The Marquess of Londonderry
rose to apologise to the House for not being able to bring forward his motion for papers relative to the twenty seven Carlist prisoners in Spain, which stood for that night. He begged, however, before he postponed it, to call the attention of their Lordships to the causes of the postponement, and the course he had previously taken with regard to it. On Thursday night last, when he called on the noble Viscount opposite for a particular despatch —that marked No. 4, in the correspondence on the subject of these prisoners, he was told it was lost. He thought it an extraordinary circumstance at the time, more especially as he remembered a Belgian or Dutch despatch which, on a former occasion, was said to have shared a similar fate, but about which there was subsequently a singular and curious history. He did not come to the House early on Friday, but when he came he was told that a supplementary paper had been put into those which had been ordered by their Lord ships; in other words, that the lost despatch had been found. It was, however, put in so late that he was sure few or none of their Lordships could have seen it; and, therefore, under these circumstances, he could not think of bringing forward his 248 motion to-night. In that supplementary paper was a reply of the Vice-Consul, which he would be glad to sec explained. The last letter of that correspondence was dated the 24th of September; to that letter the noble Viscount had said, on being asked the question, that there was no answer received. He (the Marquess of Londonderry) could scarely conceive it possible that between the months of September, 1835, and March, 1836, no answer had been sent to that letter. He had mentioned his credulity to the noble Viscount, and called on him for an explanation of the circumstance; but the noble Viscount had told him in an off-hand way, that if there had been any answer to it he should have had it along with the other papers. He (the Marquess of Londonderry) thought, however, that he could furnish an answer from the statement made by the noble Viscount himself on a former occasion. The noble Viscount had said, that the Spanish prisoners taken in the Isabella Ann were transported from Cadiz to Porto Rico. If that was the fact, when did the noble Viscount obtain his information? He would not make any further observation at present, as, from the lateness of the hour at which the paper was put in, it was totally impossible for him to be prepared to go fully into the case. Therefore, with the permission of the House, he would withdraw his motion, and fix it for Friday or Monday, when he would go into the consideration of the whole of these papers, with the view of framing a motion upon them.
§ Viscount Melbourne
did not know that the noble Lord had stated sufficient grounds for postponing his motion; but the noble Lord was master of his own proceedings. In point of common sense, however, he had never heard a more insufficient or unsatisfactory ground for postponing a Motion. The paper to which the noble Lord alluded, anybody might read in five minutes, and fully consider in ten minutes. It consisted of only three paragraphs, and the plea of its being put in late on Friday, was of a piece with the rest of the noble Marquess's reasoning. The paper did not vary the case in the slightest degree. He would make no observations on the withdrawing of this motion; he would only state, that he did not acquiesce in the validity of the reasons assigned by the noble Lord for so doing. The noble Lord was the most difficult man to satisfy that he ever had to deal with. He was extremely discontented when he was told that this 249 paper was lost, and now he is equally discontented when it is found. Their Lord ships were told, when it was lost, that it was a most important paper, and now that it was found, the noble Lord required time to consider whether it is important or not. The letter had been sent to him (Lord Melbourne) from the Foreign-office. He had put it in a box with other papers, and it was missing in the office. He had instituted a search, and had discovered the paper, and having discovered it, he thought the best way was to lay it on the Table, in order that it might be printed. He had requested the clerk to inform the noble Lord of the circumstance, and if he (Lord Melbourne) had seen the noble Lord he would have informed him himself. He could assure the noble Lord that, until within these few weeks, there had been no further information on the subject what ever, and no further official application had been made to the Spanish Government. These prisoners were young men of very respectable families, and had they joined the army of Don Carlos they would have given him considerable influence. These were the facts, though he had no official knowledge of them. However, though he had no official information on the subject since September, 1835, it was not to be supposed that our Ambassador would be entirely inactive upon the subject, or that he would not do everything in his power to protect the safety of these individuals, and procure their liberation. He did not think it would be prudent in the Government to make an official application, to which a decided refusal might be given. As an additional reason why the noble Lord should put off his Motion, he begged to say that he had a number of supplementary papers, which might supply him with further in formation.
§ The Duke of Wellington
wished his noble Friend near him to state to the House the object he had in view in his Motion. He was most anxious that his noble Friend should state specifically what his charges were against his Majesty's late and present Government. It was not quite fair if charges were to be made and then abandoned, and he thought his noble Friend should state specifically what the charges were, and name a day for their discussion. As one of his Majesty's late Government he felt himself as deeply interested personally, and in character, in the charges which he supposed were about to be brought by the noble Marquess, as 250 any Member of his Majesty's present Government. He, therefore, again called on his noble Friend to state specifically what his charges were, and what course he intended to pursue.
The Marquess of Londonderry
had not had the advantage of the advice of the noble Duke as to the course which he intended to pursue in the present instance. As, however, he had been so pressed (and he would say a little unfairly) he had no objections to state what his intentions were relative to those unfortunate individuals, who, according to the noble Viscount's statement, were transported to Porto Rico, the Botany Bay of Spain. In looking at that correspondence, it was impossible not to admire the statesmanlike and sound principles laid down in the despatches of the noble Duke. If their spirit had been followed up he should not have had any occasion to take up their Lordships' time. But he would maintain that, from the first document up to the present time, the question regarding these individuals had remained in abeyance. It appeared now, that, notwithstanding the application that had been made, these individuals, after six months' confinement, were to be sent to Spain's Botany Bay, to Porto Rico, and they would be probably drowned, or subject to work as galley-slaves for life. He would beg of their Lordships to look at the position in which this country stood with respect to the queen's government in Spain. Were we not actually aiding and abetting to keep up the queen's power in Spain, and had we not sent arms out to the amount of 500,000l.? And yet with all this we could not obtain from that government the release or discharge of these twenty-seven officers. The Carlists had 300 Christino officers in their custody; and if their friends were used in this barbarous manner would they not retaliate? and then the war must go on in the same murderous manner in which it had already been conducted. He was most anxious that these things should be put an end to, and it was to do so that he brought for ward his Motion. It was from a desire to arrest the course of events, as it tended to such results, and from a belief that the noble Viscount at the head of the Foreign Office, from his feeling for the queen of Spain's government, had not pressed the matter as he should have done, or with the same decision that the noble Duke when in office had done, that he had interfered in the subject. He thought, therefore, that 251 he was treated hardly by the noble Viscount opposite, when the noble Viscount placed a mass of supplementary papers on the Table of the House, and then taunted him for postponing his Motion. Nine months had elapsed since the noble Duke had written the despatch alluded to, and they were now told there had yet been no answer; did that show any energy on the part of the Government? They were doubly interested now in the question, as there was now a legion of Englishmen in that country. Surely it was our duty to put an end to such scenes of blood, or the subjects of his Majesty might be the victims. He did not complain of the despatch of the noble Duke. On the contrary, he thought it a most fortunate circumstance that it was laid on their Lordships' Table, inasmuch as it showed the incomparable statesmanlike view of the question which had been taken by the noble Duke on that occasion. What he complained of was, that that valuable document had not been followed up, and that a supineness had been manifested by the Government in acting up to the spirit which emanated from it. The noble Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was all energy when an unfortunate Bishop was to be castigated, but where had his energy been these nine months? All he wanted was some expression on the part of the House, so that the Government might be induced to insist upon the war being carried on in a civilised and proper manner. It was to press his Majesty's Government on that point that he intended to bring forward his motion, and he thought that he should be enabled to make out a case on which the House could come to some expression of its disapprobation as to the mode in which the war in Spain was con ducted. The Government of this country had the means of propping up the Queen's cause, and they should also have the means of stopping the inhuman effusion of blood, if they chose to use them. He had no intention of casting any slur on the Government of which the noble Duke formed so important a portion. On the contrary, he believed that if its intentions had been followed up there would be now an end to the war in Spain. At all events, whatever might be the fate of the motion, he (the Marquess of Londonderry) hoped that it would lend to the war being carried on in a more civilized manner than it had hitherto been. There were some curious circumstances brought to light by the papers laid on the Table by the noble Viscount; for instance, 252 the ship Isabella Ann, taken by the Royal Tar, manned by British sailors, was now in the service of her Majesty. But he should reserve these particulars for a future period.
§ The Duke of Wellington
entreated his noble Friend to state to the House what he intended to do in regard to the subject under discussion. He (the Duke of Wellington) would say again, that he was personally and in character interested in the question involved in the motion of the noble Marquess. When the noble Marquess thought proper to bring forward his motion he would be obliged to show that he and his Majesty's late Government were implicated in character in it. The noble Marquess had deemed fit to enter upon the subject, but he (the Duke of Wellington) would not then follow him. That was not the first time or the first occasion on which the noble Marquess had introduced the matter. He did so last year, and, if he (the Duke of Wellington) was not mistaken, he had told the noble Marquess then that his character and the character of the late Government were interested in it. When the subject was brought under discussion he would be able to show that his Majesty's late servants had done their duty in respect to it, and also that if they had stopped short—if they had left anything undone of that which the noble Marquess desired to be done—it was because the law of nations interfered and prevented them from proceeding farther. If the noble Marquess would not confine himself to the terms of the motion which stood in his name on the papers of the House, but would go farther into the subject than the despatch was calculated to lead him, he would find that other matters would be brought to light bearing upon the question at large, and that other interests would be discovered depending on it.
The Marquess of Londonderry
deprecated any intention on his part of reflecting on the conduct of the noble Duke's Government, or making any unpleasant allusion to it whatever. He thought the noble Duke had taken a view of the question not warranted by what fell from him. He did not charge the late Government with any neglect in this matter. What he complained of was, that the despatch being dated the 17th of February, 1835, and it now being March, 1836, that some arrangement had not been effected or some answer obtained. The noble Duke had certainly placed him (the Marquess of Londonderry) 253 in a situation of great embarrassment, and one which rendered him incapable of arguing the question with him. The noble Duke had called upon him to state the grounds on which he meant to proceed. He had now stated them, and what he had done was in consequence of his conscientious conviction that the Government had not taken steps to avert in that country the horrors of civil war. The noble Duke, however, considered that he (the Marquess of Londonderry) had mistaken his duty. This he sincerely regretted, but in the present temper of the House he could not proceed further.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, that this question relative to the twenty-seven Car list prisoners was quite independent of the general question of the civil war now carried on in Spain, and he thought that the noble Marquess, in justice to himself, to those with whom he acted, and in justice to him (the Duke of Wellington), ought to make a distinct motion on this particular point. If the noble Marquess should think proper to bring forward such a motion, then he (the Duke of Wellington) could have an opportunity of expressing his opinions on the matter.
§ The motion was withdrawn.