he was convinced that the arrangement could not be otherwise than carried into effect, without flying in the face of the Government of France; and that it was perfectly impossible for this country to have opposed even a feeble resistance to it at that period. When he found that a distinct assurance had been given by the Emperor Alexander to Buonaparté, respecting the tenour of that Treaty, he did not think it was any longer a subject to which this country ought to hesitate to lend its approbation. The arrangement, as he had stated formerly, was not one of his making; at the time when he first saw it, it had assumed a very grave and serious, if not a conclusive shape; and, if it had been rejected, it would have been the means of placing the Allies in the most odious light. He was convinced that if such counsels had been adopted, there was not one of the ministers of the Allied Powers who would have ventured to look such a calamity in the face. But what was the real fooling on which this question now stood? If the hon. member complained of the conduct of foreign states, he (lord C.) must enter his protest against being bound to answer for that conduct, or that ministers should be obliged to make that justification for them which they could make for themselves were they here. It was not right that the ingenuity of gentlemen should be employed to blacken the conduct of those Powers with whom we were in alliance. He trusted that that new principle of logic lately introduced would not be generally adopted; namely, that any thing which might be asserted by a French general should be deemed conclusive, unless the French Government should think proper to contradict it. Conclusions were drawn from late transactions which could not be deduced on any foundation from the conduct of the Allied Powers. The good faith of this country had been in no degree violated. The British Government had not even gone to the extent of guaranteeing the stipulations in the Treaty of Fontainbleau, respecting the territorial arrangements; it was, therefore, perfectly unnecessary to enter upon any justification on their account. From the time Buonaparté withdrew from Elba, the Treaty of Fontainbleau had ceased to exist. The arrangements respecting Maria 726 Louisa were arrangements of pure generosity, and could not be considered as a claim of right. From the moment when Buonaparté reclaimed the throne of France, from that moment the Treaty of Fontainbleau had ceased to have any obligation in any of its bearings or relations. Great Britain, was, however, answerable for nothing more than giving facilities to Buonaparté for occupying those territorial possessions which had been granted to him, and as to the rest those parties must be answerable who were accessory to the acts. He would not deny that there had been plans in agitation respecting some change in the territories allotted to Maria Louisa; but these were subjects connected with the occupation of those duchies, which made it a question whether it would not have been wise on her part to accept an equivalent for them; and with regard to the residence of the Empress at Vienna instead of attending Buonaparté to Elba, that was a point which depended solely upon her own choice. There was nothing on the face of the Treaty which placed the Allies in a situation to watch Buonaparté. It only authorized them to grant him a free escort from France. His lordship denied that any such project had ever been indulged by Congress as sending Buonapartâ to St. Helena or to St. Lucie; on the contrary, he had done every thing in his power to procure the exact fulfilment of the Treaty, that no ground of cavil might be afforded; and even so late as his passage through Paris, on his return to England, he had represented to the French Government the necessity of paying the sum stipulated in the Treaty to Buonaparté. Upon the question of what precautions this country had used to prevent the escape of Buonaparté, he had no objection to state, that although conjectures might be indulged as to the designs of Buonaparté, (with the exception of Mr. Play fair's statement), it never came to the knowledge of ministers that any deliberate design of escape was on foot; and, therefore, even had they been practicable, no additional precautions had been adopted. It seemed to him perfectly idle to talk of any other security than one—that security to which every rational man in this country looked for, the preservation of the family of Bourbon, and for the continued banishment of Buonaparté from France. That security was the general sentiment of the French people, and even of the army, expressed most unequivocally 727 on the arrival of their legitimate Sovereign, It was not to be believed that the same nation that had so cordially hailed the King within so short a period, would restore that man whom they had expelled as a tyrant, and submit their necks to that yoke which they had declared was so intolerable. On that broad ground he justified the Treaty of Fontainbleau, and the steps that had been taken to carry it into execution. As to any negligence in not properly securing the person of Buonaparté, the House must be sensible that it was not practicable to draw a naval cordon round the island of Elba. Certainly, it was in the power of this Government to station many cruizers around the island; but if the only advantage to be derived from such an extraordinary expense was the difference between the landing of Buonaparté with his small force of guards, or alone, which could not be prevented by any exertions on our part, he admitted that no such vigilance existed on the part of the Government, and no such instructions had been given to the naval officers in the Mediterranean. With regard to the information which had been given to the Government as to the intended escape of Buonaparté, it had been of so general and vague a nature, that they had not thought themselves called on to take any steps in consequence of it. He thought no presumptive case had been made out against his Majesty's Government: the events which had taken place were not reasonably to be apprehended. If those events had been apprehended more than they were, the existence of the Government, of France would have been trusted to its own strength, and not to any police regulations adopted by a foreign power. What would have been said by the hon. and learned mover, if a large item had been placed in the estimates for a naval police around Elba, while Buonaparté might have laughed us to scorn, as he would have been perfectly able to have escaped at any time, either in a merchant vessel of the island, or even in his own ship? The charge brought against the Government for want of foresight, was an after-discovery of the hon. and learned gentleman. The gentlemen on the opposite side of the House had been more liberal of their approbation on the Treaty of Fontainbleau and the Convention of Paris than those who formed them; and now they attempted, by taking advantage of extraordinary and unforeseen events, to 728 throw odium on the Government. As the return to the Address, if granted, would be nil, and as the only object would be to throw an undeserved censure on the Government, he was confident that the good sense of the House would induce them to give the motion a direct negative.
§ Mr. Elliot
lamented the unhappy predicament in which the country had been placed by the extraordinary events which had so unexpectedly taken place. He considered that the first duty of the House, under existing circumstances, was to strengthen the hands of the Executive Government, in order that the evils by which we were threatened might be avoided as much as possible; but this done, he thought the House was bound to inquire, by whose conduct we had been, placed in this perilous situation, and to examine into the circumstances which led to the frustration of those flattering hopes, which two months ago had been so fondly entertained. He had listened with attention to the speech of his noble friend; but he confessed, the explanation he had heard had not at all solved the doubts he entertained upon this subject, or extenuated the conduct of his Majesty's Government. After the negociations at Chatillon, it was declared by the Allies, that, it was impossible to enter into any relations of peace or amity with the individual who then presided over the Government of France. The first object to be obtained after this declaration was his exclusion from that Government; and it this was so, it was natural to conclude that it was in the contemplation of the Allies to get him into their power, so as to prevent his regaining so formidable a situation. It was said, that this was a measure to which his Majesty's Government had given no previous consent. He would ask, had we no diplomatic agent with the army at the period when the Treaty of Fontainbleau was concluded? What had become of lord Cathcart? Had he no instructions upon, this subject? Did he, or did he not, assist in forming the Treaty; and if not, did he protest against it? If he did, it was formed in utter defiance of the British minister. [Lord Castlereagh here said across the table, that lord Cathcart was not present.] Then (continued Mr. Elliot) it appeared that there was no minister with that important department of the army at that crisis of affairs; when the peace and safety of Europe was to be restored, there was no diplomatic agent whatever present 729 upon the part of Great Britain, to urge its rights or protect its interests. This fact alone, in his opinion, established the strongest case of neglect against his Majesty's Government.—The next question which presented itself was as to the policy of this measure. It was said that Buonaparté, at the time of the Treaty being concluded, was in very formidable strength. What was the fact? why, the Allies were at the head of an army of 140,000 men, while Buonaparté, at most, had but 30 or 40,000 men. It might be urged that he had an army in Germany and in the fortresses, but his disposable strength certainly did not exceed the number he had stated. And with respect to the army in South of France, it was only necessary to remark, that the duke of Wellington was there with an army which had been victorious beyond parallel. There was another opinion, however, upon this subject, and that was, that the conduct of Buonaparté himself was not of such a nature, as to warrant a belief in his professions. It could not be believed, that a man, who had mercilessly led hundreds of thousands of his countrymen to perish under the austerity of a Russian climate, would have turned with horror from new afflictions, to be heaped on his countrymen at home. It was felt, that in his inordinate pursuit of power, he cared not what principles of humanity or of honour he overleaped. This it was which led to his destination for Elba—and hence the policy of that destiny would not stand for a moment for when the ascendancy which he had over the army he had commanded was considered, he would ask, where was the policy of placing him in an island in the Mediterranean, in direct communication with those countries, France and Italy, which were most liable to the influence of his arguments and persuasions?—With respect to the latter part of his hon. friend's motion, namely, the precautions which had been taken to prevent the escape of Buonaparté from Elba, he thought there had been quite enough established to prove that it was impossible for the necessary vigilance to have been adopted. He would ask, in what capacity colonel Campbell was employed in Elba? Was it diplomatic? Was it confidential?—[Lord Castlereagh across the table—'His situation was confidential.' Then (continued Mr. Elliot), if it was confidential, he must have had opportunities of communicating to his Majesty's 730 Government such general information as ought to have put them upon their guard. So far were they, however, from adopting even any ordinary precaution, that it appeared Buonaparté was at sea three days, half a day completely becalmed, and in such a situation that he might have been intercepted by a couple of English frigates. Here, then, was such a complete absence of all precaution, that he felt it his duty to vote for the motion of his hon. friend, not so much for the sake of asking for information, as for the purpose of conveying a positive censure against his Majesty's ministers.
§ Mr. Frederick Douglas
said, that the opinions which had been delivered in that House that night, reminded him of an old maxim, the truth of which was manifest on this occasion, namely, "that nothing was so hard as to give wise council before an event, nor so easy as to make wise reflections after it." Those gentlemen who had so spontaneously subscribed to alt that had been done some months back, and who had never thought of questioning, the wisdom of the conduct which had been pursued, now exhibited the utmost anxiety to condemn circumstances which they had never themselves contemplated, but which, now that they had taken place, they pronounced the most natural occurrences possible, and such as might hare been foreseen by the most shallow politicians. He was aware how difficult it was to bear up by abstract reasoning against the want of success; yet he thought, under all the circumstances the Treaty of Fontainbleau was capable of the clearest justification. His hon. friend who had just sat down had stated, that at the time of signing this Treaty, Buonaparté had but 30 or 40,000 men. It should be recollected, however, that these men consisted of the old guards, who had had accompanied him in all his victories, and who would have shed the last drop' of their blood in defence of their leader-Against such a force it would not have been wise to have risked a continuance of war—the result would have been by no means certain, for these men, refreshed by despair, would have fought with a determination which could not have been withstood. What would the House have said, if ministers had called upon the country to lavish more blood and treasure in a personal animosity? If the Treaty of Fontainbleau had not been concluded at the moment, the soldiery 731 might have obliged their commanders to Tetrad their engagements; and it would have been a most extraordinary thing, if we had chosen to dissolve the union of the Allies. As to the Empress and her son not being allowed to join Buonaparté in the island of Elba, he begged to remind the House that there was a clause in the Treaty for granting passports to those who wished to accompany him; but the fact was, that she refused to go with him. To say that he was deprived of domestic comforts, was perfectly ridiculous, when we considered his character and circumstances, and that he had another wife living when he married the Archduchess of Austria. With respect to the stipulations for certain sums to be paid to Buonaparté and his family, the House should remember that a payment had been made to the duchess of St. Leu, and the other portions would have been paid when they became due, if he had not violated his engagements. In regard to the proposition said to have been made at Congress, for removing Buonaparté to St. Helena, if he understood the noble lord, no mention was made at Congress of that island; and he believed that the whole of Buonaparté's suspicions on that head arose from a paragraph in an English newspaper, which suggested that he ought to be removed thither. His flagrant violation of the Treaty of Fontainbleau must remove all doubts, if we ever entertained any doubts, as to the sincerity of his fine proclamations, and teach the French people how little confidence could be reposed in his splendid professions on the subject of liberty. These professions, and his boasted charters, were aptly characterised in the words of a great historian: "speciosa verbis, re inania, aut subdola: quantóque majore libertatis imagine tegebantur tantò eruptura ad infensius servitium."
entered into a description of the movements of the Allied army, and that of the army of Buonaparté, on the approach to Paris, for the purpose of showing that it was impossible for lord Castlereagh to have been with the advanced division of the Grand Army at the time of the signing of the Treaty of Fontainbleau. The absence of his noble friend at the time of the conclusion of the Treaty of Fontainbleau was not a matter of choice, but arose from the singular operations of the campaign. He was separated from the emperor Alexander by a movement of the army, and as he 732 could not delegate any authority to any other agent, no possible blame could attach to him. The hon. gentleman observed, that he could make allowances for for the high-coloured and distorted view which the hon. gentlemen on the opposite side of the House were disposed to take of the conduct of his Majesty's ministers; but he had no doubt, when the House examined dispassionately all that had taken place on this subject, that they would be disposed to believe there was no ground whatever for the censures which had been uttered against them. With regard to the general question, he could not agree that the Treaty of Fontainbleau was improvident. The means which Buonaparté possessed were much more considerable than gentlemen were disposed to think, and there was no defection in his army till the 5th of April. It was the duty of the Allies to consult what appeared to be the feelings of the French themselves; and nothing would have tended so much to consolidate the power of Buonaparté as to have shown a total disregard to what the senate conceived to be the interests of France. It was of extreme importance to consider that the Treaty was concluded on the part of Buonaparté by some of his most distinguished officers; and when there was an opportunity of restoring tranquillity to France without shedding more blood, surely it was prudent and politic to adopt that arrangement.
said, that the motion of his hon. friend was not made for the purpose of determining whether the Treaty of Fontainbleau was wise or not, or whether it was necessary or not; but for the purpose of ascertaining what steps had been taken after the Treaty was concluded, and what information had been received by his Majesty's Government, as to the intended violation of the Treaty on the part of Buonaparté. He could not help observing on the maxim introduced by an hon. gentleman, That nothing was so difficult as to give good advice before an event, and nothing so easy as to make wise reflections after. He did not find that the truth of this maxim had been borne out by the conduct of his Majesty's ministers, who, while they had not given very wise advice before the Treaty of Fontainbleau, had certainly not given any proof of wise reflection after it was concluded. The honourable gentleman had also spoken of the dangers to be apprehended from the soldiers of Buonaparté, 733 who were refreshed by despair.' Now he had read in one of the finest poets, of Despair, in the character of a nurse attending the sick,————Busily——From couch to couch Despair attends the sick.But he did not know that the sick were much refreshed by despair (a laugh). It had been stated, that ministers had made private representations to the Government of France respecting the performance of the Treaty of Fontainbleau; but this only showed their opinion that the treaty made with Buonaparté had hot been observed. He would not have it understood that he meant to justify Napoleon, bat it was clear that the Treaty had been violated. In the first place it was said that his wife was not disposed to follow him, and that there was no stipulain the Treaty for her going: but was there any stipulation to deprive him of the society of his son? To withhold his offspring from him, and to deprive him of his rights, was a direct, manifest, and palpable violation of the Treaty. The noble lord had said, that if any agreement had been made to induce the empress and her son to part with Parma and Placentia, it was on the ground of an adequate consent. But where could there be an adequate consent? Such consent could be given by Buonaparté only, for it was clear that an infant could not consent. The Allies had, therefore, manifested great want of judgment, as it was their duty to maintain the Treaty with Napoleon, and not to furnish him with the smallest reason for complaint. The right hon. gentleman professed his utter inability to comprehend the difficulty of producing the instructions, if any, whether verbal or written, which it was said were given to our officer off Elba; or if an understanding, as it was called, why that understanding was not capable of some description in words to satisfy the motion before the House, and if it was the duty of the British Government, according to its guarantee, to secure the performance of the Treaty of Fontainbleau, it was obviously incumbent upon that Government to be on the watch to prevent the return of Napoleon Buonaparté to France. It was alleged that ministers had received information of the intentions of Buonaparté but the noble lord stated that nothing had ever been communicated upon the subject worth attending to. 734 But would the House be contented with this declaration? The minister was charged with negligence and supineness in permitting the escape of Buonaparté. His learned friend moved for information received as to the intention of Buonaparté and the noble lord simply asserts, that no information was received worthy of attention. But was this enough to satisfy the House, charged as ministers were with having received information, of which they neglected to avail themselves? Let this information, which the noble lord said was not worth attending to, be produced; and then the House would be fairly dealt with, and be able to form a correct judgment upon the subject. He had himself heard that ministers had received a variety of information with respect to the views and preparations of Buonaparté. Among other communications, he was told that a foreign minister had some time since transmuted a letter to his Majesty's Government, stating that he, or the government which he represented, had reason to believe that Buonaparté was preparing to return to France, and that Joseph Buonaparté had engaged quarters for some French officers who were to cooperate in the project. This statement he had had from respectable authority, and he should be glad to know from the noble lord whether it was well founded? [Lord Castlereagh answered that no such communication had ever been received by ministers]. Adverting to the charge of the noble lord, that there existed in some gentlemen a disposition to distort facts, and an aptitude to adopt statements derogatory to the honour of the British Government and its allies, he could assure the noble lord that if the charge were meant for him (Mr. Ponsonby), he should not shrink from meeting it, or hesitate to repeat what he had before said, that when the conduct of Congress should come to be fully discussed, it would appear that in the transaction respecting Naples, the policy, honour, and character of Great Britain had been more committed by the noble lord than by any other minister, on any occasion whatever. An hon. and learned friend of his had given notice of a motion upon this subject, which would afford the noble lord an opportunity, if he should think fit, to offer any explanation in his power. But there could be now no doubt that war had commenced between, Austria and Naples; and it was equally undoubted, that that war was the result 735 of the violation of those engagements which this country, as well as Austria and the other Allies, were pledged to observe. For it was indisputable, that the noble lord stood as solemnly pledged to the present Sovereign of Naples, by the nature of his engagements, as if he had actually subscribed the stipulations of a treaty with that monarch.
§ Mr. Bathurst
thought the right hon. gentleman had not added much to the arguments which had previously been heard on the topics which formed the subject of his speech. He had not taken the best mode of establishing his own impartiality by taking upon himself to assert positively, from seeing certain insulated papers, that the honour of his noble friend, and of the country, had been committed in the late negociations. It might have been as well if the right hon. gentleman had waited till it could have been put in possession of the statements on both sides the question. He (Mr. Bathurst), without meaning any disrespect to the right hon. gentleman, would not venture on an answer to so ridiculous an assertion (he spoke with reference to its being founded on partial documents) by meeting it with any document he might have seen, but would only say, that when the period arrived at which the subject could be properly discussed, neither the noble lord, nor the friends of the noble lord, would shrink from the inquiry, and that the right hon. gentleman would, not be able to prove that the honour of the noble lord, or of the country through the noble lord, had been compromised. He could make allowances for the feelings of the right hon. gentleman, from the affliction he must undergo at the contemplation of the late events. These, he apprehended, in the grief which they caused him, led him hastily to censure those who did not deserve condemnation. It was thus he accounted for the objections which had been made by the right hon. gentleman to the defence which had been set up for the Treaty of Fontainbleau. If the noble lord, from unavoidable circumstances, could not be present when the Treaty was concluded, he contended that ministers were not bound to justify the policy of it, however responsible they might be for the consequences. With respect to the duchies of Parma and Placentia, if any change had been made in the arrangement which affected them, it had been with the consent 736 of the party who had a right to dispose of them. It was not Buonaparté, but Maria Louisa who had a right to them. They were given as a provision for her and she, with respect to them, had a right to decide for her son, who was to be her successor, and who was to inherit them, through her, and not through Buonaparté. The case would have been different had the object in discussion been the island of Elba, which hail been ceded to Napoleon. The good faith of this country was not affected by the non-payment of the sums which it was stipulated Buonaparte should receive from France. His noble friend, when he last passed through Paris, had recommended it to the French Government to pay them. He had not urged this because he conceived a breach of good faith to have actually taken place; but understanding it was likely Buonaparté might be in want of money, he had used his good offices to induce the French Government to expedite the payment of the sum he was to receive. None of these grievances, however, had been urged in the first proclamations of Buonaparté, on his landing in France. They had all spoken of the disappointment of the hopes of the nation by the re-establishment of the Bourbons, as the cause of his return. It was not till it might be presumed that he had seen the suggestions thrown out in other countries, that any thing like a justification of his conduct, founded on personal injuries, was sent forth. It was said that this Government ought to have prevented his flight; but how was this to be done? He did not think it could be effected without searching every ship for him that sailed from Elba; and would not the exercise of such a power have been incompatible with the rights of a sovereign prince with whom we were not at war? It seemed to be forgotten, that according to Buonaparté's own account he had been stopped on his voyage; but the troops being ordered below, there was nothing in the appearance of the vessel that caused suspicion that it was other than one of his merchant ships, and he was suffered to proceed. His preparations were so secretly made, that even general Bertrand knew little or nothing of them; and, once completed, a few hours served for their embarkation. Colonel Campbell had attempted to follow him; and had he not been detained by a calm, if satisfied that Napoleon had quitted the island with the views he then had, he did not hesitate 737 to say, he would have endeavoured to prevent their being carried into effect by hostile operations. When the gentlemen opposite called for the verbal instructions which had been given to the officers in the Mediterranean, he should like to know what verbal instructions they were of opinion ought to have been given? Would they have strictly searched every ship leaving Elba, in order to ascertain the individual was not there, or how would they have qualified their instructions? He contended there could be nothing more than an understanding that he should be stopped if he should be found in a situation which proved it was his intention to violate the Treaty. It was therefore impossible to lay before the House instructions which were not written, which, indeed, were not strictly verbal, but which were understood. He concluded by saying, that ministers were not answerable for the escape of Buonaparté, as they had neither the right nor the power to prevent it.
§ Sir James Mackintosh
said, that he should not undertake to decide whether any thing substantially new had been, or could be added to the judicious and unexaggerated statement of his hon. and learned friend (Mr. Abercrombie); but sure he was, that whoever were to know the excellent speech of his learned friend only from the answer which had been attempted to it, must be totally mistaken in its purport and scope. The question was not, as it had been argued on the other side, whether there was a case for the conviction of ministers, but whether parliamentary ground was laid for inquiry into their conduct. On the question thus stated, he really could scarcely see a plausible pretext for difference of opinion. The right hon. gentleman (Mr. B. Bathurst) had indeed been pleased to charge the representations made on this side of the House of the mischievous effects of this fatal error with exaggeration, and had deigned in his generosity to say that he made allowance for the feelings of his light hon. friend (Mr. Elliot)—so much distinguished in the House by that power of compression, and that union of elegance, with gravity which required a calm as well as a comprehensive understanding. No man was more master of himself, as well as of his audience; no man was less likely to be hurried away by the impetuosity of disorderly feelings. How had his right hon. friend been so unfortunate as to incur the indulgence, and require the merciful consideration of the right hon. gentleman? 738 Could any feeling be too warm for the case? Was it in the power of eloquence to magnify the evil? Wars which had raged for 25 years throughout Europe; which had spread blood and desolation from Cadiz to Moscow, and from Naples to Copenhagen; which had wasted the means of human enjoyment, and destroyed the instruments of social improvement; which threatened to diffuse among the European nations the dissolute and ferocious habits of a predatory soldiery; at length, by one of those vicissitudes which bid defiance to the foresight of man, had been brought to a close, upon the whole happy beyond all reasonable expectation, with no violent shock to national independence, with some tolerable compromise between the opinions the age and the reverence due to ancient institutions; with no too signal or mortifying triumph over the legitimate interests or avowable feelings of any numerous body of men, and above all without those retaliations against nations or parties which beget new convulsions often as horrible as those which they close, and perpetuate revenge and hatred and blood from age to age. Europe seemed to breathe after her sufferings. In the midst of this fair prospect and of these consolatory hopes, Napoleon Buonaparté escaped from Elba; three small vessels reached the coast of Provence; their hopes are instantly dispelled, the work of our toil and fortitude is undone, the blood of Europe is spilt in vain—Ibi omnis effusus labor!We had now to commence a new career of peril, at least as formidable as that from which we had fondly hoped that we had been forever delivered. Was this a case of which it was easy to exaggerate the evils? Could his right hon. friend have felt lukewarmly on such a subject without throwing doubts on the sincerity of his love for his country, and of his regard for the general welfare of long-harassed Europe? Surely if he had on such an occasion deviated from the usual calm dignity of his eloquence, he might rather be praised than excused. And was this a case in which the House would refuse to inquire whether the misconduct of the Government of Great Britain had any share in bringing so many evils on Europe?
Some insinuations had been thrown out of differences of opinion on his side of the House, respecting the evils of this escape. He utterly denied them. All agreed in lamenting the occurrence which rendered the renewal of war so probable, not to say 739 certain. All his friends with whose opinions he was acquainted, were of opinion that in the theory of public law the assumption of power by Napoleon had given to the Allies a just cause of war against France. It was perfectly obvious that the abdication of Napoleon, and his perpetual renunciation of the supreme authority, was a condition, and the most important condition on which the Allies had granted peace to France. The Convention of Fontainbleau, and the Treaty of Paris were equally parts of the great compact which re-established friendship between France and Europe. In consideration of the safer and more inoffensive state of France when separated from her terrible leader, confederated Europe had granted moderate and favourable terms of peace. As soon as France had violated this important condition by again submitting to the authority of Napoleon, the Allies were doubtless released from their part of the compact, and re-entered into their belligerent rights.
By the dissolution of the Treaty of Paris, war was in right renewed. It depended upon the prudence of the Allies whether they should exercise their belligerent right, or seek security in negociation. But as against France a war to compel the observance of the Treaty of Paris was indubitably just. On these matters he knew of no difference among his friends—shades of difference might, indeed, exist among so numerous a body of independent men on other parts of the subject. Some might doubt more than others whether recourse to hostilities in the first instance were wise; whether it were safe and consistent with the duty of the Allied Sovereigns to their own subjects and to all Europe. Justice as against the enemy, is an indispensable, but sometimes the smallest part of the morality of a war. To be just towards subjects, towards allies, and towards posterity, princes must be convinced of the prudence and safety of war, as much as of its being justified by the conduct of an enemy. What is called the policy of a war, is generally a greater part of its whole morality than what is too exclusively termed its justice. On this question differences probably might appear. Some, and of which number he owned that he was one, shrunk from the experiment of new war without at least some attempt to try whether the same end, even if more imperfectly, might not be obtained by means less hazardous. He dreaded the dangers of failure, he dreaded the dangers 740 of success; he dreaded the renewal of our former calamities, he dreaded the rise of new and unknown evils. But all were agreed in deploring an event which rendered war so probable, though, as many hoped, not inevitable. Those who feared war the most, were surely consistent with themselves in deeply lamenting what exposed us to such imminent danger of its renewal; and all must concur in thinking, that if that danger had in any degree arisen from the supine negligence of ministers, they were reprehensible and culpable. Did enough appear on the face of the; transaction to call for inquiry? That was the question. For if there did, men of all opinions about the prudence of war, ought to agree in voting for the inquiry.
The fact was admitted by the noble lord, that no instructions had been given to the commanders of British ships of war respecting the escape of Napoleon. It was therefore acknowledged, that this Government had not taken the only precaution within its province against that event. He could conceive only three reasons which might be alleged in defence of this omission:—Either such precautions were unnecessary, or they were unjustifiable, or they were impossible. The noble lord had, indeed, applied a general reply to all these defences. For he had told the House, that though there were no instructions to naval officers, yet there was an understanding (which, by-the-bye, was the only understanding discoverable in the matter), that Napoleon should be detained if met at sea in a certain ill-defined and obscurely-described combination of circumstances. A right hon. gentleman had varied the phraseology—and told us, that not only an understanding,' but 'an impression' of this sort had been conveyed to these gallant officers. The difficulty of the question was too great for instructions. The Admiralty, the Cabinet, the great civil lawyers who advised the Crown, could hazard no advice. But the captains of ships of war were to act on their own responsibility, guided only by those precise and well-defined terms, 'an understanding' and 'an impression.' But if it was necessary, or justifiable, or possible, to act on an understanding or an impression, it could neither be needless nor culpable nor impossible to frame instructions. The only difference was, that instructions might be effectual. The understanding and the impression left naval officers ignorant what was re- 741 quired from them, and what they might lawfully do. But it is clear that inefficiency is no palliation of impropriety, and that whatever may be and ought to be done at all, may be, and ought to be done in the most effectual manner. The noble lord was not to tell the House, "I was a little guilty of the folly and injustice of watching Buonaparté but it was very little indeed, for I did it so foolishly, that it was sure of producing no effect." He was not to say, "We should have been glad if the captains of ships of war had watched and intercepted Napoleon. We could not decide the difficulty nor encounter the danger."
On the practicability of watching Elba, he should have been glad to have heard the observations of his hon. friend (Mr. Douglas), whose local knowledge would give weight to his opinion. Instead of that local information, his hon. friend had recourse to general reasoning, in which his superiority was not altogether so undisputed. He had indulged in some topics fit for more vulgar mouths, unworthy of his character, and beneath his rising talents. He had told the House, that apologies for Napoleon's escape had originated here, and that from speeches made in Parliament he had learnt to defend himself by urging the infraction of the Convention of Fontainbleau on the other side, the design to remove him from Elba, the seizure of the property of his family in France, and the non-payment of his stipulated revenue by Louis 18. But he must appeal to his hon. friend's more accurate recollection, whether in the societies where they met at Paris in December, they had not heard these things loudly stated before the facts were known to any gentleman in this House? He asked him, whether these charges were confined to the partizans of Napoleon, and whether on the contrary the conduct of the Government was not deplored by its best friends, who considered these measures as acts, at least, of folly, which it was easy to represent as acts of injustice? But little had been said here on the subject of practicability, and, indeed, little could be said with effect, unless it could be absolutely demonstrated that no attempt could be made to watch the ports of Elba, which could in any degree diminish the chance of escape. Physical impossibility, absolute certainty of total failure, could be the only defence where even, a little chance of a small 742 diminution was an object of great importance.
Would it be said that such vigilance was needless? Was it supposed that Napoleon could patiently bury all his projects and passions in a little island of the Tuscan sea? that he could renounce all the habits of his life, and relinquish for ever that fearful activity in which his stupendous faculties had been unceasingly exercised? Did any man expect that he, for whose boundless ambition the world seemed too narrow, should voluntarily submit to be cooped up in a rock; inverting the remark of the Satirist on his great predecessor in conquest,Æstuat infelix angusto limite mundiUt Gyaræ clausus scopulis, parvâque Seripho.Did the state of France render precaution needless? Was the army so detached from Napoleon as to leave no fear of his throwing himself once more at the head of those whom he had so long led to victory? This apology no minister was at liberty to make who had made the Convention of Fontainbleau, or who had assented to it, or who had acquiesced in it. That Convention was evidently either a measure of magnanimous madness, or of necessary policy.
The noble lord had employed the utmost labour to defend himself and his illustrious co-plenipotentiaries from the charge of magnanimity. The noble lord might have trusted to character against such, a charge, and his defence on that head was perfectly unanswerable. But why? Because he considered the Convention of Fontainbleau to have been, produced by political necessity—by the temper of the French nation—and, above all, by the formidable army still devoted to their renowned commander. The gentlemen on the other side had mistaken the point of view in which his hon. and learned friend (Mr. Abercrombie) had considered the Convention of Fontainbleau. It was not for the direct discussion of its merits that he had introduced it; it was for the inference which it afforded affecting this question. This inference was inevitable. If that cogent expediency, commonly called necessity, justified such a convention, it, must follow that the state of France was in the highest degree dangerous, and was known to be so by those who assented to the Convention. In that case the utmost vigilance was obviously necessary to prevent the return of Napoleon to a country full of 743 such inflammable materials. His hon. friend had reduced ministers to a dilemma from which they could not escape. Either the Treaty was voluntary, or it was necessary. If it was voluntary, the Allies had created the danger. If it was necessary, they had neglected the greatest of all duties in not providing against so great a danger. They had vindicated themselves from voluntarily consenting to conditions pregnant with peril. But by that vindication they had still more imposed upon themselves the duty of vigilance, and established, beyond the possibility of contradiction, their guilt on this charge.
It was said indeed, incidentally, that we were no parties to the original conditions granted to Napoleon, that the noble lord found them in substance concluded before his arrival at Paris. Of this defence the noble lord could not avail himself; not only because he then acceded to the Convention, but because he now defended it. And if he had, what sort of defence was it? It was an attempt to escape participation in guilt, by a confession of insignificance. Though the noble lord was not at Paris, yet there were two or three British ministers in that city of the highest rank. One of them was ambassador to the Emperor of Russia, the supposed author of the Convention.—What are we to believe? That the Sovereigns determined on such a measure without communicating their decision to these British ministers? What a national degradation! Was it thus that the policy of ministers had thrown away the renown earned by the army? At the moment that the British army under their immortal leader had traced their long line of glory from Torres Vedras, was it possible that the Sovereigns of Europe had determined on the only important condition of the Treaty without even the formality of communication to the English minister? If this would not be admitted, what was the other branch of the alternative? Were the two noble lords (Aberdeen and Cathcart) left un-provided with instructions respecting the disposal of Napoleon? Had they no discretionary power of expostulating or remonstrating, of intreating time till they should consult the noble Secretary? If they were thus destitute of powers and of instructions, did this arise from the incapacity of ministers to foresee the possibility of a case where such powers, and instructions might be rendered most necessary; from the sudden occurrence of 744 events which required immediate decision during a temporary interruption of intercourse with the noble Secretary? Was the fortune of war so certain as to make the want of such foresight pardonable? Or was the danger voluntarily incurred, for the sake of exalting the importance of the noble Secretary at the expense of his colleagues and of the public interest? In looking at every side of this part of the transaction, he professed that he could not discover an honourable explanation of it.
But the most serious question undoubtedly remained! Napoleon was an independent prince. It would be an insult to his dignity to watch his movements. It would be a violation of his independence to restrain them. They who had starved Norway into subjection—they who sanctioned the annihilation of Poland, and the subjugation of Venice—they whose hands were scarcely withdrawn from the instrument which transferred Genoa to a hated master—were suddenly seized with the most profound reverence for the independent Sovereign of Elba, and shrunk with horror from the idea of saving the peace of Europe by preventing the departure of Napoleon Buonaparté from Porto Ferraio! He must believe that if the danger had been discussed at the Congress of Vienna, and if any paradoxical minister had made any scruples about the independence of Elba, his scruples would have been received with a general laugh. Count Nesselrode could quote the precedent of Stanislaus at Moscow. Prince Talleyrand would have been ready with, that of Ferdinand at Valençay. The Congress would scarcely have avowed that all their respect for independence was monopolized by Napoleon.
Most assuredly Napoleon was a sovereign prince. The faith of Europe was irrevocably pledged to him, and could not be questioned without dishonour. He was a sovereign for dignity; he was a sovereign for security: he was a sovereign in the theory of international law, and was entitled to all the immunities as well as honour of the sovereign character: But he was not a sovereign for the practical purpose of taking a part in the system of Europe. It was true, though it might seem quaint to say, that he was a legal but not a political sovereign. The state of the world had, in effect, reduced the right of war in all small states to little more than an honorary distinction. He was a sovereign by the Convention of 745 Fontainbleau. And he could not carry his sovereign rights to the destruction of that compact from which his sovereignty was derived. The abdication of Napoleon, his perpetual renunciation of the crown of France, were so perfectly the essence of the Treaty of Paris, that it is now universally acknowledged to be dissolved by their violation. But such conditions would have been nugatory if they had not implied the right of the parties interested to which over their observance. Every legal right carries with it the legality of the means necessary to secure its exercise. When the demolition of the works at Dunkirk was stipulated by the Treaty of Utrecht, it was a violation of the independence of France to stipulate that English commissaries should reside at Dunkirk to watch over the observance of that stipulation. It might be resented; by France as a curb on her ambition, as a wound to her pride, as an affront to her dignity; but it continued in force for four-score years without ever being called an invasion of her independence. Every precaution manifestly necessary to security, must be perfectly inoffensive to any prince against whom it is taken. The state of France was a permanent ground of apprehension; and as any nation in Europe has a right to ask an explanation of the ground of unusual armaments, and to require that they shall not seem to threaten the general tranquillity, so every Power which had directly or indirectly participated in the Convention of Fontainbleau, had a most indisputable right to require that Napoleon should consent to every precaution clearly necessary to the quiet of France, and consequently of Europe. His resistance would have converted apprehension into proof. It would have been a demonstration of his hostile designs, and a just ground of preventive war against him.
He desired not to be misunderstood. He justified no discourtesy, no insult, no wanton inquisition, no attack under the false pretence of danger. God forbid! He justified only the vigilance and precaution necessary to prevent the sovereign authority of Elba, granted by the Convention of Fontainbleau, from being turned into the means of remounting the throne of France, the renunciation of which was the grand, the essential, and almost the sole condition of the compact. These precautions were to be adopted with all the personal respect due to the 746 faith of Europe, due also to the genius and renown of the individual; due to the dignity of the great nation whom he had governed, and due from the Sovereigns of the Continent to their own character, after the intimate connexion which they had formed with him.
If in the course of an ordinary war with France, our first information of a French fleet having sailed from Toulon, were to be that it had effected the capture of Jamaica, a cry of just indignation would infallibly drive a supine Admiralty from their seats. It would be vain for them to say, that they had no information of the design. They would be truly told, that the want of information was their crime, not their justification. They would be told, that it was their duty to have information of the first preparations of such an armament, that it was the duty of the Government to demand an explanation of their object, and that if no explanation, or no satisfactory explanation was given, it was their duty to send a squadron into the Mediterranean, and watch the movements of the French squadron, with such instructions as the circumstances of the case might justify, and the safety of the West Indies might demand. Could they make any defence on such a charge? But it differed from the present in no respect, but in the unspeakable inferiority of any colony, however, valuable and respectable, to the general tranquillity and safety of the civilized world.
What, then, was wanting to the completeness of this case? The ministers had avowed the fact of non-vigilance. They had not proved the impossibility of taking some precautions against the danger. It was demonstrated that such precautions were necessary, and that their necessity was obvious at the time. It was demonstrated also that such precautions were perfectly lawful.
To all this no direct answer was in truth attempted. But it was said, that the whole was retrospective wisdom; that we were wise after the event, and that we as little foresaw it as the ministers. To this retort, substituted for a defence, he should very shortly reply:—That the danger was seen and spoken of throughout Europe; that it was scarcely possible to enter a society where it was not discussed, and that it had been mentioned in almost every newspaper for months. What would have been thought of those on this side of the House, if they had 747 made such a matter the subject of parliamentary discussion? They would have been told, that they showed an unwarrantable distrust of the common sense of ministers; that they dragged into light secrets of state, which were of the most delicate nature. They would have been told, as they were told on other occasions, with less speciousness, that this was not the affair of England, but of the Sovereigns of Europe assembled at Vienna, where negociations to remedy the defects, or to enforce the observance of the Convention of Fontainbleau, might be altogether defeated by the premature and tumultuary debates of a popular assembly. Could they have discussed the question without noticing the breaches of treaty to Napoleon, and would they not in that case justly have incurred the imputation of stimulating him to escape? On the other hand, might they not have been justly charged with stimulating the Congress of Vienna to acts of violence and perfidy towards him? Did not this seem much the more probable evil? Could any man have believed that the same Congress which sacrificed all the nations of Europe to their ambition, should have shrunk from the exercise of their most legitimate rights against their only formidable enemy?
In truth it was the opinion of the greatest statesmen whom he had the good fortune of knowing, that notwithstanding the apparent negligence, or rather as a natural inference from appearances otherwise so unaccountable, there must be some secret articles in the Convention of Fontainbleau, which secured the world against the seeming improvidence of its public stipulations, the means of enforcing which were, in the hands of the Allies, and justified that security, without some such supposition incomprehensible, in which they appeared to be lulled. It was natural enough to believe that such conditions had been kept secret out of courtesy to Napoleon, or tenderness to the feelings of those great Princes with whom he was connected. On the other side, credit was given to Napoleon for a moderation which would have been a miracle in Marcus Aurelius. On this side it was only believed that the English ministers would exercise common sense. And now they were told that by this excess of confidence, they had forfeited their right of accusation. A robbery had been committed. The watchmen were 748 asleep. The poor householders naturally complained of the negligence of their watchmen. The watchmen rather impudently answered, that the householders were asleep as well as they. The reply was final and fatal. The householders slept in perfect security, because they trusted in their watchmen being awake.
Mr. Charles Grant
jun. rose and said:
I am aware, Sir, of the extreme disadvantage under which I offer myself to your notice, after the powerful speech of my hon. and learned friend. I can only entreat the indulgence of the House to the few remarks which I have to offer. I could not help admiring the dexterity of my hon. and learned friend in that part of his speech in which he attempted to explain and justify the silence of himself and his friends, at the time when the Treaty of Fontainbleau was made. I have heard it said, that if you are exposed to an accusation which you are conscious you deserve, the best method to break the charge and disarm your opponent, is to begin at once by honestly pleading guilty! To this rule my hon. and learned friend has adhered. He recollects that when the arrangements respecting Buonaparté were made, not a murmur of disapprobation was breathed from the other side of the House; not a single regret, not even an ambiguous prophecy. Conscious, therefore, of their embarrassing situation, he at once pleads guilty—he confesses they were asleep. But how does this, confession agree with what he said immediately afterwards?—that though nothing was said in this House, yet there were many distinguished persons who felt strong apprehensions; and who, out of doors, made no scruple of expressing those apprehensions. And why did not those distinguished persons give utterance to their feelings within these walls? They abstained, it seems, because they were unwilling, at such a crisis, to molest or interfere with Government. It was their delicacy, forsooth, that prevented them—their reluctance to embarrass the conduct of Government—their dread of injuring the foreign interests of the country—of lowering the credit of Great Britain abroad—of prematurely interfering with pending negociations—of exciting divisions and jealousies between the great confederate powers:—these were the motives.—I think, Sir, we have pretty well learned how far these motives operate on those gentlemen;—I think the experience 749 of this session has taught the House to appreciate the extent of that delicacy.
My hon. and learned friend seems to me in his arguments to have inverted the natural order of consideration. He first considered the reasons that existed for extreme vigilance, with regard to the person and designs of Buonaparté—and then examined the conduct of this country on that subject under the existing Treaty. Now, Sir, the natural order, in my opinion, is, first to settle the merits of the Treaty, and then to inquire, not whether the utmost possible measures of personal inspection and control have been adopted by us; but whether the degree of vigilance and coercion, which by the Treaty we were authorized to exercise, has or has not been exercised.
Now, with respect to the Treaty, I have not heard much in its censure this evening. It is, indeed, sufficiently obvious, that as my noble friend did not arrive in Paris till the very day on which the Convention was to be signed, the substance of it was arranged without his immediate assistance. For his absence, indeed, he was not answerable; it was occasioned, as has been clearly proved by my right hon. friend (Mr. Robinson), by the events of war, which he could neither control nor anticipate. It is surely, then, singular enough to hear it charged as a crime on my noble friend, as it has been by a right hon. gentleman (Mr. Elliot), that when the Allied Powers first entered Paris, they were not accompanied by any accredited representative of the British Sovereign. Could he, by any possibility, be answerable for the sudden accidents of the war? Might not a similar accident have retarded the arrival of any one of the Sovereigns themselves? But then, says my hon. and learned friend, all the substance of an arrangement with Buonaparté should have been previously settled between the Allied Powers. The consideration of such a contingency should not have been deferred till the moment of its occurrence. The circumstance, that no such previous agreement was formed, proves, in the opinion of a right hon. gentleman (Mr. Elliot),—proves it especially as with regard to my noble friend,—a want of wisdom, and foresight and concert.
It certainly is very easy at this time, and very safe, to pronounce upon the past, and claim credit for posthumous anticipations. But I think the slightest consideration will convince the House, that a pre- 750 vious arrangement of the nature and extent which those gentlemen now require, was absolutely impossible. If, indeed, the Allies had resolved to act with regard to Buonaparté on a principle of severity; then I admit such an arrangement would have been not only practicable, but easy. If the only terms on which the war could close, were his death or unconditional surrender, these might undoubtedly have been definitively settled at the very commencement of the campaign. But if you adopt another system, if you admit the principle of clemency, you at once open the door to many other considerations, on which a previous decision was impossible—the condition of the Allied armies—the number of the troops of Buonaparté—the disposition of the Provisional Government—the relations between the Provisional Government and the Allies—the feelings of the people of Paris—these and a thousand other circumstances immediately entered into the question; and these, it is obvious, could be appreciated only on the spot, and at the moment. They could neither be anticipated nor prejudged. They could depend only on events and contingencies; and the very attempt to form, by anticipation, a definite and inflexible plan of conduct upon such contingencies, would have been a ludicrous example of speculative folly.
Was it, then, incumbent on my noble friend, when he arrived in Paris, to refuse his accession to any part of that Treaty? Undoubtedly there might have been cases in which it would have been incumbent on him; but these ought to have been very strong cases. Nothing, in truth, but a difference upon some essential principle, could have justified him in interposing to annul the engagements already contracted with Buonaparté. As to minor points, he might feel objections; and such it appears he did feel and express. But even if his objections had been much stronger than we have reason to believe they were; would it not have been a matter of extreme delicacy, upon his single opinion, to arrest the pacification? What would Europe, what would this country have felt, if in that moment of exultation the British minister had alone prevented the consummation so ardently desired; if he had taken upon himself and on his nation the odium of severity, and vindictive resentment? Why, Sir—would this country have forgiven it? We all recollect the enthusiasm of that glorious period. 751 We recollect the generous feelings which that enthusiasm produced—feelings of moderation and lenity towards him who had in so extraordinary a manner fallen from his honours. Would it have been endured by any man, that at that time Great Britain should quarrel with her allies in favour of harsh measures? But the conduct adopted by this country and her Allies was recommended, not merely by its moderation and magnanimity, but also by policy. For what was the situation of Buonaparté? And here, Sir, it has been attempted to fasten the charge of inconsistency on his Majesty's minister. Buonaparté, it is argued, was either destroyed or was still powerful. If he was destroyed, where was the necessity of granting him such terms? If he was still powerful enough to exact such terms, where is that complete triumph on the part of the Allies of which we were so repeatedly told? But, Sir, I agree with the learned member who opened this debate, in his very candid statement, that there is no reason to go to either of these extremes; and that Buonaparté, though much reduced, had yet not ceased to be formidable. He was, indeed, defeated and chastised, but not completely crushed and deserted. It is right to distinguish the situation of a man who is completely without resource and driven to despair, from the situation of him who, though humbled and crippled, yet commands the devotion of 30,000 tried adherents. True!—the Allies might have continued the war; but this would have put all their acquisitions to the hazard. Who could tell the contingencies of such a war? Do we not see in history what has been on many occasions achieved, in such circumstances, by a great captain at the head of a few faithful troops? He might have harassed our forces, retired into other parts of France; and thus protracted the contest—a circumstance most favourable to his interests. He would also have been thus enabled to kindle a civil war. For what would have been the effect of a refusal on our part to accept of his abdication on the stipulated terms? It would have been at once to change the principle of the confederacy; to convert it from a general into an individual and narrow principle; to convert it from a national principle of restoring to France freedom under her legitimate Sovereign, into a principle of personal malignity and revenge. This could not fail to place him in the light of 752 an injured man, and thus gradually to conciliate the minds of his former subjects. Some even of the truly patriotic it might have softened towards him: to many professed patriots it would have furnished a plausible pretext for disaffection and discontent. He might thus have secured to himself an increasing party; and would, at all events, as he has since done, have thrown himself into the arms of the Jacobins. These, I say, and other considerations, imperiously recommended the policy of admitting his abdication on certain conditions; and the same considerations no less imperiously required that those conditions should be consistent with the general principles on which the confederacy was formed. But the securities which we obtained were not sufficient. We ought not to have relied on the faith of Buonaparté. We should not have trusted the repose of Europe to such suspicious custody. Undoubtedly, Sir, if we relied mainly upon the good faith of that person, it was an unwarrantable and an unjustifiable reliance. But this was not the case. Our chief reliance was placed on the faith of the French people;—on the faith of the Marshals and the Army. Sir, I am not ashamed to confess that we have been deceived: in this confession there is no discredit; for who could have anticipated a perjury, a faithlessness so gross and detestable as that which has recently excited the astonishment and horror of Europe? Never in the records of the world was perjury so practised on system, and on so wide a scale. I defy any man, however versed in the annals of infamy, however familiar with examples of profligacy, to have calculated on such baseness and crime. I do not speak of the people of France, because I believe them to be completely passive. But is it not even now difficult to believe that such treachery, such cowardly meanness of feeling, should be found in a profession which, of all others, is peculiarly the profession of loyalty and chivalrous attachment—whose idol is honour? Why, Sir, this example has a tendency to shake our confidence in the most ordinary principles of human action; and to rivet in our minds a conviction that, for the future, society must be bound together by other ties than those of justice, of faith, and of mutual confidence. I trust, however, that, in spite of this atrocious exception, we may yet rely on the acknowledged principles that regulate the inter-course of nations. I trust we are not yet 753 driven to the necessity of building national security and happiness on the miserable foundation of mutual distrust, suspicion, and hatred.
From a consideration of the Treaty itself, it is natural to proceed to the other branch of the inquiry:—whether we have exercised all the vigilance and care which by the Treaty we were authorized to use. And here the learned mover and my learned friend complain of great deficiency. According to them, we had a right, by the Treaty, to use every possible measure of precaution. The hon. mover says the first article of it conveys, by implication, to the parties concerned, full power and right to use the means necessary for its fulfilment; and this he argues from the general principles of all treaties. But there is this fallacy in all this reasoning. In the present case we have to deal not with a nation, but with an individual. After admitting all that can be said respecting the right so conveyed, it must be remembered that they furnish no analogy to the present instance. The measures of precaution in this case could only be personal. My hon. and learned friend, maintaining the argument of the learned mover, asks, with reference to the first article, "If it does not mean this, what does it mean?" I answer this by another question. "How far do you think this article allows us to proceed? does it justify personal coercion?" My hon. and learned friend states the case of a West-Indian fleet sailing from the ports of France, and seems to think it a decisive confirmation of his doctrine. But surely, Sir, it is easy to see how very inapplicable such an example is to the point in question. The difference is enormous indeed, between watching the movements of a large armament, and detecting the machinations of an individual. I ask how, under the Treaty, were we to guard Buonaparté? Were we in the time of profound peace to institute a maritime blockade of Elba? Would this have been consistent with the law of nations? In that Treaty the Allies engaged to cause the flag and territory of Elba to be respected by the powers of Barbary; and were we to begin by insulting that flag? If we had followed the line of conduct which we are now reproached for not having pursued; if we had adopted this system of espionage and coercion, should we not have furnished Buonaparté with just grounds of complaint? Might he not have complained of the want of regard to treaty? And what would 754 have been the language of those gentlemen who are now so strenuous in accusation? "Oh!" they would have said, "you are using every means to drive Buonaparté into violent measures. This miserable system of suspicion and jealousy can never succeed. You are not able to appreciate his great heart. Repose confidence in him. If you profess to treat with him, do it honestly and generously."
But, Sir, my hon. and learned friend is aware of this. Even while he is maintaining the doctrine, that under the Treaty we were authorized to use every precautionary measure, he betrays his involuntary doubts of that doctrine. For, what does he say? He says that after peace had been established, the Allied Powers should have proposed to Buonaparté, expressly on the ground of greater security to Europe, a modification of the Treaty. A modification! A demand on the part of the victors that they shall be allowed in the plenitude of their success to alter the terms of a treaty to which they are pledged—and to alter them as against the Power whose submission was made on the faith of that treaty, and who disarmed himself on the faith of that treaty! My hon. and learned friend knows the high respect I feel for him, and the alarm and diffidence with which I controvert any of his opinions; but this is, in truth, a most extraordinary proposition. In what code of the law of nations can any justification of such a measure be found? What! after a treaty has been solemnly made; after Buonaparté on the faith of that treaty has given up his armies, abdicated his throne, surrendered his person; after he has retired into exile, and while as yet he has been guilty of no breach of engagement; were the Allied Powers to say to him—"True; you have kept your faith, but you are powerless; we are strong; our armies are collected: we now insist on your agreeing to a modification of the Treaty." A modification! A violation! "We insist on violating that Treaty." And for what purpose, Sir, is this modification proposed? For personal coercion. I ask my learned friend, skilled as he is in the law of nations, by what law, human or divine, such a proposal could be justified? But more than this: my hon. friend says, if Buonaparté had scrupled to accede to this admirable proposal, he would have taken it as a proof of malus animus on his part:—a proof of malus animus What! because he hesitated to become a victim 755 to our perfidy? This is indeed a singular species of argument.
then proceeded at some length to show that Buonaparté, by his late conduct, had violated the Treaty of Fontainbleau.
§ Mr. Whitbread
said, he thought that the hon. gentleman who had just sat down, had paid a high practical compliment to the speech of his hon. and learned friend (sir James Mackintosh), seeing he had not touched a single point which it contained. Alluding to the watchmen of the state, the hon. gentleman had said that it was equally incumbent on the Opposition to be awake, and to speak their sentiments at the time on the Treaty of Fontainbleau. Looking, however, at the hon. member, and at the noble lord and his colleagues below him, he must say that they were really the watchmen—paid by the public for doing their duty. They (the Opposition) had been reproached with want of delicacy and fairness in their conduct. But he appealed to the candour of the hon. gentleman, because he thought he possessed that virtue, and not to that of the noble lord below him, in whom he did not think it was to be found,—whether there could be a House of Commons, (looking at every bench,) which could possibly have placed more confidence in the noble lord than they had done? But when they saw that the noble lord had deserted them, and had thrown himself info the arms of prince Talleyrand, how could they continue to repose the same trust in him? Mr. Whitbread then defended himself against the charge of having called Buonaparté 'a great man:' he had not said 'a great man,' but one of such powers as appalled the noble lord and his colleagues, and reduced them to a state of terror. He had discovered some littleness in his conduct when in prosperity, which took away from his greatness; but he had perceived in the conduct of his imitators in the Congress at Vienna, of whom the noble lord was one, a degree of littleness which was still worse. He, however, considered it possible, as he was also ready to acknowledge it within the bounds of possibility, that the noble lord should one day become a magnanimous statesman; that Napoleon, by his future way of conducting himself during the second part of his history, if he continued on the throne of France, should really become a great man. Mr. Whitbread reproved the sentiments which 756 had been expressed towards the French-Ministers had taken upon themselves the task of destroying Buonaparté an hon. gentleman had recommended the annihilation of the army, and an hon. friend of his had added, that of the whole nation, men, women, and children. It had been said, that the French army had been refreshed by despair; if that was the case, the gentlemen opposite had nothing to refresh themselves with but despair, and would upon that principle soon be restored to a state of vigorous exertions. When it was recollected that the noble lord, acting on higher information than that produced by Playfair, had consented to rob Denmark of her fleet, and bombard her capital, how could the hon. gentleman opposite think that he would be prevented by his regard for the laws of nations from infringing on the inviolability of Elba? Yet that hon. member had told the House,—what had not been attempted by the noble lord, even in the most stammering part of his stammering speech,—[Here several cries of 'Order, order!' were heard, and Mr. Whitbread, after expressing the difficulty he had to find a word to express his feeling, substituted 'hesitating' instead of stammering speech,]—that we were only bound to keep one part of the Treaty of Fontainbleau, and that if it was violated in other parts, the blame was to rest with the Allies. Did he not recollect how the country was bound with the Allies, through the Declaration of the duke of Wellington, lord Stewart, and lord Cathcart, who had taken upon themselves to proclaim that Buonaparté had infringed the Treaty? Those who constantly justified their own misdeeds by their success, should surely allow the misdeeds of others to be justified by their success; and the man who could swallow the affair of Copenhagen down, might well swallow the recapture of Paris and of the imperial throne by Buonaparté. Mr. Whitbread then asked whether the conditions of the Treaty of Fontainbleau had been fulfilled towards the mother, sister, and brothers of Napoleon; whether their pensions had been paid; and whether all the property of Napoleon's family which had been secured to them by the Treaty, had not been sequestrated, without a show of reason? Ought not the duchies of Parma, Placentia, and Guastalla, also, to have gone to his son? For it was wrong to suppose that an infant could give his consent to the spoliation of his own ter- 757 ritories. Napoleon had contracted for his wife and son; but that contract had never been fulfilled. The noble lord had been pleased to suppose that the empress Maria Louisa had not been willing to join Buonaparté but he had heard, on the contrary, that she had been restrained by force. This was another breach of the Treaty; for she was to have had passports to go where she pleased. The noble lord had been at Vienna, and could say whether she had been or was at present under a forced restraint. If so, it was a violation of justice, and of the Treaty of Fontainbleau. Buonaparté had been represented as a man with whom no treaty could be kept. He wished to know whether he might not become as good a man as his own servants? Prince Talleyrand, who had been Napoleon's minister when a consul and emperor, was in such bad odour in that House, that he remembered an attack made by the late Mr. Perceval, who with the noble lord formed the heads of the Opposition at the time, on Mr. Fox, lord Howick, and Mr. Windham, whose correspondence with prince Talleyrand was then described as all credulity on their side, and all artifice on the other. Yet the very moment that minister had deserted Buonaparté, he was taken into the noble lord's intimate confidence. Mr. Whitbread then alluded to the various important documents which had recently appeared, and which the noble lord had not condescended to disavow; so that they might be considered authentic. No secret, he said, would remain for the Congress to publish. The noble lord had said, that he wished the principal ministers at the Congress could be present in that House to defend themselves. He (Mr. W.) assured him that he participated in the same wish. He should like to examine Prince Hardenberg and Prince Metternich with respect to their past conduct; and he would be as persevering in his questions to them as he had been in those which he had put to the noble lord. He would then ask prince Talleyrand, how he had been able to persuade the noble lord to place confidence in him, after the opinion which he had till then expressed of his artifice and cunning. Mr. Whitbread then reproved the breach of faith displayed towards Murat, which he feared would be the cause of much bloodshed. If Buonaparté's right-hand man might be trusted, perhaps a time would come when the noble lord would also place confidence in 758 Napoleon. From the diplomatic paper transmitted by prince Talleyrand to the Bourbons, containing regulations for their conduct, as well as from other documents, no doubt could be entertained of misconduct on their part, and a wish to recall or annul all the concessions which they had made to the people. The noble lord had vindicated himself from a charge which had never been made a ground of complaint against him—that of not being at Paris at the time the Treaty of Fontainbleau was negociated. All that he had said, however, proved that the great success of the Allies at that period was not the result of their wisdom, but a mere chance of the war, which, by the blessing of Providence, had been turned in their favour. The complaint was, that when lord Cathcart was on the spot, he should have had no instructions how to act. The hon. gentleman opposite went beyond what had already been asserted. He stated that Buonaparté, after the occupation of Paris, was not merely supported by 35,000 old soldiers, ready to shed the last drop of their blood in his service, but that, if he had made it a civil quarrel, he might have stood on still more formidable ground than he did at present. Yet he added, that he trusted to the French nation for keeping the Treaty of Fontainbleau, on account of its disaffection to Buonaparté! The hon. gentleman might lay this flattering unction to his soul, that Napoleon was not strong in the affections of his people; but he entertained a different opinion. The man who could land singly on the French coast, march to the Thuilleries, and resume the throne, exposed to the vengeance of every individual who had it in his power to level a pistol at him, must have been supported by the wishes of the nation. He had heard an anecdote on this subject from a quarter entitled to credit. A person who had arrived at Lyons on the day of Napoleon's entrance into that city, saw immense crowds round the house which he occupied, filling the air with cries of "Vive l'Empereur!" There were no soldiers at hand, and they had all close access to his person. The gentleman went immediately to Paris, and communicated at the palace what he had seen. He was ill received, as the bearer of unwelcome intelligence, and warned by a friend of his, that in consequence of his news he might be treated as a spy unless he speedily made off. The gentleman saved himself by 759 flight. From all that had passed, therefore, he was convinced, that not only the soldiers, but the people, were well affected to Buonaparté. It would have been natural to expect that a man who had sacrificed so many warriors to his ambition, and dragged them to destruction amidst the snows of Russia, or under the poniards of Spain, should be unpopular in the army. He had heard officers of distinction in lord Wellington's army say, however, that they had seen French prisoners, and men who had suffered all the evils and mutilations which humanity could endure, and had never heard one say that he would not joyfully put himself under Napoleon as his captain, and suffer over again for him all that he had already undergone. If so, away went the grounds on which it was hoped to effect his overthrow, or to destroy that army and the nation. He was not singular in making use of the latter expression: for he had lately seen in a foreign paper, that France must be destroyed, and that it must be formed like Germany, into a confederation under one chief, but cease to exist as France. He reproved the loose mode in which the officers who ought to have watched Buonaparté had been instructed. He contended, that Bertram! must have known the intentions of his master at an earlier period than had been mentioned, as he understood he had been in Paris six weeks before Buonaparté had left Elba. He congratulated the noble lord on the animal spirits which he displayed while speaking of the glorious successes of the war, although he wondered that he and lord Liverpool should not have delivered up their garters to the Prince Regent, until those successes should have been completed. He thought at all events it would be right to see what precautions Government had taken to prevent the occurrence of an event which had occasioned such alarm.
§ Mr. Wellsley Pole
said, that at so late an hour, and after the very full and able discussion which the question had undergone, he should trespass but for a very short, time upon the attention of the House. The hon. gentleman who had just sat down, had commenced his speech by an appeal to the candour of his hon. friend (Mr. Gram). He would not allow that any candour was to be found among the gentlemen who sat upon the ministerial bench. He had expressly charged them with, a total absence of all candour; and yet that hon. gentleman had himself, after 760 complaining of want of candour in others, uncandidly and unfairly attributed to his hon. friend (Mr. Grant), one of the most horrible sentiments that ever entered into the mind of man, viz. an earnest wish that the whole French nation might be exterminated! The House, in whose recollection the able speech of his hon. friend was fresh, must know that the imputation was utterly without foundation, and would therefore be able accurately to appreciate the right of the hon. gentleman to impeach the candour of others.
It was not his intention to follow the hon. member through the various topics which he had introduced into his speech; indeed, if he had the ability, he could not do it without being disorderly; for the hon. gentleman had touched upon almost every subject that could possibly be debated, except the question before the House. He had listened, as he always did, with great attention to every part of the hon. gentleman's speech; and he declared most solemnly, that he was unable to determine whether the hon. gentleman really approved or disapproved of the Treaty of Fontainbleau; whether he agreed with his learned friend who brought forward the motion (Mr. Abercrombie), or with the hon. and learned gentleman (sir James Mackintosh), who spoke later in the debate; for those two learned gentlemen differed most essentially in their opinions respecting that Treaty. The hon. gentleman seemed sometimes to agree with both of his learned friends in turn, and sometimes to differ from them both, so that it was almost impossible to ascertain what his real opinion was. The learned gentleman, who opened the debate, had moved for certain papers; but the real, and indeed the only question before the House was this—Whether by the Treaty of Fontainbleau, this country had, or had not the right to take such measures as were necessary to prevent Buonaparté from leaving the island of Elba? This was the first time that the gentlemen on the other side of the House had brought the Treaty of Fontainbleau into question. They now called upon ministers to lay before Parliament certain papers to show what precautionary measures had been taken to prevent the escape of Buonaparté, and what information they had received respecting his intentions; but their real intention was to discuss now, for the first time, the merits of the Treaty of Fontainbleau. The gentlemen on the other side of the House were 761 in possession of the Treaty of Fontainbleau last year: they were perfectly aware of all its stipulations, but no censure was then thrown upon it, not even the slightest animadversion was made by any one of those gentlemen; even the hon. member who spoke last expressed his entire approbation of all the proceedings which took place at that time at Paris, with the exception only of the arrangements respecting the Slave Trade. It appeared, however, that those honourable gentlemen now saw that Treaty in a very different point of view.
The hon. gentleman who spoke last, for the purpose of exculpating himself and his friends from the charge of inattention to this important subject, had asked, why should it have been expected of them to be alert while the ministers—the paid watchmen—were asleep? This was the first time he had ever heard that the misconduct of ministers (supposing they had been guilty of any) was an excuse for the gentlemen on the other side of the House neglecting their duty. But he would be more candid to the hon. gentleman than he was to himself; he would give him more credit for attention to his parliamentary duty than he was disposed to give himself. The silence of the hon. gentlemen opposite last year, respecting the Treaty of Fontainbleau, did not arise from their having overlooked that measure—it was too important a document to have escaped their attention; and if they had seen any thing in it which called for censure, they would not have concealed their opinions. But the fact was, that they then thought it a wise measure, and have only been induced to change their opinion by the events which have recently occurred. By that Treaty, with which last year the gentlemen on the other side of the House found no fault, Buonaparté had a right to be treated as a sovereign prince—the British Government were bound so to consider him, and therefore would not have been justified in surrounding him with spies or guards, and treating him as a prisoner, or in searching all ships that went to or quitted Elba, after a stipulation to respect the flag of that island. If he was right in this construction of the Treaty, the motion of the hon. and learned member must fall to the ground: for if under the Treaty of Fontainbleau the British Government had no right to watch Buonaparté, no instructions could have been given for that purpose, 762 nor would ministers have called for the information for which the hon. member had now moved.
A great deal had been said by the right hon. gentleman on the bench opposite (Mr. Elliot), for whom he entertained the highest respect, about the conduct of his noble friend (lord Castlereagh), with regard to the Treaty of Fontainbleau: he seemed to think that his noble friend was to blame, either for not being at Paris when? that Treaty was negociated, or for not having furnished lord Cathcart with the necessary instructions. But, before gentlemen pronounced so decided an opinion, they should recall to their recollection what the real state of affairs at that time was in France. His noble friend had explained to the House how impossible it was for him to have been at Paris when the Treaty was negociated; and a little consideration would satisfy the House, that he could not have sent the instructions to lord Cathcart. Gentlemen must remember the very strong sensation which was excited in this country when the intelligence arrived of the extraordinary movement made by Buonaparté, by which he placed himself in the rear of the Allies, and by which his noble friend was separated from them. Many persons in this country entertained the most serious alarms upon the subject, and thought that the whole Allied armies were in considerable danger. Under those circumstances, surely his noble friend could not be blamed because he did not at that moment foresee the march to Paris, the surrender of that capital, and the abdication of Buonaparté or because he did not, under such circumstances, furnish lord Cathcart (who was not, as the right hon. gentleman had supposed, his noble friend's colleague, but was accredited to Russia in a different capacity), with instructions for the negociation of a Treaty respecting the manner of disposing of Buonaparté after his dethronement. He was convinced, that when the right hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Elliot), of whose candour he thought very highly, took these circumstances seriously into his consideration, he would be disposed to retract the censure which he had pronounced.
The gentlemen on the other side of the House, however, by no means agreed in opinion respecting the conduct of his noble friend at Paris. The hon. gentleman who spoke last had distinctly stated, that it was impossible for his noble friend 763 not to have signed the Treaty under all the circumstances of the case. He begged the House to consider what was the situation of his noble friend when he arrived at Paris. He found that the Treaty had been agreed upon by the rest of the Allies, and the Provisional French Government; and it was represented to him, that unless that Treaty was carried into effect, the marshals and the soldiery would not submit; and that, on the other hand, if it were agreed to, they would become good and faithful subjects to the King. If under these circumstances he had refused to accede to the Treaty, the consequences might have been most fatal, the Allies might have been placed in a situation of great peril, and the whole Coalition perhaps have been broken up.
If, then, the noble lord had acted properly in acceding to a part of the stipulations of that Treaty, the next question to consider was, whether any part of the subsequent conduct of the Allies was a breach of that Treaty? If the Treaty was a valid one, they were bound, as he had said before, to treat Buonaparté as a sovereign prince; they could not therefore set guards about his person, and treat him like a prisoner. Nothing could be a stronger proof of this, than the speech of the hon. and learned gentleman (sir James Mackintosh); for, after having laid it down in the broadest terms, that the Allies had by that Treaty a full right to adopt any measures that might be necessary to compel Buonaparté to observe its stipulations; after having reasoned at considerable length to maintain this position, he was at last so sensible of not being borne out by the terms of the Treaty in his argument, that he declared, that when he had seen the Treaty abroad, he was fully persuaded that there must be a secret article (kept back out of delicacy to Buonaparté), giving to the Allies the power to take measures for their security against his future proceedings; and that he had not conversed with one rational man who was not of the same opinion. The learned gentleman declared, that he could not conceive how the Allies should have signed the Treaty without a secret article giving to them the necessary power of coercion; it was obvious, therefore, that the learned gentleman must be of opinion that the public articles of the Treaty did not give them such a power, and that therefore the British Government could not have been justified in taking 764 the steps which he had contended they ought to have taken.
With regard to the supposed infractions of the Treaty, there was not the slightest foundation for any of the allegations that had been made upon that subject, unless it were as to the pecuniary part of the stipulations, with which Great Britain had nothing to do: he did not know whether it was agreed that the money should be paid quarterly; he certainly wished that it had been regularly paid; but any irregularity upon that subject did not warrant Buonaparté in considering the Treaty as being thereby annulled. He ought in the first instance to have remonstrated against what he conceived to be a violation of the Treaty, and if redress was not granted, he would then have been justified in having recourse to stronger measures. But he had made no remonstrance, nor had complained in any way, or in any quarter, that the stipulations in his favour had not been observed. With respect to what had been said about the infraction of the Treaty, as far as concerned Maria Louisa, it was equally void of foundation. When his noble friend left the Congress, he understood that she was to have the duchies of Parma, Placentia, and Guastalla, or such an equivalent for them as she should agree to accept. It was not necessary to consult Buonaparté upon the subject; the duchies were to be conferred on her in full sovereignty; and as an independent sovereign, Maria Louisa was perfectly competent to decide for herself. It had been said, that Buonaparté had urged these supposed infractions of the Treaty as a justification of his conduct in invading France; but that was a mistake. It was true, that after he had been some time in France, he did issue the document alluded to by the hon. gentleman (Mr. Whitbread), which, upon reflection, he probably thought might be useful in furnishing arguments, in foreign countries, to those who might be inclined to favour his cause; but in his first Proclamation after he landed in France, he stated, not that the Treaty of Fontainbleau had been violated, but that it never was valid; that he had never given up his rights; and all the time he had been in Elba, his thoughts had been turned to the wrongs sustained by his good people of France, and by himself, and to the means of redressing them. All that had been said, therefore, about the infractions of the Treaty of Fontainbleau could not bear upon the question; for 765 Buonaparté had declared, that he never considered it as binding, and that from the time he went to Elba he was constantly watching for a favourable opportunity of breaking it, of restoring to France and the army the glory they had lost, and of returning to his old system—a system which the hon. gentleman opposite had been for years advising this country to tolerate, by suing for peace. [Mr. Whitbread cried, Hear! Hear!] He was not appealing to the candour of the hon. gentleman; he knew him too well to make so fruitless an experiment; but he was appealing to the candour and to the good sense of the House, and the country. The House and the country would recollect, that year after year the hon. gentleman and his friends had endeavoured by their speeches to damp our hopes and paralize our exertions, by an endless series of predictions as gloomy as they were unfounded. That the hon. gentleman and his friends had despaired of the cause of the Peninsula, and had loudly called upon the Administration of this country to abandon Spain and Portugal to their fate; and that the hon. gentleman himself, not satisfied with year after year urging the House to sue for peace, had even appealed to the people in a pamphlet on the same subject.
Much had been said in the course of the debate about the momentous nature of the present crisis, and the peril to which this country and all Europe were subjected by the return of Buonaparté to power. The hon. and learned gentleman had stated this in very strong terms. He agreed, that it was impossible to use terms too strong in speaking of the momentous crisis in which we were placed, unless it were to be said that this great country was not fully competent to meet the danger, and to repel it. Great and imminent as our danger was, he was confident we were capable of meeting it; and he had no doubt but that the same spirit and the same perseverance which had been manifested in the former struggle by the people, and had been so nobly backed by this House and the Crown, would again bring us through our present difficulties. He fairly owned, that he could hardly conceive Buonaparté's remaining in power to be compatible with the safety of this country; the crisis was certainly most dangerous. But the House had already done much to avert the danger, by strengthening the hands of Government in a manner to 766 enable them either to prepare for a vigorous war, or to insure an honourable and solid peace. The same firmness and the same spirit, he trusted, would bring matters to the same glorious result which had followed the exertions of his noble friend last year, and which he, in a great measure, attributed to his abilities, though we had been told to-night that our success was owing to a mere chance of war. If the House and the country remained true to themselves, he had the most sanguine hope that we should ride triumphant through the storm, and that our situation, notwithstanding all our difficulties, might ultimately be different indeed from that in which we should have stood, if the advice of the hon. gentleman (Mr. Whitbread), and his friends, had been taken, who loudly and repeatedly recommended a peace with Buonaparté when he was in he zenith of his power and his crimes.
replied, and said that the question for the House to decide was, whether those ministers who had been proved guilty of such criminal negligence, were fit persons to be trusted with the management of affairs in the present alarming crisis.
§ The House divided:
|For the motion||65|