HL Deb 14 February 1871 vol 204 cc238-9

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether, in the absence of the Papers on American affairs promised in Her Majesty's Speech, he will state if the object of the Joint Commission is to settle the questions in dispute between the United States and British North America and the questions between the United States and this country connected with the late war, or only to determine a mode in which such questions may be placed in a way of settlement; and also whether this country will be bound by the determinations of a majority of the Commission; and whether there is in the Commission any and what provision for an umpirage in the event of the Commission being equally divided?


My Lords, the noble and learned Lord did not mention in the House his intention of putting the Question, and having been obliged to go to Windsor with two foreign Ministers, I have only just seen his Notice; but I have no hesitation in answering his Question. Perhaps it would be the better course to read a short extract from the Commission itself— They are appointed for the purpose of discussing in a friendly spirit with Commissioners to be appointed by the Government of the United States the various questions on which differences have arisen between Great Britain and that country, and of treating for an agreement as to the mode of their amicable settlement. The noble and learned Lord will understand, therefore, that the Commissioners are not arbitrators, empowered to make a final settlement of the questions by their own authority; but supposing them to come to an agreement as to the mode of settlement—in accordance with the Instructions of their respective Governments—then they will report to their respective Governments. In order that a treaty may be entered into for referring the disputed questions to arbitration or to whatever mode, whether arbitration or otherwise, they may report. There is, therefore, no question of a majority or minority on the Commission. It would be inconvenient at present to read the entire Instructions given to the Commissioners, but I see no objection to quoting a sentence towards the end of them, which is as follows:— Her Majesty's Government request, however, that if the mode of dealing with any particular matter which you may be disposed to agree to should vary materially from the manner of settlement to which I have informed you Her Majesty's Government are prepared at once to assent, or in case of any disagreement of importance arising between yourselves and the American High Commissioners, you should at once report by telegraph and await further instructions.


was understood to ask whether the San Juan question was included in the scope of the Commission.


replied that it was.

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