§ 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 5, 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—i—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. F. SCOTT
said, he did not rise last night to move the adjournment of the debate until he found that no Cabinet Minister evinced any desire to address the House; nor should he have attempted to prolong the discussion had he not regarded the question before the House as one of the moat important that had arisen within the last forty years, and therefore demanding the fullest and most deliberate consideration. Although the question before the House had been involved in considerable confusion by the cluster of Amend- 1652 ments which had been proposed upon the simple issue raised by the original Motion of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), and although the doctoring to which that Motion had been subjected had, indeed, served to secure a majority for the Government, yet disguise the question as they might, hon. Members could not fail to perceive that the real question for their consideration was the management of the war and the manner in which the Conferences at Vienna had been conducted. Before he addressed himself to the discussion of these questions, however, he could not refrain from expressing his astonishment and regret at what had occurred in that House upon the evening previous—he alluded to the attempt which had been made by the supporters of the Government to bring the debate upon the all-important subject of the war to a close, by counting out the House. He had been credibly informed, that although some Members of the Cabinet were in the vicinity of the House when that attempt had been made, yet that they had not used the slightest exertion to prevent its being carried into execution. That such had been the case was in itself sufficient to prove that Ministers attached more importance to what was going on in the lobby than to the important discussion which was taking place in the House of Commons. It was, he thought, symptomatic of weakness, if not of division, in the Cabinet, that while the country was looking with the utmost anxiety for the opinions of its public men upon the question before them, as yet only two or three Members of that Cabinet had risen to give expression to the views which they entertained. It was not the duty of an Opposition to dictate to Ministers the course which they should pursue, but it was their duty to assure themselves that the Government were not engaged in the prosecution of a policy which might have the result of bringing embarrassment and disaster upon the nation. Both the people and the press had, in his opinion, been most unjustly charged with having forced the Government into the war; but the fact was that the greater part of the evils of the last two years had been produced from the country having placed too much confidence in the Government, who had been allowed to follow their own unbridled course, without being compelled to give sufficient explanations in that House. The House had been kept in the dark as to the Eastern question, until the disclosures made a year 1653 or two ago through the publication of the secret correspondence on the subject between our Government and the Emperor Nicholas. The Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire gave the key to the whole mismanagement of affairs, and it now became the duty of the House to ascertain the opinions of the Cabinet upon the question of the war. The noble Viscount at the head of the Government had invited the confidence of the House, promising to lead the country to a satisfactory and glorious issue, but it must be remembered that two years ago the noble Viscount was just as confident in the maintenance of peace. The papers laid on the table did not convince him (Mr. Scott) that the conferences had been conducted in a manner likely to lead to the desired result. In the first place, it was necessary to adopt definite objects, and next to have an agent who was capable of obtaining those objects. The noble Viscount said he hoped to close the war by a peace not only honourable to the country, but which would accomplish the purposes for which the war was begun. He (Mr. Scott) would ask what those purposes were? The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) and his friends were of opinion that the objects of the war had been obtained; but the Ministry were silent, and it was to be hoped that some other Member of the Cabinet would give the House a candid statement of what, in the opinion of the united Cabinet, were the real objects of the war. The Government had, indeed, proclaimed that they sought by the war to destroy that which was a standing menace to Europe, and had for that purpose risked the prestige of England; but how had it come about that under those circumstances they had put forward the terms which at Vienna they had proposed for the acceptance of Russia? In fact, one of the greatest mistakes which in the conduct of the war the Government had committed was, in his opinion, having selected the time which they had chosen for the prosecution of negotiations at Vienna. With respect to those negotiations he must also observe, that he thought the noble Viscount at the head of the Government, being himself I the most unpopular of British statesmen among continental Powers, had made an unfortunate selection of a Plenipotentiary to seek for peace from our enemy. To render the attainment of peace as feasible as possible, the noble Viscount should have 1654 chosen as the Plenipotentiary of this country some gentleman who was not, in consequence of the expressions to which with reference to Russia he had given utterance, offensive to the Imperial ruler of that empire. He certainly should not have selected the noble Lord the Member for London to negotiate for peace with the representatives of a State whose Emperor he had denounced as false, fraudulent, and corrupt. But there was another objection to the appointment of the noble Lord the Member for London to be our Plenipotentiary at Vienna. Lord Clarendon, in the other House of Parliament, had stated that the misinterpretation of the Treaty of Kainardji was one of the principal causes which had led to the contest in which we were involved. But who, he would ask, had misinterpreted that treaty. The noble Lord the Member for London. Whose opinions had the noble Lord been sent to Vienna to represent? Had he been deputed to represent his own opinions or those of the noble Viscount at the head of the Government? These were subjects upon which they had obtained no sufficient information; and for his own part he believed that nothing had contributed so much to the necessity of the present war as the vacillating policy which, by the Members of the Cabinet, had been pursued. A firm tone upon the part of the Government of this country might have prevented a resort to hostilities; but the noble Lord the Member for London had encouraged Russia in her aggression by writing to Russia, "that her pretensions were prescribed by duty and sanctioned by treaty." The noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) said, on the 25th of May, that the standing policy of the Emperor Nicholas was to weaken the authority of Turkey, and that the cause of the war was, not the events of the moment, but that standing policy. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) was Foreign Secretary at the commencement of the negotiations, and must have been aware of the policy of Russia. However, on the 9th of February, 1853, the noble Lord praised the Emperor Nicholas for his "frankness, moderation, and candour," and added that "no policy could be adopted more wise, beneficial, or disinterested than that which His Imperial Majesty had for so long pursued." At that time the Russian army was on the banks of the Pruth, ready to enter Turkey. If these were the noble Lord's opinions, whose opinions was he sent to represent at Vienna—his own 1655 or those of the noble Viscount? He blamed the Government for the war; no blame attaching to them could exonerate Russia from the charge of unprincipled ambition and wicked treachery in its accomplishment; but Russia, he believed, might have been effectually hindered without resort to arms, by honesty and firmness. In order to prove the justice of the war its necessity must be proved, and he thought that necessity had arisen from the weak, vacillating policy pursued not only by the right hon. Gentlemen who had left the Cabinet, but also by the noble Viscount at the head of the Government, and the noble Lord the Member for London. The noble Lord had encouraged the pretensions of Russia as much as any Member of the late Government, he had repeatedly denied openly in the House that Russia had any designs on Turkey, and had done that, notwithstanding the evidence in his possession, at the time he spoke, of her designs upon Turkey; and he complained, therefore, of the noble Viscount's selection of the noble Lord to represent England at the Vienna Conference. He desired to prosecute the war with the utmost vigour and determination, but, at the same time, it was the duty of the House, after the sacrifice of blood and treasure which had taken place, to ascertain the opinions of the Government upon the subject of the war, and they ought not to be diverted from that purpose by the tidings of the successes at Kertch. He rejoiced at those successes, but he thought they ought to have been achieved six months ago, and no sufficient reason had yet been given why Odessa had not been bombarded anterior to the expedition to the Crimea. While upon that subject he might observe, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wiltshire had, the evening previous, gone out of his way to quote a dispatch in order to vindicate the conduct of the right hon. Baronet, who sat near him (Sir J. Graham). Early in the Session, when the question of the attack on Odessa was before the House, neither of the right hon. Gentlemen had shown the same tenderness for the character of a gallant officer who was not in the House to vindicate himself, and the right hon. Gentleman should bear in mind that the reputation of the commander of their fleet in the Black Sea was quite as dear to the country as that of any Member of that House, and should therefore have refrained from quoting from a document which had not been laid upon the table of the House, and for 1656 the purpose of elucidating which hon. Members had no papers at their disposal. He had only in conclusion to state, that he could not give his support to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kidderminster.
SIR FRANCIS BARING
said, that as his Amendment had now become the main question, and the debate was now approaching a conclusion, and there appeared to be considerable confusion with regard to the Motion and the Amendments before the House, perhaps he might be permitted to make a few observations upon his own Motion and the Amendments which had been proposed to it. When he first moved his Amendment to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli), he stated his regret that the debate should have been brought forward at that time, and, notwithstanding the talent which had been displayed in their discussions, his impression still was that it would have been much better and more convenient if the debate had not taken place before the termination of the negotiations then pending. The House would recollect that he had not proposed his Amendment as a volunteer, for the subject had been forced on the attention of the House by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli), and he considered that the right hon. Gentleman's Motion compelled either himself or some other hon. Member to propose some Amendment to it. The object of the right hon. Gentleman was to obtain a declaration which would, in the first place, shut the door to all further negotiation, which would, in the next place, express the intention of the House to support Her Majesty in the prosecution of the war, and, last but not least, which would have the effect—the door to further negotiation having been closed—of placing the right hon. Gentleman inside and Her Majesty's Government outside that door. He did not complain of the course pursued by the right hon. Gentleman in bringing forward that Motion; but he (Sir F. Baring) could not assent to the right hon. Gentleman's decision to shut the door to all negotiations; he wished to convey to Her Majesty the same assurance as the right hon. Gentleman, of support in the prosecution of the war; but he did not, by any declaration of censure of the Government, propose to convey the administration of affairs to Lord Derby, Lord Ellenborough, and the right hon. Gentleman. To those views the House had so far assented that they had rejected the right 1657 hon. Gentleman's proposition. He had been asked why he did not meet the Motion with a direct negative. His answer was, that although in that House a declaration to support Her Majesty in the prosecution of the war might be regarded as a platitude—to use the expression of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Sir B. Lytton)—if the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's Resolution were thrown out; but, out of doors, people did not look upon this as a question purely of turning out one Government and bringing in another. It was stated that he ought to have inserted in his Resolution some words conveying a decisive opinion on the Government. His answer to that was that, at the time he proposed his Resolution, the Vienna Conferences were not supposed to have closed, and all the papers were not before the House. If any one had proposed a condemnation of the Government at such a time, he should have said it was unfair and unjust to move such a Resolution before the conferences were closed and the papers were on the table. The same reasons which led him to object to a vote of condemnation led him to conclude that it would not be fair to propose a vote of approval; for the same arguments would have been used to him that he should have used to others. He must admit that circumstances had materially changed since his Amendment was proposed, and if, by withdrawing it, or taking any other course, he could facilitate a decision upon the real issue, he would do so, as he saw no use in fighting battles over circumstances that had changed a fortnight ago. He was therefore ready that his Motion should be met by the previous question, and be should not complain if he lost it. But as it had been determined that this debate should go forward, he must stop to pick up one dead man in this contest. The Resolution of the hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Sir W. Heathcote) was a perfectly fair issue to bring before the House at the time when it was proposed; but, unfortunately, the world would not stop while they were debating. What had been called the "massive good sense" of the right hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham) had quashed the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman; for, when the hon. Gentleman contended that the matter ought to be fairly discussed after the holidays, the Amendment was found to be entirely inapplicable to the existing state of 1658 things. He now came to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe); and he would fairly own that, were it not for the movements of parties, the difference between his Motion and that of the hon. Member would amount to a question of taste rather than of politics. He thought his own rather the better, but the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster had much more experience in writing than himself, and he was not surprised that others should entertain a different opinion. He certainly did not think the first of these Amendments to be in itself of any importance, and he should not save thrown any difficulty in the way of its adoption if the noble Lord at the head of the Government had preferred it to his; but if it was considered as a necessary introduction to the second part of the Amendment, he certainly felt grave and serious objection to it. He could perfectly understand that it might be thought wise in some quarters that the House should make some public declaration of the objects of the war, and should state that by those objects the House would stand or fall. He did not think that course would be a wise one to pursue; at all events, let no one suppose that the hon. Member for Kidderminster had at all undertaken that important task. The hon. Member was much too able a man to put his hand into such a mess. He had only taken a very small portion of the negotiations, and although he had selected the most important point in the negotiations, still it was but one. What it committed the House to was, the statement that all negotiations were exhausted unless Russia agreed to one particular point. [Mr. LOWE: The third point.] Yes; the hon. Member committed the House to that particular point and basis, and left the others untouched. So that Ministers might give up the Danubian Principalities, the freedom of navigation of the Danube, all the privileges of the Christians, and even the introduction of Turkey into the European system without at all interfering with the Resolution proposed by the hon. Member for Kidderminster. Now, he apprehended it would not be wise to commit the House to any point with regard to future negotiations. He apprehended that there was no one who had seriously considered the question of limiting the naval power of Russia in the Black Sea but must be aware that it was beset with the gravest difficulties; and he was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman opposite mention 1659 the difficulties which occurred to the mind of every one, as though they were impressed with their importance for the first time. He admitted many of the difficulties stated by those right hon. Gentlemen; but it was a choice of difficulties which they had to make, and if it were determined to limit, by some means, the naval power of Russia he had seen no proposal so efficient as that made by the Government at the Conference of Vienna. With regard to the second proposal of Russia, it appeared to him to be identical with one of the demands which the allied Powers made on the 19th of April in the Conference at Vienna, and, therefore, he was rather astonished that the right hon. Gentleman should have treated it as new to them. That proposal was not made by Russia in the first instance, but formed part of the demands made by the allied Powers. He understood the proposal of Russia to be this—that the Sultan should preserve the power of opening the Straits of the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus to the fleets of those Powers whom he should think right to summon whenever he considered the security of his dominions to be menaced. Now, in the protocol of the 19th April, he found the following proposal of the Allied Powers to limit the preponderance of Russia—In case (which God forbid!) the Sultan should be menaced by aggression, he reserves to himself the right to open the passages to all the maritime forces of his allies.He entertained another very strong objection to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kidderminster. A great deal was said on all sides of our anxiety to do justice to the good faith and honour of the French Government, and of the Emperor at the head of that Government whose good faith to us had received testimony which he believed to be well-deserved. But was the good faith to be all on one side? Whilst Gentlemen talked of the good faith of the French Government, he asked them to consider the good faith on the part of the English House of Commons. What were the terms of the convention agreed upon between this country and France in April, 1854? The third article was this—Whatever events may arise from the execution of the present Convention, the high contracting parties engage not to entertain any overture or any proposition, having for its object the cessation of hostilities, nor to enter into any arrangement with the Imperial Court of Russia, without having first deliberated thereupon in common.1660 It was clear that no step for peace could be taken, except in common with France. If he understood the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kidderminster correctly, it declared that one particular point should be a sine quâ non in any terms of peace. Was that fair to France? He would put the matter in the opposite sense, because Gentlemen were apt to think differently when told, "Your bull has gored my cow," than when told "my bull has gored your cow." Supposing France, without communication with England, were to lay down in some State paper, that unless a particular article were granted all negotiations were exhausted upon that point, would the House of Commons think that fair on the part of France? He was sure they would say it was contrary to the course in which the treaty pointed out all proceedings in reference to the affairs of Russia should be conducted. And was it not a little stronger if the House of Commons interfered with the observance of the treaty with France? He would not enter upon the constitutional question; but it was not the usual practice for that House to interfere with negotiations, and the Emperor of the French might fairly say, "I was in communication with your Government, with those who represented the Crown, and I had a right to expect no step would be taken without previous consultation with me, according to the words of the treaty—and that the House of Commons would not have declared that one particular point, which I have not made a sine quâ non shall hereafter be considered by England as a sine quâ non in any negotiation." He thought the House should be very careful before placing itself in that position. He had heard of the great importance of coming to some decision after all these long and discursive debates. He was afraid to tell them, because he was afraid it would create some wrath on the opposite side, but it seemed to him impossible that they could come to any decision which would show really and honestly to the country the opinion of the Members of that House. In the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kidderminster there was something to fight about, something to discuss; but, when it came to a division, the noble Lord at the head of the Government would vote against it, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire would vote against it, and those Gentlemen who were supposed to be the more eager advocates of peace 1661 could not possibly vote for it. There for they would have the Government, the Opposition, the Peace party, and a great many Members who were ready to support the war, voting on one side, and the hon. Member for Kidderminster voting on the other. He by no means intended any sneer at the hon. Member for Kidderminster, and perhaps should have added "those who supported the hon. Gentle man," to prevent it being supposed he anticipated the hon. Member being in a very small minority. But would that show the opinion of parties as to the conduct of the Government or as to the question of peace or war? Not in the least. He might also say it would be making divisions of that House ridiculous. It appeared to him that, in a case where the country expected to see how each Member of that House spoke and voted on the question of the war, it was absurd to come to a division upon the mere question as to whether the words "owing to the refusal of Russia to limit her naval forces in the Black Sea" should be inserted in the Resolution or not. A great discussion had been going on for more than a fortnight, a great deal of talent had been displayed, and a great many words spoken, he hoped not in vain; and now, when the House of Commons was called on no longer to leave the country in a state of uncertainty, they were asked to vote upon a question as to the insertion of certain words in a Resolution, and it appeared to him that to adopt such a course was nothing more or less than playing with a difficulty. He should have wished that after the intelligence which they had received on Monday that the Conferences at Vienna were finally closed, the House would have consented to close the present discussion. He trusted, however, that the House would not consent to a hard fight taking place between parties as to whether these ridiculous words should be inserted in the Resolution, or whether they should not.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Sir, it appears to me that the course which has been taken has placed Her Majesty's Government in a very peculiar position, inasmuch as we are attacked in front, in flank, and in the rear by enemies who come from different quarters, and who seem to have nothing in common excepting their desire to attack us. By the Members of the peace party we are told that we have engaged in an unjust and unnecessary war, and that it ought never to have been 1662 undertaken, and we are charged with having augmented the popular passion and shown a warlike tendency. By the Gentlemen below the gangway we are told that, although it was a just and necessary war in its commencement, we ought now to hasten to bring it to a termination; for they say that our demands have been exorbitant, and that we ought to have concluded a peace upon the terms proposed by the enemy. On the other hand, hon. Gentlemen opposite accuse us of not having shown alacrity in carrying on the war, of not having been exacting enough in our demands, and of being willing to accept peace on terms discreditable to the country. Now, Sir, it is, I confess, somewhat difficult to meet at one and the same time attacks so conflicting, and our only consolation must be that a great deal of the shot intended for us passes over our heads and falls into the ranks of some of our adversaries. To my mind the Government need not give themselves much trouble in vindicating the propriety of the war, the best vindication of its justice and policy is to be found in the unanimous opinion of the people of England. From one end to the other of this vast empire there has gone forth a voice, universal and powerful, and it has been re-echoed from our remotest colonies, that the war is a just and righteous war, and one which it was incumbent upon the Government to undertake. It is true that we are told by the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) that this expression of opinion is what he is pleased to term "the passions of the people." That, Sir, however, I utterly and emphatically deny. There never has been in the history of this country any great question upon which public opinion—extending from the palace to the cottage—has been so unanimous. It has not been expressed only by those whose sentiments of chivalry might perhaps bias their judgment, nor alone by those masses of the people who are usually carried away by popular passion; but the strong-minded, and therefore safer, middle class, which constitutes so large an element in the intelligence, the wealth, and the greatness of the country, has expressed similar opinions. Is that the class to which the hon. Member for the West Riding applies the terms of "the passions of the people?" I confess those words appeared to me to sound strange, coming from the hon. Gentleman. Time was when the hon. Gentleman condescended to court the opinion of those 1663 classes:—when the hon. Gentleman was engaged in accomplishing that great work with which his name is so honourably and imperishably connected, was he then in the habit of characterizing the active and influential class to which I refer as neither more nor less than the populace, and as a class likely to be led away by popular clamour? But now, when the tide of public opinion no longer runs with his own, the hon. Gentleman has discovered that the active and intelligent masses of the people are neither more nor less than the populace, and that their display of feeling is nothing more than "popular passion." The hon. Gentleman has charged my right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of works (Sir W. Molesworth) with inconsistency; my right hon. Friend has completely answered that charge; but to my mind the hon. Gentleman himself affords the most glaring instance of inconsistency in now going about like a modern Gracchus complaining of sedition—complaining of popular clamour and protesting against the influence of the press. His inconsistency is equally manifest in another portion of his Conduct, for he now lauds and upholds that system of Russian Government which a few years ago he made the frequent and constant object of his vehement vituperation. But with regard to what is called the Peace party it is impossible not to respect the humanity and Christian benevolence which animated their views on this subject—it is impossible not to admire the courage with which the hon. Gentleman and those who act with him have imperilled their popularity and risked the loss of their personal influence in attempting to stem the tide of popular feeling, which would have been strong enough to sweep before it men less firmly fixed in the respect of the people. But the respect I feel for these Gentlemen occasioned to me the strongest regret and pain when I last night heard the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright)—a speech so totally unworthy of the occasion. The hon. Gentleman in that speech took "Peace" for his text, but his speech itself was an attempt to vilify the two noble Lords who occupy the highest positions in the Government. The hon. Member, to effect that purpose, raked up events which are now matter of history, and which had nothing whatever to do with the transactions now under discussion. He referred to the Foreign policy in the year 1850 of the noble Lord now at 1664 the head of the Government, and made allusions to personal differences which had subsequently taken place between him and the noble Lord the Member for London. The hon. Member dished up these stale subjects, garnishing them with miserable stories, wretched jokes, and ribald jests, and drew his illustrations from a quarter of which I should have imagined the hon. Member had had no experience; for when I heard the hon. Member talking about horses and racing, it occurred irresistibly to my mind that the hon. Member, instead of spending his time in his study meditating on the horrors of war, had been spending the week at Ascot, and fraternizing with jockeys in the stables. Most undoubtedly, whilst the hon. Member's speech smelt most strongly of the camp, did his wit smell most rankly of the stable. I have often listened with pleasure to the hon. Gentleman when I have heard him dwelling upon the calamities of war, and holding up to admiration the advantages of peace; but I tell him that the cause of peace is profaned and desecrated when peace is made the text for indulging the hostility and personal malignity which he has more than once displayed towards the noble Lord at the head of the Government. The mirror which should reflect the benign features of peace becomes dimmed and tarnished when it is breathed upon by the bitter and envenomed spirit which animated the hon. Gentleman's speech last night. I turn now from the hon. Gentleman and the Members of the Peace party to politicians of a different class, to those right hon. Gentlemen who took office in the present Government, and afterwards retired from it; and to them I say that their position is a very peculiar one. They helped to plunge the country into this war; and they have left us, abandoned us, and deserted us in the midst of the war; and they now embarrass our measures and increase our difficulties by denouncing its continuance and swelling the cry for peace. It needed not that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert), should on the previous day have appealed to the character of himself and his colleagues to remind the House, that upon their motives there can be no suspicion. On the other hand, however, I think it most deeply to be deplored that these right hon. Gentlemen should have thought it consistent with their duty to take the line which they have adopted on the present occasion. When statesmen of their 1665 position announce to the world that in their opinion this war ought no longer to be continued, and that the terms of peace offered by Russia are such as the people of this country should accept, what effect do they suppose that such declarations, coming from men of their high standing, will have on doubtful friends or avowed foes? Equally unfortunate, to my mind, was the speech of the right hon. Member for Carlisle the other night, who told the House, among the various arguments he used as reasons why we should hasten to conclude the war, that no war remained popular in England, beyond a very brief period. He told us that Sir R. Walpole, a popular and prosperous Minister, having yielded to the national clamour for war, within two years found himself and his colleagues hurled from office; he reminded us that the American war, which, in its commencement, was favoured by the opinion of the people, soon became unpopular; I he also reminded us that the French war soon lost popular favour; and he ventured to predict that if reverses came, or if the duration of the present war should he protracted, the tide of popular favour would turn with a strength sufficient to sweep away the parties identified with the prosecution of hostilities. I must say that the instances selected by the right hon. Gentleman were anything but happy, aud are inapplicable to the circumstances of the present time. The war carried on by Sir Robert Walpole was conducted feebly, unsatisfactorily, and ingloriously; and no wonder, then, that it became unpopular. The war with America was popular at first, because it presented the appearance of a war to maintain the integrity of the dominions of the Crown; but it soon became felt that that war involved in its objects the maintenance of principles of intolerable tyranny; and that the American people were only struggling for those rights and privileges which every man in this country believed to be their birthright and inheritance. The French war in like way was popular at first, because the odious features of the French revolution, the reign of terror, and its scenes of blood, excited and kindled the horror and indignation of all classes in this country; but when those first emotions passed away it became manifest that it was a war of sentiments, of passions, and of opinions, in which this country had no substantial interest. The war then became unpopular, until the determined hostility and unbridled ambition 1666 of Napoleon led the people of England to believe that the struggle was one of life or death between England and France. But, even assuming that the right hon. Gentleman is right, and that the present war cannot remain long popular in this country, is that any reason why this Government should precipitately conclude a peace which they believe to be inconsistent with the honour and interest of the nation? Are these the principles which the right hon. Gentleman intends to uphold in his place in Parliament? I am sure they are not; and he has had recourse to this argument only because it was convenient for the purpose of this debate. I will state the principle on which the right hon. Gentleman and every honourable British statesman would guide their conduct, and it is this—that so long as they possessed the confidence of the country they would submit their measures to Parliament without reference to their popularity or unpopularity, and solely because they were called for by the public interest; and if their measures or policy ceased to command the confidence of the country, and to secure its approbation they would resign a power which they could no longer wield with honour to themselves, or with advantage to the country. I am sure that these are the principles on which the right hon. Gentleman himself would act if he were in office; and I think it singularly unfortunate that the right hon. Gentleman should have used the language he did, because it goes forth to our enemies that a man of his great knowledge and sagacity, of his experience of the people of England, has declared that the present war canont fail before long to become unpopular in this country. Conceive the effect of that declaration on an enemy who otherwise might be inclined to yield to our terms. The enemy is told—"Keep your resolution, maintain your confidence, only bide your time, and the tide of popular feeling will turn in England." Such is the opinion of one of the most experienced and sagacious of our statesmen, who states that a war cannot remain popular in England—that in two years war was fatal to Sir Robert Walpole—that in two years the tide will turn and sweep away the present Government and replace it by some other which will only be too happy to conclude peace. I must say that that is singular language, and I think it unfortunate, too, for reasons peculiar and personal to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues 1667 near him. There are those to whom the secession of those right hon. Gentlemen from the Government,—at a time of most critical emergency, when our prospects looked gloomy, when the fear of reverses had taken possession of the public mind, and when, above all, on all sides there existed a desire that a strong Government should exist, to whom, I say, the secession of the right hon. Gentlemen seemed to have been dictated by motives the justice of which it required a very minute and metaphysical eye to distinguish. May it not now be said that it was the sad apprehension of the coming unpopularity of the war that led to that secession? May it not now still further be said, looking to the strange, and I had almost said amphibious, position which those right hon. Gentlemen occupy in the sort of political limbo that separates them from both of the great political parties—into which this House is divided, may it not be said, seeing that both of those parties are agreed as to the war, that those right hon. Gentlemen, in their anomalous position, thought it convenient to assume the attitude and character of peacemakers, so that when the wind, which now blows from the north and from the east, should at last change to a more balmy and genial air, it might, filling their sails, spread to catch the coming gale, waft them from the uncomfortable berth where they are now moored to a more pleasant anchorage?
I will now pass to the arguments which have mainly been relied on for the purpose of supporting the position that we ought to have adopted the propositions of Russia. The terms offered were substantially two, —first, the recognition of Turkey as an integral member of the great European community; and, secondly, the opening of the Dardanelles to the ships of war of all nations. Let us see what value there is in either or both of those propositions. It is perfectly obvious that the first is neither more nor less than an engagement on paper, affording no substantial or real security to Turkey against the aggression of Russia. That I take to be perfectly clear, for supposing Russia to enter into such a treaty, have you any security for the performance of the engagement? Hon. Gentlemen, who are in the habit of speaking of Russia as they would of England, France, Austria, Prussia, or any other European nation, which acknowledge the binding obligations of treaties, and have acted uniformly on the principles of 1668 good faith and international honour, have not sufficiently considered the history and antecedents of the Power we have to deal with. The principles of Russian policy have been fixed for the last century and a half; and were bequeathed by the great Peter as an inheritance to his successors. They may be stated in a few words—conquest, aggression, and aggrandizement. The fixed idea is to make the Russian government a continuation of the government of the Cæsars, to erect a second empire on the ruins of Turkey, and to obtain exclusive possession of the Black and Caspian Seas; to subdue Persia either to her dominion or influence, and through Persia to pave the way to the possession of the commerce and, if possible, the territory of India. These are the avowed principles of Russia, and notorious to every one who has made himself familiar with the history of that country. This work, left by the great Czar to be consummated by his successors, has never been lost sight of; and when we consider how to deal with this Power it is worth while to take a survey of what Russia has accomplished in the way of territorial aggrandizement within the last hundred years. She has taken from Sweden one-half of the country, and from Poland a territory as large as the whole of the Austrian empire: from Turkey she has taken the whole of the territory which lies between the southern provinces of Poland and the Black Sea; and she has obtained a preponderance in those waters which we now seek to destroy. She has taken from Persia the whole of the Caspian Sea, where she does not allow a single ship of war belonging to Persia to appear. There, it might be supposed, a line would have been drawn to her dominions; the great range of the Caucasus, with its inaccessible mountains and everlasting snows, would seem to have been placed by Heaven as a barrier to her further progress. But, no—she has proceeded even beyond the Caucasus, and has taken from Persia some of her fairest and most fertile provinces—Georgia, Mingrelia, Daghestan; a country equal to the whole British island—she has even erected fortresses beyond the limits of the Araxes, thus opening a passage to her armies, whenever she chooses to avail herself of it, into the heart of the Persian empire. And by what means has all this been done? Not by conquest alone—the swords of her soldiers have not been the only instruments she has employed—it has 1669 been by a mixture of fraud, perfidy, and force. She has added to the valour of the barbarian just that degree of civilisation on which involves its arts, its contrivances, and its intrigues, without that restraint which arises from the sense of honour and principle which a perfect civilisation brings with it. Her policy has been everywhere uniform. She has created or fomented the differences which so readily occur in semi-civilised communities. She has taken the side of one or other of the factions, she has insisted on introducing her troops into the country under the pretence of maintaining peace, and has availed herself of those means to seize upon its fastnesses, and has ended by incorporating it into her own dominions. This very Crimea which now engages all our attention is a striking illustration of her policy. She took the part of one of the Khans who had been driven out by his opponents; she introduced her army into the country, she took possession of the strong places; having done so, she compelled the people to take the oath of allegiance to the Empress, and, when the Tartar population showed a disposition to resist, thousands of them, without distinction of age or sex, were massacred in cold blood. Here you have a perfect specimen of the policy by which Russia increases her dominions: in this manner, within the last sixty years, she has absolutely doubled the extent of her European dominions. There is now no interruption of her territory from the Arctic Ocean to the Black Sea; since the time of Peter she has advanced her frontier towards the east at least 1,000 miles. I will venture to say that during that time there is not a single treaty, not a single engagement which she has not either fraudulently evaded or openly and unblushingly broken. And this is the nation which the right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) tells us is not the perfidious Power that it is represented to be. Certainly I must say the right hon. Member has either not studied the history of Russia, or has studied it to very little purpose. Such being the policy of Russia, what is the feeling of the population? From the Czar on his Throne to the humblest serf there is not a Russian who does not believe that it is the destiny of his country to triumph over the Moslem, that she will erect the Cross victorious over the Crescent, drive out the infidel, and extend the tide of conquest and dominion to all the countries of the East. Do not let it be supposed that 1670 this is a mere assertion on my part, derived from sources hostile to Russia. I have here a passage on the subject from an historian who, though he advocates opinions from which some of us dissent, is yet generally accurate as to facts and temperate in his statements, and who wrote under no bias arising from present circumstances. This is the language of Sir A. Alison on this point—The prevailing passion of the nation is the love of conquest, and this ardent desire, which burns as fiercely in them as democratic ambition does in the free States of Western Europe, is the unseen spring which both retains them submissive under the standards of their chief, and impels their accumulated force in ceaseless advance over all adjoining States. The energies of the people—great as the territory they inhabit—are rarely wasted in internal disputes. Domestic grievances, how great soever, are overlooked in the thirst for foreign aggrandisement. In the conquest of the world the people hope to find a compensation for all the evils of their interior administration.Again, he says—Every Russian is inspired with the conviction that his country is one day to conquer the world, and the universal belief of this result is one of the chief causes of the rapid strides which Russia has of late years made towards its realisation. The meanest peasant in Russia is impressed with the belief that his country is destined to subdue the world; the rudest nomad of the steppes longs for the period when a second Timour is to open the gates of Derbend, and let loose upon Southern Asia the pent-up forces of its northern wilds.Is any man, then, really weak enough to believe that that people, with such principles and such a policy stamped on its mind, will ever forego that which it supposes to be its destiny—that it will ever consent to give up what it considers to be its destined prey, simply because the pressure of superior force has for the moment forced its Sovereign to put his hand to a treaty binding himself to respect the integrity of Turkey? Why, Russia has already within the last century and a half bound herself over and over again by treaty to respect the integrity of Turkey, but has she the less persevered in her designs upon that empire? Twice within the last century the design of dismembering Turkey and incorporating her European provinces has, not only been entertained, but has been broached in a tangible and practical shape. In 1783 the Empress Catherine, having first secured the assent of Austria, made the same proposal to France which has been made lately—that France should take Egypt and allow Russia to occupy Turkey. France, however, then as now faithful to her obligations to the rest of 1671 Europe, refused to be a party to the unholy compact; the secret oozed out; Sweden declared war; Prussia, bolder then than now, marched an army into Poland, England assumed a menacing attitude, and the Northern Semiramis was compelled solemnly but reluctantly to recede from her prey, and to give up the design she meditated. Then came the European wars, which for a time engaged the attention of Russia, and withdrew it from this object. But when Napoleon was anxious to obtain the concurrence of Russia in his schemes of European dominion, the bribe he held out was that which he knew Russia could not resist—it was the sacrifice of Turkey; he offered it—it was accepted, and nothing but the subsequent dissensions of the two Imperial spoilers prevented the realisation of the project. But had Russia ceased to cherish her designs on Turkey? The communication which took place between the late Emperor and Sir H. Seymour showed that she had not. Do you suppose that if you compel Russia now to yield she will do more than yield for a time—that if you compel her to recede at the present moment, she will do more than recede with the full intention of advancing again upon her prey with increased energy the first moment she can obtain a fitting opportunity? What, then, is the course for us to pursue under such circumstances? Our duty is to obtain, if we can, a real and substantial security against the carrying out of this darling scheme of Russian policy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert) told us last night that the offers of Russia involved a security of this kind; but is that the case? The proposition of Russia is that the Dardanelles shall be opened to ships of war of all nations whenever Turkey thinks her safety menaced; but that is an advantage which Turkey possesses at the present moment. [An hon. MEMBER: Only in a state of war.] True, only in a state of war, if you suppose the treaties to be still in force; but does any one suppose that if Turkey saw Russia about to swallow her she would wait for the commencement of the war before opening the Dardanelles? The right hon. Gentleman argued this question as if these treaties were still in force, forgetting that they are, in fact, dissolved by the existence of a state of war, and what we have to consider is, what new securities shall be taken before we make peace. If you re-establish the treaties upon the same terms, and tell 1672 Turkey that she may open the Straits whenever her safety is menaced, the effect of the adoption of that Russian proposal would be merely to tell her that she may do that which she may do already in defiance of treaties—a security, moreover, which will avail nothing except England and France keep large fleets near the Straits for her protection. But are England and France to be perpetually subject to this unnecessary expense? Let us see next if the proposition of the Allied Powers affords that security which that of Russia does not afford. Now, it has been said that if Russia had acceded to the limitation proposed by us, she would still have been able to gather together a powerful fleet in the Black Sea in one way or another without infringing the treaty. That I believe to be a fallacy. She might indeed do so, but she could not do it without being observed by our diplomatic and consular agents; and as soon as she was found to be increasing her forces, her infringement of the treaty would, as she could have nothing to fear from Turkey, be a proof that she meditated designs which required the interference of this country and her allies. Therefore he said that in the proposition of Her Majesty's Government we have a real and substantial security, which is wanting to the proposal for opening the Dardanelles; and the very fact of the latter proposal coming from Russia—a country whose policy is stamped indelibly with the determination, as soon as she can, to seize on the Turkish dominions—ought to make us a little cautious before we yield to the suggestion proceeding from such a quarter. The hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) says, "Well, if Russia does swallow up Turkey, what have we to do with it?—we are not the champions of European independence, and ought not to go to war, wasting our blood and treasure in Quixotic enterprises." I do not say that we should; but I conceive that there are very serious material interests of Great Britain which are involved in this question. If Russia should, some time or other, in fulfilment of her assumed political and religious destiny, seize Turkey, what would be the consequence? Do you apprehend no inconvenience as regards your commerce and your supremacy in the Mediterranean? Will you be allowed to carry on your commerce with Persia, which is already growing into importance. But is that all? Do not forget the aspirations of Russia towards the East. If Turkey becomes her 1673 prey, and she can make available the resources of that empire for her purposes, will it he long before she also subjugates Persia, either to her dominion or her predominant influence? And if that is done, you will have her the powerful neighbour of States conterminous to your Indian empire. Can any one doubt that the presence and proximity of Russia to Persia would exercise a disturbing and dangerous influence on your power in the East? You have already difficulty enough in preserving order and peace among the population of your vast Indian empire. Your rule is a beneficial one, I admit, to the people who are subject to it—you have substituted a mild and paternal government for the crushing and rapacious despotism which preceded your sway; but do not forget that the Native princes in whose way your dominion stands are your bitter enemies; and if Russia held Persia in her grasp, do not fancy that you would be able to keep your population in India in order with the amount of force which you now possess. And, mark, the expenditure of your Indian army is already straining the finances of that country, and any increase in it must prove a serious difficulty. Then, do you imagine that the fiery warriors of Affghanistan might not be tempted to rise in arms against you again if they had a power at hand like Russia by secret intrigue or open force to stimulate and encourage them? Well, these are things which you would do well at least to consider. I quite agree with those who think that war is a fearful calamity, and that you ought not to rush into it recklessly and thoughtlessly. I quite concur with the hon. Member for Manchester that you ought to husband your blood and your treasure with the most careful solicitude. But, on the other hand, when you have to contend with a foe with whom to deal with excessive moderation and forbearance would be alike foolish and pusillanimous, if you allow him to march step by step from one territorial aggrandisement to another, and from conquest to conquest, you must do so with the knowledge that sooner or later the struggle must come, and you will have to grapple, amid enormously increased difficulties, with a Power with which you may now contend with success, but which your own weak policy will then have only helped to make more and more gigantic and colossal. Such conduct, in my opinion, would be madness. Is it not wiser to adopt the maxim of Obstare 1674 Principiis—to take your stand against such a power at the outset, and boldly depress the tendency to conquest and aggression before it attains a more formidable development, and becomes too powerful to be checked? I think, therefore, that the Government have done rightly in refusing to accede to the terms that were offered on the part of Russia.
But, let me ask, Sir, to what purpose are we now prolonging this discussion? The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) introduced it by a Motion which was intended to test the confidence of the House in Her Majesty's Government. That was a most legitimate Motion. If the right hon. Gentleman thought that the Government had lost the confidence of the country and of the House of Commons, and that this House would place more confidence in a Ministry composed of Members sitting on the opposite benches, as the leader of the Opposition he had a perfect right—aye, and it was his duty—to bring that issue fairly before the House. This having been done, and the decision of the House pronounced on that question, for what purpose, I repeat, should a discussion be prolonged? Is it prolonged because it was thought possible at the time that the Conferences of Vienna would be renewed, and that it was desirable the House of Commons should express its opinion as to the terms on which those Conferences should be conducted? Well, but the Conferences are now closed, and what conceivable good can result from continuing this debate? The Members of the Government are obliged to answer the attack brought against them from various quarters; but what practical result can follow our dividing on the question before the House? We all agree that peace can no longer he hoped for from Conferences at Vienna; we all feel peace can now only be achieved by the thunder of your cannon and the bayonets of your soldiers—you can only win it by making victory your pathway; and I want to know how you are furthering that war in which we are engaged, and to which we are to pledge ourselves to devote all our energy and all our courage, by carrying on a protracted logomachy—an interminable war of words in this assembly? Some of us say that the first part of the hon. Member for Kidderminster's Resolution is true—others that the second part of it cannot be maintained; and then comes the nice question whether those who vote for the first part will not be compelled 1675 in consistency to vote for the second; and thus, while, perhaps, at this very instant our cannon before Sebastopol are sending their fiery storm within the walls of that great fortress, and our devoted soldiers are pouring forth their blood for their country, we are, instead of seconding and strengthening their heroism, calmly discussing whether the head and the tail of a verbal proposition should go together or separately, and raising these subtle questions with reference to the terms and conditions of peace which were involved in conferences that are now at an end! I ask, is this wise or seemly? are we not engaged in a task which is not worthy of this House and of the occasion? I say that we have only one course to pursue—we can hope for peace only by one means. It is our bounden duty to prosecute this war with all the vigour and all the indomitable energy of which our people are capable. There ought to be but one voice among us. At such a crisis party attacks, personal hostility, and the bandying to and fro of eternal reproaches should cease; and with one voice, with one heart, and one accord, we should give strength and encouragement to the brave men who are fighting our battles. If we thus, Sir, fulfil our duty, that old standard of England which has been borne aloft through so many a scene of danger, fanned by the voices and hallowed by the prayers of a united people, shall yet be borne triumphant over the fields where victory and hope are now dawning upon us, and through which alone can that peace which we all desire be secured.
§ SIR FREDERIC THESIGER
Sir, my hon. and learned Friend in his able and eloquent speech has endeavoured to defend the Government from the vigorous attacks and rude assaults which have been made against them in this debate. He has descended into the area armed at all points, and done battle with all assailants. I am, however, not in the slightest degree interested in breaking a lance on behalf of his powerful antagonists on the other side of the House; I may fairly leave them to their own defence, and I am perfectly satisfied that, when the proper period arrives, they will show themselves quite equal in the encounter to my hon. and learned Friend. But when my hon. and learned Friend rose to deliver his very able speech I certainly expected him to turn the tide of this debate into some practical and useful channel; because I agree with 1676 the right hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth (Sir F. Baring) that the course of events has entirely outstripped our discussions; that, with respect to one of the Amendments proposed,—namely, that of the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir W. Heathcote)—it is quite out of date; and, with regard to the other matters which have been so ably debated for so many nights, I think I may venture to put a question which was asked in another assembly, different I hope from this. "Why sit we here projecting peace and war? War hath begun." Therefore I can well understand my hon. and learned Friend should be extremely desirous, as was also the noble Lord at the head of the Government, to satisfy the House that this debate had no longer a tangible or definite object and that it might as well be brought, like the conferences, to an end. It is a most extraordinary thing that during the whole course of this debate, until last night, when my noble friend and colleague (Lord Robert Cecil) called the attention of the House to what was the practical question we really ought to discuss, it had not been adverted to by a single member who had addressed the House. Now, the noble Lord at the head of the Government on Tuesday night, after adverting to the different Amendments on the paper, said there was one question which the House had an undoubted right to consider, and that was how the negotiations had been conducted. The conferences being at an end, and there being no prospect of their being renewed, I think the time has arrived for considering that question which I am of opinion is involved in our present discussion. I have a very strong impression upon the subject. I have all along felt that those negotiations were conducted in a most unsatisfactory manner, and I am compelled to add that I think that that arose mainly from the unfortunate choice of the negotiator. It must not be supposed that I intend to disparage the abilities or the sagacity of the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, who has modestly disclaimed any experience in the arts of diplomacy, and who has told us he was never very sanguine of the success of his mission. My objection to the noble Lord is, that he had made concessions and committed himself to opinions which rendered him the most unfit person in the world to be selected for the difficult and delicate office of conducting these conferences. That is rather a serious posi- 1677 tion for me to assume, and I am bound to satisfy the House that I have good grounds for putting it forth. To do so, I must just glance at the origin and objects of the war. I think we cannot have a better exposition of the course of Russian policy than that which my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General has very eloquently expressed. The immutable principles of Russian policy are conquest, aggression, and aggrandisement; and the object kept in view is the possession of the seat of the Cæsars. There can be no doubt in the mind of any one who has directed his attention to the course of Russian policy with regard to Turkey during the last sixty or eighty years, that it has been an uniform course of aggression and encroachment, and that, as my hon. and learned friend has said, sometimes by violence, sometimes by fraud and perfidy, she has made advances, until at last the relations between the two countries have become so extremely complicated that there is scarcely any act of encroachment on the part of Russia which might not be coloured or justified by the pretence of some treaty. The question of the Holy Places offered an opportunity, gladly seized upon by Russia, under the pretext of a right to protect the Christian subjects of Turkey throughout the whole extent of the Ottoman empire. It will be in the recollection of the House that, at the latter end of the year 1852, a large Russian force had been advanced to the frontier of Moldavia with a view to coerce Turkey into an admission of that right. It is impossible to imagine a state of things more critical, and in which those intrusted with the administration of public affairs should be more cautious in conceding any of those assumed rights, except upon the most just foundations. And yet the noble Lord, who, at the beginning of the year 1853 was the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, most unfortunately and most unguardedly, conceded, not in a hasty verbal communication, but in a deliberate despatch, the very right claimed by Russia, as "prescribed by duty and sanctioned by treaty." That claim was put forth in the Note of Prince Menchikoff at Constantinople, the rejection of which led to the occupation of the Principalities; and, when the House remembers that the Vienna Note, which was the occasion of war, contained stipulations with regard to those treaties, giving the same effect to the assumptions of Russia, it will see how formidable and fatal 1678 was the admission on the part of the noble Lord. The justification of the noble Lord made in the course of the debate, is, that there was a right of interference on the part of Russia in Moldavia and Wallachia, guaranteed by the treaties of Kainardji. Adrianople, and Bucharest; and the noble Lord gave us to understand that the admission he so unhappily made applied to those Principalities and the relations which existed between Turkey and Russia in respect to them. But the noble Lord is under a complete mistake. His admission applied to the claim of the Emperor of Russia, which was a claim to the protection of 14,000,000 of Greek Christian subjects of the Ottoman Porte. That there may be no doubt, I beg to call the attention of the House to a passage in a remarkable conversation of Sir H. Seymour with the late Emperor of Russia in the beginning of 1853. The Emperor said,—In the empire of Turkey are several millions of Christians whose interests I am called upon to watch over, while my right of doing so is secured to me by treaty. I may truly say that I make a moderate and sparing use of my right, and I freely confess that it is one which is attended with obligations occasionally very inconvenient; but I cannot recede from the discharge of a distinct duty. Our religion, as established in this country, came to us from the East, and there are feelings as well as obligations which never must be lost sight of.What was the answer of the noble Lord to that distinct claim, founded on treaties and asserted as a duty? He said,—The more the Turkish Government adopts the rule of impartial law and its equal administration, the less will the Emperor of Russia find it necessary to apply that exceptional protection which His Imperial Majesty has found so burdensome and inconvenient, although, no doubt, prescribed by duty, and sanctioned by treaty.Can there be the slightest doubt that the noble Lord was in error when he said his observation applied only to the Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia? The noble Lord has referred to the treaties of Kainardji, Adrianople, and Bucharest; but I have examined those treaties carefully, and can find nothing in them whatever to justify the assertion of the noble Lord. I do, indeed, find in the treaty of Kainardji, as the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) pointed out to the House a short time ago, a provision which in itself, so far from giving colour, to the claim of the Emperor of Russia, is as strong as by implication anything can be, against any right of interference at all. There are two Articles referring to this 1679 subject in the treaty of Kainardji—the 7th and the 14th. By the 7th Article the Sublime Porte promised to protect the Christian Religion and its churches, and also to allow the Ministers of the Imperial Court of Russia to make, on all occasions, representations in favour of the new church at Constantinople, as well as in favour of those who officiated therein. Thus the right conferred in that Article, and repeated in the 14th Article, is the right to make representations in respect of one particular church, and the ministers of that church; and if treaties are to be construed in the same manner as agreements between individuals, as every one knows that the expression of one particular implies the exclusion of all the rest, the argument is as strong as implication can make it against the right of Russia to interfere with the Christian subjects of the Porte. But the noble Lord may feel some comfort in finding himself in some degree countenanced by the mistakes of abler and more experienced diplomatists than himself. There has been a series of blunders throughout the whole of those transactions; and the Vienna Note, which was intended to put an end to the quarrel between Russia and Turkey, unfortunately contained a stipulation which would have imposed on Turkey the necessity of extending to all its Christian subjects the privileges which it had conceded to Christians not its subjects. In looking over all these mistakes one is forcibly reminded of the well-known observation of Chancellor Oxenstiern to his son, who was about to attend a congress of ambassadors, but felt some diffidence as to his ability, "Go, my son, and see with your own eyes, quâ parvâ sapientiâ regitur mundus!" Turkey was too farsighted not to see the effect of the stipulation in the Vienna Note, and made an objection to it. The four great Powers were extremely dissatisfied at this objection, for the Note had been carefully drawn up at Vienna, and had also received some modification in London by the Cabinet of which the noble Lord at the head of the Government and the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies were members. It was not until the only interpretation of which it was susceptible had been put upon the Note by Count Nesselrode that the eyes of our Government were opened, and then they discovered the fatal position in which they had placed themselves by the preparation of a Note intended to put an end to the 1680 disputes between Russia and Turkey, but calculated to give to Russia all the advantages over Turkey of which she was desirous. At last Lord Clarendon's eyes were opened by the view taken of the Note by Count Nesselrode, and the noble Lord wrote a despatch, in which he said that Count Nesselrode claimed for Russia the right to defend the millions of Greeks subject to the Porte, and to demand for them the same privileges as those which the Porte had conceded to foreigners. Then these great diplomatists found themselves in the predicament of having given Russia a plausible pretext for saying she was aggrieved, and for representing the war in which she was about to engage as a sacred war. When you remember that the noble Lord was the originator of the fatal mistake with regard to the obligations of the treaties by which Turkey was bound, and that the object of the war was to prevent Russia from asserting a right which did not exist, you will agree that it is important for me to refer to the antecedents of the noble Lord in order to justify my views as to the impropriety of his being chosen as a negotiator.
I will pass over the various events of the war, the heroic achievements and the dreadful sufferings of our troops, in order to arrive at the more immediate subject of our consideration—the establishment of the "Four Points" as the bases of negotiations. These points were reluctantly conceded by Russia. The right hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Gladstone) has told you that in August she contemptuously rejected them, but accepted them in the following December. What had happened in the intervening time? The glorious fields of Alma and Inkerman. It is evident, then, that we had won those Four Points at the point of the sword; and there could be no doubt that when they came to be developed, the wily and sagacious diplomatists of Russia would give as little and obtain as much as possible. It therefore became exceedingly necessary to make a most careful and guarded choice of a negotiator. But, unfortunately, the noble Viscount at the head of the Government was not in a position (to use the current phrase of the day) "to choose the right man for the right place." The noble Viscount had just been wafted into power by the breath of popular favour; his Government was but half formed; and the noble Lord the Member for London had recently flown from the Aberdeen Ca- 1681 binet and perched himself upon the airy heights above the Treasury bench, from which he looked down upon the world beneath, ready at any moment to pounce upon his quarry. The noble Viscount could not expect that he would be able to sustain himself without the co-operation of his former colleague; but how was it to be expected, after all that had passed between them, that the noble Lord would ever condescend to fill a subordinate position in a Cabinet at the head of which was the present Prime Minister? I can fancy I hear the Prime Minister say—O for a falconer's voice,To lure this tassel-gentle back again!But the noble Lord stooped at the well-known sound of office, and attracted by the whistling of the name of "Plenipotentiary," found himself again at the side of the noble Viscount. The noble Lord, unfortunately, happened to be the very worst choice for the country that could have been made; because, the object of the war being to prevent the encroachments of Russia on Turkey, the noble Lord was hampered by the unfortunate concession that such a right existed as was claimed by Russia. Could it be supposed that the argumentum ad hominem was a weapon not likely to be wielded with dexterity and strength by the wily Russian diplomatists who attended the conference? But the noble Lord was an unfortunate choice, not only from having committed himself in the manner I have mentioned, but also from the views he evidently entertained with regard to Russia at that particular period. In February, 1853, the noble Lord entertained very different views as to the policy of the Emperor of Russia from those which he has since expressed. The noble Lord said on the 9th of February, 1853—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.But what was this policy that had been so long followed? Was it the policy that had been so vigorously and so graphically described to-night by the Attorney General—a policy of violence, of fraud, and of aggrandisement? But is the noble Lord of the same opinion in 1855? We have heard the noble Lord describe the powerful armaments of Russia by sea and by land, the influence she has acquired in Germany 1682 —partly by bribing the Ministers of the inferior Powers—the powerful forts she has constructed in the Baltic for the purpose of bridling the inferior Northern Powers, until I was at a loss to understand whether the noble Lord ought not to have gone further in the terms of the treaty—whether he ought not to have proposed to cripple Russia, to take some of her dominions from her, and to reduce her power to safe dimensions. But I cannot help thinking, from the course adopted by the noble Lord in these negotiations, the noble Lord had some arrière-pensée; and that, while he was embarrassed by his antecedents, he was stimulated by a secret desire to cripple the power of Russia; and these two circumstances combined may, in some degree, explain his extraordinary conduct, and account, to a considerable degree, for his failure. But the noble Lord at the head of the Government is answerable for the selection of the noble Lord for this delicate and important office. That noble Lord had just then been brought into power by the voice of popular opinion. [An hon. Member made an observation.] Another word is suggested to me, but I am content to say that he was borne into office by the voice of popular opinion, because it was thought he would vigorously prosecute the war, and conduct it until we arrived at a safe and honourable peace. I regret to think how ready the people now are to break to pieces their idol, and I confess that no public man has so completely realised, in the course of a very short time, the observation made by Tacitus in speaking of Galba, "Omnium consensu capax imperii, nisi imperâsset." The noble Lord having been selected for this most important office, the telegraph announced that he had accepted the office of Secretary for State for the Colonies; so that, incumbered as the noble Lord must have been by the opinions and feelings he had expressed with regard to the Emperor of Russia, he was further agitated by the thought that he could not tell how many of the colonies might not be waiting for him to come home.
I am now brought to the point of the Conferences, and I want to see whether the negotiations were not unskilfully and unsatisfactorily conducted, and whether they were not necessarily unsuccessful from the choice of the noble Lord as the negotiator. I wish to call the attention of my right hon. Friend (Sir J. Graham), who has expressed a strong opinion that the negotia- 1683 had arrived at such a point that there was no necessity for continuing the war further, to the fact that the fourth point remains as unsettled now as at the first. My right hon. Friend has regretted the pause which took place in the negotiations on the third point; he thought the discussion on the fourth point might very well have taken place when the Plenipotentiaries had telegraphed for instructions on the third point, and that there was no insuperable difficulty in coming to a conclusion on that subject. The Plenipotentiaries of Russia and Austria were willing immediately to proceed to that point. But what said the noble Lord on this subject the other night?I must allude to a statement of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle to the effect that he regrets that the Governments of England and France did not permit and sanction the conference going into the question of the fourth point, and did not endeavour to settle that before discussing the third. Now, on that subject I must remark that that point was far from being so easy of settlement as my right hon. Friend supposes. I had several conversations on that subject with the very intelligent ambassador of the Porte, who arrived at a later period, after the first point had been discussed, and who, when there was a question of considering the fourth point, talked to me very earnestly on the subject, and protested against any article being inserted in a treaty by which the Porte should renounce in any way its independence, and be made to depend on Christian Powers with respect to its own internal affairs. I thought that objection—though I will not call it objection, but suggestion—with respect to the fourth point a very reasonable one; and at the same time I saw that the Plenipotentiary of Russia, and probably the Plenipotentiary of Austria, would be very anxious to obtain such a settlement of the fourth point as would have enabled them in some way to control the legislation of the Porte as regards the Principalities. We therefore should have been in very considerable difficulty in discussing that fourth point, and I certainly could not have consented to any arrangement of the fourth point which, on the one hand, did not provide that such a legislation should be introduced into Turkey as would give fair and equal privileges to Christians along with Mahomedans, and, on the other hand, enable those other two Powers constantly to interfere in the internal affairs."—[3 Hansard, cxxxviii. 1472.]So that this fourth point, which was the very origin of the war, is unsettled at this moment, and remains a question of insuperable difficulty. But why was it that the noble Lord did not enter upon that discussion? It is possible that the noble Lord may have remembered some of his unfortunate antecedents, and put off the evil day indefinitely; because it was not very likely he could come to an agreement with Russia on the fourth point, after the 1684 opinion he had expressed, that it was not only the right, but the duty of the Emperor of Russia to protect the Christians in Turkey. The Russian diplomatists, no doubt, were of opinion that the concessions which the noble Lord had previously made might be the foundation of negotiations on the fourth point; but the noble Lord was glad to join the Plenipotentiary of France and to defer the evil day of negotiations upon the fourth point. The noble Lord, not as a matter for consideration or discussion, but as an ultimatum, a sine quâ non, proposed to Russia the humiliating condition that she should consent to restrict the amount of her naval force in the Black Sea. Now, just consider what a strange position, according to my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General, the noble Lord was in when insisting on this particular article. My hon. and learned Friend says, "Russia is full of fraud and perfidy; there is no binding her by treaties, you can't secure her adherence to them." And yet the noble Lord was content, as the Government was content, to have accepted this Article, limiting the naval power of Russia in the Black Sea to four ships, it being perfectly clear that this would be entirely illusory, and that such a provision would have no effect in keeping her in check there. The noble Lord probably felt that there was a dread of the overgrown power of Russia, but he might also have been actuated by a feeling that Russia would be sure to reject these humiliating conditions, and that then the fourth point would never come under discussion at all, and that he might cover himself under a cloud of debate in this House as to any supposed concession which he might previously have made. I confess that anything more unsatisfactory than the course and conduct of these negotiations cannot possibly be imagined, and I submit to the House with some confidence that I have established not only their unsatisfactory character, but also that there is no other cause to which to ascribe this result but the unfortunate choice of the noble Lord, unskilled as he says he is in the arts of diplomacy, and selected, not because the country required his services, but because the noble Lord at the head of the Government found it necessary to his purpose to employ him. Again, the House will see that the noble Lord was distracted and divided by the different duties which devolved upon him. The country was clamorous for his return to attend to the 1685 business of the colonies. The noble Lord, as a Secretary of State, felt the necessity for his return, and thus, when the last and most important conference was held he was absent, being obliged to hurry back to preside over the destinies of our colonies. Under these circumstances, can anybody wonder that the Government did not adopt the course which my right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) suggested—namely, that the Government should have come forward and laid the papers on the table of the House, and, in so doing, move an Address to Her Majesty? They did not do so because they were distressed by the position in which the unfortunate negotiations, and still more unfortunate negotiator had placed them, and they did not choose to expose themselves to the ordeal of such a debate as would have ensued. My right hon. Friend, however, forbore to press the point, and it was not until the Motion of the right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) was withdrawn that he felt himself bound to come forward and submit a Resolution which I firmly believe expressed the feelings of a majority of the people of this country and a majority of this House. I say a majority of this House, because I cannot refrain from expressing my astonishment at the course pursued on the subject of his Motion by many hon. Members, who, expressing themselves in the strongest terms against the Government and against their conduct in these negotiations, were yet found in the lobby with Ministers, supporting them against a Motion which went to condemn that conduct. The Motion of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) was rather too strong to suit the taste of the noble Lord and his Government; so the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth (Sir F. Baring), like a kind and gentle nurse dealing with a fractious child came forward, and removing everything which might be hurtful, and putting in a few smooth and honeyed expressions, presented a gentle draught to the noble Lord and his Government, who were of course ready enough to take it. But then came the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminister (Mr. Lowe), who, thinking something a little more spicy and warm would be better for the constitution, imparted this to the Motion; and here again, provided it had the negative quality of doing no hurt, the noble Lord was willing to accept it, because, if I understand the Prime Minister aright, he has pledged himself to 1686 support the first part of the Amendment of the hon. Member. Now let us see what that Amendment involves. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir F. Baring) says, "You are playing with the question when you are considering whether you will take my words or those of the hon. Member for Kidderminster; I am content with any words if they are only something like my own, mine having done their office;" and then the right hon. Gentleman assumes that the words of the hon. Member's Amendment are like his own. Now, the first words in this Amendment which the noble Lord is willing to accept are:—"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"—and so on. What is involved in these words? Why, that the restriction of the power of Russia in the Black Sea was the ultimatum and sine quâ non of negotiation; and if you adopt the expressions of the hon. Member for Kidderminster, then you record by a formal vote that peace can be concluded on no other terms than those which have been refused by Russia. Are you prepared to give any such vote? Are the words proposed by the hon. Gentleman at all like what have been called the milk-and-water words of the right hon. Member for Portsmouth? He regrets that the negotiations should have come to an end. Do you regret that, nnder such circumstances, and in the hands of such a negotiator, they should have come to an end? For my part I rejoice that they have terminated, if they only led to such conclusions as I think would be discreditable to the country, and which the country would hereafter have cause to regret. Let the House remember that the Government was willing, only a week ago, to accept those terms for the restriction of the naval force of Russia in the Black Sea which have been shown by powerful speakers in the course of this debate to be perfectly illusory; they were ready upon those terms to have concluded a peace which would have given no security whatever for the very objects for which we went to war. Well, this being the state of things, it has been asked by my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General, what we are now discussing. He says we are bandying charges and recriminations against each other, and that, the conferences having come to an end, there is nothing left to discuss. Is that the case? I say we are here to discuss the 1687 conduct of the Government in these negotiations, and I trust I have satisfied the House that the negotiations have been conducted most unskilfully and improperly. The conferences are now at an end, and the door of negotiation is closed. What then? Why, as some one has said, let Russia come and knock at the door before it is opened to her. We must trust now to our own swords to gain for us that success which ultimately may conduct us to peace, and I trust our swords will be found a little sharper than the wit of our negotiators. There is only one course for us to pursue. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) that war is a means, and not an end. But war is no means at all unless it be successful, and therefore we have nothing for it now but to prosecute the war with vigour; and with the well-known heroic valour and distinguished bravery of our soldiers and seamen, and with the blessing of Providence upon our arms, I trust that we may at length win for ourselves that safe and honourable peace which is the united desire of all parties in England to arrive at.
MR. LLOYD DAVIES
said, that after all the discussion, he was utterly unable to comprehend what the Resolutions before the House meant. He understood the question submitted to the House the other evening by the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, which had extracted from the noble Lord a reluctant explanation of his policy. The vacillation of the Government rendered it imperative on some one to ascertain in what manner the war was to be conducted, and on that occasion he gave his vote in favour of the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman; but he had since heard hon. Members severely criticising and vituperating the Government for their conduct of the war, who, on the division on the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire's Motion, had voted in favour of the Government, and one hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bright) walked out of the House on that occasion and would not register his vote against the Ministers, in whom he told the House last night he had not the slightest confidence. The general impression in the public mind appeared to be, that the war was attributable to the ambition of the Emperor of Russia, confirmed and increased by the vacillation and want of nerve of the Government of Lord Aberdeen and the representations of the three Gentlemen of the peace deputation, who went to St. Petersburg, and repre- 1688 sented to the Emperor of Russia that they spoke the sentiments of the people of England, and led him to believe the people of England would not exert themselves to curb his views of aggrandisement and aggression; and this, he thought, was the secondary cause of the unhappy hostilities in which we were engaged. The war was considered to be originally a just war, and he did not comprehend how right hon. Gentlemen could say that it had changed its character. If it was just in its origin what had made it unjust now? Surely it was not our success which made it unjust? He thought that the House should give the Government as much aid and moral energy as it could, and he considered that it would only lessen the successes of our arms to be entering on such desultory discussions as that which they had so long carried on. He believed that the objects of this war could not be obtained without a material guarantee. He could not participate in these Amendments by stating his regret that the conferences had failed, for he thought that the terms proposed would be illusory, and would only lead to future wars; and that we ought to obtain some material guarantee for the preservation of peace. He was rather astonished to hear the hon. Member for the West Riding and the hon. Member for Manchester sneering at the populace and the press, considering the great use those hon. Gentlemen had made of the sweet voices of the people, and that there was a time, not long since, when the press seemed to be to them as the very air they breathed. It was transparent that the attack on the press was aimed at a particular newspaper; but, although The Times did not at first support the war, as soon as it discovered the tide of public feeling was in favour of war, it sought to represent, and had represented with fidelity, as was the province of a newspaper, the general public opinion. It was a just war, and the only safe conclusion to it that he now saw lay in the demolition of the great stronghold of Russia in the Black Sea; for as long as Sebastopol remained, Turkey would always be in danger of a repetition of the Sinope catastrophe. A great deal had been said about the honour of Russia, and it was intimated that we should be very tenacious of offending it. But he thought Gentlemen of the House of Commons should restrict themselves to taking care of the honour of England. An argument had been sought to be raised that the French people were 1689 averse to the war; but there was no reason for that assertion. The best representative of the French people was the French Emperor, and he had acted throughout in the most perfect good faith. Under these circumstances, he was of opinion that the House could not do better than to avoid giving any factious vote against the Government—to negative every Amendment that had been proposed, and to vote for the Ministers. He, for one, should do so, for he considered that the Amendments were never intended to be carried in their integrity, and that it was the duty of the House to express such a plain straightforward opinion as would show to our allies and to Europe, that we were determined to prosecute the war with vigour.
said, that the most remarkable feature of this lengthened debate was to be found in the great variety and remarkably contradictory nature of the opinions which had been offered on nearly every side on the subject of the war. Hardly a Gentleman had risen who had not, in some shape or other, started some new point bearing on the question. Even the Members of the Cabinet themselves—probably from the want of concert, or, possibly, because they had no preconceived opinions, had been contradictory, and the House itself appeared to be turned into a complete tower of Babel. The only exception to this remark was to be found on the bench below the gangway, which contained those advocates of peace at any price, who exhibited a unanimity of opinion on the subject of the war. He could not congratulate those advocates of cheap cotton and no war upon their recent association with the Gentlemen sitting beside them—the seceding Ministers. Gentlemen of so much sagacity as the peace-at-any-price party ought to know that they would inevitably share the fate of every other party to which those hon. Gentlemen had allied themselves, and would, in their turn, be betrayed and abandoned by their new associates. The fault he found with the speeches of the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), and the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright), was, that they betrayed their ruling passion for the one nostrum which, in their opinion, was to cure all evils—the one remedy which these Gentlemen recommended for every disaster was a measure tending to procure the importation of cheap cotton in a raw state, and at the same time enable the manufacturers of that raw cotton to export it. He did not underrate the advantages of this 1690 doctrine, but he denied its applicability under all circumstances and at all times. The attack on the Government by the hon. Member for Manchester was perhaps the most severe ever made on an Administration, and in every part of it he (Mr. Bentinck) concurred; but the hon. Member had forgotten in his speech of the previous night to explain why, entertaining such opinions of the Government, he had absented himself from the division on the Resolution of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire. The clue to the hon. Member's motives for such a course might be difficult of ascertainment; but it too frequently happened that these hon. Members, after making most bitter and violent attacks on the Government were found in the same lobby with them. There were two hypotheses on which to account for this contradictory conduct on the part of the hon. Member. Either the miscalled Liberals—a term that had been very much misused of late years—had such antipathy to a Conservative Government that they would rather see the Prince of Darkness installed in Downing Street, or they thought it convenient to have a Government in office on which in time of need they could effect a pressure that was conducive to their own purposes. The hon. Member for Manchester had shadowed out the future fortunes of this country and America; and he said that the mercantile power of America, her commerce and population, would in a short time be in advance of this country. He need not ask the hon. Member what share free trade and the freedom of navigation, advocated by him, had had in hastening this comparative position of the two countries. It was no use now referring to the origin and causes of the war; there was an old proverb that it was no use crying over spilt milk; and he believed that the country was now placed in such a position that nothing remained for it but to fight the battle out to the best of its ability. But, at the same time, he entirely agreed with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester that the country ought to know how it came to be placed in that position, and he (Mr. Bentinck) thought it would be just as well if the House of Commons made the same inquiry. For himself he could not avoid expressing the strong conviction, that, on looking over the history of the past two years, the House of Commons was the sole and whole cause of the war, inasmuch as that it had sanctioned the formation of the Government, which led 1691 the country into the war, and by which it had been so grievously mismanaged. In his opinion, so long as the House of Commons was ready to support a Ministry banded together by no sort of principle beyond that of a determination to hold office at a sacrifice of their individual opinions, so long the country had no right to complain of any position in which it might find itself. With respect to the Resolution and Amendments now before the House, he must say he did not think them worthy of two minutes' consideration. He regarded them as the emanations of so many small minds—of men professedly the opponents, but in reality the emissaries of the Government, and as merely brought forward for the purpose of destroying the effects of the Motion of his right hon. Friend the Member for Bucks; and as such he thought the time of the House would be best disposed of by dealing with them in a lump, and getting rid of them in the most summary manner.
§ MR. CARDWELL
Sir, the concluding paragraph of the speech of the hon. and learned Attorney General is one which, by the good feeling and judgment which it expressed, cannot fail to commend itself alike to the feelings and judgment of the House, for it deprecated making this great question of national policy a subject of party strife. I think, however, the House will perceive that the homily of the hon. and learned Gentleman and his conduct exhibited a marked discrepancy. I no not think that I should have been exceeding the limit of Parliamentary practice if I had risen in my place to ask if the hon. and learned Gentleman was in order, when, in a remarkable paragraph in his speech, he attributed to my right hon. Friend and to those who have seceded from the Government with him, motives of action so base that I should consider myself trifling with the dignity of this House if I noticed them; for, when the hon. and learned Gentleman said that the conduct of some Members of this House, upon a great question of national glory and independence, had been prostituted for motives so mean and contemptible as those which he ascribed to them, I believed that he transgressed the strict rules of Parliament, and, at least, I am sure that he departed from the principle which usually regulates our debates. When I listened to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman which conveyed that imputation, I could not help remembering a former occasion, when the foreign policy of the country was under 1692 discussion, and the conduct of our affaire hung upon the issue of that night's decision of the House, the hon. and learned Gentleman having imputed the same motives to the same men, received a rebuke which I should have thought would have made an impression on his mind. On that occasion the hon. and learned Gentleman stated that there were three courses by which a Government might be overthrown, and to any one who pursued either of those courses he imputed motives similar to those which he has to-night imputed to certain Members of this House. I think the House will not have forgotten what was the reply of Sir Robert Peel on that occasion, the last speech he ever made in this House. Sir Robert Peel said—Now, is it not possible for the hon. and learned Gentleman to suppose that there may be a fourth? Is it not possible for him to speculate upon the possibility that men in this House may intend to give their votes without reference to political combinations? Does he exclude the possibility of that fourth course of action which arises from a conscientious conviction as to the truth? Is that excluded from his contemplation? May it not be possible that men cannot subscribe to a Resolution which asserts that a certain course has been best calculated to preserve peace and to support the honour and dignity of this country? Is it not possible that, without reference to party or personal interests, men may decline to affirm a Resolution which deals with principles of greater importance to the welfare of this country for good or for evil, than have ever been under the consideration of the House."—[3 Hansard, cxii. 675.]The last vote I myself gave in this House was one the effect of which was to keep the hon. and learned Gentleman in office, and although I have, in consequence of a loss I have sustained, been prevented from hearing those speeches which during this week have entranced and instructed the House, I came here to-night intending to record a silent vote in the same lobby as the hon. and learned Gentleman, but at the same time I have thought it impossible for me not to notice some of the observations which he has made. The hon. and learned Gentleman has stated that in the course of this debate declarations have fallen from experienced Members of this House which are calculated to induce, in the minds of our enemies and our allies, feelings hostile to the interests of this country. I could have wished that the hon. and learned Gentleman, professing that opinion, would have been guided by it in the observations which he himself addressed to the House. I ask the House to bear in mind some of the remarks which fell from the hon. and 1693 learned Gentleman, and to consider if such arguments are likely to carry with them the cordial support of our allies, or to strengthen in your favour the general opinion of Europe? The hon. and learned Gentleman began by ridiculing the proposal to bind Russia by any stipulation or treaty; but does it not seem strange that such an expression of opinion should emanate from one who has imputed to those who sit on what he is pleased to call those uncomfortable seats motives of action so despicable? Does the hon. and learned Gentleman speak of Russia as a Power with whom it is no use negotiating, when he has served in two consecutive Governments, one of which he serves in now, which have been continually negotiating with Russia, and which at the very time this debate began, was still negotiating with her? The hon. and learned Gentleman proceeded in the same spirit of unfortunate rashness, considering the position from which he spoke, to tell us more than we have yet heard with regard to the aim and objects of the war. The hon. and learned Gentleman appealed to the feelings of the House on the subject of India, and pointed out, as far as regarded that country, the danger which there would be in agreeing to stipulations which even his own Government have approved of. I take it that the argument thus advanced by the hon. and learned Gentleman is far more calculated to prejudice us in the eyes of Europe than anything that has fallen from the "experienced Members" of this House to whom he alluded. Do you think our allies will cordially co-operate with us in the prosecution of the war for such an object as that shadowed forth by the hon. and learned Gentleman? Why, hitherto we have been told that the immediate object of the war is the maintenance of the balance of power; but now we are told that its object is not the maintenance of European liberty—not to prevent Constantinople from falling into the hands of Russia, but that the ulterior and remote object of continuing the contest is, according to the learned Attorney General, to protect and preserve the British power in India? My hon. and learned Friend has delivered one of those animated Philippics which no man has more ready at command, and which we all listen to with pleasure whenever he does deliver them, in which he has told us of all the conquests, of all the cruelties, and of all the selfish objects and motives of Russia. [Mr. ROEBUCK, Hear, hear!] My hon. and learned Friend below 1694 me says, "Hear, hear!" He is consistent in that. He has been no party to any negotiations. He has laid down no bases. He rejoices, no doubt, that all negotiations have been broken off. But does the Attorney General think that it will tend to cement our alliance with the Powers of Europe when he tells Parliament that the British Government intends to persevere in this war, not for those objects which formed the basis of that alliance, whether with Austria or with France, but for purposes altogether different and foreign from any objects in which those Powers can have an interest? The most rash declarations, when made by "experienced men" in Parliament, are wafted on the wings of the telegraph to the whole world by to-morrow; when, therefore, it shall go forth that Her Majesty's Government, speaking, indeed, not by themselves, but by their counsel, have declared to the British Parliament that our enemy is so faithless a Power that with her we cannot safely negotiate, and when to this is added that the object we have mainly at heart in this war is not the preservation of the balance of power in Europe or the protection of Constantinople, but the maintenance of our interests in India, what, I ask, can possibly be the result save that of inspiring our allies with feelings of estrangement and distrust? And how intense must those feelings become when we are further told by the same authority that we do not intend to sheathe the sword until Russia has been crushed and disarmed? My hon. Friend the President of the Board of Works talked of the war lasting six years; but I should like to know how many more years it would last if we acted on the principles laid down by Her Majesty's Attorney General? By the argument which that hon. and learned Gentleman has adopted all conferences and all negotiations are condemned. All the terms demanded by the Government of Lord Aberdeen and by the present Government are equally condemned by the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman.
But what is the question we are at present really called upon to consider? We are, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth, discussing a question after all the interest that once attached to it has passed away, and it is extremely difficult to know what is the precise object for which we are called upon to vote. I came to this House intending to support the Motion of my right hon. Friend the 1695 Member for Portsmouth, not because that Motion appeared to me calculated to effect any practical or beneficial object; but I should have supported it in opposition to the Amendment of my hon. and learned friend the Member for Kidderminster, the adoption of which I believe would be fraught with danger. I sincerely hope that neither the first nor the second part of my hon. and learned Friend's Amendment will meet with any favour from this House. I trust I may anticipate that neither side of the House will vote for so clear and express a declaration as that contained in the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend; and I will state the reason why I entertain that hope. Some time ago a Motion, in the sense of peace, was given notice of by a right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson) in every way calculated to command the attention of this House. The arguments used against bringing forward a Motion, in the sense of peace, were those identical arguments which during the discussions in the course of the French war were urged by Mr. Pitt and his colleagues all through that period and even just before the peace of Amiens. When peace was approaching a peace Motion was made in this House, and what was the strong argument used in opposition to it on that occasion? It was this—The House of Commons wields the greatest power that any body of men wields in the world; but with that power is connected the greatest amount of responsibility, and any excess of its functions may be followed by consequences the most disastrous. The function of peace and war is not a function of the House of Commons, but of the Crown. Your limited function and duty is to be the first adviser of the Crown; but you must not yourselves interfere with the conducting of negotiations or with the management of diplomacy. These are your functions—to support the Crown against its foreign enemies, and when the advisers of the Crown so act as to lose your confidence, then to censure and remove them. Well, during this session a Motion of censure has been made and rejected; some think on insufficient grounds; but nobody complained, because it was a legitimate and constitutional duty of this assembly so to act. Since then another Motion has been made and we have equally determined not to adopt it. That also was equally within the legitimate functions of this House. But what is it my hon. and learned friend the Member for Kidderminster recom- 1696 mends? He calls upon us to lay down an ultimatum. Now observe the argument of the Government on this matter. They say, how can you define terms of peace? Are not your terms to change in proportion as the successes attending your arms change? If that be a sound principle, which I believe it is, how does it square with the Amendment of the hon. and learned gentleman the Member for Kidderminster? Let us imagine the noble Lord the Member for the City of London to go again to Vienna after the adoption of the Resolution of my hon. and learned Friend. How could the noble Lord enter into negotiations with the Plenipotentiaries of Austria and of France, fettered as he would be by a solemn Resolution of the House of Commons? My hon. and learned friend says, that his Resolution applies only to the third basis. That is true; but that basis involves the most important matter in the whole controversy. But, even if we were to adopt the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend, I doubt very much whether it would be satisfactory to himself, because, according to the terms of his Amendment, he would express his regret that the conferences were at an end. Now, I rather think my hon. and learned friend is rejoiced that the conferences are at an end. I hope my noble Friend at the head of the Government is not bound to accept even the first part of the hon. Member's Amendment. I admit that the first is the least important part, and it has been stated that, as it is only a statement of fact, it can therefore be accepted. If it be only a statement of fact, and if it involve no principle, then, as the Attorney General has said, it might be quibbling to talk much about it; but the term of quibbling cannot be applied to those who have had nothing to do with framing either of the Resolutions. I doubt, however, whether it is true to say that the first part of the Resolution is only a matter of fact, for after Russia had refused the propositions which were made the conferences were not closed, and the reason that they were not was, because other proposals suggested by Austria remained to be considered, and it was not until these were disposed of that the conferences were closed. It is not true, then, to say that it is a matter of fact that it was only owing to Russia's refusal of terms when there were other propositions which had to be considered separately before the conferences were closed. The Attorney-General, among other topics which he introduced in his eloquent pe- 1697 roration, spoke of the feeling which had been excited in the East, particularly in Affghanistan, that an advantage might be obtained therefrom by Russia. I think my right hon. Friend would have exercised a sounder discretion if he had made no reference to that subject. The reason why I express that opinion is this—I have heard in this House fears expressed of the growing power of Russia; it is right to be on our guard against this, but at the same time I think that an exaggerated fear of danger often does more to injure a powerful country like ours than the danger itself. It is my sincere belief that the power of Russia, great as it is in comparison with that of Turkey, is not so in comparison with that of England, and I cannot help protesting against our giving rise to fear and apprehension by taking such long-sighted precautions against the possible dangers suggested by the Attorney-General. The greatest calamity which has in my lifetime happened to this country was that affair of Affghanistan, the cause of which was an exaggerated fear of the encroachments of Russia. The course of policy which it becomes us to pursue is this—setting aside all other objects—to look, as this House has shown itself disposed and anxious to do, to the true, real, and permanent interests of the country. Hitherto this House has been guiltless of any opposition to the progress of the war. The supplies which have been demanded have been cheerfully given, and the representatives have responded to the unanimous feeling of the people, that so long as the Crown is engaged in the war so long will they prosecute it with all the vigour and energy in their power. But we ought, in prudence, to limit our proceedings to the actual danger against which we have to guard. War is the natural element of despotic Governments, which lean upon a standing army, but peace is the atmosphere in which free institutions have most expanded, and every triumph which has been gained for freedom in this country during the last forty years has been due to the peace which, under the blessing of Providence, we have enjoyed. To the Motion of my right hon. Friend I shall give my ready assent, but I do regret that when conferences were instituted with a view of promoting peace they should have terminated without bringing about a cessation of hostilities. I advise every Englishman to give his cordial support to his Sovereign and to Her Ministers, be they who they may, for the 1698 effectual prosecution of the war; but I deprecate a Resolution like the one proposed by the hon. Member for Kidderminster, the only effect of which must be to add a new chapter to a war the limits of which no one can tell—to create a new war with new allies, and, perhaps, with new enemies, for objects not specifically defined, but only conveyed to the House in inflammatory periods, suited to the feeling of the moment. I say, let us continue in the course which this House has always adopted of giving to the Crown our cordial and effectual support; but, at the same time, conveying by the tenour and language of our debates the feeling that we impose these taxes, we sacrifice these lives, and we make these efforts to guard against real and practical dangers which have already become manifest through the conduct of our enemies, and not for the purpose of obtaining those remote, unavowed, and unknown objects connected with those vague topics which I, with regret, have heard introduced into this debate.
§ MR. WALPOLE
Sir, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down that this debate, owing to the variety and diversity of Amendments which have been proposed, has assumed a somewhat complicated character; at the same time I think the noble Lord the Member for the City of London reduced the discussion to its proper proportions when he stated to the House, in the clearest manner, the distinct propositions which were included in those Amendments. The noble Lord said, and truly said, that two great issues were raised by these Amendments; the first of which is, if you are to have a continued war, what are the objects for which it is to be carried on? and the second is, if you are to have peace, what are the terms and conditions on which a peace might properly be concluded? Any one who bears in mind these two propositions of the noble Lord will immediately see that this debate, instead of being complicated, is reduced, in fact, to very tangible issues, and those issues, give me leave to say, contrary to the opinion expressed by a right hon. Gentleman, are such that this House neither can nor ought to avoid them when protocols and negotiations have been laid upon our table, and when we have been distinctly asked by implication to give an opinion on the conduct of the Government in those negotiations. Several policies from various quarters have been brought to bear on this subject, but the particular quarter to 1699 which we all looked for a clear statement of the policy to be pursued is the only quarter from which we have received no such explanation. We have the policy of war manifested in the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Kidderminster; we have the policy of peace embodied in the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford University; and we have a mixture of those two policies in the Resolution of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth. But, notwithstanding we have heard two Ministers of the Crown contradicted, indeed, this night, in material respects, by their own Attorney General, yet down to this moment I believe the House is not aware what the policy of the Ministry is. The Government, it is true, have made statements in most general terms, which, if they are to be interpreted by the language of the Attorney General, would show that their policy is a policy calculated to lead this country into a war without limit, and which would pledge us to a declaration in the face of Europe that we are contending with a Power so perfidious that no peace can be had with it, even though the Government themselves were negotiating with it down to the last moment and notwithstanding that Power is the only Power in Europe that, with the exception of two years, we have been at peace with for the last three centuries. Be it observed, too, it was during the period of this long peace that Russia has made all those acquisitions which the Attorney General declares, in a declamatory speech, proved her to be a Power we could never trust to or be at peace with. Under these circumstances, I have risen more for the purpose of trying to extract from the Government, than for any other reason, before the close of the debate, something like an explanation of their policy, in order that the Parliament and the country may know for what we are fighting. The worst of all possible policies is the policy of leaving such matters as these as it were to chance. We cannot forget, we ought not to forget, Lord Clarendon's memorable observation a year ago, "that we have drifted into war." That was an observation implying that the pilot at the elm had allowed the vessel of the State to drift into the breakers without chart or compass. Now, it is very easy to drift into war, but it is not so easy to drift out of it; still less is it easy to drift into a safe and honourable peace, and, unless your intentions are more clear and specific 1700 than they hitherto have been—unless you can point out distinctly a plain and settled purpose for which this war is to be carried on, all your fine phrases will go for nothing; the prosecution of the war,—the negotiations for peace, should they again be renewed will be again unsuecessful—all your utmost efforts will be fruitless and unavailing, because your councils are wavering and uncertain; and the consequence will be that the public mind of this country, for want of guidance, will mount up, as it has done before, into extravagant expectations, to sink down, as it has done, into a gloomy state of dissatisfaction and discontent. The noble Lord the Member for London told us that it was impossible for Ministers to be more specific, because, he said, the terms of peace will vary according to the contingencies of war. That would have been a just observation if it had not been met, as it were by anticipation, by the more pregnant and still more just remark which fell from the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, when he pointed out that there is a difference which may and should be always attended to between the terms of peace and the objects of war. With regard to the terms of peace, we cannot know what they are to be, because they must necessarily vary with the varying contingencies which war brings with it; but, with regard to the objects of war, you the (Ministers) ought to know what they are now; they ought to be the same at the beginning of the war as they will be at the end, and the same at the end of the war as they were at the beginning. Now, we want to know what those objects are? If that observation of the right hon. Member for Carlisle is just with respect to wars in general, it is peculiarly just with respect to a war of this description. This is not a war of an ordinary character. We are all of us agreed that is is not a war of conquest or ambition. We are most of us agreed—all, I believe, except the Chief Commissioner of Works—that it is not a war of vengeance; neither is it a war, as the right hon. Member for Oxford University so forcibly pointed out, of mere military renown, nor is it a war directly, at least whatever it may be indirectly, of self-interest or self-defence. I will tell you what war it is. As the hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir E. B. Lytton) most clearly pointed out, it is a war of justice. Being a war of justice, you are bound to see that right is done to the party wronged, and to take sufficient and proper securities against the repetition of 1701 that wrong in future. More than this, you have no right to require; less than this, in my opinion, you ought not to ask. But if it be this war of justice, you must attend to the cause of the war—that is, to the wrongs done. You are seeking the redress of wrongs, which I own I think you could not have witnessed without attempting to redress them thoroughly. A gross outrage had been committed, the law of nations had been violated, the faith of treaties had been broken, the independent territory of another Power had been invaded; and if you had tamely and quietly acquiesced in the claim made on the part of Russia for interference between the subjects of the Porte and the Porte itself, or if you had sat silently by while Russia entered the Principalities to seek for what she called material gurantees for the unjust demand which herself had made, I am not sure whether England and Europe would not have incurred the same guilt in this century as England and Europe incurred in the last, when they quietly permitted the partition of Poland. Therefore, with respect to the policy of the war, meaning by policy the duty of understanding it, I entirely agree with the Government. I think the war is so just that they ought not to have avoided it even if they could, and so necessary that they could not have avoided it even if they would. Well, if the war be such as I have just described, and not any imaginary war, such as that we have seen advocated in the public prints and even in this House, let me ask how far the objects desirable to be obtained might have been accomplished by the negotiations at Vienna? Much had been effected by these conferences. Of the two points—redress for past wrong and security against its repetition—the former had been absolutely attained and the latter was so far attained in point of principle that I think no bystander could have said that the whole matter was not progressing towards a proper course of settlement. The claim of a protectorate over the Greek subjects of the Porte was given up, the Principalities were evacuated and their independence was secured, and these concessions, be it remembered, were not only a complete redress for past wrongs, but in some respects also were securities against their repetition. What I mean is this—they removed the plea or pretext for invading, and the means by which Russia could invade, Constantinople or Turkey through the Principalities. Bearing that in mind, and bearing also in mind that you had ob- 1702 tained this additional advantage, that the Porte was no longer left in an isolated position, but was attached, as it were, to the balance of power in Europe, and brought by treaty within the protection of the public law of the civilised world; and, remembering, also, that by the last proposition made by Russia you put the key of the Straits of the Dardanelles entirely into the Sultan's hands; and that by means of this key, so placed in his hands, he could at any time bring up a counterbalancing power to weigh against the preponderating power of Russia in the Black Sea;—bearing, I say, in mind all these advantages, which you might have obtained, and which you had obtained, I contend that if you were justified in entering into these negotiations at all, then, on the principles on which you proceeded, you were not justified in breaking them off in the manner and for the reasons and under the circumstances you did. The noble Lord the Member for London told us that this last proposal of Russia would have left the parties in precisely the same condition as they stood before the commencement of the war. But is that so? I ask the noble Viscount who sits opposite to carry his mind back to the month of April, when he knew that the Russian troops were moving down towards the Danubian Principalities, when he knew from the secret correspondence what the real intentions of Russia were, and when Colonel Rose sent for the fleet to check her advance, and having done so, to say why it was that the fleet so sent for was not moved up to the mouth of the Dardanelles? Was it not that such a step would have been a casus belli, and were not your means of protection therefore taken from you? But if you had then already obtained this concession from Russia—which I hope you will never give up—the Sultan would have been the judge of the necessity of calling up the fleet, and consequently it would have been brought into the Golden Horn without a murmur. Russia could have made no complaint, and I do not believe there is a man in this country who thinks that, under those circumstances, we should have had any war at all. These are my reasons for regretting that these negotiations have been broken off. I do not enter into any argument with those who say that they should never have been begun, because that question is not before us; but, having been begun, I say that they ought not to have been terminated so hastily and abruptly. However, we must 1703 take matters as we find them, and finding them thus, and what I have to consider is, how we should deal with the great question with a view of accomplishing the objects of the war, and obtaining the terms of peace which we are entitled to demand. That leads me to the different Amendments on the paper; and first, to those of the hon. Member for Kidderminster. That Amendment, I think, if carried, would not help us at all, towards the accomplishment of the object we all so much desire. I object to that Amendment—I mean the first part of it—on two grounds, first, because it is not strictly true; and, secondly, because—taking the two parts together, for they, cannot be separated—it would be a most impolitic Amendment for this House to agree to. It asks this House to declare that, owing to the refusal of Russia to limit the strength of her fleet in the Black Sea, the Conferences of Vienna have not led to a successful termination. Now, Sir, it is not strictly true to say that it is owing to the refusal of Russia to consent to the limitation of her fleet in the Black Sea that the conferences came to an unsuccessful termination. That was only a part of the proposition. The conferences sat after this refusal of Russia, your own Plenipotentiary attended them; he received a subsequent proposal from Russia, and the conferences were not at an end even when the right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) gave notice of his Motion on the assumption that they were; Count Buol expressly declared that, though the instructions of the Plenipotentiaries of the Western Powers were exhausted, the conferences were not ended. Under these circumstances, I humbly submit that, even if it were a matter only affecting the affairs of our own country, it would he highly unadvisable for this House to make a declaration which is not strictly true; but in the case of a declaration which is to go forth to all Europe the importance of strict accuracy becomes ten-times more serious, In addition to this, if you couple together the first with the second parts of the Amendment, this declaration would amount to this—that the limitation of the naval power of Russia in the Black Sea is a sine quâ non, without which this House is not prepared to consent to any conditions of peace. That point has been discussed so ably in the course of the debate that it is unnecessary for me to go into it at length; but I believe the arguments may be summed up thus—that such a proposition is 1704 illusory in its nature, that it is pregnant with future difficulties and disagreements, and that it is unnecessarily humiliating to the Power with whom we would negotiate. It is clearly illusory, because, as was shown by the hon. Member for the West Riding, the number of ships to be possessed by Russia in the Black Sea might be so improved by modern skill and invention that, with the number of ships to which you would restrict her, her fleet there would be actually more powerful than it has ever been before. It is illusory, because in the first place, when Russia said, or should choose to say, that her ships were wearing out, and that it was necessary for her to build new ones, you would never know the time when you had a right to complain; because, in the second place, she might still build in her large rivers gunboats which could be brought down at the shortest notice to the Black Sea, and which, for the purposes for which Russia needs a navy in that quarter, would be as effective as any ships of war; and lastly, because the danger which menaces Constantinople is not so much from an attack by a hostile fleet as from a land invasion, supported by a fleet which would convey troops—and an army which can be conveyed in merchant vessels quite as well as in ships of war. The proposition, moreover, would be pregnant with future disagreements, because, whenever Russia saw differences arising between the Western Powers, she would not hesitate to begin building ships so as to increase her power in the Black Sea. What would then happen? The first step would be to remonstrate with her; she would reply; then there would be observations on her reply; Turkey would protest; a long correspondence would follow; we should be asked to abide by our treaties; we should doubt whether the occasion were worth it, and we should thus be involved in an endless complication of difficulties and disputes. But if the proposition was objectionable because it was illusory and pregnant with future differences, it was ten times more so as being unnecessarily humiliating to the Power with which we were seeking to negotiate. Nations, like individuals, are often more sensitive of their honour than of their material interests. And as it has been well said by the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley), if we are seeking to humiliate Russia, it would be better to crush her at once, for to humiliate her, without weakening her, would be to make her our perpetual foe. For these reasons I cannot 1705 consent to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kidderminster.
I may pass by the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford, because the time for that has gone by. Whatever might have been the value of that Amendment before the negotiations were broken off, it is clear that it would not be becoming in this country to make overtures to Russia for a renewal of them. The renewal of them ought to come from Russia herself, and not from us, because such a step on our part would imply that we were distrustful of our cause, and would induce Russia to insist upon higher terms. I pass on to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. J. G. Phillimore). The hon. Member for Surrey has shown clearly that of all the foolish things this House could do the most foolish of all would be to embark in a great and extensive war for securing the "liberties and civilisation" of a country whose despotism is so unmitigated and whose morality is in so low a state as to make it simply ridiculous to characterise it in any way as allied to the interests of civilisation and liberty. Coming to the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Portsmouth, I think, notwithstanding the observations he has addressed to us to-night, that he himself feels that there was great force in the observation made by the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, that his Amendment had become an "unmeaning platitude." I concur in the regret of the right hon. Gentleman that the conferences were broken off; and I agree with him that, as the conferences are broken off, it is necessary to prosecute the war with vigour: but then the question comes, are we called on to pass his Resolution? Unless you intend either to censure or to vote want of confidence in a Government, I know but two cases in which it ever becomes this House to make a solemn declaration at all. One of these cases is where it is wanted to inform the public mind of the country—possibly, even the public mind of Europe—of the course of policy this House is prepared to adopt with reference to some question of great national importance; the other case is where you see some reason to doubt the course of policy which a Ministry are likely to pursue, and in that case it may be desirable to tie them down by a declaration that will keep them to the course which you think it is for the welfare of the country to pursue. In no other cases do I think it desirable for this House to fetter itself with Resolutions, unless it is wished 1706 to censure, or vote a want of confidence in a Government. Well, then I have arrived at this point; the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kidderminster I think is mischievous; that of the hon. Member for the University of Oxford bears upon an object that has passed away; the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Leominster is an extravagant one, and the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth has become, in the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, an "unmeaning platitude." And is this the point to which we have brought ourselves? Some observations fell from the noble Lord the Member for London that were very important in my opinion as bearing upon this part of the subject. He intimated, at the end of his speech, that new papers were probably coming down by a message from the Crown to the House—the noble Viscount (Viscount Palmerston) confirming the statement—and that the Ministers, when these papers did come down, would feel it their duty to move an Address to the Crown with reference to the whole of these negotiations. [Lord JOHN RUSSELL: Yes, if the Motion and Amendments were withdrawn.] The noble Lord says, if the Motion and Amendments were withdrawn then he would be prepared to bring down these papers and to move an Address. Will the noble Lord give me leave to ask, if these Amendments are defeated, what is to be done? Are we to have no Message? and shall we have no Address? Let us understand where we are. You have rejected my right hon. Friend's (Mr. Disraeli's) Motion because it said you were guilty of some ambiguity in your language and uncertainty in your conduct. I think the House are likely to be of opinion that here we have about as "ambiguous language" and "uncertain conduct" as the Government can well be guilty of. Now, I am very anxious on this part of the question—more anxious, indeed, than upon any other; and the reason why I am so is that I think the thing we have most to lament in all these proceedings for the last two years is the great want of clearness, which has placed the House in considerable embarrassment, and which has misled the country to a great extent. Now, whatever we do with these Amendments, let me impress on you the duty of considering whether you cannot by some mode of address indicate to Parliament and the country not the terms of peace to which you will ultimately consent, but the objects for 1707 which this war is prosecuted. Let us not proceed a single day further without giving some clear expression of opinion on this subject. If the House will permit me, I think I shall be able to show the utter confusion into which we have fallen during the last two years upon this question. We talk glibly and think lightly of the Four Points, but I am not quite certain that we are at all clear as to what those Four Points are. Of this I am certain, that the Four Points have not been, from the beginning, the objects of your war, whatever they may be at this moment. Before the war commenced you fell far short of them in all your negotiations. At the time war was declared you seemed to insist upon them; after the war began you actually went beyond them; and now it appears you have gone back to them again. This is exactly what I want to know from the Government—have they gone back to those Four Points, and what is the meaning they attach to the terms? With reference to these Four Points before the war began, the House should bear one or two things carefully in mind that will show the want of clearness of which I complain. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) has pointed out the real causes of the war, and showed most admirably that they were all contained in the Russian Note of the 5th of May, 1853, and that the object of the war was to remove that "network of treaties" which Russia had thrown around the Porte and in the meshes of which she held her. And what were the claims set up as the ground of these treaties? The protection of the Greek subjects of the Porte, firstly, a protection, not only extending to spiritual, but temporal things; secondly, that privileges should be conferred on all Greek subjects of the Porte similar to those usually conferred on foreigners by favour alone; and, thirdly, that the security of these privileges should be the continuance of the "network of treaties" which would give to Russia the absolute right of interfering in the internal affairs of Turkey. These things were contained in the Menchikoff Note of the 5th of May—a document characterised by Lord Lyndhurst as the most insulting public document he had ever known. Now, I have compared side by side this Menchikoff Note with your own Note which you prepared at Vienna, and which the Turk would not accept; and I declare that I cannot see in point of spirit, and scarcely even in the language of these 1708 Notes, any substantial difference. But that is not all. After Turkey had declared war against Russia you, on the 13th of January, 1854, prepared another Note, called the Collective Note—that Collective Note so much referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford. I wonder that, having been a party to such a note, he was not almost afraid to bring it forward. This Collective Note absolutely proposed that you should renew those very treaties, which the right hon. Gentleman described so graphically as a "network," within the meshes of which Turkey had been drawn by Russia. Now, I ask again, have we been clear about the objects of the war even before we commenced it? I deny that we have; and I am bound to infer ambiguity which to my mind is still more astonishing. Your declaration of war, coupled with the treaties that accompanied or followed it, in fact, though not in words, stipulated for the Four Points as the objects of the war. But look at that declaration. It refers to the Vienna Note, and to the Collective Note; and—would you believe it!—with all the strong language we are using against Russia, and all the indignation with which we entered on the war—this, our own declaration of war, called these two Notes, (one of which is the same with that of Menchikoff, while the other renews the treaties with Russia), a just and equitable mode of settling the differences in an amicable manner. I agree that your declaration of war is, in other respects clear—that it distinctly and directly points out the main objects you had in view; but I never could understand, and cannot understand at this moment, how you ever could make so great an admission against yourselves as that which I have just named. The treaties which followed shortly after your declaration of war do describe your objects more clearly than anything else. The treaty of the 10th of April especially contemplated that annexation of Turkey to the European equilibrium, which the noble Lord at the Conferences of Vienna has obtained for us; and your treaties also contemplated that you should take up arms, and not lay them down again until you had secured the independence of that Power, and preserved her from the complications which led to the differences that have occurred. But the treaties of the 10th of April and the 23rd of May contained two provisions which I think will hamper you until you get rid of them. The one was—and I en- 1709 tirely approve of the motive which dictated it—that France and England should engage to each other that they would renounce beforehand everything they might acquire by the events of the war; and the other was that by the treaty of the 23rd of May, and the note sent in pursuance of it to St. Petersburg by the Courts of Berlin and Vienna, that the four Powers should acknowledge in common that the war shall in no respects alter the territorial possessions of the different Powers of Europe. Now, one month after the treaty of the 23rd of May was signed, the Government of this country prepared and sent out instructions to the army that the expedition to the Crimea should be undertaken. Sir, I have always held that this was about the most fatal mistake our Government could have committed. There are those on the Treasury bench who know that before that expedition sailed I expressed this opinion, and they can bear witness that what I now state is not an afterthought. I said in private before the expedition sailed that I regretted the course the Government were taking, because they were altering the character of the war; and the very words, I believe, which I used on that occasion were, "I think the risk you are about to run will never be compensated by any advantages that you are likely to gain." I might have added—for I am sure I felt it—that "that expedition is not only a mistake by changing the character of the war, but it was also a fatal mistake considering the time at which it was sent out." There was a total want of preparations for the purposes of a siege before it went; the only means you had when the expedition actually sailed might have been sufficient for a coup de main, but they were in no degree sufficient for the army wintering in the Crimea. However, Sir, I repeat, we must take facts as we find them. You have gone to the Crimea, and I am not the man to advise you to retrace your steps until you obtain the legitimate objects of your enterprise, either by the success of your arms or by a voluntary offer on the part of Russia to concede them. I will not compromise the honour of my country or the honour of its soldiers. There may be, and I know there is, danger still in the undertaking; but there may be even greater peril in giving up the expedition than in persevering in it. There are cases, and this is one of them, in which the boldest course is the safest and the best.
Will the House now do me the favour to 1710 follow me for a few moments, while I point out the great uncertainty with which all your proceedings are yet encompassed. The Conferences of Vienna are founded on the treaty of the 2nd of December, 1854. And here the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) must allow me to correct a very important error into which he fell the other night. He told us that he had no expectation that the conferences would succeed, because we had not gained enough by the success of our arms to force the required conditions upon Russia; and, perceiving the way in which this observation might be met, the noble Lord anticipated the answer to it by saying, "You will ask me, why then did you enter into these negotiations at all? We did so because Austria was bound, under the treaty of the 2nd of December, to join us with her arms in case we should fail in obtaining the objects of that treaty by negotiation." Now, Sir, as far as I understand that treaty, there is not one word in it which binds Austria to take up arms on your side against Russia—not one word pledging her to do sounder any circumstances. It is important that this should be known, because not only is it now stated on the authority of the noble Lord, but it has been circulated through the country for months and months that Austria would, in virtue of that treaty, be bound to draw the sword in the event of your failing by negotiation to attain your objects. But the object of the treaty was not that. The object of the treaty was, that the Four Powers should deliberate in common to effect the purposes of the first article. And when you take up that first article what do you find? Why, it refers to the Notes that were exchanged on the 8th of August, 1854, to the treaty of the 23rd of May, and to that of the 10th of April. And again you have made a common act of the treaty of the 10th of April and the Convention entered into between Turkey and Austria on the 12th of April; so that to understand this treaty of the 2nd of December, you must carry in your head all these other complicated treaties with which you have entangled yourselves. But I can disentangle them for you, for the purpose of my argument, and will show you not only that Austria is in no way bound to take up arms, but it will also show you how far this third point was made clear by you when you came to negotiate upon it. The first time, when the third point was specifically mentioned as a condition to be insisted upon, was in the summer of 1854. It was then described 1711 as the revision of the treaty of 1841, which requested the Sultan not to call up any vessels of war into the Black Sea. This was all that was stated in the summer of 1854. Explanations were given of that point on the 8th of August, 1854. The explanation given of it by M. Drouyn de Lhuys was this:—"The revision of the treaty of 1841 in the sense of the limitation of the preponderance of the power of Russia," and not, observe, the preponderance of her "naval power." The explanation given of this point by Lord Clarendon made that which was uncertain before still more so. That noble Lord's explanation was this:—"The revision of the treaty of 1841 in the interest of the balance of power of Europe." And this is what you call making matters clear! The interest of the balance in Europe! What does this mean? It means anything or nothing. Well, nothing further took place till the following month of November, when Russia for the first time agreed to the Four Points. She accepted, among the rest, this one—the revision of the treaty of 1841—in these terms:—Russia will not oppose its abolition if the Sultan, the principal party interested, consents to that measure." Observe, therefore, before you entered into your treaty of the 2nd of December 1854, that the revision of the treaty of 1841 was explained by Russia's saying that she would assent to its abolition if the Sultan would agree to that course—it was explained by M. Drouyn de Lhuys saying that he required not the limitation of the preponderance of the "naval power," but of "the power" simply of Russia—and it was explained by Lord Clarendon in the extraordinary words I have quoted, "The revision of the treaty of 1841 in the interests of the balance of Power in Europe." How, then, anybody can say that there is clearness in such a confusion as regards one of the points which it was most essential to make intelligible is one of the greatest anomalies that could possibly be imagined, or how can any one say that Austria is required to take up arms for you. One would have thought, as you were entering into negotiations, that something like a lucid explanation would have been given of the matter in dispute, in order that the noble Lord might have had the means of acting upon the subject of the treaty with something like common sense and clearness. Well, did you put any other interpretation upon it? I watched this most vigilantly; because I knew well that your chances of peace depended on your 1712 interpretation of the third point. You did put an interpretation upon it; and what was it? What was it to depend upon? Upon negotiation? No. Upon explanation? No. What, then, I ask, was it to depend upon? Will the House believe it? It was to depend upon the success of your arms. Here are the words:—The revision of the treaty of the 13th of July, 1841, must have for its object to connect the existence of the Ottoman empire more completely with the European equilibrium, and to put an end to the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea. As to the arrangements to be taken in this respect, they depend too directly on the events of the war for it to be possible at present to determine the bases; it is sufficient to point out the principle.[Lord PALMERSTON: Hear, hear!] The noble Lord says, "Hear, hear." Now nobody is better acquainted than the noble Lord with everything that relates to diplomacy, and I would not presume to enter into competition with him on such questions; but I have studied these papers with the view of arriving at just and honest conclusions, and I say, independently of all diplomacy, that when you were entering into negotiations far peace—knowing that there was one point, and one only, which constituted the difficulty—you were bound to put an interpretation upon it which would enable you to see whether there was any chance of arriving at a satisfactory conclusion, instead of leaving it to the chances of war. But did you do so? No. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London, when he was appointed to the Colonial Office, was unable to discharge the duties of that office because he was sent to Vienna to settle principles, and the details were to be left to be decided by Ministers after his return. What were the principles the noble Lord had to settle? The third point was that of the greatest importance; but now you are told by the noble Lord himself that his instructions were limited merely to the diminution of the number of Russian ships in the Black sea. What, then, were the principles the noble Lord was to settle? I say that the noble Lord ought to have been sent to Vienna with the fullest possible powers of considering all proposals that might be made to him by Russia, or by any other Power, before he left Vienna. It is on this ground that I bring a charge against the Government. I would not speak so earnestly if this was not a subject of vital interest; but when the peace of the world is concerned, when thousands and hundreds of thousands of 1713 lives depend upon accuracy and clearness of statement with reference to these matters, I can hardly contain myself when I see the ambiguity and obscurity which have existed and which betoken a vacillating policy which might be fraught with the most serious consequences to the general interests of the world. But is this all? No; I conceive that this ambiguity and obscurity have exercised a most prejudicial effect upon the public mind of the people of this country, and extravagant expectations have been raised which you know can never be realized. I say, moreover, that, unless the noble Lord tempers down to-night the speech of his Attorney General, I see no prospect of peace for ten years to come. For Heaven's sake, consider how the people of this country have been misled and into what extravagances they have run! Why, there are some men of information who have contended, and naturally, that, since you have gone to Sebastopol, you cannot consent to retire until, at any sacrifice of life, it falls into your hands, and that you must hold it. Is England to hold the Crimea? Is France to have the Crimea? Will you restore Mahomedanism in that part of Europe, or will you give the territory back to the Tartar population? These are some of the difficulties you have to solve, and which you must solve. But these are not the only speculations to which your ambiguity has given rise. There are some persons who say, and I rather agree with them, that the real danger to Constantinople is not through the Principalities, not from crossing the Danube, not from the passage of the Balkan, but through Asia, and that Russia must be driven back from the Black Sea to the Caucasus. Now, you must be prepared for the consequences if, when you come to negotiate a treaty and to arrange a peace, you find these people blame you for falling short of their expectations. There are others—but I think their arguments have been disposed of by the hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Sir E. B. Lytton) in his brilliant speech, and by the powerful argument of the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden)—who says you can do no good until you wake up the nationalities of Europe. I say deliberately that if this be the intention of the Government they are bound to inform us of it now, in order that the people of this country may know whether such is to be the object of the war or not. Again, there are others—and at their head was a veteran diplomatist, now no more—who 1714 contends that no safe treaty can be concluded until you have stripped Russia of all the conquests she has made during the last sixty years—in other words, until you have undertaken a war of indefinite duration. Now, I blame the Government very much for having excited these expectations; but one answer may be given to them all, and that is—that you never entered into the war for any such objects; that you entered upon the war as the arbiter of nations—and that is your strength—not as the disturber of them, which would be your weakness; that you did not engage in war for objects which are impossible of attainment, and which would be worthless if obtained, but simply and solely in support of weakness against strength, of justice against oppression, of right against wrong, and not for any fantastic object, for visionary conquests, for uncalled-for vengeance, or for unwarrantable ambition; the objects are an intelligible security, to be intelligibly announced, of the kind of guarantee you are going to require against the repetition of similar outrages which might be committed in future.
I may be allowed, before quitting this subject, to advert to a remark of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, followed up, as it has been, by the very spirited and dashing speech of the Attorney General. The noble Lord said the other night, that he gave credit to the Conservative Opposition for not having made this war question a party question for two years; but he implied that now they were about to do so. On behalf of the Conservative Opposition I deny altogether that we are making, or that we wish to make, this question a party question. I have always thought, and still think, that, agreeing with the Government that this war is both just and necessary, it was our first duty to support them to the utmost extent in our power in the prosecution of the war, for the purpose of obtaining a satisfactory peace. At the same time, nobody knows better than the noble Lord, that it is equally our duty to keep a vigilant eye upon the Government with reference to their conduct. During the whole of the year 1853 we carefully abstained from moving for any papers or documents with reference to negotiations which were in progress, lest we should interrupt them in the smallest degree in their exertions to secure peace. During 1854 we as carefully abstained from criticising their military operations, because we wished—as we still wish—that Europe should see a united 1715 front and united action. Consistently with these principles, but reserving to ourselves that right which essentially belongs to this House, we supported a Committee of inquiry at the beginning of the year, when we heard of disheartening disasters; and, consistently with the same principles, I say now that we are bound to give our opinions honestly and conscientiously upon the protocols which have been laid before us and upon the negotiations you have carried on. I think, indeed, the Government would have better reason to blame us if we had maintained silence with reference to these negotiations—if we had been ready to find fault with them when things went wrong, but prepared to share the common credit when things went right. To such a proceeding I never could be a party; and, even now, though I have found fault with the Government more than I have ever done before, I still say that we are bound to support them to the utmost of our power in the continued prosecution of this war, provided only—and I do make that provision—that the Government will frame to themselves, and submit to Parliament, a plain, intelligible, and definite object. I do not mean that you (the Minister) are to announce to us an ultimatum from which you are not under any circumstances to depart; I do not mean that the varying contingencies of war can make no change in the terms you may demand; but what I mean is, that if you ever enter into any conferences again you must be prepared to consider all the alternatives which are submitted to you, instead of putting an end to them hastily and abruptly; and that, if terms of peace are proposed to you, you are not to reject them at once and altogether, but to consider how, by counter proposals, you can make them acceptable to this country, to your allies, and to Europe, by seeing what modifications may properly be adopted or what additions it may be requisite to make. Had you acted thus, I most fully believe that your negotiations at Vienna would have succeeded now, instead of having failed. But as the matter stands, to use the expression of my right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, the door has been locked. I entreat you, if a knock is heard at that door, let it not be opened by any doubtful or uncertain hand; let the applicant be answered by no doubtful or uncertain voice. Announce your intention, specify your meaning; let that intention and that meaning be plain and clear; and I am as well convinced as I am that I now address you, that, un- 1716 less you turn this war into a war of conquest and ambition, you will be enabled, with God's blessing, to end it in a manner—and I pray to God you may do so—which will be just to Turkey, whose rights have been assailed; reasonable to Russia, whom you ought not to drive to the verge of despair; faithful to your allies, who have supported you so nobly and so faithfully; honourable to yourselves and to this country, as showing that you have been instigated by no mean or selfish motives; and satisfactory to Europe, which is now looking upon you, not as mere belligerents, not as mere partisans, but as fulfilling a higher and a much more sacred character—as the arbiters and administrators of the international law; and as the judicial executioners of international justice.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he was satisfied that no one would impute to the right hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House that he was actuated by unworthy motives in the criticisms he passed upon the acts of the Government. He agreed that there was no duty which devolved upon the Opposition more imperative than that of criticising the conduct of the Administration, if they thought it deserving of criticism; and that there was no occasion on which that duty was so plainly called for as when the country was engaged in a war and its highest interests were at stake. He was also disposed to acknowledge that since the commencement of the negotiations hon. Gentlemen opposite had shown a most honourable and patriotic forbearance in the course they had pursued towards the administrators of public affairs. Undoubtedly it was their duty to see that there was on the part of the Government no ambiguous language or uncertain conduct; and the more resolutely they acted upon that principle the more they would benefit the country and do honour to themselves. If he were to criticise the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, he would say that he appeared to have narrowed the question into smaller dimensions than its importance warranted; and that, when referring to the conferences, notes, and protocols of 1853 and 1854, he should have gone back still further in order to ascertain the origin and causes of the war. After listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman one would imagine that the quarrel between Russia and Turkey had its origin solely in Prince Menchikoff's mission to Constantinople; that none of the negotiations antecedent to the proposition of the Four Points were worthy of reference; 1717 and that the war now being carried on with renewed vigour and increased hope of success had no definite object, and was continued needlessly, without our having exhausted all probable means of a pacific settlement. The right hon. Gentleman had strongly censured the Attorney General for speaking of the aggressive policy and the treacherous conduct of Russia; but could he deny that that character had been gained and deserved by Russia in the opinion of all who looked at her antecedents? Was the present war not the result of a long planned and deep-seated traditional policy, artfully carried out, by which Russia had endeavoured to obtain possession of Constantinople as the key to universal empire? If they looked back at the traditional policy of Russia, at the language of successive Czars, at the progress of her arms and her territories, would they tell him that her antecedents did not justify the apprehension of dangers against which Europe was bound to take precautions? The hon. and learned Attorney General had referred to the increase of Russian power and enlargement of the Russian dominions during the last sixty years, which statement was justified by Sir J. M'Neille, who showed that within that period she had more than doubled her dominions, and acquired by arms and treaties greatly increased power. It was impossible to gather from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman whether he objected to the language in which the Attorney General expressed his sentiments or to the sentiments themselves. Did he mean to deny that the progress of Russia had been for centuries great and aggressive, and that what she had not exacted by her arms she had consummated by treaties unscrupulously made and not faithfully carried out? What was the origin of the present war? Did they not know that the Emperor of Russia came to England in 1844, at the time when Lord Aberdeen was Minister for Foreign Affairs, and stated those views regarding the future of Russia and Turkey, upon which a secret memorandum was drawn up and subsequently laid upon the table of that House? Did they not know that for ten years the design was allowed to sleep, but that in 1853 the Emperor thought there was a good opportunity for reviving it, and that on the very evening he heard of the appointment of a new Ministry in England, he sent for Sir Hamilton Seymour, and drew that picture of the "sick man" which had now become historic? Then 1718 came the aggression upon Turkey; but England did not immediately appeal to arms against Russia. We negotiated; but while we were negotiating Russia was arming upon a scale which showed she contemplated, not a single campaign, but a serious and protracted war. We thought that while there was any hope of success from negotiation we were quite right to negotiate; and he denied that any hon. or right hon. Gentleman had a right to claim to themselves the monopoly of the title of friends of peace, or to assert that all who differed from them as to the best and likeliest means by which peace could be preserved were not to be trusted. Was here any Gentleman in that House who in a less degree than the hon. Member for Manchester felt that peace was the greatest of all blessings, and war the direst of all calamities by which a nation could be inflicted? who was not prepared to assert, and both by his vote and his voice to compel Government to acknowledge and act upon the principle, that the first duty of a Minister, before God and his country, was to preserve peace as long as possible, and when it was broken to restore it? But it was also his duty not to evade present inconvenience at the risk of future difficulty; on the contrary, it should be his aim to foresee and provide against probable dangers, and, at the expense of present trouble and inconvenience, to protect his country from greater evils in the future. Undoubtedly, the Minister who entered into a war incurred a fearful responsibility, but he incurred a greater responsibility who, conscious of impending dangers, shrank from the performance of his duty, leaving to his successors and the nation the accumulated difficulties of an unsettled question. It was that principle, embraced by the Cabinet of Lord Aberdeen, which induced them to undertake the responsibility of declaring that Turkey should be protected against Russia, whatever might be the cost, and that the latter Power should be checked in the pursuit of her aggressive policy. With respect to the negotiations, he had not exactly understood whether the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) was of opinion that they should have been continued at Vienna with a view of taking lower terms than those which the allies had offered and which Russia had refused. With respect to the Four Points, it was not fair to take them as if they had been the best solution of the difficulty, and the best conditions that could have been asked from Russia—they 1719 had been preceded by long and complicated negotiations. Some hon. Gentlemen would have had war declared immediately the Russian troops crossed the Pruth, but public opinion in this country was not then ripe for that step. The consequence was, negotiations were begun, and the further they were carried the more we got entangled. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham) had alluded to the concessions made by Russia; but in his opinion those concessions were but diplomatic artifices intended to detach Austria from the cause of the allies. The Four Points were a compromise by which to secure the co-operation of Austria, and by agreeing to them England was placed in this position—that she secured the co-operation and alliance of Austria, together with a prospect of peace; while, if she had rejected them, Austria, instead of being an ally, would have remained neutral, or would, perhaps, have become an enemy. The Four Points were therefore accepted as the basis of negotiations, though not as the best and wisest terms that might have been suggested if the Government had acted an independent part in the matter. They were taken because no proposals likely to lead to a more satisfactory solution of the question were made by any other party. It had been stated that Russia had virtually given her assent to three out of the Four Points. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) separated the Four Points, and set them up to represent four equal parts, saying, "Here are Four Points. Each point is equal to another point, and the moiety of one point is equal to that of another." He should be sorry to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman, but he believed him to have stated that, because Russia had agreed to three points and a half, we ought to have been satisfied. Now, the great object of the Four Points was peace combined with security, and he confessed he had been unable to gather from anything that had been stated in the course of the debate what were the political advantages which Turkey would have derived from those portions of the Four Points which had been accepted by Russia. With regard to the first point—the protectorate of the Principalities—it must be remembered that Russia, though she had accepted it, had refused a proposition made by the French. Plenipotentiary that would have given value to her concession; and, consequently, he (Mr. Horsman) had been unable to discover that any great import- 1720 ance was to be attached to her acceptance of the first point. Upon the second point—the navigation of the Danube—he had listened with great attention to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle, but he was still at a loss to say what political advantage Turkey would derive from the possession of the second point. No political advantage of any kind whatever could be derived by Turkey from the free navigation of the Danube. As to the third point, he had certainly listened with a great deal of curiosity to his hon. Friends the Member for Manchester and the Member for the West Riding, in order to learn how they were satisfied with the proposals of Russia on that point, which were that the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea was to be put an end to, not by a reduction of the Russian forces, but by the admission at the pleasure of the Sultan of the fleets of the allies into the Euxine; and the House were now told that the reason why the third point was rejected was that the acceptance of it would have been injurious to the dignity of Russia. Now, when was the discovery made that the acceptance of the third point would be injurious to the dignity of Russia? The point was proposed by the Governments of England, France, and Austria, and accepted by Russia in the first instance. Subsequently, however, she declined to accede to it, and then the discovery was made that it would not comport with her dignity to accept it. The Russian proposal upon the third point, then, was that the predominance of Russia in the Black Sea might be corrected by England and France having fleets in those waters. Now, he had always understood that it was the object of the gentlemen who were the advocates of what was called the peace question in that House to curtail and reduce the expenses of the nation; but here, in a time of peace, the country was to keep up an immense war establishment, and was to have large armaments constantly confronting those of Russia in the Black Sea, liable at any moment to come into collision. All this too was to be done in the interest of peace. But the whole question of the negotiations with Russia was one for the exercise of their common sense. England went to war in order to gain a certain security from Russia, and he had not heard from any hon. Member in what respect that security had yet been given. It was a most serious matter to enter into a war at all; but it was a far more serious matter to retreat 1721 from a war without having carried out the objects for which it was undertaken. The House had been reminded more than once in the course of the debate that the empire of England was an empire of opinion, and it must be remembered that when the country entered upon the war the opinion was universal that the interests at stake were immense, that the objects to be obtained were most important, that the preparations for carrying on the war ought to be very great, and that it would be degrading to conclude a peace without having first obtained the objects for which this war was entered into. He hardly thought that hon. gentlemen understood the responsibility they incurred when they asked the Government to bring the contest to a close without accomplishing the objects for which it was commenced. England took an attitude last year which riveted the eyes of the whole world upon her. She laid down a principle and gave a pledge. Was that principle now to be abandoned and that pledge broken. Much had been said of the power and resources of Russia, but when were the power and resources of England as great as they were when this war was entered into? Our trade was most prosperous, our exports were enormous, the wealth of the country was almost fabulous, its tax—paying capacity was beyond what had ever been known; our cause was good, and our alliance was strong; the people were loyal, enthusiastic, and united; in Parliament both sides of the House extended to the Government unbounded confidence, and voted unlimited supplies; we fitted out the finest army that ever left our shores, and the noblest fleet that ever sailed upon the waters:—for what were all these magnificent preparations? were they for insignificant objects? was the loftiness of our language only to be contrasted with the weakness of our acts? A few days ago the people of this country witnessed a most interesting scene; they saw a number of those brave men who had been fighting the battles of the country receive from the hands of their Sovereign the reward of their matchless valour; they saw those who a year ago left these shores full of youth and vigour return bearing the marks of unparalleled suffering; many of their nearest and dearest friends and relatives they would never see again:—and were they to believe that all this was but a delusion and a sham, and were to shrink from the dangers which they had themselves provoked, and to abandon the cause of the country which confided its honour 1722 and its interest to their protection? They had been asked what was the policy of the Government, and what were the objects of the war? If by that question was meant what would probably be the terms of peace, he thought it was an unreasonable inquiry to make at the present moment. He believed the objects of the war had been pretty generally understood and assented to by the House. When war was declared its object was stated to be the integrity of Turkey and the permanent establishment of the peace of Europe; he did not agree with the definition given by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) of that object, because it would apply to Poland as much as to Turkey. But, in speaking of the objects of the war, they must bear in mind that the aggressive policy of Russia was a perpetual menace to Europe, and that Russia would only keep the peace as long as she was obliged to do, and as soon, but not sooner, than she was compelled. He had heard with great regret the statement of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Cardwell) with regard to the impression made upon him by the speech of the Attorney General. He should imagine that his right hon. Friend did not hear that speech, but received an account of it from a friend, because the Attorney General undoubtedly drew a clear distinction between the personal motives and the political conduct of the right hon. Gentlemen, and stated that it was impossible for any one to impugn, their personal motives or their honour. [Sir J. GRAHAM: He did not say so.] He thought the right hon. Baronet was a little unjust, or he would remember that the Attorney General began his reference to the right hon. Gentlemen who had seceded from the Cabinet by stating that it was impossible for any one to impugn the purity of their motives and their high honour, and he then went on to make some commentaries upon their political conduct. [Cries of "No, no."] He thought his hon. and learned Friend had not made those commentaries in a spirit of much severity, hut had only expressed his regret that the right hon. Gentlemen should have found it necessary at so critical a moment to take a course which, from the high position they occupied, was calculated to produce an impression abroad unfavourable to the interests of the country. In conclusion, he would call upon the House to remember that the whole nation had deliberately determined to repel the aggressions and to curb the progress of Russia, and that Parliament, having sanctioned 1723 that determination, could not now recede from its resolution without sacrificing the character and the best interests of the country.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I have heard, Sir, in the course of this debate, which has now been unusually prolonged, many different characters of our discussion. I have heard that it is a discussion without an object; that it is a wearisome discussion; I have listened to Gentlemen who have apologised for prolonging a debate that was tedious—there was a moment even when this House, now so crowded, seemed to tremble for its existence—four days having now elapsed since the debate commenced, it becomes my duty to offer an impartial opinion upon the subject under our consideration. Somewhat unwillingly—almost unnecessarily—I had thought it would be, having expressed some opinion on the question that engages our attention very recently. But unnecessarily, as I had hoped, it would be for me to interfere in the matter, I am bound to express my conviction that since I have had the honour of sitting in this House I have never listened to a debate of more importance, the subject of which was of more transcendent interest, in the conduct of which greater abilities have been shown, and in which a vaster issue has been at stake, which has thrown greater light upon public transactions, and has placed public men in a more intelligible position than this debate, which it has been convenient for some Gentlemen to characterise as one of insignificance. My opinion is, that it will be recognised by the country, not only in its immediate character, but also in its ultimate consequences, as one of the most important discussions ever originated and sustained in the House of Commons. But we are told that even the object of the debate is a mystery. There are Gentlemen—I hope they have not listened to so much of the debate as I have—who really do not know what is the point upon which we are going to decide.
What then is the issue before us? What are we to decide by the impending vote? What may be the consequences of our decision? The House will recollect—the Motion which I made a fortnight or more ago—by which I asked the House to express its opinion that, in consequence of the ambiguity of language and the uncertainty of conduct of Her Majesty's Government with respect to the great question of peace 1724 or war, it was our duty to rally round the Throne, and to assure Her Majesty that we would support her in the prosecution of that war. The reason why I so suddenly gave that notice, not on behalf of myself only, but also of the hon. Gentlemen with whom I have the honour to act, was this: We had reason to believe that Her Majesty's Government were on the point of concluding a peace, which I will not characterise as inglorious or ignominious, because those are epithets to which different minds will ascribe different meanings; but as a peace that would have caused great and just discontent in the country, and—what is of far greater importance than the discontent of the countrry, which is not to be respected unless it he well-founded—as a peace which would not have accomplished the great object of the war, which I take to be to maintain the Ottoman Porte at Constantinople. The House will remember the issue of that debate. A majority of the House decided that my Motion should not be sanctioned; but it decided nothing more. I may be permitted to say that every hon. Member who took a part in that debate, upon whatever side of the House, and in this renewed debate which has now lasted for a week, has found the amplest material for his speech in demonstrating the ambiguity of language and uncertainty of conduct of Her Majesty's Ministers. And it was a very strange thing, which the House will not forget, that on the night when the division was called, while the numbers were still in the ears of every Member, and when the rash cheers of hon. Gentlemen opposite were sounding the fact that a majority of the House of Commons would not sanction the imputation of ambiguity of language and uncertainty of conduct on the part of Ministers, a right hon. Member—one of the most distinguished Gentlemen who voted on their side—rose and brought a startling, and a well-founded accusation of ambiguity of language against the noble Lord the Member for the City of London. Well, now, Sir, it is from that Motion of mine that the question before us has arisen, and the House must trace well the pedigree of the Motions on which they are about to vote. There were Amendments to the Motion that I offered to the House. I will not make any remarks on that of the right hon. Gentleman the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir F. Baring), not from any want of respect for the right hon. Gentleman, I will only say on the part of my friends 1725 on this side of the House that we are not going to support the Amendment of that right hon. Gentleman. The noble Lord at the head of the Government has more than once announced that he will have nothing to do with the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I do not mention that to hurt his feelings; but what is still more remarkable is the statement of the right hon. Gentleman to-night that he will have nothing to do with his own Amendment. Yet this slippery and broken bridge that no one will tread upon was the only escape of the Government from the vote that the House arrived at upon my Motion. There were some hon. Members who had a great objection to that vote. Many Gentlemen agreed with my views and with the language of my Motion, but they were informed that it was a Motion of want of confidence in the Government, and they were not prepared at the present time to cause a change of Government; and I was surprised to hear the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle rise in his place and vindicate a vote of which he could not approve, and the moment after he had given it the right hon. Gentleman, from a feeling of irresistible penitence, proved that it was a vote that ought never to have been given. I was astonished that a Gentleman so acquainted with Parliamentary life, and who is looked upon as a great leader and authority in this House, should not have discriminated between a vote of censure and a vote of want of confidence. Over and over again it has been decided that a vote of censure upon some specific conduct is no reason why a Government should relinquish office. I will take a case in which the right hon. Gentleman was himself personally concerned. There was a distinguished nobleman, now no more—a man to whose abilities scant justice was done in his day, but a man of eminent public service—who was appointed Ambassador by His Majesty. There was a party feeling against that individual; an Address to the Crown was moved against that appointment, and the right hon. Gentleman supported that Address. But did the Minister of that day resign because the appointment of the Marquess of Londonderry to be Ambassador at St. Petersburg was disapproved of? No, it was regarded as a vote of censure of a specific act, and it was felt that it would not authorise anything of the kind. It is too late to refer to further precedents; but it 1726 will be found that there is nothing in a vote of censure upon a specific action which is identical with a vote of want of confidence, and that, if the House thought a just charge had been made out, they would be justified in voting it to be so, while the Government would not necessarily be justified in resigning office. That is a position which every one will agree to. I will say nothing further on the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth. It is a case of felo de se. He has himself finished it to-night.
I come now to the more important Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster. It has been said, and even by Ministers, because it is very convenient in this debate to affect a want of understanding of the issue before us, that it is hardly possible to know what we are going to vote for, and that it is very inconvenient to have before us an Amendment to a Motion that is already disposed of. But that is quite a fallacy. Technically, the Motion of the hon. Member for Kidderminster is an Amendment, because unless it had been moved as an Amendment, it could not have been introduced to the House; but it is only technically an Amendment, for it is in itself a complete and perfect proposition. And what is that proposition which we are asked to sanction by the vote of this House? If I do not verbally express the words of the hon. Member I shall not misrepresent his meaning. It is that, in consequence of Russia having refused to reduce her fleet in the Black Sea, the means of negotiation are exhausted, and, therefore, we are called upon to rally round the Sovereign and support Her Majesty in the war. That is one of the most important propositions that has as yet been made in this House; it calls upon the House to sanction the principle that Her Majesty's Ministers have developed and supported in these late negotiations; it in fact calls upon the House to declare that unless Russia will reduce her fleet in the Black Sea negotiations are not to be sanctioned, so far as the opinion of the House of Commons is concerned. Well, a more important proposition was never brought forward. What happened on the division on my Motion? The noble Lord the leader of this House and First Minister of the Crown—a man eminently versed in foreign policy, and perfectly well aware of the importance of the issue—selected the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster, and said, "I shall vote against the Motion of the right hon. Gen- 1727 tleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. I discard the clumsy assistance of my right hon. Friend; and of the many Amendments before me, I select the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kidderminster, as that which recites the most important fact to which I have given my adhesion, and that is the Amendment on which I will take the sense of the House of Commons." And in order that there should be no mistake, the noble Lord rose again on the Motion for the adjournment of the debate, and said, "The real question we have to decide is the conduct of the negotiations at the Conference of Vienna by Her Majesty's Ministers." Now, I admit—but do not congratulate yourselves on the admission, for I will prove to you in a moment that it will do you no good—I admit that the noble Lord did say he would agree to that part of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kidderminster which regretted that, "owing to the refusal of Russia to restrict the strength of her navy in the Black Sea," &c.; and there he stopped, for he stated that he would not agree to that portion which declared that the means of coming to an agreement upon the third basis of negotiation were by that refusal exhausted. Ah, but then, unfortunately, the noble Lord gave his reasons why he did not agree to that second part of this Amendment. And what were those reasons? Of course they could not be because the means of negotiation were not exhausted, for, although not ourselves formally apprised of that fact, the noble Lord himself was, no doubt, aware that the Conferences at Vienna were closed, and that the means of negotiation were exhausted. But the noble Lord, taking up a somewhat random expression of mine, made in reply—that this portion of the hon. Member's Amendment was unconstitutional, he said it was decidedly unconstitutional, that the objection of the Member for Buckinghamshire on this head was well-founded, and that therefore he could not agree to that part of the Amendment. This was the only reason given by the noble Lord. Now, I believe the best rule of life is never to give an opinion on any subject upon which you yourself have not expended study and research. I, unfortunately, on that occasion re-echoed an opinion which I had heard from the highest authorities in this House—some of whom are still with us, while others have left us—that it is an interference with the prerogative of the Crown for the House in any way to express an 1728 opinion as to the terms upon which peace should be obtained or the objects for which war should be waged. There have been going about the House for some time other opinions which are equally authoritative, and equally unfounded. The hon. and learned Member for Leominster (Mr. J. G. Phillimore) touched upon that point, and indicated very accurately what is the constitutional principle. It is hardly necessary to enforce his argument on the present occasion; but I could easily show that nothing is more certain than that it is the privilege and the duty of the House of Commons upon all fitting occasions to advise Her Majesty as to the terms upon which She should negotiate peace, or the objects for which She should carry on war. It is one of those points which do not admit of doubt, and I only allude to it now to show that the solitary reason given by the noble Lord for not supporting the second part of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kidderminster has really no foundation. But, even if it had a foundation, I say that it would not have the slightest importance as bearing upon the question before the House, because the hon. Member's Amendment has only one meaning and is susceptible of but one definition. If we pass a Resolution declaring that, as Russia has refused to restrict her naval force in the Black Sea we therefore feel it necessary to rally round the Throne and support Her Majesty in prosecuting the war, the only deduction is that we have made that condition a sine quâ non in our negotiations. Then I say that the question before us is not an obscure and is not an insignificant one; on the contrary, the decision of the House of Commons to-night upon it will be of great moment.
Let me venture to impress upon the House the nature of the question which they are now called upon to investigate. There are very few of us who have been members of this House when England has been at war. We, with very rare exceptions, have only sat here when questions of a very different character have absorbed the public interest and exercised public intelligence. But, remember, there is one vast difference between questions of domestic and questions of foreign policy. The power of a majority in the House of Commons is a great thing; it is an inestimable treasure to a Minister; its influence (subject, no doubt, to certain conditions) is omnipotent, so far as domestic questions are concerned. A Minister may, 1729 by the aid of a Parliamentary majority support unjust laws, and may uphold a political system, which a quarter of a century afterwards may, by the aid of another Parliamentary majority, be condemned; the passions, the prejudices, and the party spirit that flourish in a free country may support and uphold him in the course which he is taking. But when you come to foreign politics things are very different. Every step that you take is an irretrievable one, and the consequences of your conduct are immediate and palpable. A false step in such a case cannot be retraced; you cannot, as you do on domestic questions, rescind your policy, calculate the loss you have sustained by the unwise system you have pursued, and console yourselves by thinking that for the future you will shun a policy proved to be injurious. If you make a mistake in your foreign affairs; if you enter into unwise treaties; if you conduct campaigns upon vicious principles; if the scope and tendency of your foreign system are founded upon want of information, or false information, or are framed with no clear idea of what are your objects and your means of obtaining them, there is no majority in the House of Commons which can long uphold a Government under such circumstances. A majority, under such circumstances, will not make a Government strong, but it will make this House weak. Therefore, I do entreat the House carefully to consider the course they are taking on this question, and to be sure, before giving their votes, that they are sanctioning sound principles, and that when they think they are only supporting their political Friends they may not be injuring their country—that when they cheer over a majority as they cheered the other evening, the day may not be coming, and that rapidly, when they will remember that cheer with confusion and shame. I beg the House to consider how the House has been treated by the Government during this debate. The question before the House to-night is one upon which the future position of this country with regard to peace or war depends. Yesterday we had a distinguished Member of this House, lately a colleague of the Prime Minister, who addressed us on subjects of high interest at considerable length; we had the hon. Member for Manchester, who, on the subject of Peace or war, always speaks with power, and to whom, though we may differ from him as to his opinions, we always listen with great atten- 1730 tion. No Cabinet Minister rose to reply. To-night we have also had a right hon. Gentleman, another colleague of the noble Lord in the late Administration, who addressed the House in a vein which certainly required some response. A right hon. Friend of mine also spoke, and gave the House the results of as deep and fine a study of these diplomatic documents, which have confused Europe and so complicated this subject, as any man is capable of giving. I do not think any person listened to my right hon. Friend, who always states his results with candour and accuracy, without feeling that that was the speech of a statesman which demanded the utmost exertion on the part of those who differed from him to reply to. But the Attorney General and the Secretary for Ireland have alone maintained the debate this evening on the part of the Government. So another evening has passed, and no Cabinet Minister has risen. Now, however brilliant may be the talents of those Gentlemen, they are not Cabinet Ministers. They are not officially acquainted with the subjects on which we seek for information, and cannot speak with authority on the points on which we require to obtain some knowledge. Take, for example, the natural inquiry of my right hon. Friend, who asked the Government when we might expect that Royal Message delivered to the House, which, to influence the debate, the two most distinguished Members of the Cabinet only twenty-four hours ago announced was to be brought forward. My right hon. Friend naturally inquires when we may expect that communication. No Cabinet Minister rises to give us the requisite information; and two nights have passed, when the most important question that can well be imagined is under discussion—the terms, in fact, upon which peace is ultimately to be obtained—and act a Cabinet Minister has condescended to rise to carry on a debate in which I may be permitted to say (because most of the speakers have risen from the opposite benches) some of the most distinguished Members have taken part. I do not know what answer will be given to that observation, but it does appear to me, at the first blush, not to be a proper mode of treating the House, nor consistent, to say the least, with that custom which has hitherto prevailed. It seems to me a deficiency of feeling and respect towards the House which I certainly should not have expected from the 1731 noble Lord and his colleagues. Every one knows we were turned out of office for not possessing either administrative ability or oratorical power. The Coalition no longer exists, but I suppose some of these great qualities remain. I do not suppose that administrative ability and debating power have both seceded below the gangway. I think the House had a right to expect that in a debate on so important a subject as this, some Cabinet Minister—the First Lord of the Admiralty, if no other—would have condescended to take part. If you think it wise for the House of Commons to declare that the condition introduced into the negotiations at Vienna by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the limitation of the Russian fleet should be a sine quâ non of peace, then you ought to vote for the Resolution of the hon. Member for Kidderminster. Now, I am opposed to that, not merely because I think it highly impolitic for the House of Commons in this crude and hap-hazard manner to pledge itself to such a proposition, but because in my opinion it is a proposition which ought never to have been made, and is essentially inefficient.
If the House will permit me, I will try to place before them, with the utmost brevity I can command, the reasons why I think this condition of the noble Lord, totally abstracted from any question of policy, was inefficient—Now, I think the noble Lord ought not to have introduced that condition into the negotiations for this main reason: The object of the Government Was to reduce the naval preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea. Our object at present is to check, to control, to diminish—if possible, to destroy—what is called the preponderance of Russia as against Turkey, Now, in the first place, the preponderance of Russia as regards Turkey in the political system is not limited to the Black Sea. I shall say, with little fear of being contradicted by those who are masters of the subject, that of three quarters from which Turkey may be menaced by Russia, the Black Sea is the one that is the least to be dreaded. Turkey is assailable by Russia from the Danube, from Asia, and from the Black Sea. What is called the preponderance of Russia equally presses upon Turkey from the Danube and from Asia as from the Black Sea. The condition insisted on by the Government only pretends to meet the difficulties and dangers which may arise from Russian preponderance 1732 in the Black Sea, Now, I deny that Russia has the power, that she ever had the power, or ever can have the power, of sending an army, with the necessary cavalry, artillery, and means of transport, from Sebastopol to any port on the Turkish coasts in the Black Sea. She never had a fleet, she never can have a fleet competent for such an operation when the united navies of England and France, the two greatest maritime Powers in the world, have never been able to effect such an object. A learned Serjeant (Mr. Serjeant Shee), I remember, on the second night of this debate, told us of the great expedition of Russia to Unkiar 'Skelessi, which he estimated at 5,000 men, I do not think the Turkish Empire will fall by any invasion of 5,000 men. I happened to be in the country at that time, and I think he has understated the case. I think he would have been correct if he had said that 10,000 or 12,000 men arrived at Unkiar 'Skelessi; but that small force, which required the most prodigious effort on the part of Russia, was facilitated by the Turks, who were most anxious to receive the Russians. All that Russia could do, under any circumstances, would be to throw troops on the coast, as she did in 1828, when she disembarked troops at Sizeboli and Bourgas. Those troops remained at Sizeboli and Bourgas; they never moved; they had no power of moving. I do not say the movement was utterly ineffective in the campaign—it may have served, to a certain degree, as a military diversion to Russia, who was then invading Turkey from the Danube; but, so far from producing any effect on the fate of the war, it was then impossible, and it is now impossible, that any great military force could be moved from Sebastopol upon Turkey. There is only one point on the Turkish coast where Turkey can be assailed with effect, and that, I admit, is the Bosphorus, to which point I will refer presently. Of course, I do not for a moment pretend that the having command of the sea is not a great advantage to Russia in any war with Turkey. By having the command at sea she can bring provisions, ammunition, and arms to any part of the coast; but it is a limited advantage—it is not an advantage which is ever decisive as regards the results of war. Look too at the nature of the reciprocal limitation of the naval forces of Turkey and Russia. Turkey is to have a certain number of 1733 ships only in the Black Sea, but she is to have an unlimited number of ships in the Bosphorus. Russia is only to have a limited number of ships in the Black Sea, but she can build as many ships as she likes at Nicolaiev, where she builds all her ships. She can carry down those ships, floated in four or five days from Nicolaiev to Sebastopol, and at Sebastopol they can be rigged, munitioned, armed, and prepared in less than another week. What, then, becomes of your treaty? Suppose there is the most rigid, scrupulous, exact observance of your treaty, why all that Turkey gains, and the utmost advantage from it, if there be war, is an advantage of three or four weeks. And, if that happens, which is sure to happen, if Russia declares war against Turkey, or manages, as she usually does, that Turkey declares war against Russia when Russia is quite prepared for her, you will have a Russian fleet equipped and floating in the Black Sea before the diplomatic note can be drawn up which is to remonstrate against the violation of the treaty. It requires, therefore, only common forethought and common prudence on the part of Russia, to have, without any violation of the treaty, in case of a declaration of war, a fleet in the Black Sea, without sending to the United States for those 130-gun ships of which we have heard so much. This point has been discussed with great ability and very fully in the course of this debate, and I only venture to revert to it because I have spoken of circumstances in my own experience, on which I will not insist too much; but it is a vital point really to understand the nature of this great proposition, which, so far as I can collect from the Government, because it is not granted, is the cause that the war is continued. I think, there are very good reasons why the war should be continued; but are we to say that this war should continue to be waged indefinitely, because the Russian Government will not agree to a condition which, totally irrespective of its impolicy, I, with some other Members of this House, believe to be utterly inefficient? Suppose when Russia in 1828 threw troops into Sizeboli and Bourgas, what would have happened in that year if there had been a Minister at the head of affairs who really comprehended the matter? Is it not certain that had any fleet of the Western Powers passed the Bosphorus the communication by sea with the Russian troops would hare been cut off, and the whole of 1734 the army of Sizeboli and Bourgas must have capitulated? The command of the sea is to a certain extent an advantage, but it is not absolutely necessary in order to carry on a war with success, for if your communications are free behind you when you are fighting on land, you have the same advantages as if you had the command of the sea. France conquered the world almost while we had command of the sea. The condition, therefore, which the noble Lord made the mainstay of his diplomacy at Vienna was inefficient.
It was also impolitic, because nothing can be more unwise than to insult an enemy with whom you wish to enter into peace—nothing more unwise than to humiliate a Power which you recognise as an important and necessary element of the European system. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle vindicated the noble Lord the other night against some observations which I had made on his conduct by observing that the noble Lord was quite justified in considering the honour of Russia in all arrangements which he contemplated. Who denied it? It is not only the first principle in diplomacy, but in common life; for in ordinary affairs when adjusting differences and making arrangements intended to be permanent, you consider the honour of the opposing party, and I should have greatly blamed the noble Lord if in any scheme of negotiation he had failed in so great a duty. I do not blame him, therefore, for consulting the honour of Russia, but what I blame him for is, making the great and unnecessary admission previously to the negotiations that the honour of Russia must be considered in any arrangements that might be made—thereby giving Russia an excuse to avoid commencing negotiations herself and of answering every proposition by alleging that her honour was concerned, of which Russia is the only judge. I refer to this because I wish to impress on the House that not only was the condition of the noble Lord inefficient, but impolitic, because it was unnecessarily humiliating to Russia. Now, the noble Lord on that occasion referred to a precedent which has been already noticed in the course of the debate, and I only notice it again because it is of importance that the House should have clear ideas on the subject. The noble Lord has apparently regulated the whole of his conduct in this affair by the treaty of Utrecht. I think he was the author of the proposition for limiting the 1735 number of ships. [Lord JOHN RUSSELL: I acted by the instructions of the Government.] Yes, by the instructions of a Government of which the noble Lord was a Member. I think I am right in what I am saying, for I remember that towards the end of the last Session—recurring again to the fatal speech of the noble Lord respecting the dismantling of Sebastopol—the noble Lord, in a tone of self-vindication, and in some degree reproachful to myself, inquired whether the right hon. Gentleman did not remember any precedent. That was in July, before the noble Lord had the slightest idea that he would be a Plenipotentiary, and when he was perfectly cognisant of the policy of a Cabinet of which he was the very soul. He has been quite full of this instance of Dunkirk, which was to be the solution of the question, and the precedent for the dismantling of Sebastopol. But the dismantling of Sebastopol could not be insisted on, because the course of the war did not warrant the sanguine anticipation of the noble Lord; and, therefore, the dismantling of Sebastopol took the more qualified shape of the limitation of the fleet. It is to me obvious that the necessary consequence of giving up the point of the dismantling of Sebastopol was the neutralisation of the Black Sea, which was the proposition of M. Drouyn de Lhuys. I do not know whether the French minister was dismissed for that proposition, but it is plain that the Dunkirk precedent fixed in the mind of the noble Lord led him into this serious consequence. Does the noble Lord forget that there is a great difference in the position of the Power with respect to which he quotes the Treaty of Utrecht and the present instance? By the third article of the Treaty of Utrecht the destruction of the harbour of Dunkirk and its fortifications was secured, but the allies made it a condition that the King of France should receive an equivalent. The noble Lord quite forgets that in this instance no equivalent has been suggested. Is that all? I beg the attention of the noble Lord to those conditions, and I will not avail myself of any phraseology of my own to support my argument. I quote from one of our great political authors and eminent historians. I will show you from his language that the equivalent which the King had to receive was no less than the city of Lisle, and I will show you how the condition was evaded. I quote the words of the historian the more readily, that he is opposed to me 1736 in politics. This is immediately after the signature of the ratification of the treaty.In order to evade the stipulation of the treaty with England, which compelled Louis to fill up the port of Dunkirk, he made the canal De l'Ourcque, and insisted on continuing the work, in spite of all the remonstrances of the allies.Thus the House saw how the King of France evaded the condition of that treaty by persisting in constructing a canal at Mardyke, at a spot a league from Dunkirk, and in a stronger position, and accumulating the materials for his second Sebastopol in spite of all remonstrance. Now, who is my authority for this? I quote from the History of England since the Treaty of Utrecht, by Lord John Russell. The noble Lord, who is a most distinguished statesman, though unfortunately not a very successful negotiator, and justly prides himself on being a man of letters, will, I am sure, excuse me from quoting his own language, in order further to show the condition to which France under Louis XIV. had been reduced at that moment.The Treaty of Utrecht," says the noble Lord, "secured a peace only wrung from Louis XIV. when the nation was utterly exhausted by the expenses of a ruinous war, when his recruits had been conducted to the frontier chained like malefactors, when by that peace Louis XIV. had no longer to dread the presence of the enemy in his capital, or the cruel alternative of being obliged to dethrone his grandson by his own armies.But is this a parallel which the noble Lord was justified in quoting, in vindication of his demand to Prince Gortchakoff? He refers to an instance in which Louis XIV. agreed to a treaty which was wrung from him, when the nation was utterly exhausted by the expense of a ruinous war. Was it wise, then, to humiliate Russia by implying that she was in the pitiable condition described in the nervous language of the noble historian, while at the same time the noble Lord made a suggestion to Russia as a condition of peace, which the Russian Government might learn from the noble Lord's own History could be instantly and successfully evaded?
I now come to the question of the preponderance of Russia as regards Turkey; and I think that the noble Lord and his colleagues, and I am afraid, too, that many of us, are apt to consider this question of preponderance as something novel in politics, as a new phenomenon in our political experience, and as a problem to which it affords no solution. Now, what is the preponderance of a great Power as regards a weaker State in the independence and in- 1737 tegrity of which Europe has an interest? Is there anything strange in such a conjuncture? Why the history of modern Europe is the history of attempts to check and control the preponderance of great States over contiguous weaker ones in the independence of which Europe has had an interest. We have heard a great deal of the designs of Russia, and we have had a picture drawn of those designs by a law officer of the Crown, which is enough to make us tremble. I do not suppose that Russia is freer from ambitious design than any other great Power; but is Russia, the only country that has ever exhibited designs upon the independence of weaker neighbours? Why, in the case of the designs entertained by that vast military empire, France, upon the Low Countries, there was the precise parallel of a powerful State attempting to encroach upon the independence of a weaker State in the preservation of whose integrity Europe had an interest. Were not the designs of France as well matured and as continuously carried on by individuals possessed of as great ingenuity, as great ability, and as great energy as any of the Sovereigns or statesmen of Russia of whom we have heard so much? Why Cardinal Richelieu was the first man who conceived the plan of subduing the Netherlands. Louis XIV invaded the Netherlands, and Napoleon the Great conquered the Netherlands. And yet, at the present day, the Netherlands are independent, and the preponderance of France, which for a century and a half was exerted upon that battlefield, has been baffled, and at no period perhaps in the history of France has the conquest of the Netherlands been less a feature in the political system of that country than it is at the present moment. Thus we see that there are means by which the preponderance of a great Power over a weaker may be controlled; and the question to consider is, whether the project of the Government is the best means of controlling the preponderance of Russia with respect to Turkey? To judge of that, it may be well to consider how it was that in the case of the Low Countries the ambitious designs of France, which were carried on continuously for so long a period, and by men more fertile in resources than any three men who ever lived, Richelieu, Louis XIV., and Napoleon, were baffled, and the independence of that country preserved. The united will of Europe established the neutrality of Belgium, one of the battlefields of Europe, but I do not see 1738 that the noble Lord or his colleagues hare at any time ever started the idea of establishing the neutrality of the Principalities, another battlefield of Europe. Switzerland was one of the battlefields of Europe, and its independence was menaced by the preponderance of Austria; but the Congress of Vienna established the neutrality of Switzerland, as the Congress of London, did that of Belgium; and Switzerland, also, is independent. What I complain of in the negotiations of the Government is, that I see no evidence of a recurrence to those means by which statesmen of great ability and unquestioned reputation have attempted to deal with difficulties similar to those with which the Government have now to grapple. I do not ask the House to pledge itself to the principle of establishing the neutrality of the Principalities; all that I ask them to do is to entertain the idea, and to well consider it. Let me, in a few short sentences, place before the House what the effect upon Turkey would be if the Principalities were declared neutral ground. The frontier of Turkey on the Danube would be reduced, and it is on that frontier that Turkey is exposed to the greatest danger. In such a case, the frontier of Turkey would extend only from Reni to the Black Sea, and let us consider what would be the consequence if Russia attempted to invade Turkey on that side. The Russian army would have to pass a large river, and then to enter on the fell and pestiferous steppes of the Dobrudscha, to pass the fortresses of Schumla and Varna on its left, and Silistria on its right. I see no probability that in the course of ages the Russians would be able to overcome such difficulties; and am I then to be told that there are no means of checking the preponderance of Russia with regard to Turkey except those means which have been suggested by the Government? I say that it is the bounden duty of this House to consider whether the scheme proposed by the Government appears to be the one most likely to effect the objects which they have in view. With regard to the Asiatic frontier, nature is not so favourable to diplomacy, inasmuch as there are no natural barriers; but the noble Lord will not pretend that it is impossible to establish artificial barriers. The noble Lord is, no doubt, well acquainted with the Barrier Treaty, and is aware that on various occasions it has been stipulated that fortresses should be erected, to be periodically inspected by a Commissioner. 1739 It was not thought derogatory to the honour of the King of Holland or to the Princes of Germany that Wellington, as Marlborough had done before, should inspect fortresses raised as artificial barriers in those countries. Fortresses on that principle might be erected at Erzeroum and Kars, and on other points of the Asiatic frontier; and the same principle might be extended to the Bosphorus, and a fortress erected under the constant inspection of English Commissioners. We all know the crudeness and inutility of the scheme of the Government, which has resulted in failure, and I therefore venture to place before the House and the country these materials for thought, and to endeavour to show that there are practical means of controlling the preponderance of Russia without humiliating her; that there are other means than those proposed by the Government by which Turkey may be placed in a position which will, for a long time, so far as she is concerned, secure the peace of Europe, and which will connect her more closely with the European family of nations. The ideas which I have advanced have been sanctioned and put in practice by great men, and I think them well worthy of the attention of the House. There is one other point which ought always to be borne in mind, and that is—the condition of the eastern coast of the Black Sea. The fortresses on that coast have, with the exception of two which are held by the Turks, been blown up, and, before Concluding a peace, if you restore that coast to Russia, it might he stipulated that those fortresses should not be rebuilt, and that the two held by the Turks should also be blown up, when they leave them. That is not a stipulation which would wound the feelings or injure the pride of any nation, however great; but it is one which would render imperfect the military communications of Russia in those waters, and which would, more than any other condition that could be devised, consolidate the power of Turkey, and secure the possession of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire. I will not, however, pursue this theme, as many other opportunities will be afforded to me for discussing it. What I have been anxious on the present occasion to do, when these crude schemes of the Government are placed before us, and when we are told that peace cannot be effected because these inefficient and useless methods have not been successful at the conferences, is to show—first, that it is our 1740 duty to denounce such ineffectual propositions; and, in the next place, to inform the minds of the people of this country on the subject, and to convince them that there are practical, sound, and solid means by which the great problem in modern politics can be solved. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle told us the other night that the new generation of statesmen should occupy their minds in considering what was to occur when the Turkish Empire—an event which was, he said, inevitable—should be no more. I cannot agree in opinion with the right hon. Gentleman on that subject. I believe that there are elements when Turkey shall be more fairly treated—and never has any country been more unfairly treated than Turkey, especially within the last two years—for securing the independence of her empire, and—what to us is of vital interest—preventing Constantinople from becoming an appanage to any great military Power. But if you carry on the war for that object—and that is our object—you must carry it on with more definite views and on a more matured system than you have given any evidence of yet. We can only judge of your policy—we can only judge of your resources—We can only judge of your ability to deal with great difficulties from the records you have placed upon the table, and which give the history of the conduct of your Government—and records more barren of information—more calculated to impress me with the melancholy conviction of the incompetency of our statesmen to deal with subjects of vital concernment to a great nation, never yet met my eye or engaged my attention. The noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) may rest assured that it is not the language of party that I am now uttering. He is too able a man not to be convinced that the irresistible course of European events will baffle all mere party politicians, and that no party support can sustain a Minister whose policy will not stand the test of time and the scrutiny of an impartial public, and prove to be a policy the result of study, meditation, and an anxious desire to attain the truth. The noble Lord, though he may defy for a moment the words of those who sit opposite to him in this House, and though he may be sustained by a majority collected God knows how, and voting God knows why, may rest assured that if he and his colleagues are pursuing a course without sufficient knowledge, without sufficiently 1741 clear ideas, without a resolution sufficiently firm—that if there is any wavering in their councils, which is the natural consequence of an ignorance of the subject with which they have to deal—if there is any hesitation—if at this moment, when they are about to vote, they have not a definite idea of the objects for which they are struggling and of the means by which they are to accomplish the avowed purpose which we have agreed in this House is the object which we wish to achieve—namely, the preservation of Constantinople to the Ottoman Porte—then, I say, the noble Lord may rest assured that the utmost confusion and consternation will fall upon the Cabinet of which he is a Member, and that no Parliamentary power can sustain a Ministry dealing with great transactions to which they are not competent; and that if they are conducting our foreign affairs as they hate hitherto conducted our home affairs—I speak now of preceding as well as present Governments—living from hand to mouth, adopting merely the whim of the moment, not influenced by any principle founded on knowledge, and acting upon no matured system, and for no determined purpose,—then, the noble Lord may rest assured that his Ministry must fall, or, if it continue, the future of this country is a future of gloom too terrible for imagination to contemplate.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has adverted to the Motion which he made before the late recess, and, in the first place, stated that that was far from being a Motion which implied a want of confidence in the Government, or one which, if agreed to be, the House required on the part of the Government that they should abandon their position; and he mentioned as an instance in support of his assertion, a Motion which had been made by Mr. Sheil for the recall of Lord Londonderry from St. Petersburg, on which occasion, though that Motion was carried, the Government of the day did not think fit to resign. If we are to judge of the accuracy of the right hon. Gentleman's information upon the great subjects upon which he has been enlightening the House by the correctness of his memory upon that point, I think the House will not be much disposed to adopt the counsels which he gave them; for if the right hon. Gentleman wishes to refresh his memory by referring to the records, he will find that that was a Motion for the production of papers made by Mr. Sheil 1742 upon which no division took place, as it was withdrawn, and the Government afterwards took the steps which it recommended. With reference to the Motion before the House, I must own I think the observations which the right hon. Gentleman has made to-night, and the criticism which has fallen from him of the conditions on which, according to him, the negotiations broke off, contrast injuriously with the language he held before the late recess. What was the ground upon which he stated that he proposed the Resolution upon which we gave a vote? Why, he said, I call upon the House to interpose, because I am convinced that if the Government are permitted to have ten days' recess without the opinion of the House being expressed, they may make a disgraceful and ignominious peace during the interval. And what has he told us to-night? Why he has accused the Government of insisting upon terms which were too hard to be imposed upon Russia. The whole of his criticism has amounted to this, that we were demanding from Russia a limitation of her fleet, to which she could not consent with honour, and that we were pushing our terms too far; and yet this is the same right hon. Gentleman who, with the very same papers before him, after, as he had before, the recess, told us that there was great danger that the Government might make a disgraceful and ignominious peace during the recess.
Now, Sir, with regard to the Amendments which we have been called upon to discuss, I confess that although the right hon. Gentleman has repudiated my agreement with him, I have arrived at the same conclusion as he has upon them, although not exactly for the same reasons. I stated some time ago, that I did not take much interest in the first part of the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend; but at the very outset I stated that I did object to the second portion of his Amendment; and I did so upon the grounds stated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite before the recess. And yet he now says that he has reconsidered these reasons, and that he thinks that, upon full consideration, it is no evasion of the prerogative of the Crown for this House to express an opinion as to the terms on which peace should be made, or the grounds upon which the war should be continued. I know that it is very difficult to say in what respect any decision of this House is to be considered an unconstitutional trespass upon the pre- 1743 rogative of the Crown; I will not put it upon that ground of abstract principle; but I say I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is highly inexpedient for this House to take into its hands the conduct of negotiations with foreign Powers, or to state to the Crown that such and such terms ought to be the terms of peace—or to state, on the other hand, that such and such terms ought not to be assented to. Any expression of opinion on the part of this House cannot fail to be highly embarrassing to the Government who are conducting negotiations, and injurious to the interests of the country. But if that is an objection in a case in which the Government of this country is at war alone with another Power, infinitely more embarrassing and injurious must such an expression of opinion be when England is acting in concert with allies whom it is necessary to consult and agree with as to every step that we may take in the negotiation. Therefore, it is evident that if this House were to lay down any opinion as to the adoption or rejection of any particular condition which must be a subject of negotiation jointly between this country and the allied Powers, it would act in a manner infinitely to be deprecated, highly embarrassing to the Government, and most prejudicial to the public interests. Well then, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman will not take offence at me, I hope, in agreeing with him, and repudiate my concurrence in his opinion; but I must say I think there is some force in the argument that there are phrases in the wording of the two Amendments so linked together that the objections which apply to the last would by fair argument apply to the first. I am far from rejecting the capacious bridge which the right hon. Gentleman says has been constructed for us by the right hon. Member for Portsmouth. Far from having expressed an opinion different from his Amendment, it is for that Amendment I am prepared to vote, and I think the House would do best to take that Amendment with the remaining part of the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman as the question on which the sense of the House should be taken. That would be a clear and distinct question on which the House would vote, and I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) will allow his Amendment to be cleared away in order to enable us to do so. With regard to the course adopted, there is one circumstance which had strongly impressed itself 1744 upon my mind. We have had a debate upon the most important matters—matters of the deepest interest—conducted in general with that calmness of temper and that deep consideration so becoming the gravity of the subject. We have heard those who were advocates for carrying on the war with vigour exhibit a little animation—like the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside)—but, generally, the debate has been conducted with calmness, moderation, and temper. The only exception to that calmness, temper and moderation has been the line of conduct adopted by the advocates of peace at all price. Those Gentlemen, who had peace in their hearts, had war in their mouths. Their speeches have been full of passion and violence, vituperation and abuse, and delivered in a manner which showed the angry passions that were striving for mastery within them. I must say, judging from their speeches—from their manner, and the substance and language of those speeches—that they are much fitter to be leaders of a party for war at all hazards, than for peace at any price. But, Sir, I must own the arguments of that party are not such as in my judgment are likely to influence much public opinion. They have been complimented upon their courage in standing forward as the champions of their peculiar opinions; I do not think that they very much deserve even that compliment, because the danger they have incurred is not likely to be very much increased by the speeches they have made on this occasion. The hon. Member for the West Riding has complained, that we had through Parliament and the press whipped and goaded public opinion into a temper for war. Why, Sir, that assertion is directly at variance with the historical fact. Every man who looks back for the last two years must know that, so far from the Government, the Parliament, and the Press goading the national feeling into an artificial excitement, it was the deep and deliberate conviction of the people of this country—looking at what was passing—exercising their own judgment, and stimulated by the feeling which I trust will ever animate the people of this country—that that war was necessary and just, which is so distasteful to the hon. Member for the West Riding and the hon. Member for Manchester. I say then it is somewhat extraordinary that those gentlemen, who have risen to that eminence which we must all admit them to stand 1745 upon by the force of public opinion on a question where public opinion went with them—who prided themselves on being the organs of the national feeling, and reproached and taunted hon. Members in this House with being untrue and unfaithful organs of public opinion—should now turn round and reproach this House with following public opinion; and, that, after having built their own fame on the foundation of being the organs of the national will, they should now endeavour to make it a reproach to this House and to the Government that they follow the national will on this great and important question. Sir, at this late hour of the night I cannot go over the many fallacies contained in the speeches of those hon. Gentlemen. They abound in fallacies. The hon. Member for the West Riding told you that we proposed to Russia the limitation of her fleet in the Black Sea to four ships-of-the-line and four frigates; and he said that Russia would by a certain contrivance, which the hon. Gentleman explained, make out of that fleet a force that would be equal to any fleet she ever had in the Black Sea. Why, if that be the case, why did Russia refuse it? If that offer would leave Russia as strong as ever she was, what interest would she have in refusing it? Oh, said the hon. Gentleman, I will tell you the reason—Russia felt it inconsistent with her honour, and for the sake of honour she has continued the war. Why, Sir, is there a man in this House or in the country who has more often than the hon. Gentleman stigmatised the conduct of a Government that makes war, as he has called it, for honour? I have heard him over and over again say that honour and glory are not things that a nation should fight for, but that they should fight for those other considerations which I shall not advert to. The hon. Gentleman said he would fight—no, he would not fight—but he said there was something for which the country might fight. He said if Portsmouth were besieged, he would—he would—go into hospital. There are many in this country who certainly think that the hon. Gentleman and his party deceive themselves on this question, and that they should go immediately into hospital—but into a hospital of a different kind—which I shall not mention, but which everybody can well understand. The gentlemen who so anxiously recommend peace upon their own terms say, What madness it is to make war against a nation of 60,000,000 1746 of people! But the populations of England and France are almost equal to 60,000,000. In England there are 26,000,000, and 33,000,000 in France, so they are almost equal in number to the population of Russia; but they possess also the advantage of concentration, and all the advantages that science and civilisation can confer. They have likewise the advantage arising from the national feeling that belongs to the condition of the people of England and France, but which can never be shared in by the unhappy serfs in Russia. I say then that the observation is one which has no value in it. The hon. Member for Manchester, in a speech characterised by undoubted talent, as his speeches always are, finds fault with me for treating grave subjects with unbecoming levity. I am not conscious of in any way deserving that reproach; but I must say that I shall not make such an accusation against him, for his jokes have not much levity in them; but if a jocular mode of mixing up stories about batter puddings, and jokes of all kinds, high and low, with serious argument may be called levity, I thnk the hon. Gentleman is himself more open than I am to the charge which he preferred against me.
Sir, I have heard with great regret the change of opinion which has taken place in the minds of those right hon. Friends of mine who lately left the present Government—a change of opinion upon the question of the limitation of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea—because as it was well and properly acknowledged by them, they were not only parties to the war, they were not only parties to the conditions which in general should be proposed as the terms of peace, but they were distinctly parties to insisting upon that particular condition of the limitation of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea as the method by which the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea shall be made to cease. I will not enter further into that; but I am sure they will not deny that when they joined the Ministry, which I had the honour to be ordered to form, there was a condition which they stipulated should not be made, but it had not reference to the limitation of the naval force of Russia in the Black Sea; and therefore by not objecting to that condition it must be understood that they agreed to it. It is not necessary at this period of the debate to urge upon the House the reasons why it was right, necessary and just that England and France should draw 1747 the sword in defence of Turkey. It is not necessary for me to go into the systematic extension of territory which had marked the policy of Russia for some time. It would be easy for me to trace her encroachments from the Eastern shores of Asia to Central Asia by the Caspian Sea; her encroachments on Armenia to the Danube; on Poland, towards Norway and the Arctic Sea; to show how on every point of her immense circumference she has always been looking for extension, and how in every treaty that she has made with her neighbours she has ever sought to fix her boundary, not where nature had placed it, but beyond its natural line, in order to obtain a post which would either further extend her dominion, or assist her In making an aggression at a future time, or lay the ground for future demands. Well, then, when we saw the extent of that system of aggression and that It was going to be largely put forth against Turkey—when we knew that the present Emperor had declared his intention to follow out the system and adopt the policy of the Emperors Peter, Alexander, and of Nicholas—I say that the time was come when it was necessary that England should take steps in conjunction with Austria and France for Stopping the encroachments of Russia. Well, then, after the War had been begun, Austria expressed a wish, if possible, to bring the War to an end, by arrangements being entered into for that purpose; and the treaty of December was concluded. By the terms of that treaty it was agreed, that if within a certain time peace should not be concluded upon the basis of the Four Points, that when Austria would—not exactly enter into the war—but enter into concert with England and France for the purpose of devising means for accomplishing the object of the alliance—that object being to secure the independence of Turkey. It would have been blameable in us—in England and France—if we had not entered into these negotiations. But did we on that account suspend the war or the operations in which we engaged? Quite the contrary; we carried on the war all the same as if no negotiations had been set on foot, and nothing was lost, in consequence of these negotiations, in the carrying on of hostilities.
The right hon. Gentleman has thrown out certain suggestions, some of which, no doubt, are deserving of consideration, with respect to the arrangements for the future protection of Turkey, and one of those 1748 suggestions was that the Principalities should be declared neutral. There Certainly are instances in Europe of such propositions, and it has been agreed by treaty that Belgium and Switzerland should be declared neutral; but I am not disposed to attach very much importance to such engagements, for the history of the world shows than when a quarrel arises, and a nation makes war, and thinks it advantageous to traverse with its army such neutral territory, the declarations of neutrality are not apt to be Very religiously respected. But if these Principalities continue to form a part of the Turkish Empire, as I think it is essential they should—for, if separated, they might follow the fate of Poland, and be partitioned to some neighbouring State—for their neutrality would be disregarded the moment Russia went to war, that, I think, would be the best guarantee for the safety of the whole. My noble Friend (Lord John Russell) at the Vienna Conference, made the best provisions which, under the circumstances, could be proposed—that no invasion of Turkey through the Principalities by Russia should take place, by placing the Principalities under the protection of the Five Powers, so that there could be no foreign intervention in their affairs without the consent of the whole of the contracting parties. That was some security, no doubt. My noble Friend also proposed that the Principalities should organise an internal defence—an army which might in time be augmented, according to their resources, and which, though it might not be great at first, might yet be the foundation of a national force capable of energetic resistance hereafter.
The right hon. Gentleman said, he objected to the particular arrangement which we made for putting an end to the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea, because he thought that from those waters least danger was to be apprehended to the independence of Turkey. Sir, I entirely differ from that opinion of the right hon. Gentleman. I think that is precisely the quarter whence most danger is to be apprehended. That is the quarter whence Russia can strike Turkey quickest, and to the heart. Why, have we not seen a Turkish army in the Principalities keep the Russians at bay for twelve months? and, upon a former occasion, when Russia came in greater force, it took them two years before they could advance from the Danube to Adrianople; If this, then, 1749 were the quarter from which attack should be made upon the heart of Turkey, it would be the slowest and the most difficult, and it is the quarter where Turkey, if at all supported by Austria or the other Powers, can make effectual head against Russia. As to the Asiatic frontier, no doubt Russia has prepared on the frontier of Turkey great fortresses. A great fortress is placed at Gumri, which was of no value for any purpose but aggression, so that both from Gumri and from Tifflis she might be able to operate advantageously against the Turkish territory in Asia. But still the march is long by the Russian frontier to Broussa. The inhabitants of Asiatic Turkey seem to be the most warlike of the Turkish race. She would have to cross the Bosphorus after she had got to Broussa; and every step that Russia took in invading Turkey would lengthen the line of communication between her army and the basis of operations, and, of course, be attended with increased difficulty. I do not mean to say that there is not danger from this quarter, and that it ought not to be provided against; but what I say is, that, as in the case of an attack from the Danubian Provinces, there are great natural difficulties to be overcome in such operations. Well, but how stands the case, with regard to an attack from the Black Sea. In about forty-eight hours the Russians can reach Constantinople from Sebastopol. Russia could place in Sebastopol an immense number of ships of war—any amount of force which she chose to have—twenty, twenty-five, or thirty sail of the line, aye, and of the largest dimensions, with screws and all the improvements of modern nautical science. Why, with such a force as that, will any man tell me that she could not throw a large force upon the shores of Turkey at any point she chose, and be in a little time in the middle of Constantinople? An hon. Gentleman says, that we could prevent this by fortifying the Bosphorus; but there are parts in the Black Sea, north of Constantinople, where a force could be put ashore. The right hon. Gentleman said, it would require greater means than Russia possessed to transport a sufficient force. But see what we have done at the distance we are. Since the 18th of January last we have landed on the shores of the Crimea 103,000 men, and 14,000 horses. It is evident, therefore, that there would be nothing more easy, nothing more within the means which 1750 Russia possesses, than to land, in the shortest space of time, either at Constantinople or at any other point on the shores of the Black Sea, a large force. That is the greatest danger to be expected to happen to the Turkish Empire, and a danger to which it would be constantly exposed. Well, but then it was said, we ought to have adopted the Russian proposition. But there were two—one for opening the Straits, and one for closing them—and some hon. Members are for one and some for the other. Some said open the Straits, and others said shut them. Of the former, all had given up the idea except the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), and he said, if the Straits were ten miles wide instead of two, then they would be open to all nations. But the Straits are closed, they always have been closed, by that inherent right of sovereignty which belongs to the ruling Power whose territory is so closely connected. It is a great mistake to suppose that the closing of the Straits is a recent arrangement. It is an ancient law of the country, and was acquiesced in by Great Britain by a treaty of 1809, which bound this country to respect that law of the Turkish Empire; Russia has always recognised that law; and, by a treaty of 1841, France came into the arrangement, she not having before entered into a similar binding contract. I say, if the Straits were open, and if Russia possessed any fleet she liked in the Black Sea, she might any morning send a fleet of eighteen or twenty sail before the Seraglio, and say to the Porte—"So and so must be conceded to me, and if it be not done immediately, the Admiral here is to support my demands." Now, every man knew what that meant—such a demand would no sooner be made than executed, before sunset of the day on which it was made. But it is said the Sultan would be able to ask for assistance. Now, where would he find it? We may safely assume that Russia would make such a demand, in a time of peace, or at a time when England and France might not be in a condition to afford much assistance—at a time when, as the right hon. Baronet knew had happened, we might have only two sail of the line in the Mediterranean. I doubt whether I have not exaggerated the number, for I believe that at one time we had only one ship there, but that was thought too little to have there under any circumstances. But suppose we should only have a very small squadron in the Mediter- 1751 ranean, and France in the same condition, why, long before France and England could equip a force sufficient, the whole affair would be over, and the demand made by Russia would have been carried into execution. Thus, then, the arrangement of having the Straits open, is one which no sensible man would for a moment entertain. Well, then, he would assume that the Straits must remain closed, and no force enter the Black Sea. Suppose Russia had twenty sail of the line in that sea, would not Turkey be threatened with danger? Why, a Russian army in the Crimea would be ready to embark, and in forty-eight hours would be down upon Constantinople. But then the Turks would send for us; but we should not be prepared with a fleet or an army, the current of the Dardanelles and other casualties would impede our approach—in short, we should be wholly unable and unprepared to carry the Turks timely assistance; I say, then, that the only method to secure Turkey, and to prepare her for any danger which might occur from that quarter—a danger which would be the greatest, and which might be the most sudden and the least resistible, is to persuade Russia to limit her naval forces in the Black Sea. But it is said your condition would be nugatory. That is the objection that seems to carry most weight with the House—not that we have demanded too much, but that we have conceded too much. Well, suppose that four sail of the line and four frigates would be possessed by Russia under that article; it must be remembered that England and France would be entitled, each of them, to have half that number in the Black Sea; which would make between them a force equal to Russia; and Turkey would also have a force equal to Russia, independent of the ships she would have in the Bosphorus, the sea of Marmora and elsewhere. It is clear that Russia might have accepted these terms, if she had been sincere in her wish to put an end to the war; while, on the other hand, the terms were such as would have sufficiently provided for the safety of the Turkish Empire. Under this arrangement that force would not have enabled Russia to bring down a large army on the Turks, like falling upon a covey of partridges. There would not have been any danger to Turkey if this arrangement had been carried out. But it is said that the Russian proposal was, that the Straits should be closed in general, but that Turkey should be at liberty to call upon her 1752 allies, in case of danger, to render assistance to her, and that this was an arrangement which would have afforded full security to Turkey; but this condition proposed by Russia was, that either Russian, English, or French assistance might be asked for, and therefore that condition would have enabled a Russian Minister in Turkey, by means which it is unnecessary to describe, to prevail upon the Turkish Government to call in a Russian fleet, under pretence of a danger which in reality did not exist. But that proposition has been scouted. No such condition was necessary to enable the Porte to call upon an allied force if Turkey were threatened with danger from Russia. It is said that the Porte could not do so, because the Turkish Government were bound by treaty to keep the Straits closed; but will any man tell me that, in common sense, a Sovereign who knows that an expedition is on its way to threaten his capital, is prevented from calling his allies to his assistance, because a treaty provides that in time of peace all foreign vessels shall be excluded from the Straits? Well, then, I contend that this condition was perfect, and that, having the consent even of my right hon. Friends who sit below the gangway—having the consent of the French Government, the approbation of the Austrian Government, and the concurrence of England—it was a condition which it was fit to propose to Russia, she having agreed that her preponderance in the Black Sea should cease. That this preponderance might have been made to cease by other means is quite unquestionable; but we did not make the proposition, in the strict sense of the word, as a sine qua non. We said, "This, in our opinion, is the best course that can be adopted; it is the only way we can imagine for effectually putting an end to your preponderance; have you any other plan to suggest?" Well, Russia proposed two other modes, both of which we thought insufficient; and, as she had nothing else to propose, the conferences naturally came to an end. Russia might have submitted other proposals, but I will not go into these, as they must be obvious to every one. My right hon. Friend said, the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea arose as much from her territorial as from her naval position; and it is possible she might have made suggestions without any reference to stipulations with regard to her fleet. I think we did perfectly right in proposing that condition to Russia; and 1753 when she would neither consent to it, nor offer any other to accomplish the same object, it became evident that further negotiations would only be trifling with the two countries which had embarked in the contest.
That, then, being the case, the question is, what ought the House to do in the existing state of things? The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) gave the House an opportunity before the recess of determining whether the conduct of the war should be left in the hands of the present Government, or should be transferred to the hands of the hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite, and the House answered that question by a majority of 100. I apprehend, therefore, that it cannot enter into the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite to try that question a second time—that cannot be the object which they have in view. Then, they say they expect Her Majesty's Government to come down to the House with a Message from the Crown, and to propose an Address, by which the House should pledge itself to support Her Majesty in the vigorous prosecution of the war. It is unnecessary for us to do that, because the right hon. Gentleman has done it himself. The Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman, coupled with the introductory passage proposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir F. Baring), would be precisely the same Resolution as that which the Government, if they had had to take the initiative in the matter, would have proposed to the House. If there had been no Motion of the right hon. Gentleman, and if there had been no Amendments proposed upon it, then, next week, when we shall be able to lay on the table the remaining papers relating to the negotiations, we should probably have asked the House to express its regret that peace had not been obtained, and to say that it deemed it its duty to assure Her Majesty that it would give Her Majesty the utmost support in the vigorous prosecution of the war, for the purpose of obtaining a safe and honourable peace. I offered, the other day, if the Motions were swept away, and the House waited until the papers were produced, which they could not be until we got them—and probably we should not have them for a day or two—to propose something to the House which should convey an expression of the opinion of Parliament upon the existing state of things; but the offer was refused, and the House determined to go on with 1754 the debate. That being the case, and the House having come to this stage of the debate and being ready, I hope, in a few minutes, to come to a division, it would be childish to ask the House to withdraw the Motion, which hon. Gentlemen seem afraid of meeting, and to wait until next week for the chance of something else being proposed to take the sense of the House. We are perfectly content to take the sense of the House on that assurance of support which the right hon. Gentleman, very much to his credit, proposes this House should express. The right hon. Gentleman certainly, last week, proposed something which amounted to a censure upon the Government; it has now been lopped of its head, but the assurance of support still remains, and that assurance is doubly valuable to us, for, following as it does that large majority which we had on a former occasion, it shows that we are the Government to which that large support was accorded. We shall feel it our duty to carry out the wishes of the House and the will of the country.
We are asked to say what are the objects of the war? That question has been put to us by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole), but at the same time, in the course of his speech, he was constantly expressing a wish to know the conditions which we intend to propose to Russia. Now, every one knows pretty well what is the object of the war. It is idle for any man to ask his friend, much more a Prime Minister, what is the object of the war. The war was undertaken to repress the aggressions of Russia on Turkey; to defend—I will not say to defend Constantinople, for that would be taking a narrow and limited view of the matter, for if Turkey had nothing left but Constantinople, I would not give many years' purchase for that possession—but to defend the Turkish Empire from being swallowed up by Russia. That is the object of the war, and it is that for which England and France are fighting. And are we fighting for it without reason? The House will recollect that, in the papers which were laid on the table at the beginning of this dispute, we were kindly and civilly told by the Russian Government that Turkey must fall—that the man was sick, and that his death-bed was approaching—that the man's inheritance ought to be divided, and that if Egypt would suit us, and if we liked to have Candia, these two possessions might probably induce us 1755 to wink at the appropriation of the rest by other parties. I say that the intention of Russia to partition Turkey is as manifest as the sun at noonday, and it is to prevent that we are parrying on the war. The object of the war, as stated in the declaration, which we must all recollect, is pot only to protect Turkey—to protect the weak against the strong, and right against wrong—but to avert injury and danger from ourselves. Let no man imagine that if Russia gets possession of Turkey, and if that gigantic Power, like a Colossus, had one foot upon the Baltic and another upon the Mediterranean, the great interests of this country will not be perilled—let not the peace-at-all-price imagine for a moment that their trade and their commerce would not be deeply injured. Instead of things being as they now are, notwithstanding the war—if instead of what I am told is the usual consumption of cotton at Manchester—30,000 bales per week—there are now 40,000 used—so that the trade is actually more flourishing than it was before the war—that that lucrative trade would labour under heavy encumbrances, if not soon disappear, were the Mediterranean and the Baltic under the sole command of a Russian naval force, and that Power exercising a dominant control over Germany. Who shall say that then the day might not come when those who may succeed the hon. Member for the West Riding might not have to repair to the hospital at Portsmouth, either to assist in aiding our suffering army or to obtain a place of safety. Well then, Sir, I say, we accept the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman—we accept the assurance of support which I am sure there is hardly any man in the House who does not feel in his heart desirous of giving; it must be the feeling of every gentleman that, in the present state of things, it is becoming on the part of the House to assure Her Majesty that they will give their earnest support in the prosecution of the war. I am sure that such a Resolution will meet with a unanimous response from one end of the country to the other; that there is not a man in any part of the United Kingdom who will not feel his heart glow when he finds that the Parliament of the country is animated by the same sentiments as himself, and who will not be proud to think that he shares in some degree in the determination to support the Government. The Motion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth—which is, I hope, the 1756 question which we are going to vote—will be the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) minus the introduction, and plus the introduction of my right hon. Friend, If that be the Motion which the House is about to vote upon, I trust that party feeling will for one night be set aside; that, as it is no longer a conflict of party—the vote a fortnight ago having silenced that question—we shall, at least for one night, and upon one occasion, be unanimous in our assurances to the Crown that we are determined, as the true representatives of the people of this great country, to give to Her Majesty the best support we can in the prosecution of the war to the attainment of a safe and honourable peace.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
said, he was anxious to offer an explanation to the House upon a question affecting the personal honour of himself and his two right hon. Friends near him (Mr. Gladstone and Mr. S. Herbert), Nothing could be more accurate than the statement of his noble Friend the Prime Minister, that he (Sir J. Graham) and his two right hon. Friends were parties to the arrangement that a proposition should be made to the Russian Government with reference to the diminution of the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea which should require the limitation of the Russian naval force in that sea. They were parties to that proposal, as were also our allies Austria and France; but it was never intended to be made an ultimatum; and, therefore, he objected to the expression "insist," which the noble Lord had used. He and his right hon. Friends were parties to the proposal, but they were never consenting parties to its being made a sine quâ non.
§ MR. LOWE rose to address the House; but—
THE DEPUTY SPEAKER
said the hon. Gentleman was not entitled to speak. Having waived the privilege of speaking when he moved his Amendment without remark, it was not competent to the hon. Gentleman to claim that privilege now.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. LOWE
said, that as the forms of the House had prevented him from explaining his former Amendment, which had been much misrepresented in the course of the debate, he did not think it right to trouble the House to vote on an Amendment which had not been before them in the way he could wish. As to the Motion of the right hon. Baronet the, Member for 1757 Portsmouth, he should give no vote on it at all, as he did not think it worthy of the occasion.
§ MR. J. G. PHILLIMORE
also abandoned the Amendment of which he had given notice.
The Motion of the right hon. Member for Portsmouth having been read by the Deputy Speaker—
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, Sir, the noble Viscount has made a strong appeal to the House, in which I entirely and cordially concur, that it is desirable that in any question upon which there is not a serious difference of opinion, our decision with reference to any declaration on the subject of the war should be as unanimous as possible. Therefore, although I certainly should have thought the declaration contained in this Motion unnecessary in itself, yet since it has been put from the Chair, I, for one, shall think it right to support it.
Sir, upon a previous occasion, when the words on which we were then about to divide were already announced, and were practically before the House, I stated what very much coincides with the view of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster. I must confess, if I had the choice of the mode of proceeding, that I am not of opinion that the words now before us are altogether equal to this occasion. It appears to me that when the grave occasion arises—and a very grave one it must be—upon which this House thinks it necessary to pronounce its sentiments in regard to the question of war or peace; it ought, I should say, above all things, it ought to be careful that its sentiments are pronounced in a clear, unequivocal, and unambiguous manner. Now, Sir, I find myself in this predicament, that the right hon. Gentleman presents me with a Motion with every word of which I agree. I agree in regretting that the Conferences at Vienna have not led to a termination of hostilities, and I agree that it is the duty of this House to support Her Majesty in the vigorous prosecution of the war till She can attain to a just and honourable peace. At the same time, while I so regret that the conferences have not led to a termination of hostilities, I regret it much in the same manner as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midhurst; and, I am bound to say, in a very different sense from many persons who are of opinion that the course pursued by Government in this respect has been wise and expedient—a proposition which I am not 1758 prepared to adopt. Therefore, it appears to me that we are in this difficulty, and that we ought not to shut our eyes to it. We are about to agree in asserting a proposition; but we shall do so with feelings absolutely irreconcilable, J do not think the House and the country will gain much by such a declaration. Had it been in the power of the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir W. Heathcote) to have proposed his Amendment at a period when it was justified by the state of the facts, I should, with great satisfaction, have joined him in a declaration of opinion which at any rate would have been plain, manly, and unequivocal. The alteration of circumstances and the lapse of time have completely disposed of that Amendment, and I have now before me nothing but a choice of evils. On the whole, I agree with my right hon. Friend that it is not desirable, and that it is plainly impracticable, to introduce new propositions at this period of the debate, and that it is also undesirable, in the circumstances before us, that we should present an appearance of dissension in regard to the prosecution of the war. As far, therefore, as I am concerned, I shall give my vote in favour of the Motion, though I do not give it cheerfully or readily, as I think that Motion unequal to the occasion.
§ Question, That the words "having seen with regret that the Conferences of Vienna have not led to a termination of hostilities," be inserted after the word "House" in the original Question: It was resolved in the affirmative.
Then the Main Question, so amended, being put,
Resolved—"That this House, having seen with regret that the Conferences of Vienna have not led to a termination of hostilities, feels it a duty to declare, that 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, obtain for this Country a safe and honourable Peace.
§ The House adjourned at half after Two o'clock till Monday next.