HC Deb 21 April 1823 vol 8 cc1136-41

No. 1.—Confidential Minute of Viscount Castlereagh on the Affairs of Spain. Communicated to the Courts of Austria, France, Prussia, and Russia in May, 1820.

(Extract.) The events which have occurred in Spain have, as might be expected, excited, in proportion as they have developed themselves, the utmost anxiety throughout Europe.

The British cabinet upon this as upon all other occasions, is ever ready to deliberate with those of the allies, and will unreservedly explain itself upon this great question of common interest; but as to the form in which it may be prudent to conduct these deliberations, they conceive, they cannot too early recommend that course of deliberation which will excite the least attention or alarm, or which can least provoke jealousy in the minds of the Spanish nation or government. In this view, it appears to them advisable, studiously to avoid any re-union of the sovereigns—to abstain, at least in the present stage of the question, from charging any ostensible conference with commission to deliberate on the affairs of Spain. They conceive it preferable that their intercourse should be limited to those confidential communications between the cabinets which are, in themselves, best adapted to approximate ideas, and to lead, as far as may be, to the adoption of common principles, rather than to hazard a discussion in a ministerial conference, which, from the necessarily limited powers of the individuals composing it, must ever be better fitted to execute a purpose already decided upon, than to frame a course of policy under delicate and difficult circumstances.

There seems the less motive for precipitating any step of this nature in the case immediately under consideration, as, from all the information which reaches us, there exists in Spain no order of things upon which to deliberate; nor as yet any governing authority with which foreign powers can communicate.

the king's authority, for the moment at least, seems to be dissolved. His majesty is represented, in the last despatches from Madrid, as having wholly abandoned himself to the tide of events, and as conceding whatever is called for by the provisional Junta and the clubs.

The authority of the provisional government does not appear to extend beyond the two Castilles and a part of Andalusia:—Distinct local authorities prevail in the various provinces, and the king's personal safety is regarded as extremely liable to be hazarded, by any step which might lay him open to the suspicion of entertaining a design to bring about a counter-revolution, whether by internal or external means.

This important subject having been referred to, and considered by the duke of Wellington, his memorandum accompanies this minute.—His grace does not hesitate, upon his intimate experience of Spanish affairs, to pronounce, that the Spanish nation is, of all the European people, that, which will least brook any interference from abroad; he states the many instances in which, during the last war, this distinguishing trait of national character rendered them obstinately blind to the most pressing considerations of public safety: he states the imminent danger in which the suspicion of foreign interference, and more especially of interference on the part of France, is likely to involve the king—and he further describes the difficulties which would oppose themselves to any military operations in Spain, undertaken for the purpose of reducing, by force, the nation to submit themselves to an order of things, to be either suggested or prescribed to them from without.

Sir Henry Wellesley has, in coincidence with this opinion, reported the alarm which the intended mission of M. de La Tour du Pin had excited at Madrid, the prejudice which, in the opinion of all the foreign ministers at Madrid., it was calculated to occasion to the king's interests and possible safety. He also reports the steps which it was in contemplation to have adopted on the part of the king to endeavour to prevent the French minister from prosecuting his journey to Madrid, when the intelligence of the abandonment of the mission was received from Paris.

At all events, therefore, until some central authority shall establish itself in Spain, all notion of operating upon her councils seems utterly impracticable; and calculated to lead to no other possible result, than that of compromising either the king or the allies, or probably both.

The present state of Spain, no doubt, seriously extends the range of political agitation in Europe, but it must nevertheless be Admitted, that there is no portion of Europe of equal magnitude, in which such a revolution could have happened, less likely to menace other states with that direct and imminent danger, which has always been regarded, at least in this country, as alone constituting the case which would justify external interference. If the case is not such as to warrant such an interference—if we do not feel that we have at this moment either the right or the means to interfere with effect by force—if the semblance of such an interference is more likely to irritate than to overawe, and if we have proved, by experience, how little a Spanish government, whether of king or Cortes, is disposed to listen to advice from foreign states, is it not prudent at least to pause, before we assume an attitude which would seem to pledge us in the eyes of Europe to some decisive proceeding? Before we embark in such a measure, is it not expedient, at least, to ascertain with some degree of precision, what we really mean to do? This course of temperate and cautious policy, so befitting the occasion and the critical position in which the king is personally placed, will in no degree fetter our action, when, if ever, the case for acting shall arise.

In the mean time, as independent states, the allied powers may awaken, through their respective missions at Madrid, with not less effect than would attend any joint representation, a salutary apprehension of the consequences that might be produced by any violence offered to the king's person or family, or by any hostile measures directed against the Portuguese dominions in Europe, for the protection of which Great Britain is bound by specific treaty.

In conveying any such intimation, however, the utmost delicacy should be observed; and though it is to be presumed that the views and wishes of all the allied powers must be essentially the same, and that the sentiments they are likely to express cannot materially differ, it does not follow that they should speak either in their corporate character, or through any common organ—both which expedients would be calculated rather to offend, than to conciliate or persuade.

There can be no doubt of the general danger which menaces more or less the stability oall existing governments, from the principles which are afloat, and from the circumstances that so many states of Europe are now employed in the difficult task of casting anew their governments upon the representative principle—but the notion of revising, limiting or regulating the course of such experiments, either by foreign council or by foreign force, would be as dangerous to avow, as it would be impossible to execute; and the illusion too prevalent on this subject, should not be encouraged in our intercourse with the allies.—That circumstances might arise out of such experiments in any country directly menacing to the safety of other states, cannot be denied; and against such a danger, well ascertained, the allies may justifiably, and must in all prudence, be on their guard; but such is not the present case.—Fearful, as is the example which is furnished by Spain, of an army in revolt, and a monarch swearing to a constitution which contains in its frame hardly the semblance of a monarchy, there is no ground for apprehension that Europe is likely to be speedily endangered by Spanish arms.

In this alliance, as in all other human arrangements, nothing is more likely to impair, or even to destroy its real utility, than any attempt to push its duties and its obligations beyond the sphere which its original conception and understood principles will warrant.—It was an union for the reconquest and liberation of a great proportion of the continent of Europe from the military dominion of France; and having subdued the conqueror, it took the state of possession, as established by the peace, under the protection of the alliance.—It never was, however, intended as an union for the government of the world, or for the superintendence of the internal affairs of other states.

We shall be found in our place when actual danger menaces the system of Europe; but this country cannot, and will not, act upon abstract and speculative principles of precaution. The alliance which exists had no such purpose in view in it's original formation.—It was never so explained to parliament; if it had, most assuredly the sanction of parliament would never have been given to it; and it would now be a breach of faith, were the ministers of the Crown to acquiesce in a construction being put upon it, or were they to suffer themselves to be betrayed into a course of measures, inconsistent with those principles which they avowed at the time, and which they have since uniformly maintained both at home and abroad.

No. 2.—Instructions drawn up by the Marquis of Londonderry, and transferred to the Duke of Wellington, September 14, 1822.

(Extract.) With respect to Spain, there seems nothing to add to, or vary, in the course of policy hitherto pursued—Solicitude for the safety of the royal family—Observance of our engagements with Portugal—and a rigid abstinence from any interference in the internal affairs of that country—must be considered as forming the basis of his majesty's policy.

No. 3.—The Duke of Wellington to Mr. Secretary Canning.—Received November 7.

(Extract.) Verona, October 29, 1822. I shall object to every thing, excepting that the allies should call upon France to explain herself; and then that they should recommend to her, if peace be her object, as it must be that of the other powers, that she should ask for the good offices of one of her allies, to explain to Spain her desire to: remain at peace.

If the allies should agree to recommend this line, and should enter into no treaty nor make any declaration, hostile to Spain, and France should then desire the good offices of England, I shall consent to give them. But if there should be any defensive treaty, or even declaration against Spain on the part of the allies, I shall consider it my duty to decline to become a party to either, and shall endeavor to make them feel, collectively, that the treaty or declaration will only render useless the efforts of the power which is to use its good offices to maintain peace; and I shall also decline to consent, on the part of my government, to use such good offices: but if pressed to do so, I shall take the demand ad referendum.

No. 4.—Mr. Secretary Canning to the Duke of Wellington.

(Extract.) Foreign Office, Nov. 8, 1822. I am to signify to your grace his majesty's entire approbation of your conduct and language in respect to the affairs of Spain—and particularly of the determination not to promise the good offices of his majesty between that country and France, in any other case than that of a simple and specific request to that effect on the part of France, unaccompanied by "any treaty or any declaration of the allies hostile to Spain."

No. 5.—(Translation) Memorandum relative to the conduct of Spain; communicated by M. de Jabat to Mr. Secretary Canning, on the 18th February, 1823.

If proofs of the moderation of Spain, and of the little foundation with which she is accused of following the system of propagating her political principles, be required—here are three undeniable facts: The junta of Oporto applies in 1820 for Spanish troops; refused:—The government of Naples, in the beginning of 1821, makes the same request; refused:—In 1822, on the application of France, the French refugees, captain Nantil, &c. were made to retire 30 leagues into the country, whilst the generals Eguia, Abreu, &c. and the self-named regency were organizing bands of the faith at Bayonne and Perpignan.

In 1822 we declined the services of three French regiments of the Army of Observation. Up to this day, no French soldier or peasant can be cited whom we have seduced, armed, paid, and thrust into the bosom of his country to devastate it. We have not raised the tricolour flag; we have not refused to publish a generous and salutary amnesty; we have not invited to evening assemblies of etiquette French outlaws and conspirators; we have not tolerated that an individual at Madrid should invest himself publicly with the title of chargé-ďaffaires of the regency of France, whilst his excellency, M. de Lagarde was ambassador of his most Christian majesty, at the court of his Catholic majesty. In fine, have done nothing (for these negative proofs might form too diffuse a catalogue)—we have done nothing against the French of those things which the French (that is to say the French government) have done against us; and we have done for the governments which excommunicate us, what none of them have done for us.

If there be any question of verbal or written disavowals, England has received the most solemn disavowals on the subject of Portugal; Austria on the subject of Italy; and Europe, especially in the memorable sitting of the 11th January 1823, has heard the representatives of Spain declare, in appealing for the truth of it to the history of what passed from 1808 to 1814, and from 1820 to 1823, both, 1st. That their country will never interfere with the internal affairs of other powers; and 2ndly. That neither will she consent to the scandalous dictation which it is wished to impose upon her.

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