Imperial ParliamentThe Illustrated London News, vol. 44, no. 1244, p. 150.
February 13, 1864
The Confederate Rams At Liverpool.--Earl Derby again asked the noble Earl (Earl Russell) a question that he had asked on Tuesday with reference to the Confederate rams now lying in the Mersey. The noble Earl had stated that he could not lay any papers upon the table of the House in reference to the rams, as the question had been taken into the courts of law. He understood that the rams had been seized in September last, and that from that time until this no step has been taken to bring the cause to an issue, except that on Saturday last the information was filed. This the noble Earl humbly conceived might have been done in the month of October or November. The question was whether the Government were prepared to lay upon the table the correspondence which had taken place upon the remonstrance made with respect to injuries sustained by American commerce in consequence of certain vessels having sailed from British ports. He wished for this correspondence as well as that relating to the Alabama, and any correspondence containing representations on the part of her Majesty's Government against the apparent violation of the law by American cruisers in enforcing their rights. He also asked whether the noble Earl would lay before the House any correspondence that might have taken place on the report of some very curious decisions which had been come to in the prize courts of the United States. Under the circumstances the noble Earl could not see that the publication of these despatches would in any way clash with the cases now before the courts of law. The correspondence had been published in America; the noble Earl wished to have the English version of that correspondence. What course the Government had taken in vindication of international law in respect to the differences that had arisen between this country and America was a question that Parliament was bound to consider. He urged the noble Earl (Earl Russell) to reconsider his reply of Tuesday, and lay this correspondence before their Lordships.--Earl Russell said that when the attention of her Majesty's Government was first brought to these vessels the answer they received to inquiries that they made was that they were intended for the French; but the French Minister for Foreign Affairs denied this. The ships were evidently intended for warlike purposes, and Mr. Adams was told that her Majesty's Government was looking out for evidence as to the persons for whom the vessels were really destined. Another story afterwards became current that the vessels were intended for the Viceroy of Egypt. This was also found to be without foundation. With regard to the general question, the noble Earl thought that Mr. Adams was not far wrong in saying that vessels were fitted out here to be used for warlike purposes against a State that was at peace with her Majesty. This was undoubtedly a gross insult to her Majesty. But the law officers of the Crown, who have been consulted on the question, consider that her Majesty's Government must suffer from having their case only partially stated, so they would suffer from having the case in the courts of law forestalled; therefore their request was that the Government should not produce those papers. The noble Earl felt he should be doing an injustice to the law officers of the Crown and thwarting the fair hearing of the case if he produced the correspondence. With respect to the question of the conduct of the prize courts of America, the noble Earl was far from thinking that they had in every case done England justice. The noble Earl concluded by saying that he would look over the papers and see what he could produce without detriment to the public service, and should the noble Earl require any particular document, he would either produce it or give valid reasons for withholding it.