The Marquis Wellesley
rose, pursuant to notice, to call the attention of the House to the Treaty entered into with Buonaparté at the conclusion of the late war. Notwithstanding, he said, the commanding situation which we occupied at the close of that war, and notwithstanding the glorious achievements which we had performed in the course of it, a work if not so glorious, yet still more important, remained to be accomplished, namely, to provide for the complete and permanent exclusion from power of that person who had so long continued to disturb, or he might say, to desolate the world. With respect to the character of that person, he had on both sides of the House expressed, as he entertained, one uniform opinion. He had ever considered that person as the mainspring of the system which it was peculiarly the duty and the interest of this country to resist; but although he had so regarded that person, although he had viewed in him the most active and efficient advocate or leader of that system which the French Revolution had produced, still he had never ceased to think that person most likely to expose this very system to destruction, provided there was sufficient concert among the Powers of Europe to avail themselves of his errors. So that from the character of that very person, who was the champion of this perilous system, he was led to calculate upon its dissolution, provided the other Powers were in a state to take advantage of the circumstances which his indiscretion was likely to create. Such were the general principles which prevailed in his mind, and he must suppose that such was the impression of the noble lords on the ministerial bench; for they always declared that they considered the person alluded to as the main, if not the sole, spring of the system against which this country had waged war, and of course, according to their sentiment, the permanent exclusion of that person from power was a most important object to this country and to the world. Under these circumstances, then, he could scarcely apprehend any controversy upon this proposition—that the two first objects for consideration, when the Allies were in possession of Paris and of France, were, first, the exclusion of the 546 person referred to from power, and secondly, the provision of adequate means against his return to power, in order to avert the resurrection of that mischief which had so long agitated and afflicted mankind. On the propriety of guarding against such peril, he calculated upon the concurrence and sanction of the noble earl (Liverpool); yet what was the conduct of our minister upon the occasion alluded to? On that occasion, he contended, it was the duty of our Government to take the lead. Inasmuch as it had taken such a distinguished lead in carrying on the war, and in bringing it to such a glorious termination, it became the province of this country to take a transcendent part in the transaction upon which he was about to animadvert. Our Government, then, should not have shrunk from its duty; and it had a most important duty to perform—not a duty, perhaps, so much covered with laurels, but one certainly s important to the happiness of mankind, and to the interests of this country, as any that could be imagined; for it then remained to arrange how the world was to be protected from the return of that calamity to which it had been so long subjected. After all the sufferings and endurances which this country had undergone—after greater sufferings, perhaps, than any nation in the history of the world had ever experienced—after we had so nobly and gloriously struggled, our minister was bound to take, nay, bound to insist upon a lead in the transaction that was completely to terminate the conflict, by putting an end for ever to the power of that person who was its principal cause and support. But this duty was neglected, and the opportunity was lost of rendering a most material service to Europe and to this country. Ministers, however, offered some excuse for their conduct, in declining to do that which ought to have been done, and from which no rational or firm statesman would have shrunk:—but this excuse was really such, that he should have thought it a libel upon ministers to advance that which was gravely stated in the Papers upon the table. In these Papers it was alleged, truly, that another Power had entered into an engagement before our minister came up, that is, a day or two before our minister's arrival at Paris; and nothing, therefore, remained for our minister, but to accede to that engagement, or to continue the war, and to involve France in convulsion. Such was the allegation; or excuse, and he 547 declared that he should have been ashamed to prefer that as an accusation against these ministers, which they themselves stated as a defence for their conduct. He would ask, whether there could not, and Whether there should not have been some general concert among the Allies, as to the course to be pursued upon the probability of such an event, or something nearly similar? What, in fact, was advanced by ministers as an excuse, formed an aggravation of their misconduct. For, from the reduced power, from the distressed state of Buonaparté, there was every reason to calculate that he was likely to fall into the hands of the Allies. Yet such a result never appears to have been contemplated, and therefore no provision was made for it. His belief was, that in point of fact the success which had occurred was never anticipated, or at least to the extent to which it took place. But even ordinary statesmen, much less statesmen in any degree capable of managing the great transaction to which he referred, ought to have foreseen and provided for such a result. For himself, he was ready to declare that he had always looked for, nay, that he had always felt confident of complete success. But miserable must be the mind, abject and wretched the intellect of those who never contemplated the success of that principle which they had so long struggled to attain, and always declared attainable, while they made no concert whatever with their allies in the event of that success—while they arranged no ultimate provision for the great object of their struggle.
Hence, when the success took place, all was hurry and confusion—there was no time for deliberation, and there being no previous arrangement, the opportunity was lost of securing to this country and the world the great benetfis of the just fruits of victory. Thus, from improvidence, an engagement was entered into the most dangerous and the most disgraceful this country had ever concluded. To this engagement, therefore, he contended, that this country ought never to have acceded. The first point he maintained was, that our ministers should have been, by concert with the Allies, prepared for the event of the war; and the second, that it was the duty of this country on that event to take a lead with a view to provide for the gratification of all our hopes, by guarding against the possible revival of Buonaparté's power. But what was the 548 line of conduct adopted? When the Allies were in possession of Paris, they declared they would not treat with that person. The doctrine was, indeed, generally promulgated, and particularly by ministers, that no treaty was held binding by that man—that there was no security whatever for his observance of any obligation; yet, in the instance under consideration, a treaty was concluded with that person, for the observance of which there was no security whatever but his own. Such was the faith reposed in him, who was said to be utterly incapable of any faith; and this faith, too, was reposed on a point of the utmost importance to France, to Europe, and to the world. Yet for the accession of our minister to such an extraordinary proceeding the main excuse advanced is the previous acquiescence of another Power, and this is the apology for relying upon the promise of a man whose faith would not be relied upon in any other transaction whatever. Our minister stated, that he truly had an objection to the provisions of the Treaty with Buonaparteé but that his objection was over-ruled, not only by the previous engagement of Russia, but by a consideration of the internal state and general condition of France. To this statement he should only say, that the plea of this minister furnished a proof of the want of that due precaution and foresight to which he had already referred; while he had no hesitation in asserting, that it completely proved the general incapacity of ministers; and this was the answer he would give to the noble earl's contemptuous mode of expressing himself. [Hear, hear! on the Opposition benches.] He repeated, that ministers manifested a total want of providence and foresight. But they were not, in fact, by any means prepared for the result which placed Buonaparté in their power; and it was known, that if it were not for the infatuation of that person, which betrayed him into false movements, such an event might not have taken place. Of this, indeed, he was assured by competent observers, who were with the army at the time, and whose evidence he was ready to adduce at the bar. But yet he was prepared to contend, that Buonaparté was not, under any view, in such a situation as to command such terms as the Treaty under consideration contained—such as, he maintained, were inconsistent with our security and that of Europe. Admitting, however, the capa- 549 bility of Buonaparté to continue the contest, still looking to the result and the importance of the object in view, he could not accede to this Treaty—for in pursuit of such an object, no consideration of present risk or immediate disadvantage should have induced him to overlook contingent difficulties or probable dangers. This, indeed, was the principle which had governed that House throughout the prosecution of the war; for their lordships had never allowed any view of present risks or immediate disadvantages to withdraw them from the pursuit of that which was necessary to the ultimate security and permanent tranquillity of this country and the world. But he was prepared to contend, that the relative situation of the Allies and Buonaparté was not such as to render it in any degree necessary to comply with the inconsistent demands of that person: the Allies were, at the time this objectionable Treaty was concluded, in possession of 140,000 troops in the vicinity of Paris, and 30,000 cavalry were close upon Buonaparté's position; while that person commanded only 20,000 men, as it was said, but at the utmost calculation not more than 30,000. We had also a large army in the south of France, under the command of an officer whose military merit was the least distinguished part of his distinguished character; for his probity and magnanimity universally conciliated the esteem and admiration, not only of his army, but of the people whom he had subjected. Never, probably, in the history of the world had any general been so much adored by the people whom he had conquered; nay, perhaps, he might say, never had any prince been so much esteemed by the people whom he governed, as that general notoriously was by the people in the South of France. Was this a situation, then, in which we could be rationally supposed under the necessity of concluding any terms inconsistent with our safety? Was this a state of things in which we had any risks to look to, that should withdraw us from the pursuit of any object essential to that safety? Yes, he would repeat these questions, when even tomorrow we might hear of a declaration of war. Notwithstanding the contemptuous sneer of the noble earl (Liverpool) he contended, that no degree of risk existed, or could be contemplated, that should induce our accession to the terms of the treaty on the table; that, on the contrary, with the Allies in possession of 550 Paris, and our army in the south of France, we were armed with means amply sufficient to ensure our ultimate triumph, and completely to secure the object in view—that in fact we were in possession of advantages extremely difficult, perhaps never likely, to be regained. Such, then, was our condition; and yet we consented to treat with Buonaparté as an independent sovereign, and really granted him such terms as one independent sovereign might be supposed to obtain from another with whom he was nearly on equal terms; the act of abdication being, in fact, a part of the terms or conditions of the Treaty.
The noble marquis repeated his positions, first, that this Treaty was contrary to policy; secondly, that it was unnecessary to conclude it; and thirdly, that no due measures of precaution were taken to enforce its performance. But the whole proceeding was, according to his judgment, radically wrong; and as to generosity, which had been very loftily spoken of in this transaction, it was quite a mockery to pretend that any consideration of generosity influenced the Treaty. There was, in fact, no generosity, justice, or policy, belonging to its character. He would have granted a handsome, nay a noble provision to Buonaparté but he would have taken care to make due provision against his return to power. There was not, however, one word in the Treaty on this point. No; this most material object was totally overlooked. But he would have taken an effectual step on this subject. He would not however say, that in order to guard against the return of Buonaparté to power, he should be disposed to commit the Allies in any engagement or pledge, to wage war with a view to secure the Bourbons on the throne of France, although in making such a proposition he could not apprehend any serious difficulty on the other side of the House. But instead of making any arrangement whatever to provide against the resurrection of Buonaparté, the affair was left entirely open; and therefore, when that person did return to France, a consultation with Congress was resorted to, in order to guard against the consequences of an evil, to avert which measures should have been taken in this Treaty. He would not, he repeated, with a view to exclude Buonaparté from power, pledge the Allies to war for the preservation of the French throne to the Bourbons. No: much as he felt for the sufferings—much as he re- 551 spected the character and venerated the virtues of that meritorious family, he would deprecate such a proceeding. But he would have made arrangements to guard against the revival of Buonaparté's power, notwithstanding the Allies, in any pledge with respect to the Bourbons. He would not have concluded a treaty for the exclusion of Buonaparté from power, without, as in the transaction under consideration, making any arrangements whatever to guard against its non-execution.
As to the particulars of this Treaty, it would appear from the official translation laid before the House, that skill in translation was not deemed necessary to diplomatists. For according to the original Treaty it was agreed that the crown diamonds should belong to France, that is to the French sovereign whoever that sovereign might be: therefore it was prescribed that "tous les diamants de la Couronne resteront à la France;" but their lordships would be surprised to find how this article was translated, namely, "that all the crown diamonds, shall remain in France." Now, as he apprehended that the greater part of these diamonds were out of France, it would follow from the English version of the article alluded to, that England being a party to this Treaty, if it were to be fulfilled, these diamonds should be made good to France, and therefore we might happen to find in the next budget the proposition of a grant to buy a new crown and sceptre for Buonaparté [a laugh.] But other provisions equally objectionable were to be met with in this Treaty. The most improvident parts of the Treaty, however, were those which referred to the provision for Buonaparté himself, and his wife and family, together with those respecting a gratification to his followers and the payment of household debts. These parts, too, were guaranteed by the Allies, and surely the House must see the monstrous improvidence of such an arrangement. The main object ought to be to provide against the resurrection of Buonaparté's power. Yet by this Treaty that person himself was to be allowed a splendid establishment—all his family to be placed in a state of opulence—his followers to be granted a gratification, and his debts paid by France. This arrangement, then, appeared to the noble marquis to place the Allies in a most improvident dilemma. If the Treaty were fulfilled, Buonaparté and all his family would be possessed of 552 a large establishment, which, of course, must furnish him with the means, of promoting his return to power, while he was to have an additional bond of attachment upon his followers and creditors in France. It had been urged by the noble earl, that Buonaparté had no right to complain of the non-fulfilment of this Treaty towards himself, although no payment was made him, because the allowance being promised to him annually, a year had not yet expired since the Treaty had been concluded. The argument of the noble earl, he thought extremely weak at the time it was urged. For no indication whatever of a disposition to pay Buonaparté the sum mentioned in the Treaty having shewed itself, it could not be pretended that that provision of the Treaty was fulfilled; and he fancied that the learned lord on the woolsack would not, in equity, be satisfied with a similar argument, respecting the non-fulfilment of any similar engagement. But the fact was, that the noble earl was under an egregious misconception as to the provision upon which he undertook to animadvert. For that provision did not refer to a revenue to be paid annually, as the noble earl had stated, but as the article in the Treaty expressed it "de rentessur le grand livre de France, produisant un revenu annuel, net, et déduction faite de toutes charges, de deux millions," that is, two millions in the stocks. Therefore; Buonaparté was to be at liberty, like any other public creditor, to dispose of the property which the Treaty proposed to secure to him. He did not mean to say that the non-fulfilment of this provision furnished a justification to Buonaparté for discarding the Treaty altogether; but he must contend that the case was not such as the noble earl had stated. Now, on the other hand, if the Treaty were not fulfilled, how were the French soldiers attached to Buonaparté likely to feel? The House might judge from the statement of our minister at Paris, as to the tenacity of the French officers to make provision for Buonaparté, in satisfaction of their personal honour. So much then as to the egregious improvidence of this transaction.
He had heard it reported that the person in question had afforded some grounds for the non-fulfilment of the Treaty; but if he had afforded grounds which would have justified the non-payment of the stipulated allowance to him, a departure from the Treaty in other respects would 553 also have been justifiable. Without pressing that point further, he should take it for granted that the noble earl had meant to state that grounds had been afforded for with-holding the payment, though, according to his notions of the Treaty, it had not been violated. The next point to which he should advert was the disposal of the duchies of Parma, Placentia, and Guastalla; and he should boldly affirm that there was never an engagement concluded by any government more disgraceful in principle, or more hostile to justice, than the grant of those States to the wife and son of Napoleon. The legitimate heir to those duchies was living, and had as good a claim to his States as the sovereign of any other State in Europe. He was not an adherent of those who held that at the termination of a conflict, avowedly instituted for the support of the existing powers of Europe, those States only were to be respected who were powerful [hear, hear!] and that the others were to be thrown into the consolidated fund of spoliation [hear, hear!], to be paid by he knew not what cashier to the orders of the greater Sovereigns. He could not conceive that a note to pay to the order of the Emperor of Russia two millions of souls, or to pay to the order of some other monarch so many thousand souls, was a valid transfer of independent States. Such proceedings and such principles were repugnant, not to the vested rights of sovereigns alone, but to the paramount rights of the people; for though he was not one of those who said all governments were of and from the people, yet he could not submit to say that all governments were not for the people, and that the vested rights of the people were the strongest. But these unfortunate duchies were taken out of this fund of spoliation to be spoliated in a still more extraordinary manner, and they were excepted from the general arrangements of the Congress; their sovereign was deprived of his rights, the people of the sovereign to whom they had probably been accustomed to look up; an insult had been offered to the Crown of Spain, to whom the sovereign of these States was allied, and to the illustrious House of Bourbon, from which he was descended, for the sake of gratifying the feelings of Austria, by an article, of which that power, however, had made no exertion to obtain the fulfilment. The article would have been improper, monstrous and unjust, if fulfilled; but as it was not ful- 554 filled, it roust have had the most injurious effect upon the French army, who conceived their honour pledged to the fulfilment of those articles, to the advantage of their former chief and his family, which they had obtained.
The next point to which he should draw their lordships attention, was the qualified accession which we had given to the Treaty in question, by which the hopes which had risen from the termination of the struggle had been frustrated. It would appear on the examination of the Treaty, that the consent of our Government had been given to the very articles to which our assent should not have been given. As a treaty had been concluded with Buonaparté by which he had been stationed in the island of Elba, the great object which this country should have had, was to throw in the way of his return to the country which had been the seat of his power, all the obstacles which our means afforded us. What were the obstacles that we had thrown in the way of his escape? We had agreed to that article of the Treaty by which he was recognized as independent Sovereign of Elba, by which it became impossible to watch his motions with that strictness which we might otherwise have employed, either by land or by what had been called in another place, naval police. The other article to which we had given our assent was the transfer of the Duchies of Parma and Placentia, to which the highest objections had been made, and which, if it was to be fulfilled, was most contrary to good faith and to the principles of that great man, now no more, who had so long conducted the affairs of this nation, and who had always made it his object to protect the legitimate rights of ancient sovereigns, and to foster that spirit of attachment in people towards their own dynasties which this article insulted or disregarded. On the other hand the non-fulfilment of the article was pregnant with evil from the personal hold which it gave Napoleon on the French, army, which was pledged to maintain the Treaty. It was a fatal and lamentable fact, to which he supposed the noble earl had alluded, when he had spoken of some convulsion which might arise before the affairs of Europe permanently settled into tranquillity, that even if Buonaparté had not returned to France, a spirit existed in that country which would have given rise to a civil war. There were in France two great parties—those who had been the 555 ancient Jacobins, and who had termed themselves Liberales, after the Spanish use of the term—and the Constitutionalists, a party which professed to be well disposed to good order and to the Bourbons, but under more severe restrictions than they had been subjected to in the times of the old monarchy. Besides these a third party consisted of the purchasers of forfeited property, or national domains: and a fourth, and most important party, was the army. The French army was not to be regarded in the same light as any other army in the world, or any that had ever existed. Its numbers gave it a vast superiority in influence, and it was besides intimately connected with almost every family in France, for every family had afforded it officers or soldiers. The very severity with which the conscription had been put in force produced that effect, and habit had made it so familiar to the minds of the inhabitants, and so fixed it, as it were, in their nature, that many families considered the conscription as the means of providing for their children; and in many cases when the young conscripts had been returned to their homes, they had felt that dismission as an evil.
With the knowledge of these facts before them, their lordships might conceive how greatly the danger to be apprehended from Buonaparté was enhanced by the non-execution of any part of the Treaty, which might give him a claim on the co-operation of a soldiery which constituted so large a part of the kingdom. There was great reason for supposing, that before any attempt had been made on the part of Buonaparté, something in the nature of an insurrection had been organized in France. In fact, instead of considering Buonaparté the prime mover of the insurrection, it was more probable that that insurrection had been planned by others, who had pitched on him as the chief under whom the attempt would have a greater chance of success, and who would be more likely to effect their purposes. While affairs were in this state, what we had done was to give him a good cause among the people of France, in addition to the other causes which induced those persons to call on him. The noble marquis then said, that even when we had placed ourselves in this unfortunate situation, that we had to apprehend the return of Napoleon to the seat of that power which he had formerly wielded, it was essentially the duty of our Government, that the small power which was left 556 in their hands, of watching the movements of that person, should be made use of to the utmost; and this duty was enhanced in proportion to the mischievousness of the articles. It had been said by the noble earl, that the whole fleet of England could not have effectually blockaded the island of Elba; but when the danger threatened by the escape of Napoleon, and the difficulty of preventing it were considered, they should rather have been incentives to diligence in attempting to prevent it. The noble earl seemed to consider all matters of state as matters of facility; he, (the marquis W.) on the other hand, had always been taught to consider them, as well as all other transactions of human life, as the choice of difficulties. Because all the fleet of England could not protect us against the possibility of an escape, the noble earl had come to the rapid conclusion, that no protection whatever was to be afforded against that event—that because protection was difficult and important, that he would not protect us. It had not been said that instruction had been given to any one commander, but it had been said, that there was some understanding with the captain of a frigate. He had never heard, however, that that understanding was understood—[a laugh]. But even supposing that this frigate had been destined to watch any movements in Elba, it was needless to say how inadequate a single frigate was to such a task. How, then, could his Majesty's Government justify themselves (and if they had any suspicion that an attempt would have been made by Buonaparté, that justification, would be still more impracticable), if so small an effort had been made to prevent that return of the person in question to France which had involved the country in so many difficulties? Indeed, there could not be a greater contrast than between the alarm which the escape of that person had created, and the efforts which had been made to avert the consequences of it, and the minute efforts which had been made to prevent the return of that plague of Europe.
Another singular fact respecting the Treaty was, that as England recognised the sovereignty of Elba without necessity, so France did not accede to the provision for the payment of the allowance, which was to be paid out of the funds of that kingdom. The sum was granted by the Allies, and the payment guaranteed by them, and they had engaged that it should 557 be guaranteed by France; but he apprehended no such guarantee had been given either by the provisional or the established government of France. The Allies were bound to procure the payment to be made, but they so little cared to fulfil their engagements, that the royal French Government was said to have refused to make any such payment; at any rate it was clear that no measures had ever been taken to pay any part of the sum stipulated for. Now, whether it was to be expected that under these circumstances some attempt was to be made on the part of Buonaparté, and should have been provided against, he should leave their lordships to judge; but it was also reported, that some communication had been made to his Majesty's Government, in which some information respecting it had been given. He was not aware of the nature of that communication, but he wished to know what the information was, and what steps had been taken upon it, supposing such information had been given. Viewing, as he did, the improvidence of the Treaty, which afforded no security to Europe, the danger from the independence of Buonaparté in Elba, and the folly of engagements, which could not be fulfilled with safety, nor violated without danger and dishonour, or the semblance of dishonour; and the insufficient efforts which had been made under these disadvantages, with the means we still possessed; he should move, as a preliminary to a more serious inquiry, an humble Address to his royal highness the Prince Regent, for, "1. Copies or extracts, or substance of any instructions which may have been given by his Majesty's Government, to any of his Majesty's naval commanders, respecting Napoleon Buonaparté, and the island of Elba. 2. Copies or extracts, or substance of any information which his Majesty's Government may have received, respecting the design of Napoleon Buonaparté to escape from the island of Elba, together with the date of the reception of the said information."
The Earl of Liverpool
said, he could assure the noble marquis, that any intimation of surprise, which might have escaped from him in the course of his speech, did not arise from want of civility towards him, but was occasioned by a strong sensation, produced at the moment, by what he conceived to be the extraordinary propositions which the noble marquis had advanced. He alluded particularly to the attack which the noble 558 marquis had made on the Treaty of Fontainbleau, as being utterly destitute of wisdom—as not being justified on any principle of policy. Certain contingencies, the noble marquis observed, ought to have been foreseen and provided against, at the time this Treaty was agreed to. The attack was made, as if this were a new transaction, that had never been heard of before. Whereas, every man who walked this town—every man in every town of Europe, was apprised of the fact long since. Twelve months ago, the Treaty was published in every newspaper in this city. Not merely the principle of the Treaty, but all its details. When the Treaty of Paris was last session laid before the House, they never heard any objection to the principle of the Treaty of Fontainbleau, which was so nearly connected with it. He would go farther, and say, that although the Treaty of Fontainbleau, article by article, must have been well known to the noble marquis, the attention of the public having been strongly called to it, yet the noble marquis had made no observation, either on the impropriety of its principle, or the impolicy of its details. Now, if it were a measure so fraught with danger, that the noble marquis conceived no man who deserved the name of a statesman could look to it without apprehension, why did he not exercise a sound discretion, why did he not perform that which was manifestly his duty, and call the attention of the House to a transaction, which was a complete matter of notoriety? Their lordships would probably be inclined to believe, that the fears of the noble marquis (who, whether he last year thought the Treaty wise or not, certainly did not appear to apprehend any danger from it) were only excited since the occurrence of those events that had recently taken place.
Having said thus much on the course pursued by the noble marquis, he now came to the consideration of the Treaty itself. The noble marquis had made an attack, not only on the Government of this country, but on the whole of the Allied Powers, with respect to the line of conduct they had adopted. Now, the first question was, what was the situation of the Allied Powers at the time the Treaty was concluded? Were they to treat with Buonaparté as a prisoner, or as a person perfectly at liberty? That was the point on which the whole question 559 rested, in the abstract—there was no middle consideration—although the subsequent arrangements might to some individuals appeal unsatisfactory. He was perfectly ready to agree, that if the Allies were in a situation, without running too great a risk, to make that individual a prisoner, they should have continued the contest. The possession of his person was the best security that we could have, and every consideration, in such a state of things, called for it. But the noble marquis appeared to have taken a different view of the circumstances of the Allies, from that which, on a former night, he had stated to the House. For, as he understood the noble marquis, his opinion was, that the situation of the Allies was extremely critical—
Marquis Wellesleydenied that he had described the situation of the Allies as critical. He certainly thought that Buonaparté's force was in such a direction, that if an error on the part of the Allies were committed, he might have taken advantage of it.
The Earl of Liverpool
continued. Their lordships ought fairly to consider, before they decided on the merits of this Treaty, what the situation of the Allies really was. He was not one of those who, if it had been thought proper not to accede to the Treaty—if it had been deemed necessary to carry on the war to the utmost extremity, to get possession of the person of that individual—would have despaired or doubted of the result. But here it was proper to compare the magnitude of the efforts which were necessary—the greatness of the contest—the risk which must unavoidably be run, with the advantages which were likely to be derived from an immediate pacification. At that period, except the force for the protection of Paris, under marshal Marmont, no portion of the French military had deserted the standard of Buonaparté. At Fontainbleau he retained a large body of forces; and the armies of Suchet and Soult were still faithful to him. Another most material circumstance was, that he retained possession of every fortified town in France and Holland, and a great number of those in Germany. The whole of the fortified places on the Rhine and the Elbe were in his possession, and all the fortified towns in Italy were occupied by his forces. If, under such circumstances, the Treaty had been rejected, and if a failure on the part of the Allies afterwards took place, the 560 result would have been fatal, not merely to France, but to Europe. Amongst the different armies, on the assistance of which Buonaparté might have depended when the Treaty was concluded, was one on which he might have implicitly relied—he alluded to the army of Italy, which, though not great in numbers, was, in its quality and appointments, more formidable than any other which he could have brought into the field. Here, therefore, the Allied Sovereigns were called upon to compare the risks attendant on a prosecution of the war, with the probable advantages of peace. He acknowledged that it was a matter of doubt, whether to pursue this man, at all risks, or to close the contest, without any further effusion of blood. This was a fair question of doubt; and he thought, even now, after the events that had lately occurred, that those who had decided the question, decided it rightly. What would this country, what would Europe have said, if, in consequence of a determination not to treat with Buonaparté, a revulsion had been occasioned? A great effusion of blood, a great portion of human calamity must have followed—and, perhaps, those who were now most energetic in recommending the prosecution of hostilities to the utmost extent, would have complained, that the difference between treating with Buonaparté, and making him prisoner, had been purchased at a price much greater than it was worth. The public of this country, and the public throughout Europe, would have said, "You had at last delivered Europe—you had it in your power to make an honourable and safe arrangement for the peace of the world—and you threw it way for what you called an act of vigour;"—"though," said the earl of Liverpool, "I should have termed it an act of justice, as it respected the individual against whom it was directed." To judge fairly, it was the duty of their lordships to place themselves in the situation of the Allied Sovereigns, at the time the Treaty was concluded. Let them consider what the alternatives were, of which they had the choice; and, having accurately examined those points, they would perhaps agree with him, that no reason existed for contending against the wisdom or policy of the arrangements that had been entered into.
The noble earl next proceeded to the objection which had been advanced, with respect to the place of retreat provided 561 for Buonaparté and he maintained, that whether Elba, or Germany, or England, or America, had been selected, the same danger of escape, the same danger of intrigue, might equally have been apprehended. No man could prove to him, that Buonaparté, being a free agent in any country in the world, and having the means, by correspondence, of carrying on any intrigues he thought proper, could not, if he wished it, devise the mode of his return to France. Then came the question, Are you here to insist on personal detention and safe custody, as the stipulated means of security? Now, the Government of this country never concealed that they did not act on this principle. It was not in their power to act on the principle of being, as he might term it, the gaolers of this individual, he being placed in free possession of Elba. In the first place, he would repeat what he had before said, that the whole fleet of England had not the power of keeping him, or any other individual, on the island of Elba, if he pleased to leave it. But this country never proposed—this country never undertook any such task. The greater part of the fleet in the Mediterranean (and the noble marquis might make what use be pleased of the concession) were sent home after the Treaty. At the time that the departure of Buonaparté took place, there were, in that sea, only four sail of the line, and even these would not have been kept beyond the time when the arrangements for the withdrawing of the British troops from the Mediterranean should have been completed. He, therefore, frankly avowed, that there never was an idea (for the thing was impracticable) of confining Buonaparté to the asylum which had been prepared for him—The noble earl next adverted to the facilities which the island of Elba was supposed to afford to the furtherance of the ambitious views of Buonaparté. He knew, that placing him in a situation so near the coast of Italy had been complained of; but, until lately, he never heard, that, with respect to France, the situation was ill chosen. In one of the dispatches of a noble friend of his (lord Castlereagh), Buonaparté was stated to be anxious for an asylum in England, and many persons were of opinion that it would have been preferable to have acceded to his wish, instead of sending him to Elba. The noble earl said, that he himself should not have apprehended any danger from the residence of that indivi- 562 dual in this country. But he contended, that if he had an asylum here, not being subject to personal restraint, he might have carried on intrigues with his adherents in France, and, ultimately, he might have escaped whenever he pleased. He wished to qualify all his observations on this point, by referring to "personal restraint;" because it was the opposition between liberty and personal restraint, that made the great difference in this question. The noble marquis had said, that a species of police should have been appointed to watch this individual. But must it not be notorious, that the military power and the police of the island, such as they were, were under the command of Buonaparté, instead of their having any control over him? The House had actual proof of this; for, when he was leaving Elba, he put the Brstish vice-consul under arrest; and if colonel Campbell had been on the island at the time of the escape, he would, no doubt, have experienced the same treatment. It was, therefore, a ridiculous and preposterous mistake, to imagine that any provision, under the circumstances of the case, could have been made to prevent the escape of Buonaparté from the island of Elba. Was the noble marquis aware, that but for the continuance of the American war, not the whole navy of England would have had the power to search the meanest fishing vessel? The power of visitation was a belligerent rights depending upon the continuance of hostilities; but even pending war, though some reason might be assigned for searching a merchant vessel, nothing could excuse or justify the search of an armed ship. Therefore, if Buonaparté were actually on board a brig of war, without some special ground of suspicion, no search, according to the law of nations, could have been made. Thus the establishment of a naval police to prevent his escape from the island of Elba, was entirely out of the question. The noble earl contended, that if the Allies were not justified by circumstances in the first instance, in insisting upon the custody of the person of Buonaparté, no precautions that could be used could have avoided the accident that was the subject of the complaint of the noble marquis. To recur once more to the Treaty of Fontainbleau, it should be recollected, that the Allies were not only treating with an enemy who had arms in his hands, but they were treating with those officers who to the last 563 remained faithful to his cause. One of the chief reasons in accepting the Treaty of Fontainbleau was, that if an honourable asylum were afforded to Buonaparté, his marshals would give their assent to the arrangement, and with their assent, that of the whole army that was under their authority.
The next point upon which the noble marquis had dwelt was, that by a breach of the articles of that Treaty, the Allies had given Buonaparté a pretence, at least, to contravene it, and an excuse to his marshals to join him in his attempt to regain the throne of France. But what was the fact upon this subject? The noble marquis had offered a justification that never occurred to Buonaparté, for in none of his proclamations on landing did he attempt to set up the breach of the Treaty of Fontainbleau as the cause of his return. Buonaparté had never carried his hypocrisy to that extreme: on the contrary, he had distinctly averred that he landed in France to reclaim his crown, because he was summoned by the voice of the nation; and he had almost in terms admitted, that such had been his design from the very moment of the signature of the Treaty of Fontainbleau. But if there were, in fact, some stipulations that had not been to the letter performed, what answer had the noble marquis given to what he (lord Liverpool) had advanced on a former night, that Buonaparté had no fight to act upon the neglect as a violation of the Treaty, but was bound to make his appeal to the Allies, to demand redress from them as parties to the engagement. This assertion had not been denied by any man, nor could the noble marquis produce an instance in which a supposed breach of faith was assigned as a cause for the desertion of the royal cause by any individual who had placed himself under the banners of Buonaparté. With regard to the fact of the Treaty having been disregarded, he was able to state to the House, that measures had been taken by the Allies, previous to the escape of Buonaparté, to fulfil the articles, not to the letter, but with a spirit of liberality that became the great Powers, for property had actually been assigned for the purpose of defraying the pecuniary charges imposed by the Treaty of Fontainbleau; and he could most positively state that it was the intention of France to have fulfilled the engagement with the utmost punctuality.
564 Much stress had been laid by the noble marquis upon the subject of the duchy of Parma: but the noble earl said, he could here equally assure the House that nothing had been done in derogation of those articles that respected this point; even if the fulfilment of them were a matter of public inconvenience, his lordship allowed that it could not for a moment be balanced against a positive engagement which the parties were bound to execute. He would not now enter into the question of the propriety or expediency of this arrangement regarding the territory belonging to another family; probably a fit opportunity for such a discussion would be afforded, and whenever the question came properly before the House he should not shrink from justifying the decision of the Allies upon this topic, upon the principles of that great man to whose authority the noble marquis had alluded, though, as he (lord Liverpool) believed, under complete misapprehension. Upon the second point to which the proposed Address referred, namely, the information that ministers had obtained as to the design of Buonaparté to escape from Elba, he had no objection to state distinctly, that they had received no information of that grave and ostensible character that would have authorized the taking of any step upon the foundation that it supplied.—The noble marquis had mistaken what he had said on a former night respecting the convulsions that might be looked for before Europe had settled into a state of permanent tranquillity: he did not mean to assert that there was a probability of revival and continuance of actual war; but that after twenty-five years of continued disorder, it was not unwise to think that there was some chance of a revulsion before ultimate peace was established—not that he had contemplated any such events but he had thought it not impossible, or perhaps improbable. It was not to be denied, indeed it was known to all, that after the restoration of the Bourbons in France there would prevail among some parties discontents, and even bodies of discontent; such an effect was to be looked for: but assuredly it had never prevailed to the extent argued by the noble marquis, though it was augmented by the peculiar character of the people, and the military pursuits in which they had been so long engaged. There might even be large bodies of men who felt hostile to the royal government; but he could, by no means 565 admit that the class of men who were usually termed constitutionalists, were discontented under the authority of the family of Bourbon;—all those who were in favour of a limited monarchy, of a temperate administration, and who held in abhorrence the dreadful excesses of the revolution—in short, the great majority of the nation were in favour of the ancient and legitimate dynasty. They thought that the only chance of a free government was under the Bourbons, and that with the re-establishment of Buonaparté they must give up all the civil and political liberty that they would otherwise enjoy.
The first question, then, for the decision of the House was, whether the Allies were justified in allowing to Buonaparté his personal freedom; or whether, secondly, under the difficulties they had to encounter, and the hazards they had to run, they would have acted most prudently in insisting upon the actual possession of his person and the control of his liberty? Between these two extremes, the noble earl contended that there was no choice; and upon the whole view of the subject, he argued that the decision adopted in the Treaty of Fontainbleau was wise and prudent. When it had long since been brought into discussion, the noble lords opposite had not made any complaint against the generosity shown to Buonaparté. Whether they had acquired wisdom by subsequent events that they did not before possess, was a question which the motion of that night would decide.
The Marquis of Lansdowne
said, that melancholy must be the prospect of this country, and deplorable the situation of Europe, if the opinion of the noble earl ought to be adopted by the House—that after the signal successes that had crowned the efforts of the Allies, and after the adoption of all means to establish the future liberties and happiness of Europe, no better precautions could be resorted to, and no better securities obtained, than those which had been the subject of the panegyric of the noble earl. If the noble earl inquired whether events had given wisdom to one side of the House, the noble marquis said, that he would in his turn ask, whether the noble earl had now no more effectual wisdom to instruct the House and to guide the affairs of the nation, than that which dictated and approved the arrangement now before the House? Was there no hope that new successes, should they be obtained, would 566 be more effectual in securing the liberty and happiness of the world than those, however brilliant, which had now been rendered so abortive? If the noble earl could hold out no more favourable expectation, it was, indeed, one of the most serious objections he had ever heard against the renewal of a contest, from which the noble earl had endeavoured to show that we could obtain no benefit. The noble marquis said, he was not prepared, from the deficiency of information, to enter into the details of the relative situation of the Allies and Buonaparté, at the date of the Treaty of Fontainbleau; but thus much he must say, that many of the very circumstances stated by the noble earl, as forming the strength of Buonaparté, in his mind constituted his weakness. If marshal Soult had a large army in the South of France, was he not opposed by the duke of Wellington, with superior numbers and superior talents? Yet this fact the noble earl seemed to have entirely, forgotten. It was argued, that Buonaparté then held the fortresses of Germany and Holland: but what were they but the causes of his weakness, by dissipating that power, that, concentrated, might have been effectual in overthrowing the Allies, especially if it were the fact, that the balance, even without the aid of Buonaparté's forces in garrison, was so nearly equal? What then, in truth, was the situation of Buonaparté? The noble marquis said, he believed on authority he could not doubt, that Buonaparté, at the time of the signature of the Treaty, had not more than 20,000 men under his command, while the Allies were in the immediate vicinity with 100,000 infantry, and 30,000 cavalry. He agreed with his noble friend who made the motion, that Buonaparté, if held in the light of a fallen enemy, ought to have been treated with the utmost generosity; but whether generosity were taken into the account, or the probability of future hostilities, there was but one plain and indispensable course to be pursued—that of security—not security quoad France, but security quoad the person of Buonaparté, who was the chief source of the evils of which Europe complained, and the continuance or prevention of which rested upon the possession of the person who had been the main spring of the French government. The first consideration ought, therefore, to have been to secure the person of Buonaparté, or, if not, to provide as far as pos- 567 sible for the future safety of that country, where his influence might be the most extensive and prejudicial. This brought his lordship to the point of the propriety of naming Elba as the place of residence for Buonaparté. The noble earl had asked, whether any other place could afford greater security? But the true mode of viewing this matter was, to take care to name no place for his residence which was not pre-eminently secure. The Allies might have given Buonaparté liberal revenues, ample territory, and generous provision for his family; but only on the condition that the situation where he was to reside was such as to extinguish and annihilate all chance of escape and future disturbance of the world. Was Elba such a situation, more especially with reference to France and Italy? The noble earl had vindicated this choice, by slating that it was rather to be expected that Buonaparté would have made his descent upon Italy; but surely it was a very curious mode of defending this determination, by showing that it was the most dangerous situation that could have been selected. The noble earl had maintained that it would have been impossible for our fleet to have interfered with the designs of Buonaparté without a special provision—if so, why was not this point made a matter of concert with the Allies? Why was it not made a part of the engagement, that if Buonaparté did attempt to escape he should be intercepted? It was rather a singular argument from the noble earl, that supposing the war with America had been concluded, no English ship could have interfered with the expedition of Buonaparté.
The Earl of Liverpool
explained. He had said, that by the general law of nations, no British commander could interfere with the voyage of Buonaparté to France, unless the officer had obtained information that he was on board a particular ship.
The Marquis of Lansdowne
apprehended, that it would have been the unquestionable right of a British ship to prevent the sailing of Buonaparté for France with arms and armed troops. Upon such a subject, however, precise instructions ought to have been given; and because ministers had failed in this duty, he thought sufficient grounds had been laid for the motion, which went to inquire into the force in the Mediterranean, and upon what service it was employed—The noble 568 marquis then proceeded to notice other parts of the speech of the earl of Liverpool, and particularly that in which he had asserted that Buonaparté had never justified his return to France on the ground that the articles of the Treaty of Fontainbleau had not been fulfilled. In opposition to this assertion, he quoted a passage from a proclamation of Buonaparté, dated from Bourgogne, the 8th of March, in which he expressly complained of a violation of the Treaty with respect to himself and his wife and son. Supposing, however, that this positive proof did not exist, still it did not follow that Buonaparté did not feel that he had a right to complain, although he did not think it prudent to notice that subject in his proclamations. He was there addressing the people of France, not appealing to the Allies; and Buonaparté at least deserved this credit for wisdom, that instead of insisting upon his own personal claims, he had placed in the front, the assertion that the Bourbons had not performed their part of the compact with the people of France, and consequently that the latter were released from their allegiance. He established his foundation upon that affection of his adherents and of the army, which lord Castlereagh had assigned as his reason for assenting to the Treaty of Fontainbleau: if the motive for consenting were so strong, the stronger ought to be the motive for adhering to the Treaty. The ground on which the noble mover had rested his motion, and on which he should give it his support, was, that with regard to the main point of the security of Europe, as connected with the person, of Buonaparté, no proper precautions had been employed by the ministers of this country, or by the allies—that while communications were constantly made, assemblies convened, and treaties signed, with, regard to the territories of the various powers, the distribution of the people of Germany, and the settlement of the government of France and of other countries, nothing had been done, not a single step had been taken as to the security of the person of Buonaparté, by which all the regulations made by the Allies, all the determinations of the Congress, were to be permanent and effectual. Neither in the advance upon Paris, nor in any subsequent stage, did any contingency of the kind we had recently witnessed appear to have been contemplated. In the next place his lordship contended, that 569 although the arrangement of Fontainbleau had been concluded on grounds avowedly unsatisfactory to the British minister, no provisional precautions on the subject of the residence of Buonaparté on Elba had been adopted; and that during the discussions of Congress, while the ministers of all the nations of Europe amused themselves with contemplating a variety of visionary dangers, for the purpose of effecting changes in the ancient habits of the people, such, for instance, as the case of Genoa ceded to the King of Sardinia; yet no measures had been contemplated, and much less taken, against the more certain, proximate, and fearful danger of the escape of Buonaparté from Elba. On these grounds he should support the Address of his noble friend.
§ Earl Bathurst
said, that if this debate had taken place this day last year, and if the noble lords opposite had then so delivered themselves, and had told the House all the dangers of the arrangement in question, and had pointed it out as one which the circumstances of the case did not justify, founded as they state it to have been in acts of gross injustice, then might they have obtained some credit for foresight. As it was, he was at a loss to conceive how they justified their conduct, thinking the Treaty bottomed in some injustice, in remaining silent either at the time they were apprised of it, or when their attention was called to it by taking into consideration the Treaty of Paris, which necessarily referred to this Treaty of Fontainbleau. They then contemplated it with perfect silence, and gave their unanimous vote of assent to it. Although the noble marquis who made the present motion had been reproached with this before, yet he had not a single word to say against it in his reply. The fact was, that if any arrangement had been made as to what should be done with the person of Buonaparté, it would have been useless, for his person was not in our power. Though he might have had but 20,000 men at that time (but the noble earl was inclined to think the number much greater), were there not considerable armies in other parts of the country? Though the capture of Paris was a great advantage to the Allies, it was also a considerable embarrassment to them; for if they had made a false step, they had no fortresses to retreat to, and would have been put to the inconvenience of a long march through an open and an hostile 570 country. The faith of Russia and Prussia was pledged already, and Napoleon had been induced to take steps in consequence. The result of a breach of this faith would have been a complete dissolution of the alliance, by occasioning an appearance of breaking faith with the whole army of France: their honour had been committed for a retreat for Buonaparté, and his soldiers had come over only conditionally to such retreat; they would have again taken part with him, if this violation of honour had taken place. By breaking the Treaty, we should have armed the whole country against us: and what would have been the language of those noble lords, who were so fond of peace, if in consequence of lord Castlereagh's violating this Treaty, war had again broken out? It was essentially necessary to assent to the Treaty, or to have nothing to do with it. On what principle could we have withheld our opinion of part of it, and reserved the right to discuss it, when Buonaparté, in consequence of our consent, had abdicated and retired to Elba? As to the question, whether the money had been paid him, it was not at present before the House: we were not accountable for it: we formed no party to that agreement, which was between Buonaparté and the Sovereigns of Austria, Russia, and Prussia, and the Provisional Government. Their not having paid the money was no infraction of the agreement as to them, unless they had been applied to and refused to give effect to the Treaty. The sovereignty of Elba being once given to Buonaparté, he was invested with all powers of empire. Such an agreement might have been wrong; but being made, it must be abided by. As to the number of frigates stationed for the purpose of preventing his escape, he had a brig which he had a right to take to any port whatever; and in point of fact it had before been to some French ports, and had returned. Unless intelligence were given that Buonaparté was aboard the vessel, it was impossible to prevent this. With respect to any preparations which he was making in Elba himself, from the very nature of his expedition, little or no preparation for it was necessary: they began on the very day; three merchantmen were accidentally there, and he seized on them; and no preparations for this measure could be foreseen by any body, for none were made. As to a conspiracy between him and the 571 interior of France, where could information of that be obtained? In the island of Elba, where he possessed the whole power, or in France? No blame attached to his Majesty's Government on any of these grounds. The noble earl then alluded to a subject, on which, he said, he was almost ashamed to trouble the House—the information which a Mr. Playfair had stated he was able to communicate to government of the plan of Buonaparté. When Mr. Playfair was asked whether the person from whom he received his information, was a friend to Buonaparté or the Bourbons—how he became acquainted with him—what had induced him to make the commonication—where he could be seen—to all these questions no answer could be returned. He had assured Mr. Playfair, that if he was able to substantiate his statement by proof, he should be rewarded. Mr. Playfair knew where to find him if he had any such proofs; and if he did not bring them forward, no blame could attach to any other person. At his solicitation, the French ambassador gave him a passport, and a letter of introduction to M. de Blacas; but he never heard of Mr. Playfair after; and when Mr. Playfair was asked why he did not avail himself of the passport and the letter, the reason he gave was, that the letter was sealed. The noble earl concluded by declaring, that he saw no reason whatever for acceding to the motion.
§ Lord Grenville
said, that the noble earl opposite had asked, what would have been the feelings of England and of Europe, if, by a different line of conduct from that which was adopted towards Buonaparté, they had exposed Europe to a renewal of the same dangers, and to the necessity of a renewal of the same efforts? They were now exposed to the same dangers—they were now renewing the same efforts, and it was of the noble earl that England and Europe had now to ask how it had happened, that after such a sacrifice of treasure as was weighing down this country—after so much valuable blood had been poured out like water—after all the favours of fortune heaped on a just cause—after all the success that the most sanguine supporters of the cause, in their most sanguine moments, could not have expected, which had blessed the arms of justice—that all these sacrifices, all these efforts, and all that success were rendered vain, and that we were now exposed to a recurrence of all 572 those dangers which we hoped were at an end, and placed in that very situation in which the noble earl triumphantly asked, what would have been the feelings of England and of Europe, had they placed us in the situation we were in previous to the conclusion of peace? God forbid that they should omit the first duty which was imposed on them, the duty of providing every means to look the danger in the face—and like men who, though disappointed in their hopes, and exposed to a recurrence of all those evils from which they had every reason to believe they were freed, were yet determined not to be wanting to themselves, to Europe, and to posterity. But having strengthened the arms of Government, even in the hands by whom it was at present conducted—having done every thing which their situation required—having recommended the adoption of measures of vigour, and of union and concert with our Allies,—did not England and Europe now require of them, that they should cast their eyes on the event which had reduced them to that situation, that they should endeavour to trace the causes of the past calamity, for the sake of providing against its recurrence in future? Convinced he was, that all those sacrifices which we might be still called on to make, might have been prevented by the exercise of common foresight and precaution; Those to whom the public interests were entrusted, had not bestowed the smallest particle of caution with respect to the very circumstance which most of all others required it. After the reverses of Buonaparté in Russia, when the contest was brought finally home to the country which had for 20 years deluged all Europe with blood, the success of the Allies was every where confidently anticipated. There were two modes of proceeding open to the Allies, in looking to the security of Europe. One of these modes was, in taking that security from the then existing Government of France, by obtaining from it favourable terms of peace. The other mode of security was, to re-establish the regal Government in France, and to grant France more favourable conditions of peace than would have been conceded under other circumstances. He had no doubt in his own mind which of these two modes was the best; but it was unnecessary now to enlarge on that subject: both modes were tried: the first failed, and in consequence of that failure the second was 573 resorted to. It was a little unreasonable in his noble friend who spoke last, to object that those persons with whom he acted had complained that the proposed Treaty of Chatillon was not concluded, because to those friends, and to himself in particular, the terms of the Treaty of Chatillon, were altogether unknown. That Treaty had always been hitherto withheld,—for what reason he did not know, but such was the fact; and how far therefore it would have been proper or improper to have made peace on the terms of the Treaty of Chatillon, was not known to them. But if what he had heard rumoured was correct, so far from making any complaint that peace was not made on those terms—if such a peace had been made as that which had reached him on rumour, he for one should have given his most decided opposition to it on those conditions. He did not say this now for the first time, for that determination was known to many persons at that time. So much for the Treaty of Chatillon. But on those terms the peace was not concluded; and the allied Sovereigns determined and declared that security could be no longer obtained in that course, but only by such a change in the government of France as should enable them to treat with France for peace with any hope of safety; and that they would therefore make peace on grounds more advantageous to France than they could grant under other circumstances. Of the propriety of this declaration he entertained no doubt; but of the propriety or impropriety of it he needed not at present to say any thing. They determined to look to such a security as the success of their arms entitled them to expect. In plain terms they declared, that the removal of the Individual who then held the government of France, was an object which they had to accomplish before any hope of peace could be entertained. From that time, on what, he would ask, hinged the negociation—on what hinged the war—what was the object to be gained by negociation? It was the security resulting from the exclusion of Buonaparté from the throne of France; and unless they obtained that security, they failed in the whole object of their exertions. To prove to their lordships that that security could not have been obtained by the course which was adopted, would at this day not be a waste of words only. Eleven months had not elapsed before the same apprehensions were entertained from 574 the same individual in the same situation, who had assumed the same power, and God grant that he might not exert the same means, which so long had been the scourge and terror of Europe! Nothing but extreme necessity could have induced the Allies to come to the determination of declaring his exclusion from the throne of France indispensable to the security of Europe. When it was argued by the noble lords, as if it was a matter of comparative advantage, and that, perhaps, something more might have been obtained by the adoption of measures which would necessarily have been accompanied by a certain degree of hazard, he would say that this was a most unfair view of the case. The fact was, that they had obtained nothing of that which they had made the whole hinge of their conduct. The noble earl seemed willing to persuade their lordships, that Buonaparté at Fontainbleau had power to inspire them with the same degree of terror as when he was at the head of his triumphant armies: he had almost told them that he was enabled to dictate peace to the Allies, and not they to dictate peace to him, and that they had, therefore, by the Treaty of Fontainbleau consented to relinquish, that which they themselves professed to be the hinge of security—his expulsion from the throne of France. With what grace did it come from an Englishman, that Soult and Suchet were formidable in the South, when they were in presence of a Chief who had so often fought and conquered them, and who, in fact, after that transaction did defeat that very army now described as so formidable? These were very different sentiments from those which ought to have inspired an Englishman at that time; when firmness of mind and character were so much required. With respect to the French army of Italy, was it not kept in check by the army which was opposed to it? Could that army by any possibility have marched to the assistance of Buonaparté at Fontainbleau? And with respect to the garrisons in, Dantzic, on the Rhine, or the Elbe, were their lordships to be told that that which was a source of weakness, they having garrisons at such a distance that they could not be available in the centre of the country, was a circumstance in his favour? The argument reduced itself to this, that with his army in the south of France, where we had a veteran army which had so often been found invincible; with the 575 force in Italy, which was completely occupied; with an army, he would not contend whether of 20,000 or 30,000 men, but which had been repeatedly broken and defeated, and what was still more than all these defeats, harassed by repeated marches for the sake of defending Paris; that Buonaparté at the head of twenty or thirty thousand men would be able to face the Allies at the head of 160,000 men, and with all Europe to support that cause for which they were fighting; The noble lord would have them believe that it was just, wise, and necessary, rather than encounter the hazard of meeting Buonaparté on such terms, to leave him completely at liberty at any moment he might think fit to re-assume that government, the exclusion from which was declared to be the only hope of security to Europe. The noble lord had asked in a triumphant manner, why objections were not made on this side of the House to the Treaty of Fontainbleau, and in particular to the cession of the sovereignty of Elba. Why were those objections not made? In what country, in what House, to what persons were these questions addressed? And was there a man who heard him, be he who he would, who could lay his hand on his heart, and say he approved of the Treaty, or the terms which were granted to Buonaparté in that Treaty? Was it possible that the noble lord and his colleagues were so surrounded by flatterers, so insensible to the voice of the country, so destitute of friends to speak to them in the language of sincerity, that they did not know that that Treaty was acquiesced in, merely because the terms of it were not known, but it was too late for them to be changed; and that it met with the disapprobation of every individual of the countries of the negociators? The noble lord, in order to cover their negligence and want of subsequent precaution, had described the Treaty as far more favourable to Buonaparté than was ever before understood in this country, or in any other country of Europe, or by the individual himself who was principally concerned. Because, as to the whole of the blazoned independence and freedom of sovereignty, that individual told them that the breach of the Treaty of Fontainbleau had restored him to his throne and to liberty—to liberty, because he did not conceive that by banishing him to the island, of Elba, it was the intention of the Allies to leave to him the choice 576 of returning again to France, and reassuming that government whenever he pleased. He conceived that he was not only excluded from the throne, but fettered and deprived of his liberty. That the words of the Treaty would bear that interpretation, or any other interpretation which any man might choose to put upon them, he was ready to admit. He had given the framers of this Treaty far more than they were entitled to—he had placed all the ambiguity, absurdity, and inaccuracy with which it abounded, to a wish entertained on their part to manage the feelings of the individual, and of those who were connected with him: and he had supposed that there were some secret engagements for the purpose of making it effectual, which were purposely not brought before the public. But the whole bulwark and security of Europe was utterly unprovided for in this Treaty. After the noble earl had contended that the Treaty of Fontainbleau was wise and necessary, he told them that our plenipotentiary hastened, on hearing of it, to Paris, to protest against it. After all the vain boasting which they had heard, of the success of Europe being principally due to the councils and efforts of Great Britain, it now came out, that when the decisive step was taken which was to purchase the security of Europe, there was either no. British minister to take a part with Russia or Prussia, or if present, that the influence of Great Britain was so small as to be unable to prevent the precipitate adoption of an arrangement so injurious to this country, that the Secretary of State repaired to Paris and endeavoured to prevent it from being carried into execution. Highly as he respected the persons of the Sovereigns and the Governments of the Allies, desirous as he was of acting in, union and concert with them, and convinced as he was that by such union and concert alone Europe could yet be saved, he would not allow that England ought to have held a subordinate station on such an occasion, and that a step of such magnitude should have been taken, not only without the approbation, but without even the knowledge of her agents. The noble earl, who was not consistent in any of his arguments, had told them that we had no right to interfere with Buonaparté in Elba, as he was a sovereign prince; but at the same time he had told them that there was an understanding with one of our officers to intercept his return. How could he re- 577 concile this? Was it true that there was such an understanding entertained by any admiral? And, if true, where was the security? It could only consist in this, that except Buonaparté sent word to the admiral that he was going to France, or that he was going to violate the Treaty, the officer was placed in a situation by which he was obliged to take upon himself the responsibility of either running the risk of plunging the country into war or bringing France into the situation in which she was at present placed. The noble lord, after a number of other observations on this subject, concluded with observing, that by allowing the brig of Buonaparté to sail between Elba and France, a way was paved for the return of that individual to France, and the change of the whole state of Europe. Nothing could be a stronger proof of the culpable negligence displayed on this occasion—and this incredible event would hereafter appear a fable rather than history; because no person who had not heard the noble earl speak, would ever believe that any men, charged with a duty of such importance at such a conjuncture, would abandon the task reposed in them in a manner so reprehensible.
said, that it was very easy for noble lords to argue in that House what course of conduct might have been more advantageously pursued; but when it was remembered that the Allied Sovereigns, who were on the spot, flushed with victory, and able to judge of all the circumstances, felt that there were difficulties which ought to induce, and which in fact did induce them to conclude the arrangements in. question, it surely was not too much to set their opinions against those of the noble lords. He understood that it was unanimously assented to, that some such arrangement as was ultimately determined on was absolutely necessary. With regard to the actual residence of Buonaparté in Elba, it had been shown by his noble friend, that he was understood to possess all the rights of sovereignty there; and what rights could appertain to that sovereignty, if those of personal liberty were denied? The noble lords opposite had argued as if Buonaparté were actually a prisoner, instead of a sovereign possessing certain consequent immunities and privileges. A great deal had been said about the instructions which should have been issued to our admiral commanding in the Mediterranean; but of all those noble lords who delivered their opinion 578 on that subject, not one of them had ventured to intimate what sort of instructions should have been given. In fact the greatest difficulty would have attended any attempt to define all the possible cases in which it would have been justifiable to have interfered, upon the principle that they were contraventions of the Treaty of Fontainbleau. Admiral Hallowell, indeed, had declared his determination to intercept Buonaparté, if he had found him quitting the island of Elba with any hostile intent; and the same determination must have occurred to any admiral commanding on that station, who had read the Treaty of Fontainbleau.
The Marquis of Buckingham
said, that if the circumstances of the present times could excite any feelings but those of the strongest indignation, it must be those of pity and compassion for the miserable case which ministers had been able to make out. The noble earl opposite had ironically congratulated the noble marquis, who originated the present motion, upon his present wisdom. He would to God he could return the compliment in sincerity, and applaud the wisdom of the noble earl and his colleagues. But it was their late wisdom which he threw in their teeth; it was their extraordinary blindness which he animadverted upon, and which had exposed them to the indignation of their country. The Treaty upon which they so lately prided themselves, they now told the House was incompatible with the security of the objects it professed to maintain; they now avowed without hesitation, that in sending Buonaparté to Elba, he was sent to a place from which it was impossible to prevent his escape. If so, why was he sent there at all? In censuring that arrangement they were not trying the conduct of the Allies of Great Britain; it was the Government of Great Britain they were arraigning. Why did a minister of this country suffer such a treaty to be entered upon without his concurrence? What was the professed object of that Treaty? To secure the peace and tranquillity of Europe. Had they obtained those objects? Were the peace and tranquillity of Europe secured? If they were not, with what face could his Majesty's Ministers come to that House, and boast of their acceding to that very part of the Treaty which had alone prevented the accomplishment of those ends? The flattering delusion had already passed 579 away, though they all remembered how recently it was the cry of the day that the deliverance of Europe was to be attributed to the councils of the noble earl. That cry was the burthen of every song and every speech in praise of Ministers. The Peace of Paris, it was said, had been the reward of perseverance; nay, the noble earl himself was so convinced of it, that he had the motto "Peace, the Reward of Perseverance," emblazoned in burning letters on the front of his house. But how had the Peace of Paris been rewarded? Let the noble lord look at the glittering star which shone upon his breast, and he would know at least how he had been rewarded for that peace. With respect to the other rewards which that peace had procured, one of them now appeared to be the escape of that man from the island of Elba, whose presence in France threatened to deluge Europe again with blood; nor, as it appeared, had any adequate instructions been given to prevent his escape. A gallant officer, indeed, was permitted to risk the probability of involving Europe in war, if he chose to act upon his own responsibility; but no positive, no precise instructions were given, though a sort of understanding, it was said, existed with the admiral. There certainly appeared to be an understanding in the admiral, and he wished there had been as much in the noble lords. He would not detain the House any longer, as he could not enter upon a variety of arguments which pressed upon him, without weakening the speech of his noble relative; and he should therefore sit down, in the confident hope that the motion of the noble marquis would be agreed to.
§ The Earl of Aberdeen
said that he was chiefly anxious to correct some misconceptions which seemed to exist with respect to the condition of Buonaparté, at the time he was at Fontainbleau. From the concurrent testimony of all who were on the spot, and in a condition to form an accurate judgment, it was ascertained that if by any movement of the Allies on the corps of Buonaparté that body should be annihilated, and he himself, perhaps, destroyed also, the French army were so anxious about his fate, that the war would not then have been terminated; on the contrary, it was expected they would have rallied round his marshals and protracted the contest to an indefinite period. It was from that view, and from a desire 580 that the army might be transferred to the legitimate dynasty in a state of mind that would secure their services, that the arrangements at Fontainbleau were entered into; and he, for one, certainly never did expect, after the unanimous acts of adherence, and the protestations of fidelity proffered by that army to Louis 18, that they would have violated them so soon; in fact, he thought better of human nature than to suppose such baseness possible. The noble earl then vindicated the conduct of lord Castlereagh from the imputations of lord Grenville, and contended, that he had not only hastened to Paris with all possible expedition, but that when he arrived he did all in his power to prevent the Treaty from being concluded, and at last modified it as far as it was practicable under existing circumstances. The Treaty itself was concluded under the pressure of difficulties: every moment was precious; and the chiefs of the army could not answer for their troops an hour, unless some such arrangement was determined on.
§ Earl Grey
said, that it was not his intention, after the length to which the debate had gone, to have offered his sentiments at all, had it not been for some most extraordinary things which had fallen from two noble lords opposite. It was impossible, however, to let those observations pass without some short notice. A noble earl (Liverpool) had told them, that notwithstanding the triumphant march of the Allies into Paris—notwithstanding the glorious successes which had led to that catastrophe—notwithstanding the proud hopes which were justly founded upon those successes—the Allies were compelled, as a matter of necessity, to submit to arrangements which, in their consequences, as they now developed themselves, menaced Europe with new dangers; and those were among the first fruits of that great and glorious success which had crowned the efforts of this country, for the maintenance of its own independence and the safety of the world. And how had that necessity been produced? Why, according to the testimony of the noble earl who spoke last, it existed in the Allies being compelled to treat with a person who at that moment was in situation of such despair, discomfiture, and dejection, at Fontainbleau—so weak, so desperate, that by a movement of the combined troops his army would have been destroyed, and its leader annihilated. 581 That was the declaration of a person who was himself on the spot, and had the means of knowing what he affirmed; and if that was compared with the statement of the noble lord who described the situation of Buonaparté to be so formidable that he could have protracted the war, it would be confessed that some new lights of policy were breaking upon them with respect to that transaction. It appeared that the Treaty of Fontainbleau had been concluded, not from any fear of the resistance which Buonaparté was in a condition to offer, but from the desire of transferring to the King of France that army which he commanded, in a good temper; or, to use the words of the noble lord (Castlereagh), who wrote with the same elegance and precision that he spoke, "to pass that army over to the King in a state to be made use of." With regard to the escape of Buonaparté from Elba, he thought there was a great degree of culpable negligence in our Government. The danger of such an escape required no extraordinary foresight to anticipate; and yet, because it was impossible so hermetically to seal that island as to preclude all possibility of escape—because they could not "make assurance double sure,"—because, in fact, every thing could not be done, the noble lord at the head of the Admiralty, and his colleagues, seemed to think, therefore, that they were released from the obligation of making any provisions against such an event. Considering the character of the person who had been placed in the Isle of Elba, considering the means which he possessed, and considering the views which had been imputed to him, was it or was it not to be expected, that he would make a descent on France or Italy? Why, then, had not provision been made against such an event? Why had not the British Admiral on that station been directed, if he met Buonaparté in his corvette, armed, and prepared for hostility, to detain him, and prevent him from executing his purpose? If he could collect any thing from the noble viscount (and he confessed that not much of the noble viscount's speech was to him intelligible) it was, that not a word of instruction had been given either to the admiral, or to the subordinate naval officers. All the noble viscount had said was, that admiral Hallowell—a name which it was impossible to pronounce without respect, as that of an individual universally honoured, not merely for the 582 way in which he discharged the duties of a seaman, but also for the manner in which he fulfilled the more extensive obligations of a man and a citizen—that admiral Hallowell had expressed his determination, if he should find Buonaparté engaged in any attempt to land hostilely on the continental shores, on his own discretion to detain him and prevent him from executing his purpose. A most proper determination. But how did it come to the knowledge of the noble viscount? Was it by accident, or did it proceed from admiral Hallowell himself, as the precursor of a request to be instructed on the subject by the Admiralty, or at least to intimate to the Admiralty the expediency of instructing his successor with respect to it? Having, in whatever way, obtained a knowledge of this determination of admiral Hallowell, ought it not to have served as a hint to the Admiralty to give those instructions to his successor, which the resolution adopted by the gallant admiral proved to be absolutely necessary? Such appeared to him to be the breach of duty on the part of his Majesty's ministers on this occasion, that if Parliament and the country expressed a disposition to leave power in such hands, they must not be surprised at any future mischances that might occur. A great danger had existed, against which it had been the duty of ministers to provide. The motion for their lordships' decision was, to call on ministers for the steps they had taken in the discharge of that duty. To that motion their lordships must accede, unless they were absolutely indifferent to the manner in which the affairs of the nation were administered. For his own part, he never gave a vote with more complete satisfaction, and with a more thorough conviction of doing his public duty, than he should feel that night in supporting the motion of his noble friend.
§ The Earl of Buckinghamshire
defended the conduct of the Admiralty on the occasion in question. Did any man conceive that the naval power of France was sunk to so low an ebb, that it was impossible for her to give those instructions to her navy which the noble earl called on our Government to give to ours? And of which of the two nations was it the greater interest, as well as the greater duty, to prevent the return of Buonaparté to the Continent? The object of the late war had been two-fold; the one to remove Buonaparté from France, the other 583 to prevent his return to it. As a security for the latter, the restoration of the Bourbons was most important. Agreeing with the noble marquis who made the motion, that it was by a narrow chance that Buonaparté fell into the situation, the result of which was the loss of his throne, he thence contended, that the best course which this country could have pursued was to accede (as we had acceded) to the Treaty made with Buonaparté Their lordships had that night been told that all the blood and treasure which had been expended during the late war, had been wasted in vain. This he absolutely denied. We had accomplished that which was of the utmost importance to Europe. Had the opinions of the noble lords opposite indeed been listened to, the efforts made by this country in Spain would have been omitted, and instead of discussing the merits of such a Treaty as that of Fontainbleau, we should have had very different subjects for consideration, with Buonaparté in possession of the whole continent of Europe.
The Earl of Rosslyn
reprobated the neglect of his Majesty's ministers to provide some means against the return to the continent of a person whom they themselves characterised as the greatest enemy of the peace of the world. A small force would have been sufficient for that purpose; for the question had not been argued fairly. It was a very different operation to prevent an individual from crossing over in an open boat, and to prevent the passage of an armed expedition. Nothing could be more futile than the attempt made by the noble earl who had just spoken, to justify the conduct of the British Government, by asserting that that of France was as much or more interested in the subject. Whether the Bourbons had the same means and the same facilities as ourselves, was not the question. Our Government had a distinct duty to perform; they neglected it, and if their lordships refused to call for the papers moved for by his noble friend, they would, in his opinion, abandon their duty.
§ Their lordships then divided:—Contents, 21; Not-Contents 53: Majority, 32.