§ On the question that the Order of the Day be read for resuming the Adjourned Debate on Portugal,
§ MR. B. OSBORNE
said, that the publication of the correspondence of the French Government with this Government gave a new complexion to the intervention in Portugal; he wished to know whether the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) was prepared to lay on the Table a copy of any despatch previous to the 1st of May, authorizing Colonel Wylde to threaten Sa da Bandeira with the armed resistance of the British forces?
§ MR. BANKES
gave notice that, in the event of the resolution of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) being negatived, and that of the hon. Member for Finsbury being carried, he proposed to move the addition of the following words:—But this House laments that Her Majesty's responsible advisers should have recommended Her Majesty to interfere by force of arms, on behalf of either of the two parties who are engaged in the civil war, without any communication on the subject from Her Majesty to her faithful Commons.
LORD J. RUSSELL
wished to address a few words to his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury, with respect to the Amendment he had proposed to the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose. His (Lord J. Russell's) right hon. Friend 598 the Member for Edinburgh had stated, and in that statement he fully concurred, that in the sentiment and language of that Amendment the Government were quite ready to agree; but he was afraid that if that Amendment were put to the House as a substitute for the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose, it might be interpreted that no decision of the House had been given upon that Motion. He should wish, therefore—if his hon. Friend had no objection—that the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose, which was a direct censure on the Government, should be put to the House first; and that his hon. Friend should afterwards move his resolution, which, either in the shape of a resolution or of an Address to the Crown, he should be happy to support.
had no objection to meet the wishes of the House as to the manner in which the question should be put; his only object was to secure in the melée of parties on this subject some benefit to the people of Portugal. He was quite ready then to adopt the course suggested by the noble Lord, on condition, it was understood, that the Motion should not be afterwards withdrawn.
§ MR. TRELAWNY
inquired whether the hon. Member for Finsbury, in using the words in his Motion, "every just means in their power," contemplated the use of arms in order "to secure to the people of Portugal the full enjoyment of their constitutional rights and privileges."
§ Order of the Day read,
§ SIR DE L. EVANS
was understood to deny the assertion of a previous speaker, that civil war had been excited and provoked in Portugal by Her Majesty's Government. He should rejoice at the conversion of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, and the hon. Member for Evesham, to liberal principles, if he could believe that they would persist in the same course after that was accomplished for which they joined in a vote of censure upon Ministers. The supporters of the Motion had failed to establish the proposition that foreign intervention in the internal affairs of a nation was always attended with bad consequences. The authorities on the law of nations had laid it down as a rule, that foreign interference was justifiable in a case of civil war. He contended that Das Antas had received due notice that his ships would be captured if they put to sea. 599 Those who objected to what the Government had done, did not venture to say what they would have had them do. If our Government had looked quietly on, until the triumphant popular party had taken possession of the government, what guarantee would have existed for their prudence and moderation? So far from this country having interfered to suppress popular rights, it appeared to him that it interfered to insist on the maintenance of them. He had a sincere wish for the security of the liberties of Spain and Portugal; he had been concerned in the revolutions of both those countries; and the liberal parties in both of them had expressed a wish that he should take the command of their armies, notwithstanding some aspersions that had been cast upon him in other places: this was not merely from any professional pretensions on his part, but from a reliance on his wish to support the liberal cause. He believed the Government in this intervention had only a choice of evils before it, and that it had taken the least. It had incurred a deep responsibility; it was bound to see that free institutions were given to Portugal; and that responsibility England was able to undertake.
§ SIR R. PEEL
rose with several hon. Members on different sides of the House; but the other hon. Gentlemen giving way, the right hon. Baronet proceeded to address the House. He said: Sir, as this debate has lasted two nights, and as I think the practice that has grown up of confining the more important part of the debate to two or three hours at the close of the evening, is prejudicial to the public service, because it leads to an unnecessary consumption of the public time, I intend, as far as my humble authority will go, to enter a practical protest against it, by delivering the few observations I have to make at this, to a speaker, unpopular hour of the evening, Sir, I perfectly concur in an observation made in the course of this debate, that the decision to which the House should come ought to be a decision on the abstract merits of the question. I agree that no consideration of the position of Her Majesty's Government, or of the pendency of a general election, or of the embarrassment that might arise from a sudden change of a Ministry, ought to induce the House to give its sanction to the policy of the Government, or withhold its assent from the Motion that has been made, if this House does really believe that the 600 object of the recent intervention has been to support absolute power in Portugal, or that the consequences of persevering in that intervention will be to endanger the public tranquillity in Portugal, or involve this country in imminent peril of war. There are many Motions of light importance in respect to which the decision may, I think, be fairly influenced by extrinsic considerations; but this is not one of them. This question is of too much importance to be treated or decided upon any other grounds than its own intrinsic merits: upon that principle alone I shall give my vote upon it.
Sir, we are called on by the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose to affirm that, in the opinion of this House, an armed interference between political parties in Portugal is unwarrantable in principle, and likely to be attended with serious and mischievous consequences. That vote will be a vote of censure, if not direct, yet implied, upon the Government; and the consequence of it will practically be the reversal of the policy on which the Government has entered. An adverse expression of opinion on the part of this House will completely paralyse the bands which direct it. And the question is, whether I am justified by considerations of justice and public policy, in affirming a proposition which implies not only a censure on the Government, but an abandonment of the policy which is at this moment in the course of execution? Sir, I am about to exercise a privilege which is most agreeable to me; I am about to give my opinion without any of that circumspection and reserve which necessarily fetter the Members of an Administration and the leaders of a party. I am about to state the opinion which, after an attentive perusal of these papers, and after listening to this debate, I individually hold. I speak no other man's opinion; I know not what may be the opinion or the vote of any other man; I undertake only to give my own honest and conscientious judgment on this matter, without reference to any extrinsic circumstance or consideration.
I first ask, what was the motive of Her Majesty's Government in interfering in the domestic concerns of Portugal? I separate the motives and objects of the Government from their acts and proceedings. I have read these papers; and if I believed, with the hon. Gentleman who makes this Motion, that there had been a wanton departure from the principle of non-interfe- 601 rence—if I believed that the object of the Government had been to range itself on the side of despotic power—and to crush the struggling liberties of Portugal—I would have most cordially concurred in a vote of censure. But, after reading these papers—and speaking now of the motives of the Government as distinguished from its acts—I acquit it of any other intention than to support an ancient monarchy, and at the same time to combine with the support of that ancient monarchy, guarantees for the constitutional liberties of the people. With respect to many painful transactions, the Government had given advice to the Government of Portugal before it committed itself to any active interference: was it wise to give that advice or not? It would certainly be a plain and simple course to decline in every conceivable case to give advice even to a friendly Government. We might in this case have said, "We have enough to do to manage our own affairs, without concerning ourselves with those of Portugal." It was possible to take that course, and it would have relieved the Government from a great responsibility. But that has not been the course taken in former times with respect either to the Governments of Portugal or of Spain. I speak without prejudice on this subject, for I was no party to the Quadruple Treaty; I objected to the obligations you incurred by that treaty; I thought it unwise to enter into them, better at that time to permit the people of Spain and Portugal to decide for themselves between the rival branches of the respective houses of Bourbon and Braganza; I am, therefore, free from any prejudice on this subject. But I cannot enter into the consideration of what has been recently done without remembering that the Quadruple Treaty has been entered into. You have contracted these special obligations to which the Four Powers are parties; you have guaranteed the thrones of Spain and Portugal to their present possessors against the other two branches; and if Don Miguel were to reappear in Portugal, or a descendant of Don Carlos in Spain, then you would be bound by the obligations of that treaty to interfere, not certainly for the purpose of establishing a particular party in the domestic government of either country, but to take part in a civil war for the maintenance of one branch of the family on the throne against another. In deciding, therefore, on the recent policy of 602 the Government, either in giving advice to Portugal, or interfering actively with its affairs, we must bear in mind not only our ancient relations with that country, the importance of Portugal from its geographical position, and the long connexion which has subsisted between us, but also the special obligations by which we are bound in certain cases to a joint action with other countries in respect to the succession to the throne of Portugal. I have said that it has not been usual to abstain from friendly intervention, either with respect to Spain or Portugal. When Mr. Canning was Secretary for Foreign Affairs, the Duke of Wellington being a Member of the Cabinet, Lord Fitzroy Somerset was expressly despatched in 1823 to give advice to the Spanish Government; and despatched too to advise it to modify the too liberal constitution, to give increased power to the Sovereign, and to alter the terms of the constitution, that were supposed to be too favourable to the democratic power. Lord Fitzroy Somerset was the bearer of a letter addressed by the Duke of Wellington to the leading men of Spain; the object of that letter came under discussion in 1823; and when Parliament, at the instance of Mr. Canning, rejected the Motion made by Sir James Macdonald, and affirmed the policy of Mr. Canning, the fact was before the House of Commons that we had attempted, no doubt from the most friendly feelings, to avert from Spain the danger of threatened invasion from France by advising the modification of her constitution. Therefore, I say that the practice of advising the Governments, both of Spain and Portugal, has not met, in former times, with the censure of this House. Then, Sir, if I look at the nature of the advice given to Portugal in the despatches of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, I see not a word in that advice of which a British Minister has reason to be ashamed. I am speaking, now, of the advice given before we had committed ourselves to forcible intervention. What was that advice? When it was intended to commit that act which we cannot hear without shame at this period of civilization—when it was intended to transport men who had engaged in a civil contest, but who had capitulated on the assurance that they should be treated as prisoners of war —gallant soldiers, though they may have been mistaken in the construction of their duty—when it was attempted, in violation of good faith, to transport these men to an 603 unhealthy climate, I find the British Government remonstrating against that act, and earnestly advising that, both with reference to the interests of humanity, and to an enlarged and comprehensive view of the interests of the Portuguese monarchy, such an atrocity should not be perpetrated. Sir, I think that the Government was justified in making that remonstrance and giving that advice. Then, again, I find the British Government remonstrating against the shameful decree that all prisoners taken in arms should be instantly shot; wisely and properly leaving the Portuguese Government to draw the inference that it was impossible for us to countenance or support them, or show them any sympathy, if acts of that kind were committed; endangering the throne in the estimation of its own subjects, and bringing upon the Government the indignation of every civilized country. In every instance in which advice was given, I find it to be in favour of forbearance—in favour of lenity and moderation; and, inferring the motives from the advice, I cannot think it consistent with justice to visit the Government with the condemnation which this Motion implies.
Then, Sir, I come to the acts of the Government, and I am perfectly willing to admit that it is not sufficient that the motives and intentions should have been good if the acts were in themselves unwise. You may acquit the Government of intentional misconduct; but if their acts he at variance with justice or sound policy, you are perfectly at liberty, if not to censure the Government, at least to compel the revocation of the acts. In reviewing the acts of the Government, the 5th of April is a day of the utmost importance. Up to the 5th of April we had limited ourselves to friendly advice, to warnings, and to remonstrances; and up to the 5th of April I think there can be few persons disposed to censure Government on account of any step they had taken, or any advice they had given. In viewing the subsequent acts of the Government, I certainly should attach considerable weight to the motives and intentions by which they were dictated—not that good motives and intentions would justify acts which are impolitic; but in considering the acts, I should have material regard to the motives and intentions which influenced them. The question is, whether on the 5th of April, when it is clear that the Government departed from its former course, and undertook not merely 604 to give advice but to make proposals which in certain contingencies involved the necessity of armed intervention, there is a sufficient vindication for this change of policy? Now, first of all, it is to be observed, that we who are in the position of judges after the event, have a great advantage over those who had to form a decision, providing against very complicated and uncertain contingencies. That which was then obscure is now as light as day. Upon all those combinations which had then to be considered, and of which the issue appeared very doubtful, the light of history has been shed. Being in possession of all the facts, having a knowledge of all the events which have taken place, it is now easy to see the mistakes that have been committed. Sir, I place myself in the position of a Government which, on receiving the representations of the Portuguese Government in the month of March, had to decide in the month of April what course they would pursue; and, to do justice to their case, it is absolutely necessary to attempt to forget all we now know, and consider what we would have done with the information before us which they had in the early part of April. Sir, I cannot conceive a decision more difficult to be arrived at. On the one hand, there was a Government which had done acts that merited disapprobation; there was every argument against forcible intervention in the domestic concerns of Portugal; there was the danger also that, by intervention, we might set the precedent for other and future interventions, from which very serious embarrassments might arise; and no doubt these were considerations that ought to be maturely weighed. There is no man in this House who feels more strongly than I do the grave objections that apply to a wanton and unnecessary intervention in the affairs of other countries. The danger is, that by that intervention you are not propping up the institutions in favour of which you interfere—you may be sowing the seeds of weakness, instead of strengthening the cause you espouse. But, on the other hand, it became a Government responsible for the administration of public affairs to consider also what course it was fitting to pursue with reference to the general interests of humanity, and the restoration of domestic peace in a country in the internal peace of which we were entitled to take a deep interest. Was there a prospect of an early termination of these intestine quarrels? Were not parties 605 so equally balanced, that this conflict having continued from the 7th of October last, there was every probability that, if we and other Powers also stood aloof—if we said to the Portuguese, "You must fight it out," we should have been witnesses of a terrible struggle, impeding industry, engendering permanent discord between inhabitants of the same nation, members of the same family, without a prospect of any termination, through the superiority of one party or the other.
I wish to take nothing whatever for granted. I wish to state to the House what is the evidence which, had I been a Member of the Government, having to act in the latter days of March, I am not prepared to say that I would have taken another course than that which, under great difficulties, Her Majesty's Government finally determined to take. It is easy to substantiate a charge of inconsistency against a Government which is compelled to change its policy. After the free and unrestricted communication of every letter written at an early period, it is easy, from the pens of those who wrote despatches, and the mouths of those who uttered opinions, to convict a Government of such inconsistency apparently on their own evidence. Up to the 5th of April they deprecated intervention. They thought it unwise; they wished to prevent France and Spain from intervention; of course, they used every argument against it; but when necessity forced intervention, then, no doubt, the arguments used against intervention may be cited against those who employed them. But, admitting the original policy of abstaining from intervention ourselves, and of discouraging intervention on the part of France and Spain, the simple question is, whether, towards the latter end of March, a change of policy was not rendered necessary by a change of circumstances? I look to the question, first, as far as the general interests of humanity are concerned. You might, perhaps, even with respect to Portugal, with which you have had treaties for 400 years, you might abstain from all interference by rigidly adhering to the principle of non-intervention. You might say, "We have misery enough on our own hands; we have severe distress in Ireland and the west of Scotland; we will not incumber ourselves with the responsibility of interfering in Portugal." A Government might take that course; but I venture to say, if you had taken that course, other countries 606 would have interfered, and in their interference they would have carried with them the sympathies of half Europe. Portugal, let it be recollected, has special claims on us. She stood on our side in the greatest conflict that ever threatened the repose and liberties of Europe; she gave us the advantage of a military position at Torres Vedras, from whence our illustrious Commander started on his career to achieve ultimately the liberties of Europe. It is impossible you can view with indifference or disregard the condition of Portugal. What was the condition of Portugal—its internal position, towards the latter end of March? I take the accounts which reached the Government at the moment when the necessity for decision had arrived. Here is a despatch from Sir Hamilton Seymour, dated the 14th of March—received by the Government on the 22nd. I will first justify the conclusion to which I come from a reference to the condition of that country, and its imperative claims for interference on our part with reference to the general interests of humanity, apart from the obligations of treaty. Sir Hamilton Seymour, writing on the 14th of March, in a despatch received on the 22nd, says—Every day serves to aggravate the miseries of the country. To present want and distress, future famine will be added, if those who ought to be employed in cultivating, are to be engaged in laying waste the land.But this state of things had continued from October to March. There was no sufficient superiority in either party to terminate the civil war. We were suffering from famine at home; and here was a country, our immediate neighbour (for the sea now constitutes not separation but neighbourhood), adding to our difficulties. Could we see, without deep regret, that country laid waste by intestine feuds, and the pressure thus increased on the resources of other countries? Again, on the 19th of March, Sir H. Seymour writes, in a despatch received on the 28th—The financial condition of the country is daily becoming worse; before this reaches your Lordship, the discount of notes will probably be 50 per cent. Extensive importations of corn have been lately made, the most considerable from Liverpool.Just consider what was the demand from other quarters on the Liverpool market; what was the price of corn there; the necessity we had ourselves for preserving as much of Liverpool corn as we could for the maintenance of our own people. What 607 must have been the condition of that people, when it is said—Of the scarcity and dearness of bread, you will form some idea by the fact, that the last cargoes from Liverpool were sold at a profit to the importer of 30 per cent.That corn was sold at a profit of 30 per cent. The people who ought to have been cultivating the soil, were engaged in cutting each others' throats, without the prospect of bringing their quarrels to a conclusion. What was to be the condition of that country, with reference to the sustenance of the people, if that state of things were to go on; and we, adhering to the rigid principle of non-intervention, had refused to interfere by any act by which such calamities might be put an end to? The English Consul, Mr. Johnson, in a letter received by the Government on the 15th of March, states—In Vianna, the authorities have seized corn; they broke open the stores of Mr. Russell, an Englishman. The state of affairs on the Douro, is very vexatious to our merchants; the merchants can neither bring down their wines, nor send pipes or staves to Regoa.Here, there was a proof that the continuance of these civil commotions materially interfered with the security of British property, and, by interrupting commerce, directly affected the interests of British subjects. In a despatch of a subsequent date, Sir H. Seymour describes the disposition of the people in the very neighbourhood of Lisbon, and the plans of the party which he calls "the anarchists:"—The plan of the anarchists was, to set fire to some old houses in various parts of the town, to force the prison doors, and let loose some 1,200 or 1,400 prisoners. When a populous town is to be fired at various points, and when the confusion which ensues, is to be increased by the presence of all the vilest malefactors in the hands of justice, it is idle to inquire what precise political objects are sought for, or at what exact points conflagration and excesses are to cease.You had the British fleet in the Tagus; you heard from your Minister that the plan of the anarchists was to set fire to Lisbon in different parts of the town; to discharge, for the purposes of anarchy and confusion, the vilest malefactors to the number of 1,400. I ask you, if, having that fleet in the Tagus, we could remain perfectly passive, and permit Lisbon to be destroyed by convicts turned out of the gaols? I say nothing of the intention of France and Spain to interfere. I think that the conduct of France and Spain manifested a confidence in this country. I think that the Government cannot found 608 its vindication on the allegation that France or Spain were inclined to interfere separately. But the force of circumstances would have compelled them to interfere. If the Queen of Portugal had said, "I will give guarantees for future good government; I will proclaim an amnesty; I will recall obnoxious edicts; I promise to govern constitutionally;"—if the British Admiral, having received these guarantees, had yet stood aloof and permitted Lisbon to be fired, and malefactors to be turned out from the gaols for the destruction of life and property in the streets, Spain and France would have interfered. They would have rescued the Queen; they would have rescued life and property from a savage assault. The assent and sympathy of Europe would have been with them; on account of their intervention for such objects, and you would have been the parties condemned for permitting in your presence such outrages in that country which, to a certain extent, you have virtually taken under your protection. You would have relied in vain for your vindication on the rigid principle of non-intervention: the blood of the British House of Commons would have risen against you in favour of interference to protect a Queen and her capital from anarchy and murder.
But what security was there that the cause of liberty would have triumphed— what security that the insurgents would triumph? None whatsoever. The probability was, that the Queen's cause would have triumphed rather than the insurgents. Observe what has taken place. Although Spain had not directly interfered, she had a force on the frontier. She was lending the moral authority of Spain to the Queen and her Government. She had not only marched her forces to the frontier—she had facilitated the passage of the Queen's troops through part of her dominions. Her forces on the frontier were ready to act. Had events taken a sudden turn—had the fortunate moment for the entrance of Don Miguel within Portugal arisen—Spain would have interfered, for she had in that case a right to interfere, and was prepared for interference. But she was already lending the countenance of the Spanish Government to the Queen of Portugal, by having her army on the frontier. A proposition was made for the enlistment of a Spanish army, to be officered by Portuguese, and employed in the cause of the Queen. You deny that Spain would interfere; but Colonel Wylde writes on the 609 21st of March a despatch, received on the 28th of that month, in which he says, "Saldanha's demand to he allowed to raise a legion in Spain, has been acceded to by the Government here." That was direct Spanish intervention. If the authority of the Portuguese Government had been upheld, the upholding of that Government would have been duo to Spain. Spanish interference was given; and how was this to be resisted? Colonel Wylde went on to say—I have no doubt, if this measure is carried into effect, that none but ready-made soldiers will be enlisted, and that every facility will be afforded him by the Spanish Government for obtaining them by allowing men to volunteer from the regular army.That was the information of which, on the 22nd of March, the Government was in possession. I take for granted that the official accounts are correct. I have no information except that which I derive from the official papers. [Mr. HUME: Saldanha only demanded to be allowed to raise a legion.] Colonel Wylde says, "Saldanha's demand to be allowed to raise a legion in Spain, has been acceded to by the Government here." Why, Government has to act on probabilities, has to come to a sudden decision on information transmitted by its own agents; and, if you found that there had been a legion of Spaniards engaged in Portugal, it would be too late to remonstrate, and most difficult to carry any remonstrance into effect. Unless you chose to send a military force to Portugal, and identify yourselves with the insurgent force against that of the monarchy, you would have no means of effectual resistance against the invasion of Portugal by Spain in aid of the Queen's cause. Now, what are the indications that the insurgent cause was likely to triumph? Sir H. Seymour, in a despatch, dated the 18th of March, received the 28th of March, says—Events of such a nature are taking place here, as to make it evident that a crisis of some sort must be at hand. Marshal Saldanha writes to the Queen announcing his intention of resigning his seat in the Council, in the event either of the Queen's refusal to sanction an application for the assistance of Spain, or of any attempt being made to come to terms with the insurgents.Consider what was the position of the Portuguese Government at that time. The Queen, it is admitted, was menaced with great dangers. The Commander in Chief being also the Prime Minister, had threat- 610 ened to send in his resignation if the Queen did not make early application to Spain for assistance. How great, then, was her motive to seek from Spain direct military assistance, when such was the counsel of Her Ministers, and when this was the threat they had made? On the 19th of March, in a letter received on the 28th of March, Sir H. Seymour says, "I cannot doubt that an application to Spain for assistance will be made." Supposing the Queen had been victorious, where was the guarantee in that case for constitutional liberty? You will find strong evidence in these letters, that although the Junta at Oporto was very firm, that yet there were intestine divisions in the Junta—that the people were undecided—and that in the province of Beira there was no wish to encourage the insurgents. With the Portuguese forces under the command of Saldanha, backed by the countenance of Spain, the probability was, on the 28th of March, that the Queen would have been victorious. And, when the Government was exulting in unexpected victory, what security would you have had for moderation or forbearance or constitutional order? Observe who are the parties that would have constituted the Government. The Government would have been composed of those who had advised the transportation of the prisoners taken at Torres Vedras—of those who had counselled the issuing of decrees by which men taken in arms should be instantly shot. If these things had been done in the green tree, what would have been done in the dry? If you had refused all intervention—if you had said to the Queen of Portugal, "We stand aloof; we leave you to settle the question;" supposing she had triumphed, what right would you then have had to interpose to prevent her reaping the fruits of the victory? My conviction is, that, if you had held aloof, and the Queen had triumphed, the same motives which led to those decrees with respect to the shooting of persons taken in arms, and the transportation of prisoners of war, would have again operated, and would have left you no security whatever cither for the restoration of constitutional liberty, or even for the practice of decent forbearance or generosity towards the vanquished. There were, too, many motives that influenced the decision of the Government. They saw, no doubt, all the objections to intervention. They knew all the danger of having to make use of a 611 Spanish force; but, on the other hand, they knew also the danger of decisive victory of one cause or the other, and all the consequences which, as we know from experience, generally follow such triumphs; and I cannot, in justice, join in the condemnation of a Government which, balancing these conflicting considerations, came to the conclusion, that it was, on the whole, better to make proposals which, as I admit, if rejected, led to the necessity of a further intervention. There was every probability that the proposals made would have been accepted, and that no necessity for forcible intervention would have arisen. The Government took that chance; and it was impossible for any Government to proceed otherwise than on probabilities. Having prevailed on the Queen's Government to offer those conditions, you had no alternative, if they were rejected, but to assist her in enforcing obedience from her revolted subjects. There was again another danger to be guarded against; there was the danger of France and Spain interfering if you remained neutral. I have already said that I think the conduct both of France and Spain in these negociations, proves a disposition on their part to place full confidence in Her Majesty's Government. They have throughout evinced no inclination to obtain any advantage to themselves by an interference separate from this country; and I am glad that the noble Lord withdrew the imputation cast upon M. Guizot and the French Government of an intention to offer to the Queen of Portugal an independent intervention. I saw that withdrawal with the greatest satisfaction; for I believe that, after those unfortunate differences which have prevailed between this country and France, in respect to which I think France is in the wrong, there has been every wish on the part of France to take an early opportunity of evincing a desire to act in unison with us in restoring peace to Portugal. I do not think that M. Guizot ever wished, or that he ever contemplated, a separate intervention; nor can I believe that the Minister of Louis Philippe, considering what is the foundation of that monarch's throne, would have advised a wanton or unnecessary interference in the internal affairs of another nation. Remember, however, that the Minister of France, though disposed to show confidence in this Government, did, nevertheless declare his opinion to be that the Por- 612 tuguese Government was entitled to receive aid from the Spanish Government. M. Guizot entertained an opinion—and I think a sincere one—that under the Quadruple Treaty the Three Governments were entitled to interfere. M. Guizot contended that even if a casus fœderis had not actually arisen, the principle which had dictated the signatures to that treaty still remained in force; and he dwells on this fact—that General Povoas, the Miguelite general, had been admitted to great influence at Oporto; and he considered that circumstance most material in justifying the Portuguese Government in asking aid from Spain. Therefore I give entire credit to the Government of France for its professions of confidence in us. I believe, too, that the object of M. Pacheco was to act cordially with us; and I acquit M. Guizot and the French Government of any intention to obtain particular advantages for themselves. But, in the state of things which might have ensued, if such acts as those to which I have referred had been perpetrated—if Lisbon had been fired—if the malefactors had been turned loose—then France and Spain would have been fully justified in interfering, even had you refused; and I again say, that if these events had occurred, France and Spain would have found support and approval in the public opinion of Europe. It may be to us and to our interests a matter of comparative indifference what takes place in Portugal; but consider Spain. The dynasty of Spain holds its authority by nearly the same tenure as the dynasty of Portugal. Spain could not overlook the considerations which dictated the Quadruple Treaty. Placing ourselves in the position of Spain—seeing the identity of interests which prevails between the dynasty in the possession of the throne of Spain, and the dynasty in possession of the throne of Portugal—we must acknowledge that, apart from the Quadruple Treaty, a common interest and the necessity of preventing anarchy in Portugal, constitute a case which would justify Spanish interference, if such a calamity as that which I have mentioned had occurred.
Now, turn to the other alternative—supposing, instead of the Queen's forces, the insurgent troops had been successful—I see no evidence whatever that a greater degree of moderation would have been exercised by them. I see nothing in the formation of the Junta forces, nothing in 613 the course they took after our propositions were made to them, to assure me that justice or generosity would have prevailed had they been victorious. Considering that their proposal was that there should be no commander-in-chief—that there should be detached corps acting under generals with separate authority—that the Government should be handed over to them, and that their troops should garrison Lisbon and Oporto—there was little prospect that in the event of their triumph, there would have been moderation or justice in their counsels. And, therefore, choose either alternative—the triumph of the Queen's cause, or the triumph of the insurgents: it is possible you might have gained an advantage in the termination of an harassing civil conflict; but you would have found in neither case any guarantee for the restoration of constitutional liberty— for mutual accommodation—for that oblivion of past crimes, that mutual generosity, on which alone the hopes of future peace can be founded. Seeing, then, the probability that this strife would have long continued if not suppressed by your means — remembering that it was for the interests of humanity that you should interfere —looking to the great likelihood that, if you had not interposed, France and Spain would, however unwillingly, have been compelled to interfere—to the probability that in either issue, whether the result were a triumph to the Queen or to the insurgents, moderation and justice would not have been maintained — adverting to these considerations, all of which had to he weighed by the Government, again I say I will not consent to visit with condemnation those who, under such difficulties, deemed it expedient that Great Britain should at last interfere. And it is upon these grounds that I shall give my vote against the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. I think it inconsistent with justice to visit the Government with censure; I think they have done nothing which disentitles them to the confidence of this House, so far as their conduct in relation to the intervention is concerned. Now, as to the question of public policy—which is a far more important subject for our deliberation—is it wise, I ask, while these transactions are pending—while plans resolved on are being carried into execution, to control, by a decision of the House of Commons, the Executive Government, and to require that this policy must be abandoned? Perhaps you do not require that it should be aban- 614 doned—suppose it must be continued: by whom? The hand that has to execute it will be paralysed if struck by a resolution of the House of Commons. What will you do after having adopted this resolution? What will be the effect on the public policy of the country of affirming your resolution? Will you release Das Antas and the insurgent forces, or will you continue them prisoners of war? You surely will not say, "We are content with having censured the Government, and we will leave them to encounter the difficulty as best they may?" [Mr. HUME: There is no difficulty.] Will you, then, replace Das Antas and his 2,500 men in the British steamers, take them back to Oporto, and say to them "Gentlemen, we have been in the wrong; it is right we should make you compensation, and return you exactly to the position which you originally occupied; any damage we have done to you or your cause we are willing, as far as possible, to repair; we, therefore, bring" you back to Oporto, and give you permission to fight it out? "Is that the course you would now take? If you have done wrong, and if you do not wish to inflict injustice, you have no other means of repairing the mischief; though it will hardly be enough merely to release Das Antas. I know not, indeed, what course the Executive is to take if visited by our censure. To-morrow night it may be necessary to give instructions or answer some despatch. How can this he done without a distinct explanation on the part of the House of Commons of the motive by which it is guided in affirming this resolution? Is the Minister of the Crown to say to Portugal, "I have entered into this engagement; it is disapproved of by the House of Commons; I must creep out of it as well as I can; I must avoid the fulfilment of the conditions I accepted?" But what language will you hold to the other parties to the Convention — to France and Spain? You declared to them that the necessity for interference had occurred. You knew that no separate interference was desired; and, though you denied the obligations of the Quadruple Treaty, and though you did not think the casus fœderis had arisen, yet, in deference to the principle of that treaty, the Queen of England invited France and Spain to be parties to the intervention. You will inform them that the Queen of England can no longer fulfil her engagements; but surely you do not intend to prohibit those Powers from pursuing the 615 policy on which they entered in concert with you, and by your advice? After having crept out of your obligations, you do not expect that France and Spain, who entered into the agreement at your suggestion, will also withdraw? You surely do not expect that the French Government will say to the Chambers, "We interfered at the solicitation of the Queen of England; we were willing to give our aid; but the Queen says she cannot fulfil her part in the Convention, and she tells us also, that she cannot permit us to fulfil ours?" Is it probable that the French Government will be guided by your resolution? No: the consequence will be, that Spain and France will alone carry out the intervention. How is the Queen of England to remonstrate? The very danger, therefore, that you have apprehended, viz., the exclusion of your own influence, and the establishment of the authority of France and Spain in Portugal, will inevitably take place under your eyes; and I defy you, in accordance with the principle of any international law, to make any remonstrance against it. I say, then, it is infinitely better we should continue to act in concurrence with the other Governments, bringing to bear the moral influence of the Three great Powers which established the throne of Donna Maria and of the Queen of Spain; that we should not attempt to control the Executive Government, acting amidst considerable difficulties, by any resolution of ours which would compel a course undignified and impracticable; that we should leave the Government to decide unencumbered and unembarrassed by our advice or our remonstrances. An Amendment has been moved; but I am ready to vote against the Motion without any Amendment, on the abstract merits of the question. If I were a Member of the Government, I would not consent to an Amendment, which, after all, will be passing by this censure. To the principle of the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury, I have no objection; the question of affirming it by the House of Commons, is another matter. The Government has said to the Queen of Portugal, "The conditions which we must require from you, are, complete and entire amnesty and exemption from penal consequences for every person engaged in this insurrection; we will consent to no exception; we require you to withdraw every decree since the 6th of October at variance with the established constitution; we also require you to con- 616 stitute a government which shall inspire general confidence, and from which there shall be excluded every one liable to public suspicion or distrust; and, lastly, we earnestly implore you to remove that person who has occupied a prominent place in the palace, and whose situation in Portugal exposes the Government to suspicion." These were the terms on which the intervention was based; these were our demands, and having received an assurance from the Government of Portugal that these conditions should be fulfilled—having moreover, invited the insurgent party to lay down their arms upon the assurance that those conditions should be respected—I fully admit, in concurrence with the principle of the resolution, that the honour of England is pledged to enforce the strict observance of them. It would be a breach of faith towards the insurgent party if the honour of England were not committed to the maintenance of the conditions which we ourselves proffered. That portion of the despatches which gives me the best assurance of a happy termination to these unfortunate affairs, is the testimony which is borne to the personal dispositions of the Queen and the King of Portugal. I attribute the misfortunes that have occurred to the pernicious advice they have received. It is usual, on all occasions, in constitutional and loyal States, to presume justice and humanity on the part of crowned heads; but I find in these papers conclusive proof that you may fairly attribute the acts that have been done, not to the personal dispositions of the Queen of Portugal or her Consort, but to the bad counsel they received from the Government of Cabral, and those who were leagued with it. I find that Sir H. Seymour, in a despatch of March 21, affords an unsuspicious testimony to the good faith of the Queen, and the character of the King. He says—The King has given a fresh proof of the wise and conciliatory disposition by which he has been distinguished in the Council, by addressing yesterday a letter to Marshal Saldanha, calling upon him to make peaceful overtures to the Junta of Oporto.That was the act of the King in the Council. His suggestion was, not an appeal to arms, but that conciliatory overtures should be made to the insurgents. Those overtures were not made; but by whose fault? That of the men who threatened to resign should the course advised by the King be 617 taken. With this evidence before us, we are bound to make every allowance for the conduct of their Majesties, who had been placed in so critical a position. Mr. Southern says, in one of his despatches, that he had addressed a note, protesting against the transportation of the prisoners taken at Torres Vedras, and that the subject had been repeatedly under deliberation in the Cabinet; and his comment is—I am happy to think that the benevolent feelings of their Majesties induce them to support my views; but the opinion of the Cabinet, to which some extraneous persons were admitted, finally prevailed, on being backed by a threat of immediate resignation on the part of the Ministry.Thus, it was clear that the Queen and King had interfered on behalf of the prisoners; but those who directed their counsels having threatened resignation, they were unable to effect their own benevolent wishes. Again, Sir H. Seymour says, on the 8th of May, speaking of the action of the 1st of May, when the insurgents sustained a loss of 500 killed and wounded—Many of the wounded insurgents, in company with the wounded of the Queen's forces, have been removed to the hospital at Lisbon. On the 3rd inst., the hospital was visited by the Queen and King, who spoke to many of the wounded, and gave special orders that every attention should be paid to all alike.Such evidence of justice and moderation on the part of these Royal Personages inspires me with the hope that if they are surrounded by more honest advisers, there is a prospect of returning peace and tranquillity to Portugal.
Nothing I have said will, I trust, expose me to the suspicion that I approve of the measures which have been adopted by the Government of Portugal, since the 6th of October, 1846. I consider the change in the Ministry that took place on that day— the removal of the Due do Palmella—the abrupt and disrespectful manner in which he was dismissed from office—were most unwise, and calculated to shake confidence in the intentions of the Court. To see that distinguished man—the only statesman of his country who has achieved an European reputation — who represented Portugal in those conferences which, at the close of the war, adjusted the affairs of Europe—whose name is attached to those instruments which laid the foundation of a peace that has endured more than thirty years—to see that man in his declining years an exile from his native land, 618 creates feelings of indignation and shame. An exile! and for what? Because he wished to govern Portugal on constitutional principles; because he wished to conform to maxims of moderation and wisdom— held, it seems, in no honour in his own country, but which he had learnt in a long course of public service, and from intercourse with the public men of the highest eminence of every country in Europe.
We have evidence of the principles on which he wished to govern—of his regard for the constitutional rights of the people in the law of election which he proposed, and in his resolution to summon the Cortes. We have the assurance of Lord Howard that there wore throughout the country indications of returning respect for and confidence in the Executive Government. The Due de Palmella was abruptly asked whether, if the Cortes were summoned, he could protect the Crown against the evil designs imputed to a political party in opposition to the Court; and because he could give no other assurance than that he would make every effort against the unjust attacks and encroachments of party which the law and constitution might enable him to make, he is dismissed from office; councillors of another stamp and with other views receive the confidence of the Crown, and the guarantees for constitutional liberty are forthwith suspended.
The Court of Portugal committed the fatal mistake of anticipating a menaced, perhaps a fancied danger, by a signal violation of the law. It was that same mistake which, committed in France, hurled Charles the Tenth from his throne, and transferred that throne to another dynasty. Assuming that the menaced dangers are real—that there is a design against the rights of the Throne, or against the reigning dynasty—far wiser would it be to encounter such dangers by defensive measures strictly within the limits of the law and constitution, than by the arbitrary assumption of a power transgressing those limits. The advisers of these coups d'état are no friends of constitutional monarchy; they pride themselves on their vigour and firmness; they act under the delusion that it was from the mere absence of such qualities that the first Revolution of France (that of 1789) was triumphant, and the throne of Louis XVI. was undermined, and that all that was then wanting to arrest the Revolution and save the monarchy were vigorous and well-directed coups d'état. By 619 such means, they hope to avert what they consider similar dangers. But in the means to which they thus resort consists the real danger. The Crown is placed in the wrong. The Crown has thrown away the advantage of a defensive attitude within the limits of the law—has forfeited the confidence of those of its subjects who respect constitutional rights, and all those powerful sympathies in its favour which the unjust aggressions of its enemies, com-hated with weapons which the law and constitution have provided, and by those alone, would infallibly excite.
I have now fulfilled the object for which I rose. I have stated the conclusions to which I have arrived after a careful perusal of these papers. I cannot assent to a vote of censure on Her Majesty's Government. I cannot assent to interference by this House with the course of policy to which the Crown is committed, and which is in actual progress of execution. I have at the same time freely condemned those proceedings on the part of the Portuguese Government, which are, in my opinion, open to censure. And I must say, in conclusion, if such evil counsellors as those who, for some years past, have surrounded the Throne in Portugal, are still to be listened to—if that faction which calls itself the Cabralista party, and of which I can say nothing worse than that I presume it to be worthy of the name it has assumed —if that faction is still to prevail—then there is no security for peace in Portugal —no security for liberty—no security for the Throne. If that faction, or the principles on which it has acted, shall again predominate, it will not again be in the power of England to tender those friendly counsels, or to lend that powerful aid, which are now tendered and now lent, for the single purpose of preserving an ancient monarchy, and combining with that monarchy ample guarantees for constitutional freedom.
§ DR. BOWRING
said, it appeared to him the right hon. Baronet had pointed out the complication of the present case, and the difficulties in which the Government was placed, with considerable tact and ability. In entering upon the history of the disastrous state of things which at present existed in Portugal, he did not wish to go beyond the documents which had been laid on the Table of the House. The right hon. Baronet who had just sat down, had not taken the grounds of defence taken on behalf of the conduct of 620 the Government by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Macaulay). It had been shown. that the case of Portugal, on which there rested many doubts and difficulties, was an exception to the general rule of international law, and that the people of Portugal looked up to the interference of this country for the protection of their liberties. But he could tell the House the present interference had not been productive of feelings of gratitude amongst the people of Portugal, but directly the reverse. They were informed that the Government of this country was pledged to secure the liberties of Portugal, and that we need feel no anxiety with respect to them; but he said he feared in such a case the Government of this country had pledged itself to consequences, and bound itself to responsibilities of the most alarming character.—The hon. and learned Member was proceeding to describe the characters of the two Cabrals, when
§ An HON. MEMBER moved that the House be counted; and only thirty-one Members being present, the House stood adjourned at a little before Eight o'clock.