Lord J. Russell
I beg to ask a question of the Under Secretary of State for the Colonial Department, and in doing so, I must preface it with a very few observations on a matter personal to myself. Within the last two hours I have seen a statement, purporting to have been made by Lord Ashburton, with respect to a speech I made in this House. Allow me to say, in the first place, that with Lord Ashburton I have always lived in habits of intimacy and friendship; that friendship began when we were both of the same opinion in politics, and the difference of political opinion which took place has never interrupted the cordiality with which we have always lived together whenever it has been my good fortune to meet Lord Ashburton; and nothing could be further from my wish in the discharge of a public duty than to do anything unkind to the noble Lord. But in the course of a discussion on the Navy Estimates, quite unexpectedly by me, there arose a conversation, which begun with the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) near me, with respect to the Treaty made by Lord Ashburton. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, the First Lord of the Treasury, having taunted my noble Friend and myself with the ill result of the discussion that had taken place on that subject, I referred to the matter, which I conceived to be accurately stated by me as my recollection served. Now, Lord Ashburton is said to have declared that what I stated must have been entirely a dream and a delusion on my part. It is necessary I should repeal what my statement was to the House. I said that some time before the present Government came into office, seeing that the negotiations had not reached a point at which it was likely that either party would recede from its pretensions, I thought it was 173 advisable that there should be some arrangement made by which the forces of the two countries should occupy a certain position—that a provisional boundary should be agreed upon between the two countries; I instructed Lord Sydenham to endeavour to form some such agreement, and I did so in concurrence with my noble Friend the Member for Tiverton; that Lord Sydenham had informed me in his answer that he could not obtain from Mr. Webster terms other than those by which that part of the Madawaska Settlement on the right bank of the St. John should be evacuated; and I signified the approbation of Government to his refusal to carry on the negotiation on those terms. It is quite clear that Lord Ashburton thought I had alluded to a diplomatic negotiation for a permanent settlement of boundary; whereas I thought it was quite clear that I alluded to a provisional arrangement to be made by the Governor of Canada by means of Mr. Fox, our Minister at Washington. If it had been a diplomatic arrangement, instructions would have been given by my noble Friend near me, instead of myself. So far as to the misunderstanding which Lord Ashburton had of the nature of the transaction; but as to the matter of fact, all I wish is, that the Under Secretary for the Colonies will produce any papers there may be on that subject—any instructions I gave to Lord Sydenham, and his answer to me with regard to the Madawaska Settlement; and if there should be, as I believe there were, any instructions to Lord Sydenham approving of his conduct in that respect, they should also be produced. As I have already said, I spoke at the moment from memory, and not expecting any discussion on the point; but that I should have been totally mistaken on the whole of this transaction—that I should have given no instructions for the formation of such a temporary arrangement—and that Lord Sydenham should not have made that objection, seems to me impossible. I wish the hon. Gentleman to have the goodness to look for and to produce any papers that may be at the Colonial Office on this subject. I cannot think that the production of those papers would give rise to any further discussion.
would look for the despatches to which the noble Lord referred, and there would be no objection to their 174 production. At the same time, he might state to the noble Lord that the result of his researches yesterday was, that the noble Lord had been in error in supposing that he returned the answer stated to Lord Sydenham. He did not mean to say that the correspondence between the Foreign Office and Mr. Fox was not to the same effect as had been stated by the noble Lord; he only meant to say that he had not discovered any such despatch from the noble Lord to Lord Sydenham.
Lord J. Russell
What the hon. Gentleman has stated implies that a correspondence took place with respect to this provisional arrangement between Mr. Fox and the Secretary of State.
§ Sir R. Peel
had no objection to produce these despatches, if it were found that no inconvenience would result to the Public Service. But as the matters in dispute had been settled by negotiation between this country and the United States, he did not see any public object that could be served by the production now of despatches relating to the very eager and grave contentions which took place during the pendency of the disputes. But whatever was necessary for the satisfaction of the noble Lord should be produced.
§ Viscount Palmerston
did not think that the answer which the right hon. Baronet had given to his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose on the subject of the extracts from the despatches which had been read by Lord Ashburton in another place was altogether satisfactory. He did not know exactly the extracts to which his hon. Friend had alluded; but from what he had heard he understood that Lord Ashburton had read, in his place in the House of Lords, some extracts from certain despatches, for the purpose of showing that some statement that had been made by a Member of that House was erroneous. Now he would assume this to be the fact; and he would ask, when did Lord Ashburton get these despatches which were written to or from him? He must have procured them either as a ne- 175 gotiator, in which case they would be his own despatches, either written by him or sent to him, or they were despatches which had been obtained from the Foreign Office, or they were despatches which had been laid before Parliament. If they were despatches which had been laid before Parliament, he had nothing more to say. The noble Lord had a perfect right to use them. If the despatches were his own—were despatches which had come into his power as a negotiator, having been either written by him or to him; if these despatches had been furnished to him by the Government, then he would say, that, in the first case, he had no right to read his own despatches without having obtained permission of the Government; and if he had obtained that permission, or if they had been furnished to him by the Foreign Office, then it was the invariable practice of Parliament to lay such despatches on the Table, in order that Parliament might know what they contained, instead of being only made acquainted with them merely by extracts read in Parliament. The right hon. Baronet would see that it was not sufficient to say that the despatches merely related to a question which had been settled. The question was not in reality as to anything that had passed in the negotiations between the United States and this country; but it was to see if certain statements made in that House by persons formerly holding official situations were or were not erroneous, and whether or not those statements had been made for the purposes of deceiving.
§ Sir R. Peel
had not understood the observations of the hon. Member for Montrose. When the noble Lord referred to these papers he was not aware that the noble Lord had referred to documents read elsewhere before he gave an answer. When he said that the papers asked for by the noble Lord should be produced, it must be considered that he meant, if there was no public objection, for he personally had no objection.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, he would on a future day state whether the despatches could 176 be produced as to the returns alluded to by the noble Lord.