HC Deb 23 March 1860 vol 157 cc1169-88

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will lay upon the Table of the House the Memoire sur les rapports entre la Suisse et la Savoie neutralitée, untranslated, if its length be considerable, which forms enclosure No. 2 in No. 9 of the Correspondence respecting the proposed Annexation of Savoy and Nice, presented to this House on the 28th day of February; and also the Map mentioned in No. 15 of the same Correspondence, having marked upon it, besides the military frontier alluded to by the President of the Swiss Confederation in the same Despatch, the frontier of France with regard to Savoy and Switzerland as it was fixed by the Treaty between the Allies and France in 1814, and the frontier of France as it will be if the whole of the present Province of Savoy be conceded to her. So early as last summer, when our Foreign Office was incredulous as to the intention of the French Emperor to annex Savoy to his dominions, the Swiss Government had the whole of their frontier surveyed and mapped. They sent a copy of the map, showing the alterations which would be required in the event of the annexation taking place, to our Foreign Office. They had also presented a copy of their memoir upon the relations between Switzerland and Savoy to our Minister at Berne. Both memoir and map were mentioned in the correspondence recently laid on the table, and, as the annexation of Savoy was now an accomplished fact, he thought the House should know what were the alterations which the Swiss Government wished in their frontier in order to preserve a neutrality guaranteed by Europe. This question appeared about to assume dimensions of greater importance from what he had read in the evening papers, as a report coming from Paris, that six Swiss regiments had marched to take possession of Faucigny and Chablais. Perhaps the noble Lord would state whether the report in question was true.


said, he rose to ask the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) if he will lay upon the table those portions of his Private Correspondence with Her Majesty's Ambassador in Paris which are referred to in the Ambassador's published Despatch of the 5th of February, and which report certain observations of Count Walewski on the necessity of the annexation of Savoy and Nice to the French Empire. The passage in Earl Cowley's Despatch, on which his question was founded, was the following:— I had an opportunity of ascertaining from Count Walewski that he recognized the accuracy of the Report which I had sent to jour Lordship of his declaration to me in July last, but he reminded me that he had made that declaration in view of the strict accomplishment of the treaty of Zurich, and that he had more than once afterwards maintained that if Sardinia was to be aggrandized by the annexation of the Duchies, it must be at the cost of Savoy and the county of Nice, which must pass to France. Earl Cowley went on to say:— This is perfectly true, and on more than one occasion I alluded to these observations in my private correspondence with your Lordship. It would be remembered by the House that in the course of December-last a rumour from Paris, that Count Walewski was about to resign, formed a principal topic of discussion. The resignation took place on the 2nd of January, and on the 5th of January his successor was announced in the Moniteur. Therefore, it was plain that the important conversations mentioned by Earl Cowley must have taken place at the very latest in December of last year, and as it was not likely that questions of so much difficulty and delicacy would be handled by a Minister on the eve of resignation, it was probable these conversations took place at a much earlier period. This much, however, was certain, that in December last at the latest, Count Walewski made most important statements to Earl Cowley, and the noble Earl, as appeared from his despatch, duly communicated to the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office, but the latter took no notice of them whatever—in an official form, at least—until the 28th of January. In the same despatch Earl Cowley said:— It is not, however, to be inferred that I allowed Count Walewski to suppose that the realization of this scheme would be seen with indifference by Her Majesty's Government. But if this passage actually represented Count Walewski's observations, how very feeble was the reply of Lord Cowley when compared with the spirited despatch of the Foreign Secretary, written in July last. The language of the Ambassador was different from that of his chief. The language of Count Walewski was very strong, but the language of Earl Cowley was feeble, while the noble Lord, the Foreign Secretary, met that language with official silence. Were they not then justified in thinking that the French Emperor had some ground for supposing that the Government of England, as represented by the tone of its Ambassador, had changed its views between July and December. It was impossible to forget that when Earl Cowley was using this feeble language and the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) was so unaccountably silent, the negotiations for the Commercial Treaty were actually in progress. What was the language now used by the Emperor's press? It was said openly that a Treaty of Commerce was a great concession to England, and not only so, but the Emperor had actually instructed his press to say that that Treaty was a measure by which he hoped to keep his noble Friend, the present Prime Minister in power, by obtaining for him and his Government the cordial support of the hon. Member for Birmingham and another Friend of the Emperor's and the French party. Such was the language of the French press, and he wanted to know whether the Emperor was likely to have made these great concessions, or have done these good offices for nothing at all, or even for "an idea." Certainly not. It was much more likely that he had acted as he had done in eon-sequence of the silence of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), upon this most important subject, and that the Emperor had gained, if not English neutrality, at any rate the forbearance of Her Majesty's Government towards his aggressive policy, and thus that course of conduct—the annexation—which in July was regarded as a matter of great concern, was in December looked upon with, if not indifference, at least diminished apprehension. He thought that this was a fair inference from the facts and papers before the House, but he was quite aware that further information might show them that this was an opinion hastily formed. He did not wish to prejudge the question, or say whether it was so or not. He knew the difficulty of stating the substance of three or four important conversations in a despatch; but though he admitted that difficulty, he thought they had a right to call upon the Government to give them information that would enable them to decide the point. He would not go into the question of public despatches and the duties of public servants, in reference to private letters written to each other. Before an important and delicate point was exhibited in a public despatch it ought to be discussed in private letters, and he knew that they could not at all times expect them to be produced; but the point in question had been discussed in several public despatches, and had then relapsed into private letters, and these lattes had actually been referred to in a public despatch as an authentication of grave and vital facts, the knowledge of which was necessary rightly to understand the whole matter. The noble Lord told them on Friday night that the House would have to consider the conduct of the Government with regard to these matters, and to pronounce their verdict. He therefore wanted the noble Lord to give them a link which was wanting in the chain of evidence—a link which was of great importance, and which therefore it would well consort with the dignity, and interest, and honour of the Government that it should be supplied. Before sitting down he must express the regret with which he had heard the answer the noble Lord gave to his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Kinglake), who asked him to lay upon the table the despatch which had been received from Count Thouvenel, with his Lordship's answer. The answer the noble Lord now gave was hardly that which the House was entitled to expect after the expression used by the noble Lord on Friday night, when he stated that as soon as the answer he had written to the despatch should receive the approbation of Her Majesty, he would lay it before the House. He must say that, with the exception of what took place on Friday night, he thought the Government had shown a disposition rather to withhold information. He did not think that the frequent appeals which the noble Lord had made to the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater to withdraw his Motion were very creditable to him or satisfactory to the House. He did not indeed believe that the noble Lord was capable of writing anything he was ashamed of. But it must be remembered that the French Government were not ashamed of their despatches. The despatch to the Government of Berne, which they all read with so much emotion yesterday, appeared the day before in the Moniteur, and therefore he hoped that the answer to the despatch, as well as the other papers to which he had alluded, would soon be laid on the table of the House.


Several questions have been addressed to me in the course of this discussion, to which I shall now proceed to answer as distinctly as I can. In the first place, I must say, in reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster (Sir De Lacy Evans) who complained that I am not ready to give an account of the salaries and allowance to Lord Elgin and the officers going out in his suite. The gallant Officer explains his object to be that there should be only one mission to China, and that Mr. Bruce should be recalled on the Earl of Elgin going out. Now with regard to that measure, in the first place, I have always understood that when an individual undertakes a special mission, besides his salary his actual expenses are to be paid. The only time when we can obtain an account of these disbursements is after the mission is concluded, so that we cannot have it in the case of Lord Elgin till after the financial year is over. It is, therefore, impossible that I should make any estimate of the expense. But with regard to the recall of Mr. Bruce, I never could have gone to Lord Elgin and insult him by telling him that it was intended as a mark of degradation to his brother that I asked him to go out to China. Lord Elgin will go for the time—a short time, I hope—that his services may be necessary; and in the meantime the regular mission will be maintained there. Lord Elgin has recently been to Paris and has had an interview with the Emperor of the French, with M. Thouvenel, and with Baron Gros, and I am happy to say we have come to a general agreement as to the instructions to be given; and I hope that before long Lord Elgin will be able to set out on his mission, and Baron Gros, on the part of the Emperor of the French, will set out about the same time; and I trust this House will not be induced to diminish the efficacy of their mission by any discussion in the meantime. The next question referred, I think, to Morocco. The gallant officer who put it (Colonel Dunne) might have seen some months ago in the Gazette, and since in the papers laid before Parliament, the securities which we have taken with respect to Tangier. The Spanish Government when they contemplated asking from the Morocan Government reparations which Morocco was not likely to give, stated that their warlike operations could not be confined to any particular spot. We asked them that they should not attempt to take or to occupy Tangier. We said it was of great importance to us. And, therefore, while we took no part in the war, and did not mean to take any part, we could not interfere with the military operations of Spain but we asked in the most friendly manner that if Spain should occupy Tangier it should not be permanently annexed, and that it should not be retained as a gua- rantee for any indemnity to be paid after the ratification of peace. To that proposal the Spanish Government agreed. The correspondence on the subject has been already laid before Parliament, and I have no doubt that the Spanish Government will adhere faithfully to her engagements. The Moorish Government have lately proposed a large indemnity to Spain, and if the Spanish Government accept those terms and the ratification of the territorial boundaries of Ceuta, be settled in the manner Spain desires, the war will soon be concluded. If not, it is impossible for me to say how long Spain may occupy Tangier and the other points on the Moorish coast. The next question put to me relates to the memoir which the Swiss Government have sent to this country some time since. The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Monckton Milnes) before asked me if that memoir would be presented, and an address has been ordered for it. It is now in the printer's hands, and, though it is of considerable length, I hope it will soon be on the table of the House. The map which accompanied it is one of great detail, and could not be produced without great expense and time; but we are endeavouring to give an' outline of it, showing the boundaries of the provinces as they stood by the treaty of 1814. I trust also that that map will soon be on the table. Now, the hon. Member for Perthshire (Mr. Stirling) next asks me whether I will lay on the table extracts from my private correspondence. I cannot accede to such a proposition. I cannot lay on the table of this House parts of my private letters. But I think the hon. Gentleman, if he had looked to the papers on the table, would have found the substance of them contained in the public despatches. Thus, on the 4th of July, when Earl Cowley gives a report of a conversation he had had with Count Walewski, and he says:— I regret to say that his Excellency's language was not over satisfactory. He stated, indeed, that he could give me the positive assurance that there was no understanding whatever upon the subject between France and Sardinia, but he did not deny that the Question had been more than once discussed, and that the Emperor had entertained the idea that if Sardinia was to become a large Italian kingdom it was not unreasonable to expect that she should make territorial concessions elsewhere. The language of this despatch is more than once repeated. Lord Cowley always spoke of Count Walewski as maintaining that if Sardinia should become a large kingdom he should not consider it unreasonable that the French territory should be strengthened by the annexation of Savoy. Still further, on the 27th of January, speaking of an interview with Count Thouvenel on this subject, Earl Cowley says— I mentioned the matter this afternoon to M. Thouvenel. I said that I had no authority from your Lordship to speak to him, but that as Count Walewski had, some months ago, given me a solemn assurance that the idea of annexation, if once entertained; had been abandoned, I could not avoid asking, in the midst of all the rumours that were in circulation, whether His Excellency had any information to give me. Therefore Lord Cowley stated that on the 27th of January this idea of annexation was abandoned, on the signature of peace. Count Walewski always maintained that the peace of Villafranca, and, after that, the Treaty of Zurich, obliged the French Emperor to use every means, short of actual force, to restore the Archdukes of Tuscany and Modena; and then he went on to say— But if that should not be effected, and if the King of Sardinia should have his territories very much increased, recollect what I before told you, that some territorial concession on his part will be expected. That, therefore, was mere conversation, it did not allude to anything that was going to be done. What was going to be done was to call a Congress, and before that Congress I had no doubt that, among other things, Count Walewski would have brought the question of the restoration of the Grand Duke and the Dukes of Modena and Parma. If he had made any proposition at all, that undoubtedly would be the proposition he would have made. Therefore it was not immediately in question whether the King of Sardinia should cede Savoy; for if the Grand Dukes had been restored there would have been no question whatever of the annexation of Savoy to France. I do not see that the production of my private correspondence would add anything to this information. The hon. Gentleman says further, that he regrets I will not produce the despatch we have received from M. Thouvenel, and the answer of Her Majesty's Government. Well, I certainly said, when I informed the House I had received the Despatch, that I hoped to be able to produce both it and the answer immediately afterwards. But I am obliged by a sense of duty to act inconsistently, because other negotiations have since intervened. Switzerland has made an appeal to us, which I received only this morning; and the production of a despatch in the midst of negotiations would be like inviting the House to dictate the answer before the other papers are properly considered. Such a course would, not only be contrary to precedent, but contrary to every principle recognized by the constitution. The question, I repeat, is still matter of negotiation, for it is necessary that we should communicate with the different Powers of Europe. It is, therefore, impossible for me to produce those papers in the midst of such negotiations. As soon as I can produce them consistently with my sense of duty I will do so, for I have no inclination to keep back from the House any part of this correspondence. The hon. Gentleman says that the French Government have published their despatches. But I think he must be aware that the position of the French Government is somewhat different from ours. M. Thouvenel's despatch is no doubt printed in the Moniteur, but there is not an assembly there where discussions can be raised upon it, nor newspapers to make free comments on it. It remains in the pages of the Moniteur no doubt for the consideration of the French people, but certainly it is not exposed to the freedom of hostile criticism. I do not think that is a benefit. In this country the case is wholly different, and I am glad that it is so, but still it is prudent, under such circumstances, that the English Government should display some reserve.


I am quite sure, Sir, that no Minister will appeal in vain for the forbearance of the English Parliament whilst important negotiations are pending, and, therefore, after what has fallen from the noble Lord, I should not have offered a single observation on the subject to which he has alluded; but he has made a statement as to the intimation given by the French Government, and his official silence between June of last year and January of the present year respecting this annexation, which appears to me so calculated to mislead the House—of course unintentionally—that I cannot allow it to pass unnoticed. During the discussion the other night, I understood the noble Lord to vindicate the apparent neglect with which he treated these intimations throughout, because he was of opinion that they were, in fact, intimations of no great authority—of a threatening character, no doubt, but not seriously practical in their bearing. But the First Minister, who followed the noble Lord, did not seem to be satisfied with that position, and took the ground that it was the then expected Congress which was the reason why these intimations were not attended to with the sedulous care which might have been expected upon a point of such importance. Accordingly, the noble Lord has now changed his position, and has adopted that taken by the First Minister. In order to explain and vindicate his apparent neglect, the noble Lord now says—"A Congress was expected, and there it was we thought that these questions would be settled." But the noble Lord can hardly suppose that the House of Commons will accept, as a conclusion which is to influence their judgment on this subject, the statement that these important points were to be decided at a Congress. We all know, practically, that a Congress is not a deliberative assembly. What should we think of the noble Lord, if, not having brought forward a Reform Bill, and being called upon to redeem his pledge, he were to say, "We have no such measure prepared, because we knew that Parliament was going to meet, and could do all that is necessary?" Now, a Congress was never yet called together without previous discussion by the Ministers of the different Powers of the principal questions for settlement there, or otherwise the Plenipotentiaries could do but little. A Congress is called upon to settle details and register decisions; and if in this case a Congress was expected, it is only natural that, long before it met, the utmost communication should take place between the English and French Governments, in order that an understanding should be arrived at on the chief points of difference between them. I cannot, therefore, either from the First Minister, or from the noble Lord, accept this as any excuse whatever for their still mysterious silence. The very fact that a Congress was about to take place, furnished an additional reason why, some time before it met, much more frequent, precise, and earnest communications should have taken place between the two Governments than are to be found in the papers, in order that when our representatives went to the Congress, they should be prepared for so startling a proposition as that for the annexation of these provinces. If that proposition had been made for the first time in a Congress, it could have led to nothing else than a break up of the assembly. Besides, all expectation of a Congress had vanished towards the end of the year, and therefore we have heard no sufficient explanation of the silence and seeming negligence which have been adverted to. I must now, also, refer to another point, and that is the question of private letters. I lay it down, as a principle in the management of affairs, that there ought to be a complete record in the Foreign Office of all the transactions of the Government. Upon that principle the House ought to insist. The noble Lord says he will not lay his private letters on the table. Sir, we do not ask the noble Lord to produce his private letters. All we ask of the Government is, that they should keep a complete diplomatic record during their tenure of office, and that they are bound to furnish. There are instances in the blue-book respecting Italy, placed on the table by the late Government, in which extracts from private letters are printed. The noble Lord is, in my opinon, equally bound to give in the present papers extracts from his private letters, but those extracts ought to have been registered in the Foreign Office for the guidance of those who come after him. So far as I can gather from the noble Lord's observations on this most important topic, there is at this moment no complete record of the transactions in which the country has been engaged respecting this very grave subject. The noble Lord retains his private letters in his despatch-boxes, and they give him all the information he requires; but I maintain that as there is no public despatch on these points, and as the results of these private letters have been intimated in the despatches on the table, it is the noble Lord's duty to place in the Foreign Office a complete narrative of the diplomacy of the country for the information of his successor. The noble Lord speaks as though it was a violation of confidence to publish an extract from the private letters of an ambassador; but he has not, generally speaking, Shown an over-sensitive delicacy on such points. In the third part of the Italian papers is a despatch, dated Berlin, March 3, 1860, from Lord Bloomfield, and if ever there were a diplomatic communication which should have been withheld, this is one. It gives—what could only have been known to Lord Bloomfield in the strictest confidence—a narrative by the Prussian Minister of a communication which he had received from the French Minister at Berlin, Prince de la Tour d'Auvergne. To my great surprise, and to the astonishment, I should think, of all the diplomatists in Europe, this letter is given; and what communications will ever be made to the present Government by the representatives of foreign Powers after such a publication^ very doubtful. Compared with it the private letters of Ambassadors are nothing, and yet this is quietly published. The noble Lord, therefore, has shown that he is not influenced by a too delicate susceptibility; and, indeed, in the very last papers issued, bearing on the state of Naples, there is a letter of menace addressed virtually to the King of Naples, which His Majesty cannot at this moment have received, and which has yet been laid on the table. I make no comment on the Neapolitan papers at present. I take it for granted that, having placed them on the table, the noble Lord challenges by that act our decision with respect to them. I think that decision must be given. I think it necessary that this portion of the noble Lord's diplomacy must be examined; and that for the sake of dignity and decorum in our intercourse with foreign and independent Sovereigns the letter to the King of Naples should be fully considered by this House. However, I shall pass over that point now, merely rose to point out that the reason given by the Government to show why they took no notice of the intimations made by the French Government—namely, the expected meeting of a Congress—rather aggravates their negligence than excuses it, because, believing that a Congress was imminent, it was even more decidedly their duty to have arrived at such an understanding with the French Government as would have ensured that the Congress would not break up without coming to any decision at all, which it would certainly have done if the noble Lord's view as to the mode of conducting public business had been adopted.


I cannot allow the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman respecting the functions of a Congress to pass unquestioned. "Everybody knows," he says, "that a Congress is not a deliberative assembly, and that it meets only to record decisions." Now I take leave to say, with submission, that the functions which he ascribes to a Congress are precisely those which a Congress does not perform. The special duty of a Congress is to deliberate. It is for that purpose that the representatives of different Powers meet, in order to discuss and consider round a table matters which, if discussed by correspondence between the re- spective Cabinets, never could be brought to a satisfactory conclusion,. Indeed, the very invitation which in this case was sent to the different Powers implied deliberation, because the Congress was to take cognizance of the Treaty of Zurich and also to deliberate upon measures for establishing for the future the external and internal independence of Italy. That was a question for deliberation, and, if there was not to be deliberation, there was no need of a Congress. The right hon. Gentleman says it was the duty of Her Majesty's Government to settle beforehand with France this question of Savoy, in order that, having settled it, a Congress might ratify the arrangement thus come to. Now, whereas upon that question France held one opinion and England another, if a Congress were called together our object would have been to enlist on our side the opinions and the influence of the other Powers represented in the Congress. And it is obvious that such a measure would be more likely to induce the Government of France to yield something upon this question than to expect England and France, meeting together and discussing the matter between themselves, should come to a decision such as we should wish the result to be. Therefore it is quite plain that if your object is, in any question between England and a foreign Power, to induce the foreign Power to yield an opinion and to ferego an intention, the best method of doing that is to wait until you meet in the presence of four or five, or a greater number of other Powers, because it would be easier for the Power whose opinion was changed to yield its opinion in deference to the wish of the assembled Congress than to give way to the wish of a single Power. The right hon. Gentleman has, therefore, misled the House as to the nature and functions of a Congress, and of the expediency of the course that has been taken by Her Majesty's Government. Now as to private letters. According to the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman every private letter should be converted into a public despatch. [Mr. DISRAELI: "No, no."] I say yes—any private letter that contains anything of public matters. [Mr. DISRAELI: "No, no."] I repeat my assertion. Surely the right hon. Gentleman, who has been in office, and from the office he held must have followed the course of diplomatic transactions carried on by his noble colleague the late Foreign Minister, must know that every packet from abroad bringing public despatches also brings from the Minister who sends the despatches private confidential letters referring to circumstances not sufficiently certain or not sufficiently important to be placed in the formal shape of a despatch, in which communications are made of circumstances learnt from conversations, and which it would be impossible for the person who receives them to lay before Parliament without placing the agent who wrote those letters in a position that would exclude him thereafter from all means of information which it is essential he should obtain. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has established the doctrine that my noble Friend has departed from the usual course in drawing a marked line of separation between private letters and public despatches. The right hon. Gentleman, in his argument, very easily changed the word applicable to the matter of which he was speaking. He said, "Here is a letter from Naples, and here is another from some other Foreign Court. You produce them but you do not produce the letters from Earl Cowley." But they are not letters, they are despatches; and the right hon. Gentleman should remember to apply the proper word to the proper thing. What my noble Friend produces are despatches placed upon the records of the Foreign Office. What he declines to produce are confidential letters, which it was his duty to receive, and which it is equally his duty not to lay before the House.


What I said was this:—That no Minister should lay papers upon the table of the House referring to private letters without producing them, if they relate, of course, to public affairs. A Minister may receive twenty private letters a-day and give no account of them; but, if in the papers laid upon the table of the House there is a reference to private letters, then the Minister is bound to produce those letters or extracts from them.


Sir, I was glad to hear from the noble Lord the Foreign Minister at the conclusion of his speech that the Government were about to enter into communication with the other Powers concerning the protest of Switzerland. The whole of this question about France and her territorial aggrandizement is of European interest, and we ought to know that Her Majesty's Government have not treated it as a question simply to be discussed between England and France, but one in which the joint action should be invited of all the Powers that were parties to the treaties of 1815. I agree that, in a case where negotiations are pending, the House of Commons cannot be too forbearing in pressing for information, but the withholding of information may be carried too far because there are cases in which it is the duty of Parliament to interfere. I felt long ago that the question of the threatened annexation of Savoy was one of those cases. We know that the French Emperor is very amenable to public opinion, and particularly to the public opinion of England. We know that any expression on the part of this country carries greater weight on the Continent, both in deterring the strong and encouraging the weak, than the despatches of any Minister or any Cabinet. I believe that if at an early period of this question a discussion had been allowed to take place, and an expression of opinion to be given strengthening the policy and views of the Administration, it would have had a great effect in averting some of the events which we are now all deploring. The hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater came forward weeks ago and warned us of the direction in which events were marching, and he was always stopped by being told of the responsibility he would incur by interfering, and which this House would incur by forcing on a discussion. We were told to allow the Government to deal with the French Emperor unincumbered by the assistance of the House of Commons. The House of course, was obliged to how. But now matters have progressed—what might have been averted has come to pass, and the fact of Her Majesty's Government being in communication, and properly so, with the other Powers, shows that we are approaching something similar to what may be called a crisis, which I think an earlier discussion in this House might have prevented. But while the House is thus forbearing, those in authority ought also to be forbearing. I heard a speech of the noble Lord the First Minister last week with surprise and regret. He went out of his way to become not only the apologist, but even the eulogist of the Emperor of the French.


The right hon. Gentleman is out of order in referring to a past debate.


It was a debate upon the same subject.


It was an incidental discussion on a Motion for the adjournment of the House. In the progress of a Bill reference may be made to debates on former stages; but that rule does not apply to debates raised in this way on Motions for adjournment.


We are discussing the correspondence upon the affairs of Italy. The noble Lord the Secretary of State has himself alluded to a despatoh which he told us he received last week from M. Thouvenel, and I was about to allude to the speech he made then. I believe I am in order in saying that on Friday last we were informed by the noble Lord that he had received a despatch from M. Thouvenel, which he said was of great gravity, in which it was announced that the annexation of Savoy was about to take place, and that the consent of the other Powers would not be required. We had received just before from the noble Lord at the head of the Government a very different declaration, in the expression of his belief that the annexation of Savoy would not take place without the assent of the great Powers. That was in the middle of last week, at a time when no one in this House had received information that the annexation was determined upon, and when all the newspapers in Europe spoke of it as an accomplished fact, and yet we were told by the First Minister of the Crown that his firm belief was that the annexation of Savoy would not take place without the consent of the great Powers. He strengthened that opinion by reminding us of the previous career of the Emperor of the French—his assurance that "his empire was peace," and also telling us that the campaign in Italy was not at variance with that declaration. After that—


The right hon. Gentleman is transgressing the rules of order.


Then, I will only say that while, on the one hand, we are refraining from discussing this question, and have been refraining for a whole month at the request of the Government—while we do that, we ought to be sure that the Government will not, on their part, give expression to views against which we feel it our imperative duty to protest.


said, ha could not but express his deep regret that there had been no discussion on this subject to elicit the feeling of the House. In confirmation of what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Stroud, he would read an extract from a letter from Nice, dated the 20th inst., in which the writer said—"Nine-tenths of the population of Nice are opposed to the annexation." The result of the conduct of the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in deprecating discussion, has been that we have entirely lost all prestige with the Piedmontese, for they say—"It is evident that the English Government is truckling to the French Emperor, and that is the opinion of every individual I have seen," As the Easter vacation was approaching, he (Mr. Cochrane) thought the noble Lord ought to assure the House that an opportunity would be afforded for a clear expression of its opinions before the annexation of Savoy to France became irrevocable.


I may be permitted to say, on behalf of my noble Friend, who is precluded from again addressing the House on this question, that he is not aware that, in expressing his opinions with respect to it, he has ever done more than state what is unquestionably a matter of fact—that there was a declaration made by the Emperor of the French to the effect that it was his intention to consult the great Powers of Europe in reference to the proposed annexation of Savoy. My noble Friend merely added that the construction which he should put upon that declaration was, that it was the purpose of the Emperor, in consulting the great Powers of Europe, to do something more than simply state his intentions in the matter. I think it also necessary that I should, on the part of the Government, say a few words in reply to what has fallen from my right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud, (Mr. Horsman), because any one who listened to him might suppose that during the last month or six weeks the name of Savoy had never been mentioned in this House. Now, it is quite true that there has been on this subject of the annexation of Savoy no full discussion, terminating in a clear and satisfactory expression of the opinion of the House of Commons with respect to it; but my right hon. Friend, as well as the hon. Gentleman opposite, would appear to be unaware of the fact that the question has been repeatedly raised of late in the course of our proceedings. The fact is, that within the last few weeks we have heard speeches delivered within these walls, in which the strongest language has been used in reference to the whole question, and judgments have been pronounced, and epithets employed, which, in the opinion of Her Ma- jesty'a Government and others, might have hereafter the effect of exercising a detrimental influence on the state of public feeling in a neighbouring country. I cannot, however, suppose that my right hon. Friend is really unaware of this fact, for he himself has taken a leading part in the discussions to which I allude. No hon. Member, indeed, has been so precipitate as he in his treatment of this question, so far as the use of language is concerned, which could have no other effect than to inflame, exasperate, and, in the natural course of things, produce angry feeling in the minds of the French Government and people, who would be likely to be urged on rather than impeded in the pursuit of a particular line of policy, by having insulting expressions employed with respect to the course which they were taking.


said: Sir, the private Members of this House are placed in a difficult position, particularly with regard to foreign affairs; for when negotiations in reference to a particular question are pending we are told it is too soon to discuss the matter, and then when the question is almost settled we are told we are too late. A statement which has just been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought, however, I think, to be placed before the House and the country in its true light. He has told us that the noble Lord at the head of the Government expressed it to be his opinion that the Emperor of the French would not proceed to the annexation of Savoy without consulting the great Powers of Europe, and that he would not be contented with simply stating his intention on the subject. Now, all I can say is that at this very moment I believe the question of annexation to be settled, and settled, too, without any reference whatever having been made by the Emperor of the French to the great Powers of Europe. Let the House, then, judge for itself as to the value which ought to be attached to statements emanating from that quarter (the Treasury bench). For my part, I held such statements very cheap even before this evening, but after the very candid acknowledgment which we have just had from the noble Lord at the head of the Government, there is no term which I could use sufficiently expressive of my estimation of their utter worthlessness.


said, he wished to make an explanation in reply to the observations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman had said that he had made use of exasperating language.


The hon. Member may make an explanation of anything which has fallen from him if his words have been misunderstood; but he cannot, in accordance with the rules of the House, reply to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


I was merely going to observe that when the right hon. Gentleman imputed to me the use of insulting language.—[Cries of "Order, order!"]


said, he trusted that under present circumstances the debate would not be allowed to go on. He had long believed that the annexation of a large part of Savoy to France was inevitable. There was now, however, before Europe a great question of public right with respect to the frontier and neutrality of Switzerland. he hoped the attention of the Government would be directed to that point, and that they would consult with the other Powers of Europe in order to secure the neutrality of the provinces on the Swiss frontier.


said, he would take advantage of the opportunity at length afforded him of replying to two questions which had been put to him in the early part of the evening. He would first refer to the question of the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Fergusson) as to the rewards to military officers, though he must decline to go into the case of individual officers. The Government at home were mainly guided in bestowing rewards for military services in India by the recommendation of the Commander-in-Chief in that country. The rewards which were conferred on military officers consisted, for the most part, of promotion and the Order of the Bath, and he might state that every officer who had been recommended by the Commander-in-Chief for brevet promotion had obtained that reward. With regard to the Order of the Bath he had to observe that the number of officers who had been recommended for it was so great as to exceed the proportion in which that honour was allotted to officers in the Indian service. It had, however been conferred on some, and the remainder had been brought under the notice of his right hon. Friend the Secretary for War, with the view of their obtaining the distinction when the reduction of the number enjoying it had been brought below the appointed level. Nothing, he might add, could be more distinguished than the services of the 2nd Bombay Light Cavalry, and two of the officers of that regiment had consequently been raised to the rank of major. In the case of the Civil Service, some delay in conferring the honours which it was in contemplation to bestow had arisen. That delay had its origin in the fact that a despatch had been received from Earl Canning which contained only a partial report as to the persons whom he desired to recommend for reward, while he at the same time announced it to be his intention to send a supplementary despatch embracing, in conjunction with the first, the names of all those persons. It had been deemed the more satisfactory course, therefore, to de-for taking any stops in the matter until that despatch had arrived, and now that that was the case he trusted no further delay would take place.

The next question was, that of his hon. and gallant Friend behind him (Colonel Sykes)—whether there was any foundation for the report that the whole Native army of India was about to be abolished? Well, his answer was that there was no foundation whatever for the statement. He was very much grieved to see such a statement in the newspapers, which would, no doubt, cause great excitement among the officers of that branch of the service in India. But he repeated there was no foundation for the report of any reduction being made in that force. He was afraid his hon. Friend (Colonel Sykes) would be alarmed in another direction when he told him that the military expenditure in Bombay was higher this year than last, while the expenditure in Madras was no less. They could not go on long with an expenditure exceeding the income. A portion of the returns moved for by his hon. Friend could not be made out without reference to India; but as to another portion he might say that two additional clerks had been employed in their preparation ever since they were ordered, but he was afraid it would be some considerable time yet before they were completed.


begged to state that he had used the case of Major Taylor merely for the sake of illustration.