HC Deb 28 May 1852 vol 121 cc1313-21

said, he had put a question on the previous day to the noble Lord the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs; but the answer of the noble Lord, though given at some length, was not altogether satisfactory, and did not afford that information he was desirous of receiving, and for which he thought the House and the country had a right to ask. The House was aware of the subject to which he referred, namely, the case of Edward Murray, the son of a British officer, who, for some offence had been arrested at Rome, and, after an imprisonment of three years, had lately undergone some kind of trial, and been condemned to death. He was sure that the case of any British subject in such a position deserved the attention of that House, and he was equally sure it would receive that attention, no matter however mean the condition of the party might be. But this unfortunate person was, he understood, most respectably connected, and he had been informed that, not only had his father served in the British Army, but his grandfather also, and many other members of his family. He was, strictly speaking, a British subject, born in a country under the rule of Her Majesty—namely, at Corfu, in 1823; and, it appeared that he was, with his father, travelling in Italy, about the year 1848. It seemed that he entered the service of the Government of Rome of that day, and was employed in the army there, and afterwards in the police; but he was suspected—as he (Lord D. Stuart) understood from the noble Lord the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs—of being implicated in the murder of some partisans of the Papal Government. He was arrested and sent to Rome, where he was tried, acquitted, and set at liberty. He afterwards proceeded to Ancona; but the Pope having been restored to his dominions subsequently, the unfortunate man was again arrested for the offence of which it had been rumoured he was guilty, and of which he had been acquitted, and was thrown into prison. There he remained for nearly three years; and hon. Members who knew what Italian prisons were, either from having seen, as he had, those places of misery and torture, or from having read the eloquent description of the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) would have some conception of what he—their fellow-subject—endured during this lengthened period, without being brought to trial. There was no one who could wish that, if guilty of the crime which rumour had connected with his name—for he (Lord D. Stuart) had not yet heard distinctly the charge brought against him by the Roman Government—Mr. Murray should escape justice, whether their fellow-countrymen or not; but what interested the House and the country was, whether he was really guilty or not; whether he had had the advantage of a fair and open trial; and whether those who represented this country, from the head of the Foreign Office down to the Consuls at Ancona and at Rome, had done their duty in seeking justice for an English subject. From the statement of the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs in another place, and from information received from other quarters, it appeared to him the unfortunate gentleman had not had the advantage of a fair trial. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) yesterday remarked that he (Lord D. Stuart) had characterised the offence imputed to Mr. Murray as a political offence, and thus wished to detract from its enormity. But what he had said was, that the Papal Government, by treating the offence as a political one, had deprived the prisoner of certain advantages to which he would otherwise have been entitled. In the first place, had he been treated as guilty of a political offence, he must have come within the amnesty issued after the return of the Pope from Gaeta to Rome; but he was not included—neither was he tried by the tribunal at Ancona, and therefore had not the advantage of an appeal, to which he would have been entitled in the ordinary course; neither had lie liberty to choose a counsel, but the Papal Government had appointed to that capacity a person whose duty it was to draw up an official summary of the case; and it was very easy to understand that, in a country like Rome, where the Courts of Law were notoriously ill-managed, and justice did not prevail, the counsel appointed by Government were not likely to do that justice to a prisoner which might be expected in other quarters. He must say it did not appear to him the Consuls had done their duty in seeing Mr. Murray had fair play, because the result of what the noble Foreign Secretary had said was, that information had been sent from the Consul at Ancona to the Consul at Rome of Mr. Murray's arrest, and that the latter at once did that which was highly becoming so far as it went, namely, represented the case to the Papal Government on behalf of the unfortunate prisoner; but Mr. Freeborn, nevertheless, did not send information to the Foreign Office of what had occurred till about February in this year; that was, not till nearly three years after the unfortunate man had been arrested. He had ever been led to believe that Mr. Freeborn was a most able and active officer, and animated by zeal for the interest of British subjects; but the circumstance of his long silence in this instance was altogether surprising, and certainly called for explanation. Either Mr. Moore, the Consul at Ancona, ought to have sent information home when the man was arrested, or to have reported the circumstance to Mr. Freeborn, if that gentleman was his superior officer; and if Mr. Freeborn received such information, he ought to have transmitted it to this country. He might be told, perhaps, that the state of the diplomatic relations between this country and the Pope were in a very anomalous and objectionable position; but whose fault was that? Was it not the fault of the party opposite? Was it not the fault of the Members of the present Government and their supporters? And if the noble Earl now at the head of Foreign Affairs found the state of our diplomatic relations with Rome unsatisfactory, ought he not to address his complaints on that head rather to the Castle of Dublin than anywhere else; because, if our relations in Rome were in that anomalous position, the noble Lord should not forget that it was to be attributed to an Amendment of the Earl of Eglintoun's, on the Bill for improving those relations, that such was still the case. The state of our relations with Rome must be a great difficulty in the way of Lord Eglintoun's governing Ireland with success. Indeed, all the recent matters of dispute between Rome and this country which had arisen—that most deplorable measure, designated the Papal Aggression, and that only one degree less deplorable measure, carried through the present Parliament, the Ecclesiastical Titles Act, to meet it—all these evils had arisen from want of diplomatic relations with Rome. But if we had no ambassador at Rome, we had subordinate officers. And how had this matter been treated by these subordinates? If they had transmitted the intelligence in due time, why did not the Government interfere sooner? Had anything been done to ensure a proper trial to the prisoner? Had any order been transmitted to Rome that proper counsel should be provided for the prisoner? What sort of a trial had he? Was it in a secret or an open court? Had he opportunities of calling witnesses to prove his innocence if he were innocent? After having been confined three years in a loathsome dungeon, was he at last condemned to the extreme penalty of death without being heard in his defence? The House was surely entitled to know something more than they had yet heard on this subject from the Government; and he (Lord D. Stuart) hoped the noble Lord would inform them on these points, for it did not appear from the statement of the noble Lord last night, when the information first arrived of this man's predicament, that any further orders had been sent to the Consul at Rome beyond a direction to watch the proceedings. He admitted that when the Government afterwards heard that the man's life was in danger, they had shown a greater interest and activity, as might have been expected from their humanity. But, had such a statement arrived at the Foreign Office when it was presided over by a nobleman who was alive to the honour of his country—who was anxious and ready to defend the interests of British subjects all over the world, and had the ability and the power to make his wishes respected—sure he was that his noble Friend (Lord Palmerston) would not have hesitated to make use of the most energetic measures, or whatever measures were necessary, in order that no injustice should be done to the accused. He wished to ask a question, also, with regard to Mr. Mather, who had been most shamefully treated by Austrian officers in Tuscany. Earl Granville, while Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, had intimated to the father of Mr. Mather that, as soon as the affair was concluded, it was his intention to lay all the correspondence before Parliament. Now that the negotiation was brought to a close, he wished to ask the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) whether there would be any objection to lay the papers on the table of the House?


would not imitate the example of the noble Lord, in introducing into a discussion in itself sufficiently important, a variety of topics wholly irrelevant to the matter in hand. The question of diplomatic intercourse with Rome was undoubtedly a grave one; but it bore very slightly, if at all, on the present subject of debate. With regard to the case of Mr. Mather, if the noble Lord desired any explanation which Government could furnish, let notice be given, and a question regularly put, and he (Lord Stanley) would answer it to the best of his ability. He (Lord Stanley) had listened to the speech of the noble Lord, certainly with no feeling of surprise that the noble Lord should have thought the subject well worthy, even in the present state of business, to occupy the attention of the House—certainly with no desire to diminish or depreciate its interest and importance; but with a feeling of very great surprise, that, studying the case as he had studied it, and stating the facts as he had stated them, the noble Lord should have found in those facts, and in the circumstances of that case, any the slightest ground of accusation against Her Majesty's present Ministers. The noble Lord talked of pleading for the life of a British subject; but he (Lord Stanley) thought he had clearly explained on the previous evening, that as soon as the Government heard that the life of Mr. Murray was in danger, they had taken immediate and active measures for his preservation. The noble Lord had spoken of the previous imprisonment and acquittal of Mr. Murray, and the consequent hardship of his being tried twice for the same offence. Now he (Lord Stanley) was not speaking in defence of the Roman Government; but he must observe, that though it was perfectly true Mr. Murray had been previously imprisoned on this charge, it was by no means equally certain that he had been acquitted. An acquittal implied a regular trial; and it could not be proved that on the occasion of this first imprisonment, Mr. Murray had ever been tried at all. He was afraid, he might say, that from the state of parties in the country, it was equally possible, either that Mr. Murray should have been imprisoned without cause by the Papal Government, or that he should have been released without inquiry by the Republican Government. Again, the noble Lord had repeated that the offence was a political one, and therefore that Mr. Murray was entitled to a release under the amnesty; but he (Lord Stanley) thought he had already explained, that however much political feeling might unfortunately have been mixed up in this trial, there was a specific charge against the prisoner, and that charge by no means of a political nature. He was accused of having, while holding the situation of inspector of police at Ancona, connived in several instances, and particularly in one which was specified, at the murder of unoffending persons. These, however, were matters which could hardly be said to bear on the question of the conduct of the present Government. It was enough for his (Lord Stanley's) purpose to remind the House, that the earliest communication which reached the Foreign Office on this subject, was one from Mr. Freeborn, dated the 25th of February, 1852. In that letter Mr. Freeborn stated, that the arrest of Mr. Murray had taken place two years and a half before, at Ancona—not, as the noble Lord had said, at Rome—and that the reason why he, Mr. Freeborn, had not earlier interfered, was, that Ancona did not lie within his district. Ancona was in the district of Mr. Consul Moore, who unfortunately had not thought it his duty to represent the case to the British Government, though it was only justice to him to say that he had exerted himself with the local authorities. His (Lord Stanley's) statement was borne out by a despatch of his noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Department, who, in acknowledging the letter of Mr. Freeborn, before alluded to, and another from the same gentleman, dated the 8th of March, expressly said, that these were the first accounts which had reached the office, respecting the imprisonment of the individual in question. Here, then—at this point, and not earlier—the responsibility of Government began: they could not act until they had information; when they obtained it, they had acted without hesitation or delay. Mr. Freeborn had been at once informed that his previous exertions were approved; he had been desired to watch the case, to report upon it, and to use his utmost efforts to ensure for Mr. Murray a fair and impartial trial. Before this letter was received, Mr. Freeborn had already put in one remonstrance: in April and May he addressed two other appeals to the Papal Government, and in those appeals the length of time which had elapsed, the alleged illness of the prisoner, and certain reports which had been circulated as to the manner in which the trial was carried on, were dwelt upon in the most earnest and forcible manner. Looking at the position in which he was placed in regard of the Roman Government, in the absence of any accredited diplomatic agent at that Court, he (Lord Stanley) thought that Mr. Freeborn could not have done more than he had done, and that there was not the slightest ground for any charge against him of slackness in the discharge of his duty. With regard to the conduct of Mr. Moore in not reporting to the British Government the arrest and imprisonment of Mr. Murray, he (Lord Stanley) could only say, that Mr. Moore had already been written to on the subject; that he had been called upon to explain the reasons which led him to act as he did, hut that his answer had not yet been received: and he (Lord Stanley) was sure that the noble Lord, who had expressed himself so strongly in favour of a fair trial, would not be the first to violate his own rule, and would not condemn Mr. Moore without hearing what he had to say in his defence. It was only justice to that gentleman to add, that so far as the local authorities were concerned, his exertions in applying to them in behalf of Mr. Murray had been unremitting. In conclusion, he (Lord Stanley) would observe, that whether Mr. Murray were innocent or guilty, he had a right to a fair trial: and the conduct of the Government in interfering, with all the influence and authority of England, to prevent the sentence from being carried into effect, showed that in their judgment the trial accorded him had not been one on which they were justified in suffering the life of a British subject to be taken. With regard to the production of the papers, he (Lord Stanley) could only follow the universal rule, which forbade the production of such papers while a negotiation was pending. When that negotiation was at an end, he should be ready to lay them before Parliament.


Sir, this subject being one which relates to the business of the department over which I had recently the honour to preside, I think it right to state, in confirmation of what has been said by the noble Lord opposite, that during the time I was at the head of the Foreign Office I received no information or communication whatever on the subject of this case. Undoubtedly it appears to require explanation why Mr. Moore, in whose district at Ancona the case originated, or Mr. Freeborn, when it was transferred to Rome, did not communicate it to the Foreign Office. An explanation might also be asked why the friends of Mr. Murray in England—for I presume that he has friends and relations here—did not themselves apply to me while I was at the Foreign Office. With regard to Mr. Moore and Mr. Freeborn, it is due to them that I should say that it is not possible two public servants could have shown greater zeal or activity in the discharge of the duties imposed upon them; and, therefore, I am bound to suppose that there were reasons which led them to think that the case did not require immediate communication with the Government of Great Britain. With regard to the steps which ought to be taken, I think that if a British subject is accused and placed on his trial for a grave and serious offence against the criminal law of the country in which he is residing, the first step would be to instruct the British Consul or the British Minister, as the case might be, that the British subject should be provided with good professional advice, to defend himself against the accusation that was brought against him. Of course, if the first information received was that the trial was concluded and sentence passed, these preliminary proceedings would no longer be in place. My noble Friend the Member for Marylebone (Lord D. Stuart) has made some observations with regard to the state of non-intercourse between this Government and the Government of Rome; and therefore I feel bound to make one or two observations on that point. The facts are, that the Roman Government, before the passing of that Act which was passed by Parliament to empower the Crown to enter into Diplomatic Relations with the Court of Rome—before that time the Roman Government did desire to have diplomatic relations with the Government of Great Britain. It is true that a clause which was inserted in the Bill in its passage through the House of Lords, and which prevented the Roman Government from sending an ecclesiastic as its representative here, did give offence to the Roman Government. I think that that offence was one which they had no right to take, because that clause in the Bill placed by law the diplomatic intercourse between Rome and England on exactly the same footing on which the diplomatic intercourse of the Court of Rome had always—certainly for a very long time—been placed with the Russian and Prussian Governments, by the decision of the Governments of St. Petersburgh and Berlin—a decision which the Court of Rome implicitly acquiesced in. The Pope had a Minister from Russia and a Minister from Prussia residing at Rome, while Russia and Prussia refused to receive an ecclesiastic as representative of Rome at St. Petersburg and Berlin. The Pope acquiesced in their refusal so far as this, that he abstained from sending a Minister either to St. Petersburg or Berlin; but he received a Russian and Prussian Minister at Rome. Therefore I hold that the Court of Rome was not justified in objecting to receive a British Minister merely because the British Government were restrained by law in the same way as the Russian and Prussian Governments were restrained by the decisions of their respective Sovereigns from receiving an ecclesiastic as the representative of the Pope here. But I do not understand that an absolute refusal to receive a British Minister was made by the Roman Government. What has been stated by the Roman Government is this—that in consequence of the passing of this law they would not receive a permanent mission, but they did not consider that the clause would prevent them from receiving a temporary mission; and if a temporary mission were sent from time to time as circumstances required, it is plain that a repetition of temporary missions would answer all the practical purposes that might be aimed at by a permanent mission; and I imagine there is nothing to prevent Her Majesty's Government from ordering Her Majesty's Minister at Florence to go on a tem pory mission to Rome, to settle any question that may arise between the two Governments. I thought it right to enter into this explanation, because I know that misapprehensions are entertained with regard to the effect of this clause, and that there is a prevalent notion abroad that the Court of Rome have refused to enter into diplomatic relations with us; whereas the fact is that they would not, as at present advised, receive a permanent mission, but they would have no objection to receive a temporary mission from the British Government.


said, that the correspondence for which he had asked was the correspondence which had taken place in the case of Mr. Mather, and not that in the case of Mr. Murray. As the diplomatic correspondence in the case of Mr. Murray had not yet terminated, he did not mean to ask for it at the present stage; but it was otherwise with the correspondence relating to Mr. Mather; and, as the noble Lord seemed to desire that he should give him previous intimation of such Motions, he begged now to give notice that on Thursday next he should move for the production of that correspondence.

Subject dropped.