HL Deb 11 April 1839 vol 46 cc1304-6
The Earl of Aberdeen

rose to ask a question of the noble Viscount opposite, with reference to certain papers which had been presented relating to the war in the East. In those papers frequent mention was made of the interference of a Russian agent in the East; indeed, it was quite clear, that the opinions of that Gentleman had had considerable weight in the decisions of the Governor-general. He (Lord Aberdeen) took it for granted that explanations had both been demanded and received from the court of St. Petersburg; indeed, he understood that such had actually been the case, and, moreover, that such explanations were satisfactory. He further understood it to be the intention of her Majesty's Ministers to lay the papers relating to those explanations before Parliament. If such was their intention, he (Lord Aberdeen) could not but think that the natural and fair course would have been to have produced the explanations at the same time with the papers containing the matters to which they referred. That would have been the honest straightforward course to pursue, although perhaps not exactly that suited to her Majesty's Government. Was it the intention of Government to lay those explanations on the table of their Lordships' House?

Viscount Melbourne

said, it was certainly true that the explanations referred to by the noble Earl had been made by the government of the Emperor of Russia, and that they were satisfactory. He had hoped, that the papers relating to such explanations would have been distributed before this time; but the consideration of what should be given and what should be withheld had occupied more time than was at first expected. He confidently hoped, however, that the papers would be presented without delay. He did not exactly understand the import of those of the noble Earl's observations which related to her Majesty's Government, unless indeed they were dictated by that peculiar style and tone of speaking adopted by the noble Earl in that House, which made all that fell from the noble Earl there so different from his real feelings and his real character. With the utmost personal respect for the noble Earl, he must say that he had a most unhappy and discourteous mode of expressing himself in the House.

The Duke of Wellington

deprecated the course pursued by her Majesty's Government in regard to the papers in question, a course which had left the country and Europe under an erroneous impression as to the interference of the Russian agent, and the explanations of the Court of St. Petersburg. The noble Viscount had intimated, that the explanations in question were satisfactory to her Majesty's Government. Surely the noble Viscount would at once acknowledge that it would have been much fairer to have laid the explanations of the Russian government before their Lordships as nearly as possible at the same time with the erroneous impression conveyed by the papers previously presented to the House.

The Earl of Aberdeen

very much regretted that his observations had not met with the approbation of the noble Viscount. They certainly had not been made with any hope that they would do so. Personally, he respected the noble Viscount as much as it was possible for one man to respect another; but if the noble Viscount therefore expected that he would hold himself bound to abstain from stig- matizing the course of his Government, he was much mistaken, as nothing would induce him to swerve from what he conceived to be his line of duty. The noble Viscount appeared to him to have made no answer whatever to the main part of his observations. He did not complain of delay in the delivery of the papers in question, but that they had been presented too soon; because, if the noble Viscount had been actuated by a proper sense of justice, he would have kept them all back until he could accompany them by the explanations which had been referred to. No doubt the considerations to which the noble Viscount had referred, had occupied a very great deal of time; but the papers to which he referred could require no time or discussion at all, for he presumed it was the intention of the noble Viscount to publish the explanations in the complete form in which they had been given. Of course the noble Viscount knew him too well to suppose that he was actuated by any other feelings than those of the highest esteem towards him personally; but he could assure the noble Viscount that towards his Government he entertained very different sentiments.

Subject dropped.

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