HL Deb 22 February 1850 vol 108 cc1278-86

rose to put a question, of which he had given notice, with regard to the present state of the relations between this country and the States on the River Plate. He would remind the House that, during the last Session of Parliament he had put several questions to the noble Marquess opposite, on the subject of our relations with the Government of Buenos Ayres, and that the noble Marquess had then assured him that at that moment he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) had reason to expect that arrangements were in the course of completion, by which peace would be restored to the waters of the Rio Plata. The noble Marquess, however, at that time, had refused to lay before the House the papers explanatory of the state in which the negotiations then were, on the ground that it was necessary to consult with France on the subject of them, and that, as the President of the Republic was then absent from Paris, his concurrence in those negotiations could not be immediately obtained. Six or seven months had since elapsed, and he therefore thought that there could be no difficulty now in giving him the information which he required. As far as official information went, the House and the country were left in complete darkness as to what had passed. The subject, however, had attracted attention in the Legislative Assembly of France, and it appeared from the discussion which had there taken place upon it, that there had been an omission in the arrangement entered into between the Government of this country and that of Buenos Ayres to make any provision for the protection of the life and property of foreigners resident in Monte Video and engaged in the struggle. This had occasioned great anxiety in the minds of the parties concerned in the trade on that river; and he (the Earl of Harrowby) wished to be assured on that point. Moreover, it was of considerable importance to ascertain from the noble Marquess, even if he were not prepared to lay on the table the treaty which was said to have been entered into, whether the intention which he had formerly announced had been carried out in any other manner. The noble Marquess had stated that the arrangement of Mr. Hood would be the basis on which the treaty was to be signed. He (the Earl of Harrowby) therefore wished to ask the noble Marquess directly whether the treaty had been actually signed on that basis? The original proposition, on which the negotiations were entered into with the Government of Buenos Ayres, when they were first commenced under the auspices of the noble Lord behind him (the Earl of Aberdeen) was, that the preservation of the independence of Monte Video should be the point principally kept in view. It was stated in the instructions given by his noble Friend (the Earl of Aberdeen) to the English envoy, that "the point to be principally kept in view, and the one which is of most importance to the mediating parties, is the preservation of the independence of Monte Video. To this the honour of England, France, and Brazil is respectively pledged, and it is one upon which no compromise can be admitted." He hoped that Her Majesty's Government had not departed from that principle, and that they were fully sensible that "the recognition of the independence of Monte Video would be of little value, so long as General Rosas continued the chief supporter of General Oribe's cause, whether that support was given to him ostensibly by arms, or secretly by the aid of money or other influence." The first proposition made by the joint Plenipotentiaries of France and England to General Rosas was, that "he should unite and co-operate with them in obtaining an immediate suspension of hostilities between the Oriental forces in the city of Monte Video, and those in the country." He asked whether that proposition was carried out in the treaty? The second proposition was, "that the armistice having been established, the Plenipotentiaries of England and France would claim from the Government in Monte Video the immediate disarming of the Foreign Legion and other foreigners bearing arms and forming the garrison of the city of Monte Video, or who might be in arms in other parts of the Oriental Republic;" and the third proposition was, that "General Rosas would, simultaneously with the execution of the preceding condition, cause the whole of the Argentine troops, officers and soldiers, to be withdrawn from every part of the Oriental territory." The seventh proposition was, that" after the disarming of the foreign troops in Monte Video should have been effected, and the Argentine forces should have evacuated the Oriental territory, a new election for the Presidency of the Oriental State should take place, according to the forms prescribed by the constitution. The election was to be made freely and without restraint from any side whatever. General Oribe was previously to declare that he would abide by the result." To wind up the work, "a general and complete amnesty was to be declared, with full security for life and property and oblivion of the past; the rights of foreigners were to be respected, and their lawful claims, of whatever nature, were to be admitted." He wished to ask the noble Marquess opposite whether these were the main principles of the negotiations recently concluded, and were they fully kept in view in the treaty recently contracted? He entertained a confident hope that the Government had not overlooked these principles.


said, he was sorry that it was not in his power to lay this treaty on the table until it had received the ratification of General Rosas. The treaty was signed some time ago in this country—he believed on the 24th of last November; but as yet the ratification of it had not been received from the Government of Buenos Ayres. He could inform his noble Friend that the treaty was founded on the Hood basis; but with regard to some of the other points which his noble Friend had mentioned, he could only say that they were points to be settled, not with General Rosas, but with General Oribe. The withdrawal of all interference with Monte Video was provided for in the treaty. Some delay had occurred in sending the treaty for ratification to Buenos Ayres, in the hope that the French Government, which was a party to the original engagement, would have also acceded to it; but the efforts of the British Government had not been altogether successful, as France would not accede to that treaty, except under modification. This country had, therefore, entered into the arrangement on its own account.


said, that the subject now assumed rather a different aspect from that which it were when last discussed. He understood now that the treaty which had been signed, but not ratified, was contracted only with General Rosas, that no treaty had been entered into with General Oribe, and consequently that the Oriental Republic was left in the condition in which it was before the treaty with Rosas had been entered into. Now, whatever might have taken place with Rosas, if the independence and security of the Oriental Republic was not provided for, we should have done nothing at all. This was, in fact, the only object of importance, because with Rosas we had no quarrel, we had nothing to complain of, nothing to ask, except the independence of the Oriental Republic; and if he withdrew his troops from that State, and left the independence of the Oriental Republic established, in that case we had no further demand to make upon him. And, indeed, he was at a loss to know what the object of the treaty could be, for, except that stipulation, there was nothing else that we had a right to exact. Last year, when the noble Marquess said that the treaty in contemplation was founded upon what was called the Hood basis, which were the terms sent out jointly by this country and the French Government in May, 1846, with modifications of no great importance, he (the Earl of Aberdeen) then said that he had no objection whatever to agree to modifications of that basis, provided they were not such as to destroy the whole substance of the convention. Now, if there had been any omission that would leave the independence of the Oriental State insecure, and did not provide for the safety of persons and property there situated, he should say that would not only be not a modification, but the entire destruction of the whole principle upon which they proceeded. He thought it was unfortunate, and a mistake on the part of Her Majesty's Government, to have separated themselves from the French Government in the conduct of these negotiations. We had had France bound to us by convention, as we were bound ourselves, to obtain no exclusive advantage, either political or commercial, in any negotiation that might be carried on in those regions. We had now released France from that obligation, and, in concluding our own treaty separately, we had restored to France her freedom of action, and enabled her to consult, and properly to consult, her own interests in the arrangement to which she would arrive. He held in his hand the report of the Commission appointed by the National Assembly of France to examine the treaty entered into by Admiral Lepredour—a treaty, he apprehended, very similar to that which we had concluded. That treaty, however, was not only not ratified, but not accepted, either by the Commissioners to whom it was referred, or by the French Government, or by the Assembly. It was rejected, without opposition, unanimously, and no vote was taken. The Commission said, France had now the power of acting separately, and might do as she chose; the words of the reporter were, that "the two Powers are now acting separately, and England has not the right, and no doubt has not the intention to complain; for she has concluded her own treaty without informing us, and thereby has restored to us our freedom of action, in a manner, we must venture to say, without much ceremony" (he supposed, therefore, they were not well satisfied with our concluding a treaty); "each of the two Governments, therefore, henceforth will consider its own interests exclusively, without either having reason to complain of the other." And how had they used their freedom of action? Why, the first thing the French Government had done had been to send out a garrison to Monte Video; they had sent out a garrison of 1,500 men, quite a sufficient force for that purpose, though not sufficient to carry on the war; but they had secured the town, and they had done well—he was heartily glad of it. They were pursuing their own objects, so far as the interests of France were concerned, but no longer in conjunction with us. If General Rosas, when he saw 1,500 French troops in Monte Video, should think it time to conclude and agree to reasonable terms, it was probable the French garrison would then return, for the French Government would have received the satisfaction to which they were entitled; but if not, if they should not be able to conclude such a treaty, the treaty which Lepredour offered, in the way the French Government thought proper; in that case they would most probably follow up the expedition of 1,500 men by a force that would be of a more formidable nature, and would compel the Government of that country to come to the terms they offered. Now, he should account this an unfortunate result; he thought it would have been much better if we had retained our concert, acted together, and agreed on the same treaty, as we had agreed in two cases when it was drawn up in conjunction with the French Government. He thought that the treaty which we had signed should have been drawn up in concert with the French Government, and then they could not have reasonably complained of the unceremonious manner in which we had separated from them. But this he must say, that although he thought it an unfortunate result that France should establish a permanent influence in Monte Video, and possibly, if driven to necessity, occupy the whole territory, and carry on a war there which would leave her in possession of the Oriental Republic, he had no hesitation in saying that he infinitely preferred to see the French in possession of Monte Video, than to see Rosas in possession of it; because, if he occupied both banks of the River Plate our commerce would be in jeopardy, as in such a Power it would be impossible to place any confidence whatever. Therefore, much as he deprecated the result which bad enabled France to act separately and in a hostile manner in the River Plate, he still should infinitely prefer to see France there than Rosas established in the Oriental State. However, that danger would be obviated if their occupation of Monte Video by a French garrison should bring Rosas to his senses, and induce him to agree to such terms as the French Government were entitled to ask. It was important to know whether the withdrawal of the troops of General Rosas was to take place on the ratification of the treaty forthwith, or was to depend on some general arrangement with Oribe. If the treaty contained conditions for the withdrawal of the troops, that was so far satisfactory; but he must repeat that it was a clumsy and imperfect arrangement to have entered into any treaty with General Rosas, without at the same time having concluded a treaty with Oribe. But there was another point to be noticed in reference to these negotiations. We had had a Minister, he believed, for more than a year at Buenos Ayres, carrying on a friendly negotiation with that Government; and it appeared that that Minister had never yet been admitted officially into the presence of Rosas. We were told that he was received with courtesy and treated with honour; but the British Envoy had never been admitted into the presence of General Rosas, even, he understood, after the treaty had been signed. Our Minister, according to the last accounts received from him, having placed himself on a footing of eternal friendship with this Government, was actually not allowed to appear in the presence of the President of the Republic of Buenos Ayres. He quite admitted that it was absurd to insist rigorously on diplomatic etiquette with semibarbarous governments; we lost no dignity by making concessions to a weak Government, but only showed we could afford to behave in a manner very different from that which would be becoming in the case of a first-rate Power; but, after all, there were limits to insolence, and he did think it was the most unheard-of thing that the English Minister, having signed a treaty of friendship, should not be received by the Government to which he was accredited. Was he to loiter in the antechamber of this Gaucho chief— Donec Bithyno libeat vigilare tyranno? Was he to wait the pleasure of the barbarian till it was convenient to see him? Why, this was really carrying insolence too far. The noble Marquess had given an answer to the questions of his noble Friend (Lord Harrowby) which he (the Earl of Aberdeen) hoped would turn out satisfactory; but, for his own part, he had grave doubts on the subject.


was understood to say, that in his opinion the advantages that were anticipated from the opening the Parana to Paraguay were quite visionary, or, at any rate, greatly exaggerated; and that however much the gallantry of the soldiers and sailors at the forcing of the passage of the Obligado might be admired, the expedition itself was little better than a buccaneering affair undertaken without the sanction of the two Governments. It was a gross infraction of national law, and incensed General Rosas at a time when our object should have been to conciliate him. He was not surprised that after such an occurrence General Rosas should have been somewhat by percritical as to the phraseology of our treaty, particularly when it related to the navigation of rivers flowing through the States of different Powers. He hoped that France would agree to the same treaty to which we had agreed; for he was quite sure that we, in signing that treaty, had settled the question. He had recently seen that in the French Assembly many assertions which had been industriously circulated respecting the treatment of Europeans by General Rosas had been received as facts, when from his own experience he knew them to be utterly devoid of truth. He knew many cases in which General Rosas had offered to Europeans every care and protection; and he believed that the treaty which we had made with that chieftain would be sacredly observed by him in all its stipulations. The inhabitants of the Banda Oriental were as well aware as any Europeans of the excellent site of their capital town for commercial purposes, and its superiority as a military position; they were extremely attached to their nationality, and ready to give due proofs of this feeling. At this time, when there were only 200 or 300 miserable Orientals within the town of Monte Video, it might be necessary that that place should have the protection of a foreign garrison; but if the wealthy and intelligent inhabitants who were in the camp of General Oribe gained access to the town, there was no fear that they would give up their independence to the Government of Buenos Ayres, to the National Assembly of France, to a body of commercial speculators, or to anybody else.


said, that Monte Video was a very strongly fortified town, and was garrisoned by Frenchmen, Italians, and Spaniards, who would continue to hold out against Oribe, or Rosas, or any other general, so long as the walls did not tumble down of their own accord. When France and England first interfered, Monte Video was invested by the troops of Oribe by land, and was blockaded by Rosas with a naval force; the fort must have fallen if England and France had not said to Buenos Ayres, not "You are not acting in accordance with the law of nations," but "You shall not act in accordance with the law of nations;" and, in consequence of the interference of the British and French forces, the blockade was raised. He was satisfied that the people of Monte Video were not at all likely to submit to Buenos Ayres unless they were reduced to submission by force. Considering the independence of Monte Video a great national object, he trusted Her Majesty's Government would be as jealous of it when attacked by any other nation as when attacked by Buenos Ayres.


was understood to say, in reply to some observations from Lord HOWDEN, that it was provided by the treaty that the Argentine troops should withdraw, and that the only object of the British Government was to secure the safety of persons engaged in commerce with Monte Video.

House adjourned to Monday next.