HC Deb 23 April 1861 vol 162 cc1004-10

, in rising to move that an Address be presented to Her Majesty for a copy of any correspondence with Foreign Powers that had taken place relative to certain arms conveyed at the close of the last year under the Sardinian flag from Genoa to the East, and seized by the Moldo-Wallachian Government; also, all orders and correspondence for bringing back in Her Majesty's ship Banshee from Galatz to Genoa all or any portion of the said arms, said, he had received an intimation from the noble Lord that these papers could not be furnished. He was totally at a loss to conceive what reasons had induced the noble Lord to oppose this Return, and he would postpone many of his observations until he had heard them. Nothing could be more absurd than for the British Government to refuse Parliament information that had been supplied to all other countries. With a free Italian Parliament a new era in diplomacy was about to commence, and he thought the sooner the noble Lord forsook the old paths of diplomacy and swept away the cobwebs from the Foreign Office the better. There was published in The Times of yesterday a despatch addressed by Count Cavour to the Italian Minister in London, in which the following allusion was made to a despatch from the noble Lord:— About the end of January the Minister of Her Britannic Majesty at Turin communicated to me a despatch from Lord John Russell, of which I annex a copy. In that despatch the Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Great Britain, attributing but slight value to the vote by universal suffrage given at Naples, in Sicily, Umbria, and the Marches, declared that he reserved the examination of the question raised by the political transformation of Italy for the period when the true intentions of the Italian nation might be manifested in' a regular and solemn manner by the legitimate representatives assembled in a freely elected Parliament. Correspondence up to the 1st of March last had been printed, but the despatch referred to did not appear in in it. He warned the noble Lord that if he refused to produce it he would obtain it from another source, and then what sort of a figure would England cut? The fact he supposed was that the papers would not bear the light of day, or the noble Lord would he ready enough to produce them. He wanted to know why the noble Lord had interfered, as he had done, in the Principalities. If Italy was to be allowed to settle her own affairs, why should not Hungary do the same? Why should England interfere to keep Hungary subject to Austria? It would be shown by the papers for which he was about to move that the noble Lord had violated every principle of non-intervention which he had laid down with regard to the affairs of Italy. The noble Lord had no right to interfere in order to keep Hungary in subjection to Austria. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Address.


seconded the Motion, and said he wished to impress on the noble Lord at the bead of Foreign Affairs the necessity, at this time, of his giving all the information he could with reference to Italian affairs. He agreed entirely with the hon. Mover, that important despatches had not, on several occasions, been communicated to that House. One despatch there was especially which ought to be published—namely, one containing reports from Mr. Hayter with regard to the state of feeling in South Italy. The papers, if fairly published, would show that the noble Lord was pursuing a truckling policy to Austria, and yet if Austria ever found herself in difficulties the noble Lord was among the first to kick her while she was clown.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, a Copy of any Correspondence with Foreign Powers that has taken place relative to certain Arms conveyed at the close of the last year under the Sardinian Flag from Genoa to the East, and seized by the Moldo-Wallachian Government; also, all Orders and Correspondence for bringing back in Her Majesty's ship The Banshee, from Galatz to Genoa, all or any portion of the said Arms.


The hon. Member seems to think that it is the duty of the Foreign Secretary to lay upon the table of the House all the Correspondence which passes with Foreign Powers. I cannot assent to that view, or allow that the Foreign Secretary is not justified in withholding despatches when he sees fit. It is not and never has been the custom to publish the whole of our Correspondence with Foreign Governments. Such a practice would be very inconvenient, and a fruitful source of quarrels. With respect to the despatch which the hon. Gentleman says ought to have been included in the Correspondence up to the 1st of March, it had not been answered by Count Cavour at that date. A reply has since been received, which, together with the original despatch, was yesterday laid on the table of the House. The hon. Member for Finsbury may think it very wrong on my part that I should endeavour to maintain the peace of Europe; but I do endeavour, as far as I can, to maintain peace, because I believe it to be of great importance not only to this country, but to the whole of Europe. I should, therefore, be very sorry to give any papers which would at all tend to disturb the peaceful relations of any of the Powers of Europe. As to the papers demanded I might content myself with saying that, as the hon. Gentleman has not shown that any useful purpose would be obtained by their production, it would be injurious to the public service to publish them. I will only add that the Correspondence which has passed arose in consequence of arms being sent from Genoa to Wallachia and Moldavia without any desire on the part of Prince Couza, and very much to the annoyance of the Sultan. Neither the Sultan's dominions nor the Principalities were in any way connected with Hungary. Now I have not desired to interfere in any way between Austria and Hungary. It is my wish that the Government of Austria and the Diet of Hungary may come to an agreement; that the promises of liberality which have been given by the Government of Austria may be amply fulfilled; and that the Hungarians on their side may find that such freedom of discussion and of the press and such guarantees for personal liberty may be given to them that they may continue to live under their present King. But that is merely a wish which I have formed. I have never interfered in any way whatever between the Emperor of Austria and the Diet of Hungary. It is for the Hungarians to consider whether their interests will be promoted and their rights secured by the Constitution which is offered by the Sove- reign. It is for them to say whether they will be content to enjoy their rights and liberties in conjunction with Austria; but far be it from me to control their desires in the least, or to throw any obstacle in the way of their establishing their independence. But it is a totally different thing to collect arms in a neighbouring country for the purpose of disturbing the dominions of the Emperor of Austria. However unreasonable the hon. Gentleman may deem it, when the Sultan found that his dominions were being made the rendezvous of a great number of exiles who entertained designs against Austria, and when the Emperor of Austria became aware that arms were being collected in that quarter for an attack upon his dominions, both those Sovereigns felt a great dislike to those operations. No one could find fault with them for that. No Sovereign is bound to foment or even to permit the fomentation of an insurrection in the dominions of another; on the contrary, he is bound to prevent it by every means in his power. Our only interference has been to state to Prince Couza, whose position mainly depends on the Treaty of 1856 and the Conventions which have been made accordingly, that it was his duty to the Sovereign to send away the arms. Prince Couza replied that it was contrary to his wishes, as it was, he believed, contrary to the interests of his people, that the arms had been introduced into the country; that he had no objection to send them away, but that he did not see how he could do so. At last Sir Henry Bulwer informed the Government in a despatch that he had been requested both by the Sultan and Prince Couza to take away the arms, we gave him permission to send the Banshee to bring back the arms to Constantinople on their way to Genoa. The hon. Member seemed to think that the Hungarians ought to be permitted to do whatever they pleased, not only in their own country, but in the dominions of any other neighbouring Sovereign. I do not think we ought to give them assistance in any such matter. With regard to these papers, I cannot consent to their production. It would not be convenient to the public service to do so. I should say, moreover, that really the Foreign Office is already overtaxed by the preparation of papers to be laid before this House. I constantly hear in the Foreign Office that almost everybody is employed upon the immense mass of papers already ordered. The production of these papers would do no good. They would be in- jurious to the public service, and I cannot consent to produce them.


said, he was quite aware that the Danubian Principalities did not, as the noble Lord said, belong to Hungary. But the Danubian Principalities did not object to these arms passing through them. They were seized at the mouth of the Danube and confiscated by Prince Couza, and thus prevented from passing into Hungary. No doubt they were intended for Hungary, whose people were arming against Austria, and there were only two roads by which they could receive them—one by the Adriatic and through Dalmatia, the other by the Danube. But England completely prevented ingress by way of Dalmatia, by keeping a strong fleet and strong fortress at Corfu; and the Danube we had blockaded as effectually by means of Sir Henry Bulwer. The noble Lord, in the ease of Hungary, was violating every principle of nonintervention as laid down in relation to the affairs of Italy. He had formerly stated that England must watch with a careful eye on the Adriatic; but no Court in Europe could find out what those interests were which the noble Lord had to watch there. The noble Lord, he understood, wanted Austria as a counterpoise to France; but if his policy were pursued for twelve months longer he would involve us in a war with France. What was he doing in regard to Hungary? He repeated it, he was violating every principle of nonintervention. The noble Lord said that his object was to maintain peace. He (Mr. T. Duncombe) firmly believed that if the policy of the noble Lord were pursued a twelvemonth longer he would involve them in a war with France. No party at present wished to go to war. Sardinia was not ready—Fiance was not ready; but let another year pass over—let the noble Lord carry out the policy of setting up Austria as a counterpoise to France—and nobody could say how long the alliance between England and France would last. What was his conduct in regard to Kossuth? He wrote to Sir James Hudson ordering him to keep a watchful eye on Kossuth. The noble Lord, when reminded of this on a former occasion, said he did not recollect having done so; but the matter was talked of openly at Turin. He wondered if the noble Lord recollected it now. [Lord JOHN RUSSELL: No, I do not.] The policy of the noble Lord with regard to Hungary and Kossuth was most contemptible. As to the notes Kossuth had proved that he never intended to use them for the purpose alleged; but, at the instigation of Austria, the Government had interfered, exposed the Messrs. Day to great expense, and, in all probability, to a certain extent damaged the trade of a very respectable lithographic establishment. The noble Lord said that Prince Couza did not know what to do with these arms, and, therefore, he volunteered to carry them back to Genoa in the Banshee. That was a direct interference. The noble Lord might refuse to produce these papers; but they would get most if not all of them by hook or by crook, as they had succeeded in getting those dated the 31st of August. The noble Lord, since his visit to Vienna, had shown a great predilection for Austria; but he could assure him twelve hours' misunderstanding with France would be worse than twelve months' misunderstanding with Austria. He should insist on the production of these papers, and if they were refused the English Parliament would be loft in the absurd position of having refused what would be granted elsewhere.


entirely differed from the view taken by the hon. Gentleman. He thought it much more in the interests of Europe that the policy of the noble Lord should tend more towards Austrian alliance than had yet been the case. As he read the papers on the Italian question he certainly did not discover that the noble Lord had shown any predilection to Austria. At the same time he thought, if papers were laid on the table, they should be so complete as to enable the House to form a clear understanding as to what the conduct of the Government had been, With respect to the Italian papers there had not yet been a full discussion. There was an important omission in the papers relating to the affairs of Naples. He had mentioned to the noble Lord that there had been an important omission—namely, of the despatch by which Mr. Elliot was instructed as to the conduct he was to hold in regard to General Garibaldi, written long before he entered Naples. The noble Lord admitted the importance of the despatch, but said it could not be given, the whole of the despatch having been sent by telegraph, and if it were produced the cypher of the Foreign Office would be discovered. The other night he asked for papers about the events that were happening at Warsaw. It was important that the Mouse should know what the Government thought of those events; but again the noble Lord said that he could not produce those despatches. The House were thus precluded from expressing an opinion on the conduct of the Government while the events were passing, and when they attempted to do so six months hence, when the papers were produced, they were told that it was too late.

The House divided: —Aves 33; Noes 119: Majority 86.