HL Deb 21 June 1844 vol 75 cc1171-4
The Earl of Clarendon

said, that seeing his noble Friend, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in his place, be wished to ask him for some explanation respecting a matter on which he saw, from the Votes of the other House, a Notice of Motion had been given; and on which he should not have troubled him but for a statement which had been made by the right hon. Baronet, at the head of the Government, when the subject was lately brought forward in the House of Commons. He alluded to the correspondence which had taken place between Don Carlos and a noble Lord, containing the proposal which that Prince had made, or had been induced to make, for the marriage of his son with the Queen of Spain. He said "induced to make," for it appeared that Don Carlos had been in communication with a party in this country; or rather, he should say, a party in the House of Commons—a party which had lofty intentions respecting the regeneration of everything at home, but whose foreign policy seemed to be confined to the restoration of Don Carlos to the throne of his ancestors, from which he (the Earl of Clarendon) should say he had been lawfully excluded. The question of the right of Don Carlos did not appear to have been taken into consideration by these Gentlemen; and it was said that an Ambassador had been sent with full powers to Don Carlos previous to further measures being taken for his restoration. He returned, proposing this marriage, but without any renunciation of Don Carlos's claims to the Throne of Spain, and without any allusion to the form of Government hereafter to be established in that country. He (the Earl of Clarendon) was aware of this application at the time, but he took no notice of it, and he should not have done so now, if it had not been for the speech of the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, who said that that communication had been forwarded by Her Majesty's Government to the Spanish Government without any communication, because they thought that it was a matter in which the Spanish people were alone concerned. If this were correct, it might give an unfortunate character to the transaction, because it might make it appear that Her Majesty's Government were indifferent to the consequences which would result from such an union. The noble Earl must be aware that the return of Don Carlos into Spain would call into activity the Church party, which, of all others, was the most ruthless and fanatical, and which would, in fact, perpetuate the civil war. But as such a communication had been made to the Government of the Queen of Spain, without any renunciation on the part of Don Carlos of his claims to the Throne, and with no expression from the British Government, except that the Spanish people were to decide the question—he considered that an unfortunate proceeding, for it would cause some doubt as to the policy which the British Government intended to pursue for the future. He would have moved for the Correspondence which had taken place between Don Carlos and the Government, but as he understood there would be some difficulty in the way of its production, in consequence of its not having been of an official character, he should merely content himself by asking some explanation of his noble Friend, and he had no doubt that his answer would be satisfactory.

The Earl of Aberdeen

said, that he would request his noble Friend and the House to believe, that whatever part the Government might take in connexion with this delicate question of the marriage of the Queen of Spain, all due attention would be paid to the honour and independence of that country. He by no means meant to deny that it might not be the duty of a friendly state to give advice on that or any other question in which its interests might be concerned, and which, though confined essentially to Spain, might affect the whole of the system of European policy. It was perfectly true that a noble Lord, not a Member of that House, had delivered to him (the Earl of Aberdeen), a letter from Don Carlos, in which His Royal Highness referred to that noble Lord as possessing his opinions and intentions, and as being authorized by him to declare his intentions, and to describe the whole of the sacrifices which he was disposed to make for the pacification of Spain. As far as he (the Earl of Aberdeen) understood those sacrifices, they amounted undoubtedly to a renunciation of his own claims to the Throne of Spain, on condition of the marriage of his son with Queen Isabella; but whether or not this renunciation was to be contingent on the marriage, or whether his son was to marry the Queen as her subject, or as her Sovereign, he (the Earl of Aberdeen) did not now know. Consistently with the policy which Her Majesty's Government had always followed on the subject, he thought it only a part of his duty to bring the proposal to the knowledge of the Spanish Government; and when his noble Friend said, that he did not press it on the Spanish Government there must be some mistake. What was said, or ought to have been said, was, that he did not press for any answer to that proposal: but he thought it his duty to communicate it, leaving them perfectly free to do what they thought proper, and he had at the same time also communicated it to the French Government, with whom we were acting in strict concert. He did not press for any answer, for he did not consider one necessary, for this reason, because the opinions of Her Majesty's Government on the subject were perfectly well known to the Spanish Government, and to every other Government in Europe. If this contest had been confined to a mere question of succession, such a marriage, supported by the Spanish people, he could conceive might have been a very proper means of terminating the differences, and reconciling the claims of the respective parties in that country; but, during this contest of more than seven years of civil war, he apprehended the whole question had undergone a complete change. It was now no question of doubtful succession, but a question of a principle of government—it was now a question between constitutional government and despotic rule. Therefore, a marriage which might, in the origin, have reconciled the difference between these parties, would now have the effect of introducing civil war into the palace, as well as into the country. This was not the first time that he had expressed this opinion, and he saw nothing in the state of Spain which gave him any reason to change it; but, at the same time, he wished to put the Spanish Government in possession of the proposal, and he consequently had communicated to them the overture to which his noble Friend had referred, Personally, he had no objection to the production of this Correspondence; but, on the whole, he thought, that it was scarcely of a nature proper to be called for, and, as he had now shown the exact nature of the case, his noble Friend, he believed, would hardly think it necessary to press for it.

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