HC Deb 01 February 1821 vol 4 cc283-6
Sir Robert Wilson

, understanding, that there was no objection to his motion, moved for a copy of the circular despatch to his majesty's missions at foreign courts, dated from the Foreign Office, 19th January, 1821. The motion was agreed to, and, on the following day, was presented to the House by lord Castlereagh. The following is a copy of the said despatch:

Circular Despatch to His Majesty's Missions at Foreign Courts.

Foreign Office Jan. 19, 1821.

SIR,—I should not have felt it necessary to have made any communication to you, in the present state of the discussions begun at Troppau and transferred to Laybach, had it not been for a circular communication which has been addressed to the courts of Austria, Prussia, and Russia, to their several missions, and which his majesty's government conceive, if not adverted to, might (however unintentionally) convey, upon the subject therein alluded to, very erroneous impressions of the pastas well as of the present sentiments of the British government.

It has become, therefore, necessary to inform you, that the king has felt himself obliged to decline becoming a party to the measures in question.

These measures embrace two distinct objects:—1st. The establishment of certain general principles for the regulation of the future political conduct of the allies in the cases therein described;—Sndly. The proposed mode of dealing, under these principles, with the existing affairs of Naples.

The system of measures proposed under the former head, if to be reciprocally acted upon, would be in direct repugnance to the fundamental laws of this country. But even if this decisive objection did not exist, the British government would nevertheless regard tile principles on which these measures rest, to be such as could not be safely admitted as a system of international law. They are of opinion, that their adoption would inevitably sanction, and, in the hands of less beneficent monarchs, might hereafter lead to a much more frequent and extensive interference in the internal transactions of states, than, they are persuaded, is intended by the august parties from whom they proceed, or can be reconcileable either with the general interest, or with the efficient authority and dignity of independent sovereigns. They do not regard the alliance as entitled, under existing treaties, to assume, in their character as allies, any such general powers, nor do they conceive, that such extraordinary powers could be assumed, in virtue of any fresh diplomatic transaction among the allied courts, without their either attributing to themselves a supremacy incompatible with the rights of other states, or, if to be acquired through the special accession of such states, without introducing a federative system in Europe, not only unwieldy and ineffectual to its object, but leading to many most serious inconveniences.

With respect to the particular case of Naples, the British government, at the very earliest moment, did not hesitate to express their strong disapprobation of the mode and circumstances under which that revolution was understood to have been effected; but they, at the same time, expressly declared to the several allied courts, that they should not consider themselves as either called upon, or justified, to advise an interference on the part of this country; they fully admitted, however, that other European states, and especially Austria and the Italian powers, might feel themselves differently circumstanced; and they professed, that it was not their purpose to prejudge the question as it might affect them, or to interfere with the course which such states might think fit to adopt, with a view to their own security, provided only, that they were ready to give every reasonable assurance, that their views were not directed to purposes of aggrandizement, subversive of the territorial system of Europe, as established by the late treaties.

Upon these principles the conduct of his majesty's government with regard to the Neapolitan question has been, from the first moment, uniformly regulated, and copies of the successive instructions sent to the British authorities at Naples for their guidance, have been from time to time transmitted for the information of the allied governments.

With regard to the expectation which is expressed in the circular above alluded to, of the assent of the courts of London and Paris to the more general measures proposed for their adoption, founded, as it is alleged, upon existing treaties: in justification of its own consistency and good faith, the British government, in withholding such assent, must protest against any such interpretation being put upon the treaties in question, as is therein assumed.

They have never understood these treaties to impose any such obligations; and they have, on various occasions, both in parliament and in their intercourse with the allied governments, distinctly maintained the negative of such a proposition. That they have acted with all possible explicitness upon this subject, would at once appear from reference to the deliberations at Paris, in 1815, previous to the conclusion of the treaty of alliance, at Aix-la-Chapelle, in 1818, and subsequently, in certain discussions which took place in the course of the last year.

After having removed the misconception to which the passage of the circular in question, if passed over in silence, might give countenance; and having stated, in general terms, without however entering into the argument, the dissent of his majesty's government from the general principle upon which the circular in question is founded, it should be clearly understood, that no government can be more prepared than the British government is, to uphold the right of any state or states to interfere where their own immediate security or essential interests are seriously endangered by the internal transactions of another state. But, as they regard the assumption of such right as only to be justified by the strongest necessity, and to be limited and regulated thereby, they cannot admit, that this right can receive a general and indiscriminate application to all revolutionary movements without reference to their immediate bearing upon some particular state or states, or be made prospectively the basis of an alliance. They regard its exercise as an exception to general principles, of the greatest value and importance, and as one that only properly grows out of the circumstances of the special case: but they at the same time consider, that exceptions of this description never can, without the utmost danger, be so far reduced to rule, as to be incorporated into the ordinary diplomacy of states, or into the institutes of the law of nations.

As it appears, that certain of the ministers of the three courts have already communicated this circular despatch to the courts to which they are accredited, I leave it to your discretion to make a corresponding communication on the part of your government, regulating your language in conformity to the principles laid down in the present despatch. You will take care, however, in making such communication, to do justice, in the name of your government, to the purity of intention, which has no doubt actuated these august courts in the adoption of the course of measures which they are pursuing. The difference of sentiment which prevails between them and the court of London on this matter, you may declare, can make no alteration what ever in the cordiality and harmony of the alliance on any other subject, or abate their common zeal in giving the most complete effect to all their existing engagements, I am, &c. (Signed) CASTLEREAGH.

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