§ LORD ELCHO
said, it was not without a deep sense of the responsibility and difficulty of the task he was about to undertake, as well as of his inability properly to treat so important a subject, that he had given the notice which stood in his name on the paper. He had done so, however, because he felt strongly upon the Italian question and on the subject of the late war, and because he dreaded from what he heard that, unless some means were taken to obtain from the House an expression of opinion with reference to the Conference, they might find themselves irretrievably committed to it. He was, however, bound to admit that the statement subsequently 1121 made by his noble Friend the Foreign Secretary showed that the country was not, at least at that time, committed to the Conference. But there prevailed in the House on that occasion a strong feeling of the desirability of further discussion upon this question, and of some stronger expression of opinion against entering into the Conference. Many persons had expressed a hope that he would not withdraw his Motion, and he had therefore felt it his duty now to submit it to the House. Before doing so, however, he wished it to be clearly understood that the Resolution was brought forward wholly without communication with hon. Gentlemen opposite. This should be understood, in justice to them, because he might possibly express opinions for which they might be sorry to be made responsible. With this preface he would now refer the House to the Motion itself. It began by stating that throughout the late negotiations this country had preserved a strict and impartial neutrality. He had no wish to enter into any detailed statement as to the conduct of the late Government in the negotiations which preceded the outbreak of the war, but, as he should have to touch upon the neutrality of Her Majesty's present advisers, it was desirable they should come first to some clear understanding respecting the nature of the neutrality of the late Government. He did not know whether any right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench was disposed to dispute the statement in his Resolution, that the neutrality of the late Government was in his opinion both strict and impartial. His noble Friend (Viscount Palmerson) certainly had in hustings speeches and in this House declared that their conduct in this respect was not impartial, and that they had throughout been partial to Austria. Now, he (Lord Elcho) was not going to quote the blue-book in proof of this part of his Motion, but would simply refer to what had passed in another place on the point. Lord Stratford de Redcliffe gave notice—
§ LORD ELCHO
said, that a notice was given in another place of a Motion to the following effect ("Order!")—
§ LORD ELCHO
Notice was given of a Motion to the effect that the conduct of the 1122 late Government had been impartial, and in reply the Ministerial leader there stated ("Order! order!")—
§ MR. SPEAKER
The noble Lord is entirely out of order in the course he is taking, in continuing observations which point immediately to discussions that have taken place recently in the other House of Parliament.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he regretted that he was out of order, because had he been allowed to allude to this statement he thought it would have proved that in the opinion of the Government this portion of the Motion was correct, and that the conduct of the late Ministry had been strictly impartial. He would, however, quote a passage from a recent publication which gave a speech delivered by the Marquess of Normanby on that occasion, with an appendix. The Marquess of Normanby, who had perhaps been more mixed up in these Italian questions, and who was more conversant with their intricacies than any other person, said in this appendix:—With respect to the correspondence, I believe that those who had before most vehemently imputed partiality to the late Government have since avowed their conviction that nothing could be more creditable than their general tone, or more obvious than their bona fide neutrality.He (Lord Elcho) maintained, therefore, that the late Government had been neutral during the negotiations which preceded the war, and also throughout the war itself, and so it appeared to him desirable that that neutrality should be continued by the present Government, and that this country should not fix itself with the responsibility of departing from it. Now, the view which they took of the conference and of the peace must depend more or less upon the view which they had taken of the war. There were various views and shades of views and opinions prevailing in this country with reference to the war, but there was one point upon which all Englishmen were agreed, and that was in a sympathy for Italy. There was no Englishman who did not sympathize with Italy in her past sufferings and sorrows and her hopes for the future. The danger, indeed, was lest Englishmen should be run away with by their sympathies and should look to Italy alone, and not to England. But respecting the late war two sets of opinions prevailed. In the first place, there were men anxious for the wellbeing of Italy, and anxious that she should be better governed, who nevertheless believed that this 1123 war was not justified by the circumstances of the case, who could not help feeling suspicion when a despotic Government professed to give free institutions to Italy, and who regarded with alarm any interference with the balance of power as fixed and settled by the treaties of 1815. That was one class of opinions. There were those again, who led away by their sympathy for Italy and looking only to her deliverance from a foreign yoke, cared not by whom this deliverance was effected, and therefore cheered on France in her crusade for the establishment of free institutions in the Peninsula. Those who maintained such an opinion had been rather disappointed by the event, and had been induced, indeed, to do some injustice to the Emperor of the French. The fact, however, that his Majesty had concluded peace was, under the circumstances, no necessary proof of his insincerity. It only showed that the difficulties which confronted him were greater than he anticipated and the utmost that could be said was, that he had shown a want of foresight. There was not one, indeed, of the circumstances which had led him to conclude peace which might not have been foreseen at the outset. He (Lord Elcho) was free to confess that he shared the opinions of the first class of persons to whom he had referred. He could not consider the war as justified, and he could not regard Austria as having, morally speaking, been the aggressor. He knew it was of no use to talk in the hope of convincing his noble Friend Viscount Palmerston. In a debate which took place in 1850, his right hon. Friend (Mr. Sidney Herbert) said, that the noble Lord apparently looked upon Austria as the cause of every evil and of every insurrection which occurred in every part of the world. Referring to the despatch which his noble Friend had suppressed for eight months, the Secretary at War added:—That he purposely suppressed the Austrian note denying the intention of invading Piedmont, Because he did not think the professions of Austria worthy of credence.He had no hope, therefore, of changing the views of his noble Friend with respect to the misdeeds of Austria; but he must at the same time contend that, although Austria, literally speaking, was the first to break the peace of Europe by the crossing of the Ticino—a step which must be regarded as worse than a crime, because it was a mistake,—she could not be held responsible for that previous state of things 1124 of which the war was the result. He happened to have been in Italy in the course of last winter, and he could state from his personal knowledge that up to the month of December there had been exhibited on the part of Austria no signs of movement indicating a preparation for hostilities, and that not a single soldier had up to that time crossed the Alps to join the Austrian army in Italy. It was not, indeed, until after the celebrated speech which had been addressed to M. Hübner that any reinforcements had been sent to that army, and he had good reason to believe that Austria did not determine to take the final—he might now call it the fatal—step of passing the Ticino until she had become positively aware that the French preparations had been so far advanced that all the different expeditions which had since been carried into execution had been organized, the number of troops of which each was to be composed settled, and not only that, but the commanders and generals of brigade who were to be at the head of the different divisions of the French army named. Indeed any man who would read the blue-books could not fail to perceive that war had become a foregone conclusion with the French Emperor, and that Sardinia was in reality but the advanced guard of France in the contest. To France and Sardinia, then, and not to Austria, must the causes which had led to hostilities, in his opinion, be attributed. A right hon. Friend of his (Mr. Gladstone) indeed had said a few nights before that scant justice had been done to Sardinia in the matter; but while he (Lord Elcho) admired, as everybody must admire, her persevering efforts in the cause of Italian freedom in 1848 as well as at the present day, while he was ready to admit that she had shone out to those States as the beacon-light of that liberty from the enjoyment of which they were debarred, he could not forget that ever since 1849 Sardina had pursued in reference to Austria a policy of provocation and of insult. He had been in Italy in 1857, when the Emperor of Austria and his youthful bride had visited thier Italian possessions, and he recollected that the Piedmontese press was then rife with insults towards Austria—with everything that could be thought of to incite Lombardy to insurrection, and with articles justifying regicide and assassination, the sentiments which they contained being upheld by Scriptural illustration. From what he had stated it would, he thought, appear pretty evident that Sardinia was bent upon 1125 going to war with Austria; and if further proof were wanting that such was the case, that proof was to be found in the address which was presented to King Victor Emmanuel on the occasion of his triumphant entry into Milan, in which he was congratulated on the success of a project which he had been so long engaged in preparing. These facts, coupled with the French and Sardinian treaty and the French and Sardinian marriage, afforded tolerably conclusive evidence, he thought, of the justice of the view which he sought to impress upon the House. So far as the part which France had taken in the matter was concerned we were, of course, bound to believe that she was unprepared for hostilities, since she had stated such to be the case. But then there were the treaty and the marriage to which he had just alluded, as well the Hubner speech, besides the fact that a portion of the French army had—even before the Austrians crossed the Ticino—passed the Alps and reached the waters of Genoa, to be taken into consideration before implicit credence could be given to that statement. It must also be borne in mind that within three weeks after Austria had crossed the Ticino, 200,000 French soldiers were drawn up in line on the plains of Piedmont. With those facts staring him in the face, all he should say was,—If France can do all this when she is unprepared for war, God help the nation against whom she wages hostilities when she is ready for the struggle! Now, he for one could not sympathize with France and Sardinia in the contest which had just terminated, because he did not think it could be shown that a sufficient justification on their part for entering into that contest had been proved to exist. He thought such an interference on the part of France established a most dangerous precedent—a precedent against which it was both the interest and the duty of England to protest. For his own part, he could see no difference whatsoever between the position of the French in Lombardy and that which they might have occupied in Ireland in 1848, if, when a deputation from that country waited on M. Lamartine, who was at the time President of the French republic, he had, instead of declining to accede to the wishes of the deputation, married his cousin to Miss Smith O'Brien and followed up that alliance by landing a French army in the harbour of Cork. The principle of armed intervention in favour of suffering nationalities was, in short, one 1126 against which we ought to protest, inasmuch as if any one nation were to arrogate to herself the position of acting upon the doctrine that might was right, there would be an end to the public law of Europe, and we should be returning to the old days of the German faustrecht. Those were the reasons why he could not sympathize with France and Sardinia in the recent struggle. But, as there were two views of the war, so there were also two views to be taken of the peace to which it had led. Everybody must, he thought, rejoice that that peace had been brought about, inasmuch as it put an end to hostilities, and relieved us from those daily details of sickening slaughter upon which no one could dwell without a feeling of horror. But while that was the case, and while there were those who felt all this to the full, and were delighted to find that there was to be no more bloodshed—who hoped Italy had benefited by the war, though they were disposed to doubt that such a result had been obtained, and who also were glad to find that Austria still remained one of the great Powers of Europe, and that thus the balance of Power was maintained, there were others who, led away by their sympathy with Italy—a sympathy in which he cordially concurred—and the hopes engendered by the proclamation of Milan of the freedom of Italy from the Alps to the Adriatic—regarded the peace with disappointment, inasmuch as Austria still ruled on the Italian side of the Alps. He confessed that he was not one of those who shared in the views of the latter class, but the question was what were the views of the Government on the subject? He could not help thinking that they regretted that Austria had not been driven across the Alps, and that they were desirous to effect by means of negotiation and the pen that which force and the sword had failed to accomplish. He had spoken with respect to the neutrality of the late Government, he now adverted to the neutrality of the present. It appeared to him that, instead of being similar, the neutrality of the latter was rather that of the advocate and the partisan than that of persons who wished to assume an attitude of strict impartiality. What, let him ask, was the meaning of the word "neutrality?" The definition which Johnson gave of the word he found to be, "a state of indifference, of neither friendship nor hostility." He had likewise turned to the pages of Vattel to learn the correct import of the term, which 1127 was explained by that eminent writer in the following words:—Neutral nations are those who in time of war do not take any part in the contest, but remain common friends to both parties. A neutral nation must in all things show a strict impartiality towards the belligerent Powers.Now, if that were the true meaning of the word, would it, he should like to know, be said that the present Government had maintained an attitude of neutrality in the case of the recent European contest? It was unnecessary to refer to the speeches of his noble Friends on the Treasury bench, whether made on the hustings or within the walls of that House, in order to supply an answer to that question. Those who had perused them would, he thought, admit that such a neutrality as that which he had described had not been the object of their lives. [Mr. WHITESIDE: Hear, hear.] He should leave 1848 to be dealt with by his right hon. and learned Friend who had cheered that sentiment. What they had sought then, and what they now sought, was the bona fide expulsion of Austria from Italy. As he had said before, he need not refer to their speeches to prove the justice of that view. Every line which had been penned by his noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs in his despatches went to support the opinion of his policy which he (Lord Elcho) entertained; he should go further and contend that when those despatches were compared with those of the Prussian Government it would be found the latter indicated the maintenance of a more impartial and dignified position on her side as the friend of both parties in the contest than that which the noble Lord seemed desirous to uphold. The fact, indeed, of his noble Friend having acted the part of the French commissionnaire, in communicating the French seven points to the Austrian Government, clearly showed the animus by which he was influenced. That was in reference to the seven points, but he would like to know what was done in reference to the three points. He would like to know whether there was any truth in what he heard, that the seven points were subsequently reduced to three or four; that those three or four points were submitted to his two noble Friends by the French Minister; that they were accepted by his noble Friends without the knowledge of the Cabinet, and that the Cabinet was summoned to meet the following day to consider those points, but in the meantime peace was concluded be- 1128 tween the Emperor of the French and the Emperor of Austria. [Lord JOHN RUSSELL: It is not true.] He had then been misinformed, but he thought his noble Friend would be very glad that he should have given him an opportunity of contradicting a statement which had gained currency upon the subject. If he were wrong in stating that as an instance of a want of neutrality on the part of the Government there could be no mistake in a despatch of the French Minister, dated Paris, the 20th of June. Count Walewski, at the close of it, said:—Without yet having official information of the disposition of the new British Ministry, we are authorized to infer from the debate which preceded their coming into power, conclusions most favourable to the independence of Italy, and we are under the firm persuasion that the English Government is in its views, as well as in the support of its influence, favourable to the solution that we ourselves seek.In the opinion of the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, therefore, there was identity of object and sentiment between the French Government and the Government now in power, and he had yet to learn that the French Government had been neutral in the Italian question. He maintained that the conduct of the Government showed that they were not neutral; that they were rather partisans, and that if, therefore, they went into a Conference, it would not be in an impartial spirit, but in the spirit of partisans. That was important, and must necessarily influence the views which the House would take of the Conference. He thought the House would agree with him that it was desirable that any Government which went into the Conference should go into it without any prejudices, and with a determination to do impartial justice. He was sure that such was the view of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer; for, although they might object to the definitions of neutrality which he had given from Dr. Johnson and Vattel, the following was the opinion of his right hon. Friend in 1850:—The more we may be tempted to sympathize with Sicily, the less we admire Neapolitan institutions and usages of Government, the more tenacious, as I contend, we should be of our duty to do them full justice. I say, therefore, that the noble Viscount (Viscount Palmerston), when he thus anticipated the dismemberment of the Two Sicilies, did an act which breathed a spirit of hostility towards a friendly Power,—an act at variance with duty,—an act ill adapted to advance the true interests of freedom in that or any other country.1129 He thought the House would see how curiously apposite the quotation was at the present moment, and how clearly it would apply if, instead of Naples, they read Austria, and instead of Sicily, Italy. He had already said that he gave notice of his Motion because he did not think it consistent with the honour, dignity, or interests of England to go into a Conference to settle the mere details of the peace, the principles of which had been agreed on between the belligerents themselves. The Government had told them that it was not their intention to go into the Conference for that purpose, but that they were prepared to go into the Conference on the general affairs of Italy. The justification for his Motion was to be found in the ambiguity as to what were to be considered principles and what details. What one Power might consider a question of detail, the other might consider a question of principle. But, with reference even to the great principles upon which the Government were ready to go into detail, in the general affairs of Italy he hoped they would be very cautious before committing themselves. He believed that the true policy of this country was the policy of non-intervention. He did not mean that England was to roll herself up like a hedgehog, and take no note of affairs in the outer world, but only to intervene in the affairs of other nations when the interests or treaties which bound this country compelled. That was the policy which was advocated by the late Sir Robert Peel with his latest breath. In the speech which he delivered on the night before the melancholy accident which terminated in his death he left a noble legacy to English statesmen as to what their line of conduct should be with regard to intervention. Sir Robert Peel said:—Which is the wisest policy—to attempt to interfere with the institutions and measures of other countries not bordering upon our own, out of an abstract love for constitutional government—or to hold that doctrine maintained by Mr. Fox, Mr. Pitt, Lord Grenville, Mr. Canning, and Lord Castlereagh, that the true policy of this country is non-intervention in the affairs of others?"—3 Hansard, cxii. 692.]In the same debate the same views were ably advocated by the right hon. Gentleman whom he now saw on the Treasury bench, and by the apostle of non-intervention, the hon. Member for Rochdale. Mr. Cobden said:—I say if you want to benefit nations struggling for their freedom, establish as one of the maxims of international law the principle of non-intervention."—[3 Hansard, cxii. 671.]1130 When the English Government had departed from the principle were the results satisfactory? In the same debate the consequences of a departure from this sound and wise principle were thus described by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole):—The result of his (Viscount Palmerston's) policy was to be seen in the summary dismissal of our Minister from Madrid, in the sudden withdrawal of the Austrian Ambassador from the Court of St. James's, in the deep humiliation of the King of Sardinia, in the degradation of the Pope, in disappointed Italy, in offended Russia, in estranged Austria, in alienated Germany, in the averted looks with which our former most valued allies now regard us; and to sum up all in one brief sentence, we might mark it everywhere in the partial hatred, in the general disquietude, in the universal distrust with which our policy was now received by every nation upon earth,—[3 Hansard, cxii. 651.]Such was the summary given by the right hon. Gentleman opposite of the results of meddling in the affairs of other nations, and it should be remembered that previous to 1850 England had interfered in the affairs of Italy. With what result? The Italians had been in turn encouraged, flattered, and betrayed, and if the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Bowyer) was strictly correct in his statement the other night, the name of the noble Viscount was abhorred, and the name of the noble Lord was detested in Italy. He had too much respect for his noble Friends to wish their names to be abhorred or detested, and therefore he was anxious that if possible they should keep out of the Conference. If they went into a Conference, what did they intend to do? There was nothing very inviting in the present state of the affairs of Italy; but if his noble Friends went into a Conference upon those affairs, he supposed they would go as the friends of Italy, and in order to establish a better Government in Italy. The power which held "the quadrilateral" was the master of Italy. Mantua and Verona were the keys of Italy. If they went into the Conference as the friends of Italy, and in favour of liberty, were they prepared to abide by the programme of 1848—to insist on the expulsion of Austria from Italy altogether, and to join with France to effect that purpose; or would they be satisfied with the compromise of an Austrian archduke, a free constitution, and an Italian army in Lombardy? What would they be prepared to do with regard to the Pope and the States of the Church? Were they prepared to receive the Pope as the head of an Italian Confederation, or were they prepared to in- 1131 sist on the secularization of the Papal States? What would they do with the Duchies? Were they prepared to insist on Austria and France not being allowed to force the Archdukes upon their reluctant people? What were they prepared to do with respect to the French occupation of Rome? Were they prepared to insist upon Italy being left to the Italians, and the French army withdrawn from Rome? And with respect to the Duchies there was this difficulty. It being in the original agreement that the Archdukes were to be restored, the Grand Duke of Tuscany had abdicated in favour of his son, and that which might have been accepted as a compromise could not be accepted, as the compromise had come too soon. Every day brought a new difficulty. The state of Italy, painted in the columns of the daily papers, was as a seething cauldron, with more elements of evil and discord than ever yet entered a poet's imagination, and he hoped the Government would not plunge this country into it, since it was improbable the result would be much for the good of Italy or of England. He wished to urge the Government not to enter upon a Conference on other grounds. There must be one of two things. They either had confidence in the Emperor of the French or they had not. He thought the Government's entering into the Conference might he either superfluous or dangerous. If they had confidence in the Emperor of the French, let them be thankful they were not in the Italian mess, and keep out of it; for the interests of Italy and the freedom of Italy would be safe in his hands. But if, on the other hand, they had not confidence in the Emperor of the French, if they distrusted him, and did not believe that he was anxious to establish free Government for Italy, why then, à fortiori, they must keep out of the Conference, for by going there how would they be able to attain their object? He asked what the Government intended to do, supposing that in this Conference their views were not consulted. Were they prepared to support those views by force, or did they only intend to bring their moral influence to bear? It had been wittily, though somewhat irreverently, said that Providence was on the side of large battalions—it might be added, when they were well commanded; and this saying was equally true of moral influence, which would always be found on that side which could support it by the greatest physical power. He had seen one of the proclamations of the 1132 Emperor of the French, in which he said that during the war in Italy, France had manifested her moral influence upon this question; but he wished to know whether Her Majesty's Government intended to back their views with reference to Italy by force, or whether they would be satisfied with moral influence; for if the views of the Government were opposed they might have to withdraw from the Conference, and Italy would again consider herself abandoned and betrayed. He thought that, upon the grounds he had stated, the Government ought to be very cautious before they engaged in any Conference upon the affairs of Italy. He was quite aware that the views he had expressed might not meet with much favour in that House, so far as regarded the question between Italy and Austria; but he had stated his honest and sincere convictions on this subject. He was prepared to hear it said that he had no sympathy with Italy, that he was hostile to France, and that he was the advocate of Austrian misrule. He might be allowed to say, however, that he sympathized with Italy as much, perhaps, as any hon. Member of that House, and that he would gladly see the people of that beautiful country well-governed, happy, prosperous, and contented. He would go further, and would say that he believed, perhaps, the best thing that could happen for the security of the world and the good of this country was that a united kingdom of Italy should be created, consisting of 25,000,000 people. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] A right hon. Friend of his cheered that sentiment, but did any man believe that such a thing was possible? Was there anything in the circumstances of Italy that rendered it probable? It was a fairy vision and an agreeable dream, of the realization of which he saw no prospect. Would France allow it, or would she aid in creating upon her frontier so powerful an empire which would render the idea of making Italy a French dependency, and the Mediterranean a French lake an impossibility? He disclaimed any hostility to France. So far from entertaining any such feeling, he looked upon the French alliance as necessary not only to the well-being of both countries, but also to the advancement of civilization and the advantage of mankind in general; but he was not prepared to sacrifice everything to that alliance. He was no advocate of Austrian misrule. He did not deny the misdeeds of that empire in Italy; he was ready to admit them; 1133 but he was not blind to the fact that Austria was our friend and Ally as well as France, and that it was essential to the equilibrium of Europe, and to the safety of England, that Austria should remain a great Power. It was not, then, because he had no sympathy with Italy, because he was hostile to France, or because he was the advocate of Austrian misrule, that he had expressed his views, unpopular though they might be, upon this question. In his mind one consideration was paramount to all others, and that was—what is for the good of England? He believed it was for the advantage of this country that we should abstain as far as possible from any intervention in the affairs of foreign nations. He did not see any benefit that could arise from our interference either to Italy or to this country; but he did see many dangers ahead, and he foresaw that by such a course we might involve ourselves in complications and difficulties which we might have cause to regret. It was on these grounds that he urged Her Majesty's Government to be cautious how they went into any Conference with reference to these questions. He did not wish to tie up their hands, but to leave them, as British Ministers ought to be left, to the free exercise of their discretion upon this subject, when that discretion was to be exercised, not upon petty details, but upon general questions of principle. If his noble Friend saw cause for going into this Conference with a fair prospect of doing good, and with the certainty that no danger would accrue to this country,—although he (Lord Elcho) confessed he could not conceive such a state of things—if he would go into the Conference not in the spirit of a partisan, but of fairness and impartiality—if he would look to the interests of England as well as to those of Italy—if he would engage in the Conference, not as the Minister of Italy or of France, but as the Minister of England, he for one would earnestly pray for his success, and no one would more ardently desire that his endeavours to give better government to Italy and greater security to Europe might be crowned with success.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, stating that in the opinion of this House it would be consistent neither with the honour nor the dignity of this Country, which throughout the late negotiations on the Affairs of Italy has preserved a strict and impartial Neutrality between
the contending Powers, and used its earnest endeavours to prevent the outbreak of hostilities, to take part in any Conference for the purpose of settling the details of a Peace the preliminaries of which have been arranged between the Emperor of the French and the Emperor of Austria.
said, he had undertaken to meet the noble Lord on that occasion by moving the previous question, because he conceived that the proposal which the noble Lord had submitted to the House was one that could not be appropriately met either by an affirmative or negative Vote. He cordially agreed in the major portion of the observations which had fallen from the noble Lord; but he thought he had in some degree misled himself by consulting an English Dictionary for the purpose of ascertaining how it was that an English Minister should conduct the negotiations of a country which was observing neutrality. Looking into an English Dictionary, the noble Lord found that "neutrality" was defined as "total indifference." Why, if the Earl of Malmesbury had observed that total indifference which the noble Lord said it was his duty to maintain, how was it that they had that Blue-book—that volume of "rejected addresses"—of which the noble Lord was known to be an enthusiastic admirer? The truth was, that the impartiality and neutrality which it was the duty of an English Minister to observe in his relation with Foreign States were not of so narrow a description as they ought, in the noble Lord's opinion, to maintain. On the 1st of January last, Europe was in the enjoyment of profound peace, but it became known that, from some cause or other, that peace was to be disturbed. Under such circumstances, was it not evident that some one must have been deeply in fault? What, then, was the virtue of impartiality, as defined by the noble Lord, which he put forward as the true guide of a Minister for Foreign Affairs? It might as well be said that a policeman who witnessed an outrage should be required to observe a strict impartiality between the person committing the outrage and the person who was its object. He (Mr. Kinglake) must refuse to vote in favour of the noble Lord's proposition. He did not desire to lay it down broadly that the proposition was unconstitutional, but he did say that to interpose the counsels of the House of Commons in the place of those usually given to Her Majesty by her accustomed advisers was, at all events, to express a very strong distrust of the Ministers of the Crown; and he believed that if 1135 such a Resolution as that proposed by the noble Lord was not actually and in terms a Vote of want of confidence, it was so near an approach to such a vote, that hardly any man could consent to support the noble Lord's Motion who would not also assent to a vote of want of confidence. It would not be consistent with his own position and that of more than 300 Gentlemen on that side of the House to adopt what on the hypothesis he was considering was clearly a party vote. But if in its principle and spirit it was a party vote, he might ask, looking at the state of the opposite benches, where was the party that was to support it? Regarding it as a party vote, it was a proposal that ought hardly to be brought forward unless it was to be made the ground of a trial of party strength. Taking the Motion, however, on its merits, it would be inconceivably rash to attempt to lay down the policy which should or should not be followed—not at that moment, but some weeks, perhaps some months, hence, and so to define that policy in total ignorance of the circumstances which might then be existing. The proposal pointed to the future—not to the present; and it was impossible for any man not endowed with the gift of prophecy to say what might be the state of things at the time when it really came into operation. If, indeed, the noble Lord had called on them to act or not to act upon his advice at the present moment, they might say they had such great confidence in his judgment as to determine at once to do what he told them. But when he pointed to the future they could not but feel that when the future came the noble Lord himself might change his views. It was easy to suppose that three weeks hence something might arise to induce the noble Lord himself to consent to go into a Congress; and yet, if he succeeded in carrying that Resolution, he would find himself debarred from doing so by the success of his own Motion. For himself, he was inclined to follow the old-fashioned custom of holding Her Majesty's Ministers answerable for the conduct of public affairs, and therefore he could not refuse to concede to them that power and that latitude of action which were the natural concomitant and the indispensable condition of all true responsibility. But while he could not vote in the affirmative of the Motion, he should also regret if he were obliged to meet it with a direct negative. He went a great way with the noble Lord in deprecating a Congress, ex- 1136 cept under circumstances which would make one far more desirable than he now believed it to be. He should therefore be most unwilling to join in any vote which this country or Europe might construe as indicating an inclination to enter a Congress. The objections to such a measure were very strong. The noble Lord said, the state of Italy was calculated to give us great anxiety, and on that account he proposed to do nothing. Now, that very circumstance would be a reason, not perhaps for accepting a Congress, but why one should naturally be proposed by many as a solution of the difficulty in which that part of Europe was placed. In another of the noble Lord's objections, however, he cordially concurred. If England were to join in a Congress under present circumstances, she would be likely to enter it without authority. A Congress of nations was, no doubt, an apt conclusion at the close of a great war. The great Powers which had been engaged in the strife agreed to sheathe the sword and to come to those territorial and other arrangements which were to result from the fortune of war. But England had not been a belligerent, and therefore could not appropriately negotiate the arrangements that were in any sense to be regarded as the termination of a contest in which she never took part. She could not make peace, because she had not been engaged in war; still less could she take part in bestowing the spoils of that war, having had no share in winning them. Those spoils were, by the way, very small, because, after all, the Emperor of the French had gained less territory than King Charles Albeit won and lost by the sword in 1848. Another objection to our going into a Congress was this:—English statesmen, as far as he had observed, had not distinguished themselves in the Congresses of Europe. Those Congresses seemed to have been fatal to the reputations of our public men. After the Congress of Vienna all Europe was merry with the singular blunders made by the Marquess of Londonderry. In the Congresses of Laybach and Verona, happily, we took no part. He did not look back with pride or satisfaction to the Congress of Paris in 1856. We never knew what it was that an English statesman would be saying and doing in a Congress. He there spoke and acted sometimes in a most fatal way, and committed the country to a line of policy without having ever taken the opinion of Parliament or the country on the subject. Before the Con- 1137 gress of Paris, no man's reputation stood higher than that of the Earl of Clarendon. What did the Earl of Clarendon do in the Congress of Paris? The protocols showed that one day, apropos apparently of nothing, that noble Lord stood up and denounced almost the only free press on the Continent of Europe—namely, that of Belgium, and he also went on to express the horror and indignation with which he regarded a society with a pleasant name—the Marianne Society—which had never before been heard of in England, but which he inveighed against as one of the worst evils then existing in Europe. That kind of language was extremely derogatory to this country, because every man who heard it or read it when it appeared in the protocols, knew that it was put into the mouth of our negotiator by a foreign Power. There were strong objections, then, to our entering into a Congress, though he did not say that they were of such a character that they might not perhaps he out-weighed. The state of Italy must cause great anxiety to all who felt an interest in her happiness. The conduct of the Italians throughout the war had certainly been in all respects most admirable. Their bravery in the field and their moderation and love of order during recent transactions had been beyond all praise; and if there was one man who had gained more glory than another in the late short but bloody war, it was General Garibaldi. It was time for Austria and for Europe to part with the idea that States could be held or partitioned upon a mere possessory title, without reference to the will of the people. The States of Italy had expressed their will with perfect order, yet with calm resolution. Tuscany, Modena, Parma, and the Legations had all evinced a strong determination no longer to be governed by the rulers under whom they previously lived. Were those rulers, he wanted to know, to be forced back on these independent States? If we could be satisfied that the determination of the de facto Governments of Italy would be respected, and that foreign troops would be withdrawn from Italy, and if those terms were adopted as the basis on which a Congress might meet, then, much as he disliked the idea of a Congress, he would not resist the temptation that would in that case be offered, because the main objection to our joining in one—namely, the want of authority on the part of England, would be removed. If it could plainly be seen what the Congress was to do, he 1138 would not disapprove of our entering a Congress to settle the details of an arrangement arising out of the basis he had described, and also to arrive at a European solution. The repugnance he had not hesitated to express in regard to a Congress was not founded on any conviction that England ought to stand isolated among the nations of Europe. There was an idea abroad that England was separating herself from the affairs of Europe, and that her power was no longer to be relied upon as an element in the maintenance of the peace of Europe. He could not but think that that impression was owing in great measure to the prominence which had been obtained in this country by what we called the "Peace party," and to the connection of the existence of that sect with the neutrality of England in the late war. He believed that nothing could be more erroneous than to argue upon such a conclusion that England was to become null in the affairs of Europe. The importance of that sect arose from the great ability of the hon. Gentleman who was its chief, and not from the opinions of which he was the advocate or the numbers of those who held them. It was one of the qualities of that gifted man's eloquence that although he compelled many to follow him, he compelled still more to go very strongly against him. In fact, the interest in warlike affairs which now prevailed in the great cities of England had to a great extent been created by that very agitation in favour of peace of which the hon. Gentleman was the distinguished chief. It was a symptom—and by no means an unwholesome one—of English pugnacity. The Emperor Napoleon, he rejoiced to say, was disarming. That was a very happy omen for this country, and he trusted that we should imitate—though, with our humble means, we must follow it at a very respectful distance—the admirable system which the Emperor of the French had perfected, by which a peace establishment could very rapidly be made one of preparation for any emergency. Early in the month of March there was nothing but a peace establishment in France, yet in the month of June the Emperor was able to meet the Austrians at Solferino with one of the greatest and most efficient armies which had ever been seen. There was a cloud hanging over our relations with France, and, strange to say, that cloud had gathered, not in consequence of any act done by the Emperor of the French or by the French Government, but in con- 1139 sequence of words that fell from three of the most prominent of our English statesmen. The Emperor Napoleon was not a mere titular sovereign; he was a great commander of men. If they lived 100 years hence instead of to-day, they would be looking back upon the history of 1859 with the deepest interest. They cannot but think and talk of the Emperor of the French. Nay, more, he would go the length of saying that there were very few indeed of our public affairs which they could settle without some reference to the designs of the Emperor Napoleon. They had to take them into consideration in their military arrangements, in their naval arrangements—even in their financial plans they still must bear in view the Emperor Napoleon. He (Mr. Kinglake) was, however, not one of those who would indulge in hostile criticism upon the Emperor of the French. He would not forget that he was our faithful ally in the Crimean war, and that during the Indian mutiny his fidelity to us was never for one moment shaken. Those were circumstances which he never would forget. But the House had been told by the hon. Member for Birmingham, and that language was quoted and endorsed by the two noble Lords below him, that they ought not to indulge in any hostile criticism upon the Emperor of the French; and the hon. Member for Birmingham went so far as to say that if we did so even for a few months more, England would be embroiled in a war with France. Good heavens! what an alternative to propose to a free and spirited nation—enforced silence or war with France. A war with France would be dreadful, but so would be the enforced silence advocated by the hon. Member. If England submitted to such a silence, then, he would say, had commenced the subjugation of England. We would not endure considerations of foreign policy to interfere with the freedom of speech and freedom of action amongst Englishmen at home. That was the principle upon which the late Parliament acted when they overthrew a very popular Minister for pressing the late Conspiracy Bill, and he had no doubt that the existing Parliament would pursue a similar course if the Ministry betrayed any semblance of subserviency to a foreign Power.
§ Whereupon Previous Question proposed,
§ "That that Question be now put."
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down, in the begin- 1140 ning of his speech, gave, I think, very conclusive reasons against the adoption of the Motion, which has been made by my noble Friend, and he has met that Motion by proposing what is termed the previous question. So far as I am concerned, and I believed so far as my colleagues are concerned, we should have been perfectly willing to deal with the Motion by meeting it with a direct negative; but if it be the pleasure the House to treat it as a Motion which it would be unwise and imprudent under existing circumstances to entertain at all, of course Her Majesty's Government can have no objection to concur in that vote and support the proposition which has been made by the hon. and learned Member, made of his own choice and without concert with Her Majesty's Government. But there have been matters of great interest raised in this discussion, both by the hon. and learned Gentleman and by my noble Friend, who opened the debate, and I am sure my noble Friend will not be supprised that a Motion upon a subject of such immense importance upon the affairs of Europe, challenging the attention of Europe at a period so critical, and aiming, as he himself will be the first to admit, in a peculiar manner at imposing limits upon the free and responsible action of Her Majesty's Ministers, should itself be subjected to some scrutiny. Now, if I read the terms of this Motion of my noble Friend, the first remark, I think, that occurs is, that it is scarcely applicable to the position in which we stand, because that which it condemns, or rather prohibits, is the taking part in any Conference for the purpose of settling the details of a peace the preliminaries of which have been arranged between the Emperor of Austria and the Emperor of the French. But I am not aware of any proposal, of any suggestion, of any idea, or even dream of taking part in a Conference for the purpose of settling details the preliminaries of which have been arranged by the Emperor of Austria and the Emperor of the French. The details of peace, as we all know perfectly well from the public journals, if not otherwise, will be settled by the belligerents themselves; and what will remain to be settled are not merely details for the purpose of giving effect to the resolutions of the belligerents, but other great questions of European policy, vitally affecting the interests and happiness of Italy, stretching beyond the limits of Italy itself, and as well entitled to be termed matters of high and prime Euro- 1141 pean interest as any questions that have been discussed among the European Powers in our time. Therefore that is no matter of settling the details of a peace, and the Motion of my noble Friend does not really describe the state of things in which we stand. I find some discrepancy between the Motion of my noble Friend and the speech by which it has been introduced and enforced. His Motion is very peremptory in its terms, and so much objects to our taking part in some coming Conference, the nature of which does not appear to be distinctly understood, that my noble Friend departs from the usage of Parliament, and, while circumstances are immature and as yet most imperfectly developed, invites the House of Commons to arrive by anticipation at the decision that under no circumstances are we to take part in this coming Conference. These are the terms of his Motion, but the speech of my noble Friend, especially the latter part of it, might have passed as a speech against his own Motion instead of for it, because, carried away by his own generous feelings, he concluded by telling my two noble Friends near me that if they would but enter the Conference as Ministers of England, and not as Ministers of France or of Italy, he would not object to their going. If that be so, what becomes of his Motion? My noble Friend must himself be conscious of this discrepancy; nor can be fail to be aware that his Motion in its present terms is clearly untenable. The Motion is brought forward to satisfy a great desire for a Parliamentary decision. It has appeared and reappeared more than once. Sometimes it has been submerged in the waves, but it has always retained its vitality, and the last time it came before us it was mentioned in connection with a declaration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), who, after we had discussed for a night or two in general terms ths Italian question, said it was become more than ever necessary that Parliament should distinctly pronounce its opinion upon the question that was about to be raised by the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire. If Parliament is to pronounce its opinion, we derived no indication from the speech of my noble Friend that it was his purpose to carry the question to that mortal issue; on the contrary, his speech appeared to be delivered for the purpose of expressing his own sentiments, and influencing by that 1142 expression the sentiments of the House of Commons. But there was not the slightest indication from him, and the present state of the benches would net have favoured any such indication that we are met here to try a great issue, in which is involved not only the fate of an Administration, but likewise the character which England is to bear in one of the great crisis of European history. I confess I am left in considerable doubt and bewilderment under these circumstances not only of difference between my noble Friend and Her Majesty's Government, but of difference between my noble Friend and his Motion, and between my noble Friend and himself. I ask myself, what is the real purpose of this Motion? It certainly requires a vindication. It is not a Motion within the ordinary walk of Parliamentary effort and exertion. It is not usual to ask the House of Commons to instruct the Government upon the course that it shall take in difficult questions of foreign policy, and still less would it be usual to do so in cases where the circumstances under which the Government will have to act are as yet unformed and unknown. What, then, is the purpose of my noble Friend, and what is the purpose—I think I can answer this with more confidence—of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, who was so anxious that this Motion should come on for discussion? My noble Friend has spoken in warm and strong terms of his sympathy for Italy. I give him the fullest credit for entertaining that sympathy, but I own I much regret the form which it has assumed. Still my noble Friend undoubtedly entertains that sentiment, but I doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks was moved by the same sentiment of sympathy for Italy when he said it was exceedingly desirable that the opinion of Parliament should be expressed upon the subject. My noble Friend has spoken in just commendation, as he thinks, of the strict and impartial neutrality which was maintained by the late Government; and, indeed, the principal point in his speech has been the broad distinction he has drawn between the neutrality of the late and the neutrality of the present Government. The neutrality of the late Government, according to him, was the neutrality of an umpire; while the neutrality of the present Government is the affected neutrality of a partisan. Let me say a few words upon the two parts of that question. Beyond giving credit to the late 1143 Government in the person of the Earl of Malmesbury for perfect integrity of intention, and for an indefatigable assiduity—indeed, a feverish, restless, overdone assiduity as far as regards the mode of expression, but still a sound, honourable, and manly assiduity—to maintain the peace, I am not prepared to subscribe the doctrine of my noble Friend that it meant a strict and impartial neutrality. I cannot say that the expressions used are conformable to that principle, and if my noble Friend near me has stated his dissent from that description of the conduct of the late Government, I am bound to add my own testimony, such as it is, to that which he has borne. In one of the letters of the Earl of Malmesbury he states that Austria has accepted his four points, and that consequently England has urged France to make Sardinia disarm. Now Austria never did accept the four points of the Earl of Malmesbury. She never even came near the acceptance of them, and any one who has read the document, in which she set forth what she called her acceptance with its qualifications, will know that the whole force and virtue of that document he in the qualifications, which entirely destroyed the propositions of the Earl of Malmesbury. However, I will not dwell on that. Let me rather refer to what took place in this House, and test the strict and impartial neutrality of the late Government by the public declaration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks on the 18th of April. There are many here who recollect the remarkable expressions then used. The right hon. Gentleman said there were many things in the conduct of Sardinia that were ambiguous, perplexing, and suspicious, while the conduct of Austria had been in the main a conduct of dignified conciliation, and in closing his speech he declared that he knew of no reason why the peace of Europe should not be preserved. I want to know whether the right hon. Gentleman was justified in those expressions with the information which we, indeed, did not possess, but which was at that time in his possession as a Minister of the Crown. Why, that speech, in which the right hon. Gentleman, speaking with all the authority of an organ of the Government, bestowed upon the conduct of Austria the praise of dignified conciliation, was made upon the 18th of April. But upon the 12th of April there had been discharged from Vienna an epistle, which was delivered to the Earl of Malmesbury on the 1144 16th, two days before the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and in that epistle Austria declared her intention of sending that very summons to Sardinia which a week after brought about the war. Count Buol, writing on the 12th of April, says, in a perfectly intelligible paper—much more intelligible than many others which I find in the blue-book,—We are about to address direct to the Cabinet of Turin a summons to reduce their army to a peace footing, and to disband the Free Corps, or Italian Volunteers. If this step should produce no effect, there would be nothing left for us but to lay upon the Cabinet of Turin the whole responsibility of the consequences which its refusal will entail, and to declare that their persistance in an openly aggressive attitude gives us back entire liberty of action by freeing us from the pacific promises which we had previously made to the British Government.Yet with that paper in his possession the right hon. Gentleman on the 18th of April, declared that the conduct of Austria was marked by dignified conciliation, and that he saw no reason why the peace of Europe should not be preserved. I dare say that may be consistent with the great anxiety of the right hon. Gentleman for a discussion upon the Italian question, and consistent also with his views of a strict and impartial neutrality; but I do not think my noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire will subscribe to such doctrine, and I am certain the House will agree with me, that a Minister who could use these words under these circumstances was not a Minister whose conduct was governed by a strict and impartial neutrality. I believe I do not unfairly interpret the Motion of my noble Friend when I say that his real desire seems to be to prevent Her Majesty's Government from taking part in any Congress or Conference that may definitively regulate the settlement of the Italian question, lest our agency should there be exercised in a sense too favourable to Italy, or so favourable to Italy as to be unfavourable to Austria, or as to make an enemy of Austria. Let the House consider for a moment what is meant by this imputed hostility to Austria. I do not suppose there is any statesman in this country, or any hon. Member of this House, or any single man in England, who has at any time made public affairs the object of impartial study, who can be actuated by so senseless a motive as that of hostility to Austria. To disclaim that motive on the part of the Government is needless and disparaging, because I cannot admit that the 1145 slightest ground has ever been given for imputing to them any idea so monstrous and absurd. England has an immense interest in the maintenance of the European equilibrium, and that which disorganizes any one of the great countries of Europe is necessarily menacing to the general peace and to the interests of England. It is our duty and interest to desire to see Austria strong, flourishing, and happy. But it does not follow that we are not to have our own opinion upon the circumstances under which Austria is likely most usefully to discharge the duties of her great position in Europe, and is likely most effectually to promote her own separate, particular, and individual interests. This Italian question is one of which the roots he deeply embedded in the past. It has not grown up to-day or yesterday. My noble Friend says Austria has not been the aggressor in this war. He says we must look to the Sardinian marriage and the Sardinian treaty, though I know not what treaty he means. He says no reinforcements were sent into Italy by Austria until after the speech of the King of Sardinia, but this book contains sufficient evidence that reinforcements were sent before that time. The statement positively made by Count Cavour—suspicious, you may say, as coming from that source, but supported by all the collateral evidence we can procure—is this:—The words addressed to M. Hubner at Paris were uttered on the 1st of January; the speech of the King was on the 10th of January, but on the 3rd of January the Austrian reinforcements were ordered to march, and therefore my noble Friend is incorrect when he says that Austria sent no reinforcements into Italy until after the King's speech. [Lord ELCHO: Concurrently with it.] Concurrently? Well, but that must mean after the speech, for nobody could have divined it until after it was delivered. But I have been diverted from what I was about to say. My noble Friend seems to think that we have only to consider this as a quarrel of the present and to-day,—that the blame lies here or there accordingly. No, Sir! To understand this quarrel you must go back, at any rate, for the last five-and-forty years, and then you will find the true lights which will show you its nature and origin. I don't speak of it now as a matter of praise or blame, but simply as a matter of fact. It may have been only an unhappy necessity of her position, but this, at any rate, is true— 1146 that for forty-five long years, wherever liberty reared its head in Italy, wherever there was the slightest or most moderate attempt to procure even the hundredth part of those franchises which as Englishmen we hold so dear, there the iron hand of Austria has interposed, and has re-established in all their rigour the abuses of the actually existing Governments. Well, if that be so, consider the position of Sardinia. Sardinia succeeded in obtaining for herself the blessings of a free constitution. You may rely upon it that the moment she did so—quite irrespective of the will of her Sovereign and her statesmen, but by the everlasting law of things which no human will can counteract—she became of necessity a standing danger to Austria. It was not merely that in Sardinia there existed a free State, and on the other side of the border a despotic Government. Although such a neighbourhood may not be without risks, I am not the man to assert that it is not perfectly compatible with peace and good relations. That, however, was not the cause. The real cause was the exterior policy of Austria in Italy; it was her influence and agency which pervaded every Court and province of Italy, and was felt there just as decisively and absolutely, perhaps even more so, than in Venice and Milan. What was the consequence of this peculiar system? It was commonly, and perhaps not untruly said, that the Austrian provinces were better governed than other parts of Italy. I say there was some truth in this. It was necessary for the credit of Austria as a great empire, it was expedient for the conciliation of her own subjects, that her administrative system in Italy, among a people so intelligent as the inhabitants of Lombardy and Venice, should be raised to a state of considerable excellence. But while she maintained that administrative superiority in her own provinces as compared with the States of the Church and with Naples, she at the same time enforced the iron yoke upon the States of the Church and upon Naples without having the power to procure for them the partial compensation of those administrative improvements which she herself was so careful to adopt and boast. The position of Austria and Sardinia, then, does not depend upon the will of the Sovereigns and statesmen of the present day; it lies deep in the bad organization of Italy, and its proper source is to be found in the propagandism of Sardinia. Sardinia, by the very law of nature, becomes the centre of hope and 1147 aspiration to every Italian who dares to hope for freedom; and her propagandism is rendered formidable by that Austrian system which pervades the Peninsula, confronting with its soldiery every man who strives to better the political system of Italy, denying him all hope of freedom, and dooming him to the perpetuity of the political servitude in which he lives. If this be so, the question whether the Sardinian marriage was contracted in view of a crisis which it was seen must, sooner or later develope itself, shrinks into small dimensions. On the side of Austria, as well as of Sardinia, I admit that you have now for many years in Italy laboured under a complication of political evils so grievous and, I may almost say, so desperate, that they seemed, in the judgment of many reflecting men, absolutely to defy solution, except through the terrible alternative of war. I do not think, therefore that it is my duty to blame the conduct of Austria so severely in this crisis as it has been blamed by others of very high authority. I admit that Austria has had to contend with the greatest difficulty—nay more, I admit that it may have been practically impossible for her to escape from that channel of evil tradition which her former statesmen have handed down to those of the present day. But if the case be so serious, I think my noble Friend need not have been so severe in his condemnation of Sardinia with reference to this outbreak. What are my noble Friend's ideas of neutrality? He has used every possible effort to assist and inform his mind. He has been to the redoubted and almost inaccessible pages of Johnson, and to Vattel on the Law of Nations in order to show that neutrality means total indifference. That is a very rigid doctrine; but when my noble Friend comes to interpret the doctrine which he has enforced so severely against the Government I am bound to say that he appears to apply it in his own case with a very convenient latitude. No doubt he means to exhibit the speech he has made to-night as a specimen of a just and impartial neutrality, but when we come to examine further we find his neutrality compatible with a belief that Sardinia and not Austria was the aggressor; that the Sardinian marriage and treaty were settled in anticipation of war; that there was a foregone conclusion on the part of Sardinia to bring about the war; and that it was nothing but a blunder and an accident which put Austria in the posi- 1148 tion of an assailant. These are pregnant opinions, but according to my noble Friend they are compatible with a strict neutrality. Well, then, let him only give to others the same space and elbow-room that he asserts for himself, and I will venture to say that the strict and impartial neutrality of the Government can be made out to a demonstration. This strict and impartial neutrality, it seems, is not, after all, incompatible with opinions, with convictions, and with desires respecting the matter at issue. It is quite clear that the definitions of Johnson and of Vattel will not admit the licence claimed by my noble Friend; but if they do, all I can say is that we do not need any more. It is our duty, and especially is it the duty of my noble Friends, the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister in this crisis, to form their opinions as to what is best for the welfare of Italy, of Austria, and of Europe. Is it not a perfectly conceivable opinion that Austria would be stronger if out of Italy than she would be in it? You may differ from that opinion, though I am not quite certain that my noble Friend (Lord Elcho) does; but at any rate it is an opinion which may be honestly entertained. I frankly own that, without the least pretension to speak with authority on the subject, I am most strongly of that opinion. I feel convinced that Austria never will have a peaceful supremacy in Italy. My belief is—I wish I may be convinced to the contrary by the future—my fear and apprehensions are, that she will not be able to escape from the system of extraneous action in Italy which up to this time has been her bane, and the bane of that unfortunate country. Unless she can escape from it, I say that notwithstanding the Quadrilateral, notwithstanding the stone and the mortar, notwithstanding all the cannon and the guns, her rule over human hearts and human minds in that portion of Italy which she retains must continue to be a bane not less to her than to her subjects; and those who wish well to Austria may consistently wish that she were placed within limits where she might exercise a natural and a beneficial supremacy. What are the charges against the present Government with respect to its future neutrality? I will not say that the convictions of the Government are to be the measure of their neutrality. My noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) quoted a precedent of neutrality so apposite I cannot help recalling it to the memory of the 1149 House; it is the conduct of Mr. Canning in 1825. Mr. Canning was neutral in the matter of the French invasion of Spain, because he did not deem it a cause in which it was advisable England should take up arms. He was neutral in that sense, and he was impartial in his neutrality. The impartiality of his neutrality would have been violated if he had offered suggestions in the spirit of party; the impartiality of his neutrality would have been violated had he interposed by any underhand means. But retaining his liberty of opinion, he denounced and disapproved the French invasion of Spain. By doing so, he, in the first place, vindicated the character of England; and, in the second, he interposed by that denunciation a serious impediment to the repetition of such dangerous experiments. That is the neutrality on which Her Majesty's Government has acted. Its limit is that we should refrain, not from entertaining our own opinion, but from giving effect to it either by manifestations in this House, or by diplomatic action, otherwise than the public law of Europe may permit, or opportunities shall be fairly opened. The noble Lord, I hope, will be disabused as to certain seven points having been succeeded by certain three points, of which the first I have heard is from my noble Friend himself. I cannot admit that the neutrality of Her Majesty's Government has been compromised by any conduct with respect to any of these conditions. Surely it would have been a great responsibility on the part of Her Majesty's Government to have refused to make known to one of the belligerent Powers any terms, though they might have been such as that party could not possibly grant, unless we knew we were discharging a hostile office. Her Majesty's Government was most anxious not to be misunderstood with regard to those terms; it in no respect prejudiced our liberty of action; the Government made it expressly known that the terms were not their terms. There is not the least reason to suppose that their action was misunderstood, or that they were understood, directly or indirectly, to have subscribed to the conditions as constituting an arrangement by which the war ought to be brought to an end. Has my noble Friend nothing else on which to support his Motion?—because it is one that requires much proof and support to induce the House of Commons to travel so far out of its usual path. My noble Friend 1150 has evidently felt the difficulty in which he is placed, for he has ransacked Hansard, and searching through former debates has done me the honour to quote a passage from a speech of mine in 1850. I take it as a great compliment. It is delightful to find that one's words live in recollection after so many years. I spoke in reference to what was being done with regard to the kingdom of Sicily, under the circumstances then existing. No doubt I thought I was right at the time. My recollection is not so distinct. I do not remember my words so well as the noble Lord does; but it is a different question, whether, in anticipation of something that has not been done, you should pledge the British Government to a certain course of action. Has such a thing been done? No; the Government has done nothing. My noble Friend wishes to anticipate the future. With the end of the Session near at hand, the noble Lord wants to do, within the Session what my noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) will have to do, and probably will be doing, when the noble Lord is engaged in a very different manner. The noble Lord says non-intervention is our true policy. Why [striking the blue-book of the correspondence of the late Government], what is this? Here is speculation, and persuasion, and admonition, sometimes even a little spice of menace! There is no positive gunpowder in these pages, but the noble Lord commends this correspondence greatly; he says, had it been published a few weeks before, the vote which overthrew the late Government would not have been given. I do not think that is quite certain. I think we may speak of that in the potential mood and the preterpluperfect tense, as something that might, could, would, or should, have been. The noble Lord says he knows an hon. Member who voted in favour of the Motion who, if this blue-book had been published, would have voted against it. But I know a man who voted favourably to the late Government on that occasion who could not have given that vote if this blue-book had then been published. [Lord ELCHO: Name!] I will name my man when the noble Lord names the hon. Gentleman who, he says, would have given his vote the other way. In the meantime, I request him to be satisfied with the assurance that the person I allude to is a bonâ fide individual, existing in flesh and blood, and not an airy phantom. But the question whether we are to go into a Congress, whether we are 1151 prepared to admit this, or reject that—all these questions are in the future, and not even in the very near future. The general views of Her Majesty's Government have been declared in former debates. The question is not now whether we should rashly and precipitately enter into a Congress or Conference, or act by diplomatic correspondence, which is much the same, but whether by a hard, rigid, dry formula, laid down in total ignorance of the future, and the state of things it may produce, the House of Commons will take on itself the functions of the Executive Government? Is it possible the noble Lord can think that at this moment England is prepared to record its unconditional determination not to meddle with the affairs of Italy in this crisis of her fortunes? For that, after all, is the meaning of this Motion. In this country we are much disposed to look at precedents, and to walk in the way of those who have gone before us, and to have good reasons shown before we depart from it. Has this country been accustomed in former times to make the affairs of Italy foreign to its intervention and sympathy? Is not all our history full of proofs to the contrary? Hardly a serious question has ever been raised in Italy in which England has not interfered; and even where the principles involved were such that you could not interfere directly, you have chosen an agent to maintain your policy. Does my noble Friend remember, or remember with regret, the course taken by the noble Lord at the head of the Government in 1831 (Lord Grey)? The question, then, did not affect the whole of the Italian peninsula, but only the States of the Church. The great Powers of Europe then united in recommending the Government of the Pope to adopt and facilitate measures of reform. Does the noble Lord think that England ought to have abstained from acting with those European Powers, though the Pope did not see fit to adopt their suggestions? When Austria, Prussia, and France, made an appeal to the Papal Government in favour of his people, was the representative of England to hold aloof from the interests of justice, and say, "No, I cannot enter into any Conference, or be entangled in any arrangements—I cannot act with despotic Powers; I will have nothing to do with your recommendations"? If we come to a subsequent stage, when those other Powers unfortunately receded from their recommendations so far as to acquiesce in their rejection, does not the noble Lord think 1152 that the noble Viscount consults the honour and interests of England when he protested against the rejection of those recommendations by Gregory XVI.? Take another precedent from the year 1856—the Congress of Paris. At that Congress no objection was made to the principle of interference on the part of England with the affairs of Italy. But (striking the blue-book) here is the great and crowning precedent—the rich result of the labours of the late Administration. Here is a standing witness crying aloud against the principle advocated by the noble Lord—the principle of absolute and unconditional refusal to interfere in the affairs of Italy, which is contrary to the uniform course of the history of this country. The real question no doubt is, not whether it is desirable that England should enter into European negotiations; for after all, these are but expedients for the removal, or, if not for the removal, at all events for the mitigation of the great and overpowering ills that afflict mankind. Nor is it an idle passion to figure in either a Congress or a Conference that would ever lead an English statesman to consent to be a party to such transactions. The hon. and learned Gentleman behind me, indeed, has opened a peculiar chapter in this discussion. He raises two objections to our going into a Congress; one being that we should enter it without authority, inasmuch as we were not one of the belligerent Powers. That would be a very strong objection if we could enter it under any circumstances as the only Power which was not a belligerent. But the case would be entirely changed if an appeal were made to all the neutral Powers as a body, and that in the name of Europe, England should, as one of those Powers, take part in a conference or Congress in the hope and with the object of effecting good. The authority of England as a non-belligerent might be slight, but as a part of the collective authority of Europe it would be most valuable. But the hon. and learned Gentleman goes on to argue that there exists on the part of English statesmen an incurable incapacity which ought to lead us to eschew taking part in a Congress as far as possible. That, indeed, is an argument with which it is difficult to deal. I, for one, have no interest in the matter, inasmuch as no combination of circumstances is likely to place me in the position of the representative of England in such an assembly. I am, nevertheless, extremely sorry to learn that the 1153 English nation, which has been so lavishly endowed and gifted in other respects by Providence, cannot furnish a man capable of holding his own at a Congress or a Conference with the representatives of the other Powers of Europe. The conviction that such is the case must necessarily be a source of deep regret in an assembly where so many persons are at all times found prepared to take part in the discussion of foreign affairs. The presence of such men, at all events, leads us to hope that England will not remain long without an adequate and sufficient organ to give expression to her views. The hon. and learned Gentleman has, however, I must admit, urged these objections to our entering into a Congress calmly, and has, upon the whole, arrived at a satisfactory conclusion, inasmuch as he states it to be his belief that although he deems the objections which he has advanced to be of a very serious nature, yet he does not look upon them as being insurmountable. It no doubt occurred to the mind of the hon. and learned Gentleman that the main question we have to consider, after all, is not the abstract question of whether diplomatic negotiations or conferences are desirable or not, but whether under present circumstances there is a clear prospect or a reasonable hope that the social position of a large portion of our fellow men would be benefited by the adoption of such a course. That is the real question for our consideration, and it is in order that we may have free scope to arrive at such a decision with respect to it as we may deem most advantageous that Her Majesty's Government entreat the House of Commons to leave their hands unshackled in the matter. The hon. and learned Gentleman, casting an eye over the States of Italy, saw that many questions were raised by the peace which it failed to settle. What does the declaration made at Villafranca, for instance, that certain Sovereigns should return to their territories, mean? It has received no authoritative construction, and I do not understand what it necessarily conveys beyond this—that the parties subscribing the terms of peace are perfectly willing that those Sovereigns should return to their territories, other circumstances permitting. If it means that they are to be restored by force—which interpretation, be assured, the Emperor of the French does not mean to put upon it—then is there another reason furnished why the hands of Her Majesty's Government should not be tied up, and 1154 why they should not be prevented from protesting with all that energy which the Government of a free State can command against a doctrine that would treat the inhabitants of the territories in question as the property of so many ducal houses who might dispose of them, their families, their fortunes, and those of their posterity as they pleased, without any regard to that independent will and judgment which, as human beings, they are entitled to exercise. I shall not trouble the House by entering into details with respect to those other portions of Italy to dilate on whose condition is the peculiar province of the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Bowyer), whom I see here, and who knows so well how to supply us with sound Roman doctrine on the subject. No doubt there are many things which one is tempted to say on this interesting topic when my hon. and learned Friend assures us that the whole mass of the people under the rule of the Pope, with the exception of a few uneasy country agitators, are deeply devoted to his paternal authority, and when one bears in mind at the same time that—for that the fact is so nobody will dispute, though perhaps it is of a nature which does not admit of explanation—whenever the foreign force which is maintained there disappears from the Estates of the Church, the throne of the Pope disappears along with it. But to speak seriously, I must say, in reference to the Pope—quite apart from all sectarian differences—as a personage occupying an eminent station and possessing distinguished personal virtues, as the head of a great body of Christian believers, that my wish would be to look upon him with all the respect which is due to those united titles. I, however, lament, as cordially as I could lament if I had the nearest interest in all that concern him, when I see a Sovereign who makes pretensions to represent in a peculiar sense the majesty of Heaven reduced to become a mendicant at foreign Courts—a mendicant, too, not for the purpose merely of obtaining the means of subsistence, but with the object of procuring military armaments whereby to carry the ravages of fire and sword over the fair provinces which he governs, and to rivet on the necks of men a yoke that is detested by every one except those who have a direct personal interest in its continuance. That is a policy which is unworthy of a civilized nation. But I shall dwell no longer on the subject. I have to apologize to the House for having detained them so 1155 long. To sum up the argument of my noble Friend who brought forward this Motion in a few words, he says he reduces the whole question at issue to this dilemma,—"Either you have confidence in the Emperor of the French or you have not. In neither alternative ought you to enter into a Conference." Now I at once admit that if we placed no confidence in the Emperor of the French I could, to a great extent, understand the justice of the view to which my noble Friend has given expression. I can very well understand, for instance, how, if unhappily England and France should prove to be essentially at variance with respect to Italian affairs, it would become a grave question of policy and prudence whether we should enter into a Congress with no more hopeful prospect than that of dragging out day after day wearisome discussions with the representatives of a Power with which we ought to be most anxious to be on terms of concurrence and alliance. I can, however, by no means understand the force of the other branch of the dilemma to which my noble Friend has directed our attention. He says,If you have confidence in the Emperor of the French then there exists no necessity for your taking part in a Congress, inasmuch as he will do all that you require.That is my noble Friend's argument. I am at a loss to know whether he could have used it seriously. My noble Friend in effect says, "The Emperor of the French is under circumstances of great difficulty, going to enter the circle of the other great European Powers, there to contend for objects of importance, the realization of which is dear to you in your hearts; therefore give him no assistance whatever." Yes, that is the argument of my noble Friend, and if the House adopts this Resolution it will be recording it to be its deliberate determination—whatever may be the disposition of France to give effect to the fair and temperate longings of the Italian States for constitutional freedom, and to grant them institutions more liberal oven than she herself possesses at this moment—that we ought steadily to refuse to assist France in the endeavour, and leave her to struggle with the difficulties of her position, and, if needs be, sink under their pressure. And this too is to be done by way of signalizing the close alliance, which for so many years and with so much benefit has prevailed between the two countries. Yet such is the recommendation of my noble Friend, although—and I gladly admit it—it is not 1156 a recommendation which is borne out by the whole of his speech. It is, nevertheless, the advice which is embodied in his Resolution, and I earnestly entreat the House, whether by means of a direct negative, or by following the course proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman behind me, to dispose satisfactorily and finally of this Motion this evening.
MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
—Sir, I entirely concur in one portion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House, I allude to that portion in which he admitted the importance of the question that has been brought before the House by my noble Friend (Lord Elcho). Its importance, indeed, cannot be exaggerated. It is important to Italy, to this country, and to Europe at large. And notwithstanding the criticisms in which the right hon. Gentleman has indulged, I think for one that this House owes a deep debt of gratitude to the noble Lord for giving us an opportunity before the termination of the Session of hearing the sentiments of Her Majesty's Government and the opinions of the leading members of this House upon a question so vitally important. In one point of view, however, I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I will admit that, to a certain extent, this is an unusual Motion; but, at the same time that there is anything improper either in the form, the object, or the wording of the Motion, I most emphatically deny. If, Sir, at the commencement of the late Session, hon. Gentlemen opposite had found that the policy adopted by the late Government with reference to the then impending war had not been a policy of neutrality, is there a single person here who thinks that the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Russell) would for one moment have hesitated to move a resolution in this House, or that he would have failed to carry that resolution prescribing to the Government a policy of neutrality? The Resolution of my noble Friend (Lord Elcho) on the present occasion is dictated by a similar spirit. It is because we distrust the intentions of the noble Lords opposite, and because they have shown a determination to go into a Congress, not to promote the objects which this country feels most desirable, but to lend assistance to the Emperor of the French in the difficult position in which he is placed, that we think it necessary there should be an expression of opinion on the part of this House that such a policy is in- 1157 consistent alike with the honour and the interests of this country. The right hon. Gentleman has said also that we are discussing this question under this truly very great difficulty, that we have not sufficient information. But, surely, Sir, that is a difficulty, the acknowledgment of which, of all other people in the world, ought not to come from any Member of Her Majesty's Government. For my own part I believe that never before, when an important question was pending before the House, was conduct such as that pursued by Her Majesty's Government ever witnessed in the course of our Parliamentary history. From time to time the noble Lord the Member for the City of London has doled out to us, bit by bit, scrap by scrap, just so much information as he has thought proper to meet the particular emergency of the moment. First we had a despatch sent to the noble Lord by our Minister at Turin, and we had the noble Lord's answer. Shortly afterwards I myself inquired of the noble Lord whether he would produce, for the information of the House, a despatch that he had addressed to Berlin, and dated the 22nd of June. The noble Lord replied that it would not be conducive to the interests of the public service to produce that despatch, because it would only give imperfect information to the House, as it was only a part of the correspondence, and therefore he declined to produce it. Shortly afterwards that despatch appeared in one of the foreign journals—I believe a German journal—and then the noble Lord produced the despatch. But he produced it in the very form which he had said was most objectionable—namely, by itself, without its context. The remainder of the correspondence, however, very soon appeared, and again in some of the journals of Germany. Again, when all who were interested in this subject were able to obtain the despatches written by the Prime Minister of Prussia to the noble Lord through the medium of the foreign journals, the noble Lord, not giving us those despatches, or anything else that would enable us to judge of the spirit in which he wrote, produced an extract only from one solitary despatch, without a single paper of any description by which we could form an opinion of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. We are still without any information as to what the noble Lord has written to Paris, or as to what he has received from Paris. We are still without any information of any despatches addressed to or received from Turin or Vienna. 1158 Nay, although there are intimations appearing in the Gazette of St. Petersburgh that some communications have passed between the noble Lord and St. Petersburgh, we are entirely without information as to what communications have taken place. Now, what I have to say is, that if we are approaching the consideration of this subject under this considerable difficulty—this want of information—that difficulty has arisen from the conduct of the Government, who have kept us designedly, as it appears to me, in ignorance as to their policy, and have left us to infer their policy from their declared sentiments and speeches in this House. I am extremely glad that the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Haddington has brought from the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) a speech which, though carefully evading the main point, has enabled the House to ascertain his opinion of what is neutrality. And he has sought—not by referring to recent events, but by going back through the history of forty-five years ago, in the most impassioned terms and with that eloquence which belongs to the right hon. Gentleman alone—to attract the whole attention of the House by a most studied condemnation of the conduct of Austria in every event that has taken place since that time. And he has left us, nay, not us alone—and his words will reverberate throughout Europe—for foreign nations also to form an opinion of that notion of an impartial neutrality which he wishes us to endorse. I do not desire to travel into the path in which the right hon. Gentleman has wandered, partly because the right hon. Gentleman may have thought much upon the subject, and probably wished on a former occasion to make these observations to the House, but had not the opportunity, and chiefly because it admirably served the purpose of diverting attention from the real matter before us. I will not go into a consideration of how far the policy of the late Government was a policy of impartial neutrality. Of this I am sure that it will require more than the eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman to convince the public at large, or this House, that the policy of the late Government was not one of strict and impartial neutrality. But what is it that the right hon. Gentleman says, proves that the conduct of the late Government was not impartially neutral? Some words that dropped from my right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) on the 18th April last, when he said that the con- 1159 duct of Austria had been marked "by a dignified spirit of conciliation." I believe that I have studied this blue-book (Italian correspondence) as thoroughly as most men, and I think the description of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) is exactly that which alone could describe the conduct of Austria. Now, I would just refer to a paragraph in a despatch of Earl Cowley's to the Earl of Malmesbury. It is as follows:—Before closing this despatch I will beg your Lordship's permission to refer briefly to some of the difficulties with which I have had to contend, in carrying out your Lordship's instructions. In the first place, I had to encounter a fixed idea that France was determined on war with Austria, and that to make concessions was but to put off the evil day. I hope that I have succeeded in partially removing this impression. Secondly, the pride of Austria naturally revolts at being constituted the object of attack, and being called upon to make concessions instigated by the animosity and ambition of Sardinia.These are the words of a skilful diplomatist well acquainted with all that had passed on the subject.I have the satisfaction of adding, in conclusion, that, great as is the irritation, which it cannot be denied exists at this moment against the Emperor of the French, the Emperor of Austria and his Government render full justice to the services which have been rendered to Europe by the former Sovereign; nor can I doubt, that the Austrian Government would accept with a sincere desire to bring them to an honest conclusion any overtures for a reconciliation with France, the acceptance of which would not be incompatible with their honour.Now, Sir, I say, if that was the spirit in which the Court of Austria was prepared to act, it was one of dignified conciliation and entirely justifies the description of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli). But, Sir, my right hon. Friend, in speaking of the conduct of Sardinia, described that as being ambiguous; and, in my opinion, that was a very moderate description. The House should remember what happened in 1848. After the most positive assurances that no hostility was intended, and when the Austrians were not prepared, Lombardy was overrun from one end to the other by the Sardinian armies. The fortune of war changed, and then the conduct of Austria was that of generous forbearance. How has she been repaid? During the ten long years that have intervened, not one single year has passed without there being fostered in every part of Italy secret machinations against the peace of each particular State, and against Austrian influence. And 1160 I defy any one to read the statements contained in the supplement of this blue-book without seeing that the whole of these troubles, from one end of Italy to the other, is the result of a deep laid scheme on the part of Sardinia to foment disaffection and insurrection in every form that could be devised. But, Sir, I would now come to the real point at issue. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) said the other night, and it has been repeated by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that if it was supposed we were to go into Congress with the view of merely carrying out the preliminaries of peace which were signed at Villafranca, that he should be the first to say such a step would be ridiculous. But, said the noble Lord, there is a point beyond that. For years the state of Italy has been such, that from day to day we have been in constant fear of the outbreak of disturbances there which might menace the peace of Europe, and it is impossible that England could stand by an inattentive or passive spectator of a Congress that should take into consideration measures tending to the liberation of Italy, and consequently to the peace of Europe. That, I think, was the position of the noble Lord. But he said something further, which seems to establish the position of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire, and entirely to prove the case which he has attempted to put before the House to-night, because the noble Lord used the phrase also, that it would be just as well not to go into Congress at all as to enter into it with the prospect of breaking off upon a divergence of opinion at a very early stage. Now, what I want to point out to the noble Lord and the House is this—that there is not a single question that can by possibility come before a Conference to establish the peace of Europe and settle what is termed the Italian question, on which the noble Lord at the very earliest possible moment, if he represents this country there, will not find himself in a total divergence of opinion either from one party, or, as regards some question, possibly from both. Before I proceed further I would desire to ask the noble Lord one question. It resembles somewhat the question which the noble Lord himself put to Count Bernstorff in the despatch before us. I wish to know, if we enter into Congress, and the majority of its Members differ upon some essential point from the minority, is the opinion of the majority to be enforced by arms? If that is the view of 1161 the noble Lord, then I say this, that your Congress is not a Congress to restore peace: it is a Congress to renew and rekindle war. But supposing the noble Lord says: "If force is to be used I am not going to be a party to if," then I say that in the words of the noble Lord himself he takes a course which is inconsistent with the interests of this country; that if he goes into a Congress, and is content with talking himself whilst he leaves others to act, he does that which is inconsistent with the dignity of this country. Again, when the Powers of Italy have come to an understanding amongst themselves, and they have the guarantee and sanction of a European Congress, then I want to know, is that to be a real, substantial, and tangible guarantee? If it is, then the noble Lord is going to renew that great mistake into which at various periods of our history we have already fallen, in giving guarantees for that in which we have no personal concern, and he is doing that which—again I use his own words—is contrary to the interest of this country. But if this Congress is not to give a formal guarantee, but is to be merely a meeting of gentlemen who are to take cognizance of arrangements made by the belligerent Sovereigns, then I say that he is entering upon that which is not consistent with the dignity of this country. But let us look a little more in detail at the points which are to come into consideration at any Congress or Conference that may be held to settle the affairs of Italy. In the early part of this year we had a discussion upon the Italian question, and we were favoured with the opinions of both the noble Lords opposite; opinions of the greatest weight, likely to influence, not only this House, but the councils of foreign Powers also; and what was the position then taken by the noble Lords? It was that as regards Austria there was no question with reference to her territorial possessions in the North of Italy; that she held them by treaty; that it was not desirable to interfere with them; but the attention of the House and the finger of the noble Lord were pointed to the States of the Church. There was the great difficulty of Italy. There was the cankering sore which ate out the life of Italy. There lay the necessity for applying the cautery and the knife if you would save the life of the patient. We have since had a war, a short war, indeed, but short as it has been, at the same time one of the most sanguinary that can be met with in history. And 1162 what has been the result? Why, that the whole of the territorial arrangements of Austria in the North of Italy are changed; and not only have we the express declaration of the French Emperor, but his repeated declaration, that it is his intention, not only not to take himself, but not to permit any other Power to take, any step which will interfere with the temporal power of the Pope. Now with that declaration of the French Emperor before him, what will be the position of the noble Lord? He will enter into the Congress, I will not inquire with what credentials, or whether, sitting as he will perhaps have to do, side by side with the representative of the Holy See, he will come in with the Durham letter in one hand and this despatch which I have before me in the other. But what are the terms upon which he will have to recommend reforms to the Papal Legate representing the Holy See? The noble Lord says in this despatch, of which, no doubt, the Papal Legate will have a copy:—"I must not omit to state that any settlement of Italy would, in the eyes of Her Majesty's Government, be incomplete, which would not effect a permanent reform in the administration of the States of the Church." [Lord J. RUSSELL: Hear, hear!] Well, I am quite aware of the noble Lord's opinion. This is not the first time that I have become acquainted with that opinion. I am now only asking him what will be his position. Remembering that he has stated that it is better not to go into a Congress at all than to enter it and find yourselves entertaining such a divergence of opinion as to compel your speedy retirement from it, I ask him what will be his position? "Every one knows," says he, in his despatch, "that the Roman Legations have been much worse governed by the Pope's Ministers than Lombardy by Austrian Archdukes." Now, an inference may be drawn, I think, without requiring the subtlety of a Cardinal upon that statement. Lombardy has been misgoverned by Austrian Archdukes, and Austria has lost Lombardy. The noble Lord says the Legations have been much worse governed by the Pope's Ministers, and what will be the inference that a Cardinal will draw from that? Why, that it is the intention of the noble Lord, if he comes into that Congress, to deprive the Holy See of the government of the Legations, and to restrict the Pope to the patrimony of St. Peter alone. The noble Lord further says:—"That would be a partial and un- 1163 satisfactory arrangement which struck down the rule of the latter (the Austrian Archdukes) and left the former (the rule of the Pope) in all its deformity." But with whom will the noble Lord find himself in Congress? With the representative of the Holy See to whom such language has been addressed; with the Emperor of Austria, who has entered into a strict concordat with the Holy See; and with the Emperor of the French, who has declared that he will not take, nor permit to be taken, any step that will interfere with the temporal power of the Pope. And it is impossible for the noble Lord to say that you can make reforms in the Roman States without coming to that which I have no doubt the noble Lord would be glad to see accomplished—namely, a severance of the temporal and spiritual authority of the Pope. We know his gallantry. We know that, for the interests of his country and of Europe, there is nothing that he would not undertake; but let him consider that in undertaking this severance he is undertaking a task which even the Great Napoleon in the plenitude of his power, with 1,200,000 men at his back, and supported by half Europe, found himself utterly unable to effect. He was met with the reply, "You may deprive me of my temporal authority; you may drive me into the catacombs if you like; but from that dismal vault I will exercise a power more influential than your own, and I defy you to unseat me!" That, then, is the first point which the noble Lord will have to deal with in Congress. It is exactly that upon which he must foresee at this minute that there will be an utter divergence of opinion between him and those with whom he will have to act; and, according to his own statement, it is better not to enter into a Congress at all than to enter into it with the prospect of breaking off upon a divergence of opinion at a very early stage. Let us now look to the question of the restoration of the Sovereigns of the Duchies; but before I refer particularly to the case of Tuscany and Modena, I should like to say a word or two as to Parma. At the very first minute I was greatly struck with one thing, which is, that in the account of the preliminaries of peace received alike from Vienna and from Paris, whilst mention was made of the Grand Dukes of Modena and Tuscany, no mention whatever was made of Parma, and I believe that that omission could not have failed to strike the noble Lord as 1164 much as others. Now, what is the position of the Sovereign who ruled over Parma? For years before these troubles had broken out in Italy she had earned the respect of her neighbours and the love of her subjects. She had administered the affairs of her Duchy with intelligence; she had administered the laws with clemency and justice; she had administered her finances with a care and an economy, and, at the same time, with a liberality, that deserved the imitation of States of far greater pretensions. At the very earliest moment the very same system of machination against the peace of neighbours to which I have referred was set in motion against the Duchess of Parma. She was driven from her States, and yet such was her position in the estimation of her subjects that two days had not elapsed—two short days only had the Piedmontese Commissioners enjoyed their usurped authority—when the Duchess of Parma was, by the unanimous vote of her people, recalled to her Sovereignty. What followed? Not only did she declare her entire neutrality, but she made it known in this country, in Paris, and in the various Courts of Europe, that although she had been repeatedly urged she had refused admission into her territories to a single Austrian soldier, and would not permit a single Austrian soldier to remain there. What followed on the part of the King of Sardinia? Without warning, without the slightest reason, or the remotest excuse, the Sardinian army was marched to Pontemoli, occupied it, revolutionized the country, and again the Duchess became a fugitive. Now I should like to know whether the noble Lord has received any information as to the course which is to be taken with regard to the Duchy of Parma? We are told that the Duchy is necessary to Sardinia for strategical purposes, and that the Duchess may receive indemnification elsewhere. And not content with that, we have had placed before us, by the noble Lord himself, a despatch from Count Cavour, which, for wanton misstatement, and utter disregard for anything like political principle, I believe stands alone amongst all the State papers that ever proceeded from the pen of a Minister. I wish to know if the noble Lord is prepared to consent to this act of spoliation? When he enters into Congress is he going there to assent to such an act, supposing it to be in contemplation? It is not the first time in the history of mankind that we have found monarchs coveting their neighbour's 1165 possessions—"Give me thy vineyard, or else let mo buy it for money." That is the spirit in which the Duchess of Parma is to be treated, and, to complete the parallel, what cannot be obtained either by exchange or by gift, is, according to the despatch which we have before us, to be obtained by force. Is the noble Lord, if he enters into the Congress, prepared to sanction an act of spoliation so disgraceful to those who have planned it, to those who execute it, and to those who permit it to be done, and which can only be paralleled in the modern history of Europe by the partition of Poland. Now let me turn to the other two States, and let me ask the noble Lord what is to be his position with reference to the Duchy of Modena and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, if he goes into a Conference? We have the noble Lord's views as to what shall decide the future state of the Duchies of Central Italy. I find that in his despatch to Sir James Hudson, he speaks in these terms: "The will of these people, the fortune of war, and finally a European treaty, must in the last resort settle the territorial arrangements and rights of sovereignty in Central Italy." Now, I beg the House to observe, that I am not going to discuss the question with the noble Lord; but in making arrangements with reference to the rights of Sovereigns—and Sovereigns have rights as well as peoples—in making arrangements where the rights of Sovereigns are concerned as well as the rights of peoples, the noble Lord makes no reference whatever to anything but the will of the people. Now, I ask the noble Lord this question—how is that will to be ascertained? We all know that whether it be in the hands of unscrupulous agitators, or in the hands of despotic Sovereigns, there is nothing so convenient as the ballot. It can be made to express, as the opinion of the people, whatever those who have the command of the ballot-box wish to say, and of that we have a remarkable instance in the case of the settlement of the Danubian Principalities. We had an assembly there for the express purpose of ascertaining the wish of the people, but it had to be dissolved because it was found that no reliance whatever could possibly be placed on the expression of its opinion. Afterwards, even when the second assembly was formed, the same effect was produced, and that assembly was only not put an end to and dissolved, because it would have made the whole proceeding utterly ridiculous. Now, I want 1166 to understand, supposing the will of the people is against the union of Modena and Tuscany with Piedmont, what is the noble Lord going to do? I see it intimated in a remarkable article which has appeared in an almost semi-official form in one of the French papers, that it is possible, if difficulties occur in the way of the annexation of Modena and Tuscany to Piedmont, the name of another Prince may by chance come out of the ballot-box. It is possible that the name referred to may be that of a Prince who by his late presence in Tuscany has enjoyed every opportunity of ingratiating himself with those who have the guidance of affairs there. He may, by his connection with the great military power of France, present to the Tuscan people the temptation of a sure and permanent authority; and as the noble Lord speaks of a divergence of opinion between himself and those who may be members of Congress with him, I think he will see that, whether it be the Pope, or Austria, or France, it is likely that the representatives of these three powers may prefer a French Prince to a Prince of the House of Savoy. Now, I want to know what the position of the noble Lord will be with this difficulty, which I am sure he must long ago have seen standing in his path? I want to know what will be his position when he enters into Congress and finds that that will of the people to which alone he appeals is expressed by a vote, I care not how controlled or managed, in favour of what would be a restoration of the kingdom of Etruria. Will not the noble Lord find himself in a position that will make his presence in that Congress an absolute degradation to this country if he consents, and a serious danger to this country if he does not? I have gone through these points, because the noble Lord himself has said that with such difficulties it may not be advisable to go into Congress; and I desire most earnestly to point out to him that these are "divergencies of opinion" which must occur, which, according to his own account may render it undesirable for him to enter into a Congress, and which in my opinion, to use the words of my noble Friend (Lord Elcho), make an entrance into a Congress by this country inconsistent alike with her interests and her dignity. I confess there are other points which also materially weigh with roe in thinking it a most undesirable thing that this country should at the present moment enter into a Congress, and one of these is the conduct with reference 1167 to late events that has been pursued by Her Majesty's Government. I will not refer to the speeches which have been made by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. I am sure he has heard enough of them, because they have been quoted to him every time that there has been a discussion in this House upon Italian affairs. I will not refer to the despatch of the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, of the 22nd of June, although I have the strongest opinion respecting that despatch. I think a more imprudent despatch was never written, or one that was more calculated to compromise this country. I will not refer to the despatch, of which I have already quoted some sentences—the despatch of the 7th of July—but I will say this, in passing, that a production which is more calculated to tempt criticism I never saw. There is scarcely a line in it which, if taken up by a severe reviewer, could not be turned, I will not say into ridicule, but directly against the noble Lord himself. There are paragraphs in it, the truth of which I grant it is impossible to deny—but then platitudes are always true. They must be so; and there are passages here which one would rather expect to see at the head of a copy-book of text-hand along with "Evil communications corrupt good manners," "Procrastination is the thief of time," or something of that sort, than as forming part of an important State document. They are such self-evident propositions that I do not think it at all necessary that the noble Lord should have taken the trouble of writing them to the Government of Berlin. But I will not go into any questions connected with that despatch: what I want to refer to is that of which, notwithstanding all that has passed, we Lave not yet had a sufficient explanation of what was done by the noble Lord in that mysterious operation which has been described by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton as merely handing over a piece of paper from one foreign Minister to another. Now, I do not at all doubt the ability of the noble Lords, either of them by himself, and certainly when both are together I have still less doubt—in making a difficulty with any foreign Power where no difficulty ought to exist; but it appears to me that there must be means for a given end and result, and that it is impossible that an operation so simple as that which he says took place—namely, the handing over a paper from one Minister to another—could have produced such 1168 vast results as have actually followed. For what has followed? Why, nothing less than the mystification of two Emperors and the impediment of a great Confederation. Such results could not have been produced by the simple act of joining to the duties of the Foreign Office those of Her Majesty's Postmaster General. And yet it is clear that they have followed from the act of the noble Lord. It is clear that the only document that by possibility can be referred to, is the document which the noble Lord received from the French Ambassador here and handed over to Count Apponyi. And what has been the result? It has put the French Emperor in the very perplexing and embarrassing position of appearing to all Europe as having made a representation to the Emperor of Austria which was not justified by the fact, and of having secured a great advantage by the misrepresentation. And what is the position in which it has put the Emperor of Austria? It has given him the appearance of having been equally deluded; of having given up that which he might have retained, entertained suspicions of an Ally who was acting faithfully towards him, and made peace upon more unfavourable terms than he might otherwise have obtained. What is the position in which the operation of the noble Lord has placed the two Cabinets of Berlin and Vienna? At a moment when it is of more importance to the peace of Europe than at any time for many years past, that there should be united action in Germany, it has sown the seeds of discord between the two Governments of Berlin and Vienna, and has almost put them in such a position that, had there not been mutual explanations, no one would have been surprised if in the course of time hostilities had ensued. What, again, is the position in which the noble Lord has placed himself with reference to the Cabinet of Berlin? On the 7th of July the noble Lord writes to Berlin that he had expressed to Count Bernstorff an opinion that the time had not arrived for making any proposal for an arrangement to the belligerents; yet almost contemporaneously with that, I believe on the very day or the day preceding, the noble Lord, who was assumed to be acting in cordial co-operation with our Ally at Berlin, without the least information being given to them, became the medium of communication for proposing terms of peace between France and Austria. What I wish to have explained is this,—we have had a contradiction from 1169 the noble Lord to-night, of a statement made by my noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire. Certainly on a former occasion the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton said, that all his noble Friend the Foreign Secretary did was to hand over the document—the piece of paper, as the noble Lord called it—to Count d'Apponyi, saying nothing as to its terms. He was merely the means of communication. He handed it over, as the noble Lord said, without any comment. I should like to know if it was accepted without comment. I should like to know whether at the time that M. Persigny presented this paper the noble Lord gave any opinion as to the likelihood of Austria accepting the terms—whether he did not state that they met his approbation—whether, in fact, he did not express his approbation of them? I should like to know, too, whether that opinion was not shared by the noble Lord at the head of the Government? And if so, I should like to ask this further question—What occurred in the mean time to change the opinion of the noble Lords with reference to this piece of paper? If it be, as I believe it to be, that this paper was accepted by the noble Lords and approved by the noble Lords when they received it from the French Ambassador, what happened in the interval that it should be handed to the Austrian Minister without comment. Was it that between the time when they received it and the time when they transmitted it the two noble Lords discovered that they had colleagues? The noble Lord shakes his head, from which I am to understand that was not the reason; and perhaps, therefore, when he rises he will explain what it was that did occur between the reception of the proposition from Count Persigny and the time when he handed it to the Austrian Minister. To account for it is, I think, a matter of very great importance. It is clear that the noble Lord must have accepted the terms proposed by Count Persigny with strong approbation and approval, otherwise whence did the French Emperor obtain that information which by any means justified him in making the representations he did make to the Emperor of Austria? Count Persigny must have informed his master that communications were passing between the English Government and the Government at Berlin, and he must further have told him that the paper which, no doubt, was transmitted by telegraph from Vallegio had met with the approbation and sanction 1170 of Her Majesty's Government. One further question I should like to ask. The noble Lord says that he handed the paper to Austria without comment. He said it contained terms for which he was not responsible. Did he inform the Austrian Minister who was responsible? Did he say, "I have nothing to do with them, nor has the Government of Berlin," or did he lead the Austrian Minister to infer that they were propositions of which the Berlin Government had at least some cognizance—and I do not say through France? I refer the more fully to these transactions, because they have produced important effects. It may not have raised difficulties with France, because France is our firm Ally; the Emperor has always been sincere and firm in our alliance. I believe he wishes to cultivate that alliance, and I know that he has made great sacrifices in order to maintain it; therefore this misadventure of the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary may not have raised any difficulties between us and France. But still he must feel that it has placed him in a false position. It has more than anything else made the chasm wider between us and the Court of Austria; it has raised distrust and suspicion in the Court of Berlin; and, above all, it has raised discord and division in the heart of the German Confederation. On these grounds I appeal to the noble Lord to make, as the phrase goes, a clean breast of it; he ought to tell us everything that passed, and so satisfy the House of Commons how it is that out of a transaction so trivial, results so important should have flowed. I have occupied the House longer than I intended, I have throughout desired to keep close to the point raised in the Resolution of the noble Lord. I have endeavoured to show distinctly that from whatever point of view this Congress be considered, the noble Lord will find, on entering it, he has undertaken a task that is inconsistent with the dignity, honour, and interests of this country. The noble Lord admits, as all in this House must admit, that the days of theoretical or sentimental politics in favour of one form of government more than another have passed away, so far as they can be enforced by force of arms. Therefore, what I want the House to say is, that from this moment we will inaugurate a new policy—that we will put an end to that meddling policy which has marked our course for the last twenty years, and which in the course of that time 1171 has met with the reprobation of every man of eminence, whether in this House or in the country, and which I for one am convinced is fraught with peril to the best interests of the nation. Do I ask, then, that this country should remain powerless among the nations of Europe? I say most positively not. It is here that our influence is to be exerted. It is not by the meddling of our Ambassadors and Ministers in Conferences and Congresses—it is by the firm* position which this country occupies—it is by the free expression of liberal and exalted sentiments in this House that England will best advance the independence and the liberty of foreign nations, consult her own honour and secure her own interests, freedom, and happiness.
§ LORD HARRY VANE
said, he thought it was impossible for any one to look to the events which had occurred and not feel convinced that an arrangement had been entered into in the course of last autumn by which the war was brought about. No one could entertain a higher opinion than he did of the character and abilities of Count Cavour, or of the energy with which he had checked the aspirations of Mazzini and his followers on the one hand, and the proceedings of the retrograde party in Italy on the other. Nevertheless it was impossible in good faith to approve of all Sardinia had done, or to deny that her ambition had led to a great deal of what had taken place; at the same time he could not deny that for five-and-twenty years the Austrian system had weighed heavily on Italy. He thought that House need entertain no jealousy of the Government with respect to a Conference; but at the same time he thought his noble Friend (Lord Elcho) was right in bringing the question of the Conference before them. He could not see any good that would flow from our joining in a Congress at this moment, and he had understood the noble Lord the Member for the City of London to say, that he would not enter into a Congress to settle the details of the peace of Villafranca. On the other hand, if a Congress was to meet to consider the general question of European policy, the House ought not to seek to limit the action of Government in that respect, however desirous they might be to avoid incurring any responsibility with regard to the settlement of Italy. It would not be becoming in us as a great Protestant Power to take any prominent part in the settlement of the Papal States, though he certainly thought it was an un- 1172 fortunate arrangement in 1815, by which the Legations, which had before been independent, were placed under the dominion of the Pope. Before that time they enjoyed a free Government and municipal institutions. It was a matter, however, which ought rather to be left to the two great Catholic Powers to settle. So far as the late Government had left this matter in their hands, he thought that they had acted wisely. It ought to be an object with this country to maintain the independence of Austria, and he should be sorry to see that great military monarchy weakened. Her Italian dominions might have been for some time back rather a source of weakness to her; but if she had lost the Quadrilateral and Venetia, her prestige would have been diminished and her material force considerably reduced. He could not say that he regarded the arrangement proposed at Villafranca with much satisfaction, or that he thought it likely to be durable; but they were not entitled to blame the Emperor of the French for these arrangements, or for having stopped short of the programme which he had originally published. They were not entitled to find fault with him because he did not feel himself warranted in making sacrifices greater than he had counted upon; and they should not forget—what the French Emperor was well aware of—that the French army was exceedingly dissatisfied with the reception it met with in Italy. In Milan there might be enthusiasm, but in the rest of Lombardy little feeling was exhibited in favour of the French army. He did not think the possession of Lombardy would add much to the real strength of Sardinia, and there was also a jealousy between Milan and Turin; but as the peace was made it was not for England to quarrel with it, she was not a party to the war, she had disapproved of it, and she was bound to accept the peace. It was sufficient for them that the further effusion of blood had been arrested. It was impossible to foresee what would have been the mortality of the troops if the struggle had been continued through the months of August and September. He believed there would be great difficulty in carrying out the re-establishment of the Duchies. The articles of Villafranca provided for the restoration of the Sovereigns, but did not provide by what means it was to be effected. It was said the Emperor of the French was endeavouring by means of his emissaries to obtain an expression of opinion in favour of the return of the Grand 1173 Dukes. Nothing, however, was more probable than that these means of working upon opinion should be looked upon with great suspicion. Still it was the fact that at all times the public opinion of Prance had acted upon public opinion in Italy. The revolution in Paris led to insurrections in Italy, and the coup d'état was followed by the overthrow of constitutional government. Again, the Tuscan movement, he observed, had been set on foot by very few of the representatives of the old Tuscan families. After these difficulties had been removed the action of the Government would not be finally closed. The voice of the British nation, he thought, ought to be heard in these councils. He did not believe this country would be content to be entirely silent in the affairs of Europe. He (Lord H. Vane) was in favour of the principle of non-intervention where that principle could be fairly carried out; but there were some occasions when this was impossible with safety. In the preliminary arrangements of the treaty this country ought to take no part; but after these had been settled, the material and moral power of the nation must naturally exert their due weight and influence.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, that had he felt any doubt as to the expediency of the Motion of the noble Lord, that doubt would have been entirely removed by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He never heard a speech which betrayed so strongly the feeling with which the Government would approach the Conference, if they were permitted to attend it. Parts of that speech he deeply regretted to hear. Parts of that speech might have been spoken by Mazzini himself. Parts of that speech were calculated to excite the Sovereigns of Italy and to create the very dangers which the Conference was intended to avoid. He had been unable to follow the argument of the right hon. Gentleman when he spoke of isolation. He held that there were positions when an isolated policy was a truly dignified policy. In 1841, for instance, when Prance was placed in an isolated position on the Eastern question, M. Guizot, in his eloquent language, explained in the Chamber of Representatives that "a position of isolation was one which, at that time, France intended to maintain as the only dignified position," although he guarded himself by saying that "isolation was not the normal state of the country; but that, when arrangements had been 1174 entered into without consulting a country isolation was for her a dignified position.' In like manner he (Mr. Cochrane) held that the present position of this country, if peace had been arranged without consulting her after war had been undertaken, spite of her efforts to prevent it, was dignified isolation. If the present Government went to the Conference either to register the decrees of other Powers, or to mix themselves up in the Italian question, a heavy responsibility ultimately resting upon them. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the conduct of the late Government; but he (Mr. B. Cochrane) believed it was impossible to overrate the impartiality, the tact, and the judgment which had characterized the behaviour of the Earl of Malmesbury in all the negotiations, and the admirable manner in which his instructions were carried out by Lord Cowley. The object of the late Government was to avoid a war; but that was a very different position from being mixed up in negotiations which followed the conclusion of the war. The noble Lord might ask him why he distrusted Her Majesty's Government. He distrusted them with regard to these Conferences, because the whole antecedents of the two noble Lords who really represented the Government on this question proved that they could not enter them in a neutral spirit; that all the views of the noble Lord at the head of the Government and opinions had been so strongly expressed that he could only take one course if he attended it. What was the language of a most eminent man in speaking of the noble Lord only the other day? He was a man eminent in Europe, who, therefore, represented the public opinion of Europe with reference to the noble Lord; and what did he say? "We have had painful pangs in our history"—that is France—"but we know of nothing compared with this odious policy. What we have never done has been to keep to ourselves the blessings of order, and justice, and liberty, while in other countries we foment, patronize, and support elements of disorder. I thank God we have not this egotism to reproach ourselves with; and I utter this with no feelings of exclusive patriotism, but as conveying a sense of outraged justice that can no longer be repressed." Such was the feeling prevalent on the Continent with respect to the policy of the noble Lord. He looked back to 1848, and he found that wherever the noble Lord interfered his interference was 1175 followed by misery to the country which had the misfortune to have his attention directed to it. He interfered in Sardinia; and he could tell the noble Lord that it was the prevalent opinion that it was by the advice of the noble Lord that Charles Albert, in 1848, made his unfortunate attack on Lombardy. He interfered, and there was war in Sardinia. He interfered in Rome; and the Roman Republic was proclaimed. He interfered in the Two Sicilies; and civil war followed. All this did not, then, give confidence in the discretion of the noble Lord now. The right hon. Member for Dublin University quoted the other day from a most curious pamphlet written, if not by the Emperor of the French himself, at any rate under the inspiration of the Emperor. And what did that pamphlet say? The right hon. Gentleman did not quote the strongest part of it. The pamphlet attributed to the noble Lord distinctly, the present, the existing state of things in Italy. That pamphlet distinctly charged the noble Lord with urging forward the state of circumstances which had led to such a slaughter on the plains of Lombardy. There was one passage the right hon. Gentleman, strange to say, omitted to quote; but, he asked, what was the nation to hope from a Government that professed to interfere in support of neutrality, when this was the opinion expressed of the noble Lord by the author of this pamphlet. "So," said the writer, whom he might call the Imperial writer, "the English policy has not since 1847 varied with regard to Italy. It has even outstripped our own…We find her sympathising with the uprisings of nationalities which followed the accession of Pio Nono. We trace her hand in all that led to victory; we trace her hand likewise in all the negotiations which succeeded defeat." Throughout the pages of this pamphlet they found the statement insisted on, that the noble Lord, if he had not instigated, had consistently patronized revolution in Italy. How, then, could the noble Lord go to the Conference with the conviction that his wishes would be carried out. Looking at the noble Lord's past history and career he should tremble to see him approach that Conference. The noble Lord had had several questions put to him by the late Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He (Mr. B. Cochrance) would put two more. Would the noble Lord clearly state to the House what were the terms which, according to his state- 1176 ment, were given to him by the French Ambassador, and transmitted by him to the Austrian Minister. That was one question; and in reference to what had been stated in the newspapers he would ask, further, whether in the first instance the noble Lord did not suggest these terms to the French Ambassador, who subsequently made them his own? This should be cleared up, because the fact of such things being stated had a considerable bearing on the little confidence placed in the neutrality of the noble Lord. He certainly could not congratulate the noble Lord on the result of his policy up to the present time. Nor could be congratulate Sardinia on the result of her policy. According to an Italian proverb, Sardinia looked upon Lombardy as an artichoke to be devoured leaf by leaf; but it remained to be seen whether Lombardy would hold more firmly to the House of Savoy than she had to the House of Hapsburg. The result of the intemperate policy of Count Cavour was simply to postpone all hope of the happiness of Italy. Neutrality, at all events, should be strictly carried out. It had not been carried out by the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He never in his life heard a more partisan speech. Nor was it carried out by those productions which had lately appeared, written under the inspiration of gentlemen occupying a high position, if not actually connected with the Government. All that had ever fallen from the noble Lord on this Italian question was calculated to contradict effectually the idea that he could be neutral with regard to it. He would never be regarded as a friend by the Liberal party in Italy, and there was nobody's interference they would more earnestly deprecate than his. The noble Lord's interference had always led to the frustration of Italian hopes. He had excited hopes and cherished longings in the people, and afterwards when they had called on him for his practical assistance he had simply told them that his principle was non-intervention. He (Mr. B. Cochrane) also said that his principle was nonintervention, but then it should be not only non-intervention with regard to arms, but nonintervention which shrank from the expression of opinions which were calculated to mislead. Such was the non-intervention which he thought the country should maintain; but such was not the non-intervention of the noble Lord at the head of the Government.
said, he would not endea 1177 vour to change the issue before the House, as had been attempted by the hon. Member who had just sat down, or follow him in discussing the antecedents of the noble Lord at the head of the Government. The question before them was simply this, not whether it was desirable, under present circumstances, to take part in any Conferences, but whether it was desirable to bind the hands of Her Majesty's Government, under any and every possible circumstance, from taking part in the consideration of what might involve the highest interests of Europe. So that to put the case broadly before the House, even were there circumstances in which the Government of the Queen might be unanimous in the opinion that they could rightfully assert, and peaceably assert, principles which were dear to the people of this country, and that they might do it without interfering with the rights of other nations, the Resolution of the noble Lord, if he understood it rightly, declared that not even under those circumstances, or under any circumstances, should we be justified in having anything to do with the coming Conferences or any possible Conferences. He (Mr. Gilpin) held that it would be most imprudent, on the eve of a prorogation of Parliament, so to bind the hands of any Government who, from their very existence, were supposed to have the confidence of the House of Commons. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down bad descanted on and criticised what he (Mr. Gilpin) called one of the noblest speeches he ever heard within these walls, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He did not wonder that the hon. Gentleman, and other hon. Gentlemen in the House, did not feel within them that responsive sympathy which the people of this country would, he was sure, feel when they read the speech of that right hon. Gentleman, but to which the hon. Gentleman was perhaps an utter stranger. He (Mr. Gilpin) was much mistaken if that speech did not awaken an echo throughout the length and breadth of England, If the hon. Gentleman attributed the state of things in Italy to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, or any other individual in the Government, he exhibited ignorance of the state of things existing in Italy and of the facts of history. The hon. Gentleman had quoted an Italian proverb, which had appeared in the Quarterly Review. If it were, indeed, the intention of Sardinia to devour Lombardy leaf by leaf, 1178 like an artichoke, then the only difference between Sardinia and Austria was, that Austria would devour it whole. He did not wish to accuse any of the preceding speakers with having taken a part decidedly hostile to either of the parties engaged in the late war. He was opposed to the employment of personal arguments of that character; otherwise, when the late Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs accused the Chancellor of the Exchequer of having preferred a bill of indictment against Austria, he should have accused the hon. Gentleman himself of having preferred a bill of indictment against Sardinia, of sympathizing with the oppressor, of having no sympathy for the oppressed, and of employing with respect to the eminent Count Cavour language which would find but small echo in that House, and which would find none at all in the country. For his own part he could truly say he had never offered a factious opposition to the late Government, and one reason why he at last voted for the Motion that overthrew it was his belief that if it continued in power its strong Austrian sympathies would have involved the country in the war then raging, and on the side least approved by the people. If he wanted any proof that that opinion was correct, he should have found it in the speeches of the hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House. Their sympathy with Austria—presuming that their acts would have accorded with it—must have involved England in that deplorable war. No one could condemn that war more than he did. He believed that the hecatombs of victims who had been sacrificed during its progress had fallen for no useful purpose, and that all that had been gained by it could have been gained by peaceful means more thoroughly and more lastingly. But as war had been waged—and they should not forget that the Austrians had been the first to enter their neighbour's territory—he heartily rejoiced that the Austrians had not been the victors in the struggle, The question, however, they had then to consider was, whether they should tie the hands of Her Majesty's Government in such a way as to prevent them from shaping their policy in that matter according to the nature of the circumstances which might hereafter arise. They were not asked by the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Kinglake) either to affirm or to negative the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire, but simply 1179 to declare that it was not desirable that question should be put. He felt persuaded that a British House of Commons would never fetter the discretion of any Ministry which possessed their confidence, as the discretion of the present Government would be fettered by that Motion, in a matter so closely connected with the highest interests of humanity, as well as with the honour and welfare of this country.
said, that he wished to be assured that peace had actually been concluded between France and Austria, because some of the most influential Members of the Government had spoken in a manner that might lead the House to suppose that the conditions of a peace were not really settled at Villafranca—that it was a mere preliminary arrangement worth nothing unless confirmed by the other great Powers of Europe. Now, he believed that the Emperor of the French bad certain objects which he thought worth a war to obtain. He engaged in that war, and having in several battles proved the supremacy of the French army, he accepted a peace the conditions of which were settled at Villafranca. At least one of the contracting parties considered that the peace of Villafranca was a final settlement, for the Emperor of Austria was averse to the idea of a Congress; he assumed there was nothing for it to do. And could they suppose the French Emperor, after having exposed his army to the risks of a campaign, would now invite the commencement of a campaign of diplomacy and intrigue, having the avowed object of undoing all that had been effected by the victories of Magenta and Solferino? It could not be expected that this peace, which had disturbed the equanimity, if not the equilibrium of Europe, should be settled by the Powers that were only spectators of the war; nor would the Emperor of the French have proposed the articles of a peace only to invite diplomacy to make them perfectly nugatory. He believed that Europe had to decide between accepting the articles of the peace of Villafranca and a renewal of the war, and if he were right in that impression, Her Majesty's Government would, he believed, best consult their honour by supporting the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire, because, as the peace had already been concluded upon distinct and specific grounds, all that they could do in a Congress would be to assist in carrying out its details. The articles agreed on at Villafranca, they might depend 1180 on it, were the very essentials of the peace; nor could they be departed from without an infringement of the most sacred rights of Austria and a violation of the word of the Emperor of the French. It mattered not what they said of Austria; he believed she still possessed much of the spirit that had been called "the cheap defence of nations," and there could be little doubt what would follow an appeal to her chivalry. On the other hand, could the French Emperor be so regardless of his honour as to break through the most solemn engagements made with a brother monarch only a few weeks after they were contracted, not through the mouths of old and querulous diplomatists endeavouring to throw dust in the eyes of the world, but made by two men who had been witnesses to scenes that must have filled their hearts with every generous emotion. He contended that France would not assent to any violation of the articles of Villafranca without the consent of Austria, and that such consent on her part would be an act of suicidal folly. In what respect was the title of Austria to the Lombardo-Venetian States better than that of the grand Duke of Tuscany, the Duke of Modena, or the Duke of Parma to their dominions? If a change of Government was effected in any of these States it must be carried out in principle in the others. They could not say to the people of Modena, or Bologna, or Tuscany, "You wish for a change of Government, and you shall have it," and then turn round to the people of Lombardy and say, "Although you wish for a change you shall not have it." He might be told the people of those countries wished for a change, but he did not believe they desired it to the extent that was alleged; and even if it was so he thought hon. Gentlemen opposite were promulgating a very dangerous doctrine, and one on which they would be very unwilling to act at home. When the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) addressed tens of thousands of people in the borough he represented, or in Manchester, Glasgow, or Edinburgh, the idea that the opinion of those thousands should be taken as an expression of the public mind of England was ridiculed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, who, when it suited their convenience, sustained the cause of men who were regarded in their own country as a miserable set of street brawlers, and whose reputation in other countries was far from creditable. What proof had they that the people of Italy, of 1181 Tuscany, or of the Roman States wished for a change of Government? Had the feelings of the clergy, the peasantry, or the country gentlemen been ascertained on the subject? No; but hon. Gentlemen opposite had readily espoused the cause of those who were only the advocates of not and disorder in the countries to which they belonged. He would support the Motion of the noble Lord (Lord Elcho), who, he trusted, would press it to a division, for he was confident that if Her Majesty's present Government were allowed to interfere in the affairs of Italy, their intervention could only lead to confusion and disorder. The noble Lord at the head of the Government and the noble Minister for Foreign Affairs were still in pursuit of a phantom which had been the fixed idea of their lives. That idea was ostensibly the destruction of the temporal power of the Pope, while in reality they had sought the destruction of the Catholic religion all over the world. He rejoiced to find, however, that there were others as well as the noble Lords who had fixed ideas, and that they numbered among them the Emperor of the French and the Emperor of Austria, who he was certain would never consent to the removal of a single stone from the sacred edifice of the church. He had listened with great pain to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and as one who professed the Catholic religion he should be sorry to have to sit on the same side of the House with, or even near to, that right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman said, at least in effect, that the people of the Papal dominions were chained to the earth. Now, that was not true. It was a statement which was not founded in fact. It was contradicted by the condition of the people, and every one who was acquainted with or had travelled in those dominions must admit that, in a temporal sense, there did not exist in the world a more popular Sovereign than Pius the Ninth.
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
said, some ingenious author had written an essay upon historical events that had never occurred, and the occupation of the House that evening appeared to him to have been of a very similar character. They were not only called upon to pronounce an opinion upon an event which was in itself extremely improbable, but hon. Gentlemen had taxed their imaginations in drawing a series of pictures of a great Congress to be held nobody knew when or where, and that, too, 1182 with a minuteness of detail to which the history of no Congress that had ever occurred could make the slightest pretension. If the noble Minister for Foreign Affairs (Lord John Russell) attended that Congress, should it ever take place, he would, at all events, be forewarned of all the difficulties he would have to encounter, and would be acquainted with the duties he would be required to discharge. He (Mr. M. Milnes) was obliged to the noble Lord (Lord Elcho) for having brought this question before the House, because it had elicited from the Chancellor of the Exchequer a speech which he believed fully expressed the opinions of the people of this country with regard to the neutral position which the British Government ought to maintain, and expressed it in that noble language which his right hon. Friend alone, perhaps, in that House could command. His noble Friend had looked into a dictionary for the purpose of ascertaining the meaning of the word "neutral." But whatever that meaning might be, when the cause of freedom and the rights of humanity were in the balance, the English people would never, thank God, remain in that state of stolid indifference which his noble Friend seemed to think would be necessary for the preservation of an attitude of neutrality. He believed it was the duty of our Government to be neutral in the true and loyal sense of that word; but he also believed that duty would not prevent them from frankly expressing their opinion upon any subject affecting the interests of mankind which might be brought under their notice. An hon. Gentleman opposite had adopted a somewhat singular tone in dealing with the question, and seemed to entertain the opinion that this country, while enjoying all the advantages of a free constitution, should endeavour to force upon the subjects of another State a tyrannical and unpopular Government. He thought any citizen of the Roman States might well ask that hon. Gentleman, "Am I not, too, a Roman Catholic? Have I not been bred as you have in Catholic principles and doctrines? And yet may I not believe that the secular Government of the Pope is not perfect, and may I not be allowed to endeavour to change it?" He believed that, if they left the Italians themselves to settle these matters, they would manage them a great deal better than Austrians, Frenchmen, Englishmen, or even Irishmen. He thought it was quite as improper to attempt to excite any revolutionary and 1183 factious feeling as it was to endeavour to limit the liberality of Governments, or to continue the existing state of things in Italy. He could assure the hon. Member (The O'Donoghoe) who had intimated that the clergy, the peasantry, and the country gentlemen in Italy, were all favourable to the views of the French Government, that he was totally misinformed on the subject; for, having himself lived for a long time in Italy, he believed that the desire for moderate and constitutional liberty existed among all the educated classes, and even to a considerable extent among the clergy, many of whom were sprung from the educated classes. Those Italians who supported the present form of administration in Italy were a miserable minority, and would, if those countries were left to themselves, be totally supplanted. The Liberal party in Italy was not to be confounded with the partisans of violent change. He hoped the House would not stultify itself by voting in favour of that Motion. Circumstances might arise in which the refusal of England to take part in some Congress would not only be impolitic in itself, but unmannerly to other Powers. If the late Government had remained in office, and the war had been continued until Hungary was in revolt, and the whole Austrian empire in danger of being swept away, no one could doubt that had a proposal of a Congress then been made to them with a view to save that empire, they would have thought it consistent with the dignity and position of England to interpose for such an object. That might, indeed, be called a mere conjecture, but then that was an evening of conjecture. The noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire ought to be content with the debate he had elicited, and should withdraw his Motion.
§ MR. HENNESSY
I have listened, Mr. Speaker, with attention to the attacks which have been made by the Government and by the Liberal party in this House on Austrian and Papal rule in Italy. With the exception of what has fallen from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, there has been nothing very new or surprising in these attacks. The fables and fallacies with which the country has been long familiar have been again and again repeated. The supporters of the noble Viscount opposite (Lord Palmerston) have reiterated the old assertions in the old style, and have, as usual, not condescended to back up their statements with even a shadow of common evidence. We have 1184 been told—and the assertion is made in this commercial country with great force, and as if it were an overwhelming argument—that trade, manufactures and commerce, have been destroyed by the despotisms of Austria and of Rome, and that what we are fairly enough inclined to regard as elements of national prosperity here are not to be seen in Italy, except under the constitutional and British-like administration of Sardinia. That such assertions, coming with all the weight of official responsibility and of supposed official knowledge, should have produced an influence on a practical-minded people like the English is not astonishing. In no country in Europe is public opinion so strongly tinctured with a material spirit as in Great Britain. Whether such a state of public opinion be sound or unsound, it is perfectly evident that the Members of the Government in their severe criticisms on the conditions of Italy avail themselves of its existence and modify their assertions with its various phases. The time seems to me to have come when some effort should be made to rescue the public mind from influences so powerful and so dangerous. The assertions to which I have referred are totally unfounded. Not only is it untrue to assert that trade, manufactures and commerce, have been destroyed by Papal and Austrian rule, and that the only portion of Italy in which they flourish is the kingdom of Sardinia, but the very contradictory of this proposition is literally correct. Trade, manufactures and commerce, are making much greater proportionate progress in Austria, Italy, and in the Papal States, than in Sardinia. Unlike those who have spoken from the Government benches, I shall not content myself with making bare statements and simply repeating them. I shall take the liberty of submitting to the House what in my humble judgment seems to be irresistible proofs of the accuracy of my assertion. Nor will I call foreign witnesses to furnish the evidence on which I rely. I undertake to prove that portion of the case to which I am confining my remarks by an appeal to a tribunal which commands the complete confidence of this House. The tribunal to which I refer is our own Foreign Office in Downing Street. In the archives of that office are lodged certain State papers of great practical interest, which Her Majesty's Government has not thought fit to notice. I shall not presume to criticise this neglect of valuable and instructive 1185 materials by those whose duty it was to use them. I shall leave those who have been influenced by the assertions and concealments of the Government to perform that task. The State Papers to which I allude are certain despatches sent to the Earl of Clarendon and his successors by our Ministers at the Courts of Italy touching the manner in which the governments of the various Italian States had promoted the prosperity of the people. If any hon. Member would read these documents in our Foreign Office, and compare the accounts given by our Minister in Sardinia, by our Minister at Venice, and by our Consul at Ancona, he would arrive at the conclusion that the national prosperity in the dominions of the Sovereign Pontiff and in the Venetian part of Austria had been greater, year after year, than in Sardinia. Commerce, manufactures, agriculture, and all the other elements of material wealth, had made greater progress under the sway of His Holiness, and under Austrian rule in Italy, than they had done under the boasted Government of Piedmont. Mr. Erskine, Her Majesty's Secretary of Legation at Turin, writing to the Earl of Clarendon on the 1st of January, 1858, gave anything but a flattering description of the present state of Sardinia. In his despatch he says:—Under the present state of things the manufactories are dispersed through the country in out-of-the-way places, and are compelled to carry on a variety of processes each requiring the nicest management, conducted on principles of patriarchal simplicity which appear to me incompatible with any great extension of trade.With respect to the mining operations of Sardinia, our own diplomatic officer stated that the pig-iron now produced in her mines did not exceed 6,000 tons per annum, or only about half the quantity manufactured in 1840. Again, the same authority said that the great extent and fertility of the plains of Piedmont would induce a stranger to believe that her agriculture was eminently productive, but that such was only partially the case; while in regard to her wine trade he expressed a hope that it might yet resume its ancient position. With reference to the railways, the alleged success of which has often been the boast of the admirers of Sardinia, Mr. Erskine says, "The Government lines do not yield 3 per cent on the capital." It appears that our Ministers at Turin had to find out nearly all these valuable facts by personal inquiries, for in the same despatch he complains that— 1186Almost every branch of statistics is so neglected by the Sardinian state, that I have had some difficulty in obtaining any distinct notion as to the National progress.Consul General Harris told a very different tale of Venetia, which was under Austrian rule. His report showed that there "trade was improving, a brighter era opening for commerce, and ample encouragement given to mercantile speculation." He speaks of these improvements which resulted from the paternal care of the Government, as "progressive and durable," and as "being the means of considerably augmenting the material well-being of the Lombardo-Venetian kingdom." This important despatch is dated 18th March, 1857. The material progress of England, and of different parts of the Empire has often been illustrated in this House by a reference to the increase of shipping at our principal ports. Let us apply this practical test to Sardinia, to the Papal States, and to Austrian Italy, and it will be seen that the statements which I have read from the neglected despatches of our diplomatic agents are fully confirmed. While the aggregate of British shipping entering Genoa, the principal port in Sardinia, had decreased more than 2,000 tons between 1853 and 1856, the only years for which I could obtain complete returns, there had been an increase of British shipping entering Ancona, in the Papal States, of 21,000 tons within the same period. In Venice there had been a corresponding increase of 25,000 tons. If we take the total tonnage of vessels of all nations, we shall find the same striking result as in the case of British shipping: in Sardinia a falling off, whilst in the Papal States and in Venetia there is, during the same period, a very great increase. Prom 1852 to 1856 the total shipping in Genoa declined about 10 per cent. At the very same time the total shipping at Ancona increased 90 per cent. and at Venice 40 per cent. Sardinia had the advantage of the form of Government which we wished to extend to other States, and the result of constitutional Government in that country had been, that her taxation was increased to an extent that crippled her trade and commerce, and excited dissatisfaction and alarm among her population. Mr. Erskine, writing from Turin to the Earl of Clarendon, said he had found it difficult to persuade the people of Sardinia that their present system of Government was as good as that which they had changed—that a constitutional system must necessarily be more 1187 expensive than an absolute one. The taxation of Sardinia in 1820, was 63,000,000f.; in 1830, it was 70,000,000f.; in 1840, 78,000,000f. That is, the normal increase of taxation every ten years appeared to be 7,000,000f. From 1847, when her Constitutional Government began to come into full operation, down to 1857, her taxation increased 50,000,000f. Between 1857 and 1858 the increase of taxation was equal to the former decennial increase. It should not be forgotten that all these facts—and they are the precise facts by which we must determine the material condition and prosperity of the Italian States—are gathered not only from purely English sources, but actually from the official returns and records prepared in our own Government departments. Evidence of such importance carries its own weight and requires no further comment. Although one can hardly venture to hope that it will at all diminish the virulence of the attacks which the Liberal party here make on the Pope and on the Emperor of Austria it may at least have the effect of altering the direction of the assault. But whether the enemies of Italian order refer to material progress or to intellectual progress the result will still be the same. The administration of the Sovereign Pontiff and the Government of Austria in Italy will be found to be far superior to the Government of Sardinia in this respect also. From the reports of the Ministers of Public Instruction, as well as from the impartial testimony of an American author, I find that Austria can not be charged with neglecting the intellectual advancement of Italy. The same can be said of the Papal Government. At this moment, to use the technical language of educationists, intellectual education is there one in six, while in England it is only one in eight and a quarter. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had said, that the secular element ought to be introduced into the Government of the Papal States. I heard that observation with much surprise, as in point of fact those States had long been secularized. The Chief Council of the Pope was composed of eight persons, all of whom, with one exception, were laymen. Then it had been said, that the courts of justice were presided over by ecclesiastics; but in the Ministry of Justice, composed of nineteen persons, only one was an ecclesiastic; in the civil tribunals there were three ecclesiastics and 116 lay judges; in the criminal tribunals, 620 lay 1188 officers, and not a single ecclesiastic; in the Chamber of Notaries, sixteen laymen and not one ecclesiastic; in the department of the Minister of Finance, three ecclesiastics and 2,017 laymen; in the Ministry of Commerce and Public Works, two ecclesiastics and 161 laymen; in the Ministry of War all were laymen; in the Ministry of the Interior, twenty-two ecclesiastics and 1,411 laymen. When, therefore, the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary talked of introducing the secular element into the Government of the Pope, he displayed a misconception—to call it by no other name—of that Government which was quite unworthy of an English Minister. I object to a Conference, because I should have no confidence in the noble Lord, or in any Plenipotentiary whom he might send there. Looking to the antecedents of the noble Lord, and to the well-known opinions with reference to the Government of His Holiness which influence the present Ministry, I should indeed regret to see him, or any Member of his party, intermeddling in an Italian Congress. I cordially agree with the expression of opinion which has fallen with such force from the late under Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Seymour FitzGerald), that the noble Lord's antipathy to the temporal sovereignty of the Pope is alone a sufficient reason why we should preclude him from intruding into such a Congress. It is some satisfaction to know that even if the present Ministers and the whole of the Liberal party be arrayed against the Pope that there is still in this House a group of enlightened Statesmen who will not close their eyes to facts, who sympathize with the ancient monarchies of Italy and who are ready to defend the cause of order and of good Government whenever it is attacked.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, the Motion of his noble Friend involved an important principle, the discussion of which had been most carefully evaded, while the Motion itself had been represented as something entirely different from that which the plainest construction would show it to be. He had listened with admiration to the powerful and glowing speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but he did not know whether most to admire its eloquence, or to be surprised at its omissions. The right hon. Gentleman carried with him the sympathy of the House when he spoke of the past and the future of Italy, and showed besides how Austria would be strengthened by the surrender of her Ital- 1189 ian provinces; but then he failed to point out how either the happiness of Italy or the strength of Austria would be advanced by England's going into a Conference. Now, if the Motion were really as represented, the unlimited and unqualified assertion of an abstract principle, to the effect that England should, under no circumstances, go into a Congress for the future settlement of Italy, so irrational a proposition could not have been for one moment entertained by the House. But, in fact, it was the reverse of that—for it was a very precise and definite application of an existing rule of policy to a case formally submitted to the Government, and actually awaiting their decision at the moment when notice of this Resolution was given. That had been strangely lost sight of. It seemed to be conveniently forgotten that the Motion originated in the declaration of the Prime Minister, that England had been invited to join a Conference, and that the Cabinet were at that time contemplating the very step which this Motion condemned. What was the noble Lord's declaration, on the discussion on the Budget, just three weeks ago?My noble Friend stated, that whether we should be parties to a Conference or not was a matter under consideration and would depend upon circumstances…We may enter into a Conference for the purpose of improving arrangements not finally concluded, and still open for consideration; but it is no part of England's duty to make herself simply the recording agent of transactions in which she has had no part or voice."—[3 Hansard, clv. 210.He (Mr. Horsman) interpreted these words to mean, as plainly as language could express, that they might enter into a Conference for the purpose of improving the details of that treaty, the basis of which had been concluded at Villafianca. His noble Friend (Lord Elcho) immediately took the alarm, and next day gave notice of a Motion directed, not against something uncertain and remote, but grappling at once with the announcement of the First Minister that a proposal had been made to the Government on this subject, and was still under their consideration. Some delay, for which his noble Friend was not responsible, had since occurred, and in the interval, it appeared that the idea of a Conference had, for the moment, been abandoned. But on what ground abandoned? Was it because, as stated in the Resolution, our going into a Conference for the purpose there avowed, would be at variance with the policy to which Parlia- 1190 ment stood pledged? Or, was it only a temporary abandonment, necessitated by the failure of negotiations as yet to remove preliminary impediments the main impediment being the indisposition of Austria to submit to such a Congress? But, if that were all, the other powers might possibly find means to reassure and reconcile Austria to that proceeding, and Austria herself might ere long join in that invitation to England; and during the recess, which the Member for Bridgwater truly said, would give time for much change of circumstances, that irrevocable step, with all the consequences which the noble Lord foreboded, might be taken, when Parliament was helpless to avert, as it would afterwards be powerless to remedy, the mischievous sacrifice of the honour and interests of England. Under the pressure, therefore, of a very possible, though not certain contingency, his noble Friend called upon the House of Commons to stand by its own recently established policy—to maintain that position, morally and politically so sound, of neutrality and non-intervention—and especially to avoid being lured at the eleventh hour to exchange the attitude of moral strength and dignity for a weak, blind, rash plunge into an abyss of complications out of which the oldest statesmen in Europe could not pretend to see the way. Now, to judge of the wisdom of this advance they must look at their position as a whole—not starting from the peace of Villafranca, but going back to the commencement of the Italian negotiations—so as to steer by the light of their own principles recently affirmed, and their own pledges publicly and repeatedly recorded. From the outset of these Italian complications the British Cabinet laid down very clearly and positively two principles of conduct—first, that it was their duty, representing the national sentiment, to make every effort to avert war; and secondly, that it was equally their duty to observe a strict neutrality, whether in war or peace. Those principles, he must say, appeared to him to have been faithfully and honourably maintained—and it was only right to acknowledge—what was comparatively unimportant to the late Ministry, whose official existence was now a matter of history, but was most important to the nation as now strengthening its position—that the efforts of the late Cabinet for peace were sincere, and in the face of difficulties and discouragement, were patient and untiring, that their declaration of neutrality, wise and unhesi- 1191 tating at the commencement of those negotiations, was firm and unwavering to their close; and, taking their policy as a whole—not picking out peculiar and detached passages here and there—he believed it faithfully represented the national sentiment, and truly upheld the national character and honour. Such was our relation to the Italian question when the present Government succeeded to power. There had been among all ranks and classes, from the Queen and Her Ministry and Parliament, to the lowliest of Her People, one general declaration of neutrality; and probably never on so large and complicated a question was there such entire unanimity on both sides of that House and among all classes of the country. But now they were told that the present Motion would fetter the discretion of the Executive. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that it was an unusual Motion, and did not allow to the Government so free a scope as they ought to have. He (Mr. Horsman) did not want to fetter the discretion of the Executive any more than they had themselves fettered it when, on the other side of the House they declared in favour of neutrality. He would allow them free scope for everything except to diverge from that policy which that House and the country unanimously affirmed. When he was told that the Motion was unusual he replied that the course of the Government was unusual. The principle of neutrality was universally affirmed when the present Ministers sat on the other side of the House; but when they moved to the Ministerial bench which, but for their pledges of neutrality they would not have occupied, then their neutrality was exchanged for partisanship. The hon. Member for Bridgwater said that the House had to choose between fettering the Government or throwing on the Government the whole responsibility, and that, for his part, he proposed placing them under responsibility. But what was that Ministerial responsibility? Was it not the weakness and bane of England that there was no official responsibility at all? A Minister might, by the omission or commission of some act draw on himself the displeasure of the country, but the worst that befell him was the loss of office. That was no great punishment for men so independent as those usually occupying the Treasury Bench. They still held the foremost rank in that House, were still the leaders of opposition, and in a few weeks might be Ministers again. Therefore he 1192 said that Ministerial responsibility in that House being so very light, it was the duty of the House, in proportion as the Ministers were irresponsible, to take precautions to prevent that which afterwards it would have no power to remedy. The first important event which occurred after the new Ministry came into office was the convention of Villafranca, which appeared somehow to have been effected through the unconscious agency of the British Minister. There was a mystery, not yet unravelled, but on which the Foreign Secretary might perhaps throw some light to-night, in that visit of the French Ambassador to the English Secretary of State, when he placed in his hands that little bit of paper with something written on it, which the English Minister did not approve, and did not disapprove—did not recommend, and did not deprecate—but of which he made himself the channel so as to alarm the Emperor of Austria into the belief that the document bearing the English postmark must have something of an English parentage and character. Great men sometimes achieved mighty results with small instruments, and this little bit of paper was a potent auxiliary to the Emperor of the French; for by a happy use of it the wished-for peace was very promptly effected—and the future of Italy resettled by a flourish of two Imperial pens, without the presence of a single counsellor or witness. Europe was not consulted—indeed it was to shut out the intervention of Europe that the reconciliation was so hurried. England was ignored, and the tardiness evinced in communicating the terms of peace to England was a significant intimation that it was no business of hers. In a short time, however, it was found that that peace would not work, and that it left matters infinitely worse than before the war. Italy was exasperated, France disappointed and indignant, and the Imperial prestige was sorely wounded. Then it appeared that his Imperial Majesty bethought himself of England, and probably thanked his star that a change of Administration in England had restablished in power a Minister who had always been his warm friend—not to say, his devoted adherent—who had twice sacrificed power to serve him—and who was the man, if such an one could be found, to persuade the English Parliament to renounce that new principle of neutrality of which it was lately so much enamoured. Therefore, England was his Imperial Majesty's hope, and the Congress was to be his instrument; and if Europe 1193 would but agree to it, and if England would but send to it a representative to be baffled and played with, and outvoted and outwitted, and bamboo led according to all established English precedent, then the result would be most satisfactory in relieving Franco of all her difficulties, and saddling England with new and embarrassing responsibilities. Well, the proposal was made, and the eagerness with which the noble Lord at the head of the Government snatched at that proposal justified the Emperor's exalted opinion of his fidelity and devotion. It was this readiness on the part of the noble Lord to go into the Congress that made the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire give notice of his Motion. That Motion would test the House of Commons. It was a most valuable test of the sincerity of the adhesion of hon. Members to that new principle of foreign policy of which they lately made such boast. They must remember that there had been two principles of foreign policy contending for ascendancy in that House. First, there was the principle of perpetual intermeddling in every nook and corner of the world—in every foreign intrigue and petty cabal—encouraging revolutions at one time, secretly abetting despotism at another—assailing without dignity, and retreating without honour—being bullies to the weak, cowards to the strong, and making England odious and detested where she was not despised. There was another and a different foreign policy—a policy of conciliation and non-interference, which admitted that England, with her vast and various interests, could not pursue an isolated policy; but at the same time maintained that interference in foreign affairs should be the exception, and not the rule; and should be strictly limited to cases where it was a plain duty, and where English interests, identified with those of Europe, might be not less certainly, though they were more remotely affected; but this condition was also to be superadded—that there should be a reasonable hope of at least some small amount of good resulting from interference. The first of these principles long had the ascendant in this country, and he was sorry to say that it was most in fashion when the Liberal party were in power. The other and more vulgar policy, of confining ourselves more to our own affairs was for the first time officially recognized and adopted in the case of Italy by the late Administration. It was one of the advantages we derived from having a 1194 weak Government in office; they settled several questions for which the Liberal party had vainly contended for years against its own leaders. This was one of them; the Government of Lord Derby had not power enough, if they had had the will, to set the national sentiment at defiance; but they recognized and adopted it, and did so manfully and ungrudgingly; and, had it been otherwise, they who now sat on the Ministerial side were ready to have coerced them into it; for they were then all non-interventionists, and the more they suspected the sincerity of their opponents, the more vehemently and virtuously they proclaimed their own. But no sooner did they pass over to the other side of the House than the latest converts became the first backsliders. Non-intervention and neutrality might be good catchwords to frighten the diplomatic babes sitting opposite, but veteran statesmen cast them to the winds—and the more turbid the sea of complications, the more obvious and exciting the plunge. Well, but how did the great Liberal party like the plunge? Had it no regard for its consistency? Was it ready to follow the Member for Bridgwater in voting, though with every modification of sentiment and language, that what was black on one side of the House is white on the other. In considering a Congress they must address themselves to it as a plain, practical business question. The settlement of Italy by a Congress was not a sentimental question. The Liberal party abjured sentiment. It was a great practical body, occasionally philosophical, but never in his recollection sentimental. As a plain matter of business they must ask two questions, first, what did they propose to achieve by going into the Congress, and next, what chance was there of their achieving it? There lay the whole matter of debate; and he had listened in vain for any answer in the able and eloquent speeches that had been delivered. They all knew what ought to be the principles upon which the future settlement of Italy should be based. They had been enunciated wisely and frequently by the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs and with great accuracy and feeling. First, the future government of Italy should be in conformity with the wishes of the Italians; and next, that every foreign soldier should be marched out of Italy, never to return. Now he would ask, had they any hope that any European Congress would at present agree to those prin- 1195 ciples as a basis for the future settlement of Italy? The Congress would be composed of a majority of despotic powers; and they remembered how happily Lord Clarendon had very recently ridiculed the project of one despotic power joining another despotic power to persuade a third despotic power to go into Congress to give free institutions to Italy. And was not that a tolerably fair representation of the Congress which they were asked to join. He believed that whatever reasons there were against our being parties to the late war, those reasons were infinitely stronger against our being parties to a delusive peace; for he believed the present peace must be the commencement of new and more perilous complications. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had lately observed that one of the results of a Congress would be to prevent another war in Italy. He (Mr. Horsman) believed that the Congress would have within itself the elements for a dozen wars. If the two Emperors could be supposed to have met with a preconcerted design to contrive something that should embroil Italy and embarrass Europe for the period of their natural lives, nothing more ingeniously mischievous could have been devised than this tangled peace—the disentangling of which—devolved on a Congress—might find occupation not only for all the rulers and diplomatists of Europe, but for their armies also, as far as any eye could see. On the first evening that the Congress was discussed in that House, three able speeches in its favour were delivered by three Members of the Cabinet, and it would be admitted that if argument and rhetoric could place the Congress in a favourable light before them, it must have been done on that occasion. But what impression did those speeches produce on the House? If they wished to know the difficulties that should repel and deter them from that hazardous enterprize, they had them set forth in elaborate detail by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; if they desired a forecast of the embarrassments that would attend its progress, the jealousies and discords, and passions and intrigues that would embroil its sittings, they were graphically delineated by the First Minister of the Crown; and above all, if they would be warned of the real and abiding perils to which they would be committed on emerging from the Congress, they found them in the crowning speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he told them, in terms 1196 almost identical with his language that evening, that it was their duty to go into Congress to lend assistance to France in the pursuit of objects favourable to European peace and order. Those words, European peace and order, in the month of a despotic ruler were susceptible of a wide construction, and when uttered at the head of half a million of soldiers they had even an ominous signification. It was not a little startling to hear at this time of day, that the principle of our foreign policy was to be an indentification with the foreign policy of France, and that we were once more to seek and to foster those intimate and exclusive relations that had already too much isolated us in Europe. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said we ought not to leave France to strive alone in the great objects she is endeavouring to attain, but we are to ally ourselves with her in the attainment of those objects, and lend her our assistance. What does this mean? If it means anything, it means this—that we recognize the legitimacy of that character which France has assumed as the champion of peace and order in Italy—that we adopt, recommend, and promote her policy—endorseher acts—sanctify by our complicity the means—and crown with our approval one of the grossest outrages on the law of Europe, and the most deliberate invasion of the rights of an independent Power, that the world has witnessed since the days of the first Napoleon and resulting in a greater destruction of human life than, even in his day, was ever concentrated within so short a period. He said that, because he thought it could be shown that France was the aggressor in the war, and he could not but observe how lightly the Chancellor of the Exchequer had skimmed over that part of the speech of his noble Friend (Lord Elcho). The right hon. Gentleman did indeed correct the noble Lord upon a trifling inaccuracy as to the date when the Austrian reinforcements were marched towards the Sardinian frontier; but he did not litter anything like a denial to the assertion that the war was part of the premeditated policy of France, determined upon long anterior to anything taking place of an aggressive character on the part of Austria. And indeed, it might be asked, had Austria taken any hostile step on the 1st of January, when the Emperor of the French addressed to Baron Hubner those memorable words which in one week depreciated the value of European securities by £60,000,000? Sir J. 1197 Hudson, writing to the Earl of Malmesbury on the 3rd of January, said:—In the present condition of Italy, these words are likely to be considered as tantamount to a declaration of war, and therefore we must not expect any diminution of the agitation which now exists in this Peninsula.But there was another and stronger evidence of early designs on the part of the Emperor of the French, with whic least one Member of the House of Commons was acquainted before it was generally known to others. In a despatch from Lord Malmesbury to Lord Cowley, on the 10th of January, the late Foreign Secretary said:—I am aware, from a conversation which Lord Clarendon held lately at Compiégne with the Emperor, and which his Lordship repeated to me, that his Imperial Majesty has long looked at the internal state of Italy with interest and anxiety. It may be, although I have no reason for believing such is the case, that he imagines that in a war with Austria, and having Sardinia as an ally, he may play the important part of the regenerator of Italy.Now the House would recollect that this conversation between Lord Clarendon and the Emperor was at Compiégne in the month of November. The noble Lord at the head of the Government must be presumed to have been present at that conversation which, in Lord Clarendon's opinion, was so important an indication of what was passing in the Imperial mind in regard to Italy, that he communicated it to Lord Malmesbury, who again made it the subject of a despatch which he instructed Lord Cowley to read to Count Walewski. It might be said that in the month of April the preparations of France were not complete, and that she would have preferred that the question of a Congress should have been continued for a time; but the promptness with which her preparations were completed, and the rapidity and accuracy with which 200,000 men were transported to Italy, showed that her preparations were in a stage of advancement; and no one reading the blue-book could now affirm that the invasion of Italy by France, and the driving out of the Austrians by the French army, not for the sake of Italian freedom, but of French policy and aggrandizement, were not objects predetermined and long provided for, before a single Austrian soldier had crossed the Sardinian frontier. He thought the statement made that evening, that it was the policy of the Government to ally itself closely with France in order to promote French policy in Italy, was alarming and to be regretted, as showing that the Government were not only 1198 not alive to the national sentiment upon this question, but were about to place themselves in direct antagonism to it. They did not seem to be aware that the true reason why the English people had not evinced a more active sympathy with the cause of Italian freedom was to be found in their distrust of France. He concurred with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in that which he had stated with respect to the very baneful effects of the abominable tyranny which had been exercised by Austria in Italy. It was that which, in the eyes of Englishmen made Austria the most detested of modern despotisms; and in proportion as they were shocked and repelled by Austria, to the same degree were their admiration and sympathy accorded warmly, heartily, generously to Sardinia. But when Sardinia, the representative of the pure principles of freedom, threw herself into the arms of France—placing herself in the day of battle under the banners of France and in the hour of victory beneath her feet—then did she make so desperate a throw for liberty, that no English minister durst share the responsibility of such a stake; for, much as we disliked the rule of Austria still more did we distrust France; our hearts throbbed for Italy enslaved by Austria, but they trembled for Italy liberated by France. It was for these reasons he was of opinion, that while the English nation was desirous of maintaining friendly relations with France, she did not wish to enter with her into too intimate and exclusive an alliance; or to march under the French banners in a crusade of peace and order, especially when that order was exemplified by the internal condition of France herself, and the peace illustrated by a hecatomb of human lives so uselessly wasted on the plains of Italy. There was, however, another deeper and stronger reason why he, for one, objected to enter into a Congress as the ally of France. He alluded to that law of public morality which he thought a nation like England ought to be the first to present an example of respecting. We could not hold back France from Italy, or avert the carnage which had there taken place; but at least we need not be the first to rush forward to crown the aggressor, and to grasp the hand still red with the blood of 100,000 human victims. For these reasons he hoped England would not go into the Congress—nominally as the ally—but really as the instrument and scapegoat of France. They 1199 could not by so doing raise Italy, they could only lower England; and it was their duty to Italy no less than to England, not to interfere unless they could do so with dignity and effect; and their presence in Congress, in the present circumstances, would be an act of inconsistency and folly sure to be followed by disappointment and dishonour.
§ MR. SIDNEY HERBERT
Sir, I confess, after listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, and perceiving how contemporary history may be distorted within a few days after the happening of the events which it professes to narrate, I scarcely know what degree of credence is to be attached to the recital of circumstances of remote occurrence. The right hon. Gentleman brings forward as one of his first accusations against the Government the alleged fact that we snatched at the proposal of a European Congress, but I cannot discover where the right hon. Gentleman has found the evidence on which that statement is based. I recollect my noble Friend the First Lord of the Treasury stated that a proposal had been made to the English Government to enter into a European Congress, not, as has been asserted, for the purpose of settling the details of peace, but with the object after peace had been settled on those terms with which the belligerent Powers alone have a right to deal, of deciding in common with the other Powers of Europe what measure should be taken with respect to the future of Italy. "But," the right hon. Gentleman contends, "we, the House of Commons, apparently have some knowledge on this subject which you, the Government, do not possess." Now, my noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs has stated very clearly all the difficulties which are involved in our taking part in a Congress. He says that before we take that course we must know first of all in what the treaty of Zurich consists, and what is the starting point from which we are to take our departure. Not possessing that knowledge, he gave no opinion as to whether we ought to go into a Congress or not. The right hon. Gentleman, however, is not so cautious. He seems to know everything about the Treaty of Zurich, which has not as yet been drawn up, and contends that to take part in a Congress on such a basis as that treaty presents would be unworthy of the representatives of this country. Now, it appears to me childish to talk of our going to settle the details of a 1200 peace which we have never been asked to settle. [Mr. HORSMAN: The Motion contains the words, "Settling the details of a peace."] Well, let me for one moment analyse the Motion, and in doing so I must do my noble Friend who is its author the justice to say that amid its many defects it contains one merit,—that of originality. He lays down, for instance, a political axiom which I suppose was never before heard of in any rational assembly in the world. He says we have maintained a strict neutrality during the war, therefore we have no right to meddle with the terms of the peace. My noble Friend is, at all events, entirely impartial in his view, and quite fulfils the conditions which he has found laid down in Johnson's Dictionary as to the interpretation of the word "neutrality." But is it, let me ask, a just proposition to lay down, that because we have preserved a strict neutrality in time of war we ought as a consequence never to have anything to do with any peace which may be settled between the Emperors of France and Austria. The noble Lord appears to me not to understand his own Motion. If he does, I should like to know what he means by the observance of a neutrality between two nations, with both of which we are on friendly terms, and which are allied with one another? Are we to continue in a state of indifference, without the expression of sympathy or opinion, because France and Austria happen to have been once at war? You may find such a proposition laid down in Vattel, but you will not find a response to it in human nature; nor, indeed, is it to be found in Vattel in reference to a state of things in which peace prevails. But my right hon. Friend who has just spoken says Ave snatched at this idea of a Congress. But I would ask, did either of the noble Lords near me, in the course of their explanations on the subject, state that we were going into a Congress? They indeed mentioned to the House the conditions without which we could not take part in any such assembly, but not one word did they utter tending to show that, come what may, be the circumstances favourable or unfavourable, into a Congress they intended to enter. But it is said no nation ought to go into a Congress to settle the details of a peace in the transactions which led to which she was not a belligerent. Now, in the transactions which led to the treaty of Paris, Austria was not a belligerent, yet she went into the Congress. 1201 It may, however, be contended that Austrian neutrality in that instance was not an impartial neutrality with respect to Russia, but might more properly be described as a neutralité inquiétante. But then Prussia took no part in the struggle, yet she went into the Congress, and assisted at the general European settlement which subsequently took place. It is, therefore, absurd to say that for this reason this country cannot take part in the coming conferences with honour and dignity. The question with which we have now to deal, however, is not one which relates so much to the past as to the future; but then, in disposing of that question you must look to the past, in order that you may be furnished with a guide for your conduct with respect to the future. Taking that course, then, we find that Austria has governed Italy for many years; that she has there maintained peace and order with a strong hand and at the expense of great unpopularity. The necessity of her position, I believe, compelled her to act upon that policy, and I do not now seek to cast any blame upon her. Nobody supposed that she would give representative institutions to Gallicia or Lombardy; she governed them with an iron hand, because she found she could rule them in no other way, and, as is invariably the case with such a system, the evils which it was sought to dispel were increased by the means used for their repression. But when the war broke out the people of this country disapproved of it. They doubted the sincerity of the Emperor of the French, and did not believe that he would not seek to gain some material advantage from the contest. Now, however, that the war is over, we who strongly objected to it, who scolded everybody all round, who irritated all parties without influencing any, have no longer to consider whether it was justified, and must bear in mind that the whole circumstances of the case are changed. After all the sacrifices of blood and treasure that have been made, is there not to be some foundation laid for the non-recurrence of the causes that led to this war? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks (Mr. Disraeli), I must do him the justice to say, has always argued consistently on this subject. He has maintained that the Austrian rule and influence in Italy have been necessary for the tranquillity of the Peninsula; that the whole of Italy is filled with secret societies of the worst character and the most revolutionary designs, and 1202 that these societies demanded the repression of the strong hand. Well, that is a very intelligible theory, and it is one that obtains in a great part of Europe. But when you are about to decide what course you shall pursue, is it not well to inquire what have been the fruits of that system? Has it been successful? I do not ask whether Italy has been happy, but has it been tranquil? No longer ago than the Conference of Paris in 1856 this subject was discussed by the Earl of Clarendon? It was obvious that things could not go on as they were; that, with the present state of public opinion in Europe, it was impossible that there should not be a revolution, and that any revolution would be likely to lead to a European war. France has a traditional policy in Italy; and having that traditional policy in Italy, it was not likely that a member of the Bonaparte family would be insensible to the value of those traditions. Remember that although there are many parties in France there is no party with a purely domestic policy. Everything in that country has turned upon foreign policy. An alliance with Russia or an alliance with England was the cry of the politicians of that country during its constitutional government. France being in that position and Italy in that state, there is a strong temptation for the Government of the former to interfere in the latter country, and we have therefore to decide whether it will be possible, if we are asked upon terms likely to lead to a satisfactory result, for England to refuse to enter into a Congress by which something like a permanent arrangement for the peace and security of Italy may be effected. It is easy to say, as many glibly say, that the Italians are not fit for liberty. But what nation is fit for liberty before it obtains it? It is easy to say of a people before they have obtained liberty, that they are a turbulent, excitable, and bloodthirsty set. This may have been the language of King John before Runnymede. He may have said of the people of this country, that they were not fit for liberty. But we have tried the experiment, and we have proved our fitness for liberty through many generations. If they are not fit for liberty, will any one tell me that the Italian race are fit for the kind of government they have had? That is the question. We are asked to join Europe in a settlement of this question. One of those Italian Governments has been such a scandal through Europe that this country and France felt compelled to take a 1203 step wholly unjustifiable in theory, and to break off all diplomatic connection with that Government. I am not defending that step, but there must have been a great scandal before any two great States would take a course so exceptional as that. Well, but has this peace given us no prospect for the future of Italy? Surely the circumstance of Lombardy being made over to the free States of the North of Italy affords a considerable guarantee for the peace of that portion of the Sardinian territory. I do not say that there will not be difficulties in the way of that free Government working smoothly, but we must make allowances for that. We must recollect the state in which they have been, and if liberty should be given them, and if excesses should take place I do not know that the state of society will be much deteriorated. Are there no excesses now? When you talk of the danger that exists from secret societies and revolutionary tribunals, what are the dangers that exist now? What did we hear the other day? We saw a constitutional government illegally and arbitrarily suspended at the sole will of the king. We saw the Code Napoleon arbitrarily and illegally suspended at the will of the police. We must never forget that a king can be revolutionary as well as a people. It is very little comfort to a citizen who is dragged in the middle of the night to a dungeon, where he knows he may be tortured, to tell him that he has been lynched, not by a mob, but by the king. And we forget the relative condition of a king and his people when we forget this distinction. I will not talk in a sentimental vein. I will not say that we shall make Italy either happier or better, but if the fruit of not going into a Congress is a renewal of the danger to the peace of Europe, what would you say to a Government if it sulkily refused to go into Congress because it thought that the Peace of Villafranca ought to have been made on some other terms? Such a refusal would be a gross dereliction of duty to Europe, and an entire forgetfulness of the dignity of England. That Peace of Villafranca was made between two States, and it is assumed that all this country can do is to register the details of the Treaty of Villafranca. I do not know that there will he any question of the Treaty of Villafranca at all. Many of the questions mentioned in that Treaty are left entirely open. All that the preliminaries of Villafranca say, for example, of the confederation is that both Sovereigns are favourable to the con- 1204 federation of Italy. Well, what is the meaning of that? If they intended to have a confederation, they were the masters of the situation; and I for one would not go into a question of what was meant by that confederation before I consented to go into a Congress. Everything will depend upon the manner in which the confederation is carried out. These are the points raised by the Motion of the noble Lord. He began when we knew nothing of the future and little of the past, and now we are more accurately informed of the Treaty of Villafranca, but we know as little of the future as we did then. We do not know whether the preliminaries of Villafranca are to be embodied in the Treaty of Zurich, and we do not know the extent to which it will be proposed to go. The noble Lord says, "I know nothing and you know nothing, and under these circumstances let us peremptorily decide not to go to a Congress." And the noble Lord expects the House of Commons not only to tie up the hands of the Government, but his own, and he tells us that, however favourable, however opportune the moment, whatever benefit may appear likely to arise to Italy, and whatever guarantee may be obtained for the security of Europe, the Government are not to go into the Congress and discuss the points that will arise there. But what is the good of having a Foreign Office, or what is the good of having a Government at all, if you are to be restricted from considering these questions? If the House of Commons interferes with the Executive and does something, we know at all events what they are doing. If they are doing something against the prerogative a great deal may be said against it, and something in its favour. But when, not knowing the circumstances under which you are going to act, you lay down a course which yon are not to depart from, it appears to me that such a proceeding is the height of human folly. I will not believe that the noble Lord will find the House disposed to sanction a Motion which would deprive this country of its position as a European Power, which would tie the hands of the Government, and, without a knowledge of the circumstances, would compel the Government to forego the opportunity of securing to a certain extent the freedom of Italy, and thus reproduce war, and bloodshed, and all the evils from which Italy and Europe have so long suffered.
The noble Lord, 1205 in a speech of considerable ability, has made a Motion to which the hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the Previous Question has stated objections. Those objections were repeated by the right hon. Gentleman who has last spoken, and they were particularly pressed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a speech which was, as usual, brilliant, but which was unusually discursive. That objection requires to be answered, and it is that the Motion, if carried, will be a direct interference with the right of the Executive Government, and will be an assumption of a power on the part of the House of Commons that does not properly belong to it. I admit that when I first read that Motion I entertained a similar objection to it. I admit it will be rather difficult to find an exact precedent for it. But I think we should remember what are the relations of the House of Commons to the Government. It is a question which has not been touched upon, and yet I find it discussed by an eminent person in a manner which should commend it to the notice of the House, and especially of those who sit on the Treasury Bench. When Mr. Canning was applied to by Prince Metternich to say what was the policy which England meant to pursue, and why the Government allowed the House of Commons to exercise such influence on foreign policy, Mr. Canning felt it necessary to explain in a despatch what, in his judgment, were the relations between the Government and the House. Neutrality is discussed in the same despatch, and Mr. Canning insists that the neutrality which England ought to practise, and which all the eminent men for the last half century recommended, was not neutrality between contending armies but conflicting principles. As to the value of a Congress, which Prince Metternich had pressed upon him, Mr. Canning says:—What is the influence which we have had on the counsels of the Alliance? We protested at Laybach—we remonstrated at Verona. Our protest was treated as waste paper, our remonstrances mingled with the air! The sources of our strength are in the sympathy between the people and the Government; in the union of the public sentiment with the public counsels; in the reciprocal confidence and co-operation of the House of Commons and the Crown. If Prince Metternich has taught himself to believe that the House of Commons is merely a clog and impediment to the free action of the counsellors of the Crown,—that its prejudices are to be softened, its waywardness to be soothed, but that the tenor of the Government is, in effect, independent of its impulse; that it is, in short, to be managed, but not to be con- 1206 sulted—he is mistaken. It is as essential a part of the national council as it is of the national authority; and woe be to the Minister who should undertake to conduct the affairs of this country upon the principle of settling the course of its foreign policy with a grand alliance, and should rely upon carrying their decisions into effect by throwing a little dust into the eyes of the House of Commons.I contend that the principle of this Motion, supposing it to be of a general character, is sustained by this passage from the celebrated despatch of Mr. Canning, in which he insists that the House of Commons is a consultative body, which ought to be consulted, and, when consulted, has the right to offer an opinion, which the Minister, being bound to be in sympathy with the House, ought to respect and follow. What is the exact position in which we stand, and what shall we gain by a Congress? The affairs of Italy were supposed to have been settled at the Congress of Paris by two resolutions. It was decided, first, that the Italian Powers should be called upon to favour a policy of clemency; and, secondly, that foreign armies should be withdrawn from the Italian States at the first moment possible, with a due regard to the tranquillity of those States. Now, I maintain, as the right hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) has maintained, that if those two resolutions meant what they said—I do not pretend to say that they do—the Affairs of the Papal States and of a great portion of Italy would at once settle themselves. We could as speedily settle the Duchies if the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs spoke correctly when he made this important statement the other night. The noble Lord says:—We all know that by one of the articles of the treaty, very short and somewhat ambiguous in its terms, it is declared that the Grand Duke of Tuscany and the Duke of Modena return to their States, granting an amnesty. Now, how are they to return to their States? … When I inquire with respect to this subject, I must tell the House, that although I have no official assurance of the fact, I feel convinced, and I have good reason to be convinced, that the Emperor of the French has no intention of employing French troops for the restoration by force of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. I believe, likewise, from all I can hear, that the Emperor of Austria does not intend—he certainly has not avowed any intention—to use his troops for the purpose of restoring these two Archdukes, and I think I may presume—at least I presume from what I have heard—that even if he were disposed to do so, the Emperor of the French would not consent to it. Well, if that be so, a great difficulty at once arises in carrying the treaty into effect."—3 Hansard, civ. 550.1207 If Austria and France will not interfere by the power of the sword to restore the Dukes, cui bono a Conference? The argument of the noble Lord about government being a matter of will is singular in a thoughtful statesman. I deny that human government is an affair of human will, but, supposing it to be so, the question of Government in Tuscany is to be put to the vote of universal suffrage. I trembled when I heard that, but, assuming that they vote against the restoration of their rulers, and neither of the Powers interfere, what is the difficulty? The noble Lord says no British Minister would ever decide against their will. Their will decides in favour of union with Sardinia. Neither Austria nor France will interfere by the sword. Again I ask, with regard to these Duchies, what is a Conference to decide? We have been told, and a curious statement it was, that the prospective Congress is to effect a settlement of Italy. Again I refer to the noble Lord, whose information is derived from a despatch of Count Walewski which he has not yet laid upon the table of the House. I understand the business on which the Plenipotentiaries of the three Powers meet at Zurich to-day to be this, according to the noble Lord:—Count Walewski states that a French and Austrian Plenipotentiary are about to meet immediately at Zurich, to convert into a treaty of peace the bases decided upon between their Majesties.I understand from the noble Lord that, although other matters may be discussed, the foundation of the whole affair cannot be set aside. And what are the bases referred to? I do not know what remains for general settlement. Is it decided already what is to be done with Lombardy, what is to be done with the Duchies, that there may be a general confederacy to govern Italy, and that there is to be peace between the belligerent Powers? The noble Lord proceeds to quote from the despatch:You are aware, by my former correspondence, that the Government has always desired to see the great Powers concur for the definitive settlement of the affairs of Italy. His Majesty's intentions have not altered in this respect, and we hope that the Powers will be able to meet, either in a Congress or in a Conference, to confer on all the questions raised by the actual state of things in Italy, and which are connected with general interests.The noble Lord says, "As the passage which I have just quoted shows clearly what the question is upon which it is proposed that there should be a Confer- 1208 ence, I may be permitted to read it again. The object of the Conference is—To confer on all the questions raised by the actual state of things in Italy, and which are connected with general interests.The noble Lord says, "You will observe that the terms are general; that they have not reference to the details of any treaty of peace, much less of the particular Treaty of Villafranca, but that it is proposed that the great Powers should confer upon all questions of general interest."
But, if there be any doubt, the noble Lord informs us that Count Walewski also told him that all the Powers of Italy were to be summoned. To do what?In order to deliberate upon the bases of the Confederation, whose establishment the two Sovereigns have mutually agreed to further.Then, the States of Italy are to be called together, no doubt according to the statement, on the general affairs of Italy, but on the basis of the confederation, the establishment of which has been already decided by the two powerful Emperors; and so, in truth, when we reflect the whole matter is decided, and England is only to be called upon to do something which the noble Lord pointed out in a despatch which shows he still possesses all the fire of youth. This despatch to the Ambassador of the King of Prussia is a wonderful document. I always thought that statesmen, when they wrote papers of this kind, were calm, cool, and, I will not say philosophical, but cautious. Yet, I confess, I do not think Young Italy could give a more passionate passage than this, in which the noble Lord acquaints the Prussian Ambassador with what are the future prospects of Italy:—The Emperor of the French has not contented himself with repelling the Austrian invasion of the territory of his Ally: he has declared it to be his purpose to liberate Italy from the Alps to the Adriatic. This proclamation has been received with transport wherever, in Northern or Central Italy, Austrian troops do not exercise a power of compression. Milan and the whole of Lombardy, Parma, Modena, and Tuscany have eagerly proclaimed their adherence to the war to which they were thus invited.The sentiments of the noble Lord are most inspiring. He knocks down the Italian States like ninepins. He says, with considerable truth, if we knocked down Parma, Modena, Tuscany, Lombardy, how is it possible that we can allow the Papacy to stand? The Government of Lombardy was a good Government as between man 1209 and man; but, said the noble Lord, the Papacy is one of the very worst Governments in the world, and you cannot strike down the other States and allow the Papacy to stand. I agree with the noble Lord it would be perfectly impossible. The mind of the noble Lord on the 7th of July was in a state of simplicity. He believed in that proclamation of the Emperor of the French. He indulged in the fancy that Austria was about to be expelled from the entire peninsula,—as he said from the Alps to the Adriatic,—and he thought that new and flourishing republics—for he said in his despatch that the Italians should be the free citizens of a great country, and the words "free citizens" were usually applied to the inhabitants of republics—would spring up throughout Italy in place of the States that he wanted to knock down. He paid the Papacy the compliment paid by Polyphemus—it was to be devoured the last. We have been asked what is neutrality, and we have been told that it can only apply to war. But that was not the opinion of Mr. Canning. He said that England ought to contend not merely with fleets and armies, but with principles. If you are only to be neutral in war, what is the value of your neutrality? Some Ministers do much more mischief in a time of peace than other Ministers have been able to do in a time of war and it is necessary to check them in their career. It is impossible to confine neutrality merely to war. It must be applied where contending principles are in action in reference to monarchy, democracy, republicanism, or absolutism, just as much as you apply it in the case of Powers engaged in war with each other. The next point we have to consider is what is the meaning of that peace of Villafranca. Are the two parties who signed that treaty bounden or are they not, by reciprocal obligations, to force its terms? What was to be the subject-matter of the Conference, if a confederacy was decided upon, if the Duchies were decided upon, if Lombardy was decided upon, and the two great powers were resolved to have what Count Walewski called the fundamental points of that treaty maintained? We have had a speech to-night upon the subject of Austria and Austrian influence from more than one gentleman, and more particularly from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The ability and tact of a skilful and dexterous advocate is mainly evidenced by the art with which he misleads his audience from 1210 the true question that is before them. The right hon. Gentleman declared, with an emphasis that I have seldom seen exceeded by himself, that the iron hand of Austria had for forty-five years crushed the liberties of Italy,—that Austria had extinguished every spark of freedom in that country. That was the argument he urged to prove how calmly and impartially he would himself act as a Minister of the Crown as between Austria and France. Was not that an attack upon the Treaty of Vienna, which delivered up Lombardy to Austria to be governed upon the Austrian system? I admit that the government of Austria in Lombardy was the government of the stranger, but whoever says that Austria was no benefit to that country does not speak the language of truth. You speak of Tuscany being humane, civilized, polite, and flourishing, and it has been described as a little Paradise. But who made it so? An Austrian Prince. If you want to confer a blessing upon Italy take the laws framed by Leopold I., than whom a more virtuous, humane, or benevolent man never ruled on this earth. It has been said that the battle of Salamis was useful for the day in which it was fought, but that the foundation of the Areopagus was useful for civilization and liberty for ever; and to have framed a system of laws wise in all respects, equitable, just, and humane, to have made a people love their ruler, is the glory of Leopold I. To say, then, that the Austrian Government has always been tyrannical, wicked, and unjust is not an impartial view of the question as stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Why, I could put my finger on a passage of the elder Massimo d' Azeglio, in which he says that, to his knowledge, many of the States of Italy were willing to throw off their allegiance to their native rulers, and attach themselves to the Austrian Government for the sake of the pure justice which Austria administered between man and man. I impeach the argument of the right hon. Gentleman as unjust, on the conclusive refutation of it contained in his own words. The right hon. Gentleman said that, as long as Austria remains in Italy, Sardinia being free, there will not be peace in Italy. What is the result of that argument? That if Italy is to have peace Austria must be deprived of every inch of her territory in Italy. How is it possible for this Government, if such he their view, to enter into this Congress? I was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Chan- 1211 cellor of the Exchequer, and the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last, vindicate the foreign policy of the noble Lord. That was not their language in 1850. In that year they said that it was the policy of an intermeddler and was injurious to this country, but to-night they are his best defenders. The right hon. Gentleman informed the House that he had read the blue-book, but he did not recommend any one to read it. No man, he said, had a right to assume that the opinion of the House would be adverse to the policy of the noble Viscount if he goes to the Congress to carry out the details of this peace. I venture to say, if the House were polled to-night upon that question, the opinion of the majority is more likely to be against the noble Viscount than in his favour. It would be said that the noble Viscount on the Conspiracy Bill showed a willingness to carry out the objects of the Emperor of the French, which this House did not approve, and that if he did that once he might do it again. The ruling mind in that Congress would be the mind of the Emperor of the French. There would be nobody to stand up and contradict him, much less to resist him effectually. The right hon. Gentleman says the opinion of no man would be influenced against the noble Viscount's policy by reading the blue-book; indeed, he says he knows one gentleman who read through the book and was influenced in favour of that policy. I have no doubt he was a learned, brilliant, wayward Gentleman, who seldom held one opinion for a long period of time, who knew everything, but perhaps did not know himself. It is the custom occasionally to compare distinguished men with a star. Now, there are different heavenly bodies. There are some that move in a regular orbit and shed upon the world a soft and gentle light. And, again, we have a blazing meteor that in its brilliant eccentric course fills the beholder with alarm, surprise, wonder, or admiration. If that person to whom the right hon. Gentleman referred had formerly held an opposite opinion as to the policy to be pursued towards Italy, is it not a very extraordinary thing that that unnamed person should be convinced by reading the blue-book, and should hold an opinion exactly contrary to that which was held by the rest of mankind? I hold it to be an act of justice to stop the Government from going into this Congress. I heard an hon. Gentleman who does not sit on this side of the House say, it was impolitic to bring forward 1212 this Motion; for, said he, if you allow the Government to go into the Congress, you may be sure they will do something wrong, and therefore when Parliament meets in February they will be turned out of office. But the doctrine of political responsibility is wisely referred to, for to what does it amount? Nothing. It may, perhaps, be said, with some force be said, if you anticipate the course a Minister may lake, you usurp the prerogative of the Crown. Yet if the House of Commons is called on to say that a certain policy is fraught with danger, what is Parliament to do but to express an opinion and say, on a given state of facts that are before us, that it would be unwise to enter into a Congress which cannot only lead to no good, but to great evil? But it is said you want to do benefit to Italy. I deny the justice of that argument, and for this plain reason—you want to do that benefit by carrying out the policy of the Emperor of the French; we want, on the other hand, to do benefit to Italy by leaving the Italians to themselves. We wish not to meddle or interfere. Such a course will be the better for the Italians themselves, since the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs has said that the Duchies are safe, and that neither of the great military powers will interfere there against the will of the people. Indeed, it will be difficult for the French Emperor, chosen as he is by universal suffrage, to interfere in the Duchies against the decision of universal suffrage. Lombardy is already free, and it has already been decided, by the protocol of Paris, that the French and Austrian armies should be withdrawn from the Papal States. I agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it is impossible to speak of Italy almost without emotion, or without feeling some sentiment of admiration and homage for her great and glorious history. Independently of her great antiquity, in the middle ages she had her republics; they were brilliant; they had their day of freedom, and they fell; but that form of government which contained the patrician element lasted the longest. For myself, though I dislike revolutions, I will not yield to any hon. Gentleman on those benches in a sincere desire to see the people of Italy happy and contented. I believe they have a better chance of being so by being left to themselves. The ruling Princes, left to themselves, will be obliged to come to an arrangement with their subjects. On that ground, and wishing to save the country from a dangerous 1213 and unfruitful interferences in the affairs of other States, I think the principle of this Motion is not unconstitutional, and, whether the Motion be carried or not, at least the opinion of this House, warning the Minister against rushing into this Congress, may be attended with great advantage both to the peace of Italy and the honour of England.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, I must confess that if my noble Friend (Lord Elcho) wished to bring our foreign policy with regard to Italy before the House, I cannot conceive a Motion worse fitted for the purpose he has in view than the Motion he has presented; because what he endeavours to affirm is, that the Crown should be addressed not to do that which it has never been asked to do by anybody, and which it has not the smallest intention of doing. My noble Friend says, "Do not go into a Congress for the purpose of considering the details of a peace the preliminaries of which were settled by the two Emperors at Villafranca." It has never been proposed, and never will be proposed, that such a Congress should ever be held, and it really seems to me a mockery of the House of Commons to ask it to go up to the Crown with such an Address as this Motion proposes. But then it might be supposed, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) has given this meaning to the Motion, that although the words are thus limited, its real meaning is, that the Crown should be advised not to enter into any Congress or Conference whatever upon the state of Italy. But my noble Friend in his speech expressly disavowed that meaning, for he said, "I mean nothing of the kind. If there should be any advantage in considering the state of Italy during the recess, and it can be done safely and sufficiently in Congress, I hope that the Ministers of the Crown may enter into that Congress, and be successful in that endeavour. But then what becomes of the Motion? It either means us to ask the Crown to do that which has never been thought of at all, or not to do that which the mover of the Motion himself has no objection to its doing. I really conceive therefore, Sir, with regard to the Motion itself it would be difficult to persuade this House to consent to its terms. But my noble Friend the Member for Haddington has taken the opportunity which this Motion has given him of expressing his views on the affairs of Italy; and in that respect I can have no objection to the course he has taken. I am personally obliged to my noble 1214 Friend for having postponed until today the consideration of his Motion, and with regard to the subject I must admit that before the House separates it is fit that those who take different views to the Government should have an opportunity of explaining those views, and persuading the House that their rule of conduct should be the prevailing rule on this occasion. What, then, says my noble Friend with regard to this great subject; and what says the hon. Gentleman the late Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. My noble Friend says, that Sardinia was entirely to blame for the late war, and that if such principles as those which influenced the King of Sardinia and his ally the Emperor of the French were to prevail, there would be an end of civilization altogether. The hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. FitzGerald) says, that the war in Italy was owing entirely to the promptings of Sardinia. I thought I had read in the blue-book repeated despatches in which Austria was told that if she went to war at the time she did she would have no sympathy in this country and no moral support, as it was considered that the disaster might have been prevented, if it had not been for the fault of Austria. I am not one of those who ever subscribed to the language of the late Prime Minister, when he said that the conduct of Austria was criminal in going to war. I think that war might probably have been prevented if she had not taken that step; but to call what she did criminal when she believed her safety and her territory were in jeopardy is too strong acensure and one in which I can never join. At the same time I cannot hear all this blame of the conduct of Sardinia without recalling to the recollection of the House what has been the state of affairs. For many years Sardinia has enjoyed a free Government, and that enjoyment of a free government has rendered her the object of admiration to every State in Italy; so much so that whenever a professor was banished from his chair for imparting knowledge in too liberal a spirit he went at once to Turin; and when a great proprietor expressed opinions favourable to representative institutions he fled to Sardinia in order to avoid the dungeon which awaited him in his own State. At length Sardinia became the refuge of many of the best and ablest men in Italy, some of them distinguished for birth and fortune, and others for genius in art, science, and literature. Under such circumstances it was not only excusable, but natural, that 1215 the King of Sardinia and the Minister of Sardinia, thus encouraged and thus appealed to, should feel that the emancipation of Italy rested with them, and resolve, whenever the time came, to draw their swords in defence of her liberties. But is it so great a crime that the King of Sardinia should have received addresses, and answered them in favourable tones, and that he should have received volunteers from other States? When I turn back to history I find that there was once a Prince who, from a State not his own, received men of all conditions and all professions—who furnished some with arms and encouraged others by tokens of his favour—and who even sent a special envoy to this country desiring him to communicate with the disaffected and to hold out to them hopes of an invasion. The difference between that Prince and the King of Sardinia is, that the King he came to overthrow was his father-in-law. Yet this Prince, although he committed all these offences for which the King of Sardinia is now held up to odium, we celebrate as our great deliverer. I have no doubt that the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken has often drank to his glorious, pious, and immortal memory. This shows that the standard by which similar actions in different ages are held may sometimes be different. Well, then, we next come to consider what are the dangers pointed out by the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. FitzGerald) in case we should go into the Congress. Now, it appears to me, looking to the terms of the noble Lord's Resolution—admitting as I do that it is within the province of the House to advise on the exercise of the prerogative of the Crown, and to restrain the prerogative of the Crown if they think fit—yet that this would be a most curious and unwise exercise of that power, because you by the Resolution would put no restraint on Ministers to advise the Crown with regard to matters in reference to which they might exercise a most mischievous influence. You do not forbid them to enter into negotiations in reference to matters in which they might be the allies either of Austria or France in any war between those Powers; you impose no restriction at all upon them with regard to the foreign relations of this country, except by saying, that if it is ever proposed to you to enter into a Congress, whatever may be its form or object, it may have one meaning or another, that is a matter that is objectionable. If the Motion has any mean- 1216 ing or sense at all that is the amount of it. Now, there is a cross-statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman). He says the Ministry are evidently anxious to enter on the Conference—that they are so eager to do so that they seem unwilling to wait, and he gave as a proof of this that the Foreign Secretary had stated numerous objections and obstacles that stood in the way of entering into a Conference. Was ever so curious a proof given as this? I stated all these obstacles because I thought it a very doubtful matter indeed whether the Government should consent to enter a Congress at all. At present the terms on which any Congress is to meet have not been agreed upon, and no one can say even in what terms the invitation may come. I have stated to this House what is the proposition on the part of France. I understand that Austria does not interpose an absolute veto to the meeting of the Congress, but that she requires certain things to be done before the Congress meets. If France and Austria come to an understanding at Zurich on every point affecting the relations of Italy—if they attempt to settle the whole question of Italy—though I cannot well imagine how that is to be done—I hold that it would be unworthy of this country and of its dignity and honour to go into a Conference merely to add its signature to terms thus agreed to. But I can suppose a very different state of affairs. The House will observe that the preliminaries agreed upon at Villafranca do not pretend to settle definitively all the affairs of Italy. They propose, in order to prevent foreign intervention that a confederation of the States of Italy should be favoured. Well, with regard to that confederation, they can do no more than favour it, for nothing is decided by the States of Italy themselves at present. Sardinia requires certain conditions, the Pope also requires, I believe, certain conditions before he enters the confederation; and I have not yet heard that the King of the Two Sicilies has given any opinion favourable or unfavourable to the meeting of a Congress. But I can imagine the state of Italy to be thought such by the best men in Italy and by the Ministers of the States of Italy as to lead them to say we are between two dangers—one of those dangers being that of foreign intervention under the pretext of preserving order in the Peninsula. The consequence of that intervention would be an immediate and san- 1217 guinary state of revolution. There would not be the state of things which we have seen for the last six months, but every kind of violence and excess would arise to meet that foreign intervention. There is one way of preventing these evils, to which all the Powers of Europe and every State of Italy are ready to consent, namely, to consider upon what terms a Congress may be formed, in order that this foreign intervention may be stopped, and a bloody revolution may be stopped in the bud. Now, if Austria—if Prussia—if Russia consent to this arrangement, is it the part of England to say, "I see evils that may be prevented—I see the good that may be effected; but I have a vow in heaven against going into a Congress?" I ask, then, is it not reasonable if you leave other important questions to the consideration of the advisers of the Crown, subject to that responsibility which attaches to them, and which I do not believe is a mere shadow, that you should leave the question of a Congress to the Ministers of the Crown also. Let the House, then, leave the question as to a Conference to the consideration of the Ministers of the Crown, and when the time comes that they will know all the circumstances of the case, and the propositions that have been brought forward, they will be able to say Yes or No to those propositions, according as they have been wise or unwise—according as they shall turn out successful or unsuccessful, and they will be able to give their judgment upon the conduct of the Ministry at some future meeting of the House. I wish to arrogate no undue power or assumption of authority on behalf of the Government, but that appears to me to be the common, plain, sensible way of acting. Well, then, the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. FitzGerald) has preached to me a sermon of considerable length, warning me against vices and sins I may fall into, and profiting by his own experience, I may say, without any personal disrespect to him, after the manner of an old sinner, he has warned me against the particular vice of which he has been guilty. He says, beware of a guarantee, for there is nothing so dangerous to this country—nothing so bad in practice. Now I had some recollection of what had been done by the late Government in this respect; but I consulted the blue-book to refresh my memory, and there I found that the Earl of Malmesbury, with the consent of his colleagues, was ready to give a guarantee to Sardinia, 1218 a guarantee for the integrity of Sardinia for the long period of five years. Now, it appears to me that such a guarantee is the most dangerous that any Minister could offer to another country. I have admitted the faults of Sardinia in fostering the discontent that prevails in other parts of Italy; but when Sardinia once knew that she had a guarantee from Great Britain there would have been no end of her provocations, you would have had them monthly, weekly, daily, until at length Austria would say, "I am unable to bear these constant provocations. My subjects are continually excited to rebellion by the conduct of Sardinia and I must march an army into the country in order to put an end to it." Then, although you admitted Sardinia to be in the wrong, she would have been covered by your guarantee, and you would have been bound to employ your fleet and army for her. That was the wise and cautious guarantee which the late ministry proposed, and yet now hon. Gentlemen come down to preach to me about guarantees and the danger I may fall into from rash advice. The right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken has complained of my having spoken of reforms in the Papal States, and yet he himself has spoken of reforms in those very States. When I wrote that despatch to Prussia I thought I was saying what almost everybody, with the exception, perhaps, of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bowyer), would have agreed to—that the temporal administration of the Roman See had been a very bad administration; and that, if reforms were to take place in Italy, reforms in the Roman States were peculiarly called for and required. Did I say anything that the Catholic Sovereigns could find fault with? The Emperor of the French has virtually said the same thing. A long time ago, in a letter to Edgar Ney, he expressed his opinion that the Roman Government ought to be secularized and the Code Napoleon introduced. He did not approve of the mode in the Roman States of trying a man without confronting him with the witnesses against him, and at Bologna, at least, of using torture to extort a confession. The Emperor of the French did not approve of that mode of administering justice, and he accordingly advised the Pope to introduce the Code Napoleon, and to secularize the Government. Not only the Emperor of the French, but the Emperor of Austria has agreed at Villafanca that reforms in the Roman States 1219 are required. What, then, is the harm in my venturing to say, that if the state of Italy is to be improved reforms in the temporal Government of the Pope are especially required? Again, the right hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last also said that I stated that the Italians should be free citizens of a great country; and that, therefore, I mean that Italy should be republican. No such consequence follows. The words, "free citizens of a great country," were used by the Emperor of the French in his proclamation at Milan, and he is not so violent a republican that he would wish to propagate republicanism in the different States of Italy. But what has been the conduct of the Italians themselves? I know what unfortunately happened in 1848 and 1849; but during 1858 and 1859 have they shown themselves, even when everything was in their favour, disposed to push popular liberty to excess? So far from that, their conduct has attracted, and deserves to attract, the admiration of all Europe; because, although they have wished to reform their Governments, and at Bologna have gone so far as to proclaim the Code Napoleon, anything more temperate than the conduct of the Italians, or less like violent republicanism no country has ever shown. But the hon. Gentleman makes an inquiry with regard to the Duchies. Now, all I can say upon that subject is, to repeat what I have formerly said, that there is an ambiguous sentence—a very obscure article—in the preliminaries of Villafranca, perhaps to be explained in the treaty of Zurich. But we have reason to believe that neither the Emperor of the French nor the Emperor of Austria have in contemplation the use of force in order to procure the restoration of the Grand Duke of Tuscany or the Duke of Modena. The Emperor of the French has more than once declared it, and by despatches which I have received to-day it appears that Count Rechberg, the Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, declares his belief that in a little time, and with some patience, the people of Tuscany and Modena will be glad of their own accord to receive back their former Sovereigns. Of course Her Majesty's Government can have no objection if it is their own wish to receive back their former Sovereigns. But I must say that if, on the other hand, changing their purpose, because it would be a change of purpose, these Sovereigns or either of them were to attempt to use force, that attempt 1220 would be the source of infinite troubles in Italy, would be the recommencement, not only of the sufferings of past years, but the recommencement of new struggles; and no one could see what would be the evils, what would be the outrages, what would be the crimes, that might be committed in the course of these struggles. To such a policy Her Majesty's Government would be bound to object, and it would not be necessary to go into a Conference for that purpose. The objection could be made at any time by a formal communication to the Governments concerned. Now, I say that it is not necessary to go into a Conference for that purpose, and the House knows that so far from being fanatical for a Conference, I see more objections against it than reasons in its favour. All I say is, that it is one of the means that may be employed to attain a settlement, and that this House ought not to bar us against the use of that or any other means by which peace may be secured and the condition of Italy improved. The hon. Gentleman was very curious in asking me some fifteen or twenty questions with respect to what passed between me and the French Ambassador just before the conclusion of the armistice and peace of Villafranca; and with regard to all those questions, I think an answer will be best conveyed by stating what happened upon that occasion. The French Ambassador had frequently spoken to me of different terms of peace, if fortune favoured the arms of France, which he thought, after a considerable period of war, might be proposed. I listened to these views and said, "But it is not likely that either the Emperor of the French or the Emperor of Austria will be prepared to make peace at this time, and therefore any consideration of such terms should be postponed." But he brought to me one day a written piece of paper, containing some few articles very short and brief, and said it was the wish of his Government that those terms should be submitted, with the sanction of the British Government, to the Emperor of Austria. He said he felt assured, although he could not give me an official assurance of it, that those were terms which would be approved by the Emperor of the French; and that he knew enough—and I could not but believe his statement—to enable him to say, that if those terms were accepted by the Emperor of Austria, the Emperor of the French would be ready to sanction them. It happened to me at that moment to be going to a Cabinet Council, and I 1221 immediately communicated what he had said to my colleagues, and they one and all said that we could not make a formal recommendation of any such terms; that the period at which we could either propose to mediate or offer our good offices had not arrived; but that as these terms were certainly more moderate on the part of the Emperor of the French than by his proclamation one would have supposed he would offer, it would not be right to conceal them from the Austrian Government. They, therefore, commissioned me to give the paper containing those terms to the Austrian Minister in this country. I communicated them to him on the same night. The hon. Gentleman now asks what Prussia said. Why, Prussia said nothing whatever, because I never spoke to the Minister of Prussia, or had any communication with Berlin on the subject. And if he asks what Russia said, I should give the same answer. Russia said nothing, because I had no communication with the Minister or Government of Russia; but when I had communicated those terms to the Austrian Minister, he said, "It will be my duty to send this immediately to my Government; but let me know first, in what character you propose them." So I said—"We, the English Government, transmit them to you, in order that the Emperor of Austria may know on what terms, as we believe, he may have peace, if he is ready to agree to them; but as to any advice, we distinctly declare that we offer no advice. The Emperor of Austria may accept or refuse the terms. We merely desire that he should know what are the terms upon which we think peace may be obtained." Well, he said afterwards, "I do not believe that my Government will accept those terms; but, supposing that they were acceptable, and that I got an answer to say that Austria was ready to treat upon these basis, what then?" So I said, that if that happened, there would be little difficulty, because if we once knew that Austria was ready to treat upon these bases, we could offer them ourselves as mediators, or in any other character that Austria would prefer; and if she would prefer it, I would then speak to the Minister of Prussia; or, if you like, I would speak to the Minister of Prussia and the Minister of Russia and inform them of the terms, and there would then be no difficulty in proposing them as the bases. "Sir, I conceive that it was my duty not to conceal from Austria the fact that peace might be obtained upon these 1222 bases; and if the English Government had positively refused to do so, and the Emperor of the French, not wishing to treat directly, had been able to push his conquests further; if Peschiera had fallen, if Verona had fallen, if Venice had fallen, and worse terms had been proposed, what then would have happened if I held more favourable terms in my hand? What then would have been said of the British Government which had taken upon itself to conceal those more favourable terms from the Emperor of Austria and his Government? Well, Sir, this was on a Wednesday, and on the Monday I received a private note from Count Apponyi, stating that his Government considered that these propositions were quite inadmissible. I do not find fault with the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Seymour FitzGerald) for making a confusion in the story as it is probable that he has heard it very inaccurately, and has repeated it only as he heard it; but at that time, on that very day, there was a further proposal made by my noble Friend the French Minister, containing a smaller number of articles—I think four only—and which the French Government again requested us to communicate to Austria, and to communicate with the view of recommending them. My noble Friend and I considered this proposal, and resolved to ask our colleagues what was their opinion of it. On the same evening, however, it was that I received the note to which I have alluded, and consequently on the next day there could be no doubt or difficulty in the Cabinet, because we all said that we did not mean to propose to Austria terms upon which she was not ready to treat as a basis. Those terms did not differ in substance, though they might in degree, from those which we had seen before, and we could never recommend to Austria terms upon which she had already declared that she would not treat. That was our conduct towards the Austrian Government. I think in this statement the hon. Gentleman will find an answer to all his questions. It is a very plain story, and it is one upon which the Government is prepared to stand. The hon. Gentleman referred to the apparent inconsistency between the statements of the two Emperors as confirming his suggestions; but he should remember that there is much difficulty in the way of communication by telegraph, and likewise that as there is a difficulty for neutral Powers to know the intentions of the belligerents, so there is 1223 often a great difficulty in the belligerent Powers knowing what is going on among the neutrals. It certainly did so happen that while on the one side the Emperor of Austria said that the neutral Powers were considering a plan of mediation which would have been more severe to him than the terms of peace he actually obtained directly from the Emperor of the French, at the same time the Emperor of the French said that if he had not made peace the German Powers were so hostile to him that in a very short time he would have had to make war upon the Rhine. Well, Sir, that was a statement on both sides rather of apprehensions than of facts. It might never have happened that the neutral Powers would have proposed any mediation at all. They had never agreed on any basis of mediation; they had never seriously discussed the terms of mediation. Prussia, indeed, had made some proposition of terms, and the hon. Gentleman found fault with me for not communicating those terms to Austria. But the fact was that the Prussian Minister, when he read those terms to me, took his despatch away again, and particularly desired it to be considered as confidential, and one of which he did not wish a copy to be left in the office or communicated to the Government. To revert again, however, to the state of things which existed when peace was made. The Emperor of the French thought that war was impending upon the Rhine, and that that was the future which he had to meet. The Emperor of Austria thought that the neutral Powers were considering terms of mediation, and these apprehensions—not any certain knowledge, because there were no facts upon which that knowledge could be founded—did operate upon their minds, and they used them as justifications for the peace which they made. I must say, Sir, that, so far from thinking that we are deeply responsible if we in any way unintentionally contributed to this result, I should greatly rejoice if our position was such—if our attitude was such, that it induced those great Powers to make peace, and not to prolong that sanguinary war which, had it been continued, would, I am persuaded, have had no result, either for the benefit of Italy or of mankind, which would have made amends for the blood shed and the mischief done in its course. Therefore, although we can claim no credit for the peace—although our mediation did not produce it, and although I think that the right hon. Gentleman is mistaken 1224 in supposing that the transmission of those terms induced the Emperor of Austria to conclude the treaty, and give up Lombardy, I do rejoice that peace was made, and I think that the future of Italy and the future of Europe will be far better provided for by councils of peace, whether they are the councils of Governments or the councils of peoples—whether they are conducted by diplomatic correspondence or by conference—than could have been accomplished by the continuance of the late war. Now, Sir, with regard to that future, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham says that while I spoke of the rights of the peoples of Tuscany and Modena, I omitted to notice the rights of the Sovereigns who reign over them. I am afraid that in the eyes of the hon. Gentleman I am a great heretic in that respect, because, although I have a great respect for Sovereigns who have for generations maintained themselves on their thrones, and received the loyal respect of their subjects, I have no belief in the doctrine, such as the University of Cambridge once affirmed, which gives to the Sovereign an inherent right to reign that no fault can alter or diminish. I cannot subscribe to a doctrine of that kind, and if I look to the Sovereigns of Europe I see many of them who could never subscribe to the doctrine that a people have no right upon fault or upon offence to declare that they will no longer give their obedience to a Sovereign who has not afforded them protection and who has rightly forfeited their allegiance. To take the latest instance first, the King of the Belgians owes his crown to a popular revolution. Such too, though at a more remote date, is the foundation of the right of the King of Holland, who owes his thrown to a popular revolt against the Crown of Spain. Such is the foundation of the right of the King of Sweden, to whose crown there is even now a pretender. Such, in fact, is the right of the Emperor of the French to his throne. If the right of legitimacy were to prevail, who but the Duke of Bordeaux could claim the allegiance of the people of France? Yet they pay no allegiance to him, but yield their willing submission to the Emperor who now rules over them. Such, likewise, is the foundation of the right of our own dynasty. Our Sovereign can claim no right to the allegiance of her people superior to that derived from the decision of the Parliament and people of Great Britain that the Throne was forfeited by the House 1225 of Stuart, in consequence of their violation of the rights of the people and their withdrawing from the country over which they reigned. If such is the case, is Italy, I would ask, to be the only country the people of which are to be debarred from the exercise of this power? Are the people of Italy, who as I have said have shown themselves so moderate and so just in their proceedings, who have committed no outrages, who have taken part in no violence, who have borne their part in these changes with so much of the dignity of freemen—are they to be deprived of that right, of that power which has been exercised in Belgium, in Holland, in Sweden, in France, and in Great Britain? I cannot be a party to denying them that right. On the contrary, I believe that if you allow the people of Italy to settle their own concerns,—and that is the doctrine which my noble Friend and myself have always held in this House, especially during the whole course of the present Session—if you allow the people of Italy, whether they have hitherto lived under the rule of the King of Sardinia or of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, or of the Duke of Modena, under the Pope, or under the King of the Two Sicilies, to settle with their Sovereigns on what terms they shall pay their allegiance, there will no longer exist the irritation and discontent which have long prevailed, but they will proceed with peace and order to establish the foundations of good government. With respect to our conduct in these matters, I have no wish to interfere prematurely or to keep up a constant intervention in the affairs of other nations, but at the same time I cannot forget the history of my country. I cannot be blind to her greatness, nor can I forget her duties. She has duties to Europe as she has duties to her own people. I cannot believe in that at which my right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud seemed to hint, a new fantastic policy by which this country should separate herself, as it was supposed physically to be separated in Roman times, from the whole world, and attend merely to her internal affairs. I believe that if she did that, if she forgot her duties, if she refused her advice and her counsels, when that advice and those counsels were required, while in the first instance her conduct would be injurious to other nations, while in the second place it would lead to the preponderance of some great Power, and to the consequent injury and detriment of the people of Europe, it 1226 would end in the loss of that very independence which by such selfish means we had endeavoured to maintain.
§ MR. DISRAELI
—Sir, having been alluded to by more than one hon. Gentleman in the course of the debate, it is hardly possible for me to be altogether silent; but at this late hour I shall not detain the House at any length by the observations I have to offer. And to touch in order on the allusions which have been made to me, I will commence with the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman charges me with having violated neutrality in two distinct forms, and with having, at the same time, made an intimation in my place in Parliament, as a responsible Minister of the Crown, of a most important character which I was not justified in offering to the House. He says that while we professed to be the advocates of strict and impartial neutrality, it was I myself who first violated that neutrality, because I spoke in terms of great respect of Austria, while on the other hand I spoke of Sardinia in language which conveyed a different sentiment. Now, Sir, let us see whether there is any foundation for this charge. I have not referred to the authentic record of what took place on that occasion, but the time that has elapsed is so brief, that I think I may trust to my own memory, and perhaps to the recollection of the House—for though it was in a different Parliament, many hon. Members who were then present are present now, and will be able to testify to the accuracy of my statement. It was on the night when it was my duty to lay before the House, in compliance with the engagement of the late Ministry, a statement of our relations with Austria and Sardinia, and as to the prospect of maintaining peace between France and Austria then threatened. In giving an account of the negotiations, I had occasion to speak of Sardinia, and I remember that I spoke of the gallant and interesting effort made by that country to establish representative Government, and what are called liberal institutions in Italy. I said that was an effort which had enlisted the feelings—the good feelings—of all classes of Her Majesty's subjects, and that her subsequent conduct as our Ally in the Crimea had increased that feeling, and sealed the sympathy which this country naturally entertained for her. I then went on to say that during the interval which had elapsed be- 1227 tween the Crimean war and the period at which I was then speaking, much perhaps had happened in her conduct which was perplexing and ambiguous, but that nevertheless I felt convinced that this country would place upon those perplexed and ambiguous passages the most generous interpretation, as Her Majesty's Government had done. Well, Sir, can that be called an attack upon Sardinia? Is there any man here who will for a moment pretend that in the interval which elapsed between the capture of Sebastopol and the negotiations which preceded the Italian war there was nothing perplexing or ambiguous in the conduct of Sardinia? At any rate, among the hon. Members present there is one who cannot say so, and that is the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who himself has acknowledged and deplored those very passages in the conduct of Sardinia in fostering dissensions in the dominions of her neighbours to which I referred. That, I think, is a complete answer to the charge of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the want of impartiality in the late Government towards Sardinia. With regard to the expressions on which the Chancellor of the Exchequer founded another charge—namely, of partiality towards Austria—in speaking of the late negotiations, it was my duty to say that Austria had behaved "in a spirit of dignified conciliation." Can anybody read the papers laid on the table and deny the accuracy of that statement? It is the sentiment of the Earl Cowley, but expressed by him in much stronger language, reiterated by Her Majesty's Envoy to Vienna on every occasion, and it is a fair description of the conduct of an ally who in almost every instance deferred to our opinion and who was mainly guided by our advice. And though I myself have never ceased to regret, and have never attempted to conceal my regret at the act by which Austria practically commenced the war, still that act had not occurred when I was addressing the House, and a fair and accurate description of the conduct of Austria towards the English Government was given by the phrase of which I made use, "a spirit of dignified conciliation." So much for these expressions which, quoted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer without the context and without reference to the facts, do not, I think, furnish a very substantial basis for the charge which he has made. But, says the Chancellor of the Exchequer, you on that night absolutely told the House that 1228 you still believed that peace would be maintained, while shortly afterwards war was declared. Now, Sir, what were the circumstances under which I addressed the House that night? It was one of the most critical passages of the negotiations. Austria had insisted on the preliminary disarmament of Sardinia as a condition of maintaining peace. That was generally thought an unreasonable request; it was not favoured by the British Government; but Austria insisted upon it, and we made use of our influence to recommend it to the consideration of France. That evening—I will not say concurrently with my speaking, because after the severe criticism of to-night that word may be objected to—I will not say a few minutes, but absolutely a few seconds before I rose, my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. S. FitzGerald) came into the House and placed in my hands a telegram to this effect from Lord Cowley,—"Count Walewski has written in the most urgent terms to impress upon Count Cavour the acceptance of the principle of preliminary disarmament, and he is most sanguine of the result." I certainly think I was justified, on the receipt of the telegram, bound as I was to speak with the utmost frankness, to say to the House that there was still more than a fair prospect of maintaining peace. That was on the 18th—as the Chancellor of the Exchequer more than once reminded us—and on the 19th a second telegram came from Her Majesty's Ambassador in Paris, or rather from Count Walewski to the Duke of Malakhoff announcing that Sardinia, in deference to the urgent entreaties of France, had acceded to the preliminary principle of disarmament. Was there not then more than a fair prospect of maintaining peace, and did not these things fully justify the expressions which I used? The Chancellor of the Exchequer to-night has not addressed himself to the question really before the House. He has made one of his eloquent and able speeches, but he entirely evaded the practical question which is under our consideration, to which my hon. Friend near me (Mr. S. FitzGerald), and the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Horsman) have strictly addressed themselves. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has considered every point connected with Italy except just that point which now occupies our attention. He has poured forth a stream of romantic rhetoric over a subject which is certainly susceptible of that style of treatment, but that is not the question 1229 we have to consider. He has indeed frankly placed his Italian policy before the House. That I admit. The right hon. Gentleman entirely disapproves the settlement made forty-five years ago. I cannot venture now to go into such a question. It would be really absurd to attempt to treat that question on what is practically the last night of the Session, but it is of great importance that we should learn to-night that a Minister of the Crown, and a Minister of authority, entertains upon this subject views so large and so decided, and which must, of course, influence him in the counsel which he offers to his Sovereign. If these views are shared by his colleagues, if that is the predominant opinion of the Cabinet, we may ask—is it to carry that policy into effect, to terminate the settlement of forty-five years ago, that you are now proposing to enter into this Congress? Well, Sir, if that be their policy, if they are now convinced, after long and mature deliberation, prompted and stimulated by the vast and startling events which have recently happened, that the time has come when they must erase from the political table that settlement of forty-five years ago, let me ask them, are they going to carry their intended result into effect in a manner which is likely to lead to a satisfactory settlement? You are going to put an end, as far as Italy is concerned, to the arrangement of the Congress of Vienna by availing yourselves of the basis of the preliminaries of Villafranca. That appears at once to be a weak if not perilous course. Do you believe that the preliminaries of Villafranca can be moulded and modified under your influence, in a manner that will carry your now avowed policy into effect? That is the practical question. The noble Lord, the First Minister, who has often addressed us on this subject, recently speaking in opposition, and in a guarded manner, admitted, before the war commenced, that, as far as Austria was concerned, the treaties of Vienna ought to be observed. Since then he has freed himself from the trammels of that tradition, and I believe I am but fairly representing his general policy as to Italy when I describe its tendency to be the cancelling the settlement made forty five years ago. Now, we have the right hon. Gentleman a third Minister of the Crown speaking in unison with the noble Lord on this subject. Their policy with regard to Italy is now distinctly announced. Well, if a Congress is held, what with these views pursued by 1230 the Government are the prospects of this country? Assuming that the two Emperors who have signed the preliminaries of peace at Villafranca may succeed in carrying them substantially into effect—our presence to assist them in that result—our presence to help to restore the expelled Princes to their dominions—our presence to interfere in some arrangement in the Papal States, and aid in creating a confederation of which his Holiness is to be the head—our presence in the Congress for these objects and with such results would not tend to increase our reputation. But suppose we, with a high hand, recommend that decided course which the French Emperor in his proclamation appeared to have adopted. What should we be prepared to do to carry that policy into effect? Are we prepared to go to war to free Italy from Austria, "from the Alps to the Adriatic?" If you are not prepared to go to war what are you prepared for? These views I have no doubt have occurred to hon. Members on both sides the House and to the country and have caused that feeling of uneasiness with which the meeting of a Congress is contemplated, because the practical result will probably be that it will end by leaving us at war either with France or Austria, or perhaps with both powers. It is the fear of such a result that makes men uneasy at the possibility of this contemplated Congress. The noble Lord says, it is not for the late Government to speak of hazardous engagements into which this country may enter, as we had committed ourselves to a guarantee so rash as that by which we offered to secure Sardinia, for a term of five years, against any attack by Austria. That the noble Lord described as a rash and dangerous engagement. Well, only the other night the First Minister of the Crown described it as the most futile engagement that any Government ever offered to enter into; as one in which we should bear nothing of the burden of danger; that we intended to throw all the burden on France, and he was not surprised France refused to enter into such a guarantee. Now, these two descriptions of our intended policy do not tally. But what, after all, was the danger of the guarantee we proposed? It was a joint guarantee by which France and Great Britain, the two most powerful military and maritime countries in the world, were to engage to secure Sardinia for a limited term of five years from any attack by Austria. Can any one suppose 1231 that this was a guarantee we should ever have been called on to fulfil? Can we doubt that if that guarantee had been given Austria would have been prudent enough to keep within her boundaries? "But," says the noble Lord, "what can be more impolitic than this? Does it not stand to reason that if you guarantee Sardinia from attack for five years Sardinia will take advantage of the immunity and cause Austria every possible annoyance?" But the noble Lord forgot one most important condition of the guarantee—that Sardinia should disarm. The whole question! It was the only condition by which the peace of Italy could be preserved. The noble Lord appears to have entirely misconceived the character of the engagement, and ascribed to it a character quite different from that given it by the First Minister of the Crown, speaking a few nights ago. The noble Lord also addressed himself to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. FitzGerald); that hon. Member made a speech to-night, following the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of a different character from that of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman has charmed us by his eloquence, to which we are accustomed, but which burst forth to-night with unusual brilliancy. But unfortunately, or rather adroitly, he did not throw the coruscations of his genius on the subject under discussion. But the hon. Member for Horsham did address himself to that subject with a precision and power which showed that he not only thoroughly understood the question he was treating, but the points upon which the House has a right to require information from Her Majesty's Government. He has told us of a great number of questions the noble Lord has found it convenient not to remember. But it was impossible for the noble Lord not to allude to the important despatch of the 7th of July; he went into that point with an exuberance of detail; his description was of an unexpected interest. On a former evening the First Minister of the Crown gave a curt relation of how the small written piece of paper was received in silence and without comment offered. But to-night the noble Lord has entered into a great deal of interesting detail, ample, full, and quite explanatory of every point except the one on which the House required information. The noble Lord now tells us that, instead of the document having been given without any comment to the Austrian Mi- 1232 nister, considerable conversation and some discussion took place. He did not tell us whether, when it was received from the French Ambassador, it was not received with some expression of approbation that, when reported, might have given rise to that singular misconception that took place at Villafranca, and had such a momentous effect on the destinies of the world. On that point he said nothing. What we wanted, and what we still want, is some explanation of the mysterious conduct that led to the sudden peace of Villafranca, and the present position of all other countries in relation to Italy. Did the Government give any approval to the project contained in that piece of paper, and was that approval communicated by the rapid means of communication which now exist to the Emperor of the French? That was the point on which we required information, and obtained none, though on certain points of his narrative the noble Lord became even garrulous. Now, the question the House has before it is really most important, and one that in its consequences may affect the destinies of every country in a manner beyond calculation. It is this:—Is it, or is it not, the interest of this country, at the present moment and under present circumstances, to enter into any Congress to consider the affairs of Italy? What we want to know from the Government is this—is it part of their policy to encourage and favour the meeting of a European Congress to take into consideration the affairs of Italy generally, with the view of interfering in those affairs in a manner which may bring about the changes that are avowed and recommended in the Italian policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? That is the interference which the country fears. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says, "You have no right to declaim against interference; look at this book, it is a memorial of your interference." Well, that observation only proves to me that the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not ascribe an accurate idea to the word "non-interference." That phrase does not mean that a great State at a moment of European disquietude and trouble should refrain from giving its counsels and exercising its moral influence to prevent war, and, if possible, to restore tranquillity. No one supposes for a moment that when a country objects to a policy of interference it intends to say that its Sovereign is never to have recourse to those means which may prevent public dis- 1233 aster and general danger. In objecting to a policy of interference we protest against the use of our arms in order to settle the internal dissensions of other countries. If the Ministers say, "Well, but attending the Congress is doing exactly what you recommend; it is using our moral influence;" my answer is, "If you recommend a certain course and give certain counsels, the result of which, if followed, may be to secure the tranquillity of Europe, you are not interfering in an objectionable manner, but are only doing your duty as statesmen; but if you go into a Congress in the circumstances under which, from the articles of Villafranca or from the Treaty of Zurich, such a Congress must take place, you must be prepared for action or for nothing. If you go into the Congress for nothing—only to give good advice—you may as well give it in a despatch; but, if you enter that Congress to recommend a policy you are prepared to enforce, you are interfering in the internal concerns of a foreign country in a manner that will necessarily involve great risk, may lead to large expenditure, and perhaps to a war, the termination of which it is not very easy to foresee." I cannot, therefore, agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, because we have carried on negotiations with the object of preserving peace, we have been acting against that principle of non-interference, which I say may be violated, or seriously endangered, by attending a Congress. Now, with regard to the Motion before the House, I was very much surprised to hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that a great party debate or a great party struggle was to take place this evening; and I was the more surprised when I observed, in the first place, a Motion, and secondly, an Amendment, both of which appeared to have been proposed without any consultation, and without the knowledge of those whose opinion, when party struggles and debates occur, are generally supposed to be taken on the subject. With respect to the Motion of the noble Lord (Lord Elcho), I can truly say that I never heard of it until some time after it had been announced in this House, for I was not present when the notice was given. I cannot say that even when the Motion was shown to me I approved it. I considered that there were objections to its form. I listened, however, with interest to the vindication of that form, and of the language in which it is expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham. I 1234 thought his vindication was true at first; but when he came to the last reason in favour of it, and when he said that had they been on the other side of the House, and the question of neutrality had been raised, the noble Lord the first Minister and the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary would have supported such a Motion, I confess I was a little mistaken in my hon. Friend's growing conviction on the subject; because, however eminent are the qualities of these noble Lords, I had considered that when in Opposition there had uniformly been in their conduct a tendency to faction, from which I trust we shall always be exempt. I must say, therefore, that the objections I felt to the form of the Motion have not been altogether removed. I entertain, however, much stronger objections to the Motion of the noble Lord than those merely with regard to its form. The Motion is one of the most important—if not the most important—that can well be framed. It really touches the whole foreign policy of the country, and if discussed as it deserves, it would require some nights of very earnest and protracted debate. The result, if the Motion was carried, would have a very serious effect upon the position of the Ministry. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman who treated the Motion as one which might even affect the existence of the Government, and it seems to me that, from its nature and possible consequences, it is not a theme which ought to be introduced to the notice of the House on what is practically the last night of the Session. It does not appear to me that a question of such a nature should have been brought forward at a moment when the House, even if it were in a position, either with regard to inclination or numbers, to do justice to the subject, must necessarily arrive at a hurried and precipitate conclusion. I objected to the form of the Motion when it was first proposed, and it was quite possible that if an Amendment had been suggested, or if the noble Lord had been applied to, he might have modified his Motion as to expression and form in such a manner as might have secured for it general assent. The Motion was, however, postponed, owing to causes which we all regret; and we are now asked to pronounce an opinion upon it on what is practically the last night of the Session. Under these circumstances I trust the noble Lord will not press his Motion to a division. The noble Lord has obtained an object of the utmost importance. It would, I think, have been very unfortu- 1235 nate, and perhaps injurious, had there not been a discussion upon the present position of the country with respect to its external relations before the prorogation of Parliament. The discussion which has taken place has, at all events, elicited the opinions of many of the leading members of the Government, and although it would be folly to conceal from ourselves that the general bias of the Government is evidently in favour of a Congress on the state of Italian affairs, if it can be brought about, I am still bound to say that they have frankly admitted the difficulties which present themselves. I tremble myself at what may happen during the interval that must elapse between the prorogation and the meeting of the House again, if, unfortunately, my expectations on this subject should be disappointed. I confess that, even if there were no other reason, I am most anxious that the Government should leave the Pope alone. From the determined policy upon that subject of the noble Lord opposite, I look forward to an autumn, and, perhaps, a winter, of the most disagreeable character. I remember the confusion which the noble Lord created on a former occasion. I remember how our hopes of the tranquillity which we looked forward to in the bosom of our families—and from the change of pursuits which we had a right to anticipate after a long Parliamentary campaign—were disappointed. I remember the numerous county meetings that took place, and the memorials and petitions that were adopted. I look back to the disquietude which we experienced during that contemplated epoch of relaxation almost with horror, and I do trust that the noble Lord will deem it much better to leave His Holiness in the position he at present occupies, with the articles of Villafranca to arrange his future position, than to take in hand that great measure of reformation which he has so often recommended. What has alarmed me most upon this subject is, however, the zealous and the somewhat unexpected adhesion which has been given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to this anti-Papal crusade. The right hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to impress upon Parliament, upon the country, and upon Europe, that the Pope would really exercise a much greater influence if we should deprive him by a Congress of all his dominions. I would remind the Chancellor of the Exchequer that that is the argument which the Dissenters always use when they propose to despoil the Church of England. Only 1236 take away all her endowments they say, and depend upon it the influence of the Church will so greatly increase that she will never for a moment suffer. I am sorry that we have heard that expression from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because I feel convinced, considering, too, that in this House he sits beside the noble Lord, and that both of them are men of ardent temperament, that if they attempt to destroy the Pope in the interval between the prorogation and the reassembling of Parliament we shall have as hard a time of it as His Holiness himself. It is to be desired, then, for this if for no other reason, that the contemplated Congress on Italian affairs may not take place. Let the two signatories of the preliminary articles at Villafranca meet with their Ministers at Zurich. Let us see them work out their sketch. Let us have the finished picture. It is an operation which we may view with interest and instruction. And if it be necessary that we should ultimately put our hand to it, depend upon it, if we now exhibit a proper and dignified reserve, we shall interfere with immensely more effect when the rulers of France and Austria, if they fail, have confessed their inability to make a settlement, and when they appeal to us not to extricate them from the consequences of the rash engagements into which they have entered, but to step forward to secure the peace of Europe and the general cause of civilization.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, I am not going to dispute with the right hon. Gentleman on the part of my noble Friend and myself as to who has the merit of having been the least factious while sitting on the Opposition benches. At the same time I am bound to acquit the right hon. Gentleman of anything like factious opposition on the present occasion, because he has very fairly stated the insurmountable objections he entertains to the Motion of the noble Lord. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his candour, because those who have preceded him in the debate on his own side of the House—the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. S. FitzGerald) and the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside)—took a very different view of the question. They, and especially the late Under Secretary, said, "We think this is a proper Resolution to be carried. We are of opinion that it is essential to prevent the Government from going into any conference." But the course of the debate and his reflection on the speeches of my right hon. and noble Friends have 1237 worked such a conviction in his mind that he gets up at the close of the discussion, throws over his friends, negatives the Motion of the noble Lord, and is perfectly satisfied that it is improper alike in form and in substance, in time and occasion. The right hon. Gentleman was, however, not quite so successful in answering the observations of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon the passage of a speech that he made in the last Session of Parliament. My right hon. Friend, adverting to the interpretation endeavoured to be put by some hon. Members on the term "neutrality"—an interpretation which, not confining the word to its ordinary acceptation of an abstinence from taking part in a war between belligerents, but extending it from action to thought, and from thought to expression—and accusing the present Government of departing from neutrality because they have opinions as to what may be best for the welfare of the people of Italy; my right hon. Friend, I say, stated that the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to which he belonged had sinned, if it were a sin, still more in that direction than we have been accused of doing. As an example of that, he quoted the expressions used by the right hon. Gentleman on the day preceding the dissolution of Parliament, when he, on full preparation, professed to give to the House a statement of the condition of our foreign relations. The right hon. Gentleman then commented on the ambiguous and suspicious conduct of Sardinia on the one hand, and on the dignified conciliation of Austria on the other. Now, about the time when he thus praised the dignified conciliation of Austria our Government was in possession of a communication from the Austrian Minister informing them that the Austrian Government was sending to Turin that very summons with a conditional threat of hostilities, which a week afterwards the Earl of Derby, at the Lord Mayor's dinner, declared put Austria in the position of a "criminal." But the right hon. Gentleman says, "Oh, no; the intimation was that Sardinia was to disarm only as a preliminary to the Congress," and he added that he received a few seconds before he rose a communication from Paris stating that the French Government were enforcing that recommendation, and that there were good grounds for expecting that Sardinia would give way, and that the peace of Europe would be maintained—that the French and the British Go- 1238 vernments recommended that which Austria was demanding,—namely, that Sardinia should accept the general principle of disarmament as a process to be gone through by all the Powers concerned previous to entering the Congress. Well, but what was it that Austria demanded? Why, that Sardinia singly should disarm in the first place, and trust to her generosity afterwards to abstain from attacking her—that abstinence, however, to continue only as long as the negotiations continued. Her threat was that unless within three days the acquiescence of Sardinia was given, Austria would declare war against her. The right hon. Gentleman must have known, or ought to have known, at the moment he made that statement that such a notice had been given by Austria to the Sardinia Government, and with such knowledge, to say that the conduct of Austria was that of dignified conciliation implied such a partisanship with Austria that it is impossible, according to his own doctrine of neutrality, to maintain that his Government was neutral in the sense of a strict and impartial neutrality. The right hon. Gentleman asks further questions in addition to those which my noble Friend has answered. He desires to know whether, when the French Ambassador gave them that memorandum, which was afterwards conveyed by my noble Friend to the Austrian Minister any approbation of its terms was expressed by my noble Friend to his Excellency, because he says, if the British Government expressed to the French Government approbation of those terms, then we are answerable for the result, and for the Peace of Villafranca. Now, in the first place, my noble Friend made no such statement. He said to the French Ambassador, "I will take the paper and communicate it to the Austrian Minister, but I will give no advice and no opinion; I will simply be the channel of communication." But if the British Government had expressed an opinion strongly in favour of those conditions, and had undertaken to support them at Vienna, the natural and necessary consequence would have been that the Emperor of the French would not have been disposed at Villafranca to propose to the Emperor of Austria more favourable terms than those which he had been led to imagine the British Government would support, and would induce Prussia and Russia to support in conjunction with her. Therefore, with regard to that, the statement is perfectly consistent 1239 with that which I made when the question was put to me some time ago. At this late hour of the night I shall not go into the general question, but I must be allowed to say to my noble Friend who made the Motion, that this is the most extraordinary composition I ever read. He proposes that this House shall resolve, that whereas the Government of Great Britain did all it could to prevent war, and during the war did all it could to bring about a peace, on that account it should abstain from taking any part in the negotiations after the peace for the purpose of making that peace more satisfactory, more durable, and better for the interests of all parties concerned. That appears to me to be what I should call a non sequitur. I should have argued just it) the opposite way, and should have maintained that the same spirit which had led the Government of England to endeavour to prevent the war, and when it was commenced to put and end to it, should be followed out on proper occasions when the terms of peace were not complete, and the arrangements of importance were not settled. I should have, on the contrary, inferred that it would be useful to take part under such circumstances in arrangements of that kind when we were invited to do so by other great Powers. Then, my noble Friend says that that being the case—the British Government having been anxious to prevent war and afterwards to put an end to it, it would be contrary to the honour and dignity of England—to do what? Why, to endeavour to take any part in settling the details of the treaty concluded by the two Emperors at Villafranca. The only inference to be drawn from the Motion is that the Emperor of Austria and the Emperor of the French are persons with whom the British Government ought to have no transactions whatever. My noble Friend has said that he drew the Resolution himself. I am sorry if it be so, and I think that if he had taken the advice of the right hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) or of some of those who sit opposite, he would have presented to the House a Motion a little better shaped and more calculated, at all events, to receive the support of those who agree with him in his general views. But we are told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks that we are proposing to go into a Conference for unsettling the arrangements of 1815. Why, in the first place, we are not proposing to go into a Conference at all. It has simply been intimated to us that we may receive 1240 a proposal to go into a Conference, provided the other Powers concerned are ready to do so, and would like us to join them. To upset the arrangements of 1815 is also an object which it is impossible to imagine that the Powers who might concur with us in a Conference would unite to accomplish. No doubt there have been in the course of years great alterations made in the settlement of 1815. The annexation of the Kingdom of Poland to the Empire of Russia, instead of being made a separate dominion, was a great change in the arrangements of Vienna. So also was the annexation to Austria of the republic of Cracow. But when I enumerate these changes, I do not say that on that account other changes should be adopted, because we protested both in regard to Poland and in regard to Cracow. No doubt, moreover, the transfer of Lombardy, through France to Sardinia, is a change in the terms of the treaty of Vienna. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks makes it a reproach to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he thinks that the arrangement of Vienna has not tended to the happiness and welfare of the Italian peninsula. I entirely share that opinion. I think that though the settlement of Vienna in regard to Italy was devised at the time for a purpose which was deemed important, its object in that respect has not been accomplished, and other evil consequences have arisen which have produced years of misery and wretchedness to the unfortunate nations who inhabit that fair and fertile district. Before the war began, we said that the Government ought to have persuaded Austria to go into a Congress, and that one of the objects of that Congress ought to have been to maintain, in regard to the Austrian possessions in Italy, the arrangement of 1815. So long as peace was unbroken the provisions of the treaty of Vienna were to be respected by all the Powers of Europe; but when war put an end to treaties, as between the belligerents, the territories that were the scene and the cause of war naturally followed the fate of that war and passed from the worsted to the more triumphant party. It is evident that those who have spoken on the other side imagine that the British Government would go into a Conference with some view of altering still further the territorial possessions of Austria in Italy, of endeavouring to drive her out of Venetia, which the war has still left in her hands. Now, I have always maintained—and I maintain still—that 1241 although Austria has a strict right to her possessions in Italy, she would be stronger if she had no possessions in that country. Her possessions there, like the heel of Achilles, are her vulnerable point; they do not add to her strength, but expose her to attack; they are a source not only of military weakness, but of moral injury. In order to maintain a certain kind of government in her own territories, she thinks herself compelled to favour the same and even a worse kind of government in every other part of Italy, and she has consequently placed herself in the odious light of being believed to be the real cause of all the misgovernment and misery to which the different peoples of Italy are exposed. That is not an opinion of to-day or yesterday. A foreign friend reminded me the other day that fifteen years ago I told him that the Italian possessions of Austria were a source of weakness and not of strength. I believe that opinion to be a sound one, but it is one thing to hold an opinion, and another for a Government to enter into measures for the purpose of violently changing arrangements which are the foundation of treaties that form the basis of the European system. Still, if an opportunity should be presented to the British Government of doing good to Italy by means of a Conference, if by their advice and suggestions they should be able to confer lasting benefits upon the Italian people, and thereby add security to the peace of Europe—in that case, they would not be justifiable if they refused to join in a Conference with the other Powers. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks asked us whether we are going to deal with the Pope and the King of Naples. It is not likely that questions of that sort would be discussed in a Conference. We know that advice has already been given to the Pope to reform his Government, and so remove that discontent, the existence of which compels him to maintain in Rome and elsewhere foreign troops to support his authority. A statesman whose name I forgot once remarked that it is an unpleasant thing for a Sovereign to sit upon bayonets. The Pope is now in that disagreeable position, but I hope he will, of his own accord, select a more soft and solid support for his person and Government. I trust, then, that the House will not support the Motion which my noble Friend has submitted to its consideration. The hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater has met it in a most indulgent manner. I 1242 should have been perfectly prepared to give it a direct negative, for it is wrong in its form, its substance, and its opportunity, tending to fetter the discretion of the advisers of the Crown on some future occasion, and under circumstances which are at present unknown, because they are not in existence. I object to it also as unconstitutional in principle, and I should have objected to it as well on the other side of the House as this. I not do mean to say the House has not the power to give advice, or to make remonstrance when required, but it is not in accordance with the principles of the constitution that the House of Commons should interfere beforehand to prevent the House acting as it may deem wise. On every account, I repeat, I should have been prepared to negative the Motion of my noble Friend, but I shall content myself with voting for the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Kinglake).
§ LORD ELCHO
said, the best answer he could give to the noble Lord the First Minister, who thought his Motion wrong both in form and substance, was to refer to the expressed opinion of the Foreign Secretary, that the Motion was, in fact, a truism, and that no man in his senses could say that it would be consistent with the honour or dignity of England to go into a Conference merely to settle the details of the Treaty of Villafranca. Surely then there must be some difference of opinion in the Cabinet. The only complaint he could make was, not that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had exhibited any want of courtesy towards him, but that he had never read the Motion. That Motion applied simply to the details of the peace. It was said to be irrelevant. So perhaps it was now, but three weeks ago, when notice of it was given, he had reason to believe that the Government were about to commit the country to a Conference, and to settle the details of the peace. He had carefully guarded himself from the supposition, that if circumstances arose which he could not anticipate, he wished to preclude the Government from going into a Conference respecting the affairs of Italy. He was willing in that case to leave the discretion of entering such a Conference in the hands of the Government. And now what had been the result of this debate? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) had expressed a hope that he would be satisfied with the ample discussion which had taken place. But his Motion had resulted in more than 1243 this. The noble Lord the Foreign Secretary had admitted that as regarded the details of the peace it was a truism, and his noble Friend had also admitted, referring to the broader question, that he saw rather more reasons against the Conference than in favour of it. Now, believing it to be the wisest policy of England not to interfere in this question, he could not but think that the debate of that evening would exercise some influence on the mind of the Government respecting a Conference. He (Lord Elcho) was therefore satisfied with the result of the debate, and felt inclined to bow to the advice of the right hon. Gentleman opposite not to persist in his Motion. This was the 9th of August, and it would put the country to great inconvenience, if so close upon the 12th there was to be a change of Government. It was not his wish in pressing the Motion to exhibit any hostility towards the Government. He accepted, therefore, the Amendment of his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. A. W. Kinglake), whose speech as well as his Motion he was willing to accept.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ The House adjourned at a Quarter before Three o'clock.