HC Deb 19 February 1858 vol 148 cc1741-844

Order for Second Reading read,


Sir, in moving the second reading of this Bill I wish to make a very few observations to the House in addition to those which I made in asking leave to introduce it. In the first place, I would say that great pains have been taken to diffuse the notion that this is an Alien Bill. That impression is totally unfounded, and quite opposite to the nature of the measure. This is no Alien Bill. It gives to the Government no arbitrary powers whatever, and it contains no enactments applicable to aliens which are not equally applicable to all Her Majesty's subjects. Sir, we cannot deny—as I stated on a former occasion—that that which led Her Majesty's Government to look into the condition of the law relating to conspiracies was the calamitous event which recently took place in France. On examining the state of our law we found that in England the crime of conspiracy for the purpose of committing murder was, as I said in a previous debate, almost practically unknown in this country; and therefore no special law has ever been framed to meet that offence. The crime of conspiracy to commit minder is only punishable in the same manner as the offence of conspiring to do any other act which is wrong. As I formerly stated, the act of conspiring to do a comparatively innocent thing, such as hissing a bad actor, is exactly in the same category as the grave offence of conspiring to murder. And we thought, on looking into the law, that that was not a proper state of things. This crime had been committed. There can be no doubt that there was hatched in this country a conspiracy for the purpose of committing murder. We were of opinion that the English law affixes too light a punishment to so heinous a crime. When we inquired into the state of the law in another part of the United Kingdom we found that, by a law applicable to Ireland, which originated in unhappy times, when animosities ran high, when violences were committed, and when, unfortunately, this offence was one of no very unfrequent occurrence, the heaviest possible punishment—death—had been attached to that crime. We therefore thought that in the present improved state of society in Ireland it was not desirable that this law should be allowed to continue. We deemed it advisable, on the one hand, to mitigate the law in the sister country, and, on the other, to raise the penalty of the law in England. For that purpose we prepared the measure now under the consideration of this House. The Bill, then, I say is a Bill of general application. It does not contain anything pointed peculiarly against aliens. It places aliens on the ground they ought to occupy,—namely, on the same footing as all Her Majesty's subjects within the realm. If an alien comes into this country he is bound to obey its laws. He cannot expect to enjoy any privileges not accorded to the natives, and must submit to whatever restrictions the wisdom of the Legislature has imposed upon the native inhabitants of the country. There is nothing in this Bill which gives to the Executive Government any arbitrary power in regard either to Her Majesty's subjects or to any alien resident within the realm. It gives no power of expulsion. There is nothing in it which in the slightest degree interferes with that law of hospitality by which we have invariably been guided with regard to foreigners seeking an asylum in this country. Any foreigner, whatever may be his nation, whatever his political creed, whatever his political offences against his own Government, may, under this Bill, as without it, find in these realms a safe and secure asylum as long as he obeys the law. Neither does this Bill give the Government any arbitrary power whatever. The penalty which it imposes must be awarded by a court of justice upon proof of the offence; and neither in judging of the offence or awarding the punishment has the Executive Government anything to do with the matter. I therefore conceive that it is a gross misrepresentation to give to this measure the nick-name of an Alien Bill. It is no Alien Bill; it is an improvement of the law in regard to an offence which till lately might have been said to be unknown in England, but which has recently been committed in this country—committed, I am sorry to say, not simply by foreigners resident in this country, but in which there is too much reason to fear from investigations which have been carried on elsewhere, British subjects have not been altogether exempt from criminality.

That is one point upon which I wish to make some observations; another matter to which I will advert, rather by way of anticipation, as I am on my legs, is the objection which has been taken to the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government on the ground that we ought to have sent some very eloquent and indignant answer to the despatch from Count Walewski to the Count de Persigny which was handed to Her Majesty's Government, and has been laid upon the table of the House. Now, Sir, what passed with regard to that despatch was this; it was given personally by the French Ambassador to my noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Office, who then repeated to him that which I and other Members of the Government have over and over again explained to all the foreign representatives who approached the subject,—namely, that a change in our law with regard to the asylum granted to foreigners was a thing which they must not expect, because it was utterly impossible. They have often been told, and it was repeated verbally upon this occasion, that we never have had a law pointed against aliens, as directed to the protection of foreign countries; that the Alien Acts which we have had have been intended to guard this country against evils which might arise from the misconduct of foreigners seeking refuge in it; that, therefore, such a measure as they desired would be, not a repetition of a previously existing statute, but an enactment wholly and entirely new and that it would, moreover, expose this country to great embarrassment in its dealings with foreign Governments, because cases would arise in which a foreign Government might demand the expulsion of an alien from this country upon some suspicion entertained by that Government, to which the Government of the day in England would reply that, having no well-grounded reason for suspicion, they therefore could not put the law in force; and that, naturally, would raise very disagreeable discussions between England and foreign Governments. That was explained to the French Ambassador by my noble Friend. Perhaps some Gentleman may say that we ought to have written an answer to this effect. There was no use in repeating in writing that which had over and over again been fully explained. The other course which might have been pursued would have been to announce to the French Government what we meant to do; but I think that would not have been altogether a very proper or dignified proceeding. We told the French Government that the matter had already been under the consideration of the Government, and that we should take that course which we might think most consistent with our own interests and our own honour. I contend that if any party has ground of complaint against us, that there was no written answer, it is the French Government; because they might say that we were wanting in ordinary courtesy in leaving unanswered a communication which had been formally made to us. But I think that upon that point we are perfectly absolved; because, having repeatedly stated to the French Government in words what we could not do, they could not expect that we should formally communicate to them the intentions which were then in our minds as to the proceedings of the British Government and the British Parliament. Therefore, in my opinion, there is no ground for complaint that we did not address a despatch to the French Government. Had we done so it must either have been controversial, at a time when great agitation prevailed in France—would only have aggravated a feeling, which it was most desirable should be left to spend itself out—or it must have had the ap- pearance that the British Government was submitting to a foreign Power the proposals which it intended to make to the British Parliament,—a matter which, in my opinion, ought not to he announced to a foreign Government, with the view of ascertaining whether or not they were satisfied with what we proposed to do. There are subjects of internal legislation, matters which we keep within our own discretion, and of which we are not bound to give any account to any foreign Government which may apply to us upon the subject. I trust, therefore, that the opinion which the House arrived at upon a former occasion as to the expediency of permitting the introduction of this Bill will continue; that now that hon. Members have had an opportunity of seeing its details they will perceive that it is a measure which gives no additional discretionary powers to the Executive Government, but only provides a more appropriate punishment for an offence of the gravest possible character, and by increasing the penalty in England, and diminishing it in Ireland, assimilates the punishment in both islands. I therefore hope that the House will deem it right to agree to the second reading of the Bill which I have now the honour to move.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


I am not one of those who have laboured under the misapprehension of the objects of this Bill to which the noble Lord has referred. If such misapprehension does exist, I concur with him that he has taken a very proper course in now endeavouring to remove I it by putting the House in possession of his views upon the exact aim of the measure before us. But, Sir, with regard to certain conversations, confidential or otherwise, which are said to have passed between the noble Lord at the head of the Government and the Ambassador of France, I am of opinion that matters of grave national importance—that matters affecting, perhaps, the honour and reputation of our country—ought not to be left to mere casual conversations, but ought to be placed upon record, in order that they may stand before the world as the position which England has assumed in the question at issue. I can assure the House—I can assure the noble Lord at the head of the Government—that it is not my desire by moving the Amendment of which I have given notice to provoke any angry controversy between, as it were, the people of England and the French nation. I attach much value to the maintenance of friendly relations with that great country, and were I to utter a single word tending- to produce angry or irritating discussion, I should not be acting in accordance with my own convictions. I can tell the noble Lord that, although I have been no follower of his with reference to the policy which he has pursued with regard to the foreign relations of this country—although I have generally been no admirer of what is called his "spirited foreign policy"—I have frequently consoled myself with the reflection that, whatever disputes might arise from the policy of the Government, with other parts of the world, the noble Lord, at least, would he no party to raising any dangerous controversy or dispute with Fiance—I repeat, I have consoled myself with this reflection, being one of those who value beyond all things, as necessary to the civilization and happiness of all Europe, a permanent and friendly understanding between the nations of France and England. Before I touch upon the merits of the Resolution which I shall venture to submit to the House, I wish to meet one or two preliminary objections which have been raised to the course I am taking, and to put the House in possession of its exact Parliamentary meaning. It has been objected by the enemies of the Bill before the House that this Amendment is not sufficiently decided—that I ought to have proposed a Motion to throw out the Bill altogether—to reject it, as it were, with ignominy. Undoubtedly, my Amendment is not in that form. On the other hand, gentlemen favourable to the Bill have urged that this is an indirect mode of defeating the measure, and that it would have been the more candid course if I had invited the House to read the Bill a second time this day three months. These objections are founded upon a misapprehension of the object which I have in view. My object is to invite an expression of opinion from the House on a subject strictly relevant to the Bill before us during its progress. If the House agree to the Resolution which I now submit it would not necessarily defeat the Bill, you would simply arrest its progress for a single day, and it would afterwards be competent to the House to proceed with the measure, and pass it into a law. Opinions are undoubtedly diverse on the measure. My own opinions are opposed to the Bill, and when its merits come more distinctly before us I shall give my support to a Motion for its rejection. But by the position I now take, I think we are enabled consistently with our opinions of the merits of this particular change of the law to say whether we should now read the Bill a second time, before having arrived at a decision upon the mode in which the Government have conducted the affairs which have led to the introduction of the measure before us. My opinion is that it is the duty of the Parliament of England to declare that some answer should have been given to the important despatch which has been laid on our table as the foundation of the Bill, and formally brought under our notice by the Executive Government. I have been told by an hon. Friend who objects to this resolution that I want to take an opportunity of passing a sort of indirect, he did not say censure, but unfriendly opinion upon the management of affairs by the Government, and for that purpose have given notice of an Amendment which is calculated to draw to my side persons who are hostile to the Bill before us, but who upon the whole do not disapprove the course which the Government have taken. In answer to that objection I can only say that I should have been very glad, if it had been in my power, to move my Amendment as a substantive Resolution; but I have not the command of the time of this House; I cannot bring on any Motion when I think fit, and I much doubt whether I should have obtained from those who have the disposal of our time an early opportunity for submitting such a Resolution. It appears to me, however, that my Amendment is strictly within the rules of Parliament; that it is relevant to the Bill before us; and, as the question which has given rise to it is intimately connected with the proposal of the Government, I hold that I am taking a Parliamentary course, and one that can be justified by precedent, in asking the House of Commons to arrest for a single day only the progress of the present measure for the purpose of expressing the opinion set forth in my Amendment—namely, that the important despatch of Count Walewski should have received a solemn and deliberate answer from Her Majesty's Government.

What is the Resolution that I propose to the House? It states, in the first place, "that this House hears with much concern that it is alleged the recent attempts upon the life of the Emperor of the French have been devised in England, and expresses its detestation of such guilty enterprises." I imagine that every Member of this House gives his cordial concurrence to the sentiment embodied in those words. I venture to say that throughout the length and breadth of this land enterprises to assassinate the Emperor of the French are viewed with universal execration. I feel no doubt, therefore, that the House of Commons cordially approves the first passage of my Resolution. The next passage says, "That this House is ready at all times to assist in remedying any defects in the criminal law which, after due investigation, are proved to exist." I put in the words "at all times" because I quite agree with the First Lord of the Treasury and the Secretary for the Home Department, that if it be proved that our laws are defective, we ought not to be deterred from making the requisite alterations because other persons may have committed indiscretions, or because suggestions may have come from foreign Governments. But, at the same time, we ought not to make changes in our criminal law without "due investigation." We ought not hastily to make important changes in the law of conspiracy, even conspiracy to murder. Conspiracy per se is an unfulfilled—or, as it has been called, an unconsummated—intention. That is a vague, uncertain offence to deal with, and more than any other charge on which a man may be tried is attended with the risk of injustice being done. It therefore behoves the House to be careful as to the extent of the penalties to be attached to the offence. I think it is Sir Mathew Hale who says, "the charge of conspiracy is a net in which you catch the dove as well as the hawk;" and therefore, seeing the uncertainties which surround prosecutions for such a crime, we ought to take care that we do not hastily make dangerous changes in the law of England with respect to conspiracy. I speak with hesitation, not with confidence, upon so grave a question as what may be necessary changes in our criminal law. I would found my opinions rather upon high authorities, upon the dicta of men of great experience, upon reports of your public officers,—such as the Statute Law Commissioners,—rather than upon any crude views of my own, based upon abstract reasoning. Now, I find that this very law of conspiracy to murder has already been brought formally under the consideration of the Statute Law Commissioners. The Statute Law Commission met on Wednesday, December 3, 1856, and there were present the Lord Chancellor, Lord Wrottesley, Mr. Baines, the Attorney General, the Solicitor General, Mr. Greaves, Mr. Colson, and Mr. Bellenden Ker. At that meeting a letter was read from the Attorney General of Ireland, drawing the attention of these distinguished public officers to the differences between the law of Ireland and the law of England with respect to conspiracy to murder. "You will observe," wrote Mr. Fitzgerald, "considerable differences between the laws of the two countries, particularly in relation to conspiracy to murder." This called the attention of the Statute Law Commissioners to the particular criminal law which is now under discussion; and, notwithstanding that, in a Bill now before Parliament for consolidating and amending the criminal law of England with regard to offences against the person, the Lord Chancellor has thought fit deliberately to exclude any change in the existing law relative to the offence of conspiracy to murder. I think that fact ought to have some weight with the House, as showing that the Bill before us is the result of a sudden determination—not of deliberate decision following "due investigation"—on the part of Her Majesty's Government. It may be said that the Bill introduced by the Lord Chancellor, as the organ of the Statute Law Commission, merely consolidates and does not amend the laws to which it relates. That is not the case. The report prefixed to the "Offences against the Person Bill," besides referring to a vast number of cases of the actual introduction into that Bill of legislation which is a change and not the consolidation of any existing law, has the following passage, which bears directly on the present subject:— At present, a great anomaly prevails in eases of attempts to commit murder. Sundry of them are made felony and highly penal, while the remainder are merely misdemeanours it common law. … It is obvious that, upon principle, attempts to commit murder should be of the same class; section 25, therefore, makes all such attempts felony. Here is a change in this Bill for the purpose of amelioration in your criminal law, showing that there was a power to amend, as well as to consolidate; and therefore I must suppose that the Chancellor of England and Her Majesty's Government did not sec fit to make any change in the criminal law of England in reference to conspiracy to murder, because, after deliberation, the Statute Law Commission did not consider any change desirable or necessary. I do not wish to commit myself to any opinion as to whether the law as it now stands is precisely what it ought to be; but this, I think, is evident, that with respect to the recent event which has taken place in Paris, the law of England is sufficient in all respects to deal with the parties who have conspired towards that act, who aided and abetted in it, or who incited persons to commit the attempt at assassination. Do we not see that a warrant has been issued by the Government for the arrest of Mr. Allsop, a person charged with having been aiding and abetting, in some form or other, this attempt on the person of the Emperor of the French? Do we not see, also, that an alien resident in England has been brought before the police magistrates, and that proceedings are being taken with the view of subjecting him to an indictment at common-law for conspiracy to murder a foreign Sovereign in amity with our Crown. It is considered by some that the law as it now stands gives more power over persons who have aided and abetted this late act in Paris than if you were to prosecute them under the present Bill of Her Majesty's Government. Under the 9th George IV., cap. 32, Sir Robert Peel's Act, any subject of Her Majesty, who is accessory before the fact to murder in another country, may, I understand, be even punished to the extent of taking away his life, but certainly to the extent of penal servitude, if the charge is proved against him; and I believe that the highest authorities in the land have also held that under the terms "subjects of her Majesty," are included all persons who are resident within the dominions of Her Majesty, who are held, therefore, during that residence, to owe allegiance to our Crown and laws. If that be so, it appears to me that at the present moment in addition to the common-law known in reference to conspiracy to murder a foreign Sovereign in amity with our Crown, we have a statute which may perhaps be amply sufficient to deal with any persons who have been concerned in this country in bringing about the dreadful attempt which has lately taken place in Paris. But if there be any doubts on these points, I, for one, would not be the man, and I frankly say so, to stand in the way of such an amelioration of your law as would enable you to deal with persons, be they Englishmen or aliens, who can be proved by clear and conclusive evidence to have aided in the commission of such atrocious acts.

So much for the merits of the Bill; but I am not now asking the House, in fact, for an opinion on the Bill—for that question will arise after my Resolution has been dealt with,—but I am merely asking the House not to read the Bill a second time this day, but first to give an opinion on my Resolution. I hope that all will agree with mo that these words in my Resolution are reasonable words:—"That this House is ready at all times to assist in remedying any defects in the criminal law which, after due investigation, are proved to exist." I must take leave to observe that the noble Lord at the head of the Government and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department have held arguments in reference to this proposed change in the law which are not quite consistent with each other. First of all, they press on us the maxim that we must do what is right without reference to our being asked to do it or not—which is as much as to say that we have been asked to do it; that a blot has been pointed out by a foreign country, but we are not therefore to be deterred from dealing with it. After pressing on us that maxim, in which, to a certain extent, I express my concurrence—though, to use the expression of an hon. Friend of mine, there is a species of awkwardness in doing anything, however right, under a sort of duress,—after, I repeat, pressing on us that good maxim—that we must do right ourselves, whether asked to do it or not—the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman said that they were always going to make this change in the law, even if there had been no French despatch, and if there had been, though I do not know whether they said this exactly, no calamitous event in Paris. But if this French despatch had nothing to do with the bringing in of this Bill, why was it laid in a formal manner on the table of the House, to form, as it were, a foundation for subsequent proceedings which the Legislature was to take? I undertake to say that in the first speech of the noble Lord in introducing the Bill you will not find one single syllable of its having been always the intention of the Government to propose this change, or of their having had their minds turned to this defect in the criminal law for some time past. It appears to me that the idea is something like a second thought; and, at any rate, if it was always the intention of the Government to remedy an alleged defect in our criminal law, it was quite unnecessary to read us such a lecture about the necessity of discharging our duty although the suggestion might come from a foreign Government.

I now come to the third paragraph in my Resolution. I do not know whether the House has gone with me so far as to agree in the first two paragraphs, but I take leave to assume it has no objection to them. With respect to the third paragraph, I express my regret "That Her Majesty's Government, previously to inviting the House to amend the law of conspiracy at the present time, has not felt it to be their duty to make some reply to the important despatch received from the French Government, dated Paris, January 20, 1858, and which had been laid before Parliament. "I certainly feel regret at that circumstance, and the House of Commons is competent to express regret, without necessarily implying what is called censure. A man may regret unavoidable circumstances, and I do regret—whatever may have been the cause—the omission to answer Count Walewski's despatch, because I think we now stand before the world as admitting, as it were, the truth of some of the charges contained in that despatch. Nay, more; seeing that that despatch calls in question the policy of England in reference to the right of asylum—that it reflects on the mode in which England has thought fit to permit the right to be enjoyed by foreigners, I say it was the duty of the Government of the country to have replied courteously, with dignity, but firmly, and to have defended and placed on record those great principles which have guided the policy of England in reference to the right of asylum. Does it not look as if we were ashamed to defend our principles when we find, upon the right of asylum being indirectly called in question, the insinuation is passed over in silence? And more than this, I believe that a great misapprehension exists throughout Europe as to the exact nature of our laws in reference to the right of asylum. Now, Count Walewski says in. his despatch of the 20th of January— It is no longer the hostility of misguided individuals, manifesting itself by all the excesses of the press and all the violences of language; it is no longer even the work of the factions seeking to rouse opinion and to provoke disorder; it is assassination, elevated to doctrine, preached openly, practised in repeated attempts, the most recent of which has just struck Europe with amazement. Ought, then, the right of asylum to protect such a. state of things? Is hospitality due to assassins? Ought the English legislation to contribute to favour their designs and their plans? And can it continue to shelter persons who, by their flagrant acts, place themselves beyond the pale of common right and under the ban of humanity? If no answer has been given to that despatch, it is an admission by silence, that with our eyes open we have sheltered assassins, and that we have actually favoured their designs. But is that true? No, Sir; it is not. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) truly said, England abhors assassination as much as any nation on the face of the earth; and if assassins have lived in this country it is by no fault of ours—we have murderers of our own—wo have robbers of our own—they are not deterred by the severity of our criminal law from committing crimes; but is that a reason for saying that England is a country which shelters such criminals, and that our laws favour their designs? The insinuation of Count Walewski against the laws and policy of this country is unkind and unjust, and it was the bounden duty of the Executive Government to have repelled such an insinuation by a firm and dignified answer to this despatch. I am sorry to see the indifference which is manifested by some Members of the Government to the great principles of liberty which undoubtedly he at the foundation of English policy, and which regulate this right of asylum. I was sorry to see the readiness with which my Lord Clarendon at the Conferences of Paris silently acquiesced in a resolution condemning—or at any rate aiming at, the liberty of the press. Not only did he say nothing—so far as we may judge from the protocols—in defence of the liberty of the press, which is so dear to us all; but he actually signed his name to a resolution condemnatory of it. The only answer which the noble Lord gave when called upon to explain this circumstance was, "Would you have had Lord Clarendon make a scene—they were all so harmonious together—why not let these matters, which might lead to dangerous controversy, pass by unnoticed?" It is the same sort of thing now. This solemn and important despatch of Count Walewski's is not to be answered, because the answer may lead to unpleasant controversy. But I contend that in defence of the honour of England and the principles of our laws we must risk unpleasant controversy, if we wish to maintain our position among the nations of the world. That despatch ought to have been answered. It may be held that it was difficult to answer it; but I will quote a passage from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert), who sits near me, which shows that there are those who would be ready to answer it:— I frankly own," said the right hon. Gentleman, "I never read a despatch which was more tempting to a Minister to answer than this one. That looks as if there would have been no difficulty experienced in the mind of somebody, at any rate, in answering it. There was a very' important view of this question thrown out incidentally by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks (Mr. Disraeli), when he spoke on the first reading of this Bill. He said:— If we had the despatch of Count Walewski on the table, and at the same time the answer of the British Minister worthy of the opportunity, in my opinion the Government would have met with no difficulty, and the feelings of the two nations would have been discussed in the temper which we all desire. There is great force in that observation, and I have no doubt whatever, if Count Walewski's despatch had been laid before us, accompanied by a becoming answer on the part of our Government, that, without any idea of menace or intimidation, we should have cordially set to work on the attempt to endeavour to find a remedy if any defect could be shown to exist in our law. We should have approached the subject in a better frame of mind, to say the least of it. I think that is a consideration which ought to weigh with hon. Gentlemen in support of my Motion, and which ought to bring home to their minds the relevancy of it to the Bill now under discussion. The words which I have ventured to propose to the House are these:— That this House cannot but regret that Her Majesty's Government, previously to inviting the House to amend the law of conspiracy at the present time, have not felt it to be their duty to reply to the important despatch received from the French Government, dated 'Paris, January 20, 1858,' which has been laid before Parliament. Now, I want to call the noble Lord's attention to the course which has been pursued when what are called friendly communications, or communications in a friendly spirit, on the subject of the state of their own internal laws have been made by England to Foreign Governments. There is no man in this House, or perhaps in Europe, who has had greater experience in the mode of making 'friendly communications' to other countries, as to the condition of their laws and the necessity of a change in their internal policy than the noble Lord at the head of the Government. I would ask the noble Lord whether he has found other countries prepared to take friendly advice of this sort without replying to it? I think he will find that even the Government with which he has, not very long ago, carried on a very interesting correspondence—I mean the Government of Naples—set a very good example as to how you should behave when friendly advice is offered to you by a foreign nation in reference to a change in your law. I once read in some English newspaper a foolish idea, thrown out, I suppose, by some eccentric character, about assassinating the King of Naples; but, if the King of Naples, had called the noble Lord's attention to that incitement to assassination, with a view to suggest the necessity of a change in our laws, I have no doubt he would have got a sharp lecture, for his pains, on the art of good government, arid he would have had pointed out to him that the way to avoid these dangers would be by doing justice, so as to produce contentment among his subjects. In May, 1856, Lord Clarendon wrote a despatch to the Neapolitan Government which was of a similar nature to this despatch of Count Walewski. It was addressed to the British Minister at Naples, with a request that he would read it to the Minister of the King of Naples, and it was so read. In it Lord Clarendon stated that— The British Government were actuated by a friendly feeling' in 'offering advice for the regulation of the internal affairs of Naples,' and 'for the adoption of a system of administration which would relieve Europe from anxiety.' The Neapolitan Minister replied that he would communicate the despatch to the King, but said that "the King could not, consistently with his dignity, allow any foreign Powers to interfere with the internal government of his country." But the Minister of the King of Naples was not content with this conversational mode of transacting business, but he thought fit to put his views in writing, and he sent a formal despatch to the Neapolitan Minister here to be communicated to the British Government. The despatch contains the following:— From the enclosed copy of the despatch, Her Britannic Majesty's Government has assumed the purpose of showing itself uneasy in regard to the internal condition of the dominions of the King, our Sovereign, in order to give advice tending to suggest thoughts of a necessity of a change in our administration, at the same time that it recog- nizes the value of the principle that no foreign Power has a right to mix itself with the internal affairs of a foreign State. The English Government must he convinced that the Government of the Two Sicilies, scrupulous in respecting the independence of others, does not admit in any other a right of interference in the internal administration of the Royal States, and still less that of censuring the acts and the administration of justice. He cannot have recourse to the changes suggested until the welfare of his States and his own dignity indicate the occasion and the propriety of the same to his Royal mind. The advice of friendly Powers will always be received with gratitude, but they will easily comprehend that what suits one State may not be equally applicable to another. I should have thought that the noble Lord, with his experience of the results of making 'friendly communications' to foreign Powers, would have been the first to make one of those dignified replies for which I admit he has been sometimes remarkable, and which, I think, was especially called for on the recent occasion. The question before the House, be it observed, is simply between us and our own Executive Government. It is not a question between the Parliament of England and the Government of France. We are now exercising our legitimate right of criticising the manner in which the servants of this country have fulfilled their duties, and of ascertaining whether they have properly defended the honour and reputation and dignity of England. Now I, like the rest of the world, frequently form my opinions—in fact we all do it, without perhaps being aware of it—from reading the newspapers. We may not be very willing to admit it, but I undertake to say that the newspapers of this country, such a journal, for instance, as The Times, have a very considerable influence, for a short period at least, in forming the opinion of the people. I have been a reader of The Times, and my opinions have often been very much influenced by what I have read in that journal; and, with the permission of the House, I will take the liberty of reading a brief extract from The Times with reference to the policy of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, which seems to me to be aimed with wonderful accuracy and with a very discriminating appreciation of the real character of the noble Lord, and of the character of his foreign policy. Now, what says The Times? [Several hon. MEMBERS: "Of what date?"] I am about to quote from The Times of the 22nd of June, 1850. I don't suppose that at his period of life the noble Lord at the head of the Government has changed materially since June, 1850, and I believe The Times newspaper is now conducted by the same persons, and has the same head as at that date, The Times says of the noble Lord that— There is no constituted authority in Europe with which Lord Palmerston has not quarrelled; there is no insurrection that he has not betrayed. The ardent partisans of Sicilian, Italian, and Hungarian independence have certainly no especial cause for gratitude to a Minister who gave them abundance of verbal encouragement and then abandoned them to their fate." "On the other hand"—mark this—"when Lord Palmerston has made up his mind to court the good-will of a foreign Power no sacrifice of principle or of interest is too great for him. The passage concludes in these emphatic terms:— From first to last his character has been the want of a firm and lofty adherence to the known interests of England, and it is precisely from a want of such guiding laws of conduct that our foreign policy has degenerated into a tissue of caprices, machinations, petty contentions, and everlasting disputes. It is because I think the mode in which this affair has been conducted is of all others the most calculated to occasion disputes with Prance that I take the liberty of questioning the discretion which has been exercised by Her Majesty's Government. I agree with the noble Member for the City of London that the irritating discussions that have taken place in this House might have been avoided had a more judicious policy been pursued. I believe that if a proper reply had been sent to the despatch of Count Walewski it is possible that we might never have been called upon to legislate upon this subject; and, the sympathies of this country having been expressed for the unfortunate circumstances that had taken place in Paris it is very probable that when the excitement had passed away the matter might have ended without the necessity of involving the House of Commons in any controversy with reference to the Emperor of the French and the views of the French nation. I, for one, feel entirely precluded from offering any opinion whatever with respect to the Government of the Emperor of the French. That is a matter for the French people. I am for non-interference, and therefore I shall not set the example of entering into any discussion as to the mode in which the Government of France is carried on. The noble Lord has told us that the French Government rests on the voice of the people; there is undoubtedly a French Assembly elected, as it is said, by universal suffrage and vote by ballot, and it is not therefore for me to call in question the made in which the Government of France is administered. I confine myself to my legitimate duty, which is to question the discretion that has been exercised by the Executive Government of this country. I now beg, Sir, to place my Amendment in your hands, I believe I am only discharging a legitimate and constitutional duty. I believe that I have taken a fitting opportunity for discharging that duty; and I have only to thank the House for the kindness and attention with which they have heard me. The right hon. Gentleman-concluded by moving his Amendment.


seconded the motion.

Amendment proposed,— To leave out from the word "That" to the eat of the Question, in order to add the words, "this House hears with much concern that it is alleged that recent attempts upon the life of the Emperor of the French have been devised in England, and expresses its detestation of such guilty enterprises; that this House is ready at all times to assist in? remedying any defects in the Criminal Law which after due investigation, are proved to exist, yet it cannot but regret that Her Majesty's Government, previously to inviting the House to amend the Law of Conspiracy by the Second Reading of this Bill at the present time, has not felt it to be their duty to make some reply to the important Despatch received from the French Government, dated Paris, January 20, 1858, and which has been laid before Parliament," instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he wished to address a few observations to the House upon the double question which had been been raised by the right hon. Gentleman. He understood that question to be, first, whether the measure now proposed on the part of Her Majesty's Government was right in itself; and, if so, whether any good and valid reason had been assigned which should induce the House to decide against proceeding immediately with its consideration. The effect of the Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman would clearly be, to interpose an obstacle in the way of immediately proceeding with this measure, which he (Mr. Baines) submitted ought to be passed into law with as little delay as possible. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that, if the object of the present Bill was to effect any change in the constitutional principles of the jurisprudence of this country, he would never have given it his support. The fact was, that the Bill merely attached to a crime of a peculiarly dangerous and malignant character a punishment more adequate to its gravity than could be exacted under the existing law. The Bill left the crime to be tried before the tribunals which now dealt with such offences; the person charged would undergo the existing ordeals of a grand jury and a petty jury; and the rules of evidence now observed would be still maintained. The safeguards provided by the law for the protection of the innocent would therefore continue to exist with regard to the class of offences to which this Bill applied1, in precisely the same manner and degree as heretofore. Nothing could be more anomalous and incongruous than the existing state of the law upon this subject in the three countries of England, Scotland, and Ireland. In England and Scotland the law erred on the side of undue lenity, while in Ireland the severest of all punishments was attached to the offences with which this Bill proposed to deal. In England the crime of conspiring or instigating to murder—an offence second only in malignity to the crime of murder itself—was treated as if it belonged to the very lowest category of crimes. Now, it surely could not be right to put the offence of instigating and conspiring to murder upon the same footing with a common assault. It was well known, also, that in the case of many assaults which did not imperil life or involve any serious injury, various statutes had provided a punishment much more severe than could be applied in the case of conspiracy to murder—for mere misdemeanours were, at common law, punishable only with fine and imprisonment, without the power of inflicting a single day's hard labour. In Ireland, however, the offence of conspiring to murder was punishable with death, and he would appeal to his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier) whether the undue severity of the law in that country had not tended to defeat the object with which it was enacted. But that right hon. Gentleman thought the law would become perfectly efficacious in Ireland if the same punishment were attached to it in Ireland as was now proposed in respect of England. The effect of the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) would be to produce delay, and if it were adopted by the House, there was no reason why a dozen others might not be brought forward, all tending to defer the improvement now contemplated in our law. Now, in his opinion, much of the hostility shown to the present measure was conceived at a time when hon. Members really did not know what the provisions of the Bill were to be. They apprehended that some kind of Alien Bill was to be introduced, and had hardly yet brought themselves to look upon this proposal in its real character—namely, as a simple means of assigning a suitable punishment to a crime of the greatest malignity. But then it was said that the Bill might be right in itself, but that the present was not the right time to introduce it. The defect in our law having been brought into view by the horrible crime in Paris, which had undoubtedly been hatched in this country, it became us as speedily as possible to put matters on a more satisfactory footing. How, indeed, knowing that such crimes were concocted in this country, should we be justified in delaying to remedy an admitted defect in the law, which at present attached no proper penalty to those crimes? Why, if any conspiracy similar to that which had led to such melancholy results in the Rue Lepelletier were hereafter discovered here, what justification should we be able to present to the world and to our own consciences if, though the defect now existing in our law had been brought prominently to our notice, we were only enabled to treat the crime on the footing of a common assault or a common nuisance? It should be remembered, too, that the insufficiency of the penalty at present provided affected the people of this as well as of other countries. It was said that conspiracies to murder were unknown in this country; but in the course of his experience at the bar he had frequently known the fact of a conspiracy to murder come out on the evidence in cases where, the murder having been carried into effect, the prisoner was punishable capitally. If, however, at any future time proof was forthcoming of a conspiracy to murder any person in England, the overt act not having been committed, such an offence, however malignant, could, as the law stood, be punished only as a misdemeanour. With regard to the Emperor of the French, all must admit that he was the choice of the French people, and that he had been a most honourable and faithful ally of this country. As to the intemperate language of the French colonels, he thought great allowance was to be made for it, considering the circumstances under which it was used. We should consider the state of excitement into which the late attempt had naturally thrown our neighbours. What was the language of our own ancestors when attempts were made on the lives of Elizabeth, of James I., of William III.? Did they on those occasions always express themselves temperately? On the contrary, panic and exasperation, hasty words and harsh legislation, showed the public agitation; and there ought, therefore, to be some allowance for the state of feeling occasioned in France by the late most cowardly attack on the life of a Sovereign to whom he believed France was greatly attached. Such language did not justify the postponement of legislation which was right in itself, and must commend itself to every unprejudiced mind. When was it ever held to be a valid argument in this country that a measure which seemed called for by the public interest should be refused owing to the indecorous language in which it was solicited? Would it have been proper to reject the Reform Bill because it was asked for in petitions some of which were downright insulting in their terms? Just as in private life every man of honour would think he ought to do that which was right in itself, regardless of people's observations as to what his conduct might be or had been, so in legislation we ought, indifferent to the language of others, to do that which was just and proper, and to do it at the right time. The right time to apply a remedy was as soon as you discovered the defect. Now, the remedy here proposed was, he believed, a perfectly constitutional one, and he hoped the House would not be induced to postpone legislation on this subject, and to withhold their assent from a measure which supplied a defect in our statute book, gave security to the lives both of Englishmen and of foreigners, and was strictly accordant with every principle of justice.


Sir, I have waited anxiously until this moment, in the hope that something would have fallen from the Government which would have enabled me to continue that support, which by my vote I have already given, to the introduction of this Bill, which by my vote I would and am prepared to give still, if Her Majesty's Ministers could only show that they had vindicated properly the honour of my country. It is impossible to regard this measure without feelings of the deepest apprehension and anxiety, if indeed it is to go forth to the world that no other answer is to be given to an application to amend our laws, founded upon reasons that are absolutely a libel upon our country, than that which the Bill may be supposed to convey. We are, Sir, left without any explanation upon that point by the last member of the Government who has risen to reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton (Mr. Milner Gibson). We know not whether the allegations in Count Walewski's despatch are still to remain uncontroverted. And now, without a single reason being assigned in reply to a speech which was well worthy of attention, whether we regard the temper in which it was uttered, or whether we consider the sound principles upon which his Amendment was based—a speech in which the right hon. Gentleman states distinctly that he is far from wishing to raise any question which may imperil our relations with France—without, I say, any explanation upon this point, affecting the honour and character of this country, the question being one between the House of Commons as the representatives of the people, and the executive Government, I think we shall be grossly neglecting our duty if we pass this measure upon the mere statements already made by the Government. Taking this view of the question, I own I feel more and more an anxiety in venturing to speak in the most temperate manner I can upon the course which it seems to me we ought to take on this occasion. If we were really discussing the merits of the Bill—as the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has done, without adverting to a single syllable of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton—if we were to treat this question as if there were no other matters before us except the propriety of such a Bill as this, I would have concurred with him in the necessity of the alteration proposed to be made in our criminal law. I would, in fact, support the measure upon the plain and intelligible principle that it calls the crime by its right name, and apportions to it a punishment commensurate to the offence. I repeat I should support the Bill, and I will now support it still, if I can be assured that our legislation would not be misunderstood in this country and throughout the world. Great questions have been raised in this discussion—the cause of freedom, the rights of humanity, and the honour of England. In answer to those who are opposed to the Bill, I would have said, and I still say, from the bottom of my heart, I think that the ground which they have token up—that of the right of asylum being assailed—is not a just ground upon which they can stand. There is nothing in the Bill to impeach that right of asylum which we have been always willing to extend to foreigners or refugees. We make no difference between the stations of the parties claiming from us that right—whether the individual be a crowned head or a simple peasant. I repeat that there is nothing in the Bill to impeach that right, and I therefore do not go along with those who attempt to argue that this Bill is one which impeaches the right of asylum always hitherto given to refugees, and that it is brought forward for such a purpose at the instigation of a foreign Power. But, Sir, I think that there is another ground upon which this Bill must be supported when taken by itself. In my opinion, and in the name of common humanity, when there is brought before us unanswerable evidence that a conspiracy to murder has been hatched in this country, we should show to the world that we will never be parties to screen the criminals. Let not the Government misunderstand me. I will share with them any odium or responsibility that may accrue in supporting this Bill, believing it to be one that is right in principle; but I must do it on this condition—that the honour of England is previously vindicated. What do I mean when I say that the honour of England must be vindicated? I mean, Sir, this: I hold in my hand the despatch of Count Walewski, dated the 20th January—that is to say, more than three weeks ago—asking Her Majesty's Ministers to alter our law as regards conspiracies amongst foreigners residing here. The paragraph in which the requisition is made is this— Her Britannic Majesty's Government can assist us in averting it by affording us a guarantee of security which no State can refuse to a neighbouring State, and which we are authorized to expect from an ally. Fully relying, moreover, on the high sense of the English Cabinet, we retrain from indicating, in any way, the measures which it may see fit to take in order to comply with this wish. We rest entirely upon it for estimating the decisions which it shall deem best calculated to attain the object; and we are firmly persuaded that we shall not have appealed in vain to its conscience and to its goodwill. Now, there is the requisition that has been made to us—it assumes something like a demand. It is a requisition made to us not simply standing by itself, but based upon statements contained in the previous parts of the despatch. And in the previous part of that despatch we have it asserted—an assertion contrary to the truth— It is no longer the hostility of misguided individuals, manifesting itself by all the excesses of the press, and all the violences of language; it is no longer even the work of the factious, seeking to rouse opinion and provoke disorder; it is assassination, elevated to doctrine, preached openly, practised in repeated attempts, the most recent of which has just struck Europe with amazement. The requisition made to us is thus founded upon a statement which is not true. It asserts that assassination has been elevated here into a doctrine. Sir, that was never the case in this country. There is no people on the surface of the world who more hate and detest assassination than the people of England. Wel, but the passage goes on to observe, "Ought the right of; asylum to protect such a state of things?" No, of course not. "Is hospitality due to assassins?" No, of course not. "Ought legislation"—mark, the Parliament of this country is impugned—"ought legislation to continue to favour their designs and their plans, and can it continue to shelter persons who are guilty of such flagrant acts?" Now, Sir, we shall in effect be admitting those statements if we pass the Bill without an explanation upon those points. The requisition contained in Count Walewski's despatch we are answering by this Bill. We have not denied the offensive assertions contained. in it by any declaration to the contrary. If we pass this Bill without any such declaration, our proceedings will imply on the minds of the people of Europe that we have really no answer to give to this case that is brought against us, and that the only answer we can give is to legislate in the way pointed out by Count Walewski. An inference would them be drawn in the minds of other nations that, having legislated so far, we may be induced to legislate further. I have only heard one reason for not sending an answer to that despatch of Count Walewski—it came from the noble Lord at the head of the Government. The reason he assigned was, that the minds of the French people were in too great a state of agitation on the subject. Well might they be in this state of agitation when their ruler was attempted to be assassinated; and we must, therefore, make every allowance for that agitation. But, let me ask you, are the minds of no other people or nation in a state of agitation on this subject? Is the agitation of the people of England nothing? Have they not a right to ask of us here, sitting in the House of Commons, that these charges shall not be brought against this country before we assent to legislate upon the subject in answer to the demand which has so been made? I will allow for the agitation of the French people as much as any one; but I ask you to allow something for the natural indignation of the people of England. Now, that being the state of the case as regards this House and the Government, what shall we do? I should have thought, that after the debate on the introduction of this Bill, in which this point was raised and pressed strongly on the minds of the Government, they would even then have taken the opportunity of putting upon record the true statement of our case, in as solemn a manner as the charge which has been made against us. And what was our case? The Government might have stated moderately, simply, but most firmly, the state of our law. They might have pointed out distinctly what our laws really are in reference to refugees; they might have declared as distinctly their determination not to alter them. They might have shown that every foreigner who came here owes the same allegiance to the Queen, and is placed on the same footing, while he remains here, as the natural-born subjects of Her Majesty; that he is equally amenable to our laws, and will be made answerable for his conduct; that we believe, and always have found, that our laws are sufficient to repress crime, and that the French, of all nations in the world, might have known they were so—they might have known that no foreigners of any nation will be permitted to concoct plans for attacks against any sovereign or individual, or against our own liberties. Her Majesty's Government might have recollected, that on a memorable occasion we had a Minister in this country—a Minister who, in my opinion, has not had complete justice done to him—but who answered a similar requisition made upon him in a firm, temperate, and dignified manner, without offending the parties from whom that requisition came. That was an answer which, as regarded its time and manner, was received with satisfaction by every reasonable man. The noble Lord might have said that England has done, and will do, all that is due to sovereign rule and to a foreign people, and that she will never consent to allow the asylum which she is willing to grant to all foreigners to be made use of for the pur- pose of conspiring against any sovereign or party. The noble Lord would have done well had he followed the example set him, in this respect by the Ministry over which Lord Hawkesbury once presided. The conduct of that Ministry might have set them an example. On that occasion the Attorney General did prosecute, did con, vict, and, if war had not broken out-would have brought to justice the man who then libelled the Chief Governor of France, and thus the sufficiency of our law and the justice of his despatch were vindicated. It is quite incredible, with this exemplary precedent staring them in the face, that the Ministry should by some inconceivable misapprehension of what they thought best to be done have remained silent so long; and it is still more incredible that when this point was pressed upon them at the commencement of the Session, they should not have repaired the omission then made, and have set themselves right with the House and the country. I am the more particular in pressing this on the Government, because, when the debate was proceeding before there was one thing wanting to make the case of the Ministers complete against the case brought against them. It was a blot in their case that no expression of regret had appeared on the part of France for the insertion in the official Moniteur of those Addresses from the French colonels which had given the people of England so much offence. But in the course of the debate they produced that despatch authorized by the Emperor, and expressing his regret; and let me tell the Government that that line and a half did more towards obtaining for them leave to introduce the Bill than all the arguments adduced in its favour. What are we now to do? We do not wish to oppose the Bill—at least, in so saying, I believe I am speaking the sentiments of the great majority of hon. Members on this side of the House. We do not oppose the Bill, which we believe to be a right one, but we do not wish to go on with the Bill until we see that the honour of the country is properly vindicated. Whether the noble Lord will undertake now to vindicate the honour of England, and in what way he will do it, I cannot conceive. But notice was given, three or four days ago, of this Amendment, and the Government were prepared to discuss it. The Government might have met it by sending a despatch in reply during the interval, or by showing some reasons why no such despatch could be written. They have only met it by stating that the agitation of the people of Prance was so great that it might have been dangerous to put on record an answer to that despatch—without considering that the agitation of the mind of the people of England is equally as great, and I think they require of you, the House of Commons—a week ago I would have appealed to the Government, but as they have received no vindication of their honour from them—the people of England, I say, now require of the House of Commons that they shall not take one single further step in passing this measure until there is put upon record, as authentic as that which contains the libel upon the people of England, a complete vindication and justification of their honour; and when that is done, they may then consider whether the Bill should be proceeded with. But, until that is done, I hope we shall not incur that which the noble Lord imputed to us in introducing this Bill—I hope we shall not incur, what will then indeed be the fact—the true, the just, but unworthy imputation of being humiliated and disgraced.


Sir it is gratifying to have heard from the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down an explicit and unambiguous declaration of his approval of the principle on which this Bill is founded, and of the provisions contained in it. He is aware of all the circumstances which have led to its introduction; he is conversant with the provisions of the criminal law of this country; he was himself a member of that Statute Law Commission, the authority of which has been invoked this night against the provisions of this Bill; and he has declared his unqualified approbation of it, and his determination to support it irrespectively of those other considerations to which he adverted. I will not, therefore—especially as I addressed the House in the previous debate—dwell further upon the provisions of the Bill, because I may assume that, so far as its objects and provisions go, the right hon. Gentleman and the Government are agreed. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment this evening (Mr. M. Gibson), however, was of a totally different opinion; and he declared his intention, if his Amendment should be lost, to support the subsequent Motion—if, indeed, it could be brought on, which, according to the forms of the House, I doubt—of the hon. Mem- ber for Plymouth (Mr. J. White), for reading the Bill a second time this day six months. Without adverting, therefore, to the objections to the Bill which were raised by the right hon. Member for Ash-ton (Mr. M. Gibson), I wish to say a few words in answer to the remarks which were addressed to the House by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Walpole). He states that he is perfectly ready to support the Bill, but he is anxious that the honour, and dignity, and interests of this country should not be compromised, but should be maintained by the Government and the Parliament. Sir, it astonishes me, after the debate which occurred upon the Motion for leave to introduce the Bill, that the slightest doubt can be entertained upon that point, so far at least as the intentions of the Government are concerned. The right hon. Gentleman places a construction upon the despatch of Count Walewski which I think is scarcely a fair one; but I admit that there are passages in that despatch which point to a desire on the part of the French Government that what we term the right of asylum to refugees of all political opinions, which gives them the security which the laws of this country throw around all persons who conform to those laws, should, to a certain extent, be restricted in respect of those whom the French Minister designates as assassins and the preachers of the doctrine of assassination. Upon that point the most explicit assurance has been given by my noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) that the Government never contemplated in the slightest degree the infringement of the sacred right of asylum. So clearly was that stated, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire the other night, placing the construction, which I think is the fair construction, upon certain passages in that despatch, said over and over again that the Government had flatly refused to do the only thing that the French Government had demanded—namely, to ask for any powers which would enable them to deal with refugees residing in this country in a manner different from that in which other persons would be dealt with after a fair trial upon a charge of violating the laws of this country. That has been distinctly understood from the first; and although no despatch has been written in answer to that of the 20th of January, no shadow of doubt can remain upon the mind of any one who has read the pro- ceedings of this House, or who has watched the conduct of the Government, as to what the intentions of the Government are. But the right hon. Gentleman thinks that it would have been easy for the Government, on receiving that despatch, immediately to have written another in the style that was addressed by Lord Hawkesbury to the French Minister resident in England in 1802—that we might have pointed out the false aspersions which he assumes to have been cast on the character of Englishmen, and have vindicated them from the charges which he holds to have been cast upon them by that despatch, and to have retorted upon the French, as we might easily have done, various arguments and facts which, if our only object had been to write a despatch which would have been an illustration of what the right hon. Member for Ashton called the "spirited foreign policy" of my noble Friend near me, would no doubt have elicited cheers and would have been popular with many. But in my opinion, Sir, such a proceeding, while it would not have added to the honour and dignity of the country, would have tended to aggravate the difficulties with which the question is surrounded, and to have increased the feeling which has unfortunately arisen in the two countries with respect to it. The right hon. Gentleman says that Count Walewski in the passage which he quoted has expressly charged upon the people of this country, that It is no longer the hostility of misguided individuals, manifesting itself by all the excesses of the press and all the violences of language; it is no longer even the work of the factious seeking to rouse opinion and to provoke disorder; it is assassination elevated to doctrine, preached openly, practised in repeated attempts, the most recent of which has just struck Europe with amazement. Certainly, if we had understood the despatch in the sense in which the right hon. Gentleman has read it, and had answered it as he would have had us answer it, we should have been widening the breach between the people of the two countries by imputing to the French Government a libel upon the people of England which I believe they would never have dared to utter and which we did not believe that they intended to imply. But it is clear that the whole paragraph relates to certain "misguided individuals," and, taking the context into account, it is clear that those "misguided individuals" are not Englishmen, from whom, as every one knows, the crime of assassination is utterly abhorrent, but that they are persons, who, in the language of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, it is notorious have recently in this country been openly avowing their approval of "assassination, elevated to a doctrine," and who have shown, by the means which they have taken to carry that doctrine into practical effect, that they at all events are not free from the charge which is brought against them in that paragraph in Count Walewski's despatch. We understand that paragraph not to relate to the people of England. It would have been an insult to them to have made such a charge, and I am not surprised at the warmth of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge if he supposed that it was intended to apply to the people of England, and not to those misguided refugees with regard to whom the description is too true, although rather higher coloured. If we had understood the despatch as the right hon. Gentleman has understood it, we should have repudiated on the part of the people of this country a charge so utterly unfounded. But the right hon. Gentleman thought it would be right, at all events, to place on record what our intention has been in proposing this Bill, and he said that record should contain a clearly avowed declaration that we intend to maintain inviolate the sacred right of asylum. I am prepared with him calmly to look into the state of our law and see whether it is already sufficient to meet the case of foreigners conspiring in England to commit a murder abroad. Her Majesty's Government did look into the state of the law, and we thought that it did not enable us to state that our law was free altogether from the charge of favouring designs and plans of this nature, because we thought it did not attach to foreigners guilty of the crime of conspiring to commit murder abroad, that penalty which it deserves, and that, by its failing to do so, it did not do that which laws should do—namely, supply a sufficiently deterring motive to persons whose moral principles would not lead them to abstain from crimes of this nature. The construction we placed on this despatch was that it referred only to foreigners residing here, and the French Government were immediately informed that placing that construction upon it we were not prepared to comply with any request that might be made for the expulsion of foreigners from England. The French Government in their despatch left it to Her Majesty's Government to consider whether they could take any steps for removing any defects in our law upon this subject. We felt that if upon inquiry we should discover any defect in the law of this country which might favour the commission of crimes of this sort, we ought to propose an amendment of that law. We did consider the matter, and we have now submitted to Parliament a Bill which has the unqualified approval of the right hon. Gentleman. Let me caution the House against supposing that it was quite so easy as some hon. Gentlemen imagine at once to answer this despatch satisfactorily. As I said before, there would have been no difficulty in repudiating this supposed libel upon the people of England; but in doing so I think we should have libelled the Government and people of Prance; we should have been imputing to them a desire to charge the people of this country with a crime with which we did not believe they had the slightest intention of charging them. On the other hand, we were not able to deny that there were persons now living here under the shelter of out laws who were conspiring against the life of the Emperor of the French, a faithful ally of this country, a Sovereign in close amity with this country; nor could we deny that our laws did not provide an adequate punishment for crimes of that nature. We were therefore unable to take that high ground which the right hon. Gentleman thinks we might have taken. But let me suggest to you another consideration. It is difficult to speak openly upon this subject without risking the revival of questions which it is much better not to agitate, and exciting feelings which one does not wish to be roused; but I stated the other night, and I now repeat it, that I felt strongly, that the insertion of those addresses in the Moniteur, previously to the explanation which has been given, and to that expression of regret which has been so frankly made, was justly offensive to the people of this country. Suppose the answer to this despatch had been silent upon that point, it would not have been such an answer as the right hon. Gentleman could have wished. If we had answered the despatch at the time we should have had to make the answer an official public document, which, to a certain degree, would have tended to rouse the passions of the people of this country, and to excite feel- ings of hostility in France. Was it not better, then, that without making any such formal official complaint, and without seeking to obtain the credit which we undoubtedly might have obtained by such a course, we should lay before Parliament a measure which would supersede any immediate proceeding of that kind? We have taken the wiser and more prudent course of not immediately answering the despatch in a formal manner, and during the interval we have obtained that which I think we were entitled to obtain—there has been an expression of regret freely and frankly tendered. But I am by no means prepared to say that it would not be right, after Parliament shall have sanctioned the Bill which we propose, by consenting to its second reading, to place on record a statement of the motives which have influenced us in doing so. We may then, if it should be necessary, after all that has taken place, place on record the reasons which induce us to abstain from in any degree infringing the right of asylum, or granting any extraordinary powers, as applied to refugees, which would not apply equally to all the other inhabitants of this country. That may be a course which it may be right and dignified to take. If that step should be taken after the second reading shall have been agreed to, there will then be less risk of producing ill-feeling between the Governments and the people of France and England. But I must say, with regard to the precedent which has been so much relied upon—namely, that of Lord Hawkesbury—I cannot believe that the right hon. Gentleman who said, "why could not you do as Lord Hawkesbury did in 1802?" is fully informed of the facts of that case. In that year a most offensive despatch—a despatch which Lord Hawkesbury characterized as one that was far from conciliatory—was addressed to the Government by the French Minister in this country. It peremptorily demanded that the English Government should send certain individuals named therein out of this country, and insisted on various stipulations with regard to other persons, who, though not actually named, were designated therein. The two Governments, at that time, were not on terms of close amity or alliance. A rupture was on the eve of taking place between them, though they were not actually at war. What was the answer of Lord Hawkesbury? He told the French Government—most properly, I think—that the British Govern- ment would not alter the laws of this country, respecting the press, at the dictation of any foreign Power, for that would be to violate the principles of our laws and constitution; but, he added, that whatever could be done consistently with the laws and principles of our constitution in order to give protection to foreign Governments should be done. And he undertook to send to Canada some of those very persons who were then refugees in this country, and whose expulsion from it was demanded. And that is the dignified course which the right hon. Gentleman thinks we ought to take. I presume he thinks we ought to make an exception with regard to certain persons described in this despatch by undertaking, if possible, to remove them from this country, in compliance with the demands of a foreign Government. No such demand, however, has been made by the Government of France of this day. I do not criticise every expression in the despatch of Count Walewski, but I must remind the House of the circumstances of the case, and ask them what would be our own feelings if, with the short time now occupied in travelling from Paris to London, we had found that persons were residing in Paris who were avowedly hostile to the Sovereign and Government of this country, conspiring against the life of the Sovereign of this country, and endeavouring to carry that conspiracy into effect? We should not weigh very accurately the expressions in any despatch that Her Majesty's Government might write to the French Government immediately after such facts had come to our knowledge. There certainly is no reason why we should do anything at the dictation of a foreign Government which our own sense of right and justice does not induce us to do; and we have refused to do anything which is not in strict accordance with the principles of our constitution. What we have proposed to do is to amend the law in a way which we consider desirable in itself; and we think that the House, by adopting this Bill, will enable us to give a complete answer to the despatch of Count Walewski, because it will enable us to say, what we now cannot say, that our Jaw does not in any way—certainly by its positive enactments it does not countenance—but that it does not by the inadequacy of punishment afford persons encouragement to commit crimes of this kind. While we say that we will make no exception to the prejudice of any class of persons residing in this country—that all shall be subjected to the same trial, and that no man shall be punished on mere suspicion, we ought also to say that the guilty shall not escape due punishment on conviction by reason of any defect in our law. The right hon. Gentleman says we ought to have told Count Walewski that foreigners and Englishmen are on the same footing, and that we would deal with them alike. I must remind him that this is not the case in all respects. I referred on a former occasion to a case of which he is no doubt aware, showing that this is not so. There are at this moment legal proceedings pending illustrative of the law. If an Englishman, a subject of Her Majesty in this country, makes himself an accessory before the fact to a murder committed abroad, that man is liable by statute to be dealt with fur a capital offence. But there is no such statute applicable to a foreign refugee. At this moment a foreign refugee has been apprehended on such a charge, and, although he is accused of what might make him an accessory before the fact to the recent attempt on the life of the Emperor of France, yet the charge against him is, in consequence of the present state of our law, one, not of felony, but merely of misdemeanour; while on the other hand, a warrant has been issued against one of Her Majesty's subjects on the charge of the capital felony, of being accessory before the fact to a murder attempted in France. It is therefore impossible, until a change is made in our law on this subject, to answer this despatch of Count Walewski, by a positive declaration that our law is in a satisfactory state; but by assenting to the second reading of this Bill, we shall evince our determination to remedy the defect. I believe that is the most dignified course to take. If we had sent a despatch in reply, unless it had fallen far short of what is now desired, it must necessarily have involved controversial matter, and probably have led to crimination and recrimination, attended with mischievous results. When the proper time comes we may place on record the reasons for passing the measure. I therefore hope the House will not recede from the position it has already taken by adopting the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton, which, disguise it as you may, has been skilfully framed to obtain votes against the second reading of this Bill. He almost admits that he has framed it with the view of inviting the concurrence of hon. Gentlemen who, not being hostile to the principle of the Bill, imagine because the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment is not that the second reading should be postponed to this day six months, that the Bill may be subsequently proceeded with. But if this course, the regularity of which may well be doubted, is sanctioned, the Bill would run the risk of being again met on any subsequent occasion by a similar Amendment. I believe the Bill to be recommended for adoption by its own merits, apart from the circumstance that by passing it the House will enable the Government to give a complete and satisfactory answer to the Government of any foreign country as to the sufficiency of our laws in respect of crimes such as that which led to the representations made to us in Count Walewski's despatch.


said, that he thought that after the declarations of the highest authorities it would have been only just and fair if Her Majesty's Government had submitted the question to the Judges in the House of Lords,—what was the present law to punish conspiracy to murder? If the Judges had said that the utmost penalty was a moderate fine and imprisonment for two years, and had confirmed the statement that the punishment was, as the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. Collier) had represented, only the same as for conspiracy to charge a man with being the father of a bastard child, there was not a Member in the House who would not have readily assented to a change of the law. The House would be much surprised to learn the fact that a man might be punished for conspiracy to murder with imprisonment for seven or ten years without any alteration of the law. He could not find any instance within modern times of conspiracy to murder. But in 1755 three men were indicted at the Old Bailey for conspiring to effect murder by falsely charging a man with highway robbery, which was then punishable as a capital felony. The case was to be found in Foster's Grown Law. The accused, on being convicted, were sentenced to seven years' imprisonment, to be further confined for three years until they found securities for good behaviour—making altogether ten years' imprisonment, and to be twice put in the pillory. They were put in the pillory. One was killed by the violence used towards him in the pillory; another survived five years' imprisonment; and in the seventh year of his imprisonment the third applied and was allowed to go to the East Indies. Such was the law then, and such was the law now. There had been no alteration of it, and he challenged any lawyer to say that if, upon an indictment for conspiracy to murder, the Judges who tried the parties chose to award a sentence of seven or ten years' imprisonment, there would be any error on the record, or any error of fact by which their judgment could be set aside. He did not rely on his own opinion. Mr. Greaves, one of the Statute Law Commissioners, had published a new edition of a book of high authority, Russell on Grimes, and in the second volume, page 704, this passage occurred:— In former times persons convicted of a conspiracy at the suit of the King to accuse another person of a capital offence were liable to receive what was called the 'villanous' judgment—that is, to lose their liberam legem, whereby they were discredited and disabled as jurors or witnesses, to forfeit their goods and chattels and lands for life, to have those lands wasted, their houses razed, their trees rooted up, and their bodies committed to prison. But this judgment was not inflicted upon those who were convicted only of conspiracies of a less aggravated kind at the suit of the party. There then followed a passage, which was the only shadow of authority for saying that the punishment could not actually be imposed. And for some time past it appears to have been the better opinion that the 'villanous' judgment is by long disuse become obsolete, not having been pronounced for some ages, and that the punishment for conspiracies in general is, as in the case of other misdemeanours, by fine and imprisonment, and sureties for the good behaviour at the discretion of the Court. And Hawkins, in his Pleas of the Crown, book 1, c. 72, s. 9, after describing the villanous judgment in nearly the same terms, adds— And this is commonly called a 'villanous' judgment, and is given by the common law, and not by any statute, as is said generally in some books to be the proper judgment upon every conviction of conspiracy at the suit of the King without any restriction to such as endangered the life of the party. But I do not find this point anywhere settled. Why did we not revert to our old law, under which a man was liable to this, the "villanous judgment"—under which he forfeited all his goods and chattels, and was liable to imprisonment for life? It is true that it was said that the "villanous judgment" was, according to the better opinion, obsolete for want of use; but law- yers knew how many "better judgments" had been overruled. And it would be far better, as he had already said, to revert to the old law than to appear to alter it at the request of a foreign Government. The punishment of imprisonment and sureties for good behaviour would be really and truly much more effective than the punishment by this Bill, for, supposing upon a conviction under this Bill, the Judge in his discretion thought a man sufficiently punished by three years' hard labour, there would be no means of insuring future good behaviour. The object of the Bill, therefore, could not be to secure more adequate punishment, because he had shown that the present punishment was perfectly adequate. Nor could its object be to secure greater facility of conviction, because by changing the offence from a misdemeanour to a felony the accused would acquire the right of peremptory challenge, instead of being limited to challenge for cause. Supposing Pierri and Orsini were put upon their trial at the Warwick Assizes, they would be entitled to a jury of half aliens and to peremptory challenge each of twenty aliens. From the limited number of aliens in that county it would be impossible to prevent six aliens being sworn upon the jury whose opinions were known, and it would be, therefore, impossible to secure a conviction. The experience of Ireland ought to teach them to leave the law alone. From the time when the punishment for conspiracy to murder in Ireland was first made capital, they had had conspiracies to murder there which they had never heard of in England. They had had society in Ireland frequently allowing great crimes without any effort to punish them. They had had that which prevailed in ancient Italy during the reigns of the Cæsars, and which Tacitus described as a state of public feeling under which "the worst crimes were dared by the few, wished for by the many, permitted by all." He believed that it was obvious to every man that it would be desirable to alter the law with regard to conspiracy to murder in Ireland, and that what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin was perfectly true, that the severity of the sentence would render it difficult to get a conviction. The second Irish Act was passed in the year of the Rebellion, and at a time when a daily paper used to publish a column of obnoxious names, with a sentence over them to the effect that perhaps some hand more lucky than the rest might reach his heart and free the world from bondage. That Act was passed for a temporary purpose, and ought to have been repealed directly the emergency which had rendered it advisable had ceased. It appeared to him that the real object of the present Bill had not been adverted to, and that was to give to the police an espionage and a power of interference which they did not possess while conspiracy to murder was a misdemeanour. This Bill, then, did not provide a greater punishment or give greater security of conviction. What, then, was its object? So far as he could see its only object was to give the Government a power of espionage and interference with the refugees, which they could not have while the offence remained a misdemeanour. The powers of the police were very different in cases of misdemeanour and of felony. In misdemeanour a constable could not break open doors nor apprehend without a warrant; nor on a charge of misdemeanour could a man be treated as a rogue and a vagabond. But suppose that it was made a felony to conspire with any person abroad, or to incite any person within or without Her Majesty's dominions, to commit murder. A constable, then, without a warrant, on a reasonable charge, might arrest a man on suspicion, and might justify the arrest, though no felony were in fact committed. An unfortunate man, then, suspected of writing a letter, might be arrested on suspicion, and the French police would be well prepared to supply grounds of suspicion. In addition, a man's house might be searched, and his papers seized. Nor was this all; for a man suspected of felony was brought under the operation of the Act 4 Geo. IV., c. 83, s. 2, which provided that persons committing certain offences should be. deemed rogues and vagabonds; and among these it was enacted that "every suspected person or reputed thief frequenting any river, &c, or any place of public resort, or any avenue leading thereto, or any street, highway, or place adjacent, with intent to commit felony," should be deemed to be a rogue and a vagabond. It might he objected that that must mean with intent to commit a felony at that place; but that was not so, for it had been held that it applied whether the felony was to be committed there or elsewhere. These unfortunate men, then, many of whom were honest and respectable, might be arrested by the police on suspicion, charged under that Act, and punished as rogues and vagabonds. The Act also empowered justices, if such persons were suspected to be concealed in any house, to issue their warrant to break open the house, to arrest the persons, and to secure and take away any articles that might be connected with the felony. These unfortunate refugees would be so harassed that they would find it unbearable to live in this country. The Government might just as well, and much more honestly, propose to pass an Alien Bill. It was notorious that foreign Governments resorted to any means to hunt up the refugees who took refuge in this country, and all their powers would be applied to the persecution of these persons, by getting them charged with and suspected of felony. It would be far better and fairer for this country to tell them to leave it at once, than to say they might stay, and allow them to be made the victims of foreign police. Then, again, as to the Bill itself, seldom had a measure been more loosely or more carelessly drawn up. He would just point out a case which could occur under the provisions of the Bill. By the Bill it was proposed to be enacted— That any person who shall within the said United Kingdom, or said Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, and Man, who shall incite, instigate, or solicit any other person, being either within or without the said United Kingdom or the said Islands, to commit murder, either within or without Her Majesty's dominions, shall be guilty of felony, and shall be liable upon conviction thereof to be sentenced to penal servitude for life, or for any term not less than five years, or to imprisonment, with or without hard labour for any term not exceeding three years. And by way of defining the meaning of the word "murder" the Bill went on:— In any proceeding under this Act in which the murder shall be alleged to have been intended to be committed in any foreign country the word "murder" shall be construed to mean the killing of any person, whether a subject of Her Majesty or not, under such circumstances as would, if the person were so killed in the said United Kingdom, make such killing murder by the laws of the said United Kingdom. Now, let the House observe what might result. A Turkish gentleman might be staying in this country, and while here might receive intelligence of the infidelity of one of his wives, and might write to his agent to treat her as unfaithful wives were treated in Turkey—namely, to put her into a sack and throw her into the Bosphorus. Now, surely that killing would be murder according to the English law, and that Turkish gentleman might be made a felon. Again, an American citizen be- longing to a State where killing a slave was no murder might be brought under the operation of this Bill if he wrote from this country to his agent directing him to take means to destroy any obnoxious slave. The attempt to define murder in such an Act according to our own law, without regard to the law of other States, was not in accordance with the principles of international law. The present law had existed for as many centuries as the Emperor of the French had sat for years upon the throne, and under it the lives and property of the people had been protected, and that House should not lightly consent to calumniate the English law, to admit that it favoured the designs of assassins, but it ought to say that the law was quite adequate to punish every offence, that it had no notion of submitting to any imputation, or of altering its laws on this subject without a proper case being made out. For his own part, he most sincerely hoped that the House would not consent to the Second Reading of the Bill.


said that, having voted against the introduction of the Bill, he now wished to say why he could take no other course than to vote for the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, he was well aware of the imputations which might rest upon those who, like himself, felt conscientiously bound to oppose the Bill. He felt, however, that it was scarcely necessary for him to say that he yielded to no man—not even to the noble Lord at the head of the Government—in the horror and detestation with which the bloody machinations and crimes lately carried nut and perpetrated in Paris inspired him. Need he add, that he thought the language used in that House, and out of it, towards the head of a nation with whom they were on terms of amicable relationship, was much to be deprecated? He also thought that the expressions used by certain military officers on the other side of the Channel had been made too much of. Our character as a nation stood too high to be damaged by such language, in addition to which it should be remembered that the Emperor of the French had had the moral courage to make frank reparation for what had appeared in the Moniteur. Having said this much, he would state the reasons why he should oppose the second reading of the Bill, he thought the time for the proposed change in the law was misplaced, and that the change itself was one of very doubtful policy. Had they ever when representations had been made to them to put the existing law into operation against any person charged with an offence against a foreign potentate in friendship with England, refused to do so, or had that law been found inoperative or inadequate? There were three distinctly marked cases in our recent history which refuted any such charge. The first was brought forward in 1799, against Lord George Gordon, who was tried for a libel on Marie Antoinette. The indictment stated that the libel in question was published to the great danger of exciting dissension between the subjects of our Sovereign Lord the King and the subjects of Her Most Christian Majesty. He was convicted on that charge, and sentenced to fine and imprisonment for three years. Eleven years later occurred the next case, also one of libel, which was published upon Paul, the Emperor of Russia; and in that case, likewise, the offenders, three in number, were found guilty, and sentenced to five years' imprisonment. The next case was that of Peltier, which, as it had been already referred to by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole), he need not quote. But in that also the offender had been found guilty, although be was not brought up for judgment, war having; in the meantime broken out between this country and France. The language used in his charge to the jury on that occasion by the presiding Judge—language which, in tone and spirit would no doubt be imitated under similar circumstances by any Judge of the present day—was, however, so memorable as to be worthy of repetition. Lord Ellenborough said,— I am sure that no memory of past or expectation of future injury will warp you from the straight and even course of justice, and that your verdict will mark with reprobation all projects of assassination and murder. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary delivered a speech eight years ago which was in the highest degree worthy of his character as a man and an English statesman, on an occasion somewhat similar to the present. After reprehending the abuse of hospitality which certain misguided persons perpetrated here, the right hon. Gentleman went on to say,— We have, I believe, ample powers, irrespective altogether of the Foreign Enlistment Act, to suppress all such attempts as may be made by foreigners to form conspiracies. We shall not hesitate, legally and constitutionally, to meet any violation of the law I believe the powers we possess are amply sufficient to punish by penalties the violation of the law by foreigners after we have been satisfied that these foreigners have really committed themselves in any case in which legal proceedings can be instituted." [3 Hansard, cxv. 885.] He (Mr. Byng) believed the Bill would not produce the desired effect in France and other parts of the Continent, or even in this country. what the Government of France wanted was, not that we should punish persons more severely when they were convicted, but that we should export suspected persons from this country, if so desired. He feared the French Government might say, "You have passed this measure, but you have deceived us, for here is a fresh conspiracy which you said your law would be sufficient to meet, but it is not sufficient." What might be said in other parts of the Continent? He knew it was dangerous for a person in his position to say anything that might be considered offensive with regard to France or any other country, but it was impossible to shut one's eyes entirely to the aspect of things in France and other continental countries. It could not be denied that the people of most of those countries were exposed to coercive and oppressive measures—that liberty of conscience was interdicted, the freedom of the press looked on as a crime, and freedom of speech even in private made a matter of grave suspicion. If they changed their law at the request of France, other continental nations would be apt to say "Here is England, who, we know from her past history, cannot look on those proceedings with favour, consenting to change her law, which one of her own Ministers only seven years ago publicly stated was amply sufficient to prevent these conspiracies"—he would not say at the dictation but "at the instigation of a Government with whose system they cannot possibly have the least sympathy. "He believed that the results of this Bill abroad would be disastrous, and he was afraid the effect in this country also would be pernicious. He admitted that in bringing forward a measure for the good of the country the Government was not always to be guided by public opinion; but they should pay some deference to it. He thought this change in the law would be viewed with great apprehension. Much had been said about replying to the despatch of Count Walewski, and an analogy had been drawn between the present case and the despatch of Lord Hawkesbury in 1802. But though he could not think the conduct of the Government had been either dignified or politic, he was bound in fairness to admit that the analogy of the present case with that of Lord Hawkesbury did not hold entirely good, as had been eloquently pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Grey). Still he (Mr. Byng) thought an answer ought to have been made, and it would not have been necessary to go beyond the doors of that House to find that answer. It was contained in the Amendment of the Member for Ashton. If, when the House met after the Christmas recess, a Resolution had been moved expressing its horror and detestation at such crimes, and stating that, if the existing laws were sufficient for the punishment of the criminals in this country they should be put in force, but if they were not sufficient to meet such crimes that they would take the state of the law into consideration—if an answer in that spirit had been returned to the despatch of Count Walewski, he believed that sagacious man who was at the head of France, and who knew England as well as any one of themselves, would have been satisfied with such a mark of public feeling, as expressed by the Commons of England. The people out of doors were not, he believed, satisfied with this measure. He might be mistaken in the vote he was about to give—he feared it would be unsuccessful—but he gave it in all sincerity and singleness of heart. He had learned to love those laws which had been found by long experience to be sufficient for the protection of the Sovereign and the safety of the nation, and he had heard no sufficient reason for making the alteration which was proposed, and the more so, as that alteration was proposed at the suggestion of a foreign power.


I am unwilling to give a silent vote on this occasion; for I never was more surprised than when I heard the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge. Amongst those hon. Gentlemen with whom I have had the honour of acting, I have alway looked upon him as one for whose counsel and opinion I had the greatest deference; but I totally disagree with him in the course which he has announced his intention of taking in reference to the Amendment. A very large majority of the House has voted for the first reading of this Bill; we are now asked to read it a second time; and, I would ask, what reason is there why we should reverse our decision on the present occasion, no one single change in the facts having taken place? My right hon. Friend says, that because the despatch of Count Waleski has been suffered to remain unanswered we shall be degraded in the eyes of foreign nations; that despatch was unanswered when we consented to the first reading of the Bill, the objection, if taken at all, should have been taken then. Now, I do not estimate our character at so low a rate—I do not think we stand so low in the estimation of foreign nations that we should be afraid to take the course which Her Majesty's Government have proposed. I am not afraid of that course; but I am afraid that anything should be said in this House, or that this House should do any act calculated to increase an irritation which we all deplore; for, if we do anything to increase it, Heaven only knows what may be the consequences. I am one of those who think that Her Majesty's Government did right in not answering that despatch. I know there is a difference of opinion on that subject, but I think the Government did right; and the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department has confirmed me entirely in the view which I had taken on that subject. The people of France are greatly aggravated in consequence of this most atrocious attempt upon the life of the Emperor, and justly so. I ask, would it have been right to give a partial answer to that despatch? Well, then, if a full answer was given to it the existing agitation would have been greatly increased. I think Her Majesty's Government were right in waiting till the irritation was allayed, and until the feeling of the people of this country on the subject of the crime committed in Paris had been given expression to. The Government having proposed this measure, which has been carried through its first reading by a large majority, and which, I hope and trust, will receive a second reading by the vote of as large a majority, the Government can, as the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Deparment observed, if they think fit, make an answer to that despatch, which answer may be at once consistent with the good feeling between the two nations—consistent with the sentiments which animate the people of the British empire, and consistent with the honour and dignity of this country. I have another objection to this Amendment. It is very cleverly and very dexterously put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton, in such terms as at once betray an anxiety to enlist the sympathy of those who altogether differ with him both on grounds of general policy and on the particular views which he entertains with respect to the subject now under consideration. Let him manfully come forward with a vote of censure of Ministers, and then we shall know what we are voting on. We can then go out into the lobby without any doubt existing as to our opinions; but on such an Amendment as this, hon. Members will go out in the same lobby with quite different views and objects. In fact, with such an Amendment as this, any Member may be voting with quite different objects from those which may be attributed to him. I say that this is not a fair way, nor is it a Parliamentary way, of meeting the question. The question really before us is—shall we read this Bill a second time? And that ought not to be mixed up with anything on which hon. Members may be induced to vote on the same side with those who entertain different and incongruous motives. Whether a woman thrown into, the Bosphorus would be regarded as a murder in England is a question which I leave to the hon. and learned Member (Mr. M'Mahon), who, I believe, represents an Irish county, to decide. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) admits that the Bill will be a great improvement in the law. Then, why should he vote against it? My right hon. Friend says he will not vote against it; but that will not do. He knows perfectly well that if the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton is carried, this Bill will not come forward again. Therefore, voting for the Amendment is really and virtually voting against the Bill. I am exceedingly surprised that my right hon. Friend should take the view he does of this Amendment. There is, admittedly, a great defect in the law as it now stands. I believe that this is a right, just, and necessary Bill, and that it will remedy that defect; and being of this opinion as regards the Bill per se, shall I refuse to vote for it through fear, it might be said, that we were passing it at the dictation of a foreign Government? I have no fear of that kind; but to refuse to pass a measure which we hold to be just and right for fear we should be thought to be acting under foreign dictation, will, indeed, be acting under the worst possible dictation; and believing the Bill to be a righteous one, I shall vote for its second reading, as I did for its first. As I am taking a course contrary to that which is being adopted by my right hon. Friend Mr. Walpole, and perhaps by other hon. Members with whom I generally act, I have thought it right to make these few observations in explanation of my vote.


observed, that it seemed to him that two issues, or rather two propositions, not totally opposed to each other, were raised by this Bill. One regarded the Bill itself, for the introduction of which he had felt himself compelled to vote. When he looked to the atrocity of the crime just perpetrated, the notoriety of the fact that it had been concocted in this country, and that the conspirators had left this country to execute it, he was disposed to make great allowances for the agitation and exasperation against this country which had existed in France. That exasperation was unjust and ill-directed, but it existed, and he was not surprised that the Foreign Minister of that country, participating in that feeling, should have addressed a despatch to Her Majesty's Government, calling upon it to do that which was inconsistent with our habits, laws, and ancient usages. He could not help thinking, however, that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) had misunderstood the purport of one of the paragraphs in his despatch. It was quite clear to him that what was stated by Count Walewski was that certain machinations on the part of refugees had been going forward in this country, and these charges were not levied against the people of this country. At the same time he was bound to say that, although he was not surprised at their silence, he thought it ill-judged on the part of the Government not to have replied to that despatch. He regretted that the Government had not left upon record in courteous language—for the language of Count Walewski was not in his opinion uncour-teous—an answer, item by item, to the different points of his despatch. This might have been done without exciting those angry feelings which every one on this side the Channel must wish to allay. They had, however, the assurance of the Home Secretary, that if this Bill passed a second reading his noble colleague would answer the despatch in such a way as to express the feeling of this country upon the charges supposed to have been brought against it. He had heard that declaration with much satisfaction, as it obviated the inference that any future demand would be listened to, and therefore, as he had voted for the introduction of the Bill, so he should feel it his duty to support it at its subsequent stages. Although he doubted whether it would be efficacious, he did not see that it contained any objectionable features. It was a mere matter of internal regulation, which would have been adopted at any time; and regarding the analogy of private life, he thought that after the full and ample apology which we had received from the Emperor, that no stress ought to be laid upon the despatch of Count Walewski, or any fear entertained that it would be said that we had acted at the suggestion of the French Government. It seemed to him that the Amendment was perfectly consistent with the Bill, and had the Resolution of the right hon. Member for Ashton been brought forward as a substantive Motion he should have given it his support, but as an Amendment to the second reading of this Bill he must vote against it.


said, he was anxious to state briefly the grounds upon which he should vote. He had listened with great attention to the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton, which he was ready to admit was one of the ablest and most eloquent that had been delivered in that House for some time, but though he gave him credit for the ability which he had displayed, still he was unable to go along with him. It appeared to him that the effect of the Amendment would be—he did not say such was the intention of its mover—either to produce or increase an unfortunate feeling of irritation between this country and France, or else to place this country in the lowest state of degradation. It appeared to him that the question before the House lay in the smallest possible compass. If the Bill was not required, or if it was objectionable, reject it; but if it was right or requisite, they ought to deal with it without reference to extraneous matters, and rest it on its own simple merits. If the high character and reputation of this country had suffered within the last few years, then by all means, let us consider well what other countries thought and said of us before they dared to do what they thought right. But if the character of the country for courage and straightforward dealing remained—as he believed it did—not only above reproach, but above suspicion, then let them deal with the subject before them accord- ing to the dictates of their own consciences' and not from an apprehension of being thought to have acted according to the dictates of others. He could conceive no greater degradation than to record by a vote of that House their approval of a Bill and their agreement in its general principle, and yet be afraid to allow it to be read a second time lest other countries might suppose we acted from fear. With regard to the Amendment, he had no intention of saying anything disrespectful, but he must say that he did not think that his right hon. Friend had dealt with the subject fairly or in a straightforward manner. Either the Bill was a good or a bad one. In his opinion his right hon. Friend would have taken a more straightforward course if he had at once moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, instead of trying by a circuitous route to involve them in a discussion as to whether a diplomatic correspondence between the Government of this country and that of France was or was not complete. His right hon. Friend had done his best to put them on a wrong scent, and to lead them into an irrelevant discussion. His right hon. Friend had referred to a saying of a high law authority, that the law of conspiracy was a not which caught the dove as well as the hawk. It appeared to him that the Amendment of his right hon. Friend came under the same category. It had been ingeniously framed to catch birds of every kind. It would have been more straightforward to have been satisfied with either doves or hawks; he ought not to want both. How far his right hon. Friend would be successful it was impossible then to tell, but perhaps they would be able after the division to discriminate them. Before he sat down he must refer to a misconception of his right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University as to one expression in the despatch of the French Minister to which he had referred. The sentiment to which he referred was that in which it was stated that assassination, was a doctrine which was preached openly and practised in England. His right hon. Friend indignantly repelled the insinuation that the people of this country openly preached assassination. But, for his own part, he could find nothing in the sentence to support such an interpretation of it. Written, no doubt, under a feeling of irritation at what had taken place, the despatch reflected not on the character of the people of this country, but on the French refugees who had here been engaged in conspiring against France. With all deference, therefore, to the right hon. Gentleman, he must say that he had put a wrong meaning on the sentence.


said, that he had read on to the end of the despatch to show that it accused the legislation of this country as favouring conspiracy.


accepted the explanation, though he had understood the right hon. Gentleman to have expresssed his indignation that the people of this country should have been accused of preaching assassination. But if wrong, he apologised for the mistake. A great deal of confusion had been unnecessarily introduced into the debate by mixing up three questions—the right of asylum, the rights which refugees had when here, and the state of our criminal law. These were subjects that could not be discussed at one and the same time. He thought they were justified in thinking the present state of the law defective. The Bill proposed to make it felony to conspire for the murder of a person, and decreed the punishment to be penal servitude for a period not less than five years. Would any one say that penal servitude for life was too severe a punishment for a man fairly convicted of conspiring to take away another's life? In his opinion the man who conspired to take away the life of another in this country or abroad was equally guilty with the man committing murder, and it would be a still greater improvement of the law than that proposed if such a man were to be punished in the same way as the murderer. He should support the second reading. He hoped they would not show to Europe that they were afraid to do what they considered right lest it should be thought they had acted out of fear of some other power.


Sir, I contented myself with a silent vote on the introduction of this measure; but now, after having had an opportunity of reading its provisions, I am anxious to give some explanation of the feelings which I entertain upon a subject so important, and which has naturally excited a great deal of public interest. I have listened with great attention to the speech of the Prime Minister, and also to that of the right hon. Gentleman the late Member for Manchester—I mean the Member for Ashton—and I must say that I agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bentinck), who characterized the speech of the right hon. Gentleman as a most able and moderate statement; but, on the other hand, I think the speech of the noble Lord the Prime Minister tended to lead us astray from the direct question at issue. I think the question is one of very great importance, and one which, while it should in no way be exaggerated, should at the same time be considered calmly and dispassionately. I am astonished that the head of a Liberal Government should propose a Bill to Parliament which is opposed by all the most distinguished Liberals in this House. ["No, no!"] Well, almost all the most distinguished Liberals have spoken against it; while, on the other hand, those who are the political opponents of the noble Viscount have given it but a very reluctant and modest support; and I must do the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire the credit to say that in his support of this particular measure he did not allow the expression of his approval to overflow over any other measures or acts of Her Majesty's Government. The noble Lord the Member for London has made a manly and patriotic speech against the Bill; he spoke, as is his wont, in that dignified tone, and with that statesmanlike grasp of mind, which his enemies, with all their animosity, have never been able to gainsay or to deny him. Then the eloquence of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, on the same side, may be taken as an accurate interpretation of the public feeling. It is true that the hon. and learned Solicitor General, who is certainly not the man to hazard such an opinion, has said that the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield was not very powerful in point of argument; yet the House and the country think otherwise, as is proved by the impression which that speech has everywhere produced. The question before the House involves two important considerations, one relating to the change to be introduced into our law, and the other to the occasion which has suggested the introduction of the present Bill. We have heard the legal part of the subject discussed in all its bearings. I do not for one moment pretend to assert that the treatment of aliens or foreigners residing in England should not be subordinate to the interests of bur own community; but I do say that no obscure or indefinite restrictions should be placed upon refugees, at the suggestions of foreign police, so long as they obey outlaws, do not interfere with the policy of our Government, nor abuse that sacred right of asylum which we are proud to extend to them when fleeing from political persecution or oppression in the land of their birth. The asylum which we give them is liable to abuse, as every enactment we can frame, no matter how stringent its provisions', is liable to be evaded or transgressed. The noble Viscount seems to think otherwise, for he is calling upon us to increase the penalty attaching to conspiracy to murder, in order, as he says, to prevent the commission of that offence. If you do pass such a law, let it, I implore you, be so clear and precise that it may be intelligible to all. The present Bill does not fulfil that condition. If the noble Viscount had described it as an alteration of the law required by the exigencies of the times, or as a measure of legal reform which he had long known to be necessary, we might have been prepared to adopt it. Could he prove to us that the law in its existing state favours the commission of crimes such as that recently attempted in Paris, I would be one of the first to say "let us amend it." But the reverse is the fact. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary the other night passed a severe censure upon the Lord Chief Justice for having ventured to express an opinion as to the sufficiency of the present law, at a moment when he had no business so to do. He said that a Lord Chief Justice should give no opinion on such a subject, until he is called upon to give one in his judicial capacity. We are bound, however, to respect the dieta of our highest legal authorities, and when two such men as Lord Brougham and Lord Campbell agree in saying that the existing law is adequate for all necessary purposes we must suffer ourselves to be influenced by such powerful testimony. The Solicitor General, it is true, has expressed a different opinion, but he did not throw much light upon the question, and I have not yet heard the hon. and learned Attorney General, though I have been waiting anxiously to see him jump to his feet. If he told us that the Bill was absolutely necessary he might induce us, with his placid manner and persuasive eloquence, to support it; but as yet nothing has been said to show that the existing law requires amendment. We have been told that a reward of £200 has been offered for the capture of Mr. Allsop, and that a Frenchman named Bernard has been apprehended upon a warrant of the Treasury. ["No, no!"] Well, the mistake is trivial. Upon a warrant of the Home Office [Sir G. GREY: Upon a warrant from a police magistrate]. Well, at all events, M. Bernard has been taken up. What happened at his examination before Mr. Jardine, the police magistrate, on Monday last? Mr. Bodkin, who said that he appeared to conduct the case against the prisoner on behalf of the Treasury, concluded his opening speech with the following curious remarks:— It has been decided that persons guilty of libels against a foreign Sovereign can be indicted in this country, and it would be strange," continued lawyer Bodkin, "if, under the same law, it was not an offence to conspire to commit murder on the person of an individual holding that position. Now, the Home Secretary has distinctly told us that the attention of the Government was called to a defect in the law, and and yet we are informed by Mr. Bodkin that the law is amply sufficient to accomplish the object which it is intended to serve. Our authorities differ, but I am disposed to believe that the law is adequate, seing that you can seize M. Bernard, and have a reward of £200 offered for the capture of Mr. Allsop. I could not help smiling, the other night, at the strange doctrine laid down by the noble Viscount at the head of the Government. From the year 1822, when Sir James Macintosh moved a Resolution to the effect that the efficiency of our criminal laws was to be increased by an abatement of their undue rigour, up to the present time the chief aim of the Legislature has been to render our code less severe. Now, however, in 1858, the noble Viscount comes forward with a proposal to increase the penalty attaching to a particular offence, with the view of making the law more efficient for its purpose, thus reversing the practice of Parliament for the last thirty-five years. Sir, I look upon this to be a very serious and grave question. Spite of what the noble Lord says, I agree with the noble Lord the Member for London that the Bill will entail shame and degradation on this House and on the country. I can only regard it as a sham and a pretext. The noble Lord has dragged into the discussion the unhappy state of Ireland in former days. It would have been better taste if the noble Lord had not alluded to the former state of that now flourishing part of the empire. The truth is, that under cover of an alteration of the law a Bill has been submitted to Parliament at the dictation of a foreign Go- vernment. I am surprised that the noble Viscount should have allowed such an unwarrantable interference. If he can refute the reports which are abroad let him do so at once, for I must say that nothing could be more insulting to us, or more degrading to our sense of criminal justice, than to be told, that because six or eight attempts have been made against the life of Louis Napoleon, we must consider ourselves responsible for them. In common with all my countrymen, I abhor and detest assassination, not only because of its atrocity, but on account also of its cowardice. Observe, however, the extreme unfairness which has characterized the conduct of the French Government in the present instance. An attempt is made against the life of Louis Napoleon, and straightway Count Walewski accuses Mazzini, Ledru Rollin, and Campanella of being implicated in the plot. These persons are residing in this country; no evidence whatever has been brought against them; but they are Republicans, and therefore are charged with complicity in the recent attempt in France. Let us change the persons. Louis Napoleon has himself resided in England, a pretender to the throne of France, and during the period of his stay here several attempts were made against the life of Louis Philippe. No honourable man can suppose that Louis Napoleon or Count Persigny, who also at that time enjoyed the hospitality of England, had anything to do with those attempts, and yet, if Mazzini, Ledru Rollin, and Campanella are chargeable with the recent enterprise in Paris, the present Emperor of the French might fairly be held responsible for the attempts against Louis Philippe. The question now before us is both delicate and dangerous; it has many aspects, and is differently judged at different times by the same men. We all know that Count Persigny himself, a very amiable gentleman, was at one time a Legitimist of the first class, the friend of the Duchesse de Berri, while it is equally notorious that in 1849 M. Baroche declared himself a Republican de la veille. And now those persons come forward and tell us we must not harbour men who, so long as they reside in this country, and do not commit any crime against the laws, have a right of an asylum in it. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department said, that if any attempt had been made in France to preach sedition against this country similar to that which had been promulgated against Louis Napoleon, we should have been the first to complain of it, and the Government of France the first to repress it. Now, what is the real truth of the case? Does this House forget that in 1848 the odious doctrine was openly preached in France that kings and queens are all robbers of the people's rights? Did we protest against that? Did we say anything about their press at that time? And yet M. Walewski, forsooth, now talks about the licence of the English press. Sir, I think he is one of the last who should have dared to say or to insinuate anything against the liberty of the press in this country. Let us look at this letter of M. Walewski for a moment; but, before doing so, permit me to say, that while I regret exceedingly that no sufficient answer was made to this document by Her Majesty's Government, I never read a diplomatic despatch so shallow or so destitute of point. The attempt which led to the writing of this despatch occurred on the 14th of January, and six days afterwards Count Walewski writes to M. Persigny to say that the French Government find fault with the system going on here, and beg for some alteration. No answer has been sent, but the right hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Grey) has told us to-night that if we pass the second reading of this Bill an answer will be sent. Sir, I must say that this is about the most undignified proceeding I ever heard of, and one most unworthy of the decision which ought to have characterized the conduct of the Government. This despatch is signed by Count Walewski, and in considering its details let us bear in mind the interesting facts, that the man who reads England this lesson was twenty-five years ago himself a member of a revolutionary committee in Poland. This is the gentleman who now tells us, "It was in England that Pianori formed the design of attacking the Emperor; it was from London that, in an affair the recollection of which is still fresh, Mazzini, Ledru Rollin, and Campanella directed the hired bravoes whose hands they had armed." Let me make a remark in reference to that statement. Two men who were taken up in France for an attempt, or for being supposed to have been implicated in an attempt, on the life of Louis Napoleon, were examined as to the supposed complicity of Mazzini and Ledru Rollin, but the answers they gave on that occasion were so utterly absurd as to be wholly useless for the purpose to which the examination was directed. One said he did not know the person of the Emperor; and the other said he did not know where the Emperor lived. When asked whether Mazzini, Ledru Rollin, or Campanella had any communication with them, one said he saw a person who said another person was Mazzini, and the other said he had seen a person whom somebody else spoke of as Ledru Rollin—and yet, upon the faith of such evidence, M. Walewski talks of this being the country "where the authors of the late conspiracy prepared at leisure their means of action, studied and fabricated the instruments of destruction of which they made use, and thence started to execute their plan." With respect to that I would only say that so long as these men reside in this country they obey our laws. It is only when they go to Belgium and France that they concoct these schemes of assassination which fill the minds of all honourable men with horror and indignation. Then the despatch went on to say, "No one respects move than we do the liberality with which England is disposed to exercise the right of asylum in regard to foreigners, victims of political struggles. France, for her part, has always looked upon it as a duty of humanity never to close her frontier to any honourable person in misfortune, whatever might be the party to which he belonged." Observe the expression, "France, for her part, has always looked upon it as a duty of humanity," and then let the House remember that when Louis XVIII. was tracked from country to country until he had found a refuge in England, France refused to make peace with us unless on the condition of his expulsion. That historical incident is not strictly in accordance with either the spirit or the assertion of the despatch, but this part of the despatch is only on a par with what follows about "the hostility of misguided individuals, manifesting itself by all the excesses of the press and all the violences of language," with the additional declaration that assassination is elevated to a doctrine and openly preached in this country. Now, I will say that never was an assertion more unfair than that. To tell us that the doctrine of assassination is openly preached in this country! Why, Sir, is there a man out of France who would not scorn to give credit to such a foul insinuation? The whole of this despatch throughout is one that I have read with very great regret, seriously aggra- vated as the tenor of it is by the unworthy insinuations against this country which it contains. But it is said an apology has been made. Some may think that apology adequate, but I for one cannot admit that it is, seeing that after an assertion was made in that part of the public press which is supposed to receive its information from Knightsbridge to the effect that Louis Napoleon and his Government regretted the insertion of the violent language that had been held towards this country, statements of the most severe and unseemly kind have been made in their official paper. And those statements appeared after it was supposed that an apology had been made for the insults that had been offered to this country. One said, "May these miserable murderers, the hired agents of black deeds, receive the punishment which is their desert, hut let that repaire infâme—that infernal den"—rather strong language—"in which those assassinations are hatched be destroyed for ever." I must say I heard with regret the noble Lord say that he could not deny that to a certain extent this country was a den of assassins. I must say that is an expression unworthy the noble Lord and the position he holds. He says, you must not think too much of these expressions, because they are not inconsistent with the usage which has long prevailed among the military authorities in France, and he adds that they have been inserted in the paper in question inadvertently. Knowing as we do that the public press of France is gagged and that many of its literary men have been expatriated, I say it is idle to say that these articles have been inserted in the one single paper that still has any circulation through inadvertence. No, Sir, they were inserted for the purpose of intimidating this country, and for the purpose of extorting from us the concession embodied in this Bill, which I most sincerely regret the noble Lord, with all his antecedents and his former credit, should have condescended to introduce at the instance of such dictation. But, when it is said an apology has been made for the insertion of those offensive addresses from the colonels and other officers of the army in France, I would ask has any apology been offered for the very strong and unseemly expressions that recently fell from the Presidents of the two Legislative Chambers of France, both of whom appear to have been utterly forgetful of their position, and of that careful expres- sion of feeling and dignified demeanour which are so conspicuous in the persons holding kindred offices in this country? What does M. de Moray say? Why, that England is a "lair of savage beasts," and a "laboratory of assassins." I am ready to make every excuse for the courtiers of Louis Napoleon; 'I know perfectly well the conditions attaching to a position like that. M. de Moray is only imitating a predecessor in the office he holds, in the time of the first Napoleon—M. Champagny—who said his master Napoleon Bonaparte "was an angel sent from Heaven to bless mankind, and, like the great Invisible Being, he governed the world by his power and his influence." Sir, I must say these expressions are rather far-fetched. But, the other day, an expression far more powerful was used towards Louis Napoleon by one of his flatterers, who, in the ecstasy of adulation, thus apostrophised him in the course of an address he was presenting:—"Sire, you are too fond of liberty." I think, after that, we may well exclaim, with Madame Roland, "O, Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name!" But, Sir, this Bill was not considered necessary before the commencement of this Session. It has only been considered necessary after what passed on the 14th of January. Now, ninety-nine of us opposed the Bill on the first reading, and yet I am sorry to say that it has been insinuated that we did so as philo-assassins, as we are called. I have heard that expression used on more than one occasion. Now, I wish it to be thoroughly understood that we who opposed this Bill do not want to preserve the right of asylum for such persons as Orsini and Pierri, or for assassins of any description. We oppose this Bill on motives the most conscientious and the most pure, believing, as we do, that if it passes into law it will be attended with injurious consequences to the best interests of the country. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we should have given some expression of our horror and detestation of this wicked attempt on the life of the Emperor. I should have been ready to join in such an expression, which would, I am sure, have been unanimously concurred in by this House. But, Sir, we cannot consent to agree to a Bill which is evidently submitted as a lesson to this House at the dictation of those who should have known our true sentiments better than to ask us to pass such a piece of fancy legislation. Before I sit down, I must take leave to recall to your recollection that this Bill is proposed to us by a Liberal Government, by members of the Liberal party, and is supported by those who have little sympathy naturally with the noble Lord. I do regret that this Bill is submitted to us by the noble Lord the present Prime Minister. I should have thought he, at all events, would have been the very last man to condescend to come before the House with such a measure. We have at this moment three ex-Prime Ministers, two of whom take an active share in public life; and can you believe that any one of those Ministers would have proposed such a Bill as this which is now under our consideration? I ask this House, do they think the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord J. Russell) would have come down here, and have proposed a Bill of this nature? No, you must feel quite certain his spirit would have rejected with indignation such a suggestion. I ask you, the right hon. Gentlemen who sit below me, and who are to a certain extent the representatives of the opinions of another ex-Prime Minister, whether, if he had been in power, that noble Lord would have consented to propose such a measure to the House of Commons? Over and over again has the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) taunted those right hon. Gentlemen in this House, before the Crimean war, and during that war, with truckling to foreign Powers, but I ask this House, would those right hon. Gentlemen have truckled one-hundredth part so much as the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), if this Bill be passed, will make us truckle? I will only refer to the speech of the Earl of Derby on the first night of the Session, in the House of Lords. [Mr. SPEAKER: "Order!"] Well, Sir, "in another place." I must say that speech was a noble expression of opinion on the part of the noble Lord. I say that speech in another place was an expression of the public feeling of this country worthy of a great statesman, and one which ought to have found an echo in the mouth of the Prime Minister of England. But it is now a very different case. We have this Bill submitted to Parliament, and let me impress upon hon. Members that it is really a very serious and important question. We have this Bill submitted to us by one who had a European reputation for dictating rather than for accepting dictation. I recollect that years ago the noble Lord read some sharp lessons in constitutional history to the Queen of Spain, and upon another occasion he nearly set all Europe by the ears by thrusting his "pacificating" policy down the throat of the King of Greece. This Bill is submitted to us by the noble Lord, whose opinions appear to have become so changed that he now leaves two of our poor innocent countrymen to pine unaided and unprotected in the dungeons of Salerno. This is not the character he once bore. In 1850 the noble Lord was a "Roman citizen." That time, alas! has long gone by. I well recollect when the noble Lord delighted to descant upon the blooming prospects of freedom in every land—when he was accustomed to advocate the extension throughout the world of freedom, improvement, and progress. How often has he raised a cheer in his own favour and cast a sneer at the expense of others by telling them they advocated that despotism which he despised! More than that, I remember when he told us that our union with France depended upon mutual interests and identity of institutions. Times have, indeed, sadly changed, but I do hope that during the existence of the present regime in France at all events, the noble Lord will not attempt to introduce here identity of institutions. I desire as much as any man to see those mutual feelings of hostility that once existed between France and England give place to more satisfactory sentiments of mutual concord. I would give anything consistently with the honour and dignity of my country to promote such a union between the two nations. But I must say I do not think by the introduction of this Bill you are contributing to such an end. To my mind the Bill bears upon its face more than any other Bill which has been submitted to Parliament during the last fifty years—the stamp, to use the words of Byron, of Meanness, and weakness, and a sense of shame, 'Gainst which thou canst not strive, thou durst not murmur. Against this Bill we now protest, and although an accidental majority of 200 Members was obtained—yes, an accidental majority, for it did not represent one-third of the totality of this House—notwithstanding that accidental majority, I trust upon consideration, this House will be disposed to resist the further progress of this measure. At all events I will say, while thanking the House for the indulgence with which it has listened to me, that I think this Bill is fraught with considerable danger, and that I, for one, will give it my continuous and pertinacious opposition. I, for one, will never give a vote which I may think will have in the smallest degree the effect—as I believe this Bill will—of trenching upon the intact and inviolable free soil of this country. I, for one, will never give a vote that may have the effect, as I believe the passing of this Bill would have, of circumscribing the liberal hospitality with which we have ever received the political fugitives from every tyranny, and the unhappy exiles of every land.


said, he should have been glad if the issue before the House had been raised upon another occasion, and in a different manner, but the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. M. Gibson) had truly said he had no other opportunity of doing so. The question being brought before the House, they were compelled to look at and consider the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. When he (Mr. Henley) first read the Amendment he said to himself, "How can any man vote against this; for it is all true as gospel?" The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary even had admitted that evening, that an answer must be sent to the French despatch. How, then, could the House negative an Amendment, the terms of which every one admitted to be true? He, for one, could not do so. As far as the Bill itself was concerned, he saw-no objection to the proposed change in the law. The crime of conspiring to murder was so atrocious, that when a man was convicted of it the punishment of penal servitude was not too severe. That, however, was not the question. There were expressions in the French despatch which ought for our country's credit to have been answered. It was no satisfaction to the country to be told, that something had passed between the noble Lord and somebody else, at which something was said which he (Mr. Henley) thought ought to have been written. It was possible that very few years might pass away before other questions like this might arise. But supposing Lord Hawkesbury had adopted that course fifty years ago, and said only that something had passed in conversation, would not this country have stood in a very different and less favourable position before the world from that which it now occupied? The great and special value of written memorials in such cases was not for the present time, but to lay a foundation and to be a guide for those who came after us, as to what was right to be done under such circumstances. Some of the provisions of the Bill would, he thought, require to be guarded, or they might have an effect which not even the promoters of the measure intended. This, however, would be matter for consideration when the Bill went into Committee. With respect to the despatch of the French Minister, he could not read it without seeing that, unanswered, it amounted to a direct demand upon this country to deal with those persons receiving its hospitality and protection. He entirely agreed with the construction put on it by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole), and without some protest or denial on the part of this country it would, in his opinion, be laying the foundation for future demands. The carrying of the Resolution, moved as an Amendment, would only postpone the passing of the Bill for a short time; and with respect to the measure itself, he conceived that it would be a protection to honest refugees, instead of an enactment placing them in a worse position; for he had a right in charity to assume that those, who were free from such offences, viewed them with the same feelings of horror and detestation as the people of this country did. They ought, therefore, to rejoice to think that the law would be made somewhat stringent, so as to punish more severely than at present those who were concerned in such conspiracies as the Bill referred to. He did not think that the Bill would afford increased facilities for discovering these crimes, but the greater severity of the punishment might operate in some degree to prevent them, if indeed punishment ever had any deterring effect, which, he thought, was a moot point. But the main question at present under consideration was, whether they could deny that the Government ought to have given an answer to the French despatch, and whether they had not a right to say that they had been placed in a worse position in consequence of that neglect? He thought the question was not now about the Bill, nor was it a question between this country and France; but in his judgment it was a question entirely between that House and the Government, and the House had to decide whether the Government ought to have laid that despatch on the table unanswered as the foundation of the Bill; or whether, when the despatch was received, it ought not to have been met with a fair, temperate, and judicious answer. In his judgment it ought, and he thought great mis- chief and irritation had arisen from the manner in which the Government had treated the despatch. That being the case, he could not do otherwise than vote for the Amendment.


said, he wished to recall the attention of the House to the question before them and the position in which the Amendment had placed them. He had come down to the House prepared to support the second reading of the Bill for Amending the Criminal Law in respect to the Punishment for Conspiracy to Murder. In England at present such a conspiracy was only a misdemeanour, punishable by a comparatively slight punishment: while in Ireland it was a capital offence. In Scotland, though there was no such distinction between misdemeanour and felony, yet at the least there existed doubt how a conspiracy to murder followed by no overt act could be punished. In such a state of things it certainly appeared that our Criminal Code was open to improvement, and that consequently it would be desirable to amend the law in the direction which was deemed right. Now, the present Bill having been introduced with the concurrence of a large majority of the House, an Amendment had been moved on its second reading, with respect to which he would simply say two things—first, that the carrying of the Amendment would be fatal to the Bill; and, secondly, that the Amendment had nothing whatever to do with the Bill. Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Henley) asked how could the House avoid voting for the Resolution if they agreed to its terms, he replied that, in that case, as it was no Amendment to the Bill, it ought to be considered separately; because, on the one hand, it would be quite consistent to vote for the second reading of the Bill, and, on the other hand, to vote for the Amendment. That he took to be a complete demonstration that this, which was called an Amendment, was no Amendment at all to the Bill; although unquestionably the topics raised were of the greatest possible importance. He should not go at any length into the legal question. Lawyers had differed as to the necessity of the Bill, but he did not think that, as a question of legislative principle, the Members of that House would differ as to the necessity of visiting conspiracy to minder with a punishment at least as great as that proposed by the Bill. He was happy to think that conspiracy to murder was a rare offence in this country, but when it did occur, the circumstance of its rarity did not deprive the crime of its heinous character, or obviate the necessity of providing a suitable punishment. Therefore, if the present Bill stood by itself, there would be no difficulty in coming to a conclusion upon it in the abstract. But it was said that the Bill was brought forward under foreign dictation; that affected the principle of free soil in this country, and tended to throw a doubt upon the protection to be given to those who claimed the hospitality of England. If he thought so, he would not be the person to speak in its favour, but he did not think that indulging in such violent protestations was likely to increase the reputation of this country for dignity and the consistent vindication of its liberties. The Resolution moved as an Amendment commenced by referring to matters, on which there could be no difference at all, and concluded with expressing regret that Her Majesty's Government had not answered a certain despatch from the French Minister. That, in truth, was the subject of the night's discussion. It was to be noticed that the opening words of the Resolution expressed the detestation of the House for the perpetrators of recent events, and went on to state that it would at all times proceed to remedy any defects in the criminal law which were proved to exist. Now upon this he must remark that no such statement had been made upon the introduction of the Bill. If the proposers of this Resolution were then willing to consider any defects in the criminal law, how came it that they refused to receive this very Bill? But he passed that by, for the question now was whether they were to flinch from passing a Bill, which the majority of that House believed to be right, because the Government did not answer the despatch referred to? He thought that a great many very important, very delicate, and difficult questions had been raised in the present debate. It was difficult to speak with one's mind quite at ease on such questions. Things naturally rose to the lips, which it might be more prudent and discreet not to utter, and sometimes in the course of the debate things had so risen, which it would have been more prudent and discreet not to have uttered. As however this Motion had been made, the subject must be dealt with, and he would now state to the House the grounds on which he thought it would be improper in the House of Commons to pledge itself to the proposed Resolution, which, as he had before stated, was really no Amendment to the Bill. In the first place, while all were anxious to vindicate the principle of free soil in this country, they were also bound to recollect the position of their French allies at the time when the recent conspiracy was being carried into execution. Not only had a very disgraceful outrage been committed, not only had an attempt been made on the life of the Emperor of the French and many innocent persons wounded, but there was no doubt whatever that those attempts did emanate from persons who had taken advantage of our laws and enjoyed our hospitality. Well, Sir, the natural consequence was, that great irritation prevailed not only in Paris, but all over France. The Government of the country, from which these conspirators had gone forth, also naturally felt irritated that their hospitality had been thus abused, and that men, to whom this island had afforded an asylum, should have taken advantage of the liberty which they enjoyed here to concoct not merely political schemes but atrocious murders. Under these circumstances the French Government addressed to their Ambassador in London a despatch, which was to be communicated to Her Majesty's Government. Now, if that despatch had contained anything insulting or offensive to the people or the Government of this country, he agreed that such an insult should have been instantly repelled; but he read the despatch in a very different sense. He thought the French Government were quite entitled to say, "These men have hatched a conspiracy against the life of the Emperor in your country; they have been maturing this conspiracy for some time; many persons who concur in their political opinions have preached assassination; we wish you to consider whether you ought to extend to such men the hospitality you afford to strangers generally; they are murderous assassins; we do not require you to do anything, but we ask you to consider whether you will afford protection to persons who are engaged in such designs." On receipt of that despatch Her Majesty's Government, as the House has been told, replied verbally—"Any alteration of the law of this country—the imposition upon foreigners of any restrictions to which native-born subjects are not liable—is out of the question." That was, he supposed, the answer which the right hon. Gentleman wished Her Majesty's Government to embody in writing. The difficulty, however, lay here. No one who read the despatch of the French Government could deny that the statements of facts which it contained were, in some degree, true; but it did not therefore follow that we were to alter our laws to any extent. If these things—these attempts at assassination—could not be prevented without interfering with the liberties of aliens and the freedom of our soil, the laws must continue as they were, come what might, and the good be balanced against the evil. It was, however, a fair subject for consideration whether our laws wore in such a state as to be altogether defensible; and upon such consideration that House had, by a majority of 200, declared its opinion that the laws of this country with regard to conspiracy admitted of amendment. Therefore, before giving a final reply to the French Government, which, in his opinion, had asked in a most friendly manner whether we could, or could not, assist them in this matter, Her Majesty's Government proposed the Bill now before the House, not for the purpose of creating a distinction between foreigners and native-born subjects; but in order to attach to the crime of conspiracy to murder, a higher degree of punishment than that with which it could be visited under the existing law. It had been contended that the despatch of the French Government ought at once to have been answered. In his humble opinion it was much better that it should not have been answered at the time by a written despatch, because, in order to answer that despatch fully it would be necessary to go into matters which could be far more safely and satisfactorily settled when the fate of the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson) was known. It appeared to him, also, that by the course now proposed, that House was called upon to place itself in an analogous position to that of the Minister on his first receipt of the despatch, and thereby to undertake no slight responsibility. Her Majesty's Government had been called upon to deal with interests of the utmost possible importance. Great excitement prevailed in France; an attempt had been made upon the life of the Emperor, who had unquestionably been a very firm and faithful ally of this country: and it was most desirable that nothing should take place which might increase the irritation that naturally prevailed. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to write a smart despatch; there would have been no difficulty in saying upon paper what would have tended to make matters worse; but he thought this country and his noble Friend at the head of the Government could afford to act with moderation, with temper, with forbearance, and with patience. Had it been necessary, there could have been no difficulty in vindicating our own law and our own independence against France; but the question at the time was how the crisis could best be met with prudence and discretion. He therefore submitted that this Amendment ought not to receive the sanction of the House, because it appeared to him that the result of its adoption would be to defeat by a side wind the decision to which the House had come the other evening by a large majority; it would certainly have the effect of preventing the Bill from passing; and it did not appear to him that it would be at all likely to conduce to those amicable relations between this country and France, which many hon. Members of that House desired to maintain.


Sir, I shall advisedly pass by the principal part of the speech of my learned Friend the Lord Advocate, relative to the merits of the Bill which the House is now invited to read a second time. I see on the part of the learned Lord a disposition to mix two discussions which I think had better be kept apart—two discussions from the combination of which the greatest mischief has arisen, for it is hard upon this country that we should be called upon to discuss questions connected with the amendment of the criminal law, and therefore affecting the security of the private rights of every Englishman, under menace and terror of a foreign Government. I conceive that among the many merits both of the Motion and the speech of my right hon. Friend (Mr. M. Gibson) there is this one, that they render us essential assistance in separating the political and the juridical parts of this question. I must confess that I cannot agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole), in thinking either that this measure, considered as a question of legal innovation, is a light matter, or that the change proposed would be beneficial. It appears to me to be a change of a very grave order, and one to which, upon the merits of the proposal, most serious objections may be taken; but, whatever the leaning and bias of my mind may be, I am willing to be in- structed upon this subject by the authorities of the law. If I find that those, who both from professional knowledge and from practical experience are competent to give an opinion, unanimously or generally agree that it is well for us, in this particular instance, to reverse our steps, to depart from our precedents, to make an exception from the lessons and results of all principle and experience, I certainly shall not close my understanding against the influence of such authority. But how am I to learn those opinions, how am I to weigh that authority, when a Bill is introduced to us, not with an intelligible statement of the condition of the law—not with an exposition of its legal, civil, and social bearings—but proposed by the Prime Minister of the Crown, of course not himself a lawyer, and recommended upon grounds and with reference to considerations that are not legal, that are not social, that are not even English; but that are purely political? I claim, Sir, the power of discussing questions of English law upon English grounds and English considerations, and we shall now see whether, by means of the Amendment of my right hon. Friend, it may not be possible to do something at least towards reserving to ourselves a clear ground and a fair opportunity for pursuing that course. I take, then, the speech of my learned Friend the Lord Advocate as it bore upon the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. M. Gibson). Now, what were the allegations of my learned Friend the Lord Advocate, in reference to this Motion? He said, in the first place, that the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne was fatal to the Bill, and, secondly, that the Amendment had nothing to do with the Bill. I will leave the first of those allegations of the learned Lord to be answered by himself, because, after stating that this Amendment would be fatal to the Bill, he went on to say, in language equally explicit, that it would be in the power of any hon. Member of this House to vote both for the Amendment and for the Bill. [Laughter.] I am in the recollection of the House, and I believe I do not exaggerate that portion of the case. Now, having the authority of my right hon. and learned Friend (the Lord Advocate) against himself, it is needless for me to interfere between him and himself, and indeed, there would be something inviduous in any such interference. It appears, however, from the statement of my right hon. and learned Friend that the Amendment has, in his opinion, nothing to do with the Bill. That is, no doubt, Sir, a very convenient proposition if it can be made good, and as it is eminently clear to the mind of the learned Lord, though I don't know whether it is equally clear to the minds of others, I don't at all question that he is naturally anxious to turn such a proposition to the best account. This Amendment has nothing to do with the Bill? And we have heard to-night from the hon. Member for one of the divisions of Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) that we are called upon to debate a trumpery question whether a diplomatic correspondence is complete or incomplete. It is thought worth while to appeal to some vulgar but vague prejudice, as if diplomatic correspondence, forsooth, could mean nothing but routine or red-tape, it being on the contrary, the fact that when you speak of diplomatic correspondence you speak of that by which war is made, and by which peace is made, by which the honour of nations is maintained, and the disgrace of nations is incurred. It is all very well for us to say, as we may truly say, that there is too much of reserve and chicane about diplomacy; but at the same time diplomacy represents in its substance one of the highest kinds of civilization. For what does it mean but this—that on that field of controversy between nations, where formerly nothing was settled except by the sword, the reason of man has now stepped in, and in fair argument the rights of nations are settled and upheld? Therefore, Sir, the question whether a diplomatic correspondence is incomplete may often be, and in this particular case is, the question whether there be such a thing as national honour, and whether over that honour it is the business of the House of Commons to keep jealous watch. The learned Lord complains—and I think he is very fastidious in his complaint—that the objection of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gibson) that Count Walewski's despatch has been left unanswered, should be raised on the second reading, and he says, "Why was it not taken on the introduction of the Bill?" Sir, that objection was taken on the introduction of the Bill. It was taken by a right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli); it was taken by a right hon. Friend who sits near me (Mr. S. Herbert). The learned Lord's complaint would have been frivolous if the objection had not been thus made; but besides being frivolous it is wholly inaccurate. Moreover, not only was the objection taken as I have stated, but there was a reason why any Member of Her Majesty's Government should have remembered that it was so taken, because the medicine administered in raising that objection did not wholly fail of its effect. Some fruit, some good results, followed from the taking that objection, as I will now proceed to show. Sir, two questions arise out of the Motion we are now considering—one, whether this despatch has or has not been answered; and the other, whether it is a despatch which requires answering before we proceed to legislate; and, as I am one of those who deeply feel the mischief and the danger of these discussions in the form in which they have been introduced to us by the act of the Administration, I must claim the indulgence of the House, while I state my own individual feelings respecting our relations with France. Believing that we shall have many opportunities of discussing the merits of this Bill, I promise the House not to j enter upon that question, but to confine myself strictly to the Motion of my right hon. Friend. Although my right hon. Friend, in his equally temperate and able speech, has justly guarded himself on a matter upon which every man ought to be jealous and sensitive,—namely, the maintenance of a good understanding with France, all those hon. Members who feel j on this subject as deeply as I do, may be permitted to repeat those sentiments for themselves. Now, what I feel about the French alliance is this—it is a bad principle in general for a country to draw distinctions between one alliance and another. The true policy is, as a general rule, to be equal friends with all the world, except in cases where there have arisen grave causes for necessary offence. Believing that as a general rule to be the only safe principle—believing that deviations from that rule will ordinarly have no other effect than to engender odium in many quarters without enhancing friendships in others—yet I am prepared to say that as regards the relations between England and France a peculiar exception should be made. Such is the position in which they are thrown by their close local neighbourhood, so enormous is the power which when combined they can exercise for good, and so immense the mischief which must result from their dissensions, that I frankly own none of your foreign relations are altogether parallel to those which you hold with France; and I do believe this is so generally felt throughout Europe that no other State entertains any jealousy when, either in the Speeches from the Throne, or in expression through other organs of opinion, a peculiar and special value is attached to the maintenance of a good understanding between England and France. These being my sentiments, Sir, towards the French nation, I make no deduction from them whatever as regards the French Government. Though as at present constituted its origin is recent—though there is much in its history with which, if it were our affair to examine it, we should not be able to sympathize—I say we ought to give to the Government now existing in France every proof of confidence, to extend to them every good office, every aid for purposes of justice which could be demanded upon principles of international law and comity by the most ancient Government, with the most unspotted title, and the freest government and institutions in Europe. Lastly, Sir, there is yet one point more. No man who feels, as I do, insuperable objections to the measure now before the House—no man who feels, as I do, how much the discussions of that measure have a tendency to force men into observation which they would fain avoid, ought, at all events, to refrain from confessing that never in the history of nations (possibly this may be his case) has England had a more frank, faithful, and loyal ally than she has possessed in the person of the Emperor of the French. I go further, and I say how deeply I lament that ever since the conclusion of the peace in 1856—although the alliance has been maintained with loyalty, I have no doubt, upon both sides, and, as I think, with great wisdom and judgment upon one—there do seem to have arisen a succession of questions, first of all about the Isle of Serpents, then about the Principalities, then about the Isthmus of Suez—first one thing and then another—which I am bound to say appear to me, not through the fault of the French Government, to have occasioned an opposition of opinion and of action between the two countries that has become notorious to the whole world. All this I deeply lament, and I feel that these notorious quarrels have greatly weakened the position of England as regards the French Government in comparison to what it was in 1856, and have reduced it to what it was at the moment when the unhappy occurrence took place which we all so much deplore. Having said thus much with respect to France, in terms, I hope, as unequivocal as they are, I know, sincere, I ask the House these two questions: Has this despatch been answered; and is it a despatch which requires an answer? Has it teen answered? It is sometimes found impracticable to obtain a reply from a Government to questions which are put to it. No man, however, with a candid mind can take that objection on the present occasion, because we have had more than one reply. The relations of the replies to one another are very much like the propositions which I ventured humbly to extract out of the speech of the learned Lord Advocate. But, at any rate, I beg to remind the noble Lord that the complaints made as to the despatch being unanswered exercised an important influence on the first declarations of the Government in this matter. Why, the point was anticipated by my noble Friend at the head of the Government. He did not wait for the mention of it by others, but referred to it himself in terms rather emphatic. The substance of his explanation was that the despatch neither had been nor could possibly be answered, for these are the words which he is reported "somewhere" to have used:— I am concerned to say that, in point of fact, that which has recently passed prevents our meeting that assertion with refutation. It is not true that the people or the Government of England intentionally encourage or harbour men capable of committing this crime, but unfortunately it is a fact that men have plotted crimes in England, and from England have issued for their perpetration. When we are told by the right hon. Gentleman and others that we ought to have answered that despatch of Count Walewski with an indignant refutation, I say, unfortunately facts prevented our making that indignant refutation. Therefore, at the time when the Bill was introduced, the despatch had not been answered, and the despatch was, rebus instantibus, incapable of being answered. At the commencement of this evening's discussion the case stood a little different, for so efficacious was the complaint, which had been made, that my noble Friend volunteered the statement that not only the despatch might be answered, but that it had been answered; it had been answered verbally. Now, Sir, I am bound to say, of all the explanations we have had, that is the worst and the most unsatisfactory. If there was no other ground for the Motion of my light hon. Friend, that would be sufficient. The thrusting of verbal answers, about which we know nothing, which we have no means of testing, of ascertaining, of judging, and pronouncing upon—the thrusting of them into debates where they may be introduced at will, and again withdrawn at will, and where from the infirmity of memory they are liable both to be misstated at the outset and to be improved upon as debates proceed—such a practice, I say, is one so contrary to the spirit of the constitution and the rules which govern the production of information to this House that in my opinion it emphatically calls for the notice of this House. That, by the way, reminds me of another declaration which was made by the learned Lord Advocate, and which was to the effect that it would have been very imprudent to answer this despatch of Count Walewski's at the time. Now, I cannot make out why that should be the case, unless indeed, my right hon. and learned Friend supposes that the Earl of Clarendon was in such a state of exasperation at the accusations contained in the despatch that he could not trust himself to give expression to his sentiments upon the subject, from the fear of being led to make use of improper language. I confess, however, that I give the Earl of Clarendon credit for possessing greater command over his temper than my right hon. and learned Friend seems disposed to accord him, and I believe that to answer the despatch of Count Walewski at the moment would have been a course as expedient as I think it was obligatory upon the noble Earl to adopt. Well, I have alluded to two declarations with which we have been favoured upon the part of the Government in reference to this question. There remains, however, a third. My right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department says, "The despatch will be answered the moment you have read this Bill a second time." Will be answered! Here, then, are two supporters of the Bill; the Lord Advocate who says that there is no connection between the second reading of the Bill and the answering of the despatch, and the Secretary for the Home Department, who says that as soon as ever this Bill passes its second reading, the despatch shall be answered. Such is the state of hopeless contradiction in which the declarations of the members of the Government are involved. But does, let me ask, this despatch of Count Walewski require an answer, because, after all, the question of mere verbal discrepancies is a small one compared with the considerations which arise out, of the nature of the document itself. The learned Lord Advocate says that the despatch contains nothing offensive or insulting. Now, far be it from me to apply either of those epithets to any expressions used in a document emanating from the French Government, because, however strong those expressions may be, however untrue or injurious in their tendency, yet we ought not to pronounce them "insulting and offensive," unless we believed them to be employed with the wilful and deliberate intent of doing us harm. I, for one, do not suppose that the words in question were used with any such intention, nor can I think that a foreigner is open to any great degree of censure if, labouring under a momentary excitement caused by circumstances of a character peculiarly painful, he should make erroneous allegations with respect to the laws and institutions of this country. While, however, I must decline to avail myself of those expressions, and refuse to designate the expressions in the despatch as "insulting and offensive," I cannot refrain from saying that it contains statements which are utterly incorrect, and at the same time most injurious to England. I refer in particular to two paragraphs, the first of which is as follows:— It is no longer the hostility of misguided individuals, manifesting itself by all the excesses of the press and all the violences of language; it is no longer even the work of factions seeking to rouse opinion and to provoke disorder; it is assassination, elevated to doctrine, preached openly. Assassination elevated to a doctrine and preached openly! This is part of the case against us. Is the charge true, I ask? [Mr. BOWYER: "No, no!"] I trust the hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me to state my argument without interruption upon a matter so grave as this. Is it tine, I repeat, that assassination is in England "elevated to a doctrine and preached openly"? Is any man who hears me conscious to himself that such is the fact? If it be the fact, why has not a remedy been provided? Is it not notorious that the law is sufficient to correct such an abuse? Why, then, has no appeal been made to the law? I am not aware that "assassination has been elevated into a doctrine and preached openly;" but if it has been, why has such a state of things been permitted to go on in the presence of those who ought, as a measure of prudence and public propriety, to have called upon Her Majesty's Government to put it down? The imputation is a most injurious one, and I feel assured not less untrue than it is injurious. It is an imputation which should not be lightly made or be lightly regarded by any nation, and I must say—as one who has perhaps too often made it my business to call attention to the failings of my coun-trymen.—it appears to me that England has an undoubted right to demand the vindication of her honour in reference to this question of assassination, for it is a plant which is congenial neither to her soil nor to the climate in which we live. Well, then, I ask if there ought not to have been an answer to this first portion of the despatch?—and I contend that, if national honour is not henceforth to be a shadow and a name, it was the paramount, imperative, and absolute duty of Her Majesty's Ministers to answer the assertions there made. I regret to be obliged to state, that this is not unfortunately the first occasion in the history of European proceedings in which such charges as those to which I have just alluded have been made, and made with justice. A most lamentable step, taken by the representatives of England at the Congress of Paris, tends much to weaken the ground on which we stand in resenting unjust imputations in the case of the press. I hold in my hand a book, in which is contained a paragraph constituting the expression of the solemn determination of the Conference assembled in Paris, in 1856, with regard to the laws regulating the operation of the press in Belgium. I speak in the immediate vicinity of some of the friends of the press, for a free press has, I am happy to say, still some supporters left. I would ask them to listen to the declaration which I am about to read, and to which are appended the signatures of the representatives of England, in union with those of the representatives of other great Powers of Europe. The declaration to which I refer is as follows:— That all the Plenipotentiaries, and even those who considered themselves bound to reserve the principle of the liberty of the press, have not hesitated loudly to condemn the excesses in which the Belgian newspapers indulge with impunity, by recognizing the necessity of remedying the real inconveniences which result from the uncontrolled license which is so greatly abused in Belgium. That was the conclusion at which the Conference of Paris arrived—a Conference at which Belgium, one of the brightest spots in Europe, was not represented. Now, under these circumstances, the ground, he should repeat, upon which the Government stood, in resenting unjust imputations with respect to the press, was entirely cut from under their feet. The House of Commons, however, had not signified its approval of the declaration made by the Conference of Paris. They have not been called upon to pass judgment upon it. Thirty or forty years ago, in the time of Lord Londonderry, such would probably have been the case, and the verdict of the House of Commons would, no doubt, have been found adverse to the sentiments which it contains. I now come to that second portion of the despatch of Count Walewski, which casts grave imputations on England—imputations in reference to a matter on which a foreign Government must be necessarily misinformed, but to which it will be most disgraceful to us if no answer be returned. The despatch proceeds to ask,— Ought, then, the right of asylum to protect such a state of things? Is hospitality due to assassins? Ought the English legislation to contribute to favour their designs and their plans, and can it continue to shelter persons who, by their flagrant acts, place themselves beyond the pale of common right and under the ban of humanity? Now, it is here distinctly asserted (the assertion is not the loss distinct because it is put in the form of interrogation) that English legislation contributes to favour the designs and plans of assassins. We are appealed to in the name of that common interest which ought to subsist between all nations and all Governments,—and permit me here to observe that, in order to speak with effect of that common interest of nations and Governments, it is necessary that the people should possess an organ for the expression of their opinions, and that there are certain limits to the solidarite and community of interest between Governments when they are separated, owing to the want of free institutions, from the people. Well, Sir, we are called upon, for the reasons urged in this despatch, to alter the laws of England without even having gone through the decent form of something like a legal investigation—without receiving anything like a proof of the facts that have transpired in France, or without ascertaining what could have been effected by the machinery of the laws now in existence. This despatch ought to have been answered. It is not for me to dictate the terms in which that answer should have been couched. I think it would have been, however, but right that the House of Commons, before it was called upon to legislate in a way that might affect not only the rights of every refugee, but the rights and security also of every Englishman, should be furnished with some more detailed information upon this subject. What, let me ask, is the consequence of the course which Her Majesty's Ministers have pursued? They have laid the despatch, without being answered, upon the table of this House, and have presented it in connection with the Bill now under discussion. My right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department invites us, by giving to that Bill a second reading, to answer the despatch of Count Walewski. Well, if the Bill is to be our only answer to that document, then, I say, we shall be in effect admitting the truth of this statement which it contains. If you interpose no protest—if you interpose no denial of these imputations, but merely send across the Channel, the Bill as adopted by Parliament, that Bill will be tantamount to an admission of their truth. And what is the effect of admitting the truth of these allegations? In the first place you inflict a cruel wound upon your country—a wound upon its laws, upon the feelings of its people, and upon the most venerable traditions of its history. But, Sir, you do more than this. There are secret rumours in circulation—whispers which pass from man to man about the state of feeling in France, and the consequences which are to follow if this House shall exercise what I will venture to say, but for these apprehensions, would have been the independent judgment of the vast majority of its Members. There are such rumours abroad; and we are called upon to sacrifice only a little bit of English feeling, of English law, of English usages, and of English recollections, in order to produce a satisfactory state of feeling in France. I trust, Sir, that we shall rise to something a little higher than this short-sighted policy. Are we to treat that great and gallant people, who make no trifling claims to march at the head of the civilization of the world, that people distinguished alike in arts and the pursuits of peace, and in military glory, like some child in the nursery, to whose reason we cannot venture to appeal, but who must be coaxed with a sugar-plum to be quiet? No. Let us place some confidence in the people of France. There never was a case where an assembly like this, known, at all events, to be frank and above-board in its proceedings, did place confidence in a friendly nation, and found that confidence abused. Why, Sir, we have not even explained to France the state of our law. We have not even in this House had such an explanation from the law officers of the Crown. I see or I think I see, the Attorney General preparing himself, and perhaps he will follow me. Let me tell him that it is a grief to the whole country that he has not spoken before. Down to this moment we are without anything like a general authoritative exposition of the state of the law on the part of the Government. Of course, it would have been competent for the hon. and learned Solicitor General to have given us such a statement, but he did not. In the course of his speech he confined himself to certain appeals and arguments which, whether they be good or bad, did not contain an exposition of the law. It would but have been just to England—it would but have been just to France—to have given to France an exposition of our laws. I will just show, with the permission of the House—without entering at all upon the merits of the Bill—the fallacies which are in circulation upon the subject, and in what high quarters those fallacies prevail. What said the noble Lord at the head of the Government when he introduced this Bill, and what did he repeat tonight? "A conspiracy for murder," said ho, "oh, you may indict a man for it, true, but it's all the same as if you indicted him for conspiring to hiss an actor off the stage." That's the declaration of the Prime Minister—not of a law officer—but of the organ of the Government recommending a great and important change in our law. But is that statement substantially true? Far be it from me to set my authority even against the unprofessional authority of the noble Lord; but if I can trust to the declaration of lawyers of the greatest weight and dignity, that statement, even if technically true, is substantially without the smallest foundation—that is to say, it may be technically true that all misdemeanours stand in the same category; and no great wonder, seeing that Blackstone lays it down that properly and strictly speaking "misdemeanour" is synonymous with the word "crime;" but it is not true that all misdemeanours are trifling, that they are light matters in the eye of the law, and that they are only slightly punishable. I will venture to say that the law of misdemeanour has this charateristic, that it leaves great discretion, unexampled discretion compared with the statute law, in the mind of the Judge; that it gives to the Judge a largo elasticity of power, which elasticity is founded upon and justified by this, that under the name of misdemeanour are comprised together acts of the slightest and acts of the' gravest and heaviest criminality. Although it may be perfectly true that you cannot forfeit the goods of a man for a misdemeanour, that you cannot transport him beyond the seas without a statutory warrant, yet this I say, without fear of contradiction, that there is no limit to the amount of punishment which may be inflicted on a man convicted of misdemeanour, either in the shape of privation of temporal goods, which is not very different from forfeiture, or in the shape of personal imprisonment, which may be inflicted without any limit of time in proportion to the gravity of the offence. I do not venture to make such a statement on my own authority, but on authority of which the Houses of Parliament will hear more before these discussions are at an end. Why was not this made known to France and to the French Government? And what is the consequence of the course which has been taken instead of making the state of our law known to the French Government? Whether what I have stated be accurate or not is of secondary consequence, but there is not the slightest doubt that great and heavy punishment may be inflicted for misdemeanour, and it would have been well if that information had been conveyed to the Government of France. And what do we now do? A demand is made upon us on the ground that we shelter assassins; as our answer we send back this Bill. But is the real demand made upon us in that despatch that we should convert conspiracy to murder from a misdemeanour to a felony? Is that the object which Count Walewski has in view? When he speaks of sheltering assassins, is it not obvious that he means there ought to be a power centred in the Government of sending suspected persons out of the country? That is the construction which I put upon the demand, and I do not think any other construction can be made good by argument founded upon its terms. But whether it be so or not, what is the consequence of our answering it by this Bill? It does nothing but enhance the penalty. The noble Viscount says that by enhancing the penalty you prevent the commission of the crime, and thus coolly reverse the rule and principle which has lain at the foundation of every criminal statute that has passed this House for the last thirty or forty years. We send across to France a Bill which enhances the penalty, but which does nothing whatever towards detection; and if it does nothing towards detection, can any person seriously maintain that it will meet the terms of Count Walewski's despatch? We begin, before this House is asked to legislate, by answering the charge made against us by an admission of them,—having admitted them, we meet them by a piece of legislation which will be wholly illusory. The effect of that will be, that though it may be accepted for a moment as a flattering compliment to wounded feelings, yet, when the real nature of the gift is discovered—when it is found inoperative for any purpose of good, though it sacrifices an important principle of English law, there will be a renewal of the demands the right to make which, and the obligation to comply with which also, we shall have admitted if we proceed to legislate under the despatch which now lies on the table. For these reasons I do hope that the House will tonight consider the question which is submitted to it by my right hon. Friend. The connection between the despatch and legislation has been admitted by the Government themselves and particularly by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who says that he cannot answer the despatch until you have read the Bill a second time. The importance of our decision, in my opinion, cannot be overestimated with respect to the duty of this House and with respect to our national honour. I must confess that, much as I detest those qualities in foreign policy which are characterized as meddling and quarrelsome, I do think that a man who respects other nations, who sensitively respects the rights of other nations, will be readier to defend those of his own. If there is any feeling in this House for the honour of England, don't let us be led away by some vague statement about the necessity of reforming the criminal law. Let us insist upon the necessity of vindicating that law. As far as justice requires let us have the existing law vindicated, and then let us proceed to amend it if it be found necessary. But do not let us allow it to he under a cloud of accusations of which we are convinced that it is totally innocent. These times are grave for liberty. We live in the nineteenth century. We talk of progress. We believe that we are advancing, but can any man of observation who has watched the events of the last few years in Europe have failed to perceive that there is a movement, indeed, but a downward and backward movement? There are a few spots in which institutions that claim our sympathy still exist and flourish. They are secondary places, nay, they are almost the holes and corners of Europe so far as mere material greatness is concerned, although their moral greatness will, I trust, insure them long prosperity and happiness. But in these times more than ever does responsibility centre upon the institutions of England, and if it does centre upon England, upon her principles, upon her laws, and upon her governors, then I say that a measure passed by this House of Commons—the chief hope of freedom—which attempts to establish a moral complicity between us and those who seek safety in repressive measures, will be a blow and a discouragement to that sacred cause in every country in the world.


I am very well aware, Sir, of the disadvantage of following my right hon. Friend, for there is no occasion on which there occurs to my mind more vividly than then the well-known passage,— —the eyes of men, After a well-grac'd actor leaves the stage, Are idly bent on him that enters next; and undoubtedly, feeling that disadvantage, I will not attempt to cope with my right hon. Friend in rhetorical eloquence or in splendid declamation; but I will introduce what I have to say by a few true and faithful words with respect to the history of this measure. You have been told that there is a connection between this Bill and the despatch of Count Walewski. Sir, I recommended this measure to the Government, and, at the time when I recommended it, I had neither seen nor heard of the despatch of Count Walewski. This measure was proposed to the Government from a sense of English interests, and with a conviction that it was prompted by an English spirit, and was for the benefit of English law and English institutions. I call on you now to try it by that criterion. If, after the explanations which you have heard, you believe it to be a foreign measure, it has no place in an English House of Commons; but if you believe it to be prompted in the spirit of our law, and to be conducive to the right which we have in Europe to uphold that law, and to maintain English liberty, then I call upon you to reject the imputations which have been cast upon it of being a child of foreign growth, and I hope that you will concur with me in thinking that it is a necessary measure for the purpose of ena- bling you to vindicate that English privilege which you call the "right of asylum"—a right which, in my humble judgment, cannot be consistently maintained unless this measure is passed into a law. Now, I have told you faithfully in what spirit this Bill was conceived; but I will add that, if on reading the despatch of Count Walewski, I could have placed the same interpretation upon it as has been done by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole). I would have been no party to the prosecution of this measure. If I could have believed that the appeal to the English Legislature on the consequences of the existing state of the law made in that despatch, was wholly unfounded, or was a libel upon our law, I should have refused undoubtedly to be for one moment a party to considering the propriety of making any addition to that law. Now these are the feelings and the principles that led to the introduction and formation of this measure; and I will proceed in a few plain words to explain to you in what view of the English law it has been conceived, as necessary to justify the maintenance of those rights and privileges of which you are so justly proud. The state of the English law I believe to be this—that foreigners are able to do in this country that which your own subjects are unable to do, and that which would be a crime in natural-born British subjects is a matter of impunity in foreigners. Now, how do I claim the right to protect a foreigner? When he comes to our shore I put him on a par with the British subject; I claim for him, and I insist on giving him, the same rights which are given to natural-born Englishmen; but I will give them to him on the same conditions; and those conditions are, that he shall abide by the law, that he shall respect the law, that he shall be amenable to the law; and, if he be not now amenable to the extent that a British subject is, then I call upon the House of Commons to supply that defect in the law, and to place him in a parity of condition with the British-born subject, in order that you may with perfect right before the world claim the privilege of extending to him the same protection and the same advantages which are claimed by natural-born Englishmen. Now, Sir, is that legislating in an English spirit, or is it legislating under foreign dictation? Is it a measure to forego, or abridge, or detract from what you call the right of asylum; or is it a measure to justify to the world the claim which we make in the face of the world, that, no matter what his political offences or his political opinions may be, the man who comes to our country and abides by our laws here, shall be sheltered under the shield of England, and shall be protected from every species of attack that may be directed against him? Now, Sir, what is the state of the English law at this time? The House is well aware that by the 9th Geo. IV., British subjects committing a crime abroad—a murder for instance—are amenable to English law, and may be tried as if the murder were committed in this country; but that statute is confined entirely to natural-born British subjects. Anterior to that statute even British subjects might have committed murder abroad, and inasmuch as the crime was committed abroad, and not within the peace of the Queen, it was not punishable, and could not be tried in our courts. Accordingly, that Act was passed whereby British natural-born subjects, if they commit the crime of murder abroad, are amenable at once to the law of this country. But what is the case with regard to foreigners? If half-a-dozen of them came to England, and concerted a murder here, and then went abroad to commit it, and afterwards came back again for refuge to this country, they would not, according to our law, be punishable in the courts of this country. Therefore this particular Bill has been introduced, in order to make that an offence which is not one now as regards the foreigner, so that the enactment will hereafter comprehend the foreigner, and will place him in a similar position to that in which the natural-born subject at present stands. So much for the justification of this particular proposition. Try it by its merit, but do not attribute to it an origin which is so far from being deserved that no man would venture to assert that it was prompted by foreign dictation, or regard to foreign interests, who had a competent knowledge of the subject. My right hon. Friend desires to have an exposition of the state of the law in respect to conspiracies to commit murder, and to learn whether it is not at present sufficient to answer the exigencies of the particular case before us. He also expressed some surprise that I had not informed the House upon the point when this question was last under consideration. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that it was nothing but a serious attack of illness which compelled me to absent myself on the evening when this measure was first discussed. The right hon. Gentleman himself contended that the law as it at present stood was sufficient to meet the exigencies of the present case. I believe that the state of the law at present may be thus accurately represented:—Supposing two or more foreigners in this country conspire together to commit a crime abroad, although the thing which they conspire to do is a crime, yet, if it be committed abroad, it would not be punishable by the law of this country; neither is the conspiracy punishable. I believe, notwithstanding the general words that have been used by some authorities, that for a conspiracy to be a crime it must be a conspiracy to commit that which, if done, would be punishable as a crime by the law of the country. I am perfectly aware of the very general meaning that has been given to the word "conspiracy;" but permit me to remind the House that no confidence can be placed in English law upon any general expressions or universal definitions, unless they are capable of being proved and illustrated by precedent and example. Now, I believe that I may defy any lawyer to produce an instance—at least, neither my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General, nor I, nor those whom we have consulted, have been able to find one, where, there having been a conspiracy to commit a crime abroad, which crime, if committed here, would not be punishable by the law of this country, the conspiracy itself was held to be a crime in law. I believe no such case has occurred, and I therefore decline to be guided by any such general expressions as an exposition of the law. But I admit there is another principle, very wide in its application—so wide, indeed, and so indefinite, as to make it neither safe nor proper to be recommended for acceptance in the present case. It is, undoubtedly, a principle of our law that whatever tends to interrupt the amity of the Sovereign with a foreign Power in alliance with our Sovereign is an offence, to use the language of some of the older statutes of our country, against the amity of the Crown. Ordinary offences within the jurisdiction of England are said to be against the peace of the Queen; but this particular class of offences is termed an offence against the amity of the Sovereign as tending to interrupt friendly relations between the Crown and foreign States. It is therefore perfectly true that under the operation of that principle a conspiracy to murder a foreign Sovereign might be punishable by our law; but that principle does not extend beyond the person of the ruler. If you could suppose the case of the perpetrators of the late horrible crime to have conceived the crime of destroying the Empress of France anterior to the birth of the young prince, even that crime, at which humanity would shudder, would not be punishable according to that principle of the law to which I have referred. But it is a principle which I should be sorry indeed to take down from the armoury of English law, in order to wield it as an ordinary weapon; because, although it is applicable to the dreadful offence of assassinating a foreign Prince, yet it is expressed in such terms that if it were once appealed to it would involve the obligation of our using it upon occasions on which I myself would never consent to use it. Let me beg the House to observe the manner in which it was laid down on the very last occasion—namely, on the trial of Peltier by the Chief Justice, who said:— I lay it down as law that any publication which tends to degrade, revile, and defame persons in considerable stations of power and dignity in foreign countries may be taken to he, and treated as, a libel, and particularly when it has a tendency to interrupt pacific relations between the two countries. I believe that the House of Commons would be the last body of men that would for a moment attempt to justify the application of this most elastic and universal principle. I cannot bring it home to my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford more effectually than by referring to that publication which did so much honour to his humanity and generous indignation, and which called forth the indignation of Europe. If that particular publication had been complained of by our ally the King of Naples, this principle would have compelled me, in virtue of my office, to stand in a most painful position as regards my right hon. Friend. I cannot, then, for a moment believe that the House of Commons will agree with the conclusion which my right hon. Friend has been somewhere persuaded to adopt, that there is a principle already existing in English law quite sufficient to answer all the purposes of this Bill. I have already said that if it were once appealed to you could not refuse to use it upon all occasions, even on the smallest occasion of friendly relations being interrupted by publica- tions tending, according to the language of a learned Judge, to degrade, revile, or defame persons in considerable stations. When applied to crimes such as those which shock all Europe, why, then it would be a most insignificant weapon, because it only places such crimes, and the punishment of them, in the same category and upon the same condition as imaginary offences—things which, in truth, ought not to be regarded as amounting to crime at all. In this state of things, therefore, this measure was recommended to the Government in order that a foreigner being placed on the same footing as a British subject in respect to the punishment of crime, we may on every occasion have a reason to give to foreign Governments why we persevere in giving an asylum to foreign refugees. Will the House now allow me to draw attention to the language of Count Walewski's despatch, which has excited so much indignation, and to inquire whether the words in that despatch are not justified by the condition of our law which I have described? Count Walewski states in his despatch that two things are to be complained of in England. The first is, that assassination is preached in this country. Now, no man who reads that despatch can for a moment go along with the observation of my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge in believing that anything of this kind is imputed by Count Walewski to Englishmen. If there are assassins in England they are not of English growth. They have been imported here from other countries. I believe there is no man conversant with the history of England who would not treat as ridiculous and contemptible the charge that assassination was even known, much less habitually perpetrated in this country, excepting only by those foreigners who have been brought here from other countries. But I am sorry to say this House and the country well know there is good reason for the statement of Count Walewski, that publications have been made in this country at the instance of those foreigners exactly answering the words of the description contained in his despatch, by which tyrannicide has been openly preached as a doctrine, and by which passages have been studiously collected from classical antiquity—from Greek and Roman writers—nay, even from the Old Testament itself, in order to inculcate the doctrine that when a man is trampling upon the laws and liberties of his country, and has raised himself to a despotic power, the inhabitants of that country are not only relieved from the ordinary obligations of law, but are bound, under the strictest obligations of natural justice, to assassinate that man. Tyrannicide in such a case, according to those publications, is not only permissible, but commendable. The Government has had its attention directed to these publications, and it will be very quickly seen what course the Government has thought proper to take with reference to them. So much, then, with regard to one particular passage in this despatch. And now as to the other passage, which states that the legislation of England favours these attempts. I have explained in what sense the despatch is to be read, and I am bound to admit that, taken in. that sense, this particular observation is correct, because, if my view of the law be well founded, that foreigners may with impunity do that which British subjects could not do, and that while the law places them in the same position as British subjects with regard to protection, it is insufficient to subject them to the same penalties, why then it is a just observation that the statute law of England does favour these wicked machinations of foreign refugees, and it is to this state of the law of England that the French Minister invites the attention of this Government. Having invited that attention, the despatch concludes by words which I think are indicative of the spirit in which it was written, namely, "France trusts entirely to the good will and conscientious feeling of the British nation to take such measures as might be necessary under the circumstances." It was from a conviction that that appeal would not be made in vain that these enactments have been embodied in this Bill, and submitted to an English House of Commons. I cannot imagine that there is any doubt whatever upon this view of the subject of the course which it becomes us to adopt. I cannot imagine that the House of Commons will think the people of this country are bound by any other feeling in regard to this question than that feeling of moral obligation which ought to influence an individual in private life. I entirely concur in the observation of an ancient philosopher, that there is no distinction between the duties of a country and the duties of a good man; and I call upon every hon. member of the House to answer this question:—Supposing he were conscious that any individual on his estate, or on premises belonging to him, was prac- tising designs against his neighbour destructive of property or threatening life, what would be the feeling of duty he would at once entertain with reference to such acts, committed under shelter of his roof, or by means of property belonging to him? The answer is most obvious, and that which is unquestionably the duty of a private person is equally the duty of a State. The obligation to your neighbour is not greater in private life than it is in the relations of countries. Therefore it is that, with the conviction of that moral obligation to which none are more alive than the people of England, this Bill has been brought in, in order that we may be able to say to Europe, "We will make no change in our institutions, but if you can point out any defect, we will ascertain if the defect exists, and to preserve those institutions, to render them complete, and to justify them in the face of the world, we will supply the void which is now existing." Is there any degradation in that? Is there any shame or humiliation in acting upon that principle of duty? Why, I agree with the hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) the shame and humiliation would have attached to those who had not the courage to do what was right, and, feeling what was right, to abide by a sense of duty, notwithstanding even—which is not the fact—they were called upon in a loud or unceremonious manner. There are a very few remarks of the right hon. Gentleman to which, though I am exceedingly unwilling to detain the House longer, I must for a moment advert. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) observes that the Bill has not been introduced upon legal but upon political grounds. I trust he will do me the credit to accept my assurance, that although it is perfectly true the occurrence abroad furnished an occasion for considering the question, yet the Bill has been introduced wholly and entirely upon a conviction of the defect of English law, and not to answer any political purpose whatever. My right hon. Friend was particularly triumphant with regard to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate, because he said the Amendment furnished an opportunity of discussing a question wholly independent of the merits of the Bill itself. I must say that if ever there was an assassination of English growth the attempt of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton to get rid of this Bill upon grounds not at all pertinent to the consideration of the second reading, but very material and pertinent to the introduction of the Bill, may be considered as such. This Bill is sought to be got rid of by a back-blow, by secret stabbing, under the pretence that my right hon. Friend is not intending to do any injury, he at the same time knowing perfectly well that if his Motion succeed the Bill will be thrown out by means of that insidious and secret attack upon it. My right hon. Friend complains that there has been no opportunity of discussing this Amendment, and therefore he has brought it forward. I say that every consideration applicable to the Amendment was entertained by the House on the question of the introduction of the Bill, and I have a verdict of a majority of 200 upon the merits of the question involved in that Amendment. It is impossible that any hon. Gentleman who voted for the introduction of the Bill can vote with any consistency for the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman. Undoubtedly there are some hon. Members who are so peculiarly constituted that they can vindicate to themselves doing one thing one day and another another. I rather accept the description given of them by the hon. Member for Norfolk, that they are the innocent doves of the right hon. Member for Ashton, and if they are content with that definition they may, undoubtedly, in their innocence reconcile a vote for the introduction of the Bill with a vote to throw it out, precisely on the same grounds, for there is not a single circumstance known to the House on the present occasion which was not known to it on the occasion of the question of leave being given. You had the despatch of Count Walewski before you. You knew very well that no answer had been returned to that despatch. If there be any ground for the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton that ground should have been taken by the 200 hon. Gentlemen who gave their support to the measure on that occasion, and they should have said, "Answer the despatch of Count Walewski, and then we will consider the introduction of the Bill." How could we possibly answer the despatch of Count Walewski? Should we have said to that despatch, "There is nothing requiring alteration or amendment in the law of England?" Should we have given a pledge, in answer, that we would appeal to the law of amity as it stands, and institute a prosecution? I have already said that I deprecate, undoubtedly, acting upon that rule. But the way to answer effec- tually was to say, "We will apply ourselves to the consideration of the law, and, if we find that which is stated, we will make some alteration." Then the despatch of Count Walewski would be answered most thoroughly and effectually, and in the sense in which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department meant it should be answered, by the introduction of this Bill. My right hon. Friend (Mr. M. Gibson) I think resorted to something rather unworthy of him when he played on the words—"whether answered or refuted." I think it unworthy of him to descend to what must be deemed a quibble on words. If the despatch had contained that imputation upon this country which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole) thought he saw in it, it would have been answered by a most indignant refutation. But if it contained no such thing—if it contained only a suggestion with regard to an infirmity in our institutions, the best answer was a fulfilment at once of the duty we owe to France, and a discharge of ordinary moral obligations, by introducing this Bill to the House of Commons, and stating frankly the reason why it was introduced. I believe I have adverted to the principal topics which were urged by the right hon. Gentleman. Some others were addressed to the House, which I should be glad to go into, but I am unwilling to detain the House; and for another reason, because they can more properly be discussed when the Bill is in Committee—I mean the observations made with regard to the power to be exercised by constables under this Bill, and the limitations requisite to he made to that power. I trust I shall have an opportunity of showing that those observations are founded altogether upon a misapprehension of the state of the law as it is to be administered under the Bill. In conclusion, I can assure the House, the Bill has one object, and one object only, and that is to place the foreign refugee while he is in this country in the same situation with regard to the law in which the British subject now stands. I invite the House to regard the Bill in that light, as an embodiment of that principle only, and as giving effect to that object only. I believe that to be evidently an English object, and to be essential, as I have already observed, to justify what we prize and are determined to maintain—namely, not to endure any interference with regard to the manner in which a refugee shall be treated beyond that he shall be placed in all respects upon the same footing as our own countrymen, and made amenable to the same law to which a British subject is amenable. These are the grounds upon which I humbly trust that this Amendment will be rejected, and the Bill be read a second time.


As I understand that it is the general wish of the House that we should come to a division tonight, I will request their permission to express, in a very few words, the reasons which induce me to take a course to-night which I believe will be followed by some hon. Gentlemen near me. The hon. and learned Attorney General has told us that he cannot conceive with what consistency hon. Gentlemen who voted for the introduction of the Bill can support the Resolution which has been proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton. I must say I am totally blind to that inconsistency which the hon. and learned Attorney General seems to think so very clear and perceptible. It appears to me there is a very great difference in the circumstances if the two occasions. Ten days ago the question before the House was a question between the Parliament of England and the people and Government of France. I, for one, and a great majority of this House also, sympathized with the people and Government of France under the circumstances which had recently occurred—circumstances which, of all others, would alarm and outrage the feelings of a great nation, and that nation our faithful ally. It was in every sense most impolitic that we should hastily, and in precipitation, show that there was on the part of the House of Commons a want of sympathy with the nation and Government of France in the situation, so difficult and distressing, in which they were then placed. When the Motion for leave to introduce the Bill was carried by so large a majority, what was the declaration which was implied by the vote of many hon. Gentlemen who were in that majority? It was a declaration that, under the circumstances in which the Government of France was then placed, there was an earnest desire on the part of the Parliament of England to show that they sympathized with the Emperor of the French and the French people in the condition in which they were placed. By that vote we proved that we were prepared to consider with all sincerity, and with anxiety, the state of the law of our own country, as it bore upon incidents such as those which had lately occurred. But, Sir, that vote, carried as it was by a large majority, in no way showed that those Gentlemen who were in the majority upon that occasion agreed with the proposition of the Minister. On the contrary, amongst the hon. Gentlemen who took part in that debate there were many—and I certainly can answer for myself—who treated with no very great respect the proposition of the Government, as being inadequate, or as being unsuited to the occasion; and they guarded themselves with a reserve which was not only Parliamentary, but which was wise, from any expression of approbation of the Ministerial proposal, and at the same time they spoke in as strong language as they could of the conduct of the Government in not answering that despatch which has been the subject of so much discussion this evening. Well, Sir, if it was the fault of the Government that ten days ago that despatch was not answered, I know not what excuse can be made for the conduct of the Minister if, after the lapse of ten days—when Parliament had generously supported the first reading of the Bill, with a clear intimation which it displayed of the view with which it regarded the laches of the Government in not replying to that missive of the Minister of France—that despatch has not been answered yet. Can it be said that, those ten days having elapsed, hon. Gentlemen who, under previous circumstances, supported the introduction of the Bill, are now prevented from offering any criticism upon the conduct of the Government? Ten days ago many hon. Gentlemen acceded to the proposal of the Government in the most guarded manner, and they did it in that manner because they reserved to themselves the right, upon a future occasion, of expressing their opinions upon the conduct of the Government, and the injurious influence which it has exercised upon the character of England and the general course of events; but because they did then accede to the introduction of the Bill, does that stop them from opposing its further progress through this House? Why, Sir, if ten days ago it was a question between the Parliament of England and the Government and people of France, that is not the position in which it stands upon the present occasion, and in coming to a vote tonight we have the great advantage that on the previous occasion, by the manner in which the Commons of England agreed to the introduction of the Bill, we proved our sincere sympathy with the French nation, and we displayed a decorous respect for the Emperor of the French. That very circumstance, I think, allows us now to offer our opinions, because now they cannot be misinterpreted, upon the conduct of the British Minister. What ten days ago was a question between the Parliament of England and the people and Government of Franco has now become a question between the House of Commons and the English Minister. Sir, I myself have heard nothing to-night which throws the slightest light upon that obscure passage in our administration which refers to the reception of Count Walewski's despatch. No Member who has risen from the Treasury bench—and the Treasury bench has been exhausted in the course of this discussion—has offered a single valid reason, or has advanced any satisfactory excuse for the conduct of the Government. There is one circumstance which I do not think has been referred to in the course of this debate, and which I myself was not conscious of when I made some observations upon the subject ten days ago. It appears that the despatch of Count Walewski, which has been the subject of so much discussion, was not merely written to the Ambassador of France in England, according to the usual custom, and by him read to the English Secretary of State who received a copy, but it was published in the Moniteur of France, and thus made known to the people of France, and, more than that, like all State papers of great authority that appear in a journal of the high character of the Moniteur, it was probably copied into every official journal in Europe, and perused and accepted as authentic by every Cabinet in Europe. Where is the answer, then, to that despatch? What satisfaction can it be to the people of this country, and how can the suspicions of Europe be removed, when this despatch of Count Walewski's appears in the Moniteur, when it appears in every accredited organ in Europe, when it is accepted by the diplomacy of every State and by every Cabinet—what satisfaction, I say, can it be if all the information that we receive from the noble Viscount is that some indefinite words are expressed in the salons of the French Ambassador, in which, for aught we know, two men of the world shrugged their shoulders, and thus exchanged a meaning not expressible in articulate sounds? It is to my mind perfectly inexplicable how Her Majesty's Government could he guilty of the indiscretion of laying that unanswered despatch upon the table of the House of Commons, and of making it the very basis of the legislation which they now propose. Lot the House entirely cast from their consideration any thought as to the influence which this debate may have, or which the conduct of this House upon this occasion may have, upon the disposition of the French people or the conduct of the French Government. I do not suppose that, under any circumstances, such a consideration would exercise any undue influence on a British House of Commons, but in the present case it ought to exercise no influence at all. The question which we have to decide to-night is no longer a question of the relations between the two countries, France and England; it is no longer a question of the relations between the Parliament of England and the people of France; but it is solely confined to the responsibility which the Government of England has incurred to those who represent the people of England in this House. The whole circumstance of this despatch is cloaked in mystery, and no Minister of the Crown has yet risen to explain why it has not been answered, or why a despatch printed and circulated in Europe as this has been, and unanswered as it has been, should have been made the ostentatious basis of legislation. The fact alone that those addresses which appeared in the same official organ of the French Government—addresses which excited so much indignation, and so justly excited indignation in this House and among the people of this country—were never disavowed till the 6th of February, when Parliament met upon the 4th, when this Bill was announced, proves to me that Her Majesty's Government, from the first, have acted in a perplexed, a timid, a confused, and unsatisfactory manner, that they totally forgot what was due to their own dignity, that they were never recalled to that self-respect which they ought at once to have displayed till they found that the House of Commons turned round upon them, and demanded that that should be done which the Ministers of England—those to whom the preservation of the honour of their country was intrusted—had failed to accomplish. What confirms me in that opinion is, information which I believe to be correct, that those addresses which have been complained of so much, and which have produced so much mischief, appeared day after day, and yet no notice was taken of them, cither by directing the English Ambassador in France to appeal to the French Government, or by an appeal to the French Ambassador in this country, by a Secretary of State; and I maintain that, in this respect, there was negligence on the part of the English Government, occasioned no doubt by perplexity of opinion and timidity of sentiment. I must say, also, that I think that if the Government, instead of allowing this cause of misconception to be day by Jay repeated, had employed a frank hut decisive and friendly tone towards the French Government upon circumstances so calculated to create and foster a misunderstanding between the two countries, the position of the Government of France with regard to removing these causes of misunderstanding would have been greatly facilitated, and we might never have been obliged to enter into these painful and perilous discussions. For myself, had it not been for the inevitable meeting of Parliament, I am perfectly unconscious by what means, considering the course adopted by the Government, a good understanding could have been re-established between the two countries. Let the House remember that, in ninety-nine cases out of every hundred, when there is a quarrel between two States, it is generally occasioned by some blunder of a Ministry. In the present instance I see no reason why this misconception should have occurred if the Government of England had acted with promptitude and firmness—with a spirit ready to assort the dignity of this country, but at the same time calculated to conciliate the feelings of a faithful ally. The House has, I think, expressed to-night what I attempted to express on the first occasion when this subject was brought before us—namely, their deep regret that that despatch was not immediately and adequately answered. The country has, I believe, arrived at that conclusion, and adopted it as one of those general convictions which influence the conduct of the people. I do not think that there is any substantial difference of opinion on that subject. I can hardly credit, at this moment, that even Her Majesty's Government can vindicate, in this respect, the course which they have pursued. Certainly the debate of ten days ago appears already in this particular to have produced a considerable effect. The right hon. Member for the University (Mr. Gladstone) has traced the gradual change of feeling on the part of Her Majesty's Government as to the necessity of replying to despatches of importance. But to-night we have heard from a Secretary of State that the despatch, which was written a month ago, will be answered when this Bill has passed, but not till then; and therefore another month may elapse, or, for aught we know, the Greek Kalends may be the period for the repartee of the Government. The Secretary of State, in the stern necessity which he now recognizes of replying to that State paper, does not at all agree with the tone which the noble Lord the First Minister took at the beginning of our discussions on this subject; for the noble Lord gave us no idea, whether we looked to the past, the present, or the future, that any answer to this document was either possible or desirable. "What!" said the noble Lord, in scoffing tones, "you think we ought to have settled this question by a high-flown despatch? I think that a despatch was not at all the proper mode of meeting it. In fact," continued the noble Lord, "it was impossible to answer the despatch of the French Minister." These were his very words. "And, therefore," added the noble Lord, "I will give them something substantial," in the shape of a change in our legislation, which they will receive as a great compliment, and which (as the hon. and learned Attorney General told us tonight), was already prepared, and about to be introduced. But if that be the case, as we have just been informed by the hon. and learned Gentleman and by another high legal authority, what a fine answer it would have been to the French Government if, replying to their despatch, Her Majesty's Ministers, making use of that expression of feeling which was becoming, had only concluded their communication by announcing that by the most singular good fortune in the world, or by the most sagacious prescience, they had a measure in contemplation, and ready to be introduced at the next meeting of Parliament, which would anticipate all that the Emperor desired, or all that the law and custom of England would justify? Sir, when we have reached this point in the discussion, and it has become a question whether an English Minister should reply to a despatch from a foreign Government in which the honour of his country is impugned, we are treated by the learned Lord Advocate with scoffing words, in which he tells us our great specific for a difficult diplomatic and political conjuncture was the composition of a "smart despatch." I do not read aright the feelings of this House or of this country if that be in their minds. I do not believe that this House would have been satisfied or pleased with a flippant and lively composition, full of sneers and sarcasms—a form of reply to the French Government which would have offended their self love without vindicating our honour. We know, Sir, of such despatches. We have had blue-books laid upon our table respecting foreign affairs that were much too full of these productions—lively, brisk compositions, indeed, but not such as assert the dignity of a nation or soothe the wounded feelings of a faithful ally. But, Sir, I am still of opinion that that despatch ought to have been answered by a British Minister, and answered in a spirit worthy of the occasion. I repeat the same sentiment as I expressed when this question was before us at a previous stage. I think it would have been well to have taken that opportunity of asserting the principles of public law, of vindicating international rights, in which all are interested, of appealing to the deep pathos of a nation's dignity, of appealing not merely to the litigious spirit but to the nobler emotions of the French Government,—a course which, had it been pursued with frankness and self-respect, would in my mind have prevented the necessity of this appeal to Parliament and the people. To-night we have really to decide only upon that question. Those who may follow me—if I am followed—may attempt again to rouse the passions or alarm the fears of this House by allusions to possible misconceptions between the two countries. I see no ground for such fears. I think that the vote which we arrived at ten days ago, upon the introduction of this Bill, so far as an expression of feeling by this House can influence opinion on either side of the water, has been perfectly understood and rightly appreciated. I doubt not, that whether it be in France or in England, the real issue to-night will be clearly comprehended. It is not a diplomatic—it is not a political issue; it is, indeed, an issue of the greatest importance, but narrowed to a very small limit. It is a question between this House and the servants of the Crown. Have they, or have they not, done their duty? I will not enter into a discussion of the merits, or even of the character of the law which they have placed on our table. If the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne be carried, there will be nothing to prevent us from proceeding to the consideration of this measure; and of this measure I give that same guarded opinion as I have given before. I reserve to myself the right of deciding upon it on its merits. What we have to determine now is, whether the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman is a just and proper Resolution—whether its allegations are accurate—whether its sentiments are those which this House ought to sanction—whether the regret which we express is not felt by every Englishman, and has not touched the heart of the entire nation. That, Sir, is the issue. I protest against any foreign element being imported into it. Let us decide whether or not the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman is justified by the circumstances. For my own part, I agree with the right hon. Member for Oxford University, that it is impossible to challenge its accuracy and justice. I think it is expressed in moderate though grave language. I think that in supporting it we are fulfilling a public duty, and that if we any it we shall accomplish a public benefit.


Sir, I join with the right hon. Gentleman in the exhortation which he addressed to us towards the close of his speech. I exhort the House not to allow their passions to be aroused by the eloquent declamation, but declamation, I must venture to say, devoid of argument, by which the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton has been supported. I repeat, devoid of argument, and I say and contend, that I can prove the truth of my description. I contend that what we have heard has been vague and general declamation. The right hon. Member for Ashton (Mr. Milner Gibson) and the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone), departing from the subject under consideration, have entered into a long and elaborate attack upon my former conduct when holding the office of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. They have taken a review of those past transactions upon which at an earlier period of the night I should have been perfectly prepared to meet them. I will only say to the right hon. Member for Ashton, who appears to have ransacked the files of old newspapers for the purpose of attacking me, that I think it is lucky for him his industry did not take another turn and lead him to ransack the same old newspapers to see what they have said of himself. The right hon. Gentleman might have found that his policy has met with the same condemnation that he has said mine has received. But this I take leave to say, that when the right hon. Gentleman stands forth as the champion of the honour of England and the vindicator of the rights of this country against foreign nations, it is the first time in my life that I have seen him in that character. During the period that he and I have sat in Parliament together, upon every occasion that I can recollect, when the rights of England have been called in question by a foreign country, the right hon. Gentleman has been the advocate of the foreign country against our own, and has turned that eloquence and power of language, with which he always conducts his argument, to prove his own country to be in the wrong and the foreign country in the right. Sir, the policy which the right hon. Gentleman has invariably advocated is a policy of submission—of crouching to every foreign Power with which we have had any differences to discuss; and even when occasion has arisen, when this House has been called upon to furnish the means of national defence, the right hon. Gentleman's voice was sure to be raised to paralyze the arm of the country and deny it those means of defence which were necessary. Why, Sir, I recollect that right hon. Gentleman standing forward on one occasion as the mouthpiece of that small party who in a publication, which I had the honour to read to the House, advocated the submission of this country to any attempt to conquer it on the part of a foreign country, and who said, "What care we if this country should be conquered by a foreign force? If we were conquered by a foreign Power they would allow us to work our mills." [Cries of "Question!"] It is the question. I say that at all events the right hon. Gentleman's character to-day has the merit of novelty, for he appears for the first time in my memory as the champion of the honour and dignity of this country. Now, Sir, I tell the light hon. Gentleman that he is as unfortunate on the present occasion as he was wrong on a former occasion. I really call upon the House calmly to consider the question before it. Aye, Sir, it is not I that have introduced into this debate passionate appeals to the feelings and endeavours to misrepresent the real question which the House has to decide. The question is, whether this House will stultify itself. Of course those who are willing to stultify themselves cannot be expected to acknowledge it. None are so unconscious of stultifying themselves by their conduct as those who actually do so. But I say that this House, which only a few days ago, by a majority of 200, affirmed that it was fitting that the Government should bring in this measure, is now called upon, by an insidious Amendment, to refuse the second reading without any fresh circumstance having arisen to justify the change. The facts of the case remain as they were, and yet a change of opinion is to be produced which will astonish the country and be unintelligible to any one. I say that things are in the same condition. An hon. Friend of mine asks why this argument about not answering the despatch was not urged on the Motion for leave to bring in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford says it was urged and fully put to the House, and yet, in spite of the argument and eloquence we then heard, a majority of 200 voted that the Bill should be brought in, although the miserable pretext that the despatch was not officially answered was urged as usual against the Bill. I take leave to say, that I never heard a proposition fraught with large consequences argued and opposed on such narrow and, I will say, such miserable grounds—grounds, too, so opposed to the real state of the case. Sir, the whole argument that has been used by those who support the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman is, that this country has been grossly insulted by a despatch written by the French Government to its Ambassador here, and that that insult has not been noticed or resented as it ought to have been. ["No, no!"] But if that is not the ground for opposing the Bill, you have no ground at all. Unless that was a positive insult, which ought to have been resented, there is no pretence for saying that the Government ought to have suspended a measure of expedient legislation. Now, Sir, I deny that the despatch of the French Government was an insult to the country, or that it was in the slightest degree intended as an insult. Hon. Gentlemen who have gone on arguing that this despatch was an insult, can never have read it. I am quite sure that hon. Gentlemen who have formed the opinion that the despatch was an insult, have not taken the trouble to road it. Why, Sir, hon. Members appear to be really of opinion that this despatch imputes to the people of England that they preach and entertain as a doctrine the propriety of assassination. Sir, it does no such thing. There is not a word in that despatch that by any construction is capable of that interpretation. That which the French Government say is this:—That a conspiracy for assassination has been hatched in this country, that the persons have issued from this country for the purpose of carrying into effect that conspiracy, and that the doctrine of assassination has been preached, and avowed as a principle by those persons. And then we are called upon to account why we have not indignantly denied those positions. Why, Sir, could Her Majesty's Government deny those positions? The assertion of the French Government was, that there were some persons in this country who abused the right of asylum. Are they the people of this country? Is it the people of England who enjoy the right of asylum here? Why, it is as plain and clear as words can make it, that the persons alluded to are foreigners who, having received shelter in this country, have abused that right of asylum by proceedings that we must all reprobate. Is that an insult to this country? Is that a reflection upon its people? And then hon. Gentlemen get up and say that assassination is detested in this country, and that we ought not to be accused of sentiments opposed to our own. Why, such sentiments are not imputed to the people of England, and I defy any one who has read that despatch to quote anything that can in the remotest degree support such an imputation. Then, the question is asked why a statement in answer, and adequate to the occasion, was not given. Were we to say that the assertion of the French Government was true—that we were sorry to say that a conspiracy had been hatched in this country, that we were sorry to say that persons had issued from this country to execute it, and that we were sorry that the doctrine of assassination by foreigners had been avowed and preached by foreigners in this country? Was there any great advantage in answering that part of the despatch in the only way in which it could be answered? The despatch of the French Government goes on to say, that the legislation of this country does not provide an adequate remedy for that offence. My hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General has shown in a detailed manner that that assertion is perfectly true, and that the legislation of the country, as it now stands, does not provide an adequate remedy, as the foreigner is not upon the same footing as British subjects, in regard to the offence to which the complaint relates. Well, what ought to have been our answer to that despatch? Were we to deny what was perfectly true, and assert that the legislation of this country does provide an adequate remedy for this offence, when the Crown lawyers, who were responsible for their advice, said that it did not, or that the doubt was so great, that a foreigner could scarcely be regarded as being on the same footing as a British subject? Then, it is said that the despatch calls upon this country to give up that which has always been its glory—namely, the right of asylum to the fugitives of a foreign country. But what says the despatch? Why, that the French Government prides itself upon maintaining that principle in France, and that France has always given an honourable shelter to persons who have been compelled to leave their own country from political considerations. Upon that point, then, we could only say that we meant to adhere to a principle, which the French Government itself applauded as forming an indisputable element of their own policy, and which they declared that they were not going to alter in consequence of anything that had happened. Then, the right hon. Gentleman says— You say you had in mind the measure as one proper to be brought forward, and why did you not tell the French Government in a formal communication that you had a measure in preparation, stating what that measure was, and that it would be proposed to Parliament as soon as it met? Now, Sir, I should like to know what would have been said by these champions of the dignity of Parliament, by these persons who are so jealous of the honour of the country and of the dignity of this House and of the nation, if we had laid upon that table documents by which we had, as it were, forestalled the decision of this House, by which we should have appeared to have negotiated with France a promise to pay which this House, and not the Government, was to fulfil, and to have anticipated in a formal document the de- cision of Parliament upon a measure of which it was wholly ignorant. I think if we had done that we should have pursued a course which would have been disrespectful to this House, and which might properly have been said to be unconstitutional, and not in accordance with the principles which regulate the Government of this country, Well, then, what would have been this answer, "adequate to the occasion?" Why, it would have been an acknowledgment that the main assertions of the French Government, in regard to facts, were consistent with the truth; it would have been a declaration, which it was hardly necessary to make, that we were not going to propose to Parliament a measure to interfere with the right of asylum; but we could not, with due respect to this House, have told the French. Government what was the measure which, upon British grounds, we thought ourselves justified in offering to the acceptance of this House. Why, then, that answer, instead of being adequate to a great occasion and a glorious State paper to be handed down to the remotest posterity, would have been a very meagre and unsatisfactory document indeed, unless we had stated things which were not in conformity with the facts and with truth. If, indeed, this House should, by agreeing to the second reading, affirm the principle of this Bill, we should then have something to say to France. We might then say that, without infringing our own principles, without at all departing from the fundamental doctrines of our constitution and our invariable practice, we had proposed a measure which we trusted would, in some degree, give to the Sovereign of a friendly people the additional security which was desired; hut that it was a measure of purely British legislation, that we did not in any degree depart from our own principles, and that it was a measure which would be equally applicable to all the inhabitants of this country, whether natives or foreigners. Sir, I do hope that this House will weigh well the course which the right hon. Gentleman is to-night asking it to adopt. I do hope that we shall not trifle with matters of deep national importance, and that this House will not be persuaded recklessly to run counter to a decision come to so recently, and by so large a majority. It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen to say that they attach the highest importance to the continuance of friendly relations with France. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford said that we ought to be friends with all nations, but that he is compelled to admit that peculiar circumstances, geographical position, and national interests all over the world do render a good understanding between ourselves and Prance more advantageous to both countries than an intimate alliance with any other nation, and that the continuance of that good understanding is, as he well described it, fraught with advantages not merely to the parties concerned, but to the welfare, the peace, and the prosperity of all civilized nations. Sir, it is mighty well for hon. Gentlemen to indulge in these general assertions, but when they come to the point, when a question is proposed to them which must have a direct bearing upon the feelings of the two countries, which must have a direct influence for good or evil upon the alliance not only between the two Governments, but the two nations, then upon the narrowest grounds upon which I ever heard a proposal to this House rested, they are to rush headlong into a course which must have an effect entirely contrary to the policy which, according to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), we ought to follow, and to reject a measure which on a previous occasion was approved by one of the largest majorities that ever carried a measure in Parliament. I trust that hon. Members will not allow themselves to be led away by the declamation to which they have listened in the course of this debate, but that they will, upon the grounds so ably stated by my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General, pass to the second leading of the Bill, and not allow it to be set aside by the insidious Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman. Because it is idle to say that you can pass that Amendment to-day, and go back to the Bill tomorrow or on Monday. It is quite plain that if the House, after full deliberation and complete debate, shall prefer the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman to the proposal that the Bill be now read a second time, but one interpretation can be put upon that result. It will be understood by the world that, during the short time which has elapsed since the last discussion, this House has completely changed the opinion which was expressed in favour of this Bill; that by some extraordinary process of reasoning, by some inexplicable circumstances, an accidental majority has been obtained to-night to reverse the deci- sion which was come to the other evening, not by an accidental majority, not by a surprise, but after full and careful deliberation, and by the sober persuasion of the House, that the measure which we proposed was in conformity with the fundamental principles of our own constitution, and calculated, under the circumstances of the time, to be of essential service in regard to our relations with our great neighbour and ally.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 215; Noes 234: Majority 19.

List of the AYES.
Adeane, H. J. Dodson, J. G.
Atherton, W. Duff, M. E. G.
Bagshaw, R. J. Dunbar, Sir W.
Bagwell, J. Duncan, Visct.
Baines, rt. hon. M. T. Duncombe, hon. A.
Baring, A. H. Dundas, F.
Baring, H. B. Dunne, M.
Baring, rt. hn. Sir F. T. Dutton, hon. R. H.
Baring, T. G. Ebrington, Visct.
Barnard, T. Ellice, rt. hon. E.
Bathurst, A. A. Ellice, E.
Bentinck, G. W. P. Ennis, J.
Bethell, Sir R. Esmonde, J.
Biddulph, R. M. Fagan, W.
Blake, J. Ferguson, Col.
Bland, L. H. Ferguson, Sir R.
Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P. Finlay, A. S.
Bouvcrie, hon. P. P. FitzRoy, rt. hon. H.
Bowyer, G. Foley, J. H.
Boyd, J. Foley, H. J. W.
Brady, J. Foster, W. O.
Bramston, T. W. Fortescue, hon. F. D.
Brocklehurst, J. Fortescue, C. S.
Browne, Lord J. T. Gallwey, Sir W. P.
Bruce, Lord E. Gavin, Major
Bruce, H. A. Gifford, Earl of
Buckley, Gen. Glyn, G. G.
Bulkeley, Sir R. Goderich, Visct.
Buller, J. W. Greaves, E.
Burke, Sir T. J. Greer, S. M'C.
Calcraft, J. H. Gregory, W. H.
Campbell, R. J. R. Gregson, S.
Castlerosse, Visct. Grenfell, C. P.
Cavendish, hon. W. Greville, Col. F.
Cavendish, hon. G. Gray, Capt.
Cayley, E. S. Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.
Clark, J. J. Grey, R. W.
Clay, J. Grosvenor, Earl
Clifford, C. C. Gurdon, B.
Clive, G. Gurney, S.
Codrington, Gen. Hall, rt. hon. Sir B.
Cogan, W. H. F. Hanbury, R.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Hankey, T.
Collier, R. P. Hanmer, Sir J.
Cowper, rt. hon. W. F. Harcourt, G. G.
Coote, Sir C. H. Harris, J. D.
Cotterell, Sir H. G. Hartington, Marquess of
Crossley, F. Hatchell, J.
Davey, R. Heathcote, hon. G. H.
Davie, Sir R. H. F. Henchy, D. O'C.
Deasy, R. Heneage, G. F.
De Vere, S. E. Herbert, rt. hon. H. A.
Devereux, J. T. Holland, E.
Divett, E. Howard, hon. C. W. G.
Hughes, W. B. Raynham, Visct.
Ingham, R. Repton, G. W. J.
Jermyn, Earl Richardson, J.
Jervoise, Sir J. C. Ridley, G.
Keating, Sir H. S. Russell, A.
Kendall, N. Russell, F. W.
Kinglake, J. A. Rust, J.
Labouchere, rt. hon. H. Schneider, H. W.
Langston, J. H. Scrope, G. P.
Langton, H. G. Seymour, H. D.
Legh, G. C. Smith, M. T.
Levinge, Sir R. Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
Lewis, rt. hon. Sir G. C. Smith, Sir F.
Lincoln, Earl of Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Lowe, rt. hon. R. Spooner, R.
Luce, T. Stafford, Marquess of
Macarthy, A. Steel, J.
M'Cann, J. Stuart, Col.
Mackie, J. Sturt, N.
Maguire, J. F. Sullivan, M.
Mangles, C. E. Tancred, H. W.
Marshall, W. Thornely, T.
Martin, C. W. Thornhill, W. P.
Martin, P. W. Tollemache, hon. F. J.
Massey, W. N. Trueman, C.
Matheson, A. Turner, J. A.
Matheson, Sir J. Vane, Lord H.
Mellor, J. Verney, Sir H.
Mills, A. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Mitchell, T. A. Vivian, hon. J. C. W.
Moncreiff, rt. hon. J. Waldron, L.
Morris, D. Walsh, Sir J.
Mowbray, J. R. Walter, J.
Newark, Visct. Warre, J. A.
Norris, J. T. Weguelin, T. M.
North, F. Western, S.
O'Brien, P. Westhead, J. P. B.
Ogilvy, Sir J. Whatman, J.
Osborne, R. Whitbread, S.
Ossulston, Lord Wickham, H. W.
Paget, C. Wigram, L. T.
Paget, Lord A. Williams, M.
Paget, Lord C. Williams, Sir W. F.
Palmerston, Visct. Willyams, E. W. B.
Patten, Col. W. Willoughby, Sir H.
Pease, H. Wilson, J.
Perry, Sir T. E. Wilmington, Sir T. E.
Philipps, J. H. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Pinney, Col. Wood, W.
Pryse, E. L. Woods, H.
Pritchard, J. Worsley, Lord
Pugh, D. Young, A. W.
Puller, C. W. TELLERS.
Ramsden, Sir J. W. Brand, hon. B. W.
Rawlinson, Sir H. C. Hayter, W. G.
List of the NOES.
Adair, H. E. Beale, S.
Adams, W. H. Bective, Earl of
Adderley, C. B. Bonnet, P.
Akroyd, E. Berkeley, hon. H. F.
Alcock, T. Blackburn, P.
Annesley, hon. H. Boldero, Col.
Archdall, C. M. Bovill, W.
Ayrton, A. S. Bramley-Moore, J.
Baillie, H. J. Bridges, Sir B. W.
Ball, E. Bruce, Major
Baring, T. Buchanan, W.
Barnard, T. T. Buller, Sir J. Y.
Bass, M. T. Bunbury, W. B. M'C.
Baxter, W. E. Bury, Visct.
Beach, W. W. B. Byng, hon. G.
Caird, J. Hardy, G.
Cairns, H. M'C. Headlam, T. E.
Carden, Sir R. W. Heathcote, Sir W.
Cardwell, rt. hon. E. Henley, rt. hon. J. W.
Carnac, Sir J. R. Herbert, rt. hon. S.
Cecil, Lord R. Hodgson, W. N.
Cheetham, J. Holford, R. S.
Child, S. Hope, A. J. B. B.
Christy, S. Hopwood, J. T.
Clinton, Lord R. Horsman, rt. hon. E.
Close, M. C. Hotham, Lord
Cobbett, J. M. Hume, W. W. F.
Cole, hon. H. A. Hunt, G. W.
Collins, T. Ingestre, Viscount
Coningham, W. Ingram, H.
Conolly, T. Johnstone, hon. H. B.
Copeland, W.T. Johnstone, J. J. H.
Corry, rt. hon. H. L. Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Cowan, C. Kelly, Sir F.
Craufurd, E. H. J. Ker, R.
Crawford, R. W. Kerrison, Sir E. C..
Crook, J. Kershaw, J.
Dalglish, R. King, hon. P. J. L.
Dalkeith, Earl of King, J. K.
Damer, L. D. Kinglake, A. W,
Davison, R. Kingscote, R. N. F.
Deedes, W. Knatchbull, W. F.
Dent, J. D. Knatchbull-Hugessen, E
Dillwyn, L. L. Knight, F. W.
Disraeli, rt. hon. B. Knox, Col.
Dobbs, W. C. Langton, W. G.
Du Cane, C. Laslett, W.
Duke, Sir J. Laurie, J.
Dunlop, A. M. Lennox, Lord A. F.
Du Pre, C. G. Lennox, Lord H. G,
East, Sir J. B. Leslie, C. P.
Egerton, E. C. Liddell, hon. H. G.
Elcho, Lord Lindsay, W. S.
Elmley, Visct. Lisburne, Earl of
Elphinstone, Sir J. Locke, Jno.
Elton, Sir A. H. Lockhart, A. E.
Evans, Sir De L. Lyall, G.,
Evans, T. W. Lygon, hon. F.
Ewart, W. Lytton, Sir G. E. L. B.
Ewart, J. C. Macartney, G.
Ewing, H. E. C. Macaulay, K.
Farnham, E. B. M'Mahon, P.
Farquhar, Sir M. Malins, R.
Fenwick, H. Manners, Lord J.
Fitzgerald, W. R. S. Martin, J.
Forester, rt. hon. Col. Maxwell, hon. Col.
Forster, C. Melgund, Visct.
Forster, Sir G. Miles, W.
Fox, W. J. Miller, T. J.
Fraser, Sir W. A. Miller, S. B.
Galway, Visct Moffatt, G.
Gard, R. S. Montgomery, Sir G.
Garnett, W. J. Morgan, O.
Gaskell, J. M. Naas, Lord
Gilpin, C. Napier, rt. hon. J.
Gladstone, rt. hon. W. Napier, Sir C.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Newdegate, C. N.
Greenall, G. Newport, Visct.
Greene, J. Nicoll, D.
Grenfell, C. W. Noel, hon. G. J.
Griffith, C. D. North, Col.
Grogan, E. Packe, C. W.
Hadfield, G. Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.
Hamilton, Lord C. Palk, L.
Hamilton, G. A. Palmer, R.
Hamilton, J. H. Paull, H.
Hamilton, Capt. Pechell, Sir G. B.
Hardcastle, J. A. Peel, Sir R.
Pevensey, Visct. Thompson, Gen.
Philips, R. N. Tomline, G.
Pigott, F. Townsend, J.
Pilkington, J. Trefusis, hon. C. H. R.
Powell, F. S. Trelawny, Sir J. S.
Price, W. P. Trollope, rt. hon. Sir J.
Ricardo, J. L. Vance, J.
Robertson, P. F. Vansittart, W.
Roebuck, J. A. Waddington, H. S.
Roupell, W. Walcott, Adm.
Russell, Lord J, Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.
Scholefield, W. Warren, S.
Sclater-Booth, G. White, J.
Scott, hon. F. Whiteside, J.
Seymer, H. K. Whitmore, H.
Shelley, Sir J. V. Williams, Col.
Sheridan, H. B. Williams, W.
Sibthorp, Major Wise, J. A.
Smith, J. B. Woodd, B. T.
Smith, A. Wortley, Major
Smollett, A. Wyld, J.
Stanhope, J. B. Windham, Gen.
Stanley, Lord Wyndham, H.
Stapleton, J. Wynn, Col.
Stirling, W. Wynne, rt. hon. J. A.
Stewart, Sir M. R. S. Wynne, W. W. E.
Sturt, H. G. Yorke, hon. E. T.
Sykes, Col. W. H.
Taylor, Col. TELLERS.
Taylor, S. W. Bright, J.
Tempest, Lord A. V. Gibson, T. M.

Words added:—Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.


That this House hears with much concern that it is alleged that recent attempts upon the life of the Emperor of the French have been devised in England, and expresses its detestation of such guilty enterprises; that this House is ready at all times to assist in remedying any defects in the Criminal Law which, after due investigation, are proved to exist, yet it cannot but regret that Her Majesty's Government, previously to inviting the House to amend the Law of Conspiracy by the Second Reading of this Bill at the present time, has not felt it to be their duty to make some reply to the important Despatch received from the French Government, dated Paris, January 20. 1858, and which has been laid before Parliament.