PP/GC/PO/75 Letter from Lord Ponsonby to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, concerning the election of a regent for Belgium, 25 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: Surlet de Chokier has been elected regent, as Palmerston will see in Ponsonby's despatch. Ponsonby is very anxious to have Palmerston's instructions. He will not take any steps until he hears from Palmerston. Ponsonby has been informed by a respectable person, whom he suspects may have been commissioned by the regent, that the regent might consent to the election of the Prince of Orange in due time, provided that Luxembourg, Maastricht, and the left bank of the Scheldt become part of Belgium. Ponsonby will know what to think of this information in a day or two, but at present he is not inclined to give credit to anything of the sort. He fears Chokier is entirely pro-French and in the hands of Van der Weyer and company. Chokier is personally an honest man, and Ponsonby hopes that he will not give in to the "nefarious schemes" of his advisers, leading to the destruction of Antwerp, about which Ponsonby has already expressed apprehensions. He fears that Chokier intends to make these men his ministers, and in that case Ponsonby expects to see the continuation of a policy aiming to surrender Belgium to France. He believes the regency was all settled at Paris, and it is possible that the French views form the foundation for some of the articles in the CONSTITUTIONEL and other newspapers that Louis Philippe did not have the right to give a definitive refusal in the name of his son, who comes of age in sixteen months' time and would then have a right to act for himself. The election of the regent does not seem to have caused any stir. People will know that nothing is gained by it. The distress becomes more pressing every hour. Everyone is bankrupt and the shopkeepers have nothing to sell. The payment of taxes is refused. The treasury was entirely empty two days previously, but has since obtained 120,000 pounds from a loan guaranteed by the signature of the individuals connected with the bank. This supply is nothing: the army has to be paid, as well as the civil establishments, and there are other expenses besides the sums required for keeping the populace employed. The funds of the city are exhausted and nobody knows how the poor will be fed after the next few days. It is impossible to see how the government will continue for any length of time, but Ponsonby supposes some resources will be found for a short period to come. The Congress is just as "absurd" as usual. Many deputies who have now voted once again for the exclusion of the Nassaus say that national salvation can only come from the re-establishment of that family. The feeling against the French is getting more violent amongst all classes of people. The protocol about the debt has been badly taken by many, as Ponsonby expected. He has heard nothing about Maastricht. He thinks Van der Weyer may plan to keep the last communication which Ponsonby made about Maastricht secret. Ponsonby knows that Van der Weyer and his friends rely entirely on the promises of the French, probably those of Sebastiani: that they will protect Belgium against all attacks. Ponsonby hopes he will have some news for Palmerston on the subject the following day. He has been told that the government has decided to take some measures against General Mellinet, the commander in the neighbourhood of Maastricht, whom they suspect of treason. Van der Weyer continues to say that England will not oppose France, but will allow her to act as she pleases regarding Belgium. He circulates plenty of other lies and they have a considerable effect, "but the firm is nearly bankrupt and France alone can save the partners from ruin and utter disgrace". The government continues to complete the victualling of some of the fortresses, which were left under-provisioned by the peculation of those previously employed in getting in the stores. Surlet de Chokier's election is on the whole something gained, and there is now at least one person not actually sold to France to whom representations may be made. "He is a mere country gentleman of about 800 [pounds] per ann[um], but has some information and a good private reputation. All his prejudices are for France, but if he could be persuaded that war might be avoided, I think he might be induced to act fairly. He now believes that war is inevitable, and thinks it better for Belgium to have France on her side than against her." Ponsonby has recently seen people who are well acquainted with the state of the French preparations for war in the northern parts of France, and they say France in not ready for war. Some people think that the protocols have done some good. Ponsonby has said before that he thought the Prince of Orange had allowed the time for action to pass by. He now thinks that it is better that no attempt was made. He believes the spread of distress may be so rapid that soon a general cry for the Prince will be raised, and he will then have the vast advantage of coming when the state of the country is so bad that it will not be possible, as it might be at present, to attribute to him the utter ruin of the country. If Ponsonby is to remain at Brussels, he presumes his authority to act in the name of, or by the orders of, the Conference ought to be renewed in some way. 25 Feb 1831 The letter is marked: "Private" and it is noted on the docket that it was received on 2 March 1831.
Two papers
All images are copyright. Please contact Archives@soton.ac.uk if you wish to reproduce this material
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
Erasme Louis, Baron Surlet de Chokier, President of the Belgian Congress, Regent of Belgium
William Frederick, Prince of Orange, later William II, King of Holland
Maastricht, Netherlands
River Scheldt, Belgium
Sylvain van der Weyer, President of the Committee for Foreign Affairs of the provisional government of Belgium
Antwerp, Belgium
Belgium: newspapers; the press; journalism
Louis Philippe, King of the French
Louis, second son of Louis Philippe, King of the French
House of Nassau, Dutch royal family
Francois Horace Bastien, Comte Sebastiani, French Minister for Foreign Affairs
General Francois Aime Mellinet, commander of the troops blockading Maastricht
Facebook Twitter Stumbleupon Delicious Digg RSS