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Hansard 1859 - Gladstone, Disraeli, Palmerston et al talk diplomacy, war and the future of Italy

Having found a promising debate on Italy, I have since been a bit overwhelmed by the nigh on 54,000 words I have been wading through, but having made a start in finding gems, am reluctant not to post something. This is going to be long and wordy, despite having already excisedmuch of working draft.

As a bit of background, the Kingdom of Sardinia manipulated the Austrians into declaring war on them, whereupon France joined in, ending in defeat for Austria. Austria ceded Lombardy - but not its other Italian province, Venetia - to Sardinia via France. At the time of this debate, France and Austria had signed a ceasefire, but there was the prospect of a grand European congress, Vienna-style, to sort out Italy once and for all. And, if so, whether we should be 'neutral'. As such, it holds up something of a mirror to our own times. Especially on issues of regime change....

The text of the motion:

Motion made, and Question proposed— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, stating that in the opinion of this House it would be consistent neither with the honour nor the dignity of this Country, which throughout the late negotiations on the Affairs of Italy has preserved a strict and impartial Neutrality between the contending Powers, and used its earnest endeavours to prevent the outbreak of hostilities, to take part in any Conference for the purpose of settling the details of a Peace the preliminaries of which have been arranged between the Emperor of the French and the Emperor of Austria.

Italy in 1859 looked like this:

Blue is the Kingdom of Sardinia, pink the Austrian dominions, orange the Papal states and green the Kingdom of Naples.

Anyway, onwards:

Lord Elcho (Lib):

"...There was no Englishman who did not sympathize with Italy in her past sufferings and sorrows and her hopes for the future. Viscount Palmerston..apparently looked upon Austria as the cause of every evil and of every insurrection which occurred in every part of the world.

The principle of armed intervention in favour of suffering nationalities was, in short, one against which we ought to protest, inasmuch as if any one nation were to arrogate to herself the position of acting upon the doctrine that might was right, there would be an end to the public law of Europe, and we should be returning to the old days of the German faustrecht.

He believed that the true policy of this country was the policy of non-intervention...only to intervene in the affairs of other nations when the interests or treaties which bound this country compelled. That was the policy which was advocated by the late Sir Robert Peel with his latest breath...Sir Robert Peel said:— Which is the wisest policy—to attempt to interfere with the institutions and measures of other countries not bordering upon our own, out of an abstract love for constitutional government—or to hold that doctrine maintained by Mr. Fox, Mr. Pitt, Lord Grenville, Mr. Canning, and Lord Castlereagh, that the true policy of this country is non-intervention in the affairs of others?"...Mr. Cobden said:— I say if you want to benefit nations struggling for their freedom, establish as one of the maxims of international law the principle of non-intervention."


He would go further, and would say that he believed, perhaps, the best thing that could happen for the security of the world and the good of this country was that a united kingdom of Italy should be created, consisting of 25,000,000 people. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] A right hon. Friend of his cheered that sentiment, but did any man believe that such a thing was possible? Was there anything in the circumstances of Italy that rendered it probable? It was a fairy vision and an agreeable dream, of the realization of which he saw no prospect.

what is for the good of England? He believed it was for the advantage of this country that we should abstain as far as possible from any intervention in the affairs of foreign nations.

Mr Kinglake (Lib): "...It might as well be said that a policeman who witnessed an outrage should be required to observe a strict impartiality between the person committing the outrage and the person who was its object"
English statesmen, as far as he had observed, had not distinguished themselves in the Congresses of Europe. Those Congresses seemed to have been fatal to the reputations of our public men....He did not look back with pride or satisfaction to the Congress of Paris in 1856.
The Emperor Napoleon was not a mere titular sovereign; he was a great commander of men. If they lived 100 years hence instead of to-day, they would be looking back upon the history of 1859 with the deepest interest. They cannot but think and talk of the Emperor of the French.

Gladstone: "England has an immense interest in the maintenance of the European equilibrium, and that which disorganizes any one of the great countries of Europe is necessarily menacing to the general peace and to the interests of England. It is our duty and interest to desire to see Austria strong, flourishing, and happy.....for forty-five long years, wherever liberty reared its head in Italy, wherever there was the slightest or most moderate attempt to procure even the hundredth part of those franchises which as Englishmen we hold so dear, there the iron hand of Austria has interposed, and has re-established in all their rigour the abuses of the actually existing Governments...

Is it possible the noble Lord can think that at this moment England is prepared to record its unconditional determination not to meddle with the affairs of Italy in this crisis of her fortunes? For that, after all, is the meaning of this Motion. In this country we are much disposed to look at precedents, and to walk in the way of those who have gone before us, and to have good reasons shown before we depart from it. Has this country been accustomed in former times to make the affairs of Italy foreign to its intervention and sympathy? Is not all our history full of proofs to the contrary? Hardly a serious question has ever been raised in Italy in which England has not interfered;
I am, nevertheless, extremely sorry to learn that the English nation, which has been so lavishly endowed and gifted in other respects by Providence, cannot furnish a man capable of holding his own at a Congress or a Conference with the representatives of the other Powers of Europe...

my hon. and learned Friend assures us that the whole mass of the people under the rule of the Pope, with the exception of a few uneasy country agitators, are deeply devoted to his paternal authority, and when one bears in mind at the same time that...henever the foreign force which is maintained there disappears from the Estates of the Church, the throne of the Pope disappears along with it...

I, however, lament, as cordially as I could lament if I had the nearest interest in all that concern him, when I see a Sovereign who makes pretensions to represent in a peculiar sense the majesty of Heaven reduced to become a mendicant at foreign Courts—a mendicant, too, not for the purpose merely of obtaining the means of subsistence, but with the object of procuring military armaments whereby to carry the ravages of fire and sword over the fair provinces which he governs, and to rivet on the necks of men a yoke that is detested by every one except those who have a direct personal interest in its continuance.

Given the complte lack of interest in this one, I do not suppose I will bother adding in Dizzy and Pam unless there is a tsunami of begging in the next few hours.

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Blogger James Higham said... 4:11 pm

Mr. C - I followed the map but why the dramatic theme at top volume? :)  

Blogger Croydonian said... 4:16 pm

James - That was the Samsung video further down, which has taken it upon itself to auto play. An edit may be called for.  

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