HC Deb 31 July 1857 vol 147 cc814-5

On the Motion, that the House at its rising do adjourn till Monday,


said, he wished to call the attention of the House to the seizure of the British Schooner Maria in Venezuela, and to inquire whether Her Majesty's Government have received any satisfactory reply from Her Majesty's Chargé d' Affaires at Caraccas on the subject. Although very strong representations had been made to the Chargé d' Affaires on this subject by the Vice-Consul at Bolivar, the former official had taken no notice of them, and therefore he (Mr. Locke) had thought it right to bring the matter to the notice of the House. The schooner Maria, commanded by Captain Ouseley, traded with cattle between Demerara and Venezuela; and it appeared that, so far back as the 17th of February, 1856, she, being then in ballast, was anchored at Caraccas, at the mouth of the Orinoco, for the purpose of loading with cattle and carrying them to Venezuela. When she was so anchored there, the custom-house officers came on board, and, finding that the vessel was simply in ballast, proceeded to seize certain small articles belonging to Captain Ouseley, consisting of tweed, cotton, and other things. They insisted upon duty being paid, and fined him 100 dollars. The Vice Consul considered it was a breach of the law on the part of the authorities at Caraccas to fine Captain Ouseley 100 dollars for having these articles on board when the vessel was in ballast. However that might be, the fine was paid, and also the duty on the articles mentioned. The cholera was then raging at Caraccas, and Captain Ouseley determined to go further up the river. Having anchored his vessel, he went on shore in search of provisions, and took these articles with him. His boat was boarded by a canoe, all the articles were seized, and he was taken to Bolivar. He was there put in a boat and taken down the river to where the Maria lay at anchor. The vessel was seized and carried back to Bolivar. It was not until a decree was obtained from the Court of Bolivar that the vessel was liberated, and when liberated the masts and rigging were found to have been destroyed. Captain Ouseley was unable to fulfil his contracts in Venezuela and Demerara, had been compelled to employ a lawyer to get the decree, and had been put to serious inconvenience and expenses, for which he claimed, as compensation, the sum of £3,000. Whether that claim was in amount right or wrong was not for him to decide; but Captain Ouseley was justified in complaining of the Chargé d' Affaires at Caraccas, who from that time to this had taken no notice whatever of his representations, or of the remonstrances of the Vice Consul. It must be obvious to every one that it was only to those deputed by the Government that traders in such places could look for protection, and therefore it was a case which imperatively demanded that the Government should call to account the Chargé d'Affaires at Caraccas.