HL Deb 17 April 1815 vol 30 cc646-9
Marquis Wellesley

thought that it would be much more consistent with the dignity of that House, as well as with the magnitude and importance of the subject, that ministers, instead of waiting for questions from that side of the House, should come forward and present, for the satisfaction of their lordships, a general exposition of all the circumstances connected with the great transaction at Vienna, in which they had been so long engaged, together with the papers necessary to illustrate that transaction. He wished to know whether ministers intended to lay such an exposition before the House, and when it was likely to be brought forward, or whether they proposed to wait until the negociations in which they were engaged had terminated, or a treaty had been concluded? Such an exposition he thought highly desirable, in order that at such a crisis as the present, that House, the country, and the world might know what system ministers and the Allies had evinced a disposition to support—that before the British Parliament had concluded the dreadful pledge of war, it should be seen whether they were supporting the same principles for which the British nation had been struggling for twenty-five years, or for any other system—whether for a system of general justice and permanent peace, or for a system of gross injustice likely to lead to perpetual hostility; whether the arrangements in the contemplation of the Allies were calculated to put an end to the calamities which had so long afflicted mankind, or to produce still greater evils. On these grounds the noble lord thought that the exposition alluded to was due to the character and interest of our own Government, and to the common cause of the Allies.

The Earl of Liverpool

declared, that it was the anxious wish of his Majesty's ministers to lay before Parliament, as soon as circumstances permitted, a full exposition of their conduct in the great transaction alluded to by the noble marquis, whatever might be the result of that transaction. Two branches of that transaction, tie negociations respecting which were completed, had already been brought under the consideration of that House, and he assured their lordships that as soon as the other arrangements were definitively settled they would be submitted to the judgment of the Legislature. But until those arrangements were concluded, and pending a negociation, attended, especially at present, with embarrassing circumstances, he trusted their lordships must feel that he could not be authorized in entering into the question stated by the noble marquis—that he would not be warranted in presenting the House with partial views, or premature information. But when the case should be complete, be could declare for himself and his colleagues, that it would afford them the greatest satisfaction to lay the fullest information before the House, and he had no doubt of being able in due time to satisfy their lordships that his Majesty's Government had not supported any system inconsistent with justice, or with those principles which had been recognised, by the greatest statesmen this country had ever known.

Marquis Wellesley

said, that the noble earl had admitted the necessity of having a complete view of the whole arrangement before any one branch of it could be with advantage discussed, and before an accurate and just opinion could be formed respecting it: but then the whole was not completed, and he supposed he must wait for that period for which the noble earl professed to be so anxious, be fore he could expect any thing like a general view of the arrangements. The noble earl himself had, however, recognized the principle, that some points were so prominent that, they ought to be brought forward without delay. He had produced papers relative to one or two of the branches before the completion of the whole; and unquestionably some particulars were of such vast importance, and so loudly, demanded a prompt attention, that they must be considered an exception to the general rule. Admitting, then, the advantage of having the whole arrangements in their view before they attempted to form a decisive opinion on any one branch, he should be much disposed to wait till the conclusion, before he entered upon the discussion of any particular part, unless, indeed, the period should be so long protracted as to make it impossible to wait for that, of which it would be impossible to say when it might terminate: but at the same time exceptions must be made as to certain prominent points, and one of these points which demanded instant attention was the arrangements with respect to Saxony. It was due to the justice, the dignity, the honour of the country, that this should be brought under their lordships consideration. As the matter appeared at present, we had taken the judgment seat, and pronounced sentence upon the head of a venerable legitimate Sovereign of an ancient family, of whom, whatever might have been his errors, it might be said that few had adopted a more wise and beneficent system of government than he had done with regard to his own subjects. A cabinet minister acting for the Government bad been, sent out, and it appeared from certain information which had been received, that we had really taken the judgment-seat, and avowedly proceeded against a legitimate Sovereign on penal principles! But though we had thus taken the judgment-seat, even supposing it were to administer justice, it could not be said that it was to administer justice in mercy. This was a transaction which, for the honour of the nation, must not be allowed to rest any longer in silence. The attention of their lordships and the country must be called to it, and that without a moment's unnecessary delay. It was for these reason that he now wished to communicate his intention of submitting a proposition to their lordships on that head, at no distant period, when he should perhaps move to some further information connected with that particular point.

The Earl of Darnley

complained of the delay in producing the documents which the House bad ordered in compliance with his motion before the recess, with respect to our naval administration in the course of the American war.

Viscount Melville

justified the delay, by stating, that in order to comply with the noble earl's motion it became necessary to refer for information to our officers on Lake Ontario, and also to read overall the correspondence of the Admiralty for two or three years.

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