HC Deb 16 April 1863 vol 170 cc198-9

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department the question of which he had given him notice privately, Whether there is any truth in the report that, upon his authority, spies have been employed in Liverpool to attend on the persons of those who are supposed to be Confederate agents, and also to watch the private dockyards of the country for the purpose of ascertaining whether any material can be collected for the Federal Ambassador. He also desired to know whether, as reported, these measures have been taken in opposition to the wishes of the Mayor and the Watch Committee of Liverpool; and, if so, whether they have been taken under the authority of any Act of Parliament. Finally, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman will stale out of what fund he proposes to pay the expense of these proceedings?


Sir, I have no hesitation in stating, in reply to the noble Lord, that no spies have been employed by the authority of the Government in Liverpool. The facts may be briefly stated. Not long ago I received an official letter from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, transmitting a copy of one which had been addressed to him by the Minister of the United States in this country, who alleged that certain vessels, which were named, were being fitted out and equipped at Liverpool in violation of the provisions of the Foreign Enlistment Act. My noble Friend (Earl Russell) requested that I should cause immediate inquiry to be made into the truth of these allegations. I accordingly forwarded a copy of the letter to the Mayor of Liverpool, and also copies of one or two; similiar communications which I received susequently from the Foreign Office, and requested him to cause immediate inquiry to be made whether the vessels so named were, in the words of the Statute, being "equipped, furnished, fitted out, or armed" in violation of the provisions of the Foreign Enlistment Act, and with a view to be employed in the service of the so-called Confederate States against the Government of the Federal States. I did not suggest; the mode in which the inquiry should be conducted, as it is not the practice of the Home Office to dictate to the local authorities of any place by whom an investigation is to be made which devolves on them in fulfilment of their legal obligations. The Major informed me that he had placed the matter in the hands of the head constable, and that the head constable had instructed certain members of the detective police to make inquiry into the alleged violation of the law. I really do; not know why the detective police should not be employed for that purpose, as they are in endeavouring to detect other alleged violations of the law. No information which I have received leads me to suppose that, as mentioned by the noble Lord, bribery has been resorted to by the officers of police in Liverpool to obtain intelligence; nor has the Mayor, in his different communications to me, intimated that there was any difference of opinion between, himself and the Watch Committee as to the mode in which the inquiry should be carried out.