HC Deb 23 February 1866 vol 181 cc1027-54

said, that he had postponed the Question and Motion of which he had given notice till to-night in deference to the wishes of hon. Members anxious to complete the discussion of the Cattle Plague Bill, and he did not regret it, for in the interval the House had learned from high authority—namely, that of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, that the Fenian conspiracy was of American and not of Irish origin, and that it was not countenanced by the Government of the United States. This announcement was no doubt made upon definite information, and he was anxious that the House and the country should be re-assured by that information being officially made known. On the other hand, the postponement had placed him in this position, that the subject of the remarks he should have to make, though analogous to that so ably raised by the hon. Member, had been divided from it by a discussion on railways and a reply about the oyster fisheries. He could, no doubt, have imitated the example afforded him and have spoken upon the Motion of the hon. Member, but he thought he should thereby have strained the rules of the House. He had now to submit what, perhaps, might be considered the other half of this international question. His Question to the right hon. Gentleman was, If any and what representations have been made by Her Majesty's Government to the Government of the United States in reference to the Fenian organization in America, and more especially as to the employment of United States officers, the issue of bonds of the so-called Irish Republic, and the threats made to levy war upon the dominions of Her Majesty by that organization? And he also moved for all papers connected with the subject, in order that the House might know the true position of affairs and ascertain whether or not the Government had given, as he hoped, their serious attention to so pressing and serious a matter. He had received a friendly hint from an hon. Friend who usually sat in that part of the House to the effect that it was undesirable to raise this Question for fear of causing irritation in the United States, and because the Fenian movement would, if let alone, at last die out. He feared it would not die out of itself, and that it would have to be repressed. He was not likely to say anything which could lead to irritation. He had visited the United States frequently. He had considerable interest in its industry and physical progress, and he was proud to count many citizens of that great country as his personal friends. The people of this country were an outspoken people, and those of the United States were not less outspoken, and they each honoured the other for the quality. He did not believe that anything could be, or ever had been, gained to the cause of truth and right by the concealment of the true opinions of one great people as to the conduct or omissions of another. On the contrary, the language of mystery always led to misapprehension of its motives, and that which frank and honest representation would easily set right grew into dimensions of difficulty and danger. He felt sure, therefore, that the people and the Government of the United States, so far from being offended, would be glad to know the real opinion of this country, as reflected by that House, upon the pending movement. He had recently been in the United States. He was at Philadelphia when the Fenian Congress was sitting there in October last. He was in New York when the headquarters of the Fenian organization were removed from Duane Street to one of the largest houses in Union Square, which was set up as what they called the Fenian "Capitol," and was surmounted by their adopted flag. He was also in Canada when rumours, more or less serious, arrived of intended Fenian raids into British territory, and knew that preparations had to be made to resist attack. A few days after he left Washington a Fenian deputation, beaded by Colonel Roberts, waited upon—he hoped he might say intruded themselves upon—President Johnson at the "White House," the official residence of the President of the United States, to thank him, on behalf of the Fenian Congress of Philadelphia, for the liberation of John Mitchell. The deputation said that that congress contained delegates from no less than thirty States and territories of the American Union affiliated together for the liberation of Ireland. Now, the result of the observations he had been able to make convinced him of three things—first, that the Fenian organization was exclusively and without doubt or question of American origin, being, in fact, a continuation of the old "Phcenix" Societies; second, that it was not sympathized in by native Americans at large—still less by the native American officers of the United States army; and third, that it did not arise from or exist in those immense portions of the continent over which, happily, the British Crown held sway and the British flag floated. Now, while the deliberations of the Fenians were called secret, their object and the mode by which they sought to accomplish them were known and avowed. No one in the United States could plead that he did not know that there existed a vast ramification all over the States, having war with a peaceful ally for its avowed object. With regard to the congress at Philadelphia, he might mention that one peculiar feature was the presence of a large number of officers in the employment and pay of the Government of the United States. He had got in his hand a list of a very small committee of the congress, and yet it contained the names of no less than ten volunteer officers belonging to the United States. Three of these were generals, five were colonels, one was a captain, and the last one was a lieutenant. [Mr. ROEBUCK: What countrymen are they?] They were Irish-Americans, availing themselves of the rights of American citizenship. During the constant public discussions in America many things were said which completely disclosed the objects of the Fenian organization. He had with him many reports, including the report of a meeting of delegates to the Fenian Congress, and, without troubling the House with the speeches, he might mention that the general result was that the speakers avowed that they had met to "complete" their organization, the object being to "liberate" Ireland from the Government of Her Majesty, and do so, if need be, by force of arms. But he would picture what the organization was by quoting other and more definite evidence. First of all, Mr. Justice Keogh, in charging the jury at the first of the recent trials in Ireland, described Fenianism as follows. That learned Judge said— That its ramifications existed not only in this country, but in the States of America; that the supplies of money and of arms for the purposes of a general insurrection were being collected, not only here, but on the other side of the Atlantic; and, finally, that the object of this confederation was the overthrow of the Queen's authority, the separation of this country from Great Britain, the destruction of our present Constitution, the establishment of some democratic or military despotism, and a general division of every description of property as the result of a successful civil war. And certainly the evidence adduced at these trials, and the convictions of the conspirators which followed, fully proved the main points of the description. But he would not rely upon even this alone. He would, with the permission of the House, read a description of the Fenians given by the Fenians themselves. It was an extract from the New York World—their organ—and it stated— There is in this city (New York) a military engineering class of 100, taught by an engineer formerly on M'Clellan's staff in the peninsular campaign. Subscriptions are handed in to large amounts every week from all parts of the country. A bank account is kept by the Brotherhood in its own name, and a clerical force is employed to keep the accounts and attend to the correspondence of the Brotherhood. One of the bank note companies, as Colonel Roberts stated in his speech last night, are printing 8 per cent bonds in the name of the 'Irish Republic,' one and indivisible. They will be ready next week in denominations of 10 dollars, 20 dollars, 50 dollars, 100 dollars, 600 dollars, and 1,000 dollars. In the centre will be a figure of Liberty drawing a sword, and at the sides vignettes of Emmett and Lincoln. It is confidently hoped by the leaders that these will be taken up very rapidly, and that large orders will come from the country and from the West. It is stated that negotiations are pending for the purchase of eight ocean steamers, each warranted to carry 1,000 men, with the certainty almost that the purchase will be made before the 1st of October. It is farther said that there have been immense purchases of arms from the Government by parties who are supposed to be identified with the Fenians, and that propositions for further purchases are now under consideration. At the Fenian headquarters in Duane Street they are continually boxing up muskets, but of course no information is given as to where they are sent. There are twentyseven circles in New York, and Colonel John O'Mahoney is the head centre of the organization throughout the country. It was stated also with respect to the Fenians, by an independent and impartial resident authority known to many Members of that House, that There is a Secretary of War, a Secretary of the Navy, and most of the usual officers of a regularly constituted Government. The society is known to be in treaty with a gunmaker for the purchase of a large quantity of arms which he bought of the Government after the war. The agents of the Fenians have been in Washington within the last fortnight, endeavouring to ascertain whether Mr. Welles, the Secretary of the Navy, will sell them any of the vessels for which the Government has no further use. Whether they succeeded in seeing Mr. Welles or not I cannot say; but it is well known that they have had interviews with Mr. Stanton. These facts, taken together, and many other circumstances which it would be too tedious to repeat, but which are well known here, prove at least that the Fenian organization is now a power, and one which cannot be scattered by the arrest of a few of its members in Ireland. That was the representation of the able and well-informed correspondent of The Times, whom no one would suspect of inaccuracy or exaggeration. He would now say a few words with regard to the extent of the Fenian organization, and the means by which it was maintained. He found by certain documents in his possession that the organization had raised within the last seven years 5,000,000 dollars, and that from September the 10th to October the 29th, 1865, their receipts amounted to 120,650 dollars 22 cents, and the expenditure to over 100,000 dollars. On October 28 there were in the United States 613 circles, with an average membership of 300 persons each, or about 184,000 in all. He would now endeavour to show how the money was expended; because, with respect to Fenian development in Ireland, it had been said that the discontent of the Irish people proceeded entirely from their grievances. He called the special attention of the House to the item he was about to quote. The first item in the expenditure was 62,567 dollars for "envoys," from October 31, 1865, to January 9, 1866, and that meant that £40,000 a year was ex- pended to stir up sedition and disaffection in different parts of Her Majesty's dominions. This accounted for much, and in defence of the loyalty of Ireland he would ask whether a systematic agency and expenditure such as now disclosed would not lead to treasonable organization either in Ireland or wherever ignorance and poverty existed? Here were the tempters, and it was the duty of the Governments on both sides of the Atlantic to punish them. Here was the real source of the evil in Ireland. He meant to say that the Irish people were being preyed upon and seduced from their allegiance by American gold; and as long as the Government neglected to deal with this question at its source, and were content simply to prosecute a few misguided men in Ireland, their efforts to stop the movement would fail. There was, in his humble opinion, a plain line of duty before them; it was for the right hon. Gentlemen to show how far they had fulfilled it. He would now turn to a more cheering aspect of the case. To show that Fe-nianism was hardly known to exist in the British North American possessions, he would quote from a letter dated Christmas Day, 1865, to the Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick by a distinguished Irishman and a distinguished Catholic, Dr. Conolly, Catholic Archbishop of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Dr. Conolly said— On the occasion of my recent visit to the United States, many of these poor deluded people talked as flippantly and confidently of taking all British America in the course of this winter and holding it as if they already had the title deeds in their packets. If they come on the strength of their own resources, it will indeed be a laughable scare; and from what is now occurring at New York, we may easily foresee the glorious denouement. Two millions of Protestants and eighteen hundred thousand Catholics, who have mothers, wives, and daughters, happy homes and free altars, and a Government of their own choice, will meet them as they would the freebooter and the assassin, with knife in hand, on the trail of his victim. From their success we have nothing to expect but bloodshed, rapine, and anarchy, and the overthrow of God's religion; for all this is inscribed on their banners. This was not the time to enter upon the question of how far equality of civil and religious rights and of self-government had led to this cheering contrast; but it was the fact that loyalty to Great Britain was divided only by the United States boundary line. He now came to the question whether these illegal proceed ings, so open and done avowedly with the object of stirring up a war with this country, had been treated as they ought to be treated by the Government of the United States, with whom we were at peace; and whether Her Majesty's Government were warranted in tolerating such an outrage on our national rights and so much opposed to every feeling that ought to subsist between the two nations. Recently the United States had taken a step which seemed to him to redound in every way to their credit; and having had the honour of interviews with President Johnson and with many of the leading men in the United States, he thought he could trace the President's own hand in the circumstance he was about to allude to; and, when he remembered the conduct of President Johnson with regard to the recent raid upon Mexican territory, and his dismissal of General Sweeney from the service of the United States, he could not help entertaining a suspicion that our own Government might be at fault. He would say also that statements which had been made in this country regarding the President were premature and misapplied, and that there was not a man living who was more desirous to perform every international obligation, or more earnestly labouring to heal the open wounds of his country, or more determined to preserve a peaceful alliance with this country. He felt assured that the President regarded this alliance as essential to the progress of the Anglo-Saxon race and to the peace and progress of the world. Now, the step he alluded to affected Spain—a country with which the United States were at peace, but with which they had little else in common. The disputes between Chili and Spain had led to the preparation of an expedition against Spain from the shores of America, and Senor M'Kenna, the Chilian resident in New York, with the aid of American citizens, had undoubtedly copied the Fenians by preparing to fit out a hostile expedition. Now, dealing on behalf of Spain, what had been done? Why, Senor M'Kenna was arrested by a primary order from the President, given through the Secretary of State to the district marshal, and on the 6th of this month of February M'Kenna was brought before the Grand Jury of New York, a true bill was found against him, and he was at this moment in prison. The indictment was found against him under the 6th section of the Neutrality Act of 1818, which provides that— If any person shall, within the territory or jurisdiction of the United States, begin or set on foot, or provide or prepare, the means for any military expedition or enterprise, to be carried on from thence against the territory or dominion of any foreign prince or State, or any colony, district, or people, with whom the United States are at peace, every person so offending shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, and shall be fined not exceeding 3,000 dollars or imprisoned not more than three years. The indictment by the Crand Jury was procured at the instance of United States District Attorney Dickinson, on intimation received from the Secretary of State, who was, of course, directed in the matter by the President. He contended that the Fenian combination was an undoubted breach of the public law of the United States. He would for a moment turn to an American authority, for he thought it much better to quote American authorities than either French or English. He would read an extract from Wlieaton's International Law, page 499— By their treaties with several of the belligerent Powers, treaties forming part of the law of the land, they had established a state of peace with them. But without appealing to treaties, they were at peace with them all by the law of nature; for by the natural law, man is at peace with man till some aggression is committed, which by the same law authorizes one to destroy another, as his enemy. For the citizens of the United States, then, to commit murders and depredations on the members of other nations, or to combine to do it, appeared to the American Government as much against the laws of the land as to murder or rob, or combine to murder or rob, their own citizens; and as much to require punishment, if done within the limits where they had a territorial jurisdiction—or on the high seas, where they had a personal jurisdiction, that is to say, one which reached their own citizens only; this being an appropriate part of each nation, on an element where each has a common jurisdiction. The same distinguished writer went on to say— The same principles were afterwards incorporated in a law of Congress passed in 1794, and revised and re-enacted in 1818, by which it is declared to be a misdemeanor for any person within the jurisdiction of the United States to augment the force of any armed vessel, belonging to one foreign Power at war with another Power, with whom they are at peace; or to prepare any military expedition against the territories of any foreign nation with whom they are at peace; or to hire or enlist troops or seamen for foreign military or naval service; or to be concerned in fitting out any vessel to cruise or commit hostilities in foreign service, against a nation at peace with them; and the vessel, in this latter ease, is made subject to forfeiture. Now, he confidently put it to the House, this being the law and these the principles upon which that law was founded, that the Fenian association was an illegal one and its members misdemeanants. If he required to add another fact, it would be to quote the speech of a gentleman who was called the Head Centre for the State of New York, in which he stated distinctly and publicly that before very long privateers would be fitted out, with the view of preying on the commerce of England. Taking all these facts together, surely there was enough to convince any man that—to say nothing of technical obligations—all the high obligations of honour and good association between nation and nation had, in the unchecked operations of the Fenians, been most signally outraged. Well, they found that in the case of the attempt to make war on the comparatively weak and unimportant Power of Spain summary, immediate, instant justice had been done; and with regard to the Emperor of the French, notwithstanding the provocation of the presence of a French army in Mexico, contrary to the traditional views and to the policy of the fathers of the American Republic, explanation had been given. How, then, was it that in our case the proper position had not been taken? How was it that, after seven years, an organization which raised 5,000,000 dollars in that period for the purpose of making war on this country had been allowed to go on without remonstrance or interference on the part of Her Majesty's Government? He might be told, perhaps, by the right hon. Gentleman who would follow him, and who, he hoped, would deal with this question fully and in perfect frankness, that he was casting undue suspicion on the Government, and that they had used every means in their power to put an end to this state of things. He trusted that would appear to be the case. He would not believe that this country was singled out by the United States for an exceptional and insulting denial of justice; and he still hoped that the Government would be able to show that British interests had not been left to take care of themselves. At all events, the people of America would learn what was the opinion of the House of Commons. Let him say, in conclusion, that in dealing with this question, they were not dealing with British interests alone, but with the interests and the honour of the United States also. The Government of the United States was too sagacious not to perceive that if they once permitted the turbulent and restless foreign element which their society contained to violate their own laws with impunity, if not with encouragement, they were perilling their own public liberty by undermining public order. They were giving way to a licence which at last might overcome them, and holding out temptations and affording precedents most dangerous to the future. In fact, the only danger to the permanence of their institutions was the existence of this element, which had no ties to the past or to the future, and which loved their land only for the sake of the lawlessness they might exercise within the Union. For their sake, then, and for ours, he asked why wise and just laws should not be enforced, and why Great Britain and the States should be placed in antagonism for want of that enforcement? He would hope for the best. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would be able to assure the House that Government had exhausted, should it have been necessary, every means of representation and remonstrance; but beyond that he hoped that it would turn out that the Government at Washington, amidst all the peculiar political difficulties with which the question was, as he fully admitted, surrounded, had loyally dealt with us in making efforts to put down this evil. For he prayed that nothing might arise from this, or any other cause whatever, to check the co-operation of the two countries in all that promoted liberty and civilization, or to disturb the maintenance of brotherhood and kindly relations between them.


Sir, I feel it to be a matter of public duty, and I think it is one of considerable public importance, that I should immediately follow the hon. Gentleman. I should consider that I failed in my duty if I allowed any other Member to interpose. I will despatch very shortly, obeying reluctantly the somewhat confused and confusing law of the House, any reference that may be necessary to matters which were raised in the earlier part of the evening. The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Darby Griffith) made a proposal that the rates of postage on newspapers should be reduced, in consequence of the low rates at which they were carried by the railways. He mentioned that newspapers were in some instances carried by railways from station to station at a halfpenny, and in Some cases at a farthing. It would be in vain to enter on a detailed reply to the hon. Member, but there is this broad distinction to be made between the service performed by the Post Office and the railways, that the latter undertake no kind whatever of collection or distribution, and that is the most serious and costly part of the service performed by the Post Office. There are other distinctions as to the service rendered, but I think I may for the present waive the details of that question. Then with regard to the Question put by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Queen's county in relation to the Irish railways. He made a joint appeal to the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley) and myself, and he received from the noble Lord a reply explanatory of the views of the Commission on that very important subject. The course of the Government is for the present necessarily limited in a very great degree by the proceedings of the Commission. I may, however, say that we shall not be disposed to be kept back by trivial obstacles, or to be restrained by any considerations of form or by any argument of a doubtful character from putting a favourable construction upon any plans which may be proposed or suggested with regard to the Irish question. Beyond this I can hardly go. There are many points of difference between the connection of Government with English and with Irish railways, one in particular being that there is no comparison between the capitals sunk in those undertakings in the two countries. It must also be recollected that while the Royal Commission has done much to inform us upon the subject of Irish railways, the companies themselves have done nothing towards laying any practical suggestions before the Government upon which they could act. And now I come to the important remarks which have been made by the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Watkin). The hon. Member asks if any and what representations have been made by Her Majesty's Government to the Government of the United States in reference to the Fenian organization in America, and more especially as to the employment of United States officers, the issue of bonds of the so-called Irish Republic, and the threats made to levy war upon the dominions of Her Majesty by that organization. No Motion has been made by the hon. Gentleman, but I believe I may say that there are no papers relating to this matter that can be produced.


said, that he had omitted to conclude with a Motion, believing that it was needless. He trusted he should be permitted to supply the omission. He moved for the production of the papers connected with the subjects.


It is immaterial. There are no papers upon this subject to be produced. The hon. Member, apparently anticipating that a reason might be asked of him for raising the discussion which he has introduced, stated as his reason for so doing that the people of the United States are an outspoken people, and that we in this country are an outspoken people also. I entirely concur with the hon. Gentleman in thinking that the perfectly free discussion of all subjects whatever in this House forms perhaps the most characteristic, and also the most valuable, and important feature of our habits. At the same time it does appear to me that considerations of time and of place, and of the order of proceedings, as well as considerations of prudence and policy bear very strongly not against the general principle announced by the hon. Gentleman, but upon the question whether particular things should or should not be said at a particular time or in a particular place. I confess if I ask myself what useful object it is that the hon. Member anticipates from commencing a discussion upon this subject at the present moment, I find it difficult to give an answer to the question. I would ask the hon. Gentleman to recollect, considering the tone of his remarks, the position in which we ourselves usually and habitually stand in the face of foreign nations—that the proceedings of English citizens are constantly made the subject of complaint abroad, and that imputations are constantly thrown upon the English Government of a disinclination to interfere with those proceedings—I would ask him further to remember that we plead against those imputations the freedom of our laws and our habits, and the extreme inexpediency and imprudence of attempts on the part of Government at taking measures of repression on behalf of, or in the interests of a foreign Government, unless those measures of repression are founded upon facts perfectly notorious and are certain to be attended with success. I am bound to say I do not think there was in the speech of the hon. Gentleman a sufficient allowance for those considerations on behalf of the Government of the United States. Now, in looking at the hon. Gentleman's statements, I find that he made them with the hope that I should be able to show that all means of repression had been exhausted by the United States Government. [Mr. WATKIN expressed his dissent.] I am quoting as nearly as possible the words of the hon. Member.


The right hon. Gentleman has not quite accurately described what I meant to say. It was that I hoped that the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues would be able to show the House that they had exhausted every means in their power to prevail upon the Government of the United States to fulfil the duties of neutrality, and that that Government was loyally endeavouring to do so.


I accept the hon. Member's correction of my statement, but do not think the difference is material. Does the hon. Gentleman really suppose that on his making these statements from the newspapers for the first time publicly in this House, without having had any previous communication with Government on the subject, it would be in my power to follow him, to identify the sources from which he drew his information—in some instances he did not state what those sources were—and to show upon a careful examination which of these statements could or could not be made matters of representation to the United States Government? I am bound to say that it does appear to me that if we are to maintain the full discharge of international duties, these international duties affect not Governments alone, but also all those who fill public stations in civilized countries. If statements are to be made apparently with the intention of implicating the good faith of a foreign country, it is hardly too much to ask that those statements should first be placed in the hands of the authorized representatives of our own Government, in order that, if necessary, those particular statements may be made the subject of communication between the two countries, so that our own Government may either be made responsible for declining to act upon those statements, or else that the Government of which the complaint is made, may be made responsible for declining to act upon the remonstrances which may be addressed to them in reference to those statements. The Chancellor of the Exchequer The hon. Gentleman has made statements which are in a great measure vague with regard to the points in issue. It may be perfectly true—and is, unhappily, too true—that Fenianism in the main, and by the means by which it is supported, is a thing imported from America. As to that there can be no doubt. But that is not by any means sufficient to show that representations should be made to the American Government, and that that Government should be challenged to put it down, or to show good reason for not doing so. There are Gentlemen here who heard the admirable speech made by my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General in the early part of the evening. What did he say in reference to the demand that we should submit the case of the Alabama to arbitration. He said— We are reluctant to allow that the Government are responsible for the putting down and the prevention of things which cannot be put down and prevented. But the hon. Member wishes to throw that responsibility upon the American Government. There are two things which we have a right to expect from the American Government. One is, that when the American laws have been broken they should promptly vindicate those laws on behalf of England. The hon. Member pointed out that in the case of Spain the United States Government had promptly vindicated. Yes, but the acts done in the case of Spain by Senor M'Kenna—namely, the purchase of one or more ships and equipping them for an expedition was a thing above board, lying upon the surface of affairs, evident in the light of day, and easy to be made the subject of legal proceedings. But it is not enough for the hon. Member to come here and say that the Fenians had held a congress at Philadelphia or had collected so much money in so many years in order to raise the presumption that the American Government have neglected their duties. He should show that such proceedings have been notorious—not merely notorious in the way things are when dependent upon public rumour—but notorious in such a way that they could have been made the subject of judicial investigation. The hon. Gentleman has done nothing of the kind. I listened to his speech, and I heard nothing from him to show that any acts had been done in America in violation of the American laws which it was the duty of the American Government to have re pressed and punished by their ordinary tribunals. The hon. Gentleman spoke of a deputation to President Johnson, but he told us nothing of what took place between that deputation and the President. I do not imagine—and I mention this because it certainly had at first sight an important appearance—that he placed much reliance upon or intends to raise from that interview any inference adverse to the Government of the United States, because he paid a very high, and, if I may presume to say so, a very just compliment to President Johnson in a later part of his speech, when he expressed his full conviction and belief that President Johnson was a man anxious to do all he could for the maintenance of the friendly relations between the two countries, and for the fulfilment of all international duties. There are two cases I just said in which we might expect the United States Government to act, one being where offences have been committed against the American laws; but no proof has been laid before us that such offences have been committed in the way that would make them the subject of legal cognizance. Therefore, we have no ground of complaint against the American Government in that respect. The other case, is that, in the event of any attempt at using force by these misguided men in the United States against any portion of the British dominions, we have a right to expect that the Government of the United States will repel and put down any such attempt by the use of superior force. No such case, however, has happened, and therefore upon that ground we have no cause for action. There is, I grant, also a case where persons in public employment are concerned in the Fenian conspiracy. The hon. Gentleman says that ten volunteer officers, whom he designated as Irish-Americans, were members of a Fenian Congress; but we do not know what, if anything, was done, or in what manner anything was done, by anybody, or at any time, in which those officers took part. The hon. Gentleman has stated that General Sweeney had been dismissed from the service of the United States; consequently, so far as that was concerned, my hon. Friend has no title to complain of the Government of the United States. That officer was dismissed, I believe, for absence without leave. But I must know a great deal more about what General Sweeney did, and the charges must be clearly brought home to him, before I can make any proceedings of the Government of the United States, in respect to him, matter of condemnation or taunt. I have no more to say with regard to the particular allegations of my hon. Friend. I hold that where they are vague they had better not have been made. Where they are definite, where they tend, if any of them do tend, to show a default of duty, which I do not admit, on the part of the United States Government, the fair course towards any friendly Government, or towards any Government in alliance with Her Majesty, is to take care that those allegations shall first be placed in the hands of the responsible Ministers of the Crown. It is utterly impossible that upon being produced without notice in this House they can be properly or satisfactorily explained. As regards the Question of my hon. Friend—"If any and what representations have been made by Her Majesty's Government to the United States in reference to the Fenian organization in America," I answer—we have not made any representations. We have seen cause to deplore much that has taken place there, but we have had no cause which would have justified us in making representations to the Government of the United States upon the subject. My hon. Friend has said that it is vain to act in Ireland unless we deal with the evil at its source. Those are, certainly, very big words. To deal with the evil at its source in the dominions of a foreign Power would, perhaps, involve measures for the ascertainment of the facts which we would not for one moment tolerate or hear of in this country. Let us, who are anxious, and justly anxious, to maintain our own country as a sanctuary against every undue and doubtful demand of a foreign Government, have a little forbearance and toleration in judging of the proceedings of the Governments of other countries. We have not made any representations to the United States Government. Had we had facts of a nature that would have justified such a course, I need not say that we should have taken it. But such representations must have been made in view of definite ends. The mere general remonstrance which my hon. Friend recommends, the mere complaint to the United States Government of what is going on in America, the mere setting forth of the inconvenience which arises to us from those lawless proceedings—for such they are—of certain American sub- jects, would have diminished the dignity of this country. When we have definite materials of complaint or of representation, then let us proceed with them; but because we are hurt and wounded with what is going on, because we have a right to feel a just indignation against the guilty promoters of those enterprizes, do not let us attempt to make the United States Government responsible for what we have reason to believe it has been unequal to prevent, and for what, had the case been invented and the proceedings taken place in our own dominions, we in like manner should have been unable to prevent. We have confidence in the United States. We believe that the Government of the United States will fulfil its international obligations to the best of its power. We have confidence further in the public opinion of the United States. As far as we are informed the public opinion of the United States, like the public opinion of England, and like the public opinion of Ireland, condemns this Fenian movement. We are told that with that condemnation there is mingled in America something of contempt, that the promoters of Fenianism are regarded as guilty fanatics, whose strength is not in proportion to their zeal or to their evil intentions. Of course, this is a matter on which it is impossible to speak as if we had official testimony; but if what I have stated be true, it is an important point which must greatly affect our policy with the American Government. With that belief, if we are justified in entertaining it, the House, I think, will hardly be surprised if I say that the days are as yet too early, and the information by far too crude and immature, to allow us to accept statements in this House which tend, even by remote implication, to raise a suspicion of breach of duty on the part of an allied and friendly Government. We are very sore about these things ourselves, when we read that somebody in congress, or somebody in some assembly abroad, has made imprudent speeches and has placed the executive Government of their country in difficulty. Well, the tables are now turned. Let us, the Members of this House, show that, long educated in the habits of freedom, we have, as we are bound to have, more self-command than the less trained and less practised representatives of other countries. Let us have some trust in the justice with which we have endeavoured to regulate our relations with Ireland, and in the power which this country possesses to preserve order in every portion of Her Majesty's dominions. Let us rely on our dignity and character: which are never at a higher point than when joined with patience and endurance, unconnected with the suspicion of weakness, and resting firmly on the consciousness of strength. This course, I trust, we shall pursue. Do not let us heedlessly sow the seeds of mistrust between these two great countries. I would not for a moment conceal that the seed of this mischief lies in America, and that an active agency is coming from America; but, though it is in America, we do not believe it to be of America. We do not believe it to be the genuine fruit of American sentiment, or the genuine representation of the American mind. We believe it to be condemned there as it is condemned here, and, in the total absence of all evidence to the contrary, we say—Let us trust the friendly Government which has not as yet failed in its duty, and which we believe will not fail. Of course, the matter is entirely one for the judgment of the House. Having made a speech myself, it may not seem to be very good taste to repress the speeches of other Members; but I frankly say, as far as I may presume, with due respect, to make such a statement to the House, that it is for the public interest that the consideration and handling of this subject at the present time and under the present circumstances should be in the hands of the Executive.


After the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, I prefer the responsibility for its withdrawal remaining with the Government.


said, that in these matters he thought that safety was not always to be found in silence. In 1853, when the relations between this country and Russia were in a state of extreme tension, his hon. Friend (Mr. Layard) persistently but unsuccessfully requested information from the Government with regard to these matters, but he was always met with the answer that it would not be consistent with public interests that the subject should be discussed in the House. What happened? The country "drifted" into a war. His hon. Friend was then, and, he believed, was still of opinion that if discussion had taken place, and the Emperor of Russia had been made acquainted with the opinion of this country through the House of Commons, the Crimean War would have been averted. So he hoped it would be with regard to this Fenian question. He had too much confidence in the justice and good feeling of President Johnson, and of the American people, to believe for one instant that if they were aware of the state of feeling in this country, and of the mischief which was being created by the Fenian organization in America, that they would tolerate it any longer. He was convinced, that if the American people were acquainted with this fact, the American Government would take steps to put an end to proceedings as dangerous to that country as to England. It was with this conviction that he thought it advisable, soon at all events, if not immediately, to discuss this matter. He could not imagine that President Johnson, who had on so many occasions exhibited a most friendly feeling towards this country, and who had described himself in a personal interview with his hon. Friend as animated by feelings of friendship and sympathy towards us, would have granted the release of that notorious convict and rebel, Mitchell, at the request of the Fenian Association, or have allowed a regiment of the New York State Militia to have protected the so-called President of the Irish Be public while occupying a building termed the Capitol, had he known how these acts would be regarded in this country. These things were done, he believed, because not only the President, but also the whole of the people of America regarded the movement with the most profound contempt, and because they were not aware of the light in which it was viewed in this country. But what was a joke in New York became a crime in Ireland. Out of eighty-five men lately arrested in Ireland, forty-five were Irish Federal officers. He was therefore satisfied that it was for the interests of this country that representations should be made to the American Government. When, however, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the Government had no information upon the subject, he should like to know what our Minister at Washington had been doing. The right hon. Gentleman said that the statements of his hon. Friend the member for Stockport were too vague, and could not be regarded as authentic. They were, however, matters of notoriety. Not only had they been published in the American newspapers, but they had been copied by the English and French press, and foreign newspapers were discussing the subject and asking us what we were going to do. Our Minister must be acquainted with these facts, and must have greatly neglected his duty if he had not drawn the attention of our Government to them. He believed, therefore, that Her Majesty's Ministers would be greatly neglecting their duty if they did not make some representations to the American Government upon the subject, making that Government acquainted with the light in which Fenianism was regarded in England, and the misery it was causing in Ireland.


said, that in spite of the suggestion which had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he could not avoid trespassing for a few moments upon the indulgence of the House, as he totally differed from the hon. Member who had just spoken. He thought that no course could possibly be more unwise than that recommended by the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Watkin). He had only just returned from America, where he had ample opportunity of forming a judgment upon the Fenian movement, and ascertaining the amount of support which it derived from the American people. He might tell the hon. Gentleman that if he were himself a "Head Centre" he could not possibly have suggested a course more agreeable to the leaders of that movement. The one thing the Fenians desired was that notice should he taken of them. Their proceedings had been ridiculed from one end of America to the other. The request which they had ever made was that the sympathy which had persistently been denied to their movement should be accorded by the American Government. He did not believe that it was difficult to account for the unpopularity in which the Fenian movement was held in America. The Americans denied them any sympathy, in the first place, because there was not a gentleman among them. The Americans had a peculiar susceptibility upon that point. They admired such an individual when they could find him. But when they found that the Fenians were composed of the hewers of wood, the drawers of water, the waiters at hotels, and men engaged in similar occupations, the movement failed entirely in gaining the respect and admiration of the American people. Again, the Fenians had been ill-advised enough to start another nationality, and there could not possibly be anything more distasteful to the Americans, who approved no nationality but the Anglo-Saxon, to which they belonged. But the Fenians endeavoured to establish a Celtic nationality in Canada, just as it was desired to set up a Latin Empire in Mexico. The Fenians were in a manner regarded as traitors to the country, because the idea of losing the bone and sinew of the country, the Irish population by whom all the drudgery was performed, was viewed by the Americans with little short of horror. If they could possibly stop Fenianism, they would do so to-morrow. Besides, to secure for such a movement the sympathy of a great nation, the leaders must act with some consistency, and display not only dignity, but also some political sagacity. But ever since the Fenians had obtained money sufficient to quarrel over, they immediately commenced their bickerings, and the disputes of Mr. Head Centre O'Mahoney and President Roberts had become the laughing stock of the whole country. The New York Herald, which had at first taken a good deal of notice of the Fenians in consequence of its large circulation among the Irish, had, by trying to please each party, gained the antagonism of both, and the editor of the New York Times, Mr. Raymond, more unfortunate still, was challenged by O'Mahoney at the outset of his career to mortal combat. Acting in this manner, they did not conciliate public feeling in America. There was another reason why they were unpopular in America, and that was a political one. In the old days, before the war, political parties in America were divided into Democrats and Republicans, and the Democrats relied for success on the Irish vote in the State of New York. Naturally, during that time the Republicans looked upon the Irish as their natural enemies. The antipathy of the Irish to the negro was so great that this was certain to procure for them the antipathy of the Abolitionists. If there was anything which an Irishman hated more than an Anglo-Saxon it was a negro, and the result was that when at the end of the war the Democratic party became extinct, the Irish, who would have had the sympathy of the Democrats if their party succeeded, were deprived of those sympathies, but retained the hostility of the Republicans, so that for political reasons they were without the sympathy of any portion of the Americans. The want of success in New York had been so great that the rival camps had transferred the theatre of their operations to the rural districts, and were literally "starring in the provinces. "The estimate in which the movement was held might be gathered from an extract which he would read to the House from an American paper— The decline from heroic tragedy to the moat stupid of burlesques during the internecine war in this city between the Head Centre and the Senate has been duly recorded. The ridiculous force is over, the smoke has cleared away, the parties themselves have become indifferent or weary, and the whole thing is as flat and uninteresting as a wake without whisky. By the new tactics the grand campaign for the liberation of Ireland is transferred from this city to the rural regions. A dozen imitators of Peter the Hermit are abroad and sounding the 'hewgag.' The American Continent (except Canada) is to be aroused, and in less than no time the Queen's minions from Cork to Coleraine, and from Dublin to Galway, are to skedaddle, leaving Mr. Chief Executive Stephens at liberty to creep from his hiding-place under the blarney stone, hoist the 'sunburst,' and proclaim at last the Republic of Ireland. But thus far the new tactics have not worked quite up to expectation. There is a Corsican feud—a regular vendetta—between the Head Centre faction and the Senate faction. If a senatorian undertakes to lecture, a Head Cen-treite is on his track like a bloodhound, and before he has time to say 'Fellow-citizens,' the other side puts in an appearance and the fun commences. The enthusiastic hearers at once take sides. Irishmen never hesitate to do that much, no matter what the question, and the lecturer stands as much chance of being heard as a Puritan psalm-singer at Donnybrook Fair. This was the case the other day at Troy, where the lecturing crusade was inaugurated. The doors were hardly opened before the Milesian blood was at fever heat, and in default of a regiment or two of Life Guards to wallop, the boys went at each other. They did not hear the lecture, but they did enjoy the coveted luxury of a regular hulla-balloo, such as would have done honour to Tipperary in its best days. This ridiculous spectacle will doubtless be witnessed in most of our large towns, the squabbles of the O'Mahonians and the Senate being, thank fortune, transferred from this city to the provinces. That being the estimation in which this movement was held in America, we should look as ridiculous as the Fenians themselves if we were to make remonstrances which would only excite wonder and astonishment among the American people at the Fenian power on this side of the Atlantic in which the Americans did not believe at present. Supposing, however, that this were not the ease, there were other reasons why we ought not to remonatrate with the United States. It would be better to allay old animosities than excite new ones. The Americans were extremely anxious, after the strong language which had not unnaturally been used during the progress of the war, to let the feeling against this country subside of itself; but if we were continually finding out reasons why we should urge upon them strong expressions of sympathy with this country at a time when they wished to be let alone, we should certainly do no good. Possibly, indeed, an absolutely bad effect might be produced. In the first place, the American Secretary of State could certainly point to episodes in our history almost exactly parallel to what was now taking place in America. He (Mr. Oliphant) himself had once been asked to subscribe money for some persons whose avowed object was to kick out of his throne the King of Naples, with whom this country was on friendly terms. He had also seen a Garibaldian legion marching through the streets of Liverpool to the point of embarkation, whence they were openly and notoriously going to fight against a Sovereign with whom we were at peace. Those who lived in glass houses ought not to throw stones, and though, perhaps, episodes might have occurred in America which it might be difficult, under a strict interpretation of International Law, for the Government of that country to justify, still it would be in the last degree inexpedient to raise at this moment any particular points. He had a very strong reason for saying—and he did not think he was overstepping the bounds of confidence in saying—that the rupture which had been made in the Fenian body was duo to the action of the American Government. Certain it was that we owed a great deal to that rupture, the result of which had been that the great Fenian organization was split into two factions, so that when we wanted to know what Roberts was doing we had only to apply to O'Mahoney, and when we wanted to know what O'Mahoney was doing we had only to apply to Roberts. But, though he thought that remonstrances of the nature described by the hon. Member for Stockport would be injudicious, he was of opinion that representations of another kind might be made, and with great effect, to the American Government. On looking at the origin and policy of Fenianism, it was not difficult to ascertain what those representations ought to be. It was perfectly true that Fenianism had its origin in America, but then it should be borne in mind that it originated out of the policy pursued by this country towards America. In other words, if there were no outstanding claims between England and America Fenianism would cease to exist. The reason why it existed at all was this. When we recognized the South as belligerents, and when certain cruisers preyed upon the commerce of America, the whole American people, in a very natural ebullition of feeling, said that if a rising were to take place in Ireland or India they would immediately recognize the insurgents as belligerents and allow cruisers to go out. They never expected such a thing would happen, but the suggestion took root in the minds of Irishmen, who thought the American people had entirely committed themselves to this idea, and they tried to embroil the two countries by exciting a movement in Ireland, and putting the American people to the test as to whether they would stand by the expressions which they had used in the heat of the war. However, whether this was so or not, any representation tending to allay the feeling of irritation which existed in America on account of outstanding claims would also tend to defeat the Fenian schemes. It was, therefore, of the utmost consequence to prevent the possibility of an armed insurrection in Ireland placing the people of America under the necessity of standing by the words which they had repeatedly uttered. The American people might bring great pressure to bear upon the Government, and the result might possibly be that we should find Fenian vessels of war cruising like the Alabama, and putting us to the greatest inconvenience. He thought, therefore, that the time had now arrived when we might make representations to the American Government with reference to the outstanding claims between the two countries; and it might perhaps be expedient to adopt a suggestion which had been made earlier in the evening, that a conference should be held to inquire into the present defective condition of International Maritime Laws in which those claims might very properly be entertained. If the Neutrality Laws were not altered, we should be constantly liable to disagreeable questions, such as were now arising between Chili and Peru and Spain. No settlement of the difficult questions which were sure to arise between this country and America could take place so long as laws respecting them were in force which were enacted fifty years ago, and had reference solely to the state of things which existed before the invention of steam vessels. As long as such antiquated laws existed, and as long as no attempts were made to adjust them to the present state of things, differences would be constantly springing up between the two countries. To avert such a calamity it would be necessary to modify the laws in question, and that could only be done with the concurrence of the American Government, and we could not hope to obtain that concurrence without admitting that the modifications proposed should have to some extent a retrospective effect. It might be said that it was inconsistent with our honour to make a proposal on the subject to the American Government; but in his judgment it would be in no way inconsistent with the honour and dignity of this country to repair, as far as possible, injuries inflicted by a law which we could not at the time alter in consequence of our neutral position, but which we were willing to alter now. He would not detain the House any longer, but would conclude by repeating that he felt it of the utmost importance that the remonstrances suggested by the hon. Gentleman should not be made.


said, he was glad to hear the hon. Gentleman admit, at the conclusion of his speech, the grave character of a question which at the beginning of it he had treated in too jocular a manner. He was unable, however, to agree with the hon. Gentleman that the re-opening of all the complicated questions which arose during the late war would be the best course for the Government to adopt for bringing about the kindly feeling which he hoped would be maintained by both countries. It was a misfortune that Irish affairs were always viewed under two opposite aspects. Only a few days ago, for instance, the House was in solemn conclave on the course proposed to be adopted by the Government in consequence of the serious emergencies which had arisen in Ireland. To-night, on the contrary, the House had been told that the matter was treated in America as a matter of jest, and that it was wrong to regard the subject as one which Her Majesty's Government could legitimately bring under the notice of the Government of the United States. For his own part, he thought that the hon. Member for Stockport had done great service in bringing this question before the House. He thought, moreover, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had avoided the real question. No want of faith was imputed to the American Government; no blame or breach of national obligation was charged upon them; but what the hon. Gentleman had said was that this Fenian organization had existed for years in America, had raised large sums of money, manufactured and exported large quantities of arms and ammunition, and sent subsidized agents to this country to excite sedition. The hon. Gentleman had asked why we should be afraid of urging upon the American Government the importance of giving their attention to this state of things. We had a large diplomatic establishment in foreign countries, and the matter must long ago have been communicated to the Government. They could not be the only persons ignorant of it. He sincerely hoped, now that the serious attention of the Government had been called to the facts, the House would soon have the satisfaction of hearing that some action had been taken in reference to this subject.


Sir, I shall address only a few words to the House upon the present occasion, for I have been so deeply impressed with the last observation which fell from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that I hope the House will not prosecute the discussion. There are now two grave propositions before the House. One of them, emanating from the hon. Gentleman opposite, calls upon the Government to discuss one of the most difficult international questions which can be conceived—namely, what is to be the conduct of different countries with regard to the Foreign Enlistment Act. The other, brought forward by the hon. Member for Stockport, without any specific notice, drawing the attention of the Government to the particular question to be considered, has reference to the representations to be made to a friendly Power and ally with regard to its relations with this country. I regret to see questions so grave, so difficult, and so embarrassing, nay, questions which may involve this country in a controversy the end of which none can foresee, brought forward on a Motion for going into Committee of Supply, and I think that, while the House has an undoubted right to debate with perfect freedom any question that may be brought before it, it will be advisable under the circumstances not to continue the present discussion. I will only add that a grave matter like this, affecting Ireland and our relations with the United States of America, ought to be brought before the House upon a specific Motion, after due notice has been given to the Government. I hope the House will not prosecute this discussion further, as a decision cannot now be arrived at which would give satisfaction to the House and to the country.


said, no Member of the House had been more delighted to hear the course the discussion had taken than himself. The tone that had been taken by the Government and by all the hon. Gentlemen who had spoken, showed that the House was most sincerely and most deeply anxious to maintain friendly relations with the United States of America. The hon. and learned Gentleman (the Attorney General) in the earlier part of the debate, had said, in speaking of the question of arbitration in reference to the Alabama and other vessels that went out from this country during the American war, that there were two reasons which, in his opinion, prevented the country from going to arbitration. The first reason was that nations must not compromise their honour, and the hon. and learned Gentleman said that dishonour might have been imputed to this country if we had gone to arbitration. He (Mr. Hughes) thought he had a right to ask why? If the Government had been right in their contention there could have been no dishonour in taking that course. He felt very strongly upon that point. It was all very well to say that it was with nations as it was with individuals, that they were the guardians of their own honour, but even in the days when duelling flourished, and men were apparently more jealous of their honour, the duellists had seconds who formed a court of arbitration to which the principals went, before going to the great argument arbitrium. The second of the hon. and learned Gentleman's reasons was that it would have been a dangerous precedent if the Government had held themselves responsible for the acts of subjects which could not have been prevented. In that, however, the learned Attorney General begged the whole question, which was whether or not these acts could have been prevented. The American people said that they could have been, and though he did not say that he agreed with them, as he thought it very probable that those acts could not have been prevented, still he thought it would have been better if the matter had gone before an impartial tribunal, so that it might have been proved whether prevention could have been applied or not. He did not wonder at the soreness of the Americans, or at their say- ing that the lion's paw was the only law with John Bull. That whether right or wrong we would have our own way, and would not submit to an impartial tribunal. It had been said that the American Government had treated France and Spain in a very different manner to that in which they had treated this country, and he believed that to have been the case, but France and Spain had treated America in a different manner from that pursued by this country, and had allowed no Alabamas to leave their shores. [Cries of" Oh, oh !"] Hon. Gentlemen might say "Oh, oh !" but he had, he believed, taken more trouble to understand America than most Gentlemen in that House. He could not see what reason we had to refuse to go to arbitration, though he refrained from expressing his opinion as to whether that tribunal would decide we were right or wrong. The complaint of America was simply this, that we somehow or another, whether rightly or wrongly, allowed certain vessels to escape from our ports, and to prey upon their commerce, and when they asked us for an impartial tribunal of arbitration we refused it.