HC Deb 29 January 1847 vol 89 cc606-8

wished to call the attention of the noble Lord at the head of the Department for Foreign Affairs, and also the attention of the House, to an advertisement which appeared in The Times of the 8th of January, relating to Mexican letters of marque. It was forty years since any letter of marque had been issued, and he had entertained the hope that the improved civilization of Europe would have prevented the issue of such atrocious documents again. He wished to ask if the noble Lord's attention had been called to this document, and what measures had been taken on the part of the Government to suppress such atrocious proceedings? Before he sat down he would refer to an extract in the Courrier Français, by which it was declared that any French subjects who made use of the letters of marque would expose themselves to forfeit their quality as Frenchmen, and to be treated as pirates.


observed, that if his hon. Friend had been in the House on a former occasion he would have heard a similar question put by the hon. and learned Member for Bath, and the answer which he had given to the first part of his question. He explained at the time that this advertisement was not issued by the Mexican Consul, but proceeded from a very well-meaning, and no doubt very expert, gunmaker on Tower-hill, stating that a Mexican letter of marque might be seen at his shop. He however communicated with General Mendoza, the Mexican chargé d'affaires, on the subject, and he stated that nobody was at present authored by Mexico in this country to issue letters of marque. General Mendoza had sent him a copy of the decree and regulations under which those letters were issued, and he had referred them to the law advisers of the Crown, and the Queen's Advocate, to see how far issuing such letters of marque here would be consistent with the laws of this country. Every one knew, that under the Foreign Enlistment Act, it was not competent to the subjects of this country to equip vessels destined for any hostile purpose against any other nation, without the consent of the Crown; and it was under the provisions of that Act that those vessels were lately seized which formed part of an intended expedition under the command of General Flores, and another which it was supposed was intended to act on the coast of Portugal. With regard to the other part of his hon. Friend's question, there was no power on the part of the Government to interfere with British subjects abroad; and he confessed he should be re- luctant to say that they might be treated as pirates, unless by the law of nations their conduct was considered to be piratical.