§ MR. GREGORY
begged to say, before putting the question of which he had given notice respecting the case of the fugitive slave Anderson, that he did not ask the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs to produce any papers that could cause inconvenience or detriment to the public service. He saw by an American newspaper that all the papers had been laid, or were going to be laid, before the American Senate; and if any portion of the Correspondence should see the light, it was better they should not have it in bits and scraps as received second-hand from America, but that it should be laid before the House in a complete and direct shape.
253 He might mention a circumstance not generally known—namely, that at the time the Extradition Treaty was discussed in the Senate of the United States in 1842, it was clearly recognized in the debate that took place at that time that a case perfectly parallel to the present case of the slave Anderson might, and probably would, arise in which a person endeavouring to escape from servitude might in self-defence take away life. The person who brought the case prominently before the Senate of the United States, and showed that the case would in all probability arise, was the Senator from that very State from which this slave had escaped—namely, Mr. Benton, the Senator for Missouri, lie made use of these words in that portion of his speech referring to the extradition clause of the Ashburton Treaty—This Treaty intervenes the judiciary, and requires two decisions from a judge or magistrate before the governor can act. This nullities the Treaty in all that relates to fugitive slaves guilty of crimes against their master. In the eye of the British law they have no master, and can commit no offence against such a person in asserting their liberty against him, even unto death. A slave may kill his master if necessary to his escape. This is legal under British law. Killing his master in defence of his liberty is no offence in the eye of British law or British people, and no slave will ever be given up for it.Better far leave things as they are. Forgers are now given up in Canada, by executive authority, when they fly to that province. This is done in the spirit of good neighbourhood, and because all honest Governments have an interest in suppressing crimes and expelling criminals. The Governor acts from a sense of propriety, and the dictates of decency and justice. Not so with the Judge: he must go by the law. and when there is no law against the offence he has nothing to justify him in delivering the offender.It was very clear, therefore, that we were not endeavouring to strain the provisions of the treaty. In conclusion, he begged to ask the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether it is his intention to lay before the House the Correspondence that has passed between the English and American Governments on the subject of the fugitive slave Anderson
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I must say that it is not very convenient to the public interest that the state of our foreign relations should be made the subject of weekly discussion in this House. At the same time I wish to give every explanation I can in answer to the numerous questions which have been addressed to me.
254 The hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Duncombe) has asked for information with reference to a transaction which has naturally attracted considerable attention—namely, the sending of Her Majesty's ship Banshee to bring certain arms from the Principalities to Constantinople. The facts are somewhat complicated, and would lead me far if I were to enter upon a full explanation; but the main points may be briefly stated. It became known to the Government a year ago that there was a party on the borders of Austria and on the borders of Turkey who had conceived the plan of throwing off the authority both of the Austrian Government and the Turkish Government, and of making a considerable State out of Hungary, the Principalities, Bosnia, and other Provinces in that part of Europe. It was for some time supposed that this was a very wild scheme and one not likely to gain support; but in the course of the year it was rumoured that arms were about to be conveyed to Constantinople, and thence to the Black Sea. The Government of the Sultan naturally felt alarmed at this proceeding. They considered that Prince Couza being one of the tributaries of the Porte, and the Principalities being in fact Turkish territory, it could not be permitted that great depots of arms should be formed in them, and that refugees from various parts of Europe should assemble there with the view of making war upon the two Governments of Turkey and Austria. Some correspondence took place upon the subject; the vessels in which the arms—cannon and muskets—had been taken to the Principalities were Sardinian vessels; and in the end the Turkish Government applied to the representatives of the different Powers. Our opinion was that these arms should be taken back to Constantinople and sequestrated there. The opinion of the French representative was that the arms should be taken back to Genoa whence they had come. In the end Prince Couza agreed that this latter course should be adopted. At that time the Danube was frozen over, and it was, therefore, impossible to remove the arms. Lately there has been some difficulty as to the removal, owing to the Sardinian vessels having gone away with other freights. The British Ambassador at Constantinople said that, if permitted to do so, he was quite ready to send Her Majesty's ship Banshee to bring the arms away; and upon his applying to me I said that Her Majesty's Government would, if 255 the representatives were agreed that these arms should be brought away, have no objection to the employment of that vessel. Accordingly the Banshee was sent, and a great part of the arms were brought away. It seems to me that this was a measure of salf-defence on the part of the Sultan's Government, and that, in acting as we did, England had only acted as one friendly Power towards another friendly Power.
A question was asked by the noble Lord opposite (Lord William Graham) with respect to the proceedings of the French Minister in Mexico and Captain Le Roy. Neither in the Foreign Office nor in the Admiralty are there any despatches upon that subject. I have seen a private letter stating that General Miramon had escaped on board a French man-of-war; but I have no official intelligence of such an occurrence. General Miramon was for some time, it must be recollected, the head of a Government which was recognised by Great Britain, by France, by Spain, and by other Powers. His acts were at no time very commendable; and in some cases generals, who were acting under his orders, committed what we thought were horrible atrocities; and towards the close of his reign, when it seemed hopeless that he should be able to maintain himself in Mexico, he broke open a room in the British Legation where certain merchants had deposited a very large sum of money. That was a clear act of robbery; and our Chargé d'Affaires naturally and properly asked that those who had been concerned in that act of robbery, in the name of the Government, should be made personally responsible for their misdeeds. One person was, I believe taken, but General Miramon escaped through the villages of the country, and it is said embarked on board a French ship of war. Whether there is any truth in that report I cannot say, and until I know all the circumstances of the case I should not undertake to make any representation to the French Government on the subject.
A very important question has been raised by my noble Friend the Member for Hastings (Lord H. Vane) with regard to the condition of Poland. I wish to speak upon that subject with very great reserve. There is at present no question which immediately concerns the interests of this country, and the conduct of the Government of Russia is not sufficiently known to us to justify us in pronouncing an opinion; but this much I must say, that according 256 to the reports of our Consul, there having been an unfortunate conflict in the streets of Warsaw, and several persons having been killed, the conduct of the people immediately after that occurrence, and while they were moved by great indignation and excitement, showed on their part great forbearance and a great desire to keep the peace of the town. A popular committee was organized, and one of the first acts of that committee was to desire that all persons should give up their arms; and, accordingly, a great many arms were given up both in Warsaw and by farmers and peasants in the neighbourhood who brought their weapons into that city. The people of Warsaw are at present, therefore, entirely disarmed, possessing, of course, the moral power which belongs to them, but with directions from their leaders that no breach of the peace should be permitted. I think that that conduct on their part has entitled them to be heard upon any petition which they may present to their Sovereign the Emperor of Russia, as King of Poland, with reference to any grievances from which they may have suffered. As to the petition which is said to have been presented to the Emperor and the concessions which have been made we are perfectly uninformed; but there are two things which we may take as certain—one, that instead of any measures of severity having been adopted towards the people of Warsaw all the measures which have been taken have been measures of mildness and conciliation; and, therefore, it is open to us to hope that whatever further measures may be adopted will be directed to the improvement of the condition of the people of Poland, and not to their punishment for the attitude which they have assumed. There is another observation which cannot fail to be made, which is, that the Emperor of Russia has since his accession to the throne shown the greatest desire to improve the condition of his subjects. He has relieved from servitude many millions of his people—a measure which has often been proposed but always rejected as dangerous, but one which is about to be carried out. These are reasons why we should hope well as to the future condition of the Polish subjects of the Czar of Russia, and should act according to our well-known and recognised rule of not interfering with regard to the internal affairs of other countries without some very great and influential reasons. I certainly do no not think it necessary to 257 make any representation to the Emperor of Russia. No doubt every one in this country will watch with great interest the course of these proceedings; but I do not think that it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to interfere in the present state of affairs.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the County of Limerick (Mr. Monsell) asked me a question with reference to the future government of the Lebanon. That is a subject which is attended with many and serious difficulties. The opinion of the British Commissioner in Syria is that the best course to take would be to establish, if possible, a good Government over the whole of Syria with a special arrangement for the protection of the Christians. To that is was objected that such an arrangement would be injurious to the rights of the Sultan. Other plans have been suggested, and the last accounts from Syria represent the Commissioners as being still engaged in endeavouring to establish good government in Syria. I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman in thinking that the Christians of Syria are the only persons to whom our humanity ought to be extended. [Mr. MOXSELL: I never said so.] The right hon. Gentleman spoke entirely of the sufferings of the Christians, and did not take any notice of what bad been suffered by others. Now, while it is our duty as far as possible to provide a Government which shall secure the Christians against the repetition of these atrocities, I cannot but think that it is also our duty to secure, if possible, justice for the Druses, many of whom have, as described by the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir James Fergusson) confined their attention to the cultivation of their gardens or small possessions, and have conducted themselves in a most inoffensive manner. What we are endeavouring to do is to establish a Government which shall equally protect all the inhabitants of the Lebanon. The right hon. Gentleman says that it was not right to have an exclusively French occupation, hut seems to approve of having an European occupation as long as there is any fear of massacres being repeated. Now, I must say that all the accounts which I have read have shown that the Marouites and the Druses have violent animosities against each other; that the Turks have not behaved well with regard to either of them; and, therefore, that you can have no perfect security that there may not be outrages, that murder may not be com- 258 mitted, that villages may not be destroyed by Maronites or Druses, without sufficient protection being given by the Turks. But this question occurs—The dangers which existed last year having been overcome, and the presence of European troops and the intervention of Europe having shown both to the Turks and to other persons that the nations of Europe are disposed to interfere when necessary, are we to go on for ever with an European occupation of Syria? If so that occupation would amount to taking the country out of the hands of the Turks. We may say—and say truly—that the Government of the Turks is a very imperfect Government. Still Syria is a country subject to the Sultan—one of the provinces of an empire the integrity of which we have guaranteed; and if we were to say that we would undertake, not by French troops—I do not mean to raise that question—but by French, Russian, or British troops, permanently to occupy that country, that would be, in fact, transferring its sovereignty to the other Powers of Europe. Well, the Sultan declared the other day that the Pasha whom he has sent, having the command of 25,000 troops, is able to maintain tranquillity in Syria; and Her Majesty's Government are disposed to put faith in that declaration. But the other Powers of Europe are determined that the occupation shall continue for some time longer—till the 5th of June; but before that time—I expect in the course of the present month—the future government of the Lebanon will be discussed. Having performed the duty of suppressing the massacres, we certainly do not think it desirable that there should be a permanent occupation of Syria by foreign troops.
With respect to the last question put by the hon. Member for Galway County (Mr. Gregory) as to the correpondence that has passed between the English and American Governments on the subject of the fugitive slave Anderson, the hon. Gentleman seemed to think that there had been some remonstrance on the part of the Government, or some correspondence, after the case of Anderson had been considered both in Canada and this country. Now what the American Government did was of the very simplest character. They stated that a man of colour had been guilty of murder, without saying what his name was or anything else; and we said, on our part, that the man should be given up, if there was found to be no objection. I have no objection to give the Correspondence; but if produced 259 there ought to be added to it the directions of the Secretary of State to the Governor of Canada, upon whom depended, in the first instance, the question whether the man should be given up. The hon. Gentleman had made a very valuable and important quotation of what was said by Mr. Benton, the senator of Missouri, to the effect that slaves were not to be given up on account of crimes they might commit in order to vindicate or secure their freedom. A statement to this effect was made in the English House of Commons as well as in the American Senate. This being the case, he could not see that any difficulty was likely to arise between the two Governments.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ House at rising to adjourn till Monday, 8th April.