§ MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
I rise, Sir, to call the attention of the House to the present relations of this Country 880 with Brazil, and especially to the recent rupture of Diplomatic intercourse with that Government, and to submit a Motion with reference thereto. I regret very much, that partly owing to the state of public business in this House, and partly owing to the regulations under which Motions are now brought forward by private Members on going into Committee of Supply, so long a time should have elapsed since I gave notice upon this subject, before I have been able to bring it under the consideration of the House. Looking at the state of the benches at the present moment, and looking also at the period of the Session at which we have arrived, I am afraid that I am acting rather in opposition to the wishes of the House in taking up such an important question at this time; and I certainly would not undertake the task if it were not that I consider the subject one in which the honour and reputation of this country are greatly involved, and that it is of great importance that the House should have an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon it. Entertaining, as I do, that conviction, I cannot reconcile it with my duty to allow the Session to pass without at least entering a protest against the position which has been occupied by Her Majesty's Government in these late transactions with Brazil, and without calling the attention of the House to the consequences which may possibly flow from them. It is now some weeks since the Brazilian Minister asked for his passports, and suspended diplomatic relations with this country. That is not in itself an unimportant fact. It is the protest of a weak State against the conduct of a powerful State; it is the protest of a country which, knowing its own inferiority in resources and military strength to the Power whose conduct it impugns, takes that step in the face of the world against conduct which it considers oppressive. That is not, I repeat, an unimportant matter, because I, for one, think, that great as is the power of this country, we are not in a position to afford that small States, while acknowledging their inferiority to us in point of strength, should be given the opportunity of protesting before the world against the course which we have pursued towards them. And, further, the particular position of Brazil renders the suspension of diplomatic relations with that country, both politically and commercially, of special importance When I last addressed the House, I reminded it, that during a period of forty 881 years Brazil has conducted her affairs in a manner to win the confidence and respect of the other nations of the world. She has paid us in particular the compliment of having modelled her form of Government on our own, and she has won so far the confidence of the mercantile classes that our commerce with her is at the present moment almost the most important foreign trade in which our merchants are engaged. One unhappy consequence of our recent rupture with her Government is, that portions of her Chambers and of her population which are hostile to British interests and to British connections are rapidly obtaining power, and the Conservative party in that country, which has always been the friend of England and of English commerce, is losing at the elections, so that the opposite party is likely to come into power on the popular cry which has been caused by the conduct of Her Majesty's Government. The very first item in the programme of the party which is now superseding our friends, is the adoption of commercial arrangements which, if they should be carried into effect, would inflict a great blow on English commerce in Brazil. The nature of our relations with that country, therefore, forms a subject, both politically and commercially, which we cannot afford to disregard. The despatch of the Brazilian Minister which preceded the suspension of diplomatic relations with this country, is written with a calmess of temper, with a dignity and a moderation which no one that reads it can fail to appreciate. He contents himself with asking that Her Majesty's Government should express their regret for the way in which the reprisals had been effected, and he expressly guards himself against opening the main question as to the events which accompanied the shipwreck of the Prince of Wales, and the subsequent communications between the two Governments. I shall also upon this occasion confine myself to that more limited area; and I hope that any Member of Her Majesty's Government who may follow me in this discussion will follow the same course, and will make no attempt to mislead the House by "harking back" to questions which have already been discussed in this House. I will, however, mention one fact in reference to those earlier occurrences, which may serve to show how careful we ought to be in accepting, with respect to transactions which take place at so great a distance, the ex parte statements of our own officials. The hon. and learned 882 Gentleman the Solicitor General, in the course of a former discussion, dwelt greatly on the fact that portions of the goods assumed to have been plundered from the wreck were found in the yard of a magistrate resident near the spot. The Brazilian Government have caused an investigation to be instituted upon that point, and in the course of that investigation it appeared upon sworn testimony that the house of the magistrate was the only one of any sort within many miles of the spot; that he was not there himself for a week preceding the wreck, or until three days after its occurrence, and that his yard was made a depôt to which were taken the various things thrown on shore by the waves. That was the result of the investigation made by order of the Brazilian Government, and that was the manner in which the goods found their way to those premises.
Passing, however, from that special point in the case, I wish to direct the attention of the House to the general position in which we have been placed by these transactions. At the Conferences of Paris a proposal was made by our representatives, and was adopted on behalf of the other Powers, to the effect, that whenever a difference arose between two Governments they should, before having recourse to arms, refer the matter in dispute to arbitration. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden) referred to that understanding upon a former occasion, and the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Layard) gave him a very curious, and I must say a very unsatisfactory reply. He compared the case to that of two individuals, and be said—Is it for the party who received the offence to be the first to propose arbitration? We were the parties who received the offence, and therefore it was for the Brazilian Government, and not for us to make such a proposal. They never did so, and we are therefore free from any reproach.Now I do not think that is at all the state of the case, or that it is a fair application of the principle adopted at the Conferences of Paris. According to the words of the protocol, it is before having recourse to arms that arbitration should be proposed, and that proposal, it is obvious, should come from the Power which would be the first to have recourse to hostile measures. It is clear that under the protocol it was the bounden duty of Her Majesty's Government, before having recourse to forcible measures to propose 883 arbitration, and to urge it on the Brazilian Government. In a debate which took place a short time since upon the question of relaxation of the rules of maritime law, one Member of the Government made use of a very extraordinary argument. He said—What is the good of laying down rules, because you will find, the moment an emergency arises, that the Power which has been a party to the stipulation will be the first to act in opposition to that understanding, and will, from its own necessities, trample under foot the agreement by which it had agreed to be bound.The House did not seem at the time to appreciate the value of that argument; but I must say that the conduct of Her Majesty's Government towards the Government of Brazil in this particular instance shows that that right hon. Gentleman was not very far wrong when he said that those humane regulations would be powerful enough to bind the weak, but that they would fail to impose upon the stronger party any effectual restraint. My first complaint against Her Majesty's Government is, that before they had recourse to forcible measures they did not propose arbitration according to the resolution which had been adopted by the Conferences of Paris at their own suggestion. The Government state that they did not propose arbitration, but that they instructed Mr. Christie, that if arbitration were proposed by the Brazilian Government, he was to accept the offer. But how does the case stand as regards Mr. Christie himself? And let it be remembered that Her Majesty's Government have given their unqualified approval to everything that was done by that gentleman throughout these occurrences; so that I shall feel it my duty to address to them any censures I may pronounce on proceedings which they have deliberately sanctioned, and not to Mr. Christie, who acted under circumstances of great difficulty and irritation. In a despatch written by Earl Russell on the 8th of October the noble Earl seems to have had a glimmering notion that he had some responsibility weighing upon him in reference to the proposal of arbitration. In that despatch he instructed Mr. Christie to demand the payment of a certain sum for freight and of a certain sum for the goods on board the Vessel. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General shakes his head; but I find in page 82 of these papers that Earl Russell in his despatch of the 8th October instructs Mr. Christie to demand 884 £5,500 for the cargo, and £1,025 for freight. The noble Earl, however, adds—But if the Brazilian Government admit the principle, Her Majesty's Government are prepared to accept a fair arbitration as to the actual amount of compensation to be made.The principle which it was thus asked should be admitted is, that when a shipwrecked vessel is plundered, the Government of the country in which the plunder takes place, must be held responsible for the value of the plundered articles, and for the whole of the freight of the ship. But Earl Russell seems subsequently to have thought that he was not quite right in his view of the responsibility that devolved Upon the Government that was the first to propose the principle of arbitration for the settlement of those international differences, and was afterwards the first to wish to set it aside. In a despatch of the 4th of November, therefore, he instructs Mr. Christie, that if arbitration is proposed by the Brazilian Government, he is to accept the offer. Mr. Christie thus came into the possession of two despatches, one suggesting arbitration with the understanding that it was to be limited to the amount of compensation to be paid, and the other instructing him that he should accept arbitration upon the general question if it should be proposed by the Government of Brazil. What course did Mr. Christie then take? And let the House remember that his conduct met with the entire approval of Her Majesty's Government. Mr. Christie, while in the possession of those two despatches, addressed to the Brazilian Government a demand embodying almost the identical words of Earl Russell's first despatch, which was superseded by the second and more conciliatory communication from the noble Earl. Mr. Christie, instead of paying any attention to the second despatch, which showed Earl Russell's disinclination to come to an open rupture, put that despatch aside, and based his demand solely on the first despatch, which had been superseded. That is to say, Earl Russell having seen that his first despatch was contrary to the rules laid down at the Conferences of Paris, and that it involved a principle that was manifestly unjust, instructed Mr. Christie in a different sense; and Mr. Christie, instead of being guided by the second despatch, put it entirely aside, and based his demand upon the first despatch, which had been superseded. What was then his conduct? On December 5th he wrote a note, 885 which he called his ultimatum. Now, I believe that if Earl had considered the matter for a single minute, he would not have approved the conduct of a Minister, who, after having been instructed that if arbitration was proposed be should accept the offer, wrote, as his first step, a despatch that precluded the possibility of an amicable settlement of the difference. Instead of laying the foundation of a conciliatory movement on the part of the Brazilian Government, Mr. Christie wrote an ultimatum, in which he asked the Brazilian Government to assent to the principle involved by the payment of a sum of money, with the condition that the amount only of that sum should be referred to arbitration. Matters went on in this way until the 29th of December. Mr. Christie takes credit that throughout the whole of that time he was perfectly willing to listen to terms of arbitration if they had been proposed by the Brazilian Government. But it was impossible they should make such a proposal, because, as the Marquis d'Abrantes remarked, Mr. Christie's despatch of the 5th December was an ultimatum, which, as far as regarded the principle at issue, admitted of no mediation. But what did Mr. Christie do? On the 29th December be instructed the English Admiral to proceed to reprisals. The Admiral acted upon that instruction. One vessel was despatched that very night, and another was despatched on the next morning. After the departure of both these vessels Mr. Christie informed the Brazilian Government that in consequence of their conduct it was absolutely necessary for him to have recourse to forcible measures for the purpose of obtaining the reparation they seemed determined to withhold. All his measures had been taken before he made the Brazilian Government acquainted with his intentions; and when he did make the announcement, he was perfectly sure it was too late to stop reprisals. In a few hours Brazilian vessels were captured, and, in Mr. Christie's own words, a lesson was read to that Government. After having put it out of his power to act upon the second despatch of Earl Russell, and to avoid all the complications which have since arisen, he then took the course he ought to have taken long before; he held a conversation with Baron de Maná, one of the most influential merchants and bankers in Rio, and in the course of that conversation, he allowed it to be known that he had instructions from Earl Russell to assent 886 to an offer of arbitration, if it should be made by the Brazilian Government. It was not therefore until an offer of arbitration was no longer possible, that he allowed it to be known that he was authorized to accept such an offer. Mr. Christie, it appeared from the Parliamentary papers, thought that a great deal of good might be done by reading the Brazilians a severe lesson; and what does he do? Although he had instructions in his pocket which would have enabled him to get over this complication without recourse to forcible measures, he studiously concealed them, and it was not till the lesson had been read, the amour propre of the Brazilians touched, and their honour wounded, that he allowed them to know that he had such instructions. This is the conduct of which Her Majesty's Government have expressed their entire approbation. What I present to the House as a matter of great complaint against Her Majesty's Government is, first, that they did not themselves instruct their Minister that before proceeding to forcible means he should propose arbitration; and secondly, that when they had authorised the Minister to accept arbitration if offered, the Minister obviously kept back that proposal, in order that he might "read the Brazilians a lesson," which he said it was desirable to do. Her Majesty's Government ought to have expressed disapprobation rather than approbation of such conduct.
The next point of which I have to complain, is one that has been referred to by the Brazilian Minister himself. In a communication to Lord Russell, the Marquis d'Abrantes refers to the correspondence, in which the Brazilian Government stinted, that while they protested against the course the British Government were pursuing towards them, considering the great difference between the power of the two countries, they should not consider themselves humiliated by a submission to force, and that therefore, upon the first exhibition of force, they would submit under protest. That, however, did not suit the ideas of the gentleman who desired to read the Brazilians a lesson. What was the course adopted by Mr. Christie? He says that, for reasons he can explain, it was absolutely necessary to keep secret the arrangement that he had made with the Admiral, in respect to the course that was to be adopted. He does not afterwards fulfil his promise, or give any explanation why it was necessary to keep 887 such arrangements secret; and after the statement of the Brazilian Government that they would submit to the slightest exhibition of force, one does not see why a communication from Mr. Christie to that Government, to the effect that he had placed the matter in the hands of the Admiral, and that one of the ships would leave the harbour to effect reprisals, would not have been quite sufficient to obtain from the Brazilian Government all that Her Majesty's Government desired to obtain. However, he keeps the arrangement with the British Admiral a secret, and it is not till the British Admiral has despatched a vessel to make reprisals, and reprisals were actually being made, that he allows the Brazilian Government to understand that he had the means of avoiding such an insult to their honour and dignity. The claim made by Her Majesty's Government is £2,300. Surely the seizure of one vessel in the harbour would have been sufficient; whereas, according to Mr. Christie's own showing, the operations which took place were of the gravest and most insulting kind, and equivalent to a blockade of the harbour of Rio for nearly a week, and to an act of war of the gravest description. That is the course taken by those who represented Her Majesty's Government after they had been informed that the exhibition of the smallest force would be quite sufficient to obtain all they desired. Therefore, putting out of view whether Her Majesty's Government were right in considering that they were called on to make reprisals, yet I say that after these reprisals were made their conduct was not consistent with a spirit of justice or propriety—because, although the mere making of reprisals might not be an act of war, yet those reprisals were effected in a manner which, according to the language of Mr. Christie himself, was tantamount to an act of war.
The next point to which I wish to call the attention of the House, is to the assessment of the compensation demanded, and which has since been paid. I do not wish to say anything in the slightest degree disrespectful of the Queen's Advocate. It is perfectly clear that the memorandum of compensation is not the production of the hon. and learned Gentleman, because it is stated to have been drawn up for the purpose of informing the Queen's Advocate as to the manner in which the sums should be assessed; 888 and it goes on to state beyond that that Earl Russell had reduced the amount which was originally named, and that the money had been paid. It is clear that the memorandum is in somebody else's words, so far as respects the advice to Her Majesty's Government; and, indeed, I can perfectly understand that there might be a good deal of delicacy in the Government introducing the opinion of the Queen's Advocate, because, if there is one rule which Governments hold more stringent than another, and which ought, indeed, to be invariably adhered to, it is that the opinions which the Law Officers of the Crown give to the Government ought never to be communicated. In the observations, therefore, which I make upon this memorandum I cannot be considered guilty of any disrespect to the Queen's Advocate. Let me point out the position of the Government in respect to this claim. In the despatch of October 8 the Government made a claim for freight as well as cargo. When the Queen's Advocate saw that, he said at once, "You cannot claim for freight; therefore you must strike out that item." I must say I think that when Her Majesty's Government are taking a course which has a tendency to embroil us with foreign nations; when it goes so far as to place before a foreign Power what the Government itself calls an ultimatum, it would be wise on its part that it should consult its legal advisers before it made its claim, and not make a claim so unjust that it is obliged to abandon a portion of it immediately it is submitted to its legal advisers. Let me now turn to the amount directed to be paid for the cargo. I must say that this memorandum is very remarkable in one particular above all others, and it is this. You are insisting by force upon justice being done; but, instead of being careful to confine your demand to exactly that to which you are entitled, the new plan adopted by the Government seems to be to make a demand "in the rough." You are to seize Brazilian vessels, to inflict great damage on commerce, to irritate the whole population of a friendly State, and yet you are not to know whether you are asking too little or too much. The result is (putting aside that very extraordinary phrase which the Queen's Advocate has used), after making allowance for probable and necessary damage in salvage, he "roughly" estimates the claim at £2,360. 889 I should like to know what were the documents which were put before the Queen's Advocate when he made out that rough estimate; for in estimating damage done to a cargo he ought to have had the assistance of persons who had a practical knowledge of such matters, besides all other information necessary to enable him to give a decision upon such a matter as this. Now, I happen to hold in my hand the manifest of the Prince of Wales. Mr. Stevens commences by making a claim upon the British Government for £5,500 value of the cargo; but I find by the manifest, that instead of the cargo being put down at that sum, it is in fact put down at £3,000. That is not all. I have had this paper carefully examined by an eminent merchant well acquainted with this particular trade, and as well, if not better, able to give an opinion on it as any one in the great mercantile cities of England; and his deliberate opinion is that out of this £3,000 there are only packages of light goods to the value of £810 which could by possibility have come on shore in such form and with such value attached to them as could be made a fair subject of claim. Now, I should like to know whether, among other things, this manifest was presented to the Queen's Advocate in order to enable him to form a proper opinion on the demand made. There were two other consignments, of such a character that if they got damp they were of no value, and could not be made the subject of compensation at all; and all the remaining cargo consisted of soda-ash, flint glass, cast-iron nails, and coals. The Prince of Wales went down at her anchors at a distance of a league from the shore, in a violent storm, in a sea in which no vessel ever framed by the skill of man could live. That being the case, I am informed that with the exception of the £800 worth of goods to which I have referred, there is no probability that any portion of her cargo could have reached the shore in such a condition as to form the fair subject of compensation. Yet, the Government have made a claim of £2,360, and have the grace to admit that it is a "rough estimate" only—that rough estimate being more than three times the amount which the goods saved would have obtained, if they had been landed from the vessel in an undamaged state, and had been sent to the market for which they were originally destined. There is another part of this memorandum which has reference to one of the most curious proceedings ever 890 brought before the House of Commons or any assembly of reasonable men. The Queen's Advocate suggests that there should be a sum of £840 paid as compensation "for possible murders." When he first deals with the matter, he deals with the question of the murders in this way. Lord Russell says—"In this case there is some reason to suspect that British property has been plundered and British subjects murdered on a foreign shore;" and he goes on to say—"All the Government wishes to do is to exact reparation from the Government on whose territories these outrages took place." The House will observe that the noble Earl first speaks of the case as one of suspicion, and then proceeds to say that reparation had been exacted for these outrages; assuming, therefore, that these outrages had been actually proved. He says there is ground to suppose that wrong may possibly have been done; but then, on the other hand, it is possible that it might not have been done; and yet the learned Queen's Advocate advises Her Majesty's Government to demand a sum of £840 for murders which have possibly not occurred. Now, really that statement is so ridiculous, that if it did not reflect disgrace on us and on the Government which have resorted to force to obtain reprisals, I should rather treat it as a matter of ridicule than complaint; but I do say, that when such conduct is attempted to be justified by the Government, it not only does them no credit, but reflects dishonour and disgrace upon the country which they represent. Mr. Christie first asked for compensation for men supposed to be murdered; but afterwards he changes his ground, and asks for compensation for the bodies being plundered and stripped, and that compensation is to be handed over to the families of those men who were so stripped and plundered. I want to know to whom this £840 is to be paid over. In the first place, nobody is proved to be murdered; and in the second place, supposing that two or three were murdered, nobody knows who they are or to whom the money ought to be given. In this difficulty the compensation for the men who had possibly been murdered was to be paid to the families of those who had been wrecked; so that, in the first place, Her Majesty's Government asked for compensation for murders that possibly had never been committed at all; and, assuming that the murders had been committed, instead of the money being handed over to the families of the murdered men, it was to be 891 handed over to the families of the persons who had been wrecked. Thus, Jones had been wrecked, and his family were to receive £100 because Smith had got on shore and been murdered. [A laugh and "Hear, hear!"] Really, this was turning into ridicule a proceeding that ought to be solemn. He could not but think that the Government were turning themselves and the country into ridicule by making a demand of this kind, which, he ventured to say, no sensible man in England who had heard of it regarded it in any other light than as a reflection on the good sense and business habits of those who had authorized it to be made. As connected with this subject of the supposed murders, he wanted to know whether Her Majesty's Government had obtained the evidence of the captain of the Hound. When Mr. Stevens first forwarded his claim, he alleged that the captain of the Hound said he had seen the bodies of the men who had been murdered. Those demands had been made in December, and we were now in the middle of July, after having taken a course which had embroiled us with one of our most valued and faithful allies. That being so, he wished to know whether the Government had obtained the evidence of the captain of the Hound, which, if obtained, would be something like a justification of their course. If it was not obtained, he should be disposed to regard the whole statement of that person having seen the bodies of the murdered men as a fiction and a falsehood.
There was another point on which he wanted some explanation. The last despatch of Lord Russell states that the reprisals were made to obtain satisfaction for the plunder of the Prince of Wales, and for the insult offered to the British navy in the case of the officers of the Forte. That case was referred to arbitration, and I, for one, deeply regret the course taken by the Brazilian Government in not at the last moment, even after the insult had been offered and the reprisals made, accepting the suggestion that the matter should be referred to arbitration, because I am convinced that the result would have been exactly the same as in the case of the Forte, whether the matter had been referred to the King of the Belgians or any other Sovereign. They would have said that Her Majesty's Government had not the slightest claim on the Brazilian Government for the indemnity which they forced from them. In my opinion, after such an answer had been made, Her Ma- 892 jesty's Government ought to have expressed its regret to the Brazilian Government for the hostile attitude it had assumed, and avow at once that it was mistaken; and I am the more anxious for that because I think something ought to be done by Her Majesty's Government towards the restoration of friendly relations with Brazil, and especially at a time when there is great distress in this country, which cannot fail to be aggravated by the course adopted by the Brazilian Government, which will tend to cripple our commerce with that great and important country. Therefore, I was exceedingly anxious that the Government should take some course which would lead to the restoration of friendly relations with Brazil. And I have before me a very fair precedent to lead me to this hope, because just at this time, when the papers are being laid on our table with reference to the conduct of Mr. Christie, we have another case before us of a directly opposite character which has happened in connection with another South American State that has no such claim upon us as Brazil—I mean Paraguay; for in repeated instances Paraguay has insulted British authority, and inflicted injury on British subjects; but there we have not Mr. Christie for our Minister, but a gentleman who knows how to conciliate, who knows how to interpret his instructions liberally, who knows that it is not his duty to "read lessons" to foreign Governments, but that he is bound to take such a course as will prevent complications and embarrassments from arising between his country and foreign nations. In that case a claim had been made on the part of an oppressed British subject; but our Minister, Mr. Thornton, declared that he never intended, in urging that claim, to interfere with the jurisdiction of Paraguay. The memorandum respecting Paraguay was headed "Copy of an agreement between Mr. Doria"—a very promising member of the diplomatic service and the British Chargé d'Affaires at Paraguay—"and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Paraguay." The agreement proceeded as follows:—Being desirous to renew the friendly relations unhappily interrupted between the two countries by the following questions:—1. The imprisonment of James Canstatt; 2. The satisfaction required by the Government of Her Britannic Majesty for want of respect which, as they state, was shown to their Consul; 3. The attack upon the Paraguayan steamer of war Tacuari, in the Roads of Buenos Ayres, by British naval forces, on the 29th of November 1859; and lastly, the collision 893 with the aforesaid steamer Tacuari, and wreck of the English steamer Little Polly, in the waters of the Villa de Oliva—have agreed, after seeing and examining the argument set forth by each side:—Mr. Thornton declares that in the Canstatt question the Government of Her Britannic Majesty never pretended to claim the right to interfere in the jurisdiction of Paraguay, and it never was nor will be their intention to prevent the Paraguayan Government from executing their laws.Such a declaration to the Brazilian Government would be very satisfactory, for we had grievously interfered with the execution of the Brazilian laws; and if the same spirit of conciliation were shown towards Brazil as had been manifested towards Paraguay, Her Majesty's Government could have no difficulty in making a similar declaration. Next, the agreement set forth—That the Government of Her Britannic Majesty regrets very sincerely that the hostile attitude adopted by its naval forces in the River Plate against the Paraguayan steamer of war Tacuari, on the 29th of November 1859, should have offended the dignity of the Republic of Paraguay, and declares in the moat solemn manner that it never was nor will be in future their Intention to offend in any way the honour of the Republic of Paraguay, or the dignity of its Government.What prevents Her Majesty's Government from making the same sort of declaration at Rio, and in the same spirit as was made to Paraguay? I think it is partly owing to this—the Government of Paraguay is not as accessible as that of Brazil, and might inflict great trouble and expense on Her Majesty's Government, which could afford to bully Brazil, while it would find it very difficult to bully Paraguay. I hope the course of the Government, putting aside the spirit of hostility which on several occasions and in many distinct forms has inspired Her Majesty's Government in their conduct to Brazil for many years, will be more becoming, more conciliatory, more advantageous to their own country, and more honourable to its character, I hope, that, putting aside false dignity, knowing from the decision which has been given by the King of the Belgians that we have been in the wrong, taking example by the course followed in Paraguay, we shall without leaving any step to be taken in the matter by the King of Portugal, or any other potentate, take steps to re-establish our relations with Brazil on a footing honourable to both countries. Our conduct in our relations towards Brazil has been characterized by bitter animosity for many years; and for it no one is more responsible than the noble Lord at the head of the Government. It is now some 894 time since what was called the Aberdeen Act was passed. Lord Aberdeen afterwards expressed his great regret that the Act which bore his name had not been repealed, and in strong terms regretted that he had ever consented to its passing. I have reason to know that he said he had considerable doubts as to the propriety and justice of the measure, and he regretted that Lord Malmesbury did not repeal it during his tenure of office. But what is the position of the noble Lord with respect to that Act? Go to the merchants in any part of this country, they know the importance of establishing a good understanding not only between the two Governments, but between the people of the two countries, and you will find that they say the first thing you should do, if you wish to have a good understanding with Brazil, is to repeal the Aberdeen Act. Deputation after deputation, however, has waited on the noble Lord on this subject.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
was understood to say that no such deputation had ever waited upon the Government.
§ MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
I had the information from one of the most eminent Brazilian merchants in the country, whom I saw not two hours ago, and who told me he had been one of a deputation to the noble Lord on this subject; but if I am in error, I am ready to give the noble Lord the advantage of it. But I am not speaking merely with reference to the Aberdeen Act, though its provisions are the greatest violation of every principle of justice that ever marked the conduct of the most absolute and despotic monarchy or assembly. It enables British cruisers in Brazilian waters to seize vessels suspected of being concerned in the slave trade. The noble Lord says that the reason this was done was because Brazil neglected her treaty obligations. But the noble Lord has spoken of Spain as having neglected to fulfil her treaty obligations respecting the slave trade, yet he has never proposed an Aberdeen Act for that country. When he has a small and distant Power to deal with, be puts in force this Act; but he knows well that to empower British cruisers to seize suspected slavers in the ports of Cuba would bring him into collision with North America, and probably with France; and therefore the policy which is thought justifiable with regard to Brazil is not resorted to in the case of Spain, though that country has received large sums of money upon the distinct understanding that she should 895 put down the slave trade. What is the spirit manifested by Earl Russell in these despatches? Within a week of the enforcement of reprisals he sent one of the bitterest despatches respecting the liberated negroes in Brazil that even he, with his very bitter pen, ever wrote. Again, when M. de Moreira asked for his passports, you would suppose that the noble Lord would have written a dignified letter, regretting the suspension of diplomatic relations; but if two old women quarrelled, you always find the one who speaks last raking up every difference that they have had for years, and this is the spirit of Lord Russell's letter. It is hopeless to expect that Her Majesty's Government can be successful in maintaining friendly relations with Brazil while their despatches manifest so bitter a spirit. I believe, however, that it is in the power of the Government at the present moment to make advances which would be favourably received by that country. The state of affairs in regard to the Aberdeen Act is such that it may be justly and honourably repealed, and nothing I am sure would give so much satisfaction both to the Government and people of Brazil. I hope Her Majesty's Government will not neglect this opportunity of renewing amicable relations with that State, and will endeavour in their future policy with regard to it to avoid the errors they have committed in the past.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, a Copy of the Manifest of the Barque 'Prince of Wales,'"—(Mr. Seymour FitzGerald,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. LAYARD
said, he must confess he did not quite understand the object which his hon. Friend opposite had in view in bringing this subject again before the House. The question had already been well ventilated, both in that House and in another place. To-night they had heard very big words about the matter; the country was disgraced, dishonoured—in short, there were scarcely any words of reproach which had not been applied to the conduct of the Government by the hon. Gentleman. But when a question in which 896 the honour and dignity of this country were concerned was discussed in so small a House as that which he saw before him, he felt some misgivings as to whether there was any justification for so very strong an expression of opinion from the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman might have had another object in view. He might, perhaps, have wished the House and the country clearly to understand what he and his friends would have done if they had been in office when the dispute with Brazil took place. It appeared from his statement, that if a British ship was wrecked upon a foreign coast, if its cargo was plundered, if its crew were murdered. [Mr. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD: The crew "possibly murdered."] He would come to that question presently, but meanwhile he contended that the crew, or the greater part of them, were murdered. If the authorities on the spot connived at these outrages, and if the Government refused redress, we were to remain idle and do nothing for the protection of the lives and property of British subjects. ["No, no!"] The hon. Gentleman said, moreover, that if officers in the service of Her Majesty were treated in an outrageous manner, locked up in a cell for two days and two nights, we were to allow such conduct to remain unredressed and unprotested against. Now, Her Majesty's present Government were not inclined to take the view of the hon. Gentleman. They were not prepared to admit that a foreign Government was not responsible when the crew of a British vessel were murdered on its coast, and its cargo plundered with the connivance of the local authorities. Such was unquestionably the case in the present instance. ["No!"] He defied any Gentleman who had read the papers carefully to say that he had any moral doubt with regard to the murder of the crew. He admitted that there were no legal proofs, but denied that there could be any moral doubt on the subject. The hon. Gentleman had asked why the Government had not brought forward Mr. Hunter, the captain of the Hound, to give his evidence. Why, the captain of the Hound was at Rio do Sul when the wreck of the Prince of Wales took place, and he had no actual knowledge of what occurred on that occasion. What he had stated to the owners of the Prince of Wales was neither more nor less than the common report of Rio do Sul—for the natives themselves knew that the crew were murdered, and the fact was distinctly recorded in the local papers.
§ MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
said, he would refer the hon. Gentleman to page 13 of the papers containing the evidence of the captain of the Hound.
§ MR. LAYARD
said, he was obliged for the reference, but in page 13 the captain of the Hound merely stated what he had heard at Rio do Sul.
§ MR. LAYARD
admitted that Mr. Hunter saw the bodies, but it was at Rio do Sul, whither four or five of them had been taken. If his evidence had been of any value, the Government would have availed themselves of it cheerfully; but when they ascertained that he had only hearsay evidence to give, they at once dismissed him as a witness. They would have been deceiving the House, indeed, if they had brought him forward.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
Mr. Stephens says he was informed by Mr. Hunter that he had seen the bodies with knife-cuts and other wounds.
§ MR. LAYARD
had already admitted that he saw the bodies, but at Rio do Sul, not upon the coast where they were cast up. If, however, he saw them with their throats cut, what became of the assertion of the hon. Gentleman that no murder was committed? The hon. Gentleman had treated the question of the cargo in the same light way. He had made a statement—which he had certainly not derived from the papers on the table—that the ship went down at her anchors. On the contrary, the fact asserted in the papers was that she was seen aground for one or two days after she had gone ashore, looking "as if she were lying at anchor," when she went to pieces. The hon. Gentleman had also stated what, if true, was now heard for the first time, that the yard of Senhor Soares was used as a depôt, and that the goods found in it were not taken there for any evil purpose.
§ MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
explained, that what he had said was, that the yard of Senhor Soares, being the only enclosed place in the neighbourhood, the authorities, who were collecting the property for the purposes of investigating the wreck, put it there for safety.
§ MR. LAYARD
thought the statements of the hon. Gentleman were very inconsistent. First, he said the property went down at sea, and now he declared that it had turned up in the yard of Senhor Soares. If the goods went down with the ship, how could 898 they be found in a depôt on land? The hon. Gentleman had likewise stated that all the goods that could be saved were the Manchester goods, and that the rest went to the bottom of the sea. He forgot one of the essential parts of the case—that not only was the ship in good condition some days after she was wrecked, but that three of her boats with oars were found on the beach. These boats had clearly been used to bring a considerable part of the cargo to the shore, and Admiral Warren, who had more knowledge of maritime matters than the hon. Gentleman, stated that the way in which the boats were found, drifted on shore with their oars, one several miles to the north of the wreck, proved beyond question that they must have been employed in landing cargo, making more than one trip backwards and forwards. The hon. Gentleman forgot, moreover, what had been stated by Consul Vereker, that several barrels of nails and hardware were found on shore. Now, barrels full of nails did not come on shore, they went to the bottom; but there they were on land, and they must necessarily have been carried thither. Again, when the Manchester goods were found, they were not damaged by the sea; on the contray, the linings of the cases were untouched by salt water, which proved that they were taken on shore in boats. He felt ashamed to dwell so long upon the fact of the plunder of of her crew. It was virtually admitted the Prince of Wales and the murder by the Brazilian authorities themselves, and the object of the hon. Gentleman in bringing the question again before the House only seemed to be to embarrass the Government and injure British interests in South America. If that was his object, he had to a certain extent succeeded. There could be no doubt that after the action of Her Majesty's Government a very great change took place in our relations with that part of the world. Questions which had been going on for years were brought to an amicable termination, and redress was given in several instances; but, after the very unpatriotic tone assumed by the hon. Gentleman and those who acted with him, there was a marked alteration in the tone of Brazil and many other South American States. The hon. Gentleman knew that no class of cases gave more trouble to the Foreign Office than these South American claims. There was not a South American State against which Her Majesty's Government had not some claims 899 for redress, and indeed scarcely a day passed that some such claim from British subjects was not received at the Foreign Office. For a short time after this affair a very considerable improvement took place in our relations with the South American States; but he already saw the consequence of the denunciations of Her Majesty's Government in which the hon. Gentleman and those who acted with him had indulged. While condemning the Government for the course they had felt bound to pursue with regard to Brazil, the hon. Gentleman had expressed his approval of the course taken by the Government in the case of Paraguay. This, however, showed that Her Majesty's Government were not disposed to act unfairly with that or any other South American Government. Her Majesty's Government had differences with Paraguay, but they were ready to negotiate, and Mr. Thornton was sent on a mission there. Mutual concessions were made. The Government of Paraguay consented to give compensation and redress; and Her Majesty's Government, on the other hand, declared that they admitted and respected the independence of the Paraguay Government. Concessions were made, on both sides, and the matter was settled. He denied, therefore, that Government were desirous to treat these South American States with a high hand, as the hon. Gentleman had asserted.
He was surprised to hear the hon. Gentleman assert that Mr. Christie had not acted in conformity with his instructions from the Government, and had refrained from making a proposal for arbitration. Why, Mr. Christie distinctly made such a proposal. Her Majesty's Government only called upon the Brazilian Government to admit the principle, that if a crew were murdered and plundered with the sanction of the local authorities, the Government of the country in witch such acts took place were responsible. If Her Majesty's Government had given up that principle—[Mr. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD: You did.] The hon. Gentleman was in error. Her Majesty's Government said, that if the principle were admitted, the amount was a secondary consideration. If the Brazilian Government had admitted its responsibility for the acts of its own authorities the question of amount might have been very speedily settled. The hon. Gentleman said over and over again that Her Majesty's Government had put forward the demand of Mr. Stephens. On the contrary, the Government distinctly told the Brazilian Government that they were not responsible 900 for that demand. Mr. Stephens made a statement as to the value of his cargo. Her Majesty's Government, however, represented to the Brazilian Government that this was merely Mr. Stephens's claim, but that the Government did not adopt or adhere to it; and that if the Brazilian Government would admit the principle of the claim, the amount of the claim would be a fair matter for discussion and reduction. The Brazilian Government refused to accede, but threw on Her Majesty's Government the responsibility of fixing the amount to be claimed. The course pursued at the Foreign Office in such cases, as the hon. Gentleman well knew, was to refer the documents to the Queen's Advocate, and leave it to him to say what would be a fair and just demand, under all the circumstances of the case. The documents submitted to the Queen's Advocate were the ship's manifest and other papers. The Queen's Advocate advised that the demand made on the Brazilian Government should be £3,200. He would nut enter into the question of the value of the lives of the men or of the number who had been drowned or murdered; but there were fourteen or fifteen persons in the ship, and ten or eleven bodies were seen by the Brazilian authorities—he did not know how many were murdered; but the Queen's Advocate recommended the sum in question, so that some provision might be made for the families of those persons. The hon. Gentleman thought this extremely funny, and he laughed, and other hon. Members laughed with him—but how else was the claim to be settled? The Queen's Advocate recommended that the Government should demand a gross sum for the crew, who had either been murdered or shipwrecked, and the Government had adopted the fairest way of ascertaining that amount. If the demand was excessive, it was the fault of the Brazilian Government, who had refused to enter into the inquiry proposed. The hon. Gentleman asserted that the English merchants in Brazil thought that Her Majesty's Government had not behaved fairly and justly to the Government of Brazil. Now, in justice to Mr. Christie, he must he allowed to state that such was not the fact. [Mr. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD: I never said anything of the kind.] But the hon. Gentleman left the House to infer that the English merchants in Brazil were opposed to the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government. It had been intimated that the signatures to the address to Mr. Christie 901 did not include the principal merchants in Brazil. Although it might not be signed by all of them, it was, he believed, signed by a majority of those who were really British merchants. Many of those who held aloof were not merchants at all, and others were not willing to mix themselves up with the dispute. British merchants abroad were sometimes rather selfish in such matters—they sometimes took rather peculiar views, and had peculiar reasons for their course of proceeding. It was said, that when a bird got loose from a cage, other birds would set upon him and kill him. So when a British merchant was injured, and came to the Foreign Office for redress, his fellow merchants immediately fell upon him, although each person, if the case had been his own, would have demanded the interposition of his Government. If the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lin coin (Mr. Bramley-Moore) could not get his claims upon a foreign Government speedily settled, no one would be more assiduous in his attendance at the Foreign Office. This conduct of the British merchants in Brazil was curiously illustrated in a despatch written by Lord Howden to Lord Palmerston in 1847. A great outrage was committed upon the embassy at Rio, when a slave girl was carried off by force. Lord Howden made strong representations to his Government; but the British merchants went against him, and Lord Howden wrote concerning the author of this outrage that he did not expect he would receive any punishment. He had many friends among the British merchants, Lord Howden said, because he owed them money. Lord Howden, in consequence of this opposition, did not receive, or expect to receive, the redress to which he was entitled.
The hon. Gentleman had then touched upon the award of the King of the Belgians in the matter of the officers of the Forte. Of course, Her Majesty's Government bowed to the decision of a monarch so justly and deservedly renowned for his wisdom and impartiality. The question put to the King of the Belgians was, whether any insult had been intended to the British navy by the treatment of the officers of the Forte. The King of the Belgians decided that no such insult was intended; but he (Mr. Layard) would defy any one to assert that the treatment these officers had personally received was not of a very gross nature; and if the Admiral on the station had not protested and demanded reparation, he would have failed in his duty.
902 In consequence of what had occurred, especially with reference to the Prince of Wales, Her Majesty's Government, having for more than a year endeavoured to obtain redress and failed, at last decided, with much pain, to make reprisals. The hon. Gentleman was in error in stating that no intimation was given to the Brazilian Government of the step which was about to be taken. On the 30th December Mr. Christie wrote to the Marquis d'Abrantes, and speaking in the past tense, and therefore referring to something which had taken place before, said—I informed your Excellency that I was instructed, if satisfaction was not given, to address myself to the Admiral, and I begged you to receive this communication in the spirit in which I made it, by no means intending to menace, having no instruction to give you this information beforehand, but hoping, by so doing on my own responsibility, to aid in Averting disagreeable events.That was a distinct refutation of the statement that Mr. Christie did not give the Brazilian Government an opportunity of offering satisfaction before the reprisals were made. Mr. Christie further said—Her Majesty's Government, though they earnestly hoped that their demands would have been acceded to, felt it right to provide for the possibility of refusal, and Admiral Warren, the Commander-in-Chief of Her Majesty's naval squadron on this station, will immediately proceed, under instructions with which he is furnished, to take steps for making reprisals on Brazilian property.….Admiral Warren will use every possible endeavour to execute his instructions so as to avoid a hostile conflict.["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Gentleman cried "Hear, hear!" and yet he had stated that no notice was given to the Brazilian Government that reprisals were intended.
§ MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
said, that what he stated was, that one vessel sailed on the evening of the 30th, and another on the morning of the 31st, and that this letter was not written until the 30th, and did not reach the Brazilian Minister until nine o'clock on the morning of the 31st.
§ MR. LAYARD
said, that it was impossible to reply to the hon. Gentleman, who, when he found that he had been misinformed, evaded the statement which he had made. But even if the Marquis d'Abrantes had no opportunity to take any step after the receipt of this letter, it was clear from 903 it that Mr. Christie had previously informed him privately what was about to take place. And why did he do that? Because he was instructed to do so and to take no step which might lead to a hostile encounter with the Brazilian navy, The reprisals were so conducted as to make them as little offensive as possible to the Brazilian Government, and Admiral Warren deserved credit and not blame for the manner in which he carried out the instructions which he received from this country.
The hon. Gentleman had referred to the Aberdeen Act. All he would say was, that that Act was supported by Sir Robert Peel and Some of the most distinguished Members of that House, and by none more eloquently than by Lord Chelmsford, then Sir Frederic Thesiger. No doubt, it was an extreme measure, but the case was one which required an extreme measure. We had had a treaty with the Brazilian Government for the suppression of the slave trade. That treaty had been constantly violated during its existence; and when it came to an end, Brazil refused to renew it. By an article in that treaty which was permanent in its operation, the slave trade was declared to be piracy; and yet, but for this Act, the Brazilians could and would at once have re-engaged in that infamous traffic. The hon. Gentleman asked, why did not we pass a similar Act with reference lo Spain? The answer was simple. We had a treaty with Spain, and therefore could, under that treaty, call upon the Spaniards to assist in putting down the slave trade. Spain might hot at all times act in the spirit of the treaty, but still she was bound by it. With Brazil we had no treaty, and she could the next day have engaged in the slave trade, and no doubt she would have done so. He ventured to say that there was no measure which had more contributed to the suppression of that traffic than had the Aberdeen Act, and he thought the hon. Gentleman must have been mistaken when he said that Lord Aberdeen had expressed his regret that he had passed it. No doubt, Lord Aberdeen might have said that he was sorry that he was compelled, by the conduct of the Brazilian Government, to take so unusual a proceeding as to pass an Act authorizing British cruisers to deal with the vessels of a foreign country in reference to the slave trade; but that he regretted it in the sense which the hon. Member had represented ha did not believe. The hon. Gentleman stated that he had given an answer about 904 the claims convention with Brazil which was at variance with the facts. The hon. Gentleman had not condescended to tell hint to what answer he had referred, but be (Mr. Layard) would venture to assert that no reply which he had given was at variance with the facts. The history of the Convention was simply this:—There were long-standing claims between this country and Brazil, and the two Governments entered into a Convention for their settlement. Those claims were understood to be claims of subjects, and not claims between the two Governments; but when the Commissioners met at Rio, the Brazilian Government endeavoured to re-open slave trade claims which had been decided by the Mixed Courts, whose decisions had by treaty been solemnly declared to be final. The British Government refused to accept this interpretation of the Convention, Certain words had been inserted by the Brazilian Government, which might by much straining favour it; but as the matter had been diplomatically discussed for years previously, they were well aware that the British Government would not consent to re-open the decision of the mixed Commissions. As neither side would give way, the Convention, having expired, had never been renewed, although we had offered to enter into a new one if the Brazilian Government would consent to limit the discussion to claims between persons, corporations, and companies—the description adopted in the first Convention. The hon. Gentleman had, in an almost unctuous tone, expressed his desire that amicable relations should be re-established between this country and Brazil. Well, if amicable relations were to be re-established (and be most sincerely and earnestly hoped that they would be, and that speedily), such a result would certainly not be promoted by the course which the hon. Gentleman had pursued. He was perfectly aware, from a statement which was made in another place a few evenings ago, that the King of Portugal had offered to mediate between this country and Brazil, and that Her Majesty's Government had signified their acceptance of that proposal. If anything could prevent the amicable adjustment of these difficulties, it was the course taken by the hon. Gentleman that night. For his own part, he was most sincerely and earnestly desirous that our relations with Brazil should be restored; but, at the same time, he was bound to say, that if Her Majesty's Government were again placed in similar 905 circumstances—more, he would venture to say, despite his disclaimer, that if a Government with which the hon. Gentleman was connected were placed in such circumstances—they would adopt a course precisely similar to that which had been pursued in this instance. Earnestly desirous as they were for the re-establishment of friendly relations between this country and Brazil, there was a duty which every Government was bound to perform—namely, to protect the lives and property of British subjects.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
I can by no means concur with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down in the opinion which he has expressed with reference to the course pursued by my hon. Friend. We have to-night had brought before ns a question with reference to Brazil, by no means the same as that which was the subject of discussion upon a former evening. On that occasion we had a very elaborate comment upon the details and history of this wreck upon the coast of Brazil. My hon. Friend has to-night introduced the subject of the rupture of diplomatic relations between this country and Brazil, which has unfortunately occurred since that discussion, and has stated in detail the transactions which resulted in that rupture. I cannot help observing that the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs seemed desirous to avoid the subject which is properly before the House, and anxious to revert to that discussion of a former evening with which this question is to a great extent unconnected. I will state frankly to the House my opinion upon the question of the wreck of the Prince of Wales. I did not take any part in the previous discussion on this question, and I will mention the reason why I did not. I read with a good deal of care the papers that had been laid before us, and I came to the conclusion with regard to the conduct of the Brazilian Government, that, unfortunately, while there were considerable professions on their part of bringing to justice those who had certainly been guilty of an offence on the coast of Albardao, they did not use that vigour and alacrity which we were entitled to expect from them. I make that confession very frankly, and I could not therefore be any party to the vote proposed on a former occasion; and could not agree in saying that there was not ground for her Majesty's Government interfering and complaining of the course taken by the Brazilian Government. But 906 there I stop. And I must be allowed to add this to what I have said, that I believe nobody who has read through impartially the correspondence between our representatives and the Brazilian Government can have come to any other conclusion but this—that although there was ground for strong remonstrance against the conduct of the Brazilian Government, yet the correspondence and negotiations were conducted by our representatives in a tone and temper which could not possibly lead to anything but irritation, ill-feeling, and finally a total estrangement on the part of the Brazilian Government. No man in the affairs of common life would have submitted to the disdainful, the contemptuous, the rude, I might say, the ungentlemanly tone in which that correspondence was conducted; and I am not at all surprised that it should have produced very great soreness and anger in the Brazilian Government. But I want the House to consider what was the result of the difference which we had with that Government. There were two questions between us and Brazil—one with regard to the officers of the Forte, and the other with regard to the Prince of Wales. I was rather astonished to hear the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Layard) talking again to-night of the officers of the Forte, and saying, "Was it to be tolerated that Her Majesty's Government should allow officers of our navy to be cast into a vile and filthy dungeon and subjected to every indignity?" Surely, if we referred that matter to arbitration, and submitted to an award which comes from a source to which no one can take exception, is it becoming in a Member of Her Majesty's Government to get up in the House of Commons and repeat those very accusations which have been disposed of by the award of the King of the Belgians, their own umpire? Could there be anything more unpleasing to the illustrious personage, the chosen arbitrator in this case, than to repeat the very charges which he finds to be unfounded? I must, Sir, correct a very grave inaccuracy of the hon. Member. He says the award is that no insult was intended to the British navy by the Brazilian officials. Now, that is not the award, and he surely cannot have read its terms if he thinks it is that. The award was, not that no insult was intended—which would be an easy way of riding off and covering what was done—but it was that no insult was offered; and that the hon. Gentleman omitted from his statement, 907 although it is the whole case. It would be easy enough for the arbitrator to say, "I do not believe, whatever was done, that anything wrong was intended, and therefore I give my award in favour of one side, and against the other." But the King of the Belgians went into the facts of the case, and what is his award is this—"We are of opinion that in the mode in which the laws of Brazil have been applied towards the English officers there was neither premeditation of offence nor offence." I must say, the hon. Member is surely incapable of understanding the difference between the expression he used and the expression used in the award if he really believes that they mean the same thing. The award is that no offence was offered to, the British navy. Such offence could only have been offered in the person of the officers of the Forte. It is therefore an award that no offence—nothing of which complaint could be made—was offered to the officers in question. And yet the hon. Gentleman says they were cast into a vile and filthy dungeon and improperly treated, and that any Government would be utterly wanting in its duty if it did not resent such acts.
I come now to the case of the Prince of Wales; and I beg the House to consider how completely the Under Secretary rides off from the real question before us to-night. We have had information afforded us on this matter in a somewhat unusual way. I never knew of anything of the kind before. I never remember a memorandum being issued before by the Foreign Office in the nature of a speech or argument, and laid on the table of this House. It is not a despatch, but an argument called a memorandum, regarding the assessment of compensation in the case of the Prince of Wales. Although there is no precedent for it, it yet lets us see what has been passing in the mind of our Foreign Minister. What does this memorandum, the most extraordinary document ever presented to us, contain? It professes to be a justification of the Foreign Secretary, founded—upon what? Upon the facts of the case? Not at all; but upon the Queen's Advocate's assessment of compensation. It amounts to this—"I, the Foreign Secretary, acted in this way because the Queen's Advocate told me to do it." The Law Officers of the Government are now present, and I hope to have their assent when I say I demur entirely to the principle that the Government is to allege as its defence in the House of Commons the advice it received 908 from one of its Law Officers. The Law Officers are not directly responsible to the House of Commons, but they are responsible to the Government, and the Government are responsible to the House of Commons, This House, I apprehend, does not want to, know what passed between the Government and their Law Officers. We want to know what the Government have done or are prepared to do, and what are the arguments on which they rest it. It is a novel and irregular proceeding for a Minister to lay on our table a document of this kind, saying, "You may think that what I have done was wrong, but it is what the Queen's Advocate advised me to do." I know of only one instance of the opinion of the Queen's Advocate being presented to this House, and that was in the case of the Cagliari—a case of a peculiar kind, one Government having gone out and another come in; and the views of the Law Officers of the one Government not being supposed to be concurred in by the Law Officers of the other, it was thought that for that reason the House of Commons should know the facts. That, however, is no precedent for what is done here. I confess, Sir, that if there ever was a case in which—not for the sake of Brazil, but for the honour of the House of Commons, and for the honour of this country—if there ever was a case in which, we should examine narrowly the principle on which we have acted, it is this. National honour, I agree, should be maintained, and I yield to none in my desire to maintain it; but I protest that if we are to make national honour a thing which is to be compensated in pounds, shillings, and pence, we should take care that our demand for such compensation is founded on some intelligible principle. What does this memorandum say? I will not go into the ridiculous absurdity of talking of "possible murders," first calling them in one line "too probable murders," then calling them in the next line "possible murders," and then ending by a climax of folly in the demand of a certain sum for the possible murders of six men, and dividing that sum among the relatives not of those six men, but of ten or twelve of the crew who were shipwrecked. Of all the absurd propositions ever put in print that is the most absurd. It is so ridiculous that I do not like to dwell upon it. But what right was there, according to all that passed between our representatives in Brazil and the Brazilian Government, to make this question of possible murder a question of compen- 909 sation at all? When was it that that view of the case was taken? I look to the papers before the House, and I find that on the 30th December 1862—the very day before the reprisals are made—the reprisals which are to give effect to this demand—this is what Mr. Christie at Rio writes to the Marquis d'Abrantes—Your Excellency, in your yesterday's note, has strangely made a serious mistake in stating the demand pf Her Majesty's Government in the case of the Prince of Wales. You speak of the indemnity demanded for the supposed assassinations. There is no such demand. Her Majesty's Government are, indeed, of opinion that there is the strongest presumptive proof of murder of the crew; but they have strictly confined their demand of indemnify to the property plundered. Strange as it is that such a mistake should be made by your Excellency in a matter of such importance, it is the more strange as I pointed out a similar mistake in the memorandum which you showed me on the 27th, and the mistake has been corrected in the copy enclosed in your note.Therefore it comes to this, that on the day before our reprisals are made our Minister at Rio writes to the Brazilian Minister, and says, "You are making a most ridiculous mistake in imagining that we are talking about compensation for the supposed murder of the crew. There is nothing of the kind in the case. I wish to set you right on that score. We strictly confine our demand of indemnity to the property plundered." Well, the next morning the reprisals are made. Then say the Brazilian Government, "We are at your mercy. You are strong and we are weak. Our Minister in London must pay you whatever sum you choose to assess as compensation in respect to the demand you have made." Whereupon the Brazilian Minister in London comes and says, "I am ready to pay your demand." Then our Foreign Secretary refers the assessment of the compensation to the Queen's Advocate, and one of the first items in the Queen's Advocate's assessment is these very supposed murders for which Mr. Christie, the day before the reprisals took place, protested to the Brazilian Minister at Rio no demand of compensation was to be made. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Foreign Affairs was, therefore, rather rash in saying that my hon. Friend was renewing matters which are past and gone, and embarrassing the Government in their dealings with foreign Powers.
But I pass from this to a question of more serious moment. The noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, after the diplomatic rupture with Brazil, explained 910 in a circular the reasons which had led to that rupture, and he was careful to say that it was a mistake to suppose that the only reason was the affairs of the Prince of Wales and the Forte, inasmuch as there were many standing grievances. This brings me to the subject of the Mixed Convention. When I asked a question in relation to that subject on a former occasion of the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who was then in this House, I was told that the proceedings before the Convention were matters of negotiation, and that it would be improper to give any information on the point. We have now, however, heard that the Convention has been broken up. In the circular alluded to the Foreign Secretary said it was not out of place to refer to the position of the claims which it was originally proposed should be referred to the late Mixed Commission, the appointment of which appeared to be the best means of relieving the two Governments from embarrassing discussions respecting the private claims of their subjects, and that a conflicting interpretation of the terms of the Convention had become an insuperable barrier to the further labours of the Commission, which had therefore lapsed, according to the terms of the Convention. The House ought to know the history of the matter. There are always pending between this country and States like Brazil a great many claims of a diplomatic character leading to lengthened negotiations. There were a number of persons here, merchants in Manchester and various other commercial towns, who had claims on Brazil in respect of debts due from the Government of Brazil—claims arising in regard to goods imported into the country, and various matters of that kind. I have been told on good authority that the total amount of the claims of that kind on our part against Brazil was about £400,000. [An hon. MEMBER: £250,000.] Brazil, on the other hand, had a great many claims against us, and the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs says correctly, that up to the time of the Mixed Convention agreed on these claims were the subject of constant demands on the part of that country. The claims were, I may add, of two kinds. There were, in the first place, the Brazilian claims arising out of transactions of a certain Mixed Convention which were agreed to by the Convention of 1826; and, in the second place, claims arising out of the action of the British Vice Admiralty Courts under the Aberdeen Act. It is a mistake to suppose 911 that these were claims made by the Government of Brazil as a Government; they were claims which they pressed on the part of individuals. The defending of the claims on one side and the other led to a good deal of unpleasant feeling, and it was extremely desirable that they should be settled. In 1857–8, accordingly, Lord Clarendon, who was then at the Foreign Office, proposed to Brazil a Convention, under which, as usual, a Mixed Convention should sit, composed of Brazilian and British subjects, with a third party as arbitrator to adjust the claims. After some negotiations the Convention was agreed to, and the preliminaries settled at Rio Janeiro. I hold in my hand the Convention, in which the following sentence occurs:—Whereas some of such claims are still pending, or are still considered by either Government to remain unsettled;" the Commissioners of the high contracting parties agree "that all those claims that may be presented by either Government for interposition since the date of the declaration of Independence by the Brazilian Empire, and still considered as remaining unsettled by the two Governments, shall be submitted to the Commission, and that their decision is to be final.The Convention then goes on to point out how the Commission should sit, and to say that it was to last for two years. Well, that being so, what occurs? There were 51 British claims of the kind which I have described and 108 Brazilian. The Commission sat in Rio, under the inspection and with the consent of Mr. Scarlett, our Minister there, for a whole year—from March 1859 to March 1860. The result was that five British claims and eight Brazilian claims were adjudicated upon and allowed. On the 23rd of March 1860, however, Mr. Scarlett informed the Commission that he had received a despatch from home requiring him to suspend its further sitting. And what, let me ask, was the cause of this instruction being issued? The Government of this country said, "You are taking in as Brazilian claims some of those which have reference to the decision of the Mixed Commission under the Convention of 1826, and of the Vice Admiralty Courts under the Aberdeen Act." "These," argued Her Majesty's Government, "are not unsettled claims. We regard them as settled, and we shall not therefore allow them to be opened before the Commission." The words of the Convention, however, were "claims which yet remain unsettled, or which are considered to be unsettled by either Government." These words were clearly introduced to avoid all difficulty in 912 the matter. I do not now say whether wisely or unwisely. But be that as it may, the Brazilian Government contended that the whole of the proceedings under the Act of 1826 were irregular; while, in regard to the proceedings under the Aberdeen Act, they maintained that they were unjust, and, whether rightly or wrongly, insisted oh upholding their claims against the British Government. It is, I believe, perfectly well known, that not only did the Brazilian Government make these claims, but that there were no others. Is it, then, to be argued, in spite of the words I have read, that the Brazilians entered into the Convention merely to decide British claims, and not Brazilian claims? Mr. Scarlett, at all events, on the 23rd of March suspended the sittings of the Convention, notwithstanding that there was time to have gone on deciding on the claims. I therefore say it was broken up, and I wish the House to consider the importance of this fact with respect to our position. Observe how English merchants are affected by it. There are hon. Members present who are aware of the great injury which has been sustained by English merchants in consequence of their well-founded claims not having been enforced. Here, then, I say, is a Convention which would have been enforced, but for the proceedings taken by Her Majesty's Government; and I want to know what course they mean to take with reference to the claims on Brazil—both those allowed under the Convention and those which were not allowed to be taken up under the Convention at all? I want the House to consider how this country has been placed with reference to Brazil by these proceedings. Yet the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs actually announces it as a grievance against Brazil that this construction had been put on that Convention. Was it, I ask, farfetched, wrong, or improper to allege such a construction that the Convention was to entertain all claims which either Government considered unsettled? Yet that was announced as one of the grievances against the Brazilian Government that they had adopted that construction. I am not at all surprised that the Government do not like the renewal of these discussions about Brazil. The more one hears of them, the more one must feel ashamed of the part which this country has taken, and of the manner in which these negotiations have been conducted. I say it not by way of exaggeration, but I do not believe that 913 this Government, or any Government, would have ventured to a strong Power to take the course they have taken in regard to this Convention. If we had a Convention with the United States or France containing such a stipulation, we should not have dared to take such a course. I do not think it could have been done; but Brazil, being a weak Power, we have done so in her case. I do not desire to see this Government, even in the case of a weak Power, submitting to indignity; but I do look with sorrow more than anger, when I see a Government, powerful and able to perpetrate injustice with impunity in regard to a weak Power, taking the course we have taken with Brazil. Although I am of opinion that the Brazilian Government were wrong with regard to the wreck of the Prince of Wales, and the attempt they made to bring to justice those by whom injustice was committed, still I look at the steps we took in the matter with regret and sorrow, and with still greater regret at the ridiculous and absurd course we adopted as to assessing compensation. I look on our proceedings in regard to the Mixed Convention as utterly unjustifiable, regretting them not only for the sake of British merchants, who seem to have lost the only prospect there was of obtaining their just claims, but still more because I believe that the pretext of these proceedings was unjust.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
Sir, The statements which have been urged on the other side during the present debate are, to a very considerable extent, repetitions of those which were made on a former occasion; but we have at last obtained the very fair and candid statement of my hon. and learned Friend (Sir H. Cairns), that, in his opinion, the British Government were justified in exacting redress from the Brazilian Government. But, he said, there are some circumstances, as to the way in which it had been exacted, which had not received sufficient consideration from the Secretary of State. I will endeavour to recapitulate some of these points. But I must first advert to the pertinacious way in which the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. S. FitzGerald) constantly goes back to the original idea that we were totally wrong from beginning to end, and that there was no cause whatever for any proceeding at all. None are so blind as those who will not see. The hon. Gentleman says, that looking to these papers, he sees nothing but the 914 sinking of a vessel on the coast of Brazil, and some articles washed ashore and collected as if for safe custody in the only house near; and that this is the foundation of the whole story. Now, on a former occasion, we proved out of the letters of the police officers and other authorities of the Brazilian Government itself the whole of our case as to the sacking of the vessel and the complicity of the authorities. In a letter from one of the principal officers of the Brazilian Government to another—who was not in communication with us at all—it is stated, page 16, "the cargo of the barque was all sacked." Who was responsible for that statement? Brazil, certainly. Yet, the hon. Gentleman thinks he is doing justice to his own position in the country and to the country itself when he takes pleasure in accusing his own Government, in the face of such a confession—habemus confitentes reos—on the other side. Another officer of the Brazilian Government says that almost all the inhabitants of the coast were implicated in the business. What does Admiral Warren say? He knew the coast, the weather, and the facts. He says, page 97, "That the ship's longboat was found with the oars in it;" the seamen's chests were close by, broken open and empty, and the paper linings not wet; the hull of the vessel was seen half a league off, apparently at anchor, she not having then broken up—and, in short, his conclusion is, that as a matter of fact the boats had been used to bring the cargo on shore. Yet, the hon. Gentleman conies down to the House and gravely reads the ship's manifest, solemnly assuring the House that there were certain things that would not swim, and that the things that would swim were only worth a very small sum. Well, we did not need to be told that iron would not swim; but the theory, that nothing could be stolen except what would float, is the hon. Gentleman's, and not Admiral Warren's, or ours. I now come to another point—the question of arbitration. The hon. Member for Horsham said there was an evident impropriety in the proceedings with regard to arbitration. He referred to the Declaration made at Paris, that it was expedient that arbitration should be resorted to rather than recourse should be had to arms. But were we unwilling that there should be arbitration? On the contrary, we were willing to act on the principle of the Declaration of Paris, and on the 8th of October Lord Russell authorized Mr. Christie, if the principle of 915 responsibility were admitted by the Brazilian Government, to propose an arbitration as to the amount. On the 4th of November, he went further, and said, in effect—"We don't take that view of the merits of the case which would make it incumbent on us to be the first parties to refer the whole matter to arbitration, but they may do so." And how did Mr. Christie act? On the 5th December he wrote, demanding compensation, and stated that £5,000 was the sum which the owner claimed for cargo and freight—not what the British Government claimed—and he said that they were willing that the amount should be referred to arbitration. What could be more reasonable than to wait for the Brazilian authorities to say, "We do not admit as a matter of fact that we are wrong, or that we failed in our duty; will you refer that to arbitration?" Mr. Christie was authorized in that case to say, "Yes;" but the Brazilian Government did not admit the principle of their responsibility under any circumstances. Then, with regard to another point, I heard, with some surprise, from my hon. and learned Friend (Sir H. Cairns), in effect, that no fair notice of making reprisals was given to the Brazilian Government, who, he said, were prepared to yield upon the slightest demonstration of force. The notice of reprisals was given long before On the 22nd of December Mr. Christie told the Marquis d'Abrantes frankly and distinctly what would happen in case the Brazilian Government persisted in refusing satisfaction, and the Marquis took until the 29th to consider his answer, which was, in effect, that we might proceed to a forcible demonstration if we pleased. The Marquis said nothing about the demonstration being pro formâ. What he said was this—In the name, therefore, of the Government of His Majesty the Emperor, as regards the claim concerning the shipwreck of the barque Prince of Wales, since Mr. Christie, not allowing and disregarding all the considerations and proofs alleged on the part of the Imperial Government, and in justification of its proceedings, and those of the subaltern authorities, insists upon a pecuniary indemnification for the losses and damages of that shipwreck, I have the honour to declare to him, 1. That the Government of His Majesty the Emperor neither can nor ought to accede to the principle of responsibility attributed to it, and against which it loudly and categorically protests. 2. That it peremptorily refuses to consent or intervene in the proposed liquidation of the losses suffered by the owners of the shipwrecked barque, and in the demanded indemnification for the sup posed assassinations. 3. Finally, that if obliged to yield to force in this pecuniary question, it 916 will pay, under protest also against the violence that may be offered to it, any sum that Mr. Christie or the Government of Her Britannic Majesty may choose to demand.That does not seem at all like saying, "Do something which may be taken to be an act of force, and then we will pay," On the contrary, it seems to me to intimate that the Brazilian Government will only yield at the last moment. Then it is said that the reprisals were made in an improper manner. The reprisals were made in the mildest way possible, and were not persevered in a moment after the money was paid;—and when the hon. Member for Horsham talks of the distinction between reprisals and war, I really do not understand what he means. Every act of reprisal is war pro tanto, and the Government; against whom it is exercised may, if they think fit, treat it as war. Now, I come to the observation which has been made by several hon. Members, that they never saw anything so strange in all their lives as the document of the Queen's Advocate in advising as to the amount of compensation, I agree that it is highly inconvenient that papers of this sort should be extorted from the Government by the urgency of those' who ought to know better than insist on their production. But it was Lord Malmesbury, Lord Derby's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, whose urgency and importunity led to the opportunity of criticising the opinion of the Queen's Advocate; and it may be a lesson to my noble Friend not to yield with too great facility to the urgency of Lord Malmesbury in future. After all, a great deal more has been made of this part of the subject than the circumstances warrant. Mr. Christie, on the 30th of December, disclaimed any demand on the ground of the murders, which were not proved, and confined his demand to compensation for cargo and freight. However strong the presumption, and however perfect our moral conviction, that the murders did take place, yet in the absence of proof it was not then considered a point to be directly charged home to the Brazilian Government. But when they declined to go into the amount at all, and the Government at home had to consider what they should demand, the Government felt, that provided the total amount was not excessive or unreasonable, they might well take into account, for the purpose of the distribution to be made, the loss sustained by persons who were dependent upon the murdered seamen for existence, I believe 917 that the total demand was very moderate, even if the Government had not in view a distribution of any part among the relatives of these men; and but for the document extracted by Lord Malmesbury in the way I have mentioned, nobody would have ever heard of that as an element in fixing the amount of the claim. I pass over that, and I come to the observation of my hon. and learned Friend (Sir Hugh Cairns) upon the Under Secretary of State, the justice of which I cannot admit. He said, with respect to my hon. Friend the Under Secretary, that he had repeated the complaint which has been disposed of by the King of the Belgians. The single question referred to the King of the Belgians was whether in the mode of applying the laws of Brazil to the officers of the Forte there had been any offence to the British navy. My hon. Friend did not say that there had. He did not dispute the award. He did not say that any offence was intended. He said, in point of fact, that those who were officers were treated in a manner which, if they were not officers, would be fairly matter of complaint. That these officers had been treated with considerable indignity, the award itself admitted. Then it was said that the reprisals were made on both grounds, and that one ground failed. I thought we were about to embark in a legal argument. I remembered a celebrated case in the House of Lords, "Regina v. O'Connell," in which a great political personage escaped his sentence upon the point that the punishment must be apportioned on the whole of the counts. I thought we should have heard that the reprisals must be set aside, because they were taken on both grounds, and the King of the Belgians had decided that as to the officers of the Forte we were wrong. That might be a very good argument in a court of law in dealing with the counts of an indictment; but it is not a good argument in dealing with the law of nations, when the mere fact of the introduction of other claims cannot deprive us of the right to make reprisals if we have any just ground for doing so. I have said all that is necessary to be said on this portion of the case; but as the hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns) introduced another important matter, and dwelt with considerable force on the circumstances connected with the late Convention, I think it is quite necessary to vindicate the Government from 918 the charge of bad faith as to that matter. The real facts are these. In 1858 a Convention was agreed to on the terms which my hon. and learned Friend has mentioned. I quite agree, that however inadvertently, improvidently, or unwisely those terms were settled as they were, it was necessary to act upon them in good faith, if they were acted upon in good faith by the other side. But when the Brazilian Government attempted to make, use of wide and loose expressions to justify a demand to have all the claims that had ever existed ripped open, on the ground that they considered them unsettled, notwithstanding that former Conventions, as solemn as this Convention, had solemnly settled them, we insisted that such could not be the meaning of the Convention, and I can show the House that, without any imputation upon us of had faith, the Government had a direct, plain, and legitimate escape from what I may almost call so dishonest an attempt to misinterpret the terms of the agreement. The first meeting under that Convention took place on the 10th of March 1859, and the time for completing the labours of the Commissioners was limited (unless extended by consent) to two years from that date; so that it would expire on the 10th of March 1861. There were some questions not provided for, such as interest, upon which a reference to, this country had to be made; and so much time was consumed, that on the 20th of March 1860, a year before the date at which the Convention would expire, the Brazilian Minister in London applied to Lord John Russell, and asked for an extension of time. But what had happened during the interval, and what were the circumstances when an extension of time was asked for? There had been brought forward, on the part of Brazil, a large number of claims to the extent of £2,000,000. My hon. and learned Friend is not correctly informed when he says that no claims, were made on the part of Brazilians, excepting those to the principle of which the British Government objected. Among the claims that were put forward by Brazil was one not connected at all with the slave trade, but with the sale of a ship in America to a Brazilian merchant, which vessel was detained in London under a bottomry bond for money advanced to a previous owner. There was also a claim for the destruction of a barracoon Africa There were also eight or more claims for 919 seizures of vessels before the Aberdeen Act—cases which had never been brought before the Mixed Commission Courts, and which therefore had never been decided nor adjudicated upon. Those were all claims which were admissible in principle. Besides those, there were also some other claims for compensation awarded, and which from accidental circumstances had remained unpaid, in respect of ships restored by the Mixed Commission Courts. But what were the claims to the principle of which the British Government objected? There was a large number of claims in respect of slave ships condemned for piracy under Lord Aberdeen's Act which were never gone into; these were claims which were never brought forward so as to bring the two Governments to issue upon them; and there were also numerous other cases upon which the Mixed Commission Courts had actually decided under the terms of the Treaty of 1826. By that treaty it was provided that the Mixed Commission Courts should judge of all the cases submitted to it without appeal. The 9th article of that treaty provided that when any party interested should imagine that he had cause of complaint of injustice on the part of the Mixed Commission Court, he should represent the game to his Government, the two Governments respectively reserving to themselves the right of mutual correspondence as to the removal, if either should think fit, of the individuals composing the Mixed Commission. Nothing could be clearer than the compact, that the decisions of those Mixed Commission Courts should be final; and if individuals thought they had a ground for complaint, the remedy was a correspondence between the Governments to remove the Judges. How could any one honestly represent claims, decided by those Courts under that treaty many years ago, as being still, in 1860, "considered," by either party, to be open questions? How could anyone honestly put forth those claims as unsettled questions on the part of Brazilian corporations, companies, or individuals, against the British Government? I say, that in good faith, nothing of the kind could be represented; and when the point was first raised, that was the opinion of the Commissioners. But my hon. and learned Friend says there had been discussions between the two Governments upon that subject. There had, and the history of those discussions shows how inconsistent and opposed to 920 good faith on the part of the Brazilian Government was the attempt to represent these claims as being still considered, in 1860, unsettled questions. Those discussions had continued from 1831 to 1840, and they had come to an end before the passing of the Aberdeen Act. Two letters were written about 1839 by two Brazilian Ministers, M. Lisboa and another, in which they at last admitted the finality of the decisions. In the course of those discussions it was proposed by the Brazilian Government to refer these matters to the arbitration of a third Power. Our reply was, that "Her Majesty's Government will not refer to anybody the question whether the Brazilian Government should or should not abide by the engagements into which it has entered with Great Britain under the stipulation of a treaty." Nothing could be final, if the decisions in those cases were not final. I say they could not honestly be put forth by Brazil as open questions; and is it to be said that we were bound not to allow the Convention of 1859 to expire, when we found them putting that interpretation upon the treaty? I say that a more flagrant attempt to take an undue advantage cannot be conceived—because the case had been given up by two Brazilian Ministers before 1840. I would ask the House to attend to what took place upon this subject which led to the suspension of the meetings of the Commissioners. Soon after the Commission met, one of these claims was brought forward by Brazil, and it was decided that the Commissioners could not take cognizance of it, because it had been already adjudicated upon by one of the Mixed Commission Courts under the Treaty of 1826. But afterwards the Brazilian Commissioner did not adhere to that decision, and Mr. Morgan, the British Commissioner, was over-persuaded to take a different view, and he reported what had taken place to his own Government. By the terms of the Convention, if the British and the Brazilian Commissioners could not agree, they were each in turn to nominate an umpire; so, as the Brazilian claims were by far the more numerous, the Brazilian Commissioners could nominate a Brazilian umpire in a large majority of the cases, and he would have the power of reversing, at that distance of time, the solemn determinations of those Courts, whose decisions were declared to be final by the former treaty. One 921 of these claims was actually allowed—and how does the House think the compensation was assessed? It was actually done by considering and inquiring how many slaves the ship might have exported from Africa to Brazil, and the value of that cargo of slaves was given. Thus the claim was founded upon the ground that the Mixed Commission Court had wrongly decided that the case was one of slaving, and yet the damages were awarded upon the calculation of what would have been the value of a cargo of slaves. If the Government had permitted that kind of thing to go on, the consequence would have been, that in more than one-half of the cases decided by the Courts we should have had to pay for all the slaves that the vessels might have carried to Brazil. What, then, would have been said by other countries with which we had treaties for the suppression of the slave trade? I say again, the attempt to bring forward such claims on the part of Brazil was really contrary to good faith. We therefore allowed the Commission to expire, but we offered to renew the Convention if they would renew it on terms consistent with good faith to the British Government in this respect. They would hot. We have offered to renew it upon the basis of abiding by all actual decisions, and they will not. With respect to the other class of cases, those under the Aberdeen Act, I say now, as I said when I sat upon the other side of the House, that nothing can be clearer than that there was no violation of international law in the passing of that Act. By the Treaty of 1826 the Brazilian Government gave us certain rights in the matter. The first clause of that treaty provided that—At the expiration of three years, to be reckoned from the exchange of the ratiflations of the present treaty, it shall not be lawful for the subjects of the Emperor of Brazil to be concerned in the carrying on of the African slave trade under any pretext or in any manner whatever, and the carrying on of such trade after that period by any person, subject of His Imperial Majesty, shall be deemed and treated as piracy.This clause was perpetual; the subsequent clauses, which regulated for a limited period the manner of proceeding before the Mixed Commission Courts in slave-trade cases, were temporary. The Brazilian Government, after some years, gave us notice that they would not renew this temporary part of the treaty; but two years before its expiration Lord Aberdeen had given them notice, that if the Mixed Commission Courts should come to an end 922 through any want of co-operation, it would remain for Her Majesty's Government to apply their own means to carry out the duty imposed upon them in the first article. The account which Lord Aberdeen gave of the treaty, in a speech of his, was that it had been systematically violated from the period of its conclusion up to the time at which he spoke, and that cargoes of slaves had been landed in open day at various ports, notwithstanding the efforts of our cruisers to prevent them. All that the Aberdeen Act did, was to provide that our Admiralty courts should have power to deal with these slave trade cases, which the Government of Brazil, by the permanent article of the treaty, expressly gave us the right to treat as cases of piracy, and no claim whatever had ever been made against the British Government founded on the manner in which our courts proceeding under that Act had carried out its provisions. The sole objection had always been to the principle of the Act, which was a question between the two nations; and no notice was ever, before the Convention of 1859, given to the British Government of the existence of any claims on the part of any corporations, companies, or individuals in Brazil, founded upon the proceedings of British cruisers, or on the decisions of British Courts of Admiralty, under that Act.
said, that some rather curious remarks had been made in the course of the debate, and none more curious than those in the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman Who had introduced an episode concerning the Mixed Commission. Why that should have been brought forward he did not know, unless it was to show the animus which existed between the two Governments before the affair of the Prince of Wales and the Forte. It would appear, however, that very ill-blood existed, when the Foreign Secretary raked up all these old questions about the slave trade, and commented upon them in a debate upon recent transactions. That was little likely to bring about that good feeling between the two countries which all must desire to see. He had understood that such matters were dead and buried, and it was not well to dig up dead men if they were really dead. He did not understand the definition of the hon. and learned Gentleman of the Convention of Paris, by which it was agreed—wisely or not he did not pretend to say—that national quarrels should be referred 923 to arbitration before they went to the extremity of war or reprisals. The hon. and learned Gentleman said the question could not be referred until the Brazilian Government admitted responsibility, and he added that the Brazilian Government ought to enforce their own laws. That was denied by them; and was not that a question capable of being arbitrated upon? He did not see the use of arbitration if one party said to the arbitrator, "I will settle the facts, and then we will have an arbitration as to the amount of damages you shall pay." The facts were just as much a matter for arbitration as the amount of damages. If that were to be the interpretation to be put upon the Treaty of Paris, they had better not follow it. If the computation made by the Queen's Advocate, that so much money should be paid to the relatives of persons "possibly murdered" were not curious enough of itself, the explanation given by the hon. and learned Gentleman was still more curious. He seemed to say, that as long as the whole claim made was not greater than the damage sustained by the unfortunate merchants, there was no reason why it should not be spread over as many items as they liked. The hon. and learned Gentleman's argument was something like this. The merchant has lost so much; his goods may have been stolen, and we will not claim more than will cover the amount of his loss; but we will not give it all to him—we will give a certain amount to the families of those who were drowned or murdered. That was a curious illustration of a curious document. He was extremely sorry to hear the hon. and learned Gentleman follow the Under Secretary in his comments on the arbitration of the King of the Belgians. He thought, that when a matter was referred to arbitration, the parties should accept that arbitration and say nothing about it. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, "It is very true that the arbitration was given against us; and though our officers may have been treated in a manner that was in accordance with Brazilian law, yet still they were treated in a manner that gave us a right to complain." Now, that was a strong observation for a Member of the Government to make. The law of Brazil was very likely bad; but if the officers were treated according to it, and a high person had said that no insult had been given, the Government had no right to comment in that House on the transaction. He would like to know if some 924 French officers were to come here in plain clothes and should be taken up by the police, would any one say that the French navy was insulted because those officers; got into the station-house? There ought to have been no more said upon the matter of the insult to our navy.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
We accepted the arbitration—that there was no offence intended to the British navy.
wished to know, then, what was the use of saying that the officers were badly used? He thought that this had been a most unfortunate business, and that we had cause of complaint in the beginning. However, the episode about the unhappy Mixed Commission showed that there had been more ill-feeling than people were aware of, and he feared that the comments that had that night been made by Members of the Government would not tend to smooth down those feelings; because it must be recollected that things said by the Members of a Government had far greater weight abroad than anything spoken by private Members in that House.
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
If this question had been confined to the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in their foreign policy, I should not have interfered in the matter, thinking that they were very well able to defend themselves; but in the course of the discussion the personal conduct of Her Majesty's representative ill Brazil has been as much in question as the conduct of Her Majesty's Government themselves; and I therefore rise to say a few words for the purpose of placing Mr. Christie's conduct in a fair light before the House and the country. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley) who has said that those events would not have occurred unless it had been for the disagreeable, painful, almost inimical state of feelings which had existed between this country and Brazil. I think every Member of this House will agree with me that not only at the time Mr. Christie went to Brazil, but even long before Sir James Hudson went there, the animus of Brazil towards this country was such as would have placed the two countries in a very unfavourable position to discuss any matter of an obnoxious character that might arise between them. My hon. Friend below me has adverted to what is called the Aberdeen Act; and I think it is the general opinion here that the Act known by that name was of so peculiar a character, and interfered so much with 925 Brazil, that it was impossible it should not create ill-will in that country. At the present moment, of course, it would be totally out of place to go in to the circumstances which produced that Act. They, again, depend on that long conflict which has been waged for so many years against the slave trade, in which my noble Friend at the head of the Government has taken so leading and consistent a part, and which it is impossible to carry out without some danger of offending or interfering with the prejudices of other countries. Therefore, we see that all through this question the Brazilian Government have not been inclined to make the best of the matter. If the original circumstances connected with this wreck had taken place in any country with which England was on really friendly terms, there would have been very little difficulty in settling it. If such an occurrence had taken place on a part of our coast where lawless proceedings took place in times past, would not our Government have come forward and at once offered to arrange matters in a satisfactory manner? But from the language which Mr. Christie felt himself obliged to hold at an early stage of the discussion, we see he felt himself compelled to arrive at the conclusion that the Brazilian Government was not disposed to do justice, and that restitution was to be avoided if possible. If hon. Members will consult the papers, they will find that Mr. Christie spared no pains to come on good terms with the Brazilian Government, and to arrange the dispute in the best manner he could. They will find that he waited a whole mouth for instructions. Having some doubts of the murders himself, he waited a month to be convinced of them. Again they will find that he gave the Marquis d'Abrantes private information of his instructions, and allowed a week's additional time for consideration. They will find that immediately after notice of reprisals had been given, and before a single vessel had been taken, he intimated to the Brazilian Government, that if they proposed arbitration, it would be accepted. I am authorized by Mr. Christie to say he took every means in his power to give the Brazilian Government to understand that those reprisals were not a mere threat, but that he had positive instructions from his Government, under certain circumstances, to order them, and that he was no willing agent in the matter. It may be said that it would have been wise for Earl Russell himself to propose arbitration; but Mr. 926 Christie had no power to propose arbitration. All the authority he had was to give every opportunity to the Brazilian Government to propose arbitration, and, if they should do so, to say he was empowered to accept it. Therefore, I say there is no foundation for the unjust accusation that Mr. Christie unnecessarily enforced strong measures against the Government of Brazil. We may from this question draw a wider lesson than it at first sight seems to contain. We may gather from it that it is very difficult for one of our representatives to defend the interests of England in a foreign country in presence of mercantile interests which may not be ready to support him when he does so. What would have been said of Mr. Christie if he had allowed such things to occur without making a sufficient remonstrance? Every allowance ought to be made for an English agent who has to defend at one and the same time the national interests of England and the interests of an English mercantile community in a foreign country; for if, in maintaining the former, he takes any measures which may have the effect of disturbing the letter, the chances are that he will incur considerable blame. It is my opinion that Mr. Christie deserves the approval of the country, and not the treatment which he has received at the hands of some hon. Gentlemen in this House. He is a diplomatic agent of long service under several Ministries, from whom he has received the highest approbation for his tact, judgment, and ability. In this case, whatever hardships may have taken place have occurred solely in consequence of the instructions which Mr. Christie received, and I have thought it a duty to him as a personal friend, and a duty to the House and the country, not to remain silent and allow his character to be aspersed, and his services as a diplomatic agent to be underrated.
said, he could not agree that the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary had given an accurate account of the treatment of the officers, and he could show that many of the statements of Mr. Christie were erroneous, especially those in which he contradicted the statements he (Mr. Bramley-Moore) had made in that House. For example, he was prepared to make good his statements with respect to the feeling of the British merchants at Rio de Janeiro, and to show that the document of which the Government boasted did not contain a fair representation 927 of the feelings of the wealth, intelligence, and majority in number of those merchants. In giving a list of the merchants an amusing mistake had been made. The document published set forth certain signatures as being the names of "principal partners," whereas those who were so represented had only signed "per procuration," and the "p.p." before their names was translated by the Foreign Office "principal partners." He felt convinced that the crew of the Prince of Wales were not murdered, but drowned. In a gale of wind it was impossible that a boat could land on that part of the coast, especially if, as was stated, the boat had barrels of nails in it. It was of importance to bear in mind the statement of Mr. Stevens on this point. He said—I have ascertained that the captain, his wife, and crew landed safely with his boats on the Brazilian territory, with his British flag, chronometer, nautical instruments, log book, clearance, and his British register in his pocket, with provisions, and all other necessaries except fire-arms or weapons of defence. These were all taken possession of, and the captain and the crew were immediately plundered and murdered, and four of the crew, who escaped about four miles inland, were then murdered and partially plundered, and their nationality, as well as that of the ship, attempted to be destroyed.It would, of course, be supposed that the writer had substantial grounds for this statement, but his only authority was that of the master of the Hermia, a vessel which was wrecked in the same gale, and the crew of which were saved by the Brazilians themselves. There was no evidence of the crew of the Prince of Wales having been murdered, and, in his opinion, it was impossible for them to reach the shore alive. He had heard with pleasure the statement, that through the mediation of Portugal friendly relations with Brazil would probably be restored. But the Aberdeen Act would always remain a grievance to Brazil so long as it was unrepealed. Now, in 1845, at the passing of this Act, Lord Aberdeen said he would undertake to propose its repeal on certain conditions; and afterwards the exertions of the Brazilian Government to put down the slave trade so won his good opinion, that he declared that these conditions had been fulfilled, and that the time had come for the repeal of this obnoxious measure. If the step were now taken, as it well might, when the Brazilian Government had given such evidence of their sincerity, the relations between the two countries would be put on a proper footing. Since 1851, no slaves had been imported into Rio, and the 928 Brazilian Government had been successful in suppressing the slave trade. Not only so, but there was a society in Rio for buying the freedom of slaves born in the country, especially the freedom of women. The Emperor himself was at the head of this society, and large contributions were made towards it by His Majesty and the citizens. If the Brazilian Government were to be treated in this manner, why not apply the same rule to Spain and other countries? It was well known that upwards of 30,000 slaves had been imported into Cuba during the last year; and why was not a stop put to that? He thought that the English Government might show some magnanimity, and say, that as they appeared to be in the wrong in one case, it was possible they might be wrong in the other, and so express a willingness, even now, to refer the case to arbitration. Of course, the Brazilian Government would not go to war with us; but they might impose differential duties upon British manufactures. They were not entirely dependent on British manufactures, for the continental manufactures now competed with us in every foreign market throughout the world. If the Brazilian Government were now to impose differential duties upon British manufactures, it would be a serious calamity to the manufacturing districts. He hoped a magnanimous course would be pursued by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and that thus amicable relations between the two countries would be restored.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.