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Question

Volume 229: debated on Friday 12 May 1876

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asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, If his attention has been called to an article in the evening papers of Wednesday, purporting to be from a correspondent of "The Daily News," written from Malaga, as follows:—

"That the recent capture of the British schooner 'Clementina' by a Spanish revenue cruiser has created great excitement here. The schooner, on her way to Gibraltar, grounded while in the waters of Almeira, and the master not being able to get her off, proceeded to jettison part of the cargo to lighten the ship; while so employed a revenue cruiser came in sight, boarded the vessel with an armed party, and ordered the master and crew down below. One of the guarda cost a crew deliberately shot a seaman of the 'Clementina,' who fell mortally wounded on deck, and, notwithstanding the entreaties of the master, they allowed this poor man to be on the deck for two hours, until at last he died, from loss of blood. Instead of taking the 'Clementina' into the port of Almeira, as the Spanish law required, they took the vessel to Malaga, whore inquiry was held to which the British Consul was, in the most insulting terms, refused admittance, and the vessel condemned, the booty being divided between the captors and the judge and assessor, who declared her to be a lawful prize;
and, whether he can state that an immediate and searching inquiry shall be made into the allegations, with a view to indemnification by the Spanish Government, of the owner of the "Clementina" and the relatives of the unfortunate seaman, and an ample apology to the British Government for repeated insults to her flag by guarda cost a in the vicinity of Gibraltar?

in reply, said, the attention of his noble Friend, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, had been called to statement in The Daily News, and he was of opinion that the statement was correct. From two Reports which had been received from Her Majesty's Consul at Malaga, and one from Her Majesty's Minister at Madrid, it appeared that the account in the newspaper was substantially correct, except that they had heard nothing of any insulting terms having been used to the Consul. A representation was immediately made by Her Majesty's Minister at Madrid to the Spanish Government, and in consequence of that representation the sale of the vessel had been postponed, and, also in consequence of that representation, the prisoners were allowed to go on bail; at least they were told they might go on bail, provided bail was obtained. Whether bail was obtained or not he was unable to say. Representations also had been made further on the subject by Her Majesty's Minister, the answers to which had not yet been received; but a full inquiry would be demanded of the Spanish Government into the matter. The course which Her Majesty's Government would pursue after that inquiry had been made had not yet been determined; but much must of course depend on the Report that was made as the result of that inquiry. He did not think it would be prudent on his part to say more at present; but he would say this, that if the Report was true, that one of the seamen had been shot and allowed to bleed to death without assistance, it was one of the most gross and wanton outrages which could be conceived. He must say further, in order to relieve the anxiety of those persons who might have friends on board vessels touching the Spanish coast, that none of the crew of the Clementina were British subjects. Both the master and the mate were Italians, and all the rest of the crew, including the murdered man, were Spaniards.