The Marquess of Londonderry
rose to call the attention of their Lordships to the singular notification of blockade which he had recently brought under their consideration, and upon which he had endeavoured to obtain some information from the noble Earl at the head of 97 his Majesty's Government. The only paper which had been laid on the Table of their Lordships' House was so meagre in itself, and furnished so little information with respect to the blockade, that he could not help thinking there must be some further and stronger document not yet produced, or surely the noble Earl would not, on so slight a foundation, have consented to recognize a blockade so prejudicial to the commerce of this country. If he were asked, whether he expected to derive any advantage from thus occupying their Lordships' attention, he must reply in the negative. Why, then, it might be said, did he bring the question forward at all? His inducement was a conscientious feeling of duty both to England and to Portugal. In the latter country he had served during the best period of his life. He had there, at an humble distance, followed the footsteps of the noble Duke near him (the Duke of Wellington), and he took a most sincere interest in the welfare of the people of that country, from whom, not only he himself, but the British army generally, had received repeated marks of kindness. So long, therefore, as he had a legislative voice in that Assembly, he could not bear to see his Majesty's Government acting towards that country in so partial, unjust, and unpardonable a manner, without, at least, expressing his opinion on the subject. Don Miguel was, by the voice and will of the people of Portugal, king of that country. The noble Earl could not deny that Don Miguel was as much king of Portugal, as Louis Philippe was king of France. He could not promise any good results from his Motion, because, if the noble Earl thought proper to adopt the means in his power to arrest any information, he might do so. He, however, had a right to examine into the validity of this blockade; and in order to do so, he requested their Lordships to consider how far the notification given was in conformity with other similar notices. He should not venture to argue upon his own information upon this subject, but he had endeavoured to collect some authorities which he conceived to be good, as regarded the course which had been taken by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The noble Marquess then proceeded to read an opinion of Sir William Scott on the subject of blockades, to this effect:—'To constitute the legal effect of a blockade, two things are held to be 98 necessary—that an actual blockade shall exist, and that some notification shall be given of it, either by public declaration to foreign States, or by notice and warning to the individual ship charged with breaking it. Of these, the actual blockade is most essential, since, without that, a notification avails nothing, as it has been held by the Lords of Appeal in the case of the Proclamations issued by our Commanders in the West Indies, and published afterwards by our Minister in America. It may be laid down as a fundamental principle, that it is necessary that some actual blockade should exist, and that a notification is not of itself sufficient to raise the presumption of a blockade'. And again, 'in the very notion of a complete blockade, it is included, that the besieging force can apply its power to every point and part of the blockaded State. If it cannot, it is no blockade of that quarter where its power cannot be brought to bear Thus it appeared that an actual blockade was most essential, without which no notification was sufficient to raise even the presumption of a blockade. Sir William Scott also gave it as his opinion, That if the blockading Power had not sufficient force actually to blockade all that portion of the coast which it declared to be in a state of blockade, the notification could only be considered good as applied to those ports which were really blockaded How did this opinion agree with the blockade of Viscount Palmerston? He held in his hand the letter which was the foundation of the blockade, which he would read to the House. The noble Marquess then read the letter, commenting on it as he proceeded. The despatch commenced by announcing the victory obtained by Carlos de Ponza, which it described as reflecting glory on the arms of the two nations—Portugal and England, which had been allied for so many years. The noble Marquess repudiated the idea of considering England as either directly or indirectly engaged in the contest, much less would be consent that the exploits of a crew of Buccaneers should be deemed to reflect either honour or disgrace on the arms of England. The letter then went on to state 'that the Vice-Admiral Carlos de Ponza was preparing to blockade Lisbon without delay, and that probably at that moment (i, e. the moment of receiving the 99 letter), the instructions of the Regent of Portugal on that subject would probably have been carried into effect.' This, it appeared, then, was the only ground which his Majesty's Ministers had for declaring the ports of Portugal to be in a state of blockade. They had no actual blockade—no notification of a blockade, but merely a notice of a probable blockade of one port—that of Lisbon. [Earl Grey All the ports were mentioned in the letter.] Still it was but notice of a probability. He could not but believe that there must be something beyond this letter. Surely there must be some other documents which were not produced. This letter looked so like as if it had been made up in this country, that if those men in Don Pedro's service should do anything, then advantage should be taken of it here. The noble Marquess then proceeded to read several documents to show that Government had not been impartial in their conduct as respected the blockades of Lisbon and Oporto, and that with regard to the former, they had, in the instance of some shipments which were made at Villa Nova, of wines belonging to British merchants, refused to acknowledge the blockade, as they had no means of judging whether or not it would prove effectual. Surely the same argument applied with still more force in the present instance; and that Viscount Palmerston should admit one blockade, and refuse to recognize the other, was, in his opinion, an instance of most gross partiality. He had had the honour to know the gentleman who was now, he believed, called the Marquess of Palmella, and was become, he understood, a strong Constitutionalist and a Liberal. If report spoke true, he was now about to establish a Constitutional government in Portugal. His change was very remarkable—it was only to be compared to that of the noble Earl opposite (Earl Ripon). He remembered the time well when that noble Earl fought under the banners of a lamented relative of his, of whose principles the noble Earl seemed now strangely forgetful. In other circumstances the two cases were alike. Both the noble Lords had received a new office, and, he believed, an additional honour, from their respective Sovereigns But the change in these individuals was not so great as the change which had been made in our foreign policy since the noble Earl was in office with his late relative. 100 There was but one opinion, he believed, of the present policy—at least he knew that the opinion he entertained of it was generally entertained in the City of London. To show the effect of the communication, he should read to their Lordships the following letter which he had received upon the subject from a well-informed person in the City, and which would at once show the opinion that was entertained with respect to this blockade in the mercantile world:—'It is a fact that amidst 'the anomalies of the present day no event' ever excited so much surprise among us merchants in the City as the notice of the 15th. Practical men at the time considered the blockade of Madeira as a wanton outrage upon the commerce of neutral nations, because it was instituted without the smallest chance of attaining the object which alone could warrant a recurrence to so extreme, a measure; because it could not, with such a force as that applied, be rendered either effective or permanent; and finally, because the Government, or Power, thus interrupting the usual pursuits of trade, although in possession of a few vessels of war, had no Courts of Admiralty for the trial of prizes; no means, no consistency, sufficient to make it answerable for the injuries inflicted on neutrals. On these principles the Americans acted, and, in order to show their disapprobation of the interference with their trade by the Madeira blockade, the first of their frigates that visited the spot actually broke it, even without special orders to that effect, and the conduct of the Captain was highly approved of by the Government and people of the United States. And is the same contrast with the conduct of our Government again to be witnessed? Are we to be seen acknowledging a blockade which the Americans, acting on the very same principles which we have taught them, and enforced against them, for the mere protection of their trade, and in vindication of neutral rights, deem it their duty to disavow and break? This letter confirmed him in the opinions which he entertained of the conduct pursued by the noble Viscount, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and that not only the law of nations but the neutrality declared by the King of this country had been violated. He was the last man disposed to speak of any professional man, or of any public meet- 101 ings, with disrespect, but he could not avoid referring to the meeting which had been held the other day in the City, to consider of the means of rewarding and remunerating an Officer who had gone into the service of Don Pedro against the laws of the country, and been dismissed his Majesty's service. Speaking as a professional man, he was sorry that any such meeting should have been held for any such purpose; and he was sorry that an illustrious Duke (His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex) had presided at that meeting. He hoped he should never forget the respect which was due to that illustrious Duke, who had, on so many occasions, lent his services to promote the cause of charity and benevolence, and who was distinguished by his zeal and attention to whatever served the cause of humanity; but he was sorry that the illustrious Duke should have been advised to preside at such a meeting, or express an opinion on such a subject; for it was necessary that he should take care, and not by his illustrious judgment give countenance to what might be injurious. He had every respect for that illustrious person; but he thought he had a good right to express his opinion of that illustrious person's conduct; and he did feel great regret, as a professional man, that the illustrious Duke should have presided at a meeting, which was intended to reward a British sailor who had broken through the laws of his country. If such meetings were to be held in obedience to the vox populi, and encouraging disobedience to the laws, that must be, he thought, full of danger. To hold out reward for such conduct must be injurious. The illustrious person might himself, by the decree of Providence, be called to the Throne; and then, should persons violate the law, he could not feel otherwise than indignant at proceedings to countenance the violation. Nothing but a strong sense of duty could have induced him to say thus much; for he repeated, that he had great respect for the illustrious Duke, but he could not do otherwise than look at the dangerous consequences of disobeying the King's commands; and he thought it was their especial duty not to separate themselves from the Throne when there was a party continually endeavouring, by eulogizing one, to destroy the other. There was a disposition, too, at that meeting, to run down one of the parties in Portugal, and those who took the side of neutrality, 102 and were not prepared to disobey the laws, were called factious; and it was such imputations which made him take notice of the meeting. He submitted to their Lordships, whether he, as a soldier, could know that rewards were bestowed on a sailor, for breaking the laws, without being induced to make such observations? With respect to the blockade, it appeared as if the noble Earl was entirely ignorant of the subject. He must say, that since the noble Earl had taken the direction of affairs, too much had been left to the Foreign Secretary. If he were to state what he knew, he must say, that he believed there was somebody behind the curtain. He would say, boldly, that he believed Prince Talleyrand was the man who directed the whole foreign policy of this country. From him emanated all our proceedings. He maintained that all our acts were of that nature, that if they were under the direct control of France, they could not be more beneficial than they now were to that Power. He desired, if there were any further official papers, which could be laid on the Table, before the issuing of the notice as to the blockade, to have them, as he wished, before moving for the papers he intended to ask for, to know if the noble Earl had any objections to make to the production of them. He should move, first, for a Copy of the letter sent to Viscount Palmerston, by the Chevalier de Lima, of July 15th, which certainly was the most absurd and stupid letter that he ever read; secondly, he wished to have a Copy of any Communication touching the blockade of Portugal, which had been made to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs before the 25th instant. The noble Marquess concluded by apologizing for having trespassed so long on their Lordships' time, and was sitting down without moving for the papers, when cries of "Move, move!" reminded the noble Lord, and he put his Motion in the hands of the Lord Chancellor, who put it from the Woolsack.
§ Earl Grey
said, he was not prepared that the noble Marquess would bring the statement he had made under the consideration of the House, in moving for the papers. If, however, he was prepared to go into the statement of the noble Marquess, he should regard the nature of the Motion of the noble Marquess as an improper occasion for doing 103 so. He was now not unwilling to go so far as was necessary, and that was only into a narrow field. Throwing aside what the noble Marquess had said of a personal and extraneous nature, throwing aside what the noble Marquess had said of the general foreign policy of the country, for discussing; which there had already been, and would again be opportunities, throwing aside what the noble Marquess had said of Captain Napier, and the statements he had made of the meeting in the city, he should only require to trespass for a few minutes on their Lordships' time, while he made some remarks on the question of the notice given in the city relative lo the blockade. The noble Marquess said that it was most extraordinary, and he could not understand it, that we, professing neutrality, should have lent ourselves to one party, and that the blockade was one which ought not to have been recognised by this country. There was not, however, one but many examples of this country having followed the very course now objected to by the noble Marquess, he was one of the last men who would oppose those principles of the public and general laws of nations which had been so well laid down by the able and learned civilian who had so long presided in our Admiralty Courts. He subscribed entirely to the doctrine that a blockade, to be respected, must be effectual, and that none other was effectual. The question was, whether the blockade was effectual? The first inquiry of all was, what had been done? Upon the communication made to the Foreign Office by a person signing himself, not as the noble Earl said, but as the Agent of the Portuguese Regency, a notice was given at Lloyd's that such a blockade was to be instituted. The letter might be, as the noble Marquess said, absurd and stupid, though he did not know on what ground the noble Marquess found fault with it; certainly there were some expressions in it which might as well not have been used. But what he had to do with was the substance of the letter which announced a blockade. As he had stated, that letter intimated that the Queen's Government had come to a resolution to blockade Lisbon and all the ports of Portugal. The noble Marquess said, why was a notice given when it could not be supposed that there was any means of carrying the blockade into effect? The noble Marquess stated that 104 the Regency had not the means of making the blockade legal and effectual. But were there no means? Had not the Queen a naval force, which had just gained a signal victory, and annihilated the naval force of Don Miguel? A few days would be sufficient to refit that victorious fleet, and enable it to establish a blockade. Nobody could believe that an officer of the great capabilities of M. de Ponza, who had just distinguished himself by his great exploits, would be unable to equip his squadron in the bay of Lagos, or would be idle there, and be unable to carry the blockade into effect. A few days would suffice. The noble Duke had said formerly, that it would not require much time to fit out the squadron. It should be remembered that the squadron had sustained little damage—that there had been no cannonading, and the ships were carried by boarding. One of the best of those ships had surrendered without firing a shot; and he could not believe that the mere transfer of another to her could prevent her from proceeding immediately to establish the blockade. Having the power, then, to establish that blockade, and notice of the intention having been given to the Secretary of State, he did not see what could be done but to give the notice of that to Lloyd's, for the convenience of our merchants and ships. It was said, that we were neutral, and ought not to have acknowledged the blockade; but it was established by the laws of nations, that when two parties divided a country, a third Power was bound to treat each of the two as if it were an independent Sovereign State. Each of those parties had the same rights towards other States as an independent nation, and Great Britain had acted on this principle. In the case of the South American States, long before they were separated from Spain, we had acknowledged the blockade they instituted against Spain. The same was the case in the month of July, 1827, when we acknowledged the blockade instituted by the Greeks against some of the dominions of the Ottoman Porte, though we were then in friendship with that Power. Before the present Ministers were in office, the blockade of Madeira, instituted by the Regency of Don Pedro, had been acknowledged, though that Prince had no vessels to carry it into effect. On the 28th of July a notice had been given to the Secretary of State for 105 Foreign Affairs, by Viscount Santarem, that his Majesty had declared that the port of Funchal in Madeira, was about to be blockaded. On the receipt of that information, the noble Earl opposite (Aberdeen) directed Lord Dunglas to write to Lloyd's, to inform the underwriters that an effective blockade had been declared by the Government of Don Pedro. It was announced as effective, when there was only an intention to institute such a blockade, and the ships had not sailed from port that were to carry it into effect. The two cases were similar, though in the former there was not such an effective force as was at Lagos, and a similar notice had been then given as was given respecting the blockade of Lisbon. The Ministers having therefore received the letter which had been sent by the Chevalier de Lima on the subject, they, consistent with the usual practice, could not do otherwise than send a notice to Lloyd's of the blockade. The noble Earl concluded by alluding to what the noble Marquess had said of the conduct of Lord Palmerston, on whose exertions and zeal in his office he bestowed the highest praise, and declared, that for all the steps taken, he was, sharing in them by his counsel and advice, as fully responsible as any man could be. He did not think it necessary to trouble their Lordships any further, particularly as they must be anxious to proceed to the more important business before them.
§ The Duke of Wellington
agreed with the definition which had been given of an effective blockade. At the same time their Lordships should consider, that it was the habit of the Government of this country to give great facility to the formation of blockades. We had ourselves carried them to a great extent during war, and had therefore been obliged to give facility to others. But he believed that it was essentially necessary, to constitute an effective blockade, that there should be an actual blockade. To make a blockade effective, too, notice must be given, and no capture could be made unless the vessels were warned off. The warning might be given in different manners. Some powers required that the warning should be given in the strongest manner, namely, by the authority of the Government; holding it illegal to capture vessels till such a warning had been given. When, therefore, a government 106 received notice of a blockade, and gave a warning to its subjects, that warning rendered them liable to capture, and therefore before a government gave such notice, it was necessary that it should be quite sure that means existed to carry the blockade into effect. The noble Earl (Grey) had referred to an opinion of his on a former occasion; but several days had since elapsed, and they had not yet heard that Lisbon was actually blockaded. But it was not only Lisbon to which the notice was applied; it extended to all the coast and ports of Portugal. Even, therefore, if the one 74-gun ship was ready, she could not make an effectual blockade of the whole coast of Portugal. Me was ready to admit the skill and gallantry of Captain Napier, but denied that even with his resources, he was able to institute a blockade of the whole of Portugal. The Government, before giving the notice, should have inquired into the means possessed by Don Pedro of carrying it into effect. Since the news had first come, he had had time to make further inquiries. He had some doubts at first about the letter of the Chevalier de Lima, and he must confess, that his doubts had since been strengthened. The Chevalier stated, that he had on that day received orders to notify the blockade; but he begged their Lordships to look at dates. The Birmingham steamer left Lagos on the 6th, the action having taken place on the 5th, and that steamer carried the news of the battle to Oporto; but how did she communicate it? Why she sent it on board a transport, and had no communication with the shore. That vessel reached Falmouth on the 12th, and on the 15th the news of the action reached London. On the 16th, the Government sent to Lloyd's the notice of the blockade. He said, then, that no letters could have come by the Birmingham steamer from Oporto, and he believed that there were no letters from Oporto by any other conveyance. If these were the facts, was it not incumbent on the Government to make inquiries into the source of the Chevalier de Lima's information before noticing the blockade? With respect to the letter of the Chevalier de Lima, it contained the extraordinary expressions: "He congratulated the noble Viscount on a victory which was equally honourable to the two Crowns;" which expressions, as addressed to a neutral government, were 107 the most extraordinary he had ever read. Some notice should be taken of the letter, and he was sure the noble Earl could not refuse the information asked.
§ The Earl of Ripon
observed, that the object of Government was merely to communicate the fact of the blockade as a warning to British merchants, who, if it had been withheld, might have suffered grievous wrongs. If no notice had been given, and a single ship were taken, how vociferously, as usual, would the noble Marquess have complained of the conduct of Ministers? It was a lamentable thing that, in questions affecting the public interest, the noble Marquess should think it equally agreeable to himself and the House to introduce some poor personalities. The noble Marquess had accused him of forgetting his obligations to the late Marquess of Londonderry, and of having abandoned the principles of that statesman. He would use the words formerly addressed by a noble Lord on the other side, to the noble Marquess—"I do not take your representation of the opinions of the late Lord Londonderry." He well remembered that rebuke, and now repeated it in his own person. When the noble Marquess sneered at him because his Majesty had beep pleased to elevate him in the Peerage, he asked whether the Noble Marquess himself had never received honours from the Sovereign? Did he grudge the noble Marquess those honours? No; and, above all, the first honour which he had received for his military services. He wished to say nothing of the circumstances under which that honour was conferred, nor of his own humble share in it. He would only add, that if the noble Marquess taunted him with having been raised to a higher rank in the peerage, at least his conscience was without reproach of having done anything to depreciate the honour he had received.
§ The Earl of Aberdeen
contended, that the whole blockade transaction was most irregular, and he might almost say wholly unprecedented. The noble Earl had attempted to show that the announcement by the late Government of the intended blockade of Funchal was a case in point; but this was a case which differed from if in several important particulars, one of the principal of which had been noticed by the noble Earl himself—namely, that the then Government had announced that blockade on the authority of a Decree of 108 the Portuguese Government, a power which was in a condition to enforce the blockade. In the present instance, no such decree had been passed by Don Pedro's Government; and with the Portuguese Government which, however unstable it might be, of, however vituperated by some noble Lords, was still the government de facto, we were called upon to observe our ancient faith and treaties. The point was, that no official announcement of any blockade had been made; for the Chevalier de Lima, however respectable a character in himself, held no official position, at any rate in regard to this country, whatever post he might hold in the so-styled Regency of Portugal. Our Government had no right to act upon other than strictly official documents. In point of fact, the whole of this Portuguese affair was nothing but a stock-jobbing concern, the mysteries of which he did not very well understand, not being acquainted with the exact nature of the varieties of Scrip, Stock, Bonds, and so on; all he knew was, that the effect of this unjustifiable proceeding on the part of Ministers was, that several persons had been entirely ruined. Ministers had been most culpable in acting thus, without the slightest evidence that this was a bona fide or honest affair. There was no such haste made in declaring the blockade of Oporto. In the present case, indeed, the fact was not even published of there being a blockade at all. It was merely on a presumptive, a conditional blockade of all the Portuguese ports; so that the British merchants remained in as great a state of ignorance, suspense, and danger, as ever. Yet, though these traders were still kept in total ignorance as to what ports would be safe for them to send vessels to, and what ports would be dangerous to communicate with, all claims on the part of our merchants for losses sustained were to be put an end to by this declaration—not of a fact, but of a presumption. He admitted the conduct and courage of Captain Napier; but he regretted that the action, in which that officer and his men made so gallant a display of English valour and skill, was entirely in contravention of a neutrality which Parliament collectively, and the King in person, had so solemnly vowed to observe. In fact, the whole armament would appear to have been equipped and sent forth by a select company of Jew Stock Jobbers, whose views were merely 109 those of personal advantage, and the effect of whose speculation would be as highly injurious to the interests of this country, as it would be favourable to France. Independently of the gross breach of faith on our parts, and our national interests, which would suffer severely, it was perfectly absurd to attempt to force upon the Portuguese a prince whom they detested, and a Constitution they did not even understand. He trusted, however, that the noble Earl would, on consideration, be better advised than to commit such a gross breach of faith, and to engage in so mistaken a line of policy.
§ The Duke of Sussex
rose in consequence of the noble Earl's (Earl Vane's) allusion to him. He had often heard the noble Earl address the House, and allude to a variety of topics in rather a desultory manner, therefore he did not feel surprised at the noble Earl having mixed up his name with the question of Portugal. The noble Earl wished to censure him for attending a meeting relative to Captain Napier. Differing from the noble Earl as he did in sentiment, he declined to take a leaf out of his political or diplomatic epitome. He was ready to answer to the country for what he did, but would not be dictated to by any man. He had attended the meeting because an attempt was made to crush the national feeling of pride expressed at the conduct of Captain Napier, and he wished to bear testimony to that gentleman's private character. The noble Earl said he spoke as a soldier; he (the Duke of Sussex) respected soldiers, but he was somewhat jealous of them, and conceived that when any man put his blue coat on and walked through the streets, he had a right to entertain his private opinions without being influenced by professional motives. He had stood forward to show respect to an individual of great merit and ability, who had achieved an action which he hoped would soon set the question of the sovereignty of Portugal at rest. He would act precisely in the same way if the thing was to be done again. He was responsible to no man; and if be had acted contrary to public opinion, he should not have been worthy of the seat which he held in that House.
§ The Earl of Eldon
could not admit that the illustrious Duke, or any other noble Lord, was at liberty to counteract the determination of the Sovereign to maintain strict neutrality between this country and 110 Portugal, No man on earth more respected and admired the gallantry of Captain Napier; but he had subjected himself to dismissal from his Majesty's service, and, therefore, it did not become the illustrious Duke, or any other Peer, by supporting that individual, to assist in counteracting his Majesty's declaration.
§ The Duke of Sussex
had done nothing to counteract his Majesty's wishes; he merely attended the meeting to express his opinion of the bravery and high character of Captain Napier. Would the noble Earl tell him, if this event had not taken place, that there were not Peers in their Lordships' House who would have enlisted officers and men to assist the opposite party in Portugal? He had heard reports to that effect, and he believed that they were perfectly well known. ["Name, name."] He was ready to name the steamer that had been engaged and the officer who was to command it.
The Marquess of Londonderry
The illustrious Duke spoke of Peers, will he have the goodness to name them.
§ The Earl of Eldon
amidst cries of "Order," told the illustrious Duke, that anybody who pleased might countenance acts of disobedience to the Sovereign, but he would resist from first to last any such attempt.
The Duke of Buckingham
said, the illustrious Duke had stated that there were Peers in that House, who were ready to enlist forces to serve on the other side. He called upon the illustrious Duke to name those Peers. The illustrious Duke had expressed an opinion in which he begged leave, with all respect, to differ from him. The illustrious Duke said, that he respected the army and navy, but was jealous of the army; adding, however, that he thought when a man had put on his blue coat, he had a right to act and think as his private opinion should dictate. He combated this proposition, and asserted, that no man belonging to army or navy, whether he were a blue or a red coat, had a right to do any act contrary to the law of the land. The illustrious Duke's argument went to this—that, in defiance of the Sovereign, any man in the army or navy in a blue coat, had a right to do whatever he thought expedient according to his private opinions. He submitted that was a very false and untenable doctrine, and against the law of the land.
§ The Duke of Sussex
would be the last 111 man in the kingdom to indirectly encourage a violation of the laws of the land. He thought his character placed him above such an insinuation as that thrown out by the noble Earl; and he must say, that he thought the attack of the noble Duke unfair. It was contrary to the rules of debate to introduce the name of the Sovereign irrelevantly; and yet it was done that night over and over again. When he first became a Member of that House, such informalities would not be sanctioned. He repeated what he had stated before—namely, that his presiding on a recent occasion was merely to testify his admiration of the chivalrous valour of British seamen. He also repeated, that he had only referred to the reports which were bruited abroad respecting the interference of Peers on the side of Don Miguel; and not being cognizant of the facts themselves, he did not feel authorized to name the Peers referred to.
The Duke of Buckingham
said, if the illustrious Duke disavowed the meaning which those who heard him attributed to his words, he, of course, was bound to believe him; but certainly the impression of his auditors was, that he distinctly alluded to certain Peers.
§ Earl Grey
saw not on what grounds the present Motion was founded. They could not shut their eyes to the fact that foreign powers at war with a power at peace with us had, again and again, sought and fitted out armaments in this country; and all that the Government did was, to preserve a strict neutrality. Then they were all aware that it was by no means unusual for meetings to be held, and subscriptions to be entered into, in favour of some foreign object appearing meritorious to the parties, and not meetings on one side only, but on both sides, according to the views of the parties. They must recollect the meetings which had been held in favour of the Poles, when that brave but unfortunate people were engaged in their struggle against despotism; when every encouragement was held out to men engaged in a just cause. The great principle for the Government to observe in all these instances was the preservation of strict neutrality; and this they had observed in the contest between Don Miguel and the Queen Donna Maria. Both parties had fitted out armaments in our ports, and certainly, at least, as much zeal was displayed by the agents of Don Miguel, 112 as by those of Don Pedro. With respect to the question of the blockade, all he need then observe was, that it would be contrary to the law of nations if a blockade was declared which could not be enforced; and though it certainly appeared impossible at present to enforce the blockade along the whole line of coast, it should be recollected that Don Pedro held Oporto in the north, while the array of Donna Maria held the south of that country. He could not say then, whether it would be convenient to produce the papers; and, therefore, trusted the noble Marquess would not press his Motion.
§ The Duke of Cleveland
said, that he merely rose to express his opinion and feelings of admiration of the conduct of his Majesty's Government in regard to their general policy, but more especially in regard to their foreign policy. He had frequently heard unqualified attacks from the other side of the House made upon the Government on the subject of Portugal; but he did not conceive, under all the difficulties with which they had to contend, that they could have acted differently from what they had done; and he thought that their conduct in regard to that country redounded much to their honour. He took that opportunity, not only as a Peer of the Realm, but as an individual having some property at stake, and as an independent man, to thank them for keeping the country at peace. It frequently happened that party feeling was mixed up with the debates in that House, to the exclusion of the consideration of the advantage or disadvantage of the country; and he thought that such was the case at present. He was a friend to the Government, and should be happy to be able on every occasion to support the Ministers; but if their measures were likely, in his opinion, to be injurious to the interests of the State, he would not give them his support. And he believed that it was to the neutrality observed by the Government in the dispute between the two parties in Portugal that the country was indebted for being now in peace. If any infringement of that neutrality had taken place, he was convinced it would have involved us in war. He thought that Ministers, therefore, deserved great credit for the policy which they had pursued.
The Lord Chancellor
would trouble their Lordships with a few words in connexion with what had fallen from the noble Earl regarding the blockade. He would beg of them to remark that a blockade might be merely notified to the Government of a country without being an effective blockade; or it might be notified to individuals, or it might be a complete and effective blockade, and all this might be made a question in considering whether captures made in consequence of such blockade were legal captures according to the laws of nations or not. It was admitted on all hands, that in order that a blockade should be legal, and all vessels captured in consequence of it should be captured legally, the blockade itself should be an effective blockade. But notice of a blockade having been given to a Government, that Government should always be ready to communicate the notice to individuals who might be injured from ignorance of the blockade; and it would always be better to give notice even when such notice was unnecessary, than to lead individuals into a mistake by not attending to the notice given, from the supposition that the blockade would not be effective. The mere notice, however, would not make the blockade legal, nor the capture legal, unless the blockade was at the same time effective.
§ Lord Wynford
said, that notwithstanding the brilliant victory achieved by Captain Napier, the whole of the regency fleet could not effectually blockade Lisbon. It was, therefore, to be regretted, that the notice had been given, as the effect would be, that the whole of the trade with Portugal would be suspended, without there being an effectual blockade after all.
§ Motion withdrawn.