HC Deb 09 May 1851 vol 116 cc771-2

wished to ask the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether Her Majesty's Government concurred in the prolonged occupation of Rome by the French army; and if he could inform the House when the French troops were likely to be withdrawn? The professed object of the French occupation was to prevent a reactionary revolution on the part of Austria, and to secure to the Roman citizens good government. One of the principles of the constitution of the French Republic was that of respect of the nationality of other countries; but very nearly two years had now elapsed since forcible possession of Rome was taken by the French; and he asked the noble Lord whether he considered that good government had been given to the Romish people? The prisons were crowded with political prisoners, and the Inquisition was in full operation. He hoped to hear from Her Majesty's Government that they did not concur in this continued occupation of Rome, and that they washed their hands of this tyrannical intervention.


The occupation of Rome by the French troops was a measure undertaken by France upon her own discretion and upon her own judgment. The British Government was no party to that measure, France having exercised her own independent rights in regard to it, and it not being at all necessary that the previous concurrence of the British Government should be obtained. The British Government, therefore, was no party to that measure, and, consequently, it is not correct to say that we concurred in it. We might have had an opinion upon the subject; but it was a matter in which we had no right to interfere one way or the other. My hon. Friend asks me if it is my opinion that the result of that occupation has been to establish good government in Rome? I am concerned to say that I cannot answer that question in the affirmative; because it is well known that the state of Rome, and the internal condition of that city, and of the Roman States, is such as must be painful to every well wisher to the people of that country. With regard to the prolongation of that occupation, there have, undoubtedly, been friendly communications between Her Majesty's Government and that of France. Her Majesty's Government cannot be blind to the consideration that, the French having once occupied Rome, the withdrawal of the French garrison would probably lead to the occupation of the city by other parties; and it does not follow that that would he a change advantageous to the people of Rome, or to those general interests which the British Government must necessarily have at heart, as connected with Italian and European interests. The French Government plead now, as they pleaded then, that they had no intention of a permanent occupation; and they must be left to judge for themselves as to the period at which that occupation may cease consistently with the objects in view—objects which are disinterested ones, as far as France is concerned, for she never professed to have in view any territorial acquisition by that occupation. The French Government have assured us that, as far as any influence goes which they may be at liberty to exercise in Rome and with the Roman Government by reason of that occupation, that influence has been exerted for those objects which the French Government, as well as the English Government, necessarily think most desirable to be attained.