HL Deb 04 May 1847 vol 92 cc358-62

said that, seeing the First Lord of the Admiralty in his place, he would ask him whether it was his intention in the course of the ensuing summer to collect a squadron for the purposes of exercise and evolution?


said, he was deeply sensible of the advantage of our ships being occasionally brought together in large bodies in squadrons for the purposes of exercise and combined movements, not only to instruct the seamen, but to instruct the officers in tactics and naval evolutions; and he was glad to be able to inform the noble Earl that a squadron would be assembled for that purpose in the Channel in the course of the summer. One reason why it could not be assembled earlier was, that a great number of steamers were employed in the conveyance of food, and it would not be advisable to exercise a squadron without a large portion of steamers, or having fully as many as the men of war. He hoped, however, that by the end of July, the squadron would be ready for sea, even though the squadron in the Mediterranean should remain as it was, though he hoped it would not.


said, that the noble Earl had expressed an opinion in favour of a squadron of evolution, and he had also expressed the hope that we should have a squadron in the Channel and another in the Mediterranean under Sir William Parker; but then he said that whether we were to have a squadron in the Mediterranean must depend on the release of our ships from Lisbon and Athens, where they were at present employed for political objects. He had no doubt that the noble Earl regretted this destination of our ships, forced as it was upon him by the superior authority of the Foreign Office. He (the Earl of Ellenborough) regretted that the object of calling together a large squadron, on board of which our officers could learn the art of war, should be abandoned for such objects as those which our fleet was now prosecuting at Lisbon and Athens. Had any good been done by Sir William Parker at Lisbon? Had the appearance of our squadron there produced the least advantage? Had they not, on the contrary, every reason to suppose that the presence of that squadron in the harbour of Lisbon had postponed the settlement of Portuguese affairs, by inducing the Government of Portugal to entertain the opinion that they could still postpone that settlement with safety to themselves? It was said that we were justified in interfering for the protection of the person of a foreign Sovereign. He thought that was a principle as to which there existed very great question; and he should, with great hesitation, admit that principle into the law of nations; because it could only be applied in the case of weak States, and not of strong States, and only where the foreign Sovereign was in a maritime town; for to interfere to protect a foreign Sovereign by means of an army would be out of the question. If a foreign Sovereign placed himself at the head of a revolution, was it to be said that he was to be free from all perils? Were we not giving pro- tection, not only to the person of the Sovereign, but also to the persons of that Sovereign's Ministers? If we did so, we acted partially, for those who were engaged on one side, were secured against personal danger, whilst those engaged on the other side were exposed to every personal risk. He regretted that acts of cruelty had been committed by the Portuguese Government on officers taken on the field of battle. In fact, we had not succeeded, as far as he could ascertain, in any advice which we had hitherto offered to the Portuguese Government. The principle of such an interference was open to great objection. That interference employed one-third of our line of battle ships. As to the use of another third, they were sent to Athens. We had there three line-of-battle ships. That was what was called a demonstration; but there was a demonstration also on the other side, and France had there an equal if not a greater number of ships. Were those ships to be confined to a demonstration? Or were there any orders sent out for them to act? If so, were they sure that there were not orders sent on the other side? And they would not be in hands to which he would willingly trust so serious a question as that of peace or war. He wished he could be so sanguine as the noble Earl; he wished he could look to the early release of the two parts of our naval force, and their formation into one, under Sir W. Parker, for practice in the Mediterranean. He must say that this distribution of our naval force was open to a grave question, and to himself personally a subject of great anxiety. He wished that he could look to the early release of those two portions of our naval force. He most deeply regretted the present distribution of our ships. The smaller our force, the more necessary it was to concentrate it. He felt most deeply the present position of our Navy, because he knew that it did not give us that security which our naval force ought to be enabled to impart. He repeated, the smaller it was the more concentrated it ought to be, and that every means ought to be taken to make it as perfect and efficient as possible.


said, that if the noble Earl had made a Motion corresponding with the great and important considerations involved in his speech, he should have been ready to meet it; but that speech had been made incidentally with reference to some remarks on the distribution of our naval forces that had fallen from the noble Earl who was at the head of that service; and he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) was sure that the noble Earl opposite would feel, on reflection, that the observations he had made involved the most important considerations, and the largest question of the foreign policy of this country, with the principles of our interference with the affairs of other countries, and various principles of the law of nations. He would not follow the noble Earl, at that time, into so large an inquiry, nor into the system with respect to interference which he had laid down, but would confine himself to considerations arising out of the question put by the noble Earl. He should say that there was the greatest advantage arising from the assembling for exercise of the naval force of this country, and even considerable advantage to be derived from that partial exercise of it which, from time to time, it might be the duty of the Board of Admiralty to require to take place; but he thought that if there were any advantage to be derived from that exercise, it arose from the power it gave to the Board of Admiralty to carry to any part of the world that naval force for application to the protection of British interests wherever they might be in danger. The protection of the lives and property of Englishmen ought to be the primary object of the application of the force of Great Britain; and the object of Her Majesty's Government, in the management of the naval force of this country, had been to see that in no part of the world in which broils and quarrels were taking place amongst different nations, which involved British interests, should those British interests be found without adequate protection; and they had done that in this case, not by keeping the squadron cruising in the Channel, but by stationing it in such a position as gave the means of affording adequate protection to British interests. But the noble Earl said these forces had been applied to other objects than this—objects which he was prepared to condemn. Now, when the time came for explaining to the House the objects which these forces had been called on to carry out, in any respect, beyond that object which all must admit Her Majesty's Government were bound to keep in view—he meant the protection of British interests—then would be the time for him to enter on that question. With reference to that object to which the noble Earl more particularly alluded, he would say that the interference of our force; had been free from partiality, and he believed it had been conducted on the soundest principles of justice and impartiality. Our efforts up to the present moment had not been completely successful; but he hoped they shortly would be so, and he should be prepared, when this subject was ripe for discussion, to show that our ships had been ordered to their positions, not on the principle of a partial interference, still less on the principle, which he condemned as strongly as the noble Earl, of interfering for the purpose of sanctioning acts of cruelty; but that what had taken place there had taken place with reference to the interests of this country, and for the pacification of a country to which we were bound by national interests as well as by special treaties; and he could assure the noble Earl that the effect of the presence of Sir W. Parker in the bay of Lisbon, with the force at his command, had been to inspire our merchants with a feeling of security for their lives and property, and the whole country with respect for the application of the British army to objects beneficial to that country as well as to the security of our own merchants. As to the noble Earl's observations how far treaties could be binding on us to maintain the inviolability of the persons of foreign Sovereigns, that was a question which it would obviously he most inconvenient and improper for him (the Marquess of Lansdowne) to enter upon; but he must say that no person was less disposed than he was to any unnecessary interference with other States; but he did consider that in the present state of Europe Her Majesty's Government were bound to watch over what was taking place, and to assert the rights and interests of this country. When the noble Earl made a special Motion, he should be ready to enter into the whole subject.


asked whether M. Deitz, the King of Portugal's preceptor, had left the Tagus or not?


had no hesitation in giving his noble and learned Friend the information, that M. Deitz had left the Tagus; and, if he had any satisfaction in knowing it, he might say further, that M. Deitz was now in this country.

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