HC Deb 04 May 1860 vol 158 cc681-2

said, he rose to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether Mr. Cobden holds any Diplomatic Appointment at Paris; and, if so, whether that appointment is independent of or subordinate to the English Ambassador? His question was not put from any invidious feeling towards the hon. Member. On the contrary, he trusted he might bear his willing testimony to the fact that the services of the hon. Gentleman had been rendered without any attempt on his part, or on the part of his friends, to obtain any emolument whatever. The hon. Gentleman had negotiated a Treaty, which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had characterized as one that would produce vast benefits to this country. He (Mr. Palk) only hoped that that expectation might be verified to the extremity of the letter. But rumour stated that the same hon. Gentleman was about to be employed in a negotiation of still greater importance than that which be had lately conducted. He alluded to the Treaty for giving reciprocity to that interest which was suffering more than any other from the effects of recent acts of legislation. He trusted that the efforts of the hon. Gentleman to obtain some better terms for the mercantile marine of this country might be crowned with success. He did not doubt that the negotiation would be conducted with a due regard for the honour and dignity of this country; but he questioned whether an individual having no official position, and no recognized status, as a plenipotentiary or attaché to an embassy, ought to be entrusted with a commission of such great importance. This country surely was great enough, rich enough, and powerful enough to pay for the services of its public men. It was moreover doing an injustice, both to the individual and to the Treaty itself, if they permitted Mr. Cobden to negotiate at Paris without a known and recognized position, He trusted the noble Lord would be able to assure him that this point had already been taken into consideration by Her Majesty's Government. Whether it was right or usual to place an individual, who had hitherto bad no connection with the diplomatic service, in a position where he must in reality be supported by a well-trained and experienced negotiator was a question he (Mr. Palk) would not go into. Mr. Cobden was entrusted with a mission of very great importance, in which every one in the House must wish him complete success. But no means should be left unattempted to secure this end; and it was only just that the individual himself should speak in the matter with the authority of an accredited agent.