§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, your Lordships are aware that the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Malmesbury) has given notice to-night of his intention to move for two Circulars signed by Count Cavour, dated the 14th and 16th June, respectively, if communicated to Her Majesty's Government; also, for Count Cavour's Reply to the Despatch of the noble Earl to Sir James Hudson, dated June 7. The noble 1282 Marquess on the cross benches (the Marquess of Normanby) has also given notice to move for a Copy of a Despatch from Lord John Russell to Sir James Hudson on the Subject of the alleged Annexation of the Duchies of Central Italy by the Government of Piedmont. Your Lordships are aware that, since these notices were given circumstances have arisen which have led to the signing of preliminaries of peace; and if the noble Earl takes this opportunity of making his Motion, which must be followed by a discussion in your Lordships' House, it might possibly interfere with the arrangements that are now being made to establish the peace of Europe. I therefore beg to suggest to the noble Earl, although I am not in possession of his views, that it would be expedient for him not to press his Motion at the present moment, and I would address the same advice to my noble Friend on the cross benches. Her Majesty's Government is not at present in possession of any information which will enable it to enter into an explanation of what has occurred between the two Emperors, nor will it be in full possession of a, great many points until the return of the Emperor of the French to Paris. I therefore think that your Lordships are not in possession of the necessary information which will enable you to discuss the question with advantage, and I beg to suggest to the noble Earl and the noble Marquess whether it would not be better to postpone the Motions for the present.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
My Lords, I certainly feel that there are moments when discussions upon foreign affairs in this House are anything but desirable, and, if my noble Friend thinks that it would at the present moment be inconvenient for me to make the observations which I intended to maybe upon this subject, I shall have no hesitation in withdrawing my Motion and postponing my remarks to another time. At the same time there are some of those observations—relating to the future fate of the Duchy of Parma—from which I apprehend that no inconvenience can arise. The firmness and dignity with which the Duchess of Parma contended with the difficulties with which she was encompassed has attracted the admiration of all. I know her to be the most popular, and I believe her to be the most deserving of Italian Sovereigns, and it would be an act of great injustice to her, and would read a very bad lesson of morality to the political world, if she were 1283 not reinstated, supposing her people wish her to be reinstated, in her Sovereignty. Just before Her Majesty's Government left office I was induced to make an appeal to the Sardinian Government in favour of maintaining the neutrality of the dominions of that Princess. I have seen in the newspapers an answer, supposed to have been addressed by Count Cavour to Her Majesty's present Government, in which statements are made with not one of which I can agree. Did I not apprehend that if I went deeply into the subject some discussion might arise upon the affairs of Italy generally, I should be prepared to meet those statements one by one, and to refute each and all of them by a reference to dates and by documentary evidence. It is, however, perhaps the less important for me to do so because I hear that the Minister who signed that reply, and who has also published two circulars bearing upon the same subject, containing, as I believe, equally unfounded statements, has given in his resignation, and is no longer a Minister of the King of Sardinia. I shall, therefore, say no more upon the subject at present than to protest against the statements made by Count Cavour in those circulars and in that reply to my despatch, and shall defer to a future period any further discussion of this matter which I may think necessary. It is possible that I may not again have an opportunity of addressing your Lordships upon foreign affairs during the present Session, and while I willingly accede to the request which has been made by my noble Friend opposite, I am sure that he will not misunderstand me when I say that, speaking abstractedly, I think it is not so inconvenient as some of your Lordships appear to imagine that this House should, even at moments which are considered critical, enter upon the discussion of foreign affairs. When I was a Minister and responsible for the direction of foreign affairs I felt that I should have been spared many misrepresentations if I had had the opportunity of explaining in this House the policy of Her Majesty's Government. It is also, I think, far from disadvantageous that the Government should from time to time feel the pulse of this House and of the country upon foreign affairs as well as with reference to our domestic concerns. How far this should go must always be a question of discretion; but I am convinced that my noble Friend opposite feels the force of what I say, that to a certain extent he entertains the same 1284 opinion, and that he would not ask me to postpone my Motion, which would certainly have produced a general discussion of this important question, did he not feel convinced that such a debate would be attended with public inconvenience. I trust, however, that before Parliament separates a discussion of the kind will take place, in order that, on the one hand, Her Majesty's Government may ascertain what is the feeling of the country, and on the other the country may learn what is the opinion of Her Majesty's Government. There is neutrality in peace as well as in war, and it will be of great consequence that before the prorogation of Parliament, and the withdrawal of its control for five or six months, the country should understand in what direction and how far Her Majesty's Government are prepared to interfere in the settlement of European affairs.
THE MARQUESS OF NORMANBY
said, that as he understood there would be no objection to the production of the despatch for which he intended to move, he would state in a few words that his object was to put on record that he had found with great satisfaction that the language held by Her Majesty's Government had been that of distinct discouragement of that system of annexation which had during the war been carried to so audacious an extent by the late Minister of Sardinia. He had no objection to postpone the observations which he desired to make upon the conduct of Count Cavour—conduct which, although that Minister had ceased to have any share in the Government of Sardinia, could not for ever pass unnoticed. His despatches contained more of the suppressio veri than he (the Marquess of Normanby) ever found in any other documents of a similar nature. It would have been highly satisfactory to him to have been able to show how well the Duchess of Parma had acted throughout these transactions, and how completely without justification was the conduct of the Sardinian Government. He recollected the state in which she found the Duchy of Parma, and had had recent knowledge of the state in which she left it; and he must say, looking both to her conduct with reference to her son's interest, and the attention which she had paid to the welfare of her people, there was no act which would be more deserving of opprobrium than any attempt to dispossess her of the States which she hold in the name of her son, and which were settled on him and his heirs.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, he desired not to be misunderstood and therefore wished to offer a word in explanation. He was much obliged to the noble Earl and the noble Marquess for the course they had taken. He did not, however, wish it to be supposed that he considered it undesirable, as a general rule, to discuss questions of foreign policy in their Lordships' House; on the contrary, there were occasions when such discussions were of advantage. There were, however, occasions on which such debates might be attended with inconvenience. This, he thought, was peculiary one of those cases, and it had the additional disadvantage, that if the House went into any debate it would be discussing a subject on which they had only the most imperfect information.
THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
thought that of late years there had been too much reticence in Parliament, and that upon at least one occasion more complete discussion would have prevented war. He did not think that since Parliament met anything could have been done which would have prevented the war, and for that reason, and that reason alone, he had kept silence. He could not however keep silent after the mention which had been made by the noble Earl of the name of that great man—for so he must call him—Count Cavour. The noble Earl was guarded in his expressions, but it was impossible not to infer that he viewed the retirement of that statesman from office at least without regret. Having gone through the despatches, it was his opinion that no minister of any country came out of the transaction so well as Count Cavour. He might have been indiscreet at times, but he was animated by lofty and patriotic views which were well worthy of their Lordships' consideration. He, for one, sincerely regretted Count Cavour's retirement. He hoped that when further information was received there would be a full discussion on the subject in both Houses.
My noble Friend opposite informs us that Her Majesty's Government are entirely ignorant of the circumstances which have led to this peace and of the terms of it; it appears, too, that the Ministers of the Emperor of the French and of the Emperor of Austria are in the same predicament. All three sets of Ministers are equally ignorant of the terms and intention of this peace. The two Sovereigns have carried on the business themselves, without the intervention of their Mi- 1286 nisters. It is a degree—I must not say of despotism, I suppose, because one must not use harsh language, but of unlimited monarchy such as has never been known before in France, except during a short period of the reign of the First Emperor; and even then there was more communication with the Ministers than appears to be the case now. I understand that Count Walewski, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, received his first and only intimation of this peace from Her Majesty the Empress, who was informed of it by a despatch from her Imperial husband. It is a most melancholy thing [a laugh]—I repeat the observation, and those who laugh have not attended to the scope of what I have been saying—it is a most melancholy thing to have the fate of Europe, the question of peace or war, depending upon the will of Sovereigns who have such absolute power that they are entirely uncontrolled, not only by a Parliament, by the press, or by any kind of public discussion, but even by that moderate degree of influence which is exercised by their Ministers. The consequence is, that we have no kind of security at any moment for the continuance of peace, the observance of treaties, or for any one arrangement which may from day to day be announced. All depends upon—I must not say the caprice, for I suppose there is no such thing as caprice in these high quarters, but on the arbitrary will of a single individual. It is so in Russia, Franco, Austria, and, I suppose, it is so in Sardinia also, unless they restore the constitution suspended at the beginning of this execrable war—for by no other name can I call it—a war commenced on false pretences, not one single avowed and boasted object of which has been gained by the success which has attended it. As we have had, happily, no hand in the war, so have we, happily, no hand now in the peace; and I congratulate my noble Friends that their Government is wholly irresponsible for the terms of this extraordinary arrangement, which is now the wonder of the world.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
The noble Earl opposite has told us that peace has been concluded between Austria and France, and also that he is entirely unaware of what the circumstances are which preceded that peace or what are its terms, and he very properly, therefore, deprecates any discussion on the matter at present. But I understood that when France entered on this war it was as an ally of Sardinia—as 1287 a subsidiary, not as a principal. I wish, therefore, to ask my noble Friend this question, has he, along with the news of the conclusion of a peace between Austria and Franco, received any intimation whether peace has been concluded between Austria and Sardinia?
§ EARL GRANVILLE
As yet all we know is that a convention has been drawn up between the Emperors of Austria and France, of the terms of which we are ignorant, and that convention is to be followed by a treaty of peace; but beyond this I am unable to supply further details.
THE MARQUESS OF NORMANBY
said, that it would perhaps be better that he should move in due form for the production of the despatch of Lord John Russell to Sir James Hudson on the subject of the annexation of the duchies of Central Italy to the kingdom of Sardinia. With regard to the panegyric on Count Cavour which the noble Marquess near him (the Marquess of Clanricarde) had given notice of his intention to pronounce at some future time, when that came on he should be prepared to state the reasons why he had formed a different opinion of that statesman's public conduct.
§ LORD EBURY
said, he did not doubt that Count Cavor would be able to defend himself. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Malmesbury) had spoken of a neutrality in peace as well as in war. He wished to know if the noble Earl wished them to understand that he implied no interference in questions as to peace. He trusted the time would come when this country would fully carry out the principle of non-intervention. He had had many conversations with distinguished diplomatists, and they all agreed that if England would only wait, and not be perpetually interfering and advising, foreign Powers must come to us at last, and then our opinion would not only be taken but acted upon.
§ THE DUKE OF RUTLAND
said, he was inclined very much to agree with the noble Lord in the general principle of non-intervention, hut there were occasions when our own interests compelled us to interfere. He could not agree with what had fallen from the noble Marquess opposite as to the merits of Count Cavour, for he thought it was very much owing to him that this war had been begun. There was a passage in one of Sir James Hudson's despatches giving Count Cavour's opinion on a point of English politics, which he hoped might 1288 also meet with the approval of the noble Marquess. In that despatch Sir James Hudson informed Lord Malmesbury that he had called on Count Cavour to acquaint him that Her Majesty's Government were not about to resign office in consequence of the recent Vote of the House of Commons on the Reform Bill; on which Count Cavour said, "he was heartily glad to learn their decision, for it would be a public misfortune if the Cabinet of which Lord Derby was the chief, and which had recently taken so prominent a part in promoting the project of a Congress for the settlement of the Italian question, should quit office almost the moment the discussion of the question was commenced." He did not generally agree with the views of Count Covour, but on that point he certainly thought he had arrived at a sound conclusion.
VISCOUNT STRATFORD DE RED-CLIFFE
said, he admitted that the interference of England in the affairs of foreign countries might easily be carried too far. But it appeared to him that if we were to adopt the policy of altogether withholding our opinion on the politics of other States we should to a great extent be abandoning that high position which we occupied in the world. He believed that the objection properly lay rather to the manner in which we sometimes interfered than to the principle of interference. He would illustrate his meaning by a reference to the course which we had a few years ago pursued in the affairs of Naples. When he was lately in that country, his attention had been naturally drawn from a nearer point of view, and with stronger interest, to the character and consequences of its operation. We had employed our interference with the great advantage of acting in concert with our French Ally, but it appeared to him that by our want of judgment in the manner of doing so, we had forfeited that advantage, and the result was most unsatisfactory. It would be remembered that we withdrew our Minister from the Court of Naples, and the French Government did the same, in consequence of the line which the King of Naples at that time took with his own subjects, and which he did not abandon in consequence of our menacing position towards him. He (Lord Stratford de Redcliffe) could not help thinking that if on that occasion our interference had been confined to a simple expression of opinion and temperate advice, supported by the excellent example of our insti- 1289 tutions at home, and if we had not publicly placed the King in a false position with respect to his own subjects, we should have obtained a much better result. The actual consequence was that notwithstanding all that could be alleged against the conduct of that Sovereign, and all that we had justly felt about the manner in which he conducted himself towards his own subjects, he maintained his position as long as suited his convenience; he never made the slightest concession to England and France, and he departed to another state of being in the obdurate triumph of a bad policy. This was perhaps the most remarkable instance of failure in the recent exercise of our intervention abroad, but no doubt the observation and memory of noble Lords would serve to remind them of other such examples. He must therefore be allowed to repeat his opinion that it was not the interference itself, but the mode of that interference, which had proved objectionable; and he trusted that this example would be remembered to the practical improvement of our policy on future occasions. The name of a very illustrious foreign Minister had been introduced into this conversation with a high panegyric. So far as he (Lord Stratford do Redcliffe) knew anything of the subject, he believed that, in point of talents, and a sincere desire to serve his country, that Minister was worthy of the highest encomium; but when he looked at the measures by which that minister's policy had been carried out, when he saw strong reasons for concluding that they proceeded from him as from their fountain-head, he could not but feel that a heavy moral responsibility had been incurred in the same quarter. Was it possible for their Lordships to lose sight of the means which had been employed by Sardinia to bring about the late revolution in Tuscany? It was no exaggeration to say that if, as it appeared from the correspondence, the Sardinian Representative at Florence had really taken a leading part in the conspiracy which was the immediate cause of that revolution, he had rendered himself amenable to the laws of the place. If the Grand Duke of Tuscany had preserved the free exercise of his power, it may well be doubted whether the Envoy's diplomatic character would have screened him from punishment. Revolting to his recollections of an earlier page in the history of our own country, to that anomalous period when Cromwell was the ruler of this kingdom, a foreign representative convicted of 1290 having so offended would not improbably have been hanged over his own door. Whatever might be our sympathies, and his wore strong, for the cause of freedom in Italy, still the employment of means so worthy of reprobation, so contrary to those principles which by their application bind together the relations of friendly and independent States, would never find a sanction in any well-regulated mind. The welfare of the civilized world was not to be sacrificed to the chance of helping to improve the condition of one, by no means the most important, of its members. Now it was greatly to be desired that, sooner or later, a proper opportunity should be afforded for expressing the opinion of Parliament on recent events. What was to become of that deference to public opinion, which had so large a share in the regulation of national intercourse between independent States, if the Houses of British Legislation were to be debarred from passing judgment on events and proceedings of universal interest, He had been delighted to hear the noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham) express his opinion so freely and amply, although on Friday evening his noble and learned Friend had interrupted him, and counselled him to silence. He thought the expressions of the noble Lord must have found an echo in the breast of every one who heard him. At the same time, he was fully satisfied that his noble Friend, who represented the Government in that House, had exercised a sound discretion at the present moment in requesting the noble Earl opposite to postpone a Motion which would have raised a general discussion at a time when their Lordships possessed very imperfect information on the subject in question. He trusted, however, that an opportunity would finally come when that House would be enabled to discuss the whole matter, and, as he hoped, with some advantage to the public interests.
said, he had not the slightest desire to prolong this discussion, which he thought was most inopportune; but he must observe that he, in common with his noble Friend (Earl Granville), thought that a discussion on foreign affairs at the proper moment would be of the greatest advantage to the country and the Government, and he was sure that when the opportunity came for these matters to be discussed, his noble Friend would be desirous that the opinion of Parliament 1291 should be fully and fairly expressed. But the reason why they deprecated any discussion upon this occasion was, that they did not know what they were about to discuss. They had not the facts before them, which would enable them to enter into such a discussion with advantage. When they should have obtained those facts, Her Majesty's Government would form their own opinion, and then no doubt their Lordships would he ready to listen to that opinion and to express their sentiments, either in concurrence with it or not. As to the papers asked for, there were two circulars dated the 14th and 16th of June, which had been sent by Count Cavour to be communicated to Her Majesty's Government; they were read by the Sardinian Minister to his noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs; but no copies had been placed in his hands; so that, although they had appeared in the public newspapers, he could not lay them before Parliament, The other document asked for was a despatch of Her Majesty's Government referring to those despatches of Count Cavour's, and it should he laid on the table.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
said, the answer to the circulars would be unintelligible if the circulars themselves were not printed also, and he therefore suggested that Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs should do what was often done—namely, request a copy of those circulars from the Sardinian Minister.
said, that as the Sardinian Minister stated he had been instructed merely to read those documents, and not to furnish any copies of them, it would hardly be becoming upon the part of Her Majesty's Government to ask for copies. The circulars referred to had been printed in the newspapers.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
There would be nothing unusual or uncourteous in asking for copies of such papers. How could the despatches have appeared in the public newspapers if they had not been forwarded by the Sardinian Minister?
THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
said, it must often be absolutely necessary to ask for copies of foreign despatches, as no answers to them could otherwise be supplied.
Afterwards it was agreed—
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for, Count Cavour's Reply to the Despatch of the Earl of Malmesbury to Sir J. Hudson, dated 7th June, No. 83, in the Blue-book.
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for, Copy of a Despatch from Lord John Russell to Sir James Hudson on the Subject of the alleged Annexation of the Duchies of Central Italy by the Government of Piedmont.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past Six o'clock, to Monday next, Eleven o'clock.