HC Deb 12 February 1847 vol 89 cc1231-2

wished to call the attention of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to a matter which, he was sure, had not come under the notice of the noble Lord, as it related to a document which had appeared only in the Morning Chronicle that morning. He referred to a despatch, dated February 11, bearing to be signed by Lord Palmerston, and addressed to Lord Normanby, and relating to the diplomatic question with the French Government. It was not his purpose to notice the matter of that despatch, but he wished simply to call attention to the fact, that a despatch had appeared in a newspaper which had been sent yesterday from the Foreign Office, according to the account of the newspaper itself; before Lord Normanby could have received it; and before its contents could have been communicated, according to the forms of diplomacy, to the Court for which it was intended, it appeared in a public journal, thereby contravening the rules of ordinary diplomatic relations, and also the constitutional principle on which he now made his demand; namely, that there ought to be no communication to the newspapers of such despatches before their official communication to both Houses of Parliament. He was bound to make this statement the more, believing and feeling as he did, on a perusal of the papers laid on the Table of the House, that the conduct of the diplomatic agents and the good faith of the country had been completely vindicated hitherto by the publication of the papers produced. And, therefore, while he agreed in the conclusion the noble Lord had drawn, though that was not the question now, and believed that the good faith, honour, and candour of this country had been thoroughly preserved by the noble Lord, he must be permitted to express his regret that anything should arise to give umbrage to such a nation as France. It was with the greatest possible respect for the noble Lord, that he put the question whether the noble Lord had any cognizance of such a document being communicated to a public journal?


It is very natural that the hon. and learned Gentleman should ask the question. Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman did not watch very narrowly the proceedings which took place in this House yesterday. But the fact is, I laid, yesterday, upon the Table of the House, a continuation of the correspondence which had previously been placed in the hands of Members on the subject of the Spanish marriages. It contained the last despatch of M. Guizot to the Count de Ste. Aulaire, which had been communicated to Her Majesty's Government, and a despatch from myself to Lord Normanby, stating that there was no intention to reply to that despatch, Her Majesty's Government thinking their case had been fully stated on that subject. I have to return my thanks to the hon. and learned Gentleman for the kind and handsome terms in which he has spoken of the manner in which the correspondence of Her Majesty's Government has been conducted in those despatches. It contained also a despatch from Lord Normanby, complaining of the inferences which might be drawn from certain statements made in the French Chamber; and it contained also my answer to the Marquess of Normanby, assuring him that the confidence of Her Majesty's Government in him was not in any degree shaken by anything that had passed. These papers were presented only yesterday, and got into the newspapers in the ordinary way. I am sorry that, by some accident, the general delivery of the papers should have been delayed; but I beg to tender the hon. and learned Member my own copy. Had the learned Gentleman referred to a particular portion of "the Votes," he would have seen that the papers had been presented, and were accessible to all the Members.