HC Deb 18 March 1864 vol 174 cc322-43

Sir, I wish to put a question to my noble Friend at the head of the Government, of which I have privately given him notice. It is a question which I think naturally follows from the very painful discussions which we have had in this House, arising out of the unfortunate friendship which exists between the hon. Member for Halifax and M. Mazzini—a friendship which is, I think, unfortunate in its consequences as regards the hon. Member for himself, for the Government of which he is a Member, and for this House. I do not wish to revive the painful discussion of last evening, nor to express any opinion upon the course which has been taken by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax since the question was first bro ught before the House by the hon. Member for Pinsbury. I do not say whether it would have been better if the hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax had at once expressed his regret for what had occurred, instead of attempting to defend a man who I consider is, in many respects, incapable of being defended. All I wish to say is this: looking calmly and dispassionately at the whole question, it appears to me that the hon. Gentleman has been guilty, to say the least, of a grave indiscretion—an indiscretion which amounts to a public scandal. The indiscretion of the hon. Gentleman is this — that he, a Member of Her Majesty's Government, allowed, and has allowed up to a very recent time, his name to be used as a cover for the secret correspondence of M. Mazzini. Now, I say, that is a grave indiscretion, amounting to a great public scandal—a scandal affecting not only the character of the hon. Gentleman, but of the Government of which he is a Member, the character of this House, and of this country—one which is calculated to cause a bad understanding and bad feeling, even if such have not already been created, between this country and a friendly foreign country. That being so, it appears to me that the division of last night, so far from placing the House in a better position, has rather put us in a worse position, because a question which was not in itself a party question, was by the issue made to depend upon it by the hon. Member made a party question. I voted with the minority last night, but I say I did not vote as a party man for a party move, but as the only means presented to me as a Member of this House, as one to whom the honour of this House and the country is dear—the only means of expressing my opinion that a great public scandal had taken place; and whether the explanation of the hon. Gentleman might or might not have been deemed satisfactory, still something appears to be wanting beyond what has already been said or done upon this subject. Any further Resolution upon this subject would unquestionably be made the subject of a party division—such a colour would be given to it on this side of the House. But when the last division is said to have been a party division, I may say that I have heard many men on either side of the House express their regret that they found themselves obliged to vote one way or the other upon this question. I am confident that I express the public opinion out of doors and the opinion of Members in this House when I say, that I and most if not all the Members of this House most bitterly regret the position in which we are placed. But if that division cannot place the House in a right position there is one course which, if it had been taken at the very outset, would have placed the Members of this House right with the country and with a Foreign Power. That is, if the hon. Member for Halifax at once, when he saw the position in which his indiscretion, his culpable indiscretion I must call it, had placed this House and this country, and the Government of which he is a Member, had immediately tendered his resignation as a Member of the Government. Now, the question which I wish to ask the First Lord of the Treasury is this, whether the hon. Member for Halifax has at any time since this subject was first brought under the notice of the House by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Cox) formally tendered his resignation to Her Majesty's Government, and, if so, whether the resignation has been refused. Since I came down to the House this evening I have been privately informed that the hon. Gentleman has done so. When I first thought it desirable to ask this question I was in utter ignorance that any such offer had been made. But the fact was there was an almost universal opinion last night in the House, that the only course for the hon. Gentleman to take was to tender his resignation, and that opinion was not confined to hon. Gentlemen opposite, for the friends of the hon. Member himself ex- pressed themselves to that effect. With reference to the refusal of the Government to accept the resignation I do not wish at present to express any opinion. What I wish to do now is to ask my noble Friend, Whether, at any time since the question has been discussed, the hon. Member for Halifax has tendered his formal resignation?


I cannot but regret that my noble Friend, in asking the question which he might have put simply, has thought fit to revive the discussion of last night, which I certainly hoped had been concluded. I shall, how-over, abstain from following my noble Friend's example, and will simply answer the question which he has put. The noble Lord asks whether my hon. Friend has at any time subsequent to the introduction of the subject by the hon. Member for Finsbury, tendered the resignation of his office. My hon. Friend immediately after the question was brought forward made a communication to me through a common friend, that he placed his office entirely at the disposal of the Crown, and that at the slightest intimation from me he would formally tender his resignation of that office. My answer was I did not wish him to take that step, that I wished him not to take it—and if there is any responsibility attaching to that decision I am perfectly willing to take that responsibility upon myself.


After hearing the statement made by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, I must express my surprise at the decision at which he has arrived. I confess I think it is unworthy the position of Her Majesty's Government that a Member of this House who has committed so grave an indiscretion as that charged against the hon. Member for Halifax should be allowed to retain his position in that Government. I think Her Majesty's Government stand in a very unenviable position in permitting a gentleman to remain a Minister of the Crown who has been for seventeen years the intimate friend of Mazzini— a man who has not the courage to carry out his diabolical schemes, but who skulks under that protection which this free country affords to political refugees and exiles, to abuse that hospitality and conspire against the crowned heads of Europe and the established Governments of Europe, to send forth his emissaries into every capital to produce anarchy, and, if possible, to overthrow Governments with which we are in alliance. Is it, I again ask, worthy of the position of Her Majesty's Government that they should have as a Colleague, sitting on that bench, one who admits that he has been for many years the intimate friend of Mazzini—a man who has been excluded from France and other countries —and who, I believe, dare not show his face in Italy, because he is known to be the plotter and a conspirator of Europe, and a disgrace to his nation; and who, I must say, does bring down on every person who has any dealings with him, directly or indirectly, a portion of that disgrace.


It will, I think, be heard with some surprise, not only throughout this country but on the Continent, that the Government have thought proper to endorse, if I may use the expression, the conduct of the hon. Member for Halifax. I have this afternoon seen a letter from a person of some eminence at Paris, and judging from the description which he gave, the effect of this discovery will not be laid at rest quite as soon as Ministers appear to think it will. Such a feeling has been created in France that I believe the First Minister of the Crown will have cause very much to regret that he has thought fit to adopt the conduct of his Colleague in this matter, and not to accept his resignation. For what is the state of the case? Here is a man whose business has been for years to conspire against all constituted Governments and authorities in other countries, and who has, through the instrumentality of a Minister of the Crown, been carrying on a secret correspondence which he could not have done under the auspices of a less important personage. I think, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government, in not accepting the resignation of the hon. Gentleman, do, to a very great extent, adopt the responsibility of his conduct; and when they come to know the effect of that conduct throughout France, they will very much regret that they did not accept his resignation.


I regret that this subject has been again renewed; but it now certainly stands on a much more tangible ground than on last evening. Last evening we were asked whether we thought that the remarks of the Procureur Général deserved our serious consideration, so far as they regarded the hon. Member for Halifax. We decided that they did not. This evening my noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) in ask- ing the noble Lord at the head of the Government whether the hon. Member for Halifax has tendered his resignation, says that he considers that what he has done is a public scandal. He is followed by an hon. Member opposite, who says that the fact of my hon. Friend having been the friend of M. Mazzini for many years is a reason why he should not be a Member of the Administration. I trust that that Motion will be brought definitely before us, and that we shall be asked to decide, whether the fact that a man has been the friend of such a person as M. Mazzini does make it improper that he should be a Member of the Government. I do not agree with M. Mazzini in his views. I disagree with almost all the views I believe he now holds on foreign matters. I believe that he has done harm as well as good not only to the cause of order, but also to the cause of liberty throughout Europe; but I am not ashamed to say, whatever may be the feeling of some Members of this House, that I believe him to be a most earnest and sincere man, and a devoted patriot; and I say, moreover, that I believe that one of the great reasons for the hostility shown to him, and through him to my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax is, that whatever may have been his faults he has been one of the great instruments in effecting the resurrection of Italy. There may be a difference of opinion about that, but this I do say— and I do not think that any Member of the House, when he calmly considers the matter, will doubt it—that though we may not agree with M. Mazzini in his views, we may have a high opinion of his character. Then comes this question—my hon. Friend having had a personal friendship for M. Mazzini, and also an agreement with him in opinion that Italy should be a nation, and a prosperous nation, ought he to have disowned and rejected his friendship with him because he became a Member of the Administration? I should not be ashamed of being the friend of M. Mazzini. I am not ashamed of being his acquaintance, but I should have been ashamed of my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax if, when he was appointed a Member of the Government, he had said to M. Mazzini, "I will have nothing more to do with you, and I disown the friendship of past years." I now come to what the noble Lord said about a public scandal. What is this public scandal? Does any Member suppose that my hon. Friend is implicated in this plot, or so-called plot, which has been, I will not say discovered, but lately tried in Paris? Almost every Member who has spoken has acknowledged that he does not believe he was implicated. Does any one suppose that he was unconsciously concerned in it, or made use of in any way for the purpose of this conspiracy? I have not heard any hon. Gentleman say so. What, then, does all this excitement arise from? It arises from this—that among the papers of Greco were the few words, "Mr. Flower, 35, Thurloe Square." There was no proof nor allegation that Greco ever wrote a letter to that address. My hon. Friend states candidly and acknowledges with regret that M. Mazzini, being unable to receive letters from the Continent in his own name, he allowed his letters to be directed to his house, as they were to the houses of other of M. Mazzini's friends; but my hon. Friend does not know that M. Mazzini ever gave the name of Mr. Flower, and does not suppose he ever did. Now, the whole of this scandal comes to this. My hon. Friend says he has been acquainted with M. Mazzini for many years, that he did not refuse him access to his house, and that not having refused him access to his house, he did not tell him he should get no letters there, and that it was possible that letters may have been intended to be sent by some one to his house in the name of Flower. I quite grant that my hon. Friend did commit an indiscretion in allowing M. Mazzini's letters to be continued to be addressed to his house. He has expressed his regret for that. Is the House prepared to say that they think this ought to prevent my hon. Friend from continuing in the Administration, of which he is a credit and an ornament—that he ought no longer to remain a Member of the Government because he has the friendship of Mazzini, and has committed this indiscretion, which he now regrets? That is the simple question; and the noble Viscount, with that courage and generosity which makes him so popular in this House and the country, has declared that he will not be the instrument of driving my hon. Friend away from office because he has committed that indiscretion. I am persuaded that that is also the feeling of this House; and that, although the House may not agree with my hon. Friend in his opinion of Mazzini, it will assent to no proposal intended to drive my hon. Friend from office because he is a friend of Mazzini, because he owns his friendship, and because he has com- mitted what, after all, is a very pardonable offence. And in this, I feel sure, that the opinion of the country will support the opinion of the House.


Sir, it appears to me that the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. W. E. Forster), has scarcely stated the case with perfect correctness as regards the hon. Member for Halifax. And it appears to me there is a great difference between the hon. Gentleman being a friend of Mazzini for a great many years and his having given him facilities for carrying on a clandestine correspondence by permitting him to have letters addressed in a false name to his address. It appears to me there is the widest possible distinction between the two cases. I think it is most unfortunate that any gentleman holding a conspicuous office in the Administration should have been so long connected with a person like Mazzini, who has been implicated in such grave conspiracies against all the States of Europe. At the same time, I think the hon. Member, by his admission that he permitted Mazzini to have letters addressed to him in a false name to his house, and that he was so much implicated in Mazzini's conspiracy on a former occasion as to permit his name to be printed at the foot of a kind of bank-note which Mazzini circulated, greatly aggravates his false position. Hon. Members opposite have thought it necessary to pronounce very great eulogies on Mazzini's character. I have no wish to go into that question further than to say that Mazzini has been known to be a conspirator all his life. We have had proof of it on severa occasions, and that he has encouraged as sassination on several occasions. His was the head that plotted if his was not the hand which tried to execute these abominable plots; and it does appear to me that the very circumstance that he was the head to plot, though not the hand to execute, is in itself a very grave aggravation of the charges that are made against him. With regard to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, I have always observed that one of his noblest characteristics is, that he never deserts a friend in a strait, however great it may be; and however much the noble Lord in his mind feels that he is making a personal and political sacrifice in sustaining a friend, that one of his principal characteristics is to always sustain a friend and pull a Colleague through the mire if he can. I really think the noble Lord has been guided on this occasion more by that chivalrous feeling than by any deliberate approval of the conduct of the hon. Member for Halifax; for the noble Lord must know, as every hon. Member must feel convinced, that it is a great blow to his Administration, And I feel certain that in this House, with the, country, and on the Continent, it will place; Her Majesty's Government in a very embarrassing and unfortunate position. Now, I do not think the noble Lord has given a perfectly distinct answer to the question put to him by my noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire, which was, whether, the hon. Member for Halifax had I thought fit, since this unfortunate question arose, to tender his resignation? The reply of the noble Lord at the head of the Government I understand to be, that the hon. Member for Halifax did not tender formally his resignation, but that through a third party— a mutual friend — he privately conveyed to the noble Lord an intimation that he was ready to resign if the noble Lord requested him to do so. That appears to me to be the substance of the reply. But, Sir, I think circumstances are now in some degree changed, and the hon. Member for Halifax does not now stand exactly in the same position as he did, The very small majority — which, if my noble Friend's explanation of their motives be taken as a correct one, was rather an equivocal one—has to a certain degree reestablished or whitewashed the hon. Member for Halifax; and I, therefore, ask him whether, considering the position in which he is placed with reference to this House, and the position in which he has placed the Government, whether it does not occur to him as a gentleman and a man of honour, that it would be a proper and becoming course for him to adopt — not to intimate through a third party—not merely to suggest that he was ready to resign his place if the noble Lord asked him, but to tender in a frank, manly, and direct manner his resignation positively and absolutely to the noble Lord at the head of the Government.


What I intended was that my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax, through a common friend, placed himself and his office entirely in my hands.


Perhaps the noble Lord will favour the House with his reasons for not accepting the hon. Gentleman's resignation—the reasons which operated with him when he declined to accept it. Now, I think the matter was debated last night on either side in a spirit which was not altogether becoming. On one side many of the remarks which were made with respect to Mazzini were received with a levity which I think unbecoming, and on the other side of the House a warmth of passion was exhibited which was very much out of place. As a public body, sitting in a quami-judicial capacity, we have a great duty to perform, both towards the people of this country and the Emperor of the French, This is not the first time we have been charged with permitting conspiracy to be hatched for the purpose of taking the life of a monarch with whom we are in friendly alliance. Now, I think I am not saying too much when I state there is not a man in Europe whose life is so valuable to Europe at large, and—with the exception of our own gracious Sovereign—so valuable to us as that of the Emperor of the French. We owe to him and to his philosophic mind—to the calmness and clearness with which he considers the politics of the world—the repression of those rivalries, jealousies, and animosities which for ages past have existed in France against England. We know that in 1858, when that abominable conspiracy was hatched in this country by Orsini, such were the feelings of the French nation, and the French army in particular, that certain French Colonels addressed His Majesty, and besought him to lead them forth to drag the assassins from London, a place that harboured the villains of the world. Nor is the feeling less intense at the present moment, particularly connected with a man of Mazzini's character. We are told that this is only an indiscretion on the part of the hon. Member for Halifax. Indiscretion! It appears to me that there have been a succession of blunders. I do not think that any man possessing proper feelings ought to have gone into an Administration carrying with him the friendship of a man like Mazzini. Nor do I think that the noble Lord at the head of the Government should have invited a friend of Mazziui—not a secret friend, but a man who avows and glories in his friendship as one of the greatest philanthropists and patriots of the day—to take part in his Administration. Lord Russell, when he was a Member of this House, in discussing the Conspiracy Bill, spoke of him as "the assassin Mazzini," and he told a story to illustrate the character of that person. The noble Lord said— I will relate another instance, which became known last year. Mazzini, who is one of the persons who, they say, preach assassination, stated that a person holding a high station in the Pied-montese army came to him when a young man, and proposed to him to assassinate Charles Albert, the King of Sardinia. Mazzini told him he was hardly worthy to commit such an action; but he gave him instructions, sent him to Turin, and gave him his own dagger wherewith to commit the crime."—[3 Hansard, cxlviii. 1041.] Talk of the hon. Gentleman's indiscretion! Did he hear that speech; did he ever read that speech; did he ever hear of it? It is something more than an indiscretion to have the friendship of a felon of that kind. It is well known in this country that he is the father of assassins—that he is a man who sends assassins out with poisoned daggers. For men to claim him, as two hon. Gentlemen have done here, with pride, as a glorious man of fine intellect, as a noble character above the ordinary prejudices of the world, is that a mere indiscretion? Is it an act of indiscretion to make his house a post office for the receipt of treasonable letters sent from different parts of the Continent to the great arch-agitator of the world? Is that an indiscretion? It is something more than an indiscretion; it would form in an indictment a very strong feature in evidence. The hon. Baronet the Member for Yarmouth (Sir Henry Stracey) read last night extracts from Mazzini's own writings, in which he teaches the doctrine of assassination. Did the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stansfeld) know that before or during his long friendship with Mazzini? If he did it was his duty to cast him off. Talk of indiscretion! There was another act of something more than indiscretion. When the noble Viscount the First Lord of the Treasury, on account of the hon. Gentleman's talents and abilities, tendered him a seat in the Cabinet—I mean in the Government — the hon. Gentleman should have explained to the noble Lord that by his complicity, or through his friendship, with Mazziui he would bring disgrace on the Administration; or he should have said to Mazzini, "I am now in connection with Her Majesty's Government, and I cannot cover your treasonable correspondence. I will not bring discredit on an honourable Administration. I cannot continue the association without bringing into the Government contamination from the company I keep." Talk of a friendship with Mazzini! A man certainly might by a strong effort of moral courage manage to associate with Calcraft. I shall not de- tain the House longer. Every man has made up his mind on this matter. I believe that in respect of the transaction the mind of the public runs all one way. Indeed, I might go further and say that the private opinion of every Member of the Cabinet is in the same direction. We find the hon. Member the particular and intimate acquaintance of Mazzini, the man who advances him money, who endorses his name on the back of Mazzini's bank-notes to give them currency abroad; and I believe the miserable majority of ten against the Motion of the hon. Baronet last night is in reality a condemnation of what the friends of the hon. Member call "an indiscretion." I now want to know whether the noble Lord will state the reasons why he retains the hon. Gentleman in his Government, knowing as he does how very offensive to the people of the Continent has been the fact of his favouring and harbouring that most wretched man, Mazzini. I ask the noble Lord whether he will state to the House the reasons which induce him to keep the hon. Member in his Government, contrary to the hon. Gentleman's own wishes.


Before the business is finally disposed of, I am anxious to ask a question of the noble Lord at the head of the Government. It is, what business the House will be called upon to proceed with on the first meeting of Parliament after the recess whether it is the intention to go into Committee of Supply, and, if so, whether the Army Estimates will be taken?


I should not have taken any part in these discussions, because painful they must be to every one who hears them, whatever his opinion of the particular transaction, if the statement made by the noble Viscount had not placed the matter, if possible, in a more painful and disagreeable position than it stood in before: because, if there be one thing more than another in the feeling of the country, it is to the mode and manner in which this question was treated and answered in this House—first, when the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Cox) made an inquiry of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax, and, next, when the affair was made the subject of a debate arising out of an inquiry put by the hon. Baronet (Sir Lawrence Palk) to the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. I am one of those who think that the noble Viscount, who, it appears, was then cognizant of the whole of the facts, should have caused a different course to be adopted. If the hon. Member for Halifax, when the question was first asked of him, had made that avowal which he did not make voluntarily, but which I must say has been dragged out of him by a protracted inquiry—if he had said it was true that he had given M. Mazzini leave to have his letters sent to his house, and had added, "I am sorry for it; I was not aware how the privilege might be used "—if the question had been frankly answered in that way this matter would have stood in a very different light, But, if I may use the phrase, the facts were studiously kept from the knowledge of the House. No man could guess from the reply of the hon. Member for Halifax to the first inquiry, and still less from the answer of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs to the second, that it was perfectly plain and true that the house of the hon. Member for Halifax had been at the disposal of a man, whose character has been sufficiently designated in the course of these debates, to serve as a receptacle for his correspondence. After what has taken place one might be tempted to ask, whether the bags of the Foreign Office are not at the service of M. Mazzini? One might be disposed to ask the question, because both the hon. Gentlemen stood up for M. Mazzini. [Mr. LAYARD dissented.] The hon. Member for Southwark shakes his head. I am only saying the question might be asked, because both hon. Gentlemen entertain similar opinions respecting the man whose correspondence was covered by the hon. Member for Halifax. [Mr. LAYARD: No!] It now appears clear that the house of the hon. Member for Halifax was at the disposal of M. Mazzini for letters coming to him. Now, that was just the question raised in the first instance. No one pretended to believe for a moment that the hon. Member for Halifax was mixed up with any conspiracy to murder. To make that the issue was only to throw dust in the eyes of the House and the country. The question was whether the hon. Member had subjected himself to the imputation of allowing letters, which he knew nothing about, and which probably he took care to know nothing about, to pass through his house. If that had been frankly avowed when the matter was first brought under the notice of this House—if there had not been an attempt to keep it back—the matter would have been on a different footing, and, in my opinion, the noble Viscount would have stood in a much higher position—because he seems to me to have been a party to keeping it back. It appears that at the time of the hon. Member for Finsbury asking his question, the noble Viscount had had the whole matter brought to his knowledge; and I regret that in his usual frank manner he did not at once make the statement we have since heard from him—there should have been a disclaimer to the country and the world, and it should have been acknowledged that an indiscretion had been committed, and I believe that if the hon. Member for Halifax had at first made a frank avowal of the indiscretion with which he had acted, the whole affair would have passed away. If a man commits an indiscretion and frankly owns it, no one in the country is disposed to go further than to say, "You have been a foolish fellow," and the matter is at an end; but if he gets up and talks of character, and raises all sorts of false issues and dodges, and has not the manliness to acknowledge that he has committed a fault, no one in the world will feel sure that there is not something behind that you have not got hold of, and you cannot trust the man for a statement of the whole transaction from beginning to end.


I do not wish to prolong this discussion, but as reference has been made to a previous conversation which took place in this House, and the nature of it has been misrepresented by the right hon. Gentleman and others, I must say a few words with respect to it. The question, then, put to me the other evening by the hon. Baronet the Member for Devonshire (Sir Lawrence Palk) had nothing whatever to do with Mazzini or with letters sent to my hon. Friend's house, and I did not answer, as I could not, whether letters had been sent or not. Next, it is said that I made use of terms with respect to Mazzini the same as those used by the hon. Member for Halifax. I distinctly and utterly deny that anything of the kind took place. What did take place was this:—The hon. Baronet got up and asked me whether, in consequence of the statement made by the public prosecutor in France, on such evidence as he thought might have justified the assertion, that a Member of the Government had been implicated in a plot to assassinate the Emperor of the French, Her Majesty's Government had thought fit to make a representation to the French Government on the subject; and my answer was nothing but this—that I thought it not consistent with the dignity of Her Majesty's Government to make a representation founded on a statement made by the public prosecutor of France in a court of justice in the course of a trial. That is my opinion still, and I believe it is the opinion of this country. I said nothing with respect to Mazzini'a opinions. I said that the French Government had made no communication to this country, and that it was for the French Government to make a communication, if they wished for an explanation; but that I was convinced that the French Emperor, who is well acquainted with this country, felt the accusation so monstrous, whether made against a Member of the Government, or a Member of this House, or against any English gentleman, that he had not thought fit to make a representation on the subject, and it was not for us to make a representation in the sense indicated by the hon. Member for Devonshire.


I wish to ask the hon. Member for Halifax, whether it is true that his name appears in the majority of 10, who voted last night; and whether it is not contrary to the practice of the House that he should have taken part in the division?


The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) commenced the few remarks he made by saying that this was a very painful subject. Well, it is a painful subject; but, somehow or other, I recollect noticing, in the course of my Parliamentary experience, that there is nothing in which this House so much delights, nothing which will attract such a numerous attendance of Members, as a purely personal and painful subject. I think that my noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), when he addressed himself with so much unction to-night to this painful subject, might have reflected that the painful subject is somewhat assuming the aspect of a painful persecution, for no two lads recently escaped for the holidays from school could have presided over the impalement of a cockchafer with greater glee than the civic dignitary the hon. Member for Southampton (Alderman Rose) and the hon. and gallant Member for Dungannon (Major Knox) have shown in the attack upon the hon. Member for Halifax. The civic dignitary on a late occasion, not satisfied with hunting Mazzini through every gyration, put the question whether Mazzini had ever lived at the house of the hon. Member for Halifax, and made an inquiry after his washing. To-night the hon. Member for Dungannon (Major Knox) rises and persecutes the hon. Member for Halifax, asking whether he voted in the majority last night. Why should he not have voted in the majority? I have no sympathy whatever with the views of the hon. Member, but I beg leave to correct the statement just made on the other side of the House, that the noble Lord at the head of the Government has given him a seat in the Cabinet. He only fills a very humble seat in the Admiralty barge; and what I say is, that, after all, you are only persecuting a clever young man who holds a minor office in the Admiralty. It would seem from the discussion last night that there is so little to do in the way of real business, that we make it a business to debate personal questions, and to get up with hypocritical faces and declare that these are "painful subjects." Why you all delight in them, and next to roasting a Bishop possibly nothing is so agreeable to the House as baiting a Member of the Administration. I have no particular confidence in Her Majesty's Government, or in the Members of the Administration, but I should be ashamed to pitch upon one of its Members, and that a very humble Member, who has made his way without any aristocratic connections, and has made his position solely by his own abilities, and hunt him, and use opprobrious expressions towards him, I do lament the indiscretion he committed. I know nothing of Mazzini, and, as far as I have heard of his views, I do not much like them; nor am I anxious to meet him at dinner or to defend him in this House. But let it be recollected that Mazzini has not yet been put on his trial. He has yet to undergo a trial in Paris on this very business that we are debating. If we were —what we are not—a judicial assembly, for we are perfectly incapable of acting in a judicial spirit in consequence of our passions, and we incline, therefore, to these painful subjects—but if we were a judicial assembly we would not condemn a man unheard, and without having the facts of the case before us. With regard to this indiscretion of the hon. Member for Halifax, I would ask the House, in sober sadness, are we not carrying this matter too far? We have had this question debated, and the Baronets have come out upon it very strong. First of all, there was the hon. Baronet the Member for Devonshire (Sir Lawrence Palk), and after him last evening another came out, and I never heard a melodramatic part played so well as that of the "Dagger and the Bowl" by the hon. Baronet the Member for Yarmouth (Sir Henry Stracey), who not only spoke but looked the character to perfection. We had an animated debate last night; and came to a division. I voted in the majority, not approving altogether of the conduct of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax; but I felt bound to take the denial he gave, which I think explicit, and not to take a dirty advantage by wreaking vengeance on a small member of Her Majesty's Government. An hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House— Member for some place in Cornwall—(Mr. Haliburton) referred to that legal functionary Mr. Calcraft, why or wherefore I cannot understand. All I can say is, that if every indiscretion of hon. Members in their youth is to be visited on them, would hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House escape? I think that the course we are pursuing is unworthy the character of English Members of Parliament. With regard to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax, I think that the position he holds in the Ministry is unworthy of his talents, and if I were in his position I would at once resign. If I were the hon. Gentleman, I would not consent; to hold my seat on the Treasury bench with any imputation hanging over me. If he were to resign, he must return to office again, and in a better place; and sure I am that it is unworthy of us as Members of Parliament, and such conduct will not he responded to by the great public out of doors, to go on baiting, night after night, a junior Lord of the Admiralty.


Sir, I have taken no part in this discussion. The right hon. Gentleman behind me (Mr. Henley) has said what I am sure everybody has felt—that this is a very painful subject; but when the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down says that it is a painful question, I would remind him that it is a serious question also, seeing that he has addressed a speech to the House in which he seeks to turn the ease into ridicule. In one sentence which he uttered I cordially agree—that we are not fulfilling our duties as Members of Parliament. Now, Sir, I must confess that the answer given to the Question of the noble Lord (Lord Elcho) has somewhat altered the condition of affairs; and I am glad rather to put aside the personal matter, as regards the hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax, because the answer of the noble Lord puts this Question in a much more serious position, and brings it before us upon the deliberate judgment of the Prime Minister of England. I do not, of course, impute to the hon. Member for Halifax any complicity with this plot. When the Question was first mooted, the hon. Gentleman met it with an indignant denial. But he did more—at the very moment when Mazzini is accused of attempting the life of our ally, the Emperor of the French, he passes the most studied eulogium on him, and then sits down side by side with the Prime Minister of England. It is that which has made the question serious. But it is doubly serious when we know that the hon. Member for Halifax has expressed his readiness to tender his resignation to the noble Lord, and that the noble Lord not only said he did not desire it, but that if offered, he would refuse to accept it. The present state of affairs is serious to this House. It compromises the Government, it compromises the character of the country; it compromises our relations with our allies. The position we stand in is this: that when a Member of the Government has passed a studied eulogium upon the person who is accused of having conspired against the life of a Sovereign ally, that Member is not only not called upon to resign, but receives the approval of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and an avowal that if he tendered his resignation he Would not receive it. We are told that we are hunting—to use a phrase of the lion. Member opposite (Mr. Bernal Osborne)—a subordinate Member of the Government. That is not now the question. We have now to deal with a much more serious question— not with the position of a subordinate Member of the Government, but with the position which the head of the Government has chosen to assume in sanctioning the eulogium which the hon. Gentleman passed upon Mazzini, and in not doing that which I think he was bound to do—doing his best to remove the imputations under which, as the results of the first night's debate, his Administration rests.


I regret that the debates during the last few nights should have assumed a personal character, origina- ting on this side of the House to an extent positively painful. What, Sir, has passed this evening? There has been a futile attempt to pass a censure upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and on what ground? Because, in pursuance of his duty, he has thought fit to use strong terms of reprobation with regard to a company, which, I must say, appears to deserve the term of fraudulent. An hon. Member's name is connected with that company, and the House has been occupied night after night in raking up an expression used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which after all might have been indiscreet as regards the individual towards whom it was employed, but just towards the company with which it was connected. What is the second part of these proceedings? A great part of two nights have been spent in attacking a Member of the Government, because he had the indiscretion to consort in former years with a person who has been charged with instigating assassination; but who, he says, abominates assassination. My opinion of M. Mazzini's course and character must be the same as that of every right-minded person. But I would ask hon. Members on this side of the House, who are so very zealous in condemning the hon. Member for Halifax, whether hon. Members on this side of the House can really pretend to be so very nice? whether, if a similar course were pursued towards them, imputations quite as grave might not be brought against some who sit on their own side. Have we not heard, Session after Session, from Members of the Opposition, the defence of the brigands of Italy — men who have burnt their prisoners, men who gouge, men who rape, men who have committed every atrocity? Have we not heard Members on their side proclaim these men patriots? It seems as though they were so accustomed to such laudation on crime as to have become insensible to it when proceeding from one side of the House; they might, I think, show a little more forbearance when they find that some of the associates of hon. Members opposite are fit to be placed at the bar with the brigands of Italy. I hope the House will forbear from such personalities. I do not understand that it is the duty of the Opposition to spend the time of the House in such matters, to the interruption of the useful business of the country.


wished to draw attention to a rather singular incident in connection with the very small majority in favour of the Government on the previous evening. He had always understood that when a Member was personally interested in any question before the House he ought to abstain from voting. He would not express an opinion as to whether the peculiar nature of the debate last night justified the hon. Member for Halifax in continuing present after he had made his statement, but he must own he was very much surprised to observe the name of the hon. Gentleman in the division list as forming one of the small majority. He was afraid that this might be made a precedent on some future occasion, and begged leave to ask the Speaker whether such a proceeding was in accordance with the usages of the House.


said, that no doubt the rule was that no Member could vote on a question in which he was peculiarly interested; and, also, there were occasions when it was becoming for a Member to leave the House before the division, although there was no positive charge against him. The vote of the previous evening, however, was whether or not certain matters did not require the serious consideration of the House, and it could not be said, on any interpretation of the rules of the House, that the hon. Member for Halifax ought not to have voted on that question.


said, he believed it to be the opinion of that side of the House, that when the hon. Member for Halifax was first questioned on this subject he would have done better if he had replied categorically, and not allowed his feelings to lead him into an eulogium on M. Mazzini. He must, however, remind the House, that when the hon. Gentleman on that occasion showed a desire to give more detailed information on the subject, he was met with cries of "No," which prevented him from continuing his explanation. These cries, in which he (Mr. Denman) joined, he interpreted as the expression of an apprehension, that if the House were to force on these explanations, it would be playing into the hands of the French police, by eliciting information for the purpose of compromising all the correspondents of Mazzini. He doubted whether it was reasonable or desirable that after such a matter as this had been discussed as it was last night, they should be again deliberating upon it, again casting imputations upon the hon. Member for Halifax, again questioning the purity of his motives and the honesty of his statements. The sole scrap of evidence against him was a piece of paper found upon a man in France, not dated, which might have been left in his pocket for years, which was thoroughly accounted for by the fact that the hon. Member had once, indiscreetly if you will, allowed his name to be placed upon notes issued to raise money for certain patriots abroad. That paper contained the address of Flower, at the house of the hon. Member for Halifax. The answer of the hon. Member was, that he never, until now, knew that the name of "Flower" was used on letters intended to reach Signer Mazzini. There was absolutely nothing in the evidence at the trial, or in the statements of the Procureur Général, to show when or under what circumstances that scrap of paper came into the hands of Greco, how it was used by him, or whether he used it at all or not. For his own part, he did not pretend to know what the doctrines of Mazzini were, but this he did know, that on the Continent, when a man evinced a passionate desire for liberty, however pure his patriotism might be, and however he might abhor assassination, one of the ordinary practices of despotic Governments was to brand him with opprobrious epithets, and to say that he was a conspirator and an assassin. It was said that Earl Russell once spoke of Mazzini as "that assassin Mazzini;" but there was nothing, except the current statement abroad, to prove that Mazzini approved assassination. The hon. Member for Halifax had declared that Mazzini abhorred assassination as much as any Gentleman in that House, and that being his belief, he would have shown himself a coward, unworthy of his position, if he had cast off his friend for fear of compromising himself. Moreover, the hon. Gentleman had stated that his house would not be used again as it had been; and so the only importance of the charge against him fell to the ground. He had done right in tendering his resignation when his conduct was made the subject of discussion and inquiry, and the noble Lord at the head of the Government had also done right in refusing to accept it, because it would have been wrong to turn out an innocent man in order to please his political enemies and the Procureur Général of a foreign Power. It would have been contrary to the dignity of the House if the Government had taken that course, and hon. Gentlemen opposite would have been the first to fly at their throats if they had done so. A miserable scrap of paper and a miserable bit of a charge of indiscretion on the part of the hon. Member for Halifax had been used to get up a serious, grave, and, as the hon. Member for Liskeard had called it, "painful" allegation of conspiracy. Hon. Members opposite thought to weaken the Government, but he believed the attack made upon the hon. Member for Halifax would greatly strengthen the Government when it was known that they had the fortitude to disregard the speech of the Procureur Général, and to refuse to discard a useful public servant on such evidence.


said, that the discussion was in one sense important, and that it ought not to terminate in the issue attempted to be raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman. The hon. and learned Member and his Friends might regard this as a question of slight importance, but in no other country in Europe would such an opinion be entertained. He had talked of a miserable scrap of paper, but the scrap of paper bore the address of a Lord of the Admiralty, which was found sewn in the clothes of a person on the eve of the committal of a horrible outrage, and the matter had been referred to by the representative of the French Government in a proceeding of the greatest gravity. The hon. Member for Halifax was then asked a question upon the subject in that House, but he did not at once own all that was elicited last night. The hon. and learned Gentleman had talked of the want of evidence, as if the importance of this question depended on the amount of evidence and not upon the seriousness of the imputation. It came out by close questioning and from other sources, that the hon. Member had placed his House at the disposal of Mazzini, and had permitted a correspondence to go on under false names—names that were not always known to M. Mazzini himself, and with respect to which the hon. Gentleman had never asked any questions. It was now owned that the name upon this alleged miserable scrap of paper was one of those by which Mazzini was known in this country. [Mr. STANSFELD: A translation of a name.] If an hon. Member thought proper to have such intimate relations with a man who philosophized on the theory of the dagger, the Members of the House would not conceive themselves entitled to interfere. It was only when a Member who had accepted an office under the Crown was accused of being the medium between the authors of the moral and immoral theory of the dagger that the House, with a dissatisfaction approaching to disgust, saw the hon. Gentleman sitting beside the First Lord of the Treasury.

Motion agreed to.

House at rising to adjourn till Monday, 4th April.