§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer then moved a Resolution, That 300,000l. be granted to his majesty, to enable him to fulfil his engagements with the king of Sicily.
§ Mr. Whitbread
desired some explanation as to the lateness of the time at which this treaty was laid before the house; and how this sum came to be paid so long by government without any former communication to parliament. Policy required, that when we gave away such large sums we should know wherefore. He also observed, that returns ought to have been laid before the house, of the proper application of this money. He observed in the treaty that a particular number of men was mentioned, as that which it would be necessary to provide for its defence. He did not approve of this. It was certainly enough for us to say that we would defend it, leaving the number to our discretion.
Mr. Secretary Cunning
entered into a detail of the circumstances by which Naples had been drawn into the war with France, and stated that it had been done by a Russian commander who had landed troops there. But the king of Naples being drawn into the war, G. Britain was bound by every consideration to assist him in his defence. The engagement to pay 25,000l. a month, or 300,000l. a year, had been entered into by the government 862 before the late one, and part of the money had been paid. In 1806, when the change took place, the Sicilian ambassador applied to the ministers, and it was resolved that a regular agreement should be drawn up, but, in the mean time, the payments were made. The regular engagement was not drawn up till the close of that administration. The instrument arrived here in July or August last; but from some mistake of Mr. Drummond, there was an article in it to which we could not agree. It was therefore necessary to send it back, and he hoped it would appear that they had laid it before the house as soon as possible. With regard to the returns mentioned by the hon. gent, these could not very easily have been made previous to this period; but Mr. Drummond had declared that the greatest exertions were making in Sicily; and he might be the more readily depended upon, as he went out with an inclination to think that they would scarcely act with all the requisite energy. As to the number of troops, it was judged necessary to fix the minimum, which was 10,000 men, but there was nothing to prevent us from sending more, if that should be judged proper, and more there actually were at this moment.
§ Lord H. Petty
thought the answers satisfactory. He was of opinion, however, that the specific provisions for the defence of the island, ought to have appeared on the face of the treaty, in a manner more full than they actually did.
§ Mr. Whitbread
admitted that the answer to the first question was satisfactory, and was glad that a Russian and not a British commander had been guilty of that most impolitic, absurd, and pernicious act, the forcing of Naples into the war at the time she had concluded a treaty of neutrality with France. He, however, saw no reason why we were to have the controul of two forts in the island and not of the third and most important. He thought we should have had an option of putting our garrisons in which ever of them we pleased, or in all.
Mr. Secretary Cunning
stated that we had, and should have, the controul over the third; but that the provision respecting the two was adopted with a view to the number of troops we could furnish. He also observed, that the duties paid by our soldiers on certain articles of provision in Sicily were to be drawn back in the payments to be made under the treaty.
§ Mr. Windham
had heard a great deal more importance attached to the third tortress than to those of Messina and Augusta, as being more directly in the line of the place, where an enemy from the opposite coast could soonest reach. He certainly thought, therefore, that the stipulation ought to have been express for our occupying this fortress.
§ Mr. Wilberforce
said there was a provision in the treaty that appeared to bind us to restore Naples to the king of Sicily at a peace. He was sorry for this: because, as we wished always to perform our engagements, we ought rather to promise less than more than we could do. This was not, perhaps, the meaning intended; but it might bear that construction.
Mr. Secretary Canning
stated that there could be no doubt as to the construction of This article, as it was the amendment of that one which had last year been objected to, precisely on the ground mentioned, that it might bind us to more than we could perform. Still if we could restore Naples to the king of Sicily, we should be glad to do it, although we could not enter into any engagement to do it.
§ Mr. Bankes
objected to the practice of granting money, as appeared to have been done here, without the matter having been regularly before parliament, which had a right to examine into the grounds of giving away their money, and the manner in which it was expended. He also thought, that a treaty of commerce ought to have accompanied this engagement. The omission of an opportunity to do that, while we were giving away our money, might be felt in the case of Sweden, with respect to which perhaps, we might be involved in great difficulty about our Orders of Council.
§ Mr. Huskisson
stated that the account of the disposal of the money had been always laid before parliament, though the thing, he admitted, had not been done in the most regular way.—The Resolution was then agreed to.