§ On the Motion that Lord Grimston bring up the Report on the Address,
§ Mr. Maberly
said, that he rose to enter his protest against the very extraordinary Speech they had heard from the Throne. He called it extraordinary, because he thought that nothing could be more extraordinary than for the Ministers to put into the mouth of his Majesty a Speech 144 which omitted all mention of reform, and of reduction of taxation,—the two topics which agitated the whole empire, from one end of it to the other. He would show the right hon. Gentleman opposite that he was not insensible to the propriety of his suggestion respecting speech-making in that House. He would make a short speech, and not dwell uselessly upon any but important topics. He must, however, be allowed to say one word upon a topic which was not connected with the matters which he had risen for the purpose of addressing himself to. He alluded to the question of repealing the Union with Ireland. It appeared to him that to agitate such a question could lead to no good, but that, on the contrary, it was calculated to open afresh those wounds which late measures, he had hoped, and still hoped, would perfectly heal. After this observation he would address himself to the two topics he had before mentioned. First, his Majesty, in his Speech, said nothing about reduction of taxation. The word economy was used in the Speech as usual; but so it was last year, and yet they had no reduction in consequence. He meant, no reduction in consequence of any thing in the Speech; for he was convinced that the reductions which were effected had not been contemplated by the Ministers, but were forced upon them by the voice of the House. This was all owing to the labours of the Finance Committee having been stopped. Then, as to reform, how had the Ministers treated the country? He did not know whether it would be considered irregular for him to allude to what had taken place elsewhere, but they must all be aware, that in another place, a Minister of the Crown had distinctly said, that there should be no reform. Nay, this Minister had gone further, and described the present system as an excellent one,—as a system which worked extremely well. That it did work well he was ready to admit. It worked well for governors, but it worked very ill for the governed. For instance, how was he represented? He resided in Surrey; and that county was said to send fourteen members to Parliament. Now by whom were these Members sent? The two for the county, two for Guildford, and two for Southwark, were sent by the people; the two members for Haslemere were the nominees of a certain noble Lord; the two members for Gatton were the nominees 145 of another noble Lord; the two members for Ryegate were the nominees of two noble Lords; and the members for Bletchingly were the nominees of a large coal-owner. Now was this condition of representation such as the people ought to endure? They had last night passed a resolution, that Peers should not interfere in the election of Members of that House; but was not such a resolution a mere farce, when compared with facts like those he had stated? Scotland was an instance of the want of reform. Not one Member of Parliament sent from that county represented either the people or their property. But the Prime Minister had told them that reform was not necessary and that there shall be no reform. He would ask, how could his Majesty expect a tranquil reign under such circumstances? His Majesty was made to express his confidence that he should transmit the constitution unimpaired to posterity, but he hoped that it was not in the way meant by his Prime Minister, but that his Majesty should transmit a reformed Constitution to posterity. In this speech, with which the public had been so much disappointed, there was hardly a man in the country who did not expect the introduction of some moderate reform. He would ask those Members in that House who had constituents, whether they would not commit a gross dereliction of their duty to their constituents if they did not at once raise their voices against those nominees of Peers who were sent into that House to overpower the representatives of the people. If his Majesty would not reduce the taxes and reform the Parliament, he was likely in twelve months to be the most unpopular Monarch that ever sat upon the British Throne. In saying so, he was convinced that he only gave expression to the feelings of the people of the whole empire. He was firmly impressed with the conviction that the tranquillity of the country would not continue undisturbed unless there were both a reform of Parliament and a reduction of taxation. Those who opposed reform might accuse the advocates of it of being desirous of introducing revolutionary principles and doctrines, but the time might shortly arrive when the advocates of reform could turn round upon them and say—"You who are against granting those rights and privileges, which not the lower orders only but all the middle classes 146 of society in this country demand, you may cry out against the reformers as revolutionary, but it is you that are bringing in a revolution, by refusing to reform the Parliament." From his knowledge of public opinion, he would say, that they would have to repent grievously if they allowed the present Session to pass over without granting that which the people claimed. He would put it to those Members who really had constituents, whether they would allow the nominees of Peers and of coal-owners, to overpower them in that House.
§ Lord Eastnor
observed, that it was not inconsistent for the King to omit, in his Speech from the Throne, any recommendation of Reform, for such a recommendation, he believed, had never been made in a King's Speech during the last 200 years. With respect to reform, about the necessity of which so much was now said, he must declare that he had never seen any plan to which he felt he could accede, and he believed few of those who advocated it were agreed upon the sort of reform that was necessary.
§ Mr. Tennyson
said, he was one of the Members who sat for one of the rotten boroughs of Surrey, alluded to by his hon. friend, the member for Abingdon; but his votes always had been, and always should be, given solely with a view to promote the interests of the people. Yet he was not base enough to contend, even for a moment, in favour of the continuance of that degraded system on which the popular opinion had on various occasions been recently pronounced; and though there might be no inconsistency in the omission of a recommendation of reform in the Speech from the Throne, the Ministers who framed the Speech must be afflicted with a terrible blindness indeed, if they thought that reform was never to be conceded to the people of this country. A Minister of the Crown had last night said, that while he was Minister the people should not have reform proposed to them by the Government. He warned the Ministry that it would not long depend on the behest of the Duke of Wellington, whether reform were granted or not. A time would come, when popular opinion must prevail over the counsels of Ministers; and he could only express his fervent hope, that the Government would not irritate the people, and that the people would have more discretion than the Parliament, and would not allow 147 themselves to be precipitated into the path of violence. There were some parts of the Speech which he was happy to be able to praise; he alluded to those parts which related to his Majesty's putting at the disposal of the Commons the revenues of the Crown. His Majesty had given up his personal revenues, as the Marquis of Camden had done on a former occasion. The noble Marquis had set a glorious example, and one which ought to be imitated. He must take that opportunity of saying, that there never had been a service that more demanded a favourable notice from the Sovereign than that of the Marquis of Camden, who had sacrificed his personal interests for the public benefit. He approved of that passage of the Speech which related to France, but was much disappointed in that which referred to the Netherlands. The public feeling of the country had been embarked in the cause of the oppressed Belgians; and under these circumstances, it was impossible for the Minister to use language more calculated to excite the indignation of the people of the whole of England, than that language—so repulsive to their wishes, and so repugnant to the real feelings of the King—which they had put into his mouth. He meant, therefore, in respect to that paragraph which related to Belgium, to move an Amendment, declaratory of the principle of non-interference. Such language was most unfit to be put into the mouth of the Sovereign, who had just ascended the Throne; but his conduct had shewn that that language, so opposed to the opinions of the people, was not the language of the King, but of his Ministers. The hon. Member said, he would move at the proper time, that instead of the fifth paragraph of the Address, relating to the Netherlands, the following be inserted:—That we lament, with his Majesty, that the Administration of the King should not have preserved his dominions from civil discord; but derive consolation from the hope that means may be found to restore tranquillity without any violation by the British Government of the wise principle of non-interference with the internal condition and public institutions of other countries.
§ Mr. John Wood
observed, that he had the honour of being the Representative of a great population, who had given him their free and unbought votes. He ould tell the House the spirit in which that population 148 would receive the Speech from the Throne. It would be in a spirit (to borrow a phrase from the Speech itself) of "grief and indignation." There were particular passages in the Speech that were unexceptionable, but to others he must most strongly object. He believed that the hopes of the Ministry were in the fears of the alarmists, and the latter was probably the cause of the adhesions sent in a few days ago by certain great Peers. The same thing had occurred in 1798, and had been made use of then, as it would be made use of now—to check reform. He trusted, however, that such schemes would be defeated, and that Parliament would refuse any supplies to the amount of a single farthing of our money, or a single man of our army, to be sent abroad, for the purpose of interfering, either between the King of Holland and the Belgians, or between the Belgians and any other nation. With respect to Don Miguel, if the Portuguese liked him, why let them have him and welcome: there could be no objection to the Government recognizing him, but the Government ought not to trust him; there was blood on his hands, he had violated his oaths, his promise of amnesty was not to be relied on, and the excited Portuguese could not depend upon it when given by him, though guaranteed by the British government, when they recollected how Ney had been murdered after the capitulation of Paris. He wished that House to tell the King, that they viewed with "grief and indignation," certain things which now existed; and if he were asked what were these, he would point to the interference by Peers in the election of Members of Parliament; he would point to Stamford, to Ilchester, and to Newark; and would say, that those noble Peers who, in defiance of the Constitution, interfered in the election of Members of Parliament, were the men who excited dissatisfaction and discontent. In answer to the noble Lord who had said it was not inconsistent for the King to omit any recommendation of reform from his Speech, he would merely observe, that it was not only omitted from the Speech, but in a commentary on the Speech, given in another place, reform was positively and flatly refused. The Dictator of the Government had declared, that the people did not want reform, and should not have it. In the name of the people, he replied, that they did 149 want reform, and that they would have it. He did not mean to deny, that the repeal of the Union might be a foolish scheme; but still he would assert, that the people of Ireland ought not to be prevented from meeting to discuss it. If the Duke of "Wellington thought he could easily prevent meetings in this country on the subject of reform, he was mistaken. He had spoken of alarmists. He could not deny but there were some strange coincidences in the conduct of our Government, and of the late Ministry of France. The first article of impeachment against them was, that they had interfered with the elections, and had in that manner attempted to deprive the people of their civil rights. Was there no alarming coincidence here? He thought there was, and he advised the Ministers not to lay the flattering unction to their souls, that the Chamber of Deputies was the only place in which such a charge could be advanced. The Speech from the Throne then referred to the Constitution. Why what was the meaning of "the Constitution of this country?" It was nothing more than that form of government which each administration recommended the Sovereign to adopt. It was said, that the King acted according to the Constitution when Charles 1st demanded payment of Ship-money. In the same manner the Constitution was preserved when James 2nd proceeded against the seven Bishops; and in the time of William 3rd it was thought that the Constitution could only be preserved by the introduction of Dutch Guards. The Parliament, however, was of a different opinion, and the Dutch Guards were dismissed. In the reign of George 1st, the Constitution was again preserved by passing the Septennial Act, extending the power of the Members, by their own will, to seven years, though their constituents had elected them only for three. In the reign of George 3rd, it was according to the Constitution, no doubt, that the attempt was made by the King to tax America without allowing her representation. To be sure he lost the colonies in the attempt — and after the loss, the Constitution was just as perfect as before. The Constitution, in fact, still exists, and the country was only taught that Kings and Ministers could accommodate themselves to circumstances which they had at a former time declared would be the destruction of the State. In the reign of George 4th the House was told, that the 150 Constitution would be lost if the Dissenters should be admitted to places in Corporations. The measure was, nevertheless, carried by the good sense of the House, and what was the result?—why, the Constitution was not worse, but a great deal better for it. Catholic Emancipations came next, but there was a loud outcry against it, and it was said that the Church and State were alike ruined, and that the Pope would reign in London. Yet the Relief Bill was passed, and a Speech was put into the King's mouth, in which that measure was hailed as one essential to the preservation of the Constitution. He therefore felt no alarm for the safety of the Constitution; and he was satisfied, if the House effected a reform, that Ministers would come down as usual, and that his Majesty's Speech would declare, that he had the happiness to transmit it, as he had received it, unimpaired to his successor. The Speech, however, which his Majesty was yesterday advised to deliver, would, he was quite sure, excite indignation throughout the country.
§ Mr. Leader
said, that when he saw the gentlemen of influence and of property in England rising around him to express the feeling which his Majesty's Speech was calculated to produce on their constituents, he could not imagine but it would be some consolation to the people of Ireland, even though there was nothing in the Speech from the Throne which was calculated to awaken their hope, yet it surely would be some consolation for them to know, that their cause was not without advocates, and that there were amongst their Representatives, those who deeply sympathised in their state and sufferings. If it were the duty of the people to obey the law, it was no less the duty of their Representatives to inquire into the causes of its infraction. Representatives ought to be the natural guardians and protectors of the people, and he unhesitatingly declared that Ireland was now reduced to a situation requiring the strongest exercise of wisdom and of honesty to prevent her being rapidly precipitated into evils, out of which it would be extremely difficult, or perhaps impossible, for her to extricate herself. It was his duty to state, in few words, the causes which appeared to him to have induced this distressing state of things in Ireland, and to assure the House of his sincere and anxious desire to do so with the strictest attention to impartiality 151 and truth. It was known to the House, that from the memorable period of giving free-trade to Ireland, to the time of the Union, no instance could be found of a nation progressing with rapidity equal to that country; and it was also known that a great portion of that prosperity had been obtained by the aid of the protecting duties and bounties which the resident Parliament of the country had given to its manufactures. When, according to the Treaty of Union, these protections and duties ceased, there was a considerable portion of manufacturing labourers of necessity thrown out of employment; and it unfortunately also happened, that about the same time a tremendous decline took place in the prices of the produce of land. If, when the protecting duties and bounties in favour of the manufactures of Ireland ceased, the prices of produce of land held up—or if, when the prices of produce declined, the manufactures had been preserved—Ireland might have contended with one of those evils, although it had been out of her power to successfully wrestle with both. It was not, however, by the reduction of the prices of produce, and the extinction of her manufactures exclusively that Ireland suffered. During the war Ireland had been the theatre of extraordinary expenditure—not less than from four to five millions annually, in the military, ordnance, and commissariat departments. This expenditure, unfortunately, happened to be withdrawn at the time that the protecting duties ceased, and likewise at the time that the prices of the produce of land were so greatly depreciated. Whilst these revolutions were in progress, the frightful and most afflicting malady of Ireland—absenteeship—progressively and rapidly increased;—so that, at one and the same time, the extinction of manufactures, the reduction in the price of the produce of land, the diminution in public expenditure, and the desertion of the country by the landed proprietors, all operated together to depress the industry of the country, and withdraw from circulation the immense sums which gave a stimulus to industry, and assisted in reconciling every person to his condition in the country. Besides these causes, which had an injurious operation on the prosperity of the country, and which it was impossible to overlook, there was another of considerable importance. Whilst the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department 152 was Secretary for Ireland, he appeared to be impressed with the conviction that it was essential that Ireland should be placed in the full possession of her great national capabilities and resources. Although he never had the honour of the most distant acquaintance with that right hon. Gentleman, he must say, that it was well understood, and highly creditable to the right hon. Secretary, that, whilst in office, he gave easy access to any gentleman disposed to promote the industry of the country, and was willing to aid every enterprise which could be accomplished without loss to the public. The money expended in public works in Ireland was undoubtedly of great advantage, not only to Ireland, but to the United Kingdom. But, although the advances were in general repaid by instalments, still the benefit of a gentleman high in office, taking a deep interest in the development of the resources of the country, was of inestimable value, and of the highest importance. And another and a powerful cause of the present disturbed state of the public mind may very safely be ascribed to the abandonment of a system of which the right hon. Gentleman was the author, and which, without subjecting the empire to the smallest pecuniary loss, was of immense advantage in relieving the people, and in encouraging the development of the resources of the country, so as eventually to triumph over its distresses. Besides these causes, which have had a severe operation on the prosperity of Ireland, there is one remaining cause of the distresses of the country, which must be corrected, or the country could not by possibility be relieved. He did not ascribe to taxation alone the pressure of distress under which Ireland laboured; but he came at once to the broad proposition, that the charges on Ireland were incapable of being met by the existing means of the country, and that it was become actually necessary, not only to diminish the burthens of the country, but to give facilities for industry, and remove every impediment which stood in the way of its improvement. When the word "charges" was mentioned or complained of, it was at once supposed that the word charges related entirely to State taxation: the charges on Ireland, however, consisted of revenues, tithes, local taxation, rents to absentees, rents to resident landlords, and vestry and various other charges, such as Quit and Crown rents, &c. 153 These charges together were probably little short of twenty millions annually, and when deducted at any time, or the most prosperous times, from the means of Ireland, left little remaining for the accumulation of capital in the country, or the subsistence of the people. At present it was matter of notoriety, that the manufacturing industry of the country had failed, and the landed produce of the country been greatly reduced in price. Was it to be expected that the same charges which were created whilst prices and means existed which were sufficient to discharge them, could be now paid, when the prices of agricultural produce were reduced, and manufactures extinguished? When the fund was reduced, was it reasonable that the charges should be continued without reduction likewise? Of the revenue, he would only say that when the rents of land, and the prices of the produce of land were, prior to the Bank Restriction, the same as at present, the nett revenue of Ireland did not exceed a million annually, and it was now at least five millions, and by many persons stated to be at least seven millions annually. Of the Church, every person knew, that it had not only been placed as the first charge on the land, but its income increased. Of the local taxation, it was beyond all dispute that, in the money of 1830, 1,000,000l. was equal to the entire sum raised for the payment of all demands levied by Parliament, for the whole Government in Ireland, at the period when the Duke of Wellington commenced his public life, and when the rents of land, and the prices of the produce of land were about the same as at the present moment. As for the charge for rent, the rents remitted to absentees had frequently increased, but on all hands there appeared to be only one opinion concerning the rents of the resident landlords, which must be still considerably abated. On the subject which was now agitating the minds of the people of Ireland, and which had been alluded to in his Majesty's Speech, he must be permitted to say, that it was excited by no Belgian spirit, nor, in his humble judgment, was there any necessity for the proclamation lately issued to avert the evils of civil war. He had attended one of the most influential meetings in Dublin, called by the Lord Mayor in the last summer, at which every banker, merchant, and gentleman of Dublin were present. It was called for the purpose of expressing the 154 decided opinion of the country against further taxation, and especially against the projected increase, which would have led to the ruin of the Press. Even at that meeting a disposition was evinced favourable to the Duke of Wellington, on account of his having passed the Relief Bill; and he believed in his conscience that it would be owing to the expressed determination of the Government to persevere in its projects, and to the declaration of the Duke of Wellington, that distress was periodical, and that he intended no relief for Ireland—should the cry raised for the repeal of the Union gather strength and consistency. He was the Representative of as free a constituency as any in existence—returned without any solicitation; and his constituents had left him free to use his own discretion on that important subject; which should be considered a striking illustration of the forbearance and good sense of his enlightened and independent constituency, for the city of Kilkenny was the centre of the woollen manufacture of Ireland before the Union, and its inhabitants were now confessedly reduced to the deepest distress. Under these circumstances, he implored the House to interpose its agency between the wants of the people and the power of the Crown. The people of Ireland must be employed; to employ them would extend the manufactures and wealth of England, for all that tended to develop the resources of Ireland equally added to the strength of England. He admired the manly and true English spirit of the members for Kent, who, while they reprobated the midnight excesses of incendiaries, at the same time fearlessly told the Ministers of the Crown, that unless the distresses of the people were relieved, they would find them supporting the cause of Parliamentary Reform, and compelling them to reduce those burthens by which the industry of the country was so grievously oppressed. He had himself had the misfortune of living in a district where civil war had raged in the same manner, and it would be found, on the evidence of Committees of the House, that while farmhouses were burned, and mansions were attacked all around him, the employment which he had afforded to the people kept his family in security, and preserved the peace of his estate. The hon. Gentleman concluded by again impressing on Ministers the necessity of advancing money to 155 be expended in public works, and in developing the resources of the country.
Sir John Bourke
attributed much of the agitation in Ireland to the dissatisfaction into which that country had been thrown last year by the propositions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That cause was happily removed, but there still remained great distress in the country. He hoped that the Government would not continue in the course which had already lost Ireland her situation in the scale of the powers of Europe, and lowered her proper rank in the British empire. She was destroyed by taxation. He could say, that in the country he came from, there was no spirit of disturbance, but the people expressed their opinions and sentiments fairly, without exhibiting any spirit which could lead to animosity or tumult. The late proclamations had caused disturbances, as might have been very well foreseen, and it was in vain to think of tranquillizing Ireland by proclamations, for if the substantial causes of agitation were not removed, agitation would not cease. The means of restoring tranquillity to Ireland would be, to give employment to the poor; but whilst the population of that country was idle and destitute, all hopes of tranquillizing it were vain. The people were anxious for employment, more than for any political changes; he was persuaded that they did not wish for a repeal of the Union, if they could only obtain justice from England. Amongst other causes of discontent in Ireland, was the unfortunate separation between the rich and the poor, between whom there unhappily existed no bond of union or sympathy. The discussion of the question to the repeal of the Union could, he thought, be attended with no good consequences, and he regretted to hear any comparison between Belgium and Ireland, these countries being placed in circumstances altogether different.
§ Lord Morpeth
said, he had a few observations to make which he should take the liberty of doing without transgressing the salutary order suggested in the course of a long debate, as to the best means of shortening their labours. He found, from the speeches upon all sides, that the state of Ireland required great attention and considerable relief. Relief and attention he hoped it would experience, but, in the mean time, the patriots of the two countries should oppose themselves to measures which could only lead to separation and 156 exhaustion. That passage of the Speech which related to the affairs of Belgium was the sore part, for, if there was one principle which the people of this country more deliberately recognized than another, it was the principle of non-interference. So strongly was his mind impressed with this conviction, that he had only been anticipated a few moments by his hon. friend, the member for Westminster, who had given notice of a motion on the subject. He rejoiced, however, that it had fallen into such able hands. It were much to be wished that Ministers, who displayed such a fondness for interference, would transfer it to the Debates of the House of Commons, and indulge it less in relation to foreign countries. But, leaving the chapter of our foreign politics to turn to that of our internal affairs, he could not but be of opinion, that within that House, and more especially out of doors, the minds of all men were deeply impressed with the conviction, that the present were times of alarm and pregnant with danger, and that the whole surface of the world was in an excited state. In how many quarters were there now in progress scenes of great agitation. It would be in vain to deny, and in some cases vain to regret, that important political changes were going on, though in some instances sufficient provocation had not been given for the alterations that were producing, and he could only express his satisfaction, that in this country there was no just ground of alarm on the score of disaffection to the government. In turn this country might be subject to change; transitions might be painful, and re-actions might mar for a time the blessings which they produced, and yet he hoped that in this country amendments would be effected without danger. Tyranny might have cause to tremble, but the people of this country were attached to their own institutions, and little disposed to encounter changes which, even in cases that called for their application, were often attended with circumstances which rendered their advantage questionable. He must contend, that if a rigid economy were resorted to, and if Ministers no longer continued to refuse a reform in the Commons House of Parliament, little danger could be apprehended to the institutions of this country. Unless Ministers were prepared to introduce such measures, they would pronounce against 157 themselves the severest sentence of incapacity which could be uttered. If, however, they were ready to concede all that justice demanded, and all that the situation of the country required, they might then take their stand against all unsafe concessions, and they would then have with them all the mass of the good sense, the virtue, and the intelligence of the country. The House would give him leave to add, that as nothing human could be made the subject of accurate calculation, making timely concessions was the only way to acquit themselves of responsibility and to guard against reproach.
§ Mr. Weyland
argued, that the cause of the distress amongst the lower classes was the want of sufficient capital to employ them. When the labourer had to depend entirely upon his wages, his support must necessarily depend upon the quantity of capital in the market. At present our population was increasing, and our capital stationary. If the population went on increasing, while capital decreased, misery must be the result. The only remedy for this state of things was, to place the productive labour of the country upon such a footing that it would be the interest of every man to save and employ capital, which was the only remedy that could be applied to the evil. He did not mean to contend that distress was universal, but it was more generally diffused, and more poignant than Ministers seemed to imagine. The hon. Member recommended the giving handsome wages to labourers, which would return a proportionate equivalent to their masters.
§ Mr. Robinson
said, that it was of importance at the present moment that every Member of that House, however inadequate might be his abilities to venture upon discussion, should declare his opinion on the situation of the country. They had then met under circumstances of no ordinary difficulty, and it was the duty of every man to render assistance, by offering his advice to Ministers and to the House, upon the present emergency. He should not enter into the details of the Speech, but he would express his serious apprehension of that passage of it, to which that part of the Address related, which it was now proposed should be amended. The right hon. Gentleman had declared that there was no intention of interfering hostilely in the affairs of Belgium, and he believed that his Majesty's Ministers had no 158 such intention, but he distrusted their ability to steer clear of such interference, if they at all mixed themselves up with the Holy Alliance or its affairs. Could the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that, if he interfered as a mediator— and interference in the concerns of foreign Courts, had too often brought distress and misery upon this country—he would not, in the result, find himself in such a situation, as that he would be obliged to come down to the House with a declaration that it was necessary for the honour and dignity of the Crown to enter upon hostilities? The people of this country were not prepared for a continental crusade. He would put it with earnestness to every Member of that House, whether there was not enough to occupy the attention of Parliament in our domestic concerns, without being continually engaged in the discussion of continental politics. The hon. member for Yorkshire had said, last night, enough to satisfy the House of the inexpediency of interference, and he should, therefore, dwell no longer upon the subject. He was certain that every Member must feel the necessity of repressing the disorders which prevailed in some parts of the country; but he for one could not help deploring that Ministers had not advised his Majesty, on this the first occasion of his meeting the first Parliament of his reign, to follow up his allusion to this subject by some expression of sympathy for the sufferings of the people. In the last Session of Parliament he had repeatedly pressed for inquiry into this subject, and he was now convinced, that if hon. Members deluded themselves with the idea that things would come round again of their own accord, they would be guilty of a base dereliction of their public duty. A great portion of the evils of the country had been brought about by a mistaken legislation — by enormous taxation on the productive industry of the country, and by corn-laws, which, however requisite for the protection of the land-holder, were wholly incompatible with the rate of wages of the lower orders. He trusted the House would not suffer the Session to pass over without turning its attention to the subject, with a view to provide employment for the poor, or to facilitate the means of their purchasing the necessaries of life, by a revision of the corn-laws.
Mr. Alderman Waithman
said, that he 159 would not have taken up the time of the House on that occasion, if he did not think it necessary to express, in the name of his constituents, his disapprobation of some portions of the Speech from the Throne. No one had entered that House during the present Session with a stronger feeling in favour of supporting the Address than himself, if he could do so consistently with his duty; but it was at the same time matter of deep regret to him that the Speech omitted any notice of the distress into which the country was plunged. His sentiments had been so much better expressed, however, by the noble Lord who was member for Northampton, and by the hon. member for Yorkshire, that he should not detain the House by again going over the same ground. He would therefore proceed at once to enter his protest against the intention of any interference in the internal affairs of Belgium. Such interference was directly opposed to the sentiments of the public at large, as he could gather from the conversations he had heard in the city on that very day. It was impossible that he should not be acquainted with the sentiments of vast numbers of people, and if he did not represent them to the House he would soon hear of it in a voice of thunder. He had hoped that Ministers would have brought forward some measure of reform—that they would, in short, have yielded in this instance, as they had in others, to the pressure of circumstances. Their not having done so verified the old adage, that individuals profit by experience, but governments never. It was with deep sorrow and regret that he learned from another quarter that there was no intention on the part of Ministers to support any measure of Reform. The hon. Member then referred to the case of Gatton, to show the necessity of Reform, and said, it was notorious that its representation was regularly sold. He did not blame the proprietors, for, if the borough were his own, he should do the same. He only stated the fact to show the necessity of Reform. If they would not concede this measure, the day would come when they would no longer be able to resist it— when it would come upon them like a thief in the night. He trusted the Government would re-consider the subject, and retract the opinion it had given. One hon. Member had attributed the distress of the country to a contraction of 160 capital; and he agreed with him in this, but he disagreed with those who thought that any reduction which could be effected in taxation would have the effect of removing the distress. The evil originated in over-production and consequent want of employment; and some remedy for this must be found before the distress of the country could be relieved.
Mr. Cutlar Ferguson
could not concur in the Amendment, although he expressed his disapprobation of that part of the Speech and Address which related to the affairs of the Netherlands. He would not give any opinion as to the merits of the quarrel between the King and the people in that country—he would not give any opinion on the subject of the affairs of France, but at the same time he thought, if we considered the situation of matters as they stood at present, that the words of the Royal Speech were calculated to do infinite mischief, instead of restoring tranquillity in the Netherlands, and effecting the union of the two countries. His Majesty was made to talk of three-fifths of the population of the entire country as revolted subjects. We talked of these men as revolted subjects, and yet these were the men who had raised armies, taken towns, and attacked citadels. The persons at the head of the Provisional Government were those with whom we should have to treat if we were really in earnest in our wish to tranquillize the Netherlands. If ever any treaty were to be made, these men must be parties to the negotiation. Such words, then, as those used in the Speech were, to say the least of them, unnecessary, and impolitic, when it was so easy to adopt another mode of expression. It would have been proper to state, that his Majesty regretted, that the attempts of the King of Holland to bring-about a reconciliation with the people of the Netherlands had failed. On the subject of the revolution in France, he believed there was but one opinion, but upon that of the Netherlands he knew that a considerable difference of opinion existed. However, we should take the authorities in the Netherlands as we found them, and we should not use any language in speaking of them, which would tend to excite irritation, or throw obstacles in the way of that amicable negotiation which it was, he presumed, desired to set on foot; for he could not bring himself to believe that the Government of this 161 country intended any other, and he took the earliest opportunity of stating, that as a Representative of constituents, he would never consent to the shedding of one drop of English blood, or the expending of the smallest coin of the realm, for the purpose of forcing the king of Holland on the people of the Netherlands. He did not mean to say, that the words of the Speech necessarily conveyed an intention of war on the part of this country, they referred rather to mediation; but then it was not the usual custom of mediators to begin by threatening and calling names. He must, therefore, think that the use of the words "revolted subjects" was, to adopt the phrase lately used in another country, most "inopportune." [Some Members said, "untoward."] No; the word to which he referred was "inopportune;" for he would ask, with what face could we proceed to mediate or negociate with parties whom we first branded as "revolted subjects?" The spirit of the treaties to which we had become party was, to guarantee the united kingdom of Holland and the Netherlands from foreign aggression, but no armed interference between the subjects of these two countries was contemplated. We were not called upon, therefore, by these treaties to take any part in the contest between the king of Holland and his Belgic subjects. The chief tiling we had guaranteed was the integrity of the two countries, united under one government; but let it be considered that his Majesty had himself submitted the question of the legislative separation of these two portions of the kingdom to the States General, and that their High Mightinesses had decided in favour of the separation; so that, in fact, the very thing which we were called upon to guarantee—the union of the two kingdoms—had been broken by the consent of the King and the States General. There was only one other point in the Speech from the Throne to which he would advert, that was the point relating to the Union between England and Ireland. He was most strenuously opposed to the dissolution of that Union, because he felt convinced that, if carried into effect, it would be the ruin of Ireland. He had not yet heard one good argument in favour of such separation. If it were said that the interests of Ireland were not attended to in that House, he must dent it. He denied that there was any want of 162 attention to those interests, or any want of inclination on the part of the English Members to do every thing that could be done for Ireland. If more were not done, it was because the means did not exist, and because sufficient assistance was not given to that object from Ireland itself. The cases which had been cited by the hon. and learned member for Waterford, in support of his view of the question, were those of the Subletting Act, and the disfranchisement of the forty-shilling freeholders. These had, no doubt, been productive of much individual suffering, aggravated by the unfeeling conduct of many of the Irish landlords. But the Subletting Act was, he might, say, the act of the Irish Members themselves, and it was unfair to throw upon others the blame of a measure which had not worked so well as was expected. The English Members had taken a warm interest in Irish matters, and, for his own part, he would say, that he had been one of the first, not an Irish Member, to oppose the equalization of the duties as to stamps in the two countries, by raising those of Ireland to the level of those duties in England. One word as to another argument of the hon. member for Waterford. That hon. and learned Member complained of the facility given to the landlord to eject his tenant for non-payment of rent. Nobody could doubt, that the landlord had the clearest right to eject his tenant if his rent were not paid; and if the expenses of that process were reduced, it must be a benefit to the tenant, who ultimately would have to pay them; yet the hon. and learned Gentleman, who declared himself a legal reformer, complained of the reduction of the expense of an ejectment from 17l. to 22s.. 6d., and he would bring back the blessing of the heavy expense, to frighten landlords from bringing ejectments for non-payment of their rent. If this were the hon. and learned Gentleman's notion of legal reform, if this were his cheap law, he certainly could not concur with him in his opinion of either. Yet this was also one of the arguments urged by the hon. and learned Gentleman in favour of a repeal of the Union. He did not object to the hon. Gentleman for having an opinion in favour of that repeal. The question was a constitutional one, and he only wished that he would fix a day to bring it forward, and have the sense of the House taken upon it. There was a 163 precedent for such a motion. In the House of Lords, soon after the passing of the Act of Union with Scotland, a motion was made for leave to bring in a bill for its repeal, and it was lost only by a majority of four. He would say, that if the hon. and learned Gentleman should have the whole of his minority amount to four, he might think himself very lucky. He had heard too much of the public and private conduct of the hon. and learned Member to impute to him any improper motive. The whole of his life showed that he acted for what he considered the interest of Ireland. He had done much for his country, as much, in fact, as King, Lords, and Commons; yet, giving him credit for what he had done, he could wish that he would confine his efforts for the repeal of the Union to the walls of that House, and that he would use his great eloquence and his powerful influence, to persuade that House, rather than to form societies out of it, such as had existed in Ireland, and that he would abstain from such a practice as the collection of rent, to be employed for any purpose, legal or illegal. The principle was a bad one, and might lead to dangerous abuse. In conclusion, the hon. and learned Gentleman again expressed his objection to that part of the Speech and the Address which referred to the people of Belgium.
said, that the allusion made in the Speech to the present state of Belgium could not be construed into any intention of war on the part of this country, and he was sure no such intention existed. The words of the Speech referred rather to the disposition of Government to restore tranquillity there by mediation, and that was very natural on the part of Government with respect to a country in which we felt so deep an interest. He must take that opportunity of expressing his regret at the delusion which existed amongst some of the labouring classes, and which led them to acts of riot and outrage; but he was sure that they were urged to those depredations by those who should have given them better advice; and he was convinced, that notwithstanding what had occurred in some places, the mass of the people were sound at bottom. As to Ireland, it was in a much more tranquil state than the exaggerated accounts of some individuals would lead the public to believe. The agriculturists of that country were every day getting an increased vent 164 for their produce, to the great disadvantage of the British farmer and grazier, but to the great advantage of Ireland generally. He knew that lately vast quantities of cattle had been imported from that country into Gloucestershire, and, indeed, Ireland was now so closely linked with this country, that it was impossible for the latter to be prosperous unless the former was also prosperous. A great deal had been said about the word "enlightened," but he thought hon. Members had not sufficient means of judging of the character of the government of the Netherlands. His Majesty's Ministers possessed, no doubt, a better opportunity than many Members of knowing the nature of that government. He did not know what objection could be taken to the course proposed by Ministers, of offering themselves as mediators between the people of Belgium and the king of Holland. If they went so far as to enter upon a war, detested at the present moment, and deprecated by all Englishmen, it would be then time enough to oppose them. He was happy to hear that part of his Majesty's Speech which recommended economy, and he hoped that recommendation would be followed up by proper deeds; if it were not, he should think the Administration undeserving of the confidence either of the King or the country. On the whole, he should be ready to agree to the Address.
§ Sir George Murray
said, it had been remarked at the commencement of the evening by his right hon. friend (Sir R. Peel) that brevity in their addresses to the House would very much facilitate the progress of the public business; and to prove that he fully concurred in the pro priety of the remark, and the necessity of attending to it, he would, at least, in what he had to say, set an example, and be brief. A great deal had been said upon the subject of Ireland; but it had all been incidental, for it did not flow naturally out of any part of the King's Speech, nor had he heard it said, that the topic ought to have been introduced into the Royal Speech. He would not, therefore, go at length into the subject, but he would take that opportunity of saying most positively, that the repeal of the Union ought not to take place. England and Ireland were so intimately and so inseparably connected, that even the idea of separation ought not to be entertained. He must also state his 165 firm conviction, that every measure which had been proposed for the improvement of Ireland had received the most patient and the most anxious consideration of that House. He rejoiced to know that this was the fact, that the interests and the welfare of Ireland were most dearly cherished, for he was convinced that what was for the benefit of Ireland was for the benefit of the empire at large; and that man was the best friend to Great Britain who improved and gave prosperity to Ireland. The great source of injury to Ireland was this; no sooner was one subject for agitation disposed of, than another was mooted. He trusted, however, that the attempt now making to excite discontent in Ireland, and to effect a repeal of the Act of Union, would prove futile. He had no doubt it would, although it might for a short period create annoyance. Many remarks had been made upon the consequences of the Subletting Act. He did not, however, see how those consequences were to be avoided. There might be some harshness in particular cases, but he knew not how those cases were to be singled out and provisions made respecting them. The distress occasioned by the Subletting Act was the natural consequence of the change from the old system to the present one, and could not be of long duration. He would not further occupy the attention of the House upon that point, but proceed to notice that part of his Majesty's Speech which referred to Belgium. He thought that some hon. Gentlemen had looked with a jaundiced eye at that part of the Royal Speech, and that they had drawn an alarming and threatening picture, which was unjust, and not warranted by anything which had been said by his Majesty. He could not conceive how it could be contended, with any shew of justice, that the language complained of threatened or referred to war, or to military interference. The paragraph would admit of no such construction, without being wrested from its manifest meaning. The great principle of his Majesty's Government, with respect to foreign affairs, had been that of noninterference. He did not mean to say that it was impossible for a case to arise in which his Majesty's Ministers would not feel it a duty to interfere, but such a case would be the exception, and he hoped a very rare one, to their conduct, and not the rule. With respect to Belgium, he 166 must say, it formed no such exception; and his Majesty's Speech, in his opinion, indicated nothing to justify alarm, and the various fears which had been expressed. It was true, that no portion of Europe was more interesting to this country than the Dutch and Belgic provinces. The former had long been closely connected with us, and the latter were the objects of our peculiar solicitude; and when his Majesty alluded to treaties regarding those countries, his Majesty referred to the treaties made between the different Powers which had taken part in the pacification of Europe, and all of which were deeply interested in the maintenance of peace. It was impossible this country should forget those treaties, which were made for pacific purposes, so that England should detach herself wholly from the system of Europe. He was quite ready to admit, that it was desirable for this country to interfere as little as possible, but occasions must and would arise upon which it was necessary for England to appear and exercise her just influence. And what were the expressions used by his Majesty? Objection had been made to the phrase "repose of the world." Surely there was nothing in the expression calculated to excite alarm; nor was there anything in it indicating a thought or a wish for war. The policy of Government had been throughout pacific—nay, the Government had been reproached by its opponents for not interfering with the affairs of foreign nations. What had been said of the conduct of Government in not interfering with Portugal? And if it had interfered in the manner which some had wished, how could it, looking at the precedent which would have been established, have been able, injustice, to hinder the late king of France from assembling his followers and proceeding from the shores of this country to France? The principle which he was favourable to was this: let this country be the asylum of misfortune; let the expatriated foreigner, whether king or subject, find a place of refuge in England, and let him receive all the attention which humanity can suggest, but let nothing be done to mix up this country in the quarrels of other nations: such was the principle he would act upon. The hon. member for Kirkcudbright had found fault with the word "revolt" as applied to the conduct of the Belgians; but surely there was nothing very censurable or unusual 167 in the expression, for did not history speak about the revolt of the Belgians from the Crown of Spain? He could see nothing objectionable in the words used by his Majesty. Some hon. Gentlemen seemed to think that the treaties alluded to in the Royal Speech had been made by the Holy Alliance. Such was not the fact. This country had never been a party to the Holy Alliance, and the treaties referred to had been agreed upon by those Powers which had taken so active a part in the pacification of Europe after the late arduous war. This country had never adopted the system of the Holy Alliance, but, acting with its allies, it had endeavoured to secure the peace and happiness of Europe, and not to create war and tumult. Upon other points objections had been taken to his Majesty's Speech. The hon. member for Abingdon found fault with the Royal Speech because it did not speak of a reduction of taxation. He thought it would have been premature had his Majesty spoken of any such reduction. A reduction in the taxes could be made only after a reduction in the expenditure had been effected, and therefore the latter reduction ought to be made before the former was spoken of. Again, his Majesty's Speech had been objected to because it contained no allusion to Parliamentary Reform. But surely the omission was a very proper one. Upon Parliamentary Reform there was a great variety of opinions, and it was much better for the Government to let the subject come, as it undoubtedly would—and there was a specific notice of motion upon it already given, before the House—than to take up any particular position with respect to it in the Royal Speech. Upon the subject of a Reform in Parliament, he would, if he might be permitted to allude to what had fallen from a noble Lord opposite last night, say, as that noble Lord had said upon another matter—he would listen attentively to the propositions which might be made, and he would adopt that course which he really believed to be the most likely to benefit the country. Upon the subject of reform, he had his own general opinions, but he would shape his conduct as he thought best for the interests of the country. The hon. member for Preston had complained that the Government had acted presumptuously in advising his Majesty to speak of the Constitution as unimpaired. He thought the charge 168 without any foundation. The expression, as he understood it, did not mean that any defects which might be discovered were not to be removed, but that the great principles of the Constitution were to be maintained. He did not believe, that the great principles of the Constitution had been departed from in the repeal of the Test-acts and the removal of the Catholic disabilities; but he thought that they had been adhered to by the extension of the blessings of the Constitution to those people who had before been excluded from participating in their enjoyment. He confessed himself friendly to a Reform in Parliament, which would secure an efficient and a good system of government to the country. [Cheers from the Opposition benches.] But let him not be misunderstood, as he found from those cheers he might be. He was not favourable to any great extension of the elective franchise. He was willing to admit, as an abstract principle, that every man had a right to a voice in the government of the country, but he contended that for practical purposes it was wise and proper that that right should be confined to comparatively a small number of the community. He contended also that the system now in use had worked well; if it were said it had not, and required alteration, he asked how came it that the country had gone on so prosperously under it, and achieved the highest rank in the scale of nations? He repeated that he wished not to be misunderstood, or to receive credit with any party for opinions which he did not entertain, and was not ready to support. He considered a powerful and influential aristocracy essential to the maintenance of the best interests of this country. He did not feel it necessary to inquire how far the influence of an individual of that aristocracy might have been used with propriety or not; but he was convinced that the influence of the aristocracy in general ought not to be confined to that House, which appeared to be peculiarly intended to represent it. If it were so confined, he was convinced that it would soon decline, and be found inefficient for the purposes for which it was intended.
§ Sir R. Gresley
thought, that the general complaint against his Majesty's Speech was occasioned, not by what it said, but by what it had omitted. He certainly regretted that not a word had been said 169 about the distress which, it must be admitted, prevailed to a great extent in the country; but he was glad that his Majesty had declared his intention of enforcing the strictest economy in all the departments of the State, as such a course would offer the best means of alleviating the distress. He would support the Address, because, though his Majesty's Speech declared that it was the King's intention to transmit the Constitution unimpaired to his successor, it did not denounce the adoption of salutary measures of reform.
§ Mr. Denman
felt gratified at the speech which had been delivered by the right hon. Secretary opposite (Sir G. Murray). That speech, he was convinced, would be received with satisfaction throughout the country. He only regretted that, in another place, where a Minister of the Crown had thought it necessary to explain the ambiguous meaning of part of his Majesty's Speech, similar sentiments were not to be discovered. It was matter of deep regret, that in these times of alarm, while a right hon. Secretary in the House of Commons was expressing himself in favour of Reform, and not even restricting himself from approving of a measure for universal suffrage—(for he had declared his anxiety to discuss every plan of Reform, and his desire to know how the House of Commons could be reformed, so as to be made fit for the purposes of good government, the only principle on which any reform was proposed)—a noble person at the head of the Government, and who might be said to direct the destinies of Europe, had, within twenty-four hours, and within 100 yards of that spot, declared that no Reform should be listened to. Not only would the Government bring forward no plan of Reform as had been fondly expected, but no plan was to be listened to, and no amendment of the Constitution was to be suffered. The people were indebted to the right hon. Secretary for the sentiments which he had expressed, but they were more obliged to the noble person at the head of the Government for having fairly told them what they had to expect, and let them into the secret as to the principles on which the government of the country was to be conducted. It was with regret and disappointment he had heard every paragraph of his Majesty's Speech read from the Chair. There was not a single sentence in it worthy the approbation of an enlightened Administration or 170 an independent Parliament. In the first place, Government told Parliament that it was not their intention to interfere in the concerns of other nations, when by that very Speech they did interfere. They said they came forward as mediators; but they declared that they had made up their minds that one of the parties was in the wrong; and, forsooth, that party had occasioned all the evils which afflicted Belgium and threatened the repose of Europe. He objected to the Government of this country volunteering an opinion on the subject. Who wanted to know what Ministers thought on the matter? The people of Belgium were, however, slandered by being designated revolted subjects. But the right hon. Secretary said, there was no reproach in the words, and observed, that the Low Countries were stated in history to have revolted against Philip. But supposing Queen Elizabeth, in addressing Parliament, had designated the people of the Low Countries as revolted subjects, and expressed her regret at their rising against their enlightened sovereign, he should like to know what the House of Commons of that time would have said? That was a parallel case. If we were to enter into the discussion of how foreign people and foreign governments had conducted themselves, why did the King's Speech limit itself to that meagre account of the Duke of Orleans becoming king of the French? Was it an enlightened government which had led to that change? Why, then, was not the enlightened government of Charles 10th referred to? And as to interference, if there ever was a time when our interference in French affairs would have been beneficial, it was the period between the dissolution of the first Chamber and the issue of the Ordinances, —interference then might have been usefully exercised. But in the case of France, the Speech was limited to a simple statement of the fact; and the hon. Seconder had told the House, that as the Duke of Orleans had been recognized by the king of England as King of the French, it followed as a corollary, on the same principle, that Don Miguel must be acknowledged as king of Portugal. It was delightful to contemplate the improvements of the age, and wonderful to see the progress of education in its effects upon the human mind, in the mode in which the French people had conducted themselves, affording an example to all the world, how a bad government 171 ought to be resisted. Notwithstanding the provocations they had received, they had exercised a wonderful forbearance at a time when they could have done whatever they pleased. It had been justly asked, when had the victories of despotism been so conducted? When governments had succeeded in recovering what they deemed their just rights, they were said to exhibit a wonderful degree of moderation if they shed but little blood. But in France the triumphant party seemed to be endeavouring to save the lives of their greatest enemies, and, great as their guilt was, he trusted they would be saved by their own insignificance from the punishment they justly deserved. The people of France had done all they could, to preserve themselves, without unnecessary sacrifices. But in the case of Belgium he could not say so much. He could not say who was right and who was wrong. He did not know the state of the facts; but that made it the more improper for a House of Commons to echo back the charge of revolt; particularly in a case of so much importance, where a single word put into the mouth of our King might produce another expenditure of 1,200,000,000l. As to the epithet "enlightened," which had been applied to the government of the Netherlands, the Ministers who had prevailed upon his Majesty to adopt it, could have had no knowledge of the subject. But the people of England knew that the fundamental law of that kingdom had been violated,—that the liberty of the Press had been put down, and the Trial by Jury got rid of. As far as he could see of the Belgian insurrection, it did appear as if a sort of Paris fashion had spread abroad: for there had been no immediate cause for the revolt when it broke out. That circumstance, however, made the lesson the more serious to other countries. When some important event occurred to shake the pillars upon which the Constitution rested, all the real grievances of the people rose to the surface. When once they were in a state of excitement, a strain—a hurt—a weakness only would betray their real feelings. In our own case it would have been perfectly easy for Government to have conciliated the people of England by saying to them, "we know that you have grievances, and sufferings, and abuses; we will provide an effectual remedy, and to your unavoidable sufferings we are not indifferent." But, 172 no; all was defiance—all was menace. "We will put down sedition," said his Majesty's Ministers; "at the same time we will give permission to any Members on the opposite side of the House to bring forward any project of Reform, with a reservation of the rights of those in another place to interfere in the election of Members of the House of Commons." But they would not put a word into the Speech respecting the redress of the people's grievances, in respect to that unconstitutional and intolerable abuse in the representation of the people, which made it stink in the nostrils of the country. The people mocked at it when they were told that they were represented in the Commons House of Parliament. The people expected that the King's Government itself would come forward with some measure: and if the Government would not do it, they looked to the House of Commons; and if the House would not do what it was their bounden duty to do, the people would look to it themselves. He did not say that they would feel a disposition to resort to illegal measures, but they would proceed by petition and remonstrance; and if that would not do, he did not say they would have recourse to any thing which savoured of violence; but if the country was to be loaded with the taxation of former years, and discontents arose, there were furnished, to those individuals who were intent on mischief and agitation, topics of frightful grievances, rendered still more alarming by the indication which had appeared elsewhere, of a determination to resist all attempts at redress; and a crisis was not unlikely to arrive, the consequences of which the youngest in that House might have reason to deplore. With regard to the Union, he felt the utmost dislike and repugnance to every motion for the repeal of a legislative, or any other union between the two countries of England and Ireland. If the hon. and learned member for Waterford had any grievances to allege—for which, however, the repeal of the Union was the last remedy—let them be brought forward, and let the House consider of the remedy. Let the Irish people state their grievances, and let the Government endeavour to redress them. As far as he knew the state of the case, we were placed in a situation entirely new. He well remembered, not many years ago, when a motion for Reform was brought forward, it had been resisted by a 173 right hon. Gentleman, who asked, "What have you to gain by Reform?" Mr. Canning referred triumphantly to the individuals amongst the Ministers who represented popular places. But it was not so now. Let the members for Yorkshire and Middlesex come forward and tell them what was the state and feelings of the country. The hon. Member concluded by protesting, on behalf of the people of England, against the horrible idea that we were to tender our interference in the affairs of a foreign nation, after pronouncing in favour of its government. Ministers could not be in communication with the people, they could not know their sentiments, when they put such a proposition into the mouth of the King. If there had been any well considered amendment to the Address, recommending the improvement of the representation of the people, he would have supported it; and when the question of the Address came again before the House, he should feel it to be his duty to say that he never would support it.
was inclined, after the King's Speech, and the declaration of the Ministers, to believe, that their conduct would not excite great animosity, and that there could be no fear of a revolution being attempted in this country. He was sorry, however, to learn, that his Majesty did not recommend Reform of the Parliament, as he thought that was necessary, at least so far as to give the right of sending Members to Parliament to the large unrepresented manufacturing towns.
Lord F. L. Gower
felt, great reluctance to" address the House, after the speech of the well-dressed actor, the hon. and learned member for Nottingham, whom he was glad to see in the House again. He was not surprised at the objection which had been made to the King's Speech, by those from whom that objection was natural and proper, viz. that the subject of Parliamentary Reform had not been recommended to the House, He was bound to say, that he saw, as plain as any man, the tide which ran so strong in favour of that question in the country. He knew there had been a clamour raised throughout the land in its favour, and it was no wish or aspiration of his to take an unpopular view of a public question. Still he stood there to say, that, after full consideration, and some little experience, his opinions on that question remained unchanged. What were those opinions? he might be asked. He 174 had formerly stated, that he thought the measure would be dangerous to the interests of the country. Some remarks had been made after the declaration which had been uttered in another place on this question. But when an occasion occurred to state that person's opinion, it was a manly and open course to say that that opinion remained unchanged; it might otherwise be insinuated, "You are lying by, and trimming your sails, till you see in what direction the wind blows." If the King's Speech had omitted the mention of Parliamentary Reform, so had every Speech from the Throne, as far as the memory of man runneth. He viewed the events of Paris with satisfaction, not un-mingled with regret, for he lamented that the king was a bigot, and his minister a fanatic, while he could not but admire and applaud the gallantry with which the people had asserted their violated liberties.
denied the necessity for an armed interference between the king of the Netherlands and his subjects. He was sorry to hear the noble Lord opposite apply the term "clamour" to the expression of popular feeling on the subject of parliamentary reform. That, with other expressions used by official men that night, as well as some portions of their conduct, convinced him, that the Ministers were totally unacquainted with the feelings and sentiments of the people of England. The irresistible torrent of public opinion that was coming down amongst them he hoped would soon efface every vestige of that aristocratic prejudice which had dictated such language.
§ Mr. H. Davis
refused to entertain any plan of parliamentary reform, as he conceived that every interest in the country was already sufficiently represented. He viewed the proposal with inexpressible dismay, and greatly feared it would be discovered, when too late, that the change demanded was very much miscalled by those who designated it reform. His constituency comprised a great number of votes, and he did not hesitate to say, that the question was one of the most dangerous ever mooted within the walls of Parliament. It appeared, however, that no twenty men of those who advocated "reform," could be found to agree in opinion as to what would be the best mode of attaining it.
Hughes expressed the warmest approbation of every sentiment 175 contained in the Address, in which, therefore, from the beginning to the end, he most cordially concurred. He would give Ministers his unqualified confidence, and support them through evil report and good report, without any compromise of principles, or sacrifice of his independence. This determination he was the more anxious to take the present opportunity of avowing, as it had been bruited abroad that he had become a member of a factious and irreconcileable opposition. He had been sent to that House by the unbiassed votes of a free, a high-minded, and intelligent constituency, to whom, it was but justice to say, that their Representative never yet had been, and never would become, the bond-slave of a faction. In this awful and tremendous crisis—a crisis more extraordinary than any which the chronicles of the whole world could produce—it pleased Providence to elevate to the Throne a mild, amiable, and paternal Monarch, who had selected the existing Ministry at the very commencement of his reign, to guide the councils of the State. He should therefore give them his confidence, and he scrupled not to promise, that he would strengthen their hands. The time, he trusted, was now past, when their support of a useful measure would be regulated by their feelings towards the side of the House from whence it had proceeded.
§ Mr. Trevor
gave his cordial support to the Address, and thought that the passage which had been objected to, relative to Belgium, was a very proper one.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that the discussion which had just taken place, imposed on him the duty of making one or two observations on the subject of parliamentary reform, respecting which the hon. and learned member for York had so recently given notice of a motion. This task he would rather, on the present occasion have avoided, as he was unwilling to express an opinion on such a question, until it should have been legitimately brought under the consideration of the House. A construction, however, had been put on the declarations of his right hon. friend, which deprived him of an alternative. With regard to the question generally, he might remark, that he had never hitherto taken a very decided part. Opposed to it he admitted he certainly had been, but at the same time (with very few exceptions), he had contented himself with a silent vote. 176 It appeared that a passage in the speech of his right hon. friend had been interpreted as expressive of the sentiments of Government generally on the subject. Now he fully admitted that he saw difficulties about the question of reform which he was by no means prepared to solve. He wished, nevertheless, to say nothing then which might in any degree prejudice the discussion hereafter, or interfere with its advancement to a satisfactory termination. He saw considerable difficulties attendant on the mere agitation of the topic, and he confessed himself at a loss to conjecture the principle of limitation which the hon. and learned Member appeared to contemplate as the guarantee of a moderate reform. The member for Nottingham (Mr. Denman) had intimated, as he understood him, that no measure of reform which still allowed of the interference of Peers in the return of Members of the House of Commons would satisfy him. His argument, he concluded from the tenour of his speech, must be directed against an aristocratic government altogether. To such an extent he was not prepared to go; nor did he at present see any prospect that such a measure of safe, moderate reform, as his Majesty's Government might be inclined to sanction, would satisfy the demands or expectations of the reformers. This only he would now premise, reserving a fuller exposition of his sentiments to the opportunity when they could be regularly and seasonably explained. As to the interference with Belgium, he owned he was surprised to find such difference of opinion after the speech which they had heard from the noble Lord opposite last night. They had but one of three courses to pursue; either to disavow all interest in the affairs of Belgium, as the hon. member for Middlesex suggested, allowing French soldiers to make what incursions they pleased, and take possession of Antwerp and other fortifications unmolested; or, by military interference, to compel the submission of the provinces to their king, (neither of which we adopted); or lastly, when civil war was raging in a part of Europe, from its position peculiarly calculated to embroil neighbouring States, to mediate with a view to restore tranquillity, and not for the purpose of subjugating the Netherlands; and this was the species of interference to which the British Government had had recourse. The Speech from the Throne did not contain 177 a word which necessarily implied the re-annexation of the provinces to the crown from which they had revolted. Did those expressions, at a time when civil war was devastating two of the finest cities on the Continent—did those expressions imply that the object of Government was quiet mediation? He contended that they did. What was the end to be answered by the interferences alluded to? Was it the subjugation of Belgium? No, in the words of the Speech it was, "to restore the tranquillity and the good government of the Netherlands." He denied that the expressions used implied another meaning. It yet remained open for the Government to take any steps that might appear most advantageous. Had this country, after Antwerp and Brussels had been completely ransacked and ruined—after the people in those cities had suffered grievously—this country had said, "We leave you to settle your matters as you best can," we should have thrown the Netherlands open to others, and that would have been the most probable way of ensuring the complete annihilation of their recently-acquired liberties. England had, as on all former occasions, acted on a different principle. The hon. and learned Gentleman, the member for Yorkshire, last night said, that this was the first instance of the mention in any King's Speech, of the internal disturbances of a foreign State, and he referred to the line of conduct adopted in the case of Poland. But there was not the slightest analogy between the two cases. The partition of Poland was not occasioned by internal hostility. It was the dismemberment of a country by foreign Powers; and what the partition of Poland had to do with the Netherlands he could not comprehend. The question, in that instance, was fully discussed, and it was determined that this country should not take part in it. But the hon. and learned Gentleman was not correct in stating that this was the first occasion on which the King's speech had mentioned matters of this nature. In contradiction of his assertion he would refer to the Speeches in 1787 and 1792; and then he was sure the hon. and learned Gentleman would hardly maintain his assertion. The first of those documents contained a reference to the state of France; and in addition, there was a reference made in the King's Speech, delivered in 1764, to Holland itself. The Speech delivered on the 30th of May, 1787, said—"But dissensions 178 unhappily prevail among the States of the United Provinces, which, as a friend and well-wisher to the republic, I cannot see without the most real concern." Here was a distinct reference to the internal condition of a foreign State. In the same year, when the government of France evinced a disposition towards an invasion of the Netherlands, this country took steps which fully proved, that the policy of noninterference was dependent on the policy of other States. At the opening of the Session of Parliament, on the 27th of November, 1787, the King's Speech stated —"At the close of the last Session I informed you of the concern with which I observed the disputes unhappily subsisting in the republic of the United Provinces. Their situation soon afterwards became more critical and alarming, and the danger which threatened their constitution and independence, seemed likely, in its consequence, to affect the security and interests of my dominions." These facts shewed that the present Government had not struck out any new line of conduct. He did not mean then to argue the right of taking the step alluded to in his Majesty's Speech, but he contended that it was neither proper nor fair for the hon. and learned Gentleman to state, that this was the first time when such a step had been taken. The act might be wrong or right; he would not discuss that; he only meant to shew, that this was not the first instance in which his Majesty's Speech had expressed sentiments relative to the internal state of foreign countries, and the interference of this country with disturbances in them. The Speech from the Throne also stated—"In conformity to the principle which I had before explained, I did not hesitate, on receiving this notification, to declare, that I could not remain a quiet spectator of the armed interference of France, and I gave immediate orders for augmenting my forces both by sea and land." Had the hon. and learned Gentleman adverted to the conduct of Mr. Fox on that occasion he would have found that Mr. Fox said,—that he considered the course adopted was perfectly just, and he objected only to the use of the word "lawful" in the Address. There were other occasions when mention was made in the Speech from the Throne, of disturbances abroad. In 1790 the hon. and learned Gentleman might have found that a reference was made to the internal state 179 of a foreign country, and the declaration on that occasion was as nearly as possible the same as that of the present Speech. In 1790, the King coming to Parliament, stated from the Throne "Since the last Session of Parliament a foundation has been laid for a pacification between Austria and the Porte, and I am now employing my mediation, in conjunction with my Allies, for the purpose of negociating a definitive treaty between those Powers, and of endeavouring to put an end to the dissensions in the Netherlands, in whose situation I am necessarily concerned, from considerations of national interest, as well as from the engagements of treaties." If other proofs were wanting to refute the assertion, that on no former occasion had reference been made in a King's Speech to the internal dissensions of a foreign country, it would only be necessary to refer to the year 1787. He was not asking whether the mention of the internal state of foreign countries was wrong; he only wished to show, that it would be foreign to the policy which England had pursued on former occasions, not to have done as had been done in the present instance. The hon. and learned Gentleman had referred to former occasions, and had taunted his Majesty's Government with their present proceedings, but he would contend that it was a matter of great importance to the condition of that country, and, in fact, to the whole continent of Europe, that his Majesty should express his opinion of the unhappy state of affairs in the Netherlands. As he had before stated, there were only three courses for this country to pursue. Indifference to the proceedings in the Netherlands would have given a notice to other countries that England abandoned them to their fate. To have used a military force, to compel a restoration of tranquillity in that country would not have been consistent with the policy of Mr. Pitt? He begged, to recall to the mind of the hon. and learned Gentleman, that part of the history of the proceedings of this country in which it was proposed by the late Mr. Pitt to give to the Russian Ambassador a written statement, as conclusive of his opinion, as to what ought to be done in the year 1805. In that document Mr. Pitt separated the case of those countries with respect to which, owing to their situation, the interference of this country would be just and proper, from those other 180 countries, which, being only remotely connected with Great Britain, interference could seldom or never be justified, and Mr. Pitt included the Netherlands under the former division. That opinion was given by him a short time only before his death. Thus, he had, as he thought, satisfactorily proved two cases in which the King's Speech had mentioned the state of the Netherlands, notwithstanding the assertion of the hon. and learned Gentleman to the contrary. But it was said, what right had the Government to characterize the Belgians as revolted subjects. Had we not, it was said, passed a warm eulogium on the revolution of the French? We had, but he contended that the condition of the two countries was totally different. With respect to Belgium, the political condition of that country was settled by the Congress assembled at Vienna. The arrangement was laid before Parliament, and in all the discussions in 1815, but few objections were made to it. There was a distinct motion made with respect to Genoa, but not with respect to the Netherlands. The result of the arrangements made by the Congress at Vienna was, that Belgium was intrusted to the sovereignty of the king of Holland, under certain restrictions or fundamental laws, which were imposed on the king of Holland for the exclusive benefit of the Belgians themselves. Some of the conditions were— that no innovation should be made in the articles of the Constitution—that the fundamental law should remain inviolate— that free access to the Throne should be allowed to the citizens, in order that they might lay their grievances before his Majesty—and that no impediment should be offered to the Belgian subjects for the benefit of the Dutch. In fact, all these Articles were intended for the advantage of the Belgians, and the king of Holland took that people with the understanding that a violation of them by him would authorize the Belgians to apply to the Allied Powers, the parties to the treaty, for redress; thereby reducing the question for the consideration of his Majesty's Government to the simple fact—did or did not the king of Holland violate the fundamental laws on which rested his sovereignty over Belgium? He contended for one, that the king of Holland had not violated those laws, but that, on the contrary, he had always manifested the greatest readiness to submit the redress of any 181 grievances of which his Belgian subjects might complain, to the proper constitutional authority—the States General. In his opinion the king of the Netherlands intended to do right, and the conduct of that monarch had not been contrary to the laws laid down by the Congress. The hon. and learned member for Nottingham in stating his reasons for not agreeing with that part of the Address which alluded to the disturbances in the Netherlands, passed the severest condemnation on the conduct of the Belgians he had yet heard. That hon. and learned Member said, that the Belgians had imitated in their conduct, the last Paris fashion. Could there be a stronger term used in speaking of a civil war, than to describe it as merely imitating a fashion? There was neither prudence nor justice in confounding the events which gave rise to the occurrences in France, with those of Belgium. Not only was there no similarity between the circumstances of the two cases, but there was a ready disposition on the part of the king of the Netherlands to submit the grievances of the people to the proper tribunal, to the States General, for consideration. In the Address of the king of the Netherlands to the States General, his Majesty said, "I am disposed to comply with reasonable desires." Again, in the message he afterwards sent down to that assembly, he leaves these two questions for their consideration—whether experience had shown the necessity of revising the fundamental law? Whether, in that case, the system established by treaty and by the fundamental laws between the two great divisions of the kingdom, for the promotion of their common interests require to be altered in their form or nature? These were the terms which that sovereign used when he left the subject for the consideration of the States General. The hon. and learned Gentleman said last night that the march of Prince Frederick to Brussels was a violation of the Belgian compact. But he believed that Prince Frederick's march to Brussels was not a preconcerted act. His advance on that town was not made with any intention of bringing the military force under him into action. For, what were the facts? At first, the insurrection in Brussels did not appear to have any definite object; and Prince Frederick's march to that town was equally without any decided purpose of 182 committing violence. Brussels had just before been the scene of an undefined commotion, the objects of which were, the removal of an unpopular minister, and of a municipal tax. To check the excesses of the agents in this insurrection, the inhabitants organized themselves into a burgher guard, which most probably would have succeeded but for the foreigners and unemployed poor in the neighbourhood, who flocked into the town, and ultimately enabled the insurgents to defeat the burgher guard. Prince Frederick had no other object than to support this guard in protecting property, and was astonished when he met with the resistance which was offered to his entry. The charge of treachery, made against him was without any foundation. The real question before the House was, whether it would come to a resolution to vote, in answer to the Speech of his Majesty, the Address before it. Without going further, at present, into a consideration of these questions, he would merely observe that the Address did not pledge the House to adopt the course recommended by Government; and that the hon. member for Westminster (Mr. Hob-house) entertained that view of it was evident, from his having given a notice of a distinct motion on the subject that day. He disclaimed all idea of interference by force of arms; but he was satisfied that the interference his Majesty's Ministers contemplated was more likely to contribute to the attainment of a peaceful issue than if they were to follow the advice of some of the hon. Members opposite, and maintain a contemptuous indifference towards the present condition of Belgium. He begged it to be understood that such interference by no means contemplated the restoration of arrangements as they stood before; the word Netherlands having been introduced into the Speech for the express purpose of leaving the whole question open to the consideration of the representatives of the Allied Powers.
§ Mr. Brougham
regretted, that at such a late hour of the night, he should have occasion to rise; for, it was with the greatest reluctance he felt himself again bound to trespass on the House in its then, exhausted state, but he would promise to detain it for a very short time only, harassed as it had been by the discussions of last night as well as of this. He wished to say a few words, and no more, but at the same time he begged to assure the House that 183 he meant to say as much as he liked, and that no expression of disapprobation should induce him to abridge his address by one-twentieth part of a minute. His object was to leave that company to go home, for the purpose of going to sleep, but he could not carry that object into effect until it suited his convenience. He wished to shew that it was not his fault, nor that of his friends, that he was bound to detain the House; but that it arose from the peculiar circumstances in which the Ministers had put themselves, by the right hon. Baronet getting up that evening to answer some observations which he had made last night, that compelled him to have recourse to a second speech. His speech could have been answered last night had it been deemed worthy of a reply. There was sufficient time for such a purpose, notwithstanding it was about half-past eleven, or it might be a little later, when it was delivered. The arguments used were last night considered by the Government too insignificant to be noticed, and yet there were three of the Cabinet Ministers in their seats. First, there was the Master of the Mint, or President of the Woods and Forests, he knew not which; next there was a Member of great dignity in the Cabinet,—the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies—and, lastly, there was the right hon. Gentleman who held the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer, which had always been esteemed an office of importance. And yet, those three worthy individuals, those right hon. Gentlemen, those important official personages, those great Cabinet officers, held the propositions last night made in their presence at so low a rate, as not to consider them worthy of a single word in reply. To night the matter was completely changed; down came the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, another member of the Cabinet, and attempted to give that night an answer to the arguments used last night. It was not for him to question the line of conduct drawn by the members of the Cabinet to act on; with that he had nothing to do; but he did feel surprised that the opinions he expressed last night, which then seemed of so insignificant a nature as not to be deserving of an answer,—there was nothing in them, mere words, void of substance, and he was left in a sort of plenary security until to-night, none of those three right hon. Gentlemen choosing to tender 184 himself in order to controvert any position, however fallacious, he had advanced; he did feel surprised, though he did not question the conduct of Ministers, that they should this night have deemed opinions worthy of an elaborate refutation, to which they last night disdained to give any reply. Those three right hon. Gentlemen had then drawn themselves up in line; they were ready to charge, but never was there a war more completely in disguise. Silence was then the order of the day, but after the whole body had been occupied in twenty-four hours deliberation, it was determined, that the speech made last night was something—was not thin air—and was deserving of an answer. This decision having been come to, papers were referred to, memorandums examined from time immemorial; in fact, all the books and papers of the Foreign Office seemed to have been literally ransacked for the purpose of enabling the right hon. Secretary to attempt that answer which the House had just heard. Notwithstanding the right hon. Gentleman had taken all that immense trouble, and availed himself of all the assistance he could get out of the House, for it was plain enough that he could not expect any within the House, he must contend, that his arguments with respect to Belgium remained untouched; and not all the ministerial lucubrations during the twenty-four hours which had elapsed, had enabled the right hon. Gentleman to explain away his positions. He willingly passed over the case of Poland, because, if the House would have the goodness to recollect, that argument was only urged in the same view as that taken by the right hon. Secretary; for what he said was, that even where there might have been deemed cause for interference, where Russia, where Prussia, where Austria, were interfering, yet that so rooted was the policy of this country, so fixed was the resolution of the Statesmen of those days, to avoid all interference, that they abstained from making the slightest reference in the King's Speech to the partition of Poland. If he were to give an opinion, it would be, following that of Burke, distinguished by his profound and enlightened sagacity on all matters, whether regarding our domestic interests or our foreign relations, and following also, he believed, the authority of Mr. Fox; if he were to give an opinion, he would say, that Ministers pushed the principle of noninterference, on that occasion, to the very 185 extreme; for there was matter calling for interference, and if they did not interfere, the only possible justification they could have, consisted in the peculiarities of their situation, the unwillingness of France to back them, and the unhappy affair which loaded and overloaded their own hands, the colonies of North America then beginning to be discontented. But as to France, be it observed, that all the lucubrations of the right hon. Baronet and his colleagues had not enabled them to discover one single title, in any one King's speech, subsequent to the bursting forth of the French Revolution, in which that country was alluded to. The disturbances, and almost dethronement of the King in 1789; his virtual dethronement in 1790; his actual dethronement in 1791, were all passed over, without the King, in his Speeches to Parliament, making a single comment upon them. It was not until the issuing the Ordinance of the 20th of November, 1792, which, in fact, amounted to a declaration of war against other countries, as it called upon their subjects to revolt; it was not till then, notwithstanding all the previous events were of such stirring importance; it was not until that Ordinance was issued, that any allusion was made to French affairs in any speech from the Throne. But, said the right hon. Baronet, look to the speeches addressed by his Majesty to Parliament in 1787! And that was said in answer to my proposition, that no reference was ever made to the affairs of a foreign state in a King's speech until that of last night. Candid and fair as the right hon. Baronet generally was, he had here made a slight departure from his usual candour and fairness, in holding fast to the very strict letter of that proposition. In saying that there had been no reference to any mention of foreign parts, or the internal state of any foreign country in any by-gone King's Speech, was it not evident to every man who heard his (Mr. Brougham's) statement, that what he was grappling with was, the kind of reference, bestowing praise on one party, and blame and censure on another; and his complaint was, that the King in his Speech took a part—that we were no longer neutral—for that was his charge; that we could not act by mediation between the two parties, because we had pronounced a sentence of disqualification against ourselves, such as would prevent the Belgians, or any man in his senses, from taking the Government as 186 an arbitrator. He said, then, again, that that had been done now which had not been done before, he had shewn it; he had admitted that the right hon. Secretary was correct in his quotation; he had attended to the words he quoted from the King's Speech in 1787, but what were they? "The King views with regret the dissensions of the Low Countries;" and on the second occasion he rejoiced that those dissensions were at an end. If his present Majesty had been advised by his Ministers to express his regret that there had been troubles in the Netherlands, and that they were not yet appeased, he should never have taken the trouble to express any regret that so feeble, so inefficient, so innoxious an allusion to those troubles had been made; but the King's Speech at present said of one party, that he was an enlightened Prince, and of the other, that they were unjust, wrong-doers, and revolters: it gave the balance in favour of one, and made the interest and justice, if justice there should happen to be, of the cause of the other kick the beam. His objection was not to the reference, but that in a spirit of partiality, all was given to one side, and all against the other. He was not sure that the precedent of 1787 was one which ought to be followed, but at any rate it was a precedent founded on a treaty, and if, in the present instance, we had been bound by treaty, he should not have objected in the manner he had done, or, if he had objected, he should on the same principle, have opposed, instead of approving of all that took place with regard to Portugal in 1827 and 1828. In the year 1787, when we were bound by treaty, and in the year 1790, when we were also bound by treaty, and when, according to the exigency of those treaties, a certain something took place, it was a matter of course that the Crown should take notice of it in its Address to Parliament. But in those instances, however, the question was not as to the internal affairs of the foreign country, but as to its external relations; in which case, according to all precedent and right—whether according to good policy was another matter—we assumed to interfere. No one instance, therefore, quoted by the right hon. Baronet was in point, in the present case, as matter of precedent; for all the instances he had given were of interference, either by Treaty, or where, by armament, or by alliance offensive, or even actual 187 hostility, danger was apprehended, or the distribution of territory talked about; all which were matters relating to the foreign, and not to the internal domestic arrangements of a country. He wished not to be misunderstood, and he would be the more particular in endeavouring to guard himself against being misunderstood, as he was liable to the risk of two kinds of misrepresentations from opposite quarters. He was liable, in the first place, to be told by the right hon. Secretary—or rather, as he told the hon. member for Middlesex— that the Member of a British Parliament, for the first time, desired that England should remain indifferent to the Netherlands. Neither he nor his hon. friend said, that we were to be totally indifferent to the balance of power on the Continent, when there was a chance of one country becoming so powerful as to endanger the national safety. But if there be no such chance, the Government had no pretext, no right to interfere; and without such right it was the grossest impolicy to endanger the peace of this country by intermeddling with the internal policy of other States. But did not the King's Speech interfere with the internal policy of a foreign State? And when the right hon. Baronet pleased himself with building castles in Spain, or rather in Holland, one of the provinces of Spain before the time of Phillip 2nd, he gave the strongest possible confirmation of all the arguments urged against him, and the strongest grounds for an increase of alarm. He said, the king of England was to take measures, with his allies, to quiet those internal disturbances. What would have been done, he wished to ask, in the time of Mr. Pitt? It might have been said, that the King intended to take measures to prevent the encroachments of France, or to prevent the Netherlands from becoming united to France. That was all intelligible enough; that related to foreign affairs, but it was not the point of which he complained, for that was a matter in which we had a right to interfere if we deemed it good policy, concerning which he should presently say a word. But what did the Administration— or rather the Duke at the head of the Administration, for it was he, probably that managed all matters, external as well as internal—though, by the way, if Ministers would interfere as little with foreign affairs as they did with our domestic concerns,—always excepting the right 188 hon. Secretary opposite,—it would be well for the country; but what, he was asking, did the Duke and his Administration say? what was the castle of mediation they were building? "Oh!" they said, "we interfere to restore the tranquillity of the Low Countries, not to preserve the balance of power—not to maintain national independence, but just to have a little something to do with the internal arrangements of those countries, taking care that they be consistent with their welfare and good government." What did that mean? Did not that kind of interference, that kind of settlement, bear along with it the ideas of taxes, of religious liberty, of the Trial by Jury, of the freedom of the Press, of habeas corpus? Did it not mean everything which we considered as necessary to the domestic welfare and good government of a people? He called upon the right hon. Baronet, and those who had looked for precedents with him—which he had not had time to look at, to think of, or even to dream about, not fancying he should be called upon to reply to an answer to a speech made last night— again he called upon Ministers, and he gave them until the 12th, when the motion of the hon. member for Westminster was to come on, to answer the call, and to bring forward any authority, in times worthy of being mentioned as an example, where the internal welfare of a country, the happiness or misery of the people of a foreign province, had been alluded to as matter of negotiation by the King in his Speech from the Throne. The right hon. Secretary had brought forward Mr. Pitt's paper of 1805; and it was only the great pressure of his case, and the want of argument to support it, that could have induced him to bring forward a document so little to the purpose. His reply to it was twofold, and either of them fatal to its production as an argument in this case. In the first place, it was written when a war was raging, which had been raging for nearly twenty years. To say that any observations of Mr. Pitt's, made at such a time, in a private document, not in a King's Speech committing the country— to dream that such was a parallel case to starting forward in the bosom of tranquillity, and interfering in politics purely domestic, was one of the most extraordinary hallucinations that he ever knew a distressed reasoner fall into. But he had a second answer to this reference to the paper of 189 1805. He listened to it with the double respect which he entertained for the Gentleman who cited it, and for him whose name it bore; but thus listening to it,—thus attending to every syllable, from the beginning to the end, he could not discover, even in that private communication from an individual to the minister of a foreign government,—for it must still be recollected, that it was not a public document, that it was not an opinion flaming in a Speech from the Throne, on the occasion of a new King meeting a new Parliament; he could not discover, in that paper, one single syllable that applied to any thing but the independence of this country, the conquest of that, the partition of another, &c, all of which related to their external foreign relations, and were, consequently the legitimate object of interference. There was not in the whole of that document one tittle of reference to the internal Administration of the States mentioned in it. He was exposed, as he had said, to misrepresentation in two quarters. It might be thought, if he did not guard himself against the supposition, that he had expressed opinions too favourable to interference in cases of external relations, such as those connected with the balance of power. Suppose France, in an evil hour—not that he had any apprehension of the kind—should think of going towards the Rhine, or that some other distribution of the States of Europe should be imagined in the brain of some continental statesman, it might be thought he was bound by this statement at once to say—interference is called for. Now, the question of interference was one of a twofold character: it was partly a question of strict right, but was much more a question of policy. We might have the right to interfere when it would be politic also, and when expediency and right combined, interference might be a duty, but we might have the right at the time when interference would not only be impolitic, but destructive to this country; and he warned whoever might be the Minister of this country against interfering by hostility, by armament, by expenditure, by anything beyond mediation or treaty, even in a case within the legitimate province of interference; he meant where the subject did not relate to matters of internal Government, but to external relations. The people of this country, be assured, would not bear to go to war for a foreign nation. The strongest 190 expression which he had heard on this subject during the last eventful six months proceeded from an honourable colleague of his. He trusted he rightly understood him —a friend and supporter of the present Administration, the only one of his colleagues who belonged to that description and party, as well as the only person of mark or weight, who, during the last four or five months, he had found to answer that description out of that House. He had talked of mediation; now he held it to be, on the face of the King's Speech, one of the grossest and most crying absurdities that ever dropped from the lips of man, to expect, as some Gentlemen had done—he alluded to some Gentlemen whose talk was not of oxen or of pigs— who seemed to think that mediation was all that was intended, and all that would take place; mediation was a soft, smooth, and apparently innocent expression, but it meant meddling, which leads to more meddling; and those who were ready to mediate might oftentimes find themselves obliged to fight, or, if not to fight, to spend money; and spending money meant supplies, and supplies meant taxes. But mediation, gracious Heaven! what chance had the Ministers to be mediators? They mediators! Who was to choose them? No doubt they were the mediators chosen by the enlightened king of the Netherlands, and would also be chosen by Polygenic and the ex-King, Charles 10th; for their silence as to the affairs of Paris looked as if the French tyrants would not have had cause to dread them; but to be mediators the Ministers must be chosen by both parties. Who was the other party? Why, the revolters, the party whom the Government had condemned. The case was exactly that stated by the hon. member for Waterford; the Government had decided for the plaintiff before hearing the cause, and then expected the defendant to choose it as his arbitrator. With respect to the recognition of Don Miguel as King of Portugal he had no objection to it, for it flowed from his principle of non-interference. It was upon the same principle that we had recognized the government of France in 1792, however much we disapproved of the atrocities there committed; and upon the same principle of non-interference, the internal government of a country being no concern of strangers, we recognized the government of Algiers, of Tripoli, and of Tunis, receiving Ambassadors 191 from one and sending Consuls to the others. All that he objected to, in the recognition of Miguel, was the time at which it was made, which he could not help thinking rather awkward. It was strange that it was never thought of during the past year, or mentioned in the last Speech from the Throne, whilst now we acknowledge Louis Philippe and Don Miguel together, in order to show that we thought one just as good a King as the other. He heartily wished, therefore, that the recognition of Don Miguel had taken place at any other time than the present. Having thus endeavoured to reply to the observations made in answer to a speech delivered some twenty-four hours ago, he would turn his attention to the more recent discussion before the House. Something had been said about the Question of Parliamentary Reform, and for his own part he begged to express his gratitude and delight at the manly, candid, and statesmanlike acknowledgment of his principles made by the right hon. the Secretary for the Colonial Department; and it gave him the greatest satisfaction, after the alarm and uneasiness he had experienced at the peremptory avowal of others in another place. Nothing said by the right hon. Secretary seemed to exclude anything in the way of Reform, except what was called universal suffrage. He was not disposed, however, to catch at a word, and would suppose that he went only a little way in the journey upon which he should wish the right hon. Secretary to accompany him. He would assume that he only went one or two steps, but at all events he differed entirely, diametrically, from those, whoever they might be, who had said, in whatever place, or on whatever occasion, that they, on due deliberation, and after mature reflection, were abundantly and entirely satisfied with the present constitution of Parliament, and that no change whatever had been proposed, and none which they could conceive to be proposed, could, in their opinion, mend that constitution. The opinion of the right hon. Secretary was the opposite of that, for he wished to see the constitution mended, and admitted that of amendment it was susceptible; desiring, however, to see it amended, for the only purpose which he, or any man, wished to see it amended, namely, the securing in a greater degree the comfort and welfare of the people, by means of a good Government. On these 192 grounds, then, and they were fundamental, there was an entire and perfect agreement; and this agreement consoled him for the anathema pronounced against all Reform by a noble Lord, who yet regarded the events of Paris as truly glorious, the conduct of the late government there as utterly unjustifiable, and their subversion of all law, as justifying the acts of the people, whose conduct had covered them with glory. He agreed, then, with the one Minister, in wishing for the improvement of the Constitution of Parliament, and with another, in detesting the tyranny of those who would have brought France under a despotism; who were glad to try it, but who shrunk from the danger of the conflict; who cared little for the Constitution of their country, but much for the safety of their own persons: who valued much their own lives, but cared not for thousands of those of their unoffending countrymen; and he cordially joined with him in praise, gratitude, and admiration, as a man, and as an Englishman, of the conduct by which those atrocities were successfully repelled. How these Ministers could agree with each other it was not his business to inquire; they would have to-morrow morning, or some other time, to settle that among themselves. There was a point appertaining to this subject, on which he was desirous of explaining his sentiments. Some men seemed to deem it a consequence of our detestation of the late French rulers and admiration of the people, that we should covet a repetition of some such scenes at home. With these men he differed toto cœlo; the cases were not the same, they were diametrically opposite, and therefore the example of France was not applicable to this country. He was for the reform of abuses, for the amendment of the Constitution of the realm, but he was for preserving, not pulling down; for restoring, and not for committing revolution; and he affirmed, that he must be a shallow politician, a miserable reasoner, and not only no very considerate, but no very trustworthy man, who argued that, because the people of Paris lawfully, and gloriously, resisted unjustifiable oppression, therefore the people of London, or of Dublin, ought to rise for Reform. Friend as he was to the removal of abuses, devoted as he was to Parliamentary Reform, he did not consider the refusal of this good—nay, he would even say, of these rights in the 193 present circumstances of England, he meant the lawful refusal, by King, Lords, and Commons, as any ground of resistance to their authority. He hoped, that they would not be refused; but should they be refused, he should not consider that refusal as making ours in the slightest degree a parallel case to that of the French people. Of the justice of the proceedings at Brussels he would not speak; the government might be right, or the Belgians might be right, but whatever doubt he might have upon that subject, he had none whatever on that of France.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, he was desirous of saying a few words with reference to what had fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman respecting the recognition of Don Miguel; because he was as anxious as the hon. and learned Gentleman that a good understanding should subsist between this country and France. In the last Speech from the Throne, which was delivered on the 4th of February, 1830, an allusion was made to the probability of the recognition of Don Miguel. His Majesty saw, that numerous embarrassments in our relations made that desirable. It was unnecessary to state that at that time no events had occurred in France which rendered the recognition of Louis Phillips necessary. The latter had been immediately recognized—the recognition of the former had not yet taken place; it must be evident therefore to all, that the two events were not connected.
§ Mr. Brougham
expressed himself perfectly satisfied with the explanation which had been given by the right hon. Secretary.
§ Lord Palmerston
wished to know, whether, in the event of Don Miguel granting the amnesty, it was the intention of the British Government to interfere to compel him to execute it if he should be disposed not to do so. Unless there should be some guarantee for the execution of the amnesty, individuals would not venture to place themselves within Don Miguel's power.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, he could best answer the question by stating the circumstances connected with the proposed amnesty. We had done all in our power, by advice and friendly interference, to consult the interests of those who were denounced by the present government of Portugal. The language we held was, that we did not require the issuing of that amnesty, as 194 the condition of our recognition of the Portuguese government, but we declared, that unless it should be published to the world, the recognition would not take place. We did not promise that the recognition would take place if the amnesty should be offered, but we stated that the withholding of the amnesty would prevent that recognition. He did not think it would be prudent in him to state what steps this Government might be called upon to take, in the event of a particular case arising. He would, however, state that we were not guarantees for the fulfilment of the amnesty.
§ The report brought up. Mr. Tennyson's Amendment was negatived without a division.
moved, that the two following paragraphs should be added to the Address.
"To assure his Majesty that, whilst this House has heard with great satisfaction, his Majesty's determination to enforce economy in every branch of the public expenditure, they regret that his Majesty has not, with the view of giving relief to his loyal people, suffering severe privations by the heavy load of taxation, and by the existence of monopolies on the necessaries of life, stated whether it is his intention to recommend the reduction of any portion of the existing taxation, and of what particular taxes; and also what monopolies are to be abated; and, on behalf of the people, to remonstrate with his Majesty against the continuance of the present large establishments, and the heavy and impolitic taxation that exists, most earnestly recommend his Majesty's gracious attention to these subjects.
"To express their deep regret, that his Majesty should not have been advised to attend to the almost universal call of the nation for a Reform in the Commons House of Parliament, which does not at present represent the wishes or the wants of the people, and consequently, does not enjoy the confidence of the people, which it ought to possess, to secure the peace of the country. To represent most earnestly to his Majesty, that Reform in Parliament is the first and most important subject for his Majesty's deliberation; and that it is important for this House to take it into consideration without delay, on the recommendation of his Majesty, and with the support of his Majesty's Ministers." The hon. Gentleman prefaced his Motion by complaining 195 that no allusion to the Corn-laws or the East-India monopoly had been made in the King's Speech, and stated, that due vengeance would be taken on Ministers for those omissions.
§ Sir R. Peel
rose, and protested against the use of such language as that which had fallen from the lips of the hon. Gentleman. He was convinced it would be rejected and repudiated by every man of honour or property in the country: and that it would not even meet the approbation of the lower orders, for whom it was meant.
said, he only meant that Ministers would lose their places for not attending to the wishes of the people.
§ The proposed additions were negatived without a division, and the report of the Address agreed to.