The Marquis of Lansdown
said, he rose, in pursuance of notice given by him the other evening, to move for a Copy of a Document which he thought might by some possibility throw further light on the connection of this country with Belgium. In the preamble to the treaty, signed by the Plenipotentiaries of the great Powers, parties to the formation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, he found reference made to a Pro- 246 tocol of a conference held previously on this subject, which Protocol contained the stipulations and conditions on which the Prince of Orange accepted the Sovereignty of Belgium and Holland, and which Protocol is there stated to have been delivered by the Earl of Clancarty to the accredited agent of the Prince, before the signing of the treaty. This protocol was not to be found among the papers laid upon the Table of the House; and although it might not contain anything of importance, yet he thought that at such a moment as the present, Parliament and the country should be fully satisfied that there was no obligation or anything that could imply obligation for Great Britain to interfere in the affairs of Belgium appearing on the face of any of the treaties connected with the formation of the kingdom of the Netherlands. He had examined with great satisfaction the treaty laid on their Lordships' Table, with reference to that subject, and he had heard with still greater satisfaction, that on the terms of that treaty rested the whole of the question of interference, because he could not find in the whole of it the shadow of a shade of anything which could impose on us the duty of interfering in any manner whatever in the affairs of the Netherlands, or of guaranteeing any particular form of Government in that country. If, then, there were no duties imposed by treaties, he thought that no consideration of interest or of expediency could possibly arise which would justify or induce this country to adopt any other course than that of total abstinence from all interference. He did not say this because he was indifferent to the condition of Belgium, or because he thought the situation of that country might not have a material effect on the peace of Europe. He felt that the peace of Europe depended much on the permanent character of the Government, and the security of the institutions, under which the inhabitants of Belgium might ultimately place themselves. The necessity, however, of abstaining from interference in the arrangements of the people of France—a people who had shown a moderation in the hour of victory, and a disinterestedness in their whole conduct, which made them a fit example for the world. The necessity of leaving them to uphold the institutions of their choice had been fully acknowledged; and it was because he felt the same ne- 247 cessity with respect to the Belgians, that he thought the perfect settlement of the affairs of both the one and the other would be best forwarded by abstinence on the part of this country from the appearance of all intervention, even by way of advice, unless it was required by the people of that country themselves. It was for this reason that he saw with regret opinions expressed in the Speech from the Throne, on the subject of the good government of Belgium—a government with which this country had nothing to do, excepting so far as it might be necessary to provide, during its changes, for the security of our own. He must, therefore, repeat his desire to ascertain from the Protocol, whether there was anything in it binding England to interference beyond the terms of the treaty. He knew there was a guarantee for the integrity of certain parts of the Prussian provinces—whether fortunately or unfortunately for this country, he would not then inquire; but, with respect to Belgium, he thought the public mind could not be too fully satisfied.
§ The Earl of Aberdeen
had no objection to produce the document which the noble Marquis required, but he felt it necessary to repeat his assertion, that neither in it nor in any other was there to be found any arrangement or obligation different from that which was to be found expressed in the eight articles of the treaty of Vienna. He would not enter into the question of interference as commented on by the noble Marquis, except for the purpose of observing, that the Government contemplated no interference at the present moment but an amicable one, although he did not put such a construction on the treaty as to say that no events could take place which would warrant the intervention of England. The interests of this country were at all times so intimately connected with those of the Netherlands, that it was impossible for the Government to look with indifference at the situation in which they were placed. He had already stated, most distinctly, that the object of all interferences on the part of England were amicable, and such as might be expected from a State situated as it was with regard to the Netherlands; and he now repeated, that no other description of interference was contemplated.
The Marquis of Londonderry,
having differed from the noble Earl (Earl Aber- 248 deen) during the greater part of the last Session, thought it but justice to him now to declare, that he cordially approved of the determination which that noble Lord evinced to preserve the faith of the treaties to which we were pledged. He had heard with great pain the eulogium pronounced by the noble Marquis on the revolution of France. Did the noble Marquis blind himself to the fact that that revolution was only commencing, and that it might ere long inundate Europe with blood? How noble Lords could come down to the House, and pronounce eulogiums on such a state of things, he was at a loss to conceive. If his information was correct, the Chamber of Deputies of that country had annihilated one-half of the Chamber of Peers, and when the Government appointed by it showed a disposition to extend mercy to persons who had been perhaps misguided, or had misruled, it was told that the mob would not allow the National Guard to do their duty, and that that Guard would open their ranks, and let the mob pass, sooner than see mercy extended to the prisoners. He (Lord Londonderry) thought there was blood behind the revolution, and if it extended to Belgium, what, then, would become of the peace of Europe. He was convinced that the policy of this country was, to preserve a decided and cordial Union with those Allies who had for twenty years been united with us in our struggles to obtain peace, and he was convinced that by the preservation of that Union they might bid defiance to all the mischief which threatened them abroad. Looking at the affairs at home, he confessed himself a coward, for he looked with fearful apprehension at the signs of the times. It was the duty of that House, however, to stand by the Throne and the Executive, and if the noble Earl opposite (Earl Grey), for whose talents he had all his life preserved the highest admiration—if that noble Lord and the aristocracy would stand by the Throne, the opinions of the fomenters of mischief would soon cease to make themselves heard, and their power moulder into dust. A noble Earl (Lord Winchilsea) had the other evening spoken of the party of which he was the organ.
§ The Duke of Richmond
rose to order. The noble Marquis was alluding to the statements of a noble Lord not present, and had mistaken he believed the expression of the noble Earl
The Marquis of Londonderry
admitted he was wrong in alluding to the noble Earl in his absence; but he would merely say now, that the noble Earl had no right to claim for himself, or his party, the name of being real Tories. The real Tories of the country were the supporters of Government. And the noble Earl's (Winchilsea's) party had no better title to that name than any other noble Lords. He (Lord Londonderry) had said more than he meant to say; but his feelings carried him away. It was impossible not to feel excited on such a subject, and he hoped that those who really have property, and who have interests at stake in the country, will stand by the Government in the crisis in which it is placed.
§ The Duke of Richmond
did not think it necessary to say much in reply to the noble Marquis, after he had admitted, that his feelings carried him away; but he confessed, that he could not avoid pointing out the unjustifiable course the noble Marquis was pursuing in alluding to the opinions of the noble Earl in his absence, opinions which would not bear the construction put on them by the noble Marquis; for he, the noble Earl, alluded to, had merely spoken of his opinions as those of an individual. He had also felt it necessary to interrupt the noble Marquis, because he was adopting the unparliamentary course of alluding to what passed in the debate on a former occasion. Perceiving how firm an adherent and supporter of the Government the noble Marquis had proved himself that night, and recollecting the eloquence he had displayed throughout the whole of last Session against the same Government, on the subject of the boundaries of Greece, he (the Duke of Richmond) would say, with perfect courtesy, to the noble Marquis, that he should not have thought it worth his while to reply to the speech he had just heard, was it not that the noble Marquis had thought proper to call on all those who really possessed property to rally round the Throne and the Government. He must say, in answer to that call, that the Government, to deserve support, should take care, by its acts and expressions, to raise no needless alarm among the people of England. He believed, when the hour of danger came, that the people would rally round the Throne; but he would say also, that the only way for the Throne and the Government to make that rally perfectly 250 secure, was to form a Government which really possessed the confidence of the country. It was not by writing letters to Lord Mayors, declaring that there was danger in his Majesty's going to dine with the citizens of London; it was not by raising unnecessary apprehensions that the confidence of the people was to be secured. The alarm consequent upon the writing of that letter, unless it could be explained by something which had not yet been stated, would extend to the remotest corner of the kingdom; but he felt confident, notwithstanding, that the King would reign in the hearts of his people; and he would stake his property and his life—he would stake his character and his very existence—that the Sovereign might go if he pleased into the heart of his City of London without the assistance of police or the protection of guards, and be borne along amidst the joyous cheers of a loving and delighted people. As to the distinction taken by the noble Marquis between the name of Whig and Tory, he knew of none such in that House, but he did know, that every honest man would rally round those whom they found best calculated to support the interest of the people, and to uphold the dignity of the Throne. He would say one word before he sat down, on the subject of a Reform in Parliament, which had been alluded to by the noble Earl (Grosvenor). He was no friend to a radical change in the system of Representation, but he thought some change necessary in the existing state of opinions; and although he would not then state to what extent he thought that change ought to go, he promised to give any proposition on that subject which might be brought before the House his best attention. He would be one of the last to yield to the clamours of the mob; but he agreed with those who thought that some reform was necessary, and he was prepared to concede the demands of the people. The noble Duke concluded by expressing a hope that the noble Marquis would come better prepared next time he felt it necessary to read the House a lesson.
The Marquis of Londonderry
repeated his regret, that he had alluded to the noble Earl in his absence; and he thought the noble Duke ought to consider that sufficient.
§ The Duke of Wellington
;—Before I proceed to address myself to the subject 251 before the House, I feel it necessary to say, that I am under great obligations to the noble Duke for putting it in my power to explain the circumstances of the letter to which he has alluded. Before I begin, however, I wish to state, that I concur in the opinion delivered by the noble Duke, that his Majesty is the most popular Sovereign that ever reigned in this country; and, still more, that he is a Sovereign whose public and private conduct most deserves the popularity which he has obtained. The letter, however, which was last night written by the Secretary of State, by command of his Majesty, to the Lord Mayor, was not in any manner connected with that popularity; for his Majesty had never the slightest doubt of the attachment and loyalty of all the respectable portion of the citizens and inhabitants of the metropolis. I must begin, however, first of all, by putting your Lordships in possession of a letter relating to myself, which I received the day before yesterday, from the gentleman holding the situation of Lord Mayor Elect for the City of London. That letter is as follows:—From the station of Lord Mayor, to which I have been elected, numberless communications are made to me, both personally and by letter, in reference to the 9th, and it is on that account I take the liberty of addressing your Grace. Although the feelings of all the respectable citizens of London are decidedly loyal, yet it cannot but be known there are, both in London as well as the country, a set of desperate and abandoned characters who are anxious to avail themselves of any circumstance to create tumult and confusion, while all of any respectability in the City are vying with each other to testify their loyalty on the occasion. From what I learn, it is the intention of some of the desperate characters alluded to, to take the opportunity of making an attack on your Grace's person on your approach to the Hall. Every exertion on my part shall be used to make the best possible arrangement in the City; but should any sudden and violent attack be made in one quarter, any civil force alone might not be sufficiently effectual, and I should not be doing my duty, after what I have heard, did I not take the liberty of suggesting to your Grace the propriety of your coming strongly and sufficiently guarded. I probably may be considered giving you needless trouble, but the respect which I, as well as every person who really wishes the welfare of the country, must have for your Grace, and the gratitude we owe you, has induced me to adopt this course.Hence, although I felt myself personally 252 to be placed under the same protection of the laws as any other subject in the kingdom, I did not think that I was justified in making confusion and tumult in the procession which was to attend his Majesty, by adopting the advice of the writer of this letter, and seeking protection from the civil and military power in such a way as would be likely to produce that very disturbance which all men were so anxious to avoid. Under these circumstances, when I received the letter I have referred to, I felt it my duty to refrain from attending at the City feast. My Lords, I communicated this determination to my colleagues, and we concluded on that occasion, from that letter, from other letters which I had received, and from letters received by my right hon. friend, the Secretary of State, on the same subject, that it was very possible that a tumult would occur in the City on the occasion of his Majesty's visit; and we thought it our duty to recommend his Majesty to postpone his visit. And we were induced to come to this determination in consequence of all the information we received of various descriptions. We have no doubt whatever, from the information conveyed to us from a variety of quarters—information on which we could rely—that an attack would be made on the police— that there was a plan laid to extinguish the lights, and that a variety of attempts would be made to excite riot and disorder. My Lords, we had no doubt that we should know how to suppress those tumults; but I must say that I considered it far preferable not to hazard the risk of riot and confusion occurring in the presence of the Sovereign, and we therefore recommended the Sovereign not to put himself in a situation to be the witness of such tumults. My Lords, it was solely on this view that we recommended his Majesty to postpone his visit, as I conceive it impossible that such confusion and tumult should exist, without ending in bloodshed. The people, my Lords, would be collected together to witness a pageant—the pageant of his Majesty going in state to visit the Corporation of the City of London, and confer on the Lord Mayor the honour of dining with him. His Majesty and his Ministers, the great Officers of State, and the foreign Ambassadors, could not go to the City of London without causing a great collection of people, and making it very probable that riot and confusion would take 253 place. I say, my Lords, that there was a great chance—and a very great chance— that there would arise serious consequences to his Majesty's subjects, and therefore we recommended his Majesty not to go. The noble Duke (Richmond) has asked if the news of disorder and tumult was confined to the City of London, and if there were apprehensions of riot in other places? There were not. It was sufficient for me to know that there were such apprehensions in the City. With some parts of the country, other noble Lords must be better acquainted than I am. The noble Duke himself must know more than I do, as to the disposition of the people in Sussex. In Surrey and one or two other counties, as is known to your Lordships, there have been some disorders; there has been some stoppage of work in Lancashire, but I know nothing beyond these to disturb the national tranquillity at this moment. At the same time I cannot doubt the truth of the information communicated by the Lord Mayor Elect, namely, that there would have been confusion and tumult in the City had the pageant taken place. After having said so much, I shall only add that I have no objection whatever to produce the document asked for by the noble Marquis; and I can assure your Lordships, that there is no inclination in the Government of the country, or any other government that I am acquainted with, to do anything which is likely to disturb the peace of Europe.
The Earl of Shrewsbury
stated, that he conceived the present times were full of danger; and he saw no better means of meeting those dangers than for their Lordships cordially to unite among themselves and promote the great cause of reform. Unless that were promoted, and unless something were done to meet the wishes of the people, he doubted whether they would support the Government. He was happy to observe that the unpopularity which was provoking riots was only that of the Administration, and it was, in his opinion, a great misfortune that the affairs of the country were administered—by a great man certainly, but a man who was only great as a soldier. The people were sensible of the generous character of the Sovereign, but that did not extend its influence to the Administration. It was clear from what had been just stated by the noble Duke, that the present was not a time to trifle with the feelings of the 254 people; or to administer the Government, which ought to be administered for the benefit of all, for the benefit of a few. Ministers seemed, indeed, to have no other object in view than to perpetuate their own power. This was, however, no time to trifle with the people. They ought to give way to some more vigorous Statesmen, who would find some more efficacious mode of relieving the people, than taking off taxes that amounted to one farthing a head; and unless some more effectual relief were given them—unless there was a large reduction of expenditure —unless the people were restored to their just share in the management of their own concerns, of which the revolutions of time had deprived them—unless the Government did ample justice to the people, it would not secure, or rather would not regain the confidence of the people, and would never be able to establish the prosperity of the country on a solid foundation. Much had been said about agitators and reformers, and much obloquy had been cast on an individual who was a distinguished agitator and reformer; but on that subject he entertained an opinion, he was afraid, very different from most of their Lordships. The noble Earl then pronounced a spirited eulogium on Mr. O'Connell, whose agitation had crowned the cause of religious liberty with its latest and its greatest triumph; and whose great and commanding genius had restored calm to an irritated nation, and brought an infuriated multitude to listen to the dictates of reason, and obey the voice of the understanding. He concluded by declaring that the Union between England and Ireland had degraded the latter to a province, and that there could be no hope that she would enjoy permanent tranquillity till she possessed a resident gentry, who spent their rents in the country, and cultivated with their people the relations of kindness and affection.
The Marquis of Clanricarde
meant to address the few observations he should offer to the House, exclusively to the extraordinary conduct of his Majesty's Ministers in the advice they had given. He had heard the explanation of the noble Duke with the greatest horror. The noble Duke said, he had waited with the greatest impatience for an opportunity to justify himself; and he hoped that the noble Duke would have been able to do away with the panic which he had caused, and 255 the terror which he had inspired, and restore that property which confidence in him had destroyed. What had he done? He had advised his Majesty not to trust himself in public among his subjects. He had thrown a slur on the City of London —he had thrown a slur on the nation— and he had thrown a slur on the good name of his Majesty. These were the consequences of his conduct. He had caused a loss of property, also, to a considerable amount. The funds had fallen three per cent that day, which had caused a serious loss of property to some persons; and if the noble Duke was determined to retain power at all hazards, he did not believe that the fundholders would ever recover their losses. And what, he would ask, was the excuse for all this? The noble Duke, forsooth, was unpopular. Was that news first known on Saturday? Was there a man amongst their Lordships who did not know that before? Had not the noble Duke received painful evidence of that for some time? The pageant, it was said, would collect a great crowd; but what would be said if it did not? If it were only an ordinary dinner—if no shops were shut—if the people were not to assemble to do honour to the Sovereign—if there were no crowd—would not that be a slight to the Sovereign? But how was it that all these hazards were not known before? Was it that the noble Duke had no information concerning the state of the people, and was he now, as he was last Session, completely ignorant of all the circumstances which caused excitement in the country? After all, he had heard of nothing to deter his Majesty from going to the City, except the attempt on the noble Duke. That was a good reason for the noble Duke not going to the City of London. Against such an attempt nobody would more seriously contend than he would—honouring the Duke as he did, as a military man, though as a Minister he should always oppose him; but to the Government and to the country his conduct was equally detrimental There was, perhaps, no person who would not suffer in some degree from the alarm sounded by the noble Duke. The news would be spread to distant parts that something serious had happened in London. It was known that a large military force had been drawn round London, and with that knowledge the communication made to the City of London would have gone forth to the 256 country without one word of explanation. It would be sent through the whole country, that the King did not dare trust himself in the City of London. He believed that the King might go in safety to every part of the City like one of the common people, and without the least chance of being insulted. Of this strange proceeding the noble Duke had given no better explanation than was afforded by the letter he had received from the Lord Mayor. His conduct must lower the Administration in the eyes of the country, and show that in minute matters of detail, as well as in the more comprehensive duties of Government, his Majesty's present Ministers wanted capacity to administer the affairs of the country.
§ Earl Grey
addressed their Lordships somewhat as follows:—I understand, my Lords, with satisfaction, from the answer of the noble Earl (Aberdeen), that the protocol contains no sensible variations from the general treaty, or the particular conditions. So far every thing is satisfactory. The noble Earl, too, has signified his intention of laying the protocol before your Lordships, which will be of some interest to this part of the subject. I cannot, however, refrain from saying, after hearing what I have this night heard, relative to those treaties, that what fell from the noble Duke on a former occasion gave me considerable surprise, and I must repeat the conviction which I formerly mentioned—a conviction which my noble friend has already expressed much better than I can—a conviction, my Lords, that by those treaties no obligation whatever is imposed on the country; we have contracted no engagement whatever to interfere with the internal affairs of the government of the Netherlands. All interference on that subject is left by these treaties to be determined by the usual considerations, and by what of policy and expediency is due to an independent nation. We are not bound to interfere by any obligation whatever. If we are not so bound, I repeat, my Lords, with my noble friend, that, in my opinion, sound policy, justice, and respect for the independence of other people, as well as regard for the interest of this country, enjoin us on the present occasion not to interfere with the internal affairs of Belgium. As this is my opinion, I cannot avoid feeling surprise at what was stated by the noble Earl, that the Government only contemplated amicable interference, such as would be bene- 257 ficial to the Low Countries, and conducive to the interests of Great Britain; for that interference, in times like the present, is contrary to the policy usually pursued by this country, must be pernicious to its interests, and can only lead to the most dangerous results. Having said this, I must refer to what has been said by my noble friend (the Marquis of Londonderry)—if he will allow me to call him so, and to whom, at least, I must express my gratitude for the kind manner in which he spoke of me; but from what the noble Marquis said, he seems to think that I am friendly and favorable to revolutions, and disposed to encourage them. I certainly did, my Lords, express my approbation of the conduct of the French people on a former occasion, but, if it is necessary to recall to your Lordships' recollection what fell from so humble an individual as myself, I took care to state, that all revolutions were in themselves bad, and could only be justified by a serious and plain necessity; but if they are necessary, my Lords, I, for one, think we ought not to be deterred from making a revolution, if without that we cannot maintain or preserve our liberties. I approve of the late French revolution, because I think it was necessary, by the fatal attempt of the government to interfere with the liberties of the people—I say, a fatal attempt, my Lords, which, in their situation, left the French people no other chance but that of absolute submission or open resistance. On this principle I approve of the French revolution, admiring the great courage of the people in achieving the victory, and their great generosity after the contest was over. I hope that the Ministers will agree with me, and as they have showed respect to the government of France, that they will show respect to the people of Belgium, by which alone I think they will ensure the peace of this country, and the peace of Europe. So much, my Lords, with reference to what occurred in the early part of the evening; and I now pass to a subject of more immediate importance—of more interest to the House, and one on which its attention has been lately fixed. I must say, that when I first read the letter this morning which appeared in the public prints—I must own that I felt something like humiliation—I felt the fullest regret and disappointment that such a letter was thought necessary by the Government, 258 being persuaded that it would not issue such a letter without first making inquiries, and obtaining information that the letter was necessary. Is this a moment to circulate accounts of public dangers unnecessarily? The noble Duke will, I am sure, concur with me, that such reports much increase the difficulties under which the country labours. We are engaged at present in difficult, and even doubtful negotiations abroad, and such scenes will not contribute to their success. They arc not likely to make foreign Powers respect the British Ministry. Such a state of things will not excite respect for the country abroad, or persuade foreign Powers that the Ministry are better able to fulfil their engagements than when they expect to be supported by a loyal people. I felt something like humiliation, something like disappointment and regret, when I saw the announcement, though I knew nothing of the circumstances, of which I felt assured the Ministers were aware, or they would never recommend such an important step. I felt assured that they must possess some information of which I knew nothing. Under all these painful feelings, I found one topic of consolation in its being avowed and declared, that this measure was not in any manner necessary to provide for the safety of his Majesty. I feel assured, as a noble Lord expressed himself on a former occasion, that if ever a Monarch was firmly seated in the hearts of his people, it is the Sovereign who at present sits on the Throne of these realms. For him, personally, there was no apprehension of danger; and for him, it was stated by the noble Duke, that no apprehension was felt. The noble Duke has stated, however, on the authority of the letter from the Lord Mayor elect, that there was some danger of an attack on the person of the noble Duke. I abhor all such attacks; and were I the political enemy of the noble Duke, which I am not, I should readily place myself in any situation in which my services could defend the noble Duke from any such attacks, which I consider as un-English in their character, as they are unmanly and ungenerous. I deprecate all such attacks, and I see with regret any such feelings arise in his Majesty's subjects. From the threats against the noble Duke, I think he took a wise resolution in abstaining from filling his place at the ceremony. The danger of the noble Duke is, however, the 259 prominent feature of the Lord Mayor's letter; it contains no proof of any danger which ought to have prevented his Majesty from attending in the City. Some other apprehensions are referred to— it is loosely stated that placards, threatening riots, had been exhibited; that the police was to be attacked; that some ill-affected persons were prepared to make confusion; and that at night there was a great probability that they would make tumults and disorders. My Lords, I say all this is very loose, for at what time does a great town like this metropolis not contain among the mass of its inhabitants many evil-disposed spirits, and to whom large assemblages of the people will not give an opportunity of committing many evil acts, and creating riot and disorder? If the noble Duke waits till there is no danger of any riots occurring, his Majesty will never be able to show himself to his admiring people, for there can never be a considerable number of the people assembled on any public occasion when his Majesty may not be exposed to similar riots. Nothing, therefore, is, I think, more unsatisfactory than the noble Duke's explanation. If such a communication as that letter were sent to me, I should make it my first business to inquire into all the circumstances of the case, and I should not rely implicitly on the statement of any Lord Mayor. My Lords, we have seen on a former occasion a Lord Mayor, who claimed a great reputation for his temerity, but whose principal failing was, I believe, his timidity, who made false representations under its influence, relative to the riots of 1780, and who was, I believe, prosecuted for that in a Court of Justice. Remembering this, my Lords, and knowing nothing of the character of the Lord Mayor elect, who may be inclined to magnify dangers, and possibly anticipate a disturbance without any good reason, I should have made a diligent inquiry into all the circumstances on which he founded his opinion. I took it for granted that the noble Duke must have made such inquiries, that he was convinced the Lord Mayor had not seen objects in a false light; and that he was satisfied, from the information he had received, that there was no other way to avoid danger than the advice he had given to his Majesty. If this were the case, I could make no objection to his conduct. On this subject I have not much 260 information; but since I came into the House I have heard something of the proceedings of the Court of Aldermen, which makes me inclined to think that the circumstances of the case have not received due consideration. The Court of Aldermen has examined the subject, and has come to the resolution, that every precaution had been taken—that there was no cause to apprehend any real danger to his Majesty, and that the Lord Mayor was not authorised to make the communication he had made to his Majesty's Government. This information has been derived from authority, and has been delivered from the Court of Aldermen in another place. Under such circumstances, I think the advice which has been given to his Majesty is not justified. I could not help saying this, but more than this I will not say. I repeat, that the advice given to the Crown was not authorised by a sound judgment. I am consoled by reflecting, that the unpopularity mentioned does not affect the Sovereign, but only the noble Duke. The existence of that feeling is not unaccountable; but any overt acts resulting from it I shall always discountenance. For the rest, my Lords, I see no foundation for any extreme alarm as to the situation of the country, and nothing to make me regard our domestic peace as likely to be interrupted.
§ The Duke of Wellington,
in explanation, was understood to apologize for not having gone further into the subject. He had, however, referred to other letters besides that from the Lord Mayor. Their Lordships would recollect, that in the letter of the Lord Mayor it was stated that he could not depend on the civil power for preserving peace, though all proper measures had been adopted. The information he had received from a variety of quarters convinced him that it was intended to attack the police. He had been asked if his Majesty could not proceed to every part of the town without being protected by the police? His Majesty certainly could; but in this case his Majesty was not to proceed alone. There was to be a procession, which required that the streets should be kept clear for fourteen or sixteen hours out of the twenty-four. A great number of persons would be collected in one spot, and if an attack were made on the police, it would be necessary, for the safety of their lives, to call in the interference of the military. He wished to 261 ask if the Government ought not to take such measures of precaution? Was it fit, he would also ask, when his Majesty went to visit the Lord Mayor, that there should be a battle in the streets among those who came to witness the pageant? He had letters in his pocket, and a hand-bill calling on the seamen to collect, to the number of 3,000 or 4,000, and present a petition to his Majesty. He had received a variety of accounts from persons in different situations, that riots were to be apprehended, which were sufficient to make the Government hesitate, even before he received the letter from the Lord Mayor. He would even go further, and tell their Lordships, that the gentleman who was now Lord Mayor, and about to go out of office, told him yesterday, it would be absolutely necessary that the escort of honour which accompanied his Majesty should remain in the neighbourhood of Guildhall or the Mansion-house. When the consequences to the City of London were contemplated, —when bloodshed was likely to ensue— when it was remembered, which was an important feature of the case, that these people would be brought together by his Majesty and his Ministers, and the Corporation of London, was it to be borne that they should be the cause of riots, disorder, and loss of life? He must, therefore, say, that he was never more satisfied that he had done his duty than when he gave the advice to his Majesty not to go into the City. He was not alarmed for any danger likely to happen to his Majesty; and any danger to which he himself might be exposed was nothing to the possible consequences which might happen to the people, and therefore he conceived that the advice he had given was likely to be most beneficial.
The Earl of Radnor
found the second explanation of the noble Duke not more satisfactory than the first. Unless the Government had previously made inquiries (and it did not seem that the Government had made inquiries), he did not see how it could advise his Majesty to come to such a determination. The noble Duke said, he had received anonymous letters; but he had not informed their Lordships that he made any inquiries into the truth of their contents. It appeared that the Court of Aldermen, which had made inquiries, had come to a different conclusion from that adopted by the noble Duke. The consequences of such a step as that recom- 262 mended by the noble Duke ought to have been well considered. In London the alarm was only casual, and might soon cease; but the conduct of the Government would generate alarm through the whole country, which would not cease for several days. The letter sent to the Lord Mayor had then been travelling sixteen hours, at the rapid rate at which coaches now travel, without one word of explanation accompanying it. Could that do otherwise than create confusion and alarm throughout the country? It was said there was dissatisfaction in some parts of the country; would not that be encouraged? There was agitation in Ireland; would not that receive fresh life from such a communication? The noble Duke could not possibly have seen the danger of his proceedings, or he would have taken some pains to set the letter in its proper light? Suppose that, upon mature investigation, it should be found that the noble Duke's anticipations were not correct, would he not be sorry for his advice? It ought to be followed up, for, if the information were correct, there was a great deal of dissatisfaction in the country. If the noble Duke's information were correct, there must be a rebellion raging in the country. Four thousand special constables were ready to be sworn in to preserve the peace, and if that force were not sufficient to control the disaffected, they must be numerous. If the noble Duke had followed the investigation of these facts, he must have obtained some certain information. He was astonished that 4,000 special constables were considered not sufficient to keep the peace. This astonishment was only increased by the conduct of the noble Duke and his colleagues. He supposed they must have some information: he gave them credit for having that information, and argued that they could not be guilty of so much rashness as to act as they had done without such information, and that they were convinced, after their investigations, that it was not possible to preserve the peace. The City of London might demand, in the first instance, on what ground such a charge was made against it. Their Lordships might next require that some means should be instantly adopted to restore peace and tranquillity, and to give satisfaction to the public mind. He could not help thinking, that if the Ministers advised his Majesty to abstain from going to the Lord Mayor's 263 dinner on no other information than that which appeared in this discussion, the proceeding looked very much like a betrayal of their trust.
The Marquis of Bute
said, the language used, and the opinions expressed by some of the noble Lords on the other side, were certainly very different from what he was accustomed to hear from them when they sat on his (the Ministerial) side of the House, and he had the honour of calling them his noble friends. They said, in substance, that the reasons of the noble Duke for the advice which he gave to his Majesty to abstain from giving occasion to tumult and disturbance, was far from being well grounded or justified by the circumstances. He would not take up the time of the House in recapitulating the reasons of the noble Duke, as he himself had so well stated them; but the whole might be comprised in a sentence. The reason assigned by the noble Duke was, that he saw in the circumstance of his Majesty's joining the City procession, a risk of disturbance, of riot, and of confusion—a risk to property—and a risk of bloodshed. He knew no man better able than the noble Duke to appreciate such a risk, or more able effectually to guard against it, if strong measures should be necessary for that purpose. But he highly approved and commended the course which the noble Duke had deemed it prudent to adopt on this occasion. He had heard some, or at least one, of the noble Lords opposite lay great weight on what he called the unpopularity of the noble Duke. He was not on terms of very great intimacy or confidence with the noble Lord, and therefore might not be aware of all the reasons which the noble Lord might have for his conclusion, that the noble Duke was unpopular. But what was the unpopularity? That it had gone to a very considerable extent he could scarcely believe, because it was not very long since he had heard the contrary with his own ears. He would ask, who could be more popular than the noble Duke, a few months ago, during the review of the troops in Hyde Park? But, at all events, as to any popularity worth having, that popularity would attend the man who, although he had no personal fear, yet did what he conscientiously considered to be his duty to his country and his Sovereign, at the risk of losing, for the moment, popularity of another description. 264 The noble Duke's advice to his Majesty was, not to do that which would be attended with the imminent risk of shedding the blood of his subjects; and, in doing so, he showed a proper sense of duty, both to the Sovereign and to his subjects; and by this course of conduct, whatever popularity the noble Duke might lose for the moment, he would gain a much better and a longer popularity. Those who had had a large experience in such matters could best appreciate the value of blood, and the noble Duke, by his aversion to run any risk that could be avoided of shedding the blood of citizens, had proved that he was actuated by the best feelings of human nature. It had been said, that the noble Duke acted on the letter of the Lord Mayor Elect. But that was not correct; for the noble Duke had distinctly stated, that he had proceeded upon information from other sources, into which the Ministers had inquired, and had reason to conclude that it was correct. Under all these circumstances, he thought they had acted wisely in giving his Majesty the advice which they did. As to the other topics which had come under discussion that night, he would merely say, that there was not any intention to interfere with the affairs of the Netherlands, except by amicable mediation, and the explanation of the noble Duke on that head was perfectly satisfactory.
§ The Motion of the Marquis of Lansdown, "That a Copy of the Protocol of 1814, relative to the Union of Belgium and Holland under the Sovereignty of the King of the Netherlands, should be laid on their Lordships' Table," was agreed to.