HL Deb 28 May 1852 vol 121 cc1263-7

inquired whether the Correspondence which appeared in a morning paper of that day, between Mr. Addington and Mr. Mather, the father, respecting the compensation awarded to Mr. Mather, the son, by the Tuscan Government, was authentic; and, if authentic, whether there would be any objection to lay it on the table of the House?


In answering the question just put to me by the noble Lord, I have to state that in reading the Times newspaper of this morning, I observed an omission which does not occur in any other of the four public morning papers which enjoy the greatest circulation. Not one single syllable of what I then stated in explanation of the case of Mr. Mather, appeared either in that part of that journal which is devoted to the report of the proceedings in Parliament, or in that part of it which contains the summary usually made of the debates of this House. But on the other side of the paper I observed that there is a correspondence purporting to have passed between Mr. Mather and Mr. Addington; a copy of a letter which I directed to be written to Mr. Mather, sen., from the Foreign Office, and a copy of a letter in answer to it written by Mr. Mather, the father, and apparently addressed to me. The first letter, which I ordered Mr. Addington to write to Mr. Mather, the father, when Mr. Scarlett, our Chargé d'Affaires at Florence, informed me of the compensation awarded by the Tuscan Government to his son, is perfectly authentic. It is exactly the same as the letter which I or- dered to be sent to Mr. Mather, the father. But as to the reply of Mr. Mather, alleged to have been sent to me, I cannot say whether it is authentic or not; for, up to this time, no such letter has reached me, either at the Foreign Office, or at my own house. Your Lordships will see that it is not desirable that I should say more on this subject at the present moment; except that as the case is now concluded, I am ready to lay all the correspondence regarding it on the table of the House; and it will be then for your Lordships to judge whether Her Majesty's Ministers have acted in this business as became them.


There appears to be some discrepancy between the letter of Mr. Addington, as it appears in the Times, and the explanation given by the noble Earl—no doubt unintentional. As I understood the noble Earl yesterday, he said that the compensation given to Mr. Mather, the son, was equal to the remuneration which he would have obtained for such an outrage in an English court of justice. That, I think, was the purport of the noble Earl's statement. Now, the letter of Mr. Addington, to which reference has been made, does not bear out the view which the noble Earl has taken of the matter. I think that the noble Earl will have no difficulty in explaining the difference. As the letter of Mr. Addington is now admitted to be an authentic document, I will read a paragraph in that letter bearing on this point:— Although Her Majesty's Government do not consider that this sum is equivalent to the injury which Mr. Mather suffered, or to that which an English Court would have awarded him as damages for his sufferings, and although it is less than Mr. Scarlett was instructed to demand, Her Majesty's Government have reason to believe that Mr. Scarlett acted to the best of his judgment in thus concluding the controversy. There is no doubt that the anxiety he has gone through in consequence of this and other disputes with the Tuscan Government, has brought upon him a most dangerous illness. Here is a little difference between the statement of the noble Earl and the statement in this letter; but I doubt not that the noble Earl will be able to reconcile it. In fact, the discrepancy is not great, though, at first sight, there does appear to be a discrepancy.


My Lords, I am not surprised at the view which the noble Earl has taken of this subject, for he has clearly misunderstood what I stated last night. I said that Mr. Scarlett, acting to the best of his discretion and judgment, had agreed to receive, on behalf of Mr. Mather, the amount of compensation offered—a sum equivalent to that which he conceived that Mr. Mather would receive for a similar injury from an English court of justice. I do not—I avow it on the part of Her Majesty's Government—think that sum was sufficient; but Mr. Scarlett thought otherwise, probably taking into account the difference in the value of the money there and in this country; for 240l. in Tuscany is a larger sum than 240l. in England. He, no doubt, acted from the best of his judgment, and took what he thought would be the damages awarded by a jury for a like injury in England. It is also fair to say that Mr. Scarlett at the same time obtained another boon from the Tuscan Government, which he thought he ought not to throw away his opportunity of obtaining. The Government of the Grand Duke stated to him, that if he and Mr. Mather were satisfied to receive the sum offered, which, I must say, is smaller than that which I instructed him to demand or to receive, the Government of the Grand Duke would consent to set at liberty two English gentlemen, who were then, and had been for some time, in prison in Florence for political offences. Mr. Scarlett, therefore, acting on his own judgment—perhaps not logically, but, at the same time, I cannot say unwisely—accepted that offer at once, and had these gentlemen conveyed on board one of Her Majesty's ships. I think it right, being at this distance from Mr. Scarlett, to say, I am informed he was dangerously ill, and at one time on the point of death, so that he was unable to do more than write a mere statement of the facts. I think it but right and fair to say that there is good ground for believing that, though Her Majesty's Government considered the amount of compensation awarded was not equivalent to the injury inflicted, nor exactly conformable to the instructions he had received, Mr. Scarlett had yet acted to the best of his ability in the matter, and made the best arrangement he could under the circumstances.


I wish to know whether the noble Earl has received information whether Mr. Mather, the father, thought the pecuniary compensation which the noble Earl demanded for the injury inflicted on Mr. Mather, the son, satisfactory, or whether they considered that such kind of compensation would be adequate, even though the amount proposed were much larger? An injury has been inflicted on Mr. Mather, the son, and an insult on his country, for which we are entitled to receive reparation. The conduct of the Tuscan Government with respect to the other gentlemen, can in no manner affect the case of Mr. Mather, upon whom a gross insult and grievous injury has been inflicted. Mr. Mather was entitled to demand redress, which redress had been most inadequately afforded.


When I lay the papers on the table of the House, the noble Lord will find all that I have done both in the case of Mr. Mather and in that of the Messrs. Stratford.


Being nearly connected with Mr. Scarlett, I may be excused for stating that I am confident he will be able to show that on this occasion, as on every occasion since he has been the representative of the English Government at Florence, he has conducted himself not only with honour, but with prudence and skill. Although only Secretary of Legation, it has happened that for the last seven years he has been the English Minister at the Court of Florence, and engaged in transactions of the most arduous description; and has acquitted himself, I am enabled to say, to the entire satisfaction of three successive Secretaries of State for Foreign Affairs. Lord Palmerston, again and again, has intimated his high satisfaction at the manner in which Mr. Scarlett has discharged his duty. My noble Friend who succeeded Lord Palmerston (Earl Granville) has reiterated that praise; and since the noble Earl opposite has been in office, he has repeated his satisfaction at the manner in which Mr. Scarlett has performed his duty. I have no doubt that on this occasion Mr. Scarlett will be found to have entitled himself to the thanks of his country.


Mr. Scarlett, since I have been in office, has shown the greatest zeal and activity in discharging his duty at Florence—a very difficult one to perform. When I say he has in this case deviated from his instructions, and acted upon his own judgment, I am not prepared to say that, on further investigation, he will not be found to have done the best.


Having appointed Mr. Scarlett to the situation which he holds, and having had some ex- perience of his capacity, I most readily bear testimony to the accuracy of the statement of the noble Earl respecting him.

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