HC Deb 07 March 1845 vol 78 cc430-2
Mr. Stuart Wortley

seeing the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury in his place, begged to call that right hon. Gentleman's attention to a paragraph which he had read in a newspaper within the last day or two. In the Times newspaper of yesterday there appeared the following paragraph, purporting to be an extract from a French newspaper called the Presse:The fall of Santa Anna has exposed one of the vastest projects which the undermining ambition of Great Britain ever conceived. It appears from the correspondence of the ex-President of Mexico with the British Minister, that the former, for a sum of 25,000,000 piastres, of which he had reserved for himself a considerable portion, was on the eve of ceding absolutely to Great Britain the magnificent province of California, considered so valuable both by Great Britain and the United States, that the latter, in the year 1837, offered 85,000,000 for the harbour of San Francisco alone. It is not necessary to dwell upon the extraordinary coincidence which exists between the means employed by the British Government with Santa Anna for the possession of California, and those formerly used with Espartero for the possession of the islands of Anabon and Prince's off the coast of Africa. Although this was only a paragraph in a newspaper, it professed to have some foundation, and knowing the avidity with which all such statements were laid hold of in France and elsewhere to create a prejudice against the policy of Great Britain, he was anxious to call the attention of the right hon. Baronet to it, and to ask—first, whether there ever had been any such correspondence? and secondly, whether there was any foundation for the statement?

Sir R. Peel

I beg to state, in answer to the question of my hon. Friend, in the most explicit manner, that I am not aware of the existence of any such correspondence, and that I believe the report to be as utterly without foundation as any report that was ever invented. I hope that this contradiction may prove a caution to persons out of doors how they put confidence in such stories. I have seen a great many reports as to the undermining ambition of Great Britain; but I have considered that they were propagated rather as a palliation for the conduct of others, than as having any truth in them. I can answer for it that the present Government have had no such correspondence; and as I find no trace of it in any of the offices, I believe that the late Government was equally innocent in the matter. I repeat that the report is utterly destitute of foundation.

Viscount Palmerston

I may take the liberty of answering for the late Government. Neither in 1837, nor in any other year, did the late Government offer 5,000,000l., or any other sum [Mr. J. S. Wortley: 5,000,000 of dollars.] 5,000,000 of dollars, or any other sum, for the harbour of San Francisco. Neither did the late Government ever offer 25,000,000 of piastres to any Mexican Minister.