HC Deb 30 May 1864 vol 175 cc839-44

said, he wanted to ask a Question of the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and it was one to which he also begged the attention of the noble Lord at the head of the Government also. It referred to the treatment of an English subject abroad. This gentleman, Mr. Home, had a power, as he believed, of bringing spirits to his call. He was what was styled a "Spiritualist;" but that had nothing to do with it, for Mr. Home was, he believed, a man of good behaviour. Well, this gentleman went to the Papal States, and did not controvert any of the regulations of the Roman Government; he went to Rome for the purpose of cultivating one of the fine arts, and in order to carry out that design he took a studio and incurred considerable expense. Some time after his arrival he received a notice desiring him to call upon Signor Matteucci, the Minister of Police. He went to Signor Matteucci's office accordingly. The Minister asked him his age; and on his stating it, Signor Matteucci expressed his opinion that Mr. Home was eight or nine years older than he stated himself to be, to which opinion the gentleman himself demurred. The controversy went on, and Signor Matteucci said, "You have published a book in France and England stating that certain spirits wait upon you?" "Well," said Mr. Home, "I have done that." "Then," said Signor Matteucci, "will you undertake that no spirits shall come to you while you are in Rome?" Mr. Home replied, "No, I can't do that; the spirits come to me of their own accord; they don't come when I call them, and I can't answer for the spirits; but I will answer for this—that I will hold no séance; I will do nothing to solicit their coming to me; I will do nothing contrary to the law of the city of Rome." Thereupon Signer Matteucci gave him to understand that he would be allowed to remain in Rome undisturbed. Some time afterwards the person second in command of the police of Rome sent for Mr. Home, who went to his office and found no one there. After his return home he received a peremptory message to wait upon this second Minister of Police; and on presenting himself the following day that functionary said to him, "You were not here yesterday." Mr. Home replied, "I was, and I have a consul to prove it." The other then, observed, "I don't care whether you were here or not; you must go out of Rome in forty-eight hours." That was the whole story. He had heard the noble Lord at the head of the Government talk about Civis Romanus sum on one occasion. He now wished for a very much stronger application of the term, Mr. Home was an English citizen, and wherever he was the aegis of England should protect him against any infringement upon his liberty which the law did not allow. He wanted to know whether the noble Lord at the head of the Government would allow any English citizen to be treated in the manner Mr. Home had been —whether he would not protect an Englishman wherever he wandered with the name of an English citizen? He wanted to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, whom he now perceived in close consultation with the noble Lord, whether he would not protect this gentleman against the proceedings of the Papal Government? God knew that he had no feeling about the Papal Government; and as for the old gentleman at the head of that Government, he had a high respect for him, and hoped he might live many years in the enjoyment of his high position. And as for Mr. Home, in the presence of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Milner Gibson), he must say that he regarded this spirit-calling as an hallucination. He had no feeling on the subject of that wonderful power, except one of, he might say, contempt for the whole thing; but Mr. Home being an English citizen, he was anxious that this country should protect him as long as he did not disobey the law. That gentleman at forty-eight hours' notice was put into a railway carriage and ignominiously expelled out of the Roman States; and when Lord Russell was asked what he would do, he said, "I will do nothing." It might be said that Mr. Home went into the Roman States knowing that the Pope was all-powerful and despotic; but—he knew he was going on a violent hypothesis — if an English merchant went into Russia, and the Emperor said, "Cut off that English merchant's head," would England stand it? He appealed to the noble Lord to protect this unfortunate gentleman, and he begged to ask whether anything had been done by Her Majesty's Government to procure him redress?


expressed his regret that Mr. Home should have placed himself in such a position that the Roman Government had called upon him to leave Rome. But Mr. Home appeared to have infringed the Roman laws. It was alleged that the cause of this disagreeable circumstance was that he was in the habit of communicating with certain spirits of the other world. The Papal authorities said that this was against their laws, and they, therefore, called upon him to leave Rome. Now, he (Mr. Layard) did not wish to give any opinion as to whether that gentleman had or had not communication with unearthly spirits. Neither was he prepared to cavil with the Roman law or the Roman authorities. Such appeared to be the Roman law, and so it was administered within the Roman territories. When a gentleman visited a foreign country he was naturally compelled to conform to its laws, and if he refused to do so it was for the authorities to exercise the power vested in them, and to remove him. The same principle was recognized in England, before the repeal of the Alien Act, which enabled the British Government to remove a foreigner from this country under certain circumstances. It was impossible for Her Majesty's Government to interfere in the case in question. All he could say was, that when Mr. Home was first called upon by the Roman Government to furnish explanations in regard to a certain work he had published, and in regard to his alleged intercourse with the spirits of another world — by no means good spirits, but quite the contrary —he sought the protection of the British Consul. The British Consul, whose duty it was to deal with such questions, at once communicated with the Roman authorities, and endeavoured to obtain a withdrawal of the order to Mr. Home. Upon this application the Roman authorities at first gave Mr. Home leave to remain at Rome upon his undertaking it is understood, to abstain from communicating with the other world; but they afterwards changed their mind, whether because they believed that those mysterious spirits were holding converse with Mr. Home, or from some other cause, he (Mr. Layard) could not say. But, at all events, they were determined that neither Mr. Home nor any of those spirits should make Rome their dwelling place, and, accordingly, they requested him to depart. Such was the law of Rome, and the House would see it was impossible for the British Government to interfere in the matter. This was not a question in which there was any protection needed for either the person or property of a British subject. There was no charge of ill-treatment, nor of any attempt to injure the property of a British subject. All that this gentleman was required to do was to leave Rome within a certain time. He had no doubt that Mr. Home had suffered great inconvenience from this circumstance, as he appeared to have wished to follow the profession of a sculptor, and to have expended some money upon his studio and house in Rome. The law, however, was such as had been stated, and he was hound to submit to it. Her Majesty's Government had made such remonstrances as the nature of the case permitted, but those remonstrances had proved unavailing, and he was afraid they could do nothing to compel the Roman Government against their will to receive this gentleman and his supernatural visitants.


said, that Mr. Home was a gentleman who stated that he had intercourse with spirits, who foretold future and related past events, and he believed that he accepted fees for his séances. [Mr. ROEBUCK: Never.] Suppose he had done so. [Mr. ROEBUCK: Suppose he had not.] What, however, he wished to point out was that in this country we had very stringent laws against conduct similar to that of Mr. Home. Fortunetellers and persons attempting to foretell events were liable to be taken up and punished by our laws. He would not discuss whether our laws or the laws of Rome were sound or not. What he asserted was that in each case they were founded on the same principle. There were a great number of English residents at Rome every year, and he had heard many of them state that nothing could exceed the courtesy and attention they always received from the Papal Government. This was the only complaint he had ever heard of against that Government, and he was glad to learn that Her Majesty's Government thought it was not well founded.


said, the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield had made a mistake in bringing that complaint against the Roman Government. That Government and Mr. Home were quite agreed; the only difference between them was as to these spirits, for whose good behaviour that gentleman could not be answerable. The only persons to blame were the obscene spirits in the habit of calling occasionally on Mr. Home. The hon. and learned Member said he had a great respect for "the old gentleman" at the head of the Roman Government. That was not a decent mode of reference to the head of the Catholic Church, and it was not justifiable on the hon. Member's part, even although he might have a bigoted prejudice against Catholics. [Mr. ROEBUCK dissented.] The House had been occupied all that evening with spirits and nothing but spirits; and he thought they had had enough of them. For himself he did not believe in any spirits except the spirit invoked by the Witch of Endor, for which there was Scripture authority. The President of the Board of Trade had turned the tables on the hon. and learned Member having left the House, not liking, perhaps, to face the spirits on that occasion. The hon. and learned Member had asked what Earl Russell would do if an English merchant, "not a gentleman," had his head cut off at St. Petersburg. Why he would do exactly what he had in regard to Mr. Home—nothing. Russia was too strong to go to war with. But if the merchant who was not a gentleman had his head cut off by the Roman Government, Earl Russell would then go to war, because the Roman Government was weak. The hon. Member for Sheffield must know, as a lawyer, that the Roman Government in this case had acted within its strict right. England used to expatriate Papists, as she called them, at her pleasure, without receiving any remonstrances from Foreign Powers. The men thus sent away were not even foreigners, but their own countrymen. As for foreigners, England had always excluded them whenever she liked, on any excuse or on no excuse. He trusted they would not have a renewal of that night's exhibition; and he could not see what on earth could have been the hon. Member for Sheffield's object, unless it were the propagation of his extraordinary doctrines.

Main Question put, and agreed to.