HC Deb 07 June 1861 vol 163 cc760-1

Perhaps the House will allow me to make a statement which affects myself personally. I wish to explain what has been my conduct with regard to a debate which took place in this House, and at the same time to answer certain charges made against me. It appears that on the 18th of May a question was put in this House to my noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) with respect to Mr. Brackenbury and the Vice Consul at Xerez. After that debate my noble Friend called my attention to the subject, and I immediately sent for the papers and examined them carefully. Some days were necessarily employed in framing a draught despatch on the subject; but on the 28th of May I wrote this draught to Consul Brackenbury— Foreign Office, May 28. Sir,—With reference to your correspondence with Sir Andrew Buchanan respecting Protestant worship at Xerez, I have to state to you that the refusal of Mr. Gordon to allow Protestant service to be performed in his house, on the ground that he could not, as a Roman Catholic, conscientiously do so, makes it desirable that his office as British Vice-Consul should be transferred to some other person. Her Majesty's Government are perfectly aware that, as Mr. Gordon points out in his letter to Mr. Methuen, there is no Act of Parliament under which British subjects have a right to claim the use of a Consul's house for the performance of Divine worship; but it is obvious that in Spain, where the laws are such that British subjects are unable to obtain permission to worship according to the tenets of the vast majority of Englishmen, in any other place than the Consular residence, Her Majesty's Government are bound to favour the appointment to Consular offices of persons who are not impelled by conscientious scruples to refuse to their countrymen facilities for Protestant worship in their Consular residences. I have, therefore, to instruct you to recommend, as a successor to Mr. Gordon, some other British resident at Xerez, who would not object to the performance of Protestant service in his house. The House will now be able to judge whether I am in fault or not.


I wish to say one word in explanation. The date of the despatch is the 28th of May. The discussion took place in this House on the 18th of May. I said last night that I had read a letter dated the 27th of May, and up to that period Consul Brackenbury had received no orders from Her Majesty's Government or the British Minister at Madrid. As I know that the mail only takes five days from Cadiz to London, I ask the House whether or not the noble Lord, with due submission to his important duties, might not have made the communication at an earlier period?