PP/GC/PO/96 Letter from Lord Ponsonby to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, concerning the settlement of Belgian boundaries and internal unrest, 7 April 1831
Letter from John Ponsonby, second Baron Ponsonby, [British Joint Commissioner of the London Conference to the government of Belgium], Brussels, to Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston: he detained Palmerston's messenger in order to send the result of the proceedings in Congress concerning a conversation reported officially to that body by Monsieur Lehon, between himself and Sebastiani. Sebastiani said that France would adhere to protocol number twenty, concerning the limits. Lebeau had informed Ponsonby of this and said he expected violent speaking and acting in Congress. "I could easily believe he judged rightly for nothing could be more disordered than he was himself. He talked of the dishonor of his country, of a universal determination to resist all the world, of dying gloriously, etc., that the whole mass of the nation would rise as one man and go to the slaughter, that there must be an appeal to people against governments, and that it would be successful, that arms and troops too should be sent in abundance to Luxembourg, that aid would come from France in despite of her ministers." When Lebeau had tired himself, Ponsonby persuaded him to agree to avoid saying anything to increase the irritation of Congress, and to confine himself simply to acquiescing in the proceedings, taking care not to commit himself. Ponsonby had heard that he did so, and that although some members spoke furiously and abused France terribly, nothing was done. Time may bring reason, but Ponsonby cannot answer for the Belgians whilst they are governed by the National Association and a "wild and vain" press. The people of property, who used to be powerful, are now all paralysed with fear, and the government is weak. The ministers are honest on the whole, and wish to connect themselves with England. It is regrettable that Palmerston cannot give them the strength they would acquire if D'Aerschot were received, but he must not press the point however strongly he feels he could argue, now that Palmerston has so positively declared his intentions. Ponsonby could not go over at any length with Lebeau the subject and matter of Palmerston's letter, but he told him that he had received the worst news on the subject of D'Aerschot. He asked Lebeau to wait until another letter had arrived from England before actually recalling D'Aerschot. "This cannot, I presume, be an inconvenience to you and it is of use to me to be considered desirous to endeavour to obtain for them what they so much desire to have. I think - but I must not speak on the subject and I stop." Public opinion is in favour of Leopold. The Orangists have generally abandoned all hope of success, and most of them have abandoned all wish for it too, now they have seen what the "old King" has in mind. With proper management, it might soon be possible to direct the Belgian government and perhaps prevent the "excesses which seem to be imminent, if not inevitable, of a distressed, unbridled mob against property and order and persons". Ponsonby opinions about the settlement of limits differ considerably from Palmerston's. Ponsonby believes that Palmerston wishes to make Belgium an independent barrier against France and to do so by peaceable means as far as Belgium is concerned, rather than by force or menace. He believes Palmerston will consider the effect his measures will have on the position of the sovereign, whoever he may be, and whether they make it possible or impossible for him to govern the country. There may be an opportunity here for making the Belgians very grateful to England, and to be the source of a great deal of contentment to some of the great interests, without hurting Palmerston's own essential aims. Brussels is quiet. Further pillaging does not seem to be in the interest of Gendebien and his party at present. Gendebien's band has been employed at Liege, Antwerp and elsewhere, and recently at Ypres, and is thought to be going to Malines that day, and Ponsonby expects to hear of plundering from there either the following day or the day after. Van der Weyer seems to want to come to the right side. Ponsonby will try to encourage this. Ponsonby is dining with the Regent the following day and will speak about the Dutch prisoners. He has repeatedly spoken about them to the government without success. The animosity of the former ministers was fiercely against the Hollanders and they were also little disposed towards England or Ponsonby himself. The present ministers are the reverse. He has not heard about any more deserters. General Belliard applied at Brussels for the surrender of some to the French authorities, but Ponsonby does not know if he had any success. Ponsonby sees him and is on very good terms with Belliard, but Bresson has made Ponsonby rather shy of intimacy with Frenchmen employed in Belgium, who must be Ponsonby's enemies until the influence of De Celles is destroyed at Paris. De Celles has written to Barthelemy, one of the ministers, who has told friends and strangers, that "you must reject Leopold at all events". 7 Apr 1831 The letter is marked: "Private" and it is noted on the docket that it was received on 10 April 1831.
Two papers, tied 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
Belgium: revolt; revolution; independence
Belgium: territorial limits; boundaries; partition of the Netherlands
Charles Aime Joseph, Comte Lehon, or le Hon
Francois Horace Bastien, Comte Sebastiani, French Minister for Foreign Affairs
Jean Louis Joseph Lebeau, Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs
Philippe Jean Michel, Comte D'Arschot Schoonhoven, alias Aerschot, Belgian representative at London
Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, later Leopold I, King of the Belgians
William I, King of the Netherlands, later King of Holland
Alexandre Gendebien
Liege; Antwerp; Ypres, or Ieper; Malines, or Mechelen, Belgium
Sylvain van der Weyer
Erasme Louis, Baron Surlet de Chokier, Regent of Belgium
General Auguste Daniel, Comte Belliard, French Joint Commissioner of the London Conference to the provisional government of Belgium
Charles Joseph Bresson, later Comte Bresson, former French Joint Commissioner to the provisional government of Belgium
Antoine Charles Fiacre, Comte de Wisher de Celles, Belgian representative at Paris
Antoine Barthelemy, Belgian Minister of Justice
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