HL Deb 12 February 1839 vol 45 cc252-7
The Earl of Aberdeen

was fully aware, however disagreeable it might be, when the debates of both Houses of Parliament were printed and published, and laid before the public, that it was very difficult to prevent notice being taken in one House of what passed in the other. For himself, he never alluded to what passed in the House of Commons; but he could not permit an hon. Member there to allude to that which was said in their Lordships' House without taking notice of it, and correcting it if it were wrong. Last night he observed that a colleague of the noble Viscount's referred to a question put by him to the noble Viscount some nights ago, the answer given to which by the noble Viscount he thought a satisfactory answer; and, indeed, he admitted the truth of the noble Viscount's observations. A noble colleague of the noble Viscount had, however, contradicted that answer directly. That colleague had said that the noble Viscount had totally misconceived the subject; and, consequently, his answer was perfectly incorrect. Without giving the House the trouble of hearing his observations over again, he would repeat his question to the noble Viscount, and he hoped the noble Viscount would repeat his answer. The 4th article of the treaty with Austria stipulated that vessels coming from ports on the Danube, as far as Galatz inclusively, to the ports of Great Britain or her dependencies, should be received as if coming direct from Austrian ports. He had formerly said that this was a treaty which it was perfectly competent for us to make, and, for any thing he knew, it might be a very proper one; it might include not merely ports on the Danube, but the ports of China, if we thought proper; but the article went on to say that in like manner British vessels, with their cargoes, should be placed on the same footing as Austrian vessels, when the said British vessels should enter into or depart from the said ports. He would ask what security was there for this, seeing that those ports were not Austrian but Turkish ports? What security was there that those vessels would be received in Turkish ports, by virtue of the stipulations of the treaty with Austria? The noble Viscount, as a man of sense, saw that it was impossible that British vessels could, by virtue of this treaty, be received into Turkish ports; and he also observed, that by the position of the Danube the ports were Turkish, because on the Austrian frontier there was a shallow called the Iron Gates, through which no vessel could pass. The noble Viscount said it was clear, that without the concurrence of the Porte, British vessels could not be received into Turkish ports. It would appear to him a very odd way of entering into an engagement, if the noble Viscount and his noble Neighbour (the Marquess of Lansdowne) should agree to come into and go out of his house when they pleased, without making him a party to that engagement. He would say, therefore, that the Porte ought, at least, to have been considered, and to have become a party to the treaty. To stipulate that British vessels should be received on favourable terms in Turkish ports by a treaty with Austria, or to stipulate with Austria that British vessels should be received into Turkish ports in any manner whatever, appeared to him a mode of negotiating which he had not heretofore seen. The noble Viscount also stated, as he understood, that this treaty had not been framed upon the principles of a treaty to which he had formerly referred, and which had been concluded with the Austrian plenipotentiary in 1829. He would not detain their Lordships by explaining himself at greater length on this subject, but he would read the preamble of the treaty:— That the two powers being desirous of extending, augmenting, and consolidating the commercial relations of the respective states and possessions, and of affording every facility and encouragement to their subjects participating in these relations, and being persuaded that nothing could more contribute to accomplish the object of their mutual wishes than by maintaining a reciprocal abolition of the discretionary duties which before the signatures to the convention of London, 1829, had been levied on the vessels of one state in the ports of the other, they were appointed plenipotentiaries to conclude a treaty for that purpose. That great advantages were to be expected from the late treaty he readily admitted; he approved of the treaty, and he thought, as far as it went, it was an improvement of the treaty of 1829. At the same time, when he had concluded that treaty, he never looked for applause of any sort, although he might have deserved it as well as those who had followed up and extended that treaty in some vessels. He was exceedingly glad to find the noble Lords opposite disposed to cultivate intimated relations with Austria, and to extend our commercial and friendly intercourse with that power. We used to talk of natural enemies; but he did not know why they should not speak of natural friends, and it had always been his opinion that Austria was the natural friends, and it had always been his opinion that Austria was the natural friend and ally of this country—not from any similarity in our institutions, which he thought a frail support of national friendship—but because we had no conflicting interests, and above all, because the policy of Austria for many years had been essentially pacific. That pacific policy was the real bond, and ought to be the bond, of union between this country and any other nation. He understood that the noble nation. He understood that the noble Lords opposite were desirous of cultivating a most intimate connection with Austria. Nothing could be more agreeable to his to his feelings; but this desire was rather new on the part of the noble Lords opposite. He remembered some years ago having been stigmatized very strongly in that House, and worse out of it, as being the pupil and friend of a distinguished Austrian Price. He had the good fortune to be personally connected with that individual, whom he believed to be the most prudent, the ablest, and the most respected statesman on the continent; and it gave him great pleasure and satisfaction to find noble Lords opposite disposed to look with satisfaction at our connection with Austria, and to endeavour, by every means in their power, to cultivate more and more an intimate connection with that power.

Viscount Melbourne

said, there was great inconvenience attending a debate in that House carried on with reference to what had been said in the other, because it very seldom happened that what passed was precisely understood or rightly apprehended. He was not himself precisely aware of the observations to which the noble Earl referred; but he apprehended from the noble Earl's own statement, that it was impossible in many respects they could bear the meaning and import which the noble Earl had placed upon them. The question put by the noble Earl on a former occasion, related to the fourth article of the treaty, which gave certain advantages to British vessels entering certain ports. Now, this was an Austrian stipulation; it was prepared by the Austrian Plenipotentiary, and insisted upon by him; and although those who were engaged in the negotiation on the part of his country, saw that it was liable to this objection, yet, as it was the wish of the Austrian Government, the stipulation was inserted in the treaty. There was, therefore, no question that by this treaty there was a stipulation to do a certain thing on the part of Austria; but that stipulation could not be binding where Austria had no power; and he apprehended that nothing repugnant to this had been stated in any other place. The treaty said, that whenever British vessels entered into Austrian ports, they should receive certain advantages; but what those vessels did when they entered certain other ports, depended on the law of those ports; but the treaty said, that when they departed from those ports they should be received in Austrian ports on the same footing as if coming from England. This was the sole meaning of the article, and he apprehended that no other meaning could be affixed to it. The noble Earl went on to say, that this treaty was negotiated on the general principles of the treaty of the noble Earl. He apprehended that it was impossible it could be otherwise, as it was perfectly clear that the two treaties were framed on the same principles, for furthering and extending the intercourse between the two countries. But this treaty extended that intercourse farther than the former treaty. It was admitted by the noble Earl himself that this treaty included the Mediterranean, Malta, Gibraltar, and all those parts of Asia and Africa, such as Egypt, which were within the Mediterranean. It also enabled Austrian vessels bringing the produce of those countries to enter British ports, and this was a considerable extension of the commercial intercourse between the two countries. He apprehended that this was all that had been said on any occasion with respect to this treaty. The noble Earl has stated that her Majesty's Ministers plumed themselves very much upon concluding this treaty, but that there had been a disposition to lay great stress on this treaty, or to take too much credit for it, or to set it up in any respect as of more worth than that to which it was fairly entitled, he must say, that he saw nothing of any such disposition, nor did he in the slightest degree admit any change of feeling in himself towards the country or Government of Austria, from that which he had before entertained. With respect to the observations to which the noble Earl said he had been formerly subjected in consequence of his connexion with a statesman who had for so long a time presided over the councils of the empire, that might well have been the case, the noble Earl might have been subjected to a great deal of misrepresentation and outcry and clamour, but that outcry and clamour had nothing to do with this treaty, or the parties to the treaty. With respect to the power of Austria, and the position which that state held in Europe, and with respect to her force and the conduct which she pursued in unison and alliance with this country, with respect to the weight which she possessed, and the means by which she employed that weight, he, for one, never entertained, or professed, opinions different from those of the noble Earl, and the noble Lords near him, nor had he ever expressed any opinion or sentiment inconsistent with the greatest anxiety and solicitude to preserve an amicable connexion with that country; and, above all, to maintain with her, as well as with all the rest of the powers of Europe, those commercial relations which were for the benefit of all.

The Earl of Aberdeen

must repeat what he said before, namely, that the stipulation of the treaty to which he had referred, was one which no third party had a right to make with another. The noble Viscount said, that this stipulation had been entered into at the request of the Austrian Plenipotentiary, but then it was inoperative, and must be so as far as the admission of English vessels into those ports of Turkey went. This was a reciprocal treaty, and nothing more, it gave no commercial advantage beyond that which a treaty with France, Sweden, the Netherlands, or any other state would give. He was happy to hear that Austria had made very great improvements in her commercial system, and that she was disposed to adopt much more liberal principles of policy on this subject. Still he thought that this was most unusual and quite unprecedented, and, he must say, not courteous to an independent state, for any two others to agree how their vessels should be received in the ports of that third state.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

said, that it should be recollected that objection what, ever had been made, or was likely to be made, by that third state. Negociations, he believed, would be set on foot to extend our commercial relations with Austria, in furtherance of that treaty; and it was difficult for any person who was not acquainted with the state of the Austrian dominions, and particularly those provinces adjacent to the banks of the Danube, to say how far those principles and our commercial relations might not be extended. They might, at all events, look for a much more extended system of commerce than we had hitherto enjoyed with those countries.

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