§ On the Motion that the dropped Orders of the Day be read,
§ Sir C. Napier
said, I wish to take the present opportunity of asking a question of the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government, on a matter of some importance to the character and reputation of this country, and though I have not given the right hon. Baronet notice of the question, it relates to circumstances of such public notoriety, that I trust he will be able to give me an answer without its embarrassing Her Majesty's Government. The question I have to put is, whether it is true that the British Consul at Tahiti has been arrested, under the name of the man Pritchard, by the French authorities; also whether an order has been given that the lights of the English residents there are to be put out at eight o'clock at night; whether the French have erected strong fortifications there, and whether the Queen has been obliged to leave Papeete to take refuge on board a British ship? I wish also to ask the right hon. Baronet whether, when these transactions were in progress, we had any naval force at the island, and what was its extent.
§ Sir R. Peel
Though the hon. and gallant Officer did not give me notice of his question, yet two hon. Members, the noble Lord the Member for Dorsetshire, and the hon. Member for Evesham, did notify to me their intention to ask similar questions; and since the hon. and gallant Officer has asked the question, I am sure they will excuse me if I take this opportunity of answering their questions in reply to that which has been put by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I shall limit myself to a statement of facts, with respect to that which I conceive to be of most importance, the removal of the British Consul at Tahiti. We have received accounts from Tahiti, and presuming on the accuracy of these accounts, which I have no reason whatever to call in question, I do not hesitate to say that a gross outrage, accompanied with gross indignity, has been committed upon that functionary. Her Majesty's Government received information of that on Monday last, and the first opportunity was taken of making those communications to the French Government which Her Majesty's Government considered the circumstances of the case to call for. That outrage was com- 1576 mitted by a person in temporary authority at Papeete. We know that, in fact, it was not committed in consequence of any authority given for that purpose by the French Government; and I must presume, therefore—assuming that the statements we have received are correct—I must presume that the French Government will at once make that reparation which this country has a right to require. I trust I shall not be pressed for any further answer.
§ Sir C. Napier
said, there was one part of his question which the right hon. Baronet had not answered—whether we had a proper naval force at Tahiti at the time this took place, and whether the French had erected fortifications.
§ Sir R. Peel
I have already given the hon. and gallant Officer an answer to the extent I thought necessary.