§ Sir R. Vyvyan
said, he was desirous to put a question to his Majesty's present Government, more particularly as he perceived the noble Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was now in his place in the House. It was the privilege of any Member of the House, under particular circumstances, to be allowed to put to the members of his Majesty's Government questions relative to the trade or policy of the country, though he acknowledged, at the same time, it was competent to the members of his Majesty's Government to answer or decline making any reply to 554 such inquiry. It was far from his intention to put any question in a shape which might embarrass his Majesty's Government; but as the question was one in which the interest, honour, and dignity of this country were involved, if not compromised; and as the subject had been, not only spoken of, but canvassed by different journalists, and printed in newspapers, both foreign and English, he felt there was no impropriety or indelicacy in making this application to his Majesty's Government for information. He referred to the communication made by one of the members of the Belgian Congress to that assembly relative to a Letter despatched to the French agent at Brussels by the Minister for Foreign Affairs at Paris.
§ Sir John Newport
said, the hon. Baronet's proposal was contrary to the rules of the House. He could not read the letter.
§ The Speaker
observed, the rule of the House must be complied with, that when a Member went out of the usual course, for the purpose of asking a question, he was bound to confine himself to merely putting the question as a dry, simple query. Such, in this instance, would be the most convenient and least irregular.
§ Sir Richard Vyvyan
should comply with the line of conduct marked out for him by the Chair. It was well known that a protocol had been drawn up by the plenipotentiaries of the five great Powers at London, on the 20th of January last, relative to their views with respect to the Belgian State. That protocol, of course, was signed by the French minister then in England; notwithstanding which, the following letter from the French minister for Foreign Affairs, addressed to the French diplomatic agent at Brussels, was said to have been forwarded to the latter, bearing a very recent date. The letter was as follows:—Sir;—If, as I hope, you have not communicated to the Belgian government the Protocol of the 20th of January, you will oppose this communication, because the Kind's Government has not assented to it. In the question of the debt, as well as of the limits of the Belgian territory, we have always understood that the concurrence and consent of both States were necessary.555The Congress at London is a mediation, and it is the intention of the King's Government that it should never lose that character.—.Accept, &c.To M. Bresson. HORACE SEBASTIANI.Now, the question he wished to ask of the noble Lord was this. Had that noble Lord been made acquainted officially with this letter? The second question he wished to put to him was, whether he had been made acquainted with the fact, that large bodies of troops had for sometime past been collecting on the north-east frontier of France, in the neighbourhood of the Belgian provinces?
§ Lord Palmerston
replied, that his answer should be directed strictly to the questions put by the hon. Member. Government had received from the diplomatic agent of this Government at Brussels a copy of a letter which he had just read. He trusted that, if he felt it advisable to confine himself to this succinct answer, and added no more, the House would imagine he had exercised a proper reserve, more particularly as at this moment negotiations were pending upon this subject. As to the remarks which the hon. Member had made, on the chance which existed that the interest, dignity, and honour of this country might be compromised, he confidently hoped that the House would be of opinion, that the dignity, interest, and honour of the country had been confided to very safe keeping. It was true, that the troops on the north-eastern frontier had been also stated to our Government to be increased in numbers; repeated assurances, however, had been given to the British Government by France of her pacific intentions, both as respected this Government and the other Governments of Europe, and that it was the intention of France to cultivate and maintain amicable relations, not only with this, but with all other countries of Europe.