Front Page Titles (by Subject) SPEECH ON THE ANNEXATION OF GENOA TO THE KINGDOM OF SARDINIA. DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS ON THE 27 th OF APRIL, 1815. * - The Miscellaneous Works
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SPEECH ON THE ANNEXATION OF GENOA TO THE KINGDOM OF SARDINIA. DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS ON THE 27 th OF APRIL, 1815. * - Sir James Mackintosh, The Miscellaneous Works 
The Miscellaneous Works. Three Volumes, complete in One. (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1871).
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SPEECH ON THE ANNEXATION OF GENOA TO THE KINGDOM OF SARDINIA.
I now rise, pursuant to my notice, to discharge the most arduous, and certainly the most painful, public duty which I have ever felt myself called upon to perform. I have to bring before the House, probably for its final consideration, the case of Genoa, which, in various forms of proceedings and stages of progress, has already occupied a considerable degree of our attention. All these previous discussions of this great question of faith and justice, have been hitherto of necessity almost confined to one side. When my Honourable Friend† moved for papers on this subject, the reasoning was only on this side of the House. The gentlemen on the opposite side professedly abstained from discussion of the merits of the case, because they alleged that discussion was then premature, and that a disclosure of the documents necessary to form a right judgment, would at that period have been injurious to the public interest. In what that danger consisted, or how such a disclosure would have been more inconvenient on the 22d of February than on the 27th of April, they will doubtless this day explain. I have in vain examined the papers for an explanation of it. It was a serious assertion, made on their Ministerial responsibility, and absolutely requires to be satisfactorily established. After the return of the Noble Lord* from Vienna, the discussion was again confined to one side, by the singular course which he thought fit to adopt. When my Honourable Friend† gave notice of a motion for all papers respecting those arrangements at Vienna, which had been substantially completed, the Noble Lord did not intimate any intention of acceding to the motion. He suffered it to proceed as if it were to be adversely debated, and instead of granting the papers, so that they might be in the possession of every member a sufficient time for careful perusal and attentive consideration, he brought out upon us in the middle of his speech a number of documents, which had been familiar to him for six months, but of which no private member of the House could have known the existence. It was impossible for us to discuss a great mass of papers, of which we had heard extracts once read in the heat and hurry of debate. For the moment we were silenced by this ingenious stratagem: the House was taken by surprise. They were betrayed into premature applause of that of which it was absolutely impossible that they should be competent judges. It might be thought to imply a very unreasonable distrust in the Noble Lord of his own talents, if it were not much more naturally imputable to his well-grounded doubts of the justice of his cause.
I have felt, Sir, great impatience to bring the question to a final hearing, as soon as every member possessed that full information in which alone I well knew that my strength must consist. The production of the papers has occasioned some delay; but it has been attended also with some advantage to me, which I ought to confess. It has given me an opportunity of hearing in another place a most perspicuous and forcible statement of the defence of Ministers,‡ —a statement which, without disparagement to the talents of the Noble Lord, I may venture to consider as containing the whole strength of their case. After listening to that able statement,—after much reflection for two months,—after the most anxious examination of the papers before us, I feel myself compelled to adhere to my original opinion, and to bring before the House the forcible transfer of the Genoese territory to the foreign master whom the Genoese people most hate,—a transfer stipulated for by British ministers, and executed by British troops,—as an act by which the pledged faith of this nation has been forfeited, the rules of justice have been violated, the fundamental principles of European policy have been shaken, and the odious claims of conquest stretched to an extent unwarranted by a single precedent in the good times of Europe. On the examination of these charges, I entreat gentlemen to enter with a disposition which becomes a solemn and judicial determination of a question which affects the honour of their country,—certainly without forgetting that justice which is due to the King’s Ministers, whose character it does most deeply import.
I shall not introduce into this discussion any of the practical questions which have arisen out of recent and terrible events.* They may, like other events in history, supply argument or illustiation; but I shall in substance argue the case, as if I were again speaking on the 22d of February, without any other change than a tone probably more subdued than would have been natural during that short moment of secure and almost triumphant tranquillity.
For this transaction, and for our share in all the great measures of the Congress of Vienna, the Noble Lord has told that he is “pre-eminently responsible” I know not in what foreign school he may have learnt such principles or phrases; but however much his colleagues may have resigned their discretion to him, I trust that Parliament will not suffer him to relieve them from any part of their responsibility. I shall not now inquire on what principle of constitutional law the whole late conduct of Continental negotiations by the Noble Lord could be justified. A Secretary of State has travelled over Europe with the crown and sceptre of Great Britain, exercising the royal prerogatives without the possibility of access to the Crown, to give advice, and to receive commands, and concluding his country by irrevocable acts, without communication with the other responsible advisers of the King. I shall not now examine into the nature of what our ancestors would have terned an “accroachment” of royal power,—an offence described indeed with dangerous laxity in ancient times, but, as an exercise of supreme power in another mode than by the forms, and under the responsibility prescribed by law, undoubtedly tending to the subversion of the fundamental principles of the British monarchy.
In all the preliminary discussions of this subject, the Noble Lord has naturally laboured to excite prejudice against his opponents. He has made a liberal use of the commonplaces of every Administration, against every Opposition; and he has assailed us chiefly through my Honourable Friend (Mr. Whitbread) with language more acrimonious and contumelious than is very consistent with his recommendations of decorum and moderation. He speaks of our “foul calumnies;” though calumniators do not call out as we did for inquiry and for trial. He tells us “that our discussions inflame nations more than they correct governments;”—a pleasant antithesis, which I have no doubt contains the opinion entertained of all popular discussion by the sovereigns and ministers of absolute monarchies, under whom he has lately studied constitutional principles. Indeed, Sir, I do not wonder that, on his return to this House, he should have been provoked into some forgetfulness of his usual moderation:—after long familiarity with the smooth and soft manners of diplomatists, it is natural that he should recoil from the turbulent freedom of a popular assembly. But let him remember, that to the uncourtly and fearless turbulence of this House Great Britain owes a greatness and power so much above her natural resources, and that rank among nations which gave him ascendency and authority in the deliberations of assembled Europe:—“Sic fortis Etruria crevit!” By that plainness and roughness of speech which wounded the nerves of courtiers, this House has forced kings and ministers to respect public liberty at home and to observe public faith abroad. He complains that this should be the first place where the faith of this country is impugned:—I rejoice that it is. It is because the first approaches towards breach of faith are sure of being attacked here, that there is so little ground for specious attack on our faith in other places. It is the nature and essence of the House of Commons to be jealous and suspicious, even to excess, of the manner in which the conduct of the Executive Government may affect that dearest of national interests—the character of the nation for justice and faith. What is destroyed by the slightest speck of corruption can never be sincerely regarded unless it be watched with jealous vigilance.
In questions of policy, where inconvenience is the worst consequence of error, and where much deference may be reasonably paid to superior information, there is much room for confidence beforehand and for indulgence afterwards: but confidence respecting a point of honour is a disregard of honour. Never, certainly, was there an occasion when these principles became of more urgent application than during the deliberations of the Congress of Vienna. Disposing, as they did, of rights and interests more momentous than were ever before placed at the disposal of a human assembly, is it fit that no channel should be left open by which they may learn the opinion of the public respecting their councils and the feelings which their measures have excited from Norway to Andalusia? Were these princes and ministers really desirous, in a situation of tremendous responsibility, to bereave themselves of the guidance, and release their judgments from the control, which would arise from some knowledge of the general sentiments of mankind? Were they so infatuated by absolute power as to wish they might never hear the public judgments till their system was unalterably established, and the knowledge could no longer be useful? It seems so. There was only one assembly in Europe from whose free discussions they might have learnt the opinions of independent men,—only one in which the grievances of men and nations might have been published with any effect. The House of Commons was the only body which represented in some sort the public opinions of Europe, and the discussions which might have conveyed that opinion to the Sovereigns at Vienna, seem, from the language of the Noble Lord, to have been odious and alarming to them. Even in that case we have one consolation:—those who hate advice most, always need it most. If our language was odious, it must in the very same proportion have been necessary; and notwithstanding all the abuse thrown upon it may have been partly effectual. Denial at least proves nothing;—we are very sure that if we had prevented any evil, we should only have been the more abused.
Sir, I do not regret the obloquy with which we have been loaded during the present session:—it is a proof that we are following, though with unequal steps, the great men who have filled the same benches before us. It was their lot to devote themselves to a life of toilsome, thankless, and often unpopular opposition, with no stronger allurement to ambition than a chance of a few months of office in half a century, and with no other inducement to virtue than the faint hope of limiting and mitigating evil,—always certain that the merit would never be acknowledged, and generally obliged to seek for the best proof of their services in the scurrility with which they were reviled. To represent them as partisans of a foreign nation, for whom they demanded justice, was always one of the most effectual modes of exciting a vulgar prejudice against them. When Mr. Burke and Mr. Fox exhorted Great Britain to be wise in relation to America, and just towards Ireland, they were called Americans and Irishmen. But they considered it as the greatest of all human calamities to be unjust;—they thought it worse to inflict than to suffer wrong: and they rightly thought themselves then most truly Englishmen, when they most laboured to dissuade England from tyranny. Afterwards, when Mr. Burke, with equal disinterestedness as I firmly believe, and certainly with sufficient zeal, supported the administration of Mr. Pitt, and the war against the Revolution, he did not restrain the freedom which belonged to his generous character. Speaking of that very alliance on which all his hopes were founded, he spoke of it, as I might speak (if I hac his power of language) of the Congress at Vienna:—“There can be no tie of honour in a society for pillage.” He was perhaps blamed for indecorum; but no one ever made any other conclusion from his language, than that it proved the ardour of his attachment to that cause which he could not endure to see dishonoured.
The Noble Lord has charged us, Sir, with a more than unusual interference in the functions of the monarchy and with the course of foreign negotiations. He has not indeed denied the right of this House to interfere:—he will not venture to deny “that this House is not only an accuser of competence to criminate, but a council of weight and wisdom to advise.”* He incautiously, indeed, “said that there was a necessary collision between the powers of this House and the prerogatives of the Crown.” It would have been more constitutional to have said that there was a liability to collision, and that the deference of each for the other has produced mutual concession, compromise, and co-operation, instead of collision. It has been, in fact, by the exercise of the great Parliamentary function of counsel, that in the best times of our history the House of Commons has suspended the exercise of its extreme powers. Respect for its opinion has rendered the exertion of its authority needless. It is not true that the interposition of its advice respecting the conduct of negotiations, the conduct of war, or the terms of peace, has been more frequent of late than in former times:—the contrary is the truth. From the earliest periods, and during the most glorious reigns in our history, its counsel has been proffered and accepted on the highest questions of peace and war. The interposition was necessarily even more frequent and more rough in these early times,—when the boundaries of its authority were undefined,—when its principal occupation was a struggle to assert and fortify its rights, and when it was sometimes as important to establish the legality of a power by exercise as to exercise it well,—than in these more fortunate periods of defined and acknowledged right, when a mild and indirect intimation of its opinion ought to preclude the necessity of resorting to those awful powers with which it is wisely armed. But though these interpositions of Parliament were more frequent in ancient times,—partly from the necessity of asserting contested rights,—and more rare in recent periods,—partly from the more submissive character of the House,—they are wanting at no time in number enough to establish the grand principle of the constitution, that Parliament is the first council of the King in war as well as in peace. This great principle has been acted on by Parliament in the best times:—it has been reverenced by the Crown in the worst. A short time before the Revolution it marked a struggle for the establishment of liberty:—a short time after the Revolution it proved the secure enjoyment of liberty. The House of Commons did not suffer Charles II. to betray his honour and his country, without constitutional warning to choose a better course;* its first aid to William III. was by counsels relating to war.† When, under the influence of other feelings, the House rather thwarted than aided their great Deliverer, even the party in it most hostile to liberty carried the rights of Parliament as a political council to the utmost constitutional limit, when they censured the treaty of Partition as having been passed under the Great Seal during the session of Parliament, and “without the advice of the same.”‡ During the War of the Succession, both Houses repeatedly counselled the Crown on the conduct of the war,§ —on negotiation with our allies,—and even on the terms of peace with the enemy. But what needs any further enumerations? Did not the vote of this House put an end to the American War?
Even, Sir, if the right of Parliament to advise had not been as clearly established as the prerogative of the Crown to make war or peace,—if it had not been thus constantly exercised,—if the wisest and best men had not been the first to call it forth into action, we might reasonably have been more forward than our ancestors to exercise this great right, because we contemplate a system of political negotiation, such as our ancestors never saw. All former Congresses were assemblies of the ministers of belligerent Powers to terminate their differences by treaty,—to define the rights and decide on the pretensions which had given rise to war, or to make compensation for the injuries which had been suffered in the course of it. The firm and secure system of Europe admitted no rapid, and few great changes of power and possession. A few fortresses in Flanders, a province on the frontiers of France and Germany, were generally the utmost cessions earned by the most victorious wars, and recovered by the most important treaties. Those who have lately compared the transactions at Vienna with the Treaty of Westphalia,—which formed the code of the Empire, and an era in diplomatic history,—which terminated the civil wars of religion, not only in Germany, but throughout Christendom, and which removed all that danger with which, for more than a century, the power of the House of Austria had threatened the liberties of Europe,—will perhaps feel some surprise when they are reminded that, except secularising a few Ecclesiastical principalities, that renowned and memorable treaty ceded only Alsace to France and part of Pomerania to Sweden,—that its stipulations did not change the political condition of half a million of men,—that it affected no pretension to dispose of any territory but that of those who were parties to it,—and that not an acre of land was ceded without the express and formal consent of its legal sovereign.* Far other were the pretensions, and indeed the performances, of the ministers assembled in congress at Vienna. They met under the modest pretence of carrying into effect the thirty-second article of the Treaty of Paris:† but under colour of this humble language, they arrogated the power of doing that, in comparison with which the whole Treaty of Paris was a trivial convention, and which made the Treaty of Westphalia appear no more than an adjustment of parish boundaries. They claimed the absolute disposal of every territory which had been occupied by France and her vassals, from Flanders to Livonia, and from the Baltic to the Po. Over these, the finest countries in the world, inhabited by twelve millions of mankind,—under pretence of delivering whom from a conqueror they had taken up arms,—they arrogated to themselves the harshest rights of conquest. It is true that of this vast territory they restored, or rather granted, a great part to its ancient sovereigns. But these sovereigns were always reminded by some new title, or by the disposal of some similarly circumstanced neighbouring territory, that they owed their restoration to the generosity, or at most to the prudence of the Congress, and that they were not entitled to require it from its justice. They came in by a new tenure:—they were the feudatories of the new corporation of kings erected at Vienna, exercising joint power in effect over all Europe, consisting in form of eight or ten princes, but in substance of three great military Powers,—the spoilers of Poland, the original invaders of the European constitution,—sanctioned by the support of England, and checked, however feebly, by France alone. On these three Powers, whose reverence for national independence and title to public confidence were so firmly established by the partition of Poland, the dictatorship of Europe has fallen. They agree that Germany shall have a federal constitution,—that Switzerland shall govern herself,—that unhappy Italy shall, as they say, be composed of sovereign states:—out it is all by grant from these lords paramount. Their will is the sole title to dominion,—the universal tenure of sovereignty. A single acre granted on such a principle is, in truth, the signal of a monstrous revolution in the system of Europe. Is the House of Commons to remain silent, when such a principle is applied in practice to a large part of the Continent, and proclaimed in right over the whole? Is it to remain silent when it has heard the King of Sardinia, at the moment when he received possession of Genoa from a British garrison, and when the British commander stated himself to have made the transfer in consequence of the decision at Vienna, proclaim to the Genoese, that he took possession of their territory “in concurrence with the wishes of the principal Powers of Europe?”
It is to this particular act of the Congress, Sir, that I now desire to call the attention of the House, not only on account of its own atrocity, but because it seems to represent in miniature the whole system of that body,—to be a perfect specimen of their new public law, and to exemplify every principle of that code of partition which they are about to establish on the ruins of that ancient system of national independence and balanced power, which gradually raised the nations of Europe to the first rank of the human race. I contend that all the parties to this violent transfer, and more especially the British Government, have been guilty of perfidy,—have been guilty of injustice; and I shall also contend, that the danger of these violations of faith and justice is much increased, when they are considered as examples of those principles by which the Congress of Vienna arrogate to themselves the right of regulating a considerable portion of Europe.
To establish the breach of faith, I must first ask,—What did Lord William Bentinck promise, as commander-in-chief of His Majesty’s troops in Italy, by his Proclamations of the 14th of March and 26th of April, 1814? The first is addressed to the people of Italy. It offers them the assistance of Great Britain to rescue them from the iron yoke of Buonaparte. It holds out the example of Spain, enabled, by the aid of Great Britain, to rescue “her independence,”—of the neighbouring Sicily, “which hastens to resume her ancient splendour among independent nations. . . Holland is about to obtain the same object. . . Warriors of Italy, you are invited to vindicate your own rights, and to be free! Italy, by our united efforts, shall become what she was in her most prosperous periods, and what Spain now is!”
Now, Sir, I do contend that all the powers of human ingenuity cannot give two senses to this Proclamation: I defy the wit of man to explain it away. Whether Lord William Bentinck had the power to promise is an after question:—what he did promise, can be no question at all. He promised the aid of England to obtain Italian independence. He promised to assist the Italians in throwing off a yoke,—in escaping from thraldom,—in establishing liberty,—in asserting rights,—in obtaining independence. Every term of emancipation known in human language is exhausted to impress his purpose on the heart of Italy. I do not now inquire whether the generous warmth of this language may not require in justice some understood limitation:—perhaps it may. But can independence mean a transfer to the yoke of the most hated of foreign masters? Were the Genoese invited to spill their blood, not merely for a choice of tyrants, but to earn the right of wearing the chains of the rival and the enemy of two centuries? Are the references to Spain, to Sicily, and to Holland mere frauds on the Italians,—“words full of sound and fury, signifying nothing?” If not, can they mean less than this,—that those countries of Italy which were independent before the war, shall be independent again? These words, therefore, were at least addressed to the Genoese;—suppose them to be limited, as to any other Italians;—suppose the Lombards, or, at that time, the Neapolitans, to be tacitly excluded. Addressed to the Genoese, they either had no meaning, or they meant their ancient independence.
Did the Genoese act upon these promises? What did they do in consequence of that first Proclamation of the 14th of March, from Leghorn, addressed to all the Italians, but applicable at least to the Genoese, and necessarily understood by that people as comprehending them? I admit that the promises were conditional; and to render them conclusive, it was necessary for the Genoese to fulfil the condition:—I contend that they did. I shall not attempt again to describe the march of Lord William Bentinck from Leghorn to Genoa, which has already been painted by my Honourable and Learned Friend* with all the chaste beauties of his moral and philosophical eloquence: my duty confines me to the dry discussion of mere facts. The force with which Lord William Bentinck left Leghorn consisted of about three thousand English, supported by a motley band of perhaps five thousand Sicilians, Italians, and Greeks, the greater part of whom had scarcely ever seen a shot fired. At the head of this force, he undertook a long march through one of the most defensible countries of Europe, against a city garrisoned or defended by seven thousand French veterans, and which it would have required twenty-five thousand men to invest, according to the common rules of military prudence. Now, Sir, I assert, without fear of contradiction, that such an expedition would have been an act of frenzy, unless Lord William Bentinck had the fullest assurance of the goodwill and active aid of the Genoese people. The fact sufficiently speaks for itself. I cannot here name the high military authority on which my assertion rests; but I defy the Right Honourable Gentlemen, with all their means of commanding military information, to contradict me. I know they will not venture. In the first place, then, I assume, that the British general would not have begun his advance without assurance of the friendship of the Genoese, and that he owes his secure and unmolested march to the influence of the same friendship—supplying his army, and deterring his enemies from attack. He therefore, in truth, owed his being before the walls of Genoa to Genoese co-operation. The city of Genoa, which, in 1799, had been defended by Massena for three months, fell to Lord William Bentinck in two days. In two days seven thousand French veterans laid down their arms to three thousand British soldiers, encumbered rather than aided by the auxiliary rabble whom I have described. Does any man in his senses believe, that the French garrison could have been driven to such a surrender by any cause but their fear of the Genoese people? I have inquired, from the best military authorities accessible to me, what would be the smallest force with which the expedition might probably have been successful, if the population had been—I do not say enthusiastically,—but commonly hostile to the invaders:—I have been assured, that it could not have been less than twenty-five thousand men. Here, again, I venture to challenge contradiction. If none can be given, must I not conclude that the known friendship of the Genoese towards the British, manifested after the issue of the Proclamation, and in no part created by it, was equivalent to an auxiliary force of seventeen thousand men? Were not the known wishes of the people, acting on the hopes of the British, and on the fears of the French, the chief cause of the expulsion of the French from the Genoese territory? Can Lord William Bentinck’s little army be considered as more than auxiliaries to the popular sentiment? If a body of four thousand Genoese had joined Lord William, on the declared ground of his Proclamation, all mankind would have exclaimed that the condition was fulfilled, and the contract indissoluble. Is it not the height of absurdity to maintain that a manifestation of public sentiment, which produced as much benefit to him as four times that force, is not to have the same effect. A ship which is in sight of a capture is entitled to her share of the prize, though she neither had nor could have fired a shot, upon the plain principle that apprehension of her approach probably contributed to produce the surrender. If apprehension of Genoese hostility influenced the French garrison,—if assurance of Genoese friendship encouraged the British army, on what principle do you defraud the Genoese of their national independence,—the prize which you promised them, and which they thus helped to wrest from the enemy?
In fact, I am well informed. Sir, that there was a revolt in the city, which produced the surrender,—that Buonaparte’s statue had been overthrown with every mark of indignity,—and that the French garrison was on the point of being expelled, even if the besiegers had not appeared. But I am not obliged to risk the case upon the accuracy of that information. Be it that the Genoese complied with Lord Wellesley’s wise instruction, to avoid premature revolt: I affirm that Lord William Bentinck’s advance is positive evidence of an understanding with the Genoese leaders; that there would have been such evidence in the advance of any judicious officer, but most peculiarly in his, who had been for three years negotiating in Upper Italy, and was well acquainted with the prevalent impatience of the French yoke. I conceive it to be self-evident, that if the Genoese had believed the English army to be advancing in order to sell them to Sardinia, they would not have favoured the advance. I think it demonstrable, that to their favourable disposition the expedition owed its success. And it needs no proof that they favoured the English, because the English promised them the restoration of independence. The English have, therefore, broken faith with them: the English have defrauded them of solemnly-promised independence: the English have requited their co-operation, by forcibly subjecting them to the power of the most odious of foreign masters. On the whole, I shall close this part of the question with challenging all the powers of human ingenuity to interpret the Proclamation as any thing but a promise of independence to such Italian nations as were formerly independent, and would now co-operate for the recovery of their rights. I leave to the Gentlemen on the other side the task of convincing the House that the conduct of the Genoese did not co-operate towards success, though without it success was impossible.
But we have been told that Lord William Bentinck was not authorised to make such a promise. It is needless for me to repeat my assent to a truth so trivial, as that no political negotiation is naturally within the province of a military commander, and that for such negotiations he must have special authority. At the same time I must observe, that Lord William Bentinck was not solely a military commander, and could not be considered by the Italians in that light. In Sicily his political functions had been more important than his military command. From 1811 to 1814 he had, with the approbation of his Government, performed the highest acts of political authority in that island; and he had, during the same period, carried on the secret negotiations of the British Government with all Italians disaffected to France. To the Italians, then, he appeared as a plenipotentiary; and they had a right to expect that his Government would ratify his acts and fulfil his engagements. In fact, his special authority was full and explicit. Lord Wellesley’s Instructions of the 21st of October and 27th of December, 1811, speak with the manly firmness which distinguishes that great statesman as much as his commanding character and splendid talents. His meaning is always precisely expressed:—he leaves himself no retreat from his engagements in the ambiguity and perplexity of an unintelligible style. The principal object of these masterly despatches is to instruct Lord William Bentinck respecting his support of any eventual effort of the Italian states to rescue Italy. They remind him of the desire of the Prince Regent to afford every practicable assistance to the people of Italy in any such effort. They convey so large a discretion, that it is thought necessary to say,—“In all arrangements respecting the expulsion of the enemy, your Lordship will not fail to give due consideration to our engagements with the courts of Sicily and Sardinia.” Lord William Bentinck had therefore powers which would have extended to Naples and Piedmont, unless they had been specially excepted. On the 19th of May, 1812, Lord Castlereagh virtually confirms the same extensive and confidential powers. On the 4th of March preceding, Lord Liverpool had, indeed, instructed Lord William Bentinck to employ a part of his force in a diversion in favour of Lord Wellington, by a descent on the eastern coast of Spain. This diversion doubtless suspended the negotiations with the patriotic Italians, and precluded for a time the possibility of affording them aid. But so far from withdrawing Lord William Bentinck’s political power, in Italy, they expressly contemplate their revival:—“This operation would leave the question respecting Italy open for further consideration, if circumstances should subsequently render the prospect there more inviting.” The despatches of Lord Bathurst, from March 1812 to December 1813, treat Lord William Bentinck as still in possession of those extensive powers originally vested in him by the despatch of Lord Wellesley. Every question of policy is discussed in these despatches, not as with a mere general,—not even as with a mere ambassador, but as with a confidential minister for the Italian Department. The last despatch is that which closes with the remarkable sentence, which is, in my opinion, decisive of this whole question:—“Provided it be clearly with the entire concurrence of the inhabitants, you may take possession of Genoa in the name of His Sardinian Majesty.” Now this is, in effect, tantamount to an instruction not to transfer Genoa to Sardinia without the concurrence of the inhabitants. It is a virtual instruction to consider the wishes of the people of Genoa as the rule and measure of his conduct: it is more—it is a declaration that he had no need of any instruction to re-establish Genoa, if the Genoese desired it. That re-establishment was provided for by his original instructions: only the new project of a transfer to a foreign sovereign required new ones. Under his original instructions, then, thus ratified by a long series of succeeding despatches from a succession of ministers, did Lord William Bentinck issue the Proclamation of the 14th of March.
Limitations there were in the original instructions:—Sicily and Sardinia were excepted. New exceptions undoubtedly arose, in the course of events, so plainly within the principle of the original exceptions as to require no specification. Every Italian province of a sovereign with whom Great Britain had subsequently contracted an alliance was, doubtless, as much to be excepted out of general projects of revolt for Italian independence as those which had been subject to the Allied Sovereigns in 1811. A British minister needed no express instructions to comprehend that he was to aid no revolt against the Austrian Government in their former province of Lombardy. The change of circumstances sufficiently instructed him. But in what respect were circumstances changed respecting Genoa? The circumstances of Genoa were the same as at the time of Lord Wellesley’s instructions. The very last despatches (those of Lord Bathurst, of the 28th of December, 1813,) had pointed to the Genoese territory as the scene of military operations, without any intimation that the original project was not still applicable there, unless the Genoese nation should agree to submit to the King of Sardinia. I contend, therefore, that the original instruction of Lord Wellesley, which authorised the promise of independence to every part of the Italian peninsula except Naples and Piedmont, was still in force, wherever it was not manifestly limited by subsequent engagements with the sovereigns of other countries, similar to our engagements with the sovereigns of Naples and Piedmont,—that no such engagement existed respecting the Genoese authority,—and that to the Genoese people the instruction of Lord Wellesley was as applicable as on the day when that instruction was issued.
The Noble Lord may then talk as he pleases of “disentangling from the present question the question of Italy,” to which on a former occasion he applied a phraseology so singular. He cannot “disentangle these questions:”—they are inseparably blended. The Instructions of 1811 authorised the promise of independence to all Italians, except the people of Naples and Piedmont. The Proclamation of the 14th of March 1814 promised independence to all Italians, with the manifestly implied exception of those who had been the subjects of Powers who were now become the allies of Great Britain. A British general, fully authorised, promised independence to those Italians who, like the Genoese, had not been previously the subjects of an ally of Britain, and by that promise, so authorised, his Government is inviolably bound.
But these direct instructions were not all. He was indirectly authorised by the acts and language of his own Government and of the other great Powers of Europe. He was authorised to re-establish the republic of Genoa, because the British Government in the Treaty of Amiens had refused to acknowledge its destruction. He was authorised to believe that Austria desired the re-establishment of a republic whose destruction that Government in 1808 had represented as a cause of war. He was surely authorised to consider that re-establishment as conformable to the sentiments of the Emperor Alexander, who at the same time had, on account of the annexation of Genoa to France, refused even at the request of Great Britain to continue his mediation between her and a Power capable of such an outrage on the rights of independent nations. Where was Lord William Bentinck to learn the latest opinions of the Allied Powers? If he read the celebrated Declaration of Frankfort, he there found an alliance announced of which the object was the restoration of Europe. Did restoration mean destruction? Perhaps before the 14th of March,—certainly before the 26th of April,—he had seen the first article of the Treaty of Chaumont, concluded on the 1st of March,—
“Dum curæ ambiguæ, dum spes incerta futuri,”*
in which he found the object of the war declared by the assembled majesty of confederated Europe to be “a general peace under which the rights and liberties of all nations may be secured”—words eternally honourable to their authors if they were to be observed—more memorable still if they were to be openly and perpetually violated! Before the 26th of April he had certainly perused these words, which no time will efface from the records of history; for he evidently adverts to them in the preamble of his Proclamation, and justly considers them as a sufficient authority, if he had no other, to warrant its provisions. “Considering,” says he, “that the general desire of the Genoese nation seems to be, to return to their ancient government, and considering that the desire seems to be conformable to the principles recognised by the High Allied Powers of restoring to all their ancient rights and privileges.” In the work of my celebrated friend, Mr. Gentz, of whom I can never speak without regard and admiration, On the Balance of Power, he would have found the incorporation of Genoa justly reprobated as one of the most unprincipled acts of French tyranny; and he would have most reasonably believed the sentiments of the Allied Powers to have been spoken by that eminent person—now, if I am not misinformed, the Secretary of that Congress, on whose measures his writings are the most severe censure.
But that Lord William Bentinck did believe himself to have offered independence to the Genoese,—that he thought himself directly and indirectly authorised to make such an offer,—and that he was satisfied that the Genoese had by their co-operation performed their part of the compact, are facts which rest upon the positive and precise testimony of Lord William Bentinck himself. I call upon him as the best interpreter of his own language, and the most unexceptionable witness to prove the cooperation of the Genoese. Let this Proclamation of the 26th of April be examined:—it is the clearest commentary on that of the 14th of March. It is the most decisive testimony to the active aid of the Genoese people. On the 26th of April he bestows on the people of Genoa that independence which he had promised to all the nations of Italy (with the implied exception, already often enough mentioned), on condition of their aiding to expel the oppressor. He, therefore, understood his own Proclamation to be such a promise of independence: he could not doubt but that he was authorised to make it: and he believed that the Genoese were entitled to claim the benefit of it by their performance of its condition.
This brings me to the consideration of this Proclamation, on which I should have thought all observation unnecessary, unless I had heard some attempts made by the Noble Lord to explain it away, and to represent it as nothing but the establishment of a provisional government. I call on any member of the House to read that Proclamation, and to say whether he can in common honour assent to such an interpretation. The Proclamation, beyond all doubt, provides for two perfectly distinct objects:—the establishment of a provisional government till the 1st of January 1815, and the re-establishment of the ancient constitution of the republic, with certain reforms and modifications, from and after that period. Three-fourths of the Proclamation have no reference whatever to a provisional government;—the first sentence of the preamble, and the third and fourth articles only, refer to that object: but the larger paragraph of the preamble, and four articles of the enacting part, relate to the re-establishment of the ancient constitution alone. “The desire of the Genoese nation was to return to their ancient government, under which they had enjoyed independence:”—was this relating to a provisional government? Did “the principles recognised by the High Allied Powers” contemplate only the establishment of provisional governments? Did provisional governments imply “restoring to all their ancient rights and privileges?” Why should the ancient constitution be re-established—the very constitution given by Andrew Doria when he delivered his country from a foreign yoke,—if nothing was meant but a provisional government, preparatory to foreign slavery? Why was the government to be modified according to the general wish, the public good, and the spirit of Doria’s constitution, if nothing was meant beyond a temporary administration, till the Allied Powers could decide on what vassal they were to bestow Genoa? But I may have been at first mistaken, and time may have rendered my mistake incorrigible. Let every gentleman, before he votes on this question, calmly peruse the Proclamation of the 26th of April, and determine for himself whether it admits of any but one construction. Does it not provide for a provisional government immediately, and for the establishment of the ancient constitution hereafter;—the provisional government till the 1st of January, 1815, the constitution from the 1st of January, 1815? The provisional government is in its nature temporary, and a limit is fixed to it. The constitution of the republic is permanent, and no term or limit is prescribed beyond which it is not to endure. It is not the object of the Proclamation to establish the ancient constitution as a provisional government. On the contrary, the ancient constitution is not to be established till the provisional government ceases to exist. So distinct are they, that the mode of appointment to the supreme powers most materially differs. Lord William Bentinck nominates the two colleges, who compose the provisional government. The two colleges who are afterwards to compose the permanent government of the republic, are to be nominated agreeably to the ancient constitution. Can it be maintained that the intention was to establish two successive provisional governments? For what conceivable reason? Even in that case, why engage in the laborious and arduous task of reforming an ancient constitution for the sake of a second provisional government which might not last three weeks? And what constitution was more unfit for a provisional government,—what was more likely to indispose the people to all farther change, and above all, to a sacrifice of their independence, than the ancient constitution of the republic, which revived all their feelings of national dignity, and seemed to be a pledge that they were once more to be Genoese? In short, Sir, I am rather fearful that I shall be thought to have overlaboured a point so extremely clear. But if I have dwelt too long upon this Proclamation, and examined it too minutely, it is not because I think it difficult, but because I consider it is decisive of the whole question. If Lord William Bentinck in that Proclamation bestowed on the people of Genoa their place among nations, and the government of their forefathers, it must have been because he deemed himself authorised to make that establishment by the repeated instructions of the British Government, and by the avowed principles and solemn acts of the Allied Powers, and because he felt bound to make it by his own Proclamation of the 14th of March, combined with the acts done by the Genoese nation, in consequence of that Proclamation. I think I have proved that he did so,—that he believed himself to have done so, and that the people of Genoa believed it likewise.
Perhaps, however, if Lord William Bentinck had mistaken his instructions, and had acted without authority, he might have been disavowed, and his acts might have been annulled? I doubt whether, in such a case, any disavowal would have been sufficient, Wherever another people, in consequence of the acts of our agent whom they had good reason to trust, have done acts which they cannot recall, I do not conceive the possibility of a just disavowal of such an agent’s acts. Where one party has innocently and reasonably advanced too far to recede, justice cuts off the other also from retreat. But, at all events, the disavowal, to be effectual, must have been prompt, clear, and public. Where is the disavowal here? Where is the public notice to the Genoese, that they were deceived? Did their mistake deserve no correction, even on the ground of compassion? I look in vain through these Papers for any such act. The Noble Lord’s letter of the 30th of March was the first intimation which Lord William Bentinck received of any change of system beyond Lombardy. It contains only a caution as to future conduct; and it does not hint an intention to cancel any act done on the faith of the Proclamation of the 14th of March. The allusion to the same subject in the letter of the 3d of April, is liable to the very same observation, and being inserted at the instance of the Duke of Campochiaro, was evidently intended only to prevent the prevalence of such ideas of Italian liberty as were inconsistent with the accession then proposed to the territory of Naples. It certainly could not have been supposed by Lord William Bentinck to apply to Genoa; for Genoa was in his possession on the 26th, when he issued the Proclamation, which he never could have published if he had understood the despatch in that sense.
The Noble Lord’s despatch of the 6th of May is, Sir, in my opinion, fatal to his argument. It evidently betrays a feeling that acts had been done, to create in the Genoese a hope of independence: yet it does not direct these acts to be disavowed;—it contains no order speedily to undeceive the people. It implies that a deception had been practised; and instead of an attempt to repair it, there is only an injunction not to repeat the fault. No expressions are to be used which may prejudge the fate of Genoa. Even then that fate remained doubtful. So far from disavowal, the Noble Lord proposes the re-establishment of Genoa, though with some curtailment of territory, to M. Pareto, who maintained the interests of his country with an ability and dignity worthy of happier success.
And the Treaty of Paris itself, far from a disavowal, is, on every principle of rational construction, a ratification and adoption of the act of Lord William Bentinck. The 6th article of that Treaty provides that “Italy, beyond the limits of the country which is to revert to Austria, shall be composed of sovereign states.” Now, Sir, I desire to know the meaning of this provision. I can conceive only three possible constructions. Either that every country shall have some sovereign, or, in other words, some government:—it will not be said that so trivial a proposition required a solemn stipulation. Or that there is to be more than one sovereign:—that was absolutely unnecessary: Naples, the States of the Church, and Tuscany, already existed. Or, thirdly, that the ancient sovereign states shall be re-established, except the country which reverts to Austria:—this, and this only, was an intelligible and important object of stipulation. It is the most reasonable of the only three possible constructions of these words. The phrase “sovereign states” seems to have been preferred to that of “sovereigns,” because it comprehended republics as well as monarchies. According to this article, thus understood, the Powers of Europe had by the Treaty of Paris (to speak cautiously) given new hopes to the Genoese that they were again to be a nation.
But, according to every principle of justice, it is unnecessary to carry the argument so far. The act of an agent, if not disavowed in reasonable time, becomes the act of the principal. When a pledge is made to a people—such as was contained in the Proclamations of the 14th of March and 26th of April—it can be recalled only by a disavowal equally public.
On the policy of annexing Genoa to Piedmont, Sir, I have very little to say. That it was a compulsory, and therefore an unjust union, is, in my view of the subject, the circumstance which renders it most impolitic. It seems a bad means of securing Italy against France, to render a considerable part of the garrison of the Alps so dissatisfied with their condition, that they must consider every invader as a deliverer. But even if the annexation had been just, I should have doubted whether it was desirable. In former times, the House of Savoy might have been the guardians of the Alps:—at present, to treat them as such, seems to be putting the keys of Italy into hands too weak to hold them. Formerly, the conquest of Genoa and Piedmont were two distinct operations:—Genoa did not necessarily follow the fate of Turin. In the state of things created by the Congress, a French army has no need of separately acting against the Genoese territory:—it must fall with Piedmont. And, what is still more strange, it is bound to the destinies of Piedmont by the same Congress which has wantonly stripped Piedmont of its natural defences. The House of Sardinia is stripped of great part of its ancient patrimony:—a part of Savoy is, for no conceivable reason, given to France. The French are put in possession of the approaches and outposts of the passes of Mont Cenis: they are brought a campaign nearer to Italy. At this very moment they have assembled an army at Chambery, which, unless Savoy had been wantonly thrown to them, they must have assembled at Lyons. You impose on the House of Savoy the defence of a longer line of Alps with one hand, and you weaken the defence of that part of the line which covers their capital with the other. But it is perfectly sufficient for me, in the present case, if the policy is only doubtful, or the interests only slight. The laxest moralist will not, publicly at least, deny, that more advantage is lost by the loss of a character for good faith than can be gained by a small improvement in the distribution of territory. Perhaps, indeed, this annexation of Genoa is the only instance recorded in history of great Powers having (to say no more) brought their faith and honour into question without any of the higher temptations of ambition,—with no better inducement than a doubtful advantage in distributing territory more conveniently,—unless, indeed, it can be supposed that they are allured by the pleasures of a triumph over the ancient principles of justice, and of a parade of the new maxims of convenience which are to regulate Europe in their stead.
I have hitherto argued this case as if the immorality of the annexation had arisen solely from the pledge made to the Genoese nation. I have argued it as if the Proclamation of Lord William Bentinck had been addressed to a French province, on which there could be no obligation to confer independence, if there were no promise to do so. For the sake of distinctness, I have hitherto kept out of view that important circumstance, which would, as I contend, without any promise, have of itself rendered a compulsory annexation unjust. Anterior to all promise, independent of all pledged faith, I conceive that Great Britain could not morally treat the Genoese territory as a mere conquest, which she might hold as a province, or cede to another power, at her pleasure. In the year 1797, when Genoa was conquered by France (then at war with England), under pretence of being revolutionised, the Genoese republic was at peace with Great Britain; and consequently, in the language of the law of nations, they were “friendly states.” Neither the substantial conquest in 1797, nor the formal union of 1805, had ever been recognised by this kingdom. When the British commander, therefore, entered the Genoese territory in 1814, he entered the territory of a friend in the possession of an enemy. Supposing him, by his own unaided force, to have conquered it from the enemy, can it be inferred that he conquered it from the Genoese people? He had rights of conquest against the French:—but what right of conquest would accrue from their expulsion, against the Genoese? How could we be at war with the Genoese?—not as with the ancient republic of Genoa, which fell when in a state of amity with us,—not as subjects of France, because we had never legally and formally acknowledged their subjection to that Power. There could be no right of conquest against them, because there was neither the state of war, nor the right of war. Perhaps the Powers of the Continent, which had either expressly or tacitly recognised the annexation of Genoa in their treaties with France, might consistently treat these Genoese people as mere French subjects, and consequently the Genoese territory as a French province, conquered from the French government, which as regarded them had become the sovereign of Genoa. But England stood in no such position:—in her eye the republic of Genoa still of right subsisted. She had done no act which implied the legal destruction of a commonwealth, with which she had had no war, nor cause of war. Genoa ought to have been regarded by England as a friendly state, oppressed for a time by the common enemy, and entitled to re-assume the exercise of her sovereign rights as soon as that enemy was driven from her territory by a friendly force. Voluntary, much more cheerful, union,—zealous co-operation,—even long submission,—might have altered the state of belligerent rights:—none of these are here pretended. In such a case, I contend, that, according to the law of nations, anterior to all promises, and independent of all pledged faith, the republic of Genoa was restored to the exercise of her sovereignty, which, in our eyes, she had never lost, by the expulsion of the French from her soil.
These, Sir, are no reasonings of mine: I read them in the most accredited works on public law, delivered long before any events of our time were in contemplation, and yet as applicable to this transaction, as if they had been contrived for it. Vattel, in the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of his third book, has stated fully and clearly those principles respecting the application of the jus postliminii to the case of states, which he had taken from his eminent predecessors, or rather which they and he had discovered to be agreeable to the plainest dictates of reason, and which they have transcribed from the usage of civilized nations. I shall not trouble the House with the passages,* unless I see some attempt to reconcile them with the annexation of Genoa. I venture to predict no such attempts will be hazarded. It is not my disposition to overrate the authority of this class of writers, or to consider authority in any case as a substitute for reason. But these eminent writers were at least necessarily impartial. Their weight, as bearing testimony to general sentiment and civilized usage, receives a new accession from every statesman who appeals to their writings, and from every year in which no contrary practice is established or hostile principles avowed. Their works are thus attested by successive generations to be records of the customs of the best times, and depositories of the deliberate and permanent judgments of the more enlightened part of mankind. Add to this, that their authority is usually invoked by the feeble, and despised by those who are strong enough to need no aid from moral sentiment, and to bid defiance to justice. I have never heard their principles questioned, but by those whose flagitious policy they had by anticipation condemned.
Here, Sir, let me for a moment lower the claims of my argument, and abandon some part of the ground which I think it practicable to maintain. If I were to admit that the pledge here is not so strong, nor the duty of re-establishing a rescued friend so imperious as I have represented, still it must be admitted to me, that it was a promise, though perhaps not unequivocal, to perform that which was moral and right, whether within the sphere of strict duty or not. Either the doubtful promise, or the imperfect duty, might singly have been insufficient: but, combined, they reciprocally strengthen each other. The slightest promise to do what was before a duty, becomes as binding as much stronger words to do an indifferent act:—strong assurances that a man will do what it is right for him to do are not required. A slight declaration to such an effect is believed by those to whom it is addressed, and therefore obligatory on those by whom it is uttered. Was it not natural and reasonable for the people of Genoa to believe, on the slenderest pledges, that such a country as England, with which they had never had a difference, would avail herself of a victory, due at least in part to their friendly sentiments, in order to restore them to that independence of which they had been robbed by her enemy and theirs,—by the general oppressor of Europe.
I shall not presume to define on invariable principles the limits of the right of conquest. It is founded, like every right of war, on a regard to security,—the object of all just war. The modes in which national safety may be provided for,—by reparation for insult,—by compensation for injury,—by cessions and by indemnifications,—vary in such important respects, according to the circumstances of various cases, that it is perhaps impossible to limit them by an universal principle. In the case of Norway,* I did not pretend to argue the question upon grounds so high as those which were taken by some writers on public law. These writers, who for two centuries have been quoted as authorities in all the controversies of Europe, with the moderate and pacific Grotius at their head, have all concurred in treating it as a fundamental principle, that a defeated sovereign may indeed cede part of his dominions to the conqueror, but that he thereby only abdicates his own sovereignty over the ceded dominion,—that the consent of the people is necessary to make them morally subject to the authority of the conqueror. Without renouncing this limitation of the rights of conquest, founded on principles so generous, and so agreeable to the dignity of human nature, I was content to argue the cession of Norway,—as I am content to argue the cession of Genoa,—on lower and humbler, but perhaps safer grounds. Let me waive the odious term “rights,”—let me waive the necessity of any consent of a people, express or implied, to legitimate the cession of their territory: at least this will not be denied,—that to unite a people by force to a nation against whom they entertain a strong antipathy, is the most probable means of rendering the community unhappy,—of making the people discontented, and the sovereign tyrannical. But there can be no right in any governor, whether he derives his power from conquest, or from any other source, to make the governed unhappy:—all the rights of all governors exist only to make the governed happy. It may be disputed among some, whether the rights of government be from the people; but no man can doubt that they are for the people. Such a forcible union is an immoral and cruel exercise of the conqueror’s power; and as soon as that concession is made, it is not worth while to discuss whether it be within his right,—in other words, whether he be forbidden by any law to make it.
But if every cession of a territory against the deliberate and manifest sense of its inhabitants be a harsh and reprehensible abuse of conquest, it is most of all culpable,—it becomes altogether atrocious and inhuman, where the antipathy was not the feeling of the moment, or the prejudice of the day, but a profound sentiment of hereditary repugnance and aversion, which has descended from generation to generation,—has mingled with every part of thought and action,—and has become part of patriotism itself. Such is the repugnance of the Genoese to a union with Piedmont: and such is commonly the peculiar horror which high-minded nations feel of the yoke of their immediate neighbours. The feelings of Norway towards Sweden,—of Portugal towards Spain,—and in former and less happy times of Scotland towards England,—are a few out of innumerable examples. There is nothing either unreasonable or unnatural in this state of national feelings. With neighbours there are most occasions of quarrel; with them there have been most wars; from them there has been most suffering:—of them there is most fear. The resentment of wrongs, and the remembrance of victory, strengthen our repugnance to those who are most usually our enemies. It is not from illiberal prejudice, but from the constitution of human nature, that an Englishman animates his patriotic affections, and supports his national pride, by now looking back on victories over Frenchmen,—on Cressy and Agincourt, on Blenheim and Minden,—as our posterity will one day look back on Salamanca and Vittoria. The defensive principle ought to be the strongest where the danger is likely most frequently to arise. What, then, will the House decide concerning the morality of compelling Genoa to submit to the yoke of Piedmont,—a state which the Genoese have constantly dreaded and hated, and against which their hatred was sharpened by continual apprehensions for their independence? Whatever construction may be attempted of Lord William Bentinck’s Proclamations,—whatever sophistry may be used successfully, to persuade you that Genoa was disposable as a conquered territory, will you affirm that the disposal of it to Piedmont was a just and humane exercise of your power as a conqueror?
It is for this reason, among others, that I detest and execrate the modern doctrine of rounding territory, and following natural boundaries, and melting down small states into masses, and substituting lines of defence, and right and left flanks, instead of justice and the law of nations, and ancient possession and national feeling,—the system of Louis XIV. and Napoleon, of the spoilers of Poland, and of the spoilers of Norway and Genoa,—the system which the Noble Lord, when newly arrived from the Congress, and deeply imbued with its doctrines, in the course of his ample and elaborate invective against the memory and principles of ancient Europe, defined in two phrases so characteristic of his reverence for the rights of nations, and his tenderness for their feelings, that they ought not easily to be forgotten,—when he told us, speaking of this very antipathy of Genoa to Piedmont, “that great questions are not to be influenced by popular impressions,” and “that a people may be happy without independence.” The principal feature of this new system is the incorporation of neighbouring, and therefore hostile communities. The system of justice reverenced the union of men who had long been members of the same commonwealth, because they had all the attachments and antipathies which grow out of that fellowship:—the system of rapine tears asunder those whom nature has joined, and compels those to unite whom the contests of ages have rendered irreconcilable.
And if all this had been less evident, would no aggravation of this act have arisen from the peculiar nature of the general war of Europe against France? It was a war in which not only the Italians, but every people in Europe, were called by their sovereigns to rise for the recovery of their independence. It was a revolt of the people against Napoleon. It owed its success to the spirit of popular insurrection. The principle of a war for the restoration of independence, was a pledge that each people was to be restored to its ancient territory. The nations of Europe accepted the pledge, and shook off the French yoke. But was it for a change of masters? Was it that three Foreign Ministers at Paris might dispose of the Genoese territory?—was it for this that the youth of Europe had risen in arms from Moscow to the Rhine?
The people of Europe were, it seems, roused to war, not to overthrow tyranny, but to shift it into new hands,—not to re-establish the independence and restore the ancient institutions of nations, but to strengthen the right flank of one great military power, and to cover the left flank of another. This, at least, was not the war for the success of which I offered my most ardent prayers. I prayed for the deliverance of Europe, not for its transfer to other lords,—for the restoration of Europe, by which all men must have understood at least the re-establishment of that ancient system, and of those wise principles, under which it had become great and prosperous. I expected the re-establishment of every people in those territories, of which the sovereignty had been lost by recent usurpation,—of every people who had been an ancient member of the family of Europe,—of every people who had preserved the spirit and feelings which constitute a nation,—and, above all, of every people who had lost their territory or their independence under the tyranny which the Allies had taken up arms to overthrow. I expected a reverence for ancient boundaries,—a respect for ancient institutions,—certainly without excluding a prudent regard to the new interests and opinions which had taken so deep a root that they could not be torn up without incurring the guilt and the mischief of the most violent innovation.
The very same reasons, indeed, both of morality and policy (since I must comply so far with vulgar usage as to distinguish what cannot be separated) bound the Allied Sovereigns to respect the ancient institutions, and to regard the new opinions and interests of nations. The art of all government, not tyrannical, whatever may be its form, is to conduct mankind by their feelings. It is immoral to disregard the feelings of the governed, because it renders them miserable. It is, and it ought to be, dangerous to disregard these feelings, because bold and intelligent men will always consider it as a mere question of prudence, whether they ought to obey governments which counteract the only purpose for which they all exist. The feelings of men are most generally wounded by any violence to those ancient institutions under which these feelings have been formed, the national character has been moulded, and to which all the habits and expectations of life are adapted. It was well said by Mr. Fox, that as ancient institutions have been sanctioned by a far greater concurrence of human judgments than modern laws can be, they are, upon democratic principles, more respectable. But new opinions and new interests, and a new arrangement of society, which has given rise to other habits and hopes, also excite the strongest feelings, which, in proportion to their force and extent, claim the regard of all moral policy.
As it was doubtless the policy of the Allies to consider the claims of ancient possession as sacred, as far as the irrevocable changes of the political system would allow, the considerate part of mankind did, I believe, hope that they would hail the long-continued and recently-lost sovereignty of a territory as generally an inviolable right, and that, as they could not be supposed wanting in zeal for restoring the sovereignty of ancient reigning families, so they would guard that re-establishment, and render it respectable in the eyes of the world, by the impartiality with which they re-established also those ancient and legitimate governments of a republican form, which had fallen in the general slavery of nations. We remembered that republics and monarchies were alike called to join in the war against the French Revolution, not for forms of government, but for the existence of social order. We hoped that Austria—to select a striking example—would not pollute her title to her ancient dominion of Lombardy, by blending it with the faithless and lawless seizure of Venice. So little republican territory was to be restored, that the act of justice was to be performed, and the character of impartiality gained, at little expense;—even if such expense be measured by the meanest calculations of the most vulgar politics. Other vacant territory remained at the disposal of the Congress to satisfy the demands of policy. The sovereignity of the Ecclesiastical territories might be fairly considered as lapsed: no reigning family could have any interest in it;—no people could be attached to such a rule of nomination to supreme power. And in fact, these Principalities had lost all pride of independence and all consciousness of national existence. Several other territories of Europe had been reduced to a like condition. Ceded, perhaps, at first questionably, they had been transferred so often from master to master,—they had been so long in a state of provincial degradation, that no violence could be offered to their feelings by any new transfer or partition. They were, as it were, a sort of splinters thrown off from nations in the shocks of warfare during two centuries; and they lay like stakes on the board, to be played for at the terrible game which had detached them, and to satisfy the exchanges and cessions by which it is usually closed.
Perhaps the existence of such detached members is necessary to the European system; but they are in themselves great evils. They are amputated and lifeless members, which, as soon as they lose the vital principle of national spirit, no longer contribute aught to the vigour and safety of the whole living system. From them is to be expected no struggle against invasion,—no resistance to the designs of ambition,—no defence of their country. Individuals, but no longer a nation, they are the ready prey of every candidate for universal monarchy, who soon compels their passive inhabitants to fight for his ambition, as they would not fight against it, and to employ in enslaving other nations, that courage which they had no noble interest to exert in defence of their own.—Why should I seek examples of this truth in former times? What opened Europe to the first inroads of the French armies?—not, I will venture to say, the mere smallness of the neighbouring states; for if every one of them had displayed as much national spirit in 1794, as the smallest states of Switzerland did in 1798, no French army could ever have left the territory of France,—but the unhappy course of events, which had deprived Flanders, and the Electorates, and Lombardy, of all national spirit. Extinguished as this spirit was by the form of government in some of these countries, and crushed by a foreign yoke in others,—without the pride of liberty, which bestows the highest national spirit on the smallest nations, or the pride of power, which sometimes supplies its place in mighty empires, or the consciousness of self-dependence, without which there is no nationality,—they first became the prey of France, and afterwards supplied the arms with which she almost conquered the world. To enlarge this dead part of Europe,—to enrich it by the accession of countries renowned for their public feelings,—to throw Genoa into the same grave with Poland, with Venice, with Finland, and with Norway,—is not the policy of those who would be the preservers or restorers of the European commonwealth.
It is not the principle of the Balance of Power, but one precisely opposite. The system of preserving some equilibrium of power,—of preventing any state from becoming too great for her neighbours, is a system purely defensive, and directed towards the object of universal preservation. It is a system which provides for the security of all states by balancing the force and opposing the interests of great ones. The independence of nations is the end, the balance of power is only the means. To destroy independent nations, in order to strengthen the balance of power, is a most extravagant sacrifice of the end to the means. This inversion of all the principles of the ancient and beautiful system of Europe, is the fundamental maxim of what the Noble Lord, enriching our language with foreign phrases as well as doctrines, calls “a repartition of power.” In the new system, small states are annihilated by a combination of great ones:—in the old, small states were secured by the mutual jealousy of the great.
The Noble Lord very consistently treats the re-establishment of small states as an absurdity. This single tenet betrays the school in which he has studied. Undoubtedly, small communities are an absurdity, or rather their permanent existence is an impossibility, on his new system. They could have had no existence in the continual conquests of Asia;—they were soon destroyed amidst the turbulence of the Grecian confederacy:—they must be sacrificed on the system of rapine established at Vienna.—Nations powerful enough to defend themselves, may subsist securely in most tolerable conditions of society: but states too small to be safe by their own strength, can exist only where they are guarded by the equilibrium of force, and the vigilance which watches over its preservation. When the Noble Lord represents small states as incapable of self-defence, he in truth avows that he is returned in triumph from the destruction of that system of the Balance of Power, of which indeed great empires were the guardians, but of which the perfect action was indicated by the security of feebler commonwealths. Under this system, no great violation of national independence had occurred from the first civilization of the European states till the partition of Poland. The safety of the feeblest states, under the authority of justice, was so great, that there seemed little exaggeration in calling such a society the “commonwealth” of Europe. Principles, which stood in the stead of laws and magistrates, provided for the security of defenceless communities, as perfectly as the safety of the humblest individual is maintained in a well-ordered commonwealth. Europe can no longer be called a commonwealth, when her members have no safety but in their strength.
In truth, the Balancing system is itself only a secondary guard of national independence. The paramount principle—the moving power, without which all such machinery would be perfectly inert, is national spirit. The love of country, the attachment to laws and government, and even to soil and scenery, the feelings of national glory in arms and arts, the remembrances of common triumph and common suffering, with the mitigated but not obliterated recollection of common enmity, and the jealousy of dangerous neighbours,—all are instruments employed by nature to draw more closely the bands of affection that bind us to our country and to each other. This is the only principle by which sovereigns can, in the hour of danger, rouse the minds of their subjects:—without it the policy of the Balancing system would be impotent.
The Congress of Vienna seems, indeed, to have adopted every part of the French system, except that they have transferred the dictatorship of Europe from an individual to a triumvirate. One of the grand and parent errors of the French Revolution was the fatal opinion that it was possible for human skill to make a government. It was an error too generally prevalent, not to be excusable.—The American Revolution had given it a fallacious semblance of support; though no event in history more clearly showed its falsehood. The system of laws, and the frame of society in North America, remained after the Revolution, and remain to this day, fundamentally the same as they ever were. The change in America, like the change in 1688, was made in defence of legal right, not in pursuit of political improvement; and it was limited by the necessity of self-defence which produced it. The whole internal order remained, which had always been essentially republican. The somewhat slender tie which loosely joined these republics to a monarchy, was easily and without violence divided. But the error of the French Revolutionists was, in 1789, the error of Europe. From that error we have been long reclaimed by fatal experience. We know, or rather we have seen and felt, that a government is not, like a machine or a building, the work of man; that it is the work of nature, like the nobler productions of the vegetable and animal world, which man may improve, and damage, and even destroy, but which he cannot create. We have long learned to despise the ignorance or the hypocrisy of those who speak of giving a free constitution to a people, and to exclaim with a great living poet—
We have, perhaps,—as usual,—gone too near to the opposite error, and we do not make sufficient allowances for those dreadful cases—though we must not call them desperate,—where, in long enslaved countries, we must either humbly and cautiously labour to lay some foundations from which the fabric of liberty may slowly rise, or acquiesce in the doom of perpetual bondage.
But though we no longer dream of making governments, the confederacy of kings seem to feel no doubt of their own power to make nations. Yet the only reason why it is impossible to make a government is, because it is impossible to make a nation. A government cannot be made, because its whole spirit and principles arise from the character of the nation. There would be no difficulty in framing a government, if the habits of a people could be changed by a lawgiver;—if he could obliterate their recollections, transfer their attachment and reverence, extinguish their animosities, and correct those sentiments which, being at variance with his opinions of public interest, he calls prejudices. Now, this is precisely the power which our statesmen at Vienna have arrogated to themselves. They not only form nations, but they compose them of elements apparently the most irreconcilable. They made one nation out of Norway and Sweden: they tried to make another out of Prussia and Saxony. They have, in the present case, forced together Piedmont and Genoa to form a nation which is to guard the avenues of Italy, and to be one of the main securities of Europe against universal monarchy.
It was not the pretension of the ancient system to form states,—to divide territory according to speculations of military convenience,—and to unite and dissolve nations better than the course of events had done before. It was owned to be still more difficult to give a new constitution to Europe, than to form a new constitution for a single state. The great statesmen of former times did not speak of their measures as the Noble Lord did about the incorporation of Belgium with Holland (against which I say nothing), “as a great improvement in the system of Europe.” That is the language only of those who revolutionise that system by a partition like that of Poland, by the establishment of the Federation of the Rhine at Paris, or by the creation of new states at Vienna. The ancient principle was to preserve all those states which had been founded by time and nature,—which were animated by national spirit, and distinguished by the diversity of character which gave scope to every variety of talent and virtue,—whose character had been often preserved, and whose nationality had been even created, by those very irregularities of frontier and inequalities of strength, of which a shallow policy complains;—to preserve all those states, down to the smallest, first, by their own national spirit, and, secondly, by that mutual jealousy which made every great power the opponent of the dangerous ambition of every other. Its object was to preserve nations, as living bodies produced by the hand of nature—not to form artificial dead machines, called “states,” by the words and parchment of a diplomatic act. Under this ancient system, which secured the weak by the jealousy of the strong, provision was made alike for the permanency of civil institutions, the stability of governments, the progressive reformation of laws and constitutions,—for combining the general quiet with the highest activity and energy of the human mind,—for uniting the benefits both of rivalship and of friendship between nations,—for cultivating the moral sentiments of men, by the noble spectacle of the long triumph of justice in the security of the defenceless,—and, finally, for maintaining uniform civilization by the struggle as well as union of all the moral and intellectual combinations which compose that vast and various mass. It effected these noble purposes, not merely by securing Europe against one master, but by securing her against any union or conspiracy of sovereignty, which, as long as it lasts, is in no respect better than the domination of an individual. The object of the new system is to crush the weak by the combination of the strong,—to subject Europe, in the first place, to an oligarchy of sovereigns, and ultimately to swallow it up in the gulf of universal monarchy, in which civilization has always perished, with freedom of thought, with controlled power, with national character and spirit, with patriotism and emulation,—in a word, with all its characteristic attributes, and with all its guardian principles.
I am content, Sir, that these observations should be thought wholly unreasonable by those new masters of civil wisdom, who tell us that the whole policy of Europe consists in strengthening the right flank of Prussia, and the left flank of Austria,—who see in that wise and venerable system, long the boast and the safeguard of Europe, only the millions of souls to be given to one Power, or the thousands of square miles to be given to another,—who consider the frontier of a river as a better protection for a country than the love of its inhabitants,—and who provide for the safety of their states by wounding the pride and mortifying the patriotic affection of a people, in order to fortify a line of military posts. To such statesmen I will apply the words of the great philosophical orator, who so long vainly laboured to inculcate wisdom in this House:—“All this, I know well enough, will sound wild and chimerical to the profane herd of those vulgar and mechanical politicians who have no place among us; a sort of people who think that nothing exists but what is gross and material; and who, therefore, far from being qualified to be directors of the great movement of empire, are not fit to turn a wheel in the machine. But to men truly initiated and rightly taught, these ruling and master principles, which, in the opinion of such men as I have mentioned, have no substantial existence, are in truth every thing, and all in all.” This great man, in the latter part of his life, and when his opinions were less popular, was often justly celebrated for that spirit of philosophical prophecy which enabled him early to discern in their causes all the misfortunes which the leaders of the French Revolution were to bring on the world by their erroneous principles of reformation,—“quod ille pene solus Romanorum animo vidit, ingenio complexus est, eloquentia illuminavit.” but it has been remembered, that his foresight was not limited to one party or to one source of evil. In one of his immortal writings,* —of which he has somewhat concealed the durable instruction by the temporary title,—he clearly enough points out the first scene of partition and rapine—the indemnifications granted out of the spoils of Germany in 1802:—“I see, indeed, a fund from whence equivalents will be proposed. It opens another Iliad of woes to Europe.”
The policy of a conqueror is to demolish, to erect on new foundations, to bestow new names on authority, and to render every power around him as new as his own. The policy of a restorer is to re-establish, to strengthen, cautiously to improve, and to seem to recognise and confirm even that which necessity compels him to establish anew. But, in our times, the policy of the avowed conqueror has been adopted by the pretended restorers. The most minute particulars of the system of Napoleon are revived in the acts of those who overthrew his power. Even English officers, when they are compelled to carry such orders into execution, become infected by the spirit of the system of which they are doomed to be the ministers. I cannot read without pain and shame the language of Sir John Dalrymple’s Despatch,—language which I lament as inconsistent with the feelings of a British officer, and with the natural prejudices of a Scotch gentleman. I wish that he had not adopted the very technical language of Jacobin conquest,—“the downfall of the aristocracy,” and “the irritation of the priests.” I do not think it very decent to talk with levity of the destruction of a sovereignty exercised for six centuries by one of the most ancient and illustrious bodies of nobility in Europe.
Italy is, perhaps, of all civilized countries, that which affords the most signal example of the debasing power of provincial dependence, and of a foreign yoke. With independence, and with national spirit, they have lost, if not talent, at least the moral and dignified use of talent, which constitutes its only worth. Italy alone seemed to derive some hope of independence from those convulsions which had destroyed that of other nations. The restoration of Europe annihilated the hopes of Italy:—the emancipation of other countries announced her bondage. Stern necessity compelled us to suffer the re-establishment of foreign masters in the greater part of that renowned and humiliated country. But as to Genoa, our hands were unfettered; we were at liberty to be just, or, if you will, to be generous. We had in our hands the destiny of the last of that great body of republics which united the ancien and the modern world,—the children and heirs of Roman civilisation, who spread commerce, and with it refinement, liberty, and humanity over Western Europe, and whose history has lately been rescued from oblivion, and disclosed to our times, by the greatest of living historians.* I hope I shall not be thought fanciful when I say that Genoa, whose greatness was founded on naval power, and which, in the earliest ages, gave the almost solitary example of a commercial gentry,—Genoa, the remnant of Italian liberty, and the only remaining hope of Italian independence, had peculiar claims—to say no more—on the generosity of the British nation. How have these claims been satisfied? She has been sacrificed to a frivolous, a doubtful, perhaps an imaginary, speculation of convenience. The most odious of foreign yokes has been imposed upon her by a free state,—by a people whom she never injured,—after she had been mocked by the re-appearance of her ancient government, and by all the ensigns and badges of her past glory. And after all this, she has been told to be grateful for the interest which the Government of England has taken in her fate. By this confiscation of the only Italian territory which was at the disposal of justice, the doors of hope have been barred on Italy for ever. No English general can ever again deceive Italians.
Will the House decide that all this is right?—That is the question which you have now to decide. To vote with me, it is not necessary to adopt my opinions in their full extent. All who think that the national faith has been brought into question,—all who think that there has been an unprecedented extension, or an ungenerous exercise of the rights of conquest,—are, I humbly conceive, bound to express their disapprobation by their votes. We are on the eve of a new war,—perhaps only the first of a long series,—in which there must be conquests and cessions, and there may be hard and doubtful exertions of rights in their best state sufficiently odious:—I call upon the House to interpose their council for the future in the form of an opinion regarding the past. I hope that I do not yield to any illusive feelings of national vanity, when I say that this House is qualified to speak the sentiments of mankind, and to convey them with authority to cabinets and thrones. Single among representative assemblies, this House is now in the seventh century of its recorded existence. It appeared with the first dawn of legal government. It exercised its highest powers under the most glorious princes. It survived the change of a religion, and the extinction of a nobility,—the fall of Royal Houses, and an age of civil war. Depressed for a moment by the tyrannical power which is the usual growth of civil confusions, it revived with the first glimpse of tranquillity,—gathered strength from the intrepidity of religious reformation,—grew with the knowledge, and flourished with the progressive wealth of the people. After having experienced the excesses of the spirit of liberty during the Civil War, and of the spirit of loyalty at the Restoration, it was at length finally established at the glorious era of the Revolution; and although since that immortal event it has experienced little change in its formal constitution, and perhaps no accession of legal power, it has gradually cast its roots deep and wide, blending itself with every branch of the government, and every institution of society, and has, at length, become the grandest example ever seen among men of a solid and durable representation of the people of a mighty empire.
[* ] On the general reverses that befell the arms of France in the spring of 1814, and the consequent withdrawal of her troops from Italy, Lord William Bentinck was instructed to occupy the territories of the republic of Genoa, “without committing his Court or the Allies with respect to their ultimate disposition.” Of the proclamation which he issued upon the occasion of carrying these orders into effect, dated March 14th, Lord Castlereagh had himself observed, that “an expression or two, taken separately, might create an impression that his views of Italian liberation went to the form of the government, as well as to the expulsion of the French.” On the success of the military movement, the General reported that he had, “in consequence of the unanimous desire of the Genoese to return to their ancient state,” proclaimed the old form of government. That this desire was unjustly thwarted, and that these expectations, fairly raised by Lord William Bentinck’s proclamation, had been wrongfully disappointed by the final territorial settlement of the Allies at Paris, it was the scope of this speech to prove. For the papers referred to, see Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates, vol. xxx. p. 387; and for the Resolutions moved, ibid., p. 932.—Ed.
[† ] Mr. Lambton (afterwards Earl of Durham) had on the 22d of February made a motion for papers connected with the case of Genoa, on which occasion Sir James Mackintosh had supported him.—Ed.
[* ] Viscount Castlereagh.—Ed.
[† ] Mr. Whitbread.—Ed.
[‡ ] By Earl Bathurst, in the House of Lords.—Ed.
[* ] Napoleon’s return from Elba.—Ed.
[* ] Burke, A Representation to His Majesty, &c.—Ed.
[* ] Commons’ Addresses, 15th of March, 1627; 29th of March, 1677; 25th of May, 1677; 30th of December, 1680.
[† ] 24th of April, 1689, (advising a declaration of war)
[‡ ] 21st of March, 1701.
[§ ] 27th of November. 1705; 22d of December, 1707. 3d of March, 1709; 18th of February, 1710.
[* ] This is certainly true respecting Pomerania and Alsace: whether the Ecclesiastical principalities were treated with so much ceremony may be more doubtful, and it would require more research to ascertain it than can now be applied to the object.
[† ] “All the Powers engaged on either side in the present war, shall, within the space of two months, send plenipotentiaries to Vienna for the purpose of regulating in general congress the arrangements which are to complete the provisions of the present treaty.”
[* ] Mr. Horner.—Ed.
[* ] Æneid. lib. viii.—Ed.
[* ] “When a nation, a people, a state, has been entirely subjugated, whether a revolution can give it the right of Postliminium? To which we answer, that if the conquered state has not assented to the new subjection, if it did not yield voluntarily, if it only ceased to resist from inability, if the conqueror has not yet sheathed the sword to wield the sceptre of a pacific sovereign,—such a state is only conquered and oppressed, and when the arms of an ally deliver it, returns without doubt to its first state. Its ally cannot become its conqueror; he is a deliverer, who can have a right only to compensation for his services.” . . . . “If the last conqueror, not being an ally of the state, claims a right to retain it under his authority as the prize of victory, he puts himself in the place of the conqueror, and becomes the enemy of the oppressed state. That state may legitimately resist him, and avail herself of a favourable occasion to recover her liberty. A state unjustly oppressed ought to be re-established in her rights by the conqueror who delivers her from the oppressor.” Whoever carefully considers the above passage will observe, that it is intended to be applicable to two very distinct cases;—that of deliverance by an ally, where the duty of restoration is strict and precise,—and that of deliverance by a state unallied, but not hostile, where in the opinion of the writer the re-establishment of the oppressed nation is at least the moral duty of the conqueror, though arising only from our common humanity, and from the amicable relation which subsists between all men and all communities, till dissolved by wrongful oppression. It is to the latter case that the strong language in the second part of the above quotation is applied. It seems very difficult, and it has not hitherto been attempted, to resist the application to the case of Genoa.
[* ] On Mr. Charles Wynn’s motion (May 12th, 1814,) condemnatory of its forced annexation to Sweden.—Ed.
[* ] Pharsalia, lib. ix.—Ed.
[* ] Second Letter on a Regicide Peace.—Ed.
[* ] Sismondi.