HC Deb 19 April 1875 vol 223 cc1224-8

Report brought up, and read as follows:— The Select Committee on Loans to Foreign States to whom it was referred to report to The House whether a Letter, professing to be written by M. Victor Herran, Honduras Minister in Paris, and addressed to the Right Honourable Robert Lowe, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Loans, was produced and read before the said Committee, and under what circumstances, and whether any Copy of the said Letter was communicated by or on behalf of the said Committee to 'The Times' and 'Daily News' Newspapers, or either of them;—Have considered the matters to them referred, and have agreed to the following Special Report: The Committee, on the 22nd March, examined Captain Bedford Pim, a Member of the House; during his examination certain questions were put and answered, as follows:— 'Q. 1899. And that loan was stopped, as I understand, by some action of the police?—A. If you like I will give you the particulars of that. 'Q. 1900. If you please?—A. M. Herran, the Minister Plenipotentiary of Honduras in Paris, and M. Pelletier, his son-in-law, through the bankers, Messrs. Dreyfus, Scheyer and Co., said that they would not agree to the loan being launched, unless I took care that they had, the one 40,000l. and the other 16,000l. That is a sort of thing that English sailors are not much accustomed to, and I am afraid that I used very strong language about it; but the result was that these two gentlemen, in their official capacity, applied to the French Government, and, Paris at that time being in a state of siege, the French Government signed an order for my arrest, and I was arrested upon that order, and put in prison for 46 hours. 'Q. 1958. But as trustee did you not see what became of the sum of 101,000l. which you received?—A. I will tell you at once that 70,000l. odd was spent as the dividend then due on the 1869 French loan. 'Q. 2020. But supposing it failed, as it did, you would not be able to got it?—A. Nobody dreamt it had failed. Who would dream that the Minister Plenipotentiary of Honduras in Paris, and his son-in-law the Consul General, would attempt to come to an English gentleman and make such stipulations as they did, for me to pay 40,000l. to the one and 16,000l. to the other, and that they would go (I will leave it to the Committee to judge the nature of such men) and inform the French Government that I was not the Special Commissioner of Honduras, although they knew perfectly well that I was; and the consequence was that I was thrown into prison, and the loan came to nothing, of course.' The Chairman, on the 8th April, laid before the Committee a letter signed by the said M. Herran, written in French, addressed to him from Paris, and received by the post. The following is a correct translation of the letter:— Paris, 7th April 1875. 'To the Eight Honourable Robert Lowe, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Loans, London. 'Sir, 'Absent from Paris more than a month, I returned only the day before yesterday, and could not at an earlier period reply to the attacks of Mr. Bedford Pim, which are reported in the journals, the 'Times' and the 'Daily News,' of the 23rd of March last. Although I am not fond of controversy, I cannot pass over in silence the false and calumnious allegations of Mr. Bedford Pim, who is unable to pardon me for having done my duty in preventing him from emitting a loan of 2,000,000l. in Paris, on the 26th of December 1872, under the false title of Special Commissioner of Honduras. I say 'false title' because he was never named by the Government, and, besides, the guarantees which he offered were illusory and without value, considering that the domains and forests, like all the other revenues of the State, were already hypothecated for the purposes of the first two loans, English and French, say for 3,000,000l. Mr. Bedford Pim declares that if I prevented the loan, it was because he was unwilling to consent to give me 40,000l. for myself, and 16,000l. for the Consul General, sums which we had caused to be demanded of him, says he, by the mediation of Messrs. Dreyfus Frères, the bankers, and he adds that if he did not consent to give this sum it was because such an act was alien from the habits of English sailors. I will ask Mr. Pim if the end he sought, to draw to himself from the savings of the French nation, without legal authorisation, 2,000,000l., is according to him one of the habits of English sailors. I leave to the Committee the decision on this point. 'The house of Dreyfus Frères, quoted by Mr. Pim, with the object of giving to his declaration an air of veracity, is not known to me. I defy him to prove that I have ever had direct or indirect relations with it. 'As to the charge of having denounced him to the French police to procure his imprisonment, there is no word of truth in it, but it suited Mr. Pim to present himself before his countrymen as a martyr. Encouraged by the marks of sympathy which he obtained at the London Tavern on the 10th of January 1873, when he roused his complaisant audience against me, he thought he could continue with impunity to play his rôle of calumniator against the agents who performed their duty strictly and honourably, and serve as the salaried instrument of those who ruined an international work calculated to render immense services to commerce all over the world—such is the part played by Mr. Pim. 'As to the 70,000l. sterling which Mr. Pim says he paid for the arrears of interest on the French loan with the funds coming from the English loan of 1870, that is impossible, seeing that the dividends of the French loan were always regularly paid with the money coming from the Paris loan, of which the following is a proof. '"In July 1870, Messrs. Bischoffsheim & Co. received in bonds and money the amount of the French loan, 28,808,800 francs, and Messrs. Waring Brothers, contractors, had received in March 1,543,275 francs, making in all, 30,352,075 francs, on undertaking to carry out the agreement come to between the Government of Honduras, Messrs. Bischoffsheim, and Warings, on the 2nd of July 1870. I write this to show that the declaration of Mr. Pim is erroneous on this part as on all others. 'That Mr. Pim did not remain longer in prison is through my intervention with His Excellency Lord Lyons, with whom I interested myself to bring him out on the day on which he wrote the letter enclosed. 'When Mr. Pim naively declares that he resigned his post as Special Commissioner of Honduras, because he could not obtain my dismissal from the Government, that proves that my Government did never nominate him, but had estimated him at his true value. Besides the official decree of the 1st of March 1873, of the President, approves my conduct, and declares that Mr. Pim has never been Special Commissioner, and that no one had the power or right to appoint him. 'I believe I have sufficiently refuted the defamatory and calumnious attacks of Mr. Bedford Pim, and counting on your well-known impartiality, I have the honour to beg you to cause my letter to he published in 'The Times' and the 'Daily News.' Accept the assurances of, &c. 'Victor Herran, 'Honduras Minister in Paris. 'P.S.—If you should desire other information, I shall make it my duty to furnish it to you. I put myself entirely at your disposal.' The letter sent by Captain Pim from his place of detention was enclosed, and was also read. It ran as follows:— 'Excellency,—I have been arrested and am in prison. I come to beg your Excellency to take the necessary steps to prove that I am the Special Commissioner, which appears to be put in some doubt in the order for my arrest. That an English officer of rank and a gentleman should not remain in this place one moment longer will be sufficient cause, I am sure, for the kindness of your Excellency in causing my immediate liberation. Although I have not the honour to know your Excellency personally, I have the hope that you will act in this affair without delay, if only in the interests of Honduras, of which I am Special Commissioner, and which cannot suffer the indignity of my being one instant detained in an ordinary prison. 'Bedford Pim.' This letter had been communicated to Lord Lyons. This letter was orally translated into English by Mr. Kirkman Hodgson, a Member of the Committee, in presence of the public. After the letter had been thus publicly read, the reporters of 'The Times' and 'Daily News' applied to the Chairman, in writing, to be allowed to see the original letter, in order to correct their report. The Chairman, acting on behalf of the Committee, gave directions that the reporters should see the letter in the Committee Room, but should not take it away. No similar application was made by the reporters of any other newspapers. The reporters were allowed to see the letter, because, if published, it was better that it should appear in a correct form. As the letter of M. Herran was in substance a denial of the very serious charges contained in the evidence of Captain Pim reported above your Committee are of opinion that it would have been unjust to the Minister of Honduras, in Paris, to have suppressed his denial of the charges so brought against him, and thus to lead to the inference that they were not capable of contradiction. 19 April 1875.

Report ordered to lie upon the Table, and to be printed.



gave Notice that to-morrow (Tuesday), he would ask the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, Whether he intended to make any Motion on the Report of the Foreign Loans Committee which has just been presented by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the London University? and, if the answer of the right hon. Gentleman were in the negative, he should take the liberty of asking the opinion of the House on the question of Privilege and as to the contents of that Report.