HC Deb 10 July 1863 vol 172 cc554-71

said, he wished to put a Question to the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) with respect to the resumption of the debate on America on Monday next; and considering the importance of the subject, he should move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of having an opportunity of making a few remarks. He would, however, abstain from saying one word on the merits of the question proposed by the hon. and learned Member. All he wished to express was his feeling—shared in, he believed, by many Members on both sides of the House who concurred in the object which the hon. and learned Gentleman had in view—that the present moment was one when the question could not be discussed and decided on by Parliament with advantage to Great Britain, or to the Southern States or Northern States of America. Since the hon. and learned Member brought his Resolution before the House, a great change had token place in the position of the contest between the two republics in North America. The war, which up to the present time had been a defensive one on the part of the Southern States, now appeared to hare received the character of an expedition of the South against the North; and it must be evident to every one who had perused the intelligence which had reached us from America within the last few days that events of great importance were preparing, and it was not impossible that the solution of the whole question at issue was at hand. Under these circumstances, he ventured to submit that a vote now come to by the House could not express the real feeling of the House, and could exert no real beneficial influence on the operations in America. At any rate, several Members of the House, who agreed in principle with the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, and concurred in his object, would yet not support him, on account of the inexpediency of bringing the question forward and deciding on it at the present moment. If the question came on upon Monday, it would either be negatived unanimously by the House, or defeated by a large majority. Thus a false impression would be produced generally with regard to the feeling of the House, the action of the Government might be hindered should they feel at an early period that the time had arrived for the purpose of recognising the Southern States, and a feeling of disappointment would be created in the minds of the population of those States. A month ago the recognition of the Southern States, if it had then been generously proposed by Parliament, and carried into effect by the Government, might have been attended with beneficial results. It might have Stayed the effusion of blood, and excited a feeling of gratitude on the part of the Southern States. But what would now be the consequence, supposing the Motion of the hon. and learned Member should be successful? If the events now taking place, and the result of which could not he distant, should have the affect of enabling the Southern States to force peace on the Northern, the former would not then thank the House for the decision come to on this Motion. If, on the other hand, the expedition of the Southern army into the North should prove a failure, in what a position would that House then stand, after acceding to the Motion of the hon. and learned Member? The Motion, whether successful or unsuccessful, he submitted to the hon. and learned Member, could produce no beneficial effect, and it had much better be withdrawn. He therefore submitted for consideration whether it would not be better for the cause, for which, he frankly avowed, he felt great sympathy, if the hon. and learned Member relieved the Government from the pledge they had given to postpone the Orders of the Day on Monday next until after the resumption of the adjourned debate on America, and selected a more convenient opportunity for the discussion. The present was the time, not for action on the part of the House, but rather for silent contemplation. As personal matters had been imported into the debate, and discrepancies between the statement of the hon. and learned Member and the statement made on the part of the Government had to be explained, he was sure that the House would readily hear whatever the hon. and learned Member might wish to state on that point; for in all matters personally affecting hon. Members, and especially their veracity, the House never refused them the opportunity of making an explanation.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."


Perhaps my hon. and learned Friend will allow me to second the request just made by the hon. and gallant Officer, to consent to drop the continuance of the debate which stands for Monday. I think that the circumstances adverted to by the hon. and gallant Officer are of themselves sufficient to show that the present is not a moment when it is desirable to continue the discussion referred to. Events of the utmost importance are about to take place in America, and we may hear in the course of a few hours of results commensurate with the importance of those events—evidently, then, the present is not a proper moment to ask the Government to prejudice itself with respect to its free action. It is not likely, I think, that the House would agree either to the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, or to the Amendment which has been moved to it; and, indeed, I think it very disadvantageous to the public service that any such Resolution should be adopted. Therefore, the discussion, as far as any practical results may have been expected by those who are in favour of the Motion, would have no important effect. I can assure the House, that whereas now it is plainly acknowledged by everybody that the wishes of the Emperor of the French to find a fitting opportunity for advising the re-establishment of peace in America are not changed, on the other hand Her Majesty's Government do not see that that opportunity has arisen, though they would at all times be willing to exchange opinions with the Emperor of the French not only on that subject, but on any other relating to the interests of nations. On public and general grounds I would urge the hon. and learned Member to comply with the request made to him. But there is another and peculiar circumstance which makes the hon. and learned Member's compliance still more desirable. It is hardly possible that the debate could be resumed without the resumption of the discussion as to what passed in the interview between the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Roebuck) and the hon. Member for Sunder-land (Mr. Lindsay) on the one side, and the Emperor of the French on the other. It was quite natural that they should seek that interview, for the hon. Member for Sunderland had previously had frequent interviews with the Emperor of the French on those questions relating to navigation in respect to which he takes an active part in this House. Therefore, it was perfectly natural that the hon. Member should see the Emperor of the French, and equally natural, that seeing the Emperor, the hon. Member, together with the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, should express opinions on the American question. I, however, venture to submit that the question as to what passed between two private Members of Parliament and a foreign Sovereign is not a question to be discussed in this House. Not to say that such a discussion, is sure to lead to explanations on both sides—which, like all public explanations of private transactions, leave an unpleasant feeling generally on both sides, it must tend to deter the Emperor of the French from continuing that courteous and useful reception which he is so graciously pleased to give to all Englishmen of note who may be furnished with information advantageous to the friendly relations of both countries. It is obvious, however, that this reception now accorded by the Emperor of the French must be checked, if the Emperor should feel that what passes in the abandon of private intercourse is to be made the subject of public discussion in the British House of Commons. As it is impossible that the debate on America can be resumed without leading in some way or other to a revival of that personal discussion, I trust that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield will allow the debate to drop, and that the hon. Member for Sunderland, who has as yet taken no part in the debate, will continue that discreet abstinence which he has hitherto manifested, and will be content with allowing the matter to rest. Nobody has a right to blame the hon. Member for the part he took in communicating with the Emperor of the French; but the House will feel, not only with a view to the relations of the Government, but to the continuance of that access to the Emperor of the French on the part of British subjects which it is most desirable to maintain, that it is advisable that nothing should be said in this House which might have an unfavourable effect.


I have hitherto borne in silence a large amount of obloquy from the present organs of the Government, but as yet I have not spoken one syllable. I have been condemned without being heard; and though there is often greater wisdom in silence than in speech, I trust I may now be allowed to state one or two circumstances which must have escaped the memory of those who considered it their duty to criticise my conduct. Some four years ago I brought under the notice of this House a Motion for an Address praying Her Majesty to enter into negotiations with the Emperor of the French, for the abolition of various duties which materially affected the free intercourse between France and this country and our possessions. A long discussion ensued, and my Motion was unanimously adopted by this House. Some eight or nine months elapsed, and as no action appeared to have been taken by the Government to carry into effect that Motion, I saw Lord Russell, then a Member of this House, on the subject. At his request, or at least on his introduction, I had a meeting with Lord Cowley, and afterward, on the introduction of, and accompanied by Lord Cowley, I had an interview with the Emperor of the French on this important subject. Various long interviews followed, at all of which, with the knowledge and with the consent and approval of Lord Cowley, I was alone with the Emperor. I have reason to believe that the Emperor was pleased with the views I placed before him at these various interviews, and that he saw the changes I ventured to recommend would be quite as beneficial to the people of France as they would be to the people of this country. Much of my time, for several years, has been devoted to this great question. After two years of negotiation, His Majesty was pleased to appoint a council to inquire into the subject, which has just concluded its inquiry; and I have every reason to hope that the result will be the abolition of these duties, and material changes, if not the entire abrogation, of the navigation laws of France. All these questions were of a practical and an intricate nature, which neither Lord Cowley nor the Foreign Office pretended to understand, and it was therefore necessary for me to see the Emperor and his ministers very often concerning them. All, however, that took place was invariably made known by me at the time to Lord Cowley. During some of these interviews it was His Majesty's pleasure, knowing that I had been to America, to speak to me regarding the lamentable war then, and I regret to say still raging in that country. I ventured to offer my opinions respecting it but never has one word, except to Lord Cowley, crossed my lips of anything His Majesty was pleased to say to me on this or on any other question, till on the 23rd of last month I had permission to make known his views in regard to certain matters bearing upon the American war. But even with that permission I might not have stated all my hon. and learned Friend did, and perhaps I might not have made some portions of his statement in the same tone. I am prepared, however, to say now, that all my hon. and learned Friend said was true. I regret to say too true; and as my veracity has been called in question, I desired to have the opportunity of proving to the House, but not by producing "a note-book," which has been kept sealed for years, that the assertions of my hon. and learned Friend were too true. I do not, however, desire now to go into this question, which is of a very delicate nature, and, after what the noble Viscount has said, it may not be necessary for me to go into this question at any time. But the truth of the statement made by my hon. and learned Friend has, to a great extent, been proved by the remarks made a few evenings ago by my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. In referring to a despatch received from the Government of France in November last, he said, that the French Government in sending that despatch had adopted a very "unusual course." My hon. Friend the Under Secretary further said, that it was very strange the French Government should have published that despatch in the Moniteur before sending it to this country, and that when sent they did not order their Minister here to leave as usual a copy of it at the Foreign Office. Now, all this tends to show that the French Government must have had reasons for adopting this unusual course in November; and as the despatch to which my hon. and learned Friend referred was not the November despatch, but a despatch or despatches, or communications, regarding the war in America, sent to this country in February or March 1862, the House may see that the statements made by my hon. and learned Friend were not without foundation, and that, in fact, as I have already said, they were too true, though I regret that he considered it desirable to make them. I do not, however, intend to enter more fully into this very delicate question, unless necessity should arise for it. It is far better to avoid all such questions in this House, and I would rather endure the reproach to which I have been subjected than enter upon them. The question now before the House is one of far greater importance: it affects the peace and happiness of ten millions of people; and as I hold the opinion, that if the word "recognition" was pronounced by England in concert with the Emperor of the French and other European Powers, that word would go forth as a harbinger of peace, and would restore peace with all the blessings which attend it, I say the consideration of that question is of a thousandfold greater moment than any reproach which may be cast on so humble an individual as myself. I therefore wish the House to forget the personal question, and to consider the statement which the noble Lord has just made in regard to the course he will pursue on American affairs. I do feel for the Southern people. I feel that they are a nation, a brave and down-trodden nation, and therefore I ask my hon. and learned Friend not at once to give an answer to the question put to him by my hon. and gallant Friend, and repeated by the noble Lord, unless he can ascertain the course which Her Majesty's Government may be prepared to take towards concurring in the well-known view of the Emperor of the French on this subject. It will be time enough on Monday for my hon. and learned Friend to say whether he will go on with the debate. The Scotia is now due, and we may receive by it important intelligence which may induce Her Majesty's Government to say the time has arrived when we ought to acknowledge the South, and put an end to this lamentable, and, as I believe useless war. Therefore, I beg my hon. and learned Friend to exercise caution and prudence, and not to give a hasty answer to the question, but take time to consider it.


Sir, no middle course can be taken on this question. The people of Lancashire, who are more than any others deeply interested in the question of cotton, have throughout the whole course of the war given their support to the Federal cause. ["No!"] Nearly 150 meetings have been held in the manufacturing districts, which, with the exception of some ten or twelve, have passed resolutions, by overwhelming majorities, in favour of the North. I am confident, that if the hon. and learned Gentleman had proceeded to a division, he would have found himself in a disastrous minority. I can assure the Southern States that they need not look for sympathy to the working classes of this country; for although a large portion of them are actually depending for their livelihood on cotton, they have, with the greatest magnanimity, sided with the North.


The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay) seems to be under the impression that I gave some pledge that on Monday I should be prepared to state the course which Her Majesty's Government intend to pursue. I think it right to explain that I meant to say no such thing.


All I meant was that the Scotia is now due, and that perhaps the news she might bring would lead the Government to change the views they now hold.


I rise to express an earnest hope that the House will not too readily express the principle which has been submitted by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. The noble Lord, in his cheerful way, has suggested, that unless the abandon of the French Emperor in conversation with hon. Members is to be checked, we must abstain from all these discussions in this House. When we remember that what is called "conversation" is stated officially to have been an endeavour made by two Members of the House to engage the French Government in an important diplomatic agreement, we must see that that is a matter extremely novel, as far as my knowledge of the British Constitution extends, and well deserving of our attention. The argument of the noble Lord, that discussions of this kind are not convenient or politic, should have been raised before the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck); but now, after we have heard what has been stated, and have been told on official grounds what was the proposal of the French Emperor, then the matter becomes one which deserves the attention of the House.


I never for an instant doubted the veracity of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield. I have known him too long not to be aware that he is incapable of stating what he does not believe to be a fact; but, at the same time, I must be allowed to say I have not the same confidence in his discretion. I do not think he is acting quite fairly towards the House in keeping this question hanging over us without our knowing whether it is to come on or not on Monday. As far as I am concerned, I repose full confidence in Her Majesty's Government in regard to the American question. I think they have conducted this American business all through with singular ability. It is, however, only fair to the House that the hon. and learned Gentleman should announce at once whether he intends to proceed with the debate on Monday. Surely he is in as good a position now as he will be then for coming to a decision.


Sir, there are two questions to be considered by the House. There is, first, that touching the truth of the statements made by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield and the hon. Member for Sunderland—the second question relates to the political bearing of the matter. The main point is whether the hon. and learned Gentleman is satisfied with what has taken place this evening. In my opinion, it is absolutely necessary that the doubts which have been cast on the accuracy of the hon. and learned Gentleman should be cleared up. Statements have been made by my hon. Friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, no doubt with the greatest truthfulness as far as his belief was concerned at the moment, but which will be proved not to be in accordance with the real facts of this most important case. I hold it to be of the utmost importance that the country should know what is the truth of the matter. So much has already come out with regard to this personal affair that the whole ought to be disclosed. I am bound to say, from what has fallen casually from the hon. Member for Sunderland in reference to the statement made the other night by the Under Secretary, that a very grave circumstance has occurred, and that it is evident this House and the country do not know the real state of the case. Something, I think, has occurred which the French Government, or rather the Emperor of the French, considers to be a serious affront put upon him by our Foreign Office. The Under Secretary told us, that when Baron Gros read the despatch of November, he refused to leave a copy. It is absolutely necessary we should know why he refused to leave a copy. Was it because a previous despatch of February had been treated in a manner of which the Emperor disapproved? That is a point which the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield and the hon. Member for Sunderland have a right to insist should be cleared up in this House, because almost the whole of their tale rests upon it. The course I would recommend may be shortly stated. If the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield is not satisfied—and I think he probably is not—with the explanations which have been given to-night—if he considers that what has just taken place does not set him right with the public—then I say that this part of the question ought to be thoroughly sifted; but, as regards the great political aspect of the question, I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Ayrshire (Sir James Fergusson), that it is most important for the interests of the South, for the interests of peace, and for the interests of humanity, that the debate should not be proceeded with at this moment. There would, no doubt, be a large majority against the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield; but that would not be owing to any sympathy in this House in favour of the North, because I believe that the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Coningham) and those who agree with him could be carried off in one omnibus. Nevertheless, it would go forth to the world at large that the opinion of the House of Commons was against the independence of the Southern Confederacy, which I believe not to be the case. That mistaken impression would arise simply because those of us who are Southern, heart and soul, do not wish, while great events are pending in America, to bring the House or Her Majesty's Government to any premature decision upon this subject. What would be the effect in other countries? The Northeners would be impressed with the idea, either that England was entirely in their power, or that her perfidy and well-known cowardice prevented her from acknowledging the South. We might expect, moreover, that there would arise in the minds of the Southerners, who will soon achieve their own independence, a feeling of resentment which it would take years to obliterate. An adverse decision would have the further effect of making it appear as if the last act Parliament had done was to pronounce an opinion against the independence of the South, which would no doubt have a powerful influence upon the movements of Her Majesty's Government during the recess. For these reasons, I hope the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, while establishing the truth of his assertions, which I implicitly believed the moment I heard them, will take care to dissociate the personal from what I may call the great political question.


The argument used by the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr (Sir J. Fergusson) and also by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, would have been an effective argument against the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield being brought forward at all; but I hardly think it should prevent this House, now that the question has been debated one evening, from coming to a conclusion and pronouncing its opinion upon it. It is desirable that the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield should have an opportunity of making any explanation he thinks fit on the personal question; but the question is not one merely personal to the hon. and learned Member—it is not even a question of sympathy with the North or the South—what we have to consider is the question whether this House is inclined to agree with the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield that our Government should recognise a seceding or rebelling State before the result of the secession or rebellion is ascertained. It is a great principle of international law which is now before us; and it having been once brought before us, I think we ought to be allowed to come to a conclusion upon it. The question, moreover, is one in which the feelings of a great many Englishmen, the relations of peace between this country and America, and the interests of that trade which has been most injured by the war, are concerned. It is important that the minds of our people in the manufacturing districts should at once be set at rest as to whether it is probable that Her Majesty's Government, acting on the instigation of this House, intend to establish a new precedent in international law by recognising a State under circumstances in which England never recognised a country before. At any rate let us not be kept in the dark beyond this evening as to whether we are to come to a decision on Monday or not.


said, that the great question which had presented itself to the House seemed to him to be in some danger of being overlooked. They had the representatives of Her Majesty's Government on the Treasury bench, and it seemed they had the representatives of another Government in the House. This was a very grave question. It was the first time, he believed, in the records of Parliament, that the House of Commons had received a message directly from a foreign Power not through Her Majesty's servants. Now, let the House consider, without touching the constitutional view of the question, in a plain, common-sense manner, what this would lead to. Was that House, and was every section of that House, to have its Foreign Office, and to conduct its own separate diplomacy? He could conceive no confusion more complele than that would produce. If the House of Commons represented anything, it represented the people of England, and by the constitution of England there was delegated to the Crown all negotiations between this country and any foreign Power. It had delegated to the Crown all questions of peace and war. The question that was raised by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield involved the relations of this country with a foreign Power, and it involved the question of peace or war with this country; and he (Mr. Newdegate) thought that House ought to mark its sense of that departure from constitutional principle, which would import a foreign element into the discussions and decisions of that House. He was not at that moment prepared to say in what manner the House should express its opinion on such conduct; but he was confident, that unless the House determined to limit it to the authorized exponents of the will of Her Majesty in the communications with foreign Powers, our relations with those Powers would very soon lapse into a state of confusion.


I think the debate which has just taken place, and the speakers who have joined in it, ought to satisfy the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield that be has only one course to pursue. Those who have urged him not to press his Motion to a division are the well-known friends of the South—men like the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr and our Confederate Premier. On the other hand, those who have urged him to go on are equally well-known Federals—men like the hon. Member for Brighton and the hon. Member for Bradford. [Mr. CONINGHAM said he did quite the reverse.] I allow that I did not understand what the hon. Member for Brighton said; but, at all events, the hon. Member for Bradford, whose devotion to the North is only equalled by his fanatic hatred of the South, pressed my hon. and learned Friend to go on. His motive is clear. He wishes to steal from this House a decision which will not express its real opinion. But I am sure my hon. and learned Friend is too wise to take the advice of the Federal Sinon. It is from no desire to bring the matter to a conclusion, or to establish a position in international law, but in this hour of its supreme agony to give some slight countenance to the cause to which he is devoted that the hon. Member for Bradford tries to lead my hon. and learned Friend into a snare. At the same time, I would advise the hon. and learned Gentleman to reserve his decision till Monday, considering the importance of the intelligence which is at this moment, I believe, travelling over the telegraph wires—considering that the most important military operations, as I understand, have already been reported in the City and in this House, and considering also the effect which that news must have on the minds of hon. Members.


They say that amid a multitude of counsellors there is safety. I will accept the advice of the noble Lord who has just sat down, and reserve my answer till Monday. I think that a very much better answer will be given before that day. As the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory) has drawn a distinction between the personal and the political question, I am bound to say for myself that I will give my answer on Monday.


After what has fallen from the hon. Members for Galway and Sunderland, I cannot, Sir, remain quite silent; but, before answering the hon. Member for Sunderland, I beg to put my hon. Friend the Member for Galway right on one point. He said I had stated to the House that Baron Gros refused to leave a copy of a despatch. I stated nothing of the kind. What I said was, that a copy of the despatch was not left with Her Majesty's Government, because, as I showed, it was not a confidential despatch, but a public one, having been published in the Moniteur, and that therefore it was not necessary to leave a copy of it. I come now to the statement of the hon. Member for Sunderland. It will be recollected that two allegations were made by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield. The first was that a communication had been made recently by the Emperor's Government to his Ambassador in this country, requesting him to ascertain whether the British Government were prepared to join with the French Government in the recognition of the Confederate States. The second was that a despatch had been communicated to the Government of Washington by Her Majesty's Government, which despatch had been sent confidentially by the Emperor of the French to Her Majesty's Government, and that, on that account, the Emperor declined to make another proposal to Her Majesty's Government. As regards the first statement, I can only refer to the answer given in the Moniteur, That answer appears to me complete and conclusive. It shows that the Emperor had not said what the hon. Member stated. What His Majesty said was, that he should request Baron Gros to sound Her Majesty's Government on the subject. With respect to the second statement, the hon. Member for Sunderland has to-night put it entirely on a different issue. The statement made the other night was, that in consequence of this alleged breach of confidence, the Emperor would make no fresh proposal to Her Majesty's Government. Well, if the despatch which we were accused of communicating to the American Government was sent to this country in February or April of last year, as stated by my hon. Friend, then the whole of the accusation falls to the ground, because the proposal was made several months afterwards. The proposal of the French Government with regard to the recognition of the Confederate States, was made in November to Her Majesty's Government. The statement of to-night is, that owing to a despatch of February or April, or at all events of the spring of last year, having been communicated to the American Government, therefore the Emperor would make no fresh proposal to the British Government for the recognition of the Confederate States. Well, if that despatch was thus communicated in the month of February or April, how came it that the proposal should have been made to Her Majesty's Government in the month of November of that year? I leave it for my hon. Friend to explain that discrepancy. But I have the Moniteur in my hand, and there the despatch is distinctly alluded to as the despatch of October. The Moniteur clearly points to the despatch of October as the despatch which was communicated. [Mr. ROEBUCK: "No, no!"] I state most distinctly and unreservedly, that no despatch sent to Her Majesty's Government by the French Government was ever communicated to the American Government, whether that despatch was sent at a late or an early part of the year. I myself have gone through all the papers, despatch by despatch, so that there can be no mistake whatever on the point. The chief clerk of the Department has done the same, and only this day I requested another clerk to make a still further search; so that we have had three careful searches made, beginning with the commencement of 1862 downwards; and I assert in the most distinct manner, on my honour, that there is no trace of such a despatch. To the best of my belief and knowledge, nothing of that kind has occurred; and I must say, that on the part of the hon. and learned Gentleman there must have been some great misapprehension. [Mr. ROEBUCK: There has been no misapprehension.] A similar tiling happened to the hon. Member for Sunderland on a previous occasion, and I am surprised that he did not take warning from what then occurred through his amateur diplomacy. Last year, the hon. Member came over to this country with what were called confidential communications from the Emperor. He had, however, scarcely returned home, when we received a telegram saying that the hon. Member had not been authorized to make any such communication. That is precisely what we see now. The hon. Gentleman had, I suppose, asked His Majesty whether he might be allowed to mention what had passed at the interview; and the Emperor, in his usual kind and cordial manner, would reply that it need be made no secret, that all the world might know of it. But presuming from these words that the Emperor had made him his special envoy, the hon. Member came over in the belief that he bore that character, and all the mistake has arisen in that way. I am convinced that in this case there has been great misapprehension as to all that took place, and I trust the two hon. Members will not fall into the same trap again.


I wish to ask what is to be the course of business on Monday? It cannot surely be contemplated that we should have this adjourned debate placed first on the Orders of the Day, and that when we are all assembled the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield is then to announce to us whether he intends the debate to go on or not. That would be placing the House in a very droll and very unusual position. I apprehend, that unless we receive from the hon. and learned Member distinct information to-night that he desires the debate to go on upon Monday, the only course must be that the adjourned debate shall stand last on the Orders for Monday. I hope we shall have an intimation to that effect from Her Majesty's Government.


In answer to my hon. Friend, I may be allowed to say that what we proposed to do was in fulfilment of my pledge to my hon. and learned Friend—namely, to fix the adjourned debate as the first Order for Monday. Therefore, if my hon. and learned Friend proceeds with the debate, it will be the first business; and if he does not, we will then take the Fortifications Bill, and after that the Relief Bill.


observed, that he must enter his individual protest against waiting till Monday to determine whether the debate should be continued or not. It was most inconvenient, and he might say disrespectful, to the House. But there was another and far more important ground of objection, and that was that the reason avowed by hon. Gentlemen opposite for the delayed decision rendered such delay an indecent and insulting act towards our ally, the United States. It had been openly stated that it was hoped that the next mail, now due within a few hours, might bring intelligence of so crushing a defeat of the Federal army by the Southern rebels, that the Government might be disposed to alter their present determination, and to think that the time for recognition had arrived. Now, he repeated, that was a most indecent procedure. The British House of Commons was waiting to decide upon an important question of international law, in the avowed hope that news might hourly arrive of a successful issue to the rebellion against our old ally. He thought the House had not had its attention sufficiently called to one view of the present debate, which had become prominent during that evening's conversation—and it was this:—A Motion had been introduced by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield, for the recognition by this country of the Southern Confederacy; and, as had been that evening confessed, not in the interests of England—not for the honour and security of England, but avowedly in the interests of the Confederates, and by their friends in that House. Yes, in the interests of the Southern Slave Power, the House had been called upon to violate by a premature recognition one of the best understood principles of international law—namely, that one State had no right to recognise a rebellion, a secession, as a fait accompli, while the contest was still going on. To recognise the South now would be to give the Government of the United States a just casus belli against England. This was the position in which, by their own avowals that night, the friends of the South in that House were trying to place the Government and the country by forcing a premature recognition. But another admission that was important had been made that night, and that was the reason why at this moment this pressure was to be put upon the House, upon Her Majesty's Government, to sanction this premature recognition. It was not—as had been let slip out—that these friends of the South were confident of Confederate success—it was not that their cause was triumphing, and that it was therefore hoped to save needless bloodshed by a little antedating of an inevitable result. On the contrary, this haste had been manifested for precisely the opposite reason—because it was known that the South was greatly exhausted—that the rebellion was really playing its last cards—that it was well understood that any mail might now bring intelligence of the fall of Vicks-burg, and the opening to the Federal arms of the whole course of the mighty Mississippi. It was not concealed that this Motion had been introduced with the hope to commit the House to recognition before probable reverses should make such a suggestion still more outrageous. And now, when hon. Gentlemen fancied that a change had taken place in the prospects of the war, and that it was by some imagined that much was to result from this raid of Lee's army into the North—now it was proposed to delay the discussion, as he had said, in the hope that they might receive news of Southern victories. He would repeat, that this was an indecent and un-English procedure—an insult to America, and a discredit to the House of Commons. For his part, he did not believe that the result of this invasion of the North—be that result, temporarily, what it might—would at all affect the issue of the great struggle. He believed that even should this raid be, in the first instance, successful, such success would tend only to weld together all parties in the North, and give a stronger resolution to maintain the war to a successful issue. He did not for a moment believe that the House of Commons would sanction the proposed gross violation of international law, creating, as it would do, a precedent of the most dangerous character. Still less did he believe that the people out of doors Would quietly endure such violation of law, made as it would be in favour of a State which avowed that its aim was to build up a Power based upon human slavery as its head corner-stone.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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