HC Deb 07 March 1849 vol 103 cc356-80

rose to move for a return of which he had given notice. The hon. Gentleman said, he conceived that return was of some importance, because the question it involved affected the honour and character of England as a nation. It was a remarkable fact, that in this country, where matters of foreign as well as of domestic policy were so freely canvassed, the representatives of the people in Parliament bestowed but very little attention on our relations with foreign States. There was always some reason ready to be given by the Members on the Treasury bench for not discussing in that House subjects of foreign policy at the moment when they were freely discussed by the public out of doors. It almost always happened that the intercourse which we were carrying on with foreign States was either not sufficiently matured, or else it was altogether too late to enter into any investigation of the subject. Now, if our relations with other countries were in a satisfactory state, it would, perhaps, be only reasonable on the part of the House to refuse to enter into unnecessary discussions; but when they saw that those relations were by no means of the most favourable nature, he thought they ought to direct a larger share of their attention to the subject. It was true that we were not at war with any foreign States; but our relations with other Governments in many parts of the world were by no means of that amicable character which it was our interest, and which it should be our wish, to preserve. He was as anxious as the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Department could be for the continuance of friendly relations between England and foreign nations; and he believed that he was promoting that object to the best of his power when he denounced any acts which could irritate other Governments. He would touch for one moment on circumstances to which he had last year called the attention of the House—he meant our relations with the Court of Spain. At an early period of last Session they bad reason to apprehend that our relations with that Court were not altogether of so amicable a character as they could desire. Questions had been put from time to time to the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office on the subject; and very short answers to those questions had been given by the noble Lord. At last a striking and signal fact had occurred—namely, the arrival of our Ambassador, who had been sent away from the Court of Spain in disgrace. The particulars of that transaction had never yet been stated to the House. He had brought forward a Motion on the subject in the month of June, but he had then been told by many high authorities that the Motion was premature. As he had not, therefore, met with that degree of encouragement without which he never wished to load the House into a vote, he had not pressed his Motion to a division; and, indeed, the noble Lord at the head of the Government had not given him an opportunity of taking a direct vote on the question, but had merely allowed him to bring on the subject in an incidental manner. Rumours at present prevailed everywhere, except in that House, to the effect that new arrangements were about to be entered into with respect to our relations with the Court of Spain. But in that House the subject was never mentioned; and he was at a loss to know when the proper time for its discussion could arrive. It was with the recollection of what passed with regard to Spain that he now submitted his Motion to the House with regard to another friendly nation, for the purpose of bringing forward to the notice of the House a very singular transaction, which must not only, in a great degree, compromise the character of this nation as regarded her relations with the King of the Two Sicilies, but which must compromise her relations with every civilised Power on the face of the earth which recognised the obligations of solemn treaties. As he had already observed, they in the House of Commons were more ignorant of foreign matters than any other society in Great Britain. But it appeared that disturbances having arisen in a portion of the kingdom of the Two Sicilies in the autumn of 1847, the King having heard that an English nobleman of high rank was at that time staying in the dominions of his Holiness the Pope, most unfortunately for himself invited that nobleman, who at that moment had been instrumental—perhaps, I indirectly so—in stirring Rome into rebellion against the Sovereign Pontiff, to visit his dominions. He accordingly came, and the result which he had introduced into I Rome he seemed to have introduced—doubtless, without any intentional agency on his part—also into the more southern dominions, which he next visited, and which, from a state of disquietude, broke out into one of entire and flagrant rebellion. The efforts of the Earl of Minto were, no doubt, most honestly and honourably exerted to quench the flame which he had helped to raise, but they were wholly ineffectual to that purpose. He remained there, it appeared, as arbitrator till the April following; and then, having made every place he visited too hot to hold him, he went away. He was perfectly aware of his good disposition; but he was also aware that, under the circumstances which then influenced Italy, any supposed mediation on the part of an English nobleman was almost certain to produce the effects which unhappily resulted, of giving confidence to the insurgents, and the contrary feelings to those who were otherwise disposed. What the relations of this country had been with the King of the Two Sicilies, or with these insurgents, from the moment when the Earl of Minto's diplomatic mission ceased, they had no information whatever. None had been furnished by the Government, and the contradictory accounts to be gleaned from the public papers could not, of course, he wholly relied on. It did appear, however, that there was a period during which the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary recognised these Sicilian insurgents as a separate and independent State and Government; but he was not aware that any one besides the noble Lord had ever made such a recognition. He presumed that the Houses of Parliament had a right to be informed if any such revolution took place as tended to place any Power with whom this country maintained friendly relations in a new position as regarded any portion of its dominions; and when, in point of fact, Sicily did become separate and independent, it was not only right put necessary that the Houses of Parliament should be informed of so great and important a change; more especially when it so happened that those dominions belonged to an ally who was included in the Treaty of Vienna, and whose title we then ratified and acknowledged. That a presumption might have been raised to that effect at the beginning of the Session, he was ready to acknowledge, when, to the surprise of many in that House, it was found that an ancient ally of the Crown of Great Britain, who had been formally recognised as the King of the Two Sicilies, was mentioned by Her Majesty in the Speech from the Throne as the King of Naples. He was willing to admit that a presumption then arose that some change had taken place in the arrangement of those dominions. But surely if such had been the fact—if no earlier intimation could have been given, still the Commons of England had a right to expect that they would have been informed in the Speech from the Throne that a change had taken place with regard to one of Her Majesty's faithful allies, and have had the particulars laid before them. They were, however, left to form their own presumptions on the subject from this singular incident in the Royal Speech. But the suspicion received confirmation in no inconsiderable degree when rumours began to float about that arms had actually been permitted to be sent, by the authority of the Government, for the supply of these Sicilian insurgents, early in last autumn. He would admit to the noble Lord that when he put his question to him on this subject, although he had reason to believe the fact of arms having been sent to be true, he had no notion whatever that the noble Lord was cognisant of the transaction. He could not believe it, and he took the precaution of writing to the noble Lord to acquaint him of the question which it was his intention to put to him, in order that he might have an opportunity of making inquiries, and satisfying himself as to the truth of facts of which he then believed him to be perfectly ignorant. He could not believe that it was with the sanction of a Cabinet Minister, holding the high position of the noble Lord, that such transactions had taken place. What was his surprise, therefore, when he heard the noble Lord not merely acknowledging the fact to be perfectly true, but that he himself had authorised the transaction, and, at that moment, saw nothing objectionable in it! It followed, therefore, that the noble Lord did consider Sicily in the light of an independent dominion; for under no other circumstances could he have viewed such conduct as just or honourable. He would conclude the facts to be these, that this contractor, who was employed by the Sicilian insurgents, did apply to the officers of our Ordnance for the return of a certain portion of the arms which had actually been delivered and were in our stores at Woolwich, because he could not supply the contract which he had engaged to fulfil in time to enable these insurgents to prosecute the rebellion with sufficient activity. He believed that the officers of the Ordnance, exercising due caution, declined to comply with the request of the contractor, and the matter was then referred to the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He did not know what degree of control the noble Lord possessed over the Ordnance Department, but of this he was satisfied, that the Ordnance Office would not have acted in this matter without his authority, and that he gave it, and did not deny that he had so acted; and seemed to think that what he had done had been done rightly. He could not conceive under what circumstance it could be right to give the high sanction of the authority which the noble Lord held in this country to the arming of insurgents against their lawful King, supposing there had been no distinct recognition, on the part of their King, of the independence of the revolted province. Such were the facts. There was much more connected with the Sicilian question on which he perhaps might occupy the attention of the House at some future time, although it was extremely difficult to find a time for bringing on anything connected with foreign affairs. The noble Lord, ingenious everywhere, showed his ingenuity in this with considerable effect. The time was never proper for these discussions, and, in the noble Lord's opinion, probably never would be proper. It was, no doubt, painful, however, to find statements solemnly made in that House, as solemnly contradicted in another great assembly—contradicted in the face of our own Ambassador, sitting there as the representative of this country, who was told that what had been said in the House of Commons, and which had been inserted in the Speech delivered from the Throne, was not founded in fact. That the noble Lord had received information of everything he had stated, no man alive could ever doubt; but they might doubt whether, when such events were taking place, and when countries were torn, as Italy unhappily was, by contending factions, foreign Powers bad not a right to ask that information should not be promulgated in our Houses of Parliament—even though resting on apparently good authority—until the real truth had been ascertained. He understood that no objection would be offered to the substance of his Motion, but he adhered to the terms of it, inasmuch as they gave the truth and the whole truth, and he thought it desirable the whole should be stated.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That there be laid before this House, an Account of all Ordnance Stores returned from that Department to any Contractor in the year 1848, for the purpose of being sent to the Sicilian insurgents in arms against Her Majesty's Ally the King of the Two Sicilies, with the consent of Her Majesty's Government.


Sir, as the hon. and learned Gentleman has stated, I shall have no objection to produce the accounts for which he has moved, provided he will omit, or, if he does not consent, I shall call upon the House to sanction the omission, of the last words of the Motion he has proposed. I object to the latter words, because those words imply an opinion as to the merits of the question pending between the Sicilians and the King of Naples, which I think this House is not at present in possession of sufficient information to decide upon, and which, at all events, ought not to be decided summarily by a vote of the House of Commons. I therefore shall have no objection to the Motion, for an account of all arms returned for the purpose of being sent to the Sicilians, omitting the words "insurgents in arms against Her Majesty's ally the King of the Two Sicilies." Now, Sir, the hon. and learned Member complains that there is never a fit and proper time found for discussing foreign affairs in this House. He says that while matters are pending Members of this House are called upon by Her Majesty's Ministers to abstain from discussing affairs that are under negotiation, and that when affairs are settled they are told that the time has gone by. Now, taking that representation as correct, I must at all events compliment the hon. and learned Gentleman upon having found a time, to him at least, peculiarly convenient and proper for discussing foreign affairs, the time, namely, when he is totally ignorant of the matter into the discussion of which be seeks to lead the House. I can quite understand that the most convenient time for the hon. and learned Gentleman to originate debates of this nature is when his own knowledge and that of the House is most crude—when he is least qualified for the discussion, and most misinformed. It is to be expected that he should invite us to this discussion at a time when the House is not able to detect his fallacies, expose his inconsistencies, or perceive his total want of information. I can, therefore, compliment the hon. and learned Gentleman upon having solved that difficulty under which he professed to be labouring, and having found that time which to him is most convenient and proper for the discussion of foreign affairs. But I wholly deny the second assertion which the hon. and learned Gentleman has made. It is perfectly true that when discussions are proposed with respect to matters connected with intricate foreign negotiations—when those discussions are started at a moment when it would be inconsistent with the duty of the Government of the day to produce the papers which would give to the House information as to the existing state of those negotiations—it is then incumbent upon Ministers, under the circumstances, to decline entering on a discussion of pending transactions; but I utterly deny, for myself, that I have over made any objection to discussions founded upon papers produced after the transactions are over. No doubt those who, like the hon. and learned Member, have wanted to find fault with the conduct of Government, have not found it convenient to enter on that discussion when the grounds upon which Government have acted and the details of their conduct have been exhibited. It is not we who would have said that was not the proper time, it is they who have wanted to attack us who have found that that was not a proper time when the House was in possession of the information requisite for forming a judgment. Without, however, dwelling upon those topics, I shall rather come to the fundamental difference of opinion which I have with the hon. and learned Gentleman on some of the principles adverted to by him in the course of his speech. I understood him to say, that all who take up arms in vindication of their rights are to be regarded in the light of insurgents; and he seems to belong to that ancient school of political doctrine which vindicates The right divine of kings to govern wrong. He thinks that nations are made for sovereigns and for governments, instead of being of opinion that sovereigns and governments are appointed for the benefit and advantage of nations. It is upon that ground that the hon. Member wishes, by the terms of his Motion, to stigmatise the Sicilians as insurgents and rebellious subjects. I will not now go into that Sicilian question, which is one that would lead me, or any one who might engage in its discussion, much farther than would be expedient at present; but this I will say, that the Sicilians have had a constitution for centuries—that their rights are ancient and indisputable—that those rights were confirmed by the direct and positive sanction of their sovereign in the year 1812, when their ancient constitution was remodelled and reformed, and not, as many persons suppose, when they for the first time received a constitution at his hands. At that time that constitution was sanctioned, article by article, by the word and promise of the Sovereign of the day; and therefore, I say, that if the Sicilians, in recent times, have risen in arms to assert their ancient rights, and to require the execution of the constitution which never was abrogated, but only by an abuse of authority suspended, I will not concur with the hon. and learned Member in stigmatising the Sicilians in the manner which he proposes by his Motion. The hon. and learned Member says, that at present our relations with foreign countries are not in the situation in which he would wish to see them; and he denied, the other day, the imputation which I was led to cast upon him, that the condition in which he would wish to see those relations was one that would be far from that of amicable and friendly. I must say that I think some of the views which he takes of the course we ought to pursue would lead us to that condition which he denies he is desirous of seeing us placed in; but I deny the assertion of the hon. and learned Member, that our relations with foreign countries in general are not in a satisfactory state. I say, in contradiction to the hon. and learned Gentleman, that this country does stand well with the great majority of foreign Powers—that the character of this country stands high—and that the moral influence of England is great—a moral influence which I do not take credit to this Government for having created, but which is founded upon the good sense, and the wise and enlightened conduct, of the British nation. Sir, foreign countries have seen that in the midst of the events which have violently convulsed other countries of Europe, and which have shaken to their foundations ancient institutions, this country has held fast to her ancient landmarks, standing firm in her pride of place— Fell not, but stands unshaken, from within, Or from without, gainst all temptations armed. That has given confidence to foreign countries in the Government and people of this country. When other ancient monarchies were shaken to their very foundations, England stood unhurt, by its evident security giving confidence to other Powers. They have seen that the Government of England is not, like that of other countries, struggling for its existence, and occupied in guarding against daily dangers. They have seen that the British Government acts in unison with the spirit of the nation with whoso interests it is charged. They know that its advice is worthy of being listened to; and that advice, I can tell the hon. and learned Gentleman, is valued and respected, not spurned with contumely, as he would wish us to suppose. The hon. and learned Member adverted to the long interruption of our intercourse with Spain. The papers upon that question were laid upon the table last year, and it was competent for the hon. and learned Member at the time to have made any Motion he chose upon the subject. If he did not do so, let him not cast any blame upon us. Rather let us allege that it was because he found there was no ground upon which an advantageous attack upon the Government could be made. Inclination certainly is not wanting on his part; and whenever that forbearance for which he takes credit is shown, I will claim it as the result of his inability to find any tangible ground of attack. The hon. and learned Member has a wonderfully short memory. He asked me, but two days ago, when it was that the Earl of Minto's credentials were signed, and when they ceased to have effect. I think it was only the day before yesterday I told him that the noble Earl's credentials were dated the 27th of December, that he arrived at Naples on the 6th of February, and that he presented his credentials on the 7th of February. In the face of this statement, the hon. and learned Member asserts this day, that the Earl of Minto's arrival at Naples, in December, was the cause of the outbreak in Messina, which took place in the month before the noble Lord had arrived. I reject, then, with disdain, on the part of my noble Friend, the charges which the hon. and learned Member has condescended to bring against him, of having been employed in Italy in exciting the people of Sicily to rebel against their Sovereign. [Mr. BANKES: I said just the contrary. I said that it was not the noble Lord's intention to do so, but that such had been the effect of his conduct.] Very good. The hon. and learned Member is so accustomed not to produce the effects which he intends, that he has ascribed that misfortune to other persons as well as himself. Now, Sir, I deny the effect, as well as the intention. It is not true that my noble Friend's presence was attended with effects so different from what the hon. and learned Gentleman deems them to have been, but quite the contrary. The Earl of Minto, wherever he went, was useful in bringing together adverse parties; and, as far as it was consistent with his duty, he gave advice, when solicited by opposite parties in the States he was accredited to. His progress was a progress of peace and conciliation, instead of being, as the hon. and learned Member chooses to suppose, a progress giving rise to civil commotion in those States. I suppose the hon. and learned Gentleman means to say that the visit of my noble Friend to Rome, in the beginning of last year, was the cause of the events which took place at Rome in the beginning of this year, or at the end of the last year. These are certainly causes and events which the hon. and learned Member may be able to put together, but which, I am tolerably sure, the rest of the world will see are totally disconnected. Now, Sir, I again say, as I have stated upon former occasions, that the Earl of Minto's interference in the affairs ponding between the King of Naples, or between the King of the Two Sicilies, if the hon. and learned Gentleman insists upon the formal and diplomatic title, and his Sicilian subjects, was at the request of the King himself. That it did not succeed, was the fault of the Neapolitan Government. But, Sir, on this question, the hon. and learned Member again misreads treaties. He says, as I understand him, that the Treaty of Vienna contains some guarantee of the rights of the King of Naples.[Mr. BANKES: It guarantees the King the title of the King of the Two Sicilies.] It contains no guarantee at all. The 104th Article of the Treaty of Vienna says, that the King of the Two Sicilies—I forget what title it gives him, whether it is the King of Naples, or the King of the Two Sicilies—is to enter into possession of his Neapolitan territories, and that the Powers acknowledge him by the title of King of the Two Sicilies. But can the hon. and learned Gentleman say, or will he contend, that that recognition of title alters the constitution of Sicily? Suppose any foreign Powers acknowledged the title of the King of England at the time when he assumed the title of King of France. Suppose they acknowledged or recognised the King of England under the title of the King of England and of France, would anybody have said that that recognition gave to the King of England a right to the territory of France, or a right to overturn the constitution? With regard to these general points, therefore, I think the hon. and learned Gentleman would have done right to the House, though perhaps worse to himself, if he had postponed entering into detail until the papers have been laid upon the table, and until the House is in possession of the history of these Neapolitan and Sicilian negotiations. But I will tell him this—and he will find it when the papers are laid upon the table—we wish, and the desire of Her Majesty's Government from the beginning to the end has been, to continue the connexion between Sicily and Naples—to continue the two crowns upon one and the same head; and that however the views of that possibility may have varied from time to time, according to varying changes and circumstances, it has been the constant desire of Her Majesty's Government, upon European considerations, as well as with reference to the interests of Sicily and the King of Naples, to preserve the union between the crowns of Sicily and Naples. With regard to the papers, I shall have no sort of objection to produce them. The transaction was exactly that which I stated on a former evening. The contractor applied to the Ordnance, stating he had an order from the Sicilian Government, and that with the view of completing the order more speedily than he otherwise could, he wished to have returned to him some iron guns he had supplied, which he would replace afterwards by guns of the same kind. The Ordnance, and not the contractor, referred to me to know if there was any objection to complying with this request. My answer was, there was none; and the guns, accordingly, were given to him. Upon further consideration, however, it was thought that the circumstances might be misconstrued, and that the Neapolitan Government might take a different view of the transaction; and Her Majesty's Minister at Naples was told, if any complaint was made, to explain that it happened to be done inadvertently, and without any hostile intentions whatever towards Naples. We were willing to give that explanation. But when the hon. and learned Member says we went against the invariable practice, and against the law of nations, to supply arms to one of the belligerent parties, I beg leave to inform him there is at least one nation which does not act upon the principle he has laid down. The Government of France are in the habit of constantly selling, indiscriminately, to any party who wishes to purchase them, arms out of the public stores. There is, therefore, one country at least which does not hold the hon. and learned Member's doctrine. In conclusion, I repeat that I have no objection to the Motion, if the hon. and learned Member will consent to leave out all those words which involve the political opinions of the hon. and learned Gentleman upon the merits of the case, as between the King of Naples and his Sicilian subjects.


said, the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had entered into an unusually discursive course on the present occasion, and had been tempted, very much contrary to his wont, into a general discussion of the politics of Europe. He had spoken of the commanding position occupied by this country in the eyes of Europe, and of the general assurances of good-will which she received from foreign Powers. He had also entered, without waiting for the papers of which he had spoken, very much into the merits of the Sicilian question, and had more than indicated his belief that the Sicilians had very good grounds for their quarrel. He would, however, rather follow the noble Lord's precept than his example, and defer any discussion of the general question till they had before them the long-deferred papers. He would only mention one point which the noble Lord had omitted on this occasion, although he had referred to it on the Motion of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, on Italian affairs. The noble Lord had remarked more than once that the Earl of Minto had interfered in the affairs of Naples and Sicily at the request of the King of Naples; but on the former occasion to which he had alluded he had understood the noble Lord to say, that the Earl of Minto was on the point of arranging all points of difference, on satisfactory and amicable terms, between the King of Naples and his Sicilian subjects, and thought he would have accomplished that object had not the Sicilians, in consequence of the stimulus and excitement imparted by the events of February, broken from all the stipulations which had been made by the Earl of Minto, and nearly agreed upon. This he thought an important point, as showing that it was the Sicilians who rejected the terms proposed by the Earl of Minto. The question more immediately before them lay in a very narrow compass, and did not necessarily include any reference to the merits of the quarrel between the King and his Sicilian subjects. It was simply this, were we neutral in the struggle going on between Naples and Sicily—was the position of England that of a neutral Power—and, if so, was this transaction inconsistent with the position and character of a neutral Power? That was the plain question which was raised by the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dorsetshire. It appeared that a contractor applied to the Ordnance for some of the Queen's stores, for the purpose of sending them to Sicily; that the Ordnance applied to the noble Lord, and that they received the sanction of the noble Lord for issuing those arms out of those stores. It did appear to him (Sir J. Walsh) that this veil of the contractor was so transparent and thin a pretext that it utterly failed. It was impossible to argue with the perfect knowledge of the facts which the Government seemed to have had, the contractor not concealing the purpose for which he applied for those arms, but that it was just as much the act of the noble Lord and the Government, as if they had directly sent those arms on the application of the Sicilian Government. If there was a difference, there was something unworthy the character of a great nation in effecting their object by so indirect a means. That was not the whole of this transaction. The noble Lord had very acutely dwelt at considerable length on those general topics, but had scarcely adverted to the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend. He disposed of it in his light easy flowing strain, in some five or six sentences, and then he sat down; but the whole of this transaction was not even now fully before the House of Commons. It appeared that there was a reconsideration of the question. The act of the noble Lord had come more formally before the consideration of the Government, and it appeared that the act of the noble Lord was not approved of by the majority of his Colleagues. His hon. and learned Friend had remarked that the House of Commons was almost the only society in which topics relating to foreign affairs were almost tabooed—a subject on which the House was scarcely allowed to enter; but there was another society in which there was a similar exclusion, and that was the Cabinet. It appeared the noble Lord monopolised the whole management of those things without any communication with his Colleagues, and that afterwards when those subjects were brought on more formally, the Government felt it necessary to disavow them; and then instructions were given by the Government to its Ambassador at Naples, that if any explanation was demanded it should be said to the Neapolitan Government, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, that such a step was inadvertently taken and without due regard to the consequences, and taken hastily and without fully weighing the construction that might be placed upon it. That was a position in which he deeply regretted to see this country placed. Those apologies and those retractations for that equivocal and clandestine act, struck at the honour, the character, and reputation of this great country. He did say, when the noble Lord dilated in his easy flowing manner on the moral force which England possessed, and on the weight which was naturally attached to her great character in all her diplomatic relations, transactions and proceedings of this kind, underhand in the first place, and disavowed and apologised for in the second, were calculated to weaken and destroy that moral force. That was the real ground, and the very narrow ground on which the question stood. Neither his hon. and learned Friend or himself intended on the present occasion to raise the general question of the politics of Sicily, or to go over the field of Neapolitan and Sicilian affairs. His hon. and learned Friend made this distinctive Motion in order to invite the attention of the House to the matter which he had brought before it.


said, if he had known this question would have been brought under discussion, he would have brought facts and statements to bear upon it which would have given it a very different complexion. He would say, if the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs could have been justified in any interference whatever with the affairs of other countries, it would have been in the affairs of Sicily. He did not think there had been anything like that interference with which the noble Lord was charged. He (Mr. Macgregor) knew that country well, and had travelled over many countries called despotic, but in no country did he ever see so many military executions for presumptive crimes as in the island of Sicily. The Sicilians had acted with the greatest harmony, and there was the greatest domestic tranquillity. With respect to what was done either by the English or French admirals, he considered it was neither more nor less than two gentlemen walking across a field, who interfered to prevent a great many people from ill-using a woman and her children. That was what was done at Messina. There never was a greater act of humanity than that performed by Sir William Parker with regard to the people of Messina. He had no hesitation in saying the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had done more to preserve the peace of Europe since the beginning of 1848 than any Minister who had ever had the management of foreign affairs in this country. He said that not from any personal feelings, but merely from his own actual experience and personal knowledge, and the communications which he received from other countries.


congratulated the House upon the full, frank, and absolute admission made by the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, of the natural and just right of nations to the management of their own affairs. He trusted, after this, he should have the benefit of the noble Lord's support when Ireland came to make the same appeal. The case of that country was, at least, equally as strong as that of the Sicilians, whilst, with the exception of a miserable pretext for an insurrection last year among a very small section of the people, she had advanced those rights only by peaceable and legitimate means, which the Sicilians had endeavoured to obtain by blood and rebellion. He congratulated the noble Lord upon this approach to better counsels, and upon his entire recognition of the compatibility of the legislative and administrative freedom of Sicily with the rights of the Crown of the united kingdom of the Two Sicilies. He would find the same compatibility in Ireland towards the Crown of England, if he would only try it. The noble Lord had said there was no divine right in kings to misrule a country. Neither was there any divine right in Parliaments to misrule a country. Nations, he said, speaking of Sicily, were not made for sovereigns or governors. Neither was Ireland. The noble Lord had spoken of the ancient Sicilian constitution, and of its perfect recognition at a former period by Naples. In the same manner he (Mr. O'Connell) might allude to the ancient Irish constitution which had existed for 500 years, and to its distinct recognition in 1782 by the English Parliament, when an Act of Parliament was passed in this country declaring that the Irish Legislature was to be free for ever. But he should not enter further on this subject, as he was sure he must have the support of the noble Lord in a Motion for the repeal of the Union, as of course the noble Lord Would not be so inconsistent as to oppose such a measure after his speech that day. There was only one other point on which he would beg leave to make a single remark, and that was the mission of the Earl of Minto. The noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs had described that mission as having been one of peace and conciliation; but in the absence of the papers referring to it, the House could only judge of the character of the mission by its results. The Earl of Minto first wont to Switzerland, and his interference there ended in the persecution and oppression of the minority. He then went to Rome, where he made himself prominent by fraternising with Sturbini, by patronising Ciceromachio and his friends, and by cheering a disorderly mob from a balcony. The noble Earl's next visit was to Sicily, where his efforts were followed by scenes of barbarity and bloodshed that shocked even the noble Lord himself. If such were the results of what the noble Lord termed a mission of peace and conciliation, he should be glad to hear what the noble Lord considered a warlike mission would be.


said, that the noble Viscount the Secretary for Foreign Affairs had made no effort to justify his interference in Sicily, but had put forward one of his hon. supporters on the bench behind him (the hon. Member for Glasgow), to perform that task. The question before the House was the simple and narrow one of the propriety of interfering with people who were fighting in another part of the world; but though the noble Lord had said a great deal on every other subject, he had not made a single allusion to this main question, except one incidental but very remarkable one. The noble Lord had shown extreme sensitiveness—or something more—lest there should be any expression in the resolution that might in any way pledge the House to any opinion as to the matter in dispute; but it was very strange that the noble Lord should, in the very same breath, have himself used the terms "Sicilian Government," with regard to the revolted subjects of the King of the Two Sicilies, while he was so thinskinned lest a word that might be construed into an expression of opinion should proceed from the House. The noble Lord's observation proved that he had himself, at all events in his own mind, recognised a Government in Sicily, distinct from that of the King. This observation of the noble Lord was followed up by the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, in which the hon. Member had expressed his conviction that the noble Lord had done more than any other statesman that ever lived to preserve the peace of Europe during the last year and a half. But surely it was a most extraordinary mode of preserving peace, to countenance the transmission of arms from the Queen's stores to be used in promoting rebellion among the subjects of another sovereign. And what justification did the noble Lord give of this strange proceeding? Why, that the Government of Prance dealt in arms. But the answer to this was, that the English Government had never done so, and that it was nothing to them what the Government of France might think fit to do in that respect. The only matter on which the House had a right to be thankful was, that the noble Lord had not as yet succeeded in breaking down that influence which a long perseverance in an opposite line of policy towards other nations had raised up for this country. But the experiment which the noble Lord seemed to be trying, of how far he could venture to go in the course he was pursuing, was a dangerous one to make, and was one that the House ought to be slow in sanctioning. The naval officers of this country and of France had felt themselves compelled, by feelings of humanity, to interfere in order to stop this war, which, probably, could not have been carried on at all, if the noble Lord had not allowed arms to be furnished from Her Majesty's stores. As to the subject immediately before them, no answer whatever had been given in justification of the course pursued.


said, he rose principally in order to express his gratification at the high position in which, according to the noble Lord, this country stood, in being enabled by its moral force alone to preserve the peace of the world, because, when he brought forward his resolution at a future period for a reduction in the estimates for the support of the Army and Navy, he believed he could now fairly ask the noble Lord for his support on the occasion. The question before the House was a very simple one. That which occurred now might have occurred very often before, namely, that a contractor, having orders from different parties, might ask one party to allow a portion of the arms furnished under the contract, to be returned for the purpose of giving them to another party whose order was of a more pressing character. But at the same time it was certainly very unfortunate that the Government, after having decided to remain neuter in the contest, should have been a party to an act having so much the appearance of being of a partisan character. He did not blame the noble Lord for having done more than had been done by other Ministers at other times; but he thought that questions such as that should have been brought before the Cabinet in the first instance, so that they might be spared the necessity of witnessing one noble Lord, high in office, declare in another place, that this proceeding had not received the sanction of the Cabinet. He had no objection to the production of the papers, but he could not sit down without objecting to the simile of the hon. Member for Glasgow, that the interference in Sicily was as justifiable as that of two men who would act to prevent a woman being ill-treated in the fields. The officers in command of fleets and armies should not be at liberty to go to war, or to decline combats, according as their own private feelings dictated. They should on all occasions act strictly according to the orders they had received. He hoped that the House would have an opportunity of inspecting the letters accrediting the Earl of Minto to the different Courts, and also the instructions that had been furnished to him on visiting these several places. He trusted they would bear out the representation that peace was the object of the noble Earl's mission.


The hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) has complained of my noble Friend having carried this discussion beyond the bounds of the Motion before the House—of my noble Friend having voluntarily taken that course, and having introduced other subjects into discussion; but the fact is, the hon. and learned Gentleman who brought forward the Motion introduced all those topics which have been characterised as irrelevant, and my noble Friend has done nothing more than follow, point by point, the statements of the hon. and learned Member, and given answers to them, which, I think, he has done in a tolerably satisfactory way. But it appears to the hon. Member for Oxfordshire that not only did he go into a great many statements totally irrelevant to this return, but also that the Motion conveys blame to the Government for what it has done in this matter. I certainly had not discovered anything of that sort in the Motion before the hon. Member for Oxfordshire told us of it. I had not been aware that a Motion of censure on a Government could have been implied in an application for an account of the number of guns sent back by the Board of Ordnance to the contractor at his request, which account had not yet been received by the House, and which the Government had shown no unwillingness to give. It was perfectly allowable for my noble Friend to say, "If you want papers, ask for them; if you want this account, ask for it; but do not, under pretence of asking for an account, make a statement which the House has no means of deciding upon at the present moment." That is, in fact, the short question at issue; and nothing more would have been stated if the hon. and learned Member for Dorsetshire had not gone into other questions, and the occasion seemed so tempting that every one else has taken advantage of it to get on his favourite hobby. The hon. and learned Memberr for Limerick gets up and says, "Here is a favourable opportunity for introducing a discussion on the repeal of the Union;" while the hon. Member for Montrose, on the other hand, cries out, "Here is a favourable opportunity for discussing the question of financial reform." In the same manner, the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite thinks that it is a good occasion for introducing his opinions with respect to the question of the dispute between the King of the Two Sicilies and his revolted subjects. Such is the result of the inconvenient precedent set by the hon. and learned Member. But there appears to be some doubt as to what has passed in another place, and what has fallen from my noble Friend on this question. The hon and learned Member said that my noble Friend has stated that what had been done was perfectly right, and that he was ready to maintain its propriety. My noble Friend said nothing of the kind. He stated what the Ordnance Board had done—that they had made an application to him, to which at the time he saw no objection, and that he accordingly gave; his assent; and that this is the fact will appear when the papers are produced. But the hon. Member for Montrose has made this further statement, that a noble Friend of mine in another place had declared that whatever the opinion of my noble Friend at the head of Foreign Affairs might be with respect to the propriety of what was done, the Cabinet were of a different opinion, and that they had thought it necessary to disown the act, through the representative of this country at the Court of Naples. Now, nothing of this kind occurred. The circumstances which took place were these. Some months ago my noble Friend received this application from the Board of Ordnance. Probably he did not pay much attention to it at the time, and his reply was, that he saw no objection to what was required; not that the stores of the Queen should be denuded, and this country left without arms, but that some eight or ten guns should be given back to the contractor. Shortly after, my noble Friend, reflecting farther on the matter, proposed to his Colleagues a course which they adopted—namely, that instructions should be given to Her Majesty's representative at Naples to express our regret at what had occurred. So far from there being a difference of opinion between my noble Friend and his Colleagues on this matter, it was at the suggestion of my noble Friend himself that this determination had been come to. I certainly do not want to enter at present into the merits of this question—into the rights of the King of the Two Sicilies, as acknowledged and laid down by the Treaty of Vienna, and the rights of the people of Sicily, as guaranteed to be maintained to them by the hereditary Prince, and into the constitution which was set up in 1812, and afterwards overthrown. All these are matters which cannot well be understood without reference, not merely to the papers now before the House, but to other papers relating to the transactions which have taken place since 1812 and 1816; but, at all events, enough is known to warrant me in saying that these events do not justify the hon. and learned Member in saying that the Earl of Minto excited the insurrection in Sicily in the month of January, by going to Naples in February. The fact is, that the people of Sicily, finding themselves aggrieved, rose up in arms in the month of January; and before that time the Earl of Minto, understanding that it was very likely the King of Naples might wish to see him, wrote home to notify the circumstance, and to remark that he had no powers to visit the Court of Naples, and these powers were then sent to him. The Earl of Minto afterwards went to Naples, not to raise an insurrection in Sicily, but because the King of the Two Sicilies had applied to him, and had asked him to go to Sicily to treat with, what I will call, the Government of Sicily—that is, with those who were administering the Provisional Government in that island. I am told that no such Government can exist; but I would remind the House that it is not many years since there was a Provisional Government in Belgium—the Government of the King of Holland having been displaced—and that this country did not hesitate to treat with that Provisional Government. But then comes the hon. and learned Member for Limerick, who says, that the case of Sicily is entirely similar to that which he wishes to set up for Ireland. Why, if the Sicilians, having a Parliament of their own, had, through that Parliament, connected themselves with the Parliament of Naples, and had their representatives in that United Parliament ever since 1815 to the present time; and if the Sicilians had the benefit of a legal Government and of a constitution, to which they had agreed, by having adopted a United Parliament instead of a separate Parliament, which they before enjoyed; then I admit that if this state of things existed, there would have been some sort of resemblance between Sicily and Ireland, such as the hon. and learned Member wishes to make appear. Or else, if Ireland had her constitution put down, and her Parliament suppressed by an arbitrary decree of King George III.; and if she had now no representatives in this House; and if there were no statutes in force in Ireland that could ensure the people liberty of any kind—either personal or any other—then, indeed, I admit there would be also some sort of likeness such as that for which he contends. But, at present, the only likeness between Sicily and Ireland that I can see is, that which a little child in Sicily once described to a friend of mine, after expressing a wish that she could like to go to England by land. The child was told, "you cannot do that, because England is an island." "Oh, but why not; is not Sicily an island too?" Sicily is an island, and Ireland is an island too; but there the resemblance ends. But then the hon. Member for Montrose tells us, that as England has so much moral force, this is a good time to reduce the estimates. I think that is rather too hasty an inference, because the hon. Member must know that if we wish to retain that moral influence, it will depend a good deal on our being looked upon by other countries as a nation having considerable power to make its views respected by other nations. As to what the hon. and learned Member for Limerick has said about the Earl of Minto having endeavoured to excite insurrection in Rome, and in Italy generally, so far from that being the case, the noble Earl, when consulted by the Governments of those countries as to the amendments in their constitutions which he would recommend, did not feel it his duty to go so far in any case as to recommend a representative constitution for adoption. It should also be recollected that the King of Naples was the first to give a representative constitution to his subjects, and that that alteration was the beginning of the disturbances which afterwards took place at Rome, Tuscany, Milan, and other parts of Italy. Such I believe to have been the fact; and that the Earl of Minto, far from giving advice of too democratic a nature, advised the sovereigns of Italy, while they preserved their own independence, to make such useful and moderate reforms as would preserve their dominions from that which would be sure to follow if these useful and moderate reforms were refused. I believe that in Italy, as well as in the other countries of Europe, if the advice which the Earl of Minto gave in 1848 had been given, and given with success twenty years before—my belief is, that if Austria, Prussia, and Italy, and the sovereigns of Italy, had made these useful and moderate reforms—if they had allowed liberty of discussion—if they had gone so far as to allow some form of representation—if they had given an outlet to the intelligence and the desire for political power which the progress of knowledge and the long existence of peace, was sure to give rise to in Europe—far from having those bloody civil wars which have lately desolated so many parts of Europe—if that advice had been given, and given with success—we should have been spared the scenes of the past year, and instead of a transition from the most complete and absolute despotism to a wild and rabid democracy, we should have seen the peaceful progress of improvement, the introduction of constitutional modes of government, and a better state of things in Europe, generally, than now exists.


said, he should reserve what he had to say until the question came properly before the House. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) spoke as if he were not Minister of England, but ruler of Europe, as if the cares of every Government were on him, and did so after every Government had been upset or convulsed which he had pretended to put in order. The noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton had declared his readiness to meet every discussion when papers were produced, but took good care that time should never come. He would remind the noble Lord of one transaction when he urged the impossibility of producing papers when negotiations were pending, and the useless ness of doing so when they were over, in the same breath, and by that argument succeeded in evading a discussion ten years ago, on a most important matter, the Danube, which stood again for discussion next week. The noble Lord bad employed that day his usual arm, a sneer, which the House had accepted in its usual manner, by a laugh. Foreign policy began to be interesting, because of the distinction of the noble Lord as a performer. The question before the House was the virtual infraction of the laws against furnishing arms. That act the noble Lord had acknowledged without qualification a few nights ago. Elsewhere it had boon acknowledged, but with contrition—the word deliberately used was "regret." The Cabinet regretted what the noble Lord had done; and in face of that judgment, the noble Lord had again and now justified his act. When then the noble Lord stood up in that House as the advocate of rebellion, it was his own course that be defended, unless he were rather to be looked upon as the master of his Colleagues. If the noble Lord justified the conduct of the Sicilians, why did he not openly adopt that course, and ensure for them the constitutional rights which he insinuated England to be bound to obtain for them? The whole transaction was a tissue of perfidy. In the mouth of the Queen had been placed words which were in the Sicilian Parliament indignantly denounced, in face of her own representative, as calumny. The words in Parliament of Her Majesty's Government had mot with similar derogation. The various statements of the noble Lord had met with direct and formal contradiction from the persons parties to the various transactions. He called upon the House to discard any consideration of the rights of the Sicilians; the question was the conduct of their own Government. Acts more questionable, assertions more bold, excuses more flimsy, contradictions more glaring, even their conduct had never presented before.


, in reply, said the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs had objected to the use of the word "insurgents" in his Motion. He was ready, if that would meet with the wishes of the noble Lord, to leave out that word; and he also proposed to alter the last clause of his Motion, in which it was stated that the arms were withdrawn with the consent of Her Majesty's Government. It now appeared that that was not the case; and therefore he proposed to substitute the words—with the consent of Her Majesty's Secretary for Foreign Affairs. His Motion then would run thus:— Account of all Ordnance stores, returned from that department to any contractor in the year 1848, for the purpose of being sent to the Sicilians in arms against Her Majesty's ally the King of the Two Sicilies, with the consent of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. If the noble Lord would agree to that Motion, he should be happy so to amend it. If not, be would say a few words in reply to the noble Lord. He never meant to say that the visit of the Earl of Minto was the cause of the Sicilian insurrection. What he said was this—that the knowledge of the noble Earl's credentials gave spirit and encouragement to the Sicilians, and in that sense greatly aggravated the insurrection. The noble Lord was pleased to say that the nation at large had cause to congratulate itself with regard to its foreign relations. Now, he had in his mind Brazil and the River Plate, and other States, with which this country was not on such happy relations as could be wished. He had in his mind Spain—perhaps Portugal, Greece. The noble Lord shook his bead at the mention of Portugal; but it was important to state, that when he asked for information with regard to the tariffs of Spain and Portugal, be was told that they were laid on the table so long ago as March last. He had made every inquiry—he had inquired for them upstairs—be had asked the President of the Board of Trade—he had even applied to the hon. Member for Glasgow, but none of them knew anything of these tariffs. It was, he believed, this hunting after free-trade tariffs which had disturbed the peace of Europe. England made common cause with the free-traders everywhere, and this was a main ground of all that had since happened. He would now only further say that if the noble Lord would accept his Motion as he had amended it, there would be no need to trouble the House with a division.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the words "sent to" to the end of the Question, in order to add the word "Sicily," instead thereof.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 39; Noes 124:: Majority 85.

List of the AYES.
Arkwright, G. Bruce, C. L. C.
Baillie, H. J. Carew, W. H. P.
Bankes, G. Cobbold, J. C.
Barrington, Visct. Coles, H B.
Bennet, P. Conolly, T.
Beresford, W. Duckworth, Sir J. T.
Boldero, H. G. Duncombe, hon. O.
Fuller, A. E. Seymer, H. K.
Gore, W. R. O. Smyth, J. G.
Granby, Marq. of Smollett, A.
Grogan, E. Sotheron, T. H S.
Heneage, G. H. W. Spooner, R.
Henley, J. W. Tollemache, J.
Hope, Sir J. Trollope, Sir J.
Mandeville, Visct. Urquhart, D.
Morgan, O. Vyse, R. H. R. H.
Napier, J. Waddington, H. S.
Neeld, J. Wodehouse, E.
Newdegate, C. N. TELLERS.
Newport, Visct. Walsh, Sir J.
Packe, C. W. Mackenzie, W. F.
List of the NOES.
Adair, R. A. S. Jackson, W.
Aglionby, H. A. Jervis, Sir J.
Armstrong, Sir A. Kershaw, J.
Armstrong, R. B. Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Arundel and Surrey, Earl of Langston, J. H.
Lewis, G. C.
Bailey, J. Littleton, hon. E. R.
Baines, M. T. M'Cullagh, W. T.
Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T. M'Gregor, J.
Bass, M. T. Maitland, T.
Berkeley, hon. Capt. Marshall, J. G.
Berkeley, hon. H. F. Marshall, W.
Berkeley, C. L. G. Matheson, Col.
Birch, Sir T. B. Melgund, Visct.
Blackall, S. W. Milner, W. M. E.
Boyle, hon. Col. Mitchell, T. A.
Brotherton, J. Moffatt, G.
Brown, W. Morgan, H. K. G.
Buxton, Sir E. N. Morison, Sir W.
Cavendish, hon. G. H. Morris, D.
Cayley, E. S. Mulgrave, Earl of
Chaplin, W. J. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Paget, Lord C.
Craig, W. G. Palmerston, Visct.
Crowder, R. B. Parker, J.
Davie, Sir H. R. F. Pechell, Capt.
Duff, G. S. Perfect, R.
Duncan, G. Peto, S. M.
Dundas, Adm. Philips, Sir G. R.
Dunne, F. P. Pigott, F.
Ebrington, Visct. Pilkington, J.
Ellis, J. Pinney, W.
Elliot, hon. J. E. Plowden, W H. C.
Evans, W. Price, Sir R.
Fagan, J. Reynolds, J.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Ricardo, O.
FitzPatrick, rt. hon. J. Rich, H.
Forster, M. Robartes, T. J. A.
Fox, R. M. Russell, Lord J.
Freestun, Col. Russell, F. C. H.
Gibson, rt. hon. T. M. Rutherfurd, A.
Glyn, G. C. Salwey, Col.
Goddard, A. L. Seymour, Lord
Grenfell, C. W. Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W.
Grey, R. W. Stanton, W. H.
Hardcastle, J. A. Stuart, Lord D.
Harris, R. Talbot, J. H.
Hastie, A. Tenison, E. K.
Hawes, B. Tennent, R. J.
Hay, Lord J. Thicknesse, R. A.
Hayter, rt. hon. W. G. Thompson, Col.
Henry, A. Thornley, T.
Heyworth, L. Townley, R. G.
Hodges, T. L. Townshend, Capt.
Howard, Lord E. Vane, Lord H.
Howard, hon. C. W. G. Walmsley, Sir J.
Hume, J. Ward, H. G.
Watkins, Col. L. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Westhead, T. P. Wood, W. P.
Williams, J. Wyvill M.
Williamson, Sir H. TELLERS.
Wilson, J. Hill, Lord M.
Wilson, M. Tuffnell, H.

And it being Six of the clock, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House till To-morrow without putting the Question.