HC Deb 10 July 1838 vol 44 cc129-30
Viscount Sandon

said, that the motion with which he meant to conclude was one to which he did not think, that the noble Lord (Palmerston) would object. It was for a copy of a letter, signed by Sir John Milley Doyle, and other officers of the auxiliary legion, complaining of the commission which had been appointed to investigate their claims. This body of men were induced to go out to Portugal, not with the direct encouragement of the Government, nor as in the case of Spain, by the repeal of an order in council; but it was notorious, that the expedition took place with the knowledge of the Government, and without any discountenance on their part. The service which they had rendered to the cause of Donna Maria was never disputed, the establishment of the present government of Portugal being mainly owing to their defence of Oporto, and their gallant exploits in other parts of Portugal. Their reward had been the greatest suffering and distress. For four years their claims had been kept in abeyance; commission after commission had been appointed, but with no satisfactory result to those ill-used persons. Even the present commission, which was of a more respectable character than those formerly appointed, must decide in a manner unfavourable to the claimants, if they wished their decision to be final; for, otherwise, the government of Portugal declared their intention of referring the question to another tribunal. The noble Lord concluded by moving for a copy of a letter to which he had adverted.

Viscount Palmerston

was perfectly ready to state his concurrence in the opinion that this body of men had rendered very important service, and were entitled to the liberal consideration of the Portuguese government, because it was unquestionable that, if they had not defended Oporto, n all probability the result of the siege would have turned out differently from what it had done. So far as our Government was concerned, though they took no part in encouraging these persons to go out, he was perfectly ready to admit, that their going out promoted objects which the Government approved of, and, so far from throwing any censure on their conduct, they had entitled themselves to the support and attention of Government. Their claims had been left standing for a considerable time; but, for the last two years, the government of Portugal had been in such a state of uncertainty and periodical change, that the irregularity in not disposing of these demands was not so wonderful as it might be considered if the circumstances were different. He could assure his noble Friend, that the British Government had not been indifferent to those claims, and that our Minister at Lisbon had, from time to time, been instructed to afford every assistance, and had frequently been in communication on their behalf with the Portuguese government. He believed he might say, that, without his (our Minister's) interference, the commission now in force would not have been established. The present commission was appointed in December last. The Portuguese who belonged to it were unobjectionable, and it also comprised General Stubbs, an officer whose high character was a guarantee that his influence would be used for the proper consideration of these claims. He could not say, that he had any recent accounts of their proceedings. At the same time he could undertake to say, that they had not made the progress in the investigation which the claimants had a right to expect; and he was aware that the question pending before it was, whether a certain contract, on the observance of which the claimants insisted, was binding or not. He could assure his noble Friend, that he should not fail to pursue the matter, and that whatever influence the Government possessed, should be put in force to bring about a just settlement of these claims, and as early a settlement as might be consistent with the circumstances of the Portuguese government.

Motion agreed to.