§ SIR JOHN WALSH
said: Seeing the noble Lord at the head of the Government in his place, I rise to put a question to him as to the course of business this evening. I thought I understood him on Friday, though I am not always quite happy in catching his intentions or meaning; but I thought he intimated that he proposed to fix the Committee on Supply for this evening instead of a later day, in order to afford an opportunity for explanation or discussion with respect to the state of our foreign relations. I wish now to know, did that arrangement refer to an explanation to be furnished by the Government, or was it with a view to giving hon. Gentlemen at this side of the House an opportunity of raising a discussion, if they should think proper—was it for the latter purpose, or with a view to a voluntary statement from the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, as to the extraordinary complications in which our foreign relations are placed?
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
It is my intention to make a statement this evening upon the subject to which the hon. Baronet has adverted, especially in reference to what passed upon a former occasion.
§ On the Question that the House do then resolve itself into a Committee of Supply,
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said: Sir. I feel from what passed on a former occasion in this House, more especially with reference to the answer which I then felt it my duty to give to my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, that it is due both to myself and to the House that some further explanation should be given. My right hon. Friend on Thursday last asked me, if I remember rightly, amongst others, one question, whether there existed a perfectly good understanding between the Government of France and the Government of England in regard to the affairs of Greece? I stated, as far as I remember, that the French Ambassador had left London the day before; that he had been charged by Her Majesty's Government with explanations to be given to the Government 238 of France; that one of the objects of his return was to give explanations himself; and I stated also that I hoped nothing would arise out of those matters to disturb the friendly relations subsisting between this country and France. Now, Sir, about that time there was read in the French Assembly the letter of General Lahitte, recalling—no, that is not the word to use, because it admits of a double meaning, but ordering back the French Ambassador—requiring him to return to France. It was thought by many persons in this House and elsewhere, that there was an inconsistency on my part in the answer which I gave in this House with respect to the transaction itself—that I endeavoured to suppress something which I ought to have stated. What passed with regard to that circumstance is this—questions had arisen, and differences of opinion had occurred, between the Government of France and the Government of England in the course of the few days preceding, in consequence of the manner in which the affair had terminated between England and Greece at Athens. When first M. Drouyn de Lhuys communicated with me, I had not received the despatches from Athens. On Monday morning the French Ambassador came to me for the purpose of entering upon a discussion of those transactions. I told him that I was obliged to go down to a Committee of this House to which I had been summoned for the purpose of giving evidence, and I begged him to return to me the following morning. On Tuesday morning he came, when I went with him at great length into the despatches I had received from Athens, which I read to him; and I also read to him the reports made by Mr. Wyse of what passed in Greece, doing my best to explain to him, according to our view of the matter, how the course adopted was one which ought not to give, justly, any ground of offence to the Government of France. Our conversation was long; the French Ambassador left me at rather a late hour, saying that be should return the next day to continue the conversation. He came the next day (Wednesday) at 12 o'clock, and I forget whether it was at the outset, or in the course of that conversation, which also lasted to a late hour, as hon. Gentlemen will see by a reference to the account of it given by M. Drouyn de Lhuys, that he read to me the letter of General de Lahitte. Of course, I could not concur with the opinions expressed in that letter as to the 239 grounds upon which the French Ambassador was ordered to return to Paris. When I spoke to M. Drouyn do Lhuys on the subject, he said, "I must go back. To-morrow the papers will be presented to the Assembly; tomorrow possibly questions will be put on the subject; to-morrow there may be a discussion. It is my duty to be at Paris before the Chamber meets, in order to afford to my Government any explanations they may wish to have from me." I said that I certainly concurred in the propriety of the course he meant to pursue, and that I would not press him to remain; but I begged M. Drouyn de Lhuys to communicate to his Government, early the next morning, the substance of the explanations I had given him. I furnished him, also, with copies of some of Mr. Wyse's despatches, having marked, especially, those passages to which I wished the attention of the French Government to be called, and to which I had drawn his attention, and I begged him not only to give his Government such explanations as, in the capacity of their representative, he might think fit to give; but that he would also lay before them the detailed explanations I had had the honour of giving him. Well, Sir, thus stood matters on the Thursday when I was questioned in this House. Now I must say, in the first place, that it could not in the ordinary course of things be expected by me that the letter of General Lahitte would have been read to the French Assembly, even before the Assembly was in possession of the documents connected with the transactions to which that letter related. It certainly never entered into my mind that such a course of proceeding Would in any case be adopted. But I was also justified in thinking that the explanations with which I had furnished M. Drouyn de Lhuys were of a nature calculated, if not to remove entirely the dissatisfaction the French Government felt, and in the spirit of which that letter was written, at all events greatly to modify that feeling, and to lead to further explanations. Now, entertaining that opinion, and believing it possible that at the very moment when I was giving my answer, the French Minister might have been assigning to the Assembly, as a reason for the return of M. Drouyn de Lhuys, simply that which was one object of his early return, namely, the giving of explanations, and the communication of those explanations to the Legislative Assembly, I would ask any man in 240 this House who values the good understanding between this country and France, who has any just appreciation of the interests of this country, and of the duty of a Minister, whether I should not have been guilty of the greatest indiscretion, of the most mischievous act—I will say of a culpable proceeding—if I had proclaimed that feeling on the part of the French Government which had been expressed in their letter, but which, for all I knew, might at that moment have ceased to exist? Supposing the French Minister had given, as a reason for the return of M. Drouyn de Lhuys, the simple ground of explanations, what mischief should I not have done if I had proclaimed the other ground, and thus nailed and fastened the French Government to a dissatisfaction which might at that moment have been removed? I am confident that I need no further justification for the course I then pursued. It was indicative of an earnest desire to soften, if possible, anything like angry feeling on the part of the French Government. The letter of General Lahitte, however, requires that I should make some observations, because that letter charges Her Majesty's Government, and me especially as the organ of that Government in these transactions, with having broken faith—I may say—with the Government of France, inasmuch as it asserts that, contrary to engagements, the negotiation of Baron Gros was put an end to by an act of Mr. Wyse, and that it was by such de termination that the coercive measures were renewed; and it asserts, moreover, that the negotiation was put an end to by Mr. Wyse on a point upon which he ought to have referred for further instructions to the British Government. It is my opinion that the papers which are already in the hands, I believe, of many Members—for I did my best to have them delivered this morning—will show that the functions of Baron Gros were not suspended by any act of Mr. Wyse, but by the act of Baron Gros himself; that Mr. Wyse, so far from wishing Baron Gros' negotiation to be suspended, expressed a strong desire that it should be continued; and that Mr. Wyse did not admit the validity of the grounds upon which Baron Gros thought himself by his instructions compelled to suspend his functions. I think those papers will show that even after Baron Gros had communicated to Mr. Wyse that his mission was terminated, or his functions for the moment suspended, Mr. Wyse, so far from taking advantage 241 of the earliest opportunity of having recourse to coercive measures, made, through Baron Gros, a communication to the Government at Athens which, if it had been accepted, would have satisfied those claims which Baron Gros did not in principle dispute, and would have left untouched, and subject to further discussion, the particular points upon which a difference of opinion had arisen. Baron Gros' request to Mr. Wyse was, "Refer to your Government for instructions as to the point of difference which has arisen between us, and in the meanwhile continue in statu quo;" that was to say, "Retain in your possession the vessels you have already detained, but abstain from seizing any more." After Mr. Wyse had received the communication from Baron Gros, intimating that his functions were suspended until further orders from France, which could not be received for an interval of at least three weeks, Mr. Wyse said—If the Greek Government will send the sums which I think are just amounts of compensation to the persons for whom particular fixed sums have been required, and for the losses of Mr. Finlay, and of Mr. Pacifico, so far as his furniture and household goods are concerned; if the Greek Government will send 180,000 drachmas, accompanied by a letter stating that amount to be in full satisfaction of all claims mentioned in my note of January 17, except the claims of Mr. Pacifico for losses resulting from the destruction of his documents, I will"—Do what?—continue the statu quo?—no, but "I will immediately release all the Greek merchantmen now under detention, and by that means set the commerce of Greece entirely free." No doubt that would have been a very advantageous arrangement for the Greek Government, providing it was prepared to do that which from the commencement we had required—to admit the principle of our demands. But that arrangement, be it remembered, would have left for future discussion the terms of the letter of apology for the insult offered to the British Navy in the case of the boat of the Fantome; it would have left for future discussion the arrangements connected with the claims of Mr. Pacifico for the destruction of his Portuguese documents. Baron Gros replied—I have notified to the Greek Government that I am no longer in official communication with them, and therefore I cannot make this proposal officially.But he intimated that unofficially it should be made. This was on the 24th, and 242 Baron Gros informed Mr. Wyse, by a private letter, that he thought the next day, the 25th, by five o'clock in the afternoon, Mr. Wyse would receive the letter and the money from the Greek Government. Mr. Wyse suspended any resumption of coercive measures till after the time thus mentioned by Baron Gros as that at which he would probably receive a communication from the Greek Government; and it was not until after five o'clock on the evening of the 25th—the communication of Baron Gros that he had suspended his functions being dated the 23rd—that, not receiving the anticipated communication, Mr. Wyse made the announcement that on the next morning coercive measures would be resumed. I think, then, we are justified in saying that it was not Mr. Wyse who put an end to Baron Gros' negotiation, and that it was not Mr. Wyse who determined that coercive measures should be resumed; but that Mr. Wyse, whether rightly or wrongly, but rightly, as I think, considered that Baron Gros had officially withdrawn himself from the negotiation, and that consequently the ease had arisen in which coercive measures were necessarily and at once to be resumed. I think the French Government are entirely mistaken in supposing that there was, on the part of Mr. Wyse, any departure—at all events in intention—I do not think, in fact, from the clear understanding which had existed, I am bound to say, from the commencement, that it was to rest with Baron Gros, and not with Mr. Wyse, to determine when Baron Gros should cease to exercise his functions. Then the question arises, whether, giving Mr. Wyse full credit for being right in his opinion—and I think the papers will show he was so—that Baron Gros had himself withdrawn from the negotiation, the point upon which they differed was one on which it was incumbent upon Mr. Wyse to refer for further instructions to his Government, and, pending the receipt of those instructions, to maintain the status quo—the detention of the vessels which were already in our possession, without making any further seizures. It was understood, from the very beginning of the negotiations, that though we accepted the good offices of France, we accepted them for the purpose and in the hope of obtaining, by her friendly intervention, that satisfaction which we had begun to endeavour to obtain by the employment of our naval force; and we distinctly announced that we could not 243 abandon any of our demands. That there was no misunderstanding on that subject, is plain from the despatches of M. Dronyn da Lhuys which have been published, I suppose, from authentic copies about to be presented to the French Assembly, in which he clearly lays down what in his understanding was the limit of the functions of Baron Gros. The functions of the French negotiations were not to interfere with the principle of the demands of this Government, or the sums which we had fixed in particular cases as the specific satisfaction to be obtained; but they were to he confined to a discussion as to the amount of those sums which were not fixed in our demands—the amount to be paid to Mr. Finlay for the land which had been taken from him, and the amount which might be due to Mr. Pacifico for the losses he had sustained by the sacking of his house, in furniture, goods, money, and other property. The principle of our demands was contained in the six articles we communicated to the French Government. We required an apology for the outrage committed upon some of the crew of the Fantome; compensation for the Ionians who had been tortured in one ease, and ill-treated in another; compensation to the Ionians who had been plundered in the custom-house at Salcina; compensation to be settled for Mr. Finlay's land; compensation to be settled for Mr. Pacifico's losses at Athens; and compensation to he ascertained for any loss he might have sustained by the destruction of documents. On the 16th of February M. Drouyn de Lhuys wrote to say—As to the questions that are to be examined in these conferences, they shall be those which shall not implicate in principle the denial of the English claims.On the 22nd of February, again, he says, "As to the second point," upon which he had been ordered to interrogate me, "that Minister"—myself—Told me, as I have had the honour of informing you, that the mediation will comprise the questions which do not implicate in principle the negation of the demands of the Cabinet of London. Thus it is laid down in principle that an indemnity is due to Mr. Finlay and Mr. Pacifico. It remains to settle what shall be the amount of that indemnity.There are other extracts I might read to the same effect. On the 22nd of March, M. Drouyn de Lhuys wrote—The following is an answer to these two questions:—Mr. Wyse is authorised at present to accept of an arrangement based on the following 244 conditions:—1. Payment in cash of the indemnities claimed by the maltreated English and Ionian subjects; of the value of the land taken from Mr. Finlay, according to the estimate set upon it with the consent of M. Gros; and the damages demanded for the personal bad treatment to which Mr. Pacifico was subjected, as well as for the pillage of his house, with the exception of his Portuguese claims, which remain to be examined.Showing that it was distinctly understood that this portion of Mr. Pacifico's claims was entirely separate from the other.2. The transmission of a letter to Mr. Wyse, expressing regret for the arrest of an officer of the Fantome. 3. A promise to make a loyal inquiry on the subject of the Portuguese documents which Mr. Pacifico alleges to have been carried away from him. This is the only arrangement which Mr. Wyse can find (can be instructed to find) satisfactory, and accept.A misunderstanding, it seems, existed at Athens on this subject; and on the 8th of April M. Drouyn de Lhuys wrote to General Lahitte—According to a letter from Mr. Green (the Consul at Athens) dated March 19, it would appear that M. Gros, on the faith of his correspondence from Paris, is persuaded that in case he himself should declare that his good offices have failed, and that he expects no result from their continuance, Admiral Parker would not have recourse to coercive measures without new orders from his Government. That is completely erroneous, and it is of great importance to rectify, in that respect, the opinion of our negotiator. In such hypothesis the coercive measures would resume their course ipso facto, as I have had the honour of informing you on the 23rd of February and 20th of March. If any difference of opinion should arise between M. Gros and Mr. Wyse on the question of knowing if the compromise which the negotiator proposes, relative to the only points which he will have to examine, is or is not acceptable, it is only then that Mr. Wyse and Admiral Parker will have to refer the subject to their Government.The question then is, what was the point upon which—a difference having arisen between Baron Gros and Mr. Wyse—Baron Gros requested Mr. Wyse to refer for instructions to his Government; and on Mr. Wyse stating that he did not think himself bound or at liberty to do so, Baron Gros said, "I withdraw from the negotiation." Was it a point the negotiator was to determine or not? I think I have shown by the extracts from these despatches, that it was clearly understood between us that the only points which that negotiator would have to examine were with reference to the amounts to he given to Mr. Finlay and Mr. Pacifico as compensation for their losses. Now, it would seem from the papers upon the table that the negotiation broke off, not upon these points, but upon 245 the question whether the Greek Government was or was not to make an engagement, that it would not only examine the question as to the losses of Mr. Pacifico by the destruction of his Portuguese documents, but would engage to pay to him the amount of any loss he might he proved to have sustained by the destruction of those documents. Baron Gros had agreed, on the 16th, to such an engagement, and had also agreed that a sum to the amount of 150,000 drachmas should be deposited as a pledge for the fulfilment of the engagement; and the only difference between Baron Gros and Mr. Wyse upon that arrangement was, that Baron Gros proposed that the deposit should be held conjointly by Greece and by England; while Mr. Wyse, for reasons which he explains, contended that the security should be deposited either in the Bank of England, or, if Baron Gros preferred it, in the Bank of France. Baron Gros, in the course of the discussion, said he would take that question into further consideration; but after Mr. Wyse had reason to think that Baron Gros had consented to submit to the Greek Government an arrangement containing those stipulations, Baron Gros, for reasons which he was fully entitled to express, altered his opinion, retracted his proposal, and said he was satisfied Mr. Pacifico's claims upon that head were not deserving of any serious consideration, and that all he would agree to would be that the English and Greek Governments should enter into an investigation, and apply to Portugal to ascertain whether Mr. Pacifico had any claim on this account. Mr. Wyse could not agree to a proposal which involved the negation of one of the principles of our demands. He could not do so according to his original instructions; still less could he do it in the face of instructions which I gent him on the 25th of March, entering somewhat into detail as to the particular question of Mr. Pacifico's claims, and which will be found in the printed papers. Mr. Wyse naturally said there was nothing to refer—that he could not refer for further instructions on a point which had been settled by the basis on which the good offices of France had been accepted, and also by instructions he had recently received, which he showed to Baron Gros, Mr. Wyse read those instructions to M. Gros, and he said, "I will read them again if you think fit; if there is anything you think doubtful I will explain it; but these are my in structions, and upon them I am bound to 246 act." M. Gros, however, thought otherwise. Whether he was acting under the erroneous impression alluded to in the despatch of M. Drouyn de Lhuys to General Lahitte, I cannot say; but Baron Gros and Mr. Wyse differed in opinion, and upon that point mainly the negotiation broke off. There was another demand made by Mr. Wyse upon his own responsibility, and not arising from his instructions, which, for the reasons stated by him, Her Majesty's Government think he was right in urging. Baron Gros originally proposed that the Greek ships should be restored with their cargoes in the very same condition, or as nearly so as possible, as when they were captured. Mr. Wyse, as a counter-proposal, inserted a condition that the Greek Government should be answerable for all the damages arising from the coercive measures. Objections were made to that, and Baron Gros having withdrawn his proposal, Mr. Wyse also withdrew his. But Mr. Wyse having learned that the Greek Government was collecting statements of losses, with a view, as was reported to, him, of bringing forward at some future time those claims as a set-off against the claim of this country upon Greece for the amount which has been paid for interest and sinking fund upon the guaranteed loan, he thought it right to shut out any such demand, by an engagement not imposing upon the Greek Government any pecuniary liability, but simply debarring them from putting forward themselves, or supporting on the part of others, any claim of that character; and I must say that, considering the importance of establishing a good understanding with Greece, I think it was quite right to insist upon that clause, to prevent that which would have given occasion, naturally, to a recurrence of unfriendly relations with Greece. Her Majesty's Government would not—no British Government would—have admitted the claim; but the claim might have been pressed in a manner to disturb friendly relations with that country. But the main point upon which Baron Gros insisted, and upon which Mr. Wyse felt himself bound to resist, was whether the Greek Government should be liable to pay whatever might appear upon investigation to be duo to Mr. Pacifico for the loss sustained by the destruction of the Portuguese documents. We made no claim of the particular amount; we did not pretend to say it would be 1l., or 10l., or 100l.; but, be it ever so small or ever so great, we thought 247 that upon principle it was a claim the Greek Government were justly liable to make good, and that was one of the principles of our original demand, from which we never contemplated the possibility of our receding. Well, then, I say I think General Lahitte was under a very erroneous impression when he asserted in that letter that the negotiations were broken off by the act of Mr. Wyse terminating the mission of Baron Gros, and broken off upon a point on which Mr. Wyse ought to have referred to his Government. I need not, I am sure, say that this circumstance, that any discussion—any difference of opinion of this kind, has arisen between the Government of France and the Government of England, must be a source of the most painful regret to Her Majesty's Government. I hope I have said nothing—I am sure it was not my intention to say anything, which could tend either to increase the misunderstanding, or to propose the slightest obstacle to its removal. I am not without hopes that upon a question of this sort, where clearly there could have been no intention on the part of the British Government in the slightest degree to offer an affront, or to be wanting in respect to the Government of a friendly Power—I cannot divest myself of the hope that the discussion going on between the two Governments may end in a manner that will be satisfactory and honourable to both. Sorry I am sure I should be, if anything I should say should throw any difficulty in the way of such an adjustment; and I should hope, if these things are made the subject of debate in this House before it is known how the discussion may terminate, that no hon. Member, whatever his opinions may be, would express them in a manner calculated to have a prejudicial effect upon the discussion. It is the anxious desire of Her Majesty's Government to cultivate the most friendly relations with France. It is immaterial to us who are the men of whom the Government of Franco is composed; we have no business to inquire into that, or to meddle with it; they are the Government that is, and it is with the Government that is that we are in communication and negotiation. And, as I have said, I cannot but believe that, whatever the opinion of the Government of France may be as to the matter at issue, at least they will do us the justice to think that, whatever ground of complaint they may fancy themselves to have, they have no ground of complaint against us for any want of good intentions 248 towards them, or any deficiency in that friendly feeling which it would be the duty of Her Majesty's Government, or of any Government that may succeed it, to entertain towards the Government and nation of France.
§ SIR JOHN WALSH
Sir, as it was in consequence of a question which I addressed to the noble Lord opposite that some doubts were raised, I believe, respecting the tenor of the reply of the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs to the question of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester, perhaps I may be allowed shortly to advert to the explanation the noble Lord has now given. I would premise that no one has a greater sense of the value of relations of amity between France and this country than I have, and that, therefore, no one can be more ready to make full and ample allowance for the motives to which the noble Lord has adverted—for his desire to put away anything that might have a tendency to disturb those friendly relations, and to leave it perfectly open to the French Government to adopt language on the other side of the water which may be most favourable to the maintenance of those relations. At the same time, giving full weight to those considerations, I may be permitted to observe, that it does appear to me, upon the facts the noble Lord has stated, that he strained very much the statement that he made upon that occasion. The noble Lord, in making that reply to the right hon. Member for Manchester, that he trusted nothing would occur to disturb the friendly relations between this country and France, was at that moment in possession of the despatch of General Lahitte to M. Drouyn de Lhuys; and that despatch, I think it is important for us to recollect, was communicated to the noble Lord, not, indeed, in writing—a copy of it was not given to him—but, if I am not mistaken, was communicated to the noble Lord formally and officially, as a direct communication from the French Government. It was not communicated to him privately and confidentially, in the course of conversation, among a variety of other matter, merely as intimating the opinion of M. Drouyn de Lhuys, and his wish to apprise the noble Lord of the feeling existing in Paris on the course the noble Lord had pursued. It was an official communication from the head of the French Government. It does appear to me that it was scarcely acting with ingenuousness towards 249 the House for the noble Lord, in the face of that communication, to declare so broadly that he trusted there was nothing to disturb the friendly relations between the two countries. [Lord PALMERSTON: I did not say so; I said, "That I trusted nothing would arise out of the circumstances to disturb the friendly relations between the two countries."] It is not my intention to analyse the noble Lord's statement, able as everything must be which proceeds from him. It must be obvious that, as we have had no time at present to peruse the bulky volume just placed in our hands, it would be impossible, on the spur of the moment, to deal with a subject in which it is necessary to collate dates and compare details and statements one with another, when two or three negotiations have been going on simultaneously at Athens, and in London or Paris. I conceive that the great question between the noble Lord and the French Government with respect to the rupture of this negotiation is, whether Baron Gros was in such a situation that the negotiation actually and entirely terminated, or whether that case only had arisen in which a reference to London and to Paris was contemplated. It appears to me clear, from what we have already seen in the public papers, the translations from papers presented to the French Chamber, and which I suppose we may assume to be authentic, that Baron Gros himself did not consider the negotiation entirely terminated, but that the ease had arisen in which it was desirable that a reference should be had to the Government at home; and it is unfortunate, that on the spot Baron Gros himself, the negotiator engaged with this difficult and delicate task, does not concur in the view taken by Her Majesty's Government here, or by their representative at Athens, that they are at issue upon that first and cardinal point on which so large a portion of the merits of this question must necessarily hinge. The noble Lord seems to draw the line very strongly, that these claims were to be admitted, in all their integrity, by the French negotiator, and there was to be no question as to the principle of them, but only as to the amount to be awarded to Mr. Pacifico; but I do not think the French Government appear to concur with the noble Lord in that view either. It appears to me that they considered that to restrict their mediation within such narrow limits would place them in a somewhat degrading position, and that the claims of Mr. Pacifico upon the 250 Portuguese Government of so very problematical a nature, and upon the face of them appearing so monstrous and extravagant, fell within the matters which the French negotiator would be justified in investigating. But, as I have said, not having had the opportunity of perusing the documents, I will not venture to go over the statements of the noble Lord. I concur with him that it would be most desirable that our relations of amity with the French Government, and with those other great States of Europe which are alienated from us at this moment, should, if possible, be renewed. Whatever may be the arguments with which the noble Lord is enabled to defend the line of negotiation he has adopted, there can be no doubt that the result has been to place England in a most unfortunate position; that the negotiations, in their issue, have been most unsuccessful. The noble Lord has dwelt upon the alliance with France; he has clung to that; it has been the keystone of the arch of his policy; and that keystone he has contrived, somehow or other, to pick out himself. The noble Lord had scarcely an ally left in Europe but France, and he has contrived to offend and to alienate that ally. I do not conceive, considering the gravity of the step the French Government has taken, and the publicity given to it, that it will be so easy as the sanguine hopes of the noble Lord appear to paint, to renew the amicable relations which have subsisted. I fear the noble Lord has contrived to place himself in a position of such antagonism with that Government, that he will be a great bar to the resumption of friendly relations between the two countries. This is a subject which, as it implicates the honour of this country, as it touches nearly its interests, and is big with evils and menaces great danger to the future, cannot be disposed of lightly or hastily; it must occupy the attention of this House. We should be neglecting our duty, indeed, if, with a charge thus publicly made before the whole of Europe, implicating the honour and good faith of England, and leading necessarily to an in terruption to all our friendly relations with the Continental Powers, it should not receive in this country and from this Legislature, the fullest and most deliberate investigation. I conceive that so far there is no hostility of feeling at present between the French and the English communities. I consider that the feelings of England towards France are friendly. I consider 251 that there is no national irritation at this moment existing on the part of the French towards England. Let one or two steps he taken in this direction—let us proceed with anything like rashness or a desire from party motives to vindicate what we may find, upon examination, to be objectionable, and a rivalry must inevitably spring up, old feelings of irritation will be revived, and the peace of Europe itself will have but a short lease of duration. It is impossible—I say it advisedly—it is imposible for a state of things such as exists at this moment between England and almost all the other Powers of Europe, to subsist without the future of England being menaced with war. It is impossible for us to conceive that such a state of things can long go on, that there can be merely this kind of tacit hostility—this kind of neutral hostility—this hostility in heart and in spirit pervading so large a portion of the Continent, without its breaking out somewhere. Let us guard against it in time. Let us show, that we, the Legislature of this country, are prepared to bring to the consideration of this question no spirit of party, but to consider it with caution, with deliberation, and with impartiality; and that while we shall always be ready to maintain the real honour and interests of this country, we feel that we are strong enough to do justice even at the expense of ourselves.
had only one observation to offer at this stage of the discussion of these affairs. He simply rose to complain, or, more properly speaking, to lament the great delay which had taken place in the production of the documents necessary for the understanding of this case. This morning those papers were not delivered with the Parliamentary papers. In his own case they had not been delivered at half-past three, when he left home; but he had been told that at some time between that hour and the present moment, a certain number of copies had been sent to Members. He was willing to hope that the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs had used all despatch and expedition in having the documents prepared; but, in the absence of those documents, he did not think this question could be discussed. He therefore entered his protest against being drawn into a discussion upon this question when the documents upon which his opinion must practically be founded were not yet fairly in the hands of Members.
§ MR. SMYTHE
Sir, I should not now trespass upon the attention of the House if it did not appear to me that there were statements in the explanation given tonight by the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs not entirely countenanced by the statements in the papers laid upon the table of the National Assembly of France. For instance, I understood the noble Lord to say that Baron Gros had withdrawn from the negotiation. Now, there is a despatch laid before the National Assembly, in which Baron Gros, on the 24th of April, distinctly intimated to Mr. Wyse that he had not withdrawn from the mediation; his words were (alluding to the original stipulation that coercive measures should be resumed without further orders, "in case he should declare that he gave up the rôle of mediator"), "I have not given up the rôle of mediator; I presented to you a project which I think just and satisfactory. For God's sake submit it to Lord Palmerston." Can any thing be more distinct than that? Now, Sir, if the French people, or the European public, believe in those protestations of amity towards France in which the noble Lord has indulged, and with which he succeeded in evoking the sympathies of this House, and if the English public are parties to those sympathies, I think it would have been easy for Mr. Wyse, in pursuance of his conciliatory instructions, to have acceded to the request of Baron Gros. Sir, I agree with the noble Lord the Member for Hertford in thinking that the time has not yet arrived for the complete discussion of this question. But, Sir, what has arrived, what has happened, what may be regarded as an accomplished fact, and that upon which some discussion may well arise in this House, is the alarming exchange of intimate and confidential relations with the Government of France for those of alienation and estrangement. Sir, it is seldom that I venture to speak in Parliament. The last time I presumed to address a few words within these walls, in 1847, I remember that I ventured to implore the noble Lord not lightly to throw away that intimate and cordial understanding with France, which had been bequeathed to him by his predecessor the Earl of Aberdeen. What has become of that entente cordiale now? Why, Sir, the Minister of July, 1840, as it was foreseen by the most clearsighted of his colleagues, has taken every opportunity, under every Government of France, to break from that 253 wise, that essential, that auspicious alliance. For the severance. Sir, is not of yesterday. It began when the House of Orleans Was on the throne of France. It began on the question of Switzerland; it exposed itself in an isolated protest on the question of Cracow; it was consummated in the policy which followed upon what was called the Spanish marriages. But did the severance stop there? Did it stop with the fall of Louis Philippe from the throne of France? Sir, that severance was again manifested after the accession of the Republic; it was exhibited in the Straits of Messina; it was again shown when France reverted to the policy of order in the Italian peninsula; once more the other day in the affairs of the Rio de la Plata; and it has lastly broken out in the lamentable and untoward occurrence now under discussion. Sir, in these observations I intend to confine myself simply to the question of our relations with France. I would say then, that I think when the noble Lord just now, in his able and masterly statement, proved his case, he did not prove a case which in any way impugned the opposite case of the French Government. The noble Lord took great pains to show that he had narrowed and contracted the original intervention of France, first of all from arbitration to mediation, and, secondly, from mediation to "good offices." Now, all this I think is of a pedantry unworthy of a great nation. Surely, in the matter of these miserable monies, we could well have afforded to submit to the arbitration of a powerful and therefore disinterested nation like France. But, unhappily, I think throughout his negotiations the noble Lord has marked his policy by jealousy and distrust, and insult towards that Government. Sir, I say the noble Lord showed jealousy to France, precisely because he offered first arbitration, then mediation, and then good offices. I say he showed distrust to France, as in the papers laid on the table of the National Assembly I find that he began by abuse of the resident Minister, M. Thouvenel, and wound up by abuse of the special envoy, Baron Gros. I assert, further, that the noble Lord has shown insult to France, as he entered into a convention on the 18th of April—and let it be remarked, that throughout the whole of his masterly statement not one word escaped the noble Lord with regard to that convention, and one might be led to suppose it had never been projected—which convention 254 he was obliged to repudiate and reject on the 10th of May, and thus offer insult to the Government of France. And why was it repudiated and rejected? Because, on the 27th April, the noble Lord, by the aid of a leviathan fleet of Great Britain, had at last harpooned his miserable minnow, the infinitesimal monarchy of Greece. What wonder, then, that an ardent and susceptible people, igneœ indoles, should take notice of so long a series of evil offices from the Minister of July, 1840. What wonder is it that they should have risen as one man, represented by seven-eighths of a chamber elected by universal suffrage, to applaud the recall of their Ambassador. Sir, I have seen it somewhere stated that that recall was not sympathised in by the higher authorities in France. But this I will venture to say, that be the prince or governor what he might, who should be at the head of affairs in France, he would stand a very good chance of sleeping within the week at Vincennes on Mount Michel, if he had not exhibited that sympathy. It is also stated that one portion of the Assembly did not entertain the same feeling of indignation at the noble Lord's conduct as is entertained by the people of France. But it was only the other day that I read a work from the pen of M. Ledru-Rollin, certainly the ablest and most eloquent leader of the democracy of France. Speaking of the foreign policy of England, M. Ledru-Rollin alludes to it as a worn-out vulture in its isolated eyrie. He states that England enters into no treaties which it does not violate; and that the sea is not more full of ruin and of wrecks than the history of England of diplomatic crime. Therefore I think it unlikely that the party which M. Ledru-Rollin still guides from exile should sympathise in the foreign policy of the Minister of July 1840. Now, Sir, it appears to me there are only two solutions to this question which would be satisfactory to this House. One is almost too absurd to name—the retirement of the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs; for he is a necessity to that Europe to which he is at the same time odious. I will logically prove it. No man will dispute that Great Britain is a necessity to the balance of power. In the present state of parties it is as undeniable a necessity that the Whigs should govern, and the noble Lord is unquestionably indispensable to the Whigs. It is, therefore, impossible to arrive at that solution. But there is another solution still. I would 255 venture to ask the noble Lord to give effect to that stipulation of the 18th April, by which a benefit will be conferred on Greece, a courtesy shown to France, and justice will be done to England, whose honour in this matter is, I think, so solemnly engaged.
Sir. I am of opinion that the statement made by the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs on a former evening, which has not been interpreted by some persons as it ought to have been, has now been satisfactorily explained. It further appears to me that the noble Lord did nothing but his duty in making that statement in the terms which he used. There is, however, much truth in the old saying that when a man is determined either to marry or to fight, it is very difficult to prevent him. I wish I did not see such a pugnacious spirit—such a desperate desire to fight, on the part of Her Majesty's Ministers. It is true that many cases may arise in which it would be impossible to put up altogether with an insult from a weaker Power; but I remember perfectly well the great Mr. Grattan observing, upon some occasion—I think it was when Sir F. Burdett was committed to the Tower—Every one sides with the weaker party. You may sometimes sec a little deformed dwarf kicking the shins of a great giant of a fellow, and when the giant, very properly, boxes his ears, all the bystanders sympathise with the dwarf by calling out 'Well done, little one.'I am willing to admit, though only for the sake of argument, that it was necessary for the British Government to send a fleet to exact a sum of money from Greece; but the moment a great Power like France offered its mediation in the matter, Ministers would have best consulted true policy and real dignity by at once surrendering up the whole question, and putting it entirely out of their own hands. They ought to have given France a carle blanche to deal with the matter as she pleased. It unfortunately happens that the documents which have been placed upon the table of the House, contain evidence showing it to be the general opinion of foreign Powers that the English Government have instigated every rebellion that has occurred throughout Europe. It is also the opinion of the rebels themselves, who complain that England fomented their mischievous proceedings at first, and left them in the lurch at last. The result is, that now we have not a single friend in any part of Europe. It must be admitted that the noble 256 Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs is not particularly nice as to giving offence to foreign Governments. Only that morning, on reading some papers lately presented to the House, relative to the renewal of terms of amity between this country and Spain, I observed that the noble Lord had ingeniously contrived to rub the old sore. The noble Lord professed an anxiety to be upon terms of peace and amity with the Spanish Government, and yet he went out of his way to parade before that Government in the most offensive and insulting manner a name which he knew was odious to it. Now, suppose two private gentlemen had had a quarrel about one of their servants, and agreed to make peace with each other, would not every feeling of delicacy and honour prevent the name of the servant from being introduced into their conference? It is desirable the House should clearly understand that it is not upon Ministers they are called upon to pronounce judgment in these matters. It is the honour of the Crown which is at stake—it is a question of peace or war. If the House of Commons do not decidedly say by a large majority that they will have peace with France—cost what it may cost—[Cries of "Oh!" from the benches usually occupied by the "financial reformers" and "friends of peace."] Oh, I am not a member of the Peace Society. I am not one of those who say that there should be no war, but I have a great contempt for the pot valour which would rush into a war without counting the cost, and would then come back here whining and crying out for diminished armaments, to be followed again by complaints of crippled commerce and starved manufactures. Let us understand what we are about. We are going to war, not with France alone, but with Austria and Russia secretly backing her, and we must look very sharp if, after the despatches which have been received this day, America is not found behind them.
§ COLONEL DUNNE
believed what had recently occurred would not have the effect of altering our relations with Greece, nor cause any misunderstanding with France. With respect to the possession of the islands of Cervi and Sapienza, he had been connected with the commission, appointed twelve years ago, in separating Greece from Turkey, and was well aware that those islands were considered part of the Ionian Islands, and that the Government of Greece had no claim whatever upon them.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I would recommend the House not to ratify, by too assenting a cheer, the suggestion of the noble Lord the Member for Hertford, that we should not presume to give any opinion upon foreign transactions in this House until the papers having relation to them have been laid upon the table. I remember some little time ago, when the affairs of Italy caused considerable excitement even in the House of Commons, a feeling of equal delicacy induced the House to postpone a discussion, and to withhold an opinion upon some of the most important transactions of modern history, until the papers on the subject were laid before them. At the end of the Session, or, I believe, after the prorogation of Parliament, these papers appeared in the shape of three folio volumes; and I venture to say, if hon. Gentlemen who read those three volumes, and digested and mastered their contents, walked into the lobby of this House, we should sec the smallest minority ever found in that chamber. Sir, I believe there is no popular assembly in Europe that less willingly obtrudes itself in discussions connected with our diplomatic relations than the House of Commons. I am sure that no Government, in England, has been more tenderly treated by the House of Commons in that respect than Her Majesty's present Government. But exactly in proportion as that wise reserve prevails among us, do I think we have a right to expect, on the part of the Government of the day, a becoming frankness. It is an understood condition of the compact between the Government and the Opposition on this subject, that if the latter does not provoke discussions which might injure important negotiations, the former shall evince when necessary a proportionate frankness. Sir, the speech of the noble Lord the Secretary of State, to-night, has been described as an able and masterly statement; but, for the life of me, I cannot understand why it should not have been made a week ago; for the noble Lord has said nothing which he might not have said the day before the adjournment. If the beneficial consequences the noble Lord contemplates are to flow, I think it matter of regret that even a week should have been lost in making a statement which might as well have been made then as now, and which, according to the silent expectations of hon. Gentlemen opposite, is calculated to remove all those inconveniences we have observed and lamented. Now, Sir, I 258 do not desire or intend, on the present occasion—I see no necessity for so doing—to enter into any discussion upon the affairs of Greece. But I would observe that although the noble Lord has, we will admit, answered satisfactorily the question of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester of last Thursday, I am not aware that the noble Lord at the head of the Government has yet satisfactorily explained that tone of reserve and tint of equivocal colouring which characterised his reply to other questions on that day. I apprehend that no sane man thinks the Greek claims are anything but a pretext—no one of sane mind can suppose that a powerful armament of Britain was suddenly brought into the waters of the Mediterranean to advocate the somewhat ludicrous and suspicious claims of Mr. Pacifico. Some cause, not stated, seems to have been at the bottom of this demonstration. In some of the diplomatic documents that have transpired in this country, it would appear that some intimation of this cause is given. It seems to have been necessary, in the opinion of the Government, that a great demonstration of the power of England last year should be made in the Mediterranean seas. There were disturbances in one of our dependencies—in a Greek State under our protection. And here I would remark that I observe one point of unanimity in the supporters of Her Majesty's Government. These supporters are unanimous as a whole, but as sections they are in opposition. One class of supporters regard the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies as an extremely incompetent and headstrong Minister. Another section of those Gentlemen, unanimous in their support of the Administration, take it in their head to denounce the other Secretary, the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He is a harsh and arbitrary Minister, they say. But it happened last year, that these two Secretaries of State, who are supposed not to agree in sentiment upon any subject whatever, were obliged to interfere in the same quarter of the globe, and to cooperate together. The moment I heard the Colonial Secretary was meddling in Ionia, and afterwards, in co-operation with the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in Attica, I thought that something would happen. And when the expected discussion takes place, we may perhaps discover that these two stars crossing each other have produced those disasters which we now deplore. The noble Lord 259 the Member for Hertford warned us not to give our opinions until the papers are before us. But the noble Lord might have remembered that the papers on this subject are now in the possession of the House. I cannot say—and I suppose I speak the feeling of the majority of the House—I cannot say they are in my possession, for I have not received them yet. They came too late: they came, like the noble Lord's despatches, too late for the post. If the noble Lord could only have contrived that we should have had our papers as soon as the French Assembly had their documents, I confess I should have listened with much more satisfaction to the "masterly statement" of the noble Lord, which we cannot answer, because the noble Lord at the time he speaks brings forward for the first time those voluminous papers, and lays them on the table. But, Sir, I observed very singular omissions in the "masterly statement" of which we have heard so much. We heard nothing, for instance, as the hon. Member for Canterbury very properly pointed out—we heard nothing throughout that singular exposition—not a single allusion to the convention of April agreed upon in London. Who could possibly have supposed—who really was in ignorance of these matters—that whilst the noble Lord was entering into all these interesting details about the doings of third-rate diplomatists in a fourth-rate State—that the Foreign Minister of England and the Ambassador of the Republic of France were negotiating together in the capital of Great Britain? Why, Sir, no doubt the grievance—the sore grievance of the French nation—is, that they should have permitted the Ambassador of their Republic to enter into a negotiation and draw up a convention with the Foreign Minister of England; and then find, instead of these great personages solving the knot—notwithstanding all that demonstration of good feeling on the part of France, and all that employment of powerful energies, that it all ends in a squabble in a remote corner of the world, carried on by obscure and subordinate individuals. But the "masterly statement" made other omissions on matters of the first importance; for I listened in vain for the slightest allusion to the position in which we are placed with respect to Russia in consequence of these transactions. I did not expect the noble Lord to enter into the details of his diplomatic dinner party—I did not wish him to give us 260 reasons why the Minister Plenipotentiary of all the Russias was not his guest. But considering that even in this book, which we have not had an opportunity of reading, there are several despatches of the Russian Ambassador, and considering that in all the transactions connected with Greece, Russia is a party deeply interested, and one of the chief Powers of the world, it would have been extremely satisfactory if the noble Lord had not ignored the existence of Russia, and had informed the House that he not only had a prospect of reestablishing a cordial understanding with France, but that our cordial understanding with Russia was not in the least degree damaged or endangered. But neither of these great and salient points was even so much as incidentally alluded to throughout the "masterly statement." But there was another point—and I am speaking now without authentic documents, and following the noble Lord, who certainly with masterly tactics made his defence, because he kept from us the documents and authorities by which it only could be confronted—there is, I say, a third point on which I could have wished that we had had satisfactory information, and that is with respect to the islets that we have heard so much about. It would have afforded some satisfaction, I am sure, to the House, if the noble Lord had told us that these elements of future discord were dismissed from this question, and that hereafter, however anxious may be the position of Great Britain—however great the difficulties with which we may have to contend as regards France and the other Powers connected with the question—still that this long controverted subject had been finally settled by the diplomacy of the noble Lord. Yet to those throe great, and in my opinion principal, points connected with this question, not one allusion has fallen from Her Majesty's Ministers. I say Her Majesty's Ministers, because I reprobate the loose habit we got into in this House of attacking the chief of a particular department, instead of the Government. If any blunder is made, the chief criminal is the First Minister of the Crown—he it is who is the chief of the policy of the Government; and I mean to hold him responsible. The noble Lord the Secretary of State, although he presides over his own peculiar department, occupies in reality a subordinate position. Well, if no allusion is made to the principal points on which the attention of Europe is now fixed, 261 and if after weeks of cramming, and preventing us from having the documents by which we might meet the Government, if the only case brought forward by the Government is a case which omits these important points, and one that is narrowed to the smallest issue—let us see how satisfactory is the "masterly statement" as respect" the very narrow issue on which the noble Lord has chosen to enlighten us—I mean the immediate causes of the misunderstanding with France, which has arisen out of the proceedings in Greece. Well, Sir, it appears that the French Republic, in consequence of the arrival of our fleet at Athens—remembering always, as the House should, that France by treaty is peculiarly interested in all the transactions of these countries—the French Republic was desirous to mediate in this affair. The noble Lord studiously avoided a mediation or an arbitration on the part of France. The noble Lord—the organ of the Government on this question—I do him the justice to admit that his expressions on this subject, as far as I can form an opinion from the documents laid before the French Assembly, never were equivocal or ambiguous. From the first moment when the French Republic offered her mediation, she might have distinctly collected, from the language, the manner, and demeanour of the noble Lord, his extreme unwillingness that she should interfere in the business. Now, Sir, what does the noble Lord do under these circumstances? He says, "I am for no arbitration or mediation, but I consent to the French Republic exercising what are called 'good offices.'" Now, Sir, if there is any process in diplomacy more dangerous than another, it is consenting that a third Power shall exercise good offices. That Power, remember, is invested with no authority under these circumstances, and therefore incurs no responsibility; and—except in the case in which both parties between whom the controversy lies, are anxious that a termination of the misunstanding should take place, and that a golden bridge should be conveniently and quickly formed, by which the one may retire with honour—it is a principle in the conduct of such affairs which ought never to be lost sight of, never to consent to investing a third Power with a fulfilment only of what are termed "good offices;" for under no circumstances, except those of mere form, can I recollect an occasion where such a delegation has not ended in disappointment, and often in disaster. Still, 262 one thing is quite clear. However unwilling the Government was at the beginning to assent to the interference of France—however impolitic it was on the part of Her Majesty's Government to agree to this doubtful position being assumed by the Republic—having once taken that course, Her Majesty's Ministers should have acted cordially. They should have acted sincerely. However imperfect the machinery with which the Republic of France was invested for the fulfilment of the common object, it was not Her Majesty's Government who had refused arbitration or mediation that ought to have thrown difficulties in the way, or to have created impediments that might prevent a satisfactory termination of the difference. Now, did Her Majesty's Government act thus—did they act cordially, sincerely, and frankly towards the, French Republic? That is a question to be decided even by hon. Gentlemen who have received the "masterly statement" with such ready cheers, and who are averse to entering into the discussion to-night. And I say the evidence before us is complete on the subject, without analysing the book, which none of us have yet read. Here is a passage which my eye catches accidentally in turning over the blue book, and I will road it to the House, because, while very brief, it is yet pregnant with meaning. It is in the despatch of the Marquess of Normanby to Viscount Palmerston, written on the 9th, and received on the 10th instant, and it describes the effect produced in Paris when the news first arrived of the settlement of the Greek question. There is a conversation given between the Marquess of Normanby and General de la Hitte. What will the House think of this?—General do la Hitte read me a despatch which he had communicated when he had first received it from M. Drouyn de Lhuys, of the date of the 3rd of March, in which he states himself to have discussed the point with your Lordship, and to have obtained your complete assent to the condition there required by the French Government, that in case of any difference of opinion between Mr. Wyse and Baron Gros as to the terms to be proposed to the Greek Government, hostile proceedings should not be recommenced until a further reference had been made for instructions to London and Paris.Let the House mark the words—in case of any differences of opinion between Mr. Wyse and Baron Gros as to the terms to be proposed to the Greek Government, hostile proceedings should not be recommenced until a reference has been made for further instructions from London and Paris.263 These are very wide words; and what General de la Hitte thought he had a good right to complain of was, that Mr. Wyse had stated that he never received instructions of that character, and certainly had acted in the last instance in defiance of their purport. The Marquess of Normanby goes on to say—I was unable either to admit or deny that M. Drouyn de Lhuys had rightly understood your Lordship to assent to this condition on the part of the French Government, having had no direct communication with you since that date, on this particular point; but I am hound to state that snch has been the impression here; and from General do la Hitte's constant language, I do not believe that he would have continued the good offices of France had he believed that they could have had the termination they have now received.That despatch, to my mind, is pretty well conclusive as to the merits of the question. You may split hairs—you may explain away phrases, but I ask the House this simple question, "Do you think that when the French Republic sent an Ambassador here to draw up a convention with the English Minister which would settle the affairs of Greece, that they could have imagined that, by any possible combination of circumstances, the affairs of Greece could be settled at Athens instead of at London?" No man will deny that diplomatic correspondence may be susceptible of many explanations—it is possible many misconceptions may occur—great errors may be committed in one quarter and another—I do not say that the House is called upon to give an opinion on these points, but I am satisfied the House cannot for a moment conceive that the French Government would have consented to send an Ambassador to London, if they had believed it possible that the dispute would be settled at Athens. That, Sir, is the cream of the case. Then I ask why, after Her Majesty's Government had received the first overtures of the French Government with coldness and a repulse, why did they, after finally declining their suggestion, assent to a most imperfect and unsatisfactory machinery for the settlement of the business? Was the conduct of Her Majesty's Ministry straightforward to France, even if it was not cordial? First, it was not cordial; and then it was not frank. The catastrophe never could have occurred if there had been cordiality. I don't know what the First Minister thinks of this affair. Every night he is reminded by Members on both sides of the House that he is a Minister 264 free from ressponsibility to Parliament, and that makes a man bold. But the noble Lord, I believe, has not yet been in power for four years, and I think he must have sometimes reflected on the remarkable diplomatic occurrences that have taken place within that short period. One day we are told that a Plenipotentiary of our Government is rudely expelled from Madrid. Next we learn with anxiety that the Austrian Ambassador has disappeared from London; and then we suddenly learn that the French Ambassador is recalled. And only a little time ago we heard that the waters of the Hellespont were in commotion. Even the Turkish Ambassador was nervous; and nobody knows what has become of the Russian Ambassador. It is not known whether he, too, has gone off, or whether he still remains to adorn that society of which he is justly considered an ornament. But I think the noble Lord, remembering these circumstances—that his Government has been in a series of diplomatic scrapes from the first moment of his taking office—that the country has been reconciled to these unfortunate contingencies by the recollection that at least our powerful neighbours were still upon the best terms with us—and that whatever might be our differences with the other Powers of Europe, the French people yet remained, under every form of government the cordial ally of England—I think the noble Lord, when he finds that his Administration may have succeeded in depriving us even of that sole compensation for all the other mischances of our diplomacy, that even the noble Lord, although it is seven o'clock, and though there seems to be a kind of agreement that there shall be silence on the other side, will feel it only duo to the country that he should get up, and, if possible, give the House the assurance that we have still one ally left.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
Sir, the speech we have just heard is one of the greatest proofs that could have been given of the wisdom of the advice of the noble Lord the Member for Hertford, that it would be well not to debate this question until hon. Members had had time to peruse the contents of the papers on this subject; for, certainly, if the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken had had a glimpse of the contents of those papers, he could not have fallen into the series of errors which have characterised his speech. The hon. Gentleman expresses his wonder that my noble Friend made no reference to the convention 265 of the 18th of April. Why, the object of my noble Friend's explanation was to show that the charge and statement that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in France appeared to have made, that my noble Friend had made a promise which he had not kept, was not a well-founded statement. But the convention to which he alludes was made on April 18, and on the 23rd of April Baron Gros made that announcement to the Greek Government and to Mr. Wyse, which, in the opinion of Mr. Wyse, suspended and put an end to the powers of Baron Gros as a negotiator. Mr. Wyse might be right, or he might he wrong, in that interpretation; and my noble Friend's arguments were intended to show that Mr. Wyse was justified in that interpretation, and in the consequent recourse to coercive measures. But if he was right in that course, and justified in that interpretation, it is obvious that the convention of the 18th of April must arrive too late to influence the French negotiator on the 23rd of that month. The intervening four days were not sufficient to allow it to go out, so as to exercise any influence in Greece over the conduct of the English and French negotiators. And yet this seems to have been such a puzzle to the hon. Gentleman, that he cannot understand why my noble Friend did not explain why the convention of the 18th of April did not conclude the business in this country. If it should appear that Mr. Wyse has mistaken his instructions, and the purport of Baron Gros' announcement to the Greek Government, then it might be said that my noble Friend had not laid due emphasis on the convention of the 18th of April. But the statement which my noble Friend made, precluded his having any necessity to lay any stress upon that convention. Whether the hon. Gentleman was right, or Mr. Wyse was right, might be a matter for argument when hon. Members have read the papers. The hon. Gentleman also complained that this negotiation had been concluded at Athens and not in London. Why, from the first it was intended that this question should be settled in Athens, and not by England only. France sent a negotiator there for the express purpose of settling the question there; and the first thing the French Ambassador did was to agree that the negotiation should be conducted at Athens. The convention was proposed on the 15th of April, and carried out on the 18th. It was an afterthought of the French Ambassador, and it would 266 have boon highly useful if Baron Gros had not thought it right to take the step he did. The convention would then have concluded the whole negotiation upon terms perfectly satisfactory to England and France; and we certainly lament that it did not do so. Allusion has been made to the explanation I made a few days ago; and, without entering upon the general discussion, I am anxious to state a few words with respect to the explanation I then made. Having been engaged in public business on Friday, and having attended a Select Committee of the House until three o'clock, I had not road the despatch which was read by General Lahitte to the French Assembly. I had seen a general statement in the newspapers that the Minister of Foreign Affairs had read a despatch for the withdrawal of M. Drouyn do Lhuys, but I had not read the despatch. But what I had read was a despatch of the Marquess of Normanby, giving an account of his communication with General Lahitte; and when the hon. Gentleman asked me the question which he put, I stated the purport of that despatch—that, in consequence of the displeasure felt by the French Government with respect to the affairs of Greece, they had thought it right to recall their Ambassador. That was my statement, made in perfect conformity with the representations which had been made to us. But I went on to say that the French Minister of Foreign Affairs had stated to the Marquess of Normanby that the return of M. Drouyn de Lhuys should be considered as natural, since, having been sent here specially to settle the affairs of Greece, and the negotiations having failed, his mission had reached its termination. Now, it is right I should state that, by a despatch received to-day from the Marquess of Normanby, it appears that while the Marquess says he has a recollection that these were the terms used by General Lahitte, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, yet that, in consequence of the Marquess of Normanby having stated that these events might affect his position in Paris, the words may have been used out of civility and kindness to him. General Lahitte does not, it appears, recollect having used these terms; and the Marquess of Normanby says, that being the case, he certainly cannot hold the French Minister of Foreign Affairs to words which he does not recollect having employed. Now, not being aware that the statement I made was one which General Lahitte would not bear 267 out, and having given it as the Marquess of Normanby stated it—whether it was a statement that went in anyway to explain the termination of M. Drouyn de Lhuys' mission or not—it was a matter for which I was not responsible. I wish to state that the French Government had, from displeasure with the conduct of England, recalled their Ambassador from this country, yet that there had been words used by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs from the nature of which we did not think the matter so serious as that circumstance might have led us to suppose. With respect to any other statement of mine, I can only say that I answered the questions asked of me to the best of my judgment. When the hon. Member for Radnorshire asked whether we had a copy of the despatch recalling the French Ambassador, that being the actual purport of his question, I answered that we had not a copy of that despatch; but, in answer to a question put by another hon. Gentleman, I stated that the despatch had been read. Therefore I say. Sir, that the statement I made the other evening to the House was a statement of the whole truth, so far as I was then aware of it. With respect to the general question, though the House does not think it proper to enter into a formal discussion on these matters, yet I am truly sorry that there should have been any observations made; and I think there were observations made by the hon. Member for Canterbury that may tend rather to increase than to diminish the difficulties of this question. In any discussion that may hereafter take place in this House, I shall be happy to take my full share of responsibility along with my noble Friend who has conducted these negotiations, because, though he was the organ of the Government, and in full possession of the sentiments of the Government on the matters in question, yet I, as the head of that Government, avow and consider myself to be mainly responsible for the course which has been pursued. Sir, I must further add, in answer to the observations of the hon. Gentleman, that there have been occasions—for there have been more than one occasion—when mediation and good offices—[Mr. DISRAELI: I spoke of "good offices"]—there have been occasions, then, I say, when the exercise of "good offices" have been essential in maintaining the peace of two countries. I need only state the case of Naples, in which a demand by ourselves was enforced by coercive measures. 268 These coercive measures were suspended at the request of the French Government, who offered their good offices on the occasion. Those good offices were accepted and were successful, no further coercive measures being rendered necessary. Another case took place with regard to Mexico, and in that instance our position was reversed. France and Mexico were on the eve of hostilities; but the good offices of England were successful in preventing those hostilities, and restoring peace. Therefore it is not at all true, as a general maxim, that good offices may not be of great service with respect to such matters. I need not enter into other questions on which hon. Gentlemen have touched; but I will say that I agree so far with what has been stated, that if there is any explanation we can make to the French Government, consistent with the honour and the interests of England, that may remove the unhappy misunderstanding that exists, and restore to a state of harmony the relations between the two countries, there is no effort that Her Majesty's Government will not make to accomplish that desirable object. I trust, notwithstanding the taunts of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, that we shall have credit for cordiality and sincerity in that wish. I do not think any circumstance, since I have filled the situation which I now hold in public affairs, has given me so much pain as this unhappy difference with the Government of France. There has been more than one occasion on which—I do not wish to enter into details—we have shown a wish to consult the interests of the Government of France, when, I will not say the interests of England, but the popular feeling of England, was a good deal against the proceedings of the French Government, because it was our wish to show forbearance to a Government which we desired to see strong and powerful, and whose existence and strength we conceived to be necessary to the permanent peace and prosperity of Europe.
§ Subject dropped.