HC Deb 19 April 1860 vol 157 cc1975-2002

, in calling the attention of the House to the state of our relations with foreign Powers and to ask some explanations on the subject from the Government, said:—Sir, I believe it is generally acknowledged that at the present moment the Government and nations of central Europe are more disturbed and alarmed than they have been since the beginning of the century. Every Continental country exposed to incursions from France is trembling with fear. England also has her interests to protect, her responsibilities to discharge, and her solemn engagements under stringent treaties are thickening and pressing upon her. Many anxious eyes are turned to England from the menaced States, inquiring their fate, which they feel to hang upon the fidelity of England to her engagements. Such are the feelings which pervade Europe at this moment. The nations are trembling, time is progressing, events are marching; and the very Power which is attempting to alter the face of Europe is making all speed to anticipate and shut out every possible combination for a successful resistance. In these circumstances I feel anxious, as far as I can do so without discussing the past policy of the Cabinet, or embarrassing pending negotiations, to ask for some explanations, which I hope and believe will tend to show that the Parliament and the Government of this country are of one mind as to our present position and duties; and that they may cordially and heartily unite in a direct, clear, and unmistakeable announcement of that which the world has a right to know—the policy which England, from a regard to her own interests and honour, is now determined to pursue in the face of these grave and threatening events. Just before the adjournment for the Easter recess there was laid on the table the reply of M. Thouvenel to a Despatch written by the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs on the 22nd of March. In that document the French Minister states that the Despatch of the English Cabinet to which he replies makes no change in the relations subsisting between the two Governments, and particularly that it conveys no protest against the annexation of Savoy. We have reason to believe that this interpretation of the Despatch of the 22nd of March is not acquiesced in by the British Cabinet; and the first question, therefore, which I wish to ask is whether the Despatch of M. Thouvenel has been replied to, and, if so, whether consistently with the public interest, a copy of the reply can be laid on the table? I would ask, further, what is the exact state now of the question of the annexation of Savoy? Is that question still in any way pending as a discussion between the two Governments, or do we leave it where M. Thouvenel in his last Despatch has placed it, and are we content to consider it a settled question, as to which nothing further can be said? My third and last question is one of still greater importance—one upon which not only have we to come to an understanding with our own Government, but upon which our Government should also come to an understanding with foreign Powers. It is this—what is the principle upon which our policy is to be conducted with reference to those treaty obligations which we have incurred in the general interest and for the common safety of Europe? Are we to set out by assuming that the aggressions of Prance in Savoy and Switzerland are mere accidental and exceptional occurrences, the adjustment of which will be followed by the re-establishment of peace, security, and confidence; or are we to take them, as we know they have been taken by the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, as indications and portions of a deliberate policy on the part of France, of which the logical consequences are to be looked for in the harassing and unsettling of other parts of Europe? This last question is important, because there has been an impression, produced by some of the earlier despatches and speeches of our Government, that the policy of England has alternated between these two views. When the Savoy difficulty first arose the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs addressed a Despatch, which was much approved and highly commended, to our Ambassador at Paris, in which he warned the Emperor of the French that the Savoy question was one interesting to the whole of Europe and calculated to create general alarm and apprehension. But from causes to which I need not now refer that question appears—perhaps only appears—to have subsided into a settlement in which Sardinia and France are the only Powers that are held to have an interest. The Swiss difficulty succeeded; and when it arose we felt there could be no doubt as to the consequences that would follow. The graver character of that aggression was announced authoritatively in this House. The noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, with a fervour which could not be mistaken, reminded us that the independence of Switzerland was a matter of European guarantee, and, describing in firm and forcible language the restless and encroaching policy of France, he gave us to understand, amid the acclamations of the House, that our close and special alliance with that aggressive Power had come to an end. But in a short time rumours were set afloat by those to whom this change of policy was unpalatable, and who desired to do what was agreeable to France, perhaps to promote what had been designed by France, that the question of the independence of Switzerland had also subsided into a mere local quarrel; that the parties to that quarrel had settled it out of court, and that a compromise had been effected, by which France was to take only a portion of what she had determined to seize, and Switzerland was to be allowed to retain the remainder. We have happily had since a complete refutation of these sinister rumours. But it was natural to suppose that a small State, threatened by an overpowering neighbour, and abandoned by those on whose support she had a right to rely, should very gladly make a compromise by surrendering part of her dominions to retain the rest. In those who look at these things from a mere mercantile point of view, this was a pardonable supposition; but those who so judged the Swiss very much mistook the character of that people. They are a brave and patriotic, although they may appear rather a primitive race, because they are so uncivilized that love of country, love of liberty, with them is still a passion; and so benighted that they have not yet learnt to put freedom into one scale and bales of merchandise into another, and to sell the soul of their nation for improved trade returns. As they are not reigned over by a Prince who is ready to abandon them, or governed by an unscrupulous Minister willing to barter them away like sheep, they may still escape the degradation which was designed for them, and the Government of England may not be a patty to a second crime. But I have said that M. Thouvenel states that the despatch of the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs did not amount to a protest. No one who reads the despatch can fail to see that the French Minister anxiously labours to establish that fact. He attaches great importance to it; but not more than it deserves, for it would be difficult to exaggerate the immense advantage which is given to the present policy and the future designs of France by the absence of a protest; and more difficult still to overrate the additional danger entailed upon Europe by the impunity allowed to the first open act of French territorial aggression. In passing I would make only one remark upon the despatch of the noble Lord—that I saw with regret that, when he stated so clearly, so forcibly, and so convincingly, the case against the Emperor of the French, he stopped short of the conclusion to which his own arguments so inevitably led. M. Thouvenel quickly declared that there was no protest. But why was there no protest? A protest was not only the natural conclusion to the noble Lord's own reasoning, but was the natural proceeding in the face of such an outrage on the public law and opinion of Europe? I have heard some persons say, "What is the use of a protest? If you do not mean to follow it up by action, it is only a confession of your anger and your weakness, meaning nothing and effecting nothing; and what an idle matter it is to protest at this time of day against the violation of the Treaties of 1815, after the violation of them has been so commonly permitted!" I demur to both of those conclusions as being entirely false. In the first place, with respect to a protest, I have always understood that, instead of a protest being a thing to be followed up by action, a protest was a substitute for action; and that it was when you are not prepared to follow up your objections by war that you made a protest, in order that your inaction might not be taken for acquiescence. The value of a protest is the value attached to it by the usages of Europe. A protest once entered against an Act is a precaution against the Act being established as a precedent, and a protest not entered is to be interpreted into acquiescence. Thus a protest becomes a matter of great importance, and not a mere idle ceremony. The public proclamation of a principle by means of a protest against the violation of treaties, and the deliberate warning of the consequences which would follow from further Acts of a similar kind, become of importance in the eyes of Europe, and is a deliberate warning that the protest may be followed up by more effective measures which the public safety might require against the public enemy. When I am told that the Treaties of 1815 have been before violated, I would again ask, has the principle of those treaties ever been violated before? What was that principle? It was protection to Europe against French aggression. Those treaties bound together the allied Powers against the public enemy, who had overrun the Continent, pillaged every capital, shaken every throne, and inflicted countless miseries on every population; and the trampled nations of the Continent, led by England, combining and overthrowing their oppressor, framed the treaties for their own future safety against the traditional policy of France; and it was the deliberate judgment of Europe that fixed the boundaries and formed the frontiers of that country with the one sole aim and object of confining France within her own limits, and of providing effectual security to Europe against the perpetually recurring danger from the insatiable restlessness of French ambition. That was the principle of the Treaties of 1815. and when has that principle ever been violated before? It is because that principle never has been violated that France has always chafed under those treaties as humiliations imposed on her, and the present Emperor of the French always encouraged the idea that it was his work to efface those marks of French dishonour; and these are the first steps in that direction; and it is this principle of limiting France within a frontier defined by the unanimous judgment of Europe that is now for the first time assailed and overridden by the Emperor of the French. What France gains by the annexation of Savoy is emancipation from her own limits, and a precedent for the future enlargement of them; and it is of the utmost consequence to Europe not to allow that right, and not to permit France to plead that it has been granted. This M. Thouvenel knows, and hence his desire to show that no protest is made, and his ill-concealed exultation that the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary has not distinctly affirmed that the British Cabinet would not admit the principle. The noble Lord ably showed that the French arguments were untenable, but there the noble Lord stopped short, and has not guarded against the repetition of the act, though no one has stated more forcibly than he that a repetition was to be apprehended. It was on these grounds that he thought a protest on the part of England would be a valuable declaration of the public law of Europe against the principle of small States having the right to make cessions of territory to an aggressive and absorbing neighbour, without bringing the arrangements thereon distinctly under the notice of the Powers who were parties to previous treaties; and it would be also valuable as a declaration that acquisitions of territory, under such circumstances between Powers so unequal would be looked upon as similar to acquisitions by conquest, and as such requiring European sanction. But it may be said that this view with regard to the importance of a protest is a mere abstract view, without practical consequence; but I beg the House to consider of what an immediate and immense practical importance a protest is as bearing on passing events. At this time it is impossible for the House to shut its eyes to the marvellous and rapid fulfilment of that almost incredible scheme of policy attributed to the Emperor of the French from the day he mounted the throne of France. It was then authoritatively announced that his mission was to humble, one by one, the several Powers who contributed to the former defeat of France; to efface the Treaties of 1815, and, having avenged France on the Powers of the Continent, that then his last great crowning act would be to lower the pride and break down the power of England. It was with a view to the fulfilment of this policy that France beheld, not only with complacency, but with exultation, those immense warlike preparations which have been going on there for the last few years, both by sea and by land. Mark with what reason France may exult in the fulfilment of this policy. Russia has been defeated and weakened; Austria has been dismembered, the Treaties of 1815 have been trampled under foot in the cases of Savoy and Switzerland, and Prussia is now threatened. Indeed, there are rumours that Prussia is something more than threatened. Within the last few days there are rumours that overtures have been made to Prussia for the rectification of the Rhenish frontier, an equivalent being offered in the acquisition of some of the small States of Germany. These rumours may be premature; but the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary has himself shown that they may be only premature, and that this is the direction in which the policy of France may be expected to be developed. This shows how the policy of France is being accomplished in one direction; and let me show how parties in France at this moment are exulting at its apparent accomplishment in another. Two years ago a good deal of interest was excited by the appearance in this country of a map, published under the authority of the French Government, and sent to the principal map-sellers in London. It was entitled "Europe in 1860." This has passed out of the memory, probably, of most of those who saw the map at the time, but subsequent events have given, and not the least in the eyes of France, a significance and importance to the matter. This map was published in the middle of 1858, and no one then anticipated that within one year large territorial changes would be made in Europe, or that there was likely to be war in Italy; and the diplomatic Mentor of the Government who is never misled or outwitted by the Emperor of the French—our Ambassador in France—told the British Government, months after that map had appeared, that there was no danger of war in Italy, and that France was not arming; but the author of the map saw what was approaching, because Lombardy was taken from Austria in that map and placed as a territory of Sardinia. We are now only at the commencement of 1860, and the predicted change of territory has actually been accomplished. No one foresaw in 1858 that there was likely to be war between Spain and Morocco; but the author of that map foresaw that war and some of its results, because in the map to which I have adverted the territory of Morocco was transferred to the dominions of the Queen of Spain. War between Spain and Morocco has since the publication of the map broken out, and a cession of territory has been made, though not to the extent predicted by the map; but it is impossible to separate that war from the policy of the man who predicted it. But the most important changes of all were to take place in Germany. This remains to be realized; but I want the House to observe what would be the effect of a protest on the part of England against the annexation of Savoy on the policy of France in Germany, and with what good reason M. Thouvenel may congratulate his Imperial master that England has not the courage or foresight to make that protest. Prussia is at this moment threatened by France; and the danger of Prussia was first announced to the House by the Foreign Secretary, who has always frankly and manfully expressed himself on this matter. I want the House to observe how critical is the state of Germany, and particularly from its close analogy to the recent position of Italy. The minor Princes are the bane of Germany, whose constant and perpetual dread has been that they were going to be absorbed by Prussia—not by conquest, but by the movement of their own people, just as the Italian Duchies were afraid of being absorbed by Piedmont. Hence it is—and I beg the House to remark this well—that many of the Powers of Germany feel the necessity, which the Italian Sovereigns also felt, of having an external support to lean upon. They have not that support in their own people, because the people would willingly join Prussia. They are compelled, therefore, to look for support abroad, seeing that they must have a protector if they are to remain Sovereign Princes at all. Formerly, before the Crimean war, they had that protector in Russia, and partly in Austria; and this accounts for the great ascendancy of Russia over the affairs of Germany in times past. But all that is now altered. Russia is beaten, and is fully occupied at home. Austria is in the same position. Germany is alarmed; her people are drawing more towards Prussia; but the fears and the jealousies of their own rulers are excited precisely in the same degree. Anything to them is preferable to being merged in that dreaded Prussia; and hence there is an anxious desire to look in other quarters for a protector. And now comes the particular danger springing from the annexation of Savoy. The precedent of Savoy will be cited in the case of Germany. The population drawing more and more closely to Prussia, more and more urgent will be the cries for help addressed to France by the petty German Princes. One after another every petty Sovereign and Court may be driven to follow the example of Sardinia, and connect itself in some form or other with France; and, if England has not protested, they will all plead that their right to dispose of themselves to another Power is an established principle of European law. But then the position of Prussia is most embarrassing. Without Germany she is weak; without Germany she is very vulnerable. She dreads France, and she dreads the ascendancy of France over the petty German Courts. She remembers the terrible outrages and sufferings that were inflicted by France during six years of tyranny. She would willingly fight if strong enough to do so, but she has no friend to rely on if England does not stand by her. Well, now, what assurance can any Prussian Minister feel that he will have the support of England? If he braves France, and if Prussia is suddenly attacked, what assurance has he that England will at once, and before Prussia is lost, throw her power into the scale and make common cause against a common danger? What guarantee of that can he have but the declaration of the British Parliament or the declaration of the British Ministry given publicly in Parliament? But if, on the other hand, Prussia feels that she cannot rely on England, may she not, against her own feelings and inclination, be driven to make her own terms with France, and, knowing that she has no hope of support elsewhere, may she not barter away the provinces coveted by France for an equivalent somewhere else? If she does so, what happens? Then comes the turn of the petty German Courts. A new Confederation of the Rhine springs up, German in name, but French in substance. Antwerp is not far off. The North Sea is lost. The maritime supremacy of France is doubled: and then what becomes of your trade, 0 ye worshippers of material interests and of the divine principle of commercial treaties at any price? Sir, I have often expressed in this House an opinion, which circumstances and reflection have more and more confirmed, that that special and exclusive alliance with France, estranging us from the other Powers of Europe, was a false, and unnatural, and a mistaken alliance. I am speaking of the special alliance which exists. In my opinion, there are no two great Powers of Europe which have so little in common, which have, in fact, so much that is directly and irreconcilably antagonistic, as France and England. My hon. Friend who interrupts me, the Member for Liskeard, has lately shown so much accurate knowledge as to Cracow and the Treaties of Vienna, that I am not at all surprised at his knowing so little about the analogy between the interests of different countries. I will explain what, perhaps, my hon. Friend has not considered—the difference which exists between the position of the two nations. The Government of England is a constitutional Government; that of France is a despotism. The Government of England is a peaceful; that of France is a military Government. We are a commercial nation; France is an aggressive State. The Government of England is a settled and legitimate Government; that of France is a Government of revolution. Above all, let me say the Government of England prides itself on being a highly moral Government, and the present Government of France I believe to be the most immoral Government in Europe. Under these circumstances, I feel that a special alliance between the two countries is a forced and precarious alliance. It is the alliance of peace with war, of constitutionalism with despotism, of the love of commerce with the lust for conquest, of legitimacy with revolution. And I believe that that special alliance will not last one day longer than it subserves the policy of aggrandizement in France, of which England has begun by being the tool, and of which she will end, I believe, by finding herself the victim. And even as regards the relations of commerce, I believe there can be no permanent commercial spirit in France as long as you have that law of perpetual subdivision of property, which prevents the formation of a permanent middle class, which discourages the acquisition of wealth and property, and which places the whole social system in France in a state of perpetual revolution. On the other hand, Prussia, which is now needing our assistance, is a kindred State, a constitutional, intelligent, progressive, and peaceful State. Compare her with France—France trampling down all the noblest interests of the nation, and diverting men's minds by the intoxication of war and military glory. Allied with Prussia, we form and we pursue a policy of our own. We stand forward as inculcating certain great principles, and upholding sound English influences. Allied with France, we incur the ridicule of every State of Europe, as duped, subordinate, led about—involved in what we hate and are ashamed of, struggling against our chains, which we are unable or afraid to break, and too feeble to give effect to our guarantees; forgetting that we are a European Power, much more, that we once were a Power of the first order, and the leading State of Europe. I ask again, what reliance can Germany place on us? What respect can she feel for us when she sees that we are the humble servants of France? I say that if the English Government are not prepared to rouse themselves to the declaration of a manly and a definite English policy, we must expect to see every Ally in turn abandon us, and to see Europe make her own terms with him who will then be the conqueror of the world. If we are not prepared to advocate a positive, a prompt, and a bold policy, we must be prepared at the same time to see every generous hope in Germany crushed. Nothing but the declaration of such a policy can save Prussia from the arms of France, and then many Savoys will rise up in succession, and we shall be beaten and humiliated on them all. It is for these reasons that I am anxious to see the Government of this country still enter their protest against the annexation of Savoy, as the first open act of French aggression—that they should make the meaning of that protest clearly understood in Europe—that they should make it the inauguration of a new alliance with Prussia, thus infusing new blood into Germany. It appears to me that the despatches of the French Minister have invited, have challenged us to some Parliamentary action on the subject. In one of these despatches he says that England has not protested, and he is rejoiced to find that she has not protested. That of itself is proof to us that a protest ought to be made; and, if necessary, Parliament should address the Queen, beseeching Her Majesty to instruct Her Ministers to make such a protest, and to follow it up, in concert with her Allies, by maintaining inviolable the neutrality of Switzerland, to the guarantee of which we were parties. I adhere to an opinion which I expressed in this House on a former occasion, that when Savoy was ceded to France, and the other great Powers of Europe refused to interfere, it would have been culpable and criminal folly on the part of England to have engaged single-handed in war with France to prevent that annexation. But the case of Switzerland is quite different, as we were told by the noble Lord himself. It is one in which the honour of England is involved. England has given a guarantee; her word has been solemnly passed; the danger is positive and real; the independence of Switzerland is an European question of the first order; and the Swiss have shown themselves true to themselves and to Europe, and have made known to the world that the loss of their freedom shall not be their own act. They have, indeed, appealed to Europe, but they have also startled Europe by a declaration, that if Europe abandons them in what is its own cause they are determined singlehanded to brave the colossal power of France rather than suffer extinction without a struggle. They had the spirit of their own poet, who said— The land we from our Fathers had in trust, We to our children will transmit, or die: This is our maxim, this our piety; And God and nature say that it is just, That which we would perform in arms we must; We read the dictate in the infant's eye; In the wife's smile; and in the placid sky; And at our feet, amid the silent dust Of them that were before us. And, when Switzerland appeals to those who should guard the little citadel of freedom which has for so long shared with us the honour of affording a refuge to the persecuted and proscribed of other nations—when she is ready to send forth her little bands of patriots and heroes, with a devotion not surpassed in history, to fight for what the wise and good and great of all times have held to be the first possession of a people—is England to stand aloof, to forget her pledged word, to forfeit her honour, and to allow those territories which she has sworn to defend to become the scene of a tragedy which must leave a stain upon the honour of England in all after times? I know it is said that we can do nothing for Switzerland without a combination with all the other Powers. I say that in this case, which is for the prevention of war, such a general combination is not needed. I do not know what answer the Government may have received to the communications that were addressed to the different Powers of Europe; but we know this, that if we are true to ourselves we are sure of Prussia as well of Switzerland, and, in such a case, even those Allies alone are sufficient, with the help of England, not to make but to prevent war. The Emperor of France dares not make war in such a case as that of Chablais; the public opinion of Europe would overwhelm him; he could not rely upon the permanent support of his own people. We know that in the Italian war against Austria the French people, although at first reluctantly, did extend their support to the Emperor; but Austria was a wrong-doer and the public judgment of France condemned her; but in the case of Switzerland it would be different. Here France is entirely in the wrong. Chablais is not Sardinia's to give, it is not pre- tended to be necessary for the security of France, but it would be an act of pure aggression. I am confident that France would not endure that her men, money, and commerce should be sacrificed in such a cause. But then it is said, "If you interfere you incur the risk of war, which is a dreadful thing, expensive, and injurious to trade;" that "Chablais is a long way off, and it is no concern of ours." Those who say that this is no concern of England would say the same of the Rhine, or of Belgium; and if Kent and Sussex were invaded they would say that Kent and Sussex were no concern of the manufacturing districts of England. I say those are not the advisers to whom we should listen in a case of this kind. There is a maxim that those who are indifferent to the liberties of others will never defend their own; but it must be borne in mind that the trade and commerce of England are beyond anything affected by the development of the aggressive policy of France. We are not now deceived—we know what that policy means. We may hesitate to act, but that will not avail us, for we know that France will support the Emperor as long as our hesitating conduct makes his policy uninterruptedly successful; but we have reason to believe she would abandon it if we resolutely opposed it. The question then is this—shall we oppose the Emperor's policy in Switzerland, or shall we wait until he has subjected Switzerland, divided Germany, overrun Belgium, and has only England to deal with? Shall we confront him now with the voice of all Europe against him, or wait until Europe, humiliated and disgusted, turns with him against us? When I am told—as I dare say I shall be told—that what I am saying tends to provoke war, I answer that no Gentlemen in this House have a right to monopolize a hatred of war and a love of peace; and those who have the least right to do so are the advocates and supporters of the Emperor of the French, who I believe to be the greatest enemy of peace in the world. There is a state of peace which is even worse than war—when it is a mere adjournment of war to a more convenient season, when the enemy who is determined to attack you may strike with more deadly effect. I grant you that the Minister who pronounces the word "War" incurs a fearful responsibility; but he incurs a responsibility still more fearful who, conscious of an impending danger, shrinks from his duty of meeting it like a man, but in a degenerate and craven spirit, tides over the difficulty of the day, bequeathing to his successors and his country the increasing difficulties of an unsettled question of which the dangers have been aggravated by his timidity and the disasters multiplied a thousandfold by delay. I do not believe the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is such a man. He has been called upon to conduct the foreign policy of this country at one of the most critical moments of our history; for it is my solemn conviction that the next few years, perhaps months, may be among the most memorable in the history of England, and may leave their mark for good or for evil on after generations. I have heard speeches lately from the noble Lord which indicate that he is not insensible to the danger. In that case he will not shrink from his duty. He bears a name which is associated with the past greatness of England, and I trust he will never allow it to go down to posterity linked with the darkest hour of England's dishonour and decline.


said, he wished to ascertain the opinion of the House upon a question connected with the important subject which had been raised by the right hon. Gentleman. At this critical moment, when Paris was the centre of all the intrigues of the Continent, was England efficiently represented in that capital? If they referred to the many despatches in which week after week Lord Cowley misled Lord Derby's Government, or looked to his journey to Vienna, which was a failure in itself and embarrassing to the Government, or considered the fact that a private Member of the House was in possession of important information which ought to have been known to our Ambassador in Paris, it would appear that the noble Earl was not sufficient for the post. He had been too long in Paris; a residence of eight years in that atmosphere was too long for one man;—for he (Mr. Duff) agreed with the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last, that politically the French Court was the most immoral Court of Europe.


Sir, I do not well understand what the right hon. Gentleman proposes by the speech which he has just addressed to the House. It is, no doubt, his privilege to address us upon any part of our foreign or domestic policy; but, at the same time, it must be recollected that that privilege is accompanied by a deep responsibility; and I must say I think the right hon. Gentleman had not sufficiently weighed the importance of that responsibility, when he made that speech to which we have just listened. In the first place I must say, before I advert to the questions put by the right hon. Gentleman, that while he appeared to be preparing the House for war, while he seemed to be endeavouring to rouse the feelings of this House in favour of a contest with the Government of France, he never laid down what were to be the objects of that contest. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to suppose that Chablais and Faucigny were part of the Swiss territory, and that the French Government were about to invade and take possession of that territory, contrary to the rights of Switzerland. Whatever dangers we may have to encounter, whatever may be in future the position of affairs, that is not their present situation. The right hon. Gentleman asks me what is the present state of the Savoy question. I may explain to him, at least, a portion of that question—my duty forbidding me to go into details as to what has recently happened and is now happening—but in going into that subject, I must state that the question of Sardinia and its cession of Savoy, and the question of the neutralized portions of Savoy and their relations, first to Switzerland, and next to the great Powers of Europe, are two totally distinct questions. The right hon. Gentleman says we did not protest against the cession of Savoy by the King of Sardinia. There may be, and I think there are, cases in which it is right to enter a protest—where, for instance, a treaty is manifestly broken. There was the case of Cracow; but there we did not think our interests were so endangered, or our honour so much concerned, as to render it necessary for us to take up arms. Such an occasion is one for protest. But there are other cases. Undoubtedly the late Grand Duke of Tuscany, and the late Duke of Modena, found their territories violently taken possession of, and another Sovereign claiming the right to rule over them. Not certainly having any inferior interest in the matter, but not having at the same time the power to resume that sovereignty, they very properly protest; meaning thereby that they do not acknowledge the right to do what has been done: and that if it shall ever be in their power to resume their sovereignty, they are fully entitled to resume it. The subject in that case was a very proper one for a protest. But what is our position with regard to the cession of Savoy? When we first heard of the matter—when we were told that it was not at that time intended to be carried into effect, but that it might be carried into effect, we stated we thought such a transfer would have injurious consequences, both to France and to the general peace and tranquillity of Europe; but we were not entitled to say to the King of Sardinia that he should not cede his territory to France, nor were we entitled to say to the Emperor of the French that he should not accept the territory which the King of Sardinia intended to yield to him. So much is this the view of some of the Courts of Europe, that the Emperor of Russia, through his Minister, has said this is a matter which entirely concerns the two Sovereigns, and that the Emperor of France had a right to ask for that cession; and that the King of Sardinia had a right to make it; and that with regard to the pure cession, there was no room for question. I do not understand that any of the Powers of Europe have said even so much as we have said upon the subject. Some of them have considered that the Emperor of the French might take this territory, if it were yielded to him; some of them have considered it in the light in which we have done—as a most injurious example, and pregnant with future consequences of evil; but they have not said that they were entitled to protest on the subject. So far, therefore, I think we have not only acted in conformity with the law of nations, but in conformity with what has been the general sense of the other Powers of Europe. There is a question, however, intimately connected with this question, and it is a question of some complication, which has been partly discussed, and must be further discussed, and which at this time occupies the attention of the Cabinets of Europe. It was agreed in 1815 that certain portions of Savoy—Chablais, Faucigny, and part of the Genevois—should have all the benefits, in case of war between neighbouring Powers, which belonged to Switzerland; that the King of Sardinia should have the power to withdraw his troops through the neutral territory of Savoy and through the Valais; and that thereupon the only military authority which should have power in that district should be the troops of the Swiss Confederation. Well, there has been a discussion, and some of the diplomatic despatches on this subject have appeared in the newspaper. There has been, in the first place, a discussion as to what was the origin of this particular provision, which is contained in the 92nd Article of the General Treaty of Vienna, dated the 20th of November, 1815. The French Government have contended in more than one very able despatch that this very provision was made for the benefit of the King of Sardinia, and for the protection of his troops in case of war. It has been contended, on the other side, that it was intended for the security of Geneva, and for the general benefit of Switzerland. But, whatever may be the result of that discussion, the view which Her Majesty's Government take is, that it was a provision which was conducive to the general security of Switzerland, and of that neutrality which was declared to be part of the general policy of Europe. That being the case, a new question arises with regard to the change which has lately taken place. The Emperor of the French and the King of Sardinia have concluded a Treaty at Turin, by an Article of which the neutralized parts of Savoy are transferred with the rest of Savoy to the Emperor of the French; but it is declared that that territory is transferred with the same conditions on which it was held formerly by the King of Sardinia. That provision naturally gave occasion to a demand for explanation. And it has been said, and most frankly as I think, both by the French Government and by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the King of Sardinia, that the meaning of that Article is not merely that the Emperor of the French takes that territory with the engagements as to neutrality to which I have alluded, and to which the King of Sardinia was subject; but he takes it, to use the phrase of Count Cavour, with the obligation of an efficacious neutrality for Switzerland. It being by general consent a great change that the neutrality which was formerly provided with regard to territory belonging to the King of Sardinia should be the condition of territory belonging to France, a most interesting and important question arises how that neutrality is to be efficiently maintained in the sense in which the Powers of Europe wished to establish it. But this is a question, let me remind the right hon. Gentleman, which is not at all like that which he seems to suppose of the French Government seizing upon the territories of an independent State. It is a question on which you may argue that this change of condition is such that the neutrality of Switzerland cannot be placed in so secure a position as it was, whatever may be the precautions which you may provide. But, at all events, that is a question which may be maturely examined and considered; and, so far from being a question of war, it is a question which deserves to be considered by the coolest heads, by men of the greatest experience and of the most mature judgment, having regard, as it does, to the provisions of Treaties which hold the nations of Europe together. Well, Sir, there has been no objection by the French Government to the examination of this question. It is in general terms stated in the Treaty of Turin that the Emperor of the French will come to an understanding with the Powers of Europe on this subject. The Swiss Confederation, through their Federal Council, have asked that there shall be a Conference on this question. The French Government, through their Minister here—their Chargé d'Affaires—have more than once said to me that they have no objection to make to that Conference. The Powers which may be called to it, the manner in which they should be called, the place where they should meet, and the time at which they should assemble, may be matters of friendly consideration and discussion; but as to the Conference itself and the principle on which it should meet—namely, the reconciling the Treaty of Vienna, by which that guarantee was provided, with the present state of things, and the Treaty lately concluded between the Emperor of the French and the King of Sardinia—to that principle they make not the slightest objection, and they declare themselves perfectly ready to enter into it. Well, then, I say it depends not merely upon England, nor upon what I must call somewhat of a boasting declaration that we are at any time ready to go to war. It requires, I must say, that the Powers of Europe should be in a certain manner agreed as to the guarantees they should take, as to the precautions which they should establish, in order to give Switzerland an effective guarantee for her neutrality. Of this the right hon. Gentleman may be assured, that, without speaking of other Powers, or of the regard which they may have for the interests of Switzerland, the Government of Great Britain feels the utmost desire to see Switzerland—that free and independent nation—that refuge of the politically proscribed—that old and classical land of liberty—possessed of every guarantee that can secure to her the main- tenance of that independence and that freedom which she has so long enjoyed. The right hon. Gentleman asks what course the Government of England moans to pursue in regard to our treaty engagements in respect to other parts of Europe. That is a very wide and important question, and I should be greatly embarrassed, if I were to go over our treaties with the different countries of Europe, and attempt to say what course should be taken with regard to each of them. It is enough for the present to say that we have now a critical question before us—that we are about to enter into negotiations on that subject—and that the eight Powers of Europe who were parties to the Treaty of Vienna will probably meet and take part in the consideration of it. I should therefore not only think it unwise, but a dereliction of my duty to go into details. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that our position is such as to reflect disgrace upon us; he considers that this country is the slave of France, and that we are too cowardly to stand by our guarantees. If that opinion of the right hon. Gentleman be a correct one, then the present Government must be unworthy of the confidence of this House or the country, and it would be the duty of the right hon. Gentleman to call for a declaration by this House of another and more decided line of policy, and to take the management of public affairs out of the hands of those who have made the country a byword in Europe. But the right hon. Gentleman makes no proposition of that kind. He has made a speech, but so far as I could see there was no practical end in it. To be sure, the right hon. Gentleman did at one time somewhat inconsistently represent this country, and especially all concerned in commerce and manufactures, as being bribed by the advantages to be obtained by the late Treaty of Commerce with France. Now, it is not six weeks ago since I heard the right hon. Gentleman, along with many others, declare that we had been completly duped in that Treaty, and that, so far from gaining advantages by it, we had made ourselves the dupes of France. Then all the advantages were on the side of France, and all the loss on the part of England; and now it is represented as a bribe so manifest as to make us forget the independence of all other nations and the honour of our own. That is not a very consistent representation on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. But with respect to the right hon. Gentleman's reference to that Treaty I consider that, while those matters which concern one of the nations of Europe in whose independence we take a deep interest require our attention, and while other questions that may arise affecting the independence and safety of other nations may, no doubt, also require our immediate attention, yet an extension of commercial relations and the mutual advantages derived by the people of France and England from an exchange of manufactures and the conveniences and comforts of life—France obtaining from us our manufactures, and we obtaining from them the productions of their more fertile soil and of the fine climate with which they have been blessed—will tend to bring the two nations nearer and nearer to each other—that they will make men think when any questions arise between them, not, shall we sacrifice our honour? not, shall we forfeit our good faith? not, shall we sacrifice the independence of other nations, and rush into war in order that the world may admire the brilliant and showy deeds of hostility?—but that they will rather induce them to consider whether the subject-matters in dispute cannot obtain a solution by peaceful means. These, I believe, will be the effects of this Treaty; and I am glad to think that when those in power in this country and in France have passed away, and when these particular questions may have lost their interest, the effect will be to induce the people of the two countries to draw closer together, and to form that alliance of nations which, after all, is more secure than any mere alliance of Cabinets or Kings. The right hon. Gentleman asks whether any despatch has been sent in answer to the last despatch of M. Thouvenol? The despatch of Her Majesty's Government was a despatch stating our reasons for not agreeing to the statement made by the Government of France in favour of the annexation of Savoy. M. Thouvenel did not answer that despatch. He took notice that it was not a protest, and contented himself with doing so; consequently, there was no further answer. We have stated our case, and have gone fully into it, and there was no reason for prolonging the discussion. Our opinions naturally differed from those of the French people. The French people thought with their Government that the annexation of Savoy would be an advantage to the defences of France; they were glad to see their Government put forward a claim to Savoy, and to see it assented to by Sardinia. The Government and the people of England took a different view of the question. We could not conceive that there was any practical necessity for the annexation of Savoy, and we gave our reasons for not assenting to such a policy. With regard to the future, this is not the time to enter into it. If the House leaves us to conduct these negotiations, I trust we shall not be unmindful of the honour of England, or of the interests of Europe, and that the right hon. Gentleman will find when the papers are laid before the House that we have done that which became us as British statesmen, and as the representatives of an important part of the community of European nations.


defended Lord Cowley from the attack made on him by the hon. Member for Elgin (Mr. Duff). He had known Lord Cowley for many years as one of the most able and intelligent public servants the country ever possessed.


Sir, It is unnecessary to add anything to what has been so fully, so ably, and I trust, so satisfactorily said by my noble Friend; but I must advert to the remarks which were made by the hon. Member behind me (Mr. Duff) in regard to the character and conduct of Lord Cowley, our Ambassador at Paris. I take leave to say that, having known that noble Lord for many years, having followed his course of duty in the various foreign States to which he has been accredited, and having had the honour to be his superior in office during periods of great difficulty, and when the duties he had to perform required all the qualities which an Ambassador ought to possess—I am bound to say that the attack made on him by the hon. Member behind me was founded on a complete mistake, on a great error as to the character and conduct of the person to whom his observations applied, and conveyed as unjust a censure as ever was passed on one who has ever shown himself to be a meritorious and deserving public servant. Lord Cowley has upon all occasions in which he has had to act as the Ambassador of England combined in a most remarkable degree that spirit of personal conciliation which is so essential to a proper performance of diplomatic duties with the strictest regard to the interests, the dignity, and the honour of this country. I am sure that those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House who had an opportunity during the period they had the conduct of affairs of marking the conduct of Lord Cowley—of examining the manner in which he performed his duties—will concur in the opinion I have expressed, and in bearing that testimony which he so fully deserves to his transcendent merits as the representative of England to a most important foreign State.


said, that the cause in which he felt such a deep interest had been so ably advocated by his right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud, that it was not without pain that he found himself differing from him in even a minute point. But it was his opinion that a protest was an indication rather of weakness than of strength, and he was not one of those who thought that the House would do well to press upon Her Majesty's Ministers the adoption of that particular course. His right hon. Friend had spoken of a protest as being the natural conclusion of such an affair. It was precisely because it would be the conclusion of this affair, that he (Mr. Kinglake) objected to a protest. He did not by any means acquiesce in that which had been done; but it was precisely because a protest would be the termination of this business that M. Thouvenel was anxious to incite Her Majesty's Government to a course which would enable him to treat the affair as having been brought to its end. He (Mr. Kinglake) could not help thinking that the noble Lord, the Foreign Secretary, was under great misapprehension as to what fell from his right hon. Friend, the Member for Stroud. The noble Lord seemed to impute to his right hon. Friend that he was ignorant of the position of Chablais and Faucigny, and that he imagined that these provinces were part of the Swiss territory. But with the knowledge that was possessed by his right hon. Friend, it was impossible that he should have fallen into such an error. What his right hon. Friend probably meant was something equivalent to what he (Mr. Kinglake) had the honour to say when he first introduced this subject to the House, namely, that Chablais and Faucigny, and the neutralized part of the Genevese territory, though they were, for domestic purposes, under the sovereignty of Sardinia, yet for European purposes they belonged to Switzerland; because the Treaty of Vienna expressly provided that, when war broke out between France and Austria, then the Sardinian troops should march out of these provinces, and that Swiss troops' should enter. Well, M. Thouvenel had contended that this particular provision, with regard to the neutralized districts, was one inserted for the benefit of Sardinia and the therefore Sardinia had a right to cede these provinces to France. But he (Mr. Kinglake) thought that M. Thouvenel, or any one who put forward or accepted that view must be unacquainted with the documents upon which this question rested. By the Treaty of Cession, dated, he believed, in March 1815, it was expressly declared that this cession was in favour of the Canton of Geneva—expressly showing that it was an arrangement intended for the benefit of Switzerland, and not of Sardinia. It was not therefore, possible, for Sardinia, with any colour of right or justice, to surrender these provinces to the Emperor of the French. Now, the noble Lord, the Foreign Secretary, had said that the provisions of this Treaty were such that he felt that he had no right to go to the King of Sardinia, on the one hand, and say, "You must not cede this territory;" or to go to the Emperor of the French on the other, and say, "You have no right to accept this cession." Well, he (Mr. Kinglake) could not understand how, with the knowledge the noble Lord must have of the Treaty of Vienna, he could possibly come to such a conclusion. By the treaty of peace, to which France herself was a party, it was stated in the most direct terms that the frontiers of France should be what they were then described to be—namely, such as they were before the recent annexation. It was also solemnly provided by united Europe that each Power that was a party to that treaty should be a guarantee for its maintenance. Then how was it possible for the noble Lord and the representatives of the rights of England in this quarrel to say that she is without the right—without the privilege of questioning this transaction? He could not but think, also, that the noble Lord was wrong in endeavouring to attribute to his right hon. Friend inconsistency, because he said that the Treaty of Commerce had been a bad bargain. It was very possible, as he imagined, that a portion of the community should be very much conciliated by the Treaty, whilst the general interests of the country were very little benefited by its provisions. Many of those who were interested in the trade of the country no doubt were conciliated by this Commercial Treaty; and his right hon. Friend might say that in perfect consistency with what he before stated —namely, that the whole was not beneficial to the country at large. He wished, now, to say a few words with regard to what had been done in the progress of our relations with the French Emperor since the House last met. The Emperor of the French had entered into three very strict engagements with England and the other Powers of Europe. He engaged in the first place that he would consult the great Powers of Europe. Well, the House knew that an attempt to fulfil that pledge was made by the despatch which was addressed by M. Thouvenel to the French Ambassador in London. The grounds upon which M. Thouvenel relied were combated by the noble Lord, who showed that they were altogether untenable. What was the reply to that despatch on the part of M. Thouvenel? Why he simply said that the prolongation of this discussion could produce no practical effect. He treated the noble Lord as one who was engaged in a mere barren discussion that could produce no practical result. If the noble Lord was the Secretary for Foreign Affairs—if he was one of the representatives of England in this quarrel, and England was still a great Power, he (Mr. Kinglake) thought the noble Lord had a right to expect a reply something different from this. Was this consulting England, to state certain reasons why the annexation should take place, and then, when those reasons were combated, to say that it was a mere barren discussion and a polemic that had better cease? He (Mr. Kinglake) denied that the French Emperor had fulfilled his promise or had consulted the Great Powers of Europe if this was the way in which the consultation was to be made. Then another engagement entered into by the Emperor of the French was that he would take the opinion of the populations of the countries proposed to be annexed. Now he (Mr. Kinglake) believed that throughout all Europe, before this question of annexation was raised, there were no more contented populations than those of Savoy and Nice. Well, when these questions were first raised they gave, he thought, every indication they could well be expected to give of the feeling they entertained on the subject. The population of North Savoy was animated not only by attachment to the throne of Sardinia, but by a strong dislike of being annexed to France; at any rate there was no question as to the authenticity of the 12,000 signatures to the petition against annexation to France, and to the prayer that if any change took place they might be annexed to Switzerland. But in the county of Nice the feeling was still more strong—it amounted indeed almost to unanimity. He was well informed that the proportion of those who objected to annexation to France was not less than five-eighths of the population. Was the conduct of the people of Nice inconsistent with this? The Municipal Juntas came to a resolution contrary to the annexation. The Colonel of the National Guard, who is chosen by the men, was opposed to it; a deputation was sent to Turin to entreat the King not to abandon them; and lastly, they elected Garibaldi and another, both of them men who were strongly attached to Sardinia. M. Laity was sent to Savoy, and M. Pietri to Nice. M. Laity was one of the fellow-labourers and associates of the Emperor in his Strasburg enterprise. That gentleman was sent to Savoy with instructions to promote there the principle of annexation to France, and M. Pietri, who was chef de police, and also a senator, went to Nice for the same purpose. He arrived there on the 30th of March, the French troops, who affected to be passing through on their return from Italy, being to reach the city on the 1st of April. The arrangements which were made for their reception were these: the gates were opened, no passports were required, the Provençals were admitted into the town with tri coloured flags, the sailors were landed from the French vessels of war which were in the port, and an attempt was made to get up a demonstration in favour of annexation to France. That attempt was a failure. If he (Mr. Kinglake) could inform the House of the source from which he obtained his information they would be satisfied of the truth of the report—it was from one who was present—that amongst the assembled people not a hand was raised, not a single voice was heard in favour of the scheme. Even a bust of the French Emperor drawn in procession by six grey horses failed to obtain a single cheer. On the 2nd of April a Provisional Government was formed; and the formation of that Provisional Government was, he asserted, one of the basest contrivances for shifting the allegiance of a loyal people ever resorted to by a Sovereign. The Sardinian authorities were displaced, and were succeeded not by French ones, but by men who were still to be called Sardinian employés, but who were to be nominated by France, and who were informed that if the annexation took place they would retain the places which had been conferred upon them. Nor was this all. Count Cavour addressed letters to the civil authorities urging them to do all they could to bring about the annexation; and also wrote to the Bishop of the county a nominee of his own, requesting him to obtain from the parochial clergy the use of their influence to induce the people of the villages to agree to it as an act of loyalty to their King. Was there ever a more cruel abandonment of a loyal people, or could anything be imagined more intolerable than that a Sovereign, not content with transferring his subjects to a foreign Power, should appeal to their loyalty to wards himself as an engine which was to induce them to renounce their allegiance? And this, as an hon. Friend reminded him, was done by Count Cavour, who declared in the most solemn and precise manner, and who succeeded in persuading many people of his fidelity, that he would never sell, concede, or exchange these dominions of the Sardinian King. On the 3rd of April, M. Pietri had the entire control of the Government of Nice. He had the direction of the police, and was really the governor of the place. On the 5th of April there was issued a proclamation, to a passage from which he must call the attention of the House. In all countries there were to be found persons of varying degrees of honour and of baseness. In the county of Nice, Count Cavour found a person named Luboni to act as Provisional Governor of the country, and this person addressed to the people a proclamation, in which, after saying, At the august voice of the King all uncertainty with regard to our future mast cease; at those august words must disappear all dissensions and rivalries: he continued, Public demonstrations from this moment have no reason in them. Let us hasten to affirm by our suffrages the annexation of our county to France. In rendering ourselves to echo the intentions of the King let us press round the flag of that noble and generous nation which has always excited our lively sympathies. Let us rally round the throne of the glorious Emperor Napoleon III. Let us surround him with that fidelity peculiar to our country, which we have hitherto reserved for King Victor Emmanuel; and the proclamation ended with the words, "Vive la France! Vive l'Empereur Napoleon III.!" Under such circumstances as these, the candidate upon whom the people had set their hearts hav- ing declared himself disqualified, and entreated his supporters to have nothing to do with the election, it was not surprising that the National Committee of Nice determined to abstain from voting, and he believed that no further precaution on the part of M. Pietri was necessary. That gentleman, however, seemed to have been determined to make assurance doubly sure, and therefore the urns in which the votes were to be deposited were committed to the superintendence of four persons who were known to be favourable to the plan of annexation to France. All hope of a fair election was at once extinguished. And this was how the Emperor had kept his second promise, this was how he had annexed these provinces by what he called universal suffrage. It was a great evil to mankind when brute force was used to overcome a free people; but that was not the utmost wrong which the Emperor of the French had perpetrated; because to that wrong he had added a semblance of consulting the population, but had adopted such means to mislead and overawe them as to render anything like a free choice or election absolutely impossible. This being the way in which the Emperor of the French had kept his two promises to consult the Powers of Europe, and to be bound by the free expression of the wishes of the peoples also were to be annexed, there was a third promise, the result of which was still open—namely, that in case of the annexation of Savoy and Nice to France Chablais and Faucigny should be joined to Switzerland. That promise was made to Lord Cowley, not only by M. Thouvenel, but also personally by the Emperor himself, as was shown in the despatch of the 5th of February, and therefore the House would see that the personal honour of the Emperor of the French was pledged to the performance of a promise thus deliberately made to the British Ambassador. Upon this subject, however, he forbore from saying another word, because he collected from the statement of the noble Lord that it was now the subject of negotiation; but he must, before sitting down, express his hope that that negotiation would be conducted with a due sense of the importance of the question. The annexation of Faucigny, Chablais, and the Genevoise to France would absolutely destroy the neutrality of Switzerland by making it, as every military man knew, perfectly impossible to defend the western portion of that country. He was not, therefore, exagge- rating when he said that in this question there was involved the neutrality and integrity of Switzerland; and that with the neutrality and integrity of Switzerland, there was at stake the safety of Germany, and the peace and tranquillity of Europe for many years to come.



said, he was unwilling that it should be taken for granted that he acquiesced in the observation that the explanation given by the noble Foreign Secretary was satisfactory, as that depended on the answer that might be given to the question he desired to put. The Swiss Confederation had appealed to the Powers of Europe, requiring that there might be a Conference to consider the condition of the neutralized provinces, and demanding at the same time that until the Conference met and a decision was come to, that the neutralized provinces should not be occupied in a military sense by France. What he wished then to know was, whether the noble Foreign Secretary, when he said that the Government of France was willing to submit this question to a Conference of the great Powers of Europe, and that in the opinion of the Government that Conference would conduce to the settlement of the question in a manner to secure the independence and neutrality of Switzerland, means to imply that matters would in the meantime remain in statu quo, and that the neutralized provinces would not be militarily occupied by France. On this the whole question turned, for it was obvious, as pointed out in one of Lord Cowley's despatches, that if this neutralized territory should be put in the hands of France, any stipulation with regard to the matter would not be worth the paper on which it was written. Lord Cowley had pointed out to the Government that it would be in the power of France in a moment to pour her legions, without the smallest resistance, into Switzerland, and it was perfectly obvious that if France entered into possession that anything like a retirement from it at a suggestion from a Conference was what the noble Lord, in the most sanguine moment of his existence, could not possibly anticipate.

Forward to