Mr. Alderman Thompson
rose to call the attention of the House to the Motion of which he had given notice, relative to the state of the relations of this country with the kingdom of Holland, and especially to the consideration of the very injurious orders of November and December last, which had inflicted not only the most serious injury on the shipping and commercial interests of this country but had inflicted a deep stain on the honour and character of the nation. In other times it had been the policy of England to assist the smaller States of Europe against the oppression of the more powerful; and particularly, she had upheld Holland against France; but it must be confessed, that the recent policy of England, with regard to the King of Holland, was of a very opposite character. Not only had England been a party to a proceeding which deprived that monarch of a great portion of his dominion, but it had also seized all the Dutch shipping lying in our harbours, and had detained them for six months, while every day our men of war were capturing Dutch vessels on the high 1075 seas. It was asserted at first when this course was adopted, that it was a measure of coercion, for the purpose of compelling the Dutch to deliver up the citadel of Antwerp to the Belgians; but that citadel had now been in their possession four or five months, and the embargo was still continued. What account could be given of this, no one, except the Government and their dependents, and those connected with them, yet knew. He had made inquiry of persons deeply interested in the trade of this country with Holland, whether they knew anything of the matters in dispute between the two Governments; but he could never obtain any satisfactory answer. Some said that they related to the dispute about the navigation of the Scheldt, and that although one point in question was the amount of the toll which the Dutch government should be entitled to demand from vessels passing through its dominions, whether it should be one guilder or two guilders upon the tonnage; there was another point, namely that our Government opposed the demand of the king of Holland, which he thought a very reasonable one, that he should have a right to place a Custom-house officer in foreign vessels at Flushing, to continue with them till they should pass through his States. It was impossible, however, to say what the real cause was of the present unhappy state of our relations with Holland, because all information on the subject had been withhold by the Government; but whatever it might be, he now hoped that the right hon. Secretary for Foreign Affairs word be prepared to give the House some explanation. The Government had placed an embargo on all the trade between this country and Holland; yet no statement had been laid before the House of Commons on so important a subject, though a branch of trade was for the present annihilated, which it was necessary to maintain on a good footing. There was no appearance either that any progress had been made towards settling the point in dispute, whatever it was. If the king of Holland had chosen to meet the measure of our Government by a similar measure, by seizing on British vessels in Dutch ports, he believed there were double the number of these in his power to that of the Dutch vessels in the ports of the; United Kingdom. Such would have been the consequences, if the king of Holland had taken that course; consequences which in his (Alderman Thompson's) humble judgment, were very likely to have ended in a 1076 war. But the king of Holland not only allowed British ships in his harbours to proceed to their respective places of destination, but when British ships had since been cast upon the Dutch coasts, every assistance had been afforded them, they had been re-paired and sent away. In order to show the House the extent of the loss which the country had sustained, he would state the amount of the tonnage engaged in the trade between this country and Holland. He had now a petition containing facts on this subject, from South Shields. He had one also from Sunderland, and he understood that the hon. member for Newcastle had one from that important town. The number of ships which cleared out for ports in Holland from the port of Sunderland, in the year ending 5th January, 1832, was 321; tonnage, 54,861; during the same year the number of foreign ships was 78, and their tonnage 7,160. Not one of the 321 vessels, which had at that period been employed in that trade, could now be employed, and they must he idle or enter into other branches of trade. He had himself recently seen 340 vessels in the port of Sunderland, lying totally unemployed, and with no prospect of being employed, because there was now no prospect of profitable employment, or even such employment as would afford a fair remuneration. The number of ships from British ports, which entered the port of Rotterdam in 1832, was 1,200. He had not been able to obtain the official returns of the shipping for the last year, because the official accounts had not yet been laid on the Table of the House; at least he had not been able to examine them. He would therefore next give a statement of the number and tonnage of the shipping of the united Kingdom, engaged in the trade with Holland, in the year ending the 5th January 1832, and of foreign ships in the same trade:—The number of British vessels then was, 1,617; tonnage, 179,488; number of foreign vessels, 784; tonnage 86,461. The British vessels were double the foreign. Every one of these was now idle. The amount of British manufactures, and of foreign and colonial produce, imported by British vessels into Holland, in the year ending on the 5th of January 1832, was 4,631,000l. That showed what an extensive and profitable trade had been suspended by the embargo. Looking also at the state of the relations of this country with Portugal, he was compelled to observe that the conduct of the Ministers in respect to that 1077 country, hail injured an important branch of the trade of this country. Ministers ought deeply to have considered the matter before they had taken a step which must lead the shipping interest into increased difficulties. He found, taking the trade of Portugal along with that of Holland, on an average of three years, that 2,000 ships had been thrown out of employment, having 220,000 tons burthen; and that at a time when the shipping interest was, from other circumstances, in a state of the most trying difficulty. He knew that the trade of London during the last year had exhibited a great falling-off and he did not believe that it had been transferred to other ports; at least, he knew it had not been transferred to Liverpool. The number of vessels which entered the Port of London last year, was less by 919, and the tonnage was less by 1,50,000 tons than in the preceding year. Having made this statement, the House would sec what a vast injury had been inflicted on our own trade, rather than on that of Holland. For the shipowners of Holland had taken measures which almost nullified, with respect to them, the object of our Government. A large proportion of the merchant vessels of Holland, which were adapted to various trades, had been nominally transferred to the subjects of neutral powers. The flag of Hanover, and other flags (the names of Some of which had never been heard of before) were used for that purpose; and the owners of the ships received a profit of from twenty to thirty per cent on the freight. The hon. Alderman here read a letter from Rotterdam, dated 18th of April, and addressed to a great commercial house in London, showing the manner in which our Order in Council had been evaded. But the injury which our trade had suffered was not confined to Europe. When the news arrived in South America, and in the ports of the United States, that our Government had laid an embargo on Dutch vessels, British ships could no longer obtain investments from the South and North American merchants; they considering it manifest that the embargo was preliminary to war, and of course preferred to send their goods by neutral vessels. After some time the alarm abated; but even then neutral vessels obtained five-eighths of a penny freight, while English vessels could obtain only four-eighths of a penny freight; the difference of the insurance being the cause of the inequality. The effect on our trade in the East had also been considerable. There 1078 were Dutch men-of-war at Trincomalee; and great alarm was felt lest English ships should be detained at Batavia, as a matte of retaliation, when it was known then that Dutch ships had been detained in the ports of England. The value of the property under the Dutch flag seized in England ports, was estimated at 3,50,000l. or 400,000l.: the greater part of which belonged to English capitalists; and more than two-thirds of which had been insured in England. Some part of the property alleged to be Dutch, actually belonged to neutrals. Application had been made for its release, which, however, was not obtained until after great delay and expense In one case, in which the cargo was worth only 3,000l., the expenses of the application, of the dock charges, &c. had amounted to no less than 267l. 8s. 6d. The first Order in Council of the 6th of November, had been followed up by another, admitting the release of perishable articles. Great difficulties had, however, resulted from the difference of opinion which existed, whether certain articles were perishable or not. One vessel bound to Rotterdam from Smyrna, and laden principally with fruit, was captured and sent into Gibraltar, where she was ordered to be released on the ground of her having a perishable cargo. Of course she proceeded on her voyage in full confidence; but when she arrived in the English Channel, she was again seized; and although she had the certificate of her release at Gibraltar, the application for her release in this country was refused. Another vessel having a perishable cargo, was detained for six weeks, by which time the cargo had perished, but no indemnification was allowed. It must be evident to the House that all these matters must paralyze trade; and he confessed, that he could not conceive the existence at the present moment, of any question of difference between this country and Holland, which could justify the infliction of so much injury on our commerce. He said our commerce, for so far were the Dutch from having suffered, that not one commercial failure had been the consequence in Holland, He would no longer trespass on the patience of the House, but would proceed to make his Motion, hoping that the noble Lord would throw some light upon the subject. The hon. Alderman concluded by moving, for an account of all vessels detained under the Order in Council of the 5th of November last, laying an embargo on Dutch vessels in our Ports,-as, also, for copies of all 1079 applications that had been made to the Privy Council for the release of such vessels &c.
§ Mr. George F. Young
seconded the Motion, and expressed his entire concurrence in the commercial view which the hon. and worthy Alderman took on the subject; although he must in candour add, that he did not agree with the hon. and worthy Alderman in his political opinions respecting it. He was quite satisfied that the political situation of his Majesty's Ministers, with reference to Holland, had been one of great difficulty; and that they had had no alternative but to compel the king of Holland to accede to the terms proposed to him. But, concurring in the political views of his Majesty's Ministers, he differed from them as to the expediency of the means which they adopted to carry them into effect, especially in laying an embargo, which was much more injurious to English than to Dutch commerce. He did not think, that laying on embargoes, and thereby injuring private individuals, was, under any circumstances, the way in which a dispute between great nations ought to be carried on. He could corroborate what had been stated by the hon. and worthy Alderman, that Dutch commerce had not been considerably impeded by the British Order in Council, for it had been carried on in neutral vessels; and in order to encourage its being still carried on in Dutch vessels, the government of Holland had remitted ten per cent of duty on neutral vessels, Dutch built, and conferred on them the privileges, in Dutch ports, of Dutch ships. In addition to what had been stated by the hon. and worthy Alderman, he had been informed, that an offer had been made by the Government of the Hague to allow eight English vessels to come to Haerlem for butter and cheese, provided eight Dutch vessels were allowed to go to Liverpool for salt, but that the offer had been refused by our Government.
§ Viscount Palmerston
said, that as it was not his intention to object to the Motion of the hon. Alderman, he should not go so minutely into the details of the subject as he might otherwise be induced to do. He was quite willing to admit, that all restrictions on commerce were inconvenient. But if it were asserted as sound argument that, whatever political necessity might require, commerce ought not to be subjected to any inconvenience, that argument would be operative not only against embargo, but against war, and if, in deference to that 1080 argument, we were to sacrifice our political interests, the time would soon come when we should be called upon on the same ground to sacrifice our political independence. The question, therefore, was not whether the embargo on Dutch vessels had been inconvenient to our commerce (although even on that point the statements of the hon. and worthy Alderman were much exaggerated), but whether there had been a sufficient political motive to justify his Majesty's Government in having recourse to a measure which, though one of coercion to Holland, and inconvenience to the commerce of this country, was nevertheless less in severity than war, to which they might have been entitled to resort. Now the question, whether the state of matters between this country and Holland was such as to justify the proceeding adopted by his Majesty's Government, was so mixed up with the consideration of all the transactions between the two countries for the last two years, that to go into it would involve a much wider field of discussion than that into which the hon. and worthy Alderman probably intended to enter. But, if any hon. Member would give himself the trouble of perusing the documents which he (Lord Palmerston) had had the honour of laying on the Table, he would be satisfied that the state of the negotiation between this country and Holland at the time was such, that his Majesty's Government could not consistently with the honour, the engagements, and the interests of this country, avoid taking the step which it had taken. The refusal of the king of Holland to consent to reasonable terms, his rejection of the Treaty of which the House was cognizant, at the same time watching his opportunity to reconquer Belgium, not only justified his Majesty's Ministers, but rendered it their imperative duty to do what they had done, or something still more severe. Having two courses before them, he thought they had done right in preferring the milder. If they had chosen the more severe, all the commercial inconveniences described by the hon. and worthy Alderman would have been infinitely greater; and others, which his Majesty's Government were very anxious to avoid, would have been added to them. The hon. and worthy Alderman had talked of supporting the weak against the strong. It was on that principle that his Majesty's Government had proceeded. Holland was, unquestionably, stronger than Belgium. We had interfered to prevent war between 1081 Holland and Belgium, and therefore, were not liable to the odium of aiding the strong against the weak. All argument to the contrary, was founded on the sophistry that the dispute was, not between Holland and Belgium, but between Holland and England. The hon. and worthy Alderman expressed himself at a loss to understand how the present state of the negotiation between the two countries justified the continuance of the embargo. The House would, of course, not expect him (Lord Palmerston) to explain the precise state of the negotiation at the present moment. That he should not be justified in doing. All which it was consistent with his duty to state was, that his Majesty's Government were anxious to relieve the commerce of this country and of Holland from the pressure of the measure at the earliest moment at which they could do so, consistently with the just objects which they had in view, and with the national honour. The hon. and worthy Alderman was mistaken in supposing that the pressure was confined to the trade of this country, and that it was not felt by the trade of Holland. He (Lord Palmerston) did not mean to say, that our shipping interests did not feel inconvenience from the disruption of intercourse which the embargo had occasioned; al though it was well known, that when one channel of commercial enterprise became closed, another was immediately opened; and that, as the Baltic trade last year was narrowed by circumstances, it this year afforded additional employment for our vessels. Still he did not dispute that the embargo in question must necessarily have occasioned some inconvenience to our commerce. But the hon. and worthy Alderman had proved too much. He had stated the annual averages of British manufactures and colonial produce exported to Holland at 4,600,000l. But then he said the embargo did the Dutch no injury, for they had nullified its effects by coming to our ports and carrying on their trades in neutral vessels. If so, it was clear, that they also nullified its effects on British trade, for in the ships which came to this country covering the commerce of Holland, the manufactures and produce of this country must necessarily be exported. He acknowledged that the measure was inconvenient to English commerce; but he did not think that it was so inoperative on the other party as the hon. and worthy Alderman represented. Until the object in view, however, was 1082 accomplished, he could not give the hon. and worthy Alderman any hope that his Majesty's Government would be disposed to relax its orders on the subject. The hon. and worthy Alderman had adverted to the various interpretations which had been put upon the Orders in Council, and had stated, that in some instances, the release of vessels laden with perishable commodities had been unjustly refused. He (Lord Palmerston) could state cases of another kind in which applications had been made, on the plea that the vessels contained perishable commodities, when in fact they contained no such thing. Would the House believe, that application had been made for the release of a Dutch vessel, detained at Swansea, on the ground of her having a perishable cargo, the cargo of which turned out to be iron. The hon. and worthy Alderman said, that the greater part of the Dutch ships detained in our ports were insured by British insurers. He believed, that he should be borne out in the declaration, that the insurance by au Englishman of a foreign ship against war with this country, or detention or capture by this country, was illegal, and contrary to the Constitution. ["Hear!"] Hon. Members cheered that observation; but he did not hesitate to assert, that if his Majesty, acting on the suggestion of his responsible advisers, subject of course to the opinion of Parliament, thought it necessary for the honour of the country to have recourse to hostile operations against another State, it was illegal for any British subject to interpose and throw his shield over the subjects of that State. He did not feel it necessary to detain the House further. The constitutional question had been fully discussed on a former evening when the Subject was brought before the House by the right hon. member for Tamworth, and he thought that he (Lord Palmerston) had then succeeded in establishing, that the imposition of the embargo was, under the circumstances of the case, conformable not only to the law of this country, but to the general law of nations. The form in which the question had come under the consideration of the House, would afford him an opportunity of offering further explanation, should any circumstances occur to render it desirable; at present it was unnecessary for him to say more.
§ Mr. Lyall
said, that it was impossible the shipping which was thrown out of employment by the embargo could find employment in any other direction. With re- 1083 spect to the petition which had been drawn up in the city of London, it had been signed by the most wealthy, respectable, and intelligent merchants, without any reference to party feelings and that was decidedly against the embargo. With respect to insurances, the doctrine of the noble Lord would be correct if we were in a state of war; but he understood that we were not in that state. In spite of the sneers of the noble Lord, he could not help feeling a sort of compassionate sympathy for our ancient ally. It was impossible to allow mere considerations of commercial interest altogether to efface the recollection of our former political connection with that country—or make the nation forget how much we were indebted to the collateral ancestors of the present king of Holland. The determination of this Monarch appeared to increase with the difficulties of his situation, and it forcibly reminded him of that of his predecessor about 160 years ago, who, when he was pressed by the forces of Louis 14th, by land, and by this country by sea, his territories being at the time nearly inundated, replied to the English Ambassador, who told him that his country would be ruined, "I will avoid the disgrace of seeing my country ruined by perishing in the last dyke." He admitted, however, that the cases were not altogether parallel, though he had not heard one word to justify our perseverance in a course of policy, which was most disastrous to our own shipping interest.
§ The Solicitor General
begged to say a few words as to the established doctrine in Westminster Hall relative to insurances. Under the circumstances stated in this discussion, there could not be the slightest doubt. If the policy was entered into before the embargo there was a clear implied exception of British capture or detention. This was decided very long ago in the ease of "Long v. Hubbard," and bad been recognised over since. It was impossible for any contract to defeat the policy of the British Government. For a policy entered into before the embargo, no English underwriter could be made liable; and whatever before or after, no burthen could be imposed upon an English subject. In reply to what the hon. Member who spoke last had said respecting the sympathy which he felt for Holland, he must be allowed to observe, that when Holland attracted the sympathy of this country in former times her conduct was very different from that which she was at present pursuing. She was then at the 1084 head of freedom, exerting herself against tyranny; but now she had placed herself in alliance with governments which supported legitimacy. He spoke of legitimacy in the sense in which it was used by the Holy Alliance, which used it to cloak the desire to put down liberal institutions all over the world. The king of Holland was exerting himself to bring those whom be called his devoted subjects again under his dominion, and, under those circumstances he did not merit the sympathy of Englishmen.
said, that the sentiments uttered by the hon. and learned Gentleman were quite novel, and had, he supposed, been specially reserved for the Reformed House of Commons. It was singularly incongruous to hear a law officer of the Crown denounce an attachment to legitimacy, and to hold it up as an excuse for persecution, for so he must designate the treatment which the king of Holland had experienced. By legitimate Governments he supposed the hon. and learned Gentleman meant Austria, Russia, and Prussia, and yet the hon. and learned Gentleman himself invoked those very legitimate Governments as parties to the decision by which this obstinate king of Holland refused to abide. If he might venture to offer advice to one who sold advice to all the world, he would recommend the hon. and learned Gentleman to confine himself in future to questions of law, and not to hazard such extraordinary opinions on policy and morality. Such doctrine would not have been uttered in that House fifteen years ago, when constitutional principles were quite as well understood as at the present moment, without being visited with severe reprehension. He wished to know what great political object was to be obtained by persecuting the poor king of Holland? What, he might be permitted to ask, were the duties of a Foreign Secretary? First, to be the guardian of the honour of the country, and next, without allowing himself to be entangled by protocols, to protect the commerce of the country. The noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) might smile at being thus lectured upon the discharge of the functions of his situation, but he (Mr. Baring) would nevertheless venture to repeat that the noble Lord's two leading duties were the guardianship of the honour and of the commerce of the country. If the noble Lord looked only to the direct injury our commerce had received, he would see but little of the disadvantage. To show 1085 that the pending negotiations were not so harmless, he would read extracts from letters from two of the great shipping ports of America, and, if necessary, he was ready to produce the originals. The first was from Mobille, and it was dated the 13th of February last. It stated, that English ships were there fast accumulating, but that they found increased difficulty in getting cargoes, as American vessels were able to carry cotton to Europe at a freight of 12½ per cent less than could be taken by English vessels: hence, it was clear, that nearly all the trade in cotton was carried on in American bottoms. A second letter from the same port, dated 21st February, mentioned that freights were still heavy at the depreciation before mentioned, and that people were unwilling to venture their property in British vessels. From New Orleans, under date of the 10th January, much the same statements were made, and at that date all the insurance companies had raised their premium upon property shipped in British vessels, which put shipments by them out of the question. These were actual commercial letters, proving beyond dispute that the unsettled state of affairs in Europe most materially affected the commercial interests of this country. It appeared further, that the difference on the rate of insurance upon American and upon British vessels was one per cent. One and a half per cent being charged for the former, and two and a half for the latter; and that, although the owners of British vessels had lowered their freights from sixteen to nineteen per cent, they could obtain no cargoes. No doubt other branches of commerce were as much injured as the cotton trade. The effect of the pending negotiations was felt in the Mediterranean, in the Brazils, and in every port of the Pacific Ocean; and it might be said, that the deterioration of the British flag extended to nearly all quarters of the globe. He put it to the House to reflect, whether these were not most serious considerations. At least, Ministers ought to know why they were thus proceeding, and the consequences of that proceeding, better than the noble Lord seemed to do; and he (Mr. Baring), for one, could not screw up his patriotism to the point readied by the noble Lord, when he expressed his satisfaction that the poor Dutchmen were suffering in an equal degree. Whatever the law of nations might be on the subject, the noble Lord must alter the law of conscience before he 1086 could expect people to join in his congratulations. If there were anything to rejoice at in the state of modern Europe and of modern feeling, it was, that the Dutch, essentially a commercial people, had made these great sacrifices to principle; and he, for one, could not withhold from them his sincere admiration. Such was the practical injury of which all engaged in commerce had a right to complain; and although the noble Lord had not stated them, there might be some great political views which humble merchants could not understand, and which prevented the arrangement of existing differences. If such weighty considerations did operate with Ministers, and ought to keep them silent, they were unknown to him (Mr. Baring), and for this reason he had ventured to address the House. The noble Lord had said, that if people would but read all his protocols, they would see how ably he had conducted this matter. He (Mr. Barings, could not assert that he had read every word, but he had skimmed them, and indeed read as long as he could keep his eyes open, but even the noble Lord's pen could not enliven so dull a subject. Having done so, he must unfeignedly admit, that he was at a loss to know what the noble Lord was driving at. He could understand, indeed, that Ministers had taken up the cause of their new protegé, the King of Belgium, and that they wished everything to submit to him—that he should dictate all treaties of peace, and frame them according to the extent and nature of his wishes; but if he were called upon to state what England and Holland were really differing about, he should find himself totally at a loss upon the subject. He wished, therefore, that the noble Lord had condescended upon some explanation of the kind. As far as he (Mr. Baring) could make out, the king of Holland complained that the five arbitrators were reduced to two—that the negotiations began under the mediation of Austria, Russia, Prussia, Great Britain, and France, but that the three first Powers had retired from the trust. "When," said the king of Holland, "you put yourselves again in the same position to undertake this mediation, I am ready to submit to it; but the three Powers most friendly to me, and who are attacked by the King of Great Britain's Solicitor-General for being friendly to me, have seceded." "Aye," replied the noble Lord, "but France and England are united; they are powerful and yon are 1087 weak; they must command, and you must submit." Such was, in effect, the language of the noble Lord to Holland; and he knew that that State was only resisting the measures of coercion which France and England would dictate. If Holland approved of the mediation of France and England, she would of course not resist, but the king of Holland knew, that to yield to them, was to yield to the two Powers who had always taken the view of the subject most hostile to his interests. The points of difference between the Powers were, after all, very trifling; as related to duties, there was, he believed, but a difference of half a guilder, or some fraction of a guilder. For his own part, he was certainly friendly to an alliance with France; but he thought that England had permitted France to lead her too much out of her direct course; and it almost appeared as though France had adopted the policy of endeavouring to embroil England with friendly powers, in order to give additional weight to her own influence. The noble Lord had said, that advantage was attempted to be taken of the exemption in favour of vessels carrying perishable commodities. He remembered perfectly a circumstance of a vessel which was permitted to land its cargo of iron at Cardiff. Upon questions of international law, he had frequently had occasion to differ from the noble Lord, and now he must venture, but with great humility, to differ from the learned Solicitor General on a question of law. In general, to that learned Gentleman' sopininon on legal matters he was disposed to pay great respect. Nevertheless, he could not help expressing surprise at the doctrines which the learned Gentleman had promulgated with regard to insurances. According to his statement, the insurances of vessels laid under embargo by this country could not be recovered in Courts of Law as against the subjects of this country; but if the learned Gentleman had gone to Lloyd's Coffee-house, he would find that, to a point of honour, every underwriter considered himself liable; and that for all practical commercial purposes he would be liable. Such a doctrine would tend utterly to destroy that honourable confidence on which commercial transactions were based, and add new difficulties to those by which the commerce of the country was already embarrassed.
§ The Solicitor General
rose to explain. He wished to distinguish between that legitimacy which it was proper to uphold. 1088 and that legitimacy which, if scrupulously followed, would have replaced the descendants of James 2nd upon the Throne of England, and would call upon us now to regard the Duke of Modena as our Sovereign instead of William the 4th, to whom we had all sworn allegiance.
§ Lord John Russell
must first observe, in reference to what had fallen from his hon. and learned friend, the Solicitor General, that he entirely concurred with him, that it would be a most misplaced comparison to liken the conduct of William 3rd of England, when Prince of Orange to that of the present king of Holland. The same principle that would induce persons to support the present King of Holland, would have induced them to support the title of James 2nd to the Throne of this realm, instead of that of William 3rd. The hon. member for Essex had taunted his Majesty's Ministers with the number of their protocols, and he had been rather severe upon the protracted negotiations, undoubtedly, that had taken place on the subject of Holland and Belgium. But whether the interference of this country in the affairs of Belgium were justifiable or not, at all events the present Government were not to blame for it, that interference having been commenced by their predecessors in office. When his noble friend (Lord Palmerston) took the seals, he did not demand the conference, but found that one had been already agreed to by his noble predecessor, and he went into it, because it was not possible for him to avoid it. The real question which the hon. Gentleman' had left unnoticed, was not, how long they should continue the embargo, but how they should best obtain a safe and honourable peace; and no Gentleman had undertaken to show that a better course could have been pursued to effect that object. The hon. member for Essex had on this, as on other occasions, attempted to throw an air of ridicule over the policy of his noble friend; but the House would recollect the prophecy, which had been confidently promulgated in that House. It had been said, that his noble friend would not be able, by all his negotiations, to preserve the peace of Europe for twelve months, and that if he did, it would be a masterpiece of legislation. The House would also recollect, that an hon. Member recommended as the only means of staving off a terrible war, the dismembering Belgium between France, Prussia, and Holland. The prophet and the doctrinaire 1089 was no less a person than the hon. member for Essex himself. But his noble friend had preserved the peace of Europe for at least twice twelve months, and Flanders was not handed over to France. This, too, notwithstanding the repeated artful statements of the hon. Member and his party, which had no other effect than to encourage the king of Holland in practising every artifice of delay; so as, if not actually to re-annex the entire of Belgium to his sovereignty, to dismember it, and get a slice of it as his second best euthanasia. The hon. Member was not correct in insinuating, that only England and France were united in respect to the policy pursued towards the king of Holland; the other three powers were equally agreed as to the general principle of the treaty or award which the king of Holland was called upon to sign; the only points upon which they expressed a demur, as to compelling him to abide by the award, were mere minor points of detail, not affecting the general principle of the convention of separation. He had, moreover, reason to believe, that the three powers were becoming every day more sensible of the real purpose for which the king of Holland put forward these minor points of cavil—namely, for the purpose of delay and embarrassment, and that all would be united very shortly in compelling him to abide by their common award. It should be recollected, that though the Scheldt tolls were a matter of very little moment to Holland, the principle on which they were exacted was death to the national independence of Belgium. The spirit, therefore, in which the latter resisted their imposition was one of patriotism; that in which the former struggled for their continuance, one of petty commercial jealousy. The hon. member for Essex had displayed in his language great eagerness to cultivate friendship with France: at least such was the meaning of his words in one part of his speech, though it was to be regretted that, in another part of it, he had said something about feelings of jealousy, and looking on her increase of power with an evil eye. Such language reminded him of the words of the poet—Just hints a fault, and hesitates dislike.He could only say that such a course of policy was the most likely to end in war. If to produce such a result were the hon. Member's intention, he would certainly fail, for the people of both France and England were now too much enlightened to be influenced by unworthy commercial 1090 jealousies and national antipathies, which only led to bloody wars and oppressive burthens, that marred and checked their mutual glory and prosperity. To one acquainted with history, it was needless to point out the advantages of erecting Belgium into an independent kingdom. From the time of Louis 14th, to the peace of 1815, Flanders was the greedy object of French rapacity. Witness the wars of William, 3rd, and those of Marlborough, and, still later, those of the French Revolution. Any settlement, therefore, which would effectually place that country beyond the reach of contention—a country which, in the words of William 3rd, was too small to keep up an army of attack, and yet too large to be easily conquered by a foreign state, would be cheaply purchased by 100 protocols, and six months' embargo.
§ Sir Robert Peel
could not but admire the skill with which the noble Lord who had just addressed the House had avoided all allusion to the main question before it—namely, whether the embargo were illegal in principle and efficient in practice. The noble Lord's statements might be all correct, and those of his hon. friend Mr. Baring, all wrong; but the argument whether the embargo was an efficient instrument or otherwise, and whether its being discharged against Holland did not recoil upon and seriously injure those who devised and employed it, was wholly untouched by it. He must say, however, that he had heard the concluding part of the noble Lord's speech with pleasure—namely, that part of it in which he expressed a hope that peace would be preserved by six months embargo. If that were to be the case, then peace must be nearly established, for, if he were not mistaken, the embargo was laid on on the 7th of November, and that was the 10th of May. He was glad to hear the hopes expressed by the noble Lord, but that pleasure was in some degree abated by the statement of the Solicitor General, that Holland had rejected the sound advice of England und France, and fled for refuge and support to Courts the supporters of legitimacy. Such certainly was the expression of the hon. and learned Member. The learned Gentleman, it was true, had afterwards explained what he meant by legitimacy, as if he had been called upon as a writer of a Dictionary. He knew not why the hon. Gentleman had done this. If the learned Gentleman's explanation meant any thing it was, that all popular Governments must necessarily be opposed 1091 to the principle of legitimacy. The hon. and learned Gentleman meant that the three great monarchies of Europe were ranged against England, France, and Belgium. It was not necessary, however, to mix up this question with the question of foreign policy. He would admit, that the object of the noble Viscount (Lord Palmerston) was justifiable, and he would further admit, that it was important to the peace of Europe to bring about this settlement; but if he admitted all this, he would still maintain that Ministers were not justified in coercing and injuring the trade of British subjects, by imposing an embargo for that object. He would maintain, first, that the embargo was, independently of all questions of foreign policy, an illegal and unconstitutional exercise of power and authority of the Crown, whilst, secondly, it was ineffectual for its purpose. The validity of the arguments of the noble Lord depended entirely on the fact, whether we were or were not at war with Holland. If we were not in a state of hostility with Holland, the noble Lord's argument went for nothing: except as an act of hostility to that Power, the embargo was wholly indefensible. But waiving that consideration, he was disposed rather to look upon it as an improper exercise of the prerogative of the Crown. Was the Crown to be authorized to continue in-definitely this restraint upon the commerce of our own people? To establish that as a precedent would be most dangerous and pernicious. If a vessel with iron on board represented her cargo as perishable, what did that prove but that commerce was placed out of the pale of the law, and was obliged to resort to such practices. In addition to its other evils, it became a temptation to fraud. The law was suspended, and commerce was placed under the discretion of the law-officers of the Crown. Surely a power to suspend or enforce all the restrictions implied in the embargo was one very liable to be abused. It was true, that he had heard no complaint of abuse, but it was a power which it was almost impossible to exercise impartially. He for one objected to commerce being taken from under the protection of the law to be placed at the mercy of the Ministers and law officers of the Crown—to commerce being ever put under such control. He was glad to hear that no objection was to be made from the Treasury Benches to furnish the whole of the information required, in order that Parliament might see that this power had not been improperly exercised. It was 1092 said, that some property on hoard of Dutch vessels was released because it was British property, but if British subjects might embark their property on board of Dutch vessels, why might not British subjects in sure that property? He could not, indeed, conceive a stronger argument against the embargo than the important statement of the learned Solicitor General—namely, that it vitiated all contracts of insurance; and, that the under-writers at Lloyd's were not responsible for loss in consequence of the embargo. Could any alignment, he repeated, be adduced more demonstrative of the injustice and impolicy of that embargo? But, then, said the noble Foreign Secretary, the same principle which would justify us in compelling Holland to accept our award by force,—by open war—would, a fortiori, justify us in attaining our objects by measures of mitigated hostility. He denied the position; the law of nations knew of no vacillating, neuter state, neither one thing nor the other; it treated of, and recognized only, the state of peace and war. A declaration of war was founded in practice; it gave parties warning; but in this sort of half-war nobody knew how to act. Was it possible to maintain that, because a third power refused to submit to English domination, that the Government of England, therefore, might place British commerce under the situation in which it had been placed for the last six months? Could this doctrine be applied to America on the ground, for instance, that she had refused the terms proposed to her relative to the north-east boundary? He positively denied the right of imposing an embargo, unless in a state of declared war; and, as Holland had not even attempted any injury against British interests, he denied the right to use such coercive means for carrying into effect any plan of negotiation. He repeated, that the embargo was a most unconstitutional act. In other cases of the exercise of the prerogative of the Crown, the parties might appeal to law; but that case admitted of no such appeal, and the law could afford the injured party no redress. That was a strong argument against it. But the main question was, whether the injury fell on the subjects of Holland or of England. He could not agree that it fell upon the former; and it had been shown that, since the embargo had been imposed, not a single mercantile or commercial failure had taken place, whilst the pressure had been great and severely felt in this country. He did not raise a ques- 1093 tion concerning the general policy of our interference in the affairs of the Netherlands, he confined himself to the injustice, inefficiency, and unconstitutional character of the embargo. Indeed, neither the hon. Member who opened the Debate, nor those who followed him, arraigned the noble Lord's foreign policy, while condemning the embargo as seriously detrimental to British commerce, and that, too, while it had not the effect upon the Dutch which only could justify its adoption. It did not seem to be at all a question of party politics, for the hon. member for Sunderland (Mr. Alderman Thompson) had voted the other evening for the Ballot, and other Members who supported his views as commercial men were in politics favourable to the Ministers. It would be idle, therefore, on this occasion to raise a cry of factious motives; no such motives operated on any Gentleman who was interested in that discussion. There was one very important question connected with this embargo to which he should like to hear a satisfactory answer—namely, whether we were hound to continue it to an indefinite period in virtue of a convention with the French Government. It would indeed pain him to find that an embargo so unconstitutional in principle, and mischievous in practice, and so inefficient for the purpose for which it was designed, should be continued in consequence of a convention with France. He trusted, however, that such was not the case, that the noble Lord had not been guilty of so great an absurdity—to use the mildest phrase—as to enter into such a dishonourable convention. At the time that this mischievously inoperative embargo was imposed, he had declared, that it would defeat instead of forward the object contemplated by it. He maintained the same opinion still, and hoped therefore, it would terminate within its original period. He had then stated, and would repeat, that an embargo was an instrument of war, which could not, from its very nature, be employed in a peace-preserving negotiation. The noble Paymaster of the Forces had been rather critical upon the observations in reference to France of the hon. member for Essex, speaking of them as characteristic of a man whoJust hints a fault and hesitates dislike.without boldly expressing any other species of censure. He would answer the noble Lord by quoting, in reference to the policy of the noble Lord's colleague against Holland, that other line of the couplet:—Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike.1094 Yes, their whole coercive policy was an illustration of these words of the poet. Their embargo was a telum imbelle, sine ictu which had no other effect than rousing a spirit of indomitable resistance on the part of the Dutch, and enlisting on their side the best sympathies of the commercial population of England. And thus—and it ever shoul be——"Even-handed JusticeCommends the ingredients of our poison'd chaliceTo our own lips.Ministers were creating a feeling in Holland which would propagate resistance to British views; whilst in this country they were creating a sympathy in favour of Holland. They were erasing in Holland all the feelings of, ancient; connexions; and he called on those who thought that Holland was in the wrong, to say whether the embargo was calculated or not to attain the objects for which it had been imposed. He called upon the House to abstain from the use of an instrument which was hurtful only to the hand which used it.
complained of the peculiar grievance which the continuance of the embargo inflicted upon his constituents. Before the commencement of the embargo, the quantity of coals exported to Holland from Newcastle-upon-Tyne amounted to between 160,000 and 170,000 tons, and no less than 500 ships were employed in the carriage; but the whole of this trade had been stopped by the embargo. He had letters in his possession, from Dutch merchants to their correspondents in England, stating, that since the embargo was laid on, they had been obliged to resort to Russia for coals. It was to be feared, therefore, that if the restrictions on the trade with Holland were persisted in much longer, this country would be totally deprived of the Dutch trade.
§ Dr. Lushington
said, that no one could, with correctness, ascertain what was the effect produced by the embargo on the trade of Holland. No one could deny, that the effect of it was not the same in Holland as in this country. He wished that reasons had been assigned why it should be different. If the trade of this country was plunged into difficulties by the embargo, the trade of the other country must he necessarily plunged into similar difficulties, from which it would not he easy to extricate it. He really did not well conceive the strength of the argument of the right hon. Baronet who had so lately 1095 addressed the House, when he spoke of a mitigated hostility, though in answer to it he would ask one plain and reasonable question. If the Crown had, and the right hon. Baronet must allow that it had, the right of making war, could it be maintained that the Crown had not the right of inflicting anything that fell short of war? Was there ever such an anomaly as to say that it possessed the one power, and did not possess the other? What, when it was allowed that the Crown might use its power to allay the disturbances of foreign states, could any man come forward, and say that the Constitution forbad the employment of a more mitigated form of that power, and that it must have recourse to its power in the severest shape—that it must, to secure peace, go to war; thus inflicting on the country it governs, one of the greatest scourges, and in the present instance, if resorted to, endangering the tranquillity of the whole of Europe. No man could support such an untenable argument. With respect to what had been said about policies of insurance, he held that no insurance could be made contrary to the regular law of the land on that subject, and that nothing could be more anti-commercial than to allow the principle of insuring against the very acts of the Government of the country. It appeared from some observations he had heard that evening, that it was expected that insurers were to be relieved from the payment of their insurances by the acts of their own country. But how were they to be relieved? At the expense, of course, of the community. On a former occasion he had said so much upon that subject, that he thought it useless to repeat his arguments. With respect to the allusions made by the hon. member for Essex, to part of the speech of his hon. and learned friend, the Solicitor General, he would say, that the hon. member for Essex had not understood the meaning of his hon. and learned friend's words. Really, the change of sentiment of the hon. member for Essex was wonderful. He had known that hon. Member to entertain successively, almost every opinion promulgated in that House, and after all settle in a doubt. The hon. Member sometimes first borrowed the moiety of one man's opinion, and then the moiety of another man's opinion, and when at last it happened that he came fixed with something like an absolute opinion, that opinion was not only inconceivable to the hon. Member himself, but it was inexplicable to every body else. Now if he (Dr. Lushington) understood right by 1096 the meaning of the observations of his hon. and learned friend, they meant that the king of Holland, instead of adhering to the old and liberal practices of his ancestors, had taken shelter under the wings of the Holy Alliance, a power, which, he thanked God, was now every day becoming less powerful—instead of doing an act of justice to a nation once annexed to his dominion, but differing in language, manners, and in feeling from his own, he was forgetful of the desires and wishes of that nation, and in preference consulted the caprice of crowned heads. That was what his hon. and learned friend meant; for he knew that if the king of Holland adhered to the hateful doctrines of the Holy Alliance, the scenes formerly caused by similar doctrines would be probably acted over again, and Holland be either reduced to slavery or become the prey of civil confusion. It would seem as if his Dutch Majesty wished for the renewal of such scenes, when he obstinately declined coming to any arrangement that would be for the benefit of Belgium, and would materially tend to the pacification of the whole world. He had but one word more to say on the question before the House. If there were any man who allowed more readily than another that the country was placed in a difficult situation with respect to this matter, he was the man. But what had he to do? He confessed his inability to look forward and provide a remedy for every possible evil. All he could do was, to look back, and, in doing so, he must remember the revolutions of France, and then that of Belgium, and see the difficulties which a former Government met with relative to Holland. Every one knew what such difficulties led to, and to what they might lead again. When he considered those difficulties, and compared them with the evils of the embargo, he was most thankful that, through the laying on of that embargo, out of accumulated difficulties, peace, and not war, had proceeded. He thought that at the present moment some value ought to be set on the continuance of peace for the last two years, during a period that it was of the most vital importance that it should continue. The consequence had been, that the resources of the country had been economized; and, above all, the shedding of blood had been spared. He thanked God for the continuance of peace, and for the prospects of escaping from the evils of war. If there were still difficulties to encounter, he was very far from going the 1097 length of the hon. Member for Essex, and supposing that his Majesty's Government would be the victims of this system of diplomacy. He had no such supposition—he entertained no such fear. Far from it. He was full of thankfulness for the past, and full of hope for the future.
§ Lord George Bentinck
wished to point out an instance of the way in which this embargo operated. There were two ships in the river, one an English, another an American vessel, freighted for Holland. When the Order in Council imposing the embargo was issued, the freight of the English ship was transferred to the American. The American sailed to Rotterdam, gained by her voyage 360l., and returned to the Thames with a second freight, whilst the English vessel had been the whole time lying idle where she was when the freight was first taken from her. Such an instance showed one of the evil effects of the embargo. The hon. and learned member for the Tower Hamlets seemed to be at a loss to know how the embargo injured the trade of this country without inflicting a similar injury on the trade of Holland. It ill became him to pretend to explain to the hon. and learned Member how the injury to this country was caused, but he would tell him how British trade suffered more and Dutch less. The reason was simple. Three-fourths of the trade between this country and Holland was carried on in English bottoms, and the other fourth in Dutch bottoms; consequently Holland could not suffer in the same proportion. The effect of the embargo was, to injure British trade three-fold. The fact was undeniable, and so was the inference he drew from it.
§ Mr. Pollock
rose to complain that the hon. and learned Civilian had taken the opportunity which the present discussion afforded to allude to a discussion which had happened on a former occasion, and to make general remarks on the hon. Member below him (Mr. Baring). He (Mr. Pollock) thought his hon. and learned friend would have done better not to have made such personal remarks at a time when the hon. member for Essex had spoken, and when he therefore could have no opportunity of vindicating himself. With regard to the embargo, which was the main question before them, he would ask, had embargoes not always been used, not as instruments of peace, but as instruments of war? Was it then to be borne, that the embargo in this case should be used solely 1098 as an instrument by which to facilitate the negotiations carried on by our ambassadors, and the ambassadors of the king of the French, in regard to the separation of Belgium from Holland, in which France was chiefly interested, and the most certain to gain. He admitted, that it could not be said, that the King had not the power of laying on an embargo, even in time of peace; still, when he found that the contrary had uniformly been the practice by the law of nations—and when it was plain that the laying on of an embargo in time of peace was a grievance for which no redress could be obtained in our Courts of Law—he had no hesitation in saying that it was without precedent, and wrong; and he protested against it in the present instance, as tending to place England in a situation which might lead her into an inglorious war, from which neither honour nor ad vantage was to be obtained.
§ Sir Robert Inglis
wised to know whether the noble Lord opposite (Lord Palmerston) intended to say, that the king of the Netherlands was obstinately protracting the pending negotiations with a view to the recovery of his dominion over the Belgian provinces "If the noble Lord intended to make any such statement, he must express his entire dissent with regard to it. He contended that the king of the Netherlands had, from the very beginning of the negotiations, as well as in his speech to the States-General, recognized the separation of the two countries. In fact, there had never existed on the part of that monarch a desire to withhold a recognition of the indepenence of Belgium. He would not enter into the commercial part of the question; all he wished to know from the noble Lord, or some other member of the Government, was, whether it was intended to charge the king of the Netherlands with protracting the pending negotiations from a desire to regain the possession of the Belgian provinces?
§ Lord Althorp
said, that, being called upon by the hon. Baronet, he would answer his question, although he had no previous intention of taking part in the debate. It was true that the king of the Netherlands had agreed to acknowledge the sovereignty of Belgium; but he had done so on such conditions only as rendered it impossible that the independence of Belgium could be maintained. Such an acknowledgement was not likely to effect what they had had always in view in the course of those negotiations, namely, the maintenance of peace. 1099 When hon. Members looked into the condition of those two countries, and considered the impossibility of maintaining the peace of Europe without a proper acknowledgment of Belgium, he thought they would agree with him that no more effectual step could be taken to prevent war. He admitted, and indeed, no man could doubt, that the embargo was very distressing to the merchants and injurious to the commerce of this country; but so was any measure in which it was necessary to use force to obtain a national object. The hon. Gentleman had spoken of the effect of the embargo on the commerce of the country; but the question now was, whether it were desirable that the House should interfere to put an end to this embargo, without taking into consideration the policy which led to its imposition, or if it were better to continue the same policy in order to maintain the peace of Europe. The right hon. Baronet seemed to think that this question had nothing to do with the general peace of Europe; but he would ask the right hon. Baronet whether it were probable, if war did exist between Holland and Belgium, that the general peace of Europe could be maintained? He and the Government of which he was a Member thought that it could not, and their object in laying on the embargo was to prevent such an occurrence. If, then, in the course of the negotiation between those countries it became necessary to use coercive measures against Holland, the question came to be, whether they were to retract, or whether they ought not to persist in the course which they had hitherto followed. It was even a question now whether they had not proceeded so far that it would be inconsistent with the honour of this country to retract. These were his views on the subject; but at the same lime that he considered it the policy of this country to continue the embargo, he was certainly of opinion that it was the duty of Government to expedite the negotiations; and he could assure the House that such was the most anxious wish of every Member of the Government. He did not mean to enter further into the details of the question; but, as he had been called on by the hon. Baronet, he had thought it necessary to make those observations.
§ Mr. Robinson
said, the assertion made by the noble Lord, that those Motions were got up for the purpose of forwarding the views of the king of the Nether-lauds, was most unfounded.
§ Viscount Palmerston
explained. He had merely said, that he knew that those Motions were looked forward to in Holland as likely to relieve the trade of that country from the embargo which he believed pressed more heavily on Holland than on England.
§ Mr. Robinson
thought the distinction drawn by the noble Lord was very nice. He thought that the House had a right to call on the Government to explain in what state the negotiation was, or how long it was likely to last. He could not help saying, that he saw no prospect of its speedy termination. Of the Five Powers which had originally taken part in the settlement of the affairs of Holland and Belgium, three, he believed, had seceded, and the whole affair appeared to be left to the arbitration of France and England; and he was of opinion that if the three Northern Powers had been really sincere in their wish to settle the question, Holland would not have been forced to submit. The noble Lord opposite had mooted a most extraordinary doctrine. He had said, that if commerce were shut out in one quarter it would find vent in another. In the course of his parliamentary experience, he (Mr. Robinson) had never heard such a doctrine from the mouth of a Member of the Government before; but he was afraid that it was the doctrine on which the present Government had frequently acted. With regard to the insurance on vessels on which the embargo had been laid, he could say that at least one-third of the subjects of Holland who had suffered were insured at Lloyd's, and that the loss, in case of confiscation, must eventually come on this country; and whatever the opinion of the learned Civilian opposite might be, he could assure him, that this was the opinion of the underwriters themselves, and of the merchants, as they drew a distinction between an embargo laid on during a war and this embargo, which had been laid on in a period of profound peace. He was convinced that the merchants did not petition the House in order to embarrass Government; indeed, he had never known so much forbearance shown to any Government; and he therefore repudiated the idea that they wished to embarrass the noble Lord and the king of the French. He admitted that it would, perhaps, be embarrassing to the Government, if the embargo were taken off at the present stage of the negotiation; but he thought it would have been much better if it had 1101 never been laid on. He thought the conduct of the king of Holland stood in a most honourable and honest light.
§ Motion agreed to.