HL Deb 04 February 1834 vol 21 cc5-33
The Duke of Sutherland

, in rising to move an Address in answer to his Majesty's Speech, said, the indulgence which their Lordships never failed to extend to individuals placed in his situation was never more required than it was on the present occasion. He had been at all times unwilling to urge his opinions upon the attention of the House, as, further than concerned his own conduct, he really did not attach consequence to them, and certainly not the undue consequence of conceiving them interesting to their Lordships. But, under some circumstances, he thought it would be tantamount to shrinking from the performance of a duty if he omitted to avail himself of an opportunity to declare his sentiments. Actuated by such feelings he did not hesitate to come forward, relying upon the kind indulgence of the House, to submit an. Address for their adoption in answer to the Speech from the Throne. The theme was no doubt a wide one, and the subjects upon which it touched were various. Much might be made of it in able hands, but he would, however, content himself with following in the order in which they were presented, but very briefly, the topics of the Speech. It could not, he apprehended, but be gratifying in the first instance to assure his Majesty, that their zeal, devotion, and firmness in support of the Constitution of the State would be such as to justify the expectations of the country, and merit the confidence entertained by his Majesty in their loyalty and patriotism. In turning to the history of the past year, they could not contemplate the measure relative to slavery now and for ever abolished, but as a subject of the purest gratulation, and as most honourable to this country, the generosity of which had been made conspicuous in the mode of accomplishing it, and equally honourable to those who, in spite of numerous difficulties, had proposed a measure which had afforded immediate consolation, and every prospect of a successful termination. It appeared even to have been of advantage to those whose interests were chiefly connected with it. The speech of the noble Earl, the governor of Jamaica, whose conduct was as honourable to himself as it was advantageous to his country, bore ample testimony to the beneficial consequences of the measure, and to the kindly spirit in which that measure had been received by one colonial assembly. Amongst the subjects to which, at a future day, their attentive consideration would be called, none, in his mind, would be found more important or more difficult than the Poor-laws. The evils which had arisen from the present system of their administration were too striking and too notorious not to demand strict inquiry. The effects of those laws had been to produce demoralization and degradation amongst the people, and the system ought, therefore, to be considered with the calmest and soundest wisdom. Certainly all crude and hasty measures must be deprecated, but the attention of that House and of the country ought to be directed to those laws as a primary object, demanding alteration and improvement. Another object of their care must be the remedying of the abuses in Municipal and Ecclesiastical Corporations, and much valuable information upon both these subjects would be laid before Parliament by his Majesty's Government. The hope expressed by his Majesty for the preservation and continuance of peace must be generally felt by the whole country, which could well appreciate the blessings of peace. It could not fail to rejoice all liberal minds to find that as civilization advanced mankind grew wiser, and that with the spread of knowledge the love of peace became more extended and stronger. The state of the world had been such as in former periods would have inevitably led to a general war. That great calamity had been escaped. Notwithstanding the temptations presented by partial warfare, the general peace of Europe had been preserved, and would long, he hoped, be maintained. For the maintenance of peace it could not be doubted that the continuance of friendly relations between this country and France were most material; and it was still more important that these relations should be based upon a permanent principle of amity worthy of enlightened nations; and such, he believed, subsisted at this moment between France and England. Interests common to each could alone form the basis of enduring friendship. The present system of the French Government was one which had moderation for its principle, and it aimed at preserving order, and at developing her abundant means of national prosperity. When they saw industry and the arts encouraged amongst a warlike people, they must rejoice at such manifest proofs of a wise and enlightened Government, which applied itself to the furtherance of those high interests which were of so much importance to the present, and would be of equal importance to all succeeding generations. If elsewhere, too, we saw the progress of improvement—attempts made to extend education to all—the arts of peace cultivated,—every one must rejoice at the prospect thus opened; and we should be warranted in indulging in the hope that no narrow views of temporary advantages should be allowed, as had too frequently been the case in former times, to obscure the brightness of a prospect highly interesting to all. It was full time that the calamitous disputes which reigned in Portugal—disputes which the nearest ties of blood only seemed to make more desperate—and those which more recently had sprung up in Spain, should be brought to an end. If there were ever any differences of opinion as to the succession of the Crown of Portugal, there could be none as to the perfidy which had signalized the assumption of it. The honourable feelings which had throughout distinguished the conduct of the British Government had not been confined to them; there was one general feeling of indignation at the conduct of the person who had so perfidiously set at defiance all promises. Still it was our interest that the dissensions in Portugal should come to an end, and it was also most desirable for us that the peaceful succession to the throne of Spain should be established. In the wish expressed by his Majesty for the final adjustment of the differences between Holland and Belgium, he was sure that all who heard him must most cordially agree. In the rest of Europe, continued attention to the course of events, and our assistance in the regulation of affairs, where it could properly be offered, might give reasonable hopes of the maintenance of general tranquillity. At home it was satisfactory to know that the general aspect of the country was prosperous. The difficulties which the necessarily changing condition of things must impose sometimes more on one class than another, would be patiently borne in a state of society in which the great body of the people were distinguished by their general good sense. With regard to Ireland, he was sorry to observe, that there were still evil spirits abusing our patience, and spreading discord and dissension abroad, extending their baneful influence over the evil passions of men. But notwithstanding the counteracting effects of these things upon the beneficial measures adopted with regard to Ireland, it was gratifying to know, that that country was indisputably improving in trade, arts, and commerce. His Majesty's paternal love for all his subjects was never more evinced than in the declaration of his firm resolution to maintain indissoluble the bond of the Legislative Union of the two kingdoms; the most effectual security against their separation, which would not only be highly injurious to Ireland, but to the kingdom at large. The country at large would afford to his Majesty, in enforcing this resolution, he had no doubt, fresh force to his authority by the zealous co-operation of all his well-affected subjects, who would readily supply all the means that might be required for the accomplishment of so desirable an object. He was not aware of any other topic to which it was necessary to call their Lordships' attention. His Lordship concluded by moving an Address, which was, as usual, an echo of the Speech.

Lord Howard of Effingham

, in rising to second the Address, had little to add to what had fallen from the noble Duke. On the various topics on which the noble Mover had touched he had shown so just a judgment and so sound a view of them, that the best thing he could do was to say, that he fully concurred with the noble Duke. In regard to the leading measure of last Session, the Abolition of Colonial Slavery, it was one in which the country had taken the greatest possible interest, and the demand for which it was impossible any longer to withstand; and that measure having been passed, it was highly gratifying to find that it had been favourably accepted in the colonies. On all the important measures that were now to be brought before them, full means of information would be afforded, in order to enable them to form a correct judgment of them. In regard to the assurances of peace he was happy to find that they were such as to lead to the hope that there was no probability of its being disturbed. With respect to Ireland, he concurred in everything which had been said by the noble Duke as to the disadvantages produced by the conduct of those who agitated that country with the cry of the Repeal of the Union, as that repeal, if ever it were yielded, would lend to the disseverance of the empire; but it was to be hoped, that if anything of that kind was attempted, it would meet with no support in Parliament. He was sure, that any and all of the important measures to be brought before Parliament would be received and discussed by them with calmness and moderation. There might be some differences of opinion upon these measures; but the House, he was sure, would look to the situation of the country, and judge of those measures, with reference to the diffusion of knowledge, the general spread of reading, and their consequent effect upon the people at large. There was no topic on which he could say any thing new in addition to the observations of the noble Duke, and he should, therefore, conclude by saying, that he fully concurred with the noble Duke.

The Duke of Wellington

did not rise to oppose the Address, or to move any Amendment; but he could not listen to such topics as were contained in the. Speech which they had that day heard from the Throne, without addressing a few words to their Lordships on the subjects which it embraced. The Speech appeared to him to contain as little in reality, as any Speech that was ever addressed to their Lordships from the Throne. It was impossible for any man to judge from that Speech, whether it were the intention of his Majesty's Government to bring forward, as a Government, any measure on any one of the topics contained in that Speech. The noble Lord who spoke last, stated, that on some of those topics, measures would be introduced by Ministers. The noble Lord might have learned that by a communication from his Majesty's Government, but from the Speech itself, it did not appear that it was the intention of Ministers to introduce any measure whatever on any one of those topics. With respect to the first topic, that which related to the West-India colonies, it was stated by the noble Duke opposite, and by the noble Lord who seconded the Address, that the measure adopted on that subject had completely succeeded. There was no man who rejoiced more sincerely than he did at the success of that measure. He had certainly opposed that measure from principle; he thought that he saw in it the seeds of great injury to the interests of this country; but he was happy to find that he had been misinformed upon the subject. They were told, that the measure had completely succeeded; but he could not understand, from what he had heard of what was passing in the West Indies, that it had. It was true that the Legislature of Jamaica had passed a Bill approving of the measure agreed to by the Legislature of this country; but he had heard of no measures agreed to by them to carry it into execution. The negroes had, from a state of slavery, been placed in a state of comparative freedom. A state of slavery no longer existed. Now, he would ask, had anything been done to meet this new state of society? He would affirm, that nothing of the kind had been done. The Legislature of Jamaica said, they adopted the law enacted by this country; but they had not framed any new laws to provide for the extraordinary and new situation. They had thus thrown the whole responsibility of the resultson his Majesty's Ministers. He did not think that a very satisfactory state of affairs in Jamaica. If the Legislature of that colony had adopted this measure, without doing anything to meet the new circumstances which it created, that was a state of affairs on which neither his Majesty nor that House had any need to congratulate themselves. With respect to that part of the Speech which related to peace, he at once admitted that it was an inestimable advantage to this country to remain at peace, and that the Government ought to do every thing, and to use every means in its power, to preserve peace amongst foreign nations; and not only to preserve peace between nations, but internal peace in all the neighbouring nations. On that point, however, his Majesty's Ministers had been nearly silent. Holland and Belgium stood in the same situation now as they did two years ago; and if Ministers acted on the same plan which they had adopted for the last two years and a-half, they would ten years hence find those countries as far off from settling their disputes as they were at present. Then, with respect to Spain and Portugal; he had frequently stated to that House his reasons for thinking the civil war in Portugal was fomented and kept up by this country. He was still of the same opinion. A transaction occurred in that House last Session which proved the fact to him. An Address was voted to his Majesty, entreating his Majesty to turn his attention to the civil conflict then raging in Portugal, and requesting him to command his subjects to observe a strict neutrality. His Majesty did not, it seemed, approve of that Address, and he returned an answer by the mouth of his Ministers, which it was not necessary for him further to allude to. But, what actually took place? Why, the very individual on whose acts that Address was founded, was punished within a week, on account of those very acts. How, then, he would ask, had the neutrality of this country been preserved? The war in Portugal was notoriously carried on by the subjects of this country, and by the capital of this country. Yet, although this was a well-known fact, the king of Spain was told: "In this contest you must be neutral; and if you are not, we will interfere and support Don Pedro." Was that neutrality? Under the protection of our fleets in the Douro and the Tagus this boasted neutrality had been shamefully violated. The Ministers ought, at a very early period, to have acknowledged the government then existing in Portugal. It was a government de facto, and as such they ought to have acknowledged it: above all, they ought to have prevented the civil contest by which that country was torn. The monarch then reigning in Portugal performed his part of the treaties existing with this country, and we ought to have performed ours; but we did not do that. In Spain, Ferdinand thought proper to make an alteration in the succession to the Crown, and Don Carlos was expelled. Don Carlos was required to proceed to Italy. He would not go to Italy, but he went to Portugal to seek assistance there. He therefore would contend that the civil war in Spain grew out of the civil war in Portugal, which was fomented in this country. He would declare his conviction, if it were the last word he ever spoke, that if we had recognized Don Miguel as sovereign of Portugal, and only done him common justice, the civil war would never have broken out there. At present they could see no probable termination to these contests, nor could they divine what would be the issue of them. He had formerly ventured to advise his Majesty's Government to issue a Proclamation to recall his Majesty's subjects from the service of both parties as a means of preventing the evils which now existed, but his advice was disregarded. Again, had a different course of policy been observed, it would have prevented the occurrence of that state of things which now unfortunately existed at Constantinople. On that point there was a paragraph in the present Speech from the Throne, and an exactly similar paragraph appeared in a Speech formerly delivered by his Majesty. Now, on this subject, he must say (and he was not speaking by guess) that a most unfortunate line of policy had been adopted. He happened to know, that on a former occasion, when Mehemet Ali, Pacha of Egypt, was desired by this Government not to carry into execution certain measures which he wished to effect, and when he was positively told that he must not proceed, he at once desisted. The fact was, that if this country wished to prevent him from carrying on war in any part of the Levant, it had only, to employ a fleet to force him to act according to its direction. Those directions would be as readily obeyed by him now as they were formerly. If, in the Session of 1832, or 1833, they had plainly told Mehemet Ali that he should not carry on this contest in Syria and Asia Minor, they would have put an end to this war without the risk of allowing the emperor of Russia to send a fleet and an army to Constantinople. But, instead of doing that, instead of taking a commanding position, our fleets were in the Douro and the Tagus, protecting civil war, and in the Channel, blockading the fleets of our Dutch allies. The consequence of these proceedings was, that our three allies, Holland, Portugal, and Spain, and he might add a fourth, our ally Turkey, were placed under the protection of the other Powers. They were, if he might use the word, swamped in Europe at the present moment. He now came to the consideration of the latter points of the speech. He would say, as to any measures which it might be deemed proper to introduce with relation to these points, he should say nothing till they were launched in Parliament. He might however be permitted to express a hope that some measure or measures would be adopted with respect to the Poor-laws. For the last three years they had been, more or less, under consideration, and very much the subject of discussion and observation, both in and out of Parliament. Ministers might therefore at least have informed them whether they meant to bring forward any measure upon this important subject; and he thought their Lordships might very properly complain that the Ministers had not announced any measures to Parliament. A proposition was submitted to their Lordships last Session on the subject of Municipal Corporations, and placed on the records of their Lordships' House. A Commission had been issued, and much discussion had arisen as to the legality of the Commission. He saw various learned opinions on the subject, but he was not competent to decide a question of the kind. It was for their Lordships to consider whether it would be advisable to proceed further with a Commission upon the legality of which some doubts were entertained. There were great doubts whether it was competent to the Commissioners to administer an oath. It was a subject for serious consideration whether it would be desirable to establish over the whole country one uniform system of municipal constitutions. Hitherto there was a great variety as to the mode of voting and the qualification in boroughs. This variety was analogous to the other institutions of the country; and he doubted much whether it would be desirable to establish one uniform system, founded exclusively upon a 10l. constituency. It did not appear from the Speech whether or not it were the intention of Ministers to bring forward any measure founded on this Commission. With respect to the subject of tithes, it was a question on the importance of which it was unnecessary for him to dilate. He did not intend to enter into the subject, but he hoped that Ministers would give it their most serious and earnest consideration. Their Lordships had probably all read the speeches made by the friends and supporters of his Majesty's Government on this subject at various meetings throughout the country during the recess. He must say, that he considered the sentiments expressed in some of those speeches very deserving of their Lordships' serious attention, and such as were calculated to excite in the highest degree the jealousy and suspicion of that House. He would take the liberty to say that the conduct of his Majesty's Government respecting the Church of Ireland in a former Session of Parliament was well calculated to excite the suspicion of the House as to what the Government should now do on this subject, and he felt himself fully warranted in saying, that never had there been a question brought before their Lordships in which it was so necessary for them to be cautious in regard to the principles and proceedings of his Majesty's Government as upon this question of Church property. It was not his intention to go into that question at large on this occasion; indeed, at present there were not materials in existence to enable anybody to do so. He could not however avoid saving, in justice to himself, that he had supported two Bills brought in by a most reverend Prelate in a former Session of Parliament—the one to regulate pluralities and the other for the composition of tithes. Both of those Bills received the support of his Majesty's Government in that House—both were highly desirable measures for the purpose of conciliating the public mind with regard to the Church on those particular questions; and yet, notwithstanding the omnipotent sway which the present Government possessed and exercised over the other House of Parliament, it was not, somehow or other, able to get those Bills passed through the House of Commons. He would entreat their Lordships, therefore, to look with jealousy upon all the proceedings of his Majesty's Government on this subject, and to take care, if they could, that nothing should be done to the injury of that Church. There was another subject with regard to which the intentions of his Majesty's Government had not been stated in the Speech from the Throne, and on which the Ministers had given their Lordships no information,—he meant the Irish Coercion Bill. There could be no doubt that the greatest benefit had been derived by Ireland from that necessary and salutary measure. It had been scarcely carried into execution in a single instance, but the existence of it had effected the greatest benefit for Ireland; and he therefore thought, that when his Majesty's Government came down to Parliament, and stated as they did in a paragraph of the Speech from the Throne, that "the public tranquillity had been generally preserved, and that the state of all the provinces of Ireland presented, upon the whole, a much more favourable appearance than at any period during the last year," they should have at the same time informed their Lordships whether it was their intention to propose the renewal of that Bill, to which such desirable consequences were mainly attributable. Their Lordships were aware that this Bill would, if not renewed, expire at the end of the present Session of Parliament. At present their Lordships knew nothing of the intentions of his Majesty's Government on that point; they only knew that Ministers complained of the agitation which had been excited in Ireland concerning the Repeal of the Union. He would repeat that Ministers should have told them whether it was their intention to propose the renewal of that measure to which was owing the restoration of something like peace and tranquillity in that part of the United Kingdom. He wished to address a few observations to their Lordships on the question of Irish tithes. With regard to any measure which it might be the intention of his Majesty's Government to bring forward on that subject, he begged in the first instance to say, that, as far as he could learn, the clergy of the Church of Ireland were at present precisely in the same miserable situation in which they had been for the last seventeen or eighteen months. If that, therefore, was the case, notwithstanding the measures which had been brought forward and passed on a former occasion in reference to the clergy of Ireland, he must say if that race of men were to be preserved at all, their Lordships should lose no time in passing whatever measures were required to complete the arrangement with respect to tithes in Ireland. He believed, as he had already stated, that the clergy of the Church of Ireland were at present in the most miserable and destitute condition. If, as he learned upon the best authority, they were reduced to the lowest ebb of distress, so much so, that many of them had been obliged to give up the insurances which they had formerly effected on their lives for the benefit of their families, and in several instances, had now lost everything,—if, in consequence of such distress, many of them had been under the necessity of taking the boon which was held out to them under the most unfavourable circumstances by the Government bill of last Session,—if, he repeated, such were the case, and he believed there was no doubt that he had correctly stated the facts, their Lordships, he was sure, would agree with him in thinking that no time should be lost in bringing forward whatever measures were required to complete the arrangement with respect to the Church of Ireland, and to rescue that most deserving race of men, the clergy of that Church, from such an unparalleled state of suffering and distress. He had felt it his duty on this occasion to offer these observations to their Lordships, though, as he had already stated, it was not his intention to give any opposition to the Address which had been just proposed for their Lordships' adoption.

Earl Grey

The noble Duke who had just sat down, having set out with stating that there was nothing in the present Address to which he was disposed to offer any opposition, he had entertained the hope that this night, at least, would have been allowed to pass without such an attack as the noble Duke had thought it necessary to make upon his Majesty's Government. The noble Duke complained that the Speech from the Throne on this occasion said nothing; but their Lordships were aware that such a complaint was equally applicable to every speech which had been made from the Throne for a long series of years, not even excepting those in the concoction of which the noble Duke was himself concerned. It was, in fact, a complaint which in a great degree arose out of the nature of the thing itself, because, as it was always understood that a short address only was to be allowed in the shape of the King's Speech, their Lordships must at once perceive the utter impossibility of noticing in such a document the great variety of subjects that must come under discussion in that and the other House of Parliament. He was sure, however, that their Lordships would look at the King's Speech with less prejudiced eyes than those with which the noble Duke who had attacked it had viewed it, and that in doing so they would see that there were many most important subjects noticed in it, and the intentions of his Majesty's Ministers were stated on many points quite as far as it was convenient to announce them, or as could be expected under existing circumstances. The noble Duke in the first instance complained that no distinct intimation was given in the Speech of any measures which it might be the intention of his Majesty's Ministers to bring on in the course of the ensuing Session of Parliament. He could easily prove that the complaint of the noble Duke was not founded in fact; but he would, in the first instance, with their Lordships' leave, take notice of some things which the noble Duke had said—first, with regard to West-India slavery, and afterwards with regard to our foreign policy. The noble Duke said, that he should rejoice much if he should find that the apprehensions which he entertained respecting the ultimate consequences of the law for the abolition of slavery in our West-India colonies should not be realized. He would in reply to the noble Duke say, in the language of the King's Speech, that "the manner in which that beneficent measure had been received thoughout the British colonies, and the progress which had been already made in carrying it into execution in the island of Jamaica, afforded just grounds for anticipating the most favourable results from its final completion." "But," said the noble Duke, "we had yet to learn that such progress had been made in carrying that law into operation, that any measures had been passed by the colonial legislatures, or, in fine, that such definitive arrangements had been effected, as would justify Government in asserting that the measure, as a whole, had been fully successful." It was not so stated in the King's Speech. He was well aware, that there yet remained much to be done; he was well aware, that it would still be, as it had been, his duty, and the duty of his Majesty's Government, to look with much anxiety to this question, and to various objects connected with it, which had not as yet been settled. The noble Duke laboured under a manifest mistake. It was not stated in the King's Speech that the final completion of this great work was a subject on which the country could be congratulated; all that was said in his Majesty's Speech was, that the measure had been received throughout the colonies in a manner which caused him great satisfaction, though he would take leave to say, it was directly the contrary of that in which the noble Duke had predicted it would be received there. His Majesty's Government had, therefore, a perfect right to congratulate the country upon the fact that the Assembly of Jamaica had done that which their Lordships had been told it would not do—that it had passed a Bill for carrying this measure into effect, and that it had passed it in such a manner as to give, in the words of the Speech, "just grounds for anticipating the most favourable results." When their Lordships came to consider carefully and impartially the statement on this subject contained in the Speech from the Throne, he was sure that they would be ready to acquit his Majesty's Ministers of the charge of too much confidence in expressing their anticipations, seeing what had already taken place in the colonies—seeing the manner in which the Bill had been received there, and in which its principles had been adopted—that the time was not distant when it would be in the power of the colonies to proclaim the final extinction of slavery. Their Lordships had seen what had been already done in so short a space of time towards effecting that most desirable object; they had seen with astonishment, no doubt, the Governor of Jamaica congratulating the Legislature of that island at the close of its late Session upon the extinction of the greatest curse—the curse of slavery—that had ever existed. They had seen in that fact a strong proof of the progress of the measure for the Abolition of Slavery in the West-Indies, and it afforded substantial grounds on which to build their hopes of ultimate and complete success. More than that, he did not feel it necessary to say in relation to the question of Slavery on the present occasion. He would, therefore, proceed to what the noble Duke had stated with regard to the foreign policy of his Majesty's Government. The noble Duke, it would appear, had found nothing in his Majesty's Speech on that subject which was not deserving of his severest censure. With respect to Holland, the noble Duke, the partisan of the King of Holland, defended the line of conduct adopted by that Sovereign, and described the course which his Majesty's Government had pursued on this subject, as one from which the final adjustment of which they expressed their hopes, and anticipations might never be expected. In the first place he would beg leave to remind the noble Duke of the situation in which the present Ministers had found this question. He need not remind the noble Duke, that at the period he was alluding to a virtual separation had taken place between Holland and Belgium,—that the Conference had already laid down certain principles for the purpose of preventing a hostile collision between the two formerly united members of the kingdom of the Netherlands,—and that a line of demarcation was actually agreed upon, which sufficiently distinguished what the future arrangement was intended to be with regard to the respective territories of the two countries. He would not say, that at that period the noble Duke did not entertain any hope that a reunion would be ultimately effected between Holland and Belgium; but he would assert, that he did not believe any rational man in the country entertained such an expectation. The opinion which he himself expressed upon this subject in the Debate on the Address at the opening of the Session of Parliament in October, 1830, when the noble Duke was still at the head of affairs in this country, he well remembered. He then said, that he could not imagine, after the excitement of the animosities which then actuated the two countries, that they could again be united except by means the most vicious and unjust. Such were the sentiments which he had expressed at the period to which he had alluded. But, according to the noble Duke, it seemed that his Majesty's Government were imposing unjust terms on the King of Holland. Their only object had been to avert a collision between Holland and Belgium; and if the noble Duke would only recur to the papers which had been laid upon their Lordships' Table, he would see, that after many vain efforts to bring the adjustment of the question to a satisfactory conclusion, all the members of the Conference concurred in the opinion that it was in vain to hope for an effectual settlement of it by peaceable means; that, in fact, some measure of coercion was required to bring it to a conclusion, though they were not prepared to go the length to which the Courts of France and England had determined to go to effect that purpose. Yet, notwithstanding the existence of such an authority in justification of the conduct of his Majesty's Government, the noble Duke had said, that they had adopted an unjust course in reference to the King of Holland. The noble Duke was no doubt a high authority in that House and throughout Europe; and it was, therefore, with pain that he had heard such a sentiment expressed by the noble Duke, knowing as he did how likely it was to afford encouragement to the King of Holland to persevere in a pertinacious opposition to a settlement upon which the safety and security of his own kingdom must, he believed, in a great measure depend. The noble Duke said, that this question remained precisely in the same situation that it was two years ago; but he begged leave to remind the noble Duke, that the situation of both parties was materially altered; that Belgium was now placed in a situation of security against any aggression on the part of Holland, and there was no fear of any interruption of its peace. In fact, taking into account the many advantages which Belgium enjoyed under the existing state of things, there was nothing to induce it to press strongly for a conclusion of the question. He trusted, however, that the time was not distant when different sentiments would prevail in the councils of the Dutch government, and when that government would be brought to see the impolicy of its conduct and the disadvantage which accrued peculiarly to its own subjects from keeping this question in an unsettled state. He would only further state, that he should be ready, whenever the noble Duke should think fit to arraign the conduct of his Majesty's Ministers upon this point, to enter into a full defence of the line of policy which they had pursued with regard to the dispute between Holland and Belgium. In the mean time their Lordships might rest satisfied that nothing had been done, the object of which was not to preserve the peace of Europe. Much had been done with that view; and if it were not attained, it would be the fault of that Power, which for fifteen years had prevented the carrying into effect the treaty for the free navigation of the Rhine; and, though it was impossible to say how long things might remain in their present position, yet he was happy to assure their Lordships, that there was no likelihood that they would endanger the peace of Europe. The next subject to which the noble Duke had adverted was the war in Portugal. He felt as sincerely as the noble Duke,—and he gave the noble Duke ample credit for sincerity,—the unfortunate and lamentable state of that country; but was this country a party to the usurpation of Don Miguel. If, as the noble Duke said, we ought to acknowledge Don Miguel, how happened it that during I three years of the administration of the noble Duke—though Don Miguel was then de facto as much sovereign of Portugal as at any subsequent period, and though he was as much the choice of the Portuguese nation then as now—how, he repeated, did it happen that the noble Duke had not acknowledged him? How happened it that on the very eve of going out of office, the noble Duke's Administration stated that it was absolutely necessary that Don Miguel should perform certain things before that acknowledgment could be obtained? Those things had never yet been done; the amnesty which was enumerated amongst them had never been granted, but, on the contrary, cruelty and oppression had been daily exercised by the government of Don Miguel, and the very principle upon which the noble Duke had determined not to acknowledge him justified the present Government in refusing that acknowledgment. "But," said the noble Duke, "when Don Pedro proceeded with an expedition to Portugal for the purpose of establishing there the dominion of his daughter, we should have opposed it." He did not see how this country could be justified in doing any such thing. Don Miguel had broken all the ties which he was bound to have observed! first, he broke through the ties which bound him to his legitimate sovereign; and next he violated the solemn obligations of a sacred oath. This country surely could not sanction or support such a man, and under such circumstances. In consequence of his unjust usurpation a civil war followed. There had been many discussions on that subject in both Houses of Parliament. His Majesty's Government had uniformly stated, with regard to that contest, that they had observed a real neutrality, not depriving either party of such succour as they could through their private means command from this country. And yet the noble Duke had arraigned the conduct of Government in this matter as an infraction of neutrality! He would not again go into the arguments which had been so frequently brought forward on both sides of this question; but he would maintain, as he had before maintained, that there were circumstances in the case which fully justified the course which we had pursued, and that it was not only the most prudent course for us to observe neutrality in this contest, but that we also had a right to compel Spain to observe a similar neutrality. The noble Duke had certainly given utterance to some strange statements on this point. He observed, that if we had acknowledged Don Miguel (though he did not show how, upon his own principles, we could have done so), civil war would have been avoided in Spain; and the noble Duke seemed to suppose that the young Queen of Spain would, without any difficulty, have been established on the Throne. The noble Duke asserted, that had we recognized Don Miguel, we should have had a right (a right the exercise of which the noble Duke forgot would be a real interference in the concerns of another nation) to demand, and the power to insist, that Don Miguel should not give refuge to Don Carlos, but that he should compel him to quit Portugal, and go into exile into Italy. Supposing that the circumstances of the case were such that his Majesty's Government could, according to the advice of the noble Duke, acknowledge Don Miguel, was it not certain that Don Miguel and the Apostolical party in Portugal would not listen to such a representation with respect to Don Carlos? If they would not, as was most likely, listen for a moment to such a representation from us, what then would be the advantages to be derived from the course recommended by the noble Duke with regard to Portugal,—a course intended to make Miguel do that which was necessary for the peaceable establishment of the succession to the Spanish throne? He felt as strongly as the noble Duke could possibly feel the great importance of the question to the peace of Europe—the vast and paramount importance of a peaceable succession to the throne of Spain; he felt as strongly as the noble Duke, that the interests of this country were connected with the preservation of peace in Spain; he estimated, as highly as any man could, the advantages of a lasting union of the people of both countries; he saw how much such an union would conduce to the permanent prosperity of both; and he was not, therefore, blind to the many advantages which we should reap from the establishment of a peaceable succession to the throne of Spain. The evils of a civil war in Spain were of the greatest magnitude; but he could not discover how the course recommended by the noble Duke could have averted them. Suppose Don Miguel established on the throne of Portugal, and the Apostolical party there triumphant, he could not contemplate the possibility of such a state of things without a greater certainty of civil war in Spain, and without a greater prospect of those evils which at present unfortunately prevailed in that kingdom. He did not know whether the noble Duke meant to arraign the conduct of the Government for having acknowledged the young Queen of Spain, but he gathered from what fell from the noble Duke, that the noble Duke did not approve of their conduct in that respect. Let their Lordships look at the circumstances of the case. The king of Spain having altered the law as to the succession to the throne, or rather having reverted to the ancient laws of that kingdom on the subject, and, on his decease, his Majesty's Ministers, finding his daughter de jure as well as de facto queen of Spain, thought it right to rive moral force to that government, in order to enable it to establish itself, and they, therefore, at once acknowledged it. Before, however, the death of the king of Spain had occurred, with that anxiety which the government of this country should have felt for the peaceable succession to his throne, it had made a proposition through the Spanish minister which, had it then been adopted, he had no doubt would have secured that most desirable object. It was not, however, adopted, and unfortunately that state of things had occurred in Spain, to which the noble Duke had adverted, but which was, in no degree owing to the steps which had been taken by his Majesty's Ministers. They had done all they could to avert such a state of things; and for the present unfortunate position of affairs in both those countries, Spain and Portugal, the Government of this country was in no respect responsible. But the noble Duke had charged his Majesty's Government with having given direct encouragement and assistance to Don Pedro; and he had said, that our ships in the Douro and in the Tagus had afforded him much assistance. But it so happened, that in consequence of the war in Portugal, a quantity of British property and a number of British subjects were placed in peculiar danger there, and it was for their protection, and for their protection only, that his Majesty's ships were sent to the Domo and the Tagus. Government would have been wanting in its duty, if it had neglected to afford British subjects that protection to which they were entitled. It was for that purpose our ships were sent to the Tagus; it was for that purpose they remained there, observing the strictest neutrality between the belligerent parties. Indeed, so far from their affording assistance, as the noble Duke asserted, to Don Pedro, complaints, he believed, had been made, but most unjustly made, of their presence there having been favourable to the cause of Don Miguel. The more the subject was discussed and investigated, the more it would be manifest, that his Majesty's Government had only done what its duty had strictly dictated. The next subject to which the noble Duke had adverted, was the situation of Turkey. It was stated in his Majesty's Speech, that "the peace of Turkey since the settlement that was made with Mehemet Ali has not been interrupted; and will not," his Majesty went on to say," I trust, be threatened with any new danger. It will be my object to prevent any change in the relations of that empire with other powers which may affect its stability and independence." He trusted that the independence of Turkey would be preserved, feeling as he did that its independence was most essential to the preservation of the peace of Europe. It was hardly possible for him, on this occasion, to enter into all the circumstances that had taken place previous to the settlement that was finally made with Mehemet Ali. The noble Duke said, that we should have sent a fleet into the Mediterranean; that we should have declared war against Mehemet Ali, and in that way we could have put an end to a contest which had endangered the independence of the Porte. He did not see upon what principle we could have so interfered. When danger appeared to menace the Porte, we were not deficient in taking measures to avert it. So early as April, 1833, a very strong declaration was made to Mehemet Ali by, this Government upon the subject, which, in a great degree, prevented the further progress of that contest. He did not be lieve that it was the duty or the Government of this country, in case of a war between the Sultan and his revolted vassal—a war to which we were no parties, and in which we had no concern, save so far as by its ultimate results it might affect the peace of Europe,—he repeated, that he did not believe it to be the duty of the Government of this country to interfere directly in such a war, or to enter into hostilities with Mehemet Ali, from whom we had received no cause of complaint, and with whom we had at the moment extensive commercial relations, which it would not be our interest to disturb. We did, however, exert our utmost to prevent that contest from endangering the independence of the Porte; and the measures which had been taken in that instance had been so far successful. As to what the noble Duke had said with regard to the state of dependence of the Porte at present upon other powers, he would not say that such a dependence, particularly the dependence on Russia, was a situation which this country had not to lament and fear; but he would say, that such a state of things was not owing to any neglect of duty on the part of the present Government of this country. He could not advert to the subject of the treaty of Adrianople without feeling convinced that that unfortunate treaty, and the condition to which it reduced the Port, had given a fatal blow to the security and independence of that power in Europe. He could refer to despatches sent at the period from the Secretary of State's office in this country, strongly protesting against that treaty, and declaring that the independence of the Porte would be sacrificed, and the peace of Europe endangered, by its being agreed to. He lamented exceedingly that that treaty was carried into effect. A fatal blow was given by it to the independence of the Porte, under which Russia had obtained the right of navigating the Danube to its termination in the Black Sea, and by which a tribute was imposed on Turkey which it manifestly never could pay. In pledge for that, Russia was to hold two of its finest provinces in Europe—Moldavia and Wallachia—for the space of ten years, or until the tribute was paid; under which treaty, too, it was guaranteed that the Hospodars of Moldavia and Wallachia should in future be independent (not, indeed, of Russia, but)—entirely and completely independent of the Porte, being liable only to the payment of a small revenue to their ancient sovereign. When they saw such things accomplished, and when they saw the subjects of Russia, living in the dominions of the Porte, guaranteed an entire exemption from its authority, and provision made, that even for offences committed against that government they should be only liable to trial and punishment before tribunals of their own countrymen, it must be at once seen that the Porte was placed in a situation of degradation fatal to its independence—that independence which it ought to be the policy of this country to maintain, and which, he trusted, it would always endeavour to maintain as long as it could. Such certainly was the principle on which the present Government had acted, and on which it was acting in regard to this important question. There were other grave considerations connected with this question which he could not at present for obvious reasons enter into. What he had stated would show that there had been nothing to justify us to engage in a war with Mehemet Ali,—that we had done what it behoved us to do in that instance, and that all our efforts ought to be directed, as they had been, to preserve the independence of Turkey, as long as that power existed. It was impossible for him on an occasion of this kind to go into all the points connected with this question, but he trusted he had said enough to justify the course which Government had adopted with regard to it. He would say a few words as to what had fallen from the noble Duke in reference to that part of the speech which related to the commission for inquiring into the state of the municipal corporations, into the administration and effect of the Poor-laws, and into the ecclesiastical patronage and revenues of the Church of England. The noble Duke had said, that nothing had been stated with regard to these subjects in the Speech from the Throne. On subjects confessedly of great difficulty, and requiring careful investigation, and the most anxious consideration before any measures connected with them could be proposed to the House, he should have thought that the course taken by his Majesty's Government was the best and most likely to give general satisfaction. Government had appointed commissioners to inquire into those important subjects, before calling upon Parliament to consider any measures, which, as it seemed to him, could only be satisfactorily proposed after a previous and full consideration, in the manner that had been resorted to. But although Government did not at once come forward with an announcement of measures already decided on and in preparation, they intimated their intention to deal with all the subjects referred to in due season, as soon as measures could safely and beneficially be introduced, grounded on the information obtained and presented by the commissions. With respect to the important question of the Poor-laws—a question in the present state of the Administration of those laws most alarming, and in reference to the settlement of it most difficult, yet most necessary, and (he freely admitted) most pressing—in reference to this question, the noble Duke reproached his Majesty's Government for having done nothing in the course of the three years during which they had been in office. This was a matter which admitted of being carried further back than the date of their accession to office; and the question might be proposed: "What had the noble Duke's Administration, or that which preceded it, done in reference to the subject?" Were abuses in the Poor-laws unknown till within the last three years? Had no information been communicated to Parliament or Government on the subject previously to that period? He would refer their Lordships to an able report by Mr. Sturges Bourne on the subject of the Poor-laws—a report made so long ago as the year 1819—a period, ten years antecedent to the termination of the noble Duke's Administration. The abuses of the existing system of Poor-laws were clearly and ably pointed out by the learned person referred to, yet no step was taken by the Governments of the day to remedy the evil; and, he might add, that in the office over which his noble friend (Lord Melbourne) presided not a trace was to be found of a single measure planned or contemplated upon this subject. It was hard that the present Government should be arraigned for not doing that which their predecessors had failed to perform. It was hard, considering the various measures introduced by Ministers—considering the many momentous subjects by which they were surrounded, and which pressed upon them all at the same time, that they should be blamed for not having settled a question in reference to which the united wisdom of former Administrations had not enabled them to take a single step towards a satisfactory conclusion. Ministers had done the best thing they could—they had done more than their predecessors—they had appointed a commission to inquire into the subject, and he trusted that in a short time Parliament would have a report from that most valuable and meritorious commission, in which large and extensive views would be developed in relation to the question, and information would be afforded which would at once show the difficulties of the subject, and point out a cautious, but he hoped, satisfactory mode of settling it. He thought that this was a subject on which caution was peculiarly necessary, and that all would be hazarded by attempting too much at once. The grand point was to discover the best manner of safely remedying the abuses of that system, the maladministration of which tended, perhaps, more than anything else to increase the distresses of the country, especially the distresses of the agricultural interest, which were now most felt and complained of. In relation to the Poor-laws, he trusted their Lordships would be of opinion, that he stood exculpated and free from any just imputation. In the next place he came to the subject of the municipal corporations. It was felt, he believed, by everybody who knew the nature of those corporations that some remedy was required. Ministers had taken steps by instituting an inquiry, with a view to correct the existing abuses. But the noble Duke intimated that there was a dispute as to the legality of the commission appointed to investigate the subject and that doubts existed how far it might be prudent to act on the report of an illegal commission (thereby assuming it to be illegal). He certainly was never more surprised in his life than at finding that an opinion had gone abroad under the sanction of a high legal authority for which he entertained the greatest respect, questioning the legality and powers of the commission.

The Duke of Wellington

Not the commission.

The Lord Chancellor

understood, that the objection was taken, not to the appointment, but to the powers of the commission.

Earl Grey

—However that was, perhaps it would be found, on inquiry, that similar commissions had received the sanction of the law advisers of the Crown, when the learned person to whom he alluded was in office. That learned person would do well to look to it, and see whether such might not have been the case before adhering to the opinion attributed to him in the present instance. But he would not enter into the subject of the authority of the commission. Ministers would be prepared to meet any arguments or objections as to the character of the commission, or as to the legality of the exercise of certain authority, on a proper occasion; but all for which he now contended was the importance of its object. The commission was of the first importance; it afforded the best means of ascertaining the nature of corporate abuses; and he would add, the commissioners had done their duty in the most exemplary way, and accumulated a vast mass of most useful information. Till the information thus acquired was fully digested and laid before Parliament, it would be impossible for the House to take steps upon the subject of municipal corporations. Such being the case, it would be premature to enter into the question at present. The noble Duke said, it would be impossible to take any one uniform course in relation to corporations, or to frame a municipal system on the basis of the 10l. constituency. To this he must answer, "Wait till you see the report of the commissioners;" he did not say, that it was possible to adopt one uniform system, founded upon this or any other particular basis; all be said and insisted on was, that abuses to an extent such as could hardly be believed had been discovered by the inquiries of the commissioners, that a correction of these abuses was not only desirable but necessary, and that the means of correction would depend on the results of the inquiry, and the determination of the Legislature, grounded on the information to be laid before it. He now came to one of the last and most important subjects adverted to by the noble Duke—he meant the situation of the Established Church. The noble Duke recommended caution in reference to this subject, and in that sentiment he entirely concurred. Deprecating, as he did, all rash alterations in municipal corporations, or the system of the Poor-laws, he should approach with great caution any proposed change affecting the Established Church, The noble Duke complained of sentiments said to have been expressed by many friends of Government in speeches which were reported in the newspapers, and which he considered highly reprehensible, in reference to the Church. Perhaps it was his fault not to read newspapers quite so much as he ought, or he had not paid sufficient attention to them. However that might be, he did not very well know what the noble Duke alluded to, and he had rather not go on speeches which (whether truly reported or not) did not afford sufficient grounds upon which to form a judgment of the policy of his Majesty's Ministers. The noble Duke appeared to wish for a confession of faith from him on the subject of the Church. He had no hesitation in saying that he was a sincere friend of the Church—a devoted and zealous supporter of the Church. He was not one of those who would for a single moment appear to encourage the theorists who were for separating Church and State. Such designs he considered wild, extravagant, and dangerous. He had not concealed his opinion on the subject; he had had various communications with bodies of Dissenters, and did not hesitate to say, that in some respects, and upon some points which they felt to be oppressive, they were entitled to speedy relief. As far as real grievances were concerned, he felt anxious, and he was sure the heads of the Church were also anxious, that any relief which could reasonably be required, should be afforded; but if the Dissenters pressed for the destruction of the Church Establishment, he at once took his stand against them. He repeated, that in some cases the Dissenters, he considered, were entitled to attention and redress; but if such attacks as he referred to were made on the Church, not only would he refuse to be their supporter, but he would show himself one of their most determined and uncompromising opponents. For the sake of the Church itself, in common with a great many of its firmest friends and best supporters, he thought it necessary, that the state of the Establishment should be looked into, and that any thing of which complaints were justly made (the noble Duke had alluded to two grounds of complaint) should be corrected. But, at the same time, he well knew the difficulty of the subject, and his determination was, if he continued a member of the Government when the period of reform arrived, to look at the matter with the utmost caution. His wish was to adopt measures conducted on what might be termed a truly conservative principle—not using the term "conservative" in the sense in which it had been frequently abused. The reform which he contemplated would be adopted with the view of preserving and supporting the establishment, and not for the purpose of injuring and destroying its foundations. The noble Duke had spoken of two measures brought in by a most rev. Prelate, the one on the subject of tithes, the other in reference to pluralities. With respect to tithes, it was apparent that there existed a general disposition in the country to remove the source of grievance and dissatisfaction between clergy and people which arose out of the present system of tithes. It was admitted that something must be done in reference to them, and it was his hope, at no distant period, to be able to bring the subject under their Lordships' consideration. The measure of the most rev. Prelate had received his support in that House, but it was thought elsewhere, not to go far enough, and in consequence of its not satisfying the Commons, it was suffered to drop in the other House of Parliament. This took place in the House which existed prior to the dissolution of Parliament. The second measure, relative to pluralities, although originating in the best intentions on the part of the most rev. Prelate, its author, met with the same fate as the measure for the commutation of tithes—it also failed in the Commons. He could have wished it had been adopted; but it was to be assumed that its provisions were not satisfactory. The failure of those two measures proved the necessity of further inquiry and investigation; that course had been adopted; and he hoped, in the end, something might be done to secure the Church, and satisfy the public by prudent and needful reforms. He had troubled their Lordships at much greater length than he at first intended, or than was perhaps necessary; but, notwithstanding the time he had already occupied, there still remained one topic to which he found it necessary to advert. The noble Duke referred to that part of his Majesty's Speech which touched upon the attempts made to excite the people of Ireland to demand a repeal of the legislative union—attempts which the utmost powers of the Government must, at all hazards, be exerted to put down. The noble Duke called on his Majesty's Government to declare whether they intended to continue the coercive (it might be more properly termed the protective) law which was passed in the last Session of Parliament. That question was, up to a certain extent, answered by the Speech from the Throne. Government had expressed their decided intention to maintain inviolate the Legislative Union between England and Ireland as a firm bond of our national strength and safety; and his Majesty had called upon Parliament and all his subjects to join in the adoption of measures for "putting an end to a system of excitement and violence which, while it continued, was destructive of the peace of society, and, if successful, must inevitably prove fatal to the honour and safety of the united kingdom." That was the language of the Speech from the Throne—such was the determination of his Majesty; and, in behalf of that determination, he was sure his Majesty would not call in vain for the support of his Parliament and people. The protective measure passed last year still existed, and would not expire till the 1st of August. There was consequently plenty of time to apply for its renewal, if necessary. He had stated last year, on introducing that measure, that it was with pain and regret he proposed it to Parliament, and that it would be the happiest day of his life when he could say the law was no longer required by the circumstances of the country, or needed not to be renewed. Circumstances admitting of the repeal of that measure, he was sorry to say, did not now exist; what might be the state of the country a few months hence, he could not say, and he must decline stating what would be the future conduct of Government. This, however, he would say, that the King's Government was determined to do its duty as hitherto, with the aid of Parliament, and supported by the country. When it was considered, that at this very moment, notwithstanding the excitement referred to, and notwithstanding all the agitation and insecurity consequent upon it, the country was in a state of progressive improvement greater than that of any other country in the world—that trade and manufacture were extending—the prospect was of an encouraging nature. That the blessings of Providence should be marred and counteracted by a malignant spirit of disturbance, and that, instead of prosperity, peace, and order, which were within our reach, the country should be subjected to the evils of excitement and violence, was certainly not to be borne. There was no other subject arising out of the observations made on the King's Speech, upon which it was necessary for him to trouble the House. He should therefore merely add, that he—and he could also speak with confidence for his colleagues—had not adopted any one measure of policy, foreign or domestic, without a careful and conscientious examination of it in all forms and relations, and that the constant endeavour of Ministers was to do all they could in execution and furtherance of what they conceived to be required by the state of the country, in the hope of a liberal construction of their proceedings from the Parliament and the people, but being prepared to retire from the situations which they held, the moment they found that Parliament withheld its support, or that they had lost the public confidence.

The Duke of Wellington

said, in explanation, that he did not blame the noble Earl for not having a measure for amending the Poor-laws now ready to be brought forward, but he complained that Ministers had not specifically stated in the King's speech, whether they contemplated a measure on the subject, and when especially as a measure had been promised for the last two years, but not brought forward.

The Address was unanimously agreed to.