§ Sir Richard Vyvyan
said, the subject he was about to bring before the House, embraced considerations of a great extent, and of great importance; and were it not that it had previously been introduced, and questions respecting it answered by his Majesty's Government, he hardly knew whether it would have been expedient for him then to advert to it. What had already occurred, however, rendered some further explanations necessary. He was aware that it must be annoying to those who were in power, to have their conduct continually arraigned, and to be questioned upon matters which were scarcely yet concluded, or which, if concluded, had an intimate relation to something still in progress; but as the peace and the honour of this country were at stake, it could not be expected, that that House should be longer silent. It was evident that in all such cases the time must come when that House ought to interfere, and to receive information, and in his opinion that time had now arrived with respect to the case of Holland and of Belgium. He would, therefore, without apology, proceed at once to the subject. Let it not be said, that his object in bringing forward this question was to embarrass his Majesty's Government, or to interfere with the exercise of the just prerogatives of the Crown. He had no such intentions. The subject had been already partially before the House, it had been discussed in another place, and the answers which had been given to questions put by a noble friend of his, and the statements which had been made on the part of his Majesty's Government, rendered some further explanation necessary. Neither could the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer accuse him of any discourtesy, in at length bringing his Motion forward. That noble Lord must be aware that he meant to bring the subject under the notice of the House, when he was able to speak decisively on it. Sufficient evidence was already afforded, even by the answers of the 226 noble Lords opposite to the inquiries made by noble and right hon. friends of his, to lead him to form a conclusive opinion upon the system of policy pursued by his Majesty's Ministers, and to forbid him to expect any more information than he already possessed. He persisted in bringing forward his Motion, however, because it would give many that opportunity of expressing their feelings and opinions, and delivering their sentiments upon these matters, which it might not otherwise be their fortune to obtain. The discussion he was about to introduce was not, he contended, premature, for if war had not already been declared, or the Conference broken up, still warlike preparations, it was notorious, had been made by one of the Powers a party to the Conference—and the Sovereign of the country immediately concerned, the king of the Netherlands—for he did not consider Belgium as a regularly acknowledged Power—had actually taken the field and commenced hostilities. Looking at the condition of our foreign politics, there were many subjects which naturally attracted attention and merited remark, and were more or less connected with the spirit of our conduct with respect to the Netherlands and to Belgium. The question of Portugal might be alluded to, and he certainly hoped to have clearly explained thecasus fœederis which he apprehended had recently occurred there. He would wish, in what he had to offer upon the subject, to confine himself, as nearly as might be, to the actual object for their consideration; he would not, accordingly, touch upon the Portuguese question, though he was extremely anxious it should be brought before the House; but, at the same time, as he regarded the Belgian question as the key of the great problem of peace or war in Europe, he felt it would be necessary to deviate a little from the strict line, and allude to the general aspect of the other European governments as connected with the affairs of Belgium. In entering upon this question, he was willing to suppose, that the king of the Netherlands had consented that one part of his dominions should be separated from the other, upon certain considerations—that the Belgian provinces should be separated from Holland. He would also suppose Leopold, king of Belgium, elected by a large majority; and, if the principle of election be admitted in Europe, fairly and honourably 227 elected sovereign of this new kingdom. Now the House, knowing these facts, and the public being informed of them, had a right to expect, that tranquillity would have been the result. But, on the contrary, this enthronement had positively been the signal of war to Europe. The object proclaimed by the Government had been, to preserve peace. With this view, it had been stated, was their every act guided; but by the king of the Netherlands this enthronement had been considered an infraction of the existing treaty, and a just ground for war, and therefore had he ordered his troops to march into Belgium. He had to remind the House that he had already, for various reasons, on several occasions postponed his Motion. On Friday week he had been informed, that the Armistice between the Dutch and Belgians had been broken; and on the evening of that day he asked the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he had received any official information to that effect? The noble Lord, in answering in the affirmative, requested him to postpone his Motion, because an Ambassador had been despatched, and he had reason to expect that peace would be restored. He consented, giving notice for the Tuesday following. On that day he again postponed his Motion, at the entreaty of the noble Lord, because the king of the Netherlands had consented to treat. He gave notice for Thursday last, when he was fully determined to persevere in his Motion. But he was again asked to postpone it for another reason; namely, that the French government had given a solemn assurance that the French troops would withdraw as soon as the Dutch troops had repassed their frontiers. On this question it was, that the House was now called upon to debate. It was a question on which the honour of England was interested—on which it was, in fact, deeply pledged. He need not add, that after the explanation—after the positive assurance of the noble Lord opposite—the honour of his Majesty's Ministers stood pledged. And now, notwithstanding this solemn assurance on the part of the French government to the Minister of this country, it appeared that France had determined to maintain 30,000 men as an Army of Observation in Belgium, to remain there—so the demiofficial report of that evening stated—encamped at Nivelle, until the Dutch had disbanded half their army, and paid all the expenses of the war. On Thursday 228 last, the noble Lord opposite had declared that the French troops were to withdraw as soon as the Dutch had retired beyond their position; and to-day it was stated, and no doubt they would hear it defended, that 30,000 men were to remain in occupation of Belgium. It would be for his noble friend to state whether this was a fact or not; and if it were a fact, then it would be for his noble friend to say whether it was done with the concurrence of the Conference, and, above all, whether this country was a party to any such arrangement. He knew not whether his noble friend meant to defend this conduct of France or not; but however that should turn out, of this he was certain, that it was a question in which the honour of this country was involved, and in which the honour of every other party to the Conference—of Russia, of Austria, and of Prussia was equally concerned. It was a question which involved the honour and the interests of the country, and therefore only required to be properly explained to the country, to induce it to take a lively and a becoming interest in its explanation and its settlement. It might, upon investigation, appear that the conduct of France, was the act of France, and not of the Conference—and an attempt might ultimately be made, to induce this country and the other Powers tamely to submit to such an insult, solely out of deference to a certain party in Paris, who seemed to have the disposition, if not the power, to rule Europe. In the debate which occurred on Friday last, it had been most clearly shewn, that the whole of the conduct of the king of the Netherlands had been consistent with the strictest honour. The letters upon which there had been so much misunderstanding had been so fully explained and set right before the House by the debate upon that occasion, that it must be useless for him then to go into any explanation or argument respecting them. It was found and confessed, that the king of the Netherlands, instead of having acted a treacherous, or indirect, or deceitful part, had neither broken nor violated an armistice, nor any understanding for the cessation of hostilities; but, on the contrary, that he had given repeated and full notice of his intentions and of the grounds upon which he had adopted his decision. The point upon which the king of the Netherlands, as he had a perfect right to do, took his stand, was the arrangement of the Pro- 229 tocols; and his intention was, to move for the production of copies of all the Protocols, in order that that House and the country might have this important subject fully and fairly before them. The question of the two Protocols was the one upon which the king of the Netherlands took his stand, and it was a ground to which the Powers at the Conference could offer no objection, for those documents were the off spring, or the adopted, of the Conference. A basis had been agreed upon by the Conference; that basis had been promulgated in the two Protocols; those Protocols were accepted by the king of the Netherlands, and his conduct had been in strict concurrence with their doctrines. The king of the Netherlands, therefore, had not only done every thing that he ought to have done in strictness, he had not only foregone the appeal which he had a right to make to the great Powers who had guaranteed the consolidation of his kingdom, but he had also given up his right to judge for himself in his own case, and had intrusted it to the hands of the Conference. Well, then, under these circumstances, the Conference prepared certain articles; those articles were adopted by the king of the Netherlands; but, the moment they came to Belgium, where the basis of the arrangement was to be tried, there it was rejected. The Belgians not only refused to accede to that to which the king of Holland had already given his assent, but they actually flew in the face of the Conference, and expressed their determination to resist the propositions which had been transmitted to them for their final acceptance. It was well known, that Lord Ponsonby was sent over to Brussels with the Protocol to which the king of the Netherlands had already assented, and that the object of his mission was to communicate to the congress there that they must accept it as the final arrangement, or be prepared, in case of refusal, for a declaration of war by the Powers, parties to the Conference in London. Nothing could be more fair or just than that, and nothing could be more proper, than that the Conference, after having made such a final arrangement, and after having made the king of the Netherlands give his assent to it, though it was clearly against his own interests, nothing was more proper than that they should call on the Belgians to agree to it, and threaten them with force in case they 230 refused to do so. Was the letter which Lord Ponsonby brought over with him to that effect ever delivered to the Regent? That was an important question, and, no doubt, his noble friend would be able to give a satisfactory answer to it. If his noble friend, however, should be silent upon that point, they would have a right to conclude that it had never been delivered to the Regent, for the Regent himself had declared that he knew nothing about it. The Belgians having thus displayed a spirit perfectly in opposition to the wishes and the arrangements of the Conference, proceeded to the election of a sovereign. Their choice fell on the prince of Saxe Co-burg, who was accordingly elected king of Belgium, and who took an oath to observe a constitution which was directly contrary to the eighteen articles which had been laid down by the Conference as the basis of a final arrangement. Notwithstanding such conduct on the part of the Belgians, the Government of this country sent them over the prince of Saxe Coburg to take possession of the Throne of Belgium, and when the king of Holland, who had acceded to the final arrangement made by the Conference, proceeded to employ military measures to enforce his rights against the Belgians, who had refused to accede to any arrangement, this country and the Conference interfered to prevent him. That would form a serious charge against this country in history, and, probably, it might yet be made a matter of charge against his Majesty's Ministers. He trusted, that he had said enough to prove, that the king of the Netherlands had been perfectly justified in the course which he had pursued. He had been most unjustly treated, and he had been most unreasonably asked to give his assent to propositions which were clearly in favour of his revolted subjects; and when, in defiance of all feelings of delicacy towards the king of the Netherlands, the Conference acknowledged the king of Belgium, the king of the Netherlands might have acted imprudently in casting an affront upon a body so powerful as the Conference, but, at all events, this must be said for him—that, in doing so, he acted honourably towards the Dutch nation, and with a due regard to the feelings and the honour of that people whom the destinies had committed to his charge; and, however history might hereafter dwell upon the imprudence of his conduct, it could 231 not but do justice to the nature and motives of his enterprise. Though his motives and his conduct had been maligned and misrepresented in the first instance, they were now properly understood and appreciated, and even the liberal papers in France, which were understood to express the opinion of the liberal party there—even the editors of those papers, who had been prejudiced against him—had now acknowledged, after the perusal of the letters of the 1st and 2nd of August, and especially after the perusal of that most important document which was published by the king of the Netherlands, on the occasion of Prince Leopold accepting the Throne of Belgium, without having acceded to the 12th Protocol—the editors of the French liberal papers, after having perused those documents, acknowledged, that they had been in error in attributing bad faith to the king of Holland with respect to Belgium. In theConstitutionnel, which had been received by that morning's post, it was acknowledged that the king of Holland had not been guilty of bad faith in breaking the armistice, as he had given sufficient previous notice on the subject. Having said so much upon that point, he would now proceed to consider the arrangement which had been the consequence of the interference of the five great Powers. In consequence of the first revolution in France, the balance of power in Europe had been so changed—so many old kingdoms and ancient dynasties had been swept away, and so many new kingdoms had been erected—that it was found necessary, at the conclusion of the war, to substitute a new system, which might be calculated to maintain the balance of power as in former times, and to preserve the tranquillity of Europe. Though, in erecting a system for that purpose, some mistakes might have been committed at the Congress of Vienna, and though not the least one amongst those mistakes was the junction of Belgium with Holland, still, he thought that the preservation of the peace and tranquillity of Europe was of such importance, that we should be inclined to pass lightly over such a mistake as that. At the same time, he was ready to express his opinion that it was a great misfortune that an annexation had ever taken place between two countries which had been always so jealous of each other as Holland and Belgium; and the question, it appeared to 232 him, might have been at the time justly entertained, whether it would not have been more for the interest of this country to keep those two countries, the one a manufacturing, and the other a commercial country, separate and distinct as heretofore. The guarantee, however, for the annexation of the Belgic provinces to Holland was given by all the Powers who were parties to the convention which was agreed to at the Congress of Vienna. In the sixty-seventh article of the general act of the Congress, it was stated, that the duchy of Luxemburg should be annexed to Holland. He must beg leave to read that article to the House. It was precisely the same as the third article of the separate treaties between the king of the Netherlands and the four great Powers. It was this—"The part of the ancient duchy of Luxemburg, comprehended in the articles, and specified by the following article, is equally ceded to the Sovereign Prince of the United Provinces, at present king of the Netherlands, to be possessed by him and his successors for ever, in full property and sovereignty. The sovereign of the Low Countries will add to his titles that of the Grand Duke of Luxemburg, and the power is reserved to his Majesty of making such family arrangements with regard to the succession of the grand duchy, between the princes, his sons, as he may judge conformable to the interests of his monarchy, and his own paternal intentions. The Grand Duchy of Luxemburg will be a compensation for the principalities of Nassau, Dillenburg, Siegen, Hadamar, and Dietz; it will form one of the States of the Germanic Confederation, and its prince, the king of the Netherlands, will enter the Confederation as Grand Duke of Luxemburg, with all the prerogatives and privileges enjoyed by the other German princes. The town of Luxemburg will be considered, with regard to its military relations, as a fortress of the Confederation. The Grand Duke will, however, have the right to name the governor and military commandant of this fortress, provided he obtains the approbation of the executive power of the Confederation, and under such other conditions as may be deemed necessary, in conformity with the future constitution of the said Confederation." It was, no doubt, a matter of great importance, to bring this new kingdom of Holland and Belgium into the Germanic Confederation. Now, by the annexation 233 of the duchy of Luxemburg to that kingdom, Holland and Belgium were introduced into the Germanic Confederation, and all the Powers that were united in that Confederation, had guaranteed Luxemburg to the king of the Netherlands. All the Powers that were engaged in that confederation guaranteed that duchy to the king of Holland, as clearly as any of the smaller States had been guaranteed to the other Powers; and all the Powers were mutually bound together not to enter into any engagements which might be calculated to affect the safety of the Confederation, or of the individual States united in it. There was no denying, that such a guarantee, to which the King of this country, as king of Hanover, was a party, existed. It was distinctly said, in the second article of the Act of the Germanic Confederation, that "the object of this Confederation is, the maintenance of the external and internal security of Germany, the independence and inviolability of the confederated States." It was said, in the eleventh article of this same treaty—"the States of the Confederation engage themselves to defend, not only Germany, but each individual State of the union, in case it be attacked; and they mutually guarantee all such possessions as may be included in this union. The members of the Confederation, in reserving to themselves the right of forming alliances, hold themselves bound to contract no engagement which will be directed against the safety of the Confederation, or of the individual States of which it is composed." In the twelfth Protocol of the Conference, the validity of this was expressly acknowledged. Luxemburg was said to belong to the king of the Netherlands. The Belgian Congress, however, having declared that Luxemburg should belong to Belgium, the London Conference bowed to its decision. The new sovereign of Belgium, too, on accepting the throne of that country, took an oath, in compliance with this declaration of Congress, to maintain Luxemburg as a part of the Belgian kingdom. In doing so, he actually flew in the face of the Conference, and yet, to the surprise of the world, when the king of Holland said, that he would not consent to this, the Conference turned round on him, and told him that he must. To him, it seemed incredible, that the representatives of the great Powers in Conference should have so far forgotten what was due to their own previous 234 act, due to former treaties, and due to the king of the Netherlands and their own masters. His charge against his Majesty's Ministers was, that they did not enforce that guarantee which was to be found in the sixty-seventh article of the Treaty of Vienna, after they had acknowledged it, and that they did not compel the Belgians o respect it. He might be told, that the king of the Netherlands was willing to accept of a compensation for Luxemburg, and that he could still sell his right to the duchy, but that had nothing to do with the question. The Belgians should have been made to respect that right, before compensation for it was talked of. The King of the Netherlands might consider it more for the interests of the Netherlands, and for the safety of Belgium, that the duchy of Luxemburg should not continue annexed to Holland, but it was idle to talk of the compensation which he would be entitled to for giving up that right, until Belgium was made to acknowledge it. Even supposing that compensation was given to the king of Holland for that duchy, the question would still arise, whether the duchy of Luxemburg was henceforward to continue a party to the Germanic Confederation, and whether Belgium, as including that duchy, was to be a part of that Confederation. It was very well to talk of erecting a neutral State in the instance of Belgium; but they all knew what was the neutrality of small States in a case of war. When they separated those two States, the neutrality of Belgium would mean its being connected with France; and if Belgium, by means of the duchy of Luxemburg, should not become a part of the Germanic Confederation, there was no doubt that it would hereafter be dependent on France, instead of being, as it ought to be, a bulwark opposed to that Power. This question, in fact, as regarded the duchy of Luxemburg, was a question of limits, as far as limits were concerned, and of State policy, so far as the balance of power was concerned, and the preservation of the peace of Europe. The government of the king of the Netherlands in Belgium had been a most beneficent one, and, of it the Belgians had no reason to complain. It was, no doubt, extremely difficult to manage the government of two countries, so different in customs, habits, feelings, manners, and religion, as Belgium and Holland were. It had been said, however, that the king of the Nether- 235 lands had restrained the Belgians in the exercise of their rights, and that, in fact, he had acted the part of a tyrant in civil, and a bigot in religious, matters ["hear, hear," from Mr. O'Connell.] He understood that cheer from the hon. member for Kerry. An opportunity had long been wanted to expose the machinations of that party which had calumniated the king of the Netherlands, and the time had at length arrived, to tear the mask off a party that had done, and was doing, so much mischief in Europe. The machinations of that party had given rise to what had taken place in Belgium, and it was now pretty plain that the efforts of the same party were at work, to create a somewhat similar explosion in another quarter, with which the hon. member for Kerry might be acquainted, and to which he (Sir Richard Vyvyan) should not more particularly allude. That party which associated with Liberals, while it professed despotic principles, was the cause of the revolution in France. It was in consequence of the system which that party carried on in Belgium that the revolt succeeded there, and the same party was desirous to provoke a similar resistance elsewhere. Although the explosion had first taken place in Belgium, it was intended to extend much further. It was indeed time for the Government to look about it. The centre of the bigoted army was in Paris; the right wing was at Brussels, while the left wing was looking on in Dublin. There was still time left to unmask such a party, and to counteract its efforts. It was an unholy alliance of bigotry and despotism which endeavoured to work on the passions of the people. It had tried to stir up reaction in Paris, but it had succeeded in causing the Revolution in Belgium. The House could not fail to observe, that precisely the same plan was followed in Ireland too, that had been adopted in Belgium. There were the same kind of petitions, and upon the same subjects. There were petitions against the College of Louvain in the one instance, and against the Kildare Street Society in the other. Though there were several Catholic Members in that House, he hoped that none of them brought with them that ultramontane spirit which had produced such dissensions in France and Belgium. He trusted, that no one there would take up the defence of the Jesuits, though perhaps, indeed, they might meet with 236 defenders who were at least Jesuits in speech and action. The Belgians had made most unjust complaints against the king of the Netherlands with regard to his conduct in respect to education. In the year 1825, the king of the Netherlands put forth a public edict with a view to secure a good education for the priesthood. Missionaries were then going about in Belgium, and tormenting the people there as they had been doing in Normandy, in France. The king ordained that the schools which were to be erected under this edict should be under the direction of the Catholic Bishops. Had the Belgians any reason to complain of that? He then established a college at Louvain for teaching the sciences, and decreed that no person should be admitted in the Universities with a view of entering the Church, till he had gone through preparatory studies; was that tyranny? The king of Holland's object in erecting those schools was, in fact, toleration, He was anxious to impart a national education to the Belgians, and to bind them up with the interests and the institutions of the country in which they lived. In 1825 and in 1826 the subject was brought before the States-General, and it was to be remarked that on both those occasions the Liberals by no means spoke against the edict of the king of the Netherlands. In 1827 a concordat was entered into by the Government with the Pope, and that was received quietly not only by the nation at large, but by that party also which subsequently caused the revolt. It satisfied the Liberals. At the end, however, of the year 1827, and in the year 1828, efforts were made by this party to get up petitions against; the laws with respect to education. In consequence of such efforts, in the year 1829, the table of the States-General was loaded with petitions against the schools, and against the several edicts of the king relative to education. The Catholics and Liberals formed an alliance, and the latter joined the former in decrying the liberal system adopted by the king. In 1829 a report was published by the Minister of the Interior, in which he said—"The decrees of the king, in 1825, published under a salutary influence inspired by the fears of the momentary power of the Jesuit party in a neighbouring country—decrees, having for their object to limit the pretensions of some of the Roman Catholic 237 Clergy, who claimed an exclusive right of instruction, and which subjected the scholars to a more complete education, and one more in harmony with the great intellectual development of the nineteenth century; these decrees are the cause of the complaint of the second class of petitioners—namely, those who are desirous of rendering education free, in order that they may derive a personal advantage from it." A modification of the laws was then granted by the king, and granted to as liberal an extent as any man who was not disposed to be a traitor would have desired on the subject. Counter edicts were issued the preliminary education at Louvain was dispensed with, and that establishment was broken up. Even the Pope was pleased, and expressed by a letter to the king the satisfaction felt by the Sacred College. He might be told, with regard to civil matters, that the king of the Netherlands did not give the Jury-system to the Belgians. This had been made a matter of fertile abuse against him, and in the French papers he had been over and over again accused of wishing to establish a tyrannical despotism in Belgium. Now the fact was, that three Jury laws had been successively sent by him to the Chamber in Brussels, and they were successively rejected by increasing majorities. It might be possible that in what he was about to say he might offend the prejudices of some Gentlemen in that House, He was ready, however, to avow his candid opinion with respect to the late revolution in France. Great as were the results that would flow from that mighty event—and that war would be one of those results there could be no doubt—yet, seeing on the other side an arbitrary and tyrannical authority attempting to rule by ordinances, and beholding on the other side a liberal feeling, exaggerated perhaps, but not more so than that which was opposed to it—seeing these things, notwithstanding the inconveniences which would follow from that event, yet, as it was one in which the happiness and the liberty of the world were concerned, he for one would say, that he was not sorry that the revolution in France had occurred—he was not sorry that Charles 10th had been driven from the Throne of France, as James 2nd had been from the Throne of England, for attempting to subvert the institutions and liberties of his country Great inconveniences might result from that Revolution: 238 the establishment of a republic might be one of them, and indeed the reverberation of that event was already felt in this country; but yet he would say, that he was not sorry that it had taken place, He was not sorry for the expulsion of Charles 10th, though perhaps the persons who had expelled him had gone much further than those who had driven James 2nd from the throne of this country. And here he begged to say, that the ultras in this country, as they were called, and the ultras in France, were quite different parties. The ultras in this country consisted of those who were anxious to retain the old institutions of the country, with the introduction of such improvements as wisdom and experience might suggest in them. The ultra party in France, on the contrary, who had caused the revolution there, wished to pull down the charter, and to establish a despotism of ordinances. The French and Belgic revolutions differed materially, and the difference consisted in this—that while the revolution in France was a just resistance to arbitrary authority, that in Belgium was an unjust and unprovoked rebellion. The impartial page of history would describe the revolution in France in the terms he had mentioned, while the revolution in Belgium would be regarded as a rebellion. With regard to the question of our interference with foreign Powers, he begged to say one word. It had been affirmed that non-interference was the rule for us in such matters, and that interference was the exception. But he would reverse that assertion, and contend, that interference ought to be the rule, and non-interference the exception. That had been the policy of Europe for many centuries. When they beheld such a revolution as that which had taken place in Belgium, it was high time that those Powers which were anxious to preserve their own dynasties, and to maintain the tranquillity of Europe, should interfere. Because France had made her army enter Belgium, he trusted that Ministers would not think it necessary to give way in any one point; let them not goon succumbing to that Power which had but one object, and that was to propagate its own doctrines, and extend its influence. He believed that the Cabinet of France was not acting dishonestly, but in that country there was a power behind the Cabinet which influenced, if it did not control, its actions. He would entreat his Majesty's Ministers, for the 239 honour of England—he would implore them, for the safety of the country, and for the peace of Europe, to make a firm, and a bold, and a determined resistance to the line of policy which that party in France would wish to pursue. He was well aware, that there were some subjects upon which it was dangerous to expatiate when they had to deal with Powers that might take offence at the slightest suggestions of those who were supposed to be hostile to them; but, taking all necessary care not to offend others, an equal care ought to be taken not to injure ourselves. He would wish Ministers not to give any just cause of offence to the revolutionary party in France, but he would wish them to be equally guarded in not surrendering the power they already possessed, for bullies always became greater bullies by concessions, and if Ministers would only be firm and resolved they would meet with the support, not only of that House but of the whole country. He was only calling the attention of the House to points which, he thought, involved the honour and safety of the kingdom. He wished to know if his Majesty's Ministers were at length undeceived as to the intention of the French in entering Belgium. This was the great question which called for the interference of the House. If it were known, that England was not a Power that might be ill-treated with impunity, if the French and the Belgians were well satisfied of this, by the spirit of English councils, his Majesty's Ministers need not be afraid in any emergency of appealing to the people of England. By bearing a bold front, and showing a determined spirit, peace might be maintained; for the best way to have peace was to be prepared for war, and not to be afraid of those insinuations which had been levelled against England in a certain assembly. Though he expected only a short speech from the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston), yet he trusted he would give some explanation on one point. There was no doubt the noble Lord was justified, by the assurances he received from France, in his statement as to his expectations that the French army would be removed from Belgium immediately on the withdrawal of the Dutch troops. He hoped war might be avoided—he prayed for peace, but he was satisfied that the best mode of preserving peace was by being prepared for war. The ultra party in France was doing its utmost to drive that 240 country into a war with England. Every thing was done to revive old grievances and old prepossessions against the English nation. The extent of our colonies, and our possession of those islands on the coast of Normandy, which were said to be nests for Pirates, were favourite topics of declamation in France, Our retention of Gibraltar and Malta, in which our numerous fleets found a home, was also a favourite topic with the ultra party. It was the ultra party only, however, which entertained those views. Moderate men in France, as well as in England, were desirous of preserving the peace of their own country, and of Europe. In proportion as they valued the well-being, the security, and the prosperity of their country (which was brought so low by the late revolution), all moderate men were anxious not to hurry France into a war. If the British Government, however, entered into an alliance with France to compel the king of Holland to accept certain terms, such an alliance would be disgraceful to this country, for it would in fact be an alliance with the violent party in France; and he was assured that at no distant period it would lead to a struggle, in the middle of which this country would be compelled to abandon the ally it had chosen, and to look to others by whom it had always been assisted. His (Sir Richard Vyvyan's) only object was, to give the Government an opportunity of explaining the course of policy adopted some months ago. That line had since been altered; but he wished not for information on that which was going forward but on what had already passed, and was concluded. So many acts of the play had been gone through, that Ministers might certainly afford some information as to the early parts of the piece. All he desired was, that the credit of this country should be maintained, and the country placed in its proper position. There were many questions connected with the subject which he declined entering into because he conceived that it would not be convenient to discuss them. In conclusion he begged to move "that an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, that he will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House a copy of all the Protocols and other documents relating to the Conferences on the affairs of Belgium, which can be laid before this House without detriment to the public service."
§ Lord Eliot
seconded the Motion. He should not follow the hon. Baronet into the subjects he had so amply discussed, but would content himself with adverting to a few transactions. From his personal observations whilst he was in the Netherlands, he could bestow a just and merited, though a warm eulogium, upon the character and conduct of the Sovereign of that country. He would beg the House to reflect, that when the kingdom of the Netherlands was created in 1814, the Belgian provinces were in the military occupation of England, Russia, Prussia, and Austria, and that these great Powers consented to give up the provinces in order to form a separate kingdom of a character that might tend to the preservation of the balance of power in Europe. Holland was no party whatever to this arrangement; for, on the contrary, she was far from being desirous of any annexation of the Belgian provinces to her dominions. Holland, in order to complete this arrangement, was called upon to make very considerable and painful sacrifices. She was compelled to give up Demerara, Berbice, Essequibo, and the Cape of Good Hope; and from the disparity of feelings between the two sections of the new kingdom, she was obliged to adopt many new institutions. But the king of the Netherlands having once acceded to the new arrangement, he had adhered faithfully to all stipulations, and had discharged the duties of a just and benevolent monarch. In the first instance, he had issued a declaration that he only accepted the sovereignty upon the condition of establishing laws which would ensure all the rights of property, and afford every security to the personal liberty of all parties. The result of this declaration was the establishing of a Commission for the revision of the laws, and the report was signed by the most eminent men who had subsequently figured in the Belgian revolution, and upon this report was founded a fundamental law eminently suited to the people. In the whole course of this sovereign's government he defied any man to produce a single instance of an individual being oppressed or punished except by a legal sentence. Persons might, perhaps, cite the case of M. de Potter, but be it remembered, that M. de Potter had been sentenced by a Belgian and not by a Dutch tribunal, and that he had twice appealed against his sentence, and in each instance the 242 appeal had been rejected. The king of the Netherlands was the only sovereign in Europe that had never formed a body guard for the protection of his person, and he composition of his army was like that of a militia, and of which the proportion of Belgians was nearly double that of Dutch troops. No country had ever made a more rapid progress in prosperity than Belgium since the year 1814. She had enjoyed a monopoly in the supply of Holland, and had a free vent for her iron, her coal, and for all her produce, and of which she would now be deprived. The anticipations which had been formed in favour of Belgium at the period of its union with Holland had been fully realized, and the insurrection had been an act of treason which, had it been unsuccessful, would have justified the sovereign in punishing those engaged in it; but treason, they say,Treason never prospers—what's the reason? Why, if it prospers, none dares call it treason.The king of Holland failed in his attempt to punish this treason. A separation of the kingdom afterwards took place by the interference of the great Powers, and the first step towards this was the establishing of a suspension of hostilities, called an armistice. Belgium protested against any doctrine that would prevent a country from having recourse to arms to assert the justice of her cause. After this, hostilities were continued for two months by the Belgians, in spite of the repeated remonstrances of the King of England. Negotiations proceeded till the 27th of January, when certain bases were laid down by the Protocol of the 18th of February, which were acceded to by the king of Holland, and then, on the 19th of April, they were declared by the Conference to be settled and irrevocable. Belgium had enjoyed every advantage under this negotiation; and on the 10th of May the Conference declared, that if before the 1st of June the Belgian Congress did not accede to the same arrangement, all relation with them would be broken off, Lord Ponsonby would be directed to quit Brussels, and measures would be taken to enforce obedience. The Belgian Congress did not, however, accede to it. Various transactions subsequently took place, the Dutch insisting upon the execution of this arrangement. The Conference did not, however, enforce it; the Conference entered into new arrangements; the Conference acceded to the demands of Belgium, and 243 on the 7th of June, to the astonishment of the king of Holland, he was informed that the arrangement was not to be enforced. Still more was he astonished when he received a new Protocol, containing eighteen articles, on the 25th of June, and found them quite different from those which he had received before. Against those last articles the minister of the king of Holland naturally protested. He published, on July 12th, an able and complete analysis of them, and exposed their inconsistency with those which had been before agreed to, and in what manner they were an unwarrantable violation of the rights of the House of Nassau. Was it then with the consent of the other Powers, that King Leopold signed the Constitution of Belgium, the provisions of which involved questions which had been considered to be already settled? In his address the eighteen articles were not alluded to, but he swore to maintain the integrity of the Belgian territory, and keep those places of which the Belgians then had possession, notwithstanding the claims of the king of Holland, and the fact that those claims were the subject of pending negotiations. He had addressed the Deputies of Luxemburg and Limburg, telling them that he was in possession of these territories, and would keep them; and thus were the rights of the king of Holland, according to the limits of 1790, totally disregarded. King Leopold even invited the Electoral Colleges of those districts to meet, and the king of Holland must have been wanting in every feeling of honour, and all sense of duty, if he had not considered himself most harshly treated by these proceedings. Under such circumstances, it was doubtful that the king of Holland could restrain the irritated feelings of his people, who saw that their country was dealt with by the other Powers, he would not say unjustly, but at least harshly. From the day that their troops crossed the Belgian frontier, that is for nine months, the Dutch had paid the whole of the interest of the Public Debt of Belgium; and in consequence of the unsettled state of the question between them and that country, their business was interrupted, and they were subjected to the expenses of a large army, and to other heavy burthens. Notwithstanding all this, when the Conference expressed its disapprobation of the renewal of hostilities, and desired him to withdraw his troops from Belgium, although he thought him- 244 self justified in the course which he had adopted, and although he had been in every instance successful, he consented to re-cross the frontiers, not wishing to incur the responsibility of bringing on a general war in Europe. But the Conference, in the mean time, employed a French army of 50,000 men, or allowed it to be employed, for the purpose of enforcing against Holland those coercive measures with which it had threatened Belgium, and of defending a population of four millions against two millions and a half. He thought that the House had a right to know what part this country had taken in those proceedings; and as King Leopold was now settled on the throne of Belgium—as his election and recognition were perfect and completed political transactions, he thought that the hon. Baronet had a right to call for any papers relating to it, and that their production would not interfere with any pending or future negotiations. The feeling of sorrow and indignation which had been excited in Holland by the treatment which that country had experienced at the hands of the great Powers, was very much mitigated by the sympathy which had been expressed towards it in this country; and he thought that a similar manifestation on the part of that House would tend to strengthen the hands of his Majesty's Ministers, and would enable them to take a higher ground in their negotiations with other Powers, in order to render due support to the ancient ally of this country, and to give up the temporising policy which hitherto they had been (perhaps) compelled to adopt. For those reasons he would second the Motion of the right hon. Baronet.
§ Viscount Palmerston,
in rising to explain his reasons for declining to accede to the present Motion, was bound to do justice to the temperate, fair, and moderate manner in which the hon. Baronet by whom it was introduced, and the noble Lord who seconded it, had stated their views of the subject to which the papers called for related. The hon. Baronet stated, that his motive in making the Motion was, to give his Majesty's Government an opportunity of explaining the course which they had pursued in reference to the transactions to which the Motion referred. The noble Lord said, that as the election of King Leopold was a complete political transaction, there could be no reason for withholding papers relating to proceedings up to 245 that period, as their production could have no effect upon pending negotiations, nor be of any injury to the country. But he was of a different opinion; and he, therefore, was not going to avail himself of the opportunity which the motion of the hon. Baronet afforded him to enter into the explanation desired. Notwithstanding the statement of the noble Lord, he would say, that the object of the negotiations with which the documents were connected was by no means a completed political transaction. The purpose with which the Government of this country had entered into the negotiation was not the election of a Sovereign for the people of Belgium, but the establishment of peace between Holland and Belgium. Until that purpose was finally attained, and peace secured, the production of the papers called for could not reasonably be expected. He should, therefore, be obliged to make but a short speech in reply to the hon. Mover, and to observe perfect silence upon the various topics which the hon. Baronet and the noble Lord had introduced. He was sure, that the House would not think it necessary for him to follow them through their examination of the arrangements determined on at Vienna, in 1815, or their defence of the king of Holland's conduct for the last fifteen years. Neither could he go into an explanation of the conduct of the Government of this country for the last eight or nine months. Whatever might be the effect which the hon. Baronet expected to produce by his charge against the present Ministry, for their conduct towards the king of Holland, and for their general management of the foreign affairs of this country, he must give the hon. Baronet the advantage of that impression, as he did not feel himself at liberty to enter into the discussion to which the hon. Baronet was desirous to lead him. If he was obliged to decline a discussion of the past conduct of the Government in those transactions, still less would the House expect him to follow the noble Lore into his anticipations of their future policy. Whether Belgium was or was not to possess of Luxemburg, and whether or not the possession of Luxemburg would connect Belgium with the Germanic Confederation—were questions which he would not then discuss in that House, and he was sure that the House would excuse him from entering upon them. He thought, that the course which had of late been followed 246 regarding negotiations, in which his Majesty's Government were still engaged, was it variance, not only with the usages of parliament, but with the principles of the Constitution. In his view of the Constitution, he apprehended that the making of war and peace was one of the prerogatives of the Crown, and that, therefore, the discretion of conducting negotiations was vested in the King. So long, therefore, as that House placed confidence in the responsible advisers of the Crown, it was sound not to take out of their hands the management of negotiations involving the question of war or peace, by summoning them, as it were, to the bar, to answer for their conduct in respect to negotiations still pending. It had often been asserted, that one of the consequences of the Reform Bill now in progress through Parliament would be, that the Crown would be shorn of its prerogatives; but he thought that nothing that might be attempted by Representatives of Birmingham and Manchester could strike more at the necessary prerogatives of the Crown, than the course followed by the hon. Baronet, the champion of the Anti-Reformers, who, during negotiations of the greatest importance, not only to this country, but to all Europe, would not wait until these were brought to a conclusion, but insisted that the Government should disclose at a moment of great difficulty all that they had hitherto done in respect to them—all that they were doing—and all that they meant to do; and called on them to consult with him as to the course they should pursue. Under these circumstances, and for the considerations which he had explained, he objected to the Motion, and was bound to decline entering further into the discussion.
said, that although he could not remain silent in the present discussion, as he had been so distinctly alluded to by the hon. Baronet (Sir Richard Vyvyan), yet he would not delay the House by giving full expression to his sentiments respecting the conduct of the king of Holland, whom some hon. Members still vainly called the king of the Netherlands. The hon. Baronet was not content with an attack upon the Belgian people, but had gone out of his way, for the sake of attacking him (Mr. O'Connell); and had connected him with what he was pleased to call, the left wing of the army of revolution in Dublin. That should not provoke him to say much of the tail of a 247 certain faction in England, further than to remind the hon. Baronet that the politics of the Reformers had the sanction of almost all the counties of England, while those of the hon. Baronet himself had only the approbation of seven counties. When the hon. Baronet sat in that House the Representative of a large county, which had since rejected him for his politics, he was supported by a majority of the county Members of England. Where were they now? The hon. Baronet looked like—The last rose of summer left blooming alone, His lovely companions all faded and gone.If the politics of the hon. Baronet had been approved by the people of England, he would not have lost his seat. His politics had driven the hon. Baronet from the high station of a county Representative to take refuge in a rotten borough that was very properly placed in schedule A. For his part, he had certainly endeavoured to defend the Belgians from the calumnies which he had heard uttered against them; and, indeed, when the hon. Baronet attributed the Revolution of July to the Jesuits, he would undertake to defend them too, if the charge were such as to render their defence necessary. He would not defend the Jesuits whenever they engaged in national politics, nor when they were accused of conspiring to overturn the Throne of Charles 10th; that was indeed a discovery reserved for Tory genius, and that might be a defence against the hon. Baronet's own accusations. Hopeless as the task of defending them might appear to others, he would defend them on the ground of their exertions in favour of literature, science, and civilization, and for the relief of suffering humanity. He had given the best proofs of his confidence in them, for he had four sons, and they had all been educated by the Jesuits. But to return to the king of Holland. The hon. Baronet and the noble Lord complained, that the king of Holland was called a tyrant; but he would ask, why were the Belgians called rebels? They had been subjected to Holland without their consent, and a Constitution was forced upon them which they had rejected. The Belgian Notables, chosen by the king himself, rejected the Constitution by a majority of 796 to 527; but that notable king decided that 527 was a majority, and 796 the minority. He next loaded them with a share of the Dutch Debt, and taxed every thing to pay 248 the interest. Distillation was taxed, cutting wood was taxed, grinding corn was taxed, the slaying of cattle was taxed, the meat was taxed in the markets, the corn was taxed as it grew, the bread was taxed as it was baked—in short, every article consumed by a people who owed nothing, was taxed to pay the debts of a people who owed much; and yet, for resisting this, they were called rebels, and the Power that thus robbed them is lauded in an English House of Commons. These facts were tolerably conclusive, but they afforded a small sample only of the blessings of Dutch domination. What next did this wise and benevolent monarch do to confirm his claims upon the allegiance of the Belgians? Why, previous to their union with Holland, they had trial by Jury, and that inestimable right he abolished. What would the people of England say to those who called that man a wise and benevolent monarch who deprived his subjects of the right of Trial by Jury, and afterwards passed a law that witnesses should not be publicly examined or confronted with each other, in all cases in which the crown was concerned? But he did not stop there. He annihilated the liberty of the Press; placing a twice-convicted forger and galley slave at its head, and this person had made 25,000l. by libelling the Belgians in subserviency to Dutch prejudices alone. Much as had been said about the sedition of De Potter, it was to be remembered that he was condemned, not by a Jury, but by Judges nominated by the King, and liable to removal at the King's pleasure—not upon examination of witnesses in open Court, but after the confronting of witnesses had been abolished by law; and even then, the King was obliged to abandon the charge of libel, and to copy an example which had been held out to him in this country—to prosecute men for a conspiracy, when no definable offence could be charged upon them. A law had been procured, subjecting to various penalties—from six hours torture with the collar, to the punishment of death, a writer who should publish anything tending to disturb the existing order of things. Under that law thirty-two prosecutions were instituted in one day. He wondered how the ex-Attorney-general for England was pleased at being so outdone. How his mouth must water! However much the Tories of England might be pleased with the conduct of the Dutch king so far, he scarcely 249 supposed, that their admiration was quite so great of his treatment of the placemen, whom he displaced. He did not give them retiring pensions—he did not leave open to them any such refuge for the destitute as displaced Tories were said to find here. No, he made them outlaws—he deprived them of all civil rights. Surely the Tories would not praise him for that. He forbade to the Belgians the use of their own language. He ordained that the man whose fathers had spoken no other language than French, and who himself understood no other language, should plead in Dutch, of which he knew not a word, should petition in Dutch, and make his will in Dutch. The Belgian lawyers too were required to plead in Dutch, of which language they were, for the most part, wholly ignorant; and, as might be expected, a great number of them were compelled to retire from their profession. In the appointment of the Crown officers of almost every description, the preference was always given to the Dutch. In one department, out of 100 Officers, eighty were Dutch; in another out of thirty-nine, no less than thirty individuals were of the same nation, and of General Officers in the Army, forty-eight were Dutch, and eight Belgians. The same tyranny was exercised, as regarded education. No school, in fact, could be allowed without a Royal Act. The King not only obstructed in various ways the education of the Catholics, but he interfered with their religious institutions. He obtained from the Pope a veto in the nomination of the Catholic Bishops; and he made such a use of that power, that at the time of the Revolution there was only one Bishop. But the King not only abrogated the rights of the people—not only revoked the Constitution, into the acceptance of which he had swindled them—but he, being a King, entered largely into trade, established a brewery in one place, a sugar refinery in another, trafficked in the funds, and became the largest monopolist in his own dominions. What would be thought of a King of England engaging in such pursuits? In addition to these, all public establishments were transferred to Holland. Even the mine companies were transferred to that country, though he believed not one mine existed in Holland; and, last of all, while the Belgians were called upon to pay their full share of the expense of the army, they were not allowed to hold one third of the officers com- 250 missions. To be a Dutchman, was to be a master; to be a Belgian, was to be a slave. After the first revolt how did the King behave? Why, he got the Belgian Deputies over to the Hague, and whilst they were treating for the separation of the two countries, he marched his army against Brussels, and gained the advantage of shedding some Belgian blood, before he was again compelled to betake himself to an ignominious flight. He viewed with unconcern any question about opening a letter this day or that, when he recollected the treachery with which the king of Holland marched that army into Belgium, and the joy he expressed at his temporary success. What, in brief, had the Belgians to thank him for? He swindled them into the acceptance of a Constitution he did not himself observe, he loaded them with debt, he pressed them down with taxes, he abolished the Trial by Jury, he abolished the public examination of witnesses, he made the Judges dependent on the Crown, he introduced that greatest badge of slavery, a foreign language, into the public business and courts of justice, he persecuted the press, he interfered with education, and he trampled on the religion of his people. Yet this was the Sovereign the Tories of England praised and admired; let them continue to praise him.
§ Mr. Trevor
could not regard the French army now in Belgium in any other light than as an army of occupation, and regretted, that the noble Lord had not been more explicit as to its true object and character. It was no answer to say, that the king of the French had pledged himself to its returning, on the retirement of the Dutch troops beyond their own frontier; for though he gave that monarch credit for sincerity, he was only the puppet of a revolutionary faction, and had not the power to redeem his pledge, however personally inclined—in fact, had no will of his own, under the present circumstances of his nominal kingdom. The duchy of Luxemburg was guaranteed to the king of Holland, and yet it had been proposed to take it away. This was a conduct which he was sure an English House of Commons would never sanction. He regretted, therefore, that the noble Lord should not be ready to give the House all the information which had been demanded by the hon. member for Okehampton.
was fully aware of the great delicacy and difficulty of the negotiations 251 in which the noble Foreign Secretary had been for some time engaged, and of the great sobriety and caution necessary to their successful termination, particularly when the excited state of the public mind of Europe was taken into consideration; but still he thought, that the noble Lord might be more communicative than he had been with respect to these negotiations. He would not then enter upon a discussion of the respective merits of the king of the Netherlands, and the Belgians, in the transactions which had led to the separation of the latter into a separate kingdom, but only observe, that in his mind the hon. and learned member for Kerry had been influenced in the selection of his topics, so condemnatory of the personal conduct of the head of the House of Nassau, by considerations other than those merely political. He feared there was a leaven of religious animosity in the hon. Member's statement. Be that as it might, he was sure that to any body of Englishmen, it would be idle to address vituperative assertions concerning the House of Orange, a House to which not only England, but Europe, indeed, the world at large, was more indebted for its services on the score of religious and civil liberty, than any other in existence. If the present monarch was a tyrant and a bigot, he certainly was the first of his family. He repeated, he was convinced that the hon. and learned Gentleman, in repeating the now almost threadbare calumnies of a certain party against the House of Nassau, was not altogether under the influence of political motives. He had himself resided some years in Holland, under the government of the then Stadtholder, and could take it upon him to inform the hon. and learned Gentleman, that in no country in Europe was the administration of justice more pure: he would go farther, and say, that he should prefer to have his cause tried in a Dutch court, to not only an Irish court—that indeed would be the last any man in his senses would just now think of entering—but to any court of justice with which he was acquainted in any part of the world. Indeed, he felt satisfied in his own mind, that the assertions of the hon. and learned Gentleman, with respect to the mal-administration of justice in Holland—and the hon. and learned Member would excuse him for saying so—would on inquiry be found to be monstrous exaggerations, if not actually a gross calumny. 252 One fact spoke for itself—the king of Holland possessed the affections of his Dutch subjects to a degree of popularity hardly rivalled in Europe. He would not then enter into a discussion on the merits of the question of the separation of Holland and Belgium. He had admitted the great difficulties by which it was surrounded; indeed, had Ministers received acarte blanche to effect the most easy mode of separation in their power to devise, the separation would still be a matter of great difficulty, apart from the clashing interests of the case. With respect to the prosecutions of the Press, to which the hon. and learned Gentleman had alluded, he was bound to say, that up to the accession of Charles 10th, the Press of Holland was the freeest on the continent of Europe; indeed, quite an eye-sore to some of the neighbouring courts of legitimacy. As to those great and meritorious persons who had been set up as ill-treated patriots, he should like to know what had become of De Potter and Van Halen? They were the great heroes of the revolution, but they had been expelled from their posts, if not from the country, by the revolutionary party itself. When, therefore, the conduct of the king of the Netherlands was described as violent and tyrannical towards these men, it ought to be ascertained whether this De Potter was not a man so extremely impracticable—so much of what we should call a radical in his way of thinking—that no party in any country could long agree with him. The other, Mr. Van Halen, who fought with the Dutch troops, and beat them, had since been obliged to leave the country for some offence he committed. If, therefore, anything were wanted to justify the king of the Netherlands with respect to these persons, the treatment they had since experienced from their own party would be sufficient. He agreed with the hon. Baronet, the member for Okehampton, that the origin of the troubles in Belgium was religious, and was fomented by the ultramontane party in France, but these troubles afterwards took a democratic turn, and operated against the religionists themselves. What, however, the House had really to do with was, the position in which this country would be placed by the arrangement of the Conference of London. He knew not what was the tone or matter of the discussions of the 253 Conference which had formally effected the separation of Belgium into an independent kingdom, but this he would say, that it was idle to suppose, in the present agitated state of the public mind of Europe, that any Conference could establish and secure an independent kingdom between the French and Dutch frontiers. The thing was an impossibility, without taking into consideration the well-known maxim of French policy, that no kingdom could lie between France and the Rhine. A man with the talents of Napoleon himself, if placed upon the throne of Belgium, would not be able to protect it against France. He, therefore, argued, that all the efforts of the Conference must have recently been made in a wrong direction, and he thought that even Ministers themselves must be convinced, that they had not obtained their object in their attempts to raise a barrier between the French and the Dutch provinces. He was not going to enter into the moral question of such an arrangement—on that he studiously avoided venturing an opinion; but it was his conviction that, in a political sense, it would have been a better arrangement to have divided Belgium among the surrounding States, than to have left it, as it was at present, with a mock sovereignty and a nominal independence. It would have been a far better security for Holland against the aggressions of France, than the formation of Belgium into a separate and independent nation; a nation, too, that could not contend even against the Dutch. In using this last expression, let it not be supposed that he intended to cast any sneer upon the Dutch, for a braver people than the Dutch was not, he affirmed, to be found in Europe. He contended that they would have had a better security against France, in uniting to Holland that part of Belgium which, in laws, in language, and in feeling, belonged to Holland, than they would have by forming the different parts of Belgium into a mock sovereignty. He meant by this, that if they had left Antwerp, and the line of the Scheldt, and the country along the Maese, up to Maestricht, in the possession of Holland, they would have left Holland in a far better state of defence against France, than that in which she would be placed by the present arrangement. By giving Antwerp and Maestricht to Holland—by giving the duchy of Luxemburg to the Germanic Confedera- 254 tion, to which it formerly and historically belonged—and by giving the provinces which bordered on France to that country, they would, in his opinion, have created a system of greater security for the tranquillity of Europe. The provinces which bordered on France, Tournay, and Mons, for instance, were French in feeling—the country from Antwerp to Ostend was, to his knowledge, as decidedly Dutch in feeling; and he believed that in the duchy of Luxemburg, with the exception of that feeling which had been recently excited by Belgian agitators and French propagandists, there would be no difficulty in uniting it with some of the Powers of Germany. Had the Conference, he would ask, gained any thing by pursuing a different system? When they had driven the king of Holland out of Antwerp and taken from him the command of the Scheldt, how long would he be secure in the possession of his Stadtholdership?—for it was folly to talk of his kingdom, now that they had erected a sovereignty in Belgium, for France to walk over whenever she pleased. By such an arrangement as that which he had proposed, all parties would have been quieted; but what was the case now? France remained under the impression that Belgium, at some time or other, must still belong to her. If the noble Lord could get the army of Marshal Gerard out of Belgium, which he admitted would be a great act, almost a master stroke of diplomacy, still, supposing the noble Lord should be able to do that, of what value must the tenure of that sovereignty of Belgium be, when it could be encroached on, if not destroyed, by France at any moment she pleased? When they gave France the command of the fortresses on the Belgian frontier, as he was afraid that they had done already—when they gave her the means of occupying Antwerp—they placed her in a situation which gave her the command not only over the navigation of the Scheldt, but also over the whole of Holland. Now, if they had given Antwerp and Maestricht to Holland, they would have formed Holland into a Power, not, perhaps, capable of resisting France successfully by herself, but capable of resisting France until the rest of the Powers of Europe came to her aid, if any of them were inclined to join in her quarrel. Undoubtedly the arrangement made by the Treaty of Vienna for the union of the 255 two countries of Holland and Belgium was not satisfactory; but still, with all the knowledge which they had since derived of the subject from experience, he must say, that it would have been matter of extreme difficulty to have made any other. Would any Statesman have recommended the giving up of Belgium to France? If not, would any Statesman have recommended the establishment of such a mock sovereignty as was now about to be erected in Belgium? If neither of these courses were to be pursued, then the wisest thing to be done was, to make that experiment of an union between the two countries which had so unhappily failed. The course which he had ventured to suggest, as that which, politically speaking, would be most advantageous, had also this advantage—that it would not only be in accordance with the interests of the five Powers, but also in accordance with the interests of the Belgians themselves. No man would deny, that in every political arrangement, the interests of the people of whom you were disposing ought to be consulted. There was now a great nation looking upon Belgium as a prize, of which they could make themselves masters at any time they pleased. Belgium, a weak country, would have a still weaker country behind it, and that weaker country animated with all the rancour of a discarded friend. Now, in the range of country situate between Ostend and Antwerp, there was a large manufacturing population, which, under the new arrangements, would not have any outlet for their manufactured produce; for the Dutch on the one side, and the French on the other, would not let the manufactures of Belgium enter into their respective territories. Hon. Gentlemen might perceive the distress which this state of things must inevitably create, if they would only consider the state to which Manchester, and Birmingham, and Sheffield, must be reduced, if a wall were built around those towns, and nothing permitted to pass beyond it which had been manufactured within it. The provinces which ought naturally to have gone to Holland, contained the towns of Antwerp, Ghent, and Ostend, all which towns were places of commerce, had formed connexions with the colonies of Holland, and were anxious to retain them. Hence it was, that during all the excitements which had recently 256 prevailed, those three towns had always been desirous of being united with the Dutch. He was convinced that no peace would prevail, either in Belgium or in Europe, until some such arrangement as that which he had taken the liberty of suggesting was carried into effect. The military feeling of France was such, that unless a Conference was perpetually sitting, and Protocols were daily passing from hand to hand among the great Powers—and even Conferences and Protocols might at last become of no avail—the French government would be compelled to overrun Belgium, and then that new kingdom would turn out to be a mere cobweb. He could not hear this question discussed without stating his opinion, that the arrangements now in progress would, when concluded, be found impracticable and insufficient for the object which they were intended to accomplish.
expressed his regret, that he should have lived to see the day on which a Member of a British House of Commons dared to rise in his place to advise the partition of an independent nation. The argument which the hon. member for Thetford had just used, was the same argument which had been used by the unprincipled despots who had perpetrated the atrocious partition of Poland. He trusted that the doctrines which the hon. Member had that night advanced would not find many supporters in that House; for what had been the course of the hon. Member's arguments? First of all, he had approved of the Treaty of Vienna, which united two nations in a political marriage without asking the consent of either party; and then he had concluded by proposing to partition Belgium among the surrounding States, under the stale plea of preserving the tranquillity of Europe—the very plea which had been urged in the case of the atrocious aggression on the independence of Poland. The hon. Member had then proceeded to express his disbelief in the statements contained in the eloquent and masterly speech of his hon. and learned friend, the member for Kerry. Now he would undertake to say, from his own sources of information, that although the statements of his hon. and learned friend might be exaggerated in some respects, there was not one of them which was not founded in fact. His hon. friend had not said that the king of Holland was a bad king for Holland, he 257 had only said, that he was a bad king for Belgium; and the very defence which the hon. member for Thetford had set up for that Monarch—namely, that he was a good king for Holland—was by no means inconsistent with the fact of his being a bad king for Belgium, if it were true, that he had placed none but his own countrymen (the Dutch) in all places of trust, honour, and emolument, in Belgium. He denied, that the people of Belgium were the fickle, unprincipled, and discontented people which the hon. Member had sought to represent them. He was as much mistaken in his facts, as he was in the arguments which he had deduced from them; for De Potter had not been expelled from the government which he had formed for his countrymen, nor had Van Halen been sentenced to imprisonment for his successful defence of Brussels. On the contrary, De Potter had voluntarily resigned his office, and Van Halen was now in the receipt of a liberal pension from the people he had defended. In conclusion, he expressed a hope, that the House would not go along with the hon. member for Thetford in his extraordinary plan for the partition of Belgium.
explained, that he had expressly put out of view the morality of the arrangement which he had proposed—he had only spoken of its political advantages. As there were parts of Belgium which, in interests and feelings, were essentially French, and other parts with feelings equally Dutch, and as all experience had shown Belgium was not likely to maintain itself as an independent kingdom, it was an open and fair question, whether it was not the better for all parties that a division should be made.
Sir Robert Peel
was not at all surprised that his hon. friend, the member for Oakhampton, should think, that the time was at length arrived when it was fitting that the House of Commons of England should have its attention drawn to the state of its foreign policy. He was not surprised that at a period when the popular assembly of every country in Europe which possessed a popular assembly, had its attention exclusively directed, not to the changes to be made in its constitution, but to the momentous circumstances which threatened the independence and the tranquillity of Europe;—he was not surprised, he said, that at such a period—when the ministers of other Powers imposed upon themselves 258 no reserve, either as to their own intentions or the intentions of other nations, an independent Member of Parliament, contracting no official responsibility, and labouring under no official obligations, should think, that the time was at length arrived in which it was incumbent that the only popular assembly in Europe silent on such interesting topics should not be the British House of Commons. No doubt, premature disclosures were liable to many objections, but complete indifference, perfect passiveness, and utter silence, were also liable to still greater objections. From such a course of proceeding, there might be presumptions drawn, which were false and unfounded—as, for instance, that we were silent because we were indifferent to the drama now transacting in Belgium. The position in which he stood upon this subject, was rather different from that occupied by his hon. friend, the member for Oakhampton. His noble friend, the Foreign Secretary, acting upon his responsibility as a Minister, declared, that he was precluded by paramount considerations of duty from entering into any discussion upon this subject. His noble friend had stated, that whatever might be the suspicions which hon. Members might entertain as to the course of policy pursued by his Majesty's Government, whatever might be the imputations cast upon it, and whatever the arguments on which those imputations might be founded, he was precluded by a sense of duty to his country from entering into any discussion, and even from vindicating himself against any charges which might be brought against himself personally. If his noble friend thought, that at this critical moment all discussion should be avoided, his noble friend was justified in avowing such to be his opinion, and in taking his determination accordingly. If his noble friend told him, that the time was not yet come in which he could vindicate himself from the charges of his opponents, without making disclosures which might prove injurious to the public service, then, as there would be something ungenerous in making such charges against him, he would bridle in his own feelings, and abstain from calling for certain explanations, which he thought his noble friend ought, under other circumstances, to be called upon to give. Whilst he abstained from making such charges, he was bound, in justice to himself, to say, that in the whole of the annals of England never 259 was there a case which so imperiously demanded explanation—never was there a series of transactions on which, at a period when the members of his Majesty's Government should be released from the obligations of secresy, it would be more incumbent upon them to vindicate themselves from the charges which had been brought against them. He could not forget, that there was, in support of the statement of his noble friend, the peculiar hour, the critical moment, at which this discussion was taking place. His noble friend had complained of the numerous questions which had been put to him from the Opposition side of the House, on the subject of our foreign policy. They originated in an anxious desire to promote the interest and the honour of the country, not in any desire to embarrass the Government [a laugh from an Hon. Member on the Ministerial benches.] The hon. Gentleman who smiled at this observation, might have unlimited confidence in his Majesty Government; he might not think it necessary to put any question to his Majesty's Ministers; but it never was the practice of Englishmen, at moments like the present, to shrink from seeking such information from the Government. Did the hon. Member think, that at a moment when the king of France had declared, in the speech with which he opened his Chambers, that the tricoloured flag was floating on the walls of Lisbon—at a moment when the French army was occupying the fortresses in the Netherlands—at a moment when, according to appearances, the only signs of military activity on the part of the British Government were directed against its two most ancient allies, Portugal and Holland,—did the hon. Member think, that such was the moment at which men who were anxious for the interests, and still more anxious for the honour, of England, were to be precluded from seeking information from his Majesty's Government? His Majesty's Ministers had always a right—and he did not mean to find fault with them for exercising the right—to refuse an answer to the questions which might be put to them [a cry of "Order, order."] The hon. Gentleman gave him an interruption, by his repeated calls for order, far more annoying than the disturbance of the Gentlemen whom he wished to control.
rose to order. It was not his hon. friend that had created this inter- 260 ruption; it was the cheering of some of the right hon. Baronet's friends, who were then sitting around him.
An Hon. Member,
seated just below Mr. Hume, likewise rose to order. He felt it necessary to state, that the disorder had been occasioned by the proceedings of the hon. Alderman below him, the member for the city of London.
Mr. Alderman Wood
rose to contradict the assertion which had just been made. He had interfered because he had heard an hon. Member say, with an oath, that "such language never yet came out of the mouth of man."
Sir Robert Peel
would feel obliged to hon. Members if they would replace him, without further delay, in the place in which he was before the interruption. He had been stating, that his Majesty's Government had a right to refuse an answer to any question, an answer to which would be injurious to the public service, but then it must not be inferred, that because a question was put, it was put from a desire to embarrass the proceedings of Government. What was the moment which his hon. friend had selected to put his question? It was the moment when France was occupying a part of the fortresses of Belgium. Whatever anxiety and alarm that occupation was naturally calculated to excite, he had heard, with the greatest satisfaction, the statement of the foreign Secretary—a statement which he had not yet heard contradicted or qualified, and which he hoped would be verified in fact—namely, that the Government had received assurances and engagements from the king of France, on which they could rely, that on the withdrawal of the Dutch troops from the Netherlands into Holland, the French troops would also be withdrawn from Belgium into France. That, he understood, was the answer given on a former evening by his noble friend, the Foreign Secretary, to a question which had been put to him by the member for Oakhampton. He trusted, that there would be no necessity to qualify that answer hereafter; but such being the answer of his noble friend, he was convinced that the period was so critical as to afford strong presumptive confirmation for his noble friend's declaration, that he was precluded from entering into any discussion. At a period so critical there was no medium between no discussion and discussion the most ample. He should, therefore, follow the 261 example of his noble friend, and abstain from pressing questions to which an answer could not be conveniently given. He should not follow his hon. friend near him (Mr. Baring) into the consideration of the policy which was adopted towards Belgium and Holland in the treaties made at Vienna in the year 1815, nor of that which his hon. friend fancied ought to be pursued towards them now; for he could not enter into that discussion without transgressing the principle which he had just laid down. Even if this were the time for entering into it, he (Sir Robert Peel) should not have thought it necessary to inquire into the conduct of the king of Holland towards his Belgian subjects; for though he conscientiously believed, that the conduct of the king of Holland had been universally animated by a desire to promote the prosperity and happiness of Belgium, and that, for the fifteen years of his rule, the inhabitants of Belgium had enjoyed a degree of prosperity, liberty, and independence which they had never enjoyed at any past period of their history—yet, as a separation had been decided on between them, and as any attempt to re-establish the union between them would be impracticable, in consequence of all the Powers of Europe having concurred unanimously with Belgium and Holland, that a final separation should take place between them, he did not see any necessity for arguing on this occasion respecting the conduct of the king of Holland. He would avow, at once, that he placed no confidence in the statements of the speech of the hon. and learned member for Kerry. He considered him as a prejudiced, a most prejudiced witness. He recollected the attempts which had been made by that hon. and learned Member to effect a similar separation between two other countries nearer our own homes.
Sir Robert Peel
The hon. and learned Gentleman said, no;—why, had not his war-cry for some months past been for a Repeal of the Union between Great Britain and Ireland?
admitted, that he had advocated the Repeal of the Union, but not the separation of the two countries.
Sir Robert Peel
The Repeal of the Union then was admitted. Why, all that he had charged the hon. and learned Gentleman with was, that he had made attempts to dissever the Union now happily existing between the two countries; and 262 when he heard the members of his Majesty's Government cheering the hon. and learned Gentleman, and rejoicing in the success of the attack which he had made on the king of Holland, he (Sir Robert Peel) could not help recollecting, that those very Ministers had vindicated their renewal of the Yeomanry force in Ireland upon the principle that the hon. and learned Gentleman was attempting to repeal the Union. How did he know, that the details into which the hon. and learned Gentleman had entered were correct? Had he not heard the hon. and learned Gentleman speaking of facts which he stated had occurred in Ireland within the last fourteen days, and declaring that an officer of the Crown had publicly avowed, that he had received instructions in some late prosecutions, to challenge every Roman Catholic or liberal Protestant who might be called to serve on the Jury? A more grievous charge against a Government could not be made; it was an accusation of interfering with the pure course of justice; but as soon as he heard it, he declared his conviction that it was, as it had subsequently proved to be, utterly without foundation. If the hon. and learned Gentleman could in one case state that which he believed to be true, but in which the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland had proved, by incontestible documents, that the hon. and learned Gentleman was misinformed—if the hon. and learned Gentleman was so imperfect a witness on circumstances occurring so lately in Ireland, and in the profession, too, to which he himself belonged—might not he infer, that his statements of what occurred in a foreign country were, to use the phrase of the hon. member for Middlesex, all facts, but much exaggerated?
asserted, that he had not used the words "much exaggerated," he had only said "highly coloured."
Sir Robert Peel
persisted, that the words used by the hon. Member were "much I exaggerated." He recollected them well. The hon. Member said "much exaggerated," but he would take the version which the hon. Member now gave; for it would suit his purpose equally well. What a miserable dispute was this about words! As if a high colouring was not a statement by which a false impression was given to facts which were admitted to have occurred! But, said the hon. Mem- 263 ber for Middlesex, "There is not a word in the speech of my hon. and learned friend, the member for Kerry, from which it could be inferred that, though he deemed him a bad king for Belgium, he deemed; him a bad king for Holland." Why, what a notion must the hon. Member have of regal qualifications, if he could suppose a king, acting on the principles imputed to the king of the Netherlands, could be a good king for any country. The hon. and learned Member, however, not content with his observations on the; king of Holland, had thought proper to taunt and insult him and his late colleagues; and had called that side of the House where they were seated the "Refuge for the destitute!" What right, what ground had he to apply to them those taunts and insults? They might have been driven from office, and some of them might feel the loss of its emoluments, but there was not one amongst them who would have condescended to repair his shattered fortunes by wringing a contribution from the pockets of the wretched peasants of Ireland. They had taken no course in their public life which ought to have exposed them to the taunts and insults of the hon. Member. They had never acted in defiance or evasion of the laws, and made that defiance or evasion turn to their own personal interest and profit. They had abstained from offering any insults to the hon. and learned member for Kerry, and there were circumstances in his own case, of a personal nature, which ought to have prevented him from offering insults to others as unprovoked as they were undeserved.
Mr. Alderman Wood
rose to exculpate himself from the charge of interruption, which did not come from him, but from the hon. member for Haslemere near him, who had used expressions which were too vulgar for him to repeat. He always liked to keep persons like those on the anti-reform side, who studiously introduced every subject but the right one, to the question really before the House, and that was the only interruption he was ever guilty of.
explained. He wished to set the right hon. Baronet right as to a fact. The statement to which he had alluded as made by him had been first made by the hon. member for Kilkenny. The hon. and learned Member was pre- 264 vented from proceeding in his remarks by cries of spoke.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, that the real question was, whether we were to have peace or war? and he did not think, that what they had heard for the last half-hour, and the attack made both on the king of Holland and the king of the French, had anything at all to do with the subject. Certainly the attack of the hon. Baronet who made the Motion, and his calling the Belgian army bullies and braggadocioes, could have no tendency to promote peace. To be sure the hon. member for Thetford had called King Leopold the mock king of Belgium; but, at all events, it was upon his invitation that the French army had gone to that country; and it was well they had, or the Dutch would have overrun the whole country. Gentlemen talked of showing a bold front; but did they want a war with France? If they did, they were mistaken, for nothing could be more unpopular in this country; and he would tell the hon. member for Thetford, who had so highly praised the king of Holland, that if we were to have a war, the rich, and not the poor, must pay for it.?
§ Sir Richard Vyvyan
said, he had not deviated from the subject of his Motion for any purpose of introducing the name of the king of the Netherlands; but as that Monarch had been abused, he thought it right to express the sentiments which he entertained of the character of that distinguished individual, who he thought had been unfairly attacked. It was stated, amongst other alleged grievances of the Belgians, that they had been made to pay for a debt contracted before their union with Holland, at which time it was said that they had no debt; but a reference to treaties would prove the fallacy of this statement. He was as much an enemy to war as any man, but he thought that the best way to preserve peace, particularly in these critical times, was to put on a bold front, and to assume that commanding attitude which this country was entitled to take. He had not attacked the government, or the king of France; but he saw that there was a small, but formidable party, behind that government, that were urging it on to acts which might disturb the present tranquillity, and plunge all Europe into a general war. He did not wish to embarrass Ministers, and he could not see, that he had taken an ungenerous advantage of them in bringing forward his 265 Motion. In consequence, however, of what had been stated by the noble Lord, he would not press his Motion.
Sir Robert Peel
hoped his hon. friend did not for a moment suppose, that he had meant to question the propriety of bringing forward the Motion; he only meant to say, that Ministers were justified in withholding any documents the publication of which might be of inconvenience to the public interests.
§ Motion withdrawn.