HC Deb 25 May 1871 vol 206 cc1264-5

Sir, the Question I am about to put may not be in accordance with the usual course of business, but I must ask for the indulgence of the House, and I am sure I shall meet with the cordial approval of the House when I refer to the appalling events in Paris at this moment. I ask my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition whether this would not be a fitting moment for this House to express its sympathy with France—not with any particular form of Government of France, but with France—at the appalling events which are there occurring. France has been brought down by its enemies, but it has succumbed in a manner now which no one could have anticipated. The finest monuments of France are—["Order!"]—I put it to you, Sir, whether you think this is a fitting opportunity for this House—["Chair!"]—


decided that the right hon. Baronet was transgressing the Rules prescribed for asking a Question.


I wish to conclude with a Motion. I am in the hands of the House. If the House does not approve what I say, I am willing to say no more on the subject; but I do think this is a fitting opportunity for the House to express sympathy with France without reference to any particular form of Government, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition to take this opportunity, without allowing one day to pass, of giving expression to our unanimous sympathy for France.


I think, Sir, I am only expressing the deep anxiety and interest of the House in putting to the First Minister of the Crown the Question of which I have previously given him Notice, Whether he has received any official information of the terrible events now occurring in Paris?


Sir, when my hon. Friend kindly intimated to me this morning his intention of asking me a Question on this subject, I was under the impression that very likely in the interval before the meeting of the House there might be official intelligence which the House would be desirous to learn; but we have received no telegram relating to the unfortunate and terrible events that are occurring in Paris; and I cannot wonder at that, considering that the representatives of the British Government would be unwilling to send intelligence of such matters until they could be quite certain of its accuracy. So far as a judgment can be formed from the unofficial telegrams, I think there is some room for hoping that there may have been a degree of exaggeration in the details, although I apprehend there is no room for any hope whatever that great catastrophes have not occurred. With respect to the Motion made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel), I cannot wonder, whether he was in Order or whether he was not in Order, that, under an impression created by events so entirely, I think, without precedent in history, he should have been led to express the emotion which he feels in common with us all. For my own part, I will not attempt to characterize by any epithet the circumstances of which we have obtained partial knowledge, and I would the rather refrain from doing so, because I am conscious that there are no epithets which could adequately or in any degree give satisfaction to the feelings with which every man's mind and heart must be oppressed. I do not think that at the present moment the House could usefully express any opinion; but I am quite sure there is no Member of this House who, if the expression of its opinion could give the slightest comfort to France under circumstances so extraordinary, would not be prompt to avail himself of an opportunity of expressing his sympathy.