HC Deb 13 March 1832 vol 11 cc129-34
Sir Richard Vyuyan

said, he would take that opportunity to put some questions to the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Department on the subject of the French expedition to Ancona. On two previous occasions, when questions had been proposed to his Majesty's Ministers on the subject, they had stated their inability to afford the House any information; but as some time had since elapsed, he hoped now to be more fortunate. Since he had last called attention to the subject he had seen a protest issued by the Pope, in which there were some passages which proved that an invasion had been made into the Papal dominions. As the protest had, he presumed, been read by almost every Member or that House, he would merely trouble them with an extract, solely with a view of proving that an invasion had been made. The hon. Baronet read the following passage:— On the 23rd of February, at three o'clock in the morning, the French troops landed clandestinely, and placed ashore 1,500 men, who began by throwing down the gate called Marello, which was not guarded; from thence they proceeded to make themselves masters of the gates of the city, disarming, at the same time, the Papal guards. They surprised with about one battalion, the guards of the dweling of Colonel Lazzorini, Commander of the fort and city. They then sent up to the gates of the Colonel's residence a serjeant of the Papal guards, whose voice was known to the people of the House, and at whose demand the doors were opened by them. Colonel—immediately presented himself to the Commander, and declared to him that he was a prisoner of war of France until such time as he ordered the fortress to be delivered up to him. The Commander refused to do so, and the Colonel caused him to be conducted, with the Adjutant Major of the Papal troops, to the Palace of the Pro-Legate, to which place the Colonel himself returned, to intimate to the Commander that he should not be set at liberty until the fortress was delivered up. Upon receiving another refusal, he declared that the Commander, as well as the Officers, functionaries, and military employés, were prisoners, granting them, on the parole of the Commander, permission to consider the city as their prison. Such being the state of things, it was, of course, but natural to suppose that some explanation would be called for, not only by the Government of England, but by the members of the Chambers of Deputies in France; and, accordingly, he found that, in reply to a question from some member of the French opposition, M. Perier had, on the 27th of last month, made a long statement in the Chamber of Deputies, which clearly proved that France, in what she had done in the dominions of the Pope, had acted without any consultation with the other Powers of Europe, thereby taking on herself the business of meddling in the affairs of the internal States of Europe, whose existence principally depended on the just balance of power. The passage which he thought particularly deserving of attention was this:— But France has still other duties to fulfil; she knows that the re-establishment of physical order is not sufficient to ensure solidly the tranquillity of nations, unless it be accompanied by the satisfaction of those legitimate and enlightened demands which are addressed peaceably to the heads of States. Thus, with the view of serving the government of the Pope, which has been exposed to so sharp an attack, as well as with that of maintaining general order, and that balance which we have had in view, our Government has employed every possible mode of persuasion with the Holy See, hoping to obtain ameliorations in favour of those cities which had been placed under its authority, and thus to prevent, by modifications wisely suited to the country, those troubles, the return and the repression of which, by foreign aid, ought to be guarded against, faithful to its policy, the definition of which I have given, the Government for its own interest, as well as for that of the Papal government, and always with the maintenance of peace as before, to preserve which all causes of collision and of umbrage must be avoided—the Government being principally instigated by the endeavour to found the security of the Pope's power upon more stable means than those of a periodical repression, conceived it to be their duty to take a determination, which, so far from appearing an obstacle to the solution of difficulties which were to be resolved, appeared, on the contrary, likely to render that solution more expeditious: it was with this end that our troops disembarked at Ancona on the 23rd February. As was the case with our expedition to Belgium, our expedition to Ancona, conceived in the general interest of peace, as well as in support of the political interest of France, will have the effect of giving new activity to those nego- tiations in which all the Powers will concur, with the view of ensuring, at the same time, the security of the Papal government, and the tranquillity of its States by efficacious and durable means. Now, he begged to ask, what would be the consequences if such a principle as that by which M. Perier vindicated the conduct of the French government was acted upon towards England? He confessed that his motive in calling the attention of Parliament to the subject was, not to defend the Papal government, but to direct attention to the interests of England; which were indirectly affected by the course which the French had adopted. The Allied Powers might, with almost as much justice, declare against the mode of trial in force in England as insufficient for the protection of order or present a remonstrance to his Majesty's Government representing that a part of these realms were periodically disturbed in such a way as to require measures of coercion be yond the ordinary law of the land, and that a Congress had been held in which it had been resolved that the peace of Europe required the interference of the Allies to adjust the differences between his Majesty's Government and the people of Ireland, without the intervention of the British Parliament. Although it might appear that what he had already quoted, was explicit enough, the opposition in the French Chamber was not satisfied and on the 8th of March, the French minister again asked by General La Fayette for details upon questions of foreign policy, spoke as follows:— As to the Italian question, I would again ask the chamber if it were possible to enter into more clear and precise explanations than those which have been already given? I have said, that the Austrians, having occupied Bologna, the government was obliged to take a step in the interests of France as a continental power, and as having to protect considerable religious interests in France, which demand the more protection, as, in separating the temporal power from the spiritual influence, it behoves us to protect them in the spiritual chief of the Church abroad, so as to prove that the Government is really a protector, not only of material interest, but also of moral and religious interest, of that sentiment which should never disappear in the nation. At the same time, I should explain to the Chamber all that we have done in our attempt to obtain ameliorations on the behalf of the inhabitants of the Legation, we have never ceased, in concert with the different Powers, as may be done by one Government to another, from giving advice in favour of such ameliorations; this advice has been more or less successful, and it is not our fault that it did not always succeed. This speech strongly reminded him of those of Cromwell on occasions when he did not wish his Parliament to understand him. One thing, however, was perfectly plain, namely, that the interference of France took place contrary to the wish of the Pope. His object, therefore, was, to inquire from the noble Lord, whether the protest of the Pope was to be considered as an official document—whether, in fact, the Ministers of Great Britain had received such official information as to enable them to say, that the document, protesting as it did against the occupation of Ancona by a foreign Power with which England was in alliance was authentic. He assured the House that he felt as much as any man could the necessity of preserving peace; but, at the same time, he felt the necessity of watching the interests of Great Britain. The surest way to bring on a war was, to appear not to see what was evident to every person, that France was determined to take the lead in the affairs of Europe. He wished for the continuance of peace. It was for the interest of both countries that it should continue. If, however, there was such a thing as French honour, there was also such a thing as British honour. He was not to suppose that the Government of this country did not or would not expostulate. He felt assured that they would expostulate, and that an apology must yet be made to the Papal government for this encroachment on it as an independent Power. The only question he should put to his noble friend was this, whether he had official notification that the protest ascribed to Cardinal Bernetti was authentic or not?

Viscount Palmerston

was happy to be able at length to give his hon. friend a direct answer, as he considered himself unfortunate in having had questions frequently put to him of late, particularly by his hon. friend which it was not consistent with his duty to answer. But he was now able to inform the hon. Baronet that his Majesty's Government had received from one of his Majesty's Ministers abroad, the copy of a document, similar to that which the hon. Baronet had seen in the newspapers, and to which his question referred. The hon. Baronet might, therefore, assure himself that the paper in question was a correct copy of the protest of the Pope, making allowances, perhaps, for errors in the translation. The answer he gave on the 23rd of February to the question put by his hon. friend was twofold. In the first place, he said he had reason to know that the expedition was in preparation; and, secondly he stated, that he had then no information of its having sailed, and such was the fact at the time. His hon. friend said, the manner in which the French troops behaved at Ancona was inconsistent with the independence of States. That opinion was not entertained by him and his hon. friend alone, but by the French government also, for the foreign Ministers at the court of France was informed, without delay, that the French Officer in command at Ancona had exceeded his orders, and was recalled. In putting questions relating to such nice matters the hon. Baronet always prefaced them by saying, that he was desirous of the maintenance of peace between France and England, and that its preservation was important to the interests, not only of England, but of all Europe. If such were the sentiments of his hon. friend, certainly he took a strange way of demonstrating the peacefulness of his disposition, by endeavouring to goad his Majesty's Ministers into proceedings which, to say the least of them, would in the end excite unfriendly discussions between the two Governments. For his part he was at a loss to understand on what principle it was, that his hon. friend supposed that England was bound to the defence of the Papal territory more than of any other part of Europe. He was, however, as sensible as his hon. friend that anything which would have the effect of disturbing the balance of power would be injurious to the interests of England. But he could not acknowledge that there was any parallel in the case of the French occupation of Ancona to that supposititious case which his noble friend had put respecting Ireland. If it should ever occur that the King of this country should be compelled to call upon foreign troops to assist him in restoring peace in any part of these realms, then he would say, that the independence of England was at an end.

Mr. Pigott

said, that although the French government denied that they had taken possession of Ancona with hostile intentions, as respected the Pope, yet the fact was, that they held it in opposition to the expressed wishes of that Sovereign. He called on the House and the Government to remember that this was the sixth military expedition of the French since the restoration of the Bourbons, and the third that had taken place within a very short period. He was glad to have heard from the noble Lord a disavowal of the principle on which France had now interfered between the Pope and his subjects.

Colonel Evans

would give no opinion whether the course pursued by France was consistent with the law of nations, but this he would take upon himself to say, that the policy of Austria with regard to Italy was, to reduce it to a state of political subserviency, and if the active interference of France led to improvement in the political state of that country, it must be of essential benefit to England towards preserving the balance of power.

Sir Richard Vyvyan

said, that the dismissal of the French officer would not be satisfactory, unless the transaction was disavowed by the French government.

Conversation ended.

Dropped Orders read.