HC Deb 04 May 1875 vol 224 cc42-8

moved— That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that, having regard to the extent and prolongation of the Civil War in Spain and the interests connected with this country therein involved, the belligerent rights of that portion of the Spanish population who maintain in their provinces the claims of Don Carlos to the throne of Spain be recognized by Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Gentleman observed, that the recognition of the belligerent rights of the Carlists was worthy of the consideration of the House, and in urging such a step on the Government he would briefly review the history of the struggle in Spain. Three years ago, while the Duke of Aosta reigned at Madrid, the Carlists raised in the North of Spain the flag of their legal and recognized King, Don Carlos. The movement was commenced by a handful of volunteers in the mountains of Catalonia and Biscay; but now the Carlist Army numbered 75,000 well-trained, well-disciplined, and well-armed men, having at their command from 180 to 190 pieces of artillery. This was a significant fact which could not be ignored in the consideration of this subject. Again, Don Carlos had not an army only, but likewise a thoroughly organized Government in the North of Spain which directed and utilized the resources of that part of the country. Thus a new Power had sprung up in Europe, small indeed as regarded territory, but powerful enough to resist the attacks of its enemies. The relations between the Powers of Europe and this new country were of such an uncertain and doubtful character that they had threatened to disturb the general peace of the Continent. England, as a maritime Power, had much to do with the new kingdom, because it consisted not only of large inland portions of Spain, but it was master of a considerable coast line and several seaports. The Government at Madrid was virtually powerless to prevent our commerce from suffering serious injury. Several vessels while endeavouring to enter Bilbao had been fired at, because they would not recognize the Carlist authority, and he might mention particularly the cases of the Caroline, an English steamer, and the Gustav, a German vessel. The question before the House involved, therefore, matters of great interest to British merchants. It might naturally be asked what had the Carlist movement done, and what had it achieved to establish a right to be recognized? He would answer that the movement had, notwithstanding all the agencies brought to work against it, existed for three years, and not only had it existed, but it had increased materially in strength. On the other hand, what could they say of the Madrid Governments which had attempted in vain to put down this movement? In comparing the Carlist Government and the Madrid Governments, it would be found that while the same men had remained at the direction of the Carlist movement throughout the three years of its existence, the Government at Madrid had constantly been changed. There were many reasons why the Government of Don Carlos should be recognized, and one was that the various Governments at Madrid had virtually recognized it.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


resumed: The Government of Castelar had virtually recognized the Carlists as belligerents by exchanging prisoners with them, and the Carlists were regarded by the Spanish Government, not as insurgents, but as a Power actually at war with it. Even at a very recent date prisoners had been exchanged between the contending parties under a treaty. The Carlists had an army as strong as we had in the United Kingdom. Their bravery had won the administration even of their enemies. Vattel laid down the dictum that when an insurrectionary Power had assumed such dimensions as to utterly debar the Government of the country from acting within certain limits, it was the duty of foreign Powers to recognize the so-called insurgent Power as far as the protection of life and property in that country was concerned. England had over and over again acted upon that principle, and, taking into consideration the facts that the Government at Madrid had failed to give peace to Spain, that the Carlist King, Don Carlos, had an Army of 75,000 strong, and that the Basque Provinces were virtually a new kingdom, ruled by a regularly organized Government, it became necessary that other Powers having commercial interests in Spain should recognize the Carlists. In conclusion, the hon. Member said, he thought he had shown good grounds for presenting his case to the consideration of the House, and therefore he begged to move his Resolution.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that, having regard to the extent and prolongation of the Civil War in Spain and the interests connected with this Country therein involved, the belligerent rights of that portion of the Spanish population who maintain in their provinces the claims of Don Carlos to the throne of Spain be recognised by Her Majesty's Government."—(Mr. O'Clery.)


said, interesting as the subject was, he did not intend to trespass upon the attention of the House for more than a few moments, because he knew they were anxious to consider the other matters that were on the Notice Paper. The question of the period at which belligerent States should be recognized by neutral and friendly States was doubtless one of a very interesting character; but, at the same time, it was a question concerning which it was almost impossible to lay down any general principles. What Mr. Canning said in 1825 had always been recognized as authoritative respecting the belligerency of certain States, and remained true at the present time—namely, that it was a question of fact rather than of principle, and depended entirely upon certain circumstances of each individual case. The first and main question to be considered in cases of this kind was, whether it was necessary that we should recognize a portion of the population of another country as belligerents? He listened with great attention and expectation to the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, because he perceived in the Resolution the words "in the interests of this country," and he (Mr. Bourke) thought it was very probable that the hon. Member would have endeavoured to show that, so far as the interests of this country were concerned, it was desirable that the belligerency of the Car-lists should be recognized; but he had failed to hear from the hon. Gentleman anything to support such a proposition, which, after all, was the proposition which the hon. Member had to maintain. In every case it was necessary to consider the history of the insurgents, their resources, their organization, the population as compared with the parent State, and, above all, their capabilities and the probabilities of their being able to hold their own as an independent State, if left to themselves. In the case of land warfare it was almost impossible to say—where a State was not contiguous, that there was any necessity whatever in the interests of the recognizing State to recognize the insurgent State before it had completely established its independence; because it was impossible to point out any one interest which, if the State was not contiguous, could be affected by a state of war, provided that that war was only carried on by land. In maritime warfare it was, of course, different, because if the cruiser of an insurgent State could manage to go about destroying the commerce either of the parent State, or of a neutral State, it became an important matter for all the persons interested in commence to endeavour to find out the status of the insurgent State. They must be either pirates or belligerents; and, of course, everyone knew that unless they were treated as belligerents, they could have none of those rights upon the sea which were generally accorded to belligerents, and must be treated to all intents and purposes as pirates. In the case of a maritime war all kinds of questions arose, directly the war broke out, as to the right of capture, the right of seizing goods on board neutral vessels, and as to those maritime rights which were accorded to belligerents, and which, of course, pirates could not possess. In the American War, England recognized the Confederate States at a very early period of the struggle, the reason for the recognition by this country and by other countries mainly being that the Confederates had cruisers on the seas, and that it was absolutely necessary for our own safety as well as that of other countries to recognize them as belligerents. Those were some of the considerations which must be applied in cases where it was proposed to recognize belligerent and insurgent States. How could they be applied to the present question? In the first place, the Carlists had no ships, and therefore the general inducements which acted upon this country to recognize the Confederate States could not apply to the Carlists, who must be looked upon as persons carrying on an insurgent war by land. He had failed to discover in the speech of the hon. Gentleman any reasons showing the necessity to recognize the Car-lists as belligerents. In fact, it was impossible to point out any single interest in this country which would be affected beneficially by the recognition of the Carlists, and that, after all, was the point they had to consider. When the Carlist position was considered, they must also consider the past history of Spain, and the events which had taken place with regard to the distinguished warriors in question. In the Seven Years' War, between 1836 and 1841, the position of the Carlists was very much the same as it was now, and their position was certainly no better now than it was then. During the whole of that time they were never recognized as a belligerent Power. It was perfectly true that at the present time they occupied a very large portion of the north-east of Spain; but, at the same time, it was equally true that the Government of Madrid occupied almost all the large towns in that portion of the country in which the Carlists were strongest—Pamplona, Vittoria, Lograno, San Sebastian, Iran, Fuenterrabia, Bilbao, and one or two other large towns. It was doubtless perfectly true that the Carlist forces were exceedingly strong in the mountain districts, and he believed that the hon. Member had not overstated the strength of those forces. No doubt, also, the Carlists had a large artillery force; but it must be recollected that their great strength arose from the nature of the country, which was extremely favourable to the Carlist mode of warfare, and that they never attempted to occupy any large portion of Spain beyond the district to which for many years they had been historically attached. He did not intend to enter into the question of the age of the present Government of Spain; he did not think the question was as to a comparison between the age of the Government of Spain and the age of that of Don Carlos, because the fact was that the whole of Spain, with the exception of the part to which he had alluded, recognized willingly and cheerfully the Madrid Government. Beyond that they had nothing to do. It was not their affair which was the best Government or which was the worst; all they knew was that, with the exception of part of Biscay and Navarre and a portion of Catalonia which was held by the Carlist forces, the rest of the country willingly accorded its allegiance to the present Government at Madrid. Under those circumstances, he did not think the House could hesitate for a moment in refusing to assent to the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman. He trusted that the hon. Gentleman would be satisfied with this discussion, and would not proceed to divide the House upon his Motion. He did not wish to say one word against the Carlists, a brave race and having amongst them some of the hardiest warriors in the world; but acting upon the principles which this country had always followed with regard to the recognition of belligerents, Her Majesty's Government did not see that they could accord belligerent rights to the Carlists.


said, as his hon. Friend had failed in showing any benefits which would ensue from the recognition of the Carlists, he ought not to press his Motion to a division.


, in reply, remarked that, in his opinion, the policy enunciated by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was rather a dangerous one to follow; and urged that the recognition of the Carlists by England would be an act worthy of this country and of the position which England occupied as a civilized Power. With regard to the direct interests of this country he had already stated that our commercial interests were largely bound up with those of the North of Spain. As he conceived that the virtual recognition recorded to the Carlists, on the part of the hon. Gentleman opposite, would strengthen the resources of the Carlist Army, he would withdraw his Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.