HC Deb 19 March 1860 vol 157 cc836-9

said, he rose to ask the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs the question of which he had privately given him notice, but, as he felt it necessary to make a short statement to the House, he would, in order to put himself in order, conclude with a Motion. He had never risen to address the House with feelings of greater pleasure than at that moment, for he rejoiced to be able to say that, unless he had been deceived by some inexplicable hoax, the news from Nice was of the most gratifying description. They had been told that the people of Nice were anxiously demanding to be annexed to the great Empire of France, and that, though there might be a small group of persons in that country who perversely and malignantly showed a desire to remain attached to the throne of the King of Sardinia, yet it was not reasonable that such an insignificant portion of the population should be permitted to indulge in that malignant species of loyalty. But within the last hour and a half he had received a telegram to the effect that the Municipal Council of Nice had determined by vote to remain annexed to the Kingdom of Sardinia, and they had also declared that if France would insist on the principle that their remaining annexed to the Kingdom of Sardinia was incompatible with the safety of the French frontier, then the Municipality of Nice anxiously prayed that their country might be allowed to form an independent State. The telegram went on to say that a deputation had proceeded from Nice to Turin to carry this decision to the foot of the Throne; and it was further added that the thanks of the Municipal Council were voted to three Members of this House, one of whom was the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. S. FitzGerald), and the other was his hon. Friend the hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel). He hoped he might be permitted to congratulate his hon. Friend on this event, for he thought it must be extremely gratifying to him that the son of one whose voice had once exorcised a vast influence on the votes and the character of this House, and through the House on the whole of Europe, should have the honour to have the thanks proffered him of a free people. The question of which he had given notice was one which he had ventured to put to the noble Minister for Foreign Affairs, with a view of determining the course he might take with regard to his pending Motion. It was natural and proper that a great deal of anxiety should be shown by the hon. Members of the House as to the course he was about to take on that Motion. But the fact was, that these affairs with regard to the annexation of Savoy and Nice were be continually passing into new phases, that it was extremely difficult for any Gentleman charged with the duty of bringing forward such a Motion to know the exact time and the exact form in which it was desirable to submit his views to the House. He must say, too, that the communications they received from Her Majesty's Government from time to time considerably varied. He did not say that at all in any taunting spirit, because it might be quite consistent with truth and with the absence of divided opinions that one thing should be true on Tuesday and another on Friday. On Tuesday they were told by the noble Lord at the head of the Government that he had every reason to suppose that the opinions of the other great Powers would be sincerely asked and sincerely abided by by the Emperor of the French; but on Friday the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary said that which went far to dissipate their hopes. These alterations made the form of his Motion a very difficult one. All he could say was that ha hoped and trusted, and had reason to believe, that he should be able to submit his Motion to the House in a form that would strengthen the hands of Her Majesty's Government. If he found, however, that the course taken by Her Majesty's Government was not such as to enable him to put his Motion in that form he would not shrink from putting it in such a form as the justice of the case demanded. But he would frankly add that he should feel much relieved by any hon. Gentleman who would undertake the charge of that which, by accident rather than by his own seeking, had been reposed in him. The question he wished to ask the noble Lord was—first, Whether Her Majesty's Ministers had received the appeal which it was understood had been addressed, or was intended to be addressed, by the Swiss Government to the great Powers of Europe on the subject of annexation; and next, whether Her Majesty's Government would give the statements contained in that note due consideration before they replied to the despatch which had been received from M. Thouvenel; and lastly, whether Her Majesty's Government would put themselves in communication with those other Powers to whom the Swiss Government had notified their address, in order, if possible, to come to some common concert? He then begged to move the Adjournment of the House.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That this House do now Adjourn."


In answer to the first question put by the hon. Member —namely, whether the note from the Swiss Government has been received, I have to state that no note from the Swiss Government has yet been received.

With regard to the other two questions, which relate to the future course which Her Majesty's Government will think fit to adopt, I have to appeal to the House for their forbearance. I stated the other evening that a despatch of great importance had been received from the French Government. Since that time we have received the intelligence which has reached my hon. and learned Friend—namely, that the Swiss Government has determined, after an appeal to Paris and Turin, to send a note to all the great Powers of Europe with regard to the projected annexation of Savoy to France. In these circumstances, I say, I ask the forbearance of this House to leave it to Her Majesty's Government to deliberate freely and carefully on the answer they will return to any communication made to them. It cannot but be that the answer given in this House would not be confined to this House, or even to this country; but it must go forth all over Europe that answers are given from day to day on the different phases which this negotiation assumes, and the result must be most prejudicial to the public service and most embarrassing to Her Ma- jesty's Government. The time will arrive when the whole conduct of Her Majesty's Government will come before Parliament, and I must therefore ask the indulgence of the House if I decline to answer these questions.

Motion for the Adjournment of the House put and negatived.