§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
, in rising to call attention to the circumstances under which Her Majesty's Ambassador quitted Paris, September 17, with reference to the statement on this subject made by the Prime Minister, said: Sir, in undertaking to deal with the question of which I have given Notice, I shall appeal with confidence to the impartial judgment of the House. I wish to be thoroughly impartial in what I have to state on this question. I have no personal feeling in the matter; and it is entirely on public grounds, and on account of the interest a great many people take in it, that I have ventured to bring the subject under the notice of the House, with the intention of asking the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government for the production of further Papers which will bear upon the subject. Now, I think I shall be able to show that in quitting Paris on the 17th of September, with only three other Representatives of foreign Powers, and leaving in Paris 18 Representatives of different States and Peoples until the middle of January, and in closing the British Consulate in that place, great injury was inflicted by the Ambassador upon British interests. The other day I used two expressions which I cannot but reiterate now, because I feel they are justly applicable to the circumstances under which the British Ambassador left Paris. I said that I considered his flight to be unmanly and to be ungenerous; and I said it on these grounds—I believe it was unmanly in him, on the 17th of September, when the instructions of the Foreign Secretary were that he should remain, to leave Paris and to neglect the interests and concerns of thousands of British subjects, who were in Paris at the time when the investment commenced. And I consider that it was ungenerous on his part to take away the whole corps of his Embassy, leaving in Paris only one inferior member of the 1297 Embassy—as the Prime Minister called him the other night—at the very time when, under Lord Granville's advice, the Government in London was pressing upon M. Jules Favre a negotiation with Count Bismarck, which, aided by the good offices of our Ambassador, might have resulted in peace and in the sparing of thousands and tens of thousands of people who have suffered in this war since the date when that negotiation was abruptly terminated. Before alluding further to the course taken by the British Ambassador, I wish to say one word about Lord Granville. As I said the other night, I have no desire to say intentionally any unkind word about my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. On the contrary, in common with a great many people, I have a strong personal regard for the noble Lord; but, like all other public men, his public acts must naturally be liable to be canvassed in this House. It so happens, however, that as regards his acts up to the 17th of September, they require no apology whatever. Lord Granville's instructions were clear and explicit, for he kept repeating to the British Ambassador this injunction — "Remain at your post, in Paris, and take care of the interests of British subjects;" and in doing this I think he adopted a course and displayed a spirit which would have been adopted and displayed by his predecessor under the Administration of Lord Palmerston. I wish to draw the attention of the House to several inaccuracies and misstatements which have been made on the subject of the British Consulate, and with regard to the British Ambassador. I know, of my own knowledge, that British merchants and poor people in Paris, in consequence of the neglect to which their affairs have been subjected, owing to the entire absence of any Representative of the British nation in that city, not only lost remittances and were put to great inconvenience and loss, owing to documents requiring the Consular visa and seal failing to obtain such official legalization; but failed to obtain the true value for such remittances which they received, and were otherwise unable to obtain that protection to which, under the Act which governs Consulates, they were entitled. I shall be able to show, therefore, that, in consequence of the entire closing of our 1298 Consulate and Embassy, great injury occurred; but, before I do so, let me refer to what has been said on recent occasions by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. It will be in the recollection of the House that this question has been brought before it two or three times. On the 13th of February the Under Secretary, in answer to a Question from an hon. Member (Mr. Goldsmid), said that the British Ambassador left Paris under the urgent advice of M. Jules Favre. Now, I regret to say that is not the case. The words are clear and distinct, and in Lord Lyons's despatch to Lord Granville on the 12th of September, they are repeated—"M. Jules Favre particularly begged me to remain." And when M. Jules Favre wrote to the Austrian Ambassador on the subject of leaving, he told Lord Lyons that no reference was made to him, and he still hoped our Ambassador would remain. The other day, when I asked a Question of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, I said—"Surely it must be advisable for the British Ambassador to remain to take care of the interests of British subjects." But the right hon. Gentleman said, in reply—The right hon. Baronet seems to think that the primary duty of the Ambassador in Paris is to take care of British subjects in Paris; but there cannot be a greater mistake."—[3 Hansard, cciv. 450.]I never said anything about the "primary" duty of an Ambassador; but I maintain that it is the duty of such a functionary to take care of the interests of his fellow-countrymen under the circumstances in which they were placed, and the orders of Lord Granville, in this respect, were clear and distinct, and those given by Lord Palmerston's Government under similar circumstances were equally so. Therefore I repeat, I exculpate Lord Granville altogether. But when I said, speaking on the 17th of February—"There were 1,500 or 2,000 British subjects left in Paris, with nobody to take care of them," the right hon. Gentleman replied—"I can only say that, as regards the numbers mentioned by the right hon. Baronet, his information is entirely at variance with ours." After such a statement, it was with much satisfaction I saw in The Times a state- 1299 ment confirmatory of what I had said. In a letter, dated February 17, which appeared in The Times of February 20, a correspondent says—At present 1,500 British subjects are being kept from starvation by the Committee for the distribution of charity to the distressed English in Paris.Therefore, my statement was not so far wrong. Yet the right hon. Gentleman twice contradicted me. The correspondent I have quoted also says—68,000f. have been expended by the Committee for the relief of British subjects in Paris, from August 1 to December 31; 23,000f. of which amount has been contributed alone by Mr. Richard Wallace, who since the new year has placed 10,000f. a month, in addition, at the disposal of the society.It is impossible for any Englishman to speak in higher terms than I would of the philanthropy and conduct of Mr. Wallace during the whole time of the siege — indeed, his conduct has been almost worthy of the thanks of this House. I now come to the discussion of the particular point I have raised. The Prime Minister said to me the other day that Lord Lyons left Paris, acting under the direct injunctions of the Government. Now, I will show that Lord Lyons left on the 17th of September, and that in his last despatch, which is dated the 16th of September, not a single word occurs of the probability of his leaving Paris. And, again, the last depatch from Earl Granville at the Foreign Office, to Lord Lyons, before the 17th of September, was written on the 16th, and in that there is not a single word said of his leaving Paris. Therefore, when the Prime Minister says Lord Lyons left Paris under the direct injunctions of the Government, I can only say that those injunctions do not appear in the Blue Book; and it is a well-acknowledged principle that no Minister has a right to quote documents, or make assertions from official Papers, that have not been laid on the Table of the House. In this Blue Book there are no such direct injunctions from the Government to Lord Lyons. But the right hon. Gentleman says Lord Lyons acted in accordance with certain rules and regulations and considerations which had been supplied to him. I know of no rules and regulations and considerations applying to diplomatists under circumstances like these. I myself have been placed in circumstances almost pre- 1300 cisely similar to those under which Lord Lyons left Paris. During the Sunderbund War in Switzerland in 1847, when 180,000 men were engaged in civil war, I was at the head of our Mission in that country, and the French Ambassador came to me and tried to induce me to leave Berne, the seat of the Government. All the other missions had left. I had no telegraph by which to communicate with Lord Palmerston; but, without any rules or regulations, my own common sense told me that I ought to remain at my post, and I did remain, almost the only Representative of a foreign Power at Berne, when the French Ambassador, and other Missions, had left for other places. But I was amply rewarded; for I was complimented by the Swiss Government, and by Lord Palmerston and his Government, far more doubtless than I deserved. I want now to show exactly how matters stood with reference to Lord Lyons, the British Ambassador in Paris. Here is a despatch, dated September 5, containing Lord Granville's instructions to the British Ambassador. He says—Her Majesty's Government are in possession of your Excellency's telegraphic communications.…. And I have to instruct you to remain at your post as long as any of the Corps diplomatique are able to do so, with a view to protect, as efficiently as possible, the interests and the property of Her Majesty's subjects residing in France."—[No. 71.]Nothing could be stronger than that. Lord Granville again writes on the 8th of September. He says—Her Majesty's Government would wish you to concert as much as possible with your Colleagues; but to remain in Paris as long as possible with the Government, except in case of immediate bombardment."—[No. 86.]Now, the bombardment did not occur till about the middle of January, and I am now speaking of the 8th of September. I say, therefore, the orders of Lord Granville were clear and decisive that Lord Lyons should remain in Paris. There seems, however, to have been a person who had great influence over Lord Lyons. The most intimate relations existed between Prince Metternich and his family, and the Imperial Court of France, and therefore it was quite natural that he and his family should wish to leave Paris when things had arrived at the point they had now reached. On the 7th of September Lord Lyons wrote to Lord Granville— 1301I am informed by Prince Metternich, the Austrian Ambassador, that he has received a telegram from Count Beust, directing him to point out to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and to chiefs of Missions at Paris, the great inconvenience, and indeed impropriety, of allowing the diplomatic body to be shut up in Paris during a siege, and thus deprived of the means of communicating with their respective Governments. Prince Metternich tells me that he has spoken in consequence to M. Jules Favre, and represented to him that it is incumbent on the Minister for Foreign Affairs to give notice to the diplomatic body in time to enable them to leave Paris without undue haste or inconvenience. He adds that M. Jules Favre appears to take the same view. The Nuncio and the Spanish and Turkish Ambassadors, as well as other chiefs of Missions, have also come to-day to speak to me on the subject. I have said to all that, in principle, Count Beust's view appears to me just and reasonable; but that, for my own part, I do not desire to hasten my departure from Paris without very good cause. I shall, I have said, be disposed to act in concert with my Colleagues in the matter, and shall feel no difficulty about leaving Paris if I am requested or advised to do so by the French Government; but I shall be content to leave the matter as it stands without making any special representation to the Minister for Foreign Affairs."—[No. 84.]He kept repeating that his desire was to remain in Paris; everybody was under the impression that these were the instructions he received, and it was hoped that he would carry it out. Now comes a letter, dated September 12, from Lord Lyons to Lord Granville. I find from this despatch in the Blue Book that there must be despatches omitted which would clear up a great deal, and I want the right hon. Gentleman to give us these Papers to set things in their proper light. Here is the letter from Lord Lyons—I have also the honour to enclose a copy of a note in which I have thanked M. Jules Favre for the offer of facilities; but have informed him that I do not, at present, intend to leave Paris. M. Jules Favre came to see me this morning, and spoke to me of the intention he had at one time entertained of going himself to Tours and establishing the Foreign Department there. He said that he had now abandoned this intention, because he had reason to believe that he could be of more use, with regard to the internal as well as the external affairs of France, by remaining with his Colleagues at Paris. I told M. Jules Favre that I had, of course, heard of the plan of going to Tours; but that I had purposely abstained from speaking to him on the subject. I would confess that I was, personally, disinclined to leave Paris; but nevertheless I had been willing to remain entirely passive, and await a communication on the subject from him. I would, however, now, as he had introduced the subject, ask him whether it was in truth the wish of the Government that the diplomatic body should retire from Paris. He answered that, on the contrary, the Government would much 1302 prefer our remaining here for the present. If the place were actually besieged or bombarded, the case might, he said, be different; but due notice would, of course, be given by the enemy before proceeding to any such extremities. I observed to M. Jules Favre that I should probably see many of my Colleagues in the course of the day, and I inquired whether be authorized me to say to them that, so far from wishing us to go at this moment, the Government, on the contrary, would be glad that we should stay. He replied that I might not only say this, but that I might add that he particularly begged us to remain."—[No. 112.]The answer, therefore, of the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State given to me and before referred to, on this particular point, was quite a mistake—the noble Lord not having been long enough in office probably to master all these matters. Here, also, is a letter from Lord Lyons to M. Jules Favre, dated Paris, September 11, 1870—I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of the note dated to-day, by which your Excellency is so good as to offer facilities for quitting Paris to any members of the diplomatic body who may desire to withdraw to Tours. I beg leave to express to your Excellency my thanks for this considerate offer. I am disinclined to quit Paris at this moment, and, as I gather from the conversation which I was so fortunate as to have with your Excellency this morning, that the Government has no desire that I should do so, but, on the contrary, would rather I should remain, I have no hesitation in informing you that I do not at present propose to move."—[Inclosure 2 in No. 112.]In his despatch of the 12th of September, Lord Lyons says—"I have desired Mr. Atlee and Mr. Lascelles to leave Paris." Now recollect that Mr. Atlee was the British Consul. He was appointed to remain in Paris, and he should have remained; and, when he left, the Consular seal was no longer available to British merchants, nor his influence for poor persons who were placed under his protection. No one was appointed in his place. The excuse made for the Consul in the House of Lords was that he was a married man, and he left Paris under the orders of Lord Lyons; but Paris was the place where he was appointed to remain, and I cannot understand what authority Lord Lyons had for desiring him to leave Paris, without placing some one in his stead. It was at the back of the door of the British Consulate, which is at the Embassy House, that the notice was posted that, if British subjects remained, they would remain at their own peril, and the Consul had left Paris. I have been told by a number of Englishmen that 1303 they had not the slightest idea of the fact. Lord Lyons had the notice put in Galignani; but these people do not read Galignani, or the French papers, and were entirely ignorant of it. I now come to the letter of the 19th September. The British Ambassador left, or rather fled, on the 17th September. He wrote from Tours on the 19th. And here Prince Metternich again is evidently the person who induced him to leave Paris. Lord Lyons wrote—Prince Metternich, the Austrian Ambassador, came to me at Paris on the 17th inst., and told me that the Comte de Chaudordy, the head of the Cabinet of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, had brought him a message from M. Jules Favre which made him think that it would be desirable that the Representatives of the principal European Powers should leave Paris at once, in order not to be cut off from communication with their Governments.……. I went accordingly to M. Jules Favre the first thing in the morning, and related to him what had passed between Prince Metternich and myself. I said that, for my own part, I thought that the Representatives of the principal European Powers might very well stay some time longer in Paris. …. M. Jules Favre answered that his message to Prince Metternich was specially intended for the Prince himself."—[No. 147.]M. Jules Favre was to be the following morning at the head quarters of the Prussian Army, and at the very moment Lord Lyons left Paris negotiations for peace—at all events for an armistice—were going on between M. Jules Favre and Count Bismarck. The British Minister actually sent one of his attachés, Mr. Malet, to the Prussian outposts to facilitate communications between M. Jules Favre and Count Bismarck; and it might have been of immense service if the British Minister had remained in Paris to see the issue of these negotiations. Under the advice of the British Ambassador, these negotiations might have resulted in peace, and the war might have terminated on the 17th of September. But, in the very midst of these negotiations, the British Ambassador, who had sent Mr. Malet to the Prussian outposts, suddenly left Paris. There is no mention in the Blue Book of any telegraphic despatch sent by the British Ambassador from Paris to Lord Granville. Had such a despatch been received by Lord Granville, he might have telegraphed to Paris, desiring the British Ambassador to stick to his post. But Lord Lyons wrote the long letter of the 19th of September, in which he said— 1304I said that I still disliked the idea of leaving Paris just yet; but that of course I should not hesitate to proceed to any place in which I could have a better prospect of being useful, and that after what he had said, if I found that my principal Colleagues thought it advisable that we should go off to Tours in the evening, I would no longer be an obstacle to their departure. The result has been, as your Lordship is already aware, that the Austrian Ambassador, Prince Metternich; the Ottoman Ambassador, Djemil Pacha; the Italian Minister, Chevalier Nigra; the Russian Chargé d'Affaires, M. Okouneff, and I, left Paris the night before last, and arrived here yesterday."—[No. 147.]Lord Lyons told everybody that he wished to remain, and that nothing should induce him to leave Paris. He seems to have acted like a coy female—like a man, or rather like a woman, who did not exactly know her own mind. He said that he would go, and he would not go. Like Julia in Don Juan—A little still she strove, and much repented,And whispering 'I will ne'er consent,' consented.Lord Lyons at last "consented," because the Austrian Ambassador wanted him to leave Paris. He had already sent away Mr. Atlee and Mr. Lascelles. Whom did he leave? He said, "I will leave Colonel Claremont." Well, does the House know who Colonel Claremont is? He is what is called a military attaché—one of those appointments to which I, and, I believe, many other hon. Members, most strongly object. He has, I think, been for 16 years military attaché in Paris, and in the receipt of a salary of between £1,200 and £1,500 a-year—the Foreign Office paying a portion of the salary, and the War Office the rest. He has been 16 years military attaché, doing nothing; and the very moment when his services might have been called upon he leaves Paris. I do not know whether he is in receipt of his salary now; but I believe that for many weeks past he has been in Norfolk. Well, when the Vote comes on for maintaining these military and naval attachés, I shall entreat the House to support me in opposing it. These gentlemen are absolutely useless; the moment their services are required they leave their posts, and are never heard of afterwards. The British Government sent five or six officers to Versailles and Tours, and to General Chanzy's Army, but never Colonel Claremont; and the moment when he might have been expected to remain in Paris, taking an interest in the siege and attending to his duty, he entirely disappears. These military and 1305 naval attachés are, I repeat, the greatest farce in the world. Here is the conclusion of the celebrated despatch from our Ambassador, dated Tours, September 19. Lord Granville had told him not to leave Paris except in case of an immediate bombardment. Now, the bombardment did not occur till about the 15th of January, and Lord Lyons says he told Mr. Wodehouse to remain in Paris, but that he was to quit it if it was threatened with immediate bombardment, or with any other immediate danger. Why, "immediate bombardment" seems to have haunted Lord Lyons! He is told to stay until immediate bombardment is threatened; he goes away, and then he tells the attaché also that he must leave in case of the danger of immediate bombardment. I must say that the conduct of the British Ambassador appears to me most extraordinary, and to involve a dereliction of duty not only on his own part, but in the person of every member of the Embassy, such as almost to require the censure of this House. Sir, I hold in my hand a letter which I have received from a very respectable gentleman, for the accuracy of whose statement I can vouch. It is dated "Faubourg St. Honore, Paris, March 1, 1871," and here is an extract from it. The writer says—Allow me to thank you personally for having brought under the notice of the House of Commons the extraordinary state of abandonment of British subjects in Paris during the late siege by the German Armies. I am one of a considerable number of English residents here, who had serious reasons for incurring the risks of danger and privations during such a critical period, engaged as I am in a branch of trade which I could not absent myself from in such circumstances without exposing myself to great loss in various ways.The writer then goes on to allude to the notice posted on the inner door of the British Consulate at the Embassy, and states that, one by one, all officially connected with the Embassy and Consulate by degrees deserted their post. He details the difficulties which arose in consequence of the informalities of the Consular certificates being without stamp, as regards remittances, and concludes—The goood offices of Mr. Washburne, the American Minister, were required for the English who left in the course of the siege, as the passes delivered by Colonel Claremont were issued by the American Legation, and signed by the American Minister.Surely it was too hard that British subjects in Paris should have been obliged 1306 to look for protection to the American Minister. And, in referring to Mr. Washburne, I must say it is impossible to speak too highly of his conduct. Not only has he obtained the warm thanks of the German subjects in Paris who were under his care, but also of many British subjects in Paris to whom he rendered good service. I have received another letter from an English gentleman who had resided in Paris for many years, and who says—In my own name, and that of many other English residents in Paris, I beg to offer you my most sincere thanks for having brought before Parliament the disgraceful manner in which we, British subjects, were abandoned during the siege of Paris.He goes on to say—On the 17th our Ambassador fled, and so hasty was his flight that he did not take the precaution of placing his unfortunate countrymen under the protection of some friendly Minister who remained in Paris.He continues—Every other country had either their Minister or Consul General. England alone had no one to represent her. Mr. Washburne generously extended his protection to many English who were in want of it.And he states that hundreds of English ran great risk of perishing from want. I have many other letters of a similar character, all referring to the kindness of the American Minister, and showing how the interests of Englishmen were neglected by their own Legation. What is still more remarkable, I hold in my hand the copy of a letter published in The Times of September 15, 1870, signed "Edward Blount" (who was appointed British Consul after a delay of months), and written when it was supposed that everybody would be obliged to leave Paris. It is to this effect—
§ "Paris, 3, Rue de la Paix, Sept. 13.
§ "Sir,—I read in the Money Article of The Times of Friday that many of the Paris financial houses are forming branch establishments at Boulogne-sur-Mer, whither they are sending their books and securities. After having made inquiries, I can assure you this statement is erroneous, and I fear, if uncontradicted, might cause an impression that the heads of the principal banking and financial establishments had left this capital. Such is not the case, and, as far as regards myself, it is my intention to remain here, and in no case to abandon the interests confided to me."
That was written by Mr. Blount on the 13th of September, and he says he will remain in Paris during the siege attend-
ing to the interests intrusted to him; but I understand now that his appointment has been cancelled, for some reason or other, and that at this moment we have no Consul whatever there. I think I have made out this case—that the British Ambassador left Paris without orders from the British Government. He was told to remain with the Corps diplomatique, and he left when only three of that body left, whilst 18 remained, and when his presence might have been of incalculable service during the war. Mr. Wodehouse, indeed, remained till the middle of November, when he left, and no one whatever remained, though there must have been many important matters of urgent moment requiring the anxious care and attention of our Embassy and Consular representatives. I have a letter from a gentleman who says he went to the Embassy to ask for some assistance, and the only answer he got was that everybody had fled, and the only person he found in authority was the inferior person probably referred to by my right hon. Friend—namely, the porter. All the valuable archives of our Embassy were there; and I confidently ask the House whether it was a proper thing for the Representative of the Queen and of this great country to have abandoned his post in the way I have described, when almost every other Power, with one or two exceptions, had a Representative within the walls of Paris? I know there is a strong feeling in the country on the subject. But there are other circumstances connected with the desertion of our Embassy to which I wish to advert, because they are of very great importance. I have said our Ambassador left Paris in the midst of the negotiations between M. Jules Favre and Count Bismarck, and it is impossible to know what good might have resulted but for that fact. Earl Granville had the highest hopes of that negotiation; he says so distinctly. The British Ambassador actually despatched one of his attachés to the German head quarters. Lord Granville thought the interview between M. Jules Favre and Count Bismarck could not fail to be of use in the interests of peace; but when M. Jules Favre comes back from that interview he finds Lord Lyons gone; he has no one to communicate with; and the negotiation he had commenced, not unnaturally falls through. The advice and assistance of
the British Ambassador at such a time might have been of the very highest value. But I come to the still more important negotiation in October. M. Thiers himself went to see Count Bismarck, and tried everything he could with every appearance of success. Lord Lyons, being then at Tours, obtained a pass for M. Thiers; but that negotiation also fell through, and what are the grounds on which it fell through? The only difficult question raised was the re-victualling of Paris. Observe, that if the British Ambassador had been there, he might have been able to prove to M. Thiers that that was a condition which it was not necessary to insist upon, because it is well known that there were provisions in Paris of which M. Thiers was apparently not aware—provisions sufficient to sustain not only the garrison, but a population of nearly 2,000,000, until the 15th of January. Therefore, the point on which that negotiation fell through might have been fairly discussed by our Ambassador with M. Thiers, the difficulty might have been got over, and a prospect of speedy peace thus obtained. Well, I ask the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government whether he will be good enough to give the House some fuller information as regards the conduct of the British Ambassador, and his conduct in reference to the British Consulate in Paris than he has yet vouchsafed to us? I cannot help thinking that blame attaches specially to that noble Lord far more than to the persons whom he had in authority under him in the British Mission. As I have already stated, I entirely exculpate Lord Granville; there was no alternative for him. The British Ambassador did not ask Lord Granville on the 17th of September whether he should leave Paris, but he left Paris, and then asked from Tours whether Lord Granville approved what he had done. I most unhesitatingly assert that Lord Granville had no knowledge that the British Ambassador was leaving. Up to that day he told him explicitly that he was going to remain, and it was only at the very last moment that, yielding to the solicitations of Prince Metternich, he left. It has been suggested that by the rules and regulations adverted to by the First Minister of the Crown on the 17th of February, it is left to the discretion of Her Majesty's Ambassadors whether or not the circumstances are such as to
justify their leaving their posts; but I say those rules and regulations do not appear in the Blue Book laid upon the Table of this House, and by that Blue Book alone can we judge of the matter. I maintain that unless a better case can be made out on his behalf than is shown by the Blue Book, Lord Lyons was guilty of a certain dereliction of duty towards the 1,500, the 2,000, or the 3,000 of Her Majesty's subjects who continued to remain in that city after the British Ambassador had left. I would, conclude, Sir, with this citation. The right hon. Gentleman said the other day that it was quite a mistake to suppose that the British Ambassador had left town or country to the neglect of his primary duties. "Primary duties" was the expression he used, and he said that the primary duties of the British Ambassador were not to attend to the interests of the British subjects. Now, Lord Palmerston held very different views of the duties of an Ambassador. In June, 1850, when his conduct was called in question with respect to the protection he had given to our fellow-subjects abroad, he said—
I therefore fearlessly challenge the verdict which this House, as representing a political, a commercial, a constitutional country, is to give on the question now brought before it; whether the principles on which the foreign policy of Her Majesty's Government has been conducted, and the sense of duty which has led us to think ourselves bound to afford protection to our fellow-subjects abroad, are proper and fitting guides for those who are charged with the government of England; and whether, as the Roman, in days of old, held himself free from indignity, when he could say Civis Romanics sum, so also a British subject, in whatever land he may be, shall feel confident that the watchful eye and the strong arm of England will protect him against injustice and wrong."—[3 Hansard, cxii. 444.]
I maintain that that strong arm and watchful eye were not exercised by Lord Lyons in the interest of the British subjects confided to his charge as far as appears from the Blue Book, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government will be able to give such further explanation as may relieve many, both in this House and in the country, who cannot overcome the impression that the British Ambassador at Paris, by leaving that city when he did, was guilty towards his fellow-countrymen of gross dereliction of his public duty.
said, that it appeared to him there were two important points in this question for the consideration of the House. First, whether Her Majesty's Government were right in recommending Her Majesty's Ambassador to leave Paris when the siege began; and, secondly, whether Lord Lyons was right in ordering the British Consul to leave that city at the same period. Upon the former of those questions he entirely disagreed with the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), while he entirely agreed with him respecting the latter. The right hon. Baronet had stated to the House that—as he chose to call it—the flight of the British Ambassador from Paris was most unmanly — that he ought to have stopped in Paris in order to take care of the interest of the British subjects inhabiting that city. The right hon. Baronet showed by that observation that he did not accurately understand what was the duty of the British Ambassador at Paris. In his opinion, there were two clear duties which every Ambassador who represents this country ought to discharge. His first and primary duty—to adopt the words of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government—was to look after the interests of this country, with regard to all the affairs which might connect us in any way with foreign nations; and his second, to descend to individual cases and to look after individual rights; but it was a well-known theory of political economy that the rights of individuals come after the rights of States. The right hon. Baronet had ventured to give a Swiss precedent, and had told the House that when he was in Switzerland he did not leave his post, though he had no instructions on the subject. There really was no precedent in that case at all, as it did not involve our relations with one of the greatest nations in Europe. It did not involve the dragging of ourselves into one of the most perilous wars in history. On the contrary, the conduct of the Government in the present case appeared to be clear and intelligible. They told Lord Lyons that he was to remain in Paris, and to look after the interests of British subjects while he there remained; but it was perfectly obvious that that was not to be the primary object of his remaining there. The right hon. Baronet had himself quoted from despatches which showed 1311 plainly that Lord Lyons, on the 12th of September, did not think of leaving Paris simply because M. Jules Favre had given up the idea of leaving that city. When the Ministers representing Russia, Austria, and Turkey left Paris it would have been of the gravest importance to this country had its Ambassador been locked up in Paris for an indefinite period. Upon this point the right hon. Baronet had completely refuted himself, because he had gone on to show how important it was to obtain, as Lord Lyons did, a safe conduct for Monsieur Thiers, to enable him to negotiate with Count Bismarck—a service which Lord Lyons would have been unable to render had he been shut up in Paris. The reason why Lord Lyons changed his opinion between the 12th and 19th of September on the subject of his remaining in Paris was, because on the 17th of that month it had become perfectly obvious that the city was to be closely besieged; that there would be no communication between those within its walls and the outer world; and that, consequently, the British Ambassador would not be able to maintain that correspondence with Her Majesty's Government which was necessary for the interests not only of this country, but also of France and of Europe. It therefore appeared to him that the right hon. Baronet had not made out his case as far as regarded his charge against Lord Lyons. But as far as Lord Lyons was concerned, under any aspect of affairs—under any view of the case, the right hon. Baronet had hardly a right to say that the flight of the noble Lord from Paris was unmanly. It was not upon such a consideration that Lord Lyons had quitted that city. The House would rest assured that even in the event of Lord Lyons having been mistaken in the course he had pursued, the noble Lord had acted under a strong sense of duty, and that he had left Paris in the belief that he could serve his country best by so doing. There was, however, the other charge, which he regarded as the much more serious of the two, and as the one which more closely affected British interests. In his view there was a great difference between the position of an Ambassador and that of a Consul. While the primary duty of an Ambassador was to look after the interests of his country, the primary duty of a Consul was to look after the interests of indi- 1312 viduals; and accordingly, if there was a state of danger in any particular place, there was all the more reason for the presence of a British Consul. He had travelled in various countries, and had found a reference to a British Consul of the very greatest importance. Lord Lyons appeared to him to have been guilty of a mistake in permitting the British Consul to leave Paris simply on the ground that he was a married man. Without desiring that the British Consul in that city should have been more rash in exposing himself to danger than other Consuls in similar circumstances, he thought that that gentleman should not have consulted his own interests before those of the persons whom he was sent to look after; and, therefore, even if he did run some risk by remaining in Paris, he ought to have remained in order to succour British subjects who might be in distress. Since he (Mr. Goldsmid) had asked the Question which he had put to the Government some time ago, he had received several letters from Paris, in which he was informed by the writers that the sufferings and distress among the poor English during the siege knew no bounds, and they corroborated what the right hon. Baronet had said, that they had gone in crowds to the British Consulate, and endeavoured to obtain assistance, but they found nobody but a porter at the Consulate, who told them that everybody else had left. That, most certainly, was not a satisfactory state of things. As the right hon. Baronet had said—and said well—though these poor people were succoured by the noble charity of Mr. Wallace and Mr. Blount, and the brother of the Member for Nottingham, who did that work during the whole of the siege, still it was a work which should not have been thrown on private hands. He believed it to be a fact that, at a subsequent period, Lord Lyons had discovered that he had made a mistake in removing the British Consul from Paris, and had endeavoured to get him back into Paris; but that the endeavour totally failed. If this was true, it went strongly to show that his view of the case was the correct one; but, under any aspect of it, the House ought to have some better reason for the absence of the Consul than that he was ordered to leave because he was a married man. He would, therefore, ask the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the 1313 Government whether there was any other ground on which the English Consul had been removed, and had thereby left the interests of the poor English totally unprotected? The answer that had been formerly given in regard to the poor English in Paris—that if they were unprotected it was their own fault, because a notice was put up at the door of the Consulate that they were to leave at a certain time, was, in his opinion, hardly an answer at all; because a great number of the very poor English in Paris had a great deal more to do in order to earn their daily livelihood than to go looking about for notices which might or might not be attached to the door of the Consulate. It was a very serious matter that these poor people had been without the means of protection which they ought to have had. There was another point on which he had a word to say—that Paris was one of the few places where a Consul also occupied the position of an attaché. Now, was this a desirable mixture in Paris? He thought the duties of a Consul and those of an attaché ought to be so entirely distinct; and that, in Paris especially, the duties of Consul were of such importance that the two offices ought to be confided to different persons, and that the Consul ought to have nothing else to do. His principal reason for saying this was that, according to his information, on many occasions long before the siege of Paris, British subjects made application at the Consulate for the performance of the various duties which Her Majesty's Consuls usually attended to, and only found a clerk, who, from want of knowledge, was not able, or from superciliousness, was not willing to comply with the requests made to him. This was a matter of much importance to English interests; and he hoped it would in future receive the attention of Her Majesty's Government. For the reasons he had given he could not agree with the right hon. Baronet as to the departure of Lord Lyons, but thought it was the right and proper course to take under the circumstances; but, on the other hand, he joined with the right hon. Baronet in deeply regretting that, during the long and terrible siege of Paris, there was no Consul in that city to look after the interests of British subjects.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, his right hon. Friend opposite (Sir Robert 1314 Peel) had referred with laudable pride to his own conduct in 1847, and he had a perfect right to do so, for he (Mr. B. Cochrane) perfectly remembered the generosity and the courage with which the right hon. Baronet acted at that time. The right hon. Baronet also referred to the gratification with which he received the approval of his conduct by the Government, than which nothing could certainly be more encouraging to an official who had been placed in difficult and painful circumstances. But even before the approbation of the Government of the day was the approbation of Parliament; and therefore he regretted that his right hon. Friend, who was always so generous in his character and in his emotions, had not considered the matter a little more before he had made this attack upon the Ambassador at Paris, who throughout his career had won the respect and affection of everyone who knew him, and the confidence of both sides of the House, and who had on the present occasion justified by his conduct the approval which Parliament had in time past bestowed upon him, and would bestow again. Now, his right hon. Friend was the last man to put a thing unfairly; but yet there was something like a suppressio veri in his manner of putting his case before the House. His right hon. Friend said that Lord Lyons acted in direct opposition to his instructions, and that he did so from unmanly—in fact, from cowardly motives. Before proceeding to examine the evidence on this point he must say, with regard to the policy pursued by Lord Granville, that so far as Lord Lyons and the British subjects in Paris were concerned, the policy was a generous one. The first despatch to which he would refer was one from Lord Granville to Lord Lyons, in which he wrote—I have to instruct your Lordship to remain at your post as long as any of the Corps diplomatique are able to do so. … In the event of Her Majesty the Empress deciding to retire from Paris, with a view to maintaining the Imperial Government with even a mere shadow of power, you will under no circumstances follow Her Majesty."—[No. 71.]This showed clearly that at the time the despatch was written Paris was neither invested nor besieged. Coming to the despatches themselves, he must say that in the comments upon them but scant justice had been done to Lord Lyons. In one of the despatches the noble Lord 1315 said he had heard of a plan to remove the Government to Tours, but he purposely abstained from speaking to M. Jules Favre on the subject, as he was personally disinclined to leave Paris; and in another despatch, dated the 19th, he repeated that two days earlier he had expressed the same disinclination to Prince Metternich the Austrian Ambassador, adding that, nevertheless, he should leave the city if it appeared he could be more useful elsewhere. After reporting a part of the conversation between himself and Jules Favre, the despatch of Lord Lyons proceeded as follows (and this passage the right hon. Baronet did not read to the House):—In the meantime he" (Jules Favre) "would advise me to take advantage of the train he had ordered for Tours, as by doing so I should, perhaps, learn the result of his mission sooner than if I remained in Paris, and, at all events, he was far from thinking it desirable that the Representatives of the principal European Powers should run the risk of being shut up in Paris and deprived of free communication with their Governments."—[No. 147.][Mr. G. B. GREGORY: Read the next paragraph.] The next paragraph was as follows:—I said that I still disliked the idea of leaving Paris just yet, but that of course I should not hesitate to proceed to any place in which I could have a better prospect of being useful, and that after what he had said if I found that my principal Colleagues thought it advisable that we should go off to Tours in the evening, I would no longer be an obstacle to their departure."—[Ibid.]He understood his right hon. Friend to say that the other Ambassadors remained in Paris; but Lord Lyons, in a despatch which he wrote to Lord Granville on the 19th of December from Tours, said—The Austrian Ambassador, Prince Metternich; the Ottoman Ambassador, Djemil Pacha; the Italian Minister, Chevalier Nigra; the Russian Chargé d'Affaires, M. Okouneff, and I, left Paris the night before last, and arrived here yesterday."—[Ibid.]He (Mr. B. Cochrane) thought he could clearly prove to his right hon. Friend that M. Jules Favre, instead of protesting against Lord Lyons leaving Paris, urged him in the strongest manner to leave Paris, and Lord Lyons gave up his own convictions in order to perform his duty towards the Government and the country. He thought this was a question on which he ought not to trouble the House at any length. The question lay in a nutshell, and he could only repeat that his right hon. Friend marred the powerful speech which he made by 1316 his attack upon Lord Lyons. Nothing could be more distressing to any man who attempted to do his duty in most arduous and difficult times than to find himself subjected to this description of attack. Every Ambassador must act on his own judgment and discretion in these matters. Lord Lyons acted with that great discretion which he always showed. He (Mr. B. Cochrane) was very pleased that his right hon. Friend had brought forward this question again, because he thought Lord Lyons in a recent despatch showed that he felt very deeply the attack made upon him some days ago in the House, and he (Mr. B. Cochrane) believed the unanimous feeling of the House would be that Lord Lyons had deserved well of his country.
§ VISCOUNT ENFIELD
The right hon. Gentleman (Sir Robert Peel) stated in the outset of his observations that it would be his duty to ask the Government to produce further Papers bearing upon the subject of Lord Lyon's departure from Paris. These Papers have already been laid on the Table, though I am not sure the right hon. Gentleman has seen them. I had hoped they would have been circulated to-day; but, whether they have been so or not, I shall observe the invariable rule adopted in this House of not alluding to Papers which Members may not have yet seen. But this I will venture to say—that, if the right hon. Gentleman reads those Papers with the same care and attention he has devoted to other Papers in the Blue Book, he will become convinced that the conduct of Lord Lyons was neither "unmanly nor ungenerous;" but, on the contrary, it was dictated by everything that was kind, generous, and humane. I may be well content to leave the defence of that noble Lord not only to the approbation of Her Majesty's Government, as expressed in the Blue Book, but to those speeches which we have heard this evening from my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) and the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid), and which go directly to contradict what the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth has said with respect to the conduct of Lord Lyons; and I feel sure that every hon. Member, on whatever side of the House he may sit, who has studied the career of the noble Lord for upwards of 32 years, will feel that to 1317 apply the epithets "unmanly and ungenerous" would be altogether a great mistake, to use the mildest Parliamentary expression. It will be my duty to bring back to the consideration of the House the position in which the English Embassy was placed after the departure of Lord Lyons on the 17th of September. If it be urged against the noble Lord that he did wrong to allow Mr. Atlee and others to quit the Embassy, I think he might fairly claim for himself, in his high position, the right to select the subordinate he thought best fit for a particular duty; and by his selection of Mr. Wodehouse to remain in Paris, I believe British interests did not suffer. Mr. Wodehouse remained in Paris from September 17th up to November 8th; but during the month of October Lord Lyons, naturally solicitous for the interests of the British residents remaining in Paris, and of the remaining portion of the diplomatic staff, obtained from the Prussian authorities a safe conduct; and the British residents received due notice to leave the city, under the safe convoy of Mr. Wodehouse. That was done, and I believe he used every means in his power, and gave every information at his disposal, to enable those residents to quit. Accordingly, from 80 to 90 of them left Paris on the 8th of November, under the safe convoy of Mr. Wodehouse; but, unfortunately, it came to the knowledge of Lord Lyons that there were still a certain number of British residents who, whether from their inability to obtain the information as to the safe convoy that was circulated in the widest possible manner, or whether they had a dislike to leave their homes in the city, still remained there. Every exertion was used to induce them to quit; our military attaché was willing to accompany them—our naval attaché was also willing to go with them, but was unable, through illness, to leave the city—but when Colonel Claremont finally quitted Paris, these remaining British residents, from unwillingness or inability, did not accompany him. Now, when I hear grave reflections made on the character of Colonel Claremont, and when it is stated that, when the Estimates are brought forward, the House will be asked to refuse the Vote for Colonel Claremont's services, I hope I may then be in a position to prove that during the 14 years Colonel Claremont has occupied 1318 the position of military attaché to the Embassy of Paris, he has done his duty as a soldier and as a gentleman. It is not to be denied that a certain number of British residents yet remained in the city, and that from the 8th of December until the middle of January no actually accredited person represented the British Embassy; but by means of the British Charitable Fund, a gentleman, Mr. Blount by name, was enabled to convey that assistance to those residents which, from strategical motives, it was impossible could be conveyed by an accredited official representative. Mr. Blount acted with such humanity, generosity, and delicacy of feeling that he won the approbation of this House and the country. It was impossible, from the 8th of December to the middle of January, for the gentlemen of the Embassy, who had been desired by Lord Lyons on no account to quit France, to obtain a permit to pass through the Prussian lines into Paris; and consequently during that time, those gentlemen were absent from the city. But on the 20th of January a commission was sent to Mr. Blount to act as British Consul, and from that time up to a very few days ago that gentleman has acted in defence of British interests in a way which will, I am sure, obtain the approbation of everyone not only in this House, but in the country. And while on this subject I am anxious to correct what was doubtless an unintentional mistake on the part of the right hon. Baronet when he said that Mr. Blount was superseded, or likely to be removed from those duties. Now, if my memory serves me correctly, it was at Mr. Blount's own request that that commission was cancelled. It was cancelled because he felt that the period during which he had to perform the services he rendered with so much zeal and ability had expired, and he was anxious to receive relief in regard to the duties he had undertaken. He was accordingly relieved at his own request, and the thanks of Her Majesty's Government had been conveyed to him for what he had done. It is to be regretted that during a certain portion of the time to which I have referred there was actually no Representative of the British Embassy in Paris; but I believe it was unfortunately through the stress of circumstances, and strategical reasons, that anyone was prevented from passing through the Prussian lines into Paris; 1319 and I venture to say, believing the House will agree with me, that the fact of Lord Lyons having quitted Paris at the time and under the circumstances he did will not detract from the high appreciation of his public services which has been entertained both by this House and by the country, whom the noble Lord has served so long and so faithfully.
§ MR. W. LOWTHER
said, the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) had called the conduct of Lord Lyons "unmanly and ungenerous." Now it struck him that if there was anything unmanly or ungenerous it was that a Member of the House of Commons should get up and attack one who had no means of defending himself in that House. Lord Lyons, as the noble Viscount had stated, had served for many years in various parts of the world, and had always been looked up to with the greatest respect for the high qualities which he possessed. No blame whatever was to be attached to Lord Lyons for leaving Paris under the circumstances. He had clear instructions for what he had done; but, at all events, some discretion must be left to persons in his position, and Lord Lyons had acted with the greatest circumspection. If he had remained in Paris the right hon. Baronet would probably have accused the Government of want of foresight for having left him there, when he might have been of much more use elsewhere. At the time Lord Lyons received his instructions, it was the general opinion that the bombardment of Paris was going to begin; Lord Lyons was accredited to the Emperor, and was bound to remain with the Government of France, whatever that Government might be. When Lord Lyons removed from Paris, and authorized Mr. Atlee to leave Paris also, he ought to have received instructions from the Foreign Office to appoint some one in Mr. Atlee's place to look after the interests of British subjects. The noble Lord stated that Mr. Blount was not appointed to act as British Consul until January 20; whereas Lord Lyons ought to have given him some sort of official position before he left, so that distressed British subjects might have applied to him for relief. British Consuls abroad had authority to advance money to distressed British subjects, and out of the 2,000 in Paris some would no doubt have gladly availed themselves of the 1320 assistance of their Consul to return to their native country. Any such outlay, if asked for by the Government, would gladly have been voted by that House. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the United States Minister had remained in Paris, and had been most useful to British subjects. No doubt if the United States Minister received instructions from his Government to remain in Paris during the siege, he was bound to do so, and not to go away. But when we saw the Representatives of great countries—Italy, Austria, Turkey, and Russia—leaving Paris; all under the same circumstances, and all of one mind, he thought it was quite enough to convince Lord Lyons that the time was come for him to leave Paris too. It was stated that 17 Representatives of foreign Powers had remained; but he doubted whether there was among them the Minister of any country that took a great part in the affairs of Europe, and the British Ambassador was therefore quite right to associate himself with those who accompanied the Delegate Government. It was remarkable that the right hon. Baronet who had brought the accusation against Lord Lyons had himself served, and with credit, in the diplomatic circle, and consequently must have been aware that a man in the position of the Ambassador in Paris must take upon himself a great deal of responsibility, and that if he could not at any moment ask for instructions he must act on his own discretion. He trusted that the House would not hear any more hard words thrown at one who occupied so high a position in the public service as Lord Lyons. His personal acquaintance with that nobleman was very slight; but he was well acquainted with his public career, and no man was more deserving of the high opinion of his fellow-countrymen.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, he did not wish to join the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) in any harsh language directed towards Lord Lyons, or against his having left Paris. Upon this point, he thought there could hardly be a question that Lord Lyons discharged his duty, and that the Government were pleased that he accompanied the French Government to Tours. But there was an important question which had been alluded to by the right hon. Baronet, and by the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid), and which the Under Secretary 1321 of State had in no way met. His Lordship said that Lord Lyons had the power of selection. No doubt he had. Lord Lyons had the right of selection; and he had abundant opportunities of selection. At the time of the breaking out of the war there were in Paris, in addition to our Ambassador, a secretary of the Embassy with a salary of £1,000 a-year; three second secretaries with salaries ranging from £400 to £250; a military attaché, Colonel Claremont, receiving £500 a-year from the Foreign Office, a naval attaché similarly paid, a third secretary, and an unpaid attaché. Mr. Atlee was not only our Consul but registrar and librarian to the Embassy, and, in addition to a salary of £570, he received £200 a-year for office expenses and house rent. The total charge of the British Embassy at Paris, leaving out the expense of keeping up the official residence, and only reckoning the salaries, was £14,000 a-year; and yet it was impossible for the British Embassy, with its numerous subordinates, to find a single man to leave in charge at the Embassy under circumstances entailing great difficulty and distress among some 2,000 British subjects. Mr. Atlee the Consul, and Mr. Lascelles were sent out even before Lord Lyons left, upon the ground that they had very little or nothing to do, and that he could, therefore, spare their services. And his noble Friend (Viscount Enfield) thought it a justification of what Lord Lyons had done that they were only sent to Versailles. When, however, he wanted to send Mr. Atlee back into Paris, he found he could not do so, and that he had put him outside the possibility of being of any service. If it had been thought right to allow Mr. Atlee to leave Paris, some other official should have been left to take care of British interests, and as this had not been done the House had a right to call in question Lord Lyons' judgment and discretion in allowing the Consul to quit Paris at so very early a period. Let hon. Members consider what Mr. Atlee had to do. He was not only an attaché and a Consul, but a librarian. The librarian had to take charge of the archives of the Embassy. What were those archives? The Foreign Office would tell them that they were manuscripts of great value. Probably, they would go back to a remote period—to possibly a century. The rule at the 1322 Foreign Office had been to send copies of important despatches to Paris, and to allow the Embassy there to take copies of such despatches from our Ambassadors on the Continent as used to pass through Paris, in order that our Ambassador in that capital might be well informed in all matters of diplomacy. But our Foreign Office was like the Bourbons: it learnt nothing and forgot nothing, and the old system, which might have been necessary before the days of telegraphs, railways, and steamboats, was still kept up. All these archives were left at the Embassy during the siege. They were at the mercy of the bombardment, and the librarian, whose special duty it was to take care of them, was not there to protect them, if necessary, with sandbags. Perhaps, if all these despatches had been destroyed, it would be no serious loss either to England or Europe; but at least, as Consul, Mr. Atlee was bound to be at his post to look after the interests of British subjects, when other countries were represented during the siege by their proper Representatives. The noble Lord had, in fact, admitted this part of the case; but he argued that Lord Lyons had a right to select Mr. Wodehouse to remain in the place of Mr. Atlee, and if he had remained to the end of the siege, and discharged the duties of Consul throughout, there would have been nothing to complain of. But Mr. Wodehouse's departure was only a question of time. The very first note of danger carried away Mr. Atlee and Mr. Lascelles, and by the end of September Lord Lyons not only took his departure, but carried away with him almost the whole personnel of the Embassy. Mr. Wodehouse, in November, also left, and when he did so, he left behind him in Paris from 1,500 to 2,000 British residents not gentlemen of property and with the means of leaving Paris, but people who were chained there by the circumstances of their lives. Hundreds of them could not leave. While Mr. Wodehouse took with him 80 or 90 British residents, and conveyed them through the Prussian lines, he left from 1,500 to 2,000 behind, disregarded and ignored by the whole of the British Embassy. He had received a letter from a British tradesman in Paris, stating that he had sustained a large amount of inconvenience in Paris by the fact that, from the middle of November till the 1323 middle of January, there was absolutely no British Representative in Paris. The presence of Mr. Blount only dated from the end of the siege, on the occasion of the armistice. In The Daily News, whose correspondence on the war had been remarkably accurate, a letter had appeared from their correspondent in Paris, who had some business to transact at the Embassy, and he said that when he went there a porter, mopping the stairs, was the only visible Representative of the British Government. This porter showed him into a room, and presently a little man in slippers came in, and told him he had been summoned from some cleaning operations upstairs, and produced a seal and spat on it, and, with gentle persuasion, succeeded in affixing the seal to his credentials, and then gave the document to him to get signed by Mr. Blount; that he then went to Mr. Blount, who was very kind for a Consul, but said he was totally ignorant of his new duties, and then signed the document. It was incomprehensible that such a state of things should occur, and, not being satisfied with the explanation of the noble Lord, he hoped when the Estimates came to be discussed that it would be found possible to save the pockets of the taxpayers in the matter of the Paris Embassy without damage to the State.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he thought it of the utmost importance that Lord Lyons should be at the seat of Government in France; and, having been at Bordeaux on a mission of charity, he could testify to the zeal and devotion of the noble Lord in the discharge of his duties there. It would not have been possible to give full effect to the benevolence of the English people had it not been for the personal interest taken by Lord Lyons in this effort, as he said, to sweeten the relations between the two countries, and had it not been also for the authority he exerted.
Two points have been raised in the course of this debate, and in both the conduct of Lord Lyons has been impugned. I hope my hon. Friend (Mr. Rylands) will not think me too critical if I say that he has mixed up, in a manner not the most expedient with a view to perfect justice in the case before us, two distinct characters—one, that of a judge upon the Papers before the House, and the other that of a diplomatic 1324 reformer and economist—a career in which I heartily wish him success. If my hon. Friend objects, as we know he does, to the diplomatic establishments which he seeks to prove unnecessary—and we shall be very glad if he can prove them to be unnecessary—he ought not to fortify his case against them by any biassed judgment upon questions affecting the conduct of the members of those establishments upon a particular occasion. Now, Sir, we do not deny that there has been suffering, which was less adequately relieved than it would have been if a British Representative had been in Paris all through the period of the siege. The question is—how that came about, and whether blame is justly attributable to Lord Lyons. We contend that blame is not justly attributable to Lord Lyons. My hon. Friend, unintentionally of course, did not state with perfect accuracy the time during which there was no British Representative in Paris. I understood him to say that period began in the middle of November and continued till the 18th of January. When Lord Lyons left Paris he exercised his individual judgment as to the person he had better leave behind to take care of British interests; and in a despatch written at the time, and circulated to-day, he advisedly determined—and I see no reason to doubt that his decision was a good one—that it would be better to leave Mr. Wodehouse, on account of his being able to discharge diplomatic functions as well as Consular duties, than to leave Mr. Atlee to perform the latter duties alone, Mr. Wodehouse being perfectly well able to take care of the interests of British subjects. Mr. Wodehouse continued in Paris till a certain day in November, and when he left a certain number of British subjects went with him. I am bound to say, in passing, that we do not subscribe to the estimate given of the number of British subjects who remained behind. We have no means of giving accurate information upon that subject; but we believe the number to be very greatly less than was stated upon hypothesis by an hon. Gentleman opposite, and very considerably less than was stated by my right hon. Friend (Sir Robert Peel). But these functions for caring for British subjects were passed on by Mr. Wodehouse to Colonel Claremont, who remained in Paris until December 12. 1325 That, therefore, was the period from which, the unfortunate interval commenced. It has been already stated by my noble Friend (Viscount Enfield) that the mind of Lord Lyons was directed to this subject; and it was not the fault of any British authority that no person was sent into Paris, after Colonel Claremont left it, for the purpose of looking after those destitute persons. Efforts were made to send in a Consul; but the rules then enforced by the besieging army made this impossible, no one being allowed to cross the lines. That, I believe, is the simple state of the case; and, under these circumstances, although we may lament what happened, I cannot think that blame attaches to Lord Lyons for what it was impossible he could foresee, and what, through military exigencies, it became beyond his power to prevent. That is one question, and with respect to the other, I appeal to the candour of my right hon. Friend (Sir Robert Peel) whether, during the whole of the debate, the opinion of the House has not been against him with regard to the departure of Lord Lyons from Paris. It is impossible to fix the blame upon him for two reasons. In the first place, although we did not at a given moment telegraph to Lord Lyons and say—"Now the time is come at which you must leave Paris," we did provide him with directions as to the circumstances under which he was to leave, and upon those directions we consider he acted. If, therefore, anybody is to blame in the matter it is the Government, who have made themselves responsible for his conduct. But I think my right hon. Friend, in his treatment of this case, has given undue importance to those duties which are inferior, and has forgotten, or placed out of view, those duties which are paramount. We felt it to be of paramount importance that Lord Lyons should continue in a position in which he could communicate with the French Government and also with us. That condition it was impossible to fulfil unless he quitted Paris, and, in our opinion, he exercised a perfectly sound judgment, as well as acted within the spirit of his instructions, in the choice he made. I am very glad that Lord Lyons, when he becomes acquainted—as doubtless he will—with the tenour of this debate, will find that the 1326 course of the discussion has abounded with testimony as to his merits and high character, which the slightest disposition has not been shown to disparage, while, as to the particular case of his having quitted Paris, I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth will be of opinion that he has opposed to his view the unanimous sentiment of the House.