HC Deb 04 August 1848 vol 100 cc1151-3

said: I wish to ask a question of the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, respecting a new act of aggression and annexation of that Power which is called, by courtesy, the Germanic Confederation. The House will recollect by the Treaties of 1839, on the dismemberment of the kingdom of the Netherlands, the King of the Netherlands, acting under the advice of the great Powers, among which was Great Britain, ceded a portion of the grand duchy of Limburg to the new kingdom of Belgium; and in that treaty it was regulated that the duchy of Limburg should become a province of the kingdom of the Netherlands—it being a condition in the same treaty that the King of the Netherlands should compensate the agnates of his house, those who were interested in the accession to the duchy which he had ceded, for the loss they might sustain, and that he should also compensate the Germanic Confederation for the loss which it might sustain from a relinquishment of the duchy of Luxemburg. The King of the Netherlands, with the advice and the sanction of Great Britain, made a pecuniary compensation to the agnates of his house; and he also undertook that, although Limburg had become a province of the kingdom of the Netherlands, so far as contingents of men and money went, the Germanic Confederation should not lose anything by the change. These arrangements, I need not remind the House, were perfectly satisfactory to all parties. They tended to maintain the peace of Europe, they were satisfactory to the people, from whom a murmur had never been heard. But by a decree very recently issued by the National Assembly at Frankfort, the arrangements then made are entirely repudiated on the part of the Germanic Confederation, and the National Assembly has decided that it cannot sanction those wise and salutary treaties to which Great Britain was a party. The consequence is, that the same circumstances which have already occurred in Schleswig and Holstein are now likely to occur, if they have not already taken place, in the duchy of Luxemburg. The peace of Europe is again disturbed and menaced by this morbid system of annexation manifested by the Confederation. Having explained the foundation of the inquiry which I wish to make, I now beg to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any communication upon this subject to make to the House; and whether he can hold out any hopes to us that, by his influence, the faith of these treaties can be maintained?


The hon. Gentleman has stated correctly the obligations entered into by the Treaty of 1839. By that treaty a portion of the duchy of Luxemburg was ceded and annexed to the kingdom of Belgium. The House is aware that the grand duchy of Luxemburg formed part of the Germanic Confederation, the King of the Netherlands being a member of the Germanic Confederation, as duke of the grand duchy of Luxemburg; the articles of that treaty of 1839 stated that, in consideration of the cession made by the grand duke of a portion of Luxemburg, be was to receive an equivalent in Limburg. The district was described, and it was to be held by him, either in his capacity of grand duke, or it was to he incorporated with the kingdom of the Netherlands. There was a subsequent article, by which the King of the Netherlands was to compensate the agnates of the house of Nassau for the loss they had sustained, and also the Germanic Confederation. The hon. Gentleman stated very correctly what these arrangements were. The King made an arrangement with the agnates of his house; what arrangement was entered into with the Germanic Confederation, Her Majesty's Government have no official knowledge of. But I have recently had an official communication from the Minister of the King of the Netherlands with regard to the proceedings of the National Assembly at Frankfort, respecting that portion of the empire referred to. Before Her Majesty's Government shall be in a position to decide as to the degree of obligation imposed or conferred in that treaty upon England to interfere with regard to these transactions, I find it necessary to inquire from the Government of the Netherlands what passed between the late King of the Netherlands and the Germanic Confederation. I have not obtained that information, and therefore I am not able to say whether the Government feel themselves bound or entitled to interfere, and if so in what way.