HL Deb 21 December 1888 vol 332 cc951-2

rose to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, When it was intended to appoint a Minister to the United States? In putting this Question he did not desire to enter into the circumstances which led to the departure of our late Minister at Washington. That was an incident that, in the interests of both nations, had better be forgotten as soon as possible. He regretted, however, that it had so far been found impossible by Her Majesty's Government to present Papers to Parliament on the subject. He still hoped that they might be presented before the Prorogation. The Prime Minister not long ago alluded to this matter at the Guildhall, and suggested that the action of the President was not approved by the American people. It was well known that the people of America were sensitive—he might say extra sensitive—as to the opinion of the Prime Minister and as to the opinions of the people of this country. Whether there was any blame in the matter, whether any one was to blame, and whether our late Minister acted in any way which was unjustifiable, was beside the point; but it was desirable that both the English and the American people should have correct information on the subject. His point, however, was not whether or not the British Minister was guilty of conduct which justified the action of the American Government. He desired to urge that a Minister ought to be appointed as soon as possible. Though diplomatically speaking the United States was a foreign country, still our relations with them were quite different to our relations with other countries, and we did not regard its inhabitants as foreign in the ordinary acceptation of the word. Inhabitants of the two countries could each understand in a way that others could not the exigencies of Party feeling, and could make allowances for each other in that respect. Any ill-feeling or misunderstanding between the two countries would be greatly deplored. The first duty of this country was towards the Empire and India; and, secondly, towards the United States; and it was our bounden duty to do everything that we could, and make any sacrifice that could be made without dishonour, to create and maintain good feelings between the two countries. Owing to the change of Government in the United States Mr. Phelps would soon be leaving England, and it might be, if the appointment of a Minister to Washington were further delayed, that the delay might be taken by the people of the United States as intended as a punishment for what had occurred in the case of the late Minister, or that they might retaliate by delaying the appointment of a Minister to London, the result of which would be very much like a suspension of diplomatic relations. At the present time there were special reasons for desiring a good understanding between this country and the United States, for there were two important international questions pending for settlement with regard to the Fishery question and the Extradition Treaty, and these could only be settled by mutual amity. Upon these grounds he thought he was justified in saying that it was desirable that no cause of offence should be allowed to exist between the two countries, and that any honourable sacrifice should be made to avoid such a state of things. He hoped that the Prime Minister would assure the House that a Minister would be appointed to Washington without delay.


I told my noble Friend privately that the Correspondence on this subject was incomplete, and, therefore, according to the uniform usage, I can say nothing on the subject. It is also the usage in regard to appointments of this kind made by the Executive Government for Parliament to express, if necessary, its judgment upon such appointments after they have been made, but not to require information beforehand as to the intentions of the Government. On both these grounds I shall leave the responsibility for introducing this subject with the noble Earl, and I must respectfully ask the House to excuse me from making any statement on the subject.

House adjourned at a quarter past Six o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Eleven o'clock, p.m.