PP/GC/PO/77 Copy of a letter from Lord Ponsonby to Vicomte de Chabot explaining Ponsonby's opinions and actions as regards Belgian sovereignty, 19 February 1831: contemporary copy
Copy of a letter from John Ponsonby, second Baron Ponsonby, [British Joint Commissioner of the London Conference to the provisional government of Belgium], Brussels, to Louis William Rohan-Chabot, Vicomte de Chabot: a friend of Ponsonby's, an acquaintance of Chabot's, has told Ponsonby something which grieves more than surprises him. He was told that the King of the French had been led to suspect Ponsonby of acting with duplicity and hostility towards the King in his official capacity in Belgium. The friend has told Ponsonby that he gave Chabot the opinions Ponsonby has constantly expressed in his private letters, "that the maintenance and security of the power of your King formed the only safeguard for civilization itself against the abominations of jacobinism and republican excesses". Chabot will remember that at a critical moment, nobody was more anxious than Ponsonby to see the King accept the crown, and to see any measures taken to secure for him the goodwill of the British government and people. Chabot knows Ponsonby and his family. He asks whether Chabot takes him to be a fool and a hypocrite for nothing ? Ponsonby believes that peace is most desirable, and that the honest understanding between France and England will ensure peace to the world. Ponsonby has told and written to Chabot his opinions on this subject. He told Chabot quite plainly four or five months previously the only danger to peace which he could see. What has happened in Belgium has been "daringly misrepresented" to the King. If Chabot doubts this, he should ask Lord Palmerston about Ponsonby's private letters. Ponsonby has no doubt that Palmerston will honestly give every word of the letters which concerns the Duke of Leuchtenberg. Ponsonby spoke with "hazardous sincerity" on that subject to Lebeau, the person who brought forward the nomination of the Duke in Congress. He told Lebeau that the Duke was supported by the Jacobin party at Paris, which aimed to overthrow the government of Louis Philippe, and that he was also supported by the Jacobin party at Brussels. If elected, he could only hope to stand with the help of the Jacobins of France and Belgium, and it was absurd to think that Austria, Prussia or Russia could sanction the existence of a sovereign in such a position, while England was engaged to the King of the French not to agree to the choice of any Prince by Belgium whom the King of the French justly disliked. The Duke of Leuchtenberg was disliked in every possible way and the British government would keep strictly to its agreement with the King of the French as long as the French government was faithful to its own engagement, which Ponsonby had no right to doubt it would not. Lebeau had asked Ponsonby if England would recognise the Duke of Leuchtenberg if elected, or if she would refuse to do so. Ponsonby told him that he had no instructions to reply to such questions, but repeated that England would strictly observe her good faith towards the King of the French. Chabot is probably too well informed of what has gone on at Brussels not to know that the measures adopted by the so-called friends of France and by others "are of a nature to throw the greatest appearance of a cause for the entertainment of doubts respecting the sincerity of the French government respecting the election of H.R.H. the Duc de Nemours". Chabot will also know how much stronger that appearance became. Ponsonby is convinced that he could have defeated Nemours' election if he had used all his influence against him in favour of the Duke of Leuchtenberg. Instead, he restricted himself to opposing the election of Nemours. Chabot may acquire the means of proving the truth of what Ponsonby has said, despite being surrounded by people who deceive the King. Belgium is likely to become the source of the destruction of the French government, but if it were pacified, as it could be, Europe might still preserve peace and regain security. Chabot is deceived by those who wish to flatter him and make their own fortune. Belgium fears France and will submit to her power, but the feelings of her people are against any relations with France beyond those of friendship and good will. French domination is dreaded in Belgium, because it is against everyone's interests. There is a French party for peace, but it is not large, and there is another French party much larger and stronger, which aims at the establishment of French supremacy in Belgium, but does not wish to uphold the government or authority of Louis Philippe. The really numerous and respectable party in Belgium supports the election of the Prince of Orange. "I say `election' to mark that it is not for his restoration. They propose to elect him bound by all the obligations of their new institutions. They resist the crown from his father. The Prince's title must be the free choice of the country. For the Prince will be found the large majority of the army, all the commercial interests, nearly all the men of property with a very few exceptions and the general admission that Belgians cannot find in any other combination an escape from her present evils, nor a chance for her future peace and prosperity." People now know that England's intentions are to prevent Belgium belonging to France, and they feel therefore that connection with France, in addition to other ills attached to it, will make a general war more probable. They know that Belgium would be, in part at least, the theatre of any such war, and they know that their country forms a military question of vital importance to England and to Europe which cannot be settled in favour of the ideas of the exaggerated French party, except by the conquest of all Europe by France. Ponsonby has only reported the opinions of the British government, and has taken no real action. The recent clamour against him as the agent of the Prince of Orange has been caused by people whom he will not name. Ponsonby has not concealed his opinion that the Prince of Orange provides the only means for Belgium and Europe to escape from the difficulties and dangers of the general situation. Ponsonby admits this to anyone who questions him on the subject. He says this to Chabot, for it is in the interest of the French King as for any other sovereign or state. Ponsonby denies the charges of those who have deceived the King of the French. He wrote to Chabot because he knows his "open, generous, faithful nature and attachment to your King and to your country. I write with the unrestrained freedom of private intercourse between old friends; and I write because you may, when occasion offers, tell the truth as I state it, to whoever may be interested to know it, and because I believe the truth to be essential at this moment to the prosperity of more nations than one." He has written the letter in a great hurry to be in time for the post, and has hardly had time to read it over. If it requires explanation, Chabot should let Ponsonby know, but he asks Chabot not to "criticize it and judge of it as you would do of a diplomatic production". "They say blasphemy can be extracted from the Bible. Take my meaning as it is obviously intended to be expressed. I have no ?need of sophistry, nor can my object be misunderstood. My principles, my opinions, my feelings, are all for the prosperity of the K[ing] Philippe against his enemies. I wish my country to be his friend." 19 Feb 1831: contemporary copy The letter is marked: "Private".
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
Louis Philippe, King of the French
August Charles Eugene Napoleon, Duke of Leuchtenberg, Prince of Eichstadt
Jean Louis Joseph Lebeau
Louis, Duc de Nemours, second son of Louis Philippe, King of the French
William Frederick, Prince of Orange, later William II, King of Holland
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