HL Deb 07 April 1853 vol 125 cc687-9

said, he had to solicit their Lordships' indulgence for a few moments while he adverted to a subject which had occupied the attention of the House last Monday evening, respecting the deputation of merchants who had presented an address to the Emperor of the French at Paris. In the course of the observations he then made, he stated it had been represented that Mr., now Sir Robert Adair, had been sent in the year 1791 to represent to the Empress Catherine the opinions of a powerful party in this country, and to assure her that those were generally the sentiments of the English nation. He (Lord Campbell) did not express his own belief in that representation, but had said that, even if the fact were incorrect or inaccurate, it would not in the slightest degree detract from the high authority of Mr. Burke respecting the law he laid down as applicable to such a transaction. Since then he had received a very courteous letter from Sir Robert Adair, expressing great mortification that this report should have received any countenance, Sir Robert supposing that he (Lord Campbell) had given countenance to that report as a fact. Sir Robert Adair had given him a statement which he said was merely for his (Lord Campbell's) own information, and to set him right on the subject; but he thought he should be wrong if he did not, for the information of their Lordships and of the public, and for the purposes of historical proof, state publicly the substance of that communication. Sir Robert Adair was now in his 90th year, and for many years had served his country with great assiduity, fidelity, and success. He had been sent by successive Administrations to Vienna, to Constantinople, to Brussels, and to Berlin, and had represented the Crown of England upon some occasions of very great importance, uniformly acquitting himself to the satisfaction of the Government, and for the benefit of his country. The character of such a functionary was therefore of importance, and he was sure their Lordships would be anxious that his statement on the subject he had alluded to should have every publicity. Sir Robert Adair, in the most unequivocal manner, denied that he ever was employed by Mr. Fox, or by any party or any individuals in this country, to represent them, or to make any representation whatever to the Em- press Catherine at St. Petersburgh. He had furnished an explanation of the facts which gave rise to this misapprehension, and, with their Lordships' permission, he would read that part of his letter:— The French Revolution had just broken out; and, having early in life applied myself to the study of our foreign interests, I wished to form a true judgment of the effect it was likely to produce on our relations with the great European States more or less interested with England in the preservation of a balance against French ascendancy. My countrymen went eagerly to Paris. I preferred going to Brussels, to Vienna, to Warsaw, and to St. Petersburgh. We all know to what purposes this journey was converted by Mr. Burke, after his hostile separation from Mr. Fox; but it was not until their final rupture in the ensuing year that Mr. Burke's letter to the Duke of Portland, the source of all this nonsense about my 'embassy,' was published. Thirty years afterwards, Bishop Prettyman, Mr. Pitt's college tutor, wrote a a Life of Mr. Pitt, in which he alludes to it as a matter of notoriety, and he stated that he could prove the facts of the transaction by authentic documents among Mr. Pitt's papers, of which, as executor, he had become possessed. I had borne with composure all the stupid jokes in the newspapers about myself and my proceedings while I was at St. Petersburgh; but this challenge from a holy bishop [A laugh] was not to be despised. I accepted it accordingly, and demanded the production of these documents, so declared to be in his possession. The bishop declined to produce them, and until your speech in the House of Lords yesterday I have never heard a word about the matter worth attending to. I am sure that you have never seen my Two Letters to the Bishop of Winchester, published in 1823, or you would not have stated that I was deputed by any man or set of men to go on an errand of this nature to St. Petersburgh—similar to that of the City deputation to the new Emperor. I think as you do on the matter of this deputation, on the grounds both of policy and the law of nations. After this disavowal on the part of Sir Robert Adair, than whom he believed a more honourable man had not lived in this country at any time, he hoped that the contrary would for ever be considered as set at rest, and that it would be considered as established that there had been no such deputation and no such embassy; but at the same time the law laid down by Mr. Burke, on the erroneous supposition of facts, remained untouched; and he was happy to find that it was corroborated by Sir Robert Adair himself, who said he disapproved of this deputation, both on the ground of policy and the law of nations.


tended his grateful acknowledgments to the noble and learned Lord for the high manner in which he had spoken of his nonagenarian kinsman and friend. He was sure the present statement of the noble and learned Lord would be extremely gratifying to Sir Robert Adair, who felt that he had been a victim of misrepresentation for 60 years.

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