HC Deb 21 May 1878 vol 240 cc357-8

asked Mr. Attorney General, If his attention has been called to the alleged purchase and equipment by the Russian Government and Russian subjects of United States' steamships for the purposes of being employed and commissioned as public Privateers; and, if he can state how far the allegations are correct, and the nature of the responsibilities attaching to the United States' Government under the Treaty of Washington, and to the Russian Government and Russian subjects under the Declaration of Paris, should the vessels in question, or ships of other neutral countries, be commissioned for the capture of British shipping in the event of War?


Sir, in reply to the hon. Gentleman, I beg to state that steamships have been recently purchased in the United States by persons who are said to be acting on behalf of the Russian Government; but her Majesty's Government have no information which would lead them to believe that these vessels are intended, in the event of war, to be commissioned and employed as privateers, in contravention of the Declaration of Paris, to which Great Britain and Russia were parties, and where by it was agreed that privateering should be, and remain, abolished. By Article 6 of the Treaty of Washington, Great Britain and the United States agreed to observe in future, as between themselves, the three rules therein laid down as binding on a neutral Government in time of war; and Her Majesty's Government have no reason to apprehend that the Government of the United States have any intention of departing from the observance of those rules, if circumstances should call for their application. I think it is hardly necessary, therefore, to consider what responsibilities would attach to the United States' Government or to the Russian Government, in the event of any violation on their part of the obligations by which they are bound under the Treaty of Washington and the Declaration of Paris respectively.