§ MR. CORRANCE
Perhaps, under the present extraordinary circumstances, the Prime Minister will, without the formality of a Notice, give an answer to the following Question with regard to the negotiations as to the Island of San Juan. I wish to know—first, having reference to the telegraphic despatch from Berlin which has appeared in this day's papers—Whether Her Majesty's Government can give any information as to the unexpected or sudden presentation on the 10th instant by our Ambassador at Berlin of the British Answer respecting the St. Juan difficulty referred to the Arbitration of the Emperor of Germany; and, secondly, whether, in pursuance of the answer given by the right hon. Gentleman on Monday last, it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government, pending further negotiations, to proceed with any reference of the Canadian Claims or Questions on the basis laid down by the Washington Commission?
I may say, in reply to the hon. Gentleman, that Notice of a Question is not insisted upon as a mere formality—it is necessary in order that Ministers may be able to inform themselves on the subject of the Question and so give an answer with perfect accuracy. I am in a condition to say simply this—that we have no official information—neither I nor the Foreign Office—with regard to the paragraph in the paper about a supposed unexpected or sudden presentation of a document by the British Ambassador relating to the Arbitration at Berlin on the Island of San Juan; there has been no suspension, so far as we know or are concerned, of any proceedings which are now going on at Berlin under the Treaty. That, I 1694 think, is a complete answer to that Question of my hon. Friend. I have now to address a Question on my own account to the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) as to a Notice standing on the Paper in his name for to-morrow, which discusses the general system of diplomatic negotiations, and affirms the desirableness that all treaty engagements should be laid on the Table of both Houses of Parliament before being ratified, with a view to the cognizance by Parliament of negotiations before they are brought to a conclusion. To-morrow will not be a convenient day for bringing forward this subject. My hon. Friend kindly acceded to a request on a former occasion that he would postpone his Motion on general grounds; and there is now a specific ground for a further postponement, because Papers which will be laid on the Table to-morrow and will be in the hands of Members on Monday will, I think, throw some light—not directly, but still some real light—on the subject of his Motion.
§ MR. RYLANDS
I must express my regret that, for the second time, I have been asked to postpone my Motion, which, I think, is one of very considerable interest, and which it certainly appears to me derives very considerable illustration from recent events. And I regret it all the more, because I fear that, the Session being so far advanced, I shall probably not have another opportunity this year of bringing my Motion forward. However, under the circumstances stated by the right hon. Gentleman, and as I do not wish in any way to embarrass Her Majesty's Government, I agree to postpone the Motion.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
I wish to put to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government a Question of which I have given him private Notice—and I regret that that Notice should have been so short; but the incidents affecting the subject to which the Question relates change so rapidly, while they are of such great public interest, that it is exceedingly difficult to anticipate the course of events. I desire to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can inform the House whether the statements which have appeared 1695 in the public journals to the effect that Mr. Fish has declined to concur in the application for the adjournment of the Arbitration at Geneva and that the American Ministers have dispersed from Washington, are correct? I also wish to know whether the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to assure the House that, in accordance with the Letter of Lord Granville, no application for adjournment will be made except on the joint application of the two Governments?
I presume the Question of the hon. Baronet refers to the statement in one of the newspapers of to-day—I believe in The Daily News—which purports to be from their New York correspondent. That statement, as reported, is in reality an abridgment from the last communication which has passed from Lord Granville to General Schenck, the Minister of the United States. But, without saying more than that on its general tenour, I would observe that there is an important error in the latter portion of the statement—in, I think, the last line but two—and that error consists in the omission of the word "not." As hon. Gentlemen will see, that error has a very important bearing on the meaning of the communication. Having said that, I will now say more specifically with respect to the Question of the hon. Gentleman—as to the concurrence of the American Government in any application for an adjournment—it is true the American Government have declined to be a party to a joint application for adjournment. And in stating that I do not think I should be doing justice to the American Government—though there is a certain amount of inconvenience in referring to Papers which are not yet on the Table—if I did not add that they have likewise pointed out the reasons for declining to be a party to any such application. That reason is that the American Government has had for its object from the first—though they have consented to deviate from their line of action on certain conditions—nothing in the world but the bringing before the Arbitrators everything there is now in the Cases. Consequently, it appears to them that they are not the parties to put any obstacle by any action of their own in the way of proceeding before the Arbitrators by a joint application. With respect to 1696 the American Ministers having dispersed from Washington, I have nothing to say, because I am not aware that we have received any information except with regard to Mr. Fish. What I understand with regard to Mr. Fish is, that Mr. Fish's health—I am afraid it has not profited by these negotiations, although he does not enjoy the sanitary advantages which we possess of sitting eight or nine hours a day in a Legislative Assembly—has suffered considerably, and it is, I believe, true, that he has retired from Washington to his country house. As to the latter part of the Question, I will only say that I think it must have arisen out of the error in the newspaper to which I have already referred. There is no statement in the Letter of Lord Granville to the effect that no application to the Arbitrators for ah adjournment should be made except as a joint application. I am, of course, giving no information in the matter beyond stating that the report does not in this respect give a correct representation of what has actually occurred.
I wish to ask a Question of the Prime Minister, the nature of which I have intimated to him. The subject has been referred to by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Corrance); but my Question differs from his, inasmuch as it relates to an answer which the right hon. Gentleman has already given in this House. The House is aware that the Treaty of Washington refers to other matters besides the so-called Alabama Claims—namely, the Canadian Fisheries, the San Juan Boundary, and the claims to be made before the Commission lately sitting at Washington. An hon. Member opposite—I think the hon. Member for Sussex—asked the Prime Minister the other day whether, supposing the Arbitration at Geneva were to come to an end, the other three questions, connected as they are with the Treaty of Washington, would come to an end also? The right hon. Gentleman, as I understood him, said, in reply, that, in his opinion, those questions would not necessarily fall with the failure of the Arbitration at Geneva. Now, Sir, I wish to call the attention of the House, very briefly, to this answer in relation to this very grave matter. In the 35th Protocol of the 3rd of May, after setting forth the history of the San Juan difficulty, and, after referring 1697 to the fact that the United States had on so many occasions refused to submit this question for Arbitration, it is stated that the Commissioners of the United States consented that it should be referred for Arbitration under the following circumstances—"Should the other questions in the Treaty be satisfactorily adjusted." Under these circumstances, and reminding the House of the conditions under which the joint occupation of San Juan is now held, and that the United States Government have declared that they would permit that joint occupation only until the question should have been settled diplomatically, I wish to ask my right hon. Friend whether he is satisfied, supposing the Arbitration at Geneva to come to an end on the 15th—and there can be no doubt in the mind of any man that on the 15th it will come to nought. ["Order!"] If my hon. Friend (Mr. Melly), who is so enthusiastic, will restrain his enthusiasm for a moment he will find that I am perfectly in Order. He has not been very long in the House and is probably not well acquainted with the Rules of Order. Supposing, I say, the Arbitration to come to nought on the 15th, I should like to know from my right hon. Friend, whether he is of opinion that the San Juan Boundary Convention can be maintained; and especially whether he has entered, or is about to enter, into negotiations with the Government of the United States on this subject.
Before the right hon. Gentleman answers that Question, I wish to put to him a further Question. We have learnt from the same sources of information as that from which my hon. Friend (Mr. Corrance) derived his intelligence, that if an adjournment is agreed to by the two Governments on the 15th, Lord Granville intends to lay before the Arbitrators the Argument on which he relies, and to accompany it with a document in the nature of a protest to save British rights in regard to the Indirect Claims. We have been told that Mr. Fish has stated in answer that any such document presented to the Arbitrators would be repelled with considerable indignation—and, in fact, would be considered by the American Government as completely putting an end to all negotiations. The question under those circumstances which I wish to ask my right hon. Friend is, whether this in- 1698 formation is correct—that the presentation of such a document as Lord Granville intends to hand in will put an end to all negotiations; and, if so, in what way Lord Granville proposes to save British rights, supposing an adjournment of the Arbitration to be agreed upon?
The answer which I gave the other night, and the more specific answer which was given by my noble Friend Lord Granville in the other House, was to the effect that the statement which appeared in the public Press on Tuesday last was substantially correct with respect to the document to which it referred. My noble Friend has no doubt read the papers which have since appeared, and has seen that in the course of the correspondence that document has passed away, and does not exist at this moment for any practical purpose. Another document of a subsequent date has proceeded from the British Government; and, therefore, it would be quite vain for me to go back to the discussion of the prior document, on which no practical issue at present depends—though I think that when the Papers come before the House it may form a most proper subject for any opinion or any judgment which hon. Members may deem fit to pass upon it. That is my answer to my noble Friend (Viscount Bury). As to the Question of my hon. Friend (Mr. Otway) I am bound to say he has propounded a most important matter. It is a question inter apices juris, to use a legal expression; but the answer which he supposes me to have given on a former occasion is one which in point of fact I never gave, for I have never been asked to pronounce any opinion in public on the point which he raises. The opinion which I gave the other day referred to a matter totally distinct, and my hon. Friend must, I think, have been misled by some accidental misreport of the words which fell from me on that occasion. I can easily understand how in the case of complicated questions, such as these on which discussions suddenly arise, and are hastily conducted in this House, misapprehensions of this kind may arise. The point presented to me in a distinct manner on a former day was this—whether, according to the belief and judgment of the Government, an adjournment of the proceedings at Geneva would have the result of inter- 1699 cepting the fulfilment of the Treaty in its other and distinct provisions—separable from those involved in the proceedings at Geneva. To that I replied, with some confidence, that, in our judgment, it would produce no such effect. We do not presume to give an authoritative opinion on International Law with regard to hypothetical cases, but our judgment and interpretation is that all the other provisions whatsoever of the Treaty may go forward just as if no such adjournment occurred. That was the purport of the answer which I gave on a former day, I may now add casually that by no proceeding, so far as we are concerned in connection with any portion of the Treaty, nor, so far as we are aware, by any proceeding taken by others, has anything been suspended because of the difficulties which have arisen on that portion of the Case which relates to the Alabama. I think that, under the circumstances, Questions so very large and important as those embraced in the remarks of my hon. Friend ought not to be made by me the subject of immediate reply. I may say, perhaps, that the Government have an opinion on the subject; but my hon. Friend will see that I have not given the answer, or anything akin to the answer, which has suggested his Question. That, I hope, will remove from his mind any belief that there is any occasion for that question. But I am quite aware of the purport of the passages to which he has referred with respect to the arbitration in the case of San Juan, and those passages were in my mind when I gave the answer on a former day with regard to the view which we take of those portions of the Treaty, other than those connected with the Alabama Claims.
If I have misrepresented the right hon. Gentleman in any way I regret it. I do not wish to anticipate any statement which the right hon. Gentleman may make at another period; but there is one part of my Question which he has not replied to, and that is, Whether any negotiations or communications have been entered on with the Government of the United States in reference to the San Juan question?
I think I have stated already that we have no information at all corresponding with the statement which recently appeared in the 1700 newspapers. We have no information with regard to anything special having occurred.