HC Deb 21 March 1848 vol 97 cc849-55

rose to bring under the consideration of the House the injuries alleged to have been suffered by Mr. Rayson, an English merchant, from the Austrian authorities at Constantinople. The hon. Gentleman observed, that he was aware of the great difficulty of fixing the attention of the House on a matter of foreign policy; at the same time, he assured them that if they would bear with him for a few moments, he would place before them a case well deserving of their consideration. The present was not an ordinary case of grievance. Mr. Rayson had been endeavouring for sixteen years, by every legal and diplomatic course, to obtain redress for an undoubted injury; and for sixteen years as a British citizen he had attempted to get mere justice done him without intruding his business upon the House. Having waited so long and so patiently, he (Mr. Milnes) hoped the House would feel that in this case there was no quackery—no false attempt to attract attention; but that, as he had suffered severe injuries with the utmost patience, he at length, as dernier ressort, requested to have his case brought before the British House of Commons. The papers connected with the subject, which had been laid before the House of Commons, were described as "Papers relative to the claim of Mr. Ray-son on the Austrian Government;" but that title did not exactly indicate his claim. His claim was not upon the Government of Austria, as such; but he alleged that, as a British subject, he was deprived of his rights, and that he was not permitted to bring his case before any tribunal by fair means; that the case was taken out of the judicial course; and that his motives were misunderstood. Such being the case, and as Lord Palmerston had declared that he hardly hoped to obtain justice for him by diplomatic means, Mr. Rayson wished to be enabled by some means to state his case before an Austrian tribunal, and thus obtain the same justice conceded to an Austrian subject. Mr. Rayson was a merchant of high character and extensive means at Constantinople. In the year 1834 (sixteen years ago), a dispute relating to some commercial contracts occurred between him and Judah Bechar Mosé, a Jew of Jerusalem and an Austrian subject. The case was referred to arbitration, and it was distinctly agreed that the question should be adjudged by them on the understanding that if they could not agree, a third party should be nominated to act as umpire, whose decision was to be final. The arbitrators could not agree, and the case was referred to a third party, a gentleman named Wright. Mr. Wright confirmed the view taken by Mr. Rayson's arbitrator, pronounced the views of that person to be just, and declared that the arbitration should be so made. Mosé, however, as an Austrian subject, appealed against the decision of Mr. Wright, and brought the case into the Court of Inter-nunciature. The judge of the court (the Internuncio) took upon himself to decide upon the case. He examined into the circumstances, and finding that the super arbiter (Mr. Wright) had only communicated with each of the other arbitrators by reading their opinions, and not by personal interviews, pronounced the arbitration of Mr. Wright invalid and contrary to law. The decision was therefore annulled, and Mr. Rayson was defrauded of his property. He protested against the decision, and on the 3rd of April he memorialised the British Consul General, demonstrating the injustice and absurdity of his opponent's allegations; and urging, in substance, that, according to the regulations ever observed between the Christian Legations at Constantinople, it was for him, the British Consul General, and by no means for the Austrian Internunciature, to decide (in the usual manner) on the question of Mosé's appeal, inasmuch as the superarbitral suit was fully and finally closed on the emission of the definitive superarbitral sentence; and that if Mosé could be allowed at all to appeal against it, he could only do so as plaintiff in the court of the British Consulate. But his Majesty's Consul General did not feel himself authorised to assert this right, and Rayson was therefore obliged to defend the validity of the superarbitral sentence, in a court totally incompetent to entertain the cause, and under a character at once anomalous and highly detrimental to his interests; for here, by the apparent indifference of Rayson's authorities, Mosé succeeded in getting the suit out of the hands of the superarbitral judges, into a regular judicial court (always presupposing that the Austrian Internuncio could only institute it, and not act as judge himself). So that each party was thus made plaintiff and defendant in the same suit. He also petitioned his Majesty's Consul General to obtain for him from the Austrian Internunciature the due execution of the sentence; and, in case this was not granted, then, at least, security for the amounted awarded him, until the question of Mosés appeal should be decided. This was in 1834. Certain circumstances led him to believe that he could not obtain justice in Constantinople, and he resolved to repair to Vienna. It appeared that he had employed at Con- stantinople a Sicilian lawyer, renowned as the most able advocate in the city, but who, it seemed, was an object of hostility to the Austrian Government. Mr. Rayson had never mixed himself up with politics, and declared that he knew nothing of any political circumstances relating to his advocate. Mr. Rayson admitted that he had used strong language with respect to the corruption of the Internuncio's court, and in this he was justified, as Prince Metternich had admitted it himself. In the year 1835 Mr. Rayson went to Vienna, and having obtained the opinions of two of the most eminent advocates in that city, laid his case before his Majesty's Ambassador at that Court. Notwithstanding all the efforts of that nobleman, he was unable to obtain justice. Mr. Rayson was then advised to submit the affair to the British Government. This was done on the 23rd of May, 1837; and, in answer to Mr. Rayson's memorial to Lord Palmerston. Her Majesty's Ambassador at Vienna was, in October, 1837, instructed to represent the affair to the Austrian Government, and state "that Her Majesty's Government, having had Mr. Rayson's case under consideration, had judged his claims to be of a nature to merit its countenance and support." These instructions were communicated to the Austrian Government under date October 28, 1837. In consequence of this interposition, the Austrian Government found it necessary to demand from the Internuncio a full account of the entire procedures; and his Excellency in turn had to call his subaltern, Baron de Testa, to account, who, in a document dated the 23rd of January, 1838, gave a very garbled statement of the affair, and pleaded in justification, that the before-mentioned Government order, dated the 19th of September, 1838, although contrary to Austrian law, yet the Internunciature had endeavoured, as far as possible, to reconcile its procedures thereto; and that a summary procedure of Her Majesty's Consul General in a case affecting the interests of an Austrian subject, had afforded a good precedent for those of the Austrian Internunciature. After waiting in vain, for several months, the result of the representations made to the Austrian Government by Her Majesty's Ambassador, Rayson was advised again to petition his Imperial Royal Majesty, with the object of obtaining a revision of his case by some competent internal court of the empire; and a petition to that effect, dated April 11, 1838, was presented, but the result was not communicated to Rayson before the 10th of October, 1838, when he was informed by a note from Her Majesty's Ambassador, that by a decree dated the 20th of August, 1835, the Austrian Internunciature at Constantinople had revoked the two decrees of the 8th and 18th of April, 1835, against which Rayson had protested. Her Majesty's Ambassador was not informed of this revocation till two months after the date of that act, and then only on his Excellency's application to the Austrian Government. Mr. Rayson was all this time waiting in Vienna to learn the result of his petition, which, if duly communicated to him, would have entirely prevented the loss of time, so injurious to his interests. Immediately on receipt of this communication, Rayson returned to Constantinople, where he obtained a copy of the decree of revocation, which, without giving any grounds, merely says, that "by superior order of the Imperial Royal Supreme Tribunal of Justice at Vienna, the Internuncio revokes the two decrees of the 8th and 18th of April, 1835." Seeing that the only hindrance to the execution of the superarbitral sentence had been removed by the revocation in question, Mr. Rayson hoped to find on his return to Constantinople that it had already been executed by the Internunciature, in compliance with his most formal demand. But the sentence had not been executed as expected, and Rayson was therefore obliged once more formally to petition, under date, for its being done; and as the Internunciature paid no attention to his petition, he renewed his demand on the 18th December, 1838, and on the 21st December, 1838, the Internunciature notified to Her Majesty's Consulate, that the former could not oblige Mosé to answer Rayson's demand, dated 30th November, 1838 (twenty-two days before), until the fourteen days from the latter date had elapsed. The laws of the Austrian civil code regarding "execution" were as stringent as those of Great Britain, and did not allow a moment's delay in those cases, much less fourteen days; but twenty-two days were taken on the most unwarrantable pretext, and on the 27th of December, 1838 (twenty-seven days after Rayson's formal demand for execution), it was notified to Her Majesty's Consulate, "that Mosé had been reclaimed by the Ottoman Government as a Turkish subject, and that from this date henceforward he had ceased to enjoy Austrian protection." He would not now enter into the subject of the protection afforded to foreigners in Turkey by the Austrian Internuncio; but it was evident that if it were permitted to a subject of any Power to place himself under the protection of a foreign embassy, and then, when pursued for a just debt, to get himself transferred from that protection to another, there must be an end to all commercial transactions. Mr. Rayson asked on what grounds this claim of the Ottoman Government of Mosé Dekker, as their subject; had been made, and he received no answer. He asked if the Austrian Internuncio had allowed him to be taken under Turkish protection without protest; and the Austrian Internuncio did not venture to state that he had made the least resistance to this claim. No doubt if the Austrian Internuncio had represented the circumstances of the case to the Turkish Government, that Government would not have enforced their claim at that moment. They would have said you must remain an Austrian subject until this matter is decided. Thus after three years of anxiety, Mr. Rayson found that he had not advanced one step, and that all his money had been wasted. He applied again to Lord Beauvale, who expressed his conviction that the Home Government would see justice done. The matter was laid before the law officers of the Crown, who gave it as their opinion that, as our courts would afford no remedy to an Austrian subject under similar circumstances, so neither could any remedy be afforded by law to Mr. Rayson, forgetting; however, that the position of Mr. Rayson was totally different from that which any Austrian subject could by possibility occupy, relative to any of the courts of justice of this country. The decision of the Supreme Court of Vienna declared that the Internuncio at Constantinople had interfered illegally, and his decree having been revoked, Mr. Rayson had a just claim against the Internuncio. The case had been submitted to De Retz, a leading advocate of Vienna, who had given it as his opinion that decidedly Mr. Rayson had a just claim against the Internuncio. Acting on this opinion, under the advice of Lord Beauvale, Mr. Rayson had applied to have his complaint against the Internuncio brought before the Austrian Court at Vienna, and eventually it had been referred to the Chancery of the Em- pire, which was analogous to the Foreign Office; in fact, it had been referred to Prince Metternich himself. Lord Beau-vale had frequently applied to Prince Metternich on the subject, and he could get no satisfactory answer. At last, in 1839, a decree was issued by Prince Metternich, overruling the decision of the Supreme Court in Mr. Rayson's favour, and declaring, contrary to the laws of Austria, that the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction over the Internuncio of Constantinople. Prince Metternich, in doing this, had ventured to decide a question which was never brought before him; and on hearing of the decree, Lord Beauvale urged Prince Metternich, but in vain, to do justice. Under these circumstances Mr. Rayson applied to the noble Lord opposite (Lord Palmerston), who at that time held the situation he at present fills, for redress; and he would do his noble Friend the justice to say that his noble Friend had exerted himself to the utmost of his power to procure for this British subject the justice which was wrongfully withheld from him by the Austrian Government; and had the noble Lord continued in office he believed that that justice would have been obtained; but unfortunately for Mr. Rayson the noble Lord was on the point of quitting office. Mr. Rayson renewed his application, and the Earl of Aberdeen, who succeeded the noble Lord, did not at first take the same view of the case that his noble Friend had done, and instead of following up his noble Friend's remonstrances to the Court of Vienna, he recommended Mr. Rayson to follow up Mosé Bekker in the Turkish courts.

House counted out, and adjourned at Seven o'clock.

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