§ Order of the Day read for going into Committee of Supply.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. ROEBUCK
I rise, Sir, to call the attention of the House to our relations with the United States of America. It is incumbent on me to make an apology to the House for bringing forward a Motion on this subject. It has been stated by the Government, through the medium of the noble Lord at its head, that the reason why no mention was made in the Speech from the Throne on the subject of America was, that the negotiations were now in such a condition that they could not, in fairness to all parties, be published at present. The noble Lord, therefore, appealed to the House and said—"Do you think, under these circumstances that I ought to have made public an incorrect statement of the affairs in question? Now, Sir, I quite agree with the noble Lord that it would have been wrong to do so, but as I believe that silence would now only lead to confusion I am determined to break that silence. It appears to me that an incorrect statement of affairs has been laid before the public of this country, that they do not know what has occurred; and I think I now held in my hand the means of dissipating that ignorance, and of making them acquainted with the actual state of affairs. As my intention is to convey to the House and to the nation at large a correct statement of facts, I hope the House will bear with me while I attempt, feebly as I know it will he, to perform that duty. The noble Lord at the head of the Government, taking an illustration from the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), said that we had done all that a man of honour could have done in the case between ourselves and the Americans; that we had apologised for that which had been taken amiss by them; that we had expressed our sorrow for having trenched upon their laws; and that we had done everything which, as persons desirous of peace and honourable men, we could be called upon to do. Now, Sir, if the facts were as the noble Lord stated, I should have been the first to support him in his view of the case; but as I believe they are very different, I have come forward to enlighten the ignorance of the world (if I may so express myself) in this matter—an igno- 838 rance fostered by the holding back of all that militated against England in the circumstances which have occurred. We have been led to suppose that we have right on our side, and that our cousins on the other side of the water, taking advantage of our position, were nevertheless endeavouring to force us to make a sort of; supplication to them for peace. Now, what is the real state of the case? It is this:—After the Parliament of Great Britain had passed a Bill for the enlistment of foreigners, the Government determined, under the provisions of that enactment, to enlist people in America. Being unable to intercept the emigration flowing from Germany to America, they went to America, and they gave instructions to our authorities there to form a foreign legion, to be composed of persons enlisted in America. One of the persons employed upon that occasion was our Minister at Washington (Mr. Grampian), another was the Governor of Nova Scotia, and a third was the Governor General of Canada; there were also some others. The noble Lord said that, as soon as Government discovered that umbrage had been given to the United States by the course they had taken, he gave instructions to our Ministers and agents not to trench in any way upon the municipal laws of America, and at the same time sent a full apology to the American Government. The noble Lord then appealed to the House, and said, "could we do more?" If the noble Lord had only done what he stated, I should have answered his appeal by saying that nothing more could be done. But the Government did more, and what they did I will now state. Mr. Crampton went from Washington to Nova Scotia, and he there entered into a sort of combination with the Governor of that Colony, and laid a plan by which the laws of the United States might be contravened, in order to obtain surreptitiously that which could not be obtained by other means. I will prove directly all that I assert out of Mr. Crampton's own mouth, or rather out of his own pen, but I ought first to state the law of America upon the subject of enlistment; and the House will then see that it is in I accordance with the opinion and feeling of the country. In the first place, it is illegal to enlist anybody in the United States for the services of a foreign State. The Government are not however charged with that offence, but with something more. Any person going to the United States 839 and inducing people to leave those States for the purpose of being enlisted abroad also acts in contravention of the law, and this is the part of the law which Mr. Crampton is accused of having broken through. He went to Nova Scotia, he there engaged persons going to the States to enlist people—that is, to induce them to go to Nova Scotia to be enlisted. Now, the very act of inducing people to leave the United States for the purpose of being enlisted is a violation of the law, being a contravention of that neutrality to which the Americans wish to adhere. Mr. Crampton thought he could do this without being discovered by the authorities of the United States. They did, however, discover what was taking place, and, in consequence of that discovery, Mr. Crampton issued a proclamation from Nova Scotia, suggesting a means of evading the law of the United States, and giving the parties whom he employed a cypher by which they might communicate with him.
Now, how do I prove this statement? Why, Sir, I hold in my hand a document, curious in many ways. It is a report of a trial that took place in Pennsylvania, in which one Henry Hertz was the defendant, being charged by the United States Government with certain breaches of the law set forth in the indictment. One peculiarity of the indictment is, that it is intelligible. This Henry Hertz was a man who had been employed by Mr. Crampton to crimp people—that is, to induce them to leave the United States and go to Nova Scotia for the purpose of being enlisted there, and then sent to the Crimea. Now, we are supposed to have made an apology to the United States, and it was supposed, too, and at one time supposed by myself, that the apology was one which the United States ought to have accepted; but it now appears that either Mr. Crampton went beyond his instructions, and, if so, the United States are fully justified in requesting his recall, or his instructions went beyond what the laws of the United States would permit, and in that case the United States would be justified in saying that the apology of our Government was disingenuous, and could not be admitted, and that they still insisted on the recall of Mr. Crampton. I will mention a circumstance known to every one familiar with the history of the United States, that during the revolutionary wars of France, and during the Presidency of Washington 840 an envoy from France, Citoyen Genet, went to America, and endeavoured to fit out privateers contrary to the rules of neutrality which the United States had laid down. Washington and Jefferson complained of this conduct on the part of the citoyen, and they sent to the republican Government of France a requisition for his recall. He was recalled, and the demand of the United States was satisfied. The United States then did by a friendly Government—the Government of France —what they now do by England—namely, they demanded the recall of the man who had broken their laws of neutrality. Now, I want to make it clear that Mr. Crampton has also broken through the laws of the United States, which laws he ought to have known; and if he has broken through those laws without the authority of the Government here, the Government of the United States are fully justified in demanding his recall. If he has broken through them by the command of the Government here, then I say that the Government in making their apology have endeavoured to palm off a deception on this House and the country for which they are responsible. What, then, has been done? I will endeavour, as nearly as I can, to give the facts of the case from the report of the trial: and a curious one it was. Mr. Vanderliste, the district attorney for the United States at Philadelphia, was the prosecuting counsel. He got out of the witness that he had seen Mr. Crampton, and had been authorised by him to act as a recruiting sergeant for the troops of Her Most Gracious Majesty. The witness admitted that he had been in Nova Scotia, and got from Mr. Crampton a paper. That paper shows the system of deception that has been practised. The following is the paper:—Memoranda for the guidance of those who are to make known to persons in the United States the terms and conditions upon which recruits will be received into the British army:— 1. The parties who may go to Buffalo, Detroit, or Cleveland for this purpose must clearly understand that they must carefully refrain from anything which would constitute a violation of the law of the United States. 2. They must, therefore, avoid any act which might bear the appearance of recruiting within the jurisdiction of the United States for a foreign service, or of hiring or retaining anybody to leave that jurisdiction with the intent to enlist in the service of a foreign Power. 4. There must be no collection, embodiment of men, or organisation whatever attempted within that jurisdiction. 5. No promises or contracts, written or verbal, on the subject of enlistment must be entered into with any person within that jurisdiction.841 Now, tins showed clearly that they knew the law, and that they were not breakers unknowingly. We were inducing persons to act in contravention of the law, and sought to evade the consequences of their acts. What was the inducement held out to men to go to Nova Scotia? Oh! there was a railway there, and in one breath they were told to go there to be navvies, and in another they were to go there to receive, according to the proclamation issued, thirty dollars on enlisting, and eight dollars a month while they remained in the service of Her Britannic Majesty. The paper goes on to state—The information to be given will be simply that to those desiring to enlist in the British army facilities will be afforded for so doing on their crossing the line into British territory, find the terms offered by the British Government may be stated as a matter of information only, and not as implying any promise or engagement on the part of those supplying such information, so long at least as they remain within American jurisdiction.Can it be said, I ask, to be in accordance with the dignity of the British Government to publish such a statement as that? As honest men ought we so to act? The document proceeded:—It is essential to success that no assemblages of persons should take place at beerhouses or other similar places of entertainment, for the purpose of devising measures for enlisting, and the parties should scrupulously avoid resorting to this or similar means of disseminating the desired information, inasmuch as the attention of the American authorities would not fail to be called to such proceedings, which would undoubtedly be regarded by them as an attempt to carry on recruiting for a foreign Power within the limits of the United States; and it certainly must be borne in mind that the institution of legal proceedings against any of the parties in question, even if they were to elude the penalty, would be fatal to the success of the enlistment itself.I ask whether the sentiments in that statement are consistent with English honour? It appears that the authorities of the United States did take umbrage at the proceedings, and what then occurred? Another paper was shown to the witness, and this is the evidence given:—In whose handwriting is this paper? — At that time I also received this cipher to telegraph with to Mr. Crampton, and to Halifax, about this recruiting business. I cannot swear to whose handwriting it is in, but I believe it is Mr. Crampton's. I did not see him write it, but he handed it to me.The attention of the United States authorities was naturally drawn to these acts, and proceedings were taken against those 842 engaged; their object was enlistment, an they knew that enlistment was contrary to the laws of the United States. I cannot but think that this was a discreditable display on the part of the English authorities. Mr. Crampton was responsible for all this. The attempt to evade the law was degrading to himself, and to the name of England, which he represented. The authorities of the United States did take umbrage at these proceedings, and this trial was instituted in consequence. Now, Sir, is anything more required to prove that Mr. Crampton knew the law, and that he took means to evade it, and that he was abetted therein by the Governor of Nova Scotia and the Governor General of Canada? All these English authorities endeavoured to break the law of the United States. It appears to me that a war between us and the United States would be a war between brethren, the evils of which, would surpass anything that could be imagined. We are the only two great free nations at the present time, and shall it be said that we cannot preserve peace between ourselves? This House and the country has been led to believe that it was by ignorance that a breach of the municipal laws of the United States had been committed by us, and that for that breach we made every atonement in our power; but could this House believe that we committed that breach with our eyes open, and that when we made an apology we were attempting to evade the laws of the United States, which we promised to observe? It may be said that these are statements made fit a trial by persons who turned evidence against their employers. That is true, I will allow; nay, I will allow that the report itself is a discredit to the United States. I think it is, and I will tell you why. Throughout the authorities show a feeling of violent hatred to England, and the defence of the parties charged is entirely excluded from the Report. In itself that Report is not worthy of any regard, but it contains documents written by Mr. Crampton, it contains statements which have never been contradicted, and which in themselves prove the case against our Government. Now, what I want to know is this—I want to know distinctly what were the instructions given to Mr. Crampton. It may be said that he was told not to break the law, but I want to know whether ho was told to enlist men in the United States, because to tell a man not to break the law, and in the next 843 breath to tell him to do something by which the law will be broken, is nugatory. It is a farce—an idle direction, not worthy of any man who pretends to be a man of sense and honour. That Mr. Crampton knew the law is proved by his own written statements; he knew that to do certain acts was to break the law, and he laid plans by which he fancied that law could safely be broken. He was aided in this by two high functionaries—Sir Gaspard Le Marchant and Sir Edmund Head, as well as by Mr. Joseph Howe, a gentleman of some celebrity in Nova Scotia. Mr. Joseph Howe was sent to the United Stales; by his intervention people were employed to break the law of the Sates, and by his hands they were paid for so doing. After spending about 100,000 dollars he got together about 200 men, when he might have had the same number of thousands for half the money. I may be asked what good I expect to derive from this Motion. ["Hear, hear!"] I perfectly well understand that cheer. I know whence it proceeds and what it means, and my answer is, that I wish to obtain from the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government a distinct answer to this question— was Mr. Crampton instructed, not simply not to break the law, but not to do deeds by which the law would he broken? I wish further to draw forth an expression of opinion on the part of Members of this House which shall show the people of America that we are no parties to those dishonourable proceedings. I want this House, on the part of the people of this country, to say to our brethren across the water, that we sympathise with them, that we rejoice in all their greatness and good fortune, that we are running with them the race of improvement as brethren and not as enemies, that we desire the good of humanity, and that we would work it out with their aid, but that we feel that a war with America would retard the advancement of mankind for centuries, and that a war with any part of Europe would sink into insignificance compared with it. I do not like to plead my own inefficiency, but still I cannot help wishing that some more powerful person had undertaken this question. My heart is so bound up in it, my feelings are so strongly enlisted in it, that I feel I am advocating the rights of humanity when I am endeavouring to lay hare what I believe to be the misconduct of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the American people. The hon. and 844 learned Gentleman concluded by moving that a copy of Mr. Crampton's instructions he laid on the table.
Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words—
An humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House a Copy of the Instructions to Mr. Crampton relative to the Enlistment of Soldiers in the United States of America,"—instead thereof.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, the hon. and learned Gentleman who has made this Motion began by reproaching and condemning Her Majesty's Government for not having either mentioned our differences with America in the Queen's Speech, or laid on the table of this House the papers especially connected with the subject to which he has now called the attention of the House.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
I beg the noble Lord not to disappoint me. I did not find any fault with the Government. I simply pointed out that they had not done what I said.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
The hon. and learned Gentleman, I am glad to find, draws a distinction between an assertion of what the Government did not do, and a condemnation of them for not doing it. He is very much in the habit of animadverting on what the Government does not do, and I trust the House will understand for the future that, when the hon. and learned Gentleman recites the omissions of the Government, he does not mean any censure thereby. I must, however, remind the House that the American Government did not think fit to lay before Congress the correspondence relative to this question, and the same reasons which induced the American Government to withhold the correspondence in the present state of the matter were the reasons which induced Her Majesty's Government to pursue that course. I stated upon a former occasion, that Her Majesty's Government had thought until a few days before the meeting of Parliament that they would have been in a condition to lay that correspondence before Parliament, but that, either the day preceding, or two days before the commencement of the Session, the American Minister at this Court gave to my noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Office a long dispatch, containing a great variety of statements and asser- 845 tions touching the conduct of Her Majesty's Minister at Washington and Her Majesty's Consuls in different parts of the United States, to which assertions and statements it was impossible for the Government to reply without referring to the parties themselves to know to what extent they were accurate. I said then that this made it impossible to answer that dispatch, and that as on the one hand we could not give the correspondence without an answer to that dispatch, so, on the other hand, it was equally impossible for us to give it with that important, dispatch entirely omitted. That, Sir, was the reason why Her Majesty's Government could not lay the correspondence before Parliament, and that was also the reason why I declined to enter into a detailed discussion of the question before Parliament were in possession of the necessary data. That state of things still remains. We have not yet received the information which will enable us to reply to that dispatch. As the hon. and learned Gentleman is aware, that dispatch contains a demand for the recall of our Minister at Washington and for the recall of our consuls, and to a demand of such gravity and importance it would be unbecoming for Her Majesty's Ministers to reply, either one way or the other, until they had accurately ascertained the foundation on which that demand was made. The same reason which made it our duty to withhold the papers then would, of course, make it equally our duty to refuse to give them piecemeal in the manner proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman. I said then, and I repeat now, that I trust that a very short time will elapse before we shall be in a condition to lay the whole of that correspondence before this House, and it will then be able to judge whether Her Majesty's Government and its officers in the United States have done that which ought to expose them to its censure, or whether, on the other hand, their conduct has been such as to entitle them to receive its support. I therefore cannot now follow the hon. and learned Gentleman through those details into which he has entered. All I can say is, that it was the desire and the instruction of Her Majesty's Government that nothing should be done which should be at variance with the laws of the United States. The hon. and learned Gentleman says that giving information to persons who might be willing to go to our provinces that they would there be enlisted if 846 found fit, that the offering any inducement to leave the United States, was a violation of their municipal law. Sir, the United States is not the empire of Russia. Civitas non carcer est. The United States is a free country like our own, and would not impose upon any man the slightest restraint to prevent his quitting its boundaries for his own advantage. I will not now therefore argue a question which will be more properly examined when the papers, without which it would be unbecoming to enter upon it, are before the House; but this I will say, that during the course of these transactions offers were repeatedly made to Her Majesty's officers in the United States by persons whose sole object was to entrap them into something which might afterwards be construed into a violation of the municipal law of that country. A conspiracy was got up for the purpose of entrapping and misleading them, and inducing them to do that which might afterwards be fastened upon them as a violation of the national laws. As to the trial which has been referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman, I think that, when the details are made public, the House will not be disposed to attach to the statements which were made upon it so much importance as has been given to them by the hon. and learned Member. The hon. and learned Member says that the apology made by Her Majesty's Government was insincere and treacherous. The truth of that assertion I utterly deny. I utterly and entirely deny that we made that apology, intending to continue the violation of the law for which it professed to be the satisfaction. Sir, we had given directions that those proceedings, which might give umbrage to the United States, should be discontinued. The assertion made in the last dispatch from the American Government is that, after these directions were given, and after the explanation was tendered, some of these proceedings were continued. The truth of that assertion remains to be ascertained. If such was the case, the proceedings were clearly against the intentions and without the knowledge of the British Government. I repeat that that explanation, that statement of orders revoked, that expression of regret—not regret, as the hon. and learned Gentleman says, that the laws of the United States had been violated, because we did not believe that such a violation had occurred—but regret that anything should have occurred which could be considered by the 847 American Government to amount to such a violation—was received by the American Minister at this Court with an expression on his part of a belief that it would be deemed satisfactory by his Government. As a proof that such was his belief, I may mention that lie sometime afterwards received a dispatch directing him to make a second remonstrance, and that he put that dispatch into his pocket, and abstained from communicating it to this Government, because he believed that the communication which he had previously forwarded to his Government would be deemed satisfactory. Sir, I am forced to make these statements, prematurely perhaps, because they belong to a part of the question which cannot be fully explained—by the extraordinary conduct of the hon. and learned Member. The fact, then, is, that a considerable time after our communication, stating that we had discontinued these proceedings, and expressing our regret if anything had happened which was contrary to the laws of the United States, the American Government re-opened the question, and it now stands in the undetermined position which I have described. Under such circumstances it really is very difficult for a person in my situation to deal with an hon. Member who pursues such a course as the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Roebuck) has adopted this evening. He knows that this question is still pending between the two Governments; he knows that Her Majesty's Government has received a communication from the United States, calling upon them to do things to which none but the most valid reasons would induce them to consent; he knows that we are waiting to receive from officers in America a Report upon the grounds on which those demands are founded; he knows that but a short time will elapse before that Report will be received, and a final answer one way or other be given to these requisitions; he knows that this question deeply concerns the feelings and the interests of two great nations; he must know, also, that to trifle with such feelings and such interests is a course unbecoming any man who belongs to a great National Assembly like this; and yet, knowing all this, he rushes with hasty impatience to interpose between the two Governments, and, if it be possible, to prevent that amicable arrangement which on matters of so delicate a nature cannot be come to unless both Governments are left to their own action without being swayed 848 one way or the other, either by popular clamour, or by the expression of national feeling. These are differences which will only be settled in an honourable way by the two parties examining with dispassionate judgment their respective cases; yet in regard to them, the hon. and learned Gentleman rushes with this impatient haste to deliver himself of opinions formed upon an imperfect knowledge of the facts, and without the full statement of the whole case between the two countries, of which he might be in possession in a fortnight or three weeks, if indeed so long a time should elapse before it is ready; and, rising in his place, and holding in his hand the brief of the antagonist of his own country, he makes himself the mouthpiece of calumnies which have been uttered by interested parties in the United States against Her Majesty's officers in that country; and, not content with expressing his own opinions, calls upon the House of Commons, forsooth, to pronounce upon facts of which they are ignorant, and to draw conclusions from premises which have not been submitted to their judgment. Sir, in this House, every man is master of his own conduct. It is competent for any man to adopt such a course as he pleases. If he is so deeply imbued with the opinion that his country is wrong, as to rise in his place and call upon the House to condemn by anticipation, and without knowledge of the facts, the Government and his country, I am bound to suppose that in doing so he acts from motives which are paramount to every other consideration, and that he believes that in taking that course he is performing a duty to those who sent him here and to his country. All I can say in that respect is, that neither the spirit of party, the vehemence of opposition to any Government, nor any other motive, would induce me to take a part of which I should feel ashamed—to step between the House and the facts upon which an opinion is to be formed, and to call upon Members ignorantly and without information to pronounce a judgment against my country in a matter in which it is at issue with another. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded his address with the expression of a feeling which is entertained, I firmly believe, by the whole country—a sense of the calamities which would arise from a conflict between this country and the United States. No man can feel that more strongly than I do. Sir, I will not 849 allow the hon. and learned Member a monopoly of those sentiments. I will venture to say that those are the feelings of the people of this country, and that no American can traverse Great Britain from John O'Groat's house to the Land's End, nor pass from the northern to the southern extremity of Ireland, without finding that there is, on the part of every man of information, and of every man who has the slightest influence upon others, the most friendly disposition towards the people of the United States. It is, however, one thing to entertain friendly sentiments towards a neighbouring and kindred people, and another to lose that self-respect which is due to ourselves. Under circumstances like these it is incumbent upon those who are charged with the public interests to consider, not whether they feel the most kindly sentiments towards another country, not whether the interests of the two are equally bound up in the continuance of friendly relations—I say equally, because let it be clearly understood that the interest in the maintenance of peace is perfectly mutual, and that, if to us war would be distressing and calamitous, it would be equally calamitous and distressing to the inhabitants of the United States—but to consider what is the justice of the case, and what is right and befitting the dignity and honour of the country with the interests of which they are charged. I am convinced that this good disposition is reciprocated on the other side of the Atlantic, and that, in spite of what we may have seen of speeches which savoured but little of such a feeling, the sentiment of friendship which prevails in this country is no stranger to the breasts of our American cousins. Notwithstanding these ebullitions, which have, in my opinion, a tendency to anything rather than the settlement of differences, I am persuaded that there is so much right feeling in the people of the United States, that they attach so much value to the friendship of the people of this great empire, and that they are so sensible that the interests of both are inseparably bound up with the maintenance of friendly relations between the two, that these matters of difference, when they are laid before the Congress of the United States, as they will be before the Parliament of Great Britain, will receive the calm, dispassionate, and reasonable consideration which is essential to their amicable settlement, and which will, I trust, prevent any intemperate individuals, either on the one side of the 850 Atlantic or the other, from plunging the two countries into the calamities of war.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I had hoped, Sir, that I should not have had to address you on this subject until the whole of the papers relating to it had been laid upon the table of the House. I have ever felt that in all cases of this kind, where the conduct of a foreign Government is called in question, and especially where it is called in question under the circumstances which appear to apply to the present instance, it is of the highest importance that no opinion should be expressed upon it in this House until the House has been made acquainted with all the particulars of the case, and until we are in possession of such full, clear, and authoritative information as may enable us to arrive at a fair and accurate decision. To that opinion, notwithstanding the speech just made by the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown, I still adhere, and, therefore, I shall most assuredly not support the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) in the Motion he has placed in the hands of Mr. Speaker. But I may be permitted to say that I, for one, protest against the principle which the noble Lord has laid down as that which should govern the conduct of Members of this House with respect to foreign transactions and the negotiations of this country with foreign Governments. Sir, I have always considered that it was the first duty of a Member of Parliament, if he believed that our affairs with foreign countries were not managed in a manner conducive to the interests and, above all things, to the honour of this country, it was his first duty, I say, to call the attention of Parliament to the subject. I have ever held, that if a statement were made by a Minister of the Crown, which a Member of Parliament deemed to be inconsistent with certain documents in his own possession, it was the imperative duty of such a Member to demand an explanation, and to ask for the opinion of this House in reference to the matter in question. This doctrine is, I venture to submit, a sound one; and I certainly think that it is not the duty of a, Minister of the Crown, filling the office of the noble Lord, to taunt an independent Member of Parliament with holding a brief from the enemy, or to call in question the motive that may have induced him to take a course which, however little I may be disposed to agree with the hon. and 851 learned Member for Sheffield, I can have no doubt that he has adopted in fulfilment of what he deems his duty. I am of opinion, Sir, that, under the circumstances in which we now find ourselves with respect to this question, which so violently agitates the people and Government of the United States, the utmost forbearance and most cautious reserve are duties incumbent on this House. Thus much I am willing to concede; yet I cannot say that I am surprised that the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield should have made this Motion to-night. From the very moment that the noble Lord at the head of the Government volunteered an ex-parte statement in this House, while affecting to answer a question, I felt that it was inevitable that some effort would be made to induce the House to suspend its judgment, and refrain from sanctioning the conclusions which, with some unfairness and with great indiscretion, I think, and in a manner and spirit most premature, the noble Lord attempted to make it adopt, before it was in possession of the documents which alone could enable it to arrive at a correct and deliberate decision. Nor can I think that the tone of the noble Lord to-night will in any degree compensate for the indiscretion of which he was guilty in making that ex-parte statement the other evening. The noble Lord talks of the danger of trifling with the feelings of two great nations. Is the model of discussion to be taken from the speech of the noble Lord, who more than hints—who intimates to this House, that there has been a conspiracy on the part of the Government of the United States to entrap. [Loud cries of "No, no !"] I can only say that such was the impression I received from the statement of the noble Lord. ["No, no!"] That was what I collected from his words; but, if I be mistaken, what, let me ask, was his meaning?
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I stated that which I believe to be the fact—that there was a certain number of persons, not connected with the American Government, who entered into a conspiracy to entrap the officers and agents of the British Government, into the commission of acts contrary to the laws of the United States.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I am willing to accept the explanation of the noble Lord; but the inference from the statement he now offers appears to be, that the circumstances to which he refers were really too 852 trifling and indifferent to be brought before the House this evening. But I am bound to say that this subject, since we are forced to speak of it, assumes in my opinion a far graver character than I had hoped it would possess. I trust that no great length of time will elapse before these papers shall be submitted to our consideration, and until they are before us I shall scrupulously refrain from forming any opinion as to the conduct of the Government in this affair. However, Sir, one of the statements made by the noble Lord this evening has filled me with great alarm. He appeared to me to admit that even after the apologies, to which such frequent allusion has been made, had been offered to the American Government with respect to the behaviour of our Minister, and with reference to conduct acknowledged by Her Majesty's Government to be illegal, a course equally illegal was pursued by the agents of the Government, and apparently with the concurrence of the Government.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I said that an allegation to that effect had been made, and that inquiry as to its accuracy was deemed necessary.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I am sorry, Sir, to have misapprehended the noble Lord, but I certainly conceived him to have said, that the conduct of Her Majesty's Ministers and agents in America, with respect to the enlistment of troops, did not end with the apologies offered.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I am really ashamed. Sir, to have again to interrupt the right hon. Member. I stated that that was the allegation, and that it was with regard to the truth or erroneousness of that assertion that further information was required.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I beg the noble Lord to believe that there I have no desire to misinterpret him. I speak with the hope and wish of eliciting from the Government a satisfactory expression of feeling on a subject of the deepest interest. It is by no Motion of mine, but rather to my great regret, that this question has been brought forward; but, since it has been introduced, I venture to speak on it lest my silence might be misconstrued, and because I wish it to be understood that I do not approve of the tone adopted by the noble Lord on the present occasion. I will not revert to the point he has just noticed, further than to say that an apology founded on equivocation is the most dangerous instrument that any Govern- 853 ment can use, and, when the promised, papers are produced, I hope that we shall not find the conduct of Her Majesty's Government impugned in that respect. Sir, I cordially concur in the hope expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, that in this House there will be such an expression of opinion on the part of the representatives of the British people as will assure the subjects of the United States Government that here the question will be discussed without prejudice and without passion, and that we will not willingly defer to the rumours—on whatever authority founded in either country—that these questions are pretexts, and not causes for a misunderstanding between the two countries, which, if persisted in, I cannot but regard as one of the most calamitous events that could possibly occur. I trust that the hon. and learned Member will not persist with his Motion, for a division under the circumstances in which the House now finds itself might lead to much misconception. For my part, I think that if the hon. and learned Gentleman believed that there was an inconsistency, and a most important one, between the statement of the noble Lord the other night and certain documents in his own possession, he did nothing more than his duty as an independent Member of Parliament in bringing the question before the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman has done so, and he will stand clear before the House and the country for the course he has adopted. Should he, however, press his Motion to a division, I shall vote against him—not to imply approval of the Government, but because I think it would be injudicious to proceed further in this business until we shall have received the papers which have been promised, and for which I wait with great anxiety.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
I wish, Sir, to put a question to the noble Lord at the head of the Government. He stated the other evening that a formal offer of arbitration had been made to the Government of the United States with regard to the Central American question. Would the noble Lord have the goodness to say when that offer was made?
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I will not trust my memory as to dates; but all the papers are in process of preparation. 854 They will be before the House in a very short time, and will be found to contain the whole of the details.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.