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ency,” affecting “important public interests,” TO STEAL, TO LIE, TO COMMIT FORGERY, TREACHERY, and TYRANNOUS INJUSTICE ; and to keep in constant training a staff of knaves fit for similar acts of public service, when not convenient to perform them personally. The proposition leads us a step further. In all sound reasoning, the minor is of course included in the major. If it be a duty to ward off a small calamity by dishonest stratagems, it is equally a duty, and even a more serious obligation, to employ them to ward off a greater calamity. Now, compare the possible consequences to Great Britain of any plot emanating from a few poor Italian exiles, and those which may arise at any moment from the ambition of France or Russia. When we are about to steal information, whose secrets is it of most importance to steal, - those of M. Mazzini, or those of the Count de St. Aulaire and of Baron de Brunow f Here, for example, has been the Emperor of Russia on a visit; and now, on his departure, comes his Prime Minister, Count Nesselrode, to take the benefit of sea-bathing at Brighton. These movements, doubtless, mean something, and something more than Russia cares to reveal fully. We take it, therefore, for granted, that Lord Aberdeen has not neglected his DUTY in this case. His lordship has, of course, put in operation the picklock and dark-lantern principle, and by means of accomplished artistes has already, we may presume, obtained extracts from papers lying in the escritoire of the Russian count The Brighton postmen, of course, need no instruction upon their duty, in the case of any and every letter to or from Count Nesselrode, intrusted to their delivery. Here we must express our surprise that, in one part of the report before us, the Committee of the House of Commons deny the fact of any peeping or prying into the letters of foreign ambassadors. What is this, but in other words to charge upon the present Government a neglect of the public interest, in taking no steps to steal important state secrets from the ministers of other countries; confining their activity to a discovery of the affairs of private individuals, comparatively insignificant 2 There is, however, reason to believe that this charge is made without sufficient foundation ; and we must call attention to a most important revelation in the report
of the Lords' committee, of which all mention has been suppressed in the report of the committee of the House of Commons :—
“It appears to have been for a long period of time, and under many successive administrations, an established practice, that the foreign correspordence of foreign ministers, passing through the General Post-office, should be sent to a department of the Foreign office before the forwarding of such correspondence according to its address. The PostmasterGeneral, having had his attention called to the fact that there was no sufficient authority for this practice, has since June discontinued it altogether.”
The Commons' committee admit, that during the administration of Charles James Fox, and the Marquis of Carmarthen, at the close of the last century, diplomatic correspondence of foreign ministers passing through the post was very generally inspected, but they add, “they are satisfied no such warrants or practices now exist.” Do they mean by the word now, since last June; that is, since Mr. Duncombe presented the petition of Mazzini and others on the subject ' If so, they have availed themselves of a most unworthy quibble. Or does the remark refer to a period of some ten or twenty years back In this case the committee have shown themselves unable to apply the commonest rules of evidence. If letters from abroad were habitually opened at the Foreign office in 1782, as the committee admit; if the same clerks, or their successors, have had from that period to the present the same class of letters, day by day, laid upon their desks, with a power of inspection, as the Lords' committee tell us, we take upon ourselves boldly to assert that foreign letters have been habitually opened up to June, 1844; opened, not, perhaps, by Ministers, r with their cognizance, but opened, at all events, by other persons than the parties to whom the letters were addressed.
And let any one consider the enormous temptation of an opportunity thus given, put in the way of a Government employé having connections in the City. In a critical state of the funds, a knowledge of the contents of a letter coming from a Rothschild abroad to a Rothschild in London, relative to purchases of stock, might realize a fortune. Is it possible to believe that a clerk early trained in the mysteries of softening wax, and counterfeiting seals, having such a letter put into his hands, and knowing its value, would wait for the
instruction of his superiors before he open- made use of them.
The subordinates of the Post-office, thus harshly described, have
This brings us to another extraordinary done nothing more than imitate the conduct
statement, in the report of the Commons' committee, showing their entire unfitness for the investigation in which they were engaged, or their unconsciousness of its serious character. They say—
“It does not appear to your committee necessary to follow the warrant from the time of its reception at the Post-office, to that of its execution.”
Not necessary? Why this was to halt at the very threshold of their inquiry. The extent to which the practice of opening letters has been carried, depends, not upon the number of warrants issued, but the modus operandi of their execution. The public want to know what securities were taken that the ingenious men employed to counterfeit seals should never transact a little private business on their own account —whether warrants have not in practice been regarded as mere forms, (the public knowing nothing of their existence,) and so sometimes filled up before, sometimes aster, the occasion for their use, and sometimes omitted altogether; as commonly happens in the case of all other matters of mere office routine !
The committee tell us, that upon an average the letters of one person per month, or twelve persons per year, are opened and resealed at the Post office. Of how many more is that the true indication ? We have heard it said, and not lightly, but by well-informed persons, that within the memory of many now living, the contents of any letter passing through the Post office might be obtained for a consideration, by a person interested in the matter, and making a judicious application to the proper parties. We can readily believe it, for in complete contradiction to the present report, Colonel Maberly in his examination a few months back before the Post-office committee, has described this department of Government as thoroughly demoralized. He says, “there has been enormous plunder and robbery” (1163); nay, that “the plunder is terrific" (1176), and that “a letter posted with money in it might as well be thrown down in the street as put into the Post-office” (1178). These are strong expressions from a Secretary of the Postoffice, and it is quite clear that Colonel Maberly never thought of their possible application to the Home Secretary, when he
of their chiefs. The plundering of letters by the state from motives of expediency was a state secret to the public, but not to Postoffice officials. When Lord Aberdeen determined to steal the contents of Mazzini's letters, he was necessarily obliged to make all the sorters and receivers of St. Martin’sle-Grand a party to the theft. Let this fact be well weighed by the public. Letters directed to Mazzini did not present themselves of their own accord in Downing-street. They had to be searched for by human hands, and carefully selected from a pile of perhaps many thousands, and then to be sent about by different messengers from one office to another. Or, supposing the fact to have been that the Devonshire-street bag was sent to the inner office and searched by Colonel Maberly himself, the notoriety of the object for which the bag was required, would still be the same. “Why,” it would of course be asked, “does Colonel Maberly always require, every day and every month for four months in succession, to count the letters contained in the Devonshire-street bag?” The general fact of the detention and opening of letters must therefore have been known to some hundreds of persons, including common letter-carriers ; and what wonder is it that poor and ignorant men should convert public expediency into private expediency, and keep their own counsel when abstracting a bank note, as safely as they had been taught to do the political felonies of their employers. Twelve months ago the newspapers were filled with the case of a Government clerk, who forged exchequer bills to the amount of several hundred thousand pounds. It is not at all an unlikely fact that the initiative step in his career of fraud was the instruction he possibly received in the art of counterfeiting seals for state purposes. Think of forgery in this form being systematically taught in a Government department, and of the probabilities of its stopping there; an apt pupil never becoming too expert for his own teacher A light now breaks in upon us to explain the animus of the otherwise unaccountable hostility of the Post-office to Rowland Hill and his plans. Colonel Maberly describes his establishment as a den of thieves; and who can blame the instinct which teaches knaves to beware of an honest man 2 Put Rowland Hill in the Post-office! Send to
Norfolk Island for a candidate. The Exchequer-bill office should supply the next Postmaster-Generall We now see why Rowland Hill was not to be trusted by either the present Government or the past. There were state mysteries connected with the Post-office which Rowland Hill had not unravelled, and it certainly would have been imprudent to have confided them to him. We proceed to a part of the report, the spirit of which appears to us so utterly incompatible, not only with the duty which the committee owed the public, but with every just and manly sentiment; indeed, so opposed to the constitutional English maxim, that no man should be condemned unheard, that we find it difficult to preserve sufficient calmness to put the facts fairly before the reader, and yet find fit terms to characterize appropriately the conduct of the committee, without appearing to assume an exaggerated tone of severity. We refer to the paragraph in which reference is made to Mazzini and his brother exiles; but chiefly to the following passages:—
“A warrant to open and detain all letters addressed to Mr. Worcell and to Mr. Stolzmann was issued on the 17th of April, 1844, and cancelled on the 29th of June.
“A warrant to open and detain all letters addressed to Mr. Grodecki, at Paris, and to another foreign gentleman, was issued on the 3d of June, 1844, and cancelled on the 13th of the same month.
“The last two warrants rested on grounds connected with the personal safety of a foreign sovereign, intrusted to the protection of England. It appears to your committee that, under circumstances so peculiar, even a slight suspicion of danger would justify a minister in taking extraordinary measures of precaution.”
We have here an accusation of one of the blackest crimes that can be laid to human charge; and preferred against individuals who, for any thing that appears to the contrary, may be as honorable men as move in society. The committee tell the public that there were grounds of suspicion, slight perhaps, but still sufficient, to justify the British Government (justify is the word used) in treating Messrs. Worcell, Stolzmann, Grodecki, and their friends, as engaged in a plot for the assassination of the Emperor of Russia—there is no other meaning in the words; let the reader examine them carefully. Now, will it be believed, does it not seem incredible, as repugnant to every feeling that could be
supposed to influence a body of English gentlemen, that of the men thus held up to infamy, whose civil rights had been violated in their correspondence, not one was called before the committee to be examined 2 The committee declined to go into any examination of the grounds upon which the warrants had been issued; and they had, therefore, absolutely no authority whatever, beyond a foul insinuation, either for the gross act of defamation of which they have been guilty, or for their zealous justification of Lord Aberdeen, on the score of a necessity for extraordinary precautions.” No such necessity was proved; and, indeed, from the very next passage in the report, it is evident the necessity did not exist:—
“The committee have not learned that there appeared in the letters that were opened any thing to criminate the gentlemen whom the committee have very reluctantly named.”
This reluctance we do not understand. The parties named had brought themselves before the public; they had petitioned for redress of a grievous injury; and the committee meet the case by adding wrong to wrong. The committee refused to hear the allegations of the petitioners, or to call a single witness of character; but they do not the less hesitate to pronounce the following unjust and ex parte judgment:— “Gentlemen, we have not learned that any thing has been found to criminate you, but we are satisfied, notwithstanding, that the Foreign Secretary was quite justified in treating you as criminals, and guarding against your possible designs upon the life of the Emperor.”
The appointment of a secret committee showed a foregone conclusion; and the members named upon it have well answered the expectations of the minister who appointed them. A sifting investigation was not wanted. Sir James Graham was only anxious to show that he was no worse than the leaders of the Opposition; and that done, the matter was to be hushed up, and the petitioners might be unceremonionsly dismissed. The refusal of the committee to allow Mr. Duncombe to be present to examine his own witnesses we at first treated as a mere crotchet ; we now view it as a most serious fault. The committee did not desire to examine witnesses against the Government practice, nor witnesses in behalf of the petitioners, or they could have found them without the aid of Mr. Duncombe. What will the public think when they learn that even Mazzini, whose case was first brought before the House of Commons,—with whom indeed had originated the whole inquiry, Mazzini, who had petitioned for an opportunity of refuting the calumnies circulated against him by the Sardinian embassy, was never summoned by the committee. These calumnies the committee even repeat in part, while they take no notice of some of a still more serious character industriously whispered among the supporters of Government, as an apology for the conduct of Lord Aberdeen in this particular case.
* Mr. Stolzmann is a captain of artillery, who has lived in England since 1836; Count Worcell is a member of the Diet; both able men, and men of unspotted character. Their real offence was attending a public meeting in favor of the Poles at the Hall of the National Association on the 16th of April. The warrant sor opening their letters was issued on the 17th. The other case was a mysterious letter from a person abroad of unsound mind, taken by a Pole to the Russian embassy, with a view of getting himself included in the late Polish amnesty, and probably obtained also for that purpose. We regret to learn that the amnesty includes only men of a like stamp.
“Representations had been made to the British Government from high sources, that plots of which M. Mazzini was the centre were carrying on, upon British territory, to excite an insuriection in Italy; and that such insurrection, should it assume a formidable aspect, would, from peculiar political circumstances, disturb the peace of Europe. The British Government, considering the extent to which British interests were involved in the maintenance of that peace, issued on their own judgment, but not on the suggestion of any foreign power, a warrant to open and detain M. Mazzini's letters. Such information deduced from those letters as appeared to the British Government calculated to frustrate this attempt was communicated to a foreign power;”
but the information so communicated was not of a nature to compromise, and did not com— promise, the safety of any individual within the reach of that foreign power; nor was it made known to that power by what means, or from what source, that information had been obtained.”
There are two points to notice in the above paragraph: one the description given of M. Mazzini as a dangerous conspirator, —a description unqualified by any intimation of the fact, known at least to more than one member of the committee, that M. Mazzini enjoys the confidence and respect of many Englishmen of the first rank, and stands for public chaoacter and private worth upon as high moral ground as any distinguished foreigner who has visited English shores;–the other point is the denial for Lord Aberdeen of any act of treachery on his part which could have compromised the safety of foreigners resident in England, or of their friends abroad.
We will take the latter first; and let it be again remarked that this denial of treachery is made solely on the evidence of the parties accused. The committee first deliberately refuse to hear the accusing witnesses, and then take the bare word of men whose avowed principle of action is, that duplicity is indispensable to affairs of state, and that the inviolability of truth is only to be respected as a rule for private conduct.
It would be difficult to imagine a more striking instance of the absence of common sense, or a wider departure from the first principles of common justice, than we find in the whole of these proceedings. But let us look at the fact; and with the assistance of no other light than is thrown upon it by the report of the two committees. First, however, it will be well to consider what is treachery. What is it constitutes an act base, infamous, cruel, such as the world calls treachery, but for which all the languages of the world have no term suf. ficiently emphatic for its condemnation, in an indignant outburst of honest, withering scorn ? It is the act of the supposed neutral or pretended friend availing himself of the confidence reposed in his neutrality or friendship, but secretly betraying to an enemy information which directly or indirectly may lead the betrayed to the dungeon or the executioner. Well, then, is Lord Aberdeen guilty or not guilty of the crime imputed Guilty, upon his own showing, and the ex-parte evidence of the attempts at exculpation given in the reports of the two committees. The report of the Lords states that “certain parts of the information thus obtained were communicated to a foreign government.” The Report of the House of Commons states that “so much of the information was communicated to a foreign power as might frustrate the attempt about to be made;”—that is, as might lead to the apprehension and imprisonment of any and every person leaving England or Corfu upon the projected enterprise. The British Government did this, and, gracious God not a word of warning upon their impending fate was breathed to these victims of a misplaced confidence in British honor' No friendly hint told them their designs were known, and that, if attempted to be put in execution, death awaited them upon the shores of Calabria 1" We pray the reader to mark an important distinction. It may very fairly be contended that no country ought to allow an armament to be fitted out in her own ports, against a foreign power, with which it may not be at war, or with which it may have peaceable and friendly relations. Granted; although we were not very nice upon this point in the days of Don Miguel and Don Carlos. We will give the com
* “Not a syllable of this correspondence has ever been submitted to any foreign power.”—Lord ABERDEEN's Speech. “Certain parts of the information thus obtained were submitted to a foreign government.”—Report of the Lords' Committee. Upon this the ‘Standard'says, “We cannot see a shade of inconsistency between the language of Lord Aberdeen and the language of the report.” This is the Ministerial explanation . There is not a shade of inconsistency. It is quite clear that Ministers have a standard of truth of their own, by which they measure their parliamentary declarations. When Sir Robert Peel was asked whether or not Lord De Grey had resigned the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland, he answered, “There is not a word of truth in the report.” The resignation of Lord De Grey had been received at the Home office that morning. When Lord Aberdeen is asked if Mazzini's letters were opened at the requisition of a foreign
government, his lordship says, “Nor A syllas Le of the correspondence has ever been communicated to any foreign power.” It appears that certain parts of the information contained in the correspondence were communicated to a foreign power. Again, in the House of Commons, on Monday night, Captain Pechell asked whether the charges against Lieutenant Gray had been made by the Admirality, by the Foreign office, or by any foreign government Mr. Sidney Herbert replied, “...No foreign government haz ANY THING IN THE world to do with the matter.” Now, what will be thought of this statement, when it is known that, upon the 2nd of June, 1843, the French ambassador presented a note to Lord Aberdeen, in which he said, “He was directed by his government to require,” first, that her Majesty's Government would disavow the conduct of the officers of the “Bonetta:' and, secondly, “that they will institute an inquiry” into the proceedings of these officers, in order to ensure their punishment. Lord Aberdeen writes, on the 23d of June, to inform Count St. Aulaire, that “orders have been given to institute, without delay, a strict investigation.” Yet Mr. Sidney Herbert says that “no foreign power had any thing in the world to do with the matter!"— (' M. Chronicle, August 8th, 1844.)
* It is known that several, and it is believed that all the Italians who left Corfu, including the elite of the exiles, upon whom the cause was mainly dependent, were immediately seized, tried by a military commission, and shot.
mittee the benefit of an extreme case. A pirate, although confining his depredations to French or Spanish shipping, ought not on that account to be allowed the benefit of Portsmouth harbor as a port of refuge. Nothing more true; but to neither pirate nor devil ought we to hold out the right hand of fellowship, proffer a home, protection, hospitality, and then put a noose about his neck, and lead him to the scaffold. We can conceive of many circumstances under which a foreigner in England would have no fair claim to the equal rights of English citizens;–sor example, a French criminal escaped from the gallies; and who, after a re-examination in England, could not satisfactorily clear himself of the charges of which he had been found guilty by a jury. Such a man ought undoubtedly to be watched by the police; but fair" and not foul play even towards criminals. Let the man know that he is watched. Station an officer at his door ; shut him up, if necessary, in stone walls: but do not deceive him into a false security; do not bid him, after a while, depart in peace, and then put the avenger of blood upon his track. Before Lord Aberdeen hastened to convey to a foreign power so much information as would suffice to enable that power to frustrate an attempt to be made by Italian exiles, guests of England, British honor required that he should have conveyed to the exiles themselves the knowledge, of his intention. He might have sent for Mazzi. ni and said, “Put your friends upon their guard; they are engaged in a project England cannot countenance. It is my duty to warn your government of its existence, and I therefore warn you that the plan must prove abortive: put an end to it, that life may be spared.” Lord Aberdeen did not do this, and that he did not so act might well be a ground for impeachment; and in such a case impeachment would not be defied if the House of Commons represented popular opinion. The apology offered by the committee is most discreditable to their judgment, for it is founded upon an obvious untruth, which the slightest penetration would have enabled them to detect. They say, referring of course to the evidence of Lord Aberdeen, that “the information so communicated was not of a nature to compromise, and did not compromise, the safety of any individual within the reach of that foreign power.” The information alluded to