PP/GC/PO/60 Letter from Lord Ponsonby to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, considering the various possibilities in a further election for a Belgian sovereign, 9 February 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: immediately after receiving Palmerston's letter and protocol number fifteen, he forwarded the protocol to the diplomatic committee and has ensured that it will be called for the following day in Congress. He would not be very surprised if the connection with protocol number eleven of 27 January was the cause of some "impertinence or folly" in the Congress when it is discussed. Up to this event, there have been assurances from the deputation and other persons at Paris that the King of the French will accept the crown for Nemours. The Comte de Celles is one of the writers, and La Fayette told a M. Wailly, whom Ponsonby believes was in England with Van der Weyer, that he would "oblige the King to accept". Ponsonby has discovered from a letter written by one of the Rothschilds that in Paris everybody, including the writer of the letter, had been led to believe that the Belgians were "actually sighing for the honor of becoming French, or quasi-French, under the Duc de Nemours". In fact, the opposite is nearer the truth, but the belief in Paris is a real difficulty for the King and the settlement of affairs. The newspapers in Belgium are too much under the control of government to venture to tell the truth, but it could be strongly stated in THE TIMES that ninety nine out of a hundred detest the idea of a connection with France. Many people say they would prefer the Prussians or the Turks to the French. If things continue, it might be as well if Lord Granville sends a messenger to Ponsonby with any fact which in his opinion might affect the interests of the cause in Belgium but which could be met by action from Ponsonby. He is full of uncertainty about the conduct of France, following reports of what La Fayette has said, particularly as he is known to have written to the same effect some days previously. Even after he had seen the protocol which Talleyrand presumably sent him, Bresson said that the thing was not yet over, and the King might still accept the crown, although Bresson was ignorant of what passed between Granville and Sebastiani after the TELEGRAPH had announced the election of the Duc de Nemours. Ponsonby has anticipated Palmerston's wishes and has tried to keep on the best terms with Bresson. He encloses a copy of the note he wrote to Bresson that day, to show that Ponsonby has done what he thought best for that purpose. He wishes Bresson to continue as his colleague, because he believes that a recall would be mortifying and perhaps seriously injurious to Bresson. Perhaps if Palmerston could say to Talleyrand that Ponsonby wished Bresson to remain at Brussels, it would help Bresson's cause. "I do not think he is to be fear'd, as I believe it was that vulgar corporal, the Marquis de la Woestine, who dragged him into his worst follies, particularly the demand of the letter from Sebastiani which naturally will have offended Talleyrand." Ponsonby likes Bresson and it is painful to think of him being injured in his profession. The Orange party is gaining ground. Ponsonby does not agree with Palmerston that it has a bad chance of success, but he will obey instructions, although at the same time he thinks it proper he should listen to everything anybody wants to communicate to him. Van der Weyer has just returned from Antwerp where he went in order to arrest General Vandersmissen, the commander of the army who has 10,000 men under his command. "Our little friend was afraid to say a word of his business and has come back as sound, but not as important, a personage as when he went away." The government has arrested another general, but a general created by the revolution, by no means esteemed at Brussels. Ponsonby believes that if the Prince [of Orange] were to show himself at Antwerp, all the army there and the troops elsewhere would declare for him instantly. D'Hooghvorst would then support him in Brussels with his civic guard, Ghent and Brussels would join him and the Congress "would run away as fast as it could, but these are not things for me to meddle with under your instructions, and I must lay before you the other chances for a settlement". People dislike the idea of the Neapolitan Prince. Prince Johann of Saxony is supposed to be a man of notoriously vicious character, and in Belgium "decency, if not real virtue, is required". Lebeau talked of Leopold with a French wife. He said he would be ready to accept any combination that did not include the Prince of Orange, to whom he seemed furiously opposed, although Ponsonby thinks he could be "tamed". Lebeau also talked of establishing a republic and voting the annexation of Belgium to France. Ponsonby told him that he could, if he wished, vote for either alternative, but he should not execute them. Belgium could not be permitted to follow a course which endangered the peace of Europe. If necessary, she would be made reasonable by force, if she did not grow wiser. Palmerston should not be alarmed at this. "I know how to say these things in the tone of mere observations and without the least implication of myself. I know it is necessary to make men of sense, who are carried away by their passions to the commission of follies, reflect a little upon truths and, of all things, ignorant insolence is here the most urging of sins." Ponsonby and Lebeau are good friends, and Lebeau is the cleverest man Ponsonby has met in Belgium. He is strongly opposed also to the provisional government and the diplomatic committee. Ponsonby wants to work on Lebeau's just resentment of them, to make him contribute to their overthrow by the Congress, but he fears that nothing can ever come from the Congress except absurdity and mischief, unless it is villainy. Ponsonby believes that the best course of action would now be to propose a motion that the Congress should dissolve itself, and call another for the specific purpose of electing a sovereign. There are many good reasons for this. Ponsonby believes it will be so agreeable to the people that they would take care that it succeeded. He thinks the new elections would either establish the Prince of Orange, or clarify popular opinion on that point. The present Congress is composed of the "lowest adventurers", and Ponsonby is told that the people would like to have for representatives "men of fortune and character who they have been accustomed to look up to". Lebeau, the patron of Leuchtenberg, told Ponsonby that he would have nothing more to do with that Prince. Ponsonby offers his congratulations to Palmerston on his success with France. He was sure firmness was the only way to save Palmerston from a series of insults that would eventually have made war necessary, after discredit, if not disgrace, had been incurred. Ponsonby asks what he should do with the two protocols, besides the secret one, which have not been delivered because of Bresson's refusal to do so. They are numbers twelve and thirteen. Number fourteen is the secret one. Bresson thinks he himself is incompetent to act, but the two protocols are addressed in their instructions conjointly to Bresson and Ponsonby. Ponsonby has not had an answer about Maastricht, but Bresson says that orders will be sent on the subject and that the government admit the justice of the demand. He says the thing has not been done merely because of the insubordination and disobedience of the military. The coal barges must be ordered from the Hague. General ?Dubitz will not mind what is said at Brussels. Ponsonby can obtain an accurate account of the state of some of the fortresses, but it may cost five or ten pounds. 9 Feb 1831 It is noted on the docket that the letter was received on 11 February 1831. Enclosed is a copy of a letter from John Ponsonby, second Baron Ponsonby, Brussels, to Charles Joseph Bresson, [French Joint Commissioner of the London Conference to the provisional government of Belgium]: he has just received from the Conference a protocol dated 7 February, with orders to transmit it immediately to the Belgian government. The Conference has not seen fit to ask Bresson to co-operate with Ponsonby in communicating this protocol, since they are awaiting an explanation or disavowal of Comte Sebastiani's letter of 1 February, which Bresson communicated to the Congress. Ponsonby has also received, with the sincerest pleasure and satisfaction, an assurance that the British and French governments are on terms of the most perfect friendship and cordiality. "I trust, that in every thing connected with our governments, you and I shall be always animated by the same sentiments. I can assured you nothing will give me greater pleasure than to know and feel that such is the case. I have often told you with unreserved confidence the opinion I entertain as to the interest my country has in the support of the government of your King." 9 Feb 1831: contemporary copy
Four 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
Louis Philippe, King of the French
Louis, Duc de Nemours, second son of Louis Philippe, King of the French
Antoine Charles Fiacre, Comte de Wisher de Celles, Vice President of the Committee for Foreign Relations of the provisional government of Belgium
Marie Jean Paul Roch Yves Gilbert Motier, Marquis de la Fayette, member of the French Chamber of Deputies, commander of the Parisian national guard
M. Wailly
Sylvain van der Weyer, member of the provisional government of Belgium
Rothschild, banker
Belgium: newspapers; the press; censorship
Granville Leveson Gower, first Viscount Granville, later first Earl Granville, British ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary at Paris
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord, Prince de Benevent, French ambassador at London
Charles Joseph Bresson, later Comte Bresson, French Joint Commissioner of the London Conference to the provisional government of Belgium
England; Great Britain: newspapers; the press; journalism
Francois Horace Bastien, Comte Sebastiani, French Minister for Foreign Affairs
Charles Anatole Alexis, Marquis de la Woestine
William Frederick, Prince of Orange, later William II, King of Holland
Antwerp, Ghent, Belgium
General Alfred Vandermissen [?] of the Belgian army
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
Charles Ferdinand, Prince of Capua, brother of Ferdinand II, King of the Two Sicilies
Johann, Prince of Saxony, later Johann, King of Saxony
Jean Louis Lebeau
Leopold, Prince of Saxe-Coburg, later Leopold I, King of the Belgians
August Charles Eugene Napoleon, Duke of Leuchtenberg, Prince of Eichstadt
Maastricht, Netherlands
General Dubitz: General Bernardus Johannes Cornelis, Baron Dibbets, Dutch commander at Maastricht [?]
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