Imperial ParliamentThe Illustrated London News, vol. 44, no. 1263, p. 566.
June 11, 1864
The Marquis of Clanricarde moved that an humble address be presented to her Majesty for copies of extracts from any despatches from her Majesty's Minister at Washington relating to the proceedings or report of the Select Committee of the United States Congress on immigration, or to bills upon the subject brought into Congress; and also for copies of extracts from despatches or reports respecting the enlistment of Irish immigrants at Boston and Portland in the month of March last, or to the enlistment of any of her Majesty's Canadian subjects in the United States army. The noble Marquis said that for the last two years the Federal Government had displayed a deliberate intention of recruiting its army from foreigners, and especially from the subjects of her Majesty. He complained that, while we had permitted the Federals to obtain arms and the munitions of war from this country without question, we had put the Foreign Enlistment Act in force the moment the Confederates evinced a desire to obtain ships of war from the same source. He was informed that at the present moment there was a regular dépôt in this country for the enlistment of Germans for the service of the United States. He urged that, although such proceedings were not openly carried on, they were proceedings which the Foreign Enlistment Act was intended to prevent, and he thought steps should be taken by the Government to put the provisions of that Act into operation. He wished the Government to make vigorous remonstrances, and if those remonstrances were not attended to, then he should like to know if that would not be a case for war if ever there was one. While protesting against the proceedings resorted to on behalf of the Federals, he expressed a hope that such an alteration would soon take place in the position of the contending parties as would enable the European Powers to interpose with a prospect of putting an end to the terrible carnage now going on.
Lord Brougham seconded the motion. He said the Federal Government were now inveigling poor Irish immigrants into the commission of a breach of our neutrality, which would subject them in this country to punishment as criminals. He reminded the House that in our war with America the loudest complaints were made by the colonists of the employment of Hessian and other German troops in subduing them. He deeply deplored that his old friends in America, in whose cause he had sustained so much abuse in bygone years, had allowed themselves to be drawn into so sanguinary and unchristian a war, and he sincerely hoped that peace would soon be restored.
Earl Russell assented to the production of the papers moved for by the noble Marquis, but said he thought it would have been better to have waited until the papers were produced, in order to ascertain if his or Lord Lyons's conduct was open to censure. Lord Lyons had repeatedly remonstrated with the Federal Government, and he (Earl Russell) had done all in his power to second the remonstrances of his noble friend. With regard to the sale of arms and munitions of war to the Northern States, there was no law which prevented it, but all articles thus exported were liable to capture on the part of the Confederates. The fitting out of ships of war for a belligerent Power was upon a very different footing, and was a direct breach of the Foreign Enlistment Act. He denied that the Government were at all blamable for the steps which had taken place in Ireland for inducing the people of that country to emigrate to America. He believed that the Irish peasantry had been led away by their own credulity, and that they had no one
Page 567to blame for what had taken place but themselves. At the same time he thought it was highly discreditable to the civil and military authorities of the United States Government that they had not fully investigated the representations which had been made to them by Lord Lyons. His noble friend (Lord Clanricarde) suggested that, if our remonstrances failed, the case was one for a declaration of war. Without going to that extent, he (Lord Russell) must admit that the case was one of that class which did frequently lead to war, and he sincerely regretted that the United States Government had not attended to the remonstrances which had been made to them by her Majesty's representative. At the same time, he believed that we had quite as much reason to complain of the conduct of the Confederates as of the Federals. He could assure the House that the representations which had already been made would be continued, and he hoped they would be attended with success. Unfortunately, the war in America was being conducted with such fury and with such a reckless expenditure of life and treasure on both sides that all representations or remonstrances appeared unavailing.
The Marquis of Clanricarde said it was notorious that recruiting for the Northern States was constantly going on in Ireland, and yet our own Government had the greatest difficulty in obtaining recruits.
Earl Russell observed that if the noble Marquis would supply him with proof in corroboration of this assertion he would place the facts in the hands of the Home Secretary, in order that he might prosecute the parties.
The motion was then agreed to.