§ On the order of the day, for resuming the adjourned debate, upon Mr. Stuart Wortley's amendment to Mr. Macdonald's motion respecting the Negotiations relative to Spain.
§ Mr. W. Whitmore
rose. He said, he wished briefly to explain the motives which would induce him to vote for the original address. In stating those reasons he should not say that it was the policy of this country to embark in war; still less that it was her policy to hold out a menace which it was not her intention to follow up. His decision was not founded on either of these considerations, but it was founded on the fact, that throughout the whole of the documents which had been submitted to parliament, he was unable to discover a single proof of that sound, open, manly, and independent feeling, which it became this country to express, at the atrocious aggression contemplated by France against the freedom; of the Spanish nation. It was not his intention to go through the details of that correspondence, but, looking at it as a whole, he must say, that the right hon. secretary and his colleagues appeared, with respect to France and Spain, not in the character of neutrals, but, unfortunately, as the allies, or, at least, the apologists of France. Wherever a wrong was committed by that government, the British ministry was certain to find an excuse for them. We furnished them with explanations which they themselves never contemplated. What, for instance, was the necessity of our plenipotentiary at Verona admitting that the conduct of the Spanish government might have endangered the safety of other countries, and might have excited the uneasiness of the governments whose members he was addressing? Now, all that might have been very true; but he did not see why an English plenipotentiary should insert it in a memorandum addressed to the sovereigns assembled at Verona. Still some 1366 better reason was wanting than any which the French government had given, and which amounted merely to the determination of overthrowing the liberties of the Spanish people. It was accordingly most gratuitously furnished to them; and he really believed that it never entered their heads until it was suggested to them in the notes of the English minister: for nothing had been urged by the French before that time, except the miserable pretext stated in the French senate, that fewer mules were sold than heretofore. He then referred to the speech of the king of France and the letter of M. de Chateaubriand, received by Mr. Secretary Canning, on the 27th of January, 1823, from neither of which could any thing be extracted like a justification of the French policy, except it could be from that part of the French minister's letter which stated: "the Comte de la Garde has received orders to communicate, confidentially, to sir W. A'Court, the king's benevolent intentions. His most Christian majesty demands that his Catholic majesty should, of himself, and by his own authority, apply the necessary modifications to the institutions which have been imposed on the crown of France, by the revolt of a few soldiers." This was feeble enough, but it was presently aided by the admissions, in the communications of the right hon. secretary to sir C. Stuart, of which the French minister did not fail to make his advantage: "We disclaim," said he, "for ourselves, and deny for other powers, the right of requiring any changes in the internal institutions of independent states, with the menace of hostile attack in case of refusal. The moderation of such demands in no degree justifies in our eyes such a mode of enforcing them; and this distinction it is the more important to keep steadily in view, and to impress upon the French government, at a moment when, for their sake and at their desire, we are suggesting to Spain, in a tone of friendly counsel, alterations similar to those which France is proposing as the alternative of hostilities." Taking that answer in connexion with the previous despatch, from which it should appear that his most Catholic majesty was desirous that modifications of his own suggestion should be adopted, he thought the government were in a more unfortunate situation than ever any other government had yet been placed in. He must say, 1367 that looking to the whole tenour of this diplomatic correspondence, any one who had not the same confidence in the honour of his majesty's ministers, which he himself entertained, could come to no other conclusion than that they had viewed the cause of France as their own, rather than that of Spain. He felt it necessary to explain to the House the grounds upon which he should vote on the present occasion, in order to guard himself against the imputation of inconsistency; because that vote would differ from the one which he had given on a former occasion, somewhat similar—he meant with respect to the affairs of Naples. He had given that vote upon the most honest conviction; but he must confess that he had done so in the absence of that information upon which it should have been founded; and he had never, in the course of his life, regretted any step more sincerely than that which he had taken on the occasion to which he alluded. The attack upon Naples he considered as the beginning of a system, the most fatal that had ever yet got into the heads of kings and emperors—a system altogether subversive of every thing like liberty, and decidedly hostile to the rights and the institutions of every free people. It had contributed to give to the allied sovereigns an undue and unwholesome ascendancy; and now that they began to feel the power which they had thus gained, they displayed the strongest desire to abuse it. They evinced an unequivocal disposition to attack liberty, in every shape in which it could possibly appear. Nor were their encroachments bounded even here. They tended, with an alarming rapidity, to territorial aggrandizement. It might be said, that this was not to be feared; that the indignation of other nations would be roused, and that surrounding governments would, for their own preservation, defeat the attempt as soon as it should be made. But, had we never heard of partition? Had we never heard of that sovereign method of tranquillizing scruples by sharing the booty? Did any man believe that the allied sovereigns, once finding themselves the lords of the ascendant, and able, in the plenitude of their power, to compass any measure which their ambition might suggest, that they would stop short in their career? It would be to distrust all past experience—all knowledge of the effects of undue power upon the rulers of states— 1368 to suppose that they were not ready again to commence those violations of the rights of constitutional freedom, and of territorial property, for which they only waited for a favourable opportunity. All history proved the reasonableness of these apprehensions. To take a recent and pertinent instance, he would direct the attention of the House to the conduct of Russia, whose mischievous and encroaching policy it seemed always to have been to embroil nations in a quarrel, and then to avail itself of that quarrel as a pretext for the seizure of its territory. The invasion and spoliation of Poland by the empress Catherine could never be forgotten. If an immediate stop were not put to the possibility of such a practice, it would only be necessary for Prussia or Russia to excite an insurrection in some neighbouring state, to call it a casus fœderis, to apply to it the principles of the holy alliance, and to take possession of the country. It was for these reasons that he now expressed his conviction—not that it was the policy of the government to enter into a war—but that if there ever was a time at which it became them to vindicate manfully and boldly the principles of in dependence, this was that time. He called upon the House to show—and they could only show it by a strong division on the question before them—the opinion of the people of England, that if these principles of unjust aggression were to be acted upon—at whatever risk, at whatever peril, under whatever unfortunate and unfavourable circumstances—they would be compelled to take part with the oppressed against the oppressor. To do this, the House was not called upon to decide upon the question of peace or war; but to express strongly and deeply, that feeling by which the government of the country should be animated, and which, if it had been previously adopted, would, he believed, have afforded an adequate protection to Spain, without involving this country in a war. He deprecated war; not because England was not in a situation to enter into it, for he knew that her resources were fully adequate; but because he was convinced that, under existing circumstances, peace was as much her interest as it ought to be her object. He knew that she had not only the spirit, but the means and the strength to carry her triumphantly through any struggle in which she might engage.
§ Mr. Disbrowe
contended, that the language of the British diplomatists during the late negotiations had been throughout consistent with the end which the British ministry had in view. In a confidential note from the pen of the late marquis of Londonderry, which did honour both to his heart and head, the policy of this country was distinctly laid down to be that of non-interference. At the congress of Verona the duke of Wellington was instructed to declare, that come what might, this country would not be a party to any interference with Spain. Nothing could be more intelligible than this language, and nothing stronger could, he thought, be required of us. If we refused interference on one side, how could those who justified our doing so contend that we ought to interfere on the other? We had remonstrated: beyond remonstrance nothing remained for us but to menace; and if we were not prepared to back our menace by war, how could it be contended that we ought to have assumed a dictatorial tone? The hon. member for Westminster was the only one as yet, who had advocated war; but if they were to make war on an abstract principle, he should wish to ask what that principle was? If, as the ally of Spain, he should wish to ask, of which part of Spain; for it was admitted that she was agitated by internal divisions. He did not, however, believe that Spain was divided in the manner that she had been represented to be by an hon. member; namely, that all the intellect and worth of the nation was on one side, and all the fools and bigots and knaves on the other: and in support of this opinion, he could adduce the authority of count Torreno, one of the greatest liberals in Spain, who had avowed that his own party was the smallest but that they made up in activity what they wanted in numbers. The hon. member concluded by declaring that he must disclaim all interference on our part as equally useless, impolitic, and unjust.
said, he was one of those who felt considerable dissatisfaction at the whole tone and character of these negotiations. He considered that both in the manner in which they commenced, in the conclusion in which they terminated, they were wholly incompatible with the honour, the dignity, and the policy of this country, and had more deeply committed our eventual interests, than those who conducted them had any concep- 1370 tion of. He should touch but lightly on the details of these documents, contenting himself with observing, that it was impossible to account for the manner in which the British plenipotentiary had met the communication of the hostile intention expressed by France against Spain. To that communication the noble duke should have answered in stronger terms of reprobation. Was not such a line of conduct called for, after the declaration the right hon. secretary had made of his fears, that the meditated aggression of France would embroil Europe in was? After such an avowal, was it not most natural to expect, that the noble duke would have met the hypothetical proposition of the France minister, with stronger language. Was it sufficient, under such circumstances, merely to say, that the king would be no party to such a proceeding, or that no course remained by to limit his majesty to the tender of him good offices to allay the irritation that existed between France and Spain?—Good offices forsooth? Could we consider it a tender of good offices, to sand could and insensible spectators of the grossest injustice that one nation could commit against another? With equal propriety might we tender our good offices to allay irritation when we saw one individual proceeding to commit an unprovoked outrage against an unoffending person. It was idle to say, that if we possessed the inclination to exert it, our influence and interposition would not have been successful. The manner in which France, or rather the ruling power in France, conducted itself towards Portugal, was a decisive proof that if the English ministry had interposed for Spain, equal success would have followed the exertion. It had been stated, that the distance of Portugal from France precluded any danger to the later form the influence of the Portuguese revolution. But that was merely a pretext. What, he would ask, was the real cause? It was because the ruling power in was bound in a defensive alliance with Portugal, and that if France attacked her, she must be prepared to contend with the power, the influence, the moral influence, and physical force of Great Britain. That was the real ground of the French hesitation with respect to the Portuguese, and in adhering to that resolution, both the government of France and the members of the holy alliance 1371 abandoned the principles on which they justified the aggression against Spain. In adopting their present constitution, the Spaniards had only taken up an institution which they found in their own history, during the most memorable war that had, perhaps, ever been waged. The constitution had been recognised by England and Russia, and finding that their king, when he came back, did not ratify his oath, but sought to destroy the Cortes, they had bravely and wisely established that constitution, than which they saw nothing better adapted to their condition. How stood the comparison with regard to Portugal, after her revolution? Portugal had no free constitution, there was no precedent in her history of free institutions. Her new constitution had never been guaranteed by either Russia or Great Britain; and above all, the alteration had been effected by what was called military insurrection. If, therefore, there could be found a justification for interference in the concerns of a foreign state, it was against Portugal rather than against Spain, that those principles should have been carried into action. But then the distinction was this—and it was decisive of the argument—that Portugal was shielded by the force and influence of Great Britain. With respect to the possibility of inducing Spain to yield to any modification of her constitution, he must say, that above all men the duke of Wellington ought to have been impressed with the persuasion that the pride, the haughtiness, the obstinacy of Spain, would not allow her to yield to the menaces of foreign dictation. But, it was probable that the exertion of the good offices of Great Britain would have effected that modification. [Hear, hear!]. Were these good offices to be applied to induce Spain to accede to the sine qua non of the ruling party in France? Was not that sine qua non the institution of another chamber? Why was not that chamber adopted by the cortes in 1812? It was not adopted, because they well knew that they had not the materials for such a chamber, and that by a fundamental law of the constitution, they were prevented from making any alteration for a given number of years. Supposing, however, that the Spanish cortes was willing, and that the law did not oppose the modification, had not the ruling power in. France—for he wished always to distinguish it from the people of France 1372 —gone the length of stating how that modification was to be carried into effect? Was it not proposed that the king should nominate the council of state, and that the council of state should compose the second chamber? Every member of the cortes knew, that in accepting such a modification, he was compromised. Every man of them knew that one and all would be implicated as authors of the revolution—that the very act of giving to the king of Spain the power of nominating the council of state, was, as to themselves, the sacrifice of life or personal liberty—that they might as well at once lay their heads upon the block, or prepare for their destruction, condemned as galley slaves—or doomed to the inquisition of Valencia—or to pass the remainder of their lives in degradation and servitude in the presidios of Africa [Hear, hear!]. That was his particular opinion—acquired from good sources of information on the spot. Whatever hopes might have previously existed as to the continuance of peace, he knew well, from the moment the king of France's speech was announced, that further negotiation was wholly fruitless. Every man then residing in the capital of France—every man who attended to passing transactions, or took an interest in the great question at issue—was from that moment convinced that war was certain. Every attentive observer saw clearly the objects which the ruling power of France, most clearly contradistinguished from the people of France, proposed to themselves. Their object was, to reinstate themselves in their lost privileges. They thought they could not do this without the aid of an army. They believed that when once an army had fought and bled in their cause—when once they had attached them to their pretensions by the distribution of honours and rewards—that they might rely upon their implicit support in crushing the slender remains of liberty which the people of that country still enjoyed. It was impossible to deny that this was the policy of the ruling party in France—that party, not of the nation but of individuals, who aimed at re-establishing the feudal rights, at restoring the property of the cmigrés, and the tithes. Could any one look at the recent law of election without believing this—that law by which the nomination of the members had been, in point of fact, vested in the bawls of the government? together with the law of, the press, that most disgraceful of all 1373 laws, under the vague and accumulated terms of which punishments by imprisonment for two or three years, suspension during pleasure, and the final suppression of journals? When they saw that no safeguard was left to the liberties of the people, the trial by jury being taken away, and the decision being vested in the hands of judges, from whom, owing to the inferiority of their situation, all responsibility was removed, was it not plain that the object of this ruling party in France was to put down all liberal ideas, and to get the power into their own hands? With regard to the fate of the war, it was impossible for any man to form an opinion upon it. At that moment, all who had weight, property, and respectability in Spain, had abandoned their dwellings to the invaders, and retreated to situations of greater safety. But, what would be the issue if the French were successful, or if they were unsuccessful was equally embarrassing. If they were successful, this country would behold the sad scene of liberty annihilated on the continent: if unsuccessful, they would witness the march of those Austrian and Russian armies, whose bayonets were to be employed in the destruction of liberal opinions. It then became a most serious question to England, whether she would take part in the war, or allow the holy alliance to put down national freedom throughout Europe; nay, to subvert our own constitution, whenever those despots dared to attempt it? In conclusion, the hon. member expressed his determination to vote for the original address; and he would do so, because he thought the negotiations had been carried on by ministers in a manner which by no means corresponded with what the dignity and interest of this country demanded. The consequence was, that Great Britain was placed in a situation of temporary cessation of hostilities, rather than of permanent and durable peace.
§ Mr. Curwen
said, that he, and every one of his hon. friends near him, who had, for many years past been calling the attention of the House to the distressed state of the country, must feel what a dreadful responsibility ministers would have incurred, if they had involved Great Britain at this moment in a state of warfare. What he asked, would have been the feelings of gentlemen around him—what would have been the expression of Sentiment throughout the country—if mi- 1374 nisters had taken this Step?" Under the peculiar circumstances of the case, the House, he thought, were bound to look rather with a favourable eye to the conduct of ministers, than to view their proceedings with feelings of hostility. For his part, he entirely approved of the line of strict neutrality, in the present circumstances of the country. He confessed he could have wished that a stronger expression of moral feeling had been used by ministers; but the question was, whether if they had adopted that tone, it would have prevented the war? He conscientiously believed that it would not. The hon. member for Westminster had stated last night, that his constituents would willingly undergo any privation for the purpose of carrying on the war. [No no."] He understood the hon. member to say, that his constituents would cheerfully encounter any difficulties that might attend a state of warfare. Re knew not what the feelings of the hon. member's constituents were, but he was decidedly of opinion that his own constituents would not willingly suffer the privations which a war would necessarily bring along with it. The general feeling of the country was, he believed, for peace. He did not, however, mean to say, that execrations against the conduct of France, and good wishes for the cause of Spain, did not prevail in every quarter; but he well knew, that the great body of the people looked to a state of war as a most awful visitation. Under these circumstances, he should not have acted honestly if he had not thus frankly spoken his sentiments, and he should certainly give the amendment his cordial and hearty concurrence. [Hear, hear!].
in explanation, denied having said, that the majority of his constituents were desirous that the country should now go to war. What he had said was, that if his majesty's government had entered a strong protest against the proceedings of France at the congress at Verona, and in consequence of that protest had been obliged to go to war, the majority of his constituents would readily submit to any privations to which such a course of policy might have led; but he had qualified that assertion by adding, that it must be clearly understood that it was a war for the liberties of Europe—that it was a war of the' people of Europe against the kings of Europe.
said, he was most desi- 1375 rous that peace should be preserved to this country, but not such a delusive peace as that which was now maintained. This country, throughout the whole of the recent proceedings, had not been treated with the respect which was due to her. The voice of England had not even been attended to in the course of the negotiations. The powers which were in the hands of this country, and which, if properly wielded, would have afforded protection to commerce, and commanded security with respect to foreign nations, had been thrown away, and negotiations appeared to have been carried on, from motives of private friendship and private feeling. The boon held out in 1821, for the purpose of conciliating the emperor of Russia, by laying a heavy duty on our own timber, and thus encouraging the trade in Russia timber, had not been met by any corresponding indulgence. Russia had increased the burthens on the commerce of this country, and in particular, had given a preference to the sugars of other nations. In the instructions of the marquis of Londonderry, previous to the occupation of Italy by Austria, it was simply stated, that this government could not be a party to the project then set on foot. But, if the noble marquis had used a different tone—if he had stated, not only that England disapproved of the occupation of Italy, but that, if she had it in her power she would assist the Italians, and that the distance alone prevented her from taking that step, he was convinced, that France would not now have dared to attack Spain.—With respect to the negotiations at Verona, he would ask, whether the duke of Wellington, a soldier, from his infancy, was a fit person to negociate with men who had been all their lives attached to the courts of despots, and who were in the constant habit of declaring, that they held opinions which found no place in their breasts? In his opinion, the duke of Wellington might have avoided stating so openly that this country meant to remain neutral. Had he done so, he might have negotiated with more effect. Considering the danger which the invasion of Spain might create, with reference to the French government and the French king, this country ought boldly to have said—"We will not allow you to occupy Spain: we have placed the king of France on his throne, and we will not suffer you to do an act which may mar our preceding exertions. We will 1376 oppose you, because we are bound in honour and justice to oppose you." He had no doubt, if such language as this had been held, that ministers would have secured a permanent peace, That was the tone of negotiation which he should have liked: and it was because that tone was not adopted that he should vote for the original motion. But, even had we been compelled to go to war, we could have done it without much expense. In the first place, it was his decided opinion, that we ought never to send a single soldier to the continent. In the next place, the expense of keeping up the hulls of our ships in dock was as great as keeping them up at sea; so that the only increase of expense would be in manning and fitting out. We had a sinking fund of five millions. At the present reduced price of things, half that amount would be sufcient to fit out a fleet superior to what the French could fit out. If we supplied the eleven millions of people in Spain, hostile to France—allowing the other million to be aristocratically inclined—with the munitions of war, they would do the rest. If it were said that Russia, Prussia, and Austria would, in that event, join France, he asked, where would they find the money to enable them to do so? Nor did he believe that any of those powers would think of advancing an army into Spain. Spain might obtain what loan she pleased in this country. He did not mean that we ought to act as imprudently on that subject, as we had formerly done with reference to Austria and other powers. But we might have security. We might have Minorca, or the Spanish settlements in Africa placed in our hands, as securities for the repayment of the loans. His majesty's ministers had endeavoured to alarm the various interests of the country, with the apprehension of suffering in the event of war. But how? With respect to our merchants, France at present took no manufactures from this country. Commerce, therefore, would not lose any thing by a suspension of intercourse with France; while our merchants would gain materially by the disposal of the munitions of war to Spain. As to the landed interest, the war would certainly not occasion any fall in the value of agricultural produce. He was at a loss, therefore, to understand how the country generally could sustain any serious injury from war, although partially it might do so. But, whatever 1377 might be the amount of that partial injury, what man of any foresight could put it in competition with the danger to which England would be exposed, if France, becoming possessed of Spain, were to occupy the whole line of coast from Calais to Parma? By our present conduct, we were, in his opinion, sacrificing the last held we had on the continent. Shut out from Spain, we should not have a single friend left. With these views of the subject—views adopted on the coolest consideration of it—he should certainly vote for the original motion.
§ Mr. John Williams
expressed his surprise, that none of his majesty's ministers had yet addressed the House on this question, but said, that he supposed, from the cheers with which they had received the speech of the hon. member for Cumberland, that they remained satisfied with that hon. gentleman's arguments. The question on which the House were called upon, to decide appeared to be reduced to a comparatively small compass. At least this was certain, that from the commencement of the debates on this subject, from the evening when the right hon. the secretary of state for foreign affairs, in all the forms of oratory, and with some of the ceremonies of religion, deprecated the success of the French in their invasion of Spain, down to the present moment, there had been but one consentient opinion, and he was proud to say it, as to the nature, quality, and character of the enterprise undertaken by France against the Spanish people. Every hon. gentleman from first to last, had spoken of that enterprise in a tone and in language befitting an English House of Commons. It was acknowledged by all, that the conduct of France was in every respect calculated to excite odium, and provoke execration; that it united in itself all that was detestable in hypocrisy, and all that was disgusting in violence. That being the case, it seemed to follow as a matter of course, that at least a stronger tone of remonstrance—one more suitable to the gross injustice and flagrant atrocity of the case—might have been resorted to by his majesty's ministers; and that if such a tone could with prudence, have been adopted, the occasion was one which fully required it. The only question, then, which remained behind, was the question of prudence. For, notwithstanding the cheers with which the hon. gentlemen opposite re- 1378 ceived the speech of the hon. member for Cumberland, he must deny there was any such question before the House as the plain and simple one "Are you for peace or are you for war?" Such an argument was merely diverting the attention of the House from the real subject before it. It was giving the go by to the material question to be determined. The true question was, not whether if other language had been adopted in the coarse of the negotiation, it might or might not have been followed by war; but, whether the present tranquillity, which had been purchased by the mild language which had been used (for it any violent language had been used it was to the unoffending party), was worth even half a year's purchase? If there was any reason to apprehend that a tone of a firmer nature might have prevented the breach of the peace of Europe, from which such dreadful and extensive consequences might be expected to follow, then he contended that the hon. gentlemen opposite would gain nothing by turning round and asking, whether his hon. friend, and those who thought with him, were for peace or for war? He maintained, that, firmer language ought to have been held by his majesty's government. The question was not, whether or not firmer language would have prevented the invasion of Spain? That breach of the peace of Europe we knew had been committed and, where the war would stop, who could say?
Having said thus much, he would now beg leave to refer to a few of the documents, in explanation of the reasons which induced him to support his hon. friend's motion. In the first place, he wished to call the attention of the House to the very different manner in which the two, now unfortunately contending parties, had treated the attempts at interference on the part of this country to preserve peace. In the truly affecting despatch from M. de San Miguel to the, Spanish Chargé d'Affaires in London, dated November 15, 1822, after expressing the gratitude of the Spanish government at the determination of Great Britain, not to interfere in the domestic affairs of Spain, M. de San Miguel expressed his surprise, that the court of London did not manifest its interest its ally, by visible acts of friendly interposition, and then proceeded thur:—"The acts to which I allude, would in no 1379 wise compromise the most strictly conceived system of neutrality. Good offices, counsels, the reflections of one friend in favour of another, do not place a nation in concert of attack or defence with another—do not expose it to the enmity of the opposite party, even if they do not deserve its gratitude; they are not, in a word, effective aid, troops, arms, subsidies, which augment the force of one of the contending parties. It is of reason only that we are speaking; and it is with the pen of conciliation that a power, situated like Great Britain, might support Spain, without exposing herself to take part in a war, which she may perhaps prevent with general utility." This was all that Spain required of Great Britain—it was only that small particle of attention, that slight preponderance of good opinion, which was solicited by the Spanish nation; and yet slowly, indeed, was it administered! Such had been the language of Spain. What was that of the French minister? In Mr. Secretary Canning's despatch to the duke of Wellington, of the 6th of December, prior to the offer of his majesty's mediation, Mr. Canning informed his grace, that the French minister "had taken several opportunities of expressing to sir C. Stuart his earnest desire for the preservation of peace, and his wish to receive, not only the support but the advice of the British government, in his endeavours to preserve it." Here it was held out, that there was a possibility of explaining away the causes of difference between France and Spain. Accordingly, the House would find in the despatch from the duke of Wellington, of the 17th of December, that his grace had on that day made a distinct offer to the French government of his Britannic majesty's interposition for the purpose of endeavouring to adjust the differences between France and Spain, and to preserve the peace of the world. He begged the House to mark the reception which the duke of Wellington's offer experienced from the French government. Not only was it contemptuously rejected; but, as if to refuse it contemptuously once was not enough, at the distance of a fortnight, another contemptuous rejection took place; and that; be it remarked, of an offer which the French government had themselves invited. What was the language used by the French government on the first of those occasions? The House would find 1380 it in the note from the duke of Montmorency, dated the 26th of December. After stating the reasons which induced the French government to decline our mediation, it went on thus:—"His most Christian majesty, who was bound to weigh these considerations maturely, has therefore thought that he could not accept the mediation that ids Britannic majesty has been pleased to propose to him. He sees, however, in this proposition a new pledge of conciliatory disposition of the English government; and he thinks that with such feelings, that government may render essential service to Europe, by offering, in the like manner, to the government of Spain, advice, which, by leading them to entertain more calm views, might produce a happy influence on the internal situation of that country!" This was, in plain terms, dictating to England to go to Madrid with her mediation; for that in Paris it was not required. Again, the French government immediately after held the same language. In the answer of the viscount de Chateaubriand, dated the 23rd January, to the further offer of the good offices of his Britannic majesty, made by Mr. Secretary Canning to the French Chargé d'Affaires in London, was a kind of epigrammatic sentence, as follows:—"France would not have hesitated, in concert with her allies, to accept the mediation of England, if the discussion of specific interests were in question; but it is impossible to establish a basis of negotiation upon political theories, and of' arbitration upon principles." Thus it appeared, that although France had previously solicited the friendly interference of England, and Spain had expressed her readiness to avail herself of it, yet when the duke of Wellington made a distinct offer of that interference, it was scornfully rejected, and his grace was recommended to go to Madrid, where his advice was not wanted, and give a lecture to the people of Spain! Accordingly, at no very distant period, novel as the proceeding might appear, his grace adopted the recommendation of the French government. The nature of the noble duke's despatch, or rather missive, on the subject, could not have escaped the notice of the House. The House would permit him to ask, whether this was not most extraordinary? Here were two parties, one who had committed no offence; and the other, meditating un provoked and violent aggression. The 1381 natural course would have been, to mediate with the party about to perpetrate the mischief; and not with Spain, which was destined to be the victim of it. Spain, throughout, had solicited the good offices of England. There was no necessity of urging moderation to her, she had been all along moderate. Why select her, to read to her a lecture on the necessity of forbearance? Why not have reserved that address for the oppressor, and not the oppressed? It was suited for those who were about to be the perpetrators of spoliation, not those who were to be the endurers of wrong. Unfortunately, such was the course the duke of Wellington was instructed to pursue—to turn his back upon France, where remonstrance was indispensable, and to commence lecturing Spain, who was complaining of an armed invader. It was as if the noble duke had determined to compensate himself for the refusal he had received at Paris, by giving the full force of his advice, in extenso, to the good people of Madrid. And let the House remark the tone and language in which that advice was given. He alluded to the despatch from the duke of Wellington, which accompanied or followed lord Fitzroy Somerset, in his special mission to Madrid. After stating, that "the family connexion between his Catholic majesty and the king of Spain, would occasion a perpetual irritation between the two countries, so long as the situation of the king of Spain was not what it ought to be," his grace proceeded in the following remarkable, and, in his judgment, most lamentable terms: "Thus, then, those Spaniards who really desire the peace and welfare of their country, must look to an alteration of their constitution, which shall have for its object, to give the king the power of executing; his office. I confess that I do not see any objection to this alteration, either in the antecedent conduct of the king, or in the apprehension that his Catholic majesty will abuse the power thus confided to him." What! did not his grace perceive any thing objectionable in the interference of France with Spain on such a subject?—What said Mr. Secretary Canning in his despatch to sir C. Stuart, dated January 24? "Assuredly, the more enlightened part of the government, or of the cones of Spain, does not believe the Spanish constitution of 1812 to be, in all its parts, usefully and permanently practicable. But if there exist 1382 imperfections in the frame of the government of France or of England respectively, should we consent to reform those imperfections on the demand of a foreign power, and under the menace of a foreign war as the penalty of our refusal?" He could not find that at any period the noble duke who represented this country at Verona, had made any allusion to the antecedent conduct of the king of Spain. Did the noble duke recollect, that that monarch had, at one period, basely abdicated his throne; and that, when restored to it by the exertions of this country, aided by the people of Spain, he had rewarded his faithful subjects, by sending to the dungeon, or into banishment, those who had been foremost in restoring hint to a throne, which he had fled from with dishonour? Did the noble duke mean to say, after this, that he saw nothing objectionable in the antecedent conduct of the king of Spain?
He would now come to another point in which, in his mind, the 'vantage ground was given to the aggressors, while we took from the Spaniards the ground of defence upon which they ought to have stood; namely, their undoubted right to protect the free institutions of the country. The noble duke, in his answer to the questions of the French plenipotentiary, said as follows—and he begged the serious attention of the House to the mildness of language used by his grace in answer to the questions proposed by those abettors of the most fixed and rooted oppression.—"Such an interference"—speaking of that of France in the affairs of Spain—"always appeared to the British government an unnecessary assumption of responsibility; which, considering all the circumstances, must expose the king of Spain to danger, and the power or powers which should interfere, to obloquy, certain risks, and possible disasters; to enormous expences, and final disappointment in producing any result." Thus mildly, thus temperately, did the noble duke express himself in alluding to the conduct of France towards Spain. Was this, he would ask, a language calculated to express the indignant feelings of a free nation, at witnessing the unparalleled aggression of France upon Spain? But, it did not rest here. The noble duke went on to state what he thought of the Army of Observation—an army which was first assembled under the false pretence of guarding against the introduction of he knew not 1383 what disease; but which, it was found by the altered tone of the profligate ministry of France, was really intended to foment and encourage insurrection and rebellion in the Spanish territory. Now, what said the noble duke with respect to this abominable treachery practised against the Spanish nation? His grace's despatch went on thus:—"Considering that a civil war exists in the whole extent of the frontier which separates the two kingdoms; that hostile armies are in movement and in operation in every part of it; and that there is not a town or village on the French frontier which is not liable to in. stilt and injury—there is no person who must not approve of the precaution which his most Christian majesty has taken, in forming a corps of observation for the protection of his frontier, and for the preservation of the tranquillity of his people." This was the mild and well-tempered language which the noble duke applied to the act of France—language so little calculated to express the honest indignation felt by every man in Europe at the invasion of Spain. Besides, there was, on the part of the noble duke, a sort of qualified defence of that base hypocrisy which went to justify the notion, that the Army of Observation was assembled for any other purpose than the meditated attack upon Spain. It was the boast—the profligate boast—of the French minister, that this army had encouraged and fostered revolt in Spain; that it had fomented those dissentions which France affected to make the cause of her interference in the internal concerns of Spain. His grace went on to say:—"But his majesty's government are of opinion, that to animadvert upon the internal transactions of an independent state, unless such transactions affect the essential interests of his majesty's subjects, is inconsistent with those principles on which his majesty has invariably acted on all questions relating to the internal concerns of other countries." He called upon the House to take notice of the words here used by the noble duke. He said—"unless such transactions affect the interests of his majesty's subjects." Now, let hon. members observe, that the French minister had taken up this very reservation of the noble duke, and had stated that "the interests of his majesty's subjects" (leaving in total darkness the nature of those interests) "required that the Spanish territory should be invaded by France." This 1384 was unblushingly avowed; and that too, while all required by Spain was merely that brute force should be withdrawn.
There was one other view, and one other view only, which he thought he could take with respect to the negotiations. Looking over the papers from first to last, he would ask, whether there appeared any thing like censure or admonition used by our government to the offending party? No. In no single instance could it be found in those papers, that we had designated the meditated conduct of France as an atrocious aggression against Spain: in no instance had the noble duke or the right hon. secretary pointed out that such interference was contrary to the principles of international law: in no instance could he find, that the truth had been boldly spoken; that things had been called by their proper names; that crime had been openly designated as crime; or that the language of our ministers had, in any case, been such as would have the effect of affixing to the conduct of the French government, the true character in which it ought to be represented to the world [Hear!]. He challenged any hon. or right hon. member opposite, armed as they were with bulky folios, to point out one single instance, in which our ministers had held the high and dignified tone which became this country, in expressing her opinions to France of the propriety of the invasion of Spain by that power. It would, he believed, be found that even after our government had discovered their interference was in vain, they still persisted in making the same professions of good will—the same intention to mediate; that they still used to Spain the same language of interposition; although it was too late to effect any good by it. He maintained that during the whole of these negotiations, neither the soul nor the feelings of the people of England had been allowed to find its way into the manifestos of his majesty's ministers. It had been reserved for the members of that House to give expression to the public feeling, although too late to prevent the perpetration of an aggression which they reprobated in the strongest terms. It had been left to the representatives of the people to express their warm and anxious feelings in support of the honour and glory of the country; both of which they found had been totally overlooked by his majesty's ministers. He would ask any hon. member to tell him, what it was expected 1385 would be gained by delay, or whether any benefit of any kind could be expected to result from the state of feverish suspense and uncertainty in which we were now placed? Supposing the war to continue for twelve months, who could say to what extent the projects of French aggrandizement might not extend? Who could answer for the results, if France, in the lack of argument, were to call in the aid of certain sapient and accomplished legislature reformers from the Don, the Volga, the Tanais, and the walls of China;—men whose most forcible argument was urged at the point of the bayonet? Would it be endured in England, that such invaders should be allowed to overrun such a country? Would England stand tamely by, and witness the subversion of a free constitution by such barbarians? No. The duty which we owed to ourselves—the faith which we owed to our allies—must prevent us from adopting such a course. For who could pretend to say that, Spain being once conquered, France would respect the ideal boundary which separated that country from our ancient and firm ally? Spain once overrun, what was there in the territorial demarcation, to prevent the invasion of Portugal by the French? The free constitution of Portugal savoured as much of what was called revolution as that of Spain. Why, then, having relieved Spain from all the horrors of a free constitution, should France stop short in her good work d refuse to extend the same blessings to Portugal? But, should this be attempted, must we not inevitably be dragged into a war in defence of our ancient ally—and that too under many added disadvantages?
There was only one point more to which he intended to advert; namely, the course which the duke of Wellington had been directed to take at Verona. It had been said, that the services rendered by the noble duke to Spain made him the fittest person to act as her adviser, in a case of such serious difficulty. Now, he would ask those hon. members opposite, who imagined that war would be the inevitable consequence of the adoption of the vote of that evening, to state to him what they conceived would have been the result had the noble duke been allowed to make use of different language at Verona? What did they imagine would have been the conduct of France, had the noble duke been instructed to use the 1386 following language?—"I have given you my most sincere and impartial advice, and still you persevere. I have proffered that mediation which you sought for, and subsequently declined to abide by. If you still persevere, may you not calculate upon having England as your enemy? I have once defended Spain, and it may fall to my lot to defend her again. I at one time defended that country against the legions of Napoleon—I shall not now recede from the boy-army of the Bourbons:" "Contempsi Cataliæ gladios, non pertimescam tuos." If this language had been used at the congress of sovereigns, his majesty's ministers would have done their duty, the character of this country would have been placed on the highest pinnacle of glory and the liberties of Spain would have been secured. [Hear, hear!]
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that when, in an earlier stage of these proceedings, an hon. and learned member, on the opposite benches, had stated, that in the course of these negotiations his majesty's ministers were acting under a most awful responsibility, he had most aptly described the true situation in which they were placed; for it was impossible that they could shut out from their recollection, that we had but just concluded a long, an arduous, and a most expensive contest for the preservation, not only of our own liberties, but of those of Europe. Under such circumstances, it was impossible that his majesty's ministers could contemplate even the possibility of the renewal of war, without feelings of the greatest anxiety and pain. And, when it was stated that war was likely to be renewed upon a subject involving questions of the most serious and important nature, affecting as it did not only the rights of nations and the freedom and independence of states, but also the particular interests of this country; and when it was further considered, that war, if renewed at all in Europe, was likely to affect a power with which we were in close and ancient alliance, a nation to protect which we had fought and expended much blood and treasure, then he maintained, that his majesty's ministers had, during these negociations, been acting under a greater degree of responsibility than perhaps any other government, upon any other occasion, had acted under. His majesty's ministers well knew that this was a question which was calculated to 1387 excite, and which—as the event proved—had excited the feeling and sentiments of every hon. member in that House. They knew also that, if a different course of policy required it, the enthusiasm of the country would have enabled ministers to enter at once into a war. But, it was for this very reason that it became peculiarly the duty of his majesty's ministers to act with the utmost possible caution, in selecting the course which it would be most advisable to pursue. He could not therefore agree with the hon. and learned member who had just spoken, in thinking that the mere question of peace or war was not at present matter of serious consideration; because he felt that the conduct of his majesty's ministers was to be tried, with reference to this preliminary question. And, supposing that the policy of the country was the preservation of peace, then would arise the question, whether the course pursued by his majesty's ministers was the best calculated to avert that great calamity—a war. He called it a great calamity, and he thought he was justified in so designating it; because, looking to the state of Europe generally, and looking to the state of this country in particular, he felt that if ever ministers had a paramount duty to perform, it was that of maintaining for Europe if possible; but should they fail in that, for this country at least, a state of peace and tranquillity.
With respect to Spain, he must—without at all defending the right which any one country assumed of enforcing a constitution upon her neighbour—observe, that if called upon to take a part in the quarrel of that country, we must, in doing so, act with one portion of the population, and against the other. He knew it had been said on a former evening, by the hon. member for Westminster, that all the educated and well-informed persons in Spain were in favour of the constitution, and that there only remained opposed to it, the priests and the most ignorant of the peasantry of the country. This might be, and perhaps was very true, and yet it did not shake his (the Chancellor of the Exchequer's) position. If the priests, and the other persons opposed to the Spanish constitution, were ignorant, it was more their misfortune than their fault; but, whether ignorant or not, we, in joining the constitutionalists, must necessarily oppose those priests, and thereby cause a civil war in Spain! In making these observa- 1388 tions, he begged not to be considered as in any way opposed to the cause of freedom or a free constitution [Cheers from both sides of the House]. He knew not how he could pretend to address a British House of Commons, were he for a moment to deny that the possession of a free constitution was a blessing to Spain, as it must be to any other country. Would any man venture to say that his majesty's ministers, in the course they had taken, had manifested any indifference to the cause of liberty, or had shown any reluctance to extend to other countries that freedom which the people of this country so happily enjoyed? He begged to assure the House that this was not the principle upon which his majesty's ministers had acted. If they had shown any hesitation in interfering in the affairs of Spain, that hesitation had been much increased by the reflection, that there existed a civil war in that country, and that the success of one party could not be achieved without the dispersion, if not the annihilation of a considerable portion of the population. England could have taken no active part in this dispute, without placing herself between two contending factions, and exciting the one half of the population against the other; and this, too, without the power of securing success to the party whose cause she espoused. He did not, he confessed, pretend to say that he looked to the present situation of the states of Europe with any thing like satisfaction. He thought the result of the events of the last five and twenty years had given rise to a state of things on the continent, from which it was clearly our interest to keep aloof [Hear, hear!]. There were contests now going on in Europe—not like those of former days, when the matter in dispute was the possession of some paltry province—but contests between revolution on the one hand, and the exercise of power on the other. And that was a state of things which, as the friend of liberty, he deeply lamented, seeing that it was a state highly injurious to liberty herself. The House must perceive that they could not consistently embark in a war with power against freedom; but they ought, at the same time, to take especial care that they did not side with revolution against existing establishments [Hear!]. This was a feeling which ought to make every man cautious how he adopted or recommended a course of policy which would lead to such a result.
1389 From all that he had seen and heard, he was the more fully convinced that peace was the policy which ought to be pursued by this country. He did not mean to say that this country was so disabled by her former exertions as to be prevented from embarking in a war, should her honour or her interests make such a measure necessary; but he felt convinced, that every thinking man in the kingdom would feel with him, that the real interests of the country required that we should, if possible, remain in a state of repose. Every man in his senses must perceive that we ought not again, unless in case of an over-ruling necessity, plunge ourselves into a war, of which no man could pretend to point out the termination. An hon. member had asked, why we should be so afraid to go to war? "It would," observed the hon. member, "be but a small war; we should incur but a small expense in fitting out a fleet, with which to put down the navy of France. And by this means we should put down our army and put forward our navy." Good God! who was there, who, when once the flame of war was kindled, could pretend to point out when it would be extinguished? Once embarked into a war, and who could venture to say to what particular description of force we should be able to confine ourselves. It had been said, in an early stage of that discussion, that his majesty's ministers had gulled and deluded the country, in pointing out the danger, the difficulty, and the expense of embarking in such a war at present. This he totally denied. But they would, indeed, have deceived and deluded the country, if they had proposed to embark in a war, upon the ground that it would be conducted upon this or that principle, that it should be carried on upon a small scale, and at a cheap rate, because the naval force only would be employed. This, indeed, would be a delusion, a gross delusion, upon the country; for no man in his senses, if we were once embarked in war, could pretend to state what would be its nature, its extent, the expence attending it, or its probable duration [Hear!].
Why, then, if this principle was true—if there was something in the situation of Spain—if there was something in the general state of Europe—if, above all, there was something peculiar in the state of England itself, which ought to make them cautious in embarking in a war, then he contended, that these were strong, and 1390 as yet unanswered arguments, against adopting a course, except in a case of the last necessity. Then he said, that they were bound to look to and decide upon the alleged misconduct of government, with reference to that principle. If it could be shown that the entering upon a war, abstractedly speaking, was a mere matter of indifference to this country; or, if it could be shown, that we could gain any thing by such a step, then was blame to be attributed to his majesty's ministers. But, if it was once admitted, that peace was our policy, the next inquiry was, whether, in the late negotiations, his majesty's ministers had taken the course best calculated—first, to prevent any war, and their efforts to that effect being unavailing, whether they had used their best endeavours to prevent our participation in it? His majesty's ministers were called to account upon this occasion, not for having unnecessarily plunged the country in war; not because they had not taken the necessary steps to preserve the peace of this country; but because they had not taken what were considered the necessary steps to prevent a war between two powers—between whom there existed causes of irritation which had a strong tendency to involve them in hostilities.
One hon. member had complained, that, during the late negotiations, his majesty's ministers had not assumed that high tone of remonstrance which became the government of this country. Now, it appeared to him, that there was some difficulty in clearly defining and understanding what was meant by a "high tone of remonstrance." Some hon. members might imagine it was to be found in the angry and vehement declamation of the noble member for New Sarum (lord Folkestone): others, that it ought to be couched in the violent invective and bitter sarcasm of the hon. and learned member for Winchelsea (Mr. Brougham); while a third would, perhaps, be of opinion, that it was to be discovered in the refined and epigrammatic satire of his hon. friend the mover of the original address. But under such conflicting opinions how were they to come to a decision? It was true, that nothing was more easy than to deal out the harshest terms, the grossest invectives against foreign powers; but, would any hon. member maintain that it would be right to pursue a similar course in diplomatic negotiations?—Let him not be mis- 1391 understood. He was aware that every English representative had a right to use what language he pleased, without any other restraints than those which a sense of propriety imposed upon him [Hear, hear!]. But, it was impossible not to suppose that such expressions were used because they were felt, and because the person who used them wished to impress upon his hearers that they were deserved by the parties to whom they were applied. How then, he would ask, could such language be introduced into diplomatic negotiations? Although our ministers might be opposed to the wishes and objects of other powers, and, perhaps, displeased with their conduct, still they must not forget, that those powers had feelings and prejudices—that they had national pride, and national character to sustain. They were, therefore, bound in all negotiations with foreign powers to make use of such language as was least calculated to irritate or give offence. Upon such occasions ministers were bound to consider first the situation in which they stood, and secondly, the objects which they had in view! And, if our line of policy was to induce other powers to abandon any course which they had adopted, how could we do so better than by using the language of moderation and rational persuasion? The hon. member for Westminster had last night told them that the great powers of the continent were enemies to all revolution.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
proceeded. He did not object to the correction of the hon. member: but if those great powers were adverse to the extension of freedom—an ignoble feeling, and one which he did not mean to defend—still if we had to deal with powers, who, from the nature of things, entertained adverse opinions, it became our duty to shape our arguments in a manner the best calculated to carry persuasion and conviction with them. Nothing could be gained by invective; while, on the contrary, much might be done by pointing bit the danger likely to arise from any attempts to repress that natural liberty which he firmly believed, must, in spite Of all efforts to the contrary, take place in the natural course of things, and in consequence of the great increase of general knowledge. His object was simply 1392 to point out the precise situation in which his majesty's ministers stood during the late negotiations, and to let the House see whether they had pursued that course which best became this country. Ministers having found themselves united to those powers who had at one time opposed us, hailed their alliance as opposed to France the common enemy. The great power which governed that country having been overthrown, an alliance of the closest nature was entered into, not an alliance upon an abstract principle, but emanating from a fear of what might subsequently take place; for it was impossible to expect that, alter the convulsion which Europe had undergone, every thing could at once settle down into calm and quiet. Therefore it was, that the great powers of Europe had combined. Our connection with them was of a singular nature. The war with France being ended, we could not turn round and say to those powers, "We will have nothing more to do with you. We will, to use the words of an hon. member, "cut the connection." But, while he maintained that the language to our allies should be that of persuasion rather than that of menace, did he admit that this country had made no remonstrance against the aggressions of France? Did he admit that ministers had not forcibly pointed out to those allied powers the dangerous consequences likely to result from such a course of proceeding? Did he admit that ministers had not decidedly opposed themselves to the projects of those powers? No. The conduct of his majesty's ministers had been of a diametrically opposite nature. In proof of which, he referred the House to the two last paragraphs of the confidential minute of his late noble friend (then viscount Castlereagh) on the affairs of Spain, and addressed to the courts of Austria, France, Prussia, and Russia, in May, 1820. They were as follows:—"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, 1393 however, intended as an union for the government of the world, or "for the superintendence of the internal affairs of other states." Again,—"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 its 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."
From this extract, and particularly from the two last sentences of it, it would be seen, that we had determined upon a widely different course of policy from that described by some hon. members who had spoken upon this subject; that we had determined to object to any interference with territorial possessions, and that we had never in any way contemplated, much less favoured, any aggression upon Spain. And here he begged to say a few words upon a subject, on which much of mistake and misrepresentation had gone abroad. It had been often said of his late noble friend, the marquis of Londonderry, that he had been leagued with those who were called the despots of Europe, against the liberties of mankind. To those who had known his late lamented friend as he had had the pleasure of knowing him, a refutation of such a charge would, he felt convinced, be considered superfluous. With respect to the conduct of that noble lord, what he should say of the character of that departed statesman would be brief. He would, however, venture to speak of his memory, because he felt a strong principle of attachment to him, because he knew the sterling worth of his mind, and venerated the qualities of his heart, because he had a respect for his talents, and because he thought he had formed a true estimate of the services which the noble lord had rendered to his country. Never, perhaps, was there a minister in England, whose character had been more constantly or more completely misrepresented [Cheers]. He had to conduct the foreign affairs of 1394 this country under circumstances, he would venture to say, of as great difficulty, as ever fell to the lot of any minister to contend with. He had had many opportunities of seeing how his departed friend had met those difficulties—of observing how admirably, by the decision of his character and the equanimity of his temper, he would check angry passions, stem the impulse of irritated feelings, and combat and overthrow prejudices that were almost invincible. But, with all these great qualifications, it was impossible for his noble friend to work miracles; and, really, gentlemen should not imagine that, when he undertook to assist in the settlement of the complicated affairs of Europe, he had an easy task to fulfil. They should not so readily permit themselves to imagine, that when his noble friend was sent to congress, he consented to become a party to any enterprise of despots, for the overthrow of the liberties of mankind. It was not in his noble friend's nature to commit the peace of Europe, by sanctioning any such mischievous principles. If he wished, however, to give an effectual answer to all the misrepresentations that had been made respecting his noble friend, he would turn to this paragraph, because here was to be found a most unequivocal denial of all participation in the principle of interference, given by the government of England. This document was of incalculable importance. It was not intended to be put forth as a public paper. It was never meant to furnish a defence, or to establish a case. It was a document, privately communicated to those powers on whom it was intended to produce an effect. It was meant to convey the generous impressions of the noble lord himself, and of the government to which he was attached. In this document was to be found an efficient, manly, and vigorous protest against those principles, on which the attack upon the liberties of Spain was to be committed by the allied powers. This was the first protest we had entered; the second was, the circular of the same noble lord, issued after the termination of the congress at Trappau and at Laybach. The hon. and learned member for Knares-borough had said, on a former occasion, that that circular contained the bitterest sarcasm on the conduct of the allies. He did not go with the observations of the hon. and learned gentleman so far; but he noticed the fact to show, that it was agreed 1395 on all hands, that the circular of the noble lord contained a strong and unequivocal protest against the principles of the allied powers. The interference of the duke of Wellington in the discussions at Verona, had direct reference to the principles contained in those documents. The policy of Great Britain was, not to hold an angry tone, but to assert in a clear and forcible manner, the principles on which the protest of Great Britain was originally founded. It was not fair to argue, that, because this country had assumed a mild and conciliatory tone, she had left out of sight the principle of noninterference—that she had yielded to any object of interest, or to any unworthy motive. There was one point which had not been much noticed, but which appeared to show more clearly than could be shown in any set form of words, the part that Great Britain had taken, and the sincerity of the opinions she had pronounced—he meant the actual separation of sentiment that took place on this subject between her and the allied powers. If any thing could induce the allies to abstain from pursuing that line of policy which had been recently followed, it would have been the known and declared fact, that a radical difference of opinion existed between those powers and this country. That filet alone would have been much more likely to have operated on the councils of the allies, than any representation set forth in any form of words, however strong [Hear, hear!].
He knew not whether it was necessary for him to go through all the details and all the criticisms which hon. gentlemen had made on the documents before the House. It was easy to deal out censure, and to point out other courses different from the course that had been taken; but the question still remained to be disposed of—which, under all the circumstances, was the wise and proper course to be pursued? The hon. mover of the original address had said, that England might and would have succeeded at Verona, it she had adopted the line of proceeding which he would have taken. The hon. member for Westminster, on the other hand, had gone so far as to tell the House, that at Verona we actually did succeed. He had said, that he was there at the time—that he had had opportunities of communications with persons of all descriptions—that he had addressed himself, among others, to the gentlemen who had arrived 1396 thither from the banks of the Don and the Tanais, and who were plunged into the deepest affliction and distress of mind, at finding they had journeyed so far from their own inhospitable deserts to the luxurious climate of Italy—and all for nothing! He believed, in point of fact, that the hon. gentleman was right, when he stated that Great Britain had succeeded at least in one point: she did succeed in having this principle established—that the war was not to be considered as growing out of the principle of European policy, but simply and merely as a war between France and Spain [Hear, hear!]. If any thing could have prevented a war, it was the success with which that point had been urged. But how was that success obtained? Not by the loud and violent tone of remonstrance which hon. gentlemen had said that Great Britain ought to have held. He denied, however, that England did not remonstrate. She did remonstrate, in a firm, though certainly not in a hostile manner. She held out to the foreign powers, the greatest inducement to pursue another course, by placing before them the objections which lay against their proceeding, on grounds of expediency and of principle. We had, therefore, every reason to flatter ourselves, that by taking a similar line of proceeding in respect to France, and applying equally to her and to Spain, we might arrive at a result equally advantageous.
It seemed, however, according to the notions of the gentlemen opposite, that we had committed a very great mistake in not having, at the termination of the congress at Verona, said to the allied powers, "Well, as we cannot induce you to give up your views on this question, and to relinquish your course of policy, we have nothing more to say to you." Why this, he thought, was a matter very doubtful. Was it better for us to say to them, We will have nothing more to say to you in the present state of things;" or to say, "Shall we make a last attempt to bring about a reconciliation?" He could not undertake to say (for he was not quite so prophetic as the author of the address, who had undertaken to say so) what the future result of all these proceedings might be; but this he would say, that if any chance of averting war by the continuation of our good offices and mediation should present itself, it was our duty to avail ourselves of it. It was our duty to do so, with a view, not only to the peace of Eu- 1397 rope, but to the happiness and interest of Spain, and he would also say of France; because he never would admit, that in the discussion of this question, England was totally to overlook the fair interest of France. What he meant by that interest was, the security and maintenance of a fair constitutional monarchy in that country [Hear, hear!]; but he was not called upon to expound or define the precise nature of the French monarchy. But he must say, that the maintenance in France of a constitutional monarchy—the having on the throne of that country, the family which was at present in possession of it, was, under the existing circumstances of France and of the world, an object of no small importance. We had, in all times, been jealous of the Bourbons of France—we might be so again, and he had no doubt we should be. But, were we, because we were jealous of them, or rather of France, which he might almost call our natural rival, to consider it our interest to promote eternal dissentions in that country. It was not by fomenting disturbances in France, or even by looking at them with an eve of favour, that we should best promote the peace of Europe. It was his opinion, that England would always act on a just and sound principle, by supporting the existence of a regular government in France, and, if at all practical, by supporting the existing family upon the throne of that country. England, in the course of the late negotiations, had in view, not only the interests of Spain, but of France, and, acting upon that view, while the smallest hope remained of peace, she did right to offer her mediation, and to do all in her power to prevent, if possible, a war. He did not mean to say that when these last efforts were made the government of England entertained any very sanguine hope that their mediation would be successful. In the situation of things which had been described, Spain asked for the advice of England, and requested other government to use the pen of conciliation. France had also called upon the friendly assistance of this government—a fact which was subsequently urged as affording a proof that she did not wish to plunge into a war with Spain, if war could be avoided. He firmly believed it. He did not believe that the government of France was so anxious to commence a crusade against Spain, as some hon. gentlemen had represented. It was said, that if it was not 1398 unwise to decline further interference, England was at least in Emit for the mode of interference which she had subsequently adopted. It was said, that England advised Spain to modify her institutions. Now, he would, in the first place, observe, that if Spain had not desired the interference of Great Britain—if she had not called for her advice—it might not have been right, under the circumstances, for England to have tendered her suggestions. But, England was called upon to act—called upon by Spain; and the question was, whether the advice she gave was, under the circumstances, deserving approbation or censure? England stood, as it were, between two persons, both of whom had applied to her, both of whom were strongly opposed to each other. England, as the third party, saw, from the nature of the dispute, and from the temper of the parties, that there was no chance of reconciliation, unless some concession was made. Concession she clearly saw was the price to be paid for reconciliation. England advised nothing disparaging to Spain—nothing that could sink her character or encroach upon her independence. England advised Spain not to yield to any threat of France, nor to depart from the high tone of independence which it was necessary for her honour and security to maintain; but it was one thing not to yield to any demand of France, and another thing to listen to the amicable and friendly suggestions of Great Britain. Spain, however, rejected the proposition as inadmissible, and the negotiation terminated. England during that negotiation never advised Spain to do any thing that in the remotest degree would compromise her independence, and, least of all, did we advise her to yield to the principle contained in the speech of the king of France, which went to represent all free governments as mere waste paper, unless they proceeded from the mouth of kings—that monstrous principle, which was described in the address, in the very words which were used by my right hon. friend in one of his despatches, as "striking at the root of the British constitution." [Cheers.] If that which was the obvious construction of the king of France's speech had not been denied, we never could have advised Spain to concede one jot. His majesty's government had been taunted with having assisted the French ministers to an interpretation of that speech. Now he must again beg 1399 the House to remember, that it was our object to prevent war; but if the king of France's speech was to be interpreted according to its obvious meaning, it was impossible that we could have proceeded further in the work of mediation. We, therefore, did not wish to prevent such an explanation of that speech, from being given, as would permit us to continue our exertions to secure peace; particularly as the French government, in communicating the speech to us, had accompanied it with a declaration that they were anxious to avoid war.
It had been said, that we had been grossly deceived by the French government. Undoubtedly it could not be denied, that the conduct of France had been such as to excite very great surprise on our part. But it was going a little too far, to charge the government of this country, with having suffered itself to be deceived, when the party with whom it was treating was changing its mind from day to day. That he believed was very much like what the conduct of the French government had been. We were not at all prepared for those changes; and he believed that the French government was very little prepared on one day for the change which its opinions might undergo on the next. We were not to be blamed because we could not anticipate such unexpected changes. Upon the whole, he was convinced, that what he had stated at the outset was true; namely, that it was the policy of this country to avoid war, and that the course which we had pursued in the maintenance of that policy was better than the course which had been recommended by the hon. gentlemen opposite. That was the gist of the question, and that, he was convinced, was the general feeling of the country. Upon these grounds, he anticipated that the House would reject the address which had been proposed, and not consent to consign government to condemnation, on the ground that they had neglected what was due to the honour and interest of their country during the arduous negotiation in which they had been engaged [Loud cheers].
§ Sir James Mackintosh
said, he had never; on any former occasion when he had addressed that House, felt that he stood more in need of its indulgence than he did at present, because never before had he addressed it on so important a subject. Although he was by no means satisfied 1400 with the tone of the papers which had been laid upon the table of the House, nor with the defence which had been made for the conduct of his majesty's ministers, able as he admitted it to be—yet there was one peculiarity which had attended the debate, and which, although it had been noticed before, he could not avoid again adverting to with feelings of gratification; namely, that all the members who had delivered their sentiments on this momentous occasion, from whichever side they had spoken, or howsoever they were connected, had unanimously concurred in reprobation of the unprincipled and atrocious aggression of France against the brave and unoffending people of Spain. He had heard with inexpressible pleasure the honourable members for Yorkshire and the city of London, adding to the authority of their own opinion the weight of the important bodies which they represented, declare that the conduct of France towards Spain, was worthy of execration. It was with equal pleasure and delight that he had last night heard a great advocate of peace, declare, that the conduct of the French government rendered her naturally an object of indignation. That hon. gentleman (Mr. Bankes) brought to his recollection the views of another great advocate for peace pronounced in one of the most ancient of all assemblies, and described by one of the greatest of poets—the speech of that celebrated personage resembled that of the hon. gentleman in every thing but the justice of its animosity.—I should be much for open war, O Peers!As not behind in hate; what was urgedMain reason to persuade immediate war,Did not dissuade me most, and seem to castOminous conjecture on the whole success:When he who most excels in feat of arms,In what he counsels and in what excelsMistrustful, grounds his courage on despair.He had also heard with feelings of great satisfaction, the sentiments of a noble lord who addressed the House on the preceding night, and whose speech gave so much promise of talent. That noble lord had justly said, that the conduct of France in the course of this shameful aggression could only proceed from a demoniacal phrenzy. His hon. friend, the member for Bramber—whose censure derived a weight, from the general mildness of his manner, had told the House, that the language of principle and of honour was no longer intelligible in France; that that country, once 1401 the seat of chivalry and honour; was no longer to be trusted, and could no longer be respected. Such were the opinions expressed during the progress of the debate—expressed too, by men distinguished for the general moderation of their language. If there were persons, who, unfortunately, harboured different views—who could not sympathise in the generous sentiments expressed on every side of that House, but turned aside in order to adopt the obnoxious opinions which had been professed elsewhere; he hoped that the public voice, expressed by the representatives of the people in parliament, would silence, though it might not correct them. But, whilst he thus expressed his concurrence in most of what had been uttered in that House, he could not but express his astonishment, that language should have fallen from any quarter, expressive of indifference with regard to the fortunes of Spain. He could easily account for a difference of opinion on public acts—on subjects of public policy; but an indifference—a want of feeling—in a case like that which was now pending, he could not have expected from an Englishman. He could not have conceived it possible that any man could look with cold indifference on a flagrant violation of the laws of nations—in an open and profligate attack on the liberties of mankind. It was difficult to find language adequate to describe a crime so atrocious. The man who could in any way approve of it, deserved to be considered in the light of an accomplice—deserved to be branded as one who violated a high moral principle, and sanctioned a great crime against God and man. For himself, he deeply lamented that England had not taken, in the first instance, a firm and decided tone. A right hon. gentleman had taken credit for the subdued and mild tone which ministers had adopted at Verona. But, it was not when the liberties of a free people were about to be violated—when the principles on which the free constitution of England rested were openly assailed—that the mild and delicate language of the drawing-room ought to be held by the representatives of this country—that nice and measured tone, expressive more of a sense of weakness or of apathy, than of the true dignity of a great nation, brought to his recollection the satirical description of Mr. Pope—But Horace, Sir, was delicate, was nice;Bubo observes, he lash'd no sort of vice;1402Horace would say, sir Billy serv'd the crown,Blunt could do bus'ness, Higgins knew the town;In Sappho touch the failings of the sex,In rev'rend Bishops note some small neglects.This was the manner in which all persons who were conscious that their conduct merited blame, wished to be spoken of; but he trusted that the members of that House would never be brought to speak of crime in any other language than that of honest indignation. He lamented to find that in one of the notes of the duke of Wellington, the invasion of Spain by France was described as an "unnecessary assumption of responsibility" by the latter power. Was this the language that ought to have been applied to that infamous act? What would be thought of a man, who in speaking of a pickpocket, should say, he had only committed a slight error of judgment with respect to the rights of property; or of a murderer, that he had incurred an unnecessary responsibility, and that in the present state of the law of England the consequences might be unpleasant to him. Such refinement of language might please in the drawing-rooms of Vienna or Petersburgh, but they were unsuited to the blunt country 'squires and plain burgesses, who represented the people of England in that House.
The line of debate had been considerably narrowed by the speakers who had addressed the House before him. It had been said, that the protest of England, in the first instance, was firm and expressive; but it was a remarkable fact, that as topics enlarged—that as the unprincipled views of the allied powers displayed themselves—the tone of the English minister became subdued, until at length he scarcely noticed the shameful violation of the law of nations, and of the rights of justice and humanity, which France had committed. The hon. member for Taunton, in one of the ablest speeches he had ever heard delivered within the walls of that House, had truly said, that the question before the House was not a question as to peace or war, but a question as to the conduct of those who had conducted the recent negotiations. The answer that had been given was precisely that which had been given by every minister of England for the last century and a half—"You must not question the negotiation—you must not inquire into it; for by so doing, the public faith of the country will be as- 1403 sailed, the sacredness of treaties will be invaded, and war will be the inevitable consequence." That mode of reasoning he rejected. Experience proved that it was not correct. Without questioning a treaty, the conduct of those who made it might be fairly inquired into. The ministers who conducted the treaty of Utrecht and those who agreed to the Partition treaty, were impeached; but the treaties themselves were not violated, and war did not ensue. The House of Commons were not to consider whether treaties once entered into were to be preserved. That case could not be examined. But the conduct of his majesty's ministers—the acts in the months of October, November, and December last—were fairly open to inquiry.
Many reasons had been urged in support of the policy which his majesty's ministers had adopted; some of which were so extremely fallacious and contradictory, that the real friends of peace would not complain if he attempted to expose their futility, seeing that they injured the cause which they were intended to support. It was said, on the one hand, that we ought not to interfere to assist Spain, because the people of that country were divided; while, on the other it was urged that we ought to abstain from such interference, because the defeat of the French was inevitable. He would leave the gentlemen who used the argument, to reconcile the contradiction. It was urged also, that we ought not to interfere where there was a divided people. He should be glad to know from what part of the history of England it was, that ministers had acquired the information, that it was not the policy of England to go to war in behalf of a divided country. Had queen Elizabeth pursued that policy with respect to Flanders? had the English government adopted it with respect to the grand alliance during the last Spanish war? The hon. member for Corfe Castle had said, that if England had assisted Spain, she would have had to oppose an English party to every French party existing in that country. He (sir J. M.) knew of no French party in Spain. He recognised only two parties there—those who were contending for independence, and those who were opposed to it. He did not blame so much as he pitied, those infatuated Spaniards who called out "Long live the Inquisition;" but those who exclaimed "Long live the French!" were 1404 apostates—rebels—traitors of the worst description. They were unnatural citizens; the hand of infamy had put its mark upon them; they would be detested and despised in every country where the love of country was considered a virtue, and its independence a blessing. He would not stop to ask who were for England, or who for France; he would only ask who were for Spain? So far from thinking, that the internal divisions of a country ought, in all cases, to act as a bar to our interference, he could conceive one in which that very circumstance might sometimes be in itself a reason for our embarking in a war. The most extraordinary argument which had been offered to the House, in support of the pacific policy of ministers was, that if we had openly assisted Spain, it would have made the war against that country popular in France. He would appeal from this specious argument to the testimony of facts, which would prove that such a timorous policy had never been pursued by the British government. Did Elizabeth for that reason abstain from interfering with respect to Flanders? Did Charles abstain from an attack on Holland? Oh, unwise Godolphin! Oh, infatuated Marlborough! Year after year did you lead your conquering arms against the troops of France—year after year did you subdue them—merely because you had not the prudence to see that you would give popularity to the cause which your wisdom and your valour were destined to overthrow! He would beg of those who talked of the wisdom of our ancestors, not to arraign that wisdom by such preposterous charges. According to their doctrine, England could never interfere to succour an ally or to prevent injustice. So violent was the hatred against her,—so little terror did her name and power inspire—that her assistance was henceforth to be considered in the light of a calamity towards her friends, and her arms, which formerly created terror in the hearts of her enemies, would now only strengthen their hands and ensure their success. Far different was the view in which the interference of England was held from the earliest period of her history—from the glorious days of Crescy and of Agincourt, down to the days of Blenheim, and of Minden, and of Waterloo. Never, until the fatal congress of Vienna, was England regarded in any other light than as the champion of the independence of nations and the liberties of mankind. He would net trespass on 1405 the time of the House by referring particularly to the papers on the table. It had been said, that it would have been unwise on the part of England to hold what was called a violent tone—that the only alternative which presented itself was a declaration of war, or of bending down to the point of degradation to which he was sorry to say England had descended. But, did the House suppose that no middle course remained? He would venture to say, that if a very few members of that House were to retire for five minutes, they would be able to suggest a thousand modes by which England could give expression to her opinion—could vindicate her dignity—could remonstrate against injustice—and yet avoid expressions which would necessarily lead to hostilities. The right hon. the chancellor of the Exchequer had said, that the circulars of the marquis of Londonderry, in 1820 and 1821, contained a vigorous and forcible appeal. But in this part of the question there was something quite ludicrous. For, in those circulars the language was much stronger than that used in the recent negotiations although the occasion was not so pressing. In proportion as the necessity for firmness increased, and the objectionable acts became stronger, our language grew weak and feeble. The language used against the occupation of Naples by the troops of Austria, was weaker than that of the circular to which he had alluded. But the language of our plenipotentiary at the late congress at Verona was still weaker, and degenerated into obscure and unintelligible allusions to the language of the papers delivered in to those sovereigns before. We heard of no protest having been made against the principle on which Naples was occupied by the armies of Austria. So far from it, that we went to the congress of Verona to negociate with the authors of that military occupation, as our allies, after they had violated all those principles on which we before protested against their attacks on the states of Italy. We went to Verona without making a new protest. We did not cite the principles of international law. Not a word was said of our former declaration against the right of foreign interference. He was not surprised that the moral feeling of his hon. friend the member for Bramber was wounded by the omission of the assertion of those principles in the late negotiations. But the House was told, that his majesty's minis- 1406 ters did not expect that Spain would become a subject of negotiation at Verona. That was indeed a strange communication. Who concealed from us that which was known to all the other powers to have been previously concerted by the principal negociators? But we went to the congress of these holy allies, while they concealed from us the real business which was to be there transacted; and after we had learned the nature of the subject to be discussed, we still continued to negociate with them. But the right hon. the chancellor of the exchequer said, that he and his colleagues had gained their object at Verona. What was it that they had gained? Why, a reference of the affairs of Spain to the French minister at Paris. Nothing was more likely to render the negotiation complicated than a reference to the furious and fanatical government of France, on a subject upon which that government had before made up its mind. It was his firm conviction that our ministers had been duped by that government, and that they had lent themselves to the dupery, in order to conceal the defeat they had sustained at the congress.
He would now, without going into any general discussion, make a few observations upon another point. It would be in the recollection of the House, that he had some time ago put a question to the right hon. secretary opposite, in which he had expressed a hope, that the negotiations would be found to have been conducted throughout with an adherence to the independence of nations. With an adherence to the principles of the law of nations, to the faith of treaties, strictly maintaining the balance of power in Europe, and conformably to the conduct of this country in the best times of our history. But in the papers laid on the table by the right hon. gentleman, he could find scarcely a reference to any of those principles. His majesty's ministers seemed as if they had been afraid to alarm the delicate sensibilities of prince Metternich and the other ministers at the congress, by the bare mention of the subject; and accordingly in the despatches this point wag wholly omitted. So friendly was the temper of our allies towards us, that we did not wish to disturb them by any remonstrance in behalf of others or of ourselves, or by any impertinent anxiety concerning the balance of power, although that balance was manifestly endangered by the policy they were then pursuing. In the course of 1407 this debate some allusions had been made to the balance of power, and it had been asserted, that if France should succeed in Spain, still there would be no danger of the balance of power in Europe being destroyed—that, in fact, that question was not necessarily involved in the present discussion: He must, however, remembering what had been the very natural jealousy of our ancestors on this subject, look upon the question in a very different point of view. Knowing, as he did, the anxiety with which they had endeavoured to uphold that principle—that "fuit hœc sapientia quondanm,"—that it was the only safeguard of nations, the protection of the weak against the strong, the principle by which small states flourished in the vicinity of great ones, of which we ourselves afforded so sublime an illustration—he could not but regret the manner in which it had been lost sight of in the late negotiations, and to find that in the speeches of some hon. members in the course of the present debate, all those great considerations seemed entirely forgotten. Nay, one hon. member had set so little value on them, that he seemed to think, that if all the states of Europe were under one dominion, it ought not to be the subject of apprehension to this country. They who argued thus had, at least, this merit—that they only were the consistent defenders of the negotiations now before the House. The hon. member for Corfe Castle was among this number; and though he (sir J. M.) could not divest himself of his old prejudices on the question, he could not but congratulate the hon. member on the juvenile ardour with which he advanced the new theory that the division of the territory of Europe, could not be a ground for the interference of England, and that the destruction of the balance of power could not be a sufficient cause of war. But, he would ask, for what could this country go to war, if it was not to preserve the balance of power? It was admitted—it could not be denied—that we had a right to go to war for the purpose of self-defence; but if the violation of the balance of power—if the giving to one state at the expense of another, that political preponderance which might, and, arguing from experience, would be, exercised injuriously to this country did not bring our interference within the principle of self-defence, he was at a loss to know what did. He admitted, that in going to war, a government 1408 should found itself not only on what was the interest of the people, but also on the justice of the case. The case of a government in this respect might be compared to that of the guardian of a minor, who, in getting into Chancery, should consider, not only whether he had a just cause, but whether at the end of twenty years, he might not come off with a decree in his favour which would have the effect of involving his ward in ruin. He admitted, that in mentioning only twenty years, he might be derogating from the solemn dignity of that court, and allowing, perhaps, too limited a period for the grave and mature deliberation which was there exercised; but twenty years would be sufficient for his illustration [a laugh]. He did not, he repeated, deny that a necessity should be shown for entering into a war; but he asked whether the preservation of the balance of power did not involve that necessity? He challenged any man to answer in the negative the question—whether the possession of Spain by France, and the conquest by her of Ferrol, Cadiz, and eventually of Lisbon, were not circumstances to be dreaded by this country, and whether the probability of their occurrence would not form a just ground for our most decided interference? The right hon. secretary, on a former evening, had admitted, that a war on our part would be consistent with our own interest, with the principles of justice, and the independence of states, and, in this admission, he had come within the principles for which he (sir J. M.) was contending; although it was decidedly in the teeth of the paradox of the philosopher of Corfe Castle. He did not say that these were reasons why the country should go to war now; but he did maintain, that they were grounds why a frank and firm tone of remonstrance should have been used in the outset of our negotiations; and he contended that the adoption of such a tone—not towards enemies, be it remembered, but towards those who were in amicable alliance with us—would have had the effect of preventing those transactions now going on in Spain, which, in every point of view, we had so many reasons to deplore. It might be, indeed it was said, that such a tone on our part would only have tended to bring on hostile measures. He did not believe it. He did not believe, notwithstanding all that had been said of the wretched state of this country after the congress of 1409 Vienna, that any power would have gone to war with us for a firm and decided remonstrance against that which was a gross violation of the general principles of the law of nations—against that which was so manifestly hostile to our own interests.
To assert that France by her conduct was injuring the balance of power—that she was weakening our means of defence, and strengthening her own means of aggression—was a fact which he conceived might be urged without offence even to the delicate ears of the despots of Verona. Where was the adherence to the example of former times, when we dared not call the usurpation of Spain by France an act of injustice; when we dared not even breathe a word, disapproving of a base and profligate interference attempted in violation of all right, and to the obvious injury of our own particular interests, as well as those of mankind in general? If he were to look for a contrast to such conduct, he would find it in the grand alliance, which was undertaken expressly to prevent the junction of the two crowns of France and Spain. He did not wish to exaggerate apprehensions upon this bead. He was not one of those who thought it politic to weigh dangers by the scruples. But though the accession of a Bourbon to the Crown of Spain had not been followed by all the evils predicted at the time, it was not fair to conclude that such apprehensions were groundless. This argument proved a little too much; for it went to show that all foresight and caution, in matters of this importance, were vain and unnecessary. But the history of the family alliance did not warrant such a conclusion. If the natural effects of that compact were prevented by jealousies amongst some branches of the family; and by the imbecility of Louis XV., was that a reason why no fear should be entertained of any future union between the families? Let the House remember what took place. About thirty years after the family compact, a secret treaty was signed between France and Spain, the subject of which was, to induce the latter power to join in a war against England. The first opportunity which she had had of exercising her influence she embraced to turn it against the interest of Country.—But, supposing the influence of France and Spain was not to be directly and immediately exercised against this country, let the House see 1410 how the closer union of those two powers might affect our ancient ally Portugal. Let gentlemen bear in mind, that the first attempt upon Portugal by Spain, at the instigation of France, was after a Bourbon prince sat upon the Spanish throne. Soon after the family compact, the treaty between France and Spain contained a secret article, in which both agreed to compel Portugal to declare war against England. Portugal resisted, and we pledged ourselves to support her. But he was afraid that if we had kept our promise, we had kept it "to the ear" alone. In that case, where was the faith and honour of this country? The only danger that had threatened Portugal, since the accession of the House of Braganza, was that which arose in the union of France with Spain. Scarcely had Spain become subservient to France, under the Bourbon princes, than the effect began to show itself on the scheme of European politics. As soon as France obtained the ascendant, the infamous article to which he had alluded was agreed upon, whereby Portugal was to be compelled to go to war with England, on the ground that her situation required that she should not act a neutral part. That was the first time that such a principle had ever been advanced. It was the first time that her geographical situation had been avowed as a reason for compelling one country to go to war with another. Three times was Portugal attacked—three times was she brought to the brink of ruin—and three times did she maintain her fidelity at the hazard of her existence. With such claims she now called upon her powerful and ancient ally, for whom she had risked so much, to come forward in the hour of her need and danger with protection. And what did that ally do? Had she obtained for her the security she was entitled to ask? He saw no trace of it in the papers. What was the assurance so much relied on—an assurance on the part of Prance, that, so long as a French army remained on the frontiers, Portugal should not be attacked. The assurance was absurd and useless. It was absurd to say that, as long as the French army remained in one place it would not leave it to make, war on Portugal; but, no security was given that on the removal of that army hostilities, would not be commenced. But, what was the argument of that profound Philosopher and statesman, M. de Chateaubriand, to satisfy Portugal and this 1411 country on a subject of so much importance to both? He—the writer of love tales and romances—he who prayed the Gods to "annihilate both space and time, and make two lovers happy," had discovered, in the profundity of his wisdom, that the distance of Portugal was in itself a security against her being attacked. It was a delusion, a mockery, to hold out language like this—to say that so long as Spain interposed Portugal should remain at peace. Where was the security in this promise? Suppose (which God avert) that France should conquer Spain—the obstacle would then be removed, and France would hold the same language to Portugal which she now did to Spain. There was no pledge to satisfy the mind of any rational man that she would not do so; there was no pledge that she would not employ her money to foment disturbances, in order to find a pretext for her crimes; that she would not pour in her army to put down the anarchy which she had herself excited. Such was the protection afforded to Portugal for her fidelity and perseverance! What a chapter would this form in the history of our faith and honour. The country of superstition and ignorance had adhered to us to the last; but the country of reason and good faith had forgotten the obligation! Would it be contended that we could do no more? If so, why talk of our influence? The best way, perhaps the only way, of defending Portugal, was by defending Spain from attack; but that unfortunately had been neglected. It was said, that the king of France disclaimed all views of aggrandizement. This reminded him of an anecdote which he had read in a work recently published—"The Secret Correspondence of the Courts of Russia, Prussia, and Austria, respecting the Partition of Poland." In one of the notes of the Russian minister it was stated, that her imperial majesty had made it an inviolable rule of her conduct never to interfere with other states for the purpose of aggrandizing her own—a rule which, however, she was then in the daily habit of violating; for, at that very time that this note was written, her imperial majesty had settled the partition of Poland—one of the grossest acts of perfidy which had ever disgraced the most faithless of tyrants. He would not place much reliance on the promises of princes. He placed none on the intentions attributed to the king of France. He did not believe that when 1412 he had settled—if he should be able to settle—Ferdinand upon his throne, he would consent to evacuate Spain for the purpose of conciliating the good will of England; and the more was be doubtful on this point, when he found that all the efforts which England had used had been fruitless in dissuading him from the attempt. Was it probable that he would leave Ferdinand to be protected by the army of priests now mustered on his behalf? If he had considered the army of the Faith sufficiently powerful to keep Ferdinand on his throne, he needed not to have interfered. After having established him in his despotic authority on the ruins of every thing that was noble and generous and free in the country—after restoring the Inquisition, and re-establishing tithes, he would still find it necessary to continue the army by whose aid such valorous and noble feats would have been achieved.
What, then, he asked, would be the situation of England if this conquest should be effected? Could she think herself secure with such immense power in the hands of her ancient and jealous rivals? Could she think Ireland secure while such means of annoyance in that quarter remained in their power? Let the House remember what had been the conduct of France and Spain on former occasions with respect to Ireland. He had now before him a letter, which however he would not then trouble the House by reading, but would refer to its contents as illustrative of his argument. The letter was from lord North to the earl of Buckinghamshire, dated 1779, in which he informed him, that he had intelligence of a combined French and Spanish fleet being in the English channel—the greatest foreign fleet that had been in possession of the channel since the battle of La Hogue. On board of this fleet, which accident prevented from effecting a landing, there were 32,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry, for' the purpose of taking possession of the country. The descent was to have been made in Galway; and, so confident were they of success, that many of the principal officers had taken with them their wives and children, with their tutors, for the purpose of educating them in the country, and settling them there. The bait which they held out to the Irish people was the establishment of religious freedom—the full emancipation of the Catholics—and the establishment of a free 1413 trade. The latter was soon after conceded to Ireland; but the former, he regretted to say, was allowed still to remain a fruitful source of dissention in that unfortunate country. It was settled by the invading powers, that the duke de Fitzjames should be at the head of the government to be established in Ireland—a sort of Viceroy, and should call a parliament in Dublin. This Fitzjames, who claimed to be allied to the exiled Stuarts, was the ancestor of the individual of that name now in France who had, in one of his speeches in the chamber of peers, gravely informed all Europe, that in England, at present, nobody thought of defending the revolution of 1688; that though it might be vapoured in parliament, yet nobody really held the opinion that it was just—that if it was to be attempted over again, it could not succeed—and that the great majority of the nation would prefer the sway of the mild and tolerant Stuarts, to the family now on the throne. He had mentioned the circumstance of the intended invasion of Ireland by France and Spain—and he could mention others—to show the danger to which we were exposed by the intimate union of those powers; and he asked, was it not singular, that at the very moment when we were considering the situation of Ireland—at a time when she was torn with factions from the unfortunate system which had been adopted of giving an ascendancy to the few over the many in that country—we should make no threat, use no vigorous means, to prevent the occurrence of circumstances which would place Ferrol and Cadiz in the hands of our dangerous rival; which would prevent the acquisition by France of that influence over Spain, which it had been her invariable practice to wield against us? The right hon. secretary had said, he was willing that the conduct of government in these negotiations should be tried by a reference to what had been the conduct of this country in the best times of our history. The reign of Elizabeth was no bad æra to select; but he was apprehensive that that queen would be considered little better than a radical by the continental sovereigns of the present day. The right hon. secretary would remember what had been said in vindication of the character of Elizabeth, by no less an authority than sir F. Bacon. Speaking of her known intention of assisting the Burgundians in the recovery of their freedom, he observed, that her 1414 majesty was reminded of her treaties with the dukes of Burgundy; but she replied, that her object was to benefit the people—that her treaties were with the people, and not with their rulers. But, at that time the rights of the people were respected. At that time, we beard much talk of nations, but little of kings. The case now was different. At the present day, we heard little of nations, but every thing of kings. The House might, perhaps, be surprised that he differed from most of his hon. friends in the interest which he took in the fate of his majesty, king Ferdinand of Spain. There was no sovereign in Europe, with the exception of the sovereign of this country, who was to him an object of so much interest, or about whose safety he was more solicitous. This feeling did not arise so much from admiration of his virtues, or respect for his many amiable qualities [Hear, hear], as from a wish that his safety might continue a monument of the magnanimity, the generosity, the manly forbearance of those patriots who were now struggling with such ardent zeal for the liberties of their country. That Ferdinand might long live to afford a striking contrast between the mild forbearance of the virtuous men by whom he was surrounded, and the unrelenting tyranny of the despots who would crush them, was his most earnest prayer. That they might live to accomplish their glorious task, he also ardently hoped. If they did fail, their example would remain to sow the seeds of liberty amongst mankind; but to do so they must continue to be pure, spotless, unstained, kind, merciful, forbearing, and forgiving. There was one amongst them whom he almost envied even in the midst of the misfortunes to which he had been exposed. He almost envied Arguelles for his genius, his eloquence; he envied him for being the foremost amongst the assertors of Spanish liberty; but for nothing did he envy him so much as for that nobleness of nature which he evinced in administering to the wants, in attending to the comforts—studying even the delicacies of that man who had previously consigned him to a fortress, to work as a common soldier exposed to the burning heat of an African climate [Loud cheers].
Mr. Secretary Peel
said, that as he was a member of that administration against which a severe criminatory resolution had been moved, he stood before the House 1415 in the situation of an accused party; and he therefore felt a natural, and he trusted, a laudable anxiety to plead not guilty to the charge, and to state the grounds on which he thought that the members of administration were entitled to a complete acquittal. At the same time, he was so well satisfied with the able defence of his majesty's government which had been made by his right hon. friend the chancellor of the exchequer—a defence which had not been at all weakened or touched by the speech of the hon. and learned gentleman who had just sat down, but which had rather been strengthened by the careful manner in which the hon. and learned gentleman had avoided every position which his right hon. friend had laid down—that, after what had passed in the House the last two hours, he felt that he almost owed an apology to the House, for venturing to address it once more upon the same side of the question.—He would now proceed to examine the speech of the hon. and learned gentleman; and he would ask, what could be the object of that speech, except to recommend a declaration of war against France? Not more than five minutes had the hon. and learned gentleman employed in showing that this country ought to have assumed a more dignified tone of remonstrance during the late negotiations. The arguments which he subsequently addressed to the feelings, and to the passions of the House, had all gone to shew, that his majesty's ministers ought to have issued a direct declaration of war. The hon. and learned gentleman had referred much and often to the balance of power. And, for what purpose?—to convince the House that that balance was now in such jeopardy, that we were bound to interfere for its preservation, even at the expense and hazard of being involved in a war. The hon. and learned gentleman had said, that he would avoid the question whether justice required us to go to war, and would only examine the simple question whether our honour or interests demanded it. The real question, however, was, did the honour of the country—and, if the honour, did the interests of the country—render it necessary that we should become a party to the war? Did, then, the honour of the country require of us war? He answered, No. Did the interests of the country require it? He again boldly answered, No. Did the 1416 faith of treaties require it? Once more he boldly answered, No. Did the voice of the people of England call for it? Again he boldly answered, No. Did the government of Spain require it? Again, and again, he boldly answered, No. Since, then, neither the government of Spain, nor the voice of the people of England, nor the faith of treaties, nor the interests nor the honour of the country required of us war, he would ask, was there any reason for criminating his majesty's government, because it had not resorted to any such measure?
The hon. and learned gentleman had endeavoured to cover with ridicule the hon. member for Corfe Castle; but he had found it impossible to touch that hon. gentleman's position with regard to the balance of power, without first misrepresenting its meaning. The question at present was not whether the balance of power was to be maintained in the same manner as it had been in former times, but whether it would be deranged by the success of France in her present invasion of Spain? Supposing the statement to be true, that, it the population of Spain were divided into eleven equal parts, ten of those parts would be found in favour of the present constitutional system, and only one opposed to it: supposing the statement likewise to be true, that the insurrections which now prevailed in that country were only caused by intrigues and fomented by the money of France—could France derive any additional strength from the military occupation of Spain, even though the ports of Ferrol, Cadiz, and Corunna, were in her hands, seeing that she would have to keep perpetual watch over the ten parts of the population whose rights she had violated, and who from that very violation must be greatly exasperated against her? Indeed, he was prepared to go much further; he was prepared to contend, that the military occupation of Spain by France—instead of being such a source of strength to France as would disarrange the balance of power—would be to her a source of incurable weakness; and, instead of benefitting, would greatly tend to retard and paralyze her in all her future operations. He, therefore, maintained that, as far as the balance of power was concerned; there was not the slightest consideration of interests that could justify this country in precipitating herself into a war.
1417 The hon. and learned gentleman had likewise referred to what this country had done in former times, in order to preserve that balance of power, in favour of which he had declaimed so warmly and so eloquently. Now, nothing could possibly be more inconclusive than these general references to history, in which all the peculiar circumstances of the case were not brought into consideration. The hon. and learned gentleman had referred to the conduct of queen Elizabeth, and had contrasted it with that of his majesty's government at present, evidently intending to draw a contrast highly to their disadvantage and humiliation. Why, he would ask, did Elizabeth assist the Flemish subjects of Philip, in their endeavours to throw off their connexion with him? Not upon any abstract principle, but solely because it was conducive to the interests of England, which was a just and legitimate cause of war. They had been told, that, in the struggle between Philip and his Flemish subjects, Elizabeth had ranged herself on the side of the latter, because she preferred appearing in the character of a champion for liberty, rather than in that of an ally of despotism. A reference to the history of that period would prove, beyond all dispute, that such a statement was nothing but romance. For, what was the period at which she first lent her assistance to the Flemings? It was not until the recall of the duke of Alba—it was not until he had boasted that he had brought 18,000 subjects of Spain to a public death on the scaffold, in the midst of the most excruciating torments—it was not until he had taken Antwerp and Breda, and several other strong towns and fortresses—it was not until Don John of Austria had been appointed his successor, that Elizabeth made the slightest effort in their behalf. And, what did she don then? She lent them 20,000l. and sent them a small arm, having first refused the sovereignty they offered her, and having received the possession of three towns, as a security for the loan which she had advanced. It was, therefore, upon a view of ht peculiar interests of England that she had acted—upon the same view, indeed, that his majesty's government had recently acted in refusing to involve this country in war, on account of the unprincipled invasion that France was now making upon Spain [Her, hear!]. A similar spirit had influenced 1418 the government of this country in the instances to which the hon. and learned gentleman had referred in, the reign of William 3rd, and of queen Anne; indeed, he might also add, still more recently, when we assisted Spain in counteracting the designs of Buonaparte. He alluded to that circumstance, because it had been stated in the course of the debate, that the same principle of self-interest which led us to assist Spain against Buonaparte, ought also to induce us to assist her at present against Louis 18th. But he would ask, was not the danger infinitely, greater to the safety of England when Spain was attacked by a military despot, who had 500,000 men at his beck, and who three years afterwards marched into' the north, at the head of 600,000 men, though at that time Spain possessed a united population, than it was now, when she was attacked by a Bourbon, with only a force of 100,000 men, though with a divided and distracted population?
He thought that the analogy between the two cases had totally failed, and he should therefore pass on to the observations which the hon. and learned gentleman had made upon our relations with Portugal. He contended, in opposition to the hon. and learned gentleman, that neither the faith of treaties, nor the consideration of our own particular interests, compelled us to undertake the defence of Portugal under the circumstances which the hon. and learned gentleman had stated. He would allow that we were bound to protect Portugal in case she were wantonly attacked by France. We had informed France of our obligations upon that head. We had received pledges from her that she had no hostile intentions against Portugal; and if France refused to respect her own pledges, thus sacredly given and repeated, then the House was bound by the amendment of his hon. friend the member for Yorkshire "to afford to his majesty its most zealous and affectionate support in any measures which his majesty may find necessary, to fulfil the obligations of national faith, to vindicate the dignity of his crown, or to maintain the rights and interests, of his people." He maintained, that it would be enough, when the casus fœderis arrived, to lend to Portugal the assistance which we had stipulated to afford; and that it would not be consistent, either with prudence or sound policy, to pursue towards her the line of, conduct which had 1419 been recommended by the hon. and learned gentleman.
He could not help thinking that much extraneous matter had been introduced into the present debate. The great question which had been submitted to the House was, the policy which his majesty's ministers had pursued during the late important and complicated negotiations; and, in reasoning upon it, observations had been made, not so much upon that particular policy, as upon the general policy which they had adopted for years past. He could assure the House that he did not intend to enter upon that wide field of discussion: he should limit himself to the question more immediately before it. And here he must observe, that the policy which we had to follow was of a threefold nature; first, we had to maintain, if possible, the peace of Europe, without any compromise of principle on our part; next, if it were disturbed, we had to maintain peace as far as England was concerned; and lastly, which was perhaps as important a point as any, to maintain a mediatorial position between the contending parties, in order to afford them every opportunity of re establishing peace with each other. On these points they were to be met by their opponents. And here he would ask, did those opponents propose an opposite line of policy? Did they, for instance, call for war? They themselves said they did not. So that the question was not so much a question of principle as of degree; and on this particular point; namely, whether the tone used in the negotiations had been sufficiently strong and dignified. That was the general, though he knew that it was not the universal, argument of the gentlemen opposite. The hon. member for Westminster, for instance, had declared himself the determined advocate for open and unqualified war—for a war of principles—for a war, as he termed it, of the principles of liberty against those of despotism. But be (Mr. Peel) for one should deprecate the hour when England should enter upon such a war; and he trusted, that upon such a war she never would enter. He certainly hoped that England would never be the advocate of despotism, whether directed against Spain or against any other country. He protested, and he strongly protested, against that doctrine maintained by what was called the Holy Alliance, of its right of interference with the liberty of nations, 1420 by the establishment of a sort of European police for the prevention of the success of revolution wherever it might be found, and under whatever circumstances. He contended, as strongly as any man could do, for one exception at least from that doctrine; namely, when the security of the state rendered such a revolution necessary; and he was prepared to argue, that in the case of Spain, that, exception had certainly occurred [Hear, hear!]. It was, perhaps, incumbent upon him to declare his sentiments upon that point, as M. de Chateaubriand had taken an opportunity, in the French Chamber, of drawing a very erroneous conclusion from what he had formerly said upon it. It might perhaps be in the recollection of the House, that, on the first day of the session, he had stated, that he thought Austria quite justified in interfering to put down the revolution at Naples. That opinion, most undoubtedly, he had delivered—that opinion he was still ready to maintain, and without any feeling of personal interest in it; since he was not a member of the cabinet at the time when that question had come under consideration. The French minister had said, that his Britannic majesty's government had thought Austria justified in attacking Naples, and that therefore they must now think France justified in its attack upon Spain. He, however, disclaimed the right of drawing any such inference. He thought that there was a justification for Austria; but he could not see any justification whatever for the present aggression of France upon Spain. He conceived that there was a wide difference between the Neapolitan and the Spanish revolutions; though both, to a certain degree, arose out of military insurrections. He would not then enter into the minor points of difference, but would merely remind the House that, at Naples, the revolution appeared to be nothing more nor less than a military occupation of all the functions of government. The king proposed to give to the party demanding it a constitution in eight days; but that proposition by no means contented it. A mob was collected, and threatened to attack the royal palace if a constitution were not granted them in four and twenty hours. In consequence, a constitution was granted them—the Spanish constitution—for want, not of a better, but of another. Such being the case, Austria appeared to him to be com- 1421 pletely justified in interfering to put down that revolution; especially as the dangers arising from it were not local, in consequence of the designs avowedly entertained by its authors of disturbing the existing arrangements of Italy, and of wresting from Austria those provinces which had been guaranteed to her by England and the other allies. He would ask, whether any such designs had been avowed by the chiefs of the Spanish revolution; or, whether there was any similarity, except that which he had before stated, in the mode by which the two revolutions had been effected? The man who could assert that there was a similarity must have his judgment so blinded by his enmity to the Spanish constitution, as not to be able to see correctly what was ever passing before his own eyes.
Besides the hon. member for Westminster, there was also another hon. member who was an advocate for war. But that hon. member (Mr. Robertson) was for a war of a peculiar character. He would not have a land war, but a naval war, and that, too, on a principle of economy. The hon. member to whom he alluded had said, "Since the hulks of your ships are liable to rot in your docks, and since they do not rot so much at sea, I would send them out to cruize off the coasts of France and Spain; since, in doing so, you will not be incurring much more expense than you are incurring at present." He might, perhaps, be inclined to agree with the hon. member, if, in a war between two nations, as in a quarrel between two individuals, either party were allowed the choice of weapons; but he thought that if we declared war against France, we should find it difficult to persuade her to consent to a war that should be conducted on so limited a scale. But, even if the hon. member should succeed in that object, what advantage could be gained by carrying on a maritime war for the establishment of a mere principle? He had heard or read of a certain king who was famed for taking maritime towns by detachments of cavalry; but never, since the existence of naval tactics, had he ever heard of such a ludicrous scheme as that of endeavouring to prevent the French from entering Spain by means of a naval force.—It was said, however, that the war against Spain was at present unpopular in France. What would be the consequence of our taking part in it by waging a maritime war against French 1422 commerce, but to exasperate the French merchants, whose property would fall into the hands of our cruisers, and to turn the indignation of the French people against their rulers for engaging in the war with Spain, into rage and fury against us for unnecessarily, as they might suppose, becoming parties to it? What advantage could we derive, in a war for principles, from capturing Martinique, and from thus being enabled to throw an increased quantity of sugar into our market? Nay, he might also ask, what advantage would Spain herself derive from such captures?
The hon. and learned gentleman who spoke last, however, would not have had this country gone to war; he would only have had her employ menace. Did the hon. and learned gentleman mean, if his menace had proved ineffectual, to enforce it? Such must' be the hon. and learned gentleman's meaning; for surely he would never have had England condescend to act the part of a bully, and to submit to the disgrace of using threats which she was not afterwards prepared to carry into execution. He would then ask, did the circumstance of this country justify his majesty's ministers in running so great a risk? He thought not. If honour and justice required a war, let us embark in it, heartily and openly, and fairly; but if not, let us not run a desperate risk which must lead either to national disgrace, or to a war which was not called for by either honour or justice. [Hear, hear.]
He would now proceed to the refutation of that part of the argument on the other side, which was intended to prove that a dignified tone had not been maintained by the British negotiator in the course of the late negotiations. A very studious and artful attempt had been made to confound the different periods of the negotiations; and the instructions given by Mr. Secretary Canning, in the first page of the correspondence, had been quoted to prove that, when France first declared her intention of attacking Spain, our language had not been so strong and vigorous as it ought to have been. The words of his right hon. friend "to any such interference, come what may, his majesty will not be a party," used at the very outset of the negotiations, had been applied to events which had occurred three months afterwards, and had been quoted as the only remonstrance which We made to the French on their crossing the Bidassoa. The papers themselves furnished 1423 proof that this was not the case; and he therefore could not help complaining that such an assertion had ever been allowed to go forth to the public. It appeared to him that these negotiations were divided into three distinct periods: the first being the period between the assembling and the close of the congress; the second being the period between the return of the duke of Wellington to Paris and the publication of the Speech of the king of France; and the third included all the periods that had since elapsed. Any man who read the despatches for the purpose of criticising them, ought in common justice to keep these three periods perfectly distinct from each other in his mind, and to apply the language used during each of them to things as they then existed. He ought also to recollect, that at present we were wise by the result, and he should not forget, that the writer of them had to enter into a calculation of probabilities, with which at present we had nothing whatever to do. With regard to the object of the British government during the first of these periods, his right hon. friend, the chancellor of the exchequer, had properly observed, that it was to prevent the declaration from being made against Spain by the allied powers. Now, he would ask, whether such a declaration had been made or not? If it had not, how could it be justly said that the English negotiator had been duped? Indeed, what was the language used by France regarding these negotiations? Why, M. de Montmorency said, that the measures which the French government had contemplated for the amelioration of Spain would have succeeded if "England had thought she could concur in them." Here was at least a distinct admisssion on the part of France herself, that she did not consider her interests to have been forwarded by the part which England had taken at the congress at Verona. What was the opinion of Spain herself with respect to this very subject? An hon. member on the previous night had alluded to the despatch of the Spanish minister, in which M. de San Miguel had said, "Will not England give effect to the opinion which she entertains?" At the moment when that despatch was written, Spain was not aware of the part which England had then adopted; but what was her language when she had been made acquainted with the course which this country had taken? On the 24th of De- 1424 cember, M. de San Miguel had said, "We are sure of England, and satisfied with her position." Did that minister say that England ought to go to war? No such thing. But he pointed out the course which, if we followed, he thought would be most conducive to Spanish interests. He said, "There is nothing to induce us to ask for such a mediation at present; but we are at sea, surround by dangers, and menaced by storms, and it is impossible to say that we may not yet require a friendly hand." In what way was that friendship to be shown? Why; as mediators only. On a still later occasion, the language of Spain, whom we are accused of not having favoured, still continued the same. M. de San Miguel, in his despatch to sir W. A'Court, of the 12th of January, said, "To England, who has taken in the conferences at Verona so moderate and pacific a line, it now belongs to crown the work, and to prevent an effusion of blood, which can be productive of no possible advantage to the interest of any nation." "To crown the work!" He wished the House to attend to the expression. Did they think that the Spanish minister would have made use of it it' he had been dissatisfied with our conduct. If the testimony which he had already adduced upon this point were not considered sufficient, he would refer the House to that of the hon. member for Westminster, which would certainly have been more satisfactory, had he not confessed that he derived his information from laquais de place—
§ Mr. Peel.
—The hon. member had confessed, that the opinion of the different persons attached to the different embassies at Verona, founded on the principles which had been maintained during the negotiations, was, that his right hon. friend (Mr. Canning) was a complete radical. Since that time, however, he had been blamed by the were ardent partisans of liberty, for having rather fallen short than gone beyond what they considered his public duty. The hon. member fob Westminster had last night observed, that though there could be a thousand curves, there could only be one straight line. Now, by this straight line he thought that his right hon, friend had been fortunate enough to direct his conduct; for, if it had the reprobation of Siberian aides-de-camp on the one hand, and of the warm friends 1425 of liberty on the other, it amounted almost to a positive proof that he had done wisely in steering between the two extremes. He was therefore convinced that, after all that his right hon. friend had felt and suffered during these negotiations, he would have that evening the satisfaction of returning to his home, not only with the first of all rewards—the consciousness of having performed his duty, but with that reward which was certainly the next to it, the applause and approbation of that House [Cheers].
He had now finished his defence of the conduct of government, during the first of the three periods he had mentioned, and should proceed to the second. In doing so, the right hon gentleman vindicated the mission of lord Fitzroy Somerset, to Madrid, against the censures which had been cast upon it; and contended, that the advice which the duke of Wellington had offered, through him, to the members of the Spanish government, was well calculated to promote its best interests. His grace did not propose to them to make any modifications in the Spanish constitution that were not clearly for its benefit and improvement. He would ask whether there was anything in the nature of those modifications to prevent their acceptance by Spain; or whether there was any thing in the menace of the third power which made it imperative upon her to reject the changes proposed? What would have been the result if she had accepted them? The withdrawal of the Army of Observation from the Pyrenees, to the presence of which army there they attributed so much of her calamities. As, at that moment, the king of France's Speech had not been made public, Spain might certainly have consented without any loss of honour; and by such consent she would have united her people, and ameliorated their condition, more than she could do by any subsequent measure. He admitted, however, that after the French king's speech, even such a modification could not have been submitted to Spain with propriety. But, was it not too much that England should be made responsible for an entire change in the policy of the French government? Those who agreed with ministers, that a war ought not to have been entered into, and were yet inclined to criticise the papers, were bound to apply that verbal criticism to the periods to which they referred. But, was it upon mere verbal criticism that the 1426 House of Commons, would, decide the great question now submitted for its consideration. What would be the consequence of adopting the resolution proposed by the hon. mover of the address? Would it not be felt throughout Europe as a condemnation of the line of strict, neutrality, which it is the policy of England to adopt? The House had been told recently that the decision which it had come to a short time ago for an adjournment would be misconceived both in this country and on the continent. If that were so, how could the grounds of the determination of the House on the present question be hoped to be correctly known? The House might depend upon it, that Europe would look to the numbers alone; and if the resolutions were adopted, it would be concluded that the House of Commons condemned the policy of neutrality, and were the advocates of war. It was not only for these reasons that he thought the House ought to adopt the language of the amendment, and assure his majesty, that when a case occurred which should require it, the House would at all times be ready to adopt such measures as were necessary to maintain the national faith and support the honour of the Crown; but more especially because he thought the policy of neutrality was that which England ought to pursue, and which would maintain for her that peace which, though not essential to her existence, yet, after the derangement of her internal affairs, and the sufferings consequent on a war of five and twenty years duration, was the system which it was infinitely the best for the country to adopt.
Sir Francis Burdett
said, he could not but express his satisfaction at the unanimity of sentiment which prevailed in the House with regard to the conduct of France towards Spain; for though he certainly anticipated much of what he had heard on his own side of the House, he was not prepared for that universal expression of the sentiment which had taken place; and, whatever the vote of that House might be, there could be no doubt entertained in Europe of the feeling which universally prevailed, and the light in which the conduct of France towards Spain was viewed in this country. He agreed with the right hon. gentleman who had just sat down, that the House ought not to descend to verbal criticism on the papers which had been produced, but should look to their tone 1427 and feeling. After the thorough examination which those papers had received from the hon. mover of the original address, as well as from the hon. and learned gentleman below him, he would not go over the ground again, but would confine himself to a few observations on what had been said by the right hon. gentleman who had last addressed the House. The right hon. gentleman had divided the negotiation into three parts.
In the first place, with respect to what had taken place at Verona, he disagreed with the right hon. gentleman in limine, and would say that he thought there was on the face of those transactions more than sufficient to call down on the head of any English minister the censure contemplated by the original address. The noble duke who was our plenipotentiary, was, at the outset, asked by the French minister, if England would concur with France in their aggression on Spain; and be had had the insolence to go on and ask what effectual support this country would give to France in case of her making this attack. Now, he did not mean here to speak of violent language, or menaces leading to war, but of that dignified expression of virtuous feeling which would have brought to the minds of the proposers a knowledge of the sentiments which this country must entertain with regard to the atrocity of such a proposition. He must here observe, that the discussion of that evening had nothing to do with the question of peace or war; but simply, whether we had so conducted ourselves, as to convey to the minds of the French and other foreign ministers, the sense entertained by this country of the injustice done by France to Spain? If we had said, that we were astonished and shocked, that it was impossible we could act in support of such conduct, and that so far from having our support, we should feel it necessary to throw the whole weight of our moral authority into the other scale, such language as this would have had the effect of preventing this country from standing in the situation in which she now stood. As to affording the French effective support, that, of course, was out of the question. But there were a variety of modes of proceeding besides war, which might have been adopted, and which would have kept us out of the situation in which we were now placed—a situation which even those persons who were so 1428 anxious to preserve peace at all events must acknowledge was a most ambiguous one. Suppose we had said—"Your conduct is a violation of every principle of justice. Not only will we not be ark accomplice in the transaction, but we must follow the severe line of our duty, and withdraw from your court our ambassador." This would have been an answer to the question, more consonant to the dignity of England and to the character which she had hitherto supported, but which she now seemed inclined to relinquish. Such an answer would have been more likely to deter France from her vile and detestable project, than telling her that she was undertaking an "unnecessary responsibility."
There was one point on which his hon. and learned friend had commented, but on which he (sir F. B.) would beg to say a few words. He referred to the general tone and temper of the papers on the table. Throughout the whole of them we did not appear at all like mediators, but as partisans of Bourbon aggression; as palliators of injustice, and would-be seducers of Spanish honour. We had attempted to induce them to give up a point of honour, which he had heard one of the greatest friends of peace declare was a cause of war more worthy of support than any other. Yet, what had these mediators done? They had endeavoured to persuade the Spaniards to give up the constitution of their country, in order to give, forsooth, the Bourbons an excuse to retrace their steps; though there was throughout no appearance that the cabinet of the Tuileries were inclined to abate an iota of their pretensions. There was, consequently, no motive to induce the Spaniards to listen to our proposition; for it no where appeared that the English mediator was authorised to say, that if the Spaniards complied with the requisition, that would put an end to the situation in which they were placed, or that we could then guarantee them from aggression. He had looked with the greatest surprise at that part of the duke of Wellington's memorandum, in which he said, "Those Spaniards who really desire the peace and welfare of their country, must look to an alteration of their constitution, which shall have for its object, to give the king the power of executing his office. I confess that I do not see any objection to this alteration, either in the antecedent 1429 conduct of the king, or in the apprehension that his Catholic majesty will abuse the power confided to him." Was it possible that any man could be so blind—was it possible that he who could penetrate into the designs of the enemy in the field, could be blinder than a mole to the designs of one who passed under the name of a friend?—that in the character of Ferdinand the 7th, who had run the most disgraceful career, he could discover nothing to excite suspicion?—that Ferdinand who had dishonoured his mother; who had betrayed his father; who had abandoned his country, and who, on his return to it, had murdered his defenders! Was there nothing in all this to excite suspicion? Was it not quite impossible for the Spaniards to regard as a friend the man who could see nothing in the antecedent conduct of Ferdinand to excite an apprehension that he would abuse the power confided to him? [Hear, hear!]—But there was nothing in the whole of the papers on the table that had more surprised him, than the first despatch of the right hon. secretary, in which he had expressed the determination of his majesty's government, that "come what may."—When he had first read these words, he had thought to himself "the honour of England is about to be supported, Come what may! What is the meaning of this ambiguous menace, this mighty phrase—'That roars so loud, and thunders in the index.'Surely a denunciation of war is to follow!" But, no!—no such thing! only, "come what may—his majesty will not be a party to any such interference." Never was there an instance of the bathos! such a specimen of the sinking policy.—Quid dignurn tanto ferret hic promissor hiatu?The right hon. gentleman who had last spoken had said, as others before him had done, that no member ought to vote for the address who did not think that this country should have gone to war in the event of the invasion of Spain. He could not think that at the outset of these negotiations it was at all incumbent on a British minister to let France into the secret as to what this country might or might not do. War or peace should have been left to depend on the acts of the parties. But, when pains were taken to tell France that, whatever she might do, she had nothing to fear, it was impossible 1430 to believe in the sincerity of the desire to prevent the aggression on Spain. If they had been sincere in a different sense—sincere well-wishers to the Bourbon scheme of aggression, and sincere enemies of the interests of Spain—if they had been accomplices and not dupes—he could not see what conduct they could have adopted more unfavourable to Spain, and more likely to forward the unjust views of the Bourbons, than such a proceeding. The notes of the French ministers all seemed to be written in a confidential way, as if they were addressed to persons who in their heart wished well to their designs. It seemed never doubted that our ministers must desire the success of whatever the Bourbons attempted. The communications were written in confidence, as if, indeed, there was something in this country, under the shape of public opinion, which the ministers could not conveniently defy; that the force of this country could not well be applied to aid them, but that it could not be doubted that the good-will of our government went along with them in the whole of the transactions. And, when he recollected the aggression on Naples, he could not but think, that the interests and honour of this country had been then betrayed; for in his opinion, it was contrary to the honour and interest of England that Naples should have been abandoned to Austria; and, though the late secretary for foreign affairs had put forth the principles on which this country would govern itself, yet he had, on that occasion, so frittered away the main principle, that then also the interests of this country and of Europe had been scandalously betrayed. When he recollected the transactions relative to Piedmont, he was not so much astonished at the way in which the duke de Montmorency had addressed the French house of peers, and had thrown in our teeth all those transactions, to which we had been consenting parties, and expressed his surprise that England should not concur therefore in the aggression on Spain. When he named Genoa and other countries, and summed up a long list of atrocious aggressions, he could not help thinking that the argument was a good one for a French minister to urge. But if England was not to be blotted out of the map of Europe, she must express her sense of the atrocity of the conduct of France towards Spain. For, if this aggression was successful, there was an end to all public law: a life need not 1431 be spent hereafter, in turning over the volumes of Puffendorf and Grotius: no one need look to the labours of those great men, who had endeavoured to exalt humanity by making right reason the rule of conduct among nations, and rescuing mankind from the dominion of brute force. But, if this conduct was to go unpunished, Europe might again become a wilderness, and the civilized world would owe this visitation to conduct as base and as infamous as was ever recorded. It was not for the interest of England that this settlement of Europe, as it was called—though in fact nothing was settled, for being founded in aggression it must be a continued source of dispute—but it was not for our interest that the smaller states and independent nations of Europe, who formerly depended on the law of nations, should be annihilated, or swept under the protection of two or three great despotic powers who were in a state of permanent hostility against them. If ever it was the interest of this country to maintain the independence of Spain, it was so at the present moment. The right hon. gentleman who spoke last seemed to think there was no danger to this country even if the Bourbons had actual possession of Spain. He would suppose this Bourbon mockery—this pretence of complaint against the Spanish constitution—to be real; and he would then ask, was it possible to suppose that they would stop at the imaginary line which separated Portugal from Spain? Was it possible to believe this? Was not Portugal more inconvenient to Spain, than Spain could be to France; and would not the reasoning that justified the invasion of Spain, justify, when the despotism of Ferdinand should be re-established, the invasion of a Portugal?
Nothing, he would contend, was so likely to produce war, as the known determination on our part to have peace, "come what may." Suppose the atrocious design to be compassed to which his majesty's ministers, in the name of this country, had tacitly assented. Suppose France to be in possession of Spain and of Portugal—France, a limb of the holy alliance—one of those sovereignties which had leagued themselves together against the liberties of the world—would France be contented to stop in her career? Could it be supposed that the Netherlands would be permitted to retain their independence? We should have the in- 1432 fluence as well as the principles of the holy alliance encompassing our island on every side; and, considering that—thanks to the wise conduct of government!—the feeling and condition of nine-tenths of the Irish population was such as would make an invasion of that country more than ever easy, it was a just cause of alarm, that the whole military and maritime power of Europe would be in the hands of the holy allies, who were leagued together to get rid of the remaining spark of freedom which still existed in this country. But it was said, that France never could effect the conquest of Spain—that there were in that country millions of men who defied invasion. It this was the case, what became of the argument, that war would be dangerous and ruinous? Why, if we could have entered on a war with such allies, and in a cause so certain of success, what an opportunity had we lost of elevating our character, and of taking that high ground which we ought to take in the estimation of Europe. But he was persuaded that if the French government had known, or even apprehended, that a war with England was the necessary consequence of a war with Spain, the Bourbons would never have embarked in the unjust contest. The arguments of the hon. gentlemen opposite had been of the most extraordinary description. The right hon. gentleman who spoke last had said, who could think that the French would care for a maritime war? And why not care for a maritime war? Would she not care for the loss of her ships, her colonies, her commerce? Why it was not long ago that we had been told that ships, colonies, and commerce, were such objects, such vital objects, with France, that it was worth our while to enter into an unjust war—a war on false pretences—to oppose those objects. Then, again, to hear any man assert, even when pressed for want of better matter, that France was entitled to keep a force on the confines of Spain! Had there not been times when such a measure would have made England call for an explanation? The cordon sanitaire! How equivocating—how base and mean, how cruel and unprincipled, had been the whole conduct of France towards her neighbour, from the commencement of her intrigues against her, up to the very moment of invasion! And he said this with the more confidence, when he said it to a House of Commons which had actually 1433 gone to war with France, because it was reported that armaments were preparing in her ports—the report, as he believed, having turned out to be utterly unfounded. But, when was it till now, that armaments had really been preparing either in the ports of France or Spain, and that England had not demanded an explanation? Did the House recollect the words of the late lord Chatham—that a cannon should not be fired in any part of Europe, without England knowing the why and the wherefore? That a war with France would be inconvenient at the present moment, there was no doubt. There could be as little doubt that every man whom he addressed, would be desirous, if possible, to avoid it. But there was such a thing as national honour—a thing even more precious than national immediate interest; and England was sacrificing her honour as a nation, if she consented to remain at peace when the proper course for her was war. Objections to war, in a case like the present, came with an ill grace from hon. gentlemen who had been persuading the House, for years and years, of the necessity of the country being at war, and of the deep interest which she had in continental affairs. But, whatever might have been the impolicy of former proceedings, England had never until now fallen so low as tamely to sit by and sec France overrun Spain: It might be said, perhaps, that England was in a situation which required repose—in a situation which made it necessary for her to consult her domestic arrangements, and to prefer her immediate to her more remote views of advantage. But, if this was the case, why not say so openly? Then there would be no compromise of character—no honour lost. But it was pitiful to see men standing forward and vaunting their strength, affecting to say—"We are what we have been; we can maintain the honours which were won fir us by our forefathers;" and yet, shrinking (in a cause, too, from which least of all they ought to shrink) the moment their boasted powers were in danger of being put to the proof.
Another argument, too—a most unaccountable one—of the right hon. gentleman who had last spoken, was, that a maritime war in the Spanish cause would make the war popular with France. Really, it was something new to his cars for England to consult the taste of the people of France upon such a point. He 1434 did not mean to say a word in disparagement of that great, brave, and enlightened people; but really he must differ from the right hon. gentleman as to the probable feeling which a war on our part would excite among them. The mass of the French nation—and most of them knew it—had as deep an interest in the failure of this Bourbon enterprise as Spain had herself. But he (sir F. B.) had the facts in his favour in contradiction of the assertion. The chambers of commerce of all the trading towns in France had petitioned against the war; alleging, as a principal objection, the dread of maritime hostilities. He did not doubt, indeed, that the war would be most unpopular in France; because the French nation had a greater interest than any other in defeating the projects of the Bourbons. If England had taken part in the war, she would not have been opposed to France. She would only have been opposed to the bigotted house of Bourbon; who, if they succeeded in their counter-revolutionary enterprise, would carry the principle of that enterprise back into their own country, making that evil, eventually, recoil upon France, which they had compelled France to become the instrument of inflicting upon Spain.
There was nothing, therefore, in his view of the question, to have made a war with France, under existing circumstances, formidable. He believed he must admit, that a majority of the House was in favour of peace—of peace, "come what may." He also was for peace, as far as that peace could be consistent with the honour and safety of England; but, to barter honour and future security for the chance of present quiet was a course which, to his way of thinking, was not more cowardly than it was impolitic.
He must complain, too, that the whole line of policy now advocated by ministers ran in the direct teeth of the doctrines which, during the last war, they had never ceased to utter. Whenever peace had been talked of, during the late contest, an answer had always been ready—"The country must go on; she must maintain her high character; a nation which has once been great, can never safely consent to become little." But, when did England appear so little as she was likely to appear now if she abandoned her own interests and the interests of Europe—those interests which her blood and treasure had so often flowed to maintain—from the paltry 1435 apprehension of a miserable war, with an enemy so contemptible as the Bourbons? A great man in that House—the late Mr. Grattan—had said of another great man—lord Chatham—"With one hand be wielded the democracy of England, and with the other smote the house of Bourbon:" but of the Pitt administration, it might, with equal truth, be said, that with one hand it smote the democracy of England, and with the other set the Bourbon upon his throne.—That Bourbon, who would listen to no advice!—that Bourbon, who owed every thing to England—and who ought, out of mere gratitude, to spare her the degradation of being compelled to sit still while he perpetrated his acts of atrocious injustice against Spain!
He denied that the question before the House was a question of peace or war. He denied the position of the right hon. gentleman who spoke last, that unless the House was for war, it ought not to vote for the motion of his hon. friend. To the whole conduct of the negotiations he stood decidedly opposed. He did not see at all that ministers were bound to let France at once into the secret of what was to be the course of England. But, if it was right for England to speak out, he would tell the gentlemen opposite what it was that England ought to have said. England ought to have said—"We are sorry to see this. We wish you well. We have been your benefactors. We wish you to remain safe where you are; for it is impossible for you to commit violations of the law of nations and of the peace of Europe, without, in the end, compelling England to become your adversary." This was what he would have had said to the government of France. Not in high tone, not in coarse or offensive language, but mildly and firmly. The suaviter in modo was the most effective as well as the most convenient mode of proceeding. All that he wished had been said—all that he thought for the honour of England ought to have been said—might have been said in the most friendly way; and, having been so said, it could scarcely have failed to have had its effect. If France had early seen and known that England would take that line of conduct, Europe would now, he firmly believed, have been at peace instead of being at war. But now, giving his majesty's ministers credit for sincerity—and he did not give them any such credit—but, giving them credit for a sincere wish to preserve the peace of Eu- 1436 rope, he would be judged, not by the result—although that was no uncommon, nor, generally speaking, very unfair mode of judging—but by the whole detail, from beginning to end, of their conduct, whether the most gross insincerity or treachery could have produced more mischievous effects? If ministers had been sincere, even their friends must admit that they bad, from whatever cause, been, in the last degree, unsuccessful. But he gave them no credit for sincerity in their efforts. He looked to the whole course of the published negotiations. And so far from seeing the cause of the oppressed taken up by his majesty's ministers in the progress of those negotiations, be saw nothing but a constant participation in the views of the oppressor. As far as there was any exhibition of friendship towards the oppressed party, if that friendship had not been treacherous, it had assuredly been most woefully deficient in discretion and sound sense. The hon. baronet, after observing that with respect to the immediate questions before the House, he was quite as well pleased (excepting only one or two words) with the spirit of the amendment as with that of the original motion, declared that he considered the interests of Spain and of England to have been most unjustifiably compromised, throughout the late negotiations. He apprehended no other result, if the contest between Spain and France should be prolonged, but that England would eventually be compelled to enter into the contest, under disadvantages which would not have attached to her in its commencement The hon. bart. then sat down amidst the continued cheering of the House.
rose amidst cries of "question" from all parts of the House. The hon. member said that he had proposed to address the House; but finding hon. gentlemen so impatient, he should move an adjournment of the debate.
§ Mr. Brougham
said, that much as he disapproved of the motion of adjournment, he knew well that a motion of this sort was sure never to fail, as the member who proposed it could enforce division after division. If the house would receive an opinion gathered from experience, they would adjourn at once, instead of taking the trouble of dividing two or three times, only protesting, as he did, against the motion.
said, that he had moved the 1437 adjournment from a belief that the House was disinclined to hear further discussions. Since it was otherwise, he would withdraw his motion, and offer very briefly his sentiments on the question before the House. [Here the noise became so excessive, that the hon. gentleman after several attempts to be heard, sat down.]
§ Mr. Brougham
said, that having been the cause of the hon. gentleman withdrawing his motion, he thought himself bound in candour to say, that he would now support the motion for an adjournment.
§ Mr. Littleton
thought that it would ill become the House to allow the debate to go on when so much impatience was expressed by hon. members. He would therefore move, that the debate be adjourned till to-morrow.
§ The motion was agreed to, and at half after one o'clock the House adjourned.