HC Deb 01 February 1837 vol 36 cc65-70
Mr. A. Sanford

brought up the Report on the Address.

On the question that it be agreed to,

Mr. Grove Price

, in order to guard against a supposed acquiescence in that part of his Majesty's Speech which related to foreign affairs, wished to state that he continued to hold the same opinions as those he had declared in the last Session of Parliament with respect to the impolicy of the interference of this country in the domestic affairs of Spain. It was not his intention, however, to offer any opposition to the Address which had just been read, but he begged it to be distinctly understood that in yielding a tacit consent to the opinions therein staled, he reserved to himself a full right, when the question was brought forward in a more tangible shape, of expressing what were his real and decided opinions upon the subject. Convinced as he was of the ultimate success of that cause for which he felt interested, and which he begged to observe had not been materially injured by the affair of Bilboa, he should feel it to be his duty as a Member of the British Parliament to exercise, when the proper opportunity presented itself, his independent voice in support of that cause.

Mr. Maclean

did not intend at that moment to express any opinion as to the policy or impolicy of the treaty entered into with the Queen of Spain. Upon that subject he reserved to himself the right of expressing a full and candid opinion upon some subsequent occasion. His object in rising then was to prevent any misapprehension of what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) upon the subject last evening. He (Mr. Maclean) agreed with the right hon. Baronet that the co-operation of the British force could not be objected to if that co-operation were such as had been guaranteed by the treaty into which the Government of this country had entered with the Government of the Queen of Spain. He (Mr. Maclean), however, was of opinion that when the question came to be fully investigated, as it ought to be, it would be found that the co-operation, if such it could be called—or the intervention, if such it had been—or the trans-limitation, if that were to be taken as the proper term for it—had not been such as was guaranteed by the treaty, and that the aid afforded to the Queen of Spain was such as might place this country in a dangerous position. When the proper documents were laid upon the table he thought there would be no difficulty in proving that the co-operation alluded to in the Address, instead of being within the words or spirit of the treaty, was directly opposed to both.

Sir Robert Peel

was surprised that any misapprehension should have arisen as to the course which he yesterday stated his intention of pursuing. If such a misapprehension had arisen in the minds of any hon. Gentleman, he was quite sure it must have been occasioned by the circumstance of his having stated twice over what it was that he meant to do. What he stated was, that he was prepared to give his assent to that paragraph of his Majesty's speech which related to foreign policy, provided the aid afforded to the cause of the Queen of Spain was in strict conformity to the engagements into which the Government of this country had entered with the Government of the Queen. But leaving that point open for discussion, he added, at the same time, that the term "co-operative force," used in the speech from the throne, was of an equivocal character; and inquired whether that force was such as would come within the conditions of the treaty. That was the understanding upon which he gave a qualified consent to the portion of the speech which referred to the subject; and he had repeated it twice, hoping there would have been no misconstruction of his meaning.

Mr. Maclean

had not mistaken the right hon. Baronet's meaning himself, but he believed others had done so, and he therefore took the opportunity of mentioning it, in order that the misapprehension might not extend further.

Viscount Palmerston

said, there certainly was no misunderstanding on his side of the House as to what fell from the right hon. Baronet on the previous evening. He perfectly understood the right hon. Baronet to say that which he had now stated. Undoubtedly hon. Members on the other side, by assenting to the Address as now proposed, did not pledge themselves in any way adverse to the opinions they had on former occasions expressed relative to any of the topics contained in it. He would only further say, although it was unusual for an individual to express regret that his opponent had not made a longer speech against him, yet he assured the hon. Member for Sandwich, that when a longer attack should be made on our foreign policy, he should be exceedingly happy to meet it.

Mr. Plumptre

hoped he should not be deemed out of order in adverting to what he considered to be an omission in the King's speech, inasmuch as no allusion was made to the prevailing epidemic, nor any recognition of the Divine Providence. Since the House last met, the country had been visited with more than one extremely severe affliction, upon which the King's speech was totally silent. Surely some reference ought to have been made to this subject, and to the will of the great Disposer of all events, the great Dispenser of national prosperity. He believed that at no time, in no nation, though plunged in the deepest ignorance, had an occasion like the present been allowed to pass by, without some recognition of God's dispensation; and he very deeply regretted that no mention had been made of these visitations in the King's Speech. Both individuals and the country had suffered much during the last six months. A great deal of property had been destroyed by severity of weather, and at this very moment there was scarcely a family in the country, (though they might not he in a very alarming state) who was not more or less in a state of affliction. He should have thought it would have been as well at such a time, to have recognised the great superintending Power, and wise Disposer of all events. He believed that the great truth of Holy Writ applied as well to nations as to individuals —"Them that honour me I will honour, but they who despise me, shall be lightly esteemed." It was on these grounds he protested against this important omission.

Sir George Clerk

could not avoid expressing his disapprobation, as a Scotch representative, that among the various topics mentioned in the King's speech, no allusion was made or information given upon a subject which had for some time past excited the deepest interest throughout Scotland: he referred to the result of the Commission appointed two years ago to inquire into the means of religious instruction in that country. As far as he knew from common rumour, the Commissioners had completed their labours; and, respecting a subject of such importance as that of ascertaining whether there was any deficiency in the means of religious instruction in so important a part of the empire as Scotland, he could have wished that some notice had been taken in his Majesty's speech. He thought the Ministers ought to have afforded information to Parliament as to whether they had received any Report from the Commissioners, and if so, whether it was their intention at an early period to call the attention of the House to it. This was no party question, but was interesting to every Member of that part of the empire to which the inquiry related. He therefore hoped the noble Lord would be able to give the House some satisfactory explanation on the subject.

Lord John Russell

, with respect to the observation that had fallen from the hon. Member for East Kent (Mr. Plumptre) must say, that he so far differed from him, that he (Lord John Russell) did not think it would be advisable to lay down, as a constant rule, which ought never to be departed from, that, in every speech from the Throne, Ministers ought to introduce the name of Divine Providence. He thought if that were to be laid down as a general rule, and it should be made a matter of attack upon the Ministers who did not observe it, it would become in time a mere matter of form, and the words would have very little effect. So far from promoting the object which the hon. Gentleman had in view, the using constantly, and trivially almost, in the speech from the Throne the name of Divine Providence would induce persons to pay less attention, and to be less solemn upon such an occasion, than they ought to be. He did not concur with the hon. Gentleman that there were any peculiar circumstances which, at the present time, made it necessary that they should have introduced such words into his Majesty's speech. It certainly had happened more than once. It happened no longer ago than in his Majesty's answer to the Address of the House last year, when his Majesty stated, that he would always study, under Divine Providence, to maintain the high character of this country, and promote the welfare of his people. That acknowledgment showed certainly that those who advised his Majesty to use those words, were not neglectful of that sentiment which it was his Majesty's disposition always to entertain—a sentiment which became the King of this Christian country. With respect to the observations made by the hon. Baronet (Sir G. Clerk), he trusted he could give what the hon. Baronet would deem a satisfactory answer. If the Report of the Commission on Religious Instruction in Scotland had been received, it would have been a proper subject for his Majesty to have mentioned in his speech; but, in fact, although he had been informed that the reports would be ready, yet he had received no Report until Monday night, after the speech had been approved by his Majesty, when it reached the Home-office. The Report received was one relating only to Edinburgh. It had since been sent to Lord Minto, one of the Commissioners, to receive his consideration, whether he should think proper, not having been able to attend the Commission throughout, to acquiesce in it; it being considered desirable that the Report should be signed by all the Commissioners. He expected that the Report would have been by this time on the Table of the House; and he could assure the hon. Baronet, if it were not presented to-day, it should be to-morrow.

Mr. Twiss

could not concur with the noble Lord in the opinion that such mention of the Deity would be inexpedient. The solemn nomination of Divine Providence in the initiative Act of so high a legislative body, while it would derive weight and dignity from the importance of the occasion, on the one hand, would, on the other, exhibit a remarkable fitness to the peculiar circumstances in which, by the interposition of Providence, the inhabitants of these countries were placed. There were some occasions upon which acts which might otherwise be deemed merely formal, were especially proper, and peculiarly becoming. National calamities, in the shape of epidemic disease, were undeniably of this description, and the solemn mention of the Divine name in a solemn Parliamentary document would, he repeated, be suitable to the principles pervading a Christian country, and befitting the national character. Another reason in support of his view, was the fact that a reform or measure of some description respecting the Established Church of this country was hinted at in the course of the Speech which had been read to them on the preceding day. Anxious to preserve that church unimpaired, he was equally anxious for the maintenance and diffusion of religious sentiments; and it certainly appeared to him not too much to expect that the expressions of loyalty and affection addressed to the Head of that Church should be coupled with the name of Divine Providence.

Report of the Address agreed to.