HC Deb 12 March 1858 vol 149 cc82-108

rose to call the attention of the House and of Her Majesty's Government to the facts which have now transpired respecting the capture of the Cagliari on the High Seas by Neapolitan Cruisers, and to the continued imprisonment of the English Engineers, Park and Watt; and to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether there are any further Papers on the subject which without detriment to the Public Service can be laid on the table of the House. And although he should have to speak of a long and cruel imprisonment unjustly suffered by two of his fellow countrymen, he trusted that in his observation he should abstain from complicating the difficulty by the use of any expressions which could be regarded as disrespectful to the King of Naples, for he thought it very unadvisable that discourteous language towards foreign Sovereigns should be used in that House. The right he was endeavouring to assert on the part of these men was one that might be justly asserted by the humblest state in Europe. He did not assert any privilege on behalf of Englishmen as distinguished from the subjects of other countries, but merely claimed for them that justice which was due to a subject of the humblest state. He proposed to show by a simple statement of facts and by a very short appeal to well known principles of international law, that these two men had been long detained in prison at Salerno, not because they were guilty of any offence against Neapolitan law, nor even because they had had the misfortune to be so circumstanced that the tribunals of that country were the lawful means of testing their innocence, but because, having been captured on the high seas, they had no authority to whom they could appeal for protection except that of the British Government, and, because, from circumstances which were yet unexplained, that protection had been withheld. The House might ask why it was, the circumstances having occurred so long ago as June last, that the rights of these men had been so long infringed. He would first give a simple narrative of the facts. The Cagliari was a mail boat plying regularly between Genoa. Cagliari in Sardinia, and Tunis, and belonging to a steamboat company in Genoa. She was advertised to sail on the 25th June last. Her crew consisted of thirty-two persons, and there were thirty-three passengers on board. Her papers were regular, and the names of her crew were entered in the books in the usual manner. She left Genoa at seven o'clock in the evening. After being under steam for about an hour and a half the captain, whilst standing near the bow, was suddenly seized by a number of armed men, who told him that they had obtained possession of the ship, and that he was no longer her master, and who requested him not to attempt any useless resistance, but to give way to superior force. He was compelled to comply with their demand, and they then, by placing a pistol at his head, and threatening his life, compelled another person on board, who was skilled in navigation, to take the direction and guidance of the vessel, and she was steered for the island of Ponza. This seizure and appropriation of the steam packet was effected by twenty-five persons, who went on board in the character of passengers, but who were in reality conspirators. On the following day, the 26th, a circumstance occurred, which showed the innocence of the crew of the Cagliari, and still more clearly that of the two English engineers who were in charge of the vessel. About half-past eleven in the morning the steamer came in sight of an English squadron, consisting of five sail of the line and two steamboats. Thereupon the conspirators ordered all the crew to go down below, not allowing a single man to show himself on deck, and so fearful wore they that the English engineers would make a signal to the squadron that they firmly closed the portholes of the engine house, in order to prevent the waving of a handkerchief or the adoption of any other means for attracting attention. The vessel at length arrived at Ponza. On that island were a number of Neapolitan prisoners. They consisted of three classes — ordinary criminals, military prisoners, and persons detained for political offences. The insurgents broke open the prison, released the prisoners, and brought them on board to the number of 391. The vessel then sailed for the mainland of Italy, and late at night on the 28th arrived off the coast near the village of Sapri. The conspirators and the prisoners released from Ponza immediately disembarked, and then, for the first time since the rising against him, the captain found himself a free man. He immediately determined to sail for Naples to inform the Consul and the Neapolitan authorities of the disaster, and on the morning of the 29th, while the Cagliari was on the high seas, at the distance, certainly, of not less than six miles from any land, she was sighted by a Neapolitan squadron of two steam frigates under the command of a Neapolitan Rear Admiral. It was important to remark that the Neapolitan steamers approached from a direction opposite to that in which the Cagliari was going, and consequently not in a direction which would imply pursuit. In point of fact, this was the first minute the officers of the Neapolitan squadron ever set eyes on the Cagliari. So late as the 5th of March last, Lord Clarendon, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, had stated that the captain of the Cagliari had surrendered to the Neapolitan officers, but from the log of the vessel and from the statement of the Attorney General of the Neapolitan Government it appeared that this was not so. The truth of the matter was that, when the steamer was sighted by the cruisers, one of them the Tancredi, fired a shot across her bows. Both the Neapolitan frigates then cleared for action; the drums beat to arms, and then a signal was made for the captain of the Cagliari to come on board with his papers. He was at once treated as a prisoner; he was subjected to an inquisition, and an officer was sent on board the Cagliari to search for arms. When he had returned with two cases which he had found on board, one of the Neapolitan frigates — the Ettore Fieramosca—took the Cagliari in tow, and carried her, not to Naples, or to Salerno, but to a spot near Sapri, the place where she had come from, and that was how it had at first been made to appear that she had been captured near the shore. It was clear that at the time the Cagliari was captured there could be no right in Neapolitan frigates to seize her upon the high seas, because no sort of crime bearing the complexion of international crime was committed from first to last. When the insurgents rose against the captain they were committing an offence against the municipal law of Sardinia. When they disembarked in the island of Ponza, and again on the coast near Sapri, they were clearly committing au offence against the Neapolitan Government; but on neither occasion was there an offence of such a kind as to justify a capture on the high seas. It being impracticable for the Neapolitan Government to treat this as a case of piracy, they had endeavoured to establish it as a case of war—not a war between the Neapolitan Government and the Sardinian Government, but between the King of the Two Sicilies and this small body of insurgents. And from this fanciful supposition of a private war they educed the consequence that they had a right of capture on the high seas, and they actually constituted a Prize Court—an institution belonging exclusively to a state of war—and the Cagliari was condemned as a good and lawful prize taken in war. And the Neapolitan Government asserted this right not only as against the insurgents, but as against all neutrals in this great war. They said that, finding this hostile force on the high seas, in the time of war, they were entitled to take the Englishmen found on board into custody, to bring them back, and to have their innocence tested by a Neapolitan tribunal, and in the meantime to subject them to those long and dreadful sufferings which are inflicted upon men awaiting their trials in Neapolitan Courts. Accordingly these two Englishmen had been imprisoned ever since the 20th of June; and from that hour to this nothing had been done by the Government of this country towards their liberation. The statement drawn up by Mr. Acting Consul Barber, who had acted throughout with great zeal and ability, showed the treatment to which these men had been subjected. He said: — Watt and Park wore landed from the steamer Cagliari at the end of June last, together with the captain of that ship, her crew and passengers. The captain, engineers, and passengers were at once conveyed to the Vicaria prison unbound, but the crew were handcuffed. As soon as they reached the prison, the engineers, as well as the others, were desired that if they had any papers they would give them up. Watt had none; Park gave up his pocket-book, wherein he had a copy of a note which the insurgents had forced upon him when they took possession of the steamer shortly after leaving Genoa; the original remained on board. This note was not signed by any person, nor addressed to any one, and was worded nearly as follows—namely: 'We have resolved to free our country from the yoke of slavery under which we have so long suffered, and we call upon all upright men to aid us. If you do your duty, no harm shall befall you; but if otherwise, your lives are sacrificed.' They—the engineers and others—on arriving at the prison, were stripped naked by the police or prison authorities, and in that position were jeered at by them. After allowing them to dress again, the two engineers, with the passengers, were conveyed to a prison on the ground floor, consisting of two small rooms, which were very damp, with one small iron-barred window which looked into the prison-yard. Through this window the sun never entered, and scarcely were they able to distinguish daylight through it. To the misery of damp and bad ventilation was added one greater—namely, that in lieu of a water closet, a wooden tub was placed in the middle of each room. These two tubs were emptied every evening, if the engineers paid some person to do so, but not otherwise. They were never washed, and the stench, especially at night, when the small barred window was closed, was very great; and their health soon began to suffer. These two men were kept in those rooms during the three hottest months in the year—namely, July, August, and September. They were taken out of them when required by the police authorities to submit them to an interrogatory. On such occasions they were handcuffed before leaving the room, and brought back in the same manner. Park mentions that on one occasion they conducted him through damp underground prisons before bringing him to be interrogated; and from the manner of the men who guarded him, he understood that the intention was to intimidate him. The allowance made to them by the Neapolitan Government is—black bread of a very bad quality, and soup of so nauseous a nature that they turned always from it in disgust, and four grain per day each (less than twopence) in money. Money was occasionally sent to them by myself and some English engineers resident at Naples, by which they were enabled to buy better food. Their beds consisted of boards supported on wooden trestles, with one mattress stuffed with bad tow, mixed with bits of straw. They suffered much from vermin. In the beginning of October they, with the captain and crew, were removed from the Vicaria prisons to those of Salerno. The manner this was effected was as follows:—The police handcuffed Park, and passed a leather strap besides through both arms; they attempted the same with Watt, but he resisted this indignity as long as be had strength; but being overpowered, he was handcuffed and strapped in the same manner as Park. They were then tied together, put into a carriage into which three gendarmes likewise entered. The windows of the carriage were all drawn up, and thus, suffering from the tightness with which they were bound, they were forced to perform at a slow pace a journey of about thirty miles by night, in a carriage hermetically closed. They begged repeatedly that a window might be let down, for the sake of air. Their request was not complied with. When they reached the prison of Salerno, the crow of the Cagliari were placed in two rooms— one a large airy room, the other smaller but well ventilated. The captain and the two engineers were put into a small room immediately under those occupied by the crew, which belonged to the gaoler. The room being situated very low, and the space occupied by their three beds leaving them little space to walk in, the captain commenced suffering from bowel complaint. Watt has threatened insanity; and Park, who enjoyed very good health before his imprisonment, now suffers from fits. A petition was sent by them to the Attorney General, begging that they might be placed in the same rooms with the crew, which was granted one day before our going to Salerno —namely, on the 24th November. They have now a certain space to walk in, in the larger room of the two. Since their arrival at Salerno, the engineers have frequently been conveyed from their prison to the tribunal to be examined by the Attorney General. On these occasions they have been paraded through the streets of Salerno, strongly guarded, and handcuffed. They have repeatedly begged that they might be spared the pain and humiliation of handcuffs, but their prayer has always been refused. The handcuffs are made pf iron. Park states that for several days after they reached Salerno the marks were still visible on their wrists and arms, from the tightness with which they were bound when they were taken from Naples to Salerno. The small sum of four grani per day, allowed to each man by the Neapolitan Government, enables them to pay for the hire of their beds. The bods are of a better description than those they had at Naples. The company to whom the Cagliari belongs allows about 12s. 2d. daily to assist the crow in their subsistence, but this small sum having to be divided amongst twenty-two persons, helps them but very little. Such was the cruelty to which they had been subjected, that one of them had been Buffering from illness, and the other had been unfortunately reduced to a state of insanity. Under these circumstances, then, he had thought it his duty to put to the Government the question of which he had given notice, and after the production of the papers if the men were not in the meantime liberated he would certainly found a substantive Motion upon the materials which would he then in possession of the House.


Though I have already spoken in this debate, I will ask permission of the House to be allowed to do so again; for it would be an apparent want of courtesy to the hon. and learned Gentleman if I did not answer the statement which he has made. No doubt the case of these two engineers, to whom the hon. and learned Gentleman has referred, is one of a very distressing character, and one which must command the marked sympathy not only of every Member of this House, but of the country generally. That men from the north of England, in the peaceable pursuit of that ingenious industry for which that district is celebrated, should be suddenly thrown into a prison in the south of Europe, under the circumstances in which these individuals find themselves, is an incident which at once engages the attention of all. It may be that these individuals are morally innocent. Indeed, I do not hesitate to say, that I entertain a very strong impression that they are morally innocent. But the hon. and learned Gentleman must know that a person may be morally innocent, and yet may, by unfortunate causes, be placed in circumstances in which it is absolutely necessary that, to demonstrate that moral innocence, he must submit to judicial investigation. I do not clearly understand from the hon. and learned Gentleman what it is that he expects from Her Majesty's Government. Let us look at the facts of this case without prejudice. It happened about nine or ten months ago; and of course that alone is a reason which would render us most anxious to pay every attention to the position of these individuals. But the late Government gave their attention to those circumstances. They were submitted to the investigation and to the decision of the law officers of the Crown, and the course of the Government of that day was taken in accordance with the decision of the law officers. They have continued, during this long period, to act upon the opinion and by the advice of those high authorities. The opinion of those authorities was not a casual or cursory opinion. The attention of the law officers was drawn to every incident as it occurred in these transactions; and therefore it was the continuous and frequent opinion of the law officers that guided the late Government in the course they pursued. It is not, therefore, a matter of policy which can be affected by a change of Government; it is a matter of law. The Government of this country has acknowledged the jurisdiction of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in the instructions which it has sent out, and has even been interfering in the regulation and management of the trial. They have, for example, demanded that these two English prisoners should have the privilege of receiving the visits of their relatives and legal advisers. The question, I repeat, is one of law, and not one of policy; and I have not heard from the hon. and learned Gentleman one reason why we should take it out of the class in which we found it. I cannot presume to give an opinion on this legal question. Some may think that the opinions which have guided the English Government ought to preponderate. There are other opinions which may be equally entitled to respect. But whatever opinions may be entertained, all will agree that it is a moot point of law, and therefore all that can be done by those who have the management of affairs is to be guided in their conduct by the decisions of the responsible law officers of the Crown. The proceedings having been in progress for some nine or ten months—the jurisdiction of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies having been acknowledged from the first by the English Government — and they having interfered as far as the management of the trial of these Englishmen was concerned—it seems to us that we are foreclosed from opening this question. We have admitted the jurisdiction; and I think the hon. and learned Gentleman is labouring under a false impression in supposing that this was a mere affair of policy which could be changed by a change of Government. I do not see that the present Government could do more, in the position in which this question finds itself, than to take the most efficient steps to obtain for our unfortunate countrymen prompt justice, and to take care that, while the investigation is going on, they should feel that they are not deserted by their country. Finding this state of affairs, I can assure the House that Her Majesty's present Government have not at all neglected these unfortunate men. It was the very first thing to which we gave our attention. My noble Friend the Earl of Malmesbury communicated immediately with a gentleman of ability and influence who happened to be at Rome, and he was directed to repair instantly to Salerno, to investigate from the first the whole of the proceedings against these two unfortunate individuals. The Gentleman to whom I refer was instructed to take every precaution that their trial should be conducted with impartiality, and that they should want no means of assistance in conducting their defence; in short, "to do everything (I believe I quote the language of the instructions) to comfort and sustain them in the grievous trial to which they are subjected." I am reminded, too, by an hon. Friend near me that he was further directed to accompany all this with as strong a protest as possible against any delay whatever in coming to a decision on this case. I hope the House will believe that, in the difficult position in which we found this affair, we have done all — I do not say that could be done—but all that it was advisable to do for the advantage of these two men. And I must express more than a hope that these exertions will not be fruitless, that we shall see our countrymen restored to their homes in England, and that the end of this unhappy affair will not be so mortifying and so shameful as the hon. and learned Gentleman thinks. The hon. and learned Gentleman guarded himself against any expression which at this moment might produce excitement or arouse feelings—unamiable feelings—towards the Government of Naples. I am extremely glad that he spoke in that spirit. I do not think at this moment that the position of our unfortunate countrymen would be benefited by the use of violent or intemperate language, or by a departure from that courtesy which is usually shown to foreign Powers. After all, what is more important now than the question of law—and what more nearly touches the heart and feelings of this country—is, that we should obtain the release of those two men, and that we should obtain that release accompanied by a full and public recognition of their innocence. Such a result will be facilitated, no doubt, by temperate conduct and temperate language. I can assure the House that the subject anxiously occupies the attention of the Government, and that no means will be spared by which we can obtain for these individuals that justice to which they are entitled, and the vindication of their character from that charge of misconduct of which I believe them to be entirely innocent.


said, that one of the unhappy men, to whom the right hon. Gentleman had referred, was a native of New-castle-on-Tyne, and consequently in some respects a constituent of his own, and he might therefore be excused for making some remarks on the subject. He, of course, was ready to admit that, as the right hon. Gentleman had said, the mere change of Government did not necessarily include any change of policy, nor could it affect questions of law; but it was not his intention to direct any argument, or indeed to say anything to the present Government which he should not have said to their predecessors. He confessed he had listened with some dissatisfaction to the statement that the previous Government had admitted the jurisdiction of the kingdom of the two Sicilies, and that the present Government considered themselves bound to take the same course. He confessed he felt somewhat alarmed lest, between the two Governments, the lives and liberties of our countrymen should be endangered if not destroyed. He had for some time watched the case with attention, and taken a deep interest in the result, Like the late Government, for a long time he believed, upon the facts that were before the House and the country, that the strict letter of the law was with the Neapolitan Government. He had thought that the capture of the steamer was legal—that the Neapolitan Government had a right to try the English engineers, and, as an incident to that right, had a right to detain them in custody. Such being supposed to be the facts, the duty of the Government was limited to the course pursued by the late Administration, namely, a mere suggestion that the trial should be a speedy one —an endeavour to obtain justice when it did come on—and an endeavour, by remonstrance or other modes, to mitigate as far as possible the hardships to which these men were subjected in the intervening period. Now the facts appeared to be different, and the case assumed a totally different aspect. It now appeared that the Neapolitan Government had not the law with them, and that they were not justified in the capture of the Cagliari, and that, consequently, not only had we a right to complain of the cruelty to which these men had been subjected, and to say that they were entitled to an acquittal upon the merits, but far more, we were entitled to Say that they never ought to have been confined at all, and that they ought not to have been put upon their trial. If this view were correct, then every hour during which they continued in their state of illegal confinement a wrong was committed on these poor men, and an act of humiliation was done to this country. The legal question involved was based upon a few simple principles. It was an undoubted fact that this capture did take place not within waters of Neapolitan jurisdiction, but upon the high seas. Now this was the essence of the whole question. When the case was first made known to them there was reason to suppose that the capture was made within the Neapolitan waters, and not where it actually was made. The reason of the mistake was this, that immediately after the capture of the Cagliari she was taken in tow by a Neapolitan war steamer, and brought within a few miles of the Neapolitan shore. Consequently, when the vessel was first seen in custody it was within the waters of Naples, and therefore the impression arose that the capture was made within those waters. This was the first and most important fact of the case. The second was, that when the vessel was captured she was not then committing any act of violence or wrong. She was peace- ably navigating the Mediterranean sea, and nothing was being done by her which could at all be construed into an act of war or piracy, or an invasion of the municipal law of Naples or any other country. However, she was taken forcibly by two armed vessels. There was no doubt of the forcible nature of the capture. The two ships of war first fired a shotted gun over her. They cleared their decks for action, and despatched a launch full of armed men to board her, and bring the captain and crew on board the Neapolitan vessels. The question, under these circumstances, was one which any hon. Gentleman, learned or unlearned, could decide upon for himself. They knew of course that if any Englishman, however innocent, had been arrested in a street of Naples for an alleged breach of the peace they could not deny the right of the Neapolitan Government to try him even though they could bring the clearest proofs of his innocence. All they could do was to endeavour to mitigate the evils of his position and to get him a fair hearing. But if the Neapolitan Government arrested a British subject, even though undoubtedly guilty of a breach of the peace, or any other crime, on British territory, or on that of any other country, or even on the high seas, they were acting without the sanction of law, and beyond their right; and it would be the duty of this country to deny the right of the Neapolitan Government, and to seize the wrong-doer and demand his release. No dispute could arise as to the facts; and as to the matter of law he would undertake to say that, if the matter were argued, no doubt could exist as to the course which ought to be taken by this country. The case, however, did not rest here. This was the course taken by the Sardinian Government. The Sardinian Government contended that the Cagliari should be restored on the ground that the had been captured out of the Neapolitan jurisdiction, and he contended it was the duty of the present Government as it was the duty of the late Government, if they had known these facts, to support the same view, and to bring the matter, not before the Neapolitan tribunals, to whose jurisdiction he would not submit, but before the Neapolitan Government, for the purpose of insisting on the restitution of the subjects of this country. This was not the time, perhaps, to enter further upon the question, but he confessed, he felt very strongly upon he matter. He felt that these men were our fellow-subjects—men on whom great and grievous cruelty had been inflicted, and he for one was not satisfied with the course which Her Majesty's Government had pursued. He understood from the newspapers that Mr. Lyons had been directed to attend at the trial, and to see that justice was done. He doubted if that step was in truth a sufficient one, or adequate to the gravity of the occasion. He believed that the truest course to take for the honour and dignity of the country, and the best for those unhappy men who had been now subjected to ten months of grievous persecution, would be with firmness and dignity to deny the right of the Neapolitan tribunals to try them, and to claim, in conjunction with the Sardinian Government, that they should be restored to their liberty and their country.


If anything could astonish me in this House it would be the language of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—language wholly unworthy of a British Minister. Two Englishmen have been seized unjustly upon the high seas, and have been subjected to ten months of horrible imprisonment. The Government of this country were cognizant of these facts, though the right hon. Gentleman is not answerable for what occurred then. Sir, I do not care whether the men were taken in Neapolitan waters or out of them. I will enhance my case by saying that it appears that they were taken beyond the Neapolitan jurisdiction; but even if they were taken within it, I say that, being Englishmen, they ought to have been protected by the power of England, and to have had a fair and immediate trial. What, however, was the fact? They were not tried, but consigned to a dungeon. They were subjected to horrible privations; and we looked on — tamely looked on—while Naples committed this indignity on English subjects. But there the case does not rest. The men were taken out of Neapolitan waters, and then the Neapolitan Government attempts to say they were pirates. Sir, the piracy was on the part of the Neapolitan Government, and not on the part of these men. They were going from Genoa in the first place. They were seized, a pistol was held to their heads, and they were ordered to do certain things. They did them. When released they went back again, and were on their way to Naples to give information of what had occurred. Met by Neapolitan vessels, they were taken prisoners, were carried into port, and every man on board, though wholly innocent, was thrown into prison, and treated in a way that is a disgrace to a civilized country. All these facts came to the knowledge of the Government, now sitting on this (the Opposition) bench. Was anything done to vindicate the honour of England? Not at all. We had recalled our Minister. We had en-anted that farce. And what happened? Why, two Englishmen were subjected to this horrible imprisonment, and nobody was there to watch over their interests, What ought to have been done? Why, an immediate message ought to have been sent to the King of Naples; and, supposing they were taken in Neapolitan waters, he ought to have been told—" These men are to be tried immediately; they are not to be treated injuriously; their honour, their fortunes, their very lives, are not to be endangered, but they are to be tried fairly and immediately." And if this was not done, instead of sending "Mr." Lyons, I would have sent Lord Lyons to Naples. A three-decker in the Bay of Naples within cannon-shot of the Royal palace—that is what I would have sent. The right hon. Gentleman talks about using amiable language. Sir, the "amiable language" that I would have spoken would have been cannon shot. We are told of Britannia, Her march is on the mountain wave, Her home is on the deep. Now, I say that her home is no longer on the deep if these things are permitted. There was a time when Spain perpetrated atrocities on an Englishman who, after having described the horrors to which he had been subjected, said he believed his last hour was come, and that he committed his soul to God and his vengeance to his country. On the part of these men, I say that they, going abroad, ought to have gone with the broad ægis of England extended over them, and ought to have walked the waters as safely as they would have walked on the floor of this House. What is the worth of England's navy, what is the worth of England's name and of England's power, if protection is not afforded to English subjects wherever they go? These men were in the pursuit of peaceful objects; they were doing nothing contrary to any law of any country whatever; and yet we suffer them to be thus harassed, thus degraded, thus ruined. Why, one of those poor fellows has lost his reason from the severities of a Neapolitan imprisonment; and we have stood by and the House of Commons is now told not to use "unamiable language." "Unamiable language!" when I know that one of my countrymen has been rendered insane by the conduct of Naples! Sir, I should be unworthy of the position which I hold as an English representative if I did not raise my voice to say that, in whatever clime, by whatever Government, an Englishman is injured, it is the duty of England and of the English Government to defend him.


said, it appeared to him that the circumstances of this case had completely changed, for it was now clear that the Cagliari had been captured on the high seas, and not within the Neapolitan waters. It was upon that view of the case that Count Cavour, the noble Minister of Sardinia, had founded his able and dignified despatch. As soon as he had discovered the real facts relating to the capture, he lost no time in sending a declaration to that effect to the Neapolitan Government, and in taking his stand on the rights of nations. Now, he (Mr. Ewart) wished to ask Her Majesty's Government whether their attention having been called to this change in the circumstances of the case, they proposed to act with the vigour which characterized Count Cavour, and to send a corresponding memorial to Naples on the part of this country? As long as they were ignorant of the real facts they were warranted in acquiescing in a judicial investigation of the case by the Neapolitan tribunals; but as soon as these facts became known to the English Government he thought they were bound to lose not a moment in demanding the observance of international law, and in vindicating the rights of Englishmen and the claims of justice.


said, he fully concurred with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. Head-lam) in thinking that the question under discussion could not long remain in the position in which the right hon. Gentleman opposite seemed disposed to leave it. Whether the present or the late Government were to be held culpable in reference to the matter, it was, in his opinion, high time that the House of Commons should take its consideration into its own hands and make itself acquainted with all the circumstances and all the facts of the case. After the facts which had been publicly stated, and which had, as far as he could see, continued uncontradicted in reference to the treatment of two of our fellow-countrymen, who had now been in prison for a period of ten months, the position of that House was, he could not help thinking, most humiliating; while the course which the right hon. Gentleman opposite had indicated it to be the intention of the Government to pursue was not, he thought, creditable to the Minister. It appeared from the public papers that a despatch had been sent by Count Cavour to the Neapolitan Government. That despatch had not been laid on the table of the House, but he presumed that that document had received an answer, and that a copy of the answer was in possession of Her Majesty's Government. Now, he wished, under these circumstances to know whether the right hon. Gentleman was not in a position to state that in that answer the Neapolitan Government had admitted that the capture of the Cagliari had taken place in the open sea, and that the vessel herself was such as she had been described to he by the Sardinian Minister? If that were the case, then he should like to ascertain whether Her Majesty's late or present Attorney General, or any lawyer speaking with any authority upon the question, was prepared to contend that the capture of the Cagliari was other than an illegal act? If the capture were illegal, did it not follow that the detention of the two engineers, their imprisonment, trial, and every subsequent pro- ceeding taken against them, were also illegal and in direct violation of international law? If that was a true statement both of the facts and the law, could it be satisfactory to the House that the right hon. Gentleman opposite should tell them that the late Government having chosen to submit to a state of things, under which British subjects were imprisoned and tortured to such a degree that both lost their health and one his reason, therefore Her Majesty's present advisers, although they knew that these outrages had been perpetrated against their countrymen in violation of international law and every principle of justice, did not find themselves in a position to back the representations which had been made by Count Cavour, but must leave our Sardinian ally to fight the battle by himself? Did we admit the legality of the proceedings which had been adopted by the Neapolitan Government? Count Cavour, had disputed it. He had insisted upon the prisioners being delivered up, while we had refrained from taking any such decided course. The late Government were not perhaps much to blame for the line of conduct which they had pursued at the outset, when their knowledge of the transaction was neces- sarily imperfect; but when they became aware of the circumstances of the case, and especially of the statements made by Count Cavour, they became liable to censure for the policy which they adopted, as Her Majesty's present Ministers would undoubtedly become, if they persevered in a similar policy. He trusted the whole of the papers connected with the subject would be laid before Paliament—namely, the communications which took place between the late Government and the acting Consul at Naples; those between the acting Consul and the authorities there, as well as any correspondence which might have passed between the noble Lord lately at the head of the Foreign Department and the Neapolitan Minister. He thought the time was come when the House ought to have the fullest information upon the question, as indeed he thought it ought to have upon every other important transaction in connection with our relations with foreign States. It was, in his opinion, most desirable that that system of secrecy in dealing with such matters which had hitherto prevailed should be put an end to, inasmuch as it was a system which, although it might be well suited to despotic Governments, was altogether alien to the feelings of our people and to the principle of our constitution, and which had more than once led England into difficulties and disaster. If, however, the Government should decline from a sense of duty to lay upon the table of the House the papers to which he had referred, he deemed it but fair to warn them that the House of Commons would hold them quite as responsible, as if they had been in office six months ago, for every stop which they took now that they had a full knowledge of the circumstances of the case. He thought the House should insist on the production of all the papers without reservation, in order that they might be enabled to form their opinions on the whole matter.


I confess, Sir, I feel we are discussing, or rather half discussing, a question of great interest and immeasurable importance under disadvantages which almost preclude the hope of our making any practical progress towards its satisfactory solution. My principal object in rising upon this occasion is to express my earnest desire that Her Majesty's Government may be disposed to accede to the request which has just been made to them by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Horsman) for the production of the papers which he has mentioned. I do not understand that any negotiations are at present in progress; and, if such be the case, I think the aspect of the facts, which have been brought under our notice is such as to render it incumbent upon this House to take those facts into its careful consideration. I cannot join with those who are prepared in the present state of our information to pass sentence upon the hon. Gentlemen who now hold office, and I may add that we ought, in my opinion, to wait for the acquisition of a much more minute knowledge than we yet possess of the circumstances of this transaction before we come to a decision with respect either to the culpability or the blameless-ness in regard to it of any Government whatsoever. The point involved is one which turns very much on dates. It is one, with reference to the merits of which a complete misunderstanding seems originally to have prevailed; and I cannot help regretting that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) should, in our present state of ignorance, have entered into the hypothetical question as to what it would be the duty of the Government to do if the Cagliari had been captured in the Neapolitan waters. We are now aware that she was not captured in those waters, and also that when the circumstance of her being seized came to light she was supposed to have been captured within them. Well, if she was supposed to be captured within them, owing to whose fault did that error arise? So far as I can understand, it arose out of the proceedings of the Neapolitan Government; and therefore, if this essential and vital error arose out of the proceedings of the Neapolitan Government, it appears to me to clearly follow-that that Government can on no good ground be held entitled to take any benefit by its own wrong. If, upon the other hand, the admissions which were made by the late Government were made in consequence of their being misinformed as to the facts of the case, then they are not, I contend, binding on Her Majesty's present advisers, and still less on the House of Commons. But if—what I trust may not have been the case—what I trust I may be informed has not been the case, but what is the case for ought we know to the contrary—any further representations have been made by Her Majesty's late Government after the facts, as they now appear, were known to them for it is now a long time since I read in the newspapers the despatch of Count Cavour,—I confess it will be with pain, astonishment, and shame I shall find that the duty of vindicating the law of nations and the rights of Englishmen, even by accident, have fallen into the hands of feeble Sardinia, and has not been taken up by powerful England herself. I trust we shall have the whole of the circumstances connected with this transaction laid fully before us. It has now unfortunately reached a point when any expression of the wishes of this House may be too late, and may even seem ridiculous in the eyes of the world, inasmuch as that step may be taken when the trial of those two unfortunate engineers has been brought to a conclusion. At the same time, however, partly upon their account, but still more because of the principle of public right and of Ministerial responsibility which is involved, it is in my judgment of the utmost importance, unless public inconvenience could be shown to arise from the adoption of that course, that the House of Commons should be placed in full immediate possession of the facts. I may add that if there should be any reluctance on the part of the present Government to lay upon the table the papers which they have been asked to produce, that reluctance cannot certainly arise from any interested or selfish motives, inasmuch as they have but just assumed the reins of power. If they should, therefore, refuse to comply with the request of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, they will, I have no doubt, be able to justify that refusal upon the ground of the public convenience. I trust, however, that no such reason exists, and that they will find themselves in a position to accede to the request which has been so judiciously made by the right hon. Gentleman, and lay upon the table the documents in question.


Sir, the case which is now under discussion is one which occupied, for a considerable period, the anxious attention of the late Government, and I need hardly say that we should have been extremely glad if we could have found grounds which would justify us in making such demands upon the Neapolitan Government as would have tended to the liberation of the two Englishmen who have been confined in that country. Throughout the whole course of our proceedings in reference to the matter, however, we were guided by the opinions of persons more competent than ourselves to determine a question of international law. It certainly was, for a long time, our belief that the Cagliari had been captured within Neapolitan jurisdiction; but it at length turned out, from certain papers which were published by the Neapolitan Government in connection with the trial of the prisoners, that the capture took place beyond the territorial jurisdiction of Naples. Now, that was a circumstance which I should certainly have thought would materially alter the case as it had at first stood; but in that also we should have been guided by the opinion of those who, as I said before, were most competent to give an opinion. However, the question thus raised was one which was still under our consideration when we retired from office. With regard to the question of laying upon the table of the House any papers relating to this transaction, the House will permit me to remind them that some portion of those papers were laid upon the table during the last Session; and, speaking from a general recollection of what has passed since, I am bound to say, as far as we are concerned, there is no objection to the production of any other correspondence that had taken place up to the time of our retirement.


said, he thought the papers which had been referred to would not be sufficient, without the production of the opinion of the law officers of the Crown upon questions which had not been answered at the period of the retirement of the late Government. Without the whole of the papers, the House would not be able to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) had truly stated that this was a question which not only affected those unhappy engineers, but also involved the honour of the country. Even should it happen that, before the tardy attention of the House could be brought to bear upon this subject, those unfortunate engineers should be, as he did not doubt they would be, fully acquitted— even under Neapolitan laws, there would be the question of exacting from the Government of Naples a just and adequate compensation for those unhappy engineers, —a question which he trusted the Government would not be permitted to blink in any way.


said, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University (Mr. Gladstone) had tittered nothing but truth when he stated that Her Majesty's present Government could have no reason on their own account to decline the production of any papers that would tend to give complete information to the House on this important subject. Since the Government had entered into office there had been, he believed, but two papers connected with these transactions, which had been received or sent by the Department with which he had the honour to be connected. One of those papers communicated the intelligence that one of the unfortunate engineers had been placed under the care of the British Consul, and had been discharged from prison. The other papers were instructions to Mr. Lyons from the noble Lord (the Earl of Malmesbury) at the head of the Foreign Department, Those were the only communications which had taken place since the present Government entered upon its duties, and there certainly could not be any disinclination to produce those papers from a fear on the part of the Government that the contents would not meet the approval of the House; but the difficulty they found in the production of the papers asked for was, that if nothing but mere statements of facts from the acting Consul at Naples to the Government were to be laid upon the table, it would be really giving the House no further information than was already possessed by every hon. Gentleman present, and. more than that, it would be giving official information in a very imperfect form. Besides those papers which might be produced there were the opinions of the law officers of the Crown. Now, he believed it was a known fact that when the opinions of the law officers of the Crown were requested for the guidance of Her Majesty's Government it was a settled rule that neither the papers laid before those officers, nor the opinions which they gave, founded upon them, should be communicated to Parliament. That was the settled rule which had always been sanctioned by the House, and therefore he submitted it would be an idle ceremony to lay upon the table a mere statement of circumstances that had occurred, without accompanying it with what is of much more importance — the documents showing the grounds on which the Government had acted. With reference to one statement of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) I think he was rather in error in supposing that there was anything pending before the law officers of the Crown at the time his Government quitted office, or waiting their decision whether the altered circumstances caused by the claims of Count Cavour could in any way change the action of the Government. In reference to that point he wished to make a short statement. The claim made by Count Cavour was put forward towards the end of December, or at least communicated to the British Government about that time. The whole matter was laid before the law officers of the Crown, and it was their deliberate opinion that, whatever might be the merits of the claim made by the Sardinian Government to have the ship and cargo restored on the ground that the ship was carrying the Sardinian flag and was protected by that flag, the British Government, even supposing the facts to be as stated by the Sardinian Government and that the vessel had been seized beyond the Neapolitan jurisdiction, would have no right to demand the liberation of British subjects taken on board, without their undergoing a formal trial. The hon. and learned Member for Newcastle (Mr. Head-lam) had assumed that the fact of the vessel having been seized on the high seas made such an alteration in the case that It was perfectly clear the British Government had a right to demand the liberation of the engineers. He (Mr. S. FitzGerald) could only say the matter had been laid before the law advisers of the late Government who, no doubt, fully considered it, and the conclusion they arrived at was that such a right did not attach to them, and that even if the claim of the Sardinian Government should be fully established it would effect no change in their own conduct. There appeared to be a general impression on all sides that Her Majesty's present Government could not, under any circumstances, pursue a course different from their predecessors, who months ago by directing the engagement of counsel, seeking out witnesses, and taking other steps in the trial, had recognized the jurisdiction of the Neapolitan tribunals, and had, moreover, distinctly stated they were willing to abide the result of the trial, as if British subjects offended against Neapolitan laws they must be tried according to those laws. The only question was, whether the position of the present Government was not different from that of the late in consequence of the knowledge of the circumstances detailed in Count Cavour's claim. In answer to that, he would repeat that all those circumstances had been known to the late Government in December, who took the opinion of their law officers upon them, and it was not for the present Government to depart from the course which their predecessors, after deliberate consideration, had determined to adopt. It would be very difficult to make any selection of papers which would be at all satisfactory to the House, without embodying the opinions given by the law officers of the Crown, which it was a settled rule not to produce; and that being the case, he hoped the House would not press for the production of the papers at the present time. If, however, upon looking over the papers, it should be found that there were documents which would give any further information to the House without trenching upon the rule to which he had adverted he should be very happy to produce them.


I am sorry the statement of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down is of so unsatisfactory a character. I concur in the opinion expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford, that it would not be satisfactory to discuss the question of the capture of the Cagliari, and the proceedings adopted by the Neapolitan Government in reference to those two British subjects, without being in possession of as full information as can be afforded to us on the matter; but I think we may discuss what is the best way of obtaining that information. The hon. Gentleman says, and says rightly, that according to invariable usage the opinions of the law officers of the Crown cannot be produced. That may be; but what can be produced are the letters or despatches of the Secretary of State or the Under Secretary founded upon those opinions and directing the agents of the British Government abroad to act accordingly. We have thousands of instances that when the opinion of the law officers of the Crown is taken for the purposes of guiding our agents abroad, the despatch of the Secretary of State follows as nearly as possible, not only the sense, but the words of the opinion so given. Although the Government may very properly and according to precedent object to produce the technical opinion or the case, it is possible for them to produce a despatch of the Secretary of State or of the Under Secretary or anything written recording the transaction, which will be of some service in aiding the House to come to some opinion upon the main question. There are two very important considerations involved in the detention of these engineers; one is as to the capture of the Cagliari, whether made in Neapolitan waters or on the high seas; and the other is as to the treatment of the engineers themselves. With respect to the first of these questions, the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs has given us additional information, for he says the opinion of the law Officers of the Crown was to the effect that, whether the Sardinian claim be well or ill founded, the British Government has no right to claim the liberation of the engineers. It seems to me that if the opinion of the law officers went to this— that the vessel, being a Sardinian vessel, and under the Sardinian flag, the British Government could not claim it, the House will generally assent to that proposition; but if it is meant to be said that the Sardinian Government, having according to the law of nations claimed that vessel, if that vessel contained two British subjects, whose capture in direct violation of the law had been followed by a long term of imprisonment before being brought to trial, nobody shall persuade me that the British Government ought not to support the Sardinian Government if they are satisfied that it is a just claim which is made, and to use the power and resources of their country, in the aid of the weaker State, in order to obtain a suitable measure of redress. But now comes the other question—namely, that of the treatment of those two British subjects. I must say, supposing the capture to have been justifiable, and that there were circumstances of suspicion attaching to the two engineers, the treatment of them went far beyond that which was necessary for their safe custody. The time was unnecessarily protracted, their treatment was needlessly harsh, severe, and cruel; and, even supposing the Neapolitan Government had a prima facie cause for their imprisonment, it was wholly uncalled for that that imprisonment should have been attended by circumstances resulting in the loss of health to one and the loss of reason to the other. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us to use "amiable language" towards the Government of Naples, and has expressed confidence in the result of the trial. Sir, I have no confidence either in the justice of that Government towards these unfortunate men before trial, or in the justice of the court before which they are brought. I know perfectly well, it has not been unusual for the Neapolitan Government, when they found that there was any independence in a judge or a regard for law, to change the judges appointed to try prisoners either previous to the trial or, it may he, during the course of trial; and I should not he surprised to hear, if the Neapolitan Government wish these men to be convicted and the judges are not likely to convict them, that they had recourse to changing those judges and that other more subservient instruments bad taken their place. My noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) in speaking of these transactions did not seek to defend the Neapolitan Government; hut said the House was aware that justice might be perverted in their courts of law. That is my own impression; but whatever course the Government may pursue on this subject, and whatever this House may think it essential to do hereafter in reference to it, I am not ready to make the admission that we are to consider everything that the Neapolitan Government has done has been according to justice, and that there is no need of enforcing on them the observance of those principles of equity on which other Governments act. I hope the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office, from whom I should expect every fair consideration of this question, will feel it consistent with his duty to produce all the papers bearing upon it. I hope that those papers will include the despatches of Count Cavour and any communications that may have been received from Sir James Hudson, and that the House will be enabled to form a sound judgment on the matter. I will only say, before resuming my seat, in answer to the question put by the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), on the subject of the Oaths Bill, which stands for consideration on Wednesday next, that I shall certainly not postpone it. If the hon. Gentleman chooses to make his Motion in any other stage of the Bill that is in his power, I shall only say that I will go on with the Bill on Wednesday next.


said, if his memory served him rightly, when the Chinese papers were laid on the table the opinion of the Queen's Advocate in reference to the Chinese lorcha was among them. He thought, in order to enable the House to judge of the effect of (he change of circumstances upon the case under considera- tion, it was desirable to have the opinion of the Queen's Advocate upon it, and that that opinion, when given, should be included in any papers that might be laid upon the table.


Sir, I do not wish to stand more than a few moments between the House and the Motion for adjournment to Monday next on its rising. I quite agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford, if he will allow me so to call him, that until those papers are produced we are not in a situation to discuss this question; still less to blame Her Majesty's present Government. But I must be allowed to express at once my regret and surprise that the two questions which were put at an earlier period of the sitting by the hon. Member for Richmond (Mr. Rich) and the hon. Member for King's County (Mr. P. O'Brien) have not been treated with that courtesy which I think they deserve, and which has been vouchsafed to that of the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Kinglake). I think it is not unnatural when a Government has come into power—or rather, I should say, into office under such peculiar circumstances, to expect that some account should be given to this House of the policy which they intend to pursue. I believe that this has always been the case whenever a Government has succeeded to another Government, and still more so, I believe it has been the cose when the head of that Government sits in what is called "another place," because any exposition of a course of policy given in "another place" is not constitutionally before this House. Therefore it was with surprise that I saw the right hon. Gentleman resume his seat, and not give any answer, even in the "amiable language" he so much insists on, to the questions which had been asked him by the two hon. Members, and which certainly call as much for a reply from the Government as this question of the Cagliari. I must take leave to say that these are very important questions. The right hon. Gentleman has told us tonight that it is his intention to call for large votes of money on credit, and he asks for the utmost forbearance of this House. So far as I, an individual Member, am concerned, I shall give him every assistance that I can conscientiously tender; but at the same time I think it would have been but respectful to this House, and still more to the country, if he had given us some programme of his intended measures before calling on us to vote money. I do not on the present occasion press this subject, because, the right hon. Gentleman having already spoken on the Motion for adjournment, it is not competent for him to do so again, and he may perhaps have yet to make up his mind as to the policy he means to pursue. At all events you, the House of Commons, know nothing whatever as to what the policy of the Government is to be. We have heard to-night that they have succeeded to the noble Lord's foreign policy with regard to Naples. I do not know whether the House will be satisfied with that; but from what I have been able to see, I think it is probable some "painful misconceptions" are likely to arise with Naples. With regard to France, with which it was said "painful misconceptions" had arisen, when the right hon. Gentleman takes credit for putting an end to those "painful misconceptions"—which I shall only take leave to say originated in his own fertile imagination—I must confess I was not aware, before he went down to Aylesbury to address his constituents, that there were such "painful misconceptions," except those which the right hon. Gentleman and his party had chosen to create. When he asks a vote in Supply, I trust he will be prepared to give the House some programme of his intended measures, and that the House will not grant any supplies until he does so. The right hon. Gentleman has asked for the forbearance of the House, my intention is to use the utmost forbearance and the most "amiable language" towards the Government of which he is a Member. I believe, and have long believed, that the right hon. Gentleman who represents Buckinghamshire, if permitted to have his own way, is as good a Reformer and as advanced a Liberal as any in this House; and if he can only get rid of three or four of his colleagues, the bead of the Ministry included, and be allowed a little of his own way, he will meet with some considerable support from the Liberal party. But I tell him he must weed his own party. I repeat that when the right hon. Gentleman calls on this House for any grant of money on credit, I trust that he or some one of his colleagues—say the right hon. Gentleman near him whom he has converted to the admission of Jews to Parliament, and who is supposed to be more immediately in his confidence—will be prepared to make some statement of how the Government of the country is to be con- ducted. If he does so I shall be prepared to listen to that proposition for a grant of money; but if he does not, when he comes down to the House to ask for that vote, I shall feel it my duty to call the attention of the House to the circumstances under which he has acceded to power, and ask how far they are ready to repose their confidence in the right hon. Gentleman. I shall be sorry to put the right hon. Gentleman in that position. It will be a much more graceful act on his part to make the exposition which I have suggested. I can make every allowance for the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I can imagine that the right hon. Gentleman, coming into power in the way he has done, has had to make up his mind as to the course he meant to adopt. An hon. Gentleman who sits next him said before his constituents that it was not humanly possible that the Government could make up their minds to a policy in so short a time. I am ready to admit, to some extent, the truth of that proposition; but will the right hon. Gentleman tell me when it is humanly possible? I am ready to wait any reasonable time; but before resuming my seat I must repeat that, unless the right hon. Gentleman does make up his mind, I will call for a direct vote of this House, or after consultation with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. M. Gibson) who knows so well how to draw Amendments, I will enter into some arrangement by which this House shall be favoured with a statement from the right hon. Gentleman, for I do not think a statement made by a noble Lord in "another place" is or ought to be sufficient either for this House or the country at large.