§ Upon the clerk proceeding to read the Order of the Day,
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL rose and said: Sir, my noble Friend at the head of the Government has given notice of a Motion to postpone the Order of the Day for the purpose of allowing the hon. Baronet opposite, the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir B. Lytton), to bring on the Motion of which he has given notice. Sir, as that Motion refers both to my conduct at Vienna, and also to my continuance in office since my return from Vienna, I think it right to state to the House that which has great bearing on the Motion about to be brought on. I have to state to the House that, having on Thursday evening informed my noble Friend the First Lord of the Treasury of my wish to retire from the service of the Crown, Her Majesty had been graciously pleased to accept my resignation, and therefore I now only hold office until my successor shall be appointed. I should be disposed to rest satisfied with this declaration, were it not that recent events have been of so complicated a nature in themselves, and also been so perverted by malice, that I think it desirable to place before the House some account of my conduct in these recent and very difficult transactions. It has been stated in a circular issued by the Austrian Government, and which has been often referred to in the course of the late discussions, that I informed the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs, before I left Vienna, that I would use any influence which I might possess to procure the acceptance of certain Austrian propositions which were to be an ultimatum. Sir, I do not dispute the general correctness of that assertion. It is not true, however, as has been stated, that I engaged to state to the Cabinet the views I entertained, but it is true I promised to lay those propositions before the Cabinet in the most favourable manner. I did so in conjunction with other persons of great weight and authority. Besides the three resident Ministers of France, Great Britain, and Turkey, there were at that time in the capital of Austria the Minister for Foreign Affairs of France and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey. After many and repeated discussions, there was at length a proposition made to us which both the Minister for Foreign Affairs of France and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey—a 890 person certainly less well known in this country, but who is a man distinguished for his intelligence, sagacity, and knowledge of the affairs of Europe—thought might be accepted as the foundation of a proposition to be hereafter made for peace. I concurred in those opinions, and, after a confidential interview with M. Drouyn de Lhuys, we agreed to bring it before our Governments—I verbally, he making a written communication. I will not now enter into the nature of these propositions, although I may have something to say about them by and by. I brought these proposals to London. I arrived on the night of the 29th of April. On the 30th there was a Cabinet Council on the subject of the recent negotiations at Vienna. I have already stated that the result of the discussions of the Cabinet was, that these propositions were not adopted by the Government of this country. But, Sir, I think I should state, to complete what I then said, that there were circumstances which arose in the course of these discussions which made it appear to my mind impossible to urge the acceptance of these propositions upon the Government. There was, therefore, at the end of that week—the first Cabinet Council being held on the Monday—a concurrence of all the Members of the Cabinet that the propositions could not be adopted. I should say the circumstances to which I allude were circumstances quite independent of the merits of the propositions themselves, and did not in the least alter my opinion of the merits of those propositions. Sir, this agreement having been come to, Lord Clarendon wrote a despatch, which is in the papers recently presented to Parliament, and dated the 8th of May.
Now, Sir, a few words with regard to the merits of those propositions; not that I wish to enter upon them at all completely, but I do so in consequence of an observation which was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli). The right hon. Gentleman said that those propositions were such as to convince the people of this country that if those propositions were received there was not that great issue at stake which justified the exertions which this country was making to carry on the war. Now, Sir, it was because I thought the war was necessary—because I thought those exertions should be made—that I became the bearer of those propositions, and thought they were fit to be accepted.
I conceived the magnitude of the peril of Turkey to be such—I conceived both the power and the projects of Russia to be such, that it was necessary, if possible, to unite all the great Powers of Europe out of Russia in order to combine against her efforts in war, and afterwards to give Turkey security in peace. Such, therefore, was the foundation of my opinion—an opinion certainly not formed on the merits of the earlier of those propositions; because the House will find—at least, those hon. Members who have read the papers recently printed will find—I objected to that which is the main principle of these propositions—namely, the principle of counterpoise. But when these propositions came to be enforced—which they were only the day before I left Vienna, or, perhaps, the very day—by the declaration of the Emperor of Austria, through his Minister, that he was ready both to present those terms as an ultimatum, to St. Petersburg, and after the conclusion of a treaty, if a treaty should eventually be concluded, to enter into an alliance—a defensive alliance with France and Great Britain—to prevent and to resist any future aggression on the part of Russia against Turkey, then I did think that thereby security would be obtained for the future peace of Europe, which, whatever might be the services of the arms of France and Great Britain, and however glorious their efforts might prove, they would scarcely place Turkey in a secure position if Austria did not combine with us, or if she should at a future period participate in the designs of Russia. In stating those opinions I should hardly expect to hear any different views expressed by the hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire, because, speaking, as he always does, with great eloquence and great ability, he pointed out, on a recent occasion, the advantage of having Austria as an ally, and the importance of her position in the centre of Europe. Such then, Sir, were the general grounds on which I thought that these propositions might be accepted. I have said already that they were not accepted, and that the Cabinet—some for one reason, some for another—concurred in the despatch of Lord Clarendon which rejected the propositions made by Count Buol. Now, Sir, that despatch was written upon the 8th of May, and upon the 16th of May Lord Westmorland wrote a despatch containing the views of the Austrian Government, in which he
stated that the Austrian Government conceived that by proposing an ultimatum they had fulfilled the conditions of the treaty of the 2nd of December, and they proposed only that they should in conference lay down some proposal for the limitations of the Russian fleet, declaring, at the same time, to France and Great Britain that, having complied with the terms of the treaty of the 2nd December, if that proposition were rejected by Russia they did not mean to make it a casus belli, and would break up the conference and retire. When we received that proposition there was no doubt on the part of Her Majesty's Government—and I think that there could not well be a doubt—that it was not worth while to go into conference to support a proposition of that kind, it being a proposition less favourable to the allies than the condition which had been proposed by M. Drouyn de Lhuys and myself, when it was nearly certain that Russia would reject it, and quite certain that Austria would not support it to the extent of going to war, or even of making any further preparations for war. Instructions were accordingly given to Lord Westmorland that if such a proposition were made in the conference he should not discuss its merits—that he should not enter into any further debate, but should declare that in the views of Her Majesty's Government it was desirable to put an end to the conference. Similar instructions were given to the Minister of the Emperor of the French. Now, Sir, that proposition of Austria, to which I have referred, arrived here on the 19th of May; from that time, therefore, there was altogether an end of any negotiations with Austria for the purpose of proposing an ultimatum to Russia, and there could be no longer any doubt whatever that the war must be continued in order to obtain the object which the allies sought. The third point declared that the effectual arrangements for carrying that point into effect must depend upon the events of the war. I will, however, take the liberty of reading to the House the very terms of that third point—
The revision of the treaty of July, 1841, must have for its object to connect the existence of the Ottoman Empire more completely with the European equilibrium, and to put an end to the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea. As to the arrangements to be taken in this respect, they depend too directly on the events of the war for it to be possible at present to determine the bases; it is sufficient to point out the principle.
We have reverted, therefore, to that condition of things in which it was necessary to carry on the war, in order to obtain a solution of the third point, which solution we had not been able to obtain by negotiation. This refers, Sir, therefore, to the first part of my conduct, which has been impugned—namely, to what I stated to the Minister of Austria, confidentially, at Vienna, and the conduct that I pursued when I came home in my acquiescence in the decision that was arrived at, and my concurrence in the determination of the Government relative to carrying on the war.
Well, Sir, the next period is when the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the Member for Buckinghamshire) made a Motion in this House which my noble Friend at the head of the Government told him was made before the negotiations could be said to be formally closed, but which he persisted in, and which ended in this House giving the assurance that it would support Her Majesty in the vigorous prosecution of the war. It has been made a reproach to me by the right hon. Gentleman and by others, that in that discussion I took part, and spoke in favour of the vigorous prosecution of the war. I think the right hon. Gentleman said that I was the uncompromising advocate of war. Well, Sir, on reflecting on my conduct upon that occasion I do not really see what else I could possibly be. The Government had determined that the negotiations must be put an end to, the conferences were closed, and what other means were there to obtain a solution of the third point and to obtain peace, except by the prosecution of the war? The main question then discussed—indeed the only propositions discussed were the propositions which had been made by Russia in the conferences. It was maintained by those who thought that peace might be secured, that the propositions of Russia afforded sufficient elements upon which to frame pacific conditions. I had entirely differed in the conferences with respect to the first proposition; the second proposition was rejected by Lord Westmorland without discussion, as I thought most properly, because it appeared to me that neither of those propositions contained the elements of peace, and therefore I naturally—and as I think inevitably—took the course I did of agreeing with this House in supporting Her Majesty in the prosecution of the war, considering that there was no other course to pursue. It has been 894 said that at the time the House was not informed with respect to the proposals of Austria in the form in which they had been laid down by her, and the answer which had been returned to those proposals; but I was not the party chiefly responsible for that communication not being made. Of course the Foreign Secretary is the person upon whom that duty principally devolved, but I think that the Government were quite right in not producing the papers at that time. Putting aside all questions of form as to the exact period at which those discussions could be said to have been formally concluded, it was clear that the mere announcement of the decision of Austria not to interfere by force, not to move her armies upon the Russian territory, but, on the contrary, to withdraw from any prospect of a contest even to the extent of diminishing and reducing her forces, could not operate favourably to us. It was quite evident that the moment Russia, who had been threatened—Russia, who had felt the pressure of the great increase of the Austrian army from a small force to nearly 500,000 men—perceived that that pressure would be taken off, she would immediately feel herself at liberty to detach some of the best and finest of her troops to the shores of the Crimea, to oppose the armies of France and Great Britain. I think that it would have been quite unjustifiable for the Government of this country to state prematurely, or before it could be known through other channels, that the immediate decision of Austria was not to propose an ultimatum, and that therefore Russia would be at once enabled to detach her armies from the Austrian frontier, and to send them to the Crimea. I cannot conceive a greater dereliction of duty than the premature declaration by Her Majesty's Government of such a conclusion to the negotiations with Austria, and it appears to me that it would have been quite unnecessary for the purpose of informing the House upon the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman what course they should adopt. I can well conceive that if the Government had themselves come forward to propose a Motion in this House they might then have waited, they might have delayed till the whole of the papers should have been laid upon the table, and perhaps about this time they might have proposed a Vote upon their own responsibility. But the House is well aware that such a course was not left to the Government to adopt. 895 On the contrary, first one right hon. Gentleman, and then another right hon. Gentleman, was anxious to come forward and discuss the whole subject, and the Government were forced into that discussion in the then state of the negotiations. But, Sir, as I have already stated, on the 24th of May there could have been no hesitation, no doubt in the minds of Her Majesty's Ministers, as to what was the result, of those negotiations. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire said that I was the uncompromising advocate of war, and he seemed to have a notion—which, as I think, has been, as it were, adopted without reflection by a great number of persons—that there are two abstract theories, one peace and the other war, and that a person must be, under all circumstances, either for one or the other. I myself regretted that some years ago the persons who put themselves forward as forming a Peace Society were at all events and under all circumstances the advocates of peace. I believe that the existence of that society and the professions they made tended to the very opposite conclusion to that of peace, and rather induced Russia and other foreign Powers in a hostile position to us to think that we should be loth to take up arms in our own defence. But, Sir, to say that because we are engaged in a great war with Russia we must go on, and there must be no terms upon which we can settle peace, would be such an absurdity that no man could fairly and reasonably adopt such a doctrine. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), however, speaks of it as if it were that absolute kind of conclusion. Her Majesty's Government, however, had taken no such views; they had proposed a plan of limitation of the Russian fleet, upon which they would have made peace. They considered that that was a security, although it was in itself an imperfect security. I never have contended it was otherwise, but I think that Her Majesty's Government were perfectly right in saying that if they could obtain such a security they might have accepted it, for peace is preferable to war. In short, every one who considers the matter must come to the conclusion that peace and war are not those abstract things which the right hon. Gentleman opposite supposes; but that peace is not desirable at all times while war is desirable at many times, and that the particular circumstances of the period must be taken into consideration. For my own 896 part there are many instances in the history of Europe in which I think that war was a necessity for this and other countries, and in which one cannot but sympathise with those who were engaged in it; for instance, with the Dutch when they opposed the dominion of Spain, and with the Dutch again when they opposed the invasion of the French in the time of Louis XIV. But no one would say, because war was desirable at that time, that there were not circumstances in which peace should not be preferred. I say this because it certainly seems to have been a reproach to me that upon the 1st of May I was of opinion that arrangements might be made by which, with the concert of the Emperor of the French and the concurrence of the Emperor of Austria, there might be terms proposed at St. Petersburg which might lead to peace. Undoubtedly I thought so; but when those terms could not be proposed I naturally fell back into the former situation in which I had been from the commencement of the war, thinking that the war must be vigorously prosecuted until the time should come when the preponderance of Russia should be effectually curbed, and the events of the war should have prescribed the conditions upon which a treaty might be based. Such, Sir, was the essential part of my conduct with regard to the speech which I made upon the 24th of May, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire brought forward his Motion in this House. I then advised the House to persevere in the vigorous prosecution of the war, and I continue in that opinion and to give that advice still. I may say, perhaps, that during that week which I have mentioned—beginning upon the 30th of April, and ending, I think, with Saturday, the 5th of May—there was naturally much consideration as to what should be done; but from that time, the part of the Government being taken, there were no questions with regard to any fresh negotiations which created any long deliberations in the Cabinet. On the contrary, the Government were as united as any Government I have ever known, and were as completely agreed as any Cabinet I have ever seen during the more than two months which have elapsed since that period.
I come, now, to another time, and that is when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Radnorshire (Sir J. Walsh) put a question to me as to a certain State Paper 897 which he had seen in the newspapers, and when my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) made, upon what I thought a very inappropriate occasion, an attack upon me for my conduct. The right hon. Gentleman said that I had led the way almost in branding the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) as a person willing to consent to an ignominious peace, when I myself had been willing to accept the same terms, and was ns much an advocate for that peace as he was. I did not reply to that attack at the time, but when the right hon. Gentleman gave notice that he would formally call the attention of the House to the subject, I thought it necessary to declare what I had done and that which I had thought, and not to deny any portion of my conduct. I communicated with my noble Friend at the head of the Government and with my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs as to the part which I meant to take in that debate. I thought that it would have been totally unworthy of my position if I had shrunk from those questions, and had refused to answer the call which was made upon me to say whether or not I was in favour of those same proposals which my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford thought contained the elements of peace. I pointed out that the proposals which were made by Austria, which Count Buol had shortly given in his circular, and which I explained at somewhat greater length were proposals of a totally different nature; and I avowed that I had been in favour of those proposals when they were brought to this country, they having the assent of all the Ministers of France, England, and Turkey at Vienna. Now, Sir, I do not know, in looking back to that speech, however ill I may have expressed myself, that I could have done otherwise than own the opinion I entertained and the part which I had taken. I should have been ashamed of myself if I had denied that which I had done and that which was my conscientious opinion, founded upon my views of the circumstances of the times. Well, Sir, the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir B. Lytton) thinks that that is a ground for want of confidence in the whole Administration of which I was a Member. He is of opinion, because I took the view that the Austrian proposals might have been accepted in the first days of May, that I must be ever thereafter 898 incapable of serving Her Majesty with the intention of carrying on the war. That impression seems very generally to prevail. I myself neither see the logic of that proposition nor do I concur in the justice of its conclusion.
I come now, Sir, having stated these matters as shortly as I could, to that last period in which I thought it necessary that I should tender my resignation of the office I held in the Government. When my noble Friend the First Lord of the Treasury first occupied himself in obeying Her Majesty's commands to form a Government, he did me the honour to ask for my assistance in office. I declined the offer at the time, and I felt convinced, with the assistance which he obtained of men of great eminence and talent, who are now present in the House,—I mean my right hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham), my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) and others—that he could carry on the Government with great advantage to the country. Unfortunately, in a few days a difference of views with respect to the appointment of a Committee led to changes in the Cabinet, and those gentlemen resigned their offices. My noble Friend again did me the honour of asking for my assistance in office. Sir, I believe that my noble Friend, from his abilities, from his thorough acquaintance with all the relations of this country with foreign Powers, from the high spirit with which he has maintained the honour of his country. I believe, I say, that my noble Friend was the fittest person that Her Majesty could have selected to form and carry on a Government. I thought it certainly possible, as he had asked my assistance, that my experience in Parliament and the position which I had some time held might be of use to my noble Friend and might be of some assistance in enabling him to accomplish a task which I think did him the greatest credit to have undertaken. I therefore complied with the wish of my noble Friend, and accepted one of the offices which was then vacant. When I returned from Vienna I told my noble Friend that I was ready to relinquish office; but my noble Friend stated that he did not think that that would be advantageous to the country. A few days ago I again stated the same thing, being only anxious to enable him to carry on the affairs of the country with advantage. My noble Friend again declined to accept my 899 proposed resignation. But I found that the impression, whether founded on the errors which I have committed—and no doubt those errors are many—or whether founded, as unquestionably they were to a great extent, upon misapprehension and misrepresentations of my conduct—be that as it may, I found the impression very wide and very general that my presence in the Cabinet was not consonant with the carrying on of public affairs with that advantage which it was my intention to afford to my noble Friend. When I was fully convinced of that, I told my noble Friend that there could be no hesitation about it, that I could not listen to any arguments which he might wish to advance to me, but that my resignation must be decided, and that I begged him to place it before Her Majesty, with his recommendation that it should be accepted. That conversation took place on Thursday night, and, in consequence, my noble Friend, I must say with the handsomest expression towards me, concurred with the view which I had taken.
Now, Sir, let me say that, having taken that course, I do not feel that I am at all discontented with the position in which I stand. I see no reason to be so. In the first place, I have acted always for what I believe to be the benefit of the country. I have thought over these questions again and again with a view to the public interest, and I have refrained from advising that which was disapproved, or rather, I should say, that which did not obtain the concurrence of those who generally held the same views as myself, and who were acting with me in the same Administration. I have felt that in the position which I have occupied at various times I have found many true and attached friends, and I must say that, towards them, beginning with the members of the Cabinet which I have left, I have every reason to thank those friends for their confidence and friendship. But, Sir, others there certainly are of a different class:—
————"Those you make friends
And give your hearts to, when they once perceive
The least rub in your fortunes, fall away
Like water from ye, never found again
But when they mean to sink ye.
Some there are of that class—I trust but few—with respect to whom I can only say that I regard them with contempt. With regard to public affairs, it has been my fortune, far beyond my deserts, to carry on, or assist in carrying measures which
have promoted civil and religious liberty, which have tended to the promotion of the moral and religious welfare of this empire. I say, Sir, that I have had that good fortune, far beyond my deserts, and that is a satisfaction of which I cannot be deprived. That in the course which I have pursued, and in the positions which I have at various times filled, I should have been slandered and calumniated is a circumstance at which I ought to feel neither surprise nor dissatisfaction. There have been men whom I have known, and among them I cannot but recollect my dearly loved Friend the late Lord Althorp, whose only ambition it was to steer clear of office, and who when he held the highest offices in the State—purely for the good of his country—only aspired to descend from them, and yet I have known him calumniated as seeking place. I have seen but lately a gallant and a skilful soldier calumniated. I mean the great and humane Lord Raglan, who was slandered and persecuted even to the very verge of the grave. I say, therefore, that I can feel no dissatisfaction and no surprise at being myself thus calumniated, but if I had to balance my political account with my calumniators I could say to them that I have been able to promote by measures which I have seen adopted the welfare and advantage, the liberty and prosperity, of my country, and in doing so I have met with many warmly attached and excellent friends—men of a nature as noble as that of any men who have ever taken part in public life—and I have this satisfaction that, whatever errors I may have committed, whatever mistakes I may have made, I have always endeavoured to satisfy those friends and my own conscience, and therefore I have no reason to be dissatisfied with the result at which I have arrived, even if that result should be for ever to exclude me from any voice in the management of public affairs. Whatever, therefore, may be the result of the Motion of the hon. Baronet opposite, I have no desire that it should be postponed, and I am most willing that he should have the fullest opportunity of making any charges against me which he may think necessary in support of the views which he entertains, and for that purpose I now move, Sir, the postponement of the Order of the Day for the House to go into Committee on the Downing Street Public Offices Extension Bill. To these observations, Sir. I can only add that I am satisfied to abide by the decision of the House.
§ SIR BULWER LYTTON
Sir, if I understand correctly the allusions of the noble Lord towards the end of his speech, it is not before the phalanx of a hostile party that he retires from office. That is true. It is before the sense of the country, evinced in the desertion of his own followers. But do those followers deserve the lofty taunt of the noble Lord? No, Sir; it is not, as he implies, that they forsook him because his fortunes waned or wavered, but because he deviated into a path which seemed to leave behind it the honour of his country. The noble Lord has a second time in one campaign left the field upon the eve of contest, and in doing so he has entered at such length into a vindication of his previous conduct, that I trust the House will not consider it ungenerous or vindictive in me, if I also vindicate some of those reasons which have induced me, and those who support me in this Motion, to think that the conduct of the noble Lord was such as to shake the confidence of the country in those who administer its affairs. Under the altered circumstances of the case, however, I shall make my statement as temperately as may be consistent with the requisite proof that it was not upon light grounds that we brought forward a charge against a man so eminent, and against a Government so justly entitled to the indulgence of compassion. What, Sir, on Thursday last, was the position of the noble Lord and of the Government who then so boldly accepted our challenge, and who have since selected as a victim for sacrifice the very champion whom they then armed at all points for encounter? The position of the noble Lord on Thursday last was this, and he must pardon me if I state it frankly, because in the whole course of his speech, he does not seem to have understood how that position is viewed by his countrymen. Here was a great and distinguished statesman, who had held the office of Chief Minister of the Crown, who was sent to Vienna to negotiate terms of peace, or to report to us honestly the necessity for continued war. Under what circumstances was he selected? He had just before broken up a Government by his own solitary desertion—a desertion so sudden, and accompanied by a denunciation of two of his colleagues so startling, that it was without parallel in the records of this House. But it was not without an excuse. What was the excuse? Why, that upon a question involving the fate of armies 902 he could not, as an honest man, conceal his sentiments, and rather than do so he left his associates whom he could not defend. Well, that is a very noble excuse; and in saying so, I do not desire to imply a sarcasm.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I beg the hon. Baronet's pardon. What I said was, that I could not oppose the Motion for inquiry, not that I could not defend their conduct. There was no question about defence.
§ SIR BULWER LYTTON
I have not the least objection to the change of terms, and as I now understand the noble Lord he left his former office, in the Earl of Aberdeen's Administration, because he could not oppose the Motion for the appointment of the Sebastopol Committee; but does he forget all the observations which he made in explanation of the course he then took? Does he forget the charges, or at least the strong insinuations, which he made against the Duke of Newcastle and the Earl of Aberdeen? Surely, if the noble Lord's explanation at that period was rightly conceived, it informed us that he was compelled to retire, and to break up the Government of which he was so eminent a Member, because of his distrust of the warlike capacities of his colleagues. He says he could not resist inquiry. Inquiry into what? National disasters; ascribed to what? To the want of competent vigour either in the chief Minister or the Minister of War. This was his excuse for not suppressing his sentiments. I say, again, a noble excuse, but an excuse that required the uniformity of an inflexible political creed. Well, then, this statesman, is sent to Vienna; he apparently fails in his object; he returns; a suspicion gets abroad that the noble Lord is inclined to favour the proposals of the Austrian Government. That suspicion is mentioned in this House on the 24th of May, and the noble Lord rises to make a speech to dispel that suspicion, to vindicate the breaking-off of negotiations, and the continuance of the war; and although the noble Lord does not refer to the Austrian proposals at all, he does in that speech, which I do not think he has successfully defended to-night, speak with marked disdain of the propositions which embodied that main principle of naval counterpoise which, we have since learned, the Austrian propositions contained. He says, "After I had left Vienna another proposal was made, which my right hon. Friend the Member for the University 903 of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) seems to think offered a security—namely, to leave the treaty of 1841 as it now is; but when Turkey is menaced, to enable her to call the fleets of her allies to her assistance." "I own," said the noble Lord, "I can see very little security in that proposal." The noble Lord then proceeded triumphantly to argue in favour of the absolute necessity of limiting the power of Russia in the Black Sea. He denounced the idea of guarding against that force by any counterpoise in the ships which the Western Powers might station in those waters; he pointed out the costly and preposterous folly of our being there, to use his own words, "perpetually defending Turkey" (all arguments that apply equally against the Austrian proposals then locked within his breast); and, finally, he wound up with a spirited imitation of that famous philippic in which Demosthenes inflamed his country against Macedon, by dilating on the corruption which penetrated every council hall and the ambition which threatened every civilised State. The general impression then was, that that speech of the noble Lord was somewhat extravagant in its zeal. But we, who advocated the vigorous prosecution of the war, pardoned that extravagance for the sake of its high spirit; we said, "Here, at all events, is one man who is thoroughly in earnest for the prosecution of the war." Suddenly there appeared in the public prints the circular of the Austrian minister, in which Count Buol states that this very statesman had not only inclined to a peace upon the terms proposed, and which he had appeared to us indignantly to scout, but that he had actually promised to lay before his Government definite proposals for peace so framed, and to back those terms in the Cabinet with all his power. The thing seemed incredible; but the question on Friday week was put to the noble Lord, and he then rises, confirms the statement, and informs the House that he had brought back propositions of peace which he did conscientiously recommend as likely to end the war "with honour to the allied Powers, and on terms calculated to afford security for the future," and that, thus thinking peace both possible and honourable, he did, nevertheless, when the question was formally brought before this House, while the peace in question was being actually discussed by the Cabinet, abuse the station he took from the favour of his Sovereign, and the confidence the people placed in his honesty and truth, 904 and join with his colleagues to urge us to sacrifice the best blood of England in a war that he deemed no longer necessary, and to disdain the peace that he himself recommended. Now, Sir, what made the political conduct of the noble Lord still more disingenuous—I request his pardon for the word—is, that subsequently to the 24th of May, namely, on the 6th of June, when the expediency of peace through the intervention of Austria was again discussed, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham) alluded plainly to the Report that the terms of peace suggested by Austria had been favoured by the French envoy, that the Emperor of the French actually proposed them to the English Government, and that it was the English Government that prevented the acceptance of those terms.
The noble Lord replied to that speech, and evading all distinct reference to the Austrian proposal, he left the House, the country, and the great Powers of Europe, under the impression that our illustrious ally would have sanctioned terms of peace which were utterly disdained by the lofty spirit of the noble Viscount and the united chivalry of his Cabinet. Now, let the House mark the inconsistency and want of faith in the noble Lord. On Friday week what was the noble Lord's excuse for his preference of peace? Why, that Russia was so powerful! And what was the excuse of the noble Lord on the 24th of May for his preference of war? Why, that Russia was so powerful! So that the excuse of the noble Lord for peace and his excuse for war was literally the same. And what was the apology of the noble Lord on Friday week for having suppressed his real sentiments, and stilled his conscientious convictions? Why, forsooth, if he told the truth he might have damaged the Government. But what was the noble Lord's apology for destroying the Government some months ago? Why, that as an honest man be could not suppress his sentiments or still his conscience. Does he think that this mockery of our common sense can be endured—does he think that this English Parliament would accept, and that this Christian people would endorse, a bill drawn upon human life under fraudulent pretences? It is only those who hold that the war is necessary, and that no honourable peace could be obtained upon the bases proposed, who have a right to call upon the country to make every sacrifice of its blood and treasure. But can any excuse of Cabinet compromises 905 justify the statesman who was sent forth to negotiate a peace, and who feeds the flames of war with the very olive branch which he brought back from his mission? Oh, is it you—I declare, that I speak more in sorrow than in anger—is it you, whose brief and touching allusion to your past services deserved louder cheers than it received—is it you, whose labours and whose genius have so honoured your name that we feel every stain upon it as a national calamity—is it you who have taken from the people of England power and dignity for twenty years—is it you who could call upon your countrymen to send their children to a slaughter which you deemed unnecessary, and advise your Sovereign to jeopardise Her sceptre rather than endanger that feeble and ricketty thing you call a Government, and of which you told us last Friday week we ought to be the more tender because it had lost the favour of the people? Sir, the noble Lord said that the Executive was weakened by popular distrust; and I tell the Government that the weakness and the distrust both arise from that belief in your insincerity and vacillating purpose, of which on Thursday last the most signal proof was the appearance of the noble Lord upon that bench (the Ministerial). The noble Lord complained that our Councils were unstable. How could they be other than unstable when the noble Lord represented in the Cabinet the very element of instability? The noble Lord rebuked the people for their distrust of public men, while, in the same breath, he told them on Friday week that insincerity on a question affecting life and death was a duty he owed to the public service. The noble Lord then said, "See the circumstances of the time." The circumstances of the time require either peace in earnest or war in earnest. And I say you cannot have peace in earnest if your negotiator accepts terms upon one day which he shrinks from the responsibility of adhering to them on the next. With what face could the Government have appealed to the ardour of the people so long as the noble Lord remained in office to paralyse, by his acknowledged sentiments, the war which he sanctioned by his official vote? But the noble Lord said, "I am misrepresented; it is not because I thought this peace, safe, honourable or expedient on the 1st of May, when I brought those proposals back from Vienna—it is not because I still think that at that time 906 peace might be safe, honourable, or expedient, that I am bound to think so now." That is the argument of the noble Lord; "and then," said the noble Lord, on Friday week, in a tone so languid that it might have disheartened Achilles, that "the only chance of peace now is in a vigorous prosecution of the war." But does not the noble Lord see that though that last revised and corrected edition of his opinions disqualifies him from becoming a Member of a Peace Administration, yet that it does not in the slightest degree amend his position as a Minister of the Government pledged to the carrying on of the war? For, if the noble Lord tells us that the object of the war could have been attained in May, it is in vain that he appeals to the military ardour of the people in July. What progress would a recruiting sergeant have made through the country with the cheering cry, "Fight, my boys, for your Queen and country. Think of Alma and Balaklava. Never mind a cannon hall nor a wooden leg, if you obtain this glorious result—that if Russia shall hereafter be at liberty to send eight ships of war to the Black Sea, Old England shall have the privilege of sending four." Now, I say, that when a Minister so recently as May had approved of the principle of the Austrian peace propositions, he is not a fit Minister to carry on the war in July. What are the reasons which, in the noble Lord's mind, rendered a certain proposition for peace honourable and expedient in May, which are not equally good in favour of such a peace in July? "We have gained some victories," he says, "our army is in a better state." Good arguments these if we were at war for dominion, none if we are at war for definite objects of justice. I deprecate this sliding scale of homicide, which is to go up and down with every fluctuation in the market of blood. But, as I understood the noble Lord, he said that in the position in which England and France was, he did not think he would be acting prudently in resigning. With an eye solely to that position, I think the reverse. For, as to France, did he not place our councils at variance with the French? He brings back a peace from Austria, proposes it and retains office; the French negotiator brings back the same peace, proposes it and is dismissed. This is not all—the French Emperor has declared Austria imperatively bound by her engagement to share in our hostilities; but the noble Lord 907 some days ago, in the very teeth of Lord Clarendon, said he considered that Austria might he excused from her fulfilment of that engagement. So that, as long as the noble Lord remained in the Cabinet, you possessed a Minister in whom Russia could find her excuse, Austria her justification, France a dissentient from her policy, and England the condemnation of her war.
I understood the noble Viscount on Thursday last, to say, that the Government were prepared to stand or fall together. And, indeed, the old Parliamentary principle that one Minister of the Cabinet does not stand alone—that all are equally worthy of praise or censure—applies with peculiar force to the present case. For the House will remember, that when we were discussing the conduct of the noble Lord in these negotiations, and while we were yet in the dark as to the Austrian proposals, the noble Viscount, as Chief Minister, emphatically declared his cordial approval and admiration of his envoy and colleague. And yet the sole practical result of that mission was the sketch or idea of peace which the Cabinet was at that moment debating! While, if any blame was subsequently to be attached to the noble Lord, including his speech on Friday week, the chief Minister of the Crown shared the responsibility, since he saw in that speech no cause to invite the resignation of his colleague. Nay, on Friday week the noble Viscount defended what some other Member has harshly called the duplicity displayed in that speech by confounding it with the ordinary concessions upon ordinary questions which one Minister makes to his colleagues, and treated a vital difference of opinion upon peace and war with as much levity as if it were a disagreement in the details of a Beer Bill. Now, Sir, I will take the liberty of telling the noble Viscount, that there are two parties in this House who have some reason to suspect, that among the many accomplishments and rare talents of the noble Viscount, the rude frankness of sincerity does not bear a prominent place as respects the part he has taken in these transactions. I mean, first, the party that advocates the Austrian peace; and secondly, the party that advocates the vigorous prosecution of the war. The House will remember, that immediately upon the formation of this Cabinet the noble Viscount gave a pledge, in answer to a question from the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, that he would adhere to the foreign 908 policy of Lord Aberdeen with regard to the war. Well, Sir, those who consider that that policy wanted the requisite vigour have a right to complain that he had given a pledge so opposed to the expectations of hose who assisted in raising him to his present position. On the other hand, those distinguished adherents of Lord Aberdeen's Government—who best know what Lord Aberdeen's policy was—have some right to complain that the noble Viscount had given that pledge rather too lightly, when they see him reject terms which his own envoy, who left the Aberdeen Government from the want of vigour in the administration of the War Department, had not only assented to, but promised to support in the Cabinet with all his power. Now, Sir, I have looked carefully through this correspondence before us, and I confess my astonishment is increased, that the noble Lord the Member for London did not resign his office as Minister of the Crown, within a week after he returned with his propositions from Vienna. This correspondence also justifies my continued distrust in the Government in consenting to act with the noble Lord in the councils of the Crown. For these papers show that during the latter period of the negotiations at Vienna, the noble Lord was at direct variance with the noble Earl our Minister for Foreign Affairs; and that the noble Lord had agreed to a peace founded upon a basis which the noble Earl the Minister for Foreign Affairs had already declared to be inadmissible, impracticable, and dishonourable. To the very first suggestion of the noble Lord—which was called an Austrian proposal, but which, in fact, emanated from our English envoy—Lord Clarendon writes word, on the 18th April, what appears in that suspicious form, called an extract:—We think that the limitation of the Russian fleet should be absolute, and that it would be made too conditional by the plan which you propose. We must avoid, as much as possible, the system of counterpoise, the objections to which you have explained fully to the Austrian Government.Well, then, what does the noble Lord do? Why, the noble Lord matures that plan that was considered so objectionable, and bases it upon the principle of a counterpoise. He does not return from Vienna until he has promised the Austrian Minister to introduce this proposal to the Cabinet when he arrives in London. The noble Viscount who succeeded Lord Aberdeen in the Government, on the express ground 909 that all dissension upon the question of peace or war should cease, deems that dissension in the Cabinet of no consequence, so long as it is concealed; and when it is found out, he declares that the concealment of the opinion of the noble Lord, to use his own words, "is highly becoming the elevated position of his noble Friend."
I am quite willing to accord to the Government all the praise which they are entitled to claim. I am willing to say, so far as Lord Clarendon is concerned, that there is a frank, hearty, and English tone, in all his despatches. And I would willingly extend to the noble Viscount the praise I so cordially bestow on Lord Clarendon? But then, though Lord Clarendon in these despatches represents himself—and of course the majority of the Cabinet—the noble Viscount docs more than represent a majority. He is First Minister of the Crown, and he alone is responsible for the unanimity of his Cabinet. He alone is responsible if there be a minority at variance with the majority. And therefore, if the noble Lord does cordially approve the sentiments of Lord Clarendon, how could he have expressed an approbation, equally cordial, of the negotiator and colleague, whose opinions so flatly contradict those which Lord Clarendon expresses. One may suppose that the noble Viscount could not have been so indifferent to the success of the negotiations as never himself to have written to the negotiator. Yet, not one letter from the noble Viscount appears in this correspondence. [Ironical cheers from Ministers,] Yes; I understand that cheer. You say the Secretary for Foreign Affairs was the right person to communicate officially. True; but the noble Viscount, in fairness to the country, and in justice to himself, might have extended this publication beyond the formality of strict routine, and inserted some of the admirable letters he no doubt addressed to the perplexed conscience of his noble Friend. The noble Lord's earlier speeches had not been so free from levity, from ambiguity, but what some persons were ill-natured enough to doubt the consistent earnestness of his sincerity. ["No, no!"] He might disdain justification for himself, but to justify himself would have been to strengthen the Government and assure the unquiet mind of the country. But do Gentlemen who cry "No, no," doubt if there was any cause to suspect that the noble Viscount ever hesitated 910 as to the Austrian terms? Very well, let us see. Observe—The Earl of Westmorland communicates to the English Government the last Austrian proposal, which was received in London on the 19th of May. Now, Lord Clarendon almost invariably answers communications on the following day they are received by him. It, however, appears that the noble Earl does not answer these communications until ten days afterwards, namely, the 29th of May. Now, I should like to know what occurred in the interval. Why, from the hesitating tone of the English Government, and more especially of the noble Viscount, my right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) was induced to bring forward a Motion upon the ambiguity of their language and the uncertainty of their conduct. During those ten days Ministers were deliberating upon those proposals in their Cabinet. We, too, were discussing the Resolutions of my right hon. Friend in Parliament. And Lord Clarendon was evidently instructed not to reply to Count Buol's propositions until you (the Government) had ascertained the sense of the House of Commons. The judgment of the House being taken, it left the Government no option but to continue the war. With these facts before us I think it is a fair inference that the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) does not stand alone in his opinions in the Government, and that Lord Clarendon is not the spokesman for the entire Cabinet. It was not until the temper of the House of Commons compelled you to renounce the ambiguity of your language and uncertainty of your conduct that these Austrian proposals were rejected.
Sir, the noble Lord the Member for the City of London has misunderstood something I said upon a former occasion in regard to the Austrian alliance. On that occasion I made a distinction between the alliance of Austria and the friendship of Austria. I said that I was desirous of the friendship of Austria, but that I did not care for her alliance. At this moment I would really rather be without it. In the first instance, I believe that such an alliance would necessarily produce a schism between England and France. Even now, Austria, as a mediator, makes a proposal of peace, which France rejects and which induces you to hesitate—the mere entertaining of which almost broke up the Government. Now, suppose the same thing to occur again when Austria 911 becomes our ally, with power to raise her voice in the general Councils of the united nations. Suppose, then, that France accepts this Austrian proposal. Suppose that the English people will not allow the British Government to accept it. You would, under such circumstances, fulfil the prediction of the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Cobden). You would stand alone in the struggle, with exhausted finances, and the remnant of disheartened armies. Surely some gain would come of this war if we could convince the world that England and France united in arms are quite sufficient to check any aggression on the dominion of her neighbours on the part of Russia. But if you choose to lay down the doctrine that France and England are not sufficient without the aid of Austria; if you must, as the noble Lord says, bring all the other European combinations to back the two Western Powers—your successes, if you succeed to the utmost, will not diminish the moral power of Russia; her very concessions will become glorious to her, and she can say to Turkey, say to the East, say to the existing world and to future ages, "France and England united have shown themselves no match for me, and it required all the combined armaments of reluctant Europe to restrain my ambition within the boundaries of my lawful realm. Such a combination cannot readily occur again; the combination is momentary, my ambition is eternal." I would simply repeat what I said on a former occasion. I value the friendship of Austria. I would even be indulgent to her weakness. I would not entrap her into reluctant engagements. I would not take a single step to bring about an alliance with her, unless she felt that she could embark in it with a hearty sense of her own interests. If, however, you desire to have Austria neither your ally nor your friend, surely you could not take a better course to effect that object than to allow a Member of the Cabinet to promise her his support of her definite proposal for peace, and afterwards to join with his colleagues that the proposal should be rejected.
One thing, however, is clear; we cannot afford the ridicule of Europe consequent upon these constant Cabinet scandals—we cannot allow the great name of England to be thus frittered away. Let us have peace even upon Austrian terms, and let us hope that the energies of our commerce may atone for the failure of our arms; 912 or let the Ministers and the people join with one heart and one soul to carry on this war to a speedy and triumphant end, by the earnestness of their purpose and the worthiness of their preparations. Are you so united? Is Lord Clarendon the spokesman of the entire Cabinet? I should like to hear the expression of opinion on the part of other Members of the Cabinet besides the noble Viscount. There are Gentlemen in the Government who have not as yet expressed their opinion upon the nature of the war or the propositions for peace. What are the opinions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? What are the opinions of the First Lord of the Admiralty? Are all the Members of the Government united upon this subject? Again, I ask, is Lord Clarendon the spokesman of a united Cabinet? ["Hear, hear!"] I am glad if it be so; but you told us the same thing in the month of May last, when we now know that the noble Lord the Member for London was dividing your Councils, and it is my impression, and that of the country, that the noble Lord did not stand alone in those opinions. I am, however, willing to give you all the benefit of the doubt. The noble Lord's retirement from office has so far effected my object, that if it has not cancelled what I presume to call his errors, it has at least prevented for a time any injury which those errors would inflict on the public service. There is something, however, which I think ought to be more lasting than any peace, and more glorious than any war—I mean that high standard of public integrity, without which nations may rot, though they have no enemies, and with which all enemies may be defied. On Friday week that standard was debased to the ignoble reasons by which expediency seeks to justify dissimulation. You, the representatives of the people—I desire not to make it the triumph of a party—be it the triumph of the House of Commons—you have once more raised that standard to its old English level; and in now asking your leave to withdraw my Motion, I congratulate you on having so successfully asserted that vital element of all free Governments which is lost the moment you divorce from the national Councils the recognition of that public virtue which demands that our actions shall not, with a cynical audacity, give the lie to our convictions. All the objects we have had in view have been thus effected, except the mere party object of replacing one Government by another. But what Eng- 913 lishman, at such a crisis, would suffer that object to ho paramount in his thoughts? I am willing that the Government should not he removed, but I warn them that they will remain under the vigilant surveillance of public opinion; and it is yet to be seen whether the sacrifice of a man, who had been trusted by his country and revered even by his opponents, until in an evil hour, when on two previous occasions he might have retired from office with honour, you induced him to consult your temporary interests rather than the dignity of his own imperishable name—it remains to be seen whether that sacrifice has really removed the only obstacle to the earnestness of your purposes and the unity of your Councils.
§ MR. BOUVERIE
Sir, I am not going to follow the hon. Baronet into the subject of his Motion, which appears to have evaporated into thin air. I wish, however, to refer to a matter personal to myself. My name has been connected with recent transactions in a manner which has caused me the deepest pain, and I trust the House will permit me to justify myself against what—considering my relation towards my noble Friend the Member for the City of London—I cannot but conceive to be an imputation upon my personal character. It has been stated that, on the part of a number of my colleagues not in the Cabinet, I represented to the noble Viscount (Lord Palmerston) that we were prepared to resign our offices rather than oppose the motion of the hon. Baronet (Sir B. Lytton). So far as I am concerned, I beg to state most fully and decidedly that that statement is not only not an accurate representation of facts, hut that it is the very reverse of the truth. In spite of the criticisms in which the hon. Baronet has indulged upon the character of my noble Friend the Member for the City of London, (Lord J. Russell) I still do not hesitate to avow my strong political attachment to my noble Friend. In spite of the speech of the hon. Baronet, I still believe in the integrity, the honour, and the sagacity of my noble Friend; and if in matters of recent occurrence I may be disposed to question his judgment, still I hope the House will permit me to say that the glory of all that he has done in his long past career dazzles my vision, and prevents me from seeing those spots which, in the opinion of some, may blemish his fair fame. Sir, apart from a long political attachment to my noble Friend, I am 914 not ashamed to confess that I entertain for him a strong personal attachment. I should be unworthy of the kindness I have ever received from the noble Lord, and of the friendship with which he has honoured me since I entered into political life, if at this first hour of his need I were to be among those of whom we are told—In prosperous days they swarm,But in adverse, withdraw their heads, not to befoundWhen sought.I am not one of those, and I trust I never shall be. My part in the transaction was simply this,—I was aware that there was a strong impression among many of my colleagues that the sense of the country and the sense of the House were so strongly opposed to my noble Friend that it was idle to contend against the Motion of the hon. Baronet. I was aware that a formal representation to that effect was likely to be addressed, either to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, or to my noble Friend himself. I refused to be a party to any such representation, on the distinct ground of my personal attachment to my noble Friend, but at the same time I stated that, as a friend of the noble Lord, I was ready—however painful the duty might be—to convey to him what I own I then admitted, and what I now admit, was the general impression, both among my colleagues, and among the Members of this House with whom I conversed. I thought that, in, pursuing that course, I acted as a true friend of the noble Lord. I offered to do what was most painful to me, in the discharge of what I thought my duty towards the noble Lord as a friend. I endeavoured to discharge that duty to the best of my ability, and I am satisfied that my noble Friend fully appreciates the motives by which I was actuated.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, I think that the withdrawal of his Resolution by the hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire, does as much credit to his discretion as his eloquence does generally to his talent; but at the same time I must confess that I have never heard a speech more full of inconsistencies and of contradictions than that with which he has just favoured the House. In the first place, the hon. Baronet, while the speech of my noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) was still ringing in his ears—while be could not by any possibilty have forgotten that my noble Friend stated that in the lapse of a few days after his 915 return from Vienna circumstances came to his knowledge which convinced him that the plan he had thought practicable at Vienna was no longer practicable; that in consequence of his thus finding it to be impracticable he abandoned it; and that, having so relinquished it, he was then fully persuaded of the necessity for, and heartily prepared to concur in, the vigorous prosecution of the war. While, therefore, I say, these statements of my noble Friend were still fresh in the memory of the hon. Baronet, he nevertheless goes on arguing as though quite the contrary was the fact, and as though my noble Friend had, from that day to this, continued of opinion that that arrangement was still practicable and one proper to be adopted. The hon. Baronet, Sir, went on to make that assumption—that groundless, that disproved assumption—that assumption which he must have known, if his memory was but of ten minutes' duration, to be totally fallacious—he went on, I say, to make that assumption, the foundation of a charge against my noble Friend, and he also repeats it against the Government with which he is connected. Why, Sir, I am astonished that the hon. Gentleman should have condescended to resort to such a Parliamentary manœuvre—to such an unworthy proceeding. And then, forsooth! the hon. Baronet is the man who is to stand up and question other Members of this House on the ground of their insincerity! Well, upon that point, and also upon another, I give the hon. Baronet his choice between deliberate insincerity and the grossest possible ignorance of public affairs. The hon. Baronet says that he approves and applauds the despatches of Lord Clarendon; and then he asks, "But what is that to the purpose?" According to the hon. Baronet, Lord Clarendon, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, is, forsooth! only the organ of his own individual opinions. Does the hon. Baronet believe that assertion? Does he really think, when he makes it, that he is stating what is the truth? Why, Sir, if he does, he is more grossly ignorant—I will not say than any man in this House, but than any child who ever reads a newspaper.
§ SIR BULWER LYTTON
I rise, Sir, to explain. The noble Lord must excuse me for interrupting him, but he is really misrepresenting me. What I stated was, that I regarded Lord Clarendon as being the representative of his own opinions. I did not state that he was not the representative 916 of the opinions of others; and I said that I considered the noble Lord, the chief Minister, responsible for the opinions of the entire Cabinet. That, I think, was a very fair statement.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I must say, Sir, that the explanation of the hon. Baronet leaves the matter exactly as I have put it. It reminds me of the well known query, "Who shall interpret for the interpreter?" The hon. Baronet, I think, requires somebody to explain his explanation. He admits, however, what I have just stated, and, indeed, he cannot deny it, because it is so recent. He distinctly asserted that Lord Clarendon was the organ and exponent of his own individual opinions, and then, proceeding to draw a contrast, he said, "The noble Lord at the head of the Ministry speaks for the Government; Lord Clarendon speaks for himself." "And," continued the hon. Baronet," I should like to know what the First Minister said, and to see what were the letters which he addressed to the noble Lord the late British Plenipotentiary." This remark was met with a derisive cheer from this side of the House, which was of, course, meant to imply "Why does not the hon. Baronet know that the official correspondence of a Government with its Minister Plenipotentiary is always conducted through the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and not through the First Lord of the Treasury?" Sir, the hon. Baronet knows this as well as any man, and therefore I again offer him the alternative between deliberate insincerity and gross ignorance. I really wonder, Sir, that a man of the hon. Baronet's standing, and one who is given out as the person who is to hold a high office in the Government which is to come, should have placed himself between the horns of such a dilemma. And touching on the subject of a new Government, I am reminded that the hon. Baronet told us that these repeated changes in the Ministry expose us to the ridicule of Europe. Why, Sir, there might be a change of Government that would render us still more the ridicule of Europe, I mean if a man like the hon. Baronet were to be placed in a high situation in it. The hon. Member, however, wants to know whether Lord Clarendon spoke and wrote the opinions of the Government. I tell him that Lord Clarendon did speak and write the opinions of the united Cabinet. I say that I also have expressed the sentiments of the united Cabinet; and 917 I defy the hon. Baronet, or any one of those who sit by him, to quote any word of mine uttered either within this House or out of it, that does not tally with those despatches written by Lord Clarendon to which the hon. Baronet alludes. I confess I am surprised, therefore, that hon. Gentlemen, from party motives, which they are compelled afterwards to disavow, should stoop to these unworthy Parliamentary manœuvres, which they must feel will not accomplish their object, but will only serve to injure and lower those who resort to them in the estimation of the country. The hon. Baronet began his speech by taunting the Government with having sacrificed a victim for the purpose of avoiding a storm; and then at the conclusion of the very same address, he condemns us for not accepting the voluntary tender of resignation made by my noble Friend. Now, how does the hon. Baronet reconcile these palpable contradictions? Sir, I deny his first charge, and I accept the reproach meant to be conveyed by the second. We did not sacrifice my noble Friend. I did decline to receive his offer of resignation made upon the Monday; and even on the Thursday, when he told me, "I have made up my mind to resign my situation," I replied, that it was for him to judge—that the question had assumed a shape so peculiarly personal to himself that I could not pretend to give him my advice as to the course which he should pursue; but this I said to him, that, if upon reflection he thought it would be better for him to stay in, I should be prepared to face the Motion of the hon. Baronet opposite with the Government as it then stood, and that I should stand up and vindicate the conduct that he was ready to adopt. Therefore, I say, there was no sacrifice of a victim. My noble Friend thought the course he has taken the one most consistent with his own feelings; but, so far from deeming it a reproach that I did not accept his tender of resignation, I hold that it would have been unworthy in me to have acted in the manner which the hon. Baronet has been pleased to impute to me. The hon. Baronet says he has a wish—and I dare say it would be very agreeable to him if he could gratify it—to place every Member of the Government on the stool of examination. He would like to ask us—"What do you think of this matter, and what do you think of that? Tell us your views about the war in the Crimea? Do 918 you consider that it would be well to go to the Sea of Azoff, or that it would be better to leave Eupatoria? Give us your opinion as to the state of Balaklava." No doubt it would be very entertaining to the hon. Baronet to ask individual Members of the Cabinet many questions of this or any other character which his ingenuity or his curiosity might suggest; but I beg to tell him, in the name and with the authority of my colleagues, that there is no division of opinion in the Cabinet—that we are, every one of us, animated by the same determination to carry on the war with all the vigour that the resources of this country will enable us to exhibit, until we shall have accomplished a peace at once safe and honourable, and one which shall secure to us those objects for which the conflict was undertaken. I say, then, that the hon. Baronet has misrepresented my noble Friend—I say, that he has contradicted himself over and over again in the same short speech; and yet it was not so very short after all. The only point on which I can compliment the hon. Baronet is for the discretion he has displayed in shrinking from the contest upon the Motion of which he had himself given notice, because, what was it that the hon. Baronet stated to us this very evening? He told us that his charge was indeed directed against my noble Friend, but that it equally included the whole Government. Well, then, here we are, ready to meet the hon. Baronet and his followers face to face; but he declines the encounter. And after the exhibition—the lamentable exhibition—which he has just made in this House, I think the country will not be very eager to expose itself to that European ridicule which, according to the hon. Baronet's own statement, would attend that change of Government which it was the avowed purpose of his Resolution to effect.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I should hardly have thought it necessary to make any remarks upon the observations of the noble Lord; but, as there is a tribute of courtesy due to any individual who fills the eminent position, not only of First Minister of the Crown, but of leader of the House of Commons, perhaps I may be excused if I offer a few comments upon the remarkable speech to which we have just listened. Such a defence of an Administration (placed in a most critical position, under circumstances of great gravity, and with a responsibility resting upon them which probably no Administration 919 for many years has yet encountered), I do not suppose any person ever listened to or ever remembered. It would have been, I think, Sir, only respectful to the eminent Member of the Cabinet who has just quitted the companionship of the noble Lord, if the noble Lord had treated the occasion with some little more regard, both to the position and character of his noble Friend, and to the subject which is now brought under our consideration. The noble Viscount, with some common-place bluster says, "Notice has been given of a Tote of want of confidence in our administration. You remember the high spirit which I exhibited a few nights ago, when I announced to the House and to the country I was prepared to meet you. I have fulfilled my pledge. Here I am ready to meet your vote of censure, and I find nothing but the 'exhibition' as he calls the admirable speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire." [Derisive cheers from the Ministerial benches.] I say admirable speech, because it expressed in language, which the noble Lord cannot command, the feelings of the country on the conduct of the noble Lord and his colleagues, and political views, which it would be well for the country if the noble Lord at any time would enforce and pursue. But can the House be satisfied with this—I will not call it answer—this reckless rhodomontade of the noble Lord.
Let me remind the House of the gravity of the subject which is now under their consideration. Let me remind the House of the peculiar circumstances that have attended all the negotiations which have either preceded this war or have occurred in its progress. What happened at the beginning of the last Session of Parliament? When we were discussing in this House papers which were laid upon the Table, who was it that expressed, on the part of the Government, their determination to uphold the interests of this country and their want of confidence in the conduct of Russia? Is it not a fact that it was the noble Lord, recently the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who rose in his place, and echoing the feelings of the House and of the country, denounced the Emperor and Minister of Russia as men guilty of false and fraudulent conduct amid the cheers of the House? And what occurred? Why, there came out an article in a foreign newspaper referring to transactions which had been concealed from this 920 House; and in a few days the House was favoured with the most singular revelations which probably were ever made with regard to the diplomatic management of our affairs. What has happened this year? The same Minister comes down to the table and makes a speech exciting the passions of the country in order to carry on this war with effect. And what is the consequence? Again, a foreign document appears, the circular of the Austrian Minister, referring to circumstances which were again concealed from the House of Commons, and were most antagonistic to an effective prosecution of the war. Is not this a remarkable coincidence? Last year's speech of the noble Lord brings out a secret and confidential correspondence which was carried on by many Members of the present Cabinet, and in which they addressed the Emperor of Russia in a tone very different from that which they used towards him in this House. This year's speech of the noble Lord brings forward a circular of the Austrian Minister, and we find that, at the very time the House was addressed by these Ministers in a tone which would induce the belief they were ready to embark in an internecine struggle—these very Ministers were in secret and confidential communication with Austria, in order to recommend and carry through Parliament an arrangement totally opposed to the policy which in this House they recommended. Are not these grave circumstances? Is there not some lingering self-respect in the House of Commons, which will not allow such circumstances to pass unnoticed, uncriticised, and unchallenged?
Now what further happens? It was obviously impossible to pass unnoticed, such a revelation as was made by the circular of the Austrian Minister. Notice was given of a Motion in this House, expressing what I believe would be the feeling of a majority of the House of Commons. It was aimed in its construction principally against one member of the Cabinet, but it did not seek to limit in any way the opinion of the House to an individual. The noble Lord the Member for London (Lord J. Russell) is himself mainly responsible for the specific language of that Resolution, because six weeks ago, when having good information on the subject, I wanted the House to express an opinion that the ambiguous language and uncertain conduct of Ministers rendered it necessary they should interpose; the noble 921 Lord objected to that Resolution on the ground that it was too vague and general in its terms. It was, therefore, necessary on the present occasion to make it more specific, and to indicate the particular conduct and the particular Member of the Administration whose behaviour was the basis of the Resolution which we were about to recommend. But I for one repeat now, what I have always said, that I never will make an attack upon an individual Member of a Government. I hold the whole Cabinet responsible for the conduct of the noble Lord, and, though my hon. Friend (Sir B. Lytton) asks leave to withdraw the Resolution of which he has given notice, it is quite clear that if a Resolution ever were necessary to express want of confidence in a Government, it must be after the important step which the noble Lord has taken, and to which I shall in a moment advert. It is evident that the Resolution now must be drawn up in a different language; but no one, I hope, who sits on these benches, ever intended, by voting for the Motion of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, to sanction an attack upon an individual Member of the Cabinet. On the contrary, I express my own opinion, not founded without some information on the subject, that there is no Member of the Cabinet who is not identified with the policy of the noble Lord. I express my opinion, that it is necessary for more than two or three Members of the present Government to rise in their places and favour us with their opinions upon those great questions of foreign affairs and peace and war which now occupy our attention. I have reason to believe that the views which the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) brought from Vienna were favourably received, not merely by a majority, but by the whole of his colleagues, and that nothing but circumstances which they did not anticipate, and difficulties which suddenly arose, prevented the plan of the noble Lord being cordially and unanimously adopted. I do not make that statement without due authority. I make it with the same conviction that I spoke six weeks ago of the ambiguous language and uncertain conduct of the Government, the justness of which subsequent events have already vindicated. I make it with the conviction that, even before the expiration of this Session of Parliament evidence confirming that statement will be in the possession of the House. The First Minister endeavours to suppress all 922 discussion. I told the noble Lord some weeks ago we were only in the antechamber of discussion. The noble Lord then tried to stop the progress of debate. What has since occurred? Every day and every hour has brought fresh information and fresh instances which require discussion; from that moment to the present we have been discussing these affairs, and shall be so long as the conduct of the Government is veiled in that thick cloud of ambiguity and doubt which now pervades the political atmosphere.
The House will, therefore, see that we have to consider a subject of vast importance. The sacrifice has been great which has prevented our coming to a vote to-night to decide the fate of the Cabinet. The noble Lord takes credit to himself, because, when his noble Friend offered his resignation, and he accepted it, although he accepted it he told his noble Friend he was ready to stand or fall by him. I admire friends and colleagues who are ready to stand or fall by one another; but then, after such bold and unequivocal declarations of respect and affection, one might wish to see the act follow the word. But upon this occasion it does not seem that the noble Lord either stood or fell by his Friend. The noble Lord is neither standing nor falling, but on the contrary, he has remained sitting on the Treasury bench. How is the knot to be unravelled? The noble Viscount presses the hand of the noble Lord; he vows eternal devotion to him; he says we are in the same boat—we shall share the same fate, therefore; and in a spirit of political justice and generous partisanship which would be admirable if it were sincere, says—"One member of a firm cannot he bankrupt alone according to the laws either of England or of honour, and we stand or fall together." But in the meantime there are means by which the First Minister, who is excessively dexterous and adroit, can extricate himself from the difficult position in which he finds himself pledged to stand or fall with the noble Lord the Member for the City of London. It requires the talent of a Vice I President of the Board of Trade—a divinity in that form, and inspired by that spirit, to disentangle a knot of such difficulty and delicacy as the one which the noble Viscount has encountered. The process seems to have been successful. I listened to the Vice President of the Board of Trade with the feeling which became the occasion. I have not the honour of 923 being a friend of the noble Lord the Member for London, but I appreciate, I hope, his high qualities, in common with the Vice President of the Board of Trade. I cannot, I confess, therefore, fully comprehend the position of the Vice President of the Board of Trade in this case, as not only the friend, but the devoted friend and political admirer of the noble Lord. I can only very distantly approximate to the nature of his feelings; but I must frankly admit—and the House recognises I am sure—the agony and emotion which he must have undergone before he arrived at the result which he felt to be inevitable. There have been many instances of friends and friendships. Friendship is the gift of the gods, and the most precious boon to man. It has long occupied the thought and consideration of essayists and philosophers, there have been more analyses of the elements of the different degrees of friendship than of any other quality granted to sustain and solace humanity. There, for instance, is the devoted friend who stands or falls by one, like the noble Lord the First Lord of the Treasury. But there is also another kind of friend, immortalised by an epithet which should not be mentioned to "ears polite." We all know that friend. It was, I believe, a brilliant ornament of this House who described that kind of friend, and I must say that, although as the devoted friend, the Prime Minister must after tonight be allowed to take the highest position; still, for a friend of the other description, a friend who is not a very bad-natured friend (the House will know exactly the friend I mean), I say, commend me to the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Board of Trade.
Now, Sir, I have found it necessary to make these observations, in consequence of the violent assertions of the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government, that he was ready to do battle for his friend according to his engagement, and that we apparently had receded from the contest upon an occasion which he had fixed for it. But, I ask, why has not this great contest taken place? Here is a Minister who has long occupied the attention of his countrymen—who, for a quarter of a century, has exercised the greatest influence over public affairs which any man in this country for so long a period ever possessed—who, with the brief interval of Sir Robert Peel's Ministry, has been the nominal or the virtual Chief 924 Minister of the Crown—who has taken a most eminent part in involving this country in the war in which we now find ourselves engaged—who was the Minister of our foreign relations before and at the moment—I may almost say, when we entered upon these discussions which led to the war—the individual who, a few months ago, after this country had been at war for a year, and when it found itself involved in danger and disaster, merely by a speech in this House, showed his great authority and broke up the Government of which he was a Member; an act whereby he incurred great public odium, although, no doubt, he regarded it a public duty; but to whom, a few weeks or days after, we found Her Majesty, in the exercise of Her prerogative, offered again the post of Chief Minister of this country, an offer which was declined only because it was impossible at that moment to form a Cabinet under his auspices; but even then, in that comparatively reduced position, he was nominated a Minister Plenipotentiary to bring about, if possible, a termination of hostilities for which he himself was mainly responsible, and even then, while negotiating peace abroad, was made one of the principal Members of the Cabinet at home. Why, every one must feel that when we have a discussion on the character, the conduct, and position of so eminent a personage, we are speaking on matters of a very grave nature, which may influence the fortunes of this country, and respecting which this country has a right to demand, and will possess, precise and accurate information, not only as to conduct but also as to motives. His motives and his conduct are alike questioned, and he had an opportunity of vindicating both to the House. His colleagues, acknowledging the gravity of the occasion, stake the existence of the Cabinet on the triumphant vindication of that conduct by the verdict of the House of Commons. It is hardly forty-eight hours since the First Minister himself, almost unable to repress the exultation he felt at the coming fight, was going to stand or fall by the question and the verdict which the House should come to upon the conduct of the noble Lord the Member for London; and then, suddenly, and before the House of Commons can speak—before the Motion can be brought forward—before any Member of the House, whatever his politics may be, can express his opinion on the conduct of the noble Lord, he is mysteriously withdrawn from office—this individual, so responsible for 925 the present position of the country—so much looked up to by the House, even in the present distracted state of parties, that, after having broken up a Cabinet, he has been called upon by his Sovereign to form another Government, and even when failing in that task selected by the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Palmerston) to conduct the negotiations at a great Congress, and while conducting those negotiations deemed so indispensable from his name, his talents, his reputation, and his following, that he is made a Secretary of State in commendam.
For a person of this description, with such accumulated responsibility, having his conduct challenged by the House—and the First Minister of the Crown, his colleague, having pledged himself to a full discussion, and to stand or fall by the verdict of the House of Commons, for such a man to withdraw from the public service, evade all discussion, and then for the First Minister to get up and jocosely tell us it is "Much Ado About Nothing," is really more intolerable than trifling. It is not a manner in which questions of this kind should be met—it is not a tone which should be adopted—this patrician bullying of the Treasury bench. It may be assumed upon the discussion of a private Bill, or on some petty struggle of party which may be a triumph to night and be forgotten to-morrow; but when we are discussing a question involving the policy of one of the greatest nations of the world—the policy of peace or war, which brings under consideration the conduct of camps and congresses—when we have before us the behaviour of a statesman whose mind and conduct have given colour and form to the political history of this country for a quarter of a century—it is not fitting that the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown should rise and attempt to stop discussion by language addressed to my hon. Friend (Sir B. Lytton), which I will not use an unparliamentary epithet to describe, but certainly not language which I expected from one who is not only the leader of the House of Commons—which is an accident of life—but is also a gentleman. All that I heard, and I believe I heard most of what fell from the noble Lord, although I was absent for a second, because I certainly did expect that the noble Lord was about to enter upon an expression of opinion that would not be brief—all I say that I heard in the transient observations of the noble Lord, for it 926 was a short speech for him, was some sort of abuse of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire for his constitutional ignorance or his intentional malignity in assuming for a moment that my Lord Clarendon, when he wrote the despatch, might be expressing his individual opinion, and not the opinions of the Cabinet. Now, I put it to any hon. Gentleman in the House—do they suppose that even a doorkeeper could make such a mistake, or do they think that a doorkeeper, or anybody, could be so stupid, if they did not make a mistake, as to take refuge in such malignity or such misrepresentation as that? What my hon. Friend said was this—individually he gave credit to Lord Clarendon for those despatches expressing the policy which he himself approved. Of course, in so doing, my hon. Friend did not mean to say that Lord Clarendon, expressing constitutionally and formally the language of the Cabinet, was writing despatches, without the knowlege of his colleagues, which formally and completely expressed the policy of the Cabinet; but what my hon. Friend wished the House to understand, and what I believe a large majority of the House inferred, was this—you may have a Secretary of State formally and constitutionally expressing the policy of the Cabinet which he himself entirely sympathises with, but there may be Members of that Cabinet who really do not completely coincide with the Secretary of State, and you must, says my hon. Friend, prove that such an inference cannot fairly be drawn, and divest us of our suspicions; but you cannot do so because, a few weeks ago, you told us you were all unanimous when those despatches were written, and now it is proved that at that very moment a most eminent Member of the Cabinet absolutely disagreed from you in your opinion. The First Minister now impresses upon the House that the noble Lord the Member for the City of London came back to this country suddenly and recommended a peculiar policy to the Cabinet, which this House disapproves, but that certain circumstances occurred in the course of a week, said the noble Lord, which rendered it totally impossible that they could be entertained. Of course everybody knows the circumstances to which the noble Lord referred, and I believe he subsequently mentioned them. The fact was, that France would not listen to the arrangement, and the French Minister resigned; therefore, says the noble 927 Lord, it was most disingenuous—it was malignity—[Viscount PALMERSTON: I said it was insincerity.] The noble Lord now says his charge was one of insincerity. It was a charge, however, conveyed in language not very classical or Parliamentary—it was a charge of insincerity in language of great exaggeration. The noble Lord entirely misunderstood the whole case. The very observations which he made on the subject prove that he is at this moment perfectly ignorant, or feigns to be ignorant, of what is the point which occupies the attention of the House and engages the feelings of the people of this country. I take the statement of the noble Lord and, on his own showing, on his own admissions, upon his confessions and his revelations, which were more indiscreet and more dangerous even than those of the colleague whom he has sacrificed, and what, with all his experience, has he said to-night? The noble Lord says, my late colleague, came back from Vienna, and he proposed certain terms for obtaining peace. Those terms were denounced in the House of Commons and in the country; but the reason, in fact, why we did not adopt them, is not because they were considered in the House of Commons and in the country to be totally inadequate to the occasion, but because our ally would not agree to them. Therefore, the inference is that, if by any chance no difficulty had arisen from France, the terms upon which this great quarrel is to be settled, the terms upon which this war is to be really concluded, are, in fact, those very terms which the noble Lord the Member for the City of London brought from Vienna, and that, had it not been for the difficulty thrown in the way by France, the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown and his colleagues in the Cabinet would have accepted them. ["No, no!"] No, no! Will some of the colleagues of the noble Lord rise and speak upon that subject? The noble Lord cannot speak again himself, but there are plenty of his colleagues on that bench who can. Let them answer my facts. "No, no!" won't do. I say that is the true and only inference, and I am going to pursue the subject, so do not let any peace Member of the War Cabinet cry "No, no!" I say, that it is the only inference that can be drawn from the rash and discourteous observations of the noble Lord, precipitate though I believe them to be. He spoke with little thought and less courtesy to my hon. 928 Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, and the inference to be drawn from what he said is, that the terms which the noble Lord the Member for the City of London brought from Vienna would have been accepted by the Cabinet, had it not been for the obstruction and difficulty which arose from France; and, therefore, my hon. Friend asks what are those terms which the noble Lord thinks he could without difficulty have accepted? We know, then, inferentially, what are the objects for which we are fighting; and I put it to the House, if this be the true state of the case—and I have reasons for believing it is independent of the observations we have heard—how are we to justify the conduct of the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown,—who is to be maintained in office as a War Minister, who is to conduct the war?
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Really, Sir, I must speak to order. The right hon. Gentleman is totally misrepresenting what I said. I reminded the hon. Member for Hertfordshire of what had been stated by my noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) in regard to himself, and that his opinion as to the practicability of adopting the terms which he brought from Vienna was changed by circumstances which had been brought to his knowledge; but I never stated that that was the opinion of the rest of the Cabinet, or my own opinion. On the contrary, I stated the very reverse—namely, that the language of Lord Clarendon in those despatches, which is invariably adverse to such proposition, was the language, opinion, and sentiment of the whole of the Cabinet, and of myself in particular.
§ MR. DISRAELI
What the noble Lord has said does not in the least affect what I am urging. If in consequence of circumstances the noble Lord the Member for the City of London remains in the Cabinet, if, in consequence of circumstances, any Member of the Cabinet, or all the Members of the Cabinet who had favourably received that proposition—[Viscount PALMERSTON: There were none]—also remain in the Cabinet, the result is the same. "Something has happened, Gentlemen," I can fancy I hear the noble Lord saying to the rest of his colleagues, "it is of no use now to discuss whether we shall have war or peace, it is no longer necessary to have any conference as to whether we shall prosecute the war with vigour or whether we shall accede to any Austrian or other proposition, because circumstances have 929 occurred which render it impossible that we can make the arrangement that we intended, and therefore that question is dismissed to the limbo of abortive projects." The very reasons and considerations which induced you to allow your valued colleague to remain in the Cabinet influenced you all at the same time, and the case is rested upon the fact that circumstances occurred—namely, the conduct of the Government of France—which prevented your any longer considering the question; but had it not been for those circumstances the inference is that which I draw—that you would have accepted those terms, and, if possible, would have carried them through Parliament.
Admitting, then, the inference to be a just one, what are we to think of this triumphant War Minister—this Minister, who is only made a Minister because he can carry on the war with great skill—what can we think of his conduct to his late colleagues the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham) and his friends? Did you or did you not approve the project which the noble Lord the Member for the City of London brought over? And this is a subject on which we ought not to be content with any superficial reply. It is not enough for a Minister to get up and say. "We did not approve that project, though there might be some points upon which we agreed." Is it, or is it not the fact, that the noble Lord the Member for the City of London communicated with his colleagues—other colleagues than those whose names appear in the papers before the House? Did he not communicate the outline and spirit of the policy which was developing under his auspices at Vienna, and did he, I ask, receive any discouraging reply? Is there not, on the contrary, reason to believe that he did communicate it, and did not receive any discouragement? Did the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, when he arrived in England, expect, and had he reason to expect, that there was a fair chance of those propositions being acceded to and carried into effect? I beg the attention of the House to this:—Is it a fact, or is it not a fact, that the French Minister communicated with the authorities at Paris while he was at Vienna; that he received a reply which was favourable to those propositions; that that reply was communicated to the noble Lord the Member for the City of London; that the noble Lord, in consequence, communicated with his colleagues; and that, in 930 fact, there was—not a compact or a convention, but a general understanding for a brief space, even between both Governments, that those terms would have been accepted? Is it or is it not a fact that there was at least a day—I believe a much longer period—when those terms were cordially accepted by the Government in London, and when the noble Lord accepted them? [Viscount PALMERSTON: No!] Very well. I remember six weeks ago making a speech about ambiguous language and uncertain conduct, and I then had the same "No!" from that same bench. I do not know whether the present Session of Parliament will last six weeks longer; but, if it do, I believe that I shall find that the remarks which I am now making, and which are received so sceptically from a quarter—although a limited quarter—in this House, will be acknowledged by the great majority of this House to be authentic truth. All I can say is, that I make the statement upon information which I believe to be of the highest authenticity. I do not want it to be more esteemed than any information which I give upon my own personal authority, but I express my profound conviction of its truth. And now we are told that this is "Much Ado About Nothing!" Two years ago you were involved in diplomatic negotiations upon a most important subject. If any Member of this House at that time asked a question, he was told, "Do not press it, you will embarrass our diplomacy." Hon. Gentlemen yielded, and what did that abstinence on the part of the House of Commons end in? In the greatest diplomatic defeat on record. Another year came, and you were involved, not in diplomacy, but in war. If a Gentleman rose then in this House to ask a question he was told "Silence! Say not a word, the enemy will know our plans; you are placing obstacles in the way of our vigorous prosecution of the war." And what did that end in? In the most disastrous war ever conducted? Now, Sir, a third year has come, and the third Session is about to expire. Nearly at its termination, when all are silent, including those who think that there is no greater object in life than Parliamentary success, and that a strong Government is the Government which can command a Parliamentary majority—a foreign document appears—the mind of the country is agitated at a few expressions in that foreign document, and a question is asked in the House of Commons—doubt and dis- 931 tress pervade the land, and a belief exists that there is guilt in the management of our affairs; for I call it guilt—I call it guilt to come down to this place, as a Minister, to a free House of Commons, and to give reasons for your policy which are totally at variance with your secret instructions to your Minister abroad. That single foreign document appears—the people are agitated—they think—they talk—their representatives in this House ask questions. What happens? The foremost of your statesmen dare not meet the controversy which such questions provoke. He mysteriously disappears. With the reputation of a quarter of a century, a man who has reformed Parliament, who, as he has told us to-night, and often before, is the successful champion of civil and religious liberty, in the cause and name of which he has accomplished great triumphs—he who has met the giants of debate—he who has crossed his rapier with Canning, and even for a term shared the great respect and reputation which this country accords to its foremost men with no less a person than Sir Robert Peel—he dare not meet the debate. But who dares meet it? The First Minister of the Crown, who has addressed this House to-night in accents and in language utterly unworthy of his position, and utterly unworthy of the occasion, and who has shown to me to-night, by his language, and by the tone of his mind, that if the honour and interests of the country be any longer intrusted to his care, the first will be degraded, and the last, I believe, will be betrayed.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
Sir, the noble Lord the Member for the City of London fancies that he is injured; but who has done him an injury? A question was asked of the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown who was aforetime his colleague; and that question elicited an answer from the noble Lord which occasioned the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire. The noble Lord the Member for London upon that occasion did what he has more than once done before. At the very sound of danger—at the very first whistling of the storm, he ran and hid himself in the back benches—he disappeared from the Treasury bench. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) says that the noble Lord with a reputation of a quarter of a century mysteriously disappears. I think that the noble Lord's reputation mysteriously disappears. What is it of which the noble Lord is accused? I think 932 it will go to this point—that he has forgotten his duty to England, to this House, to truth, and to honour. ["Hear, hear," and "Oh, oh!"] Well, I will see if it be not so. In consequence of a Motion which I made in this House the noble Lord retired from the Cabinet of the Earl of Aberdeen, and in retiring he left behind him a speech which, in fact, broke up that Cabinet. Then, like a Jack-in-the-box, he turns up at Vienna, where he is entrusted with the great interests of this great country. He goes there with specific instructions, which are of such a nature as to reflect great honour upon the noble Lord now Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. When there certain proposals are said to have been made by the Austrian Minister. To those proposals the noble Lord accedes, and he sends them to the Cabinet with this significant paragraph at the end of his letter:—"I hope that no contradictory answer will be given to these propositions before I am heard." The noble Lord comes home in the character of a Member of the Cabinet. The question of the conferences is brought before this House. He has been heard; the Cabinet knew his opinion, they knew the ground for his opinion, and when he comes to this House he comes with his conduct as a negotiator impugned. Now, I will appeal to this House, and to every Member who recollects the speech which was made by the noble Lord on the 24th of May. In that speech the noble Lord declared himself to be the uncompromising advocate of the war. Did he in that speech give us to understand that the negotiations had been so carried on that he had received proposals for peace from the Austrian Minister which had met his approval, and which he had engaged to submit to his Cabinet? Did he not lead the House—I am sure he led me—to an opinion which gave the noble Lord at the head of the Government a large majority upon that occasion? I will make a confession—I came down to this House fully intending to vote with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. In proof of that I will make one statement. I received a letter from the noble Lord the First Minister inviting me to a meeting of his friends previous to that discussion. Feeling within myself that I was about to oppose the noble Lord, I did not attend that meeting, because I felt that it was no place for me. But, nevertheless, I voted with the noble Lord upon that occasion. And why? Because of the speech of the 933 noble Lord the Member for London. When I came to the House I believed that there was a divided Cabinet. I thought that the noble Lord—and it is very well known that there was a rumour pervading the whole House and every gallery in it to the same effect—I thought that the noble Lord intended to come down and to make a speech which was to bridge over the chasm which separated the Government from the Peace party. Instead of so doing, the noble Lord made a vigorous onslaught upon Russia and the Peace party. I said to myself, "We have now a united Cabinet," and I could see the danger and difficulty of ousting such a Cabinet. The noble Lord convinced me that he was in earnest, and I voted with him. He practised on me a deceit, and I say that the noble Lord at the head of the Government condoned with that deceit—he was participant with that deceit, and I say that that was not doing his duty to the country or to this House. The words that were upon the lips of the noble Lord did not represent the opinion that was in his heart. He came down and hounded on the House to war when he himself was inclined to peace. But the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) says that when he came from Vienna that was his opinion, and that circumstances occurred within the week which changed that opinion. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) says that those circumstances were the opinions which were expressed by France. The noble Lord at the head of the Government says that that is not so. [Viscount PALMERSTON: No, I said no such thing.] Then it was so, I presume. This is another sample of "ambiguous language!" I, as one of the representatives of the people, have a right to know the circumstances which changed the opinion of the noble Lord. When it was stated that the opinions of the noble Lord were changed in consequence of the opinions expressed by the Government of France, the noble Lord at the head of the Government denied that this was the case; and now the noble Lord says he did not make that denial. But if that was not the cause I of the change of opinion, I ask what was the cause? This House has a right to know it. Whatever the cause may have been, it was the duty of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) to tell the House what I he did when lie represented this country! at Vienna. Two sets of papers relating to Eastern affairs have been laid on the table by the noble Lord at the head of the 934 Government. The papers were laid before the House previous to the debate of the 24th May. The first set, containing the protocols, was intended to give information to the House, but did not convey the slightest intimation of the conduct of the noble Lord the Member for London with regard to the proposal of the Austrian Minister; and the information they did I convey to the House has been totally contradicted by the last set of papers that has been presented. I say, again, that the hand of the noble Lord is the hand that practised this deceit. I mean the noble I Lord at the head of the Administration. I now pass by the noble Lord the Member I for London—he is gone. But the noble Lord at the head of the Government remains, and I want to know who else remains? I want to know who is of the same opinion as the noble Lord the Member for London? I want to know who are the traitors that are now in the Cabinet? What are the opinions of the right hon. Gentlemen the Home Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the First Lord of the Admiralty? It is my sincere belief that they coincided with the opinion of the noble Lord the Member for London when he returned from Vienna, and that so far from having an undivided Cabinet stedfastly carrying on the war with their whole heart and mind, we have a Cabinet divided among themselves, a great number of them agreeing with the right hon. Gentlemen near me (Sir J. Graham and Mr. Gladstone). Let me on the present occasion remark upon a very curious incident that has occurred with regard to the war and the gentlemen who are carrying it on. From the time of the declaration of war until my notice of a Motion for the appointment of the Sebastopol Committee, before the world there was unanimity in the Cabinet—every one believed that they were of one mind and were carrying on the war as well as they could. When I gave that notice, the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) terrified at the thought of a discussion upon it, disclosed a divided Cabinet. He disclosed, also, that they had been divided from the very beginning of the war, upon—what? Upon an insignificant matter? No! Upon the conduct of the war itself—upon the very existence of the War Minister! That was the first result of a Parliamentary inquiry. The next result was the breaking up of Lord Aberdeen's Administration, and the next was the appointment of the Sebastopol 935 Committee. Then the three right hon. Gentlemen near me (Sir J. Graham, Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Sidney Herbert) left the Cabinet of the noble Lord, and the moment they had done so it turned out that they were the peace party. We never learnt this while they were in the Cabinet. Then the noble Lord the Member for London makes his violent war speech. He had left this country with a sort of blemish upon his reputation—his mind was soured by Parliamentary defeats, and when he arrived at Vienna he tasted all the sweets of flattery; he was intoxicated with that flattery, and turned round to the opinion of his flatterers. But when he came back, when the strong breezes of Parliamentary opposition blew upon him, he again changed his opinion (the fickle vane fairly represents the noble Lord's mind), and he came to this House and made his warlike speech. The gentlemen who had turned him round their fingers at Vienna naturally were angry at it, and disclosed what he had done. This again was a consequence of Parliamentary action. The noble Lord now turns out to be a peace Minister. Thus, whenever the Parliament comes to act upon the Government carrying on the war, by some curious coincidence it discovers a peace Minister. The noble Lord says that he changed his mind after he returned from Vienna, and in consequence of that change came down and made the speech. What did the noble Lord say in that speech? [The hon. and learned Gentleman was beginning to read a passage in Lord J. Russell's speech from a newspaper, when he was interrupted by calls to "order;" whereupon, he tore a piece out of the newspaper, and was proceeding with his quotation, when—]
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the rules of the House did not allow the hon. and learned Member to quote from a newspaper a speech which had been delivered during the present Session, and he did not think the hon. and learned Member could cure the irregularity by tearing a piece out.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
Then, I will give the effect of the noble Lord's statements from my own memory, and if I am incorrect, the fault is not with me, but with the rule of the House which obliges me to rely upon that faulty instrument when I have a correct report at hand. On the 4th of July, the noble Lord, in reply to a right hon. Gentleman, said he had not changed his opinion with regard to the proposition 936 of the Austrian Minister, and on the 7th of July he disclosed what had taken place at Vienna. This opinion of the noble Lord being known to all his colleagues when he made his speech upon the 24th of May, he might have said with poor Eloisa,—And saints with wonder heard the vows I made;for the saints on the Treasury bench must have heard with wonder the statements which he made. Those statements were, that he was in favour of a vigorous prosecution of the war, and he turned round and argued against the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) who had proposed the very thing which the noble Lord supported at Vienna, and explained how futile would be the security which that proposition was intended to obtain. After that, can the House or the country place confidence in the noble Lord or any of his colleagues? I say, No; for the conduct of the noble Lord has been such as to shake the confidence of the world in the whole of political society. Truth and honour among public men may now he considered as nought; for what can truth be but the clear statement of that which has occurred, not the palming of a false conception of it upon others? Did not the noble Lord come to this House in May, and persuade us into the belief that he was not only a steady supporter of the war upon that particular occasion, but always had been so, and that he had carried on the Conferences at Vienna in the spirit sanctioned and commanded by this House? I say that the noble Lord by such conduct has not done his duty to the House, to the country, to truth, or to honour.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
Sir, as the Resolution of the hon. Baronet (Sir B. Lytton) is to be withdrawn, I should not have thought it necessary to have taken a part in the discussion had it not been for the statements which have been repeatedly made by the hon. and learned Gentleman, (Mr. Roebuck) without a shadow of proof for their support, with respect to the opinions of different Members of the Cabinet. The hon. and learned Gentleman has asserted that there were Members of the Cabinet—and he has done me the honour to single me out especially as one of them—who thought that the Austrian proposal brought by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) from Vienna ought to have been accepted. He has asked me whether that was my opinion. Sir, I decline to answer the appeal 937 of the hon. and learned Gentleman. If any Member of the Cabinet had in Parliament, or upon any public occasion, expressed any opinion, or done any act calculated to throw suspicion upon the sincerity of his conduct, I should have felt that any Member of the House had a right to call upon him to explain and to vindicate his conduct; but when the hon. and learned Gentleman makes the assertion without a shadow of proof, but merely from his own imagination, that certain Members of the Cabinet have pursued a course dishonourable to them, I think they would degrade themselves in the face of the House and of the country, and would depart from their duty if they condescended to answer a question with regard to the opinions they had expressed in the Cabinet. The papers are now on the table of the House, stating the results of the deliberations of the Cabinet, and the reasons which influenced them in their rejection of the Austrian proposals are also before the House; they are expressed by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in language which has, I believe, elicited the universal approbation of the House, if I except those who are in favour of peace at any price. I, as a Member of the Cabinet, felt bound by those recorded opinions, and I will not profess my individual concurrence with them, because I, as a Member of the Cabinet, am responsible for them. I deny the right of any gentleman, without bringing forward proof of his statement, to say that there are Members of the Government who dissented from those, the recorded opinions of the Government, while they still remain Members of the Cabinet. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) ventured to make an assertion of the same kind; he I having charged the Government generally with having used uncertain and ambiguous language. Now that the correspondence relating to these Conferences at Vienna is produced, when he is compelled to avow that our language is certain, clear, and unambiguous to the fullest extent, the right hon. Gentleman says that he has private information, the sources of which he has not laid before the House, on which he undertakes to say that there was a time when the Members of the Government, through the noble Lord at the head of the Government, had expressed an opinion in favour of the Austrian proposals, and were prepared to accede to them. To that general statement I, not speaking for 938 myself as an individual, but on behalf of the Government, give a most unqualified contradiction. The Austrian propositions were discussed on the return of my noble Friend, the Member for London, from Vienna, and I must say that on Friday, the 6th instant, I heard his speech with regret and surprise, for I saw the misrepresentation to which he had laid himself open, and I told him so the same night, and that I thought by his imperfect statement he had been unjust to himself. With respect to what really occurred, it is perfectly true, as the hon. and learned Member has stated, that my noble Friend, who was then on his way from Vienna, requested that the Austrian proposals might not be rejected before he had been heard. The propositions were discussed during the week ending May 5th; during those discussions my noble Friend stated his views, and other Members of the Cabinet stated theirs, and the question was fully considered with the view of arriving at a conclusion which would be consonant with the dignity and interest of the country. I, at the close of that week, should have been prepared in the most unqualified way to assert that it was the unanimous decision of the Cabinet that the interest and dignity of the country required that the Austrian proposals should be rejected. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to prove that Members of the Government expressed an opinion in favour of the Austrian propositions. We discussed them, and some members of the Cabinet were, perhaps, influenced by some reasons which did not press with the same weight on the minds of others, but we arrived at the unanimous conclusion that the interest and honour of the country required that the Austrian proposals should be rejected. This was stated in the despatches which, before they were sent, were communicated to every Member of the Government, and, I believe, received the cordial and unanimous concurrence of every Member of the Government. The House has been told that my noble Friend practised a deceit on the 24th of May, when he expressed himself in favour of a vigorous prosecution of the war, and that we, his colleagues, were partakers in that deceit when we did not remonstrate against the inference which the House had a right to draw from the speech of my noble Friend. I deny that either he or the Government is chargeable with deceit; my noble Friend on that occasion used language in which every one 939 of his colleagues heartily participated when he led the House to believe that he was in favour of a vigorous prosecution of the war, and that we must take means which would prove more successful than negotiations had been, by insuring, as far as human foresight could, the success of our arms in the Crimea. That speech was one from which none of his colleagues could honestly dissent; it expressed, I believe, the honest opinions at that time of my noble Friend, and his sentiments were shared by every Member of the Government.
I am not going, Sir, to enter into the personal questions which have arisen during this debate, neither do I intend to avail myself of the opportunity which is technically offered of discussing the policy of the war or the conduct of the late negotiations, for it appears to me that, as important papers, containing most important disclosures, have been laid on the table since we debated the momentous subject of the war, it is plain that the House did debate this subject, not, indeed, in total darkness, but with imperfect information in respect to the subject it was discussing; and an early opportunity must therefore be afforded of returning to this question. In the midst of the many difficulties by which we are encompassed, it appears to me, in consequence of questions which have arisen on the papers which have lately been produced, that it is desirable that the Government should take an opportunity to give the fullest explanation as respects the rules and obligations which they ought to observe in regard to the communication of papers to the House which are to be made the foundation of debate, of solemn judgment, and decision. The first point which I shall now mention touches my noble Friend the Member for the City of London, and he will, I hope, have an opportunity of explaining the objection which I mean to take to his speech of the 24th of May, if my objection has the semblance of being well founded. I do not wish to overstate or to exaggerate the character of that speech as being in favour of an Administration of a warlike policy, but this stands clear in my recollection, when I, in the course of that discussion, speaking before any Member of the Government had delivered an opinion, ventured to say that the second proposal of the Russian Plenipotentiary, instead of being summarily rejected, ought to be dealt with as a starting point for further communications, my noble Friend, following me in that debate, denounced 940 in the strongest terms that Russian proposal. He even went so far, if I remember rightly, as to say, rather than admit terms substantially corresponding with those of the Russian proposal, it would be better that you should avowedly have thrown over the third point altogether, and have stated your inability to deal with it. I must confess, having these emphatic words of my noble Friend in my recollection, it was with considerable surprise that I read the letter to be found in page 8 of the papers which have recently been presented to the House, in which he, on his own part and on the part of the Minister of France, proposes to the Government a certain plan for the settlement of these disputes. I will not trouble the House by reading the whole of this letter, but it will be found on reference to it that my noble Friend says—If other hope is lost, I wish to propose to the Conference the following plan. The French Minister is favourable to it. Austria will not support any demand for cession of territory.The plan proceeds, as it appears to me, on precisely the same basis as that on which the Russian proposal was founded, which my noble Friend, in the debate to which I have alluded, so severely condemned in this House, on the 24th of May. This is not a question as to the terms subsequently proposed by Austria, but a new and distinct proposal from the British Minister in which he appears to me to recommend to the Government a proposal which in every substantial point agrees with the Russian proposal. The basis on which the proposal was made was, that the amount of her fleet should be left to the discretion of Russia, and that there should be no absolute limitation of it, but that this power must be met and kept in check by the unlimited discretion to be reposed in the Porte with respect to calling in her allies. That was the nature of the Russian proposal, and in the plan proposed by my noble Friend the general rule for closing the Straits is maintained, but it rests with the Porte as to when and how that rule should be relaxed, and it is stated that such relaxation should not constitute a ground of complaint on the part of Russia. My noble Friend in his proposal says, that the Straits are to be closed so long as the naval force of Russia does not exceed a certain number, but that—Upon any increase of the Russian naval forces beyond the number specified in Article 1, or on the existence of a larger Russian force being ascertained, a larger number of Ships of war of 941 the allies of the Sultan may pass through the Straits into the Black Sea, in conformity with the desire of the Sultan, and in the proportions to be regulated from time to time by agreement from the Ottoman Porte; such increase not to form at any time a legitimate subject of remonstrance on the part of Russia.This, I believe, is the material part of my noble Friend's plan. There are other minor points, but, as regards the great question of the naval force of Russia in the Black Sea, the passage I have quoted contains the main portion of his plan, and I say that it not only resembles, but that it is, for every practical purpose, identical with the plan of the Russian Plenipotentiary. In point of fact, indeed, it is more limited and restricted than the plan proposed by the Russian Plenipotentiary. There is another question upon which I wish to touch, and I think it will be seen from my remarks that I do not take the same view of those papers as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), and I invite him to listen to the observations which I am about to make upon their tendency, because I think, if they are well founded, that they will afford an answer to one of the charges which he has brought against the Government. The plan proposed by Russia, to which he has referred, was transmitted by my noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) from Vienna on the 16th of April, and was rejected by the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, I presume, by a telegraphic message on the 18th of April. On that day the noble Lord, then the British Plenipotentiary, wrote a most important letter, and in that letter he stated to his Government that it had been agreed between him and the other Plenipotentiaries that at the next conference a certain order of proceeding should be adopted. The first plan to be proposed at that conference was the plan agreed upon in London and Paris for the absolute limitation of the naval power of Russia, and if that failed the other plans were to be proposed. The first plan was that there should be a limitation of naval power, which should be arranged between Russia and Turkey alone, and which then should be made part of the general treaty; and the other was that plan which has of late been so much spoken of as the Austrian proposal, and which, at that time, received the sanction of the noble Lord. That letter was received on the 21st of April, and in the closing passage of that letter the noble Lord said— 942Should the Government of Her Majesty, in concert with that of France, be of opinion that such a peace can be accepted, they will instruct Lord Westmorland accordingly. If not, I hope to be allowed to be heard personally before a final decision is made.Now, I wish the House to observe that this letter of the noble Lord appealing for a personal hearing in the event of the proposal being disapproved by the Cabinets of London and Paris was received on the 21st of April. On that very day a letter was written by the noble Lord the Minister for Foreign Affairs, not taking any notice whatever of the appeal of my noble Friend from Vienna. That letter, however, dealt with the plan, and, in my opinion, entirely disposed of it. The noble Lord the Foreign Secretary referred to a communication which had been made to him by Count Colloredo, on the 20th of April, and which, in fact, embodied the principle contained in what is called the Austrian proposal, and, with regard to the question of naval counterpoise, the noble Lord wrote —I said that the opinions of Her Majesty's Government with respect to the system of counterpoise were well known to Count Buol, and it was hardly necessary to repeat that they looked upon it as impracticable and illusory.It is plain, therefore, that the Austrian plan was not rejected in May or June, but in April, because it is, I think, quite clear, and if I am wrong I am subject to correction, that this letter of Lord Clarendon, written on the very day upon which the letter of the noble Lord the Member for London was received, was a total rejection of the proposition involving the principle of a naval counterpoise. But there were two Austrian proposals. You will see from the papers that the proposal of counterpoise stands second in the Austrian communication; the first—which was discussed in the conferences and rejected by the British and French Plenipotentiaries—was a proposal which admitted limitation, that limitation to be arranged in the first instance between Russia and Turkey, and then incorporated in the general treaty. How did the Government receive that proposal? The one, as I have stated, was I rejected on the 21st of April, the very day upon which the Government received a letter recommending it from their own Plenipotentiary; the other was treated in the same summary and unceremonious manner on the 24th of April. On that I day Lord Clarendon wrote a despatch to Lord Westmorland on the subject of "the proposal No, 2, of Count Buol," namely, 943 "That Russia and Turkey by mutual agreement should maintain reciprocally a force no larger than that which shall remain to Russia at the end of the war." He goes on to condemn that proposal, and to signify in the most distinct and emphatic terms the disapprobation of the Government with regard to any such plan. It seems to me, therefore, that it would not be right to charge the Government with having these proposals too long floating in the air and waiting their final fate; on the contrary, I am rather surprised, after the solemn appeal made to them by their own Plenipotentiary for a personal hearing, that they rejected one of the plans on the very day upon which his letter was received, that in three days after the other proposition was also rejected, and that the Government committed themselves to the rejection of both without giving the noble Lord an opportunity of discussing them with his colleagues. I wish, however, on the present occasion not so much to refer to the rapidity of these proceedings, however singular it may appear, and however much it may require explanation, as to advert to transactions which have taken place in this House. If I am right, it appears that the two Austrian proposals were finally rejected in the week which began on April 30, and ended May 5, and that circumstance was not communicated to this House. I do not complain of that communication being withheld, but what I do complain of is, that a communication was made to the House which, according to all probability, would lead Members of the House to arrive at the conclusion that the state of affairs was very different from that which it really was. The noble Lord at the head of the Government, in reply to a question put to him on the 21st of May by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert) stated that—Her Majesty's Government certainly do not consider all the modes of solution of the question at issue as exhausted. We do consider that Austria is still charged, by her own voluntary assumption, and the consent of the allies, with the task of endeavouring to discover means of bringing about an accommodation between the contending parties."—[3 Hansard, cxxxviii. 836.]This answer was given on the 21st of May, and on the 21st and 24th of April letters had been written which committed the Government to the condemnation of what has lately been talked about as the Austrian proposal. I am myself inclined to 944 doubt if the Government, in making this communication, observed strictly the relation which they bear to this House. I admit that the Government has always a right to reserve information if they conceive it to be for the public service; but the Government ought never to place the House in possession of information, when by doing so they invite an expression of opinion, unless that information is perfect and complete in itself. The House was called on to discuss the question of the Conferences at Vienna. We came to that debate in the full belief that Austria, England, and France were as one in those negotiations, but since then, we have, for the first time, learnt that a diplomatic rupture had taken place. Why, Sir, that was a vital element in the consideration of the question. The maintenance of the European combination is an element second in importance to none, as I hope to be able to show when the proper time shall have arrived. Does it not stand on the face of the papers, which have lately been laid before Parliament, that a diplomatic rupture has taken place? And yet, although Austria has only made two propositions, and those were rejected before the answer of the noble Lord on the 21st of May, we have not yet heard whether the Government have any reason to believe that Austria has any other proposal to make which may lead to a pacific solution. It appears to me, that we have been placed in a false position, and although I know the difficulty experienced by a Government when it has, in preparing papers to lay on the table, to deal with a mixture of official and nonofficial communications, and with diplomatic proceedings continually crossed by proceedings in this House—although, I say, I know the great difficulty with which they have to contend, still I say, that it is of the utmost importance that we should have a clearer understanding of the relation between England, Austria, and France, than we possessed at the time of the last debate to which I have referred, in order to enable us to come to a decision on the subject.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.