§ LORD CHELMSFORD
rose to call the attention of the House to the "Memorandum regarding Assessment of Compensation in the Case of the Prince of Wales," which has been laid upon the table: And to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to inform the House upon what Grounds the Queen's Advocate founded his Estimate of the Sum of £2,360 as the Amount of Compensation which ought to be paid for the Cargo after making Allowance for probable and necessary Damage; what was the Nature and Description of the Cargo and its invoiced Value, and if the Owner has received anything from the Underwriters in respect of its Loss; also, in what Manner the Queen's Advocate has ascertained that the Loss of Wages and Effects ought to be estimated at £290 and the Compensation for "possible Murders" at £840? The noble and learned Lord said the reprisals which were made upon Brazil were intended to refer, not merely to the compensation for the plunder and wreck of the Prince of Wales, but also to satisfaction for a supposed insult which had been offered to some naval officers belonging to one of Her Majesty's ships. In execution of these reprisals Brazilian vessels were captured of the value of £13,000, leaving a very wide margin for any possible damage. So far as these reprisals extended to the supposed insult offered to the naval officers, by the impartial judgment of the Royal arbiter to whom the matter was referred, they were improper and unjust; and he trusted that the noble Earl (Earl Russell) would not consider it inconsistent with his position, or with the national dignity, to make some acknowledgment to the Brazilian Government of the error in this respect. He would certainly take occasion to put a Question to the noble Earl on the subject. What they were, however, more immediately concerned with was the case of the Prince of Wales. Their Lordships might remember that the Brazilian Government to the very last denied that they were liable in respect to the plunder of the wreck, and they refused to take any part in the liquidation of the demand of the Government, because it would amount to an admission of their liability; and they said, that if force was employed, they would pay under protest any demands that were 732 made upon them. He was sure their Lordships would all agree with him, under these circumstances, that when the Brazilian Government had as it were surrendered at discretion, and had compelled, if they pleased, our Government to take upon them the delicate office of being judge in their own cause, it was incumbent upon us to use the greatest care and caution, and not to put forward any claim which was unfounded and exorbitant. The noble Earl (Earl Russell) recognised that obligation in a despatch which he sent to Mr. Christie, in which he said that the sum to be demanded from the Brazilian Government should be based upon the most accurate estimate which this Government could make. Accordingly, the noble Earl referred the matter to the Queen's Advocate for his opinion as to the amount of compensation which ought to be assessed. Now, undoubtedly, there could not be a safer or a better reference with regard to the legal claim which ought to be made upon the Brazilian Government; but he could hardly think that the Queen's Advocate was a proper referee with regard to the amount of compensation, which depended upon particulars with which his learned Friend was not so likely to be so conversant as an insurance broker or an underwriter at Lloyd's. He could not help wishing that the noble Earl had referred to the Queen's Advocate for his advice at an earlier period, because he would then have been told by him that no demand ought to be made upon the Brazilian Government for the freight of the vessel. That which did occur would not then have taken place. On the 5th December Mr. Christie, acting under the instructions of the noble Earl, made a demand upon the Brazilian Government for the sum of £1,025 in respect of the freight of this vessel. Any tyro in the profession would have told the noble Earl that no freight was payable unless the goods arrived at their destination, and therefore that any demand upon the Brazilian Government under the circumstances would be unfounded. Their Lordships would remember that at the time when the reprisals were ordered the freight of the vessel was part of the demand which was made upon the Brazilian Government, and it continued part of the demand when the Brazilian Government submitted to pay the amount which our Government estimated as our claim; and he believed that when the gum of £3,200 was paid by M. 733 Moreira he was not aware that the freight was not included in that sum, and also that the fact was not communicated until after payment had been made. The Queen's Advocate assumed the office which the noble Earl requested him to undertake, and he believed to the very best of his ability he performed his duty; but he seemed almost to acknowledge his own incompetency when upon every head of claim he told them that he had "roughly estimated" the amount. He (Lord Chelmsford) would go shortly and rapidly through the three heads of claim, and make a few remarks applicable to each. He would begin with the cargo, in reference to which the learned Gentleman said he had made due allowance for necessary damage and salvage, as if the people of the coast had appeared as salvors and not as plunderers. The rough estimate of the Queen's Advocate under that head was £2,360. Just let them consider for a moment what were the materials with which the Queen's Advocate ought to have been furnished in order to form this estimate. In the first place, he should have been told the original value of the cargo, and he should have been accurately informed as to its nature and description. It had been stated in another place, and not denied, that the invoice value of the cargo was £3,500. The noble Earl would correct him if he was in error in this respect. The statement was made some months ago in another place, and it had never been denied; and therefore, for the present, he assumed that that was the invoice value of the cargo. With respect to the description of the cargo, he stated on a former occasion that it was a general cargo, consisting of coals, kegs of nails, iron castings, painters' colours, barrels of soda, and barrels of beer. Of course, the Queen's Advocate would have to consider the description of this miscellaneous cargo, and how much of it, after the total wreck of the vessel, was likely to find its way to land and come within reach of the plunderers—because the Brazilian Government was only liable for that portion of the cargo which came to land and was taken possession of by the plunderers who resorted to the coast at the time. He took it for granted that the noble Earl had been furnished with all these particulars, and therefore he would like to know how it was that the Queen's Advocate arrived at the sum of £2,360 as the claim for that portion of this miscellaneous 734 cargo (being more than two-thirds of the invoice value) which found its way to land. He should have thought that the greater part would have been swallowed up by the waves, that a considerable portion would have been spoiled by the salt water, and that most of the lighter goods would have been broken by the violence of the waves. That the latter part of his supposition was correct, was proved by the statement of Consul Vereker as to the appearance of the shore when he went there six or eight days after the wreck. He said the whole shore was strewn with crates and boxes and remnants of the wreck; and he added that most of the crates and some of the barrels appeared to have been broken by the force of the waves. Then there was a circumstance with regard to a portion of the goods which had never been adverted to—that of a sub-inspector of police having collected the goods for the benefit of the customs, and Mr. Vereker said that the greater part had been taken out of their cases. He never heard any reference to these goods, which ought to be taken into account, because the Brazilian Government could not be liable for that which had been delivered up. He could not help being perfectly surprised at the enormous estimate of the ship's cargo by the Queen's Advocate. He could not imagine on what ground the Queen's Advocate had estimated the amount to be paid by the Brazilian Government at £2,360. That functionary must have had some information on which he acted, and he hoped the noble Earl would be able to satisfy the House that so large an amount of property was saved from the wreck (a fact which seemed at first sight to be highly improbable) as to justify the award of so large a sum. There was, however, one item charged to the Brazilian Government which he could not understand—namely the item of £290 for seamen's wages and effects. What the value of the effects might be, he did not know, but there was no possible ground on which to charge the Brazilian Government with the wages. Indeed, up to a comparatively recent time, a seaman had no claim on the owner for wages at all unless he earned his freight, and it was quaintly said that freight was the mother of wages. That law had been altered by the 16 & 17 Vict.; but the new law contained a clause which enacted, that unless a seaman did his utmost to save the ship and cargo, his claim for wages was invalid. There was, in- 735 deed, a case in which a seaman had been wrecked, and after being on a rook all day, was taken off, but died next day, and on his relatives claiming his wages, the Court of the Exchequer considered the claim so doubtful as against the owner that it did not decide it. If then in such cases it was doubtful whether the owner could be made to pay shipwrecked seamen their wages, on what plea could the Brazilian Government be charged with a payment on that account to the owners? He now came to a point on which the noble Earl (Earl Russell) was more responsible than on the one he had just mentioned, and which was more extraordinary than all the others. The Queen's Advocate had made a claim for the "too probable murder of all or some of the crew." He (Lord Chelmsford) supposed the Queen's Advocate meant the almost certain murder of the crew. At all events, he roughly estimated the value of the compensation for possible murders at £840. It might be said that that was a rough estimate, but it was certainly a very curious amount, and seemed to be founded upon a nice calculation. They had heard of the calculation of probabilities; but certainly this was the first time he had ever heard of a calculation being made of compensation for possible murder. But he had a much graver charge than that he had made; because he should show that not only was such a claim never made on the Brazilian Government, but that it was expressly repudiated; and he would prove that assertion by reference to the papers produced. When the claim was made by Mr. Christie by the noble Earl's instruction of the 5th of September 1862, he asked among other things compensation for the plunder of the wreck and of the bodies. The Marquis d'Abrantes, misunderstanding him, wrote to Mr. Christie, and asked for which bodies his Excellency claimed compensation. Mr. Christie replied on the following day, the 30th of December, in which he stated—Your Excellency, in your yesterday's note, strangely made a serious mistake in stating the demand of Her Majesty's Government in the case of the Prince of Wales. You spoke of the indemnity demanded for the supposed assassinations. There is no such demand. Her Majesty's Government are, indeed, of opinion that there is the strongest presumptive proof of murder of the crew, but they have strictly confined their demand of indemnity to the property plundered.The Marquis d'Abrantes, in a subsequent letter, referred to this note, and said that in his note of the 5th instant Mr. Christie 736 had demanded an indemnification for the bodies stripped and plundered. On this Mr. Christie became a little angry, and said—Your Excellency persists in a misstatement of importance when you say that Mr. Christie, in his note of the 5th of December, requested an indemnity for the bodies stripped and plundered, Mr. Christie does nothing of the sort.He went on to show that what he had demanded was compensation for the plunder. He (Lord Chelmsford) appealed to the House to say whether he had not shown not only that the claim was not made in regard to the murders, but was expressly repudiated; yet when the whole claim of £3,200 was made, there was to be found in it an item of £840 for the possible murder of the seamen. After the claim was paid, M. Moreira was anxious to obtain the different heads of the claim. One would have supposed that among other items this would have been mentioned. But nothing of the sort. The noble Earl never gave to M. Moreira the items, but on the 28th February 1863 wrote that he had already informed M. Moreira that—No sum was claimed for the loss of the ship nor for the freight of the cargo. The sum was claimed for the shameful plunder of the cargo, and the negligence shown by the Brazilian authorities in their inquiries to ascertain the delinquency of the supposed murderers.How could M. Moreira understand from this that the sum of £3,200 included an item of £840 for "possible murders." Now the Queen's Advocate, in dealing with this claim, seemed to have had in his mind the mode of proceeding under Lord Campbell's Act, by which a railway company or other person was responsible for damage through the negligence of his servants; though how that Act was to be made to apply to a Sovereign Power he (Lord Chelmsford) did not know. If the Queen's Advocate had acted according to the analogy furnished by that Act, he could not be justified, because it was distinctly stated by the noble Earl that it was not any punishment that he wished to impose, but he sought to obtain compensation for the loss incurred by the owner of the vessel from the plunder of the cargo. In addition to this, he (Lord Chelmsford) would remind the House that only those who were pecuniarily injured by the death of relatives could claim compensation. He supposed, therefore, that before the Queen's Advocate decided upon the mode in which 737 the money should be distributed, he had ascertained that there were parties who sustained pecuniary loss by the death of these seamen; but surely he ought to have confined the payment of compensation to the possible relations of the possibly murdered persons. He had no right to make it distributable among the relations of the persons who were wrecked, because there was no neglect of the Brazilian Government which occasioned the deaths of those persons. It was impossible for the noble Earl to say that he imposed this as a fine upon the Brazilian Government for homicide, because he had proceeded altogether upon the footing of compensation. He had demanded compensation for the owner of the vessel and cargo for their loss, and for the relatives of the possibly murdered persons for the pecuniary loss which they had suffered by their deaths. It appeared, therefore, that the first head of claim was most exorbitant—he had almost said outrageous; the second had no foundation in law, and the third had been absolutely disclaimed by the noble Earl; and yet these were the different items which went to make up the £3,200 which had been paid by M. Moreira on behalf of the Brazilian Government. He wished to ask the noble Earl whether he had made or proposed to make any acknowledgment to the Brazilian Government for what must certainly be considered an illegal act—namely, the reprisals which were intended to cover the supposed insult to the officers of the Forte. He also hoped that the noble Earl would be kind enough to favour their Lordships with any particulars which he had in his possession showing the invoice value of the cargo, and its nature and description, and explaining how the Queen's Advocate had made it out that two-thirds of that cargo, of the value of £2,360, was likely to be washed on shore from a vessel totally wrecked a league off. He should like to know whether Mr. Stevens had received anything from the underwriters in respect of this loss; upon what grounds the Queen's Advocate had imposed upon the Brazilian Government a liability to indemnify the owner of the vessel for the wages of the seamen; and lastly, how it was, that having disclaimed making any demand upon the Brazilian Government in respect of the murders, he had adopted an estimate in which "possible murders" were included, without indicating to the Brazilian Government that such a claim had been made upon them, 738 and had received £3,200 which involved that claim.
§ EARL RUSSELL
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has gone into detail, and has drawn various inferences favourable to the Brazilian Government. What we know is, that when this vessel was wrecked, the Brazilian authorities refused to produce the bodies of the sailors, and that the officer whose duty it was to do so refused to hold an inquest. The noble and learned Lord draws inferences which are favourable to the Brazilian Government and the Brazilian authorities; and he is able to do so, because the Brazilian authorities contrived that there should be no proof of the facts which probably occurred. The noble and learned Lord supposes that we ordered reprisals for the affront which had been offered to the officers of the Forte, and he says, that as no affront was offered, therefore the reprisals were wrong. What happened was, that the officers of the Forte thought there had been an insult to the British navy. The Brazilian Government, either admitting the insult or not, might have said, "As this is the feeling of the British officers who are in the service of an ally of His Majesty, we will refer the matter to the arbitration of the King of the Belgians or some other Power in whom we have confidence, and will be bound by his decision." If that had been done, there would have been no reprisal in the matter of the Forte, because Mr. Christie was instructed, that if such a proposal was made in either or in both cases, no reprisals should be made on that account. Therefore, the alleged affront having been brought before the Brazilian Government, we were justified in ordering reprisals, and it was not until those reprisals were made that we received the satisfaction of having the affair referred to arbitration. I am perfectly satisfied that it should have been referred to an impartial Sovereign; and as he has decided that no affront was offered to the British navy, I am bound to admit that no such affront was offered. It is only, however, by means of the reprisals that we have obtained this satisfaction. Up to the time that those reprisals took place there was a determination on the part of the Brazilian Government to make no reparation, and in no way to consider the matter. The noble and learned Lord has gone at length into the question of compensation. There again the Brazilian Government left us without the means which we desired to 739 ascertain the reparation which was to be made. What we desired was, that the sum claimed by Mr. Stevens should be examined by two persons, one acting for the Brazilian and the other for Her Majesty's Government, with the expectation that they would come to a fair decision. If they had decided that £100 represented the whole amount of damage, we should have been satisfied with that decision. With regard to the whole question, however, there was, until the reprisals took place, an apparent determination on the part of the Brazilian Government that the claim should be treated with a contempt and with a refusal of redress, such as is very rare in the case of a friendly country. When the Brazilian Government threw it upon the British Government to make this inquiry alone, saying that they would pay whatever sum was demanded, they placed us in a position of considerable difficulty, because we had no one on the other side to dispute the various items. The noble and learned Lord said that I ought to have gone to a shipbroker, and referred to him the questions with regard to the compensation to be claimed by the Government.
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
I said that the Queen's Advocate would not be so conversant with these matters as an insurance broker or an underwriter.
§ EARL RUSSELL
If that means anything, it means that I should have applied, not to the Queen's Advocate, but to a shipbroker. I can only say that it has been the custom of the Foreign Office with regard to all these questions to apply to the Law Officers of the Crown, especially to the Queen's Advocate. No doubt there may be various cases in which the Queen's Advocate may not be so competent to assess the damages as some other person might be. If a British subject comes to the Foreign Office and complains that he has been thrown into a gaol in South America, the atmosphere of which has injured his health, and asks for compensation, we refer the question to the Queen's Advocate, and ask him to consider the whole matter, and settle what compensation we should demand. The noble and learned Lord may say that the Queen's Advocate is no judge of the air of gaols, or modes of confinement, and that it would be better to consult a prison inspector, or some person who is conversant with gaols. I can only say that the regular course adopted by the Foreign Office, as far as I know, in all time, appears to me to be the 740 better course. If we were to adopt any other plan than that of asking some official authority to give an opinion to the Government, we should, I think, diminish the authority of the Government and the confidence of Parliament. The noble and learned Lord, acting as the advocate of the Brazilian Government, makes the supposition that the wreck was of such a nature that various parts of the cargo must have sunk in the sea, and other parts of it reached the shore very much damaged. He therefore contends that compensation ought to be assessed on that supposition. But the supposition made by everybody on the spot, as well as by the Queen's Advocate here, was of a very different character. We have the authority of Consul Vereker for saying that the boats came on shore, and that the oars were in them; and Admiral Warren adds that there must have been some foul play in the transaction. The Queen's Advocate, proceeding in that spirit, and not according to the view taken by the noble and learned Lord, came to the conclusion that he ought to base his calculations on the ground that the goods in the wreck, forming part of the cargo, were placed in the boats and brought from time to time on shore. When, I may add, Consul Vereker reached the spot, he found that several chests had been broken open, that they were perfectly dry, that the linings had not been at all injured, and that it was not at all probable they had been exposed to the action of the sea. The Queen's Advocate, then, naturally formed the opinion that a great portion of the cargo had gone on shore, and had been there plundered. The noble and learned Lord, however, says that no demand was made on the Brazilian Government in this respect; but I believe I followed in the matter that which is the usual course, I said, "Here is a claim. You can appoint some one to examine the claim, and ascertain what is the right amount to be paid." To do that was, I think, better than to state originally what was the exact value put upon the cargo. The Queen's Advocate took into consideration the loss of wages and the contents of the seamen's chests. The noble and learned Lord said that the estimate with respect to wages proceeded on a wrong principle; but the ground on which the Queen's Advocate proceeded was this—that, according to the statement of our own Admiral and our Consul, foul play was to be inferred. Otherwise, the seamen would have brought 741 the goods on shore, those goods would have been protected, the seamen would have been paid their wages, as having done everything in their power to save the cargo, and their wages would ultimately have gone to their families. The loss of the wages, therefore, it was thought, ought to enter into our calculations in the demand made on the Brazilian Government. The noble and learned Lord seems to suppose that the amount of those wages was to be paid to the owners of the vessel; but I think they should rather be paid to the families of the crew. The noble and learned Lord found great fault with the compensation proposed for "possible murders," and it is quite true that Mr. Christie made no demand on the Brazilian Government for the murder of the crew. When, however, everything had been reviewed, and we were forced to exact reprisals, the Queen's Advocate arrived at the conclusion that several of the crew had been murdered. [Lord CHELMSFORD: Too probably murdered.] Just so; and then in reference to the claim for compensation the phrase "possible murder," which is less strong, occurs. Now, in regard to this point, I must say my belief is these men were murdered, and this, I am sure, is the prevalent opinion where the wreck took place. The Brazilian Government, however, by their neglect prevented the necessary evidence from being taken; they did not allow inquests to be held or the bodies to be shown. Now, if the bodies had been produced, and the throats of the missing sailors had been found cut, then it is evident that some compensation should have been made. But the noble and learned Lord seems to think that it is somewhat an extraordinary thing that compensation in the case of persons killed should be made to their families. There are, nevertheless, many such instances in which compensation has been asked for, and some in which it has been given without being asked. I recollect very well a case of a Portuguese sailor who was accidentally killed at Macao in the case of a rescue of British subjects who were supposed to have insulted the Roman Catholic religion. So far from thinking it wrong that the offer of compensation should be made in that case, the Brazilian Minister came to me and said that certain things had taken place. I replied I would communicate immediately with the Admiralty, and ask what, in accordance with their view of the matter, 742 should be done. Having applied to the First Lord of the Admiralty, and he having come to the conclusion that a wrong had been done, he proposed to make the most ample apology to the Portuguese Government, and to give to the family of the Portuguese sailor the most ample pecuniary compensation. Now, I can see nothing wrong in that; and if the Brazilian Government had not been rather more proud of setting the British Government at defiance than of acting in a friendly spirit, they would have taken the same course, and would have offered us compensation. The noble and learned Lord asks whether I will give further papers relating to the value of the cargo. I have only to say, in answer to that question, that any papers with which we have been furnished on the subject by Mr. Stevens which show what the nature of the goods in question was, and what was in each case, I am ready to place at his disposal. I may add, in answer to a further question of the noble and learned Lord, that I am told no insurance was paid. What Mr. Stephens from the beginning said was, that he had a valuable cargo, that he had sent it out under the charge of a man in whom he had perfect confidence, and that he was sure the vessel had been wrecked, the crew foully dealt with, and the cargo plundered. He therefore repeatedly applied to us for compensation, and I cannot help thinking that the amount fixed is very moderate. With regard to our relations with Brazil, it appears to me that in the end they are likely to be very much improved by the Brazilian Government being made aware that we will not submit to have our sailors murdered and our ships plundered without making some grave remonstrance.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
My Lords, I do not know whether there be any other papers or any other blue-book in the Foreign Office and which I have not seen; but I almost believe that such must be the case, for I am unable to reconcile the noble Earl's statement with those made in the papers and blue-books that have been laid before Parliament. The noble Earl states, as a fact, that the Brazilian Government refused to produce the bodies of the sailors or to have an inquest, but I appeal to both sides of the House to say whether that is correct according to the papers before us. Not only did the Brazilian Government produce four bodies, giving all the details as to those bodies, which proved that the parties had not been 743 murdered—for two of the bodies were locked in each other's arms; and therefore, unless they had stifled one another, they could not possibly have come to a violent death. The Brazilian Government, therefore, did produce the bodies. [Earl RUSSELL: There were ten; they did not produce the others.] The other bodies were buried in the sand, and could not be found again; but as many as could be found were produced, and a regular inquest and a regular verdict, according to the laws of the country, was pronounced; more than that we had no right to ask. The noble Earl makes the conduct of the Brazilian Government, in refusing to join in an arbitration as to the value of the cargo, an excuse for having made an exorbitant claim; but surely under the circumstances he should have exercised the most extreme delicacy, and made a claim that was rather below than above the real value. Let your Lordships just look at the probability in reference to the value of the cargo plundered. The ship was anchored outside a spit three miles from shore, and she went down at her anchors. The cargo consisted of coal, iron, soda, and beer; and there were the seamen's chests of course. It was impossible that the iron or the coal should float ashore, or, indeed, that they should have been brought ashore in the ship's boats; and the cargo consisted principally of these two things, which must have gone down with the ship and there remained. What was left to come on shore, therefore, was the soda and the barrels of beer; and the Consul admits that he saw the barrels of beer, which had been broken by the waves. The only thing left was the soda, and for that the £3,200 was paid. The amount is so exaggerated, and indeed so absurd, that the matter is hardly worth argument. The noble Earl went on to say that there were two claims which he had against the Brazilian Government; that with respect to the ship and that which referred to the insult to our officers; and that he gave orders to make reprisals on account of those two injuries to our interest and our honour. The noble Earl said, that the Brazilian Government refused to submit these questions to arbitration; but such is not the fact. The Brazilian Government paid the noble Earl the compliment of supposing that there was more justice and more judgment in his nature than was possessed by Mr. Christie, for they offered to refer the matter to the noble Earl himself, and to the Brazilian Minister in London. I do not say it 744 was the noble Earl's fault that Mr. Christie would not let the matter go out of his own hands, and therefore that the noble Earl never had an opportunity of judging for himself coolly and calmly at the Foreign Office in reference to the whole case. He left it in the hands of Mr. Christie, who evidently had some hostile feeling against the Brazilian Government. I want to know whether, when the assessment was made, Mr. Stevens was called upon to give evidence before the Queen's Advocate; and if so, what was the value of his evidence? We may judge of Mr. Stevens by his antecedents. We may find in the first place what his covetousness is by his having asked twice the amount which even the noble Earl demanded; and in the second place, he offered to come up to the Foreign Office, and bring the witnesses who had seen the sailors murdered in the forecastle; but what became of that matter we have never been told. This is the man upon whose evidence the Queen's Advocate had to act. The fact is, that the whole of the actors in this business have been miscast for their parts. Mr. Christie, the diplomatic agent, appears as a belligerent; the Admiral acts as a jurist, and instructed the noble Earl what to ask for; and the Queen's Advocate has been used as an appraiser of the value of seamen's chests. How could the Queen's Advocate know what things a seaman was likely to have in his chest, what was the nature of different cargoes, and what was likely to be destroyed by water? The noble Earl seems to think that it would have been absurd to call in a ship-broker. [Earl RUSSELL: To refer the question to him.] To refer the question means simply to ask the ship-broker what he supposed would be the value of such a cargo in the ship, and, if the ship were lost, what would be the damage; and the noble Earl never seems to think that this was all that had been left to the Queen's Advocate—the result being the assessment which had been referred to. I very much regret that the noble Earl has not answered the question of his noble and learned Friend (Lord Chelmsford), and that he has not thought it consistent with his own dignity and that of his country to state, that after the award of King Leopold he regrets that reprisals should have been made, because the noble Earl seems to have made these unfortunate reprisals entirely on account of that dispute. I do not see what right there was to make reprisals on account of the officers 745 of the Forte, when that question had been referred to King Leopold. But the noble Earl told M. Moreira plainly that the reprisals were made not only on account of the Prince of Wales, but also in consequence of the insult offered to the officers of the Forte. The noble Earl had no right to make reprisals when once the subject was submitted to King Leopold. [Earl RUSSELL: The submission was afterwards.] Then surely the noble Earl could have no scruples in expressing, since the arbitration had taken place, his regret on that point—it being such an award as shows that he was wrong, and that he was not justified in making a claim on account of the officers of the Forte. It surely would not have lowered the dignity of his office or of his country to have said this, and I trust the noble Earl will not allow any feeling of false pride to prevent a reconciliation with the Brazilian Government. I hope that your Lordships will consider that it is of the greatest possible consequence that we should be on good terms with Brazil, and we have already had some awkward questions with that country, in which we had not always been in the right. There is the case of the slave trade, and naturally our dislike and hatred of slavery have sometimes blinded us as to the point in dispute. When I say this, I wish to refer to what is called the Aberdeen Act. That is certainly a most unjustifiable Act as between one nation and another. The Aberdeen Act was passed to give Her Majesty's cruisers power to stop and search Brazilian vessels supposed to be engaged in the slave trade, even in Brazilian waters. That, in my opinion, was simply an Act to legalize piracy for the purpose of punishing pirates. I am in a position to state that not long before Lord Aberdeen's death, in a conversation which we had together, Lord Aberdeen told me that he had never felt satisfied in his mind that he was right in proposing that Act, and that he should be very glad to see it repealed. I think the Act a breach of international law to the utmost extent. It is no excuse for it to say, that because one country committed crimes and breaches of treaty, we should pass an Act that is opposed to international law, and which can only be enforced by a strong country against a weak one; for it is quite evident that this law cannot be put in force against a strong Power, but only against a weak one. It appears to me, that so long as that law exists, the two countries cannot 746 be on good terms. The Act was suspended by my noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) during his Government in 1852, and it has remained suspended ever since. It, however, continues to be a disgrace to our statute-book, a standing sore to the Brazilian people, and a constant irritation to their pride, I beg to suggest to the noble Earl whether the time has not come when an Act which is not now in force should be repealed, and the noble Earl may depend upon it that nothing would give greater satisfaction to the Brazilian people than a repeal of that Act. I think that many of the questionable acts of the Brazilian Government may be accounted for, if they take the same view of this Act as I do. If the noble Earl asks me why I did not while I was in office attempt to repeal that Act, I will candidly own that the Government of my noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) was not strong enough to take such a step; and that during the existence of that Government their political enemies sought every opportunity to thwart and oppose them. That was the only reason I did not suggest and press upon my noble Friend the propriety of repealing that Act. I mention the subject now because it will give to the noble Earl the Foreign Minister a chance of re-opening negotiations with the Brazilian Government, and holding out the hand of fellowship to a people who feel offended by our recent conduct towards them.
§ EARL RUSSELL
As the noble Earl has expressed his opinion that it is of the highest importance that Her Majesty's Government and the Brazilian Government should be on good terms, I may mention that I have been informed by the Minister of the King of Portugal in this country that his Sovereign has directed his Minister in Brazil to take steps with a view of seeing whether a good understanding cannot be restored between the two Governments. I think it is better to wait to see what effect that recommendation will have, and I, for one, should be most happy to announce that they have been successful.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
said, he regretted to hear that any ungentlemanly qualities had been attributed to his old friend Mr. Christie. Mr. Christie had been charged with being influenced by the most unworthy motives in his dealings with the Brazilian Government. It appeared to him (Earl Fortescue) that the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Malmesbury) should have 747 exhibited greater forbearance, considering the very favourable way in which the noble Earl, when in office, had spoken of Mr. Christie. In his public despatches he had spoken of him in the most laudatory and friendly terms, and had even pressed him to remain at his post.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
I never pressed Mr. Christie to remain in office. It does not follow because I approved of his acts in 1852 that I should also approve of what he did in 1863.