HL Deb 08 March 1859 vol 152 cc1415-72

in rising to move, according to notice, that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty for a Copy of the telegraphic Despatch of the 16th of October, 1858, referred to in Mr. Howard's Despatch of the 27th of October to the Earl of Malmesbury, as printed in the Correspondence respecting the Charles et Georges, said that he should take the opportunity of calling attention to the transactions detailed in that Correspondence. The case therein displayed appeared to him so important, and the course which Her Majesty's Government had pursued was so unsatisfactory, that it ought not to pass without mention in their Lordships' House. He wished that it had fallen into more competent hands than his, and he assured their Lordships that it was with diffidence that he ventured to bring it under their notice. He wished in the first place to invite the notice of the noble Earl the Secretary for Foreign Affairs to an omission which made the examination of this Correspondence extremely perplexing—the omission of the dates at which the despatches from abroad were received. In all similar Correspondence presented to Parliament, those dates had invariably been given, and he could not understand why the slovenly practice of omitting them should have crept in upon this occasion. Now, he might be asked, in limine, why the British Government should be called on to interfere in a dispute between two independent States? The answer was simple enough. We were bound by certain ancient treaties, which were confirmed in an unreserved and complete manner by the Treaty of Vienna in 1815. He did not mean, nor had it been asserted, that a casus fœderis had actually arisen in this case; but looking especially at the relations between us and Portugal since the treaty of 1703, and considering that our "good offices" were tendered on this occasion before they were asked, and that they were afterwards formally asked for by Portugal, he thought the House would agree that our good offices should have been given in such a manner as to secure to Portugal an efficient support. He should be able to show that, on the contrary, our good offices were not tendered in such a manner as to render Portugal that support which she had a right to expect. There was, indeed, a further and very powerful reason for our interfering in this case on behalf of Portugal; and it was this—that we ourselves had repeatedly urged on Portugal in the strongest manner, that a policy should be vigorously carried out which involved Portugal in antagonism with France. Now, although in order to make this case intelligible he must necessarily refer to the course taken by the French Government, and he must refer to it in terms of condemnation, he was sure their Lordships would agree with him that they were not called upon there to discuss the conduct of two independent States between each other, except so far as the interests of this country were directly concerned, and so far as Her Majesty's Government were mixed up in these transactions. In the first place, then, he begged to call attention to some correspondence which took place anterior to the case of the Charles et Georges. The French Government had introduced a scheme for procuring negro labourers for their colonies, which they asserted was a scheme of free emigration; but which we maintained, notwithstanding their intentions, and notwithstanding all the precautions that might be taken, must eventually degenerate into a disguised slave trade. A portion of the scheme was to procure a supply of negro labourers for the French colony of La Réunion. Those labourers were to be procured from the Portuguese possessions on the eastern coast of Africa. His noble Friend the late Secretary for Foreign Affairs (the Earl of Clarendon) did not omit any opportunity of pressing on the Portuguese Government in the strongest manner to take the most vigorous measures for the frustration of the French scheme. So far back as July 13, 1857, his noble friend addressed instructions to Mr. Howard, Her Majesty's Minister at Lisbon, directing him to urge the Portuguese Government to take more vigorous measures. Acting in the absence of Mr. Howard, the Chargé d'Affaires at Lisbon, Mr. Paget, presented on the 22nd of July a note to the Portuguese Government, which M. de Loulé, the Portuguese minister, answered in so satisfactory manner that his noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon) directed Mr. Howard to express the sense which Her Majesty's Government entertained of what he justly termed the vigorous and humane intentions of the Portuguese Government. This being the case, the Portuguese Government, naturally confiding in the support they would receive from Her Majesty's Government, in thee vent of any difficulty arising, proceeded to take the vigorous measures that we had recommended. They displaced the Governor, who, they thought, was disposed to treat the slave trade with too little rigour, and they sent out another Governor, furnished with instructions which, though cautiously worded, left no doubt as to the intentions of the Portuguese Government. Acting on these instructions, the new Governor detained two French vessels, which however, not being found under circumstances of flagrant suspicion, were subsequently released. Then came the case of the Charles et Georges. It was not a little remarkable that information was given by an agent of the British Government of the presence of that French vessel. A despatch, written on the 8th of October, 1858, by Mr. M'Leod, the British Consul at Mozambique, informed the Portuguese authorities there that the Charles et Georges would anchor in Conducia Bay, and that it was suspected that she was shipping slaves. He did not know, by the way, why the reports of Mr. M'Leod were not given in this Correspondence, but if they were of importance, he supposed the Secretary of State would have no objection to their production. Thereupon, however, the Portuguese Governor, furnished with the instructions of his own Government, and urged on by the British Government, proceeded to send a Portuguese ship of war in search of the Charles et Georges. He need not describe the circumstances of the capture of that vessel. He need only say that she was taken to Mozambique, examined, and condemned as a slaver by the Commission appointed for the purpose—no, not by the Commission, but by the Portuguese Court—and her cap- tain was condemned to two years' imprisonment. The grounds upon which that condemnation was made were simple, and, as he should have thought, they were abundantly strong. It was, in the first place, proved by the Portuguese authorities that the ship was in Portuguese waters when captured, that she was within cannon-shot of the shore, and subject consequently to Portuguese municipal jurisdiction. Then there was the fact that she had 110 negroes on board, who, on being interrogated, declared that they were not there by their own will, and some of them were mentioned as having been kidnapped and sold by the native chiefs. No papers were produced by the captain to justify his proceedings, and the ship was condemned. The French captain of the vessel appealed, however, to the Supreme Court at Lisbon; to Lisbon the ship was sent, and the matter became the subject of discussions between the French and Portuguese Governments. In the first place, there was a note presented by the Marquess de Lisle, the French Minister at Lisbon, in which the restitution of the vessel and the release of the captain were demanded. And upon what grounds did he base this demand? The principal grounds were, that no notice had been received in the Island of Réunion of the prohibition to export labourers front the Portuguese possessions at Mozambique; and that the captain was provided with papers justifying his proceedings, which he had received from an Arab sheik whom he believed to be a Portuguese authority. With regard to the first ground, nothing more need now be said, because the French Minister subsequently admitted that it must be entirely abandoned; and as for the second ground, no such papers were produced before the Commission at Mozambique, and Mr. Howard mentioned, in one of his reports, that, it was confidently believed by the Portuguese authorities that those papers were neither more nor less than a forgery. Soon afterwards, however, M. Benedetti, in the absence of Count Walewski, made the statement to Lord Cowley, that the Charles et Georges was not within the Portuguese territory when captured, but about four miles from the shore, and not subject to Portuguese jurisdiction. But all this while nothing was said of the true ground on which the French subsequently based their claim. It appeared, however, from a despatch of Mr. Howard's soon afterwards, that M. de Lisle laid it down that because there was a dele- gate of the French Government on board the vessel, the French Government could not admit the possibility of her being engaged in the slave trade, for which she had been condemned. That was the only and sole ground on which, the French Government rested their claim—that the presence of a French delegate exempted the ship from Portuguese jurisdiction. But the exemption of a ship of one country from the municipal law of another, could by the law of nations be urged upon only one ground. Wheaton, who was a first-rate authority, stated the only ground of an exemption as follows:— If there be no express prohibition, the ports of a friendly State are open to the public armed and commissioned ships belonging to another nation with which that State shall be at peace, and such ships are exempt from the jurisdiction of the local tribunals. Now, it could scarcely be maintained that the mere presence of a French delegate on board, whose duty simply was to superintend the emigration of free negroes, but who was not a commissioned officer commanding the ship, could put the ship in such a peculiar position that she should be thereby relieved from municipal jurisdiction. But the real ground was that, as the French Government contended, it was impossible, with a French delegate on board, there could be an imputation of slave trading. Now, that was an argument altogether unprecedented in the law of nations. The fact was, that the slaves were found on board by the Portuguese cruiser, and it was known from their own statement that they were slaves; it was even admitted by M. de Lisle that some of them came on board with their arms tied behind them. Well, even at this period of this affair the Portuguese Government stated their intention to propose to refer the question in dispute to the mediation of a friendly Power. Mr. Howard, in a despatch dated Lisbon, September 18, said:— In the event which appears most probable of the French Government insisting upon their demands, the Portuguese Government having assented to the principle laid down in the Protocol of the Paris Conferences of the 14th April, 1858, will, as the Marquis de Loulé has confidentially informed me, propose to refer the question in dispute to the mediation of a friendly Power, a course of which I ventured to express a favourable opinion. It would thus be seen that the Government had early information of the ground on which the French Government based their claims. Now, let their Lordships see what course the Government had taken. In a despatch to Mr. Howard, dated September 25th, the noble Earl (the Earl of Malmesbury) said:— I have to acquaint you that Her Majesty's Government approve your proceedings in this matter, and that they have learnt with satisfaction that the Portuguese Government propose to refer the question to the mediation of a friendly Power. I have transmitted to Her Majesty's Ambassador at Paris copies of your despatches above referred to, and I have to instruct you to assure the Portuguese Government that the friendly offices of Her Majesty's Government will not be wanting for the purpose of bringing about an amicable settlement of the difference between the French and Portuguese Governments upon this subject. The Portuguese Government was naturally satisfied with the prospect of obtaining the good offices of Her Majesty's Government; but how was this engagement carried out? A despatch was written by the noble Earl opposite on the same day to Her Majesty's Minister at Paris. One would have thought it would have contained instructions to use our good offices with the French Court, and to endeavour to bring about a friendly settlement; but all the noble Earl did was, to transmit to Lord Cowley copies of Mr. Howard's despatches, and add— From which your Excellency will perceive that this affair has assumed a very serious aspect. Why, Lord Cowley might have discovered that by himself, without the despatch of the noble Earl; and it was very strange Her Majesty's Government did not see the necessity of proceeding somewhat further. Lord Cowley next reported, in a despatch dated September 30, a conversation with Count Walewski:— He then went into a history of the case of the Charles et Georges. 'The French Government,' he said, 'considered that the ship had been illegally captured, and under that conviction had demanded its release, leaving the question of compensation for future settlement.' This demand had been refused in a note not over courteous, and the question of future proceedings was now under the consideration of the Imperial Government; he (Count Walewski) had insisted, with success, that the question should be referred to the Comité des Contentieux, in his Department, whose province it was to give an opinion upon transactions of this nature. The Report would not be ready for a few days more, but in the meantime some ships had been despatched towards the Tagus, since, in case the report should be in favour of the release of the ship, a demand would be made for that release within the twenty-four hours, and would be enforced if not complied with. On the other hand if the report advised an appeal to the higher tribunals of Lisbon, the release of the captain on bail would be required. On the 2nd of October Lord Cowley sent a telegraphic despatch to the noble Earl, to announce that the French Government had come to the determination to demand the release of the Charles et Georges, on the ground that she had been condemned as a slaver when there was a delegate of the French Government on board. What did the noble Earl (the Foreign Secretary) do at this critical period? He did absolutely nothing. At this moment the case admitted of a friendly and peaceful settlement, but the noble Earl did not send a single instruction to our Ambassador at Paris as to the course he was to pursue. Looking at the high value the Emperor of the French had always said he placed on au alliance with this country, at the interest which the people of this country took in the question of the slave trade, at the peculiar position of this country with regard to Portugal, and at the fact that the Emperor of the French, after this affair was over, had now, in a manner which did him great honour, spontaneous given up the whole of this immigration scheme, could it be doubted that if the noble Earl had instructed Lord Cowley to bring the whole question seriously under the notice of the French Government, time would have been obtained for reflection, and the whole might have been settled in a friendly and peaceable manner. The next step in the affair was, however, that Mr. Howard reported that the Portuguese Government had resolved to propose a mediation. He informed the noble Earl by telegraph on the 5th of October that the Portuguese Government had directed their Minister at Paris to propose to the French Government to submit the difference to the mediation of a friendly Power, the choice to be left to France. Upon this, the noble Earl sent an instruction to our Ambassador at Paris in which he said that, "any hostile proceeding by France against Portugal should be strongly deprecated by your Excellency, and you should put forward the Paris Protocol at a suitable time." But not a word was said as to Portugal being in the right, and no opinion was expressed in her favour. He only deprecated hostilities and in a vague manner referred to the Paris Protocol. Their Lordships knew that in these diplomatic transactions very much depended on the form in which communications were made from one Government to another. There were various forms which might be adopted. A despatch might be sent to our Minister at a foreign Court, directing him to read that despatch to the Government to which he was accredited, or if it were a more serious case, to leave a copy of that despatch. Nothing of the kind was done here. Lord Cowley was practically left in the position of an Ambassador without any definite instructions, and he must have found his hands exceedingly weakened. He did nevertheless all he could do by himself; but after all, an Ambassador, even one holding so high a position, was but an agent—he must have instructions from Ids chief, or he could not have his full weight with the Government to which he was accredited. The noble Earl, however, did take another step, and in order to show that he had acted with energy, he sent two British ships to the Tagus. But what that was done for, he (Lord Wodehouse) really could not imagine. It could not be said that it was done for the protection of British subjects, since none were in danger; and as for watching the French squadron, there could be no use in that, when no instructions were given to interfere with its proceedings. He did think Her Majesty's Government might well have spared the officers of those British ships the mortification of looking on, and witnessing what he must call the humiliation of our Ally. The Portuguese Minister at Paris (M. de Paiva) proceeded meanwhile to propose arbitration to the French Government; he did this in a document which was calm, temperate, and unanswerable. It might have been thought that Her Majesty's Government, having been apprised of the intention to refer the matter to arbitration, and having promised their good offices, would have instructed our Minister at Paris to support that proposition. But we might judge what support was given by referring to the noble Earl's despatch to Mr. Howard dated October 9th, in which the noble Earl said, "The good offices of Her Majesty's Government will gladly be given to prevent a collision between France and Portugal, but they have no decisive information on the case of the ship." He would ask whether no decisive information was contained in the despatches which Her Majesty's Government had received from Mr. Howard, dated the 26th of August, the 6th, the 8th, and the 28th of September? The noble Earl went on to say that in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, "the Portuguese Government had better drop the prosecution, if there were informalities during or after the seizure." So, the good offices of the noble Earl came to this—that he recommended the Portuguese Government to abandon the whole of the case. Why could it be supposed that this was not known at Paris—that the French Government was not aware that we were, instead of supporting Portugal practically pressing her to yield? Of course it was known, and the French claim was pressed without intermission. The Portuguese Minister at Paris, assisted by M. Lavradio, the Portuguese Minister at our own Court, who went to Paris, then effected an arrangement, or thought they had done so, which would have been satisfactory—it was, that the ship should be given up, and that the whole case of the legality of the capture, and the question of indemnity should be referred to the mediation of a friendly Power. That would have been a fair and honourable arrangement. What was the course pursued by the noble Earl? After having pondered upon the matter, he evidently thought that he had hit on an admirable expedient, which he (Lord Wodehouse) would state in the noble Earl's own words. In a despatch of the 15th Oct. to Mr. Howard, after saying— That the French captain and delegate had obtained from the Sheik of Matabane a permission to engage and export labourers of his tribe; and that in a document (which is published in the Daily News of the 12th instant) the contract declared itself 'to have been made and passed at the Court of the said Sheik.' The noble Earl goes on to say— The document runs thus:—'It is agreed and understood that you hire yourself for five years to go to the isle of Bourbon, in the ship, Captain You are hired at the rate of two piastres per month during the whole period of your engagement. As soon as the engagement shall be terminated, you will be free, either to remain in Bourbon, or to return to your country. The present contract is made and passed at the court of the Sheik of the Matabane tribe, in the presence of the Sheik Ali, of the agents Ali Mouro, Sidi Sidi, the interpreter of the ship, and the captain, and signed by witnesses in the presence of the above hired labourers, after having been read by the interpreter.' You are aware that Her Majesty's Government have never altered their opinion as to the analogous nature of the French scheme for exporting negroes with that of avowed slave trade. It is not, however, with a view to support that opinion, fortified by the present case, that I address you, but in the hope that a suggestion may be accepted which may solve this question of national honour. If the above statement is correct, it appears to Her Majesty's Government that Portugal, without any sacrifice of her dignity and rights, may admit that the French delegate and captain, when negotiating with the Sheik of Matabane, believed him to be an independent chief, and were ignorant of his being and pendent subject of the Portuguese Government; for their contract speaks of him as of an independent ruler, having a court of his own. Should the Portuguese Government see the transaction in this light, it appears to Her Majesty's Government to be consistent with a wise indulgence to drop the prosecution of a case, which originated in an error, and which might, if imprudently urged against France, be the cause of the gravest complications. To show how this suggestion was treated, he need only read the answer returned by our Ambassador. He said:— Count Walewski has never attempted, in his conversation with me on this matter, to call in doubt the sovereignty of Portugal over the district of Matabane. I am afraid, therefore, that the mode of settling this misunderstanding between the French and Portuguese Governments, suggested by your Lordship, will not apply to the case. But I feel confident that if M. de Lisle will act up to the conciliatory instructions which were transmitted to him on the 12th instant, means will be found at Lisbon of settling the dispute. The only suggestion made by the noble Earl was that the Portuguese Government should submit, and by what he (Lord Wodehouse) must be permitted to call a miserable subterfuge creep by a back-door out of the matter, instead of settling it in a manner consistent with their honour and dignity. While the noble Earl was wasting time in useless suggestions, the matter was settled at Lisbon. M. de Lisle made a peremptory demand for the restoration of the ship, and the only point which he consented to have referred to arbitration was the amount of the indemnity, adding that if his demand was not complied with he should quit Lisbon with his suite, and leave the matter in the hands of the French Admiral. The Portuguese Government under these circumstances naturally had recourse to the Minister of their faithful Ally for counsel and support. Would their Lordships believe that Her Majesty's Minister was altogether without instruction. The noble Earl might say that he had not time to give instructions. Now it happened that the answer to that assertion was extremely easy. Their Lordships would find that Mr. Howard, in a despatch of the 27th October, said:— The Marquis de Loulé communicated to the Marquis de Lisle, on the 22nd instant, the foregoing statement of Count Lavradio, concerning the assent of Count Walewski to his proposal that, after the release of the vessel and captain, the whole question should be submitted to arbitration, with a view to ascertain whether the Marquis de Lisle was disposed to agree to such an arrangement. But the French Minister replied that, notwithstanding his great wish to do what was in his power to facilitate a conciliatory settlement, he was precluded by the terms of his instructions, as contained in Coast Walewski's despatch of the 13th instant, which limited the proposal of mediation to the question of the amount of the indemnity for the interested parties, from admitting it for the whole question. As Earl Cowley had in his despatch of the 13th instant, a copy of which was enclosed to me in your Lordship's despatch of the 16th instant (received on the 22nd), reported Count Lavradio's proposal, as learnt from him, as extending the mediation to the legality of the seizure of the vessel.…I called upon the Marquis de Lisle and urged him to agree to extend the mediation to the whole question. On turning to the noble Earl's despatch of the 16th, what did he find? A mere transmitting despatches without one word of comment or instruction. Of course, our Minister, being without instructions, or rather worse than without instructions, for he had been told to answer that the prosecution should be dropped, could only come to the conclusion that the course pursued by the Portuguese Government was not approved by Her Majesty's Government. He was wrong; the noble Earl did send some instructions on the day in question; he sent a telegraphic despatch on the 16th, for the production of which he (Lord Wodehouse) was now moving. There could be no doubt, however, of the tenor of that despatch, for Mr. Howard, in his letter of the 21st of October, said:— I likewise referred your Excellency to a further message of the 16th instant, from the Earl of Malmesbury, repeating Ids former advice to drop the prosecution. Drop the prosecution!—that was the only instruction sent by the noble Earl. For God's sake give up the vessel which had been seized by the French, and let there be no more trouble about the matter. Our Minister at Lisbon, who it appeared to him had acted throughout the matter with ability and judgment, had no alternative, under these circumstances, but to write a letter to M. do Loulé, which few persons, he (Lord Wodehouse) thought, could read without shame, in which he said:— I am without instructions from my Government concerning the particular proposals in question, but that having already communicated to your Excellency a message of the 9th inst., from the Earl of Malmesbury, by which, whilst announcing to me that Her Majesty's Government would gladly give their good offices to prevent a collision between France and Portugal, and stating that they had no decisive information on the subject, his Lordship directed me to recommend to His Most Faithful Majesty's Government to drop the prosecution, if there were informalities during or after the capture, I considered that I should be only acting up to the spirit of those instructions in now giving my opinion in favour of the acceptation, by His Most Faithful Majesty's Government, of the present proposals of the French Go- vernment for an amicable settlement, which I know my Government to have so much at heart, of the unfortunate differences which have arisen between the French and Portuguese Governments on the subject of the above mentioned vessel. I likewise referred your Excellency to a further message of the 16th instant from the Earl of Malmesbury, repeating his former advice to drop the prosecution. So the "good offices" of this country offered by die noble Earl resulted only in telling the Portuguese Government that they had better give up the vessel and yield the whole question, and that if they did not do so, they would probably be compelled. The Portuguese Government then had no other alternative but to give up the vessel under the pressure of superior force; but they had this consolation—they had vindicated the honour and dignity of their country throughout the transaction, and he (Lord Wodehouse) was convinced that the verdict of Europe would be with them. At this point the drama naturally concluded; but as some managers thought it good policy to vary the tone of their entertainments, and after a tragedy to give a farce, the noble Earl accordingly, moved to vigorous action, four days after die news of the surrender of the vessel had been published in the Moniteur, saw the French Ambassador in this country, and wrote the magniloquent despatch, a portion of which he would read. It was dated October 30, addressed to Lord Cowley, and was as follows:— While in attendance upon Her Majesty at Windsor, I took the first opportunity which occurred, the day before yesterday, of addressing some observations to the Duke of Malakoff relative to the manner in which the Government of His Imperial Majesty had enforced their demands upon the Portuguese Government for the release of the Charles et Georges and her captain. I began by expressing the satisfaction I felt that the dispute appeared to be terminated, and that Her Majesty's Government, not being in possession of all the facts of the case, it was not my intention, as, indeed, it was not my province, to enter into the contending views of the two parties. What satisfaction the noble Earl could have felt, how it was that he was not in possession of information as to the facts of the case, and why it was not his province to enter into the contending views of the parties he (Lord Wodehouse) was at a loss to understand. The noble Earl, however, proceeded, and wrote that sentence in the despatch which would probably be immortal, After referring to the Protocol of Paris, the noble Earl said:— I pointed out to his Excellency how highly Her Majesty's Government valued the great prin- ciple established by the 23rd Protocol of Paris, which was signed by all the Plenipotentiaries on 14th of April, 1856. We had always considered that act as one of the most important to civilization, and to the security of the peace of Europe; for although it left the propounders and adherents of that principle undoubtedly free to act with all the vigour of independent nations, it recognised and established the immortal truth that time, by giving place for reason to operate, is as much a preventive as a healer of hostilities. When he (Lord Wodehouse) read that sentence he was reminded of some lines of one of our poets,— Can it be Fortune's work that in your head The curious net that is for fancies spread Lets through its meshes every meaner thought, While rich ideas there are only caught; Sure that's not all, this is a piece too fair To be the child of chance and not of care. The noble Earl transmitted to Lord Cowley on account of his conversation with the Duke of Malakoff, and directed him to read his despatch to Count Walewski. Count Walewski was naturally struck with a passage which referred to the existence of treaties between this country and Portugal. This would have been a very proper reference during the progress of the transaction, but after the affair was concluded it was, to say the least of it, injudicious. It produced from Count Walewski a sharp reply, to the effect that France would always do what she thought right, and would vindicate her honour without any fear of consequences. The noble Earl then took another step. He resolved that his good offices towards Portugal should be acknowledged, and finding that nothing was said about it in the King of Portugal's Speech, he wrote to Mr. Howard, and asked why no reference was made in the King's Speech to the good offices which had been exercised by this country in that matter. It might, however, have occurred to the noble Earl that no reference to those good offices had been made, because, in fact, they had been afforded in such a manner as to be wholly illusory. The Portuguese Government, however, was too magnanimous to say so, and they gave the noble Earl a certificate of good conduct, which was of about as much value as a vote of thanks to a chairman of a public meeting, or a testimonial to a retiring parish officer. This concluded what he must call an extremely painful case. He had endeavoured to make his observations as brief and in as moderate a tone as possible, but upon a calm review of all the circumstances, he thought their Lordships would agree with him that of the three States which were engaged in this question, England remained in the most unsatisfactory position. Portugal had nothing to regret in the course she took. She had maintained throughout her own dignity and honour. France, if she had incurred the reproach of having compelled a weaker State by force to yield to her demands, had at least, in the words of Count Walewski, acted as she thought best suited her own honour, and had not been deterred by any fear of consequences from pursuing her own course. To England alone remained the discredit, that after having strongly urged a course of policy by which Portugal was involved in antagonism with a stronger Power, she offered to Portugal her good offices in such a manner as to amount really to a mockery, or rather to a virtual abandonment of an old and faithful Ally.

The noble Lord concluded by moving— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, for Copy of the Telegraphic Despatch of the 16th of October, 1858, referred to in Mr. Howard's Despatch of the 27th of October, to the Earl of Malmesbury, as printed in the Correspondence respecting the Charles et Georges."


said,—My Lords, I certainly, as a Member of Her Majesty's Government, do not at all find fault with the noble Lord for bringing forward this subject. It is his duty, as a member of the Opposition, to watch carefully whether the Ministers of the Crown faithfully maintain the honour of the country and the faith of treaties. I will go further, and thank the noble Lord personally for having brought forward this subject, because I do not remember any case which has been more mistaken and misapprehended than this. I am therefore obliged to him for giving me an opportunity of setting the House and the country right upon many points involved in this case, upon which, as I have said, there have been grave misapprehensions. I will begin by explaining why the despatch for which the noble Lord has moved was omitted from the papers placed before Parliament. The explanation is very simple. That despatch was in the same sense as the one of the 15th of October, to which the noble Lord has referred, and was, in fact, a telegraphic despatch, which anticipated the other, containing the same sentiments in a necessarily abbreviated form. Your Lordships are aware that diplomatic correspondence is now conducted somewhat differently from what used formerly to be the case, much of it being conveyed through the telegraph; and there is this inconvenience involved, that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for a Minister to produce to Parliament entire and faithful copies of those despatches, for this reason—that he would run a very great risk of allowing our cipher to be discovered—a consequence of too great importance not to be deeply considered. In laying such papers before Parliament, therefore, a Minister is obliged to alter the terms and expressions, at the same time that he furnishes, as far as possible, a true and faithful outline of the sense of the despatch. In that, of course, Parliament must trust to the honour of the Minister to give the real sense; and I am sure any Minister of this country will be always willing, if it is supposed that he has mistaken or imperfectly stated the sense of a particular despatch, to show the exact terms to any Member who may desire it. But it is much more difficult to alter the terms of any despatch, if written at any length and placed in juxtaposition with another despatch, as this was with that of the 15th of October. I can only say that if the noble Lord wishes to see that despatch, which I hold in my hand at this moment, it is at his service, and that of any noble Lords opposite; or, if it should be thought likely to be for the benefit of the public service, I will have it printed and added to the papers before Parliament.

My Lords,—I will now enter upon the case of the Charles et Georges, to which the noble Lord has called attention. In the first place I must remark that if the Government is to be judged justly for its action in these proceedings, they must be judged according to the knowledge which they had at the time, and nut by the facts which have become subsequently known to them. The noble Lord has alluded to several points connected with the case of the Charles et Georges which have become known since the matter has been settled and which were not known at the period when those matters were under discussion. The whole conduct of the Government depends upon the truth of their allegation—and truth it is—that the case was at the time utterly obscure and uncertain. We had only one side of the case, and that full of contradiction from beginning to end, so that it was impossible to find any evidence upon which to decide whether Portugal had entirely right on her side, or whether she could justify the peremptory step she had taken of seizing the ship and imprisoning the captain. Now, my Lords, what are the proofs that came before the Government at the time, and what came to their knowledge subsequently? When the point first came before me I could not discover whether the captain of the vessel was aware at the time of the new proclamation that had been issued against the slave trade. It is probable, indeed, that he was not, for that proclamation was not issued until the 20th of November, and the vessel was seized on the 27th of that month. There is the statement of Mr. Howard on the 28th of August upon that point:— It is necessary that I should here state that the late Governor of Mozambique, Senhor Menezes, not having given due effect to the prohibition of the exportation of negroes as free labourers, contained in the Portarias of the Minister of Marine and Colonies of February 27, 1855, and July 30, 1856, was recalled on that account, as I reported at the time, and Colonel Tavarez d'Almeida was sent out as governor by the Viscount de Sa for the express purpose of enforcing that prohibition, and of otherwise suppressing the slave trade. Colonel Almeida arrived, it appears, at Mozambique about fifteen days or three weeks before the affair of the Charles et Georges took place, and it was under his directions that the measures for her apprehension were taken. Your Lordships perceive that the new governor only arrived a fortnight or three weeks before, and it was by his direction that these measures were taken. At page 8 your Lordships will find that the date of the proclamation was November 20, and the vessel was seized on the 27th, many miles away from the Mozambique. It struck me that the first point to consider was, whether the captain might not have been ignorant of the policy of the new Governor, the former Governor having been dismissed for conniving at, if he had not actually taken part in the slave trade. At page 48 of the papers there is the French account of the matter:— What had happened, his excellency said, was this: The captain of the Charles et Georges had received orders from the Governor of Réunion to procure negroes under the emigration system; but he was expressly forbidden by his instructions to take any from Mozambique, the Portuguese Government having prohibited all emigration from thence. The captain, however, received information that this prohibition did not extend to the district of Matabane, the Sheik of which had authority from the Portuguese Government to furnish negroes for emigration. He went there accordingly, and the Sheik furnished a certain number. Well, then there was the custom-house question; for your Lordships must remem- ber that there were two complaints made by the Portuguese Government,—first, that the municipal laws had been violated by the ship anchoring in a place where vessels were forbidden to enter; and next, that she was engaged in the slave trade. It must also be borne in mind that the Portuguese Government subsequently dropped the first ground of complaint, and confined themselves to the latter. Now, my Lords, if I may refer to subsequent proof, it seems to me to be extremely doubtful even at this moment whether the French captain violated the municipal law of Portugal,—that is to say, whether his vessel was ever anchored within three miles of the shore, as alleged. In support of that view I would refer to the evidence of the captain himself, which has never been refuted by the Governor of Mozambique, or by any one else, and which has been published by the Portuguese:— Those," alluding to the negro labourers, "which I took at Matabane and Conducia were procured for me by the Sheik named Ali Kery, who holds an authorization of his Excellency the Governor General of Mozambique, dated September 25, 1856, and who has taken a commission of 6 piastres or 30f. per head. Now, it is true that the authorization in question is said to have been a forgery; but there was at the time nothing to prove to us that such was the case, and Her Majesty's Government could only form a judgment in the matter from the ex parte reports. The statements made by the Portuguese were met by counter statements by the French, so that your Lordships will perceive Her Majesty's Government had no data upon which they could rely in order to enable them to arrive at a correct decision as to which of the contending parties was in the right and which was in the wrong. [Earl GREY: Hear, hear!] The noble Earl cheers, because, no doubt, it is in accordance with his opinion that a rapid, and therefore, in all probability, a rash decision should be arrived at on a question of this nature. But what, my Lords, does the French captain say in answer to the questions put to him by the commander of the Portuguese cruiser? He was asked:— Was the Charles et Georges above a gunshot from the shore?—Most assuredly, if you take in the Island of Quintangonia, which is not part of the continent. Captain, was your gun shotted?—Yes, captain. Did the ball touch the shore?—Almost. But did you send the ball from the spot when you dropped your anchor?—I am not compelled to do that; the rule is, when you are within range you fire your gun and board the ship. My impression has always been that when a man of-war is in sight of several ships or boats and also in sight of land, and if he does not hoist his flag, he ought at least to have the streamers of his nation?—True, but nevertheless not obligatory. But would the ball have reached the shore if fired from the place where I was anchored?—No; but you lay on Portuguese ground with eleven or twelve fathoms of water. The fact is, you are pretty certain that the ball would not have reached the coast if fired from the place where I lay, and it did not reach it from the place where you lay?—No answer. How far does the Portuguese territory extend to the S.E, or the S. ¼S. from the Isle of Quintangonia?—No answer. Now, I do not mean to give any opinion as to whether the French captain was right or wrong. All I say is that Her Majesty's Government had during the progress of those transactions—nay, have not up to this eleventh hour—any data upon which a sound opinion in reference to this question could be formed. The noble Lord who has just spoken has a great horror of the system of immigration with which these events are mixed up. I am as much opposed to it as he can possibly be; but the question is not a matter of mere feeling, it is whether we as responsible Ministers of the Crown were to be led away by considerations of that description, and not to form an unbiassed judgment upon the rights themselves which were involved in a case of this immense importance. You do not suppose, my Lords, that I was ignorant of the treaties which exist between this country and Portugal; nor can you, I am sure, fail to be of opinion that before we resolved to commit ourselves to a course involving serious consequences it was our duty to make ourselves perfectly certain that Portugal was in the right and France in the wrong in the dispute in which they were engaged. And, my Lords, I repeat that even up to the present moment we have been furnished with no data upon which such a decision could fairly be pronounced.

Now, my Lords, what, let me ask, was the course which, under these circumstances, Her Majesty's Government adopted? I am accused by the noble Lord opposite with respect to two points. He charges me with having lost time in proceeding with this matter, and with not having written enough. Well, the first intimation which I received that this matter had assumed a serious aspect was upon the 18th of September, when Mr. Howard wrote to me to the following effect:— The affair of the French vessel Charles et Georges, condemned at Mozambique as a slaver, treated of in my despatches of the 6th and 7th inst., has assumed a very serious aspect. That despatch was received on the 24th, and I might, perhaps, have telegraphed on that day to Lord Cowley. But be that as it may, I lost scarcely any time in the matter, inasmuch as I telegraphed to that noble Lord on the 25th. Now, Lord Cowley, as your Lordships are aware, is one of those Ministers who do not require that a long rigmarole—if I may so terns it—of phrases and instructions, which are generally, I believe, written rather for Parliament than for the Minister himself—should be addressed to him. It was therefore quite sufficient, I am sure you will think in this instance, to inform him that our good offices were offered for the settlement of the misunderstanding between France and Portugal, and that to enter upon any lengthened explanation as to what the words "good offices" meant would be as useless as absurd. Well, my Lords, I telegraphed, as I mentioned, to Lord Cowley on the 25th, and within five days from that time he informs us—as you will observe by referring to page 17 of the papers—that the case, he believes, may be settled. He writes:— Count Walewski's language was very conciliatory. I feel certain he regrets that the case has arisen, and will gladly see it settled. But the noble Lord seems to think that, having received that announcement on the 30th of September, Her Majesty's Government ought to have written some eloquent despatch, reminding the French Government of treaties in existence, and expressing in strong language the views which we entertained. Now, I do not pretend to know human nature so well as the noble Lord, who is a diplomatist, and has represented this country in that capacity at one of the great Courts of Europe; but I doubt whether, in using the petulant language which the noble Lord appears to regret we did not use, we should have been acting wisely, particularly when we were told that the language employed by the French Minister was of a most conciliatory character. But to proceed, my Lords, Her Majesty's Government had every reason to believe on the 30th of September that this question would be satisfactorily settled. Upon the 3rd of October, however, Lord Cowley complained that a change had taken place in the language of the French Government. He says:— It seems now that at a Council of Ministers held yesterday morning, and presided over by the Emperor, the first that the vessel had been condemned as a slaver was first broached, and it was decided that the condemnation as a slaver of a French ship having a Government delegate on board, authorized to hire African labourers, was tantamount to connecting the Imperial Government with the traffic in slaves, and was derogatory to the honour of France. It was resolved, therefore, that the release of the Charles et Georges and of her captain should be peremptorily demanded and insisted upon. You will perceive from this despatch, my Lords, that the affair had assumed the aspect in the eyes of the French Minister of one in which a point of national honour was involved. The noble Lord opposite, however, seems to sneer at the axiom laid clown by the Government of France—for it is laid down—that if a vessel has a French agent on board her, who is responsible for his acts to the Government which he represents, she is no longer to be looked upon in the light of a mere private ship, liable to be confiscated for an infringement of municipal law. That is an axiom which, in my opinion, however erroneous I may be, is borne out by international law, and the noble Lord will find that it is supported by much higher authority than mine. But there is involved in this view of the subject another point, which is of considerable importance; it is that in the case of a vessel seized for an infraction of municipal or international law, if she be a Government ship, the custom has been established by the comity of nations that the question at issue must be solved by diplomacy, and not by a peremptory Act such as that which was resorted to by the Portuguese Government. Such I believe to be the opinion of the best lawyers of our day, and if that practice were not followed, as it has been in almost every instance, constant disputes would be the result. Such questions are to be settled by argument and reason—not by force, but by international law. The Portuguese themselves have not always been so prudent on these points as they may, perhaps, expect others to be, and one of the greatest outrages committed of late years upon a British ship, has at this moment been committed by them not far from this very sea. The fact is, that this system of negro immigration is not to be put down by force; and I feel sure, that had Her Majesty's Government acted in the spirit which characterized the noble Lord's speech, the result would have been very different, and we should not now have been able to enter into negotiations which it may be hoped will lead to the abandonment of this system. I said that on the 3rd of October a change took place in the language of Count Walewski. I felt it my duty on the instant to put forward the Protocol of 1856, which, I submit, was quite sufficient without any despatch accompanying it (the despatch which the noble Lord regrets) inasmuch as Lord Cowley was present when it was signed, and must have known its sense and its full value; and I am rather surprised that the noble Lord should have treated so very cavalierly my reference to so important a document, your Lordships well knowing that that Protocol was one of the most beneficent and useful public acts on record- It is a document which I am sure will prevent a great effusion of blood hereafter, and it has already tended to put an end to more than one dispute between nations. I say I am surprised that the noble Lord should treat so cavalierly the instructions given by me with reference to the Protocol, and considering that he may be regarded in some sort as the political pupil of the noble Earl (the Earl of Clarendon), I am still less able to understand the views he has expressed on this point. This was on the 6th October. Acting, then, on the instructions which he received to insist on the Protocol of Paris, Lord Cowley put himself in communication with Count Lavradio and the Marquis de Paiva, and on the 13th he reports that an amicable solution will be arrived at. He says— I have the satisfaction of informing you that there is every probability of the affair of the Charles et Georges receiving an amicable solution. Her Majesty's Government were induced by his despatches to believe that if the Charles et Georges were given up and the captain released, the French Ministry would admit the mediation of a friendly Power, both as regards the legality of the seizure and the question of indemnity. There is no doubt that the French Government acceded to this proposed arrangement, for Count Walewski himself says, that he did so. Lord Cowley in reporting (November 9) an interview which he had with the French Minister says— I said that the 23rd Protocol was exactly framed to meet questions of this nature, where both parties claimed to be in the right; but Count Walewski interrupted me by declaring that the French Government had never declined to submit the question of right to friendly mediation. What they had refused was mediation of any kind so long as the Charles et Georges was detained, but he could give me the positive assurances that if, even at the eleventh hour, the Portuguese Government had released the ship, and proposed to settle the question of right and wrong, through a mediator, the proposal would have met with the assent of the Imperial Government. But Portugal could not retain the ship and propose mediation at the same time; at all events, it was impossible for the Imperial Government to entertain such a proposition. I remarked to Count Walewski that it was to be regretted that M. de Lisle had not better understood the sentiments of his Government, for that on inquiry being made of him, he had stated that the only point on which his instructions would permit him to accept the principle of mediation was that of the amount of the indemnity to be paid for the detention of the Charles et Georges. Count Walewski replied that it was true that the instructions addrsssed to M. de Lisle, only mentioned indemnity as the subject for mediation, but that it stood to reason that the question of indemnity carried with it the question of right, since before a mediator could say what amount of indemnity was due, he must satisfy himself that the right to receive an indemnity existed. I rejoined that although it was of little value now as regarded the main question, I rejoiced to receive this assurance from his Excellency, because it showed that I had faithfully reported his intentions to Her Majesty's Government in saying, that if the ship was released, the French Government would consent to submit all the questions arising out of it to friendly mediation. 'Beyond doubt,' said Count Walewski, 'such was our intention.' Now, my Lords, what blame can be attached to Her Majesty's Government for not expecting that that agreement would be fulfilled? We did not possess the gift of prophecy, and could not predict that the French Minister at Lisbon would mistake his orders, or evade them. Lord Cowley, as I have said, obtained a positive assurance that an arrangement would be come to, and surely we were justified in crediting it. A great deal has been made of a despatch which I wrote subsequently on the 16th of October. My explanation with regard to this despatch is very simple. I was out of town at the time, and when I wrote it, I had not received the despatch of the 13th, stating that an amicable solution would be come to. I wrote that despatch, thinking its contents might be useful in the way of suggestion to Lord Cowley, if be failed in his offer of the good offices of this country; but as it was, it was never acted upon, and has no bearing whatever upon the results which followed. Having received the assurance that a mediation would be admitted by the French Ministry, I do not deny that Her Majesty's Government were greatly astonished when, a week afterwards, they heard of what had happened, and that the question had been suddenly and summarily settled. The noble Lord says that Mr. Howard was without any instructions. Of course he was. We could not give him instructions upon a case which we never could have foreseen. We could not give his instructions in this sense:—"If the French Government eat their words—if the French Minister makes a mistake—you must do so and so." He was equally taken by surprise when he was told that the question was one of indemnity, and did not involve any question of right which could be made the subject of mediation. When, at last, Mr. Howard's advice was sought for by the Portuguese Government, he was perfectly right in giving it as he did, and in suggesting, as a matter of common sense, that they would do well to accept at once the offer to refuse the question of indemnity without the question of right. This is the last place in which I should attempt to lay down any principles with regard either to individual or to national honour. A man's honour can best be judged by himself, and so it is with a nation. I do not blame the Portuguese Government or its Minister if they thought that the only honourable course was to refuse the offer which was at last made to them; but, at the same time, when they asked the advice of a calm and disinterested friend, as the English Minister should be regarded, I think Mr. Howard was right in saying, "accept the mediation." It was impossible that they could avoid the question of right, for no damages at all could be given by the mediator unless he decided first that Portugal was in the wrong. In that point of view Portugal would have lost nothing by the concession which Mr. Howard suggested; and this was the view which, as I have shown, Count Walewski himself took on the question. We have been blamed for not acting with sufficient vigour and decision. Well, there certainly was another alternative, and I really only know of but one, which would have been if, feeling certain that Portugal was right (of which even at this moment we are not convinced), or not caring whether Portugal was right or wrong, we had said,—"We will stand by you according to the treaty of 1703, and if you will resist France we will support you." We might, indeed, have said this; but should we have been acting in accordance with a case very analogous which happened only last year—the case of the Cagliari? The French Government denied from the beginning the jurisdiction both of the first court in which the Charles et Georges was condemned, and of the Court of Appeal to which the case was afterwards carried. They denied the jurisdiction of Portugal just as Sardinia denied that of Naples in the case of the Cagliari, and just as we denied the competency of the Neapolitan tribunals to deal with Watt and Park, so the French Government would not recognize the right of the Portuguese tribunals to punish Captain Rouxel. But did we in that case carry things with a high hand? I know some persons were of opinion that we ought to have sent a fleet into the Bay of Naples; but I do not think the noble Earl opposite was one of those persons. How did we act? We appealed to the protocol of Paris to settle that question, and we recommended the same appeal and the same way of settling this matter between France and Portugal as in that case. Her Majesty's Government, then, were perfectly consistent in what they did in both those cases, and they could not, without the greatest inconsistency, to say nothing of the danger, have recommended Portugal to take violent measures. Another accusation has been made against us—that we had not fulfilled our treaties, but Portugal never in the most distant manner alluded to the treaties, and the Portuguese Minister himself stated that nothing but the good offices of England were needed. The treaty of 1703 ran, that whenever the King of Spain, or the King of France, together or separately, should make war, or should show an intention to make war on Portugal, the British Government shall "use their friendly offices to persuade them to observe terms of peace towards Portugal, and not to make war."


Read on. It goes on to say, if our "good offices" fail, that we should go to war on behalf of Portugal.


It says that if our good offices fail we are to send a force of 6,000 men for the defence of Portugal. Is that what the noble Earl recommends to the House? I have heard a great many suggestions as to what we ought to have done in this matter, but that is a perfectly new one. It is about as astonishing to me as the piece of poetry which the noble Lord quoted just now—of which nobody could Understand the point, and which had no possible reference to the question. Does the noble Lord mean that we were to send these 6,000 men over whether the Portuguese liked it or not? and I can assure the noble Lord that the Portuguese Government showed no disposition for a second Peninsular war. If your Lordships wish to know what were the sentiments of the Portuguese Government on this point I can easily lay them before you. When the affair was all over, the Portuguese Opposition—no doubt conscientiously fulfilling their duty, like Her Majesty's Opposition at home—found fault with the Government for not having appealed to the treaty with England. In answer to this the Marquis de Loulé said:— Some members of the Chamber are of opinion that the intervention of England should have been asked for, but it was not very clear that the casus fœderis had arisen. England is not bound to support us in every quarrel; and, besides, the circumstances were not of a nature to lead us to fear a war or to demand formally the assistance of England, for if she acceded to our request, a European war might be the result, which, on our part, as one of the members of the European family, and interested in the continuance of peace, we ought to avoid, and not to bring upon ourselves an affront and a difficulty; and it was requisite to weigh all the circumstances, not to look at things through the prism of our desires. Your Lordships would not have had us more Portuguese than the Portuguese themselves. I do not agree with the noble Lord that the good offices of England have failed. They obtained what they professed to obtain—mediation—that mediation which was cut in two by an untoward accident which it was impossible for any man to foresee, the restriction of its limits, which M. de Lisle, the French Minister at Lisbon, placed upon it. I am at a loss to know what more we could have done when, having asked our advice, whether they should accept the mediation as finally offered, the Portuguese Government refused to follow it, and took an independent line of their own. I say again, I am obliged to the noble Lord for having brought this matter forward. I do not regret having acted as I did, and I am perfectly certain that justice will be done to Her Majesty's Government by the people when they calmly consider the position in which we were placed. Any other line taken with France—any other language held with France—at that moment might have produced the most serious results. If we had gone beyond the line of good offices we should have entered on another chapter, and, bound as we were by treaty, it is impossible to say what consequences might have followed. I am inclined to think, my Lords, that if Her Majesty's Government had found themselves obliged in last No vember to call Parliament together unexpectedly, and announce to them that in consequence of some obscure quarrel which they could not settle or decide, the relations of France and of England were in a state of the greatest danger and uncertainty, I think I should not have been blamed for having either written too little or said too little, but for having written too much and said too much.


My Lords, the singularly lucid account of this affair which was given by the noble Lord who introduced this Motion renders it unnecessary for me to enter into the facts of the case, and it only remains for me to make some observations on the remarks which have just fallen from the noble Earl. As I understood him, his chief reason for not producing this telegram was that it was in cypher, and that to produce it might possibly furnish a key to the cypher. That reason would, no doubt, be stronger if so many telegrams had not been given in the papers.


The words have been altered.


Then this message might have been subjected to the same operation. Certainly, the system of sending instructions by telegraph has been carried by the noble Earl to an unprecedented length. The noble Earl even resorted to this mode of sending instructions to Paris, which could only have anticipated a written despatch by about twelve hours. Noble Lords on this side of the House are placed at a great disadvantage by the date at which each despatch was received not being affixed to it.


That is some carelessness in the office. I directed that the date of the receipt should be affixed to each despatch, and I do nut know how it was not done.


I accept the noble Earl's explanation; but the omission tends to a complication of the question as a matter of reference. The noble Earl tells us that he was for a long time left in ignorance of the circumstances of the case; but I think it appears from the papers that as early as the end of August Mr. Howard had reported to the noble Earl the serious view which the Marquis de Louié took of the affair. With reference to the defence which the noble Earl makes, of not having given written instructions on account of Lord Cowley's great knowledge in all these matters, I have the very great honour of having appointed Lord Cowley, and I should be the last man to think such instructions any proof of want of confidence in him, and I confess I should prefer leaving any negotiations in his hands rather than in the hands of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. At the beginning of this question I ventured to express a fear that the singularly inconsistent position which Her Majesty's Government had taken up towards the French Government would throw great difficulties in the way of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—that having placed themselves in a position of unexampled contradiction, they would be prevented using that conciliatory, but at the same time firm and frank, language without which no great States can continue on a really friendly footing, and which is the only way for a lengthened time to insure regard and mutual esteem. I must say that the subsequent reading of the papers now on the table of the House (together with all the language held by the noble Earl) fails to convince me that Her Majesty's Government have dealt fairly, not to say with Portugal, but with France, in not bringing before France all the facts and all the arguments which, as a friendly Power interested in this question, we were bound to observe. The noble Lord who opened this debate stated, and I entirely agree with him, that in questions of this sort it is not necessary that the House should enter into judgment on proceedings between two different countries where they do not interest this country or the acts of the Government. But at the same time it is not necessarily an unfriendly or hostile proceeding towards foreign Governments to criticize their conduct. I have no doubt that France was wrong, and I regret that the Emperor of the French did not give the whole matter full consideration at the outset, for if he had I think that the French Government would have found that the view taken of it on this side of the water was correct. I regret, also, the very imperious tone adopted by France towards Portugal—a tone which ought to be deprecated in the diplomatic relations of all foreign countries, but more especially when a most powerful country addresses one much inferior in force. I have less hesitation in saying this, because I know there is a temptation for every great country, not excepting ourselves, to adopt too high a tone towards inferior States. Another point in which I think the French Govern- ment was wrong was, before diplomatic relations were exhausted sending a large fleet to Lisbon under the specious pretence that it was merely going there for coaling purposes. I think the French Government were perfectly wrong in making the claim they did, and I believe they were wrong in their international law; but, no doubt, they had been much irritated. It must be very irritating whether to a small or great Power to have a delay of three months; and I believe there was a delay of three months on the part of the Portuguese Minister for Foreign Affairs in answering three letters from the French Minister on the subject of the Charles et Georges. We are totally ignorant of the case laid before the French law officers, but if the French Government obtained a satisfactory answer from their law officers, and were also backed up by the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, it seems to take away a great deal of the substance of the complaint against the French Government. The noble Earl asks what was he to do? and he reads the treaty engagements of this country to Portugal. The noble Earl, however, did not allude to one, in 1601, in which we are bound to act for Portugal as for ourselves. The noble Earl reads one clause in the treaty with Portugal in 1703, and when required by my noble Friend to read on, and show the House what are the real engagements of this country towards Portugal, and which he was bound to have in mind, the noble Earl, instead of reading on, gives a very slight portion about the number of troops, and says that was what the noble Lord recommended him to do, notwithstanding that my noble Friend carefully guarded himself against saying that a casus fœderis had arisen at all. I think it was of the greatest importance to keep these treaties in view, and what has fallen to-night from the noble Earl induces me to think he was as ignorant of the exact stipulations between this country and Portugal as Count Walewski in his last interview with Lord Cowley stated himself to have bee. Here is one of those points upon which detailed instructions to Lord Cowley, copies of which could have been forwarded to Mr. Howard, would have been of the greatest possible use. It was most important that when the noble Earl made up his mind to move in the matter he should have furnished Lord Cowley with instructions to lay before the French Government all the obligations under which Her Majesty's Government were placed with regard to Portugal, and to press the French Government to act upon the Protocol. I admit that he could not go the length of obliging the French Government to act on the Protocol, but Lord Cowley might have been directed to appeal to France, as a friendly Government and a member of the Congress which signed the Protocol; but this was a case exactly in point, which the Protocol was intended to meet. I cannot help thinking that if such instructions had been given to Lord Cowley, and he had said that he had received instructions for a positive and definite object, it would have had a very great effect. With regard to the Portuguese Government, with the exception of that neglect to which I have alluded, in dealing with this question, it appears to me their conduct has been thoroughly what it ought to have been. It appears to me that the Governor General of Mozambique acted in a perfectly right and consistent manner upon the instructions which he received from his own Government, that those instructions were fully in accord with all the previous applications of Her Majesty's Government, and that in the subsequent steps which the Portuguese Government took they exhibited as strong a sense of their own honour and independence as the greatest nation which exists. With regard to our own conduct I hardly wish to go over the ground which the noble Lord who commenced the discussion has so ably trodden, but there is one point which the noble Earl has omitted to notice which I think is of very great importance. Having contented himself so long with bandying the despatches of Lord Cowley and Mr. Howard from one to the other; and, lastly, having given no instructions which could be acted upon, and only suggestions which were unavailable, I want to know on what pretext did he send two ships for protecting British interests and watching the French squadron? It seems like a little bark which could have no possible effect, and which only showed our comparative weakness and lukewarmness on the question. I cannot imagine one good point which could be attained by it, although it is not difficult to see that many ill effects might be produced by such a step. I have been struck with the rather ingenious course taken by the noble Earl in his conversation with the French Ambassador, after the whole thing was over. Your Lordships are aware of the very great difficulty which diplomatic agents have in conveying accurate reports of the long conversations they may have with those Ministers at whose Courts they have to do business. I was told by a gentleman who was an attaché under the Earl of Malmesbury, the noble Earl's grandfather, that the Earl was in the habit, immediately after a conversation of this kind, of calling one of his attachés, and repeating it to him with a view of imprinting it on his memory, and the young men were always struck with the ability with which the noble Earl's share of the conversation had been conducted, and how very much the best of it he always had with his opponent; and whenever the conversation came to be reduced to writing, the Duke de Bassano never appeared to have had the slightest chance in the dispute. The noble Earl, now Secretary of Foreign Affairs, in his Conferences with foreign Ministers, appeals to adopt the safe course of having the whole talk to himself. Mr. Dallas held some important conversations with the noble Earl, in which he appears to have had some difficulty in getting a fair share of the talk, but it might be supposed that, considering the vivacity of the French nation, the representative of that Power would have at least half the conversation with the noble Earl. Not a bit of it. The noble Earl spoke for a long time to the Duke of Malakhoff, the heroic soldier, and most honest and straightforward of diplomatists. The noble Earl appears to have spoken so well that I was reminded of the lines of the English poet— 'It grieves me much,' replied the Peer again, 'who speaks so well should ever speak in vain.' But, after all, the noble Earl's remarks were, to use a French phrase, only "mustard after dinner." I think there can be no question that one doctrine laid down by the noble Earl to-night is open to very considerable doubt, and I hope that those who follow me in this debate will tell your Lordships in what part of the papers the French Government lay down the principle that the presence of a French delegate on board the ship gave an official character to the Charles et Georges. That principle the noble Earl very confidently stated. In what page is it to be found? The French vessel had been accused of an offence, which they say it was insulting to their honour to be accused of, although, by the admission of the French delegate, it unfortunately happened that it was an offence of which the ship and captain had been guilty. Nearly all the correspondence between the great capitals and this country is conducted by boats conveying letters, and usually having on board an Admiralty or Post-office agent, who is a delegate of a character somewhat similar to that of the French delegate on board the Charles et Georges, and whose duty it is to see that the postal service of the packet steamer is efficiently performed. Now, I want to know whether, if on board a Calais or Lisbon boat so employed, a mate or captain were to be found guilty of smuggling in contravention of the regulations of the French Government, the fact of an Admiralty or Post-office agent being on board the ship chartered to carry our mails would free the vessel from the municipal law of France, Portugal, or any other country? One of the greatest authorities on international law, who is not a member of your Lordships' House, has declared that the principle of international law laid down by France cannot be sustained. I believe this matter to be one of very great importance. As far as our relations with France are concerned, they have been replaced upon a favourable footing by the letter of the Emperor of the French to Prince Napoleon, and the despatch regulating the particular employment of free labour, which we are so convinced would have led to the recommencement of the slave trade. But with regard to the position of the English Government towards Portugal, and its character in the world—with regard to those ties of honour by which we are bound—I am afraid that this transaction will leave a most unfavourable impression, not only on the people of this country, but on the whole of Europe and the civilized world. The noble Earl quotes the admissions of the Portuguese Government in his favour; but I never saw a despatch from a Foreign Secretary which betrayed so much of a sore conscience as that in which the noble Earl demanded to know why the King of Portugal had not thanked Her Majesty's Government for their good offices in the dispute with France. My noble Friend has shown that their good offices were exerted in no efficient sense; that they obtained nothing from France; and that, as to the advice they gave, the Portuguese Government will even be honoured for having totally disregarded it. The question was asked in the Chamber of Peers at Lisbon with much astonishment, whether those thanks had been given, and the Minister of Finance declared his ignorance of the matter. The discussion has shown that Her Majesty's Government have not, in the conduct of this transaction, shown either the activity or judgment requisite; and this opinion of your Lordships, fully shared by the great majority of the nation, will be conveyed to Portugal and the rest of Europe. I do not quite understand what the noble Earl proposes to do, but it is at any rate satisfactory that the subject has been fully discussed in your Lordships' House.


said, that his apology for troubling their Lordships must be that he intended to confine himself to that part of the subject which he was afraid would, in any hands, be found dull, and his doubly so—namely, the law applicable to this case. But it seemed to him that the legal question lay at the very root of the matter now under discussion; for although the noble Lord, who brought forward the subject, professed a desire to avoid any unnecessary discussion of the French rights, it was upon those rights, and the view which the House might form of those rights, that their opinion of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government must mainly depend. If the rights of Portugal were clear, it might be the duty of Her Majesty's Government at all hazards to support her in asserting them. But where the rights of Portugal were, to say the least, not indisputable—where the gravest doubts existed as to those rights, as in this case—the matter seemed to him to assume a very different aspect; and their Lordships must consider the course pursued by the noble Earl the Minister for Foreign Affairs, with reference to the position in which he was placed in relation to the question in dispute. The first point to be considered was as to the law applicable to the case, and on this there arose two questions—first, whether the vessel had been captured in the Portuguese waters; and, secondly, whether she was acting under the authority of the French Government. Whether the Charles et Georges was engaged in the practice of the slave trade, or was not engaged in the practice—though he thought from the papers it was evident that she was not—it was clear to every one acquainted with the international laws of civilized nations, that unless the capture was made in Portuguese waters, the Portuguese authorities had no right to make it. The case did not depend on whether the ship was engaged in the slave trade or not. Slave trade is not piracy by the law of nations, and no nation had a right, unless warranted to do so by treaty, to interfere with the vessels of another nation, because such vessels were carrying on a trade in slaves. On the other hand, nobody disputed that every Power had a right, within its own dominions, to make what provision it liked for the regulation of its commerce, and persons who thought fit to engage in that commerce, took on themselves the responsibility of knowing what those laws were, and must submit to the penalties imposed for their infraction. But that depended entirely on those acts being done within the territory of the State which passed those laws; if they were so done, it was within the power of the municipal authorities to deal with the case. There was, however, this important exception—that every ship which belonged to a Sovereign State, and acted under the authority of that State, was exempt from the municipal law. It might commit any wrong in a foreign port, and would not be responsible for that wrong to the municipal authorities. A wrong so done was not to be brought before any judicature; it was a matter for diplomatic negotiation and arrangement between the two States concerned. That principle of exemption was laid down in the ordinary case of ships of war belonging to foreign States. But did it depend on their being ships of war? Would Her Majesty's yacht be liable to seizure, or would any vessel acting under the authority of a Government, be subject to seizure, because she was not armed? Certainly not. A ship belonging to a foreign State was not exempt from the municipal laws because she was armed, but because she was a public ship; because she was acting on behalf of a State, under the authority of that State, and involved the State in the consequences of her acts. It was for that reason that a vessel so acting under the public authority was exempt from the municipal laws, and was subject only to those laws which prevailed between Sovereign States. He would call their Lordships' attention for a moment to a case which excited great attention not many years ago, and on which the law on this subject, on the part of Great Britain was carried, he would not say beyond, but to its extreme limits. Captain Denman was employed on the coast of Africa, in the command of one of Her Majesty's ships. He was instructed by the Government to land on the coast of Africa, and to demand of one of the chiefs the restoration of two British subjects. He did so, and he obtained their restoration. On returning to his ship he found a baracoon full of slaves belonging to a Spanish subject, and he liberated them. He was not then acting in the command of his ship, or under the direction and authority of Her Majesty, but he was an agent of the British Government, who subsequently ratified his act. An action was brought against him for the recovery of the value of those slaves, and what was the opinion of the Court on the subject? It was a trial at bar, attended with the greatest solemnities which obtained in British Courts of Justice, and the law laid down on that occasion was, that the subsequent ratification of Captain Denman's act was, equivalent to an authority for it, and that, therefore, the act was one which, however wrong, was free from municipal authority, because it was the act of a State, and was, therefore, the subject of representation between the two States concerned in it. If those were unquestionable principles of law, the question that arose in the next place was, whether this ship at the time of the seizure was in Portuguese waters or not? If she was not in Portuguese waters, there was an end to all controversy; but if she was in Portuguese waters, then the question arose, what was the character of that ship at the time of the seizure? Was she, or was she not, at that time, acting under the authority of the French Government, and therefore, involving the French Government in responsibility for her acts? If she was acting under the authority of the French Government he defied any one to contend that she was subject to municipal law. Count Walewski gave this account of her, "that she was a French ship freighted for Government purposes, with a Government agent on board," and he assumed the accuracy of this statement as the basis of any opinion which he might express. It was known to all of their Lordships that, rightly or wrongly, the French Government had at that time adopted the plan of importing negroes from the coast of Africa into the Isle of Bourbon on the terms of what was called free immigration. In all those cases there was a Government delegate on board the vessel by whom the contracts for those negroes were to be entered into, and who in that capacity acted under the authority and in the behalf of the French Government. Was that unknown to the Portuguese Government at the time when this act of seizure was committed? In the very first paper of the collection before the House it appeared that distinct notice was given by the British Admiral on the station to the Governor of Mozambique that the latter had not the least authority to interfere with the exportation of negroes under the directions of the French Government. The Portuguese Government had no doubt a perfect right if they thought fit, to forbid the exportation of negroes or the exportation of anything else from their territories and to impose any reasonable penalty on the violation of that prohibition. They had, in fact, issued such a prohibition, but the Governors had been in the habit of granting licences for such exportation and thereby superseding the local law, just as during the great war with France licences were constantly granted by the British Government for trade in violation of the Orders in Council. In fact, the Portuguese Government being urged to a stricter enforcement of their laws, had, just before the transaction in question took place, appointed a new Governor, and recalled the old one on the ground of the extent to which he had granted these licences. The new Governor had under his consideration the course which was to be pursued towards ships acting under the authority of the French Government who might be found engaging negroes within the Portuguese territory, and he accordingly on the 20th of November issued a circular prescribing the course to be taken in cases where a French delegate might be found on board, directing that his instructions should be examined, and the prohibition to export slaves communicated to him. This circular showed that the Portuguese authorities had full knowledge that it was the custom for these ships to have a delegate on board, and it was not denied that the Charles et Georges had a French delegate on board. The circular having been issued on the 20th an armed vessel was sent out, which, after chasing the French ship, eventually captured her in the port of Conducia on the 27th, on the pretence that she was engaged in the slave trade? What possible right had the Portuguese authorities to chase the ship? He (Lord Kingsdown) had seen too much of the proceedings of prize courts in Africa to attach much value to the evidence given, or the sentence passed. But what was the account given by the captor immediately after the occurrence—on the 30th of November? "The captain stated his name to be Charles Rouxel—the name of the ship the Charles et Georges, of 372 tons, with fifteen persons on board, including a delegate of the French Government." Thus it was admitted the captors were aware of the presence of a delegate from the French Government. Then it was said, "the captain stated that he had come there to receive colonists, that he had come to trade; he had sent money and had received colonists, as he was authorized by the Government." To which the captor replied "he did not doubt it;" that is to say, he did not doubt that instead of being engaged in the slave trade the ship was employed under the authority of the French Government in the importation of negroes as colonists. The captor then demanded the authorization of the Portuguese Government, which he says could not be produced. Now, it was quite true that there was a regulation by which the French delegate was to receive the sanction of the Portuguese authorities in the place from which he proposed to ship the negroes before he took them away. But the ship had come there armed with the authority of the French Government, and there being no Portuguese authority at the place where she was, the negroes were shipped without the authorization of any Portuguese official person, although there was the licence of an Arab sheik acting as it appears under a licence from the Portuguese Government, and it was really for this violation of the municipal regulations of the Portuguese colony, and not for being engaged in the slave trade, that the ship was seized. Was not this a case, if ever there was one, in which the country as well as the orders of the Portuguese Government of the 20th of November required that the greatest caution should be observed. But what was done? Instead of conforming to those laws which were laid down for regulating the intercourse of States, the Portuguese authorities seized the ship, carried off the captain and the delegate acting under the authority of the French Government, took down the French flag and hoisted the Portuguese, and then proceeded to convict the French ship, or in other words the French Government, of having been engaged in the slave trade. He would ask what would England have said if their Government had been accused of slave dealing and their flag treated with such indignity, as had been the case with that of France? Such being the state of facts and the law, what was the position of Her Majesty's Government? Remarks had been made on the uncertainty which had prevailed in the councils of the Cabinet; but the noble Lord who made the criticism did not remember the position of the Cabinet at that time. They were receiving each day most contradictory statements from all quarters, and might well be uncertain as to the real facts. It had been said that the noble Earl (the Earl of Malmesbury) had recommended as an excuse, not founded on fact, to be put forward as a ground on which Portugal might shuffle out of the difficulty in which she had involved herself and had suggested that the Arab sheik, under whose authority the French captain had acted, should be treated as an independent chief, whereas he was under the control of the Portuguese Government. But the authority so given was not in the least degree affected by that circumstance, for the sheik had acted under a licence granted for that purpose by the Portuguese Governor, and therefore his act was just as valid as if it had been done, as the noble Earl supposed, in the character of an independent chief. In this state of circumstances what course could the British Government adopt? Could they urge Portugal to resistance, to war, and to ruin, on a case in which, if she was not clearly in the wrong, it was in the highest degree doubtful at least whether she was in the right. Above all, could this be done after the course pursued by this country in the case of the Cagliari? He was for many reasons unwilling to speak of what had been done in that case as any authority. But precedents were good against those who made them. No one could doubt that the Governor upon the spot had power to relax any regulation made by the Portuguese Government, and though the acts of the Portuguese Governor as between himself and his Government might not be binding on them, yet all the acts done by him in respect of foreigners were binding on them. Now, what he would ask, was the course which any Government of ordinary prudence ought to have pursued under those circumstances? What was the course which the comity of nations called upon them to adopt? For his own part, he should contend that unless we were animated by a greediness for war—which he could not attribute to a sane people—it was our duty to represent to the Portuguese Government that if the French agent had acted without authorization, or in violation of treaty engagements, it was to his employers he was respon- sible for his acts. Precedents were good by way of argument against those who set them, and those, he ventured to say, who would look into the papers which had been laid before Parliament in reference to the case of the Cagliari, would find that a course which had been pursued in the one instance had been followed with little or no difference in the other. The French Government had a far better right to insist on the surrender of their vessel than the British Government to insist on the surrender of the Englishmen found on the Cagliari. It had been contended that his noble Friend might have written in a more spirited tone; but he could not help thinking that we had too recent experience of the effect of peremptory language used by one State towards another, to render us ambitious of imitating their example. He was afraid that we were too much accustomed, while indulging our own feelings without restraint, to forget that other nations had feelings as well as ourselves. Were we, who had rejected a measure which was just and right in itself, because we deemed its enactment to have been demanded at our hands by a foreign Power in an improper tone, to turn round and adopt towards France that very attitude of which we so much complained? But, be that as it might, he felt quite assured that if his noble Friend had, instead of acting in a conciliatory manner, used peremptory language the result in the present instance would have been very different from that which had been brought about. The Portuguese Government had, in his opinion, owing to the rashness of its proceedings, involved itself in a position of extreme peril. From that position his noble Friend had by the exercise of prudence and forbearance contributed to extricate it with infinitely less damage than might have been anticipated, and in doing so had maintained the peace of Europe and had secured one of the most important triumphs for humanity in procuring the abandonment of the French plan for the exportation of negroes, by which the efforts of this country for the abolition of the slave trade had been so greatly impeded.


Before I proceed to address myself to the subject immediately under discussion, I would beg to be permitted to congratulate your Lordships on the great accession to the debates in this House which we have received in the person of the noble and learned Lord who had just spoken. And although I may be un- equal to cope with the noble and learned Lord in dealing with a question which turns to a groat extent upon the interpretation of international law, yet so great is the confidence which I feel in the strength of the case which I have to lay before you that I can entertain no fear as to the opinion at which you will arrive. I must, in the first place, endeavour to recal to your attention that which is the real point at issue. For a number of years—it does not appear from those papers how many—it has been the policy of Portugal to prevent the exportation of negroes from her dominions. This policy had been adopted (owing, partly at least, to the urgent representations of this country) prior to 1854, for in that year the ex-governor of the Island of Réunion applied to the Portuguese Minister at Paris for permission to transport negroes from the African possessions of Portugal to that island. That application was referred to the Government at Lisbon, but, after full consideration, was not granted. In reply to a subsequent request of the same nature, a note was presented by the Portuguese Minister at Paris to the French Government, in which it was expressly stated that the traffic in negroes was prohibited, and the French Government was called upon to convey the decision of Portugal to the Governor of Réunion, in order that the laws upon the point might not be contravened. It is true that these orders were not always enforced by the local authorities; but the Portuguese Government, when it learned that fact, recalled the Governor who had acted in contravention of them, and this fact was officially communicated to the French Government in January, 1857, when a long correspondence took place between the French Minister at Lisbon and the Portuguese Government upon the subject. The Marquis de Lisle wrote to the Viscount Sa da Banderia, requesting that the prohibition against the exportation of Africans to the French Colonies should be withdrawn. To this application the Viscount replied, pointing out the objections to the system, and the abuses to which it gave rise. The Marquis de Lisle was not satisfied, and again returned to the charge, sending a letter from the French Secretary for Foreign Affairs, saying how much importance the French Government attached to the application, and begging the Portuguese Government to reconsider its decision. To this, again, at the end of January, Viscount Sa da Banderia replied, stating that it was impossible to comply with the request, pointing out that though it was true that the colonists when landed at Bourbon were not regarded as slaves, yet up to the moment of landing they were so treated, and that in procuring them all the abuses of the slave trade necessarily arose. He also forwarded extracts from letters from the Mozambique, stating that there were French ships collecting these emigrants, as they were called, but that these negro "workmen" had irons on their necks. He showed that the French speculators had carried on a traffic in slaves, their operations had necessarily led to wars in the interior, to the system of kidnapping, and all those evils connected with the slave trade which were formerly in existence, the ultimate emancipation of the negroes so procured when they reached the French colonies making no difference in the effects produced in Africa, which were precisely the same as if the so-called emigrants were consigned to slavery in Cuba. He said the Portuguese Government were convinced that the great obstacle to the progress of their African Colonies was the manner in which this trade was carried on; that they were determined to make every effort to suppress it; and that as the late Governor of Mozambique had not performed his duty in this respect, he had been recalled; that another Governor, who, it was hoped, would act with more energy, had been sent to take his place; and he ended the correspondence by asking the French Government to make known in Réunion that this was the law of Portugal, and to give directions against the introduction of any negroes from the Portuguese dominions. That was in January, 1857. So much, therefore, for the want of notice to France of the determination of Portugal of which the noble Earl (the Earl of Malmesbury) complained. The Portuguese Government thought France was going to act upon this request, because in July, 1857, several months before the affair of the Charles et Georges, the Governor of Mozambique reported to his Government that the commander of the French naval force there, Captain Mécquet, told him that no more French ships should come to Mozambique in search of negroes, and that if they had done so heretofore it was under a mistaken impression that the traffic was not prohibited. Such was the course of events when French ships were detected carrying on the trade. My noble Friend (Lord Wodehouse) told you that the first two ships found were both discharged upon a simple undertaking that they would not attempt to take negroes from the Portuguese dominions. The were found with complete slave fittings, but no slaves were on board, and they were therefore treated with forbearance. But then came the case of the Charles et Georges, and it certainly is a curious circumstance that the capture of that vessel took place at the instigation of the British Consul, Mr. M'Leod. He reported to the Governor of Mozambique that there was a bark lying in the harbour of Conducia under suspicious circumstances, which he believed to be a slaver. Now, looking at the past correspondence which had taken place, was not the Governor warranted in supposing that, unless he acted vigorously, serious difficulties would arise with this country? The late Foreign Secretary (the Earl of Clarendon) had addressed to the Portuguese Government, up to the very time of leaving office, the strongest remonstrances for not taking sufficiently active measures to compel the local authorities to enforce their orders, particularly against the trade carried on by these French ships. The Governor knew, therefore, that if he did not act upon this warning from the British Consul he would probably be liable to a very severe censure from his own Government. The Charles et Georges was accordingly seized in the manner related, and on board were found several Portuguese subjects, some of them freshly kidnapped at Mozambique—men who had landed on an island to get water, and who had been then kidnapped and sold to the French captain. You will find a list of these persons in the papers. No doubt others were sold by their own masters; but I was really surprised to hear the noble and learned Lord (Lord Kingsdown) allege, as a palliation of the offence, that these were not freemen reduced to slavery and then purchased, but were negroes who, being slaves, were then purchased by the French captain. Why, that is the very gist of the complaint which is made. The Portuguese Government wish to free their dominions from the abominable scourge of the traffic in slaves, and these men were either bought from their masters, or from those who had wrongfully reduced them to slavery, contrary to the known wish of the Portuguese Government, to be exported to Bourbon. Of course if traders are allowed to come into Portuguese ports And buy without inquiry all slaves offered to them for emigrants, all the old and detestable means of procuring slaves for these customers will continue to be resorted to. Then, the ship being so found, a Commission is first appointed to report on the circumstances, and see if there is a case for further proceedings. That Commission makes inquiry accordingly, and the Portuguese authorities consider the facts quite sufficient to bring the ship before a proper tribunal, by which she is regularly condemned. The captain next appeals against the decision to a superior court. Well, I am told that this was a wrongful proceeding on the part of the Portuguese Government. In the first place, the noble and learned Lord says it is doubtful whether she was in Portuguese waters. That may be so; but certainly if you will read the papers you will find that at the beginning of the correspondence no doubt whatever was expressed on the point. The captain himself never once questioned it. The plea was not raised until long afterwards, and, as far as I can judge, it appears to have been tacitly abandoned by the French Government in the latter stage of the correspondence. But the noble and learned Lord relied mainly upon the principle that a ship acting under the authority of the Government of a State is not subject to the municipal law of a foreign country. We all admit this: I have never heard it questioned; but can a single despatch be found in these papers in which the French Government distinctly put forward the claim that the Charles et Georges was a vessel of that kind, and therefore, exempted from the municipal law of Portugal. I find, indeed, the French Government asserting that the presence of a French agent on board the Charles et Georges ought to have exempted her from all suspicion of being engaged in the slave trade; but nowhere is there a distinct claim of her exemption from the authority of the State in whose waters she was found. The noble and learned Lord spoke of the ship as being chartered by the French Government; but there was no evidence to show that she had any claim to a public character. She was navigated by a private individual for his own benefit. The captain found the money, and the agent on board had nothing to do but to verify by a certain seal the indenture by which the kidnapped blacks were bound to serve for a certain term of years. The captain finds the money and buys the slaves, whom he converts into what he calls "free labourers," and when he gets to Bourbon he sells the indentures, the difference between what he gets for them, and the price he has paid for the blacks being his profit. It is impossible, therefore to compare a ship of this kind with a ship acting under the authority of a Government. Under these circumstances there is every reason to believe that the Portuguese claim was right, and that they had acted under an authority which they really possessed. But granting it were doubtful, can a case be conceived which much more required to be referred to the arbitration of a friendly power? [The Earl of MALMESBURY: Hear, hear!] By that cheer 1 suppose the noble Earl means to assert that this claim for reference was efficiently supported. But is there anything in the papers to show that our Ambassador at Paris was ever instructed to urge this reference as a matter of right? It was a mere suggestion on our part which the French Government might or might not adopt as it deemed expedient. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs contends that he did all for the Portuguese Government which they had a right to expect, and that we are not to judge of him by what we know now, but by what we knew at the time. It would certainly be in the highest degree unfair to the noble Earl to assume that he knew as much as we know at the present moment; but at a very early period of the dispute he seems to have had very full information on the subject. On the 7th of September Mr. Howard wrote a despatch to the noble Earl, which contained all the real facts of the case, and soon after that he wrote another which contained all the documents, and which really left no doubt as to the merits of the case. The noble Earl asked whether we would have him menace France and involve Europe in war on this matter? I am sure no one who has spoken on this side of the House would give him such unwise advice; but surely this was a case in which it was possible for him to have caused a formal note to be presented to the French Government expressing the deep interest which England took in the matter, and setting forth the serious grounds there were for thinking that France was not altogether in the right. The Portuguese Ambassador presented a memorandum on the 4th of October which argued the case of the Portuguese Government very ably, and Lord Cowley ought to have been instructed to support that memorandum. Some such remonstrance as this I am sure would have been sufficient. The noble Earl, though he did not say so in so many words, implied that he had not taken that course for fear of war. No man views the calamities of war with greater horror than I do, but I am persuaded that to desert a faithful Ally in difficulties which she has incurred through following our advice, from a mere fear that we may possibly be involved in war, is not the way in the long run to secure the enjoyment of peace. If you are willing to submit to insults and aggression in your intercourse with foreign nations you will have to submit to them until they reach a point which you can no longer bear, and you will then be dragged into war. But in this case there was no cause whatever for apprehension. I have never expressed that violent admiration of the Emperor of the French which the noble Earl and some other noble Lords have often declared in a manner which has seemed to me to savour of adulation, but at all events I do not think so ill of him as to suppose that a remonstrance, conciliatory in form yet firm in substance, would have led to any danger of war. The force of truth and justice is so great in these days, that the Emperor of the French, so urged, must have given way; and I am confirmed in that opinion, because I find that, when lie was truly informed of the real nature of the case, he made a substantial concession in putting an end to the traffic and to all future difficulties. I am persuaded that if the case had been properly brought before the Emperor at an earlier period he would have seen that, instead of his honour being involved in maintaining the acts of the French captain, his honour was concerned on the other side. It is not denied by any one that this French captain had improperly bought negroes in the Portuguese dominions. We know from the deposition of the French agent on board that he was satisfied the captain had acted improperly, and that it was his intention, on the ship's return to Bordeaux, to have reported those improper acts. When the captain and ship were seized for these infractions of the law, if the Emperor had said the French Government never intended to support the captain, his honour would not have been touched; and I am confirmed in the opinion that the Emperor, had he known the whole of the facts, would have taken that course, because it is evident, from reading these papers, that the French Government were exceedingly ill-informed upon the subject. There can be no stronger proof of this than the fact that Count Walewski re- presented to Lord Cowley that the difficulty arose from Portugal prohibiting the trade after having permitted it, when in truth, the Portuguese Government always had prohibited it, and had formally written to the French Government declining to withdraw that prohibition upon request made to do so in notes bearing the signature of Count Walewski. It is impossible to suppose that Count Walewski intentionally made a false statement to the British ambassador; we have a right therefore to conclude that the French Government were ill-informed, and would have acted differently if the Secretary of State of England had taken care to put the facts fairly before it, instead of deserting a faithful Ally and leaving Portugal to make what terms she could with France. Under those circumstances, the conduct of Portugal was in the highest degree dignified and honourable. She yielded, but she said she yielded only to superior force. What a contrast between her conduct and that if our own Government. Instead of using the language which became a British Ambassador in maintaining the rights of an ally who had brought upon herself an unjust demand by following our advice. Lord Cowley, under the instructions of the noble Earl in his communications with the French Minister, adopted the tone of one who can only Bend low, and in a bondman's key With bated breath and whispering humbleness, try to deprecate the anger of a master. And this was followed by something almost worse. When the French squadron was sent to Lisbon the noble Earl sent two British ships, and their instructions were to protect the persons and property of British subjects. I suppose the noble Earl thought that France would proceed to extremities, that France would use her naval force, and by actual hostilities compel Portugal to submit, and, therefore, he sent two British ships to be mere spectators of those hostilities, perhaps of the burning of Lisbon. After all that occurred, the noble Earl extorted from the Portuguese Government the admission that the good offices of Her Majesty's Government had not been without result. It is, no doubt, as represented by my noble Friend, a certificate of character, but as to what is the opinion of Portugal you will form a very bad judgment if you look merely to that official estimate. I am informed that in the debate in the Portuguese Cortes, the manner in which England was spoken of was most painful to those who value the character and reputation of this country. I am told that all political parties concurred in saying, "We complain less of France than we do of England, because on France we had no peculiar claim, but on England we had, and England has deserted us." I hear from authorities, which I cannot doubt, that the impression which those unfortunate transactions have produced throughout the continent of Europe is of the very worst description. I hear that in all foreign Courts, and especially in the Courts of the smaller Powers which have hitherto been accustomed to look up to England as a Power that could be safely relied on to assert the claims of right and justice when wrong and violence threatened, it is deemed a confession of weakness and an abandonment of that duty which this country hitherto has always felt bound to discharge. I am extremely glad that my noble Friend has brought the subject under the notice of your Lordships, and although he has not thought it right to propose a Motion which would test the opinion of the House—and I concur with him in that view—I ant glad to have had this opportunity of expressing my own opinion upon the question.


My Lords, I am also very much obliged to the noble Lord who has brought this question forward, and I concur with the noble Earl who has just spoken in commending the judgment of the noble Lord in framing the Motion in such a manner as renders it impossible for the House to come to any conclusion on the merits of the question involved in it. I think the noble Lord has shown excellent judgment in so framing the Motion; but certainly if he had entertained the view which the noble Earl seems to entertain, that the course which the British Government has pursued has reflected discredit on this country, and lowered our character in Portugal and throughout Europe, I should have thought it his duty not to have contented himself with moving for a paper to which there is not the slightest objection, except what has been stated by my noble Friend, and which, in point of fact, is absolutely immaterial, but to have called on Parliament to pronounce a verdict against a Government which had so grossly neglected its duty. I listened with attention and some interest to the speech of the noble Lord (Lord Wodehouse), although that interest was somewhat diminished by the fact that on Satur- day last the greater portion of the noble Lord's speech might be read in a publication of a laudatory character with regard to everything and everybody, and singularly discriminating and candid in everything relating to my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. After the speeches of my noble Friend (the Earl of Malmesbury) and my noble and learned Friend (Lord Kingsdown), who has for the first time addressed your Lordships, and who reminded me to-night of the triumphs which he achieved while he and I were Members of the other House, I confess I should have been perfectly satisfied to have left the question to those two speeches if it lied not been for some remarks which have fallen from the noble Earl who lies just sat down. My Lords, those who debate this question on the part of the Government labour under very considerable difficulties, because with the question of the conduct of the Government, which is alone properly under your Lordships' consideration, various other questions are complicated in regard to the conduct of the French and Portuguese Governments to each other, and the merits of the transactions out of which the immediate interventions of Her Majesty's Government arose. All the sympathies of Parliament and of the country are in favour of what is supposed to be the ease of Portugal. Here you have Portugal incited by England to take an active part in the suppression of the slave trade, exerting herself for that suppression, in doing so incurring the hostility of a powerful neighbour, and then deserted by the friend and ally whose instigation had caused the active part she had taken. That is a very plausible way of putting the question, and it enlists all the sympathies of Parliament and the country in favour of the State that so laudably exerts itself for the suppression of the slave trade and was so unfairly deserted by her ally. But, my Lords, that is not the case we have to argue. The question on which the decision of Parliament is to be taken is not whether the proceedings of France in regard to Portugal are such as to be altogether defended or supported—not whether the system of French emigration from the coast of Africa is or is not necessarily connected with the slave trade—but whether, under the circumstances in which Her Majesty's Government were placed, they did their duty between the two parties, and whether they took the course consistent with the honour and interests of this country. The difficulty of the position in which they were placed was increased by the fact that we have all along said and contended—and none more vehemently and successfully than the noble Lord—that the system of free emigration, as it was carried on with the best intentions by France, was inseparably and indissolubly connected with the revival of the slave trade. Nevertheless, we were compelled to admit the perfect right of France to carry on that traffic if she thought fit. We have no treaty with France against such a traffic; it is not in itself contrary to international law, or illegal; and, although we never ceased to contend that there was no distinction between this system of so-called free emigration and a bonâ fide slave trade—that is the purchase of persons formerly slaves, and carried off against their will—yet we could not but confess that we had no power or justification to interfere to prevent that traffic by France. We represented to the Government of the Emperor the cases that had arisen and the consequences likely to follow from that traffic, and I rejoice to say, that, partly owing to the prudent and conciliatory course taken by my noble Friend, the French Government were led to a conviction that we were right, and under that conviction the Emperor of the French took a course which must be gratifying to this country and favourable to the interests of humanity; and, my Lords, it is my confident belief that, if we had taken a different course—if we had taken the course pointed out by the noble Earl (Earl Grey), we should have interposed the greatest difficulty in the way of the conclusion to which time French Government came, and should have placed serious obstacles in the way of the abandonment of the traffic complained of. The question is, has England faithfully and duly performed her duty to her Ally—Portugal? I think that the noble Lord who commenced the debate began by admitting that no violation of our treaties with Portugal had occurred. [Lord WODEHOUSE: I admitted that a casus fœderis had not arisen.] That is to say, that Portugal had not, under her treaties with this country, the right to ask for the good offices of Her Majesty's Government under the circumstances that had arisen, much less to claim our armed intervention in her behalf. It would be under the treaty that Portugal would have claimed our good offices if the necessity had arisen, and under the same treaty that she would have claimed our armed intervention. The authority of the Prime Minister of Portugal himself has been quoted upon this point, and he distinctly stated in the Cortes, when he was charged with not applying to England, that he had not done so because in his judgment the casus fœderis had not arisen. We may, then, set aside every question in regard to any treaty obligation existing between us and Portugal. The question was one between Portugal and France, both of whom were on terms of amity and friendship with this country, and to both of whom in any difficulty that might arise Her Majesty's Government would be willing and ready to tender their good offices. But Portugal was not entitled to demand either our good offices or intervention, These transactions commenced in December, 1857, and from that time to the month of August, 1858, although much correspondence took place between Portugal and France, no single reference was made to this country by either Portugal or France with reference to any part of these transactions. Some noble Lords. have asked in the course of this debate why we did not take part in the negotiations at an earlier period? In the first place, the matter in dispute did not touch this country, because it was a difference between two independent countries, and neither of them asked for our interference; and in the next place, because, even if we were inclined to interfere, we had not been furnished with the information and evidence, without which we could not form a judgment. Nay, more, I assert that up to this moment we have not the means of forming a correct judgment on the whole of this transaction. We have not the French statement, or the results of the inquiry instituted by the Comié des Contentieux, to whom the case was referred, and which had pronounced an opinion seriatim on the points referred to it. If we had been called upon to act as arbitrators or mediators, there would have been much conflicting evidence on points essential to a just decision in the case, for it was admitted that if the French vessel at the time of the seizure was beyond the Portuguese waters cadit quæstio, and the Portuguese Government were guilty of a wrong. There was much contradictory evidence on other points, and that point with regard to the position of the vessel was not brought forward until a late period. Up to September no communication was made to us. The noble Earl says that this French vessel was not of a character to claim the privileges of a ship of war. But that point is at all events very questionable. The French Government assert that she was a French vessel—that she was, in fact, freighted by the French Government—that she had a French delegate on board, who was responsible for the conduct of the persons who carried on the traffic. Those were the statements of the French Government, and they were not denied. I say, then, that even if the vessel were within the limits of Portuguese waters, I would not go so far as to say that she was withdrawn from all interference of municipal law; but, admitting that she was within the Portuguese waters, it was only the municipal law she was violating, and not any treaty between Portugal and France. The comity of nations required not that she should be dealt with as a slaver, but that she should be given over to the French Government, and the matter made the subject of diplomatic negotiations. But supposing she had been carrying on this trade not under the sanction of the French Government, and supposing she had been in Portuguese waters, the Portuguese tribunals, by their own confession, did not take the course which they were bound to take. If she was not a slaver, they had no right to deal with her in the manner they did. If she was a slaver, they were bound to adjudicate on the case, not at Mozambique, but in the Prize Court at Loando. The course taken was utterly irreconcilable, under any circumstances, with the comity of nations, and absolutely contrary to international law. This case having occurred, and a long correspondence having taken place upon it, towards the latter end of August the French Government were found to be taking a decisive and energetic part in it, and the matter began to be serious. On the 18th of September, I think, Mr. Howard writes to us from Lisbon:— The Marquis de Loulé begged me to point out more particularly to your Lordship that this was shown to be a case not of the engagement of free labourers, but of the actual purchase of slaves. His Excellency did not make any application to me for your Lordship's valuable assistance, but I feel persuaded that he would be very grateful should your Lordship be able to afford the Portuguese Government any aid in the treatment of the question with the French Government. By return of post, on the 25th of the same month, my noble Friend wrote back saying he should be happy, although not requested by the Portuguese Government, to offer the good offices of Her Majesty's Government in the settlement of the matter in issue; and it was not till three or four days after he had done so that an application was made by the Portuguese Government for the employment of those good offices which he had already tendered. The noble Earl who has spoken last (Earl Grey) says, in dealing with the French Government we ought to have remonstrated with them, that we ought to have urged all the arguments that could be urged, to show the French Government that they were entirely in the wrong, and that Portugal was in the right. But, in order to show them that we ought to have been quite satisfied ourselves of it in the first instance. I do not think any person would be very likely to be accepted as a mediator between two contending parties, if he said to one of them, "You are entirely in the wrong, and the other party is entirely in the right, and, therefore, I write you to accept my good offices for the purpose of settling the dispute;" and if a course could have been devised so entirely calculated altogether to defeat the possibility of coming to a satisfactory conclusion, and to prevent the French Government listening to what we might have to say, it was that recommended by the wisdom and judgment of the noble Earl. But what did we do? We offered our good offices for the purpose of mediation. We have been told that a long despatch ought to have been addressed to Lard Cowley as to how he was to act. I think, knowing the character of Lord Cowley, my noble Friend acted much more wisely by informing him that we had offered our good offices in the matter, and leaving it to him, with the influence which he deservedly possesses at the French Court, to do what appeared to him right under the circumstances. It is assumed that Lord Cowley did nothing in the matter, except make a single representation to Count Walewski, the result of which was unsatisfactory. But during the whole time that Count Lavradio was in Paris he was engaged with Baron Paiva in negotiating with Count Walewski, and constantly in the presence and with the assistance of Lord Cowley, with the view to their arriving at a common understanding. And they undoubtedly came to a common understanding. They came to an agreement with regard to a mediation which, if it had been carried into effect, as has been admitted by the noble Lord who has brought this question under your Lordships' consideration, would have been a wise, ho- nourable, and satisfactory solution of the question. I thank him for that admission. But it is said the French Minister at Lisbon, either not having sufficient instructions or misconceiving his instructions, declared he could only deal with the question as to the amount of the indemnity to be offered, and not as to the legality of the seizure. All I can say is, that Count Walewski and Lord Cowley are at one on the Marquis de Lisle having mistaken his instructions. What did Mr. Howard do? When he was informed, on the part of the Portuguese Government, that the Marquis de Lisle had stated lie could only deal with the question of the indemnity, and not with that of the legality of the seizure, Mr. Howard said, very judiciously and wisely, that he had no instructions to enable him to meet that state of things; that that was not the way in which the case had been represented to him; but that, as the question had been put in that way, he—speaking for himself alone, and not for the Government he represented—would recommend an endeavour to be made with the view to an arrangement of the dispute. I think that under that state of circumstances no charge can be made against my noble Friend for not giving instructions in a case that could not be foreseen. I have always been of opinion, that when one party places his honour in the hands of another he is bound to place himself in the hands of that other person unrestrictedly and unreservedly. In the present case there was no treaty obligation in question, but from ancient friendship Portugal asked us what was best to be done. We advised them to accept the mediation that was offered, because it involved all that it was desirable to obtain; and Portugal not having asked our advice for four months, and then having refused to follow it, I say that as against England she has no real cause of complaint. The noble Earl who spoke last said something about England having had to submit to an insult, and of having lowered herself in the eyes of other countries. I know nothing of any insult to which England has been subjected in this matter. It was no question of hers; it was no question between her and France. What she did was, to give this disinterested advice to an ally as to the mode of extricating that ally from a difficulty; and if Portugal had taken that advice, the negotiation would have been conducted in a manner which Would have been satisfactory to all parties. Here is a case presented of a vote of censure against the Government, though it has wisely not been put forward exactly in that form. The whole object in raising this discussion is to show that we have neglected our duty and lowered this country in the estimation of the world. My Lords, I say on the contrary that we had arrived at a point, late as it was before our intervention was sought, at which the matter was likely to have been brought to an honourable solution. It was only by an incomprehensible accident that that solution was interfered with, and that solution would still have been arrived at if Portugal had not repudiated our advice. I say more. I say that considering the difficult course which Her Majesty's Government had to pursue, I believe we adopted the course most consistent with prudence, most consistent with honour; we avoided entangling ourselves in a hostile controversy between Portugal and France,—a course of moderation and firmness by which we were enabled to hold the position we were bound to hold as the friend of both parties, and our moderation has had the effect not only of convincing France of the soundness of our arguments against her system of so-called free immigration, but has disposed her to allow fair play to her own reason, and to have yielded to argument and by the force of her own conviction that which she would never have yielded to unfriendly remonstrances pressed on her in a hostile spirit. Out of that difficulty, serious as it was, I believe we have come with honour to ourselves and advantage to the general peace of Europe; and until our conduct has been condemned by a vote of Parliament, which the noble Lord evidently does not think it desirable to ask at present, I shall be satisfied with the course we have pursued, and, if again placed in the same circumstances, I could rejoice to follow the same course, and to have it attended by the same results.


said, that the noble Earl had stated that the main object of this Motion was to induce the House to express an opinion on the conduct of the Government; but he was apprehensive lest the result of the discussion should be that the House should seem to lay down general principles as to the law of Europe, which might seriously embarrass them on a future occasion. His noble and learned Friend (Lord Kingsdown) had said that there were two questions of international law material to be considered—one, whether the ship was taken in Portuguese waters; and secondly, if in Portuguese waters, whether it was taken under circumstances which gave her an exemption from the fiscal or municipal laws of Portugal. But as to the first question, it appeared from all the inquiries on the spot, from the statement of the Portuguese authorities, and from the minute signed by the captain and French delegate themselves, that the vessel was at anchor within cannon range of the island; indeed, that point had not latterly been seriously brought forward. The second question was the real one, and he must extremely deprecate a silent acquiescence in such a doctrine of international law as the French authorities had laid down. He knew there were eminent jurists in France, and no doubt, before the French Government acted as it had done, it consulted the learned civilians of the Comité des Contentieux, and acted upon their advice. But it would be unreasonable that we should be bound by the unknown reports of foreign jurists. He could not even form an estimate of the value of their opinion without knowing the facts that were submitted to them. Here was a trading vessel—mark, not a Government vessel—from the Isle of Réunion, coming to get labourers from the African coast. By the French law no ship was to come from Bourbon or Réunion without complying with the regulations of the French Government, and in order to see that those regulations were observed, a French delegate was put on board. The ship then came within the waters of Portugal and violated its law. Was it protected from the jurisdiction of Portugal by having a French delegate on board? He protested that this doctrine was inconsistent with principle and not to be found in any work of international law. The consequences of such a law would be monstrous. The case of Captain Denman, which had been alluded to, was totally different; he was a Queen's officer, commanding a Queen's ship, and doing something which might be admitted, for the sake of argument, was unwarrantable, but which the Government adopted afterwards. It was therefore the same thing as though the Government hail previously authorized the act. Let them consider to what a preposterous length the matter would go if the principle contended for were admitted. Suppose we had a law here that iron should not be sold in this country except under certain restrictions, and a foreign vessel came here to purchase iron; no doubt if our law were contravened we might confiscate the ship; but suppose there were an agent of a foreign Government on board, not in order to purchase the iron, but to take care that the captain of the ship should not violate certain other regulations of his own Government, would that prevent the ship being amenable to our law? As he had not seen the Report of the Comité des Contentieux, he could not positively say there might not be some principle suggested in it which had escaped his research; but he had not been able to discover, in any writer on international law, one opinion or instance to show that the presence of a Government delegate was a good reason for any exemption of this kind.


said, that upon some parts of the case, as it appeared upon the documents laid before the Douse, different opinions might be entertained; but upon one there could be no possible difference, and that is, that the Government ought not to have taken up the cause of Portugal against France, and supported it to such an extent as to lead to war with that Power, unless there was a case on the part of our Ally which was clear beyond all possible doubt. Now, he had taken great care to look over all the documents, and he had attended to all the arguments on either side, and had looked into the authorities of international law, and after a good deal of reflection, he certainly could not see his way to the conclusion that the Portuguese Government had a clear case against the French Government. It appeared to him to be a very doubtful question. Supposing the Portuguese tribunal had jurisdiction over that vessel, he thought no fault could be found with its decision. There was evidence from which they might reasonably conclude that the captain of the ship was engaged in what might properly be called the slave trade. That word might be understood in different senses. The trade might be carried on with very different degrees of moral guilt. Slaves might be bought with a view of being carried away from their country, and kept in slavery—a hateful crime—they might be bought with a view of their being employed with their own consent or without it, as hired labourers, for a limited time. They might be bought by a benevolent person, with the view of immediate emancipation, and even this sort of purchase is within the words, but nut the spirit of the Act, imposing such severe punishments on persons engaged in the slave trade; but every species of the purchase of slaves on the coast of Africa ought to be put a stop to, because it tends to encourage the practice of kidnapping and dealing in slaves in the interior, which impedes every other species of commerce and prevents the social improvement of that extensive country. The Court, he thought, might fairly decide upon the evidence, that the French captain meant to purchase slaves from the native chiefs, and so to carry on the slave trade in the less odious sense of that word, and which the Portuguese Government justly sought to repress. But the question was, not whether the Court decided properly or improperly, for that would be the subject of appeal to a higher Pourtuguese Court, but whether it had jurisdiction to decide with respect to this vessel at all. If the ship was seized out of the waters of the Portuguese settlement, that is beyond the range of cannon shot from the shore, the seizure was illegal, and the Court acted without jurisdiction altogether, and could not give itself jurisdiction, by finding that the seizure took place within these limits. That question would have to be settled, as all disputed questions are between Sovereign Powers, not by any tribunal of justice. This was the first objection raised by Count Walewski; but what he principally insisted upon was, "that the vessel was sent by the Government," and exempt from local jurisdiction on that ground. Ships of war are undoubtedly privileged by the tacit consent of all civilized nations. The noble Lord who commenced that debate had referred to Wheaton's work, as establishing that exemption, but confining it to ships of war. If he looked farther alto its pages, he would find that the reference there was not to ships of war alone, but to public ships. If a public ship, not armed, but under the command of an officer of the Crown, were sent to a country for the purpose of obtaining provisions to supply an army, and the municipal law of that country forbade the export of provisions under the penalty of forfeiture, would that ship be liable to be seized and forfeited under the local jurisdiction of the country? He apprehended it would require a great deal of authority to show that it could. It would, he conceived, be protected as a public vessel; and it seemed, also, that if the ship was sent, and notice given that it was sent by a special order from the Sovereign for any particular purpose, it was not in the power of the municipal tribunal to deal with it. He had been struck by the argument used in an able article in the Law Magazine, written upon the present question, that if a Sovereign gave a positive order for a particular thing to be done, the person executing that order in a foreign country was not responsible to any tribunal for so doing, and the authority of a decision of Mr. Justice Story in the American Court was cited. He could not positively say, but he bad thought much on the subject, and he was not at all satisfied that this was not a vessel acting under the orders of the French Government. He was much disposed to agree with his noble and learned Friend (Lord Kingsdown); but, at all events, the question, at the least, was involved in considerable doubt, and he must say, that in his opinion it would have been very impolitic to make it a ground for interference on our part, which might end in plunging the country into a war.


concurred in the opinion respecting this case which had been expressed in the course of the correspondence by Lord Cowley—namely, that it would have been more in accordance with international polity that the Charles et Georges should have been allowed to go free, and that the question should afterwards have been treated diplomatically. He was not prepared to impute blame to the Government for the course they had taken in this matter. The original transaction was involved in so much doubt and obscurity that it was difficult indeed to judge of the merits. Thus, for example, the vessel appeared to have been chased into the bay of Conducia by a Portuguese sloop-of-war, and it was by no means an admitted fact, even then, that she was seized in Portuguese waters. Considering all the doubts which existed in reference to the legality of the capture, he thought that any strong language by Her Majesty's Government towards France, in support of the view taken by the Portuguese Government, would have been quite out of place. It was, perhaps to be regretted that after the mistake committed by the Marquis de Lisle the noble Earl did not urge upon the French Government the propriety of acting upon their original convictions, and of accepting mediation with regard to the question both of right and of indemnity; and he thought the French Government would have taken a more generous course if they had accepted the mediation of a friendly Power. At the same time, he could not but congratulate the noble Earl (the Earl of Malmesbury) on the great result which had been accomplished, since the attention of the Emperor was no sooner called to the subject than, feeling the danger of encouraging this system of negro immigration, he spontaneously resolved to put an end to it. Such being the case, causes of dispute like those which had just been discussed could not again arise between the French and Portuguese Governments.


said, he should not press his Motion, being satisfied with the discussion which had taken place on the subject. The noble Earl (the Earl of Malmesbury) and the noble Earl at the head of the Government had spoken of him as though he had recommended the use of petulant language and angry remonstrances towards France. He assured their Lordships that he should have thought such language as much out of place in this as in every case submitted to diplomatic arrangement. Then the noble Earl the Secretary of State said he had treated the principle of arbitration very cavalierly. On the contrary, he thought this principle of the utmost value, and one ground of his complaint was that the Government had not insisted to a greater extent upon its adoption.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.

House adjourned at a quarter-past Ten o'clock, to Thursday next, half-past Ten o'clock.