§ Mr. Dixon
begged to call the attention of the House to a subject of great importance, it was connected with the capture of many British vessels by foreign powers, whom the Government had not restrained from such lawless proceedings by resorting to the energetic measures which the circumstances of the case required. In the year 1826, a war existed between the Brazilians and the people of Buenos Ayres, the former blockaded the month of the Rio de la Plata, and, under pretence of a breach of the blockade, captured a number of English vessels. The first case to which he begged to call the attention of the House was that of the ship Caledonia, on a voyage to Valparaiso. This vessel, when on the coast of Patagonia, was chased and taken possession of by a Buenos-Ayrean privateer. A prize-master and a number of men were put on board and ordered to take the vessel to Buenos Ayres. When the ship came within sight of the Brazilian squadron, the prize-master and his men escaped on shore, leaving the vessel in the possession of the commander. The ship was taken possession of by the Brazilian squadron, carried into Monte Video, and there adjudged to be a prize. It was objected by the Captain that she was a neu- 552 tral vessel, and had not committed any breach of maritime law which made her liable to seizure; but the capture was held good, on the ground that she had been in the possession of the Buenos-Ayrean privateer. The circumstances of this case were so gross a breach of national faith, that a British ship of war on that station received orders to re-capture the Caledonia wherever she might be found. This was done, and, on the Brazilian government's complaining, the Admiralty censured the conduct of the British officer. At the same time, however, notwithstanding the cargo was plundered, and although it had been admitted that according to no principle of international law, could the Brazilian government retain possession of the vessel—no redress had been obtained. The next case was that of the Unicorn, which had excited considerable attention: this vessel was captured without the least ground for her seizure. In the Brazils no vessel could be condemned unless on the judgment of the Court of Admiralty at Rio. Now, on the appeal from the Admiralty Court at Monte Video to the Court at Rio, the condemnation of this ship was reversed. He understood the British Consul was told by the Judge of the Admiralty Court at Monte Video that he would not have given the judgment which he did, had he not been under fear of his life. Another vessel, with West India produce on board, was seized by the Brazilian squadron, though there was not the least pretence for saying that she had been guilty of the violation of any orders of blockade. Another vessel, the George, was captured in the same manner—with respect to which there had been a decision in one of the Courts of Justice in this country. The case was brought under the consideration of the Court by an action against the insurers, and the Court of Common Pleas decided that the assured was entitled to recover, as the capture had not been occasioned by any misconduct on the part of the Captain. Under these circumstances, how was it that the Government of this country had not interferred to compel the Brazilian government to make some compensation to those British subjects whose property had been thus unjustly seized by the Brazilian squadron? France and the United States of America had compelled the Brazilian government to attend to the claims of their citizens, and had obtained compensation. 553 The matter had been the subject of negotiation between the government of Brazil and this country; but we had suffered the Brazilians to evade giving proper satisfaction up to that moment for the injuries they had inflicted on British subjects. According to the articles which Lord Ponsonby induced the Brazilian government to assent to, Commissioners were appointed to settle these claims, and the manner in which this was to be done was agreed on. The articles were sufficiently specific, if they had been acted upon; but the truth was, that nothing had been done, and no steps taken to ensure redress. The Government had allowed the Brazilians to evade just demands in a most shameful manner. It would appear as if this country had not the power to protect its subjects from the aggressions of a government like the Brazilian. He understood, that just before the dissolution of the late Government, Lord Aberdeen sent a dispatch to Rio, in which he gave notice, that, if the British claims were not settled without delay, reprisals would be resorted to. That despatch was followed by another, the first of those sent out by the noble Lord, the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in which the same tone appeared to be adopted; but in a very short time afterwards the noble Lord sent out a very different despatch, in consequence of which the threatened reprisals were prevented. He believed it would be said, that this second despatch was sent out because the Brazilian government promised redress, and the Brazilian agent undertook to procure the dismissal of Lisboa. But these promises had not yet been executed, and the noble Lord had suffered British subjects to be denied redress. If what he had stated was correct, as he believed it to be—if the noble Lord really had countermanded the order to make reprisals—the Government was, he must say, much to blame. But there was another subject, on which, in his opinion, the Government had not acted with that strict attention to British interests which was to be expected from them. The mode of paying that sum which the Brazilian government had admitted to be due, was settled to be by forming a sort of debt, the value of which was to be taken in the paper of that government, at sixty-two and half per cent, although the last loan made to that very Government was only valued, in the market at forty-five per cent. 554 In this way, therefore, the British merchant, even when his claims were allowed, would find himself still a considerable loser by the means taken to liquidate them. Of course, the persons having claims made them, on the presumption that they should be paid the full amount of the judgments they obtained. But, instead of their receiving the full value for every hundred pounds sterling, they were ordered to receive only at the rate of 750 milrees for 1,000. But, in consequence of the depreciation of the currency, occasioned by a large issue of paper, the 750 milrees were equivalent, in metallic currency, to only 540, or was equal to about 63l., which they were to receive for 100l. But, even at that depreciation of thirty-seven per cent, the parties had been unable to obtain a settlement, after a delay of six or seven years. He asked, then, whether the British Government was not prepared to vindicate the national honour, and obtain redress for the merchants who had already lost so much? He was sure, if the Government had acted with the least appearance of energy, that the Brazilian government would have set aside sufficient money for the payment of all these claims. He thought he had made out a strong case, and he hoped that the papers which he was about to move for would be granted, and that the House and the country would be made acquainted with all the circumstances of the case. At the same time, he felt some degree of anxiety as to the explanation which must now be given by the noble Lord, which, he trusted, would be of such a nature as to give satisfaction, and to hold out the prospect of a speedy settlement. He begged leave to move, as an amendment to the Motion for the Speaker leaving the Chair, "that an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, that he will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, 'extracts or copies of all correspondence or despatches that had passed between the Foreign Office and the British Legation at Rio de Janeiro, regarding the seizure and capture of British ships and property by the Brazilian squadron, in the river Plata, in the years 1826–7; also between his Majesty's Consul at Monte Video and the Foreign Office, also, of the correspondence between his Majesty's Consul at Monte Video, and the British Legation at Rio Janeiro; also, extracts or copies of the correspondence that may have passed be- 555 tween the Foreign Office and the Brazilian Legation at this court, on the same subject; together with a copy of the memorandum, dated 5th May, 1829, entered into between Lord Ponsonby and the Brazilian minister for foreign affairs on the same subject."
Mr. Alderman Thompson
rose to second the Motion of his hon. friend, and to express his feelings of indignation at the conduct which the Brazilian government had pursued towards British subjects. Its proceedings were utterly unwarranted by the laws of nations, or the commonest rules of justice. Several of the British vessels that had been captured had sailed from this country three months before the declaration of war between Brazil and the Buenos-Ayrean government, and yet they had been taken to Rio Janeiro, condemned, and the ships and cargoes sold, for breaking a blockade of which their captains knew nothing till the ships were seized for violating it. There were also some instances of vessels being captured which were not even bound to any port within the territories of Buenos Ayres, much less to the Rio de la Plata. But without going into details it was sufficient for him to refer to the acts of the Brazilian Government itself to expose in its true light the principles of its conduct. The Brazilian legislature had provided for the compensation of British subjects, a decree of the emperor had repealed the condemnation of the vessels seized, and a convention, after a lapse of two years spent in negotiations, was finally obtained, settling the manner in which compensation should be awarded, and providing for the appointment of a mixed commission to carry the convention into effect. Three years had passed since the convention was agreed to, but no decision whatever had been come to by the Commission with respect to the claims referred to it. Was it fit and proper, that the Government of Great Britain should be thus trifled with, and insulted, by such a government as that of the Brazils? What had been the conduct pursued by France and the United States under similar acts of aggression? They had insisted upon reparation under the threat of reprisals, and their claims were immediately allowed. For what purpose had this country a navy which cost 5,000,000l. a-year, if such acts of outrage were not to be redressed. He assured the noble Lord, the Secretary for 556 Foreign Affairs, that this feeling of indignation was general among the mercantile body, and particularly among the merchants of the metropolis, some of whose claims, varying from 5,000l. to 25,000l., they had been kept out of for several years, and there even now appeared but little prospect of recovering the money. The Brazilian government had evaded making reparation by every means in its power, and, among the rest, had changed its agent in the course of the discussion, so that much time was wasted in again going over the subject with the new agent. The British Government ought to insist on the agent coming to London, so that he might not be changed at every changing caprice of the government he represented. The government of Buenos Ayres, on which there were similar claims, had done so, and their Commissioners in London had already adjudicated upon a number of cases. Indeed, such was their despatch, that they frequently decided cases in a fortnight. He knew, that the financial state of Brazil might render it difficult for her government at once to satisfy these claims; but it should, at all events, acknowledge their justice. There could be no pretence for withholding this right, for some of the vessels were seized in barefaced violation of every principle of justice. As one instance of this, he must mention, that there was a vessel insured at 8,000l., at Lloyd's, which had been captured by the Brazilian squadron, news of which arrived in this country. The insurers here directed their agent at Brazil to purchase the ship, if it was sold under a certain sum. It was accordingly purchased by him at 2,500l. The Brazilian government, however, forced the agent to give up the ship; and he believed that, at this moment, the ship was employed in the transport service of Brazil. He charged the Brazilian government with misconducting itself purely for the purposes of plunder. He was sure that, if the noble Lord would follow the excellent example set him by his predecessor, the Earl of Aberdeen, in the matter of the British claims on the Spanish government, this affair with the Brazils would soon be satisfactorily terminated. It fell to his lot to take an active part in the settlement of the claims he had alluded to, and he should not do the noble Earl justice, if he did not take this opportunity of saying, that he manifested the utmost anxiety and 557 zeal in obtaining redress for the British merchants who had claims upon Spain, for which conduct he had obtained the gratitude of the commercial world. There was another point connected with this subject which he must briefly notice. In 1823, a loan was contracted for by the government of Portugal, with the House of Goldsmid, for a million and a half sterling. By a convention entered into between Portugal and Don Pedro as emperor of the Brazils, the latter took upon himself the payment of this loan; and, in consideration of so doing, Portugal was to surrender certain ports, ships, and warlike stores. In pursuance of this agreement, the Brazilian government paid the interest of the loan to the bondholders for two years. Remittances were sent to pay a dividend due in May, 1828. These were received by the Portuguese minister in London; but when applied to for them on behalf of the bondholders, he said, "No; Don Miguel is now on the throne of Portugal, and the bondholders must look to him for their money." In fact, the Minister wanted this money to apply to the fitting out of his expedition to Terceira; and, from that hour to this, no redress whatever had been afforded the British bondholders. In order to show the feeling which prevailed among, British merchants upon this subject, he would take the liberty of reading to the House an extract from a letter written by Mr. Eyre, one of the Committee of the bondholders, on their behalf, to his excellency, the Marquis of St. Amaro, the Brazilian ambassador. Mr. Eyre writes thus:—London, March 9, 1831.Sir—The public papers, I find, have announced, that you have presented your credentials at the Court of London, under which circumstance I now enclose, for your information and that of the government you represent, a copy of a letter which I had the honour to address, on the 21st of February last, to the Chevalier de Mattos, on the subject of the unpaid dividends due on the Portuguese loan, which was assumed by Brazil, by the Treaty of Separation of August, 1825, and, subsequently, inscribed in the Great Book of the Brazils, as a national debt of their own.I also now officially transmit you a printed copy of an appeal and protest made on behalf of myself and fellow-sufferers, against the glaring injustice committed towards us; and as the most effectual means of making this known to all concerned, I have caused it to be posted in the Royal Exchange of this city for some days past. Policy and expedi- 558 ency, apart from common honour and honesty, equally call aloud for the most expeditious redress of our grievances, and having now suffered tamely under them for more than three years, it is quite impossible to attribute to us any want of patience or forbearance.The attempt to raise a loan for the regency of Terceira, and ostensibly on the security of funds to be received from the Brazils on account of our debt, has, from its very nature, proved abortive; it has been scouted from the British Stock Exchange.This sufficiently showed the opinion of British merchants with regard to the justice dealt out to there by the Brazilians government. In conclusion, he would express his hope, that the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would speedily take effectual means to obtain for them that redress to which they were entitled and which the interest of the country at large, as well as their individual advantage, required should be obtained.
§ Viscount Palmerston
begged to assure the hon. Gentleman who had brought forward the question, that the postponement of his Motion, from time to time, had not been sought, on his part, with any intention of evading it, but simply on account of his being most busily occupied elsewhere. With respect to the Motion itself, it must be obvious that, pending transactions of this sort, to produce every thing stated on one side for the information of another, could not be advantageous to the interests of the parties concerned. He did not stand up in that House to undertake the defence of the Brazilian government in respect of these transactions, for he felt himself bound to say, he considered these captures as made against every principle of national law. It was on that ground that redress had been demanded from the Brazilian government. He was sorry to be obliged to add, that, in the execution of the memorandum which had been referred to as laying down the principles on which redress should be granted, the Brazilian government had not shown that sincere desire to carry that agreement into effect which this country had a right to expect. It was true, as stated by the hon. Member, that the original admission obtained by the late Government from that of the Brazils towards the end of the year 1828—that compensation was due—was obtained by a threat of reprisals in case it were not made, and some proposition laid down to carry it into effect. In consequence of this the memorandum alluded 559 to was drawn up between Lord Ponsonby and the Brazilian government, in the early part of 1829. The hon. Gentleman had truly stated, that when that memorandum came to be carried into execution, and the Commissioners appointed under it came to apply the articles of that memorandum to the cases brought before them, the representatives of this country had reason to complain of delays of all kinds being thrown in the way, and that these delays were not occasioned by a desire to forward the ends of justice, but for the sake of procrastination. The result was, that his predecessor, Lord Aberdeen wrote, towards the end of 1830, to our Chargé d'Affaires at Rio, instructing him to inform the Brazilian government, that the British Government expected a faithful and prompt execution of that agreement; and that, if we had reason to believe the Brazilians acted with bad faith, we should be obliged to have recourse to the measures originally hinted at. When he came into office, in November, he had grounds for considering, that a second communication to the same effect was necessary, in order to advance the progress of the arrangement; and, accordingly, some time in December, he wrote to Mr. Aston in stronger terms than those employed by his predecessor, instructing him to communicate to the Brazilian government, that, if we had cause for supposing that any vexatious delays merely for the purpose of gaining time, and evading the fulfilment of the agreement, were resorted to by the Brazilian Commissioners, Great Britain would have recourse to those reprisals, by which alone justice could be obtained for her subjects. Subsequently to sending off that despatch, he had had a communication with the Marquis of St. Amaro, in which he assured him of the good disposition of the Brazilian government to do what was proper. In consequence of these representations, and the proceedings taken by him, he was induced, towards the end of January, to send Mr. Aston another despatch, instructing him, if he had not already acted upon the instructions contained in his last, to suspend the doing so till he heard again from him. The hon. Member said, that this despatch was the cause of great prejudice to British merchants; but how it could have been so, when, before its arrival, Mr. Aston had already acted upon the contents of its precursor, he was at a loss to imagine. It 560 was clear, that that first communication must have had its full effect before the arrival of the second. The hon. Member talked of the negotiations having been carried on for so long a period; but the fact was, that there were no negotiations at all, after the signature of the memorandum. All that had to be done was, for both sides to appoint Commissioners, as therein agreed upon, in order to apply the principles of the memorandum to the cases brought before them. But then came the revolution of the month of April, by which Don Pedro ceased to be emperor. The change of government which then took place might create delay to a certain unavoidable extent; but he was sorry to say, that greater delay took place than was explicable upon that ground alone. He had, therefore, felt it his duty, towards the close of last year, to repeat the communication he had before made to Mr. Aston, in stronger and more positive terms. Mr. Aston received that communication on or about the 18th of December. It authorized him to state to the Brazilian government, that it was impossible for England to avoid resorting to those measures which her naval superiority placed in her hands, unless the Brazilian government proceeded faithfully in the execution of the memorandum. But, in the meantime, a considerable step had been taken by the Brazilian government to do that which, up to that moment, they had not done, but which was necessary to enable it to pay to British claimants the indemnity that might be awarded there. Towards the end of October, they, for the first time, made a communication to the Brazilian chambers of what had taken place, and the Brazilian chambers passed the vote of credit which the hon. Member had alluded to, placing 300,000l. at the disposal of the government, for the satisfaction of these claims, and some unsettled claims of French and American subjects. He was aware that, large as was the amount of this sum, it was not equal to the amount claimed by British merchants; but the principle being thus once admitted, there could be no doubt that, whatever sums might be necessary to satisfy all these claims, would be forthcoming; and, at the date of the last accounts from Mr. Aston, the Commission was proceeding to the investigation of some of the cases before it, the objections which had previously been taken by the Brazilian Commissioners 561 being given up; and there being every reason to suppose, that no improper delay would be again opposed to the settlement of the subject. He was sure the House would feel, that forbearance was especially due from a strong empire like Great Britain, towards a weak power, like the Brazils. There was nothing like equality of maritime strength between them; and Great Britain had it in her power, at any time, to have recourse to force to obtain redress. In such a case more forbearance was due than might be, were the forces of the two parties approaching nearer to an equality. It had not been from any feeling of indifference to these claims that our greater power had not been asserted; but from a desire to abstain from having recourse to forcible means, so long as there appeared a possibility of obtaining redress by any others. He was not sorry, that this Motion had been made; nor could he have the slightest wish to prevent its being brought forward for it could not be useless that the Brazilian government should understand, that if our communications to them had borne a character which made them, in their address to their chambers describe us as "the most imperative of friendly nations"—it could not be useless that they should know, that, if we had been urgent in our demands, it was not because the Executive Government preferred that mode of communication, but that the House of Commons, even if the Government should be neglectful of its duty, would interpose, to see, that justice was finally done. In the present state of these transactions, then, having no reason to believe, that the Brazilian government was not now disposed to take the right steps to have these claims properly investigated, and feeling that the correspondence moved for by the hon. Gentleman would not be useful for his purpose; but, on the contrary, inconvenient to be produced, he must request the House not to consent to this motion. The hon. Gentleman had expressed a hope, that the Government would not consent to any modification or change of the terms of the memorandum. He might state, that application was made to him, to reconsider that memorandum; but it was impossible to do so—it was a binding engagement between the two countries, and that, whilst we, on the one hand, could not ask for more than that memorandum gave us, so, on the other, we were entitled to every thing it did give 562 us. He was aware, that with respect to the question of the exchanges, time had produced an alteration in the working of the article which regarded them; but, he still thought, upon the whole, that memorandum contained just and equitable principles for the settlement of these claims, and he should certainly conceive it to be his duty to require it to be executed as it now stood.
Sir Robert Peel
said, that his noble friend (Lord Palmerston) had observed, with some semblance of justice, that, in disputes between a strong and a weaker nation, forbearance ought to be shown towards the latter. That did not, however, appear to be the principle which the House was willing to recognise in the case of Portugal, for there appeared to be on the part of the majority which upon a late occasion had refused papers explanatory of our relations with Portugal, a disposition to censure Lord Aberdeen, because he had allowed thirty or forty days to elapse before he proceeded to exact justice by force for wrongs alleged to have been done to British subjects. Admitting, however, this principle of forbearance to be just, as it was generous, he thought the time had long expired, during which forbearance could with either prudence or justice be extended towards the Brazils. if the true history of the transactions in which British property had not merely been mistakenly seized and confiscated, but in h is conscience he believed designedly plundered, were laid before the House of Commons, they would not hesitate to declare, that the period had arrived when the Government ought no longer to delay exacting reparation for the injuries and insolence which had so long remained unredressed. He must say, that those injuries had been much underrated by the two hon. Members who had brought forward and supported the Motion. The true history was this:—There was a war between the governments of Brazil and of Buenos Ayres, and a blockade of the ports of Buenos Ayres was proclaimed. It was, however, but a paper blockade, there being obviously no adequate power to enforce it. Under these circumstances, the principle laid down by the government of Brazil was this, that no vessel should be held responsible for breach of the blockade to which previous notice of the blockade had not been regularly given. In utter disregard of this principle established by Brazil itself, and without an adequate force to maintain 563 a real blockade, several British vessels were seized upon by Brazilian cruisers, and confiscated, to the value, he believed, of 500,000l. An attempt had been actually made, on the part of the Brazilian government to draw a distinction between the French and Americans and the English, and to act upon the absurd doctrine that the British had no right to that warning which it was admitted was due to the vessels of those other Powers. Seizures took place in 1826 and 1827, founded on this unjust and ridiculous distinction, before his noble friend, the Duke of Wellington, came into office. Shortly after that event, his noble friend, Lord Aberdeen, wrote to the British minister at Rio, stating, that the injuries thus sustained by England were so monstrous, their injustice so glaring, the partiality attempted to be shown to the governments of other countries so indefensible, that, unless the government of the Brazils promised immediate reparation for the injustice which had been done in the cases of four particular vessels (which were named), the British Admiral on that station would, within the lapse of thirty days, proceed to immediate reprisals. The names of these four vessels were, the John, the George, the Henry and Isabella, and the Coquette. These vessels were seized against all law and all justice, and law and justice were prostituted by their condemnation by the Vice-Admiralty Courts of Rio. The British Minister thought the reparation so incomplete, that that minister, Lord Ponsonby, a nobleman who enjoyed the full confidence of the present Government, did not confine his claim for compensation to these four particular vessels; but threatened reprisals, unless the whole sum of 474,000l. was immediately paid down by the government of the Brazils. The hon. Member who brought forward the present Motion blamed the Government for its conduct in the case of a vessel called the Nestor, which had been seized by British ships from the Brazilians, but was afterwards restored. If a person was not acquainted with the facts, it was very natural for him to think that the British Government was wrong in directing that vessel to be restored, until the compensation claimed on account of losses sustained by other British subjects was paid. But if the Nestor was seized by a British cruizer, contrary to the law of nations, the British Government, in his opinion, acted justly in directing res- 564 titution to be made. The case had been submitted to the King's Advocate, and his opinion was, that it was not competent for the British squadron consistently with the law of nations, to take forcible possession of the Nestor, while she was under the jurisdiction of a Vice Admiralty Court. The British Government in effect said—whatever injury our merchants have sustained, we will not obtain redress by unauthorized and illegal means—we will not consent to be unjust ourselves as a set off against previous injustice. If the King's Advocate was right in his law, of which he (Sir Robert Peel) entertained no doubt, our claims for redress were fortified, by setting an example of strict obedience to the laws of nations. The hon. Alderman who had seconded the Motion seemed to imagine, that the French and Americans had demanded immediate reparation, while this country had postponed the enforcement of her claims until after an inquiry had been made by a mixed commission—but the fact was, that the course taken by the three Governments was precisely the same. If the new government established in the Brazils had been ignorant of the principles of the law of nations, if these injuries had been inflicted through inadvertence, the novitas regni, the newness of their authority might have been pleaded as some excuse, but that was not the case. From what he knew of the transaction, he must say, that it was anything but creditable to the Emperor. There was ground for grave suspicion that these vessels were wilfully seized, against the advice of the Emperor's ministers, by the Brazilian Admiral, who happened to have more influence with the Emperor than they had. With regard to the Hellespont, a vessel seized and detained for adjudication, it was plundered, before the period of adjudication had arrived, to such an extent that it was no longer possible to restore it to its owner, possessing the same value. His noble friend had told them that at length there was some prospect of a settlement. He was happy to hear that they were at least to derive some advantage from the recent revolution in the government of Brazil, and that the existing government had a greater disposition to afford redress than the government of him under whom these atrocities against British property had been committed. And this Don Pedro, under whose sanction and by whose contrivance it was gravely sus- 565 pected these enormities had been perpetrated, this was the man whom his Majesty's Government had permitted to trample upon the municipal laws of England—to recruit British soldiers upon the British territory—who was even now, as it was ostentatiously reported, at the head of a British battalion at Terceira, and under whose banners an officer holding the King's commission was allowed to lead on a British force against Portugal. He should like to know what injustice Portugal had been guilty of, what injuries she had inflicted on us, which could be compared with those he had described? What insults had we experienced from Don Miguel equal to those offered to British subjects, and through them to the British nation, by Don Pedro? What infatuation was it that led his Majesty's Ministers to lend their countenance to that individual in his project upon Portugal? If the people of Portugal decided in favour of the claims of Don Miguel to the crown, nay, if they acquiesced in his rule, preferring it to that of Don Pedro or Donna Maria, he could not see upon what principles, consistently with the independence and integrity of nations, this country or its Ministers could lend their names to the contest. He did not stand there to defend Don Miguel, but his belief was, that Portugal preferred Don Miguel to Don Pedro, and in that case he could not but entertain a deep sense of the injury done to Portugal by the conduct of his Majesty's Ministers. If Miguel was the choice of the Portuguese nation, what better claim, he wished to know, had Louis Phillippe to the throne of France than Miguel to the throne of Portugal? Was it that the people in the latter country shewed symptoms of dissatisfaction in occasional commotions? Was not that the case in France also? And upon what pretence, then, did the Government allow British officers to join the hostile expedition of Don Pedro? Why not issue an order of rectal for all British officers engaged in such an enterprise? The truth was, that this expedition was an attack upon the independence of Portugal on the part of France and England, for it never could have been prepared without their countenance and assistance. It might succeed through the agency of British valour, and in consequence of the permitted violation of our municipal laws; but by what policy the British Government was actuated in allowing British officers to 566 enlist under the banners of either party he could not understand. To complete the folly of our conduct, this enterprise, by which civil war was to be introduced into the Peninsula, was fitted out by the money due in the form of dividends to the British creditors of the Brazilian state. He knew that his Majesty's Ministers would answer that it was not in their power to interfere. But he denied the validity of that excuse. Suppose that Charles 10th, or a party attached to Charles 10th, had hired armed ships and levied men for an expedition against France, did his Majesty's Ministers mean to say, that they would not have exercised their power to prevent such proceedings? If neutrality was a duty in the one case, it was in the other, and it was no answer to allege, that France was a powerful country and that Portugal was not. It was not Portugal alone, he feared, that was concerned in this question. The peace of Spain was endangered. He must say, that, of all foreign countries, he had seen none more disposed of late years to draw closely the bonds of amity with this country than Spain. He believed that she was well aware that her true interests would be promoted by a strict union upon honourable terms with this country. For the last seven years she had shown a disposition to listen to the reasonable proposals of this country; and if the late Government had continued in office, he had little doubt that, by this time, she would have consented to recognise the independence of the South American states. In her pecuniary dealings with this country Spain had been conspicuously honourable. She had paid money, the hope of the payment of which Mr. Canning had treated as little better than a dream of insanity. And yet we were to be the parties by whose agency Spain was to be convulsed by the renewal of civil dissections. We were about to endanger her internal peace, by lending our sanction to a foreign expedition, in contradiction to our professions of neutrality and our boast of non-intervention.
§ Mr. Robinson
said, he had heard the statement of the noble. Lord with much regret, for he believed, from what had fallen from the noble Lord that Government did not entertain any idea of following the matter up with more vigour than it had hitherto displayed, for the purpose of showing the Brazilian government that Great Britain would no longer submit to evasion and procrastination. He must remind the 567 House that a different plan had been pursued with regard to Portugal; a squadron was sent to the Tagus, and immediate reparation demanded and enforced, while in the case of the Brazils, the noble Lord had satisfied himself with making ineffectual remonstrances. The noble Lord said, that, on coming into office, he was so convinced that there had been improper delay in settling these claims, that he sent to Mr. Aston, at Rio, enforcing the orders of his predecessor, but that he was afterwards induced, in consequence of the remonstrances of the Brazilian ambassador, to desire him not to act upon that letter. The noble Lord further said, that the first letter was communicated to the Brazilian government before the arrival of the second, but he took it for granted, that, in consequence of the arrival of the latter, the tone of the former was not followed up. He recollected, on a former occasion, that the noble Lord had taken great credit to himself because Lord Aberdeen had held out a threat to Portugal, which was not followed up, whilst he sent a squadron to the Tagus and obtained satisfaction; but how was it that he had not pursued the same course with regard to the Brazils? There was a want of firmness of purpose about the foreign policy of Government, according to the received opinion amongst British merchants, which placed them under a great disadvantage in foreign countries. He disliked any thing in the shape of tortuous policy, and he hoped, therefore, that Government would fix a period, after which reprisals would be made, unless satisfaction were given within the time. It was within our reach to do so, for the Brazils was a commercial country, so that at any time we might have recourse to reprisals. He thought it most nefarious that money sent to this country from the Brazils, to pay the interest of the loan, should be appropriated to another purpose by the Brazilian authorities in London. As the noble Lord had taken no notice of this part of the subject, as propounded by the hon. Member who introduced the Motion, and the worthy Alderman who had seconded it, he trusted the debate would not close without the noble Lord giving some reply, calculated to satisfy those persons who had suffered from so scandalous a proceeding.
§ Sir Charles Wetherell
said, that he had become acquainted with the papers relating to this case, and his opinion was, that it ought to have been settled long since. He 568 could not see any reason why the claims of Great Britain should be postponed to those of France and the United States, who had both successfully urged their respective claims. It was with much regret and surprise that he heard of any relaxation of the just demand of Great Britain, for no man could doubt that such relaxation would lead to consequences most injurious to our commercial and maritime interests. He was at a loss to know why the British flag, with all its rights and all its attributes, should be treated in the South American seas with less respect than the flag of any other nation. The only mode, however, of getting reparation front states was, by representation to the government, not by resorting to similar piratical acts, and therefore, he approved of the restoration of the ship Nestor. If Great Britain had the magnanimity to release the vessels which had been seized, she ought still to insist upon retribution and compensation. He wished to ask the noble Lord whether he had fixed a period for the adjustment of these claims, beyond which other means would be called into action to vindicate the honour of the British flag. The merchants of London had had abundant reason already to complain of the delay, and unless the noble Lord stated some period when justice was to be done, he should recommend an address to his Majesty, praying him to take measures for insisting on retribution.
§ Lord Althorp
was perfectly willing to admit that the acts complained of were most grossly unjust, and wholly unjustifiable on the part of the Brazilian government. The late Administration had two courses to pursue, namely, to send a squadron and make reprisals, or, (which was the course they did take) to call on the Brazilian government for redress, and threaten reprisals if it was refused. He considered that the late Administration was wise in what they did, in giving the Brazilian government an opportunity to make reparation. The case was not one of absolute refusal, but unnecessary delays had been interposed; and, as his noble friend had stated, instructions had been sent to our Minister in the Brazils, to communicate to the government that, unless those delays were put an end to, reprisals would be resorted to; and, in consequence, the cases were in a course of adjustment. He did not see how we could act otherwise than to declare that, if we 569 saw any unnecessary delays interposed, we should resort to reprisals, and this was the course Government were determined to adopt.
hoped that the noble Lord would act up to his declaration, and not suffer these claims to stand over indefinitely, but exact all he could from the Brazilian government, and vindicate the national honour. He could assure the Ministers that there was a very strong feeling in the mercantile classes that a great deal too much forbearance had already taken place in entering into prolonged negotiations upon such manifest acts of injustice.
§ Sir Frederick Trench
said, that the French and the North Americans had very speedily obtained redress; even the Swedes, who had a claim for a few thousand dollars, had sent a vessel of war to enforce their demand, and had thereby received satisfaction, but British claimants were ridiculed in their attempts to enforce it, and British diplomacy was the jest of the South American States. He did hope that one effect of this discussion would be, to induce Government to adopt a more decided tone.
§ Lord Morpeth
said, that he had a petition to present from merchants at Leeds, who stated, that they suffered great distress through the indefinite delay of the adjustment of their claims. He admired the promptitude with which his noble friend, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, had acted in reference to Portugal, and hoped he would exercise in the new world a little of that energy which he displayed in the old.
said, that a great portion of the claims were made by his constituents, and he did hope that his Majesty's Government would give them the protection and support to which they were entitled. He should like to hear that the noble Lord was prepared to assign a specific time for the adjustment of the claims, beyond which frivolous and vexatious delays should no longer be tolerated. Other states of the new world were imitating the conduct of the Brazilian and Buenos-Ayrean, and preying upon British commerce; and the only way to put a stop to such outrages was, to repress them at the outset with a firm hand.
called upon the Government to act upon the memorandum which had been suffered to lie unheeded by the Brazilian government for three years. As 570 far as his information went, the noble Lord was not correctly instructed, for not one case had yet been adjudicated. He regretted that English merchants should be so treated. The British flag, which was once respected in all parts of the world, was now mocked every where. He, therefore, considered the question was of much greater importance than the noble Lord seemed to consider it, and to allow such unjust acts to be committed with impunity was a disgrace to the Government.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
really thought it time that his Majesty's Government should make some answer to the charges brought against them. It had been stated in that House that the country had been disgraced, that it had been made a subject of ridicule, and that it had become a laughing stock to the whole of Europe; and these statements had all come from Members usually supporting the Government: and it was not only in the failure of his Majesty's Government to protect the rights of British subjects that they had rendered themselves thus obnoxious to complaint, for, while this had been done, others of his Majesty's subjects had been allowed to join an army for the purpose of making war upon a friendly power and ally of this country. He wished to ask the noble Lord, whether any steps had been taken to recal those officers of the army and navy who had joined the armament for the invasion of' Portugal?
said, that, if the interference of officers on one side was a matter for interference, he should like to know whether the Government ought not also to take notice of the well-known fact that a noble Lord in his Majesty's service was now directing the operations of Don Miguel? He should like to know whether the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, meant, that the Government ought to send out an expedition to prevent the expedition of Don Pedro from attacking Portugal.
Sir Robert Peel
said, he did not state to the House any thing which he thought the House would not have clearly understood. He had not spoken upon vague newspaper reports: he had seen the names of British officers affixed to proclamations issued under the authority of Don Pedro, and, as such conduct was in direct violation of the statute, he thought the Government ought at once to interfere, and to remove all such officers.
§ Viscount Palmerston
had not expected 571 this sort of discussion on the merits of the contest between Don Miguel and Don Pedro. In reply to the question of the right hon. and gallant member, he could only say, that there was a person in Don Pedro's service who was formerly an officer in the British navy, but he no longer held a commission in the service. If there were any military officers in Don Pedro's service the same rule applied to them. It certainly was against the statute for British officers to serve in foreign fleets or armies. It might not be right for any Englishman to do so, but, how was it to be prevented? Admiral Brown and others who were in the South-American service prior to the recognition of the New States, had not been recalled, and could not be, for they had no commissions, and the Government had no power over them. But it was said, that the Government behaved different in the case of France—that King Phillippe received different treatment; but in that they had only followed the example of their predecessors. Did not King Phillippe receive different treatment from the late Government? Was not he acknowledged, and Don Miguel treated as an usurper? He thought the course pursued was the only fair one. His Majesty's Government had observed a strict neutrality. With respect to the alleged insults and mockery of the British flag, he had no knowledge of the grounds on which the statements had been made. His noble friend had correctly stated, that the cases were in a course of investigation. The case of the Henry and Isabella was under adjudication when the last advices came away. He only asked the House to have so much confidence in the Government as to believe it would use the best means it could, and would not shrink from the discharge of its acknowlodged duty, either to obtain adequate remuneration for property unjustly seized, or to repress outrage by whomsoever practised.
Sir Robert Peel
was satisfied, from the statement, that the production of the papers would be injurious to the claims of the parties, and he thought the noble Lord ought not to be called upon to state at what period the payments were to commence. After the declarations of the two noble Lords connected with the Government, it would be well to leave the matter in their hands, and he suggested to the hon. Member that the best course he could pursue would be, to withdraw the Motion.
§ Sir John M. Doyle
remarked, that, were it not that he conceived it would be derogatory to a British Member of Parliament to become an informer, he should have much pleasure in answering the question pat by his much-respected friend, the right hon. General opposite, to his gallant friend at this side of the House. As to British officers serving in the army of the usurper, Miguel, he could hardly conceive it possible that his right hon. friend, and some of those hon. Members who sat near him, could be in ignorance of the fact; he also begged leave to state that a British officer on half-pay, and who served on the staff in Portugal, and now in the military service of Miguel, was, at this moment, a diplomatic agent in London, and had been so employed for months past: of course, he forgot the name of this respectable individual.
§ Motion withdrawn.
§ House went into Committee of Supply.
§ Ordnance estimates postponed.
§ House resumed.