HL Deb 18 April 1859 vol 153 cc1830-57

My Lords, I must begin by returning thanks to my noble Friend for his courtesy in giving way to me on this occasion. I hope that your Lordships, whom I have twice disappointed before, when I promised to make a statement upon the position of affairs in Europe, will believe, not that it was from any reluctance on my part to lay before you all the information which I might be permitted by public duty to give, but that I thought that by waiting three or four days longer, I might be able to give to your Lordships more fully that information which you looked forward to with so much anxiety. Your Lordships will easily recall to your recollection what was the state of Europe at the commencement of this year. On its very first day we were alarmed by the additional proof which was supposed to have been given by some words addressed by the Emperor of the French to the Austrian Ambassador at Paris, that the relations between France and Austria was not so satisfactory as we should all desire them to be. That belief on the part of the public was very soon strengthened by several incidents to which it is not necessary that I should advert. But while the relations of Finance, Austria, and Sardinia were certainly in an unsatisfactory and indeed in an alarming condition, the relations of this country with the whole world were, on the contrary, of a most satisfactory character. My Lords, I do not say this with any desire to obtain credit for Her Majesty's Government, because I know that questions of peace and war are in hands higher than those of men; but it is remarkable that at that time the position of this country and its relations with all other States, great and small, in both hemispheres, were those of the most profound peace and tranquillity; and this I say, because in the events which subsequently took place England was from this circumstance and from her power the country which in all Europe was hest qualified to act as mediator and negotiator between the States whose relations were not in that happy condition. I need not go at any length into a discussion of the relation occupied by Austria towards this country. Your Lordships know that the feelings of Englishmen towards the Austrian people has ever been to regard them as very ancient allies, who have been sharers in the events which are recorded in some of the most glorious pages of our history; and whose fate has heretofore been bound up with that of our own country; that we are of the same Teutonic origin, that our respective geographical positions are such that no jealousy can exist between us; and that therefore our sympathies are, for all these reasons, entirely with the Austrian people. But, by Lords, if for these reasons our sympathies are given to the Austrian people, so, on the other hand, they are, to a certain extent, alienated from them by the signal difference which exists between the two Governments. Theirs is an essentially despotic Government, and ours an essentially free one; and there certainly exists—neutralizing the feelings which I have described as prevailing between the two nations—another feeling as regards the Government of Austria which arises from that difference between the respective Governments. My Lords it appears to me that it is in Italy especially that the Austrian Government has given rise to this feeling with respect to its administration. No Minister of this country, and I believe no subject of Her Majesty, will deny the validity of the claims by which Austria holds her Italian dominions. She possesses them by inheritance, by conquest, and by treaty; and these are the same titles, by which Her Gracious Majesty holds the kingdom of Scotland, her empire of India, and some of the colonial dependencies of the British Crown and these are — the rights of inheritance, of conquest, and of treaty. My Lords, her Italian possessions have been secured to Austria by treaties which our Sovereigns have signed, and those treaties are not only held sacred by every person in this country who is interested in politics, but are looked upon as of the greatest consequence to the security of the whole of Europe, and as engagements which must be upheld by any Government which, administers the Affairs of Great Britain. It is not, therefore, on account of her pos- sessions that our feeling towards Austria is less sympathetic than it would otherwise be. It is because when in possession of that part of Italy she has not, as we think she ought to have done, wisely restricted herself to the management of her own affairs, and to the amelioration of the condition of her own people, but has been induced by political reasons to interfere with other States of Italy, and has thus become unpopular, not only in that country, but to a certain degree, as far as her administration goes, also in this. It is in private life a most dangerous and unpopular employment to be a constable to preserve the peace of a village or city. Austria has assumed this position in Italy. By keeping in awe those populations which could not be restrained by their own rulers she has not only assumed a great deal of what I should call unnecessary unpopularity, but has also diminished her strength in her own part of Italy; and there can, be no doubt that if her policy in this respect was changed she would both secure the peaceful possession of her own dominions and strengthen her political importance over the rest of the peninsula. My Lords, with respect to Sardinia our feelings are different, and the contrast is remarkable. We are not of the same race or the same descent as the people of that country, and therefore there is no sympathy of race or of descent between us and them; but there is such a resemblance between our Governments; they are so nearly identical in character that the greatest desire for the prosperity of Sardinia has always existed in this country. We have always admired the way in which she maintained her liberties, and has made herself a living refutation of those assertions which have been constantly put forth, that constitutional Governments are impossible in Italy. For some years her Government proceeded in a peaceful and prosperous manner, and when she was obliged to have recourse to arms her behaviour and her deeds were admired by all men in this country. But, my Lords, more lately, I am sorry to say, she appears to have forgotten that her mission in Italy is one of example, and that she ought to stand forth as a model and a pattern to the other States, She seems to have forgotten that military glory may be an appanage of constitutional Government, but that it is not its object. She seems to have forgotten that every victory gained which is not in support of the principle of self-defence and self-pre- servation of her own liberties would be a fruitless victory, and one which would involve her in great difficulties with other countries. It is under these circumstances that the Italian difficulties have arisen; and it is for these reasons, which I have imperfectly sketched, as far as I can understand them, that the position of the northern part of Italy is such as we see with so much regret.

My Lords, Austria and Sardinia being in this position with respect to one another, and with respect to public opinion in Italy and Europe, there remains another great empire which did not look on with indifference on what took place in Italy. That empire, I need not say, is France. Now, my Lords, it is difficult for Englishmen, and for an English Minister, to understand by what process of reasoning, and by what principle of sound policy the ruler of that prosperous country should be induced to interfere with other nations, and to involve himself in the difficulties in which they are involved. Of all countries in Europe, France has the finest climate and most equal soil. Her wealth and resources are capable of almost incalculable improvement, and there is ample room for the energies of her people and those of her Government in bringing her to a much higher state of prosperity and development than she now enjoys. But, my Lords, France in her policy has deemed it fit to unite herself completely with the cause of Sardinia, and appeared determined at the time to which I have referred to assert her right of interfering in the affairs of Italy, and of restricting what she regarded as the encroachments, both moral and material, of the Austrian empire in that country. My Lords, this could be seen only with regret by her faithful ally, Great Britain. No one would suppose us, or would suppose any English Minister, capable for a moment of assisting the Austrian legions against the subjects of the Emperor of Austria. That is utterly foreign to our principles and our policy all over the world. It is contrary to our policy to interfere in the internal arrangements of foreign nations, to seek to emancipate them from any real or supposed oppression, or to endeavour to change their existing institutions. We accept the revolutions which they bring about by their own hands and their own judgments. We recognise their de facto Governments. It is, therefore, not easy for us to understand the policy under which France appeared to be de- sirous of taking part in a contest in which she had no direct interest.

My Lords, the state of things in Italy daily grew worse, and at the end of the month of February it reached such an alarming point that, as I have already told your Lordships, Lord Cowley was sent to Vienna. Before he went there he came to a perfect understanding with the Court of France as to their ideas respecting the Italian difficulty, and he had a complete knowledge of the particular points which the French Government seemed anxious to reform and to settle. At Vienna he was received, as I informed your Lordships before, with the greatest frankness and cordiality by the Austrian Government. Lord Cowley and Count Buol, the Austrian Prime Minister, discussed those points calmly and with all the feeling of personal friends—as they were—and of political allies. I cannot, indeed, venture to predict what would have taken place under those circumstances; but I must say I believe that if the negotiations had followed the course in which they were first commenced—if Lord Cowley had been permitted to continue as the sole mediator between the Emperor of the French and the Emperor of Austria, the negotiations would have been further advanced, and we should have had a greater hope of ultimate success than we have at present, I say this, my Lords, because, if one mediator alone had been employed—such a mediator as Great Britain, through her Ambassador, Lord Cowley — I think that difficulties would have been avoided which are naturally brought forward when a more formal and complex mediation is placed before the eyes of Europe. My Lords, when Lord Cowley returned on the 16th of March to Paris he found that some communications had been going on between Russia and France, the result of which appears to be that Russia proposed that a Congress should sit upon the affairs of Italy, that Congress to be composed of the five great Powers. This was stated to me first by the French Ambassador in London, who told me that such a Congress was to be proposed, and asked whether I should approve it; observing that France entirely supported it, and wished to know what England was inclined to do. My Lords, my conviction with regard to the best means of settling these matters was that which I have just explained to you; but I felt that if that plan should fail a very heavy responsibility would fall upon me if I refused the invitation which the Russian Government gave us to enter a Congress and make a combined effort to settle the Italian difficulty. I do not think, my Lords, that I should have been justified in declining to take part in that Congress, whatever my private opinion might have been as to the result. I therefore did assent. But before I received the Russian proposition, knowing as I did what the ideas of Finance were in respect to the particular points to be discussed in the Congress if it took place, and knowing also what were Count Buol's views on those points, I thought it better to anticipate the offer of the Russian Government, and to submit a basis for the Congress. This I did on the 20th of March, and on the 22nd of that month Baron Brunow brought me the official proposition that a Congress should be held, and at the same time agreed that it should be based on the four points which I had laid before the Russian Government. My Lords, these four points were these:—First, the means by which peace should be preserved between Austria and Sardinia; secondly, how the evacuation of the Roman States by the armies of Austria and France might best be accomplished; thirdly, whether any, and if any, what reforms could he made in the internal administration of these and other Italian States, whose present administrative defects might obviously be attended with danger to the peace of Europe; and fourthly, the substitution for the treaties between Austria and the Duchies of a confederation of the minor States of Italy for their mutual internal and external protection. We further required as a condition to our assent to the Russian proposal that it should be distinctly understood that the Congress would not entertain any question of interference with the actual state of the territorial possession of Italy, or in any way disturb the articles of the Treaty of 1815. Now, my Lords, these four points were received and admitted by all the other Powers as the basis of the Congress. But there were collateral questions which arose,—and the two principal collateral questions were, first, the composition of the Congress; and second, the disarmament of the three great Powers who were antagonists to one another. Your Lordships will observe that the question of disarmament involves the first of the four points which I had laid down—namely, the means by which peace should be preserved between Austria and Sardinia. With respect to the question of disarmament there occurred a difference of opinion. It was proposed by some that that disarmament should be accepted only in principle, and that its details should be the first question considered in the Congress. By others it was supposed to be much the preferable alternative that disarmament, real and effective, should precede the Congress, and that the Congress should be entered into upon grounds entirely political, and with a peaceful attitude. My Lords, I have no hesitation in saying that it was the opinion of Her Majesty's Government that a previous disarmament was the preferable course. It seems consistent with sound policy and common sense that persons who are antagonists, and who have to discuss thorny and difficult questions, should not enter the council chamber armed; that they should not enter into the discussion having the power, if they disagreed, of having recourse to force; and that they should have the means of violence taken from them before they engaged in discussion. That point, as I will tell your Lordships later, was considered, and, I am sorry to say, is not yet settled; but the question of the composition of the Congress was, after some discussion, arranged. Your Lordships will recollect that the Russian Government proposed that the five great Powers should alone sit in Congress. This has been the custom of Europe for a great many years when questions affecting the great public law of Europe have been discussed; and there appeared to none of us any reason why we should depart from the usual practice, and make an exception on the present occasion by calling in any other Power to assist us. But, my Lords, it at the same time seemed to me, inasmuch as we were going to discuss social and political questions of the greatest interest to Italians, that the Italian States ought somehow or other to be heard in the Congress; and, although upon the different points we had no intention of imposing either reforms or confederations, or any other improvement which we might wish to see effected on any one of the Italian States—although it was our intention, if we entered into Congress, only to recommend those reforms after we had deliberately entertained them, yet it appeared to me that it would he of very great advantage to those deliberations that the Italian nations should be represented, and should, on the one hand hear what we had to propose, while we, on the other hand, should hear what they had to say to our propositions. I therefore proposed that they should be invited and admitted whenever we wished to hear them during our deliberations. And that no want of respect might appear implied in this proposal, I reminded the great Powers and the Italian States of the analogous case that occurred in this country in 1830. At that time your Lordships will remember that the dispute between Holland and Belgium was proceeding, and the important operation of dividing that kingdom and erecting Belgium into a new monarchy, was settled by a Congress in London. Holland and Belgium were the principal parties to that arrangement, but they were not received into the Congress, or rather Conference, as it was called, as principals. They were heard in the Conference through their respective Ministers, who were first called Commissioners, and afterwards Commissioners Extraordinary, to that Conference. It appeared to Her Majesty's Government that there would be nothing derogatory to the dignity of the Italian States in following that precedent. But there is also another precedent, that of the Congress of Laybach, held in 1821, when Russia, Prussia, and Austria, made the nucleus of a Congress, which, after sitting some time, came to certain decisions with respect to Italian affairs, and then they invited the Italian States to sit with them, and to take a part in the discussion. But, my Lords, Sardinia, when the proposition of Her Majesty's Government was made, claimed, as one of the antagonists, to sit in the Congress. All the great Powers resisted that demand, and agreed that it would be very inconvenient to depart from the usual precedents. If Sardinia claimed to sit as a principal in the Congress, because she is interested in Italian affairs and the preservation of the peace of Europe, then the same claim might be made by Switzerland, the smaller German States, or any other country on the confines of Italy who might be in any way affected. It was, therefore, completely determined by all the five Powers, that Sardinia and the other Italian States should be invited to sit on the Congress only after it should have assembled; and that then those States might send delegates to inform the Congress of the wishes of their various Governments. My Lords, while this discussion was proceeding another was taking place with respect to the question of disarming. Austria put forth, with considerable tenacity, that she would not attend the Congress unless Sar- dinia previous disarmed. That appeared to Her Majesty's Government an unfair proposal; but we suggested this course—that if Sardinia would consent to disarm, it would invite France, together with England, to guarantee her from any attack on the part of Austria; and Austria at the same time offered to make a public declaration that it would not make any attack on Sardinia. But that proposal fell to the ground because the French Government declined to make such a guarantee. Her Majesty's Government, therefore, have never proposed to Sardinia to disarm, because we could not give her the guarantee necessary for her security. But after considerable discussion, with which I will not weary your Lordships, the case stands at present in this form:—Austria and France have agreed to the principle of a disarmament, but have not agreed as to the time and manner of it. Austria proposes a disarmament previous to the Congress. France proposes that the principle of a disarmament shall be acknowledged before the Congress meets; but that the details of that disarmament shall be considered after it has met. But I may say that my own opinion is that the Congress is not the most competent body to discuss the details of the disarming of three great armies, and that this would be better done by a commission of officers of the three armies before the Meeting of the Congress so that when the several Powers enter the Congress there would be nothing to disturb the minds of the representatives but the questions they are sent to discuss, which will be entirely of a political nature and having nothing nothing to do with military operations. I am sorry to say, therefore, that the question of disarming is not settled, and that it is one without the settlement of which we cannot enter advantageously into the Congress. The matter, my Lords, therefore stands as I have now described. Sardinia has also been invited to disarm by Prussia, exactly on the same footing as Austria and France; but she has not consented, grounding her hesitation on her exclusion from the Congress.

My Lords, it is a source of considerable regret, as you may well imagine, to Her Majesty's Government that it is not able to give a more satisfactory account of the negotiations that have been so long pending on this subject. I feel all the responsibility and all the gravity of the situation. Her Majesty's Government having such a task on its hands would for its own credit have applied all its energies to it; but there is an object much greater than the credit of individuals or of the Government—that object is the peace of Europe; and when you consider, if unhappily we are to have war, what a war it will be, the responsibility of those men who have refused or neglected any occasion of averting it is great indeed. It will be no common war; it will be no conflict between chivalrous nations in a distant land, like the Russian war in the Crimea. By a war in Italy, elements will be up heaved that will scarcely be settled again within our time. It will excite the hopes of persons without the slightest patriotism, who will endeavour to obtain their own desperate objects by such a war. It will evoke every wild theorist, and every impossible theory, of Republicans of every hue and colour; all will expect to find their account in this war; it will include all kinds of principles, and raise all kinds of expectations; it is impossible for any human being, whatever his experience to say when such a war would end, or what would be its termination. Then, my Lords, I may be permitted, as the Minister of a country as great as either of the powers involved, to implore the Ministers of those countries, to think once more, how serious is the responsibility of those who lightly enter upon such a war, and how great may be the calamities that may be caused by any neglect, or hesitation on their part, to adopt the measures that may avert hostilities. The only consolation we have, personally, is that, as Her Majesty's Ministers, we have omitted no single step that was within our power, have neglected no possible means of averting such disasters; and if they overwhelm us, may Almighty God pardon those by whom they shall be caused.


My Lords, the speech of the noble Earl has laid bare a state of things so perplexing and so difficult that I do not wonder the noble Earl should have postponed it till the latest possible moment. I do not wonder he wished to postpone the communication while there was any hope of bringing these protracted negotiations to a conclusion that might have realized the expectations he held out to your Lordships, that unless some untoward and almost impossible event occurred, the Congress might assemble at the close of this month. I am not complaining of the delay that his taken place; I think it is not unnatural that Her Majesty's Government should have wished to wait, in the hope of being able to give a more satisfactory account of the negotiations. I think it not unnatural that the Government should have feared the effect of Parliamentary discussion upon them; though I believe in this case the fear has no foundation—because during the ten weeks so many conflicting reports have been in circulation, the conduct of Parliament has been eminently judicious. A complete absence of party spirit, and the calmest forbearance, have marked the sense Parliament has entertained of the gravity and importance of the interests involved in these negotiations; and its unanimity on more than one occasion has expressed its conviction that the national law of Europe ought to be maintained. I wish that my noble Friend had been able to make a more satisfactory statement to your Lordships. I wish that on the eve of the dissolution of Parliament, when during six weeks this country will be deprived of the assistance which Parliament might have given to the Ministers of the Crown, my noble Friend had been able to afford explanations more calculated to allay the public anxiety. But, my Lords, assuming that there is sincerity on the part of the Governments concerned—assuming that they are not pursuing a hidden policy, which they dare not avow, and which would entail that frightful responsibility to which my noble Friend alluded in the concluding part of his speech—it is difficult to comprehend how matters have arrived at their present stage. Austria declares that she will not attack Piedmont; Piedmont declares that she will not attack Austria; and France declares that she will not attack Austria unless Austria attacks Piedmont. England, Prussia, and Russia have been employing' their good offices unceasingly, according to the statement of my noble Friend, in order to bring about a satisfactory settlement of these difficulties; all profess the utmost anxiety for peace and the utmost abhorrence of war; and yet, during all this time, preparations for war upon a gigantic and ruinous scale have been made. Austrian corps d'armée have been pouring into Italy; fortresses have been provisioned and placed in a state of most complete defence; troops have arrived from Algiers and from Paris, which we are told are to compose an army of the Alps; there is unusual activity in the arsenals and dockyards of France; in short, everything in France denotes an approaching campaign. Piedmont is exhausting her resources and checking the industry of her people by the large army she is keeping on foot, and by the maintenance of those great bodies of volunteers which she invites from every part of Italy. The warlike spirit of Germany, can scarcely be kept under control, while the newspapers of the different countries are full of offensive and hostile articles. And yet, in presence of this menacing state of affairs—in this hourly increasing danger of war—this Congress, which is said to be the only means of maintaining peace, cannot meet because the parties have not agreed upon the sine quibus non conditions of the negotiations. My Lords, I must say this does not bear out the assumption that there is an honest purpose or a real desire to keep the peace. This fact justifies mistrust, and to that mistrust I attribute the proposals which my noble Friend has just mentioned, and which have certainly increased the existing complications. Now, I think that Austria should not have made a demand upon Piedmont to disarm; and I think that that demand should have received neither support nor encouragement, for Austria thereby has rendered herself obnoxious to the charge of proposing that which she knew could not be agreed to, and therefore of creating an unnecessary amount of obstacles to the meeting of the Congress. And, my Lords, in the present excitement and enthusiasm in Piedmont, no matter how that arose and whether justifiable or not, I really can conceive nothing more likely to bring about that rupture which all profess to dread than the disarmament of those inflammable materials collected from every quarter—those corps of volunteers, amounting, I understand, to about 10,000 men. All these are now under the control of military discipline; but once let loose from order, they would have committed acts which Austria would have punished, and Piedmont would have resented. I have heard with very sincere satisfaction this evening from my noble Friend not only that this proposal did not originate, as was at first imagined, with Her Majesty's Government, but that it proceeded from Austria and received from them no support. But, my Lords, Austria has made another proposal for a general disarmament, according to the statement of my noble Friend. Although, abstractedly speaking, such a proposal would be most desirable in itself, yet when considered with reference to the meeting of the Congress it does not appear to me to be a wise proposal—if, indeed, it is not impossible. If Austria were to recall all those troops that she has lately sent into Italy, and if Piedmont were to adopt a similar course, there is no doubt that the prospects of peace would be incalculably promoted. But I fear things have gone too far for that. None of the parties can sufficiently trust each other; none of them have sufficient security as to what will be the result of the Congress—to venture on disarmament at the present moment; and they cannot be sure that they would not have immediate occasion to re-arm, which it would take months to effect. It seems to me that the proper course to have taken was simply to have entered into an understanding by which it should have been agreed that no further preparations should be made, that no troops should be moved from their actual position, and that no attack should be made by either party, until the Congress should have deliberated upon the questions in dispute. In fact, things should have been left in the exact position they were in at the moment. The points for deliberation might then have been settled. This might have been done if the parties sincerely desired to do that which was right and just and likely to be lasting, and it would have been found that the business of the Congress lay in a nutshell, and its deliberations might have been brought to a conclusion in the course of a fortnight. I was glad to hear from my noble Friend—although his statement was far from satisfactory — that the idea of a Congress is not abandoned. After all that has passed, after all the expectations that have been held out, I think it would be unfortunate if a Congress were not to meet. A Congress is necessary after a war in which several Powers have been engaged in order to settle the terms of peace, and to make those arrangements which are necessary for the establishment of peace, in which arrangements all the Powers concerned are interested; but in the present case it is difficult to understand what are the questions upon which the deliberations of a Congress are necessary. If, my Lords, it is intended to require Austria to withdraw from that territory to which she has treaty rights, why, my noble Friend and Her Majesty's Government know very well that the answer of Austria would be that she recognizes no authority on the part of a Congress in 1859 to abrogate the rights conferred by the Congress of 1815. Austria would reply that she was prepared to defend her rights; and there would be an end of the Congress. If, on the other hand, it is intended to require Austria to withdraw her troops from the Papal States, we all know that she says she is prepared to do so as soon as France withdraws from Home. If it is intended to demand an abrogation of the treaties between Austria and the Italian States, that is a matter for negotiation and we might so avoid the danger and delay of a Congress. In fact, if what my noble Friend says is strictly true it would appear that when Lord Cowley returned to Paris he had in his hand all the means of bringing matters to a satisfactory solution. But I believe that all my noble Friend knows is this—that one despotic Power has proposed to another despotic Power that, by means of a Congress, a third despotic Power should pave the way for liberal institutions in Italy. Now, I doubt very much whether there is sufficient sincerity in the Powers concerned to carry this arrangement to a successful issue. The removal of all the difficulties which have arisen must depend upon the spirit in which the Congress shall conduct its labours; but as it appears that the alternative is an immediate war, the holding of a Congress is nothing more than an extension of the principle adopted at the time of the signing of the Treaty of Paris, of having recourse to mediation before an appeal should be made to arms; and one may reasonably expect that when the representatives of the great Powers shall meet around a table, rights guaranteed by treaties will be respected. But in order that this expectation should have a chance of being fulfilled it will be necessary that the contracting Powers should come to some preliminary arrangements—first, the rights conferred by treaty shall be strictly respected, and secondly, that the rights conferred by treaty shall in no respect be exceeded. If we are parties to, or in any way sanction the violation of those treaties by which the Austrian possessions in Italy are secured and maintained, we may rely upon it that that process will not stop there, and that we shall soon have to consider other and more important questions of territorial arrangement. However, it may be thought, after a lapse of forty years, that in some cases the provisions of the Treaty of Vienna were defective in foresight—and it cannot be denied that in two or three cases they have broken down under the overwhelming force of circumstances—it cannot upon the whole be denied that they have served their purpose by maintaining the peace of Europe; and the best proof of the confidence attached to the arrangements which they effected was the universal satisfaction with which all Europe hailed the declaration of the Emperor of the French that he would respect the faith of treaties. But if these treaties are now to be torn up, and if Europe is to be scrambled for, I say that nothing but endless strife and universal confusion can arise. It is therefore not only for the interest of Austria, but for the general security of Europe, that the rights conferred by the treaties which now form a portion of the international law of Europe should be maintained; and, although in some cases these treaties may be repugnant to that spirit of liberty and desire of progress which are inherent in Englishmen we are bound in honour and in good faith to maintain them. It was owing to that determination that France and England engaged in the late war with Russia, and submitted to the many sacrifices it entailed, and not certainly from any desire of strengthening the Mahomedan power and checking the progress of civilization in some of the fairest provinces of Europe. We must also remember, my Lords, what were the objects of the Powers by whom the Treaty of Vienna was concluded. Their objects were mainly directed against France—to create a barrier against France, and more especially in the north of Italy; and therefore it was by the unanimous wish of all the great Powers of Europe that Austria resumed her possessions in Lombardy; and it was for precisely the same reason that Genoa was added to Piedmont. All the territorial possessions maintained or secured to Austria are to be found set forth in detail in the Treaty of Vienna, and the possessions of Austria in Italy, have been most correctly described by my noble Friend when he said that they are the result of conquest, or inheritance, or long tenure, or contracts which for upwards of 100 years have been recognized as part of the international law of Europe. Upon those treaties Austria has a right to take her stand; upon those treaties, so taking her stand, she should be upheld by the other Powers of Europe. But when she takes her stand upon those treaties I think she is bound to make every concession compatible with her honour to avert the calamities of war. I think she is bound not to exceed, by one single hair's breadth, the rights she has thus acquired. It is contrary to those treaties, and contrary to international law that Austria should claim a right to occupy, and to reduce to a condition of political vassalage, States that ought to be independent. I think that those exclusive treaties between Austria and the sovereigns of the adjacent States in Italy which, on the one hand, confer a right on them to call on her for aid, and on the other hand, in the event of disturbances give her a right to occupy their territories—I think that those treaties are unnecessary; I believe that they are a great mistake on the part of Austria, and that they have been productive to her of considerable injury. I do not think there is much reason to apprehend that they will now be carried into execution. In the present temper of Europe I believe that the occupation of any of those territories by Austria would be looked upon much in the same light in which the occupation of the Danubian provinces by Russia was regarded. I believe that it is in the interest of Austria that those treaties should terminate, because while they exist she is made responsible for the state of things which has arisen, under which the Sovereigns of those States are enabled to disregard the wishes and opinions of their people, to sacrifice their interests, and to govern without any reference to those reciprocal duties which belong to Sovereigns and to people; because, as one of them said, "I have 300,000 soldiers to back me, and I can do as I like." I say that those treaties should be terminated, and with them the occupation of the Papal territories, which has hitherto been justified by Austria as a measure of security against the spread of disaffection. But the disaffection of which Austria lives in constant dread arises from misgovernment. Men are not naturally disaffected or turbulent; men do not naturally rebel against good laws and good treatment; but they resist injustice and murmur under the misery created by bad laws and bad administration. In the present condition of the Papal States one foreign army is employed in maintaining tranquillity in the capital, and another in performing the same service in the provinces. But I believe that the French occupation of Rome has been a great misfortune to France. It has placed her in a false position, and a false position always becomes worse in the course of time. France has long felt that her army in Rome can neither remain there with credit nor withdraw with safety; and as long as that army remains where it is, France, in the eyes of the world, is virtually responsible for the acts of the Papal Government. Good advice has not been spared in that case, but it has hitherto been tendered in vain, and all offers to interfere in the internal affairs of the Papal Government, except for the purpose of maintaining order and repressing the just discontent of the people, have been peremptorily refused. No position, I think, can be more false or more injurious to a great nation than that. I brought this subject of the occupation of the Papal territory before the Congress of Paris because I thought that the moment was an opportune one, when we were taking measures for withdrawing foreign troops from the Russian, the Greek, and other territories, to suggest the expediency of adopting a similar policy in regard to Italy. I thought that the state of things which prevailed in that country could not last, and that as long as it did last it would be a source of danger to Europe. Count Buol then agreed that the Austrian and French troops should be removed as soon as it could be done with a duo regard to the tranquillity of the Papal States and the consolidation of the authority of the Holy See. My Lords, three years have now passed without any effect having been given to that Resolution; whereas I believe that if that arrangement had been carried out with foresight and in a becoming spirit most of the present complications would never have ensued. Her Majesty's Government could do no more than press the views which they held on this subject on the notice of the Governments concerned; and even if we had had diplomatic relations with Rome any representations of ours would have been disregarded. Some six or seven weeks ago, however, we were told that the Pope had, of his own accord, requested the withdrawal of those foreign forces, stating that he was able to dispense with them; but how that request was made — in what form it was presented, in hat manner it was received, how it was acted upon, or why the French and Austrian troops still remain just where they were, we are entirely in the dark. I have been informed that the Austrian Government expressed the greatest readiness to comply with our request—that two battalions of Austrian troops actually left Bologna, and that the rest of the garrison would have quitted in a few days, when, somehow or other, something occurred to put an end to their removal. I believe that with proper precautions for maintaining tranquillity those troops might with safety be withdrawn. I believe that all persons of influence in the central States of Italy have a great dread of revolution and a great desire to arrive at a better system of government by peaceful and legitimate means. I believe that the bubble of Italian unity has burst. I believe that the partisans of Mazzini and their detestable doctrines are extinguished. I believe that there is no longer any faith in republican institutions; but that, as my noble Friend says, the example of the Sardinian Government has not been without its beneficial influence by proving that liberty and monarchy are not incompatible. If, as we have a right to expect, the Treaty of 1815 is to be maintained—if Austria is prepared to withdraw her forces from the Papal States—if, alive to the inconvenience of those exclusive treaties—and the just cause of complaint which they furnish—if Austria is prepared to make all such concessions as will not be dishonourable or humiliating to her—we might ask, in the first place, where is the necessity even for a Congress? Still more might we ask, where has been the necessity for those great military preparations which for three months have kept Europe in a state of anxious suspense, have put a stop to all commercial enterprise, and have already inflicted incalculable losses upon the countries engaged in them? And with still greater reason might we ask where is the ground and where is the pretext for war? My Lords, war may desolate Italy; but it will not settle what is called "the Italian Question." The country may be laid waste, the fiercest passions may be called into action, all those parties described by my noble Friend may join in the affray; it is possible that after a time the Austrians may be driven out of Lombardy; Tuscany, Parma, Modena, and Lombardy may be annexed to Piedmont; but I believe that such an arrangement would soon prove more distasteful to the Lombards than even their union with Austria. There is no affinity between the Lombards and Piedmontese—not even that of language—and I cannot believe that the proud aristocracy of Milan and Venice would approve of becoming dependents of Piedmont, haying Turin for their capital, and sending deputies to the Piedmontese Parliament, any more than the Piedmontese would like to be dependents of Lombardy, and to have Milan or Venice for their capital. Great dissensions would arise which might endanger the liberties of Piedmont, who might find, too late, that she had been no more than the pioneer and advanced guard of France, and that in grasping at the shadow of power she had sacrificed the substance of liberty. It had been said that an attempt should be made to unite all the minor States of Italy into one confederation; but that must be the act of the victor—that would be the act of France; and whether the Prince were native or French who was elected to reign over them, he would require the support of the French army. And so, also, would the Pope, for all his subjects to a man will rebel, in the event of a war, unless they are kept under by a force far superior to any that France has hitherto kept in Rome. There would be then the substitution of one foreign domination for another; and the position of France would be more onerous and untenable than it is now, as she would soon learn—for there can be no greater mistake than to suppose that even among the bitterest enemies of Austria there is any other feeling than that an armed French intervention in Italian affairs is an evil of the greatest magnitude. French domination would be as odious as Austrian. The congress could perform no more useful task than to establish the principle of non-interference—the principle of letting the Italian States alone. I think they are as well educated, as intelligent, as civilized, and as capable of understanding their own interests and conducting their own affairs as any other nation in Europe. In the Treaty of Paris you will find it stipulated that there shall exist no separate right of interference in the affairs of the Danubian Principalities, and that even in the event of the disturbance of tranquillity there shall be no armed intervention, except with the previous assent of all the allies. If my noble Friend, by his eloquence and arguments, can persuade the Powers about to meet—the same Powers which secured to the Moldo-Wallachian provinces this immunity—to agree to place the Italian States upon the same footing, he will have performed a service of the greatest value to all Europe. I have only further to say, that I hope my noble Friend will carry with him all the strength and the moral support of this country, which he will need in what I fear he will find a difficult task, and I can assure him that nothing shall fall from me to embarrass him or to rob him of that support. My noble Friend's services have lately been made use of to a certain extent for party purposes by his friends, but he himself is the last man to think himself indispensable to the peace of Europe. Probably he will agree with me that the indispensable man has yet to be born; but certainly the injudicious ardour of his Friends has not a little increased his responsibility and exposed him to harsh criticism, in which, I can assure him, I am not at all disposed to join. My noble Friend's task will be an arduous one; but I can say for myself, and for those who sit behind me, that no spirit of party shall prevent our making the fullest and fairest allowance for all the difficulties with which he may have to contend, or shall damp the satisfaction with which we shall learn that success has crowned his efforts.


My Lords, I feel it my duty, and it affords me great satisfaction, to bear my cordial testimony to the very fair, and candid, and impartial statement that has just fallen from the noble Earl. I must also join in the tenor of the commendation with which he commenced his observations on the course which has been generally pursued, the abstinence from raising irritating questions under circumstances of such extreme difficulty, and the great danger and jeopardy that might ensue, not only from bringing forward any question or raising any discussion that might tend to throw imputations on Her Majesty's Government, and that might in the slightest degree tend to diminish the chance of preserving the peace of Europe. But, my Lords, not only do I return my grateful thanks on the part of my noble Friend in the first instance, and to Parliament generally, for the wise and cautious abstinence that has been observed upon this subject, and also to my noble Friend for the speech that has just been delivered, but I wish to state my firm, my entire conviction, that if there be yet—as I hope there is—a chance or a hope for the maintenance of the peace of Europe, that chiefest chance and that best of hope is to be found in the conviction impressed upon all the nations of Europe, that with regard to the main principles embodied in this great question, there is no difference of opinion between any of the English parties; and, therefore, my Lords, it was with he greatest gratification that I listened to the speech of the noble Earl, and that I failed to detect in his speech from the be-ginning to the end a single principle laid down, or a single sentiment expressed to which I do not give my hearty, my unhesitating adhesion. And, my Lords, it is to Her Majesty's Government a source of the highest satisfaction to know that authorities so high as my noble Friend and those who sit around him, are agreed not only on the main principles laid down by my noble Friend and by Her Majesty's Government, and that they entirely concur in their objects and consider them as the principles on which only a satisfactory arrangement can be based. My noble Friend has acquitted Her Majesty's Government of any intention of desiring in the Congress about to take place—if it do take place—to introduce any doubt of the maintenance of the treaties of 1815. Now, not only can there be no doubt as to the intention of Her Majesty's Government and of their feeling of the indispensable obligation to maintain those treaties, but I think my noble Friend opposite will recollect, that on laying down the four bases on which the subject was to be discussed in the Congress, my noble Friend stated that he had laid down on the part of Her Majesty's Government not only the four bases which were to be the subject of general discussion, but that there was also a fifth basis or principle which was to be a sine qua non prior to the Congress entering into a discussion at all; and that fifth provision was this, that Her Majesty's Government would require, as a condition of the acceptance of the Russian proposal, that it should be distinctly understood that the Congress would not entertain any question of interference with the actual state of territorial position in Italy, or in any way disturb the treaties of 1815. And I think that it was impossible for language to lay down more distinctly and positively, not only what was the feeling and intention of Her Majesty's Government, not only that we relied upon it as a sine qua non, for the acceptance of the Congress, but also that the principle so laid down was assented to by all the Four Great Powers who are invited to be members of the Congress. I think that the adoption or assumption of that principle is a declaration that that principle was a sine qua non at the Congress, and that on that principle alone could any great step be taken, or any great progress made towards the maintenance of peace. I do not understand that my noble Friend objects in the slightest degree to the various points laid down as the bases for consideration in Congress. He has raised, indeed, some questions as to the time at which it might be desirable, and as to the way in which it might be possible, to carry out the principle of disarmament; but as regards the principle of disarmament generally, he concurs in the propriety of it, not as a preliminary, but as an indispensable guarantee for the maintenance of peace. He concurs entirely in the expediency and propriety of stipulating for the evacuation of the Roman States by foreign armies, by the recommendation rather than by the compulsion of the great moral authority that attaches to a Congress of great States and Powers. He agrees in the desirableness of effecting reforms in the States of Central Italy; in the doing away with the abuses that engender discontent, and that are calculated to superinduce disorder; and lastly, he lays considerable stress on a revision of the treaties between Austria and the Duchies, and the confederacy of minor States in Italy. My Lords, I trust that this will go forth to the world, and that it will not be liable to be misconstrued or controverted, that we regard the maintenance of the treaties of 1815, as a sine qua non of Congress. We further urged the four principal bases on which the Congress is to enter on its labours as of primary importance; and these four bases have been recognized, as I am happy to say they were expected to be recognized, as just, fair, and reasonable, by the Powers themselves, and by the unanimous assent of both sides of this House, as I have no doubt they also will be by the other House of Parliament. I will not profess or pretend to vindicate the precise course that has been pursued by Her Majesty's Government, or say whether, or upon any or on every occasion, we have taken the exact course that was most likely to effect the object we had in view; but this I will venture to say, that the course that we have taken from the commencement has been one that in our view has tended with the greatest probability of success to secure the single object we desiderated and had in view—namely, the prevention of the outbreak of war in Europe, the results of which no prudence can prevent and no sagacity foresee. I believe, undoubtedly, with my noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon), that there would have been a better chance of arriving at an early and satisfactory settlement if the original proposition made by Her Majesty's Government had been acceded to, and if the great question of mediation had been left in the able hands of Lord Cowley; because, during the short time that Lord Cowley—I can hardly say was conducting negotiations — but was engaged in communications, he had actually succeeded in laying down the bases of communication upon which both France and Austria were prepared to treat, and which both parties would admit to be bases for a satisfactory settlement of the differences and difficulties; and I have no doubt but that, with the best intentions, subsequently, or rather contemporaneously, the offer made by Russia of a general Congress of the great Powers tended to introduce these difficulties, which have been found to retard agreement, and in point of fact, that the proposition for a Congress, although it was impossible for Her Majesty's Government to reform it when once made, is really a less likely and speedy mode of settling the difficulties of Europe, than had the matter been left to Lord Cowley, whose ability would be trusted alike by England, Austria, and France. My noble Friend has stated that supposing all parties to be sincere in their desire, it is difficult to account for the state of Europe at the present moment; and I concur with him in that, because it has been shown that if the treaties of 1815 are to be maintained, and if the questions that alone occasion any ostensible cause of difficulties and differences are agreed to by the great Powers principally concerned in the proposed amicable Conference for the settlement of affairs—it is, undoubtedly, difficult to account for those enormous armaments and those stupendous preparations which are being made more or less ostentatiously, and which augur immediate and formidable hostilities. My Lords, I must say—and it shows how careful we ought to be in words and expressions, particularly when they come from persons in high places—I attribute much of the distrust, much of the anxiety, and the military preparation that has supervened, to those unfortunate words that fell from the King of Sardinia when opening the Sardinian Legislature. The moment, my Lords, the King of Sardinia, stepping out of his legitimate course of watching over the prosperity and welfare of his own people, of consolidating their liberties, upholding their interests, and confirming their prosperity, so as thereby to secure to himself and the country over which he swayed the sceptre, the approbation and support of all the nations of the Continent, and more especially of this country, and of all those nations that have at heart the cause of peace and freedom— when, my Lords, stopping out of his allotted and most honourable station, the King of Sardinia supposed that a cry of anguish came forth from Italy, and assumed that to that cry of anguish Sardinia could not be indifferent; when in the Senate of Sardinia allusion was made to the discontent that prevailed throughout the Lombardo-Venetian provinces, and the occupation of Piacenza — by Austria was treated as a standing menace to the security of Europe—when all these statements and allusions were made, tending undoubtedly to show that an outbreak in the Lombardo-Venetian territories, if not actually stimulated, would not be discouraged by Piedmont, but would be looked upon rather as the legitimate expression of national feeling, in which the sympathies and even more than the mere moral aid of Piedmont might be brought advantageously to bear—when, my Lords, such statements were made it can hardly be considered unnatural for her own protection and the maintenance of her own territories as well as the order of those districts that Austria should feel herself dissatisfied, and that preparations should be made on a larger and more extensive scale. And I am bound to say, also, that, so far as language could go, the declarations of Austria from first to last have been uniform and constant—namely, that so long as Sardinia confined herself within her own territories, and did not interfere with those obligations by which Austria was hound, in that case Sardinia had no reason to apprehend any attack from her; and that the Cabinet of Vienna was not unwilling, but would rather esteem it a friendly act, that France and England, if France was so disposed, should enter into an understanding to guarantee Sardinia against all risk of Austrian invasion. I concur in the observations made by my noble Friend opposite as to the injurious character of these treaties, not only to Italy but to Austria itself, into which Austria has entered with many of the Italian States; but notwithstanding that, however unwise, however ill-advised, however injurious to the interests of Austria, these treaties giving her no right to enter as an independent governing Power, I think they are injudicious, and promotive of the danger of war, rather than affording assurance of pacification and protection. I think it would be wise if they were abandoned by Austria; and I believe that if Lord Cowley's mediation had been permitted to have gone on, these treaties would to a great extent have been abrogated, or some substitution for them found; and that in that way one of the great difficulties of the Italian question would have been safely and satisfactorily overcome. My Lords, again I say, with regard to the occupation of the Roman States, that is a point which by universal consent was a matter that may fairly be left to the deliberation of the Congress, and, subsequent to these deliberations, to the concert and understanding of France and Austria themselves; at all events, the principle having been adopted under the advice of the Congress, the execution of it might have been safely left to the three parties principally concerned—namely, Austria, France, and the Pope. I must say, however, that this history of the negotiations relative to the evacuation of the Roman States is somewhat veiled in mystery. It has been stated that a demand was made by the Holy See, and no doubt it was, for the immediate withdrawal of these troops from the Roman territories; and my noble Friend has stated that a move had already taken place on the part of Austria. I know not under what circumstances it has happened that no further progress has been made in that movement. At the same time I think it right and fair to say I do not believe that the immediate withdrawal of the troops of France and Austria could have been effected without running a serious risk of disastrous consequences—consequences disastrous to Rome and to the whole of the Italian States. But I think it was most important that—the principle of evacuation having been laid down—that that evacuation should take place, that it should take place within a given time, and that those reforms and proper precautions should be taken on the part of the Papal Government itself as to enable it to be done safely and consistently with the interest of the world at large. I will not detain your Lordships longer by entering into a consideration of the various negotiations and the various measures taken for the purpose of ensuring a settlement of this momentous question by our own and other mediation, or the anxiety felt by Her Majesty's Government for a settlement at the coming Congress of this difficult and perplexing question. My Lords, I think the time has now nearly approached when it must be finally and definitely settled whether the Congress is to meet at all, or whether a peaceful solution of this question be possible; and, my Lords, I say that it would neither be for the honour nor for the interest of this country that these negotiations and these preliminary discussions as to the specific form of the Congress should long be protracted. I think, my Lords, the time has come, or that it has nearly come, when England—which, indeed, has made one more effort and one more proposition, which it is not fitting for me at the present moment to lay before your Lordships—but I think the time is closely approximating when England should say, the period has gone by for trifling, and the period has come when, having exhausted all her friendly and disinterested offices—when, having left no means untried which, in the opinion of Government and with the approval of Parliament, were calculated to secure the blessings of a permanent peace—England must, however reluctantly, withdraw from all interference in affairs in which she no longer hopes that her interference will be useful to the public interest or consistent with her own dignity, and that she must then reserve herself, as she has reserved herself up to this moment, absolute and entire freedom to take such steps and to pursue such a policy as she may hereafter think fit. My noble Friend has pointed out the danger and the lamentable consequences that must arise if this war does break out—the consequences that must fall and be inflicted upon Italy, whatever the ultimate result, and whoever is first to draw the sword or secure the ascendancy; but he has, I think, my Lords, underrated the magnitude of the danger if he confines the probability of the operation or the calamitous consequences or such a war to the Lombardo-Venetian provinces, or to its localisation in Italy alone. If this war unhappily breaks out, Italy will be the central point or platform of a war of the most sanguinary description, because it will be a war of principle and of passion. It will not be a war between two great nations contending for some definite and ambitious object, but it will be a struggle that will excite the most conflicting principles and develope the most violent passions, and of which, as regards the future fate of Italy, no satisfactory solution can be foreseen. But, my Lords, it will do far more—for, war once broken out in Italy, it is hopeless to imagine that it will be confined within the compass of that peninsula. Other passions will he aroused, other conflicting nationalities will arise, and other nations be called on to interfere in the conflict; and war once originated in Italy would at no distant period extend throughout its centre and to its frontiers, and wrap the whole of Europe in one general conflagration. It would not, my Lords, be difficult to trace the steps, nor would it be wise to do so, by which such an extension would necessarily come; but I will only say that even for this country it would be impossible to look with total indifference at any alteration of the occupation of the shores of the Adriatic. Our interest and power on the waters of the Mediterranean, and the possible consequences of any such catastrophe are such as would require the most careful vigilance and the most earnest attention on our part to guard against any possible contingency from the side of any Power whatever. It is quite obvious that it requires but very little stepping out of the limits precisely defined of Italy itself to bring, under the strictest and highest obligations of treaty, the whole of the Germanic Confederation within the circle of the contest. Germany brought into the field, what becomes of Belgium? what becomes of Switzerland? what becomes generally of the state of the political relations and the warlike attitude of the other Powers of Europe? War, my Lords, once begun in Italy, cannot be confined to Italy; and once spread beyond the limits of Italy it is impossible to foresee who will be drawn into it, how far it may extend, or what will be the result. This country is deeply interested in the maintenance of peace; this country is prepared to make many sacrifices for the maintenance of peace; but, the interest of this country being perpetuating peace, she cannot assume a position that would leave her in a helpless and defence less condition; and if war break out, whatever may be the consequences, it is indispensable and necessary that as long as our neutrality shall last it must be to a certain extent an armed neutrality, enabling us, in any case, to take our part, on which side so ever it may be, that honour, and justice, and dignity require us to take. That, my Lords, is the course that I hope her Majesty's Government will be supported in taking by the unanimous opinion of the Parliament and people of this country; for I am quite certain I am expressing that which is the sound and only rational policy this country can pursue, God grant, my Lords, that the necessity may be spared us of entering on so dangerous a path and policy! God grant that in the collective councils of Europe there may yet prevail a tone of greater moderation, greater wisdom, and greater temper; and that those clouds that at present lower as though heralding a storm time, may pass by and pass away in as unbroken calm. Of this I am sure, that the maintenance of peace depends in a great measure on the unanimous assent of Parliament to the principles laid down, and to the sentiments so eloquently expressed on either side of the House; and I am quite sure, also, that the maintenance of peace will be materially strengthened and supported by the knowledge throughout Europe at large that this country will not be allowed to remain a helpless or a feeble spectator of events that may compromise her dignity and her honour; and that a serious responsibility will rest on the head of that Power, whichever it may be, that without due provocation, and without the most urgent and imperative necessity, merely to gratify its own ambitious aims, precipitates the evils, the dangers, and the crimes of war.