§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDBRLEY
said, that he wished to put a question to the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He wished to ask him whether Her Majesty's Government had any objection to lay before Parliament a copy of the protocol signed by England and the four great European Powers, respecting the canton of Neufchatel; and also of the convention between England, Russia, France, Bavaria, and Greece, for the settlement of the succession to the throne of Greece; and to inquire whether the report was correct that there had been some recent change in the political relations of the territory of Montenegro?
§ The EARL of MALMESBURY
My Lords, with respect to the first question put to me by the noble Baron, I have only to give him the same reply which I gave him last Session;—for the negotiations have not been proceeded with since the noble Baron put the same question to me in the course of last Session. The protocol which has been agreed to, which I am not at present prepared to lay upon the table of the House, because the negotiations are not yet commenced—that protocol confers upon Her Majesty's Government the power of choosing its own time to begin further negotiations. The present does not appear to Her Majesty's Government to be the proper time to enter upon further negotiations; and I may add that the other parties who signed that protocol are of the same opinion. With respect to the question of the Greek succession, which has just been signed by the Four Powers, it will be in your Lordships' recollection 970 that when the independence of Greece was confirmed, it was considered an object of great importance that a dynasty should be secured to that people, and that the succession of that dynasty in a regular line should be guaranteed to the Greek people by the three Powers of Russia, France, and England. After the war was concluded, and the Greek independence was secured, the Greeks themselves prayed to have a constitutional form of government, and by one of the articles of that constitution it was declared that no future King of Greece should be of any other than the Greek faith. It is known to your Lordships that the present King, who was at the time of his election but a child, was brought up in the Roman Catholic faith, and in consequence of that, that part of the treaty has never been enforced. It appeared to Her Majesty's Government that a guarantee should be given by the three Powers that the future King of Greece should be of the Greek faith, as well as that the dynasty itself should be guaranteed by the three Powers according to the treaty of 1832. It was necessary, in order to accomplish this end, to revise the treaty entered into by the three Powers in 1832. Her Majesty's Government invited Russia and France to join with the Government of Bavaria in revising the treaty with that object; and they agreed to the invitation, and signed a new treaty, having that object in view. I believe I am in order in saying that it is not the custom to lay a treaty upon your Lordships' table until an exchange of ratifications has taken place. There is another question which the noble Baron intimated his desire to ask—whether any change had recently taken place in the political relations of that wild country bordering on Albania, called Montenegro. I believe that, since Her Majesty's Government came into office, no change whatever has taken place with respect to its political relations. The chief of that country hears a double title. He is head of the Greek Church in that country, and he is also the temporal sovereign. But with respect to his ecclesiastical position, he is under the jurisdiction of the Emperor of Russia, who is considered to be the protector of the whole Greek Church. The chief of Montenegro has been, as I believe his ancestors were before him, to St. Petersburgh, to receive from the sanction and recognition of the Emperor his episcopal jurisdiction and titles. With respect to the indepen- 971 dence of that country, whatever the opinions of different persons may be as to the advantages of such a position, the fact is, that Montenegro has been an independent country for something like a period of 250 years, and though various attempts have been made by the Porte to bring it into subjection, these attempts have failed one after another, and the country is in the same position now that it was some 200 years ago.
My Lords, having answered these questions of my noble Friend opposite, it is now my duty to announce to your Lordships an event which we have all long since expected, but which has not diminished in importance from the circumstance that it had been long expected or foreseen,—I allude to a notification which Her Majesty's Government has received from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at Paris, announcing that the French people have determined to change their political constitution from a republic to an empire, and that they have raised the person of the Prince President of the Republic to the Imperial dignity of the Empire. That communication was made to me on Thursday; and having been communicated by me to the other members of Her Majesty's Government, Her Majesty's servants thought it right to advise Her Majesty without delay, and cordially, to recognise the new constitution which had been selected by the French people for their Government. My Lords, it has been, as your Lordships know, the usual policy of this country, for the last twenty-two years—ever since the Revolution of 1830 in France—to adhere to the constitutional doctrine, that a people have a right to choose their own Sovereign without the interference of any foreign Power;—and that when a Sovereign has been freely chosen by the people of a country, that Sovereign, by whatever name he may be called, is at once recognised as de facto the ruler of that country, by the Sovereign of this. And, my Lords, I must say, that if there was ever formerly any doubt as to the distinct will of another nation being expressed in respect to their choice of a Sovereign—if ever there was a doubt as to the intention and the wish of the French people at any former time—on this occasion, at least, it is perfectly impossible to doubt what their determinations are. Three times, in the most solemn possible manner—three times have they expressed a wish for the same person in the most public manner of which, perhaps, his- 972 tory can furnish an example. When, at the Revolution of 1848, a Republic succeeded to the monarchy of Louis Philippe, the present Emperor of the French was residing in this country. He went over with none of that canvassing which usually takes place in relation to elections of far minor importance—he went over, I may say, with nothing but his name—a name which, in the great power it exercises, in the magic with which it acts upon the people of France, experience alone has been able to make Europe understand. We can readily comprehend how the fate of Napoleon, so chequered as his was—such a mixture of immense glory with immense misfortune—was exactly the mode calculated to rouse the sympathies and to interest the feelings of human nature; and we cannot wonder that it should make a lasting impression upon the people over whom he so long and so gloriously reigned. But, my Lords, it is scarcely possible for any person in any European state out of France to suppose that the prestige of that name remains so long, so steadily, and so strongly, that thirty-seven years after his abdication, his nephew should have appeared in three different characters before the French people within the space of four years—offering himself without any of the accessories of Courts or Governments to assist him—first, as simple President of the French Republic with a Chamber; secondly, as absolute President of the French Republic, without any constitutional form of government; and thirdly, as Emperor of the same people:—first, elected by six millions—next, elected by seven millions—and lastly, elected by nearly eight millions—a number that would form almost the entire male adult population of France. The present is not the time to speculate upon the reasons for this extraordinary expression of sentiment and conviction on the part of the French people. But I think that if we have long lost sight of the power of that name in France, it has been because we have not sufficiently observed that up to this moment, in the chances and changes which have taken place in the government of that country, only one part of her population has been consulted. It was in Paris alone that those changes have taken place. It was in Paris alone that the fates of Louis Philippe and Charles X. were determined. It was by the voice of the Parisians alone that the Republic was established in the year 1848; and although both forms of government successively met with the 973 silent approbation of the country, yet on no one occasion until the President of the Republic was elected in 1848 were the whole mass of the French people consulted with regard to what form of government they preferred, or what manner of man they sought. In the mass of the French people, one recollection—one only—and one strong partiality prevails; and I think it is not difficult to understand why this should be. In 1815, at the time of the Restoration, the French army—an enormous French army—was disbanded. It was poured back again upon the hearths of the population. The prisoners of war returned from all parts of the world in thousands and tens of thousands; and I believe I am not exaggerating the number when I say that, perhaps, 400,000, or from that to half a million of men, with one fixed idea in their minds, and with one—I may call it—worship fixed in their hearts, then returned to their homes; and for twenty or thirty years afterwards they talked and they thought but of one man; and they thought and they spoke of him as the great idol of their imagination; and though they could hardly have exaggerated his military merits and his military glory, they still added to those all that the warmest enthusiasm could give. Upon the rising generation all this could not be lost; and it appears to me that the seeds which these men have sown in the provinces of France are now to be seen in the fruit of which we have witnessed the ripening on this occasion. Seeing then this immense demonstration of feeling on the part of the French people, it was imposssible for Her Majesty's Government, even if it had not been our usual policy to sanction such demonstrations, not to have advised Her Majesty immediately and cordially to accept and recognise the Empire. There might have been one, and one only, reason that might have tempted us to hesitate before we advised Her Majesty to proceed; but I rejoice to say that the good sense of the present Emperor, foreseeing the difficulty, met it in advance, and removed from Her Majesty's Government those difficulties that might otherwise have intervened. I allude to a somewhat ambiguous expression which was found in the report of the Senatus consultum, which referred to the late President of the Republic, and which was connected with the title it was announced he meant to take—namely, that of Napoleon III. That expression might have induced Her Majesty Government, and 974 would naturally have induced any one, to suppose that the interpretation to be given to it would have been that of common parlance, as it is understood and accepted when it is used to designate sovereigns—the numeral adopted was intended to convey the inference that he was descended by direct and legitimate succession from the former Emperor, and that by right of that descent he now filled the throne of France. My Lords, the advisers of the present Emperor of the French, foreseeing this difficulty, frankly took the initiative in assuring Her Majesty's Government that it related simply to the historical incident that in France, and according to French law, two sovereigns of the name of Napoleon have preceded the present Emperor. Neither of these Sovereigns, as your Lordships know, was recognised by this country. The French know that as well as your Lordships—and they, therefore, adopt the title with no intention of claiming any hereditary right from the first Emperor. This the French Government have distinctly intimated to Her Majesty's Government; and subsequently in a speech by the Emperor himself he has declared—and his Government have also declared it to ours—that he is Sovereign only by the voice of the people, not by hereditary right to the throne—that he distinctly recognises all the Governments that have existed since 1814 in France—and that he recognises the acts of those Governments, and acknowledges the solidarity of those Governments as succeeding others. With this frank and satisfactory explanation, it was only left to Her Majesty's Government, as I said before, cordially and with pleasure to acknowledge the decided will of the French nation, and to send to Her Majesty's Ambassador at Paris new credentials to the new Court. In the notification which the Emperor has made to Her Majesty's Government, he says that the same policy which influenced the President will influence the Emperor. And with respect to that policy, as it regarded England, it is impossible to speak too highly of the cordial and frank manner in which every question has been entertained by the Government of France—at least since I have had the honour of holding the seals of office. I am sure my noble Friend opposite will say the same thing at the time he filled my place. I have found nothing but fairness and fair play, and in all their transactions nothing but assurances of good will, and wishes to maintain an 975 unbroken friendship with this country. I believe the Emperor himself, and the great mass of his people, deeply feel the necessity, for the interests of both countries, that we should be on a footing of profound peace; and, on the other hand, that they see the great folly and crime which it would be on either side to provoke war. They must know that a war, as far as it would lead to the subjugation of either country by the other, is an absurdity—that neither country, so great, so powerful, and so independent, could in any manner subjugate the other; and that, therefore, war must be as useless as cruel, and AS inglorious as useless.
§ VISCOUNT CANNING
My Lords, I shall not follow the noble Earl in offering any comments upon the notification he has made to us—a matter on which it appears to me none of your Lordships can touch too lightly; and I feel convinced that the sense of the House would condemn any noble Lord who, in following the noble Earl, should express any opinion, or offer any observations of his own, upon this subject. But since the noble Earl has tendered your Lordships a statement of the transactions which have arisen out of recent occurrences in France, in which he, as a Minister of the Crown, has been engaged, and since he has informed your Lordships of the result to which these transactions have led, I take the liberty of asking the noble Earl to complete his statement on a point on which I think your Lordships ought to have a further and more explicit declaration—I mean as to the shape which these explanations took which influenced the Government to give Her Majesty the advice they have done. The question I wish to ask my noble Friend, then, is this, what was the form and shape of those assurances which the noble Earl received; and will the form of them enable the noble Earl either now, or at some future, but not distant, time to lay them before Parliament?
§ The EARL of MALMESBURY
My Lords, the observations of the noble Viscount resolve themselves into two points. He seems to disapprove of something I have stated as being in bad taste. As to the other, I must say I do not understand the noble Viscount's question.
§ VISCOUNT CANNING
My Lords, all I meant to imply in the first part of my observations was this, that in both Houses of Parliament, when foreign matters are brought 976 under discussion, it is deemed advisable—and, above all, it is deemed advisable on the part of a Minister of the Crown—to abstain from any comment on the conduct of neighbouring Powers in their own affairs, whether it be the conduct of the people or of their rulers. As to the question which I ventured to put, if it is not clear to the noble Earl, I shall endeavour shortly to explain it. The noble Earl is aware that when communications pass between two friendly States, they assume different forms—sometimes they are in the form of a despatch from the Minister or Ambassador of our country residing at the foreign Court making the communication—sometimes in the form of a note from the Minister or Ambassador of that country residing at our Court. Now what I want to know is in which of these forms, or if in neither in what other form, these assurances have been received?
§ The EARL of MALMESBURY
I agree with the noble Viscount that it is advisable to abstain from all comments on the conduct of foreign States if these comments be disagreeable, or of an unfriendly nature; and certainly I should be the last man to make such comments. It may be that I have not been accustomed to address your Lordships sufficiently often to be able adequately to express my meaning, but I trust I have not said a single word to excite the slightest disagreeable feeling, and therefore I don't understand why the noble Viscount should find fault with me for having made a comment-for comment I have made none. I rose with the most earnest wish to say of France and the French all that France and the French would wish to say of themselves. As to the question put by the noble Viscount, I have to state that the mode in which the communications were made was perfectly official, and therefore perfectly satisfactory to Her Majesty's Government. But they could not have been more satisfactory to me than those which were made to me verbally by the French Ambassador in London, and which have since been repeated by the French Emperor in his speech to the Chamber; these would have been quite sufficient security to me even if there had been no official declaration.
§ The MARQUESS of BREADALBANE
trusted that the change in the Government would make no change in the relations between France and this country.
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.