HL Deb 06 March 1860 vol 157 cc1-4

I wish to put a question to the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Newcastle), relative to an apparent omission from the correspondence of our Government with the Governments of Russia, Prussia, and Austria, on the subject of the annexation of Savoy, as contained in the papers recently presented to Parliament. It appears that on the 27th of January Lord Cowley wrote to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for instructions respecting the language he should hold on the subject. These instructions were sent to him by Lord John Russell on the 28th of January, in a despatch in which he gives excellent reasons against the annexation. That despatch was communicated to Lord Bloomfield at Berlin, who was desired, when he saw Baron Schleinitz, to make his language conform- able to those instructions, but not to read it to him, much less to leave him a copy. The same letter was sent to Sir James Hudson, for his information. I find no other traces of any communication having been made by any Minister of ours to any of these three Courts, but I find it is reported that Lord John Russell has made use of these words,—"It is my persuasion—I may be totally mistaken, because other circumstances may occur to prevent it—but my persuasion is that if the language of disapproval be held at Berlin, Vienna, and St. Petersburg, this project of annexation will not be persevered in." In that I entirely concur; but it is not sufficient to state that that will be the effect if these several Powers hold the language of disapproval. It appears to me to be also necessary to take steps to bring them to a common opinion, and to the use of a common language; without that it is idle to suppose that any isolated expression of opinion on our part would be of any effect in putting a stop to this project. I have no doubt in my own mind as to the character of the language which the several Powers of Europe ought to hold. I think they ought to say that, considering the territorial changes effected by the peace of Zurich, and the present state of Central Italy, they are willing and desirous to take steps for the purpose of conferring and consulting with France as to the future of Italy, with a view to securing the welfare of the Italian people in any way consistent with the repose of Europe; but that, looking back to the transactions of the year 1815, they consider that the frontier of France as then settled was finally settled, and that no consideration will induce them to acquiesce in its extension as arising out of any changes in the territorial distribution of Italy. What I wish to ask the Government is, whether any steps have been taken, and, if any, of what kind, and at what time, to communicate the views of the Government with respect to the annexation of Savoy to the Governments of Russia, Prussia, and Austria, and whether steps have been taken to obtain their co-operation in inducing France to desist from that project?


—I have no difficulty in answering the question of the noble Earl. The views of Her Majesty's Government in respect to the proposed annexation of Savoy have been communicated to the three Governments of Russia, Prussia, and Austria. The form in which those communications have been made has been to send to those Powers the despatches written by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to Lord Cowley, which appear in the papers laid before Parliament, and to send at the same time other despatches received from Lord Cowley and one from Sir James Hudson, the whole of which have been laid upon the table of the House. As regards the time, the dates of the despatches to which I have referred are the 28th of January and the 13th of February. The communication was forwarded to Berlin and Vienna on the 17th of February and to St. Petersburg on the 25th of the same month. As to the noble Earl's question whether we have invited the co-operation of these Powers in a protest against the annexation of Savoy, I have to say that no specific proposition of that kind has been made. The noble Earl would appear to indicate his wish to see something in the nature of a counter-alliance formed; but there has not been any proposal of the sort. If he refers to the despatches on the table, they will show him and the public that the Powers to whom these communications were addressed can be under no difficulty in ascertaining the strong view which Her Majesty's Government entertain on this subject.


—I have, also, a question to put to the noble Duke on this subject. Upon examination of the papers it appears there was a despatch received from Lord Cowley on the 25th of February, in which he refers to his having been written to by Lord John Russell the day before on the subject of the annexation; but no despatch from the noble Lord of that date is to be found in the papers. I see there is another communication on the subject of the annexation of the same date, but it appears to have been received before. It is possible that the mistake may have arisen in that way; but I should be glad to know whether there is any other despatch of the date of the 24th of February.


There has been no mistake of the kind the noble Earl supposes. The despatch to which the noble Earl refers did not appear to be of any particular importance, but there is not the smallest objection to produce it, and my noble Friend the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs has it in his hand at this moment ready to lay on the table.

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