PP/GC/PO/39 Letter from Lord Ponsonby to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, concerning the Prince of Orange and French influence in Belgium, 13 January 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 received the following information from a trustworthy source: France has made a demand to the Commissaire des Finances to have Liege, Huy and Namur provisioned for fifteen days, in order to resist the Prussians and give the French time to come to their aid. The war administration demands 8,000,000 florins to meet these expenses. There is going to be a levy on men. It is claimed that the civil guard is to be mobilised. Ponsonby may not be able to obtain further information on this, but he thinks these facts are well worth consideration. He has not mentioned them to Bresson, since he cannot be sure that would be safe. He thinks the whole affair is the work of the party whose aim is to overthrow Louis Philippe and "by jacobinical means re-establish the lost dominion of France over Europe". General Favier has arrived at Brussels, together with three other French men "of the same kidney", including a Colonel Boursae, or some such name. General Lallemand is expected. Favier's connection with La Fayette is well known, and Soult is said to be bent on war. A chain can be seen or at least imagined. Brussels has obviously become the centre of "Jacobine intrigue". One way to halt trouble would be to "undeceive" the French people, with numerous petitions from the Belgians declaring their desire to be independent, and so proving the falsehood of those "unthinking liars" who say the Belgians are begging to become French. Ponsonby has taken one step towards this in one place, but he does not dare do more without authority from Palmerston. The next move would be to bring forward as strong a declaration in favour of the Prince of Orange as possible. Proclamations should be published in all the newspapers at London and Paris, and Ghent and Antwerp, where possible, announcing that the Prince of Orange has received from the Belgians the strongest assurance of the desire of the people to see him at their head. He should solemnly pledge himself to maintain the constitution, promise to uphold all the advantages the army officers have obtained, and conciliate all the politicians by relinquishing the right to employ any foreigners in the service of government. This is necessary to satisfy the jealousies in Belgium against the Dutch, and ought also to be welcomed by England "to guard against French influence and meddling". Ponsonby has only a few minutes to write as the messenger who has just arrived from Vienna is in a hurry to leave. He must leave much of what he wants to say for his own courier the following day, including his reply to Palmerston's letter of 4 [January], which was sent to Bagot by mistake and has only just arrived in Brussels. Congress has decided that day not to send a deputation, but to leave the negotiation about sovereigns in the hands of Van der Weyer and company. Otto is done for. An injudicious attempt was made in Congress the previous day in favour of the Prince of Orange, which had a bad effect, and was very badly received. Ponsonby does not think this is important, but Bresson thinks otherwise. A Monsieur Gerlache, in a private sitting of one of the sections [claimed] that there were two choices: France or the Prince of Orange. A French connection is impossible. "I think this opinion is very general, but the fear of France prevails still and the interests of so many leading people are at present against the restoration that time is requisite to let matters assume their natural state." A proclamation and a little gentle pressure on individuals might do much. Protocol number nine and the note have not yet been sent to the government. This will be done the following morning, and Ponsonby will give Palmerston the reasons for the delay in his next letter. He also has something to say of Hooghvorst and the civic guard. Ponsonby finds him "timid but well thinking". It is said that Soult is not able to get enough horses for his cavalry and artillery. Ponsonby thinks France will play tricks when she can. He has not yet received the returns on the state of the fortresses. He does not think it will be possible at present to obtain anything from the Belgian government concerning Luxembourg. "If you could be sure of France, certainly strong language, and strong actions too, would be advisable here. The people would willingly take anything as a favor that would restore peace and permit foreigners to return and trade to flourish. As to feeling about liberty, it is all wind. They do hate the King of Holland and would fight against him. The Congress is government by a few ambitious attornies and lawyers, some bigots, and the French Jacobins, but the mass of the people is sound and moderate, and against France." It has just been reported that General Chasse has declared that he will burn Antwerp. It would be as well not to tell Van der Weyer of this threat. Ponsonby has recently become slightly suspicious of Van der Weyer. Any attack made on the Duchy of Luxembourg should be carried out with an overwhelming force. He expects the French will attempt to obtain the Duchy. Bresson has informed Ponsonby that Gendebien has altered his tone, and he now claims the King of France is unable to consent to the annexation of Belgium to France. Palmerston must prevent the Prince of Orange going to The Hague, since this would completely destroy his chances in Belgium. 13 Jan 1831 It is noted on the docket that the letter was received on 16 January 1831.
Two papers, tied with green 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; Luxembourg question
Liege, Huy, Namur, Belgium
Charles Joseph Bresson, later Comte Bresson, French Joint Commissioner of the London Conference to the provisional government of Belgium
Louis Philippe, King of the French
General Charles Nicholas, Baron Fabvier, alias Favier, Frenchman formerly in the service of Greece
Marie Jean Paul Roch Yves Gilbert Motier, Marquis de la Fayette, member of the French Chamber of Deputies, commander of the Parisian national guard
Colonel Boursae [?]
General Charles Francois Antoine, Comte Lallemand, member of the French Chamber of Peers
Marshal Nicholas Jean de Dieu Soult, Duc de Dalmatie, French Minister for War
William Frederick, Prince of Orange, later William II, King of Holland
Sir Charles Bagot, British ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary at The Hague
Sylvain van der Weyer, representative of the provisional government of Belgium at London
Prince Otto, alias Otho, of Bavaria, later Otto I, or Otho I, King of Greece
Etienne Constantin, Baron de Gerlache, member of the Belgian Congress
Protocol nine of the London Conference of 9 January 1831, dealing with complaints about the blockade of the River Scheldt and the Belgian troops besieging Maastricht, and declaring that both must cease before 20 January
William I, King of the Netherlands, later King of Holland
Emmanuel Constantin Ghislain van der Linden, Baron van Hooghvorst, or Hoogvorst, commander in chief of the burgher guard in Brussels, and member of the provisional government of Belgium
General David Henrik Chasse, Baron Chasse, Dutch governor of Antwerp and commander of the city garrison
Alexandre Gendebien, member of the central committee of the provisional government of Belgium
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