HL Deb 11 June 1852 vol 122 cc478-97

moved that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the allegations of the Baron de Bode's Petition, and to report thereupon to the House. Their Lordships would probably be alarmed at the mere mention of the name of the Baron de Bode. But he could assure their Lordships there was no ground whatever for such a feeling on the present occasion. From recent circumstances the case had assumed a very simple form; it was circumscribed within very narrow limits; and he should be able, he trusted, in the very plain statement he meant to make to occupy no very considerable portion of their Lordships' time. If, however, it were otherwise, he had had so much experience of their desire on all occasions to do justice, that he was quite sure they would cheerfully afford the time and attention necessary for forming a correct opinion on a question of this nature and importance. The outline of the case might be stated in a few words, almost in a single sentence. It was this—The Baron de Bode was a British subject; he possessed a large property in France; that property was confiscated by the revolutionary Government of France. At the time of the Peace a treaty was entered into between the King of France and the Government of this country, by which a large sum of money was paid over to the British Government for the purpose of giving an indemnity to British subjects whose property had been confiscated by the revolutionary Government of France. A considerable portion of that money remained still unapplied for the purpose for which it was given. The Baron de Bode, therefore, as a British subject, having had his property confiscated by the Government of France, claimed to be indemnified out of the remains of the money paid by the Government of France to the Government of this country for that very purpose. Simple as the case was, he had, by a series of misapprehensions and mistakes of the most extraordinary kind, been defeated in his attempt to obtain redress. Baffled in the attempts he had made to obtain redress by various applications he had made to the other House of Parliament, and at last worn out by his anxiety and exertions in reference to this case, he had sunk into the grave, transmitting his claims to the present petitioner, who was his son, his heir, and his personal representative. He (Lord Lyndhurst) hoped their Lordships would bear with him for a few moments while he said a word or two with respect to himself as connected with this case. He was present in their Lordships' House when, sitting judicially, they pronounced the late judgment on the case of the Baron de Bode. And he found no fault with that judgment—no other judgment could have been pronounced consistently with law, and he concurred in it. But in the course of those proceedings he felt so strongly the injustice which had been done to this gentleman, and the injuries he had sustained, that in a moment—rash perhaps so far as he (Lord Lyndhurst) was personally concerned—he undertook to bring the case before their Lordships. He did suppose at that time that he should have able to do it in the course of the last Session. His increasing infirmities, however, had prevented him carrying that wish into effect. But having once made the promise, he had felt himself bound under all circumstances to adhere to it, and to fulfil the duty he had undertaken. He had stated the plain and simple outline of the case. He would now fill up some of the details necessary for its more perfect comprehension. The father of the late claimant was a German by birth; he was in the military service of the King of France. He married a Brit- ish lady—a Miss Kynnersley, the daughter of a Mr. Kynnersley, who resided on his own estate in the county of Stafford. He had a son—the late claimant—who was born in that county—he was, therefore, to all intents and purposes a natural-born subject of Great Britain; he was entitled to all the rights of a British subject, and subject to all the liabilities cast upon him by that name. The father and the son were entitled to an extensive and valuable estate situated in Lower Alsace. It consisted of the lordship, town, and castle of Suit, with an extensive demesne, and, connected with it, mines and other valuable property. This estate was held under the Archbishop of Cologne. By the treaty of Munster—which was confirmed by that of Nimeguen—Alsace was annexed to the Crown of France; but there was a proviso in that Act that all the property in that district of German tenure should remain inviolable. This property was a German male fief—it might be described as an estate tail; the estate tail in the remainderman being incapable of being defeated or barred. The claimant, therefore, had a vested estate in the remainder. In 1791 the father of the claimant, who was in the service of the King of France, foreseeing the events which were then pending, and apprehending they might lead to the loss of his interest in this estate by confiscation or otherwise, determined to give up that interest to his son. It was accordingly conveyed to the son with all the form and ceremony incident to the law of that country, without condition or reservation of any kind; so that by that act he became entitled to and was absolute master of the whole interest and property. In 1793, in consequence of the events which then occurred in France, both the father and son were compelled to leave France, and take refuge in Germany. They were treated therefore by France as emigrants, and their estate was confiscated. The conveyance of the estate from the father to the son had been made to secure the estate to the family—the son being a British subject; and it was supposed that under the circumstances he had mentioned the whole estate was secured. Notwithstanding that, by an unjust act the whole estate was confiscated by the French Government. Thus circumstances remained until the close of the war. At the close of the war, conventions were entered into between France and this country for the purpose of affording compensation to per- sons for the losses sustained by confiscations under the authority of the revolutionary Government as he had stated. A mixed commission was appointed for the purpose of investigating the claims, partly composed of four French, and partly of four English commissioners, and money was appropriated to satisfy those claims. In one of those treaties, namely, one dated 20th November, 1815, it was a stipulation that persons presenting their claims should present them within three months from that date, and those three months expired on the 20th February, 1816. The claimant presented a memorial to the Due do Richelieu, who was then Prime Minister of France, setting forth his claim, on the 9th January. The reason why he presented his claim to the French Minister was, that the English Commissioners had not then arrived, and no meeting had been held by the Commission. The Due de Richelieu said the claim was inadmissible; and the reason he assigned for it was this, "Your father (said he to the claimant) was a German; how can you claim to be a British subject?" The claimant was staggered at that statement, and went immediately to Sir Charles Stuart, the British Ambassador, to state the case to him. Sir Charles Stuart said he would see Mr. Mackenzie, the head of the English Commissioners, and represent the case properly to him, and he accordingly did so, and satisfied Mr. Mackenzie that there was not the slightest ground for the objection. Mr. Mackenzie, in consequence of that, said he would put the name of the claimant on his list. He begged their Lordships' attention to that list. He had stated that at the end of three months no further claims should be received. At the expiration of three months, accordingly, the Commissioners made out a list of claims actually presented. But the Due de Richelieu having decided against the claimant, Mr. Mackenzie stated it would be proper, be-fore he mentioned the case to the French Commissioners, that the claimant should present proof of his birth, and any other circumstances on which his claim was founded. The petitioner then obtained certificates of the marriage of his father and mother, of his own birth in the county of Stafford, and other documents that were necessary. In addition to that he took the precaution to make an accurate statement of his ease, and to present it to Sir Samuel Romilly for his opinion on the subject. Sir Samuel stated there was no doubt whatever that the petitioner was a British subject, that he had all the rights of a British subject, and was subject to all the liabilities incident to that character; and that, in fact, he could not put off his allegiance to the British Crown, and stating that opinion in terms the most distinct and decisive. That evidence was presented to the Commissioners, and Mr. Mackenzie said he would take care that the claimant's name should be put upon the list. But afterwards Mr. Mackenzie stated he had doubts whether the petitioner's property was situated within the limits of the French territory. It was stated, in reply, that Lower Alsace was ceded to the Crown of France by the treaty of Munster, and confirmed by subsequent treaties; and every map of France that their Lordships might look at would show that that district was situated in the midst of the French territory. Mr. Mackenzie was satisfied he had made a mistake. Such were the various difficulties which this gentleman had to contend with in making good his claim. From time to time he applied to know when his case would be heard, and what documents would be required as evidence in support of it. At length he was told that the Commissioners were employed in considering another class of eases. Thus time went on until 1818. In that year there was another shifting of the scene. A new convention was entered into with France and the Government of this country. The Mixed Commission was abolished, and a large sum of money—60,000,000 francs, was paid over to the British Treasury; this country taking on itself to liquidate the various claims, and undertaking to indemnify France against all such claims as might be made upon that country by British subjects. In the following year, 1819, an Act of Parliament was passed for the purpose of carrying that convention into effect; and in that Act of Parliament the Commissioners, who had acted on the part of England in the Mixed Commission, were named as Commissioners under the new convention. The petitioner's name was included in the list of the claimants of the new Commission. He applied to be heard, and after a considerable interval he was heard; and he received from the Commissioners a statement of the kind of evidence which they would require in support of his claim. This gentleman, as might naturally be supposed, after that long delay, was reduced to great pecuniary difficulties. He stated his case frankly to the Commis- sioners, and asked them to afford him time to obtain the requisite evidence, which, of itself, would cost him a great deal of money; during the Revolution, his castle had been sacked and his muniments destroyed, and he stated he should be obliged to resort to secondary evidence of a complicated description; and his poverty then rendered it impossible for him to procure it without time. They allowed him time. He obtained money, and he employed agents to collect documents. One part of the evidence related to the cession of the property to the son by the father; and he was collecting that evidence on the Continent, when the Commissioners sent to him to ask if he was prepared to prove that the property confiscated, being the property of a British subject, was confiscated as such, and under the decrees against British subjects. His agents at once replied, "No; it was confiscated in consequence of emigration." The Commissioners replied that in that case it was no use going on with the evidence, and that unless he could prove that the property had been confiscated under the decrees against British subjects, he was not entitled to come in under the Convention. That was a most extraordinary decision, and there was nothing to justify it in the terms of the Convention. The Article No. 7 of the Convention referred to, and all the evidence required was, that the party was a British subject, that he was entitled to the property, and that the property had been confiscated. The question at a subsequent period—a few years afterwards—was decided by the appellate tribunal—namely, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. They decided against that judgment of the Commissioners, following various cases reported in the transactions of that Committee; and many persons had since received compensation for their losses—their property having been confiscated, not as the property of British subjects, but as the property of emigrants, and on account of emigration. An end was put at once to the inquiries of the petitioner, and the Commissioners proceeded to make their award almost immediately after. That award was a rejection of the claim. Now, on the face of the award, the grounds of the rejection were stated, and the first ground was that which he (Lord Lyndhurst) had just mentioned. The second ground was, that there was no sufficient proof of the cession—of the giving up of this estate by the father to the claimant. That was a most extra- ordinary ground, for the Commissioners had themselves by their erroneous act prevented the completion of the evidence, and therefore the second ground resolved itself into the first. There was another question which was very important-—what did the cession apply to? It applied only from the father to the son; the son held a vested estate in remainder, more valuable perhaps than the life estate of the father, for he died four years afterwards. They never entered into an investigation of that part of the case, or inquired whether they should give compensation for an undeniable interest vested in him, and incapable of being disputed. Now as to the third ground, on which he did not insist, but on which he should shortly dwell, as very material for the purpose of showing the manner in which the Commissioners had transacted their proceedings. This claim for compensation on the part of the Baron de Bode was wrongly described by them as biens caducs. They applied to it the definition that was given in the Dictionnaire de l' Academie, of a lapsed legacy or of property altogether abandoned and belonging to no one; and they asked "how can you claim compensation for property which belongs to no one?" But if the Commissioners had consulted a French lawyer, or any lawyer, they would have learnt that the term which they applied to it was used to describe property which had escheated to the lord for want of an heir, and which had become absolutely vested in the lord. Then, again, the Commissioners, not being acquainted with the law of France, consulted a learned work with reference to that part of the claim which related to the property in mines, and they extracted a passage from it with the view of showing that the claimant could have no property in mines—mines being of no value, as they could not be worked without the permission and under the surveillance of the Government; whereas any person who read the passage with attention would find that the author quoted had come to a conclusion directly the reverse, and that he was answering an argument against the opinion which he himself had expressed. Thus ended the proceedings of the Commissioners. But this gentleman, having a right to appeal from their decision to the Committee of Privy Council, accordingly appealed to that body. The decision of the Privy Council was given in a few words; it was grounded solely upon the assertion that the cession must be taken to have been made for the purpose of deluding the revolutionary Government, subject therefore to the same observations that had been made upon the original decree. That being the last tribunal to which the claimant could apply, he was then left without redress. The ground of the Privy Council's affirmance not affecting the vested remainder to which he had referred, the claimant was advised to apply for a rehearing of the case. But no sooner was it known that he intended to apply for a rehearing than application was made to have the decision of the Privy Council confirmed by the Crown. Now, everybody acquainted with the course of proceedings in such cases knew full well that this was usually a mere matter of form; but, on this occasion, it turned out to be a matter of substance; for, when the gentleman applied for a rehearing, the Privy Council decided that they had no authority to rehear the case, in consequence of the Crown having ratified the previous affirmance. At that time there was about 500,000l. of the money received from France in the hands of the Lords of the Treasury which had not been applied in discharge of the claims; and a gentleman who was then a Member of the House of Commons, but who was now a Member of the House of Lords, applied to Mr. Canning, then Prime Minister, and stated the case to him. Mr. Canning was strongly impressed with the injustice which had been done to the gentleman, and said he would order the case to be inquired into, and endeavour to do him justice. Unfortunately, however, the death of that distinguished statesman prevented any further step being taken in that direction. An application having been made to the noble Lord now at the head of Her Majesty's Government, he took up the case and brought it before the House of Commons, and supported the claims of this gentleman with all the fervour, and zeal, and perspicacity, and eloquence which were so familiar to their Lordships. Put how was he mot? The first argument used against him was, that the property had not been confiscated as the property of a British subject, under the decree to which he had adverted:—he (Lord Lyndnurst) had already disposed of that objection. Another objection was, that the cession was not made by deed; but it was not necessary that the surrender of the property should have been made by deed, the law on that subject being peculiar to this country. The surrender was made according to the law of the country where it took place, and that was sufficient. Another and more singular objection was, that if the House of Commons granted the Motion for an Inquiry, they would cast a slur upon the credit of the Commissioners and of the Privy Council; and the House of Commons was asked to refuse to set the matter right, through courtesy to the parties out of whoso mistakes the injustice had arisen. These arguments, assisted by others at the nature of which he would not hint, prevailed; the consequence was, that the Motion of his noble Friend was lost, though his noble Friend was supported on the occasion by all the vigorous and manly eloquence of Sir James Graham. The case was then taken up by his noble and learned Friend opposite, who lately held the Great Seal (Lord Truro), and he undertook to bring the case before the House of Commons. He gave notice for that purpose in the year 1832; but though he had named several days for the Motion, he was unable to bring it on, and was obliged to postpone it to the next Session. Parliament having been dissolved, his noble and learned Friend had not a seat in the House of Commons in the ensuing Session, and therefore was not in a position to fulfil his engagement. The case was then taken up by Mr. Hill, the Member for Hull, who brought forward a Motion on the subject. He had made some progress in his statement; but soon perceived that one Member after another was leaving the House on the side of the Government; and when the benches were nearly deserted, an hon. Member moved that the House should be counted out—and it was counted out. So much for those dispensers of justice—so much for the honour of that House and its integrity when money was concerned, that money being in the hands of the Government, and unapplied to the purpose for which it was originally given. In the following Session Mr. Hill renewed his Motion, and not only obtained a hearing in a House of nearly 200 Members, but a Select Committee was appointed, as he understood, with acclamation. The Committee having met, some parties applied for liberty to oppose the claim, and were permitted to do so. Counsel were ranged at both sides, the case was argued day after day for some time, and the inquiry was nearly brought to a conclusion, when an objection was made, on the part of the opponents of the claimant, that his docu- ments, although authenticated by the authorities abroad, were not authenticated by any British Minister or agent. The Session being then nearly at a close, the objection put a stop to the inquiry; but the Committee, in their report to the House, strongly urged the necessity of reappointing the Committee in the next Session. Unfortunately there was again a dissolution; and Mr. Hill not having been again returned to the House, it became necessary to find some other Member to move for the reappointment of the Committee; hut such was the general alarm at the nature and complexity of the case, that it was necessary to go about knocking from door to door to find some Member to undertake it. At last Mr. Warburton moved for the reappointment of the Committee; and, singular to say, was met by the argument, on the part of a Member of the House and an officer of the Crown, that the Baron de Bode, who, for twenty years, had been persevering and active in every possible way to have his case heard and decided, had slept upon his case, and that vigilantibus non dormientibus succurrit lex —an argument which, he maintained, was, under all the circumstances, nothing less than a piece of cruel mockery and insult. Mr. Warburton's Motion having been lost, the Baron next applied for a mandamus, calling upon the Treasury to apply the money for the purpose for which it had been received. The mandamus was refused, on the ground that the Lords of the Treasury held the money as the servants of the Crown; and it was asked how could a mandamus, which was an order of the Crown, command the Crown to apply the money in any particular way? The counsel for the claimant then applied for a petition of right, supplicating Her Majesty to do justice; and—-would their Lordships believe it—this application was resisted on the ground that the money was not in the hands of the Crown, but in the hands of the Lords of the Treasury. At length, however, Lord Cottenham, then Lord Chancellor, appointed four members of the Bar, and highly qualified for the duty, to examine into the matter. These gentlemen summoned a jury of fourteen, twelve being necessary for a verdict, and that jury pronounced a unanimous verdict, finding all the facts which were asserted in the petition of right to be true. The Attorney General had notice to attend this inquiry, and might have attended it if he had thought proper; but he did not do so. Although, however, he did not choose to attend the inquiry, he did that which by law he was of course perfectly entitled to do—he traversed the finding, and pleaded the Statute of Limitations, which was fatal to the claim. The next step was a trial at bar, where the four Judges presided with a special jury, and the result was, to confirm the former finding in every particular. All the facts which he had stated, then, had been proved by the concurrent verdict of two juries. Advantage was then taken by the opponents of this gentleman of a clause in the Act of Parliament which was passed for the purpose of carrying the Convention into effect, by which it was provided that the money should only be applied to discharge the claims of the parties in whose favour an adjudication had been made by the Commissioners. It was urged that this claim had not been established by an adjudication of the Commissioners, and accordingly it was decided that judgment could not be given in favour of the claimant. An appeal against that decision was brought before their Lordships' House, but their Lordships felt they were bound to confirm that decision. If he were to be asked where the money was to come from to satisfy these claims, his answer was, that it was either in the hands of the Lords of the Treasury, or that it had been applied to some public service. If the latter were the case, the public, having reaped the benefit of it, were bound to restore the money. But he did not go so far as that. He asked simply for a Committee to inquire into this case; and if the Committee should confirm the statement which he had made, he should appeal to Her Majesty's Government to afford redress. He pressed this case in common honesty and common fairness, not for the sake of the claimant alone, but for the character, honour, and dignity of this country.

Moved —"That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the allegations of the Baron de Bode's Petition, and to report thereon to the House."


My Lords, I am quite sure that you have seldom listened with greater admiration to my noble and learned Friend, even in the days of his greatest vigour. My noble and learned Friend has entered into a detail involving matters of great complication and importance, delivered with a complete command of all the minutest circumstances, and unassisted, as you have perceived, by a reference to a single note. And seldom, I am quite sure, has the cause of humanity —I will not say the cause of justice, for that would, perhaps, he thought prejudging the case—seldom, I say, has the cause of humanity and national honour been placed before you in language more eloquent— conveyed by arguments more forcible, and in a manner more calculated to attract the attention and admiration of your Lordships, than the manner in which this case has been presented by my noble and learned Friend; and I am quite sure that to every one of your Lordships, on whatever side of the House you sit, it will be a subject of equal gratification, as it is to me, to perceive by this evidence that my noble and learned Friend's mental powers are wholly unimpaired, after the many years which he has passed—and I hope not at the close of his long and valuable life;—that not only his mental faculties are unimpaired, but also his high sense of what is due to justice and to the honour of the country, is retained with as much warmth and sincerity as ever they were in his youngest days. I am far from wishing to enter into a discussion of the merits of this painful case, with which at one time —as my noble and learned Friend has stated—I was myself individually familiar. I believe it is now about twenty-four years since I undertook to bring the question of the wrongs, as I certainly then conceived them to be, of the father of the present petitioner before the consideration of Parliament. I see a noble Friend of mine on the cross bench who undertook the charge of the case a few years before I did. Many of the circumstances have since faded from my recollection, until they were recalled to it by the able speech of my noble and learned Friend. I am quite sure that it would be a waste of your Lordships' time to enter upon a discussion of any portion of this claim, even if I were fitted by my recollection of the do-tails to do so. But I think that there will be but one feeling in the minds of all your Lordships—that such a statement as you have heard, proceeding from such high authority as that of my noble and learned Friend, evincing such a thorough conviction upon his own mind of the substantial justice of the case which he brings before you—that justice being vouched by so eminent an authority, and not answered or objected to by any of your Lordships, not controverted—and I believe as regards a great part of the statement not contro- vertible—I feel, my Lords, that it would be impossible that you could listen to such a statement and refuse to submit to the test of a searching inquiry the alleged facts, which, perhaps, you may receive with too much favour, graced as they have been by the eloquence of my noble and learned Friend. Undoubtedly there must be great difficulty attending this inquiry, which will probably extend to a period when it will be doubtful whether any Committee which you can appoint can bring its labours to a close in the course of the present Session. At the same time, if my noble and learned Friend thinks fit to press this Motion for a Committee in the present Session, I, for one, shall offer no opposition to it, although I think that not only will the Committee require a considerable time for their inquiry, but after they have reported I am afraid that in another place there will not be evinced a disposition to regard with peculiar favour any demand that may be made on them in consequence of the report of such Committee. At the same time if the report of the Committee should substantiate the justice and equity of the claim, neither lapse of time, nor technicalities, nor any inconvenience of being called upon to pay a sum of money, however large, ought to prevent the discharge of such claim on the part of this country. Therefore, however large may be the sum which can by possibility be awarded—however unpleasing to the Chancellor of the Exchequer may be the prospects of this claim, I will venture to entertain a hope that if, and only if, you should come to a clear and undoubted conclusion, upon clear and incontrovertible evidence of facts brought before you, that this gentleman, in honour, in equity, and in morality, has a claim upon the country, the House of Commons will not refuse to acknowledge the liability or justice of the claim. I beg your Lordships not to prejudge the case; but after the statement you have heard, I think it impossible that you should say that such a question does not require to be calmly and deliberately investigated.


said that, without expressing any opinion on the claims of the Baron do Bode, with the merits of which he was unacquainted, he agreed with the noble Earl that if there was a valid claim on the equity and justice of the nation, however large the sum at stake might be, it was the duty of Parliament, and especially of the other House of Parliament, to provide the means of meeting it. But he could not help entertaining more than doubts whether the appointment of a Committee of that House was the proper mode of arriving at a decision upon the subject; for he thought that Parliamentary Committees were, of all tribunals, the least to be trusted to adjudicate upon a claim upon the public purse; especially when it was one which involved such nice considerations of law, and arose from a long series of transactions of so complicated a nature. He believed that if this subject was to be brought under the consideration of the other House of Parliament, and a vote was to be asked to make good an equitable demand upon the nation, that claim ought to be recommended by the responsible advisers of the Crown, after they had, by due inquiry, satisfied themselves of its justice. They knew that the present advisers of the Crown were not indisposed to consider the subject attentively, for the noble Earl opposite was himself the person who brought the subject before the House twenty-four years ago. And in the investigation of the claim they could not only command the assistance of the law officers of the Crown, but might advise the Crown to appoint a commission of inquiry upon the subject. He believed that if by such an inquiry they were satisfied that the claim was a good one, their recommendation of it would have much more weight and authority with a Committee of Supply, than the decision of a Committee of that House. The noble and learned Lord had, indeed, laid no grounds whatever for the particular course which he called upon the House to adopt; for, assuming the facts which he had stated to be correct, they certainly led to the conclusion, not that the House should appoint a Committee, but that they should address Her Majesty, praying her to recommend a vote, in order to meet the justice of the case. The speech of the noble and learned Lord did indeed appear to make out so strong a case that he could not help feeling that there must be something more behind, of which their Lordships were not quite accurately informed, and which made it expedient that an investigation should be conducted by a more competent tribunal than a Committee of that House—by Commissioners learned in the law. This subject had now been twenty-four years before the House; when it was first brought forward by the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby): the noble and learned Lord (Lord Lyndhurst), who had that evening brought the matter forward was at that time the Keeper of the King's conscience; and he supposed, therefore, that it was upon his advice, and with his concurrence, that the Government of that day, of which he was the legal adviser, opposed a decided resistance to these claims, or even to the Committee which was moved for by the noble Earl. There had been several successive Governments since that time (the noble and learned Lord having himself held the Great Seal three times), and yet no one of them had thought it expedient to recommend this case to the liberality of Parliament. Now, without pretending to know anything whatever of the merits of the case, he must say that that one fact did inspire him with considerable doubt whether there were not some reasons against the claim of which he was not aware, but which, as he had already said, should be investigated by a more competent tribunal than a Committee of their Lordships. For these reasons, although he should not put the House to the trouble of dividing, he should feel it his duty to say "Not-Content" to the Motion.


begged to remind the noble Earl that the case had assumed quite a new shape since he (Lord Lyndhurst) had held the Great Seal, in consequence of two successive verdicts of juries, which had found the facts in the manner which he had stated.


was surprised to hear his noble Friend object to the nomination of a Committee for the consideration of a question which involved nothing more nor less than the honour and honesty of the country. The noble Earl said that he thought there must be something behind which had not yet come before the House; but if that was so, it was the very reason why a Committee should be appointed. And when he talked of successive Governments having in every instance opposed these claims, he did not consider what various complications of interests might have influenced them in such a course. Two facts, which had come to light in the course of this conversation— that the case of the Baron de Bode now rested upon the verdicts of two successive juries, and that a large portion of the sum given by the French Government still remained unappropriated — would of themselves furnish a sufficient reason for calling upon that or the other House to institute an inquiry into the case. The Committee, if it answered no other use, would be beneficial in eliciting the precise mode in which the surplus had been disposed of. The report of the Committee might indeed be that it would be desirable to address Her Majesty, praying Her to recommend the case to the consideration of the other House of Parliament; such an Address, however, could hardly follow with effect upon the mere statement of an individual, however distinguished; and if, therefore, such a course was to be taken, nothing could be so appropriate a preliminary as the appointment of such a Committee.


said, that it was now many years since he had looked into the papers connected with this claim; but undoubtedly, from the best recollection which he now had of the matter, it was absolutely necessary to remove the impression which the vigour and eloquence of the noble and learned Lord, and what had fallen from the noble Earl on the cross benches, was likely to produce. There was no doubt that a largo sum of money had been given by France; but this money was strictly appropriated according to the Act of Parliament, which provided a special tribunal for the adjudication of the claims. As the noble and learned Lord had stated with perfect accuracy, that money was to be distributed to certain claimants, and any surplus which might remain was to be at the disposal of the Lords of the Treasury. Under the treaties of 1815, powers were given by Act of Parliament to Commissioners to decide on claims presented within a certain time. The claims put in within the time allowed, did not, however, exhaust the whole fund, and, therefore, the time for sending in claims was extended. It was alleged that the portion of this sum which should have been given to the Baron de Bode had been appropriated by the Government for selfish purposes, so that the Baron had been defrauded of his just rights. In the first instance, a term had been assigned within which all persons purporting to have claims were to put in those claims; and a vast number of claims had been excluded, not on their merits, but for want of compliance with the terms and conditions which had been imposed upon their claims. It was quite true that in the time of Lord Liverpool, there being a portion of the amount unexhausted by the satisfaction of the just claims put in within the stipulated period, that surplus was applied to the building and decoration of Buckingham Palace. That was matter of history, and well understood. It did not, however, appear to be equally well understood, though it was equally matter of fact, that under the Government of Earl Grey, that surplus, so applied to the building and decoration of Buckingham Palace, was required to be returned, and it was accordingly returned in full to the Treasury; and a further investigation having been instituted, the money so repaid was applied in payment of a second list of claims which were allowed to be put in by persons who had been excluded from the former distribution by the limitation of time originally assigned: every single farthing, he believed, had been so appropriated, and nothing now remained. He would, in the course of the evening, move for Treasury accounts which would clearly show this state of facts, and which would thus disprove, at the same time, the allegation that the money designed for the Baron do Bode had been used by the British Government for selfish purposes, and the proposition that there was money available for the purpose of the Baron's claim.


said, that the Baron de Bode had preferred his claim on the 9th February, within the time fixed for their reception. As regarded the question of money, the jury had found that 450,000l. still remained in the hands of the Treasury. Out of that, 200,000l. had been paid to those who had not made their claim within the three months, and there remained a balance still unapplied of upwards of 200,000l. He did not care about the accounts. This was the finding of the jury upon the evidence before them; the case of the claimant being opposed at every step by the law officers of the Crown.


said, that notwithstanding the difficulty in which the Government might be placed by this Motion, he had fully expected the result which had been attained; for it was impossible to read the powerful and eloquent and convincing speech in which the noble Earl opposite introduced this subject to the House of Commons in 1828, when he advocated the even then manifest claim of the Baron de Bode without feeling that he would not do otherwise than adopt the course of assenting to the appointment of this Committee, however inconvenient in its immediate effect on the Exchequer its result might be. The case now came before the House in a very different position from that in which it had ever stood before; and the only conceivable objection to the appointment of a Committee was that there was not now in reason, sense, or justice, a single feature of the Baron's claim in rational dispute. The facts which were necessary to support it had all been found under circumstances which precluded the most suspicious person from entertaining a doubt with respect to them. His noble Friend (Earl Grey) said that the case was so plain that he could not help thinking that there was something behind antagonistic to the claim, since there was no patent reason why the claim should not long since have been admitted and acted upon. His noble Friend might rest assured that that was not likely to he the case, after a contest of twenty-four years with the Crown, during which the claimant had been opposed at every step by the most intelligent counsel at the bar, at inquiries which took place at long intervals of time, and many of which were judicial. There never was a case which there was such reason to believe had been investigated to the dregs, and in which every fact had been established by the most indisputable evidence. The Crown having received many millions of money to administer justice to its own subjects, nevertheless met the claim of the Baron de Bode with what he almost dignified by calling a technical quibble: the opponents who could condescend to resort to so miserable an evasion as an appeal to the Statute of Limitations must indeed have been at their wits end for a case. Upon that plea the case went to trial; not before a Judge at Nisi Prius, but to a trial at bar before the Judges of the Court of King's Bench and a special jury. The plea had said that the inquisition was not proved, nor any part of it; but the verdict of the jury was that every part of it was proved. There was no Motion for a new trial, no suggestion on the part of the Crown that there was anything unsatisfactory in the verdict, and the Act of Parliament was the only ground upon which the Court of Queen's Bench refused to give judgment upon the case. It was said that the Act had placed this money in the hands of the Lords of the Treasury, not as servants of the Crown, but as a mere mode of describing them as public officers to whom a statutable authority was given. As to the statement that there were no funds out of which this claim could be satisfied, even in part, the finding of the jury completely rebutted it. It appeared that certain claimants had been too late in presenting their claims; but he would read to the House exactly what was proved on the trial. The jury found "that, after the payment of all the claims of duly registered claimants which had been established, the surplus of 482,752l. remained in the hands of the said Commissioners, of which surplus a sum of 200,000l. and upwards was applied to satisfy claims which had been tendered after the time limited by the Convention of 1815, and not admitted until the authority given by the Lords of the Treasury in 1826; and the residue, after satisfying these claims, which had been presented duly and afterwards allowed, amounting to 200,000l. was paid into the Bank of England on Government account by the Lords of the Treasury, into pursuance of the Act 59 Geo. III." That was said to he disposed of; hut was that any answer to the Baron de Bode? Already 200,000l. had been disposed of to his wrong; for as he had put in his claim before the expiration of the term originally fixed, he was clearly entitled to payment out of this 482,752l. before those who had, in the first instance, failed from not having put in their claims in time. How monstrous, then, was the proposition, that even the residue now existing should be withheld from him. That 200,000l. might, and perhaps had, been disposed of, but not in the sense which belonged to this case. It remained hound by this judgment to the satisfaction of his rights. When France paid the money it was the duty of this country to see that it was honestly applied for those in whose behalf the claims had been preferred. It appeared, after the claims were in, a communication took place between the two Governments as to the proper sum to be set apart to answer future claims. The Baron de Bode's claim was in at that time; and, upon the footing of the claims then in, a computation was made as to the sum to be set apart. It appeared to him that, according to the statements, the case was almost incredible in point of strength and truth; and if their Lordships should find the claim to be just, he apprehended there would be no difficulty in adopting some course to redeem the honour of the country. He rejoiced to see that the noble and learned Lord who brought forward this case with so much ability and perspicuity enjoyed at his time of life so much vigour of mind, and, he was happy to add, so much vigour of body; and, in conclusion, he hoped that the Government would do itself honour by assenting to the appointment of a Committee, whose labours, he believed, would not prove so protracted or so tedious as was supposed.


said, that having been the individual who first brought forward this case in the House of Commons in 1826, he could not allow the present occasion to pass without offering his acknowledgments to the noble and learned Lord, for the spirited course he had taken, and the powerful statement he had made in introducing this Motion. He confidently believed, after the verdict of the jury, that the sum of 200,000l. remained unappropriated, that the inquiry now proposed would result in placing the representative of the Baron de Bode in the position which he ought to occupy. At any rate, after the verdict of the jury, it was impossible for their Lordships to ignore the claims of the Baron de Bode, or, at least, to give him a fair opportunity of satisfying their Lordships of the merits of his case.

On Question, agreed to.