HC Deb 06 July 1855 vol 139 cc551-607

MR. MILNER GIBSON rose pursuant to notice, to ask for explanations from the Government relative to the opposition of Her Majesty's Ministers to the views of their colleague, the late British Plenipotentiary at the Vienna Conferences, in reference to the plan proposed by Austria to be submitted to Russia for the purpose of putting "an end to Russian preponderance in the Black Sea," as stated in the circular addressed by Count Buol to the diplomatic agents of Austria, dated Vienna, May 25. He had made some inquiries on Tuesday last relative to the policy of Her Majesty's Government in the East, and to a certain statement made in a diplomatic circular which had been published in various continental newspapers. He was afraid that the course he then took did not harmonise with the feelings of the House, although it might be technically within its rules, considering the subject which had just been brought under their notice. But if he had committed any breach of the rules of decorum, he now begged to apologise for having done so, and to state that he had no intention in any way to disparage the character of the late Commander in Chief, or to manifest indifference to the Motion under consideration at the time. The Prime Minister then said, that he would not be led into a discussion which would rouse the venom of the peace party. [Viscount PALMERSTON: "No, I said 'hostility.'"] He had, however, never mentioned the peace party in his inquiries, which would, perhaps, have more appropriately proceeded from a member of the war party, as they related to the proceedings of the Government during the recent occurrences at Vienna, and to matters upon which every Member of Parliament, whether he belonged to the war or to the peace party, had a right to explanation. The noble Lord the Member for London (Lord J. Russell) had accused him of having misrepresented facts; if he had misrepresented facts, it was quite fitting that he should be set right; he should be the last man in the House to make any intentional misrepresentation, and he should be happy to retract any statements he had made which could be shown to be incorrect. His statements were founded on the authority of public documents which had appeared in the newspapeps—authorities, no doubt, not so good as actual access to the papers in the Foreign Office, but still the only ones within his reach. He had to complain, that during the late debates, when the House was invited to come to a most important decision as to the future prosecution of the war, they had not been treated with the consideration and openness they had a right to expect, and that they had not been put in possession of all the occurrences which had transpired at Vienna, or of the real opinions of Her Majesty's Government, which they were entitled to hear, in order that they might be guided to a wise conclusion. They came to what was called an unanimous vote; but was it clear that they would have come to that vote, if important facts that had now peeped out indirectly through public documents from other countries had been put into their possession—if they had been told, for instance, that the British Plenipotentiary at Vienna differed from the Prime Minister, and that the British Plenipotentiary thought that proposals had been made which promised an honourable and safe solution of the dispute between England and Russia? If they had been told at the same time that this proposition had not been submitted to Russia, in consequence of the refusal of the noble Lord's colleagues to take that course, would not many Members have hesitated before they came to the conclusion at which they arrived, those facts not being before them? At any rate, if that were the case—and he had a right to presume that it was—they were now entitled to a frank and candid avowal of the opinions of the Members of the Administration, of the policy they were pursuing in the East, and of the objects they were seeking to accomplish by the war. He had observed, that since the commencement of the war, almost every prediction to which the Government had lent their sanction had been falsified. Whether he looked to their alliances, to their military operations, or to what had been described as their object in the prosecution of the war, in almost every case the events had been the very reverse of the predictions and announcements of the Administration. Why, Sebastopol was to fall last year—soon after Sir C. Napier arrived in the Baltic the First Lord of the Admiralty stated, in reply to a question of, whether Cronstadt had been taken, that he had not yet received official information of that fact. Then, with regard to their alliances, with what countries were they now associated? Yet, they had been told that Austria was to be their active ally—that Prussia was to act with them—that Sweden was eager to lend her forces for their assistance. Then, with regard to the avowed objects of the war, after they had been told by the Duke of Newcastle, in a despatch, that no safe and honourable peace could be concluded without the fall of Sebastopol, did not a Member of the Government of which the Duke was a Member, and also of the Government now in power, go to Vienna for the very purpose of making peace, without saying a word about the fall of Sebastopol, or making that condition a sine quâ non? What, then, was the object of the war? Sometimes it was the fall of Sebastopol, sometimes it was merely the obtainment from the Government of Russia of a stipulation, written on apiece of paper, which every Member of the House thought would not be worth a straw as a security, but could only be intended to humiliate and insult the enemy with whom they were contending. Not one of the extravagant expectations that the Government had sanctioned had been realised. They had even sanctioned the folly which had been talked about a war for liberty, for the restoration of Poland, and the independence of Hungary. All these visions had evaporated, and the House was left more in doubt than ever as to what was the object of the war, and the nature of the policy the Government were pursuing; and he felt, seeing the blood they were lavishingly expending, and the treasure they were wasting, that he was but discharging one of his first duties as a Member of Parliament, by incessantly asking the Government what were the advantages they proposed to confer on the people of this country in consideration of the enormous sacrifices which they called upon the people to make. The Times newspaper said, that the object of the war was so clear that a labouring man could define it. But if that were so, he (Mr. Gibson) must have been entirely out of the way, for although he had been always anxious to obtain information on the subject, he had been unable to arrive at the object of the war. If a labouring man were to ask him what was the object of the war, and for what purpose he had been called upon to make the sa- crifices he was now making—to deny his children education, to curtail the comforts of his humble home—the only answer he could make would be, that the British Government were endeavouring to attach the Ottoman empire more completely to the equilibrium of Europe, and to put an end to the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea; and that it was worth his while as a labouring man to make what sacrifices we could to assist in accomplishing those objects. He believed that the Government had never told the country what their real object was in the prosecution of this war. They were drifted into it, and they kept drifting on. If ever they had a divided Government in connection with the carrying on of this war, it was his conscientious belief that they had a divided Government now; and, if success depended on having a clear and united opinion in the Government in such a matter as that of carrying on a great war, he saw sufficient division of opinion in the present Government to make success extremely problematical. The foundation of his opinion that there was this division in the Cabinet, he took from the despatch addressed by Count Buol to the different German Powers after the twelfth conference at Vienna. It would be in the recollection of the House, that after the twelfth conference, not the conference which finally concluded the negotiations, but that at which the negotiations were broken off—Count Buol stated, without any opposing remark from either of the Plenipotentiaries present, that although the propositions made by Russia might not be the most desirable mode of settling the question in dispute, and might not satisfy the third basis of the negotiations, still he thought the proposition contained the elements of a solution, and, that in his opinion, it was especially the duty of Austria to endeavour to find out a plan of approaching Russia's proposal which should satisfy the third point, and thus enable peace to be re-established between the belligerents on the basis of the Four Points. Count Buol said— If, since the outbreak of hostilities, there was any one moment when more than at another, the restoration of peace might be considered probable, it was the moment when Lord John Russell and M. Drouyn de Lhuys left our capital. The conference, it is true, had only led to the rejection of the propositions made by the belligerent Powers, but upon both sides it appeared to be admitted that those propositions offered the elements of peace; and we were not only able to declare with- out opposition that we believed ourselves especially called to occupy ourselves in seeking out the means of an approximation, but we also put forward a draught of an ultimatum which was to be sent to St. Petersburg, and which we considered not inadmissible by Russia, since an immediate limitation of Russia's sovereign rights in the Black Sea was avoided, but which at the same time seemed so completely to satisfy the object of the third stipulation, and put an end to Russian preponderance in the Black Sea, that the beforenamed Ministers of France and England, in confidential interviews, showed themselves decidedly inclined towards our proposal, and undertook to recommend the name to their Governments with all their influence. This plan of an ultimatum, the rejection of which by Russia we declared ourselves ready to make a casus belli, consisted of two distinct propositions, of which the Russian Government was to take its choice. He need not go through the details of the propositions. They were much of the same kind as had been laid before the House. The circular proceeded thus:— Lord J. Russell, before leaving Vienna, was made acquainted by verbal communication with these proposals. The French Minister, M. Drouyn de Lhuys, who left Vienna some days later, received a written copy of our plan, and undertook to submit it to the examination of his Sovereign and also to bring it before the British Government. It is unnecessary to speak here of the regret with which, very soon after, we received intelligence, not of the hoped-for acceptance of England and France, but, instead, the opposition of the English Ministers to the views of their colleague, and of the resolution of the Emperor Napoleon to relinquish the services of the Minister who had just won the admiration and the confidence of the Austrian Court. If this document contained a correct account of what occurred, it would seem that at the very moment when the Government were asking Parliament for means to carry on the war with vigour, the noble Lord the Member for the City of London believed that the war was not a matter of necessity, but that the means of solution were in his hands, and that it was only for him to submit the proposal which had been made by Austria to his Government, and thereby enable the belligerents to arrive at an honourable and satisfactory termination of the contest. Was not this a question, then, sufficiently grave to claim the attention of Parliament? Were they prepared to say that there was any man who wished this war to be carried on one instant longer than necessity required, however anxious he might have been in the first instance to take up arms? It appeared to him that the noble Lord the Member for the City of London went to Vienna with the bonâ fide intention of making an honourable peace. He (Mr. Gibson) approved entirely of the declaration made by that noble Lord—it was a declaration of a Statesman, and one which it was worthy of an English Minister to make—when he said that the only terms of peace which were desirable were those that were consistent at once with the honour of Russia and sufficient for the security of Europe. In that spirit it appeared to him the noble Lord was prepared to act; but his instructions, as he said, were exhausted. His colleagues appeared to have entertained different views. They seemed to desire to avoid even the chance of making peace at Vienna, and of preventing the noble Lord from accomplishing what he (Mr. Gibson) believed the noble Lord earnestly desired to accomplish—the putting an end to these unfortunate hostilities. It was known that M. Drouyn de Lhuys thought it impossible for him any longer to hold the office which he had hitherto held in the French Government after the opinions he had expressed at Vienna, and which opinions were precisely similar to those which had also been expressed by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London. Therefore was it that he (Mr. Gibson) asked how could that noble Lord reconcile his retention of office in the present Government if he still retained the opinions he expressed at Vienna? If, indeed, the noble Lord had changed those opinions, and if he no longer thought that the terms proposed by Austria ought to be submitted to the consideration of the British Government, let him frankly avow that change of opinion; and if the noble Lord did so he (Mr. Gibson) would not have one word more to say on the subject. But he could not sit silent while he saw the noble Lord attached to a Government which was pledged to the carrying on of a war to the very indefinite extent of crippling Russia, while he had the consciousness that the noble Lord must believe that the war had been carried on beyond the necessity of the case, and therefore at a wanton sacrifice of the blood and treasure of this country. They had been led to believe that some difficulties had arisen in connection with this last proposal at Vienna with our ally. Was it so? Was it or not the fact that the Emperor of the French, wishing to act in strict accordance with this country, announced to his Minister that, if the British Government would agree to the proposition of Austria being submitted to Russia as an ultimatum, he was willing to acquiesce? That had been asserted in the presence of the British Minister, and it had not been contradicted. It was stated by the hon. Member for the West Riding, and also by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle. The right hon. Gentleman said, the Emperor of the French was not unwilling to accept this proposal; he proposed to the English Government that it should be accepted; and that its rejection took place in consequence of the influence of the English Government being exerted against it, and that consequently, M. Drouyn de Lhuys, who thought it acceptable, had retired from the Council of the Emperor. If these assertions were incorrect, it was high time that the Government should put the country straight, for rumours and statements of this kind made in newspapers must be pernicious if not founded on fact. With regard to the sneers directed against the zeal of Austria, in her alliance with this country, he confessed that he was no admirer of Austrian institutions; but he believed that the feeling entertained with respect to Austria having been treacherous, and of having failed to fulfil her engagements with this country, had chiefly arisen from our having entertained extravagant expectations of what Austria was prepared to undertake—expectations which the Government of England ought to have known were not sufficiently well founded. He had referred to all the documents and to all the treaties to which Austria had been in any way a party, and he did not find in any of them a single paragraph to sustain such expectations. There was not a word throughout the protocols or the treaties which pledged Austria to do anything which she had failed to do. He attributed, therefore, this expression of disappointment to that habit which England seemed to have of supposing that other countries were equally ready to draw the sword in questions in which they were not concerned as she herself was, and that Austria and Prussia, and those various countries with which they were allied, must of necessity see this war in the same point of view as it was seen by Great Britain. The Austrian Government by the treaty of December, 1854, pledged itself to endeavour to make peace by reasonable negotiations. He contended that Austria had fulfilled that engagement. What were the terms of the treaty between Austria, England, and France? They were these— Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, His Majesty the Emperor of Austria, and his Majesty the Emperor of the French, being animated with the desire of terminating the present war at the earliest possible moment, by the re-establishment of a general peace on solid bases, affording to the whole of Europe every guarantee against the return of the complications which have so unhappily disturbed its repose… … The High Contracting Parties refer to the declarations contained in the Protocols of the 9th of April and the 23rd of May of the present year, and in the Notes exchanged on the 8th of August last. The allusion to these papers was merely a reference to the Four Points as bases of negotiation; and it appeared to him that the only engagement Austria entered into was to endeavour to assist England and France in negotiating a peace and submitting proposals which, in its opinion, would be considered reasonable by the Emperor of Russia, with the view of settling the dispute; and in case of the failure of these negotiations, all that Austria bound herself to do was to "deliberate without delay upon effectual means for obtaining the object of their alliance." In this case he thought the most effectual means of obtaining the object of that alliance was to submit to Russia the proposition which Austria had drawn up, and which were approved by the Plenipotentiaries sent to Vienna by the various Powers. What possible fault, then, could be found with Austria? She submitted a plan which was approved by the Plenipotentiaries; but the Plenipotentiaries were thrown over by the respective Governments, who then turned round upon Austria because she did not draw the sword, and complained that she had broken her engagement. He was afraid that, before this war terminated, there would be charges of treachery in other quarters. He did not believe they were going to uphold the integrity and independence of the Ottoman empire; he believed in different views, and he cautioned the Prime Minister that a day of retribution would come. If the expedition to the Crimea should end in signal disaster, the Government might endeavour—as Governments had done on former occasions—to throw the blame upon their generals and admirals, but in the end the responsibility would be fixed upon the executive Government. They, and they alone, were responsible for that expedition which they had undertaken, contrary to the advice of their best generals and admirals; they had sacrificed the flower of the British army; they had sacrificed millions of the public treasure; they had concealed from Parliament material facts which transpired at the Conferences of Vienna, and which it was necessary Parliament should know for the guidance of their opinion; and he must say the whole course they were pursuing seemed to him calculated to inspire want of confidence in the Administration, and led him to the conclusion that they were destined to bring great disasters upon the country, and his belief was that the country would visit those disasters upon their heads.


I am very glad the right hon. Gentleman has brought forward his imputations upon the conduct of the Government at a time when those imputations can be conveniently answered. I certainly was surprised when, the other day, upon an occasion which I should have thought would have induced the right hon. Gentleman to refrain from bringing before the House any question that could occasion controversy, he introduced a topic of this nature and made serious personal charges against the Government. Were it not for the remark of Mr. Grattan, that persons very often made observations "tempted by the extreme impropriety of the occasion," I should hardly have thought the right hon. Gentleman would have taken such an opportunity. As, however, the right hon. Gentleman has brought forward the subject now upon going into Committee of Supply, I cannot but own that he is fully entitled to explanation, and that the correspondence which has taken place with the Austrian Government on this great question fitly deserves, and should obtain the attention of Parliament. Before I enter into this question, I must refer to the right hon. Gentleman's affirmation, that we have been disappointed in all our predictions, and that the objects of the war are such as he has been pleased to describe. Now, so far from being disappointed as to the events of the war, I will say that, although the siege of Sebastopol has not hitherto been attended with the success we promised ourselves, yet that the repulse of Russia at the siege of Silistria, the evacuation of the Danubian provinces, and the consent of Russia to abandon entirely and for ever all those special treaties which gave her the pretence for interfering with Turkey—all these circumstances are successes far beyond those which we had hoped to accomplish in so short a time. But then the right hon. Gentleman says, we believed that Cronstadt would fall immediately, and he founds this assertion upon a statement made by the First Lord of the Admiralty, on a particular day, that he had no official intelligence of the fact. How the right hon. Gentleman could rest his belief on such a basis—how a simple statement of that kind could warrant him in supposing that we entertained such expectations as he attributes to us, is certainly beyond my comprehension. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say, that we proposed the restoration of Poland and the independence of Hungary as two of the objects of the war. As if we had ever promised or held out hopes of the restoration of Poland—as if we had not always considered, in conformity with the declaration of my noble Friend the First Lord of the Treasury, that, if that restoration be accomplished at all, it will be accomplished by Austria. Being on terms of intimacy with many Poles, when they have spoken to me on this subject I have uniformly told them, "If Austria will take your part, and should consider the restoration of Poland attainable, you may then entertain some hopes of accomplishing such a result; but do not imagine that England and France will alone undertake to accomplish it." I stated recently to a Polish nobleman, of whose friendship any one may be proud, that I had no conception that England and France would attempt the restoration of Poland, and that, if they did not attempt it, I thought it would be the greatest crime to encourage expectations which must be disappointed. Then with regard to the independence of Hungary, I must say that it would have been most preposterous if, negotiating with Austria, seeking the alliance of Austria, and entering into conferences with Austria—we had said that one of the objects of this war was to effect the independence of Hungary. No such object has ever been put forward by Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman says he should find great difficulty in explaining to a labouring man the objects of the war; but it fortunately happens—for I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman is incorrect in his statement—that the labouring men, the artisans, the country have throughout had a very clear conception of what the objects of the war are. They know that the war was entered into to prevent the further aggrandizement of Russia; they know that to protect the territory and to maintain the independence of Turkey, were the objects which the allied Powers proposed to themselves to attain. The objects are so easily understood, that the mass of the people have never deceived themselves in reference to them; and, as to the accomplishment of those objects I must confess that, before we entered into war, since we entered into war, and up to the present time, I have always thought it an object of very great difficulty, and only to be attained by great efforts. I have thought so because, as every one may conceive, Russia is enormously powerful, her population is animated and strengthened by repeated successes, and for centuries past she has by treaties been continually adding something to her power. Turkey, on the contrary, is a Power which has of late years been crippled and weakened—so much so, indeed, that when the war began the armed force of Turkey was not one-tenth of that which Russia possesses. Added to this was an additional source of difficulty—namely, that some 10,000,000 of the subjects of Turkey were of the religious faith of the Emperor of Russia, and had been taught assiduously to look to the Emperor of Russia for protection. It has always appeared to me that the task upon which we entered was a most difficult one. I do not think it will take long to show in what respect it was difficult, and I think I can mention some difficulties which both in war and in peace must attend the attainment of the object which we have in view. Some persons of high military authority thought at the beginning of the war that it would be quite sufficient, and that it would be the most effective means of defence for Turkey, if lines were drawn from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmora, somewhat resembling the famous lines of Torres Vedras, and that the French and English armies should be entrenched within these lines. But the circumstances were totally different. The Duke of Wellington was enabled to defend the lines of Torres Vedras because the population of Portugal were generally opposed to the invasion, and the longer the invaders stayed in the country the weaker their army became, and the less able to obtain supplies. But if Russia had crossed the Balkan and had arrived within twenty miles of Constantinople, she would have had the means of raising an insurrection throughout the Christian population of the Turkish provinces, and she would have been strengthened every day and every week in her attempt to destroy the independence of Turkey. And now let us see what were the difficulties that would have occurred in a time of peace. We have had some discussions on former occasions with respect to the Principalities. Those Prin- cipalities are inhabited by Christians, and it has been said, naturally enough, "Make a Christian State there, and thereby establish a barrier against Russia." But the Russian interest is strong in these provinces, and there are so many persons who are bound to Russia by the strongest ties, that to attempt to make an independent State there would only have been to strengthen Russia, and to enable her to pursue her projects with greater security. If, on the other hand, you gave to Turkey all she used to have, and admitted the Turkish army into the Principalities, you would at once destroy their independence. Considering these things and many other questions of a similar nature, it has always appeared to me that the end of this war must be not merely a treaty between the belligerents on one side—namely, France, Great Britain, and Turkey—and Russia on the other, but that there must be a general treaty in which the Powers of Europe could take part, and in which each should give a fair security for the maintenance of the integrity and independence of Turkey. Having taken that view, it is obvious that I must consider the co-operation of Austria as being of the highest value. That the co-operation of Austria would be of the greatest value during war, no one will deny. If at the present moment the Austrian army were advancing into Bessarabia, it is clear that some 40,000 or 50,000 Russian troops would be unable to march into the Crimea; if it were operating on the side of Galicia, that again would prevent the Russian force from being sent from Poland to the seat of war. And, Sir, in the arrangements to be made with regard to peace, I believe that the alliance and co-operation of Austria would be, to say the least, as effective as it is necessary. The pathway by which Russia could send her land armies to the attack of Turkey is across the Danube, by the side of the Austrian provinces, and through the Balkan. That is the way in which, on more than one occasion, she has attempted to invade Turkey, and it is the road by which, on the last occasion, having crossed the Balkan, the Russian army reached Adrianople. But if Austria undertook, in alliance with France and Great Britain, to prevent any such aggression, and to oppose it by the force of arms, and if France and Great Britain on their side, had sufficient means of opposing a naval aggression, we should then, to use the language of Mr. Fox, which was quoted he other night by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding, "make it the interest of Russia to maintain peace." I quite agree with the opinion expressed in the extract read by the hon. Gentleman from Mr. Fox, that the best security against aggression is the interest of a Power to maintain peace. [Mr. COBDEN,—"The only security."] The hon. Gentleman says, "the only security," but that is a phrase liable to some qualification, because Mr. Fox would not have said, nor will the hon. Member say, that in a treaty of peace you are to disregard all material guarantees. But to go on with my argument. I have always considered that besides the immediate arrangements, whatever they may be, for the security of Turkey, in order to have a durable peace, we ought to have Austria and Prussia and the States of Germany parties to a general alliance, by which Turkey would be secured from aggression.

Sir, having stated these general views, I now come to the mission with which I was charged to Vienna. It appeared to me—and I remember that I expressed that opinion very strongly to Lord Cowley, Her Majesty's Ambassador at Paris—that I should be able to ascertain what it was that Austria and Prussia were ready to agree to, and that I thought also I should be able to ascertain what Russia would concede for the sake of peace; but at the same time, I stated that I thought that, whatever might be the effect of the negotiations, it would not be possible to come to any decision at Vienna, but that it must be left to the Governments of France and Great Britain to decide ultimately whether there were any terms which they could assent to as terms on which to conclude a safe and honourable peace. Upon my arrival at Vienna there were, of course, two kinds of negotiations to be entered into. There was the negotiation which was to be conducted in conference, and in conference only, between the three belligerent Powers and Austria, who had signed the treaty of the 2nd of December, and Russia, That was one part of the business upon which we were to enter. But the other, and perhaps the more important part, was to ascertain by repeated interviews and discussions the views of the Austrian Government, and to endeavour either to procure her assistance in concluding peace, or to arrange fair terms with her, upon which she would make an ultimatum as against Russia. I find that a very few days after my arrival at Vienna—so early as the 7th of March—I discussed with Count Buol, as well as with the French Minister then resident there—Baron Bourqueney, and the English envoy, the various stipulations which came under the denomination of the Four Points. Upon the mention of the third point, we, the French and English Plenipotentiaries declared, that it appeared to us that the best solution of that point was to obtain from Russia a limitation of her fleet in the Black Sea. We stated, that if that limitation were agreed to, the general rule of the Treaty of 1841—namely, the closing of the Straits—might be maintained. We stated, that it would then be possible to withdraw our armies and fleets from the Black Sea, because there would no longer exist the preponderance of Russia—there would no longer exist a standing menace to Turkey. Count Buol so far agreed that he said, "Undoubtedly that is the best solution of the third point. Undoubtedly the best security you can have is the limitation of the Russian fleet. But," he added, "there is another solution, and that would be, instead of weakening Russia, to strengthen Turkey. It is the opinion of the Austrian Government that the third point may be carried into effect either in one mode or the other. The proposal you make is undoubtedly the best; we should be very glad to see it assented to by Russia; in the conference we shall give it every support; but we will not say that we do not reserve to ourselves the power of proposing the other mode—namely, instead of a limitation of Russian force, to have a counterpoise on the part of the allies." So far, Sir—and, indeed, I would say not only so far, but throughout—I have no complaint to make, as the right hon. Gentleman supposes the Government to make, of treachery against Austria. Her conduct I find fault with—perhaps, very great fault in some respects—but I think there has been no treachery and no bad faith in the matter. I think Austria was entitled to say, as a Power which had not gone to war, as a Power which was at peace with Russia, "We will endeavour to seek for the solution of these difficulties by the attainment of all the Four Points which we consider necessary for peace; but we do not bind ourselves to one particular mode of obtaining one of those points. We think ourselves at liberty to propose another mode, and if that other shall be found sufficient, we will not rely solely upon the one which you propound." I could not but say that I thought the Aus- trian Government were wrong in their supposition that the second mode of solution was as good as the first. I stated objections, and I stated them over and over again at repeated interviews with Count Buol—objections which are obvious enough—to the propositions he made. One objection is, that Great Britain and France might not always be disposed to go to the considerable expense which would be necessary in order to maintain a fleet in the Black Sea which could be at all reckoned as a counterpoise to the Russian fleet. Another objection is, that it would obviously be placing Turkey, as it were, under the immediate protection of those two Powers, and would thereby, in some respects, weaken her position. But a third objection—which I still think a very strong one—is, that three or four fleets—the fleets of Turkey, assisted by those of France, England, and Austria on the one side, and the fleet of Russia on the other—would have all the appearance of a competition for preponderance, and would thereby weaken the general feeling in the solidity and duration of peace. Well, discussions went on, as the House has seen by the papers which have been laid before Parliament. The Austrian Government, through Count Buol and Baron Prokesch, its representatives at the conference, supported with great force of argument the propositions which were made for limitation, or else for making the Black Sea entirely a commercial sea. I should say, however, with respect to this last proposition, that it was not cordially adopted by the Austrian Government, but they did cordially adopt the proposal and support the arguments in favour of limitation, which I was ordered by my instructions to put forward. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) having read several extracts from Count Buol's circular, strangely enough said, he would not read the particular propositions which Austria made, but he left it to the House to believe or to infer that those propositions were the same which were made by Russia. Now, I think a very few minutes would suffice to show that, whether they were satisfactory or unsatisfactory, whether they were adequate or inadequate, they were totally different from those of Russia. The proposal of Russia at the time when I was at Vienna was, that the fleets of all the Powers—their armed vessels—should have liberty to pass through the Straits. The proposition they made after I left Vienna was, that the closing of the Straits should be maintained as a principle, and that Turkey should have the power of calling on her allies when she pleased to send their fleets there. Now, the Austrian proposition does not at all resemble these two, upon which I shall not argue, for they have been discussed in the House upon former occasions, and the House, by a very great majority, were of opinion that they were inadequate. The Austrian proposal was founded upon that which Count Buol had made to us when we first had an interview with him. He proposed, in the first place, that the rule of 1841 should be maintained, but that it should be maintained with exceptions in favour of the allies, and with no exceptions in favour of Russia. Thus, according to that principle—which I certainly very much doubt whether Russia was at that time prepared to adopt—there would have been the power on certain occasions of sending armed vessels—ships of the line—belonging to France, Great Britain, and Austria into the Black Sea; while there would have been no power on the part of Russia of sending her vessels either from the Black Sea into the Mediterranean, or of sending vessels from the Baltic into the Mediterranean, and from the Mediterranean into the Black Sea. The passage, in short, would have been entirely closed to Russia; and would not be closed to Powers which had not establishments in the Black Sea. The particular mode in which the proposal was to be carried into effect was this. (I do not conceive it is a proposition on the part of Austria to be considered by her allies, and of course the details were not finally settled.) What she proposed was that, supposing—which seems to have been ascertained by Admiral Lyons—that Russia had six sail of the line in the Black Sea, while she had that number and no more, England, France, and Austria should each maintain two frigates in the Black Sea, and have power to renew them from time to time. If Russia should increase her force — for instance, if she should augment her fleet from six to eight sail of the line — then half the number maintained by Russia might be maintained by the three allied Powers, so that, while Turkey would have eight sail of the line as an equivalent to the eight of Russia, England would have four, and France four at the same time. It was proposed, in the same way, that if Russia should continue to augment her force—for instance, if she had twelve sail of the line—each of the maritime Powers should have six, while Austria would, of course, have her own naval force, and thus we should maintain a counterpoise in regard to Russia. But, in addition to this, Count Buol was ready, as I was told verbally on the day before I left Vienna, to agree to the treaty which he mentions in this circular between Austria, Great Britain, and France, by which they should agree to give a guarantee for the independence and integrity of Turkey. That was a point on which I had laboured during the time I was at Vienna. When I first saw Count Buol, I told him my general opinion with regard to the limitation of the fleet according to my instructions; but I said I thought that, before the whole of these transactions were closed, it would be very desirable to have security for the future by an alliance between the three Powers. Count Buol was of opinion that it would be better to have an article in the general treaty making Russia a party to that guarantee. I was of a different opinion; but Count Buol maintained his opinion, as I maintain mine. The day before I left Vienna I was informed that Count Buol had come to the opinion that he has suggested here in his circular, that it was desirable that the three Powers should enter into a united treaty of defence of Turkey, securing her independence and integrity. It was, of course, understood that Russia might be a party to that treaty, and that thereby greater security would be obtained for the observance of that treaty. Omitting several details of more or less importance, it appeared to me that these two propositions did contain a security for Turkey for the future. It appeared to me, if we had made this arrangement with respect to the admission of ships of war in the Black Sea, that Russia, so far from increasing her fleet to its size before the commencement of the war, would abstain from maintaining more than six ships of the line, replacing them, if she thought proper, by larger and stronger vessels, but not attempting to have a large fleet in the Black Sea; for nothing could so tend to diminish the opinion of the power of Russia in the East as the observation that other fleets, especially those of France and Great Britain, were present in the Black Sea as a check and a counterpoise to her fleet. On the other hand, the security on the land side against the advances of Russia by armies similar to those which advanced in 1828 and 1829, would have been obtained by the general treaty, and by the consciousness that Russia would have, that no sooner did she attempt to do that which she has done within the last two years, and occupy the provinces of Turkey, than such a step would be equivalent to a declaration of war against all the great powers of Europe. In this manner I certainly thought that while the Austrian plan of counterpoise was inferior to the plan of limitation that we proposed, yet that it might be a mode of concluding the war with honour to the allied Powers, and that it would give—I will not say a certainty—but a very fair prospect of the duration of peace. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) asks me whether I have changed that opinion. Sir, I have not changed that opinion. I think that those terms were calculated either, on the one side, to secure Austria to us in the war, or, on the other, to obtain a peace which, although it might be unpopular, would have been a peace that would have afforded security for the future. I should say, that in making these propositions, the Austrian Government declared that they were ready to make them an ultimatum—that is to say, they were ready to send this alternative to St. Petersburg—either that Russia should consent to that plan of counterpoise that I have described, or that she should consent to limit her naval forces in the Black Sea to the number of ships existing at the time that these propositions were accepted. It was supposed that Russia had no more than six sail of the line left, and that she would consent to a condition made with Turkey, but inserted in a treaty made with all the Powers, that she would not increase her naval force beyond that number. I have already stated that the Russian Minister would not consent to the limitation, and that this plan was at once refused. With respect to the other the assent of Russia was more doubtful, but it was thought that Russia might have agreed to that proposition. If Russia refused both propositions the Austrian Minister was to have orders to leave St. Petersburg in eight hours, the military convention with France and Great Britain was to be signed, and the Austrian army was to be concentrated and placed in such a position that it could commence the war at any moment. The Austrian Government did not promise that an immediate declaration of war should be made, but it declared that it would regard the rejection of its proposition as a casus belli. The Austrian Minister said that it would bring on war, and considering the character of the Austrian Government, I have no doubt that unless Russia had yielded at the last moment it would have led to a war between Austria and Russia. Well, Sir, I have stated that there may be something in my own recollection of what took place which differs from that of Count Buol; but I have no doubt that the statement of Count Buol is in the main an accurate account of what I did at Vienna. I said that I had no instructions that would enable me to agree to such terms, and that the instructions I had would lead me to suppose that such terms would not be accepted; but I said that my own opinion was that they might be accepted; and I said to Count Buol that I could assure him, and that he could convey that assurance to the Emperor of Austria, that I would lay the case before the Cabinet of this country, and that I would use my best endeavours to put these propositions in such a light that he might hope for their adoption. That promise, Sir, I certainly performed. I stated to my Government every detail of the propositions of which I was the bearer. I said that I had not the written propositions, but that, if they should be considered fit to form a basis for agreement, I had no doubt the Austrian Minister at this Court would furnish all the details of the articles to be proposed. I must say that the proposition was deliberately considered by the Cabinet. Everything that I stated had, I must say, due weight, and was fairly placed in opposition to the disadvantages of such a peace. The Government came to the conclusion that the peace proposed would not be a safe peace, and that they could not recommend its adoption. The right hon. Gentleman says that he has heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham) that the French Government were disposed to accept these terms, but that they had been induced by the rejection of them by this Government to refuse to accept them. M. Drouyn de Lhuys rendered a report to the Emperor of the French, stating the advantage of the terms to be such as I have described; but the Emperor would not accept his advice, and, before he could have known the decision of the English Government, he determined to change his Minister and to reject the proposal of Austria, as not affording a sufficient foundation for peace. The two Governments therefore came to the decision that the proposal of Austria should be rejected. I am not going to enter into the case of Austria, and how far it was a good case or not. I have stated the case as fairly as I can, and the House can judge for itself. The Austrian Government then declared that they were ready to carry into effect the Four Points, but that they did not think the third point admitted of only one solution, and that the two Governments of France and Great Britain had sufficient security on this point:—that they were ready to make a proposal to Russia, but that since that proposal had been rejected by the allied Governments they no longer considered themselves bound to propose it, but that in that ease they considered that they were no longer bound by the treaty of the 2nd of December to go to war with Russia. I believe; that in strictness those terms do admit the construction that they are bound to go to war with Russia. But the House will remember that, when that treaty was first mentioned in this House, I rather opposed the general view that Austria was bound at once to go to war with Russia upon that treaty, and I said she was bound only to take steps to carry into effect the Four Points. I think the two Governments may call upon Austria to perform her engagements; but I think that, even if it is not a good case, and even if it is not a sufficient case, for Austria, at least there is much to be said in favour of the propositions which the Austrian Ministers declared they were ready to make as an ultimatum.

Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman asked a question, undoubtedly personal to myself, but which he is fairly entitled to ask, and which I consider I am bound to answer. The right hon. Gentleman asks how, having had those opinions, if I had not changed them—if I had not taken a totally altered view—how could I remain in office in the present administration? I think in the first place that if I had left office upon the decision of Her Majesty's Government, which I have mentioned, I should not have been acting consistently with that I have repeatedly declared to be the main guide of my conduct. In the last resort, when it came to that great question of whether the proposal before us should be received or not, it was for the two Governments, and not for a Plenipotentiary, to decide. And if not for a Plenipotentiary, neither was it for me to decide, as having been employed in those negotiations and as having been a Member of the Cabinet. But I must say that, if I had thought that, having held that opinion, and being overruled upon a question of such great importance, it was my duty to tender my resignation to Her Majesty, I consider the circumstances of the time would have forbidden my doing so. I must now refer to that which has taken place since the commencement of this session, and which I think must impress every man who takes part in public affairs with very grave reflections. There have been several changes since the commencement of the Session. I myself resigned my office at the commencement of this Session upon the ground that I could not resist the appointment of a committee of inquiry into the state of the army in the Crimea. A vote of this House induced Lord Aberdeen and his colleagues generally to resign their offices a few days afterwards. Lord Derby was called to attend upon Her Majesty, and he thought (I believe with very sound judgment) that, unless he obtained the assistance of some of Lord Aberdeen's colleagues—especially of my noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone)—he could not obey Her Majesty's commands and form a Government which promised stability. I found myself unable to form a Government when it was proposed to me ultimately. My noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) formed a Government, and he obtained the assistance of some of those colleagues of Lord Aberdeen to whom I have referred. But in a few days these Gentlemen resigned office upon the ground, the very opposite to that which I had taken, that the committee of inquiry, proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), was about to be granted. It cannot be denied, Sir, I think, that these circumstances have given an appearance of instability to our councils—an appearance of instability which ought above all things to be avoided. But, more than that, it was impossible for me not to perceive, though at a distance, the tendency that there was to cry down all authority, and to distrust all persons in whom the administration of the Government might be placed. If there were one man more than another to whom, in the general estimation of the country, ought to be intrusted the supreme place in the councils of the Sovereign it was my noble Friend who is now First Lord of the Treasury; and yet, no sooner had that appointment taken place, and, as far as I can see, with no other reason than that he held a place of authority in Her Majesty's Councils, he became subject to the most violent attacks, and a very general endeavour was made to run down his administration and to drive him from power. This was not the effect of the extreme violence of parties; far from it—it would be wrong if I accused the great body of the Opposition of such conduct; but it did show the tendency of the public mind—a tendency much to be feared—to run down all authority, to distrust all persons who might be the depositaries of power, and to give way to a restless desire for something different without exactly knowing what. Now, Sir, I did conceive that in that state of the public mind, whatever might be my sentiments as to a great question—and a very great question it was—it was my duty to give every support to my noble Friend; and I am sure that if I had then left office, though I might have promised him every support, it would have tended to increase that instability to which I have made allusion—it would have been considered as a symptom and precursor of other changes. I believe that, whether as regards our position abroad, or whether as regards our position at home, it is the duty of the Members of the Cabinet of my noble Friend to consider, as well as they are able, the position of affairs; to arrive at the best decisions which they can; for the minority to yield to the majority, if there is a minority or a majority; for an individual to defer his sentiments to those of the Cabinet in general; and to leave it to this House to decide whether or not they are fit to be trusted with the conduct of public affairs. I believe that my noble Friend and those who act with him are as well qualified to make those changes in our administrative affairs, to make those reforms which the conduct of public business may require, as any set of men whom Her Majesty may call to her councils. I believe that after a time that persuasion will be fixed in the public mind. I believe it would be a very great misfortune if any change were to take place, unless it were a total change, to the men who are opposed to Her Majesty's present Government. If the House think they will be the better depositaries of power, they ought to have every confidence and every support given to them in the execution of their duty. I will say that these affairs,—important as they are, involving such great consequences, bearing upon the position of England in the world, bearing upon her internal fate and the maintenance of her institutions—have cost me many painful reflections. I have made the best decision, which, with my lights, I have been able to make. That decision may be contested. It may be said by many that I betrayed the interests of my country when I told Count Buol I was ready to agree to these terms—not officially, but to recommend them to the Government. It may be said that, having so declared my occurrence, I ought to have persisted to the end, and to have resigned office immediately those terms were not agreed to. Upon either of those grounds I am liable to be attacked, and I have no reason to complain if censures are cast upon me for the course I have taken. All I can say is, I have made a fair statement to the House of my conduct and my motives, and I leave the House to pass judgment upon them.


I have heard many speeches in this House which have astonished me, but I must say, unfeignedly, I have never heard a speech which struck me with such astonishment and grief as that which has just been delivered by the noble Lord. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Gibson), in the proper exercise of his duty as a representative of the people, calls upon the noble Lord to explain the inconsistency between his conduct at Vienna and his conduct in this House. My right hon. Friend points out that it has come to his knowledge, not from the statement of the noble Lord here when he had returned from Vienna, but by the publication of an official Austrian document, that the noble Lord, when at Vienna, did confidentially—for that is the word of Count Buol—did confidentially promise the Austrian Minister that when he returned to England he would do his best to induce the Government to assent to the propositions for the establishment of peace which had emanated from the Austrian Government, and which the noble Lord had also privately informed Count Buol that he approved. The noble Lord does not deny that statement. But the first and obvious question which we ask ourselves is this—Why was not the noble Lord himself the first to come and inform us in this House that the terms submitted by the Austrian Government had his approval, and that he still approved them? Why did not the noble Lord make that statement, not from the bench on which he sits, but from the bench from which he descended to occupy his present position? What are the reasons assigned by the noble Lord for completely setting aside, upon coming home to England, his own convictions upon the most important question of modern times, and surrendering his judgment and abnegating his opinions to his colleagues in the Cabinet? What is the only reason assigned by the noble Lord for such astounding conduct? It is this. There had been so many changes in the Government—he himself had so lately abandoned his seat in the Cabinet, only to return thither once more; there had been so many secessions from the Cabinet; and there had been so great a disposition on the part of the public to denounce all authority and to call in question the characters of all public men—that he did not think himself justified, under the extraordinary circumstances, in maintaining his own opinions upon this the gravest of all questions, by surrendering his seat in the Cabinet which had overruled his own convictions at the risk of bringing about another change. Why, does not the noble Lord see that the reason why the public have lost faith in public men is because public men have become suspected of doing that which the noble Lord has now, in the face of the whole world, declared that he has done? Why ought the public—why does the public—why should the public—have any faith in public men, except it be because they believe that those public men have certain opinions, that they are swayed by certain principles, and that they may be reckoned upon to act up to their convictions? What does the noble Lord tell the public—he who has been for twenty years the almost exclusive leader of this House—who has gathered about him so much of the hope and confidence of the country—who for so many years has led a majority of this House? He says—"I am willing to abandon my opinion, I am willing to surrender my judgment—a judgment which you, the public, have believed to be founded upon long experience and great abilities—I am willing to surrender it all at the instance of my colleagues, and to retain my seat in the Cabinet, to carry on a war at the instance of my colleagues and against my most solemn convictions." Does not the noble Lord see that, by the conduct he has pursued, he has taken the exact course to strike at the very foundation of all confidence in public men, and to render it impossible that the representative system should be carried on with success? The noble Lord seems to me to have abdicated his reasoning faculties. Why, does he not see—does not a child see—that the country does not want him bodily in the Cabinet merely to represent somebody else's opinions? What the country wants is, that in the noble Lord the Member for the City of London they shall have the benefit of his long experience, his eminent abilities, and his cool judgment. But the noble Lord has struck at the confidence of the public in public men still more fatally by the way in which he has allowed this matter to transpire. Again has he shown us he does not deal fairly with the public; he did not allow the public to know what were his opinions on what was doing until by some accident they are found out. He retained his seat in the Cabinet last year, and allowed the war to be carried on contrary to the plan and system which he himself declared to be necessary; he never told us that he believed the war was being carried on upon a system so faulty that it could not lead to success until an hon. Member called public attention to the conduct of the war; and then he abandoned his seat, and confessed that he had been sitting in the Cabinet until he was accidentally found out, while the war was being conducted on principles which he emphatically condemned. And, now, what has he done? He comes home from Vienna, and, instead of telling us frankly, as I say he was bound to do, and the country expected he would do, what his own opinions were upon the grave questions of peace and war, he made a speech denouncing Russia, dealing forth all the claptraps used to excite national hate and popular passions, and denouncing the encroachments and aggressions of Russia—I do not say with the motive, but it certainly had the effect, of making the country believe he had come back from Vienna disgusted with the proposals for peace made there, and despairing of arriving at any terms of peace, and that he was, therefore, anxious to stimulate the passion of the country in order that the war might be carried on more vigorously. All this time the noble Lord was the sole depositary of his secret—he knew well he came back from Vienna bringing with him proposals for peace which he had told Count Buol he con- sidered were practicable and fair, and which he promised to advocate with his colleagues. And now he tells us that he considered those terms which he promised to support to be such as would have afforded fair ground for a permanent peace, and, to use his own words, they did offer "a guarantee for the security of Europe." And yet, with those convictions upon this most momentous of all questions, the noble Lord comes home, takes his seat in the Cabinet, and makes a speech which, if framed especially to mislead the public mind as to his own convictions, it would be impossible to excel in double dealing with the confidence of the country; and now he gets up and says the great difficulty of the day is that there is a want of confidence in public men, and that the public are prepared instantly that a Minister attains to power to distrust him, to assail him, and to drag him from his high position. He quotes the example of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston). Now, compare the language he uses towards the noble Lord at the head of the Government with that which, three or four years ago, he used towards the same noble Lord, when he (the noble Lord the Member for the City of London) was Prime Minister, and the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton was Foreign Secretary, and remember the opinion he then expressed in this House and induced his Sovereign to sanction. What will the country now say when the noble Lord speaks of his great confidence in the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, and denounces the conduct of the country in questioning that noble Lord's conduct immediately on his succeeding to the head of the Government? If anybody can be selected who is responsible for doubts and misgivings on the part of the public towards the Minister now at the head of the Government it is the noble Lord the Member for London, who more than any one has contributed to that mistrust. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) seems to me to come here with the idea that he can confuse us, and separate himself, as a Member of the Cabinet, from the Plenipotentiary at Vienna. He has certain opinions as a Plenipotentiary; but he comes back, enters the Cabinet, and then he is willing to abandon those opinions. We know him here as the Colonial Minister—as a Member of the Cabinet—we hold him responsible to us and the country as a Cabinet Minister of the Crown, and we cannot separate him in his two capacities of Minister and Plenipotentiary. Did the noble Lord the Member for London, honestly and in good faith, promise to Count Buol to support this proposition for peace, and did he come back to England and in the Cabinet advocate those views? If he has done so, I say he has abandoned his duty, forfeited his trust, and abdicated the high position he has hitherto held, by not resigning his seat in the Cabinet when he found it would not carry out his views. He was bound to do as M. Drouyn de Lhuys did, with great consistency and great honesty, when he resigned the proud position which he held before Europe, upon finding he could not induce his Sovereign to concur in the views to which he had pledged himself at Vienna. Now, the noble Lord talks to us of the disadvantage to the public service if he had resigned office, as I say he was bound to do. Does he not think he has done a greater injury to the public service by remaining? Has he not struck a heavier blow at the faith in all public men by remaining in the Cabinet, by giving up his own judgment, and agreeing in the criminal conduct, as I call it, of carrying on an exterminating war, merely because, as he now tells us, he has confidence in the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton? If he had resigned his office and retired to the back benches, the country would have had one more instance of a public man who from earnest conviction did not hesitate to abandon the honour and emoluments of office, and he would thereby have given far greater strength to the characters of public men in this country than he did by remaining in office and abandoning his own convictions. There is one point to which I must refer. It is delicate ground to touch upon—it is one of the great dangers of our day. That is, the way in which public men have forfeited their title to the confidence of the country. It is a matter to which I have alluded before in public, but only distantly, when looking into the future and contemplating several possible contingencies which might occur this autumn—dangers to which we might be exposed from accidents which have happened already during my short experience. I have always considered that the great danger which we have to dread is, lest there should be no one man in this country round whom the public could rally and would rally in case of any great social difficulty or danger. We have brought ourselves to the position which in France was only arrived at after successive changes, and, to use a familiar, but expressive phrase, we have "used up" every political character in the land. I now speak with the greatest sincerity when I avow I look upon the conduct of the noble Lord—disastrous as I believe it to be to himself as a public man and an individual—with far more regret and apprehension on account of the dangers to which I believe his conduct exposes the system of representative government in this country. I am one who think that the continuance by the noble Lord and his Government in the system upon which I they are now acting does bode difficulty and danger which will require, in the stress; and strain to which the vessel of the State may be exposed, able heads and cool hands to conduct us safely through domestic dangers and social difficulties. It is not, then, merely that the noble Lord is a Member of a Cabinet which has plunged us into what I must call a useless war, but it seems to me they are utterly incompetent to understand the extent of the danger and difficulty to which we may be exposed. Now, does any one think that in renewing this war the Cabinet have taken the necessary steps to bring it to a successful issue? What are they doing? What is the object for which the war is now to be pursued? They are not now talking of driving Russia out of the Principalities, or of compelling them to withdraw from Silistria, for the noble Lord and his colleagues are renewing the war with these objects accomplished. You did not drive the Russians from the Principalities, for they withdrew; and as soon as it was known that Austria had entered into a treaty with Turkey to occupy the Principalities the Russians retired from Silistria, and not because they could not take the place, as every military authority will tell you that that was but a matter of a few weeks. When the Russians had crossed the Danube, what caused them to cross the Pruth? Was it because they were afraid of England and France? No; it was because Austria and Prussia had entered into a treaty by which the whole of the power of Germany would have been brought to bear on this question, and they made the crossing of the Danube by Russia a casus belli; and knowing this Russia withdrew its troops beyond the Pruth. Nothing is more clear to me in tracing the course of these operations than this—that every thing which Russia has done has been either from a fear of Austria and Germany, or with a view of conciliating them. You are not fighting for practicable objects with the aid of Germany. Austria and Prussia would never have allowed Russia to occupy Constantinople. All Germany would have united to prevent anything of the kind from taking place. This has now been disposed of. You have renewed the war and what are you going to do? Does any one think that the Cabinet have settled what they are going to do, or that the noble Lord the Member for the City of London has proposed the question—what is our object in renewing the war? That is the question which we, as representatives of the people have to face. And, oh that I could make hon. Members use the same language in public in this House which I nave heard them use in private in the lobbies! Oh that they would speak out on this question! and I entreat you, as you value the interests of the country, if you have superior lights to the mass of your countrymen—and you have no right to be here if you have not—let them, I implore you, know what you really think on this question—deal honestly with them. Do not frighten yourselves by imagining that you will be telling secrets to Russia, for they know what is going on in France and England better than many of us do—they know the number of our recruits, how many men we are short of the number voted, and the state of our militia; do not fancy that you will be telling secrets to Russia by facing this question and seeking to learn what the object of the Government is in renewing the war. Are we to believe it is, as we are told by the irresponsible writers of the Press, with a view of humbling Russia? Can you do so by the plans adopted by the Government? Humble Russia, with its 60,000,000 of inhabitants and inexhaustible raw material for troops! Humble Russia!—by what? By 30,000 men!—and you have never had more than that number of effective British bayonet at once in the Crimea. How do you in tend to accomplish this object of humbling Russia? I have told you before that think there is scarcely any limit to the power of England and France, if they put forth all their strength; but has our Government dealt honestly with the country and told them what they require to carry on this war? We are told to rely on France; but is there not danger in entering into an alliance for carrying on operation on land in which that country sends four or five times the number of troops we do? Do we measure our pretensions according to such proportions, or do we in this country write as if we were going to leave to France the task of humbling Russia? Is France in a position to humble Russia? Let us tell the whole truth as regards France, with respect to which nothing is more certain than this—and it is confirmed by every Member of this House who has lately come from France—that this war is not popular in France. It never has been popular, and is now odious. If I wanted a proof of this I could find it in the address of the Emperor of the French lately made to his Chambers, for it contains the following ominous paragraph. My Government will propose to you to vote the Annual Recruitment Bill; there will be no extraordinary levy, and the Bill will take the usual course necessary for the regularity of the administration of a Recruitment Bill. Why was the Emperor so careful to tell the people that he was not going to make an extraordinary levy of soldiers? Why, because he knows that in the only part of France where his main strength is—namely, among the peasantry of the provinces, if he had attempted an extraordinary levy of men such a measure would depopularise him with the people on whom he has relied for his power. But is this the way to carry on war with Russia? Did Napoleon I. do so? Did he say he wanted no extraordinary levies when he was about to invade Russia with an army of 500,000 men, with an army in reserve of 300,000 men? I tell the Emperor of France, as I tell you, that if you invade Russia, and fight her on her own soil, you must, if you intend to bring the war to a successful issue, have extraordinary levies of men both in France and England. When you see the Emperor of Russia issuing his ukases, and by one stroke of his pen ordering a levy of 250,000 men, do you think that you can carry on a successful contest with him with 30,000 men, or that you can do without having an extraordinary levy of troops? My complaint and accusation against the noble Lord at the head of the Government are this—that from the time he came into office he has not dealt fairly with the country—he has not laid before them the difficulties they will have to face, or what will be required to carry on the war. We have on the one hand had the newspapers stating that the country is enthusiastically in favour of the war, and on the other hand we have had the Government proposing a vote for the increase of the army, when they knew right well that the number permanently voted had not been enlisted. They do not, however, tell the country this; for I can point out a speech of the noble Lord's, made three months ago, in which he said the enlistment was going on most successfully; but I am sure, when you get the weekly returns, you will find that the enlistment was then in a most unsatisfactory state. And how are you dealing with the handful of brave men you have sent to the Crimea? Why, you are hurling your best blood against that vast fortress in the attempt to do that which every high military authority—Sir Howard Douglas, Sir William Napier, and others—tells you is hopeless, and that, until you invest Sebastopol and besiege it according to the ordinary and invariable rules of war, there is no chance of taking it. You know this, and yet you are carrying on the war under the pretence that you are fighting the battle for the liberties of all Europe. It is not very complimentary to tell all Europe that you are fighting for its liberties; neither do I think that the Germans, the Swedes, the Danes, the Swiss, or others, will feel it as a compliment to be told so; but if you do set up these mighty pretensions, do not show your impotence or use threats which you cannot carry out. I, as an advocate for peace, tell you that I think this war might have been avoided, but I share with the rest of you the ridicule which is heaped on this country by the boast and braggadocio which in the end are attended by such humble performances. We are like the Chinese, brandishing paper shields with tigers' heads on them, sounding gongs, and blustering in the face of the world and expecting it to be frightened at these our warlike preparations. We are now, probably, within a month of separating, and are we to leave the country in the hands of this Ministry, drifting on in this war, with no object avowed, and with nobody understanding what the object of the war is? I declare, for myself, let the noble Lord say what he will of a change in the Cabinet, that I would rather take the chances of such a change, and would infinitely rather see a Government formed of Members from the other side of the House brought over to this side to carry on the war. I think that this would give us a better chance of reconstituting an honest party, both in this House and in the country. I look back with regret on the vote which I gave on the Motion which changed Lord Derby's Government. I regret the result of that Motion, for it has cost the country 100 millions of treasure, and between 20,000 and 30,000 good lives. Do not let us, then, be frightened by the threat of a change of Ministry; anything will be better than allowing the country to go drifting on in this war as it is doing, without any one honestly declaring to it the object of the war. Does anybody profess to solve the mystery of what the war is carried on for? Is it to take Sebastopol? If it is, you must surround the place with 240,000 men, and starve the garrison out. Are you prepared to do that? Will you winter again in the Crimea, which I am told is now the talk in your camp? You had the opportunity of making peace, but the Government rejected the terms that were offered. You have estranged the other Powers of Europe from you, and left yourselves without any other important ally than France. How do you propose to succeed. Under these circumstances, I entreat this House to speak out its honest conviction. I see the danger that is before us in the loss of confidence in public men; and I only utter my own firm persuasion, when I say that I look upon the noble Lord's (Lord J. Russell's) conduct as striking the heaviest blow that has ever yet been dealt at that confidence. As I wish well to our representative system, I would earnestly exhort every Member of this House who aspires to be a statesman sedulously to shun the course which the noble Lord the Member for London has adopted in this momentous matter.


Sir, I can very easily understand that the hon. Member for the West Riding, with his peculiar views, wishing to form a party that might place itself in a position to administer the affairs of the country, and I make it no matter of reproach or blame to him, and those who agree with him, that they should endeavour to do all they possibly can to realize the assertion—which I utterly deny to be founded in fact—that other public men in this country have lost the confidence of the nation. It is very natural for the hon. Gentleman to say that there are no men here to whom the country would look up and around whom it would rally at periods when it might be necessary for the public weal that there should be persons in whom it should repose its confidence. But I deny, Sir, that that is the fact. Setting aside all party feeling, I assert that on both sides of this House there are those in whom the nation would feel confidence, and around whom it would rally at moments such as the hon. Gentleman describes. In one respect at least, however, I believe the hon. Member's statement is perfectly true. Without meaning any disrespect to him or to those among whom he sits, I think they are the very last men to whom the country would be disposed, in such critical circumstances, to intrust its confidence. But, Sir, I consider that to indulge in this practice of endeavouring to decry every statesman in public estimation, and to represent every man in public life as being animated by feelings that are neither honourable to himself nor consistent with his duty, is rendering a very bad service to the country. I believe that it does no honour to those who pursue it; and of this I am convinced, relying, as I do, on the good sense of the people of England, that these political arts, instead of answering the ends of those who resort to them, or damaging those they are intended to ruin, will recoil upon the heads of their authors, and only lower in public opinion the character of the men who stoop to what I must term such unworthy expedients of furthering their political purposes. The hon. Gentleman has to-night adopted this system very lavishly, but I think most undeservedly, against my noble Friend (Lord John Russell). My noble Friend has pursued a course which I conceive to have been eminently becoming a person occupying his position. The hon. Gentleman, however, taunts him by implication with having been actuated by an unworthy desire to retain political place and power. Why, does not the recent conduct of my noble Friend acquit him at once from any such imputation? Surely the hon. Member cannot have forgotten that my noble Friend voluntarily resigned office on a late occasion. That circumstance plainly shows that whenever he conceives that his public duty is incompatible with the retention of office he is ready to retire and to revert to that position which he thinks more consistent with the opinions he may entertain. Sir, my noble Friend went as Plenipotentiary to Vienna; and he returned home in the double capacity of a Plenipotentiary and a Member of Her Majesty's Government. My noble Friend held the opinions which he has stated as to the proposal which Austria thought might be made with success to Russia. As Plenipotentiary my noble Friend was perfectly right in undertaking to propose that arrangement to his Government, as M. Drouyn de Lhuys was justified in undertaking to propose it to the Government of France. But neither M. Drouyn de Lhuys nor my noble Friend could undertake to do more than this, than to lay each before his respective Government the ideas which the Austrian Government entertained; because the Allied Governments must necessarily have been left masters of their own decision upon a question of such vast and paramount importance. My noble Friend, as a Member of the Cabinet, was perfectly warranted in recommending a particular measure to his colleagues for adoption; but it would be a perfectly novel doctrine to assert that every Member of a Cabinet must insist that the proposal which he thinks one worthy of acceptance shall either be actually accepted by the Government to which he belongs, or must relinquish his connection with it. Why, Sir, if that were to become the ruling principle of Cabinets, I say that no Cabinet could possibly hold together for any conceivable length of time,—because twelve or fourteen public men associated in a Government, however perfectly united on general principles, must necessarily on many occasions differ in opinion upon particular measures; and the only way in which parties can be kept in combination, or Governments can act harmoniously, is by the interchange of individual sentiments to come at last to some final determination, those upon the one side or the other giving up their individual views on particular questions in order to secure joint action upon great general principles. The hon. Gentleman twits my noble Friend with having since he returned from Vienna made a speech here in which he pointed out the ambitious projects of Russia, and the dangers that would arise to Europe from the continued advance of that Power's system of aggressive policy; and he seems to think there is something inconsistent between that speech and the opinions which my noble Friend entertained as to a particular project of accommodation; but, in reality, nothing on earth could be more reconcilable than the two—there is nothing in the one that is at variance with the other. Surely my noble Friend might regard a particular form of arrangement as deserving of the consideration of the Government, and yet on that account be none the less impressed with the perils to Europe arising from the aggressive ambition which is well known to have for a long time characterised the course of Russia; and he was perfectly right, when these questions were under discussion in this House, in expressing the same opinions which from the beginning of these discussions he has always held. Sir, the Governments of France and England, each upon reasons of its own, thought the proposal of Austria was not one which, under the circumstances in which we then stood, it was advisable to entertain. The question was most earnestly and anxiously deliberated upon, and the decision was not come to in a hasty manner, or upon light grounds. We considered that the proposal did not hold out to us the prospect of that future security for, and that reality of peace, which we felt ourselves bound to obtain after such great exertions and such large sacrifices as those that we had made; and on that ground the two Governments— equally, upon their own reflection—determined that the proposition was one which they could not authorise Austria to make in their name to Russia. We thought that to leave the Russian fleet in the Black Sea to an indefinite augmentation, with no other security than this, that we and France, when called upon by the Sultan, might each send a fleet equal to one half the amount of that of Russia, might lead, and probably would lead, to the accumulation of a vast maritime force in the Euxine, which, threatening the safety of Constantinople, and capable at any moment of conveying a large body of troops to the shores of Turkey, so far from offering a guarantee for a real and substantial peace, would, on the contrary, give to the relations between Turkey and the Western Powers on the one side, and between them and Russia on the other, the character of an armed peace rather than that of an unsuspecting pacification. The hon. Member, however, thinks that we have carried on the war without knowing the purpose for which it is waged. He says there is not a man in the country who really understands what we are fighting for; and the right hon. Member for Manchester, in the same strain, tells us that he should be at a loss to explain to anybody who might put the question to him what the country is now called on to contend about. Well I do not of course know how far the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson) might be able to give the explanation he describes; but this I undertake to say, that there is scarcely a peasant in England who needs such an explanation, or who does not comprehend for what object the war is now being prosecuted. The hon. Member wishes, in truth, to learn, not the purpose for which the contest is carried on, but the method in which it is to be conducted. He wants to know whether Sebastopol is to be regularly invested;—he wants to be told what our army is to do, whether, for instance, it is to winter in the Crimea; and, in short, he would like Government to publish for his information all our plans and intended operations. Surely, however, these are not questions which the Government can be reasonably expected to answer. I say that the object of the war is to curb the ambitious designs of Russia in regard to Turkey, to establish a state of peace for the security of Turkey, and, through Turkey, for the security of Europe; and until that is accomplished I conceive that the purposes would not be attained for which we embarked in this conflict. The hon. Gentleman treats very lightly the results of the operations which have been already undertaken. According to him, it would appear that nothing has occurred but failure and disaster to our arms. Why, Sir, every fair and candid man comparing the position in which Russia stood at the commencement of this war with that in which she stands now must confess that we have gained considerable advantages, and that Russia is by no means so well off either in a political, diplomatic, or military point of view as she was when the war began. We have cooped up her fleet in the Baltic now for two summers—that position at Bomarsund, which threatened to become another Cronstadt, has been entirely destroyed, and Russia has not ventured to reoccupy it. The right hon. Gentleman says we boasted that we should take Cronstadt—but indeed we never did any such thing. No man who knew anything of the strength of that fortress ever could have held out any expectation of that sort, and it is a complete perversion of the answer given by the late First Lord of the Admiralty, to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded, to say that it implied any such expectation. We have, however, obtained great and important advantages in the Baltic. In the Principalities the Russian forces have been compelled to retire, not as has been very properly stated—by the action of the French and English troops—though of course their presence at Varna contributed to that retreat in some degree—but mainly by the position which Austria assumed in that quarter. Is it nothing, then, that Austria should have been pursuaded so far to take part with England and France as by the engagement which she made with Turkey, and by the military attitude which she assumed to obtain for Turkey and the allies the total evacuation of the Principalities? That, I say, is a proof that both by diplomacy as well as by arms great progress has been made in curbing the ambition of Russia and defeating her plans. The right hon. Gentleman says that at the commencement of the war I found it convenient to talk about the emancipation of Poland and the independence of Hungary: but I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I never talked of any such thing. The right hon. Gentleman dreams and imagines things, and then quietly states them as if they were acknowledged facts.


I beg the noble Lord's pardon—I certainly remember hearing the noble Lord distinctly say, with reference to Poland, that the position of that country was a standing menace to Germany.


No doubt I did say that the position of Poland was a standing menace to Germany; but did the right hon. Gentleman ever hear me say that England and France were going on a crusade to expel the Russians from Poland? When I made the statement to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, I accompanied it with another, which he might just as well have recollected, to the effect that it was by the German Powers—Austria and Prussia—alone that that position could be altered; and that it was by them alone that Poland could be wrested from the dominion of Russia. I stated distinctly that it was impossible for England and France to undertake such a work, but that whenever Austria and Prussia should feel themselves called upon to take up arms in this quarrel, they would find that the position of Poland was the one against which they would have in the first place to guard themselves. As to the independence of Hungary, when did the right hon. Gentleman ever hear me say that one of the objects of the war was to sever Hungary from the Austrian empire? Every word I have ever uttered with regard to Hungary has been quite in a contrary sense. I have stated, on the contrary, that I should consider it a calamity to Europe if the separation of Hungary from Austria were to destroy the Austrian Empire, the existence of which in the centre of Europe I consider of the utmost importance to the general interests and welfare of the European community. I had opinions of my own, indeed, as to the justice of certain questions which arose some years ago between Hungary and Austria; but I never for an instant stated at any time that I thought the separation of Hungary from Austria would be other than calamitous to the general welfare of Europe; and certainly never did anything fall from me or from any Member of Her Majesty's Government which could in the slightest degree warrant the assertion of the right hon. Gentleman that the independence of Hungary was any part of the object for which the war against Russia was undertaken. Well, then, how do we stand in the Black Sea? In the Black Sea one half of the fleet of Russia has been destroyed by their own hands, the rest has been cooped up, and we may fairly expect that, when success crowns our arms in the Crimea, the remainder of that fleet will fall into our possession. The Sea of Azoff, which was the great source of supply for the Russian army in the Crimea, has been completely closed by the enterprise and gallantry of the naval and military forces of the allies, and the Russian forces are thereby now placed in great difficulties with regard to the supply both of munitions of war and of provisions; therefore our actual position is this—that whereas at the beginning of the war Russia had actually invaded the territory of our ally, now we have not only forced her to evacuate the territory of our ally, but we are occupying an important position within her territory. Therefore I am justified in saying that our position now is very much better than it was at the beginning of the war. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last (Mr. Cobden) wants to know if we expect to conquer the Crimea with 30,000 men. But instead of 30,000 men, let me point out to him that there are at least 180,000 men of the allies there at the present moment. The events of the future are beyond the prescience of man, but there is every reason to believe that before a very long time has elapsed we shall find ourselves successful in the expedition which we have undertaken. Some Gentlemen, I know, contend that it was unwise to send an expedition to the Crimea; but I totally differ from that opinion. To have sent an army to invade the Russian territories in the south—to have sent an army into Bessarabia to wander about in the vast deserts which stretch up towards Moscow—would indeed have been an act of great military folly. The object was to strike at the centre of the Russian power in the Black Sea; and that point was the Crimea and Sebastopol. Whatever may be the difficulties which we have had to encounter—and no doubt they have been greater than was expected—yet I am of the same opinion now as I was when the expedition was first planned and ordered, that that was the point to be struck at—that it was in the Crimea and at Sebastopol that the most effectual blow could be given to the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea; and that whatever exertions might be required for its accomplishment that was the purpose which ought to be carried out, and that was the point to which the French and British forces should be directed.

The hon. Gentleman says he thinks it high time that the Government should be placed in other hands, and that he regrets extremely the vote which he gave some time ago when hon. Gentlemen opposite were placed on the Opposition benches. I suppose I am to infer from that, when next a vote is proposed which shall have for its tendency to remove us who sit here and to put hon. Gentlemen opposite in our places, the hon. Member for the West Riding will be found among those who are willing to affirm such a proposition; we shall thus have the Members of the Peace Society voting to place in power a set of Gentlemen who, to their honour I say it, are, as far as we can judge from the language which they have held in this House, as determined to carry on the war with vigour and energy as those who sit here. How far the hon. Gentleman and those who act with him may think, by frequent changes of Government, at last to shake the confidence of the public in those men into whose hands the administration of affairs has hitherto been entrusted, and to induce the people in despair at last to turn to them, I do not know; but I think the hon. Gentlemen will find that that speculation will not answer. They will find that whether they put in office the Gentlemen who now sit on the other side, or maintain in office those who now hold it, the manly and determined spirit of the country is not to be broken by the speeches which they make here and elsewhere, and that the people will not support any Government but one which will carry on the war with a full determination to bring it to a successful issue; and they will find, too, that the country will not submit for a single week to a Government conducted on the principles which are advocated by the hon. Member for the West Riding and the two hon. Members for Manchester.

I have only to add that, in my humble opinion, no blame can attach to my noble Friend for the part which he has taken in these transactions. I am convinced that in the policy of the Government in declining the propositions made by Austria, and in the mode in which we have conducted the operations of the war, we have only been fulfilling that which is the decided and determined will of the people of this country. I entertain the most perfect confidence that, notwithstanding the prophecies of failure which come to us from time to time, from Gentlemen who sit on those benches, we shall, by the help of Providence and the justice of our cause, lead the country to a successful termination of the struggle in which they are engaged, and that those hon. Gentlemen will find themselves just as much out in the calculations which they make, with respect to the probable issue of this struggle, as the hon. Member for the West Riding must now admit himself to have been when he told the country, with such an air of triumphant exultation, that he could crumple up the empire of Russia like a sheet of brown paper.


It appears to me, Sir, that the subject before the House resolves itself into two very simple questions; the one being the conduct of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, and the other the wisdom or folly of having entered into the present war. I propose offering a few observations upon these two subjects, treating them separately and distinctly. On the first I agree with the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), and on the other, with the noble Lord at the head of the Government. Now, first, with regard to the conduct of the noble Lord. The noble Lord at the head of the Government has stated that in a Government formed of several men agreeing in their general principles, there must exist some differences of opinion as to separate questions, and that, therefore, it is essential for carrying on the business of Government that there should be a certain compromise of opinion. Well, Sir, with that statement of the noble Lord I quite agree, and the only difficulty is to determine to what extent that compromise of opinion may fairly be carried; and I must say that, in my opinion, the noble Lord the Member for the City of London has shown us that his view of how far such compromise may be extended is inconsistent with all those principles of political honesty which ought to govern the conduct of public men. I shall now address myself to the course which has been pursued of late by the noble Lord. The noble Lord joined the Administration of Lord Aberdeen, and war was declared and carried on by that Administration until Parliament assembled at the beginning of this year. During the whole time that the war was being carried on by that Government, and until the meeting of Parliament, the Cabinet had the support and authority of the noble Lord. If there were any dissensions in the Cabinet, the public knew nothing of any such dissensions, and fully believed that its acts and every part of its policy and conduct received the sanction of the noble Lord. When Parliament assembled, I announced my intention of moving a certain Resolution in this House; and then, and not till then, the noble Lord took fright, and left his colleagues in the lurch; and then, for the first time, it transpired that there had been for a long time dissensions in the Cabinet. Dissensions upon what? Were they upon matters of minor importance? Were they upon some trivial matter upon which a set of men agreeing generally in principle might well differ, and yet cordially act together? No, Sir, not at all;—they were upon the vital matter of the war itself. When I proposed my Resolution the noble Lord left his colleagues, saying that he could not oppose the Resolution because he differed from his colleagues as to the conduct of the war. Upon what subject so vital or of such importance could he possibly have differed from them? and, differing from them upon such a question, ought he not, as a man having at heart the character of public men and the welfare of his country, many months before to have declared his opinion and to have deserted the Cabinet? But the noble Lord did no such thing. He allowed an army to dwindle into nothing, he allowed suffering unheard of to be the portion of that army, and, knowing at the time that the conduct of the war was unworthy of this country, that it was in hands unfitted for the task, he stood by and saw that great and gallant army melting away under every species of suffering—he remained in the Cabinet down to the period when notice of the Motion for the Sebastopol Committee was given. That is the first charge which I bring against the noble Lord, and for conduct such as I have described I accuse him, before the Commons of England, of a dereliction of duty as a public man. Well, Sir, what did the noble Lord do next? Having left the Cabinet of Lord Aberdeen, and having seen the struggles to form another, he did not accept office in the Cabinet which was constructed, but he did accept the office of Minister Plenipotentiary at the Conferences at Vienna. When he arrived there, he found four points proposed as the basis of the negotiation, two of them were readily agreed upon; but on the third point great differences of opinion were manifested between the representatives of Russia and those of the Western Powers. Austria at last proposed a plan which she supposed contained elements for a pacific solution; and to that plan the noble Lord assented, and stated confidentially to Count Buol that on his return home he would endeavour to press the adoption of that plan on the Government of this country. The noble Lord returned to this country in the double capacity of a Plenipotentiary and a Minister of the Crown, and the Conferences in which he had taken part were discussed in this House; and in that discussion the point upon which they had been broken off was especially referred to, and I ask this House, if any one could have learned from the speech made by the noble Lord what was the real condition in which he had left the conferences? And it is only to-night that the noble Lord has confessed what really took place. On that occasion the noble Lord led the House to assume that he agreed with his colleagues, when at that very time he entertained in his own mind an opinion totally different from that which they entertained, and at home he supported an opinion at variance with that which, as he had already confided to our allies, at Vienna received his sanction. I want to know whether a public man could possibly have committed any act so likely to compromise generally the opinions held by the country as to the characters of public men? It is all very well for the noble Lord at the head of the government to say, that no sooner has any one taken power than he is assailed on all sides, or to view the voluntary departure from office of the noble Lord his colleague as a wonderful act of virtue; but the noble Lord seems to forget the circumstances under which his colleague resigned office. The noble Lord the Member for London left office because he was compelled to take that step; he then came into power, united to a Cabinet from which he differed wholly on the most vital question which could be brought before any Cabinet, the question of peace or war. If the noble Lord had differed from the noble Lord at the head of the Government on some question of internal legislation, he would have looked upon it as a matter of principle, and would not have joined his Government; but should not a difference of opinion on so important a subject as the war have been sufficient to induce him to leave a Cabinet whose views on that subject differed from his own? I want to know what affects the policy of this country more than peace or war? Talk of principle—why, is there no principle here? Is not the question of peace or war of more importance than any internal legislation?

Well, Sir, having expressed my sincere opinion as to the conduct of the noble Lord, I will now proceed to address myself to the second question—namely, the wisdom or folly of the war itself. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson), has stated that he cannot understand the objects for which we went to war. Well, Sir, I will endeavour to tell him in a manner which, although it may appear adapted rather for schoolboys, will very clearly explain my views on this subject. There was at one period in the history of the world a set of republics, in the midst of which a Power arose, and gradually but certainly increased in extent until it obtained dominion over the rest. Europe is a similar combination of separate States, in which there has been rising up in a similar manner a great Power, which has appeared likely to overshadow all those States and to acquire universal dominion. The first combination of States to which I have referred were the Greek republics; the power which obtained dominion over them was the power of Philip of Macedon; the second is Europe, and the Emperor of Russia is the aspirant to general dominion; and, just in the same way as the far-seeing statesmen of that age pointed out the increasing power of Philip and the dangers arising from that increase, so can the far-seeing statesman of modern Europe point out the overgrown and gra- dually increasing power of Russia; and from the history of the Greek republics, they can deduce the lesson that it is for the interest of Europe to oppose that increase. The immediate cause of the war—the invasion of Turkey—was a flagrant breach of the law of nations on the part of Russia—not the first breach of which she has been guilty, but one which proved that the danger had at last grown so gigantic, that our peace-loving and peace-following people took affright and saw the necessity of opposing the further aggrandisement of Russia. In doing so, I, for one, think that we have acted wisely, and, indeed, I think we should have acted wisely in doing so before. The far-seeing mind of the great Napoleon had recognised the danger to Europe of the increase of the power of Russia, and we at length have recognised the wisdom of his apprehension. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester to talk of the horrors of war, of which we are all aware, or of the dangers we incur—with those we are acquainted; but it is not considerations of such a nature which should drive us from the pursuit of that which our interests manifestly require. This is a question which it behoves every man freely to speak out upon, and, if he is invested with power by his fellow men, he is bound to face it openly, and avow his opinion, no matter what may be the consequence. I have no doubt, with my right hon. Friend, that the people of this country will in a very short time get quite tired of this war, and that we, who are now on the popular side, will have to encounter much obloquy. I am prepared for that; but being prepared, and knowing what may occur, knowing that disasters may happen to our arms by reason of the war, yet I consider that for the honour and safety of this country the war was necessary, and I am quite satisfied that it was just.


observed, that nothing could be more unsatisfactory than the speech of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and it was a most significant fact that, notwithstanding all the aid of personal talent and influence of position, he had failed to elicit a single cheer. Every one must be aware that the state of our policy and our position abroad was anything but satisfactory, and yet what reply did the noble Lord give to the question so properly put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester? He told the House that it was monstrous to pretend ignorance of the objects of the war, and that every peasant knew them. If so, the peasantry were more enlightened than hon. Gentlemen in that House, for they had been trying, he did not know how long, to elicit from Her Majesty's Government some distinct statement of the real objects which the Government had in view. Were they to go back to the Four Points and the Conferences at Vienna? The noble Lord the Member for the City of London was so satisfied with the last proposition at those conferences that he said he would accept it; that the French Plenipotentiary would co-operate with him; and that they would press it on their respective Governments. If that was the case, how could the noble Lord treat the question so lightly now? He wanted to know why it was that the Government had refused to take this advice, and had ignored the opinion of their Plenipotentiary? Having done so, they were bound to tell the House what further they were seeking? It was true that the war at present was popular, but it demanded daily victims; the people had a conscience, and they would become restless and unquiet, unless it could be clearly shown that the Government were justified in carrying on that war. But the noble Lord gave not the slightest explanation; and, when the question was pressed upon him, the noble Lord attempted to raise a cheer and draw off the attention of the House from the question by an allusion to the position of Russia. But what, he would ask, was the state of that Power to support which this country had plunged into war? What benefit had we conferred upon Turkey? Where were the large internal reforms promised, the flourishing finances, the spirit of freedom and toleration that was to be introduced? Was there the slightest trace of it? Was it not, on the contrary, the fact that every single spark of vitality had been extinguished in that country? Did the despatches from the East even condescend to mention the Turkish losses; and was not a large portion of the Turkish army looked upon as less valuable than even the beasts of burden of the allied armies? Surely, there must be something rotten at the bottom of the cause, when the very State for which all these exertions, all these displays of heroism were made, was in so unsatisfactory a condition. It was perfectly clear that, whatever might be the result of this war, as it affected the other States of Europe, it could not be of the slightest advantage either to the moral, financial, or physical condition of Turkey. There was one part of the noble Lord's speech on which he (Lord C. Hamilton) could not help observing, and which he had heard with considerable astonishment. The noble Lord had actually spoken of the satisfactory state of the Danubian Principalities, and appeared to congratulate the inhabitants of Moldavia and Wallachia on possessing the kind and friendly assistance of Austria. If the noble Lord really entertained the opinion that the people of those Principalities had cause to rejoice in the friendly offices of Austria, he must view the state of those provinces in a light which to him (Lord C. Hamilton) was inexplicable. However, the question which the House at this moment had to consider was the war—what was its object, and what were the means by which that object was to be achieved. The noble Lord had not told the House these things. All that he did, was to call upon the House to support him in carrying on the war, although the noble Lord had not even shown any confidence in his own negotiator. The House was bound not to give the noble Lord that support until he had stated what the real objects of the war were, and what were the means by which they were to be attained.


Sir, although I wish to make a few observations before this debate closes, I shall most scrupulously avoid, on this occasion and at this late hour of the evening, entering into any discussion as to the conduct of the war. This evening is memorable, and will long be memorable, in, the history of this country, for the revelations and for the confessions on the part of a Minister of State holding a very high and peculiar position—confessions and revelations which, probably, have not been before equalled in the memory of any man living. What have we heard to-night so unexpectedly, and which, if I am not mistaken, is destined to impress itself So seriously and painfully on the minds and opinions of this nation? We have had to-night an admission from the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who was recently employed by his Sovereign in the high position of Minister Plenipotentiary to negotiate on a subject of no less moment than that of peace or war, that, after having given, as he has admitted, great care and anxiety to the prosecution of his labours, he arrived at a favourable solution of the difficulties with which he had to contend, and had in his own mind accomplished measures which would have secured peace for this country, and that to recommend these measures to the Government which had employed him he returned to England. Strange to say, it seems the noble Lord found no sympathy on the part of his colleagues. They did not agree in the policy which he recommended. They decided upon a course totally adverse to that which he wished to sanction. They decided on a course no less decisive than the prosecution of that war which in his opinion ought to have terminated. The noble Lord accedes to the suggestions of his colleagues. He remains in the Cabinet of which he was a Member during the negotiations; he remains in that Cabinet—a Minister of Peace—and, as a Member of that Cabinet, he recommends the vigorous prosecution of that war in his place in this House. Sir, the reasons which the noble Lord has given for this extraordinary course appear to me no less singular than his conduct. This is no slight question. The hon. and learned Gentleman who has preceded me in this debate has fairly said, that it may be considered as the most important of all political questions. There is hardly a Member of this House who would place any measure to regulate our internal condition, however high its aim, in the same category as a question whether peace should be accomplished or whether war should be prosecuted. The noble Lord has told us to-night, notwithstanding it was his conviction that peace might be obtained and ought to be obtained, that he considered it his duty to support the policy of war, and which he has accordingly done, both as an eminent Member of the Cabinet and of this House. The noble Lord has rested the vindication of his course on a principle which, according to his version, is calculated to raise his character as a public man, who, by so acting, has absolutely sacrificed his own feelings to his sense of public duty. I may differ from the views which the noble Lord has taken on this subject; but I think that the question of peace or war, especially under the circumstances in which this country finds itself at present, is one that ought not to be an open question. Lax as have been the rules and regulations in recent Cabinets with regard to open questions, I certainly cannot conceal my surprise at learning to-night, from high authority, that peace and war are open questions in the existing Administration. But what I want to ask, after these extraordinary revelations of the Minister, is this—is this House for peace or for war? Because whatever may be the opinions of hon. Gentlemen, whatever the opinions of those Gentlemen who with great ability advocate their views in favour of peace, or those of Gentlemen on this and on the other side of the House, who think that the war should be prosecuted with vigour and energy, still I shall assume that we must all be of this mind, that there is very little chance of either obtaining a satisfactory peace or prosecuting a successful war if in the very bosom of the Cabinet such contrary sentiments prevail; and if the most eminent Members in the councils of Her Majesty are influenced by ideas so conflicting on questions so vital. The question of peace or war must always in all countries, but especially in a free country, be a subject of controversy; but all parties, nevertheless, will agree in this, that, whether we are to have peace or war, Her Majesty's Ministers ought at any rate to be unanimous on the point. I cannot, indeed, see any chance of efficient and vigorous action in either respect or for either result if the present state of affairs continues such as it has been described to us to-night with startling candour by the noble Lord the Secretary of State, whose revelations will, I doubt not, long linger in the ears of the people of this country.

But what I particularly rose for on the present occasion was to notice some observations which have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) and others, which appear to me to require some comment. The right hon. Member for Manchester, who has very properly called the attention of the House to-night to this strange state of affairs, dwelt on the singular inconsistency and alarming incongruity existing between the secret and avowed opinions of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman very properly touched on the want of confidence and the distrust which must be created in the public mind, when the course of policy pursued by our Government at Vienna, for example, is contrasted with another course of policy, apparently advocated by the Government in this House. How, I wish to know, are we to describe such a state of affairs, except by such expressions as "ambiguous language and uncertain conduct"? Permit me to observe that some six weeks ago, having learnt that we were on the eve of con- cluding a peace, to which I will in a moment refer—on terms which I believed to be impolitic, unsatisfactory, and, what is more, impracticable—having heard, at the same time, in this House that war was to be conducted on a still larger scale than before, and with a still more vigorous spirit—having learnt in one place that a successful Plenipotentiary was to bring home with him a treaty to be ratified; and, finding here a leader of the House—apparently promising to the country an interminable vista of hostilities, I thought it my duty to ask the House whether, under these circumstances, it was not desirable to put an end to this "ambiguous language and uncertain conduct?" Events have since vindicated the course I then took. The present position of this House, and the extraordinary speech of the Secretary of State to-night, have vindicated the course I then took. There is not a Member of this House who does not now feel that the country has suffered from this "ambiguous language and uncertain conduct;" and yet the very first Gentleman who went out into the lobby against the expression by the House of that truth was, I am sorry to say, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester. Well, in what position does the House of Commons—nearly at the end of its Session— find itself, by voting in the teeth of evidence which could not be resisted, and in opposition to coming events of which men who ought to have been informed should not at the time have been utterly uncognizant? In what position, I ask, does the House of Commons place itself, when it finds now at the end of the Session that it has lost every opportunity of vindicating the policy it ought to have pursued? I say, I had reason to believe that a peace was about to be concluded at Vienna on terms impolitic, unsatisfactory, and which ultimately would have been found impracticable. For that reason I was opposed to such a peace, and wished the House to interfere, and with its influence, as far as it could prevail, to prevent it. I do not say that I am on that account an advocate of those interminable hostilities we have heard of, of a war which is to be waged without end and without purpose. On the contrary—though this is not the occasion for doing so—I shall never shrink on the right opportunity from laying down the principles on which I think a peace, and a lasting peace, so far as human affairs permit, might be attain- ed. I have already on a former occasion referred to some of the modes by which such a peace might be established, and to-night I shall not again advert to them even by implication. But that a peace may be obtained that will secure the independence of that part of the world which we look on as the main element of the political balance we wish to uphold, I firmly believe, and I equally believe that it could not have been obtained by the plan which the noble Lord so easily accepted and so cordially sanctioned at Vienna. I wish, then, to know what is the position in which this country now finds itself with respect to the prosecution of this war in consequence of the confessions of the Minister to-night? Two years ago, or less, when the whole country and the House were complaining of the great neglect displayed by the Administration of this country in preparing for the war then impending, what was the excuse made for ten precious months which had been wasted? It was that we were preparing and securing those great alliances without which there would be little prospect of the war being waged with success. Well, I want to know what probability there is of our obtaining the assistance of what were styled by a Member of the then Government the great German Powers, after the admission made to-night by a leading Member of the Government? How can we appeal again to Prussia, or ask any European Power to assist us in this struggle, when we have acknowledged to Europe that just terms have been proposed by Austria on which peace might be obtained—when that has been acknowledged by our Plenipotentiary extraordinary and one of our leading statesmen? Will not Austria, Prussia, or any other State turn round, and reply to the demands of our Ministers, "We do not at all agree with you in the necessity of making renewed efforts to curb the ambition of Russia; we think that the elements of a durable peace are in the power of able managers of circumstances, and our authority for so thinking is the distinguished Statesman you sent to Vienna to represent your interests, and to advocate such a settlement of these disturbed relations as might appear most advantageous." Well, then, I say that the effect of the debate to-night on our prospect of conducting this war with success is of very evil tendency. Nor is it merely on our alliances that the admissions of the noble Lord will have injurious consequences. Whenever we enter into negotiations again with Russia, there is upon record—placed there by the noble Lord as a guide to Russia—a statement of what we consider our just demands might require. Whether, therefore, we look to our alliances or contemplate negotiations with our enemy—whether we look to the influence of public opinion in this country, of those who advocate war or who wish to accomplish peace—an equally injurious effect will be created by the extraordinary communications made to the House to-night by the Secretary of State. Let us, then, look to the position of the individual—the noble Lord himself—with respect to this question. If we had employed some distinguished diplomatist not connected with politics or with the Government, the evil effects I have referred to would not have been so embarrassing. He might have formed his own opinion on the matter, which statesmen of more extended and more varied experience would not have felt authorised to adopt. But our Plenipotentiary at Vienna was a Member of the Cabinet, and one of the most eminent Members of the Cabinet. When he goes to Vienna he does not go there, as the noble Lord told us the other night, with instructions merely. He may, indeed, have had formal instructions, but he goes there with an intimate acquaintance with the views, the mind, and the policy of the statesmen whom he has left behind him in the Cabinet, and with whom he has worked for years. Therefore, when the noble Lord accepted the proposition of Count Buol, the Austrian Minister, it was not merely in the character of the English Plenipotentiary that he accepted it and agreed to recommend it to the Government that had employed him, but it was as a Minister of England that he accepted that proposition. It was the Minister of England who, by that acceptance, indicated their policy, and, whatever may have been the subsequent conduct of the Government, there is an impression which is ineradicable in the Cabinets of the Continent, that when the noble Lord accepted and sanctioned that proposition, he represented, and fairly represented, the mind and policy of his Cabinet.

If that be a fact—and I question whether any impartial man can for a moment doubt the position—we come again to this point: what is the object of the war? What are the ends which we propose to ourselves? I am not going now to obtrude them upon the House; but I have in my own mind an idea of what should be our object in carrying on this war. There are many who may not agree with me, and who may have other objects—some may have very extreme views, others more moderate and temperate ones; but I take it for granted that the great majority of those who support the war have, in their own minds, some result which would, in their opinion, repay this country for the great efforts that have been made, and which would, to a great degree, if not entirely, accomplish the purposes which they are desirous to secure. But that is not the position of Her Majesty's Ministers. Her Majesty's Ministers, in accepting the proposition of Austria, have practically recognised that they are not justified in continuing the war any further; and, if that be the case, I ask you with what chance of success can such a Cabinet appeal to the energies of this nation to support them? How could you expect that a great people—millions of men, who may be guided by a sound instinct upon such great questions as the war, but who have neither the time nor the mind, perhaps, to enter into all the considerations that ought to form opinion—how can you expect that the millions will support you, and will endure the sacrifices which they must be prepared to bear, when they know that in your thoughts you have a scheme which proves that the sacrifices which you call upon them to make are not necessary, and that the object for which they are struggling is a mere phantom, which a message from Vienna may to-morrow dissipate? Sir, there is nothing, in my mind, which should be a source of greater sorrow to this nation at the present moment than the thorough indefiniteness of our position with respect to the war in which we are engaged, coupled as it is with the consideration, which from this night every one must feel, that Her Majesty's Ministers are carrying on a war which, by their own admission six weeks ago, they thought to be perfectly unnecessary. Well, then, Sir, I want to know why the noble Lord's colleagues did not ratify his labours when he returned to England—always assuming that those labours were accomplished in complete deference to their previous judgment, and in harmony with the views which they had the opportunity so often of conferring upon together? What happened, I want to know, in this country, which induced the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) not to sanction the labours of his eminent colleague the Plenipotentiary? I think that the noble Lord has a right, generally speaking, and under ordinary circumstances, as First Minister, to exercise a great reserve in the expression of his opinions both as to the policy of his Government and the circumstances which may influence his own conduct; but when we find that the Member of a Cabinet sent to negotiate a peace succeeds in negotiating a peace—for virtually that was the result of the mission—and when we find the Plenipotentiary, with his labours not ratified, remaining a Member of the Cabinet, then we have a right to expect from a Government so constituted and so situated a frank exposition of the reasons which induced the noble Lord not to accept the result of the labours of his colleague. Were they not sufficient? Had Russia, by the terms which the noble Lord approved, not been considered to have made a sufficient sacrifice? Well, that is a fair objection; but then you must tell us what is the sacrifice to be made by Russia that will satisfy you. If you think that the terms were not sufficiently severe, you ought to tell us, without, of course, binding yourselves to what you deem such details. If you ask the country to continue its efforts, you ought to tell us, generally, what are the general conditions which you would consider more satisfactory. Unless you deal frankly with the people of this country in the condition in which you are placed, I say that it is totally impossible to carry on this war with the vigour which is necessary to success. What chance have you of creating or maintaining enthusiam in the people if the suspicion gets abroad, as it must do after the debate of to-night, that you are making of the question of peace or war merely the means of maintaining yourselves in office; that peace and war are convenient or incommodious just as they may create or influence a majority. If such an idea ever becomes prevalent in the country, I know nothing which would more deaden the spirit of the country, and which would more tend to prevent your calling with effect upon the people to make great exertions and sacrifices, than so mournful a conviction being impressed upon their minds. And how are you to extricate yourselves from the peculiar difficulties in which you are now placed? How are you to remove all those disadvantages except by coming forward frankly and speaking to the House and to the country after this fashion: "Our eminent colleague exerted himself for a great object. We are of course, as all are, favourable to peace; but our colleague was too zealous for the good cause in which he embarked—he made admissions which we considered fatal to the interests of the country, and we could not support him in the course he took. We do not think that he showed that prescience, that acquaintance with the subject, that statesmanlike sagacity that are necessary. It is painful for us to make these admissions: but we must do our duty to our country, and we tell you that the noble Lord entered into arrangements which we entirely disapprove. Our policy is different. The policy which we intend to pursue is one of great vigour, which aims at great results, which will not be satisfied unless the power of Russia is materially reduced, and it is entirely opposed to the policy which the noble Lord pursued." But then, unfortunately, under such circumstances, the noble Lord the Secretary of State would probably find it necessary to quit the Cabinet of which he is so important a member. Well, then, has it come to this? Is this to be the end of this important Session?—the end of breaking up so many Governments?—the end of our great efforts—our great disasters—of the struggle in which the nation has engaged?—of that Government, at the head of which we were to have a Minister of surpassing energy, and, no doubt, transcendent experience? Is this the end of the Ministry which was to put the right men in the right places? Is this the end—that even peace and war have become mere party considerations, that the interests of the country are sacrificed to the menace of a majority, and that the turbulent assemblies of Downing Street are to baffle all the sagacity of all the Conferences of Vienna?


Sir, it was not my intention to take any part in this discussion, but I cannot refrain from making a few observations in consequence of the erroneous construction which has been placed by the right hon. Gentleman on the statement of my noble Friend. He began by stating that my noble Friend, having gone to Vienna as the Plenipotentiary of this country, to negotiate an honourable peace, left Vienna, having accomplished, in his opinion, the object for which he went there, and having brought home the means of a satisfactory and honourable solution of the question, which might be accepted by the Government at home. The same fallacy pervaded the whole speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He assumed that my noble Friend had brought home, not the terms of a proposition which it was his wish to make to Russia with the previous concurrence of the Allied Powers, but the terms of a proposition to which Austria pledged herself that Russia would assent. Nothing could be further from the fact. What was the course of those negotiations? My noble Friend, in conjunction with the Plenipotentiaries of Austria, France, and Turkey, proposed terms, on which the Allied Powers conceived the third point might be satisfactorily solved. Austria cordially supported that proposal; but it was distinctly and decidedly rejected by Russia, with an intimation that to the principle of a limitation of her flag in the Black Sea she could in no case and to no extent agree. From that time—the negotiations being broken off—Austria, in accordance with the views she had uniformly put forth, that she was called upon to exhaust every effort for peace, endeavoured to find some other means of solution. In the communications between my noble Friend and the Austrian Plenipotentiary, the proposition which has been so much referred to this evening was then made; but that proposal was never made by Austria with the slightest intimation that it would be accepted by Russia, and, when it came before Her Majesty's Government, one most important element in our consideration was, what would be the result of making such a proposition to Russia—assuming that the terms contained were terms on which an honourable peace might be made? It contained terms which, though they varied from those which had been already proposed to and rejected by Russia, we thought were not more favourable than those we had before proposed; and they were terms involving again a limitation of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea to which that Power had already declared that she would never accede. Austria, as I have said, invited us to concur in making that proposal to Russia, but she did not make the slightest intimation that Russia would accept them; the fact, indeed, is strongly impressed on my mind that there was an intimation from Austria that she had no expectation that those terms would be accepted, with a further intimation that we were not, in the event of their rejection, to count upon her with any certainty becoming a belligerent. We thought it was not consistent with the dignity and honour of this country, acting in conjunction with France and Turkey, nor likely to forward the great object we had in view, to go almost as suppliants to Russia, which had rejected our terms, to go to her at the bidding of Austria, and to offer her fresh terms, with almost the certainty that she would again reject those terms, and at the same time, without having any hope that by so doing we should induce Austria to advance one step in the direction of becoming a belligerent Power. That is a totally different statement of the facts of the case from that of the right hon. Gentleman. If those proposals had come from Russia—had Russia come to us, saying that she was now ready to accede to a limitation of her Black Sea fleet—that would have been an entirely different matter. I was only anxious to correct a misconception of the statement of my noble Friend—a misconception which would have led to very great public inconvenience. The right hon. Gentleman also assumes that there exists now a difference of opinion—that the Cabinet is not united as to the justice and necessity of the war, or as to the mode of prosecuting it, or that a vigorous prosecution of it, or the accomplishment of the objects for which it was undertaken, is at all essential to the interests of the country. Sir, I am not conscious of any such difference. I believe I am acting with colleagues, every one of whom is convinced of the justice and necessity of the war, and is agreed as to the course we are pursuing and ought to pursue. I hold that every man who is engaged in the conduct of a war ought to feel that it is a just and necessary war, and ought to have a perfect coincidence of opinion with his colleagues as to the mode of prosecuting it; and whatever differences there may have been as to the policy of making one proposal or another to Russia, the question of the policy of prosecuting the war is a totally different matter; and I say, that in respect to the prosecution of the war, we are a united Cabinet.


wished to put a question to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, in consequence of what had just fallen from the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department, for he conceived there was on one point a great difference between what had fallen from him and what had been stated by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London. He understood the noble Lord to say that the proposition which Count Buol suggested to him at Vienna was to be made by the Austrian Government, and sent by them to St. Petersburg as an ultimatum, and that if the terms were refused by the Russian Government the Austrian Ambassador at St. Petersburg would quit that city, and Austria would enter into a military alliance with England and France. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department, on the contrary, tells the House that the reason why the proposition was not accepted by the Cabinet was, that the Austrian Government held out no hopes that they would consider its rejection by Russia a casus belli. It was impossible to reconcile these two statements, and he asked the Government to give some explanation that would enable the House and the country to understand the true state of the question, which at present was altogether inexplicable.


wished to correct the representation made by the noble Lord of what he had said. He did not say the reason why the Cabinet rejected the proposition was that Austria held out no hopes that she would become a belligerent Power in the event of its being refused by Russia. What he said was this, that one important consideration in his own mind, and no doubt that of others, with respect to the proposal was, that Austria gave no certain expectation that it would be accepted.