HC Deb 26 May 1873 vol 216 cc456-82

Resolution [May 23] reported; That a sum, not exceeding £3,200,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1874, for the amounts awarded to the Government of the United States of America under the Treaty of Washington 1871, in satisfaction of the Alabama Claims.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the said Resolution be now read a second time."


in rising, pursuant to Notice, to call attention to the course taken by Her Majesty's Government with reference to the alterations in the International Law sanctioned by them prior to the negotiations, said, that the transactions of which the present Vote might be regarded as the last stage, formed one of the most remarkable episodes in the history of that or any other country. He must express his surprise and regret that they should have arrived at such a stage without having been fully discussed in the House of Commons, and he could not better show in what position we stood when the Alabama Claims were first raised, than by quoting the words of a statesman whose authority in the matter would be regarded as paramount on both sides of the House, both from the position he occupied when the subject came under consideration at the first, and also, because through a long career, he had shown himself eminently qualified to give an opinion upon the question. He alluded to Lord Russell, who, writing to Mr. Adams in December, 1862, said— Her Majesty's Government cannot, therefore," having given his reasons, "admit that they are under any obligation whatever to make compensation to the United States' citizens on account of the proceedings of the Alabama." Nothing could be more clear and intelligible than that statement; but in the face of it, what course did the Government adopt? Lord Russell distinctly stated, and proved, that under existing International Law, the position of England was impregnable, and that she was not liable to pay a shilling, whereas in the statement of the matter referred to arbitration, as understood by the Government, they set forth new rules of International Law under which such liability might be established. The object of the Government, in fact, seemed to have been to frame rules by which England might become subject to a responsibility which could not be established under the previously existing law. They said— Her Britannic Majesty has commanded Her Commissioners to declare that Her Majesty cannot assent to the foregoing rules as a statement of principles of International Law which were in force at the time when the Claims mentioned in Article 1 arose; but that Her Majesty in order to evince Her desire to strengthen the friendly relations between the two countries, and to make satisfactory provisions for the future, agrees that in deciding the question between the two countries arising out of those claims, the Arbitrators should assume that Her Majesty's Government had undertaken to act upon the principle set forth in those rules. Was it possible to conceive a more marvellous course for a great country to adopt? Her Majesty's Government framed an ex post facto law, and stated their willingness to have it assumed that that law existed at the time the claims arose, and their readiness to abide by it. He was much struck by a remark made to him by an hon. and learned Friend on this subject, to the effect that if he had done what the Government had, he should lose every client he had, and be deservedly branded as a fool into the bargain. What said one of the Arbitrators—the Lord Chief Justice—whose remarkable Judgment could not be perused without admiration? Why— That the effect of this part of the Treaty was to place the Arbitrators in a position of much difficulty, because obligation for a non-fulfilment of which redress could be claimed, presupposed a prior existing law, under which a right existed on the one side, and a corresponding obligation on the other. But here they had to deal with obligations assumed to have existed prior to the Treaty, yet arising out of a supposed law created for the present time by the Treaty itself. His Lordship further ob-served— It was to be regretted that the whole subject-matter of this great contest, in law as well as in fact, was not left to be decided by the Arbitrators according to the true principles of International Law at the time when those alleged causes of complaint were said to have arisen. The Government, in fact, committed a double mistake. The first was that of rendering this country liable under an ex post facto law, and the relinquishing of the impregnable position which they had occupied, and which might have been maintained with perfect justice and in entire accordance with everything due to the honour of this country; the second—an inconceivable blunder on their part—was the notion that by doing so, they were generating a strong feeling of friendship between the two countries. One result of the course they had taken would be to tempt other nations to insult this country and claim damages against it, seeing how easily we yielded in the case to be tried by laws framed for the purpose, and it appeared that the Government could leave done nothing snore likely to engender bad blood between England and the United States, than this very concession on their part. It was better to speak out plainly than to use the wretched subterfuges, the unmeaning expressions of friendship, adopted by Governments when hostile feelings really existed, and in that view he was supported by a remarkable book written by Mr. Caleb Cushing, in which that gentleman stated that there was in the United States not only a strong feeling of animosity against England, but likewise a feeling of triumph at the victory obtained by the Government of the former over that of the latter. The latter feeling was very natural, for it was a great victory so to have arranged matters that we had been mulcted of £3,200,000, for acts which did not make us indebted to them one shilling, and the excuse for the writer's tone of undue triumph was, that he was unfortunately a native of a country with Republican institutions, so that the high and chivalrous feeling prevailing in diplomatic matters in older and monarchical countries could not be looked for. As to his attack on the Lord Chief Justice of England, no man was better able to defend himself than that eminent gentleman, and his high character and position could never be affected by the attacks of a writer of so unworthy a book. With regard to Her Majesty's Government, the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Treasury (Mr. Glyn), a man of ability, thoroughly acquainted with their proceedings, and probably speaking under their orders, had told his constituents that the object in paying the money was to avert hostilities with America. Such a statement was degrading to the country, holding out an inducement to the United States to make other demands on us; and, as he presumed, our temper and forbearance had some limits, we might eventually be forced into a war which would have been avoided had the Government possessed the common sense and courage to say—"We owe you nothing, and will pay you nothing." The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, too, had expressed a hope that we should often be called upon a similar award; in other words, he hoped that England would again be degraded, and a large sum squandered in meeting unjust claims. Whatever the feeling of the people as to the honour of the country, the Government appeared indifferent to it. Instead of carrying on long negotiations and almost petitioning America to waive the Indirect Claims, the Government ought, the moment they were preferred, to have broken off negotiations, and insisted on starting de novo, and seeing whether one country was indebted to the other or not. What, moreover, had become of the counter claims of English subjects in connection with the Alabama depredations? [Viscount ENFIELD: They are going on.] That was no explanation on the part of Her Majesty's Government. They ought to have formed part of the Case before the Arbitrators. Why had they not been submitted to arbitration. [Viscount ENFIELD: They have been.] Then, why were they not set off against the £3,200,000? Why pay that sum first, and settle those claims afterwards? Again, the Government professed a wish to maintain the connection with Canada, though they had ingeniously put themselves in a position of inability to protect her. He wanted to know why they had heard nothing on the subject of the Fenian Raids into Canada, which, according to the accounts given in the newspapers at the time, were owing to the negligence of the United States Government, at least quite as much as the escape of those vessels from our ports was owing to the negligence of our Government? If we still held to the connection between this country and Canada, why was the grievance of Canada entirely lost sight of? Was that also to conciliate the goodwill and friendship of the United States? Was there no sense of shame left in this country? Did the Government think the Canadians were blind or indifferent to those facts, and would not conclude, either that we had not the courage, or had not the power to protect them? On what grounds were the claims against England submitted to arbitration, while those counter claims were still under discussion? Further, he wanted to know what was the state of the negotiations between this country and the United States with respect to the damage inflicted on Canada by the Fenian Raids, resulting in a large loss of property and a considerable loss of life. He contended that the honour of a great country ought never to be submitted to arbitration. A country which was not in a position to say what were its own liabilities and what was due to its own honour was no longer able to call itself a great Power; and the mere fact of our having sanctioned the principle of arbitration was a blow to our national honour. He brought that question forward in no party spirit. He believed Her Majesty's Opposition were as culpable as the Government, because it was their duty to have raised a discussion on that subject in the earlier part of those transactions. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote), whose good faith in that matter no one doubted, was there to speak for himself; but Her Majesty's Opposition in a body were absent, and therefore he said they had shown a most lamentable indifference to what was due to the honour and interest of this country. In conclusion, he must say that he trusted he should be followed by those who were more competent to deal with the question than he was; but having carefully, and to the best of his ability, studied that question, he believed there could not be found in the records of any country in the world such a marvellous monument of human folly, or such a signal instance of national degradation, as was presented in that transaction.


thought that, although the payment of that money was a foregone conclusion, it was well that the country should have before it the circumstances under which that liability was incurred. The hon. Member then traced the course of the negotiations from the beginning, as given in the official Correspondence, and expressed his belief that if Her Majesty's Government had adhered to the line originally adopted by Lord Derby and Lord Clarendon, and insisted on a clear basis being laid down for any Treaty which might be concluded, much of the difficulty and the unfriendly discussion which had occurred between the two countries would have been avoided. The eagerness with which the Government had entered into the negotiations must have led the Americans to suppose that we were willing to accept terms less favourable than had been before insisted on, and therefore they proposed to raise them. He also thought it much to be regretted that the full powers and confidence which, according to the terms of their appointment, were to be given to the Commissioners, were not ultimately reposed in them. The Government had hurried them off, and when they refused, as was natural and proper, to accept the proposals of the American Commissioners, the Government repudiated that sensible decision, and assented to principles upon which all these liabilities had arisen. He thought no man of any legal experience in that House could remember a case in which an ex post facto law had been employed to control an antecedent state of things. He should have been ashamed of himself, and should deserve to lose any professional reputation he might possess, if he had ever consented to such a settlement. It was not only an unprecedented but a monstrous settlement, and he thought the House should enter its decided protest against the principles on which it was based.


said, he saw the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) in his place, and he should like him to explain what up to this time had never been explained, and that was—why the surrender of General Lee was taken to be the end of the war, after which no claim on behalf of British subjects was allowed to be brought forward? Now, the surrender of General Lee was not the end of the war, because three Confederate armies were in the field for weeks afterwards, and damage was done to British property after the date of the surrender. Surely, the proper end of the war ought to have been taken from the period fixed by the American Courts in dealing with cases amongst their own subjects. He could not help thinking that the Americans got the better of us in the late negotiations, with regard to that portion of the subject. The noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Viscount Enfield) had been asked whether British claims arising out of the Alabama depredations were to be considered, and he replied that they were going on; the noble Lord, however was mistaken, for the claims now under consideration at Washington were not British claims arising from Alabama depredations, but counter claims for a totally different thing. But the question at issue was not confined to the destruction of American ships and goods by the Alabama; and he regretted to find that while the Government were going to pay America over £3,000,000 for the damages inflicted on American subjects by the Alabama, yet they were not going to pay for the damages sustained by British subjects. The Alabama burnt a number of vessels in which British cargoes were stowed. He had heard of an instance in which an American ship loaded with British goods of the value of £5,000, belonging to a constituent of his, having been boarded by Captain Semmes, the captain of the ship had informed him that the goods in the vessel were British and not American, and showed him the papers signed by the British Consul. Whereupon Captain Semmes said, he knew that very well; but, nevertheless, he told his lieutenant to take out of the ship what he wanted and then to burn her, which was accordingly done. If we were obliged to pay for damages sustained by the Americans by reason of the conduct of the Alabama, why were we not equally bound to pay for the damages sustained by our own subjects by reason of the acts of that vessel? He had that night asked for the production of the Opinion of the Law Officers, in which they had enunciated that doctrine; and he was sorry it was not produced, for the position of the Government in the matter appeared to him to be untenable. He was not influenced by the fact that the Law Officers of the Crown had advised Her Majesty's Government not to accede to these claims on the part of the British owners who had sustained losses by the Alabama, because he was aware that the opinion of counsel was largely influenced by the manner in which a case was laid before them. The present state of this question was most unsatisfactory, and these claims could not be allowed to remain unsettled. As for the American claims, which had been awarded by the Geneva Arbitration, we must pay the money, and he could not agree that in so doing we should, as had been suggested by some hon. Members, undergo any degradation.


expressed his approval of the principle of arbitration as a means of settling international disputes, although there were some points in the negotiations that had occurred between ourselves and America which he did not approve on account of the loose manner in which they had been conducted. At the same time it must be remembered that this was the first occasion when the principle was applied to the affairs of two great nations, and that the circumstances were of a highly complicated character. There was therefore nothing to cause discouragement in the fact that difficulties had arisen in the course of such a transaction. He trusted that the Government would pay the whole of the sum awarded to America by the Geneva Tribunal out of the revenue of the current year, as it was possible that our finances might not remain in so prosperous a condition as they were at present. He objected to the ex post facto Rules that had been agreed to as the foundation of the Geneva Award, and regretted that the language of the Lord Chief Justice, when acting as our Arbitrator, should have been censured by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, instead of being supported by Her Majesty's Government. Another matter to be regretted was, that the Government had not been more urgent in reference to the Fenian Raids; and there was this still further cause for regret, that the Arbitrators were not allowed to choose an intermediate channel at San Juan. The fact that this channel was not navigable appeared to him an argument in favour of it as a desirable boundary. He rejoiced in the fact that the Arbitration had been submitted to, as it had produced a very friendly feeling between the two countries, and had put an end to all present danger of ruptures between England and America. These dangers were past; he hoped there were no dangers to come. But he was not free from fear lest the settlement, satisfactory as it might seem at the moment, should ultimately prove the cause of grave complications in international relations.


said, that until quite recently he had thought it would be well that this Vote should be allowed to pass without comment. But, of course, it was open to any hon. Member of the House to take—and, perhaps, not unlikely that some hon. Members would take—the opportunity, when this Vote came on, of challenging the whole question; and he himself certainly would not be at all disposed to find any fault with his hon. Friend the Member for West Norfolk (Mr. G. Bentinck), either for having called attention to the subject, or on account of the general character of the remarks which, from the point of view he had taken, he had thought fit to make. He himself, however, should not have taken part in this discussion but for the pointed references made to him by one or two speakers, and especially the question which had been put to him by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson). He must really ask the indulgence of the House for anything he might say on this matter. He felt that he was in a position of very great difficulty. He accepted the appointment—the very honourable appointment—of one of the Commissioners in 1871, at the request of a Government with which he was not connected, for the purpose of carrying through what he believed then, and what he still believed, to be a work of great national importance. He found himself with Colleagues officially connected with the Government, and who, of course, had much greater authority than himself on matters in which the sentiments of the Government were concerned. And the Commissioners as a body found themselves in this remarkable position—which, probably, never had been the position of any other nego- tiators in a matter of similar importance—they were at the end of a telegraph wire, every stage in their proceedings was reported home, and they received from time to time communications from Her Majesty's Government which, although they had plenipotentiary powers, they felt themselves bound to obey. The consequence was that the negotiations were conducted with great difficulty. He had never disguised from himself the fact that parts of the negotiations had not been so thoroughly and satisfactorily settled as he thought they might have been, if the negotiations could have been conducted in another manner. With reference to the question which the hon. Member for Glasgow had put to him, he was sorry to say he was not able to give him as satisfactory an answer as he ought to give. He violated no confidence, however, in telling him what really did occur. On the original draft of the Articles to which the hon. Member referred, it was pressed on one side that compensation should be made for claims for loss to British subjects which had occurred during the recent rebellion in the United States. On the other side, the British Commissioners did not like the phrase "Rebellion;" they preferred the phrase "Civil War," and there was a very animated discussion between the two bodies of Commissioners on the question whether the word "Rebellion," or the words "Civil War," ought or ought not to be admitted into the Treaty. They were very near the end of their proceedings, and as it was very hard to get over the difficulty, a suggestion was made, he thought, at the last Conference, that the difficulty might be got over—neither side being willing to waive a particular expression—by inserting dates which would cover the period that was intended. The suggestion was adopted, and dates inserted. For himself, he was ashamed to say that he did not—whatever others might have done—take particular notice whether the last date that was given really did coincide with the termination of the war or not. But it was his full belief that it did, and he believed it was everybody's idea that it made no difference at all. He believed there was no intention of making the period less than was originally intended by both parties. However, if the changing a word in the original clause had the effect of ex- cluding parties who otherwise would have been entitled, he, for one, was very sorry. He did not know whether that was so or not. He doubted whether any claims had been excluded that would have been admitted if a later date had been taken. That was the history of the case. With regard to the matter generally, he would rather leave it to the Government to define, if it was necessary to define, the precise terms of the Treaty, because the terms were altered from time to time. They assented to the terms which were proposed; and with regard to expressions which had been criticized, they were really more expressions of Her Majesty's Government than of the Commissioners. But this he wished to say with reference to the agreement generally. Both now, and on other occasions, the Treaty had been spoken of as something derogatory to the honour of Great Britain. That was a view which, if it was a correct one, would reflect great discredit not only upon the Government that negotiated it, but also upon all who in any way took part in it. He thought the way in which the Treaty was spoken of in that and in the other House when it was first laid before Parliament, showed that at all events those who were responsible for the negotiation could not and would not admit that in the very slightest degree they had been parties to any measure of national humiliation. He hoped he could speak of this matter irrespective of any personal connection with the proceeding. He hoped that he could look upon it as an independent Englishman and a Member of the Legislature; and he would say this—that whether or not the arrangement which was made was altogether the best that could have been made—which question he left aside—the arrangement was made with a strict regard to what was believed to be by those who negotiated the Treaty the honour and the real interests of England. With regard to the particular point brought forward by his hon. Friend the Member for West Norfolk, he must say distinctly that it would have been quite impossible for the English Commissioners to have accepted the Rules originally suggested by the American Commissioners, but that the Rules which were ultimately adopted went very little beyond what he believed was acknowledged to have been International Law at the time when the Act of 1870 was under discussion, and moreover that the Rules embodied principles coinciding very closely with principles on which Lord Russell and the Government of the day professed themselves willing to act; and therefore he (Sir Stafford Northcote) could not admit that the Commissioners took an ex post facto view of the case. At the same time the expression in the Treaty, to the effect that Her Majesty's Government did not admit these Rules to have been rules of International Law at the time, was one which he did not like, and was fitted to produce the misunderstanding which had since arisen. If anybody would read the decision of the Arbitrators, he would find that with the exception of the Lord Chief Justice, they held that the Rules as they stood added nothing to International Law; and upon the merits of the general question, even if these Rules had not been laid down, the decision of the majority would have been precisely the same as it was. The Lord Chief Justice, on the other hand, would have decided that we had not committed any violation of International Law, as it was understood before the Rules were laid down. But then, the judgment of the Lord Chief Justice upon the facts of the case would have been, that we had not exercised that vigilance which we ought to have exercised, and which Lord Russell in his despatches at the time always expressed himself desirous of exercising. That position would have been a most unpleasant one, and it was far better, then, that we should have endeavoured before going to arbitration to come to an understanding with the United States as to what we really wished, for the sake of this country and of civilized countries generally, should be held to be International Law for the future. Well, then, what was the substance of those Three Rules? The substance of the Three Rules, their intent and animus, was to prevent, for the future, that which we endeavoured to prevent, but entirely failed in preventing when the Alabama escaped. There was no country more interested than our own in preventing the sending out of privateers or vessels of that character from neutral ports. We believed that the great object to be gained by means of this settlement was not so much to obviate a quarrel with America, as to get a good rule for the future, which should free commerce from the dangers to which it had been exposed. He moreover wished it to be understood, that it was on every account most desirable that that sort of ill-feeling which had been engendered between the two countries should be set at rest; not that there was any idea whatever of this matter leading to a war between the two countries, but what it would lead to was obvious enough in the negotiations about a wholly different matter. In the case of the Canadian Fisheries, upon which it was most important that there should be a good understanding between the two countries, we found that a sort of soreness which was felt by the Americans really prevented practical and good arrangements being made. Therefore, it was most important that good relations should be restored between the two countries, and the whole scope, spirit, and tendency of the Treaty of Washington was to establish such relations, and to lay down satisfactory Rules with respect to commerce for the future. He did not deny that what had happened since had been in many respects unsatisfactory. Reference had been made to discussions of last year, which we all viewed with great pain, and which we should be happy, so far as possible, to forget. He, however, was not at all anxious that we should huddle up and put certain misunderstandings out of sight, for it was much better if we thought there was anything wrong in the language used by the Americans, as, for instance, last year, with respect to the Indirect Claims, or recently, with regard to any indications that might have been given as to the result of the Arbitration, that these matters should be temperately and fairly discussed, and cleared up, if possible. Having gone so far, therefore, it would be a great pity if we allowed ourselves to stop short of a clear and satisfactory arrangement of this question of International Law; and though seine few persons in America, in a prominent position, had uttered expressions which he thought deserved the reprobation they had received in this country, he believed the great mass of the Americans themselves felt quite as much annoyance and sorrow that such pretensions should have been put forward. The House was now about to pass this Vote, and it was really no matter of regret that some discussion should have occurred upon it; but he hoped that the House and the country would feel that we ought not to allow any sense of having been losers by the Arbitration, or in some respects not having been met in the way we hoped, to interfere with our passing it in a cordial manner. It was for the interest of this country and of the civilized world generally that we should be on cordial relations with America, and he believed that these relations could only be maintained on two conditions—the one that we should be uniformly courteous and considerate in our dealings with them, and the other that we should not be afraid to speak out plainly, when we thought that they were, as they sometimes were, in the wrong.


said, he did not grudge any money we had to pay on account of the Alabama, because he believed our Government made a great mistake in not taking more effectual measures to prevent the escape of that vessel. He was very much of opinion, however, that other countries besides America—France, for instance—had suffered from the depredations of the Alabama, and he was afraid that we should be called upon to pay their losses also. There were certain of our own countrymen who suffered losses in the War, and although the Law Officers of the Crown asserted the non-liability of our Government to pay these losses, he very much doubted whether the assertion, though it might be based upon strict law, could be considered to be based on national justice or on natural justice. If compensation were paid to the foreigner for his ship, surely the subject should be compensated for the cargo carried in that ship. In these remarks he was looking forward to another question that must arise—namely, how far the Arbitration in which we had engaged rendered us liable to further extension of our liability. If the effect of an Arbitration upon a neutral Power was to render that Power liable to every species of loss, then every Power that was injured ought to be re-imbursed for the loss which it had incurred. Unless that were so, no great Power would in future resort to arbitration. If we believed the plan of arbitration to be the method by which we were to get rid of all wars, and find ourselves in halcyon days, he doubted whether the advantages of arbitration had not been overrated.


Sir, It would have been advantageous if this Vote had been agreed to without discussion, but still I cannot complain that hon. Members have taken this opportunity of expressing their views upon it, and certainly I cannot complain of the course taken by the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. G. Bentinck). On the contrary, I am bound to tender the hon. Member and his Friends my thanks for the very considerate manner in which they have conducted the discussion. I desire, in the first place, to disclaim, on the part of the Government, all responsibility for the expressions which have been ascribed to the hon. Member for Shaftesbury (Mr. Glyn), and I must also take exception to the hon. Gentleman's view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's feeling on this subject. The hon. Gentleman seems to think the Chancellor of the Exchequer exults in opportunities for throwing away £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 of surplus, and feels it to be in the nature of absolute relief. Liberal and open-handed as my right hon. Friend is, I do not think he would carry his generosity to such a degree of extravagance; and as regards the hon. Member for Shaftesbury, I do not think he made use of the expressions that are put into his mouth by the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps, however, it is not necessary to enter into these matters, which are really by-gones, but as regards the Treaty of Washington, I consider the observations made upon it have been stated with perfect fairness, though on the other hand, the hon. Gentleman says it was a great and capital blot on the Government of this country, that the Washington Treaty was not set aside when the Indirect Claims were preferred. That opinion I cannot regard as either absurd or extravagant, but I must say it is unsound. The question in a great measure depended upon the presumption of good faith. One party thought the Claims within the scope of the engagement, and the other considered they were not. It was impossible in our view to conceive of a more gigantic error than was made by the American Government in importing the Indirect Claims into the Treaty, for as was shown by the documents of the British Government, they were so enormous, that it was incredible anybody could seriously advance them. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) has stated that they were estimated at £100,000,000, and in my reply to that right hon. Gentleman, I have stated that the description was, I believed, within the mark. In fact, it was difficult to limit the number of millions to which these Claims extended, but the question is, were they advanced in good faith? If we could have shown they were advanced in bad faith, then we should have been justified in withdrawing from the Treaty altogether; but some allowance ought to be made. We have been blamed for not having used forensic statements and arguments, but such weapons have their dangers as well as their advantages. We were bound to give credit to the American Government for the same good faith as we ourselves were actuated by. If we had done what the hon. Gentleman complains was not done, we should have exposed ourselves to the most serious charges of having tampered with those principles of honour and truth which I am sure he would be the first to deplore. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that the honour of this country should never be submitted to arbitration. That is a sound doctrine, but the honour of the country has not been challenged. I am of opinion that the honour of a country should never be submitted to arbitration. It may be said that Lord Russell thought that the honour of the country had been challenged; but I feel sure that the Governments which succeeded those of Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell did not proceed upon that view, or that the honour of the country should be submitted to arbitration. Indeed, if the question had been the truth of a charge of wilful departure from national obligation, we should never have thought of going to arbitration. There are, however, some on the other side of the Atlantic who believe the neutrality of the British Government was insincere, and that it was challenged on that account, but we did not go to arbitration on that ground. The question whether a Government's subordinates had exercised all the care and diligence the case required, was a question quite apart from the honour and intentions of the Government, and that was the question sub- milted. Then the hon. Gentleman asks why the Arbitrators decided upon the Claims of the United States before they considered the British Claims against the United States? The hon. Gentleman is in error in supposing it was intended to give such precedence, or that precedence was actually given to the Alabama Claims over private claims. The Alabama Claims were public claims, arising between the two Governments; the other Claims were made by citizens of the United States against the British Government. The arbitration upon these private claims undoubtedly lasted much longer than the Arbitration at Geneva, and no wonder; because whereas at Geneva, there were only a small number of questions for decision, the cases for decision at Washington are exceedingly numerous, and may be counted by hundreds, if not even by a larger figure, and so far from there having been delay in carrying these cases to arbitration, as compared with the Alabama Claims, the arbitration upon the private claims at Washington began long before the proceedings at Geneva. They began, I think, in October, 1871, and have since been conducted with as much expedition as it was in the power of the Commissioners to use. Then the hon. Gentleman refers to the Fenian Raids, and complains that they were not included in the Treaty of Washington, founding upon this complaint, the further observation that a great wrong was thereby done to Canada, and must be felt by our fellow-subjects in the Dominion. Now, the conclusion at which the Government arrived was, that it was not part of their duty to insist that the Fenian Raids should be made subjects of discussion and settlement along with the other matters included in the Treaty. It would, however, be a mistake to suppose that the Government on that account forfeited their title to bring forward claims arising out of the Fenian Raids, and nothing has at any time been said or done by the Government to weaken their title to claim compensation from the United States on account of the Fenian Raids. The only question we decided was, as to the propriety, or at any rate the necessity, of mixing up the consideration of this subject with the other questions included in the Treaty. It is quite true that the Government have made a separate claim upon the United States in the matter of the Fenian Raids; but that fact does not bear upon the credit or the discredit of the Treaty. The Treaty of Washington did not surrender, and did not include these claims.


Why did it not include them?


I need not now go back to the considerations which influenced the decision of the Government, because Parliament knew well what our decision was, and did not press us to include in the Treaty the question of the Fenian Raids; and I say that that claim, whatever it may be, suffered no prejudice whatever from the proceedings in connection with the Treaty, but stood upon its own merits after, as it did before, the conclusion of the Treaty. Then, again, Sir, I wish to remove an entire misapprehension—that the non-inclusion of this claim in the Treaty was a wrong done to Canada. The question as regards Canada was a question of money. Canada was informed by the British Government that we were perfectly ready to recognize her claim for the damage done by the Fenian Raids; and the Canadians, so far from being discontented, appeared by no means disinclined to entertain that view of the matter. The losses they suffered were fully discussed between the Government of the Dominion and this country, and the question of a money payment was considered, but the views of the Canadians rather inclined to a different form of compensation. It finally resolved itself into an Imperial guarantee for the purposes of a great work in the Dominion; and the Canadian Government recognized this guarantee as in full satisfacfaction of any losses sustained through the Fenian Raids. The hon. Member, then, should bear in mind that the Canadian Government had nothing to complain of in the shape of pecuniary losses from Fenian Raids, for which they had received ample compensation—and I apprehend that they think so too. Further, Canada herself had a far greater interest than any other part of the Empire in the conclusion of the Treaty of Washington. The Fishery question alone continually menaced the peace of Canada. No doubt, it also menaced the relations of this country and the United States; but Canada had the most direct and vital interest in the speedy and complete set- tlement of all these questions. So far, then, from admitting that the Treaty of Washington ought to be a subject of dissatisfaction in Canada, or that it is a. subject of dissatisfaction there, I believe that the Canadian people do not view the Treaty at all in the same light as the hon. Member, and that great satisfaction prevailed throughout the Dominion at the settlement of these alarming and menacing differences. Let me, further, remind the hon. Member that Canada possesses a free and effective Parliamentary Government, and that Government has had its conduct tested since the Treaty was concluded. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire has paid a just tribute to a distinguished Member of the Canadian Ministry whose recent loss we all deplore; and the test applied at the elections to the conduct of the Government has been to give it the approval, and not the disapproval, of the people of the Dominion. The hon. Gentleman the Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory) has stated that Her Majesty's Government repudiated the acts of their Commissioners. He has nothing upon which to found this extraordinary statement, except a passage in the published Correspondence, in which the Commissioners stated that they were limited by their instructions in a certain matter, and that with regard to a demand made by the American Commissioners, they would refer it home for the instructions of their Government. The question was referred home, and the effect of the reference home was a modification of the ground previously taken by the British Commissioners under their instructions, but that does not give the smallest colour to the assertion of the hon. Gentleman that the British Government repudiated the act of their own Commissioners. A point of greater importance was his statement, that the fatal error of the negotiations was, that we allowed our conduct to be judged by an ex post facto law, and that, in consequence of such assent on our part, the country has been not only condemned to pay a very large sum of money, but likewise stands discredited and dishonoured by the condemnation. Now, I agree with the hon. Gentleman—if our liability for this payment accrues in consequence of any gross error of that kind, the payment does in itself imply a great deal of discredit, as well as mere pecuniary loss. But we do not admit the main proposition of the hon. Gentleman; we deny that we consented to be judged by an ex post facto law. There are various points to be considered in this connection. First, was the Award made at Geneva either in whole or in part due to the operation of the Three Rules? [Mr. GREGORY: Hear, hear!] The hon. Member evidently thinks it was; I do not presume to say that the declarations made at Geneva give us the means of saying with absolute certainty that it was not, but the opinion of many of those who are most competent to judge, and who have most carefully and completely mastered the effect of the whole proceedings at Geneva is, that the Three Rules did not either in whole or in part bring about the Award; that if the Three Rules had not been included in the Treaty the Award would have been the same; and that the Award depended upon the Arbitrators' view of the obligations of International Law, not upon the principles embodied in the Three Rules.


The right hon. Gentleman will remember that the words "due diligence" run through the decision of the Arbitrators.


That is perfectly true, but it is also perfectly immaterial. What can be more trivial or indefinite than the stress laid here upon the words "due diligence!" They are quoted as if they involved some new and unheard-of principle. But surely it is mere matter of course—the mere A B C of international duty—that whenever obligations are cast upon a State, duo diligence—that is to say, common ordinary care, must be shown in the discharge of those obligations. But suppose that the Three Rules were responsible, as I do not admit they were, for the Award, did we on that account suffer any injustice? Were they, as regards us, an ex post facto law? I say, they were not. We deemed that they formed part of the International Law at the time the Claims arose, but we never denied that they constituted part of our own obligation. We had a municipal law, the execution of which we ourselves recognized as part of our duty to America, and the true construction of which, though it was not admitted in the Courts, was in strict accordance with the terms of the Three Rules. It was the standard of duty we ourselves set up for ourselves, although we had not taken it as part of the International Law. It was not, therefore, an ex post facto law so far as regards us, but a new form of expression given to that which we had recognized as part of our own duty. Why was that form of expression used? Because the great advantage of this proceeding was to make some approximation to the International Law of the future, and we knew that the concurrence of those two great countries would be a great step achieved towards the incorporation of those Rules in the general Code which binds nations together. Therefore, I hope the hon. Gentleman will, at least, understand that to be our view. We, in no degree, admitted them to be an ex post facto law. We look upon that as a vulgar error which widely prevails in the popular mind—prevails, at least, to some extent, and no wonder it should, when supported by authority so respectable as that of the hon. Gentleman, but it is one which for the sake of the common sense and intelligence of the country ought to be dispelled. Sir, the hon. Member for West Norfolk summed up all his difficulties and objections, by stating that we did not owe a shilling, and consequently had undergone humiliation and degradation without precedent by being placed in a position in which we have to pay a great deal. Probably we may all think that a severe view was taken of our case at Geneva. That is a sentiment which it is most natural we should entertain. But let us remember that we are not the most impartial judges in our own case, and that the Arbitrators have, at least the presumption of impartiality. We must also bear in mind that high authorities here, before arbitration, declared publicly that if arbitration resulted, we should have to pay a considerable sum. It is but fair to remember these things on behalf of Arbitrators to whom our obligations are admitted for having undertaken a case of such interest to us both. But suppose it is true that we have to pay more than a temperate, or perhaps I should rather say exact, view of our conduct would have awarded. At any rate, that excess is one which, although it tells against us for the moment, will tell in our favour in the long run. The interest of this country is in the strictness of the Code, not in its relaxation, and it is highly for our interest that the obligations of neutrals in regard to the escape of cruisers from their ports should be highly estimated, strictly defined, and rigidly enforced. We should, therefore, remember that whatever may be considered the undue strictness of this judgment—if there be undue strictness—it is certainly a fault not likely to be injurious to us, but the contrary, in the long run. But we must look a little higher than the precise question whether the Arbitrators exactly hit the mark. They accompanied their Judgment with a multitude of propositions which have become the subject of debate, but these are in our view the preamble of the sentence, and have no relation to the general law on the subject. The hon. Gentleman will not, I am sure, forget that if we look beyond the mere question of success and failure, there are important deductions to be borne in mind. Suppose the position of the two countries with respect to the Indirect Claims were reversed, and that the hon. Gentleman, instead of being, as he is, a patriotic Member of the House of Commons, was a patriotic Member of the American Congress. What would he have thought of the position of his own Government with respect to those Indirect Claims? Because he will bear in mind that the Indirect Claims were not waived. They were excluded, and therefore repelled not on the merits, but on principle, by the Arbitrators. I am endeavouring to find some soothing consideration for the hon. Gentleman. He will have the satisfaction of bearing in mind, also, that although we are going to pay a large sum, it is not the sum asked for by the Government of America at Geneva. Well, that is some consolation. The damages claimed were between £8,000,000 and £9,000,000, the damages given were between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000, a large sum certainly; but instead of voting $40,000,000 the hon. Member will have to vote only $15,000,000. In our view, whether in that respect the judgment is a right or accurate judgment, or whether some considerations may not have been pressed against us beyond what exactitude would warrant—that, in our view, is a very small matter. It is a small matter compared with the cost of war; it is a small matter compared with the value of the goodwill and the improved and peaceful relations subsisting, and happily likely to subsist, between this country and America. I have heard the criticism of my hon. Friend behind me upon the Government of America, and we are told that that Government is not in the right hands. Well, there are a great number of people who think that the Government of England is not in right hands. We ought not to rest the case too much upon criticisms of that sort. It is not easy to understand the entire spirit of the institutions of a country, and unless we do, criticisms upon particular features of them are apt to mislead. If it be true that there are many of the most illustrious citizens of America who do not hold public offices of responsibility; on the other hand, it is admittedly true, as we have seen in the case of the Trent and other cases, that the Executive Government in America does enjoy a very considerable independence, and it is, again, a purely vulgar error which prevails on this side of the water, to suppose that the pressure of the mob or the afflation of the moment governs as a matter of course the proceedings of the authorities in America. I believe that to be entirely wrong. I believe in the genial, cordial, good feeling of the bulk of the American people towards this nation, from which it springs. I believe, also, that whatever be the defects of the American institutions—and, of course, they are defective like our own and all others—they will suffice to give such expression to the good feeling of the American people as will powerfully tend to maintain good and cordial relations between the two countries. Sir, it is a great happiness to see this serious and menacing cause of alienation and estrangement, if not of war, removed by a great international arrangement. Naturally, we wished, as Englishmen, to win at Geneva—I did for one—probably all of us did; but any amount of disappointment we may feel at the result is but an inconsiderable deduction for the satisfaction attendant upon an arrangement which removes such causes of difference between two great countries like England and America, and does so much, as I contend, for mankind at large by the example it sets of a peaceful settlement of disputes as a substitute for the bloody arbitrament of war.


said, it had never been his lot to hear a statement more bewildering and unsatisfactory than that which had just been made by the Prime Minister, and he felt the House was indebted to his hon. Friend the Member for West Norfolk (Mr. G. Bentinck) for his courage in speaking the plain truth upon the Washington Treaty, when the subject was sought to be stifled by the occupants of from benches. Availing himself of this, the legitimate opportunity for a discussion upon the results of the Treaty, and before the usual answer of "You are too late" could be given, he desired to ask the Government and to press for their answer, what were their intentions with regard to the communication of the Three Rules to Foreign Powers? The policy of the Government, was in a state of uncertainty, extremely injurious to the maritime interests of this country; and it was absolutely incumbent upon the Government to announce, without further delay, whether an attempt was to be made to maintain these Rules, or whether they were to be dropped in ignominious silence. He was afraid that in this respect, as well as in all others, the Treaty would prove a failure—as a failure it was admitted to be—by Members of all parties except the occupants of the Treasury bench—and indeed they were by no means strong in any opinion to the contrary. But his main object in troubling the House at that late hour was to argue and maintain that the disasters which had occurred were due to the unconstitutional course pursued by the Government in not submitting this Treaty for the consideration and ratification of Parliament after it had been approved by the Cabinet on behalf of the Crown. A section of the House of whom the hon. Members for Warrington and Kirkcaldy were amongst the exponents, maintained the doctrine that all Treaties should be submitted to Parliament for ratification. He would give no opinion upon these views which, whether right or wrong, did not touch the Treaty of Washington, for this was a Treaty which was, by the leading principles of our constitution, under the control of Parliament, because the Crown, as of strict right, could in no case "engage to pay money" without the authority of the House of Commons. He had ventured to urge this point upon the Government so early as the Address in answer to the Queen's Speech last Session, when the First Minister admitting his (Mr. Bentinck's) case, urged that the Government— In concluding the Treaty on their own responsibility, had a right to assume that Parliament as well as the country approved the general principle of a reference of these unfortunate differences to impartial arbitration. But granting the right hon. Gentleman's argument, it failed to meet his (Mr. Bentinck's) objection, which applied, not to the general principle of arbitration, but to the particular principles established by this Treaty. The policy of the Government had been unconstitutional at the commencement, and unhappy and unfortunate in its termination, and was carried on, moreover, in distinct violation of all precedents, for it had never been assumed by the Crown in any similar case that Parliament would, as a matter of course, vote the money. He would cite two instances only in support of his argument. In 1815, when the Treaty by which the Russo-Dutch loan was guaranteed in pursuance of the Treaty of Vienna, an article expressly provided that the King would "engage to recommend to his Parliament" to pay the money. In 1857, when the Baltic Sound dues were altered, an article in the Treaty again provided that Her Majesty "engaged to recommend to her Parliament to pay;" and during the Session of that year a Resolution was submitted to the House by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for effectuating the provisions of the Treaty, and carried after no small opposition by the late Mr. Williams and other hon. Members below the gangway. If, in like manner, the Treaty of Washington had been constitutionally dealt with, Parliament would have jealously guarded the interests of the country, and advantageous results would have followed—the Three Rules would have been repudiated, we should have saved the Island of St. Juan, and what was of more importance, we should have obtained an impartial and efficient Arbitration. He could conceive no greater want of due diligence on the part of the Government than their assent to the nomination of the three independent Arbitrators who sat at Geneva. He would not for a moment cast any imputation upon them—he believed them to have discharged their duties with honesty, honour, and impartiality— but they were unfitted for their office by want of sufficient acquaintance with English law and the English language. The Prime Minister had that evening proved the ease against himself when he admitted that the judgment of the majority of the Arbitrators was formed independently of the Three Rules, for it was a matter of common notoriety that according to English law we could not have been held liable for a shilling, unless for the retrospective action of these Rules, and this was the ground upon which the Lord Chief Justice decided the single case of the Alabama against us. And yet, notwithstanding these considerations, the right hon. Gentleman said the Rules had no operation, and that whether adopted or not, we should still have had to pay the money. Was there ever a conclusion so preposterous? Had Parliament obtained its clue control, care would have been taken to nominate efficient Arbitrators, and the ordinary rule of a fair arbitration would have been followed by the appointment of an Umpire upon the well-known principle, "no umpire no arbitration," and thus additional security for a right decision would have been obtained. Allusion had been made to the professional career of the hon. Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory). He (Mr. Bentinck) would plainly say, that if that hon. Member, or any other solicitor, had in a private case submitted a similar question to similar arbitrators, he would have been open to the charge of simple idiocy, if not indeed to a charge of a more serious nature. The real secret of the transaction was that the Treaty and Arbitration were the creatures of political exigency—that they were adopted by the Government in the erroneous belief that the exploded doctrines of the late Mr. Cobden and of the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) still had hold upon the country. Therefore they were determined to secure peace at any price, no matter how ignominious the conditions. The truth of this view was established by the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote), who had with frankness and even simplicity, admittted that evening that he and his Colleagues sat, as High Commissioners, at the end of a telegraph wire, and that they derived all their inspirations from the Go- vernment, to one effect only—"Sign the Treaty whatever the terms imposed." He (Mr. Bentinck) was quite satisfied that the true opinion of the House, and the true opinion of the country, were adverse to the humiliating and un-English policy of the Government; but though their country had, by the machinations of the Manchester school, been degraded to the rank of a third-rate power, insomuch, as had been testified by the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson), that it was almost impossible for a British subject now to obtain relief against injury by a Foreign Power, he hoped and believed there might be better days in store, and that old England would again assert her strength and resume her position, in spite of the enmity and envy of other nations and the incapacity of her Government.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolution agreed to.