§ The Earl of Aberdeen
rose, in pursuance of a notice he had given to their Lordships in the previous week, to bring forward a Motion in reference to a matter of great public importance, but which he should not have brought forward at the present moment had it not been connected with considerations of a personal nature. Their Lordships would probably recollect that when, in the course of last summer, the subject of Algiers was incidentally mentioned, a declaration was made by the noble Duke behind him, and by himself, that the French government had entered into engagements with respect to Algiers which they had not fulfilled. Since that declaration was made, the subject had been alluded to elsewhere by high authorities, and in terms directly leading to an opposite conclusion. Seeing this, he had been naturally desirous to bring the subject again before their Lordships, and had expressed his wish and intention to do so to the noble Earl opposite, before the Easter holidays. But as the communication he then had with the noble Earl gave him to understand that negotiations were at the time going on between the two governments which might be injured by a public discussion, he consented to postpone mentioning the matter. Shortly afterwards the declaration to which he had alluded, was repeated, and he again expressed his anxiety upon the subject to the noble Earl, who did not then think it proper to interpose any further obstacle to his bringing the matter under their Lord- 901 ships' notice. Of course their Lordships would anticipate, that it was his first desire to repeat, without a tittle or shade of variation, the accusation which he made, and which had been impugned, namely that the French government had entered into engagements with respect to the occupation of Algiers which had not been fulfilled. He did not pretend to say, that there existed any convention, or any express stipulation, for the evacuation of Algiers by the French forces; far from it; but he did assert that important engagements were entered into, by means of declarations on the part of the French government, by which all the powers interested in the commerce of the Mediterranean, and the territorial arrangements then established in that part of the world, had their apprehensions allayed, and by those declarations were induced to make no objections to the occupation. As he understood it was not the intention of the noble Earl to object to the production of the papers, he should be relieved from the necessity of detaining their Lordships, by entering, upon the present occasion, into the nature of those engagements. He should be perfectly satisfied when the papers were laid before the House to leave their interpretation to the plain sense of any man of common integrity. Still less was it his intention to detain their Lordships with arguments to enforce a motion which was not to be opposed; neither had he any wish to excite angry discussion upon topics not regularly before the House. At the same time he could not help reminding their Lordships of the importance of the situation of Algiers at the present moment, connected as it was by the rights of sovereignty with the Porte, which might naturally induce the wish to take a view of that part of the question, and to inquire what were the present state and future prospects of the Turkish empire, in consequence of the policy which had been pursued towards it. And if he abstained from entering into that most important question now, he did so in the hope that at no distant day it would be regularly brought before their Lordships as proper to engage their gravest and most mature deliberation. He must also say of the policy of the noble Earl generally, that in much of the relations of this country with foreign states, he appeared to be acting upon views the most mistaken, and which, he feared, would prove most calamitous, 902 and most fatal to the interests and honour of this country. Yet, not with standing that he dissented so widely from the general line of policy which the noble Earl had pursued, he had no reason, upon this immediate question, to suppose that the noble Earl's views were different from his own, or that his mind was not fully impressed with its importance. If any of their Lordships present had any naval experience of that part of the world, he would confidently appeal to them as to the importance of holding Algiers to any naval power. But with any and all their Lordships he was sure it would be enough for him to refer to the opinions so repeatedly and emphatically declared by a Nelson, a Collingwood, and an Exmouth. If not they had only to look at the position of the country in the maps, where they would see the advantage that must be held by any power possessing a line of five or six hundred miles of coast at the entrance of the Mediterranean, and almost within sight of the Spanish territory: and above all when such an advantage was in possession of such a power as France. It was impossible that a state of things could exist, in which the French obtained so great a superiority, without materially influencing the commercial relations of other countries. He could not avoid seeing in the conduct of the present French government a desire of carrying into effect one of the designs of Buonaparte, that of making the Mediterranean as he described it, a French lake. He trusted that this disposition would be watched by the English Government; and so far was he from desiring to embarrass the noble Earl under the present posture of affairs, that nothing would give him greater pleasure than to find that so humble an individual as himself could lend the noble Earl any assistance or support in upholding the honour and the interest of the country. The noble Earl concluded by moving, "That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, praying that he will be graciously pleased to direct to be laid before this House, copies or extracts of correspondence between his Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and his Majesty's ambassador at Paris, in the year 1830, relative to the French expedition to Algiers. Also, copies of official despatches addressed by the French government to the French ambassador in London, explaining the objects of the 903 expedition, dated in the months of March and May, 1830, and delivered by him to his Majesty's Government. Also, copies or extracts of a despatch from his Majesty's Minister at Paris, communicating; the intention of his Majesty the King of the French to fulfil all the engagements of the preceding government relative to Algiers."
§ Earl Grey
said, that not intending to offer any opposition to the Motion, he should abstain from any discussion of the very important subject as he admitted it to be, to which the Motion referred. For he did not think it expedient, nor did he think their Lordships would deem it so, to enter into a discussion upon subjects of such a nature, respecting which further communications were still expected from the French government. He thought that in a question affecting not only the interests of France and England, but also those of other European Powers to which the noble Earl had alluded, nothing but inconvenience and mischief could result from forcing a premature discussion. What were the circumstances under which they stood with regard to the question? In the Chambers of France there was a party pressing the government upon the subject, and asserting that the honour and interests of France were involved in maintaining possession of Algiers. And if Ministers here were to be pressed in the same way, their Lordships must see, that the embarrassments arising out of excited national feelings, would render it most difficult, if not altogether impossible, for the two governments to come to a satisfactory arrangement. He did not mean to attribute to the noble Earl the least desire to produce that effect, but when he called for such information at such a time the course he took created the danger of producing it. At the same time he begged to express his entire conviction that the Motion of the noble Earl could not have been urged in a more temperate and judicious manner. He should content himself, therefore, with saying, that with regard to the two first descriptions of papers he had no objection to their production whatever. He had certainly hoped, that the Motion altogether might have been deferred for some time longer, but it having been made he had come to the conclusion that no public inconvenience would result from granting the papers, or at least none to be put in comparison with what might be 904 expected to arise from an adverse discussion of the subject. He hoped, therefore, that the House would give its consent to the Motion. The noble Earl had the goodness to communicate to him what papers would be necessary to his object, and he was content that they should be produced, reserving to himself the discretion of making any additions which he might deem necessary to the further elucidation of the matters to which they referred. To produce the two first sets of papers demanded, he repeated he had no objection. The third was of a different character from the rest, and upon the propriety of acquiescing in the production of that document he had strong doubts—perhaps more than doubts, for he believed it would be injurious. In the first place he did not know of the existence of any paper in the Foreign Office coming within the description of the Motion of the noble Earl. There was undoubtedly a despatch from the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stewart de Rothsay) bearing the date of the 16th of August, 1830, communicating an account of a conversation which took place between him and the King of the French. Now, certainly he had no intention to question the propriety of that communication, for it was clearly not only correct, but the first duty of the noble Lord to communicate to his government the nature and particulars of such a conversation. But he would state the difficulty which appeared to him in producing the document through which that communication was made. The private conversation held by the noble Lord with the King of the French, took place on the 18th of August; a period at which the new government had not been recognised by his Majesty, and when, consequently, it could hold no official communication with his Majesty's Ambassador at Paris. It was, therefore, a matter of doubt with him whether such a communication could be deemed to partake of an official character. But, besides this objection, he desired to submit it to their Lordships' consideration, whether in any case such conversation as this could be taken by one government as the act of another? In the first place it was not a communication of a conversation held with a responsible minister in the presence of the king, and for which the minister might be responsible; it was a private conversation with the illustrious person himself. He did not 905 mean to impugn the step taken by the noble Lord; he had already said, that it was his duty to communicate the information to his government, and he had no reason to doubt that the communication was strictly and accurately correct. But he knew, as their Lordships well knew, that all verbal communications of this kind incurred the risk of misinterpretation, and of doubts, which could only be cleared up by subsequent explanations. In the case of such matters being discussed with responsible Ministers, the assurances given were deliberately considered, on account of their responsibility, records were kept, explanations might be demanded, and misunderstandings were thereby avoided. But when the discussion was held with the Sovereign, and that, perhaps, showed the general inconvenience of such conversations between Sovereigns and Foreign Ministers, it was impossible that any Minister could be held responsible. These were his reasons for doubting the propriety of producing the third paper, and he trusted they would induce the noble Earl to consent to withdraw that part of his Motion. There was another document which the noble Earl had expressed a wish to have, but which, he thought, should not be produced. It was, perhaps, not of much importance in itself, but much more importance might be attached to it than it deserved if made public. In that view he thought it not proper to produce the paper, as it might prove injurious to the settlements of pending negotiations. Having now stated the course he meant to pursue with regard to the Motion, he would only add, that it was impossible for him to go into any discussion upon the subject whatever. He admitted its great importance, but should express no opinion whatever upon the documents, leaving them to the House for its consideration and judgment. With regard to the general subject of the position of the Turkish empire, he could assure the noble Earl, that his Majesty's Ministers were as sensibly alive as he could be to all the interests, British and European, which that question involved; and that they would endeavour to do their duty to the best of their power in preserving those interests from injury. He certainly regretted, that the noble Earl considered it a part of his duty to make some severe animadversions upon the general policy of his Majesty's Government. But, at present, he should only 906 declare, that he and his colleagues in the course they had pursued, and should continue to pursue, were influenced by a sincere desire to maintain the general peace of the world, and a sincere desire to uphold the honour and the interests of the country. To that coarse he should adhere, and when the proper time arrived he should be prepared to explain the principles, and to support and vindicate the measures which the Government had adopted.
§ The Earl of Aberdeen
said, he was not disposed to press for the production of the two documents to which the noble Earl objected. With respect to the first, the verbal communication of the king of the French with the English Ambassador, he thought the reasons assigned for the non-production of this document by the noble Earl were sufficiently satisfactory. As regarded the second paper, it did not appear to him that the reasons against producing it were equally satisfactory. The only object he proposed to himself in moving for these papers was, to show that the present government of France considered itself in the same situation, and bound by the same engagements, as the late government of that country. That such was considered to be the state of things at the time was clear from the speech of his present Majesty on opening the Parliament. His Majesty, in his speech, declared, that he had received the most authentic declarations that the king of the French would recognize all the engagements of the preceding French government. It was on this ground that his Majesty, the king of the French, was instantly recognized. His own hostility to the noble Earl and his Government was at times represented as passing the bounds of moderation. He might occasionally have been led into some warmth of language upon subjects in which he considered the honour and interests of the country to be deeply involved, but not greater than the occasion justified. From the first day of the Session up to the present time he had not said one word on the foreign policy of the country, or on any one of those subjects which it was natural to suppose must have occupied his attention day and night. After what had fallen from the noble Earl he could not for a moment doubt, that the relations of this country with foreign governments were such as he 907 represented them. He trusted that, at no distant period, an opportunity would be afforded to their Lordships of entering fully into this most important subject
§ Motion agreed to, except the last paragraph, which was withdrawn.