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to ensure the efficient conduct of prosecutions by those in whose hands they now are, and in cases of difficulty or of an unusual character, their action might either be supplemented by that of the Public Prosecutor, or he might take the conduct of the prosecution out of their hands altogether. I can do no more on this occasion than hint at the remedy roughly, but the details would, I think, be found to involve no insuperable difficulty, and if the end to be gained approximate in importance to my estimate, the trouble which might be involved in working them out would be amply repaid.
I have dwelt at such length upon reforms of the municipal law that but little time remains to say anything on the other great subject which falls within the province of this department International Law. If, then, my remarks upon it be but few, this must not be taken as a measure of my sense of its importance.
During the past year two questions falling within this branch of the law have attracted public attention. The one regarding our duty in respect of Fugitive Slaves taking refuge on British vessels; the other having reference to the obligations and rights which exist in respect of Fugitive Criminals. On the first of these we have obtained the report of a Commission, containing elaborate expositions of the law by eminent lawyers. But whatever it may have achieved in guiding our future conduct as to the treatment of fugitive slaves, it cannot, unhappily, be said to have done much to settle any questions of international law, or to dissipate the doubts surrounding them. The basis of law from which the practical conclusions are to be derived is by no means agreed upon; views diametrically opposite being taken by eminent lawyers on the fundamental question how far a public ship in foreign waters is exempt from the local jurisdiction. I cannot help saying, that seeing how extremely divergent are the views taken, not only by lawyers in this country, but by foreign international jurists also, on the point, and how
grave the inconveniences are to which this difference of view is likely some day or other, and perhaps before long, to give rise, it would be extremely desirable that an effort should be made to obtain some common agreement on the point-an agreement which might be most difficult when a particular case has arisen, but which I should think would be far from impossible now.
Questions respecting the Extradition of fugitive criminals have been brought into prominence by the controversy which has recently arisen between this country and the United States of America. As I see that one of the special subjects for discussion by this Congress is to be, “ What are the limitations within which Extradition should be recognized as an international duty? " I do not propose now to anticipate that discussion. But I think it may be well to call attention shortly to the exact nature of the controversy which has arisen, and to one or two practical considerations which it suggests to us. I need hardly say that I do not intend to deal here as a politician with the conduct of the Government during this controversy. : It is probably known to most of you that whatever be the duties and rights of extradition arising from international law, the rights and obligations as between this country and the United States of America are now governed by what is called the Ashburton Treaty, which was entered into in 1842. By that treaty each of the contracting parties bound itself to deliver up to justice all persons who, being charged with certain specified crimes, should seek an asylum or be found within the territories of the other. Under this arrangement each country has surrendered to the other on demand many fugitive criminals. In the present year, however, the American Government having obtained the extradition of a man named Lawrence for a treaty offence, it was brought to the notice of the British Government that there was included in the indictment against him the charge of a crime for which his extradition had not been obtained. They there. fore insisted that the American Government had no right to try a criminal, whose extradition had been obtained, for any offence except that in respect of which he had been delivered up. The Americans, on the other hand, insisted that if his extradition had been obtained in a legitimate manner, it was perfectly competent for them to put him on his trial for any other offence. There can be little doubt, I think, that the action of the British Government was to a considerable extent influenced by the existence of the Act of Parliament relating to Extradition which became law in 1870, and which no doubt embodies the only power which the British Government now possesses to give effect to the Ashburton Treaty. That Act provides that a fugitive criminal shall not be surrendered to a Foreign State unless provision is made by the law of that State, or by arrangement, that the fugitive criminal shall not, until he has been restored, or had an opportunity of returning, to Her Majesty's dominions, be detained or tried in that Foreign State for any offence committed prior to his surrender, other than the extradition crime proved by the facts on which the surrender is grounded. By that Act, too, all the statutes which enabled the English Government to give effect to the Ashburton Treaty are repealed. And inasmuch as it seems pretty clear that there is no law in America which prohibits the trial of the criminal for offences other than the extradition one, it would follow that, in the absence of an arrangement that he should not be so tried, if the repeal of the former statutes te absolute there is no longer any power in this country to surrender fugitive criminals to the American authorities. Section 27 of the Act of 1870, however, provides that that Act, with the exception of anything contained in it inconsistent with the treaties referred to in the Acts so repealed, shall apply in the case of Foreign States with whom those treaties are made, as if an Order in Council had been made, under the Act, applying it to them. And it is contended that the effect of this section (worded it must be confessed even more inaptly for its purpose than most Acts of Parliament) is to leave the rights and duties under the Ashburton Treaty just as they were, merely substituting the machinery of the Act of 1870 in carrying out those duties for the machinery provided by the former Acts. On the whole, I own I think this view the sound one. Of course no British legislation could affect treaty rights. And it would be a monstrous conclusion that by destroying the power of the British authorities to act upon the treaty, Parliament had, by a side wind and without notice to America, in effect abrogated it. But seeing that so high an authority as Mr. Justice Blackburn doubts whether the statute admits of this construction, it seems clear that doubts should be set at rest by legislation. Setting aside, however, altogether the statute of 1870, it is contended by our Government that, on the true construction of the treaty itself, the person surrendered can only properly be tried for the offence for which his surrender was required, and that to act otherwise is a violation of the treaty. Had this view been insisted upon from the first, there is no doubt something to be said in its favour, though much, too, may be said the other way. But there can be no question that this view of the treaty has not been consistently taken by our authorities. One criminal at least has been tried here for other offences than those which occasioned his extradition, though it is true it was not a Government prosecution. And there can be no better indication of the view taken by our Foreign Office than the evidence given by Lord Hammond, who was for so many years Under Secretary of State, before the Committee of 1868, whose report led to the passing of the Act of 1870. He stated that in this country we admit that if a man is bonâ fide tried for the offence for which he is given up, there is nothing to prevent his being subsequently tried for another offence, whether antecedently committed or not. And he said, further, that in one case the very question, whether he could be so tried, having been referred to the law officers, it was held that it would be difficult to dispute the right of the United States to try the person surrendered, for such other offence. Add to this, that two Secretaries of State have in public despatches taken practically the same view, and I think it will be seen that the American position, that we are not justified in saying that by virtue of the treaty we can insist that offenders shall be tried for the extradition offence only, is certainly a strong one. I purposely abstain on the present occasion from expressing any decided opinion of my own on the point. The result of this difference with the United States has been unfortunate. The extradition arrangements between the two countries are at an end. And the treaty is for the present a dead letter. This is a matter of concern to the community generally, and to no portion of it more than this town. With your daily ferry to the other side of the Atlantic, it is unfortunate that the dishonest members of your community can there find a secure asylum. And it is obviously important that with the least possible delay matters should be restored to a satisfactory position. We are led, then, to the question, is it desirable that we should insist that criminals should be tried only for the extradition offence ? The reason which induces us to do so is no doubt creditable. We are justly jealous of our right and duty to afford an asylum to political offenders, and entertain a natural objection to the possibility of a fugitive surrendered by us being tried for any political offence previously committed. But, I think, we might, without any fear of endangering the rights of political asylum, sanction the trial of the surrendered person for offences other than that which led to his surrender. It will be remembered that the treaty specifies only the offences of murder, attempted murder, piracy, arson, robbery, forgery, and uttering forged documents. And I do not see why you should not permit the trial of the accused person, at all events, for any of the treaty crimes. Of course it may be said that these other