§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
My Lords, my noble Friend the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Clanricarde) having given notice of his intention to call the attention of your Lordships to the case of the Tornado, I would ask him whether it would not be better, if it should not be inconvenient to himself and to the House, to postpone the discussion of that question until after the Easter recess. My reason for offering this suggestion is that, as your Lordships are aware, additional Papers with respect to our relations with Spain, which have recently been laid upon the table, show that those relations have assumed a more serious and a more complicated character than that which they had previously presented. I allude, of course, to the papers with respect to the case of the Victoria, which appears to me to be of infinitely more importance than those which relate to the Tornado. In that case a British sailing vessel was seized by the Spanish authorities some fourteen or fifteen miles from the coast, and was then taken to Cadiz and ordered to be there broken up. Now, whatever may be said—and there may perhaps be arguments advanced upon both sides—with regard to the Tornado, it appears to Her Majesty's Government that there can be no palliation or excuse for what has been done with reference to the Victoria. It was a more than common outrage, because it was an outrage to a British vessel upon the high seas; and if such an insult was offered to the British flag the fact would be one of so serious a character that, as your Lordships will see from the papers, Her Majesty's Government have thought it necessary to take the gravest notice of it. No answer has as yet been received from the Spanish Government to the despatch of Lord Stanley upon the subject. In that despatch Lord Stanley has asked, as your Lordships must be aware, for compensation to the full amount for the loss sustained by the 1261 owners of the vessel, and for an apology to this country for the outrage offered to our flag. But as that demand has not yet been answered, I should be glad if the noble Marquess would not now raise that other question of the Tornado, to which he has given notice that he proposes to direct your Lordships' attention. I must add that when I remember the proverbial sense of honour which the Spaniards feel with respect to their own national rights, and when I bear in mind that if such an outrage had been committed on a Spanish vessel in the Channel, a cry of indignant remonstrance would have been raised from Cadiz to the Pyrenees, I am convinced that the Spanish Government, when they take the facts into their consideration, wilt not hesitate to afford that compensation and that apology which we have demanded, and will not throw the shield of their protection over the subordinate officers who have been engaged in this transaction. With this belief—and, indeed, I may almost say with this conviction—I trust that after the Easter recess we shall be able to state that the affair has assumed a less serious and less menacing aspect; while I should be afraid that if the noble Marquess were to raise any discussion at this moment in your Lordships' House, it would rather be prejudicial than beneficial to the negotiations which are taking place.
THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
Of course, when my noble Friend, speaking as a Minister of the Crown, says that it would be better upon public grounds not now to enter into a discussion with respect to our relations with Spain, I cannot refuse to accede to his request for postponement. At the same time, I wish it to be clearly understood that I do so under protest that those British subjects who are concerned in the question which I wish to bring before your Lordships shall not be made to suffer by reason of that postponement. If their case is made out, as I believe it eventually will be, and the Spanish Government shall find that its officers have been in the wrong, I claim that every British seaman who has been wronged, and the owners of the British ship which has been detained, shall be indemnified up to the last hour and to the full extent of the injury inflicted upon them. I can only express my satisfaction at the news we have all heard to day—namely, that the Mediterranean fleet has received orders to move front Malta.
§ THE EARL OF CLARENDON
I am 1262 happy to find that my noble Friend the noble Marquess has thought it consistent with his duty to comply with the request addressed to him by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Malmesbury); and I should be extremely glad if the result of the discussion which is to take place after the Easter recess should be to clear the owners of the Tornado of the suspicion that now attaches to them. There are so many facilities in this country for evading the law, and so many persons entertain so little scruple in resorting to those evasions, that I think the opinion with respect to their proceedings cannot be too strongly expressed, and that it cannot be too clearly known that those who, for their own private gain, disregard the Queen's proclamation, and violate the neutrality of this country in order to aid and abet one foreign Power at war with another, but with both of which England is at peace, do so at their own risk of being treated as belligerents by the State against which they are acting; and that as they thereby forfeit all claim to the protection of their own Government, so assuredly they will not receive it except in as far as may be necessary for the vindication of the principles of strict justice and of International Law. I will not at this moment and without any discussion of the question, affirm that the owners of the Tornado are in this position; but I think that if I were to enter into the case I should be able to show that great suspicion attaches to that vessel. With regard to the other case—the case of the Victoria—which is of a far graver and more serious character, I do not believe that there has existed any intentional hostility towards this country on the part of the Spanish Government. There seems no reason for believing it, for I have never known that Government to act in a hostile manner towards this country; and I have no doubt therefore that when the facts of the case become known to them, the satisfaction which we are entitled to claim will not be withheld. But, at the same time, I cannot help expressing my regret that the peremptory despatch written by my noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Office—a despatch which is, I think, perfectly justified by the circumstances of the case—I cannot help expressing my regret that as soon as that despatch was written it should have been published. Knowing as I do the susceptibility of the Spanish people, and the spirit by which they are animated, I am 1263 afraid that if it should be suspected that that publication was intended to threaten and coerce them, it may be difficult for the Spanish Government to give a satisfactory answer to the despatch.
THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
I wish to give notice that I will bring the case of the Tornado under the notice of your Lordships on the first day of the meeting of the House after the Easter recess. I must say I do not think it was quite fair on the part of my noble Friend near me (the Earl of Clarendon) before he has heard what there is to be said upon the matter, to state anything either for or against the owners of that vessel. He says that a suspicion attaches to them of having violated or evaded the law. Anybody who looks through the documents will see that they have had no fair trial, that our Foreign office has declared so, and that not one scrap of evidence has been given on that side of the question. But, more than that, I ask the noble Earl whether it is upon suspicion that British sailors are to be put in irons and ill-treated; whether it is upon suspicion that a British ship is to be seized upon the high seas, and British shipowners are to be branded in the way in which the noble Earl has almost branded them? If our Foreign Enlistment Act is defective, let it be made stronger, should that be deemed wise; but as long as British seamen and British shipowners obey the law and act honestly, no foreign Government should be suffered to treat them with cruelty or injustice.
§ EARL RUSSELL
I do not wish to give any decided opinion upon this occasion with regard to the case of the Tornado. But my noble Friend the noble Marquess and the House must see that there are two entirely different questions with respect to that vessel. One is the case of the owners of the ship—whether they were engaged in a lawful or in an unlawful trade; and the other is with respect to the treatment of the master and of the crew after her seizure by the Spanish authorities. With respect to the first case, I have no doubt that we shall hereafter hear from my noble Friend arguments in support of the views he has stated upon the question; and I reserve my opinion upon it. With respect to the case of the Victoria, I participate in the regret my noble Friend near me (the Earl of Clarendon) has expressed that Lord Stanley should have published his despatch within two or three days of the date which 1264 it bears. But that despatch having been published—and as I suppose with the consent of Her Majesty's Ministers—and the Spanish Government having had time to reply to it, I think that no delay should now take place in the decision of the question. As the facts appear, it is a case of great wrong against a British ship and against the British flag; and I trust that the Spanish Government will grant the redress which we demand of them. But if they do not, it is desirable that no time should be lost in deciding upon the course which it may be necessary to adopt for the vindication of the honour of the country.
§ THE EARL OF CLARENDON
, in explanation, said, he was sorry to have excited the anger of his noble Friend (the Marquess of Clanricarde), and he could assure him that he had confounded two distinct things. He had not said that the Spanish Government had behaved well to these English sailors. He thought there was no justification for the great cruelty exhibited towards them in keeping them in irons and detaining them in custody, as had been done. He had said nothing whatever about that. His allusion was to the owners of the vessel, who, acting for their private gain, might get this country into trouble.