The Marquess of Londonderry
rose to ask the noble Earl at the head of his Majesty's Government a question, the answer to which it was necessary for the country to know, as a strong feeling of anxiety was excited by the occurrence to which the question referred; indeed, he would say, too, that the public interest was much concerned in it. During the interregnum of the last fortnight—during, he might say, that suspension of the Government, and the consequent embarrassments and evils to the public business resulting from the palsied state of the Government, he did not think it right to ask the question. But, now that there was the appearance, if not the reality, of a constituted Government, he hoped he might, without discourtesy, or without creating any confusion in his Majesty's counsels, ask a plain question—one, indeed, that the country asked, in a loud and bold tone too—whether Don Pedro, who was planted, through the instrumentality and aid of England, in supreme dominion in Portugal—a ruler ejected from the Brazils, not for his adherence to the principles or practice of liberty, but fixed, by the indirect agency of England, as the ruler of Portugal—whether, then, from gratitude to England or rather the English Government, which, while professing neutrality, so vigorously supported him, he had ratified the Treaty entered into with him by this country? He (Lord Londonderry) also wished to know whether that Treaty, either fictitious or real, was ever ratified by the English Government? How did the case stand? Was there a ratification on either side, or was the whole thing mere parchment and a blind? It was said, indeed, in the public prints, some of which professed, or were believed, to be in the secrets of Government; it was semi-officially stated, that the ratifications was signed on the part of England. Now he was surely justified in asking if that were so; and, in the next place, if the ratification on the part of Portugal was received; and further, if not received, what 171 was the cause of the delay, whether the delay was shuffling and tricky, or resulted from natural unforeseen, and excusable causes? There was another point that he would incidentally advert to, as it was made the subject of commentary in other places, and indeed the topic of disputation by the periodical defenders, if not the patrons, of the Government—that was, that it was stipulated that Don Pedro was to be allowed only for a time to be at the head of affairs in Portugal; that he was only to be a temporary stop-gap kind of director of the destinies of that country. He should also like to know what was the course intended to be adopted by the present Government in case Don Pedro pitched pledges and covenants overboard, and refused to accede to the Treaty. It behoved this country to look well to the conduct of the pretended guardians, the pseudo liberals, of Lisbon, and take care that professions of friendship did not end in acts of hostility. It was boasted that the aim and tendency of the avowed leaning of the Government to the so-called constitutional cause in Portugal was, to tranquillize the country and restore it to happiness and prosperity. But, in place of doing that, the result was, that a flame was lit in Portugal which spread devastation through the country, and that the interests of Great Britain, which were ever before secured by our close alliance with Portugal, as in some degree the reward of our protection of that country, were sacrificed by pusillanimity to intrigue and bluster and usurpation.
§ Earl Grey
said, he thought it strange that the noble Earl should have asked a question on a subject of this kind in his absence. He was now ready to answer him, and he should confine himself strictly to the subject-matter of that question. He was surprised that the noble Earl should make observations without first ascertaining the correctness of the ground on which they rested. In the present instance he had made an assumption which had no foundation whatever, except in his own imagination. Now, with respect to the ratification of the Treaty, he would tell their Lordships exactly how the matter stood. He did expect, that he should have been empowered to lay the ratification of the Treaty on their Lordships' Table before this time, and he would now state the cause of the delay that had occurred. The ratification had been received, but the instrument was found to be informal. The informality had nothing to do with any 172 one of the conditions of the Treaty. It consisted of an omission in the preamble of the Treaty, as it had been sent here. It was sent back, and when transmitted to Portugal it was accompanied by a declaration that the Treaty should be of no effect until the omission was supplied. Of its being supplied he could not entertain the least doubt, because he saw no motive whatever that could induce a different line of conduct. The articles had been ratified in the form originally drawn up; and if it would give any satisfaction to the noble Earl, he had no hesitation in telling him, that that article, which he supposed to exist in the Treaty, existed nowhere except in the minds of those from whom he derived his information, or in the noble Earl's own imagination. The moment the ratification was received in the manner required, the Treaty should be laid on the Table. The delay was occasioned merely by an inadvertence, and it was not possible to lay before the House an incomplete document. With respect to the general observations of the noble Earl, it was not necessary for him to notice them. Whether the course which had been taken would restore peace and tranquillity to Portugal, or whether, as the noble Earl seemed to think, it would extend the evils which afflicted that country, was a matter which their Lordships were not called on then to discuss; and it would, perhaps, have been better if the noble Earl had not touched on the subject. He, however, believed, that every rational man would agree with him in opinion, that the policy which had been pursued would be found in every respect beneficial to Portugal.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, if he understood the noble Earl correctly, the ratification of the Treaty had taken place; but an incomplete copy of the Treaty so signed had been exchanged with his Majesty's Government as a complete one. Now, surely this country ought not to be bound by an incomplete instrument.
§ Earl Grey
said, the noble Duke laboured under a misapprehension. What he had stated was, that in consequence of an omission in the preamble of the Treaty, it was found necessary to extend, as it were, the time for the ratification; but that it was at the same time declared, that the Treaty should have no effect until the omission was filled up. If the deficiency were not supplied, the ratification of the Treaty, thus incomplete, would have no operation.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, there 173 could be no doubt that his Majesty's Ministers could not be called on to produce to their Lordships such imperfect documents.
§ Conversation dropped.