begged to remind the noble Viscount at the head of her Majesty's Administration of the promise which he had given the other night, to answer the question then put to him respecting the arrival of an authorised agent at Paris from the Government, of Monte Video.
§ Viscount Melbourne
—All the answer I can give is, that the agent from that Government has arrived in Paris, but of what intelligence or what propositions he is the bearer I cannot tell.
said, that he was then to understand that the noble Viscount and his colleagues know absolutely nothing at all respecting the objects of this agent's mission to Paris. For the present, he would only say that he had lately read, in a very amusing periodical, a description of a society of good-humoured, jovial gentlemen, who met in this town, under the name of the "Wide-awake Club." It was quite clear that the noble Viscount did not belong to that club. It was quite clear also that, if he or his colleagues were to seek admittance there, they would stand a chance of being grievously blackballed, on the score of want of qualification; for assuredly they are not wide awake, but very far from it. What he now asked the noble Viscount was, when the Government were aware that, at this present moment, the city of Monte Video and its dependencies were actually in the military possession of French troops?
§ The Earl of Aberdeen
said, that he was 573 desirous of making a few remarks on the blockade which was now being carried on, and he thought that the importance of the subject would warrant him in detaining for a short period the time of their Lordships. He thought that that blockade was utterly unjustifiable, and quite incompatible with the established principles of the law of nations and the practices of England. He had always understood that the right of blockade was strictly a belligerent right—that the proceeding was strictly belligerent, put in force only by belligerent parties. Now the noble Viscount opposite and all their Lordships must know, that France was at war with Buenos Ayres. With a nation which considered itself injured, after claiming redress, the usual practice was to order reprisals. Reprisals—whether to a just or unjust extent he need not stop to consider—were usually made in cases where injuries had been inflicted, or parties accused. France had ordered no reprisals, but a blockade was immediately commenced, and the injurious effects of this blockade were really felt by this country and not by Buenos Ayres. It was said to be injurious to French commerce as well as to British commerce, and so it was as far as it went. But consider the difference between British and French commerce. The French have, comparatively speaking, no commerce with Buenos Ayres, but the British commerce with those provinces is of enormous amount. If the Government of France, in fact, entertained the project of acting in a manner the most injurious to this country with the least risk to themselves, they could not have carried their wishes into effect more successfully than in the line of conduct which they adopted towards Buenos Ayres. They acted in direct opposition to the law of nations, and there was only one case in which a similar course had been adopted, and that case had been furnished by the noble Viscount. He alluded to the notification of the blockade of the ports of Columbia. That was announced during the recess, and it was his intention at the time to bring it before the House. The blockade was raised in two or three weeks. Parliament met, and its attention was occupied with other subjects, and nothing was done. With that single exception, not any case i had occurred where a blockade had been raised in such a manner and under such circumstances. The blockade of Buenos 574 Ayres had now continued two years, and the noble Viscount at the head of the Government gave them no hope of its termination. He would not enter into the question as to the justice of the dispute, but he certainly thought that the French Government, in the prosecution of their claims, ought not to have had recourse to a system so injurious to this country. If this resolution had been made and this conduct pursued by a despotic Government, what complaints would have been heard, what shouts would have rung from one end of the country to the other. Would it not then, indeed, have been said that this proceeding was unequivocal proof of determined hostility to England? And, though such proceeding had been adopted by a liberal and enlightened Government, yet he could not, nevertheless, look with complacency on such disregard of British merchants—such contempt for British interests. The blockade was established by a friendly State, but if it were to produce such results—results the most hostile to British commerce and British interests—a friendship on these terms must prove seriously injurious. He would not detain the House any longer, but he trusted that the noble Viscount (Melbourne) would state directly to the French, the injury inflicted on the commerce of the country.
§ Viscount Melbourne
—The noble Earl is wrong if he supposes that either I or any other of her Majesty's present Administration are indifferent to the commercial interests of the country, or have not paid proper attention to the topic to which he had alluded, and the consequences necessarily resulting from it. The occupation of the French is, and always was intended to be, temporary, and was originally instituted for the purpose of protecting all the inhabitants of the place—British and otherwise—who would have been exposed to the utmost inconvenience and cruelties but for this proceeding. I admit that some injury is done by the blockade to British commerce. I feel quite as strongly as the noble Earl does, or as any noble Lord can, than such injury is great, though it is perhaps unavoidable. No opportunity has been lost by the Administration of expressing to the French Government our solicitude and anxiety upon the subject, and I have done my best offices to put a stop to these hostilities. I did not, in answer to the question put to me the other 575 night by the noble Viscount, and will not express a hope, for I do not believe that a speedy termination can possibly be given to this dispute, and I will never excite hopes which there is not a probability will be fulfilled. The House and the country would only be disappointed if the termination were longer than they expected, and only increased regret will be caused by the expression of too sanguine a hope. The noble Lord says that the blockade is unjustifiable, and that it ought only to be a belligerent proceeding. It is to all intents and purposes a declaration of war, and the nation against whom it is directed might treat it as such it' they chose. But it was entirely in the discretion of that nation, and, if it do not adopt that course, it must be left to do as it likes. All the inconvenience and evil to which we are exposed, I trust will be brought to a speedy termination.
§ Lord Colchester
pointed out the advantages resulting to Great Britain from the continuance and preservation of our commerce with Buenos Ayres. From the position of different ports, and our intercourse with the inhabitants, the injury done to our merchants by the existing blockade was very great. Our commerce with the province was most extensive, and our interests were receiving the most serious injury. He trusted that her Majesty's Government would do all in their power to remedy so great an evil.