HC Deb 10 March 1846 vol 84 cc921-8

moved for— Copies of all Reports or Representations, by Richard Pakenham, esquire, Her Majesty's Minister in Mexico, on which Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has founded the decision he has given on the applications of Mr. Thomas Kinder. He said he had hoped to receive some intimation from some Member of the Government that these documents would be supplied; but not having done so, he would state the grounds on which he brought forward this Motion. He did not think the Government of this country had done justice to Mr. Kinder, or to itself, in refraining to demand that reparation which the Mexican Government was bound to make. As the representative of a large section of the mercantile interest, he was convinced that that interest would suffer materially, if British merchants were to be treated in the way Mr. Kinder had been by the Mexican Government; and this Government should refuse to interfere. Mr. Kinder had been deeply injured by the conduct of the Mexican Government; and now he was held out to the world as an individual not entitled to reparation. Perhaps there was something in the case which Govern- ment did not think proper to lay before the public; but, as far as Mr. Kinder was concerned, he was anxious for the greatest publicity. His property had been detained by the Mexican Government, without this Government interfering for its recovery; and, having laid before the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the most ample proof of his claim, he felt himself hardly dealt with in having redress withheld. He (Mr. Philips) had not the slightest feeling on the subject; but many of his constituents were interested in the matter, having made consignments to the house in which Mr. Kinder was engaged, and they were concerned in the losses he had sustained; and he thought a case had been out for the intervention of the British Government. It was solely on this ground that he rose to ask that these documents, hitherto withheld, might be produced, for the purpose of satisfying, not only Mr. Kinder, but those who had claims upon him; as also a large body of British merchants, who were looking with great interest to the decision on this question. Unless these papers were allowed to be brought forward, this Government must suffer in the estimation of all other nations, in comparison with that of America and other States, who had interfered when similar acts of aggression had taken place; while the Government of this country seemed disposed to stand still, instead of vindicating the rights and interests of its subjects.


said, he certainly could not undertake to present the Papers to which the hon. Gentleman referred. The hon. Gentleman said that Mr. Kinder had had no reason assigned to him why Her Majesty's Government did not interfere, and insist upon the Mexican Government giving him reparation. The facts were these: Mr. Kinder had applied to the Mexican courts of justice; their decision was unfavourable to him; and, according to all the principles of international law, when the decision of a competent tribunal, appealed to by a British subject, was unfavourable to that subject, there was no ground on the part of his Government to interfere. The principle on which the Government had acted was laid down in the clearest manner by the highest authority of all the writers on international law—Vattel. He said— As the administration of justice necessarily requires that every definitive sentence, regularly pronounced, be esteemed just and executed as such, as soon as a cause in which foreigners find themselves interested has been decided, the Sovereign of the defendants cannot hear their complaints. To undertake to examine the justice of a definitive sentence, is to attack the jurisdiction of him who has passed it. The Prince ought not, then, to interfere in the causes of his subjects, and to grant them his protection, excepting in the case of refusal of justice—palpable and evident injustice—a manifest violation of rules and forms, or, in short, an odious distinction made to the prejudice of his subjects or of foreigners in general. His noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had not acted in this matter without consulting the highest legal authorities, and laying before them all the evidence; and the opinion of the Queen's Advocate was, that Mr. Kinder had no claim upon the British Government to call upon them to interfere againt the Mexican Government. Nor would it be right, because other countries were less powerful than we were, to violate the principles of international law in the way that this Motion proposed. The noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs under a former Government had come to the same decision; and his noble Friend who was at present at the head of the Foreign Department had come to the same decision, on his accession to office. Mr. Kinder had remonstrated against it. His noble Friend had not relied upon the former decision; but had again referred the whole question to the Queen's Advocate. The Queen's Advocate had again placed under his consideration all the new documents and the additional evidence, and had again said that he saw no just ground for an appeal to the Mexican Government for redress, when the courts of justice of Mexico had decided against Mr. Kinder. Those were the circumstances under which his noble Friend had declined to demand reparation; and he, therefore, could not consent to the Motion now proposed.


supported the Motion of his hon. Colleague. It appeared to him that the reason why this Government did not interfere in this matter was, in consequence of some report upon the subject which had been received from Mr. Pakenham, Her Majesty's Minister in Mexico. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State did not tell Mr. Kinder that he had no claim against this Government, because he had had a decision pronounced against him by the Mexican Court, but interference was refused because of Mr. Pakenham's Report. Now, all that was asked from Government was, that this Report, which had guided the Secretary of State in his decision, should be laid before Mr. Kinder. That gentleman contended with some justice, that when a respectable person had a strong primâ faciæ case in his favour, that he was entitled to be informed upon what grounds his claims had been refused. If the right hon. Baronet founded his right to refuse the production of the Papers upon the circumstance that Mr. Kinder had appealed to the Mexican courts, and that an adverse judgment had been pronounced against him, and, therefore, was not entitled afterwards to expect this Government to interfere, he (Mr. Gibson) could produce an answer to that argument from one of the Members of the Government. The Duke of Wellington said, "If an injustice was done to a British subject by a sentence which might be pronounced against him in a foreign court, he was entitled to call upon the Government of his own country to interpose and demand redress for the grievance inflicted upon him." In the present instance, however, the answer of the Secretary of State to Mr. Kinder, was not founded upon the sentence of any tribunal whatever, but upon the Report of a Minister. His hon. Colleague had brought forward the Motion upon public grounds; but he (Mr. Gibson) thought when individual or private interests were affected by the Report of a Minister of State, that that individual should be entitled to know the language of the Report, and the nature of the statements made, He believed it was not an uncommon thing when individuals had claims against a Government, that the opinion of the Queen's Advocate should be read to the individual. He thought Mr. Kinder was entitled to be in possession of these documents. It was possible that Mr. Pakenham might have been misled in his information; and if Mr. Kinder were permitted to see the Papers asked for, those misapprehensions might be explained. He gave his cordial support to the Motion of his hon. Colleague.


was also in favour of the Motion. He said, Mr. Kinder's claim had not been decided against him by the courts of Mexico; but that an Act had been introduced into the Legislature, the effect of which was to deprive him of a large portion of his property, and render him incapable of meeting his engagements. This law was passed by the most corrupt means for particular purposes, and the end being obtained, the Act was immediately repealed. There was no doubt but that the passing of this Act had inflicted a serious injury upon Mr. Kinder. He (Mr. Scott) thought that Mr. Kinder was fully entitled to know the precise terms of the representation which had been made to the Secretary of State by Mr. Pakenham; and if any imputations were contained in that Report, Mr. Kinder would then have an opportunity of relieving his character from any imputation.


said: I thought the hon. Member for Manchester merely intended to put the question and receive an answer, yes or no, as to whether Her Majesty's Government would lay the Papers which he wished for before the House; but now I find that he has thought it proper to take a different course. He has in effect called upon us to sit in appeal and reconsider the decisions of the Mexican courts of justice. Now, with the leave of the House, I propose shortly to state the facts of the case. I know that there is nothing more inconvenient and objectionable than reading in this House the reports of law officers of the Crown upon legal questions; but yet I think the statement given to us by the Queen's Advocate cannot fail to be of some service in the decision which we are called upon to pronounce. This, as I have already said, is a question whether or not we shall sit as a court of appeal upon the adjudications of a Mexican court of justice. All the facts of this case were brought under the consideration of the Queen's Advocate, who states in his Report that a long and expensive litigation had been entered upon and prosecuted by Mr. Kinder before one of the Mexican tribunals. The Report of the Queen's Advocate is in the following words:— Long and expensive litigations, involving questions of a very difficult and complex nature, have been carried on in the Mexican tribunals, whose decisions have not been favourable to the views and interests of Mr. Kinder. During the progress of the proceedings in the Mexican courts, Mr. Kinder sought more than once the interference of Mr. Pakenham, Her Majesty's Minister, in his behalf; but Mr. Pakenham considered, and, in my opinion, justly considered, that he was not at liberty to accede to the wishes and solicitations of Mr. Kinder in this respect. The despatches of Mr. Pakenham, upon which I have before reported, afford a complete justification of his conduct. The House, then, looking at the facts of the case as set forth in the Report which I have just read, must see that this is a case in which the Representative of Her Majesty's Government could not have interfered. What, for example, would the Mexican Government have thought, if a Mexican subject had called upon Lord Aberdeen to interfere in such a case? and I must say, that I think the despatch of Mr. Pakenham affords the fullest possible justification of his conduct. With these facts before the House, I do hope that we shall not constitute ourselves a court of appeal from the Mexican courts. In what a situation would the Government be placed, if the House were to interfere in a case of this kind? and more especially I think we have a right to expect that we shall not be called upon to disclose the despatches received from Mr. Pakenham.


wished to state, that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs justified his decision on the Report, and on nothing else. [Sir R. PEEL: The Queen's Advocate sanctioned that decision.] Mr. Kinder did not ask the House for any opinion: all he sought for was the Report of Mr. Pakenham; and he denied that substantial justice was done to Kinder by the Mexican tribunals, in consequence of the system of bribery which was carried on, and which deprived him of all fair play. Those tribunals being tampered with was a case which demanded the interference of Her Majesty's Government, nor could he see why that interposition on their part could be refused.


Lord Aberdeen's question was, "Am I, by the laws of nations, entitled to interfere and to demand redress from the Mexican Government?" The answer of the Queen's Advocate was, that "If there were evidence of palpable injustice being done on the part of the tribunal of a foreign country, the other country had a right to demand an interference; but I can find no evidence of evident injustice, and therefore, in my opinion, you cannot interfere."

Motion withdrawn.