HC Deb 15 June 1852 vol 122 cc790-7

said, he rose to move the following Resolution:— That this House, recognising the undoubted title of the Queen's subjects resident in foreign countries to the continual protection of Her Ma- jesty, in respect of their liberty, property, and other personal rights, and considering that in the case of the Rev. Messrs. Wingate, Smith, and Edwards, arbitrarily expelled from the Austrian dominions in the month of January last, with their wives and children, under circumstances involving much sacrifice of property, and other hardships to the sufferers, those rights were violated, and that no redress has been hitherto obtained for the violation, is of opinion that the ease is one calling for prompt and earnest measures on the part of Her Majesty's Government. He should proceed with his statement, notwithstanding a rumour that had reached him of the determination of the Government to take measures for putting a summary stop to discussions upon the case; hut if they did resort to a count-out, he was sure they would feel the consequences at no distant period. Not two years ago that House had been called upon to record their votes against a most un-English resolution adopted in another place on the occasion of the Greek claims, the mover of that resolution being the noble Lord now at the head of the Government; and on the 15th of March last, soon after the Earl of Malmesbury, to the misfortune of this country, was installed in office, his Lordship informed Count Buol that he highly valued the friendly feeling expressed by Prince Schwarzenberg on the part of Austria towards this country. At that time Lord Malmesbury was fully aware of the facts which he (Mr. C. Anstey) was about to bring before the House. The Government were making a premature and indecent attempt in order to prevent his doing so; but, while the issue would be indifferent to him, it would redound only to the discredit of Her Majesty's Ministers. Messrs. Smith and Wingate were two ministers in the Scotch church at Pesth, where they had settled in 1848. Mr. Edwards was in Lemberg in 1848; but all three gentlemen had settled in the Austrian dominions with full permission from the Austrian Government to undertake their spiritual functions. The first two having resided more than ten years in Pesth, had, by the law of Hungary, become naturalised; all of them had acquired property, both real and personal, in the country, and they, no doubt, intended to pass there the rest of their days. On the 10th of December, 1851, Count Buol wrote to the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Lord Palmerston), then at the head of the Foreign Office, and informed him that by way of retaliation upon England for protecting Kossuth and his companions, the Austrian Government intended to subject English travellers, however innocent of acts to the prejudice of the Austrian Government to what he called exceptional measures of precaution. Mr. Edwards had not resided for so long a period in Lemberg, in Galicia, as his companions in misfortune; but his residence there was equally sanctioned by the Austrian Government. When the revolution broke out they retired for a season to avoid being identified with either party, and returned as soon as what was falsely called "order," but which was in reality the reign of despotism, was restored; and in the month of December, 1851, Mr. Edwards was made the first victim of the arbitrary policy of Count Buol. The wife of Mr. Edwards was at that time within a month of her accouchement. He had several small children, some of whom were ill, and they were ordered immediately to quit Lemberg and to cross the Austrian frontier, a distance of five hundred miles, within six days, and that in the most inclement season of the year. Mr. Edwards went to Vienna, and applied to the British Minister, the Earl of Westmoreland, who received a large salary for doing nothing; but the British Minister-refused to interfere. In point of fact the Earl of Westmoreland was fiddling or directing high mass at Prague, so that he had neither time nor the wish to assist his countrymen in trouble, which it was his duty to do. Mr. Edwards, who owed nothing to the interference of the British Ambassador, was scarcely permitted to return to Lemberg; but a happy contradiction in the orders of the Austrian police enabled him to return and accompany his family to the Prussian frontier, immediately after crossing which his wife was delivered of a dead child. All these steps were taken without the interference of the proper authorities, but by a simple mandate from Prince Schwarzenberg—who had since gone to his account elsewhere—issued solely, as that Minister had declared, in a despatch to this Government, as a punishment to Englishmen, for the reception which this country had given to Kossuth. On the 5th of January following, Messrs. Wingate and Smith received orders to quit Pesth, Hungary, and the Austrian dominions in five days. They also appealed to the Earl of Westmoreland, and to the tender mercies of the Austrian Government. The Government paid no attention whatever to their appeal, neither did the Earl of Westmoreland. At a later period, when a remonstrance was forwarded to him on the subject by Earl Granville, the Earl of Westmoreland was directing a high mass at Prague for the repose of the soul of the late Prince Schwarzenberg; and, as far as he (Mr. C. Anstey) was aware, he believed that the Earl of Westmoreland originally approved of the inhumanity of the Austrian Government. He was also astonished to find that the Earl of Malmesbury quite concurred in that approbation. No charge or allegation was made against these gentlemen. No explanation was given, because it was not asked; and though they were so ill treated by the representative of their own country, they found shelter and assistance in the legation of Mr. M'Curdy, the American Chargé d'Affaires, who, though not so highly salaried as the Earl of Westmoreland, opened his house and his purse to them with great liberality. The property which these gentlemen had acquired in Hungary, consisting of real and personal property, being too heavy to be secured, they were obliged to abandon to the mercies, not of the mob, but of what was worse, of the cowardly and bullying Austrian Government. The English Government were bound to apply to this case the principle which had been acted on with reference to Mr. Finlay. The whole question was one of international law, which was decidedly opposed to the oppressive, despotic, and unjustifiable treatment these missionaries had received. He complained that in this, as in Mr. Mather's case, Lord Malmesbury had made excuses which would make the one as disgraceful to him as the other had been proved to be in the course of the discussion which took place last night. The Free Church of Scotland, and the Society for the Conversion of the Jews, then interposed on behalf of the missionaries, who were in their employ, and they presented a memorial to the Foreign Office. In answer to that memorial, they were told by the Earl of Malmesbury, on the 20th March, 1852, that it appeared from a preliminary inquiry which had been made, that the measure was adopted by the Austrian Government in pursuance of a determination not to tolerate any longer interferences of foreign missionaries with the religious faith of the Austrian Jews. The noble Earl also stated that Her Majesty's Government could not dictate to the Austrian Government what amount of religious toleration should be conceded within the Austrian dominions, and that therefore he should abstain from making any formal claim for redress. Another remonstrance was thereupon addressed by the same parties to the noble Earl; and, on the 28th of April, a reply was received to it, in which it was stated that repeated appeals had been made to the Austrian Government to make some compensation for the loss and injury these parties had sustained, but that the answer had been completely unfavourable. The facts of the case were not denied. It was admitted, amongst other things, that there was a loss of property; but the Earl of Malmesbury condescended to be the apologist of the Austrian Government, and would not ask redress for the wrongs which had been inflicted. The parties complaining were told, in effect, in the name of the Austrian Government, whom the noble Lord wished to conciliate, that they had no right to endeavour to convert Jews who were the property, soul and body, of their Austrian master. It was not to be expected that Scottish blood would remain quiet under such treatment. Accordingly meetings were held in which was used language adequate to the occasion; and it was determined no longer to memorialise the Government but to appeal to the Legislature. It would appear that the Earl of Malmesbury then began to reflect seriously on the course which he had pursued; and on the 28th of April, 1852, he desired his Under Secretary to write a letter which closed the correspondence. In this letter the Under Secretary said he was desired by the Earl of Malmesbury to state that after several urgent appeals made to the Austrian Government through the Earl of Westmoreland, a reply had at length been received; that the reason assigned by the Austrian Government for the delay which had occurred in giving this reply, was the necessity of awaiting the detailed report of the local authorities on the matter; that this report had now been received, and that the Earl of Malmesbury regretted to say that it was completely unfavourable. Unless the British Government was prepared to be called a bully and a coward, it ought to apply to these outrages upon Messrs. Edwards, Wingate, and Smith, the same measures as it applied with respect to the outrage on Mr. Finlay, at Athens. If the Government shrank from the application of such measures towards Austria, it would be at once inferred that this country, whilst it played the bully with a weak Government, was not prepared to deal with a strong one. Vattel and Grotius, and every writer on the subject of international law, showed that the Earl of Malmesbury, as the organ of this country in foreign matters, ought to demand justice from the Austrian Government.

Notice taken that Forty Members were not present; House counted; and Forty Members not being present,

The House adjourned at Eight o'clock.