§ The order of the day being read for resuming the adjourned debate upon Mr. Macdonald's Motion respecting the Negotiations relative to Spain, the original motion and also, the Amendment proposed by Mr. Stuart Wortley were read by the Speaker. After which,
rose. He began by stating, that after the most serious consideration of the important subject which had for two nights occupied the attention of the House, he was firmly convinced that no other measures than those which had been adopted by his majesty's ministers would have been consistent with the interests of the country. He could not discover any intermediate course which they could have taken between war and the neutrality they had preserved. He was aware that it had been suggested by the hon. member for Westminster on the first evening of the debate, that our minister at Verona ought to have told France that if she still persisted in her unjust intention of attacking Spain, he would go home and submit the subject to a British parliament. Now, he must contend, that if any minister had done so, he would have thereby degraded himself, and have acted contrary 1443 to the spirit of the constitution, by shifting from his own shoulders the responsibility which every minister assumed, and by which he was liable for any advice he might give to the Crown. Moreover, the principle of the British constitution gave to the Crown the right to make peace or var. It was the duty of ministers to advise the Crown on the subject, and afterwards to submit their conduct to the approbation or censure of parliament.
He was aware it had been said, that if a firmer and more vigorous language had been used, the evils of war would probably have been averted. But, he thought that, whether they looked at the language used by the late lamented secretary of state, in 1820, when the proposed interference of other powers in the affairs of Spain first brought this subject under the attention of the House—or whether they looked at the language used by the duke of Wellington at Verona, or with M. de Villèle and M. de Chateaubriand at Paris—the opinion of this country had been distinctly stated that, no interference by the other powers of Europe in the internal affairs of Spain could be justified. That such interference on the part of France was unjustifiable had been plainly asserted on the grounds of its being not only injurious to Europe, but pregnant with the greatest danger to France herself. He must therefore be allowed to say, that whether these opinions had been stated in terms stronger or weaker, still they had been distinctly stated; and the conduct of great nations was to be governed by things and not by words. He thought that the mitigated tone so much found fault with by gentlemen opposite, better suited this country in the way of mediation and the interposition of good offices, than a more decided tone of menace would have been. If the language recommended last night by the hon. baronet (sir F. Burdett), and which amounted to a threat of war, had been used, we should afterwards have been told that we could not retract, and that we were bound to support Spain by our arms provided our advice was not followed. To employ such language, then, would have been to degrade England, and to deceive Spain.
Neither did he think that France would have been deterred from her intention merely by the menace of war on the part of this country, seeing that she would of course have calculated on the support of the allied sovereigns. He concurred fully 1444 in the strong censure so ably expressed by gentlemen opposite upon the conduct of the French government. During the whole of his parliamentary life, he had uniformly opposed the encroaching spirit of jacobinical and of imperial France. He had strenously opposed the attempts of the former government of that country to extend her dominion over the other nations of Europe. And, if these were unjustifiable, no less so was the same conduct of the Bourbons, and no more ought it to be endured. [Hear, hear.] But, while he entertained that opinion, he was also convinced that it was the duty of this country not to indulge in vituperative language in its communications with foreign governments; seeing that the use of such language could only tend to irritate, where it was the object to soothe and to procure the restoration of the peace of Europe. He admitted that the invasion of Spain by France furnished Great Britain a justifiable cause of war, provided our interest made such a course expedient. But, governments were not bound merely because a cause of war existed, without reference to other considerations to embrace the alternative. At the commencement of the present contest with France. Spain had under the colour of a blockade of the ports of its South American colonies, captured many of our merchants' ships, and done other acts that would have fully justified this country in declaring war against her. Did we, therefore, feel ourselves obliged to go to war with Spain under those circumstances? On the contrary, we had felt ourselves justified in continuing to remonstrate; seeing that the interests of our own country did not demand that we should have recourse to arms. Such had been the opinions of his majesty's ministers, and such had been also the opinion of the greatest statesmen who had ever sat in that House, whether they had or had not formed part of the administration of the country. As a proof of this, he need only refer to the case of Holland in 1786. At that period, this very principle was acted on; and it was distinctly admitted to be justifiable by that great man, the late Mr. Fox. It was then stated by him and his friends, that, in our inter course with nations which were at war, it was not for us to look to which of the parties were in the right, but to consider, so far as our interests were concerned, which of them it was prudent to support. [In defence of this the right hon. gentle- 1445 man read an extract from a speech of Mr. Fox.] The same principle was advocated with respect to Spain, by the present lord Grey, in 1810. It was not necessary for him to state the opinion of that noble lord at length, although it applied exactly to the present case. The arguments which the noble lord had used were directed against our interference in the affairs of Spain at that period, although we were not then incurring a war for the sake of the Spaniards, but making use of them to further our own policy, we being prior to that time at war with France. Various considerations must operate to justify a state in going to war. Great nations could not be expected to act on the abstract principle of pure and unmixed generosity. They must consider how far their interests, foreign and domestic, would be affected by entering into a state of warfare. One hon. gentleman seemed to be of opinion, that this country might adopt a cheap and economical system of naval warfare, which would be rather beneficial than injurious to her resources—a warfare that would give an additional incitement and fillip to our commerce and manufactures. Such, however, was not sufficient reason for engaging in war. No country ought to enter into a state of warfare, unless there were powerful motives to induce it to maintain the contest—such motives as would determine it to bring it to an honourable conclusion. Mr. Burke had well observed, "that the goddess Bellona was not a female to be flirted with." "The sword," said the Spanish proverb, "ought not to be drawn without reason, nor sheathed without honour." Where, in this case, was the "reason" which would induce us to adopt a hostile course? He confessed that he could not see it, if this country determined on war, an army, and a large army, must be sent into Spain. But if; as they had been confidently told, it was impossible for France to keep possession of Spain—if the idea of Spain becoming a province of France was visionary and unfounded—then why should this country interfere at a great expense? In his opinion, it was quite impossible that France could hold a greater portion of Spain than that which was actually occupied by her armies. But it did not follow, from this state of things, that Spain would have the means of affording effectual assistance to any auxiliary force that might be sent to her aid. He believed 1446 that by adopting the mode of warfare in which the Spanish people were most experienced, and consequently most expert, they would be able to waste and dissipate the armies of their enemy. But he did not think that they had, at present, such a force as could resist the French army in the open field; and he was of opinion, that any increase of force which this country could give them would not be sufficient to enable them to cope with the French in regular warfare.
They must, then, come back to this consideration—"Have the Spanish government the means of supplying this country with such resources as are necessary for carrying on the war?" If they had not, then we must take the government into our own hands, and exercise the same control which we exercised during the late Spanish war, and in the case of Portugal.—It had, however, been contended by some of the supporters of the original motion, that to that result we must come at last; that, although we had hitherto kept out of the war, we must in a short time be involved in it; and therefore that we might as well have entered into the war originally. This was an argument which, if it was good for any thing, went to prove that, whenever France went to war, we were bound in the first instance to take a part in it. It was true that it was impossible that France could go to war with any other country without exciting some apprehension on our part that we might be ultimately drawn into the contest. But was the apprehension of a remote and contingent danger to force us into a certain and immediate evil? The hon. mover had contended that, if France succeeded in Spain she would next attack Portugal. In answer to that, he begged leave to say, that when such an invasion took place, then, and not till then, would be the time for this country to interfere. This country, it should be recollected, had repeatedly protected Portugal against the whole force of France and Spain, even when France wielded the whole power of Spain. But, could France now wield the force of Spain against this country, even if she succeeded in her design. To do so, she must hive possession, not merely of the territory, but of the mind of Spain. She must have, what he had no doubt she never would have, the voluntary and hearty, Concurrence of the Spanish people. The hon. member for Westminster had said, on a 1447 former night, that the great majority of the people of England would support a war if it were clearly understood that it was a war of the people of Europe against the kings of Europe. For the people of England he (Mr. Wynn) disclaimed any such sentiment. It was a declaration that could be paralleled only by that of the French government in November 1792, which had justly united all the powers of Europe against France. It was an intimation of a disposition to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, which came with a singularly bad grace from an hon. gentleman who viewed with jealousy, and just jealousy, the interference of France in the internal affairs of Spain. For his part, he believed that the people of this country would view with equal disapprobation, any interference in the internal affairs of other countries, whether that interference was in behalf of the governors or of the governed; but, until the proceedings of foreign powers affected us, and endangered our own safety, it would not be justifiable in us to mix ourselves up with questions of internal policy. Much had been said of the system of government which now prevailed in Europe. The House heard the phrase of "the accursed monarchical principle." The monarchical principle deserved no such appellation. In this government it was a mixed principle; but it was that principle which had been found to give the greatest support to civil liberty that was ever known at any period of time. When the monarchical principle was reviled, as being fraught with the principles of tyranny, he would say that he could conceive no greater tyranny than the tyranny of the multitude. The monarchical principle, he contended, in opposition to the hon. member for Westminster, was not hostile to liberty.
said, that his observations were intended to apply to the monarchical principle, as expounded by the tyrants of the continent.
said, he understood the observation of the hon. gentleman to have extended further. But, upon the same principle, he could not see the necessity or propriety of interfering with the policy of other states, neither could he perceive the justice of animadverting with asperity on the conduct of foreign potentates. In that House, he knew, gentlemen might indulge in whatever language they pleased, relative to foreign sovereigns; it was, 1448 however, no great display of manliness to make such observations when there was no danger in making them. It appeared to him, however, that such a courts tended greatly to increase the difficulty of preserving the peace of Europe. The habit of using language of the nature which he had described, was a habit which he, for one, must deprecate.—He would next advert to the memorandum of the duke of Wellington, addressed to the Spanish government, in which the Spanish king was spoken of in terms of which some honourable members disapproved. He disclaimed any wish to defend the conduct of the king of Spain from the year 1814, to the year 1820, but he thought it did not follow that he should agree in the disapprobation which had been expressed of that part of the noble duke's memorandum. He understood the noble duke's language to import nothing more than that the personal character of a sovereign could afford no reason for overthrowing a monarchy, or for depriving him of those powers which were necessary for a sovereign to possess in order to his acting in that character. He saw no reason for our interference, on this occasion, with a sort of chivalrous generosity. Ministers ought to do nothing which they could not justify to the subjects of this country in the most perfect manner. The government of this country had for six years been complaining of the injuries which British subjects had suffered from Spain—injuries which would, in fact, justify a war. What had been the result? Why, the remonstrances of the British government had not been attended to. He would ask, then, could they justify themselves to the people of this country, if they now proceeded to make war in defence of that government which had not attended to their representations? It was said, that this government had proffered its good offices between France and Spain. This, however, had been done at the request and recommendation of Spain. It was asked, whether this country, having proffered its good offices, had afterwards performed what Spain had called for? He would answer this question in the affirmative. Spain had called for the exertion of our good offices, and those good offices we had exerted. In his opinion, this country ought under existing circumstances, to adhere to a system of strict and real neutrality; but, if a cast should arise which made it necessary that she should engage in the con- 1449 test, he had no doubt that the spirit of the country would enable her to meet the difficulties of her situation with the same firmness and the same vigour which had distinguished her during the last war.
§ Mr. Leycester
said, he rose for the purpose of repelling the supposition, that the question before the House was, whether there should be peace or war? The question for consideration was the real nature and true character of the late negotiations. He disapproved of the whole course which had been adopted by his majesty's ministers. Why had not the opinion of this country been supported by an effective remonstrance? That such a remonstrance should have been made, they had the authority of ministers themselves. He had looked over the papers with the utmost anxiety, but could find no instruction with respect to the conduct of France, which went further than "To hint a fault, and hesitate dislike." His hon. friend, the member for Surrey, had stated his conviction, that even if the language of his majesty's ministers had been more forcible, war would not have been avoided. Now, his own view of the case was exactly the reverse. Had ministers used forcible language, the French government would not, he believed, have ventured on war. The French had, if he mistook not, some very unpleasant reminiscences of their recent struggles with this country, which would have induced them to pause, if strong language—language such as the aggression warranted—had been used. Had not that House, with one voice, proclaimed the infamy and atrocity of the attack upon Spain? Had not a noble lord (F. Gower), who was friendly to ministers, described the insane conduct of the French government as similar to that of the herd of swine mentioned in scripture, which being possessed with an evil spirit rushed on its own destruction? The proceedings of France, had on all hands been admitted to have been flagrantly unjust. In another place, indeed, he understood, that, by one individual, sentiments of a different kind had been uttered. He could scarcely believe the report. He could scarcely believe that any Englishman could be found capable of expressing the opinions ascribed to the individual to whom he alluded:—Who but must laugh, if such a man there be?Who would not weep, if the great duke were he?[Laughter.] If the duke of Bucking- 1450 ham's advice were followed, if his principles were successful, then Ferdinand might, at his pleasure hang up San Miguel Arauelles, and all the other illustrious patriots who adopted liberal opinions. As he viewed the case, nothing appeared to be wanting in the conduct of his majesty's government on this occasion and common humanity. He could not conceive how any set of men, possessing common justice and common feeling, could have taken such a course. With respect to the negotiations, he would content himself with expressing his opinion of their character, by saying that it appeared to him to be too civil by half. That superfluity of complaisance, proceeding, he believed, from the laudable anxiety of averting war, was, he conceived, the great cause of producing hostilities, instead of preventing them.
§ Mr. William Williams
defended the right of the people of Europe to re-model their governments on the representative system. He could see no danger from their doing so; and he never expected to have heard a contrary sentiment expressed in a British House of Commons. He thought that every man who loved the British constitution ought to rejoice when he saw other nations adopting the principles on which that constitution was founded, and establishing a system of representative government. He believed, that prior to the conference at Verona, this country was pledged to oppose the political views which were there disclosed by the allied monarchs. When he looked at the general conduct of his majesty's government at Verona, he could not help declaring his approbation of their line of policy, although in some of the particulars he did not go along with them. He was not one of those who thought that the use of menaces would have become England, during her negotiation with independent states; at the same time, he thought she might have used conduct to wards France somewhat more firm, without exceeding the sober language of truth and justice. There was still something in the argument, that if violent language had been held it might have led towar—a result which he should have scrupulously deprecated. There was something so horribly devastative in war, some thing so afflicting to the human race—that hardly under any other circumstances than the imperative defence of national honour and independence, would 1451 he consent to have recourse to it. He felt this difficulty in the present discussion—he could not vote for the original motion, because he thought its pledge involved a question of war; nor could he vote altogether for the amendment, because it contained an unqualified approbation of the conduct of government. He was willing to give his majesty's ministers credit for feeling an abhorrence of the principles of those assembled despots who were ready to assail the people of an independent nation; but, he thought they had not spoken out in sufficiently decisive terms to France upon the atrocity of her invasion of Spain. He readily admitted, that were it expedient for England to embark in a contest with France, there were not wanting sentiments in the speech of the king of that country to justify such a proceeding; but, when the policy of war became questionable, it was still open to them, and he thought it would be attended with salutary effect to declare, by an unanimous vote of parliament, their abhorrence of the principles avowed by France, and supported by other sovereigns, and their execration of the introduction of such international interference into the system of the governments of Europe. It would not become him to move an amendment to that effect, even if the rules of the House permitted him; but he thought that the principal gentlemen on each side, who agreed as to the foul character of the present aggression against Spain, might, in five minutes of mutual explanation, frame such a declaration as he had hinted at, and send it up to his majesty in the shape of an unanimous address. He thought that such a proceeding would be calculated to do good at the present juncture; and, as to the question of war, he had no doubt that he spoke the sentiments of 999 out of every 1,000 persons throughout the kingdom, when he declared that the interests and policy of England at this crisis ought to be pacific. It was to the honour and credit of the country that all party spirit had yielded to the general and unqualified condemnation of the proceedings of France against Spain. He implored the House to adopt such a course as he had recommended. It would preserve to this country her natural situation, as the centre of independent nations, and, perhaps, ultimately secure for Spain those liberties for which she was now in arms contending.
§ Mr. William Peel
said, he entirely approved of the conduct of his majesty's ministers throughout the late negotiations, and should, therefore, give his hearty assent to the amendment of the hon. member for Yorkshire. So far from thinking that his majesty's ministers had, in any part of their conduct, compromised the honour or interests of the country, he was of opinion, that never was its character and station better sustained, than it had been during the late proceedings at the congress at Verona. He would ask those gentlemen who were now so loud in the expression of their desire to involve the country in a war, whether they were prepared, if the government were really driven to hostilities, to afford that lavish expenditure which such a state would of necessity call for? It would be ridiculous to argue that the resources of this country were not sufficiently ample to enable her to embark in war, if war were necessary for her interests or honour. That country, to which every other country appealed, and to which every other country was indebted, was surely not the only country which could not support a war. That we possessed resources for carrying on a war was indisputable; but the Question was, whether those rescurces should be husbanded, or whether they should be squandered away unnecessarily? The best policy was that which his majesty's government had adopted. It was the true language of caution, "to beware of entering into the quarrel of another." With regard to the conduct adopted by France against Spain, there was no man more sensible than he was of the striking folly, absurdity, nay even madness of the French invasion. Indeed, he never thought France would have ventured upon so disastrous a step until she had actually passed the frontier. He trusted that God would send the Spaniards a speedy and a safe deliverance. Still he thought the policy of this country was neutrality. He knew such to be the wish of his constituents, and he believed it to be also that of the great bulk of the people at large.
§ Lord Palmerston
said, that he did not mean to enter into a discussion of the details of the papers on the table, but he wished to take a more general view of the question under consideration. Whatever difference of opinion might exist upon some points, there were two on which all seemed to agree; first, the injustice of 1453 the conduct of France, and next that the contest, end as it may, must be injurious to the interests of England. The government therefore had every motive which could arise out of general principles and public duty to use their utmost endeavours to prevent the rupture. We had but two courses from which to chuse, neutrality, or war in conjunction with Spain; but whichever we had determined to adopt, it became us to adopt it decidedly and adhere to it consistently. Some, indeed, had proposed a middle course, and, strange to say, would have had us use threats in negotiation, without being prepared to go to war if negotiation had failed. Such a course would have been degrading. To have talked of war, and to have meant neutrality, to have threatened an army and to have retreated behind a state paper, to have brandished the sword of defiance in the hour of deliberation and to have ended with a penful of protests on the day of battle, would have been the conduct of a cowardly bully, and would have made us the object of contempt and the laughing-stock of Europe.—Having, then, determined upon neutrality, the question was, how best to dissuade France from attack, and to persuade Spain to concession in order to give France a fair pretence for retractation?—It had been said, that a higher moral tone ought to have been taken by this country, and that true and just principles ought to have been more prominently put forward. If, indeed, the government, instead of labouring to preserve the peace of Europe, had only thought of getting up a case for the House of Commons, it would have been easy to have written papers to satisfy the keenest cravings of the most constitutional appetite. But the object of the government was not to lay a good foundation for a parliamentary debate, but to persuade those whom they were addressing.—The gentlemen opposite were constantly declaiming against the governments of Europe, representing their sovereigns as arbitrary despots, and their ministers as insensible to all the principles of public right by which the intercourse of nations should be governed, and by which their independence is maintained; yet, to these very men they would have had the government address nothing but long and elaborate dissertations upon those abstract principles which they are alleged not to admit.—"Cum principia neganti non est disputandum;" of what use is it 1454 to dwell upon abstract principles with those who are accused of measuring right by power and of ruling their conduct by expediency and not by justice?—If one wishes to convince men one must apply one's arguments to principles which they recognize: if one wishes to persuade them one must urge motives whose influence they feel.—Still however, those principles of which we maintain the justice, were asserted and repeatedly put forth, because it was due to the character of this country to avow and declare them, and because the truth cannot be too often declared; for it is great and must in the end prevail.—But the arguments most to be relied upon were those which came home to the feelings of those persons whose counsels were to be swayed. We maintained the injustice of interference, but urged strongly the improbability of its success; we denied the right of France to dictate a government to Spain, but pressed upon her the danger of creating a revolution at Paris by endeavouring to put down a revolution at Madrid. While thus on the one hand we tried to dissuade France from attack, we endeavoured to persuade Spain to take steps which might make retractation less difficult to France.
It is said, that this was counselling dishonour to Spain. He denied it. This advice was given as to friends, unaccompanied by the slightest menace, but on the contrary by the sincerest proofs of good-will. At the time it was given we did not know that France had determined to enter Spain. The Spanish government did not know it, and in all probability that determination lead not actually been taken by France herself. Any change, therefore, which the Spaniards might have made, might have been a spontaneous act and unaccompanied by any dishonour.
But, would such a modification of the Spanish constitution have been a sacrifice of institutions on which the welfare of Spain depended, and which were consecrated in the affections of Spaniards by long experience of blessings under them enjoyed? Quite the reverse! He was no lover of despotic government: he hated it upon principle, as much perhaps as some of those gentlemen opposite who were the loudest and most frequent declaimers against it; but he could not shut his eyes to the glaring defects of the Spanish constitution; and sorry indeed should he be to have to live under such a government. Instead of providing for its 1455 gradual consolidation, it carried within, itself the seeds of its own destruction; and instead of securing the welfare and tranquillity of the people, it contained nothing but the elements of eternal discord. This was the opinion, not merely of strangers, but of some of the most enlightened Spaniards. Was it false friendship, then, to advise our allies to remedy the most glaring of these defects; and was that advice the less honest because by its adoption might have been purchased external peace as well as internal concord?
But an objection had also been taken to the channel by which this advice was tendered. He differed entirely from those who urged such an objection; and he could not but think that the choice of the duke of Wellington as the person by whom this advice was to be given, was most delicate towards Spanish feelings, and most consistent with a regard to Spanish honour. If there was any man in Europe from whom advice to Spain would flow free from the remotest taint of suspicion, and might be taken by all Spaniards as dictated by the sincerest regard for Spain, it was the duke of Wellington.—It is often said, that nothing creates so strong an affection as the consciousness of benefits conferred. If ever there was a man who conferred upon any nation, benefits which should call down blessings on his head from every voice, from the lisping accents of infancy to the tremulous benedictions of age, that man was the duke of Wellington—that nation the Spanish people.—It is also true in the principles of human nature, that man loves the theatre of his glory and the companions of his triumphs. The proudest laurels which encircle the brow of the duke of Wellington were gathered in the sterile and unfruitful fields of Spain; it was in the provinces of the peninsula and surrounded by its co-operating population that he displayed those various qualities which form the character of the unconquered general and the consummate statesman—characters which, rare in their separate existence, are uncommon indeed in their union in the same individual; it was there that he established that imperishable fame that will last while history endures. Was it in human nature that the duke of Wellington should not take the warmest interest in all that concerns Spain and the Spanish people? Was it possible that they should not feel, that advice from him came as free from suspicion as from the 1456 best patriot in Spain; and could they suppose that the man who had rescued Spain from subjection, and washed out from her soil the pollution of invading footsteps in the blood of the defeated invader could counsel Spain to dishonour?
He must be a bold prophet who could venture to foretel the issue of the contest; but he must indeed be an unwise politician who could have plunged us at once and blindfold into the war. Our own principles forbad us, till we could see more clearly which way the real sense of the Spanish nation might turn. It was notorious that Spain was divided. It might continue so; or, national indignation being roused by foreign interference, intestine quarrels might be laid in temporary oblivion, and the nation might unite to drive out the intruder. If the former event took place, we might by precipitation have found ourselves engaged, in violation of our own principles, in supporting a minority, in their endeavours to impose upon the nation by force a form of government repugnant to the will of the majority; if the latter event occurred, our assistance would not be required.
But, if principle led us to pause, prudence equally did so. Never did this country want repose more than at the present moment; never was there a time when it would have been more unwise to engage in a war upon chivalrous and romantic principles, when it was not necessary for our own interests or honour to do so. The country was just beginning to recover from the exhaustion created by a struggle without a parallel in history, whether with reference to the tremendous danger against which it was undertaken, the gigantic efforts by which it was maintained, or the complete success with which it was concluded. We were undoubtedly able to bear any sacrifice which our honour or our security required; but, would it not have been madness to check our progressive recovery without any such paramount motives?
But then it was said, the war, if we had engaged in it, would have been one of a very different scale of effort from that which we last carried on—we might have assisted Spain by ships and money without sending an army to the Peninsula. But how could ships operate in such a case as this? What was the danger? The invasion of the interior of Spain by the armies of France. And, what the pro- 1457 posed prevention? To send a British fleet to the Mediterranean. We might have covered the ocean with our ships; we might have blockaded every port in Europe; but unless those ships had been employed to carry an army to Spain, and to feed that army with supplies, we should only have incurred a loss of money and of character, by making a vain parade of assistance so inapplicable and unappropriate. But, it had been urged in the debate of the last evening by an hon. gentleman under the gallery, that we might by means of our fleet have crippled the resources of France, by attacking her commerce and taking possession of her colonies. If such had been our policy, what would have been the language of reproach which the governments of Europe would have been justified in addressing to us?—O ye consummate hypocrites!" would they have said, "you have made Europe ring with the loftiest sentiments of good faith, of generosity, and justice; you have declaimed eloquently and loudly against interested attacks of one nation upon another, against acquisitions of territory, and projects of individual aggrandizement: but, oh ye nation of philosophers, how have ye practised the principles you preach? you have indeed made the rupture between France and Spain a pretence for declaring war against the former; you have indeed taken advantage of the difficulties and embarrassments which that rupture brings upon France to enrich yourselves by plundering her unprotected commerce; by seizing upon her undefended colonies; to gratify British cupidity no effort has been omitted, no opportunity foregone; but as to the unfortunate Spaniards, those much loved allies, for whom such tender sympathy has been professed, for whose sake you pretended to be driven to arms, to whose rescue you affected to be preparing to rush—as to the unfortunate Spaniards—them have you abandoned to their fate; and though the legions of France are pouring down from the summits of the Pyrenees, and spreading like a torrent over the plains of Castile, not one British bayonet have you sent to succour and support your sinking allies." "Tell us not," they would have added, "that you are a maritime power and engage not in continental wars; tell us not that England fights her battles on the ocean, and mingles not in combats by land; for in this very Spain, in support of these very 1458 Spaniards, opposed, to these very French, have we seen you take the field in all the plenitude of military power, and we have, seen you drive back the invader over the mountains from which he came, and restore liberty and independence to Spain. But then you had objects of your own to accomplish, then you had a Buonaparte to dethrone; it was your own battle which you fought and not the battle of Spain; now you have no such inducement to exertion; you know full well the immeasurable difference between the Napoleon of those days and the Bourbons of this; and, true to your selfish policy and interested principles, you refuse to make an effort which could alone benefit your allies, and meanly content yourselves with plundering merchant-men and conquering sugar islands." If such reproaches had been addressed to us under such circumstances, he thought it would have been difficult indeed to have found a satisfactory reply. But then we might have assisted Spain by money. By money we might indeed have organized regular armies, and by money we might have bought pitched battles; but those battles would have been lost and with them the money of England; those armies would have been dispersed, and with them would have been dissipated the hopes and spirits of Spain. The surest, though it may be the slow resource of Spain, is the desultory but ubiquitary resistance of her population; a war peculiarly adapted to the nature of the country—and to the character and habits of the people; but that war needs no assistance from us, and can be maintained by the internal resources of Spain, without any supplies of money from hence. Had we engaged in the war, it is by an army alone that we could have given effectual assistance, and from the first moment that an English soldier set foot on the Peninsula, we should by necessity have become principals in the war, and upon us would have fallen the whole burthen of the contest: for we must have sent a large army or none at all. To have sent a force so small as to depend upon Spanish co-operation and support, and not large enough to act independently, and to stand upon its own resources would have been to expose us to the certainty of defeat and disgrace, and wilfully to drag in the dirt the laurels we gained in the last war. But, who is prepared to say that we ought at this moment to have engaged in such a contest, and that the 1459 government has not acted wisely in keeping us out of it as long as possible? If Spain is divided, our interference is on principle questionable; if she is united, our interference is unnecessary; if, being united, she is successful without our aid, much will have been gained and nothing lost; by our abstinence we shall have preserved unbroken our own resources for future occasions, if any should occur, in which our own honour, interests, and safety shall be more directly concerned; and Spain will have had fuller and freer scope to develope that national energy which, while it will make her more worthy of her independence, will qualify her better to enjoy and to maintain it; and if; in spite or our forbearance, we should at last be compelled to take a part in the war, the prolongation of repose will better enable us to bear the burthens which will become inevitable, and the people of this country will then more cheerfully submit to the sacrifices which must be demanded at their hands; because they will have the satisfaction of knowing that the government have deferred those sacrifices till the latest possible moment.
said, he had only a few observations to offer to the House, and those few should be directed to show, that the gentlemen who supported the original motion were not necessarily the advocates of war. He would, however, say that, as far as his own individual feelings were concerned, if the result of the debate of that night was to decide the question of peace or war, his vote would be for war: but he was aware that a question of this importance ought not to be decided by individual feeling. Those hon. members who had spoken against the motion had, for the greater part, gone upon the expediency of maintaining a state of peace. But he maintained, that if his majesty's ministers had taken the firm and decided tone which became this country, they would have effectually deterred France from her aggressions upon Spain. [There was at this time so much coughing and confusion in the House, that the hon. officer was audible at intervals only.] He should be sorry to say any thing which might be offensive to hon. members, but as he did not intend to occupy much of the time of the House, he could assure them that those expressions of impatience, so far from having the effect of shortening the debate, would only tend to lengthen it; as be should 1460 most undoubtedly go on. The hon. officer craved the attention of the House to the language of the right hon. secretary for foreign affairs, in his answer to the duke of Wellington's letter of September the 21st:—"If there be a determined project to interfere by force, or by menace, in the present struggle in Spain, so convinced are his majesty's government of the uselessness and danger of any such interference; so objectionable does it appear to then) in principle, as well as utterly impracticable in execution, that when the necessity arises, or (I would rather say) when the opportunity offers, I am to instruct your grace at once frankly and peremptorily to declare, that, to any such interference, his majesty will not be a party." The honourable officer said, that this declaration was followed, some time afterwards, by a request on the part of Spain, that we would mediate between her and France.—The hon. officer was going on to show that when Spain so solicited our good offices, we had promised to give them to her in the real sense of the word, when he was again interrupted by cries of "question," and other expressions of impatience; during the prevalence of which it was impossible to hear him. He said, he knew the impatience of the House, but he was really determined to state his opinions on this momentous subject. He conceived, then, that in the course which his majesty's government had adopted during these negotiations, the interests of this country had been neglected, and her honour had been compromised; while it was impossible, on the other hand, to say how soon we might be forced out of our neutrality, and compelled to adopt that very alternative which our timid and indecisive policy had vainly endeavoured to avert. [Here the noise was again renewed.] When gentleman had done, he would proceed. He should have done ten minutes ago, but for these interruptions. [Coughing.] The hon. officer concluded, by expressing his dissatisfaction with the conduct of ministers on this occasion, marked as it had been by such a want of firmness, candour, and resolution; and declared, that, for the reasons he had stated, he felt himself bound to give his hearty support to the original motion. [Loud cries of "question, question!]
§ Mr. Horace Twiss
rose amidst cries of question from the Opposition benches 1461 He said, that if it was the pleasure of the House to prevent his being heard, he would sit down without another syllable [Hear, hear!]. But, if they were desirous that he should proceed, he would not abuse their indulgence by any prefatory statements, but come at once to the points in issue. Perhaps, then, continued the hon. and learned gentleman the most prominent charge against the government in the course of these debates has been, that they ventured, in their negotiations, to repress the rising liberties of Spain, by counselling some certain modifications of her constitution. For what purpose? Basely to buy off the unjust hostility threatened by France? No; but, to compensate France for with drawing that body of military observation, which, however vexatious to Spanish feeling, she was entitled to continue with in her own frontier, for her own protection. Why, then, what means the imputation, that we influenced the Spaniards to waive the principles of their independence? If they had surrendered the smallest point to the menace of hostility, they would, I freely admit, have given up the entire principle; but if they gave up one right, and the French another, where was the dishonour to either, or to us? What we advised then, in one word, was not at all the submission to a wrong, but the compromise of two obnoxious rights.
It is said on the other side, that ministers shape their defence unfairly in alleging that their only choice was, either to do as they have done, or to declare open war. Between those two extreme and polar points, says the hon. member for Knaresborough, there were many intermediate rests on which government might have made a stand. So says that hon. member; and the hon. member for Taunton comes to his aid, by specifying more particularly what was that precise, intermediate line, which it behoved the government to take. They might, have tried, he says, to do something on that principle of mutual concession, on which they must have been so much in the habit of acting throughout the large continental arrangements of the last few years. Why, Sir, that is the very thing which ministers did try, and have been blamed for trying; concession from Spain, and retractation by France. But it was more easily tried than effected. In the former arrangements—arrangements of territory 1462 or of property—claims might be balanced against claims; but here, there were no mutual claims to be adjusted; and the language we must have held to France would needs have been, not, "If you don't yield this, I won't yield that;" but, "If you do not yield this, I will go to war with you" [Hear.] The hon. gentlemen opposite may put it as they will, but to this at last the argument must come [Hear, hear!]. Well, they say, be it so: it was the best chance for the prosperity of Europe; if it succeeded, all was well; it was only on its failure, that you would have been obliged to go to war. But, Sir, you are not always in a condition to take even the best chance. The odds may be nine to one in your favour, and yet, should the tenth chance be one which, however unlikely to happen, yet, if it do happen, you feel that you would not be justified to abide, you must, in prudence and in conscience decline that seducing hazard. But were the odds so much in your favour for overawing France? Is it true, that rather than go to war with England, France would have come to terms with Spain? In that speculation I am altogether unable to concur. Even if a war with England were not, as it is, a proposal always popular with the French, I think that man much miscalculates the character both of their government and of their people, who supposes them persons very easy to be overawed; for whatever may be the merits of their government, discretion seems hardly to be of the number; and whatever be the failings of their people, timidity, at any rate, is not in the catalogue.
Gentlemen seem very much disposed to stop at this stage of the argument, and leave the question upon the chance. But that is very imperfect reasoning. No argument about past conduct can rest ultimately upon the estimate of a chance, without including an estimate of both the alternatives whereof that chance was composed. There is a point in your road at which the paths branch off; and when you reach that point, you must needs, in order to accomplish your journey, chuse one of those diverging paths. Now, suppose I am right in my opinion that France was not to be overawed by loose and general phrases; what were you then to say? Why you answer, that the truest policy, the policy you yourselves would have pursued, was, to avoid indeed an immediate, unconditional rupture, 1463 but yet to make a resolute stand by declaring, that you would go to war if Spain were invaded; and this with no fraudulent reserve, but with a bonâ fide resolve on your part to keep your word, and go to war accordingly, if that should happen, doubtless, because you were sincerely convinced, that, upon the happening of that event, your war would be justified and required. That event has happened, Spain is invaded—now, why has not your address proposed the war? Your war would be quite in time yet, to serve the Spaniards: and as to its justice, that justice is certainly not less demonstrable at this hour, than it was when the ministers of England declined it, at Paris, at Madrid, or at Verona; besides which, your proposal, now, would have this further advantage (from the very caution of your ministers), that instead of your having to decide, as they must have decided, on all the future contingencies, you would have the benefit of the actual results to guide your judgment. But, with all these assistances, and all these complaints against those who did not threaten war, no war does your own address propose: and why not? Because you feel, that the policy which you were so ready to recommend in the hazard, is one that you yourselves are not willing to abide in the event—because you know that nine-tenths of all the nation will be against you—because you are conscious that if you were called on but to write down on a paper to be read as your motion from the chair, your specific cause, sanction, or excuse for war, you would have no one tangible, substantial justification to assign; and because you expect that the comparatively vague and comprehensive phraseology of this address is more likely than any straight and intelligible proposition would be, to unite all the outlying votes against the government which you seek to shake.
But you say, it is not fair to demand that you should abide by the unfavourable alternative of the proposed chance, without having had the trial of the chance itself. I have endeavoured to show that your chance was worth nothing; that France was in that state of predisposing madness, by which heaven is said to prepare those whom it designs to cast away; [hear!] but, at all events, if you did not calculate that war must come, von were bound to calculate that it might come; and, if it should, on what ground were 1464 you prepared to incur it? That is, I now ask you, not whether you will enter into a war, the negotiations having terminated without the trial of your experiment—for to that way of putting the question you have a right to object—but on what grounds were you prepared to risk it, while the negotiations were yet undetermined and while this alternative, therefore, formed yet a necessary part of your calculation?—On the ground, you say, that it would then have been a war, not for Spain only, but for our own honour. Sir, I agree with my hon. friend who moved this address, as to the high estimation in which the national honour ought ever to be held; and that very feeling of respect for it, does the more confirm me in the conviction that we ought not too lightly to borrow its name as a pretext for quarrels with which it can have no concern. On this head, the principal argument of the supporters of the address resolves itself into the plain charge, that Britain has disgracefully abandoned the righteous cause. It is that abandonment of the righteous cause, which is said to have tarnished our national honour. But does not this argument, or rather assertion, go a little too far? For since, in every cause, there is a right and a wrong, it is clear that if we are always to vindicate the right, I will not say at the price, but even at the risk of engaging ourselves in hostilities—for, in your word remonstrance let it always be remembered that the risk of war is necessarily involved—there can never be a war in any quarter of Christendom, wherein we shall net be bound to take a part. The reasoning is strange; and it seems stranger still, when we consider from what quarter it comes; when we remember, that those who are cheering their government forward to hazard a war for the liberties of Spain, are the same set of statesmen who opposed that government throughout a war for the liberties of Europe. Is it that they deem the independence of Europe at large an object less important than the liberties of individual Spain? Or can it be their opinion, that liberty itself is then only desirable, when fought for by subjects against their king and not when fought for by kingdoms against their oppressor? [Hear, hear.] There is somewhat extraordinary, too, in the lofty and flattering attributes with which they have suddenly invested this country. They have begun to speak of her, as if, 1465 instead of being one among several important states, she were the only state at all important; the absolute, recognised dictatress of Europe, entitled to consider her own dignity and supremacy and the peace of her dominion invaded or insulted by every brawl among the surrounding states. It seemed reasonable, no doubt, to expect, that men of their endowments would, after a while, discover and recant the mistake which they had committed when, through twenty years of war, and seven of succeeding; peace, they proclaimed, that the exertions of Great Britain had done nothing for her fame, her prosperity, or her power; but I could never have expected that, with all their candour, they would, in this sudden haste, have become so dazzled with the splendor of their country's achievements, so giddy with the height to which her energies have raised them, as to abandon their entire understandings to the intoxicating delusion, that her exploits have promoted her to a station, not merely of respect and glory, but of absolute unqualified command! To satisfy them, her will must be given out as law. I admire their spirit, but their practical wisdom I doubt; not only because I am persuaded that England would be physically incompetent to enforce such an assumption, but because such an assumption, even if she could enforce it, would be inconsistent with that free agency of other states, which England, of all nations in the world, would be the least excusable to encroach upon; although, like every other free agency, it does of necessity imply a power in its possessor to do evil as well as to do good. I apprehend, therefore, that menaces would have been doubly improper; first, because England could hardly have enforced them, and secondly, because, if she could, she ought not.
Some, however, there are, of a heroical disposition, who seem to look at the question of honour less as a matter of state than as an affair of chivalry. Those are the reasoners who would have had you alter your laws, to let private knight-errantry loose, and unite all your wandering spirits in a new crusade for freedom. Thus the noble member for Salisbury (lord Folkestone) put his argument the ether night mainly upon the ground of gallantry; as if it behoved us to take a haughty tone, not merely lest the freedom of Spain should be endangered, but lest 1466 the courage of England might be questioned. Sir, I trust that the character of this country for courage does not stand so low, as to require that its minister should talk big, for the establishment of its credit. I assure the noble lord, I should disdain, as cordially as he can, the imputation of any apprehension from France. I know of only one sort of policy we might have pursued, which could possibly have subjected us to such a misconstruction, and I will tell the noble lord what that discreditable policy would have been. It would have been the adoption, or the permission, of half-angry measures; of a course that should have had the effect of a partial and hesitating hostility; a hostility in practice and in profit, in act and in advantage, in every thing, except the avowal and the danger—a neutrality always in its name, and in its safety. From such a policy it might have been inferred, that Great Britain was indeed afraid, that, abounding in the inclination to quarrel, she was deficient in nothing but the courage.
But see what a double-faced argument we have to deal with! The hon. baronet, (sir F. Burdett) catching the tone of the noble lord, exclaims, "that our timidity is more especially disgraceful, as being the paltry apprehension of a miserable war with an enemy so contemptible as the Bourbons." And let the other half of the hon. baronet's speech, and almost half the speech of my hon. and learned friend the member for Knaresborough, (sir J. Mackintosh) turn upon the danger to England and to Europe, from the probability that these very Bourbons, the enormous injustice of whose proceeding is equalled only by its monstrous imbecility, [cheers from the Opposition] will presently overbear all the strength of the peninsula, and become terrible to England as the masters of Portugal and Spain. Thus it is, that, having failed to make out any case upon oar own national honour—and the treaty with Portugal being not vet in question, since we know not yet whether the circumstances will ever occur on which alone the obligations of that treaty would arise—you turn to the self-defensive topics, and ply us with the danger we are likely to incur, from the tutelary influence of St. Louis, and signally, from the sword of the duke of Angoulême. You have not had the patience to wait till that formidable blade, the Escalibar of modern chivalry, be 1467 actually drawn from its embroidered sheath; the mere glitter of whose hilt has made you wink your eyes, and start with apprehensions for your liberty and land. Why, sir, when a hundred years ago, the Bourbon was enraged at the panic with which his people were shrinking from the nick-name of Malbrook, the Louis of that day could hardly have hoped that from his family a prince was destined to arise who should thus revenge the dishonourable terrors of the French, and without the striking of a single blow, by the mere flourish of his sword knot, should throw dismay into the ranks of the English whigs, and rouse the alarms of those unblenching politicians, who could gaze with indifference, if not with complacence, upon the devouring career of Buonaparte! [Laughter and cheers: coughing form the Opposition.]
But then you say, it is not from France that the principal danger is to be apprehended; your fear is of the other allies, who may march to her assistance, and disorder the balance of power. Before we assert the expediency of risking hostilities in counteraction of those movements, it may be as well to ascertain, first, whether the allies mean to march at all; and secondly, if they do, in what cause they mean to march. Even now, after the lapse of many months since the negotiations, uninformed as we are still, what plan could we chuse, or what measure could we execute? No judgment could be formed beyond a guess—not a shot could be fired but at random—we have not only no means of knowing that the allies have determined to take part against Spain; we have not even data to judge whether they have determined to take any part at all. But indeed, if any credit belong to your allegations as to the injustice and artifice of all those great European powers, there is only so much the stronger reason for us to be cautious and backward in committing this country; lest perchance, when we have toiled and half exhausted our strength, by precipitately intruding into a quarrel that was none of ours, the force of the suspected potentates that have been so long in wait, should come at the eleventh hour, fresh and unbreathed into the field, and furnish us a quarrel that should really be our own. I beg to be understood as saying these things, not in any anticipation I myself entertain of any such treachery on the part of our allies; but merely for the sake 1468 of shewing to those who delight in the application of opprobrious terms to all kings and ministers, that the more just should happen to be their ill opinion of foreign governments, and the more suspicious the politics of those foreign governments may appear, so much the more prejudicial and perilous would be the course, which they are so vehemently inculcating upon our own.—Nay more, Sir; any hostile interference which we might have hazarded, would not only have enfeebled us in our means of meeting any ultimate danger to ourselves, but might probably have brought on, at once, that very evil of general war which all parties profess their anxiety to avoid. For, if the warfare of Spain on one side and of France on the other, had been treated by England sufficiently dangerous to the balance of power, to require, upon defensive principles, that she should interpose her arms, how plausible an argument for marching straightway to vindicate that balance, would the allies have possessed—and not improbably embraced—when, beside the disturbances between France and Spain, the relations and proportions of Europe were further affected, by the intervention of so formidable a belligerent as Great Britain?—Sir, there are others of the arguments advanced from the opposite side of the House, which I rose with the intention of making some attempt to answer; but the growing impatience of the House, so natural on the third night of the same debate, warns me to abstain from any further trespass on their indulgence [Hear, hear!].
§ Sir Francis Blake
said, that when liberty was at stake, neutrality was not at all congenial to the generous feelings of the British nation. When the Spaniards were engaged in the glorious cause of liberty, it was natural that they should apply to England for assistance; and if we talked of neutrality, she might be apt to think of the old saying—"Those who are not with us are against us." But Spain ought to make a distinction between the government, and the people, of this country. The hearts of the people of Great Britain were with the brave Spaniards, but their ardent feelings were damped by the icy particles of the administration. If he were a Spaniard, be would say that ministers, by their policy, were silently—he would not say intentionally—upholding that most odious, detestable, and abominable league which 1469 was impiously called the holy alliance—an association of despots against the liberties of mankind. Those would be his sentiments if he were a Spaniard; and such were his feelings as an Englishman. And now, in answer to some of the speeches which had been addressed to the House, he would reverse the case as it at present stood between France and Spain. He would suppose that Spain, in the plenitude of her power, had threatened to invade France, on the ground that her charter had been infringed—that was certainly as good a ground for invasion as the one which had been advanced by France against Spain. What, under such circumstances, would have been the conduct of the British government? Would it, in that case, have maintained the quiet and calm position which it now exhibited, whilst France was invading Spain? He thought it would not. It would then, perhaps, have assumed a tone becoming the rank and dignity of Great Britain in support of her ally. The chancellor of the exchequer had said, that he was at a loss to know what stronger language the government could have employed during the late negotiations. He (sir F. Blake) thought he could tell what would have been the language of the right hon. secretary, in the case which he had supposed. He would have said to Spain, "As soon as your standard is planted on the soil of France, we will make common cause with the French to repel the invaders: proceed in your enterprise, if you dare." Why had not such language been used during the late negotiations? The fact was, that his majesty's government had been lulled into a false security by the persuasive finesse of the French negotiators; they had been induced to forget that the Bourbons had ever been ambitious. He would suppose another case. If Spain, by good fortune, should repel her enemy and invade France, he believed, in that case, we should remonstrate against such conduct on the part of Spain, and call on the Spaniards to retire, as the condition of our remaining neutral. Spain, in such a case, would perhaps contend, that she did no more than France had previously done; but our government would retort on her, that there was a wide difference between what France might do against Spain, and what Spain might do against France. So much had been said about our system of neutrality, that it was diffi- 1470 cult to know what it really was. He would attempt a definition. It was neither one thing nor another. It appeared very evident that our neutrality would resolve itself into war at last. If war was inevitable, the sooner we commenced it, the greater would be the chance of our bringing it to a successful issue. Neutrality, however, was the order of the day. So great was the rage for neutrality, that he should not be at all surprised to hear at the first public dinner to which ministers might be invited, this toast given—"Neutrality, strict neutrality, nothing but neutrality." Perhaps they would soon see in the newspapers, among the newest fashions, "neutral bonnet" mentioned—the shape furnished by the right hon. secretary for foreign affairs. [Continued laughter.] But he could assure the right hon. gentleman that the neutral bonnet would not take. Neutrality was no favourite with the ladies. [A laugh.] If the right hon. secretary were asked what he had been doing with his system of neutrality during the late negotiations, he might reply, in the words of the poet, "I've been doing just nothing all day."
apologized for addressing the House after having on a recent occasion occupied so much of their time. He did not know whether any apology was required from him by the House, for the manner in which he had then delivered his sentiments. It occurred to him that it was scarcely possible that the right hon. secretary opposite, notwithstanding the well-known turn for sarcasm which distinguished him, could have treated him (lord F.) in the manner in which he had done, unless there had been something unbecoming in the language which he had used. If that were the case, he was ready to make the necessary apology to the House. He was, undoubtedly angry upon that occasion. He had attempted to express the shame and indignation which he felt upon the perusal of the papers which had been presented to the House, and the scorn and contempt which he entertained for the British negotiators who could put their names to those papers. [Cheers.] If he had vented his feelings, in language not so measured as he ought to have used, he hoped the House of Commons was not yet so far sunk in degradation, as to visit him with its anger on that account. He might be allowed to urge in extenuation 1471 of his fault—if he had committed any—that not four and twenty hours after he had undergone the censure of the right hon. secretary, that right hon. secretary had himself shown that he could feel indignation at what passed within the walls of that House. But he begged the House would do him the justice to make this distinction between him and the right hon. secretary; namely, that his indignation was excited by his zeal in behalf of the character of the country, whilst that of the right hon. secretary was roused by his anxiety for his own. Having alluded to what had passed on a former night, he could not help saying that he had, for three evenings past, been sitting in that House, expecting every moment that the right hon. secretary would, with eagerness, fulfil the promise which he had made on that previous occasion. The right hon. secretary had then told the House, that it was impossible for those members who heard him, but who had not beard his (lord F.'s) address, to conceive the restraint which he imposed upon himself by abstaining from giving the argument which had been used the answer which it merited. The right hon. secretary had complained of his having acted unfairly in having delivered a speech to the House which he was, by some tie, prevented from answering; and had said, that a proper time would come for the discussion of the topics which had then been touched upon. He was, therefore, much astonished to perceive, that during this and the two preceding nights, the right hon. secretary had been able to curb his impatience and to repress his zeal, which he had been so little able to do before. The right hon. secretary had formerly said, that it could not be expected that he was prepared to answer the arguments which might be founded upon the papers in the possession of the House. Why had he not prepared himself during the three nights which the present discussion had lasted? If rumour spoke true, the right lion, gentleman was anxious to abstain from addressing the House, until his hon. and learned friend below him (Mr. Brougham) had delivered his sentiments upon the question. [Loud cries of "Hear," from the Opposition. Mr. Canning shook his head.] If the right hon. gentleman denied it, of course the rumour was unfounded; but he was bound to declare, that circumstances did certainly appear to justify 1472 such a supposition. He hoped, for the character of the House, that the rumour was not true; for it would indeed be unworthy of its character, that for such a reason, the person who, from his situation, was best able to explain the whole of the negotiations in which government had been engaged, and the policy which had dictated the different notes and memorandums contained in the papers before the House, should withhold that necessary information. The right hon. secretary had complained that he (lord F.) had accused him of truckling to France. But, what answer had the right hon. gentleman made to that charge? Why, he had said that however he might have truckled to France, he never would truckle to him (lord F.). He had never expected that the right hon. gentleman would do so. If there were any person in that House who thought it possible that the right hon. gentleman would truckle to any body—[A cry of "Order, order!"] If the hon. member who called out order, thought there was any thing disorderly in what he was saying, let him rise and state it to the House.
of Galway, said, he had not meant to rise to order; but, alter being called upon, he did not hesitate to say, that it was disorderly in the noble lord to entertain the House for half an hour, on the subject of another debate. If he had any charge to prefer against the right hon. secretary, let him bring it forward in a parliamentary way. He had thought his remarks impertinent to the present debate, and had therefore called the noble lord to order.
proceeded. He said; he believed the hon. member was correct in his opinion; but the strict rule of order had often been departed from. Much latitude was allowed to members; and particularly on late occasions. If the rule was to be enforced against him, he hoped it would also be enforced against others: He could not participate in the satisfaction which had been expressed by the hon. member for Westminster and others, at the tone which had prevailed in that House during the course of the present debate with respect to the conduct of France. It appeared to him to be unbecoming the character of a British House of Commons, that its sentiments should be expressed in words alone, vox et prœterea nihil, and that any document which might convey its opinions to the whole world 1473 should be cautiously kept out of sight. The general mass of the papers upon the table had been so minutely canvassed, that it would be wasting the time of the House to travel through them. There was one document, however, which he thought had not been properly described—he meant the memorandum which the duke of Wellington had sent to Madrid for lord Fitzroy Somerset. That note had been described on the other side of the House, as being most worthy of the connexion which existed between the duke of Wellington and the Spanish nation. To him it appeared to be directly the reverse—to him it appeared to deserve the strongest reprobation that could be bestowed upon it. It appeared to him to be no less than an absolute betrayal of the Spanish government into the hands of king Ferdinand. It was a sufficient answer to the proposition of the noble duke, that it was impossible the persons to whom it was addressed could accede to it without a violation of their oaths. It was rather extraordinary that members of that House should eulogize a man who had attempted to persuade others to commit a breach of their most solemn engagements. But, the case against the noble duke went farther than that. There were two parties to the Spanish constitution. The cortes had offered the constitution to the king, and by him it had been accepted. The duke of Wellington called on one of the parties to put an end to the contract. The consequence of which would have been to place Ferdinand, de jure, in the absolute and despotic power which he formerly possessed. If the duke of Wellington's proposition had been acceded to, the cones would absolutely have been betrayed into the hands of the king.
What he most complained of was, that throughout the whole of the negotiations, the interests of England and her allies were never spoken of. England appeared as if she were an indifferent spectator of the scenes which were passing on the continent. The same spirit pervaded the amendment which had been proposed. It declared, that the House rejoiced that his majesty had not become party to a war, in. which neither honour, nor treaty, nor the welfare of his majesty's dominions, required his majesty to engage," and it assured his majesty, that the House would "at all times be ready to afford his majesty its most zealous and affectionate 1474 support, in any measures which his majesty may find necessary to fulfil the obligations of national faith." Why, what less could have been said? But, it had been contended—and he thought the argument was most unfairly urged—that we should adopt the negotiations which were before the House, or be prepared to risk a war. He was not an advocate for war; nor could he admit that it was the alternative of any other mode of negotiation. The principal cause why he disapproved of the papers on the table was, that they tended to involve the country in a war, the danger of which would have been avoided, had our interference been urged in a more firm, manly, and decided manner. It was absurd to assert, that there was no medium between these negotiations and a declaration of war. The conduct of the power which was most anxious for the war showed the light in which the conduct of England was viewed, and the effect which a more firm tone on her part would in all probability have produced; for, no sooner was it known that this country had decided on being passive in the business, than France began to redouble her preparations for hostilities. The negotiations now before the House were in their nature likely, at some future period, to involve this country in serious difficulties. Whether we might go to war or not, he would not say, for there was a something which weighed down the exertions of the country, and we should never be able to go to war with effect until that load was removed. Unfortunately, the tone of the country had been greatly lowered. It seemed as if it had lost its spirits. And this feeling was increased if indeed not created, by the zealous manner in which war had been deprecated in that House. He repeated, that he was no advocate for war; but he thought the tone of objection which had been taken to it, by some members of his majesty's government, was wholly unbecoming them. It was unbecoming a British statesman to be afraid of war, and to declare that fear, in the way in which he had heard it in die course of these discussions. He very much feared the country was now descending to the state of shame and degradation, which by degrees, would induce her to put up with any thing rather than go to war. It was not many years ago, when, at the peace of Amiens, he had heard an eloquent declaration in that House of the reasons why 1475 his country should go to war. It was said, that we should go to war—not for Malta, but Egypt—not for Egypt, but India—not for India, but for the existence of Great Britain herself; and not only for that, but for her good faith and the cause of freedom over the world. Here the good faith of the country and the cause of freedom were put at the top of the climax by the learned gentleman to whom he alluded; but now, the case was quite altered, and we were either afraid or unwilling to go to war for the good faith of the country, the cause of freedom, or for any other consideration. He knew net whether such feelings would continue. If much longer indulged in, they would grow upon us every day, until it would depend upon a calculation of the receipts of the customs, whether we should go to war to defend our good faith and our freedom. These feelings, he feared, would grow upon us, like avarice; and at length deprive us of that energy of character, for which we had heretofore been distinguished amongst nations.
Looking to the manner in which the negotiations had terminated—looking at their utter failure—he could see nothing in the prospect of the future, but the most disastrous consequences to the country. Suppose France were to get the ascendant in Spain, and that she demanded Gibraltar from us—would the House go to war for Gibraltar? He knew very well that France at first would make no such important demand. Her statesmen were too well skilled in diplomatic intrigue, to make any demand at first which would be calculated to rouse our feelings. They would begin with a demand of something of minor importance—something for which we should not be willing to fight—and then proceed by degrees, until they had involved the country in degradation and misery.—The noble lord then observed, that he had expected a different course when he found that the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Canning) had taken the had in the councils of his majesty. He did not mean by this to say that he approved of the right hon. gentleman's general line of politics; he thought he had great political sins to answer for: but, from what he knew of the right hon. gentleman, he thought he would have been one of the last men to consent to lower the character of the country. He did, however, still cherish a hope that the right hon. gentleman would do something to 1476 retrieve the evil that had already befallen us—that he would find means to retrace his steps. The right hon. gentleman had now attained to what might, perhaps, he said to be the height of his ambition. By his talents and his eloquence—which all admitted and all admired—he had raised himself to the head, at least second to one only (if indeed he was not equal) in the councils of his sovereign. His power in that House was almost unbounded. But he believed the ambition of the right hon. gentleman went further. He believed that he aimed at a still greater prize. He thought—at least he wished to think—that the right hon. gentleman was anxious to be handed down to posterity as one of the worthies of his country—as one who was not less distinguished by pre-eminence in her councils, than by his zeal for her interests. If the right hon. secretary entertained that wish, he must not expect to obtain it by carrying on such negotiations as those in which he had lately figured. He must exert himself, and that with energy, to remedy evils already existing. The plague had begun; he must take the censer in his hand, and stand between the living and the dead. The plague had begun, the enemy was already in the field. If the right hon. gentleman did not bestir himself, and that soon, against that enemy, his name would be handed down, not with glory, but as one who had sunk his country in degradation, in misery, and in shame. [Hear, hear, and loud cries of question, question.]
§ Mr. Littleton
rose, but was for some moments utterly inaudible. As soon as order was restored, the hon. gentleman observed in reference to the calls of the noble lord upon his right hon. friend that no just complaint could be made against his right hon. friend, for not having addressed the House at an earlier period. He believed every member of his majesty's government in that House had spoken upon it except his right hon. friend, and nothing could be more natural than that his right hon. friend, whose more peculiar office it was to explain the whole of the negotiations, should have waited until he had heard all the objections which might be made to them. He (Mr. L.) might, in his turn, express his surprise, that: the House had not, before the present hour, heard the sentiments of the hon. and learned gentleman (Mr. Brougham) upon the question before the House. He must suppose the hon. and learned gentleman 1477 was waiting to hear the statement of his right hon. friend; for, he believed the hon. and learned gentleman had too much honour and too much spirit, to take advantage of replying to his right hon. friend's statement, when he was aware that his right hon. friend would have no opportunity of again addressing the house in reply to him.—With respect to the question which was mainly involved in the one before the House; namely, the interference in the internal government of Spain, he could assure the House there was not a member in it, whose mind was more strongly impressed with the propriety of directing-all the moral feeling of this country and of Europe against the principles which had been promulgated by the Holy Alliance. But, he did not think that his detestation of those principles called upon him to advocate the going to war with France in support of Spain. The arguments for a war on this occasion came, he thought, rather strangely from those who had, in many former instances, deprecated a war on the part of this country, for the subversion of revolutionary principles. The same honourable members who had been so loud in their condemnation of Mr. Pitt's conduct, in supporting the late war, were now equally loud in urging the country into hostilities.—The hon. member then went on to contend that the conduct of his majesty's ministers in the late negotiations had been most wise, in not allowing their judgment of the impolicy of a war to be biassed by their feelings of objection to the principles advanced by some of the allied powers. His own opinion was—and it was founded upon a considerable knowledge of the facts of which he spoke—that if the whole population of the country, could be polled the sentiments of the great majority would be found to be opposed to a war on the part of this country at the present moment. The lauded proprietors, who had, on all occasions, been foremost in giving their support to the defence of the country, were not, and could not be, desirous of a war, which they saw neither the object nor the probable termination. Our manufacturers certainly wished for peace, and our merchants had the same feeling. They concurred with the merchants and manufacturers; of France in deprecating a war, which must, in its consequences, be so prejudicial to their best interests. Our commerce and manufactures were now in flourishing condition; and it must be 1478 supposed, that all concerned in them would be unwilling to risk them in a quarrel which was not essentially our own.—The hon. gentleman then proceeded to contend, that this country had not been duped by France in the late negotiations,—that a menacing attitude on our part, if we really desired a peace, would have had the effect of provoking a war—that if the Spanish nation was a divided one upon the subject of its government, an interference on our part would have been unjust; but if they were united, it would be unnecessary, for that it was impossible for France to support any government of her choice in that country, against the united wish of ten millions of people, without resorting to means which she could not very long command; and that therefore the neutral course upon which this country had decided, was the wisest which she could adopt. [Several members rose to address the House, but they immediately gave way, on seeing Mr. Canning get up]
Mr. Secretary Canning
rose and said:*
I am exceedingly sorry, Mr. Speaker, to stand in the way of any hon. gentleman who wishes to address the House on this important occasion. But, considering the length of time which the debate has; already occupied,—considering the late hour to which we have now arrived on the third night of discussion,—I fear that my own strength, as well as that of the House, would be exhausted, if I were longer to delay the explanations which it is my duty to offer, of the conduct which his majesty's government have pursued, and of the principles by which they have been guided, through a course of negotiations as full of difficulty as any that have ever occupied the attention of a ministry, or the consideration of parliament.
If gratitude be the proper description of that sentiment which one feels towards the unconscious bestower of an unintended benefit, I acknowledge myself sincerely grateful to the hon. gentleman who has introduced the present motion. Although I was previously aware that the conduct of the government in the late negotiations had met with the individual concurrence of many, perhaps of a great majority, of the members of this House; although I had received intimations not to be taken, of the general satisfaction of the* From the original edition, printed for Hatchard and Son, Piccadilly.1479 country; still, as, from the manner in which the papers have been laid before parliament, it was not the intention of the government to call for any opinion upon them, I feel grateful to the hon. gentleman who has, in so candid and manly a manner, brought them under distinct discussion; and who, I hope will become, however unwillingly, the instrument of embodying the sentiments of individuals and of the country into a vote of parliamentary approbation.
The government stands in a singular situation with respect to these negotiations. They have maintained peace; they have avoided war. Peace or war—the one or the other—is usually the result of negotiations between independent states. But all the gentlemen on the other side, with one or two exceptions (exceptions which I mention with honour), have set out with declaring, that whatever the question before the House may be, it is not a question of peace or war. Now this does appear to me to be a most whimsical declaration; especially when I recollect, that before this debate commenced, it was known,—it was not disguised,—it was vaunted without scruple or reserve—that the dispositions of those opposed to ministers were most heroically warlike. It was not denied that they considered hostilities with France to be desirable as well as necessary. The cry "to arms" was raised, and caps were thrown up for war, from a crowd which, if not numerous, was yet loud in their exclamations. But now, when we come to inquire whence these manifestations of feeling proceeded, two individuals only have acknowledged that they had joined in the cry; and for the caps which have been picked up it is difficult to find a wearer.
But, Sir, whatever may be contended to be the question now before the House, the question which the government had to consider, and on which they had to decide, was—peace or war?—Disguise or overshadow it how you will, that question was at the bottom of all our deliberations; and I have a right to require that the negotiations should be considered with reference to that question; and to the decision, which, be it right or wrong, we early adopted upon that question,—the decision that war was to be avoided, and peace, if possible; maintained.
How can we discuss with fairness, I might say with common sense any transactions, unless in reference to the object 1480 which was in the view of those who carried them on? I repeat it,—whether gentlemen in this House do or do not consider the question to be one of peace or war,—the ministers could not take a single step in the late negotiations, till they had well weighed that question;—till they had determined what direction ought to be given to those negotiations, so far as that question was concerned. We determined that it was our duty, in the first instance, to endeavour to preserve peace if possible for all the world; next, to endeavour to preserve peace between the nations whose pacific relations, appeared most particularly exposed to hazard; and failing in this, to preserve at all events peace for this country; but a peace consistent with the good faith, the interests, and the honour of the nation.
I am far from intending to assert that our decision in this respect is not a fit subject of examination. Undoubtedly the conduct of the government is liable to a twofold trial. First, was the object of ministers a right object? secondly, did they pursue it in a right way? The first of these questions,—whether ministers did right in aiming at the preservation of peace,—I postpone. I will return to the consideration of it hereafter. My first inquiry is as to the merits or demerits of the negotiations; and, in order to enter into that inquiry, I must set out with assuming, for the time, that peace is the object which we ought to have pursued.
With this assumption, I proceed to examine, whether the papers on the table show that the best means were employed for attaining the given object? If the object was unfit, there is an end of any discussion as to the negotiations;—they must necessarily be wrong from the beginning to the end. It is only in reference to their fitness for the end proposed, that the papers themselves can be matter worthy of discussion.
In reviewing, then, the course of these negotiations, as directed to maintain, first, the peace of Europe; secondly, the peace between France and Spain; and lastly, peace for this country,—they divide themselves naturally into three heads:—first, the negotiations at Verona; secondly, those with France; and thirdly, those with Spain. Of each of these in their order.
I say, emphatically, in their order; because there can be no greater fallacy than that which has pervaded the arguments of 1481 many hon. gentlemen, who have taken up expressions used in one stage of these negotiations, and applied them to another. An hon. baronet, for instance (sir F. Burdett), who addressed the House last night, employed,—or I should rather say adopted—a fallacy of this sort, with respect to an expression of mine in the extract of a despatch to the duke of Wellington, which stands* second in the first series of papers. It is but just to the hon. baronet to admit that his observation was adopted, not original; because, in a speech eminent for its ability, and for its fairness of reasoning (however I may disagree both with its principles and its conclusions) this, which he condescended to borrow, was in truth the only very weak and ill-reasoned part. By my despatch of the 27th of September, the duke of Wellington was instructed to declare, that "to any interference by force or menace on the part of the allies against Spain, come what may, his majesty will not be a party." Upon this the hon. baronet, borrowing, as I have said, the remark itself,—and borrowing also the air of astonishment, which, as I am informed, was assumed by the noble proprietor of the remark, in another place,—exclaimed "Come what may!" What is the meaning of this ambiguous menace, this mighty phrase, "that thunders in the index?"—"Come what may!" Surely a denunciation of war is to follow.—But no—no such thing.—Only "Come what may—His majesty will be no party to such proceedings." Was ever such a bathos! Such a specimen of sinking in policy? "Quid dignum Canto feret hic promissor hiatu?"—
Undoubtedly, Sir, if the hon. baronet could show that this declaration was applicable to the whole course of the negotiations, or to a more advanced stage of them, there would be something in the remark, and in the inference which he wished to be drawn from it. But, before the declaration is condemned as utterly feeble and inconclusive, let us consider,—what was the question to which it was intended as an answer?—That question Sir, was not as to what England would do in a war between France and Spain; but as to what part she would take; if, in the congress at Verona, a determination should be avowed by the allies to interfere forcibly in the affairs of Spain? What then was the meaning of the answer* Sec p. 905 of the present volume.1482 to that proposition,—that, "come what might, his majesty would be no party to such a project?"—Why,—plainly that his majesty would not concur in such a determination, even though a difference with his allies—even though the dissolution of the alliance—should be' the consequence of his refusal. The answer, therefore,' was exactly adapted to the question; This specimen of the bathos—this instance of perfection in the art of sinking, as it has been described to be, had its effect: and the congress separated without determining in favour of any joint operations of a hostile character against Spain.
Sir, it is as true in politics, as in mechanics, that the test of skill and of success is to achieve the greatest purpose with the least power. If, then, it be, found that, by this little intimation, we, gained the object that we sought for, where was the necessity for greater flourish or greater pomp of words?—An idle waste of effort would only have risked the loss of the object which by temperance we gained!
But where is the testimony in favour of the effect which this intimation produced—I have it, both written and oral. My first witness is the duke Mathieu de Montmorency; who states, in his official note* of the 26th of December, that the measures conceived and proposed at Verona, "would have been completely successful, if England had thought herself at liberty to concur in them." Such was the opinion entertained by the plenipotentiary of France of the failure at Verona, and of the cause of that failure.—What was the opinion of Spain? My voucher for that opinion is the despatch from sir W. A'Court, of the 7th of January,† in which he describes the comfort and relief that were felt by the Spanish government, when they learnt that the congress at Verona had broken up with no other result, than the bruta fulmina of the three despatches from the courts in alliance with France. The third witness whom I produce, and not the least important, cause an unwilling and most unexpected, and in this case surely a most unexpected witness, is the hon. member for Westminster (Mr. Hobhouse),—who seems to have had particular sources of information ass to what was passing at the congress. According to the ante-chamber reports which* See Papers, Class A. No. 11, p. 916.† See Papers, Class B, No 14. p. 935.1483 were furnished to the hon. member (and which, though not always the most authentic, were in this instance tolerably correct), it appears that there was to be no joint declaration against Spain; and it was, it seems, generally understood at Verona, that the instructions given to his majesty's plenipotentiary, by the liberal—I beg pardon—to be quite accurate I am afraid I must say, the radical—Foreign minister of England, were the cause.—Now the essence of those instructions was comprised in that little sentence, which has been so much criticized for meagreness and insufficiency.
In this case, then, the English government is impeached not for failure, but for success; and the hon. baronet, with taste not his own, has expressed himself dissatisfied with that success, only because the machinery employed to produce it did not make noise enough in its operation.
I contend, Sir, that, whatever might grow out of a separate conflict between Spain and France, (though matter for grave consideration) was less to be dreaded, than that all the great powers of the continent should have been arrayed together against Spain;—and that although the first object, in point of importance, indeed, was to keep the peace altogether,—to prevent any war against Spain,—the first, in point of time, was to prevent a general war;—to change the question from a question between the allies on one side, and Spain on the other, to a question between nation and nation. This, whatever the result might be, would reduce the quarrel to the size of ordinary events, and bring it within the scope of ordinary diplomacy. The immediate object of England therefore was to hinder the impress of a joint character from being affixed to the war—if war there must be,—with Spain;—to take care that the war should not grow out of an assumed jurisdiction of the congress;—to keep within reasonable bounds that predominating areopagitical spirit, which the memorandum* of the British cabinet of May 1820 describes as "beyond the sphere of the original conception, and understood principles of the alliance,"—"an alliance never intended as a union for the government of the world, or for the superintandance of the internal affairs of other* See additional Papers, Class Spain, No. 1, p. 1136.1484 states." And this, I say was accomplished.
With respect to Verona, then, what remains of accusation against the government? It has been charged, not so much that the object of the government was amiss, as that the negotiations were con, ducted in too low a tone. But the case was obviously one in which a high tone, might have frustrated the object. I beg, then, of the House, before they proceed to adopt an address, which exhibits more of the ingenuity of philologists than of the policy of statesmen,—before they found; a censure of the government for its conduct in negotiations of transcendent practical importance, upon refinements of grammatical nicety,—I beg that they will at least except from the proposed censure, the transactions at Verona; where I think I have shown that a tone of reproach and invective was unnecessary, and therefore would have been misplaced.
Among those who have made unjust and unreasonable objections to the tone of our representations at Verona, I should be grieved to include the hon. member for Bramber (Mr. Wilberforce), with whose mode of thinking I am too well acquainted, not to be aware that his ob servations are founded on other and higher motives than those of political controversy. My hon. friend, through a long and amiable life, has mixed in the business of the world without being stained by its contaminations: and he, in consequence, is apt to place—I will not say too high, but—higher I am afraid titan the ways of the world will admit, the standard of political morality. I fear, my hon. friend is not aware how difficult it is to apply to politics, those pure, abstract principles which are indispensable to the excellence of private ethicks. Had we employed in the negotiations that serious moral strain which he might have been more inclined to approve, many of the gentlemen opposed to me, would, I doubt not; have complained, that we had taken a leaf from the book of the holy alliance itself; that we had framed in their own language a canting protest against their purposes, not in the spirit of sincere dissent, but the better to cover our connivance. My hon. friend, I admit, would not have been of the number of those who would so have accused us: but he may be assured that he would have been wholly disappointed in the practical result of our, didactic reprehensions. In truth, the principle of 1485 non-interference is one, on which we were already irrecoverably at variance in opinion with the allies;—it was no longer debateable ground. On the one hand, the alliance upholds the doctrine of an European police; this country, on the other hand, as appears from the memorandum already quoted, protests against that doctrine. The question is, in fact, settled,—as many questions are,—by each party retaining its own opinions; and the points reserved for debate are points only of practical application. To such a point it was that we directed our efforts at Verona.
There are those, however, who think that with a view of conciliating the continental powers, and of winning them away the more readily from their purposes, we should have addressed them as tyrants and despots, tramplers on the rights and liberties of mankind. This experiment would, to say the least of it, be a very singular one in diplomacy. It may be possible, though I think not very probable, that the allies would have borne such an address with patience;—that they would have retorted only with the "whispering humbleness" of Shylock in the play, and said—Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last; You spurn'd me such a day; another time You called me—dog; and for these courtesies"we are ready to comply with whatever you desire." This, I say, may be possible. But I confess I would rather make such an experiment, when the issue of it was matter of more indifference. Till then, I shall be loth to employ towards our allies a language, to which if they yielded, we should ourselves despise them. I doubt whether it is wise, even in this House, to indulge in such a strain of Yhetorick;—to call "wretches" and "barbarians," and a hundred other hard names, powers, with whom after all, if the map of Europe cannot be altogether cancelled, we must, even according to the admission of the most anti-continental politicians, maintain some international intercourse. I doubt whether these sallies of raillery—these flowers of Billingsgate—are calculated to soothe, any more than to adorn; whether on some occasion or other; we may not find that those on whom, they are lavished have not been utterly unsusceptible of feelings of irritation and, resentment.——Medio de fonte leporum Surget amari aliquid, quod in ipsis floribus angat.1486 But be the language of good sense or good taste in this House what it may, clear I am, that in diplomatick correspondence, no minister would be justified in risking the friendship of foreign countries, and the peace of his own, by coarse reproach and galling invective; and that even while we are pleading for the independence of nations, it is expedient to respect the independence of those with whom we plead. We differ widely from our continental allies on one great principle, it is true: nor do we, nor ought we to disguise that difference; nor to omit any occasion of practically upholding our own opinion. But every consideration, whether of policy or of justice, combines with the recollection of the counsels which we have shared and of the deeds which we have achieved in concert and companionship, to induce us to argue our differences of opinion, however freely, with temper; and to enforce them, however firmly, without insult.
Before I quit Verona, there are other detached objections which have been urged against our connexion with the Congress, of which it may be proper to take notice. It has been asked why we sent a plenipotentiary to the congress at all?—It may perhaps be right here to observe, that it was not originally intended to send the British plenipotentiary to Verona. The congress at Verona was originally convened solely for the consideration of the affairs of Italy, with which, the House is aware England had declined to interfere two years before. England was therefore not to participate in those proceedings; and all that required her participation was to be arranged in a previous congress at Vienna. But circumstances had delayed the duke of Wellington's departure from England, so that he did not reach Vienna till many weeks after the time appointed. The sovereigns had waited to the last hour consistent with their Italian arrangements. The option was given to our plenipotentiary to meet them on their return to Vienna; but it was thought upon the whole, more convenient to avoid further delay; and the duke of Wellington therefore proceeded Verona.
Foremost among the objects intended to be discussed at Vienna, was the impending danger of hostilities between. Russia and the Porte. I have no hesitation in saying that, when I accepted the seals of office, that was the object to 1487 which the anxiety of the British government was principally directed. The negotiations at Constantinople had been carried on through the British ambassador. So completely had this business been placed in the hands of lord Strangford, that it was thought necessary to summon him to Vienna. Undoubtedly it might be presumed from facts which were of public notoriety, that the affairs of Spain could not altogether escape the notice of the assembled sovereigns and ministers; but the bulk of the instructions which had been prepared for the duke of Wellington, related to the disputes between Russia and the Porte:—and how little the British government expected that so prominent a station would be assigned to the affairs of Spain, may be inferred from the duke of Wellington's finding it necessary to write from Paris for specifick instructions on that subject.
But is is said, that Spain ought to have been invited to send a plenipotentiary to the congress. So far as Great Britain is concerned, I answer:—In the first place, as we did not wish the affairs of Spain to be brought into discussion at all, we could not take or suggest a preliminary step which would have seemed to recognize the necessity of such a discussion. In the next place, if Spain had been invited, the answer to that invitation might have produced a contrary effect to that which we aimed at producing. Spain must either have sent a plenipotentiary, or have refused to do so. The refusal would not have failed to be taken by the allies as a proof of the duresse of the king of Spain. The sending one, if sent (as he must have been) jointly by the king of Spain and the Cortes, would at once have raised the whole question of the legitimacy of the existing government of Spain; and would almost to a certainty have led to a joint declaration from the alliance, such as it was our special object to avoid.
But was there any thing in the general conduct of Great Britain at Verona, which lowered, as has been asserted, the character of England? Nothing like it. Our ambassador at Constantinople returned from Verona to his post, with full powers from Russia to treat on her behalf with the Turkish government; from which government, on the other hand, he enjoys as full confidence as perhaps any power ever gave to one of its own ambassadors. Such is the manifest decay of our authority,—so 1488 fallen in the eyes of all mankind is the character of this country, that two of the greatest states of the world are content to arrange their differences through a British minister, from reliance on British influence, and from confidence in British equity and British wisdom!
Such then was the issue of the congress, as to the question between Russia mid the Porte; the question (I beg it to be remembered) upon which we expected to be principally if not intirely engaged at that congress, if it had been held (as was intended when the duke, of Wellington left London) at Vienna.
As to Italy, I have already said, it was distinctly understood that we had resolved to take no share in the discussions. But it is almost needless to add, that the evacuation of Naples and of Piedmont, was a measure with respect to which, though the plenipotentiary of Great Britain was not entitled to give or to withhold the concurrence of his government, he could not but signify its cordial approbation.
The result of the congress as to Spain, was simply the discontinuance of diplomatick intercourse with that power, on the part of Austria, Russia, and Prussia;—a step neither necessarily nor probably leading to war; perhaps (in some views) rather diminishing the risk of it;—a step which had been taken by the same monarchies towards Portugal two years before, without leading to any ulterior consequences. The concluding expression of the duke of Wellington's last note at Verona, in which he states that all that Great Britain could do was to "endeavour to allay irritation at Madrid," describes all that in effect was necessary to be done there, after the ministers Or the allied powers should be withdrawn: and the House have seen in sir W. A'Coures dispatches* how scrupulously the duke of Wellington's promise was fulfilled by the representations of our minister at Madrid. They have seen too, how insignificant the result of the congress of Verona was considered at Madrid, in comparison with what had been apprehended.
The result of the congress as to France, was a promise of countenance and support from the allies in three specified hypothetical cases;—1st, of an attack made by Spain on France; 2nd, of any outrage, on the person of the king or royal family of* See papers, Class B. Nos. 14 and 15, p. 935.1489 Spain; 3rdly, of any attempt to change the dynasty of that kingdom. Any unforeseen case, if any such should arise, was to be the subject of new deliberation; either between court and court, or in the conferences of their ministers at Paris.
It is unnecessary now to argue, whether the cases specified are cases which would justify interference. It is sufficient for the present argument, that no one of these cases has occurred. France is therefore mot at war on a case foreseen and provided for at Verona:—and so far as I know, there has not occurred, since the congress of Verona, any new case to which the assistance of the allies can be considered as pledged; or which has, in fact, been made the subject of deliberation among the ministers of the several courts who were members of the congress.
We quitted Verona, therefore, with the satisfaction of having prevented any corporate act of force or menace, on the part of the alliance, against Spain; with the knowledge of the three cases on which alone France would be entitled to claim the support of her continental allies, in a conflict with Spain; and with the certainty that in any other case we should have to deal with France alone, in any interposition which we might offer for averting, or for terminating, hostilities.
From Verona we now come, with our plenipotentiary, to Paris.
I have admitted on a former occasion, and I am perfectly prepared to repeat the admission, that, after the dissolution of the congress of Verona, we might, if we had so pleased, have withdrawn ourselves altogether from any communication with France upon the subject of her Spanish quarrel;—that, having succeeded in preventing a joint operation against Spain, we might have rested satisfied with that success, and trusted, for the rest, to the reflections of France herself on the hazards of the project in her contemplation. Nay I will own that we did hesitate, whether, we should not adopt this more selfish and cautious policy. But there were circumstances attending the return of the duke of Wellington to Paris, which directed our decision another way. In the first place, we found, on the duke of Wellington's arrival in that capital, that M: de Villèle had sent back to Verona the drafts of the despatches of the three continental allies to their ministers at Madrid, which M. de Montmorency had brought with him from the congress;—had sent them 1490 back for re-consideration;—whether with a view to obtain a change in their context, or to prevent their being forwarded to their destination at all, did not appear: but, be that as it might, the reference itself was a proof of vacillation, if not of change, in the French counsels.
In the second place, it was notorious that a change was likely to take place in the cabinet of the Tuilleries, which did in fact take place shortly afterwards, by the retirement of M. de Montmorency: and M. de Montmorency was as notoriously the adviser of war against Spain.
In the third place, it was precisely at the time of the duke of Wellington's return to Paris that we received a direct and pressing overture from the Spanish government, which placed us in the alternative of either affording our good offices to Spain, or of refusing them.
This last consideration would perhaps alone have been decisive; but when it was coupled with the others which I have stated, and with the hopes of doing good which they inspired, I think it will be conceded to me that we should have incurred a fearful responsibility, if we had not consented to make the effort, which we did make, to effect an adjustment between France and Spain, through our mediation.
Add to this—that the question which we had now to discuss with France was a totally new question. It was no longer a question as to that general right of interference, which we had disclaimed and denied—disclaimed for ourselves and denied for others—in the conferences at Verona. France knew that upon that question our opinion was formed, and was unalterable. Our mediation therefore, if accepted by France, set out with the plain and admitted implication that the discussion must turn, not on the general principle, but upon a case of exception to be made out by France, showing to our satisfaction wherein Spain had offended and aggrieved her.
It has been observed, as if it were an inconsistency, that at Verona a discouraging answer had been given by our plenipotentiary to a hint that it might, perhaps, be advisable for us to offer our mediation with Spain; but that no sooner had the duke of Wellington arrived at Paris, than he was instructed to offer that mediation. Undoubtedly this is true: and the difference is one which flows out of, and verifies, the entire course of our policy at Verona. We declined mediating between Spain and an alliance assuming to 1491 itself that character of general superintendence of the concerns of nations. But a negotiation between kingdom and kingdom, in the old, intelligible, accustomed, European form, was precisely the issue to which we were desirous of bringing the dispute between France and Spain. We eagerly grasped at this chance of preserving peace; and the more eagerly because, as I have before said, we received, at that precise moment, the application from Spain for our good offices.
But France refused our offered mediation: and it has been represented by some gentlemen, that the refusal of our mediation by France was an affront which we ought to have resented. Sir, speaking not of this particular instance only, but generally of the policy of nations, I contend, without fear of contradiction, that the refusal of a mediation is no affront; and that, after the refusal of mediation, to accept or to tender good offices is no humiliation. I beg leave to cite an authority on such points, which, I think, will not be disputed. Martens, in the Dissertation which is prefixed to his collection of Treaties, distinguishing between mediation and good offices, lays it down expressly, that a nation may accept the good offices of another after rejecting her mediation. The following is the passage to which I refer:
"Amicable negotiations may take place, either between the powers themselves between whom a dispute has arisen, or jointly with a third power. The part to be taken by the latter, for the purpose of ending the dispute, differs essentially according to one or other of two cases; whether the power, in the first place, merely interposes its good offices to bring about an agreement; or, secondly, is chosen by the two parties, to act as a mediator between them." And he adds;—"mediation differs essentially from good offices; a state may accept the latter, at the same time that it rejects mediation."** "Les negotiations à l'amiable peuvent avoir lieu entre les Puissances settles entre lesquelles la dispute s'est elevée, soit avec le contours d'une tierce Puissance. La part que celle-ci pent prendre pour terminer le litige, diffère essentiellement d'après que 1° Elle interpose seulement ses bons offices pour moyenner un accommodement, ou que 2à Elle est choisi par les deux parties pour leur servir di médiateur."—Martens Droit de Gens, Tome1492 If there were any affront indeed in this case, it was an affront received equally from both parties; for Spain also declined our mediation, after having solicited our good offices, and solicited again our good offices, after declining our mediation. Nor is the distinction, however apparently technical, so void of reason as it may at first sight appear. There did not exist between France and Spain that corporeal, that material, that external ground of dispute, on which a mediation could operate. The offence, on the side of each party, was an offence rankling in the minds of each, from a long course of irritating discussions; it was to be allayed rather by appeal to the good sense of the parties, than by reference to any tangible object. To illustrate this;—Suppose, for example, that France had in time of peace possessed herself, by coup de main, if Nubirca;—or suppose any unsettled pecuniary claims on one side or the other,—or any litigation with respect to territory;—a mediator might be called in,—in the first case to recommend restitution,—in the others to estimate the amount of claim, or to adjust the terms of the compromise. There would, in either of these cases, be a tangible object for mediation. But where the difference was not external; where it arose from irritated feelings, from vague and perhaps exaggerated apprehensions, from charges not proved, nor perhaps capable of proof, on either side,—in such cases each party felt that there was nothing definite and precise which either could submit to the decision of a judge, or to the discretion of an arbitrator; though each might at the same time feel that the good offices of a third party, friendly to both, would be well employed to soothe exasperation, to suggest concession, and without probing to deeply the merits of the dispute, to exhort to mutual forbearance and oblivion. The difference is perfectly intelligible; and in fact, on the want of a due appreciation of the nature of that difference, turns much of the objection which has been raised against our having suggested concession to Spain.
Our mediation then, as I have said, was refused by Spain a well as by France:—but before it was offered to France, ourVI. P. 328.—And he subjoins in a note—"La Médiation diffère essentiellement de l'interposition de bons offices; on peut accepter ceux-ci, et rejetter la médiation.1493 good offices had been asked by Spain. They were asked in the despatch of M. San Miguel, which has been quoted with so much praise,—a praise in which I have no indisposition to concur. I agree in admiring that paper for its candour, manliness, and simplicity. But the hon. member for Westminster has misunderstood the early part of it. He has quoted it, as if it complained of some want of kindness on the part of the British government towards Spain. The complaint was quite of another sort. It complained of want of communication from this government, of what was passing at Verona. The substance; of this complaint was true; but in that want of communication there was no want of kindness. The date of M. San Miguel's despatch is the 15th of November*; the congress did not close till the 29th. It is true that I declined making any communication to Spain, of the transactions which were passing at Verona, whilst the congress was still sitting. I appeal to any man of honour, whether it would not have been ungenerous to our allies, to make such a communication, so long as we entertained the smallest hope that the result of the congress might not be hostile to Spain; and whether, considering the peculiar situation in which we were placed at that time, by the negotiation which we were carrying on at Madrid for the adjustment of our claims upon the Spanish government, such a communication would not have been liable to the suspicion that we were courting favour with Spain, at the expense of our allies, for our own separate objects? We might to be sure have said to her, "You complain of our reserve,—but you don't know how stoutly we are fighting your battles at Verona." But, Sir, I did hope that she never would have occasion to know that such battles had been fought for her. She never should have known it, if the negotiations had tuned out favourably. When the result proved unfavourable, I immediately made a full disclosure of what had passed; and with that disclosure, it is unnecessary to say, the Spanish government were, so far as Great Britain was concerned, entirely satisfied. The expressions of that satisfaction are scattered through sir W. A'Court's reports of M. San Miguel's subsequent conversations: and are to be found particularly in M.* See Papers, Class A. No. 7. p. 912.1494 San Miguel's note to sir W. A'Court,* of the 12th of January.
In the subsequent part of the despatch of M. San Miguel, of the 15th of November, (which we are now considering) that minister defines the course which he wishes Great Britain to pursue; and I desire to be judged and justified in the eyes of the warmest advocate for Spain, by no other rules than those laid down in that despatch.
"The acts to which I allude," says M. San Miguel, "would in no 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." Again—"England might act in this manner; being able, ought she so to act? and if she ought, has she acted so? In the wise, just and generous views of the government of St. James's no other answer can exist than the affirmative. Why then does she not notify to Spain what has been done, and what it is proposed to do in that mediatory sense (en aquel sentido mediador)? Are there weighty inconveniences which enjoin discretion, which show the necessity of secrecy? They do not appear to an ordinary penetration."
I have already told the House why I had not made such a notification; I have told them also that as soon as the restraint of honour was removed, I did make it; and that the Spanish government was perfectly satisfied with it. And with respect to the part which I have just quoted of' the despatch of M. San Miguel,—that in which he solicits our good offices, and points out the mode in which they are to be applied,—I am sure the House will see that we scrupulously followed his suggestions.
Most true it is, and lamentable as true,* See Papers, Class B. Inclosure in No. 16, p. 938.1495 That our representations to France were not successful. The hon. member for Westminster attributes our failure to the intrigues of Russia; and has told us of a abet made by the Russian ambassador in a Coffee-house at Paris, that he would force France into a war with Spain.
§ Mr. Canning.
— I assure the hon. gentleman that I understood him to state it as a fact: but if it was only conjecture, it is of a piece with the whole of the address Which he supports;—every paragraph of which teems with guesses and suppositions equally groundless.
The hon. member for Bridgenorth (Mr. Whitmore) has given a more correct opinion of the cause of the war. I believe, with him that the war was forced on the French government by the violence of a political party in France. I believe that at one time the French government hoped to avert it; and that up to the latest period, some members of that cabinet would gladly have availed themselves of the smallest loop-hole through which the Spanish government would have enabled them to find their retreat. But we, forsooth, are condemned as dupes, because our opponents gratuitously ascribe to France one settled, systematick and invariable line of policy;—because it is assumed that from the beginning France had but one purpose in view; and that she merely amused the British cabinet from time to time with pretences, which we ought to have had the sagacity to detect. If so, the French government had made singular sacrifices to appearance. M. de Montmorency was sent to Verona; he negotiated with the Allies; he brought home a result so satisfactory to France, that he was made a duke for his services. He had enjoyed his new title but a few days when he quitted his office. On this occasion I admit that I was a dupe,—I believe all the world were dupes with me,—for all understood this change of ministers to be indicative of a change in the counsels of the French cabinet,—a change from war to peace. For eight and nifty hours I certainly was under that delusion; but I soon found that it was only a Change, not of the question of war, but of the character of that question: a change as it was somewhat quaintly termed—from European to French. The duke M. de Montmorency, finding him- 1496 self unable to carry into effect the system of policy which he had engaged, at the congress, to support in the cabinet at Paris, in order to testify the sincerity of his engagement, promptly and most honourably resigned. But this event, honourable as it is to the duke M. de Montmorency, completely disproves the charge of dupery brought against us. That man is not a dupe, who, not foreseeing the vacillations of others, is not prepared to meet them; but he who is misled by false pretences put forward for the purpose of misleading him. Before a man can be said to be duped, there must have been some settled purpose concealed from him, and not discovered by him; but here there was a variation of purpose, a variation too, which, so far from considering it then, or now, as an evil, we then hailed and still consider as a good. It was no dupery on our part to acquiesce in a change of counsel on the part of the French cabinet, which proved the result of the congress at Verona to be such as I have described it,—by giving to the quarrel with Spain the character of a French quarrel.
If gentlemen will read over the correspondence about our offer of mediation, with this key,—they will understand exactly the meaning of the difference of tone between the duke M. de Montmorency and M. de Chateaubriand: they will observe that when I first described the question respecting Spain as a French question, the duke de Montmorency loudly maintained it to be a question toute Erropéenne; but that M. de Chateaubriand, upon my repeating the same description in the sequel of that correspondence, admitted it to be a question at once and equally toute Française et toute Européenne:—an explanation the exact meaning of which I acknowledge I do not precisely understand; but which, if it does not distinctly admit the definition of a question Française, seems at least to negative M. de Montmorency's definition of a question TOUTE Européenne.
In thus unavoidably introducing the names of the French ministers, I beg I may be understood to speak of them with respect and esteem. Of M. de Montmorency I have already said, that in voluntarily relinquishing his office, he made an honourable sacrifice to the sincerity of his opinions, and to the force of obligations which he had undertaken but could not fulfil. As to M. de Chateaubriand, with whom I have the honour of a personal acquain- 1497 tance, I admire his talents and his genius; I believe him to be a man of an upright mind, of untainted honour, and most capable of discharging adequately the high functions of the station which he fills. Whatever I may think of the political conduct of the French government in the present war, I think this tribute justly due to the individual character of M. de Chateaubriand. I think it further due to him in fairness, to correct a misrepresentation to which I have, however innocently, exposed him. From a despatch* of sir W. A'Court, which has been laid upon the table of the House, it appears as if M. de Chateaubriand had spoken of the failure of the mission of lord F. Somerset, as of an event which had actually happened, at a time when that nobleman had not even reached Madrid. I have recently received a corrected copy of that despatch, in which the tense employed in speaking of lord F. Somerset's mission is not past, but future; and the failure of that mission is only anticipated, not announced as having occurred. The despatch was sent in cypher to M. Lagarde (from whom sir W. A'Court received his copy of it); and nothing is more natural in such cases than a mistake in the inflection of a verb.
It is also just to the French minister for foreign affairs, to allude (although it is rather out of place in this argument) to another circumstance of which I yesterday received an explanation. A strong feeling has been excited in this country by the reported capture of a rich Spanish prize in the West Indies by a French ship of war. If the French captain had acted under orders, most unquestionably those orders must have been given at a time when the French government was most warm in its professions of a desire to maintain peace. If this had been the case, it might still perhaps be doubtful whether this country ought to be the first to complain. Formal declarations of war, anterior to warlike acts, have been for some time growing into disuse in Europe. The war of 1756, and the Spanish war in 1804, both it must be admitted, commenced with premature capture and anticipated hostilities, on the part of Great Britain.
But—be that as it may,—I wrote to sir C, Stuart, as soon as the intelligence readied this country, desiring him to require an explanation of the affair: the re-See Papers, Class B, No. 30, p. 952.1498 ply, as I have said, arrived yesterday, by a telegraphic communication from Paris. It runs thus—"Paris, April 28, 1823. We have not received any things official as to the prize made by the Jean Bart. This vessel had no instructions to make any such capture. If this capture has really been made, there must have been some particular circumstances which were the cause of it. In any case, the French government will see justice done." I have thought it right to clear up this transaction; and to show the promptitude of the French government in giving the required explanation. I now return to the more immediate subject of discussion;—and pass from France to Spain.
It has been maintained that it was an insult to the Spanish government, to ask them, as we did, for assurances of the safety of the royal family of Spain. Have I not already accounted for that suggestion?—I have shown that one of the causes of war, prospectively agreed upon at Verona, was any act of personal violence to the king of Spain or his family. I endeavoured, therefore, to obtain such assurances from Spain as should remove the apprehension of any such out rage,—not because the British cabinet thought those assurances necessary; but because it might be of the greatest advantage to the cause of Spain, that we should be able to proclaim our conviction, that upon this point there was nothing to apprehend: that we should thus possess the means of proving to France that she had no case, arising out of the conferences of Verona, to justify a war. Such assurances Spain might have refused—she would have refused them,—to France. To us she might—she did give them,—without lowering her dignity.
And here I cannot help referring, with some pain, to a speech delivered by an hon. and learned friend of mine last night, (sir J. Mackintosh) in which he dwelt upon this subject in a manner totally un, like himself. He pronounced a high-flown eulogy upon M. Arguelles: he envied him, he said, for many things; but he envied him most for the magnanimity which he had shown in sparing his sovereign.
§ Sir J. Mackintosh
said, that he had only used the word "sparing," as sparing the delicacy, not the life of the king.
§ Mr. Canning.
—I am glad to have occasioned this explanation: I have no doubt that my hon. and learned friend must have 1499 Intended so to express himself; for I am sure that he must agree with me in thinking that nothing could be more pernicious than to familiarize the world with the contemplating of events so calamitous. I am sure that my hon. and learned friend would not be forward to anticipate for the people of Spain, an outrage so alien to their character.
Great Britain asked these assurances then without offence; forasmuch as she asked them—not for herself,—not because she entertained the slightest suspicion of the supposed danger;—but because that danger constituted one of those hypothetical case on which alone France could claim eventual support from the allies; and because she wished to be able to satisfy France that she was not likely to have such a justification.
In the same spirit and with the like purpose, the British cabinet proposed to Spain to do that, without which not only, the disposition, but perhaps the power was wanting on the part of the French government, to recede from the menacing position which it had somewhat precipitately occupied.
And this brings me to the point on which the longest and fiercest battle has been fought against us—the suggestion to Spain of the expediency of modifying her constitution. As to this point, I should be perfectly contented, sir, to rest the justification of ministers upon the argument stated the night before last by a noble young friend of mine (lord F. L. Gower), in a speech which, both from what it promised and what it performed, was heard with delight by the House. If ministers, my noble friend observed, had refused to offer such suggestions; and if, being called to account for that refusal, they had rested their defence on the ground of delicacy to Spain, would they not have been taunted with something like these observations,—"What!—had you not among you,—a member of your government, sitting at the same council board,—a man whom you ought to have considered as an instrument furnished by Providence, at once to give efficacy to your advice, and to spare the delicacy of the Spanish nation? Why did not employ the duke of Wellington for this purpose? Did you forget the services which he had rendered to Spain, or did you imagine that Spain had forgotten them? Might not any advice, however unpalatable, have been offered by such a 1500 benefactor, without liability to offence or misconstruction? Why did you neglect so happy an opportunity, and leave unemployed so fit an agent? Oh! blind to the interests of the Spanish people—Oh! insensible to the feelings of human nature!" Such an argument would have been unanswerable; and, however the intervention of Great Britain has failed, I would much rather have to defend myself against the charge of having tendered advice officiously, than against that of having stupidly neglected to employ the means which the possession of such a man as the duke of Wellington put into the hands of the government, for the salvation of a nation which he had already once rescued from destruction.
With respect to the Memorandum of the noble duke, which has been so much the subject of cavil,—it is the offspring of a manly mind, pouring out its honest opinions with an earnestness characteristic of sincerity, and with a zeal too warm to stand upon nice and scrupulous expression. I am sure that it contains nothing but what the noble duke really thought; I am sure that what he thought at the time of writing it, he would still maintain: and what he thinks and maintains regarding Spain, must, I should imagine, be received with respect and confidence by all who do not believe themselves to be better qualified to judge of Spain than he is. Whatever may be thought of the duke of Wellington's suggestions here, confident I am that there is not an individual in Spain to whom this paper was communicated, who took it as an offence; or who did not to full justice to the motives of the adviser, whatever they might think of the immediate practicability of his advice. Would to God that some part of it, at least, had been accepted!—I admit the point of honour—I respect those who have acted upon it—I do not blame the Spaniards that they refused to make any sacrifice to temporary necessity:—but still—still I lament the result of that refusal. Of this I am quite sure, that even if the Spaniards were justified in objecting to concede, it would have been a most romantic point of honour which should have induced Great Britain to abstain from recommending concession.
It is said that every thing was required of Spain, and nothing of France. I utterly deny it. I have already described the relative situation of the two countries: I will repeat, though the term has been 1501 so much criticized, that they had no external point of difference. France said to Spain, "Your revolution disquiets me;" and Spain replied to France, "Your Army of Observation disquiets me." There were but two remedies to this state of tlrings—War, or Concession; and why was England fastidiously, and (as I think), most mistakenly, to say, "Our notions of non-interference are so strict, that we cannot advise you even for your safety: thought, whatever concession you may make, may probably by met by corresponding concession on the part of France?"—Undoubtedly the withdrawing of the Army of Observation would have been, if not purely yet in a great degree, an internal measure on the part of France; and one which, though I will not assert it to be precisely equivalent with the alteration by Spain of any fault in her constitition,—yet, considering its immediate practical advantage to Spain, would not, I think, have been to dearly purchased by such an alteration. That France was called upon to make the corresponding concession appears as well from the memorandum of the duke of Wellington, as from the dispatches of sir Charles Stuart, and from mine; and this concession was admitted by M. San Miguel to be the object which Spain most desired. England saw that war must be the inevitable consequence of the existing state of things between the two kingdoms; and, if something were yielded on the one side, it would undoubtedly have been for England to insist upon a countervailing sacrifice on the other.
The propriety of maintaining the Army of Observation depended wholly upon the truth of the allegations on which France justified its continuance. I do not at all mean to say that the truth of those allegations was to be taken for granted. But what I do mean to say is, that is was not the business of the British government to go into a trial and examine evidence, to ascertain the foundation of the conflicting allegations on either side. It was clear that nothing but some modification of the Spanish constitution could avert the calamity of war; and, in applying the means in our hands to that object, (an object interesting not to Spain only, but to England, and to Europe,) it was not our business to take up the cause of either party, and to state it with the zeal and with the aggravations of an advocate; but rather to endeavour to reduce the demands of 1502 each within such limits as might afford a reasonable hope of mutual conciliation.
Grant, even, that the justice was wholly on the side of Spain; still, in entreating the Spanish ministers, with a view to peace, to abate a little of their just pretensions, the British government did not go beyond the duty which, the law of nations prescribes. No, Sir: it was our duty to induce. Spain to relax something of her positive right, for a purpose so essential to her own interests and to those of the world. Upon this point let me fortify myself once more by reference to the acknowledged law of nations. "The duty of a 'mediator,' says Vattel,* "is to favour well-founded claims, and, to effect the restoration to each party of what belongs to him; but he ought not scrupulously to insist on rigid justice. He is a conciliator, not a judge: his business is to procure peace; and he ought to induce him who has right on his side, to relax something of his pretensions, if necessary, with a view to so great a blessing.
The conduct of the British government is thus fortified by an authority, not interested, not partial, not special in its application; but universal—untinctured by favor—uninfluenced by the circumstances of any particular case, and applicable to the general concerns and dealings of mankind. Is it not plain then that we have been guilty of no violation of duty towards the weaker party? Our duty, Sir, was discharged not only without any unfriendly bias against Spain; but with tenderness, with preference, with partiality in her favour: and while I respect (as I have already said) the honourable obstinacy of the Spanish character, so deeply am I impressed with the desirableness of peace for Spain, that, should the opportunity recur, I would again, without scruple, tender the same advice to her government. The point of honour was in truth rather individual than national: but the safety put to hazard was assuredly that of the whole nation. Look at the* "Le devoir d'un médiateur est bien de favoriser le bon driot, de faire rendre à chacun ce qui lui appartient; mais il ne doit point insister scrupuleusement su une justice rigoureuse. II est conciliateur, et non pas juge: sa vocation est de procurer la paix; et il diot porter celui qui a le droit de son côté à relâcher quelque chose s'il est nécessaire, dans la vue d'un si grand bien."—L. II. c. 18, Sec. 328.1503 state of Spain; and consider whether the filling up a blank in the scheme of her representative constitution with an amount, more or less high, of qualification, for the members of the cortes—whether the promising to consider hereafter of some modifications in other questionable points—was too much to be conceded—if by such a sacrifice peace could have been preserved! If we had declined to interfere on such grounds of punctilio, would not the very passage which I have now read from Vattel as our vindication, have been brought against us with justice as a charge?
I regret, deeply regret, for the sake of Spain, that our efforts failed. I must fairly add that I regret it for the sake of France also. Convinced as I may be of the injustice of the course pursued by the French government, I cannot shut my eyes to its impolicy. I cannot lose sight of the gallant character and mighty resources of the French nation, of the central situation of France, and of the weight which she ought to preserve in the scale of Europe; I cannot he insensible to the dangers to which she is exposing herself; nor omit to reflect what the consequences may be to that country—what the consequences to Europe—of the hazardous enterprise in which she is now engaged; and which, for ought that human prudence can foresee, may end in a dreadful revulsion. As mere matter of abstract right, morality, perhaps, ought to be contented when injury recoils upon an aggressor. But such a revulsion as I am speaking of, would not affect France alone: it would touch the continental states at many points: it would touch even Great Britain. France could not be convulsed without communicating danger to the very extremities of Europe. With this conviction, I confess I thought any sacrifice, short of national honour or national independence, cheap, to prevent the first breach in that pacific settlement, by which the miseries and agitations of the world have been so recently composed.
I apologize, Sir, for the length of time, which I have consumed upon these points. The case complicated; the transactions have been much misunderstood, and the opinions regarding them are various and. discordant. The true understanding of the case, however, and the vindication of the conduct of government, would be matters of comparatively light importance, it censure or approbation for the past 1504 were the only result in contemplation. But considering that we are now only at the threshold, as it were, of the war, and that great events are pending in which England may hereafter be called upon to take her part, it is of the utmost importance that no doubt should rest upon the conduct and policy of this country.
One thing more there is, which I must not forget to notice with regard to the advice given to Spain. I have already mentioned the duke of Wellington as the chosen instrument of that counsel: a Spaniard by adoption, by title, and by property, he had a right to offer the suggestions which he thought fit, to the government of the country which had adopted him. But it has been complained that the British government would have induced the Spaniards to break an oath: that, according to the oath taken by the cortes, the Spanish institutions could be revised only at the expiration of eight years; and that by calling upon the cortes to revise them before that period was expired, we urged them to incur the guilt of perjury. Sir, this supposed restriction is assumed gratuitously. There are two opinions upon it in Spain. One party calculates the eight years from the time which has elapsed since the first establishment of the constitution; the other reckons only the time during which it has been in operation. The latter insist that the period has yet, at least, two years to run, because the constitution has been in force only from 1812 to 1814, and from 1820 to the present time: those who calculate from the original establishment of it in 1812, argue of course that more than the eight years are already expired, and that the period of revision is fully come. I do not pretend to decide between these two constructions: but I assert that they are both Spanish constructions. A Spaniard of no mean name and reputation—one eminently friendly to the constitution of 1812—by whose advice ministers were in this respect guided, gave it as his opinion, that not only consistently with their oath, but in exact fulfilment of it, the Spaniards might now reconsider and modify their constitution—that they might have done so nearly three years ago. "Shall I lay perjury upon my soul?" say the cortes. The answer is, "No; we do not ask you to lay perjury upon your souls; for as good a Spanish soul as is possessed by any of you declares, that 1505 you may now, in due conformity to your oaths, reconsider, and, where advisable, reform your constitution." Do we not know what constructions have been put, in this country, on the coronation oath—as to its operation on what is called the Catholic question? Will any man say that it has been my intention, or the intention of my hon. friend the member for Bramber, every time that we have supported a motion for communicating to our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects the full benefit of the constitution, to lay perjury on the soul of the sovereign?
Sir, I do not pretend to decide whether the number of legislative Chambers in Spain should be one, or two, or three. In God's name let them try what experiment in political science they will, provided we are, not affected by the trial. All that Great Britain has done on this occasion has been, not to disturb the course of political experiment, but to endeavour to avert the calamity of war. Good God! when it is remembered how many evils are compressed into that little word "war"—is it possible for any man to hesitate in urging every expedient that could avert it, without sacrificing the honour of the party to which his advice was tendered? Most earnestly do I wish that the duke of Wellington had succeeded: but great is the consolation that, according to the best accounts from Spain, his counsels have not been misunderstood there, however they have been misrepresented here. I believe that I might with truth go further, and say, that there are those in Spain who now repent the rigid course pursued, and who are beginning to ask each other—why they held out so pertinaciously against suggestions at once so harmless and so reasonable? My wish was, that Spain should be saved; that she should be saved before the extremity of evil had come upon her—even by the making of those concessions which, in the heat of national pride, she refused. Under any circumstances, however, I have still another consolation—the consolation of knowing, that never from the commencement of these negotiation, has Spain been allowed by the British government to be under the delusion that her refusal of all modifications would induce England to join her in the war. The very earliest communication made to Spain forbade her to entertain any such reliance. She was told at the beginning, as she was told in the end, that neutrality was our deter- 1506 mined policy. From the first to the last there was never the slightest variation in this language—never a pause during which she could be for one moment in doubt as to the settled purpose of England.
France, on the contrary, was never assured of the neutrality of England, till my despatch of the 31st of March (the last of the first series of printed papers,) was communicated to the French ministry at Paris. The speech of the king of France, on the opening of the Chambers (I have no difficulty in saying), excited not only strong feelings of disapprobation by the principles which it avowed, but serious apprehensions for future, from the designs which it appeared to disclose. I have no difficulty in saying that the speech delivered from the British throne at the commencement of the present session, did, as originally drawn, contain an avowal of our intention to preserve neutrality; but upon the arrival of the king of France's speech, the paragraph containing that avowal was withdrawn. Nay I have no difficulty in adding, that I plainly told the French Chargé d'Affaires, that such an intimation had been intended, but that it was withdrawn, in consequence of the speech of the king, his master. Was this truckling to France?
It was not, however, on account of Spain that the pledge of neutrality was withdrawn: it was withdrawn upon principles of general policy on the part of this country. It was withdrawn, because there was that in the king of France's speech, which appeared to carry the two countries (France and England) back to their position in older times when France, as regarded the affairs of Spain, had been the successful rival of England. Under such circumstances, it behoved the English ministers to be upon their guard. We were upon our guard. Could we prove our caution more than by with-holding that assurance, which would at once have set France at ease? We did withhold that assurance. But it was one thing to withhold the declaration of neutrality, and another to vary the purpose.
Spain, then, I repeat, has never been misled by the British government. But I fear, nevertheless, that a notion was in some way or other created at Madrid, that if Spain would but hold out resolutely, the government of England would be forced by the popular voice in this country, to take part in her favour. I infer no blame against any one; but I do 1507 firmly believe that such a notion was propagated in Spain, and that it had great share in producing the peremptory refusal of any modification of the constitution of 1812. Regretting, as I do, the failure of our endeavours to adjust those disputes which now threaten so much evil to the world; I am free at least from the self-reproach of having contributed to that delusion in the mind of the Spanish government or nation, as to the eventual decision of England, which, if' it existed in such a degree as to produce reliance upon our co-operation, must have added to the other calamities of her present situation, the bitterness of disappointment.—This disappointment, Sir, was from the beginning, certain, inevitable: for the mistake of those who excited the hopes of Spain was not only as to the conduct of the British government, but as to the sentiments of the British nation. No man, whatever his personal opinion or feeling may be, will pretend that the opinion of the country is not decidedly against war. No man will deny that, if ministers had plunged the country into a war for the sake of Spain, they would have come before parliament with a heavier weight of responsibility than had ever lain upon the shoulders of any government. I impute not to those who may thus have misled the Spanish ministry, the intention either of thwarting (though such was the effect) the policy of their own government, or of aggravating (though such must be the consequence) the difficulties of Spain. But for myself I declare, that even the responsibility of plunging this country into an unnecessary war, would have weighed less heavily upon my conscience, than that, which I thank God I have not incurred, of instigating Spain to the war, by exciting hopes of assistance which I had not the means of realising.
I have thus far, Sir, taken the liberty of assuming that the late negotiations were properly directed to the preservation of peace; and have argued the merits of the negotiations, on that assumption. I am aware that it is still to be established, that peace, under all the circumstances of the times, was the proper course for this country. I address myself nosy to that branch of the subject.
I believe I may venture to take it as universally admitted, that any question of war involves not only a question of right, not only a question of justice, but also a question of expediency. I take it to be admitted on 1508 all hands, that before any government determines to go to war, it ought to be convinced not only that it has just cause of war; but that there is something which renders war its duty; a duty compounded of two considerations—the first, what the country may owe to others; the second, what she owes to herself. I do not know whether any gentleman on the other side of the House, has thought it worth while to examine and weigh these considerations; but ministers had to weigh them well before they took their resolution. Minister did weigh them well; wisely I hope; I am sure conscientiously and deliberately; and, if they came to the decision that peace was they policy prescribed to them, that decision was founded on a reference, 1st, to the situation of Spain; 2ndly, to the situation of France; 3rdly, to the situation of Portugal; 4thly, to the situation of Alliance; 5thly, to the peculiar situation of England; and lastly to the general state of the world.—And first, Sir, as to Spain.
The only gentleman, by whom (as it seems to me) this part of the question has been fairly and boldly met, is the hon. member for Westminster; (Mr. Hobhouse.) who in his speech of yesterday evening—(a speech which, however extravagant, as I may perhaps think, in its tone, was perfectly intelligible and straight-forward), not only declared himself openly for war, but—aware that one of the chief sinews of war is money—did no less than offer a subsidy to assist in carrying in on. He declared that his constituents were ready to contribute all their means to invigorate the hands of government in the war; but he annexed, to be sure, the trifling condition, that the war was to be a war of people against kings. Now this, which it must be owned, was no un-important qualification of the hon, member's offer of assistance, is also one to which, I confess, I am not quite prepared to accede. I do not immediately remember any case in which such a principle of war has been professed by any government, except in the decree of the National Convention of the year 1793, which laid the foundation of the war between this country and France;—the decree which offered assistance to all nations who would shake off the tyranny of their rulers.
Even the hon. member for Westminster, therefore, is after all but conditionally in favour of war: and, even in that conditional pledge he had been supported by so 1509 few members that I cannot help suspecting that if I were to proceed on the faith of his encouragement, I should find myself left with the hon. gentleman, pretty nearly in the situation of king James with his bishops. King James, we all remember, asked bishop Neale if he might not take his subjects' money without the authority of parliament? To which bishop Neale replied "God forbid, sire, but you should; you are the breath of our nostrils." The king then turned to bishop Andrews, and repeated the same question; when bishop Andrews answered, "Sire, I think it is lawful for your majesty to take my brother Neale's money, for he offers it." Now, if I were to appeal to the House, on the hint of the hon. gentleman, I should, indeed, on his own terms, have an undoubted tight to the money of the hon. gentleman, but if the question were put, for instance, to the hon. member for Surrey, (Mr. H. Sumner)—his answer would probably be, "You may take my brother of West-minster's money, as he says his constituents have authorized him to offer it; but my constituents have certainly given me no such authority."
But however single, or however conditional—the voice of the hon. member for Westminster is still for war; and he does me the honour to tempt me to take the same course, by reminding me of a passage in my political life to which I shall ever look back with pride and satisfaction. I allude to that period when the bold spirit of Spain burst forth indignant against the oppression of Buonaparte, Then unworthily filling the same office which I have the honour to hold at the present moment, I discharged the glorious duty (if a portion of glory may attach to the humble instrument of' a glorious cause)—of recognizing without delay the rights of the Spanish nation, and of at once adopting that gallant people into the closest amity with England. It was indeed a stirring, a kindling occasion; and no man who has a heart in his bosom, can think even now of the noble enthusiasm, the animated exertions, the undaunted courage, the unconquerable perseverance of the Spanish nation, in a cause apparently so desperate, finally so triumphant,—without feeling his blood glow and his pulses quicken with tumultuous throbs of admiration. But I must remind the hon. gentleman of three circumstances calculated to qualify a little the feelings of en- 1510 thusiasm, and to suggest lessons of cantion;—I must remind him first of the state of this country,—secondly of that of Spain—at that period, as compared with the present:—and thirdly of' the manner in which the enterprize in behalf of Spain was viewed by certain parties in this country. We are now at peace. In 1808, we were already at war—we were at war with Buonaparte, the invader of Spain. In 1808, we were, as now, the allies of Portugal, bound by treaty to defend her from aggression—but Portugal was at that time not only menaced by the power of France, but over run by it; her royal family was actually driven into exile, and their kingdom occupied by the French. Bound by treaty to protect Portugal, how natural was it under such circumstances to extend our assistance to Spain!—Again Spain was at that time, comparatively speaking, an united nation. I do not mean to say that there were no differences of opinion; I do not mean to deny that some few among the higher classes had been corrupted by the gold of France: but still the great bulk of the people were united in one cause; their loyalty to their sovereign had survived his abdication; and though absent and a prisoner, the name of Ferdinand 7th, was the rallying point of the nation. But let the House look at the situation in which England would be placed should she, at the present moment, march her armies to the aid of Spain. As against France alone, her task might not be more difficult than before; but is it only with France that she would now have to contend? England could not strike in the cause of Spain against the invading foe alone. Fighting in Spanish ranks, should we not have to point our bayonets against Spanish bosoms?—But this is not the whole of the difference between the present moment, and the year 1808. In 1808, we had a large army prepared for foreign service; a whole war establishment ready appointed; and the simple question was, in what quarter we could best apply its force against the common enemy of England, of Spain, of Portugal—of Europe. This country had not hopes of peace: our abstinence from the Spanish war could in no way have accelerated the return of that blessing; and the Paninsula presented, plainly and obviously, the theatre of exertion in which we could contend with most advantage. Compare then, I say, that period with a present; in which 1511 none of the inducements, or incitements, which I have described as belonging to the opportunity of 1808, can be found.
But is the absence of inducement and incitement, all? Is there no positive discouragement in the recollections of that time, to check too hasty a concurrence in the warlike views of the honourable member for Westminster? When England, in 1808, under all the circumstances which I have enumerated, did not hesitate to throw upon the banks of the Tagus, and to plunge into all the difficulties of the Peninsular war, an army destined to emerge in triumph through the Pyrennees,—was that course hailed with sympathy and exultation by all parties in the state? Were there no warnings against danger? No chastisements for extravagance? No doubts—no complaints—no charges of rashness and impolicy?—I have heard of persons, Sir—persons of high authority, too—who, in the very midst of the general exaltation of spirit throughout this country, declared—that, "in order to warrant England in embarking in a military co-operation with Spain, something more was necessary than to show that the Spanish cause was just." "It was not enough," said these enlightened monitors, "it was not enough that the attack of France upon the Spanish nation was unprincipled, perfidious, and cruel—that the resistance of Spain was dictated by every principle, and sanctioned by every motive honourable to human nature—that it made every English heart burn with a holy zeal to lend its assistance against the oppressor:—there were other considerations of a less brilliant and enthusiastic, but not less necessary and commanding nature, which should have preceded the determination of putting to hazard the most valuable interests of the country. It is not with nations as with individuals. Those heroic virtues which shed a lustre upon individual man, must, in their application to the conduct of nations, be chastened by reflections of a more cautious and calculating cast. That generous magnanimity high-minded disinterestedness, proud distinctions of national virtue (and happy were the people whom they characterize), which, when exercised at the risk of every personal interest, in the prospect of every danger, and at the sacrifice even of life itself; justly immortalize the hero, cannot and ought not to be considered justifiable motives of political action; because na- 1512 tions cannot afford to be chivalrous and romantic." History is philosophy teaching by example; and the words of the wise are treasured for ages that are to come.
"The age of chivalry," said Mr. Burke, "is gone; and age of economists and calculators has succeeded!" That an age of economists and calculators is come, we have indeed every night's experience. But what would be the surprise, and at the same time the gratification, of the mighty spirit of Burke, at finding his splendid lamentation so happily disproved! At seeing that chivalrous spirit, the total extinction of which he deplored, revive, quâ minimé reris,—on the very benches of the economists and calculators themselves! But, in truth, Sir, revives at a most inconvenient opportunity. It would be as ill-advised to follow a chivalrous impulse now, as it would in 1808 have been inexcusable to disobey it. Under the circumstances of 1808, I would again act as I then acted. But though inapplicable to the period to which it was applied, I confess I think the caution which I have just quoted does apply with considerable force to the present moment.
Having shown, then, that in reference to the state of Spain, war was not the course prescribed by any rational policy to England, let us next try the question in reference to France. I do not stop here to refute and disclaim again the unworthy nation, which was early put forward, but had been since silently retracted and disowned, that it might have been advisable to try the chance of what might be effected by a menace of war, unsupported by any serious design of carrying that menace into execution. Those by whom this meaœuvre was originally supposed to be recommended are, I understand, anxious to clear themselves from the suspicion of having intended to countenance it; and profess indeed to wonder by whom such an idea can have been entertained. Be it so. I will not press the point invidiously: it is not necessary for my argument. I have a right, then, to take it as admitted, that we could not have threatened war, without, being thoroughly prepared for it; and that in determining to threaten, we must virtually have determined (whatever the chances of escaping that ultimate result) to go to war:—that the determinations were in fact identical.
Neither will I discuss over again that other proposition, already sufficiently ex- 1513 hausted in former debates, of the applicability of a purely maritime war to a struggle in aid of Spain, in the campaign by which her fate is to be decided. I will not pause to consider what consolation it would have been to the Spanish nation—what source of animation, and what encouragement to perseverance in resisting their invader—to learn, that though we could not, as in the last war, march to their aid, and mingle our banners with theirs in battle, we were, nevertheless, scouring their coasts for prizes, and securing to ourselves an indemnification for our own expenses, in the capture of Martinico.
To go to war therefore directly, unsparingly, vigorously, against France, in behalf of Spain, in the way in which alone Spain could derive any essential benefit from our co-operation—to join her with heart and hand;—or—to wrap ourselves up in a real and bona fide neutrality—that was the true alternative.
Some gentlemen have blamed me for a want of enthusiasm upon this occasion—some too, who formerly blamed me for an excess of that quality;—but, though I am charged with not being now sufficiently enthusiastic, I assure them that I do not contemplate the present contest with indifference, Far otherwise. I contemplate, I confess, with fearful anxiety, the peculiar character of the war in which France and Spain are engaged; and the peculiar direction which that character may possibly give to it. I was—I still am—an enthusiast for national independence; but I am not, I hope I never shall be, an enthusiast in favour of Revolution. And yet how fearfully are these two considerations intermingled, in the present contest between France and Spain! This is no war for territory, or for commercial advantages. It is unhappily a war of principle. France has invaded Spain from enmity to her new institutions. Supposing the enterprise of France not to succeed, what is there to prevent Spain from invading France, in return, from hatred of the principle upon which her invasion has been justified? Looking upon both sides with an impartial eye, I may avow that I know no equity which should bar the Spaniards from taking such a revenge. But it becomes quite another question whether I should choose to take place myself under the necessity of actively contributing to successes, which might inflict on France so terrible a retribution.—If I admit that such a retribution by the 1514 party first attacked, could scarcely be censured as unjust; still the punishment retorted upon the aggressor would be so dreadful, that nothing short of having received direct injury could justify any third power in taking part in it.
War between France and Spain (as the duke of Wellington has said), must always, to a certain degree partake of the character of a civil war; a character which palliates if it does not justify, many acts that do not belong to a regular contest between two nations. But why should England voluntarily enter into a co-operation in which she must either take part in such acts, or be constantly rebuking and coercing her allies?—If we were at war with France upon any question such as I must again take the liberty of describing by the term "external" question, we should not think ourselves—(I trust no government of this country would think itself)—justified in employing against France the arms of internal revolution.—But what, I again ask, is there to restrain Spain from such means of defensive retaliation, in a struggle begun by France avowedly from enmity to the internal institutions of Spain? And is it in such a quarrel that we would mix ourselves? If one of two contending parties poisons the well-springs of national liberty, and the other employs against its adversary the venomed weapons of political fanaticism—shall we voluntarily and unnecessarily associate ourselves with either, and become responsible for the infliction upon either, of such unusual calamities? While I reject, therefore, with disdain a suggestion, which I have somewhere heard, of the possibility of our engaging against the Spanish cause; still I do not feel myself called upon to join with Spain in hostilities of such peculiar character as those which she may possibly retaliate upon France. Not being bound to do so by any obligation expressed or implied, I cannot consent to be a party to a war, in which, if Spain should chance to be successful, the result to France, and through France to all Europe, might in the case supposed, be such as no thinking man can contemplate without dismay; and such as I (for my own part) would not assist in producing, for all the advantages which England could reap from the most successful warfare.
I now come to the third consideration which we had to weigh—the situation of Portugal. It is perfectly true, as was 1515 stated by the hon. gentleman who opened this debate, that we are bound by treaty to assist Portugal in case of her being attacked. It is perfectly true that this is an ancient and reciprocal obligation. It is perfectly true that Portugal has often been in jeopardy; and equally true that England has never failed to fly to her assistance. But much misconception has been exhibited during the last two nights, with respect to the real nature of the engagements between Portugal and this country; a misconception which has undoubtedly been, in part, created by the publication of some detached portions of diplomatic correspondence, at Lisbon. The truth is, that some time ago an application was made to this government by Portugal to "guarantee the new political institutions" of that kingdom. I do not know that it has been the practice of this country to guarantee the political institutions of another. Perhaps something of the sort may be found in the history of our connection with the United Provinces of Holland, in virtue of which we interfered in 1786 in the internal disputes of the authorities in that state. But that case was a special exception: the general rule is undoubtedly the other way. I declined therefore on the part of Great Britain, to accede to this strange application; and I endeavoured to reconcile the Portuguese government to our refusal, by showing that the demand was one which went directly to the infraction of that principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, which we professed for ourselves; and which it was obviously the interest of Portugal to see respected and maintained. Our obligations had been contracted with the old Portuguese monarchy. Our treaty bound us to consult the external safety of Portugal; and not to examine, to challenge, or to champion its internal institutions. If we examined their new institutions for the sake of deriving from them new motives for fulfilling our old engagements, with what propriety could we prohibit other powers from examining them for the purpose of drawing any other conclusion?—It was enough to say, that such internal changes no way affected our engagements with Portugal; that we felt ourselves as much bound to defend her, under her altered constitution, as under the ancient monarchy with which our alliance had been contracted. More than this we could not say and more than this it was not her interest to require.
1516 And what is the obligation of this alliance? To defend Portugal, to assist her, if necessary, with all our forces, in case of an unprovoked attack upon her territory. This however, does not give to Portugal any right to call on us, if she were attacked in consequence of her voluntarily declaring war against another power. By engaging in the cause of Spain, without any direct provocation from France, she would unquestionably lose all claim upon our assistance. The rendering that assistance would then become a question of policy, not of duty, Surely, my hon. and learned friend, (sir J. Mackintosh), who has declaimed so loudly on this subject, known as well as any man, that the course which we are bound to follow in any case affecting Portugal, is marked out in our treaties with that crown, with singular accuracy and circumspection. In case of the suspicion of any design being entertained against Portugal by another power, our first duty is to call on such power for explanation: in case of such interposition failing we are to support Portugal by arms; first with a limited force, and afterwards with all our might. This treaty we have fulfilled to the letter, in the present instance. We long ago reminded France of our engagements with Portugal; and we have received repeated assurances that it is the determination of France rigidly to respect the independence of the kingdom. Portugal certainly did show some jealousy (as had been asserted) with respect to the congress of Verona; and she applied to this government to know whether her affairs had been brought before the congress. I was half afraid of giving offence, when I said "The name of Portugal was never mentioned."
"What, not mentioned? Not a word about the new institutions?" "No, not one. If mentioned at all, it was only with reference to the Slave trade." In truth, from the beginning to the close of the proceedings of the congress, not the most distant intimation was given of any unfriendly design against Portugal.
Now, before I quit the Peninsula, a single word more to the hon. member for Westminster and his constituents. Have they estimated the burthens of a Peninsular war? God forbid that, if honour, or good faith, or national interest required it, we should decline the path of duty because it is encompassed with difficulties? But at least we ought to keep some consideration of these difficulties in our minds. We have experience to teach 1517 us with something like accuracy, what are the pecuniary demands of the contest for which we must be prepared, if we enter into a war in the Peninsula. To take only two years and a half of the last Peninsular war, of which I happen to have the accounts at hand—from the beginning of 1812, to the glorious conclusion of the campaign of 1814—the expense incurred in Spain and Portugal was about 33,000,000l. Is that an expense to be incurred again, without some peremptory and unavoidable call of duty, of honour, or of interest?
Such a call we are at all times ready to answer, come—(to use the expression so much decried) come what may. But there is surely sufficient ground for pausing, before we acquiesce in the short and flippant deduction of a rash consequence from false premises, which has been so glibly echoed from one quarter to another, during the last four months.—"O!—we must go to war with France—for we are bound to go to war in defence of Portugal. Portugal will certainly join Spain against France; France will then attack Portugal; and then our defensive obligation comes into play." Sir, it does no such thing. If Portugal is attacked by France, or by any other power, without provocation, Great Britain is indeed bound to defend her; but if Portugal wilfully seeks the hostility of France, by joining against France in a foreign quarrel, there is no such obligation on Great Britain. The letter of treaties* is as clear, as the law of natitions† is precise, upon this point; and as I believe no British statesman ever lived, so I hope none ever will live, unwise enough to bind his country by so preposterous an obligation, as that she should go to war, not merely in defence of an ally, but at the will and beck of that ally,* (Extract of the treaty of defensive alliance, between Great Britain, Portugal, and the States General, signed at Lisbon, May 16th, 1703.)Art. II. If ever it shall happen that the kings of Spain and France, either the present or future, that both of them together, or either of them separately, shall make war, or give occasion to suspect that they intend to make war upon the kingdom of Portugal, either on the continent of Europe or in its dominions beyond seas; her majesty the queen of Great Britain, and the lords the states 1518 whenever ambition or false policy, or a predominant faction may plunge that ally into wars of her own seeking and contriving.On the other hand, would it have been advisable for us to precipitate Portugal into the war? Undoubtedly we might have done so. For by declaring war against France, on behalf of Spain, we should have invited France (and there was perhaps a party in Portugal ready enough to second the invitation), to extend her hostilities to the whole of the Peninsula. But was it an object of sound policy to bring a war upon our hands, of which it was clear that we must bear all the burthen? And was not the situation of Portugal, then, so far from being a reason for war, that it added the third motive, and one of the greatest weight, to our preference for a pacific policy?
Fourthly.—As to our Continental allies. There was surely nothing in their situation to induce Great Britain to take a part in the war. Their ministers have indeed been withdrawn from Madrid; but no alarm has been excited by that act, in Spain. No case has occurred which gives to France a right to call for the assistance of the allies. But had the British government taken a decided part in support of the Spaniards, a material change might have been produced in the aspectgeneral, shall use their friendly offices with the said kings, or either of them, In order to persuade them to observe the terms of peace towards Portugal, and not to make war upon it.Art. III. But these good offices not proving successful, but altogether ineffectual, so that war should be made by the aforesaid kings, or by either of them, upon Portugal; the above mentioned powers of Great Britain and Holland shall make war, with all their force, upon the aforesaid king or kings, who shall carry hostile arms into Portugal.† "Sed et hic distinguendum est, an Fœderatus meus injuriam patiatur, an ipse inferat; si patiatur, promissa implebo; si inferat, non implebo;"—"Cum pacta aiant 'qui bello petitur,' eorum alia interpretatio esse nequit, quàm ei Fœderato auxilia præstitum iri, qui nullo jure lacessitur bello—qui ab hoste petitur, non qui hostem ipse petit.Bynkershoek, Lib I. Cap. IX, p. 72. 1519 of affairs. Spain, who has now to contend with France alone, might in that case have had to contend with other and more overwhelming forces.—Without pushing these considerations further, enough surely has been said, to indicate the expediency of adhering to that line of policy which we successfully pursued at Verona; and of endeavouring by our example as well as by our influence, to prevent the complication and circumscribe the range of hostilities. Let it be considered, how much the duration and the disasters of a war may depend upon the multitude or the fewness of its elements; and how much the accession of any new party or parties to a war, must add to the difficulties of pacification.
I come next to consider the situation of this country. And first, as to our ability for the undertaking of a war. I have already said, that the country is yet rich enough in resources—in means—in strength—to engage in any contest to which national honour may call her; but I must at the same time be allowed to say, that her strength has very recently been strained to the utmost; that her means are at that precise stage of recovery, which makes it most desirable that the progress of that recovery should not be interrupted—that her resources, now in a course of rapid reproduction, would, by any sudden check, be thrown into a disorder more deep and difficult of cure. It is in reference to this particular condition of the country, that I said on a former evening, what the hon. member for Surrey (Mr. H. Sumner.) has since done me the honour to repeat.—"If we are to be driven into war, sooner or later, let it be later:"—let it be after we have had time to turn, as it were, the corner of our difficulties—after we shall have retrieved a little more effectively our exhausted resources—and have assured ourselves of means and strength not only to begin, but to keep up the conflict; if necessary, for an indefinite period of time.
For, let no man flatter himself that a war now entered upon would be a short one. Have we so soon forgotten the course and progress of the last war? For my part, I remember well the anticipations with which it began. I remember hearing a man, who will be allowed to have been distinguished by as great sagacity as ever belonged to the most consummate statesman,—I remember hearing Mr. Pitt, not in his place in parliament, 1520 (where it might have been his object and his duty to animate zeal and to encourage hope), but in the privacy of his domestic circle, among the friends in whom he confided—I remember well hearing him say in 1793, that he expected that war to be of very short duration. That duration ran out to a period beyond the life of him who made the prediction. It outlived his successor; and the successors of that successor; and at length came suddenly and unexpectedly to an end through a combination of miraculous events such as the most sanguine imagination could not have anticipated. With that example full in my recollection, I could not act upon the presumption that a new war once begun would be speedily ended. Let no such expectation induce us to enter a path, which, however plain and clear it may appear at the outset of the journey, we should presently see branching into intricacies, and becoming encumbered with obstructions,—until we were involved in a labyrinth, from which not we ourselves only, but the generation to come, might in vain endeavour to find means of extrication.
For the confirmation of these observations I appeal to that which I have stated as the last of the considerations in reference to which the policy of the British government was calculated—I mean—to the present state of the world. No man can widening diffusion of political liberty. Acknowledging all the blessings which we have long derived from liberty ourselves. I do not grudge to others a participation in them. I would not prohibit other nations from kindling their torches at the flame of British freedom. But let us not deceive ourselves. The general acquisition of free institutions is not necessarily a security for general peace. I am obliged to confess that its immediate tendency is the other way. Take an example from France herself. The representative chamber of France has undoubtedly been the source of those hostilities, which I should not have despaired of seeing averted through the pacific disposition of the French king. Look at the Democracies of the ancient world. Their existence, I may say, was in war. Look at the petty republics of Italy in more modern times. In truth, long intervals of profound peace are much more readily to be found under settlements of a monarchical form. Did the republic of Rome, in the whole career 1521 of her existence, enjoy an interval of peace of as long duration as that which this country enjoyed under the administration of sir R. Walpole?—and that interval, be it remembered, was broken short through the instigation of popular feeling. I am not saying that this is right, or wrong—but that it is so. It is in the very nature of free governments: and more especially perhaps of governments newly free. The principle which for centuries has given ascendancy to Great Britain, is that she was the single free Mate in Europe. The spread of the representative system destroys that singularity, and must (however little we may like it) proportionally enfeeble our e preponderating influence;—unless we measure our steps cautiously, and accommodate our conduct to the times. Let it not be supposed that I would disparage the progress of freedom, that I wish checks to be applied to it, or that I am pleased at the sight of obstacles thrown in its way. Far, very far from it. I am only desiring it to be observed, that we cannot expect to enjoy at the same time incompatible advantages. Freedom must ever be the greatest of blessings; but it ceases to be a distinction, in proportion as other nations become free.
But, Sir, this is only a partial view of the subject; and one to which I have been led by the unreasonable expectations of those who while they make loud complaints of the diplomacy of England as less commanding than heretofore, unconsciously specify the very causes which necessarily diminish and counteract its efficacy. There are, however, other considerations to which I beg leave to turn the attention of the House.
It is perfectly true, as has been argued by more than one hon. member in this debate, that there is a contest going on in the world, between the spirit of unlimited monarchy, and the spirit of unlimited democracy. Between these two spirits, it may be said, that strife is either openly in action, or covertly at work, throughout the greater portion of Europe. It is true, as has also been argued, that in no former period in history, is there so close a resemblance to the present, as in that of the reformation. So far my hon. and learned friend, and the hon. baronet were justified in holding up queen Elizabeth's reign as an example for our study. The hon. member for Westminster too, has observed, that in imitation of queen Eliza- 1522 beth's policy, the proper place for this country, in the present state of the world, is at the head of free nations struggling against arbitrary power. Sir, undoubtedly there is, as I have admitted, a general resemblance between the two periods; forasmuch as in both we see a conflict of opinions; and in both, a bond of union growing out of those opinions, which established between parts and classes of different nations, a stricter communion than belongs to community of country. It is true—it is, I own I think, a formidable truth—that in this respect the two periods do resemble each other. But though there is this general similarity, there is one circumstance which mainly distinguishes the present time, from the reign of Elizabeth; and which, though by no means unimportant in itself, has been overlooked by all those to whose arguments I am now referring. Elizabeth was herself amongst the revolters against the authority of the church of Rome; but we are not amongst those who are engaged in a struggle against the spirit of unlimited monarchy. We have fought that fight. We have taken our station. We have long ago assumed a character differing altogether from that of those around us. It may have been the duty and the interest of queen Elizabeth to make common cause with—to put herself at the head of—those who supported the Reformation: but can it be either our interest or our duty to ally ourselves with revolution?—Let us be ready to afford refuge to the sufferers of either extreme party; but it is not surely our policy to become the associate of either. Our situation now is rather what that of Elizabeth would have been, if the church of England had been, in her time, already completely established, in uncontested supremacy; acknowledged as a legitimate settlement, unassailed and unassailable by papal power. Does my hon. and learned friend believe that the policy of Elizabeth would in that case have been the same?
Now, our complex constitution is established with so happy a mixture of its elements—its tempered monarchy and its regulated freedom—that we have nothing to fear from foreign despotism—nothing at home but from capricious change. We have nothing to fear—unless, distasteful of the blessings which we have earned and of the calm which we enjoy, we let loose again, with rash hand, the elements of our constitution, ant set them 1523 once more to fight against each other. In this enviable situation, what have we in common with the struggles which are going on in other countries, for the attainment of objects of which we have been long in undisputed possession? We look down upon those struggles from the point to which we have happily attained, not with the cruel delight which is described by the poet, as arising from the contemplation of agitations in which the spectator is not exposed to share; but with an anxious desire to mitigate, to enlighten, to reconcile, to save;—by our example in all cases, by our exertions where we can usefully interpose.
Our station then, is essentially neutral:—neutral not only between contending nations, but between conflicting principles. The object of the government has been to preserve that station; and for the purpose of preserving it, to maintain peace. By remaining at peace ourselves, we best secure Portugal; by remaining at peace, we take the best chance of circumscribing the range, and shortening the duration of the war, which we could not prevent from breaking out between France and Spain. By remaining at peace, we shall best enable ourselves to take an effectual and decisive part in any contest into which we may be hereafter forced against our will.
The papers on the table, the last paper at least (I mean the despatch of the 31st of March*, in which is stated what we expect from France), ought, I think, to have satisfied the hon. baronet; who said that provided the government was firm in purpose, he should not be disposed to find limit with their having acted suaviter in motto. In that despatch, our neutrality is qualified with certain specified conditions. To those conditions France has given her consent. When we say in that despatch—we are "satisfied" that those conditions will be observed—is it not obvious that we use a language of courtesy, which is always most becomingly employed between independent powers? Who does not know that, in diplomatic correspondence, under that suavity of expression is implied an "or," which imports another alternative?
So far, then, as the interests and honour of Great Britain are concerned, those interests and that honour have been scrupulously maintained. Great Britain has* See Papers, Class B. No. 43, p. 959.1524 come out of the negotiations, claiming all the respect that is due to her; and in a tone not to be mistaken, enforcing all her rights. It is true that her policy has not been violent or precipitate. She has not sprung forth armed, from the impulse of a sudden indignation; she has looked before and after; she has reflected on all the circumstances which beset, and on all the consequences which may follow, so awful a decision as war; and instead of descending into the arena as a party in a quarrel not her own, she has assumed the attitude and the attributes of justice, holding high the balance, and grasping, but not unsheathing the sword.
Sir, I will now trouble the House no further than to call its attention to the precise nature of the motion which it has to dispose of this night. Sir, the result of the negotiations, as I have before stated, rendered it unnecessary and irregular for the Government to call for the expression of a parliamentary opinion upon them. It was, however, competent for any honourable member to suggest to the House the expression of such opinion; which, if expressed at all, it will readily be admitted ought to be expressed intelligibly. Now what is the address which, after a fortnight's notice, and after the menaces with which it as been announced and ushered in, the House has been desired to adopt?—the hon. gentleman's address first proposes to "represent to his majesty, that the disappointment of his majesty's benevolent solicitude to preserve general peace, appears to this House to have, in a great measure, arisen from the failure of his ministers to make the most earnest, vigorous, and solemn protest against the pretended right of the sovereigns assembled at Verona, to make war on Spain in order to compel alterations in her political institutions."—I must take the liberty to say that this is not a true description. The war I have shown to be a French war, not arising from any thing done, or omitted to be done at Verona. But to finish the sentence:—"as well as against the subsequent pretension of the French government, that nations cannot lawfully enjoy any civil privileges but from the spontaneous grant of their kings." I must here again take the liberty to say that the averment is not correct. Whatever the misconduct of government in these negotiations may have been, it is plain matter-of-fact that they protested in the strongest manner against the pretension put forward in the speech 1525 of the king of France, that the liberties and franchises of a nation should be derived exclusively from the throne. It is on record, in this very address, that the hon. gentlemen themselves could not have protested more strongly than the government; since, in the next sentence to that which I have just read, in order to deliver themselves with the utmost force, they have condescended to borrow my words.—For the address goes on: "—principles destructive of the rights of all independent states, which strike at the root of the British constitution, and are subversive of his majesty's legitimate title to the throne" Now, by far the strongest expression in this sentence—the metaphor (such as it is) about "striking at the root of the British constitution"—is mine. It is in my despatch to sir Charles Stuart of the 4th of February. I claim it with the pride and fondness of an author; when I see it plagiarized by those who condemn me for not using sufficiently forcible language, and who yet in the very breath in which they pronounce that condemnation, are driven to borrow my very words to exemplify the omission which they impute.
So much for the justice of the address—now for its usefulness and efficacy. What is the full and sufficient declaration of the sense of the House on this most momentous crisis, which is contained in this monitory expostulation to the throne? It proceeds; "Further to declare to his majesty the surprise and sorrow with which this House has observed that his majesty's ministers should have advised the Spanish government, while so unwarrantably menaced"—(This "so" must refer to something out of doors, for there is not a word in the previous part of this precious composition to which it can be gramatically applied);—"to alter their constitution, in the hope of averting invasion; a concession which alone would have involved the total sacrifice of national independence, and which was not even palliated by an assurance from France, that, on receiving so dishonourable a submission, she would desist from her unprovoked aggression." (I deny this statement, by the way; it is a complete misrepresentation.) "Finally to represent to his majesty, that in the judgment of this House a tone of more dignified remonstrance would have been better calculated to preserve the peace of the continent, and thereby to secure this na- 1526 tion more effectually from the hazard of being involved in the calamities of war."—And there it ends;—with a mere conjecture of what "would have been!"
Is this an address for a British parliament; carrying up a complaint that the nation is on the eve of war, but conveying not a word of advice as to the course to be followed at such a moment?—I, for my own part, beg the House not to agree to such an address for this reason amongst others, that as it will be my duty to tender my humble advice to his majesty as to the answer to be given to it, I am sure I shall not know what to advise his majesty to say:—the only answer which occurs to me as suitable to the occasion is, "Indeed! I am very sorry for it."
This, then, is the upshot of a motion which was to show that the present ministers are unfit to carry on war or to maintain peace; and by implication, that there are those who knew better how such matters should be managed. This is the upshot of the motion, which was to dislodge us from our seats, and to supply our places with the hon. gentlemen opposite. It is affirmed that we are now on the eve of war, the peace which we have maintained being insecure. If we are on the eve of war, will not this be the first time that a British House of Parliament has approached the throne, on such au occasion, without even a conditional pledge of support?—If war is a matter even of possible contemplation, it surely becomes this House either to concur in an address for the removal of the ministers, who have needlessly incurred that danger; or, as the amendment moved by the hon. member for Yorkshire proposes, to tender to his majesty a cordial assurance, that this House will stand by his majesty in sustaining the dignity of his crown, and the rights and interests of his people. I trust, therefore, Sir, that by rejecting this most incorrect and inadequate address—as unworthy of the House as it is of the occasion;—an address contradictory in some parts to itself; in more, to the established facts of the case; and in all to the ascertained sense of the country—and by adopting in its room, the amendment moved by the hon. member for Yorkshire, and seconded by the hon. member for London—the House will stamp the policy, which tae king's ministers have pursued—feebly perhaps—perhaps erroneously—but at all events from 1527 Pure motives; in the sincerity of their hearts; and as conducive, in their judgment, to the tranquillity, welfare, and happiness, not of this country only, but of the world—with that highest of all sanctions, the deliberate approbation of the House of Commons.—[The right hon. gentleman sat down, amidst loud and continual cheers.]
§ Mr. Brougham
said, that, in rising to address the House at so protracted an hour, he should be under the necessity of passing over a great variety of those topics to which the right hon. secretary had, at such considerable length, adverted; and he trusted the House would give him credit for the assertion, that he would not detain them one instant longer, nor advert to one single point beyond the limits in which he found himself bound by the strongest necessity. The House had just heard from the right hon. gentleman, a most able and eloquent address: that the man who rose to answer it, must have fearful odds to contend with; and those odds were rendered the more fearful, from the circumstances that that address was a long one, and that the reply to it would be addressed to the minds of a jaded audience. But as he trusted that the merits of this momentous question would not be decided on the particular merits of a speaker on the one side or the other, but upon its own intrinsic merits, so he hoped to enforce a conviction on the minds of the House, that much yet remained unexplained—That the conduct of his majesty's ministers had been most unsatisfactory—that the country had been placed in a state in which she had never found herself before—that she had been compelled to suffer indignities which she would never before have put up with—and that therefore they ought not to shut their eyes to the facts of the case, and run away with the idea, that because the conduct of government had been defended in a most brilliant speech, the conduct of that government stood wholly spotless and unimpeached. He would take upon himself the task of showing, that that speech contained not one tittle of justification. Moreover, if time and the patience of the House would admit, there was not a particle of that harangue, to which he could not give a satisfactory answer, both from the admissions of the right hon. gentleman and his friends, and from the papers which the right hon. gentleman had laid 1528 on the table of the House. He knew that this was a very large promise to make—he knew that this was a very ample pledge to fulfil. Let the House, however, but give him a small portion of that patient attention which it had already bestowed on others, and he would redeem that pledge, and make good that promise; and to the accomplishment of that purpose he would now proceed without further introduction.—
The House had heard, in the speech of the right hon. gentleman, many admissions, with respect to the conduct of the French government. Certainly, the language of blame had been largely applied—the language of vituperation had plentifully been heaped upon it. He wished, however, that he could have heard some of that strong language, that some of that vituperation, had been used in another place, and applied at another time. He was very much inclined to think, that what a certain author had said of fine writing, might be applied to fine speeches—"right words in their right places." From which he deduced, that the essence of a fine speech consisted in its being delivered in its proper place; and that, therefore, the speech of the right hon. gentleman, to be a fine speech, should have been delivered, not in the British House of Commons on the last day of April, 1823, for the purpose of a clap-trap, before a willing audience hut, in the congress at Verona, in the months of October or November 1822, before a less willing audience—before those to whom the right hon. gentleman had sent the duke of Wellington—before that potent and grave assembly, which was not always to be found crawling and crouching at the mandate of the right hon. gentleman—before those to whom stronger expressions would not only have been the most fitting, but, in every sense of the word, the most prudent. It was to this neglect that he objected. It was to the use which the right hon. gentleman had made of this neglect, that he objected. His objection was, that the remonstrances to the congregated allies had not been such as the country had a right to expect. The right hon. gentleman would have it, that that was not the proper time and place for such language. The right hon. gentleman said, that the machine at Verona "had worked well," that it had fully answered its purpose—that great powers 1529 had been put in motion—and that it had operated without noise. But noise was the very thing that was called for by the occasion. That was the misconception of the right hon. gentleman of which be complained. It was there that the right hon. gentleman had taken his distinction wrongly, priding himself upon shrinking from the full interpretation of treaties—as if there were not cases in which words were facts—as if there were not treaties in which policy would rather go beyond the fulfilment than consent to retreat from them, and get rid of their obligations by a little more or less of criticism on their contents—a little stronger or a little weaker language and argument in construing them. His objection was, that that strong remonstrance, which Europe and Spain and this country had a right to expect, had not been made. They were told that the machine worked well enough. The right hon. gentleman would have it, that something had been done by merely effecting the object of preventing a joint remonstrance on the part of the allied sovereigns—of hindering them from putting themselves in action in their "corporate capacity." This machine, of which the right hon. gentleman was so proud, had said at Verona, "Come what come may, England will never interfere, will never concur with, will never join the allies in making war upon Spain, because Spain will not make such alterations in her constitution as may be pleasing to the allies." Why, no man, who was at all acquainted with the principles or the feelings of the people of England would have dared to propound a contrary doctrine. The most insane councillors that ever surrounded the throne would not have presumed to have said otherwise. But the right hon gentleman had congratulated himself upon the success of this intimation. He said it had produced the effect which was in. tended. He (Mr. B.) denied that it had done so. It had failed—failed, as so futile a truism was certain to do.
He should not trouble the House, any more than the right hon. gentleman hat done, by referring to the papers; but he could not avoid calling the attention of the House to what had been granted to France at the congress of Verona. The allied sovereigns had promised, that "they would act as France should, in respect to their ministers in Spain, and would give to France every countenance and assist- 1530 ance she should require." Now, he would ask any hon. gentleman whether more could have been granted to France by the holy alliance, than had been granted by them, as distinctly stated by the duke of Wellington? All that France had asked for had been granted. It would have been difficult, even with the obliging disposition which the congress had manifested, to have granted more. If a commentary upon these concessions were wanted, he could find it in the case of the duke Mathieu de Montmorency, who, upon his return from the congress, had been created a duke for the advantageous terms he had obtained from the allies: There was another circumstance which the right hon. gentleman had omitted to allude to. M. de Villèle, who was not quite so great an ultra as the duke, was not entirely satisfied with the steps he had taken as to the war; and, so far had his colleague outrun his own ideas ill this respect, that the duke was compelled to resign, and to leave to the more moderate M. de Villèle the direction of the government. Here, then, was a proof that what had been done at Verona was not even satisfactory to the moderate party in France—that Verona which the right hon. gentleman had made the scene of his triumph, but which he (Mr. B.) thought was the place of his discomfiture, where he said that his silent but vigorous machine had accomplished its end happily and successfully, and which machine had one great merit, that of working without noise.
One word more as to what was called the Verona case. By the decision there, the war was not decided upon, nor was the assistance to be given, except in certain cases, not one of which had happened—the personal safety of king Ferdinand, and the occurrence of such events as might make out a cases fœderis. This was, however, so vague a stipulation, that it was no security to the peace of Europe. It was just what France wanted; because, the facility with which she could convert every seeming want of respect to the king or to his family—could misconstrue any popular incivility—would leave her never at a loss for the grounds of the cases fœderis, and the pretext for a war which she was bent on commencing. He was not the only opponent of the right hon. gentleman, who believed that the real Verona case, as it was then and there established, was not 1531 as it regarded Ferdinand personally, or as it applied to any insult or wrong, frivolous or material, which might be offered to him or to his family. This, be believed, was the large and sweeping condition.—It was said to France—"You shall have the assistance of Russia, whose armies, and if need be, those of the Tartars to back them, shall march with you, whensoever the revolution in Spain shall have assumed such a shape as you shall think formidable, or when the power of France shall seem to be in danger" It was his entire belief, that no man in the House differed from him in this opinion with regard to the Verona case; that there was no man who did not believe that the three manifestoes sent by the allied sovereigns to the Spanish government were the first fruits of the victory which the right hon. gentleman's silent engine had gained. These three manifestoes were all to the same purport, though varying in style—all three propounded the monstrous doctrine of international interference, whenever and wherever the three despots should think fit to attack the rising liberties of the nations of Europe. What cared he, what cared Spain, what cared Europe, whether there were one or three papers, whether they were all written on one sheet of paper with the three signatures subjoined, or upon three separate pieces of paper, with the name of each individual monarch attached? He was satisfied that they all bore the same language, or, at least, only varied the insult. These men were in one league, animated by one soul, intent on one common purpose; and to execute that purpose, they had come to one common resolution. France knew, the people abroad knew, and if our government were not still more ignorant and more completely dupes than the papers on the table seemed to pronounce them, they must also have known, that as soon as occasion should offer, a movement would be made on the part of Russia; the Vistula would swarm with soldiers; the army encamped on its banks would cross its waters, and, marching through Germany to France, that gallant nation would once more be subjected to the calamities of war, and draw down upon herself, by the crimes of her princes, the misfortune of becoming the slaves of despots.
The remonstrance made by this country could not, by possibility, be attended with success; seeing that the inhabitants 1532 of foreign countries were incapable of discerning from that remonstrance the opinion which prevailed in this country. They knew little of the institutions of England, and their ignorance sometimes displayed itself in a ludicrous—sometimes, as in the present instance, in a lamentable shape. He regretted that a feeling of duty compelled him to mention the name of a late noble statesman, of whom, although he could not speak in the terms of warm panegyric which the feelings and the intimacy of a right hon. gentleman had prompted him to adopt, he would not be understood to express his disapprobation of his policy with any feeling of personal hostility. Unfortunately, the late lord Londonderry was so mixed up with the policy of the allies, by his connexion with them and with their ministers, that they looked upon him as a man swayed by their own feelings, partaking their own views, and all but their own absolute slave. He (Mr. B.) spoke this under the authority of persons of distinction in foreign courts, by whom, as well as by others, the opinion was universally entertained, that that noble lord could do whatever he pleased, that he was opposed to the people and to popular rights, and that he hated the name of constitution, but especially that of his own country. The consequence of these impressions was, that it required language so plain as to leave no doubt in the minds of the persons and of the nation to whom it was addressed—remonstrances so strong as to awaken the slumbering faith of these foreign statesmen—conduct so straightforward and unequivocal as to render it a matter of absolute certainty, that the policy of this country upon the then present occasion was not the policy of the late lord Londonderry. In the absence of such language and such conduct, the government might have entreated and suggested to the end of time, without persuading the congress of Verona that they were sincere in their protestations.
Another instance he would give the House, of the excessive degree of ignorance which prevailed in France as to England and English affairs. In a work written by a high and distinguished foreigner at no very distant period from the present time, and upon which work some portion of that individual's literary fame was founded, he stated, that having resided in this country for more than two years, in great intimacy with the people, he had 1533 had sufficient opportunities of observing their characters and habits; and, among others, he noticed that they were so fond of all occasions of grief and mourning, that there were hardly any of their dramatic representations in which funerals were not introduced. "Such delight" he adds, "do these sombre islanders take in sad spectacles, that they frequently assemble for the purpose of being entertained by the spectacle of a funeral;" and this he endeavoured to prove, by referring to the fact, that on many of the labels displayed at the doors and windows of tradesmen were to be found the words, "Funerals performed here." [A Laugh]. This might perhaps appear ludicrous; he would therefore proceed to a topic which would more nearly interest them. The ingenious and accurate author went on to say, that the House of Commons was composed of three parties, the Ministerial, the Oppostion, and a third party called the "Anglicans."—The House, he dared to say, had not before been aware of the existence of this party, but the author had nevertheless discovered it. These latter, continued this writer were more numerous and more powerful than all the rest. They were one hundred in number, and at the head of them was his hon. and revered friend, the member for Bramber. They were men who had strong feelings for religion, but it was for no religion except their own. In this the author was as accurate as he was in the rest of his statement; for he knew that the religion of his hon. friend was that of the established church. Their wives, he continued to say, dressed as Quakers; but both they and their husbands gave up all their revenues to the poor. Of this party was Mr. Pitt, and. his wife, and it was by their influence that he had so long contrived to keep his office. This author, the House would perceive, became more accurate as he proceeded; for he said that the Opposition party were almost without credit; their chief was Mr. Fox, who had lost all his eloquence from the effect of old age, and the excesses of his youth. After the description which he had given of his book, it was perhaps not necessary for him to state that the liberal and enlightened author of this book was no other than the same person whom the right hon. gentleman had so ably and so eloquently eulogized—neither more nor less than the viscount de Chateaubriand. He mentioned this merely to show the 1534 ignorance—the gross ignorance—in which those who had been allowed to dictate in this matter remained, as to the state even of the different parties in this country. The right hon. gentleman had told the House, that the French government had not been guilty of perfidy, but that their councils were in such a state of vacillation, that they were never for two days in the same mind. Now, it did appear most extraordinary, that in the midst of all their daily shifting and changing, no opportunity was found to turn the balance in our favour. That was the only point upon which there had been no vacillation. The only symptom of steadiness in the French councils that he had been able to discover, was a steady, obdurate, consistent, vigorous determination formed and acted upon, never to listen to England—always to join the allies when opposed to us. He would venture to say, that throughout the whole of these papers, from the commencement to the end, there was exhibited such a tissue of consistent, uniform dupery, on the part of the French government, as was without a parallel in the annals of diplomacy. In the first instance, a cordon sanitaire had been collected on the Spanish frontier, for no other purpose, as was said, than to prevent the spread of an infectious fever. The government of England, without any proof of the existence of this fever, believed the statement; and, when this cordon was changed to an Army of Observation, and the physical was changed to a moral contagion, our government was no less contented. Another point which could not fail to rouse every English feeling was, that during three years which the negotiations had occupied, we had communicated all our proceedings to France, while we were reduced to the humiliating avowal, that she had not communicated one tittle to us. A remarkable part of the dupery of France was, the disavowal of any warlike intention, at the very moment when steps were taking for the commencement of hostilities. The 28th of January produced the French king's speech, breathing nothing but war, and yet accompanied by a statement that it meant nothing less than peace. When the House of Commons met, gentlemen were told to pause, because the negotiations were still going on, and hopes of accommodation were still entertained. At another day, they were told that these hopes were diminished, as if to show that matter was not the only 1535 thing subject to infinite divisibility, but that hopes and feelings were in like manner to be divided. At last, in the beginning of March, they learnt that there was but a ray of hope; and this was when the Army of Observation was reinforced by 100,000 men who were actually on their march towards Spain. Let the House now see the use which France had made of this country. Although threats were not to be held out to France, yet it appeared that we might threaten Spain when France called upon us to do so. The House would find that sir W. A'Court had been instructed to ask for certain important changes in the Spanish constitution. He (Mr. B.) professed himself decidedly hostile to any such interference; and it was with astonishment and regret he had heard his hon. friend, the member for Bramber, express a wish that the Spaniards had yielded to that demand. [Mr. Wilberforce dissented.] At least his hon. friend had approved of the interference of the duke of Wellington. But who, he would ask, had a right to decide what were or were not the fit constitutions for any state, but the people themselves? Who could say that he was so well acquainted with the affairs of other governments, as to pronounce upon the expediency of applying to them his own theories? Even if they were able to decide those points which at present were disputed, what man could be so dead to all feelings of national honour, as to give up one iota when he was asked to do so, even by a friend, if that request should be accompanied by a hostile threat from another quarter. Governments were not to be thus treated: popular governments still less than any others: new still less than old, when the passions of the people were still under the excitement of recent revolution; and, least of all, that which was administered and governed by, and that which was so dear to the Old and New Castilians. For if ever there was one nation more than another which could never be expected to listen to a threat, it was that proud, honourable, and ancient people, known by the name of the Old Castilians. He would recommend to the right hon. gentleman to recollect the last experiment which he himself had made, not upon a foreign people, but upon that plain, simple, matter-of-fact person—the York—shireman, on the question of reform. The people of Yorkshire, though they valued their political rights, were by no means 1536 anxious to come forward in that cause; nor would they have done so had not the right hon. gentleman had the cleverness to taunt them with sarcasms about the embers of expiring flames, and red lions of I3rentford, and kings of Bohemia. But the taunt had been answered by a petition, signed by 17,000 freeholders of that county—a revolt that must have convinced the right hon. gentleman of the danger of tampering with public opinion. He would entreat the House to consider what it was that was asked of the Spaniards. It was the liberty of the king, free from all appearance of restraint, and the cortes from the influence of the clubs. If they complied with this, what would their compliance effect? Not the averting the war—not the gaining the object in view: no such thing; but it would gain them the confidence of the French nation. By the advice we had given, or, as it was called, by the interposition of our good offices, we had coincided with the demands of France. This was what ministers denominated a just answer to the request of Spain. They said they had done all, and that they had done no more than Spain had demanded of us. He denied the assertion. They had done what was demanded by France against Spain, not what was requested by Spain with reference to France. It had been most justly observed by the hon. member for Westminster, that this was that sort of comfort, that sort of consolation, which a man would receive if, calling on a friend for assistance, when a highwayman had presented a pistol to his breast and demanded his money, the supposed friend answered, "Oh, yes, I will assist you. Let me come near you to take the purse out of your pocket; and when I have given it to the highwayman, you may be sure he will spare the purse which you have in your other pocket." He had been told by the right hon. gentleman, that the great rule of neutrality was in strict unison with a rule of the gospel. But ministers, in their proceedings towards Spain, appeared to have forgotten that rule. How would England have brooked to have been dealt with as she, or rather her government, had dealt with Spain? How would the people of England like to be called on for a re-modelling of their constitution, with such a threat hanging over their heads as had been levelled against Spain? How would they like to be threatened with invasion, 1537 if they did hot make such changes in their system of government, as Spain had been called on to make? Suppose this sort of demand was made upon the ministers of this country to liberate his majesty the king from the fangs of the junto into whose hands he had fallen, and who persuaded him that they spoke the voice of the people of England—to give something like unity and force to the divided cabinet, by which the government was carried on—to protect the House of Commons, debating between two and three in the morning, against the overwhelming influence of newspaper discussion—to grant an amnesty to Mr. Hunt and Mr. Carlile—how, he demanded, would such a proposition be received? Strange as it might seem, the time might yet arrive when such a demand would be made; for such a time was likely to come, if this country allowed the monarchs of Europe to lord it as they pleased over the world. If such a system were permitted in Germany, in Italy, in Portugal, in Spain, and in France, and if it were not opposed, even by the remonstrances of this country, until some such threats were levelled against us, it was quite clear, that they who had proceeded so far would not stop out of respect or reverence to Great Britain. Sooner or later she was likely to meet with the treatment which had been extended to other states. With what a voice of indignation would that House and the country receive such propositions and such threats as had been made use of for the subjugation of Spanish liberty! They would be rejected with scorn. Nay, he would contend, that if the things demanded were ever so just—were ever so conducive to our interest—they would not be granted, if the appearance of force was employed for their attainment. They ought not to grant even Catholic emancipation if it were demanded in the same manner as England had called for the formation of two chambers in the Spanish government. The proposition for Catholic emancipation, made under such circumstances, would be resisted even to death, by those high-minded and honourable men who had passed their whole lives in the conscientious support of that question. They would rather go to the death—great as was their zeal for the Catholics—sincere as was their anxiety for the success of their cause—than take a step contrary to that which the glory and independence of their country demanded. 1538 All their feelings with respect to the Catholics would be turned into a new channel—and with the most perfect consistency—if foreign influence were attempted to be exercised. They would exclaim, "because we are the friends of the Catholics—because we are the advocates of justice—because we are the supporters of religious freedom—we will not now degrade the sacred cause which we espoused, by the appearance of any bargain or compromise with the people who are supposed to be in distress." There was no danger which he would not encounter—there was no benefit which he would not forego—if the escape from the one, or the attainment of the other, were to be accomplished by means which were accompanied with a threat: if a threat were to be the price of safety, or of success, he would renounce them both, in consequence of the condition attached to them. Such, he felt, were the prevailing sentiments throughout England; and yet his majesty's ministers expected that the high-minded Spanish people in their jeopardy would not feel the same sentiment when they were so grossly threatened.
It was a very remarkable thing that ministers, during the whole of these negotiations, had never said one word to the French government on the subject of their Army of Observation. The right hon. secretary had said, that "the Army of Observation was an internal concern of France." To this he would answer briefly that it was not; and, even if it were so, it was not more an internal concern of France than the changes in the Spanish government were an internal concern of Spain. But yet, while Spain was asked to alter her constitution, ministers never said a word to France about what he would call that great bugbear, the Army of Observation, the object of which evidently was, to spread corruption through Spain, and to excite disaffection in the minds of the Spaniards. He, however, knew not through what delusion the right hon. gentleman could call this an internal concern of France. Could any thing have more the appearance of an external object, than the bristling all the French fortresses with guns—than the declaration that France was ready to march 100,000 men over a stream—a rivulet—an imaginary kind of boundary? We, of all people, to deny that this was intended for an external attack!—we, of all people, to allow it to be said that France had no 1539 ambitious project in view!—we, of all people, to declare this!—we, who had formerly insisted, that the encampment of an enemy on the opposite coast was a ground of war for ourselves! Why, it was not more than twenty years ago, since papers had been brought down to this House—papers not more creditable than those which were now upon their table—from the contents of which it was argued, that because France had employed a number of armed men in the face of our ports, we were justified in going to war. Now, suppose a member of the House had on that occasion got up and said—"Why, gentlemen, this is all an internal concern: you are not to pay those troops; you are not to supply them with provisions; it is entirely a matter of internal arrangement;" would such an appeal have been listened to with common gravity, much less with common patience? The question was at that day viewed in all its bearings by the greatest men that had ever blessed this country. No question had ever been more minutely examined by the friends of peace; but, amongst all the topics which had then been urged, no one ever thought of stating that the assembling of a large French force on the coast opposite to England was entirely a French internal concern, and had no reference whatever to the situation of England. The conduct of the government of that day impeached the false principle which was now laid down. It impeached that illogical inference which the right hon. gentleman had thought fit to draw, and which was most mischievous in its application. [Hear, hear.]
The House had been told, that the duke of Wellington, of all men, had the best right to interfere on this occasion. No man was more willing than he was to admit that fact. No interference on so delicate an occasion could come through a more respectable channel—could be used with a better grace—or was more likely to do good, than that of the noble duke. To the individual interfering, he had not objected; but he complained that the noble duke had interfered in a particular way. The House had been asked by a noble lord (F. Gower), in a speech of considerable ability and much promise, whether, if the duke of Wellington had not been employed on that occasion, the general cry would not have been—"Why has he not been called on for his services?" Now, he should like to know who had 1540 cried our against the employment of that noble person? It was not the employment of the noble duke which was complained of; but that was complained of which would have proved a subject of complaint—namely, that his efforts were made for improper purpose. He was employed to communicate a threat—and a threat he did communicate. He was employed to give his voice in favour of France; and undoubtedly he had done so. He had observed with great pain how the noble duke had conducted himself on that occasion. The Spanish nation were under great obligations to him—to man could have served them better. But how did the noble duke proceed on this business? He sent a mission to Spain, he selected a friend of his own, a distinguished man, whom he would not name, as a blank was left in the papers where his name ought to have appeared; but of whom he would say, that a more amiable, a more sensible, a more gallant, and at the same time a more sagacious counselor, did not exist within the boundaries of Spain, than the Spanish general to whom allusion was made in these dispatches. Him did the noble duke employ for the purpose which he would afterwards mention. But, before he proceeded, he called upon the House to bear in mind the counsel which that individual had given to the Spanish monarch, and the assistance which he had afforded him in his adversity; and he also called upon them to recollect the return which he had received. He had been basely persecuted by the king of Spain. He had been treated with the utmost cruelty, for having conquered that crown which Ferdinand had ingloriously thrown away. He had fought and bled through the whole of his career, to recover that diadem which Ferdinand had dishonourably abandoned, and he had been, for his patriotic deeds, rewarded by incarceration in a loathsome dungeon. This treatment he received at the hands of Ferdinand. But he had lived to forgive it. Of this individual he would say, that he was wholly English—as much English as the habits of any Spaniard would allow him to be. At the time of the battle of Waterloo, this noble-minded individual, who was in the neighbourhood of that place, had declared the high satisfaction he felt from the reflection, that that immortal victory had been achieved by Englishmen. Such was his love for England—such was his desire for her predomi- 1541 nance, arising from the feeling, that the more influence England had, the better it would be for the liberties of Spain! It was to this person—so dear to Spaniards and so closely attached to England, that the duke of Wellington confided his sentiments with respect to Spain. He told him to submit to Ferdinand—to let that monarch increase his powers—arm himself with new prerogatives, and again run riot and inflict punishment on his patriotic subjects. He must say it was with feelings of shame and of sorrow that he stated the transmission of such a message to such a party. His hon. friend, the member for Bramber and others, never failed to remind the House of the gratitude which was due to us from Spain. But, was that the only party on whom we had claims of gratitude? For whom, he would ask, had so much British blood been spilt, but for the Bourbons? And, when it was said, that we had no influence at Madrid, what, he would ask, had become of our influence at Paris? This country had put Ferdinand upon his throne, by the assistance of the Spaniards; but they had placed Louis on his throne, in defiance of the French people. [Cheers]. The gratitude due to us by the Spanish people was as a grain when compared with the immense load of obligation under which we had laid the Bourbons—that race who, as had been well observed by M. Talleyrand, had not, during thirty years of adversity, forgotten any thing nor learned any thing. He thought it was not too much that Louis the 18th should recollect who it was that brought him back to the throne—that he had been carried back, not in the front of an army which had conquered his crown, but in the baggage of that army. Not one of his family was found fighting in the ranks of that triumphant host. They were all stowed amongst the baggage. And now, after all the blood and treasure which had been expended for that family, England, it appeared, was not to ask the head of it a single request, how much so ever it might redound to our interest, or however just it might be in itself!
It has been said that the question was—should we go to war or continue at peace? Now, he must say, that remonstrance was not war; and he at the same time denied that this country ought not to threaten or menace, when they did not intend to go to war. But of this he was sure, that if menace had been used, and 1542 a determination to go to war had been expressed, hostilities would have been prevented, and peace secured. It was said, that his majesty's ministers had acted wisely in differing from a set of visionary enthusiasts, who would have plunged the country into war. He denied the assertion. He knew of no persons who wished this country to proceed to hostilities. But, there were persons who said—"If you had declared that, if your remonstrance failed your purpose was to go to war, such a course would have prevented war." And with those persons he agreed. In the better times of England a menace, certain to be supported by war, would have stopped hostility, and secured peace. He confessed he could hardly expect, from our present estimation in Europe, that such a result would follow so directly our remonstrance. Yet why not have secured Spain by the same mode by which we shielded Portugal? Were gentlemen prepared for the state to which our commercial interests would be reduced by a declaration of France of a blockade of the whole coast of Spain? Was any man ignorant of the extent to which we had pushed the rights of the belligerent towards the neutrals during the last war? Acting upon that acknowledgment, France possessed the power of putting two or three hundred miles of the coast of her enemies under a perfect blockade. Could any man believe under such circumstances, but that the interests of our merchants, of our ship owners, and of our seamen, would be affected by such a state of things as ultimately to lead to war? Yet, as true as that the eldest son was the heir to his father, so true was it, that France would assume all those rights towards neutrals, which we had acted upon during the late war. The house would bear in mind the negotiations and the armaments in which this country had engaged, in 1789, on the seizure by the empress of Russia, of Oczakow. It could not forget that on that memorable occasion, my lord Liverpool had given the first promise of those talents, which had led him successively to the high station which he now enjoyed. It was by him, in supporting that armament, contended that by such invasion the balance of power was invaded; and, at the seizure of that petty fortress on a barren strand, the whole world grew pale, because it was impossible that it could be blockaded by our generous ally, the Turks. And yet we had that night heard 1543 the right hon. secretary for foreign affairs, the colleague of lord Liverpool, with a degree of innocence and ingenuousness worthy of the golden age, calmly tell a British House of Commons, that he, for his part, felt no solicitude, though 100,000 Frenchmen had taken military possession of Spain! In the confidence which the right hon. gentleman reposed in the French government, he could by no means concur. With the conviction that he entertained of their ingratitude, their duplicity, their lust of dominion, it would be base pusillanimity in him, a treacherous abandonment of his duty to his country, if he did not openly avow that conviction. He had now ended his review of the arguments of' the right hon. gentleman, and those who coincided with him. He had endeavoured, to the utmost of his power, though labouring under a severe indisposition, to state his sincere impression as to the character of that negotiation, which he contended had been so discreditably to the honour and interests of this country conducted by his majesty's government. But how came it, that those who were so ready to uphold that conduct in their speeches, had not ventured to embody their panegyric in the amendment? Why had they not proposed an explicit resolution? Why endeavour to evade the consideration of that conduct by a side wind? In their amendment not a syllable was to be found expressive of approbation—no thanks—no testimonies of ministerial desert—not a word of any such comfort—and he verily believed that with the exception of some, perhaps six persons, who were pledged to their patrons by the offices they held, not a man could be found in that large assembly to stand up and propose a resolution of thanks. They were obliged to leave it to an amendment by these "moderate men" of whom the chancellor of the exchequer had spoken, who were moderately satisfied. The hon. mover of the amendment, one of these dear "moderate men," would not forsooth, vote a censure on ministers, lest it might give a triumph to their opponents, and endanger the existence of the government; and yet with his feeling of moderation, the hon. gentleman's amendment savoured more of war than the original proposition. But, it was a subject of deep felt congratulation with him, that, even from those by whom the conduct of his majesty's government had been even thus moderately 1544 approved, not one word had fallen from any man of whatever side, of whatever party in the House—either the supporter or the opponent of the administration—in extenuation of the atrocious aggression of France. No man had been found base or desperate enough to pollute the air of that House, by uttering a single syllable that could be construed into a justification of that abominable act of injustice. No volunteer assassin of public liberty—no greedy pander to the passions of those spoiled children of royalty, who wielded the sceptres of Europe, had dared, within those walls, to utter a sentence in its defence. A character of that description he sincerely believed, did not belong to the country, much less to an enlightened and free assembly. Words, it was said, had been uttered elsewhere, which might bear somewhat of such a construction, but as he had not heard them himself, he must believe that they had been misconceived, or uttered in the beat of discussion, or, peradventure, not uttered at all, by the individual to whom they had been attributed. For the honour of the country—for the honour of the House of Commons—he wished it to go forth to the extremity of the earth, that, after a full discussion of three days, in which men of every party had delivered their opinions—men amongst whom existed strong political diGrences—there was not an individual who had not loudly expressed his strong reprobation of the unjustifiable principles of the allies, and of the atrocious conduct of the French government towards Spain. It had been imputed to him as an offence, that in describing the conduct of these foreign despots, he had used strong language. He had used strong language. And why? Because the occasion demanded it—because the paramount claims of justice called upon him to give vent to those feelings which he knew actuated the people of England, and which could in no place be expressed with so much effect as in the House which was said to represent them. He had also used such language, because he felt that strong expressions of reprobation could not proceed with propriety from the right hon. gentleman and his colleagues; and, as such expressions ought to be used in a British House of Commons, he had followed the impulse of his heart in discharging a duty to his country and to mankind [hear]. But, he would fain ask, who were his accusers? 1545 Was it the hon. member, who, though he would not menace on behalf of Spain, had no objection to eat and drink in sympathy with Spanish wrongs? If the hon. member for London was his accuser he would recall to the recollection of the House the hon. member's own marked "execration" at the conduct of France. Was it the hon. mover of the amendment—he who had proclaimed his abhorrence at the abominable principles of the allies and the aggressions of the Bourbons? Was it the noble lord (F. Gower), who, with a forbearance and temperance, not rarely the accompaniment of youth, had read a lecture to all statesmen, as to the impropriety of language which was unbecoming itself—and could only do mischief to the cause in support of which it was applied—but who still felt so forcibly the injustice of French aggression, that he could only ascribe it to frenzy—to insanity, of a description, which he (Mr. B.) the accused, would not repeat—not certainly on account of its meekness, but because he thought it too highly seasoned. Did he blame the noble lord for that ebullition of feeling? Certainly not. The voice of nature had prevailed over the artifices of refinement; and the restrictions which the noble lord would impose, had disappeared before the generous impulses of the heart aroused into indignation.
Having thus, he trusted, shewn to the House that the language which all had used in speaking of these abominable and odious principles of policy, was the language which all felt, and which was alone applicable, he wished to address one word to his hon. friend who had originated the present discussion. He implored his hon. friend, with the knowledge that they all had of the expressed opinion of every party in that House as to the character of the outrage on Spain—with the certainty that the amendment of the hon. member for Yorkshire conveyed no testimonial of approval of the conduct of the recent negotiations—that he, for the sake of the great cause which he had so ably advocated, would not risk the powerful effect of such a real unanimity, by hazarding the chance of the interpretation which might be given by persons unacquainted with our forms and mode or proceeding to what was called a division of that House. There was no triumph of party, however gratifying, that he would not cheerfully abandon, to provide against such a mischief. No division, however flattering to 1546 those principles which he ventured to support, could compensate, in his apprehension, for the disadvantage to the best interests of mankind, which would inevitably be the effect, if an unintelligible vote should go out to the world—one which was certain to be misapprehended by the ignorance of some, and misconstrued by the interests of others. These were his motives in calling upon his hon. friend to make any sacrifice of his own feelings to the general unanimity. It remained for him to thank the House for the indulgence with which, at that late hour, they had been pleased to give hum their attention, assuring them most sincerely, that nothing but the deep importance of the question could have induced him to trespass at such length on their patience. [Loud. cheers].
said, in reply, that the three nights debate which had taken place would, he was confident, serve as an antedote to the mischief occasioned by the feebleness of the language adopted by his majesty's ministers, in the course of the recent negotiations. There was but one word in the amendment in which he could not concur. It was the word "earnest," as applied to the endeavours of ministers. If it meant merely, that ministers had been themselves earnest in their endeavours, he did not quarrel with it; and, on the grounds stated in the appeal which had just been made to him by his hon. and learned friend, he was ready to withdraw the address which he had proposed, and allow the amendment to stand as an original motion. [Cries of "no, no: divide divide"!]
Mr. Secretary Canning
said, that after having suffered for three long nights the constant, unceasing, unremitting, and unsparing lectures of the hon. gentlemen opposite, for a too ready concession to the views of foreign powers, it was incumbent upon him and his colleagues to show, that they had profited by the lesson that had been taught them, and that, though satisfied themselves with the amendment, they could not concur in the suggestion of withdrawing the original motion.
The gallery was then cleared for a division. The Opposition members rose in a body to leave the House. Some ministerial members below the bar, having, 1547 however, called for a division, the doors were in consequence closed, and the Opposition members were compelled to remain in the House. The Speaker then put the question on Mr. Macdonald's original motion, which was negatived without a division. He next put the question on Mr. Stuart Wortley's amendment. The Ministerial members cried "Aye:" the Opposition members remained silent. The Speaker declared, that the question was carried in the affirmative. Some members on the Ministerial side, anxious that a division should take place, called out that the "Noes" had the majority. The Speaker thereupon desired those who intended to vote for the amendment to go into the lobby, and those who meant to vote against it to remain in the House. The Opposition proceeded into the lobby, together with the ministerial voters; but a 1548 few members on both sides were shut in the House, in consequence of the lobby being too small to contain the united numbers. The numbers were—For the Amendment, 372. Against it 20. Majority, 352.
§ The following are the names of the gentlemen who remained in the House, and in consequence composed the Minority.
|List of the Minority.|
|Blake, sir F.||Honywood, W. P.|
|Barrett, G. B. M.||Mitchell, J.|
|Bentinck, lord W.||Maberly, J.|
|Clifton, lord||Maberly, W. L.|
|Ellice, Edmund||Milton, lord|
|Gipps, G.||Plummer, J.|
|Grant, col.||Russell, lord J.|
|Grant, M.||Wood, M.|
|Hutchinson, C. H.||Hume, J.|
|Holmes, W.||Hamilton, lord A.|