§ The Earl of Aberdeen
said, that it had been his intention to avail himself of the opportunity afforded him yesterday by the reading of his Majesty's gracious answer to their Lordships' Address, to state a few observations on matters which had not previously come under their Lordships' consideration. But the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Councils not being present, he had thought proper to postpone addressing their Lordships until the noble Earl could attend in his place. He was aware, that it would have been more regular for him to have introduced the matters he was about to speak upon to the notice of the House on the night when the Address to his Majesty was debated; but he was prevented doing so by the introduction of topics which appeared to him wholly unconnected with his subject. He acknowledged, that it was perfectly natural for their Lordships, threatened as they were with extensive changes in the established institutions of the country, to have their attention mainly directed to those matters which were immediately connected with domestic policy. Still there were other points touching so nearly the honour, character, and interest of the country, that perhaps he should be considered as justified in bringing them under the notice of the House. Their Lordships could not have failed to observe that his Majesty's Ministers had not thought themselves justified in speaking with any degree of confidence respecting the prospect of the preservation of the peace of Europe; and, indeed, it was impossible to take into consideration all the events which had lately passed, likely to have an influence on the affairs of Europe, without entertaining very serious apprehensions. He did not doubt the sincere desire of Ministers to do their utmost to preserve the inestimable blessings of peace to this country. Indeed, their declarations on that subject, and the ostentatious manner in which a desire of 297 peace was announced as the fundamental principle of their Government, might almost have made their Lordships fancy themselves removed even from the chance of war. Whether the declarations so made were prudent, or calculated to accomplish the desire entertained by the noble Lords themselves, might perhaps be doubtful. At all events this was certain, and the noble Lords opposite must be conscious of the fact, that they could not have adopted a more pacific policy than that pursued by their immediate predecessors. In truth, among the various considerations which induced him to lament the want of the services of the noble Duke lately at the head of the Administration, if there was one of greater weight than another, it was because of the facilities which he possessed to preserve peace, owing to his influence abroad—facilities which were so peculiar to himself, and scarcely inferior to the advantages which belonged to him when at the head of the armies of his country. The question of peace and war mainly depended on the stability and conduct of the French Government. It was an idle chimera to suppose that any hostile notions were entertained by any State of Europe against that power. Peace or war would depend on the moderation or extravagance of those persons who were at the head of the French government. He, however, was disposed to believe that the present government of France, or at least the principal persons composing it, were sincerely desirous of preserving peace; and while they acted in that spirit they deserved, and ought to meet with, the support and good wishes of every man in that House. After the stability and moderation of the French government, the next point on which peace or war would turn was, the state of Belgium, and in this respect the agreement of the great Powers, parties to the Conference on the affairs of that country, undoubtedly afforded the best hope of preserving peace, or at least of removing one obvious cause of war. His Majesty's Government had not informed the House, or expressed any opinion, as to the time when those Conferences might be expected to terminate; but the principle upon which they were conducted had been declared, and that principle, it seemed, was non-interference. In his Majesty's Speech it was stated, that "the principle upon which those Conferences have been conducted has been that of not interfering 298 with the right of the people of Belgium to regulate their internal affairs, and to establish their government according to their own views of what may be most conducive to their future welfare and independence, under the sole condition, sanctioned by the practice of nations, and founded on the principles of public law, that in the exercise of that undoubted right, the security of neighbouring States should not be endangered." Now, in that principle he expressed his entire concurrence, but he was compelled to add, that no State in Europe, however arbitrary and despotic, need fear any obstacle being opposed to its views by the adoption of the principle of non-interference so explained and so limited. No State ever threatened to interfere in the internal affairs of another country without pretending apprehension for the security of itself, or of the neighbouring States. Those despotic Powers who interfered in the domestic affaire of other nations did no more than the parties to the Conferences at London had done—namely, constitute themselves the sole judges of the degree of danger which affected the security of other States. The truth was, that this principle of non-interference was of a very elastic nature, and had already received from the plenipotentiaries at London a very great latitude of interpretation. He asked the noble Lords opposite, whether the Belgians, if they had declared for a republic, would not have been considered as adopting a form of government injurious to the security of the neighbouring States; and whether, in point of fact, a communication to that effect had not been made to the Belgians? He further asked, whether the French Government, which had been most forward with professions of non-interference, did not, in concurrence with the other members of the Conference, prevent the nomination of a Prince as Sovereign of Belgium, under the pretence that the security of the neighbouring States required his rejection, though there appeared no other reason except his being the son of one of Buonaparte's generals? He also wished to know, whether, after the Belgian people had determined to elect another prince as their Sovereign, he was not rejected in consequence of the remonstrances of this very Conference, on the allegation that the assumption of that individual of the sovereign power of Belgium would be dangerous to the security 299 of other nations? He mentioned these circumstances for the purpose of showing that this principle of non-interference, which was supposed to be a discovery of modern clays, was one of a very accommodating: nature. If it was not, in fact, intervention, it was what our neighbours the French, who were very fond of new words, might very fairly call quasi intervention. He could not help entertaining serious apprehensions of what might be the result of these Conferences upon the interest and welfare of this country. It was true he had no official knowledge of the whole series of these transactions, but somehow or other, pretty regular communications had been published of them, and he believed that the whole of them had been laid before the public. He must say, that looking at what had passed, he could not help entertaining the most serious apprehensions for the result, particularly as to the effects on our future relations with foreign States, and even for the preservation of peace itself. He found by one of the decisions of the Conference, that the five Powers, acting in a summary and arbitrary manner, and assuming full jurisdiction, laid down articles of separation between Belgium and the States of Holland. These articles, nine in number, he believed, were declared fixed and irrefragable, and were proposed to the two parties for their unconditional adoption. The King of the Netherlands, anxious to comply with the desire of his Allies, and to preserve peace, accepted the conditions without exception. But how did the Belgians act? They did not accept the conditions, but returned them with insult. Now, he must say, that alter having fixed on these terms, and declared them irrefragable, and after the King of the Netherlands, who had no part or participation at all in the framing of those articles, by which he was to lose one half of his dominions, had unconditionally accepted them, he did think that the Conference was bound to observe good faith to that Sovereign, and, at least, to allow him to receive all the advantages possible for having unconditionally complied with the desire of his Allies. But it appeared by a subsequent Protocol of the Conference, that one of these irrefragable articles was revoked, and in consequence of the refusal of the Belgians to adopt it, again made the subject of debate. He had also to notice a most extraordinary proceeding on the part of the agent of the 300 Conference at Brussels. The conditions were afterwards returned, and a day at last positively fixed upon by the Conference for their adoption; and the Minister at Brussels was ordered to make a communication to that effect. Did he do so? He did not, to be sure, act exactly like the Belgians, and return an insulting answer, but he disobeyed the Conference, and made no communication. On the contrary, a letter was sent, professing to explain the views of the Conference, in which he not only promised further negotiations, but also undertook to promise the result of those negotiations. Against this transaction the King of the Netherlands entered his solemn protest. Now all these things showed that in the course of these transactions Ministers had not kept in view the advantage of preserving a friendly understanding with the kingdom of the Netherlands; and he thought great danger was to be apprehended from the notoriety of the fact, that an illustrious individual, connected with this country was destined to fill the Throne of Belgium when the difficulties which at present presented themselves were removed. What those difficulties were, he did not know; but if the Prince were placed on the Throne of Belgium coining from England, and supported by England, that would tend to increase the danger which he apprehended of injury to our future friendly relations with Holland; and if that illustrious individual were placed on the Throne without an entire and full acceptance of the proposed terms by the Belgians, that, too, must tend to separate us from the other Powers, and increase the chance of war, which he presumed was intended to be removed by the acceptance of the Belgian Crown by the individual in question. This matter he considered of very great importance to this country. He took this opportunity of saying, that while Ministers recognised the right of the people of Belgium to regulate their own affairs, it might have been as well if some notice had been taken of the undoubted rights of the King of the Netherlands. While they recognised the undoubted right of the revolted provinces, he did think that the undoubted rights of our Ally, might have received some notice and regard. He could conceive nothing more entitled to the sympathy of their Lordships and this country than the situation of Holland. When he saw the reli- 301 gious, industrious, and free people of that country uniting round their sovereign— making the severest sacrifices for the sake of their king, and performing acts scarcely paralleled in their own history, fertile as it was in deeds of heroism—he must declare that they deserved the admiration and sympathy of their Lordships, and might with propriety and justice have received some countenance and support from his Majesty's Ministers. He would now proceed to call the attention of the House to the manner in which his Majesty had been advised to speak of the occurrences connected with Portugal. He must complain that the words put into his Majesty's month by Ministers appeared to him to be disingenuous, and calculated to lead to an erroneous opinion of the facts. His Majesty was made to say—"A series of injuries and insults, for which, notwithstanding repeated remonstrances, all reparation was withheld, compelled me at last to order a squadron of my fleet to appear before Lisbon, with a peremptory demand of satisfaction." Now from that passage it would appear—first, that the injuries and insults complained of were committed by the Portuguese government, and then that reparation had been refused by that government. Such was not the fact in either case. The injuries and insults, so far from being committed by the Portuguese government, were always deprecated by it; and reparation, so far from having been refused, was never refused. He admitted that in some instances it had been culpably delayed; but so far from having been refused, it had actually, to a great degree, been granted before the squadron was sent to Lisbon. Therefore it was incorrect to say, that the Portuguese government had either permitted injuies, or refused reparation. That there had been vexatious delays in granting satisfaction, no person knew better than he did; but some allowance ought to be made for the state of that government, and the difficulties under which it was placed. At any rate the mention of the subject in the manner adopted in his Majesty's Speech, was but little suited to the dignity of this country, and not compatible with the nature of the alliance at the present moment existing with Portugal. His Majesty's Speech went on to say—"A prompt compliance with that demand prevented the necessity of further measures; but I have to regret, that I have not yet been enabled 302 to re-establish my diplomatic relations with the Portuguese government." Now, he asked the noble Lords opposite what course of proceeding they had in view, which would put an end to this difficulty? What means were they to adopt which would give his Majesty the consolation of being enabled to re-establish his diplomatic relations with Portugal? He should be glad to know what was prepared to put an end to this state of things? He was very far from being an apologist of the Prince upon the Throne of Portugal, who might deserve all the evil that was said of him, or even worse; but if he deserved infinitely more than the absurd exaggerations which were published respecting him, that was not matter for their Lordships to take into consideration. They had only lo look at the probable stability of his government, and his capacity to fulfil the engagements existing between the two countries; all the other considerations ought to be left to the Portuguese themselves. It was now three years since Don Miguel first ascended the Throne, and ever since he had been supported by the people, and seemed to have as little to fear from internal opposition and hostility as almost any Sovereign whatever. He was, therefore, at a loss to know what change was expected to entitle the government of this Prince, which had been established for three years, and possessed the affections and obedience of a great majority of the people, to recognition. To doubt that that government was supported bv the affections of the Portuguese was impossible, for no government could endure under the disadvantages in which Portugal had been placed, possessing no friendly relations with any other Powers except Spain, unless a vast majority of the population were attached to it; he was therefore at a loss to understand—especially when the principle of non-interference, which was at all times professed, was particularly insisted on at present—the reluctance to acknowledge the government of Portugal, and thereby put an end to a state of things injurious, not only to Portugal, but to the other Powers of Europe. But this was not the most important view of the subject. He begged to call the attention of the House to the nature of the relations existing between Portugal and France. Was there a war between France and Portugal, or was there not? Were there not formidable expeditions preparing in France to be sent i to the Tagus, and were not the denuncia- 303 tions of the French government conceived in the spirit of the greatest hostility? He wished to know what was the real nature of this important case; what were the actually existing relations between Portugal and France, and to direct their Lordships' attention to the very serious manner in which our interests might be affected by a war between those two Powers. The noble Karl opposite must be aware of the nature of our relations with Portugal; he must know the privileges enjoyed by British subjects in Portugal, were unheard of in any other part of the Continent; and he must know that the commercial advantages accorded to them by the Portuguese stood perfectly alone and unparalleled. And what was it that the Portuguese expected in return? Protection; for we had guaranteed by treaty to protect Portugal "as we would this land of England." Those were the words of the treaty. He did not, however, mean to say that England was bound to protect Portugal in an unjust war, but he asserted that Portugal could never have any difference with any foreign Power without its being a matter of great importance and serious consideration to this country. He did not mean to pronounce a decided opinion on the nature of the complaints of the French government; their Lordships might reasonably suppose that there was foundation for those complaints; whether there was or was not foundation for them he could not tell; but, at least, they appeared to be a very inadequate cause for war. There was a great difference between the circumstances complained of by France, and those for which this country insisted on reparation. We insisted upon obtaining redress for certain specific grievances, because we were entitled to it under specific articles of a treaty, of which those grievances were flagrant violations. But the French at the present moment had no treaty whatever with Portugal; and therefore had no other right but that derived from the common law of nations, to insist on satisfaction. Now, though there might possibly be reason enough for the French to demand explanation or redress, yet, from all that had appeared, it was difficult to discover it, and still less could he conceive on what grounds France could be justified in making war on Portugal. He would not give a decisive opinion on the subject, but, thinking there was no ground for war, and remembering the intimate connection 304 which had long existed between this country and Portugal, he thought the armaments and conduct of France should be looked at with some suspicion. Such being the state of the case, he trusted that his Majesty's Ministers were impressed with the necessity of giving the utmost consideration to the subject, and that they had not neglected to offer their mediation and good offices in order to accommodate existing differences; for, though we were not bound to protect Portugal in an unjust war, yet she had an undoubted right, from the close intimacy which had existed between the two countries, from the treaties made, and alliance formed, to expect that our friendly offices and mediation would be exerted on her behalf, and that we should always desire to protect the independence and honour of that country. Before he sat down, he would advert to another subject not unconnected with Portugal, which had lately been made known to the public; he alluded to certain transactions which took place at the Western Islands. It appeared that at that place, certain persons, calling themselves the Regency of Terceira, thought fit to seize and forcibly take possession of a British vessel; and the captain of the vessel, as well as the captains of three other vessels, were obliged to enter the service of this self-styled Regency, and were employed against their will and inclination by the Regency, in making hostile expeditions to neighbouring islands. He believed the captain of one of these vessels was in London, and that he had stated his case to the Government. However, the fact was undoubted, that an expedition sailed from Terceira on board of English Vessels forced into service, and made an attack on two Islands. In making an attempt upon one of the islands they were repulsed, but they took possession of the Island of St. George, and committed horrors and atrocities there far exceeding those which the greatest enemy of the Prince of Portugal ever laid to his charge; for a cold blooded massacre was committed by them. Such he was credibly informed was the truth; and he wished to know whether any reparation had been demanded for the insult offered to England by these people, calling themselves the Regency at Terceira, and professing to be an independent government? He should like to know what would have been said if the government of Don Miguel had, acted in 305 the same way? Was it to be permitted that these people should thus carry on a piratical war? He could not conceive why we should be exposed to such excesses, and such insults as these. Yet, as long as they remained in power in their present condition, such atrocities must be expected. It was therefore the duty of our Government to take steps to prevent a repetition of such outrages, at least as far as respected our own flag and our own commerce; and he should like to know what had been done in this respect. There were several other topics which suggested themselves to him, but he was unwilling to go, for the present, beyond those which were adverted to in the Speech from the Throne. He should be glad to hear from the noble Earl some explanation as to some of the points on which he had touched, more particularly he should like to be informed as to what was done with respect to the last circumstance to which he had called the attention of their Lordships.
§ Earl Grey
said, he was sorry that any consideration personal to himself had prevented the noble Earl from bringing forward those topics at an earlier period, though he must say, that as the noble Earl had not thought proper to introduce them in the Debate on the Address, he did not see how he could well have brought them forward yesterday, when the only thing that was to come before the House was his Majesty's answer to the Address—the only proceeding on which, according to the practice of the House, was, a motion that it be entered on the journals. He was not, however, disposed to complain that the noble Earl had not taken an earlier opportunity of entering into this discussion, but as the noble Earl had stated, that he deferred it from the first night, in consequence of the higher interest which existed with respect to matters of great local importance, he must observe, that giving to one of the matters which formed the chief subjects of discussion on the first night of the Session all the high importance it deserved, it appeared to him that the House would have consulted its dignity on that occasion, quite as much in discussing matters of foreign policy, as in occupying itself in Debates on Illuminations, Broken Windows, the Addresses of Members of Parliament to their constituents, or toasts given at Public Dinners; all of which, 306 their Lordships would recollect, had been introduced as subjects of comment, and had occupied some portion of their Lordships' time. Considering that these were some of the matters of local interest which were discussed on the first night, he thought that as good an opportunity had presented itself to the noble Earl then as on this evening. Before he entered into the questions introduced by the noble Earl, he would say a word as to the mode in which he had introduced them. He did not question the right of the noble Earl, or of any Peer of Parliament, to introduce to their Lordships' notice any topic of foreign or domestic policy which he might think proper, but on these occasions there was a discretion to be used as to the time of bringing it forward. We lived at a period when the public mind in almost every State in Europe was in a state of the highest excitement, and when premature disclosures, such as discussions like the present were calculated to bring forth, might have the most pernicious effects. Their Lordships should consider the difficulties in which Ministers had been left by the late government with respect to the several Governments of Europe—the state of excitement in which the minds of the people in nearly every country in Europe were at the present moment—some anxious to acquire rights which they considered withheld, and others jealous of any infringement on those they already possessed. In such a state of public feeling, the Government was engaged in negotiations of high importance and great difficulty, which an indiscreet discussion, or a premature disclosure, might not only break off, but have the effect of throwing Europe into a general conflagration. He did, therefore, entreat noble Lords to lay aside any party feeling on such an occasion, and not risk any disturbance by calling for any disclosures which could not be made without danger to the general tranquillity. A certain confidence must be reposed in every government, and if no confidence were placed in his Majesty's present Government, it was no longer fit to continue a Government. If the noble Earl did not think that such confidence should be reposed in the present Ministers, his Motion should be an Address for their removal. He did hope, however, that, as a Government, they should receive the support and confidence of Parliament, and of a generous 307 public; but if they possessed that confidence in such a degree as that the noble Earl did not feel called upon to submit an Address for their removal, he ought not, by the introduction of such a discussion as this, unacquainted as he must be with the particulars of some of the pending negotiations, to scatter poisoned arrows in the dark, which might wound this country, and through her endanger the peace of all Europe. As long as Parliament had confidence in Ministers, he hoped it would allow them to proceed with negotiations, without calling for those disclosures which might break them off for ever. The noble Earl had slated, that the present Ministers had entered into office with an ostentatious display of their determination to preserve the peace of Europe. He must admit, that the preservation of peace was one of the objects with which he had accepted the task that had been imposed on him, of forming an Administration; but he was not aware of any thing ostentatious in the display of his desire to do that which must be the desire of every friend to his country, when it could be done without any compromise of national honour. He had no objection to the panegyric bestowed by the noble Earl on the many advantages possessed by the noble Duke, lately at the head of the Government, for the preservation of peace. He admitted readily the advantages, and merits, and great public services, of the noble Duke; but he must say, without meaning to detract from the merits of his public services, that he was not as fortunate in his negotiations as in other parts of his public career. In carrying on many of those negotiations, he believed that the noble Duke was wholly mistaken in his political views; for in the treaties concluded by the noble Duke, which had for their object the settlement of Europe, were laid the seeds of those distractions and changes which had taken place every year since they were concluded, and which were still going on. This was no new opinion of his, for he had given it expression as often as he had publicly referred to those negotiations. It was perfectly true, as the noble Earl had stated, that peace had been one of the great objects of the present Government, and was so still; and though from the present state of Europe he was not entitled to speak of the preservation of peace with unlimited confidence, he looked to it 308 with hope. He would next proceed to the objections which the noble Earl had made to the Speech from the Throne. The noble Earl admitted the principles laid down in the first paragraph of the Speech, which he read, relating to the Conference, and to the principle of non-interference; but then the noble Earl turned round and said, "that this principle opposed no obstacle to the views of any State, however arbitrary." He should be sorry to misrepresent the opinions of the noble Earl, but to him it appeared as if the noble Earl said, "these are principles which any despotic sovereign may admit, and yet take advantage of them according to the construction he may put upon them;" but he must tell the noble Earl, that the construction to be put upon them, according to the law of nations was plain and simple, and would not admit of any such interpretation. The construction which he (Earl Grey) put on them was this—that no form of Government which a nation might choose would justify an interference in its choice, unless one of direct hostility or danger to the party interfering. Even the apprehension of danger to a country would not be a justifiable ground of interference. He would go farther, and say, in the particular case, that if the Belgians had adopted a republican instead of a monarchical form of government, he did not think that it would have been a justifiable ground for interference by other countries, He was aware of the inconvenience of such an admission on his part, but he was driven to it by the course pursued by the noble Earl. In the same way the principle of non-interference in the case of the choice of a sovereign was laid down and well understood. The choice of a sovereign was the undoubted right of a nation, but like all other civil rights it had its limitations— "Ita tuo uteris ut alieno non lœdas" It was to be construed in that sense in which it was not directly injurious to other States. For instance, the case which was alluded to on a former evening, the selection of one sovereign for France and Spain, would be one against which the other States of Europe would have a just ground of objection. This was so plain, that any farther illustration of it would be unnecessary. The principles to which he had referred were those on which Government had acted, and nothing had yet occurred to induce any violation of, or departure 309 from them. The noble Earl had alluded to certain publications of what passed in some of the Conferences, and to the manner in which those publications were made. With these circumstances he had nothing to do but to deplore them, though he looked upon them as adding to the difficulties which Ministers had had to contend with in these negotiations. The noble Earl would excuse him, if he did not enter into any explanation of the whole of these negotiations at this moment. When the whole of them should be laid before their Lordships, he should be ready to enter into any explanation or defence of the part taken by Government in them; but for the reasons he had already assigned, any discussion on them at present would be premature, and could produce only mischievous effects. When those negotiations were brought to a conclusion, whether they terminated, as he hoped they would, in complete success, establishing of the peace of Europe on a permanent basis, or whether they unhappily had a different result, he was bound to render an account of the proceedings of the Government, and would be prepared to explain, and to justify and defend the course it had pursued. There was, however, a point of objection taken by the noble Lord which he could not allow to pass without some observation. The noble Earl, in the course of his speech, intimated an opinion that the Government had not attended sufficiently to the interests of one of the Sovereigns of Europe, the noble Earl meant our ancient ally, the king of Holland. In compliance with the declaration he had already made, he would not follow the noble Earl into the question of whether the Powers represented in the Conferences had or had not attended sufficiently to the interests of the King of Holland in the negotiations between his Majesty and the Belgians; but he might state, that the perfect preservation of the rights and privileges, and independence of the kingdom of Holland was an object of the first importance to this country, not only on account of the long and intimate connexion which had subsisted between England and Holland, to the great advantage of both, but also, on account of the advantages which all Europe derived from the integrity and independence of Holland, as a State, in the maintenance of the general system which it had been found conducive to the general 310 welfare to support. Whatever form of government the Belgians might ultimately adopt, he believed that it would be found that the perfect security of the kingdom of Holland had occupied a full share of the attention of the other Powers of Europe; although he certainly did hope that neither party would continue to insist too strenuously on immaterial points which might stand in the way of a speedy and satisfactory arrangement of the matters in dispute. Some allusions had been made to the Prince, on whom it was, at present, contemplated to bestow the Crown of Belgium. On that point he would say a very few words. With that high sense which he entertained of the character of the illustrious individual alluded to; with that confidence which he felt in his good sense, his moderation, his strength of mind, his abilities for governing, and his enlightened views of policy—he was bound to declare, that if the negotiations terminated in the elevation of the Prince to the Throne of Belgium, it would be a most fortunate circumstance for the country which he was called on to govern. That course had been adopted by the Belgians, independently, however, of us, or any influence exercised by us. He thought that they had made a good choice when they elected the Prince; but the choice was made in perfect independence of the Government of England, or of any exertions on its part to bring about that result. And now one word as to the danger which might be apprehended from the feelings or prejudices of the Prince as the Sovereign of Belgium. These apprehensions of danger might in his opinion, be very safely discharged from the minds of the Belgians; for he was satisfied that the Prince, if circumstances enabled him to accept the Throne of Belgium, would prove himself neither a French nor an English, but a true Belgian Sovereign, anxious only to promote the welfare of Belgium, and sensible that he was charged with the duty of maintaining its interests, and supporting its power, importance and independence, in the general system of Europe. Some observations had been made with respect to the conduct of the British Plenipotentiary disobeying the instructions of the Powers of the Conference. On that subject he would not enter now, for the reasons he had already stated, as well as others; but thus much he would say, that the French Plenipotentiary had felt it 311 necessary and expedient to adopt the same course as the English; and he believed, when the matter came to be investigated at the proper time, that it would be most satisfactorily explained. He would add too that a more honourable, a more enlightened, a more gifted nobleman, or one who had proved himself better qualified to conduct a difficult and delicate negotiation, never was employed in the service of his country. He would say, moreover, that he and the Government were perfectly satisfied with his conduct in the matter to which the noble Earl referred; and if he had been guilty of a slight act of disobedience, he had taken the responsibility of that act on himself, under very difficult circumstances, and with the best possible motives; and he had acted in an emergency, which he thought rendered his assuming that responsibility justifiable, with that firmness and discretion which became the representative of a great Power on such a trying occasion. He would then proceed to what he must call the severer part of the charges of the noble Earl; he meant that part in which he introduced some comments on the declarations with respect to Portugal in his Majesty's Speech; and affirmed, according to his belief, that the assertions of the Speech were not true—that they were not borne out by the facts. The noble Earl said, that there were no series of insults and injuries received at the hands of the Government of Portugal which could justify the course adopted by the Government. He had heard the noble Earl say this with the more surprise, because, if he recollected right, some of the noble Earl's own despatches had spoken of both insults and injuries received from the Government of Portugal. Surely the many violations of Treaties— the imposition of duties contrary to express stipulations between the two nations—the inflicting; illegal fines on British subjects—and the arbitrary and oppressive conduct of the chief of the Police, who derived his authority directly from the Government—surely these and other outrages, with all demands of reparation or satisfaction successively refused, formed a sufficient justification for the measures at last adopted by the Government of this country. But then the noble Earl seemed to be of opinion that reparation was not refused. That was not, however, the expression used in the Speech. The word was withheld. [Lord Aberdeen said across 312 the Table, that he used the expression culpably delayed, but not refused]. He would take the expression of the noble Earl, he would admit, that no refusal in terms was given to our demands, but he was prepared to show that all satisfaction had been not only culpably delayed, but altogether withheld, until a peremptory demand for that purpose was sent out to Lisbon, with the means of enforcing it in the event of a refusal, and all further negotiation or complaint rendered thereby unnecessary. The noble Earl had expressed his surprise at the declaration that the British Government had not since that time been enabled to re-establish its friendly relations with that of Portugal; and he asked, if that event could not take place at present, when could they hope it would come to pass, when it was well known that the sovereignty of Don Miguel had been now for nearly-three years in existence, and was as secure as any other in Europe, affirming that it must be manifest to all, that the present ruler of Portugal could not have continued to maintain his authority if he did not possess the affections of his subjects? The noble Earl observed, it was true, that he did not stand forward as the advocate of Don Miguel; but it was something in his favour, when the noble Earl characterised this Prince as living and reigning in the hearts and affections of his subjects. The noble Earl called on the Government to recognise Miguel, and establish diplomatic relations with him; but although the late Ministers, of which the noble Earl was one, had been in communication with the Government of Don Miguel two years and a half, they did not establish diplomatic relations with Portugal. On the contrary, they distinctly stated they could not do so, but they looked forward to the time when Miguel might, by the passing of an Act of Amnesty for political offences, enable them to consult the interests of both countries by resuming friendly relations. He (Lord Grey) recollected well, having at the time this declaration was made, pointed out the inconvenience to which it would subject the Government in practice, if, after having recognised Miguel on such conditions, he should fail to fulfil them. He had pointed out the possibility of some of the refugees from Terceira returning under the guarantee of Great Britain, and being disappointed in their expectations. He had pointed out 313 the impossibility of insisting on the performance of conditions which were to be fulfilled in the jurisdiction of Miguel himself, and he had been answered by the noble Duke, as plainly as words could convey his meaning, that, under such circumstances, they could employ remonstrances and friendly advice, but would not be justified in doing anything more. Our Government was to be a sort of guarantee for the observance of that amnesty on the part of the Portuguese Government. But what happened? The amnesty was agreed to in the first instance by Don Miguel; but then there was a sort of second condition annexed—"I will do this thing, if you will do another; but then what I propose to do is to be dependent upon something else which has not yet occurred;" and in this way the amnesty was put off, and up to this hour had not passed: and from what did occur, it did not appear that Don Miguel was disposed to concede the amnesty required. He did not mean to contend that the very worst government—the Government of Don Miguel—might not be so established as that we should be justified in opening or continuing diplomatic relations with it. But how stood the case with the government of Portugal? The noble Earl might not approve, perhaps, of the mode in which the power of Don Miguel was acquired; but would he approve of what followed? Let their Lordships consider the number of his subjects who were thrown into gaol, and with whom the prisons of Portugal were yet filled; the sort of police established in Lisbon and other parts of the kingdom, such as no person had ever seen in any other country, certainly not in the country the sovereign of which reigned in the hearts and affections of his people. Could the noble Earl, after what had come to his own knowledge, be surprised that the government of Don Miguel had not yet been acknowledged? The noble Earl had asked him what was it that he expected which would make it a matter of congratulation on the part of his Majesty that the relations with Portugal should be renewed? He might as well ask the noble Earl, in his turn, what was it that he had expected which made him delay that acknowledgment for two years and a half? The same causes which induced the noble Earl to withhold the acknowledgment were still in operation. He would then say one word with respect 314 to the relations at present subsisting between Portugal and France. He was prepared to admit that there were treaties between England and Portugal, which did not subsist between Portugal and France; and that England was bound by these treaties to yield to Portugal her countenance and assistance when an emergency required it. He was ready, also, to admit the necessity of preserving, for the benefit of both countries, all our friendly relations with Portugal; but, at the same time, he denied that England was bound by any treaty to assist Portugal in a matter which plainly arose out of her own misconduct, in a gross denial of justice. England had demanded reparation for injuries, and when that reparation was, according to the noble Earl, culpably delayed, it had been enforced. Immediately afterwards complaints were made on the part of the French government of nearly similar outrages. Did the Portuguese government attempt to palliate those offences or explain them? No; on the contrary, the French Consul, who made remonstrances and demands on the part of his Government, was informed, that as his functions were wholly commercial, and his demands related to political matters, they could not be listened to, and no answer could, therefore, be given. The French then proceeded, as the Government of this country had done before it, to enforce its demands; and he would ask the noble Earl, whether he would have said to a government like that of France, and under the same circumstances, "You are proceeding to enforce your demands against Portugal, as we have done, but we prohibit you to do so, and will decide the matter for you?" Would that government, he would ask, acquiesce in such a course? Would the Government of this country listen for a moment to such a demand or prohibition or pretension on the part of France? This was the dangerous position in which Portugal was placed. The noble Earl, however, asked if there was war between France and Portugal? He (Lord Grey), in answer to that question, must say, that he did not consider an order for Reprisals a Declaration of War; but whether the course pursued by Portugal led to war or not, he was sure if an opportunity offered, that the Government of this country would lose no occasion of doing everything that could be done in the way of advice and mediation, in order to 315 bring about an amicable settlement. But then a difficulty intervened: we ourselves were not on terms of diplomatic intercourse with Portugal, and even if we were, there was a difficulty in interposing between nations, one demanding satisfaction from the other, when the government from which satisfaction was sought would not even give an answer to the demand. Whichever way the case was viewed, it was one of difficulty and delicacy. Thus much he would add, that the Government of this country never could look with indifference on any event which was likely to affect the integrity or independence of Portugal; and trusting that the Portuguese Government would speedily set itself right with France, by offering the reparation she was entitled to demand, he could assure their Lordships that the Government was at all times anxious to preserve the faith of treaties, and to secure the prosperity of Portugal. The noble Earl, passing to the question of Terceira, described the conduct of the Government established there, in terms on the justice of which he would not then pronounce an opinion; and complained of the attack made by it on the neighbouring islands, and of the manner in which it was carried on. Now, did the noble Earl mean to say, that the Government of this country was really bound to interfere for the purpose of preventing that attack? The noble Earl spoke as if the honour of England had been tarnished, by permitting the vessels of its subjects to be seized for the conveyance of the troops on that occasion; and he spoke of the government of Terceira deriving its support from piracy. If it were true that that government practised piracy, it was the duty of this and every other Government to put it down; but he confessed he was ignorant of the events mentioned by the noble Earl, until he heard them in that House; and having sent to the Foreign Office to inquire, he had just received the following answer:—"A Captain of a vessel has made representations on the subject to the Foreign Office, but many of the facts are positively denied; and the whole case is under consideration." He thought it could scarcely be denied, that there was nothing in this which showed that the honour and interests of England were not steadily maintained. He had now stated to their Lordships all that was in his power to communicate, without prematurely and 316 perniciously entering into the details of negotiations which were still pending, and the issue of which might be seriously affected by discussion in that House; but he repeated, that he would not shrink from the fullest investigation, when his duty to his Sovereign, and a due regard to the honour and interests of the country, permitted him to enter on it. He implored their Lordships, however, to consider the delicate and difficult situation in which the Government was placed, when it required this indulgence with the elements of revolution so spread around, that the slightest spark might kindle such a general conflagration as would involve the institutions of this country and of Europe in the greatest hazard of ultimate destruction. One word he would add with respect to France. He agreed with the noble Earl that it was of the greatest importance to the interests of the world that the present government of France should be settled on a secure foundation, for he believed, in common with the noble Earl, that it was sincerely desirous to fulfil its engagements with all other States—to promote the prosperity of France, and to preserve the peace of Europe. It was, therefore, extremely proper at the present moment, not to do or say anything through which that government might be either forced, by public opinion, to adopt a different course of policy, or overturned in its resistance to it; for in such a misfortune the balance of power could no longer, from the hands into which the government must then fall, be effectually preserved, and the consequence would probably be the commencing of a devastating and destructive war. Under such circumstances, these discussions were, in his opinion, most prejudicial, and ought, if the Government of this country was considered worthy of any confidence, to be carefully avoided.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, it was not his intention to prolong the discussion unnecessarily, but he did think the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government had not done his noble friend justice, nor had he done justice to the preceding Government. His noble friend (the Earl of Aberdeen) was perfectly consistent in joining in the unanimous vote on the Address the other evening, and in bringing forward the topics which he had this evening introduced to the House. There was nothing in what fell from his noble 317 friend this evening in any degree inconsistent with the vote he then gave. His noble friend admitted the correctness of the principles laid down with respect to the conferences. He took a review of the leading topics introduced in the Speech, and commented on them as he proceeded; but while he concurred in the principles laid down, as far as they went, he warned and properly warned, -Ministers of the consequence of a departure from those principles in any future negotiations. There was, then, ho repeated, nothing in this in any degree inconsistent with the vote his noble friend gave on the Address. But the defence of the course taken by his noble friend was not the only object with which he rose. He was anxious to say a few words as to some topics which had been introduced by the noble Earl. The noble Earl complained of the difficulties of the Government as he had found it on the retirement of the late Administration. Far be it from him to underrate any of the difficulties of office; all ho meant to contend for was, that those of which the noble Earl complained, were not produced by the conduct of the late Ministry. They arose out of the state of events which had recently occurred in Europe, over which the British Ministers did not and could not exercise any control. They arose out of the events which had occurred in France and Belgium, and which as far as he knew, could not be controlled by any human being unless by the Government of those countries. With the occurrence of these events they had had nothing to do, and whatever might be their results, his Majesty's late servants could not charge themselves with having applauded them. They foresaw the mischief they were likely to produce, and they acted on the plan on which, as far as he could see, the present Government now acted, with considerable success. He would beg of their Lordships to consider what had been the policy of this country for the last 150 years. It was, to keep Belgium out of the possession of France. This was the policy strenuously advocated by the noble Earl (Earl Grey) himself, and as strenuously by the noble Baron (Lord Holland). His noble friend who con- ducted the foreign relations of the country at the conclusion of the general peace (the late Lord Londonderry) had taken the same view of this question, and the whole of the negotiations which he entered into, 318 and of the treaties he took such pains to con-elude, had that object in view as necessary to the permanent repose of Europe. Consistently with that, by those negotiations he had endeavoured to strengthen Holland by uniting it with Belgium as a barrier towards that part of the north of Europe. On this, as on one great basis, were the negotiations at the peace founded; on this, in a great degree, that peace itself rested. And what was the consequence? Why, that this country and Europe have enjoyed since 1814, with the short interval of war caused by the invasion of Napoleon, a longer period of peace than it had known almost for centuries. That period of tranquillity was broken up by the events of July in France, and of August and September in Belgium. He did not seek to qualify his expressions with respect to these events. He would not qualify them further than by expressing his conviction that the situation of the countries which those events affected was, at that time, the best for the people themselves, as well as to preserve their internal tranquillity, and to maintain the peace of Europe. This Government, however, could not prevent what happened, and when his Majesty was called upon to interfere, so as to place things in the Netherlands in the same state as before, the Government declined the interference farther than proposing an armistice between the contending parties, for the purpose of seeing what could be done between them by mediation. The proposition was not wholly acceded to; but he thought that anything was better than a continued warfare between countries which had been so long united. He still adhered to the opinion that the former state of things would tend more to the security of Europe from war than any other political arrangement that could be made. With respect to the negotiations that had been carried on for the settlement of Belgium, he approved of all the steps the noble Lord had taken, to give that security to other Powers which they had a right to require with respect to the State of Belgium. He gave the noble Lord full credit for all he had done on this subject, and was ready to believe that he had acted in full accord with France and our other allies. Having done so, he entreated the noble Lord not to depart from the course he had hitherto pursued, but to persevere till the last moment to act in cordial alliance with France and our allies, and 319 let the noble Lord rely upon it, whatever difficulties might exist, he would get, the better of them, and would do himself and the country immortal honour. In respect to Portugal, the treaties which bound us to that country and our own interests lay in the same direction. It became his Majesty's Government to look at the serious situation in which not only Portugal but all Europe might be placed if a proper course were not taken. They would do well to consider how important it was, that all questions of disputed Sovereignty should be put an end to without loss of time, more particularly this question relating to Don Miguel; for if it caused the invasion of Portugal by France, the consequence would be, to involve the whole peninsula in one conflagration. Such an occurrence was to be deprecated at all times, more particularly now, when Spain was in a state of complete tranquillity, and, as far as he understood, in a state of prosperity. The question of the disputed succession of Don Miguel was no longer a question between this country and Brazil. Some time had elapsed since Don Pedro could assert the claims of his daughter, and it was evident that he could now give no assistance (being in need of assistance himself) in placing her upon the Throne of Portugal. Under all the circumstances of the case, he thought it incumbent on us to endeavour to settle the question, and take steps to get out of the difficulty in which we and our Allies found ourselves placed with respect to Portugal. With this view, we should endeavour to bring Portugal once more into the society of nations, in order to render it available to the general purposes of Europe if required. He did not wish the noble Lord to interfere unnecessarily between France and Portugal, but he repeated that he ought to endeavour to bring Portugal back into the society of nations, by acknowledging Miguel, and inducing other nations to follow our example. In conclusion, the noble Duke observed, that the state of things in the Western Isles was such as could not be contemplated with satisfaction, and that considerable apprehensions must be entertained from its continuance.