§ MR. ST. AUBYN
—Sir, in ising to move that a humble Address be presented from this House to Her Majesty in answer to the gracious Speech delivered from the throne this day, I feel that it is more than usually necessary to appeal to the House for that indulgence which, I believe, is never denied to the natural hesitation of those who venture to address it for the first time; and I may be permitted to add, that when I was requested to undertake the duty which 76 I shall now endeavour to perform, I was selected certainly not from any qualifications of my own, but rather as a mark of respect to the large constituency that I have the honour to represent—a constituency which is not less varied and important than any in this kingdom, and which has invariably, for a long period of years, returned to this House two Members belonging to that great party with whom I have the honour and the happiness to act.
The first great subject to which Her Majesty has called attention is the state of our foreign relations; and it must be a satisfaction to every one that Her Majesty is again able to repeat the announcement that Her Majesty's Government is on terms of amity and friendship with all Foreign Powers. With respect to public affairs on the Continent of Europe, there is undoubtedly one question which has occupied the attention of all thinking men in this country, almost to the exclusion of every other, and that question is the present state of affairs in Italy. I believe I may safely say that the course which Her Majesty's Government has thought it right to pursue during the war which has desolated and the struggles which are still distracting a large part of that peninsula, is in accordance with the opinions of the great majority of the people of this country. It was felt, inasmuch as we had no direct personal interest in the question, and as we were no parties to the original dispute, that we were not called upon to interfere between the Italian people and those who had governed them. But it is impossible to deny that there was in this country a deep sympathy with the cause of a generous people, struggling for freedom and independence, and the hopes that were at that time entertained are now, I hope and believe, in a fair way of being realized.
By the treaty of Villafranca it is stipulated that neither on the one side nor on the other shall force be employed with the view of imposing any Government upon the Italian people, in any way obnoxious to them; and for eight months the population of Central Italy has been freed from the domination of their former rulers. During that time they have exhibited to the world a firmness, moderation, and, generally speaking, an absence from excesses of all kinds, which has endeared their cause to every lover of true liberty. I trust that the great influence which Her Majesty's Government is able to exert, whether it is used in or out of Congress, will be exercised for the 77 purpose of securing to the Italian people those privileges of freedom and good government which they have already proved themselves so worthy to enjoy.
It will be in the recollection of the House that in the course of last year the Chinese Government, in direct violation of existing treaties, and either in ignorance or in wanton violation of the usages which regulate the public intercourse of civilized nations with each other, attacked and nearly destroyed an expedition which was advancing into the interior of the country with the view of carrying out the provisions of the treaty of Tien-tsin. It has been determined, in concert with France, to send an armed force to exact reparation for that injury; but, notwithstanding the insult offered to our flag and the indignities to which our representatives have been subjected, it is still, I believe, in the power of the Chinese Government, by full, prompt, and permanent reparation, to avert actual hostilities. Should they, unfortunately, be so obstinate as to refuse acquiescence in the moderate terms now offered them, we must trust to the skill of our commanders and the bravery of our troops, which have never been more signally displayed than on former occasions in that country, to vindicate the honour of England.
As to the difficulty which arose in the course of last year with regard to the island of San Juan, and which, but for the moderation of the British officers in command there, might have assumed a much more disagreeable aspect than it has done, negotiations are, I believe, at present on foot which are likely to remove all difficulties by an amicable settlement of the question.
With regard to the affairs of India, it must be matter of congratulation to every one to learn that tranquillity has been completely restored in that part of Her Majesty's dominions. All traces of the great mutiny of 1857 have passed away, the last embers of discontent have been trodden out, and the successful issue of the Viceroy's progress through what were lately the most disaffected provinces appears to augur the commencement of a new and happier era in the history of India, when England, by assuming a policy of conciliation and regard, may not only win, but retain the affections of the Indian people, and prove herself not unworthy of the high mission which has devolved upon her in the supremacy over that empire.
As to that part of Her Majesty's speech which refers to the coming Estimates, I will 78 only say, that if one idea has taken possession of the minds of the people of England during the past year with a firmer hold than any other, it is, that however strict and close our alliances might be with neighbouring Powers, it is neither becoming to the dignity nor consistent with the safety of this country that we should be at the mercy of an invasion which might arise from causes entirely fortuitous and unforeseen. I believe the country will heartily support the House in voting such sums as may be necessary for rendering England independent of any menaces or apprehensions of the kind. The reference of Her Majesty to the internal condition of our own country at this time also appears to me to contain ample matter for congratulation. The loyalty and contentment of the people, and the total absence of all agitation at the present moment, seems to mark the present as a peculiarly fitting time for introducing and effecting those reforms in the Parliamentary representation of the people, so long expected, so often promised, but so long delayed. Her Majesty has intimated that a Bill will shortly be laid before us with that view, and I hope not only that such a measure will be introduced, but that it may so far meet with the approbation of all parties in the House as to have a successful course, and become the law of the land before the end of the present Session. I am encouraged in that hope by the reflection that, on the one hand, hon. Gentlemen opposite are not averse to the principle of reform, but, on the contrary, regard it with so much favour that they last year brought in a measure, which, if carried, would have effected very considerable changes in the constitution of this House; and, on the other hand, that there are many Gentlemen below the gangway on my own side, who, though generally supposed to desire a more extreme measure, appear very generally willing to accept the coming Reform Bill as an instalment, even though it may not contain all they wish. I trust, therefore, that the approaching measure will sufficiently meet the views of all parties in the House as to pass through Parliament, and that it will at the same time rest on such a broad and firm basis as to admit within the pale of the constitution many of those classes who are now excluded, but whose intelligence, increased education, and industry have proved them not unworthy to exercise a more direct influence in the legislation of the country.
Of the loyalty and spirit of these classes, 79 and indeed of every class in the country, no one can form an adequate idea who has not attentively considered the volunteer movement. I will not inquire into what were the causes which led to the sudden outbreak of military ardour, now displayed among us; but the fact still remains that the people of this country, acting, whether rightly or wrongly, under apprehensions of attack, rose and armed, with a zeal, devotion, and disinterestedness which have convinced the world that the old English spirit is not yet extinct among us, and that one and all, high and low, rich and poor, are resolved to preserve inviolate the honour, and, if need be, the soil of England. Second only in importance to the reform of the representation, on account of its bearing on the happiness and well-being of all classes, is the question of reform in the administration of the law; and the people will hear with satisfaction that the legal advisers of Her Majesty's Government have been actively engaged in preparing measures which have for their object improvements in that department. It is proposed, as the House has already heard, to introduce measures with a view to the consolidation of the statutes, to the removal of evils now existing in the laws of bankruptcy and insolvency, and to the avoidance of those delays and expenses 'which arise from the conflicting jurisdictions of the courts of law and equity.
In conclusion, I trust that I may express, without impropriety, the satisfaction which I feel at being permitted to be the mouthpiece of the House in congratulating Her Majesty upon this occasion; because I never remember to have read of a time in which the position of this country stood higher than now, whether as regards domestic or foreign relations. At home we present the spectacle of a free, contented, and happy people, united among all classes by a community no less of interest than of patriotic feeling. Those panics which in former years, and not long ago, caused such disastrous consequences in the commercial world, have not been repeated in the year just closed, and the gradual increase of trade proves a return of that confidence which was no doubt somewhat shaken by the events of 1857. Abroad, the position of this country excites the envy and admiration of the whole civilized world. We have seen two great nations, both the allies of this country, engaged in a desperate and sanguinary struggle on the plains of Italy. Her Majesty's Govern- 80 ment, as I have already truly said, did but express the opinion of the majority of persons in this country, by steadily and resolutely refusing to interfere in that conflict, and the consequence of their conduct has been that England is now in a position to enforce, with the greatest possible effect, the policy which, in my humble opinion, should ever be the policy of this country— namely, to allow every other country to be the best judge of the form of government under which it would live. Our relations with France, which at one moment in the course of last year, caused uneasiness to the true friends of both countries, are now on a much more satisfactory footing. The powerful Prince who controls the destinies of that great country has lately inaugurated a scheme of commercial policy, long ago adopted by England, which, if carried to its legitimate end, cannot fail to confer the greatest benefit upon both. If the Emperor shall be permitted to carry his plan to its legitimate consequences, it will do more to maintain and secure the good will which should always exist between this country and France than the most liberal professions of amity unaccompanied by acts calculated to give effect to them. That the Emperor of the French may be permitted to persevere in the course which he has now introduced must be the sincere wish of every one who desires to advance the civilization of the world. That our Queen may long continue to rule over a nation which presented the spectacle of a loyal and contented people, attached to peace but not afraid of war, must be the sincere desire, not only of every Member of this House, but of every man who owns the name of Englishman.
The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving,—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to convey the Thanks of this House for Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech from the Throne.To express to Her Majesty the gratification with which we learn that Her Majesty's relations with Foreign Powers continue to be on a friendly and satisfactory Footing.Humbly to thank Her Majesty for the information which Her Majesty has given us with regard to the invitation which Her Majesty has received from the Emperor of Austria and from the Emperor of the French to send a Plenipotentiary to assist at a Conference of the Great Powers of Europe.81Humbly to express our gratification at learning that Her Majesty has accepted the invitation, while, at the same time, making known that in such a Conference Her Majesty would steadfastly maintain the principle that no external force should be employed to impose upon the People of Italy any particular Government or Constitution.Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that, whether in Congress or in separate Negotiation, Her Majesty will endeavour to obtain for the People of Italy freedom from foreign interference by force of arms in their internal concerns; and that we trust, with Her Majesty, that the affairs of the Italian Peninsula may be peacefully and satisfactorily settled.Humbly to thank Her Majesty for commanding that Papers on this subject should be laid before us.Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that Her Majesty is in communication with the Emperor of the French, with a view to extend the commercial intercourse between the two Countries, and thus to draw still closer the bonds of friendly alliance between them.Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we partake in the regret expressed by Her Majesty that Her Majesty's endeavours to prevent a rupture between Spain and Morocco have been without success.To thank Her Majesty for informing us that Her Majesty's Plenipotentiary and the Plenipotentiary of the Emperor of the French having, in obedience to their instructions, proceeded to the mouth of the Peiho river, in order to repair to Pekin to exchange in that city the ratifications of the Treaty of Tien-tsin, in pursuance of the 56th Article of that Treaty, their further progress was opposed by force, and that a conflict took place between the Chinese Forts at the mouth of the river, and the Naval Forces by which the Plenipotentiaries were esoorted; and that Her Majesty is preparing, in concert and co-operation with the Emperor of the French, an expedition intended to obtain redress, and a fulfilment of the stipulations of the Treaty of Tien-tsin.Humbly to assure Her Majesty, that we shall participate in Her gratification if the prompt acquiescence of the Emperor of China in the moderate demands which will be made by the Plenipotentiaries, shall obviate the necessity for the employment of force.To thank Her Majesty for directing that Papers on this subject should be laid before us.To assure Her Majesty that we learn with satisfaction that a collision, which might have oc- 82 curred between Her Majesty's Forces and those of the United States, arising from an unauthorized proceeding by an Officer of the United States in regard to the Island of San Juan, has been prevented by the judicious forbearance of Her Majesty's Naval and Civil Officers on the spot, and by the equitable and conciliatory provisional arrangement proposed on this matter by the Government of the United States; and that we trust with Her Majesty that the question of Boundary, out of which this affair has arisen, may be amicably settled in a manner conformable with the just rights of the two Countries as defined by the First Article of the Treaty of 1840.To express our heartfelt thankfulness in learning that the last embers of disturbance in Her Majesty's East Indian Dominions have been extinguished; that Her Majesty's Viceroy has made a peaceful progress through the districts which had been the principal scene of disorder; that, by a judicious combination of firmness and generosity, Her Majesty's authority has been everywhere solidly established, and that Her Majesty has recived from Her Majesty's Viceroy the most gratifying accounts of the loyalty of Her Majesty's Indian subjects, and of the good feeling evinced by the Native Chiefs and the great landowners of the country.Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that the attention of the Government in India has been directed to the development of the internal resources of the Country, and that an improvement has taken place in its financial prospects.To express our satisfaction that Her Majesty has concluded a Treaty with the Tycoon of Japan, and a Treaty regarding Boundaries with the Republic of Guatemala.To thank Her Majesty for having directed the Estimates of the ensuing year to be laid before us, and for having caused them to be prepared with a view to place the Military and Naval Services and the Defences of the Country upon an efficient Footing.And to assure Her Majesty that we are glad to learn that the Public Revenue is in a satisfactory condition.Humbly to thank Her Majesty for graciously expressing to us the feelings with which Her Majesty has accepted the extensive offers of Voluntary Service which Her Majesty has received from Her Subjects.To thank Her Majesty for informing us that measures will be laid before us for amending the Laws which regulate the Representation of the People in Parliament, and for placing that Repre- 83 sentation upon a broader and firmer basis, and to assure Her Majesty that we will give our best consideration to this important subject.To assure Her Majesty that we will give our most serious attention to Her Majesty's recommendation that we should resume our labours for the improvement of our Jurisprudence, and particularly in regard to Bankruptcy, the Transfer of Land, the Consolidation of the Statutes, and such a further fusion of Law and Equity as may be necessary to insure that, in every suit, the rights of the parties may be satisfactorily determined by the Court in which the suit is commenced.To humbly express our gratification in learning that the great interests of the Country are generally in a sound and thriving condition; that Pauperism and Crime have diminished; and that, throughout the whole of Her Majesty's Empire, both in the United Kingdom and in Her Majesty's Colonies and Possessions beyond sea, there reigns a spirit of loyalty, of contentment, of order, and of obedience to the Law.And humbly to assure Her Majesty that, in common with Her Majesty, we fervently pray that the beneficent power of the Almighty Ruler of Nations may guide our deliberations for the advancement and consolidation of the welfare and happiness of Her People.
said, that he rose to second the Address which has just been so ably proposed by the hon. Member for Cornwall. The hon. Member in the speech which he had just delivered had described to the House the thriving condition of the nation at home and abroad. he had described to the House the tranquillity and contentment of the people; he had told them that provisions were cheap, that railways were constructing in every direction. he described everything as flourishing at home, and then he told them of the proud position occupied by this country in relation to all the Powers of the Continent. But there was one thing upon which, in the course of his able and eloquent speech he did not congratulate the House, and it was one, therefore, upon which he, (Lord Henley) in seconding his Motion, might be allowed to supply his omission—it was on the fact that the affairs of the country were in the hands of the Government, into whose hands they gladly saw them committed. he was happy to say that the presence of the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government and of the noble Lord as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was a sufficient guaran- 84 tee that our relations with foreign nations would be such as they had always been while under the conduct of those noble Lords. With regard to domestic affairs, he believed that the Reform Bill which this Government would produce would be such as would put the representation of the people on a firmer and broader basis, and that, while it increased the popular character of the House, would at the same time maintain the character of that noble constitution of which, as Englishmen, they were all so justly proud. In legislating with regard to the affairs of religion he believed that the Ministry would be actuated by one great principle—a principle which had been too often neglected, upon which all history showed that pure religion and morality could best be founded and which was approved by God and man —namely, the principle of universal toleration. he begged the House to look for a moment at the question of foreign affairs. —the subject first referred to in the Speech from the Throne. he would ask them whether the position of this country had ever been higher than it was at the present moment? Let them cast their eyes across the Channel and take the first nation upon which they would light. he asked any one to recollect the state of France a few years ago, who could recollect the later years of the reign of the Bourbon dynasty—the condition of mind of the French people twenty years ago. The city of France was still, but it was the stillness of a quiescent volcano. There was a fire burning beneath and trying to burst forth and cast off the mass of misgovernment by which it was suppressed—a fire which was the remnant of that old revolutionary spirit which sixty years before hurled France like a thunderbolt against the peace and tranquillity of Europe. The feeling of discontent remained even until the commencement of the reign of Louis Napoleon. It was not until affairs began to be developed, and the people found that they really had a man to govern them, that it subsided. During the later reigns of the Bourbon dynasty France was governed by a scholar, a bigot, and an intriguer; but until the accession of the present Emperor, she had never felt that she was governed by a man—by a really reflecting, efficient, and patriotic Sovereign. It was only when France felt she had such a ruler that, like a noble horse, which felt a good rider on his back, she pushed forward in the career which would carry her to prosperity and 85 honour—and be was sure that no man in that House would grudge to see her bounding forward on the path of improvement. Such a man as Louis Napoleon at the head of such a country as France could not fail to have a great effect upon the affairs of Europe, and, through the affairs of Europe, upon our affairs. he asked the House to look at the past conduct of Louis Napoleon, and, by considering it, to form some idea of what his future conduct would he. They would find that he was not averse to war—a peaceful ruler would be hardly able to maintain his rule in France—but while he had not been unwilling to make war, instead of making war for self-aggrandisement he had made it on behalf of the weak and powerless, against a tyrannical Government which oppressed smaller States. he thought that, looking at the past conduct of Louis Napoleon, he was likely to assist in carrying out that kind of Government of which, as Englishmen, they were all proud. The war which had lately been concluded was undertaken by Louis Napoleon to countenance the King of Sardinia in assisting the States of Italy to throw off the iron and despotic rule of Austria. Now that the war was concluded it was found that the Emperor of Austria was endeavouring to construe the words of the Treaty of Villafranca into an admission on the part of the Emperor of the French, that he was hound to use force to replace the discarded Sovereigns of Italy on their thrones, and restore the lamentable state of things that existed in Central Italy previous to the breaking out of the war. The words of the treaty might be somewhat ambiguous, but, looking to the fact that the Emperor of the French had taken up arms solely for the purpose of freeing Central Italy from Austrian tyranny, it never could have been his intention in making peace to consent to conditions which would have the effect of binding him to employ force to restore that tyranny in Central Italy by compelling the inhabitants of the Duchies to replace their expelled rulers. Our Government had been invited by France, in conjunction with Austria, to take part in a Congress to consider of the pacification of Italy; and he thought that the Government had acted rightly in agreeing to be one of the parties to that meeting; for the influence of this country in European affairs was justly such, that no Congress could be effectual without her concurrence. In going into a Congress our Government 86 could but have two objects in view—to maintain England in the position which she had always occupied among European Powers, and to use English influence to induce the great Powers to concede to Italy the power of choosing her own rulers. On this principle our Government had acted all along, and it would be for the benefit of the whole of Europe, that every State, however small, should have the power of deciding on its own form of Government. Whatever might be the decision of the Italian States—whether they returned to their old Sovereigns, established a republic, or placed themselves under the dominion of the King of Sardinia — England would have the satisfaction of knowing that she had done her best to obtain for them the exercise of their own free will and the blessings of that freedom which she had herself so long enjoyed. As Italy a thousand years ago had introduced Christianity into England, so England in our own times would have the proud satisfaction of carrying freedom into Italy in return for it. After the war was concluded, Louis Napoleon had wisely come to the determination that the Romagna ought to be separated from the Papal territories. The people of the Ro-magna had shown that they were not desirous of continuing under the dominion of the Pope, and the Pope had shown that he was not fitted to exercise dominion over them. This question of the Romagna, no doubt, was the great obstacle to the meeting of the Congress; but, whatever might be the course pursued in this matter, he felt confident that, as far as our Government was concerned, the right of every people to choose their own rulers would be maintained. Turning again for a moment to our own domestic affairs, while he rejoiced to hear that Her Majesty's Government had given notice of their intention to introduce a Bill for the amendment of the representation of the people, he must be permitted to say that there were two essential faults in the present system of election, which he hoped would be amended by that Bill. The first was the prevalence of bribery in the election of Members; the second the exercise of undue influence. Whatever might be the original theory of our Constitution, it never could have been the intention of the framers of it that gentlemen should go down to boroughs and secure the honour of representing them in Parliament by purchase, or that those persons who possessed large territorial domains 87 should exercise the influence so obtained, for the purpose of influencing the election of Members of Parliament. A remedy might, he believed, be found for both these evils by the enlarging of small constituencies, by adding considerably to the number of voters, and also by adding large districts to those places which now enjoyed the privilege of returning Members. Another remedy which might be applied to these evils, and which he trusted he should live to see enacted, was the establishment of a system of voting by which persons would be enabled to exercise the suffrage without the fear of the interference of their landlords or any other persons who might be in a condition to exercise power over them. But he was afraid we could hardly look forward to the establishment of such a system as yet. We must be satisfied at present with that which the Government had promised to bring forward, to which the House of Commons had almost promised its consent, and which, to a certain extent, had been proposed by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Even those who sat opposite must feel that the settlement of a question of this sort rested better with the party who sat on that side the House, and whose hereditary policy it had always been to place the Constitution of the country on a wider basis, than in the hands of those who had always opposed great changes, and who did not profess to see those abuses to the removal of which a new Reform Bill would be addressed. he trusted that the Bill to be introduced by the Government would have the effect of admitting to the exercise of the franchise a large number of the industrial classes. How far it would go, it was impossible for him to say, but though it might not go so far as every one would wish, he hoped it would receive a full and fair consideration from all parties—especially from all parties who sat on his side of the House. he could not expect that all of them would be quite satisfied with it, but he had no doubt that it would be a great improvement upon the existing electoral system. Seldom had Parliament been summoned together under more prosperous circumstances, and he hoped that the country, now that it had a strong, wise, and united Government, would advance rapidly along that path of prosperity which lay before it, and that no factious opposition would prevent the House from considering the measures that would be submitted for its approval. And having adopted every means which ingenuity 88 could devise or experience perfect, let us put our trust in that Providence which for 800 years has maintained this kingdom in an united, a prosperous, and an advancing condition. he begged, in conclusion, to second the Motion of his hon. Friend, that an Address be presented to Her Majesty in answer to Her Majesty's Gracious Speech they had that day heard from the Throne.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,—"That," &c. [See Page 80.]
§ MR. DISRAELI
—Mr. Speaker—The last Session of Parliament opened with a question of confidence; but until the noble Seconder rose to-night, I was not aware that the question was to be renewed upon the present occasion. Sir, you read the Address not with that usual clearness which characterizes your elocution, and I did not collect whether the passage expressing confidence in the two noble Lords, which I suppose from the intimation of the noble Seconder (Lord Henley) must form a portion of the document, is really to be found in it. But, although anxious on this occasion not to move an Amendment, I beg it may be distinctly understood on my own part, and on that of my friends, that if that passage is included, it is under protest. The noble Lord has addressed the House to-night in rather an unusual tone. Indeed, as I listened to the noble Lord, it appeared to me that he delivered an address suited rather to the atmosphere of the French Senate than to that of the English House of Commons; and the noble Lord will allow me to say, that I do not think it favourably contrasted with that graceful and ingenious speech with which the Mover of the Address introduced his sentiments and observations to the consideration of the House.
Sir, it is not my intention to-night, and I have heard of no such intention in any other quarter, to move an Amendment to the Address which we are about to vote— I hope unanimously—in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne. But as that Address adverts to many topics of great interest, the House will perhaps excuse me if upon some of them I make a few observations; because I think there are passages in that Speech—passages referring to matters of considerable gravity and import,—on which the House, even to-night, has a right to expect some explanation from Her Majesty's Government. I remember last year that the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs found great fault with me that 89 the paragraph which referred to that which in common parlance is termed the Reform Bill, was placed in so low a position in Her Majesty's Speech. But on referring to the gracious Speech which has been delivered to-day, I find that that passage—in the composition of which from the notice that has been given this evening, I doubt not the noble Lord has the vested interest of a parent—does not occupy a more prominent position than it did in the Speech of last year. And this shows how much easier it is to be critical than to be correct; for the noble Lord himself, alive as he is to the importance that the Reform paragraph should obtain an early and prominent position in Her Majesty's Speech, still finds, with all his solicitude upon the subject, that it was unavoidably necessary that it should occupy the position which it now fills. I hope I may augur, from the similarity of the circumstances under which that notification has appeared in these two Speeches, that the measure which the noble Lord is about to bring forward, although it may of course differ in details from that which was introduced by Gentlemen sitting upon this side of the House, will, at least, have this resemblance to that measure that its tendency will he to strengthen and confirm our Parliamentary institutions, and not to change their character or to impair their influence. I can assure the noble Lord that if such a measure is brought forward it will receive from us that calm and candid consideration which was once invited from the Throne to a proposal dealing with the same topic; and if necessary we shall offer such assistance as we can to render it a measure such as the exigencies of the country require, and such as the public opinion of the country may sanction.
Sir, there is another point on which I would also make an observation, and that is the congratulations which the House has received on what I may consider the successful negotiation of a commercial treaty with France;—for although technically that title is not included in the Speech, I apprehend it necessarily follows, from the language which is actually employed, that the form of instrument in which the new commercial relations of the country are laid down must be a treaty,—even if we had not heard to-day, I believe from authority, that it is so, and that such an instrument is signed. Now, the fact that there is a prospect of increased commercial relations with France is one undoubtedly of much gratification; and taking it 90 also, as we are bound to take it, as a sign of the cordial good feeling subsisting between the Governments of the two countries, no one can for a moment deny that it is a circumstance, not only of gratification, but of an important political character. Nevertheless, I must address an inquiry to Her Majesty's Government with respect to the mode in which the attention of Parliament is to be brought to this subject. I want to know what is to be the duty of the House of Commons if a commercial treaty should be laid on the table for our examination and approval? I certainly did not expect to live to see another commercial treaty introduced into the House of Commons. From all that has recently passed I associated that form of instrument with those ancient modes of conveyance which have in our time disappeared, and which, although the traveller may perhaps have found them more interesting than those now in vogue, have yielded without much chance of revival to the rapid means of locomotion which are now at our command. Assuming, as of course we have a right to assume, that it is convenient to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reduce the duties on wine, for instance—assuming that, I can easily understand why Her Majesty's Government should have felt that by a reduction of such duties the commercial relations of the two countries might be considerably and advantageously increased; and, that being the case, I cannot understand why Her Majesty' Government should not have proceeded to adopt that policy without having recourse to a commercial treaty. What is to be our business as a House of Commons in examining this commercial treaty? Are we to be called upon to decide whether the terms of the bargain are advantageous or adequate? If we do that, we must admit that the principle of reciprocity is the principle which is to guide us in our decision. But it appears to me that by admitting that the principle of reciprocity is to guide us in our commercial relations, we are shaking to its centre that new commercial system which has of late years been established in this country with so much zeal, especially by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and established with a determination upon our parts of showing upon all occasions that it is totally independent of reciprocal concessions from other nations. But if reciprocity be not the principle that we are to acknowledge in the present instance as the one which is to determine the merits of this instrument, I 91 should like to know why we have recourse at all to such a form, and why we should not have increased our commercial relations with our neighbours—a circumstance which we all highly value—without at the same time asking for an equivalent, if indeed an equivalent has been made. We have all been told that a distinguished Member of this House, the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden), is the individual to whom we are indebted for this prospect of increased commercial relations with France. But I am quite sure that the hon. Member for Rochdale is not the person who would ever have counselled the adoption of a commercial treaty founded on the principle of reciprocity, in order to increase the commercial relations of the two countries. There is another circumstance connected with this question of a commercial treaty which requires, I think, some explanation from Her Majesty's Ministers. We live in an age in which events succeed each other so rapidly that whatever occurs, however important, is easily and soon forgotten. But I find that in 1856, only four years ago, the Emperor of the French made a similar communication—similar in character and very similar in expression to that which he has recently addressed to the Minister of State, and in that document also he proposed the entire extinction of the prohibitive system, and the adoption of measures similar in character to those which are intimated in the State paper that has lately created such a sensation in Europe. In that case, in the year 1856, a Bill was absolutely introduced into the Legislative Assembly of France; and although that Bill was not upon that occasion passed—probably from the lateness of the Session—the Emperor of the French considered that it was of such importance that the question of commercial freedom should be settled and acknowledged by the country—based as his recommendations were on the acknowledged superiority of articles of French industry in the Great Exhibition—that his Imperial Majesty ordered that this proposal of his should be referred to the 86 Conseils G£neraux—the departmental Parliaments of France; and it is a fact that, with the exception of six of these conseils, the proposal was adopted, with the understanding that a certain period of time should be allowed to elapse before the new system should be brought into play. The consequence was that the Emperor, agreeing to this suggestion, published an ordinance, or 92 some public document of that character, in which he treated their decision as final, expressed his firm resolution to carry that system into effect, and appointed July, 1861, as the period at which its operation was to commence. And that is the reason, I apprehend, why in the commercial treaty that is to be placed upon the table of this House, a provision will appear to the effect that on the part of France the relaxation of her system cannot come into operation until the month of July, 1861. But then the House will see that if there even had been no commercial treaty at all, this abolition of the prohibitive system on the part of France, and the adoption of protective duties would have inevitably occurred; and therefore if we are making a concession to the French we are making it for that which we should have obtained without it. If, therefore, we can conveniently, in the present state of our revenue, make such a concession, I say make it upon a scientific principle—make it in a way which will not embarrass you hereafter—make it upon the general principle recognized in our own commercial system, and not upon the principle of reciprocity, by which you will create a precedent you may on some future occasion find extremely embarrassing, and which is not in the least necessary, if the circumstances I have detailed are correct — and I shall be surprised if their accuracy is impugned. The adoption of such a policy upon our part is not in the least necessary, because all that France now engages to do is to put an end to the system of prohibition in the month of July, 1861, and to substitute a system of protective duties, or something analogous, instead; and to that policy she is already committed. What, then, is it you expect to gain by a treaty? All you can do to encourage an increased commercial exchange with France, you can do at once by reducing your own duties, without placing on this table a document you may find very awkward and embarrassing hereafter, and raising claims for reciprocity from other quarters, opposed to that commercial system you have now so long and so successfully been carrying into practice. On these two points, then, I think the House has a right to ask some explanations from Her Majesty's Government; we have a right to ask why they have negotiated a treaty with France on the principle of reciprocity, which has been absolutely rejected in our own commercial system? Why have they ostensibly endeavoured to obtain a result which 93 must inevitably have occurred at the very period the treaty stipulates for? Why have they engaged us by treaty for what must have been done without any treaty whatever? These are points, in my opinion, which call for explanation.
Passing to another topic, I must say I think it extremely inconvenient that we should to-night enter into any discussion upon the recent events in China, notwithstanding the strong opinion expressed by the noble Lord the Seconder of the Address. I hope, however, it will not be understood by noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen opposite that our silence upon that subject argues that we at all agree with the version which the noble Lord has given of those transactions. I have no doubt that our policy with respect to China may in due course become a source of discussion in this House; but if I advert to the subject now it is only because I for one would express my satisfaction that Her Majesty in her Speech has been wisely re-commended to refer to the bravery of our troops in the recent engagement. It is too much our habit to sympathise only with the successful. But there are occasions of adversity in which the most signal courage may have been displayed; and I do not think that the conduct of our troops —disastrous as was the ultimate consequences of their onset—I do not think that the conduct of our troops upon that occasion should, when Parliament meets, and the subject is thus brought before us, be passed over in entire silence. It was characterized by a signal bravery; and I think that we can hardly remember the conduct of the Admiral, who upon that occasion commanded our forces, without feeling that his behaviour was that of a man whom England may be proud to own as one of her warriors; and, unfortunate as was the termination of that struggle, let us make him, at least, feel that his country regard his sufferings with pity and his conduct with admiration.
I have touched thus upon one or two points to which I thought it was right that I should refer before I asked for some explanation upon that theme which is undoubtedly the one that engages most the public interest, and on which I may perhaps say that all the attention of the country is at this moment concentrated—and that is the condition of Italy and the relations of our Government to that country. Now, that subject is treated in Her Majesty's gracious Speech at considerable 94 length. But I confess, after having read it with great attention, it appears to me that there is in the treatment of the theme so much ambiguity and perplexity of phrase, that I should be totally at a loss to gather from this document what is the real state of our diplomatic relations with that country, or with France with regard to that country, had it not happened that we have been favoured from another, although a foreign, source with information upon the subject. The terms employed in Her Majesty's Speech renders it my duty to-night I to ask some explanation from Her Majesty's Government of what has taken place in the interval since the prorogation of Parliament, and how far this country stands committed, and what prospects may exist in reference to any engagement into which Her Majesty may have been counselled to enter upon this important subject. Now, I would recall to the House the tone and temper in which, towards the close of the last Session of Parliament, this question was entered into and discussed. About three weeks before Parliament was prorogued, there was a general expectation that a Congress of the great Powers and other States would be held, by which the affairs of Italy would be settled, That was the expectation throughout the country, and in this House it was accompanied with some distrust and suspicion. We were not responsible for the condition of Italian affairs. It was felt that if we were called on to participate in any way in their settlement, it was highly expedient this country should not interfere, unless the object of that interference was satisfactorily determined. In the House this feeling was strong, even stronger than in the country. I expressed my hope that Her Majesty's Ministers would not be induced to take part in a Congress on this subject. I did so for this reason—the soundness of which time and experience have confirmed,—that if we went into the Congress it would be asking England to assist in carrying into effect the Treaty of Villafranca—an office that, in my mind, England ought not to be called on to perform. On the other hand, if the Treaty of Villafranca were to be set aside, then it would be asking England to commence in the dark the task of reconstructing Italy, a task that might embroil us seriously with other Powers. That opinion was not unpopular in this House. A noble Lord, not now present, gave notice of a Motion which would have afforded the House an opportunity of expressing an 95 opinion against the policy of our entering into a Congress on the state of Italy; but accidental circumstances, for which he was in no way responsible, prevented him from carrying out his intention at the time he had expected, and the result was that the Motion was not introduced until the last night the House sat. Even then, I believe, there could be no doubt that it would have been adopted by a majority of the House if it had been pressed to a division. But I thought it would be a circumstance to be deplored if the Government should then be embarrassed by its adoption; and although I did not consider that the advice which I gave to the noble Lord was in any way opposed to the course which he recommended, I used my humble influence to procure its withdrawal. There is no doubt, however, that the House was opposed to our going into the Congress, and that it was in favour of that policy which is popularly known by the name of the policy of non-interference. I say popularly known by that name, because I do not know any Member of this House— either among my colleagues or among those who sit on the other side the House—who has ever maintained the monstrous proposition that England ought never, under any circumstances, to interfere in the affairs of foreign States. There are conditions under which it may be our imperative duty to interfere. We may clearly interfere in the affairs of foreign countries when the interests or the honour of England are at stake, or when, in our opinion, the independence of Europe is menaced. But a great responsibility devolves upon that Minister who has to decide when those conditions have arisen; and he who makes a mistake upon that subject, he who involves his country in interference or in war under the idea that the interests or the honour of the country are concerned, when neither is substantially involved—he who involves his country in interference or war because he believes the independence of Europe is menaced, when, in fact, the independence of Europe is not in danger—makes, of course, a great—a fatal mistake. The general principle that we ought not to interfere in the affairs of foreign nations, unless there is a clear necessity, and that, generally speaking, it ought to be held a political dogma that the people of other countries should settle their own affairs without the introduction of foreign influence or foreign power, is one which, I think, the House does not only accept, but, I trust, will cordially adhere to. That 96 was the policy which the late Government maintained six months ago when there was some wavering in the faith of that policy, and some persons high in authority spoke of the possibility of England being humiliated by not taking what is called a leading part in the settlement of foreign questions. I ask those who then wavered or who indulged in such observations to contrast the position of England now, when after six months we still have to acknowledge the blessings of non-interference in the affairs of our neighbours, notwithstanding the efforts which may have been made to interfere, and to which I shall presently refer —I ask them to contrast the position of England with that of any other country in the world. Has not the adhesion to the policy of non-interference by England been most beneficial? Has there ever been a period when England has occupied a prouder or a more powerful position than that which she at present fills? As, therefore, she has attained that position while adhering to the policy of non-interference, I trust that the House of Commons, which, on the last night of the Session, clearly expressed its opinion in favour of that policy, will, at the commencement of the present Session, take this opportunity of asking explanations of Her Majesty's Government, or, in other words, will show to Her Majesty's Government that if they continue in that policy they will receive the support of the House; but that if they diverge from it they must offer to the House reasons far graver than any that have yet reached my ear, and arguments of more weighty import than I believe will be introduced into this debate. I mention this because, while the House of Commons in the month of August was expressing in so unequivocal a manner, sustained by the common sentiment of the country, its opinion that the policy of non-interference in the affairs of Italy was the one which this country ought to follow, it appears to me, from what I have learnt, that Her Majesty's Government were pursuing not precisely that course. I make no charge tonight on that head. I am, however, speaking from information, and I shall make the statement which I have to make upon what I believe to be facts, and shall give to Her Majesty's Government a fair opportunity of explaining what may now seem ambiguous, and of refuting statements which may not be founded in truth and accuracy. The House will recollect that upon its prorogation we were informed that overtures were 97 made in order to ascertain whether Her Majesty's Government would be represented in any Congress which might take place upon the affairs of Italy. Certainly, it was to me somewhat surprising that when on the last night of the debate we were speaking on that subject, Her Majesty's Government gave us no intimation that any such overtures had been received. But the matter is of little import; it is of more importance to remember that in the Speech from the Throne at the prorogation we were informed that overtures for a Congress had been made, but we were not informed that they had been accepted. On the contrary, we were then told, if I recollect rightly, that until Her Majesty received further information she could not give any answer on the subject. Now, I should like to know what was the intimation which Her Majesty's Government received, which induced them to consent to enter into a Congress. But what I want to know from Her Majesty's Government still more than that is, why in the month of August, when Parliament was sitting —the very month that Parliament was prorogued, the very month that the House of Commons had expressed in debate, scarcely with any exception, its belief that the maintenance of a policy of non-interference in the affairs of Italy was necessary and politic—I want to know if, in that very month of August, the noble Lord, the Secretary of State, made overtures to the French Government in order to enter into a special agreement for the settlement of the affairs of Italy? We are, indeed, promised in the gracious Speech that papers on this subject will be soon laid before us. On that I would make two observations. I will say to the noble Lord the First Minister that there are no promises that he has made so frequently as promises for the production of papers to the House; and, of all Ministers, there is no one of them of whom it can be alleged, as of the noble Lord, that so great an interval was allowed to elapse between the promise of papers and their actual production. Papers are promised at the beginning of the Session, and they are produced at the end of it. Therefore when the noble Lord says that papers will be laid upon the table of the House, let me remind "the two noble Lords"—to use the language of the Seconder of the Address—that there has been a formal account of all the negotiations that have taken place between the Government of the Queen and the Government of the Emperor 98 of the French already published. Is it to be our lot that we are not to receive information from the Ministers of our own Sovereign respecting our own affairs, but that we are to be indebted for the information to the condescending candour of a foreign potentate? I think, therefore, that upon this subject it is becoming that Her Majesty's Government should give us some distinct information to-night. I did, indeed, believe—knowing that in this very month of January an intimation of these important negotiations has been authoritatively published on the other side of the water, —that the noble Lord the Secretary of State would, on the very first night of the Session, have placed the papers relating to these negotiations on the table of the House. Well, then, on that subject I want information. It appears, according to this statement, that in the month of August last Her Majesty's Government made overtures to the Emperor of the French to enter into a special agreement for the settlement of the affairs of Italy. I should like to know what was the character of those overtures, and what was the nature of the agreement which the noble Lord the Secretary of State contemplated. Is it unreasonable in the House of Commons to expect such information? I know that the noble Lord the Secretary of State may say that the sources from which I have obtained my information are anonymous. [Lord JOHN RUSSELL: Hear, hear!]. The noble Lord cheers, and I, of course, accept that as an objection to the information. I take it for granted he means to say that it is not authentic. ["Hear, hear!"] Very well. All I can say is this; three communications have appeared by means of the electric telegraph in this country, and they are communications dated the 9th, the 12th, and the 16th of January. In the communication of the 9th of January it is stated that Lord Cowley had repaired to England in order to revive negotiations which were commenced in August previous by the English Government for the settlement of the affairs of Italy by England and France by way of a special agreement. The noble Lord seems to deny the authenticity of that statement. I can only say, before I availed myself of it in this House, that I took steps which I thought would be satisfactory under the circumstances. I did not presume to follow the example of those four ingenious gentlemen of Liverpool to obtain it; but I took adequate steps, and I have been assured from a quarter which leaves 99 it impossible for me to doubt that these are communications from the French Government. And what are these communications? Lord Cowley arrived in England in the course of this month; there were immediately rumours which came from the other side of the water that his Lordship had arrived on matters of great importance, and there were immediately seemingly official and authoritative paragraphs in our own journals totally contradicting those rumours and announcing that Lord Cowley had arrived solely on personal affairs. Yet while Lord Cowley was in this country, it is stated that in the month of August last, when the Conferences of Zurich were threatened to be dissolved, the English Cabinet proposed to the French Government to come to a special agreement between France and England for the settlement of the affairs of Italy. It then goes on to say, in diplomatic language, which I do not read because I will not take up the time of the House, that Count Walewski, in order to prevent the proposals of Lord John Russell being accepted, tendered his resignation, and that he was successful was shown by the note which appeared in the Moniteur in September, relative to the recognition of the old Government in the Duchies; and after alluding to the failure of the attempt at the restoration of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, it goes on to say that Lord Cowley's mission is undoubtedly to resume the negotiations which were then interrupted. Lord Cowley returned to Paris, and a second telegram appeared, describing the object of Lord Cowley's mission to London as to resume negotiations between England and France, which were initiated by the former Power, but were interrupted by the opposition of Count Walewski; and it says that the basis of these negotiations was the adoption of the principles of non-interference in the affairs of Italy, and that the object of Lord Cowley's mission was to obtain the consent of England to a joint note, signed by England and France, and addressed to all the Powers, announcing that interference in the affairs of Italy would be looked upon by France and England as a casus belli. Now, Sir, I think I have a right to ask the noble Lord whether that is, as I have been informed, an authentic and authoritative statement. I beg the House to watch very narrowly this proceeding. This was nothing more nor less than a proposition of an alliance offensive and defensive between France and England to prevent 100 interference by any Power in the affairs of Italy. I dare say, from the language of the Royal Speech, that this very sentence may refer to a renewed effort for the same object—an object at the first blush innocent, and some might think praiseworthy, because it is Her Majesty, the Speech says, who endeavours to obtain for the people of Italy freedom from foreign interference by force of arms in their internal concerns. But look at what might be the consequences to this country if that alliance had been entered into, and which, according to the statement which I am assured is authoritative and authentic, was mainly refused by the English Government in these words—the British Cabinet, while expressing their readiness to support the principle of non-interference, either at the Congress or in their Communications with Foreign Powers, pointed out the impossibility of the Cabinet pledging itself without the consent of Parliament to a course of policy that might involve hostilities. Now Parliament has assembled, and we have in the speech from the Throne this somewhat ambiguous sentence, and which would have been to me altogether obscure had we not cognizance of the preceding events to which I have referred. We have it stated here that Her Majesty's Government will endeavour to obtain for Italy freedom from foreign interference by force of arms in its internal concerns, and that freedom it would appear is to be secured by this joint note of France and England, which makes interference by other Powers a casus belli. Observe what might happen. When you enter into a treaty you are not to look merely to the obvious and the probable engagements which you may be called upon to perform; but you are bound to contemplate every possible liability which, by so doing, you may incur. That is a rule of prudence universally acknowledged and invariably pursued. Suppose for a moment that that offensive and defensive treaty between England and France for the positively laudable object of preventing interference in the internal affairs of Italy had been entered into; and Parliament having assembled it may yet occur. Consequences may arise which are not contemplated by Franco more than by the English Government; but, if that treaty were entered into it is possible this might occur. A French dynasty might be established at Naples or in Etruria, the regality of Rome might be revived, the bouudaries between Sardinia and France 101 might be considerably changed. Other Powers, alarmed at circumstances which, in their opinion, would shake the political equilibrium or endanger their political independence, might consequently interfere in the internal concerns of Italy: and we should be bound under that treaty to uphold with our fleets and armies these French dynasties, to uphold this regality of Rome, to uphold this extension of the boundaries of the French Empire. These are the results which might occur, and such would be the situation of England. This is the gravest question that can possibly be introduced at this moment for the consideration of the House; yet if the documents before me are authentic — and I have been assured on very high authority that they may be taken certainly as authoritative and authentic documents — such are the propositions which have been made, and which I think, very much to the credit of the English Government, have been refused; but which have been refused mainly by the British Government, according to the statements to which I have referred, because it was undertaking too great a responsibility on their part to enter into an agreement which might ultimately involve the nation in hostilities without obtaining the sanction of Parliament. Still they may meditate such an alliance while Parliament is sitting, and therefore, it is of the highest importance that we should, on the first night of the Session, be acquainted with our actual and probable situation, and that the noble Lord should give us the fullest and frankest explanation. If the noble Lord means to say that the statements are mere inventions— and I am sure he will not equivocate on the subject, but meet me fairly—if he means to say that he, in the month of August, did not propose to the French Government to come to a special agreement between England and France for the settlement of the affairs of Italy, that the visit of Lord Cowley to this country was not in any way connected with the subject, or made with a view to arrange a joint action between France and England; if he means to say that there never was a proposal made by France to join with England in what was virtually a treaty offensive and defensive, making it a casus belli for any Power to interfere in the internal affairs of Italy, by force of arms;—if the noble Lord says so, I shall not feel mortified by the noble Lord rising and confuting me in that manner. he will give information which will be most satisfactory to the 102 House, and most important to the country. But I assure the House that I should not have made this statement unless I believed as I do most fervently believe, that the information which has reached me is authentic. Now, there is another point. After the alleged failure in negotiating this treaty offensive and defensive, the telegram adds, "The British Government having thus declined to enter into engagements having such an important bearing, the question of an early meeting of Congress is again revived." And, therefore, when Parliament meets in 1860, so far as the Italian question is concerned, we are actually about to debate on the very topic which occupied the House on the last day of the Session of 1859. Again, we are told that the idea of a Congress is revived. My objections to a Congress are the same as they were then. I do not for a moment lay it down as a principle that because England did not interfere originally in the affairs of Italy, nor during the war, England ought not to be represented in any Congress which may take place on the affairs of Italy. I admit the time that has elapsed is an argument that might call for her presence at such a Congress; but if we are to go to a Congress, it ought to be for a specific object, the Congress ought to meet on a definite basis, and the Parliament and the country ought to understand the object of Government in entering into it. Why, Sir, when we acceded to the proposal of a Congress before we quitted office it was under very different circumstances—it was before the war occurred, and as a last hope of preserving peace—and we defined in the most exact manner what were to be the objects and the duties of that Congress; and only upon these conditions did we accede to the proposed Congress. There were four grounds laid down—to which I need not refer now, because all the circumstances have passed away—but there were four grounds laid down which were designed to limit and confine the Congress to specific aims and purposes; and the Members of the Government in both Houses— myself in this House, and my noble Friend the then Secretary of State (the Earl of Malmesbury), in the other House— gave explanations on the subject of the proposed Congress to Parliament. I ask if the result of the deliberations of Her Majesty's Government is that it would be wise for us to attend a Congress, whatever may be the general objections to our interfering in affairs with which 103 we are not immediately connected? This is a matter to be carefully weighed; but I think the House, before giving its assent to our taking part in any Congress, should make it a condition to know what objects the Congress will entertain, and should have security that those objects should not be expressed in such vague phrases as its "preventing the interference of others in the affairs of Italy," or any general expressions of that kind. I think the Government and the House will do well to consider into what an embarrassing and dangerous position this country may be led by entering into agreements of that kind. Sir, these are questions upon which I think we have a right to ask information from Her Majesty's Government. I do not think that on the first night of Parliament assembling, with a Royal Speech of this length, embracing topics of such importance and dwelling at such length upon that one topic upon which all public interest is now concentrated—I do not think we should be doing our duty without asking from the Government for a full explanation of what has taken place during the recess with reference to Italian affairs. For my own part, the only conclusion that I can arrive at upon the subject is, that the less we meddle with this business the better. I defy any man, be he Monarch or Minister, to form any accurate conception of what is the real opinion and the real feelings of the various populations of the Italian peninsula. One man will tell you—and I speak of men of the highest position and authority, and men who have mingled in the politics of the Italian States —one man will tell you that Tuscany is prepared to be annexed to Sardinia. Another, with means of information and knowledge quite as good, will tell you that if there be one conviction rooted in the mind of that mild and tranquil people of Tuscany deeper than another, it is their nationality, and that the Tuscans will consent to anything but not to be Tuscans. If you will go to the Romagna you will be told that it is ready to be annexed to Sardinia; while another may say, who is inclined to more democratic or republican opinions, that if it is so desirous of being annexed to Sardinia it is with the view of obtaining that unity for Italy which should enable them to free Venice; but if there were any intention of making the Romagna part of a central kingdom of Italy the country would be in flames to-morrow. One man will tell you 104 that Lombardy is prepared to send members to the Sardinian Parliament; but another will allege that if the principle of federation is to be applied to Italy the Milanese have as much right to an independent place in a national federation as the Sardinians. Go to Naples, and you are told that Naples is in such a state that a spark only is required to make a revolution; but as good authorities will deride this as a mistaken notion, and maintain that if conspiracies should be attempted there is no Sovereign who has so strong a hold upon his subjects, or who would be better able to put down a revolution than the King of the Two Sicilies. Again, if you come to Sardinia itself, opinions equally differ. One man will tell you that there only is security for a national constitution and national independence for Italy; and another man will tell you that the whole thing is illusory, and that as soon as a special emergency arises constitutional forms are cast aside—and the Government of Sardinia is merely a Government of force and fraud. What is the moral of all this? The moral I draw is that a country in that state is in a condition far beyond the management and settlement of Courts, and Cabinets, and Congresses. National independence is not created by protocols, or public liberty guaranteed by treaties. All such arrangements have been tried before, and the consequence has been a sickly and short-lived offspring. What is going on in Italy—never mind whose may have been the original fault, what the present errors—what is going on in Italy can only be solved by the will, the energy, the sentiment, and the thought of the populations themselves. The whole question, in my mind, is taken out of the sphere of Congresses and Cabinets. We are pure — we are at this moment pure — from any consequences of previous interference in these affairs; and it is of the utmost importance that we should remain so. The process of emancipation appears to be one of considerable length, ambiguity, and perplexity. It is a year ago since the commencement of the freedom of Italy occurred. Then there was one French army in Italy. The process of freedom has been going on for a year, and you have now two French armies in Italy. I think it must be a source of satisfaction and pride to us that we have held aloof from any interference. I am quite sure if we now interfere we shall do so to the lasting dishonour of this country. But I do not doubt that we may do great good 105 to Italy by our counsels and by the authority of our position. It is however of the last importance that this country should not enter into engagements which have the plausible pretext of preventing interference in Italy, and the consequence of which may he not the freedom of Italy, but the aggravation of the very circumstances which have produced her previous weakness and degradation. Now, Sir, I hope the noble Lord will throw some light upon our situation as regards these important questions. I hope that we shall know from the noble Lord—from an English Minister— from a Minister of the Queen—what has been the conduct of the Government, and that we shall not have to derive from foreign sources that information which ought to be supplied to us from this country. The noble Lord seemed to think that because the document I have referred to was anonymous, that, therefore, it was not correct. I will now refer to a document which is not anonymous, and which, I think, will justify me in asking explanations from the noble Lord; and that is a letter addressed to the Pope of Rome by the Emperor of the French—a public document, published throughout Europe, and signed by the Emperor himself. Well, there is laid down a policy upon which I will to-night give no opinion, because to-night I am rather making inquiries of the Government, and trying to obtain information, than attempting to call upon the House to give an opinion; but there is a policy recommended to his Holiness by the Emperor of the French, which is shortly this, "Renounce your right to certain provinces at this moment not under your authority, and the Powers of Europe will guarantee the rest of your possessions." The Emperor does not say, "I will guarantee the rest of your possessions; and will ask my Allies to do the same; I will use my influence with the Powers of Europe to do the same." The Emperor says, "Renounce these provinces, accede to the terms in this letter, and the Powers will guarantee yon the rest of your possessions." Surely it is no unreasonable request—even the noble Seconder of the Address will hardly call it a factious one — to ask Her Majesty's Ministers whether among those Powers England is included? Who are the Powers the Emperor refers to? Now, Sir, I do not at all urge this inquiry to raise odium against Her Majesty's Government upon the point of guaranteeing the possessions of the Pope. I am observing upon the 106 question simply as a political question. I think we have a right to ask the noble Lord whether Her Majesty's Government has authorized the Emperor of the French to make that offer. I think if the Government has taken that course it has taken one very impolitic; but I deem it inconvenient, at this moment, to enter upon a subject which would bring about such a lengthened debate as its importance naturally requires, and therefore I do not wish any erroneous inferences to be drawn from my question. It is a simple, honest, and legitimate question, and after the publication of such a document as the letter of the Emperor of the French to the Pope making that assertion, I say it is our first duty, when Parliament meets, to request information upon the subject. I hope, therefore, the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, or else the noble Lord at the head of the Government, will, upon this question of Italian politics and the diplomatic conduct of the Government during the recess, enter into a frank explanation to the House. I have no doubt the papers promised by the Government, and which in due time are to be produced, will give us much information which it might be inconvenient and embarrassing, being such a mass of details, for the noble Lord to enter upon to-night. I think these are questions to which the noble Lord ought to furnish an answer, and that he will do so—I think the noble Lord will tell us what are the reasons which induced Her Majesty to assent to enter into Congress in August, when on the invitation being first made Her Majesty was evidently disinclined to do so, as deeming the occasion not one justifying her compliance; I think the noble Lord will tell us whether he did or did not, in August, offer to enter into a special agreement with France for the settlement of the affairs of Italy; and if he did, I trust he will tell us the nature of that special agreement. I hope the noble Lord will tell us to-night whether it is true that Lord Cowley did come over here merely for his private affairs, or whether it is the fact that Lord Cowley came over here to revive the special agreement which was commenced in August, and which, from the opposition of Count Walewski, was then prevented from proceeding—whether Lord Cowley came to propose that England and France should sign a joint note, addressed to the Powers of Europe, declaring that interference in the affairs of Italy should be considered by both as a casus belli — 107 whether the noble Lord and his colleagues refused to enter into such an engagement, and whether he did so, merely or mainly, because Parliament was not sitting; and, whether, now that Parliament is sitting they are prepared to propose or recommend such a course; lastly, I hope the noble Lord will inform us, whether he has on the part of Her Majesty's Government authorized the French Government to say that England was prepared to join with it in guaranteeing the States of the Pope other than the province the Romagna. These are legitimate Parliamentary inquiries, which if I did not make I should not be doing my duty. I do not want upon these inquiries to raise any controversies as to the state of Italy, or as to the course which we may think it wise to take. Subsequent occasions, when we shall be better informed, will no doubt be afforded to us for that purpose; but upon this, the first night of the Session, it is in my mind most important that the House of Commons should have a clear comprehension of what is their position.
The gracious Speech of Her Majesty from the Throne is full of topics involving questions of no mean character; but every man in the House knows that there is only one subject really upon which the people of this country are thinking; and that is what may he the position of England with regard to this Italian question, and whether the course which we shall pursue will be one which, at the same time may redound to our honour and yet secure the blessings of that peace which every year that elapses we learn more and more to value. I invite the answer of the noble Lord or of the head of the Government to these inquiries.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Buckinghamshire, has announced that on this occasion there will be no interruption to that unanimity with which it is so becoming and so desirable that on the first night of the Session this House should return a respectful answer to the communication from the Throne to Parliament. I must, in the first place, however, congratulate the noble Lord (Lord Henley) and my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. St. Aubyn) on the ability with which they have respectively moved and seconded the Address; and I am sure that the House has listened to them with pleasure on this the first time they have been heard within its walls. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), 108 has made some observations upon the different topics to which the Speech and the Address relate, and he thinks that without going into the details of the measure of Parliamentary Reform which we shall have very shortly to propose to Parliament, we have been inconsistent at least in regard to form, inasmuch as it was made a reproach to the late Government that at the opening of last Session they put reform at the very tag end of the Speech, and now we have ourselves failed to put it in that prominent position which the right hon. Gentleman thinks it ought to occupy. I cannot, Sir, admit the justice of that remark. According to practice, the first part of the Royal Speech is devoted to foreign transactions, then comes the Address to the House of Commons in regard to the Estimates and matters of finance, and questions of internal legislation are reserved for the third department of the Speech. Now, Sir, on the present occasion we thought it fitting that the Sovereign should take the earliest opportunity when she came to the domestic portion of Her Speech to express the pride and gratification with which she accepted the generous offers of voluntary military service from Her subjects; but immediately after that we have placed the question of Parliamentary Reform, which thus takes precedence of all other topics of domestic legislation. I am very glad, Sir, to hear the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the distinguished bravery exhibited by our forces in that unfortunate conflict at the mouth of the Peiho; and I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there may be as much merit displayed, as much honour gained, and as great credit reflected upon the country by exertions not attended with success as by those upon which fortune smiles. It is well said that nunquam snccessu crescit honestum. It is not the success of an achievement which ought to be the measure of the merit of those who have been engaged in it; and there certainly never was an occasion on which those in command and all concerned exhibited more heroic devotion and bravery than in that unfortunate conflict.
The right hon. Gentleman then made some observations on the commercial negotiations between France and Her Majesty's Government. Sir, I am happy to be able to say that yesterday a convention or treaty was, I believe, signed between the two Governments at Paris. We have not yet received the document, and I have reason 109 to believe that there may have been some technical informality which may have rendered it necessary that a fresh document should be signed to-day. The right hon. Gentleman has stated opinions on this point in the abstract of which I entirely concur. The right hon. Gentleman says, that as a general principle it is not desirable that this country should enter into any conventional agreement with other countries as to her tariff and Custom duties; on the contrary, it is better that we should keep in our own hands full discretion to legislate from time to time, in regard to these matters, in such a way as the interest of the country may seem to demand. But there was this unusual feature in the present negotiations—that, owing to a peculiarity in the French constitution and mode of legislation, we could not obtain from the French Government that security for future arrangements which it was essential we should obtain, unless the transaction assumed the character of a Convention between the two countries. It is, therefore, an entirely exceptional arrangement, and not one which at all implies that we have altered our opinion as to the general principle on which commercial matters of this kind should be governed. I am not going at present to enter into any details as to the arrangement proposed. When ratified, the Convention will be laid before the House; but this much I will say now in answer to the question of the right hon. Gentleman as to what would be the function of this House in regard to that Convention, that the arrangements stipulated to be made on the part of Her Majesty are made conditional on the consent of Parliament to them. Unless we have the consent of both Houses of Parliament we are free from any engagement that has been contracted. I must also remark generally, that it must be for the interest of the two countries to enter into any arrangement calculated to promote commercial intercourse between them. No great increase in the exchange of commodities can take place without giving an increased stimulus to the productive energies of the two countries. Commerce is not a one-sided operation. An increase of commerce must be an advantage to both countries, and cannot be an advantage to one alone. Therefore, if we in this country should reap advantage from the arragements contemplated, France must participate in it also. If, on the other hand, the French nation are to obtain advantages, it is impossible they can enjoy them without our 110 receiving corresponding benefits. Taking it in its political bearing, it must be obvious to every man, that whereas it is for the interest of the two countries that they should remain together in a state of friendly intercourse, it is manifest also that the more they are connected together by the ties of mutual interest and commercial transactions, the more likely it is that neither will, on light grounds, suffer an interruption in their political relations with each other.
Then, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has asked questions as to our policy with respect to Italy. The right hon. Gentleman is fully entitled, when Parliament meets after a recess, to call upon Her Majesty's Government to explain what has been the course of their policy upon a great question, upon which he justly says the attention, the feelings, and the opinion of this country are more particularly concentrated than upon any other question now pending. But, Sir, I think the right hon. Gentleman need not have rested his right to put these questions upon the grounds upon which he has been pleased to put them. He seems to me an example of a man reasoning rightly, but upon wrong premisses. The grounds upon which the right hon. Gentleman put these questions are a certain number of anonymous telegrams which he picked out of newspapers. "Here is a telegram," he says, "stating that in August you made a proposal to France to come to a clear understanding and agreement for mutual action in Italy. You tell me it is anonymous. Ah! but I have an answer. I asked the editor of the newspaper whether the article was correct, and he told me it was."["No, no!"] Sir, I cannot be mistaken. The right hon. Gentleman said he made inquiries whether those articles were correct, and was told that they were. It reminds me of the Italian proverb, that you ought not to ask an innkeeper if he has good wine. You ought not to ask the author of an anonymous telegram whether he rested it on good authority. Of course he will tell you he did, but the assertion is of no more value than the paragraph to which it applies. I shall protest, however, in the first place, against any Government being called upon to answer interrogations founded upon anonymous telegrams picked out of newspapers. I admit the right of the right hon. Gentleman to make his inquiries. But, I apprehend that he had much better put it on his light as a Member of Parlia- 111 merit to interrogate than found it on such flimsy and frivolous grounds as those which he has chosen. I have no hesitation, Sir, in saying, that the telegram upon which the right hon. Gentleman mostly relied— namely, that some time in the month of August this Government applied or proposed to the French Government to enter into a specific engagement with regard to the affairs of Italy—is totally unfounded; that there is no truth whatever in that statement; and I have to say that at the moment at which I am speaking Her Majesty's Government are totally free from any engagement whatever with any foreign Power regarding the affairs of Italy.
Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman admits that we were right in consenting to enter into the Congress, but he thinks that the communication made at the end of last Session and that now made are somehow or another inconsistent, and he wishes explanations upon that point. At the end of last Session the Crown informed Parliament that overtures had been made for the purpose of ascertaining whether, if Conferences were to be held, Her Majesty would send a plenipotentiary. It had not at that time been determined that a Congress or Conferences should take place, because the holding such Congress or Conferences must be, and was, contingent upon the conclusion of a definite Treaty to carry out the preliminary engagements of Villa-franca. At that time no such Treaty had been concluded. All that had passed then was, that we were told it was the intention of the French and Austrian Governments, whenever that Treaty should be concluded, to propose a Congress to take cognizance of the Treaty, and to consider the affairs of Italy. The Treaty was not concluded until late in the autumn, and the actual invitation to join a Congress did not reach us until the month of November. It was not, therefore, until then that Her Majesty's Government were able to advise the Crown to give an answer, aye or no, whether the Crown would send a Plenipotentiary to the Congress. In the intermediate time no doubt communications frequently passed. There were constant communications between the two Governments. Lord Cowley came over once or twice to this country. Of course, when an ambassador comes from a foreign Court to communicate with his Government, the communications are not confined to what sort of weather it has been at the place from which he comes he naturally comes to 112 communicate the information he possesses, and receives instructions which can often be given verbally in more detail than in despatches. When the distance is so short and the communication so easy as between Paris and London, it is natural that, without any particular or important transaction in view, Her Majesty's Government should, from time to time, find it desirable to have personal communication with the Ambassador at Paris. It is very probable that on those occasions the Ambassador combined private convenience with public duty. But, Sir, there was no overture received from the French Government of the nature of that of which the right hon. Gentleman has been informed—that is, the French Government did not propose the separate engagement which the right hon. Gentleman thinks was proposed and, I believe he said, declined by Her Majesty's Government. No doubt, in the interval which elapsed between the preliminary intimation and the actual announcement that a Treaty was concluded and a Congress was to be held, Her Majesty's Government endeavoured to ascertain, with as much clearness as they could, what were the views of the French Government with regard to Italian affairs. It was our duty to do so. The knowledge which we might acquire of the views of the French Government might very much influence Her Majesty's Government as to whether the proposal, when it came, ought to be accepted or declined, because, although there were many reasons why it was undesirable we should decline to join a Congress, yet if we had reason to think that in that Congress there would be a wide difference of opinion between England and France—that we should find ourselves quite at variance with France on the great questions to be discussed—that knowledge would be a considerable element in the decision as to whether we would go into Congress or not. Upon the general question the right hon. Gentleman seems not to have any doubt that our decision was right. When the proposal came, we might either have accepted it or declined it. Suppose we had declined. Suppose we had said, "We anticipate that a majority of the Powers who will be parties to the Congress will differ with us upon an essential point upon which we have a strong and decided opinion. We make no secret that is is our intention in Congress to assert the principle —(to which I am glad to find the right hon. Gentleman agrees)—that it is right the people of Italy should be left 113 to settle their own affairs—that the people of Italy should be left, as the right hon. Gentleman says, by their own will, opinion, and energy to settle the question of Government between themselves and their rulers, or between themselves and their allies and neighbouring States. We anticipate a majority of the Powers will differ with us, and we decline." We made no secret; we took pains to make known that such was our principle, and that we should maintain it in Congress. If we had found that it was likely a majority of the other Powers would have differed in opinion, and a moment would have arrived in Congress in which we should have been compelled either to acquiesce in silence in a principle which we did not approve, or withdraw, that would have been an element in our decision. It was, therefore, of the utmost importance that we should ascertain as accurately as we could what were the opinions and feelings of the French Government in regard to this question, and it was upon it that the communications which have been referred to took place between us and the Government of France.
Now, Sir, if when the invitation came, we had met it with a refusal, one of two things would have happened. It was possible, in the first place, that Prussia and Russia might have said, "If England, one of the great Powers in the Congress of 1815, does not choose to go into Congress, neither do we." It was thus possible that our refusal might have prevented the Congress assembling. If that had resulted in disturbances in Italy, we should have been called the cause of those calamities, and that was a responsibility which I think we ought not lightly to have incurred. If, on the other hand, Congress met without us, England, by its own act, would have excluded herself from a great transaction in which all the other Powers of Europe were engaged. Now that was a position which it did not become the Government of this country to take. Moreover, in abstaining from going into Congress, we should have run the risk of seeing conclusions adopted opposed to our convictions, and which we might have prevented from being adopted had we been there to give our reasons against them. We, therefore, were perfectly right, I think, in accepting the invitation, and we should have been very blameable if we had held aloof from the Congress, if Congress there had been. We were prepared to enter into Congress free from all engagements, but having announ- 114 ced fully what our opinions were as to the propriety of leaving the Italians to settle their own affairs, without any foreign interference by force of arms, I am quite persuaded that if that policy is adhered to, if the Italians are left free to settle their own affairs, the result will probably be satisfactory; and if it is not, then the Italians alone will be to blame.
Then, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman, quitting Mr. Reuter's telegrams, took higher ground, and quoted the letter of the Emperor of the French to the Pope —though I think he did not read it quite accurately—which, he contends, contains an engagement that, if the Pope would agree to allow the Romagna to remain independent, the Powers of Europe (including England, as the right hon. Gentleman conceived) would guarantee to him the secure possession of the rest of his territories. Speaking from recollection, though, probably, as the right hon. Gentleman has the paper before him be may be right after all. [Mr. DISRAELI: I spoke from recollection.] Well, then, my recollection differs from that of the right hon. Gentleman. The phrase, I think, is, that in that case the Pope might address himself to the other Powers, and ask—demander — such a guarantee, which I think the Emperor said they would very likely give. All I can say, Sir, is, that we were no parties to such an engagement. It is not a guarantee, I think, which this country would be at all disposed to enter into. I trust, therefore, that I have given the right hon. Gentleman an answer on this point which will be satisfactory to him. I agree with him that it would be trespassing needlessly on the time of the House to go on this occasion into the detailed communications which have taken place on this subject. What they are will be shown by the papers which are to be laid on the table; and though I do not recollect the instances to which the right hon. Gentleman referred of papers promised at the beginning of the Session and delayed until the end, I can assure him that my noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) has no intention of delaying until the end of the Session the production of the papers which the right hon. Gentleman is so anxious to see, and which I trust will be perfectly satisfactory to him and to the House.
Our policy, Sir, with regard to Italy has been the simplest possible. It is fully explained in the Speech from the Throne, and which I certainly cannot admit to be 115 either ambiguous or unintelligible on this point. Our policy has never varied. We said in the beginning, and we say still, that no foreign force ought to be exerted to control the people of Italy in the arrangement of their own affairs. Our opinion is, that they should be left to settle their affairs among themselves between people and Government; that they should be free to adopt that form of Government and such an arrangement of States as they might think best for their own interests, and that no foreign Power ought to interfere by force of arms to prevent them from arriving at the result which would be most satisfactory to their own feelings and interests. The right hon. Gentleman says that if you ask the opinion of different people, all of whom are respectively and individually good authorities on the subject of Italy, one will tell you one thing, and another another; that whether it is about the Romagna, Tuscany, or Sardinia, or Naples, or Lombardy, every one you consult gives you a different opinion. But, Sir, is that peculiar to Italy? Without going further than the walls of this House, I should like to know whether you won't find Gentlemen here who will give you the most opposite opinions about any question of domestic interest you like to name. Ask my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Spooner) his opinion about Maynooth, and then go to some Irish Member below the gangway, and ask him his opinion on the same subject. Ask about Parliamentary Reform, or any other question on which the public attention is fixed, and I will venture to say that within the walls of this House you will find as many discordant opinions as the right hon. Gentleman says exist among Italian authorities with regard to the state of Italy. Well, then, adopt the same course with regard to Italy as you do with regard to questions of domestic policy. In this House a question is settled according to what the majority thinks about it; let the people of Italy settle their own questions in the same way. If it be true that Lombardy wishes to be a separate nationality, so be it. If it be true that the King of Naples is the most beloved of monarchs, let his subjects remain united to him in the bonds of affection. If it be true that the people of the Romagna are enamoured of the Government of the Pope, let them return to the happiness from which they have been temporarily separated. All that we want is that the Italians should be left to judge of their own interests—to 116 shape their future arrangements according to their own opinions of that which is most likely to contribute to their happiness and is most in unison with their feelings and opinions. I quite concur with the right hon. Gentleman that there is no question which has arisen for some time upon which the people of this country feel more decidedly than on this, and I am persuaded that the policy which we recommend is most in consonance with their wishes. It is founded upon the same principle as that on which the Throne of this country now rests, and therefore in advocating it, I feel that the Government are backed and supported by the feelings and opinions of the people at large, by the historical traditions of our own country, and by the principles on which that constitution is founded under which we have the happiness to live. I trust, therefore, that when these papers are produced, the House will find in them nothing to censure, but much to approve; and that in pursuing the course which it is our intention to pursue, in endeavouring by negotiation, whether in Congress or out of Congress, if no Congress should meet, to secure to the people of Italy freedom from the control of foreign interference, we shall meet the wishes and receive the approbation of the country.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Committee appointed, to draw up an Address to be presented to Her Majesty upon the said Resolution:—Mr. ST. AUBYN, Lord HENLEY, Viscount PALMERSTON, Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, Lord JOHN RUSSELL, Sir GEORGE LEWIS, Mr. Secretary SIDNEY HERBERT, Sir CHARLES WOOD, Sir GEORGE GREY, Mr. MILNER GIBSON, Mr. CARDWELL, Mr. VILLIERS, Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Mr. LAING, and Mr. MASSEY, or any Five of them;—To withdraw immediately.
§ Queen's Speech referred.
§ House adjourned at half-after Seven o'clock.