§ MR. DISRAELI
I rise, Sir, to make inquiry of Her Majesty's Government as to the reasons for the non-ratification of the treaty between Her Majesty and the Government of the United States about Honduras. I should be glad if the noble Lord at the head of the Government could state to the House the reasons why that treaty has not been ratified, and I should wish that he would also inform us as to the present state of the negotiations, and whether papers will be laid before Parliament.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
In answer to the right hon. Gentleman I have to state that in the course of last summer two treaties were concluded by Her Majesty's Government—the one with the Re- 1004 public of Honduras, the other with the Government of the United States. The object of the treaty which we entered into with Honduras was, among other things, the cession to her of what are called the Bay Islands—namely, Ruatan, Bonacca, and two or three other smaller islands. Those islands were, under the provisions of the treaty, ceded to Honduras upon certain conditions which Her Majesty's Government deemed it to be necessary to impose for the security and well-being of such British settlers as had property within them. The treaty also provides that the islands in question should not be allowed to fall into the possession of any great maritime Power; that no fortifications should be erected upon them, but that they should continue to be—that which they hitherto have been—inoffensive and non-military stations. The treaty which we concluded with the United States divides itself into two distinct parts. The first part contains the articles of the treaty which Great Britain and the United States were to propose to Nicaragua and Costa Rica for the purpose of settling the differences which have arisen between the Spanish American States in Central America and for the future regulation of the condition of the Mosquito Indians and Greytown. That was one part of the treaty. It contained articles which the two Powers were to propose to those Central American States—as a treaty to be concluded between those States and England arid America. The other part of the treaty contained the conditions of certain engagements between England and the United States, and one of these articles was to this effect—that whereas a Convention had been concluded between Great Britain and Honduras whereby, on certain conditions, the Bay Islands had been ceded to Honduras, Great Britain and the United States engaged henceforward to acknowledge those islands as part of the territory and sovereignty of Honduras. This treaty was signed by my noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Department (the Earl of Clarendon) and Mr. Dallas, the American Minister here. This treaty was sent to Honduras and Washington respectively for the ratification of those Governments. We have not yet received an official notice from Honduras whether the treaty to which I have alluded has been ratified or not by the Government of Honduras. We have, indeed, heard privately that some technical difficulties have prevented its ratification, but we have 1005 no official information on the subject. The treaty with the United States was referred, as a matter of course, to the Senate. The Senate proposed several alterations in that treaty. Some of those alterations were of considerable importance, and one was of very great importance. The treaty so amended was sent back to this country with the ratification of the Government of the United States, and we were asked to accede to that ratification and adopt those alterations. Now, of course, the Senate of the United States have an undoubted right to modify and alter any treaty with which they are not satisfied, and which, not having been ratified, may become the subject of discussion. But the ratification of a treaty by a sovereign Power means that that sovereign Power adopts and ratifies by its signature the engagements taken in its behalf by authorized diplomatic agents; and to ratify a treaty which, having been altered by another Power, is no longer the treaty that was concluded by an authorized diplomatic agent would be against all rule and against all the principles of diplomatic usage. Therefore, even if the British Government agreed to adopt the alterations made in the treaty by the Senate after the signature of the representative of the United States, it would be necessary that a fresh treaty should be concluded, adopting and embodying those changes, and that this new treaty should be ratified by the sovereign Powers of the two countries. There were several changes made in the treaty, none of them, as I have stated, unimportant; but, nevertheless, Her Majesty's Government being desirous of not raising unnecessary difficulties upon a question which it was highly desirable should be settled, waived their objections to all but one, and that was a change made not in the treaty which the two Governments proposed to Nicaragua and Costa Rica, but in the recital of that treaty. There were alterations in that draught of the treaty—if I may so call it—which was embodied in the Convention with the United States. They were far from unimportant, yet we were prepared to adopt them. But in the other articles which were agreed to be directly contracted between the United States and Great Britain there was an alteration which I will mention. The article relating to the Bay Islands contained, as I have stated, the recital of a Convention between Great Britain and Honduras for the cession 1006 of these islands upon certain conditions, and it said—Whereas such Convention has been concluded between the Government of Great Britain and Honduras, and it has been agreed to consider these islands as part of the territory of Honduras.The Senate of the United States proposed to omit all reference to the Convention between Great Britain and Honduras, and that the article should simply stand that England and the United States acknowledged these islands as part of the territory of Honduras. Now, the obvious effect would have been, by implication, and, indeed, directly, that we were making an unconditional cession of these islands to Honduras divested of those steps which we thought necessary for the protection of the colony and the well-being and future political interests of the country. Her Majesty's Government, therefore, expressed their regret that they could not adopt that alteration, but they proposed an addition to the article as it was amended by the United States, which would have made the cession of these islands conclusive only upon the acceptance by Honduras of the conditions and stipulations we proposed. That proposal was sent to the United States, and the matter is still under negotiation. Therefore, with respect both to this treaty and to the treaty with Honduras, it is not in my power, according to the established practice, to lay these papers before the House. If, unfortunately, these negotiations do not turn out successful, it will be the duty of Her Majesty's Government to lay before the House the grounds of the stand which they have thought proper to make. If, on the other hand, the negotiations are successful and the treaty should be ratified and signed in the form which the interests of this country require, then the House will probably; be content with the treaty without inquiring into the differences between the two countries.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I wish to know whether the alterations made in the treaty were not communicated to our representative at Washington, and whether an announcement of those alterations was not received from him before the treaty was ratified and sent to this country?
§ MR. DISRAELI
My question is, whether 1007 their the alterations which Her Majesty's Government could not accede to were not communicated to our Representative at Washington, and whether an answer to the alterations of which the noble Lord complains was not sent out before the treaty was sent over here for the ratification of Her Majesty's Government?
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I might take exception to the word "complains." We made no complaint. [Mr. DISRAELI: Well, "objects."] The Senate of the United States had a right to make what alterations they pleased in the treaty if they thought it not fit to be agreed to. No doubt the probability of some alterations being made in the treaty by the Senate was communicated by Her Majesty's Minister at Washington. That anticipation arrived before the treaty, but the answer of Her Majesty's Government was founded on the official communication of the result of the deliberations of the Senate of the United States.