PP/GC/PO/126 Letter from Lord Ponsonby to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, giving his reasons for remaining in Belgium for an extra day in order to make a proposal to the Belgian Congress, 10 June 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: [Transcript] "I communicated the instructions I received from the Conference and parts of your letter, which directed the conduct we sh[oul]d pursue, to Gen[era]l Belliard. I communicated also privately to Mons[ieu]r Lebeau all you said touching the consequences of the obstinacy of the Belgians. I asked for my passports; all diplomatic relations with the gov[ernme]nt ceased and Gen[eral] Belliard and myself would have left Brussels yesterday morn[in]g had we not thought it right to remain, as private individuals, a few hours to mature a proposition which we think it may be useful to have made and which, if we could remain `till the nex[t] day on which the Congress will meet, Monday, we [f.1v] feel convinced would be carried. We expect it will be proposed on Monday, but the least trifle suffices in this country to change everything and our absence may destroy all that the influence of our presence and exertions has obtained. I need not give you an account of the rise of the proposition nor of what has been done to obtain support to it, enough if I tell you that many of the most violent of the opposition have agreed to it, with the condition that, if it shall be carried into execution, the Congress shall have the right of ratification. The proposition is to be made by several members to Congress, not by the gov[ernme]nt, and to the following effect: `If the Conference will admit a deputy from [f.2r] Belgium, and a deputy from Holland, to discuss and vote in the Conference on the claims to territorial limits, that is to say, the Belgians producing by the plenipotentiary all treaties that they may think fit to produce, and the Dutch by the plenipotentiary all treaties which they may think fit, then the Congress engages to abide by any decision the Conference, in conjunction with the two plenipotentiaries, may come to.' The above appears to us to be the same thing as to admit the bases or, in other words, the protocole, for it was particularly explained by us that territorial limits meant the same thing as les bases. Many persons are induced to consent to the proposition by the belief that right is on their side under the just construction of treaties. Others will vote for it, as a means of escape [f.2v] from the difficulties of the whole case, without incurring any loss of honor. Although the Conference has disapproved of the course we pursued, we are convinced that by so acting we have preserved this country from the greatest evils, and prevented war from being already commenced, and we would not, as it is, be answerable for the duration of peace for any twelve hours to come, at the same time that we know that there has been a great change worked in the general mind which time might have been usefully employed to mature. A single instance will shew you upon what slender foundations now rest the chances for peace or war. A ?garrier at Antwerp, yesterday, instigated by the Association, charged a mortar and had a lighted match ready to fire into [f.3r] the citadel when fortunately a superior officer perceived what he was about and stopped him. If he had fired, it is hardly to be supposed the shot would not have been returned, and possibly Antwerp might have been by this time a heap of ruins. If the Dutch attack this country as you seem to think they may do shortly, it is, I think, to be hoped that they may be immediately beaten, for otherwise certainly, and perhaps at any rate, a crowd of French will be invited, or come uninvited, to take a part in the war, and no man can say to what that may lead. It is said by some that as many as thirty thousand French may come, but at the lowest estimation the number is from twelve to twenty thousand. All relations between the powers and Belgium have now ceased, and the Belgians will think themselves at liberty to carry on the war unmolested by them, if they shall be attacked by the Dutch. What will [f.3v] be the state of things, if aided by these French friends, they beat the Dutch severely ? Will there then be any chance of obtaining a consent, direct or indirect, to the limits desired by the Conference, and are you prepared to establish them by force of arms? As the object, of England at least, in interfering with the affairs of Belgium has been in part to secure a barrier, and as it is certain that Belgium cannot be made one in despite of her inhabitants, it appears evident that force used against Belgium is the necessary destruction of the very object in view. Belgium discontented is a worse barrier than Belgium was connected with Holland and also discontented, and although France may be a party to the force employed against her, Belgium will forget her [f.4r] resentment against that power the moment the time shall come when France can furnish her with the means of vengeance against the mass of those who have wounded her pride and interests. A partition, if effected, would probably as soon, and as certainly, place all Belgium under the authority of France. Not a Belgium who might be allotted to Prussia, who would not be on the watch for the first occasion to aid France in the destruction of his new master. We leave Brussels tomorrow morn[in]g." 10 Jun 1831 The letter is marked: "Private" and it is noted on the docket that it was received on 15 June 1831.
Two papers, tied with blue ribbon
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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
General Auguste Daniel, Comte Belliard, French Joint Commissioner of the London Conference to the provisional government of Belgium
Jean Louis Joseph Lebeau, Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs
London Conference on Belgian independence
Antwerp, Belgium
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