HL Deb 26 March 1855 vol 137 cc1050-5

Order of the Day for considering Her Majesty's most gracious Message of Friday last, read.


My Lords, in moving your Lordships to take into consideration Her Majesty's gracious Message, I feel that it would be unbecoming in me to detain your Lordships for any lengthened time, as I think that your Lordships would consider that it would be superfluous for me to offer any argument in support of the Address in answer to the Message which I intend to propose; because, my Lords, although the treaty which, by Her Majesty's command, was proposed to the Sardinian Government has only recently been ratified, we must all agree that the treaty is one which has long since received the assent of Parliament and of the nation. My Lords, I well remember the cheers which from all parts of this House greeted the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Ellenborough) when, with even more than his accustomed fervour and eloquence, he declared the gratification he had experienced upon learning that the treaty had been signed, which has since been laid upon your Lordships' table. The only drawback which there appeard to be to the satisfaction of the noble Earl was that diplomacy had had something to do with the matter. It will, therefore, be agreeable to your Lordships to learn that no solicitation was required to be made on our part to the Sardinian Government to bring about a result which, I must say, more than any other event of a similar kind within my recollection, has been received with satisfaction by all ranks and classes of the people of this country. The only merit which diplomacy or Her Majesty's Government can claim, is having thought that the time had arrived when an invitation to the Sardinian Government to adhere to the Anglo-French treaty of April 10 might be acceptable. We were not disappointed in our expectations; for within a very few hours after the proposal was made to the Sardinian Government by those of England and France, the Sardinian Government, acting with that vigour of purpose and perfect good faith which characterise all its proceedings, and which has secured for it success at home and respect abroad, agreed to those preliminaries which left us in no doubt about the ultimate arrangement of the treaty. I think it will not be unacceptable to your Lordships to learn the precise grounds on which the Sardinian Government adhered to the Anglo-French treaty, and I will, therefore, read to you a short extract from a despatch from the President of the Council and Minister for Foreign Affairs, M. Cavour, which has been officially communicated to Her Majesty by the Minister of Sardinia in this country. In that despatch he said— When the treaty of alliance of April 10, 1854, between France and England was officially communicated to Sardinia, the Government of the King, while it recognised both the right and the duty of the Great Powers to oppose the encroachments of Russia, and to defend the Ottoman Empire from an unjust aggression, while it proclaimed its sincerest sympathies in the cause which France and England were generously defending, nevertheless abstained for the time from availing itself of the stipulation in article 5 of the treaty. Now, however, the war has assumed great dimensions in the East and in the Baltic, and the whole world is convinced that the question which is agitated in the East is a European question, all are now agreed that if the Great Powers have in it an interest more direct, the States of second order are threatened in their commerce, and, what is of more importance, in their independence, by the ambitious progress of Russia. The moment is therefore arrived for opposing to the vast means of action that she possesses, and even the enormous advantages of her geographical position, the United efforts of the Powers, who, free from all ambitious projects, aspire only to guard against dangers which it might afterwards be too late to avert, and to secure the triumph of the eternal principles of justice and of right. My Lords, to a Government animated by such sentiments no solicitation was necessary. Nor should I omit to remind your Lordships that, in adhering to the Anglo-French treaty, Sardinia had adhered to that article of the treaty which I will call the self-denying article—the article by which England and France bound themselves to derive no advantage from the war—a stipulation which is not, I believe, to be found in any other treaty, and which, therefore, reflects the more honour upon those who have set such an example. Sardinia adheres to that engagement, and thereby meets the accusations which might and would otherwise have been brought against her of wishing to engage in this contest in order hereafter to procure territorial aggrandisement, profiting by the troubles the war produces, or claiming such advantages on the proclamation of peace. Sardinia takes her full share in the war, and I think it is honourable in her not to demand any such advantages. She makes no such demand; but her finances not being equal to meet the expense of placing upon a war footing a large force whose numerical strength is always to be kept up to a certain amount, without undue taxation to the people, she applied to England for an advance of money, the interest of which she will pay and will provide a sinking fund for its ultimate redemption. Not having means of transport at her disposal, she also asked that these troops should be conveyed by us. Her Majesty's Government, waiting the approval of Parliament, have agreed to the advance of money, and at this moment a British fleet is on its way to Genoa, where it will embark for the theatre of war these men who, if reports be correct, are inferior to none in Europe in organisation, in discipline, in equipment, and in courage. This will be effected at no eventual cost to England, and at a much less present expense than that for which a similar number of British troops could be sent out. The extract which I have just had the pleasure of reading shows the complete identity of purpose which now unites Sardinia with England and France in this contest. Give me leave to say, also, that I think it manifests the spirit of independence and of justice which animates the Sardinian Government, by which they have been able to surmount many and peculiar difficulties at home, and by which, while scrupulously fulfilling their engagements with foreign Governments and maintaining good faith, they have secured for themselves rational liberty and constitutional freedom. With their struggles we in England have always sympathised; we have rejoiced at their success; but we have never directly or indirectly interfered in the matter. I believe that one great cause of the success of Sardinia is that it has been wholly free from the action of foreign Governments. The institutions which its people have given to themselves are of native growth and culture, and are on that account stronger and more deep-rooted, and better adapted to their purpose. Sardinia has been tree from the curse of foreign parties in her own territory, intriguing and competing for a nominal and worthless influence; and such complete confidence has been established among all classes, that the King, with the full approval of his Parliament and his people, is enabled to send forth the flower of his army to contend in a just cause, without a thought or a fear of revolution or disturbance. My Lords, Sardinia is a territory small in itself, but she will raise herself in the scale of nations by taking part in the settlement of one of the greatest questions that has agitated Europe in modern times, by placing her army side by side with those of France and England—destined to share the same toils, the same dangers, and, as I hope, the same triumphs. I think also we may anticipate, hereafter, a closer alliance between England and Sardinia, founded upon a more intimate knowledge of each other, and an increase of that kindly and cordial feeling by which the people of England are now animated towards her. The noble Earl concluded by moving that an humble address be presented to Her Majesty, thanking Her for Her most gracious Message, and promising Her the support of the House in carrying out the stipulations of the Treaty She has entered into with the King of Sardinia.


wished to say, that he concurred most completely with the Address which the noble Earl proposed to lay at the foot of the Throne; and if he were to make any remark upon the subject, it would be, that he quite agreed with the noble Earl, not only as to the policy of supporting the treaty, but also in the high encomiums which the noble Earl had bestowed upon the Sardinian Government. He had himself had an op- portunity of knowing many persons who were connected with the army of that country; and amongst them he had always found a generosity and nobility of character, which he had not been prepared to meet with very frequently amongst the Italian people. The Sardinian people, whatever unfavourable circumstances they might have had to contend with, possessed a very high sense of the value of liberty, and a genuine love of liberal institutions, which they had cherished in the face of the greatest difficulties, and without the assistance of any foreign Power. There was no nation, he believed, to the south of France, which had evinced so great a capacity of self-development, not only in the improvement of her agriculture and commerce, but in the growth of her liberal institutions, as the Sardinians had. There were no people animated with a higher sentiment of national honour. He (the Earl of Hardwicke) had had an opportunity, too, of seeing what the Sardinian soldier was. A better disciplined force, he believed, existed not upon the face of the earth. At the time he saw them they were a defeated army; they had just suffered a severe defeat at the battle of Novara; but he found them, even in that condition, an organised body of men, and commanded by most able officers, and at their head was General de La Marmora who was about to proceed to the Crimea at this time. He could state, for the satisfaction of the English army, that the General was a man of high ability, whose soldier like qualities would merit their esteem, and that he possessed, moreover, so much openness, frankness, and nobility of character, that he would be always accessible to their communications, and receive them in a congenial manner; the General was a good soldier, and a perfect gentleman.


said, that much as the present unhappy war was to be deplored, it would not be unattended with some compensatory circumstances, one of which Was the intimate relations about to be established between this country and Sardinia, and the position which that country was about to take among the nations of Europe, a position due, not to her geographical extent or the number of her people, but to the vigour of her principles, the nobility of her efforts, and the wise and righteous administration of such men as were now at the head of her affairs. The people of this country are regarding with the most intense interest and anxiety the struggles of that noble country for civil and religious liberty—for independence without and independence within; and if—which God forbid—the Government should be called upon to appeal to the people of England to defend Sardinia against external aggression—come from whatever quarter it might—rely upon it they would meet with such a response from the most northern to the most southern point of England, from John o'Groat's House to the Land's End, as had never before been made.

Address agreed to, Nemine Dissentiente; and Ordered to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.

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