HC Deb 08 July 1859 vol 154 cc888-9

I do not wish to revive the discussion which seemed to be terminated by the observations of the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, for I am sure that the noble Lord having stated that the correspondence with Prussia is still going on, the House will not press for its production, or even murmur at its non-production. At the same time, however, I am bound to state that the description which the noble Lord has given us of his own despatch is not altogether free from somewhat of an alarming character. It is quite clear that giving advice is interference, and if you profess a policy of nonintervention and at the same time indulge in giving advice to foreign Powers you will eventually find yourselves involved in engagements which you never contemplated. The noble Lord has quoted a depatch of my noble Friend the Earl of Malmesbury, which fairly described the general policy of the late Government, showing that they were in favour of a strict and impartial neutrality, but at the same time that they felt they were free to avail themselves of any favourable opportunity which might present itself for their becoming a medium to restore peace. The noble Lord gives his adhesion to a principle which I believe no hon. Gentleman will be inclined to impugn. But there is in the despatches of the Earl of Malmesbury another paragraph much more germane to the matter which has been brought under our notice this evening than the very general passage to which the noble Lord has referred in vindication of the course pursued by the present Government. While listening to the speech of the noble Lord there came to my recollection this sentence in a despatch of the Earl of Malmesbury to Sir James Hudson, dated the 20th of May:— Her Majesty's Government have done their utmost, within the bounds of friendly representation, to calm the excitement prevailing in Germany, but they have not felt themselves called upon or authorized to dissuade the German States from taking such measures as those States considered to be necessary for the maintenance of their several interests; for they could not assume the responsibility of even morally guaranteeing them against the eventualities of the Italian war." —p. 63. Now, if you sanction a policy which gives advice to neutral Powers, and in consequence of that advice those Powers take a particular course which may prove to them a disastrous one, you will find that you are involved in what is very happily and accurately called at least a moral guarantee as the consequence of your advice. I think, therefore, the House of Commons will do well to insist on the preservation of a strict neutrality, and not to favour the advice which the nobles Lord seems anxious to give to those Powers at present occupying, like ourselves the position of neutral States. I felt it my duty to call attention to the difference between the quotation made by the noble Lord and the principle laid down in the quotation which I have read, and which appears to me of such importance that the House ought jealously to watch over its observance.


I do not wish to enter again into this discussion, but I think it right to say that the right hon. Gentleman has taken far from a correct view of the course which Her Majesty's Government have pursued.

Motion agreed to.

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