HL Deb 11 March 1859 vol 153 cc1-3

My Lords, a Motion stands in my name on the paper for Monday next, for certain papers respecting proposed alterations in the constitution of the Ionian Islands, and I have to inform your Lordships that in consequence of a letter which I have received from the noble Earl at the head of the Government I do not intend to make that Motion. The noble Earl has stated to me so strongly that public inconvenience will result not merely from the production of these papers, but from any public discussion of the question, that, although my own judgment still remains unchanged, and although I still believe that a discussion of the principle and policy on which those proposed alterations were based would be attended with public advantage, still, in the face of the strong contrary opinion expressed by the noble Earl opposite, and supported by the opinion of the present and late High Commissioners of the Ionian Islands, I am not prepared to take upon myself the responsibility of persevering with my Motion.


I must ex- press my sincere acknowledgments to the noble Earl for the very frank manner in which he has acquiesced in the suggestion I took the liberty of making to him; and I am the more indebted to him, because he has taken this course in opposition to his own judgment. I hope it is unnecessary for me to assure your Lordships that in offering that suggestion I was actuated by nothing but a sense of what was really for the interest of the public service. Since the noble Earl first placed his notice on the paper, I have been examining carefully the voluminous documents connected with, the recent history of the Ionian Islands, and while I felt that this discussion could not have been adequately conducted without a full knowledge of those voluminous documents, of the events which led to Mr. Gladstone's mission, and of the results which attended it, I found from an examination of those papers that it was almost impossible to give extracts from them, and equally impossible to lay the whole of the Correspondence before your Lordships, especially those parts relating to some of the proposed Resolutions, without producing a vast number of documents which would have involved recurrence to facts which had much better be buried in oblivion, and which, if revived, could but have cast considerable censure on some persons not here to explain or defend their proceedings. I took upon myself the liberty of requesting the noble Earl to forego the exercise of his own judgment in bringing forward this Motion; but I assure your Lordships that I would not have taken that course if I had not been very strongly confirmed in my views by a conversation which I have had with Mr. Gladstone since his return, and also by the strong expression of Sir Henry Storks, who, in writing, has stated the great anxiety with which he looked to the probable effect of any discussion whatever in Parliament at the present moment on the minds of the Ionian people. I think I should not do justice to ray own opinion if I abstained from taking this opportunity of expressing my strong sense of the public spirit and patriotism which induced Mr. Gladstone, at great personal inconvenience, to undertake a very laborious, a very invidious, and a very thankless task, and to expose himself, as he naturally must, to much misrepresentation and misunderstanding. I think it right to take this opportunity of saying with regard to Mr. Gladstone that not only did he undertake that task at the request of a Government with which he had no political connection whatever, but that one condition attended the acceptance of the office, and that he made a sine qua non—namely, that beyond the payment of his actual expenses he should receive no remuneration in any shape or manner for his services. Mr. Gladstone's mission has had no positive results; but I cannot say that I regret it, for, although it has not led to any changes by legislation, whether desirable or not, it has had the effect of placing this country with regard to the Ionian Islands in a right position. It has shown to the Ionian Islands, to Europe, and to the world at large, that she is not the oppressor, but the protectress of those Islands, and that she is perfectly prepared to give them an ample measure of free institutions—larger, perhaps, than some persons think desirable, yet, at all events, so large as bonâ fide to constitute them that free and independent Republic, under the protectorate of this country, which was declared by the treaty assigning that protectorate. I have only again to return my thanks to the noble Earl for having acquiesced in the request which I ventured to make to him. I am sure in so doing he will best consult the public interests, and give great satisfaction to the present High Commissioner, whose position is one of considerable difficulty, and to whom in such a position it must be the wish of your Lordships to show every consideration and afford every moral support in your power.