§ On the Motion for going into Committee of Ways and Means,
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
rose and said: Sir, in pursuance of the notice which appears on the journals of the House, I have now to ask the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether, in consequence of two informations of a political character having been laid against William Hale, inventor and manufacturer of the patent war-rocket, and the first of such informations having terminated in the said patentee (William Hale) being adjudged to pay certain penalties to the Crown, it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to advise the Crown to proceed with the second information, laid under the provisions of a law passed during the reign of William III., 1697, intituled "Air Act to prevent the throwing or firing of squibs, serpents, and other fireworks." Now, Sir, in asking this question I will state, as shortly as possible, not only my reasons for asking it, but exactly how the case stands at the present moment as regards the defendant Hale; and I think I shall be able to prove to the House that so absurd and ridiculous a prosecution as the present was never instituted by any British Government on political grounds. That this prosecution has been instituted for political reasons and on political grounds, I think the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Home Department has already admitted in his place in this House; but if there be any doubt about it, you have only to look at the leading articles which have appeared in the organ of the Government, certain extracts from which I will take the liberty of reading to the' House. The first seizure of Mr. William Hale's property was made on the 14th of last month, and on the following day, the 15th, an article on the subject appeared in; the Times. It commenced as follows:—The British Government has not waited long for an opportunity of proving to all the world the sincerity of its resolution to put the law rigorously in force against such foreign refugees re- 1143 siding in this country as have abused the tolerant hospitality of England by carrying on conspiracies against other States. We believe that we are correctly informed when he state that, upon intelligence received by the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Commissioners of Police for the Metropolis, active measures have been taken to substantiate the charges which have long been vaguely preferred against M. Kossuth and his adherents. Upon this legal information a house in the occupation of M. Kossuth was searched yesterday morning at an early hour by the competent authorities, acting, we presume, under the Secretary of State's warrant, and the result of this investigation was the discovery of a large store of arms, ammunition, and materials of war, which may be the stock in trade of a political incendiary, but certainly form no part of the household goods of a private gentleman living in pacific retirement. Indeed, there is reason to believe that these preparations have been going on upon a scale entirely inconsistent with the notion of any mere private speculation, and must have had in view hostilities or insurrectionary movements of a very destructive character. We know not how long the attention of the Home Office has been directed to the suspicious proceedings of the persons engaged in these lawless undertakings, but Lord Palmerston has shown his usual energy and skill in tracing the evil to its root; and it is extremely satisfactory, that the Minister who has been so often identified with these adventures by the ignorance or passion of foreign Governments should now have it in his power to show, by a conspicuous example, that the good order of society and the friendly relations of this country with foreign States are not to be violated with impunity under his administration.Now, Sir, I believe M. Kossuth has complained of having been libelled by this article; but in my opinion the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Home Department has more reason to complain, for I think he has been libelled by the Times. It is only two years ago since this House, after a long and interesting debate, passed a Resolution in approbation of the noble Lord's foreign policy. I voted in favour of that Resolution, because I thought the noble Lord had taken an independent part in relation to foreign countries; and I am much surprised, therefore, to find the Times eulogising him for conduct quite the reverse. Still I retain my favourable opinion of the noble Lord, and, whatever the Times may say, I think the noble Lord is not "the Minister of Austria." In another article the Times says the proceedings against the Hales are not for paltry penalties, but are for other State purposes. The exact words of the journalist are—Mr. Bodkin observed in his address to the Court, that 'there were other reasons besides the mere punishment of Halo that had induced the Government to take the present proceedings; but 1144 at this stage of the inquiry he should not enter into them, and he should leave them to develop themselves in the progress of the case.' The penalty imposed by the statute 12 Geo. III. is only the forfeiture of the goods, with a fine of 2s. a pound on the powder seized.It would be absurd to suppose that the active and energetic measures taken in this case, under the immediate direction of the Government, and by the Solicitor to the Treasury, are solely intended to recover this paltry penalty. We are confident that there is considerably more to be disclosed than is yet before the public. If we are not strangely misinformed, there are still important witnesses who have not been examined on this charge against Mr. Hale, for he only figures in the capacity of agent and manufacturer of rockets for other parties.Well, that is the opinion of the Times; but it has been confirmed by the speeches that have been made at Bow-street on the part of the Government. Now, Sir, as I have said, Mr. Hale has had two informations laid against him. The first information was brought under what is called the Gunpowder Act of Geo. III. Under that Act he was adjudged to pay 2s. a pound for 57 lbs. of a composition which was found on his premises at Rotherhithe, but which he maintains was not gunpowder, and which, I believe, no man ever thought was gunpowder until it came to Bow-street. Mr. Hale had 257 lbs. of this substance in his possession; but he was acknowledged to be a trader in gunpowder, and as traders are entitled to have 2001bs. of gunpowder on their premises, he was sentenced to pay 2s. a pound only on the 57 lbs. But the truth is, Mr. Hale had carried on his works, had made his shells and rockets, close to Woolwich Arsenal, without let or hindrance, for a long period, and only a comparatively short time has elapsed since he removed to Rotherhithe, and so came within the provisions of the Gunpowder Act; for I understand the Act prohibits any person from keeping more than 200 lbs. of gunpowder within three miles of the City of London, in case, I presume, my right hon. Colleague the Lord Mayor and the corporation of the City should be blown up. Under these circumstances Mr. Hale was unfortunately condemned. The question certainly arose whether the composition was gunpowder or not. Witnesses were produced—one on the part of the Government, and one on the part of Mr. Hale. Mr. Hale's witness (Dr. Ure) said it was nonsense to suppose that this composition was gunpowder; the other man (Dr. Hoffman, said that it was. But the persons with whom Mr. Hale dealt, and who 1145 were also employed by the Government to supply gunpowder, said that there was no such thing known as gunpowder in the rocket trade. Mr. Henry (the magistrate) took time to consider his judgment, and as soon as he got home rushed to his Encyclopœdia Britannica, in order to see what gunpowder was. Three days afterwards he came into court, and, saying not a word about the evidence which had been given before him respecting the composition, Mr. Henry said that he found out from the Encyclopœdia Britannica that it was gunpowder after all, because our ancestors never saw gunpowder in the ungranulated state; and, therefore, the Government granulated poor Mr. Hale in the amount of 5l. 14s. Such was the end of State prosecution, No. 1. Let us now proceed to No. 2. Upon the last occasion referred to, counsel for the prosecution said—That there was another information to which the attention of the magistrates would be by-and-by directed, and as to which circumstances would be detailed which he would not now anticipate, but which would impart a character to these transactions.It was perfectly well known that it was intended to identify Mr. Hale in some way or another with M. Kossuth. Mr. Clarkson, the counsel for the defence, suggestedthat it would be better to try the question before them first. He was satisfied the mind of the magistrate would not be affected by what was to follow.Information No. 2 came to be tried—the great explosion was to take place—the whole world was to be convinced that this was a most terrific conspiracy, and that M. Kossuth and Mr. Hale intended by their rockets to subvert every Government in Europe which they did not approve of. Upon what was this second information laid? Upon an Act passed in the ninth year of the reign of William III., in the year 1697 — an Act which he (Mr. Duncombe) would venture to say, had never been enforced, but had remained a dead letter ever since a few years after its passing. What he now complained of, and what the people of England would complain of, was, that a State prosecution should be carried on under such an Act of Parliament as that. It was entitled "An Act to prevent the throwing or firing of squibs, serpents, and other fireworks;" and the preamble showed what its object was. The preamble stated—Whereas much mischief hath lately happened 1146 by throwing, casting, and firing of squibs, serpents, rackets, and other fireworks, some persons having thereby lost their lives, others their eyes, others have had their lives in great danger, and several other damages have been sustained by many persons, and much more may thereby happen if not speedily prevented; for remedy whereof for the future, be it enacted by the King's Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, that from and after the 25th day of March, 1698, it shall not be lawful for any person or persons, of what age, sex, degree, or quality soever, to make or cause to be made, or to sell or utter or offer or expose to sale, any squibs, rockets, serpents, or other fireworks, or any cases, moulds, or other implements for the making any such squibs, serpents, rockets, or other fireworks, or for any person or persons to permit or suffer any squibs, serpents, rockets, or other fireworks to be cast, thrown, or fired from, out of, or in his, her, or their house or houses, lodgings, or habitations, or from, out of, or in any part or place thereof belonging or adjoining, into any public street, highway, road, or passage, or for any person or person, of what degree, quality, or age soever, to throw, cast, or fire, or to be aiding or assisting in the throwing, casting, or firing of any squibs, serpents, rockets, or other fireworks in or into any public street, house, shop, river, highway, road, or passage; and that every such offence shall be and is hereby adjudged to be a common nuisance.There was a saving clause at the end allowing the Board of Ordnance to make rockets or fireworks, and it also permitted the Artillery Company and train bands of London and the militia to do the same. There was no doubt that under that Act Mr. Hale, in making his rockets, had been guilty of a violation of the law. He (Mr. Duncombe) would admit it; indeed, every body knew that Mr. Hale had made the rockets, and he was therefore guilty. But so were all the persons who made fireworks for Vauxhall and Cremorne Gardens. Indeed, all the manufacturers of fireworks in the kingdom were liable to punishment. I ask, who has ever thought of instituting a political prosecution under this Act? Why, Mr. Henry (the magistrate), appears to have been ashamed of the whole transaction, and glad to get rid of it. He heard the evidence of certain witnesses, among whom were three or four Hungarians—no, not Hungarians—political exiles, who had been objects of charity in the eyes of M. Kossuth, and who had received assistance at his hands. One of them was an honest thief, who had, from his own statement, received English hospitality at the treadmill in Maidstone gaol. That was one of the witnesses of his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General. Then there 1147 were two or three Germans, who were not much better, but who had been sent by M. Kossuth to Mr. Hale, as had been admitted, in order that the latter might employ them. One of them had formerly been an officer in the Hungarian army, and was supposed to understand the manufacture of rockets. He was employed at a salary of 18s. a week. A great deal has been made of the statement of these men, that they were desired not to talk in public-houses of what was going on in the factory at Rother-hithe. Now really, Sir, I see nothing in this which is not capable of satisfactory explanation. The men might be told not to talk in public-houses, because the work carried on might be misrepresented, as it unquestionably has been, for I maintain that the Government has been grossly deceived and misinformed. Well, Sir, having heard the evidence of these political refugees, Mr. Henry resolved not to decide the case summarily; in fact, he was again bewildered, and being unable to extricate himself from the difficulty this time by consulting the Encyclopœdia Britannica, he wisely determined to send the case over to the Surrey magistrates, who, sitting close to Vauxhall, he thought would be good judges of fireworks. So stands the case at the present moment. Now then, Sir, I would ask, is this a worthy or a dignified course for any Government of this country to pursue? If M. Kossuth and Mr. Hale have been guilty of any conspiracy to levy war against any of those countries with which we are now upon terms of amity, I say, indict them boldly and openly for that conspiracy; but if they have not been guilty of such an offence, do not rake up an old Act of Parliament that has slept for the last 120 years, even with regard to the making of fireworks. But what are all these proceedings for? Nothing, I am sure, can be more unpalatable to the great body of the people of this country, who look upon the whole transaction, as far as it has gone, with unmitigated disgust. I believe it is bringing the Government, to whom we all wish well, and to whom we are disposed to give a fair trial, into such disrepute with the mass of the people as few Governments have experienced. I ask, Sir, who is this transaction to please? The popular impression is that it is to please some foreign Government—to please the Austrian Government; and, indeed, I think we have sufficiently strong evidence of the fact in some of the foreign journals. This is a 1148 point to which I beg leave to direct the attention of the noble Secretary of State for the Home Department. Very recently a paragraph appeared in a Frankfort paper, headed "The English Police and Spies of Foreign Despots." It ran as follows:—It is now confirmed that the Prussian police were most efficiently assisted in the late political arrests at Berlin and elsewhere by repeated communications from the police at London, without which many of their disclosures might not have been made; and we see a proof of the good faith of the British Government when, through Lord Westmoreland, it assures the Cabinet of Vienna that it will watch over the conduct of the refugees; and we learn from other sources that the London police have for some time kept a list of all the fugitives residing there, and watch over their communications with the Continent.What, Sir, must Europe think of England unless she gives forth some contradiction of such injurious statements? It is quite right that the police of London, or any other police, should communicate with foreign Governments, in the event of persons seeking refuge here being guilty of felony, or murder, or of something of that sort; but the Government has no right, or the police have no right, to communicate with foreign Governments upon political subjects—upon any political crime that is committed here, or may have been committed abroad; and, indeed, our police have no right to communicate with the police of foreign Governments at all. They were not instituted for that purpose. But now I am to show that Austria had really something to do with these seizures at Rotherhithe. In the Augsburg Gazette, of the 14th April—remember Mr. Hale's property was seized on the 13th—there appeared an article, dated Munich, April 12, and expressed in the following terms:—"At London revolution is allowed to take counsel and fill her arsenals with destructive weapons, rockets," & c. Now, I think it is natural to infer from this that some communication had passed between certain parties in authority here and the informants of the Augsburg Gazette. So, Sir, the Times was not, after all, far wrong when it said—I forget the precise terms—that the Government of this country had been urged by Austria to look after the refugees, and that it was determined to show its willingness to do so. Now, Sir, I think Her Majesty's Ministers, when they are applied to by Austria or any other Foreign Power on the subject of political fugitives, ought to tell the Government appealing to 1149 them to look at the free institutions of this country—ought to remind them of the confiscations of Lombardy, and the cruelties and tortures that recently disgraced Milan and Mantua—ought to let them know that such is not the way to gain the affections of their subjects—and ought to return for answer to their request, that interference with refugees in this country will never be submitted to by the people of England. No, we want none of their Radetskys here. Therefore, I wish to ask Her Majesty's Ministers whether they think it worth while to pursue this prosecution any further against Mr. Hale? Mr. Hale, no doubt—in fact I am sure he would admit it if he were present—has been guilty, under the Act of 1697, of making fireworks; I "want to ask the noble Lord whether it is worth while, having, it may be said, failed almost in the first prosecution at Bow-street — though penalties amounting to 5l. 14s. were recovered, half going to the-Crown, and half to the informer—to carry these proceedings any further; and whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Ministers to proceed against any foreign persons whatever, or against any other native-born subject of the Queen? These questions I hope the noble Lord will answer. I shall be glad to hear that he has abandoned this prosecution, and that he thought that the law has been sufficiently vindicated by the proceedings which have been already taken.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, my hon. Friend has treated this matter with his usual mixture of jocularity and argument, and certainly, if there was any Statute which touched moral squibs and crackers, I think my hon. Friend would come under its operation. Now, Sir, my hon. Friend charges me with being the organ and instrument of foreign Powers for the purpose of exercising a watch over persons in this country, and in support of that accusation he quotes passages which he has found from foreign newspapers as well as newspapers in England. Now, I beg, in the first place, to disclaim any responsibility as to anything that may be said of me in any newspaper, either British or foreign. If my hon. Friend had had his attention directed as much as mine has happened to be from time to time to passages in foreign newspapers, in which my name is mentioned, I think he would have found that the weight of accusation and calumny was very much of a different 1150 kind from that which he has quoted. I was told the other day that in the seizures which have been made in Italy there were a set of daggers found of English manufacture, and that the authorities were indignant and incensed at the detestable and diabolical conduct of the man who had been Minister for Foreign Affairs in England, for that on those very daggers his name was inscribed—"For,"said they, "here on these very daggers is 'Palmer and Son!'" "What a detestable and diabolical Revolutionist this man is," said they, "who sends daggers here with his own name upon them!" But my hon. Friend has indulged in a great deal of humour in regard to the prosecutions which I felt it my duty to institute. I do not —I never have in the least disguised the grounds upon which I thought it my duty to institute a prosecution. It was not because Mr. Hale had 57 lbs. of gunpowder in his possession, or was making rockets for an ordinary purpose; but when I was informed that here was a great collection of warlike materials, accumulating in an out-of-the-way place, under circumstances of secrecy, and connected with other circumstances which tended to show that there was a purpose, the object of which was beyond the limits of this country, and not connected with the ordinary and legitimate interests of commerce, I felt it my duty to inquire whether these proceedings were or were not contrary to law. I was informed that they were contrary to law; and I think I should have been very much neglecting my duty in the office which I have the honour to hold, if I had not taken such steps as the law appeared to authorise for the purpose of putting a stop to those proceedings. I hold that in doing so I consulted the honour and dignity of the country. I have, and my Colleagues—not only the Members of this Government, but of the late and of all Governments— have declared repeatedly in Parliament that while, on the one hand, foreigners when they took refuge in this country were entitled to every possible protection which the laws of this land of freedom could afford them; on the other hand, it was the duty of any Government, and the policy of any Government, to prevent any foreigners from being concerned in any proceedings which might threaten the tranquillity of foreign States. Without, entering into particulars beyond what has already appeared, I thought it my duty to 1151 do what I have done in regard to the case now under discussion. My hon. Friend has made merry about the question, whether this substance which was found at Rotherhithe was gunpowder or not. That question having been decided by legal authority, I may be permitted to say that I never heard such a quibble as that the subject in question was not gunpowder; in my opinion that was a miserable quibble; and I think the magistrate was perfectly right, and showed his good sense in his decision. Then with regard to the rockets, my hon. Friend asked me whether there was any intention to continue that prosecution. Now, I have no hesitation in saying that we have no desire to press hardly in any way whatever upon Mr. Hale, and I have no hesitation in saying, in answer to the last interrogatory of my hon. Friend, that the evidence which we have, and which has been already stated in open court, does not bear out or justify any proceedings against any other person, British or foreign, except Mr. Hale. But with regard to Mr. Hale, let the House remember how the matter stands. The Act upon which Mr. Hale was proceeded against prohibits any person from making, or using, or selling rockets, unless they have the directions of the Ordnance, with the exception always of the Artillery Company, or the Militia, who are permitted to make and use rockets in the exercise and practice of arms. The Act gives two methods of proceeding—the one by summary conviction before a magistrate, the other by trial upon indictment before a court and jury. We adopted the first course as the simplest and the shortest, and the least troublesome to any of the parties concerned. The case was opened: the evidence against Mr. Hale was stated; but the magistrate then stopped the proceedings, and said he thought the case ought to be referred to another court, where it should be tried by a jury. Now, I hold, that upon general principles it is a very undesirable and a very bad precedent for any Government to commence proceedings against parties, and to stop them before they come to trial. It is a great instrument of oppression; it is liable to great abuse. You may begin proceedings, without any justifiable cause, for the purpose of annoyance and trouble to individuals; and then, in order to avoid discomfiture, stop the proceedings and give the party no opportunity of stating their defence. I am now speaking upon gene- 1152 ral principles. The party against whom you acted in that manner would have a-right to proceed against the Government for a malicious prosecution; he would have a case for a remedy for an evil sustained by him. But, if that be so, generally speaking, and upon abstract principles, I think the case is much stronger against the Government in the present instance; because hear what would be said? "The Government began proceedings before a magistrate with summary jurisdiction; they were stopped when their case had been stated against the defendant, and when he had no opportunity of saying anything in his defence, no opportunity of shaking the witnesses' evidence, or of proving that there were not grounds for the prosecution, and the case is sent to a jury; and what does the Government do when it is sent to a jury? Why, they are afraid of bringing the case before a jury, and they retire from the proceedings, and, satisfied that the case would not bear sifting before a jury, they drop the proceedings and deprive the individual of that redress which his character would gain by a trial before a jury." I am therefore advised that it would not be fitting, as a general precedent, or in regard to the particular case, that the proceedings should be stopped, feeling that the judgment of a competent court should be obtained upon the law of the case. At the same time I have no hesitation in saying that nothing is further from the wishes of the Government than to press hardly upon Mr. Hale. We shall be perfectly satisfied with having the decision of the law; and that decision having been taken, Mr. Hale will not, I trust, suffer in any degree from the case having been pressed unduly against him.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
said, he thought the noble Lord seemed to suppose that he (Mr. Duncombe) charged him with being the tool and instrument of Austria. He wished to explain that he did no such thing; he merely quoted the words of the Times. He had always understood that to the noble Lord M. Kossuth was indebted for his life and his liberty, and his escape from the East altogether; and he believed that impression was not an erroneous one. [A cry of "Spoke!"] He wished to ask one other question—whether it was to be understood that this prosecution now was conducted for the benefit of Mr. Halo? It really came to that; and he thought he might say, on the part of Mr. Hale, that 1153 he would not consider it to be for his benefit.
§ LORD DUDLEY STUART
said, he had heard with a great deal of pleasure what had fallen from the noble Lord the Secretary of State. He understood the noble Lord to have stated to the House, and through the House to the world at large, that there was no evidence whatsoever implicating any person except Mr. Hale, who was under prosecution; and therefore it followed that all the statements that had been made to implicate M. Kossuth in this proceeding, as if he had been abusing the hospitality of this country by entering into unlawful conspiracies, and attempting or preparing to levy war with some country with which we were in amity, turned out to be baseless fabrications and unfounded calumnies. The public had been told—the statement went forth all over the world—and we knew, when a statement went forth, how difficult it was to contradict it, and make the contradiction reach all those quarters where the calumny had proceeded—that large stores of ammunition, and of some kind of weapons of war, had been discovered in a house in the occupation of M. Kossuth, and the whole world was called upon to execrate a man who, after having received the hospitality of this country—after being delivered from the dangers to which he had been exposed mainly by the interposition of the Government of this country, could so disgrace himself. It turned out now that all this was altogether an imagination—a vile imagination of some persons animated with some rancour against M. Kossuth, and who had always shown themselves to be in the interest of Austria and of Russia, and to have persecuted this man by all the means in their power, in consequence of his opposition to those Governments, in bravely and nobly defending the constitution of his country. There was nothing omitted that could be said to held him up to the reprehension and to the execration of the public; and instead of waiting, under the supposition that his conduct, whatever it was, was to form the subject of some judicial proceeding, which was usual in such cases—instead of waiting to see what the verdict might be after these judicial proceedings—those persons hastened in their malignant spite to condemn him unheard, and, in order to hold him up to detestation, they assumed at once that he was guilty, and, referring to 1154 a place where, not long ago, that illustrious individual was welcomed on his release from captivity—referring to what might be called the heart and the centre of the city of London—namely, that room where the municipal body of the City of London assembled, they took care to point out that Guildhall was not far from the Old Bailey. He (Lord D. Stuart) did not know—he was not speaking from anything within his own knowledge—but he could not help saying that he should not much wonder if, after the statement the House had heard, completely exculpating M. Kossuth from those vile accusations, there should be some occurrences of such a nature as in the end to demonstrate that, if Guildhall was not far from the Old Bailey, there was another place, called Printing House Square, which was still nearer to it. He did not know how that might be; he should not be much surprised if such were to be the case. But he had only risen to point the attention of the House to the effect of the declaration of the noble Lord which they had just heard. He thought that declaration did him honour. He was very glad to find that the Government were not concerned in those proceedings which had been attributed to them; for he thought it would have been a most melancholy spectacle on the part of the noble Lord, of whom it had been said, and, as he thought truly, that he had been the main cause—if not of saving the life of the illustrious man to whom allusion had been made, and many of his companions, the patriots who strove with him—at any rate of his being delivered from' captivity, and now enjoying liberty. He (Lord D. Stuart) believed that it had been the Government of this country, represented by the noble Lord then at the head of the Foreign Office, that obtained the release of M. Kossuth and his companions from Kutayah. He knew there was another Government that claimed credit in this regard — the Government of the United States; and he rendered full justice to the noble feeling with which the American nation and Government were animated on that occasion. He did not forget that they sent a frigate to convey the patriots to a land of liberty; but, while he gave the Americans credit for good intentions, they might have carried on what negotiations they pleased, yet, had it not been for the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office, those noble patriots would 1155 have been still detained in Kutayah; and it was a melancholy thing to see that the noble Lord, after the glorious course he had taken for procuring their release, should have treated them worse than the Turkish Government had ever treated them. They were detained by the Turkish Government in compliance with the wishes of the Emperors of Austria and Russia. But the Sultan watched the patriots openly; he did not do so of his own free will, but in compliance with the demands of very powerful neighbours. When they went out to take exercise they were followed by soldiers on horseback, or on foot. They were tracked by no spies, and were pursued by no men who, pretending to be hired servants, were police. That was a nobler course than to tell them they enjoyed all the rights and privileges of the subjects of this country, and all the protection which the British law could afford, but, at the same time, to have their footsteps tracked by persons in disguise. He thanked the noble Lord for his declaration, and if he regretted anything it was that the noble Lord had not taken an earlier opportunity of making that declaration.
§ MR. BRIGHT
Sir, it would appear from the noble Lord's statement that in the very undignified attempt in which he had been engaged to discover a mare's nest, he has signally failed. The agitation of foreign Governments on finding "Palmer and Son," inscribed on the daggers, must have been somewhat akin to the feeling of the noble Lord when he discovered this gunpowder plot. I agree with the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. T. Duncombe) as to the extreme paltriness —I should say shabbiness—which has characterised the whole of this prosecution against Mr. Hale; but that the case as regards M. Kossuth is not of the same character, and cannot be so regarded by this House. In the one case it was a mischievous police business, which turns out to be nothing; and though it has occasioned all this temporary annoyance and expense to Mr. Hale, for which I am sorry, it is altogether of a different character to that which has induced me on one or two former occasions to advert to this subject. The noble Lord now says that he has no evidence on which to found any charge against any person except Mr. Hale; and as to that transaction, he intimates he would be glad to get out of the mess he has been led into, but that he thinks it 1156 would not be dignified for the Government, after commencing a prosecution, to abandon it. But with regard to the other case, the noble Lord knows perfectly well the mischievous effect which the explicit and unmistakeable language in the Times newspaper, and the statement he himself made in this House on a previous evening, was calculated to produce. I do not charge the noble Lord with having brought an accusation on the statement in the Times; but the noble Lord has on each occasion, when the subject was brought forward here, studiously avoided saying anything that could be quoted as clearing the character of M. Kossuth, and has loft the statements in the Times to have their effect on the world, even when he had the power in this House to have cleared the character of M. Kossuth, if, as I believe, he had then all the knowledge he has now. The Times has been referred to, as it necessarily must be, in speaking of this transaction, and I will venture to make an observation on the Times. The Times newspaper is a great power in a mask—we do not see the person who writes the articles—there is not a man in England calling himself a gentleman who would dare to have put his signature to the article which has been referred to. There is a Gentleman—an hon. Member of this House—he is not present, I dare say; but if he were, I would say what I am about to say now—that he durst not—I am speaking of a Gentleman intimately connected with the paper—that he durst not put his signature to the article in which these charges were conveyed against M. Kossuth. And I can tell the Times that it was precisely conduct like this by which scandalous and lying charges were brought against honourable men, that the press of France lost all character with the French people, and that induced the people of Paris during the republic to look with disregard—almost with pleasure—when, one after the other, the newspapers were brought under penalties of the law, and which induced them to look on without discontent when newspaper writers were compelled to attach their signatures to every article they wrote, and when at length three-fourths of the newspapers were suppressed. Now, in the Times of this morning—I am not particularly thin-skinned, and I refer to the matter only as an illustration of the kind of abuse in which it indulges—the Times newspaper, of this morning, says, that I 1157 had the honesty not to appear with the deputation before Lord Clarendon yesterday, in reference to the proposed introduction of the arbitration clause into the treaty with the United States, it being known that the United States' Government are anxious for such a clause. They say it is well I had the honesty not to go there, for I had recently been defending the manufacture of war rockets and warlike stores. Now it is not necessary for me to clear myself; but if Mr.—I won't name him, I don't know that I know him, but the person who wrote this article—I say, if he came before the public, if he be a man calling himself a gentleman, and walked about the streets, do you think he would ever have dared to write that article? ["No!"] Then, I say, it is cowardly that such statements should be made; and it is doubly infamous, when they are made for the purpose of undermining and destroying the character of a man sufficiently under misfortune, an exile from his country, trusted by millions of his countrymen, who are yet buoyed up with the hope that he will be one day able to do something for the deliverance of his country. I say, it is doubly infamous for any organ of the press to attack a man in this way, and thus to attempt to destroy his character, his reputation, and his influence. The noble Lord has admitted there is no charge against M. Kossuth—[Viscount PALMERSTON: Or any other person]—or any other person, except Mr. Hale. The noble Lord stated the other night, that as long as he had been connected with the Home Office, some four months, the practice of opening letters had not been resorted to; thus far was satisfactory. But another point had been adverted to, that was the system of espionage. On the 7th of February, 1850, the noble Lord, in speaking of the detention of the Hungarians in Turkey, said—The Turkish Government undertook to remove the Hungarians—not to put them in prison, as my noble Friend has stated—but to remove them to a distance from the Austrian territories, and there detain them under that description of observation of which, happily, no English word conveys the meaning—under surveillance for a certain limited time."—[3 Hansard, cviii. 499.]What I want to know of the noble Lord now is this, and if he will give the same answer as he has given on the other matter, I hope never to have the occasion to trouble him on this subject again. What I want to know is, is it true that some policeman, or some person acting as a policeman, had 1158 charge to watch M. Kossuth, and report on whatsoever they might observe about M. Kossuth's house? I want to ask the noble Lord whether that be so, and if so, whether this has been done by the authority of the Home Office, and whether the expense of this police espionage is defrayed by the State, or out of any metropolitan rate, or by the Austrian Government, or by the Austrian embassy? What I desire is, that the noble Lord should clear the matter up. I believe these proceedings are entirely without justification, and what has been stated in the papers lately is creating an unpleasant feeling in the public mind in regard to the Government, which it would be well to remove. The feeling of the public caused by these proceedings is, that the Government is not open and above board, as it was supposed they were, and that with all our boasts of freedom, and the hospitality we profess to afford, we are doing here precisely what is done in many parts of the Continent of Europe.
§ MR. OTWAY
said, he regretted that the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) had not, when the subject was brought under discussion before, taken the same course he had to-night, instead of attempting to justify the proceedings of the police in setting spies on the movements of M. Kossuth, and twitting the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) for not knowing that it was the duty of the Home Secretary to take the steps complained of in regard to foreign refugees. [Viscount PALMERSTON: No, no!] He had certainly understood the noble Lord to say that if not only any foreigner, but any Englishman, was suspected of being engaged in practices hostile to any foreign country with which we were on terms of amity, the police were justified in dogging his footsteps, and setting spies on all his actions. That was not always the opinion of the noble Lord, for it was not very long since the noble Lord received a deputation from Islington, and the answer he gave excited so much ill-feeling on the part of his Colleagues, that he was obliged to retire from the Cabinet; and for the noble Lord now to turn round, and speak of M. Kossuth and the other refugees in the tone he did the other day, was what could scarcely have been expected by those who had been led by the noble Lord's previous conduct to respect him and his policy. It might be satisfactory to the House if the hon. and learned Attorney General would enlighten them as to whether such proceed- 1159 ings as had taken place in M. Kossuth's case really were in accordance with the constitution of the country.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, the hon. Member has really misunderstood what I said on a former evening. My observations the other evening applied to what I conceived to be the endeavour of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) to extort from me an opinion as to the possible or probable results of the proceedings at law then in progress. I considered him to ask what would be the effect on M. Kossuth of the proceedings then going on; and I stated that it would be very unconstitutional to give an opinion on that subject. With regard to whether our police is paid by the Austrian or the English Government, I am afraid that, whatever burden the police may cause, it is one which will have to be borne by the finances of this country alone. First of all, the hon. Member for Manchester states that I have on a former occasion said that surveillance is a thing from which we have altogether escaped, and that it is entirely unknown to this country. Now, a state of surveillance is this—an individual is not allowed to go beyond certain limits, and he is watched by competent authorities to pre-vent him from doing so. Undoubtedly, it is one of the duties of the police to ascertain whether the laws are infringed; and if they have reason to believe that any individual is engaged in a proceeding contrary to law, it is the duty of the police to take such measures as may be fitting and proper for the purpose of preventing a violation of the law. If the police have reason to believe that M. Kossuth or anybody else was engaged in a proceeding contrary to law, the police were bound to use such proper measeres as might be necessary to ascertain whether or not there was any ground for the suspicions which they entertained.
§ MR. BRIGHT
I want to repeat my question. The noble Lord has merely told us what everybody knows. Now, I want to ask the noble Lord this question: has he, in his office, or has he, by directions through his office, caused any police magistrate or commissioner to give any special directions that policemen shall watch the house and proceedings of M. Kossuth in this metropolis?
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I have given no special directions with regard to M. Kossuth; but it is the general duty of the police, if they have any suspicion 1160 about any person, as they probably had in this case, to ascertain the facts upon which a charge may be substantiated, or may be otherwise disposed of.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton had already spoken twice, and was not entitled to speak again on this question.
§ MR. COBDEN
I suppose, Sir, you are the authority without appeal on all points of order; but if it be the rule of this House that the Minister for the Home Department can only be allowed to answer one question on such an occasion and on such a subject as we have been discussing, I think it would he well to consider whether it might not be well to relax it in order to promote the despatch of business. If, however, the noble Lord the Home Secretary cannot answer the question I wish to put, probably the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord John Russell) can. I wish to impress upon the House that we are not here dealing with the ordinary case of an ordinary person. We are dealing with the case of the ex-Governor of Hungary—a man who was long engaged in maintaining in his own country the legality of the constitution of that country, and he was supported by the whole body, not of the poorer classes merely, but of the whole of the aristrocracy of that country. I say that when such a man comes to this country, having held that distinguished post of honour, his case is not that of an ordinary refugee, but it is that of a man placed under the safeguard of this country, the incidents of whose life are minutely watched by the world, and will be as minutely recorded in the history of the times; and as he is treated by us, will honour or discredit attach to us in reference to him. I have little personal knowledge of M. Kossuth; but when I first read of this matter, and when I first read the statement in the Times, I thought it my duty to call on M. Kossuth, and ask him if there was any foundation for that statement; and he gave me his word, as a man of honour, that he had no more concern with the transactions referred to by the writer in that paper, than had the Speaker of the House of Commons. It was true, he said, he had recommended a foreign refugee (one who had not done him much credit) to Mr. Hale for employment, but he had no connexion with Mr. Hale, or 1161 with the manufacture carried on by him. He was invited to call on Mr. Hale to go over his factory, as I might have been, and as I hare been invited to go over Mr. Warner or Colt's factory; and I might as well be charged with being connected with Colonel Colt on that ground, as M. Kossuth was charged with being connected with Mr. Hale. And with regard to recommending a man for employment, M. Kossuth has numerous unfortunate refugees constantly calling upon him to aid them in obtaining employment; and I am speaking within the mark when I say I have had at least a dozen applications from M. Kossuth to assist his countrymen in that way; and I have no doubt my noble Friend (Lord D. Stuart) could speak much more on this subject. This is the whole basis of the charge. Some prying individual found that a Hungarian was working at Mr. Hale's, and because M. Kossuth recommended him, he connected that gentleman with the rocket manufacture carried on by Mr. Hale, for the purpose of making war in Hungary on the Austrian Government. Now, I think it would not have been below the dignity of the Home Secretary, if he had given the opportunity to M. Kossuth to clear himself. I do not think the ex-Governor of Hungary so far below the dignity of the Home Secretary of England as to make such a course impossible. And if the noble Lord had done so—if, instead of sending policemen to watch M. Kossuth's house and dog him about, he had taken means to allow that gentleman to explain, and if the noble Lord had thus obtained, as he would have done, M. Kossuth's word of honour that he had no connexion with anything of the kind charged against him, that would have been sufficient—for I apprehend M. Kossuth is as much entitled to credence as any member of the Orleans family visiting our Court. I make no distinctions, and as regards M. Kossuth I think he is as much entitled to respect and honour as any member of the Orleans 'family, who are habitually received at Windsor. I make no complaint of the hospitality that is shown to the Orleans family; but I say that it would be disgraceful to any man in this country, and more especially to any Member of this House, if he did not vindicate the right to hospitality of this country, on behalf of those who carry with them the goodwill of the mass of their own countrymen, which is the case with M. Kossuth; and if any 1162 one is allowed to dog the steps of illustrious refugees, and it is found out, we are bound to visit it with our reprobation, and public opinion will do the same. I have seen M. Kossuth, and have advised with him. I told him—"You live under the same law as I do, but if you ask me what the law of England is, I cannot tell you, for at any moment some old law may be exhumed for a particular occasion, as has been done now;" and I advised him to put himself under the guidance of some shrewd able lawyer. He said that if he knew what the law was, he would take care not to violate it. I believe he has far too much regard to his own name and fame, and far too much respect for those who have not hesitated to come forward and associate themselves with him in this matter, to be caught violating the law of the country, for which he has too much respect. The question I want to put to the noble Lord is, whether any communication has been made to the magistrates, or the police authorities, with reference to any proceedings for watching the house of M. Louis Kossuth?
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, before I answer the question which the hon. Gentleman has just put, I must advert to the former part of his speech, because it is certainly of importance that we should have some clear and distinct notion of what is the policy of this country in respect to M. Kossuth and to other refugees. I quite agree with what the hon. Gentleman has said—namely, that we ought to observe the same rule with regard to all refugees, without reference to their station, their rank, or their political opinions. I care little for that: they may be princes of high lineage, holding the most extreme doctrines of absolute monarchy, or they may be persons of the most lowly condition, entertaining the most ultra-republican notions. I care not what their opinions may be—I think the rule should be the same for all. But what should be that rule? It is not so very clear, in regard, at least, to its general principle. It is founded, in the first place, upon the law of England; and, in the next place, it is incorporated with the great international code of the law of nations. The law of England, as we all know, allows any of these persons—any of these refugees, whatever may be the cause in which they have suffered—whatever may be the power by which they may have been proscribed—to come here and live undisturbed in this country. That is the general law 1163 of England. According to this law, persons of various ranks and of various opinions have, within the last few years, sought refuge in this country. I think that to be an honourable distinction to be borne by England—a distinction not owing to any particular Government, but owing solely to the ancient laws of this country. It is an honourable distinction that persons exiled from their own countries can find a refuge and an asylum here. Never shall I be a party to make any alteration in that law. But, Sir, if this refuge and asylum be due to unfortunate exiles on the one side, I think it can as little be questioned, on the other, that the refugees thus received—thus enjoying the hospitality of this country—thus sheltered under the aegis of our laws—so long as they shall live quietly and peaceably among us, ought not to abuse that hospitality by making preparations for declaring war against any State, be it a monarchy or be it a republic, which is at peace and in alliance with this country. Now, it is said with regard to this person—this illustrious person, I am willing to admit—M. Kossuth has been Governor of Hungary, and that he endeadeavoured to restore and maintain the ancient constitution of that country. I do not now wish to enter into an argument upon that subject; but it will be admitted that there are two opinions upon that question. There are some who think M. Kossuth fought on behalf and in support of the liberties of his country—-that he did everything that a patriot ought to do to maintain the ancient constitution of Hungary. But there are others who believe that he fought not for the cause of liberty, or for the welfare of his country, but for the furtherance of a selfish ambition; and that in the pursuit of that ambition, he, by acts of imprudence and indiscretion, so changed the laws and constitution of his country as to bring those laws and that constitution into collision with the monarchical power reigning over it, till, in the end, he brought ruin and destruction upon it. There thus prevail these two different opinions; but M. Kossuth comes to this country, and obtains a refuge. He does not merely come here like a person who is totally unknown to us, but he comes here in possession of his personal liberty, he having obtained that liberty, in a great degree, by the exertions of my noble Friend near me. When my noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, he (speaking in the name of the Go- 1164 vernment of the Queen of England), in the first place urged Turkey to persevere in affording to M. Kossuth that hospitality which she, greatly to her honour, had already given to him. In the next place, my noble Friend offered to support Turkey, even with the arms of this country, in the event of her being attacked by any other Power in consequence of affording M. Kossuth that protection; and, finally, he urged Turkey, not only to change the place of confinement in which M. Kossuth was kept, but to release him, and allow him to come, undisturbed, to this country. I say, therefore, that such a man was hound, not merely by the general law of nations, to respect the laws of this country whose hospitality he was receiving, and under whose protection he was living, but that, by the peculiar obligations of gratitude to the Government which had interposed with such generous feeling on his behalf, he was bound scrupulously to respect the laws of this country, and not seek to involve us in any cause of quarrel which he might have with any of those nations with whom we are on terms of amity and peace. The hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) has said that M. Kossuth has scrupulously obeyed the laws which he found in force in this country; and that he has lived here without giving any cause of offence to those who have to administer those laws. Sir, the hon. Gentleman, no doubt, is well persuaded in his belief; and the fact may be as he has stated it; at the same time I cannot wonder that there have been suspicions aroused of a contrary tendency; because we must recollect that it is but lately that we have seen in that very newspaper to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, a letter addressed, or rather a proclamation addressed, to the subjects of a foreign Sovereign, urging them to rise against their Emperor, and calling upon the army to desert their colours, and engage in hostilities of the most deadly kind against their Sovereign. When that proclamation was published, in connexion with the insurrection of Milan, it was stated on behalf of M. Kossuth that he certainly had not authorised the publication of that paper —not authorised that exhortation to the people—because many changes had been made in it; but that he had given into the hands of another while at Kutayah a paper of the like nature—proclaiming the duty of insurrection to the subjects of the Emperor of Austria. That was in any case, 1165 I maintain, a most imprudent thing to do; but it was a most unjustifiable act on the part of a man who was residing quietly in a foreign country to send forth a paper which might be used for such a purpose. But we have seen more recently a letter written by M. Kossuth, in which he repeats that his object is to carry on war against a Sovereign of Europe—a Sovereign whose tyranny he denounces, and against whose rule he protests—that Sovereign being in amity with this country. There we have the open avowal by M. Kossuth of the fact that several persons connected with him are employed in a manufactory, which manufactory is for the purposes of war. I must say that I do not think it unnatural that persons employed in the police of this country should, under such circumstances, conceive a suspicion that there was contemplated an attempt to levy war against the Sovereign who had been so strongly denounced. With regard to the question which has been asked by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cobden), all I have to state is, that the Commissioners of Police, from time to time, make reports to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, with regard to such proceedings, whether affecting M. Kossuth or other persons, as may induce them to believe that some crime is meant. I do not think I need say more than this, because my noble Friend (Visct. Palmerston) has already stated that there is no evidence by which we can bring any indictment against any other person than Mr. Hale. But I shall always maintain that, while, on the one hand, we are bound to give hospitality to these persons; on the other hand, we are bound by every obligation to foreign States not to allow, but if possible to prevent, persons who are residing in this country from promoting that which has been declared by my right hon. Friend (Sir G. Grey) when Home Secretary, to be a crime according to the laws of the land. Such persons, while residing here, have no right to levy war against any Sovereign who is in alliance with this country. I have one word to say with regard to the allegation which has been made, that all these proceedings have taken place in consequence of some application on the part of the Government of Austria. I will state, in general terms, that the communications by Austria to the Government of this country have not been in the nature of anything like a demand, or an application, or a specific requirement. 1166 On the contrary, the Government of Austria have repeatedly declared that they have nothing to ask from the Government of this country, and they ask nothing; therefore they leave it to be understood that there is no demand of any sort to be made. At the same time they have stated that they did feel themselves aggrieved by proceedings which have been carried on in this country. But they observed that it was for the Government of England to act; that they had great reliance on the goodwill of that Government, and should therefore leave it to them to take measures or not, as they should think fit. It was not unnatural, an insurrection having occurred that the Austrian Government should say, "Our Government is disturbed; it is liable to be affected in various quarters; sometimes even in connexion with States where hostility is little to be suspected; that very often attempts of a certain hostile nature are found to be connected with persons who are known to be seeking to overthrow the Government of our country; and we know that many of those who are carrying on these proceedings are residents in England, and yet are allowed to carry them on undisturbed." Now, although I do not think these complaints on the part of the Government of Austria are justified, at the same time I deem it to be the bounden duty of the Government of this country, while saying to Austria—"We will not change our laws; we will permit all these persons to come to this country and live undisturbed;" also to say, that so long as these persons live in this country the laws of the country must be by them obeyed, and that the great national relations which exist between England and the States of Europe shall not by them be violated or disturbed.
§ SIR JOSHUA WALMSLEY
said, he rejoiced that the noble Lord the Secretary for the Home Department had stated, and that the noble Lord the Member for the City of London had confirmed that statement, that there was no accusation against the illustrious exile in question. But the noble Lord had made another statement, blaming M. Kossuth for a proclamation which he had issued in this country. So far from that being the case, that proclamation was written at Kutayah, and not in this country, and therefore so far M. Kossuth was free from the accusation of the noble Lord. But the most serious part of this matter—and the question which had been put with regard to it had 1167 not been answered yet—namely, the employment of spies as had been said to dog the footsteps, not only of this illustrious exile, but of all persons who called on him or inquired after him. The question did not even rest there, for if the statements which had been made were to be believed, persons were sent into the house of M. Kossuth to assist in removing his goods and to spy what they could find out. They must have been sent by some one—Who was that person? If they were not sent by the noble Lord, they must have been sent by the Police. This was a matter that ought to be inquired into; and if no one else would do so, he (Sir J. Walmsley) would move for a Committee of Inquiry, in order to ascertain whether it was the practice of the police to watch the houses of any person without any justification for doing so. The Government would have done much better to have abandoned the charge against Mr. Hale, and not have revived an obsolete law against a poor man who had been ruined by what had taken place. The best thing to be done was to drop all further proceedings; for he believed it was the duty of the Government to abandon the proceedings against Mr. Hale under a law which was passed a hundred years ago.
§ Subject dropped.