HL Deb 16 May 1848 vol 98 cc1056-60

The MARQUESS of LONDONDERRY rose to move— That there be laid before this House a return of all the Spanish Refugees who have been Pensioners of the British Government since the death of Ferdinand VII., in 1833, when all could have returned; specifying whether subsequently to that period any fresh names have been added, and who are the present recipients, with the amount allowed to each. The noble Marquess observed, that he should like also to inquire "whether Her Majesty's Government were now united in a cordial approbation of Mr. Bulwer's recent conduct, without any reflections of indiscretion on his part in the orders he received?" He must be allowed to say he did not agree with the noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham) that any further return to the subject of this inquiry might do mischief between the countries: so far from this, he thought it would show the Spanish Government that there was a strong feeling in this country on the subject of this extraordinary correspondence, and against the uncalled-for and injudicious intervention in the affairs of Spain which had been assumed by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; and he thought a full inquiry into all the circumstances should take place. This country had no right to interfere in the internal affairs of any State that was disposed to maintain friendly and amicable relations with us. The correspondence on the table showed that our Minister at Madrid had acted in a most extraordinary manner, and had not only given advice to the Queen Mother to pursue a particular line of policy, and to use her influence to recall a liberal party to the Ministry, hostile to the actual Government, but had harboured in the Embassy, and encouraged, the partisans of the Progressista party. What would be thought of the conduct of a Spanish Minister in this country who should presume to give advice to the Mother of our Queen to try to direct or influence political affairs in England? The consequence of the intervention of our Secretary of State in all the policy of Spain had been most lamentable. Since those unwarrantable instructions had been sent out, an insurrection had occurred in Madrid; and he asked the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs, whether he could conscientiously declare that this correspondence had had no share in the production of that lamentable occurrence? The whole course pursued towards Spain was deeply to be deplored, although from the complete approbation signified by Lord Palmerston to Mr. Bulwer in regard to his conduct, the noble Lord alone must be held responsible for all that had occurred, and that might be the result hereafter. On another subject, he would now ask for some information—he wished to know why this Government, whilst the Spanish bondholders in this country could get no justice from Spain, should continue paying large pensions to Spanish refugees, who, he believed, received a very large sum annually. Were these pensions granted by the Foreign Office, or by whom? Where was the necessity of continuing them? He wished the relations that existed between Spain and this country to be on an amicable footing; but to continue these pensions was most extravagant and unnecessary. He could not refrain now from adverting to another subject that had been alluded to in the former debate: he meant the honour of the Red Riband which had been conferred upon Mr. Bulwer. He supposed this had been conferred for past, not for recent, services, as it did not appear to him that his late services were very distinguished, whatever people might think of his former career. In his own opinion, however, he did not think Mr. Bulwer had made any great figure as a diplomatist in the Spanish Marriages, when contrasted with M. Bresson. With regard to new decorations, he must refer to the change re-recently made in the Order of the Bath, which had hitherto been highly appreciated by military and naval officers, from its being considered to be a reward for distinguished military and naval services. There was no question that it was Her Majesty's undoubted right to confer this honour upon any one; but the decoration had been lately given to persons—very meritorious individuals, no doubt, but—of whose services the country knew nothing. [The noble Marquess read some of the names, published in the Gazette of April 28, of persons upon whom the civil division of the Order had been conferred.] No doubt it would be galling to the feelings of both Army and Navy to behold commissaries, chiefs of police, railway contractors, and Ministers at small Courts, having their breasts decorated with the Bath, Star, and ribands worn by the oldest and most approved officers, who had spent all their best years and spent their blood in the service. He should now move for the returns he had specified, feeling that the Spanish Government conceived that these persons were kept in British pay for the purpose of carrying on intrigues against the Government. But he would not say more than he had said on the subject of the correspondence, although he should be glad to learn whether the Government were at last united in their approbation of the conduct of Mr. Bulwer?


said, that the noble Marquess had spoken of the extraordinary increase in these pensions, and had asked the reasons of it. Had the noble Marquess required an explanation of the reasons for the extraordinary decrease which had taken place, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) might have had more difficulty in answering, for the fact was that, instead of there having been an increase in the amount of the pensions, or the number of the recipients, both the amount and the number had greatly diminished. The noble Marquess was also under a great mistake in supposing that these pensions were granted by, or were paid through, the Foreign Office. For a great many years past the pensions had, and as he believed, at the suggestion originally of the noble Duke before him (the Duke of Wellington), been under the control and management of the Horse Guards, where they were paid. There was no doubt that they were distributed with perfect fairness and impartiality He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had obtained from the Horse Guards some information on the subject, by which it appeared that in the first instance the amount of these pensions had been about 11,000l. a year; that a great many years ago—about 1829, he believed—the amount had risen to 18,040l.; but that since that period, instead of the extraordinary increase which had awakened the constitutional jealousy of the noble Marquess, there had been an actual decrease in the number of pensioners and the amount of pension—that the latter had actually decreased from 18,040l. to 1,777l. The parties among whom this sum was divided were fifty-six in number. With respect to the other point to which the noble Marquess had alluded—the recent transactions in Spain—he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had nothing to add to what he had stated on a former occasion when he had announced that Her Majesty's Government did not intend to take any further steps. There had been since that time no variation in the affairs of Spain as regarded her relations with this country. Under these circumstances, he had no hesitation in telling the noble Marquess that Her Majesty's Government were not prepared to concur—to use the language of the noble Marquess—in "any reflections of indiscretion" on the conduct of Mr. Bulwer. He submitted to the House that the feeling should not be indulged upon all occasions of making observations upon indiscretion. There was no saying how far it might extend; and it might as often affect the askers as the answerers of questions of this kind. With respect to the other Motion of the noble Marquess, he had given him the substance of the information obtained at the Horse Guards; but he was informed that it was quite unusual, in such cases, to call for the names of the recipients; and he hoped that upon consideration the noble Marquess would see the impropriety of publishing them.


assured the House that these pensions had originally been granted entirely as matter of charity to private individuals. So far from its being correct that these pensions had been granted for political purposes, they had been granted upon no ground, political or otherwise, but out of mere charity and good feeling towards those who had rendered important services to the British army in Spain. So far from its being true that the death of Ferdinand VII. had had the effect of increasing the amount of these pensions, the contrary was the fact, for it had greatly decreased. The gratuities had been granted and were continued upon no political or other grounds, except charity alone, to those who had given their services to the British army; and the Foreign Office had nothing at all to do with these pensions. If the noble Marquess liked to come to the Horse Guards he might see the list of the persons to whom these pensions had been granted; but he hoped that the noble Marquess would withdraw so much of his Motion as called for the production of the names.


then withdrew that part of his Motion which related to the names.

Motion, as amended, agreed to.

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