HC Deb 03 May 1860 vol 158 cc563-4

said, he would beg to ask the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether he is prepared to give the House any information as to the present position of the negotiations between this country and the United States with reference to the Island of San Juan; and whether he has any objection to lay the Correspondence with the United States Government on that subject upon the Table of the House. He wished further to ask, although he had not given notice of his intention to do so, what is the present condition of affairs as to the occupation of, and jurisdiction in, the Island of San Juan, in consequence of the arrangements made with General Scott. He also wished to know whether the noble Lord has received any counter proposition from the United States, and whether he has made any other proposition to the United States in consequence of the compromise which he proposed having been rejected. Would the noble Lord also state what is the nature of the compromise that has been rejected by the United States?


Sir, with respect to the last question I cannot properly give an answer at present, for it would not be convenient to explain now the nature of what the hon. Gentleman calls the compromise we proposed, which we think was fairly in accordance with the terms of the Treaty in 1846. The present state of the question is this:—Her Majesty's Government made a proposition in August last which was refused by the American Government, they stating over again their claim to the channel which they had originally claimed soon after the Treaty. We intended to reply to that, and there was some question whether the American Government would give any reply to our despatch, but the last intelligence I received was that General Cass expected to receive orders from the President to prepare an answer to our despatch. It depends upon the terms of that answer whether I can lay the correpondence on the Table, or whether some further reply on the part of Her Majesty's Government may not be necessary. As to the state of the occupation of the Island of San Juan, the House is aware that General Harney thought it necessary to place 800 men and a battery of guns on the Island. General Scott was sent there with orders from the President to use his own discretion, on the basis of Mr. Secretary Marcy's despatch, which is well known to hon. Members. General Scott, acting in the spirit of that despatch, immediately sent away from the island all but 100 men, and declared that neither party ought to have exclusive jurisdiction while the question was pending. He also sent away the guns, and informed the Governor of Vancouver's Island and our Admiral of what he had done. The Governor of Vancouver's Island did not consider himself authorized to enter into any compromise or agreement with General Scott, not having had any orders from home. Orders have since been sent to the Admiral to land 100 marines—the same number of men which the United States had placed on the island. As I have said before, the Government thought this was entirely in accordance with what the American Government had stated on this point, that while the matter was in discussion and under controversy, there ought to be no exclusive jurisdiction exercised on the island. There has been some doubt in the mind of the Governor of Vancouver's Island whether the English ought not to have a magistrate on the island. What the present state of things is at present I cannot tell; but what I have stated is the latest intelligence which Her Majesty's Government have received.