HC Deb 08 March 1844 vol 73 cc755-60
Mr. Ewart

rose to make such inquiry as he trusted would not be unbecoming on his part in reference to our relations with Rio de la Plata, and particularly as to the war between the States of Buenos Ayres and Monte Video. He could conceive scarcely any part of the world of so much interest to our commerce as the Southern States of the Southern Continent of America. There was scarcely any part of the world yet unexplored by our commerce, capable of increasing it to so large an extent. As far as river communication was concerned, there was hardly any country so favourable for commerce as those vast provinces watered by the Plata, the Parana, and the Paraguay. The commerce of these States was of the greatest importance to this country. He need not refer to the article of hides, but he believed that the country in question had also the means of extending the cultivation of cotton. Indigo, too, might be produced there, and they had recent experience that wool—before almost unknown as coming from that part of the world—now formed one of the largest articles it sent into our markets. South America now stood third in the list of our sources of supply of that article. But the cotton trade claimed a still greater share of the consideration of this country. Our exports in 1841 to Rio de la Plata amounted to 1,000,000l. One half of this amount consisted of cotton goods. The amount of woollen goods was 200,000l. There was also a considerable export of linen goods, and looking to the elements of demand for our manufactures, he thought that there were few regions claiming our attention as much as those of the Rio de la Plata. Turning to the imports from thence into this country, he found, that of late years, they had very considerably increased. He had already alluded to the article of wool. In 1830, we only imported 30,000 lbs. of wool, while we now imported 5,000,000 lbs., and that was the species of wool on which the wool duty was most onorously felt. He would next touch on what might be called the diplomatic part of the question. He had heard complaints of various sorts upon this part of the subject. It was hoped by people engaged in the trade, that the suspension of commerce which had taken place, would be put an end to by the joint interference of the French and English Governments. Our own commerce with Rio de la Plata was almost paralysed by the unfortunate war now waging. He knew that a great many of the persons who were in the habit of supplying returns for our manufactured goods, were forced to serve in the ranks of the conflicting par. ties, particularly by General Rosas. He had heard also that there did not exist a feeling of harmony between the English and French Commanders on the coast. Complaints had also been made of the conduct of our Minister at Buenos Ayres, and it had been stated, that he showed himself more favourable to the Buenos Ayrean than to the Monte Videan party; while the Commander on the coast was accused of being more favourable to the Monte Videan than the Buenos Ayrean party. In the hope that some course would be adopted which would have the effect of bringing about a general harmony in the proceedings of Government, and their officials, and of putting an end to this foolish war, he now appealed to the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government. It was expected by the merchants of Liverpool, and the manufacturers of Manchester, that the combined operation of the French and English Governments would have put an end to the war. Such, however, had nut been the case. He had recently seen it stated that a French vessel had sailed from Rio Janeiro to the mouth of the Plate, and it was thought to have been the bearer of some common resolution on the part of both Governments, with the view of putting an end to the petty animosities of the discordant states. He would not say whether justice was on the side of Rosas or Rivera; his object was the extension of our commerce and manufactures, and the general interests of this country and the world. He was convinced that the general policy of the right hon. Baronet, was a peaceful policy; and so far as was consistent with his duties as an independent Member of Parliament, he would support him or any other Minister in that policy; but he trusted that he would be enabled, along with that great man at the head of the French Government, to consult the interests of this country and of humanity, by maintaining, without dishonour to either nation, the peace of the world. It was in the hope that some common understanding might become to by the Governments of France and England, that he asked the right hon. Gentleman to state whether he could give them any hopes of the probable conclusion of this unfortunate warfare. France was, as well as this country, deeply concerned in its concluclusion; and where there was a common interest, there might be a common combination; and it might not be impossible that the Government of this country, and that of France, might be successful in putting down a war, in the termination of which they were mutually interested.

Sir Robert Peel

had heard with great satisfaction the observations which the hon. Gentleman had made towards the conclusion of his speech, with respect to his determination, as an independent Member of Parliament, to place a liberal construction on every Act of the Executive Government in this country, which had for its object the maintenance of amicable relations with France consistently with the honour and interests of this country. The hon. Gentleman might depend upon it, that no compromise of the mutual interests of the country, or the honour of the country, would take place; but the hon. Gentleman, and those who concurred with him in politics, were strengthening the hands of the Government, and facilitating the grand object of the maintenance of peace, by the avowal of their determination not to look out for subjects for party advantages, while (the Government) was labouring honestly for the maintenance of peace, by throwing out imputations that they were acting in subservance to France. He wished that the great man at the head of the Ministry, in that country, who was now pursuing, from the purest and most honourable motives, a course perfectly consistent with the honour of his country—a course of which the grand aim was to maintain peace—he wished that that great and good Minister had not such obstructions thrown in his way, for party purposes, which he (Sir Robert Peel) was proud to say, were not thrown in the way of his own Government. He believed that the Prime Minister of France was influenced by precisely the same motives by which the Ministers of this country were influenced; he believed that M. Guizot was convinced that for the interest of both countries, for the general interests of commerce and civilisation, that it was of the utmost importance that a good understanding should be maintained, consistently with their mutual honour, between the two nations. But that Minister was determined to purchase that good understanding by no concession injurious to the interests or to the honour of France, and he could justly hear that testimony to his character and conduct. He had found that that was always the principle by which M. Guizot was governed, and he hoped that the liberal and enlightened public opinion of France would support hint against those violent party attacks with which he had to contend. He (Sir Robert Peel) quite agreed with the hon. Gentleman as to the importance of our commercial relations with South America. He also agreed with him as to the lamentable consequences of this most foolish war. He did not look merely to the importance of Buenos Ayres, or of Monte Video, but he looked upon the river Plata as the great natural inlet for our commerce with that portion of the South American continent. It was the channel by which the productions of that country would naturally be conveyed to this country, and by means of which, also, our manufactures were to be conveyed into the interior; and, therefore, he concurred with the hon. Gentleman that nothing could be more injurious to the commerce not only of this country, but to that of South America, than the continuance of this war. The conflict, however, was by no means of an ordinary character. It was the rivalry of personal interests, carried on at the expense of the happiness and industrial prosperity of the country. But the hon. Gentleman must recollect that he should forfeit his claims to the bon, Gentleman's confidence as a minister of peace, if he undertook to control the discretion of these independent states by too forcible an application of power. The Government had already resorted to every means short of actual armed intervention for the purpose of terminating the war. They first offered singly the mediation of England at an early period of the war. They afterwards offered, in connection with France, the joint mediation of the two countries. That mediation was accepted by Monte Video, but was rejected by Buenos Ayres. No effort had been left untried for the purpose of terminating the war; and he hoped that the hon. Gentleman would agree with him in thinking that it would not be wise for this country to interfere, by force of arms, to compel the restoration of peace. Indeed, he doubted whether tranquillity, obtained by such forcible means, would be likely to last. At all events, it would be necessary, in the event of such a measure being adopted, that the armed force which had been employed in restoring temporary calm should remain there to enforce the peaceful arrangements. Whether it would be possible for the Brazils, France, and England united to put a stop to hostilities by force, he would not say; but it was quite clear, that if any armed intervention could be justified, it could only be so by the concurrence in it of the three Powers most deeply interested in the termination of the war—Britain, France, and the Brazils. With respect to the conduct of the diplomatic agents and the naval officers, he would remark that they being on the spot, and lamenting the continuance of hostilities, had laboured most zealously to terminate them. It was possible, that in their zeal they might have stepped rather beyond the strict line of their instructions; but if they have done so, they had been influenced by the best motives and the sincerest desire to restore tranquillity. By recent accounts which he had received, he thought it likely that the war would soon be brought to a termination. However, it was difficult to say. Nothing could be more complicated than the condition of the parties engaged in it. It was not properly a conflict between Monte Video and Buenos Ayres. In fact, there was a strong Buenos Ayrean party in Monte Video. There was a Federal party and an Unitarian party—not, of course, having any relation to the Unitarians of this country—in Buenos Ayres, and, therefore, the war might be considered as rather between different parties in Buenos Ayres than between Buenos Ayres and Monte Video. There was also mixed up with the contest the personal rivalry of General Rivera and General Rosas, a rivalry carried on with fierceness and acrimony which it was almost impossible for the people here to form an idea of. But he repeated that the last accounts which he had received, gave him reason to think that there was a probability that peace would be restored, in consequence of the reverses sustained by one of the conflicting parties. He thought that Buenos Ayres would probably prevail, but he trusted that upon peace being restored, the party which might have the ultimate triumph would adopt the policy of healing the wounds so wantonly inflicted on the two countries, by taking measures for the restoration of commerce and peaceable industry, and by cementing the good understanding between them by mutual commercial relations with this country.

Order of the Day read.