HC Deb 11 June 1872 vol 211 cc1589-614



I rise with reference to a Notice kindly given for me by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, on the adjournment of the House this morning. I shall make a brief statement to the House, partly with reference to the rumours that are in circulation, partly with reference to the stage which we have reached in the communications with the American Government, although the statement I shall make will not be a final and conclusive one. ["Oh!"] Although it will not be final and conclusive, I will endeavour to make it clear. For that purpose I will just remind the House of the main points which have been present to the mind of Parliament and of the country in such declarations as have been made, and such inquiries and suggestions as have been made during the last few weeks. The first of these points in order is the negotiation of a Supplemental Article containing a prospective engagement, and likewise containing a stipulation with respect to the Indirect Claims at Geneva. The second of these is the question, to which allusion was very properly made on a former occasion by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), with respect to the enlargement of time. The right hon. Gentleman inquired, I think, whether measures had been taken for the purpose of securing that, if the time for discussing and settling the terms of the Supplemental Article should not be sufficient, the time specified in the Treaty of Washington should be enlarged. And the third point which has been present to the mind of Parliament and the country has been—presuming that we should fail on both the other points—the measures to be adopted at Geneva with reference to the exclusion of the Claims for Indirect Losses from any award or procedure before the Arbitrators. Sir, with respect to the first of these points—that is to say, the negotiation and adjustment of the terms of the Supplemental Article in the time which has been at our command—we have not been able to agree upon the terms of that prospective engagement which refers to the presentation of what I may loosely call Indirect Claims upon future occasions, although, as the House is aware, there has not been, and there is not, any difference of view between the two Governments as to the course to be taken at Geneva with respect to the Indirect Claims under the Treaty of Washington, in case an adjustment were arrived at with respect to the Supplemental Article as a whole. So much for the first point. With respect to the second point—the enlargement of time—I mentioned in the House, when the right hon. Gentleman opposite suggested it, that that matter had been in the view of Her Majesty's Government, and we are still in communication with the Government of the United States as to the means of bringing about an adjournment of the proceedings of the Tribunal of Arbitration. I am not yet able to say what the issue of these communications will be. It is obvious to the House that the issue must be reached almost immediately, inasmuch as the 15th of June is the day on which some decisive step at Geneva must be taken. And when that issue is reached, it will be our desire forthwith to lay upon the Table the Papers containing the whole details of the proceedings up to the present time. Lastly, Sir, and with regard to what should be done on the 15th of June at Geneva in the event of our failing in the second point, as for the present we have failed in the first, all I can say, and that I think the House will expect me to say, is this—we are considering, and we shall, in any case, be prepared with measures which we think proper measures to be taken at Geneva on the 15th of June, in order to sustain, in their full force, the declarations which on various occasions we have made to Parliament and the country with reference to the Claims for Indirect Losses under the Treaty of Washington.


Sir, I have listened to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman in mute astonishment. It is not for me to guage the limits of Parliamentary patience. But, with such a document as I have seen this morning in the columns of The Daily News, I ask whether we can possibly rest satisfied, provided that document be not a forgery, or, to use the expression of the right hon. Gentleman on another occasion, "furnished by literary enterprise." I say, if that document be genuine, we are in a position to demand further explanations from Her Majesty's Government. Now, Sir, I do not wish unnecessarily to embarrass Her Majesty's Government, and I think the conduct of this House has been most exemplary with regard to them. I only ask hon. Gentlemen who have sat here for some lengthened period what, in their opinion, would have happened if a Conservative Government had been in office? Would not anxious, rising young men, as well as old men on this side, have put before now some very awkward questions? Sir, I think we are approaching a very grave crisis in the history of this country. The right hon. Gentleman appears to me to be a little too anxious to make this Treaty at any price; and our connections on the other side of the water fully understand the right hon. Gentleman, and are prepared to take advantage of his anxiety. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether this despatch, which has been printed in The Daily News—through enterprise, of course—and which states that Earl Granville has directly written to Mr. Fish, the Secretary of the United States Government, and made a proposition to the effect that the Arbitration at Geneva should be postponed for eight months, is true? [Cries of "Read!"] No; it is unnecessary to read it. ["Read!"] Do not condemn me to that. Everybody has read it in The Daily News. [An hon. MEMBER: No, I have not.] Everybody will read it. It is simply a proposition from Earl Granville to Mr. Fish that these negotiations be postponed for eight months. ["Read!"] No, I will not read this humiliating despatch. If anybody is to read it the Clerk at the Table should read it. I object to read such a humiliating despatch myself. Although I have clung to the last to the hope that the Treaty would be carried out—not through any particular affection for this Treaty, but because I thought we were bound to it—it seems to me that what is now being done is not the way to carry it out. At any rate, if we cannot conclude a Treaty with dignity, let us get out of it in the best manner we can.


I must remind the hon. Member that he is out of Order unless he is prepared to conclude with a Motion.


I will hot conclude with a Motion, because I do not like to interrupt the Business of the. House; but I will put myself in Order by asking a Question. ["Move!"] No, I will leave some other hon. Member to do so. I have not received that assistance from the other side of the House or from this which would induce me to move the Adjournment of the House. I stand here simply as an independent Member of Parliament, and I wish to put this Question—Whether this latest telegram which we have seen in the columns—or, if some hon. Gentlemen have not seen it, which they will see in the columns of The Daily News of this morning—whether that telegram is founded on fact, or is the exact despatch written by Lord Granville to Mr. Fish?—I pause for a reply.


I do not wish to try the patience of my hon. Friend; but he will, upon reflection, naturally suppose that, though I did pause—almost, I think, for three-quarters of a second—before I rose, yet that it is very proper and natural that a Minister who has to answer a question on a subject of this kind should pause for a moment, inasmuch as it is his duty to bear in mind that there might possibly be other Members of the House, beside my hon. Friend, who were desirous to ask for information, and, consequently, that it would have been hardly respectful for me to rise the very moment my hon. Friend had sat down. I am in the condition of not having before me the document to which my hon. Friend has referred—[Mr. OSBORNE offered to pass it for the inspection of the right hon. Gentleman.]—nor would it be possible for me to go into it now, or examine it in such a way as to be able on the instant to give to my hon. Friend the assurance he desires as to its literary and verbal accuracy. On this point, of course, I should have to refer to the original. But my hon. Friend has put a question which I will answer very readily—Has Lord Granville proposed that the negotiations at Washington should be postponed for a period of eight months? Sir, the proposal was that such a postponement should be made upon a joint application of the two Governments; and the proposition which my hon. Friend describes has been made by Lord Gran- ville. My hon. Friend describes this document as a humiliating document. Well, the Government are responsible for the proposition which has been made. They will contend, when the proper time comes for doing so, that it is not a humiliating document, but a proposition required by national justice, national interests, and national honour. That will be our contention. I only mention it now with reference to the opinion given by my hon. Friend, because this is not the time to defend the cause of the Government. But I have not the least hesitation or difficulty in avowing that that proposition for an adjournment of eight months, if agreed to by the two parties—and the application would be a joint one—was made by Lord Granville and by the Cabinet on Saturday last. I will only add one explanation with reference to the term of eight months which will naturally suggest questions to the minds of hon. Gentlemen. Why should the particular term of eight months, and so considerable a term, be included in such a proposal? The simple reason, so far as my own mind is concerned—and I believe that was also the view of my Colleagues—was this:—The purpose of this adjournment, should it be made, is to enable us to arrive at an agreement upon the terms of the proposed Supplementary Convention. That agreement cannot be made excepting by the concurrence, on the other side of the water, of the President and Senate of the United States. Now, it is perfectly true, I believe, that the President has the power to summon the Senate for the purpose of considering a question affecting a Treaty at any period. But we did not feel it would be entirely consistent with propriety on our part to make a suggestion to the President of the United States as to the time at which he should summon the Senate. We thought it right, on our part, in making the suggestion for an adjournment, to name a time within which the Senate would again be in Session; and I may also add that we thought it would be an additional advantage that the time we had named would also be a time when the Parliament of this country would again be in Session, and when, therefore, it would have the opportunity, which it might reasonably desire, of giving its opinion upon the negotiations while they were taking place.


Sir, when the Question was put yesterday, the right hon. Gentleman formally and officially informed us by the mouth of one of his most eminent Colleagues of his intention of making an important communication to the House of Commons this day, and the right hon. Gentleman, faithful to his engagement, appeared in his place, and has made such a declaration. I think it most remarkable—I may say astounding—that the right hon. Gentleman made no allusion to that all-important document (the despatch published in The Daily News), the authenticity and even verbal accuracy of which I understand he does not for a moment dispute. Sir, it appears to me that the course taken by the Government is wanting in that frankness which, above all things, is necessary for the communications between Ministers and the representatives of the people. That document is an authentic document—and that document, signed by the Secretary of State, intimates the intention of proposing a delay of eight months in the meeting of the Tribunal of Geneva. The right hon. Gentleman wishes us to understand, in the second explanation that he has given us, the real reasons for that proposition. They may be so—it is not for me to doubt the convictions of the right hon. Gentleman, or what he believes to have been the convictions of his Colleagues as to the reasons which induced them to fix on that date; but we know very well that in eight months from this time a hot contest will be taking place in the United States for the highest position in that country; and I take the liberty to say that I know nothing more unwise or more indiscreet, nothing more to be deprecated, than that the relations between the two countries should be made the stalking-horse of discussion on every hustings. If Her Majesty's Government have been induced unconsciously to fix on the term of eight months in order that the President of the United States, his Government, and even the Senate might, perhaps, be in the humour then to accede to the propositions which at present they will not countenance, I think that result will be attained at too great a sacrifice, at a cost too perilous and pernicious, if it is to be attained by making the relations between the two countries a topic of exciting discussion during the Presidential election. I see an hon. Member rise as if I were not acting in unison with the Rules of the House. I never willingly act counter to those Rules, and if I am doing so on a most critical occasion, I will avail myself of a right which I should exercise with reluctance. I am at a loss also to understand from the right hon. Gentleman—for in this important statement, announced yesterday, and made under circumstances so critical, not the slightest allusion was made to that part of the subject—what is to become of all the other provisions of the Treaty of Washington during the interregnum. What is to become of the relations between this country and Canada? What of that guarantee which certainly has excited the anxious attention of Parliament? I may have misapprehended the right hon. Gentleman; but in his statement I understood him to say that the draft of the Supplementary Treaty was to be placed on the Table of this House, although not negotiated, in case the Tribunal at Geneva did not resume its duties on the 15th instant. Am I correct in that anticipation? If so, I should like to know the reason that has induced the right hon. Gentleman to depart from a line of conduct, the importance and necessity of which he dwelt on so much only a few days before. And if I have mistaken his meaning, if he is not going to place on the Table the draft Treaty, is it to be endured that for eight months after all that has occurred—after five months of anxious and baffled negotiations—is it to be endured that the people of this country should be ignorant of what is the question at issue between the Government of the Queen and the Government of the United States? Sir, these are subjects upon which we require information from the right hon. Gentleman. I wish to know why, when he came forward to make this statement, he did not advert to the most important element in our discussion—namely, the not-questioned despatch of the Secretary of State which has appeared in one of the public journals to-day. I wish to know whether, if the Tribunal at Geneva does not resume its duties on the 15th instant, I correctly understood the right hon. Gentleman that he would place on the Table the Supplementary Treaty, and the propositions of the United States, which have been so long in controversy between the two Governments. I wish to know, also, from the right hon. Gentleman, what is to be the condition of the Treaty of Washington with respect to the other and equally-important questions which it embraces. These are points upon which we require information; for, generally speaking, after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, and coupling that statement with the despatch of the Secretary of State with which we have become so irregularly acquainted, I am alarmed at the course and conduct of Her Majesty's Government. I join issue—so far as my immediate impressions upon a state of affairs so startling will enable me to do so—I join issue with the policy of the right hon. Gentleman, for I believe that he is pursuing a policy which will end in disaster and disgrace to England.


Before the right hon. Gentleman answers this Question I should be glad to put another Question. There is also a telegram appended to the reply in The Daily News, which states that Mr. Fish has refused to join in the declaration at once—that the American Government will not listen to the proposition of eight months' delay unless it is embodied in a new Treaty; and therefore, under the terms of the letter written by Lord Granville, the whole Arbitration seems to be at an end. I am very sorry the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Osborne) did not read the despatch out: but I have made extracts from it, and it is so very important that I hope the House will permit me to read it. It is a joint application that Lord Granville wishes to be submitted to the Arbitrators—if it is a joint application. Mr. Fish telegraphs to say that he refuses to join in the application, and therefore the whole Arbitration is now at an end.


I rise to move the adjournment of the House. It is wholly unbecoming that in an Assembly such as this a discussion should be carried on beyond its Orders, if not in contravention of those Orders. My own impression is that on this important subject the House of Commons has abstained from action much too long. I shall not, however, enter into the merits of the question, which has now occupied the attention of the House irregularly during the last 20 minutes; I rise merely to enable the House to place itself in order, and therefore if necessary in action, by moving that the House do now adjourn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Newdegate.)


I must say I agree with my hon. Friend who has just sat down. A very inconvenient practice is growing up, of which the majority of the House has some right to complain. The Leaders of the House on both sides enter into the fullest discussion upon most interesting questions, and raise all kinds of controversial matter; but when other Members try to take part in the debate they are called to order before they have spoken a dozen words. The Rules and Orders of this House know no distinction between Ministers of the Crown and private Members. All have the same privileges, and all ought to have awarded to them the right of discussion upon any question which may be brought forward, or all ought to be stopped. We have now had a despatch given to us in The Daily News, as to the authenticity of which, I believe, there is no doubt. I think it is to be regretted that information relating to the correspondence between our own Government and that of the United States is not already laid before Parliament; and I wish to ask, whether there is any objection on the part of the Government to give us the answer to that despatch?


Sir, my right hon. Friend has asked me whether there is any objection on the part of the Government to give the House the answer to the despatch which had been published in The Daily News. I presume his question must be understood to include both the despatch itself and the reply to it. The answer to the despatch does not purport to be a representation of its entire contents, but is rather a summary than the despatch itself. I do not think there would be any advantage whatever in laying these two documents—and I believe my right hon. Friend will see the force of what I say—I think there would be no advantage, but the contrary, in laying on the Table these two documents disconnected from those which preceded and followed them. Our desire is to place the House in possession of information at the earliest possible moment. To that subject I have already adverted; but to communicate to the House partial information upon which it would be quite impossible for the House to form just conclusions, would really not assist, but rather tend to bewilder the House, and would not be a course compatible with our own duty. My hon. Friend (Mr. Osborne) has censured me for not having referred to this despatch. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Horsman) says the Leaders of the House raise all kinds of controversial matters in their statements. I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) can answer for himself. I do not know that he is open to much charge on his account; but, for my own part, in any statement which I have made to-day, I was most careful to avoid it. It was, however, necessary for me, in my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Waterford, to state the propositions which we should be prepared to maintain. With regard to the statements of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), I do not object to his censuring me, if he likes, for not having referred to this document, with regard to which I am quite sensible of the great inconvenience that arises, not only from premature publication but from fragmentary publication; but I do not wish to be censured for Want of frankness. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that I or my Colleagues entertained a hope that by refraining from referring to this document we should succeed in diverting the attention of the House from a paper which has been published by many tens of thousands—if he supposes we entertained a deliberate intention to withdraw a document of this kind from the notice of the House, I do not object to the charge of want of frankness; but I do object to the charge of fatuity which the right hon. Gentleman seems to think it consistent with Parliamentary usage to impute to me. Whether I was right or wrong, I did not ententain the idea that my want of allusion to the document would prevent any Gentleman who thought it desirable to make such an allusion from doing so. The right hon. Gentleman says truly that we have arrived at a knowledge of this document, and the public have arrived at it, in a manner most irregular. All that I can say on that subject is really needless, so far as we are concerned. I need not state that we have had no share in its publication. I am given to understand that the document was transmitted from the American Legation in this country to the United States of America by the telegraph, and not transmitted in cipher. That is the statement made to me, and I have nothing more to communicate upon that part of the subject. That is the whole extent of my knowledge. [Mr. OSBORNE: Not in cipher?] The document was transmitted en clair as the phrase is at the British Foreign Office descriptive of sending documents in plain language. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has put to me two Questions of great importance to which I will give him answers that I hope he will find perfectly explicit. Both of them are conditional on the supposition of there being an adjournment, at least the first of them is. The first Question is—what is to become, during the interval of the adjournment of the Tribunal, of all the other provisions of the Treaty of Washington? My answer is, that I apprehend that if an adjournment took place of the sittings of the Tribunal of Geneva, all the other provisions of the Treaty of Washington, and all the executory measures connected with those provisions, may proceed exactly as if no such adjournment had taken place. If an adjournment takes place, I apprehend it can hardly be but by the consent of both parties. I will not presume to give an authoritative opinion on that point; but I will assume that very little good could arise from an adjournment, unless it took place by the consent of the two parties; and if there were the consent of the two parties, I apprehend there could be no reason in the world why the other provisions under the Treaty of Washington should not proceed towards a full accomplishment, just as if the sittings of the Tribunal at Geneva had gone on continuously from the 15th of June. The second Question is this—whether the Papers which we have proposed to lay upon the Table include the Treaty which has been lately under negotiation? I understood the right hon. Gentleman to deliver to me a double challenge. In the first place he asked—I am not sure I understood him correctly—"Why, if you mean to include it, do you depart from the usual course, and decline to submit to Parliament negotiations which have not yet reached their final accom- plishment? Do you intend that the people of this country should remain in ignorance, during this long period, of the proceedings which have taken place, and of the actual state of the relations between the two countries?" I will first answer the second question, which relates to a matter of fact. We do not mean, certainly in the event of our failing to make arrangements for the adjournment, or, even if the arrangements are made for it, that the people of this country shall remain in ignorance of the steps we have taken. On the contrary, our opinion is, that at the point we have reached—perhaps I ought to say, especially after this publication, but even independently of this publication by The Daily News—our opinion is, that at the point we have reached it will be better that everything that has been done by the Government, on the part of the Crown and of the people, during those anxious communications, should be at once submitted to Parliament. That is the state of the case as regards the matter of fact. The right hon. Gentleman was perfectly justified in asking me why, and upon what grounds, we departed from the usual course of withholding details of the negotiations until they have reached their final accomplishment. I will give my reasons as simply and intelligibly as I can, and I hope they will be considered satisfactory. The negotiations which have been carried on have been negotiations with respect to the formation of a Supplementary Treaty, and not only with respect to the formation of a Supplementary Treaty—for if that were the whole truth, the question might still arise whether it would be desirable to submit the details of these negotiations at present. But they have been negotiations of a most peculiar kind [Mr. OSBORNE: Hear, hear!]—they have been for the conclusion of a Supplementary Treaty, but also for the conclusion of a Supplementary Treaty within a given time and before a certain date, and in order that the proceedings under the main Treaty of Washington might go forward on that date. So far as regards the conclusion of that Supplementary Treaty within a given time, as I have already stated, we have failed of its conclusion—I do not speak of its ultimate conclusion. I think the House will see, when the Papers are laid before them, how much reason there is to believe that if good sense be the dominating principle in the two nations on both sides of the Atlantic, it is almost an impossibility that there should be a final failure of agreement where the substantial questions of discord and controversy have been taken away. But I admit that, considering the Supplemental Treaty as an arrangement to be concluded within a given time, we have been unable to conclude it; and, that being so, it stands in immediate relation to the proceedings at Geneva on the 15th of June. We think it is due to Parliament that it should have an opportunity of judging of the whole of our conduct, in order that it may see whether we ought to and could have concluded, or whether we could not conclude, that Treaty so as to enable the proceedings at Geneva to go forward without impediment or interruption on the 15th. That is the reason why we think these negotiations should be laid on the Table of the House, although it undoubtedly involves, to a certain extent, a deviation from general rules; and, as I have stated, when we feel that the negotiations with respect to the question of adjournment have reached their issue, it will be our desire to submit that series of Correspondence which—though many, and perhaps the most important parts of it, have been transacted almost entirely by telegraph, will yet form the documents upon which we shall—I will not say, challenge—but shall patiently, and I may say also fearlessly, abide the judgment of Parliament and the country.


My right hon. Friend has made a long speech; but he has not answered the important question put to him by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Baillie Cochrane).


It is a pure omission, for which I apologize. The hon. Member opposite asked me whether the Arbitration was at an end. As I understood the hon. Member, he assumed that this letter having been sent by Lord Granville on Saturday, and having been answered by a document which did not accept the proposal connected with the Arbitration, the Arbitration was at an end. That is not so. These are not the final Papers on the case. Communications are still proceeding. I cannot undertake to say what their issue will be—I mean between this and Saturday next; but it would be a mistake to treat these Papers as bringing the negotiations to a conclusion.


I would call attention to the despatch which was written by our Foreign Secretary to the American Government, and of which it is agreed that we have an authentic report. It states the view of Her Majesty's Government on a review of the Correspondence, and Lord Granville goes on to say— With this view I have the honour to propose that on the meeting of the Arbitrators that day" (the l5th of June, four days hence) "a joint application shall be made for an adjournment of eight months. If the Government of the United States concur in making this application for adjournment, it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to deliver to the Arbitrators on the 15th instant the summary of their argument, under the 5th Article of the Treaty of Washington. Then the same "enterprising" authority goes on to say— Mr. Fish refuses to unite in this arrangement, believing that the time can only be extended by a new Treaty; but if the Arbitrators consent to adjourn on the request of Great Britain, the United States Government will not object. Now, what is the position of the Arbitrators; because no reference has been made to that in the statement addressed to the House to-day? In the Treaty of Washington all the proceedings of the Arbitrators are sketched out with a definite time for every step which they are to take. By the 3rd Article the written or printed Case of each of the two parties is to be delivered to each of the Arbitrators within a period not exceeding six months from the date of the exchange of the ratifications of the Treaty. By the 4th Article— within four months after the delivery on both sides of the written or printed Case, either party may in like manner deliver in duplicate to each of the said Arbitrators, and to the agent of the other party, a Counter-Case and additional documents. Now, these two steps have been taken; and there being, as stated in the Notice of Her Majesty's Government, a misunderstanding between the High Contracting Powers as to the meaning of the Treaty, the Counter Case was put in on the part of Her Majesty's Government at the proper date specified by the 4th Article, two months ago. The declaration addressed on the 15th of April by Her Majesty's Agent at Geneva to the Arbitrators said— Her Majesty's Government have been for some time past, and still are, in correspondence with the Government of the United States upon this subject, and as this correspondence has not been brought to a final issue, Her Majesty's Government, being desirous, if possible, of proceeding with the reference as to the Claims for direct losses, have thought it proper in the meantime to present to the Arbitrators their Counter Case (which is strictly confined to the claims for direct losses), in the hope that before the time limited in the 5th Article of the Treaty this unfortunate misunderstanding may be removed. Well, what is the time limited by the 5th Article?—for here is the hinge and pith of the whole matter, as far as I understand the documents. In the 5th Article it is said that— It shall be the duty of the agent of each party, within two months after the expiration of the time limited for the delivery of the Counter Case on both sides" (that is, in April, as already referred to by me) "to deliver in duplicate to each of the said Arbitrators and to the agent of the other party, a written or printed argument, showing the points and referring to the evidence upon which his Government relies. Now, as I understand the statement in the paragraph of that newspaper, the American Government refuse to agree to make a joint proposal to the Arbitrators to adjourn the proceedings, upon the ground—which seems to me to be a just ground—that if it is to be done at all it must be done by a specific Treaty. Then it is suggested on their side, not that no written or printed argument shall be delivered on either side, so that the Arbitrators shall be unable to proceed for want of the thoroughly complete course of documents which the Treaty requires to be submitted to them; but that we shall put in our statement, and ask an adjournment, and the United States Government will then have it in their power, if they choose, to present their statement to the Arbitrators; and, if they do not, the Arbitrators, under the 7th Article of the Treaty, are bound, if possible, to make their decision "within three months from the close of the argument on both sides." As far as we are informed, therefore, the position of the case is this—that we are to take every step without any counter-stipulation on the part of the United States that they will go along with us in this; and then, when we have put in our counter statement, we shall be really at their mercy whether or not the business is to go on. I, for one, say that if all these transactions had appeared throughout to have been conducted in a perfectly open and above-board manner, and there had been nothing behind, and no suspicion of want of candid and ingenuous dealing between the negotiators, it might have been worth while to contend that this course was the right one to take. But it cannot be forgotten that a strong and a prevailing impression exists in the mind of Parliament, and also in the mind of the country, that there has not been perfectly open, candid, and ingenuous dealing in this matter with our Government. That should make us extremely careful and cautious that no single step should be authorized by this House, or be permitted to the Government, which would leave us at the mercy of the Government of the United States to go on or not with the Case submitted to the Arbitrators.


If I understand the Prime Minister aright, he made a statement which must naturally cause considerable alarm. It was, as I gathered it, to this effect—that the proceedings might go on with reference to the other branches of the matter in dispute than the Indirect Claims. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] I am glad to find that I am wrong as to that. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] I will, therefore, not trouble the House further than to express my hearty concurrence with the views expressed by the last speaker.


I should have been glad to hear that everything connected with this Treaty had come to an untimely end. The right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) expressed himself as being greatly alarmed at the conduct of the Government, and at the language used by the right hon. Gentleman at its head; but I may inform him that upon more than one occasion I have been at least as much alarmed at his own proceedings when he was himself in office. It appears to me that there is no ground for a conflict between the two sides of the House on this question, because there is between them what I may term a community of error. Both sides of the House have sanctioned the principle of Arbitration in the settlement of International disputes, which I regard as a great and fatal mistake, and nobody will venture to say that both sides are not equally responsible for the difficulties in which we find ourselves placed in consequence of our having accepted that principle. In the only debate upon this subject to which I have reason to refer, which took place just before the close of the last Session, while various objections were raised to the conduct of the Government, no exception whatever was taken to the Treaty being based upon the principle of Arbitration. The right hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Sir Charles Adderley), who was almost the only speaker on this side of the House on that occasion, although he took exception to the acts of the Government, did not utter a single word against the principle of Arbitration. I must protest against that principle, which I regard as lowering to the honour, the dignity, and the interest of this country. The position we occupy in consequence of our having adopted that principle is not that which a great and powerful country ought to be placed in. We ought not to place our honour and our wealth at the mercy of any description of arbitration. If this country is not sufficiently respected abroad, and does not sufficiently respect itself to be able to decide what concerns its own honour and what is due to its own character with respect to its obligations, it is no longer worthy to occupy the position of a great country. Holding this belief, I regard the fact of our having submitted the American Claims to arbitration as most lowering to the honour and dignity of this country. If I were to hear from the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government that it is probable that there will be considerable delay in the negotiations connected with this Treaty I should hail the announcement as good news, as showing that we have at all events obtained a respite in the matter.


The only part of the most unsatisfactory explanation which has been given by the right hon. Gentleman which is in the least degree satisfactory is that in which he promises that the whole of the Papers connected with the negotiations respecting the Supplemental Article shall be placed upon the Table of the House. It is, at all events, some comfort to know that we shall not be left in profound ignorance of what has been done in this matter for the next eight months. It would not be right that the Government should protract their negotiations for another eight months without laying those Papers on the Table of the House; and, therefore, I must express a hope that the Papers and despatches relating to this Treaty will be laid on the Table of the House before next Saturday.


said, although he had listened with the greatest attention to the explanations that had just been given by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government, he had failed to collect from them what was the exact position in which they stood at the present moment with regard to the Supplemental Treaty and to the Arbitration at Geneva. About a week ago the right hon. Gentleman informed the House that there was no dispute about the latter portion of the Supplemental Article, and that the whole of the discussion then going on had reference to the early part of it, which formed the consideration for the latter portion of the Article being agreed to. It seemed to him from this new despatch of Earl Granville that that matter must have gone off altogether, and that new negotiations had been commenced for securing a further and distinct consideration of the Treaty. The Prime Minister had said that the latter portion of the article in The Daily News, containing a part of the despatch from Mr. Fish, did not conclude the transaction. He wished to know whether the negotiation now going on was entirely dependent upon the extension of time sought for; and whether if that extension of time were not acceded to, they were to consider that the other negotiations for the completion of the Supplemental Article had failed altogether?


The House is under a great obligation to the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Osborne) for having raised this discussion. We have waited patiently for five months for some definite explanations on this subject, while the Government have gone on staggering like drunken men from one difficulty to another. I ask, are such men fit to continue these negotiations? ["Move!"] It is not for me to move in this matter. If hon. Members opposite wish to move they can do so for themselves. I repeat the question, whether the right hon. Gentleman who has landed us in a difficulty from which he cannot extricate us is capable of carrying these negotiations to a proper conclusion? I deny that he is capable of doing so. If he is permitted further to regulate our course in this matter we shall find ourselves in- volved in an Arbitration with the whole of these Indirect Claims hanging over our heads. The Americans are making use of the Government of this country for their own political purposes. The Treaty was nothing more than a stock-jobbing transaction on the other side of the water, and our Government have been duped into negotiating this Treaty with men who are not fit to be negotiated with. I can recollect negotiations going on with America ever since 1814, and the result of all of them has been that they never came to anything unless the Americans had everything their own way. We have been duped on every occasion. When we went forward the Americans went back, and when we went back they came forward. Our best course is to stand still and to throw this Treaty overboard altogether. Having got rid of this Treaty, let us next year begin negotiations afresh, actuated by that good feeling which every one of us has for America. [A laugh.] Oh, you may have a perfectly good feeling towards a man, and yet not let him make a fool of you. Let us, when the Presidential election is over, send over to America a few wise men, who will be able to settle the question to be submitted to the Arbitrators in a couple of days. In conclusion, I beg to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister whether the Arbitrators have any right or title at all under the Treaty to adjourn the consideration of the American Claims for any period?


, who was received with cries of "Divide!" said, I do not think that hon. Members opposite have any right to object to those who sit on this side of the House saying a few words on this important subject, after we have remained silent with reference to it during the last five months. In common courtesy they ought to allow some independent Members on this side of the House to express their views on the matter. This is not a party question—it is a national one. How long are the honour and the interests of the country to be made a stalking-horse for the political interest of the President of the United States? I rise to ask what will become of the Canadian guarantee in the event of the negotiations falling through? Lord Russell, when Foreign Secretary, at the time of the escape of the Alabama, insisted that we were not liable for any losses or damage consequent on the escape of that vessel; but we have now admitted our liability for the direct losses, and the Prime Minister has admitted our liability for the money expended by America for cruisers in pursuit of the Alabama and her consorts. We have made an apology for injuries which we never committed, and we are now to compensate Canada for Fenian raids committed by American citizens by guaranteeing her a loan of £2,500,000. The Americans peremptorily refused to recognize those damages in the Treaty, and we instantly yielded. The Prime Minister now says no difference exists between the two Governments as to the Supplemental Article. Why, then, is it not concluded? We have shown the Ministry the utmost forbearance for five months, yet after wasting that period they ask for eight months more, on the plea that the good sense of the two parties is sure to lead to an arrangement. I do not, however, see any certainty of a settlement being come to at the end of that time. If we give the American Government eight months' delay, it will be made use of for political purposes in the Presidential election, and if Parliament is prorogued without a distinct arrangement we may be committed during the Recess to something even worse than the Treaty, so that "the last state of that man will be worse than the first." If the Government are determined to conclude a Treaty coûte que coûte, the sooner the thing is at an end the better.


I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that after this phase of the negotiation is concluded, all the Papers will be presented to Parliament; but I did not understand him to promise that they will be presented in time for the House to express an opinion on the wisdom or un-wisdom of postponing the proceedings at Geneva for eight months. I wish, therefore, to ask him, whether he contemplates affording Parliament an opportunity of discussing that particular phase before a decision on the subject is come to between the two Governments?


The duty of the Government is surely to settle the question of the Indirect Claims before settling what arrangement is to be made for the future. We ought to stand firmly to our position on the former point before attempting to arrange for the future.


As various questions have often been put to me, and one or two constructions placed upon portions of my speech, the House will, perhaps, allow me to answer those questions, though I believe I should not be strictly in order, except by permission. With respect to the observations of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wiltshire (Sir George Jenkinson), he stated that he would put a question to me; but I did not understand him to put any question to me in the sense that is commonly understood. [Sir GEORGE JENKINSON: I asked, what would become of the Canadian Treaty if the negotiations fall through?] That is a question which, I believe, I have already answered in reply to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli). I think I stated distinctly that, in case of an adjournment of the proceedings at Geneva, our opinion is that all the other proceedings connected with the Treaty would and should go forward just as if no adjournment had taken place, and just as if the sittings of the Arbitrators at Geneva were to be continued. With regard to what has fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone), he has asked me whether the Arbitrators had power under the Treaty to adjourn. Sir, it is the opinion of both the Governments, and of those, I presume, by whom they are both advised—certainly of those by whom Her Majesty's Government are advised—that the Arbitrators have a power to adjourn as a body charged with the transaction of important business. With regard to the general observations of the hon. Member, this is not the place for me to resent them, or even to reply to them further than to say this—that we have from the very commencement of this matter marked out to ourselves a path perfectly clear, and from that path we have never deviated, and shall not deviate. In my opinion, the greatest error—the greatest crime against the country and against the trust with which we are charged—of which we could be guilty, would be if we were to allow ourselves to be goaded and stung by accusations of incompetence—however just or unjust they may be I will not inquire—into deviating by one hair's-breadth from that course. Our business is to act in this matter according to our conscience and convictions, perfectly irrespective of charges of that kind, unless and until these charges be embodied in the vote of an authority to which we are bound to defer; and if that occasion arises, we shall know, Sir, the duty which is incumbent upon us. The hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Goldney) complains that, after using every mental effort, he cannot obtain a clear view of the situation from the statement I have made to the House. I do not wonder at that. I professed to give him a view which should be clear as far as it went; but it is not possible for me to give any explanation that can be full or satisfactory to the House, or that can clearly exhibit the whole case until the Papers are laid upon the Table, and Gentlemen have had an opportunity of examining them for themselves. The hon. Member, I am sure, will agree with me that it would be a great mistake if I were to attempt to give such a view as that in the absence of the Papers. It would hardly be fair towards the Gentlemen whom I address, or towards other parties, particularly as the Papers, when they are in the hands of Members, will not be very difficult to master, so far, I hope, as their nature is concerned. With respect to the specific question which the hon. Gentleman put to me, I will answer it with perfect clearness. I stated that we had failed within the time at our command to bring to a conclusion the communications on the subject of the Supplemental Treaty; that communications were still going on with respect to the question of adjournment, and in answer to the hon. Gentleman, with respect to that question only, from the present time—that is to say, from the day on which I speak until Saturday next. The noble Lord opposite (Viscount Mahon) has adverted to the delay in the production of the Papers. When I spoke I had in my mind that we should be able to lay the Papers on the Table by the end of the present week, so that they should be in the hands of Members at the very commencement of the next week, and that it should be possible for them, on a very early day, to raise any question they thought fit with regard to them. The noble Lord the Member for Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) has asked me specifically whether, before coming to any arrangement about an adjournment of the proceedings, we will give the House an opportunity of pronouncing judgment on that adjournment. I cannot give any such promise. With respect to those matters in which the honour and interests of the country are vitally concerned, the case might be different; and the House knows that the Government had freely engaged that the Supplemental Treaty, which they hoped to form within the given time, and which would have contained a permanent engagement, should be made known to the House of Commons immediately upon its being signed. With respect, however, to the question of adjournment, it would be quite impossible to conduct negotiations with foreign Governments if we were to engage to lay before the House every statement of that kind for its consideration before we bound ourselves to its adoption. I am obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Glasgow (Mr. Gordon) for indicating to me a misapprehension which possessed his mind, because if that misapprehension can occur to one of so much knowledge and intelligence as himself, it probably has occurred to many others. I never intended for one moment—nor has any Member of the Government at any time intended for one moment—to leave it to be supposed that we could be parties to proceeding with the Arbitration upon the Direct Claims, until and unless the question relating to the Indirect Claims should have been satisfactorily disposed of. To exclude the Indirect Claims from the consideration of the Arbitrators is, in our view, an absolute condition to our proceeding to Arbitration with respect to the Direct Claims. I will venture to remove a misapprehension from the mind of the hon. Member for West Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham). The hon. Member said we had admitted in the Treaty that certain descriptions of losses—I have no doubt he referred to the expenses incurred in the capture of vessels—were Direct Claims, and a matter on which the Arbitrators might make their award. That is not so. The only admission we have made is that Claims in that respect may be made and be argued before the Arbitrators; but we are equally free to argue against such Claims, and we are pretty sanguine that the decision of the Arbitrators will be in our favour. [Mr. PERCY WYNDHAM: They are classed as Direct Claims.] That is perfectly true; they are classed as Direct Claims by America. That is the extent of our admission, which is an important admission—I do not disguise it. The extent of our admission is this—that we cannot take to these Claims for expenditure in keeping cruisers for capturing vessels the same kind of objection that we make to the Indirect Claims—namely, that they are not within the province of the Tribunal. But, as the Treaty has admitted them, we argue that they are totally unfit matter to be made the subject of pecuniary award. The only other misapprehension was that of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie), who feared that we might be drawn unawares into a procedure on these Indirect Claims before the Arbitrators, notwithstanding the measures we have taken. All I can say is, that it has been the whole object of our endeavours to prevent that; and to that prevention we are absolutely bound. If we were to fall into such an error, we should, no doubt, receive the censure of Parliament; but that is a danger of which we entertain no apprehension, believing that we have in our own hands the perfect means of preventing its realization.


The right hon. Gentleman has not made his meaning perfectly clear. Assuming that at the end of eight months—if the adjournment takes place—the Supplemental Treaty should not be negotiated, am I to understand that all the other portions of the Treaty of Washington will be advanced to maturity, and carried into execution?


I think the legitimate bearing of my declaration is that the considerations of maturity will arise as these questions come to be dealt with practically; but I am not able to say what the effect will be. If they are absolutely excluded, I do not see how they can be introduced. I can only say—in as far as I can give an opinion, and if I must give an opinion—that if an adjournment take place at Geneva, that adjournment, ipso facto, will have no effect on the other proceedings under the Treaty, and those proceedings may go forward as if no adjournment had taken place.


The right hon. Gentleman will understand that I have no wish in pressing these questions, except that the House should obtain the clearest possible idea of the true position of the question. Am I to understand this—that in this controversy respecting the Indirect Claims we are to forfeit all inducements to the United States to forego these claims by allowing them to accomplish all their objects, although that question may be unsettled?


The question involves an opinion, which the right hon. Gentleman seems to entertain, that the American Government has great objects to attain by means of those portions of the Treaty which are not referred to the Tribunal at Geneva, and that it is in consideration of attaining those objects that they are anxious to go to Geneva. Now, so far as we can judge from the information we have received, or from the language of the American Government, we conclude that the American Government are of exactly an opposite opinion, and consider that it is we, not they, who have an interest in pushing forward those portions of the Treaty which are not subjects of the present negotiation. They consider it is we, not they, who have an interest in carrying them forward and in bringing them to an end.


I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question arising out of the answer that he has just given. Has not the American Government, during this long period of negotiations, steadily taken a tone that implies that they require an assurance that the whole of the three great questions submitted in the course of the negotiations shall be settled if they agree especially on the San Juan Boundary question? I ask the question, because I have reason to believe that the American Government—not yesterday, but at various times, and in the most express manner—have signified that they will not agree to waive what they consider the advantages of the San Juan Boundary unless that they believed that we were going to settle with them fully and completely the Alabama Claims.


It is extremely difficult to follow all the points that have been raised. The American Government has contended that the whole of the Treaty must stand or fall together, and I do not think I should be justified in going further. They consider it is we, and not they, who have a special interest in pushing forward and carrying to completion all those parts of the Treaty which are not in Arbitration.


Is it not a fact that the Americans have fished in the waters of the Dominion—in Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island—and does not the equivalent for that depend upon the ratification of the Treaty?


I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can give an explicit promise to the House that he will put them in possession of all the Papers relating to this question before a certain date?


I hope by the end of the present week—as I have already stated—to be able to produce all that can be produced according to the forms of the House. The question of the hon. Member (Mr. Percy Wyndham) is purely argumentative, and he had better put his Question on the Paper for my hon. Friend the Under Secretary for the Colonies to answer.


I understand—and have understood all along—that the question of the Canadian Fisheries was always a great point made by the American Government, and a stipulation is contained in that agreement upon which they insist. And that leads me to a consideration connected with the parts of the Treaty which are proposed to be carried into effect. I understand that the equivalent to be given by us to the Canadians is a guarantee of £2,500,000. Now, at all events during eight months the American people will have the benefit of the stipulation with respect to the fisheries of Canada, and during that time the Canadians will raise money for the construction of railways on the faith of our guarantee. Suppose the Treaty goes off, the position of Canada will be a very different one from what it would be under the Treaty. In the meantime, we shall have involved ourselves in a liability of £2,500,000, and after that money is raised it will be impossible to get rid of that liability.

Motion, "That this House do now adjourn," by leave, withdrawn.