§ Earl Grey
rose, and spoke nearly as foliows:—
In times like these, my lords, marked by so many extraordinary transactions, fraught with so many vicissitudes, and replete with so many dangers, whose auspicious termination is, I trust, about to reestablish the tranquillity of Europe, even in this eventful period, it would not be possible to bring before your lordships a question of greater importance, one more intimately connected with all those principles of justice and honour which establish the security of nations, than that to which I now mean to solicit your lordships' attention. Every maxim of good policy—every maxim of political and moral justice, all those feelings which are imprinted on the hearts of men by the unerring hand of divine truth, before they are transferred into our public codes of legislation, all these must be deliberately considered by your lordships this night, ere you decide upon the fate of Norway, ere you determine her rights as a nation, ere you dispose of the destiny, perhaps the existence, of her people. And what people is it, whose fate you are thus to decide?—A people who have never done you any wrong, who have never injured any of your interests; a people who are known to you only by their virtuous character, by their meritorious services, by their interchange of good offices, by their extension of your commercial relations, and by their constant and unremitting discharge of all those duties which constitute the moral greatness and happiness of a nation.—I will not do your lordships the injustice to suppose that it is necessary to bespeak your patient and impartial attention to this subject, still less to suspect that you can be disinclined to the consideration of it at all. I shall proceed, therefore, to lay before you those views of it which I entertain, and which, if adopted by your lordships in your decision this night, may be sufficient ground to induce you to control 769 the executive government in what may appear contrary to sound policy, contrary to that which is essentially characteristic of all sound policy, justice, or which is incompatible with the honour and dignity of the British crown. There is one thing, however, which I wish to premise. It cannot be necessary to recal your lordship's attention to the treaty that was signed with Sweden last year, which was laid before your lordships, and which your lordships sanctioned, notwithstanding the opposition which was made to it by myself and some of my friends. It may be prejudice, it may be obstinacy, or it may be ignorance in me; but the opinion I then expressed I still remain in its fullest extent; I still think that British policy never sustained a deeper shock, the British character never received a deeper stain than in that transaction. I do not wish that you should retrace your steps, or recal a sanction, which, perhaps, it is no longer in your power to withhold—neither do I wish you to recommend any evasion of stipulations, or to escape any conditions, to the performance of which the good faith and honour of the country are pledged, however much it might be wished that such obligations had never been contracted. I know how weak my influence is in this House, and that whatever I may possess, little as it is, depends upon the credit, I trust, I have in it for sincerity and candour; but I will say, that there is no inducement on earth would urge me to persuade you to recede from objects which are stipulated and secured by the solemn guarantee of treaties. I am incapable of pleading for such a cause by any trick of argument, or any subtleties of distinction; and if it shall appear that under a fair construction of the Swedish Treaty, we have contracted an engagement of assisting by the co-operation of force in the reduction of Norway; if that can be shewn; if it can be shewn that the conditions agreed to, require us now to act, and that the measures taken to blockade Norway can be justified by honour and justice; then, my lords, I call upon you to reject the motion I propose to submit to you. But, on the contrary, if it shall appear that you have contracted no such engagement, that while your good faith remains free and untouched, the measures you are pursuing are in direct violation of natural honour, of social rights, and of political justice; why then, I hope I shall not plead in vain at a moment like the present, when all 770 these principles are acknowledged and respected in the great questions that are now under discussion, as affecting the whole of Europe.
The subjects which naturally present themselves for your lordships' consideration are,
First, Whether under a fair construction to the Treaty with Sweden such obligations can be urged as must be contended for to justify the measures that are now pursuing;
Secondly, Whether the obligations themselves are such as can be vindicated, according to the established principles of the law of nations, and the political rights of mankind;
Thirdly, Whether the king of Sweden, by the faithful performance of his part of the contract, was entitled to call upon us for the full discharge of our part of it; and;
Lastly, Whether the maxims of sound policy could justify such measures as are now pursuing with regard Norway.
The first of these is a question of construction merely, and here it will be necessary to refer to the Treaty of last year, to carry back our recollections to the period when it was framed, to the objects contemplated at the time, and to the explanations given of it by the framers themselves; that is, by his Majesty's ministers. It will be unnecessary to recal to your lordships the circumstances under which that Treaty was entered into. The invasion of Russia had taken place: an invasion which characterized, more than any other event I can remember, that system of violence and injustice pursued by the late government of France, and which had recently been so nobly revenged in the way that led to the present auspicious situation of public affairs of Europe. We acceded to the terms of a Treaty concluded between Russia and Sweden, by which we agreed provided Sweden performed certain conditions, not to oppose the annexation of Norway to Sweden, but to use our good offices in obtaining that annexation, and even to employ force for the purpose, if necessary. Upon what conditions, however, did the employment of force depend? Force was not to be employed unless the king of Denmark refused to join the northern alliance. If, therefore, by the co-operation of force we made the king of Denmark join the allied powers, then we accomplished all that we undertook, and every stipulation was thus fulfilled. This, 771 and this alone, was what we specifically undertook. As to what might be the subsequent condition of the people of Norway, it formed no part of our engagements; we did not guarantee the peaceable possession of the country by Sweden. I wish your lordships' attention to be particularly fixed upon this; because, in the Treaty between Sweden and Russia, the possession is guaranteed, while it is excepted and excluded in our Treaty with Sweden. It cannot, therefore, be contended, that we are bound to any such guarantee; and with regard to the mere construction of the Treaty, the case is clear and distinct. But I should be sorry to stop here: I should be sorry to rest upon any judgment of my own, when so much higher authorities are within my reach, and which amply support my construction. I have, I say, the authority of the framers of the Treaty themselves: his Majesty's ministers are my authorities. And here I beg leave, in the first place, to refer to a paper which, for reasons that I am unacquainted with, has not yet found its way to the public eye, in the usual course of such documents. In the Treaty signed with Denmark on the 14th of last January, I find, in the tenth article, the following declaration:—"Whereas his Danish majesty, in virtue of the Treaty of Peace this day concluded with the king of Sweden, has to his said majesty ceded Norway for a certain provided indemnity; his Britannic Majesty, who thus has seen his engagements contracted with Sweden in this respect fulfilled, promises, &c." Here is an acknowledgment on the part of those who framed the Treaty, that the cession of Norway by Denmark (I shall say a word or two presently upon its validity and execution) was a complete fulfilment on our part of the conditions which we had stipulated. But the question does not even rest here. I have referred your lordships to what passed last year, when the terms of the Swedish Treaty were discussed. It will be remembered that questions arose, and doubts were stated by myself and others, as to the extent of our engagements with regard to ensuring the peaceable possession of Norway and Guadaloupe; and it was answered, that no guarantee of their peaceable possession was either expressed or implied. In another place, my lords, I have also, in support of my argument, the authority of that particular minister (lord Castlereagh) whose peculiar duty it is to watch over 772 our foreign relations, and whose authority, if there can be any difference of weight between the authority of one minister and another, is most entitled to prevail. He, in reply to some questions that were asked, expressed his surprise in the first place, that any one could be so unacquainted with the nature of public treaties, as to imagine that any guarantee could be contracted which was not expressed; and in the second, declared, that no guarantee was contracted with Sweden for the peaceable possession of Norway. Why, then, if this be correct, and from the manner of the noble lord opposite he seems to assent to it, I call upon you, my lords, to declare whether the cession of Norway to Sweden was not the only object in view, and not the securing its peaceable possession. I do say, therefore, that I think a plainer case upon the construction of a treaty never existed, and that we are fettered by no such obligation as that by which the blockade of Norway is now defended.—The employment of force, as I have already shewn, was made to depend upon the performance or non-performance of certain things by Denmark; and even if force were resorted to, it was to be used with every possible regard to the comfort and feelings of the inhabitants of Norway!—At what a moment, too, are we now called upon to co-operate with Sweden in forcing the Norwegians to submission? After Denmark has acceded to the northern alliance; when her troops have marched in support of the common cause; and when she has not only ceded Norway, as far as she could cede it, but has fulfilled that condition upon the refusal of which the co-operation of force was distinctly made to depend. Upon the question of construction, therefore, if it rested upon that ground only, I think a clearer case is made out than was ever submitted to parliament. But there are other grounds. When there is any thing ambiguous, nothing is more obvious, than that where two meanings are contended for, the one lawful and the other not, we are bound in any case, and especially in a doubtful case, to do that which is lawful. But when we come to consider a question of right, and whether this is an obligation which we did or can contract, I maintain that it is fundamentally void, as contrary to the most acknowledged principles of law and justice. I speak in the hearing of lawyers, who are not unused to subtleties of distinction, nor to these evasions 773 which they so often defeat; and I ask them, whether any individual, seeking the fulfilment of a contract depending upon an unlawful obligation, would be listened to in a court of justice? He would be told, and justly told, that his loss was his own fault; the consequence of his own dishonesty, in attempting to evade those moral ties which are binding upon every man of honour. This would be the language of the law, with regard to individuals; and, my lords, amongst nations, though there is no such superior tribunal to appeal to, yet the principles are the same in the one case and the other, whether between individuals or between states. No matter to what degree the impunity of power may silence the claims of right, its nature cannot be altered; it is equally sacred, equally important, and is equally to be recognised in every attempt to protect the weak against the strong. Let us examine now, what are the rights of kings in relation to their subjects. If the question stood upon that single foundation, the common advantages and the common consent of the people, if it were limited by that condition which imposes the mutual obligation of allegiance and protection, it would be easily decided. The rights of the sovereign over his subjects are not the rights of property; they do not confer the privilege of transferring them from one owner to another, like cattle attached to the soil. If this were all we had to consider, I, in speaking to a British House of Parliament, speaking in the nineteenth century, and at an era like the present, should only need to state the principle, and obtain its sanction by universal acclamation. His Majesty sits on the throne in virtue of the recognition of this fundamental principle; we stand here, and enjoy freedom of speech, upon its basis, that a prince using his power to the injury of his people, or, in the words of our ancestors, having been guilty of violating the original compact between the sovereign and the people, forfeits his right to the crown. If James, instead of invading the rights and liberties of the subject in the way he did, had meditated the monstrous scheme of transferring the people of this country to the jurisdiction and possession of a foreign power, would that have been considered a less crime against the general rights of mankind, or a less infringement upon that compact by which kings reign and subjects obey?
The king of Denmark, his lordship 774 contended, had no right to alienate, the sovereignty of Norway without the consent of the people. He might withdraw himself from their protection, he might absolve them from their allegiance to him, but he had no right to transfer that allegiance to any other state; it became then the right of the people to decide to whom their allegiance should be given. Was it necessary for him to quote authorities in support of this doctrine, which was upheld by the first principles of natural right and justice? If, however, authorities in support of so plain and clear a principle were to be considered requisite, the best writers upon public law were undoubtedly on that side. His lordship here read passages from Grotius, Puffendorff, and Vattel, all clearly maintaining the doctrine, that the sovereign of a state could not transfer the allegiance of the people; that he might, in case of necessity, withdraw his garrisons from their towns, and give up all claim to their obedience; but that it then rested with the people to determine to whom they would submit. It might, perhaps, be suggested on the other side, that there was a difference between a sovereignty and a patrimony. Nothing, however, could be found in these writers to render this question at all clear; and the notes on Grotius shewed its absurdity, by stating the reasoning in a circle, which was alone applied to it, namely, that a patrimony was a state or dependency which might be transferred, although an integral state could not. Upon this point, however, there could be no doubt with regard to Norway, that the king of Denmark was the sovereign, and not the proprietor, and therefore had no right to transfer the allegiance of the people. Norway, in the earlier period of its history, was, like England, divided into many petty states; which were subsequently all united under the dominion of Harold Harfage. Much division afterwards arose in consequence of the claims of his numerous family. They were at length united with Denmark, under Canute the Great. Subsequently Norway belonged sometimes to Sweden and sometimes to Denmark, with intervals of independence; but ultimately, about the year 1360, was united to the latter by the marriage of the king of Norway to the heiress of Denmark. It was, however, only united under one sovereignty, the states of Norway being an independent legislature, as the parliament of Ireland was before the Union of that kingdom to 775 Great Britain. Norway was, therefore, an integrally independent state. Instances of transfers of territory were noticed in the writers whom he had quoted, such as Franche Comte and Lorrain, and fiefs in Germany; but in none of them was there any instance given of the transfer of an integrally independent state without the consent of the people. Cases might also be mentioned of the transfer of colonies and dependencies, such as Martinique and Guadaloupe; but none of these had any bearing whatever upon the question, nor in these instances had any opposition been made by the people transferred. He trusted, however, that no argument of this kind, which referred merely to colonies, and dependencies, would be brought forward as an endeavour to justify the attempt to transfer the allegiance of the whole people of an independent state, without their consent, an attempt made in contradiction to the established maxims of public law, and the first principles of right and justice. To try the effect, as to public opinion, of attempting to force the people of Norway to submit, they need only look back to an event within the recollection of many of their lordships, the subjugation of Corsica by France: who was there that thought of justifying the conduct of France towards Corsica? who was there that dreamed of stigmatizing the opposition of the people of Corsica to the unjust pretensions of France, as rebellious? And was it to be supposed, that an attempt to compel by force the people of Norway to submit to the domination of a foreigner would not be viewed by all mankind with feelings of detestation? In what light was the project of Edward the first, upon Scotland, and the means he took to carry it into execution, viewed by impartial posterity, and justly stigmatized by the historian; means which bore a strong resemblance to those recently used with regard to Spain. Edward having got into his power Baliol, the claimant to the Scottish crown, forced him to sign an absolute renunciation of all his claims; and then endeavoured to compel, by force of arms, the people of Scotland to submit to his sway? Who was there that now stigmatized Wallace as a traitor for defending his country against the unjust pretensions of Edward? who was there that did not consider the execution of that hero as a foul stain upon the character of the great captain of his age, which obscured all the glories of his reign? 776Scots, wha ha'e with Wallace bled,Scots, whom Bruce has often led,Welcome to your gory bed,Or to victory!Who was there that heard these lines who did not feel his heart beat high with the fervour of patriotism, who did not feel his muscles dilate with sensations of extasy at the patriotic sentiments manifested by a whole people in defence of their independence? The same spirit was displayed by the Scottish barons in their Declaration. The same principle was also acknowledged by the French king, when the Pope declared this kingdom forfeited, and transferred it to him; who stated, that it could not be transferred without the consent of the barons of England. When the cession likewise of some parts of France was made by Richard 2, the people resisted it, upon the ground that there existed no right to transfer their allegiance. Every thing, therefore, clearly proved the principle, that no sovereign possessed a right to transfer the allegiance of the people over whom he ruled—a principle distinctly understood and distinctly recognised—a principle founded in natural right and justice, and supported as such by every writer of any authority upon public law. The king of Denmark had done all that we were by treaty bound to assist in compelling him to do, namely, to cede the kingdom of Norway; to transfer the allegiance of the people was beyond his power—was what he had no right to do, and what therefore no country had any right to interfere to bring about by compulsion, where no legal power existed to make the demand.
He now came to the third part of his subject, the assistance furnished by Sweden to the common cause, in pursuance of treaty; and had the papers he moved for contained the information which the House had a right to expect, he believed he should have been able to have proved, as plainly as the other parts of the subject, that Sweden had not fulfilled the obligations she had contracted by treaty, and therefore had no right to call upon this country to fulfil hers.—The papers, however, laid upon the table did not afford the requisite information: they were vague, and, with all respect to the quarter from whence they came, he must say they did not give a correct statement. A paper from the Foreign-office, dated May 6, stated, that by a dispatch from Edward Thornton, esq. his Majesty's envoy to 777 Sweden, dated the preceding June, it appeared that 30,095 Swedish troops were employed on the continent of Europe, with some other detachments, and including the landsturm of Pomerania; and no other information was given. It had been said, that those who attempted imposition should have good memories; and it seemed that those who produced this paper had forgotten a paper which was laid upon the table last session, dated in June, and in which it was stated by the latest advices if appeared, that 28,000 Swedish troops had landed at Stralsund. By the continent of Europe could only be meant the theatre of war in Germany, and not their being landed at Stralsund. Had the Foreign-office no information upon a subject upon which, of all others, they ought to have been informed, particularly as he observed that two payments of the subsidy, of 100,000l. and 150,000l. had been made, in March and June last; or did they intend to deceive the House and the country?
Has the Foreign-office had no information respecting the number of Swedish troops actually in the field to co-operate with the allies? Has Sweden ever fulfilled the contract to which she was pledged by her treaty with this country? Have sir Charles Stewart and Mr. Thornton ever stated in their dispatches the non-performance of that contract? Has Sweden ever acted with effect in aid of the common cause? I should wish to have that gallant veteran, general Blucher, examined before your lordships upon this subject. Even after the battle of Bautzen, when the cause of Europe appeared to have been lost, when, in effect, if it were not for the extravagance and folly of the individual whose power was now no more, the object of the allies might have been defeated, Sweden had not a man in the field, or in progress to the field, although her treaty with this country, in which she engaged to supply her contingent, was signed in the preceding month of March. Nay, so late as the battle of Leipsic, I ask, whether sir Charles Stewart did not communicate to ministers, that the Crown Prince of Sweden had failed in executing the engagements of his government? and I will ask still further, what has the Crown Prince done since the battle of Leipsic? Has he made a single movement favourable to the main object of the allies? Did the Prince move to support the allies in their attack upon France?—No. When 778 it was stated last year, as an objection to the treaty with Sweden, that the promise respecting Norway was likely to defeat the object of that treaty, from the probable disposition of Sweden to give its solicitude for Norway a priority to the common view of the allies, ministers entirely discarded any such apprehension. But what has been the result—why, that the Crown Prince, instead of joining the allies against the common enemy, directed his first attacks against Denmark, with a view to the possession of Norway. In January last Denmark agreed, by treaty, to cede Norway to Sweden; and what then—why that while, in the months of February and March, rivers of blood were flowing in France, the Crown Prince moved not a single soldier to act with the allies. Not a movement indeed was made by that Prince in conjunction with the allies, until the 16th of April, when he thought proper to visit Paris. Here the noble earl read an article from a paper published at Liege, which had, he said, all the character of a demi-official document. In this article it was stated, that every body was surprised at the inactivity of the Crown Prince while the allies were pressing upon France; but that the fact was, this Prince had not been equitably treated, by the allies having declined, notwithstanding his solicitation as a member of the confederacy, to admit a Swedish minister at the Congress of Chatillon; and the Hanseatic Legion, which was promised to act under the direction of this Prince, having been transferred to the command of general Bulow. For what reason then, said the noble lord, was this legion, if the statement be true, transferred to general Bulow, if the Crown Prince were not suspected of an indisposition to employ the force under his orders in support of the common cause of the allies? But whether this statement were right or wrong, and it could not at the time be safely published in a Liege Journal without some authority; the fact is, that the Swedish army remained inactive—that it took no part whatever with the allies until the object of the war was attained, when the Crown Prince proceeded to Paris to enjoy a participation of the triumph. This prince then having so failed in the performance of his engagements by treaty with this country, can the British government be called upon to perform its part of the treaty, and especially a part of so odious a nature as involves the use of 779 force to reduce an independent and gallant people to submit to a foreign state—a part, the fulfilment of which is, as I have shewn, contrary to all the established principles of public law, of acknowledged morality, of common justice, and natural right? I call upon ministers to explain the motives of their conduct. I stand upon the strong ground of justice. I have established the position as firmly as any moral reasoning can be reduced to the precision of mathematical certainty, that we have no right to force the Norwegians to submit to Sweden. I think also I have demonstrated to the satisfaction of every candid mind, that Sweden has failed in her engagements to this country; and that, having so failed, she is not entitled to call upon our government to perform its part of the treaty in which those engagements were concluded. I have shewn that the performance of our part of this treaty in the way proposed, and now acted upon, is contrary to justice and morality; but I maintain facther, that it is equally contrary to every principle of true policy. Upon the discussion of the Swedish Treaty last year, it was argued, that it was politic to increase the strength of our ally, Sweden, by the annexation of Norway; while the grant of some German possessions to Denmark was the best mode of inducing her to feel a common interest with the allies, and of course with us. But that argument could now have no material weight, while the increase of the strength of Sweden could not be deemed wise, with any view to permanent policy. For under every consideration of probability, Sweden will still incline to France. She is still jealous of Russia; of that power with which, as it has always been my opinion, and as recent events must have clearly demonstrated, it is the peculiar interest of this country to cultivate a friendly and intimate connection. Is it then wise to strengthen the power of Sweden? For notwithstanding all that has recently occurred—notwithstanding the restoration of the ancient dynasty, which, no doubt, under all the circumstances, holds out a fair prospect of long repose and amity with France, yet he must be a very sanguine politician who calculates that the old rivalship and jealousy of France with respect to this country are likely to expire. Indeed, if I am rightly informed, measures are in progress which threaten the increase and inflammation of that national jealousy. At these measures I think it proper only 780 to hint for the present. I do not, indeed, feel it necessary to be distinct upon the subject; but I would advise ministers to avoid every measure likely to irritate the feelings of the people of France, and to endeavour by all the means in their power to reconcile that people to their government, as the best mode of preventing or mitigating national antipathy, of promoting harmony, and prolonging peace. In a word, I should recommend a studious abstinence from any proceeding at all likely to produce a feeling of national humiliation on the part of the French, or that should seem in the slightest degree to resemble the dictation of conquest. The best way of settling Europe, and securing peace, is to settle France—to guard against disturbance or discontent in that country. But whatever arrangements may be made in France, I should, with a view to the permanent policy of this country, deprecate the annexation of Norway to Sweden. Therefore, if we had to enter into the discussion of this question de novo, I should oppose the policy of ministers. I should indeed rather see Norway an independent kingdom, as the Norwegians themselves desire, than have it annexed to Sweden, or even restored to Denmark; for from the resources which Norway possesses, especially for the supply of our navy, her independence might be rendered of peculiar advantage to this country; particularly when these resources were cultivated by that spirit which must naturally result from the enjoyment of freedom and independence. Therefore policy, as well as justice and right, serve to fortify the conclusion I maintain; namely, that ministers should advise the Prince Regent immediately to withdraw the order for the blockade of Norway, and interpose his influence in favour of the just claims of the Norwegian people.
I now come to a point which is separate from the argument, upon the policy of the question respecting the annexation of Norway to Sweden, It has been stated, that Denmark has not acted bona fide in the execution of her treaty for the cession of Norway—that the Danish government has fomented or countenanced the resistance of the Norwegians; and that that resistance is not the act of the Norwegian people generally, but the work of a mere faction. But before your lordships would give any credit to such a serious charge against the Danish government, you would naturally require some proof. I have to 781 state, that if such a charge be repeated in this House, I am instructed distinctly to deny that any Danish troops assisted, of ever have assisted, the insurrection of the Norwegian people. All the garrisons of Norway are and always have been defended by Norwegian soldiers; and those soldiers, abandoning their allegiance to the Danish government, have assisted the glorious efforts which the people of Norway are so nobly making to preserve their independence, to save their country from the dominion of a foreign state, against which they entertain a strong aversion. Then, as to the assertion that the insurrection in Norway is the work of a mere faction—if that assertion be true, the blockade ordered by our government is not only unjust, but unnecessary. For Russia and Sweden might easily contrive to put down such a faction, without that blockade. Either this assertion is true or false—either the insurrection is the work of a faction or of the people—if the one, the blockade is unnecessary; if the other, such an employment of our force is, as I have shewn, contrary to every principle of public law, and degrading, as I contend, to the character of the country. But if, as it has been asserted, Denmark were really guilty of a dereliction of its engagements to Sweden—if she has violated her treaty, hostility should be directed against her, rather than against Norway. If Denmark be deemed criminal for not withdrawing the garrisons of Norway, the former is more properly the object of attack than the latter. In every point of view indeed, the attack upon the Norwegians, on our part at least, is not only unjust but unnecessary. But, to strengthen the charge against Denmark, it is urged, that the king whom the Norwegian people have appointed is presumptive heir to the crown of Denmark—and what proof does this fact afford of the co-operation of the Danish government in the insurrection of the Norwegian people? Norway is the better half of the Danish dominions—better, far better indeed in extent and means of defence, and nearly half in population. Prince Christian therefore took his choice; and were I in his situation, I should certainly make the same election—but how does the act of Prince Christian implicate the Danish government?
It is said by the advocates for the policy of ministers, and with some air of triumph too, that very important advantages have 782 been promised to the Norwegian people, if they would submit to be transferred to the dominion of Sweden. I have seen, no doubt, a proclamation upon this subject; containing many promises; but how and when this proclamation was circulated, it is unnecessary to observe. I shall, however, observe, that similarly flattering promises were made by France to Corsica; but were they ever performed? Still the proclamation of the Swedish government was accompanied by a demand that the Norwegians should submit; or if not, that force would be employed to compel their submission. Therefore, no alternative was left to these people, while promises of liberty were made, backed by the threat of a military force. But even admitting these promises were made in perfect good faith, is it to be argued, that any country shall be obliged to accept what a foreign state thinks proper to consider as happiness? No sort of tyranny can, in my judgment, be conceived more complete, than that a government should undertake to choose and force a people to submit to that system which such government may regard as happy, although the people might think quite the contrary. Upon the authority, however, of the agent for Norway, now in this country, who is, in my opinion, eminently entitled to peculiar respect and regard, I can undertake to state, that the Norwegian neither is nor has been a despotic government; but on the contrary, that, although nominally despotic, the people have always enjoyed the utmost practical happiness, and that of course the people of Norway would—rather bear the ills they haveThan fly to others that they know not of.But, I repeat, that rather, infinitely rather, than have Norway transferred to Sweden, I should wish to see it erected into an independent state. Therefore, I maintain, that whatever terms or promises may be held out to the Norwegians by the Swedish government, I should deprecate the hostility waged against Norway, because the feeling of the people of Norway is decidedly adverse to the connection.
I have quoted many cases to your lordships from the highest authorities on record; but I will now quote one case which must be immediately present to your memory, and which is quite analogous to this question, I mean the case of Spain; in the delivery of which country from the yoke of a foreign state, our army 783 was so gloriously triumphant. Ferdinand the 7th ceded his government and crown to Buonaparté; and if it was the right of Ferdinand to make the cession, it was equally the right of Denmark to cede Norway. Yet the Spanish people resisted the cession, and we seconded that resistance—although this country had at a remote period asserted the right of Baliol to surrender the Scottish throne to Edward 1st, which is a precedent, however, I should think not likely to be quoted upon the present occasion. The "universal Spanish nation," as it was denominated, rushed into insurrection against the act of its monarch, and we, I repeat, supported the right of that people. If it be stated, that Ferdinand yielded to the compulsion of circumstances, I will ask, whether any circumstances of compulsion existed to extort from Denmark the surrender of Norway, and whether the same principle which justified an interposition in favour of the Spanish people does not equally call for interposition in favour of the people of Norway—or whether we could consistently maintain that principle with respect to Spain, and suddenly turn round and abandon it with respect to Denmark?
We have been told, that a negociation has been instituted with respect to Norway; but if it were said that this negociation left any opening for an arrangement agreeable to the will of the Norwegian people, I should instantly withdraw my motion. Understanding, however, that it leaves no alternative to this gallant people, but submission to a power which it detests, and that force is employed to compel that submission, I feel it my duty to persevere. I feel it a duty which I owe to humanity to rescue it from outrage—I feel it a duty which I owe to my country, and to your lordships, not to allow its character and yours to be stained by an acquiescence in that outrage. The agent for Norway, to whom I have before alluded, glowing with the enthusiasm which fills the hearts of his brave countrymen, and who still hopes that ministers may be induced to shrink from the inglorious undertaking of subjugating his country by force, has called upon me to make the case of Norway known to your lordships, to the British nation, and to Europe. I have therefore thought it my duty to bring forward the motion with which I mean to conclude; and as to the capability of the Norwegians to resist foreign domination, and especially Sweden, let your lordships 784 judge from their conduct in the days of Gustavus Adolphus and Charles the 12th. I do besides feel a lively interest in favour of a nation struggling so valiantly as the Norwegians continue to do, in support of their rights and privileges; and it will be consistent with the honour and character of this country, and your lordships, to manifest a similar feeling. If it be said, that the tendency of my motion would be to engage this country in a war with Russia and Sweden, still I should say, that, whatever result might follow, I would ask my country, for the sake of its credit and character, for the sake of justice and humanity, to co-operate in the honourable and glorious cause of Norway.
The noble lord concluded with moving, "That an humble address be presented to his royal highness the Prince Regent, humbly to request that his Royal Highness would be graciously pleased to interpose his mediation to rescue the unoffending people of Norway from the dreadful alternative of famine, or of subjugation to the yoke of a foreign and hostile power; and that during the discussion of such proposals as his Royal Highness may be advised to make for this most desirable object, all hostile operations on the part of this country, against a people struggling for the sacred right of national independence, may be discontinued." The motion having been read,
§ The Earl of Harrowby
said, that as he felt all times considerable difficulty in addressing their lordships, that difficulty was greatly increased, from his being obliged to oppose the noble earl who had last addressed their lordships, in a speech replete with all the considerations that could affect mankind, dressed in the most glowing eloquence, and supported by all the advantages which could arise from the most extensive review of the subject. But if their lordships would not permit themselves to be dazzled by the brilliancy of eloquence, or confounded by the light of antiquarian research, but would admit a little practical common sense into the discussion, he hoped he should be able to persuade them to reject the proposition which had been submitted to their judgment by the noble earl. He (lord H.) should, in the consideration of the important subject before the House, take as the first that topic which the noble earl had taken in that order, viz. the construction of the Treaty of this government with Sweden. The noble earl (Grey) had contended, 785 that after having procured the nominal cession of Norway to the Swedish crown, we had performed all which by treaty we were bound to perform, and that our present efforts were gratuitous. The contrary, however, he trusted he should be able to persuade the House, was the true construction; for what was the intention of the parties at the time of contracting the Treaty? It was the desire of this country, at a time when the co-operation of Sweden was most essential to the interests of Europe, to obtain the assistance of that power against the common enemy; and to that end we engaged to put Sweden in possession of Norway; which being in the possession of a hostile state, rendered it insecure for Sweden to withdraw from its own territories its military force. Our intentions, therefore, were such, that even if the words had not been so binding as they actually were, there would be no doubt but that we should bona fide be held to secure to Sweden the possession of the country in question. In the Treaty between the emperor of Russia and king of Sweden, the former power pledged itself to the latter that it would, by negociation or by military co-operation, procure for the crown of Sweden the possession of Norway. The crown of Great Britain, also, pledged itself to effect the same object, either by its good offices with Denmark, or by its naval co-operation. It was certainly provided, that we should not attempt to employ force without making fair offers to Denmark to induce it to accede to the general confederacy. He (lord H.) therefore, contended, that unless in the nature of the Treaty there was something which rendered it null and void, or in the conduct of the other contracting party, something which should absolve us from our engagements, we ought not to stop short at the nominal cession. He was unwilling to detain their lordships longer on this subject, because it appeared to him as plain as any proposition possibly could be, that this was the true construction. But there was another circumstance adduced by the noble earl (Grey), that Russia had guaranteed the possession of Norway to Sweden, and that we had not guaranteed it; whence he concluded, that it was merely the cession by treaty that we undertook to procure. But why did we not guarantee the possession? Because it had been a part of the wise policy of this country, which had been adhered to in this as in every other case, that we 786 should avoid guaranteeing the perpetual possession of any country. As to the justice of the Treaty in question, the noble earl (Grey) had quoted several grave authorities, which he (lord H.) much rejoiced were not now, as they had at one time been, disregarded, as he considered them most important landmarks in the wide field of politics; but though these writers were good judges of political property, yet they could not be held to possess that infallibility which even good Catholics denied to the supreme pontiff, whose dictates were not supposed to be infallible, unless they were consistent with the consent and practice of the universal church. If, however, these writers were unanimous, it would be a great stretch of presumption in an individual to oppose their decision; but there was certainly great difference among the writers on the law of nations on this subject; some asserting that a patrimonial sovereignty could not be conveyed by its sovereign, while Grotius maintained that any sovereignty might be alienated by him to whom it clearly belonged. The noble earl (Grey) had quoted an author of great weight (Vattel), to prove that a kingdom could not be alienated without the consent of its inhabitants; yet that same author states, that if any town or province be wrested by arms from its sovereign, it had no cause to complain. There was another author for whom their lordships would have a great respect—he meant Dr. Paley, whose opinion on this subject might not be useless. He said, that the law of nations depended on the fact of its being established—no matter when or by whom. Looking, therefore, at those treaties by which long wars had been concluded, as the practical exposition of the law of nations, we should find, that on many occasions had cessions been made of whole states. By the treaty of Westphalia, and by that of Utrecht, as well as by that of Amiens, which terminated the late war, cessions of whole countries had been made. This last treaty had been considered as unjust, by several lords who were then present; but among the great men, of all parties—among all those who inculpated that treaty, there was no one found who thought it unjust merely because it ceded countries; though some thought it unjust because it ceded countries which had been guaranteed by former conventions. Among the countries ceded at different times by these treaties, were 787 the small states of Italy, Sicily (certainly as much an independent state as Norway), Naples, and the Low Countries: indeed, almost every state, except the great countries of Europe, had at times been transferred from one power to another. If the proposition of the noble earl (Grey) were adopted, what would become of the saying of the great lord Chatham—that he would conquer Germany in America? If it were denied that Sweden could justly conquer Norway in Holstein, the saying of that great man would be founded on gross injustice. No sovereign, he would allow, could cede the whole of his dominions; but when sorely pressed in war by a foreign power, he might, for the salvation of the remainder, cede a part of his territories; the inhabitants of which were then bound to submit peaceably, for the general good of the whole state. To bring this proposition to the test of all public law, general utility, how would it be found to stand? Unless this proposition were adopted, it would be found that there could be no alteration in the state of Europe without the complete conquest of some state. If it were necessary to obtain the consent of the people in order to authorise the cession of any state, what would be the consequence? A power might find itself in possession of a province belonging to another state, which it would willingly relinquish for some other portion of territory, which its enemy would be willing to cede; but yet this arrangement, however wished for by both parties, could not be carried into effect, because it was impossible that the power which was willing to cede could secure the consent of the inhabitants of the territory which it wished to deliver over. By reason of this state of things, it would be necessary for the conquering power to resort to means for disarming the inhabitants, and every species of tyranny, because their submission could never be calculated on. No such thing as a treaty of peace could exist; all things must remain at the end of the war as they were at the beginning, or one of the contending countries must have been completely subdued by and incorporated with the other. Rather than admit the confusion to which such a rule of action would necessarily lead, he was disposed to admit the general rule,—subject certainly to many exceptions,—that every part of a sovereignty, ought to hold itself bound, if ceded by its legal government, quietly to submit to 788 the government of the power to which it was ceded; and that every part of a state should consider itself liable to be ceded at any time for the general welfare of the state. In the same manner, for the safety and happiness of the whole community was the welfare and liberty of individuals restrained and impaired. He would ask the noble earl (Grey) whether there could really be any parallel between the cases of Norway and that of Spain? If that noble earl thought the two cases were parallel, there was some such radical difference between the mind of that noble earl and his own, that he (lord H.) despaired of making any of his arguments comprehensible to the noble earl. Was there no differences between the cession of the whole of a sovereign's dominions and the cession of a part for the good of the whole? Was there no difference between cession produced by personal compulsion, and cession necessitated by the danger of the state? When a sovereign yielded a part of his dominions through personal compulsion, he had no will of his own, whereas in the other case the monarch acted deliberately for the good of the nation. Was there no dissimilarity in the cases, in one of which the whole Spanish nation was driven to resist the oppression of the French government; and that of Norway, which had been ceded by the Danish government, and was thus delivered from an arbitrary power to a free government, with all the blessings offered to it which a free constitution could bestow? With respect to the performance of the Treaty on the part of Sweden, he did not see that this power could be pronounced to have neglected its stipulations with regard to its contingent of troops. Much attention should be paid to the dates on this occasion; and it would then be seen, that on the 26th of June; it was known in this country, that 28,000 Swedish troops had landed at Stralsund; whence it was possible, nay, extremely probable, that by the 26th of June 30,000 men were actually at that place. It had been said, that we should have had constantly an officer accompanying the Swedish army, to ascertain whether their numbers were always fully kept up—whether such would have been a good stipulation to have been introduced into the Treaty, he should not pretend to determine, nor was it for their lordships then to debate; but there certainly was no such stipulation in the Treaty; so that it could not be contended, 789 that this agreement was vitiated because we had no officer present to ascertain whether at all times the losses occasioned by engagements and other causes were with due diligence repaired. The noble earl (Grey) felt a strong disposition to render null the Treaty, because he was not certain that the exact numbers were always kept up. If such anxiety to find flaws in the Treaty with Sweden had been manifested at a time when it might have deprived us of the co-operation of that power, the event of the present war might not have been so happy for all Europe. It was sufficient for us to know that if an adequate diversion had not been created in the rear of the formidable French army in Russia, by the landing of the Prince Royal at Stralsund, instead of entering thus coolly into the minutiae of our engagements with Sweden, their lordships might now have been deliberating how to maintain our shores safe from foreign invasion. It was proposed by the noble earl, that the course taken by the Prince Royal, after the battle of Leipsic, was not conductive to the interests of the allied cause; but supposing the course then adopted, in concert with the Allies, not to have been the best military measure possible, was it on account of a doubtful military measure that we were to depart from a bona fide agreement? As to the policy of the Treaty, it was very wisely held, at the time of its conclusion, to be our best policy to increase and strengthen the few states which, like ourselves, were insular and independent. Why was this policy now supposed questionable, but because, from our having pursued it with success, events had been brought about which had surpassed out most sanguine expectations? It was not justifiable in us to disregard those treaties from which such incalculable benefits had been derived, but to pursue the straight forward path which had already led us from danger to safety. The Norwegians had no claims on our forbearance; they had never; during the struggle for the deliverance of Europe, called on us to allow them to be independent of Denmark, but had assisted to the utmost that power in its co-operation with the tyrant who then governed France and oppressed Europe. Was it to be considered, that a province, which its government was not able to protect, became safe when that government deserted it? Was a state to be considered as a polypus, whose head or tail, severed from it, became an 790 entire being? There were facts rather suspicious attending the declaration of the Norwegians; the heir presumptive to the crown of Denmark went from Copenhagen to Norway, and was declared sovereign of Norway. The terms also on which Sweden was willing to receive the Norwegians under its government, were sedulously concealed from them. But even if the people of Norway were in some degree sacrificed, considering our engagements with the crown of Sweden, and that this was the only sacrifice to the general liberty of Europe, while liberty was secured to the Norwegians by the prince to whom they were ceded, and guaranteed by one of the most powerful nations of Europe, he trusted their lordships would not think it consistent with the best policy, with honour, and with justice, to interrupt the executive government in the proceedings which it had adopted in pursuance of our national engagements.
§ Lord Grenville
.—My lords; on several farmer occasions when this subject has been noticed in parliament, I refrained from interposing any advice of my own, because we were told that discussions regarding Norway were still depending. I confess, when I heard that statement, it gave me considerable pleasure, because I did flatter myself that such discussions on the part of this country, and in the present posture of affairs, would be directed to one object only, and that that object would be conformable to the general sentiment and wish of the nation. I did flatter myself that ministers would take some steps to prevent, not to promote, the accomplishment of that horrible injustice by which an unoffending and independent people were to be bent to the dominion of a foreign power, which during a long course of years has been the unrelenting, unforgiving, and unremitting enemy of Norway. So strong and so deeply rooted is the national antipathy known to be, that the continued rivalry of Great Britain and France, of Spain and Portugal, or of any powerful nation seeking to oppress and subjugate its weaker neighbour, cannot for a moment be compared to the interminable inveteracy existing between the natives of Sweden and Norway. In ancient and in modern times it has been not only the policy, but the boast and pride of this country, that she has protected Norway against the repeated aggressions that Sweden made against her independence.
791 Feeling, therefore, that this was the character of the question, and seeing what no man could avoid seeing, who had eyes to see, I did trust that ministers had advised the Prince Regent to confirm the good opinion that the public indulged, and to perform an act not less glorious than the most splendid achievements and resolutions of the allies for the consummation of national independence throughout Europe. How miserably was I disappointed, when I found by the silence of the noble lords opposite (more eloquent than any language they could have employed), that the endeavours we were using in the way of discussion were not to produce general tranquillity by kind conciliation, but to produce submission by blockade and famine. When such is the situation of the unfortunate people of Norway, and when this dreadful act of injustice is the first use made of the influence Great Britain has acquired, I should, indeed, think myself criminal if I did not attempt to recal your attention to the old established and true principles of national law, in opposition to the newfangled doctrine of utility, or in other words, the subversion of all moral principle, the abandonment, or, at best, the discretional exercise, of every moral duty. I cannot forget the unchangeable principles of public liberty; and on their authority I am ready to meet any noble friend front to front, and to contend, that if he wishes to justify France in her innumerable acts of aggression for the last twenty years; if he is desirous to throw a screen over the atrocities which have drawn upon her the hatred of surrounding nations, until, with one consent, they rose, and God be thanked successfully, to resist her aggressions and to punish her crimes, it would be by adopting the principle of utility and expediency, the tyrant's plea, on which all his usurpations have been founded. On the contrary, if you wish to consolidate and unite the interests of the continent, to give effect to the signal interpositions of Providence; if you wish to restore Europe to a state of political tranquillity (for more we cannot hope to perform); if you are willing to revive the blessings of old times, you must restore them by reverting to old principles, and by the unqualified rejection of this newfangled code, which sweeps down all the revered distinctions between right and wrong, which depends upon the worst of all modern doctrines, and which leads us 792 to build our own principles of morality, not on the immutable and solid basis of justice and rectitude, but upon speculative notions, of what will or will not prove ultimately beneficial. After the able speech delivered by my noble friend (Grey) I little expected that the objections raised on the other side would be rested upon the principle of plain political common sense, and setting at defiance all the ordinary and prevalent feelings of mankind: the feelings and the impressions of the whole country are and must be against them. I had imagined that the argument of the noble earl (Harrowby) would have been established upon some nice doctrine—some abstruse question; and not that he would be reduced, at last, to the necessity of opposing common sense to what, in reality, is the common sense of the whole world. It is, however, necessary for him not only to contemn all solid principles of right, but he must combat and destroy the authority of the phalanx of writers upon the laws of nations: although he could not avoid admitting, in the outset of his attack, that upon their decisions depended the best securities for the observance and preservation of right in human society. It therefore comes to a question, whether we shall abide by those impressions that are implanted in our nature, and which render it impossible that we should hear of great injustice without great indignation, seconded as they are by the doctrines of men of indubitable learning and authority, sanctioned by the long general practice and deliberate adoption of the civilized world, without partial and peculiar views and interests; or whether it be wiser for us to resort to speculative theories of doubtful good, if a certain and grievous act of injustice might ultimately produce some remote and contingent advantage. As to the criticism of the noble earl upon Grotius, if he will take the trouble to read his work again, he will find that the author was only embarrassed by the dicta of former writers; and he will discover, that when Grotius examines the subject in detail, he excludes every case of patrimonial governments: the fair conclusion to be drawn from it is therefore this, that there is no such thing as a patrimonial government; that there are solid and established principles of government in every state on which the rights of the governors depend, upon which their acts must be founded and decided, and to which all who wish to live 793 in the hearts of their subjects, and in the grateful remembrance of posterity, must conform. I say, therefore, that we are justified in going the full extent, even of the commentators upon Grotius, in contending, that the sovereign has no colour of right to alienate his sovereignty, neither of the whole nor of any portion of his subjects: men are not, in these times, to be transferred like beasts belonging to an estate; and if the governor thinks fit to renounce, and to absolve them from their allegiance, they have a right to consider whether it be or be not to their advantage to pass under the new dominion, or to adhere to that under which they were born, and to resist the transfer.
Lord Grenville went on further to enforce this point, and to reply to lord Harrowby's argument, that the war would have been interminable if this cession had not been made. He also drew an important distinction between the cession of a country already conquered and occupied by an enemy, and the grant of the territory of a free and uninfluenced population. He insisted that no man could approve the Partition Treaty of Spain, who was not prepared also to defend the Partition Treaty of Poland. It was true, as had been argued by the other side, that there were few cases of resistance to a treaty of cession; but the obvious reason was, because it rarely happened that the victims were capable of defence. He trusted devoutly, that this noble and generous struggle would be effectual: and that the Norwegians would defeat not only the efforts of Sweden, but of Great Britain. It was a gross misrepresentation to argue, that the cession of Norway was to be compared to the grant of a mere province or town; and since the noble earl (Harrowby) had admitted that the sovereign had no power, according to the law of nations, to cede the whole, he admitted enough to destroy his own argument; for the fact was, that Norway was the whole, and by ceding it, Frederic 6 had yielded no part of the kingdom of Denmark: he was king of Norway as a distinct and separate inheritance and title; and he had no more right to give up Norway for the benefit of Denmark than the king of England had to give up England for the benefit of Hanover. The object therefore of ministers was, to compel the king of Denmark to do an act which the law of nations forbade. His lordship then proceded:—But it seems that the avowed object of this unauthorised 794 proceeding is, to produce advantage to the natives of Norway; they were to be removed from the dominion of a despotic prince, to the enjoyment of the blessings of a generous prince and of a free constitution. As the first proof of these blessings, they were required to lay down their arms: they are to be disarmed, and then to be called a free nation, without the means of defence, and to have happiness forced upon them without the means of enjoying it. It is a specious pretence to entrap them into submission, and then to deprive them of the means of resistance. I would ask my noble friend (Harrowby), who has uniformly opposed every aggression of France upon the happiness of nations, what single people did she ever conquer, without first promising to them the benefits of a happier condition, and the enjoyment of a free constitution, which France was to confer? It is not therefore wonderful that this fresh example, coming from the same school, should have been framed on the same model; but it is to me surprising, that the British government should lend its aid in forcing upon the people of Norway the government of a people they detest, under the delusive protest and promise of giving them a free constitution which they do not want; for be it remembered, that it is not of their seeking. [Lord Harrowby said, "Yes, it is."] I say that it is not of their seeking: the noble earl says "Yes;" but every single fact contradicts him. I repeat, that it has been imposed upon them, it will be forced upon them by the arms of Sweden; or if she have not the power (I blush to name it), the glorious navy of Great Britain is to be employed to reduce a brave and noble people by the extremities of famine. Is this the navy that during the last 20 years has been engaged in supporting the rights and liberties of mankind? Is this the navy that has shed its blood to rescue the distressed from the cruel rod of tyranny? My lords, I have often looked back to the history of my country in remoter times, with delight, when I have seen her engaged in mighty works of national benevolence; but in reviewing the transactions of late years, my heart has swelled with conscious pride when I have beheld her armies almost uniformly enlisted on the side of justice and humanity; but what a contrast does the event now under review present to our minds, when we see England, with the same army and navy that once protected 795 liberty, now enforcing slavery—while her ministers are contending, that to do injustice is to confer benefits, and that to destroy freedom is to promote happiness! His lordship then went on to object to the security offered to Norway, as well as to the pretended boon; and to express his abhorrence of the guarantee of what was called a free constitution by a foreign nation, thus imposing upon the people of Norway a double slavery; first from their own rulers, and next from those who pretended to secure their liberty: he termed, this expedient hateful and degrading, and ridiculed the idea of conquering a nation for its own good: he compared this argument with that employed upon the question of the Slave Trade; where it was contended that the people of Africa, instead of complaining of their miseries; ought to be thankful to us for relieving them; and that to trepan the natives, to crowd them into slave-ships, and to chain them to their toil in the West Indies, was actually the promotion of their felicity. Such assertions, and the fallacy of them, shewed the folly of not allowing nations to be the best judges of what would contribute to their own happiness. He adverted to the cautious mode in which lord Harrowby had argued this subject; omitting all reply to the many important and pointed questions put by lord Grey; particularly to that, whether the Crown Prince had performed his part of the Treaty which had been concluded between this country and Sweden. The universal opinion of Europe was, that he had grossly failed in his duty, retiring from France with his troops after the battle of Leipsic, when his assistance in completing the destruction of the enemy would have been most valuable. The Treaty with Denmark had been framed for the express purpose of allowing the Swedish army to proceed to immediate action, and yet the effect had been directly the reverse of what had been intended. The paper published at Liege on the 19th April decided, that it was no question of military expediency that had detained the Crown Prince; and many circumstances concurred to prove that the observations respecting jealousies were pure invention. So much were ministers dissatisfied with the dilatoriness of the Swedes, that the troops in our own pay, that had been placed under, the orders of Bernadotte, were withdrawn. The silence of the other side of the House upon this point was unaccountable, excepting in 796 one way. He noticed a singular omission on the part of Earl Harrowby, of the important words contained in the Danish Treaty, which stipulated, "that recourse should not be had to force." The resistance of Norway however, had never been contemplated, the opposition of Demark being only in view at the time the document was framed. His lordship then proceeded in the following terms:—
The act of injustice of which we complain, is nothing less than, de novo, to place this kingdom in a state of war with Norway. You have signed a peace with Denmark; and you acknowledge by your minister, that that country has fulfilled all the conditions of the Treaty. The necessary consequence is, that one of three things must be admitted by noble lords opposite; either, first, that Norway is a part of the kingdom of Denmark; or, secondly, that it is independent of the kingdom of Denmark; or that it is a dominion now de jure, under, the crown of Sweden; and in either and all of these cases, ministers are about to commit, and have committed, the most flagrant act of cruelty and injustice. If Norway be a part of the kingdom of Denmark, you have made peace with her! If it be a separate and independent state, what has it done to be reduced by you to famine? If it be a dominion de jure under the crown of Sweden, what pretence have you for interfering and assisting that kingdom in the subduing of its rebellious subjects? I confess I should think that at any time, and under any circumstances, the considerations that have to-night been enforced, would be sufficient to induce the government of this country to take those measures which assuredly best become the rank it holds and the influence it possesses: I mean, that Great Britain should interpose her good offices to prevent, by mediation, the subjugation and sufferings of a brave and generous people from tyranny and famine. Such ought to be her conduct under any circumstances; but in the present state of Europe, let me ask, whether the strongest inducements are not held out, not only to withdraw ourselves from the iniquitous league in which we are now involved against a free and independent country, but to stand forward by every means in our power, short of the exertion of the full strength, to prevent the accomplishment of this most unjust and cruel purpose. Of policy I feel ashamed to speak, because this question ought to be decided upon the 797 great and broad principles of right and wrong; but if I could for a moment exclude them from my view, and for get that there is such a thing as fundamental public law, I should say that policy, as well as the practice of this country for centuries, would shew that our interest required the maintenance of a balance in the North. In former times, how often our fleets were engaged in this design, and what we sacrificed to it, the noble earl will find by numerous volumes in his office; but now we come tardy, repentant, and declare that we have acted upon impolitic principles—that we ought not to look for a supply of naval stores from two, but from only one of the northern powers; and that power necessarily leagued with France, to defend herself from the overbearing weight of the Russian empire. On all these grounds, first of justice, right, and the law of nations, and lastly, even upon political considerations, I feel myself called upon to support any measure that, stopping for a short period the rapid tide of events, would afford a breathing time to enable ministers to reflect upon the consequences of the step they are now taking; and to pause before they employ the British flag to cover projects so disgraceful, which excite the disgust and abhorrence of ninety nine hundredths of the natives of the civilized world.
The Earl of Liverpool
said, the question which they were discussing might be considered in two lights—the one, the way in which it had been argued by the noble earl and noble baron opposite. First, how far the cession of Norway by Denmark to Sweden, was agreeable to the law of nations; and next, how far we were justified by the Treaty which we had entered into the Sweden, in assisting that power to obtain possession of Norway. The other ground which he should occupy was more narrow, but in his opinion fully sufficient, even admitting the force of the general arguments employed by the noble lords, to bear him out in his opposition to the motion; namely, how the question stood on the special circumstances of the case. Even if all the general principles laid down by the noble lords were to be admitted as true, he would still contend, that there were special circumstances in this case to which these principles were not applicable. Before, however, he came to say anything on the subject of the general principles on which the noble lords insisted, he would first explain the state of 798 facts respecting the circumstances under which the cession of Norway was made. At an early part of the last campaign a great part of the Swedish and Russian troops were employed against the king of Denmark. Holstein was conquered by that army, Gluckstadt came into its possession, and Jutland lay entirely open to invasion. The king of Denmark, for the purpose of saying the remaining part of his dominions, and of recovering the possession of Holstein and Gluckstadt, thought proper to make a cession of Norway. What did Sweden do on this occasion? The good faith of that power was conspicuous—it gave up Gluckstadt and Holstein, and it made payment of a sum of money which it was bound by the Treaty to pay. He mentioned these facts to let them see how the case actually stood between Sweden and the allies, and Denmark. Sweden had already de facto made the sacrifice which she was called on to make to Denmark as the price of the cession. The principal foundation on which the doctrine maintained by the noble lords rested, was, that though a country might cede a part of its dominions to another power, it was optional with that part so ceded, whether or not it would receive its new master. On this subject he wished to call the attention of their lordships to what had been already stated by his noble friend, that not merely in one, but in every treaty of peace which had been concluded in Europe for a long time back, the principle was universally acted on, that a country had a right to cede a part of its dominions for the safety of the remainder, and that this cession was good and binding both on the party ceding, and the party ceded. He admitted that there were many cases where a country had a right not to receive its new master. No sovereign could cede to another rights which he did not possess himself. No sovereign had a right to cede a part of his dominions without an adequate necessity. And a cession might be made under circumstances which might justify resistance on the part the ceded country. But with all these limitations be could not believe, that the principle which had been acted on in every treaty, could with any justice be called in question. It could not be said that the king of Denmark in this case ceded any rights which he himself did not possess. The king of Denmark was perhaps the only absolute sovereign, by law, at present in Europe. 799 Any person who knew any thing of the transactions of 1660, when the whole power was ceded to the king of Denmark by the nation without controul, must allow, that, excepting perhaps the empire of Russia, Denmark was the only state of Europe in the government of which there was no principle of limitation. There could be no doubt then as to the power and the right to cede. And with respect to the necessity for the cession, there could also be no doubt that a larger and more valuable part of the state was preserved which had been conquered than the part ceded; for with the exception of the island of Zealand, the whole of the Danish dominions were either conquered by or lay open to the enemy. As far as respected revenue and resources of every description, the part which was in possession of the enemy was fully as valuable as the part which was ceded. In revenue it was certainly more valuable. It had been stated by his noble friend, that there never perhaps was a case of a cession in which the power to which the cession was made had offered so much. An offer had been made to the people of Norway to allow them either to be governed by the existing laws, or to be incorporated with the constitution of Sweden. If the principle of cession was applicable under any circumstances, it was in the present, and there never was a case which could be considered less in the light of a grievance than the particular one under consideration. But it was said, the people of Norway had not chosen to accept the offer of Sweden. They wished rather to be under their present despotic government, than live under the government which had made them so liberal an offer. Much had been said by the noble lords of the virtues of the people of Norway. He was perfectly willing to join in the praises which had been bestowed on the character of that nation. But when the noble lords spoke as they did of the people of Norway, it seemed as if they supposed that war was now made on Denmark for the first time, and that we had received no injury from that power. Norway, as a part of the dominions of Denmark, had been at war with us for a period of eight years, In that war, Norway had done us ten times more mischief than all the rest of the Danish dominions; not from any particular enmity on the part of the inhabitants of that country, but from the withholding naval supplies, and from the number 800 of harbours which gave them a power of molesting out trade. After submitting to a certain dominion, and making common cause with that dominion during the whole of the war, had Norway a right now to erect itself into an independent kingdom, for the purpose of preventing the allies from receiving a compensation for the conquests made by them from the state to which it belonged? When the noble lords talked of the nation declaring itself independent, to the injury of the general arrangement, he wished to put them in mind, that such a declaration of independence ought to have been the free, clear, and spontaneous will of the nation itself, and not to have been encouraged and created by foreign influence and foreign intrigue. He denied, in the present case, that they had a right to make such an assumption, as that this declaration was the free act of the nation. Some time before the end of the war, the king of Denmark sent the presumptive heir of his throne, with full powers, into Norway, as regent of that country. After the cession of Norway every condition entered into by Sweden had been fulfilled.—Had Denmark done her part? Had the forces of Norway been put into the power of Sweden, in terms of the treaty?—No; Prince Christian, the presumptive heir of Denmark, immediately proclaimed Norway an independent country, calling himself still presumptive heir of Denmark, and Prince Regent of Norway. If the court of Copenhagen was privy to this, it was acting with the greatest duplicity and falsehood. If it was not privy, this was an act of usurpation on the part of Prince Christian. He had merely a delegated authority, and yet he ventured to resist every command of his sovereign. But this was not the act of one individual alone. There were a number of Danes at present in Norway: persons who had no property in that country, or business in it, except as agents to the king of Denmark, for the purpose of stimulating the Norwegians to this act. This person had no right to issue such a proclamation. Would it not have been in the power of the king to have called a diet, to see whether the inhabitants of the country were or were not willing to agree to the cession? But what was done in this case?—A proclamation was first issued, and then a diet was called to regulate the internal government. He knew, in point of fact, that every means had been resorted to for the purpose of deluding the 801 Norwegians—that they had been kept in the dark—that the proclamation of the king of Sweden had been suppressed by the government—and that the inhabitants were led to believe that the people of England were favourable to them. Prince Christian declared to the diet, that he was sure of the assistance of the British government; with these facts—the employment of foreign agents, the suppression of facts, and the unfounded communications, would any person pretend to say that this could be compared to a generalizing of a people? The noble lords had taken it for granted that the general sense of the people of Norway was averse to Sweden; but he could say, that there were parts of Norway of considerable extent perfectly willing to agree to the connection. The noble lord who spoke first in the debate compared this case to that of Spain and Portugal. But he contended there was no analogy between them. In the case of Spain, it was not a cession made to save any par of the dominions, or in a period of war, but in profound peace. In every part of the case it was different. Spain was not at war with France, but in a state of profound peace, and the vilest treachery was employed in the accomplishment of the measure. The cession was made by the king, not in his own country, but when he was a prisoner in a foreign country, and when he was subjected to treats and menaces. The king of Denmark was an absolute monarch, but the kingdom of Spain was not an absolute power; and upon a former well-known occasion, when a new dynasty was introduced, it was found necessary to call a meeting of the Cortes of the kingdom. With respect to the manner in which Sweden had executed her part of the Treaty with this country, he had only to say, that we had been most amply paid by the services received by the common cause from that power, for the money expended for the sake of these services. The noble lords seemed altogether to have forgotten the proclamation of the French ruler; they seemed to have forgotten the operations which preceded the battle of Leipsic; they seemed to have forgotten the part acted by the Swedish troops at the battle of Leipsic. But then, it was said, the Swedish troops directed to Holstein, when they ought to have been marched into France. It might be a question how far it was advisable to send the Swedish troops to Holstein; but we had 802 no right to complain now of that measure, because it was taken with the consent and good will of the Allies. The emperor of Russia put also under the Prince Royal of Sweden a considerable part of his forces upon this occasion. Why were Holstein and Gluckstadt not in possession of the Swedes at this moment? Because the Prince Royal gave them up, to be nearer the scene of action. The noble earl had alluded to a certain paragraph in a newspaper, which he stated to have been published under the influence of the Prince Royal. It would not be expected that on a subject like this he would venture to make any explanation on the present occasion. That there might not have been differences among the members of this confederacy, he was not prepared to assert. But he would be glad to know when there had ever been an extensive confederacy in which differences of opinion did not exist; but there never, perhaps, were so few as in the present. And why were there so few? Because there never was such a disposition to bear with little evils, differences, and inconveniences, rather than lose the main object; and with this great view they resolved to sacrifice every thing subordinate. A good deal had been said of the impolicy of strengthening Sweden, a power which in the course of time would again be connected with France. But if the measure of the Swedish alliance was advisable in the circumstances under which it was entered into, he was certain that their lordships would not wish to abandon the alliance now, to refuse to perform our part of the stipulations, even if it should no longer be advantageous for us. But the case of Sweden was new much a great alteration in the policy of that country. On the whole, he would conclude with again observing, that Denmark, had made peace by ceding one of her provinces—that that province had resisted the cession—and he wished their lordships, therefore, to arm the executive government with such power as would enable them, in fulfilment of the stipulations of the Treaty with Sweden to Bring this matter to an adjustment.
wished to call the attention of their lordships to the motion before them; which was, for an Address merely to suspend an act of the last extremity of war, while a negociation was 803 pending. The defence of the noble lord amounted to this: we by our Treaty have put you into this dilemma, which will attach a stain on you in all time coming. You must either do this, or you must break your faith to the party with whom you entered into the Treaty. With respect to the expression in the Treaty, that recourse was not to be had to force, except Denmark refused to accede to the alliance—what was to be understood by it? Had Denmark refused to accede? No! Then we were not called upon to co-operate with Sweden against Denmark. The Treaty said, that recourse was not to be had to force if Denmark acceded to the alliance; but it did not say that if Denmark pleased to cede Norway, that then recourse was to be had to force. The noble lord had insinuated, that it was not Norway that was resisting the cession, but that every thing took place under the cover of Denmark. Then they ought to advise the Prince Regent to declare war against Denmark. This might be a reason for making war against Denmark, but was no reason for declaring war against Norway as an independent country, unless we had guaranteed to the Swedes the quiet possession of that country. The noble lord had proclaimed the numerous advantages which the common cause had derived from Sweden; but he had not said, that it performed the strict words of the Treaty. When Sweden called on us to fulfil our part of the Treaty, we ought in turn to answer—we will do you a great deal of good too, but not in the way of the Treaty—we will not assist in the subjugation of an independent people to your dominions.—If, continued his lordship, either the letter of the Treaty did not compel us to proceed in the most odious acts of hostility against Norway; or, secondly, if the principles of that Treaty had been proved, as he trusted this night they had, to be contrary to the public law of Europe; or, thirdly, if the conditions of the Treaty had not been fulfilled by Sweden; if any of these cases had been made out to the satisfaction of their lordships, he thought they must vote for the Resolution of his friend. Nothing but the absolute necessity of the case, or the strict letter of our engagements, could possibly induce us to fulfil such a Treaty as this, which, by the acknowledgement even of noble lords who defended it, was contrary to the common sense and feelings of mankind, and was, at the same time, in direct 804 violation of the established principles and practice of all civilized nations. The noble lord, who spoke last, had stated only one thing which seemed to him to have a shadow of argument. It was, that Norway, who had made war against this country as a province and a dependency of Denmark, had no right to set herself up as an independent power to evade the conditions of the Treaty which had been concluded between the Allies. He would not enter into the grounds on which the war had been all along carried on between this country and Denmark, nor would he speak of the opinion which he himself had occasionally entertained of the justice of those grounds: but he supposed it would be argued (and it ought certainly to be so argued), that we had carried on a defensive war:—was it then right, was it our duty to ingraft on a defensive war, a war merely of offence, a war of the most wanton and justifiable interference, and accompanied with every extremity of suffering by which war could be aggravated? He wished to impress on the minds of those who heard him, that the motion of his noble friend went not to break the Treaty, but merely to suspend its execution while the negociations were still pending, or till some other amicable arrangement could be made, or till the real sentiments of the people of Norway could be fully ascertained. But the noble earl (Liverpool) resisted any such delay or inquiry; because, he says, the people of Norway are not actually averse to the change, except in consequence of the artifices which have been used, and the misrepresentations which have been made to them. Oh, but then the noble earl will state the grounds and justice of the case more clearly to them—he will make out a most clear and convincing case by invasion, by famine, by the infliction of all the miseries and horrors of war, and by the imposition of a hateful foreign yoke. Oh, no; we are again told it was no such thing; but they were to exchange their old despotic government for a free constitution. He conceived that nothing could be more correct than what had been stated by his noble friend to-night; that he could form no idea of a free constitution established at the point of the bayonet, by a foreign force, by menaces and terror. Ministers were indeed indignant at the parallel drawn between Spain and Norway. No doubt, there was a difference in many particular circumstances; but 805 they agreed, and were strictly the same in that great leading point, of a foreign government imposed upon a whole people against its will, and in spite of the most determined resistance. 'Tis for free constitutions; the parallel held here too; for a free constitution was promised to Spain by the articles signed by Buonaparté at Bayonne. For his own part, he thought that all these civil ceremonious professions of kindness and good will were only adding hypocrisy and farce to insult and injury. He would rather that all such acts should be done at once by downright force, and without any plea or pretext of right. But it was insisted on, that one great motive for the transfer of Norway to Sweden was, to deliver her from a despotic government. That is to say, the Emperor of Russia and the Crown Prince of Sweden (of whom he always wished to speak respectfully as our Allies), had such a horror of despotic power, that they could not resist the humane inclination they felt to relieve the poor people of Norway from the political slavery under which they groaned. The same argument was resorted to in the case of Poland, and in the case of Spain. It reminded him of a story which he had heard of a great man at the head of what was called the Coalition Administration. This noble person had many applications made to him for different lucrative offices in his disposal: but the several candidates asked for them, some for one reason, some for another, but none of them for the sake of the salary. So none of those who invaded the independence of states, or did things the most shocking to the feelings of mankind, ever did them but for the good of those on whom they inflicted their noxious benefits. Norway, it seems, however, had been an enemy to this country, and had done us considerable injury. Be it so. But in the view of political expediency alone he would appeal to any individual in that House, whether it was not manifest and indisputable, that Sweden was and must always remain the natural ally of France, and whether it was prudent in us to throw this additional weight of maritime power into the scale against ourselves. But Finland, says the noble lord, is no longer a part of Sweden, and that makes an entire difference in the case. He (lord Holland) knew that Finland no longer made a part of the dominions of Sweden, and he would only suggest, that if a little conversation were to take place on the manner in 806 which Finland had been ceded to Russia, it might afford a means of making some equitable compensations, and getting out of our present difficulties. He understood the noble earl (Harrowby) to say, that if he had no other alternative between the doctrines, either that the people had no right in any case to resist the transfer of their allegiance, or that the sovereign had no right to cede his dominions to a foreign power, he would prefer the former. This appeared to him an extraordinary proposition indeed; for it went to this, that the right of sovereignty was vested solely in the governors, and that the people had no right or interest whatever in the government to which they owed their allegiance. The noble lord concluded with ridiculing the distinction which had been set up between guaranteeing the possession of Norway to Sweden, and guaranteeing her free constitution; and with observing, that when the hangman's office, the devil's business, was to be undertaken, the odium unfortunately developed upon us.
§ Lord Boringdon
felt himself called upon to vote against the resolution; as it appeared to him, under existing circumstances, impossible to adopt any course but that which had been pursued by his Majesty's government. This he proceeded to shew from the words of the Treaty, the original copy of which he compared with the translation. The present, he contended, was no time for entering into the policy or impolicy of the Swedish Treaty. That had formerly been submitted to parliament, and received their sanction. The cession of Norway by Denmark was perfectly consistent with public law, as they found it laid down by Vattel. However he might adopt the feelings of the noble earl who had brought forward this motion, and concurring as he did with many of the principles which he had laid down, he could not, under all the circumstances, agree to vote for the Address.
§ Earl Grey
expressed his astonishment at the arguments used by the noble lord who had just spoken, and who, having admitted that the act itself, abstractedly considered, was indefensible, contended, that it was justified by the circumstances of the case! Such a doctrine had never before been held in a British parliament. "Fiat justitia, ruat cœlum," was an old saying and quotation; but the noble lord reversed it, 807 and his maxim was—"Consult your interest, ruat justitiam." The noble earl opposite had intimated, that the conduct of Norway had been instigated by Denmark. From all he (lord Grey) had heard of the character of the existing king of Denmark, he did not believe this to be the case. The fact was, that Prince Christian Frederick, the heir apparent of the crowns of Denmark and Norway, had been sent to Norway to organize the government; and that on the abandonment of Norway by Denmark, he, in virtue of his right as heir apparent, had assumed the regal functions. Norway was a distinct kingdom, and could no more with justice be conveyed over, as it had recently been done, than could Ireland or Scotland, or Hungary or Bohemia. Suppose, in the course of the disastrous events which had occured in the late war, France had required that we should cede Ireland, would such a cession have been considered justifiable? On what ground could the interference of Great Britain in the present case be defended? Either the people of Norway were generally disposed to be annexed to Sweden, or they were not. If they were so generally disposed, surely the power of Sweden, aided by Russia, would be sufficient to give to that disposition the means of effectually manifesting itself, without our co-operation. If they were not so generally disposed, what could be more base or oppressive than the compulsion attempted? It was insinuated, that the knowledge of the "liberal constitution," as it was termed, had been cautiously prevented from publication among the Norwegians. If so, let the troops be withdrawn, the blockade raised, and a deputation sent to state the fact; and if the result should be a declaration on the part of the Norwegians of their disposition to unite with Sweden, he should be perfectly satisfied. He regretted that the noble earl had not stated whether Sweden had fulfilled all the provisions of her Treaty. It was indispensible to know this; because if she had not done so, neither were we bound to fulfil the obnoxious stipulations of our Treaty with her. For his part, it appeared to him very evident, that she had not performed her undertaking; and more particularly, that since the rupture of the armistice, Sweden had done nothing whatever in furtherance of the common object. He concluded by conjuring their lordships to rescue the country from the odium to which the conduct pursuing towards Norway was subjecting it.
The Earl of Liverpool
, in explanation, declared, that in his estimation Sweden had fulfilled all the provisions of the Treaty which she had concluded with the allied powers; and denied that he had imputed bad faith to the king of Denmark. What he had said was, either that Denmark had interfered to induce Norway (notwithstanding the cession) to resist her annexation to Sweden; or, to which opinion he was much more strongly inclined, that the assumption of the government of Norway was an act of gross usurpation on the part of Prince Christian Frederic.
§ The House divided on the motion.
§ Contents 27, Proxies 7–34; Non-Contents 86, Proxies 29–115; Majority 81.
§ The following Protest was entered on the Journals:
§ "Because we consider the attempt to subjugate Norway to the crown of Sweden as a manifest violation of the sacred rights of national independence; and we cannot reconcile ourselves to combat in this case the same principles, in defence of which his Majesty and his allies have, in the case of the other nations of Europe, so gloriously and successfully contended. Because it was contended in debate, and to our apprehension not sufficiently answered, that even if such an engagement could be considered as lawful, the conditions of our Treaty with Sweden had no view to the resistance of the people of Norway to the proposed cession of their country by Denmark, and did not bind us by any obligation of good faith to assist in reducing by force that unoffending and independent people. Because we cannot see, without the deepest regret, the employment of the British flag to inflict upon a people, whose friendship it is the natural policy of this country to cherish and cultivate, the dreadful calamities of famine, for the purpose of enforcing so odious and unjustifiable a project a project.
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