§ EARL RUSSELL
My Lords, when I was absent from the House last evening, having been detained by public business elsewhere, some remarks were made by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) with regard to some events that have recently occurred in Brazil. The papers relating to that subject will shortly be laid on the table, and I do not think it of any use calling attention to the matter without going into the details of it. At the same time, as so much has been said founded upon an ex parte statement which has come from Brazil, I will take the liberty of informing your Lordships what is the general outline of the case. In the beginning of the year 1861 there was a rumour that some sailors had been washed ashore near the Rio Grande do Sul. Our Consul made inquiries, and found not only that bodies had been washed ashore, but also that there had been a wreck; and on further inquiries he found that many articles, apparently taken from a wreck, being entirely dry, and not having been exposed to the action of sea-water, were in the possession of persons residing along the coast. Upon further inquiry the Consul heard that ten bodies had been washed ashore; but he was induced rather to doubt the truth of that statement. When he asked to have the bodies produced, only four out of the ten were forthcoming, and with regard to the six, it was declared that they could not be found; but as it was said that all the bodies which came on shore had been buried 368 in the sand of the sea-shore, the Consul thought that the excuses made to him were rather improbable. It was strange, that if all the bodies had been buried as described, six of them could not be found. Rumours were circulated, too, that persons who had landed from the Prince of Wales, which was the name of the vessel, had been strangled or otherwise murdered. These rumours excited a considerable degree of attention. The Consul asked that an inquest might be held on the bodies; but an inquest was prevented by persons apparently possessed of official authority, who were present with a strong armed escort. The six bodies were not produced until many months after, when they were entirely decomposed, and of course it was impossible to trace any marks upon them. It was a mere matter of probability only that these persons had been murdered, but it was at the same time a matter of certainty that the local authorities had prevented an inquiry being made into the facts and had not produced the six bodies. Upon this a demand was made on the Brazilian Government for reparation; and in the January following I wrote to our Minister desiring that a full inquiry should be made into the facts of the case. We got nothing but answers of the most evasive kind from the Brazilian Government. The Consul thought it was not fit—our Minister and Her Majesty's Government also thought that it was not fit—that such an occurrence should pass by unnoticed and without something being done to prevent a repetition of it at a future time. Another difficulty shortly after arose. Two officers and a chaplain belonging to Her Majesty's ship Forte were returning from a walk in the country, and on one of them approaching a Brazilian sentinel and asking him in Spanish what road they should take, he immediately struck him with the butt end of his musket. His two companions then came up; the sentinel called the guard, and the three Englishmen were taken off to the guardhouse. They immediately wrote down their names as officers of one of Her Majesty's ships, and also wrote a letter to the commander of their ship. That letter never was delivered; and next morning they were marched to Rio and placed in a very filthy gaol. At eleven o'clock next day they were liberated. This appeared to be a deliberate insult to officers of Her Majesty's service, and the case was one which it was thought required some reparation. Every device was resorted to by the Brazilian authorities to avoid this. It was first said 369 that the officers had attacked the sentinel, then that they were drunk, and that they had not given their names; all of which statements were contrary to the facts. The correspondence began in June 1861, and it was not until October, 1862, that Her Majesty's Government felt called on to take some course to obtain reparation. There were only two courses which it appeared to me could be taken. One was to demand ample reparation from the Brazilian Government and to enforce that reparation; the other was to withdraw our ships from the Brazilian waters, and to declare to our merchantmen that they could expect no protection against similar treatment; and that if any of the crows of our merchant ships were murdered, we did not intend to resent it. That course it was impossible for Her Majesty's Government to pursue. Our Minister, therefore, did demand a moderate reparation from the Brazilian Government. He was instructed, that if instead of making immediate reparation, the Brazilian Government proposed arbitration, he should refer it home for decision before accepting it. But he found that nothing could be done. No proposal for arbitration was made, and then he had recourse to those measures of reprisals which have been complained of. I certainly cannot see anything to be objected to in this course, for it cannot be contended that when British ships are plundered and British officers insulted that we are not to make demands for reparation.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
—My Lords, it is quite true that yesterday in the absence of the noble Earl I did ask when these papers would be produced, and I certainly did express a hope that they would dissipate an impression likely to be caused by the perusal of the papers published by the Brazilian Government, that our representative at Rio had acted in a manner which could not meet with the approval of Her Majesty's Government. I must say that the noble Earl has this evening taken a very inconvenient and unusual course, in taking, while merely promising that the papers shall be forthcoming, the opportunity of making an ex parte statement with regard to a certain portion of these transactions. This certainly is a course I never knew taken by any Minister of the Crown before. If the noble Earl had contented himself with saying that the Brazilian papers did not give the whole correspondence, and that when the papers he intended to lay on the table were pe- 370 rused we should be in a better position to form a just judgment on the transaction, it would have been quite sufficient in this stage of the business; but he has not only made a partial statement, but he has, I think, omitted from it altogether certain circumstances that appear to me to be material. I will not enter into a discussion of the merits of the case, for I have only seen the correspondence published by the Brazilian Government. There are many difficulties in the matter, and many conflicting statements, which probably will be cleared up. I will only say, that in reference to the case of the officers there is a considerable conflict of evidence. It may be that these officers have been grieviously insulted, or that they were in plain clothes and were treated with a want of consideration which would not have been shown to them had they been in uniform or if their rank had been known. In the other case, however, the noble Earl really lays down doctrines which he will find it difficult to maintain. Here is the case of a ship wrecked upon a part of the coast which is nearly uninhabited—certain bodies are found of persons who had been washed on shore from shipwreck, or who, having reached the shore alive, were subsequently murdered. It is a suspicion—nothing more—we have nothing before us to show us how far it is supported, and on those facts a demand is made on the Brazilian Government, by which they are made pecuniarily responsible for the wreck, and are required to pay the whole value of the ship and cargo. If such a circumstance had occurred in England, the only claim which could have been made against our Government would have been for neglecting to put the law effectually into operation for the discovery of the offenders. We have no other claim of reparation against the Brazilian Government. But even if the claim were well founded, he did not see how they could be made answerable for the value of a ship and cargo which was clearly lost by stress of weather, and not by any act of the Brazilian Government. I am afraid that even in this highly civilized country there may be some remote parts in which the practice of wrecking still prevails, and Her Majesty's Government would certainly be very much astonished if they were suddenly called upon to pay the value of any ship which might be wrecked on those parts of the coast, and might fall into the hands of such persons; and if in support of a demand of 371 this sort a certain number of British ships had been seized, matters would have been brought to such a point, that if the question had been between two powerful Governments, it would have been difficult to avoid hostilities. That is a part of the case with which the noble Earl has not dealt. It requires consideration, and I hope the papers to be laid before us by Her Majesty's Government will put a more satisfactory complexion on it than it assumes in the papers already published.
§ EARL RUSSELL
My Lords, if the noble Earl had contented himself with asking when these papers would be ready, I should not have said a word on the subject. My intention was to place the papers on the table without saying a word. But when the noble Earl came down to this House—I happening to be absent—and on imperfect information expresses a strong opinion that Her Majesty's representative at Rio had committed an act of injustice, it was time for me to take some notice of it. It little adds to the noble Earl's authority that he has not gone into the particulars of the cases he spoke of. With respect to the noble Earl's view of the law of nations, I doubt whether he will find any authorities to support him. It was the opinion of the Queen's Advocate, to whom I referred the matter, that if a wreck is plundered, and if the Government does not take sufficient and proper means to bring the offenders to justice, the Government that has been guilty of that neglect are liable to the demand to make good the loss that has been incurred by that neglect. We did not claim the full value of the cargo from the Brazilian Government, but we stated what the owners had demanded. We asked that it should be fairly and fully inquired into by a commission appointed by both sides, and that any items might be struck out which appeared excessive. On an occasion when an Austrian ship was wrecked on the coast of Ireland, and afterwards plundered, every means was taken to bring the offenders to justice; and, though Lord Palmerston, who was Secretary for Foreign Affairs at the time, said that the Government were not strictly liable for the damage done, still his sense of justice induced him to recommend the payment of a sum of money as compensation for the injury. And that I think is a course which any civilized country should adopt.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
I can quite understand that the noble Viscount's sense 372 of justice and good feeling might induce him to adopt the course stated by the noble Earl; but if a demand had been made by the Austrian Minister, supported by an armed force, I venture to think the noble Viscount would not have been disposed to comply with it.