§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I rise, Sir, to make the Motion of which I gave notice. That the other Orders of the day be postponed till after the Motion for an Address to Her Majesty on the Treaty with France shall have been disposed of; and I take this opportunity of making an appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay), who has given notice of an addition to the intended Address, which may create a very considerable difference of opinion. That addition relates to the differential duties on shipping—a matter that may very fairly be brought under the consideration of this House. But it would, I think, be undesirable to insert it in an Address approving the Treaty, which does not touch the question of those duties. And if my hon. Friend would be kind enough to separate the two subjects, and take the discussion on his proposal on another day, I undertake on the part of the Government to assist him in obtaining an opportunity of bringing it on as a substantive Motion some day before Easter; which I suppose will be sufficient for his purpose.
Motion made, and Question proposed,—
That the other Orders of the Day be postponed until after the Notice of Motion for an Address to Her Majesty on the subject of the Commercial Treaty with France.
said, that he was unable to answer the noble Lord's appeal until he had himself, in turn, made an appeal to the hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. Byng). That hon. Gentleman had given a notice of Motion for an Address respecting the Treaty with France; but the terms of that Address were not before the House. It was the general rule on so important a matter that the House should be in possession of the words of the Address at least one clear day before they were called upon to discuss it. The terms of the Address itself not being before the House, of course the terms of his own proposed addition to it were not before the House either. They could therefore have no opportunity of judging whether the words he proposed to add were consistent with the Address and should be discussed in conjunction with it, or whether they should form the subject of a separate and substantive Motion. He thought the words which he wished to add ought to be discussed at the same time as the Address to Her Majesty; because the noble Lord forgot that the 3rd Article of the Treaty distinctly referred to the dues on British shipping, as it specified that the differential duties levied by France against the shipping of England entering her ports were in nowise to be altered. If, therefore, he knew whether or not they were to defer the discussion of the Address until its terms were regularly before the House he would be better able to respond to the noble Lord's appeal.
said, he rose to state very briefly the grounds on which he intended to oppose the Motion of the noble Viscount. At an unusually late hour for notices of Motion on Friday night, and after a very extraordinary speech from the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) the noble Viscount at the head of the Government gave notice of the present Motion, and requested, as it seemed, the hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. Byng) to give notice of the Address, the discussion of which they were now called upon to accelerate by that Motion. The very preamble of the Treaty which they were asked to sanction began by declaring that it was the object of the high contracting parties "to draw closer the ties of friendship which united their two people." Now, they would be trifling 2230 with that great subject and taking part in the emptiest of all imaginable forms if they consented to enter on the question presented to their attention without having a far more accurate knowledge than they now had of the relations really subsisting between this country and France. As lately as Tuesday last the noble Lord who was the constitutional exponent of the views and opinions of Her Majesty's Government on foreign affairs stated in that House, with a frankness which was characteristic of him, that if the proposed annexation of Savoy and Nice should unfortunately be persisted in, the Emperor of the French would expose himself to the distrust and hostility of Europe. On the day when the noble Lord made that statement he had himself been pressed to postpone his Motion, but he had persevered in going on with it because he knew that in this matter time was a vital element. The correctness of his conclusion was verified by the fact that within forty-eight hours of the moment at which the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary made that statement the Emperor of the French pronounced a speech from the throne, which seemed, as far as he could understand its somewhat ambiguous phraseology, to place the great empire of France in a position of something like antagonism to this country. One portion of the Emperor's speech was, he thought, perfectly unexceptionable in its tone and language; and if he could only bring himself to believe that that part of the speech represented the real views of His Majesty he would not be there endeavouring to postpone the Motion of which his hon. Friend the Member for Middlesex had given notice for that evening. The Emperor said:—This reassertion of a claim to a territory of small extent has nothing in it of a nature to alarm Europe and give a denial to the policy of disinterestedness which I have proclaimed more than once, for France does not wish to proceed to this aggrandizement, however small it may be, either by military occupation or by provoked insurrection, or by underhand manœuvres, but by frankly explaining the question to the Great Powers.If he could only bring himself to believe that that was all he would be very well content to let the Motion proceed. But he found that in other passages His Majesty spoke of the proposal for annexing Savoy and Nice, as though it were a matter resulting from some right possessed by the Emperor of the French. The Emperor also appealed to one of the most dangerous principles to which any potentate could 2231 appeal—namely, the principle of natural boundaries. Now, one plain sentence might remove all the obscurity which hung upon that question; let it be said that the determination to consult the great Powers of Europe meant that which any plain man would understand when he spoke of consulting another. Let it only be understood that France would not proceed to this annexation without the assent of the other great Powers, and then they would all enter on the discussion of the Commercial Treaty in a spirit that would conduce to the peace and tranquillity of Europe. It, however, so happened that rumour rather supported those questionable portions of the Imperial speech which spoke of the proposed annexation as a matter of necessity, and left them less room than they would like for believing that the fair and courteous expressions contained in other passages were the true indication of the Emperor's meaning. As a ground for postponing the debate on which they were now invited to enter, he must beg the House to remember that from July to the present time two negotiations, or to speak more accurately, one negotiation and one discussion, had been going on simultaneously. He alluded, first, to the negotiation with respect to the Commercial Treaty, which had ripened into the instrument with which they were now acquainted. But, unfortunately, the discussion relating to the proposed annexation of Savoy seemed—as far as he could judge from the hasty perusal of the correspondence which the late delivery of the papers had permitted him to bestow upon them—to have dragged on and reached an unfavourable phase precisely after that period when the assent of our Government to the Commercial Treaty was obtained. It was of the utmost importance that the House should have had the opportunity not only of glancing at these papers, but of reading them, and carefully collecting their meaning, before they were called upon to express an opinion upon the Commercial Treaty. When he spoke of the opinion which they might express with regard to that Treaty he did not refer so much to the vote to which the House might be invited to come as to that plainer and clearer expression of opinion which might perhaps be elicited in the course of the debate. It being of the utmost importance that in the approaching discussion of this Treaty they should have a clear view of the relations actually subsisting between this country and France, he hoped that 2232 the House would not depart from its ordinary course of proceeding, or, by the vote for which the noble Lord had asked, accelerate the consideration of this Address. Had the question come on in its ordinary course, he should have felt very much disposed to submit to the consideration of the House some Amendment which might have given them an opportunity of deciding whether they ought not to have better means than they now possessed of forming an opinion upon this subject before they voted an address to the Crown. As it was, it of course followed that he felt no difficulty in opposing the Motion of the noble Lord, as one which tended to accelerate the consideration of a question which, in his opinion, was not ripe for discussion.
§ MR. BYNG
said, that having been appealed to by his hon. Friends the Members for Sunderland and Bridgwater, it was only respectful to them and to the House that he should answer that appeal at once and in the shortest possible manner. If the House generally was anxious to see the terms of the Motion in which he should have the honour of proposing that an Address should be presented to Her Majesty approving the Commercial Treaty with France, he felt that he had no course open to him but that of postponing the Motion for that Address until Thursday, in the meantime placing upon the paper the exact terms in which he should propose it. As he was sure that his hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Kinglake) would not wish him to go into a long discussion of foreign affairs, he would only say by way of explanation that he understood a for night ago from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it was intended that an Address of this kind should be proposed at the earliest possible moment after the House had in Committee approved the various reductions of the Customs' duties. It was on that account only that he had given notice of his intention to make this proposal to the House, and if it was the general wish that the Motion should be postponed to Thursday next, he would accede to that desire.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
In accordance with what has fallen from my hon. Friend (Mr. Byng), and in deference to what is evidently the wish of the House, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion which I have made. I will only say, in explanation, that in the course of the discussions which took place upon the previous stages of this matter, my right hon. Friend stated, 2233 in deference to what we believed to be the general wish of the House, that at the earliest moment after the Resolutions had been gone through and reported, an Ad-dress would be proposed to the House in confirmation and approval of the Treaty in general; therefore, if the course which has been pursued appears to hon. Members to have been more sudden and rapid than usual, it was adopted in deference to what we supposed to be the wishes of the House. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli), the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay), and another active Member of this House were in possession of the words of the Address yesterday, or certainly this morning. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for the postponement of the Orders.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he wished to ask whether the hon. Member would lay the terms of his Motion on the table before Thursday next.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I have always understood that the earliest moment convenient for taking into consideration any matter of importance is the earliest moment consistent with the House having the opportunity of consideration. I am very glad that Her Majesty's Government have changed their course, because I do not think that the Members of this House would have had an opportunity for consideration if they had been called upon to vote an Address to the Crown with which they had not, speaking generally, had any opportunity of becoming acquainted. Nor was the course originally adopted by Her Majesty's Ministers consistent with the usual custom of this House, because on the last occasion of similar importance which I can recall—namely, when the treaty of peace with Russia was concluded—notice of an Address to the Crown was given on Monday for that day week, and upon the Saturday following the language of the Address was laid upon the table, so that not only had we a week's notice of the intention of the Government, but we had also forty-eight hours' notice of the language of the intended Address. That is a precedent which I am sure none of us will question, and of which I am sure that you Sir, will approve, because I believe that the hon. Gentleman who moved that Address was Mr. Evelyn Denison. As the noble Lord has referred to my being in 2234 possession of the language of the proposed Address, I cannot but say that it appears to me that Her Majesty's Ministers, with a desire to conclude this business which is hardly well considered, have followed the precedent of Mr. Pitt's time, without reflecting that the circumstances of the two cases are, owing to the course which they have followed, very different. In the Address which hon. Gentlemen will see upon the paper to-morrow, having expressed our duty and satisfaction, we are requested to go on to say, "We shall proceed to take such steps as may be necessary for giving effect." The fact is we have already taken those steps. ["No, no! The Bills."] That is a formal affair; the decision of the House has been arrived at. In the case of 1787, when the Address from which this is copied was moved, not a single vote in the Committee of Customs had been taken, the mode of levying the duties had not been altered, and therefore there is a great difference between the two cases. However, that is a question on which I will not dwell now. I am extremely glad that the noble Lord has taken the course which he has done of postponing the Motion, and I am sure he must see its propriety, because it was, I believe, past midnight on Friday when the notice was given. At that time a great number of Gentlemen, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington) had left the House, and many of them left town on the following morning. However, the House will now have an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the language of the Address and weighing the whole subject. With regard to the time for its consideration, I should think Friday would be a more convenient day than Thursday, as it would interfere with no other arrangements, and I would therefore suggest to the noble Lord that it would be more acceptable to the House if he would fix the later day instead of the earlier.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
was understood to say that this would lead to inconvenience in case of the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he wanted to call the attention of the House to the fact, that during the present Session they had willingly given to the Government facilities for conducting business such as had been asked by or accorded to no Government before. Since the night when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in- 2235 troduced his Budget the Government had been allowed to appropriate every notice day for the discussion of their financial Resolutions—a circumstance unknown till the present Session. No such indulgence was given to Sir Robert Peel in 1842 or 1845, nor was it asked by or granted to the right hon. Gentleman himself in 1853, although on all those occasions the fiscal changes and the unsettlement of the trading interests of the country were greater than they had been on the present occasion. More than this, the Government, to facilitate the passing of the Customs' duties, had been allowed to appropriate Thursday for the introduction of the Reform Bill. All this had been cheerfully conceded; but he thought the House ought to put a limit upon these concessions, which had in no previous Session been demanded by any Government. There had, of course, been occasions on which there had been adjourned debates upon the Budget which had, to suit the general convenience, taken precedence of notices of Motion; but to the present Government had been readily and cheerfully conceded that which had never been asked before. He was apprehensive that this course might be drawn into a precedent for the future, and he therefore submitted that the Government ought not to press the House too far, and that, instead of asking for next Thursday evening, they ought, in accordance with previous usage, to fix the consideration of this Address for Friday.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Sir, I cannot allow this conversation to close without expressing my satisfaction that the Government and the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Byng) have thought it right to take the course which they have done, and my earnest hope that the extraordinary notice given on Friday night will not be drawn into a precedent. I must say that since I have had the honour of a seat in this House I can remember no instance in which the conduct of the Government had so much the appearance of an intention to take the House by surprise, and, if possible, to prevent or strangle the discussion upon a question of great interest and importance, as the notice which was given by the hon. Member for Middlesex between twelve and one o'clock on Saturday morning. In my opinion, the course which was then taken by the Government and by the hon. Member on their behalf was, not only most unusual, but also most discourteous to the House; and I am very glad that the 2236 Government have seen fit to change their course. I entirely concur with my right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) in what he has said as to the practice of occupying Thursday nights with Government business. It is not unusual, perhaps, at a certain period after Easter, and on Motion made for that purpose, to give up the Thursday evenings to Government business, but the course now proposed is one of a very different kind. I hope, therefore, that the Government will not persevere in their intention to bring on this Motion on Thursday evening. The noble Viscount has intimated across the table that the reason for taking that course is the possibility of the debate being adjourned. In answer to that, I will say that the Government must take the chance which all Governments have on all occasions taken when bringing forward Bills on Government nights; and, therefore, hope that the House will not sanction this proposal.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I think, Sir, that the right hon. Baronet (Sir John Pakington) seeing there is no difference of opinion as to the course which ought to be pursued, might have abstained from making the deliberate charge which he has thought proper to prefer against the Government of endeavouring to stifle discussion upon the Commercial Treaty with France. I do not think the Government have shown any desire to stifle discussion. We are perfectly satisfied with the results of the discussion which has taken place, and perhaps it is some dissatisfaction with those results that has induced the right hon. Baronet to make his unnecessary charge. But, however that may be, I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) is labouring under a misapprehension with respect both to principle and to fact. In the first place, with regard to the acceleration of public business, I must always, whether in or out of office, protest, as I have always protested, against the assumption that it is a favour to the Government to allow them to proceed with their measures on days that do not properly belong to them. It is not at all for the convenience of the Government that they should be permitted to take a larger share than usual of the time of the House. My right hon. Friend must know that a rapid rate of proceeding brings an additional and a very inconvenient amount of labour upon the Government. It is not a regard for our 2237 own convenience then, but a regard for the general interests of the country and the very definite and pressing interests of the whole commercial and trading classes that makes us anxious to arrive at an early conclusion on the Budget. But I think likewise my right hon. Friend is quite wrong in point of fact. I am not prepared to quote chapter and verso of the precedents at the present moment, but, unless my recollection greatly deceives me, we did, upon many nights in 1842, proceed with the tariff when the Government had not regular precedence. Undoubtedly that was not the only instance, for under all Governments, when the case has appeared to be of sufficient urgency to the public interests to justify it, a similar demand has been made and acceded to by the House. Of course that is a question entirely in the discretion of the House; and whenever the Government perceives the existence of a general adverse disposition on the part of the House it will at once withdraw such a demand. But I think my noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) has given on this occasion one very special reason why it is eminently for the convenience of all parties that we should go on, as proposed on Thursday. If there is to be an adjourned debate we shall be able to carry it on after an interval of only a few hours, instead of one of three days, and those gentlemen who may wish not to be detained in London will be liberated at a much earlier period. But it so happens that if any one will take the trouble to turn to the notices which stand for Thursday he will see that it is a day eminently convenient for the Motion of the hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. Byng) to be made. It must also be remembered that it is not the case of the Government endeavouring to bring forward an order upon a notice night. The hon. Member for Middlesex gives notice of a Motion, and proposes to place it on the paper for Thursday. It may stand very well upon its own merits as a notice which will only compete with other notices, and which will not displace any without the full consent of the movers. It seems to be forgotten that the Government have not, after all, received the favours of which we have heard so much. All we have been enabled to do by the aid and kindness of many hon. Members has been to occupy the later portions of two or three evenings which otherwise might not have been occupied at all. On Thursday night, it is true, my noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign 2238 Affairs was permitted to bring forward a very important subject at an early hour; but on Tuesday night the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Kinglake) in the exercise of his discretion, called the attention of the House to a question of which he had given notice, and although we were allowed to occupy the latter portion of the evening no inconvenience was experienced by any one. It so happens, however, as I have already said, that the notices for Thursday next are not very numerous, and I believe they will be found to be either such as are not likely to lead to prolonged discussions, from the nature of the subjects, or such as cannot lead to prolonged discussion because they are agreed to. The Motion relating to dockyards has been agreed to, and the Motion on our relations with the Neapolitan Government is, I understand, one that cannot be conveniently discussed in detail in the present state of affairs and the present state of the House as to information. I must say, therefore, it would be little better than a waste of time if we were not to take the convenient opportunity of proceeding with the important Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesex on Thursday, with the view of closing the discussion on Friday in case the House should wish for an adjourned debate. But that rests in the discretion of the House, only we are not disposed to take the opinion of two or three hon. Members for the general wish of the House, as is sometimes done. My belief is, that the general inclination of the House, as far as we are able to gather it, is in conformity with the notice given by the hon. Member for Middlesex—namely, that he should proceed with his Motion on Thursday.
MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
said, he wished to remind the House that the Government had done no more than accede to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay), that the Motion for an Address on the subject of the French Treaty should be postponed for a day or two. It seemed to him, however, that the question which had been raised by the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Kinglake) was one of still greater importance, or rather one the importance of which could scarcely be exaggerated. It was not simply a question whether on Thursday or Friday the House should signify its assent to or disapproval of a Commercial Treaty, or whether that discussion should be deferred till another occasion. Neither was it a question whether the House should 2239 express its opinion on the contemplated annexation of Savoy and Nice to France. The question was, whether the House should embrace the present opportunity, when matters seriously affecting the relations of this country and the whole of Europe with France were before the public, of signifying its assent to a treaty, by which, in the words of the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office, our relations with France were to be rendered closer and more intimate. The hon. Member for Bridgwater had well pointed out that the question raised by him in his speech was of far greater importance than the mere annexation of a small portion of territory. It not only affected the independence and security of Switzerland, as the hon. Baronet the Member for Tam-worth had stated, in such eloquent and forcible language, but any one who looked at the map must see that it had a very important bearing upon the relations of France with Germany. It had also an important bearing upon the relations of France with Italy, where in consequence of the proposed annexation France might exercise an influence far more commanding and a power far more formidable than had at any time been exercised by Austria. But the question was one of still greater importance to Europe, which might possibly see in the project of annexation, said to be entertained by the Emperor of the French, a key to the claims and the future policy of France. The hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) had the other evening called attention to the language used by his Majesty, and the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) would see by the authorized version of that speech in The Moniteur that the hon. Baronet was correct in his interpretation. But there were other passages in the speech of the Emperor eminently calculated to raise the suspicion and misgivings of Europe. His Majesty spoke, for example, of what he called the "natural limits" of France. The House would see, therefore, that the question was of the greatest European importance, and one in which this country was deeply interested. What was the position of Europe at the present moment? There was not a single country in Europe that did not regard the policy of the extraordinary man, who now wielded the destinies of France, with anxiety and alarm. There was not a country in Europe the statesmen of which did not look to France with something like fear. Yet there was 2240 not a country in Europe that was prepared to take the initiative in such a matter. All the nations of Europe looked to England, where there was a free Parliament, a free press, a free expression of public opinion. They relied upon us to take the initiative, and he believed that if we did so they would follow our example. What, however, was the position in which the Government wished to place this country? Instead of using language, not such as the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office had used, but language recording our earnest, emphatic, and unflinching protest against the annexation of Savoy and Nice, the Government proposed that, passing by the discussion to which the noble Lord the Foreign Minister had himself invited the House, Parliament should take into consideration the clauses of a Commercial Treaty with France at the very moment when the policy of France was creating distrust and alarm throughout Europe. On Friday night the noble Lord opposite declared that the question of the annexation of Savoy and Nice was one for the consideration, not of the Crown or of the Government, but of the people of England and the House of Commons, and yet he was now asking the House to parade itself before Europe in the act of drawing closer the bonds of alliance with France, as if there was an identity of policy and of interest between the two countries. The present was not the time for such language as the Foreign Minister had held. He granted that the noble Lord, as appeared from the recently published correspondence had remonstrated against the course pursued by France, and against the project said to be entertained by the Emperor, and so far as it went he did not complain of the attitude of the noble Lord. But we wanted more than the mere language of remonstrance. It was not sufficient for the noble Lord to write to Turin that the surrender of the cradle of his illustrious family would be "a blot on the escutcheon" of the King of Sardinia. That was mere rhetoric, rather than the earnest and vigorous protest which we desired. We were bound by the faith of solemn treaties. We had treaties with Austria, with Prussia, and with Russia, and what the country wanted was a solemn protest against a project which, he feared, was not only entertained, but in part accomplished, and which he believed to be dangerous alike to the interests and the tranquillity of Europe. Under these circumstances, he would sug- 2241 gest to the noble Lord that the consideration of the clauses of the Commercial Treaty should not take place until the House had the opportunity of clearly and decidedly expressing an opinion as to this annexation of Savoy and Nice. He did not doubt that that opportunity would be found, either by the action of some Independent Member, or by some proposition on the part of the Government, to take the papers into consideration; and then, on Monday next, if the noble Lord proceeded to the consideration of the clauses of the Commercial Treaty, a course would be adopted by which the public service would be greatly benefited.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, that he should like to know, though perhaps he might assume, that the language of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down was the language of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire and of the Earl of Derby, who, in "another place," was the leader of the party to which the right hon. Gentleman belonged. The hon. Gentleman has been for many years a Member of the House, but he had not taken a very active part in the discussions until with in the last twelve months, when, from the official position in which he was placed, it was necessary for him to do so; and it must be admitted that the hon. Gentleman, when in office, conducted the business of his department, as far as that House was concerned, in a satisfactory manner. He, therefore, the more regretted to be obliged to say that he observed that a very remarkable change had taken place since the hon. Gentleman quitted office; and he did not know that he had heard for a long time a speech in that House which had given him more astonishment and pain than that which the hon. Gentleman had just delivered. He did not ask the hon. Gentleman to please him in the speeches which the hon. Gentleman made; and he certainly in his speeches did not try to please hon. Gentlemen opposite; but he did ask that when hon. Gentlemen addressed the House, they should well consider the gravity of the question, and endeavour, as far as other countries were concerned, not to import into the discussion any unnecessary irritation. From what had been observable during the last fortnight or three weeks, it was quite obvious that the Commercial Treaty with France was very unpleasant to hon. Gentlemen opposite. There were many reasons why it should be so, some which they were not likely to admit, and which it was not ne- 2242 cessary for him to state; but he would ask them whether it was a manly course to endeavour, when the Commercial Treaty was on the point of being concluded by the ratification of the House, and when throughout the country there was but one voice with respect to it, and when that House had already shown itself most un-mistakeably in its favour—was it manly, he would ask, to associate the treatment of that particular question, and of the Government in respect to it, with another question which might or might not be important, but which necessarily involved considerations likely to create irritation here and perhaps elsewhere? The hon. Member for Bridgwater and many other hon. Members had strong feelings on this question of Savoy. What course did they propose to take? Did they propose to take out of the hands of the Crown or of the Government the management or control of the matter? If they believed that there was anything in the papers not creditable to the noble Lord who had the management of the Foreign Affairs of the country or to the honour of the Crown of England, was not the floor of the House open to them, and could they not propose a Motion with respect to those papers on any night in this or next week to the effect that the conduct of the Government was not creditable, and that the interests of the country had not been duly regarded? Then the matter would be fairly discussed and battled out, and if the hon. Gentlemen opposite could carry a vote of censure, then the great object of their ambition would be attained; the Government would be turned out, and hon. Gentlemen opposite would sit on the Ministerial benches, and when they did they would, he presumed, from the force of circumstances, carry out precisely the same policy. There was not a few persons in this country who regretted the course taken by the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) on this question, for no doubt that right hon. Gentleman prompted the virtuous indignation of the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. S. FitzGerald). That course was one not void of some considerable peril. He (Mr. Bright) had seen the course followed by the party opposite in 1853 and 1854. There was not an insinuation of any kind which was not resorted to at that time with the view of damaging the Earl of Aberdeen's Government, and more especially the Earl of Aberdeen himself, though such a course might occasion war 2243 and did, no doubt, much to make the unfortunate war that ensued inevitable. ["Oh, oh!"] He did not ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to agree with him; he was only telling them what a great number of people believed, and the opinion was growing stronger every day, that there were persons occupying high positions before the public who would rather see a great alienation from France—even though it might lead to the terrific consequences of another war—than a growing friendship between England and France, which was likely to result from the Commercial Treaty. He agreed with the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire very much in this, that Government could not be very well carried on in this Parliament without something that assumed the character of party, but still he had no great affection for what wore called great party fights. At any rate, there were many subjects in the course of a Session on which party fights might be taken, but, in the name of all that was sensible, all that was humane and just to mankind—he would not say to England—let them banish from their party discussions questions of irritation like that raised to-night—questions which grew by this sort of discussion, and, sometimes in a very short time, acquired a magnitude beyond the control of those who first raised them. If they could conceive themselves for a moment to be sitting in France, instead of in England, and hearing this kind of discussion—if they could suppose England and France to change places on the question of Savoy, and England to desire annexation, while France was opposed to it, could not hon. Gentlemen then perceive that the sort of tone in which the matter was taken up, and the sort of menace which the hon. Gentleman offered, was precisely the kind of thing which made—if such a thing were possible—war absolutely inevitable? The hon. Gentleman proposed, in effect, that the House should not proceed with the Commercial Treaty until the question of Savoy should be settled. [Mr. S. FITZGERALD: No, no!] Did he misunderstand the hon. Gentleman? [Mr. S. FITZGERALD: Yes.] Then he retracted the statement; but he was quite sure that the tone of the hon. Gentleman's observations led to that conclusion. Besides, he would ask, what was the object of tying the two things up together, unless one was to be made dependent on the other? He ventured to say that no words that could be put into a Resolution would more decidedly 2244 cause a rupture between France and England than words declaring that the House would not consider the Commercial Treaty until the question of the annexation of Savoy was settled. Now, he was not going to discuss that question; but a great deal might be said for it on the part of France, and against it on the part of England. It appeared to him one of those questions which had better not be stirred, but which, being stirred, concerned the people of France, of Sardinia, and of Savoy much more than the people of England. As a matter of material interest it did not concern England at all, but only as a matter of sentiment, as all were desirous here that nobody should destroy the old landmarks of Europe. It was impossible, however, for any person in the position of the governor of a great country to have stated his case, his wishes and intentions, in more fair and open language than that read by the hon. Member for Bridgwater. The hon. and learned Member, indeed, admitted that if the words he read were the only words in the matter he would take the same view of them; but those were the only words which referred to the action of the Emperor. The other words referred solely to the Emperor's wishes and rights, but the words which the hon. and learned Member read to the House are the only words which referred to what the Emperor proposed to do. If, however, any hon. Gentleman felt aggrieved on the subject, let him bring forward a specific Resolution, and then the noble Lord the Member for London would be enabled to defend his course on this question; but he implored the House not to let it appear that it preferred a party embarrassment, a party victory if it might be—or the peril of breaking up the friendly relations between this country and France, to the accptance of that great Treaty, on which the people of England believed their future commercial interests to a very considerable extent depended. He had not risen to defend the Government, but when a question of this sort was made a ground of attack from night to night, he was anxious to place it in its real light, and he believed he placed these attacks, which tended to sacrifice the commercial interests of the country, imperil peace with France and therefore with Europe, in their real light when he stated that they were made for a party object, of which a great party ought to be ashamed.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, he was prepared to answer the question of the hon. Member 2245 for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), and in doing so he believed he would be giving expression to a feeling which prevailed among a large portion of the House. The hon. Gentleman had asked what they were prepared to do in reference to that question of Savoy; and he (Mr. Liddell) had to reply that he for one was not prepared to take the course which the hon. Gentleman had marked out for himself—namely, to treat the annexation of Savoy to France with a pusillanimous indifference, if with nothing more. It was very convenient for the hon. Member (Mr. Bright) to evade the main point of this question, but the fact was that England stood pledged to maintain the independence of Switzerland, and that independence was seriously endangered by the proposed annexation. He rose, however, principally for the purpose of urging his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay) not to accept the offer which had been made to him by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. His hon. Friend bad given notice of an Amendment in the third Article of the Treaty; but if his hon. Friend were to accede to the suggestion of the noble Lord he would find himself placed very much in the position of the man who shut the stable door when the steed was gone, for his Motion would be fixed for some day after the House had given its assent to the Treaty. He did not wish in any way to endanger the success of the Treaty; on the contrary, he believed that it would be eminently advantageous to this country; but he was anxious that the third Article, which would subject British shipping to an unjust charge, should be discussed by the House under the circumstances which would afford them the best chance of obtaining its alteration.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
The hon. Member (Mr. Bright) has entirely misunderstood what fell from my hon. Friend near me (Mr. S. FitzGerald). The hon. Member has imputed to Gentlemen on this side of the House, that, for a party object, they are desirous of catching at this question of Savoy in order to expel the Ministry from their places. Now, I think he will see upon reflection that that imputation is not one which he ought to have made. How has this difficulty arisen? Has it been created by any act of those around me? By no means. The person who jeopardizes the peace of Europe is he who does not respect the faith of treaties—who says that geographically he is entitled to one 2246 country, and that logically he is entitled to another. That is the argument in reference to Savoy and Nice. Does any imputation rest on the Foreign Secretary? No. I have only looked into these despatches; but as far as I have read them I think that they reflect honour upon the noble Lord, and that throughout the correspondence he has asserted the interests of peace, the interests of his country, and the interests of Europe. But our object is, in accordance with the noble Lord's own speech the other evening, to strengthen the hands of the Ministry by expressing clearly and distinctly the opinion of Parliament, not as the hon. Member (Mr. Bright) supposes, upon the internal affairs of France, but upon an intended encroachment by one Power on the territories of another country, guaranteed to that other country by the faith of treaties. The effect of such an expression of opinion by Parliament, as I believe, will be not to create war, but to prevent it; and the hon. Gentleman wholly mistook what my hon. Friend said, because, when he expressed a hope that Parliament would protest against annexation, the hon. Gentleman should recollect that a protest is not war, but a substitute for war. For example, when the French army marched into Switzerland, the Earl of Malmesbury protested, but we did not go to war. And I venture to say that, if a distinct and manly protest be made by England and the other great Powers of Europe against this first attempt to violate the treaties which guarantee the peace of Europe, that protest will be attended with better results than even the manful despatches of the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary. The hon. Member (Mr. Bright) was therefore rash in his imputation upon my hon. Friend and' the Gentlemen near me, who are desirous to maintain peace, but at the same time are desirous to preserve the faith of treaties and the honour of their country.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
I will not attempt to impugn the motives of the hon. Member (Mr. S. FitzGerald). His motives may be pure and honourable, but I do take upon myself to question the discretion of his speech. When an hon. Gentleman who has occupied the position of Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs makes such a speech respecting the Emperor of the French, I must say that I think it highly indiscreet and very much to be deprecated. What must be the effect produced on the highly inflammatory susceptibilities of the 2247 French people when they hear of such observations made, amid the cheers of his party, by a Gentleman who has held so high a position? I do not believe the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) inspired him with that speech, or that he approves of the statements expressed in it, for the right hon. Gentleman is far too sensible of the value of the French alliance; and the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken also sees so fully the indiscretion of the speech that he has endeavoured to explain it away to the satisfaction of this House and of our neighbours across the water. But if we are every night to be making this an opportunity for discussing the affairs of the French Government and of Sardinia, what is to come of it? Are we to lay hold of this Commercial Treaty, which is meant to be one of amity, and turn it, instead, into a source of war? By the course you are pursuing I firmly believe that you are laying the foundations of enmity between the two countries. As to the policy of annexation, I do not agree with the views of the hon. Member (Mr. Bright). I think he made that speech under some momentary irritation, and I am sure that after consideration has led him to repent of many of those sentiments. If, however, the question may be regarded from another point of view, let us, when the proper time arrives for doing so, give it a calm, candid, and open discussion; but do not let us have hon. Members rising and giving utterance, night after night, upon the mere withdrawal of a Motion, to such irritating sentiments. I heard with great pleasure the speech made the other night by the hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel). It was a speech distinguished by a strain of eloquence such as is seldom heard within these walls, and I trust that we shall often hear the hon. Baronet again, but I also hope that to eloquence he will join discretion, and will not on every possible occasion make Savoy the staple of debate in this House. I have confidence in the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary. From the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) it would seem that we all agree that the noble Lord is conducting these very difficult affairs with judgment and moderation. Let us, then, assist him in the best way we are able—namely, by so debating the subject in this House as not to embarrass him, hut to strengthen his hands in negotiating. Without impugning the motives of hon. Gentlemen opposite, I ask the House not to be led 2248 away by any anti-Gallican feeling, and not to mix up this Savoy question with the Commercial Treaty, which we have a fair prospect of debating on Thursday evening.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
Not being of any party whatever, I think I may reply to the question of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), why we mix up the two subjects of the Commercial Treaty and Savoy. For the Treaty of Commerce no man is more anxious than I am; but, at the same time, I have my own opinion about the annexation of Savoy. I will tell the hon. Gentleman, then, why we connect the two. With the internal affairs of France we have nothing to do. The French place whom they please at the head of their Government. They present him to the world, and with him we negotiate. It is, therefore, the duty of England to negotiate with the present Emperor of the French. We do not ask how he came to the Throne. We do not ask what is his character. We do not, when negotiating with him, express what we think of the man. All these questions must enter into our minds; but we negotiate with him candidly, freely, honestly, though we have our own opinion as to the result of that negotiation. Now being, as I said, of no party, and not being a Government official, I think it my duty on the present occasion, simply as a representative of the people of England, to state frankly what I accept as the result of the Commercial Treaty, supposing it had passed. With the great people of France I have the most earnest desire to maintain the most friendly relations. I believe it is for the happiness of mankind that these two great nations should be upon relations of amity. As the French nation has chosen its governor, with him I am quite prepared to deal; but I cannot help forming my own conclusions as to the result of this negotiation. The result of this negotiation will, I believe, very much depend upon the character of the man with whom we have to deal. Now, what does that man do? Upon this occasion I am not simply to consider what the hon. Member for Birmingham calls the danger of the question. I have to consider the honour of England. I say that if at this time we did not speak our minds, we should he truckling to the Emperor of the French. We should not be the England which I believe we are. I say that this man even now when he is entering into friendly relations with us, is breaking all the treaties we have made, and is casting 2249 dishonour upon England by making it appear that we are his friends, while he is doing a disgraceful and dishonourable act, ["Oh, oh!"] I do not mince my language. I do not fear that man, but I have a fear lest England be thought to truckle to him. What is he doing? He invites us to enter into friendly intercourse. To that invitation I willingly accede I think he has done boldly by so doing. I think he has acted doubly boldly, when, having quarrelled with his priests, he ventures to quarrel with his Prohibitionists at the same time. But he has done a bolder act. At the same time that he invites England to be his friend, he seeks to break the treaties which England has made. He talks of acquiring les versants des Alpes. If I understand what that means, he will go still further. The man who talks of geographical reasons for wishing to approach the Alps, may for the same reasons desire to approach the Rhine. And so, if we now stand by with "bated breath" while he approaches the Alps, we shall by-and-by see him acquire the Rhenish provinces of Prussia, and crush Belgium in his grasp. What shall we do then? We shall be driven to do that which we ought to do now, and proclaim boldly that we think it would be dishonourable to do that which he is about to do. I do not ask for war; I know there is pugnacity at the bottom of all the hon. Member for Birmingham does. When I say I do not wish to fight he laughs at me. But, Sir, there is something in the grave and solemn declaration of a great people like the people of England even that the Emperor of the French must regard. I have known the time when a declaration of this House stopped him short in his career. I think the noble Lord at the head of the Government will remember that time. I recollect the time when this House was solicited to alter the legislation of England to please him. This House refused to consent to that. We stopped him short in his career then, and what has been his course since then? During the Italian war, and after it, the Emperor of the French did all he could to make friends with the despots of Europe, and all he could to throw off the English alliance. Why do I say that? I take the expression of opinion in the press of France to be the expression of the Emperor's opinions. Having failed to win the friendship of the despots of Europe, he fell back upon his old Ally, and then he silenced by one blow the press of France. ["Oh!"] 2250 Hon. Gentlemen may cry "Oh," but is that not true? Did he not issue his fiat, and did not all the insolence and all the impertinence against England at once cease? Aye, I have faith in the English House of Commons, although some may be base enough to truckle to an Emperor; and I am sure this House of Commons will maintain the character, the dignity, and the honour of England. To go back to what I was saying:—the Emperor of the French turned round, and again cultivated the friendship of his old Ally. We were sworn friends again, but I cannot forget what that phase of that man's life disclosed. ["Question!"] You may not like what I say, but I am sure it is the question for us to consider. I say, what are we to do? Are we at once, and without consideration, to accede to this Treaty of Commerce? I am most anxious at once to close with this Treaty of Commerce if we can. But I would not close with it in such a way as to appear to sanction the proceedings of the Emperor of the French in the annexation of Savoy. Therefore, I say the consideration of this question ought to be deferred until the House has had an opportunity of declaring its opinion as to the annexation of Savoy. I am quite sure a large majority of the House would at once adopt the honourable language of the noble Lord the Member for London and declare itself hostile to that annexation. And here I must say, if the noble Lord will permit me, that I think the honour of England is quite safe in his hands—that his language has been in accordance with the views of the people, and that nothing could be better than the manner in which he ha3 declared his honest feeling's upon this matter. I call upon the House of Commons to say what the noble Lord has said, and to declare its opinion upon this matter before we say that we are willing to enter into a Treaty of Commerce between the two nations. I only ask the House to do that, and then when it has declared the annexation of Savoy to be against the honour and dignity of England to say to France, "If you will enter into negotiations, we wish to have peace and content between the two countries, and we will even sacrifice our feelings to gain that end."
§ MR. CONINGHAM
said, that although for one he was not at ail disposed to truckle to the Emperor of the French, he felt bound to protest against the use of such language as they had just listened to as applied to 2251 the ruler of a friendly nation. He knew that the language applied in that House to the Emperor was in France considered to be the expression of the sentiments of that House towards the French nation. Nothing could be more injurious to the interests of both nations, more injurious to the interests of civilization. Hon. Gentlemen opposite professed now great sympathy for Savoy, hut when Poland was divided, when Cracow was absorbed, when the Russians marched into Hungary, he did not remember there was any protest on the part of the great Conservative party. The annexation of Savoy was a question in which England bad an interest, but if the districts contiguous to Switzerland were to be given to that republic he thought that arrangement would much modify the views which would otherwise be entertained of the proposed transaction. He would add that the whole discussion that evening had been of a most irregular character, and he earnestly deprecated the repetition of sentiments which he believed were calculated to sow the seeds of distrust and hostility between the two most civilized countries of the world.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, if any hon. Gentleman in this House thought it necessary to propose for consideration the whole question of Savoy, to find fault with the mode in which that question has been treated by Her Majesty's Ministers, or to take the matter entirely out of the hands of the present Government, that would be an intelligible and, may be, a useful course of proceeding. It may be that we have spoken too tamely upon the subject, that men of higher abilities and more animated spirit may be able by the use of other language to deter the Government of France from proceeding in any way with the annexation of Savoy. Those who could succeed in persuading the House to adopt that view might take the place of those who have hitherto conducted the negotiations and proceed to put their views in practice. But there is one course which is neither consistent with constitutional proceedings in this House, nor consistent with the ordinary confidence reposed in Her Majesty's Government, and which, above all, is not consistent with the maintenance of amicable feelings between this country and France. That course is the renewal, day after day, of irritating discussions, putting forward particular points and incidents, asking for no decisive vote, proposing no definite resolution, but always 2252 pointing out the person whom the French by immense majorities have chosen to rule over them as a ruler whom we must distrust, against whom we ought to be perpetually prepared. That course must tend to alienate the two countries, and to bring about at length a total rupture of amicable relations. Now, I am sorry to say that that is a course which some hon. Gentlemen think it convenient to take, and I must on this occasion ask them really to come to some definite Resolution as to what they themselves propose by their speeches on this question. What has happened is this,—I must again state it as the matter has been so prominently brought forward.—It appears that when there was a discussion between France and Sardinia—when there was a measure of concert arranged between them with respect to the defence of Sardinia against Austria—some question was raised, or some conversation passed, on the subject of annexing Savoy to France. The war began; the war ended with the annexation of Lombardy to Sardinia, and with no further conquest on the part of France. It was understood, that, according to the preliminary treaty of Villafranca and the subsequent treaty of Zurich, the Grand Dukes of Tuscany and Modena were to return to their dominions; that the Pope was again to have possession of the Romagna; and that Lombardy alone was to be the prize of the King of Sardinia. The Emperor of France was the man who promoted that arrangement, and did all he could to bring it to a successful result; and it was fully understood that in that case there would be no question of the annexation of Savoy. Well, that arrangement did not please the Italian people; the Emperor of France said he would not use force to coerce their inclinations; and those inclinations were evidently in favour of their living under the rule of the King of Sardinia. The Emperor of Franco, when it was tolerably clear that such would be the probable result, said, it was desirable for the security of France that she should have the slopes of the Alps that lay towards France, and that she should have her frontier strengthened. On that question Her Majesty's Government differed with the Emperor of France; and I will say for myself that I never for a moment concealed our opinions upon it from the Emperor of France. I was not wanting in telling him, frankly and plainly, what our opinions were of that annexation, and what were the consequences which we 2253 feared might follow in Europe from carrying it into practical effect. But other Powers have to take their part. The Emperor of the French took his part so far that he declared to Her Majesty's Government, both through his own Ambassador and through his Minister for Foreign Affairs, that he would not proceed to that annexation without consulting the great Powers of Europe. It might be feared that by a sudden military occupation he might seize the capital of Savoy and the passes of the Alps; but he has declared in the face of all Europe that he will not so proceed. Those other Powers to which he has referred have to be consulted. We have told him frankly our sentiments on the subject, and I do not know that we could have done so in language stronger or more direct. But the question remains still to be decided in what way the other Powers of Europe will be consulted. Will they be asked to give their opinion to the Emperor of the French? Will it be expected by the French Government that if those Powers maintain objections to this annexation, they will speak out on the subject? All I can say is, that hitherto they have not done so. Her Majesty's Government have spoken out on the subject, as has also the British Parliament; and the British public, and I may say all Europe, will soon know the manner in which we have spoken. But the other Powers have not yet spoken; I cannot doubt what the opinion of those Powers is on the subject in question, but I doubt in what way they will express themselves. Now, is it at such a moment, let me ask, and upon such a subject, that the House of Commons will consent, day after day, to listen to vague discussions founded on no definite Resolution? It is my persuasion—I may be totally mistaken on that point, because other circumstances may occur to disappoint any such prophecy—but my persuasion is that if the language of disapproval is held in Berlin, is held in Vienna, and is held in St. Petersburg, that this project of annexation will not be persevered in. I have said we do not know' as yet in what language those great Powers will express themselves. Nay, more; the very Power which is most interested in this question—the Government of Sardinia itself—has not yet spoken on this subject. The Members of this House and the public may have seen two despatches which have appeared in the Moniteur, and have since been reproduced in the newspapers here, which contain a 2254 project for the settlement of Italy, suggested by France, and one of which despatches ends by stating that in case that project were adopted it would still be necessary, for the security of the frontiers of France, to add Savoy to the dominions of the Emperor. That question concerns Sardinia more than any other Power in the world. The province to be annexed is naturally the part of his dominions of which the King of Sardinia must be the most proud; it is the country in which his house arose; and in the course of time it has numbered among its people many of the most gallant and skilful of officers and many of the bravest of men, who fought to maintain the rights and power of his family, and who by their deeds have adorned the page of history. The King of Sardinia must, therefore, be much interested in that province. Yet, while the Government of the King of Sardinia have answered at great length, and with much detail, so much of the French proposal as relates to Italy, with regard to Savoy, Count Cavour has said that he reserves that as the subject for a separate despatch, and that he will treat it very soon in that separate despatch, which he will communicate to the Government of France. Then, I say again, when the Power most of all interested in this question has not yet decided in what way it will act, that this is not the moment in which we should come to a precipitate conclusion. But this I will say, that whatever may be said with respect to Savoy, my opinion is that the Treaty of Commerce with France is destined, if it obtains the approbation of the Parliament of this country, to strengthen the ties of friendship between the two nations, to increase the wealth and stimulate the industry of both, and that by thus giving a greater number of our own people and a greater number of the people of France an interest in the blessings of peace we shall delay, perhaps prevent, that calamity of war which, I think, it is the business of every European statesman to use his utmost efforts to avert. With these convictions I shall be ready, without entering into this question of Savoy, to give my earnest support to the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesex (Mr. Byng) whenever he may bring that Motion forward; and when he does so, I trust the House will consider the question of the Treaty of Commerce as the main subject of our deliberations. Is there anything, I ask, connected with this question of Savoy 2255 to prevent our strengthening those relations which already exist with France by ties of commerce? I believe there is not, for my part. I cannot understand the part which the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) takes in this matter. I cannot imagine anything more pernicious than to indulge in invective on such a subject against a neighbouring Sovereign without any definite object. If we have to bring forward at a future time the question of Savoy, after having disposed of coals and other matters of commerce germane to the Treaty, do not let hon. Gentlemen confine themselves to those general terms of solemn protest. The hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. S. FitzGerald) says we are to make a solemn protest. What is the meaning of that? I can understand the rest of the great Powers telling the Emperor of France, in a manner perfectly friendly, but, at the same time, in a manner perfectly firm, that this annexation would alarm Europe, and that the additional territory he would gain would be as nothing to the consequences it might entail upon him. I can understand that being said by the Powers of Europe in terms which would give it due force. But I can understand nothing by "a solemn protest" but this—"We offer our Resolution; accept it, and we will remain on friendly terms with you; refuse it, and we shall go to war!" I cannot imagine the great Powers of Europe going to the Emperor of the French with "a solemn protest" and then remaining contented with a flat refusal. It does not appear to me, therefore, that that is a course likely to lead to peace, or one calculated to prevent the Emperor of France carrying out the object he has in view. It does not appear that when the hon. Member (Mr. S. FitzGerald) was in office any great concern was felt on this subject. The Earl of Malmesbury was informed, as I am told, at the time that there was a story going about—said to rest on authority—of an agreement between France and Sardinia for the cession of Savoy. When I was told of it I said to my informant he should go to the Earl of Malmesbury. It did appear that the Earl of Malmesbury directed Earl Cowley to make inquiry on the subject, but in doing so he mixed it up with several other matters. Earl Cowley replied that he had asked Count Walewski about these several matters, and that Count Walewski did not make any observation with regard to the territorial question. If the Earl of Malmesbury had 2256 been very serious on this subject, he would surely have written again to Earl Cowley, and would not have been content with Earl Cowley saying that Count Walewski had made no observation on the territorial question. He would have asked of Earl Cowley, "Do they deny what is alleged with respect to Savoy? or, if they ever entertained it, have they given it up?" If I had been in office and Earl Cowley had written to me that he had received an unsatisfactory answer, I should certainly have asked him to put the question again. But this extreme zeal which we now see on the subject—a zeal which I must say, with all respect for the hon. Gentleman, goes beyond the mark, because it tends to endanger the continuance of the peaceful relations that exist between the two countries—is a newborn zeal, which the hon. Gentleman did not exhibit when he was in office. I wish to maintain the honour and dignity of the Queen and the honour and dignity of Parliament, but it does not seem to me that irritating discussions and imputations cast upon the French Government which are not to lead to any practical result or vote of the House can in any way contribute to that object. There was a discussion, the newspapers told us, some evenings ago in the other House of Parliament on this subject. I read with great pleasure the various speeches said to have been made on that occasion by the Members of different parties. It appears to me that they expressed in a grave and solemn way their opinions upon this question, and, if the House of Commons comes to give its opinion on the same question, I trust it will do so in the same spirit. The hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) delighted the House the other night with his eloquence, and the language he employed was such as became the gravity of the subject; but I am sure that the use of exciting and irritating language and casting imputations on foreign Governments will add nothing to the dignity of this House, and nothing to the security of the peace of Europe.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, the noble Lord had, unintentionally he was sure, done injustice to his predecessors in office. The noble Lord had informed the House that the Earl of Malmesbury on hearing the rumour of a treaty between France and Sardinia had contented himself with instructing Earl Cowley to demand an explanation from the Government of France, and that upon Earl Cowley stating that 2257 Count Walewski gave no answer whatever to his application, the Earl of Malmesbury allowed the matter to rest there. Now, the noble Lord, speaking from memory, had forgotten the state of the facts, and had—unintentionally, no doubt—misstated them. The late Government did not allow the matter to drop, in the way stated by the noble Lord, but obtained from the French Government a positive contradiction of the rumour that Earl Cowley bad been instructed to bring before them. He hoped therefore that the noble Lord would take the earliest opportunity of unsaying what, from momentary forgetfulness, he had stated to the House on this subject. With reference to the question immediately before the House, he could not reconcile the tone of the noble Lord's speech that night with the one which he had delivered on Friday evening. The noble Lord on Friday invited the co-operation of both Houses of Parliament in the protest he was making against the proposed annexation of Savoy; but on the present occasion he understood him to deprecate discussion in that House, and that, too, while he seemed to approve the discussions which took place in the other House of Parliament. The noble Lord objected to what he called a precipitate judgment on the part of that House; but those who, like the hon. Member for Sheffield and himself, held that the Commercial Treaty ought not to receive the final sanction of Parliament till some deliberate expression of its opinion was given on this most momentous of all the questions of the day, found that the noble Lord himself had laid the foundation for the view they took in the first despatch he wrote on the subject of the Commercial Treaty. In that despatch the noble Lord gave special prominence to the importance of the Commercial Treaty in a European and political sense, though now he wished them to look at it simply on commercial grounds. The noble Lord said:—Its general tendency would be to lay broad and deep foundations in common interest and in friendly intercourse for the confirmation of the amicable relations that so happily exist between the two countries; and, while thus making a provision for the future, which would progressively become more and more solid and efficacious, its significance at the present moment, when the condition of some parts of the Continent is critical, would be at once understood, and would powerfully reassure the public mind in the various countries of Europe.After this announcement on the part of the noble Lord, how was it possible for him now to ask Parliament to dissever, in 2258 their consideration of this question, the Commercial Treaty and the "critical condition of some parts of the Continent of Europe?" Would he deny that the condition of some parts of Europe was at this moment "critical?" And was the noble Lord entitled to ask them to refrain from giving an opinion on the causes that led to this critical condition of certain portions of Europe before their assent was given to the Treaty which the noble Lord said would enable France and England to lay deep the foundations of a common interest and a friendly intercourse? The noble Lord objected to what he seemed to think were teasing repetitions of the debate on the subject of Savoy. Everybody would agree with the noble Lord that they ought to discuss the question in a fair and legitimate manner, but he and those around him thought that that discussion should take precedence of the one in reference to the Treaty, which, according to the noble Lord was to prove to Europe that England and France marched side by side in general policy.
§ LORD HARRY VANE
said, he thought they would hardly accomplish the object they all had in view, namely, to deprecate the annexation of Savoy to France, if they coupled that subject with the commercial Treaty. And if it were declared that Parliament would not assent to the latter unless the Emperor first gave an assurance that he would not proceed with his project in regard to the former. The country was unanimous in the desire to prevent the accomplishment of that annexation, and he agreed with the noble Lord (Lord J. Manners) in thinking that much value was to be attached to an expression of the opinion of Parliament on the subject; but he could not countenance the idea that any advantage would attend the use of violent and vituperative language towards the head of the French Government. He agreed with the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary in thinking that if this annexation was to be prevented it must he done by the united action of Europe, and not by a single protest of our own. The House was quite prepared to express its disapproval of the annexation, but to couple the two questions together, as had been proposed, might have a most injurious effect, as leading to an opinion in France that the Parliament of England were animated by feelings hostile to the Emperor of the French.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that as an independent Member of the House he 2259 wished to point out that they ought to alter the course of proceeding they had marked out. When the treaty of 1786 was negotiated preliminary Resolutions were laid on the table, so that the House of Commons of that day had an opportunity of discussing the political bearing of the proposed Treaty independently of its commercial and financial phases. Had the Government pursued that course on the present occasion the difficulties the obstacles of which they now complained would not have arisen. Instead of pursuing that course the Government had preferred to plunge the House into a consideration of the Treaty in a Committee of Ways and Means, telling them they were bound to accept it by important political Considerations, yet defeating all discussion upon the Treaty, which involved these very political considerations. It was most unfair on the part of the Government, when such an eventuality as the proposed annexation of Savoy was occuring, to ask the House to express an opinion upon the Treaty without placing any Resolution before them for their consideration. The hon. Member for Birmingham said, "Perish Savoy!" And, as if to accomplish the object which the hon. Member seemed to desire, the House was about to enter into. commercial transactions with France affecting £1,000,000 of our revenue, and the Government were offering whatever advantage that sacrifice of revenue entailed as a subsidy to France? The House of Commons was perfectly right in demanding a fair opportunity of deliberately stating that if they granted commercial and financial advantages to France through a commercial Treaty, they did not do it with a view of subsidizing France that she might crush the freedom of Savoy. He had been delighted to hear the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck). Some of his expressions with respect to the Emperor of the French were, perhaps, too severe; but he rejoiced to hear an independent Member vindicate the right of the British House of Commons to put its own interpretation upon its own language and its own acts. He would repeat that, whatever the inconvenience might be of which the Government might consider themselves entitled to complain, was entirely attributable to the fact that they had departed from the precedents of the House. Due time should have been and ought still to be given for the consideration of the proposed address to the Throne, 2260 Because they were in danger, by hasty action, of having their friendship for France misinterpreted into a feeling of indifference to the interests of Savoy.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he only differed from his hon. Friend who had just spoken upon one point. He went all lengths in the opinion that the House ought to have ample time for considering this question of Savoy before they accepted the Treaty with France. He would even go further, and say that the worst thing that could happen for the honour and happiness of England was that the Treaty should ever he ratified at all. But concurring, as he did cordially, in the strongest language that could be used against such a course being pursued, he as heartily deprecated the use of personal language and coarse invective. Such language never hurt those against whom it was addressed; it only recoiled upon those who uttered it; but whatever its effect might be it was discreditable both to the House of Commons and to the country which they represented. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman who last addressed them, that the Government had only themselves to blame for the difficulty in which they were placed; they should have placed a definite Resolution before the House, and courted its opinion; but, instead of taking that course, they had simply followed the same course they had pursued from the commencement of the Session, and endeavoured by every means in their power to stifle discussion. He could not admit the representations of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the general interests of the community required that there should be no delay in passing the Resolutions. It was, of course, natural that the class represented by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) should be in favour of it, because they were pecuniarily interested in the successful termination of the negotiation; and as the hon. Member for Birmingham evidently exercised a powerful control over the proceedings of Her Majesty's Government, he (Mr. Bentinck) was not surprised at the Government endeavouring to hurry the proceedings before the House, and to stifle all discussion. Indeed, so much had the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer endeavoured to stifle discussion, that it had given rise to the belief that there must be some object in thus precipitating matters, and that an apprehension was felt that, if certain negotiations were not explained satisfactorily, some ob- 2261 stacles might arise to the completion of the pending arrangements. Now, he confessed he should be too glad to see any obstacle interposed to the success of the proposed Treaty. He believed that almost every interest in England was opposed to this Treaty. [A laugh.] Hon. Members might laugh; but let them compare the number of hon. Gentlemen representing commercial interests who have spoken favourably of this Treaty with the number who had spoken against it. The reason why the Government had carried their Resolutions was that those who opposed the Treaty, instead of wisely uniting for a common purpose, had been cut to pieces in detail. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bright) had charged those who sat upon the Opposition benches with not pursuing a manly course in regard to this Treaty. But he (Mr. Bentinck) would ask the hon. Member for Birmingham whether it was manly to sacrifice the honour and interests of England merely for the beneficial results to a particular class of a Commercial Treaty? Because such was the result of the hon. Member's observations: there was nothing that he would not sacrifice for that Treaty. If that was the hon. Member's opinion of what constituted a manly course he (Mr. Bentinck) could only say their views differed very materially. The hon. Gentleman had taken occasion to observe that they were sitting in the English House of Commons and not in the Parliament of France; but many speeches of the hon. Gentleman had given him the impression that they ought rather to be addressed to the Congress of the United States, to the proceedings of which it was the avowed object of the hon. Gentleman to assimilate their debates. With regard to the hon. Gentleman's imputation that Members on the Opposition side of the House were actuated by party feelings, he totally disclaimed it. They were only actuated by a conviction that the Treaty was alike prejudicial to the honour and interests of this country.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
inquired whether the Motion with respect to an Address to Her Majesty regarding the Commercial Treaty with France would be brought forward on Thursday or Friday?
§ MR. STIRLING
said, some very important papers had been published that morning in the newspapers, which formed no part of the Correspondence that had 2262 been laid on the table of the House. The noble Lord likewise had stated that a very important despatch might be expected from Count Cavour in reply to that addressed to him by the French Government. As it was natural to suppose that the Sardinian Government would wish the greatest publicity to be given to their opinions, he had no doubt, copies of both documents would be forwarded to this country. He wished, therefore, to inquire whether these papers would be laid on the table before the debate was taken on the Address to the Crown, respecting the Commercial Treaty with France. He put this question because, like many eminent Members of the House, he felt unable to separate the question of Savoy from the other matters involved in the Treaty. By this instrument they were about to enter into new and unnatural engagements with the Emperor of the French,—engagements which in July last the noble Lord on the Treasury bench had several times declared ought not to be entered into with any Power whatever. As an independent Member of Parliament, before he gave his assent to engagements with a foreign Power he had a right to ask how the Sovereign of that State observed older and more important engagements with other free States of Europe. He had a right to know how far the rights guaranteed by Treaty to Switzerland would be respected. On this subject the papers on the table of the House gave no satisfaction whatever, save that the representative of Switzerland in Paris was utterly unable to obtain information, and seemed to he haunting the British Embassy for the sake of the intelligence which might be gained in that quarter. It was, therefore, but reasonable that hon. Members, by the production of those papers, should be afforded an opportunity of making up their minds before they were called on to vote an Address to the Crown.
§ MR. COLLIER
said, an appeal had been made by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton to his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland to withdraw his Motion, which proposed that further negotiations should be entered into for the purpose of inducing the French Government to enter into a supplementary treaty of navigation, and to relax their laws in favour of British shipping. He understood the noble Lord to make this appeal chiefly on the ground that to propose an addition of this kind to the Address, would be very inconvenient; 2263 but he understood him at the same time to say that if the Motion were brought forward in a substantive form, a day would be given for the purpose, and he also collected that the noble Lord would not be disposed to give any opposition to the principle of the Motion. On the question of navigation he considered the Commercial Treaty to be defective, and the country, he thought, had reason to complain of the stringency of the French regulations, while our restrictions had all been abolished. He ventured to ask whether he had correctly understood the statement of the noble Lord? If he were correct he would advise his hon. Friend (Mr. Lindsay) to accede to the proposal of the Government.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs gave an assurance last year that the Emperor of the French had abstained from all intention of annexing Savoy.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, the despatch of Count Walewski did state a possible event in which the Emperor of the French, even at that time, considered the annexation of Savoy indispensable; which was, in case any addition were made to Piedmont on the side of the Duchies or the Legations. He wished to know whether the noble Lord had any objection to produce the correspondence in which that eventuality was described, because it was quite clear that so far back as July, 1859, the Emperor of the French and his Government, in some way or other, declared to Earl Cowley that the annexation of Savoy should follow the occurrence of certain contingencies with regard to Sardinia. It was quite clear that if such a distinct declaration had been made, the Emperor of the French had a right to say that Her Majesty's Government received full warning.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
In answer to the question of the hon. Member for Perthshire (Mr. Stirling) with respect to certain despatches relating to France and Savoy, I have to state that no such despatch has yet arrived, and I do not know if it has yet been written. As soon as the reply of the Sardinian Government has been communicated I shall be ready to lay it on the table of the House, but it is impossible for me to say when that may occur, or to what further correspondence it 2264 may give rise. The despatches of M. Thouvenel have appeared in all the newspapers, but if the House wish for copies they will of course be laid on the Table. Respecting the discussion of the question of annexation in 1859 there is no public despatch whatever on the subject. Earl Cowley, from time to time in his private letters, said Count Walewski agreed that the annexation of Tuscany to Sardinia was impossible, but if such a case should ever by possibility occur, it would then be for France to consider whether her frontiers would be safe without the annexation of Savoy. But Earl Cowley, who has acted throughout with great discretion, did not think proper to introduce loose conversations or casual intimations into his official correspondence.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I wish to explain a matter which is not clearly understood by the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. Collier). What I did state to the hon. Member for Sunderland was, that if he would suffer us to discuss the proposition which he proposed as an addition to the Address to Her Majesty as a separate and substantive Motion, the Government could have no possible objection to the opinions which it embodied being expressed to the House; and they might even think that such an expression would assist them in any negotiation which might be made officially with France.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.