§ MR. BOUVERIE
Sir, seeing that he is in his place, I wish to ask the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) a Question of which I have given him Notice. It is stated that the right hon. Baronet the week before last made a speech at Exeter, which was reported in the public journals; and in that speech he is reported to have used the following expressions. Speaking of the Commission at Washington, he said—Why their position personally had been one of great delicacy and embarrassment was this—that two questions had been raised: one, the personal question, as to what was the understanding between the Commissioners at all events, and, perhaps, between the two Governments, at the time the Treaty was negotiated; the other, as to the general merits of the question which had been raised in respect to what are called Consequential 709 Damages, or the Indirect Claims. Now, with regard to the personal question, the Commissioners were distinctly responsible for having represented to the Government that they understood a promise to be given that these Claims were not to be put forward and were not to be submitted to arbitration.The Question which I wish to ask the right hon. Baronet is—first, Whether that is an authentic statement of what fell from him on that occasion; and, secondly, if that be so, what was the understanding with respect to this affair which he mentioned in that speech; what were the circumstances under which it was come to; and with whom was it come to?
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Sir, in reply to the Question put to me by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and also to one of similar import of which private Notice has been given me by the hon. Member for North Wilts, I have to say, in the first place, that the quotation referred to is an accurate report of what I said in my speech at Exeter. I thought it right to say what I did upon that occasion, because I had seen an announcement that a despatch of Mr. Fish, dated the 16th of April, had just been published in America, and which was therefore sure to be published in this country, from which those reading it must infer that the Claims for Consequential Damages had been formally presented to the Commissioners at Washington, who had made no objection to them. I thought it right, as one of the Commissioners, instantly to contradict such an assumption, in order to prevent an incorrect impression on the subject getting abroad. I made use of the expressions which have been referred to without any previous consultation with either of my Colleagues or any Member of the Government, in order to state on my own authority that that was not at all the view which I, at least, took of the matter. With regard to the other Question of the right hon. Gentleman, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, and also the House, will see that I stand in a very delicate position. I was at Washington as an agent of the Government, I was one of the five Commissioners, and I do not think I am entitled to speak on behalf of the other four—I do not think also that I should be justified in going into what occurred at Washington without communication with the Government, and more especially 710 without communicating with my brother Commissioners, and especially with Lord Ripon, who is at present away from town in attendance on Her Majesty, and with whom I have always acted upon the most confidential terms, and between whom and myself there has never been the slightest difference or disagreement. Under those circumstances, I do not think that it would be right on my part to answer the last Question of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
Sir, I think I may fairly ask the right hon. Gentleman this further Question—whether the understanding referred to in his speech was immediately communicated to Her Majesty's Government?
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I would rather the right hon. Gentleman would give Notice of that Question before I answer it.