HC Deb 20 June 1856 vol 142 cc1737-40

Sir, in putting the question of which I have given notice, it is hardly necessary for me to add more than a word of explanation. The House will recollect that on Monday last, and at the time my noble Friend at the head of the Government announced to this House that Her Majesty's Government had not thought it necessary to advise Her Majesty to suspend diplomatic relations with America, he did not add any explanation of the motives which had led to that course being taken by the Government; nor did he advert to the view taken by the Government in regard to the conduct of the American Government with reference to the dismissal of Mr. Crampton. At that time there was reason to expect, from a notice which was then on the paper, that there would be an immediate discussion on the subject; and whether my noble Friend thought it better that the views of the Government should be declared on that discussion, or whether he thought that they would be better disclosed by producing to this House the despatch of Lord Clarendon in answer to Mr. Marcy, I do not, of course, know; but either of those reasons I construe as the probable motive of his silence on Monday last. I beg it to be understood that I do not complain of that silence; but that Motion has, at least for the present, been withdrawn, and it is now uncertain at what time the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Moore) may think it right to refer the House to this subject. It is, therefore, Sir, that in my notice I naturally refer in terms to the despatch which my noble Friend said would be prepared in answer to Mr. Marcy; and, without at all attempting to press upon the Government for the production of this despatch at an earlier period than may be consistent with the most ample pains in its preparation—without any such desire or attempt, yet having regard to the advancing state of the Session, and to the state of the business of the Session, which is advanced—I may say happily advanced—even more than is usual at this period of the year, I venture to express an opinion that it is desirable that this despatch, which contains in the clearest and most authentic form the views of the Government in reference to the dismissal of Mr. Crampton, should be brought under the notice of the House at the earliest period possible. It may conduce to the convenience of the House if the noble Viscount give us the best information in his power as to the time at which he may be able to produce it. As regards the production of the despatch, I make no question at all, because I think the inference to be drawn from the speech of my noble Friend on Monday evening was, that it was the intention of the Government to produce the despatch when prepared. I beg, Sir, to ask the First Lord of the Treasury at what time it may be expected that the answer of the British Government to the recent despatch of Mr. Marcy, with reference to the dismissal of Mr. Crampton from Washington, will be laid before the House?


My right hon. Friend quite rightly understood the motives which induced me not to enter on an explanation of the views of Her Majesty's Government on this subject. These motives continue equally strong at the present moment. I shall, therefore, say, in answer to my right hon. Friend's question, that I have no doubt of being able to lay those papers, including the answer of Lord Clarendon to Mr. Marcy's despatch, on the table of the House early next week—probably on Monday.


It appears to me, Sir, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford has done quite right in asking the Government the question he did respecting the production of those papers; and I am glad to hear from the noble Lord, that we may hope to receive in a few days the answer which Her Majesty's Government propose to return in reply to the despatch of Mr. Marcy. Perhaps it may be fair to the Government, till that despatch is on the table, and in the hands of hon. Members, to postpone any discussion on the conduct of the Government with regard to the enlistment question; but I do very earnestly hope that that discussion may not be long postponed. I speak in no party sense—I assure the House that I speak with no party object when I say that I regard with feelings of the greatest anxiety—I may go further, and say, that I regard with feelings of shame the present state of our relations with the United States of America. For that painful state of affairs I attach blame—judging from the public documents in the hands of us all—to the serious misconduct and the unwise policy of Her Majesty's Government, by which the Government of the United States has been irritated, deceived, and offended. Under those circumstances, I think that the day ought not to be distant when we shall enter on some discussion on this subject. I regret very much that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Inverness shire (Mr. Baillie) should have felt himself under the necessity of postponing his Motion; but I do hope that either on the Motion of the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Moore), or on some other Motion or Resolution, the independent Members of this House may be at liberty to call the attention of the country to the present state of our relations with the American Government.


I must say, Sir, that the right hon. Gentleman in assenting, as he professed to do, to the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford, would have exercised more discretion, and would have acted more in conformity with the course which he usually adopts in this House, even towards those who are politically opposed to him, if, while deprecating any discussion on the question at present, and admitting that my right hon. Friend had exercised a wise discretion in postponing that discussion, he had not himself anticipated it by the expressal of a most decided opinion on the question. However, Sir, I gladly perceive, not only from the cheers on this side of the House, but also from manifest indications which I see from hon. Gentlemen who sit behind the right hon. Baronet, that there is a general concurrence in the sentiments which I express. I do hope, Sir, that if there is to be a discussion on this question —and it will not be the fault of Her Majesty's Government if that discussion shall not take place—the House will in the meantime suspend its opinion as to the conduct of the Government or of Her Majesty's representative in the United States.


, while acceding to the general feeling that he should postpone his Motion, in consequence of the announcement made by the noble Lord, thought it was not unreasonable to ask the Government to fix some time when the discussion might be brought on.