§ Lord Beaumont
wished to put a question to the noble Earl the Secretary for Foreign Affairs on this subject. From questions which he had already put, and Returns which he had received, he believed that the Dey of Tunis and Sir T. Reade, our Consul, had both of them, in this matter, acted strictly in conformity with treaty; but the behaviour of the Consuls of the European nations at Tunis was by no 1670 means so satisfactory, they having protested against Sir T. Reade's conduct and endeavoured to thwart his proceedings; and he now wished to know whether or not the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs had received from those Foreign Governments whose Consuls had taken part in she proceedings at Tunis against Sir T. Reade, such explanation and reparation as he considered satisfactory.
§ The Earl of Aberdeen
said, it was necessary that he should explain to their Lordships the nature of the question just put to him. The case referred to was this:—A Maltese had commuted a double murder at Tunis; he had murdered a Tunisian and a countryman of his own. Now by certain privileges enjoyed by Christian Nations in the East, they possessed right so try criminals, being subjects of their own, by their own tribunals, for crime committed among themselves—this was considered a great privilege, and every Christian Power had a similar interest in its exercise. Now, it appeared to the Consuls at Tunis, that Great Britain ought to have exercised this right of trying this Maltese for the crimes which he had committed, according to English law, instead of handing him over to be dealt with by the Tunisian authorities. There was, perhaps, nothing very unreasonable in this opinion, and he was not surprised that the Consuls should entertain an opinion that the conduct of Sir T. Reade was an abandonment of a privilege always held to be of the first importance to Christian Powers. However, by our treaty with Tunis, there could be no doubt that the representative of Great Britain was bound to deliver up to the Tunisian authorities a criminal under the circumstances of the criminal in this particular case, to be dealt with according to the Tunisian law. We did so, the man was tried by a Tunisian tribunal in the presence of our Consul, and was found guilty—and he had no doubt that the trial was a fair one, there was nothing to complain of on that ground. However, the other Consuls protested against this proceeding, feeling that they had a common interest in protesting against what they considered to be an abandonment of rights which they possessed in common with ourselves. He admitted that this was improper on their part, and that neither they nor their Governments had a right to interfere with us in the execution of a treaty by which we were 1671 bound. They, however, so far succeeded with the Dey as to induce him to respite the criminal, and delay the execution until the matter had been referred to the British Government; that reference was made, and he (Lord Aberdeen) having seen no reason to interfere with the course of justice, gave an opinion that the law ought to be allowed to take its course. The man was accordingly put to death, and he believed most justly so. The noble Lord would, therefore, see that the British Consul and Government had obtained full justice as to this criminal, and that the protest of the other Consuls had no effect beyond that of delaying the execution of the sentence for a few weeks. Nevertheless, he had thought it his duty to represent the facts to the Governments which these Consuls represented; but, as to "reparation," he had no reparation to demand—the culprit in fact was executed. If the Foreign Consuls had succeeded in stopping the execution, he (Lord Aberdeen) might have been obliged, however painfully to his feeling, to have interfered; but, as this had not been the case, and under all the circumstances, he had only felt it necessary, as he said before, to represent the matter to the Governments which these Consuls represented. Up to the present time he had not received answers from all those Powers, but by several of them he believed the conduct of their Consuls had been more or less reprehended. The French Government, however, he regretted to say, could see nothing to blame in the conduct of their Consul. They considered that he had done no more than his duty in maintaining the privileges enjoyed by all Christian Powers, and that we should have insisted on this Maltese having been tried, not according to the Turkish, but according to our own law. Certain of the other Powers had, however, seen the matter in so different a light, that the Governments of Sardinia and of Sweden had both of them recalled their Consuls. The other Powers—with the exception which he had mentioned—had more or less expressed their disapprobation at the course taken by their Consuls: but as to a demand for reparation, really there was no room for any such proceeding. What had taken place had shown that the English Consul had exercised more power and influence than all the other European Consuls put together. The man had been brought to trial, con- 1672 demned, and executed according to the approval of the British Consul. Perhaps he (Lord Aberdeen) might with a little ingenuity—if he had nothing better to do—get up a discussion to show the French Government how much our Consul was in the right, and how much their Consul was in the wrong, but as such a proceeding could lead to no useful result and we had really carried our point, he had been satisfied with expressing the opinions of Her Majesty's Government upon the transaction.
§ Lord Beaumont
would remind the noble Earl, that our treaties with Tunis were totally different from our treaties with the other dependencies of the Ottoman Empire, or with even the Ottoman Empire itself. There was a treaty existing with Tunis, which specially provided that any party charged with the crime of murder, or any other crime for which the punishment of death was inflicted, should be tried by the courts of that country. So that when Sir Thomas Reade and the Dey were urged to allow the man to be tried in a Christian court, they were urged to break a treaty. He (Lord Beaumont) could not give any merit to the noble Earl opposite for having this man hanged. On the contrary, he thought if credit was due to any one, it was to the Dey. [Laughter.] It might be a laughing matter to their Lordships, but it was no joke to those Christians whose lives were in jeopardy in the Turkish States. He confessed he was somewhat disappointed with the statement of the noble Earl, for he had hoped he would have taken that opportunity of establishing something definite as to our consulate jurisdiction, and he regretted that the French Government had not looked upon the matter in the same light as the other European Powers who had reprimanded their Consuls for their interference.
§ The Earl of Aberdeen
was at a loss to know what more the noble Lord would have. What did he want the Government to do? Were they themselves to execute justice in Tunis, or were they not rather to see that justice was done to British subjects residing there? In the case to which the noble Lord had referred, the criminal was under the protection of this country, and it was the business of the Government to see that justice was done to him, and that had been done. The noble Lord was mistaken in suppos- 1673 ing that every crime subject to capital punishment committed by a Christian in Tunis was to be tried by the courts of his country; and in this case, if the man had not murdered a Tunisian as well as a Maltese, we might have tried him, and the Dey could not have done it. The Dey had all the responsibility and all the credit of executing justice in his own territory, and it was not for us lightly to interfere; but in this case the Dey delayed the execution of a just sentence until he had consulted the British Government, and the Government had replied that though the criminal was a subject of Great Britain, that was no reason why he should be withdrawn from the execution of justice, and accordingly he was properly put to death. If the man had murdered a Maltese he would have been tried by the Christian tribunal; but he murdered also a Tunisian, and that crime brought him under the jurisdiction of the Turkish tribunals. The Dey, however, showed so much deference to the English Government as to suspend the execution of the sentence until he had communicated with Her Majesty's Government. Her Majesty's Government had given their opinion on the matter, and that opinion had been acted upon—he did not know what more the noble Lord would have.
§ Lord Beaumont
thought some reparation should have been given by France similar to that which had been given by the other Powers who had recalled or reprimanded their Consuls for interfering. So far, however, from that having been done, they found that the French Consul had received all sorts of thanks and testimonials presented by deputations of his countrymen—and for what? Why for opposing Sir Thomas Reade our representative. The question had now become one between France and Great Britain—and the noble Lord did not seem to him to have met it as such.
The Earl of Minto
said, if he understood rightly the explanation which had been given by the noble Earl, he had seen no ground of complaint in the circumstance of the Consul of a foreign state interfering in a matter purely between a subject of this country, the Consul of this country, and the court to which he was accredited. The noble Earl saw nothing requiring explanation in the circumstance of the interposition of an officer representing another Government in a matter ex- 1674 clusively concerning the subjects and interests of this country. It appeared to him to be a very grave matter.
§ The Earl of Aberdeen
said the noble Earl had not understood him. He had stated most distinctly that there had been a most improper interference on the part of the Consuls of other Powers at Tunis, and that he (Lord Aberdeen) had represented to all the Governments whose Consuls had so improperly interfered, and represented in strong terms the opinion of Her Majesty's Government in respect to that interference. But as to reparation—he had none to ask, for the man had been already hanged, and the Governments to which the representations of improper interference had been made had condemned the conduct of their Consuls, and reprimanded them, except. France, who had not seen anything to complain of in the conduct of her Consul. It was thought to be a question of common interest with all Christian Powers that they should have the right to withdraw their subjects from the jurisdiction of Mahommedan courts, and the Consuls of the other European Powers thought we had, in some degree, abandoned those rights which all Christian Powers possessed in the Levant, in the course we had taken in regard to this matter; but there was nothing whatever in the matter for which we could demand reparation.
The Earl of Minto
had understood the noble Earl to convey something in the shape of an apology for the conduct of those countries who had so improperly interfered; but he had not heard from him any assurance that all similar interference would be prevented in future.
§ Subject at an end.