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Stanley lays down the positive rule to Mr. Lettsom
"I have to observe to you, as this is a subject
in which Her Majesty's Government have no direct interest, they do not feel justified in expressing any opinion thereon to the Government of the Oriental Republics."
The state of affairs in the South American Governments had been of late years very curious; and it was almost impossible to ascertain the nominal motives of the hostilities in which they were engaged, although the real motives were obvious. He was glad to see that the Correspondence which had been laid on the table was entirely free from any notion of interference on our part in those wars, the origin of which appeared to be an attempt on the part of the Brazilian Government, in alliance with the Argentine Republic, to get possession of the territory of the Plate. It appeared, however, that the Government of Paraguay detained a number of British subjects, chiefly engineers and medical men, in a besieged place called Humaita, and refused to liberate them, lest they should give information to the enemy or engage in his service. Mr. Gould, the British Consular Agent there, stated that a party of forty-six Europeans were so detained; but President Lopez denied that there were more than six Europeans in Paraguay, and asserted that they were resident in the State of their own free will, carrying out a contract entered into with the Government. There was a great discrepancy between the statements of Mr. Gould and President Lopez; and it was desirable that their Lordships should have the means of knowing what was the exact number of the British subjects detained; whether they were really detained against their will, or under contract; and, if under contract, what the nature of the contract was, and whether it had or had not expired? Mr. Gould said, that without the presence of a British ship of war, he could not obtain the release of our subjects; but how was a British ship of war to get up there? The gun-boat Dotterel had been stranded three times in attempting it. Mr. Gould had told President Lopez that he would hold him responsible for whatever might happen to our countrymen. One question which deserved attention was this-Were we clearly entitled to say that International Law prevented a State in besieged warfare from detaining the subjects of a neutral, whether under contract or otherwise, if it suspected
that they might join or help the enemy? It appeared to him that if the Government engaged in this dispute they ought to make sure of every step they took, or else the affair might end very perilously and expensively. He did not mean positively to accuse Mr. Gould of any partiality; but he was bound to notice the contradictions in his accounts and those of other officers. Mr. Gould said
"The Paraguayan forces amount altogether to about 20,000 men; of these 10,000, or 12,000 at most, are good troops; the rest are mere boys from twelve to fourteen years of age, old men and cripples, besides from 2,000 to 3,000 sick and wounded. The men are worn out with exposure, fatigue, and privations; they are actually dropping down from inanition. They have been reduced for the last six months to meat alone, and that of a very inferior quality. They may once in a and especially salt, are so very scarce, they are, I way get a little Indian corn; but that, mandioc, fully believe, only served out to the sick. In the whole camp there is absolutely nothing for sale. There must be, judging from what I saw, a great scarcity of drugs and medicines, if not a total pidly increasing. Few recover, as may naturally want of them for the sick, whose number is rabe expected under such circumstances. Cholera and smallpox, which exist to a certain extent in the allied camp, are spreading very much among died off, and the few hundreds that yet remain the Paraguayans. The horses have nearly all are so weak and emaciated they can scarcely carry their riders. The last 800 or 900 mares in the whole country have, however, just been brought in. The draught oxen are in a dreadful state, and cannot last much longer. The cattle in the camp, some 15,000 or 20,000 head, are dying very fast for want of pasturage."
Captain Michell, on the other hand (the officer in command of the Dotterel), spoke of the forces in high terms. Writing on the same day, and describing the same army, he said—
"At Curupaity, while waiting for Mr. Gould and the British subjects, I had the honour of being presented to President Lopez, who received with a powerful spyglass, the whole of his lines me most kindly, showing me from a high position, and trenches at Curupaity, which are of great strength, and I believe impregnable to the allies. The troops appeared in good health and spirits, and are an extraordinarily fine race of men. They
do not suffer half the hardships that are reported. Large quantities of cattle and sheep were in the
The question was, which of these two reports was the more accurate. It was difficult to decide on which side the truth lay; but that was the more reason why the Government should act with caution, and should enlighten public opinion on this matter. In June last Lord Stanley wrote to Mr. Mathew, stating that he had called
the attention of the Chargé d'Affaires of Paraguay in this country to the detention of British subjects in Paraguay, and suggesting that a gunboat should be sent to receive them on board. Since that time we had received a new Minister, and yet appointed none of our own. The public were entitled to know why, if President Lopez had so violated International Law, as asserted by Mr. Gould, we should retain and receive his Chargé d'Affaires, and why we had none in Paraguay? The public were also entitled to know whether the Government had any accurate information relative to these contracts; and, whether, assuming that they were acting in accordance with International Law, they had taken the best course to put an end to this dispute. If this country were carried into war there would be no knowing where it would end.
THE EARL OF MALMESBURY: As my noble Friend has given your Lordships an accurate sketch of what has taken place in these countries I need say no more on that subject. I am happy to relieve the mind of the noble Lord of the notion that Her Majesty's Government are about to embark in another Abyssinian war in South America. There is not the slightest chance of our being engaged in such a proceeding. It is true that certain Englishmen are detained in the camp of President Lopez; but our information on that subject is extremely vague, and it is impossible for me to say how a list can be made out. Mr. Gould was in a difficult position when he first went out, and he had great difficulty in obtaining information. The same might be said of Captain Michell, and it was to be expected that their separate accounts of what they saw would not agree. But the most important point is one to which the noble Lord has not alluded-the chance of our being able to put an end to this sanguinary war. I do not know whether the noble Baron wished Her Majesty's Government to mediate between the two parties. I believe that our interposition would do more harm than good. There is, therefore, no intention on the part of the Government to interfere until we see a much better chance of success than that which now exists. It is quite true that the desirability of mediation has been hinted at, but the Government have confined themselves to instructing our Minister at Buenos Ayres to do what he can to obtain the release of these Englishmen. I will not
go into the question of how far International Law has been violated in the detention of these six Englishmen in the camp of President Lopez. I can easily perceive from the character of President Lopez, that their position is anything but agree. able. At the same time it must be borne in mind that Lopez himself is in a very peculiar position. He is blockaded in his camp; and it is not to be expected that, as he is beleaguered, he will allow any person to leave his camp and give information as to his means of defence, which might be useful to the enemy. I am asked, whether the Government are aware of the contracts with those Englishmen, and whether they have expired or not? We have no infor mation on that subject; but it would naturally become a question rather of a civil than any other process between these persons and those who engaged them. It would be very difficult for us to go into a country so wild and in such a state of warfare. All that can be done at present for those Englishmen, will be to recommend our Minister to watch carefully the course of events and to obtain their release as soon as possible. I do not think your Lordships will consider it wise on the part of the Government to make any offer of mediation at the present time, and there is not the slightest danger of our being involved in hostilities in these countries.
EARL GREY feared, from the temper of Mr. Gould's correspondence, that if any discretionary power were intrusted to that gentleman, he would sooner or later involve us in hostilities. He thought it was extremely wrong for this country to allow itself to be drawn into a war on behalf of persons who, for their own objects and interests, had become connected with barbarous or semi-barbarous Powers. If any persons placed themselves in positions in which they were very likely to be ill treated by such men as Lopez and others, they could not expect the power of this country to be put forth for their release. He hoped no force would be placed at the disposal of our diplomatic agents; for if ships of war were sent to the spot, they would be tempted to make use of them, and England might sooner or later be dragged into a war.
POOR RELIEF BILL [H.L.]—(No. 39.)
(The Earl of Devon.)
sity of sending copies of Orders to the justices' clerks of petty sessional divisions for gentlemen attending petty sessions were ex officio guardians, and would therefore, in that character, become acquainted with
Order of the Day for the House to be such orders. The 3rd repealed the exput into Committee, read.
ception contained in 30 & 31 Fict. c. 106,
Moved, "That the House do now resolves: 2, and thus brought under its operaitself into a Committee on the said Bill." -(The Earl of Devon.)
tion unions and parishes in the metropolis. The 4th clause dispensed with the consent of a majority of two-thirds of the THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH sug- guardians in certain unions to an alteragested that the measure should at once be tion in the composition of such unions by referred to a Select Committee, that Com-the Poor Law Board. It likewise gave mittee confining its attention to the provi- the Board power to deal with Gilbert sions it contained. The tendency of the Unions, a proposal which had been disBill was to increase the power of the tinctly recommended by two Parliamentary central Board, a spirit directly contrary Committees. The 5th clause enabled the to that of the original Poor Law. Now, Board to combine parishes with a populahe believed the more that power was tion not exceeding 300 with adjoining increased the less disposition would there parishes. There were many small parishes be to serve the office of guardian, and the which did not seem to require a separate essence of the system would be destroyed. guardian, and which frequently did not THE EARL OF DEVON said, he thought possess the opportunity of an adequate it due to their Lordships and to the im-choice. portance of the measure that he should give an explanation of its provisions, in accordance with the understanding on which the second reading was agreed to. If, after he had made such an explanation, their Lordships were of opinion that sound legislation would be promoted by the course suggested by the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough), he should offer no objection. The object of the Bill was to remove various obstacles which interfered with the satisfactory working of the Poor Law, and to enlarge the powers of the Poor Law Board with reference to local administration. The Board had not the slightest desire of unduly over-riding the discretion, generally exercised wisely and properly, of the local authorities; for they would prefer to see the improvements which were from time to time necessary initiated and carried out by the local guardians. Experience, however, had shown that, in some cases, an opposition was offered to improvements which might almost be designated pertinacious, and that serious evils would result were it not for the action of a central authority. It was to deal with such cases and to remedy evils at present existing that additional powers were now asked for. The 1st clause was designed to give greater publicity to the general Rules or Orders of the Poor Law Board, by directing their publication in The London Gazette. The 2nd dispensed, with a view to economy, wtih the neces
These the Board would have the power of combining with other parishes for the purpose of representation. He now came to three clauses, which had for their object to give additional power to the guardians in reference to matters that had of late attracted a considerable amount of public attention. Those clauses were 6, 7, and 8. Their Lordships could not but be aware that much feeling had been aroused on the subject of various matters connected with the management of workhouses, although the points to which attention had particularly been drawn were, in certain instances, the inadequacy in point of numbers, or unfitness of the officers charged with the management of the poor. The absence of paid nurses had been particularly complained of. The effect of the 6th clause was to give the Poor Law Board power, when the guardians had been called on for twenty-one days to appoint the necessary officers and had failed to do so, to step in and nominate such officers and to fix their salaries. The next clause provided for the appointment of a paid visitor. At present the Poor Law Board were empowered to appoint a paid visitor under 11 Vict. c. 59, whenever the Visiting Committee, which must necessarily be appointed by every Board of Guardians, had failed, for a period of three months, to make such appointment. But it was obvious that that provision might be evaded, and instances of such evasion had taken place. Meetings might
numerous class, and one for which inadequate provision was made at present. The object of this clause was, where unions had obviously no means of dealing with the imbecile or harmless insane, to enable them to combine into districts, such districts to be managed in the same way as the school districts were, for the purpose of establishing and maintaining a common asylum. It was with a view to give necessary powers for dealing with harmless, insane, and idiots that Clause 10 and also
be held nominally once a month by the Visiting Committees without in any way discharging their duties. The Poor Law Board should therefore have power to appoint a competent person to act as visitor in cases where the Visiting Committee had failed to do their duty, or had not been appointed. Under the next clause, the limited power which the Poor Law Board at present possessed with regard to buildings was extended to the providing of drains, sewers, ventilation, furniture, fixtures, medical and sur-Clause 14 were introduced. Clause 14 gical appliances, and other conveniences. By a provision in the original Poor Law Act, and subsequently by Amendments under the 29 & 30 Vict., the Poor Law Board were empowered to spend upon buildings a sum not exceeding onetenth of the average amount spent in the union during the three preceding years. But that power did not extend to the matters to which he had referred. Their Lordships could hardly have watched the investigations which had taken place during the last eighteen months or two years without observing the great and increasing importance which was attached to these things. Their Lordships were aware of the powers in Mr. Hardy's Act, which gave to the Poor Law Board, in the event of the failure of the Board of Guardians to do so, power to provide the necessary articles in the interests of the poor of the metropolis. That power it was now proposed to give with regard to the country in general. And on this subject, he would take that opportunity of saying that the Poor Law Board could have no object but to see that the requisite conveniences for the recovery of the inmates were duly provided. Supposing Parliament were to intrust them with the powers they now asked for, it would be their wish and their duty to bear in mind the sources from which the necessary expenditure would come-namely, the rates, and to take care that the workhouses and infirmaries should hold out no inducement to unfit persons to enter them. There was no necessity for dwelling on Clause 9; but Clause 10 was one of a very important character. By that clause it was intended to extend the provisions of the District Schools Act, so as to make them applicable to the insane and imbecile poor chargeable on the rates. Their Lordships were aware that those persons only could be kept in workhouses who came under the head of harmless insane, and this was a very large and
gave power to the guardians-but, in the
times; and Clause 20, that such minister might, conformably with the regulations of the Board, visit and instruct any inmate of the same creed entered in the register. By Clause 21, every inmate for whom a religious service according to his own creed should not be provided in the workhouse on Sunday, and on any other day required by his religion to be kept sacred, should be permitted, subject to certain regulations, to attend once on such days some place of worship of his own denomination within a convenient distance of the workhouse. Lastly, no child visited regularly by a minister of his own religious creed for the purpose of religious instruction should, at the written request of such minister, be instructed in any other religious creed, or be required or permitted to attend any other religious service than that of the creed under which it was entered in the register; unless any child above fourteen should desire to receive
were no sufficient means of ascertaining and recording the religious views of the inmates of workhouses, and that it had become necessary to have some more definite and clear legislation. This point was distinctly laid down by the Committee of the other House, which terminated their sittings in 1864, and their recommendations formed the basis of the clauses now proposed. Clause 16 provided, that the master or superintendent of the workhouse should keep such a separate register of the religious creeds of the pauper in mates as should be prescribed by the Poor Law Board. That was no new regulation. A register was to be kept under the Industrial Schools Act, and in the Indoor Relief List there is a column in which the religious opinion of each inmate is to be inserted. But that column was mixed up with other entries in a book kept solely by the master; and experience showed that a clearer and more distinct record was required, accessible to the ministers of re-instruction in some other creed, and should ligious denominations, for the purpose of enabling them to take the necessary means of affording religious instruction to the inmates. He cordially concurred, therefore, with the recommendations of the Committee that a creed register should be kept. Clause 16 provided for the keeping of such a register, and Clause 17 enacted that the master or superintendent should enter in such register as the religious persuasion of any child under fourteen the creed of the father, if this could be ascertained, and if not, the creed of the mother. In the case of an illegitimate child under that age, its creed was to be deemed that of the mother. If, however, it could be shown that the child had been baptized in some other religion than that of the father or mother respectively, the entry in the registry was to be made according to the baptism, unless the father, or, in case of his death or absence, the mother, should otherwise require. Clause 18 provided that, where all other evidence failed, the certificate of baptism should be deemed sufficient evidence of the child's creed; and, further, that if any question arose as to the correctness of the register, the Poor Law Board, after inquiry, should have the power of directing any entry to be amended. Clause 19 provided that every minister of any denomination officiating in the church or chapel of such denomination which should be nearest to the workhouse or school should be allowed to inspect the creed register at reasonable
be considered by the Poor Law Board competent to exercise a judgment upon the subject. He trusted that these clauses would meet with approval, and that their Lordships would be of opinion that they embodied sound and necessary provisions. The next clauses to which he would refer dealt with the appointment of auditors. At present the whole of England was divided into groups of unions, each group having its own auditor, who is appointed by the chairman and the vice-chairmen of the unions within the group. It has been recommended that this system should be altered; that the districts should be enlarged; and that there should be a smaller number of auditors-men who would devote the whole of their time to the work, instead of men who, for the most part, had other occupations. There were clauses carrying out these recommendations, and it was hoped that, in this way, a regular supervision of accounts would be secured. By Clause 26 the Board abandoned patronage which at present belonged to them relative to the appointment, in certain temporary districts, of registrars, who were now to be elected by the guardians. Clause 29 would facilitate the bringing of appeals against rating in which two unions might be interested, thus reducing the expense of such appeals. Clause 33 gave power to the justices at petty sessions to make an order upon a husband to maintain his wife; and in the case of parents wilfully neglecting to pro