HC Deb 05 February 1823 vol 8 cc82-7
Mr. Childe

having brought up the report of the Address in answer to the King's Speech,

Sir R. Wilson

said, it was not his intention to disturb the unanimity which prevailed in the House on the present aspect of foreign affairs; but he could not suffer that opportunity to pass without offering a few words. After the impression which the powerful address of his hon. and learned friend (Mr. Brougham) had produced on the House last night, it was far from his intention to trespass on their time for more than a few moments; but, a word had fallen from a right hon. gentleman last night which be thought called for some remark. He had understood the right hon. gentleman to mention the word "neutrality." Now, he would anxiously wish to guard the House against being too confident that that would not he the course adopted by this country. A more disastrous course could not be pursued, as far as Spain was concerned; nor one less honourable to the character of this country. If once that part were decided upon, what was there to prevent France from passing the Pyrenees, and attempting to carry into effect her wicked, and he would say, premeditated project? But if she found the whole coast from Bayonne to Dunkirk exposed to the operations of our fleets, she would be more cautious how she ventured to advance with a chance of our being actively employed against her. He had no doubt, if the right hon. gentleman had given a pledge of neutrality on the part of this country, that he had done so in the expectation that it could be rendered valid. That, however, would be found to be a work of no little difficulty. We should recollect, that the approaching contest between France and. Spain would not be for a boundary line: it was an attempt on the part of the former to put down the constitution—the free choice of the Spanish nation—that constitution which the allied sovereigns at Lay bath had declared they would put down wherever they met it within their reach. But it was not Spain alone that we had to look to. Portugal, too, must be expected to be brought into the contest. She also had a constitution which the emperor Alexander would not recognize; and she would no doubt be anxious to defend it. But supposing Portugal to be so unwise, and he would even say, so base, as to desert Spain in her present exigency; supposing that by such desertion she were to add a force of 50,000 men to the invading armies—and, as a military man of some small experience, he asserted that the desertion of the cause of Spain by Portugal would be equivalent to the addition of 50,000 men to her invaders—still she would not rescue herself from the approach of those dangers, by which her ally of Spain was at present menaced. France, reinforced by the successful termination of her efforts on behalf of the cause of fanaticism and tyranny in Spain, and assisted by the exasperation which the desertion of Portugal would have excited in every honest Spanish bosom, would soon, by her advances to the Portuguese frontier, render it necessary for the Portuguese government to call upon the British cabinet to fulfil the various pledges of assistance which it had offered to it. But was it only external enemies that Portugal had to fear? Did not the right hon. gentlemen opposite know, that a regency of Portugal was already organized in France, and that some of its agents had even arrived in England for the purpose of making proselytes? Supposing an army of the Faith to be raised in Portugal by the intrigues and machinations of this body, and to be backed by a French army of observation stationed on the frontiers, would England, in case of its advance into the interior, be able to throw a military force into the lines of Torres Vedras with any chance of success, or to maintain in the town of Lisbon the immense mass of population which would be cast upon it by such all event? True it was, that England had been able to support that population during the last war; but it ought to be recollected that the supplies for it were at that time drawn from the Brazils, and that no assistance could now be expected from such a quarter. He therefore contended that, both in a political, a military, and a financial point of view, this country was bound to interfere with spirit on the present occasion; especially as by so doing she would only spend thousands now, where she might be compelled to spend millions in future. Nothing could be more honourable to parliament, and the nation in general, than the language which had been employed last night in condemnation of the policy of the allied sovereigns. The annals of history could not show a more wanton or a more wicked aggression upon the rights of nations, than that which they at present contemplated. He said that the aggression was wanton, because every man, who considered that the military force of Spain, previous to the 7th of July, did not exceed 22,000 men, must perceive that its government could entertain no ideas of foreign conquest; and he said that it was wicked, because the constitution of Spain had been recognized, first of all by Russia, and subsequently by Prussia and Austria, as each of them broke away from the chains in which Buonaparté had bound them—chains, which they would never have been able to have dashed asunder, had it not been for the brave example and gallant exertions of that nation, which thee were now straining every nerve to reduce to servitude and vassalage. It was stated, however, as one ground of justification for the armed interference in the affairs of Spain, that the authors of the late revolution had stained their triumph with an unnecessary profusion of human blood. But he would ask, how far this assertion was justified by fact? It was known that much blood had been shed in the massacre at Cadiz. But, was it shed by the friends or the enemies of the revolution? There could be no doubt upon that point. It was an undisputed fact, that that massacre had been committed by the opponents of the present system; and yet, up to this day, no vengeance haul been taken upon the perpetrators of that scandalous outrage. The only persons who had been put to death for offences against the existing constitution, were the two assassins who had murdered an officer of the guards for discharging his duty a few days previous to the 7th of July; and the convention with the mutinous guards, though made by an unauthorized officer, had been religiously observed. Another ground of justification was, that the Spanish government had exhibited a strong disposition to secularize the property of the church. But, if this were a sufficient cause for armed interference, not even the allied sovereigns, nor the pope, nor our own government, which he trusted was soon going to inquire into the state of church property in England, would be safe from it. A third ground was, that the present governors of Spain were the creators of anarchy. Of anarchy! Why, he was himself at Paris when general Quesada left it for Bayonne; to which place it was avowed, that he went for the express pur- pose of organizing a counter-revolution in Spain. On the road thither his carriage broke down, and it became necessary to remove from it the boxes of gold which he had received for the furtherance of his enterprise. Besides, it was notorious that, in almost all the frontier towns of France, bands, armed, and paid by French gold, had been formed, with the intention of promoting rebellion in Spain. In Bayonne, bulletins of the army of the Faith were regularly issued to the public, and a bank was established, for the ransom of such as happened to fall into the clutches of the constitutional party. He was convinced, that the object of the French government, in undertaking a war against the Spanish nation, was not so much to put down the rising liberties of that country, as to overthrow the charter of its own, and to restore the national domains to their original proprietors—a catastrophe which could never be produced without the assistance of an Austrian and Russian army, even supposing it could he produced with them. That such was the object of the French government had been openly avowed by count de Jouffroy in his letter to the duke de Montmorency; and that it was their object to put down all freedom of opinion, and all liberty of discussion, had been made further evident by a declaration of one of their pensioned writers, that it was almost a lamentable circumstance that the Christian religion had been given to the world, inasmuch as, in superseding the superstitions of Paganism, it had tended materially to unsettle the minds and opinions of men. Such being the intentions of the despots of the continent, it was the duty of the British government to come manfully forward in behalf of the liberties of the world; for they might depend upon it, that should war be the result, the people of England would gladly support them in it, if they presented themselves to their notice in the honourable character of the champions of European liberty.

Colonel Davies

expressed his concurrence in the sentiments of independence which had been so generally expressed by the House in the discussion of the former evening. There was one point, however, in which he differed from the gallant officer who had addressed them with so much spirit at an early period of the evening. That gallant officer had ex pressed a hope, that we should preserve a strict neutrality, in case of a war breaking out between France and Spain. For his own part, he could not conceive hay such a neutrality could be preserved by this country, consistently with honour. He should say, that if France sent a single soldier across the Bidassoa, or fired a single cannon on the other side of the Prenees, we ought to consider it as a declaration of war against England. He could not help thinking that, blind and bosotted as the courtiers were by whom the king of France was surrounded—even these men, if they were told that we should consider any aggression upon Spain as a declaration of war against ourselves, would pause before they ventured to make it. If the people of France were made to see that the destruction of liberty in Spain could only be considered as a prelude to the destruction of liberty among them-selves, he thought that the impression made upon them could not fail to produce a corresponding impression, even upon those to whose hands their destinies were at present confided.

Mr. Hutchinson

, though he agreed with every syllable in the Address, contended, that stronger language ought to have been put into the king's mouth, in the present critical situation of affairs. Such language would have struck terror into the congregated despots of the continent, and would have shown the sons of freedom in Spain, that the population of this country, from the prince down to the peasant, was determined to thwart the designs of their oppressors. The whole continent was at present looking up to the conduct of this country; and such a declaration from so high a quarter, would have excited it to a successful opposition against the tyrants who were oppressing it. He hoped ministers would be able to show, that not only had this country not joined at Verona in the unprincipled aggression upon Spain, but that it had opposed itself to it with all its influence. He cordially agreed in every sentiment which the hon. and learned member for Winchelsea had last night expressed, respecting the iniquitous notes of the three great continental powers. He rejoiced to hear the king advising his parliament to take into consideration the state of Ireland, and An improvement in the habits and condition of the people of Ireland could not, however, be effected by words alone, however conciliatory they might be: it must be the result of great and salutary measures. Amongst those measures, he should reckon a fair and equitable commutation of tithes, and the admission of the catholic part of the population to the enjoyment of those privileges from which they had so long been shut out.

The Address was then agreed to.