§ The Substance of the Convention between his Britannic Majesty, the King of the Netherlands, and the Emperor of Russia, respectively, signed at London the 19th of May 1815; the statement of the capital, interest, and sinking fund of that part of the Russian debt in Holland, to be provided for by Great Britain, in pursuance of the Convention of the 19th May 1815, having been referred to the consideration of a committee of the whole House,
, in rising, pursuant to the notice he had given, s0aid, he was desirous of carrying the feelings of the committee back to that period at which the independence of Holland was restored. At that auspicious moment he was sure but one sentiment pervaded the country, and nothing could have been less congenial with it, than for ministers to have exercised the rights of war with respect to the colonies of Holland, after the deliverance of that country from the hands of the enemy. It would have been in opposition to the feelings of the nation to have treated Holland in any other respect than as a country with which it was our object to maintain the most friendly relations; and, much as he should have lamented if an amicable arrangement could not have been made by which England could retain the Cape of Good Hope, which was so important to this country from its connexion with our territories in the East, and reluctant as he should have been to have lost any opportunity of placing so large a mass of British property as was contained in the islands of Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo, permanently under the protection of the Crown of England; much as he should have regretted such important cessions, still would he have been content to forego all the benefits of retaining them, rather than have failed to act with friendly liberality towards Holland. It ought not to be disguised, that though France might have overrun Holland from the lust of conquest, much of the misery which had fallen on that unfortunate country, had been inflicted on account of the attachment it had cherished for England. This feeling, so difficult to extinguish, has never ceased to manifest itself; and it 744 was possible that but for this, Holland might for a longer time have escaped the storms by which she was overwhelmed. If he was right in supposing, that from the period at which we had the satisfaction of witnessing the restoration of Holland, there was no disposition to exercise the rights of war harshly against her, he trusted the arrangement he had now to bring under the consideration of the committee, would be approved as consonant with the true policy of England, and as fair and liberal with respect to Holland. There were three points to which he should now address himself: First, the sum proposed to be given to Sweden in consideration of the abandonment of her claims on the island of Guadaloupe: Second, the grant for the fortifications of the Netherlands: And, thirdly, the advance to be made in favour of Russia on account of a loan raised in Holland. The arrangements which had been made, and for which he was about to call upon them to provide, it was proper to observe, had all been made independent of the present circumstances of Europe, and would all have been to be submitted to Parliament, had no new occasion called for their cooperation with this country in a struggle against the power of France. It would be recollected that the island of Guadaloupe had been ceded to Sweden by this country. Our right to it had been transferred to Sweden, though no positive guarantee had been entered into that she should continue to possess it after war should be at an end. We, however, were certainly bound to support her pretensions as our Ally, when peace should be concluded, so far as circumstances would permit. When the Swedish Treaty was discussed and sanctioned by that House, there was no point perhaps that was more particularly looked to than this, on account of the embarrassments it was feared it might throw in the way of a future accommodation with France; and could it then have been foreseen that this difficulty might be obviated by a pecuniary arrangement, it would have lessened the number of the objections urged against that Treaty. When peace was about to be made with France, then no longer an adverse power, he could not but feel that having lost St. Domingo, unless she regained Guadaloupe, she would want that existence in the West Indies, which he thought she ought at all times to possess; for he was of opinion that the interests of 745 her commerce made it necessary that she should be of importance in that quarter, and this he regarded as essential to the peace of the world. Under these circumstances, then, it would be seen, that had not Sweden lent herself to the arrangement necessary to get over this difficulty, there would have been much embarrassment in concluding the late peace. From this statement, it would be seen that the vote which would be proposed in favour of Sweden, did not at all arise out of the present circumstances of Europe, but out of the arrangement which had been thought advisable at a period of the late war, when the state of things was not so favourable to the Allies, as they were at a subsequent time, and when but for the arrangement referred to, it might have been impossible for Russia to make the efforts she had made, and which had led to the Treaty of Paris. The fortifications in the Netherlands would call for no advance from this country in the present year. The system of fortifying the Netherlands he considered wise, even as a measure of economy. It was necessary to preserve Holland and her navy independent of France, and this could only be secured by making the Netherlands strong as a military position. This would save the country the excessive expense of repelling the attempts which France might be induced to make at any future period. With this view of the subject, the conceived this country to be highly interested in fortifying the Netherlands in the manner proposed, the expense of which would be met gradually. With respect to the loan raised in Holland, for the service of Russia, which we were called on to pay, he really was not in possession of the information necessary to enable him to say whether or not the anecdote recounted by the hon. gentleman (Mr. Whitbread) of its origin, was correct. If the Joan was raised for the purpose which had been stated, he would join with the hon. gentleman in reprobating its object; but the propriety or impropriety of the present arrangement could not be determined by the policy which caused the loan to be raised. The fact was, such a debt was in existence, and the question for the committee to consider was, whether Russia was entitled to such assistance, and whether Holland had done any thing to entitle her to expect that England would give it? The noble lord then proceeded to set forth the claims which Russia had to the 746 gratitude of Holland, and the necessity of those charges being cheerfully borne by a country delivered from foreign oppression, which were attendant on the operations of those who were the means of restoring its liberty. If nations placed in this situation failed gratefully to take upon themselves such expenses, the effect would be fatal to the cause of freedom, as those great Powers who had the means of procuring their emancipation, would be taught to pursue a more insulated line of policy. On the advance of the Allies to the Rhine, the Sovereigns of the smaller states (twenty-two in number) had agreed, in aid of the exertions of the three great Powers, not only to furnish a certain quota of men for the future operations of the campaign, but they had also agreed each to contribute a sum of money equal to one year's revenue of their respective dominions. It was thought Holland ought to do as much as these, and indeed something more, as before her military exertions had not been so great. With the wishes of the Allies the King of the Netherlands had complied. The noble lord then went on to prove how equitable the claim was which he felt it his duty to prefer on the part of the King of the Netherlands. The arrangement made would be as beneficial to him as it was consonant to the policy of this country. It went to give the greatest power in Europe an interest in the conservation of the independence of Holland; and however ready that Power might have proved itself to make great sacrifices for the public good, he considered it no misfortune for the politics of Europe, that interest should in this instance unite with duty. It was said that Russia might again act as from circumstances she had found herself compelled to do in the last war; and, in that case, the payments by Holland would cease. If that period should arrive, our payments also would be suspended, as they would if by any circumstance the Netherlands should be separated from Holland. The state of things which had called upon us to take this charge upon ourselves, had given us an opportunity of fairly, and without the appearance of illiberality, proposing to Holland the cession of her colonies to England. He had much satisfaction in stating, that our conduct in this respect had been justly appreciated on the part of Holland. She had viewed it as a fair proposition made by a friendly power, and not considered it as the demand of a 747 nation who, having obtained possession of her colonies in time of war, refused to relinquish them on the return of peace. The colonies obtained by the arrangement entered into with Holland, were of great importance to this country, not only on account of their connexion with our Eastern possessions, but on account of the Situation in which they placed us with respect to South America, by which a constant supply of cotton was secured, which would prove an important advantage to the manufacturers of one of our staple commodities. The King of the Netherlands had certainly of himself taken measures for putting an end to the Slave-trade; but the situation of some of the ceded colonies presented such facilities to the smuggling of slaves into them, that it could hardly be hoped the evil would be effectually remedied but by placing them under the care of this country. The arrangement made had not been decided upon from an inordinate wish to extend our colonial possessions, but to promote the interests of our manufactures, and to give greater effect to that system of policy which the country had so anxiously at heart. With respect to the payments, he had to state, that the first to be made on account of the loan to Russia would be about the middle of the year 1816, and its amount, including interest and sinking fund, would be 136,000l. This, as he had before stated, would only be continued so long as the Netherlands were separated from France, and would cease if the Orange family should unfortunately be displaced. Nothing would be required at present for the fortifications of the Netherlands; but in a Committee of Supply, he should move the grant of 1,000,000l. to Sweden, as compensation to her for giving up Guadaloupe. The noble lord concluded by moving, "That provision be made out of the Consolidated Fund of Great Britain for the payment of the interest on the capital sum of twenty-free millions of florins, Dutch currency, being part of the loan made in Holland for the service of the Emperor of Russia; together with a sinking fund for the liquidation thereof, and the expenses attending the same."
§ Mr. Whitbread
, in reference to what had been said by the noble lord of the agreement made by the Sovereigns of the smaller states, to advance in aid of the common cause a sum equal to one year's revenue of their respective dominions, 748 desired to know if any payments had, in point of fact, been made. The debt owed by Russia to Holland, he believed, had been contracted by the grandmother of the Emperor Alexander, and for a number of years no part of the principal or interest had been paid.
stated some issues to have been made by the minor states, of Exchequer-bills, or something of that sort, in consequence of the arrangement to which they were parties. The Emperor of Russia had indeed made the discharge of the debt due to Holland a point of honour; but the payments had been suspended while Holland was essentially French.
§ Mr. Whitbread
considered the explanation of the noble lord to be but a poor excuse for the conduct of Russia. The country, he thought, would be little disposed to pay a loan which had been contracted to put a Russian armament in motion against the independence of Poland, after supporting with their money the opposite side of the question on a former occasion. He thought it very desirable that we should know whether or not we were called upon to pay the price of that iniquity which we thought it our duty to oppose before. Notwithstanding the arrangement which had been made, he considered the situation of the creditors of Russia in Holland, to be but indifferent after all.
§ Mr. Tierney
admired nothing so much as the ingenuity of the noble lord. It was only when he got to the end of his speech, that those who listened to him could tell what was going on. He spoke much of the amicable arrangement which had taken place, but spoke as if it was attended with no inconvenience, as if it was to throw no burthen on the people, and after all it came out that 8,000,000l. was to be sent from this country.
controverted this statement, and showed the right hon. gentleman that in no way could it be proved that the charges referred to would exceed 5,000,000l.
§ Mr. Tierney
, admitting them to be but 5,000,000l., would venture to say, that nobody who heard the speech of the noble lord could have thought from his manner that he was about to propose a vote of 5,000,000l. It was worthy of remark, that these conventions, which had been concluded some time, were not brought forward till the middle of June.
749 He thought it must appear to the House, that there had been a wish for concealment on the part of the noble lord. On private information he had ventured three months ago to ask the noble lord a question connected with the subject of them. The answer was ambiguous—it was in substance, that the Opposition were at their old tricks—they were asking many impertinent questions, to which he should not then reply, but a time would come when he would satisfactorily answer all. It should seem this time was now arrived; but he thought he had a right to ask, why it did not come before? He thought there was something very improper, and (not to use the word in an offensive sense), suspicious, in such concealment. Why these papers had not been brought forward before, the noble lord ought to explain before he left the House that night. Those arrangements might be advantageous to Europe, but why should this country have to pay for them? Because Sweden had consented to accept a compensation of 25,000,000 of francs for Guadaloupe, his Britannic Majesty, as a friend and ally, was pleased to take the payment of that sum upon himself. But wherefore should he do it? This was what he wished to know. Holland had gained the whole of the Austrian Netherlands, and ought to consider the exchange of four colonies, for that large portion of European territory, a very good bargain. The noble lord's speech a few nights since had excited much astonishment in Holland; and he had received a letter from an honest Dutchman, who said, "I have endeavoured to understand lord Castlereagh's speech, and have not been able to make out one word of it." The finances of Holland were not in so dilapidated a state as to require such an interference on our part. By her union with France, she had got rid of two-thirds of her debt. The Chancellor of the Exchequer might smile at this method of disposing of a national debt; but if he went on much longer, he would be compelled to have recourse to similar means.—(Hear!)—The noble lord had no right to pledge the country to pay one million without the knowledge of Parliament. From his speech it would appear that the price of the colonies ceded to England was only 136,000l., whilst it was, in fact, five millions, which far surpassed their value. What was the use of our retaining the Cape of Good Hope, when we were in 750 possession of the Mauritius? Holland, at the time she gave us up the sovereignty of that colony, preserved, all its uses to herself, and only left us the expense of its possession. It was the same with the three other colonies; all persons residing in them were to have the right of trading as before, with the Dutch dominions in Europe; so that they might, if they pleased, refuse to convey their merchandize to this country. It made, therefore, no difference to us whether those islands were in the hands of the Dutch or in our own. The last thing that ought to have been done, ought to have been bargaining for colonies in the West Indies. But he was convinced there remained a story to be told of some secret arrangement, which would creep out in another twelvemonth. It had been said that we had made a good bargain, when for five millions, which the loss on the exchange would reduce to four, we had obtained 600,000 men from the Allies. But there was perhaps another colonial arrangement of five millions behind. The noble lord said, that the country would only have 136,000l. to pay; but this expenditure was to go on until the two millions should be liquidated, which would not take a shorter period than 33 years. Could not Holland have endured such a debt? If unable to pay the two millions at once, she could not be embarrassed with the arrangement that had been made, and could have easily met the yearly instalments of 136,000l. This very arrangement showed that there was no necessity we should take them, upon ourselves. With all the noble lord's power in that House, if he had fairly said that the country was to pay five millions, he would not have obtained a majority. He wished to know how we came into possession of the island of Banca, which we had ceded to the Dutch. When the noble lord wanted five millions to fortify Belgium, which was to remain in the possession of Holland, be ought to show that Holland was unable to do it herself; otherwise he plundered the people of England. He should like to see ministers negociating with Holland to pay for the fortifications of Plymouth or the Isle of Man! The country could not bear such expenditure. When the finances were completely drained, to pull out of one's pocket papers concealed for a twelvemonth, and ask five millions, required all the powers of the noble lord's countenance to face it. At this time of the session, the House was 751 entirely at his mercy. Gentlemen were necessarily engaged in the country, and could not attend. After such a laborious session, he did not complain of their absence, but of the noble lord, for delaying matters of this importance until he knew there could be no opportunity of their being effectually discussed.
stated, that the reason why the Treaties had not been brought down before, was, that they were not then in a proper shape: they were, even now, imperfect. The Convention between the emperor of Russia and the king of the Netherlands, which alone gave them validity, had not been concluded until the l9th of May last. He maintained, that to fortify the places in Belgium was not a Dutch object merely, but one which interested all Europe, and this country in particular, and that Holland ought not to be allowed to exhaust her resources by incurring expenses beyond her strength. If England alone had conquered the Netherlands, then it would have been fair and just in her to exchange them for the Dutch colonies, and to pay no other price. But that was not the case: she had no right to dispose of Belgium as she pleased, as it was as much in the power of the Allied Sovereigns as in hers. With respect to the island of Banca, he could not charge his memory with the manner in which we had acquired it; but he had no doubt our title to its possession would be found a good one.
§ Mr. Wallace
stated, that the rajah of Banca, having murdered all the Dutch, and declared himself independent of them, which he was not before, had afterwards been obliged to fly. His brother had then been made sovereign, and had ceded his rights to us.
believed that the rajah of Banca had been forced to enter into an improvident contract for tin by the Dutch government: that he had assisted us in taking Java, but that when after the success of that enterprise, our commander had insisted on his fulfilling the contract entered into with the Dutch government, he had resisted it. The consequence was, that we had sent an army against him and taken possession of his territories. This, the was convinced, was the original cause of his losing Banca. As to his being deposed afterwards, he could say nothing.
§ Mr. Whitbread
remarked, that according to the last speaker, the rajah of Banca had assisted the English in the conquest of Java.
§ Mr. Wallace
denied that fact. He had never moved until after the English had taken possession of Java, when he had seized that occasion to murder all the Dutch inhabitants in his dominions.
§ Mr. Bankes
objected to the treaty under which the payment of the Dutch loan was guaranteed to Russia by this country, having formerly objected to the original treaty, of which this was to be considered a branch. The noble lord had rung the changes upon the terms, grand system, national generosity, and liberal policy, until he almost persuaded himself that this country was capable of supplying pecuniary resources to the whole of Europe; and it was obvious that Holland was not now, and could not for many years be in a situation to repay to England, even the salvage of her colonies, much less the enormous sums that they had cost this country. He objected to the system upon which Government was now acting with regard to foreign powers; they were embarking this country too much in foreign policy, and connecting her too intimately with continental affairs. Upon a question like the present, the utmost deliberation was necessary, and he thought that the treaty ought to have been presented to Parliament long ago.
observed, that it was wholly inconsistent with the practice of Parliament, and indeed with the established system of the constitution, that treaties should be laid upon the table pending negotiations, and, on that account, that which related to the question now before the House had been delayed. Undoubtedly his hon. friend possessed a very enlarged mind, but he had a singular facility in contracting it to the narrowest view of the question; thus, while he painted to the House so strongly the inconveniencies that might result from the payment of this money, he forgot entirely to consider the alternative, of what might be the consequences if the demand were not discharged: while he was censuring the subsidies that during the late war had been paid to our Allies, he neglected to notice the brilliant events that it had produced, and the full equivalent that Great Britain had derived for these sacrifices.
§ Sir John Newport
dwelt upon the impolicy of repairing the fortresses on the frontiers of Belgium that might in future devolve into the hands of the enemy, and allow him to turn our own weapons upon ourselves, while we, even when we re- 753 turned them, obtained no adequate advantage. The noble lord had said much of the increased facilities we possessed of terminating the Slave-trade when Demerara, Essequibo, and Berbice, were in our hands; but unless we possessed the most important colony of Surinam also, sir John doubted whether we could act with the least effect. He recommended that the House should pause before it consented to the present vote, or sanctioned a treaty transferring the island of Banca to another power, when in fact it was not known what right we had to dispose of it, no satisfactory information having been given it what way it came into our hands. All that the noble lord could say was, that we had possession of it, and therefore he presumed that it came fairly and honestly into our hands.
contended, that not the slightest foundation had yet been laid for the proposition of the noble lord; he conceived that it was quite irregular for Parliament to be called upon to give its sanction to a treaty before it had been ratified by the foreign power with whom it was made. There seemed neither reason nor justice in calling upon Great Britain to make good this debt to Holland; and the probability appeared to be, that while the Sovereigns were squabbling at Vienna for pieces of territory, the noble lord, to restore harmony, had thrown in the money of Great Britain, without reference either to the amount, or the benefits it was likely to produce. It would doubtless be replied, that the value of the Dutch colonies was great; but the truth was, that the island of Guadaloupe alone was worth infinitely more than all the Dutch possessions in the West Indies united. [Lord Castereagh shook his head.] If the noble lord ventured to contradict this assertion, it would only show that he really knew nothing about the subject. He doubted even whether it would have been politic to have accepted these colonies from the Dutch. The Cape of Good Hope could be of no use to us, Mauritius and St. Helena being in our hands; the only object which was desirable was to keep the Cape of Good Hope out of hostile hands: but in the hands of the Dutch, our allies, it would be safe; so that the only question was, who should bear the expense? There was one reason, to be sure, why we should bear it—which was, that we had a governor there, in the receipt of 20,000l. a year (Hear!); for twice which 754 sum the thrifty Dutchman would have supported the Whole colony. In the colonies also the Dutch were to have a joint trade with ourselves; for though this benefit was to be limited to Dutch proprietors, it would not be very easy to prevent those persons from exporting goods which were not the produce of their own estates. It was plain that the purchase of the colonies had been the real object, but that the business was transacted upon other principles, which the noble lord had styled grand views; and that, in fact, the States assembled at Vienna being dissatisfied with their shares of spoil, Great Britain had stepped in to supply all deficiencies with her gold. As to the sum to be paid to Sweden, the treaty and the statement of the noble lord were at variance: the treaty spoke of 24 millions of florins, which would amount to about a million and one-third; but the noble lord said it was but one million sterling.
§ Mr. Bathurst
thought that too narrow a view had been taken by the opposers of the vote, as they had not considered the consequences which might have resulted, if any member of the alliance had withdrawn itself during the last war, or thrown, itself into the opposite scale. When an hon. member had said it was to supply the deficiencies in the spoil that we had stepped forward, why had he closed his eyes to the Low Countries, which was obviously an object for the annexation of which to Holland this country should make some sacrifices? By the Treaty of Paris, all that was decided as to the Netherlands was, that they should not belong to Trance. Though from what he had heard, he was not disposed to rank the Dutch colonies so low, in comparison with Guadaloupe, as the hon. member who spoke last; it was not on the ground of their absolute value that this country had retained them, but because so many British subjects, and so much British capital had been engaged. The fortification of the frontiers of the Low Countries was the only means by which that country could be made secure, and consequently of any advantage to this country; and as this object could not be accomplished for less than eight or ten millions, of which sum the revenue of Holland was not in a state to supply the whole, was not our aid justified? It had been proved by experience that it was not secure in the hands, of the Dutch; and it was therefore better, even with a view to economy, that we 755 should retain it, than be at the expense of re conquering it at a future time. On the general view of the question, and not looking merely at the pounds, shillings, and pence, he thought the proposition justified.
observed, that the question had been put on a better footing by the abandonment of the allegation that the purchase of the colonies was the real ground for the vote. But still he thought that the arrangement was not justified on any principle of British policy. Our interest was, that some great Continental Power should hold the Netherlands, which might be able to protect them against France; but if no such power would take them, we should not at any rate have paid other Powers for the transfer of them to Holland. [Cries of 'Question!'].
§ Mr. W. Smith
said, it was with the utmost difficulty that the House could be prevailed on to pay any attention to a subject of such importance; but he felt it his duty to protest against the vote. If this country had only contributed by her money to the object of the war, the other Powers might call on us to accommodate matters with our gold or paper; but they should remember that we had constantly kept up 150,000 seamen, and a land force immense in comparison to our population. Why then were we to pay all other Powers? As to the fortifications of Belgium, it was necessary, as we were to pay two millions towards that object, to have some security that it would be accomplished; otherwise, we might be merely so much the poorer, and the frontier of Belgium never the stronger. Why were we to pay Holland also for accepting what Austria rejected, and other Powers for giving up that which we paid Holland for receiving? He had no doubt, that even if we had not subsidized them, the Continental Powers would, by some means, have found money to continue the contest against France.
§ Mr. Lockhart
opposed the principle of the treaties. The Netherlands, he observed, were in part conquered by British arms—they were conquered by our victories in Spain and France; and we had therefore a joint title to dispose of them. The Cape of Good Hope could be of no benefit to us—it was as safe in the hands of the Dutch. He did not think that industrious people could want our aid to repair their own fortresses. It was of the utmost importance to strengthen the hands 756 of Government, but of greater consequence to maintain public credit, which could only be done by a vigilant eye on the public expenditure. The noble lord had boasted, at the time when the Treaty with Sweden was formerly considered, that we had not guaranteed Guadaloupe to her; but now we were called on to pay a million of money on the ground of some pecuniary engagement to that effect.
objected to the transfer of the island of Banca, but considered the cession of the Cape of Good Hope as most advantageous to this country.
§ The House divided: For the motion, 104; Against it, 19;—Majority, 85. The report was ordered to be received tomorrow.
|List of the Minority.|
|Barclay, C.||Moore, Peter|
|Bennet, hon. H. G.||Montgomery, sir H.|
|Birch, J.||Martin, H.|
|Baring, Alex.||Newport, sir J.|
|Bankes, H.||Pym, F.|
|Babington, T.||Ridley, sir M. W.|
|Duncannon, visc.||Tierney, rt. hon. G.|
|Grant, J. P.||Whitbread, S.|
|Gordon, R.||Smith, Wm.|
|Lockhart, J. I.|
§ On the potion of lord Castlereagh, the House went into a Committee of Supply. Mr. Baring objected to going into the question of Supply at so late an hour. After some observations on the part of Mr. Bankes, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Mr. Baring, it was agreed that the subjects likely to excite discussion should be postponed.
then moved, that 1,000,000l. should be granted to enable his Majesty to carry into execution the Convention with the King of Sweden, dated 13th August 1814; which was agreed to.