HL Deb 21 November 1884 vol 294 cc82-6

asked Her Majesty's Government, Whether any official denial had been published by the French Government to an article which appeared in Le Gaulois newspaper in the spring of this year, wherein the editor accused several of the Foreign Representatives at Tangier of corrupt practices, and amongst them the British Minister, Sir John Drummond Hay, stating that he (the editor) had obtained this information from the French Minister at Tangier, M. Ordega, who was at that time in Paris on leave of absence; and, as it would appear that, owing to the fact of no denial having been given to those grave charges, other accusations were made by French journals, which were referred to in English journals, to the effect that Sir John D. Hay had obstructed British, enterprize and commerce, and had encouraged the Sultan of Morocco in his policy of resistance to all reform and improvement, whether there were any grounds for such grave charges having been put forward? The noble Lord said that Sir John D. Hay had been 30 years in his present post, and had been repeatedly passed over by his juniors, having been requested to remain there because he was so useful. He, together with other Representatives at Tangier, had had charges brought against him by the French Representative there, who had lately been busying himself considerably in the affairs of Morocco. Sir John Drummond Hay had found it necessary to check certain claims which had been made by Europeans, amongst them Englishmen, and which he thought were improper, and he had consequently incurred some obloquy. He (Lord Zouche) had visited Morocco several times, and knew with what zeal Sir John Drummond Hay carried out the duties which had been imposed upon him, and he had urged the Moorish Government over and over again to reform abuses. He understood that there had been communications tween Sir John Drummond Hay and the Government, and that the whole matter had been set forth with great clearness, and that Her Majesty's Government had signified their approval of Sir John Drummond Hay's policy. He hoped that the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary would not allow Sir John Drummond Hay to remain under any slur upon his character at the close of his career. He and his Friends thought it incumbent upon them to have some sort of public contradiction of these most unfounded charges, particularly as Sir John Drummond Hay was not in a position to be able to answer them, and some sort of public vindication of his character.


My Lords, I think the noble Lord has correctly stated the facts of the case. The editor of Le Gaulois, it appears, accused Sir John D. Hay and his colleagues of dishonourable practices, and gave M. Ordega as his authority. Now, I am not sure that if I read such an article as this concerning myself I should not treat it with contempt and trust to whatever character I had. But it is a different thing when men serving their country in distant countries are thus unjustly attacked, for, as in this case, the extract from the French paper is copied not only into other foreign papers, but into English newspapers. However that may be, after what had occurred, I thought it necessary, at the request of Sir John D. Hay, to make an application to M. Ferry, in courteous terms, that M. Ordega should be called upon either to substantiate, or retract, or to say that he had not communicated the article to Le Gaulois. M. Ferry, in the first instance, said Le Gaulois was perfectly wrong, that no such report had been circulated by Ordega himself, and that he thought that it was hardly worth while to contradict a statement made in a newspaper which was well known to be so strongly opposed to the existing French Government. M. Ordega was, however, applied to, and he telegraphed to Paris entirely denying that he had communicated or inspired any such article in Le Gaulois. M. Ferry took the view that a great deal of time had now elapsed, and that it was really better not to call attention to the matter now. I have been in correspondence with Sir John D. Hay; and the last letter I received from him, only a day or two ago, was to the effect that he was perfectly satisfied, and that he should trouble his head no more in the matter. I am glad to be able to add, in the presence of three former Secretaries, that I believe there is no man in the Diplomatic Service more honourable or more energetic in the discharge of his duties than Sir John D. Hay. The noble Lord says that Sir John D. Hay has been passed over for promotion; but I remember instances where persons employed in the Diplomatic Service have been, to use a homely phrase, kicked upstairs to get them out of a place where they were doing mischief instead of good. I believe it to be exactly the contrary in the case of Sir John D. Hay. He is most fit for the post he has held, and for that reason he has lost some chances of personal advancement. I really can only repeat in the strongest way that Sir John D. Hay was quite justified in dismissing from his mind any imputation made against him; and I have great pleasure in adding that a short time ago the Queen, in recognition of his distinguished services, conferred upon him the Grand Cross of St. Michael and St. George.


As the youngest and the recent of the Foreign Secretaries the noble Earl has referred to, I have very great pleasure in joining with him in expressing the high estimation which was always entertained for Sir Drummond Hay by his superiors. Not only was the charge against him ridiculous, as it would have been against any Representative of the Crown, but he is a man of singular integrity and patriotism; and a more able, progressive, and intelligent adviser does not exist in the Diplomatic Service. I always thought it a weak point in our diplomatic arrangements that a class of men like Sir Drummond Hay, of whom there are several in the Service, who have special qualities for the particular post they occupy, cannot be rewarded as they should be rewarded without detriment to the Public Service, because by the rules of the Service their rank cannot be increased where they are, and because they cannot be removed from the post they occupy without doing harm to the Public Service. I think Sir Drummond Hay has been more than repaid by the universal confidence with which he is looked up to, and the very high esteem in which he has always been held. I think it is unnecessary to vindicate any English statesman against foreign newspapers, because their ignorance is, as a rule, absolutely phenomenal. I remember one statement in a foreign newspaper which informed us that the noble Duke for whose eloquence we are waiting to-night was about to go abroad to spend the winter in the South of France with his well-known greyhounds; and I remember another such statement which informed us that a well-known statesman, an English Lord Chancellor, was about to receive some high honour from the Crown for his services as President of the Berlin Congress.


said, he had been glad to hear what the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had said with respect to Sir John D. Hay. So far from British enterprize having been discouraged, there had been one instance of a British enterprize, of selling arms near the Southern Frontier of Morocco, which ought to have been discouraged. These complaints proceeded from some discontented schemers, who had set up an English newspaper; but the only practical suggestion he had seen in it was that there should be a covered warehouse near the landing-place at Tangier. But he had just been reading a complaint that there was no shelter for passengers at a station between Calcutta and Agra, and it was not to be expected that Morocco should be more advanced than British India. These schemers appeared to have joined with the French Consul, who had shown much mischievous activity, and seemed to be ambitious of imitating M. Roustan, the French Consul at Tunis; his proceedings had already given umbrage to the Spanish Government. Under these circumstances, he was very glad to hear that Sir John Drummond Hay possessed the undiminished confidence of the Foreign Office.


said, that he did not know any person in any branch of the Public Service more utterly incapable of such conduct as that imputed to him than Sir Drummond Hay. He had always known him as an active and able public servant.