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of attaining his object, and on the question of the securities to be required of the Catholics he was quite willing to be guided by circumstances. If he could have had his own way, he would have granted enfranchisement in the most complete and liberal form. He is not to be blamed for readiness to adopt such conditions or modifications as would be most likely to ensure success. Castlereagh, though quite as strongly convinced of the need for emancipation as Canning, made no scruple about joining a Cabinet pledged not to introduce it, and it was carried after they were both dead by two statesmen, Wellington and Peel, who had hitherto opposed it as strongly as Castlereagh and Canning had supported it.
On the Recognition of the South American Republics
House of Commons, June 15th, 1824 UNQUESTIONABLY, Sir, I am very far from having anything to complain of, either with respect to the tone or topics with which my honourable and learned friend has introduced his speech; and if the observations which I shall feel it my duty to make upon that speech, or the petition on which it is founded, shall bear but a small proportion to his address, I hope he will do me the justice to believe, that it is not in consequence of any offence at what he has said, or any disrespect for his opinions. But my honourable and learned friend must be fully aware, that though there are in what he believed might be called the late Spanish colonies great questions involved, anything which may fall from me, on the part of his Majesty's Government, would be likely to produce effects, which neither he nor I could wish to witness. I, therefore, must rather restrain every disposition which I feel to follow my honourable and learned friend through the various topics upon which he has touched, and confine myself, as much as possible, to a simple statement of facts, with no other qualification than a full and clear understanding of them.
My honourable and learned friend has gone over the papers, formally laid on the table, and given a just analysis of the course hitherto pursued by his Majesty's Government, with respect to the South American colonies. He has justly stated
that the first question, in point of order, for that consideration, was the question between the parent state and her colonies ; and that the course laid down by ministers, was one of strict neutrality. In doing this, it was also right to observe, that allowing the colonists to assume an equal belligerent rank with the parent country we did, pro tanto, raise them in the scale of nations.
My honourable and learned friend has justly said, and it was also stated by the petitioners, that, in the year 1822, the extent of the commerce then existing between this country and the colonies of Spain, led to another de facto recognition of their separate political existence : we recognized their commercial flag; which was admitted to the same advantages as the flags of independent states in amity with England. He has also most correctly remarked, that the next step was taken before the breaking out of the war between France and Spain ; an intimation was at that period given to Spain, privately in the first instance, and afterwards publicly to the whole world, that to the British Government it appeared, that time and events had very substantially decided the question of separation ; but that the fact of recognition must be determined by various circumstances, and, among others, by the internal state of each of the colonies so claiming recognition.
My honourable and learned friend further stated, with the same accuracy, that after the declaration made to Spainafter the publication of that declaration, which left neither to Spain, nor to any other power, cause of complaint—if Great Britain should think fit to act practically upon it, the circumstances of the last year induced this country to suspend even the consideration of that questionto suspend the mission of commercial agents to South America—and to remain inactive and undecided, until the decision of the contest in which France and Spain were engaged.
Immediately after the decision of that contest, or rather, I should say, at the moment of its decision, and before any consequences could arise, and any step be taken by France, or by other powers of Europe, a warning was given by this country, in the clearest terms, as to the course she would pursue on any proposal for a joint conference or congress on the affairs of Spanish America. My honourable and learned
friend has faithfully recalled to the recollection of the House, the particular expressions of that warning.
The next stage in the course of these transactions, was the proposal, on the part of Spain, that this country should become a member of such a congress, and join in such a conference. That proposal was followed by our refusal. On the mode in which that proposal was made, first as it related to Spain, and next as it referred to the colonies, the House is already so perfectly advised, that it is not necessary for me to dwell upon it. Since that period (and this forms the last stage of these transactions) a public discussion has taken place in this House. The state in which things remained the last time the question was agitated within these walls, was this. It was stated that the King's Government, though reserving to themselves the right of acting as they should think fit, in reference to the interests of Great Britain involved in those colonies, yet thought it not merely politically expedient, but just and generous, to afford Spain the opportunity of precedency, and absolutely to suspend any decision, until they knew in what way she would avail herself of that opportunity.
What I have now to state is, that that condition is at an end, and that, with respect to any further steps to be taken by this country towards the Spanish American colonies, she must act for herself. What has passed upon this point between the two cabinets, it is not necessary for me to particularize ; but the result is, that the British Government is left to act upon its own decision, without any further reference to Spain. Such is the result I have to state, and the only communication I have to make to the House ends. I trust honourable gentlemen will see, that in stating what is a fact, I avoid, rather than incur, the danger to which I referred, and which might arise from the agitation of this question. I apprehend that I should run the risk of that peril, if I were to state any ulterior, conjectural, or even hypothetical case; I shall, therefore, carefully shun it. Here I should conclude what I have to address to the House, were I not glad of the opportunity afforded me by the speech of my honourable and learned friend, and which opportunity I undoubtedly thanked him for, of putting on its true ground, and in its just light, the expression of recognition which has been so much mistaken.
It is perfectly true, as has been mentioned, that the term "recognition
has been much abused; and, unfortunately, that abuse has perhaps been supported by some authority; it has clearly two senses, in which it is to be differently understood. If the colonies say to the mother country, “We assert our independence,” and the mother country answers, “ I admit it,” that is recognition in one sense.
If the colonies say to another state, “We are independent," and that other state replies," I allow that you are so," that is recognition in another sense of the term. That other state simply acknowledges the fact, or rather its opinion of the fact; but she confers nothing, unless, under particular circumstances, she may be considered as conferring a favour. Therefore, it is one question, whether the recognition of the independence of the colonies shall take place, Spain being a party to such recognition; and another question, whether, Spain withholding what no power on earth can necessarily extort by fire, sword, or conquest, if she maintains silence without a positive refusal, other countries should acknowledge that independence. I am sure that my honourable and learned friend will agree with me in thinking, that his exposition of the different senses of the word “recognition " is the clearest argument in favour of the course we originally took : namely, that of wishing that the recognition in the minor sense should carry with it recognition by the mother country in the major sense. The recognition by a neutral power alone cannot, in the very nature of things, carry with it the same degree of authority, as if it were accompanied by the recognition by the mother country also. If, therefore, the Government of Great Britain had looked exclusively to the interests of the colonial states, she would reasonably pursue the course we have in fact taken ; it must have been an object of higher importance to those states, that the recognition by Great Britain should be delayed, in the hope of bringing with it a similar concession from Spain, rather than that the recognition by Great Britain should have been so precipitate as to postpone, if not prevent, the recognition by the mother country. Whether all hope is over of any such step, on the part of Spain, is another question. Our obligation, then, as a matter of fact, is at an end—I am enabled to say that positively. The rest is matter of opinion, and must depend upon a balance of probabilities. But, as my honourable and learned friend has said, this simple sense of the term
"recognition " has been very much misunderstood, both here and in other places ; because though there is nothing more plain and easy than the acknowledging the fact (if fact it be), that such a government is independent, yet I am quite certain he will agree with me, that it may make a difference, if that acknowledgment be asked, which implies an expectation of consequences which do not necessarily belong to it. I am sure he will feel, that great as the boon of recognition, in its simplest sense, might be to any new government, it would be greater if, though given in one sense, if it were accepted in another. It might be given as a mere acknowledgment of a fact, and accepted as a sort of treaty of alliance and co-operation.
I am not ignorant of the many commercial interests that call for this proceeding; but, if what is required were granted, some suppose that it would necessarily have the effect of tranquillizing the State, establishing and confirming its independence. The simple recognition by any neutral power, if it were not misunderstood, could have no such effect. I am, therefore, anxious that exaggerated expectations should not be indulged. As to what might be the immediate consequences of recognition, my honourable and learned friend has put two cases, the possibility of the existence of one of which I certainly do not feel. He says that South America must either be considered as one great mass, and then the contest in any part bears but a small proportion to the tranquillity of the whole; or that each separate state must be considered by itself, and then only the state in which the contest exists can fairly be excluded from recognition. I have no sort of difficulty in saying, that to take South America as a mass presents a physical impossibility; and my honourable and learned friend does not pretend that there is any government established which had authority over the whole. That position will, therefore, certainly be of no assistance to his argument.
The other point of view he has presented deserves more consideration ; namely, how far we are to consider each separated state entitled to recognition. Into this part of the argument I do not go at present; this is a horn of his dilemma with which I am not, for various reasons, now prepared to contend. I will state only, that though I agree with him, that we have no pretence to be so difficult and scrupulous, as to insist that a new government shall have all the stability of an