HC Deb 06 August 1867 vol 189 cc961-91

Order for Committee read.


Mr. Speaker,—Sir, Before you leave the Chair I wish to redeem the pledge I gave at the close of last Session to call the attention of the House to the unsatisfactory state of our Extradition Treaties with foreign Powers. A few days before the prorogation last year a Bill was brought down from the House of Lords, to which our assent was asked, changing the rule of judicial procedure in the case of foreigners accused of crime. Time out of mind the rule of English law has been that no man should be committed for trial, either here or abroad, without parôle testimony as to his identity, and primâ facie as to his guilt. The accused, by himself or his counsel, have always thus had the opportunity of cross-examining the witnesses against him. But, save in the case of depositions made by a dying man, documentary proof was never, up to last year, held sufficient by itself to justify a magistrate in sending anyone to stand his trial as a felon, or in sending him out of the country to be tried by a foreign tribunal, or to be kept in prison for the rest of his life awaiting that trial. Our Judges and our magistrates applied the rule indifferently to the stranger and to him that was born in the land. We are a people loving justice. We have inherited its maxims and traditions from our fathers; and the reverence in which we hold them has done more than anything else in our customs and institutions to make us what we are—the freest people in the world, and the fittest people to be free. This rule of criminal law, however, we were last year called upon to change as regards French citizens or denizens resident here. This humane and wise and time-honoured system was an offence unto the French Govern- ment. Oral proof is not required in France for the arrest and imprisonment of any man, however exalted, virtuous, or above suspicion. Neither is it necessary to show him the whole of the depositions which constitute the charge against him; he is liable to be incarcerated without being confronted with his accusers. The Ministers of the Queen told us that, unless they could get Parliament to abrogate English law, and substitute French law, in dealing with Frenchmen, his Imperial Majesty would put an end to the Convention subsisting between the two countries for the mutual rendition of criminals. This was not, indeed, what the French Ambassador had asked. It appears by the Papers laid upon your table that he asked a great deal more. He demanded that a French writ should run in every part of Her Majesty's dominions as it does in every department of France; and he demanded that we should in every case, without discussion or discretion, surrender French refugees, tried and condemned in their absence, against whom the record of such condemnation should be produced before a magistrate. When I asked Lord Cairns, then Attorney General, whether he was prepared to entertain these two last demands, he replied, with a spirit that became him, that he would cut off his right band before it should sign any assent to such submissions; but he sought to persuade us that the Government Bill, substituting documentary for parôle proof, would satisfy the French Government, and yet do no harm. My hon. Friends around me were not persuaded. We demurred to waiving, at the bidding of a foreign Court, a venerated and sacred principle of justice between man and man. We said it cannot be right to maintain that principle for ourselves and to renounce it where foreigners are concerned. You do not ask us to take it away altogether. You dare not venture to clip the coin of justice, as for centuries it has been current amongst us; but from the friendless and the helpless fugitives from absolute power, you ask us to take away a protection which we keep for ourselves. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley) and his Law Advisers argued that no harm would really be done; and when we pointed out the possibility of men being demanded for one crime and, when surrendered, tried upon another, we were told our misgivings were unfounded, our fears chimerical, our suspicions vain. No foreign Government, it was said, would think of playing a trick upon another, or seek to kidnap an ob- noxious fugitive by charging him with a crime named in the Treaty, and then detaining him, or indicting him, for some other crime; or if, by any unforeseen contingency, the fugitive were wrongfully obtained, regard for our offended dignity would be sure to cause an immediate amende and the restoration of the mistaken prisoner to freedom. We were not convinced; but our objections were overruled, and our votes overborne. The Bill became law; and then what happened? The French police, who until then declared they could not, compatibly with the honour of their master, attempt to capture fugitives sheltering in the dominions of the Queen, became active and enterprizing. You told us they would be so if we passed this Act, and they redeemed your word with a vengeance. The Convention of 1843, you told us, would not work without this Bill, and that was the only reason assigned in its favour. Well, the Bill passed; and before six weeks had elapsed the agents of the French police had captured two individuals—the one in Canada, the other in London—both of which cases serve to exemplify in a manner not to be mistaken the force of all that we had urged. The case of M. Lamirande is probably familiar to most of those who hear me. It stands out in the history of this question so prominently that I hardly suppose any one will be found, whatever may be his opinions, to attempt its palliation. From first to last, it is about the most flagrant and immitigable tissue of fraud and violence with which we have ever had to deal. Nothing that we said last Session as hypothetically agreeable can compare with the bare narration of undisputed facts recorded in the despatch of Lord Carnarvon of the 20th of November to Lord Monck, recounting what was done in Canada, and the despatch of the noble Lord opposite to Lord Cowley, stating what subsequently occurred. We may put aside altogether the speeches of advocates and the comments of journalists. From the official admissions of the Foreign Secretary and his late Colleague, the Secretary for the Colonies, the whole infamous story may be clearly gathered, and every inference we desired to impress upon the mind of the House may be conclusively drawn.

Lamirande, on a charge of forgery committed in France, was arrested at Montreal. Agents of the French police, who had followed him thither, applied for an extradition warrant, which by contrivance they induced the Governor General to sign, pending an application for an habeas corpus. Lord Monck promised that time should be afforded for the hearing of that application; but the night before the decision was given by the Judge of the Queen's Bench the prisoner was delivered up under the Governor's warrant, and, after midnight, placed in a railway train which had been specially detained three hours, for the purpose of avoiding observation, prevented from having any communication with his law adviser, who tried to speak to him at the station, conveyed by steamer to England, and thence to France. The morning after his surreptitious removal, Mr. Justice Drummond granted the writ of habeas corpus, and declared his capture illegal on various grounds. With some of these I need not trouble the House; but two of them deserve attention. The warrant issued in France was not produced; but a copy, certified by no one who had read the depositions. So much for the evidence. Now for the crime itself. Lamirande was a robber; but he had no more committed forgery than he had committed murder or arson. He had committed theft—he had stolen thousands of gold pieces out of the cellar of the Bank at Poictiers, of which he was cashier. He forged no document for the purpose; he forged no document at all; he did not tamper with the Bank accounts; they remained unchanged. The books were right, but the bags were wrong. If a man steals your cheque-book and imitates your name, he is a forger; but if he picks your pocket of your purse, or picks the lock of your strong box, you might as well call him a sheep stealer as a forger. Why, then, did the French police have him arrested for forgery, not theft? I will tell you why: because theft is not one of the crimes named in the Anglo-French Treaty, and forgery is; and as they wanted to bring down their prey, not having a bullet, they used a slug. They brought the man to France, and tried him there for the offence of which he had been guilty; and, the case being clear as to the facts, he was condemned to ten years' penal servitude; but they had no more right to take him and to try him than they would have to take or try me. In the French Penal Code there are five classes of offences against property called "faux"—false witness, false coin, false weights, false seals or tokens, and false writings of a public or a private kind. What we call forgery may be classed under the denomination "false writings;" and because in a logical category forger is classed as "faux" the French kidnappers had the impudence to set up the barefaced cheat that "faux" is synonymous with forgery. Lamirande may have committed some of the offences denominated "faux;" but it was not even pretended at the trial that he had committed anything which we call forgery. Lord Monck—of whom I wish to speak with every consideration and forbearance — suffered himself to be puzzled to some extent by those about him who used this incredible imposture; but the moment the case was referred to, the Law Officers of the Crown in England flung it aside with contempt, as any upright and enlightened jurist would do. This part of the case needs only to be stated to be made plain. You named four crimes in your Treaty with France, and forgery is one of them. What you mean by forgery may not always be the same as that which is meant in France. But what is to be the rule of interpretation? Manifestly the rule of the law whose assistance is invoked—the rule of the country whose magistrates are to act: our Judges, and magistrates know our law, but they do not know the French law; and the French magistrates know their law, and they do not know our law. Every Court must administer its own law, which it is bound to know; not a foreign law which it cannot be supposed to know. But this is not all. Suppose any magistrate in England and the Colonies had copies of the Côde Napoleon and the records of the Cour de Cassation, and reports of all the trials and arguments which guide the decisions of French judges, spread out before him, and suppose the practitioners in his Court were equally capable of raising and discussing points of Foreign law—Would that do? Not at all. You signed a treaty in 1843 enumerating four offences. Ever though you affected to believe that the criminal codes of the two countries were in 1843 absolutely identical, so that every step of prosecution would be equal and identical, what is to prevent either country from altering its laws under each head of offence after your Treaty was signed, inserting crimes that did not formerly belong to that category? Now apply this to offences against the person. You make loud professions of your care not to be entrapped into surrendering political offenders. But if you allow any French spy or bailiff to tell your magistrates what is constructively an attempt to commit homicide, and if the French writ, which he produces unsupported by oral testimony, compels the extradition of the accused, what need is there of a magistrate at all? You could get the thing done better and cheaper by machinery. The whole thing is a farce. Mr. Justice Drummond states distinctly in his written and published judgment that Lamirande appeared to have committed no offence named in the Treaty. He had not committed forgery, and he was accused of nothing else. He might have committed faux—one species of faux, and if that species of faux had been what we call forgery he would have been legally given up. But not having committed that crime, and the Treaty containing nothing about stealing money out of bags in the cellar of a bank, the habeas corpus must issue, and the man be set free. When the writ issued the man was gone. And why? Because Lord Monck had been misadvised that forty-eight hours was time enough to allow him for making the application. Now this brings me to one of the practical issues I desire to raise. I would have a fixed and inflexible law; not a miserable dependent enactment limping after the terms of a special Convention, concluded between two Governments when they happen to be mutually in good humour, but a permanent and imperative law which would prescribe that three months should elapse after the signing of the warrant of extradition by the magistrate during which the prisoner might sue for a writ of habeas corpus, and have the merits of his case duly heard. I have great faith in the consistency, impartiality, and independence of our supreme tribunals. Their judgments are not liable to be disturbed by diplomatic or political influences; our Judges are appointed for life, and their decisions are matters of record. I have great faith in their decisions; but I own I have not the same faith in despatches written off-hand by a Secretary of State no matter who he may be. At present the appeal, and the only appeal is to him, from the decision of the magistrate. But is he always capable, or in a condition to act judicially? Is it to be expected that on an ex parte statement not made on oath he can or ought to be expected to overrule the judgment of the magistrate? If he does he subjects his Government to just reproach on the score of caprice from the foreign Power whose fugitive subject is not surrendered. If he does not the prisoner has really no benefit of appeal. Either way the system is faulty and works ill. In the case of Lamirande the appeal had there been time, would have been effectual; but no time being specified by law the man was cheated of the privilege, and to all intents and purposes he was as much stolen out of the custody of the British Crown as the gold was stolen out of the cellar at Poictiers. The noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs felt keenly the humiliation and indignity that had been placed upon his country; and he tried every art of remonstrance with M. Moustier to induce him to give Lamirande back. He very wisely and properly abstained from claiming him as a matter of right, because by the unfortunate mistake made in Canada we had lost our claim under strict International Law and could only urge international equity; but the French Foreign Office turned a deaf ear to his expostulations. The Correspondence is upon the table; let whoso readeth understand. It went on throughout the greater part of the winter, and on the 9th of January the noble Lord grew very urgent in his entreaties for the rendition of Lamirande. Parliament was about to meet; and he tells our Charge d'Affaires at Paris if something is not done in time the subject is certain to be discussed, and the result will probably be fatal to the renewal of the Extradition Bill of last Session, if not to the existence of any convention on the subject with France. The noble Lord appreciated justly the susceptibility of Parliament on a question so nearly touching the national honour; and we are here today not to blame the noble Lord or to taunt the French Government with having got out of the scrape by the poor device of getting the wretched man to withdraw his claim to our interposition, impelled by what motives I leave you to judge; but we are here to-day to call upon the Government to provide official means without delay against similar abuses occurring again. Our purpose is not to make mischief out of the past; but to draw good out of evil for the future.

But was the case of Lamirande the only one which justified our misgivings with regard to the consequences of the Act of last Session which you now ask us to renew? We foresaw and forewarned you that the effect of passing that Act would be not merely to speed the work of the police by sweeping technical hindrances out of their way, but that it would be taken as a signal by all engaged in the administration of criminal justice, that Parliament in future wished them to be less punctilious and less particular in matters of extradition; and that they had better in doubtful circumstances give the benefit of the doubt to the foreign catchpole, not to the foreign refugee. Of course, this apprehension, like every other we expressed, when set in the balance against the courtly assurances of diplomacy was treated as of little weight. There is a freemasonry among those practising the art and mystery of Government at home and abroad, which not only makes their intercourse more smooth and agreeable, but which involuntarily—perhaps unconsciously—indisposes them to listen to words of warning from unofficial lips. But will anyone acquainted with the incidents of the past twelve months venture to treat lightly the fears we then expressed? I will not stop to criticize the tone of Lord Monck's despatches, wherein he seeks to vindicate the course taken by him regarding Lamirande. Nor shall I seek to strain the meaning of the noble Lord's words addressed to Mr. Fane on the 9th January, iu which he clearly indicates his apprehension that unless Lamirande were restored by the French authorities Parliament would not easily be induced to renew the Act of last year. There is something much more serious and important to be adduced on this score. On the 7th of September last a Frenchman, named Dubois, was brought before one of the metropolitan magistrates (Mr. Vaughan) on a charge of forgery, committed at Villeneuve, three years before. Had the copies of the depositions against him been produced before the passing of the late Act they would not have been legal proof, and he would have gone free; for the only parôle evidence brought forward was that of a person, who stated that he knew Dubois had been tried in his absence and condemned par contumace. The question is not whether the prisoner was or was not guilty. The sole question for us to consider is, whether or not he was dealt with in such a way as to form a precedent for the surrender of other men of very different character, and accused of a very different kind of crime. Now mark—Had he been arrested six weeks earlier he could not have been detained for the reasons I have stated. Two sorts of evidence were adduced against him—the one documentary, which would not have been legal or sufficient had you not passed the Bill of last year; the other oral, which would not have been admissible; because, in the case of Frenchmen, you have not yet consented to treat men as criminals who have been tried and condemned in their absence. But, remember, you have been asked to do so by the Government of Napoleon III; and, remember, that Lord Malmesbury, when Foreign Secretary of State, actually signed a Convention in 1852 agreeing to give up Frenchmen who had been sentenced par contumace, and that it was only by the opposition of Lord Aberdeen and Lord Campbell that the sanction of Parliament was refused. Remember, further, that since then you have actually made that, concession to Denmark; and, remember finally, that only eighteen months ago the present French Ambassador in England demanded on behalf of his Court this very concession to France. Are we then mistrustful without cause? Or can we be expected to read without the criticism of suspicion every case which seems to point towards a consummation, we look upon with such loathing? Objections were made on various technical grounds to the retention of Dubois. But all of them were overruled. I do not question the legality of that decision; but I do question the course pursued by the magistrate who, when asked for time to apply for a habeas corpus, refused to suspend the writ of extradition, or to give any opportunity for appeal. If this be right in one case, who is to say that it is wrong in another? Dubois was probably a thief whom it was well to be rid of, and for whom no honest man could feel any sympathy; but if next day a refugee, obnoxious on political grounds to his Government, were impleaded before the same magistrate on an identical charge, what security would be have had against a similar rule of summary adjudication? What happened? Had Dubois been without professional aid—as many a poor exile must often be—or had he been inertly or inaptly defended—as all men sometimes are—the warrant of extradition would have been executed forthwith, and we should have heard no more of the matter; or if the magistrate had been sitting in Edinburgh, in Dublin, or in York, it might have made all the difference; but Bow Street happens to be within half-a-mile of Whitehall, and the solicitor for Dubois happened to be a man of energy and perseverance. It was late in the day when the order of the magistrate was made, and in the month of September the best of administrators are not given to linger late in the public departments. The solicitor hastened to the Home Office, Mr. Walpole was in attendance on the Queen at Balmoral; but access was obtained to the Under Secretary, who undertook that the prisoner should not be given up until Mr. Walpole had had an opportunity of fully considering the whole circumstances of the case. Upon such consideration the Secretary of State wisely and humanely decided that time should be given to sue out a writ of habeas corpus. No injustice was or could be thus done to anyone; and the Lord Chancellor, having heard the arguments in favour of the Motion for the writ, refused the application on grounds which seemed to him just. It is not necessary to question the justice of the Chaneellor's decision in point of law, or the guilt of Dubois in point of fact; but the case is important as illustrating this fact—that a foreigner may be delivered up on a charge made by foreign police without a particle of such proof of primâ facie guilt as would send an Englishman for trial; and that he is liable to be sent out of the realm without time to ask the benefit of an habeas corpus if his attorney does not win a cab race from Bow Street to Whitehall. Is this the condition in which a great principle and practice of international law ought to be suffered to remain? Suppose the case had occurred in Glasgow, Liverpool or Newcastle, and that any of the score of accidents that beset all communications by letter had interposed? It is all very well to talk of Lamirande's case as exceptional because colonial, but here is the very same contingency waiting at your very door. In every case there ought to be a time, specifically defined by statute after the decision of the magistrate, within which the accused may move the Court of Queen's Bench for an habeas corpus. To leave all to the temper or caprice of a single subordinate official, acting irresponsibly, is a thing without precedent or parallel in our law, without sense or decency in point of policy.

And now it will be asked, "What do we propose?" Would the refusal of Parliament to renew the Act of last Session satisfy us or close the question you have opened? Not so. When we debated the subject last year our talk was of techni-nalities; but you have driven us to reconsider principles; and to-day I trust that our discussion will not be limited to forms of procedure in a police court, but will embrace the consideration of a national policy. At all times there has been a conflict of authorities as to which way the presumption should be held to lie regarding the rendition of fugitives. In the Civil Law—that crystalization of overruling authority—no place was too remote for recapture, no integrity or purity of thought furnished any excuse why an individual ought not to be surrendered who had incurred the suspicion or the enmity of power. The dominion of Rome rested on the theory of resistless domination; and when that Power was at its zenith, international liberty lay in stirless sleep; but on the break-up of the hard frost of Cæsarism, every country that aspired to be free, in one shape or other, resumed the inherent right to give shelter to fugitives. It is, indeed, an essential part and parcel of international freedom. England, France, Switzerland, the commonwealths of Italy, the Hanse Towns, the German Principalities, the Swedes and the Dutch, nil asserted, early and earnestly, the right of asylum. But I think history makes this clear that, just in proportion as the element of personal or imperious will prevailed in Government, the evil disposition showed itself again and again to over-reach and overbear, in this matter, the justice and self-respect of neighbours who were weak enough to be bullied, or frail enough to be cajoled. I will venture to say this, after carefully investigating the subject, that hardly an instance can be pointed out of a State, where the Executive became practically irresponsible to the opinion of its subjects, in which we do not find this claim of extradition exaggerated, and put much higher than before; and, on the other hand, I think it can be clearly shown that, in proportion as communities worked out their domestic freedom, and came to be constitutionally governed, they not only dissuaded their rulers from straining this pretension, but steadily resisted the attempt to exercise it on the part of foreign Powers. It is remarked by Mr. Froude, in his last volume of the History of England, that nothing so emboldened the enemies of the Regent Murray as his fatal compliance with the demands of Elizabeth to surrender the Northern Earls, who had risen in rebellion against her, and fled across the Border. On other points Scottish factions differed; but all united in a sense of shame at the truckling of their Executive to a Foreign Sovereign; and, but for this, the historian thinks that Murray might not have fallen. In the growth of law and liberty under the Stuarts, international right was comparatively little thought of; but the greatest English jurist of his time saw clearly, and laid down plainly, the truth of extradition— It hath over been holden," says Coke, "that in separate kingdoms the subject of one fleeing to another for safety ought not to be delivered up. One of the first, and one of the worst, excesses of Royalist reaction at the Restoration was the instructions sent by Clarendon to Sir George Downing, our Envoy in Holland, to obtain the surrender of Colonel Okey, Barkstead, and Corbet, who had sat on the trial of the King. Mr. Pepys, in his Diary, calls Sir George Downing "a perfidious rogue;" and William Penn marvelled how the man, who had been originally a chaplain in Okey's regiment, could lend himself to such a service. Downing persuaded Do Witt to let him seize the unsuspecting English refugees at Delph. They were sent home in an English frigate, and executed at Tyburn. It is a memorable fact that, ere many years elapsed, the great and good statesman, who had suffered himself to be thus betrayed into an act unworthy of his country in the vain hope of conciliating the despotic Stuart, should have fallen at the hand of assassins pensioned by one of that family. Some strong things have since then been done by English Administrations; but, upon the whole, since the Revolution, the gradual course of our dealings with foreign States has been more lenient, more liberal, and more enlightened. During that dark season, when we went to war with France to humour George III, and to stem the tide of democracy, a shameful act of violence and wrong was perpetrated in England's dishonoured name. Parliamentary Reform and religious liberty were denied at home, and the right of public meeting was suspended. Ireland, goaded to madness, broke forth in rebellion; and, when the revolt was crushed with inhuman slaughter, three of the survivors escaped to Hamburgh, and there, in a free and neutral city, believed themselves secure. Our Resident, Sir James Crawford, was instructed to demand that they should be delivered up, and the magistrates yielded so far as to give him a party of police, who in the night surrounded the inn where the exiles slept, and in the morning conducted them to gaol. The English Minister claimed his prey; the Senate, warned by the French Envoy, hesitated long. By every principle of honour, humanity, and law, they were deterred from making the surrender—by all their sense of weakness and dependence for commercial life on the safety of their ships at sea they were tempted to yield. They stood out manfully against the threats of Lord Grenville and Mr. Pitt for eleven months, and they only then succumbed because the Czar Paul of Russia had, by our Government, been persuaded to lay an embargo on their vessels in his ports. Their city would be ruined if they persevered, and General Tandy with his companions were given up. Lord Cornwallis, a wise and just man, then Viceroy of Ireland, wrote confidentially to dissuade the Government from a proceeding which he foresaw could only entail reproach and humiliation; but his opinion being disregarded, he was obliged to order the fugitives for trial. Tandy was indicted for treason, condemned, and left for execution. Lord Cornwallis wrote to the Duke of Portland the reasons why he had respited him; but when his successor, Lord Hardwicke, commuted the sentence to transportation for life, Tandy refused. Napoleon had, upon his surrender, written to the Senate at Hamburg a letter full of scathing reproach— It was not by cowardice and truckling that small States were preserved, but by courage and virtue. You have violated the laws of hospitality as the hordes of the desert would not have done; and if the blood of those brave men be shed on the scaffold it will do their captors more harm than a legion of armed men. These were not idle protestations. While Tandy lay in Lifford gaol the negotiations for peace drew near a close at Amiens. Napoleon wrote to his brother Joseph on no account to sign the preliminaries until General Tandy was restored to France; and after having waded knee-deep in violence and illegality our Government thought it prudent not only to liberate the condemned traitor, but to place him on board a neutral ship by which he was conveyed to France. It is noted in a valuable work by my hon. Friend the Member for Elgin (Mr. Grant Duff) how M. Tourguéneff, the friend of Stein, and author of one of the first enlightened books on the social and political condition of Russia, was travelling abroad when, in 1825, an unsuccessful attempt at revolution broke out. The evil eye of autocratic suspicion fell upon him, and he was summoned peremptorily to return to his own land. He understood too well what the mandate meant and sat him down for shelter on the hearth of England. His extradition was demanded by the Russian Ambassador and was met by Mr. Canning with a scornful stare. Had he been surrendered he would have been sent to Siberia, if not to the scaffold. The admonitory shade of Canning's statue no longer falls upon our path as we approach this House; but although bad taste has put back his effigy I hope his noble-hearted policy in foreign affairs will not be cast into oblivion.

When Hungary was crushed in 1849 for asserting principles which within the last few months have been recognized by the Emperor of Austria, Kossuth and his companions claimed the protection of the Porte as political refugees. Both Russia and Austria insisted on their being delivered up, and when Lord Stratford advised the Sultan to resist, the pretext was resorted to of charging Kossuth with fraud and larceny of the Crown jewels. We all know now that the charge was utterly false. But if you hold the doctrine that a Government ought to give up every fugitive against whom a charge of ordinary crime is made, leaving him then to the mercy of his political enemies, you must be of opinion that the Porte had no right to refuse the surrender, and that we ought not to have counselled the refusal. But Lord Palmerston did not think so, for he wrote a despatch on the 6th of October, 1849, to our Ministers at the Courts of Vienna and St. Petersburg, in which he said— If there is one rule more than another that has been observed in modern times by independent States, both great and small, of the civilized world, it is the rule not to deliver up political refugees. The law of hospitality, the dictates of humanity, the general feelings of mankind forbid such surrenders; and any independent Government which, by its own free will was to make any such surrender would be universally and deservedly stigmatized as dishonoured — unless a State is bound to extradition by the positive obligations of a Treaty; but such treaty engagements are few, if indeed any such exist. That they do exist is unfortunately too certain. The network of treaties between despotic States is gradually spreading more and more. If we allow our policy to remain undefined much longer, it will be taken for granted that England too means to be a subscriber and shareholder in the system of joint-stock police which all absolute governments favour. But there would be no mutuality in the obligation, for we have long since repudiated all thought of following political offenders beyond sea, while with despotisms it is the primary object.

In 1830, the Neapolitan Government demanded from France the surrender of M. Pita Terra, a political refugee domiciled at Ajaccio, on a fictitious charge of murder; and he was surrendered on a warrant signed by Duc Pasquier. After the Revolution of July representations were made to the new Government that a fraud had been practised, and the Minister, then Garde des Sceaux, defended himself, on the ground that he could not believe it possible that false representations had been made for the purposes of extradition; but the Liberal party pressed the case so strongly that Casimir Perrier insisted upon restitution of the prisoner, and had him brought back to Corsica; but the French Government itself since the restoration of the Empire has not disdained to press that of Switzerland, with whom it has a stringent treaty of extradition to compel obnoxious politicians to quit their confines. The same course has been pursued towards Belgium; and they insisted upon Victor Hugo quitting the country and taking refuge in the Channel Islands. How-long he will be safe there no man in this House can tell, if you leave your law and practice in its present state. There is nothing to prevent a charge of forgery or attempt to commit homicide being trumped up against him, and nothing to prevent a magistrate, on mere documentary proof—the unreality of which the wretches who are sent to produce it may not even know—from being given up as Lamirande was and tried for a totally different offence, or what is more probable, and more formidable, kept in durance without trial. You may say there is time for habeas corpus, and time for the suspension veto of the Secretary of State; but I have shown you both in the case of Lamirande and that of Dubois, how frail is that reliance. I say there ought to be a fixed and known law of England—a real English law, not a French Act of Parliament like that we are asked to-day to renew, which would prevent any man, under any circumstances, or on any pretence, being taken out of the realm within the space of three months after the magistrate's warrant of extradition had been signed. I say further that when brought before the Queen's Bench on habeas corpus it should be the prisoner's right to call upon that high tribunal to try the bonâ fide of the whole proceeding, and specially to inquire, if the prisoner desire it, whether he has ever made himself obnoxious to the Government that claims him by acts of a political nature. I did not believe last year, and I do not believe now, that it is in the power of Parliament to say beforehand what are political and what are not political crimes. I frankly own that there are offences against the person of the Sovereign or chief magistrate, or against those holding public offices in the State, which, though their motive be political, plainly fall within the category of murder. The acts of Booth and of Orsini were such crimes; but does anyone believe that the Court of Queen's Bench would have refused to confirm warrants for their extradition? On the other hand, I do not believe that that upright and learned tribunal would have given up Kossuth, or Victor Hugo, or Prince Louis Napoleon Buonaparte, late of King Street, St. James's; but now of the Tuileries, Paris. I do not care to raise again the subordinate question as to the precise scope and mischief of this Bill. Ministers feel it to be insufficient and unsatisfactory, and they only ask its renewal therefore for another year. I had hoped that the whole subject might have been brought under the consideration of Parliament this Session with a view to the adoption of some more easily intelligible, more permanent, more comprehensive, and, I will add, more worthy, enactment. Our time and attention have been so absorbed by topics more pressing that I felt it to be my duty to abstain from bringing forward the Motion of which I had given Notice on an earlier day; but I trust that the noble Lord will meet the forbearance we have shown by entering frankly into a disclosure of his policy, if he has one regarding extradition; and, if not, that he will at least give us a specific assurance that early next Session the whole subject will be submitted to a Royal Commission or to a Select Committee of this House; for certain I am that our inconsistent and anomalous treaties cannot be left as they are with safety to the honour, the dignity, or the peace of the nation.


said, it was true, as stated by his hon. Friend, that the Treaty with France was prepared by the Government of which he was a Member. But his own opinion had always been opposed to that treaty, and he believed it to be wrong on two distinct points. In the first place, he objected to it because it was an exceptional treaty made with a single Power; and next, because it afforded facilities for demanding offenders ostensibly on account of criminal acts, but really on account of political offences. He did not mean to say that France would be guilty of demanding prisoners for political offences, but there could be no doubt that the treaty conferred the power. A person of the highest authority, a native of France, told him at the time that Treaty was passed that under it he might at any time be delivered up to the authorities for the time being in that country. It was most dangerous for such a power to be given to any State. Nothing could be more objectionable than the way in which extradition treaties were concluded. The last treaties with America, France, and Denmark, were all founded on different principles three or four years ago. He had the honour of proposing an extradition treaty with Prussia, but his hon. Friend the Member for Brighton opposed that treaty, and it was withdrawn. He did not say that his hon. Friend was wrong, but that Treaty had in its favour precedent. It was word for word the same treaty which had been agreed to in the case of Denmark; and there seemed to be no reason why a treaty sanctioned in the case of one Power should be refused in the case of another. The great error lay in the fact that all these treaties were matters of negotiation and barter between the two countries. Each side gave up something, and when the treaty was ultimately agreed upon it was submitted to Parliament, which might either accept or reject it. That was a false position for the Government to be placed in. A treaty solemnly negotiated should be conclusive. We had no interest in detaining foreign criminals in this country, or in keeping up a system under which our own criminals in other countries were enabled to escape. We ought not to allow this question to remain one of bargain and sale. We ought to lay down for ourselves the principle upon which we were prepared to give up persons accused of crime to the State to which they belonged, without reference to any concessions we might obtain from them in return. His hon. Friend had fallen into error when he said that in the case of one of our treaties we were bound to give up a man who had previously been tried and condemned in his absence. That was not so. We gave up a man to be tried, and if guilty, to be condemned in the Courts of his own country, on certain evidence which was considered sufficient to warrant his extradition having first been adduced before tribunals properly constitated. It must be remembered that the laws of foreign countries were in many respects diametrically opposed to our own. Here we assumed a man to be innocent till he was found guilty. In France, anyone accused was treated as guilty till he was discovered to be innocent. What made the question still more difficult was that the evidence was taken without the knowledge of the person accused, and with closed doors. Copies of the evidence so taken were not even given to the State called upon to deliver the person that was claimed. This country accordingly was placed in a very awkward position; for it was called upon to do that which was in direct violation of English law. When the question was under discussion last year at the Foreign Office, he felt that the right course would be to appoint a Committee chosen from Gentlemen on both sides of the House, men of the highest diplomatic and legal experience, who should investigate the question thoroughly, and decide for what crimes, and upon what evidence, persons, claimed by foreign Governments, should be given up. When once these conditions had been laid down, any Power seeking for an Extradition Treaty with us should be apprised that such and such terms only would be granted, and would not be departed from. When these terms were acceded to, the treaty should be made by the Executive, and no reference to Parliament should be necessary. In the case of certain foreign countries the power of the Crown sufficed for the regulation of certain particular purposes. In the cases of China and Turkey, the Crown was empowered by Order in Council to pass certain laws concerning British subjects, and a similar mode of proceeding might usefully be adopted in this case. This question, he thought, ought hardly to have been raised upon a mere Continuance Bill. It was not the fault, probably, of the noble Lord, but last year a pledge was given that opportunity should be afforded for a full discussion of the question. That pledge ought to be redeemed. The noble Lord, in renewing this Treaty, should only do so for a period of one year that the question might be fully discussed next Session.


said, he wished it to be understood that the views of the hon. Member (Mr. Torrens) did not meet with general assent on that (the Opposition) side of the House. If any importance should be attached to his speech out of doors—and he did not suppose there would be much—he should say that a more mischievous one had never been made in Par- liament. The principles it contained would, if accepted, place us outside the pale of civilized nations. They would so far place us outside the pale of civilized nations that they would render it impossible for us to maintain with them such relations as would enable us to demand the surrender of criminals that had fled from our shores. He entirely agreed with his hon. Friend (Mr. Layard) that it was not desirable to make this matter the subject of reciprocal treaties with other Powers, and that it would be far better to lay down the general rules on which this country would act, whatever foreign countries might do. At the same time it would be very difficult to pass such an Act of Parliament, because it would involve the definition of crimes punishable by the laws of other nations. Therefore, it was impossible to frame any Act on this subject dealing with foreign nations without consultation with those nations. He repudiated the principle that we ought to try foreign criminals by the rules of foreign law, and also the assertion that the principle of the French procedure was to assume that every person accused was guilty until his innocence was proved. If they looked merely to the principles of justice, the foreign procedure was not inferior to our own, and we had no right to give the law to foreign nations, though, no doubt, justice was administered in this country in a spirit of independence and purity unknown in other countries. All a foreign country was bound to show, or we to show to a foreign country, when demanding the extradition of a subject, was a primâ facie case such as that which was laid before a grand jury to justify the trial of a prisoner. Nor was there any injustice in the person whose extradition was demanded not being heard in his defence more than there was in the case of an accusation before a grand jury. Though, as compared with our proceedings, a spirit of unfairness towards the accused characterized the action of foreign tribunals, the principles of their jurisprudence were equitable, and they were entitled to repudiate any pretensions on our part to set ourselves up as authorities. We had no right to impose upon foreign nations our rules of procedure, or to say that they ought not to bring a man to justice unless viva voce evidence had been taken against him. The real thing, and the only thing, that required to be guarded against was lest civil crimes should be made the pretext for demanding the surrender of political offenders. We must trust to the honour of foreign nations that this was not done. If not, if they were to refuse to conclude extradition treaties because they felt suspicious that they would be converted to wrong purposes by other nations, it would follow that other nations would say, "If you treat us in this manner, as if we were rogues and liars, and not to be trusted, let us cease at once all diplomatic relations, withdraw your ambassadors, and have only commercial agents." He agreed, with the hon. Member (Mr. Torrens) that a greater space of time should be allowed to a man to obtain relief by habeas corpus, and that it should not be left entirely in the hands of the police magistrate. Without extradition treaties the ordinary ends of justice would constantly be defeated. A man might commit a murder, a cashier might rob the tills of his bank, and, within a few hours, and before discovery was in any way possible, he might laugh at those whom he had wronged, secure in the asylum of the French soil. Unless, then, we dealt with foreign nations in such a manner as to have mutual extradition in proper cases, the most inconvenient restrictions might be placed in the way of our obtaining possesion of the persons of criminals who had fled to other countries. He hoped that the noble Lord, in considering the subject would give due weight to that consideration.


said, that it was with great reluctance that he ventured to criticize the action, or even the inaction, of the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, as he felt much admiration for his policy generally. With respect to this particular subject, however, he certainly thought that the noble Lord had not done all that might have been expected of him. He (Sir Francis Goldsmid), in the course of the debate on this subject last Session, proposed an Amendment to the effect that political offenders should be exempt from the operation of the Extradition Treaty; and the debate ended in the limitation of the Treaty to one year, the noble Lord stating that in the course of next Session the House would have an opportunity of carefully and deliberately considering the question. It might be said that the Reform Bill had stood in the way; but if this was true so far as regarded the House, it was not true with reference to the Foreign Secretary, who for some months past had not taken any such part in the debates on Reform as would have precluded him from devoting his powerful mind to the subject of extra- dition. The noble Lord during the discussion of last year said— International courtesy demanded that the Treaty should not be materially altered without communication with the other party to it."—[3 Hansard, clxxxiv. 2114.] So also Lord Derby said in "another place" a few days afterwards— Moreover, during the year an opportunity would be afforded of communicating with the Government of France, and arranging the terms of the renewal of the former Treaty, or of any new treaty which might be thought expedient."—[3 Hansard, clxxxiv. 2154.] Surely statements such as these justified the expectation that Ministers would seek an opportunity of communicating with the French Government and arranging a new treaty. But no such communication had taken place, and the House was now informed that the matter was in precisely the same position as it then stood. Before the debate of last year the general belief was that none of the extradition treaties applied to political offences; and when it appeared that this was an error, he (Sir Francis Goldsmid) had brought forward his Amendment limiting the operation of the treaties to non-political offences. This proposal was deemed too wide, and the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) pointed out that if it should happen that any one should shoot him in the Lobby and get away to France, the criminal would be secure of a refuge because the crime would be considered a political offence. Notwithstanding the persistent opposition of the hon. Member to the privileges of the City of London, he (Sir Francis Goldsmid) did not think it very likely that an indignant Lord Mayor or infuriated Common Councilman would come down to the House and shoot the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets. It was, however, true that if the treaties exempted all political offenders, the exemption would apply to those who had committed, or attempted to commit, political assassination, and that such persons as Orsini and Booth might thus be able to claim the benefit of the exception. Now, almost all were agreed that political assassins should not, and that other political offenders should, be entitled to protection. He (Sir Francis Goldsmid) was, however, afraid that the treaties as they were at present framed were not subject to any such limitation, and that a person engaged in civil conflict against any Power with whom we had such a treaty would, if he took refuge in England, have to be rendered up by us if any blood had been shed in the course of the contest. The attempt which had been made to show that the word assassinat in the French Code only applied to cases of assassination, altogether failed, and he believed that it also applied to deaths resulting from civil disturbances arising out of political agitations. The 297th Article of the French Penal Code showed that meurtre is synonymous with culpable homicide, and that assassinat is equivalent, not to assassination, but to murder; the premeditation required not being premeditated malice against a particular individual, but only an intention to fight anyone who opposes you. In the same way in England, killing anyone when the killer is intentionally doing an unlawful act, though without malice against the person killed, is murder. So also, the remark of the hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer), that taking life in a civil conflict in France is not murder, because resistance to the existing authority in France is not a crime in England, ignores the circumstance that under the extradition treaties the magistrate is to consider whether the act done would have been murder or attempt to murder if it had been done in this country, and that if the resistance had been made in this country, it would have been resistance to the Queen's soldiers or police. There was really, therefore, no reason to doubt that, under the existing Acts, we might be called on to deliver up anyone who had fought in a rebellion against the greatest tyranny. Then, again, it was said that the language of the Act was merely permissive, and that the Secretary of State might deliver up an accused person if he thought right. But the language of the treaty was obligatory, and if a proper case were made out the Secretary of State would be bound to give up the offender. If such a case occurred with reference to an individual who had only taken part in a civil conflict, a great shock would be caused to public opinion in England, and the right of asylum, as it had been hitherto considered, would be materially invaded. He trusted that, at all events, the noble Lord would not extend the Act further than one year, so that the subject might be duly considered next Session.


said, he did not think that the hon. Member for Finsbury should have made any allusion to national subserviency. It was not necessary to give a lesson upon that subject to the House of Com- mons, as he believed no body was less inclined to give way to national subserviency than that House. The hon. Gentleman should have said that it was for the benefit of society all over the world that malefactors should get the punishment they deserved. Lamirande was cashier in one of the branches of the Bank of France; and was in the habit of extracting coin from the vaults and safes of the bank, making false entries, and falsifying the books. At last, on an occasion when it became necessary to send a large quantity of specie away, Lamirande disappeared, taking with him 700,000f. Everyone who knew the great importance of preserving the integrity of those engaged in banking operations must be aware that the crime of Lamirande was as atrocious as any crime except that of murder. He was, however, arrested in New York under a French warrant, and, having employed counsel, he escaped to Canada, and the counsel did what he trusted no English counsel would do for his client, stole the warrant. Evidence of his identity however was produced before the magistrate in Canada and he was handed over to the French police and sent to England. In the interval, however, a writ of habeas corpus was issued by Chief Justice Drummond, and immediately that the Governor General heard of that he telegraphed to the Colonial Office stating the facts of the case. So that every precaution had been taken in the case by the colonial authorities, and if any injustice was done to Lamirande, it happened in England. It was very much more important for society that murderers, robbers, and those who embezzled monies, should, under an extradition treaty, receive their punishment than that some few persons suspected as political offenders should unfortunately be given up on the pretence of their being criminals.


said, that the argument of his hon. Friend (Mr. Watkin) carried out to its logical conclusion would carry him much farther than to giving up mere criminals; it would induce the House to connive at the most tyrannical exercise of power on the part of a Government. It was very important, no doubt, that malefactors should be given up, and that peaceably disposed persons should be able to walk about in security; but he did not think that anybody in that House would be found to agree in such an argument as that made use of by the hon. Member for Stockport, which was an argument that had always been made use of in defence of tyranny. If they restrained tyranny, if they restricted the abuse of power, if they did anything which had a tendency to weaken the hands of those who conducted the administration of the country, it did not follow that they were disposed to throw aside all the advantages which society derived from the existence of law and government. That argument, therefore, might be put out of the question. No doubt it was very important that malefactors should not be able to fly from one country to another. Other countries as well as this felt the importance of delivering up ordinary malefactors. But every country did not think it right to surrender persons who were only charged as criminals, because they were deemed to be political offenders; and to make such a concession would stamp any free country with disgrace. Was the House prepared to entertain the doctrine that we ought to have such unbounded confidence in every Government with which we had diplomatic relations that we ought to rely upon the honour of that Government that it would not demand the extradition of political offenders, instead of taking proper precautions against the abuse of the treaty by foreign Governments? The hon. Member had referred to the circumstances of the Lamirande case. Everyone was aware that the extradition of that person had been obtained by a fraudulent proceeding, but at the same time everyone was aware that Lamirande was a scoundrel, and probably the consciousness of that fact went far to prevent any prolonged discussion upon the subject of the treaty, such as would have taken place had it been the case of the extradition of a political offender. The hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Layard) had alluded to the difference between the French and English procedure in criminal cases, stating that here we always presumed a man to be innocent till he was proved guilty, whereas in France a man was presumed to be guilty till he had proved himself to be innocent. No doubt this did not necessarily imply a failure of justice in foreign countries; because the tribunals were bound to act precisely on the same abstract principles of truth and justice as were presumed to be acted upon by our Courts of Justice. It was true, however, that in this country the tri- bunals considered themselves simply bound to hear the case, and if justice was defeated the fault was with the parties, the Judge being impartial; while abroad—in France for instance—the Judge acted to a certain extent as an officer of police as well as of justice; he thought it his business to hold an inquisition—not, of course, of the nature of the Spanish Inquisition—into the case, and felt bound to discover by whom the offence had been committed. He was as little disposed as any Member of the House to flatter his countrymen at the expense of other nations; but in this respect the feelings and opinions of our Courts were much better than those of most foreign countries, and in his opinion we ought not to give up any portion of the advantage which we derived from that difference. With their feelings in this respect, it was exceedingly natural that the French tribunals, and still more the subordinates of the French tribunals, should take very much the same view as the hon. Member for Stockport, and should think that everything was fair by means of which a person accused of a crime could be brought before a tribunal. This it was that was so strikingly illustrated by the case of Lamirande, which placed in a very strong light indeed the impolicy and injustice of that confidence which his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford was willing to place in the Governments and officers of foreign countries. It showed that it would not do for us to abandon the right that we had always exercised, of examining, before we delivered up an alleged criminal, whether there was such evidence as appeared to our tribunals to be sufficient to justify his being placed upon his trial. When, last year, the noble Lord (Lord Stanley), yielding to their arguments and not to their numbers, consented to limit the duration of this measure till the 1st of September, the general expectation was that the interval would be employed in placing the matter upon a more satisfactory footing, either by means of negotiation, or, as he (Mr. Mill) should prefer, by laying down some principle which should apply to all extradition treaties. They left the matter willingly in the hands of the noble Lord. He hoped that the noble Lord would be able to say that something of the sort had been done. Unless the noble Lord could make out some very strong case as to the extreme difficulty of dealing with this subject, he did not see how he could ask for a longer prolongation of the statute than that which was granted last year. The demand indeed reminded him of the story of Hiero and Simonides. Hiero asked Simondes to define the Godhead. Simonides asked for a day; at the expiration of that time he asked for two, and at the expiration of the two he asked for four, explaining that the more he considered the subject the more difficult he found it. The Government first asked them for a year and now, having had it, for what amounted to two years. An hon. and learned Friend of his, who was not in his place, contemplated proposing that, instead of prolonging the Act until the end of the Session of 1869, the endurance of the measure should be limited till the 15th July next, in order that the question might be thoroughly discussed in a full House. If the noble Lord was not prepared to assent to that Amendment he hoped that the noble Lord, when he rose to reply, would be able to assure the House that the time that had elapsed had been usefully employed, and that some plan had been drawn up, or that negotiations had been entered into with foreign Governments that would lead to a satisfactory result being arrived at with reference to this important question.


In answer to the appeal which has been made to me by the hon. Member for Westminster and by the hon. Baronet who preceded him, I have to state that it never was my intention to ask the House to continue this Bill for more than one year. Both the hon. Member for Westminster and the hon. Baronet appear to imagine that during the discussion upon this matter last year I undertook that some general inquiry should be made into the whole subject of extradition. Upon that point, however, the hon. Members are labouring under a misapprehension; for all I then said was, that I thought it desirable inquiry should be made into the question, and that if some hon. Gentleman were to move for the appointment of a Committee to conduct such an investigation, I should offer no opposition to such a Motion. It is not my fault that the attention of the House has been occupied by matters of a different character, and that, therefore, no one has thought fit to move for the appointment of a Committee for that purpose. The fact is, that no one has even mentioned the subject. On consideration of the whole matter, I agree with the hon. Member for Southwark, that to appoint a Committee to investigate the whole matter would be the most satisfactory mode of proceeding. It may be asked, "Why delay the settlement of the question by going to the trouble of investigating the subject, when you have only to enter into negotiations with foreign countries?" The reply to such a question is that it would add enormously to our labour, without producing any adequate result, were we to enter into negotiations with each foreign Power separately; whereas if we can once lay down some general principle with regard to the subject of extradition, it will be but a small matter to apply that principle to all extradition treaties we may enter into with foreign countries. At the same time, I must say that, although the adoption of such a uniform system is much to be desired, I think that if the hon. Member for Westminster were to serve upon this Committee next year he would find the story to which he has referred even more applicable than he supposes, because the more the matter is looked into in detail the greater the difficulties become. Let me revert for a moment to the speech of the hon. Member for Finsbury, who, no doubt, has studied and understands the subject, though I was certainly rather surprised at some part of his argument—that is, if I am to regard it as an argument bearing upon the Bill under consideration. The hon. Gentleman said that we were going to give up men without inquiring into the offences which they were alleged to have committed. Let me remind the House that the Act, the continuance of which is now under discussion, merely provides that copies of certain legal documents duly authenticated shall be admitted as proofs in English Courts without the Judge who signed them being called upon personally to prove them before some witness to be afterwards brought over to this country to verify the signature. The case of Lamirande was an unsatisfactory transaction, but it has no more to do with the Bill, the continuance of which I am now proposing, than with the Reform Bill. There is no doubt that Lamirande was unduly captured, that there was over zeal on the part of the French police, and laxity or mistake on the part of the colonial authorities. If that mistake had not been made, Lamirande would not have been captured and sentenced; but the difficulty which we felt and which prevented us from demanding his release as a matter of right was, that the error had been committed by our own authorities; and that, therefore, we and not the French Government were responsible for what had taken place; but supposing the Bill had not existed, the case of Lamirande would have stood upon precisely the same footing. The only difference would have been that, in order to obtain his arrest, instead of merely producing certain documents, the French police would have been compelled to take to Canada witnesses who would have proved the authenticity. That might have increased the expense but would not have added to the proof, nor prevented the arrest. The hon. Member said that the French police abused the Act of Extradition by putting it to a use which was never intended, and arrested Lamirande for an offence which he had not committed. That is a question as to the construction of a French law term; but, admitting that they strained the law for their own purposes, there is nothing in this Bill which bears upon that subject. It was as much open to the French police to do that under the Act of 1843 as under the amended Act of last year. The hon. Gentleman suggested a case in which some foreign Government might bring a pretended charge against a prisoner in order to get him into their power, and then proceed against him upon another charge and sentence him for an offence to which the extradition treaty did not apply. My answer to that is, that if anything of the kind were attempted, which seems to me very improbable indeed, it would be for us to demand back the man, and to insist that he should only be tried and punished for the crime for which the extradition was granted. I hold that that would be the proper course to take. Apart from going to war, or breaking off diplomatic relations, we should in such a case have a complete remedy, because if a treaty was abused in that way by any Power, it would immediately be allowed to drop, and the right of extradition, as far as that country was concerned, would cease. I shall not enter into a great many of the arguments which I have heard this afternoon, because they seem to have been chiefly directed, not against the Bill which we are now discussing, but against the whole principle, or rather practice, of extradition. No doubt, that is a fair subject for discussion, and I do not find fault with anyone for saying that the principle of extradition is a bad principle; but that will raise the whole question as to the policy of the Act of 1843; and I think I am justified in assuming that, unless this House expresses in some decided way a contrary opinion, the country is not prepared to depart from that principle which was adopted after the fullest consideration, which has been in force for twenty-five years, and with reference to which very few and slight cases of abuse had ever been alleged. With regard to the manner in which that principle is to be applied, I think that is a very fair subject for an inquiry; and, if a Committee is moved for to investigate the subject next year, I shall not then object—as I should not this year have objected — to its appointment.


said, he must express his surprise at the extreme jealousy shown in that House with regard to the principle of extradition, which, in his opinion, was an essential part of civilization, and a benefit to human society generally. Hugo Grotius, the greatest of all writers on International Law, laid down the maxim that it was disgraceful for a country to give an asylum to criminals. The arguments adduced against the principle of extradition appeared to be based on a notion that it might lead to the extradition and punishment of political offenders. He admitted that Grotius also asserted what was termed the right of asylum, stating that it was sacred, and he (Sir George Bowyer) would never deny the right of an asylum to those who, in the course of political events, were compelled to leave their own country and seek refuge in another. At the same time he was of opinion that the right of an asylum should be confined to strictly political offences. A political offence might be defined as that which was an offence against the Government of a particular country; but not an act condemed as criminal by the laws of other countries, and by the opinion of civilized men. In the course of the debate on this question last year, it was stated that although persons might be guilty of murder or assassination—which was a peculiar species of murder—yet they ought not to be delivered up if the offence were of a political character. He denied, however, that murder or assassination, or attempts, or conspiracies to murder or assassinate could be properly termed political offences, because they were regarded as offences according to the laws of all countries, whether civilized or uncivilized. The taking, or attempting to take life, was condemned by the laws, not only of all civilized, but also of partially civilized countries. It was an offence against natural law. Therefore any person who had for a political motive taken the life, or conspired, or attempted to take the life of another ought to be given up to justice in the same manner as if he had committed the offence for the sake of gain, or from any other motive. These were the doctrines of jurists, and the principles which would stand the test of public discussion. If they once removed this political element there was no difficulty in the matter of extradition. The offences ought to be clearly defined as well as the evidence on which the magistrates might safely act in delivering up the criminal. The Bill now under discussion related merely to a question of evidence, and did not touch the principle on which extradition rested, but he had taken this opportunity to state to the House what in his opinion were sound principles in regard to the general subject.


said, that the turn the discussion had taken made it clear that the whole question of extradition would have to be considered during the next Session of Parliament, as there was nothing in the four corners of the Treaty in question which warranted the discussion. With reference to the inquiry that was likely to take place as to the principles upon which extradition treaties should be based, every one must admit the importance of considering the means by which the laws of foreign countries as well as of our own were administered. It would be very inconvenient if "a hard and fast line" were drawn by those making the inquiry, to which foreign countries were unable or did not choose to assent. The hon. Member for Reading (Sir Francis Goldsmid), and the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. Stuart Mill), had unfairly blamed the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) for not having attended to this matter earlier. They should have remembered that he had been engaged in the difficult task of preventing people cutting one another's throats. In that he had been successful, and was more beneficially employed than in attending to the matter under discussion. As it was the general wish of the House that an inquiry should be made he supposed it would be well to have it; but he believed the end of such inquiries would be the abolition of extradition treaties altogether. After all, the results from them were not large, and it did not very much matter whether the per- sons of questionable character exchanged remained on one side of the water or the other.


said, he wished to correct a misapprehension as to the way in which this discussion had arisen. Very early in the Session, seeing the difficulties in which private Members were placed by the pressure of public business, he communicated with the noble Lord opposite, stating that Members on that (the Opposition) side were willing to wait until a Bill came before the House, on the understanding that the general question should then be discussed, either on the second reading or on going into Committee.


said, he thought that the mistake had arisen from its having been understood that the noble Lord would bring forward the question.


said, he had never intended to say that the noble Lord had broken any pledge. If the noble Lord had given any pledge, donbtless he would have kept it. He had only said that there had been an expectation and a hope in the House that the question would be discussed.


said, what he stated was that if the matter could be inquired into by a Committee, the Government would offer no objection to such a course.

Bill considered in Committee.

House resumed.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.