PP/GC/PO/80 Letter from Lord Ponsonby to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, concerning the Belgian government and the situation of Maastricht, 4 March 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: he has no doubt that the present Belgian government was arranged at Paris, and Palmerston will easily understand with what views in mind. Ponsonby encloses part of a newspaper which illustrates the tone the Belgian government thinks proper to adopt. The people are opposed to war, and Ponsonby thinks they are nearly unanimous against the present order of things, but they lack a chief and so submit to the Congress and the government, whom they imagine are supported by France. "It may not perhaps be too great a refinement to question the terms of the Regent's oath. He swore de maintenir l'independance nationale, et l'integrite du territoire, the territory being at the same time declared by other formal acts, to consist of Maestricht, Luxemburgh, etc., possessions which the Conference has officially and solemnly denied to be parts of Belgium." Ponsonby suspects that the oath may be the result of French intrigue to give a pretext for France to escape from her engagements about the districts in question. Ponsonby encloses in a despatch a letter from General Mellinet, which will show the situation of Maastricht. Ponsonby has not spoken to the government on the subject, fearing he would cause embarrassment if Palmerston's proceedings at Paris about the blockade meet opposition there. It has been reported that day that General Mellinet has gone over to the Dutch with his troops. Ponsonby supposes this is a lie, but knows Mellinet is in communication with the French party. Ponsonby has reason to believe the whole army is in support of the Prince of Orange and that his party is still gaining strength every day amongst all classes of people. Ponsonby fears distress may bring on a movement too soon. The great manufacturers at Liege, Brussels, Ghent, Bruges, and Antwerp are about to discharge all their men. There is no money in the Treasury to give those men employment, unless the government can obtain a loan, which Ponsonby hears they hope to get in London or on the security of the national lands in Belgium. The taxes are generally evaded and many refuse to pay. The government seems uneasy that the Conference has stopped taking notice of them, but Ponsonby is pleased by it. The men currently at the head of affairs in Brussels must be stripped of power before anything can be done in Belgium. They are actually on the brink of ruin, supported only by the Congress, which is totally discredited in general opinion. Baron d'Hooghvorst is collecting a party to support a proposition for the dissolution of the Congress, but Ponsonby does not believe he will succeed by fair means at present. The government intends to have an adjournment. Ponsonby is surprised to learn that Hainault has become a strong supporter of the Prince of Orange. General Belliard is said to have arrived at Brussels, but Ponsonby has not yet heard what his official position is. Ponsonby will, of course, have no "intimate" communication with Belliard until he receives instructions from Palmerston. Ponsonby is very impatient to hear how the reform [bill] has gone. A motion is to made in Congress for the repeal of the decheance. As regards the Prince of Orange and the constitution, he will be foolish if he hesitates to accept it as it is. If he wants to alter it, there is a power vested in the legislature to make any changes that may be necessary, and once the Prince is established, the whole world will probably be glad to put an end to the "absurdities" the constitution has sanctioned. 4 Mar 1831 The letter is marked: "Private" and it is noted on the docket that it was received on 7 March 1831. Enclosed is a Belgian newspaper cutting from L'INDEPENDANT, in French, supporting the idea of a war in Belgium. n.d. Mar 1831
Two 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
Belgium: newspapers; the press
Maastricht, Netherlands
Luxemburgh, alias Luxembourg or Luxemburg
London Conference on Belgian independence
General Francois Aime Mellinet, French commander of the troops blockading Maastricht
William Frederick, Prince of Orange, later William II, King of Holland
Liege, Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp, Belgium
Joseph Marie Jean van der Linden, Baron van Hooghvorst, or Hoogvorst, member of the Belgian Congress
Hainaut, or Hainault, province, Belgium
General Auguste Daniel, Comte Belliard, later French Joint Commissioner of the London Conference to the provisional government of Belgium
Parliamentary reform; reform act
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