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was carried, and embodied in the Address. These appeals were not made in vain, for, on the 8th February, 1815, at the congress of Vienna, a declaration was adopted by all the contracting parties in accordance, and in furtherance of the separate Article of the Treaty of Paris, and declaring themselves to be “ in favour of the universal abolition of the slave trade with the most prompt and effectual execution of this measure possible.” Mr. Wilberforce, in the House of Commons on the 20th March, 1815, expressed himself satisfied with these proceedings; and the Definitive Treaty of Paris, in a separate Article, again confirmed the engagement, and announced that the contracting parties had already, “ each in their respective dominions, prohibited, without restriction, their colonies and subjects from taking any part whatever in this traffic."
Nor did Parliament confine its interference and advice on the pending negociations to a question of abstract humanity, which, at that time, agitated all well-conditioned minds. On the 13th February, 1815, Mr. Whitbread made a long speech condemning the reported proceedings of the congress, in violation of the territorial rights and independence of states, more particularly the rumoured surrender of Saxony to Prussia, and of Genoa to Sardinia, which, he maintained, were acts inconsistent with the spirit of the Treaty of Paris, and the very principles upon which the war had been undertaken, namely, the repression of the practice of territorial annexation which had been pursued by
Napoleon. He observed that “since the surrender of Saxony Ministers had not contradicted the fact of Lord Castlereagh having been a party to that transaction,” and that “ he had reason to believe that it was in consequence of the public feeling manifested in this country that ministers had sent over instructions to Lord Castlereagh to present to Congress a note protesting against the act to which he himself had been a party.” The members of the Government, in spite of repeated challenges and taunts, remained obdurately silent under these charges. How far they may have been well founded would take too long to discuss here. Certain it is that, according to De Koch, on February 3rd, only a few days before Mr. Whitbread made the speech referred to, the representatives of England, France, and Austria at Vienna, signed a secret Treaty to resist, by force of arms, if necessary, the wholesale annexations threatened by Prussia, in Saxony, and by Russia, in Poland; a policy which was partly successful,-Saxony being allowed to retain about two-thirds of her territories, and Russia abandoning certain districts of Poland.
Again, on the 20th March, Mr. Whitbread moved an address to the Prince Regent “that he would be graciously pleased to direct a communication to be made to this House of the progress made at the Congress now sitting at Vienna, towards the final adjustment and permanent pacification of Europe, of such transfers and annexations of territories as may have already taken place, together with other information touching matters still under considera
tion, as may be given without prejudice to the public service.” Lord Castlereagh did not oppose this motion, but, after a long speech in explanation and defence of his policy, actually seconded it, and, of course, it was agreed to.
Meantime however, the escape of Napoleon from Elba, occured, to interrupt the peace arrangements of the Congress; and on the 25th March the plenipotentiaries of Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia at Vienna signed a treaty of alliance for the expulsion of the invader. This treaty was not officially presented to Parliament until the 22nd May ; but on the 21st April Mr. Wilberforce in the House of Commons called attention to what purported to be a copy of the Treaty which had been printed in the Times' newspaper, and which Lord Castlereagh admitted to contain the substance of the Treaty, though with some material inaccuracies. “The Treaty, however,” his lordship added “is not yet ratified by all the allied powers, and is therefore not in a state to be submitted to the House.” On the 24th April Mr. Wilberforce returned to the subject, and moved an address for “the substance of any treaty or engagement, etc., signed on the 25th March at Vienna ;”-and, Lord Castlereagh consenting, the motion was agreed to.
The “substance” of the Treaty was afterwards, in accordance with this vote, handed in, with, appended to it, a memorandum dated Foreign Office, 25th April, to the effect that “the Treaty of which the substance is given above has been ordered to be ratified, under an explanatory declaration to
Article 8,” (which invited the king of France to accede to it), to the effect that “it was not to be understood as binding His Britannic Majesty to prosecute the war with a view of imposing upon France any particular government.” This declaration was obviously the result of, and in deference to, the strongly expressed opinions of the House and of the public, adverse to the war about to be undertaken. But it did not satisfy the opposition, and on the 28th April Mr. Wilberforce again took up the question. He moved an address to the Prince Regent, "intreating him to take such measures as may be necessary to prevent this country being involved in war on the ground of the executive power in France being vested in any particular person." In the course of a powerful address he animadverted particularly upon the gross delusion which had been practised on the public by ministers in taking no notice of this Treaty, of which they had received an account on the 5th April, in the Regent's message, which was brought down to the evening of the 6th, and the consideration of which in Parliament took place on the 7th, by which suppression they held forth the possibility of an alternative between peace and war, whilst in fact they had already engaged themselves in the latter." This motion was lost by 273 against 72 votes.
It would be a curious, but extremely grave matter, to consider what might have been the consequences if it had been carried in the affirmative. The natural and only logical course would have been to have
followed up the motion by a refusal of supplies to carry on the war; a war, be it observed, already entered upon. But any party in the House might well have hesitated to adopt the responsibility attendant upon so grave a step; and, as we affirm, the executive ought to have paused before putting them to the anxious and perilous alternative of doing so. At any rate, so gross an anomaly as that of the existence of two co-ordinate authorities, capable at any time of coming into direct antagonism, ought not to be suffered to continue.
TREATIES INVOLVING PAYMENT OF MONEY NOT
OPERATIVE WITHOUT PARLIAMENT. The grand European settlements of 1815 fell to the ground, as we all know, just as every pretence at interference with the order of succession, and internal government of independent states made before and since that period, have likewise failed. Indeed, these treaty arrangements for European settlements have become only a subject of ridicule, and we might therefore be disposed to leave them to the amateur diplomacy of the Sovereign head of the State, and his responsible “Cabinet," without any interference on the part of Parliament, except from the consideration that it is not creditable to a nation to have things done in its name which come to nothing, and the moral responsibility of which survives the men who had performed them.
But it is not only in the matters of peace, war, and alliances, that the will of the nation expressed through its representatives should have force before