HC Deb 16 August 1860 vol 160 cc1369-74

said, that he should not have risen to put the question which stood in his name on the paper in the absence of the noble Lord the Foreign Secre- tary, had he not understood that the noble Lord had left town. The Government had declared their intention very unequivocally with respect to enlistments for any belligerents in Europe. On the 7th of December the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary wrote a despatch to Lord Augustus Loftus, in which he said:— I have read your despatch reporting a conversation you have had with the Austrian Minister on the rumoured enlistment of Austrian subjects for the Papal and Neapolitan armies, and I have to instruct you to repeat to the Austrian Minister the question you asked him. That question was whether the Austrian Government were aware that enlistments were going on in Austria for the Papal and Neapolitan armies; whether the Austrian Government considered that to be legal; and whether the Austrian Government had given their consent to those enlistments. He was now about to ask Her Majesty's Government a similar question. A very remarkable letter had recently appeared in The Times newspaper. That letter merely put before the public what the Government and many Members of that House were previously well aware of—namely, that a very gallant officer had come from Sicily at the request of General Garibaldi, and was publicly acting in this country as a recruiting agent for the insurrectionary army of General Garibaldi. In The Times the officer to whom he referred, Captain Styles, published a letter in which there was a memorandum written by General Garibaldi and dated from a place rendered famous by his distinguished valour—Melazza. It was to this effect:— Captain Edward Styles goes to England with my authority. His object is to render advice and guidance to volunteers who may wish to come here to fight for the liberty of this country. Captain Styles, in his letters, referring to the subscriptions sent from England, proceeded to say, General Garibaldi Thinks that assistance may yet take another practical shape. He believes that there are many in this country who are desirous of taking up arms in the cause of Italian independence. Then he added— Those who join him may be certain of receiving all the rewards and honours to which they may be entitled. He spoke of the distinction, fame, and promotion which awaited Englishmen joining Garibaldi, and said he was ready to give all the necessary advice and information to those respectable young men—especially Rifle volunteers, as well as soldiers, who might wish to gather laurels in the cause of Italy. That letter was dated from Anderton's Hotel, Fleet Street, and was signed "Edward Styles, Captain, Aide-de-Camp to General Garibaldi." He did not wish to say a single word on the important question, how far Captain Styles, as a subject of the Queen, had violated the law, and how far the gentlemen associating with him were now also violating the law. That was a question which the law officers of the Crown might themselves more properly determine. He would say, however, that the only specific Act of Parliament on this subject, 59th of Geo. III., c. 69, was not an Act which the Government should at any time seek to enforce. There were three modes in which subjects of Her Majesty might enter into engagements of the kind to which he referred. They might either serve under a Sovereign in amity with the Queen, or under a Sovereign not in amity with the Queen, or serve under an sinurrectionary chief. In the first case, the enlistment would be a breach of the Foreign Enlistment Act, and in the other cases there could not be a doubt that either would be a breach of the common law of England. He would remind the House that the hon. and learned Attorney General, in a discussion that took place in May last, had said that any one who co-operated with others in this country to promote a revolt, or to encourage the waging war against a Sovereign in amity with the Queen, was guilty of a breach of the common law. That statement was in accordance with the opinions of Lord Lyndhurst and all the most eminent lawyers who had taken part in debates upon the subject. He wished to know from Her Majesty's Ministers whether the attention of the Government had been called to the letter in The Times, whether they had given their consent to any enlistments, and also whether in the opinion of the noble Lord such proceedings were not a breach of international law. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had read a lecture to Austria for allowing troops to be enlisted for service in the Papal and Neapolitan armies, and he (Mr. Hennessy) wished to know whether the noble Lord was prepared to follow the course which he adopted in December last, and whether the noble Lord would recognize a distinction between the enlistment of Austrians to serve in the Papal or Neapolitan armies and enlistments in England to assist an insurrectionary chief in waging war against a Sovereign in amity with this country. In conclusion, to prevent misapprehension of his motives, he (Mr. Hennessy) would express his opinion of the distinguished General at the head of the movement in Italy. He believed Garibaldi was not only a gallant officer, but had displayed heroism which entitled him to the sympathies, and he might almost say the esteem, of the people of England. But whatever opinion might be entertained of Garibaldi's personal qualities, they were bound to see that international law was not violated, and when they knew that Garibaldi's objects were not confined to freeing Sicily, but that he was bent upon assailing a great Power—Austria; that at the present moment all Foreign Affairs were complicated by his movements, and that Russia and Austria were determined to act in concert upon the Italian question;—when they knew all these things, he thought the House would consider he was justified in putting the question to the noble Lord whether the Government knew or sanctioned proceedings which could not be otherwise than illegal.


said, that before the noble Lord answered the question of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, he wished to remark that the hon. Member had never said a word on the departure of a number of Her Majesty's subjects from Ireland for the purpose of supporting the Pope. But the observations which had been made by the hon. Gentleman would surely have applied to that movement as well as to the case to which he had just directed their attention. He (Sir John Shelley) should say he sincerely hoped that those gallant fellows who were about to leave this country for the purpose of supporting General Garibaldi would be better treated than the recruits who had gone from the sister country to support the Pope.


In answer to the questions of the hon. Gentleman, I have to state that Her Majesty's Government have no knowledge of any enlistment going on in this country for service under General Garibaldi, and none of the Englishmen who are understood to be co-operating with General Garibaldi are in Her Majesty's service. Of course it is out of the question that any of Her Majesty's soldiers should enter any foreign service, for that would be an act of desertion punishable by the military law of the country. The hon. Member has put the case as fall- ing within one or other of two conditions. First, he has treated it as bearing on the provisions of the Foreign Enlistment Act. Now, upon that point I must observe that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster has stated, the act of any person going from this country to Sicily to join General Garibaldi would be of precisely the same nature as the act of those Irish volunteers who went out to serve the Papal Government. The Foreign Enlistment Act forbids entering one service just as much as it forbids entering the other. The hon. Member, however, must be aware of the difficulty of enforcing that Act, as it is necessary to prove that the enlistments take place in this country. The possibility of obtaining any evidence to that effect was avoided by those who went to Rome by their declaring that they went for the purpose of being employed on railway works, which unfortunately have no real existence in the Papal territories. If those persons to whom the hon. Member has referred are answering the invitation of certain officers or gentlemen, they might allege that they were going to see what Mount Etna was doing. It would be very easy for them to give excuses that would place them entirely beyond the provisions of the Foreign Enlistment Act. The hon. Gentleman put the case upon another ground—.namely, that of international law. That is, no doubt, a very important question; but the House will recollect that, as was stated by my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General, there is great difficulty in bringing the principles of international law to bear upon particular acts such as those to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. All that I can say is, that we know nothing of any enlistment going on in this country; and if we found that any enlistment were taking place for any power, or state, or assumption of a state, we should apply the provisions of the Foreign Enlistment Act impartially to any persons infringing those provisions in a way that would bring them within the operation of the law.


said, he wished to know whether the Government had received any official information of the landing of a portion of General Garibaldi's force on the shores of Calabria.


said, the Government knew nothing upon that subject beyond the general reports in the newspapers.


said, the adage that none were so deaf as those who would not hear seemed peculiarly applicable in the present case. He had no objection to anybody who chose going to serve Garibaldi, and did not see why what was sauce for the Irish goose should not be equally good for the English gander. He did not wish to introduce the names of ladies into the debate, but could not help remarking that in The Times of Saturday last, there appeared an advertisement of a society to collect funds to be remitted to General Garibaldi, of which society the Countess of Shaftesbury was Chairmaness—[A Laugh]—and in the list of contributions which followed the first name was that of Lady Palmerston, and the second that of Mrs. Gladstone. Considering the alleged ignorance of Lord Palmerston of what was going on, the above fact indicated a little domestic revolution, of which his Lordship appeared totally ignorant. [Laughter.] He did not object to Italian freedom or unity, but he thought it only fair that the Italians should be allowed to play their own game, and not be countenanced either by the physical support or the moral influence of England. No one could say the English Government was interfering physically, but no one in the three kingdoms or in Europe could doubt that this country was intermeddling by her moral influence. As a Protestant country, in whose councils the Catholic element was entirely excluded, he contended we ought rigidly to abstain from meddling with the internal affairs of a Catholic Power. He had a Notice on the Paper with reference to Irish education, but as hon. Members were anxious to hear a statement of the intentions of the Government he would not press it.

Motion agreed to.