§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
MR. M'CULLAGH TORRENS
said, he had a suggestion to make, and wished to know whether he was to put it in the nature of a simple clause, or propose it as an addition to the clause just adopted. 2108 The object of it was that the whole of the depositions upon which any person intended to act should be laid before the magistrate before the surrender was made. He did not wish, however, to interfere with the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Reading (Sir Francis Goldsmid).
The first clause has been agreed to. The hon. Member should move a new clause. It will come in order after the clause of which the hon. Baronet the Member for Reading has given notice.
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
then rose to move the clause of which he had given notice, and by which he proposed that nothing in this or previous Acts should authorize the extradition of political offenders. He reminded the Committee that it was inconvenient to bring forward a measure of so much importance at this period of the year. The majority of the Members remaining in town were Members attached to the Government, and very little opportunity was given for any general expression of opinion on the part of the House. This circumstance gave the Government, in point of numbers, a giant's strength; and it was only to be hoped that they would not use it tyrannously. It was said on their part that this was not the time to propose an important Amendment of the Extradition Acts, because the present Bill was merely intended to free the operation of those Acts from a technical difficulty. But the promoters of the Bill themselves insisted that that technical difficulty had reduced the treaty with France to a mere dead letter. The Bill became by that circumstance an important Bill; and when the Committee were asked to give force and vitality to an enactment which had hitherto been a dead letter, it became their duty to consider whether without some safeguard its death would not be preferable to its vitality. It was said by the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary that he was ready to agree to a clause of a workable character, and he (Sir Francis Goldsmid) should endeavour to show that the clause he was about to move was both workable and important. He thought there could be no doubt that there was a general impression in the public mind, and the mind of Parliament, that the existing Extradition Treaties did not authorize the delivering up of political offenders, but on looking to the Acts themselves they would find in them no such declaration. The noble Lord the Foreign Secretary told the House 2109 that he was willing to consider favourably the introduction of such a clause, provided a proper definition could be given of a political offender, adding that in a rough and popular way that was perhaps possible. He (Sir Francis Goldsmid) answered that he went very little beyond the noble Lord when he said it was possible, not only in a rough and popular sense, but for all practical purposes, to understand the phrase; and, in fact, the Attorney General admitted and even asserted this when he said that there was a clear understanding with foreign Powers.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, that the hon. Baronet was mistaken in supposing that he said that there was a clear and distinct understanding with foreign Powers. What he said, and what he intended to say was, that in point of fact no demand for the extradition of political offenders had ever been made, and therefore that there must have been an understanding on the part of foreign Powers that treaties of this kind would not be used for that purpose.
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
said, that his recollection was according to what he had stated, and this recollection of the Attorney General's statement was confirmed by the reports in what were called the usual channels of information. However, it did not make a very material difference. The statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman, as now explained, amounted to this, that there was an understanding on the part of foreign Powers not to apply for any political offenders. But how could there be a clear and distinct understanding, either with or on the part of foreign Powers, upon a matter which in the next breath they were told was so obscure and dark that it required a definition, and for want of a definition nothing could be said of it in the Act of Parliament? It was, it appeared to him, one of those things which were clear enough to the ordinary intelligence, but which, if they attempted to define very much further, they would make darker instead of clearer. The first part of his (Sir Francis Goldsmid's) clause went so far in explaining what was a political offence, as to say it was an offence committed for the promotion, prevention, or obstruction of any political object. It did not define the word political, and any attempt to define the word would make more obscure what was sufficiently plain to ordinary understandings to act upon under the Extradition Treaties. 2110 The second part of his clause was intended to prevent any foreign Government, after obtaining the delivery up of a person upon a charge which might fail, but which was not political, from trying him upon a charge which was political. If he were told that it was wrong to impute any such possibility to any foreign Government, his answer was that Governments, in general, lost sight of fairness when they had to deal with political offenders, and further, that it was impossible for the French Government to consider that part of the clause as implying any imputation, inasmuch as it followed in substance the 7th Article of the French Treaty of May, 1852, which treaty, for reasons in no way connected with this clause, was not sanctioned by the British Parliament. As he inferred from the remarks of the noble Lord on Friday last that he was not satisfied with the clause as it at present stood, he had since ventured to submit to him two other clauses, either of which, although he did not like them so well as he did his own, would yet effect a great improvement in the Bill. One of those clauses was to this effect—that nothing in this Act, nor in any previous Act relating to any Extradition Treaty, should be deemed to extend to any political offence. That was a very simple clause. The other was to the effect that no person should be delivered up under that or any other Act relating to any Extradition Treaty except under a warrant from the Secretary of State certifying that it had been shown to the satisfaction of that Minister that the offence with which the person so delivered up was charged was not a political offence. If that clause were adopted, the Secretary of State would act under Parliamentary authority, without the possibility of any legal difficulty respecting the validity of the warrant, but subject to his being called to account by Parliament if his discretion were unfairly exercised. As to the contention of the Government that the existing treaties and the present Bill would be satisfactory without any amendment of the lattter—if so able and acute a lawyer as the Attorney General were advising a client in a matter of private right, he would never advise him to rely upon any understanding by the other party as controlling or modifying the sense of any written agreement. But this was a matter of far more importance than one of private right. When the persons administering foreign Governments were changed, what would 2111 become of understandings with or on the part of them? The Amendment he proposed, therefore, would afford an important security; and moreover, it would give a protection to any English Secretary of State who might be pressed by a foreign Minister to surrender a political offender. He had heard it, if he was not mistaken, stated in the course of the discussion on a former occasion, that any offence that could be considered as political, any killing in the attempt to overturn a dynasty, would not come within the wording of the Bill as it stood; but he believed, nevertheless, that such an offence as that which had been alluded to by his hon. Friend the Member for Westminster in connection with the attempt made by the present Emperor of the French at Boulogne would be regarded in the light of an assassinat under the French Penal Code. The 296th and following Articles of that Code laid it down that homicide committed voluntarily was meurtre, and that when there was premeditation, though without ill-will against any particular individual, the offence amounted to an assassinat. Now, in the instance which he had just mentioned there could, he thought, be little doubt that the homicide had been accompanied with this kind of premeditation.
said, there was, so far as he could see, nothing in the remarks of the hon. Member for Reading which transgressed the bounds of order.
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
disclaimed all wish to say anything which could fairly be regarded as insulting to the Emperor of the French. He was merely arguing that a person placed in a similar predicament might, under the provisions of the Bill as it stood, have to be delivered up, and that it was not proper that we should be placed under such a necessity. He hoped that he had said enough to show that the clause which he proposed was not only necessary to the vindication of the honour of this country and the preservation of the right of asylum, but that it would tend to maintain rather than endanger our friendly relations with foreign Powers. The right of asylum had, even in the time of many now living, sheltered 2112 several eminent politicians, and some who deserved the name of great patriots and statesmen. We had seen it protect some men who had previously ruled, and some who had afterwards been called to rule, over mighty nations. It was a right to which he believed all Englishmen attached the greatest importance, and to which they were anxious to adhere. In conclusion, he begged to move the following new clause:—That nothing in this Act, nor in any previous Act relating to Treaties of Extradition, shall be construed to authorize the extradition of any person in whose case there shall be reasonable grounds for belief that his offence, if any, had for its motive or purpose the promotion or prevention of any political object, nor to authorize the extradition of any person the requisition for the delivery of whom shall not contain an undertaking on the part of the Sovereign or Government making such requisition, that such person shall not be proceeded against or punished on account of any offence which he shall have committed before he shall be delivered up, other than the offence specified in the requisition.
§ Clause brought up, and read a first time.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he perfectly sympathized with the feeling which had prompted the hon. and learned Member to propose the clause, but was of opinion that the first part of the proposition should be left to the Councils of the Government, and if any violation of it took place, that would be a matter for the consideration of Parliament. But the second part of the clause stood on very different ground. It provided, that in every document presented to the magistrate the offence for which the extradition was demanded should be specified, but he did not think the meaning of the words sufficiently clear. He believed it would be improper to entail on any court the necessity of judging whether the offence was political or not, but thought the courts had a right to expect and demand, not that the Habeas Corpus Act should be suspended against all foreigners in this country, but that the document should be in the nature of a warrant, and state the offence for which the authorities of this country were required to aid a foreign Government in the extradition of a prisoner. He proposed that the latter part of the clause should read as follows:—Such person shall not be proceeded against or punished on account of any offence which shall not be specified in the document demanding the extradition of such person.The magistrates ought to act under what was equivalent to a warrant, but to require the courts to define political offences 2113 was to require them to undertake a duty beyond their competency.
§ MR. NEATE
said, that whether the hon. Member for Reading had or had not transgressed the rules of the House in the observations which he had made, it was, he thought, extremely undesirable, as a matter of taste and judgment, to mix up with the discussion of the question before the Committee the precise legal appreciation in which a certain act of the Emperor of the French was to be held. To speak of such an act as approaching assassination was, he contended, to give of it a totally erroneous description. As to the proposed clause, whatever might be said with respect to the first part of it, the second must, he thought, be indignantly rejected by the Committee. What, he should like to know, was the meaning of the first part, if not that any man who came to this country after having made an unsuccessful attempt on the life of a foreign Prince should here find a secure shelter? It would apply to such cases as that of Orsini, or that of the misguided youth who endeavoured to murder Count Bismarck; but it was, he contended, important to make a distinction between political offences generally and political assassination. The one was an offence against the Government of a country; the other an offence against the universal morality of all nations. He, for one, could not see why a difference should not be recognized as existing between insurrection and assassination, just as in ordinary warfare the seeking to take an enemy's position and the getting up a plot to murder his General were looked upon in a different light. An insurrection for the purpose of altering the form of Government was totally different from assassination. Indeed, the British constitution might be described as only the result of a series of great political crimes. He thought the late Government adopted a mistaken mode of dealing with this question, for before making a convention they should have referred the matter to a Committee of the House, and then they would have known on what basis to enter upon a treaty. He thought it desirable that the whole subject of Extradition Treaties should undergo revision.
thought that there was some force in what was said by the hon. Member who began the debate as to dealing with a question of this kind at so late a period of the Session; but it was 2114 not the fault of the Government that the question was only now under their consideration, and he had to remind the Committee that if the Bill were put off till next Session the Treaty of 1843 would drop. He admitted, with the bon. Member who spoke last (Mr. Neate), that the whole question was one of great delicacy and difficulty, and one that required more systematic examination than it had yet received. No doubt there were several offences which on the score of general morality and general policy it was desirable to include in the treaty. With regard to the particular question now before the Committee, it seemed to him that the fact of the treaty having been almost a dead letter since 1843 was a strong argument against its anticipated abuse; because there was nothing in it to have prevented the French Government, had they been so minded, from making exactly the same use of it as it was suggested they might do if the Bill were passed in its present form. The real difficulty about the clause was, how to define a political offence. The definition of the hon. Gentleman would include every political assassination whatever, and would prevent the extradition of such men as Orsini, Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln, and the murderer of the witness who had recently been shot in Ireland for giving evidence against the Fenians. What, then, was our security if the Bill passed as it stood? In the first place, it was exceedingly doubtful whether political offences were included even in the French Code under the term "murder or attempted murder." Moreover, the magistrate would have to decide the case, not according to French, but according to English law. In the next place, it was perfectly well-known what were the cases that the treaty was intended to meet; and though it was generally held that the phrase, "it shall be lawful," was mandatory, and not merely permissive when applied to a public officer, he doubted whether any Secretary of State could be compelled to interfere in a case where it was understood that the law was not intended to apply. Lastly, it was impossible to conceive the French Government so blinded by passion or revenge as to insist on putting the treaty in force in a case which they knew would lead to its instant abandonment by this country. He thought also that in a case like this international courtesy demanded that the treaty should not be materially altered without communication with the other party to it. As 2115 for the proposal that the French Government should be required to enter into an undertaking that they would not try any person for any offence other than that for which he had been given up, he thought that that would be a very feeble protection indeed; for, assuming for the sake of argument that the French could act in the manner suggested—and he really begged pardon for assuming it even for that purpose—he could only say, that a Power which could act in such a manner would not be bound by an undertaking of the kind proposed.
§ MR. J. STUART MILL
felt that many of the sentiments which they had just heard from the noble Lord were of a very reassuring character, and if the noble Lord were always to be Foreign Secretary, he should not require much further security; but since the country was not likely to be always so far favoured, he could not help regretting that the deliberations of the noble Lord had not led him to frame some other clause, if that already proposed did not meet with his approbation. It should be remembered that if a person charged with political assassination were not given up, he would not necessarily escape punishment; for he might still be prosecuted in the country where he had sought refuge. Nobody wished that political should enjoy any more impunity than any other kind of assassination; but if we had only the alternative of trying in this country persons charged with political offences, or of giving up everybody charged with homicide of a political character, he (Mr. Stuart Mill) should prefer the former. At the same time, he did not think it impossible to define political offences. Various attempts at definition had, to his knowledge, been communicated to the noble Lord. One of them, suggested by a learned Gentleman, he would Mention. It was, "Any offence committed in the course or in furtherance of any civil war, insurrection, or political movement." That he thought would not include political assassination. It appeared to him that this matter required much more consideration than it had yet received; the more one examined into it the worse it looked. There was at the present moment the utmost uncertainty as to the nature of the inquiry which an English magistrate was bound to make, previous to delivering up any person charged with a political offence. He found in the papers before the House two entirely different views of the law of this country. The Extradition Act said— 2116It shall be lawful for any justice of the peace, having power to commit for trial, to examine upon oath any person or persons touching the truth of such charge, and upon such evidence as according to the law of that part of Her Majesty's dominions would justify the apprehension and committal of the person accused if the crime had been there committed, it shall be lawful for the magistrate to commit the prisoner into the custody of the officers of the Power so demanding him.Now, it was stated in the able and excellent letter of Lord Clarendon to Lord Cowley, that a magistrate, when called upon in this country to commit any person for trial, was authorized to examine into the truth of the charge; that, according to our practice, when a person has made oath that another person has committed a certain crime, a warrant is issued for his apprehension; and that the next step is to bring the accused person before a magistrate, when the accuser must appear with his witnesses and be confronted with him in open court, and it must be proved to the satisfaction of the magistrate, before committing the prisoner for trial, that there was sufficient primâ facie ground for believing, first, that the crime had been committed, and next, that the prisoner was the party who had committed it. According to this view of the law, it would be in the power of the person accused, before the order is passed for delivering him up, to produce witnesses and have them examined. By the treaty now entered into, the prisoner might be delivered up on the production of written depositions. But he had always understood that, although the depositions might be received in evidence, yet conformably with our practice it would be open to the prisoner to produce counter evidence in contradiction to them, which might show them to be untrustworthy. But now look at the memorandum of the Conference at the Foreign Office on the 8th of February. It was there stated that an impression prevailed in France that the English magistrate actually tried the case; and that that impression was unfounded. Of course it was, because there was a great deal of difference between the inquiry previous to committal and the actual trial. But, then, the memorandum went on to say, that when the prisoner was brought before the magistrate he would be entitled to have the depositions read in his presence; but that he would not be allowed to controvert the truth of those depositions, or to produce counter evidence, except as to his identity. Could there be a more flagrant case of 2117 contradiction between theory and practice? They were entitled to ask Government whether the law laid down in the Act or the practice laid down in the Foreign Office memorandum was right. If the practice wore to prevail over the law, a law should be made to legalize it; but it ought to be considered whether such a law would not be an absolute enormity. Could it be dreamt of that even in respect to an ordinary offence, depositions taken unknown to the person charged—which he had no opportunity of disputing—with reference to which he was not permitted to cross-examine his accusers, should be sufficient to require his surrender? Were these depositions, produced in evidence in a court in this country, to be made the grounds for delivering up a person to be tried in the country in which the depositions were made, on the sole condition that he was not shown to be the person named in the warrant? If he really were the person charged, was he not to be allowed to tender any evidence to show that the depositions did not establish a case against him? That was a subject on which the noble Lord the Secretary of State should tell them his mind. Then they had been led to think that there was an understanding with foreign Powers, including the Government of France, that political prisoners should not be delivered up. It now appeared, however, that there was no such understanding, but it was assumed that the French Government would not ask them to deliver up such persons. If that was the case, it was extremely honourable to the French Government, or to our own, perhaps to both—honourable to the French Government if they did not desire to have such persons delivered up, honourable to the reputation of our own Government in foreign countries, if the absence of the demand was grounded on a conviction that it would not be complied with. They had the noble Lord's assurance that he would not deliver up such persons, but they ought to have some more complete security. Was that intention grounded on an understanding that the treaty did not require us to give up persons charged with political murder, or on a belief that, although the treaty did bind us to deliver them up, the demand would not be made? Surely it would have been better to have some words inserted in the Act showing that it was not the intention of Parliament that the Act should authorize the extradition of political offenders. It was admitted 2118 that the Act in terms admitted the extradition of political offenders, but we were told that the right was not exercised. That might be the case with regard to a particular Sovereign, but what security had they for the conduct of his successors. It seemed now that there had not been even a verbal understanding, and that absence of any demands from which it had been sought to infer one, might have arisen only from the circumstance that during the period which had elapsed there had not been a sufficiently strong desire for the surrender of any person included in the class referred to, to induce the French Government to demand his extradition. It was said that we could get rid of the treaty in six months, but that could not or would not be done until something irrevocable had taken place, until, perhaps, some illustrious exile had been delivered up, whose surrender would cover this country with ignominy. He entreated the noble Lord to apply his mind to the subject, and see if it were possible to insert words that would show at least the will and intention of Parliament that the extradition should not extend to political cases, so that there might be something to be relied upon by the Secretary of State in justification of the course he might have to take. This Act was an experiment which they were going to try for the first time, and surely it would be worth while to try it avowedly as an experiment. Would the noble Lord limit the duration of the Act to twelve months? At the expiration of that time they would perhaps have better means of judging than they had now, and might be able to renew the Act from time to time for a longer period.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
did not rise to repeat the statements which had been already made by the noble Lord on the subject of Extradition Treaties, which well deserved the consideration of the House; but when the hon. Member for Westminster suggested that the operation of this Bill should be limited to the period of twelve months, he must remind the hon. Member that these treaties were themselves limited in their duration. The treaty with France might be determined by a notice of six months, the treaty with the United States might be determined without notice, and he believed the treaty with Denmark might be determined in the same manner. Therefore the present Bill, though general in its terms, could be limited at the instance of the Government to a period of 2119 six months. He agreed with the hon. Member that it might happen that they would not terminate the treaty without the occurrence of something that would be to all of them a subject of regret. But that was more likely to happen if they adopted the hon. Member's suggestion and extended the Bill to twelve months than if they reserved the power of terminating it in six months. He thought there was a grave misapprehension on the part of the hon. Member for Westminster as to the case of a person who, having been guilty of assassination, took refuge in this country, and defended himself on the plea that it was done from a political motive. The hon. Member thought that such a person ought not indeed to escape from punishment, but that he ought to be tried in this country. But he could not be tried in this country—it was impossible. It might be said that the impossibility was only technical, but he believed it was deeper than a technicality. No person could be tried in this country except for an offence that was committed against the peace of the Sovereign of this country. He would, therefore, be altogether free from punishment. The hon. Member read a passage from a memorandum in the Foreign Office to the effect that a person accused of crime would not be allowed to plead anything whatever in his own defence, to deny his identity with the person named in the warrant of demand. But he (the Attorney General) differed from that opinion. As he understood the Act of Parliament of 1843, a magistrate was required to take the same amount of evidence with regard to a person demanded to be delivered up as would justify him in the apprehension and committal of a person accused of crime in this country. The copies of the depositions against the person accused were to be received in evidence, but only as one ingredient in the case. But suppose the person accused was in a condition to show that the fatal blow which caused the death of the person of whose murder he was accused, was not struck by him but by somebody else, he would be at liberty to produce that evidence to controvert the depositions, and the magistrate would be bound to discharge him in the same way as he would do if the alleged crime had been committed in this country. The hon. Member for Reading had not at all answered the objections which were formerly made to his Amendment. The hon. member proposed that nothing in this Act or in previous Acts should be construed 2120 to require the extradition of persons whose offences were committed from political motives. But the hon. Member did not care so much for inserting this Amendment in the present Act. What he observed was to modify the provisions of the previously existing Acts. But the hon. Member must observe that in all the existing Acts the Sovereign had entered into treaties with the Foreign Powers, and what Parliament was called upon to do was to ratify those treaties, and give the Sovereign power to carry them into effect. The bargain was made between the Sovereigns, and the hon. Member proposed to introduce a new ingredient into the bargain which did not exist at the time the bargain was made. It might have been unreasonable that this new ingredient had not been introduced at the beginning; but to introduce it now was simply to break the bargain which the Sovereigns had made and Parliament had ratified; it was to infringe upon treaty engagements, and that without notice to the other side. He thought the House would not be willing to enter upon such a course as that. The only possible offence which could give occasion for the introduction of the political element was murder or the attempt to murder. Now what the Committee was asked to do by the Amendment of the hon. Member to put it into simple English, was this—that every person who had committed a murder in a foreign country and had fled to this should be given up, provided always that if he had committed that murder from a political motive he should not be given up. Now supposing such to be the interpretation of the law, he asked what answer would be given by England in certain cases that might be referred to. He would put the case that had lately shocked the whole civilized world— the murder of the President of the United States. Suppose that the murderer bad escaped to this country, and that a demand had come from the United States for his being delivered up, what would this country have said? He could not have been punished in this country; and would we have said to America, we admit the man has committed a murder which shocks humanity and the whole civilized world, but we believe that he was actuated by motives of a political character, and therefore we think that he ought to be kept in this country and not given up? Or, take a case of more recent occurrence. Suppose that a police-sergeant or informer had been assassinated 2121 in Ireland in cold blood from motives of revenge, or a desire to promote the Fenian movement, and that the murderer had escaped to France or to the United States, would we be satisfied if we were met by the answer, we agree that the man has committed a murder, but we believe that he did it somehow from political motives, with a view to help forward the Fenian insurrection, and therefore he cannot be delivered up. He thought the House ought to be careful how it sanctioned such doctrines as these. He thought there was some confusion of ideas between political offences and murder committed from political motives. He agreed with those who held that under no Extradition Treaty ought a man to be delivered up for what was popularly called "political offences." But those offences had nothing to do with murder; they were acts which were punished in different countries in different ways—they did not involve assassination, they related to the overturning of a Government or the alteration of a system of law; and, as the hon. Member for Oxford had said, they had often been committed in our country's history, and had led to wholesome changes in our Constitution, though there was no doubt they would at the time have been punished by our laws. These were the things which he understood by the term political offences, and the House, he was sure, would never agree to deliver up such offenders. But, on the other hand, the House would be justified in delivering up murderers and assassins, even though they should plead that they were actuated by political motives. He thought they had perfectly good security that the proposed Extradition Treaty with France would not be abused. In the first place, they had the power to terminate the treaty after six months' notice. The second security was this, that it was not compulsory upon any particular Secretary of State to put the Act in force by sending a person accused before a magistrate, because the words were, "it should be lawful for one of the Secretaries of State to signify the requisition to act to the magistrate;" but these words did not apply to any one Secretary of State in particular. But the third security, and that which to his mind was better than the other two, was this— we might demur as we pleased to the definitions given in the French Code of criminal law; but, according to the words of the Act of Parliament, the magistrate who committed must have before him such evidence 2122 as, according to the laws of England, would justify the apprehension and committal of the person accused if the crime were committed in England. Therefore, the magistrate must have before him such evidence as he would act upon in regard to an English subject. With respect to the latter part of the hon. Member's Amendment, which required that the person should not be tried for any offence but that for which he had been given up, we should certainly have a well-founded complaint against any country that demanded a man to be given up for one offence, and then proceeded to try and punish him for another. But, on the other hand, to put such words into an Act of Parliament which did not exist in the treaty, would only be offering a gratuitous insult to the foreign Power to whom it applied, without securing any real advantage. The hon. Member for Reading had said that in the Treaty of 1852, which fell through, there was a proviso of that kind. But in that case it was absolutely necessary, because the offences specified were so numerous— he believed they exceeded twenty and nearly exhausted the whole criminal law— and therefore it was necessary that we should have the double security that none of the offences should be political offences, and that no one should be tried for a different offence from that for which he had been given up.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
argued that certain offences, besides being offences against municipal law, were also offences against human civilization. In such cases extradition was necessary, because the separation of countries into distinct Governments was pro tanto an impediment to the punishment of offences, and that was an evil for which it was necessary in the interests of society to provide a remedy. If the clause proposed by the hon. Member was assented to this country would, in a manner, be forced to sanction murders committed for a political purpose, and would thereby unavoidably be mixed up in foreign complications.
§ MR. AYRTON
hoped that the hon. Member would withdraw the clause he had proposed, to which there were two unanswerable objections. The first objection to the clause was that it proposed to alter the terms of the treaty between this country and France, which could only be done by agreement between the two contracting Governments. The second objection was of a rather more personal character, as the clause 2123 was so worded as to appear to give some moral right to murder people for political differences. He should regret exceedingly if any person who shot him in the lobby were to find a safe asylum in France, on the ground that he did not like his speeches in the House. As all persons connected with public affairs were in some sense political personages, if the clause were agreed to, any one holding a public office might be murdered with impunity. He should ask the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether it would not be better to agree to the proposition of the hon. Member for Westminster to limit the duration of the treaty to some definite period, as the original treaty was now at an end. ["No, no!"] The treaty was at an end, inasmuch as the French Government had given notice to terminate it. [Lord STANLEY remarked that that notice had been withdrawn.] He contended that the notice to terminate the treaty had not been withdrawn. All that the French Government had done was to give their consent to the treaty continuing in force for another six months. Therefore, as the original treaty was at an end, there would be no difficulty in making the new one terminable at a certain definite period, so as to enable the House to re-consider the matter during the next Session.
had heard with great satisfaction the observations that had fallen from the noble Lord, because he understood him to acknowledge, with that candour that was so characteristic of him, that the legislation upon this subject, as varied by the Bill now before the House, could not fairly be relied upon as legislation of a safe character. He did not doubt that, owing to the Bill being introduced so late in the Session, and there not being, therefore, sufficient time to discuss it, hon. Members attached more importance to the measure than really belonged to it. In due time the subject would receive careful consideration. The Committee could not better express their feeling upon the matter than by acceding to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Westminster, and limiting the duration of the Act to one year. The Attorney General had said that the best way of proceeding in order to make the treaty a temporary one was to make it terminable at six months' notice, so that, when the House wished to reconsider the matter, the notice might be given. That would scarcely be a courteous mode of proceeding, neither would it accord 2124 with his view, which was that the object of limiting the duration of the Act was to obtain a sort of Parliamentary expression of opinion that the House was not satisfied with the opportunity it had had of putting the legislation upon this subject upon a proper basis. The noble Lord read a passage from the Act of Parliament which stated that the Act was permissive, and was not compulsive; but he omitted to observe that the connection with the foreign States, including that of France, was compulsory, and that if the stipulated conditions were complied with the Secretary of State had no option but to hand over the accused. Therefore, that branch of the security upon which the noble Lord relied had failed. Under these circumstances, he begged to move that a clause be added to the Bill, limiting the duration of the Act to the 1st of September, 1867. An opportunity would thus be afforded of giving to the measure full consideration.
could not have consented to the introduction of a clause which would have altered its principles, but he could have no difficulty in acceding to the proposition of the hon. Member, that the duration of the Bill should be limited to one year from the 1st of next September. In the course of the next Session the House would have an opportunity of carefully and deliberately considering the subject.
MR. M'CULLAGH TORRENS
moved the insertion of a proviso necessitating the production of all the depositions taken in any case by the French magistrate, as well as the mere certificate, but the proviso was negatived without a division.
§ House resumed.
§ Bill reported, with an Amendment; as amended, considered; read the third time, and passed, with an Amendment.