HC Deb 22 May 1855 vol 138 cc897-920

MR. AYSHFORD WISE moved the Resolution of which he had given notice— That it is the opinion of this House that the complete Revision of our Diplomatic Establishments recommended in the Report of the Select Committee of 1850 on Official Salaries should be carried into effect. The hon. Gentleman said, that the Select Committee which was appointed in 1850 to consider this subject laid their Report upon the table in the same year. That Report had remained a dead letter, although the Committee had strongly recommended their Resolutions for the adoption of the House. At present he intended to confine himself to the financial part of the question. With regard to the first proposal of the Committee, to send first class missions to Paris and Constantinople instead of embassies, he would admit that our position at Paris and Constantinople was very different now from what it was in 1850, and that since the Committee had made its Report the allowance to our Ambassador at Paris had been reduced from 10,000l to 8,000l. a year. He admitted also that it might be desirable that we should have at Paris a representative privileged to hold personal interviews with a Sovereign who took so great a share in the Government as the present Emperor. But the expenses of the embassy at Paris were very great, and, however undesirable it might be to interfere with present arrangements, he would call the attention of the House to that expenditure. The hotel of the Embassy originally cost 30,000l.; some 40,000l. had been afterwards spent upon it, besides 8,320l. in 1842, and 9,000l. in 1853; making together upwards of 87,000l. for the hotel at Paris since the peace. The observations which he had made with respect to Paris applied equally to Constantinople. The expense of the embassy was 10,000l. The extra expenses amounted to 6,987l. The diplomatic and consular establishments in the Levant cost the country 40,000l. a year. Beyond this, 12,000l. was voted last year for new buildings at Constantinople. The most extraordinary thing, perhaps, was the cost of the embassy house at Constantinople. It was burnt down in 1841. In 1843 the sum laid out for an embassy house was 10,000l.; in 1844 the sum of 10,000l. was again expended; and in 1845 there was the further sum of 13,000l.—making together 33,000l. But that was not all. In the years 1847, 1848, and 1849, the sum of 12,000l. was expended in each year, and in 1851 the sum of 14,765l. with extras amounting to 2,850l., making altogether 86,615l. These facts showed that some revision and investigation were required into the expenses of our diplomatic establishments. He could find no good reason why we should send Ambassadors rather than Ministers to foreign Courts. The diplomatists of Russia were quite as successful as our own, yet Russia had no Ambassadors, and sent first-class Ministers to the leading Courts. An Embassy was more expensive than a Ministry, and in-involved more forms, more etiquette, and more dinners. Sir H. Seymour—of whom he wished to speak with great respect—told the Committee he had no idea of a man being a good diplomatist unless he gave good dinners, and that the giving of dinners was a great part of diplomatic duty. If that were the case the Russian Ministers must have given better dinners than our Ambassadors, particularly in Germany, judging from the greater success of their diplomacy. The second Resolution of the Committee recommended our sending a central mission to Germany, to be located at Frankfort, and the abolition of the missions at Hanover, Dresden, Stuttgard, and Munich. The present expenses of our missions to these smaller German Courts were—Hanover, 3,000l.; Dresden, 2,000l.; Stuttgard, 2,000l.; Munich, 3,000l.; and Frankfort, 2,600l.; and we also sent Ambassadors to Berlin and Vienna. Our Ministers abroad were described as the eyes, ears, and tongue of our Foreign Minister, but recent events had not taught us to put much faith in the ears and eyes of our Ministers at these smaller Courts, for he had yet to learn what advantage we had derived from what they had heard and seen during the progress of recent events. He thought that if we had Ministers at Frankfort, Vienna, and Berlin, we should be sufficiently represented in a diplomatic sense in Germany. The First Napoleon called Frankfort the window from which one could look out upon the whole of Germany. Looking at the past history of Venice, Genoa, Poland, and other States, it did not appear that these smaller missions had prevented the destruction or absorption of the States to which they were sent. These numerous missions must entail a great amount of correspondence; the despatches annually received by the Foreign Office probably numbered 40,000, and he did not believe there was any compensatory advantage in the information which they contained. The third recommendation of the Committee was the union of the mission at Florence with one of the Italian missions. A Minister was originally sent to Florence because the Stuarts, who then resided in Italy, required to be watched; but that was not so now, and as we had Ministers at Naples and Turin, and consuls throughout Italy, he thought the recommendation of the Committee might advantageously be adopted. He did not consider so many small missions necessary, either in Germany or in Italy; but if these missions were necessary, they ought to be filled by persons well qualified to the discharge of the duties appertaining thereto; on the other hand, if the duties were comparatively trivial, they might be performed by chargés d'affaires or consuls, and thus a considerable amount of expenditure might be saved. The next recommendation of the Committee was, that no diplomatic salary should exceed 5,000l. per annum; but with regard to Paris and Constantinople, in the present state of European politics, he was not prepared to press that suggestion, but he thought the expenditure ought to be lessened in other cases. They ought to reduce unnecessary expenditure, by substituting chargés d'affaires or consuls of the first class for Ministers where, though the duties were light, missions must be kept up; but, as a general rule, he did not think the diplomatic service overpaid—certainly not the junior diplomatists; and he was opposed to a system of having any unpaid attachés. By the 2nd & 3rd of Will. IV., c. 116, all the salaries and pensions of this department were charged to the consolidated fund, but were limited to the amount of 180,000l. a year. But the salaries for the year amounted to 150,000l., the rent paid was 10,000l., the charge for sundries was 25,000l., and the outfit varied from 4.000l. to 8,000l. The diplomatic expenditure since 1840 had been 3,000,000l., and the diplomatic and consular establishments since 1840 had cost together 4,677,000l. Under the head of contingencies there were many charges for ser- vices of plate to the Ministers at Paris, Constantinople, Berlin, and other places. The expenses of the Foreign Office for the year amounted to 46,573l., and of the Ambassadors' postage to 4,260l. The extra couriers last year cost 32,000l., and this year 35,000l. Of course, the state of Europe entailed extra charges of that kind; but, looking at the amount of the general expenditure, he was of opinion that the Committee of 1850 were right in recommending some revision of these charges. The Committee also recommended that, where possible, there should be a union of missions, and that in some cases consuls or consular agents should be substituted for missions. Our Ministers in Sicily, Portugal, Belgium, Sardinia, and Denmark received very large salaries, with very few duties to discharge, and he thought that if the Government followed the advice of the Committee, and revised the whole system, it would not only promote economy, but be for the advantage of the public service. It would be a very curious, and, perhaps, an interesting investigation for the future historian to consider whether resident Ambassadors, as a rule, had tended most to embroil or to pacify nations, and whether they had tended most to conserve or destroy nationalities. Judging only by the number of years of peace and of war, it would be found that resident Ambassadors had rather promoted war than preserved peace. So long, however, as nations were engaged in commerce, and entered into international treaties, resident Ambassadors must be nscessary. Diplomacy was described by some writers, themselves diplomatists, as nothing more than a system of gentlemanly espionage; M. Bruyéres said an Ambassador's function was to cheat others, but not to be cheated himself, and Sir Henry Wootton described an Ambassador as a gentleman sent abroad to lie for the benefit of his country. He did not say that our Ambassadors were to be thus characterised. He felt that, in its highest sense, diplomacy was one of the most honourable and distinguished employments, because its legitimate object was to promote harmony and fraternity among all nations; but experience and history proved that diplomacy was nothing more than another word for duplicity, and he thought they had seen enough in the present day to justify such a translation of the term. He was not alluding to our own Plenipotentiaries; but if the recent proceedings at Vienna were to be taken as a test of the diplomacy of some of the nations of Europe, he should be very sorry to continue such a system at all, and would readily concur in locking the doors of all the Foreign Offices in Europe, and throwing the keys into the nearest rivers. There was one term which had been frequently misapplied, but which was very expressive—secret diplomacy. He confessed he thought the public knew too little of international transactions; that they were kept too much in the dark upon such subjects. There might be occasions when discretion was wise; but he believed that if the English nation had been made aware of the Russian State paper which was written in 1844 and remained so long in the pigeonholes of the Foreign Office, it would either have averted war or induced a better state of preparation for it. Such a state of things arose from the secret character of diplomacy, and from the Minister of the day feeling justified in withholding an important document from the knowledge of the country. He could wish that the veil of mystery which overshadowed all the Foreign Offices of Europe was a little more raised. He would leave the question of diplomatic education to be dealt with by his hon. Friend who would follow him, and would only call the attention of the Government to the necessity of care in the selections and promotions in the diplomatic service. It would be absurd to suppose that persons entered that service as a source of profit; promotion was notoriously so slow, the payment was so bad, and for some years attachés received no salary at all. That practice, he thought, was objectionable, as all public servants should be paid for their services, and it had the effect of preventing young men well qualified, but whose father's could not allow them 300l. to 600l. a year, from entering the diplomatic service. He would be sorry to see the day when the sons of our gentry and nobility should be unwilling to enter the public service, and all he asked was that, if men of that position were appointed, care should be taken that they were properly qualified. At present promotions in the public services were felt to be greatly dependent upon political or personal interest. Men who had grown grey in the service found themselves, if not superseded, at least put aside, for new men, with no knowledge of foreign languages, and who had never studied international law, but who were placed in their situations for simple political considerations. He blamed no one person for that, but he condemned the system. The diplomatic service was a fashionable and agreeable service, which enabled young men to move from capital to capital, and he only regretted that the attachés did not avail themselves always of those opportunities for acquiring knowledge of the world as they might do. He would recommend that encouragement should be held out to clerks in the Foreign Office to study foreign languages, and thus qualify themselves as attachés. The Government of the day had something like 60,000 appointments at their disposal, including the army, navy, church, colonies, &c. All he asked was, that in the exercise of that patronage they would select the cream, the salt of the candidates, especially in a service so connected with the honour and character of the country, and which required such great attention to the elegancies and necessities of education as the diplomatic service. A special Ambassador had certain fixed and defined duties to perform, but a resident Minister was a speciality, and required a man who had gone through a systematic course of education. He found, from a document which had been handed to him, that in France and Germany a commission of examination was appointed, composed of some one connected with the Foreign Office—a retired diplomate—a barrister, well-acquainted with international law, and a person connected with the Board of Trade. The candidates were examined in languages, general history, political economy, the law of nations, diplomatic styles, the constitution and the laws of their own and foreign countries, and the economical systems of their own and other countries. Upon passing that examination the candidates received certificates, and were attached to the diplomatic corps. Some such course should be adopted here, for the country, which had been confiding, had now become suspicious and was now anxious for investigation into that department. He would only add, that he hoped that with the new Foreign Office to be built in Downing Street we should have a new system which would be approved alike by that House and by the country.


said, that his hon. Friend having called the attention of the Committee to the financial part of the question, he (Mr. Ewart) would direct their attention to that part of it. He meant the importance of establishing an educational test for candidates in this branch of the public service. If he were asked to define the duties of an ambassador, he should say they consisted in endeavouring either to maintain peace or to restore it. He was sorry to say that at the present day our preliminary education for the diplomatic service was inferior to that instituted in other European Governments. We did not, equally with these, pursue the study of international law. Even the Americans were Beginning to devote more attention to this branch of jurisprudence. Storey and Wheaton had directed the course of American education into this channel. Our Universities seemed to be slumbering on the subject. Nay, we might be said to have degenerated in the education of our ambassadors since the days of Elizabeth and James. He might cite in those times the name of such a man as Sir Henry Wotton. He (Mr. Ewart) feared that of raw modern ambassadors it might be said as Cowley said of Sir H. Wotton— So many languages he had in store, That only Fame shall speak of him in more. Cromwell, too, was distinguished by the energy of his diplomacy abroad. He carefully studied the character and qualifications of those whom he sent to represent this country at foreign Courts, Such men as Whitelock, Doreslaus, and St. John, represented this country at foreign courts. In recent times, exclusiveness of choice had limited the diplomatic service. Ambassadors and members of legations had been principally chosen from what was now (somewhat vulgarly) called the aristocracy of the country. For his part he recognised in the English constitution no artificial distinction. At all events, titled families bad received more than their share of legation appointments. These changes were required—1. That the Diplomatic Court should be thrown open. 2. That there should be at our Universities, Professorships and courses of study like those instituted long ago abroad (even in the year 1787) by such men as Koch and Von Marbreus. 3. An examination of Candidates, and of aspirants for promotion, should be established. This change alone would exclude titled incompetency. Another important question was the state of our consular establishments. Of our consuls also a preliminary examination should certainly be required. This importance every year increased with the increasing commerce of the world. In no case ought persons engaged in trade to be employed. He would remind the House that Mr. Canning had insisted on the principle that no consuls should be allowed to trade. The French and American consuls were prohibited from trading; and it was the opinion of Mr. M'Culloch, and other persons conversant with the subject, that the appointment of commercial men as consuls materially interfered with the efficient and important discharge of the duties of the office. He regretted to say that our consuls in the East, where our extended commerce, amounting to 8,000,000l. or 10,000,000l. a year, rendered it important that they should be especially efficient, had not generally done much credit to the country. The Eastern consuls possessed enormous powers. They acted as arbitrators; they were consignees of goods; in some cases they possessed, he believed, the power of imprisonment. The greater caution ought therefore to be exercised in the selection of men to discharge such important duties. From the time of Louis XIV. to the present day, the French Government had always subjected the qualifications of their consular agents to a severe test. The consuls general passed through a previous diplomatic or consular education. They must be Frenchmen. They could not trade. There was a preliminary school for consuls among what was called the "Elevé Consuls"—even their Oriental Dragomans must be educated in France. The Americans had recently effected considerable reform in their consular as well as their diplomatic establishments; their consuls were paid by fixed salaries, and no ambassador or consul was allowed to be absent from his post for more than ten days without special permission. If he was longer absent without leave of the President, he forfeited his salary. He must be an American by birth. For the consular services the reforms required were—1. That our consuls, as well as our ambassadors, should prove their competency before appointment. 2. That they should be of British birth. 3. That they should not Trade. Consular fees should generally be abolished. With these reforms our diplomatic and consular services would be elevated and improved. The noble Lord at the helm of the Government would confer a general good by adopting them. They had been urged on him in former years by himself (Mr. Ewart) and others. So to improve these departments would confer honour on the Government and advantage on the country; he might add even benefit on the whole world, since no two professions could be more important to mankind than those whose duty was to maintain the peace and extend the commerce of the world. The reforms which were requisite were simple, and could readily be effected; and if the noble Lord at the head of the Government, who, he believed, was himself fully sensible of the propriety of effecting these improvements in this portion of our public service, would look into the subject with a view to their accomplishment, he would secure for himself the gratitude of the country.


I entirely concur in the observations of my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Ewart), that the diplomatic and consular representatives of the Crown are most important agents of the public service. Upon them frequently depend not only the commercial but the political interests of the country they represent, and they therefore deserve the attention and support of Parliament and of the country. At the same time I must be allowed to say, that the tendency of the observations of the hon. Gentleman who made the Motion was not precisely in harmony with these sentiments. The hon. Gentleman quoted some old and trite censures from writers of past centuries with reference to the diplomatic body, which were certainly calculated to cast very unmerited obloquy and opprobrium upon diplomatic servants in general. He talked of their being spies—of their being persons whose business it was to deceive and not to be deceived—of their being persons whose want of veracity was proverbial. Now, I think it was hardly consistent with the opinions which I am sure the hon. Gentleman entertains, and which he expressed, of the high honour and integrity of the diplomatic servants of the Crown, to rake up these bygone, proverbial, and trite accusations, which—if they were ever true—applied to a state of things which has long since ceased to exist. When we talk of spies, I am sure, that in these days of newspapers and electric telegraphs a Government would throw away any money which it employed in the payment of spies. So far as spies of any foreign Power in this country are concerned, I believe it is perfectly true that every article of intelligence in The Times is reprinted at St. Petersburg by means of the electric telegraph, within twelve hours of the time when it appears in London. The spy system, therefore, is now gone by. My hon. Friend, in referring to the consular service, seemed to suppose that our consuls were inferior in capacity, in intelligence, and in the performance of their duties to those of other Powers. Now, I had the honour of being for many years at the head of the Foreign Office, and my attention was constantly directed to the consular establishment; every day in the year almost I was occupied in sending despatches to, or in in reading despatches from, our consuls abroad; and I am bound to say, in justice to a most meritorious body of public servants, that, so far from believing that they are less efficient than the consuls of other countries, I believe them to be fully equal, in the performance of their duties, to the consuls of any other Power whatever. With regard to consuls in the East, my hon. Friend is perfectly aware that peculiar qualifications are requisite on the part of consuls in that part of the world, and among those qualifications is a knowledge of the habits and customs of the people, and, if possible, a knowledge of the language of the countries to which they are accredited. It is not every man who is fit to be appointed; but the Government have certainly had no reason to think that any of those who have been appointed have failed to possess the qualifications required. I could mention one or two gentlemen who were particularly well qualified for their posts, but I refrain from naming them, because, were I to do so, less praise might be implied to those who were not mentioned. I can only say that, in performing the delicate and arduous duties imposed upon our consuls in the East, I have every reason to believe that the persons employed have met with the approval of the Government. With regard to an assertion made by my hon. Friend in reference to the conduct of some of our consular agents, I may say that, if any consul were accused, or supposed to be guilty of practices or conduct unbecoming his station, a representation of the circumstances of the case might be made to the Secretary of State, who would no doubt feel it his duty to give the most anxious and attentive consideration to the complaint that might be made, and that no mere personal interest possessed by the person accused could prevent justice from being done to parties preferring a complaint. So far, however, as my own knowledge goes, I have every reason to believe that our consuls have performed their duties in a manner honourable to themselves, greatly to the advantage of the country, and to the satisfaction of the British residents within their jurisdiction. In regard, therefore, to the consuls, I really am not aware that any improvement could be effected in the consular system. The duties of our consular agents are entirely different from those of diplomatic servants; they are chiefly confined to seaports, and have no reference to diplomatic relations between two Powers. With respect to the diplomatic service—it is perfectly true that all the recommendations of the Committee of 1850, relating to the diplomatic arrangements of the country, have not been carried into effect; but my hon. Friend (Mr. Wise) himself admitted that several of the suggestions of the Committee had been carried out. For instance, the salaries of the Ambassadors at Paris, Vienna, and other places, have been reduced in compliance with one of the recommendations made. At the same time, it is perfectly true that the Committee recommended that no salary should exceed 5,000l. a year, and it has not been thought right to carry that recommendation invariably into effect. The salaries paid to the Ambassadors at Paris, Vienna, and Constantinople, exceed 5,000l. a year, and the hon. Gentleman appears to me to have incidentally mentioned a circumstance which shows that salaries of a certain amount are really essential in order to enable our Ministers to live in a manner creditable to the honour and dignity of the country they represent. The hon. Gentleman said, that an unpaid attaché could not live in a foreign town unless his family were prepared to give him 600l. a year. Now, if a young man without a house, without family, without being required to keep up an establishment, and simply liable to those personal expenses which a single man has to meet, cannot live without an allowance of 600l. a year, what must be the expenses of a man with a family and with an establishment, and requiring to keep up that appearance necessary for the representative of this country? Measuring by that standard, I think the hon. Gentleman will find that the salaries paid to our Ministers abroad are not beyond what the necessities of the case require. In point of fact, the real truth is that, generally speaking, the salaries paid are under what it is desirable they should be. The hon. Member admits, and with great fairness, that, with regard to Paris and Constantinople, political advantages are derived from retaining there the services of Ministers having the rank of Ambassador. What the hon. Gentleman states is perfectly true. There are privileges of access to the Sovereign and other advantages connected with the rank of Ambassador which give to the officer holding that rank political consideration which is of service to his country which is not enjoyed by a mere Minister. But Paris and Constantinople are the only places where the rank of Ambassador is retained. It is perfectly true that the Russian Government, some years ago, abolished the rank of Ambassador; but that change arose, not from economical motives, but in consequence of a diplomatic dispute with the then Government of France. So far from the change having resulted from economical arrangements, I can undertake to say that the Ministers of Russia in the different Courts of Europe receive much higher salaries as Ministers than are given to diplomatic agents of England possessing the higher rank of Ambassador. With regard to Paris and Constantinople, it is undoubtedly true that the residences of the embassies have occasioned considerable expense, in purchase in the one case and in construction in the other. At the same time, I am sure that every one who has been at Paris must know that it is of great advantage to the public service to provide a suitable residence for the representative of England. I do not believe that any real economy would have been obtained by disposing of the house at present provided, and hiring another suitable for the residence of our Ambassador. With respect to Constantinople, I admit that the expense of building the Ambassador's residence has greatly exceeded the original estimate. The explanations which have been given of the increase are, that materials for building the residence have been brought from a distance far exceeding what was originally imagined; that the expenses of bringing over and maintaining workmen have been greater than were calculated upon; and that, in short, from various unforeseen causes the expenditure has been considerably increased. At the same time, I am bound to say that I do not think the explanations which have been given are altogether as satisfactory as they might have been; but unfortunately it has been out of the power of the Government to prevent the large expenditure that has been incurred. I may add, that the house which has been built is, I believe, hardly large enough, nor is it as handsome and commodious as the houses provided for the Embassies of France, Russia, and Austria. But everybody knows that in Constantinople a house must be built, inasmuch as it is impossible to hire one, and as we had the misfortune to have the house of the British Ambassador twice on fire, it was considered essential in constructing a new building, to erect it of materials calculated to secure it from a similar accident in future. The hon. Gentleman has recommended that there shall be no diplomatic salary above 5,000l. a year; but I think that in some cases it is important to the political interests of this country to pay our Ambassador a sum that will enable him to maintain the dignity of the country. In such cases a salary of 5.000l. would certainly be too small. The hon. Member has referred to what has been said by Sir Hamilton Seymour, in reference to the social expenses of a Minister. Now while this evidence is open to the remark, that diplomacy seems to consist of dinners, hon. Members will be aware that, in order to enable a diplomatist to perform his duties in the manner best calculated to promote the interests of the country of which he is the representative, it is necessary that he should maintain a social intercourse with the Government to which he is accredited, and with the diplomatic agents of other countries. If you were to send a Minister to a foreign Court without giving him the means of maintaining a social intercourse with that Court and with other diplomatic agents, you would compel him to bury himself in solitude or to receive hospitality which he was unable to return; and, in either case, the interests of this country would materially suffer, and the settlement of many matters, which would be very easy between persons who are upon a friendly footing of social intercourse becomes much more difficult when the business has to be transacted by men who have no sort of social relationship. It is consequently necessary, in order to maintain the dignity and promote the honour of the country, to give to your Ministers, not extravagant salaries, but such salaries as will enable them to live like gentlemen in the places to which they are accredited. My hon. Friend wishes that we should adopt the recommendation of the Committee, and send only one mission to Germany. It may be very true, as Napoleon I. stated, that Frankfort is the window of Germany; and it is undoubtedly the fact, that at Frankfort an intelligent Minister acquires a great deal of information which is useful as explaining the policy and future inten- tions of the German Powers. But I apprehend that Napoleon I. did not act upon his maxim to the extent of confining his agencies to Frankfort alone. He had Ministers at other Courts of Germany; and it is impossible for a person living at Frankfort to give you that full information which it is essential that you should have with respect to the different Courts of Germany. Germany is divided into a certain number of independent States; they are smaller and of less importance, no doubt, than Austria and Prussia, but they are essential elements in the general policy of the compound of Germany. Unless you have a diplomatic agent, therefore, at those Courts in constant communication with the Governments of those States you would be cut off from sources of information which are of the utmost importance to you in regard to those States themselves; you would also be deprived of that most valuable information which you gain through those States with reference to the views and policy of other larger countries; and, moreover, you would have no opportunity either of making representations where representations are required, or of receiving communications which may be of importance. The hon. Gentleman referred to the case of Wurtemburg, and he said, "Wurtemburg has no Minister here, and why should we have one at Wurtemburg?" I think that is the very reason why we should have a Minister there, because otherwise we should be cut off from all communications with Wurtemburg. If Wurtemburg had a Minister here we might more easily dispense with a Minister there; but, as Wurtemburg is an independent element in the system of Europe, it is essential that there should be a medium of communication between you and Wurtemburg. So far, then, from any advantage accruing from dispensing with ministers in different States of Germany, I am convinced, from long experience in the Foreign Office, that very serious injury to the public service would be the consequence. My hon. Friend states that he is not aware what the information is which is received from those quarters. Of course no one but the person who is reading from day to day the despatches received, or who is dictating those that are to go out, can be aware of the various reasons which may render such communications useful and even absolutely necessary. I can assure him, from my own experience, that it would be a great injury to the public service if the missions in those States of Germany were withdrawn, and we centred all our diplomatic agency in Frankfort alone. What is Frankfort? It is a place where the delegates from the different Courts assemble. Those delegates have a power which is of great importance with respect to the policy of Germany, but they are not the Governments of the different States, and communications made to them are not communications made to their Governments. No matters of complaint, therefore, could with propriety be addressed to the Diet at Frankfort, and it is quite essential that we should have organs at those States for the purposes of intercommunication. The same observations apply to Italy. We have Ministers at Turin, at Florence, and at all the Italian Courts, and if you had not, you would be cut off from those communications which from day to day are necessary, and the necessity of which you cannot well appreciate until the time arrives when they are required. It has been often said, "You ought not to have permanent missions; but, when a question arises, send a person and he will do your business." It is plain, however, unless your agent lives constantly in the country, knows the Government of the country and the habits of the people, and follows up the thread of events, that it is impossible for him to perform the duty satisfactorily; and the expense of sending special missions, if they frequently occurred, would be much greater than that of permanent residents. We have been told to follow the example of the United States; but the United States have recently been compelled to revise the whole of their diplomatic and consular establishment; and how? not by reducing them either in number or salary; but they have greatly augmented both the salary and number of their agents. In some cases, although the salary has been doubled, still I fear that the representatives of the United States will not find that the sum awarded them is such as will relieve them entirely from the painful position in which, to my certain knoledge, many of them have been placed. The United States, however, give outfits, travelling expenses, and large extra allowances; and, in some instances, I believe, it will be found that the missions of the United States have been more expensive, within a small period of time, than the corresponding missions of the British Government. I can assure the House that the subject of our diplomatic and consular establishments has really not been overlooked by the Government—but on the contrary, that it has been very seriously considered. There was no desire on the part of the Government, when the Report of the Committee was considered, to omit any reduction which really was thought to be consistent with the public interests. Several reductions were made, and if we did not go further, it was because it was felt that, as diplomatic agents were persons who were charged with the great and paramount interests of the country, it was not worth while for the sake of a small annual saving to deprive them of the means which were essential to a due performance of their duty. With regard to their capacity, I think that my hon. Friend who made the Motion seemed to be of opinion that seniority ought, in some cases, to be the rule. On the other hand, it is considered by many that merit ought to be the rule of promotion. It has been well observed that the prospects of advance in the diplomatic service are generally slow indeed; that there is but little temptation for young men to look to it as a profession, that vacancies occur so seldom and the opportunities for promotion are so few that it is a very unpromising career for a young man; but it is a great mistake to suppose, when vacancies do arise in the higher offices, where great attainments are required from the individual appointed, that the selection is not made with a view to efficiency. It is, I assure the House, much more to the interest of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to appoint an efficient man than to oblige either political or private friends. My anxious desire always was to find persons fitted for the situation, because it is clear that the credit of the Secretary of State is at stake on the conduct of the person whom he appoints, and even in the narrowest point of view, considering what is for the benefit of the Government of which he is a Member, it is clearly preferable to put a fit man into the situation than to oblige two, three, or half a dozen persons who may apply to him in favour of a less deserving man. That is the course which I pursued, and I am sure that it is the course which will be pursued by every one who holds that situation. With respect to the question of promotion by seniority or merit, the moment that you depart from the principle of seniority, which would be wholly misplaced in the system of diplomacy, you are exposed to the charge of favouritism and undue par- tiality. It is clear that there will be in all cases of vacancies a certain number of candidates between whom there may be no very great distinction of qualifications; and if you must choose one out of six, the friends of those who are not successful naturally impute to the person who makes the choice improper motives for having passed over cousin Tom, or brother Dick, or friend Robert, whom they declare to be quite as fit as the person selected, and who possibly might have been as fit, or nearly so; but they forget that you had to choose one, and that you could not appoint all. You may find even that persons complain occasionally of what they call the "height of injustice." They say, "Here is a man who was so many years secretary of legation, or unpaid attaché; now comes a vacancy, and a young man who has not seen half his service is appointed in his place; isn't that gross injustice?" It is my confident belief that it will always be for the advantage of the person who has the disposal of these appointments to choose that candidate whom he may think, whether rightly or wrongly, best qualified for the post. The hon. Gentleman who seconded this Motion complains that we have no writers on international law in this country; but I must say that our diplomatists have far too much to do, their duties are too constant, and their correspondence too perpetual, to be able to devote any leisure time to writing books. They are, however, sufficiently conversant with what has been written on these subjects to be able to discharge with ability all the duties which devolve upon them; for, from an experience, not now very short, I can confidently assert that the British Crown is as well served by its diplomatic agents as the Government of any other country in the world. I never did and I never will allow for a moment that the diplomatic servants of any country have performed their duties with more efficiency than those of this country. They may not publish books, and they may not, perhaps, be able to pass so good an examination as some gentlemen who have more leisure to store their minds with rules and lore, but they discharge the duties intrusted to them as well as any men. The functions of a diplomatic servant are to furnish his Government with full and accurate information as to what is passing around him; to conduct with courtesy the communications passing between his Government and that of the Government to which he is accredited; to preserve peace, and to prevent little differences from growing into quarrels; and these duties our diplomatic servants have ever, so far as my experience goes, discharged with credit to themselves and advantage to the country. Hardly six months ever elapse, almost in any country, without some little difference arising, which by friendly communications and by prudent and careful management may be settled to the satisfaction of both parties, but which, if left to take its course, might end in an absolute quarrel. If you have no diplomatic agent present at such a place, the diplomatists you must employ must be your admirals and generals; and I am sure it must be far better that such matters should be settled by your regular diplomatic agents than that you should have recourse to anything in the shape of force. With reference to the Motion before the House, I really feel there is no special ground for consenting to a Motion which seems to cast a censure on the Government, of which, I am sure, neither the present Government, nor the Governments which have preceded it, are deserving. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that Her Majesty's Government, after due and deliberate consideration, made those changes and reductions which they thought could be made without detriment to the public service, and I think nothing has been brought forward to show that any reductions which could safely have been made have been neglected. I hope, therefore, the hon. Gentleman will be satisfied with raising a discussion on this subject, and will not press his Motion to a division. With regard to the subject of examinations for the diplomatic service, there was a Council held yesterday, at which an order was passed having reference to a general system of examination of persons appointed to different branches of the public service. I know that my noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Office has had this matter of the diplomatic service under his consideration, but I am not aware that any plan has been settled in reference to it. I will not fail now to bring this matter under the notice of my noble Friend, who, I am sure, will be anxious to give it his earnest attention, and I have no doubt, so far as arrangements can be made for bringing the system into operation, my noble Friend will make those arrangements.


said, the noble Lord had entirely failed to explain why the recommendations of the Committee of 1850, with regard to the salaries of consuls and diplomatic agents, had not been carried into effect. Neither had the noble Lord explained how it was that we retained no less than seven Ministers at the German Courts. No doubt it might be necessary to have Ministers at Berlin, and Vienna, and Frankfort, but there was no reason in the world why we should retain Ministers at such Courts as those of Wurtemburg, Bavaria, Saxony, and Hanover. The noble Lord said, indeed, that he got more information from the Ministers at these petty Courts than he did from those at the more important ones; but, in that case, how was it that these latter Ministers, who apparently were of least use, were paid the largest salaries? The truth was, that the whole system was nothing but a waste of public money to create patronage for the Government, and he knew too well that when a Government once got hold of a piece of patronage it never willingly relinquished it. He was sorry, however, to see a professed Liberal Government defending such a system as this, and if the hon. Member for Stafford pressed his Motion to a division he should certainly divide with him.


hoped that the hon. Gentleman would not press his Motion to a division, but would be satisfied with having produced a very interesting debate, and a very interesting statement from the noble Lord. He (Mr. Phillimore) only wished to make a remark with regard to our consular establishment. That establishment might deserve the eulogium passed on it by the noble Lord, but still it would be conducive to the public service, and for the advantage of the consuls themselves, if a rule was laid down that they should not at the same time exercise the functions of public officers and engage in private commercial speculation. No one who practised in the prize courts of this country but must know that in time of war conflicts must often arise between the duties of a consul as a public officer and his private interests as a merchant; and if a rule forbidding such a junction of duties was established, even if it was accompanied by increase of salaries, it would be a great advantage to the country.


entirely subscribed to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Ewart) on this subject, and considered that the hon. Gentleman had done the country good service by bringing the matter prominently forward. He would suggest that a little more care should be taken in the choice of persons filling the office of consul or attaché, who, if they were to grow up into Ambassadors, ought to have the advantage of a better education. He once heard it said that some were sent out who were alike ignorant of the laws of nature and of nations, although the duties of the office were such that it was utterly impossible to transact them unless the officer were acquainted, not only with international law, but the laws of those countries to which he was sent. It would be in the recollection of the House that some time ago the imprisonment of Miss Cunninghame in Tuscany gave rise to a dispute. He forgot what her offence was, but he believed the code of that country contained—unless the Jesuits had abolished it—a very good law of bail. That law, no doubt, extended to English subjects, and, perhaps, if the gentleman appointed to take care of the rights of British subjects there had been well acquainted with it, no dispute would have arisen, and the lady would not have been detained a moment longer than was necessary after the circumstance had been brought to the knowledge of the consul.


said, that a consul employed by the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) had negotiated with great success a valuable treaty with France with regard to the fisheries—a subject which had caused disputes between the fishermen of the two countries. That gentleman was the consul at Brest.


said, that it was highly important to establish a test of the fitness of public officers; but while he tendered his acknowledgment for the service the noble Viscount had done the country by so doing, he wished to advert to one or two topics mentioned in the speech of the noble Viscount. The noble Viscount had said that it had been always his desire, and the desire of other Ministers for Foreign Affairs, to give the various diplomatic posts to the men most fitted for them. Had that statement been borne out by the facts, he (Mr. Otway) would not, for a moment have intruded any observations on the House. Reference had been made in the course of the debate to a most interesting work published by a gentleman in the Foreign Office, and styled the Foreign Office List, and from that work he had culled a few extracts, which might truly be called "ele- gant extracts." He would not go through a long list of cases which every gentleman might see for himself by purchasing a copy of the List for a shilling; but he would read to the House one or two which had reference to the promotions that had taken place in the diplomatic service, and he thought, when he did so, that it would be obvious to them all that it was a most remarkable fact that those promotions should be confined exclusively to the sons and relatives of Peers and Members of Parliament. Nothing could be more illiberal or more unworthy of a Member of that House than to desire to put a barrier between a man and the fair promotion he had earned, merely because the individual was the son or relative of a Peer; but it was equally worthy of remark that in this department of the public service—a department of great extent, involving questions of much importance and requiring the employment of men of superior education and of great talent, those alone who obtained any rank or promotion should invariably be the sons or relatives of Peers or Cabinet Ministers. There were two cases in the list to which he had referred of so striking a character, exemplifying so large an amount of injustice done to the individuals to whom they referred, that he could not refrain from bringing their case before the House somewhat in answer the statement of the noble Viscount. The first to which he would allude was the case of Mr. Lettsom, now Secretary of Legation at Mexico. That gentleman was appointed attaché at Munich in 1831, he was removed in 1840 to Washington, in 1849 to Turin, in 1850 to Madrid, and in 1854 he was made Secretary of Legation at Mexico. After a service of twenty-three years, for nine of which he was unpaid, Mr. Lettsom, who had invariably conducted himself to the satisfaction of those who employed him, was appointed Secretary of Legation at Mexico—certainly no very desirable appointment. But what was the case of the hon. H. G. Howard? He was attached to the Embassy in Paris in 1838; in 1841—three years afterwards—he was made first paid attaché, his salary being equal to that of a secretary of legation; and two years afterwards he was made Secretary of Legation at the Hague. He had therefore filled two of the most agreeable posts in Europe, and three years only of his services had been unpaid. Nothing could offer a stronger contrast than his case and that of Mr. Lettsom. He had looked through a number of other cases, and had inva- riably found that those gentlemen who had done the most service—who had crossed the Atlantic or the Pacific—were constantly relegated to small posts, while men who had the advantage of being connections of Cabinet Ministers or Peers, and who passed their time pleasantly in Paris or Vienna, were placed over the heads of men of longer service. Take another case—that of Mr. Alison, a distinguished Oriental scholar, who had been a paid attaché in Turkey before Lord Napier entered the service. But Lord Napier had been made Secretary of Legation over his head, and those of Mr. Doria and others, most unjustly. Heaven forbid that one should be so prejudiced or so unworthy as to object to gentlemen receiving employment because they were the sons of Peers or men of influence in that House; but it was absurd to contend before them or to attempt to impose upon the people that the fittest men for diplomatic offices were always to be found in that rank, while the sons of medical men and others, who had accidentally crept in, were invariably found to possess the least capacity. Now, here was the case of the hon. H. E. J. Stanley, son of the noble Lord the President of the Board of Trade. In 1847 he entered the service as précis writer to the noble Viscount; in 1851 he was made second paid attaché at Constantinople; and only six days afterwards he was promoted to be first paid attaché; and then, in January, 1854, this young gentleman—the son of the President of the Board of Trade, but by no means because he was his son, but because he was the best and fittest man—was made Secretary of Legation at Athens. Then, again, with regard to the unpaid attachés, it was suprising how the noble Lord could sleep in his bed at nights when he thought of these unfortunate gentlemen, who had been receiving no salary since he was at the Foreign Office before, and who were still likely to remain in statuquo, it was to be presumed, until some one or other of their relatives was considered the fittest person to be appointed President of the Board of Trade. Here were one or two of the cases of these attachés. In the book above described there was the name of Mr. Lonsdale, who was appointed in 1842. There was also that of Mr. Petre, than whom a person more competent to fill the office of attaché could not be found. In 1846. Mr. Petre was at Frankfort during the disturbances that occurred there, and now he had been removed to Paris; and though he had done his work well for nine years, he had not received a single shilling from the country. Then there was Mr. Lytton, the son of the hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire, who was appointed in 1849, and was not a fashionable young gentleman spending his time idly in Florence, but had been in the United States and in Paris, where he had done good service, and yet he received no pay. Next, however, there came the name of Lord Hubert de Burgh, who was first appointed an attaché in 1852, and in less than three years' time he jumped over the heads of all these other gentlemen, being made a paid attaché at Turin in 1855. Still stronger cases might be adduced, but it was unnecessary to trouble the House with them, more especially as they would all be found in the little book to which he had alluded. It was, therefore, astonishing that the noble Viscount, knowing so well as he did what were the real facts, should get up and declare to the House of Commons that, in conferring diplomatic situations, the Government selected men solely for their fitness. Why, on the contrary, it was notorious to all the world that in the diplomatic profession a man was selected for one of two reasons, and one of two reasons only—namely, either because he was related to a Cabinet Minister or to some Peer or gentleman of very high standing; or because he had some Parliamentary influence through which he managed to obtain his promotion. It was sincerely to be hoped that the noble Viscount would interfere to put a stop to proceedings of this nature, which were bringing much discredit upon the country. It was not that the country or the House objected to a man who was a nobleman receiving an appointment, for they had reason to be proud of the noblemen and gentlemen of England; the objection was, that a man should receive an appointment because he was a nobleman or a gentleman. The person who had shown himself to be the fittest man, whether he was the son of a Peer or of a tailor, should be chosen; but, beyond all controversy, men were now selected solely on account of their connections, and not, as they should be, because of their superior qualifications.


said, that the noble Lord having promised to give the question further consideration, and having undertaken that the candidates for the diplomatic service should undergo an examination into their fitness and ability, he was disposed to be satisfied with having ventilated the subject and to leave the Government time to revise the system. He did not feel that the cause he advocated would be promoted by a division, and if the House assented, it was his intention to comply with the request of the noble Lord, but with the reserve that if an immediate reform were not carried into effect, he would press the Motion again at the earliest opportunity.


objected to the withdrawal of the Motion, and said he would divide the House.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 112; Noes 57: Majority 55.

List of the AYES.
Adair, H. E. Hadfield, G.
Alexander, J. Halford, Sir H.
Anderson, Sir J. Henchy, D. O'C.
Atherton, W. Horsfall, T. B.
Bailey, C. Keating, R.
Ball, E. Keating, H. S.
Barnes, T. Kelley, Sir FitzRoy
Barrow, W. H. Kendall, N.
Bass, M. T. Kershaw, J.
Baxter, W. E. King, hon. P. J. L.
Bell, J. Langston, J. H.
Bentinck, G. W. P. Laslett, W.
Berkeley, hon. H. F. Lee, W.
Biggs, W. Lindsay, W. S.
Bignold, Sir S. Lockhart, W.
Bland, L. H. MacGregor, Jas.
Brady, J. Malins, R.
Bramley-Moore, J. Martin, J.
Bright, J. Miall, E.
Brocklehurst, J. Michell, W.
Brockman, E. D. Morris, D.
Brown, H. Mowatt, F.
Buck, G. S. Muntz, G. F.
Burrowes, R. Murrough, J. P.
Chambers, M. Oliveira, B.
Child, S. Otway, A. J.
Clifford, H. M. Packe, C. W.
Cobden, R. Palk, L.
Coffin, W. Peacocke, G. M. W.
Cowan, C. Pechell, Sir G. B.
Crook, J. Pellatt, A.
Crossley, F. Percy, hon. J. W.
Currie, R. Phillimore, R. J.
Dashwood, Sir G. H. Pilkington, J.
Davies. D. A. S. Price, W. P.
Dering, Sir E. Reed, J. H.
Dillwyn, L. L. Robartes, T. J. A.
Evans, Sir D. L. Robertson, P. F.
Ewart, J. C. Rolt, P.
Farnham, E. B. Scholefield, W.
Feilden, M. J. Scobell, Capt.
Fenwick, H. Scully, V.
Ferguson, J. Seymour, W. D.
Filmer, Sir E. Shee, W.
Fox, W. J. Smith, W. M.
Frewen, C. H. Spooner, R.
Gardner, R. Strutt, rt. hon. E.
Gaskell, J. M. Thesiger, Sir F.
George, J. Thompson, G.
Goderich, Vict. Vansittart, G. H.
Gower, hon. F. L. Vernon. L. V.
Greaves, E. Vivian, H. H.
Greenall, G. Walcott, Adm.
Gwyn, H. Watson, W. H.
Whiteside, J. TELLERS.
Williams, W. Wyse, A.
Wynne, W. W. E. Baillie, H. J.
Yorke, hon. E. T.
List of the NOES.
Acton, J. Kirk, W.
Adair, R. A. S. Lewis, rt. hon. Sir G. C.
Antrobus, E. Lockhart, A. E.
Bagge, W. Luce, T.
Baines, rt. hon. M. T. Mackie, J.
Berkeley, C. L. G. Milligan, R.
Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P. Moffatt, G.
Brand, hon. H. Molesworth, rt. hn Sir W.
Brotherton, J. O'Brian, J.
Cheetham, J. O'Connell, D.
Clay, Sir W. O'Flaherty, A.
Cowper, hon. W. F. Palmerston, Visct.
Craufurd, E. H. J. Peel, F.
Deasy, R. Ricardo, S.
De Vere, S. E. Rice, E. R.
Duncan, G. Russell, Lord J.
Duncombe, hon. A. Shirley, E. P.
Esmonde, J. Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
FitzGerald, Sir J. Strickland, Sir G.
FitzGerald, J. D. Stewart, Sir M. R. S.
Glyn, G. C. Tancred, H. W.
Goodman, Sir G. Thornely, T.
Grace, O. D. J. Tynte, Col. C. J. K.
Hastie, Alex. Villiers, rt. hon, C. P.
Hastie, Arch. Wilkinson, W. A.
Heard, J. I. Willcox, B. M'G.
Heathcote, Sir W. Wilson, J.
Hotham, Lord TELLERS.
Hutt, W. Hayter, rt. hon. W. G.
Johnstone, J. Mulgrave, Earl of
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