HC Deb 23 May 1864 vol 175 cc591-4

, in moving the adjournment of the House at its rising until Thursday, said, that as to-morrow was the Queen's birthday, and on Wednesday the great bulk of the Members would wish to be elsewhere, probably there might be some difficulty in getting a sufficient attendance, and it would therefore be more generally agreeable that the House should adjourn over.

Moved, "That the House at its rising do adjourn till Thursday."—(Viscount Palmerston.)


Before the Motion is agreed to I wish to ask the noble Lord, whether he has received, in reference to what is called "the armistice" between the belligerents, any information to the effect that twenty-four hours after the truce was in operation, and three days after notice of it had reached Jutland, Major General von Bornstedt, a Prussian General, addressed the following communication to the Provision Committee of Viborg:— Should these my moderate commands not be instantly and scrupulously obeyed by the Provision Committee, I would give the gentlemen upon whom the execution devolved an opportunity to consider on bread and water their stubbornness, and would take by force of arms what the usages of war allow. I also wish to know—not by way of interfering in any way with the progress of the Conference towards a happy pacification, but simply in reference to the manner in which our own Government has adjusted the terms of the armistice—whether it is a one-sided armistice, depriving the Danes of every opportunity of asserting their power at sea, where they have many advantages, and at the same time leaving them to be annihilated upon land? I wish to know whether it is lawful for one of the belligerents to demand provisions, and whatever else he may require, without payment, pending the armistice, and to compel the inhabitants to labour in removing the fortifications of D¨ppel, that the Prussian guns may be able when the armistice is at an end more completely to sweep the Island of Alsen? I want to know what the terms of the armistice really are —not in the least with any desire to ask for any information as to the proceedings of the Conference, which is entirely a separate matter, and will have to be adjusted at the right time, but simply because, if a compact has been made with England such as has been described to us, it is for the honour of England, and of the Ministry, that a satisfactory answer should be given to my question?


Perhaps I may be allowed to say that on Friday night, after a Question was put on this subject, and also after the House was counted out, and, therefore, too late to communicate it to the House, the Prussian Ambassador forwarded to us a telegram which he had received from Count Bismark, stating positively that orders had been given that after the establishment of the armistice no forced contributions should be raised, and that if any had been raised subsequently they should be returned; that any orders issued for the raising of forced contributions should be abrogated at once; and that all provisions furnished to the Prussian troops for the future should be paid for. With regard to the proclamation mentioned by the hon. and learned Gentleman, no official information has been received by Her Majesty's Government; but we have sent both to Copenhagen and Berlin for all the information that can be obtained with reference to all the proceedings of the Prussian troops in Jutland


Have the Government received any information whether the orders issued have been obeyed since the establishment of the armistice, and whether payment has been made for all provisions?


I cannot answer that Question, for, as I said, we are waiting for information. All I can say is, that we have a distinct assurance from the Prussian Government that no forced contributions shall be raised after that date.


Do the terms of the armistice contain that obligation?


Undoubtedly. It has been already stated that the suspension of hostilities inferred that from the 12th instant no forced contributions should be raised, and all provisions should be paid for.


Is it an instrument in writing, and will it be laid on the table?


said, that the Question of the hon. and learned Gentleman was addressed not to the Under Secretary but to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and he thought that a Question of that importance ought to be answered by the noble Lord himself, whom they nil rejoiced to see back among them, resuming his place in their proceedings. It was extremely unsatisfactory that, when attention had been directed to what appeared to be an infraction of a solemn engagement, they should receive merely a cursory answer, that the Question should not be treated by the highest authority, and that the House of Commons should be left to guess, to a great degree, what the proceedings really were. He wished to know from the noble Lord whether, if the provisions taken by the Prussians were to be paid for, they would be paid for in money, or in some kind of obligation invented by the Prussian authorities?


My hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State answered the Question because it referred to a departmental matter, with which he was, of course, much more conversant than I. With regard to the Question now put, my hon. Friend has stated that the armistice distinctly provides that no contributions should be levied after the signature of the armistice, and that all things required and had by the Prussian and Austrian troops shall be paid for to the people who deliver them. My hon. Friend has stated that M. Bismark, the Prussian Minister, has assured Her Majesty's Government that these engagements will be fulfilled, and we cannot take upon ourselves to doubt that the Prussian Government has the power to compel its local officers to obey the orders issued in pursuance of national engagements. As to the Question of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Darby Griffith), that really is one which is beyond my power to answer. The engagement is that payment shall be made; but with regard to the mode and the time, that is a matter which depends upon the arrangements of the Prussian Government, and I am quite unable to give any answer on the matter.

I Motion agreed to.

House at rising do adjourn till Thursday.