HL Deb 07 March 1853 vol 124 cc1161-2

said, he wished to ask a question of the noble Earl at the head of Her Majesty's Government (the Earl of Aberdeen). There had appeared in the Times newspaper, and also in the French papers, a statement to the effect that M, Mazzini, having escaped from Lombardy, had repaired to Genoa, and was there taken on board Her Majesty's frigate Retribution, and conveyed to Malta. He did not wish to be misunderstood as to his reason for asking the question he was about to put to the noble Earl. His noble Friend behind him (the Earl of Derby), when at the head of the Government, and himself, took the opportunity, when in their places in Parliament, and when in office, to declare that they should continue to maintain, as a most sacred duty of this country, the right of asylum afforded by this country to foreign political refugees. He had not in the least altered his opinions upon that subject from that moment to the present. He felt certain that no English Minister, whatever might be his opinions, would either have the will, or, having the will, would have the power, to alter the laws of England in that respect. But, assuming or supposing this report to be true, and considering that the deck of an English man-of-war was the same as British soil, he thought that if this political agitator had been received on board Her Majesty's ship Retribution, when in no personal danger, then, to say the least, it was a most ill-judged act of humanity on the part of the captain of that ship. He felt certain that in Sardinia, where, he was happy to say, a constitutional Government existed, neither Mazzini nor any other political refugee would be in any danger of his life. He might, and probably would, receive an order to quit the country, because Sardinia could hardly retain many refugees that were odious to neighbouring States with safety to herself. But, supposing Mazzini had gone there, to flee from the vengeance of Austria, he might have used the common conveyance open to the public at those ports; there was, therefore, no possible obligation for his making use of one of Her Majesty's ships. Their Lordships would see the inconvenience that would arise if Her Majesty's ships were made mere passenger ships, to convey discomfited agitators and conspirators against Her Majesty's allies to some other port of destination. It was in thus viewing the circumstances of the case, and not from having altered his opinion at all as to his desire of giving an asylum to foreign refugees and politicians—but it was under the peculiar circumstances of the case, and supposing Mazzini to have been received on board one of Her Majesty's ships—that he now asked the noble Earl whether the report was correct or not?


Having very recently expressed my sentiments with respect to the asylum afforded to political refugees in this country, I do not think it necessary to enter upon that part of the subject. With respect to the question put to me by the noble Earl, I am unable to give any answer, as Her Majesty's Government have received no information whatever on the subject.

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