Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

the passing of this bill must give rise to as without selection, and certainly without serious and alarming discontent, when it discretion; for, not only were some dis. is known that it may eventually arm the patches published which never ought to crown with the power of distributing a have been published, but it would have sum equal in amount to the sum allowed been difficult to have found any thing in for defraying the expenditure of his ma- the course of the correspondence more jesty's civil list, unaccompanied by any unfit for publication than some of the check to prevent its being used for the papers which had been submitted to parpurposes of augmenting to an unparalleled liament, uncalled for and unexpected. degree that “ pernicious and dangerous These papers certainly furnished abundant influence" which has so solemnly been matter of inculpation against the ministers stated to parliament by his majesty's of the day; but the man who was at the faithful and loyal subjects, the corporation head of that administration, of as splendid of London, as corrupting and undermin- talents as this or perhaps any other couning the pure and free principles of the try had ever produced, died. After his British constitution. (Signed,) Lauder- death, his colleagues in office resigned the dale, King, Albemarle."

reins of government, in consequence of his decease, and no discussion ever took place

upon the subject of that treaty. He did HOUSE OF COMMONS.

think that the noble lord ought to have Friday, April 8.

been one of the last persons to have called (PAPERS RELATING TO Russia.] Mr. the attention of the house to the events of Whitbread rose, pursuant to notice, to that time, considering that he was the sole move for certain papers which had been manager in the formation of that confedealluded to by the noble lord (G. L. Gower), racy, and considering how fatally it terin a debate which took place on the 29th minated for the interests of all the parties of March, upon a motion of an hon. friend connected with it. The noble lord had at of his (Mr. Sharp). The house had heard that time conducted the negociations with a great deal of discussion respecting the so much secrecy, that they were wholly propriety of quoting from any documents unknown at Vienna till the treaty was connot before the house. He should not now cluded, so that he was deprived of the adgo into a question wbich had been so often vice of sir A. Paget, and of the informaand so fully discussed; but he appre- tion which he might have derived from hended, that the right hon. gent. would him respecting the state of the Austrian agree with him in thinking, that commu- army, and of the heart-burnings and party nications, in whatever form they were spirit which were at that time felt in the made, should be made by his majesty's court of Vienna. But, though the noble confidential ministers, and by no one else, lord had kept secret not only from our under any pretence whatever. The noble ally, but from a minister of his own court, lord, therefore, after communicating the the articles of the treaty which he was information to which he alluded in debate, then concluding at St. Petersburg, he had whether in a more official or less official on his late mission held out the refusal on shape, to his government at home, had put the part of Russia, to communicate the it beyond his own controul, and ought not secret articles of the treaty which that publicly to have disclosed it. The mo- power had concluded with France, as a tion which he meant now to propose, sufficient ground for refusing its mediation pointed to two objects; the first of which between Great Britain and France, even was, the production of a paper which ac- though the emperor had assured lord Hutcompanied the treaty of alliance between chinson, that it was his opinion that we this country and Russia, in 1805; the ought to enter into negociation with France, other was connected with a communica- not, as that noble lord had represented, tion made by the noble lord to his majesty's because it was proper that we should make secretary of state, in the course of his last peace with France on any terms, but bemission in 1807. After the orerthrow of cause he (the emperor of Russia) knew the confederacy of 1805, and the conclu- that the terms of peace which the emperor sion of the peace of Presburgh, a large mass of the French was ready to offer were such of papers relative to that confederacy had as he believed lord Hutchinson would be been thrown upon the table, by lord Mul-of opinion that this country ought to acgrave, then foreign secretary of state, per- cept. At the time of negociating the fectly unsolicited, but quite as voluntary treaty of 1805, the noble lord had also consented, by his own confession, to an ger l'Angleterre pour le moment.' The article by which it was stipulated that the noble lord had alluded to this communicapowers of Europe should go into a con- tion in debate, for the purpose of shewing gress, in which the law of nations should that Russia was determined to go to war be formally discussed, and in which the with this country before the expedition maritime pretensions of this country would, was undertaken against Copenhagen; but of course, as forming a part of that law, before the house could judge whether the have come under discussion. [Lord G. fact was relevant to the argument which L. Gower, from the other side of the house, he grounded upon it, it was important to said he had never done any such thing.] know who was the person who made use The noble lord, Mr. Whitbread said, de- of this expression, and whether it was nied the allegation; but as the maritime used in conversation with the noble lord, law of this country was not positively ex- or with a third person; because, if it was cluded from the operation of this provi- dropped in conversation with a third per. sional article of the treaty, he contended, son, it must be evident to every one, that that it was virtually included in it. But it might have no effect whatever in supif such was not the interpretation which porting the proposition or opinion which the noble lord put upon this article of the noble lord meant to establish. It was the treaty, how, he asked, did Russia alleged, that this communication was made understand it? Had not the noble lord in a private letter to the secretary of state, himself stated, in a former debate, that and very probably it was so; nor did he a notification was made to him, before mean to question the propriety of a secrethe Russian ministers were permitted tary of state keeping up a correspondence to sign the treaty, that his majesty, with ministers employed abroad; but the the emperor of Russia, would instruct his noble lord ought not to have made use of minister to use bis endeavours at the gene the communication for the purpose of inral congress, which it was then in con- fluencing the decision of the house, if it templation to assemble, to endeavour to was of such a nature, or if it was procure a modification of such regulations made in such a way, that it could not be of our maritime code, as might be found to laid before the house. He did not wish be inconsistent with justice? The question that the whole of the letter or dispatch of maritime rights was supposed to have which contained the communication should been settled in the treaty concluded be- be made public; all that he desired was, tween this country and the northern powers that the house should be put in possession in 1801; but was it not evident from this of that part of the dispatch which related Declaration, that there was still subsist- to this particular communication. He ing a rankling in the mind of the Russian concluded with moving, That an address government upon the very question ? Mr. be presented to his majesty, that he would Whitbread contended, that this was the be graciously pleased to order that there fair interpretation to be put upon the de- be laid before the house a copy of the Declaration; and that, at present, when the claration delivered to his majesty's amcontest with these powers might be said to bassador at the court of Petersburg, notibe but beginning, it was desirable that the fying that his imperial majesty would inBritish house of commons should be put struct his plenipotentiary at a general conin possession of any document which gress, to endeavour to procure a modificatended to throw light upon the pretensions tion of such regulations in our maritime which they set forth. . Of the substance code as might be found to be inconsistent of the communication the house was al- with justice; and likewise of a copy or ready in possession; but he insisted upon abstract of a letter or dispatch, transmitted the propriety of their being put in pos- by his majesty's ambassador to his masession of the communication, not merely jesty's foreign secretary of state, between incidentally, but formally, and officially the months of June and Nov. 1807, as far The other paper for which he meant to as such letter or dispatch may refer to an move, was the communication made by expression, il faut menager l'Angleterre the ambassador of this country to his pour le moment.' majesty's secretary of state, which had Lord G. L. Gower said, that the house been also alluded to in debate, and in could not be surprised at the anxiety which which it had been stated by the noble he felt to express his sentiments upon the lord, that a person high in authority had present motion, after the representations made use of the expression, il faut mena- which had been given of what bad fallen

[ocr errors][merged small]

from him in a debate of a former evening, ( as it had over any private letter which
both by the hon. gent. who had just sat might be in the hands of any other in-
down, and in the public prints. He was dividual in the country. If the hon. gent.
most anxious to convince the house that was of opinion that he had been deficient
he never had, in his official situation, done in his duty in transmitting such a com-
any thing to countenance the imputation munication in the shape of a private let-
of his having assented to any proposition, ter, it would be better at once to move a

which had for its object to attack, either vote of censure upon him for having done is directly or indirectly, those principles of so. He begged the house, however, to re

maritime law upon which this country had collect, that he had mentioned neither let-
always acted, and upon which, he trusted, ter nor dispatch in the former debate.
that it would ever continue to act. With He had simply mentioned the circumstance
this impression, he felt himself extremely of a certain expression having been used by
obliged to the hon.gent. for having brought a person high in authority in Russia, leaving
forward the motion which he had on this the house to give what credit they might
evening submitted to the house ; and in think fit to this assertion, and to deduce
that motion he should most heartily con- whatever inference from it they might be
cur, as far as it related to the production of opinion that it warranted. Neither did
of the Declaration which accompanied the it follow, that, because he had communi-
treaty of 1805. He hoped also, that cated this expression to his government at
his right honourable friend the secre- home, he had mentioned the name of the
tary of state would agree to this part person who used it. It so happened in
of the motion, not only in justice to the present instance, that his right hon.
him, but in justice also to the character of friend was in possession of the name
an illustrious statesman, now no more of the person who had made use of the
(Mr. Pitt). It would be but an act of expression, but it was for his right hon.
justice to the memory of that great man, friend to judge of the prudence and ex-
who had spent his life in upholding the pediency of disclosing who that person
character and maintaining the rights of was. He must observe, however, that if
the country, to shew that in his latter days every communication made by a foreign
he did not desert that cause which it had minister to his government were to be
been the great object of his life to support. made public, as a matter of course, the
With this view, he trusted that his right inevitable effect of such a system would
hon. friend would consent, not only to the be, to destroy all confidence betwen diplo-
production of the Declaration, but that the matic agents and the courts to which they
whole correspondence relative to this De- were accredited. He should therefore
claration would be produced; from which give his decided negative to the last mo-
it would appear, how little foundation tion of the hon. gent.; and the first part
there was for the accusation which had of the address he should propose to amend,
been brought against him, of having left by moving for the production, not only of
any question relative to the maritime the Declaration accompanying the treaty
rights of the country open either to cavil of 1805, but of the correspondence which
or to discussion. His lordship did not passed relative to that Declaration.
wish now to enter into a discussion of all Mr. Whitbread most willingly concurred
the questions connected with the treaty in the amendment proposed by the noble
of 1805, and if this was the wish of the lord in the first part of the motion, for it
hon. gent. he thought that he had not dealt was his wish, that all the correspondence
fairly with the house in not giving a no- relative to the Russian Dec':ration in ques-
tice to that effect. With the other part tion, should be made public. But he
of the hon. gent's motion, he could not could not assent to the amendment so far
concur, because the communication to as it went to negative the production of
which he referred was contained in a the private letter, or an extract from it.
private letter; and even supposing that What would be the consequence of refusa
the house were to agree to an address ing to communicate such letters, when pre-
for the production of this paper, he viously made public in order to influence
really did not know what answer the the vote of the house, and serve the pur-
crown could make to it; because the pose of ministers ? Because the noble lord
crown had as little power to compel the was the ambassador, and the right hon.
production of a private letter which was gent. secretary of state, the correspondence
in the hands of the secretary of state, was to be carried on by private letters, so

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

as to avoid the cognizance of parliament ! | he should therefore persist in that part of The noble lord had said, that he had never his original motion. stated that he communicated this informa- Sir T. Turton deprecated severely this tion to ministers. Perhaps, he had not : perpetual recurrence to subjects underbat the right hon, secretary had publicly taken for the purposes of party spirit and stated the fact, and yet the house was to personal enmity. be precluded from information about a Mr. Whitbread here called the hon. bart. communication under the impression of to order; disclaiming at the same time which they had been called upon to vote. the unworthy motives wbich were so unHe did not know upon what authority the generously imputed to him. expressions adverted to by the noble lord The Speaker having intimated to the rested; whether they were directly men- hon. baronet the impropriety of such lantioned to him by any person upon whom guage, much reliance could be placed, or whether Sir T. Turton felt extremely sorry that he had the information from a third per- any thing which fell from him should have son. For his part, he rather thought that given the hon. gent. offence, for whom he the expressions did not come from any felt the sincerest and most cordial esteem: quarter upon which much dependance when he said personal enmity, he meant could be placed. But this was the point only political enmity; and was unforturespecting which it was most important nate in his mode of expressing himself. for the house to be well informed. He He supported the amendment on the could not understand the doctrine, that ground of the confidential nature of diploprivate letters between ambassadors and macy. He would ask, if the state of Eusecretaries of state, were, under all circum- rope was again restored, what credit amstances, to be suppressed. The informa- bassadors would gain at foreign courts, tion contained in the letter had been vo- who made it their practice to divulge seluntarily offered on the part of ministers, cret communications. He thought the with a view to influence the vote of the hon. gent was condemned by his own arguhouse. This naturally laid a ground for ment, for if the papers laid before parliacalling for the information in an explicit ment by lord Mulgrave excited through. and tangible shape, that it might be seen out Europe such lively indignation, why whether it was of a kind to bear out the endeavour, by the same cause, to excite arguments which have been founded upon the same sensation now? it. But immediately, when it was called Mr. Herbert thought it most important for, he answered, No, it is a private letter, that the motion should be agreed to. He and cannot be produced. If they meant to was one of those on whom the speech of stand upon this objection, why did they the noble lord, and the expression alluded communicate the information at all? They to, il faut menager l’Angleterre pour le themselves had urged that lord Hutchin- moment,' had made a strong impression, son's information was private, when they and if he had thought the authority on had not only connived at his conferences which they rested incontrovertible, he with the emperor of Russia, but had de- should not have voted as he had done upon sired him to communicate his sentiments, the question of the Danish expedition. He and asserted, that he had been bamboozled, once thought, that ministers were ready for that had been the expression; and to prove plug ir allegations in the declarathat the information which had been ob- tion, in answer to Russia ; but the right tained, was not such as to deserve much hon. secretary, whose speeches were more consideration. Yet these very men stated remarkable for their brilliancy than their expressions, of nobody knew whom, to in- solidity, had waved these, and resorted to fluence the vote of the house, and refused other matters of a more indeterminate sort; all explicit information on the subject, on however, the subject was brought back the ground of the intelligence having been again to its former state, by the informaconveyed in a private letter! The majo- tion communicated by the noble lord. It rity of the house might perhaps be against was therefore of the greatest moment to him on this occasion, but he trusted that have it clearly known, upon what authohe should be supported by a minority of rity it rested; what was its precise import, no little weight and importance. The and what credit ought to be attached to it. communication in question, though origi- Mr. Windham observed, that the subject nally private, had been made public from of discussion lay within a very narrow the manner in which it had been used, and compass, being limited to the point, whe

ther the letter ought to be produced ? If Mr. Sturges Bourne denied that his noble the letter had been kept altogether private, friend had used this letter for the purpose then there could be no call for its produc- of influencing the decision of the house. tion, for there could have been no know. He had been present when his noble ledge of its existence. But ihe case was friend made the speech which caused so not, whether a letter, said to be private, considerable an impression, and he well should be permitted to remain so ; but recollected, that his noble friend stated the whether one publicly brought forward, general fact of which he was in possession ; and made use of to influence the vote of and that it was not until in reply to a questhe house, by one of the parties, should tion put to him by the hon. gent. opposite, be produced in a tangible and authenti- that he added that he had communicated cated state. A letter, though private, that fact in a private letter to the right might relate to public affairs, and a minis- hon, secretary of state. If he abstained ter might, to a certain degree, act upon it from going any further into this subject, without thinking proper to produce it, but at present, he begged to be understood, resting upon his general responsibility: that he was not deterred from doing so by But, when a letter of this kind was quoted the high and dictatorial tone which the by the writer, with a view to make an im- hon. mover, on this as well as on many pression on parliament, the question was, other occasions, chose to assume. The whether that did not become evidence house and the public, would judge of the which before was not so; and whether it consistency of the hon. gentlemen oppoought not therefore to be produced, sub- site, who, when they were in office, had ject, of course, to that sort of discretion refused to produce, on the only two occawhich ministers must excrcise, even with sions on which they were required to prorespect to public dispatches. As this was, duce them, papers moved for by his hon. in some measure, a new case, attention friends, but who now, after having exmust be given to its nature, not only with hausted their motions for public documents, a view to the present question, but in or- were driven to the necessity of moving der to settle a rule for the future. Con- for the unwarrantable production of prisidering the matter in this light, the first vate correspondence. thing that occurred was, that the public Dr. Laurence observed, that the dictabusiness might be managed by a private torial tone and manner of the last speaker correspondence of this sort, in a way did not suit well with his complaint against which

would place the whole out of the a dictatorial tone and manner in another reach of parliament. Some might remem- person. It would have come better from ber how this principle was made use of the right hon. secretary opposite, who was in the trial of Mr. Hastings, where it ap- so remarkable for levity and jesting, that peared that, under the pretence of private no one could pretend to equal him, unless correspondence, the salutary order of the he had a jest-book in his hand. As the Company, that all correspondence should expressions alluded to had been put in be in writing, was evaded. The public writing, every one must desire to see the trust was liable to be abused in the same whole of the paper, or at least as much as manner; and the wholesome rule was, could be produced without detriment to that when letters had forfeited their the public service; for though they might character of privacy, by being brought have been very fairly stated by the noble forward to influence the vote of the house, lord, as far as he went, yet in the letter they should then only be protected by the they might be so qualified as to make a same discretion to which even public dis- different impression. He allowed that patches were subject. What had we to stronger ground ought to be laid for the justify the expedition to Denmark ? Secret production of a private letter, than for the articles and private letters; the most con- production of a public dispatch ; but, if it venient things for a bad minister that was said that a private letter ought not to could possibly be imagined. This might be produced at all, the doctrine was conmark the evil that would result from a trary to the principles of the British conprinciple of this kind, and, upon the whole, stitution; which held publicity, though there was no comparison between the ba- attended with some disadvantages, to be, lance of danger from concealment and pub- on the whole, preferable të secrecy. Inlicity. The ministers having then quoted formation of the most secret nature had the letter in question for their own purposes, often, upon this ground, been produced, the house had a right to its production. with only a concealment of names. The VOL. X.

4 S

« ZurückWeiter »