§ Lord Althorp
moved the Order of the Day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, to take into consideration the Convention with Russia, of November 16th, 1831.
said, that he felt it his duty, at this stage, to offer some observations to the House. The circumstance which induced him to prefer coming forward on the Order of the Day being moved was, to avoid the necessity of refusing to the Crown, in Committee, their direct and positive aid. Undoubtedly, it could not be but with great reluctance, that the sanction of Parliament should be refused to any treaty which had been entered into by the Government, and the ordinary practice of the House was, to let its censure fall upon Ministers, rather than send the King back to any foreign Power with whom he had made a treaty, and tell that Power that his Parliament would not enable him to fulfil his engagement. He was aware that, at so late a period of the Session, it was difficult to obtain the attention of hon. Members, but as the subject was of great importance he entreated to be heard for a short time. The question was one of great importance. It was not only important as concerning a large grant of 429 public money, but it was also important in a constitutional point of view. His reason for calling upon the House to pause was, that it might consider whether there was not some intermediate course which might be adopted to preserve it from the difficulty to which he had adverted. The question was in this position: the right of the Government to make the payment had been twice discussed, and it had been affirmed, on both occasions, by very slender majorities. And it should also be borne in mind how those majorities had been procured. The noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the last occasion, feeling the weakness of the legitimate argument in support of his proposition, had recourse to the stringent observation, that the vote would decide—the fate of the claims of Russia? No; the fate of the Government. It required no reasoning or eloquence to show, that when the noble Lord fled to such a declaration, he was hard pressed. And really, without pretending to be at all in the secret of the Ministers, he must say, that they had found it rather difficult to persuade their usual supporters to come forward on this question. The noble Lord must know, that it was very well understood that he had had much difficulty in inducing the majority he had procured to vote with him. Such he believed to be the fact, and when that majority came to their constituents, unless some further information was afforded them, they would find it a very difficult matter to justify the vote they had given. He spoke of the question as it now stood before the House. He did not deny that the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, might have good and sufficient reason to justify the Government in the course they had taken, but he did say, that at the present moment, the decision of common sense and of the country, taking the question upon the first blush, and with the information now before the House, would be completely against it. It was with a view, therefore, of enabling the Government to set itself right, and laying before the House that information which it was declared had regulated its own conduct, that he now arrested the attention of the House. Instead of the slender majorities they had witnessed, he wished to see, if possible, the engagements entered into by the Crown supported by large majorities, and those majorities he wished to see obtained by the reason of the thing, 430 and not by a threat of the dissolution of the Ministry. He wished to see the question put on such a footing that there would be no necessity for entertaining the distinct and dry question in the Committee, as to whether the House should refuse to confirm the engagements of the Crown or not. It had indeed been asked if, after all, the real question was not come to this, whether or not Russia was to have the money? He admitted that it was, and he wished the House to have it in its power to judge fairly and fully upon that point, He did not wish to see the House, on the one hand, constrained in its vote by an apprehension of dissolving the Ministry, or, on the other, giving a condemnatory decision, owing to its not being in the possession of all the circumstances of the case. Certainly, if he were called upon to give a decision upon the affair, as it at present appeared on the face of the papers and documents before the House, he should say, that Russia had no right to the money; this country was not bound at all to make the payment to Russia. But when the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in whose integrity he, in common with every other Member of the House, had a great reliance, told them, that when he had first seen the treaty and the other papers now before the House, he had been of a similar opinion, but that, since he had looked closely into the subject, and all the documents bearing upon it, he had come to a different conclusion, and was convinced that the spirit of the treaty was in favour of the payment; and when the Attorney General, too, told them that the letter of the treaty was against the payment, but that the spirit of the treaty, as the hon. and learned Gentleman said, he had ascertained it from documents specially laid before him, was in favour of it—when such declarations were made in the House by high and responsible officers, of known integrity as men, he felt it necessary to ask for further information before he made up his mind. He could not consent to vote away 5,500,000l sterling, for such the sum was, against the letter of treaties, merely because a Minister of the Crown told him it was in accordance with the spirit of those treaties. The Ministers might be satisfied, and justly, upon the point; but ought the Members of that House to be satisfied merely because the Ministers were? How would the country look upon such conduct? That House 431 was the guardian of the public purse, and it would be monstrous to say that it was justified in voting away the public money upon the vague assurance of a Minister, and actually against the letter of the law. Both the noble Lord and the Attorney General said, they had made up their minds to support the payment to Russia with the greatest reluctance; they felt great regret at being compelled to pay the money; but they were bound to do so upon an examination of various documents. Then why, he asked, should not the House of Commons feel the same reluctance, and require the same means to enable it to overcome that reluctance? The payment had been defended on the ground that the spirit of the treaty required it. The Attorney General had said, that if the House saw the documents which he had waded through, it would be impossible for an honest man to vote against the grant. But, taking that to be the case, were they not bound, before they voted for the grant, to see those documents which had produced so much effect? And what were these papers and negotiations, upon which the Government justified the payment? They were of two descriptions, or classes. They consisted of documents relating to treaties and arrangements formed seventeen years ago, or to transactions of a recent date. With respect to the former, there surely could be no hesitation to produce them; such a course could not be attended with inconvenience to the public service. To the other point he should come presently. The Attorney General had contended, that in good faith Holland was also bound to continue her payment to Russia. Holland, however, took a different view of the matter. That country was celebrated for its observance of good faith, both in public and in private matters, and yet, possibly with full information before it, Holland denied that it was bound, either by the words or by the spirit of the treaty, to continue the payment to Russia, and refused to do so. And then, what was the advice given by the Attorney General? That hon. and learned Gentleman said, in the first debate upon the subject, that if the old treaty were not good, but a new treaty was requisite to explain and bolster up the old one, he should do "no such thing." He did not wish to press upon the House his advice, but merely put it to the House, whether it would be content, under all the doubts and difficulties of the 432 case, to come to a decision without any acquaintance with that information which, upon the declaration of Ministers, was of the highest importance. He had a right to call upon the noble Lord to produce those documents, or to show that their production would be injurious to the public service. He pretended not to know what were the intentions of the hon. member for Middlesex, but he must deny that, in the course he was taking, he had any desire to embarrass the Government. If he wished to see Government thrown into difficulty upon this question, he would leave it in the hands of the hon. member for Middlesex. He understood that the hon. Member would oppose the payment of the money, and, therefore, if his object was a factious or party vote, he should join with the hon. Member, and by combining parties generally at variance, make a greater force against the Government. He, however, had no such intentions; his only desire was, to enable the House efficiently to do its duty by the country and the Government. The hon. member for Middlesex said, he should vote against the payment of the money, although he had voted against the Resolutions, declaring the Ministers had acted illegally in making the payment. Now the treaty was either binding, or it was not. If binding, why was this new treaty made? If it was not binding, what were the extraordinary circumstances which induced the Government to consider the spirit of it so different from the wording? That was a question which ought to be answered, and that was the reason which induced him to call for further documents, and not to leave the matter in the hands of the hon. member for Middlesex. But the question it might be said, would come at last to this:—Will you pay Russia, or will you not? That was very true; and it was a question of very great importance. It was a very serious thing for the House of Commons to refuse to confirm the grants of the Crown; but if he was driven to a vote—if the Government said, "We will give you no further information," however reluctant he should be to take that course, he must vote against the payment. If the Government refused further information, it would be acting unjustly towards the House and towards the Crown. It would be remarked, that the Government had not an opposing and stubborn Parliament to deal with. The 433 Parliament was willing and desirous to find the Government in the right, and therefore, if it could show that there was any doubt as to the meaning of the treaty, it would receive the benefit of that doubt. But if the Government came before that House, admitting as it did, that the payment was adverse to the letter of the treaty, and yet offered nothing to justify making that payment excepting vague assurances that it was in accordance with the spirit of the treaty, he did not see how it could expect to meet support, or, if it did meet support in that House, how the country could be satisfied. The position of the question was this:—The House had refused to vote that the last payment was contrary to law. They were now called upon to go into Committee. The Government admitted, that it had no case upon the face of the treaty, but it contended, that upon consulting a variety of documents relating to the period when the treaty was made, it found them to be of such a nature as to convince it that the spirit of the treaty required a continuance of the payment. Of documents bearing upon the subject there might be two classes. It had been said, that the treaty was agreed upon to oppose France. There was nothing to justify such an assertion—not a shadow of a shade on the face of the treaty. Then it was said, that the separation meant invasion. Again he said, that did not appear upon the face of the treaty, and, to make good such a construction, the Government ought to produce the documents upon which they founded it. And all the papers relating to the first class of transactions might surely be produced without public inconvenience, for the events occurred seventeen years ago. But then there was a second class. Those transactions related to recent occurrences. It was said, that the Government of this country had pressed Russia to consent to the separation of Belgium from Holland, and that, therefore, it would be unjust now to turn round upon Russia, and say, the separation being agreed upon, "Oh, this is our work, but still we will take advantage of it, and pay you no more. We stand upon the letter of the treaty." Certainly, if the Government said that any Weight was to be attached to the latter class of documents, he must confess that he could not press for them, if it were added that their production would be in- 434 convenient. The Motion which he intended to submit to the House, called for the production of all papers which could tend to throw any lighten the objects and spirit of the Treaty of 1815; and he purposely limited his Motion to that period for this reason—because the public service could receive no detriment by the disclosure of documents relating to transactions of so old a date. But if it was true that this country, in conjunction with France, was assuming an imposing attitude, as it was called, towards the poor Dutch, and at the same time paying Russia not to interfere, he thought such conduct as discreditable to this country as any course of foreign policy since the days of the Stuarts. If the Government of this country was sending out ships to blockade the Scheldt, and at the same moment paying money to Russia to induce her to abstain from interfering in this honourable crusade, such a proceeding was as little consistent with his notions of honour as anything he could imagine. He recollected that the noble Lord, the Paymaster of the Forces, in arguing this question, accused the Opposition of unfair conduct, because they were ready to join in a vote of censure on the Government, without reading those papers by which Ministers justified their conduct. "Why not," said the noble Lord, "call for that information, and then, if you please, pass a judgment on it?" This was exactly what he (Mr. Baring) now proposed to do. It was no vote of censure on Government that he called upon the House to pass; it was nothing more than a simple Motion for the production of those very documents on which Ministers had rested their justification for continuing the payment of the Russo-Dutch loan. The hon. Gentleman then concluded by moving, as an Amendment to the Order of the Day—" That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, praying his Majesty to be graciously pleased to direct that there be laid before that House, Copies or Extracts of any Documents relating to the Convention of the 19th of May, 1815, between Great Britain, Russia, and the Netherlands, explanatory of the spirit and objects of that Convention." He said, that he used the phrase, "explanatory of the spirit of the Convention," because those were the words which every Gentleman who had spoken in support of the proceeding of Government had made use of. They ad- 435 mitted that the letter of the treaty was against them, but they said, that it was clear from the documents explanatory of the treaty, that the spirit was for them. Those were the very documents which it was the object of his Motion to obtain.
§ Mr. Robinson
seconded the Amendment. He was anxious to say a few words in justification of the vote which he had given on a former evening, in the division on this question. He extremely regretted that he should be obliged to say anything offensive to the noble Lord opposite; but he must tell the noble Lord, that the course which he bad pursued on a late occasion was insulting to the House of Commons. That noble Lord did not tell the House to consult the treaty, and judge for themselves; but he simply told them, that if Ministers were beaten they would resign. What effect that statement might have had on Thursday night he could not take upon himself to say, because he would not impugn the motives of hon. Members; but it certainly appeared remarkable that the 243 were in the habit of voting with Ministers, and the minority of 197 were equally in the habit of opposing them. What conclusion, therefore, could he draw from that, but that the division was caused by party feelings? The speech of the Attorney General, too, he was sorry to say, had led some astray from the point at issue. He had said, England was the only party interested in the question. Now, England was not the only party interested—all the great contracting Powers were equally interested in preserving a permanent peace, and it was, therefore, too bad that England, which had been made to bear the brunt of the battle, should also be obliged to bear the chief part of the expense. He could not see what grounds there were for England paying such a sum in 1815, and still less, what reason existed now for continuing the payments. A great deal had been said about the necessity of observing good faith towards foreign Powers; but, let him ask, was no good faith due to the people of this country? Were the impoverished people of England to be called upon, first to pay for the annexation of Belgium to Holland, and then for its separation? The letter of the treaty did not warrant the payment which Ministers had thought proper to make to Russia; and he was ignorant of any circumstances that did. Upon looking to the debates that took place when this 436 convention was laid before Parliament, he found that the noble Earl, now at the head of the Government, doubted its policy, and condemned the conduct of the then Ministry, for proposing to pay money to a Power whose object was aggrandizement, and whose political views were hostile to this country. Yet, when the Government were released from the obligation of the treaty, he found then, the very same parties that originally objected to it, hastily binding themselves down by a new Convention in 1832, to continue the payments to Russia. He contended, that the terms of the treaty plainly showed that it contemplated a separation between Belgium and Holland, as well by internal commotion as by foreign invasion. In the course of those debates to which he had alluded, Lord Castlereagh expressly said, that our payments to Russia would be suspended, 'if by any circumstance the Netherlands should be separated from Holland.'* That was stated by the organ of the Government in the Commons; and Lord Liverpool, in answer to a statement of Earl Grey, admitted, that it was not a claim of strict rigid justice, but an appeal to the liberality of the country.'† Yet he (Mr. Robinson) now found those very men who objected to the original Convention, renewing it, without any ostensible grounds for such a mode of proceeding. He certainly thought, that after the separation of the two countries, the British Government was not bound to continue the payment to Russia; and Ministers, if they refused to grant the papers now asked for, were calling upon the House to vote away the public money, on no other ground but confidence in the Government. To this he must decidedly object. He did not believe that Ministers had been actuated by any unworthy or corrupt motives—they had made a mistake; but why, when convicted of error, did they turn round on their friends, and tell them, that unless they voted in a particular way, the Administration would resign? Why not at once candidly admit, that they intended to bribe Russia to consent to the separation of Belgium and Holland, and that they had made a mistake? In his opinion, the Ministers had nothing to thank Russia for. He believed that Power was to blame for the very unsettled state
§ * Hansard vol. xxxi. p. 746.
§ † Ibid. p. 722.437
§ of the Belgian question, by having induced Holland to withhold her consent to the arrangements agreed upon by the five Powers. He would, therefore, recommend Ministers, at least, to postpone the payment of any further money until Holland signified her assent to the new arrangement; and until Russia gave up those reservations respecting the Belgian question, which, in his opinion, were tantamount to a refusal to recognize the new order of things. He, for one, should certainly object to advance any more money to Russia, until he was convinced that honour and good faith required this country to continue the payments she had hitherto made on account of the Russian loan.
Mr. Gally Knight
said, that the House had already twice sanctioned the construction given by Ministers to the treaty, and it would be, therefore, grossly inconsistent to come now to a different conclusion. The only question for consideration was, whether, according to the terms and spirit of the treaty, Russia had a right to demand, or Great Britain to pay, the money. He was not disposed to pay much attention to the opinions of legal Gentlemen, on either side of the House, in this matter; for it was a subject to be decided only by considerations of justice and sound policy. Looking at the question in this light, he could not help thinking, that it would be nothing less than swindling Russia out of the money, if we refused to pay her, after doing every thing in our power to bring about the contingency upon which, according to the strict letter of the treaty, the payment was to expire. The hon. member for Thetford contended, that if we were bound to pay, so was Holland; but, according to the spirit of the treaty, he would say that Holland was not so bound. Was England so far to forget its character as to say, we owe a debt, but we will not pay it? Even in an economical point of view it was politic to continue the payment to Russia, for a general war, in which this country must have been involved, would, in all probability, have resulted from our withholding the payments. The hon. member for Thetford was, no doubt, an honourable man, but he, with respect to this question, put policy and morality entirely out of the question, and therefore he did not think the hon. Member's opinion was worth attending to. He was the friend of retrenchment and economy, but 438 he would never sanction a proceeding which would degrade England in the eyes of the world. The English people would disdain to effect a saving of expenditure at the expense of the national honour. What right could we have to call on Russia to keep her part of the Treaty of 1815, relating to Poland, if we ourselves broke faith with her with respect to Belgium and Holland? He should support the view of the case taken by Ministers.
said, he should vote first against Ministers, then with Ministers, and should state his reasons for so doing. The House had certainly sanctioned this payment by its vote on a former night, and was so far placed in a strange situation. He strongly objected to the payment of this money after the conduct pursued by Russia towards Poland. The blame for allowing Russia to act thus was, however, to be attributed, not to the present Ministers, but to their predecessors; and the only censure fairly to be attributed to the present Government was, that as soon as Russia had broken the treaty as regarded Poland, they should have abandoned the treaty also as regarded Holland and Belgium, which they had not done. The hon. member for Worcester had truly stated, that the payment of the money to Russia was an act of liberality. He thought that this act of liberality was extended to Russia in order to induce her to act in conformity with the spirit of the arrangements which were made in 1815. If the payment was wrong, the hon. Gentlemen around him, who succeeded the government of the Earl of Liverpool and Lord Castlereagh, were quite as much to blame as the present Ministers for continuing it. Although the hon. Gentleman near him had submitted several motions on the subject, not one of them had gone to the extent of saying that the payment should be refused. They always left themselves a loop-hole to creep out at; and he had no doubt that, if they should come into power again, they would continue to pay the money. Would the hon. member for Thetford (Mr. Baring), if in power, refuse this money to Russia? He believed not, and, at all events, his Motion did not go to that length. The object of it, as of the motion the other night, was only to turn out the Whigs, that the Tories might get in. He had, on the former night, come down to the House determined to vote against Ministers, but, 439 when he found how he was surrounded, he got frightened, and he became a party to that which he disliked, though he admitted there was some little want of delicacy on the part of the noble Lord, in saying that, if defeated, Ministers would resign. He changed his opinion after coming into the House, and he voted against the Tories with the Whigs, though he had no doubt the Whigs were in the wrong. The hon. member for Thetford had said that no man could vote with Ministers on this occasion, without surrendering his judgment. Why, he (Mr. Hume) had surrendered his judgment a dozen times, in order that the great measure of Reform might be carried. It was no longer a question as to whether Ministers deserved censure for what they had done in this matter, but whether, on account of their foreign policy, he should consent to turn out Ministers, before the great measure of Reform was carried. [Mr. Baring: It has been carried.] A great deal remained yet to be done, and he wanted to see the new elections take place before any change took place in the Government. He should be sorry to see the Tories now in office, for they would thereby have the means of checking much of the good he expected to see accomplished. Under these circumstances, he was warranted in voting against his own judgment, for he had the strongest confidence that the present Ministers would procure a good reform for the country; and if their foreign policy was wrong, he would support them in it, notwithstanding, rather than risk having in office the right hon. Gentlemen around him. He should go fearlessly to the hustings, and make this same candid avowal there. Why should be risk the resignation of Ministers by adding his vote to that of the hon. member for Thetford? [Mr. Baring: "There was no risk."] He (Mr. Hume) feared there was; and, at all events, he did not like to put Ministers to the trial. He had now made a candid avowal to the House, and he should like to hear from the hon. member for Thetford, an avowal, equally candid and honest, as to whether he would vote, if the Tories should come into power, against giving this money to Russia; or whether he would not, after all that had been said on the subject, endeavour to find some loop-hole to enable him to give this money to that Power. He would, as regarded this matter, support 440 the Ministers, right or wrong. That was the truth. He would do so, believing that, even as regarded economy, he should thereby be best serving the interests of the country, by keeping the Tories out of office.
§ Mr. John Campbell
hoped the hon. member for Middlesex had vindicated his consistency to the satisfaction of the House. At the same time, he must say, that there was considerable laxity in the principles the hon. Member had avowed, and that, if generally acted upon, they might lead to great political profligacy. Had Ministers paid a sum of money to a foreign Power, without the authority of Parliament, they would have been guilty of a high crime and misdemeanor; and, if he thought they had done so, he should have concurred in a vote of censure upon them, whatever might be the consequence. But, upon the best consideration he had been able to bestow upon this subject, he had come to the conclusion, that Ministers, in continuing the payment of the Dutch loan for the benefit of Russia, were fully justified by an Act of the Legislature. On this ground he conscientiously voted against the proposed censure, and on this ground he should conscientiously vote against the Amendment of the hon. member for Thetford. He required no further papers, and no further information, to enable him to decide that, under the Convention of 1816, the obligation of this country continued, and that the Convention of 1831 ought to be ratified by Parliament. He was contented with the papers already laid upon the Table, and the facts that were notorious, indisputable, and undisputed. The Act of Parliament required the payments to be made as long as they were due under the treaty; and, therefore, the construction of the Act of Parliament and the construction of the treaty must be the same. Now, looking to the condition of the parties when the treaty was entered into, the language employed, and the events which had subsequently happened, it was his opinion, that this country remained liable. The House would recollect, that by the 2nd Article of the Convention of 1815, we undertook to pay the interest on the 25,000,000 of florins, and a sinking fund for the extinction of the debt "till the capital of the said debt shall be fully discharged;" and it was even provided, that the payments should not be interrupted in the event of a war breaking out 441 between the contracting parties. The promise was, not to pay while Belgium and Holland were united, but there was, in the present instance, an absolute promise to pay till the debt should be extinguished. Then what was the consideration—for if that had failed there might be some ground for contending that we were discharged. According to the rental in the Convention of 1815, it was the heavy expense incurred in delivering from the power of the enemy the territories which France had conquered, and the extraordinary exertions of the emperor of Russia; and, according to the third additional article of the Convention of 1814, it was the cession in full sovereignty to his Britannic Majesty of the Cape of Good Hope, and the settlements of Demerara, Essequibo, and Berbice. England had enjoyed the benefit of these extraordinary exertions of Russia, and the Dutch colonies still remained in our possession. Prima facie then, we were liable, for the debt was not extinguished, and the onus was cast upon us of showing how we were discharged. We resorted to the fifth article of the Convention of 1815. Now, it would be observed, that this was introduced by way of condition for our benefit, after an undertaking which was absolute, proceeding upon a consideration, or quid pro quo, of which we had had, and still had, the full benefit. There could be no doubt, therefore, that not only according to the technical rules of law, but the principles of natural equity, this condition was to be strictly construed. The question arose whether there had been such a severance of Belgium from Holland as was in the contemplation of the parties when they framed the condition. In construing treaties between states, as in construing contracts between individuals, the true rule was, to ascertain the meaning of the parties from the language they had employed, and the circumstances in which they were placed. Several Gentlemen on the other side of the House, and, amongst others, the right hon. member for Tamworth, had opposed the letter to the spirit of a treaty, and contended, that Ministers were not justified in making the payment if it was not due according to the letter of the treaty, although it might be due according to its spirit. He denied the foundation of this reasoning. The payment could only be due according to the spirit of the treaty, because such was the meaning of 442 the parties; and, if such was the meaning of the parties, such was the just construction of the treaty. What frauds and crimes had not this doctrine of construing treaties by the literal meaning produced? One garrison it was known surrendered under a capitulation, stipulating that no blood should be shed; they were all buried alive. The inhabitants of Argos agreed to a truce for three days; they were massacred when asleep in their beds in the third night. Antiochus entered into a treaty, by which half his ships were to be restored to him: all his ships were cut in two, and he was offered the half of each. In these cases the spirit of the treaty was violated; and, although the letter was observed, the violators were guilty of the most atrocious perfidy, because they disregarded the sense in which they knew the language employed had been understood by their adversaries. In what sense, then, must we have believed that this condition was understood by the emperor of Russia? By way of guide, he would refer to a rule laid down upon this subject by a writer hitherto treated with great respect; and, although the hon. and learned member for Calne had thought fit to denounce the great jurists as pettifoggers, yet they would continue to be regarded as the great expounders of the laws of natural equity and eternal justice. Vattel, in his chapter on interpretation of treaties, said—'As we extend a clause to those cases, which, though not comprised within the meaning of the terms, are nevertheless comprised in the intention of that clause, and included in the reasons that produced it, in like manner, we restrict a law or a promise contrary to the literal signification of the terms, our judgment being directed by the reason of that law, or that promise; that is to say, if a case occurs to which the well-known reason of a law or promise is utterly inapplicable, that case ought to be excepted, although, if we were barely to consider the meaning of the terms, it should seem to fall within the purview of the law or promise.' It was impossible to think of every thing, to foresee every thing, and to express every thing. It was sufficient to announce certain things in such a manner as to make known our thoughts concerning things of which we did not speak. The above quotation was very apposite; for what was true of a promise or a law would be at least equally true of a condition. 443 Then did the reason of this condition apply to the severance of Belgium from Holland, which had actually taken place; for, if not, the case ought to be excepted. Gentlemen on the other side allowed, that if England had actively interfered to bring about the separation, she could not have taken advantage of the condition, in the same manner as if he for instance, for a valuable consideration, should undertake to pay 100l. a-year for twenty years, on condition that if a certain tree should be cut down the payment should cease; were he himself to cut down the tree, he must pay till the twenty years expired. But did not Gentlemen see that this was by appealing to the spirit of the treaty? According to the letter, the Belgic provinces would have passed and been severed from the dominions of his majesty the king of the Netherlands, previous to the complete liquidation of the debt; for the fifth article contained no express exception of a severance brought about by the active interference of England. Ex concessis, therefore, these were implied exceptions; and, without implied exceptions, qualifications, and conditions, the true meaning of laws, contracts, and treaties, would be perverted. The condition, however, in the fifth article of the Convention of 1815, was only intended, and could only be construed to apply to a severance of Belgium from Holland, which England might be desirous that Russia should interfere to prevent. The object was to bargain for Russian force and Russian influence, to prevent the severance, either by insurrection or conquest; although not a doubt could be entertained, that the annexation of Belgium to France was the evil which, in reality, was guarded against with such anxiety. But the intention was not to lay a wager upon the durability of the union of the two countries—much less was it that Russia was to lose the payments we had engaged to make for her benefit, she being willing to exert her force and her influence to prevent the separation. When did the sovereignty of the Belgic provinces pass away from his Dutch majesty? Not by the insurrection at Brussels, which we heartily deplored, but by the election of King Leopold, and the recognition of Belgium as an independent state, in pursuance of the policy which our Government then thought fit to adopt. That policy might be wrong; it might have been proper to make an attempt to recognize Belgium, or, in pursuance to the 444 proposal of the hon. member for Thetford, it ought to have been partitioned, according to the precedent of Poland. But our Government, in his opinion, rightly judged that the union of two nations so deeply hating each other, had become impossible, and that it was for the benefit of England to erect Belgium into an independent state, as a barrier against France. Did we want papers to know that Russia would not have been unwilling to have exerted both her influence and her force to prevent this arrangement? Suppose the Emperor were to say, "As you bargained for my interference to prevent the severance of Belgium from Holland, and I was to lose my money if I did not interfere, I am ready to stir up the king of Holland, not only to keep the citadel of Antwerp, but to march to Brussels, and I will march 50,000 men to assist him;" could England deprecate the interference, and refuse the payment? Being ready to perform the condition, was he to be punished as if he had broken it? The right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, had said, that if such a severance as had taken place was casus omissus, Ministers were bound to come to Parliament. He (Mr. John Campbell) strenuously denied this position; for, if such a severance was not in the contemplation of the parties as a contingency upon which, under the fifth article, our obligation was to cease, under the second article the obligation remained in full force. But then it was said, that, even if our liability continued under the Convention of 1815, the force of that Convention wag abrogated by the Convention of 1831, which was entered into for the express purpose of ratifying and confirming it. This doctrine must have originated with some learned Gentleman who had drawn an ingenious analogy from the effect, by the common law of England, of suffering a recovery after the publication of a will. In recompence of the great public services of the late Lord Erskine, a gentleman devised to him a large landed estate; and the attorney coming to announce the death of the testator, said to the disappointed devisee, "And to make all sure after the publication of the will, I caused him to suffer a recovery." The devisee was reached by the very act done to confirm the will. But it was 'new to him that a contract or treaty should lose its obligation by the parties entering into a fresh contract or treaty for the express 445 purpose of declaring their object in entering into the first, and agreeing how that object should be attained. The new Convention might be useful in expressing what was before only understood, and in obviating the quibbles and subtleties which might be resorted to for the purpose of defeating the real intention of the parties. The first Convention must be binding till it was cancelled by mutual consent; and, instead of being cancelled, it had been confirmed. Then it was said, do not pay the money because Russia has behaved so ill to the Poles. He wished to God it had been made a condition of the payment, that the nationality of Poland was to be preserved, and the free constitution given to her respected. Then might we have refused the payment with a good conscience, and with the applause of mankind. But he looked in vain into this treaty for any mention of Poland, and we could not get rid of its obligation by imputing weakness or criminality to the negotiator who framed it. England could no more get rid of her liability by reason of the oppression of the Poles by Russia, than in private life a man could refuse to pay a legal debt, because since it was contracted the creditor had beaten his servant, or been detected in cheating at cards, or been guilty of any other breach of morality. Let us not pretend to show our sympathy for the gallant and unfortunate Poles by breaking a pecuniary engagement, which every dictate of good faith required that we should observe.
§ Mr. Pigott
was of opinion, that the Government had acted in an unjustifiable manner in making this payment without the warrant of Parliament. The real gist of all the agreements that had taken place was a remuneration to Holland, for Great Britain continuing to keep possession of the Dutch colonies; it was on this account that England had agreed to pay a certain sum of money; and it was only, as it were, an after-thought, that induced the contracting Powers to make over to Russia the benefit of that sum of money. Taking it in this point of view, he contended that England was now no more bound than Holland to continue the payment of this money. He was not prepared to say, that some secret treaty had not been signed at Chaumont, which might justify the Government in what it had done; but if so, that was the very reason why the House ought to support the Mo- 446 tion of the hon. member for Thetford, for which he should certainly vote.
§ Mr. Long Wellesley
being a very young man when Lord Castlereagh's policy was originally debated in that House, had given it his support, though he now regretted the circumstance. He had, however, thought it right to mention the fact, as he should be sorry to be told that, without any explanation, he had voted differently then from the manner in which he intended to vote now. One of the reasons for his present dissent from Lord Castlereagh's policy was, that, in his opinion, Russia was quite sufficiently rewarded by the annexation of part of Prussian and Austrian Poland to that portion which Russia formerly held. That, however, was a question which ought to have been debated years ago; and now the real point was—would not this country be breaking faith, if it did not act up to the treaty entered into in 1815? In his opinion, the obligation of England to pay the money now was quite as strong, upon the grounds of good faith and sound policy, as at the time when the treaty was originally entered into. This, certainly, was a question of the very highest importance, and ought not to be treated with party feeling. He sincerely believed that his Imperial majesty of Russia would be as far from being guilty of any of those atrocious acts that were attributed to him as any Gentleman in that House. The fact was, that the emperor of Russia was surrounded by advisers, over whom he could not exercise the same veto as the King of England could over his Cabinet. Belgium had vindicated her independence; but Poland was overcome in the attempt: and it could not be denied that by the law of nations, it was competent to the emperor of Russia to treat Poland as a conquered country. He did not admire the policy of Russia, but he could have no hope of obtaining influence over her but by doing her justice. It would be a want of good faith, as well as an act of injustice, towards Russia, to withhold the payment, and he, therefore, should support Ministers by his vote.
§ Lord Eliot
said, that the Convention provided that under certain circumstances only this country was bound to pay the money to Russia. The officers of the Crown had told the House that they were in possession of certain information which was not generally known. Now, he would 447 contend that the country was entitled to every possible information which could be given in the matter. The hon. and learned member for Stafford in the course of his speech had omitted to read the fifth article of the treaty which provided for a contingency. Much had been said about the spirit of the treaty. By that he was content to be bound—by that he would maintain that this country was released from all obligations to pay money to Russia. He could see no possible objection to the production of the papers moved for by the hon. member for Thetford. He could not see that his Majesty's Government would be embarrassed by the adoption of that Motion, and he should, therefore, give his cordial support to the Resolutions proposed by his hon. friend.
§ Mr. Gisborne
said, when the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, stated, the other night, that this money might be due to Russia, and yet that his Majesty's Government might have been wrong, under the Act of Parliament, in paying it, he was anxious to express his dissent from that opinion; but the lateness of the hour, and the fatigue which the House had already undergone, prevented him. Whether we owed this money legally or honourably must depend upon the construction of the Convention, which the right hon. Baronet admitted was not to be interpreted literally, like an Act of Parliament; but with a view to the situations and intentions of the parties when they entered into such Convention, and he allowed that, if there were a doubt, it should be given as against the party upon whom was imposed the pecuniary obligation. When the right hon. Baronet made this admission, he disabled himself from contending for that separation of the two cases which he laboured to establish in his speech. He wished to see the Convention largely and liberally interpreted, and as the Act was identical with the Convention, and affirmed it, the money ought, in his opinion, to be paid. It was well known, that in the year 1814 there had been great and disproportionate exertions made by Russia, and that her right to compensation for them was universally acknowledged. The object at that time was to procure such a guarantee for Russia as would make the payment of her compensation depend upon the continuance of the union between Belgium and Holland, to which otherwise Russia was likely to be 448 decidedly hostile. The subject had been fully discussed, and he really thought the House in possession of all the information that it could reasonably require upon such a subject. Although he was no admirer of the politics of Russia, he was of opinion that the conduct of that power throughout the whole of the business before them, had been altogether equitable. With respect to Holland, she had lost the benefit of our trusteeship on the treaty, by her misgovernment of Belgium. We had received from Holland a quid pro quo, in the shape of ceded colonies, for undertaking to pay Russia, and he did not see how we could depart from our obligation without refusing to pay a just debt. He should, therefore, support the Motion of the noble Lord without asking for further information.
§ Mr. Praed
said, the hon. Member had argued, that, because we still retained the colonies, on account of which we consented to make this payment to Holland, we were bound to continue our payments to Russia. He did not mean however to touch upon many of the topics that had been urged in the course of this debate; for they had no reference to the question before the House; but there was one which rather made in favour of, instead of against, his argument. The hon. Gentleman said that Russia was anxious to support her engagements; but there was no evidence of that fact, and it was evidence for which his hon. friend called. Under what circumstances had Russia proffered her assistance to unite these two countries, which now, in spite of Great Britain and of Russia, were disunited? If Russia proffered her assistance to keep them together, when, by means legal and moral, they could have been kept together, it required an explanation from his Majesty's Ministers as to how it was that they came to consent to the alteration of an arrangement which had been thought beneficial by the majority of that House. If the assistance of Russia were proffered after the two countries were separated, and when they could not be united by means just, moral, or legal, then the contingency had previously occurred, and her too late offer could not prevent us taking advantage of it. The hon. member for Middlesex had told the House distinctly, that, believing the Whigs to be wrong, he voted the Whigs to be right; that, believing the Tories to be right, he voted the Tories to 449 be wrong; that, believing money had been paid without the authority of an Act of Parliament, he voted that it had been paid by the authority, and according to the tenor of an Act of Parliament; and he said now, that this question, which involved millions of money, which certainly was a matter of importance, was to be decided upon by him, not because there was full information before the House, but because Ministers threatened (assigning a poor reason for their threat), that they would resign, if beaten on this occasion. It was not for him to impute motives to the hon. Member,—he had been long before the public, and the public truly appreciated him,—the hon. Member would gain as little by his (Mr. Praed's) praise as he would lose by his censure; but if hereafter some one less known than the hon. member for Middlesex, and representing a constituency less in number or importance than that for which he sat, should stand up in his place to say, that believing a thing to be black, he had voted it to be white, that believing a thing to be truth, he had voted it a lie, although he had not courage to avow on the spot that it was other than the truth; such a Member would, at least, avow his profligacy in language very different from that which had been used by the conscientious and honourable member for Middlesex. But was the Convention last made, which they were called upon to ratify, a confirmation of the treaties of 1814 and 1815, or was it a new Convention? If it could be shown that the spirit and tenor of this new Convention fulfilled the spirit and tenor of former treaties, the country was bound to pay every shilling of this debt; but if the Convention they were now called upon to ratify was totally different from, and almost opposed to, the conventions and treaties of which it professed to be a consequence, he must first consider whether he should ratify, so far as his voice was concerned, this new Convention, which created a new debt for a new consideration. This agreement differed from the agreements of 1814 and 1815, in the parties with whom it was contracted,—in the consideration for which we entered into it,—and in the object and purposes for which it was made. If he could show these three things, he should be justified in saying, that there was no proof before them that England ought to be burdened with this expense. First, then, as to the parties. The party 450 with whom our obligation was originally contracted, was Holland. In the first Convention made between this country and Holland, there was no question of obligations due to Russia by this country. The hon. Member opposite talked of a debt being due from Holland to Russia; bat all that was spoken of in the preamble was a debt of gratitude which Holland owed to the Allied Powers, and which they waived in favour of Russia. In the original Convention between England and Holland, the former engaged to do certain things in favour of the latter; one of which was, that England should take upon herself a share of certain burdens, which, however, were not even mentioned subsequently; another Convention explained this to be a share of a debt due from Holland to Russia. Now, the new obligations they were to enter into, were to Russia. The hon. Member opposite said, that Russia had claims for exertions during the continental war. He was as little inclined to undervalue these exertions now, as he should have been fifteen years ago; but it could not be shown that we were bound by any treaties to compensate her for these exertions. It was to be assumed, on the assertion of Ministers, that Russia,—having exerted herself in the cause of freedom,—England became bound to her in a pecuniary obligation; but he should be ashamed of himself, if there were, indeed, a debt due for great exertions, labour, toil, and sacrifices during the struggle with France,—for blood poured out like water, and treasure spent like dust,—to say that that debt was due to Russia, and above all, that it was due from England. In the next place, the consideration was different in the two cases. The consideration, under the treaties of 1814 and 1815, was—the cession to us of certain Dutch colonies. We had the express assertion of Lord Castlereagh for this: his words were—" The Dutch colonies were ceded to us by Holland, in consideration of our bearing the half of certain charges which would otherwise have fallen upon Holland alone." Now what was the consideration we were to receive under this new contract? He was little acquainted with the language of treaties, but he could conceive nothing so preposterous as this,—if this should mean, that, during all the changes of political events, Russia should contract no new agreement with respect to Belgium without the assent of 451 England—in other words, England was to be shown about Europe with this gigantic hand-maiden attached to her, cutting much the same figure as the French Paladin in the romance, who had a giant attached to him as a colossal,—and probably as ignorant as our new ally. He now came to the third point,—that the object we had in view in the two Conventions was different. Originally, our object was to unite Belgium and Holland, in order to raise a barrier against France. It might be said that, although we now separated Belgium and Holland, we still raised a barrier against France; but if hon. Members thought it would be as safe and secure as the old one, he differed with them. Whatever he might have thought of the former consideration, the present was certainly not sufficient to induce him to ratify a treaty disposing of so large a portion of the public money. The hon. member for Essex had told the House that if our ceasing to have any object in the union of Belgium and Holland would justify the non-payment of the money, we ought to have ceased the payments in 1820. Our interest might have been then, as now, to cease the payment; but then the contingency justifying its cessation had not occurred, and now it had occurred. He should vote for the motion of his hon. friend; but before giving a decisive and definitive vote, he would wish to know what further might be urged by his Majesty's Ministers. At the same time, he would candidly tell the House, that he did not think any new statement could be made by his Majesty's Ministers, which would change the view he took of this question; for all his reasoning rested upon this,—that the consideration and the objects of the treaty being different, the obligation no longer existed. But, nevertheless, he was justified in calling upon the Members whose views of this case might not be so strong as his, to support the Motion of his right hon. friend; for even those who spoke on the side of his Majesty's Ministers, referred to circumstances in justification of their vote, which were only contained in the papers now called for. His hon. friend behind him, when he alluded to the possibility of his opinion being changed,—if it could be made out, that the contingency which had occurred, was a casus omissus not contemplated by the parties,—would allow him to remind him of one circumstance which 452 as he had been taught to give his enemies their due, he would mention. Some Gentlemen opposite, actually predicted the separation of these two countries by mutual dislike. That Holland might not have contemplated such conduct as we now pursued, was very possible; for she did not contemplate the conduct we should pursue on an occasion not very dissimilar from the present. Sir William Temple—a greater authority, perhaps, than any in that House, on the policy of the Dutch—acquitted them of bad policy in his time, although their conduct ended calamitously. 'They could not imagine (he said) a conjunction between England and France for the ruin of their state; for, being unacquainted with our constitution, they did not foresee how we should find our interest in it, and measured all states by that which they esteemed to be their interest.' He did not know what the House would decide upon in this case; but if it supported Ministers, the reforming House of Commons would give a vote that would go further to show the necessity of reform in Parliament, than any argument he had yet heard. The retrenching House of Commons would sanction the unreasonable expenditure of a large sum of the public money—the popular House of Commons would give a vote, upon which the country would cry "shame."
Mr. Vernon Smith
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, had on Friday evening taken so tender a leave of the House, in what he said were his last words, that no one could have doubted that the coach which was to convey him from town was waiting at the door. He had, however, reappeared; and, no doubt, he had been brought back, not to vote on any party question—not to have any thing to do with the turning out or bringing in of Ministers—but for the mere purpose of discussing a dry point of interpretation of treaties. Having returned to that town which it was thought, alas! he had quitted for ever, he had told them that he had heard nothing new in this debate; and as he (Mr. Vernon Smith) had heard nothing new from the hon. Member, the return had been as profitless as his journey. He never ventured to oppose a motion made by the hon. member for Thetford without considerable apprehension, and as there was no person so capable of instructing the House on the circumstances connected with the Treaty of 1815 as that hon. Gentleman, he 453 certainly should not oppose him on this occasion, did he not think that the condescension of that hon. Gentleman levelled the distinction between them. He might then have stood the arbiter of contending parties, as he had been the associate of consulting Sovereigns; but he had chosen to be the promoter of a party-scheme—to be the teller of a thrice-told tale, to take up the cast-away cards of the right hon. member for Harwich, and to renew this twice-essayed and twice-lost game. He did this, too, in a manner anything but complimentary to the House; for he did not address himself to his own friends, but to the majority, whom he told that they voted ignorantly, and that he must have fresh documents to convince them of that fact. The hon. Member said, that be did not act from party tactics; for that, if he had, he should have waited till they came to the Convention. But the hon. Member knew that that was not his game; for many of his friends had declared, that they should vote for the payment of the money. The hon. Member must, therefore, rest his motion partly on a censure of what his Majesty's Ministers had already done, and partly on a love of economy, with regard to what they meant to do. He had found fault with his Majesty's Ministers for saying, that their resignation must be the. consequence of defeat; but what was to occasion the retirement of a Ministry, if it were not a vote of censure? The hon. member for Worcester said, that the intimation was insolent; and the hon. member for Middlesex called it indelicate. The first would have found that his constituents were not willing that Ministers should resign; and the second, from his partiality to them, had no wish that they should retire. The hon. member for Middlesex had stated, rather broadly, the doctrines on which he stood; but he had stated only such doctrines as were the doctrines of party—the very doctrines on which the hon. Gentleman, who had just sat down, himself acted, when he told that House that, whatever information might be hereafter produced, it would not alter his present opinion. More complete party doctrines could not, by possibility, have been brought forward on any occasion. The hon. member for Thetford had said, that the treaty could not be both binding and not binding. There was no denying so self-evident a proposition; but what he insinuated by it was, that if the law officers 454 said it was binding, there was no necessity for the after-convention. But it might be that Russia might say, "I know nothing-of your law officers—I know not your Attorney and Solicitor General; and I want a Convention from you, plain and clear in its terms, which shall be binding upon you in the face of Europe." The hon. member for Thetford had further said, that we had two circumstances to consider—our situation in 1815 and our situation in 1832; but he (Mr. V. Smith) conceived these two situations to be but one, or at least that one was the consequence of the other. The Convention of 1831 was an explanation of that of 1815. With respect to our situation in 1815, nothing could afford clearer proof of what it was, than the expression which had been referred to as having been made use of by Lord Castlereagh. It was no casual expression which the noble Lord made use of, when he said, that the Convention would hold good as long as Belgium was separate from France. It might have been, indeed, a casual expression, if he had said, that the Convention would be binding till the separation of Belgium from Holland; but the other showed what was the mature impression of his mind. The hon. member for Worcester said, that it was hard to have to pay to keep Holland and Belgium together, and afterwards to have to pay to keep them apart. This argument showed, that the two Conventions were one and the same in spirit, their object being to preserve the coincidence of the intentions of Russia with those of Great Britain. In 1815, France was the power which every one dreaded; and all Europe, just recovered from the yoke of Napoleon, concurred in giving the Netherlands to Holland, in order to prevent those territories from falling into the hands of France. Without saying that peace should be purchased with money, which was a doctrine he would never admit of, he would say, that there was no objection to pay this money to Russia, if it were justly due to her, because, at the same time, the tendency of such a proceeding was, to preserve peace. The hon. member for Worcester was about to vote for fresh information; but, before he did so, it would be just as well for him to read that which was already before the House. He said that, although Russia assented to the new treaty, she might go to war in spite of all our payments. Now, if these payments were ob- 455 ligatory at all, it would be so under this treaty; and the second article of it expressly provided, that Russia should not contract any future engagements with respect to Belgium, without our consent. It was not fair, therefore, to say, that Russia would withhold her consent to the great treaties with respect to Belgium, when she was entering into a Convention, which was so to bind her future actions with respect to that country, as to make them coincident with those of Great Britain. It was true there was little of novelty in this question; and he had thought that it was settled in January last. There was no alteration in the state of this case now, that the circumstances were brought forward in July, except that, the Reform Bill being settled, the right hon. member for Harwich must have thought there was another opportunity of warming up this debate, and of making quotations from Vattel, whom he had, in the mean time, been careful to study. This being the third debate upon the subject, they should now have a sample of the practice of the House of Commons being called upon twice in the same Session to eat its words. As to what had been mixed up with this question about economy, hon. Gentlemen should be reminded that they would have ample opportunity of displaying their love of economy in Committee. There could be but two objects in supporting this Motion; the one to turn out the present Administration, and the other to make a splash upon the hustings. With regard to the first object let hon. Members see what they could effect by a general vote of censure. Let them drag up all the old stories of the last year and a half, and put Ministers upon their trial. With respect to any effect being produced upon the hustings by this Motion, he was not aware of the feelings of the country having been much moved by the question of the Russian loans. Where were the petitions, which, if the country were thus moved, would be loading the Table upon the subject? Where were the resolutions of public meetings? There were none; and he was glad of it; for, in spite of the declamation of the hon. member for Worcester, this was a question of national faith. It was a consolation to him, having voted for the Reform Bill, under the objurgations of the hon. member for Thetford, who declared that the effect of the Reform Bill would be, to bring about an attack 456 upon the public funds, to find, that it was not the people, but the hon. member for Thetford, who came down to the House, advocating a liberal interpretation of treaties, and an equitable adjustment of continental payments. If hon. Members wished to make their votes upon this question arguments upon the hustings, let them do so. He should be ashamed to address such an argument to the hon. Gentlemen around him; for he could not believe it possible that they were so wedded to parliamentary life, as to prefer a hustings triumph to the applause of their own conscience. He could not believe it possible that any of the Gentlemen around him would conceive it to be other than a crime of the deepest dye, to sacrifice his character for the sake of his seat in Parliament—
Et propter vitam vivendi perdere causas. But let hon. Gentlemen opposite, if they pleased, raise at the hustings their promised cry of mock-economy, and they would be met with the old battle cries—with no promises, but with boasts of performance—with boasts of peace preserved, of retrenchment advanced, and of reform carried.
§ Mr. George Bankes
said, any thing more new or more strange than the argument of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Vernon Smith) he never heard. What was his argument? There was not, said he, the least occasion for any new Convention; that of 1815 was sufficiently clear and express; but it was quite competent to Russia to insist upon this new Convention. What, said the hon. Gentleman, was the opinion of the law officers of England to Russia, if Russia thought a new convention necessary? This was in effect to admit the whole point in dispute, for did it not prove, that there was a grave doubt whether the Convention of 1815 was binding or not, and did it not show that Ministers themselves admitted there was a doubt? The question was a most important one, not so much as it regarded the present time or the Ministers now in office, as that it might form a dangerous precedent for other Ministers, who, relying upon it, might hereafter set up their own opinion or that of their law officers as sufficient for the interpretation 457 of treaties. That it was a case of doubt, Ministers themselves admitted, for they referred it to the law officers for their opinion, and entered into a new Convention with Russia for the express purpose of removing the doubt.
said, that in determining what England owed to Russia, the House should consider what England owed to herself. She should beware of adopting any construction which sacrificed the spirit to the letter, and, as Lord Coke said, "eat away the essence of the text." The Treaty of 1814 was absolute and unconditional; England bound herself to pay so much money to Holland. She received four colonies of Holland as a consideration. She had the estate; had any event arisen by which she was released from the payment of the purchase-money? The Treaty of 1815 was founded on the Treaty of 1814. Holland transferred her absolute demand on us to Russia, and by the fifth article a contingency was attached, in the event of which the payment was to cease. That contingency had arisen; but how?—that was the question. Through England's own interposition. What were the facts? Brussels followed the example of Paris—Holland invaded Belgium—the armies of France march—the flames of a general war were about to burst out—England interposed—the union of Holland and Belgium might involve her in irretrievable disaster. She took a new kingdom in lieu of the former junctions; she planted on a new throne a Prince, an Englishman by adoption, linked with her own royalty by the nearest ties, and who must be faithful to England if he be true to himself. Under these circumstances, was England relieved from a debt for which she had the consideration? Let common honesty and common sense answer the question. There was no doubt that there existed in England an indisposition to pay Russia; but Russia had not lost her claim to our money, by having earned a title to our detestation. We were not to try the responsibility of one party by the delinquencies of another; to rely on Poland's sufferings, in order to make money of them, were, indeed, a thrifty retribution. There was a time when we might have interfered—when an Admiral in the Baltic might have interceded with more eloquence than a Minister at St. Petersburgh; but the irrevocable decision had past by; and now, were we—now that Poland had perished for ever, and of 458 her glorious people nothing but their glory remained—were we now to avail ourselves of all her incalculable misery, her anguish, her tears, her desolation, to indulge in a lucrative sympathy, and a profitable commiseration—to make an entry of her wrongs in our fiscal ledger—to convert them into an item of sordid calculation, and balance the account with Poland's best and noblest blood? 5,000,000l. was a large sum—it was a vast heap of gold; but the character of England was above all price; better to lose every thing except our honour, than win the world without it.
§ Sir Charles Forbes
regretted that Ministers did not come down and bring this case under the consideration of the House before they made the payment. He had great doubts on the point of law, but he thought the honour of the country was pledged to the payment. This was a reason, however, for the Ministers giving all the further information to the House they could upon the subject, and under that view he should support the Amendment. He was favourable to the payment of the money, not from any partiality to Russia, whose policy he detested, but because he thought the honour of the country was involved. It was, however, with reluctance he should vote money to an empire possessing immense power, and disposed to abuse that power.
§ Lord Morpeth
said, the chief complaint made against the Ministers was for disregarding economy; and it was singular that those complaints were made the loudest, not by the hon. member for Middlesex, but by those who had on all other occasions shown a total contempt for that virtue. Notwithstanding the frequent allusions made to the elections, which showed for what purpose a reference was made to economy, he must say, that, with every regard for economy, he should first look to the question of good faith; and if the national faith were involved, as he thought it was, the question of economy could have nothing to do with the case before the House. The question was whether there were sufficient reasons to induce the House to forego all considerations of mere economy. The House had before, upon two occasions, decided this question, and, as he thought, very properly. The great object proposed by England in the Treaty of 1815 was to raise a barrier against the aggressive views of France on Belgium, To effect that object it was 459 thought important to unite Belgium with Holland, and secure the co-operation of Russia, and this payment was the price paid for it. It was quite clear, that it was considered as of great importance by the statesmen of that day, to induce Russia to abet English policy in that quarter of the continent. A stipulation and convention were thus formed by the British Government, and sanctioned by the British Parliament, by which this country undertook to pay a certain sum to Russia, until the possession and dominion of Belgium passed away from Holland. Now that contingency had, undoubtedly, arrived—that passing away had taken place; and therefore it was contended that the arrangement was now at an end. So far as the mere letter and terms of that treaty were concerned, he would make the admission to the fullest extent. The question, then, was, whether it was proper that that engagement should be renewed? In order to form a correct judgment on this point, it was absolutely necessary, triumphantly and victoriously, as this part of the question had already been put, to take certain points into consideration; and he must, therefore, presume to call for one moment more the attention of the House to the situation of the parties—to the circumstances under which the Belgic revolution took place, and under which the condition upon which the payment was to be made was asserted to have become void. The Belgic nation, acting with an unanimity that induced him to use that term, withdrew their allegiance from the House of Orange, and thereby effected a separation between themselves and the Dutch. This country proffered its good offices to mediate between the parties, and avert, if possible, the separation of the thrones at least, if not of the nations. The effort, however, was unsuccessful. What, then, was to be done? Was Belgium to be recognised by Europe for the purpose of being re-annexed to Holland? His noble friend (Lord Palmerston) had told the House, that Russia was prepared, and, indeed, actually volunteered, to make the attempt. The Poles had not then commenced their noble, and, alas, their unavailing struggle for liberty, and Russia was prepared to march down her legions even to the very banks of the Rhine, for she did not view with any complacency the revolutionary example of breaking the treaty. Since its formation she had contracted certain ties and family connexions with the 460 House of Orange. It must be recollected that despotic and autocrat families formed alliances with greater ease and greater pertinacity than could exist in countries where the will of the sovereign was not the paramount consideration. Now, imagine Russia addressing England—for it had been the fashion in the course of these debates, to personify these countries—in this strain: "You see what has been done; the settlement we jointly made has been violently disturbed, and the dominions of my firm ally have been thus rebelliously dissevered. Now, I am ready to attempt, and will you join with me in attempting, to restore that state of things to which your treaties and liabilities show you attach such vast importance." What would hon. Gentlemen contend the answer of England ought to have been? Should it have been "The Belgic revolution was neither our work, nor our wish; but the separation of both nations and both thrones is now complete, and the endeavour to unite them would roost probably have the effect of renewing a general war in Europe. Will you, then, join with us in facilitating that which it is impossible we can prevent? Do so for the cogent reasons we put to you; do so for the sake of prolonging the repose of the world; do so because over and above all these considerations, if you do, we shall get rid of the debt which we have contracted to pay you?" Now, if England had said this, what course Russia would have pursued could not be ascertained, but if we had induced Russia to adopt and promote our views of the case, and had then turned round upon her, and said, "You yourselves have broken the treaty, and now weave released from the payment of our debt," the Members of that House of Parliament, to use a common expression, could not afterwards have shown their face in the streets, or have walked into that House or any where else. These were things which it was uncharitable even to think or predict. Two things he was quite sure of. If the Government had either not paid this money according to the old treaty, or had refrained from making the new one, they would have incurred the most merciless abuse for a gross breach of national faith, to which the failings of the long-remembered budget would have been added by the very parties who now base their ground of opposition upon our having paid, or having taken measures to pay, our debt to Russia. In the second place, if hon. 461 Gentlemen opposite had unfortunately succeeded in occupying seats on that side of the House, he did them the justice—for it was really doing them justice—to believe that they would have paid every farthing of this money. The hon. member for Thetford, although he professed not to enter into the general question of our concern in the Belgic and Dutch arrangements, cautiously said, that he did not think the foreign affairs of this country could stand in a more dishonourable situation than if this country were to assume an imposing attitude in conjunction with the other great and bullying powers of Europe towards the king of Holland. He (Lord Morpeth) most sincerly hoped that this country and its Ministers would never forget the attachment, and even gratitude, which we owed to Holland, our ancient, our faithful, our Protestant ally; but, at the same time, he did not see why the circumstance of that country not being a first-rate power, and not ranking among the most powerful nations of Europe, was a reason for permitting the king of Holland, if he was so disposed, to endanger the peace of the whole of the rest of Europe; for it must be remembered, that although the agents might not be powerful, the mischief might still be great. His whole contemplation of this case had proceeded upon the supposition that Russia was prepared strictly to follow up her engagements in the Belgic treaty. As to a violation of it on her part, he had no reason to impute to her a suspicion of any such conduct. He was perfectly ready to admit, that her violating that arrangement would take from the Government one strong justification and ground of defence; but supposing that she persevered in a strict adherence to it—in an adherence, to sum it up in one word, to European policy; if England thought fit, for the purpose of inducing Russia, in 1814, to abet English policy, to limit the payment of her debt to the continuance of the union between Belgium and Holland; and if England, now under altered circumstances, thought fit to induce Russia again to abet English policy, by calling upon her to become a party to the separation of Holland and Belgium—then the compliance of Russia, although, perhaps, it might set us free from the strict letter, rivetted more closely upon us the meaning and spirit of the treaty. While the union continued to exist, it was a legal debt; it 462 now became what was emphatically called a debt of honour, and from the payment of such debts nations as well as individuals should be slow to shrink. But the hon. member for Middlesex, and the hon. and gallant member for Rye, who had given notice of a motion to which he (Lord Morpeth) ought not now, perhaps, to allude, as it was not fairly before the House, appeared to think that it was not sufficient, in order to warrant our payment of the money, that Russia should adhere to her arrangement with regard to the Belgian treaty; but, that she ought also to be called upon to discharge the obligations imposed on her by the Congress of Vienna, with respect to unhappy Poland. He had had the misfortune to be much misconceived the other night, with respect to the sentiments he expressed in reference to the conduct of the emperor of Russia towards that high-minded but ill-fated people, and he, therefore, feared that he might possibly incur the risk of a similar misconception when he declared as he felt himself bound to do, his opinion, that the introduction of the subject of Poland into this debate, was singularly misplaced. What would hon. Gentlemen have England do? Would they press upon Russia the strict and honourable fulfilment of her engagements towards Poland, and would they, at the same time, have us announce to her that we make our strict and honourable fulfilment of our engagements dependent upon hers, and would they have us accompany such an announcement by putting a sum of money, belonging to Russia, into our own pockets? Whatever effect this might have upon Russia, it would not add much moral weight to our remonstrances; and it would not only tend to set Russia on the high horse, but would give to her resistance almost the semblance of virtue, when she refused to accept a paltry bribe. No; let his noble friend persevere in making the strict discharge of our honourable engagements the only bribe which we would offer to other nations to fulfil theirs. Let us take the lead, and not wait for reciprocity. It was said, the other night, by a high authority, that Russia had fulfilled her engagements towards Holland. He wanted this country to set an example to the world. He was desirous that her treaties should be construed in their full, large, and living spirit, not in the cold, strict, formal dead letter. Let us do this, and other nations would not dare to meet 463 us with low chicane and petty evasion. When arrived at those hustings to which the hon. Gentlemen had alluded, like his noble friend, the member for Northamptonshire, whose speech had so well satisfied the House, on those hustings, as he begun, so he would end. If he should be called upon to defend his support of the foreign policy of his noble friend, which he did not expect to be called upon to do; he should be content to rest his explanation on this short, simple, and satisfactory statement, that on one side there was economy, and that on the other side there was honour; that his noble friend had preserved that honour, that he had paid our debts, and that he had kept us at peace.
§ Mr. John Fane
was of opinion that Ministers could make out no justification of the payments made to Russia since the separation of Belgium from Holland. The spirit of the Treaty of 1814 was, that Belgium should be united to Holland as a barrier against the aggrandizement of France. That also was the letter of the treaty, and Ministers had violated both the letter and the spirit; and that they had done this at the expense of five millions of British treasure. If, indeed, Ministers had come to that House, and said, "this is a world of realities, not of technicality; if we have technically violated the treaty, we have obtained a quid pro quo, with which the country ought to be satisfied; we have, to be sure, permitted the separation of Belgium from Holland; but we have contrived to rescue Poland from the vengeance of the Russian monarch, from the persecution of a Russian faction." If they had come down to the House with this language in their mouths, they might have expected the sympathy of Parliament and of the country. But how was it? Poland had been swept away; it existed no more—its very name was effaced from the nations of Europe; and this country had paid its treasure to Russia to assist in destroying the barrier against Russian power in the west, and against French aggrandizement in the north. He could perfectly understand the emperor of Russia answering the demands of this country, by saying, "assist me in breaking the Treaty of Vienna as regards Poland, and I will connive at your breaking it with regard to Belgium." But would that satisfy the British Parliament? They had a duty to perform to the country 464 of which they were the Representatives, and the least they could demand from his Majesty's Government, was to give them the means of judging whether they ought or ought not to sanction the sacrifice of the public money required of them.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the question which the House was called upon again to declare its opinion on was, whether the Government had been justified in making the payment to the Russian government which they had made in January last? The only justification which had been deemed necessary by the Government was, that the payment of the money was in strict accordance with the spirit of the Treaty of 1815. This point had been decided twice by that House in favour of Government, and he really could not see how it was possible for any one who had voted in the former majorities upon this question to take part with the hon. Member who had made the Amendment upon which the discussion had arisen. The hon. member for Thetford, in the speech which he had made had referred the House to a declaration which had been made by him (Lord Althorp), whereby it was made to appear, that he had been originally of opinion that the country was absolved from any further payment of the money stipulated in the Treaty of 1815, because that treaty had been violated. He was perfectly ready to admit, that such had been his opinion on the first hasty consideration of the circumstances; but, at the time that he expressed that opinion, he had not given the matter so thorough a consideration as, from its intricacy and importance, it demanded; and on a reconsideration of the whole circumstances, together with an inspection of the papers to which he had access, his matured and not-to-be-shaken opinion was, that this country could not, consistently with the exact observance of faith, or without committing a breach of honour, refuse to pay the sums for which the treaty stipulated. There was, therefore, in his opinion, no necessity whatever for calling on the Government to produce any documents or papers whatever. The case might be understood as well from the consideration of the treaty, and he should certainly resist the attempt to enforce the production of them. The Amendment was only another version of the motion of the right hon. member for Harwich. The hon. member for Thetford had the same 465 object in view which it was attempted to effect on the former evening; and, if he might be allowed to express his opinion, he did not think that the present Motion would meet any better success than that which had attended the former one. His hon. friend had said, that if the papers were not granted he should feel himself bound to vote against the treaty. He regretted to hear this from his hon. friend; but he could not believe that any large portion, even of those Members who had voted in favour of the censure upon Ministers, would concur with him upon such a vote. If they had ever entertained such a view of the question, they would have disembarrassed themselves very much in debate by avowing it. The hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Charles Forbes) had certainly expressed it to be his intention to vote in favour of the Amendment. Notwithstanding that declaration, he was at a loss to know upon what grounds the payment of the money was to be refused, and he certainly did not believe that the House of Commons would refuse to sanction the payment. However strongly opposed the hon. Gentlemen on the other side might be to the Government, he did not think they objected to the fulfilment of that part of the Treaty of 1815 by which this money was guaranteed. The grounds on which he acted had already been stated so fully on former debates, that he felt there was no occasion to trouble the House with a repetition of them. He had said before, and he would repeat it, that if the country was not bound in honour under the Treaty of 1815, he would not have been party to anew Convention; but finding the country thus bound, he considered that he was not only justified in consenting to the payment, but that he should have been guilty of a dereliction of the honour of the country had he refused.
said, that in the whole course of his parliamentary experience he had never before known an instance of a motion for papers upon which the Ministers of the Crown sat for five hours silent without declaring the intention of Ministers upon the subject of the motion. His surprise was not diminished when he heard the first Cabinet Minister in the House found his refusal to grant papers upon the assertion that no one of the 240 free Gentlemen who had voted upon a former night could now vote against Ministers upon the present question. That, it seemed, was 466 considered a sufficient answer to the reasonable request of the House for papers upon which it could alone come to a just decision upon the vote which his Majesty's Ministers required them to come to. The question then before the House was whether they should have sufficient information, consistently with parliamentary usage, to guide them in their vote. The declaration of the hon. member for Middlesex, that he had voted the other night in favour of Ministers, although he thought them wrong, because he was unwilling to concur in a vote of censure upon them, assisted him in understanding the course of the noble Lord (Lord Althorp). The noble Lord went a step further, and called upon them not to require necessary information, because that information would prove also to be a severe censure upon his Majesty's Ministers. That, perhaps, was not the expression used by the noble Lord, but that was the meaning of his appeal to the 240 Gentlemen who supported him the other night. The arguments used on the other side had not been at all addressed to the question really at issue. He was surprised to hear a noble Lord declare that the question before the House—a motion for necessary information—was precisely the same as a question upon the maintenance of the national faith with the public creditor. What was more consonant with the duty of that House towards the public creditor than to watch with narrow and jealous care large expenditures of the public money such as this? It was their duty, as members of Parliament, to look into a case of this kind. His Majesty's Government told them, that the spirit of the Treaty of 1814 was distinct from its letter. The House of Commons, therefore, humbly approached his Majesty's Government, asking them only to show that this was the fact, and they would be content. It was stated, that the object of the treaty was, to keep the emperor of Russia friendly to that policy, as regarded Holland and Belgium, which should best maintain the peace of Europe. No one was hardy enough to assert that this appeared on the face of the treaty. Why not, then, give the House an insight into those papers which did substantiate this point? The noble Lord said on a former occasion, the simple question was, 'whether the honour of the Crown was pledged to the payment of a certain loan, made between the king of the Netherlands and the emperor 467 of Russia. The right hon. Gentleman contended that we were not bound to make good the terms of that loan, because the payment was contingent upon the non-separation of Belgium and Holland. The fact of a severance having taken place between the States made null the original compact. The answer to the right hon. Gentleman's inference would be found in the spirit in which the treaty was entered into, and in consideration of the object contemplated by the provisions which made the integrity of the contract contingent upon the union of Belgium and Holland under one monarch.'* To find out that object or to ascertain the spirit of the treaty the noble Lord had elsewhere more than once stated, indeed that was the gist of one whole speech of the noble Lord, and of the speech of the Attorney General, that it was necessary to have recourse to other papers, to refer to other parts of the negotiation, and by the examination of the whole, find out the spirit of the treaty. These statements, which he perfectly recollected, were of themselves a sufficient parliamentary ground for the motion of his hon. friend. The same thing had been said by the first law officer of the Crown in that House. Under these circumstances, why, he asked, was not the House of Commons to have this information laid on the Table before it came to a decision upon this important question? After the lapse of seventeen years danger could scarcely be expected from making known the negotiations carried on between the different Powers upon the subject. He asked for the information, not in the spirit of opposition, and he could not think it either wise or politic for Ministers to employ the strength they were known to possess in that House in negativing such a motion. Would such a course tend to elevate them in the public estimation? Was it not essential to the dignity of the House of Commons, and to the satisfaction of the people in the conduct of the House, that they should have before them those documents by which only could it be proved that they had not voted in the dark, or without adequate excuse, a large portion of the public money? On the other side, the inconvenience, or evil consequences, of such a course had never been hinted at. On the contrary, the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite* Hansard, (third series) vol. xi. p. 912.468 (the Attorney General) had stimulated their curiosity by saying that, if they could but see the papers which he had seen, their minds would be in a most satisfactory state upon the subject. Was it, then, wise or just not to give them the opportunity of thus satisfying themselves? The question for his Majesty's Ministers to determine was, whether by their vote that night they were prepared to sacrifice, he would not say their interest, but their character with the country.
§ Mr. Robert Grant
observed, that this was the third time this question had been brought before the House. The professed object of the Motion was, to obtain information upon a subject upon which the House had already decided without thinking further information than was before them necessary, and it could have but one result. There were some questions which sufficiently answered themselves, and there were some Motions made, if not unfairly or in an unparliamentary way, yet with a tolerably certain idea, that the object of making the Motion would be equally well attained, whether it was granted or refused. From the moment when this question was first before the House, the opinion was given, that, even without this ulterior treaty, his Majesty's Ministers were right in paying the instalment under the Treaty of 1815, to the Emperor of Russia. In that instance, his Majesty's Ministers obtained the approbation of a large portion of the House. They then intended to go forward to the question of the other treaty. On that again, hon. Gentlemen opposite, not content with the former debate, and former defeat, delayed the business once more, by asking Ministers to determine that which had been already determined. In that effort, they were again defeated; and now, when Ministers hoped, at least, to come to the real question, the hon. Gentleman got up, and asked, in all simplicity, for further information, being, at the same time, really and perfectly certain, that those Members who, in the absence of that information, saw enough to justify the conduct of Ministers, could have but one feeling with respect to this Motion. It was a little hard for Members at this period to call for further information, who, without it, had twice attempted to censure his Majesty's Government. His intention in shortly troubling the House was, to take that ground which more properly belonged to him, of stating, in the absence 469 of information, which he did not pretend to possess the simple and plain grounds which induced him to entertain no doubt that, in point of law and reason, common sense and justice, his Majesty's Ministers were justified in paying the instalments under the treaty. In this view of the case, he hoped to have the vote of his hon. and respected friend. He humbly presumed, that the question was precisely this; whether, under the Convention of 1815, and referring also to the former Convention of 1814, between Holland and England, Russia had a fair right, according to the law of nations, to call upon us to keep the treaty. The arrangement, on the other hand, was this; whatever might have been the wish of Russia or England, or any other of the Allied Powers, Holland was to gain just that accession of territory which would be produced by the union of Belgium with it. Such being the interest of Holland, the object of this treaty was perfectly just, inasmuch as it was simply to effect the union of Belgium with Holland, that being the object of Holland itself. The principal party to the treaty was the King of Holland; England was only a collateral party. The object was Dutch; because the payment to Russia, was on account of the continuance of the union; and the consideration was Dutch, because it was either paid in Dutch money by Holland itself, or by England out of the debts of Holland. There was one consideration which appeared to him to overturn the whole of the argument of the other side of the House; but, before he came to it, he would make one or two remarks. His hon. friend agreed, that this was, in fact, neither more nor less than a Dutch arrangement, and, so far did he carry that argument, that he really contended (and so did other Members), that, if we did not pay the money to Russia, inasmuch as it consisted of the price which we were to pay to Holland for Demerara and some other colonies, we ought to pay it to Holland. That argument was founded on a complete and entire misreading of the Convention of 1814, which said, that certain things should be done in respect of a certain consideration to be paid by England, What was that consideration? Partly a sum of money, and partly an undefined responsibility; the defined sum of money consisting of one million, to erect fortresses in the Low Countries, and the undefined liability 470 being neither more nor less than this; that we should pay to Holland an amount which all the great Powers of Europe should deem necessary, only with this condition; that the sum so paid should not exceed 3,000,000l. The union of Belgium and Holland was no longer practicable, and Ministers were told, that, if the great Powers of Europe were of opinion, that nothing further could be done with respect to it, England had paid what she was bound to pay. He did most confidently submit that, by the two Conventions of 1814 and 1815, this money ought to be paid. Looking merely to the preamble of the treaty, it might be possible to construe it in any way; but, as it had been over and over again said, you must look not at the mere terms of the treaty, but of the stipulations and obligations which it contained. Thus, then, it appeared, that liabilities were contracted between this country and Russia, just the same as would have existed, if there had been separate treaties between Russia and England and Russia and Holland. He had endeavoured to establish this point, in order to disentangle the question from the confusion or indistinctness which had been thrown around it, by treating England as being only a secondary party. If, then, he were right in his position, at what result did he arrive? The case stood precisely thus; England was bound by treaty to pay a certain annual sum to Russia. This obligation, however, was conditional; it depended upon the condition that Holland and Belgium should remain united; and if that condition were broken, the obligation on England to pay the money to Russia terminated. Hon. Members opposite had a perfect right to contend, that inasmuch as the condition had been broken by the termination of the union between Holland and Belgium, we were released from (he obligation of paying any more money to Russia. These were considerations which, according to the laws of common sense, reason, justice, and even humanity itself, subverted the conclusion which hon. Gentlemen had drawn from their own premises. Had nothing happened, which (supposing the condition to have been broken) should suspend the natural consequence of the failure of that condition, namely, the release from payment? In his opinion there had; because common sense, reason, and justice, established the proposition, that it was im- 471 possible for any party to take advantage of the breaking of a condition, in order to relieve himself from an obligation, when he himself had been the cause of the condition being broken. This principle was conclusive of the question. He was not fond of quoting from the learned writers on the law of nations; but, if it were necessary, he could easily produce authority in support of the principle which he had laid down. He would not quote a single word, then; but would only remark, that the publicist, who, of all others whose works were now in existence, most strenuously advocated the necessity of construing treaties rigidly, according to the letter, stated, that there was one case in which nations could not be released from the obligations of a treaty, and that was the very case which he had laid down, namely, that of a party inducing another to break a condition, which he would have kept, had he been allowed to do so, and then taking advantage of such a circumstance to relieve himself from an obligation. His (Mr. Grant's) proposition, therefore, was that, whether England be considered as a primary or secondary party, she could not, in justice, first cause a condition to be broken, and then take advantage of it against another party. He would only add one remark more. He was very much surprised at the manner in which an Act of Parliament had been spoken of, in the course of these discussions, by some hon. Gentlemen. They had contended, that the treaty might have borne a wider and more liberal interpretation, when it rested on the footing of the law of nations, than now, when it had been incorporated into an Act of Parliament. The right hon. Baronet had too accurate a mind, to adopt this view of the subject entirely; but it had been broadly advanced by some of his friends; and he, to a certain degree, had sanctioned it. This argument must be urged, in forgetfulness of this principle, that the law of nations was part of the law of England, and had been so stated to be, by the most eminent persons who ever dispensed justice in England. When, therefore, the Act of Parliament declared, that the money should be paid, according to the tenor of the treaty, it meant according to the legal import of that document. What, then, was its legal import? Its legal import, according to the law of the land, was the same import which it bore according to the law of nations. The treaty must be 472 construed, in the same way, in the great forum of nations, as in the municipal forum. Our obligation would remain the same, whether it be imposed by a treaty which was laid upon the Table, or by an Act of Parliament, which was placed upon the Statute Book. He agreed with his noble friend, the Secretary for foreign affairs, that treaties ought to be construed with the greatest extent of liberality which was ever applied to municipal instruments. But, upon the present occasion, he claimed for this treaty no obligations of a more binding nature than existed in any transaction between man and man. In the transactions which occurred between man and man, no party could induce another to break a condition, and then take advantage of that infraction to relieve himself from an obligation. An objection had been raised against the payment of the money to Russia, on the ground of the new treaty; for it had been said, if we were bound to pay the money by the old treaty, why was a new one necessary? In reply to this, he would merely state, that if we acknowledged our liability to pay the money, we were bound, at the suggestion of Russia, to draw up a fresh instrument of assurance, to satisfy any doubts which Russia might entertain with respect to the original treaty. These being his views upon this question, he should certainly feel it his duty to vote against the Motion.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, the Motion conveyed a strong censure on his Majesty's Government. Many Gentlemen who had not been in the House, might not know what the Motion was. It was for an Address to the Crown for copies of the Convention of the 19th of May, 1815, which sanctioned the loan from Holland to Russia. That Motion only called for the production of information, to be laid before the House, prior to requiring it to vote away five millions of money. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House called themselves conservatives of the national honour. Those who opposed them were also said to be opposed to the national honour. He should only say, give the information in order that they might see whether the national honour had been supported. If that should appear to be the fact he would not oppose the case relied on by his Majesty's Government. The hon. and learned Gentleman (the Attorney General) had only laid down the proposition that he entertained doubts of the treaty; and secondly, that it must 473 lead to revolution and separation of Belgium from Holland. He thought his hon. and learned Friend would not deny that on a former occasion he made that declaration. If the hon. and Iearned Gentleman did not use words to that effect he must have been belied in many diurnal publications. The noble Lord the Paymaster of the Forces had also said, "Why do you not call for the papers?" Under all the circumstances he could not but believe that all he imputed to Gentlemen on the Ministerial side actually did occur. When papers were asked for, none of them would allow the parliamentary propriety of producing any of those papers before they came to the granting of a large sum of the public money. In following up the Motion he wished to stand on the footing of the Attorney-General.—They had been told that the case was made out by a mass of evidence. He did not wish to turn out the Ministers; he did not wish to degrade the hon. candidate for Marylebone; but he should call for the external evidence which induced the law officers to bolster up the treaty. It was said the treaty did not embrace the case, but that Ministers had in their possession evidence to justify the opinion of the law officers that it was proper to pay the money. He should say produce those documents. He could find no case in which Ministers had called upon the House of Commons to come to a vote in support of the letter and spirit of a treaty without evidence. This mass of papers which captivated the sense of lawyers ought to be produced. The hon. member for Middlesex had given an extraordinary vote against the Motion. It was the first time, and might be the last, that any member for Middlesex would vote away the public money to keep five Cabinet Ministers in their places. The hon. member for Middlesex voted away five millions to keep five Ministers in their places. If they acted upon the principle that honesty was the best policy, what a Ministry it must be! He deprecated the conduct of the hon. member for Middlesex in voting away the public money to keep Ministers in their places. He condemned such Middlesex morality, and trusted the people would have no more such guardians of the public purse. What would the country think of Ministers whose adherents must, in order to keep them in place, vote black white and white black? Or what could be thought of the morality that would act upon and openly avow 474 such principles? Looking at the Treaty of 1815, it was clear that the basis of it was the interminable integrity of the kingdom of the Netherlands. That integrity was guaranteed; and in the clause there was even a prayer to God to forbid the separation of Holland and Belgium; but this new Treaty or Convention was based upon separation, and in it a prayer was offered to prevent their being ever united. For his part he could not understand the consistency of such pious diplomatic ejaculations. The hon. member for Middlesex said, that he had been induced to vote with Ministers from a fear of turning them out of office. It would be difficult for the hon. Member to explain such conduct. If the spirit and letter of the former treaty were in perfect unison, as had been stated by Ministers, where was the necessity of the new Convention? The pretended consideration of this new obligation was a sympathy and co-operation on the part of Russia with England in her policy towards Belgium. Now he defied the noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to show a single precedent where a sum of five millions was given by this country to any other to induce that other to follow in the wake of England. In saying this he wished to be understood as not asking the House to relax in the least from that sensitiveness for the public honour, which they were bound always to maintain, and which he hoped would never for a moment be forgotten. Let him but have evidence that these payments ought to be continued; let him but have the evidence which satisfied Ministers that these payments ought to be made, and, if equally satisfactory to him, he would say, that the House would not maintain the honour of the country nor its own character if it did not vote for the Convention; but before he came to any such conclusion he must have placed on the Table all the information upon which the Government had acted. The conduct of Ministers was most strange. They said they had information which satisfied themselves, and they then said, that it must satisfy the House, although none of the Members had ever seen it.—This was a poor compliment to the 245, Members who voted with Ministers. He said 245, and not 246, because the Government would hardly claim the hon. member for Middlesex as a supporter.—The monstrous doctrines of that hon. Member had 475 fairly thrown the probity of Parliament into the shade. The principle upon which he had voted, according to his own statement, was not the justice of the case, neither was it whether his vote was useful to the country or conducive to her interest or honour, but he had voted with Ministers because it was useful to them to preserve their places.
§ Viscount Palmerston
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman had properly stated, that the question was not whether the Government had a right to pay any money to Russia in January last, as that question had been settled satisfactorily by two decisions of the House. At all events, that question had been disposed of, and he was astonished that it should be revived, and made the subject of another debate. He wished, in the first instance, to set those Gentlemen right who had addressed the House on the other side, and who had spoken of the 5,000,000l. of public money which were to be paid, in consequence of this arrangement, to Russia. The fact was, that if the amount were to be paid tomorrow, it would not exceed 1,800,000l. He did not mention this as an argument one way or the other, but he thought the extent of the claim ought to be accurately known. The real question now was, whether England was bound to continue the payments of this debt. For his part, he was prepared to contend, that the papers on the Table, independently of all other documents, were sufficient to establish the justice of making those payments. It was clear from the speeches of the Earl of Liverpool and Lord Gastlereagh, that the payments agreed upon to be paid to Russia, were in consideration of past services performed by that country, and the latter nobleman distinctly stated, that it was in consideration of such services on the part of Russia, combined with the deranged state of her finances—that derangement having been caused by her exertions in the cause of Europe—that the then Government made the treaty, and took upon themselves the responsibility of recommending to Parliament to make the payments. It was not necessary for him then to enter into the particulars of the original claims of Russia, nor of the manner in which this country became indebted to Holland for a cession of certain colonies, but he would add, that the main condition of the payments was, that Russia should co-operate with England in her 476 policy respecting Belgium. He would again ask, was the separation which took place between Holland and Belgium the one contemplated in the treaty? He was clearly of opinion that it was not. The separation contemplated was one against the wishes of England, and effected with the concurrence of Russia. Now the fact was, that Russia was prepared to prevent the separation, and had been prevailed upon by England to acquiesce in it. Hon. Members opposite complained that England was at first to pay Russia for the union of Holland and Belgium, whilst, by the new Convention, Russia was to be paid for the separation, and an attempt was made to show that those two stipulations were inconsistent with each other. He did not think so. It was, on the former occasion, thought, that it was the interest of England to have Holland and Belgium united, but since then it became the policy of England, with a view of preserving the peace of Europe, that Belgium should form an independent State. The separation contemplated was against the policy of England; the separation which had taken place was agreeable to the policy of England, and it was a separation which Russia had been willing to prevent. The principle contended for, was the interest of this country, and it was equally applicable to both cases. In each case Russia acted with good faith, and had done nothing to deprive her of her rights under the Treaty of 1815. As to the altered wording in the new Convention, he had only to say, that it could not be expected from Russia that she should allow so important a question to remain in any doubt. He said, that they had adopted precisely the same principle as was recognized by the original Convention. They had obtained from Russia the assurance, that whatever might be her policy with regard to Belgium, that policy should be consistent with the interests of Great Britain. It was obvious that we could not have made the continuance of the payment of the money depend upon a contingency before it presented itself, as consistent with the principle on which the treaty was founded; but, when it was seen that it was only following up the same principle by a new mode of execution, then Ministers were consistent in adopting it. He should like to ask those who raised such grave objections to the payment of the money to Russia, what would have been their opinion supposing the prince 477 of Orange had been elected king of Belgium, instead of prince Leopold? Would they have contended that the obligation to pay the money would have ceased? The words of the conditional parts of the treaty would, at least, have been satisfied; and yet, if it were admitted, in that case, that Russia would have been still entitled to a liberal construction of the treaty, so as to continue her claim upon England, why was the payment to cease, merely because the Belgians elected Prince Leopold for their King? It would have been a manifest absurdity to have made the continuance of the payment depend upon an act of choice, over which neither this country nor Russia could have any influence. The great object in view was, the preservation of the peace of Europe; and Russia was prepared, if we, by our policy, had thought it fit, to concur in hostilities for the re-establishment of the kingdom of the Netherlands. But it was thought better by England not to adopt that course. When the most determined resistance had been made by the Belgians to their union with Holland, it was thought prudent not to attempt to resist the national will: it was considered that the peace of Europe would be better maintained by the independence of Belgium, as distinguished from its union with France—an independence founded upon the affections and feelings of the people, and by which its national interests should be secured, rather than to attempt, by overrunning the country with foreign troops, to compel that people again to submit themselves to the union which had been made in the year 1815, but which they had so utterly repudiated. But, supposing the conduct of England had been otherwise, and that it had been our policy to attempt the re-establishment of that union, then no question could have arisen as to our liability to pay this money to Russia. Now, setting aside the injustice of attempting to crush by force of arms that expression of national feeling which led to the separation of Belgium from Holland, he put it to the Gentlemen opposite, who, no doubt, were prepared to make a great display, upon the hustings, of the regard which they had in this case shown to an economy of the public money, whether the financial condition of the country would be more benefited, and its general interests better promoted, by the adoption of such a line of conduct—a line of conduct which their 478 arguments and reasoning would recommend—than by the adoption of that cours-of policy which his Majesty's Ministers had felt it their duty to pursue. He said, that not only was the course adopted consistent with good faith, but with the soundest policy; and that it was well calculated to promote the interests of the country, even when regarded under the narrow aspect of a mere question of economy. The consideration, then, for which this money was paid being services, past and performed, by Russia, before the year 1815, we were not entitled to mix up with this question events which had happened since. Russia had kept faith with us as regarded this Convention, and we were, therefore, not at liberty to suffer any quarrel we might have with that Power, on account of her policy in other matters, to interfere with the fulfilment of our obligations to her under this treaty. And he would venture to say, that if Government had adopted a different line of con duct—if it had refused to continue the payment of this money—Gentlemen on the other side of the House would have got up and accused the Ministers of a gross breach of the national faith. The hon. member for Thetford would probably, under such circumstances, have come forward, and told the House, that these payments were as justly due as the dividends on the Three per Cents; and he would have charged the Ministers with having tarnished the honour of the country, and violated the obligations of treaties. But under what circumstances was the payment in January made? After the events had occurred in Belgium, which had been before explained, doubts were entertained as to the payment of this money being any longer binding. The Attorney General gave it as his opinion, in consequence of the papers and correspondence which had been laid before him, that the money was due. If he understood the circumstances rightly, that opinion was formed upon the treaty and the secret articles only, without the correspondence. [" No, no"]. He was aware that his hon. and learned friend thought the payment ought to continue; but he understood his opinion was, that the payment would have been good without that correspondence, which, however, strengthened and confirmed his opinion. His own opinion upon the Treaty of 1815 was, that this money ought to be paid. It had been asked, if 479 this were the case, why make this second Convention? Because, although it be a sufficient ground of proceeding for the Ministers of the Crown to have the opinion of their law advisers as to the construction of a treaty, yet, could it be supposed that a foreign government, knowing that changes might take place in the Administration of this country, should be satisfied to leave a doubt as to the construction of a treaty between that government and this, and to allow it to depend upon the opinions of the persons who might happen to be in office? With respect to the opinions of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, as to whether this money was or was not really due, nothing, during this discussion, had transpired to lead him to conclude, either one way or the other. It was true they had condemned the mode of payment; but, so far as he had been able to make out their opinions, they had not yet brought themselves to affirm, positively, one way or the other, whether, according to good faith and honour, the country was bound to continue these payments. He should like to know their opinion; and, while they were moving for papers to enable them to put a construction upon the treaty, he should be glad if they would state what their opinion was upon the papers already before the House. The course they had pursued was most singular. In January they moved a positive resolution, that the money was not due, and ought not to be paid; in July the obligation was said to be determined; they were prepared to vote for the present proposition, though they were not prepared in their speeches to assert it. When the House had twice emphatically decided that these propositions were not correct, what was the next thing they proposed? Why, they moved that the House should obtain information respecting that very point upon which they had told the House, they were quite prepared to come to a decision without any information at all. Was ever so monstrous a proposition made? They endeavoured to pass a vote of censure on Ministers—they were twice defeated; and then they asked for information upon the very subject-matter on which they proposed their vote of censure. The right hon. Gentleman argued, that in 1815 Parliament sanctioned the treaty with information, but that in 1832 a treaty was proposed to be adopted by Parliament without any information at all. Certainly, the 480 House had better grounds upon which to proceed now, than it had in the year 1815, because the secret article had now been produced; the case, therefore, stood more fully explained than it did in 1815. But, in truth, there was something still more extraordinary in the proposal now made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite; because he could very easily understand how hon. Gentlemen, who had a strong opinion that this treaty was not well founded, and that the faith of the country was not pledged, might say to Government, "If you will place upon the Table all the information you possess, we may alter our opinions." But what was the case? Why, the Gentlemen said "There is no information; the payments are contrary to Act of Parliament, and we cannot sanction them." The motion was most extraordinary. The course pursued by the hon. Gentlemen opposite was most strange, for, after two decisions of the House, they came down again and asked for additional papers, for the purpose of showing whether the House had acted wisely or not. They first moved a vote of censure, and, having failed in that, for which they had laid no grounds, they then sought for information which was not at all necessary. Much had been said of what had fallen from the hon. member for Middlesex. He certainly could state, from his own experience in Parliament, that nothing was more common (and he would also add, that nothing was more constitutional) than for hon. Members to place confidence in the Government or party to which they were attached; and, having reposed such confidence, and believing that the success of their party would be of benefit to the country, there was no inconsistency in yielding up individual opinions to the general interests of the country. Putting this question as it had been put to the hon. member for Middlesex, he would ask, if there were any public men in this country who, if placed in office, would so tarnish the honour of the country as to refuse to pay this money? He would take it upon himself, from his own knowledge of those persons most likely to come into power if the present Ministry were broken up, to say, that there was not a man of them who would refuse to pay the demands of Russia or would say the money was not due. Where, then, would be the economy? The true interests of all countries demanded the maintenance of 481 good faith and honour. This was shown in the case of several nations, which had by their crooked policy fallen from the highest pitch of glory, whilst England, by her good faith and generosity, had risen to the first rank amongst nations. He fully concurred in those principles, and was entirely convinced that nothing was to be gained by tergiversation or dishonesty.
Sir Robert Peel
said, that if he understood the charge of the noble Lord against those who opposed the Government, it amounted in truth to this, that the Opposition had not been so factious as to declare that they would resist the payment of money to which there was an equitable claim; that they would not advocate a breach of national faith, although they were desirous to vindicate the honour of Parliament. They were actually accused of having omitted to avail themselves of the most likely topic to catch popularity, and taunted for not declaring that they would resist the payment of the money to Russia under all circumstances. He had distinctly said, from the outset, that he would not pledge himself to anything of the sort; he was told by the economists, "Only hold out the hope that the money shall not be paid at all, and we will give you our support;" but he had said, that he would support national faith at whatever cost. He had always said, that the money was a trifle, compared with the maintenance of public honour; but while prepared to satisfy every equitable claim upon the country, he also wished to make Ministers responsible for misconduct, and to vindicate the dignity of Parliament. The readiness on his part to forego the advantage of the argument from economy was a sufficient answer to the charge, that the Opposition were aiming only to unseat the Government. The noble Lord had said, that the hon. member for Middlesex had acted most wisely by refusing to allow himself to be entrapped by plausible motions, but unfortunately, the eulogium on this occasion was not just. The hon. Member was, undoubtedly, not hasty in supporting the opponents of the Ministers, but, on the first occasion, when those Ministers were the hardest run, and when, as the noble Lord said, the Reform Bill itself was in danger, the member for Middlesex had been entrapped, and, regardless of national faith, regardless of the fate of Ministers, regardless too of the danger to the Reform Bill, he 482 actually voted in the minority. Not only, then, was the eulogium not just, but, after what had occurred in the passing of the Reform Bills, it was most unfortunate. The hon. Member had voted in January, that the payment of the money was illegal; in July he voted directly the reverse; but, to console his opponents, he told them that he knew his vote was a dishonest one, and that he gave it to preserve the Ministers in their places. The hon. Member said, he had voted repeatedly against his conscience and his judgment, and would do so that night to preserve the Ministers in their places. A more extraordinary exhibition of candour he had never witnessed; and the noble Lord urged, in defence of the strange avowals they had heard that night, that it was wise and proper for a person associated with a party to give up his own particular opinions, on peculiar points, for the interest and advantage of the whole body. Oh, if a Member for a rotten borough, if a Representative of those small constituencies condemned by schedule A, had made such an avowal as they had heard from the member for Middlesex; if he had dared to declare that he voted black was white, and white was black, against his reason and conscience, merely for the purpose of maintaining a Ministry in their places, what an indignant outcry would there have been against such shameless and profligate conduct. Why, those very boroughs had been condemned, because it was alleged that the Members returned for them did not vote upon their conscientious view of each particular question, but voted with their party, and supported that party upon every subject, without reference to its merits. But the member for Middlesex was a privileged man, and could take a liberty with his conscience not allowed to the Members for smaller constituencies. Much should be like to hear that hon. Member addressing his constituents upon the subject. He could shadow out in his mind the very words that would fall from the hon. Member, He would say, "Pledges from me must be unnecessary. My votes in Parliament are before you. Examine them, compare them, and in them you will find the perfect mirror which reflects ray parliamentary conduct." But surely it would be most perplexing to the hon. Member, if any of his constituents should take upon himself to inquire, in return, to which class 483 of contrary votes they were to refer, and should demand some test by which the black votes might be distinguished from the white. And, possibly, as the votes of the hon. Member seemed to be so nicely distinguishable by their colour, if there should be a few of an intermediate shade, the electors might characterize them as the Grey votes. They might ask him to reconcile the difference between the January and the July votes. They might say, "Upon which of these two votes do you mean to rely? Is the January vote or the July vote the black one?" The member for Middlesex did not deserve the eulogium of the noble Lord, for his black votes and his white votes were given, in contradiction to each other, under circumstances precisely the same. The defence, that he sacrificed his opinion to the interests of his party was not available for him. In January, the hon. Member gave a white vote, and opposed the Ministers upon this question; and now he gave a black vote, and supported them. But let it be remarked, that in January the Reform Bills were not passed; and the Government was extremely hard pressed, having a majority of only twenty-three; while now the Reform Bills were passed, and the Government had managed to procure a majority of forty-six. The hon. Gentleman was, therefore, without the shadow of an excuse for his inconsistency. He thought they might lay aside the questions which had been argued on preceding evenings. The question now was, whether or not they should have information, acknowledged to be in existence. The noble Lord said, that the opponents of Government first attempted votes of censure, and now, when it was too late, they asked for information. They were told it was too much to inflict censure, without having before them the information upon which the Government had acted. They then asked for the information, and it was refused, without even an allegation that to grant it would be inconvenient to the public service? The noble Lord said, that the payment to Russia was made for services done and performed by Russia, which were notorious, and which required no explanation. But did the House remember the pathetic appeal of the Solicitor General? "Oh!" said the Solicitor General, "If you had seen what I have seen, if you had had access to the pile of documents I have waded through, you would have 484 no hesitation in granting the money." When the House asked for a sight of these convincing documents, the noble Lord got up, and quoted to them Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, and the Reports of Lord Castlereagh's and Lord Liverpool's speeches. He never could believe that the documents so pathetically alluded to by the Solicitor General were two speeches of Lord Liverpool and Lord Londonderry, to which every human being had access in that most excellent work. If the noble Lords wished to convince the House that they had acted correctly in this transaction, let them produce the official documents on which their judgment professed to be founded. It was vain for them to rely upon a majority of forty-six; vain for them to call a motion for information factious. The only sufficient answer would be the production of the documents. But the noble Lord said, it was extremely clear that the money was to be paid to Russia for past services performed; why, then, did the noble Lord require a new Convention? The preamble of the second Convention certainly referred to the first, and it expressly recited it, but nothing whatever could be found in it about the past services of Russia. It stated the consideration to be, the adhesion of Russia to the general arrangements of the Congress of Vienna. If it were true, that the original payment to Russia was made on account of services rendered to the general cause of Europe and sacrifices made by Russia, why did the second Convention allege that the equivalent which England was to receive from Russia in return for the continued payments was this, that Russia would not contract any new engagement respecting Belgium, without a previous agreement with his Britannic Majesty, and his formal assent? Where, then, was the justification of the assertion, that the two treaties were founded upon the same consideration? The Government gave to the House conflicting documents. The one corresponded not with the other. The noble Lord contended that the money was due to Russia for old services. Then why the new condition in the second Convention? The preamble bound Russia, in consideration of the continuance of the payment, to identify her policy with that of England with respect to Holland. That, he contended, was entirely a new condition, and how could it be maintained, that if the money was fairly due to Russia for 485 former services performed, it was now just to impose upon Russia, as a condition of payment—that she should change her policy with regard to Holland so often as the policy of this country was changed? The question had been repeatedly asked, was this money to be ultimately paid or not? He would say this; unquestionably it was to be paid, if the country was bound to its payment by good faith. He would not tarnish the fair fame of the country for any sum whatever, upon any occasion, but more especially upon an occasion on which England had received a valuable consideration. When we incurred this responsibility on the behalf of Holland, we received from that country the colonies of the Cape of Good Hope, Demerara, Essequibo, and Berbice; we still retained those colonies, they were valuable possessions, and therefore we were the more strictly bound not to shrink from any equitable obligation we had incurred. He agreed with his hon. friends that the money might be due from England; but to whom ought it to be paid? He could by no means admit that the first Convention justified the second as a matter of course; but still there might be circumstances, not at present known to the House, which would still call for the continued payment to Russia, and authorize the new Convention: but what those circumstances were, the House had a right to know before it was called upon to ratify the Convention. The noble Lord said, this country was bound to continue the payment to Russia by the good faith that Power had evinced. It appeared that when the separation was about to take place between Holland and Belgium, Russia said, "I am ready to fulfil the treaty; my troops shall march upon Belgium, to continue the incorporation." "Oh! no," said England, "our policy is altered; we wish the separation to take place." "Very well," was the reply of Russia; "continue to me the payment, and I am ready to subscribe to your policy with respect to Holland and Belgium." Such might be the fact; but, if it were, it ought to be established. The documents proving that to be the case ought to be in the possession of the House before it was called upon to ratify the treaty. The King might make a new treaty under a new system of policy, but it was for the House to say, in a case in which the payment of money was concerned, whether it would enable the King 486 to execute such a treaty. If it were proved that this country had induced Russia, by a promise of the continuance of the payment, to act in the manner she had done, that gave rise to a new case, and a new Convention was necessary, the policy of which depended upon many mixed considerations. He had said, he was not free from doubts as to whom the money ought to be paid. An hon. Member (Mr. Gisborne), who had argued the question ably, had said, that Holland was badly used; but the same hon. Member contended, that England was exonerated from making the payment to Holland, on account of the unjust and impolitic conduct of that country to Belgium. That argument appeared to him most unsatisfactory. The hon. Member admitted that Holland had a right to refuse to pay her part of the loan to Russia. Let him suppose that the whole of the loan had been payable by Holland, and that that country had retained possession of the colonies she had given up to this country; how then would the case stand? If Holland was justified in refusing to pay a portion of the loan, surely she would, in the case he was supposing, be equally justified in refusing to pay the whole; and, therefore, if this country had not been put in possession of the Dutch colonies, Holland would have retained her colonies, and would have no debt to pay. But England had the colonies, and to what Power then, according to the reasoning of the hon. Member, ought England to make the payment of her portion of the loan? Surely to Holland. It might be very convenient, for ensuring Russian acquiescence, to make the payment to Russia, but certainly, according to the reasoning of the hon. Member (Mr. Gisborne) it was anything but just. But he never would admit that Holland had behaved with harshness or injustice to Belgium, or that the revolt was justifiable by the conduct of Holland. The revolution in Belgium followed as a consequence from the revolution in France. If the French Revolution had not occurred, they would have heard nothing of the separation of Belgium from Holland; and we had no pretext in the misconduct of Holland, for exonerating ourselves from our pecuniary obligations to that country. He wished not to enter upon the question of the policy pursued by his Majesty's Government with respect to Belgium; but he could not help 487 smiling when he heard an hon. Member contend, that to place Prince Leopold on the throne of Belgium was a matter of great advantage to this country; because, forsooth, that prince had formerly been allied to a daughter of the King of England. What did the hon. Member think of the alliance which the king of Belgium was now about to form? If a matrimonial alliance, that had now ceased fifteen years, was to have so powerful an influence over King Leopold's politics, what did the hon. Member think would be the effect of a marriage with one of the daughters of the king of the French? If the former connexion had made Leopold an English prince, would not the new connexion make him a French prince, and would not all the advantages of placing him on the throne, which were expected to belong to England, in reality belong to France? He implored the Government not to drive the House to a premature discussion of those matters. The payment could not rest upon the old Convention, but must depend upon the new, mixed up with considerations arising out of the old. The Government had been rescued from a vote of censure, and might, therefore, without difficulty, consent to a postponement of the question. He asked not for an indefinite postponement, but as long a one as the duration of the Session would authorize. A premature discussion on Belgian affairs was open to great objection. It was true that the five Powers had agreed to the separation, and had recognized King Leopold, but it was also true that none of the necessary arrangements were yet completed. The last article of the Convention clearly proved, that the period for decision on the merits of that Convention had not yet arrived. It assigned, as the reason of the Convention, the preservation of the peace of Europe. How did they know the peace of Europe would be preserved? He hoped to God it might, but, under the present circumstances, it was utterly impossible to affirm that it would. He wished not to enter upon that question; he wished not to say a word upon the conduct of this country with respect to Belgium. On the contrary, he, and those who acted with him, had carefully, upon all occasions, abstained from provoking debate on the question of Belgium. He had strong feelings upon the subject, but he had been unwilling to enter into a premature discussion. These negotiations 488 were drawing to their close, and, whether they would end for good or evil, the march of time would soon disclose, Holland had been told, that by the 20th of July she must concur in the treaty, or force would be employed to compel her assent; and with such a declaration, was it decent or wise to call upon the Parliament to ratify the Convention now before the House? He had no doubt as to what the conduct of Russia would be; he had no doubt that she would keep her engagements to England respecting Belgium; but why should they be called upon to sanction the new Convention, until the negotiations now pending, as to the future relations between Holland and Belgium, were brought to a close. There were rumours that a French and English fleet were to be united for the purpose of constraining Holland to submit to the treaty. He trusted such was not the case; but, if it were, it was most unfair, in such a state of affairs, to compel a decision by the House of Commons as to the policy of a new pecuniary engagement to Russia. With respect to the alleged conduct of Russia to Poland, he was glad to find that all agreed in thinking that that subject had no connection with the present. He had heard some statements in the House respecting the conduct of Russia to the Poles, and he believed many of them to be unfounded in fact. It had been stated that thousands of children had been torn from their parents, and banished into Siberia; he had expressed his disbelief of that assertion, and he had since been informed, on good authority, that those children were orphans—made orphans, he regretted to say, by the calamities of war—and that they had been placed in Russian schools, not for the purpose of separating them from their parents, for they had none, but for the purpose of providing for them in their helplessness, and giving them education. So viewed, that which, under another aspect, appeared an act of gross cruelty, might be a humane proceeding. He was thankful to the House for the attention with which it had heard him, at so late an hour, and concluded by entreating the Government not to drive the House to a division. If it obtained another small majority, that majority would not convince the country that the conduct of Ministers had been justifiable.
The Attorney General
felt himself called upon to remove some misapprehensions 489 which seemed to prevail, relative to the opinions which his learned friends and himself entertained on this subject. It had been supposed that they formed, in the first instance, an opinion, from considering the treaty itself, which could only be altered by the private documents laid before them, and which the present Motion sought to bring before Parliament. This he had never stated; but merely that his first impression, from the text of the treaty, was in favour of an exemption from future payments; but that his opinion, when guided by other documents, and by the circumstances of the time, was, that no case creating that exemption had, in fact, arisen. On the 16th of December, and on the subsequent discussions of January, June, and July, he uniformly declared, that he (the Attorney General) had been satisfied that the separation had reference only to such an event having been effected by a hostile power. But he never said, that it was necessary to see additional papers to those already furnished, to form such an opinion. It appeared to him that the House of Commons had twice decided that point then before them; and the Motion, therefore, if not in form, was yet in substance, a vote of censure upon the House itself, which had said, that it had documents enough to form an opinion as to this treaty. His noble friend, the Paymaster of the Forces, was supposed to have spoken in favour of this dextrous Motion, because he said on a former occasion, that the course for hon. Gentlemen opposite to take was, to move for papers, But I the question was then put upon very different grounds. It was then said, that the House must not go out of the four corners of the treaty. It was a just answer to that observation to say, that there were other documents which threw light upon the subject. But with what pretence could hon. Gentlemen now move for papers, whose uniform argument, on the two first discussions, had been founded on the treaty itself, with a stout denial that any thing extraneous could throw light upon it? The right hon. Gentleman opposite knew that the opinion of Ministers was formed with the help of other documents; but not a word was said in January about producing them. In the notice given in January, the motion was in condemnation of the conduct of the Government, and the whole discussion 490 turned upon the question, whether the Government had rightly construed an Act of Parliament. It was the same the other night; and now, for the first time, it was intended to move for papers, which, if they were to have any effect at all on the opinion of hon. Gentlemen, ought to have been called for before. They wanted no information to pass a censure upon the Government; they denied that any information could relieve the Government from censure; and now they called for information in hopes of culling out from it some other matter of reproach. It had been said, that the hon. member for Middlesex had committed himself, by the sentiments he had this night expressed. If that hon. Member were to be paired off, in counterpoise to all the votes which had been given from party motives against the Government, his Majesty's Ministers would be considerable gainers. He might refer to the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Charles Forbes), who stated, that he was convinced of the binding obligations of the treaty, and yet was willing to vote for the present Motion, which was one of censure upon the Government. The gross inconsistency he had pointed out, as well as the attendance of Members from the most distant corners of the realm, sufficiently proved the motives for this new experiment. The right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, had now, for the first time, said, that we ought to pause in these payments, till we knew whether Russia would conform to the policy of England; but the payment of this debt was not to depend upon the course which Russia might hereafter take. The consideration had been given, and the obligation was binding upon the country. It was for the House to decide, with a perfect knowledge that nothing had taken place to relieve this country from her obligations, whether she should not continue to fulfil them? The conferences which had taken place were never intended to put an end to our obligations, although the condition, for the future, had been altered. The policy of Russia was to be identified with that of this country; and, by the command which we thus acquired over the power of Russia, we had an additional security for the maintenance of peace. To adopt the right hon. Baronet's suggestion, would be to revive disputes now settled. We 491 were, perhaps, on the eve of great events, and, therefore, he deprecated the idea of again unravelling this skein of obligation, the binding strength of which, had already been twice recognized. Why should they again open the question of the conduct of all the Powers of Europe towards Holland, and by entering into discussions so angry in their progress, disturb the course of the negotiations which his noble friend had to conduct? No ingredient could be thrown into the cauldron of discord more likely to make it boil over, than further discussion on this unfortunate subject. Let the House remember, that it would be the worst of all possible economies—entailing not only a lasting, but an immediate, expenditure upon this country—to do anything to disturb the arrangement now in progress to secure the inestimable blessings of peace. His object in rising was, to state distinctly the humble part which he had taken in these transactions. There was no inconsistency in anything he had done in this matter, he protested equally against the notion that his first impression as to the treaty was not to be altered by any other documents whatever, and against the allegation that that first impression might not be fairly altered, and a mature opinion formed by the facts and documents of which Parliament was already possessed. God forbid that the House of Commons should not have the means of judging of the course pursued by his Majesty's Government! but it had the means, it was satisfied with them, and agreed in the conclusion to which Ministers had come, and must be sensible that to raise a new controversy would be to put all our hopes to hazard, and perhaps throw back to an immeasurable distance that arrangement and pacification which there was now every reason to believe would be durable.
§ Sir Richard Vyvyan
thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman had fallen into so strange a confusion in his argument, that, although it was now late, he could not help rising to notice it. He meant to advert to that point, that the House was about to decide a question which had already been twice decided. But the questions they had discussed were, whether they approved of what Ministers had done? And whether or no Ministers had acted right in paying this money to Russia? But the question now before the House was, whether the Government 492 should produce or withhold certain papers which it had evidently in its possession, and which would enable the House to form a more accurate opinion upon the subject. Were they to give a blind vote of confidence? That was the question at present. Whether the money ought to be paid might be a question hereafter; but it was a question as distinct from this as that which they had before discussed. Many Gentlemen, however, had been so blinded by the course of argument used on the other side, that they thought they were going to vote against the payment of money to Russia? The hon. and learned Gentleman intimated, that the right hon. member for Tamworth had not acted fairly in talking about important negotiations still pending. But was it fair in the Government, if this treaty formed a part of the great general scheme entered into between the Five Powers (which it must do, for it referred to the separation of Holland and Belgium), to pledge the House upon the whole subject, when it only laid a part of it before them? Hon. Gentlemen were much mistaken, if they thought that a vote of blind confidence on a subject of this importance would not be considered when they came upon the hustings. The Reform Bill was now passed, so that there was no plea for voting on the side of the Government except on the merits of every question. This was a subject in which the interests of the country, and a great question of foreign politics were deeply involved; and it was one upon which he should not have expected the Government would have kept back documents. He thought that the whole matter of this Convention, and the motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair, ought to be postponed, till there was a full discussion upon the separation of Belgium and Holland. The noble Lords opposite, in attempting to defend a cause, in itself bad, had not brought forward even the evidence which they might have done, and which, perhaps, might quite have altered the complexion of the case.
§ Viscount Palmerston
said, that the Government desired it to be understood that the vote upon this question would pledge no one to the general question of the policy towards Holland and Belgium.
§ Mr. Kearsley
next spoke, but amidst incessant cries of "Question." He hoped the House would bear with him for a short time. He did not often trespass on the 493 indulgence of the House, and when he did he was generally fortunate enough to obtain a most cheerful audience. His speeches were "like angels' visits—few and far between." It was only a few nights ago that the hon. member for Middlesex calumniated the emperor of Russia, by calling him "a monster," and he was therefore very much surprised to see that night the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, bandying compliments with the hon. Member, and pitching it right and left. While on his legs, he would take the liberty of addressing a few words to the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Did not that noble Lord know that he was bringing down the Divine wrath on this country by the desecration of the Sabbath? He would inform the noble Lord thatExample strikes where precept fails,And sermons are less read than tales.He knew that he possessed but a weak voice, but if he had a strong one, he would not fail to ring into his gracious Monarch's ears, that his illustrious father would have blushed to have countenanced men who had not a blush in them.
The House divided on the Amendment, Ayes 155; Noes 191; Majority 36.
Committee postponed till the following Friday.
|List of the NOES.|
|Althorp, Viscount||Chichester, J. B. P.|
|Anson, Hon. G.||Clayton, Colonel|
|Baring, F. T.||Clive, E. B.|
|Barnett, C. J.||Colborne, N. W. R.|
|Bayntun, S. A.||Cradock, Colonel S.|
|Benett, J.||Crampton, P. C.|
|Bernal, R.||Creevey, T.|
|Biddulph, R. M.||Denison, W. J.|
|Blamire, W.||Denman, Sir T.|
|Blount, E.||Duncombe, T. S.|
|Bouverie, Hon. P. P.||Dundas, Sir R. L;|
|Briscoe, J.||Dundas, Hon. J. C.|
|Brougham, J.||Easthope, J.|
|Brougham, W.||Ebrington, Viscount|
|Bulkeley, Sir R. W.||Ellice, E.|
|Buller, J. W.||Ellis, W.|
|Bulwer, H. L.||Evans, Col. de Lacy|
|Bulwer, E. L.||Evans, W.|
|Buxton, T. F.||Evans, W. B.|
|Byng, Sir J.||Ewart, W.|
|Byng, G.||Fergusson, Sir R.|
|Byng, G. S.||Fitzroy, Lord J.|
|Calcraft, G. H.||Folkes, Sir W.|
|Calvert, N.||Fox, Lieut.-Colonel|
|Campbell, J.||Gisborne, T.|
|Carter, J. B.||Gordon, R.|
|Cavendish, Lord||Graham, Rt. Hn. Sir J.|
|Cavendish, Hon. C.||Graham, Sir S.|
|Cavendish, Hn. Col. H.||Grant, Right Hon. R.|
|Grosvenor, Earl||Smith, John A.|
|Grosvenor, Lord R.||Smith, Martin T.|
|Grey, Colonel||Smith, Robt. Vernon|
|Handley, W. F.||Stanley, Rt. Hn. E. G. S.|
|Hawkins, J. H.||Stewart, Patrick, M.|
|Heneage, G. F.||Strutt, Edward|
|Heywood, B.||Stuart, Lord Dudley|
|Hobhouse, Sir J. C.||Stuart, Lord P. James|
|Hodges, T. L.||Tavistock, Marquis|
|Horne, Sir W.||Tennyson, Charles|
|Hoskins, K.||Thicknesse, R.|
|Howard, P. H.||Thomson, Rt. Hn. C. P.|
|Howick, Viscount||Torrens, Col. Robt.|
|Hughes, Colonel||Tracy, Charles H.|
|Hughes, Alderman H.||Tyrell, Charles|
|Hume, J.||Uxbridge, Lord|
|Jerningham, Hon. H.||Venables, Alderman|
|Johnstone, Sir J. B.||Vernon, Hon. George|
|Kemp, T. R.||Villiers, Thomas H.|
|Knight, H. G.||Vincent, Sir F.|
|Knight, R.||Walrond, Bethel|
|Labouchere, H.||Warburton, H.|
|Langston, J. H.||Warre, J. A.|
|Lawley, F.||Wason, W. R.|
|Lefevre, C. S.||Waterpark, Lord|
|Leigh, T. C.||Wellesley, W. T. L.|
|Lemon, Sir C.||Wilde, T.|
|Lennard, T. B.||Williams, T.|
|Lennox, Lord A.||Williams, W. A.|
|Lester, B. L.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Lumley, J. S.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Lushington, Dr. S.||Wood, C.|
|Maberly, Col. W.||Wood, J.|
|Macauley, T. B.||Wood, Alderman, M.|
|Marjoribanks, S.||Wrottesley, Sir J.|
|Mildmay, P. St. J.||Adam, Admiral C.|
|Morpeth, Viscount||Agnew, Sir A.|
|Mostyn, E. M. L.||Dixon, J.|
|Newark, Viscount||Ferguson, R.|
|Noel, Sir G.||Fergusson, R. C.|
|Norton, C. F.||Haliburton, Hn. D. G.|
|Nugent, Lord||Jeffrey, Right Hon. F.|
|Ord, W.||Johnstone, A.|
|Paget, T.||Johnstone, J.|
|Palmer, General C.||Kennedy, T. F.|
|Palmerston, Viscount||Mackenzie, S.|
|Pendarves, E. W. W.||M'Leod, R.|
|Penleaze, J. S.||Stewart, Sir M. S.|
|Pepys, C. C.||IRELAND.|
|Petit, L. H.||Belfast, Earl of|
|Petre, Hon. E.||Boyle, Hon. J.|
|Philips, G. R.||Brabazon, Viscount|
|Price, Sir R.||Brown, J.|
|Ridley, Sir M. W.||Browne, D.|
|Robarts, A. W.||Burke, Sir J.|
|Rooper, J. B.||Callaghan, D.|
|Rumbold, C. E.||Chapman, M. L.|
|Russell, Lord J.||Clifford, Sir A.|
|Russell, Lieut.-Col.||Doyle, Sir J. M.|
|Sanford, E. A.||French, A.|
|Schonswar, C.||Grattan, H.|
|Scott, Sir E. D.||Hill, Lord G. A.|
|Sebright, Sir J.||Hort, Sir W.|
|Skipwith, Sir G.||Howard, R.|
|Jephson, C. D. O.||Sheil, R. L.|
|Killeen, Lord||Walker, C. A.|
|Lamb, Hon. G.||Wallace, T.|
|Leader, N. P.||Westenra, Hon. H.|
|Macnamara, W.||White, Colonel H.|
|Mullins, F.||White, S.|
|O'Ferrall, R. M.||Wyse, T.|
|Ponsonby, Hon. G.||TELLERS.|
|Power, R.||Duncannon, Viscount|
|Russell, J.||Rice, Hon. T. S.|
|Paired off against the Amendment.|
|Barham, J.||Paget, Sir C.|
|Beaumont, T. W.||Pelham, Hon. C. A.|
|Blake, Sir F.||Phillipps, C. M.|
|Burdett, Sir F.||Portman, F. B.|
|Burrell, Sir C.||Rider, T.|
|Coke, T. W.||Robinson, Sir G.|
|Dundas, Hon. T.||Russell, Sir R. G.|
|Foley, Hon. H.||Slaney, R. C.|
|Grattan, J.||Stanley, Lord|
|Gurney, H.||Stanley, J.|
|Heron, Sir R.||Strickland, George|
|Hudson, T.||Western, C. C.|
|Lennox, Lord G.||Whitbread, W. H.|