HC Deb 15 July 1862 vol 168 cc351-76

said, he was warned yesterday evening that both front benches had agreed together to count out the House on this Motion. He did not suppose that the House could be so indifferent to a subject which affected it so nearly. The papers on the affairs of Mexico had an interest peculiar to themselves. The last of them was delivered on Saturday, and it would be unconstitutional not to submit that policy to discussion by the House. The usual objection could not be urged, that he was referring to events long past and gone; he had taken the earliest opportunity of bringing the papers before the House—namely, the first Motion night after the production of the papers. From those papers it appeared that Her Majesty's Government refused to conclude peace with Mexico, through undue subserviency to the French Emperor. The French, the House would remember, took up an independent line of action in Mexico, "frustrating the objects of the three Powers" (according to the language of our Minister) "breaking the Convention of London," and "violating the preliminaries of Soledad." We considered this "a slight" to England and Spain, and withdrew. Our Plenipotentiaries then concluded a peace which procured, as Lord Russell avowed, "the redress which had been so long sought;" and obtained the most ample guarantees in waste lands and church property. Before ratifying this Convention, Lord Russell wrote for the Emperor's sanction. The Emperor disapproved, and the treaty was therefore repudiated. This point he was prepared to prove, after rapidly sketching the previous occurrences, so as to show that the same influence had prevailed throughout. He thought that the two front benches could not venture to count out the House on a question of such vital importance to the country. The first paper on this subject contained the Dunlop and Aldham Conventions; not, however, the negotiations which led to them. From these Conventions it would appear that the grievances consisted merely in non-payment of creditors. Little enough was said about reparation for outrages. The satisfaction demanded and given was 51 per cent upon the imports. Captain Dunlop, in the despatch enclosing the Convention, dated February 2, 1859, said that Juarez "had at once acceded to all the demands for redress of the British."

He trusted the House would permit him briefly to remind them of the origin of Mexican bonds, and of our claims; so that hon. Members might perceive the true bearings of the subject. The loan was subscribed thirty-six or thirty-seven years ago in London, in order to enable Mexico to achieve her independence; payment was now exacted in such a way as to destroy that independence, and to crush that nation under the Power of France. The circumstances of the loan were these. In 1822 France was going to interfere in Spain in favour of King Ferdinand, to put down the spirit of liberty, and to gain an influence in the country. We opposed that proceeding. The Congress of Verona then met, and France, Russia, and Spain threatened to declare war if we resisted the action of France in Spain. Canning gave way, for he said it would be no good to send a fleet to Cadiz. He declared, however, that it should not be the Spain of former years; if France gained an influence in Spain, it should be Spain without the Indies. "Thus," said he, "I called the new world into existence to redress the balance of the old." Mr. Rush, the United States Minister, supported us; and President Monroe, in his message of December 2, 1823, said he would consider it a casus belli if those Powers interfered in South America. The independence of Mexico was declared in 1826. The loan was secured on the Mexican province of Texas. When the independence of Texas was declared in 1840, she took on herself, by the treaty with us, only £1,000,000 of the foreign debt, and the remainder was put on Mexico. This constituted our claim against Mexico. The bonds were now chiefly held by Mexicans. Sir Charles Wyke gave a history of the Conventions. The first was in 1842, when the recognised claims amounted to only £1,000,000. The Doyle Convention was in 1851; it was made "in consequence of the impossibility for Mexico to fulfil her engagements," and of "the penury of the treasury." By that convention 12 per cent of the imports were "mortgaged" to us. In 1852 there was the second Doyle Convention; it was "because of the apprehended deficit," and 15 per cent of the imports were "assigned" to us. In 1858 there was the Otway Convention; this was "because of the distressed condition of the national finances," and 16 per cent of the imports were assigned to us, while the rate of interest was doubled. In 1859 there was the Dunlop Convention, to "put an end to the difficulties in Mexico." Then 51 per cent of the imports were assigned. By the table which was given it appeared that the interest had been regularly paid until June 4, 1861, and one-sixth of the original capital had been discharged. In December, 1860, 65 per cent of the imports were assigned. In May, 1861, 77 per cent; and in October, 1861, 87 per cent of the imports. A great deal had been said of the outrages committed in Mexico. Those to which most importance had been attached were the Legation robbery, and the Conducta robbery. The former occurred in the following manner. There were two factions in Mexico. The party of Miramon, Marquez, Miranda, Almonte, and Cobos, or the Church party, were in power. These were no better than brigands; they were utterly lawless. The other party was the Liberal, or Constitutional party, at whose head was Juarez. On the 24th of August, 1860, Lord Russell wrote to Mr. Matthew, our Minister at Mexico, to break off relations with Miramon. Mr. Matthew did so, and left Mexico. After his departure a room in the house of Mr. Barton was broken open, and 660,000 dols. were taken out of it. Mr. Matthew, in writing to Mr. Glennie, our Consul, who was left in Mexico, said, "the money should have been levied in the outports, and not have been paid in Mexico." Mr. M'Garel, the chairman of the bondholders, directly charged Lord Russell with the fault, saying that this Legation robbery occurred because Lord Russell refused to interfere for the safe transmission of the money to the shore; so that Mr. Whitehead, the agent for the bondholders, had to keep it in Mexico for two or three years, instead of sending it away; and that when the Legation left so precipitately, it was impossible to make the necessary arrangements. It was clearly not in the interest of the bondholders that Lord Russell took that step. Lord Russell tried, however, to make his peace with the bondholders, by writing, on January 12, 1861, that he would recognize Juarez as President, if Juarez would promise to pay back the money which Miramon had taken.

The following was the account of the Conducta robbery—or rather the Conducta "occupation"; for the Mexicans said they merely occupied the money, but did not rob it. Juarez had not money enough to pay his troops, when he was fighting again Miramon, and implored Lord Russell to allow the 51 per cent assignment on the imports to be suspended for two or three months. Lord Russell, however, demanded his "pound of flesh;" he would "have his bond." General Degollado then seized a "conducta" of silver to pay his troops. He did it in proper legal form, for he gave a receipt for repayment, and designated church property of the value of three millions, in the province of Guajanato, as security. The amount taken was said to be 400,000 dols. He expressly stated that he considered it "a matter of life and death to the Republic;" that he had to "hasten to repress anarchy, because of the rumoured Spanish invasion." When Juarez came to hear of the proceedings of his General, he was exceedingly angry, and gave "peremptory orders for restitution," and for reparation. He even ordered a sale of monasteries to repay the sum. Degollado at last returned the 400,000 dols. This belonged partly to us, and partly to other nations. Mr. Matthew, however, writes—"I could not concur in the legal right of others." And hence those sacks which had Spanish or other marks upon them, were emptied out, and the money stowed in British Backs. In short, we in our turn, "occupied" the silver of all the foreigners. A great noise was made about this. But" writes Mr. Matthew, "thinking it of primary importance that a good feeling should exist among all foreigners, I agreed on the restitution, to all foreigners, of any sacks proved to have contained money bonâ fide their property. The French, however, ended the dispute by seizing all the money and putting it in limbo. Mr. Matthew then wrote to the Comte de la Londe, the French Chargé d'Affaires, calling this "an outrage against the British Legation;" and saying that "such proceedings of M. de St. Charles must be put a stop to," and "the Emperor must be held responsible." This was "tall talking." But he was not supported by Her Majesty's Government. Lord Russell subsequently, however, ordered Captain Aldham to demand redress from the Mexicans. Captain Aldham thereupon wrote an extremely sensible answer. He said, in the first place, that "the amount stated (400,000 dols.) is excessive;" our loss was not so great. The Mexican Government, besides, were "labouring under great difficulties," and "it would be injurious to British inter- ests to overpress them." He then concluded with these words— To take possession of the castle or town of Vera Cruz would be to annihilate British interests, and throw our commerce into the hands of the Americans, who would give it ingress over the frontier. Mr. Matthew acknowledged the truth of all this; but said, that "poverty could not be accepted as an excuse;" and even suggested that Juarez, if he be poor, should disband the army which had been fighting for the cause of order against Miramon—for the President whom Lord Russell had recognised, against the opponent with whom Mr. Matthew had broken off friendly relations. Juarez, however, issued a decree for the sale of national buildings, in order to meet his engagements; he assigned fifteen per cent on all the revenues of Mexico; fifty per cent on the imports of Tampico, and as much as could be spared from the customs revenues of Vera Cruz. He ordered, also, that repayment of the Conducta money should be made, as well as compensation for all damages. Mr. Matthew, however, refused to accept that satisfaction, and, according to instructions from Lord Russell, he addressed to Juarez "a peremptory demand." The very next day, however, he wrote his secret thoughts to Lord Russell. He assured him that "the Mexican Government is most desirous to do what is right, but is surrounded by difficulties;" and that he is "convinced of the sincerity of Juarez's Government, but their treasury is utterly impoverished." Sir Charles Wyke had to keep up a harsh and impracticable appearance before Juarez, yet he imploringly poured out his secret soul to Lord Russell. Thus we found that Sir Charles Wyke, on June 24, 1861, "threatened to break off relations" with Juarez. Yet on the same day, in a despatch to Lord Russell, he wrote— Your Lordship will perceive that the difficulties of the situation, and the penury of the treasury, are urged as excuses. Such being the case, he (Juarez) offers compensation in the shape of convents, farms recently belonging to the Church, or even the National Palace itself. So again Mr. Matthew said, that the chief difficulties in the way of peace were from "the reclamations of foreigners." On the 12th of May, 1861, he laid down two distinct propositions in writing to Lord Russell— (1.) "The most imminent peril to Mexico is the deplorable state of its finances, Whereupon he showed that the Mexican Government paid to foreigners 77 per cent on all imports. He said further— The resources now receivable by the Government are avowedly unequal to more than half the amount of the expenditure actually requisite. The second proposition was this— The hope of Mexico rests upon the maintenance of peace … But unless the present Government be in some way avowedly upheld by England or the United States, further deplorable convulsions will afflict this unfortunate country, to the heavy injury of British interests and commerce. Now, what interpretation could be given to all this self-contradiction? What meaning could be attached to it? Did it not appear that they were pulled different ways—that they were none of them their own masters? They would naturally act according to their knowledge of the facts of the case, but were constrained to act in another way. This was explained on July 26, when Sir Charles Wyke wrote, that "M. de Saligny had acted in concert with him throughout," but had gone further than Sir Charles Wyke would have done. He incidentally mentioned in the same despatch that the French claim, was only £40,000, and was "being paid off." Elsewhere he called the French claim "a mere trifle." On August 21 Lord Russell sent out instructions to Sir Charles Wyke. They were repeated on August 31, and again on September 10. M. Thouvenel said that he sent out identical instructions to M. de Saligny. On October 28 Sir Charles Wyke wrote that "he had gained his point," and that "69 per cent of the customs were now mortgaged to us." In the mean while Lord Russell negotiated and signed a tripartite treaty for war and invasion. And yet, on November 28, Lord Russell wrote to Sir Charles Wyke to tell him that he (Sir Charles Wyke) had satisfactorily carried out the instructions of August 21. It was plain, therefore, that a mere desire for redress or satisfaction was not what had guided Lord Russell's policy; but that there was some other influence at work. Then, again, Sir Charles Wyke, although he had satisfactorily carried his point, yet insisted, immediately after, upon a reduction of 50 per cent in the customs tariff, saying he would "force them to do this." The free Congress which Juarez had established, objected, however, to foreign interference. Sir Charles Wyke thereupon proceeded to instruct General Doblado how such things were usually effected, and conspired with the minister to cajole the Parliament. The English bondholders, however, objected to the reduction of the tariff, and it was given up. But Congress gave full powers to General Doblado to arrange everything to the best of his judgment. Sir Charles Wyke then received intelligence of the tripartite convention, and of the impending invasion. He therefore broke off the negotiations, and wrote to Doblado, to hope that he would take the invasion "in a friendly, not in a hostile spirit." In the midst of the despatches of the year 1861, he (Lord R. Montagu) suddenly stumbled upon a despatch from Lord Russell to Earl Cowley, dated July 17, 1860, in which there occurred the extraordinary expression:—"when there is a question of renewing our offer of mediation." Lord Russell spoke in 1860 of renewing our offer. When did we first offer to mediate between France and Mexico? Had these operations been carried on for so long? The country had never had the slightest intimation of the "Mexican question" until September 24, 1861. Some papers ought, therefore, to be laid before the House in explanation of this despatch. On the 23rd of September last, Lord Russell became "apprehensive" lest France was "going to organize a new government," and to promote "the political reorganization of Mexico." In January last his misapprehensions were considerably increased, when he heard that the French Emperor was about to augment his force by 3,000 men, and was going to march on Mexico, in order to place Maximilian on the throne. He then made the discovery that "a combined expedition is subject to the rashness of the several commanders and diplomatic agents." In February, even Sir Charles Wyke became "apprehensive." He found that we could not support the French claims. M. Thouvenel, on the other hand, held that "we were bound by the Convention of London to support each other's claims." The first claim was for twelve millions of dollars. That claim, he confessed, was "unexamined;" it was "an approximation to the value, within a million, more or less." Then there was the Jecker claim. Jecker, a notorious "fisher in troubled waters," lent Miramon, when his Government was "on its last legs," the sum of 750,000 dols., and received bonds, in return, for fifteen millions of dollars. In 1860 (when we re- newed our offer of mediation) the whole scrip was made over to M. Gabriac (the French Minister in Mexico), to M. de Saligny, and to others. It was said that they were held by M. Morny, and perhaps by some above him. Juarez offered to pay the original 750,000 dols., but his offer was not accepted. Lord Russell designated this claim as "an unreasonable pretension," and "an extravagant demand." Spain and France took advantage of the refusal of Juarez, to announce their intention to push on, and establish another government in Mexico. General Zaragoza humbly suggested that "this would be an act of war." Sir Charles Wyke, who could not disentangle himself from France, wrote to General Zaragoza to say that he considered this "uncourteous and aggressive in tone." All that was bad enough; yet it appeared we got still deeper into the mire; we had got entangled, not only with France, but with Italy also. Sir Charles Wyke wrote thus to Lord Russell:—"Our ninth conference opened by my informing the Commissioners that the King of Italy was about to send here an expedition, with the view of sustaining his claims." This was twice solemnly denied in the Italian Parliament, by Signor Ratazzi, the Prime Minister. The Italians have made some progress in the practice of Parliamentary Government. Immediately after this Almonte arrived, by the Emperor's express orders, along with Miranda, and other followers of Miramon. They kept up a correspondence with Marquez and Cobos, and stirred up revolution throughout the country. Sir Charles Wyke considered that the French had "taken up a separate line of action," and looked upon this as "a slight on England and Spain." And then, in ignorance of the influence which had been exerted on Lord Russell, he turned round, and charged this "crippling of their action" on "the want of foresight" in Her Majesty's Government. He then did tardy justice to those whom he had so often traduced and maligned: he wrote— The Mexican Government have acted, in the face of great difficulties, with perfect good faith to us in all the engagements we have entered into with them. Then, on April 11, were withdrawn the troops of Spain, and the moral support of Great Britain. Now, he came to the last papers on this subject, which were distributed on Saturday. There he found that the British and Spanish claims to- gether amounted to only £700,000; and that after we had broken with the French, a convention had been concluded by our Plenipotentiaries on two bases—(1) on the basis of a loan from the United States; or (2), failing that, the guarantee which was to have been given to them should be handed over to us. Sr Charles Wyke wrote to Lord Russell— Should the United States Convention not be ratified by the Cabinet of Washington, then the same lands and church property offered to them as a guarantee shall be sold and payment be made. He concluded— Everything I have lately done has been based, of course, on the direct violation of the London Convention by France, which has restored us to a perfect freedom of action. So he thought in his innocence, yet here he was quite mistaken, for Lord Russell wrote to Earl Cowley, on June 14, to say that "he thought it right (before ratifying the treaty) to communicate with France, although it was found to grant the redress so long sought." M. Thouvenel answered, "No doubt it was our strict right, but it was not advisable." Lord Russell, on June 17, returned the following answer:— Her Majesty's Government do not find that the Convention of Puebla contravenes either the principle of non-intervention or the general engagement not to seek any territorial dominions or separate advantage in Mexico. It only proposes to do that which England, France, and Spain desire to do jointly, and which, since the rupture of Orizaba, we must all do separately, namely, to giant redress for the just complaint of Great Britain. But, as M. Thouvenel had not approved of it, he found, on closer examination, that it was "not in conformity with those great rules of policy by which the British nation is guided." That which had guided us seemed to have been the will of the French Emperor. For the sake of appearances, however, he had to pick some hole in it; so he said— It recognises, for instance, a treaty between Mexico and the United States, by which Mexico is to obtain a loan… Her Majesty's Government are not fully informed of all the articles of this treaty, but it may contain provisions injurious to the independence of Mexico. And again— It may have some bearing, not now apparent, on the independence of Mexico. He concluded by promising that he would not answer our Plenipotentiaries till July 1, so that M. Thouvenel might have further time for consideration. Lord Russell finally promised M. Thouvenel that he would not ratify the treaty. Then M. Thouvenel answered, in the height of arrogance, that the Emperor was satisfied with the sentiments of friendship expressed by Her Majesty's Government, yet he would have been more satisfied if these had been made the sole ground and the turning point of Lord Russell's refusal to ratify the convention. On the 27th of June, Lord Russell sent his answer to Sir Charles Wyke. He, in the first place, approved of Sir Charles Wyke's "separating himself from the French" after their "violation of the Convention of London." He then gave as his reason for not ratifying, that the guarantee to the United States might give them some influence over Mexico. Lord Russell had, however, already heard from New York, on June 20, that the Untied States Congress had refused to accede to the loan; and therefore the other alternative was in reality the only basis of our Convention—namely, that the waste lands and church property should be sold in order to pay our demands. He must ask now, whether our Plenipotentiaries acted in accordance with, or against their instructions. If the former, then their convention should be ratified; if the latter, then they should have been censured by Her Majesty's Government. The only escape from this dilemma was to suppose that the instructions which were sent out were defective. A few other points were pressed upon our consideration by the correspondence under consideration. While Mexico was a prey to brigands, then we acquiesced in that state of things. The moment there was a Government which was producing order, then we joined in sending armies to foment rebellion. It was Miramon that committed the outrages on foreigners. Then our agent, Mr. Otway, connived with him. Now, we enforced our demands on a Government which abstained from outrage; and at a time, moreover, when we knew our demands could not possibly be met. The Mexican Minister for Foreign Affairs went further, and asserted that "all the disturbances which had occurred since the declaration of independence had been stirred up by foreign diplomatic agents." In the next place, these operations in Mexico were not divulged until after Parliament was prorogued and when no question could be asked about them. The country had never heard anything about the matter till they saw it in the Morning Post of September 24, on in The Times of September 27. The first extra Parliamentary war was in 1857. The noble Viscount defended that on the ground that the principle of the previous sanction of Parliament did not apply to Asiatic wars; now it was made not to apply to wars in America. It would next be supposed not to apply to wars in Europe. Yet, if this were permitted, Parliament would become a mere farce. For how could that House control the expenditure if negotiations were to be carried on in secret, and wars were to be begun without sanction? In former days many difficulties were thrown in the way of commencing a war. The Constitution demanded that three steps should be taken—(1) There must be a message from the Crown asking for supplies. Thus King George II. asked for supplies "to concert measures against Sweden." That House did not think such a step would be wise, and they refused the supplies. (2) If the supplies were granted, a statement of grievances was presented to the foreign Power, and reparation demanded. (3) If the redress were refused, then the Sovereign formally declared war in council. None of these steps had been taken in the present instance. The right hon. Member for Bucks had declared that expenditure depended upon policy. It seemed to him that expenditure depended upon unconstitutional and illegal action. We had entered into a coalition to enforce pecuniary claims. He had thought the country did not love coalitions. We had a coalition with France in the Crimea. Was that sore yet healed? We had a coalition with France in China. Did we get any good from, that? Yet here we had another coalition. But if we were doomed to make a coalition, why should it be a coalition to enforce pecuniary claims? He had heard of a coalition to prevent the Crowns of France and Spain from devolving on the same head. He had heard of coalitions to determine the frontiers of aggressive States. But he never before heard of a coalition to enforce pecuniary claims. He never heard of three armies encamped, as creditors, upon the soil of a bankrupt friend. We had no means of knowing whether the claims of France were just or unjust. The result was that we found ourselves enforcing claims which were extravagant and fraudulent. Nay, it was not even a coalition to enforce pecuniary claims, for the United States had offered the money, and we had refused it. Mexico had offered material guarantees, and we had refused them. We went, in fact, to further the views of the French Emperor. But what interest had the French in going there? What advantage did they seek? We knew the scheme of aggrandisement which Richelieu had devised for France. Napoleon hoped to carry this out in 1810. The State papers of 1819 revealed a project to dispossess Spain of her colonies, and to erect French dependencies. In the Congress of Verona, Canning thwarted such an intention. In 1844 M. Guizot prevailed upon Lord Aberdeen to join him in an interference in Mexico. What did France care for putting Maximilian on the throne? What would she gain by giving Venice to Sardinia? No, we had been outwitted or overruled by France. Then, when we had made a lucky breach with them, and when our Plenipotentiaries had concluded the Convention of Puebla, our Government, out of deference to the French Emperor, repudiated that settlement, although it fully "gave the redress so long sought." If this subservience to France was a mistake, it was at least a costly error. But it was worse than a mistake; for we had combined with the murderer of his country's liberties, and joined him in planting a despotism on a free soil. Even now we could not entirely shako off our accomplice, although we saw him doomed to the abhorrence of man and the vengeance of Heaven.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to give directions for supplying those deficiencies in the former instructions furnished to Sir C. Wyke and Captain Dunlop, which resulted in the signing, by Her Majesty's Plenipotentiaries at Puebla, of a Convention now repudiated by Her Majesty's Government at home.


said, he must decline to follow the noble Lord in a large portion of his speech, which appeared to him not to be conceived in very good taste, nor would he follow the noble Lord into his review of history, or what had fallen from him with regard to the Government entering into wars without the sanction of Parliament. But he was desirous of putting upon its true footing the important question which the noble Lord had raised. In the first place, he wished to say a few words upon the general policy of the Mexican intervention, and then he would en- deavour to answer the somewhat unintelligible Questions which the noble Lord had put on the paper. As to the general policy of the affair, he thought the mission of the British Government was perfectly clear. The noble Lord, following the example of others, had tried to lead the House to believe that the occurrences in Mexico had arisen from a desire on the part of the British Government to assert the claims of British subjects upon the Government of Mexico; in other words, to use an expression constantly applied to their interference in Mexico, that they had gone there to collect bad debts. The noble Lord was totally mistaken upon that point. There were many outrages to be redressed, many claims to be enforced, besides those of the Mexican bondholders. But even with regard to the Mexican bondholders, the Government, like many which had preceded it, had carefully avoided mixing up those which had been ratified by a national convention with those which had not been so ratified. Even the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. S. Fitzgerald), to whom the bondholders were so much indebted and who had received a vote of thanks from them for the energy he had manifested, would be the first to get up and say that it was not the part of the British Government to go to war or even to interfere to enforce claims like those of the greater part of the Mexican bondholders. The Mexican bondholders had various claims on the Mexican Government. A certain portion of them had been recognised under a convention, known as the Dunlop Convention. That convention had not been actually carried out, but it had been confirmed by another convention. Thus two solemn international obligations had been entered into, which it was the bounden duty of Her Majesty's Government to enforce. Besides these, there were many other claims. The papers laid on the table referred to various claims which British subjects and firms had on the Mexican Government. These were perfectly legitimate claims; but, besides these claims, there were outrages of a very serious kind—to say nothing of murders—which had been committed on Her Majesty's subjects, for which no redress had been obtained—outrages on the British Government of the most serious nature; for instance, the outrage on the British Embassy, when Miramon ordered a room to be broken open, and property placed under the seal of the British Legation was carried off, in violation of the most sacred rights, from the residence of the British Minister. More than that, a sum of money belonging to British subjects which had been sent down to the sea-coast had been pillaged by an officer of the Mexican Government, acting on their responsibility. No doubt the British Government had a right to demand redress for those outrages, and to enforce those claims. Throughout the whole negotiation they had, however, carefully avoided mixing up with those claims, which ought to be enforced, the claims of the bondholders which had not been ratified. When people chose to lend money to a foreign country, they did so at their own risk. It would be monstrous for the Government to interfere in such cases, or that the bondholders should have all the advantages of profits without the risks. The noble Lord moved for the circular which had been written by the noble Lord on the subject of foreign loans; that circular laid down distinctly the principle on which the Government had interfered in behalf of the British claimants. The principle was undeniable. It was one of the most difficult things for a Government to deal with a weak State. They did not know exactly what to do. The moment they made any attempt to interfere, the parties made any terms, and a convention was signed; but scarcely had that taken place, when the same course had to be renewed. A strong Government did not like to interfere with a weak Government; but if they altogether refused, British subjects, whose property had been destroyed and whose lives had been threatened, would have a right to complain. He ventured to say nothing could be more forbearing than the instructions of his noble Friend with which Sir Charles Wyke went to Mexico. It was stated distinctly, that if the Mexican Government would now give the redress to which we were entitled, we would forget all that had gone by, and renew with them the most friendly relations. The noble Lord had spoken that night as if Juarez, on coming to the Presidency, was ready to do everything that was required; but, on the contrary, outrages had been committed as frequently as before, Englishmen were murdered, and the very sum taken by force from the British Residency, which the Government was pledged to pay, had been withheld. Juarez stated that the British Government must prosecute those concerned in the outrage on the British Legation. They were prosecuted, and acquitted on the ground that it was not a theft, but an incident of military occupation. No doubt Sir Charles Wyke succeeded in obtaining redress from Juarez, but the convention was not ratified; it was rejected by the Mexican Legislature. Over and over again in his despatches Sir Charles Wyke called on the British Government to interfere; no one could be more urgent than Sir Charles Wyke upon, that point. He must be allowed to put the noble Lord right as to the facts of the case. England was not the only Power that had claims on Mexico; she was not the only Power which had suffered outrages that called for redress. The French Government had claims, though not so large or so important as we had. The Spanish Government had also claims, and the claims of Spain had been recognised by a treaty known as the Almonte Treaty. That treaty was set at nought. The first Power to take any step towards interference in Mexico was Spain. Spain proposed to take possession of Vera Cruz and Tampico. Spain fully made up her mind to that. That was plain from the papers which had been laid on the table. The French Government was equally ready with Spain to enforce its claims; and what were we to do? Were we to co-operate with them, or to take independent action? Had we not interfered at all, it would have been said that we neglected to enforce British claims, and that we had abandoned British rights. If we had taken independent action, we should probably have come into collision with France or Spain, and our only course appeared to be that which we did take. In order that our action should be clearly understood, the Convention of London was signed. We had no desire to interfere in the internal affairs of Mexico; our object was solely to enforce our claims, and the occupying of any territory or place on the coast would be only temporary. The noble Lord had spoken of troops being sent to Mexico, but that was not the case. Her Majesty's Government from the very beginning said, that there was no intention of making any advance into the interior—all that was intended was to occupy Vera Cruz, to which they had a right and title by treaty. For that purpose, only a force of 700 Marines was sent to occupy San Juan d'Ulloa. The noble Lord also talked of the great expense which had been incurred in moving the Marines. Now, he must say, no doubt Sir Charles Wyke had acted for the best; but he had committed two grave mistakes at the commencement, which were not justified by any instructions he received from his Government; indeed, they were diametrically opposed to his instructions. The first mistake consisted in his issuing a proclamation, stating that the object of the intervention was the regeneration of the country; and the second was the attempt to place the Marines on the same footing with the French and Spanish force, and send them into the interior to co-operate with them. Those mistakes were made in direct opposition to the instructions of Her Majesty's Government, although, no doubt, Sir Charles Wyke acted with the very best intentions. They led, however, to very serious consequences. Soon after the landing the Mexican Government signified their wish to bring matters to an amicable termination, and the Convention of Soledad was agreed upon, by which the allies were allowed to advance, on the condition, that if war broke out, they would return to their original positions. This showed that the Mexican Government did not consider the position of the allies, so far, was a hostile one. Then appeared upon the scene a man who, according to all accounts, was the most promising Mexican statesman, and the man most likely to restore order and establish a strong Government under Juarez. He referred to General Doblado, who made very liberal proposals to the allies, which had every prospect of being accepted. Unfortunately, however, General Almonte, a refugee, intervened—a man who had entertained the idea that there was a strong monarchical party in Mexico, which had only to be appealed to to rise at once and set up a monarchy in the place of the Government of Juarez. All the information which Her Majesty's Government had received was directly opposed to that opinion, and it had been confirmed by the result. General Almonte, however, appeared to have persuaded the representative of France that a monarchical party really existed, and that it would be useless to treat any longer with the Mexican Government; and he induced the French to withdraw their adhesion from the Convention of Soledad, renounce all communication with the Government of Juarez, and to return to the landing-place in order to make a hostile advance. Her Majesty's Government looked upon that as a violation of the treaty, as we had gone to Mexico with the intention of not interfering in the internal affairs of that country; and they felt that they could not decline to hold communication with Juarez, who represented the Mexican people and Government. The Spanish authorities took exactly the same view as we did, and General Prim acted like a man of honour in refusing to be a party to any attempt to raise to the throne of Mexico a King contrary, as he believed, to the wishes of the people. He consequently retired with his troops, and the British Marines were also re-embarked. Her Majesty's Government had been reproached with deserting the French; but it had been admitted in the French Chamber that England had behaved with perfect loyalty and good faith. Those who knew Vera Cruz were aware that it was impossible for Europeans to remain there from early in the spring to an advanced period of the autumn; and in withdrawing the Marines from that place we had only done as we should have done in either case, whether there had been war or peace. The French Government had publicly admitted that we had acted with perfect frankness. The Church party in Mexico—a party who, if he must use a strong term, were the greatest ruffians, and who had been guilty of the most horrible outrages upon civilization—gathered round General Almonte in his attempt to establish monarchy; but when the French advanced into the country, they found that the warnings which had been given them were perfectly true, and that no monarchical party really existed there. The French General himself, with great frankness, admitted that, avowing that if he had dreamt that there was no party in favour of monarchy, he would not have advanced into the midst of a hostile country. That being so, what were Her Majesty's Government to do? His noble Friend had rather accused the Government of deserting Sir Charles Wyke.


Of not giving him precise instructions.


said, that it should be remembered that the Government never foresaw the state of things described by his noble Friend. On the contrary, when the Marines were withdrawn, when the Convention of Soledad had been broken, and the French troops took action by themselves, Sir Charles Wyke wrote to his Government to say that he was going to leave Mexico, and they accordingly believed that he would have retired to New York. Instead of that, he remained in the country, went to Puebla, and entered into the convention with General Doblado that had been mentioned to the House. The Government were perfectly astonished when they heard that he had signed that instrument. The convention was sent home to Her Majesty's Government, and was not ratified by them. His noble Friend had misstated the reasons why it was not ratified. There was no question of subserviency to the Emperor of the French, but the question was one of principle. The principle on which we had insisted in all our relations with the Central States of America was this—not to allow them to involve themselves towards the United States in a manner that might lead to inconvenient results. The convention declared that a certain sum should be paid to the British claimants out of money to be supplied by the United States, who, in return, were to have a kind of mortgage upon all the waste lands in Mexico. That arrangement might have produced a state of things which Her Majesty's Government were desirous to see avoided. That convention, although not ratified, was not altogether rejected by the United States, and it had been again submitted to the Senate. Again, the convention provided that, in default of the United States advancing the money, those waste lands should be mortgaged to the British Government. Her Majesty's Government were as much opposed to that as to their being mortgaged to the United States, thinking it might lead to disagreeable consequences in regard to our relations with the United States or other Powers. We were also to have been bound to occupy certain ports in Mexico by our naval force for the collection of the dues from which the claims on the Mexican Government were to have been met. Her Majesty's Government did not think that would at all have been a convenient arrangement. These, then, were some of the important grounds upon which they did not deem it right to ratify the convention, and he believed they were perfectly valid grounds. In saying that, he cast no reflection upon Sir Charles Wyke, who appeared to have done his best; and if the convention had been unaccompanied by the objectionable features which he had described, it might have been quite satisfactory. That was the short history of British policy towards Mexico. The noble Lord had put two questions to him. The first referred to a despatch from Earl Russell to Earl Cowley on the 17th of July, 1860. There was, however, no mystery about it, as it referred to an enclosure. We had long been in communication with the Mexican Government upon the subject of the claims of British subjects, and the Governments of France and of Spain had frequently called upon us to join with them to enforce those claims. But Earl Russell had always laid it down as a rule, that if we did interfere it must be upon the distinct understanding that other religions than the Roman Catholic should be tolerated in Mexico. That was at the time the Church party was in power, and when every person who professed any other religion than the Roman Catholic was subject to persecution. All that Earl Russell had done in the instructions was, to refer to a despatch upon the subject that had been written a year or two before, reciting the principle upon which alone the British Government could interfere or mediate in Mexico. The second question of the noble Lord referred to what he called the Italian expedition to Mexico. The facts were, that there were Italians in Mexico who had claims upon the Government, and when England joined with France and Spain in interfering in Mexico, the Italian Government inquired, unofficially, whether we would assist the Italians in Mexico. The British Government felt there would be inconvenience in taking up the claims of others than its own countrymen; and it was suggested to the Italian Government, that they might send a vessel with the joint expedition, and that some official person should be on board to whom the Italians might apply. No ship, however, was sent, and Sir Charles Wyke merely alluded to the possibility of an Italian vessel being sent out; but there was no intention that the Italian Government should enter into any convention. Having gone through the principal points connected with the subject, he could only say that he did not think Her Majesty's Government could have adopted any other policy than that which they had acted upon. They could not abstain from all interference, or British subjects might fairly have complained that their interests were neglected by their Government, while the subjects of other Powers were protected. They had, however, studiously avoided all interference in the affairs of the country, and he thought the policy they had pursued would increase British influence in Mexico, and lead to a better observance in future of engagements towards this country. He hoped, also, after the clear proofs that had been given of the non-existence in Mexico of a monarchical party, that France would open negotiations with any Government that did really represent the feelings of the people of Mexico, and thus bring to a pacific termination the differences that had heretofore existed.


said, the words of the Poet were once wittily applied to a certain person whose career reflected little honour on him, that nothing became him so well in in life as his going out of it, and he thought the same observation might be applied to the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in relation to Mexico; for the only satisfactory point about it was, that in spite of themselves they had been forced to withdraw from further interference. He was not disposed to say that the Government could have avoided all interference. On the contrary, not only with reference to repeated outrages upon British subjects, but also with reference to the removal of a large sum of money from the British Legation, it was impossible that the Government could have avoided taking some decided steps to vindicate the honour of the English name. But he did find fault with the manner in which they had fulfilled that duty. The hon. Gentleman had told the House that the Government had from the first declared they would not be parties to any interference in the internal affairs of Mexico; but his complaint was, that they had entered into a convention with France and Spain when, if they did not know that the object of both France and Spain was to interfere actively in the internal affairs of Mexico, the British Government were almost the only persons who were ignorant of the fact. For years refugees from Mexico had constantly represented to the British Government and to the French Government that the only means of restoring order in that country was by the active intervention of European Powers and the establishment of a monarchical form of Government. Had Her Majesty's Government no warning of those views being held by the French Government? M. Thouvenel, in one of his despatches, said— We do not wish to interfere; but we think that the presence of our forces there will give that moral support to the monarchical feeling which we believe to exist, and that there will be a chance and opportunity for the establishment of a new and regenerated Government. It was idle to say, when Almonte was constantly coming to this country and communicating with the Government and with public bodies, and after the language of M. Thouvenel—it was idle to say that the Government had not a distinct warning that it was the intention of the French Government to interfere in the internal affairs of Mexico, and possibly to establish a new form of government. It was stated in the convention that they were not to interfere with the wishes of the Mexicans in the establishment of any form of government; but that was not language that could have been used if it had been expected that the form of government then existing would continue to exist, but it showed that it was contemplated that the appearance of foreign troops might cause a revolution, and possibly a change of government. Every one must have been aware of the object of France and of Spain, and it was made plain by the speech of Señor Collantes in the Spanish Chambers that the object of interference was to establish a monarchical form of government. His hon. Friend had truly said that the last thing for an English Government to do was to attempt by force of arms to collect bad debts, or debts contracted with British subjects who had entered upon speculations with their eyes open, knowing the attendant risks, and guarding themselves against those risks by larger profits. That had been the principle upon which successive Governments had noted; and although the Government with which he had been connected had used its good offices to endeavour to obtain justice for the Mexican bondholders, yet, in the very last despatch written by them upon that subject, they emphatically laid it down that the claims of the bondholders were in the nature of private claims, and could not be enforced by arms. His hon. Friend had said that the claims of the bondholders were not the object of our interference; but it was a curious fact that the first convention made by Sir Charles Wyke, the ratification of which was refused by the Mexican Parliament, had reference solely to the claims of the bondholders, and to no other claims; and yet it was said that our interference was to obtain redress for grievances, and to stipulate for the due performance of the conventions. He thought the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Department had been saved from the commission of a grievous error only by the refusal of the Mexican Legislature to ratify that convention. The terms of the convention were objectionable, for by it British consuls were not only to collect money and to apply it in payment of the claims of British subjects, but they were also to be made agents for the subjects of every foreign country having claims upon the Mexican Government. Another stipulation was that the endorsement of British officers should be requisite to give validity to securities to be issued by the Mexican Government. There was another matter of grave complaint against Her Majesty's Government, and that was that they should have entered into a convention to enforce the pecuniary claims of the Powers who were parties to it without knowing in the slightest degree the nature, character, justification, or amount of the claims which they had undertaken to assist in enforcing. They were told that the claims of the French Government were for a comparatively small amount—he thought £40,000 was the sum named; and yet they afterwards found that, without knowing what they were about, they had committed themselves to the enforcement of claims which Earl Russell had spoken of as the most extravagant, the most extortionate, and the most unjust. The French Government had since claimed 15,000,000 of dollars; and if Her Majesty's Government were not committed to the enforcement of that claim, it was owing to circumstances which they had not foreseen, and not to their wisdom in making the convention. The present position of affairs was as unsatisfactory as possible, and only one thing could be said for it—that it was better than they could have expected some time ago. But that the Government should have given British arms to enforce certain claims; that they should have thought it necessary to enter into a solemn convention, and that they should be represented in the expedition by a force of 700 Marines, seemed to him to be placing this country in a relation to foreign Powers utterly beneath her dignity and honour. He thought his noble Friend was under a misapprehension when he said that the ratification of the treaty with the United States Government had been refused. He believed it was still under consideration, and he was of opinion that it would be a dangerous thing for this country to lend its sanction, even indirectly, to such a treaty. He hoped that his noble Friend's suggestion, that we might form another treaty with Mexico of a more satisfactory character than that which had lately been, attempted, would be realized, and he hoped also that we should not be found by the side of France in enforcing a change of government on a friendly people, or on the side of Spain in any schemes for the recovery of her ancient supremacy in Mexico; and, still less, that we should be placed by the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in opposition to the liberal party in an independent nation, thus giving a chance to the enemies of freedom and of liberal institutions in that country of again raising their heads and of re-establishing one of the vilest Governments that ever disgraced a country.


said, if he rightly understood the papers upon the subject, Her Majesty's Government had not acted without something like a principle in the matter. They appeared to admit that an English subject who had gone to Mexico for purposes of gain, and had become a creditor of the Government there, could not expect the support of the Government at home in enforcing his claims, unless something more arose to give him a right. But in the present case Her Majesty's Government were supporting claims which had been sanctioned by engagements having the force of diplomatic promise, and therefore they were perfectly entitled to demand that the claims should be made good. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had hit upon the real weak point of the case when he said that Her Majesty's Government had made a convention with France without knowing something of the claims which she was likely to put forward—claims as they now knew, of so monstrous a kind that no Government that had a regard for its own honour could venture to enforce them. His hon. Friend the Under Secretary had charged the noble Lord with a violation of good taste in commenting upon the conduct of the French Government; but his hon. Friend in what he stated a few moments afterwards went on to justify something like strong language on the part of the noble Lord, for he described the state of things in Mexico as most unsatisfactory. But his hon. Friend told them that when Almonte arrived, everything got into a state of confusion. But who brought Almonte there? His hon. Friend knew it was the French Government, and his hon. Friend was obliged, by the stress of truth, to acknowledge that France had acted in violation of the convention. Well, then, if the Government of France deliberately violated in the spring a convention made in the autumn, hon. Gentlemen were not to be taunted with a violation of good taste in commenting upon such conduct. He entirely agreed in what his hon. Friend said in regard to Spain and General Prim. So far as he knew, there had not been a single default in anything required by honour and justice on the part of Spain, and he rejoiced in seeing that Spain, by her honourable conduct and the recovery of her former strength, was returning to her ancient position in Europe. His hon. Friend spoke with great justice of the difficulty of enforcing claims against such Governments as the Mexican. It was easy to establish the claim and apply force, but the difficulty was to find some alternative. We had money claims against the Mexican Government, but, unfortunately, money was exactly what they had not got. What should we have instead? We would not become conquerors; we were resolutely determined not to become conquerors of any territory in that part of the world. But the securities which that unfortunate Government was able to offer were of such a kind that we could not receive them. One security which they offered was a loan which they had concluded with a foreign State. We objected to that with great justice, for we said we did not choose to enter into a convention which should recognise those insidious loans by which one State was acquiring a sort of lien on the territory of another. Then they offered what in this country would be called Crown lands; but the duty of administering them would be so exceedingly troublesome that it would be impossible for the Government that should enter into such a Convention to have any peace. And then there seemed to be an equally strong objection to a lien on the customs duties of Mexico. He did not see what Her Majesty's Government were contemplating. He knew that they desired to be paid. His hon. Friend said that the Government did not foresee the state of circumstances which had occurred; but he thought they might have foreseen that the Mexican Government would be without money. He should have thought that it would chiefly enter into the minds of Her Majesty's Ministers to instruct their representatives in Mexico as to what they might take as a substitute for money, and he could not find in the papers any trace of such instructions. It seemed to him that the series of negotiations disclosed by the papers was a good illustration of the way in which the French Government used its relations with this country as a means to prop the Imperial throne. It was of great moment to the French Government to divert attention from affairs at home by causing it to be seen that the French Government was engaged in some great transactions abroad in concert with one of the great settled States of Europe.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present: House counted; and 40 Members not being present,

House adjourned at a quarter after Eight o'clock.