rose, pursuant to notice, to call the attention of their Lordships to certain Admiralty instructions or orders which he understood had been issued, if not authorising the capture of Sardinian vessels, at all events framed for the purpose of preventing the access of such vessels to the coast of Spain. He had, on a former occasion, asked whether there would be any objection, on the part of her Majesty's Government, to produce those instructions, and he was then told, that it would be more regular for him to make this motion. He was anxious, in the first instance, to obtain the papers, if such were in existence, and to defer any statement on the subject until they were produced. But, that having been refused, he was obliged to take the course which he now adopted. The subject, their Lordships must be aware, was one of extreme importance, as it was intimately connected with the law of nations. In support of the doctrine, that all fictitious or paper blockades were contrary to the law of nations, he had the concurrent authority of all the jurists and all the judges who had ever written or delivered an opinion on the subject. That had been held to be the true and sound doctrine by all governments, with the exception of the Government of France, under Buonaparte, when intoxicated with power, he had ful- 48 minated his Berlin and Milan decrees, which, however, had led to a confirmation of the general doctrine for their illegality had long since been avowed and stigmatised. He should deplore extremely if this country ever, in the slightest degree, countenanced by her conduct such a system; for nothing could be more disparaging to her fame, nothing could more tarnish her national character, nothing could be more calculated to compromise her real interests, or what, above all things, he should lament, nothing could be imagined more likely to shake the peace of Europe and of the world. As he was willing to avoid any lengthened statement or argument on the subject, he would state the three points on which he wished to receive information, which might readily be met by three short answers. If those answers were given in the way he wished, it would preclude the necessity of his uttering another word on the subject. If his first question were answered in the negative, that question being, "Had any such instructions or orders as he alluded to been issued?"—if the answer "No," was given to that question, then away went one third of the points on which he desired information. If, then, his second question were answered in the affirmative (supposing the first to be answered also in the affirmative, and it being admitted that such instructions or orders had gone forth), that second question being, "Have you made the regular and requisite notification of the issuing of these instructions to all neutral states and powers?"—if that were answered in the affirmative, then much of what he wished to learn would be obtained. But if both of these questions were answered in what he took to be the wrong way—if the first were answered in the affirmative, and the second in the negative, so that it should appear, that although such instructions were issued, yet that no warning had been given to neutral powers, then came his third question, "Can you produce the opinion of the adviser of the Crown on such matters, her Majesty's advocate, that this conduct, on the part of the Government, is not a gross outrage on, and a monstrous infraction of, the law of nations?" If that third quest on were answered in the affirmative, then he must decidedly say, that he was at issue with that high law authority. If he were wrong—if the doctrine were now otherwise than he had stated it to be—then had the 49 law of nations undergone a total and radical change, a new code had been established, and that which was formerly acknowledged to be the law of nations was no longer so. He was now in the hands of the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty, who would answer or not as seemed fit to him.
continued. When a noble Lord declined to answer questions of such a nature as he had propounded, it must be clear to the meanest apprehension, it must be evident to any one possessing even the smallest particle of capacity, that the refusal was given because those questions, if answered at all, must be answered in what he called the wrong way, and not in the way in which they ought to be answered. This being perfectly evident to him, he should assume, 1st, that some such instructions as he had referred to had been issued; 2nd, that no warning had been given to foreign powers (for if such warning had been given, it was easy to produce it); and last, that no opinion of any law authority was to be cited for this total violation of, or total change and alteration in, the most fundamental principles of the law of nations. Now, in the argument he was about to raise, he would first assume, that we were at war, he would take it for granted that we stood in the posture of belligerent, that we were parties to a conflict, that we took part with one side, and were at war with the other, and, therefore, that we were justified in claiming and exercising all belligerent rights. He would first ask, then, whether the authority which we had exercised was or was not one of those rights? The case was a very short one, it lay within a very narrow compass. If there were one principle of the law of nations better established than another, it was this—namely, that no belligerent could blockade the port of another belligerent for the purpose of preventing the access, the free ingress and egress, of all neutral nations to such port, unless that belligerent had a force stationed on the coast amply sufficient to prevent the entrance of those neutral powers—a force not only perfectly efficient, but constantly sustained in point of time, so that, at no part of the circle, there should be any way to escape the blockade, and that it would 50 be totally unsafe for any vessel to go in or out of the port so blockaded. That undoubtedly was the law. But they would, perhaps, be told, that our orders in council proceeded on a different principle—that they constituted merely a paper and fictitious blockade. The answer to that was, that the necessity of the case called for them, and that their principle was never justified by us. The French Government had placed this country in a state of blockade by their Berlin and Milan decrees, and the orders in council which followed, had always been held by Sir William Scott as purely retaliatory measures. On the subject of blockade he begged to cite the opinion of Sir William Scott, which was to be found in the sixth volume of Sir Christopher Robinson's Admiralty Reports. Sir W. Scott distinctly said, "It is illegal, and no blockade, unless the belligerent has the means of drawing an arch round the mouth of the port, and effectually securing it." Now, why should such a master of the law talk about "drawing an arch," and not a circle, round the port? That was explained afterwards; because, "if one point or iota of that arch failed, if the prevention were not perfect and complete, the whole blockade was useless, and crumbled to nothing." It was also necessary, to perfect a blockade, that there should be, not only an efficient force, but that there must be, in point of time, a stay and continuance of that force in the neighbourhood of the place blockaded. He would ask, had they, in this instance, any such arch marked out? There was nothing of the kind. The blockade extended from the Pyrenees to the gut of Gibraltar. Those instructions directed the stoppage of vessels laden with warlike stores on the coast of Valencia as well as of Catalonia. Had they a force afloat in those seas sufficient to maintain such a blockade? He apprehended not. If, therefore, they even were belligerents, the blockade, according to the doctrine laid down by Sir W. Scott, was illegal. In 1689, after the Revolution, when this country was in alliance with Holland, we entered into a treaty with that power, by which it was directed that vessels carrying stores to any of the ports of France, should be seized by British or Dutch cruisers, and made prize of. This was acted on for some time; but, on the 15th of March, 1693, two northern powers (Denmark and Sweden) entered into a counter treaty, protest- 51 ing against the course adopted by Great Britain and Holland, and binding themselves to take efficient steps for their mutual protection. Vattel and other great authorities on the law of nations supported their view of the case, and what was the consequence? Why, the representations of those powers produced the desired effect. Great Britain and Holland yielded at once to the representations made to them. They withdrew their notice, and made reparation to the injured parties. Now, it was worthy of remark, that we were then at war with France—Holland was at war with France, and, of course, every right appertaining to a belligerent power then belonged to us. But even in that state and posture of affairs we admitted, that in resorting to such a measure we had done wrong. But how were we situated in this case? We were no belligerents, and therefore had not a shadow of ground for this proceeding. Was it ever before known or heard of, that because a state wished well to one of two hostile parties, was in alliance with one of them, but not at war with the other—was it ever before heard of, that in such a state of things they were authorized to issue an order to prevent a neutral power from entering the ports of the country where the contest was going on? Since the law of nations was first established amongst civilized men—amongst whom alone it was known—such a monstrous, such a preposterous proceeding, was never before heard of. The noble Earl (Minto) was not well pleased when, on a former occasion, a noble Lord introduced this subject. The noble Earl could not conceive where the noble Lord had procured his information on a matter which was of a purely confidential character. He wished the order had been of a private and confidential nature, as private and confidential as the Oxford and Cambridge libels which were mentioned last night. It ought to have been so confidential as never to have left the desk; such an abortion ought never to have seen the light. But it was something new to hear of a confidential order, addressed to the captain of a frigate, not to be opened until he arrived at a certain degree of longitude and latitude, but to be acted on immediately. Why, the moment the order was notified to the captain of a frigate, with 500 or 600 men on board, it became a matter of notoriety to every one of them 52 —it became a matter of public notoriety, the instant an attempt was made to carry it into execution. But why, he wished to know, for be must assume the fact, were these confidential orders kept back from the neutral powers? Why were not the Sardinians, why were not the Dutch (for it was levelled at them), made acquainted with this order? Why was that knowledge withheld from them? They were, in consequence of their ignorance, induced to freight vessels with stores, for no human imagination could ever suppose that orders and instructions of such a description could emanate from any mortal being who had ever presided over the Admiralty or had occupied a seat at the board. So it was, however; individuals were induced to freight vessels with stores, they fared forth, they crossed the seas, only to reap disappointment when they approached their destination. He must express his satisfaction that no accident should have happened in consequence of those instructions during the last two years. But, notwithstanding, these instructions were an aggression upon neutral rights, which violated the law of nations, and put in jeopardy the peace both of this country and of Europe. These were the reasons, thus shortly stated, which would make him deeply lament that the question which he had ventured to ask should be unsatisfactorily answered. For these reasons he rejoiced that an opportunity was given them of arresting the Government in this bad course, when otherwise it might be too late to interfere, except for the sake of precedent. These were the reasons which made him apprehensive that mischief would still happen unless these instructions were revoked. He would suppose a case. He did not know what ramifications of treaties might exist between the Italian and German states. The parties who had entered into the quadruple alliance, to which he himself had been a party, had never dreamt of any thing in the slightest degree resembling any interference with neutral states; so far from that, one party to the treaty, the King of the French, bound himself to prevent any arms or ammunition being furnished to Don Carlos from the French territory, but not one word was said about stopping any neutral powers from giving their assistance to Don Carlos. He would just put this case; it was a known truth, that certain Powers were not parties to the 53 quadripartite alliance. He never yet saw the case of a treaty on which other Powers looked with a jealous eye in which that treaty did not give rise to other treaties. Nations, like individuals, acted in the spirit of Mr. Burke's aphorism—"When bad men combine, good men must associate." The Powers who did not unite with us in forming the quadripartite alliance naturally looked upon that as a combination for bad purposes, and said, "We must associate for our legitimate purposes;" from which reasons he argued, that it was eminently probable that some treaties had arisen out of the quadripartite alliance. He would suppose Sardinia to be a weak state; but no—he would not suppose Sardinia to be weak, for he remembered that when he had urged the noble Lord to put a stop to the slave trade, and had pointed to the manner in which Portugal connived at that iniquitous traffic, the noble Lord's answer was, "Oh, we must not interfere with Portugal; we could immediately put a stop to the slave trade if we chose, but Portugal is under our protection, and is a weak power; nothing could be so indelicate as such a proceeding; but if it had been France, or Prussia, or Austria, or Russia, it would have been a different thing." This was a line of policy closely approximating to the conduct of a sovereign of the house of Bourbon, in the southern part of the Peninsula, who was distinguished by all that firmness of character which seemed an hereditary qualification of that illustrious house, and who being one day out hunting was observed to change colour and run away as fast as he could from some small animal, a dog or something of the kind, which happened to come through a gap in the hedge. Some surprise being expressed at this unusual exhibition, his Majesty replied with great energy and emphasis, "Oh, if it had been a lion, you should have seen what a reception I would have given him." Just so, her Majesty's Government could not think of coercing a poor little thing like Portugal; but if it had been Russia, or France, or Austria, or Prussia, then indeed we should have seen what they would have done. Therefore he had no right to assume that Sardinia was a weak power. But he would suppose a case. He would suppose, that Sardinia had put herself under the protection of Austria. He would suppose, that a defensive alliance subsisted between 54 Austria and Sardinia in viridi observantiâ. What if that were the case? What, if he knew it to be true that there was a defensive alliance between Austria and Sardinia, which bound Austria to make common cause with Sardinia in any case in which Sardinia was involved in war. It was possible that that treaty had been made since those instructions were issued, but their production would at once put a stop to any surmise about the date. He must say, that according to the law of nations Austria was perfectly justified in entering into a defensive alliance with Sardinia. An offensive alliance was another thing. An offensive alliance was an aggression in itself; it led to war, and was therefore abhorred by the law of nations. But defensive alliances were objects of peculiar favour with that law; they threw the shield of the strong over the weak, and were therefore highly favoured by the law of nations. A defensive alliance did not lead to the great national felony of war, and no one had a right to complain, because the aggressor only was injured. The fate of this motion rested with their Lordships, but he certainly thought that unless strong reasons were shown against the production of these instructions they ought to be laid before their Lordships. He should therefore move—That an humble address be presented to her Majesty, praying that she would be graciously pleased to direct that there be laid before this House copies of any orders issued by the Admiralty touching any warning or prohibition against an entrance into the Spanish ports by Sardinian or other vessels; and of any warning or notification addressed to neutral Powers accordingly.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, that in answer to the question of the noble and learned Lord, on the former occasion, when the noble and learned Lord stated, that he requested him to make this motion, he begged to observe, that what he meant to say was, that he could not produce the papers referring to this matter, unless they were called for by the House, but he denied, that he recommended the noble and learned Lord, to move for these papers, or gave him to understand, that they would be produced on such a motion being made. What he said, was with the view of leading the noble and learned Lord to the conclusion, that the more he considered the subject, that the more calm deliberation he gave to it, the more he would 55 be convinced, that it would be better not to stir the subject; for, by doing so, he might give rise to some of those inconveniences which were so likely to arise from mooting it. He had declined to answer the questions put to him by the noble and learned Lord, not because he was incapable of doing so, nor because he believed, that any great inconvenience would arise from his doing so; but he submitted to the calm deliberation of noble Lords, whether the noble and learned Lord had laid any grounds for his motion, or advanced any reasons why their Lordships should call for the production of papers? He knew, that for some time the greatest facilities had been afforded in the production of papers, so that any man, with a view to the discussion of anything that he thought proper, might get almost any information that he required; and that he might have also any documents that he desired, in order that he might search for, and find charges in them; and this was conceded, in order that they might save debate and trouble, and in order to save topics from being discussed prematurely. The practice, however, had been attended with great inconvenience to the public officers, and had been accompanied with a great increase to the public expenditure. The rule of Parliament had hitherto been, that no papers should be laid on the table of either House, unless some sufficient reason had been previously stated, why they should be produced, and why they should be laid before Parliament. He begged the House to recollect on what foundation this motion rested—it rested on an observation of the noble and learned Lord opposite, who, in winding up his very eloquent attack on the conduct of the Government, with regard to the policy they had pursued in Spanish affairs, said, "if it was true, that an order was issued from the Admiralty, to attack certain vessels from Sardinia with stores for Don Carlos, all he could say was, that it was owing to good fortune, rather than to the prudence of our Government, that we were not now involved in a war of a far more serious and extensive character, than he was sure had been contemplated by her Majesty's Ministers." This remark of the noble and learned Lord opposite, was founded on public rumour, and the noble and learned Lord's speech, that night, was founded on the extract which 56 he had just read. Was this a sufficient basis on which, to give rise to a judgment against the Government, with respect to the affairs referred to by him, namely, those of Spain? He, however, also protested against the motion in a high degree in consequence of its impolicy and inexpediency. He said, that it was an impolitic, inexpedient, and imprudent motion, because it might tend to excite a jealousy and suspicion against the Government for the time being administering the affairs of this country. Let noble Lords condemn the present Government as they pleased or wished—let them remove it as soon as they were willing to do so—let them take a division at once to remove it from power, but while it had the control of public affairs, in God's name do not sanction any motion, which would lessen its influence in its transactions with foreign powers. Supposing, that anything had taken place, such as had been described by the noble and learned Lord, and supposing, that it had been successful for the object in view, was it the wish of any noble Lord, and was it the part of any prudent man, to state to foreign powers, that if the matter had been called in question in the Parliament of this country, the subject would not have been approved of in it? Would this have been a wise or prudent course to pursue? Was it promoting its duties to the nation, the administration of whose affairs it was charged with, to allow such a course to be pursued? The noble and learned Lord had entered upon a learned argument, respecting the law of nations and the law of trade as regarded neutrality in time of war, and the principles which he stated, were no doubt sound; but whether this was the proper law applicable to what had taken place, he could not answer until he knew what had taken place. The noble and learned Lord's motion was of a searching nature, and he trusted whether there were or were not existing instructions of the kind now moved for, they would not require the production of these instructions. It struck him, that no ground had been urged sufficient to justify their entering into an inquiry; or to their calling for these papers. He did not feel called upon to state, whether the facts which the noble and learned Lord had stated were well founded or not; but he held, that it would be most impolitic and imprudent to assent to the motion.
§ The Earl of Ripon
heard the observations of the noble Viscount with very great surprise, for he appeared to leave out of consideration, the whole merits of the case. The whole object of the noble Viscount seemed to be, to wish to show, that the whole case of his noble and learned Friend, rested on some antecedent observations which had fallen in a former debate, from another noble and learned Friend of his. But was it not notorious, that the observations which the noble Viscount would have the House believe were founded only in popular rumour, had been treated as real facts by the noble Earl at the head of the board of Admiralty? What was said by the noble Earl on that occasion? "That if he had received information, that any foreign state was about to send succour in the way of arms or men to Don Carlos on the coast of Spain, he would have issued instructions to the officer at the port to prevent the landing of the troops." Was it not as clear as daylight, from the noble Earl's observations, that orders had been issued of the nature which he had described? The noble Earl stated, that if there were a hundred ships on the coast of Spain, he would have given such orders. This was sufficient to create great alarm in the minds of any parties as to the course that would be pursued. If, however, they attended to the arguments of his noble Friend at the head of the Government, and abided by the rule laid down by him, their Lordships never would get any information, nor would the Ministers ever give any to either House in any transactions whatever connected with foreign affairs. If they had been told, that negotiations were going on, and that the adoption of the terms of the motion would lead to a failure of the treaty, and that it was impolitic for Parliament to interfere with the Government, under the circumstances of the case, he could imagine that a sufficient reason had been stated for withholding the papers; but if the House believed what had been stated, namely, that the instructions issued had been successful in their object, and had prevented Sardinian vessels entering the ports in the north of Spain with supplies for Don Carlos, it was a by-gone transaction; and, therefore, it was a question open to discussion. If the House consented to restrain the discussion of that question on the ground stated by the noble Viscount, 58 namely, the possibility of displeasing a foreign power, on the same ground no question of foreign policy should be discussed, because it involved the possibility of displeasure, and war with the world. He did not mean to say, that Parliament should act with unreasonable jealousy on these questions, but still they were questions well worthy of the attention of Parliament. He did not see what there was worthy of praise in these instructions, for they were as likely, as anything could be, to engage us in a war with all the neutral powers in the world. He approved of the acknowledgment of the Queen of Spain, and he thought that the quadruple treaty was a wise and expedient measure; but it should be remembered, that it was framed with the view to promote the interests of Portugal, and not those of Spain. He denied, however, that the additional articles were any necessary parts of the treaty—they were added long afterwards, and were not a necessary consequence of the treaty. He could not conceive, that it was part of the original treaty that they should risk a war with all the neutral governments in Europe for the sake of the Queen of Spain. He could hardly tell what vote he should be induced to give, but he trusted that their Lordships would receive a more satisfactory explanation than had hitherto been presented to the House. If the noble Lord at the head of the Government said, that the public service would be injured by the production of these papers, he hoped that such was his sense of duty that he could not, for one, consent to press the Government for papers which the Minister declared before Parliament, could not be produced without detriment to the public service. But not a single reason had been given as an argument for the non-production of these documents. Of one thing, however, they might be quite certain; and this from the speech of the noble Viscount, that the instructions were sent to the naval officers on the coast of Spain; secondly, that they had had the influence and produced the effect intended; and, thirdly, that there had been no necessity to act upon them in any case whatever.
The Earl of Minto
said, that notwithstanding the able and eloquent manner in which the noble and learned Lord made his statement to the House, and in which he was supported by the noble Earl, on the ground which he had just stated, it 59 was clear that the motion was nothing more nor less than a fishing motion, to see what could be got from them. The object of it was not to get any instructions which had been acted on, but to call for contingent instructions which had only been framed for temporary and not for permanent objects. He believed, that this was the first time in which such a demand had been made; and should their Lordships agree to the motion, it would certainly be the first time such a demand had been successful. It appeared to him, that there was nothing in the noble and learned Lord's speech which was in opposition to the quadruple treaty and to the additional articles, to which the noble Lord had also been a party, and that they had been faithfully executed. What were the additional articles? The first was, that steps should be taken to guard against the introduction of arms and warlike stores into Spain. It was, therefore, clear what was the object of the second article. The words of the article were—"His Majesty, the King of Great Britain and Ireland, engages to furnish to the Queen of Spain, such supplies of arms and warlike stores as the maintenance of her cause may require, and, if necessary, to furnish a naval force." In what way, then, were they to lend assistance by means of a naval force? It was only by preventing the invasion of the country by other states, that efficient aid could be afforded. Might they, therefore, not say, then, that these instructions were framed with the view to restrain those who were hostile to the Queen's Government, and that this was the only effective mode in which they could hope to render assistance? The noble Earl said, that the instructions might involve us in a war with Spain. The noble Earl was no party to the additional articles, but the noble and learned Lord was; and, by the second of these articles, as he had shown, they were required and bound to give the assistance of a naval force to Spain. This was framed on the presumption that some other countries would send; not merchantmen, but men-of-war, to the coast, to take part with Don Carlos against the Government. Their ships appear on the coast of Spain, and the Government then begs aid of its allies, and says, "This is the time of want; you can now be of service to us; will you not give us all the aid in your power?" These were, as nearly as possible, the facts of the case; 60 and he did not see how it could be said, that they gave the co-operation of a naval force if they refused such aid. He contended, that they could not be released from their obligation of preventing the cruisers of the friends and supporters of Don Carlos landing on the coast; and this could only be done by means of armed ships. The noble Earl adverted to the danger which was likely to result from taking such a step; but this was a matter to be considered in reference to the policy of the treaty, and the additional articles and the objects of that treaty had been strictly and faithfully carried out at the time the noble Earl was Secretary for the Colonial Affairs, and in a manner in which he trusted that treaties would always be carried out in this country. If this country was distinguished for one thing more than another, it was for its strict observance of the obligations of treaties with fidelity, and more than fidelity; it had ever been remarkable for a full and entire observance of them, and for never attempting to escape from the obligations of treaties by any verbal quibbles, or nice or technical distinctions. The noble and learned Lord had dwelt at great length on the rights of neutrals, and on the question of blockade. Now, he did not suppose that the Government was charged with issuing orders for a blockade of the coast of Biscay, but the charge was, that certain armed ships belonging to Sardinia, being about to invade the coast of Spain, that he attempted to prevent it by instructions to the naval officers.
denied, that he had said anything respecting the invasion of the coast by the Sardinians and Dutch, but merely of ships carrying arms and stores, and other contraband of war.
The Earl of Minto
had no wish to misrepresent the noble and learned Lord, but he would proceed to another topic. He was most anxious to pay all attention to the rights of neutrality; but they had no intention to institute a blockade against the trade of other countries. The noble Lord argued as if a gross attack had been made on the rights of neutrals, and yet the whole subject matter of the charge that he brought was, that orders had been issued or warning had been given, to the Sardinians not to send ships laden with arms and other warlike stores to the coast of Spain for Don Carlos. He must say, that if he had thought it to be his duty to issue such 61 orders, he should have also felt it to be his duty to give other persons full intimation of their existence, and he would not issue them without giving full notice of such orders to all persons likely to be affected by them. The noble and learned Lord then made some observations on defensive treaties, and said that there existed a defensive treaty between Sardinia and Austria, and that if we committed an assault or aggression on the former, that we should compel the latter to come to her assistance. If there was such a treaty, and Austria was bound to come to the aid of Sardinia, he would say that our treaty with Spain was much stronger than this general defensive treaty. He could not sit down without referring to one topic more; he meant what he had intimated on a former occasion as to certain communications supposed to have been made by an officer serving in her Majesty's navy on the coast of Spain, relative to those instructions. He did not wish to allude more particularly to this subject, as he had no wish to denounce individuals, but the practice. And he felt bound to say, that notwithstanding the opinion of the noble and learned Lord was so unhesitatingly expressed, it was felt by the highest officers in the service that the proceeding alluded to was a gross breach of that confidence and trust which should exist between the officers of the service and the Government. He trusted, that he should never hear of another example of such a proceeding. If it was not for the high sense of honour and perfect confidence which always had been found to exist between the Government and the officers of either service, whatever their political opinions might be, it would be impossible to carry on the affairs of the Government with any degree of satisfaction; or it must necessarily lead to the employment of officers of the same shade of political opinions as the Government. Since he had been at the head of a department he made as little distinction as possible in the selection of officers as regarded their political opinions. He could mention the names of several officers who had been appointed to important stations chiefly through his instrumentality; and these were men of the highest respectability; and although they differed from him in political matters, there was no want of cordiality or confidence as far as regarded the public service, and they were quite as much in his confidence as those 62 officers whose political opinions coincided with his own. For instance, he could mention the names of Admiral Sir R. Stopford, Admiral Ross, Sir George Cockburn Sir P. Halkett, and above all, the officer with whom he was more immediately connected as regarded this question—he meant Lord John Hay; and notwithstanding what had taken place, his communications were carried on with that honourable man with that perfect degree of confidence and sincerity as if Lord John Hay altogether agreed with him in political opinions. He need not say, that almost as a matter of course, orders and instructions were issued to officers which it was intended should not be communicated to the public. This was the character of the communication which the noble and learned Lord had thought it proper to avail himself of for a political object. Such was not, however, the opinion of the gallant officers whom he had named as belonging to this honourable profession, and such had been the result of his communications with them. He greatly regretted, that this proceeding should have occurred, and he was quite willing to believe, that it would not have occurred if the gallant Officer who sent the communication to the noble and learned Lord had taken a little more time for reflection before he did so. In conclusion, he felt bound to designate this proceeding as one of the greatest acts of indiscretion that he recollected, and if repeated would do more than anything else to impair that confidence which should always exist between officers in the naval service of the country and the Board of Admiralty.
contended that he had repeated usque ad nauseam that he had not had any communication with any naval officer on this subject. If there had been any breach of confidence that had been committed by the noble Earl himself, for he it was who had stated in that House what he was surprised that others were acquainted with. It was nothing more nor less than a creation of the noble Earl's brain for him to assume that any officer had told him of these instructions. He was, however, confident that such instructions had been issued, and this arose from the language of the noble Earl himself. He once more denied, that there was any breach of confidence. The noble Earl had stated that a noble and learned Lord had alluded to a person in the naval service. Now, no allusion of the kind was made to 63 any such person; but the person alluded to served on shore, and had nothing to do with the sea.
§ The Duke of Wellington
could assure their Lordships no man felt more strongly than he did, that if any officer in high command had betrayed the confidence reposed in him by the noble Earl opposite, or by her Majesty's Government, such officer was not one of those who deserved the just reputation which belonged to her Majesty's navy. But he did not believe, that the noble Earl would find in that service, at least, as far as he was acquainted with it, one single man capable of betraying whatever confidential instructions were delivered to him by the noble Earl opposite on the part of the Crown. But it should not be forgotten, that such instructions might occasionally come to be known without any participation on the part of the officer to whom they were delivered, and he believed the officers in her Majesty's service to be as incapable of betraying their instructions as any Member of her Majesty's Cabinet. Having said thus much, he must observe, that the present question was not exactly one of blockade, and he confessed, that he was much surprised, from what he knew of this subject, that any question as to blockade should arise on the second article of the treaty. If he was not mistaken, he had a discussion with the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Melbourne) somewhere about twelve months back, and he had then stated, that there could be no such thing as a blockade under this treaty, and in that opinion the noble Viscount, after inquiring into the matter, concurred. Therefore the motion of the noble and learned Lord opposite did not originate, as had been contended, in a question of blockade, but it originated in the first instance upon a statement made by his noble and learned Friend who spoke from the benches behind, (Lord Lyndhurst), and next on a statement made by the noble Earl opposite himself, the First Lord of the Admiralty, a statement which the noble Earl had again repeated to-night, that he should consider himself justified if he had issued the instructions in question, in case it was found, that any foreign Power was about to send arms to Spain, and then to-night the noble Lord came forward and endeavoured to justify his instructions in reference to the second article of the treaty. The noble Viscount at the head of the 64 Government deprecated this motion, and had entreated their Lordships not to agree to it, on account of the inconvenience it would produce to the operations of her Majesty's Government with regard to the proceedings now carrying on in Spain. The noble Viscount said, that the present motion would stir up a question that was exceedingly inconvenient to her Majesty's Government. Now, certainly he was not disposed to create any inconvenience to the Government on a question of this kind, but he begged to ask, was the country to be drawn into a war on the score of the words of a treaty which were stated by the noble Earl to mean, that this country was bound to give the aid of a naval force under this article as under a treaty of defence? That he was sure was never intended to have been the meaning of this article. It had never been so construed, and had never been so acted upon by any Government, or by any of the noble Earl's predecessors. Now, these were the words of the article. First of all there was a preamble, that recent events in the Peninsula made new measures necessary; then it states, that the King of the French engaged to take such measures as would prevent succours of men and arms entering Spain from the French territory, and the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain engaged to supply her Majesty, the Queen of Spain, with such arms as she might require, and further to assist her Majesty, if necessary, with a naval force. From this article could it be said there was any engagement to furnish the Queen of Spain with a naval force under all circumstances, and to defend her against invasion? No, certainly not. The naval force there mentioned intended no blockade at all, for there being no war at the time, there could be no blockade; but it was intended to aid the Queen of Spain (as it was first used) in the transport of troops and succours from one part of the coast to another. In short, it was required for the purposes for which a naval force in time of peace was usually employed; but the object of the treaty never was to involve this country in a war; it had never been so taken by Parliament when it was communicated to them; it had never been so stated until the noble Earl, the First Lord of the Admiralty, had done so this evening. It was, therefore, he thought, necessary for their Lordships to intimate, that the, words of the treaty meant a naval 65 force to carry troops, &c., for the Queen of Spain, but for no other purpose. He also thought the House ought to have some further information, in order precisely to know in what position the country stood, before any further proceedings were taken.
The Earl of Carnarvon
was understood to say, that the noble Viscount had observed, that the noble and learned Lord who had brought forward the present motion had laid no sufficient grounds for the production of these papers. Now, he thought, that after what passed in the course of conversation, even if the motion were founded on mere report and rumour, still the information required ought to be furnished. It had been said by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Minto) that the danger that might have been anticipated from those instructions passed away, and, therefore, the papers were not necessary; but how did their Lordships' know, that the dangers were passed? Might they not still exist, and be as great as they were two years ago? He thought the country had to thank a sort of chapter of accidents, that with such instructions, the peace of Europe had not long since been broken. He was therefore, for the production of these papers. It might be inconvenient to the Government, but he thought there was much less of evil in the Government being taunted with their lamentable policy in the Spanish affair, than that this country should be dragged into a perilous war, the end and results of which no man could foresee. What security was there but that the humble Sardinians, on being interfered with under these instructions, might read this country a much severer lesson than had the Basque mountaineers? The noble Earl at the head of the Admiralty had inferred from the article of the treaty, that his course had been sanctioned, because by that article Great Britain had agreed to assist the Spanish Government with a naval force, but from the absolute want of information from her Majesty's Government no one could know whether the orders of the noble Earl were applicable only to Sardinian vessels, or applicable also to the vessels of all other foreign nations. If her Majesty's Ministers had issued these instructions against nations of greater power than Sardinia, they had exhibited a strange infatuation; but their course, even 66 as to Sardinia, had been extremely impolitic. It was a maxim that Austria had for the last 150 years been the constant ally of this country. Sardinia had always followed the policy of England and of Austria, and to Great Britain had ever been steadfast and true. Before the last general treaty of peace, she had been considered so friendly to this country, that she received a large addition of territory, and acquired increased importance. It was not wise, therefore, for the sake of serving—a miserable party he would not call them, but a party in Spain, from which this country, did not reap either gold or gratitude, thus to sacrifice Sardinia, to which England had been so long attached. He would not further trespass on the House than to entreat her Majesty's Government not to betray her foreign allies one after another, and not to alienate from this country the conservative feelings which in foreign minds was now very considerable. He implored them not by wild acts, which since the wretched conflict in Spain had characterized their policy, to risk the loss of a tried and steadfast friend to gain a new political ally, in whom he much doubted whether they could place the least possible reliance.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
would not attempt to follow the noble Earl who had just sat down, through a history of treaties and alliances, for that was not the question now before the House. The question now under consideration narrowed itself simply to this—whether the supposed instructions known only, or alleged to be known only, by public rumour and report, and which had been supposed to have been issued two years ago, which it was admitted had never been acted upon—which it was also admitted were only applicable to contingencies that never had arisen, should be produced and laid before the House. In applying himself to state the simple and obvious arguments why the House should not entertain a proposition at once so new, so inconvenient, and so destructive of the policy of the country towards foreign nations, he should not allow himself to be betrayed by any anxiety which he might personally feel, to state what those instructions were, and to remove the great errors upon which noble Lords had in this matter proceeded, because he was aware that if he went into such a statement of facts, it would be alleged that he was laying grounds for the 67 production of those instructions. He would consent to lay no such grounds, because he felt it would be detrimental to the public service if these instructions were produced. The noble and learned Lord who had brought forward this motion had said, that the person who had made the revelation on this occasion, who had stated to the House what ought not to have been stated, was his noble Friend, the First Lord of the Admiralty, for, observed the noble and learned Lord, the noble Earl had admitted, that he had issued an instruction. But his noble Friend had undoubtedly added, that the instructions he had issued, were instructions to meet contingencies. Was that a revelation inconvenient to the public service, or was it a revelation which constituted a ground for the production of those instructions? His noble Friend had not stated the actual instructions issued by him; it would be wrong for him to do so, as it would be wrong for any public officer to reveal and lay before, not only the House and the country, but before the States of Europe, that course of policy which on a certain contingency the Government, for the defence of the nation, and the maintenance of its best interests, were prepared to recommend. His noble Friend, on a former occasion, had even put the case hypothetically, that if an event had taken place, he would have taken a particular course; but he had not stated, what that particular course would have been. In like manner he was debarred, by what he owed to the interests of his country, from going into a discussion of those matters into which, if this was a vote of censure, he should be entitled, as he was prepared, to enter. At present, he was not justified in doing so; but it was still his duty to beseech their Lordships not to come to a vote on the present motion, without considering what the consequences of its adoption practically might be, here and elsewhere, with regard to the policy of this country towards foreign States. The noble and learned Lord had talked of the interests of peace, and he did not dispute the interest which the noble and learned Lord had long taken in that subject; but the noble and learned Lord had talked of the dangers to peace arising from supposed instructions which had never been executed. What danger would there not be to the peace of Europe, if, following the principle now laid down for the first 68 time, it should be said, on mere suspicions entertained and picked up from public rumour, or from an officer who had betrayed his trust, that on these things being alleged, an immediate revelation was to be made to the world of the course of conduct which, when these circumstances which suspicion had entertained had happened, the Government would be prepared to pursue, to state in what sense they would be prepared to construe, and to execute existing treaties, and to inform the world how far they would step beyond the line of the treaties in force, in vindication of the first interests of the country. But would it be proper, on such mere rumours, for the Government to step forward, and state the vigorous and commanding tone of policy which particular circumstances might call for and require? He would maintain, that no Administration could stand such a course—no foreign policy could be maintained, if such were the temper of this and the other House of Parliament, as to require information on the principle sought to be established, for the first time, by the noble and learned Lord. He would appeal to the noble Duke opposite, who had been at the head of the affairs of this country, who had presided over the foreign Department, whether, being in that high station, he should have thought himself treated with that confidence which he might justly ask and demand—if, on an unfounded rumour, that Russia was taking a particular situation which would affect the whole interests of the nation—if, on a mere suspicion of that kind, Parliament had stepped forward and desired to obtain from him a revelation of the course which in such case he should advise the Sovereign to pursue. He did not believe, that during the Administration of the noble Duke, nor at the present time, would Parliament be prepared to call for any such information. He well knew, that if the information were granted, it might excite more jealousy and rivalry, and more surely bring into activity those elements of war (which it was the duty of all governments to allay), than all those events alluded to by the noble Earl on the cross benches (the Earl of Carnarvon), which had produced from time to time interruptions to the public tranquillity. The noble and learned Lord had ridiculed the idea that the instructions contained anything of a confidential character. The noble and learned Lord was under the delusion that 69 the instructions had been executed by a frigate with 600 men in one place, and by 700 men in another place. If that were so, of course, the instructions once acted upon ceased to be confidential, for they were then made known to the world. But before executed, as in this case, the instructions were confidential; they were so while they remained in the cabinet of the statesman prepared to meet uncertain events, and to be produced if the evil occurred, but involving risks, dangers, and uncertainties, about which it was unwise to inquire. Were not these the most confidential transactions that took place? and both the Government and those whom they employed in the matter were charged with the sacred duty of concealing from public knowledge those arrangements, the promulgation of which, might endanger the peace of the world. He maintained, that the present motion, if adopted, would lay the foundation of a most dangerous precedent. If it was the pleasure of the House to call for these instructions, he begged to wash his hands of the precedent which hereafter might frequently be brought into play and made to bear upon the nicest operations of all future Governments, but, at the same time, he claimed the right hereafter of saying, that the precedent had been made this night.
§ The Earl of Aberdeen
said, it could not be denied, that for some time past the conduct of this Government, and that of other countries, had contributed to cast doubt on the principles and practice avowed and recognised by the laws of nations. On several occasions the practice had been doubly odious, because these acts of violence had recently been always committed against the weak and powerless, whilst this country had buckled to the powerful and the strong. The noble Earl opposite (Minto) had justified this under what he termed the obligations of the treaty; the noble Viscount at the head of the Government was too prudent to do so, and the noble Marquess who had just sat down had not ventured to justify this proceeding on any such grounds. But the position taken by the noble Earl, the first Lord of the Admiralty, had given to the subject an interest tenfold greater than he had anticipated could be connected with it. He had always objected to this treaty; still, if the noble Earl opposite could make out that this country was bound by the articles of the treaty to the extent for 70 which he had contended, then, in that case, bad as the treaty was before, in his judgment, it was made still worse, for it brought the country to the very verge of a state of war at any hour. The noble Earl had stated, and he thought had stated truly, that this country was distinguished and eminent for its fidelity in the maintenance and execution of treaties to which it was a party. That, however, had not always been the opinion of the noble Viscount (Melbourne), for he well remembered, some years ago, the noble Viscount, then sitting on the Opposition side of the House, on making a motion for a long list of papers connected with the Peninsula, entered into a review of the treaties which England had violated, the allies she had deserted, from the treaty of Utrecht down to the time at which the noble Viscount spoke, and he made it clear, that no country was so disgraced by a want of adherence to treaties, as was Great Britain. He then differed from the noble Viscount, and now concurred in thinking, that in this respect, the noble Viscount's colleagues was right; nay, he would go further, and say, that the more democratic was the country, the less binding and scrupulously were treaties held and observed. Be that as it might, if this country were strict in the execution of treaties, the more important it became, that the country should know what the obligations of its treaties were. Now, the second article of this treaty was binding upon Great Britain to furnish the Queen of Spain the assistance of a naval force if necessary. And the history of that article was, that at the time the treaty was concluded her Majesty's Government believed, that under it they would be able to exercise the right of blockade. Further inquiries, however, served to prove to them, that they were unable, except in a state of war, to exercise the right of blockade or to stop a British, or any entering ship. When this was discovered, they exercised their naval co-operation in another manner—namely, by conveying troops and succour to various ports on the coast of Spain. The noble Earl opposite had said, that the naval force was instructed so stop the Sardinian vessels with all possible politeness, but could it be supposed, that a Sardinian officer, in no respect different from those of this country, would be put out of his course with impunity? Knowing the character of that military 71 nation, could it be supposed, that a Sardinian commander would tamely submit to be stopped by an English force? The result, therefore, would have been, that the Sardinian frigate might have been sunk, and then the Sardinian people, though feeble in comparison with this great nation, but still possessing a high military spirit, would have sought reparation, and the peace of Europe been disturbed. Now, this state of things was entirely, he thought, to be attributed to the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of M into). He had seen reports in the public papers of her Majesty's Government having given orders to stop the approach of Sardinian frigates to the Spanish coast; but he did not believe it possible, that as had been stated by his noble and learned Friend (Lord Lyndhurst), on concluding his speech some time ago, this had been the case, and that it was matter of good fortune that this country was not now at war. And what, had the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Minto) said since? Why, that if the instructions did not exist, yet that if such a state of things had arisen as to call for their being issued, he should immediately have issued such an order. The noble Earl had then asked if the knowledge of those instructions had not been acquired through a breach of confidence on the part of an individual. Did not that inquiry prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that such instructions did really exist? And now to-night the noble Earl said, that not only would he have issued them, but that this country was bound under the articles of the treaty, which it was said could not be deviated from. It had been said, that this motion was injurious to the policy the Government were pursuing, but he thought that after what had taken place the House and the country had a right to know what the course of the Government was. Was it war or not? They might flatter themselves that they could exercise a domineering spirit over weak powers, such as those of Sardinia and Don Miguel, and of other feeble States; but what would be its effect on the opinions of other and more powerful nations? He, however, hoped still to see Sardinia attached to Austria, a circumstance of the highest possible importance to this country. The noble Marquess opposite had opposed the motion as injurious to the public interests. But how had the question arisen? Why, 72 if the noble Earl who presided over the Admiralty had taken no notice of the remarks of the noble and learned Baron (Lord Lyndhurst) the other night, the subject would have passed by as a mere rumour. But it had been otherwise, and hence this discussion. The noble Marquess also had appealed to the noble Duke near him (the Duke of Wellington), and asked how, upon the suspicion of any supposed encroachments by Russia, he would feel if asked the course he would pursue upon such and such contingencies. But that was an hypothetical case, not at all resembling the present. Here the fact was not only created, but still existed—not only existed but the noble Earl stated, that he had been bound to create this state of things under the treaty. His noble Friend (the Duke of Wellington) might justly, therefore have declined to give information as to what he might intend to do; here the case was different, for the act was done, and had been promulgated by the noble Earl himself. He, the noble Earl, praised the act done but he complained of its having been found out; and that made him desire accurate information to enable the House and the country to know the situation in which it stood. It was too much for the noble Earl and his colleagues to bring the country into jeopardy, and then tell the House they ought not to interfere. But if any one of the noble Lords opposite would get up and state that these supposed instructions were of non existence, the matter would be at an end. Failing that, he thought they were bound to the House and the country to state the condition to which their policy, as they called it, had brought the country. Whilst he (the Earl of Aberdeen) protested against the spirit of the quadruple treaty, still he wished to see its letter honestly carried out, and not extended to suit the caprice, the passion, or the prejudices of any noble Lord. The King of the French had interpreted it as a wise and honest man ought, and yet the noble Lords opposite, who had taken credit for limiting the extent of interference in the affairs of Spain, now availed themselves of the vagueness of the treaty to extend to any degree the nature of their interference. But, according to the interpretation of the noble Earl opposite (Minto), the second article was a treaty of defence; defence against whom? The Queen of Spain was no enemy, it was 73 true Don Carlos had not been recognised as an independent state, and most undoubtedly this treaty, so far from being defensive, was offensive against all the world. He was one of the first to say, that he thought the noble Lord opposite did right to recognise the Queen of Spain; but still it was a question of great doubt even to the Spanish nation, and what was there to prevent other nations from taking a different view, and under that view to assist the rival claimant of the Crown? Nay, some time ago the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs admitted, that other powers had a right, not only to acknowledge Don Carlos, but to assist him. That might, perhaps, be done without bringing us into collision with those Powers which took a different part from ourselves, but it was a state of things which could not long exist. The treaty, then, was really an offensive treaty with the Queen of Spain against the whole world; but the King of the French was much too wise to put such an interpretation upon it. The engagements of such a treaty appeared to be all on one side. The Queen of Spain was to endeavour to govern Spain pacifically, and that was all. But if this treaty was binding in the way the noble Lords opposite interpreted it, then it would bind us to interminable interference with the affairs of Spain so long as any cause of trouble or dispute remained, because the preamble set forth that the pacification of Spain was the object of the treaty. The noble Lord opposite said the first treaty was completed by the expulsion of the two princes from Portugal. But this treaty proposed, not the expulsion of Don Carlos, but the pacification of Spain; and, therefore, it could have no termination. It appeared to him, that the interests of this country required that it should come to an end. He had not looked at the treaty with all the attention he should have looked at it if he were obliged to interpret it as the noble Lords, and still more as the noble Earl at the head of the Admiralty had interpreted it. He thought, that if those noble Lords would examine the treaty more closely, they would not find any difficulty in bringing it to an end. He should support the motion, because it would enable their Lordships to understand precisely the position in which the country stood in relation to this subject.
The Marquess of Londonderry
said, 74 amidst repeated cries of "Question," that the noble Earl had himself only to thank for a motion which it was his duty to support.
§ The Duke of Wellington
could not permit the House to come to a division on this subject without addressing a few words to their Lordships, in consequence of what had fallen from the noble Marquess opposite, who had stated, that this was a question of policy upon which addresses had been moved which were very improper and very inconvenient to the public service. But this was a question of treaty. The noble Earl at the Admiralty had stated it to be so. The noble Lords opposite ought to make themselves clearly understood on this point; and he entreated them not to send the House away with the notion that they were calling for papers which it would be inconvenient for the Government to make public. They ought to explain what they meant by the obligations of the treaty. If there was a defensive treaty, as stated by the noble Lords, let it be shown to be so. Were they, by words or by implication, to be involved in a treaty either offensive or defensive, and have no power to ask the question as to the obligation of the treaty, let what would happen? In the case of a quarrel between the Queen of Spain and the King of Sardinia, we might be bound to go to war. The noble and learned Lord had given sufficient notice of his motion, and of the very terms of his motion, and the noble Lords opposite ought to be prepared with an answer. They ought to say something which would make the House avoid putting the Government to any inconvenience, and to explain what was the meaning of this treaty with respect to this paragraph, of which the noble Earl had thought proper to give something.
The Earl of Minto
wished, in explanation, to prevent any misunderstanding arising in the mind of the noble Duke as to what his opinion was with regard to the obligations of the treaty. In the first place he begged to observe that in stating what he had said, and what he now repeated, he was delivering not the deliberate opinion of the Government, collected after consultation, but his own individual opinion. Now let their lordships permit him to state what was his own opinion, whether it was upheld by others or not. The obligations of this treaty went to this; that if any power—not if any power had a 75 quarrell with the Queen of Spain, that we were to make war, as the noble Duke had supposed—but if any powers combined with Don Carlos in warlike operations, he did hold, that the obligations of the treaty were to be strictly enforced. He did not understand that this treaty would apply to any other case except that which might arise in the contest between the Queen of Spain and Don Carlos.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, the noble Earl was at the head of the Admiralty, but he could not have given his instructions without first receiving them from the Secretary of State. The noble Lord might come down to the House and give what version he pleased with respect to the obligations of the treaty; but when he came to the instructions, he ought to look twice at the subject, for he must be quite sure that he had received them from the Secretary of State before he gave them.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, he wished to say a few words after what had passed. In the observations he had advanced before, he had studiously avoided discussing any of the matters which had been brought forward by the noble and learned Lord, because, notwithstanding the powers, the eloquence, and the talents of that noble and learned Lord, he had so much confidence in the patriotism, and wisdom, and experience of their Lordships, that he flattered himself that in a few sentences he could convince them that it was in the highest degree imprudent to enter into such a discussion. In that hope he had to a certain degree been disappointed, and it was not now his intention to depart from that resolution which he had made before, and to go into any parts of the question for the purpose of considering what had been done, or what was supposed to have been done, or what should yet be done or whether what was done was demanded by the treaty, or was beyond its boundaries, and entirely removed from its meaning and not authorized by it. He would not enter into that, because he should be departing from the rule which he had laid down. If this question ought to be discussed at all, it ought to be discussed fully; the whole case ought to be investigated, and the discussion should be carried on with an accurate knowledge of the whole case. With respect to the treaty, he entirely agreed with the noble Duke in the interpretation he had put upon it. He 76 agreed that a naval force should be employed to carry into effect the objects of the treaty, as they were to be collected from the preamble, and that it was not in any respect a treaty of alliance, offensive or defensive, with the Queen of Spain against the rest of the world. He agreed with the noble Earl opposite with respect to the opinion of his noble Friend, the Secretary for Foreign affairs, delivered in another place, that any power had a right to assist Don Carlos. But whether that would lead to a war was another question. With respect to the instructions, he had considered that matter was set at rest, because those instructions were confidential, and the question of their having been carried into effect not having arisen. He still held the opinion which he had held at the commencement of the debate, that the production of those instructions would be most inconvenient, and tend to embarrass the policy of the Government; it would encourage those who were opposed to that policy, and discourage those who were inclined to assist it.
said, amid loud cries of "Question," he would not detain the House a moment. He defied the oldest individual in the world to find in the history of Administrations down to the present time, a parallel case to that of the present Administration. Could any mortal man have thought to see such a display as they had made of themselves? Could it have been expected that such a display would have been made by the First Lord of the Admiralty? The very thing which that noble Lord had used against him, as an argumentum ad hominem, the noble Viscount in a moment of extreme pressure, in the utmost exigency, had got up in a second speech to disavow. But when the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty said it was not disavowed, he was supported and cheered by two Members of the Cabinet. Now the noble Viscount disavowed it and would go no further than to say, that we were bound to give naval assistance to the Queen of Spain. Whether the treaty was offensive or defensive, one thing was clear—her Majesty's Ministers were thrown into a defenceless situation—in fact, they were in a most awkward position, in a most helpless condition. The noble Viscount's speech was entirely destitute of argument from the beginning to the end; it had not a single rag to cover its 77 nakedness. The Government felt they were in an awkward situation; but they said to themselves, after some hours' debate, "This is a troublesome business! If we had only happened to have thought of the suggestion of the noble Duke which he has thrown out as a plank to save us, like many others which he has thrown out to us in a moment of difficulty, we might have avoided all this." The noble Viscount had appealed to the patriotism, and prudence, and love of justice of their Lordships, but be ought to have added, that he trusted to their Lordships' gullibility. For the noble Lord must have thought, that he was addressing the weakest, and feeblest, and most gullible of all gullible minds, if he hoped to persuade their Lordships not to vote for this motion without assigning any just reason or convincing proof that they ought to reject it. He hoped their Lordships would not abstain from voting for the motion, and thereby doing their utmost to undo all the mischief that had been done.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, that after what the noble and learned Lord had said, it was impossible for him not to address a few words to their Lordships before they came to a vote on the motion of the noble and learned Lord, which was founded on the question of blockade.
It really was not founded on the question of blockade. The noble Duke has mistaken my argument. I said, that even had there been a blockade, it would have been illegal; but there was no blockade.
§ The Duke of Wellington
resumed: The noble Lord had stated, that the instructions were founded on the treaty, and he had said, that it was impossible that they should not call for the papers to see whether the instructions were connected with, or founded on, the treaty, and whether, in fact, we were bound by the treaty. The noble Viscount had since stated, that he did not concur in that view of the case; that the noble Viscount considered the view which he and his noble Friend near him had taken of the nature of the treaty, to be a correct view; and that the Government was not bound by the terms of that treaty to issue such instructions as those adverted to. The noble Viscount had declared, that it would be detrimental to the public service to produce those instructions. Now he did not approve of 78 the policy of those instructions; and, except what he had heard in the debates of that House, he knew nothing of those instructions; but, as far as he understood, they never had been acted on, and he thought it most likely that they never would be. Under these circumstances, he confessed, that he felt induced to ask their Lordships not to call for the instructions which the noble Viscount had declared, would be detrimental and inconvenient to the public service to produce.
said, he was not at all surprised at this. He had somehow, from the first moment he had entered the House, thought the case was so strong and irresistible, and though the noble Viscount's speech proved it ten times stronger, still he had some suspicion that the saviour of her Majesty's Government, the saviour of the present Ministry over and over again, the true friend, indeed, because the friend in need, he whose friendship rose in generosity exactly in proportion as their necessities pressed upon them, that he would once more be more or less encouraging, and more or less intelligible or unintelligible, and come down with his powerful assistance to defeat the motion, and undo the good which that motion would do. But let not the noble Duke go away laying the flattering unction to his soul that this treaty had not been acted on. It had been acted on to a certain extent; that had been bragged of, and the noble Lord at the Admiralty could not help letting it out.
The Earl of Mansfield
said, it had not been his intention to say any thing on the present occasion, but the noble Duke had made a recommendation to the House in which he could not concur. He should not make any observations that he would not have made in the presence of the noble Duke,—[the Duke of Wellington had left the House]—who had been obliged to retire on account of another engagement. He had heard with great pain, though not with surprise, the statements and recommendation of the noble Duke; but grieved as he was to hear them, he did justice upon this, as he had done upon every other occasion, to the purity of the noble Duke's motives. Not only did he believe in the purity of the noble Duke's motives, but paid all deference to his judgment, the superiority of which could never be sufficiently extolled or ap- 79 preciated by those who had held frequent intercourse with him. The noble Viscount and the noble Earl had different opinions on this subject, and it was rather strange that they were not yet in possession of the opinion of the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. It might be fairly inferred, he thought, that the noble Lord was of the same opinion as the First Lord of the Admiralty. He should support the motion.
said, he should certainly vote with the noble Earl who had spoken last, in consequence of the speech of the noble Earl at the head of the Admiralty. It was clear to him that the noble Earl's understanding of this treaty was incorrect, and that his instructions founded on that incorrect view, might lead us into a situation in which we should not be able to avoid a war. Therefore, he considered it to be the duty of their Lordships to call for the production of the papers, in order to ascertain what were our obligations in reference to Spain, and how far any misinterpretation of the treaty might run us into danger.
§ The Earl of Harewood
said, his decision as to whether he should vote for the motion for the production of these papers was contingent upon this one circumstance. If any one of her Majesty's Government would get up in his place now, and state that those orders, or supposed orders, or interpretations of the treaty, as given by some of the noble Lords belonging to her Majesty's Government, would not only not be acted on, but that those orders would be withdrawn, in that case he should not vote for the motion. If, on the other hand, no such declaration was made, he should feel it his duty to vote for it.
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 57; Not-Contents, 57.80
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|List of the NOT-CONTENTS.|
|Leinster||Howard de Walden|
|Fingall||Say and Sele|
§ Motion lost.