PP/GC/PO/101 Letter from Lord Ponsonby to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, concerning the Belgian delegation visiting London to offer the Belgian crown to Prince Leopold, 17 April 1831
Letter from John Ponsonby, second Baron Ponsonby, [British Joint Commissioner of the London Conference to the provisional government of Belgium], Brussels, to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston: he has received Palmerston's letter of 15 April. He has an opportunity to send a letter which ought to reach Palmerston on Wednesday [20 April] morning. Comte Felix de Merode, Monsieur H. Villain XIIII and Monsieur H. de Brouckere, the brother of the Minister of Finance, will leave Brussels that night for London, where they expect to arrive on Wednesday. M. de Merode and M. de Brouckere called on Ponsonby that morning to ask his advice whether they should visit Palmerston first or go straight to Prince Leopold. Ponsonby thought it would be least embarrassing to Palmerston if they went to the Prince first, and said that he was not aware that they had any particular mission to Palmerston from the Belgian government and Palmerston could only receive them as private gentlemen. They said they would visit the Prince first. Ponsonby declined giving them any advice on other points, pointing out the nature of his situation in Brussels. He pressed the desire of the English government to see Belgium happy and vindicated the conduct of the Conference against some charges implied by words used by Comte de Merode. Palmerston should be prepared for the things he may hear from the Comte. "He is a very warm and somewhat uncouth man, with little knowledge and perhaps even less judgement, easily won it may be, if he be properly managed; he is the ostensible chief of the Catholic party, and his going to P[rince] Leopold is a proof of the intentions of that click. The Abbe de Foere, a deputy, and a priest is the symbol of the priesthood. He is a regular logician, and a most tiresome pertinacious little man, but honest and a friend to a connection with England. Villain 14 you know. He is connected with the Catholic body, but is a liberal though not so foolishly so, as Merode. H. de Brouckere is a very young man, was violently French and is a liberal. I believe you will find all these men at first most resolute not to hear of anything about giving up Luxemberg, but possibly Villain 14 and de la Foere may be more moderate at last." The Belgian government could easily carry the election of Leopold, by a very large majority. The civil guard is about to come out strongly in favour of Leopold. If Palmerston, or anyone else, prevents Leopold's election, Merode will probably be elected on his return to Brussels. Ponsonby does not know from Palmerston's letter or Lord Granville's despatches whether or not Palmerston is aware of the communications made by le Hon about the willingness of the French government to give Prince Leopold the Princess [in marriage] a short time after his election. Ponsonby has repeatedly put to the Belgian government the arguments contained in Palmerston's letter, and intends to reiterate them that evening to Lebeau, but he is certain they will not produce any change in the Belgian government's determination to risk everything in the attempt to defend Luxembourg. The reason is plain: the government does not have the power or the will to restrain the people. Palmerston must be prepared for the beginning of hostilities and for the consequences of it, about which it is not for Ponsonby to offer any opinion. If Leopold accepts and is elected, the whole situation will be changed and no change can be for the worse as far as Ponsonby can judge. Ponsonby believes that Leopold is the last chance to prevent Belgium becoming the "cause of universal confusion". Merode's conduct in going to England deserves commendation. Ponsonby hopes these men will be treated with much civility as they will have a great effect even if they do not succeed. "Government has given then an official character to Prince Leopold. D'Aerschot is to be one of them." 17 Apr 1831 . The letter is marked: "Private" and it is noted on the cover that it was received on 21 April 1831. Palmerston's letter of 15 April, to which Ponsonby alludes, is numbered PP/GC/PO/648.
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John Ponsonby, second Baron Ponsonby, later first Viscount Ponsonby, British Joint Commissioner of the London Conference to the provisional government of Belgium
Belgium: revolt; revolution; independence
Felix, Comte de Merode, member of the Belgian Congress
Charles Hippolyte, Vicomte Villain XIIII, member of the Belgian Congress
Henri de Brouckere, member of the Belgian Congress
Charles de Brouckere, Belgian Minister of Finance
Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, later Leopold I, King of the Belgians
London Conference on Belgian independence
Abbe de Foere, alias Lafoere, member of the Belgian Congress
Granville Leveson Gower, first Viscount Granville, later first Earl Granville, British ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary at Paris
Charles Aime Joseph, Comte Lehon, or le Hon, Belgian representative at Paris
Louise Marie, daughter of Louis Philippe, King of the French, later Queen of the Belgians
Jean Louis Joseph Lebeau, Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs
Philippe Jean Michel, Comte d'Arschot Schoonhoven, alais Aerschot, Belgian representative at London
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