§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [25th May] to Amendment [24th May], which was, to leave out from the first word "House," in the Original Question, to the word "feels," in line 6, in order to insert the words, "having seen with regret that the Conferences of Vienna have not led to a termination of hostilities,"—(Sir Francis Baring,)—instead thereof:—And to which Amendment, an Amendment had been proposed on the 25th May, to insert after the words "regret that," the words "owing to the refusal of Russia to restrict the strength of her Navy in the Black Sea:"—(Mr. Lowe).
§ Question again proposed, "That these words—namely, 'owing to the refusal of Russia to restrict the strength of her Navy in the Black Sea,' be inserted in the proposed Amendment."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, that from the question which had been asked that night of the First Minister of the Crown by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. T. Duncombe) relative to the closing of the conferences at Vienna, it had been attempted to be inferred that it would be inconvenient at present to discuss the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe). He (Mr. M. Gibson), for one, was not responsible for that Amendment, and, therefore, seeing that its proposer persevered with it, he should state the reasons why he must vote against it. The doctrine of the hon. Member for Finsbury was certainly somewhat startling, because the House was often asked to postpone discussion while negotiations were pending, and often agreed to do so; and, therefore, to say that, inasmuch as negotiation had now closed, they ought not to discuss the conduct of the Government, was tantamount to contending 1319 that the Government should not be responsible to the House of Commons at all. After the prolonged discussion on the Motion of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), he felt it his duty to move the adjournment of the debate, in consequence of the change introduced by the Motion of the hon. Member for Kidderminster. He could not consent to that change, because it involved considerations of great magnitude, which, in his opinion, it was unadvisable for the House to adopt. Now, the debate which took place before the recess was one of a party character, the House having been asked by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) to pass a vote of censure on the Government in consequence of its ambiguous language and uncertain conduct on the great question of peace and war. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth (Sir F. Baring) undertook the defence of the Ministry, and moved what, considering the nature of the occasion, was certainly a very feeble Amendment. From the speeches which had been delivered by both the Friends and the opponents of the Government it undoubtedly appeared that both parties advocated the prolongation of the war; but, then, it was difficult to discover that either of them entertained any definite views as to the ultimate objects of the contest. Indeed, the position of both of those parties in relation to this subject resembled that ascribed by an eminent political writer to two reviews which strongly opposed each other, though politically there was little difference between them. They reminded him of two opposition coaches, which raised a great deal of dust and bespattered each other with mud, but were in reality travelling the same road and would arrive at the same destination. This remark he must, however, qualify by observing that he entirely concurred in the opinion expressed by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham)—namely, that the views propounded by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) did not so completely exclude all hope of an early and satisfactory peace as did the portentous announcements conveyed in the speeches of Members of the Government—speeches that, in fact, indicated a policy which, if pursued by this country, must land us in a war of thirty years' duration. In order that the House might clearly see what it was about to vote upon, in respect to the Motion of the hon. Member for Kidderminster, he 1320 would read the words of the Resolution. It would stand thus after the insertion of the words proposed by the hon. Gentleman—That this House having seen with regret that, owing to the refusal of Russia to restrict the strength of her navy in the Black Sea, the Conferences at Vienna have not led to a termination of hostilities, feels it to be its duty to declare that the means of coming to an agreement on the third basis of negotiation being by this refusal exhausted, it will continue to give every support to Her Majesty in the prosecution of the war until Her Majesty shall, in conjunction with Her Allies, hare obtained for this country a safe and honourable peace.Now, it should be remarked that his hon. Friend (Mr. Lowe), though apparently advocating the sentiments of what might be termed the war party, did not, after all, really represent their views. The hon. Gentleman—like many other persons—was open to the reproach of having been prepared to agree to what was called "an ignominious peace; for it had been stated in numerous publications and speeches, that the country thanked Heaven that the proposals made to Russia by the Allies were not accepted, because a peace based upon such terms would have disgraced and dishonoured us. Therefore, if the hon. Member truly represented the opinions of the party the views of which he professed to advocate, instead of regretting, as he did, that the offers of the allies had not been accepted, he should rather have worded his Resolution thus—"That this House, having seen with satisfaction that owing to the fortunate refusal of Russia to promise to restrict the strength of her navy in the Black Sea, the Conferences of Vienna have not led to the termination of hostilities, feels it a duty to declare that it will support Her Majesty," &c. However, taking the Resolution as the hon. Member had actually framed it, what did it ask the House to do? Why, deliberately to pledge itself to insist upon the principle of the limitation of the maritime forces of Russia as a sine quâ non for peace, and to declare that Russia's refusal to accept that condition was a sufficient cause for the prolongation of the war. In point of fact, it also asked the House to affirm its approval of the proposals made by the allies at Vienna in reference to the third point, and its adoption would be equivalent to a vote of confidence in the noble Lord the Member for London, who had been characterized by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) as "the unsuccessful negotiator." 1321 The noble Lord, the First Minister, stated that he would not object to the first part of the Amendment, but that he should resist the words asserting that the means of coming to an agreement on the third basis of negotiation had been exhausted by the refusal of Russia. The ground on which the noble Lord opposed this portion of the Amendment was that it would interfere with the prerogatives of the Crown. Such a doctrine, however, ought to be received with great caution, because the prerogatives of the Crown, it should be remembered, were usually exercised under the advice of the responsible Ministers. Indeed, the noble Lord and his colleagues would, in this respect, do well to recollect the ancient maxims of the great luminaries of the Whig party during the French war. Mr. Fox, Mr. Sheridan, and others, then contended that the House of Commons ought to retain the power of advising the Crown and of saving the country from the expense and the calamities into which it might otherwise be plunged by the recklessness or the imprudence of Ministers, and they held that to deprive it of this most important function would be to destroy its chief use as a deliberative assembly, and to reduce its authority to two dry points, namely, to the mere power of impeachment and the power of the purse. Now he was prepared to discuss the second part of the present Amendment upon its own merits; and he should say "No" to it, not because it would interfere with the perogative of the Sovereign, but because he could not admit that, in consequence of Russia's refusal to restrict the number of her ships, all hopes of peace by means of negotiation were therefore necessarily at an end. He had brought forward a motion the converse of that proposed by the hon. Member for Kidderminster, and had been charged with entering into an intrigue or party arrangement to avoid discussion, but he would at once frankly state that the responsibility of not proceeding with his motion rested on himself. He was aware that he should be appealed to, but at the same time he was told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) that he left the matter to his (Mr. Gibson's) discretion, and that if he went on with his motion the right hon. Gentleman would support him. He had had no communication with the Government, but he thought, on hearing that the conferences were not concluded, that there 1322 might be some risk of injuring the cause he advocated if he proceeded with his motion; and he did not do so because he conscientiously believed that it would injure the cause of peace. In discussing the proposal of the hon. Member for Kidderminster, he did not think it necessary to travel over the ground which had been so often trodden, nor to narrate the circumstances connected with the origin of the war, but he would state that he took the theory of this war to be—for he viewed it as a war in support of political theory—that the rule of the Sultan in the particular part of Europe, where he now exercised his power was a political necessity, and that this country was bound to defend him against his enemies. He believed it was totally apart from the consideration of the question of whether Russia was right or wrong at the commencement of these hostilities, but that, whether right or wrong, if this theory was a sound one, Turkey was a European necessity, and that it must be defended against the attacks of its enemies—and, in point of fact, the policy of the advocates of this theory was that the Turk could do no wrong. Now he for one was not strong in the faith of the political necessity of upholding the rule of the Sultan, but he would adopt the situation and take his departure from this point without disputing the soundness of this political theory on which the war was placed; but this he would say, that this theory of always supporting Turkey against its enemies, and of laying down the doctrine that they meant for all time to support the rule of the Sultan in his dominions, would have the effect of alienating the sympathies of the whole of the Greek Christian population of those countries, and of driving them into the arms of Russia; and it would also have the effect of enervating the Turkish Government, and of relieving it from the obligation of attending to the duties of a good Government, and the necessity of producing contentment among its people; and these, in fact, formed the only basis on which the strength and independence of Turkey could permanently rest. He felt bound to reply to an attack, if it might be so called, which had been made by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) by the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams) and two or three other Members, who had said that this war was caused by the advocacy of peace by certain Members on his (Mr. Gibson's) side of the House, who 1323 by dwelling on the blessings of peace and the calamities of war, had produced an impression that England was averse to war, and would not take up arms to defend its safety or its dignity. Surely it was not necessary to go to so far-fetched a cause as this for the origin of the war. He certainly wished that his hon. Friends who advocated peace had more influence than they had in the country. He thought, however, that Russian diplomacy must have been asleep, and that Russian consuls and ambassadors must have had their eyes shut, if they did not see that, while certain individuals were advocating peace, at the same time the doctrine so advocated had no hold on the great majority of the people of this country. Now he thought that he could find a more plausible reason for the origin of the war. Had not for nearly two years, and certainly for one, the press of this country, and the leading journal, day by day contained most envenomed attacks on the ruler of France? Had they not charged the French nation with secretly plotting the invasion of this country? and was it not natural for foreign powers, when they saw the press of this country so engaged, to believe that alliance between England and France was highly improbable, and that it might not be a bad opportunity for pressing certain views with reference to the East? He could find, still later, another probable cause of the origin of the war. After the attacks on the French Government, The Times, only the year preceding the war, proclaimed that England would never be induced to go to war in defence of Turkey. There followed a succession of articles on this in The Times, and, be it observed, it was believed, whether rightly or wrongly, on the continent that The Times expressed the public opinion of England, and a succession of articles in it with a given aim certainly produced the impression that public opinion was in that direction. He found that early in 1853, immediately before the declaration of war, The Times stated:—It is effrontery to compel the English people to carry on war for the preservation of Mahomedanism in Europe, and to protect a Power which has so badly governed one of the most beautiful empires in the world—a Power depending principally on foreign Ministers for counsels, on foreign fleets for defence, and on foreign renegades for the command of its armies.The Times also contained many other passages of a similar purport, and was it no natural for foreign Powers to suppose that 1324 a considerable section of the British public was not prepared to take up arms in defence of Turkey, if she should be attacked by Russia? When they talked of the advocacy of peace having caused this war, he would ask the First Minister of the Crown whether he had not been concerned in advocating peace? Hon. Members would, perhaps, recollect that it appeared from a correspondence that had been published by Mr. Addington, of the Foreign Office, that an engagement had been entered into shortly previous to the war, between the noble Lord the now first Minister of the Crown, and a gentleman named Wykoff, who was to write and spread certain opinions in the continental and American newspapers. Mr. Wykoff could write in French and German as well as in English, and he was engaged to represent to the world that the policy of the British Government, of which the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton was a leading Member, was liberal, but especially pacific, and an impression was to be produced through Europe that England was disinclined to engage in war. He (Mr. M. Gibson) thought that these facts were more likely to produce a belief on the part of Russia that England would not defend Turkey than any speech or any advocacy of peace which had fallen from the lips of any of his hon. Friends. In order to divert attention from the consideration of the objects for which the war was being carried on, the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord John Russell), in the last speech which he made before the recess, staled that, "when Turkey was secure we ought to have no hesitation in making peace with Russia." From this it was evident that the war was carried on for the defence of Turkey, and for that alone; but, in order to distract them from the consideration of this the real object of the war, hobgoblins were conjured up from time to time, and it was said that Russia was going to overbear Europe, that civilisation, liberty, and constitutional government were to be swept away, and that Europe would fall into the arms of this colossus, Russia. He was surprised to see what had been stated by the Foreign Secretary in another place. The noble Lord said:—Why, Europe was really standing upon a mine without being aware of it, while the influence of Russia was so skilfully exercised as to paralyse both Governments and people, to render them unconscious of the danger to which they were exposed, and to diminish their ability to meet that danger. For this state of things every Government 1325 in Europe has been partly to blame, for, during the last thirty-five years, an amount of deference has been paid to Russia to which she has no claim, and she has been allowed to interfere, to meddle, and to bribe, in different countries, without check.…. Long before this war began the Russian Government ordered a large increase of their steam fleet, to the number of sixteen or seventeen ships of the largest size. Orders had been given for converting all the Russian men-of-war and ships of the line into screw steamers, and the Russian Government were also actively employed, and had been for a considerable time before the commencement of the war, in completing a system of railways." [3 Hansard, cxxxviii. p. 1148.]He was very glad to hear that the Russian Government had been actively employed in completing a system of railways, for we had an interest in the prosperity of Russia and the development of her internal resources; no nation in Europe was independent of the rest; all nations were a part of one family, and the prosperity of one was the prosperity of all. Why were they to be frightened by alarming phantoms of Russian power being about to overbear Europe? He would bow to high authorities upon such a question, but unfortunately those high authorities said sometimes one thing, sometimes another, and left him in no little perplexity. He would ask if Russia had interfered with the arrangements of Europe. Had not the Western Powers been always begging Russia to be a party to those arrangements, had not England asked her assistance for the invasion of France, and had not France also sought her alliance? Whatever interference there might have been on the part of Russia in the arrangements of other European countries, she had been drawn into those arrangements by the entreaties of the countries themselves, and had never forced her alliance upon unwilling Governments. Could it be believed that the noble Lord the Member for London had penned the despatch he would now read, if he was of opinion that Russia had long entertained serious designs against Europe? The noble Lord, in a despatch written at a recent period said—Upon the whole, Her Majesty's Government are persuaded that no course of policy can be adopted more wise, more disinterested, more beneficial to Europe than that which His Imperial Majesty has so long followed, and which will render his name more illustrious than that of the most famous Sovereigns who have sought immortality by unprovoked conquest and ephemeral glory.If the noble Lord told them this on one 1326 day, was he to be permitted on another day to tell them that Russia was threatening to overbear the liberties of Europe, and had been carrying on a secret system of bribing and intermeddling, for the purpose of bringing all Europe under her sway." Which of the two statements were they to believe? He frankly owned that he believed neither, but thought the truth lay somewhere between them. The noble Lord the Foreign Secretary also said, in a despatch recently laid before the House, that "he feels entire confidence in the rectitude of His Imperial Majesty's intentions, and has the satisfaction to know that the interests of Russia and England in the East are identical." They ought to ask the noble Lords connected with the Government not to endeavour to alarm the timid portion of the world by such frightful visions of the advance of Russia as they had lately been indulging in; it was clear that they did not really believe them; that, in their opinion, the question was simply a question of taking care of Turkey, and that when Turkey was safe peace would be made with Russia. There was another mode of distracting attention from the real question. They heard about nationalities and oppressed peoples, and the noble Lord, speaking with all the responsibility of a Prime Minister, told them that the condition of Poland was a standing menace to Germany. Did the noble Lord mean any inference to be drawn from that statement? Was he going to do anything, or was this a mere sham? The noble Lord was not justified in raising the expectations of these unhappy Poles if he had no intention of realising them. The noble Lord knew as well as he (Mr. M. Gibson) did that this country was not prepared to support him with its blood and treasure in carrying on a war of nationalities. He believed Government had no intention of undertaking such a war, and therefore they deserved a severe rebuke if they allowed a misunderstanding to be circulated which placed in jeopardy our friendly relations with other European Powers. He trusted no man wanted them to have a Polish question as well as a Turkish question on their hands. The same reasons which rendered it difficult to take care of Turkey—the divisions among the people—would render it still more difficult to take care of Poland; and if the Western Powers intended to reconstruct Poland they would be bound permanently to maintain its independence and integrity, so that when 1327 they did not happen to have a war upon their hands in reference to their obligations in the East, they would he sure to have one in reference to their obligations to Poland. An eminent Pole said, in a work lately published, that he believed the reconstruction of Poland was about as practicable as the reform of the Koran and the reinvigoration of Turkey. He (Mr. M. Gibson) entirely concurred in that opinion. They had great obligations to discharge; they had to rule over a greater portion of the earth than any other country in existence; let them, then, consider whether they could do justice to the population of the United Kingdom and to their distant colonies, before they charged themselves with the maintenance of the independence and integrity either of Poland or of Turkey. It might have been necessary to go to war in the first instance in order to repel a then existing aggression, but it did not therefore follow that the prolongation of the war would be beneficial to the interest of Turkey; on the contrary, they had been told by the Foreign Minister that a prolonged war would lead to the inevitable destruction of the Ottoman Empire. The policy they were pursuing was, therefore, held by the Foreign Minister to be pregnant with danger to the empire they had undertaken to defend. He found, from a correspondent at Constantinople, what the Turks were beginning to think on this subject. "Every day," said the correspondent—Every day that sees the strife continue and the capital of the Ottoman occupied by newly-arriving forces witnesses also the weakening of the independent action of the Porte, and the substitution for it of the will of the allies. Now that immediate danger from Russia is past, and the enthusiasm of a few months since has died away, or been drowned in blood and losses, the feelings of the Turkish race have been much changed. Every other impulse is now swallowed up in the desire to get rid of the Western armies. The terrible image which is ever before the eyes of Mussulmans is the elevation of the Christian races to an equality with themselves. This they believe the West will insist upon, and they have a not unnatural feeling that the presence of two armies in their territory will give them little choice in the principle or details of any changes. No one who has any acquaintance with the Turks can doubt their utter discouragement as to the result of the present occupation, and of their wish, at any cost, to bring it to a close. The feeling is deepest among those in power, who have most to lose in the shape of unworthy influences and illegal gains. If, when peace is concluded, the allies should urge a further stay of their armies on Turkish soil, it is most certain that the project will be opposed with all the desperate pertinacity which is characteristic of the race, and 1328 which so often baffled the most vigorous diplomatists armed with the justest arguments. As to the future, the world may be assured that the Turk will never call in allies again.But was the Turk safe now? Were there now any Russian soldiers within the Turkish territory? Did Russia contend that the integrity and independence of the Ottoman Empire were not to be supported, or had Russia declined to bind herself by moral engagement to respect the territory and independence of the Sublime Porte? She did not. But that was not enough; and it was said that Russia must promise to have only four ships of war, four frigates, and smaller craft in proportion in the Black Sea, and that then Turkey would be safe, and we should be in a condition to make peace. That was the view of the hon. Member for Kidderminster. But if a promise on the part of Russia to respect the territory of Turkey were worth nothing, what would be the value of a promise to keep only four ships of war, four frigates, and smaller craft in proportion in the Black Sea as here suggested? The Government did not propose to acquire any jurisdiction in Russian territory. We had bound ourselves in a military convention to acquire in this war no advantages for ourselves, and the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) had stated that it was not intended to diminish the territory of Russia. The noble Lord said he meant to leave Russia one of the great Powers of Europe. But he would ask what the feeling of Englishmen would be if any Power told us that we kept many more ships than were necessary for commercial purposes, that we had frequently been an aggressive Power, that we must promise to keep only a certain number of ships in our own waters, and that some other Power would decide for us the amount of maritime force we must keep up? Why, was there any man in England who would not scout such a proposal? He could understand the argument if England and France had made a proposal to Russia of mutual disarmament, so that they might all maintain the same equilibrium, but he could not understand the conduct of two countries, not proposing themselves to disarm, but who went to a third great Power and said it was consistent with the honour of that Power that other nations should dictate for it the amount of its maritime force? He thought the proposal puerile in the extreme, and to insist upon it as a sine quâ non and to place a great war upon such narrow ground was 1329 unheard of in the history of this or any other country. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) appeared to him to have made an unnecessary journey to Vienna. The noble Lord, in fact, did not go there to negotiate but to deliver an ultimatum. To negotiate was to treat—to examine different plans, and to compare them; to give and take, and thus to settle some ground for a treaty. But the noble Lord went to Vienna with the single object of exacting a promise from Russia to limit her maritime force in the Black Sea, and when this demand was refused the noble Lord said his instructions were exhausted, and he could not consider the plans proposed by the Russian envoy. Why, the Government might just as well have sent that ultimatum in a letter as to send the noble Lord to exact a promise that was never likely to be given as the only condition for peace. For himself, he thought the Russian proposal better than our own for Europe and for Turkey. Indeed, if he had taken up the two proposals without knowing who had made them, he should have said the Russians had made our proposal and we theirs. He believed the best security for Turkey was to open the Straits to the ships of all nations, whether mercantile vessels or ships of war. The right of free access was all in favour of the strongest navy, and if we wanted to protect Turkey from Russia there was no plan so likely to be effectual as to let Russia keep what ships she pleased in the Black Sea, and to admit our own ships of war also. Was it to be supposed that none of these five Powers were to be trusted, and that if they were permitted to pass through the Straits they would in time of peace and without provocation stop and plunder Constantinople? What harm had happened from the liberty which ships of all nations possessed to pass into the Baltic? None whatever; and why not, therefore, assimilate the practice in the Black Sea to the practice in the Baltic? Which would the House prefer—that our ships should be excluded from the Baltic and that Russia should only keep a certain number of ships in that sea, or that Russia should make no such promise and that our ships of war should go into the Baltic when we thought fit? He said the latter plan was much better than to make a mare clausum of the Baltic, and to limit the number of ships at Cronstadt. The power of England consisted in free access to every ocean, and it 1330 would be impossible to establish a lasting and satisfactory peace on the basis of a policy derived from the superstitions of the Ottoman Empire, which for 300 years excluded every merchant flag from the Black Sea, as it now did every vessel of war. If we based our policy upon such narrow and retrograde views we should never enter upon a lasting and satisfactory peace. A little while ago the demand of the people of this country was, that the Black Sea should be opened and that we should have liberty to go in. A short time since The Times very clearly stated what were the objects of the war, which was more than any Member of the Government had done lately. The Times said—But the most immediate objects of the war are the permanent vindication of Turkish independence, the permanent clearing of the territory invaded, and the permanent opening of the Black Sea and Danube to all nations.That was what we claimed, and what the public believed to be the objects of the war. But now we were told that to open the Black Sea would be dangerous to Turkey, and that no power, and above all Russia, was to be trusted with regard to this Eastern Empire. To give Turkey the power to let in the ships of other nations when the security of Turkey was menaced was what was proposed in a plan submitted to the Russian envoys, for, after all, we had misgivings about proposing to limit the number of Russian ships in the Black Sea, and it was added that Turkey was to have the power to let in the ships of her allies. It was upon that power on the part of the Sultan that the Western Plenipotentiaries, after all, relied, and that was what the Russian Government had offered to consent to. What, then, was the difference between the two parties? The hon. Member for Kidderminster said that equalisation was not putting an end to preponderance. But, if forces equal to those of Russia went into the Black Sea, surely that was as much putting an end to the preponderance of Russia as limiting her forces to a particular number of ships. The Austrian envoy thought so, and in his (Mr. M. Gibson's) opinion took a very rational view of the question. The Turkish envoy said nothing as to the second of the propositions of Russia, namely, the giving access to the Black Sea to the ships of the allies when the security of Turkey was menaced. He presumed Turkey did not object to that discretion which Russia 1331 proposed to place in her hands. The allies did not propose that the Russian forces alone should be limited. They proposed that the Turkish forces should also be limited, and he presumed the Turkish envoy said nothing, because the Sultan preferred the simple power of sending for his friends when he was in a difficulty to the complicated arrangement, on which there could be no dependence, of Russia promising to keep only a certain number of ships in the Black Sea, upon the understanding that Turkey should lessen her navy. He thought, at all events, that to vote for the proposition of the hon. Member for Kidderminster, which declared there was no possible way of satisfying the third point but by limiting the ships of Russia, would be very unadvisable. The hon. Member for Aylesbury had views different from those of the Government with respect to the objects for which the war was to be carried on. The hon. Member had said that, to carry on the war for such a difference as now existed between Russia and England—whether Russia should promise to limit her navy, or the allies should have access in some form to the Black Sea—was wicked and indefensible: [Mr. LAYARD made a gesture of dissent.] Certainly the hon. Member used the word "wicked," and therefore, if he voted for the Motion of the hon. Member for Kidderminster, he would be voting for what he himself designated as a wicked war. With regard to the safety of Turkey, he would ask was there danger only from the East? Was there no danger from the West? Had the West never interfered in such a way as to threaten the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire? Our policy should not be based upon the mere circumstances of the moment. We should look back as well as look forward. The noble Lord at the head of the Government, in a remarkable debate, had said, "It was a narrow policy to hold that any country had perpetual enemies or eternal allies." England had no perpetual enemies and no eternal allies. The noble Lord said, "We have our interests; they may be perpetual; and those interests we are bound to support." He (Mr. M. Gibson) said the same of Turkey. Turkey had no friends that could he relied upon, and the enemies of one day were the friends of the next. During the French war, Mr. Pitt announced that the Ottoman Empire was in danger. There had been 1332 a secret despatch communicating a conversation which had passed between the then ruler of France and the British Ambassador, and Mr. Pitt said:—In the course of this conversation the First Consul did not attempt to disguise his ultimate views upon Egypt; and, though he professed to disclaim any intention of seizing it at present, he assigned, as the reason for his forbearance, 'that sooner or later it would belong to France, either by the falling to pieces of the Turkish Empire, or by some arrangement with the Porte.'They had recently been told by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, that the French Government on this occasion was the first to disturb the status quo. There was no doubt that the claim made by France to set up a religious Roman Catholic supremacy in the East was in the highest degree offensive to the Greek Church and to the head of that church. The claim was withdrawn, but Colonel Rose informed the Government that M. de Lavalette had said, "If the Porte did not consent to these proposals of France, in reference to the Roman Catholic supremacy, a French fleet would come, and they would take possession of Jerusalem, and then France would have all the sanctuaries." We were in cordial alliance with the French Government at this moment. He thought it was for the permanent interests of this country and of France that the alliance should endure, and he thought it would endure; but, in discussing these matters, they must look at the different Powers engaged and the rivalries which existed in the East; they must look at the possible designs of some future Government in England; they must also look at the possible designs of some future Government in France. A few years ago a war broke out, in order to defend the integrity and independence of the Ottoman Empire against the attacks of the Pasha of Egypt. It was said that the Pasha of Egypt was acting in conjunction with M. Thiers and the French Government of the day, and that, as England was afraid to support Turkey because it would involve her in a quarrel with France, it became absolutely necessary to send for a Russian fleet and a Russian army if the integrity of Turkey was to be maintained. Upon the occasion the then Member for Youghal (Mr. Chisholm Anstey), supported by the then Member for Stafford (Mr. Urquhart), 1333 bringing forward what was called the impeachment of the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston), for being in the interest of Russia, the late Sir Robert Peel said:—Was it not the universal impression in all Europe that Ibrahim Pasha was acting against the Sultan on a secret understanding with France? Was it not the impression of all Europe that the army of Ibrahim was, in all the principal departments, officered and directed by French officers, acting with the consent of France? Was that true, or was it not? …If that were so, and if England felt herself so bound with her intimate alliance with France that her hands were tied up, that she was compelled to connive, at least, at an aggression upon Turkey which France had directly encouraged, then we see in these circumstances reason for the forbearance of England (to help Turkey) better, or at least more intelligible, than any that Lord Palmerston had stated.The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) upon that occasion said—If he understood the argument it was, that because Great Britain did not grant any assistance, the Sultan was compelled to have recourse to Russia for aid, and that we had no right to complain of Russia for having enabled the Sultan to secure himself from the danger with which he was threatened. Great Britain never complained of Russia granting that assistance. He had stated, on a former occasion, when he was interrogated on that point, that Great Britain did not complain of the assistance which Russia had afforded to Turkey, but on the contrary, was glad that Turkey had been able to obtain effectual relief from that quarter; and he had stated, that our Government reposed perfect confidence in the assurances it had received from the Russian Government, that when the force so sent had effected the object for which it was despatched—namely, the defence of the Sultan and his capital—it would retire to the Russian dominions. In that confidence Ministers were not deceived—that force did retire; and, therefore, not only were they justified in not remonstrating against the aid given by Russia to Turkey, but they were fully borne out in the belief that, when that defence had been effected, the troops so sent would be withdrawn.Did they intend to call upon Russia to disarm in the Black Sea, although the Western Powers were to retain a large armament in the Levant? How could they guarantee that the independence of the Ottoman Empire might not be in danger at a time when Russia might not have it in her power, as she had in 1833, to come to the rescue? They talked of the balance of power. Well, here was Russia on the one side and the Western Powers on the other; and if there was a force on the one side there must be an equal force on the other. You could offer no security to Russia that, if her fleets were to be reduced in the Black Sea, some Power other 1334 than yourselves might not attack her? It was physically possible. English vessels of war had before now forced the Straits of the Dardanelles, notwithstanding the opposition of Turkey; and who was to say that at some future time Russia might not be at war with some country not Western, not at all Turkish—and was she to be left with 1,000 miles of coast without any protection in her own waters? The doctrine of keeping yourselves out of the Black Sea upon the ground of limiting the number of ships of Turkey was perfectly absurd, because if England were at war with Russia, not on a Turkish but on some other question, and having a large trade in the Black Sea, and being by treaty unable to enter that sea, what would be the consequence? Russia would sweep all your merchant vessels from the face of those waters. He believed that no security could be given that Turkey was only to be threatened from the East, and would always be safe from the West. Whatever might be the feelings and impressions of the moment, they ought not to guide the House in the adoption of a policy which was to be of a permanent character. He believed that the best security for Turkey, if it were the duty of England always to defend that unfortunate country, was to let matters rest where they now were, aggression having been put a stop to, and to rely upon our own power of resisting further aggression, should such aggression take place again. He would ask the noble Lord at the head of the Government, since they were to consider the conferences at an end, and the Four Points to have been done with, and, as they were now commencing a new war, in order, by the conquest of some part of Russia, to get security for Turkey—he would ask him to be clear and definite in his statements. The House had a right to frankness. They had a right to know what it was they were fighting for. They were called upon to spill blood and expend vast treasure, their trade was to be crippled, taxation was to be increased, and the permanent interests of this great country were, perhaps, to be placed in jeopardy. They had a right, therefore, to ask the Government what it was that they contemplated effecting by carrying on this new war. If they could penetrate into the misty void he could not, and if they could they were bound to tell it to those who had not so clear a vision as themselves, but who had as deep an interest as they had in the fortunes of their 1335 country. It appeared to him that they were embarking into a war that would only end in what was called a war of extermination. Unless some definite object were pointed out they must go on crippling and humbling as long as there was anything left to cripple and humble. When they had taken the Crimea there would still be something left to do until they had made a conquest of Russia, and reduced that country to entire submission. Therefore, it behoved the noble Lord to let the House know whether the Four Points were abandoned, and what the new war was undertaken to effect. What were the advantages which the noble Lord proposed to confer on the people of this country by way of return for the vast sacrifices that were demanded of them? Let the country know what was to be the countervailing benefit which they were to derive from those prolonged sacrifices. A deputation waited on the noble Lord with a memorial in favour of the negotiations for peace, and, in reply, the noble Lord told the deputation that his Government would not make war for glory; and that it would only make war for the interests of England. If, then, Turkey were safe, as he contended she was, what were those English interests that were consulted by the prolongation of these hostilities? The noble Lord justly said that those who fought the battles of Alma, Inkerman, and Balaklava did not need glory. Well, then, if it was not for glory that they carried on this war, he would ask, was it from fear of disgrace? What disgrace had they to fear? Turkey was safe; the whole that had been demanded of Russia in respect to Turkey had been conceded; there was not a Russian soldier on the Turkish territory; and Russia had bound herself to respect the independence and integrity of that country. If, then, they had no fear of disgrace, and if they were not prepared to carry on a war for mere military success and glory, he did call upon the House to pause before they gave their deliberate sanction to a Motion that went to perpetuate a war that in its consequences was calculated to bring the most formidable disasters on the country.
§ SIR WILLIAM MOLESWORTH
It is somewhat difficult to tell what is at the present moment the precise question which the House has to consider. The original Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire was a vote of censure on Her Majesty's Government. 1336 That Motion was negatived, and now the Motion for the consideration of the House is the first part of the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Kidderminster. But, before the second part can be put, the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir W. Heathcote), to the effect that we ought to have made peace with Russia on the terms proposed by Russia, will be put. On the other hand, the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kidderminster was, that we ought not to make peace on the Russian terms. According, however, to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester, the prolongation of the war by the refusal of the terms offered by Russia was most unwise. Therefore, I may assume that the question which the House has now to consider is whether we ought or not to make peace upon the Russian proposal with regard to the third point. The opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester is that we ought to be satisfied with the Russian proposal. He began his speech by admitting that the existence of Turkey was a political necessity; he then went on to state what he considered to be the causes of the war; he declared that it was caused not by the peace party, but by the attacks made on France by the Press and by the articles in The Times against Turkey; he then proceeded to express his opinion that the power of Russia was a mere bugbear, and that the continuance of the war would be most injurious to Turkey; and he urged that Turkey was in no danger, for there was not a single Russian soldier in that country. The right hon. Gentleman also asserted that we had already gained the objects of this war; that those objects could be secured as well by the Russian proposals with regard to the third point as by the proposals of the Allied Powers; that there was no substantial difference between those proposals, and if there were, that the Russian proposals were rather better than ours; and, therefore, he asked, what are we fighting and quarrelling about? I will consider and endeavour to answer the positions of the right hon. Gentleman. Now, have we already gained the objects of this war? The right hon. Gentleman said that all we asked for before we went to war and much more have been conceded by Russia; that we ought therefore to be satisfied, because, as a general rule, a nation when it draws the sword does not enlarge its demands. This rule was laid 1337 down on the first night of this debate by my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford. Notwithstanding his high authority, I hold this rule to be a bad one, contrary to common sense, and, if generally recognised, that it might lead to most pernicious consequences; for what greater inducement could you hold out to a wrong doing despot to persevere in doing wrong, and to reject fair and reasonable terms, than to assure him beforehand that he will not put himself in a worse position by so doing? The sound rule of war for a great nation is—BewareOf entrance to a quarrel; but, being in,Bear it, that the opposer may beware of thee.This rule is especially applicable in the present case, because, in order to avoid drawing the sword—in order to maintain peace as long as possible, and to avert from Europe the calamities of war, we lowered, in the first instance, our demands on Russia, as much as we could do with honour, and asked less than we were entitled to ask; but, having been compelled to draw the sword—having incurred a vast expenditure, having sacrificed many valuable lives, the chief reason for abating our demands no longer exists. We are now entitled to stand upon our full rights, to require that those rights should be rendered secure, and we are also entitled, if we think proper, to increase our demands with the continuance of the war, and in proportion to the success of our arms. I should remind my right hon. Friend, that the right to increase our demands on Russia with the continuance of the war has been repeatedly and distinctly asserted by Lord Aberdeen's Government in their communications with foreign Powers. For instance, in the note of the 8th of August, and in the memorandum of the 28th of December, the power to put forward conditions beyond the four guarantees was expressly reserved. Therefore, if the position of the right hon. Gentleman be true that Russia has conceded all we asked for before the commencement of hostilities, that does not prove that we have gained all that we are now entitled to ask for, and obtained all the objects of the war. On the contrary, I maintain that if we were now to make peace on the Russian terms, we should abandon the chief object for which we engaged in war. What were those objects? I cannot admit the definition of them given by the right hon. Gentleman. We engaged in this war, after a protracted and fruitless 1338 negotiation that showed our earnest desire to maintain the peace of the world—we engaged in this war with the all but universal approbation of the people of England, and even with some censure for tardiness in so doing, for the purpose of preventing the dangerous aggrandisement of Russia at the expense of the Ottoman Empire—an aggrandisement which threatened the stability of the system of European States, of which system we held that the Ottoman Empire ought to be a member. We also engaged in this war to enforce the obligations of the European law of nations—to punish Russia for her wanton violation of that law by the invasion of the Danubian Principalities—to teach her that she cannot with impunity disregard the rights and liberties of weaker States, and that there are at least two European Powers who are ready and willing and determined to curb her insolent and aggressive spirit. To avenge the occupation of the Principalities, the closing of the Danube to commerce, and the outrage at Sinope, and to take security against future danger from Russia, we declared it to be indispensable that an end should be put to the preponderance and prepotency of Russia in the Euxine; and we asserted, amid the cheers of this House, and with the assent of the nation, that the numerous Russian fleet stationed at Sebastopol was not required for the defence of that empire, but was a standing menace to Turkey that ought not to be permitted to exist. For these objects we went to war with Russia—sent our fleets to the Baltic and Euxine—sent our army to the Crimea, and caused it to endure the sufferings of a winter campaign. For these objects, also, we agreed to negotiate at Vienna on the basis of the Four Points. With regard to the first two points Russia readily came to terms. But why did she do so? She did so with the view of detaching Austria from the Western alliance, and of securing the neutrality of Germany. On the third point, which contained the security for the other points, Russia used every diplomatic trick and device to escape from honestly fulfilling her agreement to put an end to her preponderance in the Euxine. She rejected the moderate—by some considered too moderate—terms of the allies, and proposed in their stead terms, the adoption of which would, in my opinion, be a worse alternative than the abandonment of the third point. On this subject I am quite at variance with the right hon. Gentleman. He maintains 1339 that the objects of this war would he as well secured by the Russian terms as by those of the allies, and that as far as the security of those objects is concerned there is little substantial difference between the terms in question. On the contrary, I think the difference between those terms is very great, namely, all the difference between the cost of a war establishment and the cost of a peace establishment, that is, the chief and substantial difference between a state of war and a state of peace; for the terms of the allies would only require a peace establishment and a peace expenditure in the East. The Russian terms would, if we did our duty, impose upon the allies a permanent war establishment and a permanent war expenditure in the East; or, if we did not do our duty, they would put Turkey completely at the mercy of Russia. I will very briefly compare the terms of the allies with those of Russia. According to our terms, Russia would be bound by a treaty which would form part of the recognised international law of Europe, and which all European States would be bound to assist in enforcing, not to maintain in the Black Sea more than a certain specified and moderate number of ships of war—a number not exceeding our ordinary force in the Mediterranean. If she were to attempt to exceed that specified number, we should be entitled to ask for explanations, to remonstrate with her, to remind her of her treaty obligations, and, if all this were vain, we should be entitled to denounce her to Europe as a treaty-breaker, and alone, or with the aid of our allies, to compel her by force to keep faith with Europe. For this purpose it would not be necessary for us to maintain in the Mediterranean a fleet larger than the limited fleet of Russia, and consequently our ordinary naval establishment in the Mediterranean and our ordinary peace expenditure would be sufficient to guard Turkey. Very different would be the case if either of the Russian proposals were adopted. We should then have to run a never-ending race with Russia in naval armaments and naval expenditure in the East. The first Russian proposition was the opening of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles; this was unhesitatingly condemned by the representatives of Turkey, of France, of England, and even of Austria. Ali Pasha declared "that his instructions prescribed to him the maintenance of the principle of closing the Straits; that the Sublime 1340 Porte had at all times considered this principle as a guarantee of its independence; that the opening of the Black Sea would, in her eyes, constitute not only a danger to the Ottoman Empire, but would also multiply the occasions for a misunderstanding between the European Powers." I think that this observation of the Turkish Plenipotentiary was most just; for, according to this proposal, Russia would be entitled not only to re-establish her fleet, but to increase it to eighteen or twenty or more sail of the line, and to send this menacing force into the Mediterranean. To counterbalance it we should have to maintain a force of equal magnitude in the East. It would be difficult to imagine two such mighty fleets fully manned, armed to the teeth, sailing up and down those narrow seas, watching and suspecting each other, without coming to blows; in fact, in such a state of things a battle and a great victory, giving a superiority to one or other fleet, would be a relief from intolerable anxiety on the part of both nations and of all Europe. At the same conference M. Drouyn de Lhuys said that, "he was not authorised to discuss the details of the Russian plan, the fundamental idea of which is diametrically opposed to the system which France would have wished to have seen maintained." Count Buol said that "Austria having nothing more at heart than to contribute to the re-establishment of peace, he regretted sincerely to see Russia proposing a principle of opening the Black Sea, while the other Powers are unanimous in proclaiming the contrary principle as necessary to the tranquillity of Europe." In fact, the opening of the Black Sea would not only not put an end to the preponderance of Russia in the Euxine, but would tend to extend that preponderance to the Mediterranean, to the waters of Greece, and to the Bay of Naples. Peace, therefore, on such terms would not only be an abandonment of the chief object for which we went to war, but a surrender of Turkish rights which we ought to do our utmost to maintain. The second proposition of Russia was merely the status quo ante bellum respecting the Black Sea, with the exception that the Sultan "should reserve to himself the power to open by way of temporary exception the straits of the Dardanelles and of the Bosphorus to the fleets of foreign Powers which the Sublime Porte should think it necessary to summon whenever she should think her security menaced." That is, the Porte was 1341 to have the power to summon into the Euxine the fleets of England and France, whenever she should consider herself menaced by Russia; and, on the other hand, the Porte would also have power to summon into the Mediterranean the Russian fleet whenever she imagined herself to be menaced by France or England. Now, it is evident that, in order that this power of summoning fleets should be of any use to the Porte, fleets must be at hand to be summoned; and, therefore, if France and England had agreed to this proposition, they would have been at least morally bound to keep fleets in the Mediterranean ready at once to obey the summons of the Porte, and in sufficient force to cope at any time with the Russian fleet in the Euxine. On the other hand, as this proposition contains no limitation of the Russian fleet, Russia would be entitled to re-establish, and would re-establish, her fleet to its former amount, and she would also be entitled to augment it to any extent she might think proper; and she would be able to assign as a specious reason for so doing, that she, too, was morally bound to obey the summons of the Porte to defend her against danger from the Western Powers, and, therefore, that the Russian fleet in the Euxine should always be equal to cope with the combined fleets of France and England in the Mediterranean. Peace on these terms would, therefore, impose upon us the duties of perpetual police in the East, it would be a peace founded upon provisions for a renewal of war, it would bind us to be always ready for war, it would require us to be prepared to send into the Black Sea armaments as powerful as we now maintain there, on every occasion when the Porte was in danger, and therefore considered her security menaced. But the Porte would always be in danger from a re-established Russian fleet in Sebastopol, which would become again, what we have so often proclaimed it to be, namely, a standing menace to Turkey. Therefore, peace on these terms would not only be an abandonment of the chief object for which Great Britain engaged in war, but would permanently impose upon us—if we fulfilled our obligation—all the chief burdens of war. Peace, on these terms, would be worse than the present state of things; for, though at present we have to bear the burden of war, yet we have, in fact, accomplished our object—we have put down the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea, and the fleet which menaced 1342 Turkey no longer exists, the greater portion being under the waves of the Euxine. Shall we permit her to raise it or rebuild it? Now that we have got it down, would it not be better to keep it down, than to incur at no distant period the risk, the trouble, and the expense of sinking it again, and of sending for that purpose another hazardous expedition to the Crimea? I think, therefore, that, instead of there being, as the right hon. Gentleman said, no difference between the Russian terms and our terms, there is a most substantial difference, namely, the difference between the cost of a peace and the cost of a war establishment. With regard to the expedition to the Crimea, my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford made some remarks the other night which deserve consideration. He defended it—he denied that it was rash or ill- considered—he asserted that it was a wise and prudent expedition; and then, from these premises, he arrived at the most extraordinary conclusion, that we ought to hasten to abandon the chief, the only object for which that expedition was undertaken, and which most important object we are probably on the eve of attaining. My right hon. Friend asked us to "note the language of Russia in August, 1854, before the expedition to the Crimea, and to note the acts and language of that Power in December, 1854, after that expedition." Then my right hon. Friend proceeded to show that in December, 1854, "the Emperor of Russia promised an unreserved acceptance of those very terms which in the preceding August he had contemptuously and contumeliously rejected." Then, said my right hon. Friend, "you have got your first point; you have got your second point; whenever you choose you may get your fourth point; and you have got the first half of the third point. What, then," he asked, "are we quarrelling about?" I answer that we are quarrelling about that very thing, without which we can have no security either for the first or the second point—without which the first portion of the third point would be little better than an empty phrase—that very thing which induced Lord Aberdeen's Government to send the expedition to the Crimea, namely, the destruction of the preponderance of Russia in the Euxine. To put down that preponderance was the sole object of the expedition against Sebastopol; except for that object no valid reason can be given 1343 for that expedition; for that object it was all-important; it was the only means of striking a body-blow at Russia that was likely to accomplish the great end of the war. We might have fought battle after battle in the Principalities, we might have crossed the Pruth and gained victory after victory in Bessarabia, we might have destroyed Odessa, and slaughtered Russians by myriads, but all in vain; the Russian fleet, safe in Sebastopol, would have continued to be a standing menace to Turkey, ready to issue forth from that stronghold, and to attack us in flank or rear, should any accident of winds or waves in the treacherous Euxine have dispersed the allied fleets. I therefore agree with my right hon. Friend in maintaining that the expedition to the Crimea was a wise and prudent one. I have never regretted that expedition. I was convinced that it was undertaken at the right time; that if it had been postponed, so great would have been the further accumulation of force and of the materials of war that it could not have been undertaken with any chance of success; but by our winter campaign we have exhausted to a considerable degree the immense force and material of war which had been accumulated there. We now open the campaign with a fair prospect of the speedy success of that expedition. Of its ultimate success I have never doubted, provided that we were not wanting in courage and perseverance. At the same time I could not conceal from myself—what every reflecting man in Europe must have perceived—that the expedition to the Crimea involved us in a struggle from out of which there was no honourable issue but success in putting down Russian preponderance. Without such success, either by means of the sword or of diplomacy, the expedition to the Crimea will be an inglorious failure, and the lives of the brave men who perished there will have been sacrificed in vain; for without that success, I repeat, we can have no security, either for the first or second of the four points; that portion of the third point which my right hon. Friend says Russia has conceded to us would be but an empty phrase, and all the other concessions of Russia would be valueless. But supposing the Russian concessions are as valuable as my right hon. Friend imagines them to be, in my opinion they should not induce us to abate one jot of our pretensions, but should embolden us to persevere at least in the demands which 1344 Lord Aberdeen's Government considered to be just and necessary. For, what has induced Russia to yield as much as my right hon. Friend says she has yielded. Was it repentance? She is incapable of such a feeling. Was it shame? She knows not the meaning of the word. Was it the public opinion of Europe? That was expressed against her long ago, and she remained unmoved, insolent, and defying. What was it then? Fear—nothing but fear; fear based upon Alma and Inkerman—fear founded upon the consciousness that her resources are rapidly diminishing—fear produced by the knowledge that her armies are perishing—fear arising from the belief that the strength of the allies is steadily increasing—fear emanating from the conviction that if we persevere we must be victorious. Therefore, she has recourse to diplomatic wiles and State intrigues. She hopes by a show of moderation, combined with audacity, to sow dissensions among us, to cajole the weak, to frighten the timorous, to strengthen the peace party, to impose upon the simplicity of some, on the credulity of others, to create a Russian party in this House and in the country, and to trick us all as she did the diplomatists of Europe in the year 1829. Let the history of the campaign of that year, as given in the pages of Moltke, be a warning to us. Then the ignorance or perfidy of European diplomatists saved Russia from a complete and ignominious rout, gave her an undeserved victory, and forced upon Turkey a disadvantageous peace. Let us not, by following timid counsels, enable future historians to tell a similar tale of this war, and to record in history that, on the eve of success, the Parliament and statesmen of England consented to an ignominious and dangerous peace. In my opinion, peace on the terms propounded by Russia would be, under existing circumstances, both ignominious and dangerous; for it would be a confession of defeat on the part of England and France, which would elevate the renown and reputation of Russia to an eminence menacing alike to Europe and Asia; it would embolden her to new aggressions, and teach her to despise the menaces of the Western Powers. Such a peace would make Austria less ill-disposed, Prussia more friendly, and all the petty potentates of Germany more cringing to the Czar—it would, in proportion as it elevated Russia, lessen the repute of England and France, it would cover the allied 1345 armies with shame and dishonour, it would produce mutual recriminations between the commanders, the officers, and the men—it would weaken our alliance with France—it would be a heavy blow to western civilisation—an enormous triumph to the barbarism of the North, and it would necessitate France and England, ere long, to seek new battlefields whereon to regain their lost honour and renown. A recreant peace would be especially dangerous to this country. It would shake the foundations of our empire in India, an empire based upon the opinion of our irresistible might, entertained by a fickle and excitable Oriental people, easily moved from the extreme of fear to the extreme of audacity—an empire encompassed by bitter foes, who now watch with intense anxiety our struggle with Russia, ready to attack us if the result of that struggle should persuade them that we are less formidable than they conceived us to be. A dishonourable pence would also make every man of English descent, every colonist of Great Britain, ashamed of the humiliation and pusillanimity of the mother country, and would tend to convert the feelings of affection, so strongly expressed towards us by our colonists at the beginning of this war, into sentiments of contempt dangerous to our colonial dominion. We should bear in mind that though the British empire is a mighty one, encircling the globe and extending from pole to pole, yet the British islands, the centre, the heart, and the mainspring of our imperial system, are a small territory not exceeding in magnitude many a second-rate kingdom. The strength of our empire consists in the universal belief in the indomitable vigour, in the untiring energy, and in the invincible courage of our race; but, if we show that we have lost these qualities, that we are degenerate sons of those men, of that yeomanry, of that gentry, and of that aristocracy, who half a century ago bade defiance to Europe in arms, and that we are become craven and emasculated by long peace, then our mighty empire will soon crumble to pieces, our external dominions will be torn from us, we shall sink into a second-rate State and hold an insignificant position among the nations of Europe. It was the boast of the British soldier, it was the boast of the British sailor, that he knew not when he was beaten, that when, according to every principle of strategy, according to every rule of war, he was defeated—when he was surrounded by overwhelming forces, still 1346 he fought on undismayed, and frequently victory beyond expectation crowned his indomitable valour and his everlasting courage. Now, it is in fact proposed by those who wish to make peace on Russian terms, and, therefore, to give a victory to Russia, that the British soldier and sailor shall run away and abandon their colours without having suffered one single reverse or endured one single defeat. For we have suffered no reverses, we have endured no defeats; though we have not as yet accomplished all that we expected to do, though it may be true that blunders have been committed in the administration of the war, though it may be true that abler men might have been placed at the head of our fleets and armies and in the councils of the State; yet the fact is that we have suffered no reverses nor defeats. In the Baltic we have swept the mercantile marine of Russia from the sea, and compelled her men-of-war to skulk ingloriously behind her granite fortifications. In the Euxine we have forced Russia to commit naval suicide, and put an end to a preponderance which she can never re-establish without our consent. In the Sea of Azoff we have inflicted immense damage on Russia, destroyed her stores, and cut off her chief means of provisioning her army in the Crimea. In every encounter by land—at Alma, Inkerman, Balaklava, and in the trenches—we have been more than a match for foes superior in number. Our army is now in excellent condition, our fleets are matchless, our finances are most flourishing; we can carry on this war with ease for the next half-a-dozen years; we can annually repeat, without detriment to the resources of the country, the naval, military, and financial efforts which we made last year, and are making this year. If we are not faint-hearted and timorous, but bold and self-relying, long before the expiration of that period we shall bring this war to a satisfactory termination, and conclude an honourable peace, worthy of the reputation and renown of allied France and England.
§ MR. JOHN MACGREGOR
said, he was far from agreeing that the Government had done all that was possible before entering upon the war, either to maintain peace, or to make efficient preparations for hostilities; but he must admit that the nation was impatient that war had not sooner been commenced. He blamed the late Government for having neglected all ordinary precautions against climate, disease 1347 and famine; and he likewise contended that, if the same zeal and activity which pervaded every department of the French Government had been evinced by our Government at home, thousands of the gallant fellows whose corpses now mingled with the soil of the Crimea might have been alive and well. He could not agree with the right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) that we had gone to war solely for the purpose of defending Turkey from the aggressions of Russia. He would point out to the House the attempts which Russian princes had made in the ninth and tenth centuries to capture Constantinople, and to the subsequent marriage of a Russian Czar with the niece of the last Greek emperor, on which the designs of Peter and Catherine were founded. Throughout the whole aggressive history of Russia we find nothing but perfidy in her foreign policy; and he believed that there would not be the least dependence to be placed in any treaty into which she might enter. As to the proposal for limiting her naval force in the Black Sea, never was there a greater delusion in the world. Such was the character of that sea and of its harbours that the most prudent course under any circumstances would be for her to keep her ships of war upon the stocks till the moment they were wanted. He well knew what could be done on the Clyde, where the largest ship might be completely finished, so as to be ready for sea, before launching; and there was nothing in the world to prevent Russia from keeping, in addition to the number of ships to be allowed her by treaty, a large number of men of war ready to launch and fit to proceed to sea the day after. He regarded this proposition therefore as the wildest chimera that ever entered into the brain of a diplomatist. The wisest course the allies could take would be to have the Euxine declared open to ships of all nations. To expect that Austria would ever enter upon an aggressive war against Russia would be to indulge in an illusion as vapoury as the passing clouds. He knew Vienna and its leading statesmen well; and, taking into consideration the mixed character of the Austrian population, and the vulnerability of the Austrian empire on the side of Russia, it would be idle to hope that she would do more than occupy the Principalities for defensive purposes, and use her good offices in the way of diplomacy. Prussia had been treated with great severity by 1348 Russia even later than the treaty of Tilsit, but she had nevertheless entered into relations with Russia which, although they might in the end prove fatal to her, would render it impossible for her to take arms against the common foe of Europe. The other German courts were all Russian; but the German people had no sympathies with Russia, and they had no more confidence in their sovereigns than Her Majesty's subjects had in her Majesty's Ministers. He hoped that neither the Government nor the public would be too highly elated with the recent successes of the allies. So far as appeared, those successes might have been obtained, just as well eight months ago as now—and if Ministers had the same want of foresight and sagacity, and the same divided councils, they might yet expect to meet with disasters. What was wanted was one supreme command, and if France, which had the greatest number of troops, were allowed to appoint the generalissimo of the army, and England to appoint the chief admirals of the combined fleets, the whole difficulty of a divided command would be removed. He did not agree with his right hon. Friend the member for Manchester that we were in a position to make peace. He contended that we must, under any circumstances, destroy Sebastopol. Moreover he thought that, considering the political crimes of Russia, and her uniform disregard of past treaties, we ought, injustice to the people of England and of France, to insist upon a full indemnification for the whole expenses of the war. By that means we should permanently weaken the power of Russia more than by any other course. It would compel her to make a loan; and before persons would lend they would require the amplest securities. Those securities, and the payment of the interest, would constitute a much better safeguard than any such illusory proposal as a reduction in the number of Russian ships of war in the Black Sea. The most gratifying circumstance in connexion with this war was the French alliance, and he trusted that the maintenance of that alliance would be made the first consideration in the minds and acts of the British nation. At all events any Government that should dare to entertain even the idea of making peace on any terms but such as would prove equally honourable and satisfactory to the people of this country and of France would find themselves branded with eternal disgrace in the pages of history.
§ MR. G. E. VERNON
said, that he should be failing in his duty if, in deference to the enthusiasm of the hour—if, for the temporary purpose of courting popularity, he were to refrain from expressing his opinion that the negotiations ought to have been continued, and that the opportunity had been lost of a satisfactory termination of the war. He found fault with the Ministers for having pursued a course the policy of which he could not understand. Matters either were ripe for negotiation, or they were not. If they were not ripe in the judgment of the Government—then, no matter how delicate our relations with Austria might be, no matter how complicated might be our position with regard to our allies, the Government would in the end have done better if they had declared definitively what their requirements were. If they had announced their views in a manner which Russia could not misunderstand or misinterpret—if they had declared themselves willing, not to negotiate so much as to receive overtures of peace upon the conditions which they had laid down—if, in short, they had assumed the attitude of a great Power embarked in a mighty cause, strong in their military position, and confident of success. If, on the other hand, the Government was of opinion that there was a fair opportunity of negotiating on terms honourable to the allied Powers and not discreditable to Russia, a prospect of settling this matter, not by a miserable compromise, but by the substantial gain of more than we had asked or hoped for in the commencement of the war, then the negotiations ought not to have been broken off. And be would say this, that if we were to negotiate at all, we must negotiate on terms not repugnant to the safety or honour of either party. If we were to treat with Russia not as a conquered and reduced country, but as one which we still acknowledged as a first-rate Power, we must treat with her in that spirit of fairness and consideration which ought to characterise the dealings of nations as of individuals.
It had been the fashion to talk of those who held what he (Mr. Vernon) considered moderate and reasonable opinions upon this question, as men who desired peace at any price; he denied the justice of the expression. There was a party in that House, and in the country, who conscientiously thought that all war was wrong—who believed that the spread of civilisation and religion, that motives of self-interest, 1350 that the habits of association and the interchange of commerce, would sufficiently correct and restrain the ambition of monarchs, and the jealousies of nations. He respected the opinions of these Gentlemen, but he entirely dissented from them. It seemed to him that in the view which they took of human affairs, they closed the eye which they ought to apply to the telescope. Nor could he agree with that small fraction of politicians who, not denying the necessity of war in the abstract, do deny the necessity of the present war, and are anxious therefore to terminate it as soon as possible. If, on the one hand, however, there were men who would get peace at any possible rate, there were also those who seemed to think that when once war was waged, when once the sword was drawn—he would not say that peace must never be made (though that would be the logical consequence of the arguments used by the Member for Enniskillen, whose brilliant and eloquent speech reminded them of the eloquence of former days), but that we must always strain after some condition of peace beyond what we could fairly expect to attain, or what would give an effective hope of a settlement of the question. With none of these opinions could he (Mr. Vernon) agree. So long as human passion, as well as human intellect, were concerned in influencing the government of nations as well as of men, so long would armaments be necessary, so long would occasional war be unavoidable.
He believed this war to have been necessary and just. It was called for in protection of an oppressed ally, in defence of violated treaties—in vindication of personal good faith and international law. A weak State unjustly attacked in a time of profound peace by a strong and allied neighbour excited the sympathies, and aroused the generous feelings of men. Nor could statesmen disregard the invasion of territories, whose independence is held of vital importance to the equilibrium of power in the European system of nations. History had nothing more lamentable to record, than that a monarch, who as much by his moderation as by his energy had won the respect of Europe, should have closed his career by acts which had spread misery and confusion, and tarnished a reputation which once stood so deservedly high. After all, be it remembered, he had gone to war rather with a dynasty than with a nation. The more convinced he was that we had justice and right on our side when we undertook 1351 this war, the more important he felt it was that by no false step should we give to any one cause to doubt the purity of our motives and the sincerity of our intentions.
Now, that the negotiations were broken off, the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford was clearly inapplicable, and could not be put; but by what right were those who had intended to support it, stigmatized by the Member for Wilts (Mr. Seymer) as friends of Russia—by what right were they termed by the Member for Enniskillen and the First Lord of the Treasury "men of peace at any price"? He (Mr. Vernon) entertained as strongly as any one the sentiment of pride in the chivalry of our army and in the success of our arms—his pulse beat as strongly as that of any man at the announcement of each fresh feat of the heroes whom we had sent forth to victory, aye, to that succession of victories which he believed that strong arms, stout hearts, and a good cause would continue, under God's Providence, to secure to them. But, after all, war is a great curse, and is only to be justified as a means, and the only means to a secure peace.
If we had gone to war without a definite object, we should have committed a crime. If we had a definite object, we ought to be satisfied when it was in substance attained. Let us carefully keep in view the object for which we are fighting, and if we saw a probability that our end would be attained—that further waste of human blood, and, what was of less importance, of treasure, could be spared. If we thought that Europe could again be restored to tranquillity and improvement, and all this without loss of prestige or sacrifice of honour, he felt bound then to state (however unpopular might be the view he took) that in his opinion the negotiations ought not to have been broken off. He did not go to the extreme length to which the argument of his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford would seem to point—he did not think that we ought to ask for, or to be content with the terms which would have satisfied us previous to, or at the commencement of the war. Altered circumstances of belligerents, and successes in war, though they might not justify an alteration of the purpose for which the war was entered upon, did doubtless give a right to increased demand as additional security for our object.
1352 It might fairly be argued that we ought not to have entered upon negotiations at all until we had struck some singal blow which should give unmistakeable evidence of our superior power. We might have said this—we will teach a haughty and powerful monarch that he shall not override Europe, that he shall not be the arbiter of the destinies of nations, that craft and diplomacy and violence of arms shall not for ever prevail; that as a member of the European system of nations he must set bounds to his ambition. Nay, more, we might have said,—We will give him such a lesson as he will not forget, we will reduce him to the level of a second-rate Power, we will take his territory from him, and cripple him till he sue for peace. This might be possible, and probably was so where two nations like England and France combined to make it so, but he (Mr. Vernon) doubted the wisdom or morality of such a course. We did not go to war for the purpose of setting nation against nation. We did not go to war for a fresh partition of Europe. We did not go to war to take territory from one power in order to give it to another which could not keep it. We did not propose to ourselves to keep armies and fleets of occupation on the Russian soil; least of all did we go to war in the mere pride of heart or from the lust of conquest. But, on the other hand, if we did negotiate, we ought to do so with singleness of purpose. Certain points were agreed upon as the bases of negotiation, and to those points the question at issue should, as much as possible, be confined.
When it was remembered that the proposition made by the allied negotiators, and rejected by Russia, had been denounced and ridiculed by men of every party and section in that House, he (Mr. Vernon) thought it was not too much to say that such a proposition ought not to have been made our ultimatum.
No problem, perhaps, was more difficult of solution than a satisfactory arrangement of the artificial balance of power in the Black Sea. He thought that the Russian plan, if modified, had the elements of a better settlement than our own. It appeared to him that the rejection of that plan had been caused by a suspicion analogous to that expressed in the hackneyed quotation which they had often heard used by the gallant Member for Lincoln—Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.1353 He felt sure that the course taken was the one least likely really to assist the country which we professed to support. If we made peace now we should have gained our real object; if we held out for extravagant conditions we might indeed, and no doubt we should, gain great military successes. But the result would be this, that when during years of war we had lavished our blood and our treasure, when we had arrested the march of improvement and demoralized the minds of millions, we should at the same time have exhausted the finances and destroyed the bone and sinew of the wretched Turks, and instead of an ovation we should receive the curses of a beggared and decimated people. He had little sympathy or respect for those who, with singular inconstancy, had cheered to the echo the announcement last year of the intended invasion of the Crimea, and who now denounced it as a wild and rash scheme. He did not consider that there had been the failure which was assumed; he denied the assertions that our honour was in any way tarnished, but he said on the contrary that with the successes which we had obtained, with the confidence which we possessed in our resources, we could afford to show to Europe and to the world, that while we did not shrink from a just and righteous war, we, above all things, valued the progress of civilisation and the blessings of peace.
§ VISCOUNT DUNGARVAN
said, he thought the late speeches of the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham) and for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) on this question of peace or war were greatly to be regretted, for, coming as they did from Gentlemen who had recently held office, and who had been parties to the commencement of the war, there could be no doubt that they would have a most discouraging effect both on the people at home, and also on our brave allies abroad. He was glad to hear that the negotiations at Vienna were not likely to be renewed after our late successes, for the state of uncertainty in which the public mind was kept during the progress of those negotiations, and the manner in which the Government had discouraged all discussion of them, had prevented the people from placing in the noble Lord at the head of the Government that entire confidence which was necessary for the successful carrying on of a great war. The House of Commons had been told last Session that Europe stood in no danger 1354 from Russian aggression; but the accumulation of vast stores in the Crimea, her refusal to limit her fleet in a quarter where it could only be needed for aggressive purposes, her former intrigues in the Danish succession, and her efforts to paralyse Germany, were the best answers to those who made such an assertion. Neither was that the opinion of the first Napoleon, for, according to him, a brave, able, and ambitious Emperor of Russia might have Europe at his feet. Engaged in a war with a Power like Russia, the question for us to consider at the present moment was, whether the terms offered by Russia at the late conference were such as to dispel all doubts as to her tortuous policy. He had no hesitation in saying that he rather rejoiced than not that the Plenipotentiaries of Russia had refused the conditions offered by the allies; for he believed that it was a condition which France and England would have had no means of seeing properly carried out. With regard to the counter propositions of Russia, the noble Lord at the head of the Government had the other night most successfully shown that the first was no security at all for Turkey, and that the second was no concession at all, for ever since the treaty of 1841 the Porte had been in full possession of the power of calling for the assistance of the fleets of the Western Powers whenever it judged that assistance necessary. The only construction, therefore, which could be put upon the proposals of Russia was that by making them she was seeking to throw the onus upon us, in the eyes of the German Powers, of continuing the war. Let us accept the challenge, and Russia would find she had made a great mistake if she thought that the active co-operation of Austria and Prussia was necessary to enable the Western Powers to wage a successful war against her. No one could more sincerely deprecate a war undertaken for the sake of prestige alone than himself; but all history showed us that an untarnished and unbroken prestige was one of the mainstays of a great nation. No doubt, many misfortunes had befallen us—no doubt, many faces formerly well known on the benches of the House would never more be seen there; yet nothing, he felt sure, would abate the resolution that England had taken in this case. Careful as we ought always to be to foster the interests of commerce, England, to maintain her high position among the nations of the world, must never cease to 1355 stand forward as a protector of the weak and the oppressed. He should support the first part of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe), believing that it gave expression to the feelings of the people that this war should be prosecuted to a successful termination; but the latter part he could not support, as it tended to fetter the hands of the Government in this important struggle.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, that as no one directly connected with trade and commerce had yet spoken on the question before the House, and as the trade with which he was connected, the linen manufactures of Forfarshire, was peculiarly interested in the struggle with Russia, he would ask leave of the House to allow him to explain the view he took on the subject under consideration. He had thought from the beginning that both the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. W. Heath cote) and that of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe) could be correctly enough objected to on constitutional grounds. His impression was, that it would be both unusual and imprudent in the House of Commons to pass any Resolution which would have the effect of hampering or fettering the Executive Government at the present moment. It was scarcely within their province to say whether or not negotiations should be renewed, or what were the precise terms to obtain which they thought it worth while prosecuting the war. Whether they should, in the first place, give way to Russia as soon as possible, or whether, in the second, they should not make any peace with that Power till she consented to the diminution of her fleet in the Black Sea, were points to be determined, not by the House of Commons, but by the responsible Ministers of the Crown; and the House should either treat those Ministers with a generous confidence or at once take measures for displacing them. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) said, there were two courses open to them, viz., the impeachment of Ministers, or the stopping the supplies. For his part, he thought that a third course was open to them, and he even felt surprised that the hon. Member for Manchester had not taken that course and voted for the Motion of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli). He thought it would be unwise in that House to adopt either of those two courses. No terms had yet 1356 been proposed which Russia thought it consisted with her honour to accept; but no one could say that we should not obtain even better terms than any that had yet been spoken of. He could not understand that Russia should be guaranteed the continued peaceable possession of provinces which she had acquired by violence and fraud; but he was not prepared to shut the door to any offer of terms that Russia should make, even though that offer did not contain a stipulation that she should limit her Black Sea fleet. She might, for instance, propose to give up those provinces withdrawn from Georgia, retire behind the Caucasian Mountains, destroy Sebastopol, or indemnify the Turks for the expenses of the war. It might be preferable in the interest of the Powers of Western Europe that she should accede to the reduction of her fleet; but it could hardly be said, because she refused to do that, that all means of arriving at an agreement were exhausted. He had listened with great admiration to the speech of the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone). No man was more sensible than he (Mr. Baxter) was to the description given by the right hon. gentleman of the horrors of war; yet all through that splendid oration he felt that the right hon. gentleman was taking a one-sided view of the question, and, in his anxiety to stay the present tide of bloodshed, was overlooking the future security of Europe. The right hon. gentleman passed by quite unnoticed the gradual and almost unexpected development of the Russian plan of spoliation since the present contest began; and he overlooked entirely the fact that if the 200,000 men, English, French, Turks and Sardinians, in the Crimea retired without having effected their object, without having shown in the sight of the whole civilised world that the despotism of Russia, even though backed by 1,000,000 of soldiers, was no match for the civilised West, then the projects of that Power would be encouraged and fortified. There was not a Court in Germany that would not bow down more and more before her; the political enfranchisement of the Continent would be postponed, and the superiority and invincibility of Russia would be published in every village of Tartary, Persia, Armenia, and Thibet, till it reached the frontiers of our own gigantic dominions in Hindostan. For himself, he was in favour of peace. War was contrary to the spirit of Christianity, was adverse 1357 to the progress of civilisation, and tended to increase the taxation and add to the difficulties of the poor. Besides, he had, in common with his constituents, a direct pecuniary interest in putting a stop as soon as possible to a conflict with a Power on which they were, to a great extent, dependent; but, looking to the whole circumstances of the case, he had come to the conclusion that any peace likely to be made now would not endure long, and that the integrity of Turkey, the future security of Europe, and even that cause of international concord which hon. gentlemen had so much at heart, would be best served by a vigorous prosecution of the campaign in the Crimea, Russia would be much more likely to make a peace safe and honourable to herself and to all parties concerned, and to keep that treaty of peace when made, when she had no longer a single fort, or harbour, or ship in the Black Sea. He had no wish to continue a conflict merely to humble any Power, but a Power which had violated the public opinion of Europe and outraged their sense of public justice must be content to bear the consequences of persevering in an aggressive and unprincipled policy. These were the reasons which would guide him in the course he should take that night. He must say he believed the Ministers might be safely trusted to make for them not a patched-up peace, but a peace which would not be likely to be broken during the present century.
§ MR. H. BAILLIE
said, he could not help remarking the very great discrepancy between the language used by the Government previous to the present debate, and that which they had held in the course of it. At first, they had stated that negotiations were still pending, and, next, they had told the House that all negotiations were positively at an end. Now he wished to ask which of these irreconcilable announcements was to be believed? But, if the language of the Government had been ambiguous, what had been their acts in the management of the war? The First Minister of the Crown had thrown down a challenge on this subject, and claimed credit to the Government for their conduct of the war. The noble Lord said the army was now ready to take the field, that its medical department was efficient, the commissariat working well, the land transport corps organised; and he seemed inclined to ask, "What more, then, could be required of a Prime Minister?" Now, 1358 an army when encamped and having a railway to its port could hardly want a land transport corps; neither, when lodged in huts, could it greatly need tents; and they must therefore wait till that army had actually taken the field and engaged in active operations before the noble Lord's glowing description of the state of the various auxiliary departments could be properly tested. But admitting his representations to be unexaggerated, what was this magnificent boast of the First Minister? Why, that England, with its vast wealth and almost infinite resources, had been able to furnish an army of 40,000 men fit for taking the field. Any second-rate German Power, such as Bavaria or Wurtemberg for instance, would have achieved the feat in much less time. But in furnishing forth the efficient army which he had described the noble Lord had denuded England of regular troops, there not being four regiments of the line left in the United Kingdom at that moment, and the Mediterranean garrison had been stripped and replaced by the militia. We had, moreover, no army of reserve whatever; so that, if in the next three months, any great mortality from battle or disease unhappily occurred in the Crimea, we had no means of making good our losses. No army could be efficiently maintained in the field unless it were backed by a reserved force, and why, then, had we not an army of reserve? Because the noble Lord neglected his duty, and did not avail himself of the means which Parliament had placed at his disposal—because the noble Lord had left the army 40,000 men below the number voted by Parliament. And what excuse did the Government offer for leaving the country in such a state at such a moment? It could not be the want of men, for it was well known that men were to be had if the proper steps were taken. The pay of the British soldier was just half what was received by a common labourer, and the bounty given by Government was little more than sufficient to purchase those necessaries which a common soldier was required to possess. Did the Government suppose that it was possible, in time of war, to maintain the efficiency of the army on such terms? If they were resolved not to have recourse to a conscription, which in time of war he thought they ought to do, they should pay the soldiers a rate of wages equal, at least, to the labourers of this country: or, if they would not do that, they should raise 1359 the bounty so as to give an equivalent—making it 20l., instead of 8l., if such were found necessary. Then, why had not the Government availed itself of our Indian resources? From 10,000 to 15,000 Sikhs and Goorkhas might easily have been obtained, and 5,000 Indian troops might have been sent to the Cape of Good Hope to relieve the garrison there, so that thus an additional army of 20,000 men could have been made available for the service of the country. He had already said that we ought to have raised 40,000 more men in this country, and therefore, if the Government had fairly performed their duty, we should now have had an additional army of 60,000 men to rely upon for the future. With respect to the Amendment of the hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Sir W. Heathcote), if it meant anything, it must mean that the Russian propositions ought to have been accepted—propositions which amounted simply to this, that we should return to the state of things that existed in the Black Sea previous to the war. Was it possible to conceive that such a state of things could be satisfactory? He was surprised that, in the course of the negotiations at Vienna, the noble Lord at the head of the Government, who was so fond of talking of Polish nationality, never gave a thought to the nationality of Circassia. He was the more surprised at this, as the Government last year appointed an envoy to Circassia, Colonel Lloyd, with a salary of 2,000l. a-year, and he supposed their object was to acknowledge so far the Circassians to be an independent people, and to endeavour to induce them to continue the war against Russia. But if these were the views of the Government, it was surely neither honourable nor just to enter upon negotiations and leave the Circassians to their fate. The Circassians were a brave and chivalrous people, who for twenty-five years had resisted all the resources of Russia; and that Power had only been able to found some fortified places along the coast. The mention of Circassia was the more necessary as that people had at the present moment an excellent opportunity of making peace with Russia. Schamyl, indeed, was said to have made terms of peace with Russia; but Schamyl was not a Circassian. His country, Daghistan, lay some hundreds of miles distant, while Circassia, stretching along the shores of the Black Sea, was always accessible to our ships and influence. It would have 1360 been of great importance, therefore, for this country to make terms with that people. The noble Lord had told the House on a former occasion that we could make no peace with Russia which did not effect the object for which the war was made; but it would have been more satisfactory if the noble Lord had said what was the object for which we went to war. The people of England believed that our object was to reduce the power of Russia in the Black Sea; but he asked, if the propositions made to Russia in the late negotiations at Vienna would have attained that object? Would not the withdrawal of the allied armies only have served to extend the power and prestige of Russia, not only in the Black Sea, but throughout all the confines of Asia, and to the frontiers of our Indian empire itself? Then our condition would be that of having entered on a war without reason and concluding it without any result.
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
said, he believed that the great disasters which this country had undergone in the Crimea, and which he trusted no temporary present successes would make us in any way forget, were mainly owing to the want of principle with which the war was entered upon, and the manner in which it was conducted by the Government. He was bound to say, that if the Motion made the other night by the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) had been brought forward at an earlier period, he, at any rate, would not have been found among those who asserted that the language of the Ministry was not ambiguous and their conduct uncertain; and it was because the portion of the Cabinet which at that time mainly had the conduct of the war in their hands were no longer Members of the Government, that he had been enabled on this occasion to vote against that Motion. The uncertainty which characterised the conduct of the Government by whom the war was initiated had produced certain inevitable consequences, upon which he would not dilate, but which resulted from the policy of those who originated the war. A noble Lord in another place had had the misfortune to say that this country had "drifted into war," and the phrase had now become almost vernacular in English politics, but that phrase clearly avowed the origin of the contest. He (Mr. Milnes) must say, however, that if the country continued to drift along in a war without a pilot worthy to direct it, 1361 and without a safe port in prospect—if the duration of the war was to be measured solely by the endurance and ardour of English troops—if they prosecuted the war not for the purpose of establishing an independent future prosperity for the great populations of Eastern Europe, but solely for the purpose of propping up a failing Power—he did not believe that all the authority and wealth of this empire would succeed in securing the object. If the war was to be continued merely to establish one oppression instead of another, to substitute one tyranny for another, he thought it would be wiser for this country to accept any such terms as might offer a mitigation of present evils, and leave it to future generations to carry on a war which at one time or other must be carried on—a war of the Western Powers against the great encroachments of Russia. He was bound to say, however, that the course of events had led him to a conclusion somewhat different from what he might otherwise have entertained. He would ask the House to look at the present aspect of affairs. He thought they might regard the Conferences of Vienna as really at an end, and they might consider the tormination of those conferences as closing, at least in one point of view, the relations between England and Austria. On reading the protocols which had been laid upon the table, he thought it was not difficult to perceive that the noble Lord who conducted the negotiations was rather impressed with the importance of retaining the alliance of Austria than with any strong sense of the value of the concessions to be gained from Russia. Throughout the negotiations it was plainly the desire of the Western Powers to accede, as far as possible, to the wishes of Austria, and the principle was in perfect accordance with that policy with which the war was undertaken. But, now that the conferences might be regarded as closed—when it might be considered that all efforts and concessions had been made in vain—he did not think it would be possible for Her Majesty's Government any longer to allow Austria to assume that attitude of mediation of which this country had so long been the instrument, and he might at the same time say the victim. He regarded it as a consideration of the greatest importance that so vast an empire as Austria had not been able—for he would not suppose she would not be willing—to afford to the Western Powers due assistance in their great enterprise. It was well 1362 known to travellers that the Austrian Government had no affection for that of Russia, but that the two empires regarded one another as rivals whose interests might seriously conflict; and he believed that if Austria had felt able, with due security to herself, to render assistance to the Western Powers in their present policy such assistance would readily have been afforded both by the Emperor and his Government. By a wise and judicious system of government Austria might now have been at the head of so great a federation that she could have called forth army after army, representing her different provinces, all ready to fight for the central Government in a good cause; but they saw that Austria could not raise her sword for the defence of Europe, because she could not be sure that the people of any one of her provinces might not rise in rebellion the moment the restraint of her armies was withdrawn, and, although the aspect of a great country in such an attitude was painful and humiliating, it enabled them assuredly to appreciate the value of constitutional liberty. England and France must, therefore, if the war continued, conduct it upon such principles as would secure to the utmost the goodwill of Europe and the assistance of other nations. Russia had gradually extended her authority southwards over different provinces of Turkey, with the not concealed object of advancing as far as possible in that direction, and with the hope of ultimately incorporating Constantinople itself with the Russian Empire. It was doubtless true that a great change had taken place of late years in the policy of Russia, and that the ruder system of Peter and Catherine had given way to a system of acute diplomacy by which her designs might be effected without any great risk of blood and treasure on her part. From what were called the confidential conversations of the late Emperor of Russia, it was evident that there was no concealment in those conversations of his ultimate intentions. But it must be remembered that Russia had been encouraged in her aggressive policy by all the Governments of Europe, and he was sorry to say by all the Governments of England. Was it just, then, to blame Russia for having supposed that there would have been some supineness on the part of the English people and Government with regard to her aggressions, when they had heretofore allowed her to commit the gravest oppressions, 1363 and to violate the public law of Europe with impunity. Let hon. Members refer to the language that had been used in that House whenever the question of Polish independence had been brought before it, and say whether, from the policy adopted both by Whigs and Tories, any Emperor of Russia would not justly feel that he had been encouraged in every attempt he had made upon the liberties of Europe, not only by absolute German Sovereigns, but by the Government of free and popular England. The late Emperor Nicholas must have been truly surprised when he found England at last determined to resist his schemes of aggradisement. The Governments of Germany regarded the Emperor of Russia as the great policeman who was to keep them all in order. They looked upon him with very little affection, but with a degree of reverence of which the people of this country could form no conception. But, though this was the feeling of the German Courts towards the Emperor of Russia, it was not the feeling of the people of Germany, who regarded the encroachments of Russia with horror and dismay. He considered that, under these circumstances, the attempt to procure the German Sovereigns to aid the Western Powers in this struggle was one of the wildest speculations that had ever entered the brain of a politician. The conferences had, however, now ended, and such a hope could be no longer entertained; neither did he think that any effective assistance would be given to this country by the German Governments, or by Austria or Prussia, for they would think that—Tutiù;s est igitur fictis contendere verbis,Quà;m pugnare manu.The Government of this country ought never to forget that they were engaged in a war with a great people and with a courageous Power, which had rolled back the legions of Napoleon, and which had contrived by its policy never to suffer open humiliation in the modern history of Europe. It was singular, however, that the humiliations which it had suffered had been at the hands of Turkey, and he thought this was a proof that, with regard to its aggression on Turkey, Russia would, if duly enforced, submit to conditions which it could not in honour submit to if they were imposed with regard to any other portion of its Empire. By the Treaty of Belgrade it was agreed that no Russian 1364 ship of war should navigate the Black Sea; and he was inclined to think that such a conclusion to this war, if it were attainable, would be far more honourable to Russia than such a limitation as that proposed at Vienna. The difficulties of enforcing such a limitation were very great, and, whether such limitation were great or small, it would be impossible to look upon it as a security or foundation for future peace. If Russia was sincere—and he had no doubt for the present it was so—in its intention to relax its efforts of aggression on Turkey—he considered that they would not be asking too much if they demanded that the Euxine should be a closed sea, and that after the Sultan had, with the other Powers, organised a sufficient police for that sea, it should be left for the purposes of peace, and for the extension of the mercantile advantages of the world. If we could effect this, we should do more to establish solid foundations of peace than by the Vienna propositions. They ought not to forget that the Power with which they were engaged represented, not only a Power, but a principle in Europe; and it was no pedantry to go back to classic history, and to see in the present contest a continuation of that struggle which had formerly taken place in order to check the autocracy of the East. If in this war they did not engage those who sympathised with them, and who would rise against Russia as their tyrant and oppressor, he did not think that they would effect a permanent peace. He believed that they could have effected all the purposes which they had now effected without the fearful loss of blood and money which had been entailed upon this country; and it had always seemed to him a doubtful matter whether it would not have been a wise policy to confine their efforts to that arm in which this country knew no superior—namely, our naval force. If they had been contented to enforce a continual blockade, and merely to assist their great ally on land, he believed that they would have done all that they had now done. It was because they had attempted that which they had no right to do—to establish themselves as a great military Power in this undertaking—that they had to a certain extent failed. He did not pretend to absolve from guilt, whatever their stations might be, those to whose neglect they owed the misfortunes which had attended this war; but, if they had been enabled to undertake this war with larger means, such as were now accumulated 1365 in the Crimea, he thought that they might have hoped for a different result. He trusted that late casual successes would not blind the Government as to the future, and that every provision would be made for the health of the troops. A year ago he had reminded his noble Friend on the Treasury bench of the necessity of making every provision against pestilence, and he received the assurance that all practicable precautions had been taken. And yet what had been the desolation of disease and the deficiency of remedies? Pestilence was now as imminent as then, and again he ventured to express a hope that every precaution had been taken; and he hoped his noble Friend would be able to say that the Government had prepared for all similar contingencies. He, believed, if due precautions were taken, and if the energies of the country were fairly wielded, and if we trusted to ourselves, we could effect the purposes for which this war was undertaken. He did not ask Her Majesty's Government to go into any Quixotic undertaking for the re-establishment of Poland, or to proclaim a war of propagandism against Russia on behalf of the democrats of Europe, but he asked them to show by their general policy that they supported that spirit in Europe which was antagonistic to the power of Russia. Should they do so, they would not have to lament that either Prussia or Austria had withheld her assistance.
§ SIR EDWARD DERING
said, that when this question was last before the House he had voted for the Motion of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), declaring that the declarations of Her Majesty's Government were ambiguous, and he did not regret that Motion, or the vote he gave upon it, for when it was made he had not heard the open and explicit declarations with respect to the future conduct of the war from the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord J. Russell), and from the noble Lord at the head of the Government, which, however unpalatable to the hon. Members for Manchester, had given unqualified satisfaction to his (the Opposition) side of the House. He was glad, too, that the Motion of the hon. Member for Kidderminster had given the House the opportunity of going a step further. A great deal had been said about the conciliatory disposition of Russia with respect to the first two points, but it appeared to him that Russia, so far from being willing to concede anything, had acted with the same subtle and 1366 disingenuous spirit which actuated her in regard to the Vienna Note last year. She accepted that note at first, and then she put an interpretation upon it quite at variance with its original intent—an interpretation which Lord Clarendon, as an honest man, could not allow had the slightest justification. The conduct of Russia with respect to the first point, touching the Danubian Principalities, showed the animus with which she carried on the whole discussion at the conferences. The Russian Plenipotentiaries had placed two galling restrictions upon the privileges which were to be secured by the first point to the inhabitants of the Danubian provinces; they had refused to allow vessels to be placed at the mouth of the Danube to secure its free navigation, and they had declined to guarantee the territorial integrity of Turkey. With respect to the important part of the third point which the House was then discussing, it was his desire to call attention to the conduct of Austria. It was on the 19th of April that these propositions were first brought under the consideration of the Congress, and the question put by Prince Gortchakoff was the significant one as to the limitation of ships. He inquired of the Austrian Minister what would be the course of Austria in the event of Russia refusing to limit her navy. Did Austria declare her readiness to make common cause with the allies? So far from that, Count Buol said, he reserved to his Imperial master the right to take any course he should think fit. Now what was the result of that vacillating answer? On that very day, the 19th, the result of that conference was telegraphed to St. Petersburg, and it was examined at St. Petersburg on the 20th, and on the 21st the proposals of the allies were definitely rejected by Russia. This, he believed, had been the result of the want of moral courage shown by the vacillating answer of Austria, for if she had promised to co-operate cordially with the allies, the Russian Minister would have paused before he defied all Europe. He believed that at that moment a solution of the great difficulty could have been found. With respect to the nature of our own proposals, he could not say that he looked at their rejection either with surprise or regret. It appeared to him that nothing but extreme necessity could induce a nation to accept terms which would involve an infringement of her dignity, and he did not believe that the proposals made at the 1367 conference contained in themselves the elements of a solid peace. Any stipulation we could make for limiting the ships of Russia in the Black Sea could be easily evaded, and if we had obtained from Russia all we asked for, the only practical effect of such an arrangement would be to inflict a galling and offensive stigma on the dignity of Russia, while it would not diminish the preponderance of her power in the Black Sea. One word with regard to the counter proposal of Russia; that was a proposal against the expressed wish of the Sultan; it was not only a proposal against his wish, but against his just rights, because by the principles of international law every independent nation had a right to the supreme control over its own waters. So far as Turkey was concerned that principle was solemnly recognised by the Five Powers in 1841, and the Sultan had the undoubted right of opening or shutting the Straits just as he thought proper. But so far from the proposal being a concession on the part of Russia, it appeared to him that if accepted it would have conferred the greatest boon upon Russia. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) had spoken of the Black Sea as if it had been closed against merchantmen, and if that had been so, there could be no doubt that the proposal of Russia to open it would have been a great boon to Western Europe; but considering that there was already perfect liberty to navigate the Black Sea for the purposes of trade, he certainly could not see the force of the right hon. Gentleman's argument. But if the opening of the Straits would be of no advantage to us, it would be of immense advantage to Russia, since she would gain by it all that she had been endeavouring to obtain for the last half century—namely, access to Constantinople and the Mediterranean; and she would acquire an opportunity of exercising on the classic snores of the Mediterranean those arts of corruption which had been so graphically described by the noble Lord the Member for London as being exercised in the minor courts of Germany. With regard to the proposal of Russia to make the Black Sea a closed Sea, and give the Sultan the power of calling in foreign aid when menaced by attack, the proposition differed so little from the former state of affairs that it was hardly worthy of attention. He must admit that he had been extremely surprised to find that no efforts 1368 had been made at the Conferences at Vienna to carry out the principles involved in the third point by some means different from those which had been proposed and rejected. The preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea did not entirely depend upon her navy, but it depended equally upon her occupation of a large and undue share of the shores of the Black Sea; and, having failed in inducing her to limit her navy, were the Western Powers precluded from compelling her to curtail her territorial possessions? There was no other way of diminishing the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea than by diminishing her powers of aggression either by sea or land; and, as she had laid it down, that under no circumstances whatever she would consent to any limitation of her navy, surely it could not be seriously urged that the diplomatic wisdom of Europe had so far tied up its own tongue and stultified itself as to make it practically impossible to carry out the great leading object for which the Congress was originally assembled. In speaking of the limitation of the Russian territories, he wished to guard himself from being supposed to suggest the invasion or the dismemberment of the great empire of Russia; but what he did allude to was the limitation of those possessions which were perfectly useless except for purposes of aggression, and the retention of which was a standing menace both to Turkey and to Europe. In Anapa, and other fortresses upon the shores of the Black Sea, Russia possessed strongholds perfectly valueless in a commercial point of view, but which, forming a sort of iron girdle to Circassia, and intercepting the commerce of Central Asia, were beyond all price. If the river Kouban were established as the boundary of Russia, he believed the sacrifices made by this country would not have been in vain, and that we should obtain an effectual guarantee for the maintenance of peace and an effectual barrier against the future encroachments of Russia. Russia having now declined the terms offered to her, the terms of peace must in future be regulated according to the fluctuations of success in the war. The position of Russia now might be compared to that of Napoleon the First in 1813. Had he accepted the terms offered by the allied Sovereigns at Frankfort, he would have preserved his throne; but he chose to reject them, and ultimately he was defeated, while France was driven back to her natural limits. The 1369 war vigorously carried on would produce the same effect upon Russia; her Emperor would be defeated, and she would be restored to her natural limits. We were engaged in a glorious cause; it was the cause of liberty against oppression; and the united people of England and France having unsheathed the sword in support of that cause, his opinion was that they never would consent willingly to return it to the scabbard until they had secured upon a solid foundation the blessings of a permanent peace.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he was unable to support the views of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone), whose eloquent and able speech he regretted, because the feeling of the vast majority of the people, and of the Members of that House was diametrically opposed to his views, and also because his speech was calculated to give form and colour to the rumour that the Government of Lord Aberdeen had never heartily entered into the prosecution of the war, and that "lukewarm" should be the explanation of "too late. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) had talked of anonymous articles in The Times having misled Russia upon the subject of our alliance with France, and he was afraid the speech of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) would lead Russia to suppose that there was a large party in the House of Commons ready to believe her in the right. For this expression of opinion by a Member of Parliament was far more calculated to mislead than an article in a newspaper. Speeches in that House often had great influence abroad, an instance of which was shown in a speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for Lincoln (Colonel Sibthorp) on the Foreign Enlistment Bill. The hon. and gallant Member said that if foreigners were brought over to this country to serve in a foreign legion our daughters and wives would not be safe. Those remarks were felt throughout Europe. [Oh, oh!] Hon. Members might cry "Oh, oh!" but it was well known that the effect of such speeches had been to render the feelings of the Germans hostile to this country, and to throw great difficulties in the way of obtaining men for the foreign legion. He agreed with his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford in thinking that we ought not to prosecute the war for one hour after its object had been attained; but it seemed to him that the object of the war had not yet been attained, and that if we accepted the terms 1370 of peace offered by Russia the hope expressed in the Queen's Speech would not be realised, that peace would be concluded on a safe and solid foundation. When persons were to be found in that House and elsewhere asserting that the Emperor of Russia had been actuated by good faith, the answer was to be found in the secret correspondence, which illustrated the tortuous ways of Russian diplomacy. In the declaration of war it was stated that we took up arms in defence of the Sultan and the integrity and independence of Turkey. That was the primary object of the war, and let the House see how far the terms offered by Russia effected that object. They would leave Turkey in the same position, for although those terms enabled the Sultan to throw open the Dardanelles without declaring war, yet the Sultan had now the power, and had exercised it, of summoning the fleets of his allies to Besika Bay. There was, therefore, little practical security in this offer, and the more so as Russia was ready to take advantage of any opportunity of executing the designs which they all believed she still entertained upon the Turkish empire. Lord Lynd-hurst last session had quoted a despatch from Prince Lieven to Count Nesselrode, which was so important that he would read it:—Our policy, wrote Prince Lieven, must be to maintain a reserved and prudent attitude until the moment arrives for Russia to vindicate her rights, and for the rapid action which she will be obliged to adopt. The war ought to take Europe by surprise. Our movements must be prompt, so that the other Powers should find it impossible to be prepared for the blow we are about to strike.If we had to do with such a Power, the only means of securing Turkey would be by curtailing the Russian power of aggression. But the integrity of Turkey was not the only object proposed to be obtained by the war, which was undertaken in defence of the liberties of Europe, and Turkey was the only battlefield in which the battle of freedom and of civilisation was to be fought out. In the declaration of war Her Majesty stated,—In this conjuncture Her Majesty feels called upon by regard for her ally, the integrity and independence of whose empire have been recognised as essential to the peace of Europe, by the sympathies of her people with right against wrong, by a desire to avert from her dominions most injurious consequences, and to save Europe from the preponderance of a Power which has violated the faith of treaties and defies the opinion of the civilised world, to take up arms in conjunction 1371 with the Emperor of the French for the defence of the Sultan.If they referred to the speeches of the Ministers, they would find that the war was entered upon by this country for the purpose of limiting the preponderance of Russian power in the Black Sea. Lord Clarendon on the 31st of March, on addressing the answer to the Royal Message on war, said,—It is not merely the protection of Turkey against the aggressions of Russia that is concerned in the Eastern question, as it is commonly called, but it is the battle of civilisation against barbarism, for the maintenance of the independence of Europe." [3 Hansard, cxxxii. 150.]And, in reply to Lord Lyndhurst, Lord Clarendon said,—I think that you will agree with me that repression will only postpone the danger, and that safety can alone be found in curtailing the power which menaces the peace of Europe and the cause of progress and civilisation.The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) and his noble Friend now at the head of the Government used similar language. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Herbert) said heProtested against the supposition that we were taking up arms out of a romantic feeling for Turkey. It was for keeping up the balance of power and resisting the encroachments of Russia. It ought to be understood we were not inclined to be embarked in this war so much for the purpose of defending Turkey as of opposing Russia.The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) left it open to his party and himself to make peace with Russia either on the terms of Russia, or any other terms, but in the debate of last year the Earl of Derby, who was the leader of the right hon. Gentleman's party, said—A shameful and dishonourable peace I am confident they (the people) would declare that to be which should not bridle the growing ambition of Russia, restrain her not merely within her existing limits, but wrest from her those portions of her conquests her retention of which is dangerous to the tranquillity and independence of Europe.He thought these extracts showed clearly it was the feeling of the principal public men of this country that, in entering upon this war, the object was not merely to secure the integrity of the Turkish empire, but as far as lay in our power, to lessen the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea. The right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) said that the 1372 Russian power was a bugbear. Bat he would ask if the events of the war bore out that statement? Or had we not found that Russia, notwithstanding the distinguished success and gallantry of our troops, and notwithstanding she was unable to meet the fleets of England and France in the open sea, was armed at alt points? And if such was her power now, what would it have been if her resources had been fully developed? He believed there was great danger from the power of Russia, unless that power was checked in time. The principle of the terms proposed by Russia, which his right hon. Friend and others were ready to accept, was the maintenance of Russian preponderance in the Black Sea. Russia openly declared that her preponderance in the Black Sea must be maintained as a counterpoise to the naval power of France and England in the Mediterranean. He was convinced it was only by curtailing the power of Russia that we could hope to secure a lasting and honourable peace. His right hon. Friend likewise doubted the policy of proposing terms to Russia which would be insulting and humiliating, and the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley) quoted from Machiavelli, "That the maxim ought never to be lost sight of—either make a man your friend or else put it out of his power to be your enemy." Had our conduct to Russia been such as to make her our friend? Had we insulted her or not? He maintained that we had insulted Russia, and, to repeat a phrase already made use of, having "slapped her in the face," he could not but think it would be most unwise to leave all her strength and power unimpaired. He infinitely preferred the terms proposed by Her Majesty's Government to those proposed by Russia; for, though the terms of Her Majesty's Government might be evaded, they were so far satisfactory that they contained the principle of a limitation of the Russian power. It was a matter of great pain to him to differ on such a subject with his right hon. Friend behind him; but he was firmly convinced the shortest and securest way to peace lay through the breach of Sevastopol, that the breach of Sebastopol was the door by which they should endeavour to open further negotiations, and that in the camp, and not in the Cabinet, the most able and efficient negotiators would be found. His right hon. Friend said, "If we endeavoured to gain a great military success we should only aggravate Russia." 1373 In one respect he thought the right hon. Gentleman's speech was contradictory. At the close of it the right hon. Gentleman used as an argument for not prosecuting the war with vigour, that Russia had sacrificed her capital rather than yield to France, though 1,000,000 men had invaded her territory; but in the earlier portion of the speech he defended the Sebastopol expedition, by pointing to the result—that after the victories of Alma, Balaklava, and Inkerman, Russia was ready to grant the terms which she had before indignantly refused. He said we ought to pursue the course upon which we had entered, and with arms in our hands extort terms from Russia which should secure a solid and lasting peace. After the declaration of the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown, he (Lord Elcho) felt confident the Government would maintain the honour of England and the bright prestige of her name; and, while doing so to the best of their ability, would not be guilty of what be should consider an unpardonable crime—namely, continuing the war one moment after the objects for which it was undertaken had been achieved.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, he wished, in the few observations he was about to make, to confine himself, as far as possible, to the words of the Amendment, in which was the real subject under discussion, and to the negotiations that had recently taken place at Vienna. There were, however, one or two observations which had been made in the course of the evening to which, if he did not express his dissent, he might be presumed to assent. With respect to the allusion just made by his noble Friend to some words of a letter of the late Prince Lieven, he could not help observing that subsequent events had disproved his inferences, and that history did not bear out the imputation of grasping ambition that the noble Lord sought to found upon it. What had happened since that letter was written? In 1832–Russia might have occupied Constantinople without the slightest resistance. The Sultan was powerless—his armies had been thrice defeated—at Homs, Alexandretta, and Keniah—the victorious rebel was marching unopposed to the capital—the state of Western Europe was most favourable to Russia—at home a new Parliament, under the new Reform Bill, with the fresh Reform Bill and Coercion Bills under discussion. Our fleet was off Flushing, blockading the Scheldt. The siege of Antwerp was 1374 going on. In France the Duchess of Berri, had just landed, and La Vendee was in insurrection—and the affairs of Algiers occupied the French Government. In Spain the death of the king was daily expected, and the Carlist insurrection was notoriously preparing. In Portugal, civil war was raging, and the defeat of Don Miguel was being completed by the gallantry of Sir Charles Napier. Thus all Western Europe was so engrossed by its own affairs that it could not interfere. There never could again occur so tempting an occasion, yet instead of availing herself of that opportunity, she used those very armies and fleets to which such evil designs have been assigned, to protect that capital and its soverign from the ambitious designs and the victorious troops of Ibrahim Pacha. Russia magnanimously came to the Sultan's rescue and restored his tottering power, when requested, by armed force; yet the noble Lord quotes a few loose words of a letter, written before this great historical event, to prove that Russia would avail herself of every occasion to occupy Constantinople. Then the hon. Baronet the Member for Kent made a statement to the effect that the cause of the war was the interpretation put upon the Vienna Note by Count Nesselrode. Now, nothing could be more inaccurate than such a statement. The Turkish government rejected the Vienna Note long before that interpretation was given or published. They wilfully rejected that note when it was strongly recommended to them by the representatives of the four Powers. Its rejection by the Porte was condemned in strong terms by the Ministers of England, France and Austria. They stated that the modifications insisted on were not material—that it was ungracious and wanting in proper deference to the allies to refuse their advice. The Emperor of the French conveyed to St. Petersburg his displeasure at the conduct of the Porte. The allies were thus unanimous in condemning the rejection; and the interpretation subsequently published by Count Nesselrode had no effect, as it was unknown at that time—but even after that it could have had no effect, as Russia could not enforce her meaning on the four Powers, and the honour and dignity of the Porte would have been fully secured by the acceptance of that note. Count Buol made a proposition as to the meaning put upon it by the four Powers, which, if accepted by Turkey, would have rendered the misinterpretation 1375 of Russia of no effect. At that time all the four Powers were in unison, and were prepared to enforce their own interpretation of it; but Turkey refused, and in consequence of that refusal all those subsequent events which we had to deplore bad resulted. With reference now to the recent negotiations at Vienna, it appeared to him that there never could have been, on the part of the English and French negotiators, any sincere desire to bring the discussion to a peaceful termination. The noble Lord who had been selected to conduct the negotiations has stated that he was never sanguine as to the result. It is impossible to read these papers without seeing throughout strong evidence that that conviction influenced the noble Lord's language and conduct. It appeared that the noble Lord uniformly assumed that the danger which threatened the Sultan came wholly from Russia. But that was known to be totally the reverse of the fact. No one who read the Blue-books could fail to see that the real danger of Turkey arose from its own internal mismanagement and the recklessness of its Government. Whatever the allies might do to preserve Turkey against Russia, it was impossible to preserve her against the destroying effects of her own internal corrupt system. But, even in respect to her outward enemies, had Russia alone for the last thirty years been her foe? The destruction of the Turkish fleet at Navarino was not by Russia alone. It was by the united policy of England and France, as well as that of Russia that that untoward event took place. Then, again, the separation of Greece from Turkey was not the act of Russia only, but by the combination of the three Powers of Great Britain, Russia, and France. Again, did not Turkey lose her prestige when France successfully invaded and occupied Algiers? After Algiers, and it must be remembered that, as Algiers contained a large and warlike Mussulman population, the loss of Algiers was a greater blow than that of any Christian Principalities, for the Sultan ruled as commander of the Faithful. After this the next serious blow was the successful revolt of Mehemet Ali, to which he had referred before. This was not from Russian intrigue, and he had before shown that so far from Russia having been the cause of the weakness of Turkey, Russia alone on that important occasion came forward and aided the Porte, and enabled the Sultan once more to maintain the position of an independent sovereign. 1376 The next great blow to Turkey was in 1840. In 1840 Ibrahim Pacha had destroyed the Turkish army at Nezib. The Sultan died, the Turkish fleet surrendered to Mehemet Ali, and the young Sultan was helpless. In this case again, Russia, in conjunction with England, Austria, and Prussia, came to the assistance of Turkey, and formed the treaty of 1841, which restored the Porte to independence. On these grounds—which could not be questioned or denied—he could not assent to the assumption of the noble Lord that all the weakness of Turkey arose from machinations and aggression of Russia. Other evidence, which cannot be suspected of Russian bias, also disproves that assumption. He denied it totally, and would refer to the Blue-books, which told a very different tale. In the despatches of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe and Lord Clarendon, it appeared in repeated passages that what Turkey had much to fear was not the aggressive policy of Russia or of any other Power, but her own internal mismanagement. The Western Powers might be able to preserve Turkey from Russia, but, from the fatal effects of those errors in her own internal polity, it was impossible for any foreign nation to save her. It was abundantly proved that Turkey had more to fear from internal dissolution and reckless misgovernment than from any outward assault. It was not, then, Russia that had destroyed Turkey and reduced her to her present condition; it required an oblivion of recent history to maintain such an assertion. Acting upon this erroneous assumption, it was hardly to be supposed that the noble Secretary for the Colonies could have gone out, earnestly inspired with a hope of bringing the negotiations at Vienna to a successful issue. It must be observed that exactly as Russia granted all that was required, it was stated here that the concessions were of no value—what last year was described as of European importance, when obtained is described as perfectly nugatory. It must be remembered that the Four Points were enforced by the allies, not by Russia—Russia accepted the two first, and half the third—the latter half of the third she declined to accept in the way proposed, but did not decline to bring about the end in view in another way. The limitation of ships was not in the Four Points—it was not a necessary consequence of them, and it was not even made until two days after Prince Gortchakoff had stated that that 1377 one method could not be granted. He only excluded that single method of carrying out the third point—yet, two days afterwards, that proposition alone was made by France and England with the perfect certainty that Russia could not accept it. This is not the way to negotiate if there is an honest desire to come to an agreement—but, as it was necessary to refer this proposal to Russia, it was proposed by the Russian and Austrian negotiators to occupy the time that must elapse before a reply could return from thence, by considering the fourth point, and it was quite clear that Russia was prepared to concede all that was required—but so alarmed were England and France lest Russia should grant all that was desired, that they refused peremptorily to allow the Four Points to be discussed. This proved a strong objection to a successful issue to the conference. Had there existed a real desire to terminate the war on the terms proposed by France and England, it could have been easily obtained—but, having refused to allow the Four Points to be accepted, the English and French negotiators declared that their powers were exhausted, and that they must confine themselves to the limitation of ships, which was the only method of reducing the preponderance of Russia that they knew she could not accept. Throughout there was no spirit of fairness and sincerity evinced, and the future historian would certainly describe the negotiation as only carried on for the purpose of throwing on Russia the odium of refusal; whereas no one in the House had yet attempted to defend the proposition of a limitation of ships as one suited to the purpose, as compatible with the dignity of a free state, or as a real guarantee for future peace. It has been universally condemned, and seems only to have been insisted upon as being wholly inadmissible by Russia. After these three and a half of the Four Points had been granted, there was but one point objected to by the Russian Plenipotentiaries, and, if there had been a sincere desire for terminating the war on the part of the Western Powers, the negotiations need not have been closed. Much had been said of the Russian naval force in the Black Sea being a "standing menace" to Turkey, but Lord Clarendon, who first used that expression, had added the qualifying words, "in the absence of any counterbalancing force." A counter-balancing force might be found, but the propositions made to Russia, that she 1378 should restrict her fleet in her own seas to four ships of the line, while Turkey and her allies could sweep her coasts with ten sail of the line, was a proposition so insulting and humiliating, that Russia could not consent—and there is nothing in her present position at all to justify such a degrading demand. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had declared his opinion that Russia ought not to be humiliated, but the proceedings had not been conducted in that spirit. It was impossible for Russia to accept the terms proposed to her, and she was not at that time reduced to such straits as to be compelled to receive them. He (Lord C. Hamilton) could not conscientiously vote for the Amendment, which appeared to have a tendency to throw the blame of the breaking off of negotiations upon Russia. He did not wish to involve himself in any responsibility for continuing the war, as he, indeed, had never been able to approve of going to war at all.
§ SIR BULWER LYTTON
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) towards the close of his able speech, summed up his strongest objections to the continuance of the war, by asking how it would profit the country. In answer to that question let me remind the right hon. Gentleman of the laudable earnestness with which, in a recent debate, he assured the house that he and those with whom he concurred in the policy to be adopted for the restoration of peace were no less anxious than we are for the due maintenance of the national honour—I cordially believe him, and when he asks how the continuance of the war can profit the country, I answer, because the continuance of the war is as yet essential to the vindication of the national honour, and because the national honour is the bulwark of the national interests. For there is this distinction between individuals and nations. With the first a jealous tenacity of honour may be a mere sentiment, with the last it is a condition of power. If you lower the honour of a man in the eyes of his equals, he may still say, "My fortune is not attacked, my estate is unimpaired, the laws still protect my rights and my person, I can still command my dependents and bestow my beneficence upon those who require my aid;" but if you lower the honour of a nation in the eyes of other States, and especially a nation like England, which owes her position, not to her territories, but to her character, not to the amount of her armies, nor even to 1379 the pomp of her fleets, but to a general belief in her high spirit and indomitable will; her interests will be damaged in proportion to the disparagement of her name. You do not only deface her scutcheon, you strike down her shield. Her credit will be affected, her commerce will suffer at its source;—take the awe from her flag, and you take the wealth from her merchants—in future negotiations her claims will be disputed, and she can never again interfere with effect against violence and wrong in behalf of liberty and right. These are some of the consequences which might affect the interests of this country if other nations could say, even unjustly, that England had grown unmindful of her honour. But would they not say it with indisputable justice if after encouraging Turkey to a war with her most powerful enemy we could accept any terms of peace which Turkey herself indignantly refuses to indorse? Honour, indeed, is a word on which many interpreters may differ, but at least all interpreters must agree upon this, that the essential of honour is fidelity to engagements. What are the engagements by which we have pledged ourselves to Turkey? Freedom from the aggressions of Russia! Is that all? No!—reasonable guarantees that the aggressions shall not be renewed. But would any subject of the Ottoman empire think such engagements fulfilled by a peace that would not take from Russia a single one of the fortresses, a single one of the ships by which she now holds Constantinople itself under the very mouth of her cannon? Sir, both the Members for Manchester have the merit of consistency in the cause they espouse. They were against this war from the first. But I cannot conceive how any Member of that Government which led us into this war, and is responsible for all it has cost us, should now suddenly adopt the language of Peace Societies, and hold it as a crime if we push to success the enterprise he and his colleagues commenced by a failure. I approach the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) with a profound respect for his rare intellect and eloquence, and still more for that genuine earnestness which assures us, that if he ever does diverge into sophistry and paradox, it is not till he has religiously puzzled his conscience into a belief of their simplicity and truth. The main argument on which the right hon. Gentleman rests 1380 the vindication of the views he entertains is this:—He says, "I supported the war at the commencement, because then it was just; I would now close the war, because its object may be attained by negotiation." That is his proposition; I would state it fairly. But what at the commencement was the object of the war, stripped of all diplomatic technicalities? The right hon. Gentleman would not, I am sure, accept the definition of his ex-colleague the right hon. Member for Southwark (Sir W. Molesworth) that one object of the war was to punish Russia for her insolence, a doctrine I should never have expected in so accomplished a philosopher as my right hon. Friend, the pupil of Bentham and the editor of Hobbes. Either in war or legislation punishment is only a means which has for its object the prevention of further crime. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford will no doubt say, with me, the object was the independence and integrity of the Ottoman empire. But how did he describe that object in his speech at Manchester in September, 1853? He said then to that important audience, I quote his very words—Remember the independence and integrity of Turkey are not like the independence and integrity of England and France. It is a Government full of anomaly, of difficulty, and distress.This is the mode in which, simultaneously with those articles in The Times quoted by the right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) at the very eve of a war that the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford then believed to be just, and when he would naturally place the object in the most favourable light his convictions would permit before the people whose ardour it became his duty to rouse, whose pockets it was his office to tax—this is the laudatory mode in which the right hon. Gentleman warmed the enthusiasm of his listeners to acknowledge the Justice of his object; and is the statesman who at the onset could take so chilling a view of all the great human interests involved in this struggle, likely to offer us unprejudiced and effective counsels for securing to Turkey that independence and integrity in which he sees anomaly and distress, and in which we see the safeguard to Europe? The right hon. Gentleman complains that the terms in which our object is to be sought are now unwisely extended? Who, taught us to extend them? Who made not only the terms, but the object itself, indefinite? Was it not the head of the 1381 Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was so illustrious a Member? Did not Lord Aberdeen, when repeatedly urged to state to what terms of peace he would apply the epithets "safe" and "honourable," as repeatedly answer, "That must depend on the fortune of war; and the terms will be very different if we receive them at Constantinople or impose them at St. Petersburg." Sir, if I may say so without presumption, I always disapproved that language—I always held the doctrine that if we once went to war it should be for nothing more and nothing less than justice. [Mr. M. GIBSON: Hear, hear!] Ay, but do not let me dishonestly catch that cheer, for I must add and also for adequate securities that justice will be maintained. No reverses should induce us to ask for less—no conquests justify us in demanding more. But when the right hon. Gentleman, being out of office, now also asserts that doctrine, why did he not refuse his sanction to the noble Earl, who took the whole question out of the strict limits of abstract justice, the moment he made the indefinite arbitration of military success the only principle to guide us in the objects and terms of peace? And if the right hon. Gentleman rigidly desired to limit our war to one of protection, how could he have consented to sit in a Cabinet which at once changed its whole character into a war of invasion? All the complications which now surround us—all the difficulties in the way of negotiation which now so perplex even the right hon. Gentleman's piercing intellect, date from the day you landed on the Crimea, and laid siege to Sebastopol. I do not say your strategy was wrong, but, wrong or right, when you invaded the Crimea you inevitably altered the conditions on which to re- establish peace; the right hon. Gentleman was a party to that campaign, and he cannot now shrink from its logical consequences. Those consequences are the difficulties comprehended in the third article—the lie that your policy would give to your actions if you accepted the conditions proposed by Russia; for why did you besiege Sebastopol, but because it was that fortress which secured to Russia her preponderance in the Black Sea and its capture or dismantlement was the material guarantee you then and there pledged yourselves to obtain for the independence of Turkey and the security of Europe. And if the fortunes of war do not allow you yet to demand that Sebastopol be disfortified, 1382 they do authorise you to demand an equivalent in Russia's complete resignation of a fleet in the Black Sea; for at this moment not one Russian ship can venture to show itself in those waters. If the right hon. Gentleman is perplexed to determine what mode of limiting the Russian preponderance can be invented, one rule for his guidance at least he is bound to consider imperative—namely, that the mode of limitation must be one which shall content not England alone, but the ally to whom the faith of England was pledged by the Cabinet which the right hon. Gentleman adorned. It is strange to what double uses the right hon. Gentleman can put an ally. When we wished to inquire into the causes of calamities to an army purely our own—calamities which the right hon. Gentleman thinks were so exaggerated—an exaggeration that inquiry has not served to dispel—then we were told, "What are you doing? Take care! To inquire into the fate of an English army may offend and alienate your ally, France." But now, when the right hon. Gentleman would have desired us to patch up a peace, he forgets altogether that we have an ally upon the face of the globe. He recommends us singly to creep out of the quarrel with Russia, and would leave us equally exposed to the charge of desertion by Turkey and of perfidy by France. But it has been insinuated—I know not on what authority—that France would have listened to these terms if we had advised it. If this be true, I thank our Government for declining such a responsibility. For if, in that noble courtesy which has characterised the Emperor of the French in his intercourse with us, he had yielded to your instances, and consented to resume and complete negotiations based upon terms he had before refused, who amongst us can lay his hand on his heart and say that a peace which would have roused the indignation even of our commercial and comparatively pacific people might not so have mortified the pride of that nation of soldiers to which the name of Napoleon was the title deed to empire, as to have shaken the stability of a throne which now seems essential to the safety and social order of the civilised globe? "Oh," says the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, with a solecism in logic which I could never have expected from so acute a reasoner, "see how Russia has gradually come down to terms which she before so contemptuously scouted. In 1383 February, 1853, she declared such and such terms were incompatible with her honour; she would dictate terms to Turkey only at St. Petersburg, under the frown of the Czar, or at the head quarters of the Russian camp; and now see how mild and equitable Russia has become." Yes; but how was that change effected? By diplomacy and negotiation? By notes and protocols? No, these had been tried in vain—the result of these was the levying of armaments—the seizure of provinces—the massacre of Sinope. That change was effected by the sword—effected in those fields of Alma and Inkerman to which the right hon. Gentleman so touchingly appealed—effected by those military successes inspired by the passion for fame and glory on which, as principles of action, his humanity is so bitterly sarcastic. The right hon. Gentleman dwelt, in a Christian spirit which moved us all, on the gallant blood that bad been shed by us, our allies, and even by our foes, in this unhappy quarrel. But did it never occur to him that, all the while he was speaking, this question was irresistibly forcing itself on the minds of his English audience—"And shall all this blood have been shed in vain? Was it merely to fertilise the soil of the Crimea with human bones? and shall we, who have buried there two-thirds of our army, still leave a fortress at Sebastopol and a Russian fleet in the Black Sea eternally to menace the independence of that ally whom our heroes have perished to protect?" And would not that blood have been shed in vain? Talk of recent negotiations effecting the object for which you commenced the war! Let us strip those negotiations of diplomatic quibbles, and look at them like men of common sense. Do not let Gentlemen be alarmed lest I should weary them with going at length over such hackneyed ground—two minutes will suffice. The direct question involved is to terminate the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea, and with this is involved another question—to put an end to the probabilities of renewed war rising out of the position which Russia would henceforth occupy in those waters. Now, the first proposition of Russia is to open to all ships the passage of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. "That is the right thing," says the right hon. Member for Manchester. Yes, so it would be if Russia had not the whole of that coast bristling with her fortresses; but while those 1384 fortresses remain it is simply to say, "Let Russia increase as she pleases the maritime force she can direct against Turkey, sheltered by all the strongholds she has established on the coasts; and let France and England keep up, if they please, the perpetual surveillance of naval squadrons in a sea, as the note of the French Minister well expresses it, "where they could find neither a port of refuge nor an arsenal of supply." This does not, on the one hand, diminish the preponderance of Russia; it only says you may, at great expense, and with great disadvantages, keep standing navies to guard against its abuse; and, on the other hand, far from putting an end to the probabilities of war, it leaves the fleets of Russia perpetually threatening Turkey, and the fleets of England and France perpetually threatening Russia. And, while such a position could hardly fail sooner or later to create jealousy between England and France, I can scarcely imagine any disease that would more rot away the independence of Turkey than this sort of chronic protection established in her own waters. The second proposition, which retains the mare clausum, not only leaves the preponderance of Russia exactly what it was before the war began, but, in granting to the Sultan the power to summon his allies at any moment he may require them, exposes you to the fresh outbreak of hostilities whenever the Sultan might even needlessly take alarm; but with these differences between your present and future position—first, that Russia would then be strengthened, and you might be unprepared, and next that while, as I said before, now not one Russian flag can show itself on those waters, you might then, before you could enter the Straits, find that flag waving in triumph over the walls of the Seraglio. And, to prove that this is no imaginary danger, just hear what is said upon the subject by the practical authority of Marshal Marmont, which was loosely referred to the other night by the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord J. Russell), and remember the Marshal is speaking at a period when the force of Russia in those parts was far inferior to what it would be now if you acceded to her terms—"At Sebastopol, Russia has twelve sail of the line, perfectly armed and equipped." Let me here observe that the Marshal recommends that this number should be increased to thirty, and says that if Sebastopol were made the harbour of a powerful navy, nothing could prevent Russia from imposing laws on the 1385 Mediterranean. "In the immediate neighbourhood a division of the army is cantoned; it could embark in two days, and in three more reach Constantinople—the distance between Sebastopol and the Bosphorus being only 180 miles, and a speedy passage almost a matter of certainty, owing to the prevalence of northerly winds, and the constant current from the Euxine towards the Sea of Marmora. Thus, on the apprehension of interference from the allied fleet, that of Russia would pass and take up such a position as circumstances might dictate, while an army of 60,000 men would cross the Danube, pass the Balkan, and place itself at Adrianople; these movements being effected with such promptitude and facility that no circumstances whatever could prevent their being carried into execution." And now I put it to the candour of those distinguished advocates for the Russian proposals, whose sincerity I am sure is worthy of their character and talents, whether the obvious result of both these propositions for peace is not to keep four Powers in the unrelaxing attitude of war—one of those Powers always goaded on by cupidity and ambition, the other three always agitated by jealousy and suspicion? And is it on such a barrel of gunpowder as this that you would ask the world to fall asleep? But say the hon. Gentlemen, "the demand of the Western Powers on the third article is equally inadequate to effect the object." Well, I think there they have very much proved their case—very much proved how fortunate it was that negotiations were broken off. However, when a third point is to be raised again let us clear it of all difficulties, and raise it not in a Congress of Vienna but within the walls of Sebastopol. Sir, before I pass from this part of the subject let me respectfully address one suggestion to those earnest and distinguished reasoners who would make peace their paramount object. You desire peace as soon as possible; do you think you take the right way to obtain it? Do you think that when Russia can say—"Here are Members of the very Government who commenced the war declaring that our moderation has removed all ground for further hostilities—they are backed by the most conspicuous leaders of the popular party—the representatives of those great manufacturing interests which so often influence and sometimes control the councils of a commercial State,"—do you think that Russia will not also add, "These are signs that encourage 1386 us, the Russian Empire, to prosecute the war—they are signs that our enemy foresees the speedy exhaustion of its means, the relaxing ardour of its people, and must, after some bravado, accept the terms which are recommended in the National Assembly by experienced statesmen and popular tribunes?" You are leading Russia to deceive herself, to deceive her subjects. You are encouraging her to hold out, and every speech you make in such a strain a Russian general might read to his troops, a Russian Minister might translate to trembling merchants and beggared nobles, if he desired to animate them all to new exertions against your country. I do not wish to malign and misrepresent you. I respect the courage with which you avow unpopular opinions. I know that you are patriots as sincere as we are. You have proved your attachment to the abstract principle of freedom, but do reflect whether you make a right exercise of your powers if, when we are sending our sons and kinsmen to assist a cause which would at least secure weakness from aggression, and the free development of one nation from the brute force of another, you take the part of the enemy against your country. [Mr. M. GIBSON: No, no.] "No, no!" What means that denial? You take part with the enemy when you say he is in the right, and against your country when you say we are in the wrong. You transfer from our cause to his that consciousness of superior justice which gives ardour to the lukewarm, endurance to the hesitating, and by vindicating his quarrel you invigorate his arms. If I now turn to the Amendments before the House, I know not one that I can thoroughly approve; not, of course, that by the hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Sir W. Heathcote), not that of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe), for I feel no regret that Russia should not have terminated hostilities by accepting proposals inadequate, in my judgment, to secure our object; while I think it scarcely consistent with the prerogative of the Crown, and might furnish a dangerous precedent hereafter, if we were to contest the right of Her Majesty to judge for herself whether the means of peace on the basis of the third negotiation are exhausted or not. The Amendment of the right hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir F. Baring) would have been more complimentary to the quarter whence he stole it if he had not added the crime of murder to that of theft. 1387 He takes the infant from the paternal cradle, cuts it in half, and the head which he presents to us has no longer a leg to stand upon. The original motion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) in censuring the Government for ambiguous language and uncertain conduct, gave a substantial reason for conveying to her Majesty that we, at least, would support Her in the conduct of the war. Omit that censure, imply by your silence, that there is no reason to distrust Her Majesty's responsible advisers, and the rest of the Resolution becomes an unmeaning platitude. It is with great satisfaction that I think of the effect produced by the original motion of my right hon. Friend, for to my mind that effect atones for its want of success in meeting with the sanction of the House. It has not, it is true, changed the Government, but it assuredly has changed their tone. I do not know whether that change will be lasting, but I hope that we are not to take, as a test of the earnestness of a Government thus suddenly galvanised into vigour, the speech of the noble Lord the Member for London, which, before the division, implied so much, but which, after the division, was explained away in so remarkable a manner. I rejoice that in wringing direct declarations from the Government it leaves us free to discuss that which is before us, not as Englishmen against Englishmen, but as citizens of one common State equally interested in surveying the grounds of a common danger. Much reference has been made in the course of this debate as to the position of Austria. The mediation of Austria is withdrawn for the present, but Austria is still there, always ready to mediate as long as she hesitates to act. It is well to consider what may be our best position with regard to a Power with which we shall constantly be brought into contact. I cannot too earnestly entreat you to distinguish between the friendship with Austria and the alliance with Austria. I think it of the utmost importance, if you would confine this war within compact and definite limits, that you should maintain friendly terms with a Power which, as long as it is neutral, if it cannot serve, does not harm you, and which you could not seriously injure without casting out of the balance of Europe one of the weights most necessary to the equilibrium of the scales. It is easy to threaten Austria with the dismemberment of her illcemented 1388 empire, easy to threaten her with reduction to a fourth-rate Power. But she has this answer to the practical sagacity of England and the chivalrous moderation of France—"I, the Empire of Austria, am not less essential as a counterpoise to France than the integrity of Turkey is essential as a barrier against Russia. If the balance of power be not a mere dream, I trust my cause to every statesman by whom the balance of power is respected." But though, for this and for other reasons, I would desire you to maintain friendly relations with Austria, pardon me, if I doubt the wisdom of having so urgently solicited her alliance. Supposing you had now gained it, what would you have done? Just what a Government here might do if it pressed into its Cabinet some able and influential man with views not congenial to its own, and who used his power on your councils to modify the opinions and check the plans upon which you had before been united. Add Austria now, while she is still timid and reluctant, to the two Western Powers—give her a third coequal voice in all the conduct of the war, and it could only introduce into their councils a certain element of vacillation and discord. But if you bide your time, preserving Austria in her present attitude of friendly neutrality, if you do not threaten and affront her into action against you—the natural consequences of continued war, the common inclinations of her statesmen and her people—which I have reason to know are not favourable to Russia—will bring her to you at length with coincidence in your objects, because according to the dictates of her own sense of self-interest. As far as I can judge, our tone with Austria has been much too supplicating, and our mode of arguing with her somewhat ludicrous. It reminds one of the story of an American who saw making up to him in the woods an enormous bear. Upon that he betook himself to his devotions, and exclaimed, "O Lord, there is going to be a horrible fight between me and the bear, all I seek is fairplay and no favour; if there is justice in Heaven you ought to help me; but if you won't help me, don't help the bear." But now comes the grave and solemn problem which the withdrawal of all negotiation forces still more upon the mind of every one who thinks deeply, and which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester has so properly raised. War being fairly upon 1389 us, of what nature shall he that war? Shall it assume that vast and comprehensive character which excites in the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) hopes for the human race too daring even for him to detail to this sober House? In plain words, shall it be a war in which, to use the language of Mr. Canning in 1826, you will enlist "all those who, whether justly or unjustly, are dissatisfied with their own countries;" in which you will imitate the spirit of revolutionary France, when she swept over Europe, and sought to reconcile humanity to slaughter by pointing to a rainbow of freedom on the other side of the Deluge? Does history here give to the hon. Member an example or a warning? How were these promises fulfilled? Look round Europe! You had the carnage—where is the freedom? The deluge spread, the deluge rolled away—half a century is fled, and where is the rainbow visible? Is it on the ruins of Cracow?—on the field of Novara?—or over the walls of defeated Rome? No; in a war that invokes liberal opinion against established rule what I most dread and deprecate is, not that you will fulfil your promises and reap the republics for which you sowed rebellions—what I dread far more is, that all such promises would in the end be broken—that the hopes of liberty would be betrayed—that the moment the monarchies of England and France could obtain a peace that realised the objects for which monarchs go to war, they would feel themselves compelled by the exhaustion of their resources, by the instincts of self-conservation, to abandon the auxiliaries they had lured into revolt—restore to despotism "the right divine to govern wrong," and furnish it with new excuse for vigilance and rigour by the disorders which always distinguish armed revolutions from peaceable reforms. I say nothing here against the fair possibility of reconstructing in some future congress the independence of Poland, or such territorial arrangements as are comprised in the question, "What is to be done with the Crimea, provided we take it?" But these are not all that is meant by the language we hear, less vaguely out of this House than in it, except when a Minister implies what he shrinks from explaining. And woe and shame to the English statesman who, whatever may be his sympathy for oppressed subjects, shall rouse them to rebellion against their native thrones, not foreseeing that in the changes 1390 of popular representative government all that his Cabinet may promise to-day a new Cabinet to-morrow may legally revoke; that he has no power to redeem in freedom the pledges that he writes in blood; and woe still more to brave populations that are taught to rest democracy on the arms of foreign soldiers, the fickle cheers of foreign popular assemblies, or to dream that liberty can ever be received as a gift, extorted as a right, maintained as an hereditary heirloom, except the charter be obtained at their own Runnymede, and signed under the shadow of their own oaks. But there is all the difference between rousing nations against their rulers and securing the independence and integrity of a weak nation against a powerful neighbour. The first is a policy that submits the destinies of a country to civil discord, the other relieves those destinies from foreign interference; the one tends to vain and indefinite warfare, the other starts, at the onset, with intelligible conditions of peace. Therefore, in this war let us strictly keep to the object for which it was begun—the integrity and independence of the Ottoman Empire, secured by all the guarantees which statesmen can devise, or victory enable us to demand. The more definite the object, the more firm you will be in asserting it. How the object is to be effected, how those securities are to be obtained, is not the affair of the House of Commons. The strategy must be planned by the allied Cabinets, and its execution intrusted to Councils of War. We in this House can only judge by results, and, however unfair that may seem to Governments, it is the sole course left to us, unless we are always dictating to our allies and hampering our generals. But, while we thus make the end of the war purely protective, we cannot make the means we adopt purely defensive. In order to force Russia into our object we must assail and cripple her wherever she can be crippled and assailed. I say, with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, do not offer to her an idle insult, do not slap her in the face, but paralyse her hands. "Oh," said a noble Friend of mine the other night, (Lord Stanley) "it is a wretched policy to humble the foe that you cannot crush; and are you mad enough to suppose that Russia can be crushed?" Let my noble Friend, in the illustrious career which I venture to prophecy lies before him, beware how he ever endeavours to contract the grand science 1391 of statesmen into scholastic aphorisms. No, we cannot crush Russia as Russia, but we can crush her attempts to be more than Russia. We can, and we must, crush any means that enable her to storm or to steal across that tangible barrier which now divides Europe from a Power that supports the maxims of Machiavelli with the armaments of Brennus. You might as well have said to William of Orange, "You cannot crush Louis XIV.; how impolitic you are to humble him!" You might as well have said to the burghers of Switzerland, "You cannot crush Austria; don't vainly insult her by limiting her privilege to crush yourselves!" William of Orange did not crush France as a kingdom; Switzerland did not crush Austria as an empire; but William did crush the power of France to injure Holland; Switzerland did crush the power of Austria to enslave her people; and in that broad sense of the word, by the blessing of Heaven, we will crush the power of Russia to invade her neighbours and convulse the world. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester has sought to frighten us by dwelling on the probable duration of this war; but if you will only be in earnest, and if you will limit yourselves strictly to its legitimate object, I have no fear that the war will be long. I do not presume on our recent successes, important though they are, for Kertch is the entrepôt of all the commerce of the Sea of Azoff; nor on the exaggerated estimate of the forces which Russia has in Sebastopol, or can bring to the Crimea; nor on her difficulty through any long series of campaigns to transport and provision large armies from great distances; nor on many circumstances which, of late especially, tend to show that for exertions at once violent and sustained her sinews are not strong enough to support her bulk. But I look only to the one fact, that in these days war is money; and that no Power on earth can carry on a long war with a short purse. Russia's pecuniary resources are fast failing her. In no country is recruiting so costly, or attended with such distress to the proprietors of the soil. Every new levy, in depriving the nobles of their serfs, leaves poverty and discontent behind, while in arresting her commercial intercourse you exhaust the only springs that can recruit the capital which she robs from the land. In the great History of Treaties, now publishing by the Count de Garden, and which must supersede all 1392 other authorities on that subject, he speaks thus of Russia in 1810:—The closing of her ports, which was the result of her war with England, deprived Russia of all outlet for her exportations, which, consisting chiefly of raw materials—such as timber, potash, iron, &c.—could only be transported by sea. The balance of commerce thus fixed itself entirely to the detriment of Russia, and, producing there a disastrous fall in the course of exchange, and a depreciation of the currency, menaced with ruin all the financial resources of the State.You have, therefore, always at work for you, not only your fleets and armies, but the vital interests of Russia herself. She cannot resist you long, provided you are thoroughly in earnest. She may boast and dissimulate to the last, but rely on it that Peace will come to you suddenly—will, in her proper name, knock loudly at the door which you do not close against Peace herself, but against her felonious counterfeit, who would creep through the opening disguised in her garments, and with the sword concealed under her veil. The noble Lord (Lord Archibald Hamilton), who has just spoken with so much honesty of conviction, ventured to anticipate the verdict of history. Let me do the game. Let me suppose that when the future philanthropist shall ask what service on the human race did we, in our generation, signally confer, some one trained, perhaps, in the schools of Oxford, or the Institute of Manchester, shall answer—"A Power that commanded myriads—as many as those that under Xerxes exhausted rivers in their march—embodied all the forces of barbarism on the outskirts of civilisation. Left there to develope its own natural resources, no State molested, though all apprehended its growth. But, long pent by merciful nature in its own legitimate domains, this Power schemed for the outlet to its instinctive ambition; to that outlet it crept by dissimulating guile, by successive treaties that, promising peace, graduated spoliation to the opportunities of fraud. At length, under pretexts too gross to deceive the common sense of mankind, it prepared to seize that outlet—to storm the feeble gates between itself and the world beyond." Then the historian shall say that we in our generation—the united families of England and France—made ourselves the vanguard of alarmed and shrinking Europe, and did not sheathe the sword until we had redeemed the pledge to humanity made on the faith of two Christian Sovereigns, 1393 and ratified at those distant graves which liberty and justice shall revere for ever.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, he must appeal to the consideration of the House to hear with him while he endeavoured to reply to the eloquent address they had just heard, at the same time he desired to say that he entirely concurred in almost every word that had fallen from the hon. Baronet. He thought the House and the country were indebted to the hon. Baronet for the powerful, manly, and open way in which he had spoken upon this great question; for, unlike, other speeches which had proceeded from the Opposition, that of the hon. Baronet contained not only a clear statement of what he did not think, but also of what his own opinions really were, and what his own course would be. It had been said that the country had drifted into the war; but he did not think it was truly said, for he was much mistaken if the people of this country did not know well why they had entered into the war, and that they were not disposed to desist from it until the object of the war had been obtained. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester said that the war had been charged to the peace party. The right hon. Gentleman denied that charge, and ascribed the war to supposed impossibility of an alliance between France and England and the periodical writings of the day. He (the Lord Advocate) did not doubt with the right hon. Gentleman that the Emperor of Russia believed it was most improbable that France and England would come into an alliance, and that he was also encouraged by the tone of the periodical press, but it seemed to escape the right hon. Gentleman that whilst he said these two elements entered into the causes of the war, he confessed what he was so anxious to deny, that the Emperor of Russia was waiting for his opportunity. He believed that the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir B. Lytton) had given some wholesome and salutary advice to the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends, for if it could not be doubted that the improbability of an alliance with France and the tone of the periodical press had encouraged the Emperor of Russia to go to war, the names of those who were now found enlisted on the aide of peace would encourage him much more to persevere in it. He thought that the origin of the war had been mis-stated by some hon. Gentlemen. No doubt the position of Turkey as regarded the rest of Europe was the main ground, but the real 1394 interest which this country had, independently of the duty to maintain an ally, was, that through the sides of Turkey its own liberties and interests were attacked. He was greatly astonished at the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone). The real question was, that there was a great and obvious danger to ward off by entering into war irrespective of the position of Turkey, but it did not follow because the country had entered into a war on these several grounds, the status quo was to be the only condition of peace. It would depend on the course of the war to determine what the allied powers were entitled to ask or to accept. If that was not the case wars must go on for ever, so long as one side was victorious and the other greatly depressed. The right hon. Gentleman said the terms ought not to be increased as the war went on, but if he (the Lord Advocate) was not much mistaken the Government of Lord Aberdeen had increased those terms as the war progressed. It was plain that Russia had lost every point which she had gained. Whatever had been the misfortunes and calamities of this country, Russia had certainly gained nothing, and therefore when they came to settle the basis of the negotiations, Russia was not entitled to increase her terms. Now he would inquire, what are those terms? The main matter was the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea; and it appeared to him that the proposition made by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) was an important security. He should say that unquestionably the result of the military operations, even before the recent successes, was not such as to induce the allies to reduce their terms. From the campaign on the Danube, where Omar Pacha rolled back the tide of Russian war, up to the present time, Russia had gained nothing, and, therefore, when the conditions of peace came to be discussed Russia was not in a position to say that she was entitled to more favourable terms than those formerly offered. The proposition of the allies in reference to the third point appeared to him to offer an important security for the object desired; for it was not merely that the number of the Russian ships should be limited in the Black Sea, but that Russia should come under the jurisdiction of the States of Europe on the question of her preponderance in the Black Sea; and any one of those States would be justified in immediately resorting to 1395 hostilities upon a breach of the condition imposed. The proposition of Russia, whether for shutting or keeping open the Dardanelles, offered but little security for Turkey, for Russia would be at liberty to maintain a large fleet in the Black Sea; and, at the moment when Turkey might desire the aid of her allies, the fleets of those Powers might be at a distance, or France and England might, unfortunately, be at war. Such a condition would leave Russia to exercise her influence, not only in Europe, but over the whole of central Asia, and the allies would find themselves a great deal worse at the end of the war than at the beginning. Hon. Gentlemen opposite appeared to be disappointed at the declaration made by his noble Friend (Lord Palmerston) the other night. He knew not what right they had to say that that declaration was extorted from his noble Friend. His noble Friend had been subjected to a series of questions during the negotiations neither usual nor beneficial to the interests of the country, and he was entitled to refuse any explanations whilst his duty required him to do so; and when his duty required that of him no longer, he was right in taking the opportunity of giving those explanations. Under these circumstances, whatever amendment was adopted, neither the Emperor of Russia nor any other Power in Europe, looking at the tone of the debate, could doubt what the solemn opinion of the country was. The opinion of the country and the opinion of that House, he was sure, was that the country had entered into the war on just grounds, and that they were determined not to desist from that war until they had brought it to an honourable and satisfactory termination.
§ MR. COBDEN moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, he trusted that the House would allow this Amendment to be disposed of. He considered that the Amendment on which the hon. Member would wish to state his sentiments, was the Amendment of the hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Sir W. Heathcote).
§ MR. COBDEN
said, he must beg the noble Lord's pardon, but it was on this Amendment that he wished to state his sentiments.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he hoped that there would he no difference of opinion on this important point. There were several Amendments on the paper, but it appeared 1396 to him that this was the real question on which the opinion of the House was asked—whether the conferences were to proceed, or, as it was understood, to be closed immediately—was this, had the best means been employed by the Government to establish the equilibrium, and put an end to the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea. A more important question, or one more deserving the consideration of the House of Commons could not well be conceived. When the noble Lord at the head of the Government announced before the recess, that he intended to support the first part of the Motion of the hon. Member for Kidderminster, he (Mr. Disraeli) told the noble Lord that he must be prepared for considerable debates in consequence of that declaration. Not only was the whole question of the policy of Government involved in the discussion, but much more than that—the future means by which peace was to be obtained. He might also take that opportunity of answering the remarks of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate, and perhaps he might be able to show him that the subject was of much wider character than he seemed to suppose. The right hon. and learned Lord imagined, acting under the instructions of the Government, that there were no other means by which the preponderance of Russia could be possibly checked and controlled. He (Mr. Disraeli) thought, howover, that it was the duty of the House of Commons to enter fully and completely into this discussion; that the first part of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kidderminster was the real business before them; and that all the rest was "leather and prunella." The noble Lord, therefore, must not suppose that they could proceed to an early division upon a subject on which it appeared to him the discussion had only commenced.
§ Debate adjourned.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock.