Canning moved the order of the day, for taking into consideration His Majesty's Message. The Message having been read,
§ Mr. Speaker;
in proposing to the House of Commons to acknowledge, by an humble and dutiful Address, his Majesty's most gracious Message, and to reply to it in terms which will be, in effect, an echo of the sentiments, and a fulfilment of the anticipations of that Message, I feel that, however confident I may be in the justice, and however clear as to the policy of the measures therein announced, it becomes me as a British minister, recommending to parliament any step which may approximate this country* From the original edition, printed for J. Ridgway, Piccadilly.351 even to the hazard of a war, while I explain the grounds of that proposal, to accompany my explanation with expressions of regret.
I can assure the House, that there is not within its walls any set of men more deeply convinced than his majesty's ministers, nor any individual more intimately persuaded than he who has now the honour of addressing you—of the vital importance of the continuance of peace, to this country and to the world. So strongly am I impressed with this opinion —and for reasons of which I will put the House more fully in possession before I sit down—that, I declare, there is no question of doubtful or controverted policy; no opportunity of present national advantage; no precaution against remote difficulty; which I would not gladly compromise, pass over, or adjourn, rather than call on parliament to sanction, at this moment, any measure which had a tendency to involve the country in war. But, at the same time, Sir, I feel that which has been felt, in the best times of English history, by the best statesmen of this country, and by the parliaments by whom those statesmen were supported—I feel that there are two causes, and but two causes, which cannot be either compromised, passed over, or adjourned. These causes are, adherence to the national faith, and regard for the national honour.
Sir, if I did not consider both these causes as involved in the proposition which I have this day to make to you, I should not address the House, as I now do, in the full and entire confidence that the gracious communication of his majesty will be met by the House with the concurrence of which his majesty has declared his expectation.
In order to bring the matter, which I have to submit to you, under the cognizance of the House, in the shortest and clearest manner, I beg leave to state it, in the first instance, divested of any collateral considerations. It is a case of law and of fact—of national law on the one hand, and of notorious fact on the other; such as it must be, in my opinion, as impossible for parliament as it was for the government, to regard in any but one light; or, to come to any but one conclusion upon it.
Among the alliances by which, at different periods of our history, this country 352 has been connected with the other nations of Europe, none is so ancient in origin, and so precise in obligation—none has continued so long and been observed so faithfully—of none is the memory so intimately interwoven with the most brilliant records of our triumphs, as that by which Great Britain is connected with Portugal. It dates back to distant centuries; it has survived an endless variety of fortunes. Anterior in existence to the accession of the House of Braganza to the throne of Portugal—it derived, however, fresh vigour from that event; and never, from that epoch to the present hour, has the independent monarchy of Portugal ceased to be nurtured by the friendship of Great Britain. This alliance has never been seriously interrupted; but it has been renewed by repeated sanctions. It has been maintained under difficulties by which the fidelity of other alliances was shaken, and has been vindicated in fields of blood and of glory.
That the alliance with Portugal has been always unqualifiedly advantageous to this country—that it has not been sometimes inconvenient and sometimes burthen-some—I am not bound nor prepared to maintain. But no British statesman, so far as I know, has ever suggested the expediency of shaking it off: and it is assuredly not at a moment of need, that honour, and what I may be allowed to call national sympathy, would permit us to weigh, with an over-scrupulous exactness, the amount of difficulties and dangers attendant upon its faithful and steadfast observance. What feelings of national honour would forbid, is forbidden alike by the plain dictates of national faith.
It is not at distant periods of history, and in by-gone ages only, that the traces of the union between Great Britain and Portugal are to be found. In the last compact of modern Europe, the compact which forms the basis of its present international law—I mean the treaty of Vienna of 1815—this country, with its eyes open to the possible inconveniences of the connection, but with a memory awake to its past benefits—solemnly renewed the previously existing obligations of alliance and amity with Portugal. I will take leave to read to the House the third article of the treaty concluded at Vienna in 1815, between Great Britain on the one hand, and Portugal on the other. It is couched in the following terms:—"The Treaty of 353 Alliance concluded at Rio de Janeiro, on the 19th of February, 1810, being founded on circumstances of a temporary nature, which have happily ceased to exist, the said Treaty is hereby declared to be void in all its parts, and of no effect; without prejudice, however, to the ancient Treaties of alliance, friendship, and guarantee, which have so long and so happily subsisted between the two Crowns, and which are hereby renewed by the High Contracting Parties, and acknowledged to be of full force and effect."
In order to appreciate the force of this stipulation—recent in point of time, recent also in the sanction of parliament— the House will perhaps allow me to explain shortly the circumstances in reference to which it was contracted. In the year 1807, when, upon the declaration of Buonaparte—that the House of Braganza had ceased to reign—the king of Portugal, by the advice of Great Britain, was induced to set sail for the Brazils; almost at the very moment of his most faithful majesty's embarkation, a secret convention was signed between his majesty and the king of Portugal, stipulating that, in the event of his most faithful majesty's establishing the seat of his government in Brazil, Great Britain would never acknowledge any other dynasty than that of the House of Braganza on the throne of Portugal. That convention, I say, was contemporaneous with the migration to the Brazils; a step of great importance at the time, as removing from the grasp of Buonaparte the sovereign family of Braganza. Afterwards, in the year 1810, when the seat of the king of Portugal's government was established at Rio de Janeiro, and when it seemed probable, in the then apparently hopeless condition of the affairs of Europe, that it was likely long to continue there, the secret convention of 1807, of which the main object was accomplished by the fact of the emigration to Brazil, was abrogated; and a new and public treaty was concluded, into which was transferred the stipulation of the convention of 1807, binding Great Britain, so long as his faithful majesty should be compelled to reside in Brazil, not to acknowledge any other sovereign of Portugal than a member of the House of Braganza. That stipulation which had hitherto been secret, thus became patent, and part of the known law of nations.
In the year 1814, in consequence of the 354 happy conclusion of the war, the option was afforded to the king of Portugal of returning to his European dominions. It was then felt, that, as the necessity of his most faithful majesty's absence from Portugal had ceased, the ground of the obligation originally contracted in the secret convention of 1807, and afterwards transferred to the patent treaty of 1810, was removed. The treaty of 1810 was therefore annulled at the congress of Vienna; and in lieu of the stipulation not to acknowledge any other sovereign of Portugal than a member of the House of Braganza, was substituted that which I have just read to the House.
Annulling the treaty of 1810, the treaty of Vienna renews and confirms (as the House will have seen) all former treaties between Great Britain and Portugal; describing them as "ancient treaties of alliance, friendship, and guarantee;" as having "long and happily subsisted between the two Crowns;" and as being allowed, by the two high contracting parties, to remain "in full force and effect."
What then is the force—what is the effect of those ancient treaties?—I am prepared to show to the House what it is. But before I do so, I must say, that if all the treaties to which this article of the treaty of Vienna refers, had perished by some convulsion of nature, or had, by some extraordinary accident, been consigned to total oblivion, still it would be impossible not to admit, as an incontestable inference from this article of the treaty of Vienna alone, that in a moral point of view, there is incumbent on Great Britain, a decided obligation to act as the effectual defender of Portugal. If I could not shew the letter of a single antecedent stipulation, I should still contend that a solemn admission, only ten years old, of the existence at that time of "Treaties of Alliance, Friendship, and Guarantee," held Great Britain to the discharge of the obligations which that very description implies. But fortunately there is no such difficulty in specifying the nature of those obligations. All the preceding treaties exist; all of them are of easy reference; all of them are known to this country, to Spain, to every nation of the civilized world. They are so numerous, and their general result is so uniform, that it may be sufficient to select only two of them to show the nature of all.
The first to which I shall advert is the 355 treaty of 1661, which was concluded at the time of the marriage of Charles the second with the Infanta of Portugal. After reciting the marriage, and making over to Great Britain, in consequence of that marriage, first a considerable sum of money, and secondly, several important places; some of which, as Tangier, we no longer possess; but others of which, as Bombay, still belong to this country— the treaty runs thus:—" In consideration of all which grants, so much to the benefit of the king of Great Britain, and his subjects in general, and of the delivery of those important places to his said majesty, and his heirs for ever, &c. the king of Great Britain does profess and declare, with the consent and advice of his council, that he will take the interest of Portugal and all its dominions to heart, defending the same with his utmost power, by sea and land, even as England itself;" —and it then proceeds to specify the succours to be sent, and the manner of sending them. I come next to the treaty of 1703; a treaty of alliance contemporaneous with the Methuen treaty which has regulated for upwards of a century the commercial relations of the two countries. The treaty of 1703 was a tripartite engagement between the States-general of Holland, England, and Portugal. The second article of that treaty sets forth, "that if ever it shall happen that the kings of Spain and France, either the present or the 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 on its dominions beyond seas; her majesty the queen of Great Britain and the lords the States-general, 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." The third article declares, that, in the event of 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 foresaid kings or king who shall carry hostile arms into Portugal; and towards that war which shall be carried on in Europe, they shall supply 12,000 whom they, shall arm 356 and pay, as well when in quarters as in action; and the said high allies shall be obliged to keep that number of men complete, by recruiting it from time to time at their own expense." I am aware, indeed, that with respect to either of the treaties which I nave quoted, it is possible to raise a question— whether variation of circumstances or change of times may not have somewhat relaxed its obligations. The treaty of 1661, it might be said, was so loose and prodigal in the wording; it is so unreasonable, so wholly out of nature, that any one country should be expected to defend another, "even as itself;" such stipulations are of so exaggerated a character as to resemble effusions of feeling rather than enunciations of deliberate compact. Again, with respect to the treaty of 1703, if the case rested on that treaty alone, a question might be raised, whether or not, when one of the contracting parties —Holland—had since so changed her relations with Portugal, as to consider her obligations under the treaty of 1703 as obsolete—whether or not, I say, under such circumstances, the obligation on the remaining party be not likewise void. I should not hesitate to answer both these objections in the negative. But, without entering into such a controversy, it is sufficient for me to say, that the time and place for taking such objections was at the Congress at Vienna. Then and there it was, that if you indeed considered these treaties as obsolete, you ought frankly and fearlessly to have declared them to be so. But then and there, with your eyes open, and in the face of all modern Europe, you proclaimed anew the ancient treaties of alliance, friendship, and guarantee, "so long subsisting between the Crowns of Great Britain and Portugal," as still "acknowledged by Great Britain," and still "of full force and effect." It is not, however, on specific articles alone—it is not so much, perhaps, on either of these ancient treaties, taken separately—as it is on the spirit and understanding of the whole body of treaties, of which the essence is concentrated and preserved in the Treaty of Vienna, that we acknowledge in Portugal a right to look to Great Britain as her ally and defender.
This, Sir, being the state, morally and politically, of our obligations towards Portugal, it is obvious, that when Portugal, in apprehension of the coming storm, called 357 on Great Britain for assistance, the only hesitation on our part could be—not whether that assistance was due, supposing the occasion for demanding it to arise—but simply whether that occasion—in other words, whether the casus fœderis—had arisen.
I understand, indeed, that in some quarters it has been imputed to his majesty's ministers, that an extraordinary delay intervened between the taking of the determination to give assistance to Portugal, and the carrying of that determination into effect. But how stands the fact? On Sunday, the 3rd of this month, we received from the Portuguese ambassador a direct and format demand of assistance against a hostile aggression from Spain. Our answer was—that although rumours had reached us through France, his majesty's government had not that accurate information—that official and precise intelligence of facts—on which they could properly found an application to parliament. It was only on last Friday night that this precise information arrived. On Saturday his majesty's confidential servants came to a decision. On Sunday that decision received the sanction of his majesty. On Monday it was communicated to both Houses of parliament—and this day, Sir—at the hour in which I have the honour of addressing you—the troops are on their march for embarkation.
I trust then, Sir, that no unseemly delay is imputable to government. But, undoubtedly, on the other hand, when the claim of Portugal for assistance—a claim, clear indeed in justice, but at the same time fearfully spreading in its possible consequences, came before us, it was the duty of his majesty's government to do nothing on hearsay. The eventual force of the claim was admitted; but a thorough knowledge of facts was necessary before the compliance with that claim could be granted. The government here laboured under some disadvantage. The rumours which reached, us through Madrid were obviously distorted, to answer partial political purposes; and the intelligence through the press of France, though substantially correct, was, in particulars, vague and contradictory. A measure of grave and serious moment could never be founded on such authority; nor could the ministers come down to parliament until they had a confident assurance that the case which they had to lay before the legislature was true in all its parts.
358 But there was another reason which induced a necessary caution. In former instances, when Portugal applied to this country for assistance, the whole power of the state in Portugal was vested in the person of the monarch. The expression of his wish, the manifestation of his desire, the putting forth of his claim, was sufficient ground for immediate and decisive action on the part of Great Britain —supposing the casus fœderis to be made out. But, on this occasion, inquiry was, in the first place, to be made, whether, according to the new constitution of Portugal, the call upon Great Britain was made with the consent of all the powers and; authorities competent to make it; so as to carry with it an assurance of that reception in Portugal for our army which the army of a friend and ally had a right to expect. Before a British soldier should put his foot on Portuguese ground, nay, before he should leave the shores of England, it was our duty to ascertain that the step taken by the regency of Portugal was taken with the cordial concurrence of the legislature of that country. It was but this morning that we received intelligence of the proceedings of the Chambers at Lisbon, which establishes the fact of such concurrence. This intelligence is contained in a despatch from sir W. A'Court, dated 29th of November, of which I will read an extract to the House. "The day after the news arrived of the entry of the rebels into Portugal, the ministers demanded from the Chambers an extension of power for the executive government; and the permission to apply for foreign succours, in virtue of ancient treaties, in the event of their being deemed necessary. The deputies gave the requisite authority by acclamation; and an equally good spirit was manifested by the peers, who granted every power that the ministers could possibly require. They went even further, and rising in a body from their seats, declared their devotion to their, country, and their readiness to give their personal services, if necessary, to repel any hostile invasion. The duke de Cadaval, president of the Chamber, was the first to make this declaration: and the minister who described this proceeding to me said, it was a movement worthy of the good days of Portugal!"
I have thus incidentally disposed of the supposed imputation of delay in complying with the requisition of the Portuguese 359 government. The main question, however, is this—Was it obligatory upon us to comply with that requisition? In other words, had the casus fœderis arisen? In our opinion it had. Bands of Portuguese rebels, armed, equipped, and trained in Spain, had crossed the Spanish frontier, carrying terror and devastation into their own country, and proclaiming sometimes the brother of the reigning sovereign of Portugal, sometimes a Spanish princess, and sometimes even Ferdinand of Spain, as the rightful occupant of the Portuguese throne. These rebels crossed the frontier, not at one point only, but at several points: for it is remarkable, that the aggression on which the original application to Great Britain for succour was founded is not the aggression with reference to which that application has been complied with. The attack announced by the French newspapers was on the north of Portugal, in the province of Tras-os-Montes; an official account of which has been received by his majesty's government only this day. But on Friday an account was received of an invasion in the south of Portugal, and of the capture of Villa Viciosa, a town lying on the road from the southern frontier to Lisbon. This new fact established, even more satisfactorily than a mere confirmation of the attack first complained of would have done, the systematic nature of the aggression from Spain against Portugal. One hostile irruption might have been made by some single corps escaping from their quarters—by some body of stragglers, who might have evaded the vigilance of Spanish authorities; and one such accidental and unconnected act of violence might not have been conclusive evidence of cognizance and design on the part of those authorities. But when a series of attacks are made along the whole line of a frontier, it is difficult to deny that such multiplied instances of hostility are evidence of concerted aggression.
If a single company of Spanish soldiers had crossed the frontier in hostile array, there could not, it is presumed, be a doubt as to the character of that invasion. Shall bodies of men, armed, clothed, and regimented by Spain, carry fire and sword into the bosom of her unoffending neighbour, and shall it be pretended that no attack, no invasion has taken place, because forsooth, these outrages are committed against Portugal by men to whom 360 Portugal had given birth and nurture? What petty quibbling would it be to say, that an invasion of Portugal from Spain was not a Spanish invasion, because Spain did not employ her own troops, but hired mercenaries to effect her purpose? and what difference is it, except as aggravation, that the mercenaries in this instance were natives of Portugal.
I have already stated, and I now repeat, that it never has been the wish or the pretension of the British government to interfere in the internal concerns of the Portuguese nation. Questions of that kind the Portuguese nation must settle among themselves. But if we were to admit that hordes of traitorous refugees from Portugal with Spanish arms—or arms furnished or restored to them by Spanish authorities—in their hands, might put off their country for one purpose, and put it on again for another — put it off for the purpose of attack, and put it on again for the purpose of impunity — if, I say, we were to admit this juggle, and either pretend to be deceived by it ourselves, or attempt to deceive Portugal into a belief that there was nothing of external attack, nothing of foreign hostility, in such a system of aggression — such pretence and attempt I would perhaps be only ridiculous and contemptible; if they did not acquire a much more serious character from being employed as an excuse for infidelity to ancient friendship, and as a pretext for getting rid of the positive stipulations of treaties.
This, then, is the case which I lay before the House of Commons. Here is, on the one hand, an undoubted pledge of national faith—not taken in a corner— not kept secret between the parties—but: publicly recorded amongst the annals of history, in the face of the world. Here are, on the other hand, undeniable acts of foreign aggression, perpetrated, indeed, principally through the instrumentality of domestic traitors; but supported with foreign means, instigated by foreign councils, and directed to foreign ends; Putting these facts, and this pledge together, it is impossible that his majesty should refuse the call that has been made upon him; nor can parliament, I am convinced, refuse to enable his majesty to fulfil his undoubted obligations. I am willing to rest the whole question of to-night, and to call for the vote of the 361 House of Commons upon this simple case; divested altogether of collateral circumstances; from which I especially wish to separate it, in the minds of those who hear me, and also in the minds of others, to whom what I now say will find its way. If I were to sit down this moment, without adding another word, I have no doubt but that I should have the concurrence of the House in the Address which I mean to propose.
When I state this, it will be obvious to the House, that the vote for which I am about to call upon them, is a vote for the defence of Portugal, not a vote for war against Spain. I beg the House to keep these two points entirely distinct in their consideration. For the former I think I have said enough, If, in what I have now further to say, I should bear hard upon the Spanish government; I beg that it may be observed, that unjustifiable as I shall show their conduct to have been — contrary to the law of nations, contrary to the law of good neighbourhood, contrary, I might say, to the laws of God and man — with respect to Portugal— still I do not mean to preclude a locus pœnitentiœ, a possibility of redress and reparation. It is our duty to fly to the defence of Portugal—be the assailant who he may. And, be it remembered, that, in thus fulfilling the stipulations of ancient treaties, of the existence and obligation of which all the world are aware, we, according to the universally admitted construction of the law of nations, neither make war upon that assailant, nor give to that assailant, much less to any other power, just cause of war against ourselves.
Sir, the present situation of Portugal is so anomalous, and the recent years of her history are crowded with events so unusual, that the House will, perhaps, not think that I am unprofitably wasting its time, if I take the liberty of calling its attention shortly and succinctly to those events, and to their influence on the political relations of Europe. It is known that the consequence of the residence of the king of Portugal in Brazil, was to raise the latter country from a colonial to a metropolitan condition; and that from the time when the king began to contemplate his return to Portugal, there grew up in Brazil a desire of independence that threatened dissension, if not something like civil contest between the European and American dominions of the House of 362 Braganza. It is known also that Great Britain undertook a mediation between Portugal and Brazil, and induced the king to consent to a separation of the two Crowns—confirming that of Brazil on the head of his eldest son. The ink with which this agreement was written was scarcely dry, when the unexpected death of the king of Portugal produced a new state of things, which re-united on the same head the two Crowns which it had been the policy of England, as well as of Portugal, and of Brazil to separate. On that occasion, Great Britain, and another European court, closely connected with Brazil, tendered advice to the emperor of Brazil, now become king of Portugal; which advice it cannot be accurately said that his imperial majesty followed—because he had decided for himself before it reached Rio de Janeiro; but in conformity with which advice, though not in consequence of it, his imperial majesty determined to abdicate the Crown of Portugal in favour of his eldest daughter. But the emperor of Brazil had done more. What had not been foreseen—what would have been beyond the province of any foreign power to advise—his imperial majesty had accompanied his abdication of the Crown of Portugal with the grant of a free constitutional charter to that kingdom.
It has been surmised that this measure, as well as the abdication which it accompanied, was the offspring of our advice. No such thing: Great Britain did not suggest this measure. It is not her duty nor her practice to offer suggestions for the internal regulation of foreign states. She neither approved nor disapproved of the grant of a constitutional charter to Portugal: her opinion upon that grant was never required. True it is, that the instrument of the constitutional charter was brought to Europe by a gentleman of high trust in the service of the British government. Sir C. Stuart had gone to Brazil to negociate the separation between that country and Portugal. In addition to his character of plenipotentiary of Great Britain, as the mediating power, he had also been invested by the king of Portugal with the character of his most faithful majesty's plenipotentiary for the negotiation with Brazil. That negotiation had been brought to a happy conclusion; and therewith the British part of sir C. Stuart's commission had terminated. But sir C. Stuart was still resident at Rio de Janeiro, as the 363 plenipotentiary of the king of Portugal, for negociating commercial arrangements between Portugal and Brazil. In this latter character it was, that sir C. Stuart, on his return to Europe, was requested by the emperor of Brazil to be the bearer to Portugal of the new constitutional charter. His majesty's government found no fault with sir C. Stuart for executing this commission; but it was immediately felt, that if sir C. Stuart were allowed to remain at Lisbon, it might appear, in the eyes of Europe, that England was the contriver and imposer of the Portuguese constitution. Sir C. Stuart was, therefore, directed to return home forthwith, in order that the constitution, if carried into effect there, might plainly appear to be adopted by the Portuguese nation itself, not forced upon them by English interference.
As to the merits, Sir, of the new constitution of Portugal, I have neither the intention, nor the right, to offer any opinion. Personally, I may have formed one, but as an English minister, all I have to say is,—" May God prosper this attempt at the establishment of constitutional liberty in Portugal! and may that nation be found as fit to enjoy and to cherish its new-born privileges, as it has often proved itself capable of discharging its duties amongst the nations of the world."
I, Sir, am neither the champion nor the critic of the Portuguese constitution. But it is admitted on all hands to have proceeded from a legitimate source—a consideration which has mainly reconciled continental Europe to its establishment: and to us, as Englishmen, it is recommended, by the ready acceptance which it has met with from all orders of the Portuguese people. To that constitution, therefore, thus unquestioned in its origin, even by those who are most jealous of new institutions,—to that constitution, thus sanctioned in its outset by the glad and grateful acclamations of those who are destined to live under it,—to that constitution, founded on principles in a great degree similar to those of our own, though differently modified,—it is impossible that Englishmen should not wish well. But it would not be for us to force, that constitution on the people of Portugal, if they were unwilling to receive it,—or if any schism should exist amongst the Portuguese themselves, as to its fitness and 364 congeniality to the wants and wishes of the nation. It is no business of ours to fight its battles. We go to Portugal in the discharge of a sacred obligation, contracted under ancient and modern treaties. When there, nothing shall be done by us to enforce the establishment of the constitution;—but we must take care that nothing shall be done by others to prevent it from being fairly carried into effect. Internally, let the Portuguese settle their own affairs; but with respect to external force, while Great Britain has an arm to raise, it must be raised against the efforts of any power that should attempt forcibly to control the choice, and fetter the independence of Portugal.
Has such been the intention of Spain? Whether the proceedings which have lately been practised or permitted in Spain were acts of a government exercising the usual power of prudence and foresight (without which a government is, for the good of the people which live under it, no government at all), or whether they were the acts of some secret illegitimate power—of some furious fanatical faction, over-riding the counsels of the ostensible government, defying it in the capital, and disobeying it on the frontiers—I will not stop to inquire. It is indifferent to Portugal, smarting under her wrongs,—it is indifferent to England, who is called upon to avenge them,—whether the present state of things be the result of the intrigues of a faction, over which, if the Spanish government has no control, it ought to assume one as soon as possible, —or of local authorities over whom it has control, and for whose acts it must, therefore, be held responsible. It matters not, I say, from which of these sources the evil has arisen. In either case, Portugal must be protected; and from England that protection is due.
It would be unjust, however, to the Spanish government, to say, that it is only amongst the members of that government that an unconquerable hatred of liberal institutions exists in Spain. However incredible the phenomenon may appear in this country, I am persuaded that a vast majority of the Spanish nation entertain a decided attachment to arbitrary power, and a predilection for absolute government. The more liberal institutions of countries in their neighbourhood have not yet extended their influence into Spain, nor awakened any sympathy in the mass 365 of the Spanish people. Whether the public authorities of Spain did or did not partake of the national sentiment, there would almost necessarily grow up between Portugal and Spain, under present circumstances, an opposition of feelings, which it would not require the authority or the suggestions of the government to excite and stimulate into action. Without blame, therefore, to the government of Spain—out of the natural antipathy between the two neighbouring nations— the one prizing its recent freedom, the other hugging its traditionary servitude— there might arise mutual provocations, and reciprocal injuries which, perhaps, even the most active and vigilant ministry could not altogether restrain. I am inclined to believe that such has been, in part at least the origin of the differences between Spain and Portugal. That in their progress they have been adopted, matured, methodized, combined, and brought into more perfect action, by some authority more united and more efficient than the mere feeling disseminated through the mass of the community, is certain; but I do believe their origin to have been as much in the real sentiment of the Spanish population, as in the opinion or contrivance of the government itself.
Whether this be or be not the case, is precisely the question between us and Spain. If, though partaking in the general feelings of the Spanish nation, the Spanish government has, nevertheless, done nothing to embody those feelings, and to direct them hostilely against Portugal; if all that has occurred on the frontiers, has occurred only because the vigilance of the Spanish government has been surprised, its confidence betrayed, and its orders neglected—if its engagements have been repeatedly and shamefully violated, not by its own good will, but against its recommendation and desire —let us see some symptoms of disapprobation, some signs of repentance, some measures indicative of sorrow for the past, and of sincerity for the future. In that case his majesty's message, to which I propose this night to return an answer of concurrence, will retain the character which I have ascribed to it,—that of a measure of defence for Portugal, not a measure of resentment against Spain.
With these explanations and qualifications, let us now proceed in the review of facts. Great desertions took place from 366 the Portuguese army into Spain, and some desertions took place from the Spanish army into Portugal. In the first instance, the Portuguese authorities were taken by surprise; but, in every subsequent instance, where they had an opportunity of exercising a discretion, it is but just to say, that they uniformly discouraged the desertions of the Spanish soldiery. There exist between Spain and Portugal specific treaties, stipulating the mutual surrender of deserters. Portugal had, therefore, a right to claim of Spain that every Portuguese deserter should be forthwith sent back. I hardly know whether from its own impulse, or in consequence of our advice, the Portuguese government waved its right under those treaties; very wisely reflecting, that it would be highly inconvenient to be placed by the return of their deserters, in the difficult alternative of either granting a dangerous amnesty, or ordering numerous executions. The Portuguese government, therefore, signified to Spain that it would be entirely satisfied if, instead of surrendering the deserters, Spain would restore their arms, horses, and equipments; and, separating the men from their officers, would remove both from the frontiers into the interior of Spain. Solemn engagements were entered into by the Spanish government to this effect—first with Portugal, next with France, and afterwards with England. Those engagements, concluded one day, were violated the next. The deserters, instead of being disarmed and dispersed, were allowed to remain congregated together near the frontiers of Portugal; where they were enrolled, trained, and disciplined, for the expedition which they have since undertaken. It is plain that in these proceedings, there was perfidy somewhere. It rests with the Spanish government to show, that it was not with them. It rests with the Spanish government to prove, that if its engagements have not been fulfilled—if its intentions have been eluded and unexecuted, the fault has not been with the government; and that it is ready to make every reparation in its power.
I have said that these promises were made to France and to Great Britain, as well as to Portugal. I should do a great injustice to France if I were not to add, that the representations of that government upon this point, with the cabinet of Madrid, have been as urgent, and, alas! 367 as fruitless, as those of Great Britain. Upon the first irruption into the Portuguese territory, the French government testified its displeasure by instantly re-falling its ambassador; and it further directed its chargé d'affaires to signify to his Catholic majesty, that Spain was not to look for any support from France against the consequences of this aggression upon Portugal. I am bound, I repeat, in justice to the French government, to state, that it has exerted itself to the utmost, in urging Spain to retrace the steps which she has so unfortunately taken. It is not for me to say whether any more efficient course might have been adopted to give effect to their exhortations: but as to the sincerity and good faith of the exertions made by the government of France, to press Spain to the execution of her engagements, I have not the shadow of a doubt:—and I confidently reckon upon their continuance.
It will be for Spain, upon knowledge of the step now taken by his majesty, to consider in what way she will meet it. The earnest hope and wish of his majesty's government is, that she may meet it in such a manner as to avert any ill consequences to herself, from the measure into which we have been driven by the unjust attack upon Portugal.
Sir, I set out with saying, that there were reasons which entirely satisfied my judgment that nothing short of a point of national faith or national honour, would justify at the present moment, any voluntary approximation to the possibility of war. Let me be understood, however, distinctly, as not meaning to say that I dread war in a good cause (and in no other may it be the lot of this country ever to engage!), from a distrust of the strength of the country to commence it, or of her resources to maintain it. I dread it, indeed, but upon far other grounds; I dread it from an apprehension of the tremendous consequences which might arise from any hostilities in which we might now be engaged. Some years ago, in the discussion of the negotiations respecting the French war against Spain, I took the liberty of adverting to this topic. I then stated that the position of this country in the present state of the world was one of neutrality, not only between contending nations, but between conflicting principles; and that it was by neutrality alone that we could maintain that 368 balance, the preservation of which, I believed to be essential to the welfare of mankind. I then said, that I feared that the next war which should be kindled in Europe, would be a war not so much of armies, as of opinions. Not four years have elapsed, and behold my apprehension realized! It is, to be sure, within narrow limits that this war of opinion is at present confined: but it is a war of opinion, that Spain (whether as government or as nation) is now waging against Portugal; it is a war which has commenced in hatred of the new institutions of Portugal. How long is it reasonable to expect that Portugal will abstain from retaliation? If into that war this country shall be compelled to enter, we shall enter into it with a sincere and anxious desire to mitigate rather than exasperate,—and to mingle only in the conflict of arms, not in the more fatal conflict of opinions. But I much fear that this country (however earnestly she may endeavour to avoid it), could not, in such case, avoid seeing ranked under her banners all the restless and dissatisfied of any nation with which she might come in conflict. It is the contemplation of this new power in any future war, which excites my most anxious apprehension. It is one thing to have a giant's strength, but it would be another to use it like a giant. The consciousness of such strength is, undoubtedly, a source of confidence and security; but in the situation in which this country stands, our business is not to seek opportunities of displaying it, but to content ourselves with letting the professors of violent and exaggerated doctrines on both sides feel, that it is not their interest to convert an umpire into an adversary. The situation of England, amidst the struggle of political opinions which agitates more or less sensibly different countries of the world, may be compared to that of the ruler of the winds, as described by the poet:——" Celsâ sedet Æolus arce,Sceptra tenens; mollitque animos et temperat iras;Ni faciat, maria ac terras cælumquc profundumQuippe ferant rapidi secum, verrantque per auras.The consequence of letting loose the passions, at present chained and confined, would be to produce a scene of desolation which no man can contemplate without horror; and I should not sleep easy on my couch, if I were conscious that I had contributed to precipitate it by a single moment.
369 This, then, is the reason—a reason very different from fear—the reverse of a consciousness of disability,—why I dread the recurrence of hostilities in any part of Europe; why I would bear much, and would forbear long; why I would (as I have said) put up with almost any thing that did not touch national faith and national honour;—rather than let slip the furies of war, the leash of which we hold in our hands,—not knowing whom they may reach, or how far their ravages may be carried. Such is the love of peace which the British government acknowledges; and such the necessity for peace which the circumstances of the world inculcate. I will push these topics no further.
I return, in conclusion, to the object of the address. Let us fly to the aid of Portugal, by whomsoever attacked, because it is our duty to do so; and let us cease our interference where that duty ends. We go to Portugal, not to rule, not to dictate, not to prescribe constitutions, but to defend and to preserve the independence of an ally. We go to plant the standard of England on the well-known heights of Lisbon. Where that standard is planted, foreign dominion shall not come. The right hon. gentleman concluded with moving an address couched in the same terms as the one moved by earl Bathurst in the House of Lords. [See p. 343.]
§ Sir Robert Wilson
said, he thought that his majesty as a British king reigning over a free people, must have experienced feelings of pride and satisfaction, when he caused the message before them to be delivered to both Houses. For his own part, when he gave notice of a motion on this subject the other evening, he had not been induced to do so from any desire that it should be the ground of an accusation against ministers, but because he could no longer behold with patience the many acts of treachery and oppression exercised against Portugal. He rejoiced most sincerely at hearing from ministers, that it was their determination to pat a stop to those aggressions. He had been fearful, that assistance would not be afforded to Portugal, until the Spaniards, assisted by Portuguese traitors, had reached the seat of government in that kingdom, overthrown the constitution, and expelled every worthy man from the country. He was alarmed lest we should again 370 have seen our streets crowded with unhappy exiles, suing for the means of existence. The feelings of the Spaniards towards this country might be judged of by the sentiments which had been expressed by one of their principal officers, that it was necessary for the peace of Europe, that British influence should be driven from Portugal. he thought the right hon. Secretary had hardly stated in sufficiently forcible terms the imperative obligation which there was on this country, by the faith of treaties, to protect Portugal. The right hon. gentleman had also observed, that the Spanish government had still an opportunity for repentance; as if the king of Spain were likely to alter his conduct, or retrace his steps. What confidence could be placed in the declarations of a sovereign, who, on the very day that he signed an act of amnesty at Cadiz, had also signed an act of proscription of the most sanguinary and revolting nature; and who had recently sent to the pope, to know whether, if he should be compelled by force to recognize the constitution of Portugal, such recognition would be binding on his conscience? We had only to adopt a spirited course on the present occasion, and it would be attended with the desired effect. He could not give much credit to the professions of France, as long as she continued to retain possession of Cadiz and Barcelona. Ministers were bound to require her to withdraw her troops from Spain, if it were only out of regard to our own interest; for, until she did this, it would not be possible for us to reduce our establishments. As well might an insurance company lock up their engines when parties were abroad with torches in their hands ready to create a conflagration. The right hon. gentleman had represented the Spaniards as hating all liberal principles and institutions. Now, it seemed to him, that this feeling was not so universal amongst them, as the right hon. gentleman supposed. As an instance to the contrary, he might mention the revolt of the Isle de Leon, and the spontaneous erection of the constitutional government. He called upon ministers to take every precaution which the circumstances of the case would admit, not to add more than was absolutely requisite to the burthens of the country. It was impossible in human affairs, particularly with regard to war, to predict what the result would be; 371 whether disaster or success. It was, however, gratifying to know, that in the present instance the cause was just. Never could a nation have gone into battle with a greater assurance than we possessed that God and justice was on their side. That was the motto which should be borne upon our banners. Whatever might be the result, he would never shrink from the responsibility of having urged the British government to adopt a hostile position.
§ Mr. Hume
begged to be allowed to state briefly the grounds upon which he claimed the attention of the House. His hon. and gallant friend had treated this question in a way from which he materially dissented, and he should think himself wanting in his duty, if he did not express his dissent; but, in so doing, he begged to be understood as appreciating to as full an extent as any man, the effect of the unanimous approbation with which the speech of the right hon. gentleman was received, and that he was not unconscious of the embarrassment in which he was placed by venturing to oppose to that unanimity perhaps his isolated opinion. The first observations which he should make upon the statement which the House had just heard, was, that the right hon. gentleman seemed to have taken only one view of the question; namely, the relation in which this country was placed with respect to Portugal by treaty. Now, to the actual fact of this relation, he could not object, because he was assured that treaties were in existence by which it was established; but he thought that such treaties were to be deprecated, and it would not be amiss to discuss the question, whether or not in sound political expediency and discretion, we were to be bound by them. What was the situation in which this country was now placed? Was it not that, by the right hon. gentleman's interpretation, we were, upon every occasion of emergency in which Portugal might be placed, to give her our aid and protection, although it was morally certain, that from our relative conditions, we could never expect to receive any assistance from her? He felt that it was too late in the day now to inquire why or wherefore those treaties were made; because that they were made was certain, and it was certain also that they had been proclaimed in the face of Europe, in 1815, and that we were, so far as these treaties were binding, called upon to assist our oldest ally, Portugal, in her 372 difficulties. But the question now was, whether or not these treaties ought to be considered as binding, and whether we were called upon, in sound policy, to plunge rashly into hostilities, of which no man could see the end? That a state of tranquillity and neutrality was the most wholesome for this country, suffering as it still was from its former extraordinary struggles, no man could deny. It had been admitted by every man who considered the subject; and had not been denied, but even strongly insisted on by the right hon. gentleman himself, in former debates in that House. The glowing colours in which that right hon. gentleman had clothed the present question this night, seemed to have dazzled his own sight. He had wholly overlooked the most important point of all; namely, whether this country was in a condition to go to war, or able to bear the new burthens which such a state of things would impose upon it. It was very fine to talk of keeping faith with foreigners, but the right hon. gentleman was about to place this country in a state, that it must either break the national faith with its own creditors at home or with its allies abroad. These were consequences which, perhaps, the right hon. gentleman did not appear to foresee. The question then was, whether, under these circumstances, the right hon. gentleman had made out a case to justify the commencement of hostilities. The despatches which decided ministers to adopt their present course were received on Friday. A Cabinet Council was held on Saturday; on Monday a message was brought down to the House from his majesty, and already troops were on their march. What were the grounds of these precipitate measures? The right hon. gentleman said, that in case of a hostile aggression against Portugal, this country was bound by treaty to defend her, and therefore he had determined to plant the standard of England there. Admitting the existence of all the treaties to which the right hon. gentleman had alluded, still he did not think that a casus fœderis had been made out, which warranted this country in entering upon hostilities. The right hon. gentleman had informed the House, that certain rebels who had taken refuge in Spain, had afterwards entered Portugal. That was not a case which came within the scope of the treaties, and called on us to take up arms in defence of Portugal. 373 The Spanish government had declared that it would not permit any aggression upon Portugal by any of its own subjects, and no such aggression had been made by Spaniards. The only document which ministers had produced was a single letter. The House was not warranted in supporting them on such slight authority. The statements which were contained in the letter received, might turn out to be incorrect or exaggerated. He recollected, that three years and a half ago, the right hon. gentleman most ably and sensibly stated the advantage which this country would derive from remaining at peace, and strongly enforced the necessity of maintaining neutrality. The House was then as unanimous in supporting the right hon. gentleman's recommendations of neutrality, as they were now anxious to agree with him in rushing headlong into a war. The language which the right hon. gentleman had used on that occasion was as follows: — "Was there any man acquainted with the history of the country for the last twenty years, who did not know the way in which Great Britain had been accustomed to participate in a war? Did not gentlemen know, that if we were now to enter into a war, we must take the whole burthen of it upon ourselves, and conduct the whole force and exertions of the Peninsula?" Did the right hon. gentleman mean to say that we were to conduct the war on the present occasion upon such principles? If he did, he asked the House whether they would enter upon such a war, when the finances of the country were hardly sufficient to meet its current expenses? He was convinced there was not a man in the House who would put his hand to his heart and say, that the existing distresses of all classes of the community ought to be aggravated by the imposition of fresh burthens, to enable ministers to carry on a war which was not demanded for our own defence, and not even required by treaty, but merely because a few Portuguese rebels had risen against their government. We were now about to commence hostilities which would lead to a war with France. If the right hon. gentleman had wished to place this country in a proper situation with respect to France and the Peninsula, he should have come down to the House and proposed the repeal of the foreign enlistment bill, which had been the ruin of Spanish liberty. He had expected that 374 his hon. friends about him would, instead of agreeing to the address, have moved for a call of the House, in order to bring the whole of the members of the new parliament together. It was not acting properly to decide hastily upon a question of such importance. They ought to pause till ministers received further information from Spain. The intelligence upon which they were now proceeding might turn out to be incorrect. He recollected that, on a former occasion, the right hon. gentleman said, he had been mistaken with respect to some statements which he had made regarding France. As to France, considering the wily policy which she had all along observed with respect to the Peninsula, he thought the right hon. gentleman ought to mistrust her present professions. Did any man believe that France sincerely wished to repress the misconduct of the Spanish government? The right hon. gentleman seemed to be afraid to place the saddle on the right horse. He did not venture to condemn the faithless conduct of France. Let him repeal the foreign enlistment act, and call on France to withdraw her troops from Spain. If this were not done, this extraordinary state of things would arise—French troops would be in possession of Spain, and English troops in possession of Portugal. The right hon. gentleman had talked as if the war was to be a crusade against fanaticism, and not against the government of Spain. That government, it was said, meant well, but there were certain fanatics in France and Spain who had driven matters to the present crisis. Why did not the right hon. gentleman call upon France to withdraw her troops from Spain; the presence of which alone enabled the king of Spain to do either good or evil? It was well known that the king of Spain could not maintain himself even for a few weeks without, the assistance of the French troops. Let not the House be led away by the eloquence of the right hon. gentleman. He had talked about letting "slip the dogs of war." They were already let slip. They were on their march [a laugh]. He did not know the meaning of that laugh. Either they were or they were not. His hon. friends seemed to think that he had mistaken the object of their march; but that was not the case. The hon. member once more begged the House not to resolve to commence hostilities, on the contradictory statement of the right 375 hon. gentleman, merely to quell the rebellion of one or two Portuguese regiments. The manner in which the House seemed disposed to act on the present occasion was in direct opposition to the line of conduct which they adopted three years ago. The right hon. gentleman was mistaken, in supposing that he would carry with him the feelings of the people of England with regard to the proposed war, at a time when the workmen, in the most important branches of industry were unable to obtain the means of subsistence. The war could not be carried on without the imposition of fresh taxes, and therefore nothing but the necessity of defending ourselves ought to induce the House to consent to the commencement of hostilities. He knew it was an ungrateful task for an individual to state opinions which were opposed to those of the majority of the House, but he felt it his duty to enter his protest against the measures proposed by ministers. If the Portuguese government could not, with the alliance of France, Spain, and England, and assisted by us, as she was at present, with ships and men, crush the rebellion which had been raised against it, all attempts to support it would be futile. He would again trouble the House with some passages from the speech which the right hon. gentleman had made three years and a half ago, when he dissuaded the House from going to war. The right hon. gentleman then said—" War, in the responsibility of those who had to make it, ought to be well and duly weighed before it was resolved on; the cause of it should not merely be sufficient, but urgent; and not merely urgent, bat absolutely consistent with the interest and welfare of the country which first declared it." He went on to say—" He did hope, that whenever England determined upon war, it would determine to wage it, not as an auxiliary, but as a principal. Such had hitherto been its policy, and on all former occasions, when it had resorted to war, it had exerted every nerve to bring it to a safe, a speedy, and an honourable conclusion." Those words ought to induce the House to refrain from entering upon a war, at least until they had time for further deliberation. Every man acquainted with the history of Europe, must know, that the unfurling of the standard of England upon the continent might involve us in a general war, which we were in no condition to 376 maintain. These being his sentiments, he was anxious to move as an amendment to the right hon. gentleman's motion, that the House should be called over on that day week. They would then at least have the merit of having well considered the question. The question of peace or war deserved to be well considered. The next packet from Lisbon might bring accounts of the rebels having either yielded or fled. If that should happen, we should become the sport of Europe, for having been so ready to send out troops, without any necessity for such a proceeding.—The hon. member then moved as an amendment, "That this House be called over on this day seven-night."
member for Preston, seconded the amendment. He said, he thought it was not fair to bring forward a question of such great importance at a time when so many members had left town. He was also of opinion, that the House would be acting with indecent and ruinous precipitation, if they allowed themselves to be hurried into a war merely by the dazzling and brilliant speech of the right hon. gentleman. He did not wish to prejudge the question of war or peace, but he seconded the amendment, in order to give the House further time to deliberate. If the House should agree to the address proposed by the right hon. gentleman, and a war should ensue, they must be prepared to support the imposition of a very high property-tax, and the re-enactment of the Bank Restriction Act; two measures which he would never consent to, so long as he had a scat in that House. There was also a third measure which the House must be prepared to agree to, but which he would rather accord as a boon than a right. He meant Catholic Emancipation. In the event of a war, emancipation would be demanded not as a favour, but a right. If he never gave another vote in that House, he should rejoice at having stood up to express his sentiments on the present occasion. He would not make a long speech, because he could do no more than reiterate what he had already said. He was desirous of keeping faith with foreign nations, but he could not forget that we owed good faith to ourselves. Self preservation was the first law of nature. Thousands of Englishmen were at this moment wanting bread. Should the House resolve to commence a war under such circumstances, what 377 could they say to the starving manufacturers in the north? To our own people we were bound by the ties of nature; foreign ties were merely conventional.
said, he was not one of those who wished the country to rush into a war; on the contrary, he had listened to the statement of the right hon. Secretary with a strong desire to find such a proceeding unnecessary—to discover some means of evasion—but it appeared to him, that the case made out by the right hon. Secretary was so strong and so decisive, that without making some such excuse as the meanest and most contemptible nation in the world might be inclined to frame, this country could not avoid taking the attitude which it was proposed she should take. He put it to the greatest lover of peace in that House, whether an exhibition of pusillanimity was the way to secure respect and peace. Did an individual ever suppress insult or aggression by the reputation of pusillanimity? It was in vain to talk to the House about a property-tax, and a Bank restriction act. The only question for the House to consider was this—" Is the faith of England engaged to afford protection to Portugal?" Neither the hon. member who had moved, nor the hon. member who had seconded the amendment, had uttered one word which could induce the most credulous to hesitate for one moment to decide that question in the affirmative. The hon. member for Aberdeen had said, that our treaties with Portugal were imprudent. Upon the whole, he thought so too; but with the nature of those treaties the House, at the present moment, had nothing to do. The question was, did they exist? Could any man, possessing a spark of honour, say that this was the moment to discuss the prudence of those treaties? Now that we were called upon to execute our agreement with Portugal, would it be honourable to say that we thought the treaties imprudent? Whatever might be the distress which existed in the country, he was sure that the case made out by the right hon. Secretary could not be fairly stated, without meeting with the unanimous concurrence of his high-minded, though suffering countrymen. If the situation of the country were such as to render it impossible for us to go to war, it would be the more manly course to say so at once, and not to quibble about the 378 prudence of the treaties into which we had entered. In addition to any argument as to the existence of treaties, which, although they might be burthen-some, it was impossible for us to get rid of; the security of this country was vitally interested in maintaining the integrity of Portugal. He had, for years, looked with great distrust and anxiety to the state of the Peninsula; and he was clearly of opinion, that it would have been better for England, if ministers had shown that resolution four years ago in the case of Spain, which they now displayed in the affairs of Portugal. He was confident that if that course had been taken, great mischief would have been spared to Europe. It could not fail to happen, that our conduct on that occasion should, at some time or other, draw us into a scrape; for the right hon. gentleman told the House of a different feeling in Spain from that which existed in Portugal; of the people of Spain being partial to a despotic government; of their disliking a free constitution. Without doubting the accuracy of the right hon. gentleman's information, he was disposed to think that on this point he was incorrect. Because, if the case was so, what answer could the French ambassador have to make to a question, which probably the right hon. gentleman had asked him; namely, "Why it was that the French delayed withdrawing their troops from Spain?" Because, if the Spaniards were so unanimous in their hatred of all liberal government, that they not only rejected it themselves, but could not be restrained from breaking into Portugal to annihilate it, what necessity was there for the French remaining in Spain to defend the royalist cause? He rather feared, that France, having once been permitted to enter Spain, would feel a difficulty about leaving it. He had no doubt of the feeling of France, or of her disposition to maintain peace with this country; but still, to leave such a political engine as Spain, from year to year, in the hands of France, he thought most impolitic and dangerous. The French were in Spain: we had no prospect of getting them out of Spain: and, if we suffered them to enter Portugal, the whole line of coast belonging to the Peninsula, which we had the most absolute interest in defending against them, would be under their control. He repeated that this could not be. It was 379 true that we had the friendly professions of France; but the friendly professions of other countries were very bad security for the safety of this. France might, and did, assure us of her good intentions; but our ancestors were not satisfied with such assurances: they took care to keep better security in their hands; and we ought to follow their example. If we allowed France, by peaceable management, to get possession of Spain, we gave her precisely what her policy had always wanted— what Louis 14th had imperfectly obtained, and what Napoleon had aimed at. He repeated, that it would be impossible for any diplomatic skill to place the Peninsula in a state more dangerous to the interests of this country than that in which it stood at present. It was said, that the government of Spain was not a party to these measures; that there was a power there behind the throne greater than the throne itself; but the same thing had been said of this, and of every other country. He looked to what the measures amounted to, rather than to the quarter from whence they came. The question then was, had the right hon. Secretary taken the proper course to meet the question? He believed that, whether the French were sincere, or whether they were insincere, the right hon. gentleman had taken the only safe course; and that, if we were to hesitate for a moment, from any consideration of the resources of the country, we should put ourselves in such a situation as to be below notice. The country was in a condition to go to war; for the people were willing, and would go along with the government. He believed that no government, or parliament, or king, could again make this country embark in an unjust war. That day was gone by; but he was convinced that if war was essential to the national honour, the means of the country were perfectly adequate to the purpose. The war could not be looked at as an enormous expense; and when they considered the amount of taxes which had been repealed during the peace, he could not but think that the statement of the pressure of the times had been exaggerated. The present measure could not be treated like a private question—like a matter of local expense, or the passing of a turnpike bill; and he was only surprised that there should be a single member in the House disposed to object to it. He never denied the neces- 380 sity of saving, as far as it was safe or practicable. He was not an advocate for a crusade in support of liberal opinions. We had quite enough to do to look after our own interests: but here our ally, our ancient ally, had been attacked, and for no other reason than because she had a free constitution. If Portugal had been a despotism there would have been no attack; but Portugal had a free constitution, and that was the offence [cheers]. He had not road their constitution. He was not much given to the reading of new constitutions; but when they were told that it had emanated from the imperial palace of Brazil, he could not suppose it had any very formidable leaning towards popular rights. Now, in a case like this, advocate as he was for the avoidance of every gratuitous measure of interference, he thought it was impossible for England to hesitate. The government of Spain, or the power behind the throne, or before it, that ruled that government, might go on if they pleased, maintaining and enforcing their own system in their own dominions, as long as the imbecility or ignorance of the people would induce them to crouch under it; but they must not be permitted to carry their abhorrence of freedom so far as to rush to the destruction of those blessings where they existed within the territories of our allies.
said, he doubted very much the proposition of the hon. member for Callington, that the contest into which the country was about to rush, would not prove expensive. He was strongly inclined to consider that which had recently taken place rather as an act of internal commotion connected with Portugal, than as any measure proceeding from external powers in hostility to our ally. He thought that we ought at least to be perfectly sure that war was indispensable before we rushed into it; and, though it would be impossible for him to vote, for, the amendment, that was a fact of which all the eloquence of the right hon. Secretary had not convinced him.
said, he should have left the question before the House precisely as it stood upon the statement of the right hon. Secretary, if it had not been that, after the part which (he now reflected with pleasure) he had taken on the subject of Spanish affairs two years back, it was impossible for him to give a silent vote upon the question now under discussion: but, 381 as the case stood, he should begin by entreating the hon. member for Aberdeen, and the hon. member by whom the amendment had been seconded, to believe that it was not from any disrespect to the motives which had actuated their conduct, if the first words which he uttered were to protest entirely against it. If he could persuade himself for a moment, that the impending contest could safely be avoided; if he could see any way of honourably escaping from it; if he could discover any alternative between the course of active preparation for war (he trusted not of actual war), on the one hand, and of a breach of national faith, a sacrifice of the country's honour on the other, then, perhaps, he might be in a more equable state of mind upon the question, more capable of listening to the arithmetic of the hon. member for Aberdeen; because he might then be able, in some degree, to adjust his vote according to the result of his calculations; but there were circumstances in which countries as well as individuals might be placed, in which to compute the costs would be impossible, frivolous, disgraceful alike to the country and to the individual. The question was this, could a nation be bound by treaties? Was there, or was there not, in every nation, such a body politic—always existing—as was capable of binding that nation by its acts to other powers, in such compacts and obligations as, for centuries forward, should continue and remain the same? That such a body did exist in every civilized nation, and that we—England—were bound by the treaties which had been entered into on our parts, although the executive government which had entered into those agreements for us with foreign states no longer existed, or did not remain the same—that was a proposition, which, by the very hardiest, he presumed, was not intended to be denied. Then, it was not a very old treaty which bound us here. Its antiquity could make no difference; but it was not an old obligation. If, in Charles 2nd's time, in consideration of the sum of money which that most abandoned and profligate tyrant squandered the moment it was received into his coffers, the treaty with Portugal had been contracted, it must be remembered, that there was another consideration attached to that treaty, besides the money so infamously spent—a consideration, which those who looked to the 382 question of expense might be sorry to advert to, because it would place some of their computations on the wrong side of the account. Bombay, let it be recollected, had been obtained by England under that treaty, in addition to the 300,000l. which Charles 2nd had wasted: and, in common equity, that flourishing settlement, which was not destroyed or wasted, if we refused to discharge the consideration for which we received it—to fulfil the terms of our treaty with Portugal—we must be prepared to relinquish and give up. But this was not the contract under which we stood bound to Portugal. We had renewed that same treaty with Portugal in the seventeenth century; again in the eighteenth century—in the beginning of it; and again even in the year 1815— lately—but a few years back—since the hon. members for Aberdeen and for Dorsetshire, who now objected to its performance, had borne conspicuous parts in the public transactions of this country [hear, hear.] These old treaties were solemn— firm—binding—such as no country with the slightest pretension to honour could retreat from—such as no statesman of common honour, of common sense, could recommend any country to abandon. In the year 1815, at the Congress of Vienna, they had been renewed, in terms the most stringent and forcible that could confirm existing obligations. We were told, that this renewal had not been politic; that lord Castlereagh, on the part of England, had done wrong, and that he ought never to have set his hand to such an act. A fit objection that might be, to have taken at the time of executing the treaty—a fit objection to the character of lord Castlereagh, that he had ever entered into such a treaty. But was it to be contended, that this country could go on for twelve years without ever objecting to that treaty; taking all the benefit of it—admitting the obligation of it—calling upon foreign powers to fulfil their share of it— and that we could now, with security or honour after those twelve years of admission had expired, because it happened to suit our purpose to stand by the treaty no longer, turn round and say that we renounced it, because it was impolitic to have entered into it, and we regretted that we had done so ! If such an argument was to be listened to in that House—to be tolerated by the people of this country —then measures ought at once, and with- 383 out hesitation, to be taken, to deprive the executive government of its imputed competency to treat and negociate, and to devise some new formality, or obligation, by which the nation should be presumed to be bound. Because the moment that the executive government ever attempted again to negociate with a foreign power— if indeed, after we had been so preposterous as to deny the force and weight of its contracts, any foreign power even would trifle so far, as to commence a negotiation with it—what would be the first word said? If we talked of treating upon any point of commerce, or alliance, whether it was a question about trade, or navigation, or of withdrawing the French troops now in Spain, would not the answer be this?— "You are not safe people to enter into any treaty with: you make contracts; take what advantage you can of them; and the moment you find they press upon you, you exclaim, 'We are sorry that we 'made this bargain; in good policy we 'never ought to have made it; and therefore, good bye—for we feel ourselves entitled to abandon it.'" The hon. member for Aberdeen had said, that the treaty which guaranteed the safety of Portugal had not been violated by what had lately been done; and the hon. member for Dorsetshire had said, that all the offence committed by Spain against Portugal was matter of internal commotion, and not a display of external hostility. Surely it was impossible that those gentlemen could have attended to the right hon. Secretary's statement of the facts. If it was meant to be said, that the right hon. gentleman had no authority for his statement of those facts—if it was to be contended, that he had been misinformed, or deceived—if, in spite of all reports, of the evidence of all persons who had private correspondence— of the statements of all foreign newspapers, disagreeing, perhaps, as to slight circumstances, and here and there exaggerating, but all agreeing upon the main points of the subject in question;—if all this was to be treated as nothing—as of no value— as stuff to be given to the winds—still, it made no difference. What difference could it make to the subject in debate? The House did not stop to ask—was this true, or was it to be doubted? They had better authority than letters or newspapers, writers at home, or correspondents abroad. They had the real authority—the only authority upon which they could be called 384 on, in such a case, to presume truth, or to proceed — the responsibility, the official responsibility, of the right hon. Secretary himself [hear, hear] — that responsibility from which the right hon. gentleman would not shrink—from which, if he would shrink, it would be the right and the duty of the House not to suffer him. And, on that responsibility he was bound to believe, and he did believe, that an act of glaring hostility towards Portugal had been committed on the part of Spain. Why, what were the facts of the transaction? They were these: Four or five thousand men escaped, at different times, from Portugal, and assembled on different points of the Spanish frontier. These men, disciplined, accoutred, provided, and marshalled, if not officered, by Spain, were sent forth, at one and the same time, from different parts of the Spanish territory, to make their way, by different routes, to the same point in Portugal, and for the accomplishment of the same object. Was it possible—could human credulity go so far as to believe—that these men, moving off at the same time, collected, and returning for the same purpose—could this be accident, or was it not obviously intention? Would any creature believe that these five thousand men, accoutred and sent forth from Spain, were the chance-divided atoms of different Portuguese regiments, fortuitously collected on the Spanish frontier, and concurring there, by accident, to second Spanish views, or aid the Spanish purpose? Must it not be most strange and unaccountable, that masses of Portuguese exiles should be found assembled, not by invitation or design, but by accident, not in a state of destitution agreeing with their avowed condition, but with arms and banners, with all the "pride, pomp, and circumstance, of war," and that, too, in a position the most advantageous to any aggressions into Portugal? Most unluckily, the Portuguese refugees were distributed through all parts of the Spanish territory which peculiarly combined the facilities necessary for a hostile incursion into Portugal. And yet the good men who regulated the affairs of the Spanish government, and the good men, to whose vigilance the care of the frontiers of Spain were intrusted, had no more notion of what was going forward, than if they were situated in the most remote and inaccessible part of the globe! If there was any man who could doubt that the passing 385 events were known to the Spanish government—if any man had sufficient ingenuity to discover a point on which to hang a suspicion, that the movements of the factious Portuguese were unknown to, and unauthorised by, the Spanish authorities —the man whose mind was endowed with such a happy faculty of scepticism might consistently deny that a casus fœderis had arisen. But even this proposition, if tenable, would not extricate the hon. gentlemen from the dilemma in which they had entangled themselves. For if the Spanish government were in such a state of imbecility as was represented, what argument did that circumstance furnish against, the necessity of the interference of this country? What did it signify, whether the Spanish government authorised the aggression of the Portuguese refugees, or that it was so inefficient a government as not only to afford a refuge and a shelter to the seditious, but to suffer them to avail themselves of the Spanish resources and position, and to furnish them with Spanish stores, arms, equipments, and all other aids necessary for the accomplishment of their purpose of invading their country? It was a mere mockery to argue upon the supposed ignorance of the Spanish government, as to the hostile movements against Portugal. If she did not know of them, she ought to have known of them, and she was bound either to have prevented them; or, if she could not prevent them, she must abide the consequence—which was, that England should, by the interposition of her authority, put a stop to their further progress.—The argument of the hon. member for Dorsetshire seemed to be founded on the supposition, that we were equipping an armament against Spain, and that, in consequence of some act of that country, we were going to war against Spain. No such thing. We were going to defend Portugal.—If the Spanish government did really not know of, or was unable to prevent, the aggression upon Portugal, that was a subject upon which hereafter—so soon as we should have protected our ally from the consequences of the act of hostility which had been undoubtedly committed, no matter from what source it had proceeded—England would have the opportunity, and no doubt would readily embrace the opportunity, of receiving any proffered explanation, and of thereby avoiding what unquestionably 386 she ought to go to the last extremity rather than not avoid if possible; namely, the kindling of a general war in Europe. — Now it was said, that the invaders of Portugal were Portuguese, not Spaniards. But what difference did that make in the case? If one class of Portuguese subjects arrayed themselves on one side of the question, while the rest of the country embraced the other, and if an armed force marched from Lisbon against Oporto, or from Tras-os-Montes against Lisbon, to subvert the constitution, he admitted that, in such an instance, this country would not be called upon to interfere, even though we felt satisfied that the slightest movement on our part would be the means of preserving that constitution, and of defeating its enemies. However hard would be our fate in being doomed to see such an infraction of constitutional liberty, without an effort on our part to prevent it, yet we should be bound to adhere to the salutary political maxim of not interfering in the internal concerns of other countries. It was indispensable to the peace of the world and the general liberties of mankind, that such a maxim should be acted upon as the rule and the principle of our foreign policy. But these parties were not Portuguese refugees marching from Lisbon to Oporto, or from Oporto to Tras-os-Montes. This was the case of an army of four or five thousand men—he wished he could recollect the words of the right hon. gentleman, for he could not describe them in more accurate terms—this was a body of rebels who, by one act of treason, had made themselves exiles from their country, and assumed the character of foreigners —who, by a second act of treason, committed an invasion upon their country; and, by a third act of treason, resumed the name of Portuguese, in order to escape the punishment which their revolt deserved. These men, expatriating themselves, and obtaining comfort and shelter, and aid and supplies, in the country to which they had fled, were found to make war upon their own country, marshalled and accoutred, and armed, at the expense, and with the resources of Spain. Suppose it to be our case. He would put it to the hon. member for Dorsetshire. Suppose that a body of discontented subjects of this empire— he would not allude to any particular part of the country—but suppose a body of British subjects, removed from any political cause of dissatisfaction, were to take 387 up a position on the other side of the channel; and suppose them to be permitted to recruit on the French coast, and to make all the arrangements for a hostile expedition—imagine them marshalled, and armed, and accoutred, and furnished with every necessary resource, at the expense of the French government at Paris, or by the agency of the local authorities at Calais, Dieppe, or Boulogne, and with all the advantages of the proximity of their position, and with wind and tide inviting them to make a descent upon the coast of Kent or Sussex—suppose them to be seen hovering in French vessels upon our coast, or landing to carry the brand of invasion into the country—then suppose our minister representing at the foot of the throne at Paris—" This is an act of aggression on the part of the French government:" how would he like to be told, in reply, "An act of aggression! no such thing; true it is that your invaders raised their forces in our dominions—true, they procured an armament, and obtained all the materials for their hostile enterprise—we do not deny (for the French authorities would not, according to the hon. member for Dorsetshire, be called upon to disguise these particulars)—we do not deny that those troops have had the opportunity of passing over from our territories to your coast, and that they have been abundantly, lavishly, equipped at our expense—but it so happens, that every man of your assailants is an Englishman or an Irishman, and not a Frenchman." He was satisfied the hon. member for Dorsetshire would be one of the first to laugh at such a quibble as this being set up for a defence. But he was told that this was a case of great and painful interest—that war once allowed to commence, no man could pretend to the gift of being able to state where its devastation would end. He acknowledged this lamentable truth; but he contended, that in adopting the principle of submission, it was still more difficult to ascertain the limits of their sacrifices, than to foretell the whole extent even of the devastations of war. Every single act done upon that principle was an act of degradation and shame, which would not only cripple after-exertion, but which would infallibly destroy that self-respect which could alone render any exertion useful and important. He had heard with astonishment—not, indeed, from the hon. member for Dorsetshire, for he was at 388 issue upon the fact, and professed that, if he were convinced that the non-adoption of measures of a warlike nature would reflect a stain upon the national honour, he would not advocate such a course—but he had heard with astonishment from the hon. member for Aberdeen, and the hon. member for Preston, a doctrine which would enforce the expediency of yielding to a stigma upon the national name—a doctrine which would urge a violation of the faith of treaties. We were told that we should disregard one treaty because it was of an old date, and it was long since we had enjoyed the benefit of it. We were to hold ourselves released from another, because it was impolitic and because the time might come when we should regret having entered into it. What! was England to submit to a breach of faith, on the calculation that our national finances might be infringed upon by the course of conduct which justice and magnanimity would dictate? He had seen enough of the consequences of war to shrink from its approach, when it was possible to do so with credit and with safety; but he entreated his hon. friends, and the House, and the country, not to lose sight of the fatal effects which must flow from any surrender of the dignity of the British nation. The question was not now whether, even in order to retain our possessions, we should be content to forfeit our station in the eyes of Europe and of the world, and by so doing avoid war. He would say, "No," even if that were the alternative which was presented to our choice. But the question now actually was, whether for a limited season we should submit to an insecure, a precarious, a dishonourable, an unbearable truce—he could not call it a peace, for it had nothing of the honour, or the comfort, or the security, which rendered peace sweet—whether we should, for the sake of a temporary, disgraceful, disgusting, and intolerable, postponement of hostilities, expose ourselves hereafter, when war shall inevitably come on, to be held up to the eyes of the world as a beaten down and degraded nation, ruined in the eyes of mankind, and, what is a thousand times worse, ruined in our own eyes by the loss of self-esteem—and, what might perhaps be still worse, in the judgment of those to whose minds topics of this kind did not find easy access under any other form—namely, that a small sum, if expended in time, might have been the 389 means of saving a disbursement ten times the amount, with interest, aye, and of compound interest, at a future time; and when the risking the loss of a thousand men now, although the necessity of such an alternative was sufficient in itself to excite horror and regret, might avert the sacrifice of ten thousand lives hereafter, and might have the effect of preventing a war when our resources should be crippled—a war of boundless extent, in which it should be observed, that other powers besides Spain might take part, and of which it might be truly said, that no man could foresee where it would end. I entirely agree (said Mr. Brougham) in all that has been said of the hazards and difficulties inseparable from war, and I was certainly one of those who held, some years ago, that looking to the burthens under which this country laboured, we were under severe recognizances to keep the peace. I know the severity of these burthens; but if I feel their weight, if I feel apprehensive, as who must not, of their effect, in case this most necessary measure—a measure which, upon all reasonable probabilities, must prove effectual—should, unhappily fail, I cannot but rely on those sound, enlightened, liberal, and truly English principles—principles worthy of our best times, and of our most distinguished statesmen, which now govern the councils of this country in her foreign policy, and inspire the eloquence of the right honourable Secretary with a degree of fervor, energy, and effect, extraordinary and unprecedented in this House — unprecedented (I can give it no higher praise) even in the eloquence of the right honourable gentleman. I feel that in these principles, now adopted and avowed by the organs of our government, we have a strong and impregnable bulwark, which will enable us not only to support our burthens, and, should the day of trial come upon us, to meet the combined world in arms, but which will afford the strongest practical security against future danger; and render it eminently improbable that we shall ever have that combined world to contend with, so long as those principles are maintained. Our burthens may remain, but our government know that when the voice of the people is in their favour, they have a lever, if not within their hands, within their grasp. I will imitate the discretion of the Secretary, and go no further. We know, 390 because we have experienced the extent of that power; our enemies that would be, but who, on this account, will not be so, know it, because they see its effect here, and dread its effect among themselves. If, however, that catastrophe, which his majesty's ministers have taken the best means to avert, and which, in all human probability, will be averted, should unhappily fall upon us, whatever may be our burthens, whatever may be the difficulties with which we may have to contend, let but his majesty's government act steadily up to the principles they have avowed, and let the country but remain true to itself, and I have no fear of the rest.
§ Mr. Bright
dissented from the proposition, that a casus fœderis had arisen, or that the present was an occasion on which the honour and character of the country required the adoption of the course pointed out by the right hon. Secretary. The hon. member read an extract from the treaty of 1703, and argued, that the only instance in which it warranted an interference by Great Britain was when not only acts of oppression had been committed, but when a hostile power was actually waging war with Portugal, in which case this country was bound to go to war with all its might. Neither of these contingencies he contended, was the state of the present case. The occupation of Portugal with five thousand men was merely a state of armed neutrality, instead of a compliance with the compact of the treaty; namely, that we should wage war with all our might. But the occasion for our fulfilment of this obligation had not arisen, for Portugal was not now reduced to the necessity of repelling an attack by a foreign power. Her assailants were exiles who had taken refuge in Spain. The country was divided; and, if England were to side with either party, she would only be taking part in a civil war. He felt himself called upon, at the eve of a momentous train of events, to declare his conviction, that no casus fœderis had arisen, and that no event was shown to have yet occurred in Portugal which called for the interposition of this country in the way proposed by ministers.
Canning said:—I rise, Sir, for the purpose of making a few observations, not so much in answer to any general arguments, as in reply to two or three particular objections which have been urged against the Address which I 391 have had the honour to propose to the House. In the first place, I frankly admit to my hon. friend, the member for Dorsetshire, that I have understated the case against Spain—I have done so designedly—I warned the House that I would do so—because I wished no further to impeach the conduct of Spain, than was necessary for establishing the casus fœderis on behalf of Portugal. To have gone further—to have made a full statement of the case against Spain—would have been to preclude the very object which I have in view; that of enabling Spain to preserve peace without dishonour.
The hon. gentleman who spoke last, indeed, in his extreme love for peace, proposes expedients which, as it appears to me, would render war inevitable. He would avoid interference at this moment, when Spain may be yet hesitating as to the course which she shall adopt; and the language which he would hold to Spain is, in effect, this—"You have not yet done enough to implicate British faith, and to provoke British honour. You have not done enough, in merely enabling Portuguese rebels to invade Portugal, and to carry destruction into her cities; you have not done enough in combining knots of traitors, whom—after the most solemn engagements to disarm and to disperse them—you carefully re-assembled, and equipped and sent back with Spanish arms, to be plunged into kindred Portuguese bosoms. I will not stir for all these things. Pledged though I am by the most solemn obligations of treaty to resent attack upon Portugal as injurious to England, I love too dearly the peace of Europe to be goaded into activity by such trifles as these.—No.—But give us a good declaration of war, and then I'll come and fight you with all my heart."—This is the hon. gentleman's contrivance for keeping peace. The more clumsy contrivance of his majesty's government is this:—" We have seen enough to show to the world that Spain authorised, if she did not instigate, the invasion of Portugal; and we say to Spain, 'Beware; we will avenge the cause of our ally, if you break out into declared war; but, in the mean time, we will take effectual care to frustrate your concealed hostilities.'" I appeal to my hon. friend, the member for Dorsetshire, whether he does not prefer this course of his majesty's government, the object of which is to nip growing hos- 392 tilities in the ear, to that of the gallant and chivalrous member for Bristol, who would let aggressions ripen into full maturity, in order that they may then be mowed down with the scythe of a magnificent war.
My hon. friend, the member for Dorsetshire, will now see why it is that no papers have been laid before the House. The facts which call for our interference in behalf of Portugal are notorious as the noon-day sun. That interference is our whole present object. To prove more than is sufficient for that object, by papers laid upon the table of this House, would have been to preclude Spain from that locus pœnitentia which we are above all things desirous to preserve to her. It is difficult, perhaps, with the full knowledge which the government must in such cases possess, to judge what exact portion of that knowledge should be meted out for our present purpose, without hazarding an exposure which might carry us too far. I know not how far I have succeeded in this respect; but I can assure the House, that if the time should unfortunately arrive when a further exposition shall become necessary, it will be found, that it was not for want of evidence that my statement of this day has been defective.
An Amendment has been proposed, purporting a delay of a week, but, in effect, intended to produce a total abandonment of the object of the Address; and that amendment has been justified by a reference to the conduct of the government, and to the language used by me in this House, between three and four years ago. It is stated, and truly, that I did not then deny that cause for war had been given by France in the invasion of Spain, if we had then thought fit to enter into war on that account. But it seems to be forgotten that there is one main difference between that case and the present —which difference, however, is essential and all-sufficient. We were then free to go to war, if we pleased, on grounds of political expediency. But we were not then bound to interfere, on behalf of Spain, as we now are bound to interfere on behalf of Portugal, by the obligations of treaty. War might then have been our free choice, if we had deemed it politic: interference on behalf of Portugal is now our duty, unless we are prepared to abandon the principles of national faith and national honour. It is a singular confusion of 393 intellect which confounds two cases so precisely dissimilar. Far from objecting to the reverence to 1823, I refer to that same occasion to show the consistency of the conduct of myself and my colleagues. We were then accused of truckling to France, from a pusillanimous dread of war. We pleaded guilty to the charge of wishing to avoid war. We described its inexpediency, its inconveniences, and its dangers (dangers, especially of the same sort with those which I have hinted at to-day); but we declared that, although we could not overlook those dangers, those inconveniences, and that inexpediency, in a case in which remote interest and doubtful policy were alone assigned as motives for war; we would cheerfully affront them all, in a case—if it should arrive—where national faith or national honour were concerned. Well, then—a case has now arisen, of which the essence is faith, of which the character is honour. And when we call upon parliament, not for offensive war—which was proposed to us in 1823—but for defensive armament, we are referred to our abstinence in 1823, as disqualifying us for exertion at the present moment; and are told, that because we did not attack France on that occasion, we must not defend Portugal on this. I, Sir, like the proposers of the amendment, place the two cases of 1823 and 1826 side by side, and deduce from them, when taken together, the exposition and justification of our general policy. I appeal from the warlike preparations of to-day, to the forbearance of 1823, in proof of the pacific character of our counsels;—I appeal from the imputed tameness of 1823 to the Message of tonight, in illustration of the nature of those motives, by which a government, generally pacific, may nevertheless be justly roused into action.
Having thus disposed of the objections to the Address, I come next to the suggestions of some who profess themselves friendly to the purpose of it, but who would carry that purpose into effect by means which I certainly cannot approve. It has been suggested, Sir, that we should at once ship off the Spanish refugees, now in this country, for Spain; and that we should, by the repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, let loose into the contest all the ardent and irregular spirits of this country. Sir, this is the very suggestion which I have anticipated with apprehension, 394 in any war in which this country might be engaged, in the present unquiet state of the minds of men in Europe. These are the expedients, the tremendous character of which I ventured to adumbrate rather than to describe, in the speech with which I prefaced the present motion. Such expedients I disclaim. I dread and deprecate the employment of them. So far, indeed, as Spain herself is concerned, the employment of such means would be strictly, I might say, epigrammatically, just. The Foreign Enlistment Act was passed in the year 1819, if not at the direct request, for the especial benefit, of Spain. What right, then, would Spain have to complain if we should repeal it now, for the especial benefit of Portugal? The Spanish refugees have been harboured in this country, it is true; but on condition of abstaining from hostile expeditions against Spain; and more than once, when such expeditions have been planned, the British government has interfered to suppress them. How is this tenderness for Spain rewarded?—Spain not only harbours, and fosters, and sustains, but arms, equips and marshals the traitorous refugees of Portugal, and pours them by thousands into the bosom of Great Britain's nearest ally. So far, then, as Spain is concerned, the advice of those who would send forth against Spain such dreadful elements of strife and destruction is, as I have admitted, not unjust. But I repeat, again and again, that I disclaim all such expedients;—and that I dread especially a war with Spain, because it is the war of all others in which, by the example and practice of Spain herself, such expedients are most likely to be adopted. Let us avoid that war if we can,—that is if Spain will permit us to do so. But in any case, let us endeavour to strip any war—if war we must have—of that formidable and disastrous character which the hon. and learned gentleman has so eloquently described; and which I was happy to hear him concur with me in deprecating, as the most fatal evil by which the world could be afflicted.
Sir, there is another suggestion with which I cannot agree, although brought forward by two honourable members, who have, in the most handsome manner, stated their reasons for approving of the line of conduct now pursued by his majesty's government. Those honourable members insist, that the French army in 395 Spain has been, if not the cause, the encouragement, of the late attack by Spain against Portugal; that his majesty's government were highly culpable in allowing that army to enter into Spain, that its stay there is highly injurious to British interests and honour, and that we ought instantly to call upon France to withdraw it.
There are, Sir, so many considerations connected with these propositions, that were I to enter into them all, they would carry me far beyond what is either necessary or expedient to be stated on the present occasion. Enough, perhaps, it is for me to say, that I do not see how the withdrawing of the French troops from Spain could effect our present purpose. I believe, Sir, that the French army in Spain is now a protection to that very party which it was originally called in to put down. Were the French army suddenly removed at this precise moment, I verily believe that the immediate effect of that removal would be, to give full scope to the unbridled-rage of a fanatical faction, before which in the whirlwind of intestine strife, the party least in numbers would be swept away.
So much for the immediate effect of the demand which it is proposed to us to make, if that demand were instantly successful. But when, with reference to the larger question of a military occupation of Spain by France, it is averred, that by that occupation the relative situation of Great Britain and France is altered; that France is thereby exalted and Great Britain lowered, in the eyes of Europe;—I must beg leave to say, that I dissent from that averment. The House knows—the country knows—that when the French army was on the point of entering Spain, his majesty's government did all in their power to prevent it; that we resisted it by all means, short of war. I have just now stated some of the reasons why we did not think the entry of that army into Spain a sufficient ground for war; but there was, in addition to those which I have stated, this peculiar reason,—that whatever effect a war, commenced upon the mere ground of the entry of a French army into Spain, might have, it probably would not have had the effect of getting that army out of Spain. In a war against France at that time, as at any other, you might perhaps, have acquired military glory; you might, perhaps, have extended your colonial possessions; you might even 396 have achieved, at great cost of blood and treasure, an honourable peace; but as to getting the French out of Spain, that would have been the one object which you almost certainly would not have accomplished. How seldom, in the whole history of the wars of Europe, has any war between two great powers ended, in the obtaining of the exact, the identical, object for which the war was begun !
Besides, Sir, I confess I think, that the effects of the French occupation of Spain have been infinitely exaggerated.
I do not blame those exaggerations; because I am aware that they are to be attributed to the recollections of some of the best times of our history; that they are the echoes of sentiments, which, in the days of William and of Anne, animated the debates and dictated the votes of the British parliament. No peace was in those days thought safe for this country while the crown of Spain continued on the head of a Bourbon. But were not the apprehensions of those days greatly overstated? Has the power of Spain swallowed up the power of maritime England? Or does England still remain, after the lapse of more than a century, during which the crown of Spain has been worn by a Bourbon,—niched in a nook of that same Spain, Gibraltar; an occupation which was contemporaneous with the apprehensions that I have described, and which has happily survived them?
Again, Sir,—is the Spain of the present day the Spain of which the statesmen of the times of William and Anne were so much afraid? Is it indeed the nation whose puissance was expected to shake England from her sphere? No, Sir, it was quite another Spain—it was the Spain, within the limits of whose empire the sun never set—it was Spain "with the Indies" that excited the jealousies and alarmed the imaginations of our ancestors.
But then, Sir, the balance of power! —The entry of the French army into Spain disturbed that balance, and we ought to have gone to war to restore it! I have already said, that when the French army entered Spain, we might, if we chose, have resisted or resented that measure by war. But were there no other means than war for restoring the balance of power? —Is the balance of power a fixed and unalterable standard? Or is it not a standard perpetually varying, as civilization advances, and as new nations spring up, and 397 take their place among established political communities? The balance of power a century and a half ago was to be adjusted between France and Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, and England. Some years afterwards, Russia assumed her high station in European politics. Some years after that again, Prussia became not only a substantive, but a preponderating monarchy. Thus, while the balance of power continued in principle the same, the means of adjusting it became more varied and enlarged. They became enlarged, in proportion to the increased number of considerable states,— in proportion, I may say, to the number of weights which might be shifted into the one or the other scale. To look to the policy of Europe, in the times of William and Anne, for the purpose of regulating the balance of power in Europe at the present day, is to disregard the progress of events, and to confuse dates and facts which throw a reciprocal light upon each other.
It would be disingenuous, indeed, not to admit that the entry of the French army into Spain, was in a certain sense, a disparagement—an affront to the pride —a blow to the feelings of England: and it can hardly be supposed that the government did not sympathize, on that occasion, with the feelings of the people. But I deny that, questionable or censurable as the act might be, it was one which necessarily called for our direct and hostile opposition. Was nothing then to be done? Was there no other mode of resistance, than by a direct attack upon France—or by a war to be undertaken on the soil of Spain? What, if the possession of Spain might be rendered harmless in rival hands— harmless as regarded us—and valueless to the possessors? Might not compensation for disparagement be obtained, and the policy of our ancestors vindicated, by means better adapted to the present time? If France occupied Spain, was it necessary, in order to avoid the consequences of that occupation—that we should blockade Cadiz? No. I looked another way —I sought materials of compensation in another hemisphere. Contemplating Spain, such as our ancestors had known her, I resolved that if France had Spain, it should not be Spain "with the Indies." I called the New World into existence, to redress the balance of the Old.
It is thus, Sir, that I answer the accu- 398 sation brought against his majesty's government, of having allowed the French army to usurp and to retain the occupation of Spain. That occupation, I am quite confident, is an unpaid, and unredeemed burthen to France. It is a burthen of which, I verily believe, France would be glad to rid herself. But they know little of the feelings of the French government, and of the spirit of the French nation, who do not know, that, worthless or burthensome as that occupation may be, the way to rivet her in it, would be, by angry or intemperate representations, to make the continuance of that occupation a point of honour.
§ I believe, Sir, there is no other subject upon which I need enter into defence or explanation. The support which the Address has received from all parties in the House, has been such as would make it both unseemly and ungrateful in me to trespass unnecessarily upon their patience. In conclusion, Sir, I shall only once more declare, that the object of the Address, which I propose to you, is not war: —its object is, to take the last chance of peace. If you do not go forth, on this occasion to the aid of Portugal, Portugal will be trampled down, to your, irretrievable disgrace: — and then will come war in the train of national degradation. If, under circumstances like these, you wait till Spain has matured her secret machinations into open hostility, you will in a little while have the sort of war required by the pacificators;—and who shall say where that war will end?
§ The amendment was negatived, there appearing only three or four members in favour of it. The original Address was then put and agreed to.