HL Deb 06 August 1840 vol 55 cc1346-56
Lord Lyndhurst

had another petition to present, signed by 40,000 operatives of the city of Glasgow; and, from the statements made to him, he had reason to believe that it was so signed without any recourse to those arts which were usually resorted to on similar occasions. It was, he conceived, of the utmost importance to their Lordships that the petition of such a numerous body of persons of this class should be seriously considered and attended to by their Lordships. With that view he would read the contents of the petition to their Lordships. He did so, because there was no other mode by which he could fairly and properly discharge the duty which he owed to the petitioners. The noble and learned Lord accordingly read the petition. That Her Majesty's present Ministers came into office through the support they obtained from the operatives of this country, in the expectation they had held out and the pledge they had given, of effecting the reform of existing abuses, of retrenching lavish and insupportable expenditure, and of preserving the blessings of peace to the empire. That, in regard to the reform of abuses that did exist, they have done nothing of that which they promised, and that they have created abuses unknown before. That in regard to the public expenditure, insupportable before, and which they had pledged themselves to retrench, they have done nothing, but, on the contrary, augmented that expenditure. That in regard to peace,— they found peace— they have brought war. That these Ministers are the first Ministers of the British Crown who have come into office through popular agitation. That, using with cruelty the power which they had obtained by perfidy, they have directed the worst rigours of the law against the very men by whom they have been raised, while in pursuit of objects identical with those which they had encouraged. That at the period when these Ministers obtained the management of public affairs this country was oppressed with an enormous debt, the result of the previous mismanagement of our foreign affairs, was oppressed still more grievously by the injurious mode in which the revenue was assessed, resulting from the miscomprehension of their predecessors of our domestic concerns. That the present Ministry have done nothing to reduce that debt, or to correct the false and oppressive mode of taxation, but, on the contrary, commenced their career by an assault upon the last remnants of the constitutional taxation of this empire. That whereas even the previous Administrations had, during peace, diminished the burden of the public debt. That whereas the Administration which immediately preceded them had reduced the taxation of this country to the amount of several millions sterling yearly, the present Ministers have ceased to pay off that debt, and have furthermore brought about a defalcation in the public revenue, and are now about to impose new taxes, and to make this taxation fall on objects of primary necessity to the working classes. That a degrading system of corruption has been introduced on the pretence of commissions to inquire into grievances, through which extensive corruptions of men of ability have taken place, money is expended, and the people have been beguiled by delusive hopes. That the prospects of increased expenditure, of additional demands for troops and for ships, are presented in the colonies, at home, and throughout the world, by the universal mismanagement of our affairs, by the violation of the rights of our fellow-subjects, by the submission to insult and to outrage from foreign Powers, by the contempt into which Her Majesty's crown has been brought, and by the injustice inspired into the councils of every foreign stale, through the hopes awakened of the dismemberment of the British empire- That Her Majesty's present Ministers found the colonies of North America in a state of tranquillity, that they have brought them into one of insurrection. That they found this country allied to France—that they have submitted to the encroachments of that power upon the territories of our allies, and to the violation by her of our commercial rights, and, consequently, they have placed present hostility, and laid the grounds of war, between this country and France. That they found Poland an independent slate, and they have reduced it, suffering the violation of a treaty guaranteed by Great Britain, to the condition of a province of Russia. That they have suffered, encouraged, and co-operated in the progressive encroachments of Russia, while setting treaties at nought— assaulting our allies—fomenting insurrections and organizing conspiracies throughout the territories that own allegiance to your Majesty's crown. That by their concurrence with Russia they have overthrown the strength of Circassia, suffering on its coasts the seizure of a British vessel while engaged in lawful traffic. That by secret and treasonable collusion with Russia to set up her protegé on the throne of Persia, they have reduced that state to subserviency to Russia, and led it to join with her for the conquest of India. That they have invaded Afghanistan without a declaration of war, and for the purpose of forcing on that people a monarch whom they had thrice expelled, in violation of all laws, human and divine, as in scorn of every British feeling and interest. That they have thus laid prostrate, by treachery and violence, every barrier which withstood the advance of Russia upon India. That they found relations of amity and friendship with China. That they have brought about a state of war. That they found India tranquil within, at peace with its neighbours, and defended by a powerful army. That they have fomented revolts and conspiracies, at once by acts of injustice, and by the disbanding of troops, while they have engaged in war in Central and in Eastern Asia, and rendered the whole population of that quarter of the globe, our enemies. That they found the differences with the United States, in respect to the North American boundary, adjusted by treaty, that they have broken up that adjustment, and that they have sown the seeds of war between the United States and Great Britain. That they have suffered the violation of British rights, and the interruption of British commerce throughout Poland, throughout Germany, along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, around the whole coast of South America, along the northern and the eastern coasts of Africa, through the kingdom of Persia, and by a voluntary act have interfered to upset the lights of British commerce in Turkey. That, under the pretext of settling the affairs of the Peninsula, they have deluged it with blood, and filled it with convulsion. That, prolonging' the disasters of Spain, they have expended British blood and treasure in an assault on the rights of British commerce, guaranteed in the institutions of that country, which they have assailed. That they have paid to Russia the Russio-Dutch loan, in opposition to the spirit of the original compact, and after existing treaties between Russia and England had been abrogated by her act. That they have betrayed to Russia a nation who had placed its independence in the hands of Great Britain—Greece; sacrificing many millions sterling to effect that purpose, and abrogating the rights of the British bondholders in order to transfer the same to Russia. That by a secret conclave established in London they have overthrown the internal liberties, and the external independence of all the minor states of Europe, Asia, and America, and have done so in conjunction with two powers, our enemies—Russia and France. That, while prostituting the power of England in every region of the globe for the advancement of the hostile designs of powers whom their treason has rallied against England, they have sacrificed British property or British money, and British commerce, to an extent of 50,000,000l. sterling. That they have suffered the decay of the strength of Britain in her navy — that the shores of England are unprotected—that the vessels they possess are sent to distant stations where they are useful only to advance the designs of foreign powers, and that they suffered armaments in peace only calculated for war, and which enable other powers to insult this country with impunity, and to endanger its existence. That this dilapidation of the public affairs has imposed the necessity of increased taxation, the weight of which must fall upon the operatives, and fall the more severely, because of their intention to make this new taxation rest upon the necessaries of life. That the sacrifice of commercial rights, and the further diminution of our commerce, must fall on the working classes, throwing them out of work, and depriving them of food. That the prospect held out by the past presents increase of taxation, loss of commerce, further expenditure of our blood and treasure, and ultimately war with the states whose hostility has been created, and the dismemberment of the colonies whose affections have been lost. While, therefore, the present Ministers of her Majesty have come into power on the confidence they have falsely created in the industrial population of this land by professions of reform, by pledges of peace, by hopes of retrenchment, they have introduced new abuses, increased expenditure, involved this land in unjust and injurious wars with small states, and rendered next to inevitable collision with the great powers of Europe and America. That they are, therefore, unworthy of confidence, and that their removal and punishment is necessary to save this country from ruin, He had another petition, the noble Lord continued, of a similar description, from the merchants, manufacturers, operatives, and other inhabitants of the town of Newcastle - upon - Tyne; it differed, however, from the other in two particulars for it condemned the course taken by Ministers in making an assault upon the kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and thus attacking the weak, while they crouched to the strong; and it complained of the alienation which existed between England and the power whose good-will it was especially our interest to preserve, namely, Austria. Having stated to their Lordships the contents of these petitions, he had performed that which his duty prescribed to him, and should not trouble their Lordships any further.

Viscount Melbourne

said, that with respect to the observations which the noble and learned Lord had made on the subject of Cracow, they required no remark on his part, nor was it necessary, that the noble and learned Lord should have given him any notice of his intention to present that petition. The noble and learned Lord had stated with perfect accuracy both the language and the intentions of her Majesty's Government upon the subject, and he might depend upon it that those intentions would be fully acted up to, and every exertion made, in order to induce Russia to observe the terms of the treaty entered into at Vienna. With respect to the petitions from Glasgow, and from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which the noble and learned Lord had rather in an unusual, and according to the strict usage of the House, in a somewhat irregular manner read at length to the House, he did not know whether the noble and learned Lord concurred with the statements contained in those petitions or not. The noble and learned Lord contented himself with reading them, without stating, whether he agreed with all, or any, and if with any, what part of those statements, or whether he disagreed with them, and what part of them. Perhaps, the noble and learned Lord, finding such petitions placed in his hands, thought it very fair to make them stand in lieu of and serve for that speech he generally made at the end of every Session of Parliament. The first petition certainly was very much like the speeches which the noble and learned Lord usually delivered at the close of their sessional labours. It was just as unmeasured in language, just as unfounded in assertion, and precisely tending to the same end, namely, to cast obloquy on her Majesty's Ministers, to produce if possible, their dismissal, and to serve as a theme during the whole vacation for speeches at Conservative meetings and Conservative dinners. The noble and learned Lord had said, that the petition was put into his hands early in the Session, therefore it was quite fair to conclude that he reserved it for this period exactly on that account, and because he conceived it would serve that purpose. But he knew not how much of that petition the noble and learned Lord adopted as expressive of his own opinions, or how much of it he did not adopt. It professed to be the petition of certain operatives of Glasgow, but it was pretty clear that no operative had anything to do with its concoction. It was tolerably clear where the document came from. It was impossible not to know the style, and that if it were not from the noble and learned Lord's own pen, it was from the pen of one entertaining kindred feelings with the noble and learned Lord on many topics. However, all that he felt it necessary to say was, that if the noble and learned Lord should at any time think it his duty to bring forward as matter of charge against her Majesty's Ministers any of the allegations contained in the petition from the operatives of Glasgow, they would be ready to meet him and defend themselves against any such accusations.

Lord Lyndhurst

said, in explanation that he either must have stated the substance of the petition, or must have read it, to enable their Lordships to understand the grounds of its prayer; and from the complicated nature of the things to which it referred, and from the expressions it used, he thought it much safer to read the petition at length. He did not know to whom the noble Viscount alluded when speaking of the probable author of the petition, but he presumed that the noble Viscount did not mean to suggest that he had had anything to do with it.

The Marquess of Londonderry

did not agree in all that the petitioners alleged. He regretted that the noble and learned Lord had not given regular notice of his intention before the close of the Session to bring forward the question of our foreign policy, because he felt strongly that if the Session were allowed to terminate without some discussion and some understanding as to the course which her Majesty's Ministers were determined to pursue with respect to Spain, and with respect to the new alliance which the British Government had recently formed, the noble Viscount would incur a responsibility heavier than had ever rested upon any Minister. He remembered (and he lamented it extremely) that in the course of the last year a sort of an itinerant orator went about thecountry—in the north more particularly—and made harangues at public meetings on our foreign policy, and gave out opinions which were calculated to mislead persons not accustomed to look into such questions. He talked about Russia, and Austria and Prussia, and a great deal more which he would venture to say the speaker himself knew very little about: and there was no doubt that these petitions were got up at that time. With respect to our policy in Spain, what he would ask their Lordships, had been the fruits of the quadruple alliance ever since 1834? That alliance, which had been followed by a new quadruple alliance of a very different character? Certainly a most extraordinary, a most desirable, and a most delightful change seemed to have taken place in the opinions and "foreign sentiments" of her Majesty's Ministers. Their Lordships had arrived at a most extraordinary era, when they found the same Ministry who, almost within "six months," concocted and framed a quadruple alliance to keep the despots of the north (as they were designated) in subjection, now entering into au alliance with those very powers. Their Lordships knew that great apprehensions were entertained that France would not act up to the terms of the quadruple alliance, and that repeated complaints had been made as to the course she was taking, not only in Spain, but in the north, in Egypt, and at Buenos Ayres; that she had never given any explanation respecting her retaining possession of Algiers. Altogether she had not acted with that openness and fairness, and with that intimate and cordial friendship towards England that she was bound by treaty to do. The same Ministers were now turning about and making a treaty, and wisely so, with the very powers against whom the former quadruple treaty was formed, and what to do? Why, to keep France in awe. Could these Powers trust the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in the same way as they would an individual who had not been, as he had been, connected with all those former transactions with respect to the original quadruple treaty? The conduct of the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs was, to use a vulgar expression, like what the song described in the words:—"Wheel about, turn about, jump Jim Crow." He did not, however, wish it to be supposed that he was the individual who disapproved of the line her Majesty's Ministers had taken with respcet to the new negotiation. With every wish to keep on the very best terms with France, and with every desire to preserve that state of amity and mutual co-operation that had so long existed, he was not willing that the British Government should allow France to cajole us, or that they should suffer it to be supposed that England was afraid of France, or that she was not determined to do her duty because France chose to put off, by negotiation and delay, an important arrangement of European affairs. He congratulated her Majesty's Ministers at having taken a decided and bold line of policy, and if they were determined to pursue it, humble as his support was, he would readily give it to them. He believed that the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs was coming round to the Conservative policy, and he heartily congratulated him upon it. He would now state what had been the result of the first quadruple treaty. It was this; first, that from twenty-five millions to thirty millions of pounds sterling had been obtained from the capitalists of this country by loans, of which the lenders, he believed, found great difficulty to obtain the interest. Secondly, there had been two millions in stores supplied by the Government; and thirdly, 10,000 lives had been sacrificed. These were the fruits of the first quadruple alliance. He wished to know, now that that treaty was at an end, what were the relations of this country with Spain? Were they disposed to support the queen and her ministers, or Espartero? There might be a difference of opinion between those who were parties to the new quadruple alliance and those who signed the old quadruple alliance with respect to the course of policy to be pursued in relation to the affairs of Spain. The old quadruple alliance had now ceased. Don Carlos being in France the treaty was at an end; but our ambassadors and ministers were there, and what he wished to know was to whom were they accredited? Were they accredited to the queen's government or to Espartero? He called upon the noble Viscount to state the course he intended to pursue with respect to the civil war that still existed in Spain. He could not for his life and soul help thinking that the foreign policy of her Majesty's Ministers was, like other things, made an open question. After eulogizing the Emperor of Russia, whom the noble Marquess described as the most able, the most accomplished, and the soundest politician in the world, the noble Marquess concluded by saying that he looked upon the new alliance formed by this country as a means of preserving the peace of Europe. He never could believe that France failing, as she had done, in her engagements, would be mad enough to attempt unnecessarily to embark in a war. He gave her Majesty's Ministers credit for the course they were pursuing. He hoped, before the Session closed, they would come down and ask for a vote of an additional number of seamen. When he saw France adding eight or ten sail of the line to her fleet, and looked at the preparations she was making in every quarter, he could not but hope that the noble Viscount would take effective measures in time to show to France, that though we were most desirous of preserving an alliance and an intimacy with France, yet we never would submit either to be deluded or kept in ignorance, month after month, of what were her intentions, or ever submit to be dictated to in any shape as to what were the true principles we ought to pursue for the best interests of Europe.

Lord Brougham

said, the petition presented by my noble and learned Friend embraces so wide a scope, and goes over such an unlimited length of time, and matters of such various kinds, and alludes so much to almost every topic of policy of this country, whether foreign, colonial, or domestic, that I can hardly imagine any observations upon any branch of our policy which would not be strictly regular upon the question that the petition be laid on the table. I do not, however, mean to be tempted by the noble Marquess to follow him over any one part of that wide field to which his observations have been applied. I rise simply to guard myself against any misconstruction or misapprehension of what I stated the other evening, and to which the noble Marquess has referred this night, and which I shall do in one single sentence. Upon facts not before us, upon matters which were unknown to me, and upon which I could only speak hypothetically, of course I could give no opinion; but I meant to state, and if I did not then distinctly stale it, I will state it now, that I should most deeply lament (and herein, I think, however we may differ on other matters, even the noble Marquess and I shall be found to be in alliance)—that I should most deeply lament not only anything which tended to shake, still more to interrupt, but anything which even had a tendency to endanger that good understanding between England and France which has happily for so many years prevailed— and by prevailing, preserved the peace of the world; and that I should in proportion to that feeling disapprove, and pointedly disapprove, of any alteration in our policy which could lead so to endanger that alliance.—Petitions laid on the table.

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