Commentary Explorer Results
Commentary for Volume 2, Chapter 19: The Foreign Policy of Wellington’s Government
Aberdeen and Wellington:
Chamberlain Lord Aberdeen p 205 claims that ‘about half-way through the ministry Aberdeen suddenly became much more independent of the Duke in his opinions and policy’. This is based on two entries in Ellenborough’s diary which really don’t bear the weight she puts on them (i.e. they support her point in the specific instance, but not as a general rule). Not that it is unlikely that Aberdeen grew in confidence as the months passed, and consulted Wellington less over every detail, but their correspondence shows that their disagreements were few and seldom significant and that the policy was very largely decided by Wellington. It is also worth noting that in another entry, as late as 24 October 1829, Ellenborough claims that Aberdeen submitted all his drafts to Wellington who extensively altered them. This may not be true, but it has as much weight as the other entries.
There is another entry in Ellenborough’s diary on the subject: ‘Rosslyn thinks Aberdeen’s notions upon foreign politics have, together with his assumption of independence which is of recent date, made the Duke rather sore, and that he would not be sorry to have another Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs’. But this was written at the end of June 1830, and so does as much to undermine Chamberlain’s contention as to support it, (Political Diary 29 June 1830 vol 2 p 290).
There was one serious incident. Aberdeen’s private letters to Stratford Canning showed much more sympathy for the Greek cause than his official dispatches (itself a sign that Wellington determined the official line). This encouraged Canning in his own views rather than restraining him, so that Aberdeen bears some responsibility for the Poros Protocol (see below). For a foreign secretary to encourage a diplomat, even inadvertently, to pursue a policy different from that of the government was a serious error, and it is interesting that the affair does not seem to have lessened Wellington’s confidence in Aberdeen.
Britain and Portugal since the end of the War:
With the coming of peace in 1814 Britain’s close involvement in the internal affairs of Portugal ceased, at least in theory, but many British officers serving in the Portugal army retained their position, including Marshal Beresford. Their presence aroused considerable jealousy and resentment in a climate of postwar reductions, slow promotion and military inactivity, and was one of the grievances behind the radical revolution of 1820 which derived its support largely from a narrow base of army officers and aspiring intellectuals. Britain played no part either in fomenting or opposing the revolution, in accordance with her doctrine of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. This doctrine had often been over-ruled by the exigencies of war, most obviously in the case of Sicily and of Portugal itself, but after the war had been reinvigorated by opposition to the plans of the Holy Alliance to intervene in Naples, Spain and elsewhere, to quash liberal revolutions. Although given formal expression by Castlereagh it received its strongest support from the Whigs, those self-appointed guardians of the legacy of the Glorious Revolution, and the radicals who professed to fear foreign intervention in British domestic politics.
When the Portuguese revolution was overthrown in 1823, following the French intervention in Spain, King João VI and Palmella appealed to Britain for a force of 6,000 men to ensure stability while they reformed the army and consolidated their new regime. Wellington strongly championed the request but the opposition of Liverpool and Canning meant that it was denied. This proved unfortunate, for it represented probably the last chance of constructing a strong, stable moderate government in Portugal, which could reconcile all but the most extreme radicals and ardent absolutists. Instead Portugal suffered a decade of turmoil in which the fortunes of each party shifted with bewildering speed. In 1824 the absolutists led by Dom Miguel, the King’s younger son, attempted to seize power in a coup known as the Abrilada but were faced down, and Miguel went into exile in Vienna. Two years later, on 10 March 1826, João died and the crown went to the King’s elder son Pedro, the Emperor of Brazil. However Pedro could not hope to rule both Portugal and Brazil – the two countries had formally separated in 1823 – and he announced his intention to abdicate in favour of his daughter Maria da Glória. Before he did so he imposed a liberal constitution, a hastily modified version of Brazil’s, on a country which he had not seen since his family fled Junot’s advance in 1807 when he was nine years old. News of this extraordinary act of arbitrary royal power caused consternation in Portugal where support for the liberals remained weak – the government of 1820-23 left few with fond memories. The regency council headed by Pedro’s sister Isabella hesitated to proclaim the constitution and only did so General Saldanha, a leading liberal army officer and grandson of the Marquis de Pombal, threatened to march on Lisbon at the head of his troops. The upshot was a new liberal government with real power held, not very co-operatively, by Palmella and Saldanha. Aware of its lack of support in the country the ministers ser about consolidating their power and building a base of support by purging the government and army of their political opponents. Many absolutists fled to Spain where they were received with open arms and given support and encouragement in their intrigues against the government in Lisbon. They raised the flag of insurrection in Portugal, but Britain, deeming this to amount to a foreign threat to her old ally, sent an expeditionary force to Lisbon at the end of 1826. The revolt collapsed, and the liberal regime’s position was saved for the moment, although British politicians on all sides insisted that they had not intervened to favour one side or another in Portugal, but purely to preserve her independence. (See main text chapters 9, 11 and 13; and Smith ‘Wellington, Aberdeen and the Miguelist Crisis in Portugal’ p 43-55).
Pedro’s new constitution for Portugal:
Neill Macaulay Dom Pedro The Struggle for Liberty in Brazil and Portugal, 1798-1834 (Durham, NC, Duke University Press, 1986) describes how Pedro personally adapted the existing Brazilian constitution to suit Portugal in just a few days and apparently assisted only by his boon companion ‘Chalaça’ – the Falstaff to his Prince Hal whose skills were more suited to the saloon or the stable than to drafting a constitution. (Ibid p 192, 51-52 for ‘Chalaça’).
The Constitution was carried from Rio to Lisbon by a British diplomat and former ambassador to Lisbon, Sir Charles Stuart, who acted without authorization or judgment, and contrary to the view of the other British minister at Rio, Lord Ponsonby who protested against the document. Canning was taken by surprise; disliked the constitution and tried to distance Britain from it but inevitably his disavowals were not believed that the Constitution was sponsored and supported by Britain. (Smith ‘Wellington, Aberdeen and the Miguelist Crisis in Portugal’ p 45-50).
Miguel sails from England on 9 February 1828:
The date comes from The Times of 13 May 1828 which also says that he did not reach Lisbon until the 25th or 26th but Smith ‘Wellington, Aberdeen and the Miguelist Crisis in Portugal’ p 132 gives date of 22 February.
The loan to Miguel:
Lamb had one card up his sleeve: he still controlled the £50,000 lent by Rothschild and as soon as Miguel’s line of conduct became apparent he sent it home – Parliamentary Debates n.s. vol 19 col 1736.
Threat of Spanish intervention:
The Spanish minister in Lisbon, Salmon, told Lamb that he expected that Britain would support the Constitutionalists in Oporto and ‘“that in such a case, Spain would take part with Don Miguel”.’ (Lamb to Aberdeen 30 June 1828 quoted in Smith ‘Wellington, Aberdeen and the Miguelist Crisis in Portugal’ p 204).
Wellington desires Frederick Lamb’s recall, but gives way to his colleagues:
See the following entries from Ellenborough’s Political Diary vol 1:
p 150-1 21 June 1828 ‘We had some conversation about Portugal. Lamb has resigned. He has written as intemperately as ever. The Duke is for accepting his resignation. The Cabinet in general seem disposed to think he must, under present circumstances, be retained’.
p 152-3 24 June 1828 ‘The Duke was desirous of recalling Lam for his offensive letters. Lords Melville, Bathurst, and I agreed with him; but Sir G. Murray, Peel, Aberdeen, and Goulburn were the other way, and so was Herries. So a letter is to be written to Lamb, telling him the Government have long thought his functions could be better performed by another; that they hoped the long forbearance with which he has been treated would have corrected his contentious tone and temper. That he was only not recalled because it was proved his recall at this moment might expose the policy of the Government to misconstruction’.
‘The Duke was very earnest for Lamb’s recall, and said we should find him quite unbearable, and counter-acting us in every way. That no public servant he ever knew had written half so offensively as Lamb, and all others had been severely reprimanded for it. That Lamb had ventured to use offensive expressions to Canning once, and Canning had put an end to it at once; that in the same way the late Lord Melville had silenced Sir G. Street, and Lord Londonderry Sir John Moore’.
The Liberal Revolt:
The radicals in Oporto chose not to wait and on 18 May rose in revolt against Miguel’s government which was still the legitimate regency of the country. Palmella, Saldanha and other leading liberals sailed from England to take command of the uprising and carried with them the good wishes of many in Britain, although not the British government which could not do otherwise than disapprove. The government in Lisbon reacted slowly to the threat: Miguel had little faith in the regular army which was strongly liberal in spirit despite the dismissal of many officers for their political beliefs. The strength in the absolutists lay in the population at large, especially the poorer classes and in the country, and they could more easily be mobilized in a guerilla war than regular operations. The rebels advanced as far as Coimbra and with more confidence and better leadership might have gone further and perhaps taken Lisbon. But the liberals were discouraged by the lack of support they received from the people, their councils were divided and enthusiasm for the cause even in Oporto soon began to fade. On 25 June Miguel recaptured Coimbra and the revolt began to collapse. A new Cortes met in Lisbon on 23 June and on the 25th it offered the crown to Miguel. Again he hesitated but on 30 June he accepted the petition and declared himself the legitimate King, arguing that Pedro had forfeited his rights and those of his family when he chose Brazil over Portugal in 1822.
Many in Britain feel good will for Palmella and the Portuguese exiles:
For example see The Times of 9 June: ‘The Portuguese loyalists and constitutionalists, driven to this country by the ungrateful and contemptible usurper at the throne of their sovereign, have engaged a steam vessel, and intend to embark for Portugal in the course of the week …’
Portuguese liberal soldiers in England:
There were significant legal and constitutional objections to the presence of foreign troops in British soil, which would certainly have been raised by the Whigs in parliament and by the press if these soldiers had been loyal to Miguel not the constitution. And there was the uncomfortable parallel to the events of 1826-27 when absolutist exiles had collected and regrouped in Spain before advancing into Portugal – the event which led to the dispatch of the British expedition. But much to their frustration the ministers found that they lacked the legal powers to disperse or expel the Portuguese. Wellington complained to Aberdeen that,
I know that we have not the means of preventing that infamous gang of Portuguese and Brazilian ministers residing in London from arming and equipping their troops stationed at Plymouth in secret, and without our having a hint of it; that, when so armed, they may do with them what they please equally without our knowledge. That is to say, they may attack our garrison of Plymouth; or they may send them to Terceira [in the Azores] or Portugal, or where they please. This ought not to be! (Wellington to Aberdeen, Stratfield Saye, 30 October 1828 WND vol 5 p 186-88).
The government put pressure on Palmella either to send the troops to Brazil, which he claimed was their ultimate destination, or at least to send them in small bodies to inland towns. Palmella replied with copious assurances but did little, except to recruit more troops from Germany and other parts of the Continent and hire a number of transport ships. Early in December Wellington warned him against employing the troops in an expedition to Portugal, Madeira or the Azores, declaring that Britain was at peace with the whole world and would not turn a blind eye while the exiles abused the asylum they had been given to attack a friendly nation. The warning went unheeded and the Portuguese troops commanded by Saldanha sailed a few weeks later for the Azores, stopping briefly en route at Le Havre to make a pretence that they were sailing not from England but from France. They arrived off the Azores on 16 January but were prevented from landing on Terceira by Captain Walpole of HMS Ranger. A theatrical scene ensued in which Saldanha pressed on until the British warship opened fire and one man was killed, before surrendering and accepting Walpole’s escort away from the islands. The incident caused a flurry of excitement and enjoyable indignation in the press and liberal circles in London. Lord Holland intended to make it the centerpiece of his attack on the government in parliament, but it was eclipsed by the revelation of the ministers’ plans for Catholic Emancipation. Nonetheless it strengthened public sympathy for the Portuguese liberals.
Whig attacks on the Government over Terceira:
Greville Memoirs vol 1
p 252 9 February 1829 ‘I called at Devonshire House in the morning, and there found Princess Lieven very eloquent and very angry about the Terceira business, which certainly requires explanation. She is very hostile to the Duke, which is natural, as he is anti-Russian, and they have never got over their old quarrel. Saldanha got up a coup de theatre on board his ship. When Walpole fired on him a man was killed, and when the English officer came on board he had the corpse stretched out and cov[ere]d by a cloak, which with suddenly withdrawn, and Saldanha said, ‘Violà un fidèle sujet de la Reine, qui a toujours été loyal, assassiné, etc etc.’
p 253 [same date] ‘[Tom] Duncombe is going to make another appearance on the boards of St. Stephen’s, on the Terceira business, and he is to give notice tonight. He has been Palmella and Fred[eric]k Lamb, who are both to assist in getting up his case, and he expects to be supported by some of the Whigs and by the Huskissonians, which latter are evidently anxious to do anything they can to embarrass the Government. I know nothing of the case, which prima facie, appears much against the Government; but the moment is so ill-chosen, in the midst of this great pending affair [Catholic Emancipation], that I think they will make nothing of it. Palmella is a great fool for his pains, for in clamouring against the Duke he is only kicking against the pricks. As to Duncombe, he is egged on by Lambton and instructed by Henry [de Roos], who cares nothing about the matter, and only does it for the fun of the thing’.
Little happened then, as the Whigs would not press the attack, but tried to renew it after the passage of Catholic Emancipation. Lady Holland told her son, ‘The debate [tonight] will be upon Sir J. Mackintosh’s motion upon Terceira, which will bring in all the questions of Portugal. Some persons are in hopes that there is a more favourable [feeling] towards that unfortunate nation, but of this, nothing I notice has transpired’. (Lady Holland to her son, 1 June 1829 Letters p 93).
Wellington’s anger at the arrival of the Queen:
According to Neumann Wellington said it was an intrigue by Palmerston and Itabayana to create public feeling in Britain which would force the government to openly espouse her cause. ‘But, said the Duke, “These gentlemen little know this iron hand (shaking his fist), and it will never allow them to do what it does not wish”.’ (Neumann Diary 16 October 1828 vol 1 p 192-3).
Caricatures of the Portuguese Queen:
The young Queen also attracted the notice of the cartoonists, who had previously ignored the civil strife in Portugal. Nine prints appeared between October 1828 and October 1829 most depicting Maria as an infant. Several of these poked fairly good humoured fun at Wellington such as Heath’s Majesty & Grace in which the Queen, a toddler, rattle in hand, pinches the Duke’s nose. Later prints however had a sharper political edge, especially A Political Riddle (June 1829), in which Wellington is blamed for the government’s refusal to support the Queen and it is hinted that he secretly sympathizes with Miguel. Another print, The Board of Idolatry ingeniously links Wellington’s supposed support for Miguel with his introduction of Catholic Emancipation: it is both anti-Catholic and hostile to the absolutists in Portugal, reflecting the old link between protestation and liberty. (The nine prints are: George BM Catalogue of Satires nos 15,557; 15,558 (Majesty & Grace though inexplicably listed by George as ‘Modesty & Grace’); 15,564; 15,565; 15,659; 15,679 (The Board of Idolatry); 15,795 and 15,893 (although this print ‘Temporary Suspensions Exemplified’ does not feature the Queen and is hostile to the Portuguese liberals for failing to meet their financial obligations).
The Opposition attacks the government’s policy on Portugal:
The Opposition waited until Catholic Emancipation had been passed before pressing the government over Portugal in parliament, and by then the session was drawing towards its close and energy on all sides was flagging. Nonetheless the ministers felt obliged to publish much of its official correspondence with Lamb and other documents in a diplomatic ‘blue book’ which in turn excited further controversy. These debates marked a significant step in the gradual shift of both the Canningite liberals and the Whigs away from the doctrine of non-intervention towards ideological support for ‘liberalism all over the world’. (The phrase is Palmerston’s from his letter to Sulivan of 1 August 1830 from Airlie Lady Palmerston and Her Times vol 1 p 173 see also Bourne Palmerston ch 8 passim). The public at large probably cared little for Portugal, but it was a significant issue among the political class, and helped align the press more firmly with the Opposition and against the ministers.
The Whigs and the doctrine of non-interference:
In June 1827 Lord Grey spoke strongly against the British expedition to Portugal – see Newcastle Unrepentant Tory 8 June 1827 p 32.
But in the debates of June 1829 Lord Holland declared that the government’s argument of non-interference was no more than an excuse for bad policy: England was bound to interfere in Portugal whatever she did or did not do, and Miguel could not be allowed to retain the Crown he had usurped. (Smith ‘Wellington, Aberdeen and the Miguelist Crisis in Portugal’ p 286).
Britain and the Recognition of Miguel:
In February 1830 Ellenborough noted that ‘The object of recognizing him is to prevent a revolutionary war in Portugal and the entrance of Spanish troops into Portugal to prevent it’. (Political Diary 16 February 1830 vol 2 197-8)
Wellington and Miguel:
The Opposition, both in Parliament and the press, then and later, accused Wellington of sympathy for Miguel; aiding his usurpation and endeavouring to maintain his rule. Smith ‘Wellington, Aberdeen and the Miguelist Crisis in Portugal’ shows that in fact the government was scrupulous in its adhesion to the policy of neutrality and non-interference; and it is clear that if the British Opposition had favoured Miguel not Maria it would have had equally good grounds for complaint (notably over the refugees and Terceira, but also the activity of British liberals). Personal acquaintance gave Wellington a great dislike and distrust of some of the leading Portuguese liberals, including Palmella, while the party’s ties with the old pro-French party and its connection with some of those who fought for Napoleon not against him after 1807 must have had some influence on his attitude. But it does not seem that Wellington had any great hopes of Miguel and the absolutists: they were simply the party in power and Portugal needed stability not renewed trouble if she was ever to prosper.
Background to the Eastern Question:
The other issue which dominated British diplomacy during Wellington’s government was the “Eastern Question” – that is the problems arising out of the Greek Revolt against the Turks, and the perceived threat to the future of the Ottoman Empire in Europe from Russian expansion – a prospect which was viewed with great alarm in London, Paris and Vienna. From 1813 to 1822 Metternich and Castlereagh had co-operated often with the support of France after the restoration, to restrain Russia, not just in the Balkans but more generally. Canning deliberately broke this alliance; he intensely disliked and distrusted Metternich and believed that the restraint, which had applied as much to Britain as to Russia, was too high a price for stability in Europe. Without British support Metternich felt too weak to oppose Russia directly, and instead endeavoured to influence her by close co-operation and by emphasizing the threat all three Eastern Powers felt from radical insurrections and the spread of liberal constitutionalism. This worked quite well for a time, but the Greek revolt tested it seriously because it aroused considerable sympathy in Russia, while Metternich viewed it with abhorrence: he felt that Austria was too weak to benefit significantly from the break up of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans, while he feared the creation of small successor states which would look to Russia for support and which would be both inherently unstable and give Russia a presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. Canning did not like this prospect either and he intervened in an attempt to gain some control over Russia, not by co-operating with Metternich, but directly, first by sending Wellington to St Petersburg in 1826 and then through the Treaty of London signed with France and Russia in July 1827. The Treaty paved the way for the three powers to intervene together in an attempt to force the Greeks and Turks to come to a negotiated settlement. On the surface this sounded evenhanded, but two of the Porte’s traditional allies (Britain and France) turned against her in her hour of need, telling her to grant virtual independence to some of her subjects whose revolt was flagging. The hostility of the intervention was confirmed in practice, first by the failure of the combined British, French and Russian force to restrain the Greeks or force them to abide by an armistice, and second by the unprovoked destruction of the Egyptian fleet at Navarino. And there was another, even worse, consequence of the Treaty of London from the Turkish point of view: so long as the Greek problem remained unsettled relations between the Sublime Porte and Britain and France would be distant and strained at best, which meant that the western powers were in no position to help the Turks if Russia attacked them. While Canning intended to hobble Russian ambition through the Treaty, events proved that it was the Russians who had successfully hobbled Britain and France.
The Emperor Nicholas of Russia was perfectly sincere when the assured an Austrian diplomat that he has no sympathy for the Greeks whom he regarded as rebellious subjects in open revolt against their legitimate sovereign: ‘they have behaved in a shocking, blamable, even criminal manner … I do not desire their enfranchisement; they do not deserve it, and it would be a very bad example for all other countries if they succeeded in establishing it’ (quoted in W. Bruce Lincoln Nicholas I Emperor and Aristocrat of All the Russias p 118). He was content to co-operate with Britain and France in working for a settlement of the problem even though his ambassador in London, Count Lieven, caused a shudder of anxiety when he proposed in January 1828 that Navarino be followed by further operations and that the allied forced should advance ‘even to Constantinople, there to dictate peace under the walls of the Seraglio’ (quoted in Crawley Question of Greek Independence p 100-101). This was a ploy, not a serious proposal, and it was easily brushed aside by Wellington. However there were some heated arguments in cabinet over Greece in the spring of 1828 with Huskisson and Palmerston pushing for close co-operation with Russia and extended boundaries for Greece (which would have required the Turks to cede territory that they still held); while Wellington and Ellenborough showed more suspicion of Russia and more concern at the risk of undermining the Ottoman Empire and driving it into a state of dependency on Russia. Aberdeen and Peel were inclined to agree with Huskisson, at least up to a point, while Bathurst agreed with Wellington. Partly as a result little was done: the Turks did not press their justified anger at Navarino into war, and the allies did not follow it up with further steps to coerce them into recognizing the independence of Greece. (See above Ch 17 p 20-21 and the sources cited there, together with Crawley Question of Greek Independence p 101-4).
Wellington on Metternich and Eastern Question, 1828-30:
There is not the smallest probability of the Austrians going to war. You may safely assure Monsieur de Polignac of that. Metternich is garrulous. He is not very fond of the Russians, but very much so of talking and writing upon the extent and consequences of their losses, which, as is usual in persons of that disposition, he exaggerates … But he no more thinks of interfering by arms than he does of attacking France. And he would act more wisely if he kept himself quiet altogether, and was silent. I’ll engage for it that the Emperor of Russia is more afraid of us, who are as quiet as mice, than he is of the Austrians; although the Austrians have more in their power immediately’. (Wellington to Aberdeen, Apethorpe, 1 January 1829, WND vol 5 p 408-9).
I think the danger to be avoided in the attempt to settle the Russian and Turkish affair in the manner which I suggested to you some time ago is, that the Emperor Nicholas, in order to extricate himself from the difficulties into which he has brought himself, may endeavour to excite a general war in Europe.
Nothing can prevent this misfortune or the overthrow of the Turkish Empire, which would be followed by a general war, excepting the cordial union of France with us in any measures to be adopted; and our total separation in our action from all connection with Austria, after the Austrian government will have prepared the way by ascertaining for us, in a manner to be relied upon, what the Turkish government will really do.’ (Wellington to Aberdeen, Apethorpe, 3 January 1829, WND vol 5 p 417).
Aberdeen, Stratford Canning and the Poros Protocol:
According to Muriel Chamberlain Aberdeen was partly responsible for Stratford Canning’s stance in the negotiations at Poros. ‘There was undoubtedly a discrepancy between [Aberdeen’s] private letters, in which he encouraged Canning to get the best deal he could for the Greeks, and the official dispatches, which reflected Wellington’s views’. When the terms of the Poros Protocol reached London ‘Wellington compelled Aberdeen to rebuke Canning for going beyond his instructions. Aberdeen, unhappily conscious that he had encouraged Canning, tried to soothe him in private letters. Canning would have none of it, angrily resigned, and left for home. Thus began the tension between Canning and Aberdeen which was still unresolved at the time of the Crimean War’. (Muriel E. Chamberlain in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry on Stratford Canning cf Chamberlain Lord Aberdeen p 213-15).
Muriel Chamberlain on the Eastern Crisis:
Muriel Chamberlain’s life of Aberdeen gives the most substantial modern account of the way the Wellington government handled the Eastern Crisis of 1828-30 (Lord Aberdeen p 205-228), but she writes from a very different perspective from that I have taken in this chapter. For Chamberlain, the Eastern Crisis was all about Greece and the central question for British policy was to decide on her frontiers. She spends a great deal of time and effort suggesting differences between Wellington’s view and Aberdeen’s, and repeatedly castigates Wellington for not embracing the Greek cause or recognizing that a larger Greece was inevitable. The Russian War is treated almost as background noise, or as a bogey which unduly influenced Wellington. All this reflects the influence of Crawley and the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth century Liberal school of diplomatic history, with an overlay of special pleading for Aberdeen thrown in. This strikes me as almost willfully blind in its refusal to attempt to understand and explain the thinking behind the policy pursued by Wellington and Aberdeen, which is set far more convincingly in context by Schroeder in The Transformation of European Politics.
Wellington, Spain and Cuba:
I have repeatedly urged the Spanish government, by means of all its agents, not to think of making war upon Mexico, or any of its ancient dominions on the continent of South America; to remain satisfied with Cuba and Porto Rico; and to secure those colonies not only from foreign attack, but from the danger of internal insurrection, by the maintenance, in the former in particular, of a well-paid and well-disciplined force. I particularly pointed out the advantage, on the one hand, which the King derived from having in the island of Cuba the capitalists and their capitals [sic] by which the prosperity of Mexico had been occasioned and maintained; that this advantage, and the local position of the island of Cuba, would give him great influence over Mexico and Colombia, and all the commercial advantages which he could enjoy under any circumstances; and that, on the other hand, the result of any attack upon Mexico or Colombia was very doubtful…
… the consequence of a failure would shake the monarch of Spain to its centre…
If they have gone to Mexico they are mad; and I conclude that they have been induced to take this step by the impatient importunities of Mexican emigrants in Cuba; who probably defray the expense of the expedition. We must look to the consequences….
The possession of the island of Cuba by Spain is a material object to us. We cannot allow Cuba to be revolutionized and a black or coloured dominion established there, as it would be if rendered independent of Spain, or it should pass to the dominion of Colombia or of Mexico; nor can we allow that colony to be taken possession of by the United States or by France. So long as Cuba belongs to Spain, and particularly if Spain should use that colony as she ought, for the purpose of maintaining an influence over her former dominions on the continent, England is the natural ally of Spain; and we shall always be upon friendly terms with that country. It is not probably necessary to declare that sentiment now; but, whatever may be the follies committed by Spain in this attack upon Mexico, the policy of this country requires that its measures should still be directed to prevent any hostile attack by other Powers on the island of Cuba. (Wellington to Aberdeen, 31 July 1829, WND vol 6 p 66-67).
© Rory Muir