§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
I rise, Sir, according to notice, to move an Address for copies or extracts of papers relating to 1777 the threatened annexation of Sicily to Piedmont, and to any information received by Her Majesty's Government as to the probable demands of Prance consequent upon the event of that annexation taking place; also for any papers showing that Her Majesty's Government have within the last few weeks intimated to the Government of Turin that the continued aggressive policy of that Government would not be viewed with indifference by Great Britain. I trust the House will not think I have selected an inopportune moment for calling its attention to the threatened annexation of Sicily to Piedmont and the probable demands of France, and I trust also the House will concur with me in the hope that Her Majesty's Government may have intimated to the Cabinet of Turin their apprehensions with respect to the aggressive policy of Piedmont. The latter part of my notice I am bound in fairness to say is taken almost word for word from a question which was asked in 1848 by the Earl of Aberdeen with reference to the affairs of Sardinia. It applies with tenfold force to the circumstances of the present time, and I hope the House will not grudge me a few minutes while I direct its attention to the State of European affairs, particularly those of Italy.
In referring to the threatened annexation of Sicily, and the probable demands of France, it is impossible not to cast a glance for a moment over the course and history of the events which are occurring on the shores of the Mediterranean, fraught as they are with the deepest interest, and calculated to give rise to serious complications among the different States of Europe. The question of Sicily directly and immediately concerns England, both commercially and in a, maritime and political point of view. It concerns England commercially, because, of course, she cannot withdraw from commercial intercourse with other countries, nor, with a due regard to her material interests, can she remain an indifferent spectator of the fate of European nations. It also concerns England in a maritime and political point of view to an infinitely greater extent than those questions which have recently given rise to so much discussion, such as the cession of Nice, the sale of the poor Savoyards, and the outrage upon the integrity and independence of Switzerland. The Mediterranean is and ever has been the great highway for the traffic of Europe. Dr. Johnson said it ought to be the centre of trade and civil- 1778 ization, for upon its shores all the greatest empires of the world had flourished—Assyria, Persia, Greece, Rome, and Carthage—and from its shores we had derived our laws, our arts, everything which raised us above the savage and the slave. If the Mediterranean was of such immense importance in former times, what must be its position and character now? I do not hesitate to say that the maintenance of our commercial and political interest in the Mediterranean at the present moment is almost of as great importance as the maintenance of our maritime supremacy in St. George's Channel or the Irish Sea. In that opinion I only concur with every English statesman of modern times. A debate took place in this House in 1810 upon the condition of Sicily, the independence of which we maintained against the aggressive power of Bonaparte. Mr. Perceval was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he said in words of great force and singularly applicable to the present moment that all Governments in this country—men of all parties—had held that our connection with Sicily was of value in a political point of view, as well as with reference to our commercial interests at Malta and other parts of the Mediterranean. He added, "There is no difference of opinion as to the importance of preserving the independence of Sicily from the grasp of Bonaparte." We want to do that now. We know from the experience of the last few months that Sardinia is merely a tool in the hands of the Emperor of the French. We know that by opposing to the utmost extent of our power the influence which France wishes to acquire, both in Syria and in Sicily, we are maintaining that political influence which we are entitled to exercise in those parts of the world.
The question being so important, I want the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office to give us a frank explanation of the policy he is pursuing. I do not want it to be said, as it has been said on recent occasions, "Oh! you are too late; the thing is done; the annexation has taken place." I want to warn the noble Lord that he must not be too late in the present instance, that he must not tell us some weeks hence, "Oh! we have been deceived by Earl Cowley, or outwitted by M. Thouvenel and Count Cavour, or duped by the franchise and cordality of the French Emperor." The noble Lord told me the other day that I should not pay any attention to newspaper reports, and that if I only listened to what 1779 he said I should know the truth. I want to know the truth above all things, and, therefore, I address myself to the noble Lord. But I do not think the noble Lord can say that we are over-anxious or overcurious on the subject of our foreign relations. The state of Europe is alarming, and would justify far more discussion than has yet taken place in either House of Parliament. It is calculated to cause us great anxiety and even distress of mind. Italy is in a ferment. There is no cohesion in Italy. From the Prussian Provinces on the Rhine I get letters which assure me that there is a general feeling of mistrust and apprehension, as against a common enemy. In Germany there is an attempt at union, which I hope may be successful—also against a common enemy. In Switzerland there are 176,000 men ready to rally round the standard of the Republic in defence of its rights and interests. Solely in consequence, I believe, of the unsettled state of affairs on the Continent, we are arming to a greater extent than we have done for the last forty years, and we are contributing more of our money than we ever did before for improving and extending our maritime and military defences. We talk not only of the defence of our ports but of the Metropolis. We have even called out Volunteers—a force which has not been seen among us for half a century, and I am glad of this opportunity, as some remarks which I made on a recent occasion have been misunderstood, to pay my tribute of admiration to the zeal, discipline, and efficiency of which we had so magnificent a display in the presence of the Queen some weeks ago in Hyde Park. I hope their services may never be required in the field; but I firmly believe that our Volunteers would prove themselves, if necessary, no unworthy defenders of the interests and institutions of England. But to return—I think the posture of affairs on the Continent is more serious at the present moment than it was in 1848. In that year we had a Sicilian revolution and the mission of Lord Minto. I was abroad at the time, and well recollect the visit of Lord Minto to Italy. I have always retained a very agreeable souvenir of the kind and friendly manner in which he received me, but, looking at his visit in a political point of view, I say it was theatrical. It was a revolutionary fiasco. At the time of the Sicilian revolution Lord Minto went to Rome. He coquetted with the Roman Liberals, visited 1780 Ciceroachio, praised Pio Nono, and patted Ferdinand of Naples on the back; but he deceived the Sicilian patriots and compromised the British Government. Though Foreign Affairs were not half so important in 1848 as at present, yet these subjects relating to Italy were then the occasion of no less than fifteen separate debates, while in the present year, such has been the forbearance of Parliament, that we have hardly had one debate on the affairs of Italy. I therefore call upon the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary to make a statement of his views to-night on this important subject. The noble Lord has spirit and capacity to do so when he chooses. I have read the despatches which he has laid on the table, and I take pride in thinking them worthy of an English Minister. As a Member of the English Parliament I thank the noble Lord in the name of Switzerland for the manner in which he has defended the interests of that country and of Europe, and if the noble Lord would only go on like that, he will find in me as vigorous and generous a supporter as in any hon. Gentleman in this House.
In casting a glance over the course of events on the Italian shores of the Mediterrranean, it is impossible not to advert to the achievements of Garibaldi, which have been universally accompanied by the sympathy of public opinion. The career of Garibaldi has been the subject of manifestations in this country—in Glasgow, Manchester, and other places—and he has elicited unqualified approbation from all classes in this country. Nevertheless, his progress and success have given rise to great difference of opinion in Italy; yet I am bound to say, as regards the expedition to Sicily, that, putting aside all political considerations, I can conceive nothing more glorious than the exploits of Garibaldi from the time of his leaving Genoa, with the revolutionary connivance of the King of Sardinia, up to the moment of his becoming Dictator at Palermo. All these details have been so admirably laid before the public by a correspondent, that I feel it would be a work of supererogation now to dwell on them. Garibaldi's rapid progress shows what the perseverance and prestige of one energetic man can accomplish. But when we read that an army of 20,000 men, well equipped and furnished with all the appliances of war, capitulated and laid down their arms before 2,000 men, ill equipped, with a bad commissariat, but who gained possession of the forts, the 1781 harbour, and the treasury, then, I say, the achievements of Garibaldi assumed a character of such moment as forbade the Powers of Europe to remain indifferent spectators of them. I do not lay so much stress on the mere fact of 20,000 men laying down their arms, for we all know what influence a panic has sometimes on men. At Milan, in 1848, the whole Austrian army under Radetzky ran away before a wholly unarmed population; and yet that same army marched back from the Mincio to the Ticino in a few months, annihilated the whole Sardinian army, and recovered the position they had before lost. In saying this I do not wish to diminish the splendour of Garibaldi's achievements. I could almost liken him to Miltiades, who with a handful of men obtained on the plains of Marathon immortal renown for his success against all the hordes of Asia. Garibaldi has perplexed all the calculations of warfare. But we must not be dazzled by his triumphs; we must look to the political consequences which would infallibly ensue from them. After Garibaldi was made Dictator at Palermo there were cries of not only "Viva Italia!" but also of "Viva Vittore Emmanuele!" I suppose all was arranged between France and Turin; but when Garibaldi allows the people to cry out "Long live Victor Emmanuel, King of Sicily," I ask, can this be the same king who only the other day sold like sheep in the shambles, or slaves in the market-place, so many thousands of his most devoted subjects? Before this man is taken for a King of Sicily a warning voice should ring from the valleys of Savoy to teach the people of Sicily, before it is too late, what he who sold the liberties and interests of his Savoyese subjects—a race devoted for generations, for centuries to his family, and the rock and mainstay of his inheritance—is capable of doing towards newly acquired subjects. We have in this country a strong feeling of patriotism—and I know what the feeling is—but if I were a Sicilian patriot I would almost consent to continue for some time longer in the dungeons of Castellamare, rather than bow before such a false god of patriotism. They call him "Il Rè galantuomo;" and if you want a translation of that term, you may ask the citizens of Nice, or the mountaineers of the Alps. I deeply deplore the fact that the salvation of Italy is to be worked out between political treason on the one hand, and a military despotism on the other. I cannot see how the interests of 1782 Italy can profit by such a junction. They want Victor Emmanuel to be King of Sicily; and I will therefore show what its condition was when a Prince of the House of Savoy was sovereign of the island. By the treaty of Utrecht, Sardinia was ceded to Austria, and Sicily to the Duke of Savoy. In 1714 Victor Amadeus II. was crowned King of Sicily. He went to his new kingdom, proclaimed a parliament, and promised all kinds of liberties, after which he went away, and soon began to intrigue, as it seemed to be the habit of all the Savoy Princes. In 1718 he intrigued with the Spaniards to drive out the Austrians from the Milanese territory. The Spaniards did so, but then they turned round on their allies and drove them also from Sicily. The domination of the Spanish Bourbons thus began in 1736; and it is now in its very last agony. I make no allusion to the time when Sicily was in the hands of England, in 1806, and when we held it against the whole force of Prance until we gave it up at the peace. I wish to allude for a moment to the mission of Lord Minto, which took place in 1847 and 1848. By the advice of the present Prime Minister, then Secretary for Foreign Affairs, he went to Naples, and recommended the separation of Sicily from the dynasty of Naples. He allowed Admial Parker to salute the flag of Sicilian independence and took other steps to make that independence complete. Allow me for a moment to call the attention of the House to an extract from a despatch which was written by the present Prime Minister to Mr. Abercromby with respect to that offer. The noble Lord, on the 8th of May, 1848 wrote in the following terms:—With reference to the offer of the Crown of Sicily to the Duke of Genoa, you will state to the Sardinian Government that it is, of course, for the Duke of Genoa to determine whether it will or will not suit him to accept this flattering offer; but that it might be satisfactory to him to know that if he should wish to do so he would, at the proper time, be acknowledged by Her Majesty.In 1848, therefore, the Government of this country distinctly stated that they were prepared to see a separation of Sicily from the Crown of the two Sicilies effected, and the sovereignty of the island committed into the hands of a Prince of the House of Savoy. Now, what I want to know is whether the policy of the noble Lord with regard to the question is the same to-day as it was at the period to which I am referring? Does he now desire that Sicily should not only be separated from Naples, 1783 but united to Sardinia, and thus thrown into the grasp of a man who is the mere tool and instrument of the Emperor of the French?
I do not wish to trouble the House by quoting at length from the recent despatches of the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs in reference to the affairs of Italy, and I am happy to think it is unnecessary for me to do so, inasmuch as the great majority of hon. Members have no doubt read them with the attention which they merit. The noble Lord, however, I am bound to say, has not shown the same vigour in his despatches upon the affairs of Naples which he has manifested in those which relate to the House of Savoy. The noble Lord in one of the former despatches uses a somewhat curious expression. He says he always wished well to the dynasty on the throne of the Two Sicilies. But in 1848 the noble Lord did not wish well to the throne of the Two Sicilies, because he told Lord Minto that Her Majesty' s Government would support a separation. Again, on the 22nd of June I find the noble Lord writing to Mr. Elliot in these words:—"Her Majesty"—he does not say Her Majesty's Government— "is sincerely desirous to see the dynasty now on the throne of the Two Sicilies maintained and consolidated." These sentiments, I repeat, are not in accordance with the policy of 1848, and I wish the noble Lord would be good enough to inform us what is the cause of the change. But to proceed—Mr. Elliot turns round upon the noble Lord, and informs him that the Government of the two Sicilies persists in maintaining itself by a direct violation of the law. This statement does not, however, appear to exercise much influence over the mind of the noble Lord, for on the 2nd of July he writes to say "Her Majesty's Government"—not simply Her Majesty as before—"desire to see the present dynasty of Naples maintained on the throne." But we have Mr. Elliot on the 17th of July again stating that the King's Government was based on a continued denial of justice, and, more than that, the noble Lord himself on the 16th of January, admitted that "the commonest rules of justice were not observed." The noble Lord in that very same despatch proceeds to say, "We wish well to the Neapolitan dynasty. We recommend the establishment of a representative constitution. We do not offer any opinion on the details of such a measure,"—it would perhaps have 1784 been appropriate that the noble Lord should not do so at the time, because we were then upon the point of having our own £6 and £10 debates—"but we recommend free discussion, a popular assembly, and public opinion as the chief ingredients." Now it appears to me that if the noble Lord was anxious to stand forward as the advocate of those blessings, he need not have gone quite so far as Naples for the purpose. In thus criticising these despatches, no one of course, will for a moment suppose that I entertain any feeling in favour of acts of cruelties so atrocious as those which the King of Naples is said to have committed. I have read authentic reports of those acts, and have learnt upon indisputable evidence the crimes which this military despot has perpetrated. I cannot understand how now, in the nineteenth century, the people of a nation which had once tasted the blessings of constitutional freedom could be content to submit without a murmur to a rule which maintained no semblance of liberty or of law. The noble Lord recommends them to try "free discussion, popular assemblies, and public opinion;" but, as I said before, he need not go so far as Naples to seek fitting objects for such advice. He has only to look across the Channel to perceive that those despatches which he sent to the Court of Naples may with great force be addressed to the Emperor of the French. Now, let me add that almost every one of us—laying aside all political meaning—sympathize with the proceedings of the heroic Garibaldi. Such, however, let it be clearly understood is not the case with the noble Lord, who has done everything he could to stop him in his career. Let there be no mistake on this matter. I think it was the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Bowyer) who, on the 4th of May last, put a question to the noble Lord with respect to Naples, to which he returned the following reply:—The Ministers of the King of the Two Sicilies have from time to time communicated with us, which shows a reliance, a great reliance on the friendship of Her Majesty's Government. Upon one occasion there was a report that General Garibaldi was going to Sicily with armed ships. The Government of the Two Sicilies immediately applied to Her Majesty's Government to endeavour to stop that expedition, and I lost no time in applying to the Sardinian Government, asking them, if they had any authority over Garibaldi, not to allow him to proceed.It is quite evident that the course which Garibaldi has taken has not the approval of the noble Lord; but, be that as it may, 1785 I trust he has no desire to see Sicily united to Sardinia, which is intriguing under the cover of Garibaldi. But while these intrigues are going on promises are, it seems, being made of a free Constitution and every sort of good to the Sicilians if they will only give way. I, however, very much doubt whether the Sicilian patriots will be disposed to place much reliance on those promises, seeing how often they have been already deceived. In 1848, on the recommendation of the noble Lord, a Constitution was offered to the Sicilians, an offer which, when matters assumed a more favourable aspect, was ignored. Nay, more, the King of Naples sent General Filangieri to bombard and destroy Messina, while those very men who supported him in his constitutional policy—Poeri and Settembrini—were consigned to spend years of misery in a dungeon because they had shown themselves faithful to the liberties of their country. In 1821, also, a Constitution was promised, as it is to-day, and immediately withdrawn. I repeat, therefore, that I hope the Sicilian patriots will not be deceived by those promises, and that we shall have that independence secured to Sicily—either through the medium of a guarantee on the part of the Powers of Europe, or by some other means—which she has shown herself so fit to enjoy. The noble Lord at the head of the Government, when asked the other evening what course Her Majesty's Ministers would be prepared to take with reference to any suggestions that might be made to them on this subject from the Court of Naples, made use of the following remarkable words:—It is the fault and fortune of such Governments as that of Naples, when, by the cruelties and atrocities committed under their authority, their subjects have been driven to desperation and have revolted, that they appeal to all friendly Powers for assistance to remove the men who are the authors and instigators of those revolutionary movements, and if their prayers were granted, and steps taken to accomplish the object they desired—unless, which is very unlikely, they were prepared to alter their own course—the first, most effectual, and only necessary step would be their own removal.Now, that was a straightforward and generous answer to return, and on the sentiments which it expresses I, for one, fully participate. I have now to thank the House for allowing me to address them at such length. I will merely say in conclusion that I do not profess to see any solution of the existing difficulties of Sicily. I can only hope, as I said before, that Her Majesty's 1786 Government will not sanction the union of that island with the Crown of Sardinia. We have already enough on our hands without encountering the complications which such a policy must involve. The state of Europe is sufficiently alarming, and, more than that, we know that great danger will be likely to result if the influence of France is allowed to acquire in Sicily predominant power. Now, I want to see the political influence of England maintained. Much has been said during the Session of her power and resources, and no one can deny their greatness at home. I, however, should wish to behold her enjoying abroad that influence which she is entitled to exercise, and employing it for good, for we know that, whatever may he the extension of our wealth or the growth of our commerce, the prosperity of the country cannot in reality be said to be based upon a sound footing unless we maintain due political weight in Europe. I do earnestly trust, then, that Her Majesty's Government will take every opportunity to secure and consolidate that political influence; for, if one iota of it be abated, if you allow the prestige of the country to be dwarfed and narrowed, in the same proportion will her greatness undergo diminution. But if, upon the other hand, you are prepared to act upon the policy which I have pointed out and to uphold unimpaired that influence "which has grown with our growth and strengthened with our strength"—then will the Parliament and people of England be able to look with confidence to the progress of passing events, while she herself will continue to retain that high position among the nations of Europe which, during the last half century has shed so magnificent a lustre on the annals of her history.
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, Copies or Extracts of Papers relating to the threatened annexation of Sicily to Piedmont, and to any information received by Her Majesty's Government as to the probable demands of France consequent upon the event of that annexation taking place; also any Papers showing that Her Majesty's Government have within the last few weeks intimated to the Government of Turin that the continued aggressive policy of that Government would not be viewed with indifference by Great Britain,
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, I cannot deny—indeed—I freely admit the 1787 ability, sincerity, and generosity of the hon. Baronet who has just spoken. I will readily admit likewise that I have to thank not only him and others who share his political views, but also hon. Members opposite for the forbearance which they have shown in a very difficult period of foreign policy. I have not to complain, therefore, that the hon. Baronet should take this occasion, on going into Committee of Supply, to ask what are the views of the Government with regard to the present state of Italy. At the same time I must say that, as the hon. Baronet went on from one topic to another, I was much at a loss to gather from his observations what was the policy he would recommend. I own I was puzzled to know whether he wished that the King of Naples should be enabled to assert his authority in Sicily, and that the influence of Her Majesty's Government should be used for that purpose, or whether he desired that the people of Naples and Sicily should be free to choose for themselves that kind of government which they prefer. Sir, in looking at this subject, one must consider what has happened since 1815, and more particularly the events of last year. In 1815 Austria had allotted to her Lombardy and Venetia, but her influence was not confined to those territories. From 1815 to 1859 she extended her influence over every part of the peninsula; and when the political influence, which a great country such as Austria possesses, was not sufficient, she sent her armies to put down the institutions which the people had chosen for themselves, and to restore absolute dominion. The present Prime Minister of Austria has been obliged to confess that that system has failed. Well-intentioned, as he maintains it was, towards the people of Italy and the general state and balance of power in Europe, he cannot deny that the result of that policy has been such as to make the Italians averse from Austrian rule and to compel Austria to renounce that policy for the future. Well then, Sir, what has happened. From 1848 to 1859 France and Austria occupied by their arms parts of the Roman States. In 1859 it happened, as it was very likely to happen in some year or other, without any one being able to fix the precise epoch, the King of Sardinia excited the people of Italy to resist foreign domination. He assured them that he felt for their agony, and that he sympathized with their griefs; and at that time he obtained the assistance 1788 of France to enable him to oppose Austria. This country, under the guidance of the Ministry of the Earl of Derby, refrained from taking any part in that war, and that neutrality was applauded and supported by all parties in Parliament and all classes in the country. Assuming that position, therefore, it was not for us to expect any of the rewards or spoils which might be the results of the contest. It appears now that at the very commencement of the war France had stipulated, not in a formal treaty, but in an agreement so binding that Sardinia could not afterwards free herself from it, that if a considerable part of Italy were transferred to the King of Sardinia, Savoy and Nice should be annexed to France for the security of her frontier. Well, the hon. Baronet says that we interfered too late. The first we heard of such a project was naturally, almost immediately (at most three weeks) after our coming into office, when the French Government said that they would not entertain this project if the Treaty of Villafranca was to be carried into effect, but they wore of opinion that as that treaty had placed the King of Sardinia in possession of a great portion of Italy, then the security of France required that Savoy and Nice should be given up. We stated at once, in the beginning of July last, the mischievous effects such an annexation would produce. We believed it would have a mischievous effect; but we did not say then, we have never said, that we should oppose that annexation by force of arms. We informed the French Government that, in our opinion, a grave mistake in policy would be committed if these provinces were annexed to France. We pointed out that the distrust which would thereby be created in Europe, on the Rhine, and elsewhere, rendered the annexation in every way objectionable. That was the course we pursued and the opinion we maintained. It is an opinion we have never concealed from the Emperor of the French, or from any of the other Powers of Europe. But we never proposed to carry that protest to the extremity of war in the event of the annexation being carried out.
In considering the conduct of Sardinia and of the Italians, it must be borne in mind that the people of Italy have, not merely since 1815, but for hundreds of years, been suffering from the effect of their own dissensions. They have been subdued by foreign Powers, they have been kept in subjection to tyrants whom they 1789 have despised, they have been misgoverned to the utmost extent, their national genius has been silenced; and all these misfortunes have sprung from the same cause. It has been a reproach to them in the eyes of foreign nations, and one which they have felt deeply, that to their own disunion, dissensions, and jealousies they owed the miseries they suffered. Such being the case, what was more natural than that the men who wished that their country should be independent, and that she should play her part once-more in the great theatre of the world, should apply the antidote where they found the poison at work, and attempt by union to remedy the disease from which their country languished? That was the feeling even in Tuscany, where there was no violent tyranny to complain of. The Government was mild, though no encouragement was given to political or even to literary exertion, and had it been only a question of driving away one Sovereign and putting another in his place the people would not have been disposed for revolution; but the feeling in Tuscany, as well as elsewhere, was that, unless they could have union and range themselves under the banner of a single Sovereign, there would be no chance of security and independence for them as a nation. The King of Sardinia is a brave and gallant man, a soldier who has distinguished himself in the field; but it is not so much his personal merits as his being the Sovereign who has evinced a desire to assert the independence of Italy which has rallied the Italians round him and induced them to unite themselves under his sceptre. It was the same feeling that induced the people of Italy to place themselves under the protection of France. What, then, was France to do in such a case? The Emperor of the French had signed a treaty by which the Dukes of Tuscany and Modena had their rights reserved to them; but he had declared at the same time that he would neither use force himself nor permit others to use it to coerce the will of the people of Italy. The Italians were encouraged by that declaration, and proclaimed that their wish was to be annexed to Sardinia. Austria, enfeebled by the war she had just passed through, and dispirited by the reverses she had sustained, although she still maintained her former views as to the rights which were derived from legitimate sovereignty and rights derived from treaties, agreed to make no attack on what 1790 she would call the revolted parts of Italy and to confine herself to the defence of her own dominions. What was the course, then, which Her Majesty's Government took? Seeing that the people of Italy had suffered from their former disunion, and from the foreign intervention which had taken place in 1821, in 1848, and on other occasions, they deemed that the time had now come when it was right to see whether the Italians could not form and sustain a Government for themselves. Her Majesty's Government, therefore, laid it down as a principle by which they would abide, that the Italians should be allowed to make their own choice of a Government and that no foreign Power should be interposed to coerce them. I could not gather the view of the hon. Baronet on this subject, but the view I have stated is a broad and simple view. We have found hitherto that the people of Italy who have rallied under the King of Sardinia have shown no disposition to break into tumult. There has been but one outrage, but one murder committed during the revolution in Central Italy, and nothing like anarchy has displayed itself there. On the contrary, there has everywhere been submission to the new form of Government, and the people have ranged themselves under the banner of order.
Well, then, I come to that which formed the theme of the greater part of the speech of the hon. Baronet—the case of Naples and Sicily. And here I must say I could have wished that the hon. Baronet had spared the memory of one who is now no more—Lord Minto. His representations of Lord Minto's conduct are entirely erroneous. Lord Minto went to Italy at the desire of my noble Friend, who was then Foreign Secretary, with the view of reconciling the Sovereigns of Italy to make reasonable and useful improvements, and of recommending the chief persons of the Liberal party to remain tranquil under their respective Sovereigns, and to look for internal improvement from those Sovereigns, rather than attempt revolution.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL,
in explanation, said, I should be sorry to allow the noble Lord to remain for a moment under a misapprehension. I said that I had the most agreeable souvenir of the kindness and amiability with which Lord Minto treated me personally, but that his political mission was a failure; that the Government who sent him had deceived the Sicilian patriots. That was all I said, 1791 I did not say a word against the personal character and conduct of Lord Minto.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
The hon. Gentleman having represented certain facts, and having declared that Lord Minto was the instrument of deceiving the Sicilian patriots, it is necessary to state exactly what occurred with respect to Naples and Sicily. Lord Minto, when he went to Naples, found that the King had given a Constitution to his people and that a Liberal Ministry were in office. He assisted at a Council with the King of Naples that sat many hours, and the result of which was that certain concessions were made to the people of Sicily, which it was hoped would induce them to remain under the sceptre of the King of Naples. Lord Minto was authorized to make these proposals to the Sicilians; but when he arrived there two circumstances had occurred which contributed to the failure of his endeavours, both of which were beyond Lord Minto's control. One was, that the French revolution had broken out, and that the French people had proclaimed a republic. The minds of men were agitated throughout Europe, as we all remember, by that news. The people of Sicily among others were discontented with their former Government, and, wishing for a change, they began to think that so me republican change would be more advantageous than the institutions they had formerly lived under, or than a return to the sway of the King of Naples. Another circumstance had occurred which I may relate, as so many circumstances of a similar character are known that it can be no additional reproach upon the late King of Naples to mention it. Lord Minto's only chance was in carrying these concessions with him as a British Minister, and recommending them in that capacity to the Sicilians as a sufficient guarantee for their liberty. But when he arrived in Sicily he found that these conditions had been known some days, and that they had been sent without any recommendation from the King of Naples. The people of Sicily had deliberated upon those proposals, and had determined to reject them, and thus his mission failed at the moment of his arrival.
Now let us see what have been our relations with respect to that Spanish branch of the House of Bourbon which now sits upon the throne of Naples. In 1806 the British Government refused to make peace with France almost solely because the Emperor of the French demanded Sicily, and 1792 the British Government to its honour refused to surrender the territory of an ally. Thus the house of Bourbon owed to the Government of Great Britain the preservation of Sicily. A constitution was at that time established in Sicily, which Lord William Bentinck did much to confirm. By that constitution the kingdom of Sicily was to be separated from the kingdom of Naples. If the eldest son of the King of the Two Sicilies chose Sicily he was to abandon the crown of Naples, while if he chose Naples he was to give up Sicily, and the second son was to succeed to the throne of that country. In 1814 the King of the Two Sicilies procured an article to be inserted in the Treaty of Vienna, in which he was recognized as King of the Two Sicilies, whereby the constitution of 1812 was torn to pieces and scattered to the winds. In 1815 the King of the Two Sicilies made a Treaty with Austria, by which he engaged not introduce into his dominions any other Government than that which the Emperor of Austria might think fit to introduce into Lombardy. By this Treaty he not only destroyed the constitution of 1812, but he made a compact with a Foreign Power that he would not restore liberty to Sicily. In 1821, when that country had a constitution, it was overthrown by the presence of a foreign force, and 40,000 Austrian troops were left to occupy Naples and Sicily, and I believe did occupy those countries for three or four years. In 1848, again, the King of Naples gave a constitution to his subjects, which he afterwards destroyed by his own hands. From 1848 to 1859 the people of Naples and Sicily suffered under—not the absolute Government of the monarch and the despotic conduct of his Ministers, but under an arbitrary and vexatious police, which made every man's house a prison, which tracked men as they walked the streets, and followed them into the privacy of domestic life, and which made the whole kingdom such a scene of misery and tyranny as has hardly any example. The present King succeeded to the throne. The late Government of this country thereupon sent Mr. Elliot to Naples, and told him verbally—for I believe he had no written instructions—to advise a liberal Prime Minister and a constitution to the King of Naples. When we succeeded to the Government we likewise advised the King to make concessions of popular institutions, and, above all, to establish a just administration of the law. The Ministers of the King of 1793 Naples said "We do not mean to grant a constitution; we disapprove of popular constitutions, but we mean to administer the law." Upon this we inquired, if they meant to administer the law, why they kept so many persons in prison against the law? They rejoined that the law was intended for the people, and not for the Government; that the Government might arrest anybody it pleased, and that it was necessary for the purposes of the State that the Government should not be compelled to bring them before the tribunals. Thus we went on, always advising concessions and a liberal constitution, or at the least an administration of the law, and if our advice has not been taken, and the concessions lately made have not succeeded, it only proves that those concessions were made too late. We at least cannot reproach ourselves that we have concealed from the King of Naples the policy that would have saved his throne and given security to his dynasty in future. Even a few months ago the King of Naples might have secured both Naples and Sicily. An expedition went out to Sicily—and here I must explain the particular fact to which the hon. Baronet alludes. He adverted to a speech made by me in this House in answer to the hon. Member for Dundalk (Mr. Bowyer) relative to Garibaldi; but the hon. Baronet did not state, and probably did not know, the date when that occurrence took place. It took place in the summer of last year, when the King had just ascended the throne and had ascertained the existence of much discontent in Sicily, and when it was desirable he should take every opportunity of meeting this discontent by just concessions and the establishment of a free constitution in that island. The Government of Naples wished us to represent to Sardinia that it ought not to invade a friendly State. It so happened that the King of Sardinia had no such design or intention, and we received a communication to that effect. What happened lately took place without our knowledge. I know not whether it was without the knowledge of the Sardinian Government, but so far from their having inspired the expedition, my accounts all tell me that they looked upon it as a wild and mad enterprise, and thought they would soon receive inteligence of its utter failure. I have stated on former occasions, when Garibaldi was reproached with being a filibuster, that the name could not justly be applied to a man 1794 who had rescued a country from slavery, and placed it in a position of liberty and happiness. Garibaldi is, at least, a man of very extraordinary character. He landed with between 1,000 and 2,000 men, and in the course, I believe, of a fortnight, 18,000 or 20,000 of the forces of the King of Naples agreed to evacuate. Palermo, and the people of Sicily followed him as their deliverer. Well, then, again comes a new position of affairs. It may be that the people of Sicily will declare in favour of annexation. It may be, and I think it likely, that an attempt to annex Sicily and then to annex Naples, and, I suppose, the Roman States, would not end in the consolidation of a firm Government. For my own part, I doubt very much whether the people of the north of Italy can, under the same sceptre with the people of southern Italy, form a firm and permanent Government, which would act in harmony for the welfare of the Peninsula. These are my doubts and my opinions. If the King of Naples is able by the concessions which he has made to conciliate the Neapolitans, and induce them to live under his rule with free institutions, Her Majesty's Government cannot find fault with such a result. Again, if the people of Sicily can obtain the constitution of 1812, and are satisfied with the constitution, it is not for us to find fault with the arrangement. But, on the other hand, we will never lose sight of the principle which we have before enunciated, and which we think is a sacred principle—one to which there are indeed some, but very rare, exceptions—namely, that with regard to the internal government of a country the people of that country are the best judges, and that no foreigner should interfere by force to coerce and to overwhelm their decision. It is not only a nice question, but it is one of the most extreme difficulty, for foreigners to declare, "Such a man is worthy of your confidence; such a Prince may be safely followed; such a chief is a good political adviser, such another will give you a constitution under which you may live happy." A foreigner should speak on such matters with great measure and with great reserve, and can only give an opinion according to the imperfect lights which he may possess. It is, therefore, for the people of Sicily and of Naples, and I must add also—whoever may be offended by that expression—it is for the people of the Roman States themselves to say what is the form of government under which they choose to live. 1795 With regard to the policy of the British Government, we may from day to day have to treat of matters in which our relations with other Powers may induce us to recommend a particular measure at one time, or a certain course at another; but I can assure the House, and it is the only word and the last word I have to say, that, as far as concerns the people of Italy, we have no other policy than to leave them to decide for themselves their own fate. If their decision should be such as tends to the future happiness and independence of Italy, I feel confident we shall rejoice at it, and not on account of Italy alone,Who values liberty confinesHis love for her within no narrow bounds;and I believe that for the liberty and happiness of Europe, as well as for "the balance of power" in Europe—a phrase which is often abused, but which yet has a clear and significant meaning—there can be no better guarantee and no greater security than the independence of Italy.
It was, I think, quite unnecessary for my hon. Friend (Sir Robert Peel) to deprecate any possible opinion on the part of the House that his Motion would be in any way inopportune, for the attitude taken by Sardinia is certainly one well calculated to give great anxiety to every man who feels an interest in the maintenance of the peace of Europe. An aggression by any one European State is always a matter of deep importance, but the experience of the last few months has taught us that an aggression by Sardinia is an operation which draws with it very peculiar consequences. Sardinia, as we know, is a neighbour of France; and when Sardinia, going forth in quest of prey, succeeds in aggrandizing herself, it seems that the Emperor of the French instantly comes before Europe and claims to be indemnified for the additional strength which she has acquired. This is obviously a consideration which gives great importance to all such transactions as those which have lately occurred. Given, that Sardinia is to possess herself of the island of Sicily, we may then have to make out, according to some new Rule of Three, what country will be sufficiently rich to compensate the Emperor of the French for this aggrandizement of his neighbour. Is it Genoa which is to be given up? Rumour says so. That would be an acquisition by the Emperor of the French which would be vastly more than equivalent to the doubtful advantage 1796 expected by Sardinia in the annexation of Sicily. The Emperor's plan for the territorial re-arrangement of Europe seems to be to put forward another State to make claims for herself, and then to seek the kind of compensation I have suggested. My hon. Friend used an expression in speaking of the Austrian army in 1848 which was, I think, rather a slip of the tongue, and which probably he would be glad to have corrected. He talked about the Austrian army running away from Milan. It certainly did retire from the city at the time of the insurrection; but that very retirement was the beginning of a scries of most masterly military operations which ended in a campaign, in the course of which Marshal Radetsky was able to roll back the tide of war, and to gain for himself, at the great age of 86, the just reputation of being—I will not say the first, because the Duke of Wellington was then alive—but the second commander in Europe. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) has made to-night one statement which has given me most unfeigned satisfaction. He has told us that Count Rechberg, the enlightened Prime Minister of Austria, has at length announced his abandonment of that one unhappy line of policy which tended greatly to separate this country from her ancient ally. I rejoice that that cause of difference is now entirely removed. The noble Lord seemed inclined to excuse or palliate the peculiar position in which General Garibaldi is placed, by referring to the good which he seems able to do; and the noble Lord said that many a man might be called a filibuster who, in point of fact, was greatly benefiting a country. But I cannot feel that that is a satisfactory mode of explaining the position in which Garibaldi stands, for it seems to me that if there be any palliation for the kind of enterprise which he has undertaken, it lies in this—that he is one of a great people who aim at being a nation. It is in that light, and not because he is simply doing good, that his enterprise is viewed with approbation by so many Englishmen.
The question that is suggested to my mind by the Motion of my hon. Friend is this—is Sardinia a country truly independent—is she a country, I will not say lawfully, but honestly, labouring to put together the scattered members of Italy, or is she in point of fact the vassal—the mere vassal of Franco? Now, I regret to be obliged to come to the conclusion that the 1797 latter description is the true one. Up to March last no doubt it was possible to hope and believe that Sardinia was actually independent. At that time Count Cavour assured not only the Foreign Minister of his country, but also his own most intimate friends, that no consideration should induce him or the King he represented to sell or to surrender either Savoy or Nice, and yet within a fortnight from that time he was devising a scheme to secure the Treaty of Zurich. The only excuse for such a departure from a pledged word was, that he was acting under pressure; but, if so, why does he now claim to stand before Europe as the Minister of an independent State? I am free to admit that a Power of second-rate importance like Sardinia, placed under compulsion by a great Power like France, does demand our compassion, but it does not form a reason for our becoming the ally of a Power which confesses she has lost her independence. The ties which bound the King of Sardinia to the provinces of Savoy and Nice were most sacred. Those provinces had not only been from time immemorial a part of the sovereignty of his ancestors, but they were the territories which had given them rank as sovereign Princes in Europe. Not only from that circumstance, but also from the fact that his ancestor regained those provinces in 1814 under solemn pledges to retain them, was he bound to consider the ties sacred. We know that in 1814–15 those provinces were in the hands of the belligerent Powers, who were then bringing to a conclusion the war they had been waging against France. It was competent to those powers to dispose of those provinces as they pleased, and they thought fit to restore them to the King of Sardinia, an independent sovereign, in order that, being on the frontier of France, they might form a part of the system of the balance of power in Europe. They even advanced a large sum of money to the King of Sardinia to enable him to fortify those provinces against the very Power into whose hands the present King has thought fit to surrender them. The King of Sardinia has parted with the ancient possessions of his family, he has given up his military frontier—he has lost the best battalions of his army—he has abandoned a great portion of his seaboard, in order that he might preside, or seem to preside, over the great endeavours now being made to reconstruct the kingdom of Italy. I 1798 admit that the hope of attaining such an object might well excite a manly ambition; but I think that the abdication of a part of his own territories was but a sorry step towards that end. In the position which Sardinia occupied in Europe it was the duty of the King to cultivate the friendship of France, of Austria, and of England; but he has so acted that he has no other ally than France, if that country can be called an ally, which is, in fact, his master. When he awakes from the dream for which he has abandoned so much he will find his position is like that of King Joseph or King Jerome, who had territories assigned to them, but whose dominion was merely nominal, and whose kingdoms soon disappeared. For the sake of Italy, Sardinia has been pardoned much, but let her beware how she so operates in Italy as that her conduct may have an influence on the affairs of Central Europe. It is obviously possible for Sardinia so to operate with her troops on the Mincio as to be able to influence events upon the Rhine. I happen to know that Count Cavour announced a policy of this kind in March last. He then deliberately stated that Sardinia was looking to the possession of Venetia, but her first duty would be to keep Austri in check on the Mincio while the Emperor acted on the Rhine. It is one thing that Europe should assent to Sardinia extending herself in Italy, but it is another thing to assent to her using the power gained in Italy to influence events in Central Europe, We must never forget that the great "Quadrilateral," of which Verona is a part, is a barrier or rampart for Germany. The policy of which the King of Sardinia has consented to be the instrument has been suggested to another Potentate. It is well known that since 1857 the French Government has pressed upon the Prince of Prussia the idea of his taking some of the minor States of Germany and giving up to France, as compensation, the Rhenish provinces. To obtain that object was, I believe, the hope of the Emperor when he went the other day to Baden: but he found there an insuperable difficulty—he found there an honest man. It would, indeed, hardly have been possible for the Prince of Prussia to act otherwise than his honourable, straightforward nature, dictated on that occasion, for he was in possession of a fact which I will mention to the House, and can do so with perfect confidence on its accuracy. The House will do me the justice to remember that I have on former 1799 occasions ventured to make statements which I think time has shown to be accurate, and therefore the House may feel inclined to believe the fact which I am about to state. I assert this, and it is a fact of deep importance for those who still retain the idea that the Emperor of the French is the sincere champion of Italy. I assert that at the second meeting at Villafranca the Emperor of the French proposed to the Emperor Francis Joseph to give him back Lombardy upon condition that Austria should acquiesce in operations which he then intended to attempt on the Rhine. I repeat that the Prince of Prussia was in possession of this fact, and it is not to be wondered at that he met the proposal of the Emperor in the same spirit of straightforward honesty as inspired the answer of the Emperor Francis Joseph. That answer was very short and very simple. He said, "No, I am a German Prince!"
Now, Sir, I believe that even if the German Princes were not so high minded, if they were to waver on this subject, the feeling of the people of Germany is of such a kind that they would be compelled to do their duty. In Germany, although there are differences on a thousand subjects, there is one subject on which all are united. You can always secure the concurrence of every German around you when you say that the French shall never have the German Rhine. In truth, the Germans seem to have determined that they will not again go through the humiliations and disasters which they suffered in the early part of this century, but they will begin with that noble uprising of the people which characterized the close of the last war—they will begin with the year 1813. But even if the people of Germany had forgotten the disasters to which they were exposed by French invasion, her Princes could not be ignorant of modern history, as to the manner in which a Bonapartean Sovereign is accustomed to make peace. From the Peace of Campo Formio, in 1796, down to the Peace of Villafranca, in the last year, you always find this to be the characteristic mark of the Bonapartean mode of making peace—that they make a peace not on the terms merely of arranging the relations of the two belligerents, but on the plan of deliberately sacrificing the interests of neutrals and friends. So it was at Villafranca. The scheme of the Emperor of the French was to make peace with the Emperor of Austria by delivering up to him Lombardy, 1800 and to induce him to accept it as the price of treachery on his part against her German confederates. Well, now, I ask, why is it that, from one end of Europe to the other, we have nothing but rumours of war? France has no quarrel that I know of—no dispute, even, with Belgium or with Prussia, or with the Mecklenburg, or Saxony, or Denmark, or Bavaria, or Sardinia; and yet there is not one of these States whose territories are not in some way threatened by the rumours now prevailing in Europe. It is notorious that along the whole eastern frontier of France agitators are at work endeavouring to sow the seeds of discontent, and prepare the minds of the people for a change of the rule under which they live. I have seen a letter from a gentleman of high character, whose name I will mention confidentially to any hon. Gentleman who is accustomed to take part in these debates, though I do not think it would be right to mention it publicly—I have seen a letter from a gentleman residing in one of the States thus threatened, and he gives an account of an interview which had taken place between him and one of those French emissaries, a passage from which I will quote as somewhat interesting to the House. The emissary says to him,There is not a country which France does not hold in her hand, not a country without some internal question on which it is possible to found a strong and immediate action. In Prussia and Denmark, the hostility of the small States; in Austria, Hungary; in Russia, serfage; in England—in England—[The hon. Gentleman here paused significantly, during which an hon. Member called out "Ireland! Ireland!"] The House seems surprised when I pause at the mention of England, but the truth is this emissary, as the ground on which the French Government founded their hopes as regards this country, had mentioned the name of an hon. Gentleman, a Member of this House—[Cries of "Name!"]—and as he is not present it would perhaps be right to abstain from naming him. It is unnecessary to say that the French emissary did not at all mean that the Member to whom he referred was engaged in any sort of intrigue that would bring upon him any kind of blame; all that was meant was that the policy pursued by that hon. Member was of such a kind as to give great reliance and gratification to the Emperor of the French.
Well, I ask, why is Europe thus dis- 1801 turbed? I say the answer lies in the internal state of France. The internal state of France is such that it becomes absolutely necessary for the ruler of that country to divert attention from home affairs by giving to the people of France the habit of looking abroad. We most of us know that M. Paradol is now lying in prison for having written what in most countries would be considered a very moderate pamphlet; and the passage for which he was thrown into prison is one in which he expressed what I believe is the feeling of many Frenchmen—a yearning for peace on their part, a desire to turn their attention to home affairs, and give up this habit of causing disturbance in the neighbouring States. The passage for which M. Paradol was prosecuted is this—France is like a man standing at a window, and so utterly engrossed by what is passing in the street, that he cannot be induced to mind what is going on in his own house.Well, now, it is in order to make it possible to keep a man in prison for writing words like these that Europe is disturbed by wars or rumours of wars, or some miserable annexation of territory undertaken by the French Emperor. Among the statesmen and orators of France there used to be something which was called a foreign policy; but now there seems to be no more a foreign policy, but a mere series of small conspiracies. The foreign policy of France has degenerated into a mere system for the disturbance of neighbouring States. The kind of agitation now being carried on over the whole eastern frontier of France, may substantially and truly be said to be the operation, not of the French Foreign Office, but of the French police. Was there ever a more singular spectacle than that now presented? Here is France possessed with an idea that there is to he speedily a war with some Power—and yet, so singularly situated is she as not to know with whom she was to fight. France, as it seems to me, is, as it were, led forward like some mere dumb animal that has been taught to pull a trigger and fire a musket, without knowing why or wherefore, except that she was under the orders of her master. Our own foreign policy is at present in a somewhat labyrinthine state, but for this labyrinth there is an effectual clue, and that is one which the words of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs himself gave us on the 26th of March, words which delighted every section of the House, and which have been 1802 responded to throughout the country. After stating his wish to live on the most friendly terms with the Government of France, he went on to say—We ought not to keep ourselves apart from the other nations of Europe, but when future questions arise—as future questions may arise—we should he ready to act with others.Sir, I consider that these assuring words contain a true indication of the policy which England ought to pursue.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
I wish to call the attention of the House to the practical part of this subject. The hon. Baronet opposite put a question to the noble Lord, to which I was not so fortunate as to hear the answer. He asked for information as to the probable demands of France in the event of the annexation of Sicily to the Kingdom of Sardinia. No doubt, as the noble Lord truly observed, delicacy and reserve ought to be observed in respect to a future foreign policy, when you are ignorant of what that policy may be and have no knowledge of the facts. But the noble Lord gave no answer to the direct question put to him. He, however, made a statement full of interest, and I only regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not here at the time to he instructed by it. It was declared some months since in this House—although it was not then admitted by the Treasury Bench—that long ago a bargain was struck between the Minister of Sardinia and the French Emperor, that in the event of the Kingdom of Sardinia being considerably enlarged compensation should be made to the injured and terrified ruler of France. The noble Lord, however, is the first Minister of the Crown who has acknowledged the truth of this statement, and he has truly added that this policy of the French Government was calculated to disturb Germany and fill Europe with distrust, and that that opinion was conveyed by our Minister to the Government of the Emperor. That I hold to be a very important announcement. It is an announcement of the view which Her Majesty's Government took of that transaction. But I beg the House to remember that, while the noble Foreign Secretary has made that significant statement as to the recent policy of France, we have had the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer announcing to us for weeks and months past, with his extraordinary powers of eloquence, that nothing but peace and happiness were to flow from 1803 our commercial arrangements with that country the policy of which the noble Lord tells us fills Europe with alarm and distrust. Which of these two Ministers is in the right I do not pretend to say, except to hint as delicately as I can that I think it is the noble Foreign Secretary, and not his right hon. Colleague the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As, however, the noble Lord has expressed his opinion, it is only fair that the right hon. Gentleman should have an opportunity of favouring us with the opposite view of the question, and of depicting the general confidence and tranquillity consequent upon the conclusion of the French Commercial Treaty. I agree with the noble Lord that a policy of peace, to be pursued, I presume, consistently with honour, is the policy worthy of a British Minister. I was not in this House when the discussion took place upon the conduct of Lord Minto; but I have read what was said on that occasion, and I learnt that the noble Viscount defended that noble Lord from attacks then made upon him, as I understand, by certain Members of his present Administration. It is a remarkable circumstance that the hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) should commend the patriotic spirit displayed by the Volunteers of this country, and that the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Kinglake) should tell us that Europe is disturbed by rumours of war, changes of dynasty, and possible revolutions; while for months past we have been assured by the most eloquent Members of the Ministry that if we only acquiesced in his schemes we might calculate upon a secure and prolonged European peace.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
explained that the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly right in saying he had declined giving the information referred to in this Motion, which he felt it his duty to oppose.
§ MR. MONSELL
said, that he could not collect from the noble Lord's speech whether Her Majesty's Government were encouraging or discouraging the annexation of Sicily to Sardinia. If the inquiry addressed to the noble Lord had been whether the Government were in favour of leaving the people of Sicily to choose for themselves what form of domestic Government they would live under, the noble Lord's speech would have been perfectly satisfactory, and everybody present might have concurred in it. That, however, was not the question put by his hon. Friend, who wished to know whether the policy of an- 1804 nexing Sicily to Sardinia was to be pursued, and whether the consent of Her Majesty's Government was again to be given to principles which must lead to continual changes in the map of Europe, putting every small State in perpetual trepidation lest it should be transferred to some other Power. In the neighbourhood of the Rhine the question was perpetually asked, were the provinces to continue to belong to themselves, or were they to be annexed to some other power! Of all questions that came before the House, this was the most important. Undoubtedly the principle was sanctioned in the first instance by our Government in regard to Northern Italy. Take, for example, the case of Parma. Nobody pretended that there was the slightest cause of complaint against the Government of that Duchy, where justice was equally administered, and the Sovereign trusted and beloved by her subjects, on whom she had conferred innumerable benefits. Yet, merely to gratify the ambition of a neighbouring Power she was driven from her throne and her dominions annexed. The Emperor of the French, as Count Cavour had distinctly stated, following the example set in the annexation of Parma, Tuscany, and Modena, proceeded to apply the same principle to Savoy and Nice, where nobody supposed that the favour of "universal suffrage" adopted expressed the real opinions of the people. Let the same system be followed in Belgium. Suppose a bad harvest, a dearth of employment for the manufacturers, and great consequent discontent to exist in that country,—what would be more easy, under such circumstances, than for French gold and active French emissaries to get up some kind of a popular demonstration, and thus to bring on a repetition of the transactions lately witnessed in Parma or in Nice? Again, take the Christian provinces of Turkey. No doubt the majority of the House would be glad to hear that those provinces had vindicated their freedom. It was, however, a totally different question whether we could sanction their annexation to Russia. But if we did not choose to sanction it, would not every logical ground of resistance to such an annexation have been cut from under our feet by our conduct in regard to the Italian States? This was a matter on which the whole peace and tranquillity of Europe depended. The principle upon which he was animadverting had never before been recognized by this country. It was violated in the case 1805 of Cracow by Austria, whose proceedings were denounced in the memorable debates which took place on the subject in that House. It was opposed to the doctrines laid down by Sir James Mackintosh, in his remarkable speech on the annexation of Genoa to Sardinia, in which that eminent man declared that the great idea of a Christian commonwealth of nations was that every small State should be as much secured against the aggression of a large State as every private individual in a well-governed community was secured against the aggression of his neighbour. That was the only true principle; the setting up of any other would overturn the foundations of international law, bring back a heathen sentiment instead of a Christian one, and substitute for the dictates of right and justice the motto of the proudest of the ancient Irish chieftains—"the strongest hand uppermost."
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, he thought the hon. Baronet opposite, led away by his laudable feelings in favour of the liberties of one country, had rather overlooked the rights and interests; of another. It would be most unfair, because of their natural indignation at the recent transactions connected with Savoy and Nice, to visit the sins of Sardinia and France upon the people of Sicily and the rest of Italy. The transfer of Savoy and Nice to France was attributable to Count Cavour and to him only, and he must be responsible for it to his country and to posterity. In his opinion the feeling in Sardinia was so much opposed to France that the extension of that kingdom and the formation of an united Italy would rather counteract than advance French views. The noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office bad only erred in one respect in regard to these transactions. Dazzled by the light of the Commercial Treaty, he and his colleagues had turned a blind eye upon the proceedings of France towards Sardinia, and had given delusive and evasive answers in the other House of Parliament; but since the period at which that annexation took place, nothing could be more suitable than the terms in which the noble Lord had expressed the policy of this country.
§ MR. VINCENT SCULLY
begged to call attention to the very broad political doctrine laid down by the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs—a doctrine that might increase in importance before long—that people were to be allowed to choose their own 1806 Governments. The noble Lord apologised to Roman Catholic Members for suggesting that they might also apply the doctrine to the Roman States, but he (Mr. Scully) took no offence, because he felt that the noble Lord must have been laughing at them in his sleeve when he talked of such a doctrine as that. Would the noble Lord or his Government apply it to India? Would the noble Lord or the Government direct their Minister to ascertain by the votes of the people of India whether they would have England as their ruler? All he (Mr. Scully) could say was, that England did not act upon or tolerate that doctrine, and never would act upon it. He believed that the principle of allowing the people to decide for themselves who should govern them might be safely applied to Ireland. [A laugh.] At all events, no man who had a shilling to lose would vote for annexation to France, though the fact of pamphlets on the subject being published simultaneously in Paris and Dublin showed that there were people infatuated enough to pay attention to it; but would the Government apply the doctrine to Ireland? He believed not. He would not defend the late or the present King of Naples, but no doubt it was difficult for the people of England to understand the position of the Neapoliton Government. So with respect to the Sovereign of the Roman States, who he supposed all would allow was a most beneficent ruler; he was not disliked by the Roman people, but beset by a host of foreign rabble. He had never himself, so far as he was aware, entertained an illiberal sentiment or given an illiberal vote; but he did not like to hear noble Lords propounding sham doctrines for the purpose of gaining a little clap-trap applause, when everybody knew that England never had acted, and never would act, upon them.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.