HL Deb 17 July 1868 vol 193 cc1359-61

inquired, If it be true that a Frigate is blockading the Port of Mazatlan; and, if so, whether such Blockade has been duly authorized by Her Majesty in Council and published in the Gazette? He must first, however, state, that since he had placed his Notice on the Paper, further particulars respecting the alleged blockade had been published in the newspapers. The blockading of a port was a very important operation, and ought to be carried out in a very cautious manner. He might remark that, some years ago, in consequence of a number of English sailors having been mortally injured, the port of Jeddah had been blockaded, and in consequence great difficulties and complications had arisen between the Turkish Government and that of Her Majesty. If the account of what had occurred at Mazatlan were accurate, the British commander appeared to have behaved in an outrageous manner, and to have proved himself unfit to remain in Her Majesty's service. The details were thus narrated in the Pall Mall Gazette of last evening— The American papers to hand this morning publish the following, dated San Francisco, July 2:—' Advices from Mazatlan to the 22nd of June report that a serious difficulty had occurred between Commander Bridge, of the English war steamer Chanticleer, and the Mexican authorities at that place. The Chanticleer, it is said, was in a perilous position off the coast, and fired signal guns for assistance. A pilot went out and released the ship from her position of danger, but the commander of the steamer refused to pay the pilot for his services, and proceeded to Mazatlan. The collector of the port at Mazatlan was notified that one of the officers of the British war steamer was engaged in conveying specie on board to avoid the export duty, and caused his arrest. The officer's person was searched and a quantity of gold found upon him. The captain of the Chanticleer came ashore, and in a very excited manner declared that his vessel and himself had been insulted by the indgnity offered to his subordinates. High words followed, which culminated in the arrest and search of the person of the British commander by order of the collector, who asserted his suspicion that the commander also was implicated in smuggling specie on board of his vessel. Captain Bridge then went on board of the Chanticleer and notified the inhabitants of Mazatlan that he was about to bombard the city for the insult offered to the English flag. The captain's proclamation of hostility caused great excitement, and numerous communications in writing passed between Captain Bridge, General Corona, and the civil authorities. The United States' Consul, Mr. Session, acting as mediator, ultimately induced the British commander to modify his proclamation so as to place the port of Mazatlan under blockade so far as Mexican vessels were concerned, until he could receive orders from the British Admiral commanding on the station. American and other foreign vessels would not be interfered with. It is asserted that the action of General Corona and the Mexican authorities is approved by the foreign residents generally. The United States' war steamer Suwanee had loft Acapulco for Mazatlan, to protect the American interest in that place. The United States' steamer Resaca was at La Paz on June 21. Additional advices from Mexico state that Commander Bridge at first demanded that the officer who searched the person of his subordinate and seized the money should be sent on board the Chanticleer, to be dealt with as the commander saw fit. General Corona replied that sooner than submit to such an outrage, he would allow the city to be bombarded, and telling him, in indignant language, that if he had a reclamation to make, he should make it in the manner customary with civilized nations and through the proper channel.' He would not take up any more of their Lordships' time, but would simply ask whether the Government had received any authentic information on that matter?


In reply to the Question of my noble Friend, I have to state that Her Majesty's Government have not received any of those details which he seems to have obtained through the American newspapers. Your Lordships will judge for yourselves—for I cannot pronounce any opinion on the subject—whether those details are likely to be authentic or not. All that Her Majesty's Government have heard is that on the 4th of July the Admiralty learnt by a telegram that, an outrage having been committed on some British seamen or British subjects—I know not exactly which—Captain Bridge, of the Chanticleer, took upon himself to stop the entrance to the port of Mazatlan. I quite agree with my noble Friend in stating that an officer has no right on his own responsibility to commit such an act as that. At the same time, there are circumstances which justify breaches of the law, as your Lordships know. But, not being acquainted with those circumstances, no opinion can be pronounced on that point. On the 10th of this month the Admiralty also received a telegraphic despatch from Vice Admiral Hastings, saying that he had sent orders to Captain Bridge to raise the blockade. That is all that we have heard on the subject; and no other authentic intelligence has reached us. I cannot help here noticing what was said by my noble Friend with respect to a very grave event which occurred some years ago at Jeddah. He seemed to think very lightly of that outrage, and talked of some sailors being stopped, or something of that sort. [The Earl of DENBIGH: I said "mortally injured."] Not only were they mortally injured, but they were murdered. The Turkish authorities refusing, after negotiation, to take any notice of the subject or to bring the murderers to justice, Captain Pullen, with the full authority of his Government, bombarded the town; and I have never heard before that that act of justice was found fault with either in this country or any other part of Europe.