HL Deb 04 March 1844 vol 73 cc491-2
Lord Brougham

said, that he had recently received many applications upon a very painful subject, and though he refused to present any petition on that subject, he wished very shortly to state to their Lordships the reasons which induced him to refuse to take any part with reference to it. Nothing could be more delicate than any interference of either House of Parliament, or any Member of either House, with respect to any matter or thing which belonged purely to the domestic policy of any foreign country, or belonging to the administration of the Municipal Law of that country; and he thought it no reason for breaking through that rule, that we considered a law to be improper to be enacted, or that it was in its nature or character revolting to our feelings. That would form no reason for our interference, because we had nothing to do with any domestic law, but our own law and its administration; and we had no power to interfere, nor had we had any mission to interfere with any law of whatever character in any foreign country, whilst that foreign country confined itself to its own law and the administration of that law. He held that rule to be of so sacred a principle, that he had refused to take any step with respect to the subject to which he now adverted, although it had been of late frequently brought under his notice, and although it was a case which greatly interested his feelings. A man had been condemned to death in the Criminal Court of Louisiana, for abetting the escape of a slave, and the sentence had been passed upon that man by the learned Judge in every respect as if the man had committed a murder—with the same appropriateness of language to the solemnity of the occasion—with the same lecture upon the enormity of his crime—the same admonition to the unfortunate criminal to make a proper use of the interval that would elapse before he died upon the gallows to make his peace with an offended God—with the same accustomed reference to the sacred truths of religion, as if the man so sentenced had impiously and irreligiously committed a cruel and barbarous murder—that was the case to which his attention had been so frequently attracted, and his answer was, that he had no authority to interfere, or call on the Government of this country to interfere with the laws of other nations. He was bound to suppose that the American law had been duly considered—he was bound to suppose that the American, or he should say the law of Louisiana, had been justly administered—he was hound to suppose that it was under such a just administration of the law of his own country that a criminal ad been sentenced to lose his life, and he had no right to impeach the judge's construction of the law, or his ignorance of it, or to accuse him of any mal-administration of the law, or any perversion of it in condemning the man to die for aiding in the escape of a slave—that was the law of Louisiana—that was not the law of England. God forbid! but when he said that he had no right to say one word against the law or those who administered it in Louisiana, he might humbly, however, and respectfully towards the legislature of Louisiana, express his fervent hope that advantage would be taken of the long interval between the time of passing his sentence and the 26th of April, which was the time appointed for carrying it into execution—that advantage would be taken of that period for the sacred purpose of extending mercy to that criminal; for he spoke of him as a criminal because the laws of his country had so dealt with him; but he hoped and trusted that the humane and merciful consideration of the government of Louisiana would be extended to that unfortunate individual. With these observations he would quit this painful subject, and he trusted he should be considered as having completely vindicated himself for having refused to interfere in the way he had been urged.