HL Deb 20 April 1815 vol 30 cc701-4
Earl Grey

rose and observed, that it was the practice of Parliament, during the pendency of all foreign negociations, to leave their management, and direction in the hands of the Executive Government, subject of course to that responsibility on the part of the ministers of the Crown which belonged to the exercise of all discretionary power. But that prudent reserve on the part of Parliament was, he said, to be regulated by circumstances; and when cases of great importance occurred, in which the justice, the good faith, and the honour of the country were involved, it then became the duty of Parliament to interfere. Such, he suspected, the case of Genoa would prove, respecting which a noble friend of his, whom he did not then see in his place, had given notice of a motion; such also the transactions relating to Saxony appeared to be, concerning which another noble friend had declared his intention of submitting a motion, though he had not fixed the day; in both those cases he believed that all the admitted principles of policy, all the principles of justice, all the maxims of right upon which the security of nations rested, had been more grossly violated than in any transactions of modern times. There was a third case likewise, in which it appeared that the national character and the national interests had been no better asserted by those in whose hands the government was now placed. What he alluded to was our relations with the present Sovereign of Naples. When he acceded to the general confederacy during the last campaign, the Treaty which he concluded with the Emperor of Austria, the Emperor of Russia, and the King of Prussia, was sanctioned by our minister abroad, and to the fulfilment of the provisions of that Treaty the national faith and honour were distinctly pledged. Since that period, however, documents had appeared in the public papers which had not been dented, and which, if true, exceeded every thing of treachery and fraud which he had yet witnessed in that new diplomatic school of which the noble Secretary of State might be considered as the founder. Whether it was owing to those causes he knew not; but it was generally believed that hostilities had commenced in Italy, more serious in their extent, and more dangerous in their probable consequences, than seemed to be generally apprehended. The question was of the utmost importance, whether considered in reference to a state of war or a state of peace; if of war, so material a diversion must operate very prejudicially against the general power and efficiency of that confederacy, in whose united exertions the best hopes of this country and of Europe would rest; if of peace (which to the last moment he should cherish the hope of preserving), how much must our reliance upon its continuance be strengthened by maintaining relations of amity with the King of Naples? He did not think it was saying too much (if such a war really existed), to affirm that it was extremely doubtful whether France or England, whatever might be their disposition for peace, could remain neutral in such a contest. He asked their lordships then, whether they would desist any longer from demanding further information? He had not interfered with the proceedings of Congress, while they were in progress; but he was not sure whether, in so abstaining, he had not neglected his duty. The time he thought was now come when ministers ought to inform that House what was the slate of our foreign relations with the kingdom of Naples. For that purpose he had risen and he should sit down in the anxious hope, that the noble lord would remove those fears which he (earl Grey) felt at this new state of affairs; or if he could not do that, at least that he would be able to remove all imputations from the national faith.

The Earl of Liverpool

said, that the present moment was not the fit occasion for entering into a discussion of the questions touched upon by the noble lord. One of those questions—that which related to Genoa—would soon be brought before their lordships; the other (Saxony) would also be submitted to their notice at an early period; and on both these occasions he should be prepared to explain distinctly what the principles were upon which this Government had acted, and those which had been professed by the other Powers at Congress, when their lordships would be enabled to determine on which side the charge of a new system of policy could be fairly fixed. With regard to Naples, it was true, as had been stated by the noble lord, that a treaty had been concluded between Austria and the Sovereign de facto of that kingdom, during the last campaign; and in consequence of which the commander in chief of our forces in Italy entered into a convention of armistice with that power. No fact, however, had been stated of any violation of that convention so entered into; and as to what might have been the particular circumstances which influenced the subsequent conduct of this Government towards Naples, it was not now the time for entering into them; but whenever the period arrived, he should be prepared to communicate the fullest information, and trusted he should be able to satisfy the House, whatever opinion they might entertain of the conduct of Government upon other grounds, that there did not exist the slightest imputation upon the good faith of the country.

Earl Grey

said, that as it appeared to be uncertain when that day of promised explanation would arrive, and as the case was one so pressing and important, he felt that it would be a dereliction of his duty if he did not bring it before their lordships as early as possible. The noble lord had alluded to the engagements between this country and Naples, as if they consisted merely in a convention for the suspension of hostilities, and which convention had not been violated; but he (earl Grey) would undertake to show that the negociations were not to be looked at merely in that point of view, but that the treaty to which the noble secretary acceded, though not as a subscribing party, was one to which the good faith and honour of this country were as much pledged for its execution, as if he had actually been a subscribing party. The treaty in fact was modified and altered at his suggestion. The whole case was of so flagrant and base a nature, that no explanations of the documents which had been published could do away the impression they had excited in his mind. He should therefore bring the matter under there lordships notice on Monday se'nnight, when he would move that an Address be presented to the Prince Regent, praying for further information, &c.

Their lordships were ordered to be summoned for that day.

Marquis Wellesley fixed to-morrow se'nnight for his motion relative to Saxony.