said, he rose to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, What progress has been made towards effecting those "full and adequate arrangements" which, in Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech addressed to the Houses of Parliament in August last, were expressed to be confidently looked forward to as the means for "securing the neutrality and independence of the Swiss Confederation;" and whether (pending the Negotiations referred to in Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech) the continued occupation by France of Territories which have been declared to "form part of the neutrality of Switzerland" is sanctioned by any Provisional Agreement or understanding between the guaranteeing Powers? The hon. Member said, that if he had for a long time abstained from bringing this subject before the House it was because there was any inclination on his part to desert the duty he had undertaken, nor from any belief that the subject had by any means diminished in importance; but he had remained silent because the declarations of Her 437 Majesty's Minister in the course of last Session coincided with the views which he entertained; and, therefore, he left the matter in the hands of the Government. He acknowledged that he knew of no act done, or words spoken or written, by Her majesty's Ministers which should lead him to withdraw his confidence in them; but, considering that eleven months had now elapsed since the House had received any authentic information respecting the negotiations, and that during that interval France had remained in occupation of that territory which was the subject of dispute, and, considering the silence he had hitherto maintained, he thought he was justified in now venturing to call the attention of the House to the matter. He would endeavour to deserve the indulgence of the House by abstaining with great care from going again over the ground of last year; but it would be necessary, in order that he should be intelligible, that he should remind the House on one or two points. He would remind them, in the first place, that at the close of last Session the Royal Commissioners declared that Her Majesty confidently trusted that adequate arrangements would be made for maintaining the neutrality and independence of Switzerland. In 1815 arrangements were made, in terms not perhaps very grammatical but perfectly clear, by which it was declared that the provinces which were the subject of his Motion should form a part of the neutrality of Switzerland. Under these arrangements, it was provided that when war should actually occur, or even be imminent, the Sardinian troops should march out of this territory, and that the Swiss should be competent to occupy them with their own troops. In fact, the peculiar position of these provinces might perhaps be best understood by saving that, although for mere municipal and domestic purposes they were a part of the Sardinian Kingdom, yet, for what might be called European purposes, they were a part of Switzerland. That arrangement was obtained by Switzerland for her own benefit, as the result of earnest entreaties addressed by her to the English Minister of that day. It was most favourable to her, because she had a comparatively weak Power for her neighbour; and for all practical purposes she was as well situated as if those provinces had actually belonged to her. This being the case, Switzerland having this benefit provided for her, and being also entrusted with the duty of maintaining the neutrality 438 of those provinces, as well as the neutrality of her own States, it was obvious that neither her right nor her duty could be annulled by any transaction to which she and the Great Powers of Europe were not parties. That was the view of the whole of Europe; because, when the Emperor of the French entered into the Treaty of Turin with the King of Sardinia, he acknow ledged in very fair terms that he had no right to acquire that territory, except upon the same conditions as Sardinia held it. The contracting parties went on to say that it would be the duty (l'appartiendra) of the Emperor of the French to come to an understanding on the subject, both with the Great powers and with the Swiss Confederation. It became important, therefore, with a view to the restoration of that tranquillity which had been disturbed by the annexation of Savoy and Nice, to see whether it was possible in any way to reconcile the acquisition of the main part of those provinces with the rights of both Switzerland and of Europe. It would have been easy for the Emperor, by giving up to the Swiss Confederation those provinces, or even the portion of them required to give Switzerland a good military frontier, to have done much towards allaying the indignation occasioned by the act of annexation last year. At one time, indeed, it was supposed that that would have taken place. The Emperor of the French, as they all knew, promised that these provinces should be given to Switzerland. That promise was afterwards withdrawn; but still it was hoped that a mere belt of mountains — which would have answered the purposes of Switzerland without in any way hurting the frontier of France—would have been conceded to Switzerland to replace her in the position she occupied before the Treaty of Turin. Such was the posture of affairs last year. It was then felt in this country that, if matters were allowed to remain in the condition to which that treaty had brought them, Switzerland would be grievously damaged; and he regretted to say that all the gloomy anticipations last year entertained on that head had been realized. Alarm and anxiety, varying in intensity from time to time, prevailed in Switzerland, and especially in that part which the French journals were beginning to call French Switzerland. The manner in a which that country was affected by the late change in the map of Europe was very intelligible. In the first place those provinces which used to be the most 439 valuable barriers for Switzerland had been converted not only into no barrier at all, but into what might be accurately described as the hostile lodgement of a great Power. The result was that the cantons of Geneva and Vaud were so hemmed in that their position became, as it were, paradoxical. They had France on all sides of them. Moreover, the inhabitants of Chablais, Faucigny, and Genevois were by the Treaty of Turin converted into Frenchmen. They were actually French subjects. It so happened that a very large portion of the inhabitants of Geneva were persons who had been born in those provinces; and the consequence, was that there having been a very large body of Frenchmen resident in Geneva, the number was now enormously increased by the operation of the Treaty of Turin. Any one who knew the configuration of the country would readily understand that there must necessarily be a very strong attraction continuing between Geneva and the inhabitants of those provinces. It would be recollected that in the course of last year an earnest effort was made by the people of Chablais and Faucigny to become annexed to the Swiss Confederation. That effort failed; and the result of the existing state of things was that the very men who had been the most anxious for annexation to Geneva, having themselves been annexed to France, were for the very same reasons now anxious to draw Geneva to themselves, and bring it into the same strait in which they themselves were placed. There was another difficulty caused by this treaty to which he wished the more to direct attention, because since he last had the honour of addressing the House there had returned something like French statesmen. Opportunity had been given for discussion, of which in former years France had been deprived; and, as the view which he was now about to take was the one most important, he would not say to the Emperor, but to France and the French people, he trusted it would receive the consideration it deserved. Look how the arrangements for the neutrality of those provinces would operate if nothing were done by the French Emperor. As matters stood before, the configuration of the country made it quite certain that the provisions of the Treaty of Vienna would be literally executed—because it was practically impossible for the King of Sardinia, even if he wished, to retain provinces situated like Chablais and Faucigny; and he must, 440 therefore, have marched out his troops whenever war was imminent. But, supposing nothing was done, he entreated the House to reflect on what would be the operation of those stipulations which the French Emperor admitted to be binding. If war between neighbouring Powers should break out or should impend, what would be the duty of Switzerland? It would be to maintain the neutrality of those provinces. In case of war it would be the duty of Switzerland to call on France to evacuate those provinces, and to allow the Swiss to march in. But did any man believe that that was a stipulation which would or could be acceded to by the Emperor of the French? Did any one imagine that at the call of Switzerland he would march out of a territory which he alleged to be French? If he did not do so what would be the duty of Switzerland? Why, to attempt to make him by force of arms. Of course, that would be quite impossible. It would be preposterous to ask Switzerland to attempt it; and if she should not do it, what would be the consequence? That Switzerland would be in default towards the other Powers of Europe, who would be entitled to say, "Swiss neutrality has ceased:" the moment it was declared to have ceased for one side it would cease for the other; and the object which was so sedulously sought to be gained by the parties to the Treaty of Vienna would be for ever defeated. He believed that Swiss neutrality was an object more important to France than to Austria, or any of the German Powers. When they remembered that in 1814 it was by violating the Swiss neutrality and entering Franche Compté that Prince Schwartzemberg invaded France, every one would see that the neutrality of Switzerland was no less valuable to France than to the German Powers. He hoped, therefore, that this consideration would weigh with Frenchmen and that they would be disposed to influence the Emperor, so far as they could, towards rendering justice to Switzerland and reconstituting that neutrality of Switzerland which had been shaken and tampered with in the manner he had described. He was sorry to say that since the Treaty of Turin much been done towards increasing the anxiety felt in the canton of Geneva, and that by many a new annexation to France was believed to be inevitable. It was said that in order to obtain votes persons known to be in the French interest had come into that canton as settlers; and that the 441 fatal words "universal suffrage" had been again pronounced. The House might know, as a matter of common report, that a French Prince whose name was familiar to them had gone so far as to say that before long French Switzerland, as he called it, would be annexed to France, and that it would be annexed to France on its own petition. Those and other cries might appear slight when taken separately, but when taken together they were of considerable moment, more especially when looked to with the light afforded by the transactions of last year. The Emperor of the French must pardon him when he said that he felt it his duty to consider all his actions and all his words with constant reference, not to the mere fact of the annexation of Savoy and Nice, but with constant reference to the particular process by which that operation was effected. Well, now, taking that formula of the annexation of Savoy and Nice as his guide, he found we were now in what we might call "the denial stage." We were in the stage in which it would be formally denied that there was any intention to annex to France any portion of French Switzerland. Ascertaining that we were now in the denial stage, he ventured, following up his formula, to ask what would be the next? and his guide told him that the next stage would be that of solemn assurance that there would never be any annexation of French Switzerland to France without consulting the great Powers of Europe. The stage following that would be an actual annexation, accompained by a mere statement of the fact to the great Powers of Europe, and perhaps a despatch to the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary; after which, when the noble Lord imagined himself to be consulted, and proceeded to give his reasons for thinking an annexation should not take place, he would be told that the discussion was one which could have no practical effect. He had never desired to occasion unnecessary alarm, and he was glad to be able to state that in this instance, so far from being an exciter of alarm, he ventured to think that the words which would come from him would rather have a contrary effect. Notwithstanding all those reasons for anxiety which he had ventured to refer to, it was not his belief that this annexation would take place;—but in saying that he must also express his belief that if it did not take place it would be prevented by the firmness of England. But for the firmness of England he would despair for Switzerland; but his opinion 442 was that if the policy which Her Majesty's Government had hitherto adopted was continued with firmness the evil which many anticipated would not take place. The treatment which Switzerland had recently undergone at the hands of France had been accompanied by a very singular statement on the part of the French Government. It was alleged that in some of the communications on this subject to the Swiss Confederation the French Government distinctly stated that but for the interference of England, in endeavouring to prevent the annexation of Savoy and Nice, the Emperor of the French would have kept his promise, and ceded Chablais and Faueigny to the Swiss Confederation. What principle was this? That because England interfered a promise to Switzerland should be violated? What violence, what lawlessness, and, at the same time, what miserable weakness was implied in such a statement? The statement was unjust to Switzerland, and it was offensive in a high degree to England. He hoped that among the papers which the noble Lord would be able to give him was a despatch said to have been written by Captain Harris; and he further hoped that the noble Lord would make a statement which would satisfy the House that if a charge of so serious a description had been made it had been met in the way it deserved. It was admitted by every one—by the French Emperor as emphatically as by others—that some arrangement must be made with the great Powers. England had declared more than once that the present state of things was inconsistent with the public law of Europe. By the Speech from the Throne at the opening of the present Session they were led to expect that negotiations would be entered into on the subject. The Emperor of the French had said that Savoy and Nice were irrevocably annexed to France. He thought he went somewhat further, for, after giving a statement of the principles of the maintenance of rights and the generosity on which the Government had acted, he said, "Thus it is that Savoy and Nice are irrevocably annexed to France." At the same time there was laid before the Chambers a volume of despatches, compiled somewhat in the way that blue books were supplied to this House; and there was among these papers a despatch of so singular a description, as far as concerned Her Majesty's Government, that he thought it right to read a passage from it to the House, which 443 he would do without comment, leaving to Her Majesty's Ministers to make what reply to it they thought proper. The despatch to which he referred was a circular addressed to the diplomatic representatives of France in all the Courts of Europe, dated the 30th of April, and it stated that the Government of the Emperor thought it important to enlighten the English Cabinet on the consequences of the annexation of the Italian provinces to Sardinia, and the connection it would have with Savoy and the county of Nice. The Ambassador of the Emperor entered into explanations on this subject, in the most positive terms, at the beginning of December. Not only had the Government of the Emperor no intention to conceal from the Ministers of the Queen their opinion on this subject, but Count Persigny had on his responsibility put forward the idea that England herself should propose to Europe this transference of Savoy to France. Now, that was so singular a statement that he had thought it right to draw the attention of the House to it; for they had always been told and belived—he was sure he now believed—that Her Majesty's Government had lost no opportunity of stating in the most express terms that they entirely disapproved, and that they would not for a moment listen to, the annexation of Savoy and Nice to France—not that they were perpetually saying this, but they would omit no fair opportunity of saying that was the case. Yet here was this strange statement by M. Persigny that the communications with the English Government were constant, and that they had gone to such a length—the House would see how much was implied in the statement—that M. Persigny had thought it right to suggest to the noble Lord that he himself should take the initiative and propose to Europe the annexation of Savoy and Nice to France. The diplomatic representative of France was ordered to read the despatch but not to leave a copy with the Ministers of foreign Courts, and, therefore, naturally it formed no part of the papers laid before the House of Commons. Now, so far as he was able to see, there remained this state of actual antagonism upon this subject between the Governments of France and England, and if that was so he must own he was not surprised to find that in France there was considerable stagnation of commerce. It would be strange if commercial men entered upon their enterprises at a time when this antagonism between 444 two great Powers of Europe was actually ascertained to exist. As he understood it, he should say the policy of Her Majesty's Government was extremely well fitted for the peculiar occasion. At a time when a certain disturbance of the existing state of Europe was from time to time threatened, it was of great importance that there should be something like an intermediate state between perfect acquiescence and that greatest of all miseries, actual and flagrant war. Therefore, he thought that Her Majesty's Government did wisely in determining that when the French Government had, if he might so speak, dislocated the European system in such a way as not necessarily to force on England the duty of an appeal to arms, yet still in a manner so serious that acquiescence would be culpable—that deviation from the true course should be so manifested to Europe upon the authority of the English Government, that what France might gain in position she should lose in credit, and that the distrust which such a transaction was calculated to excite should be proportioned—more than proportioned—to the advancement she gained. Well, now, the papers which he was anxious to obtain, if there should be no objection, were of three kinds—first he wished any papers relating to the negotiations referred to by Her Majesty's Speech of last year. If the probability of attaining the result to which Her Majesty then looked forward had ceased, the means by which the Government attained to that knowledge must, he supposed, have some trace in writing, and if so, as he understood no negotiation was pending, he hoped there would be no objection to produce that class of papers. Then he should also be glad to receive papers respecting M. Thouvenel's circular of the 30th of April. Thirdly, he wished Captain Harris' note, and any other papers relating to the same subject. If the Secretary of State led them to think that there was not altogether a failure of all hope that something might be done by negotiations between Switzerland and France, he must say he believed that within a few days—on Monday last, he could answer for it—there was no prospect of effecting anything like a beneficial result by that means. If he were asked at what practical result he aimed in putting this question, he would say his object was to shut the stable door before it was too late by calling attention to the danger in which the Swiss Confederation was placed. He should be the very 445 last person to press on Government the fruitlessness of negotiation if he saw the way to any practical result; but if there was noting of this kind to be relied on—if they were to remain at arm's length—if after hopes had been raised by Her Majesty's Speech in August last nothing was to be done—if the Government were to do nothing, the responsibility of private Members of Parliament would begin; and he for one would certainly think it his duty, if nothing were done to carry out the policy of Her Majesty's Government as declared last year, to throw on the French Emperor the moral responsibility of the situation, and extend that circle of distrust which was fast gathering around him.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL:
I cannot say with my hon. Friend that I have not addressed the House before this Session, but I trust the House will allow me to offer a few remarks on a subject in which I have taken a great interest before the noble Lord rises to reply. The House will not, I am sure, grudge the time necessary for a brief discussion of this important question, which has excited very great alarm both in this country and on the Continent, and which, it is admitted by Her Majesty's Government, has imperilled the peace and security of Europe. My hon. Friend is right in saying that this is the first time this Session that we have ventured to bring the independence and neutrality of Switzerland before the House. But this has been, not because we believe that the subject is of less importance than it was last year, and certainly not because we believe the House of Commons will manifest a less generous spirit than it did last year, but because we have been desirous to avoid recrimination, to manifest a spirit of conciliation, and because we have been in the hope of meeting reciprocal assurances on the part of the Government of France. I think Her Majesty's Government will admit that we have been disappointed in that hope. There are a very few in this House, and I hope not many in the country, who maintain that England ought not to occupy herself with the affairs of the Continent. There are also some—but I trust they are not many—who may think that the treaty stipulations in which this country may have engaged are of no importance. I believe, on the contrary, that we are as much consulting the real interests of this country in taking up a question of this kind in a fair, liberal, and honest spirit, as in considering anything that can happen to the 446 country. I must say I deplore on public grounds—I say nothing of my own personal feelings in regard to switzerland—this series of annexations that is taking place during the rule of the noble Lord the present Foreign Secretary, to the positive detriment of the trade and commerce of this country in one place, and to the destruction of our honour and interests in another. I think that once this Session we ought to bring the subject under the notice of the House. My hon. Friend has alluded to two subjects. First, he adverted to the influence which the annexation of Savoy has had by the augmentation of the territory of France; and, next, he alluded to the influence of that annexation on the independence of Switzerland as guaranteed by the great Powers. These are the two views discussed by the noble Lord, the Foreign Secretary, in his circular of last year to foreign Courts. My hon. Friend has touched on the events of 1815, in which I will not follow him. I regard the annexation of Savoy to France as a fait accompli—there is no use, therefore, in discussing with France her past policy with Sardinia;—but in regard to Switzerland we are bound by treaty obligations to Europe, and by the prestige and honour of our own character, to consider the question in a public spirit. Her Majesty's Government told us at the close of last Session that they were going to enter into negotitations with France; but I am bound to say that if the Government have been disappointed in the expectations held out last August in the Speech from the Throne as to what they hoped to be able to accomplish with regard to the neutral provinces of Switzerland, the blame and the responsibility must rest entirely with them. From the very earliest time I have followed this question throughout, I have read all the documents published, not only in this country, but by the French Government and that of Switzerland; and I am bound to say that Her Majesty's Government, in their treatment of this question, so far as Switzerland is concerned, have acted to my judgment with the ability and the spirit that I expected from them. The noble Lord the Foreign Secretary has written several despatches, which may be found in our blue books, of remarkable interest. I would refer more especially to his despatches dated April 24, May 15, and July 18 of the present year, which both here and in Switzerland are considered honourably to 447 represent the opinion of this country. In his despatch of the 24th of April to Lord Cowley, the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary remarks on the French arguments respecting neutral Savoy, and ably recapitulates the views of Her Majesty's Government as to the manner in which the question might be settled to the satisfaction of Switzerland and Europe. In the noble Lord's despatch to Lord Cowley of May 15, he defines the position which Her Majesty's Government mean to assume respecting the neutral territory, and boldly asserts that the manner in which the vote of the people of Faucigny, Chablais, and the Genevois was taken deprives it, in the sight of Her Majesty's Government, of all authority, The despatch of July 18, addressed to Lord Cowley for communication to the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, although written at M. Thouvenel's earnest request, was evidently written by the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary de son propre chef—at his own proper inspiration. The noble Lord in that despatch told Lord Cowley to communicate to M. Thouvenel that "the recognition of the annexation of Savoy to France was positively refused so long as the just and legitimate demands of Switzerland relative to the neutralized territory had not been taken into account by the Power." For all these three despatches I give the noble Lord my most cordial thanks; and the noble Lord my most cordial thanks; and the people of Switzerland will, I am sure, reciprocate my views. The noble Lord the Prime Minister went even further. He alluded to this subject on the 14th of August last year in this House, and his opinions were so much more stringent even than those of the Foreign Secretary, that I shall be glad to recall them to my noble Friend's mind. The noble Lord the Prime Minister said—The neutrality and independence of Switzerland are for the interests of all Europe. It was not simply and solely from a regard to the Swiss that the arrangement was made. It was from a wise and well-considered regard for the general interests of Europe, and the maintenance, as far as possible, of the peace of Europe."—3 Hansard, clx 1809.]This speech was made at the close of last Session, at the time when it was announced in the Speech from the Throne that the Government were then engaged in negotiations with a view of settling this most unhappy and unfortunate matter. But I will ask the House what has been the result of all these assurances? Absolutely nothing. All the Powers of Europe had been consulted. They had all ex- 448 pressed a strong condemnation of the policy of France. But although that condemnation may be some comfort to Switzerland, I greatly regret that nothing whatever has been done. I cannot help thinking that the position of England is wrongly interpreted. The people of Switzerland say, "Why does not England go on and support us?" But England was only one of the contracting parties to the Treaty of Vienna. I say, in the interests of Switzerland, it is idle to suppose that England will venture herself alone in a quarrel for that which the whole of Europe equally guaranteed. Russia, Sweden, Austria, Prussia, Portugal and Spain were all parties to the Treaty of Vienna. They all said they were anxious to defend the independence of Switzerland, and to meet in a Conference last year. But none was held. Why? It was impossible to hold it after the circular despatch of M. Thouvenel. He said the Powers might meet and discuss the matter, but they must recollect that the whole of Savoy was irrevocably attached to France, and they could not, therefore, treat that subject. Of course, when the French Government shut out the possibility of treating the only subject that could bring the Conference together the Conference was of no use. Then occurred the events in Syria, and other matters; and so nothing was done. But the noble Lord has said that, as the representative of this country, he will never recognize the annexation of the whole of Savoy to France until the just and legitimate rights of Switzerland have been acknowledged by the Powers of Europe. It is very curious on this subject to hear M. Thouvenel and the French Emperor talk of the uselessness of the Treaty of Vienna. But the other day, when Spain and Austria asked France to join them in supporting the Pope at Rome, what was the answer of the French Emperor? He said, "I should be very glad to join you, but the Treaty of Vienna maintained the position of the Pope as it stands, and without the consent of the Powers of Europe who are parties to that treaty I can do nothing." I want the French Government to follow that reply in their action with respect to the neutral provinces of Savoy. Let them adhere to the stipulations of that treaty, and all will be well, and then they would settle this miserable dispute, they would pacify that portion of Switzerland, and satisfy the just requirements of Europe. I go no further back than last year. The most positive assurances were then given to Europe 449 as regards these neutralized provinces. The King of Sardinia from the Throne, in language most emphatic, stated—That in making a sacrifice which, although necessary, cost him a good deal, he reserved its ratification to Parliament and universal suffrage, and he expressly reserved, as regards Switzerland, the guarantees of international right she was entitled to lay claim to.I find these assurances were repeated by Cavour, who said that the Treaty of Turin was only made on the distinct understanding of an adhesion to the 92nd Article of the Treaty of Vienna. Lord Cowley received repeated assurances to the same effect. My hon. Friend referred to the account of a conversation with un membre important du Cabinet, which had been laid before the French Chambers, and one or two extraordinary assertions made in that despatch from this country written by M. Persigny the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Department must explain. I hope the noble Lord will state who is the Cabinet Minister so distinctly referred to in that despatch. I am quite sure it was not the noble Lord himself, or the Prime Minister, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It must have been the Postmaster General or some subordinate member of the Cabinet at the time who made use of the extraordinary expressions contained in that document. At the very time that Sir James Hudson was giving assurances that nothing was done with respect to the provinces of Savoy, and while M. Thouvenel was making the same statement to Lord Cowley, M. Persigny writes from London to the French Minister for Foreign Affairs as follows;—I think it desirable that I should submit for your information details of an interview I yesterday had with an important Member of the Cabinet.This, as I said before, must have been the Postmaster General, or, perhaps, the Duke of Argyll. M. Persigny said—If you could construct a submarine tunnel between Dover and Calais, this would be all very well in times of peace, and without any serious inconvenience in times of war, for each country would have the control of either extremity of the tunnel; but if one or other possessed the two extremities of the tunnel—that is to say, in this case, Dover and Calais—there would be very great danger to the other Power.The membre important du Cabinet replies "True," and says no more. M. Persigny observed—Well, if the two slopes of the Alps were in the hands of one and the same Power, there would 450 be a corresponding advantage either for defensive or offensive operations, and the tunnel through the Alps actually in course of construction replaces in our mind the imaginary submarine tunnel I have already alluded to.The "important Member of the Cabinet" said in answer, "Indeed, that is true." M. Persigny continued—But that is not all, the advantage which Savoy, in the event of a European war, would offer to the Italian kingdom, or rather to the allies of that kingdom, to attack France, would, in a strategical point of view, be infinitely greater than our imaginary submarine tunnel between Dover and Calais in the hands of the English, for an English army starting from Calais would only attack France at one of its extremities, while a European army deploying from Chambery might in twenty-four hours take possession, between Vienne and Lyons, of our great line of communication between Paris and the Mediterranean, and cut France in two.The important Member of the Cabinet answered, "Again too true." M. Persigny said—Well, it was this eventuality which the Emperor foresaw at the commencement of the Italian campaign; the independence of Italy could only estabilsh itself in two ways, either by a confederation of the several Italian States or by the formation of one great State in the north of the Peninsula, and the Emperor declared to Sardinia, who consented, that in the latter alternative he would claim for the protection of France the French slopes of the Alps, and France would have been obliged to make this claim, even although she had not borne the brunt of the expenses of the struggle for Italian independence.The reply of the membre important du Cabinet is, "that is true," and, indeed, he appears to have said nothing but "C'est vrai," "C'est bien vrai," and "C' est encore bien vrai." M. Persigny proceeds—I ask you if the two schemes of Italian independence—namely, a confederation of States or an Italian unity; one giving Savoy to France, the other retaining Savoy, which of these two schemes has the Emperor constantly advocated and recommended? Is it not the scheme which left Savoy to Sardinia?True again," replied the important Member of the Cabinet. Thus, it appears that France actually proposed to leave Savoy to Sardinia. We never heard that from the noble Lord. M. Persigny continued—And if now the Emperor appears rather to incline to the scheme of a great kingdom of Italy, is it not owing to the recommendation and advice of the British Government?The reply was, "C' est encore vrai." M. Persigny said—What, therefore, in the conduct of the Emperor during all these transactions is more conspicuous than his thorough frankness.451 The answer is not given, but, no doubt, it must have been—"C'est bien vrai." This despatch, I think, requires some explanation from the Cabinet Minister in question. My hon. Friend has alluded to the intelligence from Berne relative to the assertion made by the Political Department to the Federal Councillors, that it was owing to England alone that France had not given to Switzerland those neutral Provinces, and has asked the Government to produce the despatch which the British Minister at Berne had written in reply. It is a good despatch, and at once repudiates, on the part of the Government, such a representation. The British Minister at Berne wrote to the Federal Council a note of which the following is an extract:—Berne, June 13.Monsieur le President,—In the officially published report of the Political Department, to be submitted to the Federal Councillors, who will arrive in Berne on the 1st of July next, I have read, not without some surprise, the following passage in reference to the question of Savoy:—'In conclusion, we believe that, in giving an unprejudiced representation of affairs, we cannot omit to mention the fact that, on the part of France, it has been repeatedly maintained that it was the obstinate opposition of England to any annexation which had principally compelled France to retract the promises given by her in February, 1860, with reference to the cession of Northern Savoy to Switzerland.'I have carefully re-perused the voluminous correspondence published on this question, but do not find such a motive anywhere mentioned as having determined France to secede from her promise. On the contrary, I find it repeatedly stated that the sole motive for this proceeding on the part of France originated in the disinclination of the people of Savoy for any dismemberment of the country.I see with great jealousy the visits of General Dufour to Paris at present, I only wish to impress on Swiss statesmen the expediency of refusing to treat in any underhand or private manner with France. This is a European question, and is not to be dealt with by private negotiation, and if Switzerland attempts without the consent of the Powers of Europe to treat with France, the consequences might be extremely detrimental to the iterests of Switzerland. I am quite ready to admit that there is an apparent lull about Switzerland at this time. It has been said in "another place" that Switzerland was perfectly quiet; but I can tell the House that there are at this moment preparations going on, silently but steadily, in that country. It is but natural that this should be the case. A large French army 452 is now being drawn towards the borders of the Lake of Geneva. There are 60,000 infantry and 20,000 cavalry on active service in France more than appear in the official returns. That was stated in the French Chambers the other day, and has never been denied. But, to return to what occurred in "another place" with respect to this question, I find that Lord Carnarvon, who brought the subject forward, said that the fortresses of Switzerland were unguarded because the leading men of the country feared to take any step to place them in a state of defence lest it might be construed into a measure of defiance. He added—and it would perhaps be desirable that I should read what he did say to the House, as his words ought not, in my opinion, to be allowed to pass without comment. ["Order!"] Well, I shall content myself with simply observing that it was a few days ago stated in "another place" that there existed in every part of Switzerland apprehensions of some impending calamity, and that the recent visit of Prince Napoleon the Geneva had filled the public mind in that country with alarm. Now, that is not the case. Prince Napoleon, indeed, did not enter Geneva at all on the occasion alluded to; but, be that as it may, the Swiss—though they may see great danger in the movements of France—yet entertain no fear. They are not like the Savoyards. On the contrary, they have from the very first moment when this question began to be agitated displayed an energy and a determination which show that they are deserving the approval of Europe. They have manifested no craven spirit. The first decision of the Conseil Federal, upon the receipt of the intelligence to which I have adverted, was to order 25,000 men to be sent into Western Switzerland and to issue instruction that 100,000 men should be prepared to march, Le Grand Conseil de Berne took immediate steps to support the policy of the Federal Council. They said, we regard this question of Savoy "comme une question vitale pour la Suisse," and therefore it is that we are ready—"se declare pret d'accord"—to undergo every sacrifice "pour atteindre ce but"—the maintenance of the independence of their native land. Well, this declaration was made on the 20th of March, 1860. The general elections in Switzerland took place in the following October, and the result was that the people of that country gave energetic expression to their approval of the policy 453 of the Federal Government. Only two cantons, Vaud and Zurich, showed a hesitating spirit. What was the consequence? The people in those cantons strongly condemned the intrigues which their leaders sought to promote, and returned members to the Swiss Chamber who now support the views of the Federal Government. But that is not all. General Dufour, one of their most distinguished men, made a speech the other day, and I may be permitted to take this opportunity of expressing a hope that he will not, in the course of his present mission to France, vary from the determination at which he on the occasion to which I am alluding declared himself to have arrived. General Dufour on the 25th of January last said:—"We must repel without hesitation offers the most seductive, and, in appearance, the most profitable." Now, I too, would recommend the people of Switzerland to resist these seductive offers, and to place themselves in the hands of Europe. It was, I may add, only this morning that I received a copy of the speech delivered by the President of the Confederation on the 1st of July on the occasion of the opening of the Swiss Chambers, and I find that in that speech he says, alluding to the dangers by which his country is surrounded—Switzerland must be prepared to spare no sacrifice, for none is too great for the defence of our liberties; neglect nothing to complete our system of defence; let us complete the armament of our troops; let us complete the fortifications upon all the points which require them, and let us open those means of internal communication which will facilitate the movements of our men.That extract, I think, shows that Switzerland is taking most active steps in making preparations for defending herself against any attack which she may anticipate. But it was, as I before stated, said in "another place" that the fortresses of Switzerland and her military stores were practically unguarded, because, although the inhabitants of the country recognized the danger which impended over them, her leading men feared to take any step to place her in a state of defence, lest it might be construed into a defiance towards France. Now, I have here a statement made by General Dufour of the military preparations of Switzerland at this moment, and it may be interesting to hon. Members to know what would be likely to be her position in this respect in case any attack were made upon her. General Dufour says:—"We have an 454 army of more than 100,000 men, and the Landwehr makes 50,000 more—that is to say, we can calculate on an army of 150,000 soldiers, armed, equipped, and sufficiently instructed to be opposed to the best disciplined troops"—and the House should recollect that the surface of the country is such that skilful manoeuvring and charges of cavalry are almost impossible. He goes on to say "we possess a number of skilful marksmen, as well as of volunteer corps; our parks of artillery are at full strength, our batteries are numerous, well equipped, and ready for immediate service." "The Confederation," he adds, "has procured all the guns of large calibre which will be necessary for the armament of our fortifications, our arsenals are well secured, and all the arrangements for the commissariat are made." He concludes with this remarkable sentence—" The expense which results from all this organization is in itself a proof that Switzerland sets a high value on her neutrality, and that she is determined to defend it most earnestly." Now, I submit that Switzerland is resolved to defend her liberties, and I know that any political menoeuveres resorted to with the view of extorting from her an acquiescence in the policy of France cannot intimidate her into submission. Such an attempt may be made, but I am quite certain it will fail. The other day at a meeting of French officers in the neighbourhood of Switzerland, the effect of what was styled the glorious policy of the new Emperor in restoring Savoy to her destinies formed the topic of consideration, and, no doubt, the principle of universal suffrage—that admired instrument in the hands of despotism—would seem to have elicited in favour of that project an apparent unanimity on the part of the Savoyards. I, however, maintain that that apparent unanimity is contrary to the real feelings of the people of that country, and that every one who listens to me must be thoroughly alive to the absurdity of the operation by which that solemn act of adhesion on the part of Savoy to France was effected. I have here and elsewhere resisted that annexation, and I think the nations of Europe did wrong in permitting the matter to proceed as they did. The statesmen of this country will, I am afraid, sooner or later regret the conclusion at which the question arrived; but, be that as it may, the case of Switzerland and that of Savoy are widely different. The Savoyards fell into the trap which was laid for them. Disorganized, deceived, and 455 neglected, they became the ready victims of a conspiracy by means of which their ancient rights and liberties were sacrificed. It is not so with Switzerland. The French Emperor may tempt her with promises. All the schemes which a subtle Macchiavellian policy can suggest may be laid against her liberties; but will they be successful? I, who am acquainted with that country, am happy to think that such will not be the case. I know that in the bosoms of these men still exist the patriotic sentiments, and the Swiss still pride themselves on the glorious traditions of their race. Louis Napoleon will find it a more difficult task to deal with them than with the Savoyards. I would simply add that a second edition of an admirable work on Italy by Lord Broughton has been recently published. The history of Julius Caesar, is there referred to, and if the Emperor of the French will dwell upon that history, he will find that Julius Caesar, in the words of Suetonius, jure coesus existimetur because he attempted to destory the liberties of his own people. Now, I would ask Louis Napoleon to reflect what may possibly be the lot of a man whose policy—God forbid it should ever happen—leads him without reason or justice, or any offence on their part, to destroy the freedom of an ancient and a friendly people? I feel certain that Louis Napoleon will not succeed; and this I can predict that if he dares to take a single step beyond the limit to which he has already gone, he will find that, so far from grinding down the Swiss people or humbling them to his will, his policy will only have the effect of rousing every man in Switzerland to engage in a patriotic struggle, and of causing the brave people of that country to spurn unanimously the smiles and flattery of a despot.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL:
Sir, I cannot deny that it is perfectly natural that my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater should ask for some explanation with respect to the statement made in Her Majesty's gracious Speech at the close of the last Session of Parliament to the effect that, although the proposed Conference on the subject of the cession of Savoy and of Nice to France had not been held, Her Majesty confidently trusted that in any negotiations which might take place full and adequate arrangements would be made for securing, in accordance with the spirit and letter of the Treaty of Vienna of 1815, the neutrality and independence of 456 the Swiss Confederation. But, before I enter upon that question, it may be as well to refer to some circumstances which have been mentioned in the course of this debate, and which, although they have been explained before, perhaps require some further elucidation. It appears now to be perfectly clear—not from any diplomatic documents, but from what has been reported and not denied—that before the Italian war took place, in the summer or autumn of 1858, an agreement was come to between the Emperor of the French and the Prime Minister of the King of Sardinia by which hopes were held out that French troops would be sent to the assistance of the King of Sardinia in case he should be attacked by Austria, and by which it was stipulated that if the result of the war should be to give Lombardy and Venice to Sardinia, in that event Savoy and Nice should be surrendered to France. As I have heard the story, Count Cavour is reported to have said "That is a matter to be considered;" and the expression of his opinion or wish that it should be considered was taken by France as an assent. The war took place in the following spring, but the result was not the conquest of Lombardy and Venice, because the Peace of Villafranca provided only that Lombardy should be surrendered to France, in order that France might afterwards transfer it to Sardinia. But consequent upon that war insurrections took place in Modena, Parma and Tuscany, and those central duchies declared that their wish was to annex themselves to the kingdom of Sardinia. There is a phrase which has been used more than once by French Ministers, and which was referred to by the hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth—namely, that the favour which was given by England to these annexations was the cause of the annexation of Savoy and Nice to France. I understand the meaning of that phrase to be that, Venice not having been conquered by France or given to Sardinia, it was not in contemplation for a considerable time that the proposed cession of Savoy and Nice to France should take place. But then it was said that if England had interfered in order to procure the restoration of Tuscany, Modena, and Parma to their former Sovereigns, the aggrandizement of Sardinia would not have been such that the Emperor of the French would have asked for the cession of Savoy and Nice. Whatever may be the truth with respect to these allegations, it was, in the opinion 457 of Her Majesty's Government, impossible for them to be a party in any way to counsel or to advise that force should be used against the people of Central Italy, with the view of obliging them to recall the Sovereigns whom they had ejected, and whose rule they repudiated. Therefore, if the non-annexation of Savoy and Nice to France was to be bought by the use of force, or the consent to the use of force, to subjugate the people of Central Italy, it was our opinion that it would be far better not to interfere with the inhabitants of the three dechies, but to proclaim aloud the principles of non-intervention, be the conquences what they might. The duchies did declare in a very solemn way, by their representative assemblies, their wish to be annexed to the kingdom of Sardinia. The question of the cession of Savoy and Nice was again brought forward, and the consequent negotiations terminated in the Treaty of Turin, by which Savoy and Nice were surrendered by the King of Sardinia to the Emperor of the French. I shall not revert to the correspondence which took place upon that subject. The hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth has admitted that we used the strongest language which was compatible with friendly relations in order to express our objections to the Treaty of Turin. Upon various occasions we stated that we did not agree in the opinion that this extended frontier was necessary to France. We said even that we considered it would be a disadvantage to France to give the example of that annexation; and we pointed out—as a separate, but, at the same time, a very considerable question—that the neutrality and independence of Switzerland would be impaired by the transfer of Savoy to France, instead of remaining part of the dominions of the King of Sardinia. That question led to further debate, and in one of the last despatches published in the blue book, M. Thouvenel stated that the Treaty of Turin having referred to an understanding to be come to among the great Powers, such understanding might be arrived at in one of the several ways. He said it was proposed to reconcile the 92nd Article of the Act of Vienna with the 2nd Article of the Treaty of Turin, and he pointed out how that might be done. It might be done by a conference of the Powers of Europe; it might be done by notes giving the consent of Europe to the transfer, the Emperor assuming towards the Powers those obligations which the 458 King of Sardinia had previously fulfilled—namely, that in case of war the King of Sardinia should evacuate a certain portion of Savoy, called the neutralized territory, and that Switzerland should have military command in that neutralized territory, during the continuance of such war; or, thirdly, it might be done by an understanding between France and Switzerland, which should be communicated to the Powers of Europe. The opinion of Her Majesty's Government was very promptly formed, and that despatch of M. Thouvenel being dated June 20, on the 25th of the same month a despatch was addressed by me to Lord Cowley, in which I stated that Her Majesty's Government were prepared to accept a conference on the mode in which this very important question should be settled. M. Thouvenel replied that the Government of the Emperor were ready, on their part, to adopt the course which the other Cabinets might desire, and which might seem to them best suited to the subject. That was the course which Her Majesty's Government desired, and it was the course which Switzerland had always proposed. The only request made by Switzerland to the Government of Her Majesty was that this question should be settled in a conference of the great Powers of Europe. In proposing to assent to a conference, therefore, we did everything that Switzerland had ever asked. But it was of no use for the Emperor of the French to propose this course, or for Her Majesty's Government to assent to it, as long as the other Powers of Europe were not consenting parties. The consent of the other Powers was not obtained. Prince Gortschakoff, the Minister of the Emperor of Russia, declared himself perfectly satified. He said that Russia considered that, provided Sardinia was willing to cede this territory, and the Emperor of the French was willing to accept it—provided that the Emperor of the French accepted it with the obligations, or servitudes, as they are called, to which the King of Sardinia had been subjected by the Treaty of Vienna—the transaction was complete; Russia had not a word of objection to offer, and so no need of any further conference or negotiations. Russia, therefore, was not prepared to send a representative to the proposed conference. The Emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia expressed no wish to have a conference. Their opinion was that no advantage could be derived from a conference; and they, 459 therefore, expressed by notes that they did not desire a conference. The French Minister even interpreted a note of the Minister of the Emperor of Austria as being an acquiescence in what had taken place, and an admission that the possession of Savoy and Nice by France was thence-forward part of the public law of Europe. Her Majesty's Government, of course, could not press for a conference in which the other Powers were not willing to take part; but they could do one thing, and that one thing they did. They could say that, sufficient security not having been provided for Switzerland, and the neutrality and independence of that country having, in their opinion, been impaired by the Treaty of Turin, they could not, without further negotiation, whether in the shape of conferences or otherwise, hold that the annexation of Savoy and Nice was part of the acknowledged public law of Europe. That was stated in a diplomatic document; and, having done that, they could not have gone further unless they had found a disposition in Austria, Russia, and Prussia to agree with them in endeavouring to arrange such terms as would place the neutrality of Switzerland in a state of greater security. But, though no such conference was assembled and no such agreement was come to, the question of the neutrality and independence of Switzerland as guaranteed by the Treaty of Vienna still remained so guaranteed, and it is an obligation which I trust the Powers will not repudiate. It was an additional security to that neutrality and integrity that such a Power as Sardinia should hold Savoy, and that a portion of the territory should be neutralized in case of war; but that was not the neutrality and independence of Switzerland herself, though it was an additional security to her. What remains to be done has been eloquently stated by the hon. Baronet; it is that Switzerland should herself assert, without delay and by every means, her determination to defend her own independence, and to maintain that neutrality which has been guaranteed by the Powers of Europe. I know not what dangers may threaten Switzerland, but of this I fell certain—that if the Powers abandoned a cause so just and so strongly guaranteed as the neutrality of that country, they would not only fail in the obligations of treaties, they would not only commit a dishonourableact, but they would shake the security of every State in Europe. The hon. Baronet has truly said that Great Britain, 460 in this case, cannot act alone; but I entirely agree with him as to the interest which he says this country has in preserving her connections and alliances with the various Powers, and in maintaining that independence of the several States of Europe which is generally known by the name of the "balance of power." I believe that if she tried in any selfish spirit to set aside any part of her moral obligations, and endeavoured to insulate herself from the other Powers, though there might be seeming security in that position, it would soon fail, and she would find herself abandoned by all the States whose interests she had herself disregarded. We have seen in recent transactions the advantage of European concert. There was considerable danger, many persons thought, in what happened last year in Syria, when the whole mind of Europe was shocked by the dreadful massacres which took place in that quarter. We appeared to be placed between two dangers. The one was that the massacres would be repeated in various parts of the Turkish Empire, and that Mahommedan fanaticism would have its full sway, and play a part of blood and rapine which would raise all the Powers of Europe against the maintenance of the Turkish Empire. On the other hand, if European occupation were permitted, there was the danger that the occupation by one Power might be continued, and that the example might be followed by others of the Powers who were neighbours of Turkey. The Powers agreed in concert at Paris that a body of French troops should go to Syria, with a view to prevent a repetition of the massacres and their extension to other parts of the Turkish Empire. The time came when it appeared to us that the occupation might be safely discontinued, and that there was, in fact, far more danger in its continuance than in its cessation, and that opinion was expressed to the assembled Powers at Paris. The Russian Government gave the directly opposite opinion that there would be the greatest danger in France relinquishing the occupation of Syria; but the determination to which Her Majesty's Government had come was, in fact, binding on all the Powers. They all agreed that if the Sultan required that the occupation should cease, it was impossible that the Powers could insist on its prolongation, and Her Majesty's Government supported the Sultan in that demand. The French Emperor showed his good faith, as I stated in this House that I fully 461 expected he would, by withdrawing his troops on the very day that had been stipulated. That is one indication that the Powers are disposed to treat questions such as these in such a manner as may lead to their pacific solution. Again, there is this very question of Italy. It is well known that the French Government have repeatedly expressed their preference for a confederation of States—for one Italian Power in the north, another in the centre with the Pope at its head, and another in the south, with perhaps other smaller States interspersed—to the unity of Italy. But the people of the country declared in favour of unity; and the Emperor of the French has amply acknowledged the legitimacy of the title of the King of Italy. Here also Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Emperor of the French are entirely agreed in respecting the principle of the national will of a people who, I trust, are destined to renew their former glory in arms and in the arts of peace. Other questions are still pending, some of them on the Continent of Europe, and some may also arise in the unhappy war which is now taking place in America. If France and England can act in harmony on these subjects it will be a great benefit, not only to the two countries themselves, but to Europe and the world. We have on every occasion made the frankest communication to France of our opinions and views in regard to them, and I must say that we have been met by France in a very proper spirit. I trust that, whatever unfortunate differences may have existed at any time last year, we shall now continue to act in concert and harmony, that the peace of the world may be preserved, and that these two great nations may combine to promote the best interests of the world.