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For the Year 1815.
Parliamentary Transactions.-Debate relative to delivering up Spaniards from Gibraltar.-Debate on keeping Militia embodied.-Transfer of Genoa to the King of Sardinia.-Proceedings on the Corn Laws.-Trial by Jury in civil causes in Scotland.--Motion for a Committee of Inquiry respecting the Bank of England.—Continuation of the Bank Restriction Act.-Arrest of lord Cochrane in the House of Commons.
N Feb. 9th the two houses of parliament met again after their adjournment.
One of the first topics of discussion by which the public feelings were interested, related to the delivering up, by the lieutenant governor of Gibraltar, of some Spaniards from Cadiz, who had taken refuge in that fortress from the persecution of the Spanish government. This circumstance was much animadverted upon both in writing and conversation during the last year, and was the subject of a motion in parliament; but the expectation VOL. LVII.
of seeing it brought to a future discussion was the cause that no notice was then taken of it in this work. The following is a brief statement of the case. Don Antonio Puigblanc, Hebrew professor in the university of Alcala, having written against the Inquisition, determined, after the resumption of the crown by Ferdinand VII. to seek a refuge in Gibraltar. For this purpose he procured a passport on May 14, 1814, from the governor of Cadiz, which was countersigned by sir James Duff, the British consul, and by virtue of it, he, with a [B]
friend, sailed for Gibraltar, where
The introduction of this matter into parliament began on Nov. 22, 1814, by a motion from Mr. Whitbread for an address to the Prince Regent, that directions might be given for laying before the house copies of all communications by the British consul
at Cadiz to the commandant at Gibraltar in May last, relative to certain Spaniards supposed to have taken refuge in that garrison, with an account of the consequent proceedings; which was carried..
On February 13th Mr. Golbourn moved for an address for copies of a correspondence between earl Bathurst and sir James Duff in reference to the same subject. Mr. Whitbread thereupon observed, that the principal charge against sir James Duff related to an order he had given for examining a British convoy at Cadiz with a view of preventing certain Spaniards from making their escape from persecution. It was answered, that the papers moved for would comprehend every thing required on the subject; and the motion was agreed to.
The papers having been produced, Mr. Whitbread, on March 1st, rose to make a motion, pursuant to notice, respecting the conduct of gen. Smith and sir J. Duff.
After an introduction, in which he expressed, with his usual energy, his indignant feelings at any participation of persons acting under the British government in the detestable tyranny now prevalent in Spain, he moved for an address to the Prince Regent, returning thanks for the communication of the requested papers; declaring the house's entire disapprobation of the transactions disclosed by those papers, as injurious to the honour of the nation, and cruel to the unhappy objects of them: requesting his Royal Highness to cause to be expressed in the strongest terms to sir James Duff and major-general
Smith, his displeasure at their conduct; and imploring his Royal Highness to cause the most efficacious steps to be taken to obtain the liberation of the persons who may still be confined in consequence of the violation or refusal of the asylum which they had sought in the British territory.
In the debate which ensued, it was generally admitted by the opposers of the motion, that the conduct of gen. Smith had been indefensible, but that he had been misled by imperfect acquaintance with the practice on similar occasions. Sir James Duff was more directly defended; and it was held that he had done nothing improper in giving information to the governor concerning the persons who had taken refuge in Gibraltar, leaving it to himself to determine what course to pursue. Others who did not undertake to justify the proceedings of either the consul or the general, thought that the reprimand in lord Bathurst's letter was a sufficient punishment. Very different opinions were maintained by the speakers on the other side, some of whom indulged themselves in strong expressions of contempt and abhorence of the character and government of the king of Spain, which incurred reprehension as indecent and impolitic. On a division, the motion was negatived by 69 against 51.
The constitutional question concerning the keeping of the militia embodied in time of peace, which had been decided in favour of the ministers in the autumnal session, was revived in both houses by motions introduced by the same members in each, Earl Fitzwilliam
and Sir Samuel Romilly, on Feb. 15, and 28. The arguments employed were repeated from those in the former debate, with the additional advantage on the side of the motions, that the treaty with the American States had since been signed, so that no enemy to the country was now remaining. This, however, was repelled by the observation that the ratification of the treaty in America was not yet known, and that hostilities were still carrying on in that quarter. No danger of invasion from thence could, indeed, be possibly apprehended; and the real cause for the retention of a part of the militia was the present unsettled state of the continent of Europe, where a large portion of the English regular army was still detained. The motions in each house were negatived by great majorities.
The circumstance of the transfer of the republic of Genoa to the dominion of the King of Sardinia, contrary to the expectations raised in the Genoese of the restoration of their independence, in a proclamation by Lord W. Bentinck, had been lamented by the English ministers as an unfortunate necessity, and was likely to be regarded with feelings of equal regret by all who were acutely sensible to every thing affecting the honour of their country, as well as the cause of general justice. The subject was first mentioned in parliament on February 13 by Mr. Whitbread, on a motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for postponing the committee of supply, when the former gentleman, after some remarks on the participation of the British minister at
the congress of Vienna, in certain acts which he termed disgraceful, entered into a full statement of all that had publicly appeared relative to the Genoese transaction. At that time, however, nothing passed beyond a common conversation. On the 15th of that month, the Marquis of Buckingham rose in the House of Lords, and put the questions to Lord Liverpool, whether the proclamation of Lord William Bentinck had been authorized by his Majesty's ministers? and whether the proclamation by which the Genoese had been turned over to the King of Sardinia had been authorized by them? Lord Liverpool declining any specific answer to these questions, the Marquis gave notice of a future motion for the production of the proclamations of Lord William Bentinck and General Dalrymple. This motion was made by the Marquis on the 24th, introduced by a speech, in which he stigmatized the transaction relative to Genoa as a violation both of policy and good faith, and as sacrificing the character and honour of the country, by maintaining those very principles of spoliation against which we had carried on a twenty years war.Lord Liverpool opposed the production of the papers called for, on the ground of the impropriety, under the present circumstances, of taking into consideration single or separate topics, which could not be fairly discussed without entering into the detail of many others, which at present it would be perfectly inconsistent to do. He pledged himself, however, when the proper time should arrive, to prove,
that not only with respect to the measure of Genoa, but every other connected with it, there had not been the smallest breach of faith on the part of the British government, nor any expectations held out that were not eventually realized. His lordship then moved the previous question on the marquis's motion.
After some other lords on each side had spoken to the subject, the previous question was carried by 37 against 13.
A similar motion made in the House of Commons by Mr. Lambton, and supported by Sir James Mackintosh and other speakers in opposition, was in like manner defeated by the previous question, moved by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which, on a division, was carried by 115 votes against 66.
In the narrative of the last year notice was taken of the parliamentary proceedings relative to that important subject, the corn laws, which terminated in the passing of a bill for the free exportation of grain; whilst one for regulating its importation was voted to be deferred for six months, by a majority of ten only in the House of Commons, obviously in consequence of the strong and numerous petitions against it presented from all parts of the kingdom.This temporary check by no means altered the resolution of the friends of the bill, who comprized the great body of the landed interest in parliament, to use their utmost endeavours for carrying such a measure on a future occasion, and the committees in both houses on the corn laws had employed the interval in collecting and consi