asked the noble Earl (Grey) whether it would be convenient to him that he should bring forward his Motion respecting Portugal now?
proceeded.—The subject, he said, which he had to bring under the consideration of their Lordships was, in his opinion, one of great importance, as it had reference to one of the oldest allies of this country. In bringing it forward he could not conceal from their Lordships, that he was also actuated by feelings of strong regard for a country in which he had passed a considerable portion of his life; and he owned he could not view without indignation a measure which he considered as treating Portugal with injustice and contempt. It might be said, that there were no parliamentary grounds for the Motion which he was about to submit, as it could have reference only to what passed in another place. He wished in the outset to meet this objection, and he did so, by resting, as a parliamentary ground, on the notoriety of the circumstances to which he referred. On many occasions, references had been made to the notoriety of circumstances, as the ground of a motion, and he need not go further back-than the last Session, when a noble and learned Lord brought forward a motion on the distress of the country, on the notoriety of that distress. It was, he thought, therefore, a sufficient ground for troubling their Lordships on the subject of our commercial relations with Portugal, that a noble Lord, holding a high situation in the Government, had intimated his intention to alter those commercial relations. This then, was matter of public notoriety; and although he had heard it argued the other evening, that the mere proposal of new taxes did not afford sufficient grounds for motions on the subject before their Lordships, he apprehended that the notoriety of which he spoke afforded a sufficient reason for calling their Lordships' attention to the 746 subject of which he had given notice. It was not necessary for him to trouble their Lordships with a history of the Methuen Treaty, which gave, as their Lordships knew, certain advantages to the manufactures of this country, on their admission into Portugal, as a return for corresponding advantages given by this country in the admission of the. wines of Portugal at a lower scale of duties than the wines of other countries. He was not called upon at that time to discuss the original policy of that measure, or its modus operandi; neither did he feel it necessary to enter into the right of either country to admit, or refuse to admit, the produce of the other upon any terms it pleased. The power of doing so, and of dissolving this mutual compact was certainly open to either party, up to a certain time, but in consequence of a treaty between them, that power became limited by certain regulations and necessities for notice, which could not be neglected or broken through without a violation of faith. He trusted, therefore, that these formalities had not been disregarded, for such conduct would both tarnish the reputation of England, and be an offence to a State, incapable, perhaps, of doing herself justice. In the case of Portugal being the party violating that faith, England had the means of redressing herself; but Portugal did not possess the same means of enforcing the treaty on her part; and, therefore, the violation would be more, dishonourable on our part. He was sure, that none of their Lordships would advocate the principle, that England would be justified in doing that to Portugal which she would not do to the United States of America, or to France. Before he entered into the general question, he would say a word as to some attempts which had been formerly made to rescind this treaty. At the close of that splendid career of victories which distinguished our arms under Marl-borough, two treaties were brought under the consideration of Parliament; one a treaty of commerce—the other, the treaty of peace. By the former, the preference given to the wines of Portugal above those of France, was to. be abrogated. This new treaty was founded on what was considered a barbarous principle in the time of Queen Anne, viz. that if the people of this country got the wines and goods of France cheap, no matter how much our manufacturing interests suffered as the 747 price of that cheapness, it was not wrong to protect the trade of our ancient enemy, and ruin that which we carried on so advantageously with our old ally and friend. He would not dwell upon this part of the subject; but if their Lordships referred to papers and documents of that day. they would find how strong the feeling of the country was on that question. The people took the alarm, and he believed the great grandfather of the noble Baron (King) opposite, who now took so active a part in bringing forward the peccadilloes of the Church, Lord Halifax, and the ancestor of his noble friend, (Earl Stanhope) took a very prominent part in opposition to that policy, and in support of the Methuen Treaty. Evidence was examined at the bar, and that which was produced was incontrovertible. Ministers wished then, as they appeared to wish in later times, to flatter and cajole France. They proposed to take the duties off French wines for two months, thus selling aside the Methuen Treaty, and they recommended their scheme by asserting that the wines of France were very gratifying to the palates of Englishmen. The plan, however, fell to the ground, and, as an able defender of the Methuen Treaty had said, the employment of the loom of England, and the encouragement of her domestic industry, would be found much more advantageous to her than any benefit she could derive by consuming the wines of France at a cheap rate. The statesmen of that day were illiberal and ignorant enough to contend, that no concession could conciliate France, and that it was not the policy of this country to encourage the trade of that Power. The principle upon which we went was that of national reciprocity; but how could we expect that that principle would be conceded to us by France? And if the policy of Bourbon France was not to encourage our trade, it was still less that of France in her present state, when she must feel it necessary to conciliate her numerous and powerful artisans, who made and unmade Kings, by placing every restriction upon the manufactures of England. After the failure of this first attempt to get rid of the Methuen treaty, it remained undisturbed for many years. The next attempt to alter it was made in the year 1787, when Mr. Pitt attempted to equalize the duties on the wines of the two countries, he mean France and Portugal, He would abstain from entering then into any of the argu- 748 ments used by the many eminent men of that day against that proposition, though undoubtedly he had great temptations to quote arguments on the subject which were much more forcible than any that he could use. They might, however, be found in the speeches of the most distinguished men of that time, including those of that great statesman, Mr. Fox, who was most strenuous in objecting to what he called gratuitously yielding up our interests to France. If he wanted any additional arguments, they would be found in the first speech of a noble Earl (Grey), opposite, who had then given early promise of that talent which had since distinguished him in public life. He had read and re-read the speech of the noble Lord before he had ever the happiness to hear the noble Earl deliver his sentiments in that House. That speech, even from reading it, had produced conviction on his mind, and since he had heard the noble Earl, he was tempted to ask regarding it, as of an oration of old, "what would have been its effects if you had heard it.?" The influence and the majorities of Mr. Pitt, however, prevailed on that occasion, over the memorable efforts of genius and talents to which he had referred, as they did on many others, and the Methuen Treaty was suspended for a time—but it was only for a short time, for war soon broke out, and the wines and woollens of Portugal and England were placed in the same condition as before. He wished to be understood as not questioning Mr. Pitt's right to do what he did, he had a distinct right, but the policy of his conduct and his right to act as he did were very different subjects. He would now call their Lordships' attention to a negotiation which had been entered into by Mr. Canning with the government of Portugal, which he certainly referred to with reluctance, as he was himself concerned in arranging it. In that i negotiation it was insisted on by Portugal, that the Methuen Treaty, should form an article of any new treaty. Such an article was accordingly inserted, and by it the Methuen Treaty became incorporated into the new treaty, grew to be part and parcel of it, and was rendered liable to all its limitations and restrictions in respect of duration; and from that moment the right of Great Britain to deal with the Methuen Treaty as a separate instrument ceased and determined, and thenceforward she 749 could only consider it as forming a portion, an article, of the new treaty in which it had merged. He would, with their Lordships' permission, read the article by which it was incorporated into the Treaty of 1810:— "It is agreed and declared that the stipulations contained in former treaties, concerning the admission of the wines of Portugal on the one hand, and the woollen cloths of Great Britain on the other, shall, for the present, remain unaltered." By the 33rd article of the Treaty of 1810, the two Powers "reserved to themselves the right, at the expiration of fifteen years, of jointly examining and revising the several articles of this treaty" —(including, of course, the one that he had just read, respecting wines and woollens)— and after making such alterations as might be necessary for the interest of their respective subjects. The 33rd article went on to state, "that at the period of the revision it should be competent to either party to suspend any stipulation that might be objected to until the discussion concerning that stipulation should be terminated, due notice being previously given to the other contracting party of such intended suspension, for the purpose of avoiding mutual inconvenience." What he said was this, that the Methuen Treaty, regarding wines and woollens, having thus become a stipulation of a new treaty, could only be suspended in the manner prescribed for its other stipulations, that is, after due notice previously given. Now he would ask, whether those formalities —indeed they were not mere formalities —he would rather ask, whether these essentials had been regularly observed? Had due notice been given of the intention of his Majesty's Government to revise those treaties. He was afraid not. He did not think these essential formalities had been observed —he did not believe that due notice even had been given to those who were interested in the proposed change. The vast amount of capital involved in this trade ought to have induced Ministers to proceed cautiously; instead of that, the course which they had pursued had thrown the trade into confusion, and threatened with ruin those who were concerned in it. This was done at the very moment, too, when this Government were, through their Consul General, insisting on the performance, by Portugal, of every stipulation that Government had entered into with us, to the 750 very letter. Such was the time which Ministers had selected to make this alteration. He feared that they had acted thus without taking due care of the property of the King's subjects in that country. It was on these grounds that he called for explanation; and he particularly wished to draw the attention of Government to the vast number of merchants and traders who were interested in this question, and who had intrusted him to lay on the Table several petitions on the subject. He begged leave, on this occasion, to disclaim all intention of embarrassing the Government in the performance of its public duties by his Motion. He shared too deeply in the vast anxiety with which millions were awaiting the measures (and particularly one of the utmost importance) which Ministers had in contemplation, to embarrass them by provoking any unnecessary or uncalled-for discussion. Looking to the dangers which threatened the country, both at home and abroad, he should feel himself unworthy of his seat if he acted from any motives save those which were perfectly justifiable. But when the question was one which involved the national honour, he felt that even the respect which he felt for the considerations to which he had alluded must give way to his sense of public duty. He had, therefore, brought forward this subject, in the hope that the noble Earl would be able to satisfy him on the points to which he had called the attention of their Lordships. The noble Viscount concluded by moving—
- 1. "That an humble Address he presented to his Majesty, praying that his Majesty would be graciously pleased to direct that there be laid upon the Table of this House, copies or extracts of any instructions to his Majesty's Consul General at Lisbon, dated subsequently to the 20th of November, 1830, calling upon the Portuguese Government for the strict fulfilment by them of all the commercial treaties existing between the two countries.
- 2. "Also, copies or extracts of any communications made by his Majesty's command to the Portuguese Government, relating to the revision or suspension of any of the stipulations contained in the Treaty of Commerce, signed at Rio de Janeiro, on the 19th of February, 1810.
- 3. "Also, copies of any notice or communication that may have been made to his Majesty's subjects established in Por-
751 tugal, respecting the intended suspension of any part or parts of the commercial treaties between Great Britain and Portugal.
- 4. "Also, copies or extracts of any instructions subsequently to the 20th of November, 1830, that may have been given to the officers commanding his Majesty's ships in the Tagus, or at the Court of Portugal, for the protection of the persons and property of his Majesty's subjects established in that country."
§ Viscount Goderich
said, he believed most truly, that the noble Lord did not wish to embarrass the Government by this Motion; and he agreed with him, that in the important negotiations at present carried on by this country, in a time of great difficulty, it was of the last importance for their successful result, to show that the Government had not in any instance violated the national faith. He trusted, that he should be able to show, that the Government had been guilty of no breach of faith. It was true, that we had not given Portugal notice, and the noble Lord (Strangford) said, that he hoped the Ministers would be able to satisfy him, to satisfy their Lordships, and to satisfy the country, that they had not violated any treaty, and had acted in strict conformity to the treaties that were in existence, and that Portugal had received no cause to complain of our injustice. This was what he meant to attempt. The noble Lord had stated the treaties by which we were bound; they were, first, the Treaty of Methuen, signed in 1703; and, secondly, the Treaty of February, 1810, concluded by the noble Lord himself. He would beg leave, on that occasion, to say nothing on the commercial part of the question, which it would not be very convenient for him then to discuss. He had not come prepared with documents for that purpose, and, therefore, he should confine himself to the question of good faith, and to the obligations we were under with regard to Portugal. The Treaty of 1703 had not been quite correctly quoted by the noble Lord. He had ingeniously left out that part of the Treaty on which the major part of his (Lord Goderich's) case depended. If his Lordship had read more of the treaty, he would have seen that the next sentence had a most important bearing on the whole subject; but that his Lordship had omitted. The Methuen Treaty was to this effect, and as it was not long he 752 should not weary their Lordships by reading it. His Lordship accordingly read as follows: —His sacred royal Majesty of Portugal promises, both in his own name and that of his successors, to admit for ever hereafter, into Portugal, the woollen cloths, and the rest of the woollen manufactures of the British, as was accustomed, till they were prohibited by the law; nevertheless upon this condition: that is to say, — that her sacred royal Majesty of Great Britain shall, in her own name and that of her successors, be obliged, for ever hereafter, to admit the wines of the growth of Portugal into Britain; so that at no time, whether there shall be peace or war between the kingdoms of Great Britain and France, anything more shall be demanded for these wines by the name of custom or duty, or by whatsoever other title, directly or indirectly, whether they shall be imported into Great Britain in pipes or hogsheads, or other casks, than what shall be demanded for the like quantity or measure of French wine, deducting or abating a third part of the custom or duty.Now, their Lordships would mark, he hoped, what followed:—But if, at any time, this deduction or abatement of customs, which is to be made as aforesaid, shall, in any manner, be attempted or prejudiced —What then was to take place? Were we to give notice? No such thing. The Article went on to say,—It shall be just and lawful for his sacred royal Majesty of Portugal, again to prohibit the woollen cloths, and the rest of the British woollen manufactures.That was an important provision made in the treaty, by which Portugal might right herself, should we not choose to act upon the conditions implied in the treaty. The treaty was a concession made by Portugal to England, under certain conditions, and if England did not observe the conditions, Portugal got back her rights. There was not a word about notice, and the noble Lord could not argue from that any want of good faith by our not giving notice of our intention to depart from the Treaty of Methuen. He should then proceed to show that there was no obligation to give notice imposed on us by the Treaty of 1810. That treaty began in a remarkable way, which the noble Lord had omitted. The thirty-third Article of that treaty contained a reference to a notice, but it was impossible not to perceive that the notice there required did not refer to the Methuen Treaty, but to the other treaty 753 then concluded. The second article of that treaty stated, that the High Contracting Parties would proceed to a revision of all former treaties between Portugal and England, and then the parties proceeded to revise the treaties. His Lordship referred particularly to the thirty-second and thirty-third articles, which contained the allusion to the notice, and contended, that these articles related only to the treaties then revised and concluded, and not to the Methuen Treaty. The treaty was in principle perpetual, but the parties were to be allowed to revise it at the end of fifteen years. He contended, that unless the noble Lord could bring the Treaty of Methuen under the operation of that article, which said, that at the expiration of fifteen years the parties should revise the treaty —unless the noble Lord could show that by that article we were bound to give notice to Portugal of our intention to equalise the duties on French and Portuguese wines, he could not make out any breach of faith. The whole subject was one which had not been altogether withdrawn from discussion between the Government of this country, and that of Portugal. The noble Lord argued as if the Methuen Treaty had been one of unmixed advantage to this country —as if it had operated most beneficially, and been the source of reciprocal advantages, and of harmony to both countries, and as if Portugal had gone great lengths in making concessions to us, which she had denied to other Powers, and which we were bound to repay. Had the noble Lord, then, never heard of the Oporto Wine Company? Was that the first night that his Lordship had heard of its effects? He could not suppose that the noble Lord had heard of that Company for the first time that night, or of the remonstrances made against it by the British Government. It was established, he believed, in 1750, and it was, without exception, the most detestable monopoly that ever existed. It was the most injurious and the most pernicious to Portugal, and, at the same time, the most destructive to the interests of those countries whose rights it invaded. The Government of this country at that period complained of the establishment of this Company as flagrantly unjust; they declared, that by allowing it, the government of Portugal had violated all its treaties with this country. He knew that the remonstrances 754 made with reference to this Company, in 1767, were not sufficient to produce any effect: and it was still in existence, doing all the mischief it could to Portugal, and those who were disposed to trade to that country, by the oppressive rules with which it fettered commerce. He denied that the Treaty of 1810 recognized the necessity of notice being given by this country when a change of duties was intended. In 1813, three years after the signature of the Treaty of 1810, and twelve years before the period arrived when the noble Lord had said notice was required to be given, the then Secretary of State caused a remonstrance to be sent to the Court of Brazil, not only with reference to the infraction of the treaty with Portugal by the Oporto Wine Company, but with respect to several other grievances. He (Viscount Goderich) was a member of the Board when these circumstances were brought before Government, and therefore he could speak the more confidently on the subject. The conduct pursued by the Portuguese government was of such a nature as fully justified the remonstrance which was then sent out. The manner in which every representation relative to the monopoly of the Oporto Wine Company was treated by the Portuguese government at length roused the indignation of Government, and the remonstrance to which he now alluded was, in consequence, drawn up. It set forth, that unless the British merchants were allowed to buy and sell when they thought proper, (which, by the way, they could not do even at the present period), without any hindrance or control on the part of the Oporto Wine Company, according to the plain meaning and intent of the treaty, that then his Majesty's Government were determined to bring into the British Parliament measures to facilitate the importation of wines from other countries, and thus prove to the world, that the Prince Regent would not suffer treaties to be violated with impunity. The last paragraph stated, that the supply of wine was unequal to the demand, and that, under existing circumstances, it would be found necessary to seek for a supply in other quarters, by which means encouragement would be given to a formidable rival of the Portuguese wine-trade. He thought this paragraph so remarkable, that he would read it. It ran thus:—It is idle to suppose that these were the real motives which determined the Court of 755 Brazil not to put an end to this system; and that it is no longer possible for the Court of London to conceal its belief, that the views of interested individuals are opposed to the real interests of the two kingdoms; and that, if persisted in, the British Government will have recourse to that proceeding, which has been threatened —namely, to encourage a formidable rival to the wine-trade of Portugal.What, he wished to know, was meant by "a formidable rival?" Most certainly France. It was not Spain, nor Sicily, nor Teneriffe, that was alluded to, but France. Who, he would ask, was the Minister that directed this remonstrance to be made at the Court of Brazil? It was the late Lord Londonderry —who, he was sure, was not a man to betray the honour of his country, or to stain her faith. The noble Lord durst not assert any thing to the contrary. Indeed, it was impossible that the noble Lord could harbour such a thought. The remonstrance was made, too, when the troops of that country (Portugal), united with the troops of our country, under the command of the noble Duke opposite, were planting the standard of victory on the soil of France. The country was entitled to do this. He had stated the nature of the remonstrance —he had mentioned the statesman by whom it was thought necessary, and the circumstances under which it was made; and he had only to add, that the Ambassador who made this declaration sat there, and was no other than the noble Viscount, who now made the charge against the Government for determining to take that step, which he had threatened. [Lord Strangford asked the date of the remonstrance, and was answered 1813.] It was then stated, that if the monopoly were not abated, the Government would take strong steps. It was very true, that this threat, had not been acted on, and no redress had been given by the Court of Portugal. If any redress had been afforded,— if the powers of that odious monopoly had been restricted,— then there would have been, perhaps, some grounds for the noble Lord's argument. But no such thing had been done. The demands of this Government had been resisted, and not the smallest redress had been granted with respect to the monopoly of the Oporto Wine Company. But surely, because Government forbore to do that which Ministers had, in their remonstrance, declared that this 756 country had a right to do, it was not fair or proper that this forbearance should be turned into a matter of accusation against them. Whether the duties proposed to be levied on wines were right or wrong, he was not called on to argue. He had laboured only to show that there was no foundation for the charge of the noble Lord, who had imputed to the Government a violation of the national faith. He felt strongly on this subject, for he had been many years connected with public affairs without incurring such a charge; and if he were asked, he could, with a firm and good conscience, vindicate his share in the advice given to the Crown on this occasion, as not likely to tarnish the honour of the Government, the honour of the Throne, or the honour of the Country — a charge which the noble Lord had endeavoured to substantiate by inaccurately quoting some parts of the treaties, and omitting to notice the bearings of the other parts. Now that he had set him right, he was convinced that their Lordships would believe that the fair fame of the country had not been sullied in the hands of the present Ministers. In conclusion, the noble Viscount stated, that he had no objection to make to the Motion of the noble Lord, except to the last part, which related to the instructions sent to the commander of his Majesty's ships at Lisbon. It was unusual to grant such papers, and that part of the noble Lord's Motion, therefore, he must oppose. There was another part of it —that relating to the information given to British merchants — which he would not oppose; but the Return to it would be nil, for it was plain that the Government, when it was about to make financial changes, could not give warning to any of the parties who might be interested, till the changes were brought forward in a regular way.
was perfectly satisfied that the noble Lord would be the last man who would knowingly consent to the violation of a treaty; and he was sure that, if what had been done, or was proposed to be done, was against the terms of a treaty, the noble Lord had erred from misapprehension, and not from intention. There was nothing more natural or proper than that the noble Lord with whom the Motion originated should bring the subject forward, as he had himself negociated a treaty with Portugal; and it was very proper, if he conceived that the proceed- 757 ings of Ministers were in contravention of any of the articles of that treaty, that he should call for explanation. The noble Lord also felt a strong affection for Portugal, and therefore wished to preserve her connexion with this country, and to maintain the national faith towards her. If there were any doubts as to the construction of the words of the treaty (and the noble Lord opposite had not convinced him that there were not) which seemed to him to demand explanation, he certainly would sooner appeal to his noble friend who introduced the Motion for such information than to any other person. Looking to the words of the treaty, he did not think they had the effect which the noble Lord who spoke last had attributed to them; and he did not think that the noble Lord had acted fairly in complaining that his noble friend had not read the whole of one passage. He, however, admitted that if nothing were to be considered but the Methuen Treaty, there could be no doubt on the subject. But that was not the case. They must look to the 26th article of the Treaty of 1810, which said, "The two high contracting parties agree, that they will forthwith proceed to the revision of all former treaties subsisting between the two Crowns, for the purpose of ascertaining what stipulations contained in them are, in the present state of affairs, proper to be continued or renewed." This shewed that at the period of 1810, all former treaties had been revised, including the Methuen Treaty, which having then been incorporated in the Treaty of 1810, became subject to all its general conditions. Conceiving, therefore, that the Methuen Treaty was incorporated in the Treaty of 1810, and the terms of that treaty requiring a notice before it could be altered, it was not, in his opinion, competent for the Ministers to make any alteration without due notice. Mark the words, "It is agreed and declared by the two high contracting parties, that they shall proceed to the revision," &c. Now this having then been done, and a notice required before any other alterations could be made, as was stated in the 33rd article, a further revision could not be made without a communication being first had with the King of Portugal. It would not otherwise be a revision by the two contracting parties, but the insulated and arbitrary act of one. Then let the noble Lord look to the original treaty as well as to the translation. A word had 758 been omitted in the translation which altered the meaning. As it stood, it set forth "it is agreed and declared," but the word "however" was left out. It ought to have run thus — "it was agreed, however, and declared, that the present terms of admission of Portugal wines into Great Britain, and of British woollen cloths into Portugal, shall remain unaltered." This was clearly, therefore, included in the other treaty, the articles of which could not be revised and considered without notice. In the 32nd article it was set forth, "that the present treaties were unlimited in point of duration;" and the 33rd clause stated, that "the two contracting parties reserved to themselves the right of altering and amending the treaties at the end of fifteen years." Now it was quite clear that it was unnecessary to reserve the power of altering it at the end of fifteen years, if by any former article the parties had a right to proceed to revise and alter immediately. The noble Lord had read a document drawn up eighteen years ago, in which a complaint was made of a breach of faith on the part of Portugal; and he had argued that the threat it implied, and the notice it contained, still had force, and that the Government had a right to act on it. But certainly such a thing was unknown as for a Government to take up a threat, that was thrown out eighteen years before, for the purpose of acting on it. He had no objection to that letter. The grounds on which it was written he believed were just; but he contended that it was not now competent to them to act on that letter. He thought proper notice ought to have been given to Portugal. He did not see that any harm could be caused by the delay in giving notice, for two or three weeks would be sufficient to enable our Government to set itself right with Portugal. To give notice was the more necessary, as Great Britain was a strong Power, and Portugal a weak and feeble one, and, therefore, deserving of peculiar attention in interpreting the treaty. The noble Lord seemed unwilling to enter into a discussion on the policy of the measure, but still he could not abstain from saying a few words on that point. They ought to recollect, that whatever advantage they were likely to gain by this alteration, they were placed in such a situation, that if Portugal pleased, this country might encounter a considerable disadvantage, by the withdrawal of the trade of that country. 759 Woollens were, he believed, exported to the average annual amount of 300,000l. He stated this not as a matter of extreme moment, but merely to observe, that, considering the situation of this trade, it was necessary for his Majesty's Ministers to look to the danger to which they might expose the traffic in woollens by adopting this plan. They ought not, for a supposed and contingent advantage, to hazard the loss of a sure and certain benefit. The object of the alteration, he understood, was to realize an increase of 240,000l. a-year. Now he was, certain that such a sum never would be realized, because no importation of Cape wines would ever take place under the duty which they meant to inflict: and the total loss, with reference to that branch of the revenue, would not be less than 176,000l. When we proposed to lay a higher duty on an increasing trade —say the wine-trade — we might be safe enough; but when we imposed an augmented duty on a decreasing trade —and such was the trade in Portuguese wines —the case was somewhat hazardous. The consumption of wines had fallen off in the last year to a considerable extent; yet, in the face of this fact, Ministers were about to raise the duty upon all but French wines. With regard to those wines, he admitted, that in consequence of the diminution of duty there might be a considerable increase of consumption; but the question was, whether it would be of an amount to compensate for the falling-off in the import of other wines, and afterwards leave any material balance in favour of the revenue. When, in 1825, the duty was diminished eighty-nine per cent, the import of French wines advanced ninety per cent; but with respect to other wines, where the same diminution of duty was made, the increased importation was only forty-two and a quarter per cent, proving that there was no possibility of increasing their consumption to the extent of French wines, by a reduction of duty. Was it probable, then, that an increase of duty at the rate of thirteen and a half per cent upon Portuguese and other wines, would not go far to counterbalance the advantages to be derived from a decrease of thirty-three per cent upon French wines, particularly when it was considered, that there had been a diminution of 800,000 gallons on the imports of the last year? The noble Lord proceeded to argue that 760 in the case of a treaty between a very strong and a weak Power, it was necessary to give every little advantage to the weaker party, especially when that party was an ancient and faithful ally, and when the people rather than the government would suffer by an alteration of the treaty. He declared his anxious wish and desire that this country should do nothing to alienate the feelings of Portugal. Here Ministers were attempting to take a course which he feared would produce this effect, and without effecting any good whatever. He apprehended that the result of the alteration would not be of any material benefit to the revenue, while it brought into question the honour and good faith of the country.
The Lord Chancellor
said, he considered it his duty to the House, to the Government, and the country, when a charge was made involving the good faith of the Government and of Parliament itself (which Ministers were represented as intending to make their instrument in a violation of national honour), under such circumstances, he thought it due to their Lordships, to the country, and to the Government of which he was a member, to rebut the charges. With his noble friend who had defended the measure of his Majesty's Ministers, he would sooner cut off his right hand than be a party to any measure which could be fairly construed as in the slightest degree committing the honour of the country, or of the Crown, the good faith of Government, or of Parliament. And so far from feeling less repugnance to a breach of faith in the case of a weaker Power than in the case of a stronger, he would deem it but an addition of meanness to perfidy, should he break a treaty with Portugal which he would not break with Austria, Prussia, or France. But, it was because he saw no breach of faith in the proposition of Government — because, looking at the treaties as a lawyer, he saw no breach of the articles which they contained (and their Lordships must also, in some degree, look at the treaties in a judicial capacity)— it was upon these considerations, and acting (as he believed) according to the law of nations, and seeing not the shadow of a shade of violation of faith in the matter, that he approved of the proposition of his noble friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and was willing to have the new arrangement of wine-duties laid be- 761 fore Parliament. But first, as they were upon matter of form and notice (for the noble Lord spoke much of form and notice, although it was a question of strict right between nation and nation), he thought he should not be acting improperly if he claimed a little of that attention to form, to which noble Lords were so attached, on behalf of his Majesty's Government. Ministers were placed in rather an odd predicament by noble Lords; they were called upon now, for the second time since the opening of the Budget in the other House of Parliament, to act on rumours of what had been propounded by his noble friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, no part of which was decided on. They were asked to discuss the Budget. This was one of the inconveniences resulting from the course taken by noble Lords —a course certainly not very orderly nor regular. Ministers were charged with violating the treaties with Portugal without due notice. Now (with all due submission to the high authority of noble Lords) he should have deemed it a more fitting occasion to take an objection to the course adopted by Ministers when something decisive was attempted —when a bill was brought in; for till then there could be no pretence of a breach of faith, however well disposed Ministers might be imagined by some noble Lords to be to commit one. The wines of Portugal could not be placed upon a level with those of France without a bill being first brought in and passed. When that bill should be brought in would be the proper time to object to the proceeding; and then noble Lords might say to Ministers,— "Have you given clue notice of the alteration to Portugal?" and the question would immediately arise, "Is such a notice due?" He denied the necessity of any notice; but supposing, for the sake of argument, that it were necessary, that an observance of good faith, and a regard for the treaty required it, how would noble Lords undertake to tell him, that during the progress of the bill due notice might not be given? If his noble friend had waited till a bill was brought in, he might perhaps have been able to complain of a want of notice; but now, by leaping in the dark,— and, to use a vulgar expression, before he came to the stile,— the noble Lord had cut from beneath his feet what he deemed his best argument against his Majesty's Government. He must apologize to his noble friend the 762 Secretary of State for the Colonies (Lord Goderich) for first taking up the parts of the argument which he had so ably treated; but perhaps his noble friend had been so much occupied with the commercial part of the question, that some of the legal part had escaped his attention. He would afterwards direct himself to the economical and commercial part of the subject. What, he asked, was the essence of the Methuen Treaty?— Not that England should, at all times, give an advantage to the wines of Portugal —not that England should not make the wines of Portugal pay as high a duty as those of France; but that, so long as we thought fit to give an advantage to the wines of Portugal, so long should our woollens be admitted into Portugal; and that, so soon as England should think proper to alter this "unalterable" treaty (which, however, it was provided should be alterable) so soon were we to suffer the penalty of losing the market for our woollens in Portugal. But then there was the 26th Article of the treaty, which they were told by the noble Baron that nobody but the noble Viscount could construe. Now, if any lawyer, or anybody wearing the garb of a lawyer —or even a layman — had, in the presence of his late venerable and learned friend (the Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench, the father of his noble friend who had made the assertion,) propounded so monstrous a proposition, as that no Member of Parliament was to understand a bill, except the Member who had brought it in; or that nobody could understand a treaty, except the high contracting parties that were bound by it; or the Plenipotentiaries that had concocted it; or the Ambassadors Extraordinary, or the Envoys Extraordinary, or the Secretaries of Legation, or the Clerks of Legation who had signed it — he could figure to himself the utter indignation wherewith that learned and distinguished person would have heard that proposition. But if his departed friend could be made aware that a proposition so strange, so monstrous, had been advanced by his own seed —in his own House, of which he was so distinguished an ornament —in the great Court of Appeal —the highest Court of the realm, in which the noble Members sat as Judges—in which the advancer of the doctrine was himself a Judge —he could not paint in his mind anything like the indignation of the late Lord Ellenborough, since never could he suppose circumstances 763 under which that noble Lord could be induced to believe in the possibility of such a consummation. Therefore, he begged once and again, to protest against the doctrine. That the noble Lord (Strangford) was the true person to go to, to construe that treaty he did not repudiate; but he paused before he could accede to it. His only exception was —not to say he (Lord Strangford) was not the person — but simply to object to his monopoly in the construing of this article. He (Lord Brougham) claimed his fair share of it as a lawyer and a Member of the House, just as strongly and as pertinaciously as if his name had been signed at the bottom of the treaty, beside that of his noble friend. Now, in the first five-and-twenty articles there was a great change effected in the relations of the two countries, and a regular code of laws laid down, which extended over a vast surface of our commercial concerns. The twenty-sixth had reference to all former treaties, declaring what it was advisable to suppress, and what it was proper to continue. And now, what was the force of the expressions here? He did not mean to rival the noble Lord (Strangford) in understanding the right-hand side of the page —namely, the Portuguese —but still he was not altogether ignorant of it; and, therefore, when the noble Lord took a word out of that side and put it into the other— into the English (a word, of the omission of which he had complained)—he was entitled to offer an opinion. Now, he thought the admission of that word aided him. He did not object to the Portuguese interpolation; for what followed? According to the natural and ordinary functions of that word, it was opposed to what had preceded it. And admitting that this points at the Methuen Treaty, as it has been explained, what had they to read from that? Why simply, that the Portuguese wines should continue to be received at an advantage in England, and our woollen? continue to be introduced at an advantage into Portugal, and that the whole system respecting these articles should remain unaltered for the present. Well, then, the argument simply was, that so long as we chose to take the Portuguese wines, so long might we continue to have a market for our woollens; but that if we chose to give up their wines, whenever we did so, it should be on the penalty of forfeiting the introduction of our woollens into Portugal. The alterableness, it would 764 be observed, was provided for by the Methuen Treaty, since it positively declared, that if we abandoned the wines, we should forfeit the introduction of our woollens. And what, then, did the twenty-sixth Article say? That this arrangement should remain unaltered; or, in other words, that, for the present, the whole Methuen Treaty should remain unaltered. And was it, he asked, no part of that treaty, that we might, if we pleased, increase the tax upon Portuguese wines, upon the penalty of thereby losing the market for our woollens. Yet the noble Lord supported the opinion that the treaty was unalterable —an opinion which no one dreamt of advancing in 1703, or afterwards, until he produced the thirty-third Article in 1810. This Article was to the effect, that the Portuguese were to have fifteen years' notice of an alteration in the arrangement (though all that was said at first was "for the present"); and, moreover, that there should be no alteration without due notice. Now, put the case as if it were not a treaty signed for the high contracting parties by their Ministers Plenipotentiary, Ambassadors, or Envoys Extraordinary, with all the solemnities belonging to a treaty —but simply as an ordinary proceeding in their Lordships' every-day life —a contract of a landlord with his tenant; and then let them see how any man would receive his tenant, or how he (Lord Brougham) representing the steward of one of their Lordships, would receive him, if he came and said, that he (the steward) was a faithless man, because, having given him his land at a rate of, say 100l. a year, to be held from day to day, the rent to remain unaltered for the present, he had, after a lapse of twenty-one years, raised it to 120l. How would he receive that tenant, if he came at the end of twenty-one years to accuse him of a breach of faith for having altered his rent? He might represent that twenty-one years was a long "for the present;" but still the tenant, not content with this, claimed fifteen years' notice. But was this the bargain? When the declaration was, the arrangement should be unaltered, for the present, they construed it into a period of fifteen years, although England was enabled, by the terms of the treaty itself, to abandon the Portuguese wines whenever she pleased, simply on the penalty of losing the Portuguese market for her woollens. He really was ashamed to delay their Lordships so long upon a ques- 765 tion so obvious. The noble Lord who introduced this matter had earnestly declared, that the bias of his mind was not in the least to create embarrassment to the Government. His noble friend said, he would not embarrass the Government, and he did not break his promise. It was a customary thing for noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen to make such professions and promises, when they were at the same time minded to do the Government all the mischief in their power, and to occasion it all possible embarrassment; but his noble friend had been as good as his word, or, indeed, he had been a great deal better; for he did not say or do anything to embarrass the Government in the least. He believed that his noble friend, although using a customary phrase, was perfectly sincere in the declaration it embodied; and even if he originally had the intention of wandering from this pledge, his natural love of good faith overcame him, and he rigidly adhered to it, so that he did consequently sit down without embarrassing the Government in the slightest degree. He would now himself make a promise, that, like the other to which he alluded, was as often broken as made. He would not trouble their Lordships with many words. Having sat there since ten o'clock that morning, he was something in the same predicament with his noble friend. If he wished to break his promise, he was hardly capable of doing so. He could not, however, pass over what had been said by the noble Lord (Ellenborough), touching economy, and our commercial interests, and this without any notice. First, however, let him remark, that the noble Viscount (Strangford) had advised the maintenance of old arrangements, as well as a matter of policy as for the commercial advantages. And in advocating these principles himself, his noble friend had quoted the great authorities of Mr. Fox, and of the noble Earl at the head of the Government; and after expressing his great satisfaction and perfect conviction, derived from merely reading the passages he had quoted, he had adopted the language of the second orator of the world in speaking of the first, and asked "what would have been the effect on their Lordships had they heard the orator himself." "Rogatus à Rhodiis legisse fertur orationem illam egregiam, quam in Ctesiphontem contra Demosthenem dixerat: qua perlecta petitum est ab eo postridie, ut legeret illam etiam, qua erat 766 contra a Demosthene pro Ctesiphonte edita: quam cum suavissima, et maxima voce legisset, admirantibus omnibus. Quanto inquit magis admiraremini, si audissetis ipsum." He could not admit that the cases were parallel. Æschines read the oration, as the story ran, but how? quam cum suavissima et maxima voce legisset; and here the parallel failed if the noble Viscount meant (and otherwise his allusion was in no wise intelligible) if you are all thunderstruck by my great exhibition: but what would it. have been if you had heard Demosthenes himself — "si audissetis ipsum?" But he (Lord Brougham) by no means acknowledged the parallel. He was neither enrapt in a trance of wonder, nor lost in a ravishment of admiration —he had neither been thunderstruck at the original oration nor overwhelmed by the quotation. With Mr. Fox and the noble Earl he did not feel himself strong enough to grapple; but he most assuredly did feel himself strong enough to grapple with the edition of them he had heard that night. He did not mean to undervalue the noble Viscount's rhetorical powers, but he must say, that his quotations from Mr. Fox, and from the speech of his noble friend, retailed, abridged, and curtailed by the noble Viscount, had not satisfied him that the preservation of the Methuen Treaty, and the ruin of the trade with France, were inestimable benefits to the country. He too, however, had opposite authorities, and could adduce, on this occasion, the testimony of Doctor Smith and Mr. Pitt — the master and the pupil. He sheltered himself under these, to escape other authorities. Doctor Smith quoted the Methuen Treaty, as an instance to shake the reverence of such treaties. He took it as one of the worst of the class, and, as such, puts it into his book. And Mr. Pitt, in 1786 (who in this matter, although not in others, was the pupil of Dr. Smith), brought in a measure to repeal the Methuen Treaty, and put the wines of France and Portugal upon a similar footing. He gained his point, after a manly struggle; his measure like other excellent measures before and since, having been opposed by the clamour of mercantile speculators. Upon that occasion, though statesmen have too frequently suffered themselves to be foiled by such a clamour, it chanced that the interests of the public — of the landowners —of the consumers — 767 and of the country, were not sacrificed to the clamour of the Portugal merchants. That authority he conceived, therefore, was all in his favour, though the advantages of the commercial treaty, then concluded with France, were soon put an end to by the war. But greater than these authorities, and greater even than Plato and Socrates thrown into the scale, he had the authorities of truth and reason, and on these he would take his stand. Look at the difference between that day and the present. What was the temptation to the Methuen Treaty? Was it not the notion that the Brazil gold came over to Portugal, and that only through Portugal could we get our share of it; and, therefore, all sacrifices were to be made, to enable us, by the sale of our woollens, to draw some portion of this gold from Portugal. Now, to make this attack on the Government to-night, all the exploded doctrines of the olden time were revived — not, however, for the purpose of embarrassing the Government, for, God wot, little able to stand would be that Government, which was embarrassed by the hostile array of such doctrines —the pick and choice of the exploded errors of the worst school of commercial policy. In 1703 these arguments were weak and ludicrous enough, Heaven knew; but to have them again dragged forward to the light of day in 1831, was literally astounding, "Trim the balance of trade," said our ancestors, "whereby you can bring here the Brazil gold, which you can get alone from Portugal, and without which you can do nothing. Get the gold — never mind trade —never mind employment — never mind commerce —go to Portugal —get the Brazil gold at any sacrifice — Portugal is the only place from whence you can get this gold, and the only way in which you can get it thence, is by carrying this treaty. Conclude it, therefore, at all sacrifices —at that of common sense amongst the rest —and let your woollens be sent forth to extract this Brazil gold from Portugal." This was the argument advanced in all the contemporary histories and annals, which had been combated and overthrown, as he had stated, by Dr. Smith. Grossly inconsistent —flagitiously inconsistent with the interests of the State, and the dictates of common sense, were the doctrines whereon the treaty was supported in that day — what must they be in 1831? Unfortunate, most unfortunate were the men, who 768 had to maintain these doctrines in that day; how much more unhappy and unfortunate were the men who had to maintain the same in this day —for the labourers were called upon to make bricks without straw —when Brazil no longer belonged to Portugal —when we go out at once to Brazil, carry our woollens thither, and get the gold from thence. Miserable and hapless, he repeated, were the men who, in 1703, had to maintain these arguments, but infinitely more miserable and hapless were they, who, in 1831, had the same to do, when events and changes had cut every inch of ground from under their feet. Next, as to the equalization of the wine duties, the noble Lord (Ellenborough) said, "Look well to this matter; are you not aware that the consumption of French wines is increasing, and what may not be expected if you are still more to lower the duties?" He did not know if the noble Lord had agreed with his noble friend in not wishing to embarrass the Government, but certainly, if he had made himself a party to the promise, he had most faithfully kept his word. Perhaps, like his noble friend, the noble Lord might not have been able, had he been willing —there certainly was some confusion in his own camp —amongst his own array of arguments, and, indubitably, all that he had done was, to give Government the most complete support; for if he were to select one favourite —one pet fact —if his noble friends on the opposition benches, who had formerly been Chancellors of the Exchequer, First Lords of the Treasury, and Presidents of the Board of Control, and who now, to meet premature discussions of the Budget, were compelled to cast a retrospective glance upon their labours in the other House, and endeavour to revive their financial lore, were to do so — it was impossible, when a tax was to be taken off, to select a stronger fact in favour of further reduction, than the fact, that a preceding reduction of duty had been followed by an increased consumption. In these cases it had always been the rule, to draw their arguments for the future from the experience of the past. That many persons preferred Port at present could not be denied, but he could not help thinking, cheapness had more to do with this than predilection; for undeniable it was, that the French wines were at once more palatable and more wholesome. But in all this the noble Lord (Strangford) 769 suspected there might lie something of a political nature lurking below —that they wanted to curry favour, or to coax the French government, and turn our backs upon the faithful government of Portugal; and yet, let it be remembered, that in 1811, 1812, and 1813, this faithful government was the first to break faith with us, and thus, if we had so pleased it, to release us from our engagements. Now, as to France; he certainly considered, that governments ought to act openly, honourably, and sincerely, and avow manfully the principle on which they proceeded; but here, looking to this charge, that they were paying particular court to France, he saw nothing whereon to fix the slightest blame. If they proceeded upon the true principle in the measure —if they promoted the comfort and happiness of the people, and the interests of trade and commerce — if there were no breach of treaty, no error of judgment, no fault of policy —if, in improving our domestic regulations, the measure was as favourable to trade as to the interests of the community —he confessed he had not that Spartan virtue to reject it, merely because it happened to have amongst the rest, the fatal, the terrible, the never sufficiently to be reprobated tendency of consolidating the good understanding which prevailed, and, thank God, it did prevail, between France and this country. He wanted no argument but that furnished by the noble Lord, to confirm him in his approbation of the measure, and to render his position impregnable. The Methuen Treaty was entirely a political one, created and defined by mercantile politicians. Much had been said about the change of things in France since the period of that treaty, and of the difference between the situation of the world in 1703 and 1831. The Bourbon times had been highly lauded in contradistinction to those of regenerated France; but in the Bourbon times, so far as regarded good feeling and amicable disposition to this country, he must take leave to differ widely from the noble Lords. Those times might have been better for France than the present, as she was now labouring under the evils of a necessary regeneration; — they might have been more glorious for France, in the dread season of warfare —including Blenheim and Malplaquet, and a throng of other foreign triumphs;—the French people might have cast away the brightest jewel of their crown; they might have 770 won a mighty name, and an illustrious character, by the labours of a series of ages, only to forfeit it with their lost princes; — they might have, in banishing their mild monarchs, blindly deprived themselves of triumphant leaders for the people in war, and wise and intelligent and beneficent rulers in peace, great generals, and skilful negociators; but he humbly ventured to submit, that the conduct of the Bourbons, in respect of the Methuen Treaty, and in the American war (he would go no lower down), proved, that whatever France and Europe might have lost by the expulsion of the Bourbons, that at least England had lost nothing by the substitution of one branch of the House of Bourbon for another; or the substitution of a constitutional for an absolute monarchy. In conclusion, he repeated the assertion, that there would be no stain left on the honour of the country by the proposed alterations.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, one would certainly imagine, by the opinions of the noble and learned Lord, that the Government had intended no breach of faith, and also from the noble and learned Lord's speech, at the same time, that Government really was embarrassed by his noble friend's motion. For no lawyer ever took more pains than the noble and learned Lord, to prove to their Lordships that his construction of the treaty was correct. He would do the justice to the Ministers of believing, that their intention was, not to commit a breach of faith; his opinion was, that they had neglected to advert to the treaty, as they had to many other things, in their anxiety to bring on questions at an early period. He agreed with the noble and learned Lord, that the Methuen Treaty was revocable under the penalty he had stated. In this the words bore him out; but when they came to the 26th Article, they found the words alluded equally to political and commercial treaties as requiring revision. Then it was, that new stipulations were made as to the article in the Methuen Treaty, by which Portugal wines were taken into this country at an advantage, and our woollens introduced into Portugal; and it was agreed, that this arrangement should, for the present, remain unaltered. But now what did the thirty-third Article do? It decidedly made a new stipulation respecting wines and woollens. According to the 33rd Article of the last Treaty, he 771 maintained, that it placed the two countries in precisely the same relation as the Methuen Treaty had done; but it also compelled one to give the other notice, before the commercial duties in either were altered. It had never been asserted that his noble friend, who had brought the subject under the consideration of the House, was the sole judge of the meaning of the treaty; all that had been contended was, that as he had been the negociator of the treaty, he was no bad judge of its meaning. And what did his noble friend say? That the thirty-third article was inserted, in order to satisfy the Portuguese government that the treaty should not be put an end to, until it had been fairly reviewed. It had been allowed on the other side, that there was some doubt if notice ought not to have been given of the determination of the English Government to put an end to the treaty. Why, then, had not that notice been given? It was said, that the resolution to admit the wines of France at a reduced duty was taken, not to punish Portugal for any breach of faith, but as a measure of finance. It also came before their Lordships as a great question of political economy. He could not follow the noble Lord opposite through his calculations. His noble friend did not dispute, that the measure might effect some increase of the Revenue. What he said was, that the loss upon the Cape wines, deducted from that benefit, would render it not worth any trouble. The loss on the Spanish and on the Rhenish wines was also to be considered. As a financial measure, therefore, there was nothing in it very desirable. But not to dwell upon that, how did it stand as a commercial measure, and as a measure of political economy? Let their Lordships consider the measure as connected with Spain. The exports from this country to the whole of the Peninsula, were greater in amount than those to any other country in Europe, without exception. The exports from this country to the whole of the Peninsula, amounted to a fifth of the exports to all the various parts of Europe. And now this rising commerce was to be risked —for what? For an increase to the revenue of at most 100,000l. We were about to sacrifice the trade with the Peninsula, which was worth annually 6,000,000l. to the trade with France, worth only 525.000l., or a twelfth of that amount. There was another view 772 of the question, which, he confessed, appeared to him to be the most important of any; he meant the political view. He had frequently heard the noble Lord opposite maintain, that this country could not value the friendship of Portugal, and a free admission into the Tagus, too highly. In reference to Ireland especially, he remembered that a noble Baron opposite had expressed himself most strongly, with regard to the advantage of maintaining our friendly relations with Portugal. Unfortunately, the great measure which he had had the honour to propose to their Lordships two years ago, had not answered so as to produce, he would not say all the advantages which he expected from it, but all the advantages which the warmest friends of that measure expected from it. The agitation of that question was over; but, to use a vulgar expression, a new hare had been started, and it might be long before it would be run down. He wanted to know, whether during that period the friendship of Portugal, and our amicable reception in the Tagus, would not be as valuable as during the existence of that agitation which was terminated three years ago? If so, let their Lordships turn their attention to the wording of the treaty with Portugal; let them listen to his noble friend's statement of the importance attached in Portugal to the wine trade with this country. He would not discuss the question with any reference to considerations connected with the Portuguese royal family —with Don Miguel or Donna Maria. He would not attempt to embarrass his Majesty's Government by any such allusions. But leaving those considerations entirely out of the question, he maintained, that, under existing circumstances, the friendship of Portugal, and our reception in the Tagus, were of the utmost importance; and that if we exchanged these advantages for an increase in the revenue of 100,000l. we should make a gross political blunder.
had listened with no slight disturbance of his risible muscles to the funereal orations of the noble Viscount (Strangford) and the noble Duke (Wellington) opposite, over the lately-departed — no, not actually defunct, but in articulo mortis, and ever-to-be-lamented — Methuen Treaty. Of course the sorrow was most deeply felt, and had no hypocritical reference to self. Nobody said, "What will become of us? The Methuen Treaty 773 is about to be repealed, and the glory of old Port, and still older prejudices, is about to depart for ever. What, in the name of the good old times, do these liberal Ministers mean to do next?" Of course the observations of the noble Duke, and the noble Lord opposite, were not at all meant to embarrass the Government. Oh, no: all they meant was, to sing a Te Deum over the Methuen Treaty; and, as at the wakes in Ireland, if any row sprung up at the funeral, it was not their fault, nor meant at all to embarrass the proceedings. After the example of the noble mourners, the next party their Lordships would have complaining of the direful consequences of abrogating the Methuen Treaty would be, the commercial interest — then the colonial —then the shipping — then the lead, if it has not complained already —then the barilla —and, last of all, the band of Gentlemen Pensioners, lamenting the good old times as never to return. "But," says the noble Lord, "recollect the amount of British capital that has been expended on the faith of the Methuen Treaty." Agreed; but was that capital, in a national point of view, well employed? Were we not, in fact, paying a monopoly price for wines, which, but for that pernicious monopoly, we should be receiving on much more mutually advantageous terms? Then they were told, that they were giving up the large trade we already possessed with Portugal, for the sake of France, with which we held but a very limited commercial intercourse. This was all very true, and he was sorry for it. But the reason was, the very mismanagement of our trading regulations, the removal of which was then the burthen of the noble Lord's complaint. Let them remove the mischievous shackles which a short-sighted jealousy had imposed upon our trade with France; and they would find that our imports and exports to and from that country, would be an annually increasing important item of our fiscal revenue.
§ Earl Stanhope
was not one of those who would support the noble Lord's Motion with a view to embarrass the present Government. Indeed, such a project would be nugatory under the present mechanism of the two Houses of Parliament, whose base servility was such that they would support every measure of every administration, be it of what nature it may, and they who they may, that was sub- 774 mitted to their notice. The only remedy for such a corrupt constitution of Parliament was the proposed Reform measure of Ministers, which he should support, were it only to put an end to the system of obsequiousness to the will of the Minister for the time being, to which they might ascribe so many of the evils the country was labouring under. Among these evils, he ever was, and he was sure ever should be, of opinion that the return to a gold currency under the existing circumstances of the country was one of the most pernicious. The noble Earl proceeded to say, that the advantage of the intended measures of Ministers would be wholly on the side of France, who were bent on refusing to admit our goods into their markets. Let them establish a bona fide commercial reciprocity between the two countries, and he would not complain,— on the contrary, he should rejoice; but let them not have a reciprocity all on one side, and that not the British side of the intercourse. It was true, as had been alleged, that Mr. Pitt did in 1786 announce his intention to abrogate the Methuen Treaty; but it was on the ground that he should bring forward instead a much more extensive measure, under which we should enjoy much more extensive advantages. If such a measure was proposed now, he would support it; but as no such measure had been submitted to them, but on the contrary Ministers were framing one of a very different tendency, he would give his vote for the noble Lord's Motion. Indeed, had they a reformed Parliament at this moment, Ministers would not have ventured upon such a measure as their present infraction of the Methuen Treaty; but, as he said before, the only remedy, not merely for the well-being but the actual existence of our institutions, was a proper Reform in the representation of the people.
§ Earl Grey
felt, that at that late hour, and after the question had been so amply discussed, an apology was due to their Lordships for troubling them at all. But as his Majesty's Government were arraigned for a breach of faith, which the noble Duke opposite also characterised as a gross political blunder, he must trespass upon their attention for a very short time. He would not follow the noble Earl who had just spoken in his discussion of the question of Parliamentary Reform. On that question his opinions were well known. The manner in which those opinions were 775 supported by acts would be known in a very few days, and then would come the proper opportunity to discuss the subject. The noble Earl had talked of the base servility of Parliament, and its indisposition to embarrass his Majesty's Government, of whomsoever it might be composed. The moment which the noble Earl had chosen for this remark was rather an odd one, when so few months had elapsed since the decision of Parliament had placed the noble Duke where he now was, and had raised him (Earl Grey) to his present situation. The noble Duke charged his Majesty's Government with a great error in policy. He was one of those who thought with the noble Duke, that it was highly desirable to maintain friendly relations with Portugal. But why was the present proceeding to preclude this? He by no means conceived that Portugal would sustain much injury from the relinquishment of the treaty. The addition to the duty on Port-wine was so small, that he doubted if it would materially affect the consumption in this country. The trade with Portugal had, for some time, been diminishing, in consequence of the vexatious conduct of the very Oporto Company, the existence of which was a breach of the treaty. When the treaty was put an end to, therefore, he could not see why the relations of commerce and politics should cease between the two countries. He was not prepared with documents to show the effect of the new regulations, if they should be adopted; but he believed, that the noble Duke and the noble Lord were mistaken in supposing that they would reduce the advantages of our trade with Portugal so low. In his opinion, the revenue would be increased by them considerably for the two next years, and much more thenceforth. He was persuaded that they would open a great advantage to the general commerce of the country. But the noble Duke said, that we were risking, not only our commerce with our ancient ally, but our commerce with the whole Peninsula. How, he did not know. Our communication with the Spanish ports was direct. The noble Lord said, that if the Methuen Treaty stood alone, there could be no doubt that we should be warranted in doing what we had done. The question, therefore, was, whether by the Treaty of 1810 such an alteration was made in the Methuen Treaty as deprived us of the right which by that 776 Methuen Treaty we enjoyed? The Methuen Treaty remained unaltered by the subsequent treaty, to which the noble Lord referred, and we retained all the rights under it which we had before. How it had been qualified by that treaty would be best discussed when the measure came in a proper shape before them. But it had been said, that the best expounder of a treaty was the maker. The arguments, however, of his noble and learned friend upon the Woolsack were triumphantly conclusive upon this point. It was said, that the persons who concluded the Treaty of 1810 must be presumed to be the best expounders of it; but their Lordships ought to bear in mind, that upon that principle there were two expounders— namely, the Minister of Portugal and the Minister of Great Britain. Both might differ, and it was very certain that they did differ, upon its merits. Referring to the despatches of the British Minister on the negotiations carried on with the Portuguese government, concerning the treaty of 1810, he must state that, for the honour of the country, he felt ashamed of the system of British diplomacy adopted on the occasion. The course of the negotiations was one which he thought no noble Lord could sanction; yet among their Lordships, and in a person who assumed to be a chaste model of all that was pure in diplomacy was found a supporter, a defender, and a champion of this negotiation. He repeated, that a course of diplomatic proceedings of this nature deeply involved the honour of the country. He contended, that the measure which had called forth so much severe comment was no breach whatever of the Methuen Treaty. The complaints made in the first instance had never ceased, for the vexations of the Oporto Company had still gone on increasing. The time would shortly come when perhaps he should go further into the subject, as regarded its bearings on the general interests of commerce. For the present he should only contend, that his Majesty's Government had a strict right to do what it was doing, and he was prepared to prove that it would be attended with no danger whatever to our intercourse with Portugal. He had no objection whatever to grant the first three papers moved for by the noble Lord, but the fourth document he could not grant, nor indeed could it be demanded upon any ground of delicacy or propriety. It must 777 be obvious to the noble Lord, that a proposition calling for copies of instructions given to the commander of his Majesty's ships in the Tagus could not and ought not to be acquiesced in.
regretted exceedingly that the noble Earl should have felt himself ashamed of the diplomacy of England, as exercised in his person. He would ask the noble Earl, what it was he really meant? All the noble Earl had said upon this point had no more to do with the diplomacy of 1810 than with any ordinary topic that came under their Lordships' consideration. It was not correct to stale that he had not done all in his power to induce the Portuguese Minister to agree to a revision of the Methuen Treaty. He could not help complaining that his noble and learned friend on the Woolsack had been all through his speech fighting against shadows, which he himself had raised. He would call upon his noble and learned friend to state what it was that he (Lord Strangford) had said in praise of the Bourbons. He had not said one word in praise of them; on the contrary, his remarks were in direct reprobation of their conduct. "My noble and learned friend," continued the noble Viscount, "ought to recollect the close friendship and intimacy that subsisted between us twenty-five years ago, when we were brother Secretaries together at this same Court of Lisbon, on which so much has been said to-night, when we lived together like Helen and Hermione; and I am not a little surprised that he should now turn round and visit with his condemnation those principles which he himself held in the days of his innocence and youth. Entertaining, however, such an opinion of his consistency, I should not be surprised in finding (should he and I live so long) that in 1857, twenty-six years hence, he supports the same opinions, with regard to the sugar-growers of the West Indies and wine-growers of Portugal, that he did in 1806.
The Lord Chancellor
explained. He did not impute to his noble friend any particular affection for the Bourbons. He had only remarked on the different light in which his noble friend looked upon the government of the Bourbons, as contrasted with the present government of France. He could not be charged with inconsistency, either upon questions of colonial or general policy, merely because he happened to feel less apprehensive now of the 778 consequences which might result from the abolition of negro slavery than he had been twenty-six years ago.
§ Motion, with the exception stated by Earl Grey, agreed to without a division.