HC Deb 30 May 1865 vol 179 cc1107-9

As some misapprehension was caused by the answer of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) the other night, to a question put by the hon. Member for Radnorshire (Sir John Walsh) I wish to ask, Whether the communication which the noble Lord said had been received from the United States Government, with respect to the losses caused by the Alabama and other similar vessels, is in any way contradictory in tenour and spirit to Mr. Adams's despatch of October, 1863, in which he stated that, in order to preserve amity and friendship between the two countries, he was instructed by his Government to postpone any question which might arise with reference to the depredations of the Alabama to some future time, when it could be discussed with calmness. And I also wish to ask, whether that communication was dated before or after the accession of President Johnson.


I can only repeat what I said on a former occasion—that communications have been going on between the two Governments for a considerable time past with regard to the captures made by the Alabama and other ships of the same kind. My hon. Friend wishes to know whether, in a recent communication, the identical words are repeated which were contained in any former one. I am not aware that the identical words are used; but the general tenour of the communication is the same, and refers to the same matters as the previous communications, a certain portion of which have been laid before Parliament, and are now on the table of the House. My hon. Friend asks whehether the last communication was made since the accession of President Johnson. It was made here since that time; but whether the instructions upon which it was made were issued by President Lincoln or President Johnson, I cannot inform you.


I understood the noble Lord at the head of the Government to say that the former demands on the subject of the Alabama had been conveyed in a correspondence, of which a portion had been laid before Parliament. I wish to ask the noble Lord, what are the dates, or at least what is the approximate period of the correspondence relating to the demands on account of the Alabama which has not been laid before Parliament?


I am unable to answer off-hand the question of the noble Lord.


Is it not possible, in a case of such considerable importance, for the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs or some other person on behalf of the Government to give a more explicit answer to the Question which has been put by the hon. Member, because the fact is one of very considerable importance. There seems to be an impression abroad—I believe an unfounded impression—that since the accession of President Johnson claims with regard to the Alabama have been made in a different spirit from that in which they were made formerly. I rather gather from the Question of the noble Lord (Lord Robert Cecil) that he is not altogether satisfied with the reply of the noble Lord at the head of the Government. It is of importance that the mind of the country should be set at rest upon this subject; and if it be the case, as I believe it is, that no fresh feature has been introduced into the claims on account of the Alabama within these few months, I hope the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs will be able to state that distinctly.


The case is very simple. The original demand was that contained in papers which have been laid on the table of the House last year, or at the end of the previous Session. Whenever cases have arisen, whether solitary or otherwise, of vessels captured by the Alabama and other ships of that nation, Mr. Adams, in putting forward the claim in each par- ticular case, has reiterated the original claim almost in the same words. A short time ago, in a Note which reached Her Majesty's Government before the death of President Lincoln, that demand was incidentally renewed in words almost identical with the original claim. That is the state in which the case rests at present. There has been no fresh demand, neither has the claim been withdrawn. The demands which have been made of late are continuations of the original demand.

Motion agreed to.

House at rising to adjourn till Thursday.