§ Mr. Thomas Attwood
rose and said, that recollecting how he had been admonished in the course of last Session, he would on the present occasion confine himself to the object of his motion. It was said that we ought not to be surprised at anything in human affairs. Now, he was not so far advanced in life as to be incapable of feeling surprise. He had felt surprised on many occasions, and he certainly felt much surprised that her Majesty's Ministers should have met Parliament, and that neither in the speech from the Throne, nor from any of her Majesty's Ministers since, had they heard a single word respecting the distress that existed amongst the industrious classes. He was also surprised at the indifference of her Majesty's Ministers as to the position which Russia was assuming in the affairs 1094 of Europe. They had been engaged in petty discussions about nasty matters that were unworthy the attention of the politicians of a village pot-house; and this, too, while Russia was gathering up her strength to make a horrible war on England at her proper time. He would take the liberty of reading one or two paragraphs from a pamphlet which had been written by an excellent officer, Captain Crawford, respecting the present strength and condition of the Russian navy, In that pamphlet it was stated that Russia had at present, in the Baltic Sea, no less than twenty-six ships of the line, with a proper proportion of frigates and sloops of war, all well manned and instructed in the mode adopted in the English service. The object in bringing forward this motion was to vindicate the honour of England and to see that our interests were not seriously compromised through the supineness of the present Government. The hon. Member read a long extract from the pamphlet referred to, the object of which was to show that Russia had at this mo-moment, besides twenty-six sail of the line in the Baltic, eighteen sail of the line in the Black Sea, whilst England had but seven sail of the line on our own coasts in a state of preparation, and even these were not fully manned. Captain Crawford said, that on seeing this he trembled for the preservation of our ancient sovereignty of the seas. He (Mr. Attwood) did not care whether Russia was our friend or our foe, this he did not take into consideration for a moment, for the moment that any country depended upon the friendship of a tyrant, that moment the people became slaves. The moment that Russia acquired power to injure us, that moment she acquired dominion over us, and yet while this was going on, her Majesty's Ministers Session after Session sat apparently sleeping on the Treasury benches. He had warned them three or four years ago to take care what they were doing about the Russians—that the Russians might be awkward fellows to deal with, and that, if they continued to pursue their, career of degradation, they would not dare to look an enemy in the face. [Laughter.] What did they laugh at, he would like to know? [Great laughter.] They might reserve their laughter for a better occasion. They would not laugh when they heard of eighty Russian men 1095 of war appearing off the coast of Norfolk, [A laugh.] They might laugh, but the Russian navy might appear at the mouth of the Thames, and they had not a fleet to prevent it. "You, Sir, (said the hon. Member, addressing the Speaker)—you, Sir, who are at the head of the people of this country, have not the power of preventing the Russian navy passing through the British channel with a broom at their mast head." He would assert that the people of England last autumn had not the power of preventing the Russian navy from coming with a broom at their mast head and entering the mouth of the Thames, and burning Sheerness. It was very disagreeable to him to have to bring these painful truths before an assembly of Englishmen. He might be told that we had six ships of the line at Lisbon. The ostensible excuse for maintaining so many ships there was to protect the life of the Queen of Portugal; but they did not care so much about the life of the Queen; the real object was to put down liberty, to support despotism and fraud, and to destroy the constitution which the Queen of Portugal had sworn to defend and maintain. But even if they brought home those six ships, they would then have but thirteen, and what could thirteen ships do against twenty-six? A distinguished sailor had told him that as a last resource they might cut away the buoys at the mouth of the Thames, and that then the Russian navy could not enter the Thames, or, at all events, they would not be able to pass Tilbury Fort. They ought to be prepared to meet the Russians every hour. They ought to be prepared to meet France, Holland, and America, combined with Russia. Why not? Ancient quarrels and bitter hatreds and burning jealousies would arise; and France, Holland, and America would be certain to declare war upon us as soon as we were entangled in a war with Russia. England ought, therefore, to be in a condition to crush the fleet of Russia in an instant. The dominion of the seas was their sole hope; it was the patrimony of their fathers, the glorious patrimony which had made England what she was; and they could not preserve England if they lost this patrimony. What had their Saxon ancestors done? They lost the dominion of the seas, and with it their freedom. When the Danes invaded this 1096 country our Saxon ancestors lay down on their faces and sung psalms and allowed themselves to be butchered. He hoped he had stated enough to show that the Russian fleet ought to be looked to. He would ask the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs one question before he brought forward his resolutions, and that was, whether any steps had been taken by her Majesty's Ministers to prevent the formation of the Russian fleet, or to compel its breaking up? He was not much acquainted with the law of nations, but every tyro in politics knew that if a neighbouring country got up a great army or fleet, it was the duty and right of another nation to go and ask what was the object of this army or fleet, for what it was intended, against whom it was directed, was it against us or our allies? If the answers were not satisfactory, they had a right to break up the fleet or army. He should like to know what representations had been made to the Russian Government about its fleet? This country ought to have prevented the formation of that fleet. He would not trouble the House further on this point, though he might speak for an hour or two upon it. They were told in her Majesty's speech that we had received assurances of continued good feeling and amity on the part of Russia. Why, the robber while he was striving to break into their houses told them he was their friend, that he would not hurt them, hut the moment the robber got in he plundered them and cut their throats. He did not put any faith in the assurances of Russian amity. Russia was holding a pistol at the breast of England at Cronstadt. The noble Lord knew well that it was not for any good purpose that Russia had acted as she had. Why had not the noble Lord moved a fleet through the Dardanelles and destroyed the Russian fleet in the Black Sea? The noble Lord, as a Gentleman and as a Statesman, must, he was sure, feel our degradation; and he wondered only that the noble Lord had endured it so long. He felt as deeply as any man could how much the country was indebted to Lord Grey for the Reform Bill, but at the same time he must say that Lord Grey had disgraced England by suffering Poland to be lost, when a British fleet might have saved that country without firing a shot, but by the mere dread of its attack. The Duke of Wellington had begun the system of English degradation. In 1829 he had 1097 consented to the peace of Adrianople; in 1828 he had consented to the Russians passing the Pruth, although a word from him would have made them retire to a dead certainty. Although he knew that they had deluded Mr. Canning's Government into the destruction of Navarino, he suffered himself to be soothed by a promise that they would not carry the war beyond the Black Sea. Nevertheless, they did carry the war into the Mediterranean, and blockaded the Dardanelles; and this insult, too, the Duke of Wellington pocketed, when Count Nesselrode had the audacity to assure him that no affront was intended to Great Britain, and that no British vessel which had cleared out before the 24th of October previous should be prevented entering the Dardanelles. Thus the Duke of Wellington suffered the honour and the interests of England to be compromised for a paltry commercial consideration, the whole value of the few ships which had the benefit of this stipulation not exceeding 10,000l. Lord Grey followed up the system of degradation, and it appeared to him that Lord Melbourne was destined to complete it, and to make us drain the bitter cup of national disgrace to the last dregs. It was impossible that such a man as the Duke of Wellington should have acted in this way from his own mind, his powers must have been strangled by some deadly influences at home, and similar unholy influences were now strangling Lord Melbourne. He now came to his second subject—the Russian war against Circassia. Some Gentlemen thought that if the Russians established their dominion in Circassia, and, through it, in Persia and Turkey, our Indian empire would be in danger. Now he was at present of opinion that English India could threaten Petersburg much more effectually than Russia could Calcutta. But that might not be his opinion twenty years hence. We could produce 100 millions of subjects in India as faithful and attached to us as any of our countrymen; and if Russia fixed her dominion in Poland, in Persia, Turkey, and Circassia, why might she not create a similar feeling in her own favour there? The noble Lord had declared last year that Russia had no right to blockade the ports of Circassia against English ships. Why, then, had not the noble Lord taken means to break up that blockade? But the true question was not whether Russia 1098 had a right, but whether it was our interest that she should occupy that coast? Last year, or any year for the fast ten years, we could have crushed Russia; but she was now more formidable, and would every year become more and more so. He came now to the case of the Vixen, which was seized, her captain and crew imprisoned, and no reparation made until they were set at liberty as an act of condescension on the part of the Emperor of Russia. The proprietors of this vessel had asked the noble Lord three several times, whether a blockade existed on the coast of Circassia? The noble Lord made no other answer but to refer Mr. Bell to The London Gazette, which, was indeed the only quarter to which a British merchant should refer for such information, and not to the ukases of the Emperor of Russia. Well, Mr. Bell did refer to The London Gazette, and there no mention was made of a blockade on the coast of Circassia, and thither accordingly he sent his ship, which, although unarmed, was seized by the Russians, and its crew made prisoners, though the latter were subsequently, as an act of grace on the part of the captors, released. Now he maintained that this seizure, even under the supposition that a blockade did exist at the time, was not justified by the circumstances of the case. He had the authority of Sir T. Hardy for saying that when he commanded the fleet on the South American station, the patriotic fleet being commanded by Lord Cochrane, whenever an English ship approached too near the shore it was warned off before it was attacked; and in cases where a ship was seized without such notice he (Sir T. Hardy) insisted upon its being restored. Now, was England to be bully to the weak, and coward to the strong? He hoped that this was not to be the character of England. He knew that the sentiments of the people of England were with him on this question; but unfortunately, they had no means of making their feelings known throughout the country, and in the face of Europe. The press was notoriously the tool of parties. Some of the papers were the tool of the Tories, others of the Whigs, others of the Radicals; but not one of them was the tool of the people of England—in none of them ever could one word of the real sentiments of their writers be found. Under these circumstances he felt himself bound to stand forward as he did, to awaken the people of England to 1099 the dangers and the disgrace which surrounded them; and the culpable neglect of their interests by those to whom the management of their affairs had lately been intrusted. What! were the glories and the laurels which had been handed down to us for seven or eight centuries, won for us by better men than ourselves, to be torn piecemeal from us? Were we who had hurled Napoleon from his throne to stand still and be devoured by the Russian bear? No; he announced it, he predicted it confidently, the people of England would not bear it; and, if they were not righted by others, they would find a way to right themselves. What had David Hume said seventy years ago—a man, by the way, who, though an economist, and a political economist too, and of the same name, was very different from his hon. Friend, the Member for Kilkenny, who was sure to be out of the way whenever anything of importance was going forward. [Mr. Hume entered at this instant.] He was glad his hon. Friend had come in; he had been complimenting him. David Hume had said, seventy years ago, that the national debt would be the destruction of England—that the time would come when it would press so heavy as to strangle her—that foreign nations would respect her former glory, and would exercise their encroachments with measured insolence. And yet such was the announcement that the Whigs, aided by the Radicals, made for poor England. He had entertained a great respect for Lord Durham, and, when he went to Russia, thought he was going for something worth having; but he must say, as the mountain in labour brought forth a mouse, Lord Durham had brought forth something less than a mouse. He had brought back shame and degradation to this country. He said, he had settled the question of the Vixen! "Bully to the weak and coward to the strong;"—was this to be the character of England? The base and infernal press, which was talked of as our best possible public instructor, but which he looked upon as the greatest curse we had, and the most infernal deluder upon the face of the earth, concealed all these truths. All branches of it—he did not care who were connected with them—were attached to some party or other, and it was impossible to get the sincere and honest sentiments of any one editor in the kingdom. If they were the tools, not of the Tories or the Whigs, or 1100 the Radicals, but of the people, it would not be necessary for him to make these remonstrances; but, as it was, he was compelled to point out the degradation—he meant the danger, for a country like this could not incur degradation without danger. He asked, what efforts had been made to recover the unbought glories of 700 years?—not, indeed, unbought, for they had been purchased with the blood of better men than ourselves. Were we, who had struck Napoleon from the throne, to stand still and be devoured by the Russian bear? There was one other subject which he had to touch upon. It was not seven years since an hon. Member said in that House, that England was bound in recognizances of 800 millions never to go to war again; and another hon. Member said he knew it, and he thanked God for it. He (Mr. Attwood) was inclined to thank God that he had not been behind that hon. Member with a Birmingham sledge-hammer in his hand, or he might almost have been tempted to prevent him from ever thanking God again. [Laughter.] What! thank God that we should never be able to defend ourselves! What would be thought of a fat fool, who should go along the Strand with a paper before him proclaiming that his pocket was full of money, and his heart of cowardice, and inviting every one who chose to rob and ill-treat him, as he was determined never to fight or go to law again? What could the fat fool expect but that every thief should rob him, and every scoundrel beat him? He believed upon his honour, as a gentleman, that the bitterest and most remorseless enemies that the industry and honour of England had were the Radicals in that House, although he was one of them; but he hoped he was not quite so bad. He wished for real liberty—not the mere degradation of the aristocracy. He would not give a curse for such liberty as that. The liberty he meant was, neither the degradation of the aristocracy nor the subversion of the monarchy—it was not the pulling down of any class; but the liberty he meant was, the raising up of the lower classes, so that every man might live by his labour, prosperous, happy, and comfortable. The Radicals had some fine notions in their heads, but as to bread and cheese, and life and death, they were trifles to them. He would come now to the treaty of Unkiar Skelessi. This treaty 1101 was said to be one of reciprocity—the noble Lord had so designated it on a former occasion; that reciprocity being, that if the Dardanelles should be closed against England in the event of a war, they should be closed against Russia also. This certainly was Irish reciprocity, for it was all on one side. Why, he begged to ask, did not the noble Lord, when he found the Sultan too weak to contend with Russia, and before the signing of the treaty of Unkiar Skelessi—why, he asked, did not the noble Lord take possession of the Dardanelles? Why did he not take up that position now? The French had taken possession of Algiers, upon the ground, as they said, of some quarrel with the Dey; they had also taken possession of Ancona, one of the cities belonging to the Pope of Rome. But what was the real reason why they had possessed themselves of these places?—it was, because they considered them necessary to the interests of France. If, with such an object, the French government had taken possession of Ancona and Algiers, he asked why the noble Lord had not, on the same ground, taken possession of the Dardanelles? The noble Lord might have done so three years ago with six line-of-battle ships, two years ago with twelve, and with twenty he might have possession of that position by the month of April next. With the twenty line-of-battle ships, which would require 20,000 sailors, and with twenty battalions of soldiers, the Dardanelles might be taken possession of by the time he had stated; and if such a course were pursued, it would effectually prevent future aggression against this country, either by Russia, Austria, or France. He came now to the point of the absolute necessity which existed of an increase in the naval force. Well, then, he felt persuaded that, at this moment, there ought to be an addition to our naval force of twenty line-of-battle ships, which would create the necessity for procuring 20,000 sailors. He might, he knew, be told by his gallant Friend near him (Admiral Codrington) that they could not get a sufficient number of men to man a frigate. Why? Because they did not hold out a sufficient inducement in the shape of pay. Let it be announced that the Government was preparing to wage war with Russia, and a more popular war was never yet undertaken; let there be a bounty of 51. given to every common 1102 sailor, and 101. to every petty officer, and he was satisfied that a force of 20,000 men could be raised in three months. But if they were not successful in obtaining so large a number, let them take half of the present marine force, which consisted, he believed, of 9,000 men, and he thought he should have the authority of his gallant Friend for saying that in a short time they would make excellent sailors. This might cost an additional million to the country; but if it were to cost ten, such a consideration ought to be a secondary one. Of what consequence was the emancipation of the negroes compared to the maintenance of our national character? The motion which he had to move, comprised several questions which he should then submit to the noble Lord (Palmerston). What measure had been adopted by her Majesty's Government to prevent the building and equipment of the Russian fleet at Cronstadt? Was it the intention of her Majesty's Government to give any assistance to Circassia, or to allow Russia to take possession of that important country, which formed the gate to Asia? Was it the intention of the Government to seek no redress for the atrocious insult offered to this country by the capture of the Vixen? Was it the intention of the Government to compel Russia to abandon the treaty of Unkiar Skelessi? The resolutions which he should move in conformity with these questions were, that an humble address be presented to her Majesty, praying that her Majesty might be graciously pleased to make such addition to the royal navy as the vindication of the national honour and the preservation of the national interest shall require under the present circumstances of the country, assuring her Majesty that this House will cheerfully make good the necessary expenses incurred for such a purpose. Next, that an humble address be presented to her Majesty. praying that she be graciously pleased to lay before the House copies of all communications between the Government of this country and Russia with regard to the naval armament of Cronstadt, the war between Russia and Circassia, and the treaty of Unkiar Skelessi.
§ Sir E. Codrington
seconded the motion, which he considered one of great importance, and deserving the serious attention of the House and of the country. 1103 He fully concurred in the praise bestowed on the manner in which Captain Crawford had made his observation on the Russian fleet. He had performed the duty imposed on him in a manner which reflected great honour upon him. To the efficiency of the Russian fleet he (Sir E. Codrington) could bear witness. It bore a strong contrast to the condition of the navy of this country, which was in a state much too lowered, and which exposed us to reproach to which we had never been subjected during our history, namely, that we were unable to send forth instantly on the commission of an offence a squadron to repel an insult offered, come from what quarter it might. He held that the navy was treated in a way unbecoming the character of this country, when compared to the favour shown to every other branch of her Majesty's service. In a pecuniary point of view the officers of the British navy were very hardly dealt with; and he was satisfied that, in order to ensure the safety of the country and our dominion over the sea, justice must be done to that class of her Majesty's servants. There was another point connected with this subject to which he wished to refer. So far from blaming Russia for the war with Turkey, he thought she was drawn into that war by the conduct of her allies. Shortly after the battle of Navarino it would be seen by a reference to certain Greek papers, which must be in the recollection of old Members, and which he recommended young Members to consult, that the Emperor of Russia made a proposal that in consequence of the insult to the united flags of England, France, and Russia, if Turkey did not agree to the treaty of London, those three nations would declare war against her. By that proposal Wallachia and Moldavia were to continue in the hands of Russia; and he (Sir E. Codrington) was to have the command of the fleet, and take possession of the Dardanelles. If this agreement had been entered into, the consequence would have been, if they were driven to the necessity of dictating terms at the steps of the Seraglio, Turkey must have ultimately submitted; and by a provision of the treaty, after that event occurred, each nation was to resume its original position. If Russia had not retired from Wallachia and Moldavia, she would have been compelled to do so by the united force of England, France, and Tuikey united. 1104 This proposal was not however, carried into effect, in consequence of the spirit which dictated what he should ever consider a most expensive expression to this country—namely, designating the battle of Navarino as an "untoward event." What was the consequence? Why Turkey was allowed to say to Russia, "It is very true that we entered into a treaty with you, but we were always determined to break it when it offered us no separate advantages." He had no doubt that the Emperor of Russia was sincere in his proposal, and his intention was proved by his subsequent acts. The hon. Member who made the present motion had dwelt much on the power of the Russian navy. Why had that fleet been shown to him and to Captain Crawford? Why, to prove the power the Emperor of Russia had in enforcing any measure which he might think proper to pursue over us, who were encumbered with a debt. But ought this country to remain in a supine situation? He contended that we ought to have a fleet which would be fully adequate to defend us against insult. With respect to the difficulty of manning a fleet, he thought it would be easier to procure men than officers. He should conclude by impressing on the House the serious importance of this motion.
§ Viscount Palmerston
I will, Sir, in the first place, answer the questions put to me by the hon. Member for Birmingham before I make the remarks which I consider called for by his motion. His question is, whether any measures have been adopted by the Government to prevent Russia from proceeding with the naval armament at Cronstadt? With regard to the building and equipping of a fleet, no Government can say to another what ships are you about to fit out; but unquestionably one government is entitled to speak to another when raising a considerable force which appears to indicate an intention to give cause of uneasiness to her allies; and, beyond doubt, the presence and equipage of the seamen of the whole of the Russian fleet, as it was collected in the Baltic two or three years ago, called for explanation between the Governments of England and Russia. That explanation was satisfactory as it regarded this Government; and although since that time a large number of vessels have been fitted out for the purposes of review, there has not been any-such display of naval force in the Baltic as 1105 might be reasonably looked upon as indicating a hostile intention on the part of Russia towards any other power. With regard to the second question, whether it be the intention of her Majesty's Government to give assistance to Circassia, my answer is, that, undoubtedly, we do not mean to interfere in a war carrying on between Russia and Circassia. The next question is, whether Government intends to take any measures for the redress of the alleged insult offered to England by the seizure of the Vixen? It must be fresh in the recollection of the House that I laid the papers connected with this question before the House last Session, showing what had taken place, and proving that Russia had given such explanations of her conduct as ought to satisfy the Government of this country that no further proceedings were called for either by a just regard to the honour of England, or by any claims on the part of the individuals concerned. That ship was not taken during a blockade in the sense used by the hon. Member for Birmingham: it was captured because those who had the management of it contravened the municipal and custom-house regulations of Russia. At a particular period it was impossible to deny that Russia was placed in a position in which she felt called upon to prohibit any vessel from landing her cargo except in a naval depot where there was a custom-house, This regulation was violated by the ship in question. The fourth question is, whether we mean to press Russia to abandon the treaty of Unkiar Skelessi? The papers connected with that treaty were laid before the House three years ago; and I can say with reference to it, that it is not the intention of the Government to have recourse to hostile measures to compel Russia and Turkey—two independent powers—to cancel the treaty made between them. With respect to what has fallen from the hon. Gentleman, I shall not follow him in his dissertation on the wars of the Saxons and Danes; nor do I feel it necessary to vindicate the conduct of the Duke of Wellington's Government in the years 1828 and 1829. It is sufficient for me to contend that the Governments of Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne, to which I have had the honour to belong, have not rendered themselves deserving of the censure which has been cast upon them, of sacrificing the honour of England, or of being at all insensible to her interests and independence. Indeed, I think that the statement made by 1106 the hon. Gentleman ought to have satisfied him, when he came to reflect on what he said, that the extreme alarm which he expressed could not be founded on good and reasonable grounds; for what was the complaint made in various parts of his speech? He said,I have alone stated what I know will not excite the sympathy of my Radical friends. I am alone in favour of something which the House of Commons, by their attendance on the present occasion, do not seem to approve, and to which those who are present do not appear, by their postures and countenances, to attend to with a very lively interest, or to partake in the alarm which I have expressed. Out of doors no notice is taken of my project by a base, unfeeling, and heedless press, which seems to be unconscious of the insult which is offered to our country. I have no support from the Government of the country, and the people of England do not concur in my remarks.Why, if what the hon. Member has stated be true—if neither his own Friends, nor her Majesty's Government, nor the press, nor the people entertain the alarm which the hon. Member has endeavoured to inspire into their minds, must not the hon. Member be led on reflection to believe that he himself must have misunderstood the grounds on which his propositions are founded? I will tell the hon. Gentleman, however, that her Majesty's Government, the House, and the country fully participate in the anxiety for the safety and jealousy of the honour of this kingdom which he has expressed in the course of his speech. It is not on principles that we differ; it is on the application of those principles to the circumstances in which we are placed. The hon. Member seems to me to be rather desirous to find out an occasion for war than to entertain any serious apprehension that a war would be forced upon us. Indeed, the hon. Member, feeling, perhaps, the necessity of explaining the reason for going into war with our eyes open, has furnished us with an imitation of the bland and conciliatory temper of a noble Lord who once led this House, and is now a Member of the other House of Parliament, who, it seems, used to accomplish things by his good humour which could not be effected by more vigorous or pugnacious proceedings, and has told us in the best-tempered and civil manner possible, that without any war, but as an act of precaution, we should go and destroy the Russian fleet in the Baltic, then sink the Russian ships that 1107 were in the Black Sea and show our friendship to a friendly and allied power, by taking forcible possession of the Dardanelles, and assuring those from whom we seized this position, that we should keep it until they were themselves able to defend it from attack. This, no doubt, is a very tempting way of sliding into war; but still I can't think that there is any necessity for pressing such measures, or that, if adopted, they would lead to the result which the hon. Gentleman so anxiously desires. The hon. Gentleman has expressed, in rather comical terms, his eagerness for the interests of this country. Such is his zeal and devoted attachment to the institutions and honour of the country, that he would sacrifice the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and I understood him to say, even the throne itself; aye, and that he would throw the drop of the national debt into the ocean of oblivion, rather than impair in any way the establishments and independence of the country. When he has made a national bankruptcy, destroyed the Houses of Commons and Lords, and overturned the throne, I should be glad to learn what that remainder of "the honour and institutions" of the country is which the hon. Gentleman would persuade us to go to war to save. Now, as to the Russian fleet in the Baltic, I am quite ready to concede to the hon. Member, as, indeed, the Government acted in some degree on the principles which he has laid down, that England has a right to look with jealousy on a great and ostentatious force displayed on the part of Russia, or any other naval power. That is no proof of hostility on our part; it proceeds from the just regard which a country is bound to pay to its own security; and no country of which the question was asked, "Why make this display—whom are you going to attack; nobody is attacking you, and whom do you threaten?" would construe it as of an unfriendly or unreasonable character. But the hon. Gentleman tells us, that such a naval establishment is required as it would be necessary to maintain, if we were carrying on a war against this or that foreign power. Now that is a doctrine which I do not think wise in itself or prudent to pursue. It is a matter of very nice discretion, and one which should be left to the consideration of the executive Government, which knows the nature of the relations from day to day with foreign powers, to determine in a time of peace, and when there is no immediate prospect (and I trust no prospect at 1108 all, as far as I can see,) of a war before us, what ought to be maintained as a peace establishment, so that whilst, on the one hand, we should not be left utterly defenceless and without protection, we should not on the other unnecessarily add to the burdens of the country. Now, the hon. Gentleman must recollect that two years ago his Majesty's then Government proposed, and this House adopted, an augmentation of the naval force; and though we did not state that the display made by this or that power was the cause of that step which we took, yet the Secretary for the Admiralty did very strongly dwell on the armament of Russia, and the periodical fitting out of her fleet, as one of the grounds on which we considered it right to make a change in our naval force. Now, I do not admit that we are in the defenceless position which the hon. Gentleman has represented. I do not admit, if we conceive that Russia or any other naval power had the intention of insulting or attacking us, that we have not in ships now at sea, as well as those which might be sent to sea within a very short period, the means of defending the nation, not merely from aggression, but even from insult. But I think the House will be of opinion that they ought to place at least such a degree of confidence in the executive Government as to leave them on their own responsibility to consider what, under the circumstances, is fair and expedient to propose to Parliament. I say, therefore, with regard to the first point—not at all dissembling, that I think Russia does keep a larger force than is required for the defence of her own possessions, and than is consistent with the general well-being of other nations at peace with her—not at all dissembling, that it is a matter upon which not only the Government but the people of this country should keep a jealous and watchful eye—that having no reason to believe that the intention of Russia is otherwise than friendly towards this country, having reason, on the contrary, to believe (whatever her policy or ultimate intentions may prompt) that she has no wish or design to embark in a war with England, I feel that it is not necessary to make a further increase to our naval force on the ground which the hon. Member has stated. As to the allusion of the hon. Gentleman to the aggression of Russia on the coast of Circassia, the hon. Gentleman must see, in quoting an expression of mine, that if he tax his memory it did not convey the meaning which he asserts it was 1109 intended to express. I stated, undoubtedly, on a former occasion what I mean to repeat on the present, that I did not think the claim which Russia had put forth to the Sovereignty of Circassia was warranted on the grounds on which she asserted it; but when I made that declaration it did not refer to the case of the Vixen. I assure the hon. Member that he is mistaken if he supposes that I gave an opinion on a matter which was in the course of explanation between the two countries. All I said was, that if the explanation was not satisfactory, I should feel it my duty to state the fact to the House. The explanation, as I think was shown by the papers laid before Parliament, was such that this country had not a just ground for pressing the matter further. The hon. Gentleman, however, not content with the observations which he made in a good-humoured spirit, and with strangling one Minister after another, has indulged in remarks entirely unfounded as to the manner in which Lord Durham discharged the duties imposed on him as ambassador to St. Petersburg. Nobody can better than myself speak to the fact, because with me my noble Friend corresponded, and it was in connection with me that he acted; and I can undertake to say in behalf of Lord Durham, that so far from exhibiting an indifference to the honour and interests of this country, it was impossible for any public servant at a foreign court to have served his country with more zeal and firmness. He has rendered this country very important services which obtained the sanction of his late Majesty, and for which he has received a very just and merited token of approbation. The hon. Gentleman is entirely mistaken if he thinks that the interests of the country were not guarded as zealously and as firmly in that noble Lord's hands as they could have, been if intrusted to the care of the hon. Gentleman himself. With regard to the affair of the Vixen, the whole matter is at an end for the reasons I have already stated. But the hon. Gentleman errs much if he thinks that, while we are disposed to put forth the thunders of our naval force to terrify so insignificant a place as Venezuela, we shrink from demanding satisfaction when required in such a case as that of the Vixen, or in another similar one, though not of the same description: I allude to that of the Lord Charles Spencer, which, though not captured, was stopped by a Russian cruiser, and, after being taken out of its course and detained some time, was 1110 after wards released. We remonstrated with the Government of Russia on the last subject of complaint, and the result was, that an apology was made to the Government, and compensation was given to the owners of the vessel for the injury which she had sustained. Now, Sir, with regard to the treaty of Unkiar Skelessi, that, also, is a matter which has gone by: it is a treaty which, at present, is not one of the acknowledged treaties of Europe, and, consequently, can form no ground whatever for England to declare war with Russia. It was a treaty entered into for a limited period, and to meet peculiar circumstances; and that period having expired, and those circumstances having disappeared, and the probability also being that the two powers parties to it will not find it necessary that its engagements should be renewed, I think I am justified in saying that its introduction by the hon. Member upon the present occasion is wholly unecessary and uncalled for. Having said thus much separately on each of the parts into which the hon. Member's speech divided itself, I would observe generally, with respect to his statement, that, doing him full justice for his motives in bringing the subject under consideration, concurring with him in the principles on which his arguments are founded, I differ with him as to their proper application to the circumstances in which we stand. I deny most confidently that there has been anything in the conduct of the Ministers of England tending to prove them indifferent to the interests, or insensible to the honour, of their country. I deny utterly that through our policy the safety of the country has been diminished, or that its honour has been tarnished. I say that there never was a period when England was more secure from any aggression of a foreign enemy than at present, or when her honour stood higher than it does now. The hon. Member has told us that England had given security to the world at large, to the amount of eight hundred millions of pounds, to keep the peace; but let me ask, Sir, does the hon. Member suppose that England is the only country in which financial difficulties constitute an obstacle to aggressive warfare? Does he suppose that Russia—ay, even that same Russia which he seems so desirous to convert into a general alarm-giver—is in a more warlike position, as regards financial matters, than Great Britain? I beg to tell him he is quite as much mistaken in thinking that 1111 Russia at this moment would find means to commence an offensive war as he is in asserting that England is in such a state as to render her unable to provide for a defensive one. Was it exclusively from her own resources that Russia defrayed her own portion of the expenses of the war which terminated in 1816? Certainly not. Between the beginning of 1814 and the end of 1815 Russia received seven millions by way of subsidies from England, and four millions as part of a war contribution from France; and it was these same eleven millions which enabled her to bring under arms those 160,000 men whom I myself saw in the plains of Champagne. Since the peace, Russia has been exhausting her means daily. In pomps and shows, in reviews in the north and reviews in the south, she has expended any surplus revenue her vast territory may give her; and although she has a large number of men under arms, yet when we consider the little means she possesses to muster them from various distant places, and then to train and bring them into the shape of an offensive army, the hon. Member may depend upon it she is not in a situation to give reasonable cause of alarm to any power ranked among the first powers of Europe. I say that Russia gives the world quite as much security for the preservation of peace as England. I assert that Russia would find it more difficult to undertake a war which had not for its object self-defence than England; and such being my firm and decided opinion, I do not think I shall be going too far in assuring the alarmed and hon. Member for Birmingham that Sheer-ness is not likely to be invaded, that there will be no necessity to cut the navigation buoys of the coast, and that, if he likes it, he may with confidence proceed to his nightly slumbers between this and the 1st of April next—ay, or this day twelve months—without the least fear of being awoke by the news either that the Russian fleet is anchored in the pool, or that the crews of their ships were parading the streets of London.
§ Mr. Maclean
contended, that the declarations made by the noble Lord in the course of his speech were at variance with those which he had made on a former occasion. In a former debate, the noble Lord had censured the conduct of Russia with respect to Circassia. On that occasion the noble Lord had stated that though Russia was not bound to that particular step by the treaty of London, yet she had 1112 entered voluntarily into its engagements, and was bound so far as a voluntary declaration. It had been distinctly understood on the part of Russia that she would not look for the acquisition of territory, yet, notwithstanding, she had obtained an acquisition of territory of 200 miles extent from the south of Cuban to Fort Nicole. The hon. Member referred to the letter of the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, addressed to Lord Durham in May, 1837, and urged that our Government sanctioned the occupation by Russia of the Coast of Circassia. In the treaty of 1783, a treaty fully acknowledged by Russia, Circassia was guaranteed as Turkish territory. There could be now no question that Russia was bond fide in possession of the whole of the coast of Circassia. The noble Lord must recollect that the Russian Government claimed a right to establish sanatory regulations along the coast; but they went farther, for they claimed a right to search vessels approaching that coast. Whilst Circassia was in the possession of Turkey this country had the same right to trade there, by paying the same dues paid as to trade to any other Turkish port, but upon that coast she was now forbidden to land goods of any description which were not included in the Russian tariff, and the commerce of England was in this respect greatly impeded. With respect to the treaty of Unkiar Skelessi, the fact of a large armament in the Black Sea would seem to argue some ulterior designs on the part of Russia, and if Russia was secure in her confidence in that treaty, for what purpose was she keeping up a large armament in that mare clausum, unless to guard the coast of Circassia? It was a subject of great importance to our commercial interests. The trade of Trebizond alone was worth a million a-year to this country. It was a question of too much importance to be lost sight of, and should be brought forward again. Under these circumstances he trusted the hon. Member would not press his motion to a division, as he must see from the then state of the benches on the Opposition side of the House, as well as from the manner in which the question had been received at the other side, that it could not be said to have received the attention of the House.
§ Mr. Attwood
, seeing that the sense of the House was against his pressing the 1113 question to a division, felt it his duty to yield to it. But he would tell the Government that, if they did not change their policy, the day would come when this question would be forced upon them in a manner they could neither avert nor avoid. He begged to withdraw the resolutions.
§ Resolutions put seriatim, were then withdrawn.