Lord Granville to Mr. West.
Sir: With reference to my dispatch No. 86, of the 31st ultimo, I have now to inform you that Her Majesty’s Government have carefully considered the representations that have been made to them by Mr. Lowell, on the part of the Government of the United States, concerning the arrest and imprisonment of certain American citizens in Ireland, and the hope expressed by the President that the American citizens so detained may be brought to an early trial.
The persons at present detained in prison in Ireland under the provisions of the protection of person and property act of 1881 have been, and are, all of them, either ordinarily resident in Ireland or persons who have visited Ireland under the present circumstances of that country, and to whom full knowledge of those circumstances, and of the laws passed in the last session of Parliament to arm the government there with extraordinary powers, must be imputed.
In the use of these extraordinary powers, for the purpose of preventing incentives to outrage and crime, and breaches of public order in Ireland, no general distinction can be made between those persons, for the time being in Ireland, who may have come there from the United States or any other foreign countries in which they may have rights of citizenship, and others; nor have Her Majesty’s Government generally any means of knowing whether such persons are native Irishmen who have not renounced their British nationality, or Irish emigrants who may have obtained rights of citizenship in the United States or elsewhere.
The statute of last session under which these prisoners are detained was passed (like all other acts for the suspension of the habeas corpus, whether in England or in the United States) under circumstances of exceptional political necessity, for the express purpose of superseding and dispensing with trial; and the reference, in the first clause of the act, to the authority of the lord lieutenant of Ireland was not for the purpose of enabling him to direct a trial (which could only take place upon a charge regularly made in the ordinary course of law), but for the contrary purpose.
The British legislature, in passing that act, declared the necessity of such a suspension of trial under certain circumstances. This necessity applies, within those conditions, alike to aliens and to British subjects in Ireland; and Her Majesty’s Government are compelled to consider that the necessity which led to the passing of the act still subsists.
It is impossible either for Her Majesty’s Government or for the Government of the United States to be ignorant that the present disorders in Ireland have been, and are still, to a great extent fomented by Irish emigrants in the United States, and by subscriptions of money and publications hostile to British rule proceeding from that source. As you are aware, Her Majesty’s Government found it necessary last year to address a friendly representation on this subject to the Government of the United States, and Her Majesty’s Government cannot doubt that the President and his ministers must be desirous of discouraging all such proceedings to the best of their power. Under such circumstances, it is obvious that the efforts of Her Majesty’s Government and of the British Parliament for the vindication of law and the restoration of order in Ireland would be liable to be frustrated if aliens in Ireland [Page 318] (whatsoever nationality they might claim) were in any respect treated as exempt from the operation of laws which Parliament has found it necessary to enact for that purpose, or from the extraordinary powers conferred upon the executive government of Ireland by those laws.
The principle that in such cases no distinction can be made in favor of aliens was maintained by the Government of the United States on the suspension of the habeas corpus act in the Northern States during the civil war. On that occasion, complaints having been made of arbitrary and illegal arrests of certain British subjects, Mr. Seward, in a note dated the 14th October, 1861, to Lord Lyons, then Her Majesty’s minister at Washington, after vindicating the legality of the proceedings complained of, expressed himself as follows:
In every case subjects of Her Majesty residing in the United States, and under their protection, are treated during the present troubles in the same manner, and with no greater or less rigor, than American citizens.
Subsequently, in 1866, when the habeas corpus act was suspended in Ireland, a correspondence took place between the two governments as to the right of Irish-born naturalized citizens of America then sojourning in Ireland to American protection. That particular question has since been disposed of by the naturalization act, 1870, whereby British subjects becoming voluntarily naturalized in a foreign state forfeit their British nationality. But the following extract from a dispatch, dated the 10th March, 1866, addressed by Mr. Seward to Mr. Adams, then minister of the United States in London, and published in the diplomatic correspondence presented to Congress with the President’s message for that year, deserves particular notice, as the instructions to the United States minister, which it contains, entirely accord with the views of Her Majesty’s Government in relation to the treatment of American citizens during the present troubles in Ireland.
In those instructions Mr. Seward used the following language:
It may be expected that some of our Irish-born naturalized citizens who are now sojourning or traveling in Ireland will be arrested upon complaints of complicity in seditious proceedings. It may also be expected that some who will be thus accused will be innocent, while others will be guilty. The situation will, for a time, necessarily become inconvenient and embarrassing. I know of no way in which you can meet it more properly than by pursuing the course which you have indicated.
Americans, whether native-born or naturalized, owe submission to the same laws in Great Britain as British subjects while residing there and enjoying the protection of that government. We applied the converse of this principle to British subjects who were sojourning or traveling in the United States during the late rebellion.
In a further dispatch, dated the 9th June, 1866, Mr. Seward instructed Mr. Adams:
To suggest to Lord Clarendon the expediency of the exercise of clemency to the extent at least of releasing all of the American citizens, native or naturalized, who are in confinement, upon the condition of their returning to the United States.
As no difference of opinion would appear to exist with respect to the principle so clearly enunciated in the extracts above cited, Her Majesty’s Government are in some doubt as to whether they have correctly apprehended the grounds on which the Government of the United States found their present representations in favor of those American citizens in Ireland who have brought themselves under the operation of the protection of person and property act, and it is unnecessary to pursue the subject further at present.
I only desire to add that the imprisonment of suspects under the act is not a measure of punishment, but of prevention. The Irish Government have in many instances released prisoners upon a reasonable belief that it could be done without risk to the public safety, and I need [Page 319] hardly say that Her Majesty’s Government are not desirous of detaining unnecessarily in prison any persons from whom no danger to the public peace is to be apprehended.
They will therefore be prepared to consider the circumstances of any citizens of the United States now detained who may be willing to engage forthwith to leave the United Kingdom.
I have to instruct you to read this dispatch to Mr. Frelinghuysen, and to leave a copy of it with him if he should so desire.
I am, &c.,