The Marquis of Bute
said, he rose to move their Lordships to agree to an humble Address to his Majesty, in reply to the gracious Speech which had been just read to the House—a Speech so frank, so affectionate and consolatory, that he 12 thought he should but ill discharge his duty to their Lordships and the subject if he attempted to burthen it with many observations of his own. He felt assured that his Majesty would have, from the voice of a unanimous Parliament, the full assurance that he would not be mistaken in the confidence with which he treated them. Events of an extraordinary character had taken place since their Lordships had last assembled together in that House; but those events, though of so notorious a character that his Majesty's advisers would have been deserving of blame had they not noticed them, were obviously of a description which precluded the details from being made a subject of discussion in Parliament. He was persuaded that their Lordships would concur with him in believing that his Majesty's Ministers had acted properly in frankly recommending his Majesty to acknowledge the present Monarch of France, and in doing so he was sure that they acted in accordance with the general wishes of the people of this country. He rejoiced—he sincerely rejoiced—at the mutual good understanding which so happily existed between the two great Powers of France and England: he rejoiced at it, because he saw in their mutual good-will the best assurances, the best possible pledge for the permanent peace of Europe. Entering further into his Majesty's Speech, Parliament, he would observe, must find it very agreeable to receive proofs and assurances that all the Powers of Europe had observed their obligations. It was particularly gratifying to see that France was disposed to preserve inviolate the faith of treaties, without doing which a nation might attain a momentary greatness, but could never be permanently prosperous. Their Lordships were aware, that by the additional Article of a Treaty to which we were parties, and to which our Ally, France, was also a party —a treaty that was known by its local name of the Fundamental Law—their Lordships were aware that by that treaty arrangements were made, by which the Provinces of Belgium were declared to form an integral part of the dominions of the King of the Netherlands. He saw, therefore, and he had no doubt their Lordships saw, with much pain, the wretched condition at present of the Low Countries, particularly as the king of that country had called together an extraordinary 13 meeting of the States General, hoping, by his honest constitutional views, to restore tranquillity; acting by that in such a manner as must be pleasing to Englishmen, and as they might expect from a Prince of the illustrious House of Nassau. That Prince had, on many occasions of his past life, shown himself worthy of his ancestry; but the rapidity of events had frustrated the fair prospects of social arrangements by which he hoped to preserve his dominions in peace. Their Lordships would join with him in assuring his Majesty of their regret on this subject. Their Lordships would perceive that by the treaty to which he had alluded, the King of the Netherlands felt himself precluded from giving his assent to any resolution which gave a separate establishment to Belgium, and a separate constitution, without previously communicating with his allies, under whose guarantee the Fundamental Law was adopted. Reverting, then, to another subject, he must say that he was happy to see a prospect of a termination to the present state of our relations with Portugal. The obstacle which had hitherto stood in the way of that restoration was an arrangement into which this country, in concurrence with the other great Powers of Europe, had entered with the members of the House of Braganza. He must confess, that he had frequently looked forward with something like impatience to the time when we might honourably relieve ourselves from that engagement. A full and entire amnesty had now been granted by the government of Portugal to those who had. defended the cause of Donna Maria. When those honourable men who adhered to the cause of Donna Maria, in conformity with what they understood to be the established arrangements of the Royal family of Portugal, sanctioned by the leading Powers, — when those men should be again restored to the bosom of their country, he must confess he could not see on what grounds his Majesty's advisers would be justified in abstaining from restoring to the actual government of Portugal those direct diplomatic relations, the interruption of which had been attended with no little inconvenience to the interests of the country. His Majesty had remarked in the Speech, and their Lordships must have learnt the same fact from the usual channels for conveying information to the public, that symptoms of discontent and 14 disorder had manifested themselves in various parts of Europe; but their Lordships would see that they were all of a local nature, and were no cause of apprehension to us. He found in them a new proof of the high character which this great and happy country had acquired in the civilized world. He trusted their Lordships would readily agree with his Majesty, and believe that he declared what was agreeable to the sentiments of the great majority of his subjects, when he said, that he meant to maintain the general national obligations by which we were bound. His Majesty thought, no doubt, and so would his subjects, that by such means he should best maintain the high character of the country. He could not approach without considerable pain the first topic of his Majesty's Speech, which was purely of a domestic nature. His Majesty, feeling his advanced period of life, had invited the Parliament to take into early consideration measures for providing a Regency in case of his Majesty's death before his successor had arrived at years of maturity. He felt, and he had no doubt their Lordships would feel themselves, prepared to comply with his Majesty's invitation, and that they would desire to apply themselves to the serious consideration of such measures as his Majesty's advisers should on this subject submit to Parliament. In that sentiment he was sure their Lordships would all concur, as they would in the prayer he addressed to Almighty God, that the period might never arrive when any enactment on this subject would be brought into operation. Parliament could not have better instructions for the framing of a measure upon this subject than the manly and constitutional declaration which his Majesty had made of the principles on which it ought to proceed. He knew well that their Lordships were strictly bound to consider the Speech delivered from the Throne as the composition of Ministers; but if ever there was an occasion which would justify the supposition that the sentiments uttered by his Majesty were the sentiments of the individual who delivered them, it was the present. He thought he might venture to say, that the Speech which they had heard that day, and the declaration they had heard of his Majesty's principles, with the measure he had recommended them to adopt, was decidedly the language of the heart. He 15 also begged pardon for going a little out of his way to make an allusion to that part of his Majesty's Speech which was more particularly addressed to the other House of Parliament. It was not a usual occurrence, however, for his Majesty to make a new contract with his subjects for his Revenue, and as that was now the case, he could hardly allow it to pass unnoticed. He had very often heard the most erroneous opinions concerning the nature of the revenue enjoyed by the Crown, and he believed that to this day the most erroneous opinions concerning the Civil List were prevalent. There was no subject perhaps of great public interest on which the enlightened people of this country were in general so ill-informed. Perhaps he was wrong, but he believed that few individuals could be found in the kingdom who had made such sacrifices for the benefit of their private families as the Sovereigns of this country, particularly since the accession of George 3rd, had made of their income for the benefit of their subjects. It was well known to their Lordships, that the Hereditary Revenues enjoyed by the Kings of this realm, up to the accession of King George 3rd, and, consequently, during the reign of the last two Sovereigns, had greatly exceeded the amount of the sums placed by Parliament on the Civil List for the service of the Throne, out of which the whole expense of the civil government of the country, and of many proceedings necessary to support the dignity of the Throne and the empire had to be maintained. He could not let this part of his Majesty's Speech pass without, on his part, some expressions of acknowledgment to the Crown for the manner in which his Majesty had come forward to place at the disposal of Parliament a fund belonging to the Crown, which had never, on any previous occasion, been surrendered to the use of his people. In paying tribute to this act of Royal munificence on the part of his present Majesty, he was only anxious he should not be understood to throw any reflection upon the late King. Their Lordships all knew that his late Majesty was no less ready to pay attention to the advice of his servants, and no less willing to consent that his hereditary Revenues should be given up. He would venture to allude to that measure which had the sanction of Parliament last year —that most beneficial measure of the abolition of the Beer-duties. Let their Lord- 16 ships not forget that those duties were so connected with the hereditary revenue, that the measure could not have been brought forward without having received the approbation of his Majesty. Let them not forget that, by the abolition of those Beer-duties, a sum of no less an amount than between 300,000l. and 400,00l. yearly, which strictly formed part of the Hereditary Revenues of the Crown, was given up for the permanent relief of the people. He had taken pains to inquire into the matter, and he found that, by the abolition of those duties, there would be a reduction of nearly 300 officers of the Excise, and, of course, their salaries would be gained to the country. He was not one of those who attached much importance to professions, which might happen to be made in either House of Parliament—he was one of those who were rather to apt judge from acts than words; and when he saw a measure adopted, in which so much of Ministerial patronage was given up—when he saw that measure followed by the proposal of his Majesty, to surrender to the use of his people every sort of Hereditary Revenue, which had been on former occasions reserved to the Crown—he felt strong grounds for placing confidence, and he thought the country would place confidence, in the assurances of economy which were contained in that part of his Majesty's Speech which was addressed to the House of Commons. He felt his utter inability to do justice to the concluding part of his Majesty's Speech. He deeply regretted that within the last two months, circumstances should have arisen which prevented his Majesty from proceeding at once to that speedy and affectionate view of the condition of his subjects, which it was evident was the natural wish of the Royal heart. He lamented that acts of a desolating nature had been committed in one of the fairest parts of the country. He knew his Majesty would use a firm hand to prevent their repetition. He warmly concurred in the indignation expressed by his Majesty at the attempts lately made to excite, in the inhabitants of Ireland, a spirit of jealousy and dissatisfaction with respect to their connection with Great Britain. He could hardly trust himself to speak upon the subject. He could not conceive an act more criminal —more cruel, in any man of education (he did not speak personally), than to attempt to delude his less-educated countrymen 17 on such a question. He would ask their Lordships what was now the great evil of Ireland?—Poverty he imagined to be the evil; and yet, at the very moment when the capital of this richer portion of the United Kingdom had, at last, begun to flow towards that long distracted country —at such a moment we saw the pretended friends of the labouring classes of Ireland endeavouring to impress them with the notion that Great Britain was the source of their distress. He could not think that any considerable portion of the intelligent inhabitants of Ireland were misled by these doctrines. It was their Lordships' duty to assure his Majesty that their Lordships concurred entirely in the intention, expressed by his Majesty, of employing, to the utmost of his power, the means he possessed for suppressing such attempts. He for one was ready to deliberate on any other measures which might be necessary to secure the tranquillity of that country. Their Lordships, he was sure, were also prepared to express their entire concurrence in the view taken by his Majesty of the condition and feelings of the country. He believed there was no country in the world where the condition of all its inhabitants was so freely and so honestly made known. He looked to the general character of the laws and the legislation of this realm, and he would contend that the humbler classes of society still relied upon their Lordships as their natural protectors and hereditary defenders. They looked up to their Lordships, not with feelings of feudal terror, but with feelings resulting from the recollection of mutual kindnesses. If their Lordships encouraged such feelings, he was satisfied the great bulk of the people of this country would repel all attempts to disunite them. It was with the most sincere pleasure he could venture to bear his testimony to the allusion made by his Majesty to the improving condition of the country. Every day brought fresh proof of increasing activity in the manufacturing districts. He had been informed of a fact which was most satisfactory; namely, that, of all manufactured produce, the greatest increase had been in those articles, which were made up for the consumption and wear of the labouring classes of the country. He was perfectly aware that considerable pressure still prevailed in many of the agricultural districts. In the manufacturing districts wages were rising 18 every day, and he had not heard any difference of opinion upon the point that there was not a man who could not find full employment. Such a condition of things could not continue in the manufacturing districts, without the labourers in the agricultural districts sharing in the benefit. But, though distress prevailed in the agricultural districts, yet, comparing their present condition with what it was a few months ago, it could not be denied that there were signs of progressive improvement. He had no doubt there was still much to be done, and he was sure it would be done by the benevolent exertions of their Lordships on their own estates. His Majesty had been an observer of the people of this country—he knew from his personal experience the general respect felt towards him by every class in the empire. He knew the piety and moderation of our clergy—he knew the integrity of our laity in every profession—he was beloved no less by the poor than by the rich. These were the grounds of his Majesty's confidence—these were the grounds of his affection; that confidence was mutual— that affection was returned. He had taken up much of their Lordships' time—he would only further attempt to define that which he believed to be the happy feeling of the people of this country towards the King upon the Throne, by borrowing the description of a truly English verse of former days—Here willing nations know their lawful Lord.The noble Marquis concluded by moving an Address, which was as usual, an echo of the Speech.
The Earl of Winchilsea
said, it was not his intention to trespass long on their Lordships' time. There was one part of the gracious communication which the Sovereign had been pleased to make this day, which he was sure would be received by the country with heartfelt gratification —it was the recommendation, that the strictest economy should be pursued in every important branch of the public expenditure, and not only pursued, but that his Majesty was determined to enforce it. In the present state of this country it was by economy alone that we could restore peace and tranquillity, and give confidence to the agricultural population—amongst whom, notwithstanding what had fallen from the 19 noble Marquis, he maintained, that distress existed to a considerable extent—distress from the pressure of taxes upon the necessaries of life. Their Lordships would ill discharge the duty they owed to themselves and the country, if they did not institute an immediate inquiry into the state of the agricultural population of this country for the purpose of endeavouring to ascertain what relief could be given where the taxes pressed heavily, and whether it was in the power of the House to remove those taxes by substituting others. He regretted that disturbances of no ordinary character had disgraced one part of the country: but, before he entered upon this subject, he should most distinctly give it as his opinion, and he believed he should be borne out in that opinion by every respectable individual connected with the county, that none of the peasantry of the county had been engaged in those disturbances. He should treat with scorn and contempt any individual who dared to impute to the honest peasantry of Kent any participation in those fires which had gone to such an extent as to create alarm and terror amongst the inhabitants of that county. The incendiaries had hitherto escaped detection, but whenever detection took place—as he was confident it would, sooner or later—he was sure that the honest peasantry of the county would not be found concerned in these disgraceful transactions. So far was he from agreeing with the opinion of the noble Marquis who moved the Address, that distress did not exist—
§ The Earl of Winchilsea, in continuation: So far from that being the case, he knew that in many districts of Kent, so reduced had the property of the owners and occupiers of the soil become, that, in numerous instances, employment could not be found, and the great body of the agricultural population had it not in their power, either to find or to give adequate wages for labour. In many instances the consequence was, that a great part of the population was unemployed during the winter; and such was the distress of the occupiers of land, that the labourers were obliged to take up their wages in commodities at the village-shop, where it was not to be expected that they could obtain an adequate remuneration. If this did not show, that the land-owners and occu- 20 piers were distressed, he asked the noble Marquis (Bute) what would? And he believed, if a fair inquiry were instituted, it would be found that the capital of the land-occupiers was seriously diminished, and that, in many cases, they had been reduced from affluence to misery and want. As he had stated last year, when he had implored their Lordships to inquire into their wants, that a great part of the honest and independent yeomanry of the country were going to decay, so he would now repeat, that in his neighbourhood they were considerably reduced in numbers. He would say but little with respect to the commotions in the county of Kent, and it was a satisfaction to him to know, that Government would lose no time in calling forth the energies of those who were interested in the preservation of peace and good order. He would say, that the spirit which was abroad was one of danger; but he had also the satisfaction to state, that, of the great body of the yeomanry of that part of Kent in which he resided, there was not one individual whom he had addressed who did not express himself ready to give every assistance, in any way that might be required, for the repression of the disgraceful outrages. Their conduct was highly satisfactory. He hoped that the strict economy recommended by his Majesty would be rigidly enforced, and also that a minute inquiry would be made into the state of the agricultural interests, in order to see what reduction of taxes could take place, and what relief it was. possible to afford; for sure he was, that want of employment alone was the cause of the insubordination prevailing amongst the peasantry. Whether a measure could be carried, to compel the land-owners to employ a fair proportion of labourers during the winter months was a matter that required consideration, but he thought that there ought to be some such provision; for in many parishes where there were eight or ten farmers who were ready to give fair wages, there might be found four or five in opposition, and, as there was no law of a compulsory character to enforce this, the good intentions of the others fell to the ground. He had last Session thought of such a provision for the parish in Northamptonshire in which he resided, and he would shortly bring it before their Lordships. The noble Lord concluded by imploring every individual in the House to make minute inquiries, in the respective 21 counties in which they resided, into the state of the agricultural interest, because he was certain that, were this attended to, it would, in most instances, be followed by the greatest benefit.
The Marquis of Camden
said, he felt it his duty, from the first moment he came into the House, to present himself to its notice. He had yesterday attended at Maid-stone, and he should be sorry to enter into a controversy with his noble friend opposite (Winchilsea), such as he was compelled to enter into in the last Session of Parliament, nor should he be seduced then to discuss whether more distress prevailed in the last year than in the year 1822; but he would say, that the distress now prevailing was not in any degree comparable to that which existed last year. If that were so, why should there not have been more outrages, while the people were said to be starving in the severity of winter, than now, when we enjoyed what was undeniably a genial autumn? The fact was, that what had taken place on the other side of the Channel had sent forth many evil-disposed spirits. He pitied the wretches who caused fires and broke machinery; but, if misery and hardship were the cause of these outrages, their pressure was more severe in the last than in the present season; and he, therefore, attributed these outrages to the spirit now abroad. He did not mean to say that there was any individual concerned in these proceedings who meant anything against the Constitution of the country; but he believed, in that part of Kent where the noble Earl resided, they were the consequences of a prejudice against the use of machinery, and not of distress. He believed that there were parts of Kent, as there were parts of other counties, in distress; and in some parts of that county there was an ad ministration of the Poor-laws which was not wise. He did not suppose that so extensive an inquiry as was necessary could be had in a fortnight or three weeks; but he saw a spirit in the farmers, and he was sure it was in the gentry, which would induce every one to look to the management of their farms. He therefore thought, whether Parliament adopted any measures or not, that there would be a union of all classes to put down the outrages that prevailed. As to the conflagrations, he was sorry that the inhabitants of the county of Kent could be capable of devising or executing them; at the same time that 22 the manner in which they were effected showed that they were done more to excite terror than any other cause. The barns and stacks of all classes were burned, and the fires were not confined to those of harsh landlords or greedy overseers. Hitherto there had not been an adequate spirit of inquiry; but now, so anxious was the desire to investigate the causes—and he was sure the Government was convinced of the necessity of giving every assistance for the discovery of the offenders—that these excesses would very soon be put down. He trusted, that, ere long, the alarm of his neighbours would wear away, and the reputation of the county be freed from the odium at present brought upon it. He was sure that the best way to effect this would be for the yeomanry to come forward, and offer their services. He was one who thought that in times like these every one ought to do his utmost, and there was no one more desirous than he was to alleviate the distress that existed. As to the other topics of the King's Speech, he thought it would be more decorous not to enter upon them, and therefore he would not further detain their Lordships.
§ The Duke of Richmond
said, it was not his intention to take up more than a very short portion of their Lordships' time, but he was anxious to take this opportunity of expressing a hope that Parliament would no longer delay—that it would not put off until it might, perhaps, be too late— an inquiry into the state of the labouring poor. He hoped the subject would be taken up with a view to a fair inquiry He assured their Lordships that he said this, not in the spirit of faction, for it was admitted by the noble Marquis (the Lord-lieutenant of the county of Kent) that great distress did prevail in that county, though he had added that that distress was not so great in that particular county as it was last year. The noble Marquis seemed to think, that the outrages which existed in that county were not the result of the distress that prevailed. He (the Duke of Richmond) would not say what was the cause of those outrages; but whatever might be their origin, it could not be denied, that last Session the Tables of their Lordships' House were covered with petitions, complaining of the distresses of the labouring poor. The subject of those petitions their Lordships had not thought it necessary to take into consideration, and he believed that that circum- 23 stance had taught the labouring poor not to look to Parliament with that confidence which they had been accustomed to feel towards the Government and Legislature of the country. He believed a feeling did prevail amongst the labouring classes, that the upper classes were their foes, and not their friends. That this was a most serious error on the part of the labouring poor, he fully admitted. He knew that their Lordships, and the other House of Parliament, were the friends of the poor, and he knew that the cause of the delay of inquiry last Session was to be found, not in the indifference of Parliament to the poor, but to incredulity as to the extent of that distress; but, seeing what had since occurred, he must say, that it would be criminal to delay the matter any longer. The county of Kent had since then spoken in a language which was disgraceful; but, while he said this, and while he admitted, that the outrages to which he alluded should be put down with a strong hand,—for no distress would justify such violations of law,—he still must impress on their Lordships the necessity of no longer postponing a fair and full inquiry into the state of the labouring poor. For himself he would say, that he felt no alarm for the ultimate state of the country, for he knew that Englishmen possessed too much good sense, and too much devotion to the institutions of their country,—too much loyal attachment to the person of their gracious Sovereign, who had that day, for the first time, met his people at the opening of a new Parliament, and who, from the moment of his accession to the Throne, had on every occasion evinced the most paternal regard for the interests of his subjects— Englishmen, he repeated, possessed too much wisdom and good feeling—to allow themselves to be led away into errors dangerous to the security of the State. Whatever was the condition of the country at present, there could exist no reason for alarm as to the ultimate result; but it was necessary that the inquiry to which he alluded should not be further delayed. He spoke this, not with a view of creating any excitement out of doors, but to impress on their Lordships that conviction which he strongly felt, of the necessity that the inquiry should be speedy. On this he trusted their Lordships would be unanimous, and while they put down dangerous acts of riot and insubordination by force, if necessary, they should not delay adopting 24 such other measures as might tend, by relieving the distresses of the poor, to restore to them that confidence in the Legislature which was so necessary to the tranquillity of the country. He would not offer any opposition to the Address moved by the noble Marquis, but he must express a hope, that before the close of the debate, he should hear from the noble Duke (Wellington) that he should be ready with some measure, having for its object that to which he had adverted. It was necessary to the tranquillity of the country, during the winter now coming on, that the confidence of the labouring classes in the Legislature should be restored by the adoption of every possible means to improve their condition.
The Earl of Darnley
said, he would detain their Lordships only a few moments. The state of the country had, in the course of the last Session, been several times the subject of discussion, and on these occasions, believing as he did that the distress which prevailed was only partial, he had deprecated any exaggerated statements respecting it, and had also opposed the motion for inquiry, on the ground that it would tend to no practical good. With respect to the nocturnal outrages which had since taken place in the county of Kent, he was of opinion that they ought to be put down by the strictest application of the law; and when that was done, he thought it would not be unbecoming their Lordships to make the experiment of an inquiry as to the cause of the distress, and the condition of the poor. He himself had been visited by some of those nocturnal depredators, and he agreed with his noble friend in believing that none of the nightly outrages that now disgraced the county of Kent were committed by the industrious working classes of that county. They were the work of, he believed, persons who did not belong to the county. He wished to take that opportunity of correcting a misstatement which had been made in one of the Kent news-papers, and which had been copied from that into most of the London papers. It was stated, that on the occasion when some of his property was burned, the peasantry looked on without any attempt to assist in extinguishing the flames, but that they rather seemed to enjoy the spectacle. Now, the very reverse was the fact. He had suffered only to a trifling extent; but so far were the 25 peasantry from refusing their aid, that not only his own labourers, but those of others came and voluntarily assisted and worked, heart and hand, to put out the flames. Some of them were for nearly two hours up to their middle in water on the occasion. He was not present himself, but his son and others who were, and on whose testimony he could implicitly rely, stated the fact, that these men worked with the greatest alacrity, and without, as far as he knew, any hope of reward. It was a great satisfaction to him afterwards to address sixty of them after they had been paid for their exertions, and to thank them for their excellent conduct on the occasion. He felt it necessary to say this, in justice to the character of the peasantry, and in corroboration of what had been stated by his noble friend, that the peasantry of Kent were not the authors of those outrages. He thought that this was also a proof that the noble Duke (Richmond) was not correct in supposing that these outrages were the result of there having been no inquiry last Session into the condition of the labouring poor. He would admit that distress did exist in some parts of the country, but it was not general. Whatever was its extent, one fertile source of misery might be found in the very erroneous system of paying the wages of the poor out of the parochial rates. He would admit that distress existed, and he thought one of the first steps foritsrelief—and that which he believed the noble Duke was disposed to take—was reduction of the public expenditure. Of this reduction he believed the Sovereign, who for the first time appeared there today to open a new Parliament, and who on every occasion since his accession had done that which would well deserve for him the title of the patriot King, was disposed to set the first example. He trusted it would be so, and that his Majesty's views in this respect would be ably seconded by that House; for he was sure that their Lordships would not obtain that respect which for the sake of the country it was so necessary they should command, if they did not earnestly set themselves about those necessary reforms, which must begin with the upper classes to be generally beneficial.
The Duke of Leinster
said, that he had just come from that portion of the United Kingdom, to the condition of which allusion had been made in the Speech from 26 the Throne; and he was anxious to say a word as to the feeling which existed there on the subject of the repeal of the Union. That feeling had not, he believed, yet gained much ground in Ireland. He was present a few days ago at a private meeting of gentlemen deeply interested in the prosperity of that country, which he had felt it necessary to call together, and it was the general opinion of those present, that the repeal of the Union was a measure which would be most injurious in its effects to both countries. But while he expressed his opinion, that the feeling in favour of that measure had not proceeded to any great extent, he must say, that unless Government adopted some measures,—he did not mean strong measures, but some plan for the employment of the poor--some plan to reform the Grand-Jury-system, and other matters to which he would not, at that moment, allude more in detail,—the project for a repeal of the Union would get a-head, so that it would be extremely difficult to deal with it. He repeated, he would not, at that moment, point out in detail the particular plans which it would be advisable to adopt; but he had no doubt whatever, that some plan for the relief of Ireland, by giving employment to the poor, ought instantly to be devised.
said, that the present moment was one of the most important at which a Parliament had met for many years, whether considered with relation to our foreign or domestic policy. There were dangers from within and without, and the best way to avert them was to look them boldly in the face. The Speech from the Throne informed them that this country continued on terms of peace and amity with the several Powers of Europe; but who were the Powers of Europe at present? He knew that the illustrious Prince who now sat on the Throne of France was strongly disposed to continue the relations of peace and amity with this country; but who knew whether affairs in that country might not take at turn which would oblige its Sovereign to adopt measures towards this country which he himself could not approve? As to Belgium, to which the Royal Speech had adverted, and which had been alluded to by the noble Marquis who moved the Address, were we not a party to treaties respecting that country, which might bring us into unpleasant collision with 27 some of the Powers of Europe? But when all Europe was in arms, was England to be the only one with her bosom open? He agreed with other noble Lords in thinking that there could be no ultimate fear for this country if her energies were well directed. The greatest difficulty with which we had to contend arose from the state of our finances. Taxation was already stretched as far as it could go, in relation to our agriculture, our commerce, and manufactures. These interests were burthened with as much as any, and more than some of them, could well bear. In fact, the landed interest was too much burthened, while another, for the support of which all the others had hitherto been too heavily taxed, was comparatively without any burthen, he meant the monied interest. He would have that interest pay its share by a tax on all income derived from money. He meant not the Funds alone, but on mortgages and other species of annuities, which were almost untaxed, while land was borne down with taxation of every kind. He would suppose a man with an estate of 10,000l. a year, of which 5,000l. was paid to a mortgagee; this mortgagee received his income without deduction, whatever was the change in the value of land, while the owner of the estate had to pay so many demands in taxes, tithes, and poor-rates, out of the remaining produce of his estate, that he had not a nett income of more than 2,000l. a-year. This was an inequality of pressure which ought never to have been inflicted, and ought not now to be continued. The land, therefore, should be relieved from some of its burthens, and they should be transferred to those who were better able to bear them. This was a question which would not be met by economy. Economy was necessary, and would do good as far as it went; but they must go further. They must go back, and alter the system of taxation. The country was called upon to make extra exertion,—to put itself in a firm and imposing attitude,—when they saw that in several of the counties around them there was a disposition to upset all that was near and dear to man. As to what had been said by the noble Duke (Leinster) on the state of Ireland, he would only observe, that in what was passing in that country their Lordships were now reaping the bitter fruits of their own conduct, in having yielded too much 28 to popular clamour. The consequences were now before them in the cry which was raised for a repeal of the Union. He agreed in the opinion that the feel in favour of that measure was not general in the country, but he could not conceal the fact, that there was in Ireland a growing want of confidence in the Legislature. The consequence partly of the resentment and indignation at the course which his Majesty's Ministers had pursued two Sessions ago, on the important subject then brought forward. It was necessary that this feeling should be removed by the future conduct of the Legislature. As to the Union, he was one of those who, in Ireland, had most strenuously opposed the. carrying of that measure. He thought it was unjust, and he knew the base and unconstitutional means which were resorted to to carry it through; but while he said this he must also declare, that to the way in which the repeal of that measure was sought to be brought about, and indeed to the repeal itself, in whatever way it might be proposed to effect it, he was decidedly opposed; because he felt if that measure were carried, it would sever the connexion between the two countries, and tend to the ruin of both. He hoped that the feeling which existed on this subject in the minds of some persons in Ireland would give way to a more rational way of thinking. He hoped, too, that the Legislature would act in such a manner as would tend to create renewed confidence on the part of the people in Ireland, that it would, above all things, shew no indifference with regard to Irish business, no readiness to yield to the language of intimidation, and the agitation for the repeal of the Union would, he was convinced, soon die away.
§ Earl Grey
spoke to the following effect:— I feel great satisfaction that I gave way to the two noble Lords who have preceded me, for I have heard, with much pleasure and full concurrence, what fell from the noble Duke behind me; and I heard also, with similar feelings, a considerable portion of what was delivered by the noble Lord who followed him, though differing from that noble Lord in a great many of those observations which he made while addressing himself to the more extended and general question, which the Speech from the Throne has raised for the consideration of your Lordships and the other branch of the Legislature. I entirely agree with the 29 noble Lord who spoke last, that for centuries Parliament has not been called on to deliberate respecting matters of greater importance, or perhaps of greater danger, than now present themselves. They are circumstances which will demand at our hands all the caution—all the wisdom—all the fortitude—that we can possibly exercise. But I have, at the same time, a full confidence that, with the stedfast and honest application of the qualities which have belonged to the English nation and Legislature, those dangers will disappear, and those questions which all men must feel to be of the deepest importance, will be decided in a manner becoming their momentous character, and calculated to avert the dangers by which we are surrounded. I have, I repeat it, the fullest confidence in the good sense, the honourable feeling, and the unabated loyalty of the people of England. I have no doubt, that if both Houses are forced to do their duty, there will be nothing to fear for the safety, honour, and happiness, of the British nation. Had I risen earlier, I perhaps should not have said even so much as maybe comprised within the few brief observations which I propose to address to the House, and which I intend to commence, by adverting, in the first place, to that topic which I conceive to be of the very first importance—I mean the state of Ireland. I have no hesitation whatever in adopting, with reference to that condition, the language which your Lordships have this day heard from the Throne. I do partake most fully in those feelings of "grief and indignation" expressed by our most gracious Monarch in reference to those measures which have been adopted in another part of the empire, for the purpose of alienating the affections of a brave and loyal people in a manner that must lead to the separation of the two countries, and finally to the certain destruction of both. Concurring, my Lords, most fully in those sentiments, I need not, I trust, add, that I shall most cordially, as far as my humble means admit, lend my assistance to any proceedings which his Majesty's Ministers may find it necessary to adopt, consistent with the spirit of the sentiments just expressed from the Throne, and in conformity with the fundamental principles of the laws and Constitution of the country. I make this qualification, because, upon the Speech, as it stands, I would desire to rest, the more especially as I find in it no allusion to any 30 new laws. I think the laws as they exist at present, ought to be put in force, and I am deeply impressed with the conviction that they will, if energetically executed, be found abundantly sufficient to meet the present exigency—to accomplish the proper and effectual punishment of those who would divert the subject from his allegiance, and to terminate those animosities and mistaken views of the true interests of that country from which those disturbances take their rise. Regarding, then, the intentions of his Majesty's Government, as I find them this day developed in the Speech from the Throne, I confess I look with great confidence to the course to be followed by the noble Duke behind me (Leinster); I look also with great confidence to the exercise of that sense and discretion which I trust will not be wanting in the sound and influential portion of the people of Ireland; and I sincerely rejoice that that noble Duke, taking the lead which naturally belongs to his great name, and availing himself of the ascendancy which attaches to his station in that country, has put himself at the head of that part of the population of Ireland in which the greatest influence and the soundest judgment may be expected to reside. I rejoice that the noble Duke has put himself at the head of those who have resolved to stem the torrent which, if not energetically and decisively resisted, will lead to the destruction of all that man in a social state could deem worth contending for. I would therefore entreat and exhort the noble Duke to place himself at the head of the sound part of the community, and save the country from those fearful calamities with which others, who seek to divert the people from their allegiance, would inevitably superinduce. But in order to save the country, what is to be done must be done quickly and decisively. In saying all this, however, my Lords, I find it impossible to agree with the noble Lord who spoke last, that circumstances which have recently occurred go at all to fulfil his prophecy of the Session before the last. I can never agree with him, or with any man, that the great and healing measure of that Session could have been productive of any such effects. That measure was one to which I have ever given my most cordial and devoted support through good and through evil report—for the advancement of that measure I made sacrifices of which it does not now become me to speak, for I made 31 them willingly; but I cannot now sit still and hear it said, that it could have led to results which every man in the country, and every lover of the human race must deplore. No, my Lords, the fault, with respect to that measure, was not in the concessions which were made, but in the delay which took place; that which, done early, would have been beneficial, done late lost no small portion of its value; concession was delayed till a system of agitation was established capable of being applied to the basest and the worst of purposes—concession was not made on principles of right or justice, or policy, but confessedly to fear and necessity. Let it not be supposed that I am blaming those by whom the concessions were made—far from it. I do not blame them for giving way, at least I do not blame them for at length carrying that measure themselves which it was the whole business of their previous lives, to resist. In the circumstances in which they found themselves placed, the course they adopted was the evident dictate of sound policy and wisdom; when they saw the danger approaching, they did what then lay in their power to obviate its possible effects. I heard, with feelings which I shall never forget, the noble Duke opposite, when speaking of the horrors of civil war, say, that he was willing to die, to save his country from such a calamity. It was a declaration dictated alike by feelings of humanity and of true wisdom. For reasons, then, my Lords, which these observations naturally suggest, the views I took of that great and healing measure remain unchanged; and to the opinion which I then entertained respecting it, I have now to add, that I am persuaded the degree in which it may have contributed to the pre sent discontents in Ireland is solely to be ascribed, not to the adoption, but to the delay in passing it. We are now, however, to deal with a new state of things, and we must deal with them as we find them; we are to direct our energies to the suppression of that system of agitation as applied to the question of the Union, by which the former question, I am willing to admit, was, in a great measure, advanced —that which we might have borne with as the means of promoting a great and legitimate object, we are called upon to resist when directed to opposite purposes. I hesitate not to affirm, that we are bound to support and promote the efforts of those who think, to dissolve the Union amounts 32 to nothing less than to dissolve the connection between this country and Ireland. I opposed the measure of the Union at the time it was first discussed here, on general policy. I opposed it also on grounds to which the noble Lord who spoke last has adverted—namely, because of the foul means which were adopted for the purpose of carrying that measure into effect. They were means which would provoke opposition to any measure. There were never worse means resorted to, for carrying any measure than the corruption to which I am alluding —they were means which reflect the deepest disgrace upon those with whom they originated, and which, to remotest posterity, will blacken the memory of their authors. Inducements were held out both to Protestants and Catholics, involving opposite representations and statements; the Protestants were told, that if that measure were once passed, it would afford the best security to them against the Catholics; and the Catholics were told, that if they agreed to it, and gave their assistance to forward its accomplishment, their own claims would come to be considered by a free Parliament, unfettered by any restrictions hostile to their just demands. Thus were both parties deceived, that that measure might be carried into effect—the Catholics were deceived, and continued in the degraded condition in which they were left at the Union, until a degree of irritation showed itself, that could no longer be trifled with, and till concession became the only remedy. Would to God that the warning voices of those who are now no more had been listened to; what evils might have been prevented—what dangers might have been averted—what collisions of hostile parties might have been avoided—what strenuous and ardent efforts might have been combined in cordial unity, to extend and consolidate the true interests and happiness of the United Kingdom. But regrets of this nature need now no longer be indulged; the present moment demands some decisive and energetic measures, as respects many relations in which we stand; and I rejoice at being able to say, that I concur with his Majesty's Ministers in thinking, that to execute the existing laws is all that Ireland requires in the nature of restraint. I have, therefore, nothing to object to that part of the Address which relates to Ireland; fully sympathising, as I do, in the grief and indignation which his Majesty has thought proper to express, I the more readily con- 33 cur in that part of the Address, indeed from a persuasion that his Majesty's Ministers are not, and cannot be, indifferent to the state of Ireland; and I trust that Parliament will soon receive from them proofs that they are ready to bring forward measures suitable to the condition of that country. Once more, in recurring to the great and healing measure of the Session before the last, I beg to repeat that I was never of the number of those who expected from it alone the complete and immediate tranquillity of Ireland—there was much to be done in every department of society in that country—there was much to be done to allay the spirit of discontent which every where prevailed and much to be done to remedy the abuses of the government of Ireland—which were rendered inveterate by long-duration. The great measure, however, has been passed, and it now remains for Parliament to follow it up in a manner suitable to such a commencement, by which I should earnestly recommend to the immediate attention of the House—measures of internal relief—measures worthy of the policy which opened the Constitution to the Catholics—measures calculated to remove the poverty and distress of the people, and to give strength to the Government. Having now made the few remarks which I intended to address to the House respecting Ireland, I shall direct my attention to the condition of the empire, but more especially, in the first instance, to the distresses of the people, and to the disturbances to which noble Lords have alluded. I shall begin by admitting, that I believe distress does exist to a considerable extent; and I concur as heartily as any man in the opinion that Parliament should immediately institute an inquiry into the causes of that distress, and without delay adopt such measures as the necessity of the case may demand. When I first read in the newspapers the statement to which a noble Earl behind me has adverted, I hesitated not a moment in pronouncing my disbelief of it. I could not believe that the peasantry of Kent were affected by so bad a spirit, and least of all did I believe that that noble Earl could have been made the subject of hostile feelings by those whom he employed, and who surrounded him as neighbours. However, we have now the statement of the noble Earl himself, which will go forth to the public in such a form as to preclude the continuance of error on that subject. I cannot pass from this part 34 of the subject without expressing my full conviction, that Parliament will direct its best efforts to remedy the evils which have led to this species of disturbance, and though the people of that country have been driven to commit excesses, I trust that their spirit is yet sound, that they have English hearts in their bosoms, and that when they become satisfied that the Legislature is anxiously engaged in devising means for their relief, they will be restored to a sense of what they owe to themselves, and to society. I fully concur in the recommendation of the noble Lord—a recommendation in perfect accordance with his humane feelings and his high courage— that our first duty is, to repress severely and firmly any violation of the law, and immediately to enter upon the consideration of such remedial measures as, under the circumstances, may be practicable. The noble Marquis who moved the Address, seemed to imagine that the distresses in the county of Kent had their origin in events which took place in a neighbouring country. —[The Marquis of Bute denied that he had said any such thing, and the Marquis of Camden said, it was he who had expressed the opinion to which the noble Earl referred.] I beg pardon of the noble Marquis who spoke first—I should have attributed that sentiment to the noble Marquis, the Lord-lieutenant of the county of Kent. I really, however, am quite at a loss to discover the grounds upon which he affirms that those disturbances had their origin in the cause which he assigns. I am unable to comprehend why such causes should have affected Kent at all, and, having done so, why their operation should be confined to that county; neither can I understand how the destruction of machinery is at all connected with causes of that nature. The destruction of machinery by labourers is clearly to be attributed to the distress, as they cannot be persuaded that their distresses are not aggravated by its means. But the other outrages which disgrace the county of Kent cannot be so accounted for. They are in all respects contrary to all that we have ever known of the English character. Nor are they occasioned by the occurrences in a neighbouring nation, to which the noble Marquis has referred. The next topic to which I must allude respects the professions of economy contained in the Speech of this day. Of these professions I must say, that they are invariably made in Speeches from the 35 Throne, but I hope that, on the present occasion at least, they will be carried into effect. I trust the relief which it is intended to give will be such as to remove the pressure of those taxes, which are at the same time the most severely felt and the least productive. Allusion has been made to what was done in the last Session of Parliament. For those measures of relief, as far as they went, I give his Majesty's Ministers full credit; although I do not think that the taxes repealed were those of which the pressure was the most felt or the most general. But in another respect this repeal has been productive of good. In the expense of their collection, the saving has been as great as in the productive amount of the taxes themselves. But more general relief might have been afforded by the repeal of other taxes; though I have no doubt that the selection of taxes to be repealed was made with the best intentions. What I now look for is a still further reduction. I do not, however, think this a time to discuss such a proposition as that brought forward by the noble Lord on the cross-bench, respecting a different mode of taxation. If the noble Lord means to propose a Property-tax, it will be my duty to give the most, decided opposition to such a tax, because I feel that it will increase not lessen our difficulties. On another occasion I shall have an opporunity of pointing out such taxes as, by their repeal, would at the same time afford the most general relief, and diminish to the greatest amount the expenses of collection. As to the measure recommended by his Majesty to the consideration of Parliament—namely, the appointment of a Regency—it is one which I, in common with other noble Lords, urged your Lordships to consider in the last Session. Of that measure I have now nothing to say, but that I entirely concur in the recommendation contained in his Majesty's Speech, and I have no objection to make to the manner in which it has been introduced; I can have no wish but that an arrangement may be made that will ensure on the one hand, the unity and efficiency of the Government, as well as the rights and liberties of the subject, during the minority of the successor to the Throne, and on the other hand, the safe succession of the minor, placing the guardianship in those hands which nature and good policy point out. With respect to the next topic alluded to, I have no objection to consider it, as 36 recommended by the noble Marquis who introduced the Address. It is true, as the noble Marquis has stated, that the Speech is understood to contain the sentiments of his Majesty's Ministers. I am also willing to consider the recommendation as to the hereditary revenues of the Crown, as the act of his Majesty himself; and as adding to those many acts of spontaneous generosity and sincere affection for his subjects which have already gained for his Majesty the hearts of his people. His Majesty deserved the praise in the first instance of the measure; but I will also give his Majesty's Ministers credit for their readiness to bring forward such measures as are most likely to contribute to the prosperity of the empire and to the security of the Crown. I gratefully acknowledge, with the noble Marquis, the considerate disposition in his Majesty which has induced him to resign wholly to Parliament all those hereditary revenues such as the Droits of Admiralty, the West-India Duties, and other branches of casual revenue which belonged to the Crown. But, my Lords, from the way in which the noble Marquis has stated the matter, it would appear, that he supposes those revenues to be the private property of the Crown, and that the Sovereign has a right to employ them as he pleases, without reference to public utility. Against any such construction it is my duty to protest. Those revenues were originally given to enable his Majesty to carry on the government of the country with dignity and effect; and Parliament in contributing to the expenses of the Civil List, is bound only to grant so much as may supply the deficiency of those other sources of revenue. I do not mention this, my Lords, with any view to detract from the great condescention of his Majesty, but to prevent an incorrect principle, such as that stated by the noble Marquis, from being adopted by the House. I have now, my Lords, gone through all the topics of the Speech which relate to our domestic concerns, and I must proceed to not the least important, though the least noticed, part of his Majesty's Speech. My Lords, I allude to that part of the Speech from the Throne in which our doubtful relations with other Powers are spoken of. I agree with the noble Lord on the cross-bench (Lord Farnham) as to the necessity of preparations: but I do not agree with him in supposing that there is any necessity 37 for Parliament to consider preparations for taking up arms. I do not look for defence to augmented establishments—to an increased army and navy—being convinced that such precautions will bring upon us the very dangers which we seek, by their adoption, to avoid. If we were to arm, as the noble Lord has intimated we should, and, as he said, all Europe was arming, if we were to adopt such a policy, in all probability one short month would not pass without our being involved in a war with France. "You see," said the noble Lord, the "danger around you; the storm is in the horizon, but the hurricane approaches. Begin then at once to strengthen your houses, to secure your windows, and to make fast your doors." But the mode in which this must be done, my Lords, is by securing the affections of your fellow-subjects, and by redressing their grievances, and—my Lords, I will pronounce the word—by reforming Parliament. Through my whole life I have advocated Reform, and I have thought that, if it were not attended to in time, the people would lose all confidence in Parliament, and we must make up our minds to witness the destruction of the Constitution. I trust that it will not be put off as the Catholic Question was put off, but considered in time, so that measures may be introduced by which gradual Reform can be effected without danger to the institutions of the country. Whether it can be expected that Ministers will bring forward such measures, I cannot say; but of this I am sure, that if they do not bring them forward, and carry them into effect, they will in time be pressed by this question as they have been pressed by the question of Catholic Emancipation, and compelled to yield to expediency what they refuse to concede upon principle. Perhaps, in the early part of my life, I have urged this question with the rashness of youth; but I have never thought that Reform should be insisted on as a matter of popular right, nor have I ever advocated the principle of universal suffrage, which, on the contrary, has always seemed to me to be inconsistent with our institutions. We are now told, that every man who pays taxes has a right to participate in the choice of Members of the Legislature; we are told more than that—we are told that every man who contributes to the wealth of the country by his labour has a right to vote; we are told, indeed, that every man who has arrived at a full 38 age is entitled to this privilege. These are principles which I must deny, and claims which I must oppose. The right of the people is to good government; and that is, in my judgment, inconsistent with universal suffrage under our present institutions. If suffrage be the right of all who pay a certain tax, then I say, that it is in the limit, and not in the extension, of that privilege, that such right consists. I say, my Lords, that preparation ought to be made to revise the Constitution, to extend its blessings, and to secure the affection of the people, to ensure their tranquillity, and to confirm their confidence in the Legislature, and in a King who only lives for the good of his subjects. But I do not agree in the policy recommended by the noble Lord on the cross-bench (Lord Farnham). With respect to France, I approve of all that has hitherto occurred, although no one will say that I would hold out inducements to rebellion. My Lords, I know that all Revolutions are evils in themselves, and I regret that what has passed was necessary. For the peace of Europe, for the honour and safety of the family which has been expelled from the Throne, I regret that Charles 10th could not have made up his mind to concur in the new order of things, to act faithfully upon the Charter which he had sworn to maintain, and to acknowledge the right of the people to that good government, without which, tranquillity and allegiance cannot be expected from them. My Lords, if Revolution could be rendered necessary in any circumstances, it was rendered necessary by what I must call an unjustifiable attack on the liberties of the people. As an Englishman, owing the benefits which I at present enjoy to a similar measure, similarly provoked, I rejoice in the resistance of the people of France to the attack upon their liberties; and I rejoice in the character of their whole conduct, from the first moment when resistance became necessary to the expulsion of the reigning family. In such a cause resistance was necessary, was noble, and I cannot conceive a more heart-stirring scene than that of a people entering upon so holy a contest with courage worthy of the cause, and using victory, when achieved, with such unparalleled moderation. It is gratifying, that in their resistance, there has not yet been one act to stain the purity of their patriotism. In the Revolution which has been forced on them, no blood 39 has yet been shed which the violence of the tyrants themselves did not render necessary. God grant that their conduct may continue to be as stainless. I believe there is no friend to liberty in Europe who would not be gratified if mercy were extended even to the authors of those measures by which the Revolution was provoked; but if it be necessary to proceed in the work of justice, every friend to freedom hopes that nothing will be done to raise a suspicion that punishment has been dictated by a thirst of vengeance. The justice of the cause of the people was proved by the moderation of their conduct; I trust, therefore, that what has been so happily begun will proceed in the same spirit. I cordially' approve of the ready manner in which Ministers recognized the new government, and I hope therefore that by the union of the two countries, holding their liberties by the same means and on the same principles the peace of Europe will be maintained. The allusions of his Majesty's Speech to the affairs of the Netherlands occasion some exception to the satisfaction which I have received from other passages. The principle of our benevolence to those States should be that of non-interference. I confess that. I cannot understand that we are bound to interfere in any arrrangements of a local nature between Holland and the Low Countries. If I have not misunderstood the noble Marquis in the speech which he made— with, I suppose, a knowledge of the intentions of his Majesty's Ministers—he has said, that we are interested in maintaining and are bound to maintain the kingdom of the Netherlands in the situation in which it has been settled by Treaties to which this country is a party; I cannot understand that we are so bound. As for those Treaties themselves, I do not think that they have contributed to the tranquillity of Europe; nor do I think that acting on them now would contribute to its prosperity and peace. Instead of acting on the principle of the balance of Europe, which would protect the weak against the strong, we have departed from that principle, and formed alliances upon principles of confiscation and division, in accordance with which we have transferred one kingdom to another, without regard to the sentiments or to the interests of those who were transferred. From the first moment, those transfers have never allowed to Europe an hour's security. No man 40 can more regret than I do the separation of Flanders from Holland: and in this view I cannot disapprove of the intimation conveyed in his Majesty's Speech, if the mediation alluded to be conducted in a proper manner, in concert with France, so as to effect a new and amicable settlement of the country. But I imagine that, after the excitement of the animosities which now actuate the inhabitants of the two countries, they cannot again be united but by means the most vicious and unjust, and by an utter disregard of the principle on which it is the duty of every country to act—that is, the principle of non-interference. I should certainly be happy to see those two countries identified under one government, but I cannot imagine that this can now be effected by any means short of a force capable of overwhelming the resisting party, and against the employment of such a force, I for one, shall always strongly protest. These are my views; and they are enforced with a reasoning more powerful than I am capable of advancing, in a letter addressed to a noble friend of mine, dated 19th May, 1818, from which I shall, with your Lordships' permission, read an extract:—
"Netherlands.—The only change of importance which Lord Castlercagh made in the project sketched by Mr. Pitt, in 1805, was, to give the Netherlands to Holland instead of Prussia. Whether the original plan was a good one may be doubted; but the merit of the alteration is still more equivocal. A proposition of joining the Netherlands to Holland was made to William 3rd, but he rejected it, says Burnet, on account of the difference of religious opinions; and he seems to have acted with his usual knowledge and judgment. The Belgians require their government to be strictly Roman Catholic and intolerant; the Dutch wish no less for a Protestant King and general toleration. Nor is this the only difference—the Belgians wish the land to be free from taxes, the Dutch will hear of no duties upon commerce. The Belgians are accustomed to the use of the French language; the Dutch will not be governed except in Dutch. The Belgians despise the Dutch as a covetous, unpolished, unfeeling people; the Dutch despise the Belgians as an ignorant, stupid, and bigotted race. The Belgians, in fact, wish to return to the French government, and in the scramble for the patronage of the combined Crown, 41 they are not able to contend with the superior ability and information of their neighbours. In 1816, of eight Ministers of State, only one was a Belgian; of twenty-eight diplomatic agents, one; of eighty-five Generals, sixteen, &c.; so that of 169 of the first employments of government, the Belgians had only thirty Add to this that the Belgians are obliged to pay taxes for the interest of the Dutch debt, and the repairs of the Dutch dykes. It may easily be believed, that amongst the discontents which this arrangement has occasioned, the government cannot hold a very steady course. The sovereign authority is exercised, neither with the youthful vigour of a new, nor the prescriptive majesty of an old government. And what shall we say to this limited Monarchy, in which the King, by his first act, abolished Trial by Jury, and named his own Chamber of Deputies? Or to a Parliament, of which the members rail at one another in different languages? Where a Belgian deputy, who proposes a financial question, is completely foiled by the unintelligible reply of a Dutch Chancellor of the Exchequer? Where one half of the House do not understand the other half till they see their speeches translated in the newspaper of the following day? If the internal government of this country wants stability, its external situation is not more secure. Flanders, said Sir William Temple, is not of a size to support a large army, nor of a figure to be defended by a small one. The union with Holland has not added much to its military strength. The Dutch force is chiefly naval, and the Colonies require a large number of troops. The present army of the kingdom consists of 40,000 regulars, and 60,000 militia. Even with the additions which may be made in the time of war, they will not be more than sufficient to garrison the fortresses. If the French were to invade Belgium, it would be utterly impossible for the king of the Netherlands to meet them with an army in the field. Austria and Spain would no longer empty their treasures to support Flanders. The only power from which money and men could be expected would be England. So that, after paying to build the fortresses, we should have to pay for defending them—perhaps, too, against the inhabitants. We have here an instance of two nations, possessing no natural attraction, but rather a very great repulsion, to each 42 other, pounded together in the great mortar of the chemists of Vienna. What is to result from the mixture of two equal parts of Catholic bigotry and Protestant freedom—of land and commerce—of French and Dutch—of polished stupidity and vulgar talent—of natural servility and ancient love of freedom, no man can guess. It may be supposed, however, that one of the parts will fly off as soon as it can join any foreign matter. And this is the kingdom which is considered by all foreigners as raised out of deference to England, at the special demand of Lord Castlereagh!"
My Lords, from the considerations expressed in that extract, I object to the manner in which the allusion to Belgium is introduced in the Address. If it went no further than to lament the unhappy occurrence in that country, I should not offer any objection to its adoption in our answer to his Majesty's Speech. But it makes us go further. We are made to decide between the two parties, and to pronounce a direct censure on the conduct of the people of the Low Countries towards their enlightened government. This is language directly opposed to the principle of non-interference. We speak of the Belgians as "revolted subjects;" and as revolted subjects, they would be considered to deserve punishment. Is the noble Duke, then, prepared to bring matters to this issue? If he be so, I trust this House will not sanction such interference. What, then, will he do, should he be compelled to leave them as they are? If, after this judgment upon the conduct of the two parties, he should become a mediator, can he expect to be considered impartial? Would he not naturally be looked upon as the enemy of one of the parties to whom he should offer himself to settle their disputes? But should the transactions in Belgium come to the issue, which I think not only the most likely, but, perhaps, the most desirable, at present, for the interest of this country—should Belgium, I say, be formed into an independent State, in what relation shall we stand to that country, to which we, this night, in the language of the Address, express our hostility? Against that expression I feel bound, my Lords, to protest, as impolitic and unjust; and I believe that, if the Duke apply to France for her co-operation in interference, on the principles implied in that part of the 43 Address, he will find France soon falling-off from the negotiation, and his measure leading to the result which it is his wish to avoid. My Lords, it was also with regret that I heard the allusion made to the recognition of Don Miguel. I do not wish to speak here of the private character of that Prince, but I do not think the proposed recognition of his authority in Portugal consistent with a Statesman-like view of our relations with that country. Our original situation, certainly, with respect to Don Miguel, was by no means the same as at present. We have lately recognised a new government in France, and as there seems to be in the other country (Portugal) also a government, existing now for some time, with the apparent concurrence of the people, I am not prepared to say when it may be proper to recognise it. But in the passage of the Speech from the Throne, alluding to such recognition, there is something which I do not understand. The recognition is made to depend on the passing of an amnesty. I understood the noble Duke at the head of his Majesty's Government to have said, on a former occasion, when he wished to justify a measure which was complained of in this House, that "non-interference was the principle, and intervention the exception." Now, I will ask him, how he can reconcile that principle of non-interference with making this amnesty the condition of the proposed recognition of Don Miguel? If he do so, is he prepared to enforce the fulfilment of that condition? For my part, my Lords, I should certainly rejoice to see the Marquis of Pahnella and his virtuous fellow-sufferers restored to their country and to their estates; but, I must ask the noble Duke, if this amnesty be made the condition on which we recognise Don Miguel —and if, on the faith of that condition, the noble Duke's companions in arms, who are now engaged in attempting to establish the liberty of Spain, should return to their own country, would this promise of Don Miguel be faithfully observed? If faith be not kept with the returned exiles—if Palmella and the others he seized on their return, what then will follow? Are we bound to maintain the amnesty, to the promise of which we are made a party? Are we bound to go to war for the purpose of enforcing it? Such interference is opposed to all the principles on which nations have ever acted. As yet we have seen nothing to encourage the 44 expectation of this amnesty. On the contrary, the last that we have heard of the proceedings of that Prince (Don Miguel), was his seizure of the wives and children of those adherents of Donna Maria who were not accompanied in exile by their families. Before I conclude, I should wish, with your Lordships' indulgence, to recapitulate by stating, that in respect to what has happened in France, I rejoice in the successful resistance of the people to the unjustifiable measures of the family which they have expelled; I trust, into whatever negotiations his Majesty's Government may resolve to engage for the new settlement of Belgium, that the principle of non-interference will be strictly adhered to. I regret the distress—the existence of which in this country cannot be denied, and I am satisfied that this House is disposed to consider the best means of relieving it. With respect to Ireland, I concur altogether in the sentiments expressed by the noble Duke who sits near me; and although, under all circumstances, I cannot give my sanction to the Address, I conceive that I fulfil my duty in offering it no opposition.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said, he was in hopes, judging from the first part of the noble Earl's Speech, that he should only have had to congratulate their Lordships on the sentiments which the noble Earl had delivered in commenting on his Majesty's speech, and what had fallen from the noble Lord and the noble Duke. The sentiments of the noble Earl did him the highest honour, and became the rank which he ought to hold in the country as a statesman. They did equal honour to his heart and head, and he (the Duke of Wellington) congratulated the House on their expression, at the same time that he was sorry he could not agree with what had fallen from the noble Earl upon all the points he had touched upon. The noble Earl ended his speech with some observations relative to Portugal, and he would commence by answering them. He begged the House to recollect how frequently his late Majesty had stated to Parliament the inconvenience felt in this country, in consequence of the interruption of our diplomatic relations with Portugal; how frequently his late Majesty had stated his wish to re-establish those relations; how anxiously he sought to reconcile the two branches of the House of Braganza; and how frequently, as he repeatedly told the 45 House, he had negociated on the subject. Having failed in his negotiations to bring about the desired union, his Majesty adopted other measures, with a view to remove the difficulties of the case, and benefit his subjects; and the Royal Speech informed the House, that there were now hopes of effecting these objects at an early opportunity. As long as there existed a government in Portugal, keeping a large portion of the talent and property of the kingdom in a state of exile, his Majesty could not recognize a government so circumstanced, without endangering our safety and honour. An amnesty, therefore, which would permit the return of the exiled party, and guarantee their security, had been long recommended, and the government of Portugal at length intending to carry it into effect, his Majesty conceived the great difficulty to be removed, and had expressed his intention to recognize that government. The noble Earl said, "Shall we be bound to go to war to carry into execution that amnesty?" That did not follow by any means, and the noble Earl would see, from the expressions used in his Majesty's Speech, and from the observations he had submitted to their Lordships, that we should not be bound to go to war in order to carry into effect any part of the engagement. We should be bound to interfere, in every possible way short of actual war, to prevent a violation of the amnesty. Such an interference was very different in its nature from the designs referred to by the noble Earl, and was perfectly justifiable. Although the noble Earl did not approve of the recognition of the Portuguese government, and of the renewal of our diplomatic relations with that country, he was glad to find that the noble Earl approved of the measures adopted by this Government with respect to France, and he begged to assure the House, in answer to what the noble Lord said, questioning whether or not it was our intention to proceed in the same spirit as we had begun, and carry into execution the arrangements with France with good faith, that these arrangements never would have been made if it was not intended to carry them faithfully into effect. When the Government of this country saw the new government of France established, his Majesty had not the slightest hesitation in acknowledging the new order of things, and he sincerely hoped that such arrangements would be made, in addition to those 46 already made, as would conduce to the welfare and best interests of that country, and the lasting peace and tranquillity of Europe. The noble Earl had thought proper to find fault with the expressions used in the Speech with reference to the government of the king of the Netherlands; and the noble Earl observed, that his Majesty's Ministers had not mentioned one single subject of complaint made by the people of the Netherlands to their sovereign, though those complaints had appeared in a pamphlet which was published some years ago, and had become matters of history, and were well known to the king. But though this were the case, was his Majesty,—the ally, the close ally of the king of the Netherlands,—in speaking of the government of that sovereign, to mention what had occurred among his subjects as anything but a revolt against his authority? How could his Majesty do otherwise than treat the convulsions which had taken place in the territory of his close and near ally, but as a revolt against his legal and established government? The noble Lord had no doubt read, in the daily publications, the full history of the transactions. They commenced, it was well known, in nothing but a riot. The troops were eventually overpowered by those who had revolted, under the pretence of putting down that riot, and for which purpose they had ostensibly armed themselves, though they eventually turned their arms against the royal authority. The complaints of the revolters against the king of the Netherlands were, in the first instance, absolutely nothing. Of what did they complain? The first object they found fault with was the union of the two countries, and the existence in the administration of the government of a person named Van Maanen, who, however, was actually out of office at the time when the complaints against him were made. The other complaints were of supposed or real grievances, of a partial nature, and the result of local regulations. In fact, it was very well known,—and he appealed to every noble Lord who heard him, whether he was not correct in saying it,—that no complaint whatever was made against the king of the Netherlands personally, or against his administration of the government, or (with one exception) against those to whom he had confided the functions of official duties, until the revolters had at- 47 tained a certain degree of success, and began to aim at what, in the first instance, they had not contemplated. What, then, he again asked, was his Majesty the king of England, in speaking of his ally, to enter into these complaints, or would it have been proper in him to have even alluded to the subject? He could not hesitate to say, that such a course would in every respect have been unadvisable. And he would ask, what did the king of the Netherlands do upon his receiving these complaints? Had he not pursued the strict course pointed out to him by the constitution of the country? and had he not subsequently acted in rigid conformity to his relations with other Powers? Immediately the complaints were made known to him, the King had assembled the States General: he had assembled that body in which was constitutionally vested the right and power to remedy the grievances complained of by a portion of his subjects. He proposed as a question for their consideration, what were termed the greatest grievances,—namely, the union between the two parts of the country: he laid before them the wish of one portion of his subjects to dissolve that union, as far as the administration of the government was concerned; and finally, he proposed to them the question of revoking certain laws that were obnoxious to his subjects. Would his Majesty the king of England have done common justice to his ally, the king of the Netherlands,—did justice from one friendly Sovereign to another require that he should not assume that his conduct, previously to the revolt, had been that of a wise and good sovereign, and that he wished to adopt the most effectual measures to remedy the grievances complained of? What his Majesty the king of England had said, was merely that he lamented that those measures had not produced satisfactory results. The noble Lord, after commenting upon the Speech from the Throne, and upon what he conceived were the views of his Majesty's Government, had asked, was it possible that the Government of England could be a just and impartial mediator, when it had, in fact, pronounced a sentence against one of the parties? He would say, that even the parties themselves could not and would not deny the fact which he had just stated, nor would they dispute the correctness of the interpretation which he put 48 upon his Majesty's Speech from the Throne. The Belgians did, in point of fact, revolt, and that is what his Majesty said in his Speech. He would add nothing further upon this topic, but proceed to another part of the noble Lord's speech, in which he alluded to the treaties by which this country was bound in her relations to the Netherlands. The first was the Treaty of Peace signed by the Allied Powers in the year 1814, and by which the provinces, commonly called Belgium, were conceded and agreed to be joined to the united provinces of Holland, with a view to form a sovereignty under the government of the king of the Netherlands. In consequence of this Treaty of 1814, arrangements were made for the government of the Netherlands, under the king of Holland, by each of the four Powers which had made the Treaty with France. It was well known to the noble Lord that this arrangement was recorded in the treaty of the Eight Articles, and that this Treaty referred to the fundamental laws of the government of the United Provinces, which were to be made applicable to the whole kingdom. There could be no doubt whatever that the four contracting Powers were bound by that Treaty in the present case. It made over to the King of the Netherlands the whole of Belgium, who received it according to the arrangements of that Treaty, by which all parties were to be strictly bound. Could it be contended that any thing which had since occurred, or that any thing in the present position of affairs, could alter the obligations or! destroy the powers of that Treaty? Subsequently to the arrangements of which he had been speaking, the Treaty had been made a matter of record, and a basis of negotiation in the acts of the Congress at Vienna, and in fact, the acts of the treaty of the Eight Articles was an appendix to the Treaty of Vienna, to which the King of France became a contracting party. The Treaty had, therefore, received every possible sanction and ratification, and France had become a party to all the arrangements under it which referred to the kingdom of the Netherlands. Notwithstanding this, it had been said, that the king of the Netherlands could dissolve this union between the two parts of his kingdom of himself, and without consulting those who made the Treaty, or desiring their consent to the dissolution. There could be no doubt whatever that the 49 five Powers which had signed the Treaty of Vienna, would claim their indisputable right to give their opinion upon the future explanation of the articles. England could not attempt to pacify the parties alone. France could not singly make the attempt; nor could any other Power use an effort to pacify or reconcile existing differences alone; the object must be attempted by all the parties in concert, and that concert, whatever the arrangements were, must include France. That there were difficulties in the way of effecting a pacification he did not deny, but he hoped to get the better of them. He could assure the House that there was no intention whatever on the part of his Majesty's Ministers—that there was not the slightest intention on the part of any Power whatever—to interfere by means of arms with the arrangements respecting the Netherlands. The desire of his Majesty, and of every other party concerned, was to settle, if possible, every point by means of negotiation, and by negotiation alone. He hoped that the negotiations between the different Powers would make arrangements, as stated in the Speech, which would be compatible with the welfare of both parties in the kingdom of the Netherlands, and conducive to the general safety of Europe. Before, however, he finished with this subject, he must beg to make one observation upon a very extraordinary assertion made by the noble Earl. The noble Earl had said, that the Treaty of Peace of 1814 had not tended to secure, which was its object, the general tranquillity of Europe, but to lay the foundation of future wars. Unfortunately for the noble Lord's assertion, as far as experience had as yet proved the effects of the Treaty, directly the reverse had been the case. Since the Treaty of 1814, there had been the longest general peace, he believed, ever known in Europe—a peace of sixteen years, uninterrupted only by the return of Buonaparte from Elba in 1815. This would show, that by common conciliation and management, the country would get over the present difficulties as it had got over others; and the course necessary to pursue was, to make the general interests of the different Powers of Europe compatible with the good government and welfare of their people. He should now come to a part of the noble Earl's speech to which he confessed he adverted with considerable pain, because 50 it broached a discussion which he had hoped might have been avoided till a future period. The noble Lord upon the cross-bench (Farnham) had been pleased to refer to a discussion of a former period, and to connect it with the present state of Ireland, of which he seemed disposed to make an immediate question. The noble Earl had given colour in some degree to the noble Lord's statements with respect to the influence of this country upon the state of affairs in Ireland. With respect to the repeal of the Union, he would only observe, that that repeal was objected to in the strongest manner by the noble Duke opposite: it was objected to by all the noble Duke's friends in Ireland; it was objected to by all the landed proprietors of Ireland, by a very great majority of Roman Catholics, and by nearly all the Protestants of Ireland; and it was opposed by the unanimous voice of that House, and equally by the unanimous voice of the other, with, perhaps, only one exception. That was the case at present, but what would have been the case if the great measure of emancipation, to which the noble Lord had alluded, had not been carried? The House well knew that a vast majority of the people of every class in Ireland had desired to see the Catholics restored to all their civil rights. The House well knew that a great majority of its Members, as well as a great majority of the other House, had been equally desirous of effecting that object: it well knew that the great majority of the young and growing intellect of the country had ardently wished for the measure, and would any noble Lord now contend, that the Government did not stand on firmer and better ground, with respect to the Union, than if the Catholic Question had not been carried? He, therefore, really did not see the advantage of repeating against him the reproach of his having given way upon that question from motives of fear. He denied that he had been influenced, even in the slightest degree, by any such motive. He had given way, if it could be termed given way, solely because the interests of the country required it. He had urged the question upon views of policy, and expediency, and of justice; upon these grounds he now justified the measure, and upon these grounds he ever would defend his conduct. The noble Lord must forgive him for saying that much of the present state of Ireland must 51 be attributed to the manner in which the Catholic Question had been opposed; whereas the noble Lord would lay all the evils of Ireland to the conduct of Government. The Government had done every thing in its power to conciliate and appease the people of that country, and to heal those passions and lessen the divisions by which they had been distracted previously to the successful termination of the Catholic Question. It was not his duty, and it was far from his inclination to cast imputations upon any man, but still he was bound in fairness to say, that if his Majesty's Government had been properly supported upon that question—if it had been supported as vehemently as it had been opposed—if in its efforts to heal the divisions of Ireland it had not been thwarted—that country would now have been in a very different state. The noble Lord and the noble Duke had complained of the excessive poverty of Ireland. No man, either in that country or in this, could be more painfully aware than he was of the extreme poverty of the Irish, and of the great inconvenience and danger to the empire, resulting from the deplorable state of the lower orders,—no person could be more sensible of all this than he who had the honour of addressing the House; but he must beg the noble Lord to reflect, that it was not by coming to that House, and by talking to their Lordships of the poverty of the people, that the poor could be relieved, or that the evils resulting from that poverty could be remedied. If they wished to tranquillize Ireland, the way was, to persuade those who had money to buy estates and settle in that country, and to employ their capital in its improvement. By transferring capital to Ireland, and exciting industry there, they would soon change the state of the case. If persons of estate and property in that country would reside in it and spend their incomes there, they would do more to tranquillize it than all the measures which his Majesty's Ministers could adopt. He would now advert to a part of the discussion of that night, in allusion to a portion of his Majesty's Speech, upon a subject which gave him very great pain, he alluded to the state of the public mind in a certain part of the kingdom, and the outrages there committed. He certainly could not help agreeing with a noble Marquis (Camden) who had spoken early in the debate, that the outrages of which 52 that county had been the scene, were not to be attributed to distress; for at a period when the population of the country had unquestionably been exposed to greater severities of condition such scenes of outrage had not taken place. He should imagine that the outrages were carried on by two different classes of people. Some of the offences had been committed by a class which was always disposed to break machines, which they thought (and certainly rightly thought) would, in the first instance, throw them out of work, although they did not see that, eventually, machinery created an additional demand for labour and bettered the condition of the labourer. But he was sorry to say that there was another class of persons who burnt and destroyed property without any visible motive whatever. Of what were the causes of these recent outrages, however, the Ministers knew no more than the gentry and magistracy of the county had told them. They were doing every thing in their power to help the gentry and magistrates of the county to discover the causes, and they were giving them every assistance they required to put the law in force, and to put down the disturbances as quickly as possible. This subject brought him to what noble Lords had said respecting the putting the country in a state to overcome the evils likely to result from the late disturbances in France. The noble Earl had alluded to the propriety of effecting Parliamentary Reform. The noble Earl had, however, been candid enough to acknowledge that he was not prepared with any measure of reform, and he could have no scruple in saying that his Majesty's Government was as totally unprepared with any plan as the noble Lord. Nay, he, on his own part, would go further, and say, that he had never read or heard of any measure up to the present moment which could in any degree satisfy his mind that the state of the representation could be improved, or be rendered more satisfactory to the country at large than at the present moment. He would not, however, at such an unseasonable time, enter upon the subject, or excite discussion, but he should not hesitate to declare unequivocally what were his sentiments upon it. He was fully convinced that the country possessed at the present moment a Legislature which answered all the good purposes of legislation, and this to a greater degree than any Legislature ever 53 had answered in any country whatever. He would go further and say, that the Legislature and the system of representation possessed the full and entire confidence of the country—deservedly possessed that confidence—and the discussions in the Legislature had a very great influence over the opinions of the country. He would go still further and say, that if at the present moment he had imposed upon him the duty of forming a Legislature for any country, and particularly for a country like this, in possession of great property of various descriptions, he did not mean to assert that he could form such a Legislature as they possessed now, for the nature of man was incapable of reaching such excellence at once; but his great endeavour would be, to form some description of legislature which would produce the same results. The representation of the people at present contained a large body of the property of the country, and in which the landed interests had a preponderating influence. Under these circumstances, he was not prepared to bring forward any measure of the description alluded to by the noble Lord. He was not only not prepared to bring forward any measure of this nature, but he would at once declare that as far as he was concerned, as long as he held any station in the government of the country, he should always feel it his duty to resist such measures when proposed by others.
§ The Address was agreed to, nem. con., and on the Motion of the Duke of Wellington, it was ordered that the House should go up with it, and present it to his Majesty on the following day.
§ On the Motion of the Duke of Wellington, the Earl of Shaftesbury was appointed Chairman of the Committees of Privileges, and of Committees on Public and such Private Bills as should be committed in the House. The noble Duke took that occasion to bear testimony to the great ability and industry with which the Earl of Shaftesbury had discharged the duties of these situations on former occasions.