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LORD JOHN RUSSELL AT ABERDEEN., Otago Witness, Issue 422, 31 December 1859
LORD JOHN RUSSELL AT ABERDEEN.
The freedom of the city of Aberdeen was presented to Lord John Russell in the new Music-hall, on the 28th of September. More than 2000 persons were present at the ceremony. After acknowledging the honour conferred upon him and glancing at the subject of reform, Lord John., in his address, proceeded to the question of our foreign policy, to which at the present moment his attention was of course chiefly directed. The fundamental principles
upon which that policy should be based were in his opinion, sufficiently plain, but their application was not always easy :—: —
" I believe that our affairs must always be conducted with due regard to the rights and independence of foreign nations ; that the rule of doing as we would be done by is not only a maxim of Christian morality, but the rule of international conduct. (Cheers.) But when we apply such rules we find constitutionally that, having relations in every quarter of the globe, dependencies in every quarter of the globe, there cannot fail to come, from time to time, discussions and disputes, and even, it may be, collisions with other nations. Now, gentlemen, upon such occasions I think it is very necessary tor us to be temperate, to be patient, but at the same time not to do anything which should diminish the feeling of self-respect which a nation as well as an individual ought to maintain. (Cheers.) In short, if we forbear, our forbearance should always be the forbearance of strength, and not the shrinking of weakness." (Loud cheers.)
The Italian question Lord John traced from its origin many years ago down to its recent development and its present crisis :—: —
" For centuries the Italian people— a people rich both in commerce and agriculture— have been subject to foreign Powers— sometimes to the Germans, sometimes to the French. About 60 years ago a general, full of youth, full of genius, full of capacity of every kind, both for war and for civil affairs, entered Italy and declared that he came to give liberty to that people. The Italian people were delighted— the whole of Lombardy was in a state of joy and ecstacy, and although his warlike operations were successful, yet for a time it came to be that the French government was the government of Italy, and in 1814 the people of Lombardy were averse to that foreign dominion, and earnestly desired a change. They applied to an English general, Lord William Bentinck, as honest a lover of liberty as ever existed ; they applied to him, and they applied afterwards to the English minister, to learn what was to be their fate. The English minister told them that their fate was very well settled —that the Emperor of Austria had been kind enough to declare that he would take charge of Lombardy, and therefore he, the English minister, had only to refer them to the Austrian minister. (" Hear," and a laugh.) Well, they have had this new government up to 1859 — to the present time — and every year they became more and more averse to it. I am not saying whether they were justified in their dislike of the former French government or of the late Austrian government— l am only telling you what was the fact known to you all — no more. Well, it had occurred some 10 or 12 years ago to som: men of very ardent hopes and great literary talent?, that these foreign nations had not succeeded in attaining the affection* or confidence of (he Italians— that the Italians might as well govern Italy themselves. It was a now notion, but not a very unnatural one. In 1343-49 they made the attempt. Unfortunately they biiceeeded so ill that they gave people a great distrust of their power of self-government: but the Emperor of the Trench having conquered Lombardy in the present year made a wi-eand magnanimous declaration that he did not go to conquer Lombardy for himstlf, but that the Italians should be the free citizens of a great country. (Applause.) Well, I ask, has There been any mischief produced ? Because I think with regard to this matterof states and nations regulating their own government ifc is not \ery different from that of a man— say in this city of Aberdeen — regulating his *own house. (.Applause, and a laugh.) But, at the same time, it is possible that a man may manage his house in such a way as to be' a great nuisance to his neighbours. (Laughter.) For instance, he may start a pyrotechnic manufactory in his house, making experiments to try his skill, and, it may be, sending up skyrockets into the air every evening- in order to see the enect. This would not seem to be agreeable, because other householders might conceive that their houses might be set on fire. Instead of wishing to encourage the gentleman to do whatever he pleases in his own house, the Lord Provost might be called on to interfere with that gentleman because he was likely to set fire to the houses of his neighbours. (Laughter.) But has anything of that sort occurred in Italy? Can any man say there is such a disturbance of order at Milan, Modena, or Florence, that the neighbours— the Austrians or other neighbours— are called upon to interfere ? (Cheers.) On the contrary, the conduct of this people just emancipated, who have been subject to foreign rule for many years, who might have been expected to burst into some excess — possibly someoutrage against the persons who are most odious to them — they have conducted their matters with perfect order — with such order as if they had been the citizens of a country which had long been free. (Cheers.) England had not assisted these Italians in the assertion of their freedom. She had taken no part in the hostilities of last spring. What opinion was she now prepared to express with regard to the "situation ?" On what condition would she consent to assist in the settlement of Italy ? And how were the other great Powers disposed to act ?
" I think we are bound to say — we do say, and we have said — that against any interference of foreign force to prevent those people having their own government and conducting their affairs as they like, we do most loudly and solemnly protest — (loud cheers) — and therefore, gentlemen, be the terms of the treaty now negotiated what they may, if hereafter, consequent upon that treaty, there shall be that of which you have heard, no doubt, and which has been frequently talked of— if there shall be a congress of the Powers of Europe — if it shall be the wish of those Powers which have taken part in those hostilities that in the final settlement of Italy and the acknowledgment of the different States belonging to it the other Powers of Europe should take part in these consultations, we might assist only upon one condition, namely, that with respect to using foreign force in order to compel fulfilment of the conditions of peace, whatever they may be, so as not to interfere with the right of the people of this country to manage their own concerns — that, if such should be the object, or may be the result of such language, England "may stand apart and take no concern. (Loud applause.) But, gentlemen, I feel convinced, and such is the language, not of one of those Power.", but of both those Powers, that whatever their opinions may be as to what has taken place— and the Austrian government cannot be expected to approve of the revolution in Modena and Tuscany — yet I believe neither Power has any intention to interfere by force with the decision of these peoples. I think it a matter of great importance that it should be so, because that system — which is rather disguised than expressed by the phrase, the balance of power— that system means that the different States shall be independent, that they shall manage their own concerns, and that no one State should have the preponderance in Europe, or dictate what should be the constitution, or what should be the internal government of the rest. And happy as we are in this country in independence long acquired, it is not only our interest but I think it must be our wish, to see that every State in Europe, whether they prefer a system which we think not compatible with liberty, or whether they prefer a just and temperate system of representative monarchy, or whether they prefer any oilier form of government, provided they do not interfere with their neighbours— l think that the independence of the several States of Europe is an object which Great Britain ought to feel a sympathy and interest in. This country holds high a beacon which may save the rest of the world. It is not for us to arrogate and dictate
with respect to what they shall do, but it is our duty when we do speak to speak in the language of a free people, as the loyal and obedient subjects of a monarch who reigns in the affections of her people."
LORD JOHN RUSSELL AT ABERDEEN., Otago Witness, Issue 422, 31 December 1859
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