in rising to call attention to the seizure of the British Steamship "Talisman" by the Peruvian Government; to her employment by that Government in their national service several months before her condemnation by any prize court; to the impressment of eighteen British subjects composing her crew on board Peruvian war-ships in active service; to the subsequent imprisonment of these men without trial for upwards of a year, and the continued detention in prison of three officers of the ship without trial upwards of fifteen months after their capture; and to move for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the whole circumstances of the case, said: Sir, I this morning received a piece of tragic intelligence, which considerably modifies the nature of my task to-night. I shall no longer have occasion to call the attention of this House to the continued detention in prison without trial, though 17 months have elapsed since their capture, of three officers of the Talisman. For I learn that a telegram was yesterday received at the Foreign Office announcing that one of these unfortunate men—Mr. Sibley, the mate—had been murdered by a fellow prisoner, doubtless one of the native convicts with whom he has been so long confined. Since I have moved in this matter I have been in frequent communication with Sibley's wife—now a widow, and with his father, now bereft of a son—and I must say that the information which I this morning received gave me a severe shock, and made me thankful from the bottom of my heart that nothing in my power had been left undone—no labour spared—to obtain his release from what I shall show to have been an illegal confinement in a foul den, condemned by the Peruvians themselves as unfit for occupation as a prison, among that band of the vilest ruffians in Peru—convicted murderers and robbers—who have now imbrued their hands in his blood. Sir, in calling attention to the Talisman case, I most distinctly disavow all idea of wishing to interfere with the freedom of administration of law in any Sovereign State. If, according to the law of Peru, it were a capital offence to steal a 376 farthing, and a British subject chose to go into that country and commit that offence, I do not see on what grounds I could urge interference on his behalf. It would be the old case of Que diable allait-il faire dans cette galêre. Nor, although I shall have to tell of very grievous sufferings endured by British subjects in foreign prisons, do I lay any stress on them except as aggravating the injustice which they have sustained. But in demanding justice for them—or, at least, pleading for that inquiry which I consider the preliminary step towards justice—I shall at once assume the position that no country, however weak, and however misgoverned, can be allowed the privileges of a Sovereign State on matters where the rights of other nations are concerned without incurring the fullest responsibility which attaches to the exercise of sovereign powers. Well, Sir, the story of the Talisman is briefly this. In May, 1874, she sailed from Cardiff on a trading voyage to South America. Among her cargo was a considerable quantity of gunpowder, but not more than is frequently carried in that trade, and it was embarked with the knowledge of the Custom House officers in the most open manner. Besides this, it afterwards turned out, was a quantify of arms and military accoutrements; but these, being packed in boxes, were stowed away without the crew knowing anything as to their contents. The Talisman was manned by 21 officers and men, mostly British subjects. They were, many of them, married men, men of excellent antecedents, and as little likely to engage in any illegal enterprize as could possibly be imagined. Arrived at Quinteras, a Chilian port, the Talisman took on board 48 Peruvians, who afterwards turned out to be ringleaders in a conspiracy to overturn the existing Government of Peru. These men came on board in twos and threes, in ordinary civilian costume, and the vessel cleared ostensibly for Vancouver's Island. But after she had been at sea a couple of days the Peruvians put on uniforms, armed themselves with weapons which they had concealed in their baggage, and assumed command of the vessel. The crew protested, but were ordered back to their work, and assured that there was nothing wrong, and they had no option but either to mutiny in the 377 face of more than twice their number of armed men or to obey. Off Pacasmayo in Peru the Talisman cast anchor, and her captain went ashore to ask leave to repair some machinery. There the authorities—acting on instructions from Lima—seized him, together with the second mate and three men who accompanied him, while the captain of the port boarded the vessel. As he did so the conspirators rushed upon him with their revolvers and made him prisoner, and firing upon a boat full of soldiers who were sent to take the vessel, compelled them to retreat to shore. They then, with arms in their hands, compelled the crew—who were now reduced to one-third their number, and unarmed—to work the vessel southward to Ilo, where, the Peruvian iron-clad Huascar bearing down upon her, they took possession of the Moquegua railway and escaped up country. The crew, making no attempt to escape, were taken prisoners, and the Talisman was sent into Callao for condemnation. Her capture occurred on the 22nd November, 1874; she was brought before the Peruvian Prize Courts and condemned as a lawful prize in June, 1875; but the case being twice appealed, her final condemnation did not take place till November, 1875. Now, in all this, there was nothing to complain of. The vessel had brought out arms and ammunition, which it appeared were intended for use in an insurrection, and she was justly condemned. Had the insurgents acquired the status of belligerents, the crime of those responsible for her doings would simply have been the carrying of contraband of war. As it was, the insurgents having no such status, it was technically piracy. Had her officers and crew, then, been tried on a charge of piracy, I should have had nothing to complain of. What I have to complain of is their long imprisonment without trial. Now, hon. Members may say that that was no great punishment for men guilty of piracy. My reply is, that not one of the crew was guilty of any criminal participation in the Talisman's offence. It would be a wearisome task to prove this; but I am saved the trouble, for after a year's imprisonment 18 of the crew were dismissed, because the officials in the Supreme Prize Court reported that there was not even such a primâ facie case as to warrant the criminal authorities in in- 378 stituting proceedings against them. Under the laws of Peru the Prize Courts have no criminal jurisdiction; but the Fiscal or Public Prosecutor of the Supreme Court, on the occasion of the final condemnation of the Talisman, recommended the dismissal from custody of the crew, on the ground that they had been shown not to be criminally responsible; and the Supreme Prize Court confirmed that opinion by acting upon it, and ordering the dismissal of the men. The captain and two mates, argued the Fiscal, are criminally responsible, and should be handed over for prosecution to the criminal authorities. But the other 18 men—who by this time had been imprisoned for a year—are not criminally responsible, and should at once be set free. Now, Sir, I shall presently show that the prolonged imprisonment of these men was not justified by any law of Peru, or by any precedent of Peruvian procedure; but before doing so I must explain to the House what the imprisonment, to which British subjects who are unfortunate enough to fall into the hands of the Peruvian Government are subjected, really means. To many hon. Members the word imprisonment will suggest nothing more than enforced confinement in clean, well-ventilated cells, ample food of excellent quality, and the care of a chaplain, a schoolmaster, and a physician. In Peru it means something very different. The first persons captured were the second mate and three men, who were taken along with the captain, on the 23rd October, 1874, before a single shot had been fired by the rebels. They rowed ashore with so little idea of capture, that they had nothing on but their shirts, trousers, and boots. When the firing began, the mate and these men were driven, with breech-loaders at their heads, before a squad of Cavalry to prison. One of them was knocked down, and another cowhided on the back, till the blood came. They were—to quote the mate's description—imprisoned in a dirty hole, out of which they had to remove broken bottles, bricks, and rubbish, before they could sit down to be put in irons. Here they were left for the night, without so much as a drink of water. Luckily for them, as they had had no food since morning, that ubiquitous Scotchman—who is as universal in South America as 379 throughout the rest of creation—kept a restaurant in Pacasmayo, and hearing of their plight, provided them with supper. Next day, their arms were tied behind them, "most cruelly roped from the shoulders to the finger ends, and made quite black," as the mate described it, and they were removed to San Pedro. There they were kept till the 20th November, or nearly a month after their capture, and during all that time the Peruvian officials gave them no food, and they had to live upon what the captain was able to supply them with. Then they were removed to another prison where they remained till the 12th of December, and during those seven weeks these men—who, as I have said, had come ashore without other clothing than their shirts, trousers, and boots—had neither bedding nor clothing supplied to them, and had to sleep without covering on the stone floor of their prisons. On the 12th of December, they were taken back to Pacasmayo, each man being mounted behind a Cavalry soldier with his face towards the horse's tail and his feet lashed under its belly. At Pacasmayo, they were placed on board the Peruvian gunboat Chalaco, where the captain and mate were kept prisoners below, while, the vessel being rather short of hands, the three men were, without ceremony, impressed into the naval service of Peru. That is to say, their names were placed on the Chalaco's books—they were mustered with the rest of the crew, and they were dressed in Peruvian naval uniforms. The men add that they were promised pay, but never got any. When they arrived at Callao their uniforms were taken off and they were sent to prison, where they remained till November last. In prison at Callao they found the rest of the crew, and learnt their stories, which I shall now proceed to give. When the Talisman was seized by the Huascar on the 2nd of November, 1874, her crew were all, with the exception of the steward and the cabin boy, transferred on board that vessel, which was commanded by an officer of the ominous name of Growl. Now, as the Talisman was sent direct to Callao, only touching at Molendo, it would have been just as easy for Captain Growl to have sent her crew ashore as prisoners at once, as to wait, as he did till he had got five weeks active service out of them. But the insurgents who 380 had escaped had proceeded with their programme, and were trying to work up an insurrection in the South, and the suppression of that insurrection would involve some extra work. Now, on the South American coast a not unfounded impression prevails that a British sailor is worth two or three Peruvians. So Captain Growl elected to keep the men on board and make them work for their living, and he did so for five weeks, as long as the tug of war lasted, and until the insurrection was suppressed. He knew how to make them useful too, did Captain Growl, for one of the men—Scott—being an engineer and boiler-maker, was sent ashore at Ilo and compelled to work day and night repairing some locomotive engines which the insurgents had put out of gear to prevent pursuit when they escaped to Moquegua. Scott specially complains of this piece of work, because he thinks it was more than his share; but during the four weeks he had them on board the Huascar—during which time that vessel was occupied in carrying troops and munitions of war—Captain Growl treated them in other respects with the greatest impartiality, making them keep their watches and do their work, every man in his station, precisely as if they had belonged to his own crew. Unfortunately he was very ungrateful, not even promising them pay, threatening them with irons when some of the men who had been sworn at for soiling the ship's paint with their dirty clothes asked for a change of raiment; and, finally, on the suppression of the rebellion, packing them off to prison at Callao, on the open deck of the Talisman, where they were kept night and day for three days. The services of one of the most indispensable hands on board the Talisman, Captain Growl had been reluctantly obliged to forego—I refer to those of Mr. Roberts, the chief engineer. For the Peruvian engineers could not work the Talisman's engines, and Roberts had to be taken back from the Huascar to look after them and take her into Callao. There he was at once marched to prison, where he lay for three weeks, when another episode occurred, to which I would ask your special attention. At this time the Peruvian Government was busily engaged in suppressing the little insurrection which, as I have said, the Talisman's rebel passengers had succeeded in raising in the 381 South. The Talisman was lying idle in Callao, still of course under the British flag, awaiting condemnation, and in point of fact, as I have indicated, she was not condemned for six months afterwards. It, however, struck the Peruvian Minister of War that she was just the vessel to take him down to Molendo to meet the President, and to carry South some artillery which he was anxious to send against the rebels without delay. The only obstacle to his employment of her was the British flag. We in this country know what a sacred Palladium that flag is; but they evidently do not think much of it in South America, nor believe much in the spirited foreign policy of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. At all events, they got rid of the difficulty in a very summary fashion, by pulling down the Union Jack and running up the Peruvian ensign. Then the Minister of War addressed a note to the Judge of the Prize Court, which being translated runs thus:—Ministry of War and Marine,Lima, Nov. 29, 1874.Sir,—the presence of the steamer Talisman not being indispensable to the further course of the present inquiry, and it being of urgent importance to send her immediately to the southwards, you will be so good as to place yourself at the orders of the Commander of the Maritime Department of Callao.May God protect you.Nicolas FREYRE.On receipt of this note the President of the Prize Court, with all the courtesy which characterizes the Spaniard, at once placed the Talisman at the disposition of his Government, and the troops and guns were embarked. But, as I have said, the Peruvian engineers could not work the Talisman's engines. Luckily there was Roberts, her own engineer, lying in the prison, quite at hand. Why not utilize him? Why not, indeed? He was only a British subject; and, as I have said, they do not care much for our spirited foreign policy in Peru. So Roberts was taken out of gaol on the night of November 30th, and marched down to the Talisman. There he had the honour of being received by the Peruvian Minister of War, who ordered him to take charge of the vessel's engines. But things must be done decently and in order, even in Peru, so on the following day (December 1st), the President of 382 the Prize Court gave a written order to this effect—It being a matter of urgency that the late engineer of the steamer Talisman, Alexander Roberts, should be in charge of the machinery, and he being at present in gaol as a prisoner, under the jurisdiction of this Court, and in view of the urgency of the service for which the aforesaid steamer is required, the commandant aforesaid resolves that he [Roberts] shall sail on board the Talisman during this voyage, remaining on board in the same condition of prisoner, the captain of the steamer being personally responsible for his safety.DIEGO DE LA HAZA.So Roberts, "in his same condition of prisoner," took the British steamship Talisman, under command of a Peruvian captain, flying the Peruvian flag, with Peruvian troops and the Peruvian War Minister on board, to Molendo and Ilo; and on his way back, the insurrection being at an end, and Captain Growl having no further use for his prisoners, took them off the Huascar back to Callao. For this service of urgency performed distinctly "in his capacity of prisoner" Roberts was promised $100, and got nothing. At Callao they arrived safely on the 8th of December, 1874, and the whole of them, including the engineer, were at once consigned to prison. There, as I have said, they were soon joined by their shipmates from Pacasmayo, and there they were kept till the 17th of November of the following year. We have seen what prison life at Pacasmayo and San Pedro was like. Let us now see how these sailors, who were at last dismissed because there was not even a primâ facie case against them—let us see how they fared at Callao. Well, Sir, my attention was first called to the case in June last, and as I knew nothing of the details which I have just described till a few weeks ago, I was obliged to base those representations which I made to the Foreign Office on the subject, on the long detention of the men without trial, and their cruel treatment in prison. Other people did the same thing, and we all received the same stereotyped reply, that Government was doing everything in its power to procure their speedy trial, and that their treatment was reported by our Consul at Callao to be fairly good. On July 26th, a statement from the second mate, John King, appeared in The Times, to the effect that 383 the entire crew of the Talisman, with the exception of the captain, were imprisoned in a large underground casemate in the dismantled fortress of Casa Matas; that in this cell along with them were shut up sometimes 90, but never less than 60, of the lowest-class ruffians in the country, who used the knife freely when they quarrelled; that the cell was dark, ill-ventilated, and swarming with vermin; that the water supply was deficient, and no soap allowed; that the place was rendered disgustingly foul by the presence in it of two soil tubs; that four of the crew had been sick and one had been sent to hospital, but not before he had lain ill in the cell seven days. I availed myself of the opportunity to ask the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the allegations contained in King's statement were true, and received a reply, based I am quite certain upon what he considered reliable information, that the captain of the Talisman was lodged in a cell with three political prisoners, two of whom held the rank of colonel, while the prison companions of the men were unconvicted Peruvian prisoners, some of whom were captains and lieutenants in the army, that their food for prison diet appeared good and sufficient, and that they were receiving fair treatment in prison. This reply naturally found its way out to the Talisman prisoners in Peru; and I was not long left without information which convinced me that the information of the Foreign Office regarding the entire case was extraordinarily defective. The captain, it was true, was confined in a separate cell with native political prisoners, one a colonel, and two lieutenant-colonels; but he explained "the colonel stole his watch, one of the others picked his pocket when he was asleep, and the other committed several petty thefts." The mates and men explained that for a short time there had been political prisoners confined along with them, but these were soon liberated, and the cell filled up with convicts of the lowest class. On the 12th September, for example, there were 83 men in the cell, 20 belonging to the Talisman, 7 life-convicts undergoing sentence for murder; 10 men undergoing sentence for stabbing; two for shooting; 22 for thefts, housebreaking, robbery, &c.; 20 mutineers, and two foreign political of- 384 fenders. These men had no difficulty in smuggling in drink and knives, which they used freely in their quarrels, and on Sundays especially, when their friends were allowed to visit them, the place became a perfect Pandemonium. As to food, the men's daily rations consisted of two pints of soup, which they protest was little better than dirty water, half the allowance of bread to which they had been accustomed on board ship, one-sixth the allowance of beef, about as much potatoes, beans, or rice as they had been used to, and no tea, coffee, or sugar. Their food, in short, was exactly the same as that of the convicts, with this exception—that the convicts, having been in prison much longer than they, had first choice of rations, and they had constantly to accept meat which the murderers and the thieves had refused. In fact, they all assure me, that had it not been for the generosity of some of their fellow-countrymen in the employ of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company at Callao they could not have lived. Some of them had no clothes but what they had on when captured. These were soon worn out, but no clothes were served out to them by their gaolers until 11 months after their capture, and during the first fortnight of their imprisonment they had neither beds nor blankets. Now, why do I dwell on these hardships? Simply because the imprisonment of these British subjects without trial was unjustified by any law of Peru. This became evident, at a very early stage of the case, when the President of the Prize Court, having taken their evidence—especially precognoscing them, the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley) may be interested to learn as to whether they were Catholics or Protestants—declared that under Peruvian law he had no power to detain them further, and that they must forthwith be set free. In accordance with this opinion the Peruvian Secretary of State informed Her Majesty's Minister at Lima that they were to be set at liberty without delay. On this point, however, the Government appeared to change its mind, and obtained an elaborate opinion from its Attorney General on the subject. Now, I leave to any Gentlemen of the long robe who may speak after me to deal with that opinion, but may state that its purport was briefly this:—That although 385 according to Peruvian law there was no provision for the detention of the sailors after they had given their evidence, yet it was clearly competent for the criminal authorities to try them on a charge of piracy. But there was no instruction in the Peruvian Code, and no precedent in the annals of Peru, to show how this power might be made available. Well, instead of adopting the obvious and simple course of allowing the Prize Court to release the men in accordance with law, and then taking them into custody and proceeding against them on the criminal charge, the Attorney General, arguing from what he said had been laid down in the French Code, from what he alleged had been declared to be International Law in different English, French, and American cases which he quoted, maintained that the men might be kept in custody until the prize case was concluded, without being brought to trial, and then, should the vessel be condemned, be handed over to the criminal authorities for prosecution for piracy. It was not, therefore, according to any law or precedent of Peru that these innocent men were subjected to a year's imprisonment without trial in that foul dungeon—confined for so many months along with the vilest scum of the earth—exposed to hardships and degradations under which the health of several of them and the mind of one gave way—exposed to insults and ill-treatment which have now culminated in the murder of Mr. Sibley. It was not according to any provision of Peruvian law that they were subjected to an apparently interminable incarceration, and their wives and families left to starve—in one case left to die—at home. It was simply in accordance with what a Peruvian Attorney General, in January, 1875, described as the powers which Peru could claim according to his reading of International Law—that International Law which during the two preceding months his Government had so often and so flagrantly violated—which they had violated when they impressed Pergrien, Ross, and Akers on board the Chalaco, and put them into the Peruvian uniform—which had been outraged when Captain Growl subjected the greater part of the Talisman crew to a five weeks' enslavement on board the Huascar—which had been violated when the Peruvian Minister of War 386 substituted the Peruvian ensign for the Union Jack on board the uncondemned ship Talisman—and which had again been outraged when he impressed her engineer to assist in the transport of himself and his troops to Molendo. I am not one of those who sneer at International Law. I believe there is no branch of jurisprudence which has been more laboriously, or scientifically, or usefully elaborated. But if a foreign Government takes its stand on International Law, let it be judged by it. Under Peru's own interpretation of the precedents of International Law she has meted out hard justice to British citizens; let her make reparation according to the teaching of those precedents which she herself has invoked. If Peru has her precedents, we have ours in the case of the Cagliari, an infinitely milder case, where two engineers, compelled by Italian rebels to work under their orders, were imprisoned by the Neapolitan Government for five months—a case where one of the prisoners certainly lost his reason, as one of the Talisman crew is said to have done—where the other lost his health, as has happened to many of the Talisman's men; but a very much milder case of outrage in every respect than that of the Talisman. But Lord Palmerston was Prime Minister then, and he understood what a spirited foreign policy really meant. Within five months the liberation of the men, an apology, and £3,000 damages had been obtained from the Neapolitan Government. It remains to be seen whether the much vaunted spiritedness of the foreign policy of the present Government will prove equal to the organization of an inquiry to ascertain how far the nation has been wronged and insulted, or whether so much of it has been allowed to evaporate in empty boasting that the only hope of maintaining the Ministerial reputation for spirit is to try by stifling inquiry to keep the world in ignorance of the extent to which the nation's honour has been outraged, and the rights of her subjects trampled under foot. Sir, I maintain that although the question is one of vital importance to the crew of the Talisman, it is one of still more importance to a maritime nation like Britain. If such precedents as these set by Peru in this case—the seizure of a vessel under the British flag for Government pur- 387 poses, and the impressment of our sailors on board foreign war ships—be tolerated, our commerce will become a constant source of danger to us. If we refuse to protect our sailors abroad, the sooner we cease to cling to maritime greatness the better. Not only has a cruel injustice been perpetrated upon the men, who, after a year's imprisonment were declared innocent, but I maintain that a gross injustice was perpetrated against the captain and two mates, two of whom are still, and one was until the other day when he was murdered, detained in that wretched prison without being brought to trial. A primâ facie case sufficient to justify their detention on a criminal charge is one thing, and that detention without any trial for 17 months in the foul dungeon which I have described, is quite another. Months ago, I maintain, our Government had not only the right, but was bound to interfere and demand their liberation, for it is our Government's duty to see that in allowing a foreign Power to exercise criminal jurisdiction over British subjects they receive no worse treatment at its hands than is accorded to that Power's own subjects under similar circumstances. Well, how has Peru dealt with the Peruvians who were taken with arms in hands? How has it dealt with the most guilty of them all, a man who attempted the life of the President of the Republic? Eight months have elapsed since he and every other rebel have been set free. But, Sir, I need hardly argue this point, for I find that the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office admits it. In a despatch of his to the British Minister at Lima, dated 7th September, 1875, I find him writing that while admitting the Peruvian jurisdiction in the case of the Talisman crew—Her Majesty's Government must claim the right to see that British subjects do not suffer manifest injustice, even though such injustice may be inflicted in accordance with the forms of law; and it appears to Her Majesty's Government that the detention in prison for 10 months without trial of persons who may be perfectly innocent of any intentional offence against the laws of Peru, is so flagrant an act of injustice as to entitle Her Majesty's Government to insist upon its immediate redress.If it was so flagrant an act of injustice as to justify this six and a-half months ago, has the injustice become any less 388 flagrant now? Months elapsed and these three men still lingered untried in prison. Even if this had been in accordance with the forms of Peruvian law, according to the noble Lord it could not have been justified; but so far from being so, we find from the Papers which were placed in the hands of Members on Saturday that the detention of these men was in direct contravention of the Peruvian constitution. We find this distinctly stated in a despatch from Mr. Consul March to Lord Derby, and again even more explicitly in a letter addressed by the same gentleman to the Prefect of Callao—These persons" (the captain and mates), he writes, "have been in prison upwards of one year awaiting their trial. Their health has been seriously impaired, and their moral condition is becoming lamentable by the suspense in which they are kept and the hardships which they have suffered. Article 18 of the Constitution of Peru requires that any arrested person shall under any circumstances be placed at the disposal of the Judge within 24 hours, and the Penal Code by paragraph 6, Article 128, renders punishable as the abuse of authority the detention without trial of any accused individual beyond those 24 hours.Twenty-four hours! Why, Sir, these unfortunate men have been kept in prison more than 500 times the statutory 24 hours and have not yet been brought to trial, and yet Her Majesty's Government has not insisted on redress. The state of things six months ago constituted so flagrant an act of injustice as to entitle our Government to insist upon its immediate redress even had it been according to the forms of Peruvian law, and yet after six months, when it has been shown to be directly at variance with Peruvian law, redress has still to be insisted upon. Seventeen months have elapsed, one of the prisoners has been murdered, and the redress portion of the Talisman drama has still to begin. Lord Palmerston had the Cagliari men home and the £3,000 paid within five months. And now, Sir, for the Committee of Inquiry which I am about to move for. I do so because I wish, in the first place, to collect authentic and official information. Government not unnaturally will not accept my facts. When, on the 3rd of November last, I wrote calling Lord's Derby's attention to the fact of the outrage which had been committed in the impressment of so many Talisman men on board the 389 Huascar, he took no notice of my statement. When I remonstrated about the long detention of the men without trial, I was told, what I have now disproved, that it was in accordance with a provision of Peruvian law. When I submitted to the Foreign Office the stories of the crew as to how they had been treated, it was replied that Lord Derby could not doubt the evidence of his official correspondents in Peru, all of whom concurred in asserting—and I think this murder has shown how monstrous their assertion was—that there was no serious ground for complaint. When I last year asked for Papers relating to the case, I was told that they would be included in a collection of Papers relating to the imprisonment of British subjects in Peru, which, on the 19th of July last, had been ordered to be presented to this House. Since then eight months have elapsed, the Papers in an incomplete form were only forthcoming, on Saturday, two of the men remain untried in prison in Peru, and a third has been released only by the knife of the assassin. I think this House has a right to know who is to blame for this fatal apathy and inaction. I do not ask the House to take any action on the information which I have collected. It has been collected with considerable labour and difficulty, and may in some respects be inaccurate. I have, however, given every opportunity in my power to allow of its accuracy being tested. The moment it came into my hands I laid it before the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I went further—I put those portions of it which constituted the grounds on which I based the allegations contained in my Resolution in the form of a pamphlet, and placed them in the hands of a number of hon. Members. All I claim, however, is to have established a strong case for inquiry, and I ask for it the more firmly because those of the crew who returned home in January, and who have since been engaged in attempting to recover their wages, can now be called upon to give valuable evidence, which in a short time when they return to their calling and get scattered over the world, will be irretrievably lost. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for the appointment of the Committee.
§ SIR HENRY HAVELOCK,
in seconding the Motion, said, he could add 390 little to the elaborate and complete statement of his hon. Friend; but he wished to say a few words on behalf of Captain Haddock, the master of the Talisman, who still remained in detention. It was necessary to make a clear distinction between the guilty persons in this matter and those who were innocently engaged in the navigation of the ship. Whatever might be the case as regarded the guilty knowledge of the owners of the ship or of those who chartered her, there was not one atom of proof that the captain, or second officer, had any guilty knowledge whatever of the enterprize in which the vessel was to be employed. This was fully established by the Papers which had only been furnished by the Government to the House within the last few hours. Although the cargo contained ammunition and clothing, these were embarked at Cardiff without the slightest concealment, and with the full knowledge of the Custom House officers. After proceeding to the Eastern Coast of South America, being told that he was to Act under the instructions of those to whom the cargo was to be consigned, he proceeded to the West Coast, where certain persons were taken on board as passengers in plain clothes; and in the whole of his conduct up to and subsequent to that point, so far from there being anything to suggest any complicity on his part, there was everything to lead to the conclusion that he acted in the most natural and innocent manner. The subsequent movements of the ship had been described, and truly, as piratical. But by whom were they carried out? By armed Peruvians who went on board, and although the ship was justly and rightly condemned, these proceedings were the action of certain revolutionary Peruvians who must settle the matter with the Government of their own country. It had been stated that the imprisonment of the men had been conducted with every possible moderation, but he could not find any evidence of that being so. What had struck him was, that there was considerable divergence of opinion on that point between the poor victims of this imprisonment and the Representative of the British Government on the spot, who seemed to have displayed great apathy and lukewarmness in the matter. What would have been the Consul's own feel- 391 ings if he had been confined in a filthy dungeon with those men who so freely used the knife? It was to be regretted that the view which Lord Derby appeared to have taken so long ago as August or September last had not been acted upon. Lord Derby then thought the proceedings so urgent that on the 27th of September last year, he stated that they were of a nature to justify the British Government in demanding immediate redress; and if that view had been persevered in at that time, and the representations of our Consul had been somewhat more urgent, he could not help thinking that they would have met with greater success, and that these unhappy proceedings would have been brought to an earlier conclusion. It was rather remarkable that while the Peruvians who were in insurrection against their Government, and whose lives might, perhaps, have been justly forfeited, had been released; the only persons made to suffer were Englishmen. A perusal of the Papers would suggest that the conduct of the Peruvian Government in this matter was according to their usual course. He trusted that the Government would be able to give explanations which would be satisfactory to the House; but meantime the information afforded by the Correspondence was not only not satisfactory, but was of a nature to create the most lively apprehensions as to what might be the effect of permitting foreign countries to go away with the notion that such a mode of treating British subjects was acquiesced in by this country. The representations made by Lord Derby in September last appeared to have been entirely disregarded. They had lately been engaged in somewhat unprofitable discussions respecting the Royal titles; but here was a case in which the dearest interests of British subjects were involved, and he thought it equally deserving of the attention of the House. He would suggest that the spirited foreign policy of which they had lately heard so much would here find scope for vigorous action, and that the Government ought to lose no time in making a full and searching inquiry into the facts of this remarkable transaction. The seamen, who were the only available witnesses of what had occurred, were now in this country; but they would in a few weeks be scattered abroad, and 392 there was no time to be lost in taking their evidence. He thought the case made out for their examination was as strong as could possibly be conceived. He trusted the result of the discussion and of the action of the Government in the matter would be that the lives and liberties of British subjects, even in so remote a country as Peru, would in future be rendered secure.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the circumstances connected with the seizure of the British Steamship 'Talisman' by the Peruvian Government, her employment in the national service of Peru, the impressment of her crew on board Peruvian war ships, their prolonged imprisonment without trial, and the whole circumstances of the case."—(Dr. Cameron.)
§ MR. BOURKE
said, the speech which the House had just listened to contrasted remarkably with that of the hon. Gentleman who had introduced the subject, for the hon. and gallant Member had endeavoured to introduce a variety of subjects which had nothing to do with the case now before the House. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had accused the Government of keeping back the Papers on the subject until the last few hours. The fact, however, was that these Papers had been issued last Friday. Their presentation had been kept back advisedly, and for this reason—that there were two persons at present in prison in Peru, and the object of the Government in withholding the Papers was not to prejudice their case, by exciting any angry feeling in Peru, until they were perfectly certain that the trial of the men was over and they were no longer in peril. When, however, the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) put his Notice on the Paper, and took the responsibility of raising a discussion in this House, the Government felt it necessary that these Papers should not be kept back any longer. Although he could not consent to the terms of the Motion before the House, no one could be surprised that the hon. Member for Glasgow had brought this question forward, and it was much to the honour of the hon. Gentleman that he had taken the trouble to find out as much as he could of the facts of the case. He did not admit that the hon. Member had ascertained all its facts. On the contrary, his statement 393 was to a certain extent, and unavoidably so, of an ex parte character, and he (Mr. Bourke) was glad, so far as the Government were concerned, that he had now been afforded an opportunity of stating the whole of the facts. It was a question which not only concerned the persons in prison, but the honour of Her Majesty's Government, and the policy which should be pursued with respect to British subjects who got into scrapes in foreign countries. He thought the House would do well not to debate the matter at present, but allow him to state what had been done. He could not enter fully into the case of these unfortunate men, because he did not possess sufficient information; and with regard to the death of one of the prisoners, he entreated the House to dismiss from their minds at present what had been stated on that subject. He might be allowed to recall to the recollection of the House the exact condition of the Republic of Peru at the time when this expedition set out. At the commencement of 1874 peace reigned throughout the whole of Peru. During that year Senor Pierola, who had formerly been Finance Minister, and was opposed to the Government then in power, set up an insurrectionary movement. He formed the design, not uncommon, he believed, on the part of defeated politicians in the South American Republics, of stirring up discontent and rebellion in the country. Pierola was a man in the prime of life, possessed of great energy, and appeared to be a person of considerable ability, and he was supported in his designs by certain foreign houses—not Peruvian houses, but he should not mention names—in the town of Lima. These houses intended, if the insurrection proved successful, to obtain for themselves certain benefits in the shape of guano contracts. There had been several insurrectionary movements in Peru, but by far the most formidable was that initiated by the Talisman. The vessel was fitted out in this country by the agents of Pierola, the insurgent chief. She was loaded with munitions of war, and started for Peru. The attempt failed, although a vast amount of bloodshed was caused by her attack upon Peru. Peru afterwards became greatly excited, and the people were heavily taxed on account of the measures taken by the Government for the purpose of 394 putting down the insurrection. No doubt, too, great irritation was felt all over the country from the fact of a British ship, manned by British sailors, being employed to create this insurrection, which no doubt caused most serious evils, both privately and publicly, to the Republic of Peru. Who the wicked men were who acted in this country as agents for Pierola he did not know, but no name was too bad to apply to them; and he only wished the hon. Member for Glasgow would apply as much energy in obtaining what knowledge he could of the conduct of these people as he had applied to other parts of this case.
wished to explain. As far as he knew, there certainly had been no Glasgow men mixed up with the case. He was utterly ignorant of any persons who had been agents for Pierola.
§ MR. BOURKE
said, he was very glad to hear it. He did not suppose for a moment that the hon. Member for Glasgow knew who the agents for Pierola were. He only wished the hon. Member would apply the same energy he had shown in other parts of the case to find out who the agents were and expose them to the public. Upon those agents the responsibility of the whole misfortunes which had befallen these unfortunate men must rest. The sailors and captain might have their remedy against those agents, and he hoped they would obtain it. Already, he was told, the captain was proceeding for his remedy, and he was informed there was some probability of his making them responsible. But when the hon. Member for Glasgow and the hon. and gallant Member who seconded his Motion talked of the outrage committed upon the British flag by the Peruvians, he confessed he did not feel that the Peruvian Government had committed an outrage upon the British flag at all comparable with that committed by the persons who made use of this vessel for the purposes of the insurrection. The outrage on the British flag lay in this—that it was fraudulently and criminally used for carrying out a nefarious purpose, so that instead of the British flag being, as it was under ordinary circumstances, the ensign of peace and of power all over the world, conspirators against a nation with which we were at peace converted it into the ensign, not of peace and 395 power, but of war, and war of the most contemptible and disastrous character. If the House would allow him, he would describe as shortly as he could the circumstances which had occurred with regard to the Talisman. He was bound to do so, because thestatement of the Mover and Seconder could not be accepted as correct. It seemed that the Talisman was a steamer of 135 to 140 tons. She was built by Messrs. Blackwood and Gordon, Port Glasgow, for Mr. Martin Orme, 27, Robertson Street, Glasgow, and by them was employed to trade between Glasgow and the Highlands. She sailed in 1874, on behalf of her present owners, for the expedition. At page 41 of the printed Papers Mrs. Roberts, the wife of one of the officers, stated—"My husband became chief engineer of her in December, 1872." Mr. Orme, in April 1874, sold the Talisman. The sale was effected by commission; but besides their agents, the parties or party who bought the vessel was represented by a Mr. Fair, who superintended the fitting out of the vessel after the sale, and also engaged the crew. Who that Mr. Fair was he should like to know.
believed he was a working engineer in Liverpool—a man of straw—in whose name the vessel was registered.
§ Mr. BOURKE
said, he was very glad to hear it. The fact of his being a man of straw made it still worse. The master, on the 20th of November, 1874, stated—We left Glasgow on or about the 5th of May, and cleared out from that port for the River Plate, viâ Cardiff, where I arrived about the 9th, and left on the 19th, having taken on board a supply of coal, arms, ammunition, clothing, &c., with instructions from the agents of the steamer, Messrs. Moran, Galloway, and Co., to proceed to the River Plate.Who Messrs. Moran and Galloway were he did not know; but the articles were such as should certainly have aroused suspicion. He had asked a great number of shipowners, who all informed him that they were of a most suspicious character; no man should have signed them without inquiring most particularly about them. In the ship's articles the voyage was thus described—Glasgow, viâ Cardiff, Monte Video, and, or if required, to any port or ports in South America, North or South Pacific, Australasian Colonies, Indian or China Seas, Mauritius or West Indies, British North America, or States of 396 America, until the ship returns to a final port of discharge on the continent of Europe and in the United Kingdom, with liberty to call at any port for orders. Probable period of engagement—two years.He must say those ship articles were of an unprecedented character? What were the instructions from the agent? The Talisman was to sail to South America, and Mr. Bulwer—another man of straw, he supposed—was to have the sole control of the vessel and the cargo. That, he should have thought, was sufficient to cause anyone who was going to sail in the Talisman as part of the crew or as an officer to make inquiries as to the destination of the vessel. They went to Cardiff, and there got their ammunition and arms. The whole cargo consisted of warlike materials.
§ SIR HENRY HAVELOCK
said, he certainly read the statement differently. The cargo consisted of 1,000 packets of merchandize.
§ MR. BOURKE
Every one of those packets consisted of warlike materials. [An hon. Member: Did the captain know it?] He would not ask what was the notion of Captain Haddock, who was in prison. When the Talisman arrived at a Chilian port she took on board 39 of these insurgents, who remained sometime on board before the vessel started again. There were many circumstances that would justify suspicion, particularly the circumstance that Mr. Bulwer left the vessel to go into the interior and came back with the insurgents. They touched at another port, and yet nothing was done by the sailors or captain; the sailors did not express any wish to leave the ship. The vessel then started for Peru under cover of a statement that they were going to Vancouver's Island. He saw the statement he was making met with disapproval, and he knew the objection that would be made; but what was he to do, seeing that the Government were attacked? If the hon. Member for Glasgow would withdraw the Motion he (Mr. Bourke) would sit down. He had no wish to prolong the debate.
§ Mr. BOURKE
said, it was true the mischief had been done, but the Government was blamed for it—this was a hostile Motion, and if the hon. Gentle- 397 man would withdraw it he would sit down. He appealed to anybody in the House to tell him how to deal with this question. Here was a direct Motion against the Government to which they could not possibly assent; because, if they did assent to it, it was assenting to an inquiry into their own conduct. After the speech which had been made by the hon. Member who had brought forward the Motion, it was impossible for him to refrain from going into the case, although he deprecated with all the force he could the course that was forced upon him. When the Talisman arrived in the Chilian waters she was seen there by a British Consul, and he would only refer to Page 23 of the Papers for what was said by the British Consul without reading it.
If what the hon. Gentleman is about to state will in any way prejudice the case, will he state what he will do without submitting anything else to the House?
§ MR. BOURKE
said, if the Motion were withdrawn he would sit down; but serious charges had been made by the hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir Henry Havelock) against the Government, and he must answer them. He had taunted them in no unmeasured terms as to the course which they had pursued, and had compared their conduct with that of another Government about which he should have something to say later on. He would gladly adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member and curtail his observations if the Motion were withdrawn.
declined to withdraw the Motion, and said he had made the reference he was asked to make to what was said by the Consul; he had observed it before, but it struck him the Consul was prejudiced by what he had seen unofficially.
§ MR. BOURKE
said, he must go on, and leave the responsibility with those who attacked the conduct of Government; and he would only remind hon. Members of what he had said privately as to his opinion of the position in which he was placed. In one part of the case the hon. Member for Glasgow made a very serious omission. He did not say what took place in Pacuka Bay, because that was where the insurrection occurred. The vessel set sail and went into Pacuka Bay, which was within the territories of Peru. (He (Mr. Bourke) 398 did not suggest that the crew were responsible, because the captain was away—in fact he was in prison—but because the crew were not responsible that was no reason why the people of Peru should not be irritated and excited against the British ship and sailors, when they knew that an attack had been made at great trouble and expense, not to speak of bloodshed, in putting down this insurrection. He now came to a part of the case on which he could speak more freely, and that was the illegalities that were committed in regard to the captain, the engineer, and the crew. When the captain was taken out at Pacasmayo Bay he was put in prison, and subsequently he was put on board a vessel and taken down to Callao. He would not say the captain was treated properly; but he was a prisoner; and he was afraid the treatment he was subjected to was the treatment to which all prisoners were subjected in Peru. As to the engineer, Roberts, the hon. Member spoke perfectly right when he said that he was put in prison, and that there had been some irregularity on the part of the Peruvian Government in their treatment of him; but if he (Mr. Bourke) had been Roberts he should have preferred being on board ship than to have been in a Peruvian prison. No doubt the transfer of the men to the Huascar was an irregular proceeding, just as the use of the Talisman as a transport was irregular. If the same thing had happened to a more civilized country—if an English frigate had found a vessel on our coasts inciting the people to insurrection, the frigate would have brought her into port and had her condemned by an Admiralty Court; but there had been cases of a different character; and during the American War vessels were made use of by the Federal authorities before they were condemned. That was an irregularity or a novelty; it might have been authorized by municipal law, but it was contrary to the rule and practice to take a vessel and use her for a Government before she was condemned. All the irregularities that had been committed had been brought to the notice of the Peruvian Government; but the Government did not think it expedient to make use of them. Use had been made of them by the Consul in bringing them to the notice of the Peruvian Government, 399 because the main object of Her Majesty's Government from first to last had been to obtain the release of the prisoners. But no mortal man had been injured by those irregularities, or prejudiced, and as to the user of the Talisman, she being condemned afterwards, there was nothing in that. But as to what might take place eventually the Government had reserved their rights, and the hon. Member for Glasgow need not be afraid that the Government would relax their efforts. He did not wish to draw any comparisons between what Lord Palmerston did and Her Majesty's Government. There was no statesman living or dead for whose character he had a greater respect than that of Lord Palmerston, and for everything he had written or said on foreign politics; but the hon. Member should recollect that, in reference to the case to which he had drawn attention—that of the Cagliari—Lord Palmerston was not in office, but that it was Lord Malmesbury who, when Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, obtained the release of those prisoners. But that case was a very different one from the present, as that steamer started upon a perfectly legal voyage; and when she was out in the middle of the sea a number of persons, who were on board, overpowered the crew and took the steamer to a Neapolitan port. The captain, although he was upon a lawful journey, was put into prison and kept there for eight or nine months. Lord Clarendon, on this case, informed our Minister that it had occasioned great excitement and a most painful sensation in this country. It was not the intention of the Government to interfere with Neapolitan law, which must take its course if the crew had made themselves amenable to it; but that he did complain that their sufferings had been aggravated by their not being allowed to communicate with their friends, and the length of time allowed to elapse before they were brought to trial; and it was not till a change of Government took place and Lord Malmesbury came into office that the prisoners were released. With regard to the law and practice in these cases, he (Mr. Bourke) did not think anybody could say that there was the slightest difference in the policy of the Government and that of their Predecessors. It must, however, be remembered 400 that these were all cases of degree. No doubt, we had a right to demand that these men should have a fair trial, and that their trial should be held without unreasonable delay. He was not going to say for a moment that an unreasonable delay in bringing them to trial had not arisen, because the Papers before the House were full of unreasonable delay. He should, however, be able to show that from first to last Her Majesty's Government had been remonstrating in the strongest language with the Peruvian Government on the subject of the delay in bringing these men to trial. At the time Her Majesty's Government first heard of the men being imprisoned they had good reason to believe that they would soon be released. This charge having been brought against Her Majesty's Government he felt bound to go fully into the question to show that they had not ceased to remonstrate in the strongest manner with the Peruvian Government. Mr. March, in December, 1874, wrote to Lord Derby as follows:—Anticipating the solicitude which Her Majesty's Government will, perhaps, feel in the condition of the master and crew of the Talisman, imprisoned in a country where places of confinement are notoriously faulty, and the administration of the law is so irregular, I availed myself of the first opportunity after the departure of the last mail to visit the prison at Callao, and inquire fully how these men were lodged and treated. I had already done so on more than one occasion, but this was the first time I could see the whole of the crew since their landing from the Peruvian ship of war Huascar. I was received with every attention by the gaol authorities, who allowed me to converse freely with the master and crew, and examine the part of the gaol occupied by them. The master, G. B. Haddock, I found in a room contiguous to the main building, but quite apart from the rest of the prisoners. He appeared somewhat dejected, but did not complain of anything. The menwere in the common prison, which, though not comparable to similar establishments in England, was not so bad as some I have seen in Spain and other parts of the world. They lamented the loss of their wearing apparel, which had been taken from them at the time of their capture, and the want of proper bedding. They declared they were ignorant of the filibustering expedition on which the Talisman was engaged, and that they had been misled. Four of the men had mattresses, the rest rugs and blankets, arranged upon an inclined boarding erected for a sleeping place, similar to what is seen in guard-rooms for soldiers. On leaving the prisoners I called upon the Judge charged with the case, who was at much pains to explain the delay in the beginning of the trial, which, he said, had been caused by the fact that the arrests had been made in different parts of Peru, and the absence of an efficient interpreter. He said that the proceedings had 401 now commenced, and that, notwithstanding the immense amount of work thrown upon his hands by the late arrests in the revolutionary movements, he would give this case priority over all others. I then visited the Commandant-General of Marine, who, in expressing his willingness to do all he could for the prisoners' comfort, ordered, in my presence, the naval officer now in charge of the Talisman to send to the gaol the mattresses I had requested. This order has been duly executed. During the interview a telegram arrived from the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the same subject, from all of which and the general conduct of the authorities I think they are desirous of meeting my representations in a conciliatory and fair spirit. I have not failed to avail myself of every opportunity to point out to them the facility with which seamen, as a rule, are led astray, and imparting my impression that in this instance most, if not all, of them have been the victims of misrepresentations, and that had they known the true object for which they were engaged they would not have joined the Talisman.Some months after the receipt of that letter Her Majesty's Government had reason to believe that the prisoners were being well treated. In March of last year, again, Her Majesty's Government had heard from Mr. March as follows:—The fact that the crew, though still detained, are not confined with convicted prisoners, as is generally the case in this Republic, will, I trust, be viewed with satisfaction. I visited the gaol yesterday to make sure that this information was correct, and from my inquiries it appears that the master of the Talisman shares his room with three other political prisoners, two of whom are of the rank of Colonel. The crew are with the other Peruvian prisoners similarly situated, and among them are some captains and lieutenants in the Army.The hon. Gentleman who brought forward this matter founded what he had said upon ex parte statements of the prisoners. He (Mr. Bourke) did not suppose they would state anything that was deliberately untrue; but after they had passed through such sufferings, it would be very likely that their statements would be to a certain extent coloured. At all events Mr. March's statement when he visited the gaol was, to a certain extent, a contradiction of what they had said. The Government had received similar accounts from Mr. March in May. He said that in other respects the delay had been unavoidable on account of the double character of the proceedings; because the criminal trial of the crew depended to some extent upon the trial of the ship, and this was a cause of delay from first to last. An appeal against the first trial took place; but if this had not been the case, in all 402 probability, the prisoners would have been liberated before this. He did not say that this appeal was the cause of their being kept, because he was inclined to hold the argument to the Peruvian Government that they had acted unjustifiably in this case. In May, Lord Derby was not satisfied with merely writing to our Consul and our Minister in Peru, for on the fifth of that month he telegraphed; and when they heard that one individual prisoner had evidence to produce, they sent another telegram to Peru. In fact, they went on constantly remonstrating, until at last the prisoners were liberated, with the exception of the captain and the two mates. They had had a correspondence since then with Peru, and the Papers would show that they had held exactly the same language as they held when the other prisoners were detained. The Foreign Minister of Peru, in answer to a despatch from Mr. March, pressing on him that the trial should be proceeded with, wrote that he had the pleasure to inform him that on the 1st December last the criminal trial on the charge brought against the crew was begun, and he could assure him that it was proceeding in accordance with the law. Another despatch, in still more peremptory language, was written by Mr. St. John, and the Prime Minister of Peru wrote in answer that as to the trial of the captain and the mates of the Talisman the Government could not interfere with the action of the tribunal, and must limit themselves to requesting the Judges to dispatch the matter promptly. He added that he could not admit that there was anything unnecessary or vexatious in reference to the obtaining of evidence; and that they would maintain that the prisoners had not been treated with injustice. The importance of the evidence was solely a question for the Judge, and no one could be permitted to prejudge the matter. Mr. St. John had not failed in his duty of continuing to protest in the strongest language. The Government had sent three or four telegrams within the last fortnight upon the subject, and they heard that the trial was proceeding. After all, perhaps, the delay had not been an unmixed evil, for if the men had been tried at once, when public feeling in Peru was strong against them, they would probably have been condemned to a long period of penal servitude. The 403 allegations of ill-treatment quoted by the hon. Member for Glasgow in his letter of the 9th of July last were contradicted in a despatch from Mr. St. John to the Earl of Derby, dated from Lima in August. No complaint, it appeared, had up till that time been made by the crew, either as to the quality or quantity of the provisions they received; their prison consisted not of cells, but of the large casemates in the Callao fortress, which, though gloomy, were spacious and airy; the persons confined along with them were principally political prisoners; and they had free communication both with the Legation at Lima and Consulate at Callao. He wished to call the attention of the House to a telegram which had recently been despatched by the Government in reference to the matter. It was as follows:—Her Majesty's Government cannot consent to the trial of the Talisman prisoners being indefinitely delayed. I am there fore instructed to insist on their immediate trial; failing which, you may say that Her Majesty's Government will be obliged to demand the release of the prisoners.He should not go into the case of Sibley at present. The Government had no information with regard to that unfortunate man's death; all they knew was that he was killed by a fellow-prisoner, and who that fellow-prisoner was they did not even know. As to the statement that the other prisoners engaged in the transaction had been liberated, they had no evidence on that point, and they believed the facts were exactly the reverse. If it were so, it would enable the Government to assume even a better position than at present. He hoped the House would not think he was going to justify anything that the Peruvian Government had done in the matter. It was a great misfortune, no doubt, for Englishmen who went to countries whose laws were entirely different from our own to have to come under the jurisdiction of those laws. But we could only claim that they should be fairly tried by the laws of those countries, and that their trial should not be protracted beyond a reasonable extent. It was not very long since a person in this country could be kept some seven months untried until Winter Assizes were instituted; and it was possible for a prisoner to be committed in July and not be tried till the 404 following April. That ought to be borne in mind before they made a violent attack on the law of a foreign State because it was not as good as our own. He hoped that the hon. Member for Glasgow would be satisfied with the statement he had made, and would not press his Motion to a division. He was quite prepared to promise that everything the hon. Member had said that evening, as well as his pamphlet, would be sent, as many of them already had been sent, to our representative at Peru. He could not, therefore, see what good could come of examining those persons before any tribunal in this country; and, considering that the statements of the hon. Member were certainly opposed to all the Consular reports and the reports from our Minister on the subject, they were bound, in justice to our representative at Peru, to ask him what his opinion on those statements was. If our representative at Peru thought they were in the main correct—they would not quibble about words—Her Majesty's Government would most decidedly be in a position to do what they intended to do—namely, to lay the whole case before the Law Officers of the Crown, and ask them whether they thought the British Government had a case for demanding compensation on the part of the prisoners and their families for the sufferings which they had endured. That was what the Government were prepared to do, and he hoped the statement would be satisfactory to the House.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
said, this subject was one of such general interest that probably it was not necessary for him to state why he took some part in the debate; but he could not help saying that Mr. Sibley, the father of the unfortunate man the news of whose death had arrived by telegraph in this country yesterday, was a member of the legal profession; and some months ago he mentioned his son's unhappy position to him. He had been much struck with the moderation and earnestness with which that gentleman spoke of his son's case, and nobody could but sympathize with his natural anxiety as to how it would terminate. Since the lamentable event just announced that sympathy with him could only have been deepened. He also thought the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs would admit that Mr. Sibley had not unjustly pressed the matter upon the 405 Foreign Office. When that debate commenced the primary object in all their minds must have been, if they could, to secure the release of the two men now undergoing imprisonment. If innocent, they ought to have been released long ago. He recollected the days when he and his hon. and learned Friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs were students together, and when he was a distinguished member of the English Bar; and when he (Sir Henry James) heard him stating to-night the case against these men, he thought how much better he was than any Peruvian Attorney General would be. If the Representative of the English Government in this House could make out such a strong case against these men, they might be sure his arguments would be re-echoed in Peru. If the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had said that the facts of the shipment of this crew were such that the Peruvian Government were entitled primâ facie to an inquiry, everybody would have admitted it. What he could not understand was why his hon. Friend had constituted himself the advocate against these men. The Mover of the Resolution had quite accepted the proposition that the Peruvian authorities had a right to seize this vessel, and that they had a right to hold the men until they made inquiry as to whether the crew were innocent or guilty. And yet it was to justify that portion of the proceedings which was not attacked that the defence of the Peruvian Government and the case against those unfortunate men had been brought before the House that night by the Under Secretary. It was entirely in relation to matters subsequent to all that that the cause of complaint arose in that case. These men were arrested in the month of November, 1874. There was no step taken to vindicate the innocence of these men till November, 1875—an innocence not to be demonstrated by trial, but an innocence existing by admission of the Peruvian Government, and which must have existed from the beginning. What was the reason given for that delay? It was said the reason was we could not establish their innocence until the position of the vessel had been determined by the Prize Court. He should like to ask the Attorney General what the decision of the Prize Court had to do with reference to the position of the vessel with the guilt or innocence of 406 these men? To accept that view would be to reduce the judgment of the Prize Court to an absurdity, because directly the Prize Court had adjudged the vessel a lawful prize the men would be discharged. He could understand that statement if the Prize Court had said that the vessel ought to be allowed to go free—that the innocence of the men might spring from the innocence of the vessel; but the guilt of the vessel being established, the Peruvian Government said they should allow these men to go free. There was cause of complaint, and grave cause, existing from the very first—namely, that for 12 months these men were detained for a proceeding that did not affect their innocence or guilt. The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs assumed, and rightly assumed, that we should give due consideration to the execution of the municipal law in operation in foreign countries, and that foreign countries should be allowed to execute its own laws freely and fully towards its own subjects or foreigners. But that must be within ordinary limits. No country had a right out of its own mere arbitrary will to detain prisoners of another nationality beyond the time they would detain their own subjects under similar circumstances. Did not the Under Secretary feel that there had been undue detention in this case? The hon. Gentleman had mentioned the practice in this country of detaining persons awaiting their trial; but did he mean that there was any analogy to this case, where men were detained from November, 1874, to March, 1876, without, as far as he knew, any trial being even yet commenced? The Peruvian Government kept the men in custody 12 months without any very strong protest by Her Majesty's Government. His hon. Friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had taken so much care of the Peruvian Government that he described the imprisonment as one of which the men had no cause to complain. But he (Sir Henry James) found that the men were constantly complaining.
§ MR. BOURKE
said, he merely read a despatch from Mr. March, in which he described the men's condition, and stated that they had nothing to complain of. He (Mr. Bourke) did not give any opinion himself. When Her Majesty's Government received that despatch they had every reason to believe the prisoners 407 were well treated, and therefore they did not send a strong remonstrance at the time.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
said, that in a despatch, dated the 9th of August, 1875, Mr. Sibley wrote—As I before observed, the casements in which these men are confined are very gloomy, and have been unequivocally condemned by one of the principal Judges of Peru.The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had not dealt with the case as a Representative of the British Government ought to have dealt with it. The point was that these men were confined in Peru still, and that the Peruvian Government had acted not only in an arbitrary manner, but that they had acted in a lawless manner, and in a way altogether unjustified by International Law. At a time when this vessel was under the British flag, if she was under any flag, the Peruvian Government, without having the right to say that she had been guilty of any unlawful act, took her for their own purposes—for the purposes of their war. If she had gone to the bottom, what would have been the result in relation to compensation to the owners? It was said they would in that case have looked to the Peruvian Government; but the Peruvian Government had made defaults in other things besides their law and the administration of justice. What would have been the result if his hon. Friend had had to appeal to the Peruvian Government on behalf of the owners of the vessel, if she had not been found guilty and condemned by the Prize Court of Peru? Not the slightest compensation would have been given to the owners. After the Peruvian Government had used the men and the vessel for the purposes of their war, they put the men in prison again. And how had the Government treated this protracted wrong? It might have been merely an omission upon their part; but whatever the cause, they had made no protest against it, and they had allowed these prisoners to be used for the purposes of the Peruvian Government one day and then used with harshness the next. He would ask the House to consider what would have happened if we had found some time ago an American filibuster on the coast of Ireland, had captured her, and kept American citizens, who might have been on board, for 18 months without a trial, 408 had taken them to prison and then out of prison, to put them on board the vessel that they might be used either for purposes of trading or war? What would nave been the consequence had we used them for our purposes, keeping them in compulsory service towards the Crown, and all that without a trial? He had no desire to see this case made one for passing censure upon the Government. He was disposed rather to say, let the past be forgotten. The question he would have dealt with was, What was to be done for the future for the safety of the men who survived; and what were they to do for the honour of the British flag? He was personally interested in the case of the unfortunate man whose death, which they had just heard of, was to be attributed to the delay that had taken place. They knew that if he had had that justice to which he was entitled he would not be lying dead within the walls of a Peruvian prison. As to the other men, he (Sir Henry James) would ask Her Majesty's Government whether the time had not arrived for them to demand justice for those men? The Peruvian Government had had ample time for their trial. They had not explained why, from November, 1874, to November, 1875, these men had not been brought to trial. They had refused to allow these men to establish their innocence, and they had refused to prosecute them and establish their guilt. Had not the time come now when Her Majesty's Government could bear the responsibility of saying on the part of the country that British subjects should not be detained without a fair trial; that they had given the Peruvian authorities full opportunity for carrying into effect their municipal law; that if they had neglected that opportunity the fault was theirs, and not ours; and that now we asked that those men, if not tried, should be released? The matter of obtaining compensation was a very small question compared with the importance of obtaining justice for these men in prison. Accepting fully the assurance of the Government that if still untried they should be liberated, he would ask his hon. Friend (Dr. Cameron) whether it would not be better to avoid taking a vote on the subject. They were seeking not to oppose the Government, but to strengthen it, and it would be sufficient to let it go forth that not only 409 hon. Members who were friends of the prisoners were watching the action of the Government, but that a greater and broader circle of Members who were interested in defending the honour of the English flag would demand either that these men should be speedily brought to trial, or that they should be released.
§ MR. W. HOLMS
ventured to think that in this case a great and flagrant injustice had been done to certain of Her Majesty's subjects, and some discredit had been brought on the British flag by what had occurred. His hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow had so fully detailed the circumstances connected with the subject that it would not be necessary for him to occupy the time of the House by giving any further particulars. A case of the strongest character had been made out, forcing upon the Government a double duty—first, so far as regarded the men in prison. They ought to have an immediate trial, or release; and as regarded 18 of the crew who had been released, it was the duty of the British Government to demand from the Peruvian Government redress for all the wrongs and injuries they had suffered. He had listened with some surprise to the statement which had been made by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, that the responsibility as to what had happened must rest with the parties who had fitted out the Talisman. At all events, the men continued to be British subjects, and upon that ground alone, whether they were guilty or innocent, they were entitled to claim the protection of the British flag. Passing from the crew, he would ask what the Government had done, or proposed to do, with reference to the outrage on the British flag? While the vessel still retained the national character, it had been unlawfully seized by the Peruvians and used for the purpose of conveying troops from one place to another. He could not find that any steps had been taken to repair this outrage, and he was at a loss to understand the language used by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who had stated that he could not see what outrage had been committed by the Peruvian Government. That was exactly what he complained of—that Her Majesty's Government could not perceive that an outrage had been offered to the national honour. For his own part, he 410 thought it was one of those cases with regard to which we were bound to ask for satisfaction. The Correspondence revealed that the policy of this country with reference to Peru had been a policy bordering almost on apathy. From the published despatches it appeared that the attention of Her Majesty's Government had from time to time been called to the state of things in Peru, and that Peru had treated our representations almost with contempt. Mr. St. John wrote to Lord Derby in November, 1875, calling attention to the case of the four men who were still in prison, and complaining that "the Peruvian Government treated with studied neglect any request made in the name of Her Majesty's Government;" this did not appear to have roused Lord Derby, while our Representative himself appeared to have been almost unduly anxious not to give offence to the Peruvian Government, and could only get the stereotyped reply that the case was under consideration. It was the general feeling of the people of this country that a British subject in a foreign country was protected by the British Government, and that the Foreign Office would insist on the law of the country being fairly administered towards him; but after these dealings with Peru the public would come to believe that a British subject could claim no protection from the Home Government. Where our countrymen were not protected the British flag would not be respected.
deprecated the tone adopted by the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, and who, not content with advocating the cause of the prisoners, had thought it right to make a strong and direct attack on the policy of Her Majesty's Government. For himself, he should refrain from entering on dangerous topics; but he would say that so far as the case of these seamen was concerned they deserved, and had obtained, the greatest sympathy from both sides of the House. He thought it was the duty of every hon. Member who addressed the House on this occasion to make the interest of these men, who were still in confinement, the primary object of consideration. But that ought not to cause them to forget how these men came to be in such an unfortunate position. As soon as he had read the Papers on the subject he felt the greatest indignation that these poor men should, without sus- 411 picion on their parts, have been led into trouble and danger by persons who, when they despatched the ship from Cardiff, must have well known the unlawful nature and the perilous character of the enterprize. The Government had acted throughout with admirable judgment, especially considering the danger which was to be apprehended. It might be assumed that there was no fault to be found with the Peruvian Government up to the time of the capture of the ship. From that time it was admitted that the conduct of the Peruvian Government was highly culpable in not bringing these men to trial. This had been the subject of strong remonstrances, and it might lead to a claim for compensation. But what fault was to be found with Her Majesty's Government? Their conduct had been admirable, and, notwithstanding the suspicious character of the vessel and the excitement which existed in Peru, their diplomacy had been so successful that all the men except the captain and two mates were released without punishment of any kind. What ought to have been done that was not done? The hon. Member for Paisley said that the remonstrances ought to have been stronger; but if, instead of the matter being left in the hands of a wise diplomatist like Lord Derby, it had been under the direction of a man like the hon. Member for Paisley, all these men might have been kept in custody up to the present day. It had been said by the hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) that the Foreign Office did not sufficiently resent the affront that was offered to the British flag; but he (Mr. Gorst) was by no means clear at present that at the time the ship was captured she had a right to fly the British flag at all, for she was in forcible possession of the insurgent forces, and her British crew were on board in the position of prisoners. It was hardly fair to bring such charges against Her Majesty's Government when, as he understood, they had given the House every assurance that everything that could be done should be done to secure the relief of these unfortunate men. Some hon. Gentlemen seemed to be unaware that the trial was now proceeding, and he doubted not that Her Majesty's Government would press their wishes that this trial should be carried on as speedily as possible. They had succeeded in obtain- 412 ing the release of one portion of the crew; the trial of the other was now proceeding, and he suggested that the best thing which they could do was to leave the matter in the hands of Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. EVELYN ASHLEY
remarked that from some observations of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs one might gather that it was considered sufficient by the Government of this country, and all they could require, that the subjects of the Queen of England should be treated equally and on the same footing as the subjects of foreign States. He (Mr. Ashley) demurred to that entirely. In a country like Peru, where our own Consul had said the law was practically a dead letter, and where the Judges were corrupt, a doctrine like that would expose our subjects travelling abroad for business or pleasure to arbitrary conduct, tyranny, and even torture. Just 26 years ago the House of Commons decided, after four nights' debate, that British citizens abroad were entitled to more effective protection than such a doctrine would afford. The Under Secretary himself, in his speech, had shown that it was impossible to secure justice by mere despatches and remonstrances, couched as they had been in very mild terms. He thought that, under the circumstances, if these despatches and remonstrances had been backed up by the presence of one of Her Majesty's gunboats, the matter would have been settled long ago. The Under Secretary for the Foreign Office virtually admitted this, for he said over and over again that he was astonished the question had not been brought before the House long ago; and yet, at the same time, he said that he could not discuss it because the men had not yet been brought to trial. Was not that an admission that more might have been done if our Government had adopted a vigorous course? If no satisfactory answer was returned to the hon. Gentleman's last telegram, he hoped another telegram would be sent, and perhaps something else. Perhaps the most important function of a British Government was the protection of Englishmen abroad. We could manage very well for ourselves at home, but the watchful eye and strong arm of our country were indispensable for safety when in barbarous countries.
§ MR. HERSCHELL
said, he did not think there would be two opinions about the conduct of the agents who sent the Talisman to Peru, or that a single word was necessary in support of the view that the Peruvian Government had grounds for considering whether proceedings should not he taken against the officers and crew of the vessel. The question was, whether in this matter the Peruvian Government had really done what we had a right to insist that they should do. Perhaps from one point of view Her Majesty's Government might be said to have done all that they might have been expected to do, yet in matters of this kind it was the duty of the House to criticize the course they had pursued. It ought not to be said that the question was brought forward in a Party spirit. What he understood by that was when a Motion was brought forward for Party purposes. But here there was nothing of the kind. What were they sent there for if not to criticize the acts of the Government in a fair and impartial manner? There was, perhaps, naturally enough, an excess of caution on the part of the Government, and it was well to make them feel that in adopting a vigorous course of action in the present case they would be supported by the House and the country. With regard to the detention of the prisoners, there had, no doubt, been remonstrances on the part of the British Minister at Lima and the Government at home. But there must come a time when mere remonstrance must give way to something stronger; and if our Government went on protesting too often and doing nothing more, the Peruvian Government would treat our remonstrances with disdain. Had not the time now come when something more vigorous might be said, and when a more decided course of action should be plainly intimated? The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had, he thought, treated the question of illegality somewhat too lightly. He had admitted that an outrage against the principle of International Law had been committed; but was it enough to say that it had done no practical harm? If such language were held the Government would only tie its hands at some future time when practical harm had been done. The British Minister at Lima had called attention to this outrage. He said that 414 this was a British ship under the British flag, and that there were British subjects on board who had been forced to work on a Peruvian man-of-war. That vessel might have gone into action; and suppose one of these British subjects, thus forced to serve, had fallen in that engagement, what would have been said of the case of a British subject who had been treated in that manner? And had not a violation of International Law been equally committed as if a disaster of that kind had happened? Such cases ought to be promptly dealt with, and so to have dealt with it, instead of waiting for a year, would have strengthened our position in any demand we might have to make upon the Peruvian Government. He trusted the Government would shape their course so as to afford to others who might be hereafter liable to such proceedings the greatest measure of safety. If the Government would act with vigour and follow the advice given them to-night, he believed they would receive a hearty support from both sides of the House.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, the question which the House had temperately to consider was, whether Her Majesty's Government had, or had not, been guilty of any default in regard to the subject before the House. All who had read the Papers relating to this matter, and had heard the statement of the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), would sincerely sympathize with the unhappy men who had been so long confined in prison, more especially in consequence of the catastrophe which had occurred since some of the men had arrived in this country. But he warned hon. Members not to let their hearts get into their heads, simply because they thought the case of these seamen a hard one. The hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) referring to the speech of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, observed that it was an extremely dangerous thing to deal with that question, and they ought to be extremely cautious as to what they said, lest peradventure they should prejudice the case of the unhappy men awaiting their trial. He quite agreed with that; but when they were considering whether the action of Her Majesty's Government in that matter was justifiable or not, they must, of necessity, ask themselves 415 whether there existed any case for investigation into the conduct of the master, mates, and crew of that vessel. All that he understood the Under Secretary to say, pointing to particular facts which had been strongly alluded to by the Mover and Seconder of the Resolution, was that those facts afforded ground for inquiry by the tribunals of Peru. And if the Under Secretary was to be condemned for doing that, because it partook of the nature of advocacy, the hon. and learned Member for Taunton had certainly followed the same course. In discussing that subject they could hardly avoid touching on topics which might be used to the disadvantage of the accused; but that was surely not the fault of the Government, because the matter had been brought before the House—very properly, he admitted, by the hon. Member for Glasgow. He asked the House to deal calmly and dispassionately with this question, and not to come to the conclusion that they ought to send gunboats and iron-clads, and he knew not what, into the waters of Peru, because Peru was a weak and insignificant Power. A few gunboats and iron-clads might crush and ruin Peru; but it seemed to him that they ought to deal with that country exactly in the same way, on a question like this, as they would with any of the Great Powers of Europe. It was admitted that the conduct of those who had sent out the Talisman and controlled her movements was open to the severest condemnation. She went into the waters of Peru; a number of insurgents bent on overthrowing the Government of that country boarded her; he did not say that the master and crew were in the least guilty, but those who were in command of her undoubtedly committed a gross breach of the municipal law of Peru, and also acts of piracy in the waters of Peru. Nobody could doubt that after the evidence disclosed in the documents before the House, the master of the port on going on board was taken prisoner, and when the soldiers of Peru went, as they lawfully might do, in a boat to ascertain what the purposes of the vessel were, they were fired upon, and then the vessel absconded, taking the master of the port along with her. The vessel sailed some hundreds of miles south of Callao, and there landed the insurgents, who got up into the country and raised 416 a rebellion which led to great disorder and bloodshed, when down came a Peruvian man-of-war and took her flagrante delicto. If a vessel went into the Thames and committed such outrages, should we have said that there was no case for inquiry, no case for her condemnation, or for the conviction of her officers and crew, if they were guilty? It was not for this country to judge of the innocence or the guilt of persons who were accused of breaking the municipal law of a foreign country. It was a question solely for the tribunals of that foreign country to decide. Well, the vessel was seized and the men were imprisoned. There were several complaints on the part of the hon. Member for Glasgow—the seizure of the ship, the employment of the ship by the Governor, and the imprisonment of the crew. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had admitted from the beginning, in the most open, candid, and express manner, that the use of the vessel by the Peruvian Government was illegal, and ought to have been remonstrated against; but Her Majesty's Government had remonstrated against that act in the strongest terms. As regarded the crew, they had been sent on board the Huascar because it would have been absurd to have sent them in their own ship with a prize crew weaker than themselves, whom they mighteasily have overpowered and have thus regained possession of the vessel. True it was that some of the crew had been put into the Pervian uniform, and that on this point also an irregularity had been committed; but here, again, Her Majesty's Government had remonstrated against the act in the strongest terms. He must ask the House, whether it would have been wiser at that particular time for Her Majesty's Government to have pressed the point more strongly than they did against the Peruvian Government, and thus, perhaps, have given rise to considerable irritation on their part. Depend upon it that the crew had lived far happier and more healthy lives on board the Peruvian man-of-war and on board the Talisman than they would have done had they been confined in the gloomy casemates of Callao. Was Her Majesty's Government to send, as had been suggested by an hon. Member opposite (Mr. Evelyn Ashley), a couple of gunboats, and to bombard Callao because this 417 illegality had been committed? Had they done so it might have recalled to the minds of the Peruvian authorities that a gross and grievous outrage had possibly been committed by British subjects against the Peruvian municipal law, and, in his opinion, Her Majesty's Government acted wisely in handling this difficult subject with some delicacy. If these men had been hurried on to an instant trial, might there not have been a great chance that the verdict would almost inevitably have been against them? Now as to the real and substantial ground of complaint. It was true that these men, instead of being tried expeditiously, were kept in disagreeable confinement for 12 months or more. The question was, whether the delay was such a delay as to give to the Government the right not only to remonstrate, but to claim compensation or to exact some reparation by force from the Peruvian Government? Was the delay a matter for which the Government of Peru were responsible, or was it a matter for which the tribunals were responsible? If it was the tribunals, Her Majesty's Government could not make out any claim for compensation. The tribunals came to the conclusion that they could not proceed with the trial of these men who were found on board the Talisman until the condemnation of the Talisman had been established. The hon. and learned Member for Taunton said that he could not understand that. But the Attorney General for Peru said this was the law of Peru, and the law of France also, and the Minister for Peru said this was the reason why the trial did not proceed. If the tribunals were right in delaying the trial of the men till the decision as to the condemnation of the vessel itself, we had no ground of complaint. When the vessel was condemned the case of the men was investigated, and it was found that the crew were not implicated, but that it was otherwise as regarded the captain and mate. The tribunals might have been wrong in coming to this conclusion; but, even if this were so, the Executive Government were not responsible for the errors of the tribunal. In support of this proposition, he would quote a high authority, that of the Lord Chief Justice of England, who, in the course of the celebrated Arbitration at Geneva, said that as regarded any miscarriage of justice in matters 418 within the sphere of municipal law, it was utterly out of the question to suppose that a Government, having done what in it lay, as by seizing a vessel and bringing it properly before the Courts, could be held liable because, through some mistake or accident, justice might have been evaded. In this case, also, if the fault lay with the Peruvian tribunals, the Executive Government were not responsible. It might be that the long delay was the result of the action of the tribunals, or the result of some action of the Executive. But what had Her Majesty's Government done? They had remonstrated strongly, and through their remonstrances 18 of the crew had been released, though the captain and one of the mates remained for trial. The remonstrance of the Government had continued, and it had increased in strength as time had advanced, and the time, he should think, had come when the remonstrance might assume some definite shape. There could be no reason for more delay under the municipal law, because the vessel had been condemned. He would call attention once more to the despatch sent out by the Secretary of State on the 18th of this month—Her Majesty's Government cannot consent to the trial of the Talisman prisoners being indefinitely delayed. I have therefore to instruct you to insist upon their immediate trial, failing which Her Majesty's Government will be compelled to demand their immediate release.Thus, if there was further delay, the release of the prisoners would be demanded, tried or untried. We must remember that in Peru, as in some other countries, the trial of criminals was not conducted in the same way as it was conducted here. Evidence was taken by depositions, which was in itself a cause of delay; but, in case of further delay, the unconditional release of the prisoners would be demanded; and if the Secretary of State demanded their release, and that command was not complied with, steps would no doubt be taken to enforce it. It was a matter of pain, perplexity, and difficulty, requiring the most careful and delicate handling in order to prevent these unfortunate men from being involved in ruin. There was no advantage to be gained in the appointment of a Committee. The Government knew all the facts, and if they did not act let them then be blamed.
§ Mr. W. E. FORSTER
said, that the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) had made out a good case. There was no doubt that the persons who sent out this ship had committed a grave breach of International Law, and they would probably escape punishment. But there was also no doubt that in consequence of their crime innocent British subjects had greatly suffered. He would not enter into the position of the two men now awaiting their trial; but he must say he was sorry for one or two remarks that had been made by the Attorney General, which would be telegraphed to the place where the trial would be held, and he believed it had not yet begun. [Mr. Bourke: Yes, it has.] He (Mr. W. E. Forster) believed the process had, but not the trial. He understood that the Attorney General had forgotten, no doubt from pure accident, to state that the acts complained of were committed when the ship bad been taken possession of by men who were not British subjects, and that it was not the captain, nor the engineer, nor the crew that took possession of the vessel by force. The British Government had a strong case for demanding the immediate trial of these men, and he was glad that a telegram had been sent to that effect. His only surprise was that it had not been sent weeks, or even months, previously. The learned Attorney General had made one or two remarks with respect to the delay of justice which in the case of countries like Peru would be rather dangerous doctrine. The hon. and learned Gentleman had said that there was no cause of complaint, however long the delay might be in bringing the accused to trial. But if, in the course of what in Peru they called justice, but which we called injustice, British subjects were not brought to trial within a somewhat reasonable time, we should have great cause of complaint. And no one who had read the Papers could say that this was the first instance. The Government, however, were now doing their best. With respect to the persons who had been kept in prison for so many months and then liberated, there was a strong case for compensation. They had been released without trial because the Peruvian Government did not think they had a case against them, and that was a good ground for seeking compensation. The learned Attorney General had rather 420 gone out of his way to justify the Peruvian Government for having taken these men out of prison and forced them to man one of their men-of-war and render service without pay. But the hon. and learned Gentleman ought first to have ascertained his facts. The chief thing the House had now to consider was that two British subjects were now awaiting their trial who had been taken out of prison for a time and made to work for the convenience of the Peruvian authorities. He might be mistaken; but as far as he knew no protest had been made by our Minister at Peru with respect to the forced impressment of the sailors. The Government had not merely to consider those two men now in prison, and the compensation due to the crew, but also the situation in future of other British subjects in Peru and similar countries. The Government ought to make a strong protest whenever International Law was clearly broken, as in this case, in order to prevent such outrages for the future. The hon. and learned Gentleman was right in saying that we ought not to act arbitrarily and despotically towards weak Powers; but in this case it was the weak State that was exercising despotic power over us. It was just because it was weak that it did so; for they all felt that it would be undignified to send our men-of-war to take steps to vindicate our rights. The hon. and learned Gentleman asked what we would do in such a case, and his reply was that no Power in Europe would have treated our subjects as Peru had done. No doubt our Minister at Peru had a difficult task in dealing with the Government there, and it at first appeared to him (Mr. W. E. Forster) that he had been too quickly satisfied that the prison was not too bad; but when I he came to read through the Papers he found that bad as the prison in question was it was not half so bad as some others. The English Minister at Peru, therefore, should not be judged too hardly. It would be the duty of the Government to take advantage of the present event; and—having obtained justice for the two prisoners and the crew—they ought to inform Peru that she could not be permitted, with impunity, to outrage International Law with respect to English subjects. ["Divide!"] An hon. Member cried "Divide;" but he (Mr. W. E. Forster) hoped the House would 421 not divide. He did not think that a Committee of the House sitting on the conduct of a foreign Government would be the most satisfactory tribunal for considering this question; but, above all, when they knew what the result of a division would be, he did not think there would be any advantage in having a telegram sent to Peru stating that the subject had been brought forward in the House of Commons with great ability, and that they had decided against the Motion. He therefore hoped his hon. Friend would be satisfied with the strong support the Motion had received and the assurance that the Government would do their utmost to obtain justice for these men.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
entirely concurred in the observations with which the right hon. Gentleman had closed his speech—for this reason, that in this case there really was a universal agreement in two or three leading points. It was generally agreed that the conduct of those who manned and sent the Talisman on her voyage was entirely blameable, and that the Peruvian Government were in their right in capturing the ship and proceeding with the trial of those who were found on board; but, on the other hand, it was conceded that the Peruvian Government had not shown that rapidity in commencing and proceeding with the trial which ought to have marked their conduct. It must also be admitted that Her Majesty's Government had put the strongest pressure upon the Peruvian Government in reference to the matter, for a telegram had been received at the Foreign Office from Lima, under date Wednesday last, in which it was stated that "the trial of the Talisman officers continues—first mate killed by fellow-prisoner." He had no doubt that a despatch was on its way from which it would be made clear that the trial was proceeding. If, however, it should prove not to be so, his noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would know what to do. However wrong might have been the conduct of the men now undergoing or awaiting their trial, it was their manifest right to be brought to trial, and Her Majesty's Government would see to it that this was done. He hoped the hon. Member for Glasgow would see fit not to proceed to a division on the Motion which he had made, The 422 discussion which had arisen would strengthen the hands of the Government, but a division would probably be misunderstood abroad, and could not possibly improve the position of the men to whom the Motion referred. Before he sat down he wished to notice an inadvertent misrepresentation of something which fell from the Under Secretary. The hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Evelyn Ashley) said that his hon. Friend's remark was—"That it would be quite sufficient if British subjects in these cases were treated as foreigners were treated," and the hon. Gentleman very properly protested against such a canon. But that was not the doctrine laid down by his hon. Friend—it was, in fact, the converse of it. What he (Mr. Bourke) said was that—"We had good cause of complaint against Peru for having treated British subjects worse than her own subjects, and that she was at the least bound to do as much for them as for her own subjects." The hon. Gentleman's remarks, however good in themselves, were therefore beside the mark so far as his hon. Friend was concerned. An inquiry before a Committee might furnish the Peruvian Government with an excuse for further delay, and it would be difficult to conduct such an inquiry so as to make it yield any practical fruit. He hoped, therefore, the hon. Gentleman would not press his Motion to a division, which might be open to misconstruction.
said, he thought that there was a great deal of force in the objection that had been urged by the Chancellor of the Exchequer against the appointment of a Committee to inquire into this subject, because it was not only a tardy tribunal, but its appointment might present to the Peruvian Government a fallacious idea of the real state of feeling prevailing in this country on this question, and might supply them with an excuse for further delay in a matter in which there had already been too much delay. At the same time, however, he wished to urge upon Her Majesty's Government the justice and equity of the proposition contained in the Motion. It must be admitted on all hands that Her Majesty's Government, in dealing with the Government of Peru, had laboured under considerable disadvantage in consequence of the illegal course that had been taken by the Talis- 423 man. The effect of that admission, however, could not be allowed to be carried beyond a certain point. There was, also, to be taken into consideration the natural repugnance that Englishmen felt against using force towards a weak country; but here again we must not permit that feeling to carry us too far, because, as Lord Palmerston had remarked, sometimes countries presumed upon their weakness to do most unjustifiable acts, in the hope that they would be regarded as too insignificant for punishment. Much reliance had been placed by the Attorney General on the dictum of Lord Chief Justice Cockburn, uttered in the course of the Arbitration at Geneva—that when once a question had been referred to the tribunals of a country the Executive Government stood completely discharged from all duty in respect of it to any foreign nation. He was not willing to allow that the mere reference of a matter to the legal tribunals of a country acquitted that country in the face of a foreign Power. It was perfectly possible that from some deficiency in organization, or from open corruption, such tribunals might be most unworthy of confidence; and, in his opinion, it was not unfair to hold that before a country could claim the benefit of International Law on that ground, it must show that it had brought up its own organization, both Executive and judicial, to the ordinary level which International Law required. It must further be recollected that this dictum of the Lord Chief Justice was not strictly judicial in its character, his Lordship sitting as an arbitrator on the part of this country; and, moreover, the majority of the Arbitrators did not adopt the view of the law it laid down, and, in fact, decided the other way. We had a right to expect that in this matter some regard should be had to the general principles of justice, and that the conditions of International Law should be complied with. He did not say that the Government had done wrong in going to the extreme limits of patience under the circumstances of the case; but the time had come when their language ought to be both intelligible and firm, and when the Power with which we were dealing ought not to be allowed any longer to suppose, if it had supposed, that by virtue of its weakness it would be enabled to escape its obligations.
§ MR. MACGREGOR
said, that he was acquainted with the relatives of the man whose murder had been announced to the House, and he hoped, at all events, that steps would be taken by the Government to prevent the assassination of his comrades. It was impossible to say how far the Peruvian authorities were concerned in placing that man in the company of murderers. He hoped the Motion would not be pressed to a division, as he believed that in this matter the Government would do everything that was right on the part of British statesmen.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he was surprised at the action of the Government in this matter, considering that last year they pushed through the House a Bill depriving Her Majesty's subjects in Ireland—["Oh, oh!"]—depriving Her Majesty's subjects in Ireland—["Order!"]—depriving Her Majesty's subjects of the right of trial in certain counties in Ireland. ["Question!"] As the House would not listen to him, he begged to move the Adjournment of the Debate.
§ CAPTAIN NOLAN
pointed out that this debate bad lasted for four hours and a-half, and although there were 100 Irish Members present in the House, as far as he knew not one of them had yet spoken on this question. [Laughter.]Yes, up to that moment not one had spoken, for he thought the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) could hardly be said to have spoken, owing to the noisy interruptions of hon. Gentlemen on the Government side of the House, who were always tolerably noisy whether on that side or the other. The debate had lasted for four hours and a-half, and yet the hon. Member for Meath was not allowed to be on his legs two minutes and a-half. He (Captain Nolan) could not say that he agreed with what the hon. Member meant to have said—[Laughter.]—from what he could make out that he intended to say, for, owing to the noise of hon. Gentlemen opposite, he could only catch a few words of what he did say. The hon. Member had a right to be heard, and he was not listened to. Now, he had a right to claim to be heard at some future stage. If the debate was not adjourned, he hoped the House would go on dividing.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, the Motion for adjournment was owing to 425 the unreasoning clamour of hon. Gentlemen opposite. If the hon. Member for Meath were allowed to proceed with his argument, he would probably have shown that the Government did not approach the discussion of this subject with a clear conscience, for they had been guilty of detaining without any warrant American citizens in Irish prisons, and therefore he could sympathize with Her Majesty's Governmentin the temerity with which they approached this question. He should support his hon. Friend, and ask him to press his Motion for adjournment.
availed himself of the opportunity afforded by the Motion for adjournment to make a brief reply. His case was, he said, that the men who had been finally released as innocent had been subjected to a prolonged and barbarous imprisonment in direct violation of the Peruvian law and Constitution, and that case neither the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs nor the Attorney General had attempted to break down. As for the men who were still retained in prison, his case was that the time for any trial of these men had now elapsed. The Peruvian Government, by keeping them for 16 months in prison without trial, had lost the right of bringing them to trial at all. The Consul at Callao had explicitly pointed out, in the despatches which had been laid before the House, that by the Treaty obligations of Peru with the United States they had no right to imprison a citizen of that country for more than 24 hours without commencing proceedings against him; and that we being in the position of the most favoured nations were entitled to the same protection for British subjects. He had no belief in the fairness of a trial forced upon Peru at the point of the bayonet, and he did not think the prisoners would obtain anything like fair play if tried under such circumstances. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had said that although he (Dr. Cameron) had alleged that all the native political prisoners concerned in the attempted revolution had been long since amnestied, he had brought forward no proof in support of that statement. He replied that, independently of the statements of the Talisman crew, he had forwarded an extract to that effect from a Peruvian newspaper, in a letter which he had addressed to 426 Lord Derby on the subject, in October last, and which he complained had not been included among the Papers laid before Parliament. He congratulated the Government upon their new-born vigour in this case; but pointed out that it had only been manifested since his Notice appeared on the Paper. If the Government would pledge themselves to ascertain the real state of Peru's Treaty obligations towards Britain, and if—should they find that Consul March was justified in alleging that under those Treaty obligations the detention of the captain and mate for so long a period without trial was illegal—the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs would promise to insist on their release he would withdraw his Motion. If Government would undertake to ascertain whether it was a fact, as he alleged, that all the Peruvian insurgents had been amnestied eight months ago, and if they found this to be the case, if they would pledge themselves to insist upon the release of the men now in prison, then he would withdraw his Motion. But, as he understood the offer of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, it merely was to send out the sworn depositions of the crew of the Talisman now in this country to our Consul and Minister in Peru. To do so would, he believed, simply lead to a bandying of contradictions and denials on side issues, and thus perhaps to the wasting other six or 12 months in inconclusive correspondence, while the men were allowed to linger in prison. If this were all the promise the Government would give, he must reluctantly proceed to a division; especially as, notwithstanding all that had been said upon the point, he confessed he could not see that an adverse division could make the case of the prisoners any worse than it was, as they were now treated with the same severity as though they had been convicted, like many of their prison companions, of murder as well as piracy.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he would adopt the suggestion of the hon. and learned 427 Gentleman. He need not assure him there was no one in that House whose opinion he valued more highly. He did not in the slightest degree ["Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the hon. Member was not entitled to make a second speech on the Motion for adjournment. If he desired to withdraw his Motion, the House would probably grant him indulgence.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he could not help thinking that the Motion for adjournment would be a good end to the debate. The subject had been thoroughly discussed. If the Motion were to be defeated—as he believed it would be—it might do great harm. He thought the hon. Member for Meath had rather got them out of a difficulty.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he thought the hon. Member for Meath was a little hard on the House, because when he began, though his observations were met by a little noise, if he had proceeded he would in a short time have obtained the attention of the House.
§ MR. ANDERSON
considered it advisable, under the circumstances, not to divide on the adjournment or the Main Question. Such a division would be very apt to be misunderstood. If they adjourned without a division it would be practically shelving the question, for a considerable time at any rate, and by that time they might get some further information.
§ Debate adjourned till Tuesday next.