§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I should be scrupulous not to ask any Question at the present moment which bore upon the controversy which unfortunately exists between Her Majesty's Government and that of the United States, but the Question I am about to put does not involve the merits of that controversy. It, however, relates to a matter upon which great public interest is excited, and it refers to the time and to the circumstances under which the American Case was first received by Her Majesty's Government. I understood from the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government, on the first night of the Session, that he had then been in possession of the Case about a month, and that it had been printed for the use of Members of the Cabinet. Since then a statement has been made—and I believe with authority—that the American Case came into possession of the Government about the middle of December, and that within 48 hours after the first copy of it was transmitted to the Government a sufficient number of copies were also forwarded for the use of the Cabinet. Under these circumstances, I think it would be very interesting to the country if the right hon. Gentleman would more precisely inform the House 655 as to the time and as to the circumstances under which the American Case was first brought before Her Majesty's Government?
Sir, such a statement would, no doubt, be very interesting; but it would be also extremely convenient if, with respect to a Question of this kind, involving dates, numbers, and the time of receiving documents, some Notice were given. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) will have the kindness, in compliance with the ordinary usage, to give the customary Notice, I will take care that the best information we may possess on the subject is given to him. As regards the particulars of his Question, therefore, I think I had better not attempt to enter upon them at the present moment. It is, however, a matter that it will be perfectly fair to make a subject of general discussion should the right hon. Gentleman see fit to bring it forward on some future occasion. Having said that much, I am anxious to make an addition to the Answer I made the other day in reply to a Question of the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Manners), with reference to a letter of Mr. Justice Willes, which bears upon the subject of this night's debate. Mr. Justice Willes himself is anxious that a rather fuller statement of the case should be made, and he has supplied it in his own words, which, with the permission of the House, I will read. The statement of the learned Judge is to the following effect:—When Sir Robert Collier was appointed he communicated the fact to the learned Judge, who answered, congratulating him upon his promise of well-earned repose, and afterwards told him in conversation that from the time the Act passed he thought it probable he would be appointed. So matters rested for two months, during which Mr. Justice Willes had no communication with the Lord Chancellor or with Sir Robert Collier. On the 22nd of January Sir Robert Collier wrote to Mr. Justice Willes, stating that he had mentioned what the latter had said to the Lord Chancellor, who wished to be allowed to make use of his communication, as a proof that notwithstanding the Lord Chief Justice's letter, the Judges were not unanimous in condemning the legality of the appointment. In answer 656 to that letter, Mr. Justice Willes wrote on the 24th of January to Sir Robert Collier, setting forth his views on the matter, and stating that he did not doubt the legality of the appointment, and that he had anticipated its being made. That letter was meant for Sir Robert Collier and his friends, including the Lord Chancellor. On the 5th of February the Lord Chancellor wrote to Mr. Justice Willes, asking whether he might make use of that letter in the course of the debate in the House of Lords, and the latter consented to his doing so, and that letter has since been published in the proceedings of the House of Lords.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, the Question which I just put to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government is substantially the same which I put to him on the first night of the Session; and, therefore, I presumed, with such an interval, it was not necessary to give him any previous Notice.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
Sir, I also wish to put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government, having reference to the debate on the first night of the Session. A letter has appeared in The Times, dated the 15th of February, purporting to be a letter addressed by the right hon. Gentleman to the correspondent of a New York paper. I wish to ask, Whether that letter is a genuine one?
Yes, Sir; that letter was written by me. The gentleman to whom it was addressed—Mr. Girard—I think that is his name—wrote to say he wished to have an interview with me. I intimated to him that I regretted it was not in my power, under the pressure of business at the moment, to offer him an interview; but said that if he would be good enough to put on paper the information he required from me, and if I could give it him, he should have it. He then wrote to say that words which it was understood had fallen from me had been much misapprehended with reference to the title of the American Government to put a certain construction on the Treaty of Washington, and that he should be glad if I would state the effect of what I had really said. In consequence of that I wrote the letter which has appeared in the public journals, dated, I think, February 15.