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Lot 500
WELLINGTON, ARTHUR WELLESLEY, first Duke of (1769-1852, Prime Minister, F.M.)

£ 1,200 - 1,800
US$ 1,500 - 2,200
WELLINGTON, ARTHUR WELLESLEY, first Duke of (1769-1852, Prime Minister, F.M.)
LONG 'CONFIDENTIAL' AUTOGRAPH LETTER, WRITTEN AS PRIME MINISTER, SIGNED ('Wellington'), to Mr Grant, entirely concerning the navigation of the Rhine, beginning with an explanation that he has found himself without a copy of the Treaty of Vienna and therefore must write from his recollection of the spirit and the word of the treaty, Wellington gives it as his opinion that the King of the Netherlands has no more right than any other sovereign to exclude foreign built vessels or foreigners such vessels and persons paying duties for keeping the navigation in order and for lights and the like and who conform to police regulations, for preventing smuggling etc and that none of the rulers have a right to levy a particular duty upon any particular commodity for its passage on the river, he suggests that Grant seek the opinion of the law officers of the Lord Chancellor's office; points out that he cannot find in the paper Grant provided any objection by the Prussians to British case for the non-exclusion of her ships or the high duties on tea and sugar and that the King of the Netherlands can seek the cooperation and support of Prussia in the Commission sitting at Mayence; states that the 'Question of the Navigation of the Rhine is a very delicate one', about which the King of the Netherlands is very 'sore' and the Emperor of Russia 'is disposed to favour all his pretensions to avoid the strict perfomance of the Conditions imposed upon him by the Treaty of Vienna and that this is the reason the King of Prussia 'appears a little difficult' and why Baron Bulow has come to the British confidentially; he then lays out a course of action: first to be sure that 'we are right' about not being excluded, second, to look at all the proposed regulations in terms of which are inconsistent with the principles of the treaty and are important to the British - thus the government will know what the case is and be better able to know what to do; meanwhile he recommends that von Bulow be told that the British do not believe that the Kings have dominion over the Rhine nor any right to exclude British ships or to impose duties, that the Prussians be made to understand that the British will be prepared to argue their case and that a postponement of raising the proposed regulations at Mayence be sought; he further suggests that Sir Charles Bagot should ask the Netherlands what they are intending and his attention should be particularly drawn to 'the proposed Regulations which will prove so disadvantageous to HM's Subjects'; Wellington expresses astonishment that Bagot has not notified them already; says he has no objection to Mr Addington's employment in the business, but that anything done at the Court of the Netherlands should be through the ambassador, 7 pages, quarto, marked 'Confidential' at head, contemporary endorsements '1828 April 8 D. of Wellington. Rhine Navigation done with' and 'keep this separate', last page tipped onto an album leaf, Stratfield Saye, 8 April 1828

Footnotes

  • WELLINGTON AND THE RHINE. The Rhine was crucial to British trade and was becoming more so with the proliferation of steam-boats. The government therefore took very seriously the rumours of plans by Prussia and the Netherlands to exclude British ships from the river and to impose prohibitive duties on Britsh tea and sugar. They made it clear that such a restriction would impinge the Vienna settlement and would be completely unacceptable. By the Convention at Mayence of 31 March 1831, between all the riparian states of the Rhine, the navigation of the river was declared free, from the point where it becomes navigable into the sea, including its two principal outlets in the Netherlands, the Leck and the Waal.

    The present letter was written by Wellington as Prime Minister, he having formed an administration on 22 January 1828.
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