PP/GC/PO/43 Letter from Lord Ponsonby to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, concerning the election of the Duke of Leuchtenberg to the Belgian throne, and the chances of the Prince of Orange, 19 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: [Transcript] "As I suspected, the Congress has been as near electing the Duc de Leuchtenburgh as possible. The trial of strength was made by the parties in a sort of previous question whether or not commissioners sh[oul]d be sent to Paris, and the partizans of the Duke, that is the Jacobin party, were beaten only by five votes. The question on which this [f.1v] majority has been obtained is only for delay. The prov[isiona]l gov[ernme]nt are to dispatch, tomorrow, commissioners to Paris, who are * to be * ordered to be again in Brussels on the 28th with a reply to the enquiries, stated in my despatch, and on that day the Congress is to proceed to the election of a sovereign, laying aside every other business until the choice shall have been made. [f.2r] Mons[ieu]r Bresson (I told you) received a despatch last night from the Comte Sebastiani, ordering him, at any risk, to prevent the election of the Duc and to consent to that of any other person excepting the Duc de Nemours. B[resson] has been in an extreme alarm \ lest the Duc de L[euchtenburgh] sh[oul]d be chosen / and as a set off, he got the brother of the King of Naples to be proposed in one of the sections. He thinks it was productive of good, and I do not believe it had any effect; but that those who voted against [f.2v] Leutenburgh were those who are afraid to offend the five powers, and those who look to the restoration of the P[rince] of Orange. You will see how rapidly they are now coming to a crisis, and how necessary it is that the P[rince] of O[range] sh[oul]d make up his mind how to act and that you also sh[oul]d decide what part to take. I think, that if the Jacobins shall be able on the 28th (or the day after) to carry their point in Congress for the Duc de Leuchtenburgh, it may not be impossible that [f.3r] I could induce d'Hooghvorst to send the Congress about its business. I do not, of course, * have to * say I can do so. I have spoken to him tonight. Every honest man who has common sense, is, I doubt not, indignant against the party by whose machinations the peace and interests of this country are endangered, and I conceive this to be the moment (and to which I have looked with [?] expectation) for the personal exertions of the P[rince] of Orange. I [f.3v] will not say that he may not have to encounter considerable danger to his person, nor will I say he is certain of success, but I would try the chance now, if I were in his situation. I had written thus far when a messenger arrived here from The Hague, by whom I learn that the Dutch government have demanded time, that it till the 22nd or 23rd, in order to consult the States General concerning the [f.4r] opening of the Scheldt. You will be good enough then to take everything I say of the policy of the P[rince] of Orange's movements, as entirely dependent on * to * the fact of the opening of the Scheldt on the 20, or the delay of that measure. Nobody quite believes that the river will be opened, notwithstanding all that has been promised and said the P[rince] will feel every where the effect of that disbelief, and more perniciously perhaps, than if there never had been made any declaration [f.4v] that the river sh[oul]d be set free. Antwerp, I conceive, would be the place for the Prince to appear in now, before the citadel be evacuated. I will endeavour to find out if there would be any danger to his person in that city now. I presume the P[rince] ought himself to have good intelligence on that point. I am sure a little money, to be distributed amongst the starving population of Antwerp and Ghent, in the first instance, would procure for the P[rince] tens of thousands of partizans. [f.5r] The commander of the military force in the city of Antwerp is said to be fav[o]rable to the Prince. He is a needy man and a little money would go a great way. If a movement could be well begun at Antwerp and in Ghent, Brughes would immediately be also in motion, and I think it possible that opposition in Brussels might be speedily put down. I will not take upon myself [f.5v] to answer for what I have said so as to incur the responsibility for the success of this adventure if it be tried. The Prince ought himself to know his own strength in the places mentioned, so as to be at least able to decide upon the value of what I say. I doubt if I can obtain any more precise imformation in time. [f.6r] If the election of the Duc de Leuchtenburgh sh[oul]d take place, the P[rince] of O[range] will still have no bad chance for ultimate success, though it must be difficult to unking the Duke. When the Belgians find that the election of a sovereign has produced no mitigation of their present evils, they will naturally feel a violent resentment against the political speculators who have trifled with the fortunes of the nation, and turn perhaps with almost unanimity to the Prince. [f.6v] The election of the Duc will, however, tend to produce one great danger by the chance that parts of the population of the neighbouring French provinces may be called in here to support him and to aid the Jacobins who will not fail to allure them by the prospect of plunder, etc. If I could be sure of your intentions, I might lay before d'Hooghvorst and others the picture of [f.7r] the situation in which this country must be found sh[oul]d the Jacobin party succeed in electing Leuchtenburgh. That party would then have the majority in Congress * and * and in their own defence would probably call in those allies from France to whom I have alluded above, and would wrest from the civic guard and d'Hooghvorst the command of the city. I think he and the guard would be ready to prevent this. Viewing the situation of affairs with an exclusive regard [f.7v] to the chances for the restoration of the P[rince] of Orange, I cannot help thinking what has happened about the Duc de Leuchtenburgh to be extremely advantageous, because the dangers attending his election are so obvious, and his success so imminent, that members must seek in the Prince the escape from the worst of evils. The French gov[ernmen]t too must be so excited by the open and daring attack upon themselves as to exert all their power to palsy [f.8r] the only true force of the Jacobins, namely their allies in the French towns. The P[rince] of Orange's proclamation has appeared here in the French JOURNAL DE COMMERCE. I suspect it may have been published by Sebastiani from the copy Bresson sent him, if so it is a happy thing for the P[rince]. I regret that he has neglected in that proclamation to speak to the army as I ventured to suggest to him. The mouvement for him ought to begin in the army, and the engagements he would enter into would not be onerous to him. As to the persons whose names I sent in my last letter, some of them, [f.8v] I know, are improper persons, particularly Comte de Van der Meeren, who has the personelle of the army, but it is not intended I presume, to contract to preserve such men in the enjoyment of offices under the gov[ernme]nt, but only to preserve for them their military rank, etc. I send inclosed a copy of a letter I wrote to L[or]d Granville. I wrote it to shew Mons[ieu]r Bresson the manner in which I desired to support his peculiar interests in the question of the Duc de Leuchtenburgh." 19 Jan 1831 The letter is marked: "Private" Enclosed is a copy of a letter from John Ponsonby, second Baron Ponsonby, [British Joint Commissioner of the London Conference to the provisional government of Belgium], to Granville Leveson Gower, first Viscount Granville, [British ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary at Paris], Brussels: he thinks Granville should know what information he has just given Bresson in order to be prepared for anything the French government may say on the subject. Granville knows of the extreme interest the King of the French takes in all attempts to defeat the election of the Duke of Leuchtenberg as sovereign of Belgium. One of the parties in Belgium is now very anxious for the Duke's election, and there is a very considerable danger that he will be chosen. The Duke has already indicated that he will accept the crown, and, if elected, he will be in Brussels as soon as possible. Ponsonby has done all he can to delay the election. The Congress may decide to send messengers to London to ask the Conference if the five powers will positively object to certain named persons being chosen sovereign. If this is carried, there will be enough time for arrangements. If not, the election will be hurried on, and there are many reasons to fear that the Duke may be able to draw support from a large number of Frenchmen from the adjacent provinces, and "sow the seeds of convulsions, the end of which it may be difficult to foresee". The agreement of co-operation between the British and French governments makes it Ponsonby's duty to help Bresson as he has done, but he does not think he can take any public part without instructions. What has been said will be enough. 18 Jan 1831: contemporary copy The letter is marked: "Private"
Five papers
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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
August Charles Eugene Napoleon, Duke of Leuchtenberg, or Leuchtenburgh, Prince of Eichstadt
Francois Horace Bastien, Comte Sebastiani, French Minister for Foreign Affairs
Louis, Duc de Nemours, second son of Louis Philippe, King of the French
Charles Joseph Bresson, later Comte Bresson, French Joint Commissioner of the London Conference to the provisional government of Belgium
William Frederick, Prince of Orange, later William II, King of Holland
River Scheldt, Belgium
Antwerp, Ghent, Bruges, Belgium
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
Major General Auguste Louis Nicolas Van der Meere de Cruyshautem [?]
Granville Leveson Gower, first Viscount Granville, later first Earl Granville, British ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary at Paris
Louis Philippe, King of the French
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