PP/GC/PO/44 Letter from Lord Ponsonby to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, concerning the opening of the Scheldt, and the French interest in the election of a King for Belgium, 21 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: the delay in opening the Scheldt, which is so necessary to the success of the Prince of Orange, has led to complaints. In his last letter, Ponsonby suggested that the Prince might now go to Antwerp, but perhaps he would do better to place himself on the frontiers, at Lille or Dunkirk, to be ready to take advantage of circumstances. Ponsonby is sure that some ostensible head is necessary to give his party a fair chance. Ponsonby wishes he could be prevented from bringing with him Messrs Crockenburgh and Sturni. Crockenburgh gave the Prince very foolish advice to have the national colours lowered when he was about to enter Brussels. "The other is, I am told, about as good an adviser". The proclamation ought to speak clearly and plainly about the army. The Prince has powerful competition in the Duke of Leuchtenberg, and without exertion on his part and a submission to arms, which he may not like, his chance will be totally lost. Bresson says the Congress will not dare to elect Leuchtenberg contrary to the orders of France. Ponsonby has been told he will be chosen. He hopes he has done his duty, but does not think that, as Bresson has insinuated he ought to do, he should leave Brussels if Leuchtenberg is elected, as Bresson has said he will do. Ponsonby does not want to make any public declaration that he will act any differently than he has said, and he does not consider himself to be in the same situation as Bresson. Ponsonby has always believed that France was resolved to have Belgium sooner or later. What Palmerston says of Talleyrand does not surprise him, and he rather expects to hear of a proposition for a partition of Belgium. Ponsonby will not be sorry personally if Leuchtenberg is elected, although he has done all in his power to prevent it, and can see a thousand evil consequences resulting from it. He asks, however, what can be done, if the Prince of Orange is too imbecile to win or to wear the crown. The Prince's party gains strength every day, and they are now illegally confining the Orangists. All sorts of things are done to present popular opinion falsely. The people support the Prince, but as there is no head and nobody has any courage, Ponsonby wonders how things will end. A decision of some sort must be made. With regard to the general state of Europe in connection with the Belgian question, Ponsonby is convinced that France will make war. D'Arschot has confessed that he doubts the obedience of the volunteers to the orders of the government to retire from before Maastricht. Palmerston will see from the reports Ponsonby sends that the Dutch are acting on their side. There has been that day a movement in the third section of the civic guard. They talked of marching to turn out the Congress. They have been appeased, but Ponsonby expects something to happen before long. He does not know if Bresson has heard of the new opinions of Prince Talleyrand about the Prince of Orange. So far, Bresson has been a strenuous advocate for the Prince's election. He and the French ?ministry fear the success of the Duke of Leuchtenberg more than anything. Ponsonby thinks Bresson may try to stop the election by bribery, "as anything can be stopped or advocated for by that instrument". Palmerston should expect "every sort of mischief" from de Celles at Paris. He hopes Lord Granville is aware of the man's character. Marshal Gerard is his brother in law. Madame de Genlis was his grandmother, and he can use this to approach Louis Philippe. "Nobody is more false; nobody will tell more things that are not quite true than he will do." Ponsonby anxiously awaits Palmerston's orders. At present there is nothing he can do or say except describe the forthcoming troubles. 21 Jan 1831 The letter is marked: "Private". It is noted on the docket that the letter was received on 23 January 1831. Enclosed is a printed handbill in support of the Prince of Orange, in French, addressed to the citizens of Brussels: "Fellow Citizens! The communication which was made last night by the Congress must open your eyes. The men who govern us dream of a crown, a regency, a governorship for themselves; our diplomats support them at Paris as at London, at London as at Paris. Such narrowness and lack of skill has worn down the sympathy of the five powers, and the entire nation finds herself after all judged according to those who represent her; she wins the scorn and contempt which these men have so rightly deserved; unacceptable conditions are imposed on her, she is being appeased by the opening of the Scheldt, provided that she renounces Maastricht, but neither Dutch Flanders nor the citadel of Antwerp is mentioned; the secret aim is revealed and a partition is spoken about openly. Time presses on. Should we wish to conserve our integrity, our nationality, to possess Dutch Flanders, the citadel of Antwerp and Maastricht, to enjoy the navigation of the Scheldt, to acquire Luxembourg, to be separated for ever from Holland, but to conserve the relationship with her which our industry and our trade require, let us call upon the Prince of Orange. Let us invest him with the title and powers which are at the same time our guarantee and a pledge of security for peace abroad; may the institutions protective of all our liberties be conceived in the true spirit of constitutional monarchy, which is equally opposed to the enslavement of the people and the debasement of the monarch." 16 Jan 1831
Three 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
River Scheldt, Belgium
William Frederick, Prince of Orange, later William II, King of Holland
Antwerp, Belgium
Lille, Dunkirk, France
Crockenburgh, adviser to William, Prince of Orange
Sturni, adviser to William, Prince of Orange
August Charles Eugene Napoleon, Duke of Leuchtenberg, Prince of Eichstadt
Charles Joseph Bresson, later Comte Bresson, French Joint Commissioner of the London Conference to the provisional government of Belgium
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord, Prince de Benevent, French ambassador at London
Philippe Jean Michel, Comte d'Arschot Schoonhoven, alias Aerschot, Vice President of the diplomatic committee of the provisional government of Belgium
Maastricht, Netherlands
Antoine Charles Fiacre, Comte de Wisher de Celles, Vice President of the Committee for Foreign Relations of the provisional government of Belgium
Granville Leveson Gower, first Viscount Granville, later first Earl Granville, British ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary at Paris
Marshal Etienne Maurice, Comte Gerard
Felicite Ducrest de St Aubin, Marquise de Sillery, Comtesse de Genlis, deceased
Louis Philippe, King of the French
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