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Chapter XXXVII, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 8 page 3


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The Earl of Clarendon, who was the Secretary of State in attendance on Her Majesty, addressed an official letter to Sir George Grey, which contains the following testimony of Her Majesty's pleasure: - "The Queen is profoundly sensible of the kindness with which she has been received by the Emperor and Empress, and of those manifestations of respect and cordiality on the part of the French nation by which she has everywhere been greeted. On personal and political grounds, the visit to Paris has afforded the highest gratification to Her Majesty."

In July, 1856, the question of intervention or non-intervention was fully discussed in Parliament, in connection with the affairs of Italy. Read in the light of subsequent events and of later occurrences, and, with a view to pending eventualities, the debate is full of interest. The subject was introduced by Lord Lyndhurst, who, in the course of an eloquent and argumentative speech, expressed the warmest sympathy with Italy, while exposing and denouncing the horrible oppression under which she groaned. He declared, that of all military tyrannies that of Austria was the most galling and odious, as shown not only in Italy, but in her Danubian provinces. In Italy she had, in violation of the Treaty of Vienna, not only usurped the government of the Legations, but had taken possession of the Duchy of Parma, and kept the whole country in a state of siege, subjecting the population to martial law. Her excuse was, that when she could remove her garrisons without danger of insurrection, she would do so. Lord Lyndhurst showed, with admirable clearness, the effect of this plea. A bad government produced dissatisfaction, disturbance, possibly insurrection. That ended in invasion by the military force of a neighbouring power, which necessarily increased the dissatisfaction and the tendency to revolt; so that, according to the Austrian argument, the occupation of the disaffected districts by a foreign military force could have no termination. "In adverting to the state and prospects of Italy," continued the noble and learned lord, " it was impossible to avoid speaking of the proceedings of the Neapolitan Government; nothing could exceed its infamous conduct. The same infamous system of tyranny and oppression - founded on no law, not even the law of arbitrary government - described by Mr. Gladstone some years since, was at this very moment pursued with greater secrecy, and, in the present political trials, carried on now, as then, in disregard of every principle of justice, and in violation of every feeling of right." Lord Lyndhurst contended that there were cases in which it was the bounden duty of foreign governments to interfere in the internal affairs of another state, and if there ever were such a case, it was Naples. The king of that country denied the right of England to interfere, and had positively refused to give any explanation or reply to the remonstrances addressed to him. Yet England declined to use her power. From this Lord Lyndhurst could draw but one conclusion, which was - that there was a feeling at Naples that there was some backwardness and lukewarmness on the part of France to cooperate with us in the objects we had in view. " This, then," he said, "is the state to which we are reduced. We threaten a foreign government, declaring that its conduct is infamous and atrocious, and that we require it to be changed; they refuse to listen to our remonstrances, and we sit quietly down and take no further steps. What, then, has become of the power and prestige of England?" In contrast to Naples he offered Sardinia as an example of constitutional government. Under the greatest difficulties, that country had maintained a free constitution, upon which the least accident might bring destruction, surrounded, as she was, by multitudinous armies; hated and jealously watched by Austria. He concluded with a vivid picture of the Austrian system. "With Austria," he said, " there is only one rule of government, and that is force, coercion, and direct military repression. It is a principle with Austria that the people exists for the government, and not that the government exists for the people. There is not one liberal idea in her whole system. For such a system to exist in another country, supported by foreign bayonets, must be horrifying; and with what feeling that system is regarded by Italians, we have most abundant evidence to establish."

Lord Clarendon, then Foreign Secretary, stated that urgent remonstrances had been addressed to the King of Naples, in the most friendly spirit, pointing out to him the danger of the existing state of things to the stability of his throne, and suggesting the establishment of a better administration of justice, a general amnesty for political offences, and a system of government that would secure the confidence of the people. But he did not believe that until the joint pressure of England and France could be brought to bear in all its force, the desired amelioration of the condition of the Italian people would be obtained; and he declared that that was a matter which the Government had as much at heart as the Parliament or the people of this country. The Marquis of Clanricarde remarked that it was clear from the statement of Lord Clarendon that the King of Naples had taken a stand upon his own absolute independence, and had treated with contumely the attempt of Her Majesty's Government to meddle with the affairs of his territory. The Marquis of Lansdowne expressed a hope that the existing system of foreign interference in Italy would be. ultimately got rid of; and he trusted that, if ever our armed interference should become necessary, the war would be vigorously conducted, so that it might be speedily brought to a satisfactory result.

In the House of Commons also, at the same time, the Italian question was debated. Lord John Russell moved that an address be presented to Her Majesty for copies or extracts of any recent communications which had taken place between the Government and the Governments of Austria, Rome, and the Two Sicilies, relating to the affairs of Italy. He called attention to the nature of the declarations made at the Paris Conference, reading the statements made by Count Walewski, Lord Clarendon, Count Buol, and Count Cavour; and then referred to the Austrian occupation. That occupation was the result of bad government. It had existed seven years, and the government was worse. What prospect was there that it would ever be better? Austria was taking fresh precautions to perpetuate the oppression. Without advocating interference with the internal affairs of foreign states, he maintained that, at whatever risk, we were bound to support the King of Sardinia. We should nourish the growing spirit of Italian independence. "I remember," said Lord John Russell, "very long ago, having had an interview in the Isle of Elba with the first Napoleon. The Emperor talked much of the States of Italy, and agreed in the observation which I had made that there was no union among them, and no likelihood of any effectual resistance by them to their oppressors; but when I asked him why Austria was so unpopular in Italy, he replied that it was because she governed not with the sword [that was probably not a reflection which that great man would make], but that she had no other means of governing except by the stick. I believe, sir, that that is the secret of the whole disfavour with which Austria is viewed in Italy."

Lord Palmerston observed that at the Paris conferences the representative of Austria held out no expectation that her consent would be obtained to the cessation of foreign occupation in Italy. Her Majesty's Government felt that that cessation was an object of European interest. If disturbances broke out in Naples, the King would apply to Austria for assistance, and complications would thence arise that would endanger the peace of Europe. But with regard to Naples, as well as to Rome, he did not despair. The Bang of Sardinia, having associated himself with England and France in the war which had just closed, had a right to support and protection against an unprovoked attack. England and France were bound by the ties of honour to assist him to the utmost. Mr. Disraeli could not understand why the question of Italy was introduced into conferences and protocols, if all that was intended to be done was no more than diplomatic action. Nothing could be more irrational, he said, than to address violent representations to Austria, with a view of terminating the occupation of the Roman States, unless France was also prepared to quit them. Their "admonitions," without fleets or armies, to the ruling powers would set Italy in flames. It was said that the case of Naples was exceptional, but why was it exceptional more than the case of Austria or Russia, except that those were strong powers and Naples was a weak one? But it was not only a contest between worn-out dynasties and an intelligent class that was going on in Italy; there were the secret societies which did not care for constitutional government. "It is useless to deny," said Mr. Disraeli, "because it is impossible to conceal, that a great part of Europe - the whole of Italy and France, and a great part of Germany, to say nothing of other countries - are covered with a net-work of those secret societies, just as the superficies of the earth is now being covered with railroads: and what are their objects? They do not attempt to conceal them. They do not want constitutional government; they do not want ameliorated institutions; they do not want provincial councils, nor the recording of votes. They want to change the tenure of land, to drive out the present owners of land, and to put an end to ecclesiastical establishments. Some of them may go further. Do you think that, with their complete organisation - when Austria cannot interfere to occupy the kingdom of Naples, when the king is lectured on his throne by the Western Powers, and when, as the noble lord says, the feelings of the people are aroused - the societies will be quiet? We know what they did before. Their energy and their organisation carried everything before them. I am told that a British Minister has boasted - and a very unwise boast it was- - that by holding out his hand he could raise a revolution in Italy to-morrow. I believe it is not impossible, with the means at his disposal, that he might. What would happen? You would have a republic formed on extreme principles; and there may be many intelligent and well-meaning persons - I do not say in this house - who would say, ' And what then? Nothing can be worse than the present state of Italy: let us try a Red Republic, or even a republic of a still more fiery colour.' But the question of Italian politics is not of that simple character. Rome is not far distant from Naples. The passage from Naples to the States of the Church is not difficult. You may have triumvirs again established in Rome; the Pope may again be forced to flee. My honourable friend behind me (Mr. Spooner) may say, ' So much the better; ' and not a cardinal may be left in Rome. What will be the consequences of that? The two great Catholic Powers of Europe - France, whose Emperor boasts in these protocols of being the eldest son of the Church; that ally with whose beneficent co-operation Italy is to be emancipated, and Austria - will pour their legions over the whole peninsula. You will have to withdraw the British fleet; your admonitions will be thrown into the mud, as they deserve; and your efforts to free Italy from the occupation of foreign troops will terminate by rendering the thraldom a thousand times more severe, and by aggravating the miseries of the unfortunate people, whose passions you have fired, and whose feelings you have this night commenced to rouse. If they were not prepared," he said, in conclusion, "to interfere in Italy with fleets and armies, let them abstain from stirring up the passions of the people - a policy that would only aggravate the thraldom of Italy, and might lead to consequences still more fraught with disaster to Europe."

Mr. Bowyer thought that nothing could tend more to retard and thwart the progress of internal improvement in the Papal States, a country wholly unsuited to Whig principles. The noble lord would convulse the whole peninsula with revolution. The objects aimed at by Count Cavour were monstrous and ridiculous. It was, however, most gratifying to him to see the leader of the Government and the leader of the Opposition concur in taking a statesman-like, a steady, and reasonable view of Italian affairs. Mr. Whiteside denounced the policy of Lord Palmerston as a shuffling, miserable policy, which all must condemn, and which would exasperate the feelings of the people of Italy. Lord John Russell, in reply to Mr. Disraeli, said, "that as to secret societies, a despotic government, supported by foreign troops, was not likely to put them down. Those things acted upon one another. There were secret societies, therefore there was foreign occupation. There was foreign occupation, therefore there were secret societies. The people resorted to secret societies because there was no other mode of stating their grievances." The motion was negatived without a division.

In consequence of the discussions which took place during the Paris conferences, with regard to the state of Italy, England and France dispatched earnest remonstrances to the King of Naples, in order to induce the Government to mitigate the system of oppression under which his subjects groaned, and to adopt a course of policy calculated to avert the dangers which might disturb the peace that had been recently restored to Europe. These friendly remonstrances were scornfully rejected by the infatuated monarch, in terms which left no alternative with the Western Powers but to withdraw their missions from that court. The fact was announced in the Queen's speech at the opening of the session in 1857, and led, of course, to Conservative attacks upon the Administration, for their interference with the domestic concerns of another country.

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Royal progression in Paris
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