PP/GC/PO/84 Letter from Lord Ponsonby to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, concerning Luxembourg and the Prince of Orange's chances of success in Belgium, 13 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 received Palmerston's letter of 11 March. He has an opportunity to write a few lines as Mr Fellows is in Brussels on his way to London. The army will not like the restoration of the old King at all. Ponsonby has taken great pains to find this out. The success of the Prince of Orange [as elected sovereign] will depend on the army, for if it is against him, no other group of people will act [in his favour]. Ponsonby believes that at present the army is nearly unanimously in support of him. The government newspaper, L'INDEPENDANT, has "set forth a laboured argument in support of the nomination of some foreigner to be commander in chief, on the plea that no native officer has skill, etc., enough to fill that post". The foreigner would of course be a Frenchman. Ponsonby supposes Belliard to be at the bottom of this, but it has given great offence to the army and even to other newspapers. Belliard was not consulted by the government before the proclamation about Luxembourg was issued, and was reportedly very angry about it. "But as there is nothing but trick and petty finess amongst these good folks, I will not answer for the General's true sentiments in this case." Ponsonby is pleased that Palmerston agrees with him about Antwerp. It is not casemated and may not be able to support an ordinary siege. As Ponsonby has already said, the French intend to penetrate through Strasbourg into Germany. Ponsonby is informed that there is no way of securing Belgium at present except by the success of the Prince of Orange, and thinks that if the Prince acts now, his success is nearly certain. The war may change the situation of his affairs in a few days. Ponsonby would be glad if the appointment of General Belliard as his colleague could be delayed, with decency and prudence, for a short time. "You know that he will of necessity be the complete master of all that can be done, as he will always be able to oppose his veto, and will have also the entire controul of the present government." After a short time, however, this will not be of importance, and perhaps it is not so now. He thought be should mention this to Palmerston. He cannot see the Regent that day. It is a grand revue day, and the Regent will be in public all day. All the civic guard will act for the Prince of Orange if the army takes his side. He must, however, hoist the national flag and colours. Nobody "cares a fig" about the constitution, and there is anyway a clause giving power to the legislature to alter it. "The extreme mischiefs derived from the revolution have driven ninety nine out of a hundred out of all love for liberty. People only desire security and calm. I except the young gentlemen of the universities who are all for St Simon. A community of women, I suppose, attracts them to this old new folly. But these precocious legislators are very mischevous. I wish they would confine themselves to the operations nature has pointed out for their age, which is that when Alma nestles somewhere near the waist." Ponsonby wishes Palmerston joy with reform. "You will be more than a match for the world if you gain the national heart. As to France and Frenchmen, I believe the power of one and the feelings of the other are deeply wounded by your conduct. England, detested England, has again beaten France even at what she thinks her own game." Ponsonby wishes the [Germanic] Confederation had occupied Luxembourg. It would have been a better ground for a quarrel to arise with France than about Italy. Chokier's proclamation about Luxembourg shows that he is a fool or a puppet in the hands of Van der Weyer and company. The resignation of Monsieur de Gerlache has weakened the already feeble ministry, but nothing active for the overthrow of the ministry will be done in Belgium without pressure from abroad. The occupation of Luxembourg, if done in force, would put an end to Chokier's ministers, but all the fortresses are prepared to receive the French. Ponsonby is anxious to know if he may speak plainly to Chokier on the subject, and would like some idea of whether he can talk generally on all things concerning Belgium. Troops have been moving to [Ponsonby's] part of the French frontiers. Ponsonby fears that the attention of France cannot be distracted from Belgium, and they will try to get Antwerp. Maastricht cannot stand a siege with its present garrison. He has it on good authority that Maastricht is free, so does not need to send Abercrombie there. To send Mr White might perhaps expose Palmerston to some claim, but Ponsonby cannot judge that. White volunteered for the first visit, but the second may be another matter. Ponsonby asks whether Palmerston remembers his letter about Mr Scott, his attache at Rio. The Archbishop of Canterbury has a promise, or something very like one, from Aberdeen in his favour. It might be useful to Palmerston to take some relevant action. Ponsonby also thinks it would be an injustice to Scott to place anybody over his head. Ponsonby supposes he will not stay for long at Brussels, since war seems inevitable, whatever Palmerston does. 13 Mar 1831 The letter is marked: "Private" and it is noted on the docket that it was received on 16 March 1831. Palmerston's letter of 11 March, to which Ponsonby alludes, is numbered PP/GC/PO/638. Ponsonby's previous letter concerning Mr Scott is dated 23 December 1830 and is numbered PP/GC/PO/24.
Two papers, tied together with blue ribbon
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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
Mr Fellows, diplomatic messenger
Belgium: revolt; revolution; independence
William I, King of the Netherlands, later King of Holland
William Frederick, Prince of Orange, later William II, King of Holland
General Auguste Daniel, Comte Belliard, later French Joint Commissioner of the London Conference to the provisional government of Belgium
Antwerp, Belgium
Strasbourg, France, later Germany, subsequently France
Erasme Louis, Baron Surlet de Chokier, Regent of Belgium
Parliamentary reform: reform act
Sylvain van der Weyer, Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs
Etienne Constantin, Baron de Gerlache, formerly President of the Belgian Congress
Maastricht, Netherlands
Ralph Abercrombie, later second Baron Dunfermline, secretary to the British mission in Brussels
Captain Charles White, author and intelligence correspondent
Newton Savile Scott, British attache at Rio de Janeiro
William Howley, Archbishop of Canterbury
George Hamilton Gordon, fourth Earl of Aberdeen, former British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
Patronage; diplomatic appointments
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