HC Deb 18 June 1860 vol 159 cc571-80

said, he rose to call the attention of the House to the fact of the enlistment now going on in Ireland to furnish the Pope with troops in Italy; and to ask the Government what measures they have adopted, or intend to adopt; and what official communication they have received upon the subject. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that the question was one of some importance, and was exciting considerable interest and some surprise among the people of this country. He had in his possession extracts from Irish journals of all shades of politics: some of them rejoicing at the defiance with which the proclamation issued by Her Majesty's Government had been treated, and all stating the enormous number of recruits who were leaving Ireland to join what was called "The Pope's Own." He took it for granted that in the present state of Europe Her Majesty's Government must be extremely anxious that it should be known whether they had power to prevent this flagrant violation of the law, or whether it was to be assumed that they tacitly sanctioned the proceedings which were going on. As long ago as the 28th of May, it was stated in various newspapers that Waterford and other seaports of Ireland had been made ports for what was sometimes called "emigration," but what was sometimes openly admitted to be the embarcation of recruits for the Pope's army. In the first instance it was put forward by the priests, who had taken a large part in this recruiting, that these persons were mere emigrants to Italy. Afterwards it was said that they were going to join the municipal army in Italy; and it subsequently appeared that they were enlisted for the purpose of recruiting the army which was to defend the Pope in case of any collision with his subjects. Her Majesty's Government had issued a proclamation, with a view to prevent the infraction of the law; and no sooner did it appear than the conductors of this enlistment hurled defiance at the Ministry. The newspapers boldly stated that these recruits were intended for a foreign army; and in one instance he believed a justice of the peace was present at their embarcation. This had been going on for some weeks; and some of the recruits had been presented to the Pope, had performed an obeisance to which he did not intend to refer in any terms of ridicule, and had been thanked by his Holiness for having joined his army. All this was in flagrant violation of the Act of Parliament, because he would show the House that not only the enlistment, but the procuring, or endeavouring to procure, the enlistment of persons to serve in a foreign army was an offence against the statute. The law upon the subject was as clear as law could be. In earlier times the youth of Britain were fond of going abroad to advance their interests, and frequently formed the guards of foreign sovereigns. Thus Louis XI. had his Scotch guard, as the Bourbons had their Swiss one. The first Act of Parliament upon the subject was passed in the year 1605, about the time of the Gunpowder Plot. That statute the 1st James I., cap. 4—commenced with a curious recital, which had been copied into subsequent Acts:— That, forasmuch as it is found by late experience, that such as go voluntarily out of this realm to serve foreign princes, states, and potentates are, for the most part, perverted in their religion and loyalty by Jesuits and fugitives, with whom they do there converse. And it enacted that any one who went out of the country without having taken the oath of allegiance to His Majesty should be deemed guilty of felony. There was another Act of the 9th of Geo. II., cap. 30, entitled "An Act to Prevent the Listing of His Majesty's Subjects to serve without His Majesty's Licence," which enacted that if any subject of His Majesty should enlist himself, or procure any other person to enlist, or should even attempt to procure any other person to go beyond seas, with an intent to be enlisted, to serve any foreign Prince without His Majesty's Licence he should be guilty of felony, and should suffer death without benefit of clergy. These were Acts of great severity; they had now become to a certain extent obsolete; and he admitted that he could find no case in which they had been enforced. The Act of Parliament which was now in force was the Act of 59th Geo. III., cap. 69, called "The Foreign Enlistment Act." It was introduced by Sir Samuel Shepherd, at that time Attorney General, and supported by Mr. Canning, and was intended to prevent persons going to assist the States of South America, which were then at war with Spain. The question was much discussed in that House, but ultimately the Act passed, and its provisions had been enforced. It might be suspended by an Order in Council; and in the year 1835 it was so suspended, in order that the subjects of the English Crown might enter the army of Queen Isabella of Spain, who was then at war with her uncle, Don Carlos. The matter was discussed in the House of Commons, the suspension of the Act being opposed by Lord Mahon, but after a debate the Order in Council was sustained. The law was now distinct and clear that it was an offence to enlist in the service of any foreign prince for any purpose whatever, and that those who procured or incited to that enlistment wore guilty of a misdemeanour punishable by fine and imprisonment. The proceedings which had been carried on lately in Ireland had excited attention both in this country and Europe, and it was important that the Government should state whether or not they had power to put a stop to this enlistment. There could be no want of evidence. Numerous journals had published their defiance of the Proclamation. The priests had enlisted the men in the broad daylight; a magistrate had countenanced their embarkation: they had a depot in London, in the neighbourhood of Tower-hill, and the offenders might be caught in flagrante delicto. Her Majesty's Government professed to observe neutrality abroad, and it was therefore important that they should state whether it was the will or the power which they wanted to stop the embarkation of the persons who were engaging in what was called a "crusade,"—an enterprise which had all the folly and none of the sublimity of the crusades which were preached by St. Bernard and Peter the Hermit,—and should inform the country what steps they intended to take in the matter. At present it appeared as though the Government were unable to prevent a violation of the law, or that they were making no serious efforts for its preven- tion. A good deal was said upon a previous occasion about a subscription for Garibaldi, and the Solicitor General had given an opinion as to its legality with which some other lawyers did not agree: but whatever doubt might exist as to whether the contribution of money to that subscription was or was not an offence at common law, there could be no question that the enlistment of persons to serve in the Pope's army, without a suspension of the Foreign Enlistment Act by an Order in Council, was a direct violation of the Act of Parliament. He hoped that he had brought this matter before the House with temper and moderation. He respected the religion of every one; but religious enthusiasm might carry men too far, and he thought it was the duty of the Government to let the House know whether they had the power to put a stop to this enlistment, and whether or not it was carried on with their sanction and approbation.


said, he had no complaint to make of the temper in which his hon. and learned Friend had brought this subject before the House. He should best respond to the spirit in which his hon. Friend had acted by confining himself to a simple statement of what were the facts of the case as far as they were known to him, and what had been the conduct of the Government. About the 26th of May last the Government were first informed that persons were being engaged in Ireland, under pretence, as it was at first stated, of going to make a railroad at Ancona, but, as was suspected and believed, for the purpose of their being enrolled in the army which was being raised for the service of the Pope. The Government immediately acted upon that knowledge, and caused, not a proclamation, but a police notice, containing an accurate statement of what was the law on the subject of foreign enlistment, to be universally circulated throughout the length and breadth of Ireland. Why it should be ridiculed he did not know; it was a simple statement of the terms of the Act of Parliament, and was intended to inform the people what they were prohibited by law from doing, and what the penalty would be if they continued to do the acts so prohibited. At the same time orders were given to the constabulary to enforce the law. Those orders had never been in any degree enfeebled by any instructions or want of instructions of the Government, and they were the orders under which the constabulary had acted from that day to the present. The Government had received continual reports from the constabulary officers, and those reports had been regularly submitted to the legal advisers of the Crown. He was very glad to have to reply to his hon. and learned Friend, because, as no one was better acquainted than he was with the proceedings of courts of law, no one could better appreciate the difference between statements in newspapers and the evidence necessary to sustain a prosecution. All he could say was that when statements had reached the Government which afforded the least reason to believe that further inquiry might furnish evidence which would sustain a prosecution, he had always directed that further inquiry should be made, more especially if the evidence was against, not the individuals offering for service, but the much more culpable persons constituting themselves agents for obtaining recruits for the Papal service. There had not, however, been a single case in which the legal advisers of the Crown thought it possible that the Crown could institute a prosecution. The Government had, therefore, not taken any such step, and he was quite sure that his hon. and learned Friend well knew that to institute a prosecution upon statements in newspapers, upon rumours, and upon hearsay evidence which could not be substantiated in a court of justice, was not the duty of the Government, and would not conduce to the honour and dignity of the Crown. With regard to a depot in London, he believed that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department was without any evidence to justify him in instituting a prosecution in London as the Irish Government up to the present moment were without evidence to justify them in instituting a prosecution in Ireland. What they had done was this —they had given fair notice of what were the prohibitions of the law, and what were the penalties by which those prohibitions were supported. They had given instructions to the police and to all the authorities under their command to maintain the dignity of the law and to support it. They had not had any evidence on which it was possible to institute a prosecution, and they had certainly not taken the course of bringing into court a case founded upon rumour or newspaper testimony, which would recoil on the authority of the law in the shape of a series of ridiculous failures, and bring the Crown and Government into contempt.


understood the law to be correctly laid down by the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone, that all persons who procured or incited others to enlist in a foreign army were guilty of misdemeanour. He thought it very unfortunate that such a state of things should arise, and that any persons, whether from religious or any other enthusiasm, should be tempted to desert their own country—if indeed the Irish people could be said to have any country to desert. He was not prepared to deny that numbers of persons, who would be excellent subjects if kept at home, were going out to take part in supporting the temporal dominion of his Holiness the Pope. He had seen notices to that effect in the newspapers, and he had just cut out one extract. [Laughter.] Ex uno disce omnes. It was from the last number from Dublin of the Catholic Telegraph, giving the account from one of these young men of their proceedings:— I must certainly admit, however, that up to the present moment we have been treated as gentlemen—travelling by sea as first-class passengers, by rail as second class, and putting up at the very best hotels, where we always obtained the choicest bill of fare the house could afford. We visited every place of amusement, and every object worthy of notice as we passed through England, Belgium Prussia, Saxony, Westphalia, Bohemia, Austria, and Italy; in short, everything we wished for that money could procure we had it for asking. That was more than they could get in Ireland. They happened to get into trouble about passports, and were put in prison for three days; but the writer said:— In fact, we were never so sorry for anything as at being discharged from custody, as we were very well content with such prison diet as roast fowl, green peas, and a pint of wine for breakfast; soup and maccaroni, meat, (roast and boiled) and a pudding, also washed down with a pint of wine, for dinner: coffee and bread at 7 o'clock; and supper—a repetition of the breakfast—at 10 P.M. We were not at all pleased at being released from such punishment, I can assure you. He then went on to speak of the low price of cigars, and concluded with "Remember me to all the boys." In an extract from the Clonmel Chronicle it was stated that eleven very fine fellows started by the railway en route for Rome; and a little lower down that fourteen more emigrants for the same locality arrived at the terminus. "What is rather curious is that none of them had any baggage." Twenty-five more left Clonmel on Tuesday, making 50 altogether. In another extract from the Tipperary Vindicator it was stated that 70 athletic young fellows left Thurles. "They all stood 6 feet or thereabouts, and one was 6 feet 5½ inches." Then it was stated that 70 more left, and then 50 of the bold Tipperary peasants; then 40 from Ballingarry and Killenaule; then 25 from Clonmel and 100 from Sligo, making altogether 355. It was very unfortunate that they should leave the country. They were very much wanted at home. They would be much more useful at home, and it would be very easy for the Government to keep them at home if they set the right way about it. The Wanderer, of Vienna, published a letter from Ancona, which said, "The Irish have had a fight among themselves." They could have had that at home. "And they wounded some of the gendarmes who interfered to separate them. The delegate has hitherto treated the Irish like princes, and their pretensions are in consequence unbounded. Every soldier insists on having his own room, table, &c. It is to be feared, after all, the Pontifical Government will be under the necessity of inviting these gentlemen to go home again." He took advantage of a recess occasioned by the Reform Bill, and there being nothing to do here of any consequence, to go over to the county of Tipperary and to see the peasantry. Many of them possessed of as good reasoning powers as hon. Members, without at all disparaging them. They asked, "Would he subscribe to Garibaldi?" He said he would not give a shilling to Garibaldi. "Would he subscribe to the other side?" he was then asked, and he said he would not give a shilling for either side to succeed, but he would give a large sum to stop them from cutting each others throats. Who knew anything about the affairs of Italy? He did not believe that any one knew which side was right. He understood, or at least he ought to understand, Ireland, but if the Orangemen and the Ribbonmen were flying at one another he would not give a shilling that either should succeed. He believed that both would be in the wrong. He would give a large sum of money to put both down, and he believed it was very much the same state of things in Italy. Gentlemen in that House were also carried away by their enthusiasm. Their Protestant feelings were excited. They were for putting down the Pope, and constantly urging the heads of the Government to meddle in affairs which did not concern them. No Government, whether Sardinian, Neapolitan, or Papal, believed that this Government were observing the principle of non-intervention with regard to Italy. He had asked the noble Lord some weeks since whether the feelings of Roman Catholics would be respected by a Ministry exclusively composed of Protestants, and whether he was prepared to recognize the principle of absolute non-intervention, more especially as regarded the dominions and sovereignty of his Holiness the Pope. The noble Lord took every occasion to insult his Holiness. They had a specimen last week, when the observations of the noble Lord, with his calm, benignant temper, were infinitely more insulting than the famous "mummeries of superstition" in the celebrated Durham letter. He had never said a word in defence of the rights of Roman Catholics, which he would not also say in defence of Protestants, or any other denomination, if he thought they were being persecuted. What the Roman Catholics wished for was simple justice, and that the Government should not use their power and influence in either direction. It was the persuasion that the Pope and his subjects were not getting fair play, and that the weight of the English Government was thrown into the balance against them, that brought on these enlistments. Not very long ago he was endeavouring to enforce the duty of non-intervention, in a quarrel which he could not understand, on an intelligent peasant in Ireland, when all of sudden the man turned the argument against him by saying, "What do you say, then, to the proceedings of your friends Lord Palmerston and Lord John Russell?" Being thus indentified with the two noble Lords, he could only quote in English what the noble Viscount (Viscount Palmerston) said the other night in Latin,— Pudet hæc opprobria nobls Et dici potuisse et non potuisse refelli. —"'Tis true, 'tis pity, pity 'tis 'tis true. Or, in other words:— We blush that such disgraces Can be flung into our faces; And that we are not able To say they are a fable. After the language used by the noble Lord the other evening, it was impossible to say that the Government were impartial. Re- ferring to the Pope and the King of Naples, the noble Lord said:— Those Governments forget that they are them selves the real and original authors and instigators of those movements, and if their prayer were granted and steps taken to promote and accomplish the object they desired (unless, which is very unlikely, they were prepared to alter their own courses), the first, most effectual, and only necessary step would be their own removal. By firebrand language of this description, in the House of Commons, the Government prevented the influence of men of moderate opinions like himself having any effect. He certainly had a right, he thought, to claim that title. He had exercised his own independent judgment on these matters, and he believed that he was the only Roman Catholic Member, not in the Government, who had not yielded to the pressure put upon him—and as much pressure had been put upon him as on any one, —to say that the maintenance of the temporal dominion of the Pope was essential to the exercise of his spiritual jurisdiction. Such incendiary language used by the Government paralyzed the action of moderate Roman Catholic gentlemen. Though the Government was entirely Protestant, it ought to respect the feelings of a large portion of the Queen's subjects. This kind of interference was never exercised with regard to Protestant Powers. Had the English Government ever interfered with the terrible bigotry of Sweden, or with the Russian persecutions of Roman Catholics? It was always used against Roman Catholic Powers for Protestant purposes. So long as this system continued, so long would the state of things described by the hon. Member for Marylebone continue. Let the Government desist from the use of such language as this, and let them come down here to-morrow and pass a good and just Land Bill, and then, and not till then, Irishmen would stop at home.


said, he must complain that, though the Government had expressed their readiness to prosecute people in Ireland for aiding the Pope, they had shown no readiness to put down other violations of the law which were taking place in this country, namely, conspiracies in this country to assist Garibaldi and his friends by subscriptions. There could be no doubt that Garibaldi and his friends were in open rebellion against a Sovereign who was in alliance with this country, and no lawyer would say that to meet openly and publicly to get up subscriptions to as- sist Garibaldi in overturning the power of an Ally was an indictable offence by our laws. The Scotch law repressed offences against the State with a much stronger hand, and this was an offence clearly punishable by the Scotch law; yet only the other day a meeting was held at Edinburgh, attended by men of the greatest mark in that City, at which Resolutions were passed expressing sympathy with the Sicilians, and a subscription was opened. Among the subscribers were such men as Lord Kinnaird, William Patrick, Esq., Lieutenant-Colonel Somerville, and Commissary-General Wemyss. These gentlemen had as openly violated the Scotch law as the Irish law was violated by the recruits. He certainly thought that if such things were allowed to be done against a Sovereign Ally, it would be a gross inconsistency if Irishmen were prosecuted for assisting a Sovereign Ally. Apart from the merits of the contest both sides ought to be treated with perfect impartiality. He was surprised that the Government should treat as it did the Court of Borne, for there was not a single Ally of this country to whom we were more indebted for long, true, and faithful service. He therefore trusted the Government would act towards the See of Borne with the same impartiality that it would exhibit towards the more powerful of its Allies.