HC Deb 15 May 1866 vol 183 cc965-86

said, he rose to ask the Question of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs which he had postponed yesterday at the request of his hon. Friend, relating to the bombardment of Valparaiso, which was a wholly defenceless city, having no arsenal, no fortress, no guns, nor soldiers of any sort or kind. The few guns it had possessed for saluting purposes had been, if his information was correct, taken from the battery at the request of the British Minister—that Minister and the British Admiral undertaking to British residents, and also to the inhabitants of the city, that no bombardment should take place. It seemed to him that it was al- most, if not quite, a breach of the Law of Nations to attack a defenceless place; and he could not conceive, in these days when we hoped to temper war with humanity, any act which should be more universally reprobated than that which appeared to have been done at Valparaiso. It had been stated that immediately on the Spanish Admiral having intimated that he was about to proceed to extremities, all the Ministers of all the Foreign Powers, including the Minister of the United States, met together and signed a joint protest against such a proceeding. It was also stated that this protest not having received any attention, and the Spanish Admiral declaring his intention to proceed to extremities, the American Admiral proposed to Admiral Denman, the English Admiral, to prevent by force this horrible sacrifice of property. It further appeared that the overtures of the American Admiral were not accepted by our Admiral, who, after having given his word that the city should not be bombarded, thought fit to leave Valparaiso to its fate, and although he had been promised the full support of all countries represented there, and although he knew that any threat to sink the English fleet was perfectly futile, had given orders to English sailors and English captains to retire and allow the Spanish Admiral to wreak his vengeance on the unfortunate town. He wished to ask the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs whether the English Admiral was justified in moving his ships and permitting the Spanish Admiral to perpetrate this atrocity. Of course, if Admiral Denman acted according to his instructions, no blame could be attached to him; but those orders must be stringent indeed which would prevent him from acting upon such an occasion. He had always thought that the object of maintaining fleets at foreign stations was to protect the lives and property of British subjects; but this was evidently a mistake, and when next the Estimates were submitted to the House he hoped some hon. Member would move that they be curtailed, and that for the future English Admirals who were sent to take care of British interests might be sent in a yacht with a broomstick at the masthead. He would conclude by asking the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, If it is true that the Spanish Admiral has bombarded and destroyed the city of Valparaiso; if it is true that the English Minister and Rear Admiral Denman refused to co-operate with the American Ad- miral in saving it from destruction; and whether the Admiral was justified in moving his ships out of the way to enable the Spaniards to fire on a defenceless city?


said, the reputation and the honour of a British Admiral was far dearer to him than life itself. He could assure the House that he would not have risen to defend the conduct of any brother officer, even though that officer, as in the present instance, was his personal friend, were he not persuaded that no blame could be justly imputed to him. Thus stood the facts of the case. The Spanish Admiral with a formidable squadron arrived off the Port of Valparaiso, for the alleged purpose of receiving from the Government of Chile satisfaction for acts said to be hostile to Spain, and his first stipulation was that the Spanish flag should be saluted by the Chilean authorities. The Spaniards, he need scarcely remark, were a proud and haughty people and exceedingly obstinate, while the Chilean Government, though, perhaps, less haughty, were certainly equally obstinate. It was scarcely to be expected, therefore, that any pacific understanding could in reason be arrived at. According to a letter which he had read that morning, written by an officer during this transaction from on board Admiral Denman's ship, it appeared the Chilean Government offered to erect the Spanish flag on the parapet of their little fort, and to salute on a clear understanding that the Chilean flag were displayed on board the Spanish Admiral's ship, and the salute they first gave be returned; but the Spanish Admiral was too haughty to accede to this. Now, with regard to the conduct of Admiral Denman, it had been alleged that he gave the English merchants of Valparaiso an assurance that in the event the Spanish Admiral should persist in his threat to bombard the city, failing to receive the satisfaction he had demanded from the Chilean Government, he (Admiral Denman) would protect their property; but had he given any such assurance he was convinced he would have scrupulously fufillled his promise. No doubt he used every remonstrance in his power to dissuade the Spanish Admiral from so dastardly an outrage as the destruction of a city that was utterly defenceless and had no means of returning his fire. When, however, the Spanish Admiral adhered to his intention, the British Admiral had no power to prevent his carrying his threat into execution. He had under his command only five vessels, not one of which was metal-plated, and had he interfered in a hostile spirit, the act would have been wholly unjustifiable, with the stringent orders he possessed from his Government to preserve the strictest neutrality as he (Admiral Walcott) believed to be the fact. Had he swerved from these, he might have involved this country in a war with Spain; nor under any circumstances could he have been justified to risk the lives of his officers and men in an attempt that necessarily would have proved perfectly senseless against a force decidedly so superior to his own. All these considerations the British Admiral had to consider deeply. It had been said that the Commodore of the American squadron, likewise before the Port of Valparaiso, had offered Admiral Denman to follow him into action against the Spanish squadron did they persist in their threatened purpose; but this language implied that the British Admiral was to be the first in the hostile movement, and that he was to bear the whole of the responsibility. But God forgive me; can any man believe that an English Admiral would require to be dictated to by an Admiral of any other Power on earth? No, Sir, that is not the spirit of an English Admiral. I believe he (Admiral Denman) did all that was worthy of himself, worthy of his honour, worthy of his reputation, and worthy of his country. The property of the English merchants at Valparaiso, it is true, was very valuable, and reckoned with that belonging to other Powers is, I am informed, of no less value than 30,000,000 dollars. In conclusion, I ask whether the Government will lay on the table of the House any and all such official documents that will clear up the honour and the reputation of Admiral Denman, in my firm belief, thus unworthily assailed?


said, that the bombardment of Valparaiso was a question which interested not only this country or the House, but the whole civilized world; for whatever differences of opinion might exist with regard to prize property captured at sea, blockades, and other matters of that kind, there could be but one opinion on this point—that the bombardment of a defenceless city was an act inconsistent with humanity, and to be reprobated by the voice of public justice. He believed the fair expression of public opinion in the House of Commons would not be without its effect in the councils of Europe, nor even in those of Spain herself, upon whom rested the responsibility of this act. The House, he felt sure, would not desire to prejudge the conduct of the English Admiral or of any other parties concerned, in the absence of any detailed information, for they had had in the case of Jamaica very recent experience of the mischievous consequences of so doing; but he must say that in the position of neutrality which this country occupied in the war between Spain and Chile, Admiral Den-man would not have been justified in entertaining the suggestion—very hastily made—of the American Commodore to interfere by force to prevent the action of the Spanish fleet. A question had arisen as to the advice given by the British representative at Santiago, Mr. Thomson, to the Chilean Government respecting the defence of Valparaiso. They had been informed that morning that he had used his influence to induce the Chilean Government to disarm the town, and that he even went beyond that, and told that Government that if any measures were adopted to place the town in a position to resist an attack, he should hold them responsible for any damage that might occur to property of British subjects resulting from such measures. That appeared to him to be a very strange course for the British representative to have taken, and he was anxious for information upon this point. In the second place, he wished to know whether it was correct, as had been stated, that the Chilean Government had written by the present mail to the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, requesting that the British Minister should be recalled; and in the event of this being the case, he wished to know upon what grounds that request was based?


said, he had that afternoon received a mass of papers from an eminent London firm connected with the South American trade, and from the hasty glance he had taken at them they appeared to confirm the statement of the hon. Member for South Devon in every particular. It was true that the British inhabitants of Valparaiso had en masse made representations to the British Admiral and to the British Minister on the subject of the protection of their property, stating that it would be unjust and hard upon them that their interests should be sacrificed in the diabolical manner threatened, while there was an English fleet at hand to protect their property. They complained that the agreement between themselves, the British Minister, and the British Admiral, that the town should not be bombarded, provided that no forts were armed nor torpedoes submerged for the protection of the town, had been broken. The town had been left utterly defenceless at the suggestion of those authorities, and yet they had not taken care to prevent the bombardment. This appeared to him to be a repetition of the policy which had been pursued in reference to Denmark, where promises of support were held out, but retracted at the last moment. If such a policy were to be adopted as a general rule, he did not see what it was likely to end in. Probably by this time, owing to the senseless policy we had pursued, most of the principal cities of South America were in ruins, and millions of dollars worth of property had been sacrificed for the purpose of satisfying the honour of the Spanish Crown. He would select from the many papers in his hand one containing a report of the committee appointed at a general meeting of British subjects held on the 28th of March, 1866, to frame resolutions and submit them to an adjourned meeting to be held on the following day:— Resolved,—1. That the statement of facts read at the meeting this day by Mr. Hayne be hereby adopted as a true and impartial narrative. 2. That this meeting cannot too severely censure the vacillating conduct of Rear Admiral Denman in having given to the British community of Valparaiso positive assurances that he would interfere, by force if necessary, to prevent a general bombardment, and afterwards retracting the same, thus causing the loss of much valuable time which might have been profitably employed in securing safety to life and property. 3. That this meeting cannot but condemn Rear Admiral Denman's conduct as inconsistent with correct ideas of that neutrality which he stated he had strict orders to observe, inasmuch as while he denies to the British community of Valparaiso the protection of the forces under his command, he did not hesitate to detach one of the ships of his squadron for the protection of the Spanish emissaries—contraband of war in Peruvian waters—who left Valparaiso for the north in the mail steamer hence on the 17th inst. 4. That Rear Admiral Denman's plea of want of sufficient force to oppose the Spaniards is humiliating to his countrymen and inexcusable, considering that the co-operation of a powerful United States squadron was pressed upon him by its commanders. And that this meeting cannot express in sufficiently strong terms its indignation that such an atrocity as the bombardment of a defenceless town, with a population of 80,000 inhabitants, should be permitted in the presence of a British squadron. 5. That the absence of precise instructions from the English Government with regard to the threatened bombardment can only be accounted for by the supposition on its part that our difficulties have come to a conclusion, leaving, therefore, unforeseen complications to be solved by the good judgment of its representative, who, to the great regret of this meeting, would appear to consider the duties of neutrality inconsistent with any action in favour of those interests which are especially confided to his protection, and which, under existing circumstances, are so seriously compromised. 6. That it is a matter of regret that between the British Charge d'Affaires and this community there has long existed an estrangement which has rendered him unfit to represent its interests, and that in the present emergency the disadvantages accruing therefrom have been more sensibly felt by his passive submission to the abuses of the Spanish squadron, while other neutrals have been placed in much more favourable positions through the exertions of their representatives. 7. That a deputation be appointed to wait upon the United States Minister, General Kilpa-trick, and upon Commodore Rodgers, and express to them, in behalf of this meeting, its high appreciation of their earnest endeavours to prevent, by co-operation with the British forces, the bombardment of this city, deeply regretting that those endeavours have not been more successful. 8. That these resolutions, and the documents referred to in them, be laid before the British public. That being the copy of an authentic document, he thought it deserved the consideration of the Government; and, with those facts before them, he trusted they would receive an explanation upon the subject that would be satisfactory to the House and to the country.


said, that he was glad to confirm all that had been said by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Christchurch (Admiral Walcott) with reference to Admiral Denman, and he was quite sure that the best vindication of that gallant officer would come from the Secretary of the Admiralty, who would no doubt tell the House under what orders he was acting. There could be no doubt that it was the duty of the British Admiral not to interfere, because if he did he must have committed some act of war on one side or the other. Unless he had express orders to interfere, the House must justify him in the course which he had taken; and, speaking from a personal knowledge of Admiral Denman, he was sure that if he had had orders which would have justified his committing an act of war, he would have interfered with a promptitude and gallantry which would have insured success.


said, the first duty of an English Admiral in command of a fleet was to obey the orders of Government; and no doubt in the present instance those orders were to preserve the most perfect neutrality between the contending parties. That being so, it was impossible for Admiral Denman to interfere to prevent the bombardment. On the other question, as to a promise having been given to prevent the bombardment by force, they had at present only the accusation of the British merchants at Valparaiso, who were just smarting under the loss of their 18,000,000 dollars. He hoped before the House came to any conclusion upon the subject they would wait until they had heard Admiral Denman's explanation.


thought it rather unfortunate that this discussion should have arisen before instead of after the explanation to be given by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. In discussing the question under the existing circumstances, the hon. Member for South Devon (Sir Lawrence Palk) and those who maintained his position could scarcely avoid trenching on the professional reputation of a British Admiral, although he would undertake to assert that Admiral Denman had done nothing inconsistent with his orders or with his honour as a British sailor. The wanton attack which had been made upon a defenceless town had caused a general outburst of indignation throughout the civilized world; and, although in the strict letter of International Law they might have had no right to interfere to prevent the action, it was only right that the public opinion should be expressed by means of that House on what he considered was at least a very serious departure from the modern usage of civilized warfare. It would be recollected that when the Spanish Admiral first entered the harbour with his fleet he took exception to some pieces of ordnance that were placed on the ramparts of the forts as threatening his fleet and required that they should be withdrawn. The British Minister advised that they should be withdrawn, and from that moment the city had been left without even the semblance of defence. The next step taken they had heard that night; and if it were true that the British Admiral and Minister had promised to prevent the bombardment by force and had then retracted that promise, although urged to its performance by the American Commodore, the British residents at Valparaiso had good cause to complain. The result was a most fearful destruction of British and neutral property which had been permitted to remain in the bonded warehouses of the city until so late a period that they could not be removed to a place of safety before the bombardment commenced. The warehouses which had been destroyed had been looked upon as specimens of the energy and development of the resources and trade of Chile, and were the depots for the foreign trade of the whole coast. He also desired to call the attention of the House to the fact that the English had, until recently, been regarded as the best friends of the Republic. There was the strongest sympathy existing between the two nations. Our capital was largely invested throughout the country, and we enjoyed privileges which were granted to no other nation. All, however, was now changed, and British interests would probably suffer more than would easily be credited. If his information was correct, that change had already commenced; for it was stated that immediately after the bombardment, when the crews were landed from the men-of-war in the roadsteads for the purpose of putting out the flames, the seamen belonging to the British fleet were requested to return on board their ships, while the assistance of the American sailors was warmly welcomed. If this was true it was a strong indication of the change of feeling which had taken place towards the British nation. He felt convinced that he was but expressing the feelings entertained generally by those engaged in commerce with Chile when he said that, great as their material losses had been—and they had been great—they regarded them as nothing compared with the maintenance of the independence and the honour of those Republics. What would be the effect of those wanton proceedings upon Chile? He did not believe that the destruction of warehouses and neutral property which had taken place would bring the war to an end any sooner. It would, he believed, rather tend to make the Chileans more determined to resist Spanish aggression, and the feeling would be likely to extend even to the other Republics in Southern America. The question with regard to Her Majesty's Government, however, was more one of the future than of the past. What they hoped was that, by the mail leaving our shores on the following day, distinct and definite instructions would be sent to Admiral Denman and to our Minister at Lima. They wished to know whether the repetition of such barbarous conduct was to be permitted, and whether the destruction of British and neutral property was to be allowed? He regretted that he was unable to read to the House the resolutions passed that day at a meeting held at Liverpool upon the subject; but he had not the slightest doubt that they were strictly in accordance with the opinions he himself had expressed. The matter could not rest there, he believed. It would be necessary, after they had heard an expiation from Her Majesty's Government, to have an opportunity afforded them of discussing the matter again.


I think that the best answer I can give to the statements and questions which have come from the other side of the House is to state simply what has taken place at Valparaiso. The House is aware that some time last year, in consequence of certain occurrences which had taken place in Chile during the war between Spain and Peru, and which were considered offensive to Spain, Admiral Pareja, who commanded the Spanish fleet, suddenly appeared before Valparaiso, and presented in the form of an ultimatum certain demands upon the Chilean Government, stating that if those demands were not acceded to he was authorized to declare war against Chile. It is not necessary now to enter into the particulars of those demands, or the opinions which Her Majesty's Government formed upon them. As soon as intelligence was received by Her Majesty's Government that this ultimatum had been presented and rejected, and that war had consequently been declared between Spain and Chile, it was their earnest desire that something should be done to bring about peace between the two belligerents. The despatches which announced the declaration of war against Chile were received in this country on the 16th of November, and not a moment was lost in communicating to the French Government the earnest desire of Her Majesty's Government to act cordially with them, and in asking them if they were disposed to join us in offering our good offices to Spain and Chile in order to restore peace. Further, on the day following the receipt of the despatches from Mr. Thomson, our Minister at Chile, instructions were sent to him to do all in his power to protect the property and interests of British subjects, impressing upon him, however, the necessity of maintaining the strictest neutrality; but, at the same time, if he saw any opportunity, he was instructed to do what he thought prudent in using his good offices to bring about a cessation of hostilities—if hostilities should have commenced. The French Govern- ment responded most cordially to the overtures made to them by Her Majesty's Government, and both Governments have acted from that time in complete concert in all that has taken place. The despatches announcing the breaking out of war between Spain and Chile arrived, as I have said, on the 16th November, and on the 18th Her Majesty's Minister at Madrid was directed to inform the Spanish Government of the readiness of the English and French Governments to mediate between the two parties. The Spanish Government at once cordially accepted the offers made by the English and French Governments to bring about peace. The terms which were proposed by the mediating Governments as the basis of a settlement were these:—That Chile should disavow any intention of offending Spain; that the treaty in force between Chile and Spain at the time of the outbreak of hostilities should not be annulled; that Spain should express herself satisfied and should disavow any intention of re-conquest in South America; and that on the renewal of diplomatic relations a salute should be fired by both parties, Chile firing the first gun. These proposals were sent out to Mr. Thomson and to the French Minister, with instructions to submit them to the Chilean Government for its acceptance. While negotiations were still going on Her Majesty's Government received information from Mr. Thomson that there was some apprehension of a bombardment of Valparaiso, and that he had made strong representations to the Spanish Admiral against bombarding a town which was utterly without defence, and which, so far as his information could guide him, was entirely incapable of defence; but he stated that the Spanish Admiral would not commit himself to any assurance on the subject, and refused to say whether or not he intended to bombard Valparaiso. The British merchants in Valparaiso, informed of the danger which hung over them and the risk which they ran, addressed themselves early in October to the Government of Chile, requesting it to afford them an opportunity of removing such property as they had at Valparaiso to a place of safety. The Chilean Government at first declined to accede to the request; but on Mr. Thomson being informed of what had taken place, he addressed himself to the Chilean Government on behalf of the British merchants who had not previously consulted him, and through his representations the Chilean Government withdrew their objections to the removal of their property, on certain conditions. Those conditions were that the merchants should pay the rent of the warehouses and of the storehouses which they might hire for the purpose of removing their property to a safe position: that they would pay the persons who had charge of the property; and give bonds declaring their intention to observe the conditions imposed. The British merchants refused the offer, complaining that the conditions were too onerous, and declared that they would hold the Chilean Government responsible for any damage to their property in case of bombardment. Mr. Thomson thought the merchants were wrong in declining to accede to the proposed conditions, but forwarded the correspondence between himself, the Chilean Government, and the merchants, to this country. That correspondence was submitted to the proper law authorities in this country, and they gave it as their opinion that the conditions required by the Chilean Government were fair and just, and such as ought to be accepted, and that if the British merchants and others concerned refused to accept them, and anything happened to their property, they would themselves be responsible for it. Mr. Thomson was instructed by Her Majesty's Government to inform the British merchants at Valparaiso of the view thus taken of the matter. Mr. Thomson and the French Minister had been instructed to offer the mediation and good offices of their respective Governments, and in the event of any of the conditions accepted by the Spanish Government being objected to by Chile, they were authorized to make modifications in them if they could do so with the consent of the Chilean Government and of the representative of Spain, who was the commander of the Spanish fleet at Valparaiso. Those instructions were received by Mr. Thomson about the end of January. But unfortunately before they reached him the Chilean Government had entered into a treaty of alliance offensive and defensive with the Republic of Peru, to which were subsequently added similar treaties with the Republics of Bolivia and Equator. The difficulties were still further complicated by the capture by the Chileans of the Spanish vessel of war the Covadonga. These events combined to render mediation more difficult, but Her Majesty's Government and that of the Emperor of the French never lost the hope of being able to arrive at a satisfactory settlement. The Chilean Government professed their desire to accept the conditions offered—indeed, they expressed themselves very grateful to the two Governments for offering their good offices; but they said that having entered into alliances with the other Republics, they could not without consulting them make any separate arrangement with Spain. They, therefore, requested time to consult their allies. The Spanish Government, construing this request for delay unfavourably, desired to make it an excuse for breaking off negotiations and withdrawing their consent to accept our good offices; but neither the English nor French Government would admit the excuse, holding that Spain was still bound by her acceptance of their good office, and that they still could claim to be mediators between the belligerents. A short time afterwards the English Government had reason to believe that instructions had been sent by the Spanish Government to Admiral Nunez to bombard the city of Valparaiso. So long a period had elapsed since the first fear of a bombardment had passed away, that Her Majesty's Government had every reason to hope that a civilized power like Spain did not contemplate the bombardment of a perfectly defenceless city, which contained a large amount of neutral property; but when they ascertained, on what appeared to be authentic information, that instructions to bombard Valparaiso had been sent out by Spain, the Governments of France and England lost not a moment in communicating with the Spanish Government, and asking them point blank whether or not such instructions had been sent. If the answer of the Spanish Government should be in the affirmative, the Ministers of the two countries were directed to make the strongest remonstrances against the act. I must say that the Spanish Government did not act fairly or justly with us in this matter; because, although they did not say that instructions had not been sent out, they equivocated a good deal, and refrained from making any definite statement on the subject. In fact they misled by the answer they gave both Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Emperor of the French, and it was with great surprise that we heard yesterday that this outrage, which has not been characterized too strongly in this House, had been committed on a defenceless city. The resolu- tions drawn up at a public meeting of merchants at Valparaiso and read by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel Edwards), form certainly the most extraordinary document I ever heard read. Almost every one of them contains a misstatement.


Does the hon. Gentleman mean to say that the document itself is not an authentic document?


No, I say nothing of the sort; but I say that the statements contained in that document are entirely without foundation, and contrary to the real facts of the case. One of the resolutions states that Admiral Denman had informed the British merchants that he would defend Valparaiso against an attack by the Spanish fleet. There is not one single word of truth in that statement. It was Admiral Denman's duty to maintain the strictest neutrality; but a circumstance did occur which will possibly explain that statement. At one time it was the intention of the Chilean Government to employ torpedoes at Valparaiso against the Spanish fleet, and they sent to the United States for an engineer who had distinguished himself in the discovery and manufacture of torpedoes. When the Governments of England and France heard of this intention they directed their Ministers to represent to the Chilean Government that it would be unwise to make use of such engines of attack against the Spanish fleet, as it would at once give the Spanish Admiral a plausible excuse for bombarding the place. Indeed, the Spanish Commander had informed Admiral Denman that an attempt to injure his ships by torpedoes would be followed by a bombardment of Valparaiso. The American and English commanders then requested the Spanish commander to give due notice to the inhabitants of Valparaiso, in case he intended to bombard the place—a request with which he led Admiral Denman to understand he would not comply, in the event of torpedoes being used. Admiral Denman then appears to have threatened that if fire was opened on the town without due notice, thus endangering the lives of British subjects and others, he would interfere and stop the proceedings of the Spanish fleet. That, it would be seen, was a very different thing from declaring that he would, under any circumstances, prevent the bombardment of Valparaiso. But the President of the Chilean Government gave up the idea of using torpedoes, and consequently the contingency to which Admiral Denman had referred did not occur, The Chilean Government, as I have said, had accepted our good offices on condition that Peru, and the other Republics with which they had entered into an alliance, consented to accept them also; and she promised to communicate with those Republics, and to return an answer as soon as she received their reply. Suddenly, on the 25th of March, the Spanish Commander declared that, unless the conditions which had been proposed were accepted, he would within a certain number of days bombard Valparaiso. This intimation was perfectly unexpected by the English, French, and American Ministers in Chile. They at once waited on the President of Chile and his Ministers. They found the Ministers disposed to refuse absolutely, but the President himself was still disposed to accept their good offices; only requesting sufficient time to communicate with the Republics with whom he had treaties, to which he could not be unfaithful. The Spanish Commander believed that this was merely an excuse to gain time; and no doubt there was some justification for that supposition, as two months had been allowed to elapse since the offers of mediation of the French and British Governments had been made at Santiago, which gave ample time for the receipt of replies from all the Republics interested. It was also known to the Spanish Commander that Peru expected certain vessels of war, and that Chile would be better prepared to meet the Spanish fleet at a later period. Under these circumstances, the Spanish Commander thought this answer was merely an excuse to gain time, and refused to withdraw his ultimatum. The American, English, and French Ministers at once went down to Valparaiso. The American Minister was the first to have an interview with the Spanish Commander, and he endeavoured to dissuade him from attacking Valparaiso. He made certain proposals on the part of the Chilean Government; but all his efforts to bring about an understanding failed, and the Spanish Admiral declared that, if the conditions he proposed were not accepted in a few hours, he would give notice of his intention to bombard the place. He sent a manifesto to this effect by the American Minister to the Chilean authorities. Subsequently, the French and English Ministers went on board the Spanish Commander's ship, and again remonstrated against a bombardment of Val- paraiso, and expressed a hope that the matter would be settled by negotiation. The Commander replied that he had already issued his manifesto, and that it would not be consistent with his duty to withdraw it, or to alter his determination, unless his terms were accepted. He added that he should on the 27th give notice of hostilities, and on the 31st he should begin the bombardment. The British merchants having been informed of the determination of the Spanish Commander, went to Admiral Denman, and urged him to prevent the attack. Admiral Denman said that, however much he would regret an attack upon a defenceless town, he was bound by his orders to preserve a strict neutrality; and that, therefore, it was impossible for him to interfere, and he again urged the British merchants to take some steps to withdraw their property. This formal notification to remove their property was given to them thirty hours before the Spanish manifesto was issued. They had further been informed some days before that the British Government, having taken into consideration the offer of the Chilean Government to allow them to remove their property in bond without charging dues, were of opinion that the conditions were fair conditions, and they ought to accept them, and to take advantage of the opportunity to remove their property. They were warned that if they did not do so they must themselves bear the responsibility of any damage their property might sustain. The British merchants, however, deliberately refused to accept this liberal offer made to them by the Chilean Government, and I am surprised that they now turn round and blame Admiral Denman for what has happened. The resolutions of the British merchants, as I have already stated, are utterly at variance with the facts of the case. The statement that the American Commodore offered to join the British Commander to stop the bombardment is utterly untrue. No such offer could have been made. On the contrary, the American Minister admitted the right of the Spanish Commander to bombard Valparaiso, and had himself come down from St. Jago to endeavour to prevail upon him not to carry out his intention; but it does not appear that either he or Commodore Rogers considered themselves justified in attempting to stop it. Nor is there a word of truth in the statement that Admiral Denman excused himself for not interfering on the plea of want of sufficient force. Had his force been ten times greater than it was, Admiral Denman could not have interfered. Besides, I was informed to-day by the Spanish Minister that when the American Commodore went on board the flag-ship to remonstrate with the Spanish Commander, he ended by saying—more, I believe, by way of a joke than otherwise—"Supposing I were to put my ship between you and the town, what would happen?" The reply was, "You are a sailor, and I am a sailor; you know what your duty would be in such a case and you know what mine would be. If you put your ship between me and the town, I will sink you." On this, the American Commodore shook him warmly by the hand and said, "I understand you; I should do the same were I in your place." As regards the accusation against the British Minister that he had prevailed upon the Chilean Government to remove the fortifications of Valparaiso, and had thus been the cause of exposing the place to the attack of the Spaniards, Valparaiso is a town which could not have been fortified even if considerable time had been given. I believe there was a small saluting battery, but so desirous were the authorities of removing any ground of excuse for bombarding the town from the Spanish commander, that they dismantled of their own accord every gun, thus leaving the town absolutely defenceless. As to the statement that so angry were the Chileans at the conduct of the British Admiral that they refused to allow the British sailors to land in order to extinguish the flames when the city had been set on fire, all I can say is, I have today read Admiral Denman's despatch, in which he says that his offer to send men to subdue the fire having been accepted, he sent on shore 150 men from his ship for the purpose, and that they remained on shore until four o'clock, when they returned on board at the request of the General, because all the fire-companies having come down from Santiago, their services were no longer required. The Admiral further says that the conduct of the men was most exemplary, that some charges of plunder brought against them proved to be untrue, and that not a single man was in the slightest degree intoxicated, although a particularly strong kind of brandy was freely offered to them. These are the simple facts of the case. I can make full allowance for the excitement of the British merchants at Valparaiso on seeing their property destroyed, but it was not worthy of them to put forward the statements contained in their resolutions, seeing that they are so entirely at variance with the facts. There is no doubt that the bombardment of a town, whether fortified or not, is a right of war, but then comes the question how far ought that right to be exercised, how far is it justified against a defenceless town in which almost all the property belongs to neutrals, or how far is it consistent with the usages of civilization? I am anxious to say as much as I can in justification of the Spanish Commander. That officer appears to have acted in this matter under the express orders of his Government, and he was willing, if he could have done so without actually disobeying his instructions, to refrain from an act which has been characterized as most barbarous; but his instructions were positive. The blame, therefore, rests with the Spanish Government, and their conduct is the less to be excused, because they were fully aware of the efforts that were being made to bring about a peaceful termination of the difficulties with Chile by Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Emperor of the French; and, because, while negotiations were going on without informing either the French or English Governments, they sent out positive orders which could not be neglected to their Commander in the Pacific Ocean to bombard Valparaiso. Of course he was bound to obey. The Government of Spain are therefore responsible. The Spanish Commander in discharging his duty appears to have taken every possible care not to injure private property, directing his fire exclusively against public buildings, one of which was unfortunately the custom house, in which there was a large amount of British and other foreign merchandise. These facts are stated by Admiral Denman. The inhabitants had full time to leave the town, and appear to have availed themselves of it, as only two persons were actually killed—a woman and a child—by the bombardment, although two others were afterwards killed by a wall falling upon them. The Spanish Commander appears to have carried out his instructions with as much humanity as was possible. I cannot, however, conceal from the House that the bombardment of Valparaiso has produced a very painful impression on Her Majesty's Government. I hoped—everybody had hoped—that the time had gone by for such acts—I may almost say of barbarity—acts altogether inconsistent with the character of a great civilized nation like Spain. These are the facts of the case. I have every sympathy for the British merchants, and deeply regret the losses they have sustained; but I cannot but admit that they have themselves to blame, for they might have removed their property with little loss to themselves. With respect to the question whether a demand had been made by the Chilean Government for the withdrawal of our Minister, Mr. Thomson, I have only to say that no communication of that nature has as yet been received by Her Majesty's Government.


said, that before quitting this painful subject, he would venture to make an observation upon the statement which had just been made by the Under Secretary of State, who had endeavoured to vindicate everybody but the British merchants. He understood that a representation had been made by those merchants to the Government with regard to the destruction of their property during the bombardment of Valparaiso, and if that were so, he trusted that the hon. Gentleman would produce the papers bearing on that point, for they appeared to have been the principal sufferers. He would now ask one question for his own information—namely, whether, when a British fleet was before such a town as that described by the Under Secretary of State, containing both British subjects and British property, and a Spanish fleet were to come, and, acting under instructions such as those which had been vaguely described, its commander were to request the British Admiral to sheer off in order that he might bombard this unoffending and defenceless town, it was, as a matter of course, the duty of the British Admiral thus to sheer off, and, after watching the operations, land his sailors, not after the manner of Nelson, but to extinguish the flames by water?


said, he thought the question asked by the right hon. Gentleman might be answered by some passages of British history. He remembered the time when the King of the Two Sicilies proposed to bombard the rebellious town of Messina, near to which were stationed several English vessels of war, one of them being the Bulldog, which was very well known. Instructions were sent to the officers of those vessels, if he remembered right, to place them in such a position as to render bombardment impossible without a chance shot striking one of Her Majesty's vessels. He called the attention of the House to this instance, because it showed how difficult was the position of naval officers when our foreign policy shifted and changed about as it had done. If instructions given at one time were to be acted upon by the naval officers at another, it was probable that they would find themselves in a false position. He was delighted to hear the denunciations of the Under Secretary of those atrocious proceedings at Valparaiso, which would be condemned by the whole of Europe. He was happy to say this, not only for the sake of humanity, but because from them he augured that for the future our foreign policy would be conducted on principles very different from those which had formerly governed it. Why, it was only last year that the hon. Gentleman rose in his place to justify the bombardment of the defenceless town of Kagosima, in Japan, Indeed, he could recall to mind many debates in that House when the bombardment of defenceless cities had been upheld and justified by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The city of Canton was bombarded, causing enormous loss of life; the real cause of such a proceeding being the refusal to admit Sir John Bowring within the walls of Canton in full uniform. Then, what was done in Pekin? Why, by an act of vandalism millions of pounds worth of property was destroyed, and the Emperor's Palace sacked. It was all very well for the hon. Gentleman to rise and condemn such atrocities as that of Valparaiso, but he hoped the Government would remember what precedent they themselves had given to Europe. He trusted that the present instance would be a lesson to the Foreign Minister to conduct the proceedings of this country in relation to other countries with the humanity which had been so nobly expressed by the hon. Gentleman this evening.


thought the House would see the necessity of its being supplied with ample information on the subject, and that it should have before it the correspondence which had taken place with Spain, as he understood that the Spanish Government had deceived both France and England. The House ought also to have laid before it the instructions which had been given to the British Consul at Valparaiso, as well as those forwarded to the British Admiral. He, with other English merchants connected with the trade of Chile, had waited as a depu- tation on the Foreign Secretary, and called his attention to this subject. It was one of great importance, and it would be desirable that this House should be put in possession of the correspondence relating to it, including the instructions to the British Admiral.


thought that this debate, so far as it referred to the conduct of a British officer, had been rather premature. He thought the hon. Baronet who had brought forward the subject (Sir Lawrence Palk) should have waited to have the papers in his hand before he assumed misconduct which a British officer ought to be ashamed to be guilty of. He understood the Under Secretary to say that the British merchants had made statements which were directly contrary to the fact; but he also understood the hon. Gentleman to intimate that those merchants had done so under some misapprehension or in consequence of some misstatements which had been made to them. He might state that he had received a private letter from an authority on whom he relied, and the details in that letter were in accordance with the facts stated by the Under Secretary.


wished to state distinctly to the House that the instructions given by the Admiralty to Admiral Denman were to preserve a strict neutrality between Spain and Chile, and that the gallant Admiral appeared to have strictly and properly carried out these instructions. With respect to the resolutions come to by a meeting of British merchants, which had been read by the hon. and gallant Officer (Colonel Edwards), he very much regretted that he should have read them to the House; but he might now state that, having been passed at the meeting, those resolutions were communicated to Admiral Denman, and he gave the merchants a very courteous reply. He said he would not discuss the resolutions with them; all he would do was to express his great regret at the losses which they had suffered by the bombardment; but in sending home a copy of the resolutions, Admiral Denman also transmitted his replies, which followed the resolutions seriatim. In answer to the first resolution, which accused him of having given a positive assurance that he would interfere by force to prevent a bombardment, he stated that he had promised to do all in his power to prevent the calamity, but had been very careful to avoid giving grounds for supposing that he would inter- fere in any other way than by remonstrance, taking care to inform those who had called upon him that he was bound by his orders to a strict neutrality. He need not trouble the House with the second and third resolutions; but, with respect to the fourth, Admiral Denman said that he had never alleged want of sufficient force as a ground for not interfering. Any such reply would have been in contradiction of his statement that he was bound by his orders to strict neutrality. He also said in his reply to the third resolution, that the statement that the United States Commodore had pressed upon the co-operation of his squadron to prevent the bombardment of the city, had no foundation whatever. The mutual arrangements of the United States Commodore and the British Admiral had for their object to secure sufficient notice of the bombardment. The statements of the gallant Admiral would be laid on the table with the other papers; and when the House were in possession of all the documents, they would see that Admiral Denman was not open to any of the attacks which had been made on him during this discussion.