§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
I rise, Sir, to call the attention of the House to the subject of which I have given notice—the recent annexation of Savoy to France. It is a subject in which I take great interest, and I trust that, under the circumstances, the House will kindly bear with me in the statement I am about to make. Nay more, I believe the House will concur with me in thinking that, looking at the embarrassed state of foreign affairs at this moment, it is desirable, before we adjourn for the Easter vacation, that some expression of opinion should be made with reference to the position of Switzerland; and that we should have an opportunity of considering and weighing the immense and immediate danger with which the neutrality and independence of that country are now threatened by the annexation of Savoy to France. My object in rising to-night is, I may say, to endeavour to save Switzerland by a generous expression of sympathy on the part of this House and this nation, for I do think that she is greatly menaced by the position of France in her immediate neighbourhood. Individually I own I take a lively and very natural interest in the welfare of that country, having lived there for several years in a very impressionable period of my life. But I put that on one side. I come here as an Englishman, in the free Parliament of a free people, to advocate the principles of liberty wherever it may concern this country, and to maintain those principles wherever imperilled; and I shall be satisfied if, when I resume my seat, I shall have contributed to draw attention to, and thus serve the cause of that country whose rights and liberties are now imminently 1644 endangered. At the outset I must say that the repeated insinuations of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) against those who have advocated the interests of Europe in opposition to the aggressive policy of France are most unfounded. That hon. Gentleman is very severe in his criticism of those who venture to differ from him on political questions. We know the candour of his censures; but I am convinced almost every Member of this House dissents from the un-English policy which the hon. Gentleman would recommend Her Majesty's Government to pursue at this moment. That hon. Member repudiates the opinion of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Kinglake) as well as those which I and abler Members of this House have expressed on several recent occasions on this question. But, mark you, those opinions are now the opinions of Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Member for Birmingham the other night said he repudiated those views because he represented a great English constituency; but, remember, we all of us form the collective representation of the entire constituent body in this country; and I say the hon. Gentleman, in disowning our views and the views of Her Majesty's Government, disowns the sentiments of nine-tenths of the town which has sent him to Parliament. That, however, is the hon. Member's own affair, and he had better look to it. I venture to tell him that if the new Reform Bill passes he will find himself very much in the position of the right hon. Member for Ashton (Mr. M. Gibson)—the late Member for Manchester. But when the hon. Gentleman endeavours to persuade us that we have no direct interest in this great question, I believe he grossly misrepresents the general feeling of this country, and egregiously undervalues the depth of that feeling. I wish also now to state that, in bringing this subject before the House previous to the adjournment for the Easter Recess, I am certainly not actuated by any unfriendly feeling towards Her Majesty's Government. I only desire, as was said the other night by my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. S. FitzGerald), to strengthen their hands in the present emergency. I only desire to see them pursuing a policy worthy of this country and the grave responsibilities under which they are placed. They have shown much hesitation on several occasions in answering questions relating to 1645 foreign affairs; but I believe they could lose nothing by a generally diffused knowledge of what their policy has been within the last few weeks. Certainly I think the opinions expressed the other night by the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary have had a very great effect in this country. Those opinions have immeasurably enhanced the confidence of the nation in the straightforward course which that noble Lord will unquestionably take in the conduct of these affairs. But why not let us know what has been the answer made to M. Thouvenel? It was promised to be laid on the table the other day; but we have never seen it? It is said in the streets that it is very spirited. Let us see, then, what your spirited answer is. Observe the difficulty in which Members of the present Government are placed by not informing the country what their policy has been. When in 1857 Mr. Cobden proposed a vote of censure on the Government, I think his expression was that their foreign policy had been "turbulent and aggressive." They were turned out of office in consequence. The year following, Mr. Milner Gibson,—the right hon. Member for Manchester then—moved another vote of censure against the Government for not having been, as he called it, sufficiently prompt in vindicating our national honour. That is to say, in 1857 the Government were too turbulent; and in 1858 they were not turbulent enough. All this comes of the country not knowing what your policy really is. But the wording of the right hon. Gentleman's memorable Motion is really worth recalling when we are considering the Government's hesitation to show us their despatch. The then right hon. Member for Manchester declared:—This House regrets that Her Majesty's Government have not felt it their duty to make some reply to an important despatch received from the French Government on the 28th of January, 1858.Here we are in almost the same position. The right hon. Member for Ashton, sitting on his present comfortable bench, may, perhaps, not like to take the matter up now. But this important despatch has not been produced, and we are ignorant of its contents. I dare say it is "spirited," if it accords with the tone used the other night by the noble Foreign Secretary. There may be, however, doubts about that, but of this there can be no doubt, that a wanton outrage, fraught with the gravest consequences to the peace and happiness 1646 of nations, has just been offered to the Powers of Europe and the principles of justice. Within the last three days I think that last act has been signed, the effect of which must be, unless this country and the rest of Europe protests against it, to subvert the independence of Switzerland. What have been the assurances of France all this time? We all recollect the famous declaration, "L'empire, c'est la paix!" The French Government had over and over again solemnly declared that it aimed at no personal objects—that it sought no territorial aggrandizement. In his proclamation issued at Milan, the Emperor told the people of Lombardy:—"Vos ennemis, qui sont les miens, ont tenté de diminuer la sympathie universelle qu'il y avait en Europe pour votre cause, en faisant croire que je ne faisais la guerre que par ambition personnelle, ou pour aggrandir le territoire de la France."In his speech from the Throne, on opening his Chambers, on the 1st of March, the Emperor said, "La France ne menace personne;" and then went on to avow his hope, by the expansion of the resources of France and by the extension of liberty, "to console and reassure humanity." And this is the way in which he "consoles and reassures humanity." I think we have too long and too credulously listened to his good assurances; that we have too ingenuously accepted the good faith of his intentions. Whatever may be the consequences—and grave, I fear, they may be—of the present complications, certainly, as far as is consistent with the honour of this country, and the material interests of Europe, peace must be maintained. The House, I am sure, would be sorry to urge Her Majesty's Government to adopt a policy involving war, and all those painful concomitants of war with which, alas! too many of us are familiar. But, whether it be necessary by peace, or by a firm and rigorous attitude to encounter a policy on the part of France which is producing distrust tending to war, I think we all ought, as far as possible, consistently with peace, to strengthen the hands of the Imperial Government, which is responsible to Parliament for the safety of our interests and the maintenance of our honour. Nay, I go further than the hon. Member for Birmingham went the other night, and say that, whatever may be the particular interest of Russia, of Austria, of Germany, or even of Switzerland, I should be very sorry to see the Govern- 1647 ment of England adopting a policy calculated to plunge us into a war for no object of general interest. But is there no principle of common interest affecting this country at stake in what is now going on? I believe there is. Many hon. Gentlemen, here and out of doors, think Her Majesty's Government have connived in some way or other at the aggression and annexation now being pursued by France. I do not concur in that suspicion, and I have said so from the beginning. Appearances have been strongly against them, I admit. I think they have carried forbearance to its extreme limits. But I believe they have been deceived—grossly deceived. In fact, they have confessed as much themselves. But mark you, they have been deceived by a Power whose good faith and good intentions they were bound to accept after the repeated assurances they had received. Is there, then, I repeat a principle of common interest at stake? I believe there is. I ask the House to observe the position in which Europe is now placed. Is it likely that the Emperor, having rejected all the friendly remonstrances of this country and of others, having by his desperate policy plunged France into a system of aggrandizement and territorial aggression, will now stop and be satisfied with what he has obtained, even if he be able to curb the further progress of the revolutionary—for it is revolutionary—policy which he is pursuing? It is the revolutionary policy of 1848, which was adopted by M. Lamartine and by M. Louis Blanc; and I ask you, as we know that ce n'est que le premier pas qui coute, whether it is not most probable that, having tasted the pleasures of ambition, and witnessed "the pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war," the Emperor will take the first opportunity of proceeding to some conquest which will more materially affect the interests of Europe. If that be so, we have at this moment the great and important duty to perform of endeavouring, with the assistance of the rest of Europe, to cheek his progress. What is the feeling of Europe at this moment? Does Europe feel with us? The hon. Member for Birmingham thinks that it does not. The other night he said, to my astonishment, "Russia takes no interest in this miserable question." The hon. Member for Birmingham calls that "a miserable question" which concerns the liberties of half a million of people. He said, "Does Russia take an interest, 1648 does Austria take an interest in it? Austria won't join you in a quarrel about Savoy or Switzerland, when not one word has been said about her own dismemberment." He must not think that every Power has that feeling of jealousy and nasty spitefulness. I believe that Austria, although she has suffered severely, has sufficient manliness still to come forward in the interest of the rest of Europe to endeavour to vindicate the right, and to defend the principles which she has herself sworn to adopt. The hon. Gentleman says that you can't get up any interest in the question in this country. In answer to that assertion, I may appeal to the state of the House at this moment; I may appeal to this crowded assembly, called together by no words of mine, but by an active and determined interest in the welfare of Switzerland. Yet the hon. Gentleman says that you can't get up an interest on this subject; adding that there is some little attention paid to it by one newspaper, but that it is a newspaper notorious for a mixture of piety and ruffianism. That is the way in which the hon. Member for Birmingham speaks of a free press. He says that day after day that newspaper endeavours to stir up the passions of the people by vituperations—I am referring to what I have read in the newspapers—
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
Of course I bow with submission to the Chair. I was merely alluding to what I read had taken place. One thing I recollect having seen in the newspapers, and that was, that it was insinuated by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) that the guilty instigators of these vituperations were princes of the House of Orleans. Now, I do think that that was a most unjust and ungenerous imputation for any man to cast upon a family like the House of Orleans. They are princes of an exalted family, and I am assured that I speak the sentiments of the House, when I say that, weighed down as they are by the bitterest visitation with which Providence could afflict a family, they have, during all the time that they have resided in this country, conducted themselves with a nobility of character, and more than a nobility of character—with a dignity of demeanour which has gained for them the sympathies of every one, except the hon. Member for Birming- 1649 ham, who, coupling them with the Savoyards, is so ready to cry down and afflict them. I only hope that the hon. Gentleman himself may never be placed in such a position as to learn what it is to be deprived of his home and of the country of his birth. [A laugh]. I do not mean to say that he is ever likely to become a Sovereign. Let me now call back the attention of the House to the inquiry, "Is the feeling of Europe opposed to the consideration of this question?" Russia, they say, is cool about it. Why, Russia is at this moment occupied with a great question of domestic policy, and of course she is more ready to turn her attention to the East than to the West. But take Prussia. Take Prussia, with her well-organized army and her loyal people; what are the feelings of Prussia? Were they not nobly expressed in that despatch of Baron Schleinitz, which was quoted the other night? I have not it by me, but it was a generous and noble expression of feeling on the part of the Chief Minister of that country. Recollect that that is a country which has never forgotten, and I hope never will forget, the injustice and indignities which were heaped upon it by the First Napoleon, until the genius of the Duke of Wellington and the sword of Blucher vindicated its national honour. The Prussians must feel very deeply when they are told that the Rhine is threatened now. Do not tell me that the whole of Europe is perfectly indifferent to what may take place! Above all, do not tell me that Prussia, with its devoted army, and its loyal people, is contented to assent to the aggressions of France. Well, then, I come to Austria. They say that Austria won't make any move with regard to Switzerland, because nothing was said when her own territory was dismembered. It is true that Austria has had to suffer a very heavy calamity; but I believe that any one who studied the campaign in Italy will admit that nothing could have been more heroic than the way in which the Austrian soldiers fought throughout that campaign. Of course our sympathies were with the Italians; but at the same time we admired the way in which the Austrians fought under the direction of men who were unequal to the emergency. The Austrian army showed itself worthy to be the army of a great empire, and I am satisfied that if it had been better organized it would have contended with greater success even against the forces of France. But what is the 1650 condition of Austria at this moment? There are two causes which prevent Austria from taking any active interest in this question, religious discord and financial embarrassment. Any one who has watched the affairs of Austria will know that ever since 1855, when the concordat with Rome was concluded, there has been much religious dissension in that country. The Austrian empire contains a population of 35,000,000, of whom 3,000,000 are Protestants, and they conceive that their religious feelings and religious rights have been very much compromised by the concordat. That is an element of discord against which it is most difficult for any Power to contend; but there is another embarrassment, which is still more important, because it concerns the supply of the sinews of war. Every one knows that Austria is at this moment labouring under the greatest possible burden of financial difficulty. I believe that I am correct in saying that within the last eleven years the public debt of that country has increased 150 per cent, and that at this moment it amounts to more than eight times the annual revenue. Nay, to show the difficulty which Austria has in raising money, I believe that the last loan she attempted to negotiate failed upon every bourse in Europe. I ask you then, is it likely that she should take any active part in assisting us to arrest the aggressions of France? But this I will say, that I believe her sympathies, that I believe the sympathies of Germany, are entirely in favour of Switzerland. Let us see for a moment how it is that all these difficulties have fallen upon Switzerland. Just consider for one moment what it is that presses down that country. It is this unhappy policy of France. I, in common with everybody else in this country, hoped that France was acting a noble part towards Italy, that she was acting disinterestedly, that she was really desirous to free that country; but there has been this arrière pensée all through her transactions. From the very beginning she has been seeking to obtain what she calls un territoire de très peu d'étendue, but what is both politically and strategetically of great importance to Europe. France has always been desirous to obtain possession of that. Her expression was that she wanted nothing that need alarm Europe, nothing but un territoire de très peu d'étendue; and that neither by military operations nor by insurrection would 1651 she seek to acquire these provinces. These are the provinces which abut upon Switzerland, which are absolutely essential to the salvation of that country, and which for 230 years have been considered absolutely necessary to its welfare. Savoy un territoire de très peu d'étendue! Why, Sir, this is the territory that in 1814 Lord Castlereagh and Capo d'Istria were both determined that France should not have. France desired to have Chablais, which abuts upon Switzerland, in order that she might gain a footing upon the Lake of Geneva. Russia and England, represented by Capo d'Istria and Pozzo di Borgo, by Lord Clancarty and Lord Castlereagh, prevented her from then acquiring that territory, but she has now taken it without asking. I wonder whether the Emperor of the French ever reads his Bible [A laugh]. It is a very serious matter. If he does, I wonder it does not recall to his recollection that small territory which Ahab the King wanted to take from Naboth the Jezreelite. That was un territoire de très pea d'étendue. Ahab wanted it for money, and took it with blood, and what was the consequence? The cry of the weak rose like a sacrifice to the Almighty, and the expectations of the rich man were blasted with disappointment. Such, I believe, will be the case in the present instance. We do not live in a period when miraculous interpositions take place, but I hope that the cry of the weak will still find an echo with the Government of this country; sure I am that it will find an echo in this House of Parliament. You ought not to disregard national feeling. This country never has disregarded national feeling in Europe. I well recollect to have read in the speeches of a great Parliamentary leader, when some Members of the House of Commons were urging the Government to adopt a policy of cowardice and cringing towards the first Emperor of the French, of which I hope that we shall have no examples in the present day— I well recollect that when those Members of the House of Commons were attacking the Duke of Wellington, and arguing that, after all, Napoleon would govern the Spaniards a great deal better than the Spaniards governed themselves, Mr. Canning, with that magnificent élan of character which always distinguished him, said, "National feeling ! National feeling is prior to and paramount over every consideration of political conveni- 1652 ence." And I, Sir, think the national feeling which has been aroused not only in Switzerland but in every country of Europe by the aggressive policy of France is worthy of the attention of this House and the country. What are the reasons which M. Thouvenel gives for the annexation of Savoy and Nice? At first he said the people would be consulted; — the people are against annexation. Then he said he would consult the municipalities;—the municipalities agree with the people. Then he promised to consult the Powers of Europe;—the Powers of Europe are of the same opinion as the people and the municipalities; but before they have had time to return an answer France has accomplished the annexation. The conduct of M. Thouvenel has been marked throughout by a duplicity unworthy the Minister of a great empire. He says in a despatch to the French Minister at Berne, "Historical traditions favour the annexation of Savoy to France." Really, Sir, I should have liked to answer that despatch. It is a total perversion of the truth. He tries to show that France has always wanted Savoy. Why, Sir, the conduct of France towards Savoy has always been the very reverse. Charles Emmanuel was Duke of Savoy when Henry IV. was King of France. Charles Emmanuel, profiting by the internal dissensions of France, endeavoured to extend the limits of his Duchy. Henry IV. attacked him, and took the whole of Savoy; but what was his policy? He was generous and politic, and having inflicted this lesson upon Charles Emmanuel returned Savoy to its Duke. How can M. Thouvenel say that "historical traditions favour the annexation of Savoy?" Louis XIII., in 1628, acting under the advice of Richelieu, also took Savoy; Hastening to Italy to arrest the progress of Austrian influence, and advancing through Savoy with the view of crossing into Italy, he demanded the passage of the Alps, then in the occupation of the Duke of Savoy. This was refused, and although defended with heroic courage, a passage was forced by the French Army through what is called the Pas de Suze. But, generous and politic, Louis XIII. did not, any more than Henri IV., seek to retain these versants Francais des montagnes; but he, too, gave Savoy back to the Duke,—another conclusive proof that historical traditions are not in favour of the annexation of Savoy to France. It is only 1653 since the dynasty of Napoleon has arisen that any attempt has been made to take permanent possession of that which has for so many centuries belonged to the Dukes of Savoy. But in a despatch to M. Persigny, the French Minister particularly alludes to this question. He there says that circumstances had compelled the Emperor to interfere in Italy, and that the annexation of Savoy and Nice has been considered by several of the principal Powers of Europe as a compensation due to France. That statement is also without foundation. Castlereagh and Clancarty, Capo d'Istria and Pozzo di Borgo, were all desirous of preventing Savoy being annexed to France. I trust that the House will excuse me if I enter into the details of this question yet more at length; but I have now to inquire how the King of Piedmont could have been induced to part with those provinces which abut upon Switzerland, and which he was bound either to keep or to return to Switzerland? I maintain he has no more right to part with Savoy to the Emperor of the French than the Sovereign of this country would have to part with Gibraltar, or than Charles II. had to part with Dunkirk. It was given to him as a defence against France, and he was paid 10,000,000 francs, to fortify it, as an inducement to keep it. Count Cavour hopes the declarations of M. Thouvenel will be satisfactory to the Powers, as they are satisfactory to the Savoyards. What, I ask, is the truth of the case? The people of Savoy and of Piedmont, it is said, have given an expression to their opinion; but, Sir, I hold in my hand a manifesto and a declaration from the provinces of Haute Savoie containing some 12,000 signatures, and in a letter which accompanies that declaration, I read that those signatures comprise the bonâ fide names of the inhabitants of the provinces named, and they are stated, by those in authority, to be chiefly composed of small landowners and a few avocat s. My correspondent adds, that the names of the Savoyards resident in Geneva are not included. A more remarkable manifestation of opinion never occurred, and its importance is increased by the fact, which has been communicated to me from Chambery, that the French agents are doing everything in their power to get up a movement in favour of France,— —Les agens de France font dans ces vallées une propagande formidable— and have bought nearly all the newspapers, which, 1654 consequently, give a very false idea of the feelings and wishes of the population. I cannot understand a policy which gives liberty to Italy and destroys it in Switzerland and Savoy, and it is impossible not to contrast the conduct of the King of Piedmont in 1814 with that of the present sovereign. France had annexed Savoy in 1792, and for 22 years it had been separated from the rule of the Victor Emmanuel of that day. In 1814 the Powers had the greatest difficulty in inducing the King of Piedmont to give up a portion of his territory, upon the understanding that it should be comprised in the Swiss neutrality, because, he said, he could not think of separating himself from "old, faithful, and loyal subjects." These are the very words. The Plenipotentiaries of the Powers addressed themselves to the King of Sardinia to obtain from him the cession of this part of his hereditary dominions, but they experienced the greatest difficulty, "dans la repugnance qu'eprouvait Victor Emmanuel de se séparer de bons anciens et fidèles sujets." The Victor Emmanuel of the present day is ready to make any sacrifice in that respect, and I cannot help thinking that his conduct shows he is little worthy to reign over that brave and devoted race. The House of Savoy should have one resemblance to the glaciers of that country. As the glaciers take their form from the womb of the mountains out of which they burst, so the House of Savoy ought to bear the stamp of the people among whom it sprang into existence, and over whom it has reigned for so many centuries. But the hon. Member for Birmingham exclaims, "Perish Savoy!" and he says to the Savoyards, "The industry of Lyons will double your incomes, and therefore you can easily shunt your loyalty." The hon. Member must have been thinking of the loyalty of the House of Savoy, and not of the loyalty of the people. "Perish Savoy!" I should rather say—Perish the future destinies of a Power which seeks to enlarge its boundaries by sacrificing the liberties of half a million of people who for eight centuries have been the mainstay of its existence and the rock of its defence! Savoy has been called by the Ambassador of France a barren rock. When I heard that phrase, I declared that every time I alluded to the subject, I would bring that expression to the bar of public opinion and stigmatize it as it deserves. The people, Sir, are poor, but 1655 the very rocks among which they live make them place a higher value upon liberty and independence than upon the industry of Lyons and the duplication of their incomes. I am almost afraid it is all over with Switzerland, and Savoy is already gone. A deputation from Savoy went to the Emperor to offer him the country, and it is quite amusing to read how the Emperor received this deputation. I do not know where the deputies came from, but they arrived in cabs at the Place Vendome, dressed in the national costume. Having dined with the Emperor, they received a photograph of the Imperial Family, signed in memoriam, 24th March, and since then they have not been heard of. It is a very curious thing that the Emperor, when he received them, made a most striking remark to one of the deputies from Chablais, which is close to Switzerland. He said, "By the way, Député Savoisien, are there any barracks in your country?" "Yes, Sire," replied the deputy; and then the Emperor exclaimed, "Ah! Je vais vous envoyer des troupes, dont la présence donne toujours de la vie et de l'animation aux pays." That is charming —that is the way in which the liberties of these people are going to be got rid of, and the manner in which they are to be deprived of what they at present enjoy. I am afraid that they will have but a slight enjoyment of the liberty which they expect to receive from the Emperor of the French. It is curious to observe that the family of Napoleon are always talking about liberty and national feeling. I recollect a famous letter of the first Napoleon, which was published the other day, and the present Napoleon is following precisely the policy of the dynasty. It is only surprising that we cannot be on our guard against what must be the infallible consequences if we allow that policy step by step to advance. There was a letter, which the first Napoleon wrote to his brother Joseph, who was a quiet man, and not in favour of violent measures. In this letter the first Napoleon wrote,— "Mind you favour national feeling." But, at the same time, in a private letter he said, "Crush every sign of national feeling; enfin faites brûler les maisons, trente des principaux de chaque village et distribuez leur bien à l'armée. Livrez au sac deux ou trois gros bourgs cela servira d'example, et rendra aux soldats de la joie et de la gaiété." These Savoyards will have to undergo the 1656 same consequences, and the people of, Switzerland are in the same danger. La question Suisse, let me remind the House, is a different thing from la question Savoisienne. The question of Switzerland is one of the deepest moment. From the earliest time the President of the Swiss Confederation impressed upon Captain Harris "that it was of vital importance to the safety and independence of Switzerland that Savoy, and especially 'Haute-Savoie,' should never be annexed to France; for if that took place the flank of Switzerland would be completely open, and Geneva would inevitably follow." "We know," he added, "what passed in 1792." Why in 1792 France annexed Savoy, and in 1798 France annexed also the town and territory of Geneva. The President of the Swiss Confederation clearly foresaw that this must happen again. The hon. Member for Birmingham has said that Savoy is politically worthless. That expression shall not go forth without correction, and so I have quoted what the President of the Swiss Confederation says with regard to the annexation of Savoy to France. Louis Napoleon in one of his writings says, "Not only will Savoy augment the French territory, but it will open the great Simplon road, and give to France la liberté des Alpes, et en cas de guerre un magnifique champ de bataille pour une lutte offensive et defensive." When the first Napoleon annexed Savoy, did he think it unimportant? This only shows how the hon. Member for Birmingham makes statements without the slightest foundation. The first Napoleon, directly after he took Savoy, he himself stated that he considered the occupation of Switzerland as a thing absolutely necessary on military grounds, and he came to the same conclusion on political grounds. For these reasons he commenced his intrigues against Switzerland, occupied its cantons and laid contributions on them, seized the public treasure, the Government funds, plundered the magazines and arsenals of stores of all descriptions in fact, according to official documents he robbed Berne alone of no less than 45,000,000 francs. Can Switzerland forget the horrors inflicted by the French troops? Can the Swiss ever forget how Brune, Schauenberg, and Rapinat, generals under the direction of Bonaparte, behaved towards them. Can Europe forget that Bonaparte, before the close of that very year 1798, compelled the Swiss to grant him two roads for the passage of his 1657 army, one by the Lake of Constance, the other the route du Simplon through the Canton of Vallais. It is singular that while the President of the Swiss Confederation was continually pointing out to Captain Harris that there was great danger for Switzerland; that Captain Harris, on the other hand, replied that there was no occasion for alarm; that no change would take place of a neutral territory without the entire consent of the parties to the treaties. The President of the Swiss Confederacy, however, insisted upon the danger, and said that without consulting the Powers these important provinces would be annexed. On the 19th January, Captain Harris wrote to the noble Lord, describing the fears of the President; but he added that he (Captain Harris) had told the President that he ought to have confidence in the opinions expressed by Her Majesty's Government. Events have shown that, whatever confidence he might have had in the assurances of Her Majesty's Government, the result to the independence of the country from the aggression of France is likely to be most fatal. Very great satisfaction has, indeed, been afforded by the answer given by the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs to a question I put to him sometime back. I asked the noble Lord whether the Government were prepared to abandon the neutrality of Switzerland as guaranteed by Great Britain in common with the other Powers, and the noble Lord replied in language worthy of himself and his country,That the Swiss Government have asked us whether, in case of such annexation (of Savoy), we are prepared to maintain the neutrality of Switzerland, and to provide in such a manner that the neutrality should in no way be injured, and we have always replied that we have determined to do so; that Chablais and Faucigny were parts of the general arrangements for the guarantee of Switzerland; and that if separated from Sardinia they ought to be annexed to Switzerland.It is a curious thing that M. Thouvenel at one time made the same assertion—I have forgotten the date, but I think it was on the 5th of February—for he told Earl Cowley that if Savoy should be united to France the provinces of Chablais and Faucigny should go to Switzerland. But the French Government and M. Thouvenel have strangely changed their opinions; and in point of fact it is impossible to expect them to abide for one week by their declarations. One of the most unworthy documents I ever cast my eye over is the answer of M. Thouvenel to M. Turgot at 1658 Berne. He says, for instance, that the principle of sovereignty implies the right of the sovereign of any nation, from whatever motive, to cede the whole or any part of his states, and that none would be justified in opposing such measures unless they should result in a disturbance of the balance of power in Europe. This is a most extraordinary doctrine to hold in the middle of the nineteenth century. That a sovereign should be entitled to give away his people as he may desire—can this be maintained in the nineteenth century? It is a re-establishment of the divine right of kings; and I, for one, will never give my adhesion to a principle which gives up a people who have for centuries been accustomed to the enjoyment of liberty into the hands of a man who governs under the most severe of despotisms and for the most ambitious purposes. M. Thouvenel said the neutralization of the districts in question had not been originally arranged with a view to the protection of the Swiss frontier, because that was sufficiently defended by an impassable barrier. This means the neutrality guaranteed by Europe. Nothing can be more futile than such an assertion. I will not, however, enter more fully into the question. But I am bound to say that I think we should interfere, if we can, at the present moment. I do not like to see this country interfere in matters in which its interests are not concerned. For instance, there was recently an attempted interference between Spain and Morocco. I do not approve that. Again, there are some passages in the despatches of Mr. Elliot from Naples which I think are far from satisfactory. On one occasion Mr. Elliot tells the King that such and such a thing has occurred. The King says that his Ministers have told him just the contrary, upon which Mr. Elliot replies in the most overbearing manner, that what the Neapolitan Ministers say does not matter to him; the King may believe that what he has told him is the case. Into the Neapolitan question I do not wish to enter, but the position assumed by our representative cannot, I think, be altogether justified. But the hon. Member (Mr. Bright) says that England has always ignominiously failed in the exercise of its influence with foreign countries. I do not agree with him. Did Mr. Pitt ignominiously fail when he endeavoured to use the influence of this country in Europe? Did Lord Castlereagh, did Mr. Canning, did the Earl of Aberdeen, did Sir Stratford 1659 Canning ignominiously fail? In 1830 Viscount Palmerston was Foreign Minister. I allude to an historical circumstance, and therefore mention the noble Lord's name. He did not ignominiously fail in making the influence of England felt in Europe. The question of Belgium had then to be treated, and, through the influence of England and of Europe, Belgium has for thirty years enjoyed the blessings of constitutional Government, under a wise and liberal Sovereign. Again, did Viscount Palmerston fail, during 1838–9 and '40 in making the influence of this country felt as regards the affairs of the East? Then I say that what we want now is a generous and a vigorous protest on the part of the British Government. I recollect in 1847, when the question of Cracow arose, the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) made a protest, from which I wish to read a sentence. He said:—I consider that in late transactions in Europe, although on more than one occasion, and by different Powers, our wishes have not been complied with, our desires have not been listened to, our protests may have been disregarded, yet there does remain with us a moral strength nothing can take away. … We are ready in the face of Europe, however inconvenient some of those stipulations may be, to hold ourselves bound by all our engagements to keep the fame and the name and the honour of the Crown of England unsullied, and to guard that unsullied honour as a jewel which we will not have tarnished." [3 Hansard, xc, 894.That was the protest of the noble Lord against the conduct of the three Powers in 1847 with regard to Cracow, and I hope to see that the English Government has not retrograded since then. I hope also to see a vigorous protest from this House. We are not, as the French paper said, the nominees, the écuyers, and the chambellans of an Imperial Court, but we are the free Parliament of a free people. This House is a great assembly, and ought to exercise the rights which belong to it as the representative of a great country. We have always been battling against France. It has been the policy of this country to counteract the policy of France, and we have done so successfully. We checked the aggression of Louis XIV. and of Louis XV.; we curbed the ambition of the First Napoleon, and are now called upon to check the unhappy policy which the present Emperor of the French seems desirous of inaugurating. I hope the Emperor will not, like his uncle, curse Europe with the destruction and the desolation which swept over its face in the last great 1660 war. If he does, and if we resist him, our quarrel will be a just, our cause a good one, and worthy of this country. Shakspeare says,—Thrice is he arm'd who hath his quarrel just, And he but naked, though lock'd up in steel, Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted.I believe that to be the corruption which now infects the Imperial policy; and that injustice sooner or later will bear bitter fruits in the retributive condemnation with which it will be met. This very night I have been told that perhaps there may yet be some hope for Switzerland, and that the union of Chablais and Faucigny with France is not yet accomplished. If that be so, I ask the House to join me in a protest which shall vindicate the interest and the liberties of Switzerland. I ask the House to allow me to be its interpreter on this occasion in favour of a liberty-loving nation and of a most loyal Republic. I ask it to allow me by anticipation to give expression to its feelings, and I think the House will then concur with me when I say in the name of public opinion in this country, that upon every principle of justice, of honour, and of right it is absolutely necessary that these provinces should be annexed to Switzerland, or otherwise you will infallibly see that Republic sink into the lowest depths to which it can descend, the consequence of its absorption into the Imperial domains, and of its subjection to the Imperial dynasty of France.
§ Question, "That the House, at its rising, do adjourn till Monday next," put and negatived.