The Marquess of Londonderry
wished to put two questions to the noble Viscount (Melbourne), the result of which, he felt, deeply concerned the national honour and the dearest interests of the country, and which he hoped the noble Viscount, or some noble Lord engaged in the Administration of Foreign Affairs, was prepared to answer. The first was, whether the recent Order in Council issued relative to the enlistment of British subjects in the Spanish service was a spontaneous act on the part of his Majesty's Government, or had resulted from any especial application on the part of some foreign Power? The second was a still more important point to be well understood by the British public. Their Lordships were well aware that during the short period in which his noble Friend, the Duke of Wellington, held the Foreign Seals he had effected a convention between the parties then engaged, on the Spanish soil, in exterminating warfare, alike creditable to his talents, justice, and humanity, as it was beneficial to the country desolated by that unhappy, civil strife. He was now desirous to be informed whether the benefits which had been so happily secured to the native combatants engaged 780 in this protracted struggle, by the merciful arrangements so prudently and admirably effected by Lord Eliot's mission, were also to be extended to the individuals who might now enlist in the service of the Queen of Spain under the suspension of the Foreign Enlistment Act by the new Order in Council? He could not conclude without expressing a hope that the important political consequences of the step thus taken by the present Administration would yet form a subject of deep consideration and serious discussion in that House.
§ Viscount Melbourne
had no hesitation in affording the information requested by the Noble Marquess, and would avow that the Order in Council alluded to, was not a spontaneous act, but was issued on application of the Ambassador of her Majesty, the Queen of Spain. He fully concurred in the eulogium which had been pronounced on the wisdom, justice, and humanity that characterized the policy of the noble Duke lately at the head of Foreign Affairs, with respect to the convention which he had negociated between the parties engaged in the war in Spain, and which had been carried into effect with such prudence and judgment by Lord Eliot and his brother Commissioner. He was happy to learn that the convention had at once been carried into satisfactory effect, and had already been productive of the best consequences. It had saved the lives of several hundred persons engaged on both sides and had been the means of extending other benefits arising out of its merciful arrangements, through that distracted country. It was fully understood that the spirit of that convention would regulate the whole of the war, and that the individuals alluded to by the noble Marquess, who were now permitted to enlist in the service of the Queen of Spain, would of course be included in any protection it might be able to afford.
declared, that he also was ready to concede full credit to the noble Duke for the sincerity of his wishes to secure the independence and prosperity of the Peninsula, as well as for the spirit of benevolence in which he had framed the convention for the exchange of prisoners, while he presided over the late negotiations. He fully approved of what had been done to soften the horrors of warfare in Spain and Portugal, and could not forbear impressing on their Lordships his sense of how much yet remained to be effected in 781 a similar spirit of wise and pacific intervention to secure the external peace and prosperity of those countries in relation to the intercourse with their colonies in the new world. He could wish to behold the spirit of that convention carried into effect for the removal of all existing strife and discord between the contending parties of the old and the new worlds. The reduction of the independent provinces of New Spain was now utterly impossible; and it would only be consistent with good sense and good policy to obtain a recognition of the fact on all hands as soon as possible. He trusted that his Majesty's Government, as well as that of France, would not fail to take the earliest opportunity of effectively interfering to put an end to the now worse than useless hostilities continuing between the old world and the new, and thereby put a stop to all the uncertainty, embarrassment and confusion which now pervaded the mercantile transactions subsisting between them. The relation in which the new world now stood to Europe involved political as well as mercantile considerations, which it was of the highest consequence to have established on a secure and pacific basis. The hold which Spain and Portugal still maintained on their emancipated colonies was merely nominal, and must be relinquished, for the claims of civilization, and the interests of humanity, were pre-eminent.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, he was not exactly aware how the Question between Spain and her colonies at present stood, but he apprehended that the object not only of the present Government, but the object of every Government which had preceded the present, had been to use every means in its power to promote a reconciliation between Old Spain and her colonies. That continued to be the object of the present Government, and he could assure his noble and learned Friend and the House that they would lose no opportunity of endeavouring to effect an object so desirable.
The Marquess of Londonderry
If I correctly understand the reply made by the noble Lord to my first question it is this: that the Order in Council originated in the direct application of the Spanish Ambassador, not in any application from her Majesty or the Cortes?
§ Viscount Melbourne intimated his assent.