HC Deb 16 August 1848 vol 101 cc147-75

House in Committee of Supply.

On the question that 57,500l. be granted to complete the amount required for the salaries and expenses of the Foreign Department, being proposed,


said: Whatever may be the justice of some complaints we have heard from Her Majesty's Ministers as to the time of this House being occupied by too much discussion—complaints, by the by, which I cannot admit to be valid—there is certainly one Member of the Government who, I think, has no right whatever to join in those complaints. I think that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, so far as his department is concerned, cannot for a moment pretend that any criticisms on the policy which he has recommended, or of the transactions which have occurred abroad, have given rise, during this momentous and protracted Session, to any very frequent or prolonged discussions. Indeed, though this year has witnessed, throughout Europe, events more important than probably have occurred within the recollection of the vast majority of this House, I cannot at this moment recall more than two occasions on which the attention of this House has been called to anything connected with our external relations. For one of those occasions I confess that I myself am responsible; but in that instance I was warranted in calling the attention of the House of Commons to the circumstance that an ancient ally had claimed the fulfilment of a guarantee from England; and the sympathy expressed by the House when I ventured to make those observations on the position of England and Denmark, at least showed that, however imperfect my advocacy of that subject may have been, it was not considered by the House intrusive. There was another instance of a discussion on foreign topics; and I should be very much surprised if any Member of the Government can for a moment pretend that the discussion which then took place was an unnecessary one. It is in the recollection of every Gentleman that a very remarkable incident occurred at the capital of one of Her Majesty's allies—that a Minister, who may be styled the virtual representative of the Queen of England, was expelled from that capital; and I do not think that the House of Commons, or our constituents, or Her Majesty's Ministers, can for a moment maintain that some observations on an event so remarkable, almost, I might say, unequalled, constituted any surplusage of discussion in this House. In both those cases the discussions, so far as any allusions to the Government were concerned, were conducted in any other spirit than that of party acerbity. Notwithstanding the important events which had occurred, and the favourable opportunities offered to the Opposition, and which at another time and in another age, I doubt not, would have been readily seized, there have been only those two very legitimate occasions on which subjects connected with our external relations have been brought before the House; and, certainly, in both those instances Her Majesty's Ministers have no right to complain of the spirit in which those discussions were conducted, or of the objects which they sought to attain. I now feel it my duty to call the attention of this Committee to another branch of our foreign relations, and one to which, from its vast importance and the consequences to their constituents that may ensue, I conceive it is incumbent on them to give their earnest consideration. The subject to which I wish to call the attention of the Committee is the state of Italian politics, and our relations at this moment with the Italian States. It had been my intention, on looking over the various items to be brought before us on these miscellaneous estimates, to have called the attention of the Committee to the subject on the vote of money for one of the Ministers of the Crown, namely, the Lord Privy Seal. I had thought that that would have been a very appropriate occasion for introducing this interesting subject; because he is an individual who has figured in a very conspicuous manner in the transactions which have taken place in reference to Italy; and because it will be totally impossible to place the circumstances fairly before the consideration of the Committee without adverting to that nobleman. But on reflection it appeared to me that this would give to the observations I wished to put before the Committee and the country too personal and invidious a character. Her Majesty's Government, of course, are responsible for all that the Lord Privy Seal did; and therefore it appeared to me that it would be a fairer occasion, on the vote of money for the maintenance of the Foreign Office, to bring the question before the Committee. At the same time, it is impossible, however brief and condensed my observations on the subject may be, to forget the operations of the Lord Privy Seal in Italy. They commenced before the occurrence of those important events by which their interest has been in a great measure absorbed; but all the transactions in which he was concerned are intimately connected, and even involved with everything which has subsequently happened. Last August, the Lord Privy Seal went on a very peculiar and roving mission. He went, I believe, to teach politics in the country in which Machiavelli was born. It seemed to be thought that the princes of Italy were so ignorant of their own affairs that they required counsel, and that, in fact, it was necessary to take a position with respect to these Sovereigns different from that which we adopted in our communications with other potentates. We had several Ministers Plenipotentiary, and other diplomatic agents of a subordinate rank in Italy; but it was thought necessary to communicate with the Sovereigns of Italy by no less a personage than a Member of the Cabinet—one who would not wait for instructions in order to meet cases of emergency, but who was, in a certain sense and degree, a portion of that original inspiration which is to guide the conduct of the Foreign Department; familiar with the whole scope and scheme of Her Majesty's Ministers in respect to these delicate and difficult affairs; and who, therefore, with a large discretion—I might almost say with an illimitable discretion—might prevent the occurrence of many menacing circumstances in that country, and lay the foundation for a state of great and acknowledged prosperity in the Italian Peninsula. It is a curious thing to put before the Committee in the briefest way the principal objects of this important and peculiar mission, and then to place before the Committee its results. Lord Minto had very important objects to achieve in the north of Italy. There was a great uneasiness in Italy, and a great apprehension on the part of Her Majesty's Ministers, that Austria, for example, actuated by unnecessary fear, would invade the dominions of the King of Sardinia. The first object, then, of Lord Minto was to induce the Austrians not to invade the Sardinians; and, so far as that object is concerned, the result has been that Lord Minto was perfectly successful; and all that happened was, that instead of Austria invading Sardinia, Sardinia invaded Austria. Crossing the Apennines, Lord Minto found himself in the centre of Italy, and engaged in a delicate and peculiar negotiation with a potentate whom, in deference to my hon. Friend near me (Mr. Spooner), I will not particularly designate. This was undertaking a considerable achievement; for, really, to solve the difficulty that had perplexed the Cabinets of England from the days of Queen Elizabeth to those of Queen Victoria, and to settle the question how to communicate diplomatically with his Holiness the Pope, was an object worthy of the mission even of a Cabinet Minister, and the solution of the question must have presented very great claims to the applause and confidence of his Colleagues. And Lord Minto appears to have succeeded in his object; for at the commencement of the Session no less a personage than the Lord President of the Council, with breathless haste, informed the House of Lords that he must immediately introduce a Bill to establish diplomatic relations between the Court of St. James's and his Holiness the Pope. I believe that the usual forms of the House of Lords were not observed on that occasion. I believe that the Bill was absolutely brought in without notice, and the usual lapse of time between the first and second readings was waived in February on account of the urgency and exigency of the case. What has been the result? The Bill did not pursue its course with the rapidity which at first was pretended to be absolutely necessary; and for this reason—that at the very moment when, under the successful management of the Lord Privy Seal, England had resolved to revive diplomatic relations with the Pope, it seems that the Pope, as a temporal prince, had ceased to exist. I suppose that by some of the last bulletins there is a chance of his Holiness yet exercising some doubtful authority; since, at the end of the Session, this Bill, brought in with breathless haste, has now, when August is far advanced, apparently stole again into a little legislative life, and there is a possibility of its being reintroduced to our notice. Observe, then, that Lord Minto was eminently successful in the north of Italy in preventing the invasion of Sardinia by Austria, inasmuch as Austria was invaded by Sardinia; and was also successful in the centre of Italy in establishing diplomatic relations with a potentate who has no longer any diplomacy at his command. There is another portion of Italy, in the extreme south, in which the labours of this eminent diplomatist were also employed; and this was in the kingdom of the Two Sicilies. It has been said on high authority that Lord Minto was invited by the King of the Two Sicilies to favour him by his counsel, and to interfere in the management of his kingdom. It is very possible. The Lord Privy Seal, like many other eminent performers, was "starring it" throughout the Italian States, and, having been so successful in his previous engagements at Milan and Rome, there came an invitation to him that he should also exhibit at Naples; and the result of the noble Lord's performances in the south of Italy was no less successful than in the north and centre of that country. Called in by the King of the Two Sicilies to remove some misconceptions which existed between his two kingdoms, the noble Lord laboured hard to support the legislative union that subsisted between Naples and Sicily, and his labours resulted not only in the severance of the legislative union, but also in the destruction of the political connexion. Far be it from me to offer any unnecessary criticisms on the defunct campaign of this eminent diplomatist. I only wish the House to understand that the present Government are not new hands in diplomatic interference in Italy; and that they cannot come forward and tell us that in consequence of the important events that have occurred they were obliged to undertake, on a sudden, and without that consideration generally demanded in such cases, interference in that country. They had been trying their hand at it for a considerable time before the great revolutions occurred there. The result hitherto has been more interesting than successful. Now, I understand, from the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Department, that, not profiting by what has occurred, the noble Lord is going again to open a second campaign in Italy—he is going to mediate in Italy in conjunction with another country; and I think that it is a very legitimate subject for inquiry, and I am but performing my duty to my constituents and to this House, if I take this opportunity of inviting the Government to give us some information as to their objects and their motives. The noble Lord opposite informed us the other night—and we have since been informed by every organ of information—that England and France are going to mediate in respect to the affairs of Northern Italy. Now, I think I am but making a legitimate inquiry of the noble Lord if I ask him to inform the Committee—1st. What is to be the principle of this mediation? 2nd. What is to be the nature of this mediation? and, 3rdly, What is the end proposed to be attained by this mediation? These appear to be three inquiries which it is our duty to pursue, and to invite Her Majesty's Ministers to respond to. First, with respect to the principle of this mediation, the principle may be of a political character. For instance, there may be a desire to prevent the effusion of blood occasioned by a very prolonged and hopeless contest; or a wish to put an end to a state of things injurious and inconvenient to the merchants of this country; the interests of commerce and the interests of humanity are generally inseparable; and these might prompt a Minister to interfere in a particular case. These are not circumstances that would apply to the north of Italy; there is no effusion of blood to stop, and there are no commercial interests which require defence; and if the noble Lord is to mediate there between the Emperor of Austria, for example, and the King of Sardinia, or between the Emperor of Austria and his own subjects, the noble Lord, mediating on a political principle, will have an easy task, for the circumstances are simple, the means are obvious, and the result very clear. The noble Lord will be guided by the doctrines of the law of nations and the stipulations of existing treaties. He will take down Vattel, and look to the Treaties of Paris and Vienna, and when he finds the Emperor of Austria in possession, and peaceable possession, of the dominions which those treaties secured to him, and the King of Sardinia also in possession of the dominions which those treaties secured to him—when he finds, as regards these two Powers, that there is no principle of public law which is at all in controversy, the noble Lord may shut his books, and his mediation will be a nullity. He will find that he has nothing to do; and he will be informed at the outset that all is concluded in a manner satisfactory to Europe; and which would have occurred if the noble Lord had never opened his mouth. But we can hardly conceive that a statesman so able and so experienced as the noble Lord should announce to the Parliament of this country that he is going to mediate in the affairs of the north of Italy, merely that himself may announce to us that he has done nothing; and therefore I apprehend that the noble Lord, instead of mediating on a political principle, is going to mediate on the dangerous principle with which he sometimes plays, and which I on a former occasion took the liberty of calling a sentimental principle. The sentimental principle in the management of foreign affairs in the present day is to develop the principle of nationality. The noble Lord is going, then, to mediate in the affairs of Italy on the sentimental principle of developing nationality. Now, I beg the Committee to remark into what inextricable difficulties and dangers any encouragement of such a course on the part of the noble Lord must lead this country; and this is one of the principal reasons which induces me to bring the state of Italian affairs under the notice of the House. If it be necessary, on the sentimental principle, that Lombardy should be in the possession of the Lombards, and that the presence of an Austrian should not be tolerated there, on what ground can you justify an arrangement by which the Austrians are to retain the whole of Venetia, a territory as extensive as Lombardy, and far more important? If the noble Lord is the disciple and preacher of the principle of nationality, and if upon that principle he is going to advise the Emperor of Austria to relinquish his dominions in Lombardy, on what ground can he refuse to develop the idea completely, and recommend his Imperial Majesty to relinquish his whole hold on the Venetian territory? And how can the noble Lord be the preacher of the sentimental principle of nationality in Lombardy, when in the north of Europe he is—as he is bound to do—defending the interests of Holland and Denmark against invasion founded upon and justified by this very same principle of nationality? I want to know, also, how the noble Lord intends to act, as far as the sentimental principle is concerned, if he has an application for his mediation from a most powerful and interesting kingdom, which, four months ago, announced that it might probably call for the mediation of England—I mean the kingdom of Hungary. There are in that country four races—the Magyars, the Sclavonians, the Germans, and the Wallaks. Now, does the noble Lord intend that three of these races shall quit Hungary, and that the predominant power in that kingdom shall be secured to the fourth? If this House does not take the earliest opportunity to discourage the sentimental principle in settling the affairs of nations, I am convinced that we shall he involved in difficulties which it is impossible to contemplate; for I believe that such a policy, if it be fairly developed, will really resolve Europe into its original elements, and will not leave any social or political system in existence in the form which it now assumes. So far as to the principle upon which this mediation—of which we have heard so much, and which has been so ostentatiously announced to us—of England and France in the affairs of Northern Italy is to be conducted, I repeat, that I wish to learn from Her Majesty's Ministers what is to be the principle of that mediation—whether it is to be a political principle, founded upon the law of nations and the stipulations of treaties, or upon this modern, newfangled, sentimental principle of nationality, which will lead to inextricable confusion, and difficulty, and danger. Now, Sir, I come to the second point. I want to know what are the means by which this mediation is to be carried into effect. Is it to be an armed mediation?—because, if it is an armed mediation, the Emperor of Austria being in possession of his States, and the King of Sardinia being in possession of his States, war, as I am informed, not being waged at this moment between these Sovereigns—the armed mediation of England and France in Northern Italy would be an invasion, and the mode by which we are going to secure peace is by commencing war. But if it is not be an armed mediation, is it to be a mediation only of good offices? Then I leave it to the Committee to decide what prospect we have of success, when we go to the Emperor of Austria, and as friends—merely as friends—recommend him to relinquish the dominions he has gained by great sacrifices, by the display of great valour on the part of his troops, and which he has held for three centuries, perhaps never with a firmer grasp than at this moment. As regards the means of mediation, then, an armed interference is an invasion and a war; while an interference of good offices in an utter nullity. So much, then, as to the principle of the mediation; and so much as to the means by which the mediation is to be carried into effect. And now I wish to ask Her Majesty's Ministers what is the end they propose to attain by this mediation? What do they mean to do with Lombardy when their ancient Ally, in deference to their kind offices, has relinquished that part of his dominions? Do they mean to swell the territories of the King of Sardinia with the possession of that duchy? Is the return for that nocturnal attack which he made upon his neighbour to be the increase of his authority and power? When you remember the circumstances of the case—when you remember that the King of Sardinia made war without declaring war against the Emperor of Austria—that he was at the very time in friendly and confidential communication with the Austrian Cabinet—that in consequence of conduct so unjustifiable, he has received most signal punishment and discomfiture—and that it is only from a deference to the feeling of Europe on the part of Austria that he is allowed to remain in possession of his own capital—I do not think there is any Minister, even at Frankfort, who would recommend a proposition so preposterous. Then, what will you do with Lombardy? Will you establish an independent and weak State in the north of Italy—a source of perpetual disquietude, contiguous to two powerful military neighbours, perpetually quarrelling, and perpetually calling for foreign interference? In what form do you mean to establish, by this announced mediation, this free and independent State? It is, of course, to be a republic. You cannot have a King of Lombardy. Is it for the interest of England or of Europe that you should diplomatically establish a republic there? And if a republic, what sort of republic do Her Majesty's Ministers recommend? Is it to be a revolutionary republic, or a conservative republic?—a red republic, or a white republic?—a republic with a red cap, or a republic with a white feather? That is a point upon which the country is extremely anxious to receive some information. I think, then, I have shown the Committee that there are three points on which we are authorised to require information from Her Majesty's Ministers. The Government, let me remind the Committee, have announced the joint mediation of England and France in the affairs of Northern Italy; and I think they are bound to tell us the principle upon which that mediation is founded, the means by which it is to be carried into effect, and the end which it is proposed to attain by such mediation. Now, Sir, there is an object for that mediation, as I am informed, which Her Majesty's Ministers will not announce. It is the secret object of many transactions which are very perplexing to the public eye. The object of this joint mediation in the affairs of the north of Italy—when there is nobody to mediate between, and when there is nothing to settle—is to prevent the invasion of Italy by the French. Well, Sir, I have no hesitation in saying that I think the invasion of the north of Italy by the French is an event much to be deprecated; and if Her Majesty's Government, with all the advantages of the recent experience of the Lord Privy Seal, can devise means by which such a result can be prevented, they will, no doubt, have cause to plume themselves as statesmen. But the House must recollect that France has no right whatever to interfere in Italy. It would be a violation of every principle of public law, and of every treaty which exists with reference to the Italian States. I am myself of opinion that France will not invade Italy. I do not think it is for the interest or for the honour of France that she should invade Italy; and I very much deprecate even a controversy as to the contingency of an event which would be most disastrous to the world, and most unjustifiable on the part of France. As regards Italy, and as regards Europe, France has not the colour of a quarrel or a case in this respect. I wish I could say that, as regards England, France was in the same position. I admit that she is not; I admit that the conduct of our Government with respect to Italy affords a precedent to France. It does not justify France in violating the law of nations; it does not justify France in violating treaties; it does not justify France to Italy or to Europe; but it does unfortunately justify France to the Cabinet of England. If the noble Lord were to make an appeal to the French Minister in England on this subject, the French Minister could refer to circumstances which might give the colour of a pretext and a precedent to France—I allude to our conduct with regard to Naples. Now, let me remind the House that the ultimate result of the cordial co-operation between the Lord Privy Seal and the King of the Two Sicilies is, as far as we can obtain information, the following, namely, that the King of the Two Sicilies having prepared a powerful army to chastise his rebellious subjects—just as the Emperor of Austria had done—suddenly found an English fleet in the Bay of Naples announcing to him that his rights as a Sovereign, so far as regarded Sicily, had ceased to be acknowledged by the English Government. The English Government, it appears, animated by that principle which governed the mission of Lord Minto—an extreme desire to consolidate the kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and to put an end to all misconception between the subjects of His Majesty—have been so condescending as even to approve of the independent Sovereign who is to govern Sicily, in violation of the rights of the King of Naples. They have criticised the appointment; they have approved of the individual; they have communicated with the rebels against the King of Naples by servants of Her Majesty the Queen of England; and, finally, they have sent a fleet which prevents the King of the Two Sicilies from asserting his sovereign rights. Now, it does appear to me that if France wished to invade the north of Italy, France, being in possession of these facts, would have a very good case. [Lord JOHN RUSSELL: They are not facts.] These are not facts, says the noble Lord. This is, at least, a fact—that when the noble Lord was asked whether the English fleet had received instructions to prevent the Neapolitan army from invading Sicily, in order to assert the rights of the Sovereign, he refused to answer the question. The Lord President, in another place, also refused to answer a similar question. It is at least a fact; for it has been admitted by the Chief Minister in another place, that we did interfere in the affairs of Sicily so far as to recognise the possibility of Sicily becoming an independent State, to indicate the form of government which we recommend, and even the individual of whom we approved as the Sovereign. The noble Lord will not say these are not facts. Then, the case of interference is complete with regard to the south of Italy; and what answer could we make to France if there was a French invasion of the north of Italy? I will make this admission to Her Majesty's Ministers. Unjustifiable as I, with great unwillingness, conceive their conduct to have been with regard to Naples, and injurious as is that precedent, I do not believe that it will in the present instance serve as a precedent for the invasion of the north of Italy by France; and for this reason, sim- ple and satisfactory, that I do not believe there is the slightest wish at this moment on the part of the French Government to invade Italy. But, nevertheless, I protest against the precedent to which any Government may afterwards appeal. I believe all that the French Government at this moment desire is, that by availing themselves of a forced occasion, they may give to Europe and to the world an idea that there is a cordial co-operation between the Cabinets of Paris and of St. James's. Hon. Gentlemen may say, "What is the harm, then, of the French Government availing themselves of this forced occasion?" The harm is this, that these forced occasions have been used before, and they have never been used by the French and English Governments united, but at the expense of the rights of some third and independent Sovereign. Now, I do not wish my opinions to be misapprehended upon this great point. If you mean, by an alliance with France, by a cordial understanding with France, or whatever other phrase you may use, that those important affairs and those great events which periodically and surely occur in the world, should be regulated and managed in concert by these two leading nations, after previous counsel, animated by a wise spirit of concession and compromise, and leading to a cordial co-operation, that is a system of which I shall ever be a feeble but a warm supporter. It is not a new principle in the history of this country, though of late years it has been announced in this House as if it were some novel discovery in politics. If you take a general view of the modern history of this country and of Europe—I mean for the period during which the great treaties have been entered into, and those important events have occurred which have moulded the world in which we live—you will find that hostility between this country and France is the exception and not the rule. During the last two centuries and a half, for more than two-thirds of that interval a cordial understanding and a close intimacy have subsisted between the English and French Governments. It was the principle of the Cabinet of Queen Elizabeth, who managed the affairs of Europe in concert with the most eminent of the Bourbon princes, Henry IV. It has been brought forward as a charge against the Lord Protector that he was of the same opinion as Queen Elizabeth upon this subject. But, at any rate, a policy which was sanctioned by the sagacity of Elizabeth, and by the prudence and wisdom of Cromwell, is at first sight a policy which cannot well be considered erroneous or feeble. I need not remind the House what was the policy of England on this subject on subsequent occasions; but this I may take the liberty of saying, that the two most eminent statesmen of the last century, who agreed upon no other subject, who were rivals in eloquence, who were rivals in their career, who were opposed in every principle of politics—Lord Bolingbroke and Sir Robert Walpole—were both supporters of a close alliance and cordial understanding with France as the basis of our policy. Although Lord Bolingbroke was at the time the victim of the much maligned treaties of Utrecht—as wise arrangements as ever were contracted—no sooner was the Whig party rooted in power, and no sooner had they produced a great Minister, than Sir R. Walpole pursued the same policy, and for twenty years secured the peace of the world and the prosperity of this country by a cordial understanding with the French Minister, Cardinal Fleury. I call these things to recollection to show that, as far as I am concerned, I am not attempting to oppose Her Majesty's Ministers because they are the advocates of a cordial understanding with the French Government, abstractedly considered as a principle of English politics. The noble Lord at the head of the Government told us the other night that the peace of the world was to be maintained by the co-operation of the powerful Government of England, the powerful Government of Russia, and the powerful Government of France. I believe, Sir, that the Government of France is a powerful Government, though I then reminded the noble Lord that he had not deigned to inform the Parliament of England that he had recognised its existence. The Government of France is powerful, and for this simple and single reason—they have transferred the government of Algiers to the streets of Paris. The Lord High Protector of Equality has recently executed a monster razzia on the fraternal multitude. Well, Sir, that is a Government that may be performing its duty. General Cavaignac or his successors may have to repeat, and probably will repeat, their exploits; but if the noble Lord, under the plea of a cordial understanding with the French Government, is going to repeat the steps which unfortunately former Governments in England, under similar circum- stances, have taken, I am convinced they will end, as they have previously ended, in disappointment and discomfiture. A natural alliance, a cordial understanding, arising from the circumstances that occur in Europe, are the bases of mutual co-operation and conduct; but an understanding which is only founded on forced occasions and forced opportunities—occasions invented, and opportunities devised, in order to show to the world that there is a co-operation between the two countries—the incidents invented to justify and occasion the co-operation—instead of the co-operation arising from the natural production of the events—that is an understanding and that is an alliance which, before this time, has occasioned the greatest evil, and which, in the present case, might lead to the greatest possible disasters. The noble Lord tried this system before, in the years 1830–32. He had then much more favourable circumstances to deal with than is the case at present. He was at least placed in co-operation with a Sovereign, who, whatever may have been his errors, did succeed in bridling, for a period of seventeen years, the Jacobin tiger; a man without question of great sagacity, certainly of unrivalled experience, born and bred a prince, with a knowledge of the law of nations, and conversant with the traditions of great Cabinets. Yet, how did that system end? It led to the tricoloured flag floating from Ancona and Antwerp; to interference in Spain, in Portugal, in Greece; it troubled the commerce of England in the Atlantic and the Pacific; it established blockades in South America; and the same system of factitious alliance (I do not taunt the noble Lord for it—it was the spirit of our policy, and was adopted by his predecessors), was the real cause of all those disturbances in the waters of La Plata to which I called the noble Lord's attention the other night. Sir, I protest against this system. I protest against a mediation in the north of Italy, where there is nothing to mediate about, merely to show that there is a cordial co-operation between France and England. I am convinced that if the House of Commons sanctions this policy, you will find interference in every quarter, and discontent in every State; that, instead of the alliance between France and England being a security for peace, that alliance, that understanding—phrase it as you will—that mutual concert, will lead inevitably in the end to war. And what are you doing this for? You are doing it because you have created a bugbear of your own, namely, the impending invasion of Italy by France. France, I repeat, has no right to invade Italy. France, I say, has no interest at this moment in invading Italy. Hon. Gentlemen talk of the invasion of Italy by France, as if it was an incident which might happen on any summer's day by an order sent by the telegraph. What is the invasion of Italy by France? Even to give France a chance of success, in the present position of Italy, she must cross the Alps with at least 100,000 men. She must do much more than that; the very day she crosses the Alps with 100,000 men, she must advance an army not less numerous to the banks of the Rhine, to meet there the indignant spirit of Germany, forgetting in a moment all the nebulous mysticism of "nationality" in the fervour of a real patriotism, and fierce with the fiery recollection of its desecrated hearths. She must meet more even than that Germany; she must meet Russia, at this moment not so powerful from her armies as from her moderation, her wisdom, and her justice. Even every secondary Power in Europe will be prepared under such circumstances to meet the traditionary outlaw of nations, engaged in a quarrel without law, without justice, without necessity. And how is France to send out these armies? How to meet these powerful foes? How is France to act in this frantic and illegal manner? What is her position at this moment, that enables her to send out these mighty hosts, to conquer the whole world in arms? She has 50,000 men guarding her metropolis; she has achieved a freedom upon paper, and it is secured in her streets by her artillery. She has 50,000 men encamped at Lyons. She has an army of occupation in every great city, under the plausible name of "extraordinary garrisons." Where, then, are these two invading hosts, that are to conquer Italy and Germany—to prevent whose appearance the noble Lord is going to enter into mock mediations, to encourage artificial alliances, factitious understandings, and to sacrifice the rights of our allies? Why, Sir, if France withdraws her domestic legions to invade the world, the whole of her town population will rise to advocate the interests of that model republic which, perhaps, Her Majesty's Ministers are going to establish in Milan. If France increases her armies, she in- creases her taxes, already enormous and excessive; and the whole of her provincial population will march to Paris to prevent the continuance of a system as absurd as it is iniquitous. That is the condition of France. If she moves the armies which she now possesses, she has the whole of her urban population in revolt; if she increases those armies, the whole of her provincial population will rise against a government of oppression. Torn by domestic factions, with an empty exchequer, a paralysed credit, and a people without enthusiasm, why are you to suppose that France is going to conquer the world, and why, to prevent that, are you going to sacrifice your allies? Sir, the system of mock mediations is a system which this country ought not to encourage. The course which the noble Lord has to pursue, if he wishes to secure the peace of the world and the greatness of his country, is one which, I believe, the noble Lord is quite competent to pursue; he has the abilities, the knowledge, and the courage, that qualify him for the task; and if he is hindered, it is only by an adherence to a system of policy which he has pursued before, and which ended only in mortification to himself, and destruction of his then ally; for I believe the Throne of France would never have fallen had it not been for those forced occasions of mutual co-operation which led eventually to mutual distrust and discomfiture. The noble Lord has at this moment one course, the only course proper to take, the only course which an Englishman should adopt; let the noble Lord merely tell the world that under his counsels England will maintain the principles of national law; that England will observe the stipulations of existing treaties; that she will not authorise, by her sanction, any outrage of the rights of nations; that she will not counsel any of her allies to yield their legitimate interests in order to gratify the morbid vanity of an ill-regulated society; and then the noble Lord will take a position which will gain for him the confidence of statesmen, the sympathy of sovereigns, and the hope and trust of suffering nations. But if the noble Lord takes a contrary course (I am most unwilling to believe that he will), it will be a course—I will not say fatal to his Government, because that may not be so great a consideration in this House, though I should be unwilling to see that Government disturbed—but it will be a course fatal to his reputation and injurious to his country; and these are considerations which I am sure influence him. I protest against the attempt to regulate the world by a contrived concert with the Jacobin party; I style them the Jacobin party; I know I was called to account in my absence by the hon. Member for Montrose, who said that name was past, and he used another to describe them—one often used to describe their system; I recognise the same features as of yore, I observe the same character and system; it is the old leaven, and I use the same name. It is the system that commences with "fraternity," and ends with assassination; it is the system that begins by preaching universal charity, and concludes by practising general spoliation. I do not care who the individual may be—whether it be M. Ledru Rollin, or whether it be the gentleman who shakes hands with M. Ledru Rollin. I cannot recognise such persons as the French nation, or as that France with which I would wish my country to be in alliance and cordial understanding; and I am persuaded that if the noble Lord pursues this system, it will very rapidly make this country of the same opinion with myself. The noble Lord has it in his power to act in a manner which will add even to his influence, and to the greatness and the reputation of his country. He may in this craven age assert the principles of public justice in a manner which becomes a British Minister; and he will find that no bandits, whatever may be their position, will cross any mountains or invade any capitals, when they know that England is prepared to uphold the principles of public law. For, Sir, in public as much as in private matters, I have seen enough, and I am sure that every Gentleman from his own experience must have seen enough, to convince him, in the long run, nothing can withstand the majesty of law, the force of truth, and the inspiration of honour.


I certainly do not rise to complain, as the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down seemed to expect I should, that this House has, during the present Session of Parliament, exhibited any undue desire to impede the march of Her Majesty's Ministers in regard to the conduct of the foreign relations of the country by pressing too hardly upon them for disclosures of the course which they mean to pursue, or calling prematurely for explanations as to the course which they may have pursued during the Session. I acknowledge with thankful- ness, on my own part and on the part of the Government, the discreet—I must say the judicious—forbearance which this House has shown in those matters. Members of this House have, rightly no doubt, considered that the public interest is frequently best consulted by allowing to the Government of the day the free exercise of their own discretion as to delicate and important transactions with respect to foreign countries, reserving to themselves hereafter the function of calling to a strict account, as of right they are entitled, and as in duty they are bound to do, those whose conduct may appear to deserve investigation or censure. I therefore am far from complaining either of the course which has been pursued on former occasions, or of the course which on the present occasion the hon. Gentleman has thought fit to take. I am perfectly ready to admit, that at the close of a Session during which events of the utmost importance have convulsed Europe from one end to the other, it is a perfectly legitimate exercise of the rights and a legitimate performance of the duties of a Member of this House, to express his opinions as the hon. Gentleman has done at a moment when, probably, the termination of our labours may not be far distant. Sir, I think the hon. Gentleman has judged rightly in appending the observations which he has made, in regard to the policy of this country with respect to Italy, not on the vote pertaining to the particular office held by my noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal, but to that office which is responsible for the general conduct of the foreign relations of the country—the office, namely, which I have the honour to fill. The hon. Gentleman seems to he better informed, I think, than he chooses to allow the House to infer from his speech, as to the grounds upon which the mission of my noble Friend the Earl of Minto took place. These grounds were, in some degree, those which the hon. Gentleman has stated. The facts were these:—Towards the end of the summer, it is well known, in consequence of the altered policy of the then newly-elected head of the Roman Government, principles of reform and of administrative and constitutional improvements were spreading fast over the whole surface of Italy. Difficulties were experienced between the Governments and the people in regard to the march which those events and those improvements should take. There was no part of Italy in which those diffi- culties were more strongly and more urgently felt than in the city of Rome. A communication was made to me, certainly not publicly, but from a most authentic source, conveying to Her Majesty's Government the anxious desire of the Government of Rome, first, that an accredited and official agent might be sent from this Government to the Government of Rome, for the purpose of aiding that Government in the difficult and novel task which was partly imposed upon itself, and partly pressed upon it by the population; that, in short, we should send them somebody who, representing the Government of England, might give them friendly counsel and advice in matters in which they might wish to consult him. It was said that there might be legal difficulties in complying with that request; but that if there were such difficulties, and if those difficulties could not then be removed, we should be conferring a great obligation upon the Government of Rome if some individual could go there who, possessing the entire confidence of Her Majesty's Government, and pointed out by his attainments and experience as a person informed upon matters of policy, might be referred to upon occasions on which it should be wished to consult him; and that if such a person could combine with those qualifications considerable diplomatic experience, the Government of Rome would be delighted to receive such an individual in his private capacity and without any official authority. My noble Friend, Lord Minto, was at that time, for objects of his own, intending to pass a short time in Italy; and I thought that I could not better comply with the request which had been made—that I could not better fulfil those intentions with which the request had been addressed to us—than by advising Her Majesty to authorise the Earl of Minto to proceed to Rome in that unofficial capacity, without any diplomatic character? but simply as a Member of Her Majesty's Government, possessing, as the hon. Gentleman has said, the entire confidence of Her Majesty's Government, acting as the eye, the ear, the mind of the Government; capable, from his knowledge of the intentions of the Government, to act upon a sudden, on any emergency that might present itself. I thought I could not render a better service to those parties who might wish for our counsel and assistance, than by urging my noble Friend to proceed, as he did, upon that mission. A similar wish appeared to be entertained by other Governments of Italy to procure my noble Friend's assistance; he was, therefore, instructed to take Turin and Florence on his way to Rome. To the Courts of Turin and of Florence my noble Friend carried letters, accrediting him upon a special mission, if he found upon his arrival that it was the wish of those Governments so to receive him; to Rome, of course, he carried no official recommendation. The hon. Gentleman wishes to know what were the objects which my noble Friend had to keep in view; what was the purpose for which this uncalled-for interference, as he seems to imagine it, was to take place. Sir, the interference was not uncalled for; my noble Friend was to obtrude his advice upon nobody; he was, if wished for, and if asked to do so, to give such counsel as he could, and to endeavour to remove such difficulties as might be pointed out to him. That was the purpose for which he went to those Courts; and that was the purpose which he successfully accomplished. My noble Friend, on the one hand, pointed out to the Governments that they might trust their people, that they need not fear to confer upon them those constitutional institutions which it was the object of their subjects to receive; he pointed out, on the other hand, to those who were most ardent in desiring reform, that they would best attain those national objects which they legitimately endeavoured to pursue by placing confidence in their Governments, and by not urging them too rapidly to change long-established institutions. At Turin and at Florence my noble Friend was eminently successful; and the proof of that is, that great and important changes were made in the institutions of those two States without any convulsion disturbing the public tranquillity, and without any interruption of that harmony between the subject and the Sovereign which we felt that it was so desirable to maintain. My noble Friend's progress was, I should say, almost an ovation; wherever he went he was received with acclamations by the inhabitants—at every Court he was received with open arms by the Government. At Rome his labours were directed to the same object; at Rome his labours were attended with the same success. My noble Friend, when he left this country, had no mission to go to the Court of Naples; we had received no communication from Naples asking for our aid; we did not presume to offer that which was not solicited. But when my noble Friend was at Rome, a communication was made to me by the Neapolitan Minister at this Court, that the Sovereign of Naples would take it as a compliment if my noble Friend pursued his journey from Rome to Naples. My answer was, "He will go if he is invited; he has no instructions to go there, but if he receives an invitation through the Queen's Chargé d' Affaires at Naples, it will be his duty, as it will be his pleasure, to attend to it;" and, in consequence, credentials were sent to him, to be made use of if that occasion should occur. During the unfortunate differences which broke out between the King of Naples and his Sicilian subjects, both the King on the one hand, and his Sicilian subjects on the other, asked for the mediation and intervention of British diplomacy, to endeavour to arrange and settle their disputes; Lord Minto was invited from Rome to go to Naples; to Naples he accordingly went, and he employed himself with great diligence and with the utmost zeal in endeavouring to bring about a reconciliation between the King of Naples and his Sicilian subjects, upon conditions which would maintain the crown of the two countries upon one and the same head. I shall not go now—it would not be fitting that I should—into minute detail of the circumstances which characterised those negotiations, nor shall I advert to more than one event which tended to render them unsuccessful; but, at the critical period when those negotiations were almost brought to a satisfactory conclusion, there arrived at Palermo the news of the revolution at Paris; and I think the House may easily conceive that the announcement of an event of that importance must have considerable influence upon the minds of men. That led to difficulties on the one side, which were not met by concessions on the other; and the result was, that on the one hand the people of Sicily declined any longer to acknowledge the King of Naples as their sovereign; and the King of Naples, on his part, declined to confer the crown of Sicily on one of his sons, to whom that crown was offered. The hon. Gentleman adverted to the part which Her Majesty's Government has taken in the subsequent proceedings of the Sicilians, with a view to elect another prince to be their sovereign: that choice, made by the Sicilians, was purely and entirely spontaneous; they chose the prince to whom an offer has since been made entirely on their own judgment of what would in their opinion be best for the interests of their country. It is immaterial whether that opinion coincided with the opinion of Her Majesty's Government or not; at the time when that choice was made, it was made entirely from their own impulse, and as the result of their own judgment. Undoubtedly Her Majesty's Government, accepting as they do facts and events, have signified that they would be prepared to acknowledge the sovereign whom the Sicilians might choose, when that sovereign should be actually in possession of the territories to which the voice of the people might call him. The hon. Gentleman wants to know what is the intention of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the employment of the naval force of this country now stationed in the Mediterranean, in respect to any expedition which the Government of Naples may fit out and send forth. I am sorry that I can only follow in the steps of my noble Friend sitting near me, and of my noble Friend in the other House, and say that it is not the practice in this country—nor do I think it would be expedient with reference to the public interest to establish the practice—to announce what are the intentions of the Government with regard to events which are taking place on the continent of Europe. Whatever our course may he, we are prepared to defend and justify it—it will be for the House to determine whether or not we have acted properly. Thus much I think I may state with regard to the policy which the Government pursued in respect to the affairs of Italy, as connected with the mission of my noble Friend Lord Minto—that that mission was founded on the most disinterested motives—that the motives which led to that mission had in them nothing that was sordid, or base, or selfish, or ungenerous—and that the only British interest which could be served by that mission was the interest which England, as a great Power, has in preserving peace in the other countries, and of assisting, when invited to do so, in forwarding the progress of civilisation and improvement, and in promoting the happiness and well-being of the world. The hon. Gentleman has adverted to more recent events which have taken place in the north of Italy, and has expressed an opinion that the mediation which this country has engaged in, with respect to the present state of affairs in that part of Italy, in conjunction with France, is a mediation savouring of the nature of an impertinent interference, without object, and incapable of leading to any result. I can only say that the mediation in question is not the result of any spontaneous and intrusive desire of this country to meddle in matters with which we have no concern, but, on the contrary, is the result of the earnest entreaties and applications made to us by all the parties directly or indirectly concerned in the transaction. It is the result of wishes expressed both at the beginning and the end by Austria. I say it is the result of wishes expressed by Austria at the outset of the Italian troubles, and repeated not three days ago; it is the result of wishes expressed by the Government of Sardinia, and by the people of Italy; it is the result of wishes expressed by the Government of France; and I must say, that if, in answer to all these wishes so expressed, we had obstinately and doggedly refused our mediation, I think we should have deserved the censure which the hon. Member conceives himself entitled to throw upon us for the course which we have pursued. The Government of Austria, at the beginning, as I have said, asked for our good offices; and, as lately as the 9th of August, at Frankfort, and on the 15th of August here, that Government renewed the expression of its desire that we should take part in the settlement of these affairs. On the other hand, the Government of France was urgently entreated by the opponents of Austria to interpose military assistance in aid of the Italian cause. The hon. Gentleman says that France has no right to intermeddle in the quarrel. That is a question which, perhaps, it is useless for us to discuss here. Whatever may be the views entertained as to the expediency, policy, and justice of one country interposing in a war waging between other countries; yet, in point of strict right, I apprehend there can be no question, that where two nations are at war, it is competent to a third party to take which side he pleases, if he chooses to engage in the contest. I will not enter into any discussion as to the circumstances under which the war between Sardinia and Austria began. The hon. Member conceives that it was part of the functions of Lord Minto to prevent Austria from attacking Sardinia in the course of last year. That was no part of Lord Minto's mission. It was part of his Lordship's mission to induce the Sardinian Government to abstain from hostilities against Austria, which, at that time, the Austrian Government apprehended, although under circumstances totally different from those under which the Sardinian army subsequently took the field. At that time there was no revolt at Milan, and Austria was in the undisturbed possession of the whole of her Italian provinces; but the Austrian Government having professed to entertain apprehensions of the hostile intentions of the King of Sardinia, the British Government did urge that monarch to abstain from the attempts which he was alleged to have in contemplation. When the late military events took place in the north of Italy, the Government of France was urgently requested to afford instant military aid to the Italian cause. The hon. Gentleman, who maintains that it is, and ought to be, and has been, subject only to partial exceptions, the standing rule for this country to be on a footing of intimate friendship and general co-operation with France—the hon. Gentleman, who believes that to be the policy of England, has been rather unfortunate in the manner in which, as far as he is concerned, he endeavoured to give effect to the community of good feeling between the two countries. I fully admit the soundness of the hon. Member's doctrine, however I may lament the practice by which he endeavours to carry it into effect; and, therefore, I wish myself to forget, and I hope that the French nation may forget, if possible, those parts of the hon. Gentleman's speech, which I think were not calculated to promote union and cordiality between France and this country; for if the hon. Gentleman had intended, as I am sure he did not, to rouse the bitter jealousy of a great nation, and, by wounding its pride, to dare it to do that which the hon. Gentleman said he wished it should not do, and thus to produce the very result which he professes to think injurious to the general interests of Europe and the cause of civilisation, he could not have thrown into the cauldron of national animosities more bitter ingredients, more poisonous drugs, than he infused into his speech upon this occasion. I will not answer in detail what the hon. Member has stated, because I will not run the risk of pointing still more sharply the shaft which he has launched; but the hon. Gentleman is much mistaken, and those who think with him share in his error, if they fancy that there is anything in the present condition of France which makes It impossible for her to take part in any hostile operation which the Government and people of that country may be desirous of embarking in. There could not be a more fatal error than to suppose that recent events have disarmed the right hand of France, and that she cannot now pour her legions over the Alps, as she has done on former occasions, if an united Government and people should determine on placing her in a position of hostility towards any Power beyond those limits. Let not the House imagine, then, that any vain phantom has created uneasiness and alarm on the part of the Government. I confess that we did feel that an interference by arms on the part of Prance in the affairs of Italy would be pregnant with all those dangers which the hon. Gentleman has not shadowed out, but graphically described in all their magnitude; for instance, the hon. Gentleman said that if France should send an army into Italy, she must also send another to the Rhine—that if Germany took the field against France, Russia would follow in her footsteps. What would that be but an universal European war—a conflagration extending from one end of Europe to the other, and involving in its destructive consequences the most disastrous results to humanity and the progress of civilisation? But when the French Government said to us, "We are pressed to interfere by arms in the cause of Italy, but we do not wish to involve our country in a war—we are willing to endeavour to settle matters by mediation, if you will assist us—it must be a joint effort; that will remove all ground of jealousy, for no one can suppose that England entertains hostile views with respect to Austria; whatever France and England do in conjunction must be a work of peace; it must have the termination of hostilities for its object—upon these grounds we hope you will interfere conjointly with us, and, at least, until we obtain your answer, we will suspend our decision as to the adoption of other measures"—I say that when the British Government was addressed in this manner it would have been most blameable if it had not acted immediately in accordance with the suggestion of France. Those are the motives which led us to enter upon a joint mediation with France. The principle upon which we have acted is the principle of maintaining the peace of Europe. The policy and means by which the end is to be attained resolve themselves into questions of detail, which I feel it my duty to refuse to make public at this moment. The hon. Gentleman taunted the British Government with the co-operation which has at different periods taken place between England and France, and he included within the sweeping range of his artillery not only our camp but that of which I see the right hon. Leader opposite. The hon. Gentleman taunted us, in the first place, with our interference in the case of Belgium and Holland, the result of which, he said, was the despoiling of an allied Sovereign of his undoubted rights. Those who have directed their attention to that case know that the principle on which we acted with respect to it was laid down by our predecessors, under whose administration the conferences were already established which we afterwards conducted during a long but ultimately successful negotion; and our interference originally took place at the request of the Sovereign whose rights the hon. Gentleman says were set aside in consequence of that interference. It was at the request of the King of the Netherlands that the Government of the Duke of Wellington, in connexion with the rest of the five European Powers, undertook conferences and negotiations, and established an armistice between the contending parties, which issued in the result alluded to. The hon. Gentleman says, that the alliance of England and France ought to be the result of events, and that we ought not to invent occasions and create circumstances for it. I quite agree with him; but when, I ask, were occasions invented, and opportunities unnecessarily created? Is it at the present moment? Did we create the mighty convulsion which is agitating Europe from one end to the other? Did we invent the occasion which has led to the common action of England and France? We have acted in this matter in the earnest and anxious hope that the good understanding and action of France and England may prevent the disturbance of the present time from extending from internal conflict to external war—in the anxious hope that we may continue to preserve that peace which, with the most trifling exceptions, has lasted, I may say, for upwards of thirty years, but which has certainly, during the last fifteen years, been peculiarly maintained by the good understanding which has prevailed between the Governments of England and France. For this object we shall be happy to combine with the French Government in endeavouring to extinguish the first sparks of war, wherever they may show themselves, and thus to prevent a conflagration spread- ing throughout Europe. Notwithstanding the hon. Gentleman's sneers, then, I think that this is conduct of which any Government of England may justly feel proud. As to the particular incidents which the hon. Gentleman passed over in rapid succession, they are all explicable on the general principle to which I have referred. The hon. Gentleman is not correct in his history of some of the events to which he alluded—the expedition to Ancona, for instance, which he conceived to be the result of a violent interference on the part of the two Governments. The Government of France of that day, at least, was not a Jacobinical Government—it was not the Goverment which had imported the razzias of Africa into the streets of Paris, but the Government of that Sovereign whose wisdom and moderation the hon. Gentleman has praised in the highest terms. It is gratifying to find that, in spite of the great events which have disturbed the fabric of society in France—which have altered the Government of that country, and which have brought into power in that country men wholly different from those who have of late years wielded the powers of Government there—in spite of those events, which might have been expected to produce great changes in the national feeling and policy of France, there still exists on the part of those who govern France, and I am happy to say on the part of the majority of the French nation also, a frank, loyal, honest, and enlightened desire that the policy of France may find itself in unison with the policy of this country. I must also say that the events of the last few months show the extraordinary progress which civilisation and enlightenment have made in Europe during the last half century. The same events which have lately occurred on the Continent, would, if they had taken place fifty years ago, have involved the whole of Europe in a war of the bitterest nature and of long duration. Now, however, we see, that although in almost every country of Europe events of the most fundamental character have occurred, there still exists in the minds of the majority of men an enlightened and sincere desire for the preservation of external peace. It is consoling to observe the tone and temper of those who are the organs of the French nation in the present Cabinet. Instead of turning the people loose—as was done at the earlier part of their former revolution—to occupy themselves with the affairs of other countries, they are now bent on restoring and maintaining order; and, being so occupied, I think they do not deserve the taunting sneers which the hon. Gentleman has applied to them. The French Government is anxiously, wisely, earnestly, and courageously employed in establishing order—it is working for the prosperity of the French nation, and consolidating the liberties of that country; and I think such a course of conduct does honour to the men so engaged, whatever may have been their previous conduct, and whatever may be the course in which they have antecedently embarked. So long as England and France act together for the preservation of the peace of the world, so long will the efforts they make be honest, sincere, and adapted to honourable purposes. It is impossible that two nations like England and France should unite for any purpose which might not be avowed in the face of all mankind. The purpose for which we now act together is of that description; and I trust in Heaven that it may be successful. I trust that the moral influence of these two great nations, co-operating for the purpose of conducing to the happiness and tranquillity of mankind, may meet with success. At all events, our efforts will be steadily and zealously directed to that end; and whether we succeed or fail, I am persuaded tbat the deliberate judgment of Parliament and the unanimous opinion of the country will be, that we acted right in making the effort.


said, if the discussion that had taken place was productive of no other result than that of calling attention to the foreign affairs of this country, it was not made in vain. The noble Lord the Foreign Secretary was, it appeared, not satisfied with utterly failing in all his endeavours to make satisfactory arrangements in Spain and Portugal, and rendering the name of England odious from one end of the Peninsula to the other, but he was about to try his hand in the affairs of Italy, and embark England in the chaotic sea of trouble that existed in that country. The hon. Member exemplified his statement by a description of the condition, and particularly the party quarrels, in Portugal and Spain. The hon. Member also referred to the conduct of Sir H. Bulwer, which he severely condemned. The hon. Member concluded by saying that he supposed, with much regret, that the equivocal way in which the noble Lord had answered the hon. Gentleman respecting British interference in the quarrels of Naples and Sicily would not tend to render this country popular in Italy. We should be there encountered by the charge of interfering in the concerns of Italy, not for the purpose of exercising over them such a moral influence as England ought to exercise over the world, but rather for the purpose of gratifying our ambition, and getting possession of Italy.

House resumed. The Committee to sit again.