HL Deb 25 August 1848 vol 101 cc514-8

, in compliance with a notice, rose to present a petition from Colonel Bristowe, with regard to his imprisonment in, and expulsion from, Spain. This gentleman was an officer in Her Majesty's Army, and he complained that in his person the liberty of a British subject had been violated, and the courtesy of international customs disregarded. Colonel Bristowe had for a few years resided in a private character at Madrid, and during that time he had entered into no political connexions whatever, and had not even frequented any place where political subjects were discussed. On the 24th of May last, without any notice, his apartment was entered by twenty men, agents of the Spanish police. His person was seized, his papers were taken, and he was carried through the streets to the office of the chief of the police. On arriving there the chief refused to make any statement to Colonel Bristowe with regard to the motives which had led to his arrest. He was lodged in prison with fifty or sixty other persons confined for various offences. The following day some of his papers were returned, and the others kept, being letters to ordinary acquaintances, and to near relations on domestic affairs. He was then placed in a kind of carriage, along with two agents of the police, who conveyed him to Bilboa, and there he was put into the mail and sent to the frontier. Colonel Bristowe had endeavoured at various times to obtain information respecting the cause of this treatment, but he could get no answer. Having heard before of these pranks on the part of the Spanish Government, this proceeding had not surprised him; this was not the only instance, nor one of the greatest instances of its violation of the usual customs and courtesies of nations. There was, however, this difference between the present and another instance, that here nothing like an excuse or a reason had been set up. The case of Colonel Bristowe not being a single isolated case, great alarm was felt from the possibility that not only the liberty of other British subjects might be endangered, but that our merchants might incur risk, and that the interests of British commerce might suffer. Persons engaged in trade resided in foreign countries upon the faith that they would enjoy their personal liberty; and, as there was no war between the two countries, British subjects in Spain had a right to expect that their persons and dealings would be respected there. Although diplomatic relations had ceased between the two countries, there were means and opportunities, if diplo- matic relations should not be renewed, for enforcing the rights of British subjects to redress. Commercial grievances would require prompt attention; and he warned the Government of Spain not to urge forbearance too far, since it might have an end. Upon these public grounds it was that he had proposed to draw their Lordships' attention to this case; and he hoped that measures would be taken by Her Majesty's Government in order that, if it were not likely that diplomatic relations with Spain should return to their former state, the interests and the liberties of Englishmen in Spain should not be left unprotected. The petitioner prayed that some steps might be taken to indemnify him for the injury he had suffered, and the losses to which he had been exposed.


concurred in the view taken by his noble Friend of the ill usage to which Colonel Bristowe had been most improperly and unjustifiably exposed, and respecting which, he was sorry to say, no explanation had been received. At the same time, he could assure his noble Friend and the House that there had been no remissness whatever on the part of his noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. As soon as his noble Friend was made acquainted with the occurrence, he addressed a remonstrance to M. Isturitz upon the subject, who expressed his concern at it, and said he would obtain information, and forward an explanation to his noble Friend. But neither before the departure of M. Isturitz, nor since his departure, had any such explanation been afforded. Mr. Otway, who still remained in Spain, had addressed a remonstrance upon the subject to the Spanish Government, with the same result which had attended Colonel Bristowe's applications. Unless some explanation should he afforded hereafter, such a proceeding was not consistent with the customs and courtesies of civilised countries; and, under any other Government than the present, he should have thought that the Spanish nation would be the last that would be guilty of such an act. He was quite certain that his noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Department had done his duty in the matter; but if his representations were unattended to, it was not his fault.


was obliged to the noble Marquess for the observations he had made. He would merely add that, in matters of trade, our consular agents in Spain were authorised to communicate with the Spanish Government.

House adjourned.

Protest against the Third Reading of the Irish Fisheries Bill.

1. Because a Bill of this nature, dealing with various and conflicting rights, ought not to have been forced forward for the adoption of Parliament in the absence of nearly every Peer connected with Ireland, and at a period when it is impossible to give the subject due consideration.

2. Because the Bill is founded on a principle not only unprecedented, but indefensible; oppressive and discretionary powers of taxation being vested, not in the owners of property, but in conservators, chosen by persons who may for the most part possess no property whatsoever, and whose only qualification is the payment of a license duty for the use of a fishing rod or net.

3. Because a system of annual election by a constituency not required to possess a property qualification cannot fail to lead to confusion, mismanagement, and strife, when applied to the government of a district which, like that of the Shannon, may extend for several hundred miles.

4. Because the imposition of an annual license duty, leviable from the poorer class of fishermen, and exceeding the total value of the cats and nets employed by them, is grievous and oppressive; calculated to deprive many honest and industrious persons of their means of livelihood at a time of unexampled distress, and which cannot fail to produce just discontent, leading to acts of violence and resistance to the law.

5. Because the imposition of an invariable tax on all Scotch weirs, without any reference to their relative value, is unjust and unequal, and will in many instances act as a prohibition against a mode of fishery, which in Ireland as well as in Great Britain has been found profitable and productive, and is a violation of all the rights of property.

6. Because the power of levying a tax of 10 per cent on the rated value of any description of fishery is iniquitous and unjust, and is the less defensible at a period when Parliament has withheld its assent from an additional property tax of 2 per cent, though stated by responsible Ministers to be required by the exigencies of the State.

7. Because the appointment by Act of Parliament of the Inspectors of Fisheries to hold the additional office of Commissioners, is inconsistent with all sound principles of administration, the same individuals being called on to discharge conflicting duties, to issue orders as Commissioners, to execute those orders as inspectors, and finally, to decide and to report on the manner in which they have themselves executed their ministerial duties.

8. Because it is not shown, or even suggested, that this extraordinary Bill has been sanctioned or recommended by the Commissioners of Irish Fisheries, the official functionaries appointed under a recent statute to report annually to the Legislature and to Parliament on this subject.

9. Because on these grounds the Bill is unwise and unjust, oppressive to the poor, partial in its bearing on the more wealthy, destructive to industry, and inconsistent with the rights of property, and is therefore likely to create just feelings of discontent in Ireland, when that country is made the subject and the victim of a legislative experiment which could never have been proposed, much less carried, in relation to the analogous interests of Great Britain.


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