HL Deb 05 March 1832 vol 10 cc1104-7
The Marquis of Londonderry

rose, in consequence of the notice he had given of his intention to ask some questions respecting certain circumstances which were freely spoken of in society, and which had been published in the public newspapers. When he gave that notice, he had expected that the same courtesy which it was usual for noble Lords asking questions to experience in that House from the Ministers of the Crown—and of which no one had taken greater advantage than the noble Earl (Grey), when on the opposition side of the House, would have been extended to him. He, therefore, hoped that the noble Earl would not, in the present instance, depart from the course usually pursued in that House, but would answer those questions which he felt it to be his duty to ask. If the noble Earl's explanation should be satisfactory, it would be unnecessary to press the matter further; but if no explanation, or an unsatisfactory one, was given, he should then feel bound to submit a motion to their Lordships on the subject. He hoped that the angry feeling exhibited in the discussion of the other night would be suffered to die away; and that it would not be revived by the noble Earl refusing to answer his questions. It appeared that a letter had been written by the Belgian general, Baron Van der Smissen, containing very grave and serious charges against Lord Ponsonby. The letter did not deal in vague and general allegations; but precise statements were made, and several individuals connected with the transactions to which it referred were mentioned by name. It was there stated that Lord Ponsonby, the British Minister in Belgium, had entered into a plan for exciting an insurrection in that country in favour of the House of Orange, from which he withdrew when the Administration of this country thought fit to change their policy with regard to Belgium. The writer proceeded to state, that, by this conduct, on the part of Lord Ponsonby, the safety of all those persons who had been induced by him to assist in producing the insurrection had been compromised. He (the Marquis of Londonderry) wished to know, whether there was any truth in those allegations? and he should be glad to see the noble Lord (Ponsonby), if he was in his place, stand up and deny them, if he could. Another charge brought against Lord Ponsonby was, that of having suppressed certain petitions which had been placed in his hands for the purpose of being transmitted to the Conference. It was stated, that a certain individual had been directed by the Conference to collect the sentiments of the people of Belgium with respect to the restoration of the House of Orange; that a great many petitions were accordingly got up on the subject; and one of them, signed by 1,500 persons, was placed under the care of Lord Ponsonby; and that that noble Lord never thought proper to transmit it to the Conference. He certainly could not believe that Lord Ponsonby, if he received the petition at all, would have failed to forward it to the Conference; but, in consequence of the positive statements which were made on the subject, in diplomatic circles, and in the public newspapers, he felt he could not do less than ask the noble Earl opposite, whether there was any truth in those allegations. But he must say, that if such acts attributed to Lord Ponsonby were correctly stated, such conduct had not been surpassed in the worst days of Napoleon. He should feel most satisfied to find that Lord Ponsonby had been unjustly accused; but if the charges were not denied, he should submit a motion to their Lordships on the subject.

Lord Ponsonby

addressed the House as follows:—I give to the statements made by the noble Marquis the most distinct, direct, and positive contradiction. I will not enter into any explanation of my conduct before him. I do not recognize him as my judge, and I do not know what right he has to demand any explanation from me. I stand upon my character before the world, and upon that I depend for the justification of the conduct which I pursued in Belgium. I scorn the accusation of the noble Marquis. Let the noble Marquis bring forward proofs of the truth of his statements; let him go to the unworthy sources from which he has received those scandalous and calumnious libels, and bring them to light; let him call me before my Peers in this House, and submit a distinct motion on the subject. I repeat my denial of those libels. I will give no explanation. I stand upon my character.

The Marquis of Londonderry

begged to assure the noble Lord, that no individual had heard his statement with greater satisfaction than himself. He had always considered the noble Lord to be a person of the highest honour; and he felt some pride in having been the means of inducing the noble Lord to proclaim to this country, to Belgium, and to Europe, that the scandalous and infamous allegations contained in the letter of Baron Van der Smissen, and in other publications, were totally unfounded.

Earl Grey

thought, that, after what had fallen from the noble Lord (Ponsonby), it would be unnecessary for him to say a word in answer to the accusations which had been brought against him; but he must say, that the noble Marquis might have been satisfied of their falsehood by merely perusing the papers which contained them. He believed that no suspicion would have entered the mind of any other person, who knew the noble Lord's character, that he could be guilty of acts which, the noble Marquis had said, would have disgraced the worst days of Napoleon. He really was convinced that no other person but the noble Marquis would have thought it necessary to call upon the noble Lord for a formal contradiction of those scandalous accusations, which were totally and absolutely devoid of truth. The noble Lord (Ponsonby) was instructed (and he uniformly obeyed his instructions, and had entitled, himself by his conduct, to the approbation of the Government by which he was employed) not to interfere in any of the party contentions of the country to which he was sent; and the statement that he had engaged in a plan of insurrection, and afterwards declined proceeding with it, contained not a particle of truth. The noble Marquis had stated, that some person had been sent by the Conference to Belgium, for the purpose of getting up petitions. This was the first he had heard of the matter, and he knew not what petitions the noble Marquis alluded to; but this he knew, that everything which came to his noble friend, and which it was important the Government at home should be made acquainted with, was transmitted by him. He would conclude by assuring the noble Marquis that it was not from any feeling of disrespect to him that he had said he would not an- swer his questions, but, being aware how often debates arose when no motion was before the House, and having a few nights since witnessed the inconvenience of such a mode of proceeding, he had certainly determined, as far as in him lay, not to give an occasion for another such irregular discussion. The noble Marquis said, that he was satisfied with the answer he had received, and he was certain that every man in the House must be satisfied with the manly declaration of his noble friend.

Back to