HC Deb 12 June 1863 vol 171 cc804-5

said, he wished to ask, Whether any information has been received by the Government in reference to the final disposal of the Protestant prisoners Matamoras, Alhama, and Trigo, lately condemned in Spain for reading the Bible?


As the House is probably aware, deputations from this country—one consisting of members of the Society of Friends—proceeded a short time ago to Madrid, in order to intercede with the Queen of Spain on behalf of these unhappy men, who wore condemned to seven years' imprisonment for having become converts to Protestantism. Memorials were also sent to the Queen of Spain from different countries in Europe, and deputations from those countries proceeded to Madrid. One of those memorials was from the Catholic ladies of Holland, praying the Queen to grant the prisoners the same freedom of conscience which the Protestant Government of Holland accorded to Catholics in that country. Another was from the Protestants of Austria, asking the Catholic Queen of Spain to grant the same liberty of conscience which they enjoyed in Austria under a Calholic Government. Her Majesty's Government, while taking the deepest interest in those deputations, and desiring that the objects for which they proceeded to Madrid should be fulfilled, were unable to give them any actual official support. They, however, gave them all the assistance they could. It appears—I cannot say how far in consequence of the representations made by those deputations—that the sentences on the prisoners have been commuted to banishment. I cannot inform the hon. Gentleman whether that banishment extends to an indefinite period, or is confined to the term for which they were condemned to imprisonment. I am unable to ascertain how that is. I believe that the impression of the deputations who went to Madrid is, that the term of banishment is limited to the number of years to which they were condemned to imprisonment—that is to say, to seven years. I need not tell the hon. Gentleman that I rejoice exceedingly at this result, which, there is reason to believe, is to a great extent to be attributed to the exertions of the deputations to which I have referred. Although banishment is a very severe punishment, still it is a great mitigation of the very harsh and inhuman sentence which was passed upon Matamoras and his companions.