HL Deb 05 April 1864 vol 174 cc450-60

, in rising, pursuant to notice, to move for A Copy of any Correspondence that may have taken place between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Confederate States of North America relating to the Removal of British Consuls from those States, or the Cessation of the Functions of the Consuls or any of them therein; and of the Correspondence with the Consuls thereupon: Also, for Copies of all Correspondence with any Agents of the Confederate Government in this Country up to this Date, in continuance of that already before the House, said, that if he had rightly understood the noble Earl the Secretary for Foreign Affairs on a previous occasion, British subjects in the Confederate States had been compelled to enter the army and to fight the battles of those States against their will; and that the British Consuls having been driven from the country, there was no one in those States to whom they could appeal for redress. That was a very serious charge to bring against the Confederate Government; and he thought that his noble Friend who had touched not only lightly but very curtly on the point, would now admit that he had spoken somewhat in haste, if not in anger, and that the circumstances of the case did not bear the aspect which ho bad given to them. The means open to their Lordships of informing themselves as to the true facts were very imperfect. Some papers had been presented to the House last Session with regard to one of the Consuls lately residing in the Confederate States, and some correspondence, alleged to have taken place with the authorities of the Confederate States, had been published in a London newspaper, which correspondence be hoped his noble Friend would not object to lay upon the table. Of the five principal Consulships existing at the outbreak of the war, in New Orleans, Charleston, Richmond, Mobile, and Savannah, that at New Orleans might he put out of the question, the town having since fallen into the hands of the Federals, As soon as the Confederate Government was organized, it at once acknowledged the Consuls resident in those ports upon the authority of the exequaturs issued to them by the former Government; it did not stand on the formality of requiring letters of credence, but at once admitted them to full access, and treated those Consuls as long and as far as possible with friendship and cordiality. The existence of the blockade of course rendered communication with this country and with Lord Lyons, under whom the Consuls were originally appointed, extremely difficult, but that intercourse had been carried on by means of private persons travelling between Southern States and New York. Our Consul at Charleston accordingly intrusted a bag of letters to the care of a private individual, who, however, took with, him other letters addressed to persons in the Federal States, which by the law of the country he might do without illegality, provided he took no payment for conveying them. That gentleman was arrested by the agents, not of the Confederate, but of the Federal Government, and the certificate which he produced, that he was a bearer of despatches for the English Government, not being regarded as any protection whatever, he was thrown into gaol. The bag of despatches, however, was sent forward, and its contents, among other papers, included letters forwarding bills of exchange to pay dividends in England. The arrest was regarded as so outrageous a proceeding, that ultimately the United States apologized for it; but they withdrew the exequatur of the Consul, who up to that time had conducted the negotiations with which he was charged in a manner entirely satisfactory to the British Government and to the Confederate States, with whom he had communicated in the most friendly way. The next case to which he wished to draw their Lordships' attention was that of Mr. Magee, our Consul at Mobile. This gentleman also had been received with the greatest cordiality and treated with the utmost respect by the Confederate authorities, and he too had been the means of preserving British subjects from injustice at the hands of the subordinate agents of the Confederate States. Mr. Magee was appointed in 1861, and in 1862 he was called on by the Bank of Mobile to afford facilities for the transshipment of specie in payment of dividends due by the State of Alabama to creditors in London. Of late years the doctrine had been advanced that State payments to private creditors ought not to be liable to the accidents of war. During the Russian War we had faithfully performed our undertakings, even to the Government of Russia; and, in like manner, the Stale of Alabama, being anxious to pay British creditors the money due to them, applied to the Consul to know whether he could assist in forwarding the amount to London. The Consul wrote to his colleague at New Orleans, understanding that a British ship-of-war was there, and without any secrecy or intrigue suggested that that vessel might, with the consent of the Federal commander on the station, call at Mobile, and take on board the money for England. The Consul at New Orleans was of opinion that she might; but as the Rinaldo did not come into harbour, another ship, the Vesuvius, commanded by Lieutenant Croke, was communicated with, and to that officer the transaction also seemed perfectly legitimate. He communicated with the Federal commander, and told him that he wanted to go into Mobile to transact business with the Consul, who had money for him to take back to England. There could be no doubt about the matter, because the letter of the Federal commander, Captain Hitchcock, had been printed since the transaction was taken up by his own Government, and to the honour of commanding officers in the United States' navy the instances were very rare in which any statements, inconsistent with fact, could be attributed to them. The Federal commander avows that he was informed that money was about to be sent, and Mr. Magee went on board Her Majesty's ship with the money, and the commander of the vessel received it. After that, however, a telegram arrived from Lord Lyons forbidding the Consul to transport the money; but it had already been shipped; and thereupon his noble Friend had dismissed this gentleman from his post. With the exact ground of that dismissal he was not acquainted. In one of the despatches it was stated to be that he had violated the blockade; while in a letter from the noble Earl to Mr. Mason the reason assigned was that Her Majesty's Government considered that the shipment of this money was an act which gave aid to one of the belligerents against the other. If the Consul had given aid to either, it was to the Federals by sending money out of the Confederate States; but the parties really benefited by the act of the Consul were the creditors resident in England. At all events, offence was taken at Washington, and in truth it was upon the demand of the United States' Government that Mr. Magee was dismissed. Another gentleman was sent to Mobile by Lord Lyons, and he deeply regretted what he had now to state to their Lordships. Mr. Cridland, who had occasionally acted for the Consul at Richmond, seemed to have received a Commission and instructions from Lord Lyons, and an article appeared in the Richmond Whig, stating that he had got such a Commission and likewise an exequatur from Washington, and that he was accredited to Mr. Lincoln and not to the Confederate Government, Thereupon, Mr. Cridland went to Mr. Benjamin, the Confederate Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, denied that statement, and assured him that he was proceeding to Mobile to look after British interests unofficially, and without any commission or exequatur whatever; and he procured the insertion in the Richmond Whig of a similar contradiction of its first statement. Mr. Benjamin was, therefore, as he himself had stated in a despatch— Quite surprised at receiving from the Secretary of the Navy the official communication of a telegram received by him from Admiral Buchanan, informing him that Mr. Cridland had been introduced to him by the French Consul as the acting Consul at Mobile, and had shown an official document signed by Lord Lyons appointing him English Consul at Mobile. He thought that after this their Lordships would not think that Mr. Benjamin or President Davis acted unbecomingly in at once forbidding Mr. Cridland to exercise any of the functions of a Consul within the Confederate States, and intimating that it would not be displeasing to them if he chose another residence. Since that time, no attempt had been made to appoint another consul at Mobile. Mr. Moore, also, who was our Consul at Richmond, had been dismissed by President Davis, not capriciously to get rid of his protection of British subjects, but because he had used disrespectful language towards the Confederate Government, and had especially misconducted himself with respect to two individuals whom he claimed as British subjects, but who, upon investigation by a proper tribunal, were proved not to be such. At all events, there was alleged against him a special grievance, and he was not driven out because he afforded protection to British subjects, but in consequence of misconduct, or what was considered to be misconduct on his part. In point of fact, then, when the dismissal of Consuls complained of by his noble Friend took place, there were in these States only two regular Consuls, one at Savannah and the other at Charleston. Why were they dismissed? The war began in 1861. In 1862 a very stringent law was passed to enable the States to raise Militia. The British residents remonstrated against serv- ing in it; and in the autumn of that year the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs wrote a despatch, which was communicated to the Confederate Government, in which he laid down sound principles about the injustice of ex post facto laws and the necessity of exempting from their operation foreigners who were residing in the country, unless they had had notice of the intention to enact them. At that time, however, the necessity did not arise for the strict enforcement of the law, and nothing more seemed to have taken place. But in 1863 matters took such a turn, that it appeared probable that the statute would be put into operation, and the alarm of the British residents revived. From the statement of Mr. Benjamin, in his letter to Mr. Fullarton, it, would appear that the consular agents of the British Government had been instructed to assume the power of determining for themselves whether British soldiers who had enlisted under the Confederates were bound to serve, or whether they might not with propriety throw down their arms in the face of the enemy. It was hardly credible that any Englishman had, and quite impossible that a British Government could have made such a suggestion. But he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) could not think that British subjects, after enjoying all the privileges of citizens in a foreign country, were justified in claiming the excuse of the Foreign Enlistment Act and the Queen's Proclamation; at any rate, such an attempt at interference as that attempted by the two Consuls was intolerable in any functionary, and naturally led him to make the inquiry, why all the confusion to which he had referred was allowed to prevail? Why was there not some better understanding on the subject between our Government and the de facto Government of the Confederate States? He would not go to the length of saying that there should at this moment be an immediate recognition of those States, although it might be a question for graver discussion whether if, a year and a half ago, the European Governments had taken counsel together, and recognized the Confederate States, looking steadily in the face all the consequences of that recognition, torrents of blood and hundreds of thousands of lives might not have been saved, and not only that ruin and misery which had already arisen out of the war, but that which was yet to come might not have been avoided. He would admit that the present time did not appear favourable for that recognition; but he hoped that before long a proper occasion might arise for such recognition, because he was anxious to see peace, which that recognition would lead to, restored. He might further observe that it appeared, even from the correspondence between Earl Russell and Mr. Mason, that it would have been perfectly easy to have had our Consuls in the Confederate States; we had consular agents in the Spanish American State before the year 1820, although it was not until the year 1826 that their independence was acknowledged. But, be that as it might, Mr. Benjamin, in commenting on the conduct of some of the Consuls to whom he had alluded, instructed Mr. Mason to call the attention of the British Government to the expediency of instituting a renewed examination of the subject as connected with the relations between the two Governments, with the object of placing those relations on a footing more in accordance with accomplished facts. In reply to the representations of the Confederate Government on the subject, his noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in a despatch dated the 19th of August, said he was — Willing to acknowledge that the so-styled Confederates States are not bound to recognize an authority derived from Lord Lyons, Her Majesty's Minister at Washington," adding, "but it is very desirable that persons authorized by Her Majesty should have the means of representing at Richmond and elsewhere in the Confederate States British subjects who may be in the course of the war grievously wronged by the acts of subordinate officers. This has been done in other similar cases of States not recognized by Her Majesty, and it would be in conformity with the amity professed by the so-styled Confederate States towards Her Majesty and the British nation if arrangements were made for correspondence between agents appointed by Her Majesty's Government to reside in the Confederate States and the authorities of such States. Now, that was exactly what Mr. Benjamin had previously suggested through Mr. Mason, and, that being so, why was it, he should like to know, that we were left without proper persons to afford protection to British subjects in that quarter? Under all the circumstances of the case, and assuming the statements to which he had alluded to be correct, his noble Friend was not, in his opinion, justified in making the other evening a curt declaration to the effect that our fellow-subjects in the Confederate States were driven into the ranks of the army and deprived of protection because Consuls were not permitted by the Government of those States to reside there. It appeared now, from a report in the newspapers, that his noble Friend, in consequence of certain complaints, had directed our Consul at the Havannah to go to Richmond and remonstrate with the Confederate Government. He was not aware whether this report were true, but it would be very advisable for the noble Earl to state what the fact was. A document had recently been published in the Federal newspapers and forwarded to this country by Lord Lyons, which purported to be the Annual Report of the Confederate Secretary of the Navy. In a London newspaper it had been stated that all the Confederates in Europe asserted this document to be a forgery; and, judging from internal evidence, he could not believe in its genuineness. In the first place, it was addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Confederate States. That was a form of Departmental Report which no one had ever seen adopted before in any country. In the same paper there was a report from the War Secretary, which was addressed to the President, Mr. Jefferson Davis, which was the invariable form in which these documents were addressed. Then, again, in this supposed Report there was an account of the capture of a United States' gunboat off Galveston by a party of naval officers. That affair had been reported more than a year ago, and was well known as one of the most dashing affairs of the war. It was performed not by naval officers, but by two engineer officers and a party of infantry who were serving under General Magruder. Reading a little further down the Report, however, it became evident what was its object. In a later paragraph the Secretary of the Navy reported that he had ordered the steam rams at Liverpool and the other vessel about which so much contention had lately arisen—a very likely fact certainly; for the Confederate Secretary of the Navy to wish to have published abroad, over America and Europe. It was clear that the object of the Report was to prejudice the mind of the British Secretary of State and British Courts of Justice. So long as his noble Friend encouraged the Federal Government as he had encouraged them, treating them as if they were the superior Power, and must win in this tremendous conflict, so long would there be very little chance of an accommodation between the two parties. The noble Earl ought to have observed a fair neutrality, but over and over again he had perceived in his noble Friend's action evident signs of Federal influence. If the Kearsarge had belonged to any other Government, her officers would not have been allowed to come into our ports convicted, as they had been, of breaking our laws. He hoped that the noble Earl would lay before the House the last Reports from our Consul at Boston. It was notorious throughout America that the moment the Irish recruits, about whom there had been a conversation the other night, landed at Boston, the utmost efforts were made to compel them to enter into the American service. The noble Earl had submitted to too many of these things, and he certainly ought not to have spoken of the Confederate Government in the tone he used the other night, The noble Marquess concluded by moving an Address for the Papers.


It is rather difficult to make out the exact object which my noble Friend has in view; but with regard to the various circumstances to which he has alluded, I will detain your Lordships a short time by a few remarks. In the first place, my noble Friend said it was not right to say that the Confederate Government had sent away our Consuls, nor that many British subjects had been compelled to serve in the Confederate armies. I can only speak of the facts reported to me, and to the Government of which I am a, member, and as I thought quite notorious. There have been complaints over and over again from different parts of the Confederate States, that British subjects were obliged to serve in their militia and armies. We have had to consult the Law Officers of the Crown, who have said that it was not fair to make British subjects, not being American citizens, serve in the armies of either belligerent without giving them time to leave the country if they thought fit. I have acted on that opinion, and it seems to me not only law, but fair and equitable. My noble Friend may think they ought to be compelled to serve; on that point, as well as on others, he and I differ. Then, as to the question of the various Consuls. My noble Friend enters into the question of the withdrawal of Mr. Bunch's exequatur, which was taken away, I think, very unfairly by the United States' Government, on the ground that he had communicated with the enemy. Then he enters into the case of Mr. Magee, who sent specie in a British ship of war, and he blames Lord Lyons for what he did in that matter. I believe Lord Lyons has taken the utmost pains in his most responsible position, to behave fairly and impartially between both parties. Permission was obtained by Lord Lyons from the American Government, that British ships of war should he allowed from time to time to go to blockaded ports; but Lord Lyons thought it an abuse of the privilege that specie should he sent from a Confederate port in a British ship of war, inasmuch as such specie might afford means of carrying on war against a State friendly to Great Britain. He accordingly stated that opinion; and if he had not done so the American Government might have withdrawn the privilege; and I think there is nothing in the law of nations that would have deprived them of the power to do so. I thought that Lord Lyons was right; and I sent out an order that the Consul who had sent the specie should not be continued in his functions. But my noble Friend gave a rather detailed account of the conduct of Mr. Cridland. Now, while that gentleman was acting as Consul at Richmond, I believe he enjoyed the confidence and respect of everyone for the manner in which he performed his duties. He was desired to go to Mobile, not as Consul, but to act as Consul—to defend and protect British property and interests. My noble Friend complains of what, I agree with him, was a very unjustifiable act on the part of one of our Consuls—his advice to British subjects that they were not to resist their enlistment in the Confederate army, but to desert their colours in the moment of action. I think that very improper advice on the part of a Consul; and I do not think there was any instruction given to our consular agents which could justify any of them in giving that advice. I do not find either in the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown, or in any directions that I gave myself, anything that would justify that course; and if the Secretary of the Confederate States had written to this country to complain of that conduct, I should have thought it right to reprimand and even to dismiss the Consul who had acted in so improper a manner. Instead of that, the President of the so-called Confederate Government sent away our Consuls, though these are the persons to whom British subjects would naturally have recourse, in order to obtain redress for grievances. The only remedy they would have when the Consuls were removed was that suggested by Mr. Benjamin—namely, that when pressed as soldiers they should apply to the tribunals of the country. Now a man may easily write to his Consul to claim redress, but that a man marching about should go to a court of law—that was a suggestion that I thought entirely futile. I therefore thought that was a very harsh and unfriendly proceeding on the part of the Confederate Government. At the same time it ought to be remembered, likewise, that the Confederate Government had good reason to complain of our Consul, and our Consul saying that he had been so instructed, the Confederate Government might at first have believed him. Therefore, I did not enter into any complaint or angry remonstrance; but I asked Mr. Mason whether, if consular agents, or persons under any other name, were sent to the Confederate States, intercourse might not be carried on and negotiations opened, by which we might be able to obtain redress where redress ought to be given, or have reasons stated for its refusal. My noble Friend does not complain of that. There has no doubt been a delay in carrying that arrangement into effect. It was thought necessary to send a letter to Richmond to know whether such persons would he received; and that letter the Federal Government would not allow to be sent. But I think it is quite right of the British Government to endeavour to open communications with the so-called Confederate States, without recognising them; yet, as being States of considerable extent, in which civil war is carried on, and in which there is a considerable number of British subjects, I say there can be nothing wrong in endeavouring to enter into communication with those States. My noble Friend has addressed your Lordships on various other subjects. I desired Mr. Crauford, when he arrived at Richmond, to call the attention of the Government to the intercepted correspondence—a correspondence which I believed at the time to be genuine, and which showed that a party in the country had been employed by the Confederate Government to procure means of carrying on war against a State in amity with us. My noble Friend is aware that Her Majesty declared at the beginning of this war her determination to preserve a strict neutrality, and prohibited her subjects from taking part on one side or the other. I am sorry to say the injunction of Her Majesty has not been obeyed, and that English subjects have enlisted in the Federal service, and that others have supplied the means of war to the Confederates. I have thought it right on every occasion, when it appeared to me that there was ground of complaint against the United States, to remonstrate with the Federal Government, and, generally speaking, our remonstrances have received a respectful attention. With regard to the document to which my noble Friend alluded, it has been the subject of a great deal of inquiry. It is said to have been published in a New York paper as genuine; but Mr. Seward states that, having made further inquiry, he finds it to have been altogether a forgery. It was supposed to have been issued by the Secretary of the Confederate Navy, but it was, in fact, an invention of some gentlemen in New York. Certainly, I should not think of making any complaint on that subject to the so-called Confederate Government. There was a question with regard to which my noble Friend made inquiries before the holydays—I mean the case of the Saxon. That is before the Courts; and the ship and the cargo have been released. It is alleged that a British subject was murdered; and the American Government have ordered that a court-martial shall try the officer accused of the murder. With regard to the Motion of my noble Friend, I suppose he will not depart from the usual form and object to the introduction of the words "or Extracts" after the word "Copies," and also that he will not object to the insertion of the words "so-called" before "Government of the Confederate States." Otherwise it might seem as if the House recognized the Confederate States, although Her Majesty had not done so.


said, he had no objection to the Amendments proposed by his noble Friend.

Address for— Copies or Extracts of any Correspondence that may have taken place between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the so styled Confederate States of North America relating to the Removal of British Consuls from those States, or the Cessation of the Functions of the Consuls or any of them therein; and of the Correspondence with the Consuls thereupon: Also, for Copies or Extracts of all Correspondence with any Agents of the so styled Confederate Government in this Country up to this Date, in continuance of that already before the House.agreed to

House adjourned at a quarter before Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter before Two o'clock.