* Whoever, my Lords, would undertake the discussion of any difficult and delicate question touching the foreign policy of the country, ought, above all things, to free himself from every feeling of hatred or of anger, and from all personal and from all national prejudices, which might tend to disturb the equanimity of his judgment. For, when the mind* From a Pamphlet published by Ridgway.617 labours under any such feelings, expressions are apt to be used which, whether they are well understood or ill understood, give umbrage elsewhere, and endanger the peace as well as the policy, in a word, all the highest interests of the country. I present myself to your Lordships to handle the important subject of which I have given notice, under the deep impression of sentiments such as these; and it will bono fault of mine if I am betrayed into any discussion, or even into any passing remark, which shall give offence in any quarter, at home or abroad, and shall thus endanger what is most essential to the interests of the country, a good understanding with, and a friendly feeling towards, foreign nations. It gives me great satisfaction, seeing that I have to express a difference of opinion from my noble Friends opposite, and to blame the measures which they have adopted—it gives me great satisfaction, I say, to commence what I am about to state, by declaring my entire approval of such sentiments as I am about to cite, in language far better than my own, used by them when they instructed our Envoy at the Court of the Two Sicilies to give the "strongest assurance of the earnest desire of the British Government to draw, if possible, still closer the bonds of friendship which had so long united the Crowns of Great Britain and the Two Sicilies." It is therefore grateful, most grateful to me—whilst I join in their sentiments, which are better expressed than I could have expressed thorn, but not more warmly expressed than I would have expressed them—that, in the remarks which I am about to make, and which are wrung from mc by the accusations brought against the Ministers, the authorities, and the troops of Naples, I shall, in the true sense of the passage I have just quoted, have to defend those Ministers, those authorities, and those troops from attacks which have been made upon them by the authors of that passage injuriously, inconsiderately, and unjustly.
The despatch to which I have just alluded, is dated the 16th of December, 1847. But somehow or other, events happened soon after which make it hardly possible to suppose that the same hand which wrote that despatch, could have written the subsequent instructions, or that the same agents who had to obey the former instructions, and to represent the feelings of old attachment, of which it was impossible to draw the bonds closer, could 618 have been instructed so soon afterwards as the 18th of January, 1848, to take a course entirely and diametrically opposite.
It would give me great satisfaction if, having thus accidentally touched upon the transactions of Southern Italy, I could proceed at once thither in the progress on which I am now asking your Lordships to accompany mc. But I find, my Lords, from what has been taking place within the last few weeks, how reluctant soever I may be to discuss the events of the northern divisions of Italy, and recur to questions often agitated here, and by none of your Lordships more ably than by the noble Earl near me (Lord Aberdeen), that I must allude to the conduct of his late Sardinian Majesty, to the still unfinished negotiations between Sardinia and Austria, to the still unremoved fleets of Sardinia in the Adriatic, to the beleaguering of Austria in her Venetian dominions, and to the prevention of her employing her undivided resources in crushing the rebellion in the eastern parts of her empire; and that I cannot examine the whole foreign policy of this country without adverting to the events which have happened in Northern Italy. It was at the beginning of the present Session I of Parliament that I had occasion to foretell before your Lordships the speedy discomfiture of the then monarch of Sardinia by the victorious troops of Marshal Radetzky. After a temporary success the year before, his Sardinian Majesty had been repulsed, had been compelled to repass the Ticino, had been driven to seek protection within the walls of his own capital, and had only not been pursued within those walls because his opponents had mercifully abstained from urging their victory to the utmost, and had preferred the redemption of their pledge of maintaining the Treaties of Vienna and the settlement of territory made under them, to the enlargement of their dominions and to the exaction of security against any repetition of the offence which they had so signally chastised. The firmest friend of Sardinia—the stoutest champion of that distribution of territory to which I have referred—my noble Friend himself near the woolsack (the Luke of Wellington), who completed by his skill in negotiation the still more glorious triumph of his arms in the field—not one of these parties could have objected to the Austrians crossing the Ticino, exacting vengeance from Sardinia, 619 and taking from its monarch, according to all the laws of war, according to the strict law of nations, ample security against the repetition of a similar transgression. Marshal Radetzky, however, acted a merciful part, and was wiser in so doing than if he had justifiably acted with greater severity. He and his imperial master showed that they were above all sordid, all selfish feeling. I only lament that the marshal stopped so far short of that which he had a right to do. An acre of land I would not have taken to increase the dominions of one sovereign, or to diminish the territory of the other; but I would have shown the Monarch of Sardinia, I would have shown the world, that it was not from fear, but from magnanimity, that I had resolved to stop short of the full rights of victory. Then it was said, "Oh, but now we shall have peace." Mediation was talked of, and mediation was offered—the mediation of Great Britain, of the success of which I never entertained any hopes. That any great benefit would arise from such a proceeding, I thought just as unlikely as that in private life, when two individuals having quarrelled about a disputed right, had gone to law to asertain which had the better title, and one of them had gained a verdict and had entered up judgment, this winning party would accept an offer to refer all the matters in dispute to arbitration, just before execution issued. In such a case the matter in dispute is at an end, and though the party who has lost the cause may have no objection to such a reference, it will never be so with the party who has gained it. I therefore told my Friend, Sir H. Ellis, who was appointed to superintend the proceedings of our mediation, that as the matter in dispute between Austria and Sardinia was at an end, I did not anticipate that with all his skill he would have any success as a negotiator in this strange arbitration. "Oh," I was told, "Austria will abide by it." Yes, I know that Austria certainly would, if she submitted to the mediation, and perhaps Sardinia also; but little did I know Sardinian counsels when I said so.
I stated, however, that very same night, to your Lordships in this House, that it was my deliberate belief, that before the end of a few weeks there would be an end of the Sardinian monarchy. On that occasion I was, indeed, a true prophet. Almost whilst I was speaking, the King of Sardinia broke the armistice, again attacked the Austrians, was again defeated, 620 and then abdicated his crown. That Monarch was much to be blamed for the former part of his conduct, but was much to be pitied for its close; he was driven on by the fear of a mob—the most paltry and the most perilous of all fears—he was urged on to his ruin by the worst of all advisers, those fears—he threw himself into the hands of the Red Republican party of Paris and of Turin, and, worse than all, of Genoa; and he has paid, in consequence, the penalty of giving ear to evil counsellors. Then there was more of negotiation, although one would have thought that, when Radetzky stopped in the full career of victory, there would have been an end of all resistance on the part of Sardinia. The negotiation which then began has been continued from day to day up to the present hour, and, if common fame can be trusted, there is less chance now of that negotiation leading to the pacification of Northern Italy than there was three or four months ago. I deeply lament this, my Lords. Every friend of the true policy of England, and every friend of the peace of Europe, must lament it. I hear it said, our Foreign Office lends its aid to the delay of peaceful measures in Turin; and I hear it with wonder, considering what has passed within the last two years. But I am afraid that there are some natures far too sanguine—some whom no failure can cure of the most extravagant hopes—who, while they are sinking, cling to the feeblest straw, and derive hope from the slightest change, and who, because things are not just as they were twenty-four hours before, expect that better times are coming, and hope even against hope itself. I think that what has recently taken place in Hungary, in Croatia, and in Transylvania, has been the foundation of the hopes recently entertained by the friends of Sardinia, and that some parties in England, but still more in Turin, have conceived expectations that Austria, if these negotiations are allowed to drag their slow length along, will be frustrated in her designs of—what? Aggrandisement? Oh, no. If that were all, the difficulty might easily be removed. For look, my Lords, how the matter stands. Here is craving ambition on the one side, against a steady adherence to a pacific policy on the other; here is a desire to enlarge dominion against the solemn faith of treaties on the one part, and a resolution not to swerve a hair's breadth from that faith on the other, even 621 when tempted by aggression the most unjust, and crowned by success the most absolute and complete. Here is good faith unsurpassed, almost unexampled moderation in victory, met by incurable thirst of aggrandisement, and reckless love of change under the most grievous disaster.
Thus stand the rival Powers of Sardinia and Austria opposed to each other. I hope that I view these matters more gloomily than the real state of things warrants; but I certainly feel not a little uneasy when I reflect on the great length to which these negotiations have been sedulously spun out. And here, my Lords, I must observe, that this brings mo, among many of the views which I now, anticipating somewhat, have taken of the present state of the Powers, to the conviction that the various matters now in dispute can only he settled by some general congress. This would at once close the Turin conference. I have before mentioned to your Lordships that the favour which the Government of England has shown to Sardinia, and the prejudice against Austria, has exhibited itself—indeed, I may say, has broken out very conspicuously, in two portions of these transactions. First, it was displayed in the general difference of the language used to Austria and to Sardinia. To Austria we have held out every thing short of threat—we have addressed her in language gentle indeed in outward appearance, but amounting in substance to downright menace. "You had better not go," we said, "into Italy—you had better not invade any ally of ours—you had better not think of going to Turin or to Rome—for, if you do, we shall consider it a matter deserving of grave consideration." That was not the language in which we addressed the other party. To Austria we were suaviter in modo, fortiter in re. But Sardinia was gently and amicably told, "If you do so act, it will be very much against your true interests. It will be wiser not to do anything of the kind." "Pray don't for your own sake." But no threat, nor anything like a threat. Sardinia was not told, as Austria was, that it would be matter of great importance if she budged a foot out of her own dominions. And all this diversity of treatment, all this reprimand of Austria, was designed to be made known, and to gain credit and popularity with the republican rabble. For then came that proceeding—so ludicrous at once, and so mean, that I have never read anything like it in the whole course 622 of history. While we were anxiously advertising to all Europe, and more especially to the rebels at Milan, and to the red republicans in Paris, that we had held out to Austria this menace, we had at the very time in our pockets an answer from Prince Metternich to our menacing despatch, saying, "What is the matter with you? It is not yet the month of November, when the malady of your gloomy climate prevails, but it is the cheerful mouth of September. What ails you? Are you distracted In your brain to talk of our going to Turin? We have no more thought of going to Turin or Naples than we have of going to the moon. On the contrary, if any one presumes to disturb the security of any country, above all to threaten Sardinia, we will stand by you to defend Sardinia, and to maintain inviolate with all our forces and all our resources all the arrangements of the treaties of Vienna." Not one word of this answer from Austria did we suffer to be known while bragging of our threats to her; threats which assumed her having the design of attacking Sardinia. Then, when the impropriety of keeping such a document in your pockets was mooted in this House, my noble Friend opposite (Lord Lansdowne) said, "Oh, we were ready to give you that despatch as soon as you asked for it." Yes, when I did ask for it I got it; for, on the 18th of last September—my noble Friend (Lord Aberdeen), was not at that time in the House, but in Scotland—I said, "I have that despatch in my hand, and I will read it, every word, if you do not consent to give it to the public." Non constat that it would have been given if I had omitted to give that direct challenge to Her Majesty's Government. I don't blame my noble Friend opposite for all this; he, good easy man, knew nothing at all about it; he was not instructed; the Foreign Office let him remain innocent and ignorant; but the sum and substance of all this is, that every indulgence was extended to Sardinia, whilst threats, downright threats, were held out to Austria. Now, for one moment stop to recollect the language which we used in the despatch addressed to the Court of Austria on the 11th of September, 1847. It was as follows:—Any aggression on the rights of independent States will not be viewed with indifference by Great Britain. The independence of the Roman States is an essential element in the political in-dependence of Italy; and no invasion of that territory can be attempted without leading to consequences of great gravity and importance.623 The answer which we received to that note from Austria was, "We never dreamt of any such thing, but are ready at all times to stand by the integrity of all Italy." That declaration brings me, my Lords, from considering the affairs of Northern Italy to the subject of Central Italy, and more particularly of Rome itself; and I naturally ask, in the words of my first resolution, whether that full and satisfactory explanation which we have a right to receive has been given of "those recent movements in the Italian States which tend to unsettle the existing distribution of territory, and to endanger the general peace of Europe?" First, there is the occupation of Ancona by an Austrian army; then there is the occupation of Bologna by the main force of another Austrian army. I say nothing of the occupation of Tuscany. I put Tuscany out of the question, as it is a sort of family estate of the House of Austria, in which she has a right by treaty to interfere. But that is not all. There is also in the heart of Italy, in its very centre, in its capital, an army, not Roman, not Austrian, not Italian, not composed of its native soldiery, but a French army, consisting of 40,000 or 50,000 men, and with a park of artillery consisting of 120,000 guns. I crave your pardon, 120 guns. [Laughter attended this mistake.] This army did not fall from the clouds. The troops advanced on the surface of the earth. The Eternal City was invaded with all the usual pomp and circumstances of war. Some thousand men with a few guns were in the first instance sent from Marseilles to Civita Vecchia, and some explanation was given why they were sent, more or less satisfactory. But if any man has seen that explanation, stating that a force of 16,000 men and a strong fleet had been sent to Civita Vecchia by France, and has been told that the army was to stop there and to do nothing further, and that their sole object was to re-arrange the balance of power—such was the Government explanation—to adjust the balance of Europe at that port: if any man, having seen that explanation, can take it as satisfactory, all I have to say is, that he is a man very easily satisfied. It does not satisfy me—indeed, it seems very like treating us with contempt to give such explanations. Be that, however, as it may, the other events which followed, plainly demanded full explanation. That army, sent in the first instance to Civita Vecchia, 624 afterwards marched onwards, and in three days arrived at Rome. What was it doing there? To an unskilled observer—to a non-military man like myself, who could not tell the difference between 120,000 and 120 guns—it did look as if it were going to make an attack upon the Eternal City.
Well, then, there is another question, still more apposite, and in answer to which I think that we should have had some explanation, and it is, "What shall he done, supposing that this army should attack Rome, and, as is most probable, carry it? "Up to this hour I, for my part, do not know whether such a question has been put, or, if put, whether it has received an answer. "What are the French doing before Rome, and what will they be doing after they have gained possession of it?" is the question that should have been put. To say that they are there for the cause of humanity, or for the sake of maintaining the balance of power—these are words of which I cannot understand the connexion with the undenied facts, and with the march of 40,000 or 50,000 troops with 120 guns, which does require satisfactory explanation, because such proceedings are not an adjustment, but a subversion—a destruction of the European balance. I must forget all that I have ever read of the rights of nations before I can consent to admit that circumstances like these can be allowed to pass over unnoticed. Here, my Lords, I should be doing injustice to my own feelings if I did not express my entire admiration of the conduct of the French army before the walls of Rome. What the French army had to do there—whether the French Government were entitled to send it thither—is another matter, and on this men may have different opinions. Whether or not it was in perfect consistency with the professions of the new half-fledged French Republic to send an army to put down another nascent, a newly hatched republic—whether that step was in harmony with the views of the statesmen who had ruled France ever since the unhappy 24th of February; a day which I must ever consider deplorable for the peace of Europe, for the institutions and thrones of Europe, and, above all, most unhappy for the improvement and tranquillity of France itself—whether that step was in strict keeping with all the professions of all the parties who had been in power since that event had changed the face of France, and ar- 625 rested the progress, the rapid, the uninterrupted progress to comfort and happiness which France was making under the constitutional monarchy, by the development of her prodigious resources—whether it was in harmony with their professions of peace, to send an army to overthrow the infant Republic of Rome—I will not stop now to inquire. Suffice it to say, that the assistance of France was invited by the Pope, as he says in his allocution from Gaeta, but not severally or distinctly—it was invited in conjunction with that of Austria, Spain, and Naples; and it is one of the very few criticisms; which I am disposed to make upon the | French Government, that the second difficulty in this question is the manner in which the French army went alone to Rome when the Pope asked them to come conjointly with the forces of the other Powers; for it seemed as if they meant to anticipate others, and to gain a footing in Rome before the Austrians could take the field.
But all my unfavourable remarks touching France are now at an end; for no Government, no army, could have acted more blamelessly—I should rather say, more admirably—than that French army and its commanders. In the first place, can any man doubt that they could have taken Rome long ago if they had not been averse to the effusion of blood? Little do they know the gallantry of French troops who entertain a contrary notion. Then they were strongly impressed with the idea that it was not right the innocent should suffer with the guilty. Again, they felt that they were not going against the Romans, but against those who had usurped and exercised an intolerable tyranny over the Romans, properly so called. They were marching against Mazzini and Garibaldi—that Garibaldi for whom a noble Friend of mine (Lord Howden), whose eulogy is really praise, bespoke your sympathy so strongly a few evenings ago. But my noble Friend, perhaps, is not aware that this person—a clever man, undoubtedly, of great military talents—was, like Mazzini, a professional conspirator; that the object of his first plot was, like that of a great conspirator in our own country (Guy Fawkes) who was not, however, quite so popular—to blow up the Royal Family of Sardinia in the theatre of Genoa; and that the discovery of that gunpowder plot drove him out in exile, first to Brazil, and afterwards to the Rio 626 Plata, where he began to act as a partisan, and afterwards acquired considerable influence. On the breaking out of the last revolution in France, he returned to Europe, and shortly afterwards agitated the provinces of Italy, repeating in their northern districts, and in Rome itself, those valorous feats of arms which gained him reputation in the New Would. Mazzini is a man of less courage, though of great ability; for few men are so bold as Garibaldi; but Mazzini in conjunction with Garibaldi got possession of Rome—the one eminent for his civil, the other for his military, qualifications; there they established a dictatorship under the name of a Triumvirate, and disciplined several thousand soldiers, of whom scarcely one was a native Roman. Among them were Frenchmen, Monte Videans, Poles, Italians of the north, but Romans few or none. Therefore, it was, I said, that General Oudinot was cautious how he bombarded Rome, as he could not direct his hostility against one class of men, and yet entirely spare all. Lastly, my Lords, I cannot shut my eyes to the merits of the French army, of which all ages must testify their sense as long as any regard remains among men for the precious remains of antiquity, and for those more inestimable treasures of modern art which form the pride and glory of the Eternal City. General Oudinot had carried on the siege of Rome as if he would avoid the effusion of a single drop of human blood, and as if he were anxious not to expose the great monuments of art to the injuries of shot and shell. In this state of things, the delay of the capture took place, while many at Paris were impatient at the suspension of their triumph, but whilst many more were anxious that in future ages the French should not be ranked with the Goths and Vandals of past times; and I feel that the greatest gratitude is due to the French general and to the French army for the humane and generous spirit that tempered the valour which they displayed before Rome. What they are to do now there, is a very different question. I believe that their difficulties are not yet over. I believe they are only now begun; and that is one reason why I urge to my noble Friend opposite, the propriety of calling a general congress for the settlement of the disturbed affairs of Europe. The difficulties of the French army and the French Government at Rome are so great that an acute people, like that of France, cannot 627 shut its eyes to them. They must see how little they have gained even of that for which the Red Republicans of Franco are so eager—military glory—if that was the aim of the Paris multitude, which I more than suspect—of their rulers it could not be the purpose, unless they yielded up their better judgment to the influence of the rabble, for assuredly, while exposing them to every embarrassment in their foreign relations, and augmenting their financial difficulties, they must have seen that it was an enterprise in which success could give their country little glory, while failure must cover it with disgrace. But what signifies to France the loss of such renown as victory bestows? What to her is the foregoing one sprig of laurel more in addition to the accumulated honours of her victorious career? The multitude of Paris rather than France, the statesmen of the club and the coffee-house, the politicians of the salons, the reasoners of the Boulevards, may retain their thirst for such additions, such superfluous additions, to the national fame. The sounder reasoners, the true statesmen, have, I trust, learnt a better lesson, and will teach her gallant people to prefer the more virtuous and more lasting glories of peace.
But whatever the Paris mob in the drawing-rooms or in the streets may have desired, I am confident the Government if left to itself, had one object only in view, the rescue of Rome from the usurpation of a foreign rabble, and restoring the authority of the Pope, whom that rabble's violence had driven from his States. And here let me say a word which may not be popular in some quarters, and among some of my noble Friends, upon the separation of the temporal and spiritual authority of the Pope. My opinion is that it will not do to say the Pope is all very well as a spiritual prince, but we ought not to restore his temporal power. That is a shortsighted and I think a somewhat superficial view of the case. I do not believe it possible that the Pope could exercise beneficially his spiritual functions if he had no temporal power. For what would be the consequence? He would be stripped of all his authority. We are not now in the eighth century, when the Pope contrived to exist without much secular authority, or when as Bishop of Rome he exercised very extensive spiritual authority without corresponding temporal power. The progress of the one, however, went along with that of the other; and just as the Pope had 628 extended his temporal dominions by encroachments of his own, and by gifts like those of Pepin and Charlemagne, the Exarchate and Pentapolis, uniting the patrimony of St. Peter, and adding to it little by little until he got a good large slice in Italy, just in proportion as his temporal authority increased did he attain so overwhelming influence over the councils of Europe. His temporal force increased his spiritual authority, because it made him more independent. Stript of that secular dominion, he would become the slave now of one Power—then of another—one day the slave of Spain, another of Austria, another of France, or, worst of all, as the Pope has recently been, the slave of his own factious and rebellious subjects. His temporal power is an European question, not a local or a religious one; and the Pope's authority should be maintained for the sake of the peace and the interests of Europe. We ourselves have 7,000,000 of Roman Catholic subjects; Austria has 30,000,000; Prussia has 7 or 8,000,000, France is a Catholic country, so is Belgium, so are the peninsulas of Italy and Spain; and how is it possible to suppose that, unless the Pope has enough temporal authority to keep him independent of the other European Courts, jealousies and intrigues will not arise which must reduce him to a state of dependency, and so enable any one country wielding the enormous influence of his spiritual authority to foster intrigues, faction, even rebellion, in the dominions of her rivals? Probably, as General Oudinot has sent the keys of Rome to the Pope at Gaeta, it is his intention to restore the temporal authority of the Pope. There are difficulties in the way of the French General remaining at Rome, the inhabitants of which naturally do not like to see an army of some thousands encamped in their town, and there are difficulties in the way of his leaving Rome; but there is no way so easy of overcoming those difficulties as a general congress to settle the affairs of Europe; and I do not consider that a clearer course can he before France than to propose it, or that she can find a safer and a more creditable way out of her present embarrassments in Italy.
I now come to a part of the subject which I have only originally glanced at, the state of our relations with the southern part of the Italian peninsula. On the 16th of December, 1847, the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs (Lord Palmer- 629 ston) wrote to Lord Minto, directing him to request an audience—For the purpose of conveying to his Sicilian Majesty the strongest assurances of the earnest desire of Her Majesty's Government to maintain, and if possible draw still closer, the bonds of friendship which have so long united the Crowns of Great Britain and of the Two Sicilies.Here, the, the Government were vowing eternal friendship with the Neapolitan. But, on the 10th of January there broke out a rebellion in Sicily, and then "a change came over the spirit of their dream," for there appeared no longer the same ardent desire for amity with Naples, or lamentations that it was not possible to "draw still closer the bonds of friendship between the two Governments." Now came a scene which I have read in the mass of papers before me with feelings of very sincere regret. I cannot easily imagine a more imbecile judgment than presides, or a more mischievous spirit than pervades, the whole of the diplomatic correspondence, the whole correspondence, not only of our professional politicians, our Ministers, our Secretaries, our Consuls, our Deputy-Consuls, but also a new class of political agents, who appear on the scene, the vice-admirals and captains of ships of the line, who all seem, in the waters of Sicily, to have been suddenly transformed, as if by the potent spells of the ancient enchantress who once presided over that coast, stripped of their natural military form, if not into the same sort of creatures, whose form she made men assume, yet into monsters, hideous to behold, mongrel animals, political sailors, diplomatic vice-admirals, speculative captains of ships, nautical statesmen, observers, not of the winds and the stars, but of revolts; leaning towards rebels, instead of bugging the shore; instead of buffetting the gale, scudding away before the popular tempest; nay, suggesters of expeditions against the established Governments of the Allies, with whom their Government lamented it could not draw the bonds of friendship more closely—a new species, half naval and half political, whose nature is portentous, in whose existence I could never have believed. Mr. Temple, a prudent and experienced Minister, is absent, unfortunately, from his post, and his place is filled by Lord Napier, a worthy man, and an active, above all, an active penman, a glib writer if not a great; writing, not quite, but very nearly as well, as the captains and admirals themselves. We find 630 this gentleman, like them, ardently hoping that revolt may prosper, and doing his endeavour to realise his desire; dealing out every sort of suggestion and recommendation, lecturing as if he sat in the Foreign Office, administering rebukes like a Foreign Secretary, telling the Neapolitan Government they had better do so and so; if they did not, it would be the worse for them, and it would be viewed with "great gravity;" and yet supposing that no one but himself was sensitive—for he takes care not to show respect by salutes, and addresses, and those matters about which Mouarchs are supposed to care a great deal; making very free in his, I will not say rude and unmannerly, but certainly his rough treatment of others, yet all the while excessively annoyed at the "tone," as he calls it, of some of the communications addressed to him. But after carefully studying the papers, to catch what this offensive tone of the Neapolitan Minister was, I have found it so evanescent that I really cannot discern it, and suppose there must be something in the manner, or in Lord Napier's state of mind at the time, which overset him.
On the 18th of January. 1848, Sir W. Parker, than whom a more able and gallant officer could not adorn the service, but who cannot be everything—for there are very few who, like my illustrious Friend at the table (the Duke of Wellington), or my renowned master, under whom I first served in a diplomatic situation (the late Earl St. Vincent), are equally great as captains and statesmen—Sir W. Parker wrote to say that the rebellion having broke out again, he had given general orders to the captains of British vessels to afford protection to individuals of either side who were flying for their political conduct. It is easily to be seen which of the two sides these instructions are intended to protect. Sir W. Parker concludes by saying, "I shall await with anxiety the result of the outbreak in Sicily, and the effect it may produce at Naples." Why, what had Sir W. Parker to do with that? The truth is, he was in the hope and the expectation that the rebellion in Sicily would extend across the Faro, and lead to a rising of the Calabrese upon the neighbouring continent. In page 352 we have Captain Codrington, a most able officer, no doubt, giving a long political disquisition, and many speculations, respecting the rebellion and its effects elsewhere, in which he predicts a 631 rising in Calabria, and foresees the danger which would consequently accrue to the Neapolitan Government. The gallant Captain writes as if he were a soothsayer, sent out to foretell the effect of the Sicilian force landing in Calabria, in shaking the Neapolitan throne. Nay, not content with being Minister and Ambassador, as well as naval officer, the gallant Captain must needs act, at least speculate, as a Secretary of the Treasury, or whipper-in for the Sicilian Commons; so he proceeds to discuss the returns for the new elections:—Should the small Sicilian force," says he, "recently landed in Calabria—probably under 1,000 men—succeed in raising the inhabitants of that part of the country against the present Government, they may be able to boat the 12,000 Neapolitan troops at present in Calabria, and then by getting possession of Scylla and Reggio, the Sicilians will gain the control of the Straits, and ultimately so distress the citadel of Messina, by cutting off its communication, as well as by other military operations, as to bring on its surrender. In the meantime, the character of the return of Members to serve in the coming Parliament, to meet in the early part of next month, is adverse to the present Ministry. In some places, the electors on meeting have merely made a procès verbal affirming the validity of their previous election, and reasserting the candidates then chosen as their actual representatives; in others they have proceeded to a new election; but in almost every case the very same individuals as before have been returned as Members for the Parliament. This gives a considerable check to the Government, and shows the state of public opinion in the provinces. If on the meeting of Parliament the discussions are free, we may expect strong differences, if not collisions, between the King's Government and the Parliament from recent events, from present difficulties, and above all from the want of experience of all parties in carrying on public business. If the Government control the discussions by force, or prevent the meeting of Parliament, or suddenly get rid of it, and govern the country by means of the army, the provinces will then be almost sure of rising generally, particularly Calabria, excited by the Sicilian landing, and then not only will Messina be gone, but Naples and the throne of Ferdinand will be in the greatest danger. But if the King's Government were at present to act with great prudence and moderation, and if they believe them sincere in it, there would be no such general rising in the provinces as to render the Sicilian landing of importance, and then that small body of men would be crushed by the large Neapolitan force at present in Calabria. This would put the King's Government in a far more commanding position for terms in any future negotiations with Sicily, and probably put off a final settlement by inducing claims too exorbitant to be agreed to by Sicily.What had Captain Codrington to do with the going out or coming in of the Ministry? What in the name of Neptune and Mars, 632 and all deities having charge of ships of war, had a naval officer to do with the returns to Parliament, the results of votes in that foreign House of Commons? Observe, my Lords, the papers are selected out of the mass of documents at the Foreign Office, and I will venture to assert very confidently that, beside those which have been produced, there are half-a-dozen times as many which the Foreign Office has not produced; so that if we find anything in these papers showing faults to have been committed by those who produced them or by their agents, we may assume that if the whole of the papers were given, not a few more faults of the same kind would be found to have been committed.
The noble Lord opposite (Lord Minto) went from Rome to Naples, and if he had been alone there I should have had greater confidence in the proceedings of the Government; for I have had long experience of his good sense and sound judgment. But the noble Earl had a very active and zealous man under him; and while wading through this volume, I have often had occasion to reflect on the wise opinion of Prince Talleyrand, who used to reckon in diplomacy that zeal in young men is the next thing to treachery, and that sometimes it is just as bad as treachery, for the zealous are clothed with the garb of merit, and you have little hold over them. Well, the zeal, the honest zeal, no doubt, of Lord Napier, moved my noble kinsman from Rome to Naples. The noble Earl (Earl Minto) on the 2nd of February, 1848, wrote to the Foreign Office, that he had been so urged by Lord Napier to go to Naples that he had resolved to set off. But Lord Napier also tells us that on the 3rd of February he had an interview with the King of the Two Sicilies, and that he got the King, out of his zeal and his address working with it, to ask Lord Minto to go to Naples. Well, my noble Friend and Lord Napier, representing the British Government, were decidedly for the Sicilians and against the Neapolitans. There was no attempt to hold the balance even between the two parties, but every expression was used, every proposal made, every captious objection taken in favour of the Sicilians under pretence of holding even the balance. Li that country my noble kinsman and Lord Napier are what we term in the language of this country "Repealers." They are all for what they call a native and independent Par- 633 liament in Sicily, just as the Repealers are for a native and independent Parliament in College-green. The noble Lord (Lord Minto) says, in a very vehement manner, that the sufferings of the people of Sicily under their thirty years' tyranny were so intolerable that the Sicilians had a much better ground for their rebellion than we had against James II in 1688. A Consul writing on the 24th of April—having given most flourishing accounts of the universal insurrection of the Sicilians—accounts which differ entirely from those I received from travellers in that country, as well as from public functionaries—informed Lord Napier that the Sicilians were going to choose the Grand Duke of Genoa, as King of Sicily. This intelligence was received in London about the 4th or 5th of May, There was not a moment's delay in acting upon the notification, though it was only a prediction. If we were so very fond of our Neapolitan allies; if we lamented that we could not draw more closely the bonds of friendship between the two countries, protesting all the while our desire to keep the two crowns on the head of Ferdinand, it is very odd that our Minister should on the very instant it was known that the Grand Duke of Genoa was likely to be chosen, and that the Sicilians intended to dethrone King Ferdinand, namely, on the 8th of May, proceed to give these instructions to my friend, Mr. Abercrombie:—Her Majesty's Consul it Palermo having reported that it is understood that the crown of Sicily is to be offered to the Duke of Genoa, I have to instruct you that if it should come to your knowledge that such an offer has been made, you will state to the Sardinian Government that it is of course for the Duke of Genoa to determine whether it will or will not suit him to accept this flattering offer, but that it might be satisfactory to him to know that if he should do so he would at the proper time, and when he was in possession of the Sicilian throne, be acknowledged by Her Majesty.Let it be known, said the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs, that if the Duke of Genoa accepts the offer of the Sicilians we shall lose no time in recognising him, the Grand Duke of Genoa, under the Treaty of Vienna, as the King of Sicily, and in accepting the dethronement of our own ancient Ally with whom we lament there is no possibility of "drawing closer the bonds of our ancient friendship." Oh, how easily snapped are the bonds that knit prince to prince, and State to State! Oh, how feeble the most ancient 634 ties of the firmest political friendship! When the ink was hardly dry with which the profession was made of this earnest desire to draw more closely, if it were but possible, the bonds which united us to the King of the Two Sicilies, that Her Majesty's Government should, behind his back, and without a word of notice, avow their intention deliberately, but instantly, to acknowledge the usurper upon whose head his insurgent subjects were about to place the crown they had wrested from the brow of their lawful King! But my noble Friend (Lord Minto) is strongly impressed with the advantages of a free constitution—[Lord MINTO: Hear!]—not, however, more strongly than I am. Above all the free constitutions of the world, it is natural that the Sicilians should admire that admirable form of the purest of all governments, which, uniting the stability of order with the freedom of a popular constitution which we happily enjoy, and upon the possession of which we have reason to pride ourselves beyond all the other bounties which a gracious Providence has showered down upon this favoured isle. No wonder the Sicilians should be prepared to admire and regard with reverence a constitution which unites in itself the advantages of all other forms of government, the freedom of democracy, the vigour of monarchy, and the stability with the peacefulness of aristocracy. If I were to say that I am niggardly enough to keep this blessing at all hazards to ourselves, not to desire the extension to others of this happy form of government, I should do injustice to my own feelings; but if I were to say, I am slow to believe that the British constitution is of a nature to be easily exported, and transplanted in other countries, I should only give vent to the opinions which the wisest have held, and which every day's experience of foreign affairs tends more deeply to root in all reflecting minds. The British constitution is the work of ages, the slow growth of many centuries, and if it could be transplanted to countries so totally unprepared for its reception, and there made to take root, it would be as great a miracle as if we were to take a mature plant and set it to grow on a stone pavement, or a great wooden stick, and plant it in a fertile soil, there to bear fruit. The plant and the soil must be of congenial natures; the constitution must fit the nation it is to govern. The people must be prepared by their previous experience, their habits, their second nature, their political 635 nature, to receive such institutions. I know not that I can ever sufficiently express the affection I bore to my late noble Friend (Lord W. Bentinck), who in 1812 instituted in Sicily the experiment of transplanting thither the British constitution. But your Lordships now know from his experience what was the consequence of attempting to establish our own constitution in another country. A traveller happened to be in Sicily at the time, and I will read the account he gave of the solemnity which he witnessed. He is speaking of the most important of all proceedings under that transplanted system; he is describing the conduct of the people's chosen representatives; he is painting the scene of their legislative labours, in the temple of freedom; he is admitting us to the grand, the noble spectacle of the most dignified of human assemblies, the popular body making laws for the nation in the sanctuary of its rights. See then this august picture of a transplanted Parliament. Mr. Hughes says—As soon as the President had proposed the subject for debate, and restored some degree of order from that confusion of tongues which followed the announcement of the question, a system of crimination and recrimination was invariably commenced by the several speakers, accompanied with such hideous contortions, such bitter taunts, and such personal invectives, that blows generally followed, until the Assembly was in an uproar. The President's voice was unheeded and unheard; the whole House arose; patriots and antagonists mingled in the fray, and the ground was covered with the combatants, kicking, biting, striking, and scratching each other in a true Pancratic fray.It is to restore this grand political blessing of the 1812 Parliament that all our late efforts have been pointed. The great object of our negotiations has been the establishment of such a precious representative assembly; but the result is, that those efforts have been all thrown away. The King of Naples was said at that time to have agreed to certain concessions; he offered the people such terms as our negotiators thought they ought to have accepted; and, up to that time, indeed up to this hour, Ferdinand has behaved moft fairly. He did not scruple to make such proposals for conciliation as our own negotiators thought the insurgents ought to have accepted. But all ended in their refusal. War broke out; Neapolitan troops were sent over; Messina was attacked, bombarded, and, after some four or five days, was taken.
Now, to show your Lordships the tendency there was in these negotiations to take advantage of every circumstance, accidental 636 or otherwise, for the purpose of blackening the conduct of the Neapolitan Court, I will only state one particular, and that is with respect to the continuance of the bombardment. A most indignant denial has been given to this charge by the general officers and others engaged; and it turned out that our Consuls and Vice-consuls, all animated by the same spirit, all in favour of rebellion and against the lawful sovereignty, all agreed in one fact as the ground of the charge—they all said, that eight hours after the resistance had ceased, the bombardment was continued. It might naturally he supposed, that with this continued bombardment, much blood would be spilt; and when all our agents are dwelling on this continuance as a cruelty, every reader must conclude, that needless carnage was perpetrated, and much blood shed. But no such thing; not one drop could be spilt; and why? Because every creature had left the town before the eight hours had commenced to run! But the bombardment was continued for two reasons. In the first place, every house, as in Paris, was a fort; and, secondly, the Neapolitan commander could not possibly trust the white flag immediately after he had lost a whole battalion by a false flag being hoisted to decoy them into ambush, where the ground was mined. But no single fact of needless cruelty has been proved against the King of Naples, though I know, from a person attached to our Navy, and in those seas at that time, whose account I have read, as also from that of a traveller accidentally on board of one of the Queen's ships at the time, that there were cruelties of the most disgusting and revolting description committed by the Sicilians, and not one word of reference to which can be found in all the curiously selected papers that load your table. In the mass things are to be found, indeed, much against the wishes of the selectors, and also of their agents in Sicily and Naples. This is owing to their clumsy design of telling what they think will exalt the rebel and damage the loyal party, without always perceiving that these statements cut more ways than one. Thus, a number of consuls sign a statement, that all the inhabitants had left Messina. This is contrived to show that resistance had ceased; but it also proves that no cruelty could be committed by the bombardment. Again, we are told that 1,500, by one zealous agent's account, had been slain of the King's troops; but Lord Napier's hotter 637 zeal is not satisfied with this number, and he makes it 3,000. The object of putting forward this statement is to exalt the rebel valour, and give a more formidable aspect to the revolt. But the zeal in one direction forgets that the same parade of numbers also shows how necessary severe measures had become on the King's part, and how little blame could attach to the gallant troops who, thus assailed, had imposed on them, by the duty of self-defence, the necessity of quelling so bloody an insurrection.
I have given one sample of the not very evenhanded justice which pervaded the correspondence. But I will proceed further. After the battle of Messina 700 or 800 rebels escaped towards the Ionian Islands. They were taken, and it was said by a stratagem; that by hoisting the English flag a Neapolitan cruiser was enabled to near them and take them. It was further alleged—and much of the correspondence is addressed to this point—that they were taken, contrary to the law of nations, within three miles or cannon-shot of the Ionian Islands, and therefore within the British waters. Very elaborate arguments are given in the correspondence to prove that position, and a great deal of indignation is expressed; and satisfaction was also demanded on account of the abuse of the English flag. An elaborate argument is prepared and sent by the Foreign Secretary to show that because the ships were first seen twenty miles off, and in half an hour more they were' more clearly perceived, therefore at some unknown and unspecified time after the half hour, they must have been close in with the shore. I suppose on the principle that a sailing vessel going without steam, moves at the rate of twenty or thirty miles in the hour. However, such is this zealous argument to prove the favourite point that the rebels are always right, and the Government always wrong. Alas! that so much good information and subtlety of argument should be thrown away. This able and argumentative paper, crossed on its way out another from our own Admiral on its way home ward, in which he said he had inquired from the Governor of the Ionian Islands, and had ascertained that the ship was at least eight miles from the shores; so there was an end of the argument upon distance; and that of the insult to our flag was as shortly disposed of by a letter from our own Admiralty, stating that it was only a stratagem which our own Navy constantly employed, 638 freely using the flags of other nations for its own purposes.
I rejoice to say, and your Lordships must be rejoiced to hear it, that I am approaching the end of this subject, but I cannot abstain from observing, to show how completely we took part with the one side against the other, that we treated the Sicilian prisoners as if they had been our allies—our own subjects. They were taken in rebellion, with arms in their hands, against their lawful Sovereign. But Lord Napier complains to Prince Cariati of his treatment of the prisoners, and says it would be observed upon in England, would raise a strong feeling on its exposure and publication, and that the feeling would be such that Her Majesty's Government could scarcely fail to take notice of it. But how? For those prisoners were guilty of a municipal offence against the municipal law of their own country. Suppose, contrary to all probability and possibility, hostilities had ensued upon the late attempt at rebellion in Ireland, and some of the prisoners having been taken and sent to Bermuda or Australia, that the Ministers of France, Holland, Belgium, or any other country had taken it into their heads to object to our treatment of those prisoners and to say, "Don't treat them in that way. Give them their native Parliament on College-green—you are acting cruelly in sending them to Bermuda or Australia. I shall write home to France, I shall write home to Holland, I shall write home to Belgium; and depend upon it your conduct will raise such a ferment of execration and hatred against you, that the President of the Re-public, the King of Holland, and the King of Belgium will be absolutely obliged to take notice of it." How should we have received that intimation? I think with a horselaugh; and there was no reason why the Neapolitan King should not receive that despatch of Lord Napier's in the same way, except that ho, no doubt, gave it good-naturedly a more polite and courteous reception. Now we thus presume to interfere with the domestic affairs of Naples as neither France nor Holland would dare interfere with ours, and as we never durst interfere with theirs. True, we never should dream of urging the great Republic to treat its rebellious subjects when charged with treason, otherwise than as its Government pleased I True, Naples is a feebler Power than France! But is that all the ground for the proceeding? Is that all the warrant 639 for reading lectures such as those we have read—for doing the things we have done—threatening the things we have threatened—claiming the right we have asserted of protecting criminals imprisoned for rebel-lion from the justice of their lawful Sovereign? I say that to a generous nation—to a manly, feeling heart—to a person of true British honour and true British gallantry—it is the very reverse of a reason, and makes our conduct the less excusable as it ought to be the more hateful.
But far from words being all we used—far from interfering by requisition and remonstrance being all we did—the British diplomacy and the British Navy were actually compelled to force an armistice upon the Neapolitan Government on behalf of its revolted subjects, and when their revolt was nearly quelled! After Messina had been completely subdued, its forces routed, its walls crumbled, its strongest place captured, our Admiral having a fleet in those waters was resolved it should not be there for nothing. Hitherto he and his captains had only expressed sympathy with the insurgents, and hatred or contempt of their lawful Sovereign. Now that the rebellion was on the point of being put down, by the capture of Catania and Palermo, which, but for us, must both have immediately fallen, now that the last hope of subverting the Throne of Sicily and installing an usurper on its ruins was about to vanish from the eyes of the British seamen, our Admiral, acting in concert no doubt with the British envoy, and inspired with the feelings of our Foreign Office, required a respite to be allowed the insurgents; and determined to back his requisition with his ships. But he was not, we must admit, the principal in this offence against the rights of an independent and friendly State—he has not the blame to bear, or, if you will, he has not the praise to receive of having decided upon this intervention between the King and his insurgent subjects. The French Admiral was the contriver of the scheme. Admiral Baudin formed his own determination, doubtless in order to gratify the mob of Paris, as well as the rebels of Palermo; and our commander, afraid of being outstripped in his favourite course, at once yielded to the Frenchman's request—the one looking to the Boulevards of Paris for approval, the other to the Foreign Office of London. Orders were issued to all our fleet, that they should use every means to prevent the Neapolitans from following up 640 their victory at Messina; and sealed instructions were sent to direct their proceedings should these peaceable efforts fail. Why not make the instructions public? Why not give notice openly of our intentions? It might have prevented the necessity of using force. However, the orders were sealed, and they directed that first the guns should be fired without shot; next, that they should be shotted, but not fired so as to injure the crews of our ally's ships; and, finally, that they should be used as hostilely and destructively as was necessary to accomplish the purpose of forcing Naples to let the Sicilian rebels alone. But it is said, and it is the pitiful pretext of equal treatment to both parties, that the orders were alike to prevent action of the King's troops and the revolters. Was ever there a more wretched shift—a more hollow pretence than this? Keep the Sicilians from breaking an armistice enforced to save them from utter and final destruction! Keep the beaten Sicilian rebel from overpowering his victorious masters! Keep the felon convicted from rushing to the gallows in spite of the respite granted him! Can human wit imagine a more ridiculous pretext than this, of affecting to hold the balance even, when you are preventing the conqueror from improving his victory, and only preventing the vanquished from attempting what without a miracle he cannot do—cannot, even with all your assistance, venture to try? But such was our just conduct in an interference which we had not the shadow of a right to take upon ourselves. We showed our friendly feelings towards an ancient ally by forcibly screening his revolted subjects, and compelling him to delay for nearly seven months the total defeat of those rebels, and the complete restoration of tranquillity. From the 10th of September, when Messina fell, to the 30th of March, when we were kindly pleased to let the armistice expire, the English fleet persevered in reducing the King to inaction, and saving his rebellious subjects from the operation of his armies. But for our own fleet, there is not a doubt that Catania and Palermo must have fallen in a fortnight; but we nursed, and fostered, and prolonged the insurrection for above half a year. Talk of your humanity! Boast of your Admiral and his French associate interposing to save bloodshed! Whose fault was it that Catania, having profited by the respite you forced the King to grant, still held out, 641 instead of opening her gates as soon as Messina had fallen, when the insurrection must have been crushed in its cradle? Who but your commanders and envoys are to blame for the necessity under which they placed the King's troops, of fighting a battle on the sixth of April? That engagement no doubt put down the insurrection; but many lives were lost in it. Five and twenty officers were killed and wounded on the King's side, and some hundreds of men must likewise have expiated their loyalty with their lives—to say nothing of the insurgent loss. Palermo fell without a struggle, after all the boastings of your envoys and captains, and consuls and vice-consuls. Would she have resisted more fiercely in September? The insurgent chiefs fled, and got on board the Vectis, one of the two vessels of war which you suffered the Sicilian rebels to fit out in your ports, when you refused all help to your ancient friend's ambassador in checking this outrage on the law of nations; and when by a celebrated "inadvertence "you suffered those rebels to obtain from the Tower a supply of arms, wherewith to fight your ally's armies.
My Lords, I cannot trust myself with the expression of the feelings which are roused by the whole of the papers, to which I have only referred occasionally; they are the feelings with which all men of sound principles and calm judgment will read them all over Europe. I will refer to them no further than to read the indignant denial which the veteran General Filangieri, Prince of Satriano, gives to the charge of cruelty brought against his gallant and loyal army by our envoys and our consuls, and, I grieve to add, our naval commanders. [Lord BROUGHAM here read the vehement, and even impassioned terms in which the General refutes these foul calumnies, charging him, an officer of above half a century's service, with suffering his troops to commit enormities which no military man, of however little experience in his profession, could have permitted.]
Rely upon it, my Lords, that if anything can make more offensive the conduct of our agents in fostering revolt, and injuring the lawful government of our allies, it is the adding foul slander to gross indiscretion, revenging themselves on those whose valour and conduct has frustrated their designs, by blackening their characters, and committing that last act of cruel injustice, calumniating those you have injured, 642 through your hatred of those to whom you have given good cause to hate you.
There is, my Lords, but one course for this country to pursue in its dealings with other States: she must abstain from all interference, all mischievous meddling with their domestic concerns, and leave them to support, or to destroy, or to amend their own institutions in their own way. Let us cherish our own Government, keeping our own institutions for our own use, but never attempt to force them upon the rest of the world. We have no such vocation—we have no such duty, no such right—above all, we have no right to interfere between sovereigns and subjects, encouraging them to revolt, and urging them to revolution, in the vain hope that we may thus better their condition. Then, in negotiation, lot us avoid the same meddling policy—shall I falsely call it?—the same restless disposition to servo one State at another's expense; showing favour and dislike capriciously and alternately; guided by mere individual and personal feelings, whether towards States or statesmen; displaying groundless likings for some and groundless hatred for others; one day supporting this Power in its aggression upon that, and when defeated—justly and signally defeated—like Sardinia, clinging to the wish that it should obtain from the victorious party an indemnity for its own foul but fading aggression. Most of all let us abide by the established policy of the country towards our old and faithful friends, not Naples merely, but Austria, whose friendship has been, in all the best times of our most eminent statesmen, deemed the very corner-stone of our foreign policy, ever since the era of 1688; above all, since King William and the Ministers and Government of his successor laid the foundations of that system. But now I can see in every act done, almost every little matter, a rooted prejudice against Austria; and the interspersing of a few set phrases does little to prevent any reader from arriving at the same conclusion: "Our feelings are friendly towards Austria," and "God forbid they should be other-wise! "I say Amen to that prayer; but when I read the despatches with the light shed on them by the acts of our Government, and of all their agents and Ministers; when by these acts I interpret the fair words used; I perceive the latter to mean exactly nothing, and that those expressions which perpetually recur of an opposite kind speak the true sense of our 643 rulers. But this policy is opposed to the unform authority of our greatest statesmen. Even Mr. Fox, who was sometimes believed to have a leaning towards Russia, from the accidental transactions of 1791, when charged with undervaluing the Austrian alliance in comparison, took immediate opportunity earnestly to disavow any such opinion, and declared that our friendship with Austria was the grand element of our European system.
My Lords, I have detained you longer than I could have desired; but I felt it absolutely necessary to give your Lordships an opportunity of fully considering this momentous subject. That such things as have been done by the Government in Italy and elsewhere during the last twelve months, should pass without awakening your attention, and that your examination of the details should not call down a censure, if for no other purpose than to warn the Ministers against persisting in fatal errors, appears to me hardly within the bounds of possibility. I have, therefore, deemed it my duty to give you an opportunity of expressing the opinion which I believe a majority of this House holds, and which I know is that of all well-informed and impartial persons in every part of the world.
§ I move you to resolve—
- "1. That it is the Right and was the Duty of the Government to require, and to obtain from Foreign Powers, satisfactory Explanations of those recent Movements in the Italian States, which tend to unsettle the existing Distribution of Territory, and to endanger the general Peace.
- "2. That it is inconsistent with the general Interests and Duty of this Country to interfere in the Concerns of Foreign Nations, as between their Governments and their Subjects,
- "3. That tills House regrets to observe in the Conduct of the Government, particularly as shown by the Papers laid before Parliament, a Want of friendly Feeling towards Allies to whom we are bound by Treaty and by natural Acts of Goodwill."
§ The EARL of CARLISLE
said: I should have felt considerable hesitation in presenting myself to your Lordships so immediately after so powerful an orator and so accomplished a debater as my noble and learned Friend is, had it not been from the very sober and temperate tone of the speech he has just made. I am certain that none of the Powers of Europe, and I am sure that none of Her Majesty's Government, can feel otherwise than that this was a compliment due to his speech; but the compliment I thus most gladly pay to that speech, I am by no means able to extend to the resolutions he has given notice of 644 and has now moved; for these resolutions seem to be to gather together and to sum up all the clamour and desultory taunts and insinuations which have been mooted against Her Majesty's Government in the course of the present Session, and to ram down into one very heavy piece of artillery all those separate discharges which have proceeded from the opinions of those diverging political parties into which the country, both in and out of Parliament, is now broken up and divided. We have been frequently told that here we have been too meddling, and there too passive; that here we have been too willing to show our sympathy with revolutionary opinions and parties, and there not sufficiently anxious to respect the independence of even the most democratic institutions. Now, then, I pass from the spirit to the actual wording of these resolutions. I find, in the first, "That it is the right, and was the duty, of Government to require and to obtain from Foreign Powers satisfactory explanations of those recent movements in the Italian States, which tend to unsettle the existing distribution of territory, and to endanger the general peace." Now, just observe here, "it is the right and was the duty of the Government to require and to obtain "satisfactory assurances; why, it may be very properly said it is the right of the Government to require them, but how can it be said it is their duty to obtain them? It is as much as to say, it is the right of all good Christians to pray for good weather, and their duty to obtain it. It may be our right to ask, but how can it be our duty to obtain? Supposing we obtained explanations that were not satisfactory, but wholly unsatisfactory, what then becomes of the duty of the Government? If we lay down this as a rule, the necessary corollary is, that this country ought to go to war if we do not obtain those satisfactory explanations; and that would certainly be a most mischievous rule to lay down in the abstract. Then the second resolution goes on to say, "That it is inconsistent with the general interests and duty of this country to interfere in the concerns of foreign nations, as between their Governments and their subjects." I cordially subscribe to the general tenor of that resolution; but I hold it to be inconsistent with all past history to lay down that in no case ought this country to interfere in the concerns of another country; for there have been times in which it has been held there has been occasion for this, not only in times of war, but in the best 645 times of peace, when our interference could relieve the oppressed, rescue Europe from universal domination, and maintain those principles which we thought essential, without risk to our own interests, and with consummate advantage to the world at large. This resolution would brand our interference in Portugal, in Spain, and in Greece; nay more, it would brand the very principles on which the Dutch Government interfered at the time of our revolution, which led to the Protestant Government of this country, and the succession of the present reigning family. The third resolution goes on to say, in a more marked tone of censure, "That this House regrets to observe, in the conduct of the Government, particularly as shown by the papers laid before Parliament, a want of friendly feeling towards Allies to whom we are bound by treaty and natural acts of goodwill." And to this censure I hope to address myself in the succeeding remarks, for which I have to pray your Lordships' indulgence. I shall begin with that city which in all preceding has obtained, as in all succeeding times it must obtain, a foremost place in the consideration of mankind—I shall begin with Rome, to which my noble and learned Friend has so prominently adverted. With respect to the events which have taken place in Rome, it must be remembered that the ruler of the Roman States, the Pope, addressed a formal requisition to us, through his representative in Paris, asking us to bear a part, in cooperation with other Powers, in endeavouring to effect an adjustment of the differences that had taken place between him and his subjects, and to re-establish his dominion over them. Now, Her Majesty's Government, though sympathising deeply with the Pope, and fully alive to the troubles which afflicted the Roman dominions, thought it their duty to abstain altogether from taking part in the conferences which took place at Gaeta, and from participating in the interference, or in any of the proceedings emanating from them. And herein I am persuaded, after a calm review of the entire affair, that Her Majesty's Government exercised a wise discretion; for, independently of the general reasons which might induce the adoption of such a course of policy—independently of the doctrines laid down in the second resolution of my noble and learned Friend, "that it is inconsistent with the general interests and duty of this country to interfere in the concerns of foreign nations, as 646 between their Governments and their subjects," I must say that I think that a Protestant Government that had not established any diplomatic relations with Rome, could not, either with propriety or delicacy, have placed itself, with respect to this matter, upon a level with those Catholic States of Europe, which were accessible to views and influences in which we could not share. And therefore, though we could not cease to watch what took place in so important and interesting a field of action with the most anxious interest—though we were ready at all times to offer such advice as we thought useful—though we had not forborne to offer that advice where we thought it might prove advantageous; yet, having thought that we should not interfere in such a case—having thought that those persons only who took part in the conferences at Gaeta should, as they have since done, take such overt steps in consequence, as they might decide upon—having thought that it would not be proper that English interference should be exercised to force the dominion of the Pope upon any country whatsoever—we did not think that it would be becoming in us to adopt any importunate or obstructive course with respect to those Powers which have charged themselves with the office of interfering in and settling this long protracted controversy. We did not conceal our opinions upon this subject. Our Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in writing to our Ambassador at Paris on the 28th of February, said, that we "most sincerely deprecated any attempt at settling the differences between the Pope and his subjects by the military interference of foreign Powers." And in another letter, still later—namely, on the 9th March—he said that he "did not see, even although those occurrences had taken place at Rome, why the friendly interference of those Powers, without using military force, might not still bring about such an arrangement as would enable the Pope to return to Rome, and re-establish his temporal authority there." Thus much of advice we tendered; and having done so, having shown what we thought the right course to be pursued, we did not make any formal protest, either when the French landed their forces at Civita Vecchia, and proceeded to Rome, or when the Austrians besieged Bologna, and blockaded Ancona, or when the Neapolitans invaded the southern portion of the Roman dominions, or when the Spaniards landed an expedition 647 at Gaeta. I will not deny, because I think it due to higher interests than any party or even any national policy, to acknowledge that things have occurred during the siege of Rome by the French which I cannot view without regret; nor can I withhold my sympathy from the heroic efforts of the defenders—heroism which once again seems to have become the attribute of the Roman name—because I think my noble and learned Friend exaggerated very considerably the number of foreigners who took part in the defence of Rome. The Romans who defended the city were not so few as has been represented; and as to the Poles, and other foreigners from the northern part of Italy, I believe that very few indeed were engaged amongst the Roman forces. But it is due to the French nation, and the able men who have directed their councils, that I should bear the most ample testimony to the assurances which Her Majesty's Government has hitherto received, and continues to receive, with respect to their future disposition and intentions regarding Rome. They unequivocally disclaim all idea of extension of territory, and all notions of conquest. They profess themselves willing to retire at the earliest moment that is consistent with the restoration of order and tranquillity, and with their own honour; and they exhibit a disposition to effect, if possible, a perfect reconciliation between the Pope and his subjects, and the re-establishment of his authority in such a mode and on such an understanding as will be satisfactory to the most national of his subjects. And if such should be the result, as I hope and trust it will, we shall have no occasion to take blame to ourselves; indeed, we shall have, on the contrary, cause for deep satisfaction in thinking that, at a time of great difficulty and embarrassment in the concerns of France—during the changes of administration which deeply affected her interests, at an epoch of danger, and under the risk of an ascendancy which would have convulsed social order both in that country and in every country in Europe—we had forborne, both in the time and tone of our representations, from adding to the embarrassments and difficulties of those upon whose stability and success such vital interests were depending. If we had pursued a contrary course, we might possibly have laid upon the table of your Lordships' House a more plausible despatch, we might have made some pungent remarks upon the nature of the French 648 expedition; but such remarks might, I think, have been dearly purchased by their results. My noble and learned Friend transferred us from Rome to the territories of the King of the Two Sicilies; and that was the only part of his speech as to which the complaint might be made, that he had infused into it a certain bitterness of tone. In speaking of the transactions connected with the affairs of Sicily, the noble and learned Lord adopted a more general bitterness of tone than in speaking of any other of these transactions, wholly forgetting therein the classical caution—Sic tibi, cum fluctus subterhabêre Sicanos,Doris amara suam non intermisceat undam.Thus, in speaking about Sicily, I think his censure was rather unsparingly cast upon the British Government, the British Navy, and British diplomacy—parties which, I think, are in no way amenable to censure. Our old relations with the inhabitants of Sicily—to use the very mildest terms—should have induced us to use our best endeavours to stanch her wounds, even if we had not received invitations from both parties in the controversy to interpose our mediation. My noble and learned Friend opposite was very severe upon the Lord Privy Seal for having compared the rights of the case of the Sicilians with those of the people of this country when they rose against James II. But your Lordships will remember that in the course of the present Session, it was not in a Ministerial despatch, nor from any Member of Her Majesty's Government, but from one of the chief ornaments of the bench opposite (the Earl of Ellenborough), that you heard, with the nervous pith which distinguishes the style of the noble Earl, that the cause of the Sicilians was as good as that of the barons when they rose against King John, or as that of the English people when they rose under the Prince of Orange against James H. But, certainly, if an indictment is to be drawn up against us for the part we have taken in connexion with Sicilian affairs, I must confess that, in my judgment, the most formidable and the most pinching form it could assume would be, that we had not done enough for the Sicilian people—that we should be arraigned for having fallen short of the declaration made by Lord Castlereagh, or the declaration made by the noble Lord opposite (then Sir William A'Court), or of that made by Lord Liverpool, who spoke of the Sicilians as a country having a dis- 649 tinct nationality—for our having, in short, not sufficiently remembered in 1848 what we had done for Sicily in 1812, which only fell short of a guarantee of distinct and separate nationality. It did fall short of such guarantee, and that is our only defence. Our defence is that the Sicilians were always told that we did not consider ourselves bound to such a guarantee. But our assurances only fell short of a guarantee to maintain the constitution which we had approved of, when the people of Sicily, alone amidst hostile Europe, were not only our allies, but what old Rome would have called our clients. But we were bound not to overlook the establishment of Europe which took place at the Treaty of Vienna; we were bound not to overlook the extent assigned to the dominions of the King of the Two Sicilies, notwithstanding some grave causes of complaint on the part of his subjects. We were told at the time of the sulphur quarrel by a noble Lord opposite, that not merely a frigate, but a stout line-of-battle ship, should have been sent to the station to demand redress. But we were anxious to preserve entire the dominion of a prince with whom we have been long at peace, and to bring-about a peaceful reconciliation between the King of the Two Sicilies and his Sicilian subjects. As long as we thought it feasible, we laid great stress on the union of the two Crowns. When we thought that no longer feasible, and that Sicilian independence was inevitable, we laid great stress upon the second Crown being placed upon the head of the son of the King of Naples. My noble and learned Friend spoke of the haste with which we took advantage of the offer of the Sicilians to place their crown upon the head of the Duke of Genoa. But there were circumstances then existing which gave us strong reason to fear that delay would be dangerous to the cause of peace, of order, and of monarchy. Prince Cariati said that Naples could do very well without Sicily, and that for his part, as a Neapolitan, he wished Sicily could be got rid of. Cardinal Ferretti gave it as his opinion, that the reconquest of Sicily was out of the question. And, at the same time, we were informed by our Minister at Paris—for it must be remembered that France was not then under a President, nor even under the government of General Cavaignac, but under that of the Provisional Government—that although it was not the wish of M. 650 Lamartine, yet that there was a large party in France who would desire to see a republic established in Sicily. Therefore, if there were no chance that the Sicilians should be rejoined to the Crown of Naples, we wished that some arrangement, whereby they should transfer their allegiance to another monarch, should take place as soon as possible. There was no time to be lost in facilitating the decision of the Sicilians. As to the affair of the Stromboli, there were very conflicting statements made. We were told that the crew of the boat had been deceived by the display of English colours; but that is a deception which is justified by the custom of war. It was then alleged that the affair took place in English waters, and when, after investigation, it was found that the ship was not within the prescribed space, it was ordered that no further interference should take place. But when there was no hope for further accommodation, we did not think that even the force of our old associations and obligations to the Sicilians, nor that even the plea of humanity itself, would warrant us in exorcising forcible interference between the contending parties. And it was with rigid, though perhaps reluctant, adherence to that principle, that our ships saw the transports convey the troops of the King of the Two Sicilies to lay siege to Messina. My noble and learned Friend cast censure upon our naval diplomatists; but if he consults the documents, he will see how temperate was their conduct. Sir W. Parker only permitted assistance to be given in cases where the lives and properties of individuals were endangered. My noble and learned Friend, not with fairness, said that if the Neapolitans had been the parties exposed to danger, we would have acted otherwise. But in the attack upon Palermo, it was not Sicilian but Neapolitan persons who were conveyed to a place of safety in the vessels of Her Majesty. The orders given were that there should be no interference in the political dissessions of the people; but that where the lives of either party were compromised, they should be received on board Her Majesty's ships; and in many instances of danger, the aid of Her Majesty's crews was most liberally afforded to the distressed of all countries. When my noble and learned Friend says that one colour runs through all the statements, and that all the officers were in favour of the Sicilians, it is impossible to receive such 651 an accusation; for amongst the British officers are men representing probably every sort of political opinion, but they all loyally endeavour to carry out instructions given to them. The only way in which they could be supposed to join in one opinion, is that they might become impressed, from what they saw before their eyes, with one set of sentiments; and when Palermo was evacuated by the troops of the King of the Two Sicilies, a general feeling seems to have burst forth without control from all assembled; during the retreat of the troops the Te Deum was chanted, and then it is stated that thunders of applause followed, in which probably the British officers might join, from the contagion of the enthusiasm. But I have no wish to do more than defend ourselves so far as is necessary from the charges that have been brought against us, not to rip up old sores. I will therefore say nothing about what passed at Messina, except that Sir W. Parker joined with the French Admiral to prevent the proceedings that were taking place on that fatal strand. It seems to be matter for censure, in the view of the noble and learned Lord, that Her Majesty's Government took no steps to indicate their disapproval of what had taken place. Such a course, no doubt, was open to them. By recalling Sir W. Parker, or replacing him on the Mediterranean station, they might have disavowed the act of the British Admiral. They might have said to him, "Why did you disobey our orders? Why did you interfere on your own responsibility?" It might have been well—it might have been advisable, in the opinions of some noble Lords, that Her Majesty's Government should in this way have absolved themselves from all blame or imputation on account of Sir William Parker's proceeding. But I, for one, cannot concur in those opinions, and would have been no party to so ungenerous, so heartless a disavowal. There are occasions, both for individuals and nations, when, for a superior Power to stand by and see a wrong inflicted, which it could, if it would, prevent, becomes baseness to man, and treachery to God. The noble and learned Lord scorned disposed to object very much to one expression that had been employed by the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs in a document which has been made the subject of so much remark and so many attacks both in this and in the other House of Parliament. Now, 652 what was the language which was addressed to my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in a paper dated in February of the present year by the Representative of his Sicilian Majesty? Why, in that paper he refers to the stipulations which had been confirmed by the settlement treaty at Vienna in 1815, and expresses his conviction that the Court of Great Britain would still manifest for that of the Two Sicilies the same consideration which had always marked the proceedings of the Cabinet of St. James's to-wards it. Surely any party who had been so seriously aggrieved by the policy of my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary as has been pretended, would hardly have expressed himself in these terms of an ancient ally whoso continued friendship and support he was thus anxiously and fondly calling for. The noble and learned Lord has also adverted to a circumstance which has been made the ground of much angry remark, and, I must add, of some undeserved imputations against Her Majesty's Ministers. I think it right to-night to recur to a matter upon which I will briefly state what I know of the facts. My noble and learned Friend's complaint regarded the non-production of a despatch in answer to one of those which was placed upon your Lordships' table last year. I certainly do think that, in reference to ordinary cases and the general rule to be observed in such matters, the non-production of this despatch was a reasonable and a natural subject for animadversion in Parliament. Looking back to all the circumstances of the case, now that we are enabled to judge of their general bearing, it is to be regretted that my noble Friend included this other despatch with those originally communicated. The missing paper related to the affairs of Austria; and this has subjected my noble Friend to an insinuation which I do feel it material to repel; for I am sure that almost every Peer who hears me must feel, with me, that it is impossible my noble Friend could be actuated by any unfriendly policy towards Austria. But if Austria could be really supposed to have been in any way aggrieved—or if she herself believed that she was really the object of any hostile impression on the part of my noble Friend—why was no formal representation made to that effect? There was at this Court au accredited Austrian Minister; there are in this House devoted friends and partisans of the Austrian Government, 653 who might, all of them, have advised a direct appeal in other quarters, supposing that there had been anything to justify this sort of charge against the noble Foreign Secretary respecting the missing paper, or any other document that has passed between the Cabinets of St. James's and Vienna. As to the unfortunate incident of the nonappearance of the paper itself, the fact is that there had subequently arisen in the affairs with which it was the peculiar province of the department presided over by my noble Friend to deal, so many and such urgent matters, the causes of so much grave apprehension and of such complicated difficulties, in the relations of the whole of Europe, that it is probable all thought of the necessity for supplying the omission in this particular class of papers, escaped all the parties in the transaction. This, surely, is no forced or unreasonable mode of accounting for a circumstance that I do not the less lament. But then the noble and learned Lord has argued, throughout his address this evening, on the assumption that the noble Secretary has been moved, in the various negotiations to which that address referred, by ill-will towards Austria. But the noble and learned Lord contented himself with pressing this as a general charge: he did not go on to instance particular cases in proof of it. I can only reply to the noble and learned Lord by as general a declaration, that my noble Friend is incapable of indulging any such feelings. When, however, all the forthcoming papers on these transactions shall be supplied, your Lordships will then be so much the bettor prepared to meet the noble and learned Lord on this point. Allusion has been made by the noble and learned Lord to the communications interchanged in 1847 and 1848 between the Governments of Sardinia and of Austria, and the Courts of Turin and of London. Now, I do not intend to claim for my Colleagues the gift of prescience but in reference to those communications I may observe, that my Colleagues may have thought (very fairly and probably, too) that, so far as the resources of superior material strength and military force were concerned, there was somewhat more probability of Austria, at that time, attacking Piedmont, than of Piedmont attacking Austria. That my noble Friend who is charged with the management of the Foreign Affairs of this country, and who has been so often and so recklessly 654 attacked for his administration of them—and, I must add, so much more frequently in his absence than in his presence; that my noble Friend, with the unremitting and devoted attention that he pays to the multiplied duties of his most responsible office; that he, in dealing with the prodigiously increasing calls on his anxious attention, presented by those sudden and violent changes that have lately occurred in the institutions and the condition of almost every State of Continental Europe—that he should never commit an oversight, in following step by step the multiplying combinations of European exigencies; that he should always, in this atmosphere of incessant vicissitudes, take the most expedient step that longer and more uninterrupted deliberation might suggest, or adopt the most appropriate phraseology that in a given instance it might appear to us, who judge after the event, to have been most desirable to employ—I will not take on myself to assert, because I do not wish to assert an impossibility and a miracle. What I do assert, and what the country feels, is, that, after a period of eighteen months without a precedent and without a parallel, we have not only preserved order and tranquillity within our own borders, but we have done much—very much—to promote and restore the general peace of Europe. Allow me just to run over some of the occurrences that have taken place within that period: Paris twice barricaded, twice swept with cannon, three times in military occupation; Vienna, twice in the possession of its insurgent citizens—the Emperor twice obliged to fly; Berlin, perpetually in a state of siege; Pesth, Prague, Buda, and many other cities and towns of Hungary taken and retaken frequently; Milan lost and won; Messina bombarded; Venice still invested, Ancona barricaded; Rome itself seeing its Pope fly from it a fugitive and an exile; and an army, the most famous upon the continent of Europe, now dictating terms to it from the Aurelian wall. On this shifting theatre, my noble Friend, I know, has had a single object in view—that of averting the calamities of war, and prolonging, as far as he could, the blessings of peace to the world; and circumstances only have compelled him, if in his endeavours he has wounded some susceptibilities, and been obliged to run counter to feelings he would most gladly have respected. And if those endeavours have not been successful in preserving 655 peace altogether, my noble Friend has at least done much to prevent the outbreak of a universal war. I know nothing more calculated to excite feelings of patriotic though I trust humbled pride, than the present attitude of this country. In the midst of a warring agitated world, she is unvexed, unmoved, and untouched by the events about her. Her opinion is every day consulted; her good offices constantly asked for, and freely given—her arbitration sought for as a last resort. And, notwithstanding what has been said to-night, no account reaches us which does not tell of our Ministers, our Consuls, and, above all, our naval officers, giving inviolable asylums to the miserable of all climes; and, in the midst of the jealousies of all around, she is opening her ports and extending her markets to all the commerce of the world. And this is the time—it is in the face of such a state of things as this—you come forward with your illogical and unmeaning resolutions. I will only say Her Majesty's Ministers are ready to meet them—they would point to Europe as it is, and to England as it is, and will willingly abide the result.
§ LORD HEYTESBURY
My Lords, as I have not been in the habit of public speaking, I have never ventured to intrude myself upon your Lordships' attention, nor should I do so upon the present occasion, were it possible for me to remain silent after all that has been said, here and elsewhere, with respect to former transactions in the Island of Sicily, and if attempts had not been made to justify more recent occurrences by a reference to those transactions.
Before, however, I enter upon these matters, I must beg to assure your Lordships that it is neither my intention nor my wish to detract in any way from the high personal character of the noble Lord who was my immediate predecessor in the Sicilian Mission. I believe Lord William Bentinck to have been actuated by the best and most benevolent intentions, and that he carried out those measures which he thought necessary for what was called the regeneration of Sicily, with great energy and vigour. But, in saying this, my Lords, I must at the same time be allowed to express a doubt of the wisdom of the policy which induced him to step out beyond the line of duties prescribed to him as commander-in-chief of a foreign army, sent to Sicily for the sole purpose of pro- 656 tecting it against a common enemy, in order to assume those of a legislator, and of a reformer of the abuses in the government of an independent State, however great those abuses may have been. I may also be allowed to doubt a little of the prudence of aiding in overthrowing an ancient constitution, based upon the rock of ages, and susceptible of any modification, in order to substitute for it that ricketty edifice to which they gave the name of the English Constitution.
But in order to enable your Lordships to form a clear idea of all that actually did take place at that period in Sicily, which has been strangely misrepresented, but a knowledge of which is necessary to a right understanding of all that has subsequently occurred, it will be necessary for me to go into a little more detail, and a little further back than the time that has now been chosen as the point of departure—to that period when it is generally believed that a new constitution was happily established in Sicily—working harmoniously and well, to the perfect satisfaction of its authors, and for the happiness of the Sicilian people.
My Lords, I think I shall be able to show your Lordships that that boasted constitution was never much more than a constitution upon paper; that, with the exception of the substitution of a Parliament called together under an English form, for a Parliament called together under the old Sicilian form, hardly another step was taken towards its enforcement—or even completion; that so far from working harmoniously and well, it scarcely worked at all; and that the very last act of Lord William Bentinck's political life in Sicily was a proposal to the Hereditary Prince to give over the Island of Sicily to Great Britain, under certain circumstances, precisely because he was of opinion that it would be found impossible to establish and carry out that constitution, but under a long continuance of foreign direction and interference.
Had this discussion taken place at an earlier period, I should have been very unwilling to have touched upon these matters; but as thirty-five years have passed over our heads since these events occurred, as most of the actors in these scenes have gone to their long account, I trust I shall not be accused of any indiscretion, if I venture to consider all that then took place, as falling now within the domain of history.
657 To revert, then, to the year 1813; at the commencement of which year Lord William Bentinck, and those who acted in concert with him, had succeeded in carrying every measure which they thought necessary for a total change and reform in the government of Sicily.
These were—the adoption by the old Parliament of Sicily, formed into a constituent body, of an entirely now constitution, modelled, in great measure, upon that of England. Your Lordships, however, are not to suppose that this constitution was at once carried out and enforced. It consisted of a series of articles containing, doubtlessly, all the elements of a free constitution, which articles, as they emanated from the constituent body, were successively adopted and sanctioned by the Hereditary Prince, acting in the name and on behalf of his father. It was a framework on which the new constitution was to be built, rather than a constitution. The existing laws, tribunals, institutions of every description, were undoubtedly condemned; but they were suffered to subsist until such time as they should be replaced by others more analogous to the enlightened spirit of the age, and through the medium of the new Parliament.
The other measures which were thought necessary, in order to give security to this great work, were—1st. The removal of the Queen, who was embarked on board a British frigate, and conveyed to Constantinople, from whence she was to find her way to her family at Vienna. Various reasons were assigned for this removal, into which, whether true or false, it is unnecessary for me to enter here. 2nd. The removal of the King, who was invited to retire to one of his country palaces, and not to attempt a second time to resume the reins of government, but with the full concurrence of the British authorities. It may be right, however, to mention, that the King's first retirement was voluntary. When he saw the storm that was gathering round him, he went into the country, appointing his son to act during his absence. But when he learnt to what lengths the reforms were to be carried, be came back to his palace of La Favorita, with the intention of resuming the reins of government. He was there met by Lord William Bentinck in person, at the head of a troop of British dragoons, and requested to return to the palace from whence he had come. 3rd. The delegation of the whole royal authority to the Hereditary 658 Prince, under the title of Vicar General. And, lastly, a total change of Ministers, the individuals selected being taken from amongst the men most distinguished for their talent, their undoubted probity, and their supposed influence in the country.
These measures having been carried, Lord William Bentinck appears to have thought that all was accomplished. There was a new constitution very fairly drawn out, there a new Executive, and there a new administrative power, and that nothing more remained to be done but to direct this constitution to march, and that it would march. So entirely persuaded was he of this, that he did not think it necessary to wait for the opening of the first Parliament—the Parliament which was charged with the completion and enforcement of this now constitution, which as yet was only a constitution upon paper. He did not think it necessary to wait for this opening, but embarked to assume the command of the British troops on the east coast of Spain, leaving the affairs of the mission in the hands of a nobleman who was by chance residing at Palermo for the benefit of his health—the late Lord Montgomery; and whatever there might be of irregularity in the appointment, the event proved that he could not have entrusted the business of the mission to wiser, safer, or to bettor hands.
This first Parliament was assembled a very few weeks after his Lordship's departure. Its early sittings were occupied with verifying the return of the several Members and fixing the forms and ceremonial of the Chambers. So far all appeared to work, harmoniously and well. But no sooner had this Parliament entered upon real business, than very ominous symptoms began to manifest themselves. The time of both Houses was wasted in frivolous discussions, which led to nothing. Attempts were made by the Commons to arrogate to themselves powers to which the constitutional articles gave them no pretence. A violent democratic spirit immediately arose, loud in denunciations and menaces, and scarcely veiling its hostility to the Royal authority. English influence was everywhere decried. Dissensions of an angry nature broke out between the two Houses. Taxes were only voted from month to month; and so far from having put an end to the spirit of anarchy and faction, of which so many complaints had previously been made, the assembly of this new Parliament only seemed to have con- 659 centrated its power, and to have given it a more brilliant scene of action.
In the midst of these difficulties, the Ministers, who had been selected for their supposed firmness and vigour, as well as attachment to constitutional principles, quarrelling amongst themselves, and frightened by the noise of the machinery they had themselves set in motion, abruptly gave in their resignations. The Prince, abandoned to himself in the middle of the Session, formed another Ministry, as good, perhaps, as might have been expected under such circumstances, but composed of men without talent, character, or influence. Under such guidance all fell into utter confusion. The dissensions between the two Houses became an open breach, and affairs arrived at such a point, that all the well-wishers to the constitution—all those who had been Lord William's original advisers, and who now surrounded the Prince, were amongst the first to recommend him to dissolve a Chamber from which no possible good could be expected.
As no supplies had been voted, and as the constitution remained, as it had issued from the constituent body, a mere constitution on paper, the Prince very naturally objected to the adoption of so strong a measure. By the advice of Lord Montgomery, he adopted a middle course. He did not dissolve the Chamber, but he prorogued it for twenty days, in the hope that during that interval Lord William might arrive from Spain, and afford him the benefit of his advice and counsel.
His Lordship did arrive the day before the prorogation expired, and immediately requested the Prince to continue it for eight days longer, in the hope, during that interval, of being able to secure such a majority as would permit the Government to be carried on. By dint of great personal exertion, his Lordship obtained promises of support from fifty-four individuals of the Lower House; and the Ministers having declared that, with this addition to their own friends, they would be able to carry on the Government, and complete the constitution, the Parliament was allowed to meet. The very first division showed the weakness, or, as some said, the treachery of the Ministers. They were left in a minority, the Members pledged to Lord William Bentinck being the only individuals who voted on the Government side!
Lord William now became convinced of the hopelessness of completing the constitution with a Parliament so composed; he 660 therefore advised His Royal Highness to dismiss his Ministers and to dissolve the Chamber. The Ministers were dismissed, and the Parliament dissolved; and Lord William at the same time issued a proclamation in his own name as commander-in-chief, declaring his determination to support this necessary interposition of Royal authority. Troops were sent into the interior to maintain tranquillity, which fortunately never was disturbed; and as taxes continued to be levied without any sort of Parliamentary authority, the constitution, though still nominally in existence, was, to say the least of it, in abeyance.
Lord William could not but he greatly mortified at the total failure of this first Parliament. He saw the insecure foundations upon which he had built, and how inevitably the whole edifice would crumble to pieces the very moment the strong hand of England was withdrawn—an event rendered not only probable, but imminent, by the great success which had attended the arms of the Allies in the campaign of 1813, just concluded.
He left Palermo upon a tour of military inspection round the island with these ideas brooding in his mind, so much so, that, upon his arrival on the south-east coast of the island, he was induced to address a letter to the Hereditary Prince, from Catania, in which, after speaking of the great popularity of the constitution, and expressing his conviction that, when properly carried out and enforced, it would tend greatly to the happiness and prosperity of the people, he expressed an equal conviction that it would be found impossible to carry out, or enforce it, without a long continuance of foreign direction and interference. Under such circumstances he ventured to suggest to the consideration of his Royal Highness, as Le Réve d'un Voyageur, whether in the event of the restoration of the kingdom of Naples to the Royal Family, which might now shortly be expected, it would not be politic and advisable to give over the island of Sicily to Great Britain, she engaging to keep a force of 10,000 men in the island, and to pay to the Sovereign residing at Naples a sum equal in amount to the existing civil list.
It is undoubtedly true, my Lords, that this was in the shape of a private communication; but when your Lordships recollect the relative position of the two individuals; on the one hand a foreign General, at the head of a foreign army, and actually in military possession of the island—on the 661 other, the head of a constitutional Government—your Lordships will at once see how totally impossible it was for the latter to receive such a hint—such a communication—and coming from such a quarter—without considering it in some sort as official. He did so consider it; and it would, perhaps, have been his duty, in a constitutional point of view, to have called his Council together, and to have laid this paper before it. But his Royal Highness did no such thing. He followed a line of policy much more in accordance with the usual march of Italian diplomacy. He sent it to the Sicilian Minister, in London, directing him to make what use he could of it, for the advantage of the King, his father, and of his family.
Upon the receipt of these instructions, the Sicilian Minister addressed a note to Lord Bathurst, who, in the absence of Lord Castlereagh, was charged with the seals of the Foreign Department, requesting to be informed, for the satisfaction of his Government, whether Lord William Bentinck had been instructed to propose to the Hereditary Prince to give over the Island of Sicily to Great Britain in exchange for an annual payment equal in amount to the civil list?
Lord William had given no intimation to his Government of his correspondence with the Hereditary Prince, nor in any of his letters had he ever hinted that such a scheme would be just, politic, or feasible. He had said nothing whatever upon the subject: Lord Bathurst, therefore, very naturally concluded that the Sicilian Minister, who was a very warmhearted as well as warmhearted man, had acted upon some of the idle rumours, then in general circulation, with respect to the ultimate views of England upon the Island of Sicily, and therefore did not hesitate to reply—that he was surprised that such a question should be addressed to him—that certainly no such instructions had been given, nor had any such idea ever entered into the contemplation of the British Government.Upon the receipt of this answer, the Sicilian Minister inclosed to Lord Bathurst a copy of Lord William Bentinck's letter to the Hereditary Prince, commenting in no very measured terms upon the danger of employing a man capable of taking such an immense responsibility upon himself without instructions, and demanding his removal.
The Government was a little embarrassed by this second note, for although the proceedings 662 of Lord William had been distinctly disavowed by Lord Bathurst in his answer to be Sicilian Minister's first application, yet it was apprehended that, if something more were not done, not only the Sicilian Government, but others of our Allies, who were watching our proceedings in Sicily with great attention, might not be very easily convinced that any Foreign Minister would venture to take such a responsibility upon himself without being at least assured of the wishes of his Government. It was therefore determined to separate the diplomatic from the military functions, both of which had hitherto been exercised by Lord W. Bentinck, and for which a very sufficient pretext might be found in his Lordship's continual and very inconvenient absences from the seat of Government, and, leaving him in the command of the Mediterranean army, in which capacity he had acquitted himself greatly to the satisfaction of both Governments, to entrust the diplomatic affairs of the country to other hands.
It was under these circumstances, my Lords, that I was summoned to the Foreign Office, the whole of this correspondence communicated to me, and I was invited to go out to Palermo to assume the direction of the diplomatic affairs of the country. I was directed to proceed, in the first instance, to join Lord Castlereagh, wherever be might be on the Continent, and, having received my final instructions from him, to proceed to my destination.
I found Lord Castlereagh at Dijon, but found him stepping into his carriage in order to proceed to Paris, he having just received intelligence of the entry of the Allies into that capital, and the retreat of Napoleon to Fontainebleau. He told me he had no time then to enter into any discussions upon Sicilian affairs, which had, in fact, become but of secondary importance; but he invited me to follow him to Paris, where we might talk the matter over, and from whence I might afterwards proceed to my destination.
I did follow his Lordship to Paris, and after remaining for three weeks in constant communication with him, proceeded to Marseilles, furnished with a letter to the British officer in command in those seas, directing him to afford me a passage in one of His Majesty's frigates to Palermo.
In the meantime, Lord William Bentinck, having completed his tour of military inspection, left Sicily in order to as- 663 sume the command of the British forces in Italy, totally unconscious of all that had occurred in consequence of his letter from Catania. It was not till his arrival in Genoa, that he was made aware of what had taken place. He then determined to return to Palermo, to place matters upon the best footing he could, previously to the arrival of his successor. He had reached Palermo only a few days before I made my appearance.
My first step was to see Lord William Bentinck, and to communicate to him, without reserve, all the instructions I had received, written as well as oral, and to declare to him that I would neither notify my arrival, nor take any part in Sicilian affairs, until all his arrangements were concluded, and he should express a wish that I should assume the direction of affairs. His Lordship expressed himself perfectly satisfied with this arrangement, and, I must confess, I was equally so; for it was easy to be foreseen, that a question must immediately arise, in consequence of the termination of the war—a question of extreme delicacy and difficulty—the solution of which, I thought, might be much better left to the author of the constitution, than that it should fall to my lot to solve, as a first step, on arriving in Sicily.
The question was this, my Lords—what conduct was to be pursued with respect to the King? who, humiliated in his own eyes, as well as in those of his subjects, by the harsh treatment to which he had been exposed, could not be believed to be entirely approvant of the new order of things which had been established during his forced absence from the Government; and it might, therefore, be apprehended that his resumption of the reins of power would be but a first step towards the downfall of the new system. Yet how was this resumption to be prevented? Above all, how prevented a second time by the interposition of British bayonets? So long as the British General was charged with the military defence of Sicily, he might be supposed to be responsible for its internal as well as its external peace and tranquillity, and this gave a qualified right of interference. The necessity constituted the right; but with the cessation of that necessity, and the termination of the war, all pretence or excuse for further interference in the internal government of the country was entirely at an end.
This difficulty soon occurred to the 664 Prince, and was the subject of several discussions in the Cabinet, at which Lord William was invited to attend. It was ultimately determined, with his Lordship's full concurrence, that the Prince should write to his father, inviting him to resume the reins of government, as it was thought less dangerous for the new system that the King should come back by invitation from those in power, than that he should come in motu proprio, surrounded by all the rabble of Palermo, who would not have failed to carry him in triumph to his palace.
The King accepted the invitation—came back to Palermo, when the Ministers, following the example of the Prince, tendered their resignations, and the portfolios were given back to the same incompetent individuals who had been dismissed at the period of the late dissolution of Parliament. Lord William, on my arrival, had expressed a wish to remain till the opening of the second Parliament, which was shortly to take place—a wish to which I readily acceded. But certain information which reached him, as to the disposition of the new Parliament, induced him to change his mind. He requested me to take charge of the mission, took leave of the King, and his final departure from Sicily.
Now, my Lords, I wish to draw your attention to the position in which affairs stood, on my assuming the direction of the British mission. The constitution still remained in the same state in which it had issued from the constituent body. The Parliament, which was to have carried it into operation, had been cashiered, at the recommendation of Lord William Bentinck himself, on account of its revolutionary proceedings. His Lordship's real opinion of the probable durability of the work may he gathered from his own letter to the Hereditary Prince; and now, to crown the whole, we had a sovereign replaced upon the throne—necessarily, inevitably, I am ready to admit—but known to be directly opposed to the whole system; and yet it was through him, and by him, that this great work was to be accomplished! Such was the satisfactory state of things which it has been said I found upon my arrival in Sicily.
The second Parliament met a few days after I had presented my credentials. It was opened by a speech from the throne, moderate, constitutional, and which appeared to give general satisfaction; but hardly had the King returned to his palace, and 665 the two Houses to their respective chambers, than a motion was made in the Peers for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the gross violations of the constitutional articles which had taken place, referring more particularly to the elections, recently terminated, which had been conducted under such a system of corruption and intimidation, that it was impossible, it was said, to consider the Members then assembled in Parliament as the legal representatives of the nation.
The Peers had the good sense to see the inextricable confusion into which the country would be thrown by the appointment of a Committee by the Peers, to inquire into the elections of the Commons; the motion was consequently rejected; but, as the facts stated were undenied, and apparently undeniable, they did concur in an address to the King, praying His Majesty to dissolve the Parliament, and to call another.
The Ministers represented to the King the impossibility of carrying on the Government with two Chambers at open war with each other, and therefore advised him to comply with the wishes of the Peers. The King, nothing loth, listened to this advice, and the Parliament was again dissolved.
Whilst these questions were pending, I was strongly urged by several Members of the moderate constitutional party, to use all the influence I might possess as British Minister, in order to prevent the dissolution. I represented to these gentlemen that the position of the British Minister was altogether changed by the termination of the war, and that this dictatorial interference in the internal affairs of the country could no longer be permitted; that I had no power to prevent the dissolution, nor, even if I had possessed the power, should I be willing to exercise it in opposition to what they admitted to be the king's legal prerogative, nor by interference render myself responsible for the good conduct of a chamber assembled under such circumstances.
This answer, my Lords, did not give satisfaction. Those gentlemen either could not, or would not, understand that the termination of the war had produced any change in the position of the British Minister. They still appeared to consider that he had been sent to Sicily for the sole purpose of supporting them and their views, and that, whether those views were in themselves just or unjust, any lukewarmness 666 on his part in supporting them was a manifest dereliction of duty. It was in order to place before the nation in a clear point of view the altered position of the British Minister, that I drew up, and circulated amongst the leaders of the different parties, before the opening of the next Parliament, a paper, in the form of a memorandum, in which I endeavoured to point out in what respect this position was changed. I need not enter into any detail upon the matter, as the memorandum itself has been laid upon your Lordships' table. But I have drawn your Lordships' attention to this paper, because it has been affirmed that it was sent out from England for the purpose of being circulated at the period of the evacuation of the island, and that it contained a guarantee, implied if not expressed, of the new constitution.
My Lords, this memorandum was not sent out from England—whatever may be its merits or demerits, they rest entirely with me. It was not circulated at the period of the evacuation of the island, but nine months before that event took place; nor did it allude in any way to what might be the conduct of the British Government under such circumstances. It related, my Lords, exclusively to the altered position of the British Minister, and to the state of parties as they existed previously to the meeting of the third and last Parliament. It was, moreover, another attempt to bolster up what was but too evidently a falling cause. It contained no guarantee, either expressed or implied. In truth, my Lords, it is somewhat difficult to understand what is meant by a foreign guarantee of a constitution. I can readily comprehend that a party, for party purposes, might wish to strengthen itself by means of a foreign guarantee, or in any other manner; but I never can believe that any well-established Government—any nation having a sense of its own dignity and independence—could wish to invest any foreign Power, however friendly, with the right of perpetual interference in its domestic concerns. Nor can I well understand how any foreign Power, possessing a grain of common prudence, should wish to involve itself in all the squabbles, in all the entanglements, in all the ingratitude, which such a guarantee would generate; for in point of fact, my Lords, disguise it how we may, a foreign guarantee of any constitution is a direct violation of the very first principles of constitutional government.
667 This paper was well received, and tended materially to the greater degree of moderation which was at first exhibited in the new Parliament. All idea of the impeachment of the late Ministers, which had been entertained by the Court party, and in which it would have been supported by the extreme democratic party, was entirely given up; the Commons satisfying themselves with passing a vote of censure upon the late as well as upon the present Ministers, for continuing to levy taxes without Parliamentary authority. Some laws were also passed highly satisfactory to the people. But this moderation had no very long duration. When the Parliament met again after the Christmas recess, and the two great questions were brought forward, that of the supplies, and that of the revision and enforcement of the constitution, all the old dissensions broke out again with as much violence as ever.
With respect to the supplies, each class seemed desirous of throwing the burden upon another. The Commons proposed to throw the principal burden upon the Church. The lay Peers would probably not have objected to such an arrangement had they not been given to understand by the ecclesiastical Peers (who formed a much more formidable body, in point of numbers, in the Sicilian Parliament than in this), that, if they lent their assistance to the Commons in throwing these now burdens upon the Church, they would, on their side, lend their assistance to the Commons in passing two laws extremely objectionable to the Barons—the rectification of the Rivello, and the abolition of entails. This produced a union founded upon common interest, by which the intentions of the Commons were defeated.
After this all fell into confusion. Nearly everything that came from the Peers was rejected by the Commons—nearly everything that emanated from the Commons experienced the same fate in the House of Peers. Upon one occasion, when it was hoped to reconcile existing differences by a conference, this conference met and separated again without coming to any decision. Upon the return of its Members to the House of Peers, a resolution was passed, that, until the point in dispute was conceded, with the exception of money Bills, it would not only not pass, but not even read any Bill that might be sent up from the Commons. The Commons, nothing daunted by this resolution, 668 expressed an approbation of the conduct of their Members, and a determination not to give way.
It was under these melancholy circumstances that I received the visit of one of the most distinguished men in the country—a nobleman who had been exiled for his liberal principles before the arrival of Lord W. Bentinck in Sicily—had been recalled through his influence—placed in the Council—had been one of his principal advisers in the establishment of the new constitution, and was now the acknowledged leader of the moderate constitutional opposition in the House of Peers. I have no hesitation in naming him, as I have nothing but good to report of him. It was the Prince Villhermosa, better known under his former title of Castel-nuovo. He came to me, he said, deputed by all the leading Peers, to request that I would find means of conveying to the knowledge of the King the painful conviction at which they had arrived, of the total impossibility of revising or completing the constitution, through the instrumentality of the two Chambers. That, in the opinion of the Peers, the only chance that remained of bringing this great work to a successful issue, would be for the King himself to name a Committee composed of a few-Members of both Houses, to whom some of the magistracy might be added, and to this Committee should be confided the task of modifying where necessary, and of completing the constitution; and that the result of its labours, having received the sanction of the King, should, by His Majesty himself, be presented to the nation as the future law of the land. That they also thought that the King would do well, before he took any steps in this business, to surround himself with the whole Council of State, in order to give a greater solemnity to the proceeding, and to strengthen the hands of a Government notoriously unequal to the crisis which had occurred. That the Peers addressed themselves to me because they considered the British Minister to be the natural guardian of the constitution, and because there were none of their own body sufficiently in the King's confidence to presume to speak to him upon the subject. Upon receiving this communication, I immediately repudiated the responsibility with which the Peers were desirous of investing me, of being the natural guardian of the constitution. I told the Prince, that in no country could there be any 669 other natural guardian of the constitution than the nation itself. That the task they wished to assign me would be in direct opposition to the line I had hitherto followed, and in direct violation of every principle laid down in the paper I had lately circulated, and which had met with his entire approbation. That it could only be done by demanding an audience of the King, which audience would be misunderstood, and most assuredly misrepresented; for although he, and the party that acted with him, were desirous of a more direct and immediate interference on the part of the British Minister, he could not but be aware with how much jealousy his proceedings were watched by what was called the Court party, and still more by that violent democratic party which unfortunately formed the majority in the House of Commons. That, under such circumstances, it was impossible for the British Minister to constitute himself the channel of communication between the King and his subjects, and still less the organ of the House of Peers. But, though officially I could take no part in the matter, I would, if the only object of the Peers was to convey their sentiments to the King, undertake to repeat to an individual I named, who was known to be entirely in the King's confidence (but as mere matter of conversation), the whole of what had passed; in the full confidence that it would be repeated to His Majesty in the course of a very few hours. That the King would then decide in the manner that should seem best to himself, but that that decision I would not attempt to influence.
This offer was accepted. The information was conveyed to the King, and graciously received; and His Majesty determined, as soon as the religious ceremonies of Easter week were over, to call to his presence some of the leading Peers, and, having listened to what they had to propose, to come to a determination upon the subject. The result was, that although the King did not deem it prudent to call the whole Council of State together, he added the Princes Villhermosa and Cossaro to the Cabinet, without portfolios, in order to give more strength to his Government. The first step of this new Ministry was to engage His Majesty to send down a message to the House of Commons, urging it to turn its immediate attention to the question of supplies. The House received this message with great indignation, considering 670 it to be an infringement upon its privileges. Some very violent speeches were made, and a Motion to call the whole of the Cabinet to the bar of the House, in order to be publicly reprimanded, was only lost by the casting vote of the Speaker. No supplies were voted; but a Committee was named to endeavour to reconcile all differences with the Peers, with the view to a united resistance to any attempt to interfere with the privileges of either House. The gravity of these circumstances was greatly enhanced by the accounts arriving from the Continent about this period: the triumphant progress of Napoleon from Elba to Paris, the great military preparations going on in the kingdom of Naples, and the imminence of a general war.
Some time having again elapsed, without any decision with respect to the supplies, the King was advised by his Ministers to make another appeal to the Commons for the necessary grants, and to make that appeal in person. In compliance with this suggestion, the King went down to the House of Peers, and, having summoned the Commons to the bar, explained to them the state of penury to which the Government was reduced. He also informed them that the war had actually commenced by an attack made upon the Austrians by the Neapolitan troops under Murat, in the North of Italy; that he been strongly urged by his Allies, particularly by the Emperor of Austria and King of Sardinia, to effect as strong a demonstration upon the opposite coast of Calabria as the forces at his disposal would allow; that, consequently, a force was assembling at Melazzo, under the command of the British General, Sir Robert M'Farlane, composed partly of British and partly of Sicilian troops, in order to carry this plan into effect; that he was very desirous of joining this expedition in person, but that it was evident he could neither do so, nor even continue to carry on the ordinary government of the country, without their assistance. He said he had directed his Minister of Finance to lay a statement of the wants of the nation before them; but that if, after the expiration of a reasonable time, they should be either unable or unwilling to come to any determination upon the subject, he should feel himself compelled, in the true interests of his people, to adopt those more vigorous measures which circumstances might require and necessity justify.
671 This speech made a considerable impression upon the House, and, what was, perhaps, of still greater importance, was very favourably received out of the House; so much so, that the Commons at length deemed it advisable to take the question of supplies into consideration; and if the King's requirements had been zealously supported by the Ministers, there can be little doubt but that all the demands made would have been accorded. But, owing to some petty jealousy of the Prince Villhermosa, the other Ministers were so lukewarm in their support of these demands, that, although supplies were at length voted, they were not sufficient to meet the exigencies of the State, and the burden of them was thrown upon objects which could little bear any additional taxation. Such as they were, however, the King was under the necessity of accepting them. He was pressed for time, and dared not make another appeal to the generosity of the Parliament, which would very probably have ended in the refusal of supplies altogether.
There now remained but the question of the revision and completion of the constitution. The Ministers were desirous that this should be done by the King alone—that he should dissolve the Parliament and appoint the Committee. The Prince Villhermosa very properly opposed himself to this unnecessarily unconstitutional proceeding. He undertook that a Motion should be made in each House, inviting the King to charge himself with the nomination of a Committee for the purpose contemplated. This Motion passed without the slightest difficulty in the Peers, but it mot with great opposition in the Commons; and, though the address was ultimately carried, it came saddled with a proviso that, whatever might be the result of the labours of the Committee, the whole should again be submitted to the Commons previous to execution—a proviso evidently leading to the same scenes and the same difficulties in the new Parliament which had so unfortunately prevailed in that now assembled.
The King, however, was induced by his Ministers to accept the charge proposed to him. He did so by Royal Commission. The Commissioner informed the House that the King would proceed immediately to the nomination of the Committee, to which he would issue instructions for the regulation of its proceedings. He also announced to the Commons that the King was about to proceed immediately to Melazzo, and had been pleased to appoint the 672 Hereditary Prince to act for him during his absence; that under such circumstances their presence was no longer necessary in the capital, and he was instructed to prorogue the Chamber.
The Parliament was dissolved the same night. A decree appeared the following day appointing the Committee. It consisted of six Members of the House of Peers, six Members of the House of Commons, and six members of the magistracy, to whom was confided the new organisation of the tribunals, and the completion of the new codes. It was at that time hoped that the labours of this Committee might be brought to a conclusion in the course of the year, and a new Parliament be then assembled under better auspices. My Lords, from the moment that the two Houses of Parliament concurred in addresses to the King, calling upon him to name a Committee for the purpose of revising, rectifying, and completing the constitution, any responsibility which might have been supposed to attach to Great Britain, on account of the active interference of its representative in the earlier stages of these transactions, fell at once to the ground. When this was followed by the withdrawal of our troops, and by the cessation of the subsidiary payment, all pretence or excuse for further interference in the internal government of Sicily, terminated also. The Sicilians had now their constitution before them, which, even if it had not altogether originated with them, was at least theirs by adoption, and it was now for the nation to support the privileges it had obtained, without any further reliance upon foreign interference. If the nation had neither the courage nor the will to do this, it was quite evident that either Sicily was not ripe for such a constitution, or that the Sicilians were unfit to appreciate or enjoy it. In either case, from that moment, the responsibility of England was totally and entirely at an end.
The sequel is quickly told, for in that England was only called upon to play a passive part. Murat fell, and the seat of Government was transferred to Naples. For nearly a year nothing was heard of the proceedings of the Parliamentary Committee; but at the commencement of 1816, I was informed by the Marquess de Cir-cello, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, that it had not advanced one step. That, notwithstanding the urgent instances of the Hereditary Prince, it had seldom met, 673 and when it did meet it decided upon nothing. That some of its Members absented themselves altogether from personal motives; others were lukewarm in their attendance under the persuasion that this constitution could never be adapted to the circumstances of the country; but the greater number came with the full determination of doing nothing, in the hope that, if nothing were done, the Government would find itself under the necessity of calling the Parliament together in the same form in which it had existed at the period of the dissolution, the taxes all expiring at the end of the year.
This attempt to complete and modify the constitution having proved as unsuccessful as every other attempt which had been made with that object, the Marquess went on to say, that some further interposition of the Royal authority was become inevitable, for if the Parliament were allowed to meet in the same form and in the same spirit in which it had hitherto existed, there could not be the slightest doubt but that by the violence of its proceedings and language, backed by the extreme license of the Sicilian press, it would soon spread the revolutionary spirit into His Majesty's continental kingdom; and there he was precluded by his treaty with Austria from introducing any form of government at variance with the system by which the Italian provinces, under the House of Austria, were governed. But notwithstanding the existence of this treaty, and notwithstanding every publicity that might be given to it, it was impossible, the Marquess said, to believe that the inhabitants of the larger kingdom would remain the tranquil spectators of all that was passing in Sicily without an attempt to secure for themselves equal privileges. A revolution would become inevitable, the flames of which would spread through the whole of Italy, and the general peace of Europe be again endangered.
The Marquess then informed me that this danger had occupied the attention of the representatives of the great European Powers who had lately been assembled at Milan for the coronation of the Emperor Francis, so much so, that Prince Ruffo, the Neapolitan Ambassador at Vienna, (himself a Sicilian,) had been induced to draw up a mé moire upon the subject for circulation amongst the diplomatic body.
A copy of this paper the Marquess placed in my hands for perusal. It was a long, able, though perhaps rather highly 674 coloured picture of the anarchy which had prevailed in Sicily ever since the first attempt made to change the form of its constitution. After expatiating at some length upon this subject, the Prince proceeded to point out the dangers with which Italy was menaced by the immediate propinquity of so turbulent an assembly; an assembly which had already rendered itself so hateful to the great majority of the Sicilian people by the violence of its proceedings, that he pledged himself not the slightest obstacle would be opposed to its suppression and a return to the old order of things, unless such opposition should be stirred up by the active interference of any preponderating foreign Power. The paper concluded by requesting the good offices of the Allies to draw from the British Government sonic explanation of its views upon the subject, and whether it would abstain from active interference in the event of the King finding it necessary, in the true interest of his people, to put an end to the Parliament of 1812, and to revert to the older system.
The Marquess further informed me that this paper had already been transmitted to the British Government, and a copy sent to the Neapolitan Representative in London.
When I learnt that the British Government was already in possession of this paper, and that the question had, in fact, become a European question, I did not think it advisable to enter into any discussion with the Marquess de Circello upon the subject, but to wait for instructions. I satisfied myself with observing to him, that I thought he would find it extremely difficult to obtain from the British Government any approbation of the proposed measures—that assuredly no pledge would be given such as that which they seemed to expect—and that, in my opinion, the views and wishes of Great Britain had been sufficiently clearly expressed in the paper I had myself circulated two years before, and that I did not sec what reason His Sicilian Majesty had to expect any further explanation.
Here the subject was allowed to drop for the moment.
It so happened that, before this communication was made to me, I had obtained permission from my Government to absent myself from my post for a short time upon argent private business; but I delayed my departure for some weeks, in the expectation of receiving some instructions from my Government upon these subjects. None 675 arriving, I proceeded to England in the month of May; it was, therefore, not until my return in October that I was enabled to communicate to the Neapolitan Ministers the decision of the British Government.
This was done by the communication of Lord Castlereagh's despatch of the 6th of September, an extract from which has lately been placed upon your Lordships' table. I was directed to say that, as far as regarded the Prince Regent's own conduct, His Royal Highness must decline any interference in the internal affairs of a foreign and independent State, which his own honour and the good faith of his Government should not strictly impose upon him.
That the Prince Regent would consider such interference imposed upon him as a duty, if those individuals who acted with the British authorities during the late difficult times in Sicily, should be exposed to either unkindness or persecution on account of such conduct.
His Royal Highness would feel himself equally compelled, however reluctantly, to interfere, if he had the mortification to observe any attempt made to reduce the privileges of the Sicilian nation in such a degree as might expose the British Government to the reproach of having contributed to a change of system in Sicily, which had, in the end, impaired the freedom and happiness of its inhabitants, as compared with what they formerly enjoyed.
With the above reserve. His Royal Highness must wholly exonerate himself from the responsibility of any interference whatever. He felt that he had neither the means nor the right to judge of the necessity of the change—the extent to which it should be carried—nor the mode in which it should be effectuated.
I was directed not to fail to do justice to the principles upon which the British Government was alone induced, when charged with the defence and security of that part of His Sicilian Majesty's dominions, to interfere in its internal concerns: the necessity constituted the right, and with the discontinuance of the necessity, every pretension, as well as disposition, on the part of Great Britain, to interpose had also ceased, except so far as the considerations of good faith and honour above alluded to, and which arose out of our former position in Sicily, might again impose it on us as a duty.
After having made this communication to the Neapolitan Ministers, I received the strongest assurance that the two reserves 676 alluded to in Lord Castlereagh's despatch should be most religiously attended to. That, so far from any persecution of those who had acted with the British authorities in Sicily, all those amongst them who were qualified for office, and who were disposed to accept office, should be included in the new arrangements; and that, by the decree about to be issued, all the privileges and concessions at any time granted to the Sicilians by His present Majesty, or any of his royal predecessors, should be distinctly ratified and confirmed.
Very shortly after this interview the three decrees were issued, known by the name of the Arrangements of 1816.
The first declared the union of the two kingdoms, and that His Majesty would for the future assume the title of King of the united kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The second established a Grand Chancery, presided over by the Grand Chancellor, in which all decrees and laws were to be registered. Also a Grand Chancery Council, composed of Sicilians as well as Neapolitans, in which all decrees and laws were to be discussed previously to their being submitted by the Secretaries of State to the King in Council. This now Council virtually put an end to the legislative powers vested in the Sicilian Parliament by the constitution of 1812; but as the older Sicilian Parliament possessed no legislative powers, this arrangement fell not not within the meaning of Lord Castlereagh's reserve. The third decree related exclusively to Sicily. By its first article the King ratified and confirmed every concession at any time made to the Sicilians by himself or by his royal predecessors. It then guaranteed many personal advantages to the Sicilians. The exclusive enjoyment of every place of honour and emolument in the island. With respect to all higher offices, as the population of Sicily formed as nearly as possible one-fourth of the population of the united kingdom, the Sicilians to possess by right one-fourth of the seats in the Cabinet—the same in the Council of State—the same in all the great offices at Court—the same in all diplomatic appointments. The army and navy to be open without distinction to both people. The seat of Government to be wherever the King resided. If at Naples, a prince of the blood, or some person of the highest distinction, to reside as Viceroy at Palermo. If in Sicily, such Viceroy to reside at Naples. The fixed revenue of the State to be that voted by the Parlia- 677 ment of 1813, subject to the interest of the debt contracted in Sicily, and the charges of the sinking fund. This to be the maximum, subject to diminution at the King's pleasure. According to the forms of the old constitution, the King to have no power of imposing taxes, exceeding this fixed revenue, without the consent of the Parliament.
Two other articles were added, undoubted boons to the Sicilians, both of which, indeed, had been decreed by the constitution of 1812, but never carried into execution—the abolition of all feudal rights and privileges, and a new organisation of the tribunals. This was immediately followed by the introduction of a new code of laws, founded upon the Code Napoleon. Hitherto the jurisprudence of Sicily had rested upon a collection of royal decrees, many of them obsolete, many of them highly iniquitous, having been extorted by I Court favour, and very many of them contradictory. Instead of this confused mass of legislation, the new code was now introduced which bad been established by the French in the kingdom of Naples, where it had been found to work admirably.
These decrees were published at Naples at the end of December, and immediately afterwards at Palermo. It might have been supposed that their publication would have led to some disorders in that turbulent capital. My Lords, they were received with the most perfect indifference! No complaint nor remonstrance was addressed to the King by any municipality, by any corporate body, nor from any other quarter, either at the time of their promulgation, or during the three years they continued in force. At the end of that period, as your Lordships well know, a military revolution broke out in the kingdom of Naples, which led to the adoption of the Spanish constitution. The Palermitans resisted the introduction of this constitution in Sicily, and much blood was spilt in the streets of Palermo; but a large force of Neapolitans having been sent over, under General Florestan Pepe, the insurrection was speedily suppressed.
But this new constitution was also of very brief duration. A Congress was assembled at Laybach in the following year, which was attended by several of the principal Crowned Heads of Europe, and to which His Sicilian Majesty was also invited. It was there determined that an Austrian army should march upon Naples, in order to replace the King upon 678 his throne, who, free and unshackled, should then give that form of government to his people which he should deem best calculated to insure their happiness and prosperity, after having consulted with the best and wisest of his subjects.
I shall not follow the events of that disastrous campaign. The Neapolitans scarcely made a show of resistance, and the Austrian army marched into Naples with the same facility it would have marched into its own capital. This army was shortly followed by the King and by the Plenipotentiaries charged with the execution of all that had been decided upon at Laybach. A Consiglio di Stato was immediately assembled, presided over by the Hereditary Prince, to which the King submitted the new form of government which be had decided upon. It was immediately accepted and proclaimed.
This new form of government put an end to the Spanish Constitution—as the Spanish Constitution had put an end to the Arrangements of '16—as the Arrangements of '16 had put an end to the Constitution of '12—and as the Constitution of '12 had put an end to the older Sicilian Constitution. In all these later arrangements England had no share.
I have now, my Lords, given your Lordships an outline of the whole of our former connexion with Sicily and its Government; and when I look back, after the lapse of so many years, to all that then occurred—setting out of the question our first interference with the internal government of Sicily, which I hold to have been a political blunder—setting that out of the question, and that step having been taken, I do not see what other course the British Government could have pursued, unless, indeed, we had been prepared to act upon the last suggestion of Lord William Bentinck—to have taken possession of the island, and to have governed it on our own account—I need hardly point out to your Lordships the difficulties and dangers which would have attended such a proceeding.
Very shortly after the promulgation of these new arrangements, I was appointed to succeed Sir Henry Wellesley at the Court of Madrid, and left Naples for my now destination. I am, consequently, unable to give your Lordships any account of what passed subsequently to the close of the year 1821.
I am not aware that there is any other point upon which it can be necessary for 679 me to touch. I have only to thank your Lordships for the patient attention with which you have listened to a very tedious, and, I fear, a very ill-told talc. Had the matter fallen into other hands—in the hands of one more accustomed to address your Lordships—nobody can be more conscious than I am that it would have been brought before you in a more clear, more intelligible, and certainly in a more satisfactory form.
The EARL of MINTO
The noble Lord who had just sat down had certainly shown that he was not open to the reproach directed against him (Lord Minto) by the noble and learned Lords opposite, of any fondness for free government. Both those noble Lords talked as if free government, constitutional government, representative government, was established in Sicily for the first time in 1812; and they spoke of it as a wild experiment of Lord William Bentinck's, undertaken apparently without any authority from his own Government, Now, in the first place, he must endeavour to vindicate the memory of Lord William Bentinck from this reproach; because, as I was well known to every one who bad looked into the history of these transactions, on his arrival in Sicily, finding the Court engaged in treacherous intrigue with France, and in a course of arbitrary measures subversive of the constitution and of the rights of the nation, Lord William immediately left the island and proceeded to England, in order to confer with his own Government as to the course which should be taken. He did communicate with his own Government; and it was under their instructions that he took those measures which he immediately afterwards resorted to, in restoring and remodelling the old constitution of Sicily. Now, then, with regard to the constitutional rights and experience of the Sicilians, many of their Lordships might not be aware that that country had been for nearly as long a period as ourselves in the enjoyment of a free Government, which dated from the 11th century. It was towards the close of the 13th century, in the year 1296, that the statutes of Frederick II. of Arragon, considered as the Magna Charta of Sicily, were enacted; and though this charter was dated eighty-one years later than the charter of King John, of which Englishmen were so justly proud; yet he must be allowed to say that the Sicilian charter was, of the two, the larger and more liberal in its provisions. The successors of Frederick, 680 of all the various dynasties that ruled in Sicily, had sworn to that charter. It was sworn to by the great grandfather of the present King, the first of his dynasty, and by his successors on their accession to the Crown. So far, therefore, from its being-true, as assumed by some noble Lords, that constitutional government was wantonly introduced for the first time in 1812, it appears that the Sicilians are entitled to contest with ourselves the antiquity and constant possession of free representative institutions. Nor was this constitution an empty form, with the mere privilege of taxation, as represented by the noble Lord; the Sicilian Parliament possessed and exercised supreme and extensive powers, in some respects more extensive and more constant than those of the British Parliament itself. For it appointed a Committee of twelve Members, who, during the non-sitting of Parliament, exercised much of its authority—who were charged during the recess with the maintenance of the national laws and liberties, and the collection and administration of the public revenue. In the year 1806, King Ferdinand was, for the second time, driven from Naples to take refuge in Sicily, where he was followed by a needy swarm of Neapolitan corn-tiers, to satisfy whose cravings the most illegal exactions were practised, public and private funds were appropriated under Royal authority, the course of justice was obstructed to protect criminal favourites of the Court, and all office and employment was monopolised by Neapolitans. It was at this period that a large English force was sent to Sicily, which continued to occupy the island up to the time of the general peace. In 1810 the intrigues of the Queen with Napoleon for the cession of Sicily to the French, were discovered; and in 1811 a decree was promulgated by the King, of his own authority, appropriating the property of religious bodies and of municipalities, and imposing a tax of one per cent on all sales. Forty-four members of the Baronial Estate having signed a protest against this arbitrary proceeding, five of the most considerable amongst them were immediately arrested and consigned to separate confinement in the neighbouring islands. It was while matters were in this state, that Lord William Bentinck returned from London. We had a British force of 15,000 men in the island, and we paid a large subsidy for the support of a Sicilian army. The Government was now carried on under the influ- 681 ence of Lord William, acting, not, as he is unfairly represented by the noble Lord, in the capacity of a mere general, officiously meddling in political affairs beyond the sphere of his duties, but in the character of a British Minister, representing his Sovereign and his Government, and guided by their special instructions. He compelled the King to surrender his authority to his son, the Hereditary Prince, who was invested with the Alter Ego. The exiled Barons were recalled and raised to office; and, under Lord William's direction, a reform of the constitution was proposed to the Sicilian Parliament, and there enacted with the sanction of both the Regent and the King; nor could be (Lord Minto) see any reason why such a constitution should not work as well in Sicily as in England. It may be that during the short time in which the constitution of 1812 was in force there were frequent contests between the Parliament and the Court; but where the Court seeks to invade the liberties of the nation such conflict will arise; and in the reigns of Charles the First, Charles the Second, and of James the Second, the course of Parliamentary Government in our own country did not always run smooth. Sicily remained under this constitution, accepted and sworn to by the King and by his son, till the conclusion of peace in 1815. It had always existed as a distinct and independent kingdom notwithstanding any union of the Crowns, and the King reigned as Ferdinand the Third in Sicily, as Ferdinand the Fourth at Naples—these countries standing in precisely the same relation to each other as Scotland and England before the Union. By the constitution of 1812 this separate independence was confirmed, and extended to a separation also of the Crowns, it being enacted, that if the King should ever recover and accept the Crown of Naples, the kingdom of Sicily should then devolve on another member of his family. In the year 1814, the King, having been allowed to resume the exercise of his Royal authority, hastened to dismiss the constitutional Ministers whom he found in office, replacing them with creatures of his own; and previously to the evacuation of the island by the British troops, a well-founded apprehension of his design against the constitutional rights of his subjects was entertained. It was then that the noble Lord, who (as Sir William A'Court) had succeeded Lord William Bentinck, issued the remarkable memorandum to which he has 682 referred, announcing as the only condition on which our sanction could be given to a modification of the Government—that any change to be introduced should be made by Parliament in a legal and constitutional manner, as far removed from any direct intervention of overbearing authority on the one hand, as from any undue exercise of popular interference on the other.This was the declaration of the British Minister, and it was received by the people of Sicily as an assurance of the continued protection of the British Government. In the year 1815 a commission was named by the King to prepare proposals to be submitted to Parliament for the completion and correction of the constitution; and instructions comprised in a memorandum of thirty articles were transmitted to the commissioners, who however never met; and in the month of May the King having quitted Sicily and established himself at Naples, he in the following month contracted that secret treaty with Austria which may be regarded as the key to all the Austrian policy in Italy, by which he engaged to give no institutions in his dominions which might be irreconcileable with those established in the Austrian provinces. The Sicilian Parliament was never again assembled, and in 1816 the intention of overthrowing all constitutional government in the island was openly avowed. This, as might be expected, led to serious remonstrance from the British Government; and a despatch from Lord Castlereagh of the 6th September, 1816, conveyed the instructions their Lordships were about to hear to Sir William A'Court. This despatch, after stating that His Royal Highness the Prince Regent must decline any interference in the internal affairs of a foreign and independent State which his own honour and the good faith of his Government shall not strictly impose upon him, proceeded in these words:—You may apprize the Neapolitan Minister that the Prince Regent would consider such interference imposed upon him as a duty, if (which he persuades himself after the assurances received from His Sicilian Majesty can never happen) those individuals who acted with the British authorities during the late difficult times in Sicily should be exposed either to unkindness or persecution on account of such conduct. His Royal Highness would feel himself equally compelled, however reluctantly, to interfere if he had the mortification to observe any attempt made to reduce the privileges of the Sicilian nation in such a degree as might expose the British Government to the reproach of having contributed to a change of system in Sicily which had in the end impaired 683 the freedom and happiness of its inhabitants as compared with what they formerly enjoyed.On the 5th of November, in a despatch addressed to Lord Castlereagh, Sir William A'Court reported his communication of these instructions to the Neapolitan Government assembled in Council, where having thoroughly explained the line which the British Government had determined to pursue, he received, as he stated, the most unqualified assurances of His Sicilian Majesty's intention strictly to abide by the conditions which His Royal Highness the Prince Regent had thought proper to declare to be necessary to ensure his non-interference. The despatch then proceeded to announce a series of decrees to be issued, one of which, after "confirming to the Sicilians all the privileges conceded to them by the present Sovereign and his predecessors," continued one by one to revoke every privilege of a free people, and established an arbitrary form of government. It was, however, provided in this decree that all civil and ecclesiastical offices in the island should be granted to Sicilians only—that all Sicilian causes should be finally decided in Sicily—and that the tribunals of Palermo should be entirely independent of those of Naples: the permanent revenue of Sicily to be fixed by the King, but never to exceed the sum of 1,847,687 ounces, which had been voted by the Sicilian Parliament of 1811. Sir William A'Court added—His Majesty finally declares that he will at no time, and under no circumstances, attempt to levy any taxes in Sicily, exceeding this permanent revenue, without the consent of Parliament. This last expression gave rise to a considerable degree of discussion in this as well as in subsequent conferences, it being desired to substitute the words 'without consent of the Sicilian nation.' To this I most strongly objected. The immense importance of the word will certainly not escape your Lordship. It is, in fact, the key-stone of our consistency, the omission of which would undoubtedly subject us to the reproach particularly pointed out in my instructions. We cannot consent to its omission, and of this the Neapolitan Government is fully aware.Great and violent as was this invasion of the rights of the Sicilian nation, and of the constitution to which the King had sworn, it was nevertheless thus subjected to important conditions exacted by the British Minister, and constituting an engagement with the British Government. None of those conditions were, however, observed. Arbitrary government was established. Neapolitans were placed in almost every office. The course of justice was obstructed 684 and corrupt. A system of dilation by the infamous agents of the secret police everywhere prevailed. The promised limit of taxation was disregarded, and instead of 1,847,687 ounces, it was increased to 2,318,000 ounces by Royal authority alone, an addition of rather more than 25 per cent. The ruin and suffering under this system of tyranny became intolerable, and towards the end of 1847 a determined spirit of resistance had appeared. Hopes were, however, held out, that on the 12th of January, the anniversary of the King's birth-day, some great concessions would be announced, and that some of the grievances which had borne so heavily on them would be removed or lightened. No such concessions were, however, made, and no such relief was afforded: a general feeling of discontent and dissatisfaction prevailed in consequence throughout the country, and on that day the insurrection commenced at Palermo, which terminated in the expulsion of the King's troops, and the erection of a Provisional Government in the island. It was in this state of things that he (Lord Minto) was invited to go to Naples, having hitherto uniformly declined to take any part in the affairs either of Sicily or of Naples, beyond a private communication of opinion to the Neapolitan Minister, that the prevailing system of misgovernment could no longer be safely maintained. The aspect of affairs at Naples had long been a subject of great uneasiness to the neighbouring States; and it had been evident to every one acquainted with the country that the continued refusal of such merely administrative and ministerial reforms of abuses as would then have satisfied the nation, must lead to a violent collision between the people and the Government, and to a now order of things calculated to agitate the public mind, and endanger the tranquil establishment of that moderate measure of reform which had been effected in the rest of Italy. Many representations to this effect were made to the King of Naples, but without success, till his position became no longer tenable, when he suddenly announced the creation of a constitution framed upon the most popular basis of representative government, which, as had been foreseen, led to similar concessions in all the other Italian States. On reaching Naples, the hopelessness of any attempt to effect a legislative union of the two Sicilies was apparent. It was proposed to create a separate legislature for the internal affairs of each country, with 685 a combined general legislature to deal with questions affecting the common interest of both. The conditions of this arrangement were the subject of much unnecessarily protracted negotiation, till at length inteltelligence arriving of the revolution in France, it was then felt that the now hopes encouraged by that event would induce the Sicilians to reject all terms short of their absolute independence of Naples, subject only to the union of the Crowns, which we might still hope to maintain by a timely offer of those terms. And such accordingly were the terms which, under the circumstances, he (Lord Minto) advised the Neapolitan Government to concede. At a Council which he attended by the King's desire, several decrees wore, after long discussion, agreed to, which it was hoped might find acceptance in Sicily, and of which he was requested, and consented, to be the bearer and negotiator at Palermo. Throughout the whole course of this protracted negotiation, it had been his desire and his endeavour to establish, so far as might be practicable, the closest relations between the two countries, and, above all, to secure an union of the Crowns in the person of the same Sovereign. While stating this, however, to the Neapolitan Ministers, he invariably told them that he could not regard the present outbreak of the Sicilians as an act of unlawful insurrection against their legitimate Sovereign, nor would be consent to treat with them, or for them, in the character of rebels. That the constitution of 1812, which they demanded, was their right, and was by law at that moment the constitution of the country, the Neapolitan Ministers themselves asserting that it had not been revoked, but only suspended; but that what he sought was, such compromise between right on the one side, and power on the other, as might be productive of future harmony and good government. He had now to request their Lordships' attention to the facts he was about to state. He was requested to proceed in person to Sicily to negotiate—a very difficult task—with the General Committee of Palermo their acceptance of certain modifications of the constitution of 1812, introduced in the decrees confided to him; and though these were known to be extremely unpalatable, he had reason to hope, that through his own personal influence, and that of his Government, and with the aid of powerful interests in the country, he might be able to induce the Provisional Government to 686 acquiesce in the arrangement. He had been confidentially intrusted with these decrees under an assurance which was required of him, that he would not divulge them publicly until he had ascertained the certainty of their acceptance. On his reaching Palermo with the English squadron, he learned that the moment his back was turned, these decrees had been published in the Government newspapers at Naples, and sent express by a Neapolitan steamer to Sicily, for circulation throughout the island, where, before his arrival, they had been unanimously rejected—an act of unparalleled treachery and bad faith on the part of the Neapolitan Government, upon which he did not desire to comment. The deposition of the King in terms of the constitution of 1812, having been pronounced, he (Lord Minto) refused to land, or to accept of any of the honours which had been prepared for his reception, till at the end of three days the General Committee were able to announce their recognition of the King, subject to some modification of the decrees securing the more complete independence of their Government. It is not true, therefore, that, as has been asserted, the Sicilians utterly rejected the terms offered them by the King. To the greater part they substantially assented, only adding some further conditions which were at once rejected by the Neapolitan Ministers, who then broke off the negotiation. And he should nut do justice to the able and eminent men with whom he had treated at Palermo, were he not to add that throughout the whole of their intercourse he was always met on their part with the utmost frankness, fairness, and plain dealing. All hope of accommodation with the King of Naples being thus at an end, there was the danger that the impulse of the French revolution might lead to the adoption in Sicily of a republican form of government, offering dangerous example to the rest of Italy; and it became important that every encouragement should be given to the establishment of a monarchical form of government in that island. The Sicilians were, therefore, informed of our readiness to recognise any sovereign whom they should place on the throne, and the Duke of Genoa was indicated for their choice. And now as to our part in these and succeeding transactions, he (Lord Minto) certainly agreed with his noble Friend who spoke second in the debate, that it was much easier to defend the extent of our interference, than to 687 justify our stopping short where we did; and he would only add, that when our interposition in the affairs of Sicily was desired by the King of Naples, we were hound to hear in mind our former relations, and those old obligations with that island, which, though not guaranteed by the stipulations of any written treaty, had been acknowledged by the noble Lord opposite, by Lord Castlereagh, by Lord Liverpool, and by successive Governments of this country. For there was a code of honour for nations as for individuals, and no one of their Lordships would feel absolved from an engagement because it was not engrossed on parchment, and fortified by a stamp. We had found Sicily a free and independent State; we had during the war, for our own advantage, held military possession of the country; we had allied ourselves with the nation against the encroachments of the Crown; we had directed its Government; we had reformed its constitution on the model of that of England; we had identified its interests with our own, and we were bound to protect the people who had confided in us and the institutions we had given them. The separate independence of Sicily had always been acknowledged in England, and by no one more distinctly asserted than by the late Lord Liverpool, from whose speech, in the year 1821, he would read their Lordships one short passage. Lord Liverpool said—Every one who heard him was aware that Sicily was a distinct kingdom, though governed by the same King. The Sicilians had distinct rights, privileges, and laws. In short, Sicily possessed a distinct constitution of its own.In the papers on the table of this House, the late King of the French was to be found condemning, in still stronger terms, the usurpation of the King of Naples. Louis Philippe said—All the successive Sovereigns of Naples had committed a series of wrongs upon the Sicilian people ever since the island had been restored to them in conjunction with Naples. They had violated the constitution which they had promised to uphold by destroying the nationality which they had engaged to maintain. The edict by which they had superseded the name of Sicily was most arbitrary. His Majesty considered the title of King of the united kingdom of the Two Sicilies as nonsense, but as having been devised for the insidious purpose of getting rid of Sicilian obligations by a side wind.Such were the rights of the people of Sicily, and such their claims upon our good offices when our interposition was sought by the King of Naples. It was 688 impossible for one nation to be more deeply committed to the protection of another in the enjoyment of its just rights, than we were by the whole tenour of our conduct; nor could we honestly escape from the obligation thus incurred—an obligation subsequently enhanced by the countenance and encouragement given to their resistance, in our recent acknowledgment of their flag, in our indication of a sovereign for their choice, in our promise of his recognition, and in the undisguised interest we manifested in their cause which entitled the Sicilians to rely on our powerful assistance and support in maintaining the freedom they had gained. England could not now, without lasting dishonour, withhold that protection, and abandon the people of Sicily to a barbarous tyranny. In what he had now said, he wished to be distinctly understood as speaking for himself alone, and as conveying only his own opinion; but that opinion he did entertain, and at all times, and in all places, had expressed, feeling, as he did, that our national honour was involved in this question. He had the satisfaction, too, of knowing that his sentiments were shared by many in this country; that they were such as were generously urged in the year 1821 by Sir James Mackintosh, by Lord William Bentinck, and by no one more powerfully than by the noble Earl, Lord Ellen-borough, whom he had hoped to see in his place that evening, and who had again, in the course of the present Session, warmly reiterated his former opinions to their Lordships. The noble and learned Lord who opened this debate had thought proper to condemn, in no very measured terms, the conduct of Sir William Parker and of the officers under his command, both in their proceedings and their correspondence, as characterised by partiality, as overstepping the bounds of their merely naval duties, and encroaching upon the province of diplomacy. But their Lordships, he was sure, would feel, that whilst our Navy was called upon to visit the shores of the whole habitable world for the protection of British interests and commerce, it was most useful that the Government should be put in possession of such information as could be obtained from the observation of able and intelligent officers on every station; that where a British force was found, the influence of its commander, and that influence always great, might frequently he exercised with advantage in good offices to friendly States. In Sicily, where our in- 689 tervention had been sought, the attention of Sir William Parker and his squadron to these duties was peculiarly required, and they were so conducted on every part of that coast as to obtain the full approbation of the Government; and, in the eyes of all unprejudiced observers, to reflect the greatest credit on the many excellent officers whose judgment, ability, and impartiality had been so signally displayed on that service and in those offices of humanity to which numberless Neapolitans had owed their lives. There was but one other observation with which he wished to trouble their Lordships before he sat down. The noble and learned Lord had condemned the attempt to plant the constitution of 1812 in a nation so little prepared for free government as the Sicilians; and in support of his opinion, he had entertained their Lordships with the ridiculous account given by a certain traveller of the disorderly proceedings of the Sicilian Parliament. The noble and learned Lord was here doubly unfortunate. The author whom he quoted did not visit Sicily till many years after the Sicilian constitution and the Sicilian Parliament had been extinguished, and the scene which he described could only have occurred at one of those tumultuous assemblies of the citizens which were held on the occasion of the Neapolitan revolution and invasion of Sicily in the year 1821. But the Sicilians had now themselves furnished the most conclusive answer to the noble and learned Lord, in the temperate, and decorous, and patriotic deliberations of their Parliament, and the vigorous administration of the Government during the fifteen months of freedom which they had regained. During that period, whilst every part of Italy was distracted by faction, order prevailed in Sicily alone, and under its constitutional Government life and property had become secure, the authority of the law was respected, justice was fairly administered, prosperity was reviving, the heavy custom duties of the Neapolitan tariff were either wholly repealed or greatly reduced, and commerce flourished. And here, as commercial prosperity was no bad indication of good government, and as affording evidence of the value of our relations with that country, he would beg their Lordships' attention to Mr. Consul Goodwin's report of the great increase of trade between Great Britain and Sicily in the year 1848, as compared with that of the year 1847. In 1847 the imports into Sicily from England amounted 690 to 208,917l.; in 1848 to 315,851l., this being an increase of 106,934l., or 51 per cent in favour of the latter year under a constitutional Government. The exports to Great Britain in the same year were, in 1847, 420,946l.; in 1848, 483,094l., showing an increase of 62,148l. He had said enough, he thought, to prove that the Silicians were neither incapable of self-government nor unworthy of free institutions, and he would trespass no further on their Lordships' indulgence.
§ The EARL of ABERDEEN
said, he would not detain their Lordships by any inquiry into the history or nature of the Sicilian constitution. Whatever might be the merits or demerits of that constitution—whatever might be the affection borne towards it by the noble Lords opposite, the question which the House had to decide was this—have we any obligations which compel us to set up that constitution, and release us from those duties of good faith, friendship, and justice which we owe to a Government with which we are connected by alliance? The noble Lord who just sat down had showed very clearly his impartial character as a negotiator. He must indeed have held the balance even between the King of Naples and the Sicilian insurgents. His noble and learned Friend who opened the debate, and his noble Friends on his side of the House, had confined themselves to an examination of recent events in the Italian States, and he should pursue the same course, but more briefly, although, he confessed, it was with some degree of reluctance he restricted himself to that course, for there were other quarters that called loudly for remark; indeed, there was scarcely a country in Europe in which the state of our relations did not give cause for some expressions of regret or censure. He must, before adverting to that which was more immediately the subject of debate to-night, just call their Lordships' attention to the position of this country, and the estimation which it was now held in Europe, compared with that which it had been our good fortune hitherto to enjoy. In the convulsions which had shaken various parts of Europe, it might have been our lot, had we preserved the estimation we once enjoyed, to have exercised a moderate and regulating influence, and to have materially supported the cause of peace and order and of real freedom, to the fullest extent we could have desired—we might have deserved and received the blessings of 691 mankind. But what was the fact? We have extended on every hand the calamities of war, and we have failed in every instance in which we have attempted interference in the disputes of other countries. By our attempted interference in the disputes of other nations, under the guise of reform, we had assisted in the revolutionary movements of various parties, which had subjected us not only to the aversion of other Governments, but to the suspicion of their people. He knew it was said that this notion of encouraging revolutionary movements, was common and vulgar. It might be; but the question was not whether it was common and vulgar, but whether it was true; and he asserted it was not only true, but he made this further accusation against the Government, which he thought still more serious, that we had abandoned those whom we had encouraged to look upon us as friends and allies. We had proceeded upon a double policy; and it was the first time in the history of this country that we had done so. Our policy might often have been selfish, it might have been arrogant, and it might have been unjust; but he had never known before that it had been such as to have exposed us to the charge of duplicity; and he thought we were justly liable to that now from the mode in which we had dealt with foreign Powers, more especially with respect to our dealings with the King of Naples. He had said we had made ourselves an object of aversion to the greater part of the Governments of Europe, and the consequent alienation of those Governments from us. As a proof of that, he would refer to that ominous silence in Her Majesty's Speech at the commencement of the Session, when, for the first time for the last thirty years, the Sovereign of this country was unable to say She had received assurances of friendship from all Her allies. He did not mean to say that the constant repetition of that assurance conveyed any great certainty or tolerable information to the House when made. He would admit that it did not; but the absence of it was most ominous. He had himself had frequent occasions to be concerned in the preparation and advising of Speeches of that important kind; and though he had sometimes been at a loss how to vary the expression, it had never occurred to him as possible that that announcement could be omitted altogether, because he well knew that though the declaration itself was not of great importance, 692 yet the omission of it altogether must be considered as most ominous indeed. He thought that this state of things was a natural result from that feeling which prevailed throughout Europe of the policy we had pursued, and which had been founded, not upon system so much as upon feelings of personality and hatred towards individual countries. He would appeal to any candid man, after he had turned over the pages of the volume now before the House, and ask him what his impression was upon rising from a perusal of it; and if he did not say there appeared to him to be a strain of unfriendliness and strong partiality in favour of one Government in preference to another, he should feel much mistaken indeed. Take it as you please, open the volume where you might, and he would venture to say you would come upon some instance of insult, injustice, or unfriendliness. In the first instance, he would take one instance of unfriendliness, gratuitous unfriendliness to the Neapolitan Government, which however happened not to be in the hook before their Lordships, but was in the papers which were laid upon the table only last year—papers of correspondence with Austria, and in which Naples was only incidentally mentioned; but this was the way in which the Neapolitan Government was spoken of. It was to be remembered, too, that this was a paper having no reference to Naples at all, but was a despatch to Her Majesty's Ambassador at Vienna; and in describing the state of Italy it said—When it is considered how full of defects and how teeming with abuses of all kinds the present system of government in several of those States, and more especially in the Roman States and in the kingdom of Naples, is known to be, it cannot be surprising that such crying evils should generate the strongest discontent; and it is very possible that men who feel the full intensity of the grievances under which they now are and have for a long series of years been suffering, and who see no hope of redress from their present rulers, should take up any scheme, however wild, from which they may fancy they could derive a chance of relief,This might be very true, but it was not an admonition addressed to the King of Naples. Recollect, too, the time when it was done. The document was laid on the table of their Lordships' House in February last year, at a time when Naples was in a state of revolt, Sicily in open war; and when the King had given a constitution to Naples—this was the time when this paper was gratuitously produced and laid upon the table, and published throughout all 693 Europe. What must have been the feelings of the Neapolitan Court upon seeing for the first time this treatment by a friendly Power, without anything from them to give us the right of objecting? Whatever bad government might have existed, and which might have formed the subject of friendly advice to Naples, we might then have resented it, not in that despatch, but in a despatch to Naples; but to hold up Naples under this character when it was in a state of revolt, he thought was quite sufficient to account for the distrust and fears which evidently prevailed; for anything more gratuitous could not well be conceived. The hostile feeling to Naples thus commenced had continued throughout the whole of the proceedings recorded in this blue book. The noble Earl who had just sat down said he had been invited to go to Naples with a view to negotiate between the Neapolitan Government and Sicily; and he (the Earl of Aberdeen) must say, that the mission of the noble Earl had been throughout attended in every part of it, particularly as regarded Naples, by a degree of Partiality and hostility it was impossible not to see. The noble Earl's going to Naples was a curious history. The Government of Naples appeared to be greatly alarmed at his approach, and very unwilling to receive him; but at last he did get some sort of invitation to go to Naples when be was on his way there. We have hoard of the old woman of Syracuse who acquiesced in the tyranny of Dionysius lest the devil should come next. Possibly the King of Naples consented to receive Lord Minto for fear he might have to endure even a greater evil. All the Ministers, from the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office, down to the lowest vice-consul, all maintained with the same certainty that it was quite out of the question that the King-could have any chance of recovering possession of Sicily. Now they certainly took means, at all events, to render the success of the King in suppressing the rebellion as difficult as possible; and he must say that the forcible imposition of an armistice, when the conquest was virtually made, was, in fact, a decided act of hostility, and nothing else, towards the King of Naples, because it was a perfect mockery to talk of imposing an armistice on both parties after the victory had been placed beyond a doubt by the troops of General Filangieri. But this had been sought to be justified on the grounds of humanity. He did not know 694 to what extent a justification might be made on such grounds, but at all events our humanity was a second-hand humanity; because if the French had not been humane, we should not have been humane. That he thought appeared very clearly from Lord Napier's letter—of which, by the way, they had given them an extract only, but of which he should like to see the whole. Lord Napier said—The unexpected and spontaneous resolution embraced by Admiral Baudin placed us in a momentary perplexity, from which we have not been able to issue without committing Her Majesty's Legation and Her Majesty's naval forces to a course of policy scarcely perhaps reconcileable with strict principle; very possibly averse to your Lordship's inclinations; but, as it appears to me, imperative, considering the pressure of circumstances, and our double relations towards France and Sicily.It appeared from that that Sir W. Parker acquiesced, because the French Admiral told him if he did not, he would act without him; and with that intimation the Admiral thought it would be best to be humane also, and so the armistice was imposed. He (the Earl of Aberdeen) should like to know if the Neapolitans had been defeated instead of the Sicilians, whether they would have heard anything of such an armistice; but it was to prevent the Neapolitans from following up their success, that it was imposed in favour of the Sicilians. That, he maintained, was not an act of friendliness, but of positive hostility to Naples. Again, when the Sicilian people made choice of the Duke of Genoa for their King, a British steamer was sent to Genoa with the offer of the Crown of Sicily to his Highness the Puke; and as soon as the intelligence arrived in this country, information was sent out, that the Duke of Genoa would be acknowledged as King of Sicily as soon as he was in possession of the diadem. What friendship did we show for our ally by this hasty conduct? By deciding in forty-eight hours to acknowledge an usurping king elected by the rebellious subjects of the King of Naples. Surely, having acted thus towards our ally, we were at least bound to lay aside anything like a pretence of friendship towards him. We might justify our conduct on the ground of our interest and policy requiring us to come to an immediate decision; but we could not surely pretend to speak of our friendship for the King of Naples after that. But affairs took a different turn, and the Duke of Genoa wisely declined to accept the Crown of which we were quite 695 ready to see the King of Naples deprived. Then, again, in our furnishing the Sicilians with guns and ammunition, there was an "inadvertency" in that, and therefore he did not call that hostility. Nevertheless, when the guns were furnished to the rebels, when the Sicilian envoys were here, and when they were received at different times by the Minister of Her Majesty's Government, and came to him to talk not merely about their guns, but about their men, and their shipping, and their armaments of various kinds, it was too much to suppose that all that was inadvertent—that the Vectis was prepared inadvertently, and that Her Majesty's Government were in ignorance of the proceedings of those gentlemen who were received at Downing-street by the Secretary of State, and not only received by him, but received by him in company with the Minister of the King of Naples. Now, he must confess, the Minister of the King of Naples must have had some difficulty in persuading himself of the friendship of the British Government towards his Sovereign, when he met the agents of the Sicilian rebels in the anteroom of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. He would not touch upon the capture of the Sicilian refugees in the waters of Corfu, showing the hostile spirit we had displayed throughout the whole of this transaction towards Naples. But the proof that our assistance was in fact the only support of the Sicilian revolt was, that the instant it was withdrawn the revolt ceased at once; almost as soon as the British fleet no longer gave encouragement, by its presence at Palermo, to the Sicilian people, they submitted to their lawful Sovereign, and from that day to this the island had remained in tranquillity under his dominion, and that although the restoration of his authority every British agent, from first to last, eon-tended was perfectly impossible. He now came to another subject—the volume laid on the table a few days ago, professing to be papers relating to the transactions in Piedmont. He had often wondered at the assurance, the confidence, the boldness of the Foreign Office; but this volume beat every thing he ever saw. It professed to be papers relating to the affairs of Piedmont. Now, four months ago, he (the Earl of Aberdeen) had moved for papers to show the efforts made by the Government to prevent the renewal of the war in Piedmont, but withdrew the Motion, because the noble Marquess told him they would speedily be laid on the table, and indeed threatened 696 him that they would be produced much sooner than he (the Earl of Aberdeen) wished, yet that volume was only now laid before them; and, after all, it did not touch not only the renewal of the war this year, but actually it did not come down to the existence of the war in the year preceding. Some wag, one would think, had selected those papers, for they begin with Pope Gregory, and they descend to matters connected with some petty squabbling between Tuscany and Modena relative to some territory in dispute between them; but with respect to Sicily there could not be a question, because the papers stopped before the period of the French Revolution. But they must make of these papers what they could, now that they had got them; and there was at least a history of that despatch, of which he had had occasion to speak before, and about which the Government had admitted that there had been a mistake and an omission. But he must say, the real character of that mistake was not such as had been represented. This volume, at least, showed how the circumstance originated. Mr. Abercrombie received certain information to which he attached credit, and which he describes in a letter dated August, 1847:—From information that has reached me, I learn, that the paper in question is a paper addressed by Prince Metternich to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, in which he administers a very serious lecture to the Grand Duke on the course he is pursuing, and warns him that if he allows a civic guard to be established within his dominions, his territory will be occupied by Austrian troops;"—adding, that under similar circumstances the same course would be pursued with reference to the minor States of Italy. Mr. Abercrombie further states, that as he was informed, Count Buhl received orders to communicate this paper directly to the King of Sardinia, and was only allowed to do so by the etiquette established at the Sardinian Court. Not only was that information believed, but in the instructions given to the noble Earl opposite, and inserted in this volume, it is referred to. The noble Earl is desired to say, when he arrived at Turin, that Her Majesty's Government had learnt, with no less surprise than regret, that an official communication bad lately been made by the Austrian Minister at Turin to the Sardinian Government, which seemed to imply a threat that the Sardinian territory would be entered by Austrian troops if the Sardinian King, in the exercise of the indisputable rights of his sove- 697 reignty, made certain organic changes in his dominions which were displeasing to Austria, and that Her Majesty's Government could not believe that Austria could contemplate proceedings involving so flagrant a violation of international law, and for which no excuse could be alleged. It further stated, however, that Her Majesty's Government would be informed by the Sardinian Minister of anything that might pass on the subject; and Mr. Abercrombie was directed to communicate to the Sardinian Government a copy of the despatch of the 11th of the same month in which the instructions were dated. That was the despatch to which he (the Earl of Aberdeen) had often made reference, in which a remonstrance was made to Austria, accompanied by a threat, as far as it was possible to make a threat to a Power like Austria, that such conduct could not be viewed with indifference by Great Britain. Well, Prince Metternich at once denied the conduct imputed to his Government, and declared that Austria not only entertained no such intention, but, on the contrary, would fight with us in defence of Sardinia. But it was probable that this declaration was not believed, otherwise it was impossible to account for what had taken place; yet a still more indisputable refutation was, given in this volume by the Sardinian; Minister himself, who, writing to the Sardinian Minister in London, declared that the pretended note of Count Buhl was I never addressed to Sardinia, but that a report was current there, and believed in by many persons in high stations, owing to an impression prevailing, that if such a note had not been addressed by Austria, it would be so immediately; but "the fact," he adds, "is not the less imaginary; no communication of the nature of that note, or with reference to our political attitude, has I been addressed to us on the part of the Court of Vienna;" and he concludes by expressing the belief that the report of such a note having been written was without foundation. That was the denial of the Sardinian Minister himself, in addition to the denial of Prince Metternich; and that denial was also in the possession of the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office on the 24th of September, before the receipt of Prince Metternich's denial. Nevertheless, in the month of February last year, in order to prejudice Austria in Italy and Europe, that paper which had so often been alluded to was put on the table of this House, without a word of mention 698 being used to hint that it was an utter falsehood. That appeared to him a transaction perfectly unprecedented; and as to the noble Marquess, it was quite amusing to see that he could not only not under, stand it, but that he could not be made to understand the real nature of the charge made with reference to the suppression of this despatch. He (the Earl of Aberdeen) had known the noble Marquess for nearly fifty years, and had occasion, on public questions, to differ oftener than he could agree with him in opinion; and he felt sure that no one who agreed with him as constantly as he (the Earl of Aberdeen) differed from him, would more promptly or decidedly repudiate the possibility of the noble Marquess being privy to the circumstances connected with the suppression of this despatch than he did. Now, he said that hostility was shown throughout the whole volume towards Austria. He had proved that hostility by its contents, by its language, by the determination that was manifested throughout to believe everything that was to the prejudice of Austria. But by the by he ought here to state one memorable exception to the hostility generally shown by our agents towards Austria and Naples in the despatches of Lord Ponsonby. That noble Lord reported only straightforward facts, and it was satisfactory to see the downright way in which he told his story, and contradicted the insinuations and the calumnies which were so welcomed here. But he (the Earl of Aberdeen) need not read any of Lord Ponsonby's despatches, because he believed it was now admitted on all hands that those insinuations with respect to the intentions of Austria to interfere in the affairs of Italy were perfectly chimerical, and never had the shadow of a foundation. That being so, it was useless to repeat the declarations of Lord Ponsonby; but he could not help contrasting his despatches with the insinuations and the hostile tone which pervaded those of our other agents. But he must say, independent of the readiness to believe all the odious insinuations and accusations against Austria, our unfriendliness towards her was shown in one most unfortunate and painful case. He (the Earl of Aberdeen) said, we could have stopped the Sardinian war. It was evident that, if proper measures had been taken, we could have stopped that. In the first place, with respect to the first war, for there were two—but it was the war of last year he meant, that war which was un- 699 dertaken under circumstances quite unparalleled, for the very day after using the most friendly protestations, the King ordered his army to march into the Austrian territories. If England had then remonstrated with Sardinia, it would have been impossible that the King could have ventured upon that war—for it must be recollected that the King of Sardinia had rendered himself liable to our resentment as well as that of Austria. It was true he had not invaded England, but he had violated a treaty with England, and had given us, therefore, a cause of war if we chose to exercise it. But we never hinted that he was violating a treaty with us. He was told that he was about to engage in a dangerous undertaking; but even that he was told too late, for we never said a word to him—till he had actually resolved upon war we never protested at all. But we ought to have made a formal protest. Recollect that this was a violation of the Treaty of Vienna; and though M. Lamartine had declared that the Treaty of Vienna was effete, yet he presumed that the noble Viscount at the head of the Foreign Office did not think so, because in these papers he declared his adherence to it, and it was to be supposed he had got no new light since. We were not bound to go to war for this violation of the treaty, but we were bound to make known to the King our sense of the violation of the treaty. How was that to be done? In the same manner as we made known our sense of what we considered to be a violation of the treaty in the invasion of Cracow. Although three of the Powers who were parties to the treaty considered that it was no violation—yet we considered that it was a violation of the treaty, and, therefore, we protested formally; and as in the present case there could be no doubt whatever that it was a violation of the treaty, we were equally bound to enter our formal protest. Had we done so—had we shown any sign that we were in earnest—we must have repressed the ambitious projects of the King of Sardinia. But at that time the noble Earl (the Earl of Minto) was at Rome—he was there performing various antics with Cicerornacchio and other persons, who lauded him to the skies, shouting out all the time for the independence of Italy, which the noble Earl was told—which, at least, those who used the cry know, whether he knew it or not—meant the expulsion of the Austrians. 700 That was the meaning of the independence of Italy, and nothing but that; and the noble Earl having accepted these intimations, how could Sardinia think that England was in earnest in dissuading her from war? He believed the noble Earl did not join in these cries, though he did not know that. He would not go into the conduct of the war, or its renewal this year. What step had been taken to prevent the war he did not know; but certainly no protest had been made, because a protest was a public instrument. He would not give a farthing for a private protest made in the King's ear, because that would have no influence whatever, and as they bad made no public protest in the eyes of Europe against the renewing of the war in March last, that was sufficient to show that we had not done what we ought to have done against its renewal. But when the war was renewed, it certainly was very soon brought to an end. And though Marshall Radetzky could have dictated terms of peace in Turin, yet he preferred negotiation; and it was most unfortunate that that negotiation was still in dependence. He had seen a statement in the Turin papers, that it was the advice of the English Government to Sardinia not to be in a hurry to sign terms of peace. He had seen that confidently stated, and even the person who gave that advice was named. He thought it was very possible that it might be so. The noble Marquess might possibly deny it; but he would forgive him if, without any impeachment of his veracity, his denial did not quite convince him that something of the kind had not boon done. But that advice, if it was given, was likely to have such fatal effects that he thought this hostility to Austria almost amounted to a feeling of insanity; because, but for this, the Austrian troops in Italy would not only have been employed where they were most wanted, but, in all probability, they would have been the means of obviating that which, in common with all their Lordships, he could not but consider a great misfortune—the necessary intervention of Russia. He looked upon that as a great misfortune, and he thought that noble Lords opposite were in a considerable degree answerable for it, because if they had prevented the Sardinian war, they would have enabled the Austrians to put down the Lombards speedily, and then the troops would have been available to restore tranquillity else- 701 where. He forbore to say more as to the possible consequences of this intervention. He was willing to believe, and was sanguine in the belief, that those evils which he could not but fear, would not come to pass, and that they would soon see Austria restored to that position which, notwithstanding all that had been written and said against her elsewhere, had always been advocated in this House by the noble Lords opposite, that she might recover that power and weight in the balance of Europe which she had heretofore maintained. He confessed he wished that might still be the case; but he must say that to a man entertaining that wish, and accustomed to look at that Power in the manner he had done for many years past, it was certainly a painful thing to see the spirit that pervaded the whole of these communications. He came now to the last topic. After all that had been said upon the subject, the simple fact was this—they saw a large French force occupying the city of Rome, and they did not know precisely the object for which it had assembled there. The noble Marquess on a former occasion told them that Her Majesty's Government had received some information, and that they did not object to the course the French proposed to take. He (Earl of Aberdeen) wanted to know what it was the Government did not object to. There must have been some further communication received since then. He wanted to know what it was; because that a large force of 30,000 or 40,000 men should go into the centre of Italy, and remain there without any objects precisely stated, and that this Government should manifest no interest on the subject, appeared to him to be scarcely possible. He must say that what the French Government had declared to be their own objects gave him very little satisfaction; because, though he wished that the French Government should have their legitimate influence, both in Italy and everywhere, yet he did not think that the sending of 30,000 men for the recovery of that influence was a proper mode of doing so. Neither was he satisfied with the declaration respecting the restoration of order. He should like to know their special object. Austria had given such an explanation—she declared that her object was to restore the Government of the Pope. He presumed that the French had the same object in view; but he could not help observing, that though General Oudinot had 702 sent the keys of Rome to the Pope, yet in his proclamations he did not say one word concerning him. He agreed entirely with his noble and learned Friend in paying every tribute to the moderation and patience of the French commander-in-chief throughout the siege, yet when the general proclaimed that he had done no injury to the town, he must say, that to besiege and take a town without doing any damage to the town, was difficult to understand. He believed, however, that as little damage as possible had been done, notwithstanding the declarations of certain agents—at the head of whom was our own Consul—making representations of damage which had been done that turned out afterwards to be far from correct. He must here say a word as to a subject that was noticed yesterday respecting Mr. Freeborn having given passports to various foreigners engaged in the defence of Rome. Since yesterday he had received further information on the subject; and whatever might be said in justification of giving passports to men who were in danger of their lives, yet the wholesale way in which this had been done on the recent occasion was something quite beyond precedent, for, as he was informed, they amounted to some hundreds. This question of giving passports to foreigners was attended with a good deal of difficulty. He believed that the instructions to English agents were in times of civil war to preserve a strict neutrality. But it was admitted that urgent humanity was stronger than all instructions, for it was impossible for a man to stand still and allow his fellow-creature to be butchered before his face; and therefore a passport in such a case was in a great degree justifiable. But at the same time it must be admitted that if the people were to carry on war, knowing that in case of the worst they would have a secure retreat in the protection of a foreign Minister, or that they would be received on board a foreign ship of war—that would be a great encouragement and support to the party engaged in carrying on the war, and could scarcely be called strict neutrality. He know that, so far as he was concerned, he never but once in his life gave a passport to any foreigner whatever. It was always the practice that English passports were never given to foreigners. He apprehended that was not only the rule and the custom but also the law of the land. But so much had that rule been departed from in the present instance, that he had seen a letter 703 written by an officer at Civita Vecchia, stating that the numbers of foreigners with English passports in that town were so great, that the town was overawed by their presence. He was not, however, much surprised at this, because it was a license which other agents had taken, and this gentleman no doubt thought he would be justified in following their example. He presumed that Her Majesty's Government would wish to see the French troops depart from Rome as soon as they could with honour; what measures were to be taken to insure that course it was not for him to say. In former times such a course taken in Italy would certainly have led to war. He trusted that no such consequence was likely to result on this occasion, and he was confident that the French Government and the French army would both be well pleased honourably to retire from their present possession; but it must be recollected that that was not so easy a matter, and that when the French went to Ancona, it was seven or eight years before they could leave it again; and though it did not signify whether 1,200 or 1,500 men occupied Ancona, yet it was a serious thing when 30,000 or 40,000 men should occupy Rome. He hoped that the progress of negotiations with the other Powers that were acting in concert with France, would lead to such an issue as to remove all danger of this kind. The great importance of a movement of this kind was the probability that it would lead to war. If they could be sure that the occupation of that position would not increase the danger of war, its importance would be much diminished. But however well disposed the French Government might be to the preservation of peace—and he, for one, gave full credit to that disposition—yet in the disturbed state of Italy, and the events that were taking place elsewhere, one could not see with perfect tranquillity this occupation. They knew, from the highest authority, that the French army consisted of 450,000. Now, very recently a considerable alarm was created with respect to the preparations of France, and something like general uneasiness was felt in this country as to the position assumed by the Government of France. Yet the army of France was at that time 100,000 men less than at the present time. That alarm, too, was felt in the reign of a Prince whose whole life on the throne had been spent in the endeavour, and the successful endeavour, to preserve the peace of Europe and of the world, and 704 also in the Government of a Minister of whose transcendent abilities and eminent virtues he would say nothing; but he would say this, that every year of his administration he risked his official existence solely because he was supposed too subservient to England. Therefore, if, in these circumstances, they were so alarmed as to think it necessary to meet the French preparations by warlike preparations in this country, he thought they could hardly look with perfect complacency on the great increase of force now existing in France; because, however pacific the disposition of the President or of his Government might be, they had not yet had the same means of giving evidence of their determination to preserve peace as was the case of the Prince to whom he had alluded. It was said that this great increase of force which had taken place, was purely for the defence of the country. He was disposed to dissent from the maxims which had of late years received very general assent, that the best security for the continuance of peace was to be prepared for war. That was a maxim which might have been applied to the nations of antiquity, and to a society in a comparatively barbarous and uncivilised state, when warlike preparations cost but little; but it was not a maxim which ought to be applied to modern nations, where the facilities of preparations for war were very different. Men, when they adopted such a maxim, and made large preparations in time of peace that would be sufficient in the time of war, were apt to be influenced by the desire to put their efficiency to the test, that all their great preparations, and the result of their toil and expense, might not be thrown away. He thought, therefore, that it was no security to any country against the chances of war, to incur great expense and make great preparations for warlike purposes. A most distinguished statesman of Franco had lately emphatically declared in the French Chamber his desire for peace; but he added, that to maintain it he must have an army of 800,000 men. And what, he (the Earl of Aberdeen) would ask, could be expected from the raising of such a force, but war or national bankruptcy? He, therefore, dreaded the intention of those who desired such extensive armaments, notwitstanding the pacific professions which they made; and he could not be at ease as regarded the stability of peace, until he saw a great reduction in the great military establish- 705 ments of Europe. Such should be the great object of all Governments, and more especially of the Government of this country; and he sincerely hoped that the clouds which at present obscured the political atmosphre would pass away, that all differences might be settled, and that they might again renew their relations with those Powers which had always been their allies, and that we should be enabled to preserve and maintain peace with and among all the nations of the world.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, he would be as brief as possible in the observations he had to offer, as he presumed their Lordships were anxious to bring the discussion to a close that night. He confessed himself under some obligations to the speech of the noble Earl who had just spoken, for, having listened to the debate hitherto, he had found great difficulty in connecting the Motion with anything like an attack on the Government. His noble and learned Friend, in bringing forward that Motion, had pointed but indistinctly to any such object; but the noble Earl, giving way to a greater degree of vehemence, bad come to his (the Marquess of Lansdowne's) assistance by indicating the points of attack which he thought might be assailed with most advantage. Whoever looked to the terms of the resolutions, to the difficulty of explaining one by the other, and to the difficulty of connecting any of them with the speech of the noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham), which, bearing on all subjects, bore least of all on his own resolutions, would perceive at once, though he (Lord Brougham) had been active in stirring the cauldron, that the ingredients bad been contriouted from other quarters. First, his noble and learned Friend gave notice that he would call the attention of the House to the invasion of Rome by the French. That notice remained on the Paper for nearly a week. Then they were informed it was to undergo some change, but many days elapsed before it acquired its present form; and, if be might use so homely a phrase, the nature and colour of the plumage had altered considerably since the egg was hatched. Instead, however, of following the noble and learned Lord's speech, be would endeavour to connect his (Lord Brougham's) observations with the language of the resolutions: those resolutions bad, however, been so eloquently commented upon by his noble Friend (the Earl of Carlisle) that it would be presumptuous in him to make any observations on 706 them, and he would have refrained from doing so, but for the observations of the noble Earl. He would consider what blame to Government was implied by the first resolution. He had looked to his noble and learned Friend's speech to ascertain the particular points on which the Government were "to require and obtain satisfactory explanations;" but in vain, for the noble and learned Lord had, with his wonted ingenuity, proceeded to justify those "movements" alluded to in the resolution, and to show that they did not require satisfactory explanations at all. The noble and learned Lord had certainly referred to one movement in particular as requiring prompt and satisfactory explanation—the French invasion of Rome; but he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) saw no reason for making such a demand, which did not apply equally well to the invasion of Bologna and the movements in the north of Italy by the Austrian forces. He asserted, then, that this country bad received the same amount of explanation in each case, and he stood there responsible for being satisfied with it up to the present time, He had stated before, that while the Government of this country was bound to watch all these movements, and observe the course they took with every care, there was that in the peculiar condition of the Government of France that it was impossible not to feel that by exacting too rigorously explanations of the entire course and views of their movements in Italy, and causing them to be published, they might weaken a Government which, he was convinced, it was the policy of the Government of this country not to weaken. Perhaps the noble Earl did not mind that. Perhaps be thought that no Government but the past and supposed legitimate—but still not very legitimate—Government of France, was entitled to respect from this country. He meant no disrespect to that past Government when he declared that the present Government of France was, from its present position, more entitled to respect, because they knew it was placed in circumstances of great difficulty with its own subjects, and with the States of Europe; and if they believed, as he did, that it was the earnest desire of that Government to maintain the relations of peace with all other nations of the world, it was their duty to minister to its security, and to that object by every means consistent with the safety and honour of this country. Her Majesty's Government had, therefore, 707 been satisfied with explanations with which, perhaps, under other circumstances, they should not have been satisfied; and they believed the object of France, in sending this expedition to Rome, was really what they stated it to be—the re-establishment of order by means of the re-establishment of the Pope. They believed as much of the statements of France as of Austria. Her Majesty's Government knew there had been communications between France and Austria on the Italian question—that they had not resulted in a combined system of action—that such a combined system had been proposed, and each country had thought best to pursue its own object singly and without any precise concert, though the understanding existed between them that the object of their operations was the restoration of the Papal authority, the difference between their views in the mode of restoring it being, Austria proposed the re-establishment of the Pope without any condition, and that France, to its great credit, sought to do so on certain conditions bearing on the institutions of the State he was called on to govern. He had no hesitation in stating, he quite agreed in the views of his noble and learned Friend on the subject, but begged to assure him they were by no means peculiar, inasmuch as they were precisely those laid down in Lord Pal-merston's despatch to Lord Normanby, where he distinctly declared that the sovereignty of the Pope was something quite peculiar, and, having a relation with all the Roman Catholic States of the world, quite different from those of any other authority. The condition of the Pope's sovereignty was quite peculiar. As a temporal sovereign, the Pope was of a fourth or fifth rate order as a spiritual sovereign, he was not only of the first honour, but enjoyed a sovereignty unparalleled in the world, being capable of exercising over not one but every country of Europe an authority and an influence with which nothing could compare. There was, therefore, in respect of other States, a ground for interfering and maintaining his authority which did not exist in any other case, and, being a sort of compound interest, the necessity was imposed on the Catholic Powers of watching in order to see that the just object of preserving the spiritual head of their religion was not made the means of promoting temporal ambition. But when he said that, he was not prepared to say that we, as a Protestant 708 State, had not, to a certain extent, a similar interest: there was no country with Catholic subjects and Catholic possessions which had not a deep interest in the Pope being so placed as to be able to exercise his authority unfettered and unshackled by any temporal influence which might affect his spiritual authority. We had, therefore, no reason to be unduly jealous of the interference which had taken place; and it was, therefore, he thought, not only expedient with respect to the peace of Europe, but of the world, that measures of policy somewhat different from those of ordinary times might be enforced and adhered to in this most anomalous and extraordinary state of things; and if he bad one fault more than another to find with the speeches of the noble and learned Lord and the noble Earl, it was that they had not sufficiently looked to the change which had taken place in Europe within the last two years, which might account for acts of commission and omission not otherwise justifiable. Was there ever such a period before? Did the noble Earl think the ordinary rules and maxims which guided his conduct when at the head of Foreign Affairs some years ago, applicable to a state of things with a new direction, tone, and colour, from the awful elements brought into action, giving rise to the most lively apprehensions for the peace of the world? At a moment which could only be compared to the great crisis of the Reformation, when the ground was heaving up beneath the Governments of Europe, and when, as it had well been said, there was an uprising and clashing together of opinions, loosening from their accustomed holds and driving large masses of men into action and violence, it was prudent for every State to revise its principles of action, and to keep in view, as its one great object, the preservation of the peace of the world, threatened as it was by so many dangers. The next part of the resolution to which he came, declared that "it was inconsistent with the general interest and duty of this country to interfere in the concerns of foreign nations." So general and sweeping a proposition—one so likely to disarm the power and limit the influence of the country which adopted it—he had never yet heard. For the last 300 years he never knew of any Ministry in this country which had carried on Government on such principles. He need not go so far back, indeed, to find these principles were not acted on by later states- 709 men; for when disputes arose between the King of Holland and his subjects, the States of Europe interfered to put a stop to bloodshed, and effect a settlement: an armistice was forced upon the Parties by virtue of a protocol, and amongst the names affixed to that protocol was that of "Aberdeen." And when the noble Lord came to administer the affairs of the country, he was sure he would treat such a resolution, if it were agreed to, with perfect contempt, and as of much the same value as the neat maxims at the head of a schoolboy's copybook. As to the events that had taken place in the north of Italy, although the noble Earl had stated perfectly correctly what had occurred regarding the statement transmitted from Turin as to the dreaded interference of Austria, yet he should say that no such threat was made as had been reported to have been made by the Government at the time. The report was sent as a report only, and as a report only it was treated and inquired into; but to say that it was without foundation was not correct; for the Government had corroborative evidence from Berlin; and it was shown that a person, who was known to be officially connected with Prince Metternich, had used language at Florence, which, being transmitted to Turin, and operating on the natural sensibility of all Italian Governments, excited those not very ill-founded apprehensions. The report, therefore, obtained ready credence. The noble Lord had been pleased to state that due exertions were not made on the part of this country to prevent the Government of Sardinia from engaging in an unjust, unnecessary, and unprovoked war. In every one of those epithets applied to that war, and more particularly to the last war, he entirely concurred; but to the statement that every possible effort was not made by the Government of this country to prevent that war, he gave the most unqualified contradiction, founded upon documents which were then before the House. He found from that correspondence, that, from the very first moment that there was any rumour of such a war taking place, warning was given to the Sardinian Government of the opinions of the Government of this country upon such a step. They disclaimed any such intention; and the first observation of the noble Lord at the Foreign Office upon that disclaimer was to the effect that Her Majesty's Government had felt great pleasure in learning that no such aggression upon the 710 dominion of Austria was about to be made. In a subsequent despatch of Mr. Abercromby, dated March 12, that gentleman stated that he saw no reason for taking umbrage at the armaments which were being prepared by the Sardinian Government; but that to employ them in actual aggression would be to endanger the interests not only of the House of Savoy, but of Italy and Germany. Mr. Abercromby was then told, in another despatch, that the Government entirely approved of the views he had taken on the subject, and instructed him to impress upon the Sardinian Government the great risk and danger upon many accounts which they would bring upon their country if they involved it in any unnecessary and aggressive war.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
The moment it was known that the war was intended, the admonitions in question were given to the Sardinian Government. In a despatch of April 11th, Lord Palmerston states to Mr. Abercrombie, that, with reference to his despatch of the 27th, referring especially to the intentions of the Sardinian Government with respect to Lombardy, he had to inform him that Her Majesty's Government approved the language which he had hold to the Sardinian Government, and instructed him further to state that the conflict into which Sardinia had entered must be deemed to be one of very doubtful result, and that the principle upon which it had been commenced was one full of danger. He (the Marquess of Lansdowne) believed that it was only by means of such admonitions addressed by one Government to another, they could hope to influence the conduct of a Government. It had been said that the Government ought to have resorted to other means than those they adopted upon this occasion. He deprecated, however, any resort to arms upon such an occasion. But there was another Power with whom Her Majesty's Government had also remonstrated—namely, the King of Naples, who, although he subsequently claimed the performance of the Treaty of Vienna, at one time called upon his subjects to engage in the war in Lombardy on behalf of the Italian league. He referred to the proclamation of the King of Naples, addressed to "his beloved people," calling upon them to make war in Lombardy. It stated—"Your King shares with you the lively interest that the Italian cause raises in every mind, 711 and is determined to contribute to its safety and success with all the material forces which our pecular position on one part of our kingdom leaves at our disposal. We consider the Italian League as existing de facto, although it is not yet established;" and concluded by declaring that the lot of their common country would be decided upon the plains of Lombardy. He thought that that would pretty clearly show the spirit which animated the parties during the convulsions which had recently taken place in that part of Europe. He did not mean to impute to the Government of Naples a deliberate intention of making war; on the contrary, he felt that some allowance ought to be made, and above all for the weaker States which had been engaged in these transactions; but he did not sec why the noble Earl should allow the whole weight of his indignation to fall upon one of those Powers. He did not know whether he had succeeded in convincing the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Aberdeen) that Her Majesty's Government had taken every opportunity of preventing any outbreak previous to the first war; but if he had not succeeded in doing so, he thought at all events that he should not have much difficulty in satisfying him that they did their best to prevent the second war. The evidence upon that point was so clear, that he was convinced it could not but be satisfactory to any unprejudiced mind. Upon the first apprehension of that war, Mr. Abercromby took upon himself, acting upon the general instructions which he had received from Her Majesty's Government, to send a letter to the King of Sardinia, so full of accurate observation, and animated by so laudable and enlightened a spirit, that it could not fail to have convinced him of the opinions of Her Majesty's Government upon the subject of the projected war. In that despatch he said that it would be an act of madness for Sardinia to undertake a war against Austria singlehanded. and that the King in so doing was destroying his own country and abandoning his duty to his people. That was the Minister who, it was said, was sent out to encourage the revolutionary party. Could stronger language be held by any person?
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
The noble Earl said, that was not enough. He wished, then, to know what he considered would be enough. Would the noble 712 Earl have had the British Minister knock the Sovereign down, that he required stronger representations than these? What that happy medium would be between remaining at peace and going to war, he had not exactly pointed out. The noble Earl wanted more; and there was a letter from Lord Palmerston to Mr. Abercromby, directing him to ask for an audience, and to tell the King of Sardinia that Her Majesty's Government had heard of the supposed intention of his Sardinian Majesty to commence hostilities, and were ready to offer him their counsel. In a few days afterwards Mr. Abercromby sent a despatch to the King of Sardinia, who was about to take the command of the army, framed in terms as strong as it was possible to conceive, telling him it would be too late on a future day to take the friendly counsels which the Government of England were ready to send him. He had no doubt that the noble Earl thought that was not sufficient; and he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) was extremely curious to know what those valuable means were by which sovereigns were brought to reason by something that was not force, yet was something that was more than representation. As he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) only knew of two ways of proceeding in such a case, he considered that Mr. Abercromby had gone the whole length he could go on the subject. Did not the measures taken by him prove what the feelings and wishes of Her Majesty's Government were, and that it was not their desire to see Austria annoyed by the recommencement of hostilities? With respect to the Austrian provinces in Italy, some of the wisest and most sagacious Austrian statesmen had been of opinion that the territory of Lombardy was an inconvenient appendage, and that the Austrian empire, with its strength so widely disseminated would do wisely to bring its authority to hear upon more important territories and interests at home. Probably Austria would not at the present moment have felt it necessary to have recourse to the arms of Russia to put down disorders in her own territory had she been able to concentrate her force upon one side of the Alps. But, be this as it might, the policy of this country was not to produce revolutions, but to prevent and appease them, and all their instructions were given with that view. All those instructions were based upon the principle of endeavouring to reconcile the essentials of the existing order of things with improvements 713 in the present institutions of the country. Her Majesty's Government had proceeded on the admitted principle, that by removing discontent where it was known to exist, a Government had the host security for the safety of its institutions. He was glad to hear that Austria had renounced her policy of refusing improvement and reform in her institutions; but it was proved that her former hostility to governmental and social reform was founded upon a secret article between Austria and Naples, which was now, however, known to all the world, by which Austria hound the latter Power not to advance in reforms further than Austria herself in the government of her Italian provinces. Could it he said that the apprehensions of the people were altogether without cause, when they thought that Austria might endeavour to prevent them from enjoying any of those institutions? He did not attribute that design to Austria now, and he conceived that Austria was pledged in that respect to a course different from that which she had hitherto pursued. He sincerely wished that Austria might continue to act that great part in the affairs of Europe which was so essential to the well-being of the rest of the world—he rejoiced at the notion that she had adopted the principle of conceding reasonable rights to her subjects, as a means of reconciling all her populations, of different origin, who are at this moment imperfectly united under her sway. The observations on the paper now before the House they had answered in detail; and beyond that answer in detail, there was one or two convincing answers, which he wished to give to those who accused the Government of this country of a warlike policy. In the first place, he reminded their Lordships that, after two years of such times as those we lived in, this country was at peace. It was said, that all the world distrusted his noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston); but at the very moment it was said that all the world distrusted him, and before the ink could be dry on the resolution which his noble Friend had drawn up, a war of the most alarming aspect, connecting itself with the most desperate passions—combining in itself the jealousy of sovereigns so difficult to reconcile with the jealousy of different races speaking different languages—that war so originating, and pushed to the most alarming extent, and affecting all the interests of the North of Europe, had been, by the successful efforts of the Government of this country, 714 put an end to. The Government had this very day received the preliminary articles of peace, that would put an end to that war which might have raged indiscriminately in the North of Europe, and which were settled under Instructions sent from this country, and at its mediation. The noble Earl himself had been occasionally successful in mediation; and when he had been so, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) was not slow to admit and applaud the result of his mediation. He submitted that the same measure of justice was due to his noble Friend, and he hoped the South would be pacified on the same principle, and by the same means, as the North. These resolutions were of no practical utility; and whatever comments had been made upon the foreign policy of the Government, they had the consolation and proud satisfaction of reflecting that in this time of great difficulty, when thrones had been shaken, and nations agitated with internal commotions—when the torch of war had been lighted from one end of Europe to the other—this country had been free not only from intestine disturbance, but from the hostility of a foreign foe; and that we had maintained our position, not by any compromise or ignominious concession, and, above all, not by the sacrifice of that high character for honour and integrity—the clarum ac venerabile nomen—which England had always preserved, and which enabled her to act upon the destinies of those with whom she had to deal, and to secure, in so doing, the happiness and independence of the world.
said, that he felt, as he was sure all their Lordships must feel, the impossibility of doing anything like justice to the large question before the House, at an hour when their Lordships must be exhausted, and when he owned himself wearied by the length of the discussion. He also felt the disadvantage of having, at that time of the night, or rather of the morning, of endeavouring to call their attention to some parts of the case and some parts of the speech which the noble Marquess had just addressed to the House. But although he had taken no part in the framing of these resolutions, he was unwilling to give a silent vote upon this question, because he held that the resolutions laid on the table by his noble and learned Friend were in themselves sustainable by evidence and facts, and such as it would be wise and fitting in their Lordships to adopt. The noble Marquess ex- 715 pressed his surprise that his noble Friend had not referred to the successful mediation of the Government in the north of Europe; but these were not resolutions affecting the general foreign policy of the country, but particularly related to those events in the Italian States which appeared most to require immediate attention. Every one, of course, would rejoice to hear that hostility between Denmark and Germany had terminated. His noble and learned Friend in one of the resolutions averred—That it was inconsistent with the general interests and duty of this country to interfere in the concerns of foreign nations as between these Governments and their subjects;"—and until he heard the speech of the noble Marquess, he had thought that if there was one principle of sound policy on which there was universal and unanimous acquiescence on both sides of the House, it was the principle of non-interference by this country with the internal affairs of another. The noble Marquess had only read a part of the resolution, stopping short at the words "foreign nations," and leaving out the last words, "as between their Governments and their subjects." Hundreds of causes might render interference with other countries in a national point of view absolutely necessary; but the resolution expressly pointed to the internal concerns of other countries. The noble Marquess had referred to a protocol issued by his noble Friend (the Earl of Aberdeen); but it must be observed that the intervention in that case was called for by the King of the Netherlands, for arranging affairs to which this country had been a party. The first resolution of his noble Friend was this:—That it is the right and was the duty of the Government to inquire and to obtain from foreign Powers satisfactory explanations of those recent movements in the Italian States which tend to unsettle the existing distributions of territory, and to endanger the general peace,It had been asked by a noble Earl, "It might be our duty to inquire, but how could it be our duty to obtain—how could we obtain?" But even as a mere verbal criticism, that objection was not well founded; and the resolution was right; for it was our duty to seek, and our right to obtain, from nations professing to act in amity and co-operation with us, a satisfactory explanation of acts which endangered the general peace; and that was the wording of the resolution. Did the noble Marquess ask to what it was that the resolution applied? It applied necessarily to 716 the invasion by French troops of the Roman territories. Was that, then, a matter of light concern—of small importance—in the eyes of Her Majesty's Government? When they supposed that it was the intention of Austria to invade the Roman States, the language of the Foreign Secretary in these circumstances was, that it was not a matter of indifference, and of no importance; on the contrary, he said that all the States of Italy ought to be held inviolate by all the Powers of Europe; and that proposition was coupled with another, that any sovereign should be at liberty to make such changes within his own dominions as he should think fit, thus confirming the second resolution moved by his noble and learned Friend, that it was inconsistent with the general interests and duty of this country to interfere in the concerns of foreign nations, as between their Governments and their subjects. Nay, the noble Viscount (Viscount Palmerston) followed up his propositions by stating that the Roman territories were an element in the independence of Italy, and that no invasion of them could ever take place without consequences of the greatest gravity and importance. He asked whether it was not a matter of the most serious consideration with them that the fullest and most explicit explanations should be given by the various Powers concerned, when they saw those States invaded by four different Powers, and when they saw the Austrians and the French in the occupation of those territories, not to speak of the more insignificant efforts of Naples and of Spain. The noble Marquess perhaps would ask, why instance France, since we had had explanations the fullest possible as to the object which she had in entering those territories; for the noble Marquess not very fairly stated that a declaration of their intentions and objects had been made by Prance, equally explicit with that of Austria. From Austria they understood most definitely that their object was the restoration of the legimate Government, and with that object attained, that they would withdraw her troops. He was very far from wishing to embarrass the Government of France—
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, a similar declaration to that of Austria had been made by France, as to her object at Rome.
said, for the first time to-night he had heard that they had made such a declaration, that, with the 717 restoration of the Government, the object of the French Government was attained, and their troops would be withdrawn. He could not but recollect, however, that while Austria was intent upon restoring the legitimate Government of the pope, France was determined to restore it with certain limits, and restrictions, and conditions, of which they had yet informed no one, and which might involve the occupation of Rome for a few months, or perhaps for 20 years. The Government were bound, for their own satisfaction, to know that the ally with whom they professed to act, was influenced by the same motives, and had the same objects, as those other Powers from which they had thought it right to require explanations. The Pope was the only potentate that had asked for the diplomatic interference of this country; and on the hints furnished by his solicitations, the Diplomatic Relations with Rome Bill was brought in by Government, and the noble Earl (the Earl of Minto) was sent over to advise and counsel the Pontiff. But what was the result of our intervention? The Pope had been turned ignominiously out of his dominions; and all at once the Republic of France began to find that it was her duty to interfere for his restoration. This restoration was to be coupled with certain conditions, though what these were had not been made known. If they implied either a separation of his sacred and civil functions, or the establishment of a legislative assembly, it might be implied that to these conditions the Pope would not agree. The state of the matter, then, was this—they had the Pope applying to the Catholic Powers of Europe to restore him to the supremacy, civil and ecclesiastical, of his dominions. The call was responded to by three of these Powers; but then there was a fourth Power not co-operating with the others, who stepped in and took possession of Rome with an enormous army. It became, therefore, more than ever the duty of the Government to ascertain fully the objects contemplated by France in the occupation of the Roman States. The two first resolutions were of less importance than the third. At an earlier period of the night he should have endeavoured to have substantiated at more length the charge that we had, in our dealings with foreign countries, in reference to the affairs of the Italian peninsula, been actuated by a want of friendly feeling, by invidious suspicions, and by unworthy and uncalled-for jealousy 718 towards Powers, neither of which had given us offence, or done anything to warrant our suspicion. The noble Marquess said there had been no jealousy shown in these transactions cither of Austria or of Naples. But what were the facts, first, with regard to Austria? The very instant that the noble Viscount (Viscount Palmerston) received a communication that Prince Metternich was of opinion that the Pope was going to dangerous lengths in the changes he was making, he wrote to Lord Cowley stating he was most anxious to know what the views of the French Government were upon that subject. If, he said, they coincided with his own, he should be glad to co-operate with them in supporting the general amnesty, and thus in forcing those further reforms which Prince Metternich considered dangerous to Rome. In the meantime, the Pope had given a full amnesty, and M. Guizot concluded his reply by stating that the French Ambassador had been strictly instructed not to offer any advice. Those, in his opinion, were very sound instructions, and very wise advice; and if similar instructions had been given to some of our diplomatic agents abroad, it would not have been the worse for the interests of this country. But then he was asked to furnish proofs of the insidious jealousy of Austria. The papers and correspondence before the House abounded with them from first to last. There was a disturbance at Pisa, it appeared, and the moment Lord Palmerston heard of it, he wrote to Mr. Abercrombie to inquire how far Austrian emissaries had to do with it. Full of Austrian suspicions, he could not disconnect his ideas of Austria from meddling and interference. But the fact was, there had been nothing of the sort. His noble Friend (the Earl of Aberdeen) had stated another instance of jealousy and suspicion of Austria, in regard to a letter alleged to have boon sent to the King of Sardinia. It turned out there had been no letter at all. There had, however, been a letter to the Duke of Tuscany; and that which was only to be accounted for by the Foreign Secretary by Austrian jealousy, and which called forth "a wise, temperate, and firm answer," was not written at all. The proposition supposed to be made of Austrian interference was, in point of fact, never made. From first to last, Austria had given assurance, in the most positive terms, usque ad nauseam, that from her no State in Italy had reason to fear an invasion of 719 their territories; but Austria always declared, "We mean to hold our Italian dominions, but we will not extend our power one inch beyond." These communications were made to the Court of Sardinia. Instructions, founded upon the supposed interference of Austria, were given for the guidance of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Minto), and with the real facts known, as they must have been known by the noble Earl and the Government, he (Lord Stanley) was at a loss to account for the declaration made by him (the Earl of Minto), after a long conference at Turin, that "now all danger of Austrian interference appears to have passed over." When he wrote this, he must have known that Austria had from the first disclaimed all intention of invasion; yet he wrote to the Foreign Office that danger of invasion from that Power had, for the present, "passed away." He said then that the whole of these proceedings marked an invidious and an increasing jealousy of Austria, and an unfriendly feeling towards her. Another out of many other cases suggested itself to his mind. Prince Metternich had been informed that in Home reports were rife that Austrian agents had encouraged rebellion there; and what did Prince Metternich immediately do? He wrote to Rome demanding that a most searching investigation should be made by the Government, in order to ascertain if there were any good grounds for the suspicion that Austrian agents were implicated in the charge; but he never received an answer to that application for such investigation. Notwithstanding the Austrian Minister had assured the noble Viscount that he was following in the course which Prince Metternich had taken on the part of Austria in the affairs of Italy, still the noble Viscount's suspicions were not set at rest. In his answer to the British Minister at Vienna, the noble Viscount stated that he had learned from undoubted authority that at Home Austrian agents were concerned in the plot, and that he believed that that opinion was shared in by many very high persons in Rome. Such a declaration was not only unfriendly, but it was insulting. The Austrian Government had denied all participation in those proceedings. It was a direct declaration that the Government of this country disbelieved the assurance of Austria, put forward in the most positive manner. Again, to show the want of foresight on the part of Her Majesty's Govern- 720 ment, when Lord Ponsonby was instructed to give assurance to Austria that the King of Sardinia had no intention to invade the Austrian territories, or to interfere with the internal affairs of the Austrian provinces in Italy, that Sovereign was meditating the invasion of the Austrian dominions for the gratification of his own selfish and profligate ambition, whilst there was not the least intention of invading Piedmont by Austria. But it was not the first time that the noble Viscount charged the Cabinet of Europe with shortsightedness—with not being able to see beyond their noses, whilst by the correspondence it appeared that they could see further than he, and their despatches and letters were conceived in a much more diplomatic and courteous tone than his. But Her Majesty's Government did not appear to have taken all the steps they might have taken to prevent either the first or the second invasion of the Austrian dominions by the King of Sardinia. The noble Marquess had, of course, peculiar opportunities of becoming acquainted with the contents of the papers that passed between the Governments, and he said, "Oh, you condemn those proceedings before you have seen the papers." But if the House had waited for their production, they might have waited until the second week in August, when it would not have been very easy to have questioned the Government about them. His noble Friend near him bad said that he would not speak about the second invasion of Austria, because he had not the papers before him. But he (Lord Stanley) said, that with regard to the first or the second invasion, Her Majesty's Government did not take the steps which they were hound to take for the purpose of preventing that most unprincipled aggression. The noble Marquess said that they told the Sardinian Monarch that it would be destructive to his own interests to attempt such, an aggression; that they appealed directly to his interests. But when a Government had a right to interfere and prevent another Government from taking a profligate and unprincipled course, it was not sufficient to say, "This may lead you into trouble." They should say, "If you take this course, remember it is in violation of treaties. Remember, that it is inconsistent not only with your safety, but with your honour and your obligations; and in the face of Europe and of the world we protest solemnly and publicly against an act on your part 721 which is an unprincipled infraction of a treaty to which we are parties." If the Government had addressed themselves to the honour and the duties of the King of Sardinia, they would have done right, and this country would have stood in the situation in which it was fitting it should stand before the eyes of Europe and the world; but it was idle to address themselves merely to the interests of an ambitious man. The noble Marquess asked tauntingly why they did not say a word about the King of Naples, who had acted in a more profligate manner still. God forbid that he should defend the conduct of the King of Naples, or that compulsion which was exercised by his people to force him to join in that invasion of the Austrian territory which was supposed to be about to lead to the independence of Italy—a thing which the noble Marquess spoke of as only the dream of a few enthusiastic individuals, but which he (Lord Stanley) nevertheless feared had been encouraged by the diplomatic agents of Her Majesty's Government themselves. He would beg to read to the House an extract from a speech made by Lord Napier, Her Majesty's Representative at Naples, on the 16th February, 1848, to the populace flushed with the success of their revolutionary movement:—Happy are these days, in which the liberty and independence of Italy are secured for ever. Henceforward the nationality of Italy will be no more a matter of feeling—no more a desire. It is a reality. Let it spring around our institutions; and by securing our institutions, triumph against the foreigner. Viva Independenza Italiana—Viva Ferdinando Secundo.This speech was delivered by the noble Lord in the language and with the mind of Italy, and while delivering it, he had been, it appeared, interrupted by great applause, while the termination was followed by vehement acclamation. He must say that that speech was in entire accordance with everything else that had been done in the course of these events. The King of Naples had certainly joined in an unprincipled aggression on the Austrian States. He could hardly say that the King had himself joined in it, as he been driven into it not with unfriendly feelings towards Austria—far from it, for the Emperor of Austria was his friend. The Pope also had boon driven into it; but was it with unfriendly feelings? By no means, for the Pope felt he had no better friend than Austria. They were not actuated by the selfish principles that had moved the so-called King of Italy. They both yielded to popular impulse— 722 they foolishly yielded to an irresistible popular impulse, which had been encouraged and promoted by diplomatic envoys even from this country, and to which no great discouragement was given even by the Representative of Her Majesty. He did not charge against the noble Earl or the Government that they desired to promote revolution in Italy; but he charged them with a desire to introduce into every country just as much of the principles of liberty as they themselves desired, but no more. Nothing showed more the impossibility and the folly of attempting to transplant the free institutions of one country into the soil of another not fit to receive them, than these proceedings. These were the views which actuated the noble Earl, and Her Majesty's Government, and also the King of Naples, and the benevolent but not very wise Sovereign Pontiff. These were the views which, no doubt, also actuated some of the other Powers; but they were all made subservient to the views of others, who had very different objects. Others knew much better than they did what was In progress: they knew that these Powers were useful intruments up to a certain point for furthering their views; and as soon as that point was reached, the instrument was thrown away with ridicule and contempt, and the revolution broke out which they had vainly hoped to have kept down. He had seen with regret that these papers abounded with evidence of an unfriendly and jealous feeling towards Austria. But there was another Power—a weaker one—towards which they conducted themselves in a still more unfriendly, and, he would add, more unworthy spirit. He alluded to their conduct towards the King of the Two Sicilies from first to last—from the advent of the noble Earl—he would not now discuss the question of his being invited—their conduct towards that sovereign had been throughout marked by the most offensive demeanour, as much as it was possible for any sovereign to bear without resenting. He would not now enter into the question of how far they were bound to maintain the shadow of the constitution of 1812. His noble Friend had clearly and distinctly shown, that as a practical constitution the constitution of 1812 never had been in operation at all—that the Parliament that sought to establish it broke down ludicrously and absurdly the moment that it should have been established; and indeed the noble Lord opposite seemed to admit that it was not a very 723 desirable arrangement to adopt in any event. Therefore, this was an additional reason why their conduct towards the King of Naples had been offensive to an unjustifiable extent. On the 7th of March, the noble Earl stated that he had obtained satisfactory terms from the Sicilians—and well he might, for he had dictated the terms himself—but in a few days afterwards the Sicilians expressed their dissatisfaction with those terms, and it appeared that no conclusion of any kind had been arrived at. They next had him advising the deposition of the Sovereign to which he was accredited, and that he would not offer any objection. That showed the impartiality of the mediator, and the friendly feeling towards the Government of our ally. The noble Earl again says that the Sicilians looked to the friendship of England to support them in their desire to separate from the Crown of Naples. While the noble Earl was offering his good offices to the King of Naples, he actually wrote that the independence of Sicily had now been established. Whether the noble Earl was right or wrong in recommending the constitution of 1812, from the moment that he had arrived in Sicily he was recommending the separation of Sicily from the Crown of Naples; and from the moment that the Sicilians attempted to separate from the Crown of Naples, they were in rebellion against their Sovereign; and the British Government was countenancing and encouraging them in that rebellion. That was a monstrous violation and dereliction of the duty they owed to their ally; and yet they said, while they were thus doing, that the King of Naples should be obliged to them. The Duke of Genoa was recommended to the Sicilians as king; but he was wiser than Her Majesty's Government, for he was not quite so satisfied of what they were attempting to establish as they were. Not content with offering the Crown of Sicily to the Duke of Genoa, they also assured him that the British Government would give him every support; and the British Minister made a public declaration to that effect, and they afterwards offered to recognise any sovereign, except the King of Naples, although they were then on friendly terms with them. He would not go through all those transactions in detal—suffice it to say, that from the first to the last their interference was an interference against the King of Sicily. We pretended to enforce an armistice, and the consequence was, that the beaten party 724 had time to recruit their strength, and raise themselves from their prostrate condition. He believed that the result of all our measures was, that the people of Sicily were now left entirely at the mercy of their legitimate Sovereign, who he had no doubt would, however, exercise the rights of a conqueror with generosity; whilst, as for ourselves, we had made this country the object not of suspicion, but of worse than suspicion, of contempt, and of ridicule, to our allies, and to Europe. In conclusion, he would only venture to express the hope, however the double dealing and miserable shuffling of our recent policy towards the Neapolitan Government might be viewed elsewhere, that the verdict at which their Lordships would presently arrive, would show the kings, princes, and people of Italy, that the double dealing and paltry conduct of Her Majesty's Government had met with no response from the more manly and honourable feeling of the House of Lords.
said, that having been occupied nineteen hours in their Lordships' House that day, he declined the labour of a reply.
§ On Question, House divided:—Contents, Present 51; Proxies 45: Total 96. Not-Contents, Present 45; Proxies 63:—Total 108:—Majority against the Resolutions 12.726
|List of theCONTENTS.|
|List of theNOT-CONTENTS.|
|Waldegrave||Say and Sele|
|Lord Kenyon||Earl of Zetland|
|Lord Southampton||Lord Foley|
|Duke of Richmond||Lord De Mauley|
|Earl of Kinnoull||Marq. of Breadalbane|
|Marquess of Exeter||Bishop of Worcester|
|Lord Erme||Earl of Gosford|
|Lord Grey||Marq. of Conyngham|
|Earl of Eglinton||Earl Spencer|
|Earl of Glengall||Marq. of Westminster|
|Lord de Ros||Lord Clifden|
|Earl of Lauderdale||Lord Belhaven|
|Lord Sinclair||Lord Portman|
|Lord St. John||Duke of Bedford|
|Earl of Cardigan||Marquess of Anglesey|
|Lord Doneraile||Lord Stafford|
|Earl of Darnley||Earl Fitzhardinge|
|Marquess of Huntly||Lord de Freyne|
|Marquess of Ailesbury||Earl of Wicklow|
|Earl of Pomfret||Lord Langdale|
|Lord Rosse||Archbp. of Canterbury|
|Earl of Digby||Earl of Lovelace|
|Viscount Combermere||Lord Crewe|
|Viscount Hill||Earl of Camperdown|
|Lord Templemore||Lord Carrington|
|Lord Stradbroke||Earl of Effingham|
|Lord Abinger||Lord Monteagle|
|Marquess of Winchester||Earl of Sefton|
|Proxies against the Resolutions|
|Dacre||Stanley of Alderley|
|Dinorben||Stuart de Decis|
|Dunally||Talbot de Malahide|
|Dunfermline||Vaux of Harrowden|
|Howard de Walden||Wenlock|
§ House adjourned to Monday next.