HC Deb 09 May 1848 vol 98 cc824-6

MR. URQUHART rose to move, in pursuance of notice— That an address be presented to Her Majesty representing that the intervention undertaken in Her name in Portugal was unlawful, and praying Her Majesty to forbid the continuation of this or the repetition of similar measures by Her servants. The hon. Gentleman said, that considering the general disinclination a the House—a disinclination which he was far from deeming just, but to which, nevertheless, he bowed, and under which he comported himself as best he might—to Listen to the discussion of any of those subjects which were called by the name of foreign affairs, and observing the want of attendance of hon. Members, he should confine himself to the very smallest space in which he could state the substantive object of his Motion. The proposition which he had to bring forward was one which, in his opinion, addressed itself to the best sympathies of the House. Such was the state of affairs in Europe, that the;greatest delicacy was required in handling matters which might become the elements of discord. When he put his notice on the books of the House, he did so without any concert with any party—he did so simply to enforce the proposition, that the proceedings in which we were engaged with respect to Portugal were illegal. Perceiving that but a few moments would be afforded him for addressing the House, he would in the briefest space refer to the doctrines held in this country in former times in respect to Portugal, and of our connexion with that country. Two debates had occurred in that House on that subject, one of which was remarkable for a speech made by the noble Lord now at the head of the Foreign Department, in which he took the opportunity of recording his strongest censure of such proceedings as those in which this country had been recently involved. The ability which the noble Lord had on that occasion displayed was understood to be the determining cause of his filling the high office which he had since almost uninterruptedly continued to hold. The other debate occurred at the end of last Session, when that same high public functionary had to justify the very acts which he had before condemned; and when another distinguished statesman was found justifying the noble Lord on the ground—not that the principle was correct, but that the Government of this country having been once engaged in its application—it was impossible for it to withdraw from the course in which it was involved. The first debate took place on the 1st of June, 1829, when the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth defended the policy of the then Government; and in the course of that defence he thus stated the case with respect to Portugal, in reply to the speech of Sir J. Mackintosh:— The right hot Gentleman (observed Sir R. Peel) had stated that by a series of treaties, England was bound to protect the integrity and independence of the Portuguese territories. That statement was correct; but he denied that, either in the letter or in the spirit of those treaties, or in any engagement or obligation entered into by Great Britain, there was conveyed a guarantee of the succession of any particular individual, or a guarantee of the existence of any political institution in Portugal. He would hurry on, seeing he had but a very little more time in which to speak, and come at once to the fact of our intervention last year in the affairs of Portugal. It was enough for him to say, that in the debate to which he had referred, among all the speakers—and there were many of great power, eminent as politicians and as constitutional lawyers—there was but one consenting voice raised in concurrence wilt the energetically expressed sentiments of the noble Lord opposite, that "the principle of non-intervention was just, and ought to be held sacred, and the noble Lord trusted that England would never be found giving her sanction to its infraction."

MR. ELLIOT observed, that the subject was of too great importance to be discussed in so thin a House, and moved that the House be counted.

Thirty-seven Members only being present, the House adjourned at half-past Seven o'clock.