HL Deb 13 August 1834 vol 25 cc1237-40
The Marquess of Londonderry

, seeing the noble Viscount at the head of his Majesty's Government in his place, wished to say a very few words relative to a subject on which a discussion took place a few evenings ago—namely, the contest now carrying on in Spain. On the occasion to which he referred he understood the noble Viscount to declare that it was not the intention of his Majesty's Government to interfere on behalf of either of the belligerents in that country; but, if he were rightly informed a demonstration had been made on the part of the Government of Great Britain which was altogether inconsistent with either the literal interpretation or the spirit of that declaration. He had heard, that a British officer, Colonel Caradoc, was now at the head-quarters of the army of General Rodil, but whether that officer was there as an accredited military Commissioner on the part of the Government of this country, he, of course, could not undertake to say. He trusted, however, that he was not, and for this reason, that if the Government of Great Britain had placed one of the officers of their army in such a position, it would go the length of demonstrating beyond all manner of doubt a disposition on the part of England to interfere in favour of one of the belligerents. Their Lordships must recollect that the officer to whom he alluded was employed in the trenches during the siege of Antwerp; but in that case they all knew it was the intention of this Government to act in support of Belgium. He noticed the information which had reached him on this subject merely to point out to the noble Viscount the effect which placing a British officer in such a position must have, and he would only add that if the demonstration were not real, it certainly wore that appearance, and was contrary to the statement which the noble Viscount had made. He had no doubt, however, that the noble Viscount would explain to their Lordships whether the fact were so or not, and under this impression he should advert to another topic which seemed to him to call for inquiry. He begged leave to call the attention of the noble Viscount to the affairs of Portugal, and to ask him if the Government of this country had received any information respecting, if they were cognizant of, the confiscations and spoliations which were now going on at Lisbon, on the part of the Government of Don Pedro, against the property of the parties who opposed him in the late contest for the Crown of that kingdom. By the Treaty which had been entered into a general amnesty was guaranteed, not only to the people of Portugal, but to all other persons; and he contended that the Government of this country was bound to see that the whole of the stipulations contained in that Treaty were properly and fully carried into effect. He therefore hoped that no time would be lost by his Majesty's Ministers in taking some steps for the relief of the parties thus oppressed. To show their Lordships the extent to which the proceedings he described had been carried, he had only to say, that he held in his hand a list of twelve British ships, worth 100,000l., which had been confiscated by the new Board established by Don Pedro at Lisbon in the place of the Admiralty Court, which, with other old tribunals, had been abolished. An appeal lay from the decision of the Admiralty Court, but from this new Board there was no appeal, and therefore those merchants who had thus unjustly, as he contended, been deprived of their property, were left without redress. He hoped, however, that the subject would be inquired into by the noble Viscount, and that his Majesty's Ministers would see that justice was done to the injured parties. For his part he could not conceive that any Board should have the power of confiscating property to such an amount as 100,000l. without the owners having the right of appealing to some other tribunal.

Viscount Melbourne

must in the first place deny, that he said on the occasion referred to by the noble Marquess, that it was the intention of his Majesty's Government not to interfere in the contest now carrying on in Spain. He had made no such statement, neither had he said anything to that effect; on the contrary, he had left the matter entirely open. He, however, had no objection to say, that Colonel Caradoc was at the head-quarters of General Rodil's army, because whatever related to the affairs of Spain at the present moment was of so much importance that it was indispensably necessary, not only for this Government, but for the other Governments of Europe generally, to have full knowledge of all that occurred in that country. With respect to the confiscation and spoliation which the noble Marquess said, had taken place at Lisbon, he was wholly uninformed. He had not heard of any transactions of the kind, and although he did not wish to say, that the noble Marquis's information was unfounded, he must be allowed to doubt the accuracy of his statement that the amnesty guaranteed by the Treaty had been violated by the Portuguese Government. It was undoubtedly the case that an amnesty had been granted, but he had no information as to its having been carried into effect. With respect to the confiscation of the ships which the noble Marquess said had taken place, all he could now say was, that proper inquiry should be made into the subject.

The Marquess of Londonderry

said, it was not only his impression, but the understanding of other noble Lords, that the noble Viscount did the other night make the declaration which he had attributed to him. The noble Viscount might find it convenient now to back out of his former statement; but he must repeat, that according to his recollection, and the impression which remained on the minds of other noble Lords, the noble Viscount had stated distinctly that it was not the intention of the Government of this country to interfere in the contest now going forward in Spain, and that the Treaty bound them to no such interference. The Government of this country were, however, interfering in that contest, for were not our vessels actually cruising along the Spanish coast to assist, if there should be a necessity for it, one of the belligerent parties against the other? This was most unfair, and he would say to the noble Viscount, "If you mean to support the cause of the Queen why not candidly and openly avow your intention at once?" The conduct of our Government relative to the contest that took place in Portugal was extremely improper, and all he hoped was, that a similar course might not be pursued in the present instance.

The Duke of Wellington

said, that the observations of his noble friend clearly showed how important it was for the Government to declare their intentions on this subject. Unless the noble Viscount did so, he was likely to be led into a situation of considerable embarrassment, for he ought to know that it was not usual for a Government to send an officer to the head-quarters of a foreign army without it being understood that they meant to take part with the power to whom that army belonged.

The conversation was dropped.