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France And Prussia—Alleged Draft Treaty—Question

Volume 203: debated on Tuesday 26 July 1870

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Before the House separates there is a Question which the Prime Minister has permitted me to ask him, and which I desire to put, as it relates to a question of very great interest. From a statement made in "another place" by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs we are led to understand that a communication was this day received by him from the French Ambassador respecting the alleged projected Treaty between France and Prussia. I beg, therefore, to inquire, Whether my right hon. Friend is able to inform the House of the effect of that communication?

This day M. de Lavalette called upon my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and stated that, now that war had been declared between France and Prussia, there remained for him but two objects in the post that he occupies at this Court. Those were to maintain intimate relations between the two Governments, and to preserve the friendly feeling which has arisen and has been the growth of late years, especially between the two nations. He further stated that the plan contained in the alleged draft Treaty which had been published in The Times newspaper of yesterday was one which had been originated by M. Bismarck, and had been the subject of some conversation with M. Benedetti, but that it never had any serious basis, and was rejected by both parties. The Marquis do Lavalette went on to say that the Government of the Emperor had absolutely respected the neutrality of Belgium, even when there was reason to complain of its conduct. That, I interpolate, has, no doubt, reference to the time when a discussion took place last year with reference to a certain railway. During this month the Emperor had made a declaration of neutrality to the Government of Belgium, which had also been communicated by M. de Gramont to Lord Lyons, and which, M. de Lavalette said, I must know was absolutely binding on the honour of the Emperor of the French, unless, indeed, neutrality was violated by either of the other belligerents. He then referred to the declaration made in answer to a Question with respect to an assurance of neutrality having been received from several Powers. This is the nature of the communication made by the French Ambassador.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

SUPPLY considered in Committee.

Committee report Progress; to sit again this day.