HC Deb 24 June 1820 vol 1 cc1320-2
General Fergusson

said;—As we are now about to enter upon this unhappy investigation which, according to ministers, so seriously affects the dignity of the Crown and the interests of the people at large, we have a right, I think, before we proceed farther, to receive some information concerning transactions which have reference to this painful subject. Before we begin the consideration of the inquiry, I beg to ask a question respecting the Milan mission. Was it a public or private commission? Was it sanctioned by the legitimate advisers of the Crown? Was there a report from it if so, to whom was it made? I should also like to know by whom that commission was appointed. I hope this question will receive an. answer from the noble lord opposite.

Lord Castlereagh:

—I hope the hon. and gallant general will excuse me on the present occasion for reminding him, that, when we agreed to meet today, it was specifically understood by my hon. friend opposite (Mr. Wilberforce), and I believe by others, that we were not to meet for discussion, but merely to receive the queen's answer. As we are to enter upon this subject on Monday, I hope it will not be expected of me now to say one word that can lead to premature discussion. I must therefore decline answering the hon. and gallant general's question at the present moment.

Mr. M. A. Taylor

protested against the doctrine laid down by the noble lord, that his agreement with any hon. member was to be admitted as a bar to any inquiry which others might think proper to make. The question put by his hon. friend was a very proper one, and one to which the House had a right to expect an answer, although the noble lord need not answer it, certainly, unless he chose. But the sooner it was answered the better. The Milan commission must either have been the act of government, or have arisen out of underhand advice, to which the noble lord and his colleagues had found themselves obliged to truckle. If the noble lord and his colleagues thought these were acts that ought not to have taken place, they should gravely and respectfully have advised his majesty against them; and if their advice had been rejected, they ought immediately to have resigned their places to others [a laugh]. He did assure the gentlemen who had just indicated their feelings, that he spoke disinterestedly; for, so far from having a wish that his friends or the gentlemen who surrounded him should get into place, he thought it impossible that a greater curse could befall them, than to succeed to the places of the present ministers, in the state of misery to which those ministers had by their counsels reduced the country. For their august royal master, from whom he had now been separated for years [a laugh], he entertained the highest friendship, if he dare speak in such terms of his sovereign, to whom he yielded in respectful duty to no man. If the noble lord could resume his gravity, he would tell him that he (Mr. Taylor) spoke feelingly from his sense of the state of the country, and not from any spleen that could be supposed to arise from his having been separated, as it were, from that sovereign, perhaps by the counsels of that noble lord [repeated laughter]. He spoke out honestly, and under an imperious sense of duty. If in what he had uttered there were any expressions disrespectful to the House, he was ready to beg pardon, but not of the noble lord. He could assure the noble lord that he was grossly mistaken if he thought he could embarrass him by any thing which he could do. By no ridicule or satire was he to be moved. He repeated it, that he lamented to see that illustrious individual in the hands of the noble lord and his colleagues. He insisted on it, that the question of his hon. friend was perfectly proper; and if no answer should be given to it, it would carry a conviction to his breast that there was something in the Milan commission so odious and objectionable, that the noble lord did not dare to own it.

Sir R. Wilson

did not wish to provoke discussion, but he felt it necessary to ask the noble lord if the adjourned debate on the king's message would be resumed on Monday, or if it was intended by ministers to insist on the appointment of a secret committee? He asked for the purpose of obtaining information for his constituents, who were anxious to seize the opportunity, if any should offer, to express their objections to that mode of proceeding, by way of petition to the House.

Lord Castlereagh

declined giving any answer to any farther question.

Mr. Martin

said, it was highly indecorous to be thus putting questions to the noble lord, especially when it was known to be the feeling of the House that there ought to be no discussion upon the subject at present.

The House then adjourned.