MR. DISRAELI rose, according to notice, to move the following Resolution—
That this House cannot adjourn for the recess without expressing its dissatisfaction with the ambiguous language and uncertain conduct of Her Majesty's Government in reference to the great question of peace or war; and that, under these circumstances, this House 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"—
and said, in rising—Sir, to move the Resolution which is now in your hands, I wish, in the first place, to explain to the House the reasons by which I am actuated in so doing, and the object which I have in view. Sir, I have watched for some time, as I suppose every Member in this House has watched, with interest and with deep anxiety, the conduct of the Government with respect to the great question of peace or war during the recent Conferences at Vienna, and I have imbibed an opinion with respect to the intentions of the Government which has filled me with distrust. I thought that there was on their part language so ambiguous and conduct so uncertain that I was led to reflect what might be the consequence of circumstances which undoubtedly had filled the public mind of this country with great disquietude and great discontent, and which certainly demanded the attention and consideration of every man who felt that he had a responsible duty to perform in this House. It Was impossible for me, entertaining that opinion, to ask that the sentiments of this House should be publicly declared on this subject so long as negotiations were going on. Everybody knows that the obvious and irresistible answer to me would have been—"Her Majesty's servants are at this moment engaged in confidential communications with the representatives of foreign Powers, and it would be highly indecorous, and might be injurious to the interests of Her Majesty's service, if the criticisms of Parliament should interfere with the possible result of their labours." Who can for a moment deny that such an objection would be entirely judicious, and could not for a moment be resisted? At last, Sir, after some inquiry, and after an unusual period of time, the protocols of the negotiations were laid on the table of this House, and I did anticipate that the Minister, following the precedents which, as I think, ought to have regulated his conduct, would have taken the earliest opportunity of asking the opinion of Parliament upon the labours of the representative of his Government, and would have also taken the same opportunity of laying before the House of Commons, without, of course, committing himself to embarrassing details, but still frankly, precisely, and explicitly, what were the intentions of the Government with regard to the great question of peace or war. Well, Sir, I more than once invited the First Minister to take that course; and I confess that,
even to the last, I did believe that he would have reconsidered his first conclusion, and that he would have felt that he was doing his duty more satisfactorily to his Sovereign, to Parliament, and to the country, if he had pursued the course which I had intimated. I did hope that the noble Lord would have perceived that the public mind was in that state as certainly to render it necessary, above all things, that the Minister should relieve and enlighten public opinion on subjects of such surpassing magnitude, and that he would, therefore, have been anxious to ask, in the constitutional and customary manner, the opinion of Parliament on the course and character of the negotiations which he had sanctioned, and the policy which he intended to pursue. Well, Sir, I was disappointed in that expectation; but I was not the only person who was disappointed; indeed, I think I may venture to say that the House and the country were equally disappointed. I think I may venture to say that it would have been satisfactory to the public, in the present perplexed and somewhat sullen disposition of the nation, if, at the conclusion of negotiations which had been carried on upon our part with no usual pomp and ostentation, and which had therefore been looked to with proportionate interest, I think it would have been satisfactory to the people of England if the First Minister of the Crown had come forward, when these negotiations had failed, and taken that opportunity of fairly expressing the views of his administration to Parliament, and have given, as I should have hoped, an expression of opinion which would have sustained and reanimated the spirit of the country. Nothing of this kind, however, occurred; and after some lapse of time I hesitated whether I should myself take the necessary step, and ultimately shrank from doing what I felt to be my duty, from what I admit may be a cowardly fear of those vulgar imputations which are often too influential—imputations that a man, when compelled in the exercise of his duty in this House to do that which may in some degree convey a censure of the Government, is actuated by the most unworthy motives. I declined, I am ashamed to say, and more than once declined, to take the course that—in the position which, with the too great indulgence of my friends, I occupy—I felt was my duty. However, a right hon. Gentleman, a Member for a great city, a Member
of the Privy Council of the Queen, thought that this was an occasion which could not be allowed to pass unnoticed, and therefore he placed on the table of the House a Motion for an Address to Her Majesty. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. Gibson), instead of the First Minister of the Crown, proposed an Address to Her Majesty upon the grave question of peace or war. I hope, if the noble Lord could have screwed up his courage to propose an Address to His Royal Mistress, that it would not have been conceived in the spirit of the Motion of the right hon. Member for Manchester; and the great object which I have in view to-night is, if I possibly can, to extract, among other things, from the Government a declaration to that effect. But, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester in giving his notice acted in a perfectly Parliamentary manner—in a manner quite consistent with his own high character and eminent talents; and I heard of that notice with entire satisfaction, because I felt that the question would have been fairly brought before this House—that we should have had an opportunity of entering at length into the discussion of topics which I am myself soon to treat upon—topics which I believe to be of the utmost importance to the honour and interests of this country. And, although I could not support that right hon. Gentleman in his Motion, I was grateful to him for affording to me and my Friends the opportunity of expressing our views upon this subject, and for taking a course which would have elicited that expression of opinion which I believe now to be absolutely necessary for the country. Sir, I never for a moment supposed that that discussion would not take place. Is there a Gentleman on either side of the House who could for one instant have imagined that it would be suppressed? Not the slightest objection was made on the part of the Government when the right hon. Gentleman's notice was given. True it is that the Member for Manchester had not the power of commanding a day in order to bring the question before the House; but, then, the unquestionable magnitude and gravity of the subject to be brought under consideration, the anxious feeling of the people of this country in regard to it, and the sense of propriety which I suppose still influences a Queen's Minister who is the leader of the House of Commons, convinced every one immediately that no privileges
of place, no arrangements of public business, could for a moment be obstacles to appointing a day when that discussion should be fairly and fully conducted. Accordingly, the noble Lord, with that impulse which we could only expect on his part, at once gave an opportunity for facilitating the discussion, offering to the right hon. Gentleman a day; and at last we had an address to the Crown, to be moved by a Privy Councillor, which raises the whole question of peace or war; the day is appointed by the Minister; Parliament is assembled, this House is more than usually full, the entire attention of the nation is fixed upon the House of Commons, believing that at length, after a dreary interval of inglorious lassitude, this assembly was about to give some signs of political life and Parliamentary duty—when to our great surprise, however—to the surprise, I should think, of every one who was not in the secret, for the secret was well kept—the expectation of Parliament, of the country, I might almost say of Europe, was baulked; and no possible chance whatever given for any discussion taking place upon the most momentous transactions that have occurred in this country since the Peace of 1815, and which, strange to say, have not only most deeply engrossed the interest, but absorbed the thoughts and passions of the people of England. Sir, I need not recall to the recollection of the House what happened here on Monday last. The scene then enacted was too vivid and dramatic to be easily forgotten. A right hon. Gentleman suddenly rose, recently the colleague, and, I suppose, still the friend of the noble Lord, and, whether actuated merely by political considerations or by more social influences, as some suppose, that right hon. Gentleman, referring to some papers which have been long lying on the table of this House, and which all of us have studied, turns to a well-thumbed passage, and asks the First Minister of the Crown whether, as there slightly intimated, it be a fact that there is a possibility of renewed negotiations taking place. I will do the noble Lord the justice to say that he showed uncompromising courage on that occasion, for he did not condescend to assign the slightest ground for our believing anything of the kind. But nothing seemed to satisfy the appetite for suppression which characterised the principal conspirators on that occasion. Although the noble Lord did not give the House or the right hon.
querist the slightest ground for fearing that the discussion in this House would interfere with any negotiations whatever, another noble Lord—perhaps also influenced by social feelings, which we all respect—rose, and, with a naïveté and a simplicity that all must have admired, first afforded the House the unnecessary information that he had engaged to second the Motion of the Member for Manchester, and, in the next place, said that really, after the question of the Member for the University of Oxford—not, of course, after the answer of the noble Lord—he thought it would be totally impossible for him to fulfil his promise. Well, Sir, in a very short time it was found that we were to have no debate on the great question of peace or war before the Whitsuntide holidays, which were then impending; and, still influenced, Sir, by the convictions which I entertain on this subject, believing that the conduct of Her Majesty's Ministers with respect to this question deserves the utmost suspicion and distrust; and, if not vigilantly watched and carefully controlled, may lead to consequences most perilous to the honour and the interests of this country, I felt it my duty to give that notice which I shall now, Sir, soon place in your hands. That is the simple reason for that notice. It is a notice limited to the issue which is attempted to be raised by the Resolution. If the Motion be one that involves a question of confidence or of censure upon the Government, let it not be said that it has been hastily prepared, or that sufficient notice has not been afforded to hon. Members. The Motion, on my part, has arisen from the circumstances of the hour. The Gentlemen who sit opposite have had the same notice of it as my own friends; and I should be ashamed to attempt, on such a subject, to take a Minister by surprise. In fact, if the House will permit me to say it, having no confidence in the Government, and feeling that it would not be improper to ask the opinion of the House on that general question, nevertheless, the time alone would deter me from giving a notice of so comprehensive a character, because I could not, in taking such a course, have given that ample and sufficient notice to every Member of this House which, under such circumstances, is usual. The present Motion has grown out of the peculiar circumstances which I have described. It is a loyal and a legitimate Motion; it takes nobody by surprise, and hon. Gentlemen opposite
were aware of its purport almost as soon as those with whom I have the honour of acting.
§ Now, Sir, having stated my reasons for giving this notice, I will now venture to attempt to express what I purpose by it. I propose, to-night, if possible, to induce the House to come to the same conclusion to which I have come myself. I think the conduct of Her Majesty's Government with respect to the question of peace or war has been uncertain and their language ambiguous, and, if the House be of my opinion, I hope the House will join with me in arresting the course of a policy which they must feel in this case to be injurious to the country. I purpose, if possible, to induce them to come to that conclusion. I ask something else—I ask the House, when uncertainty is so prevalent, when ambiguity of phrase and conduct is so rife, that they will, in a manner which cannot be mistaken, declare to the country that, with regard to this war, their opinions have not changed, and that their spirit is not daunted; and that, while they disapprove the language and conduct of the Government, and are resolved, if they possibly can, by the vote of to-night, to destroy what is the cause of this ambiguous language and uncertain conduct, they are at the same time ready to carry on this war until its great object—a secure and honourable peace—be obtained. With these views, I shall on this question attempt to-night to obtain a clear and precise opinion from the House of Commons, and also, if possible, though with less hope, from Her Majesty's Ministers.
§ Now, Sir, having made these observations, with the indulgence of the House, on the cause and object of this proposition, let me, before I enter into a severer research, advert to an observation made by the noble Lord the other night upon the manner in which I gave this notice. The noble Lord made a good-humoured tu quoque—and a tu quoque should always be good-humoured, for it has nothing else to recommend it—on the parties performing, and he intimated to the House, with no great refinement of expression, that there was some concert between me and the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) in bringing forward this motion, because the hon. Gentleman relinquished his right to bring forward his motion, to which he could prefer a superior claim to mine. I beg to say that I had no communication with the hon. Member on this subject. I 980 cannot say that if I had met the hon. Gentleman casually in the lobby I should have refrained from having any communication with him. He has very often postponed the motion of which he has given notice, and had I met him I might naturally have said—"I am going to give my notice, do you really intend to bring forward your motion?" But as it happened, I did not meet him. I state this because I do not want anybody to consider that I see any impropriety in my communicating with the hon. Member for Aylesbury or any one else. So long as I am a Member of this House I hope to maintain that frank communication with every Member of Parliament which, I trust, has always distinguished my conduct. So far as the hon. Gentleman is concerned—I have known him from childhood, and have always had great confidence in his abilities and character; his abilities are now European in fame, and have justified my opinion of them, and whatever the unfortunate circumstances which have prejudiced many against him in this House, which I deplore, and which, so far as he is concerned, I disapprove—still, I have no doubt that the time will come when, with his talents and excellent disposition, he will outlive these prejudices, which I think, and I tell him so frankly, have some fair foundation. The hon. Gentleman and the House will not, I am sure, misunderstand my observations. I should not have stated this, unless I had just been informed—I hope I am wrong, but I am afraid the rumour is authentic—that the hon. Gentleman intends to vote against my Motion; I do not believe, however, that he or any one else will vote against it until they have heard the debate about to ensue. I think the debate is a little too grave and important for leaders on either side of the table to count noses with accuracy. We are going to-night to discuss no common subject; we are going to weigh, scrutinize, and examine the conduct of high personages intrusted with most solemn duties, and upon whose conduct of those duties depends the greatness of this country and the happiness and prosperity of its people. He would not be a bold man only—he would be a shameless man—who could dare to say before this discussion that his name was registered in the pocket-book of any party.
Sir, the circumstances to which I am about to call the attention of the House will require no great exercise of memory
to command. I am not going to ask them to go back to the passage of the Pruth, or to the declaration of war; my criticism to-night will be on public transactions of recent date, though I admit that without a previous knowledge of the circumstances which preceded them it would be more difficult to form an accurate and sober judgment on the subject. My canvas is so small that I shall commence with the installation in office of the First Minister opposite. Glorious epoch for this country! One cannot but remember the triumphant cheers which announced that the crown of Parliamentary laurel encircled that reverend brow. There was a Minister at last who would vindicate the honour of the country; there was a Minister at last who would carry on the war like Chatham, and who would maintain his principles in this House like Pitt; there was a man, backed by an enthusiastic people, to redeem a falling state! I remember on that occasion, when the first fervour was a little past—when men began to cease, as it were, to feel, and to commence to think—that a Member of this House rose in his place and asked a significant interrogatory. I am sure the House may anticipate the sagacious mind that would anticipate the fast-dissipating enthusiasm. The Member for Carlisle it was who rose and asked that question. The right hon. Gentleman had, in a moment of thoughtlessness, forgotten to leave the Cabinet when Lord Aberdeen retired, but it was a moment of amiable weakness which we are probably all subject to, and which all of us, especially those in office, can easily pardon. When the right hon. Gentleman took his seat below the gangway, and scanned the scene, and threw his sagacious eye over the various yet memorable history of those thirty-seven years to which he appealed a few nights ago, the right hon. Gentleman then naturally remembered that a few years back—a very few years back—he had, assisted by the eminent lieutenants who are also sitting near him, impeached the First Minister of the Crown on account of his conduct of our foreign affairs. The noble Lord the First Minister, if not then a traitor, was, at least, a "firebrand." I well recall that memorable Parliamentary contest which ended in a triumph for the noble Lord—a triumph, I am bound to say, not gained so much by the valour and number of his legions, as by his own distinguished prowess. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle, remembering all these things—remembering that his foreign policy
was the weak point of the noble Lord—remembering that on this score he had formerly failed in turning the noble Lord out of the Cabinet—a duty reserved for the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Russell)—rose in his place, and in a House not very full nor very attentive, said—he having just left the Cabinet, and his seat, although filled by a not unworthy successor, being still warm with his ample presence—that he wished to address an inquiry to the noble Lord, with whose opinions he must at that time have been familiar, and asked whether—in the new Government, of which he had been himself so recently a Member—whether there was to be any change in the principles upon which the foreign policy of the new Administration was to be conducted—whether the policy recommended and followed by Lord Aberdeen was to be adopted—whether, above all things, there was to be any change in the terms and conditions which our Plenipotentiary was to insist upon at the Conference of Vienna? The right hon. Gentleman must, therefore, have had some suspicion upon the subject; but his suspicion was in a moment dispelled. The noble Lord rose and said, "On the contrary, our principles are the same; our policy is entirely identified with the policy of Lord Aberdeen; no difference has been dreamed for a moment with regard to the conditions upon which peace is to be sought for at the Vienna Conference." The right hon. Gentleman said he heard that statement with perfect satisfaction, and should, under those circumstances, conscientiously refrain from even the appearance of factious opposition to Her Majesty's Government. We started with that interlude. Strange to say, after a certain time, the Plenipotentiary, whose conduct we shall have hereafter to discuss, returns frustrated—a Plenipotentiary who represented the policy of Lord Aberdeen returned bootless from the conference; the protocols, in due time, were laid upon the table—but the noble Lord did not, as I have before said, fulfil his duty as Chief Minister of the Crown by moving an Address to his Sovereign. Another Gentleman, however, set him the example, and a Motion is placed upon the table. That Motion, if it meant anything, meant a disapprobation of the conduct of the Plenipotentiary at the conference—it meant that the conditions of peace he had insisted on were unreasonable, and that the terms which were proffered ought to hare been accepted. If it meant anything
there is no doubt that it meant that. It is derogatory to the high character of the Member for Manchester to suppose that it meant anything else. But what do the right hon. Gentleman and his two right hon. Friends do? They were understood to be the chief supporters of the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester. They rose in their places and threw their shields over the coming conflict; but, unless I am much mistaken—and I would not for a moment refer to the information unless it had been given me in this House, apparently with high authority, and without reserve—that cluster of eloquence and intellect which had seceded from the Cabinet of the noble Lord were prepared to throw the lustre of their eloquence, to exercise their highest faculties, to make use of their finest rhetoric in the attempt to influence the opinion of the House in favour of the Motion about to be brought forward. What is the inference to be drawn from this? Why, that there was some change in the conditions upon which peace was to be sought for, and that there was some uncertainty in the conduct for which the First Minister had given a pledge to the right hon. Baronet; because, if the noble Lord had acted upon the pledge he had given to the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the instructions with which the Plenipotentiary was to be provided, and if the Plenipotentiary had ably and completely carried these instructions into effect, how could the right hon. Gentleman and his friends justify to themselves their support of a Motion which was to challenge the propriety of the noble Lord's conduct, and to declare that the conditions of peace upon which Government had insisted ought not to have been urged? The inquiry was made by the right hon. Baronet upon the 23rd of February, 1855; and this leads me back for a moment to the unsuccessful Plenipotentiary, to the critical period when that noble individual was appointed to office; for, upon that appointment, and upon the conduct of the noble Lord at Vienna, much depends. The appointment of the Plenipotentiary did not at the first blush appear to be a happy one. The noble Lord the Member for London is so distinguished that I find it difficult to fix upon any subject or upon any part of his life in which he has not rendered himself remarkable; but I know nothing by which the noble Lord has been more distinguished of late than by his denunciations of the power and the ambition of Russia. It is to the noble
Lord that I think may be mainly attributed—and in his various career his patriotism may be sustained and rewarded by the recollection—the passion of this great country for a decisive struggle with the colossal energies of the Russian empire. The noble Lord, then occupying an eminent post—one more eminent, I am sorry to say, than that which he now occupies—addressed, as the leader of the House of Commons, not only fervid, but inflammatory, harangues to the Parliament and people of England, the object of which was to show that war with Russia was the duty of the country, and that it ought to be carried on in no hesitating spirit, but ought to be undertaken by us with a determination of realising considerable results. The noble Lord then said—
The British Ministry and nation would be the most silly of mortals if they were to sign an insecure peace, which would leave it to the public enemy to bide his time, until, by the dissensions of the other Powers—until, by the weakness of some of those Powers—he should find a better opportunity of accomplishing his design.
[Cheers.] If you cheer that, you will cheer still more at what I am about to read. The noble Lord said, a little later:—
The power and ambition of Russia are dangerous to Europe's independence, and incompatible with Europe's future security; therefore no insufficient, no insecure peace is to be made, and England cannot lay down arms until material guarantees are obtained, which, reducing Russia's power to proportions innocuous to the general liberty, will afford perfect security for the future.
That is a brave spirit. When the noble Lord goes to war, he knows what he is going to war about; he wants to reduce the proportions of the Russian Empire; he wants material guarantees for peace. These are designs which some may think rash, but which all must at least respect as great. I am obliged to refer to these circumstances in order to show the character and the antecedents of the noble Lord who was appointed our Plenipotentiary to obtain peace. It was a happy choice. The noble Lord, having frightened the country—I should not say the country, for it was then ready for anything—but having frightened the diplomacy of Europe with those announcements that Her Majesty's Ministers were going to reduce the proportions of the Russian Empire, and were going to commence a war which was not to terminate until we obtained material guarantees for peace, naturally called up in the other House of Parliament another noble Lord, whom, although living, I think I may venture to call illustrious.
Thus it was that Lord Lyndhurst, no advocate of a craven policy—Lord Lyndhurst, who in a green old age has shown a manly vigour in vindicating the high character of his country—Lord Lyndhurst, who, although an orator and a patriot, is still a lawyer and a Statesman—asked this question; he demanded an explanation as to the consistency of such statements as reducing the proportions of the Russian Empire and taking material guarantees, with the protocol of the 5th of December, 1853, to which France and England were signataries, which stated—
The present war cannot in any case lead to territorial diminutions or modifications of the Russian Empire.
What happened then? I would not refer to Lord Clarendon if he were not still Secretary of State—for I shall endeavour, as much as I can, not to touch upon the policy of the illustrious corpses of the Aberdeen Administration—I will refer only to existing and responsible Ministers, although it is not to be supposed that any man who is a Secretary of State now would do anything so mean and pitiful as to say that he was not responsible for the deeds of the defunct Administration. Well, what did Lord Clarendon say? Lord Clarendon last year was indignant at this inquiry of Lord Lyndhurst. He said that the language quoted by the noble and learned Lord might be the will of Austria and of Prussia, but it was not the will of England and of France. This was towards the end of the Session; and, therefore, notwithstanding even the protocol signed by France and England, which declared that, whatever the result of the war might be, the territory of Russia should not be diminished in extent, the English Government, by the head of its diplomacy, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, stated in the highest House of Parliament that England would not be influenced or controlled by the protocol that they had signed.
Well, Sir, I have shown that the noble Lord who was selected for a Plenipotentiary to obtain peace was unquestionably an advocate of war, and of war on a great scale. It is of infinite importance, when we have to investigate the conduct of the noble Lord at this emergency, that we should clearly comprehend what were the antecedents of the noble Lord and his qualifications for the office that I think he rashly undertook. The House will remember that it is only forty-eight hours since the First Minister of the Crown said
that, although these negotiations had been unsuccessful, they had been conducted with consummate ability. The noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) nods his head. I accept that ceremony as if the noble Lord threw down his glove, and I call upon the House of Commons, without respect to party, to give a verdict upon the conduct of our Plenipotentiary at Vienna. Do not let it be said that I am making comments upon the conduct of the noble Lord because I am a member of a different political party, and that this is a party move. If I show that the noble Lord was incompetent for the office that he fatally accepted—if I show that his conduct at those Conferences led to consequences prejudicial to the public weal, it is my duty to bring these things forward. It was not enough that the noble Lord made the speech to which I have referred, but he the Plenipotentiary of peace, distinguished himself in this House by the high tone he assumed with regard to Russia and the rulers of Russia, and, although then the First Minister of State in this House, he did not hesitate to denounce the conduct of the Emperor and his Minister as false and fraudulent. The noble Lord did more. As the Session advanced—as the noble Lord's blood grew more warm, in a moment of excitement (it was in the month of July)—the noble Lord revealed the secret policy of the profound Cabinet of which he was a member to the House of Commons, and we then obtained the authoritative information that war was to be carried on and peace obtained in no less a manner than by the conquest of provinces and the destruction of that stronghold that threw its frowning shadows over the waters of the Black Sea. The noble Lord made an explanation afterwards of the words he used; but, as has been well observed— "Apologies only account for that which they do not alter." When the noble Lord thus announced the invasion of the Crimea and the destruction of Sebastopol, I, for one, said, that I had listened to that statement with dismay. These were the qualifications of the Plenipotentiary of peace whose selection did so much credit to the judgment of the First Minister, who, called to power by the enthusiasm of the people, and determined to put the right man in the right place, sends a Minister to negotiate peace who had proclaimed an internecine war. But these were not all the qualifications of the noble Lord. It was not enough that he had distinguished himself
by addressing inflammatory harangues to the House of Commons. It was not enough that he had denounced the conduct of the Emperor of Russia and his Ministers as false and fraudulent. It was not enough that, in a Moment of outrageous and fatal indiscretion, he revealed, as one might say, the coming disasters of his country. The noble Lord signalised himself by another exploit before he went to make peace for his country. The noble Lord destroyed a Cabinet. He tripped up the Prime Minister because he was not earnest enough in prosecuting the war. These were the antecedents, these the qualifications of the Minister Plenipotentiary to whom was consigned the fulfilment of the most important duties that have ever been delegated to a subject of the Crown since the great Congress of Vienna. This was the dove sent out to the troubled waters of Europe. It has been said of the noble Lord—I think very unjustly—by a high, although anonymous, authority—that the noble Lord was not calculated for the post of Plenipotentiary; in the first place, because he was not an eminent diplomatist; and, secondly, because he did not take that leading position at the moment in this country which might have compensated for his want of diplomatic experience in the opinion of the Russian Court. That was, I think, unjust, because I shall show that the noble Lord has had a great, though not lengthened experience of diplomatic affairs. He was once at the head of the diplomatic body of this country, and in that capacity performed feats of no mean character, which greatly influenced subsequent events, and are at this moment influencing the fortunes of this country; and, although it is quite true that, having held this office, when the noble Lord was called upon by his Sovereign to form a Government, he could only find one Gentleman to serve under him—and, strange to say, that Gentleman the present First Minister—and although the noble Lord, with his great position, and with all his genius, which I admire, finds himself in the disagreeable predicament of twice filling a subordinate position in two Administrations which are Whig Administrations, still that noble Lord is the leader of the great Whig party—that small company of great families who ever rule this country, when in power, in defiance of our free aristocratic settlement by the principles of an oligarchy masked in the language of a democracy—and therefore the noble Lord,
whatever office he may fill, will always be a very considerable man. Let me, then, call the attention of the House to a great event in the career of the noble Lord—the key-note of the transactions which occurred when the noble Lord was chief of the diplomacy of the country. The noble Lord was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs during a brief period in the year 1853—two or three months; but, though the period was brief, the most important communications which have ever been made to this country, at any period of its history, were made when the noble Lord was Secretary of State. Upon the noble Lord fell the responsibility of deciding the course of England when vast events were near us, when a dark destiny was impending over Europe, and when the conduct of the English Ministry might have averted that fate and the consequences of a great conflict. A whisper was heard, a rumour was spread, that secret communications of a very different character from those which were laid on the table of this House had taken place between the Court of St. Petersburg and the English Government. They were denied, not by the Government, but by those who seemed to have authority to deny them. I extorted myself from the noble Lord the Secretary of State in this House the admission that those documents existed. Such was the feeling of Parliament and of the country—though I admit I cannot justify the conduct of any Government in producing those papers—they were produced; they are on the table; they are among the most precious records of the most important events in the history of the age; and there we learnt, from the lips, as it were, of the late Emperor of Russia himself, his resolution to accomplish the partition of Turkey; and that partition was to be accomplished mainly by assuming rights of a protectorate over the Christian subjects of the Porte, which, in the last despatch of the Russian Minister, we hear, as a protectorate, never existed. What was the conduct of the noble Lord the chief of the diplomacy of England under those circumstances? Observe well this important phase of these transactions, and you will find, as I will show you, the key note of disaster—you will find it the cause of the failure in the recent negotiations, and the probable cause of great difficulties and dangers to this country. The noble Lord, after ample time, wrote a secret and confidential despatch to Sir George Hamilton Seymour upon the pro-
positions of the Emperor of Russia, and upon the general tenour of the confidential communications which were then taking place. I must invite the attention of the First Minister, who admires the ability of his Colleague so much, to these remarks. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) wrote a despatch which was much admired when it first appeared. The despatch was partly historical and partly diplomatic. The noble Lord was of opinion that the Sultan was not in the same state as the Spanish king in the time of Louis XIV., or the last of the Medici. Certainly those Sovereigns had no children, and the Sultan has as many wives as the wisest monarch, and so many children that he is obliged to marry them to his Ministers. With all this historical display which, while unaccompanied by anything injurious, reflects great honour upon the country producing such a statesman, the noble Lord proceeded—
To these cautions Her Majesty's Government wish to add, that in their view it is essential that the Sultan should be advised to treat his Christian subjects in conformity with the principles of equity and religious freedom which prevail generally among the enlightened nations of Europe. The more the Turkish Government adopts the rules of impartial law and 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, though, no doubt, prescribed by duty and sanctioned by treaty.
Not to taunt the noble Lord with an error (though probably the most gross error ever made by a Secretary of State)—not to twit the noble Lord with a fatal admission (for every one gets into a scrape sometimes, and we, who are a popular assembly, know that duties press so upon public men which they can only half fulfil, that all sometimes make mistakes, though a Secretary of State who in a secret and confidential despatch makes a mistake is less entitled to the charity of men than mere individuals)—I will remind the House that I called attention, when that despatch was so much admired, to this fatal admission. The noble Lord never made the slightest answer. He could not make any answer, and I should never have brought it forward again but for the remarkable reason I am about to place before the House, and which the House will in a moment see is exercising a fatal influence on this country. The mistake of the noble Lord was to acknowledge the protectorate of Russia over the Christian subjects of the Porte,
which Count Nesselrode has just told us does not exist; and not only to acknowledge but to tell us "its exercise is prescribed by duty and sanctioned by treaty." When the noble Lord told the House some time ago that everybody knew what the "Four Points" were, I took an opportunity of saying I, for one, did not know what the "Four Points" were. Up to the moment the protocols were placed on the table we never had a formal and authentic statement of what the "Four Points" were; but at last the papers were laid on the table, and the "Four Points" are now in the hands of the Parliament of England, of those hon. Gentlemen who will sanction or oppose the Resolution which I am about to submit. Here we have, at last the "Four Points," and I beg you to turn to the fourth point, bearing in mind the noble Lord's famous historical despatch, and the interpretation which he put upon the treaties of Kainardji and others, acknowledging a protectorate, and declaring its exercise to be not only legal but obligatory. What do we see in the fourth article of the Conference of Vienna? Remember, this article has been produced by the prolonged thought, the deep meditation, the unrivalled learning of the greatest statesmen of Europe. Here is the summary of what they believe to be the cause of the most important event of the present day—
Russia, in renouncing the pretension to take under an official protectorate the Christian subjects of the Sultan of the Oriental ritual, equally renounces, as a natural consequence, the revival of any of the articles of her former treaties, and especially of the Treaty of Koutchouk-Kainardji, the erroneous interpretation of which has been the principal cause of the present war.
By whom was that erroneous interpretation made? Was it by the noble Lord, or by the Emperor of Russia? If by the Emperor of Russia, it was assented to by the Minister of England. What right have we to interfere in this quarrel, when the united wisdom of all these statesmen has found out that "the erroneous interpretation of the Treaty of Kainardji has been the principal cause of the war"—and the erroneous interpreter is sitting before me. And the very statesman who lashed on the passions of this country to war, when we had a springtide of national feeling in our favour which might have been directed to great ends, is sent by the First Minister, as Plenipotentiary of peace to the Conference of Vienna? But we are only at the commencement of
the extraordinary mistakes, the fatal admissions, the disgraceful demeanour of that noble Lord who displayed, we are told, consummate ability, though unsuccessful. Why did you not give us an opportunity of examining the conduct of your unsuccessful Plenipotentiary? Why did you not move an Address to the Crown congratulating Her, Majesty on the admirable manner in which the negotiations have been carried on, while at the same time expressing a determination to prosecute the war with vigour? I am not at all surprised that you have avoided discussion. There have been before now unsuccessful negotiations and unsuccessful negotiators; but it is equally true that Ministers have been overthrown and branded by the verdict of an indignant Parliament for having acted and for having spoken in a manner similar to that which has been done and said by the noble Lord. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty laughs; it is not the first time I have been met with a laugh by the right hon. Gentleman. He is a merry soul, but if he can answer what I am saying let him do so. The noble Lord arrived at Vienna early in March, and the first conference, I think, was held on the 15th of March. At first everything went on swimmingly, and subjects were discussed and settled about which in reality no difference of opinion existed, and thus an admirable opportunity was afforded to the Russian envoys of making conciliatory sacrifices. The conferences went on from the 15th of March to the 26th of that month, and then commenced the real business. Five or six meetings of the conference had taken place, at which, as I have said, nothing of the slightest importance was settled—in fact, all that was settled might have been settled just as well by the post. There was no controversy about the first or second point, but, at last, on the 26th of March the real difficulty arose; then was made apparent the real reason why the noble Lord was sent to take part in the conferences. Then came the discussion of the third point, and then it was that the noble Lord was expected, among others, to obtain the admission of the Turkish empire into the European confederation, and to decide upon the manner in which the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea should cease to exist. Then commenced the real business of the conference; but the noble Lord before he touched
upon the real point—remembering the mission of his life as much as his mission to Vienna—threw in a word with regard to the representative Government for the Principalities, and, I believe, even hinted at something like a new Reform Bill for those countries. Prince Gortchakoff smiled, and naturally replied that that was not exactly the point they had met to settle; and he hinted that a new Reform Bill for the Danubian Principalities might be postponed, as a new Reform Bill for a more important place had been postponed, and that it might be as well to get on a little with the real business of the meeting. The noble Lord then rose and made the following unprecedented declaration, in reference to a very commonplace statement of Prince Gortchakoff at the commencement of negotiations, and which was not referred to while the conference was engaged on those articles which produced no controversy—
Lord John Russell, recalling the declaration made by Prince Gortchakoff at the opening of negotiations, that he would consent to no condition incompatible with the honour of Russia, maintained, that, in the eyes of England and of her Allies, the best and only admissible conditions of peace would be those which, being the most in harmony with the honour of Russia, should, at the same time, be sufficient for the security of Europe, and for preventing a return of complications such as that the settlement of which is now in question.
Let us see to what that admission led. The noble Lord states that, in the eyes of Europe and the allies, the only admissible conditions of peace were those most in harmony with the honour of Russia. What, I want to know, had the noble Lord to do with the honour of Russia? I apprehend that the noble Lord was not sent to Vienna to take care of the honour of Russia. No, Sir, the noble Lord was sent to Vienna to take care of the honour of England. What happened under these circumstances? At that time—I am stating what I admit does not appear formally in the protocols, but I am stating what no well-informed person will for one moment contradict, and which is matter of general notoriety—at that time there did exist an understanding to which Russia was not, I believe, bound by any formal instrument, but still an understanding did exist that the Russian Plenipotentiaries, Prince Gortchakoff and M. de Titoff, should take the initiative, and offer a plan which might lead to a satisfactory solution of the question how the preponderance of the power of Russia in the
Black Sea might be made to cease. I do not think the noble Lord will deny that, although the Russian Ministers were not hound by the understanding, still their feeling had been felt upon the subject, and it was clearly understood that they should take the initiative, and propose some plan which they believed would afford a satisfactory solution of the difficulty—the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea. No sooner, however, had the noble Lord made the declaration that, in the eyes of Europe and of the Allies, the best, and indeed, only admissible terms of peace were those "which should be most in harmony with the honour and dignity of Russia," than—
Prince Gortchakoff, while congratulating himself on the conciliatory disposition with which this question had been hitherto touched upon in the Conference, said that he was prepared to discuss the means of execution which should be proposed by the Plenipotentiaries, but that he did not consider himself in a position in which he ought to take the initiative on this subject.
[LORD JOHN RUSSELL: As Count Buol had suggested.] [Mr. DISRAELI: I did not say "as the noble Lord had suggested;" I would not misrepresent the noble Lord, but any one who thinks the correction, of the noble Lord makes any difference in my argument is entirely mistaken.]
As Count Buol had suggested. Appreciating at the same time the sentiments of courtesy and conciliation which, according to the unanimous language he had just heard, seemed to have inspired this proposition, he declared himself ready to take it ad referendum reserving to himself to make known to the Conference the answer which he should receive from his Court.
M. de Titoff spoke to a similar purport. Aarif Effendi, however, who appears to have been the only man of sense present.
While declaring that he was not authorised to take the initiative in propositions relating to the third point, expressed a hope that his Government would accede to those which the Plenipotentiaries of France and of Great Britain have reserved to themselves to make on this subject.
Instead of taking the initiative, Prince Gortchakoff immediately referred to his Court, using those bland expressions which, of course, induced the Minister of England and the other Ministers to believe that he was only going to refer to his Court for fresh powers to make those proposals which it was expected he would make. Well, Sir, delay after delay occurred, and it was not until the 17th of April—the admission of the noble Lord having been made on the 26th of March that, in the eyes of the
allies, the best and only admissible conditions of peace were those most in harmony with the honour of Russia—that Prince Gortchakoff received his instructions from St. Petersburg. What were those instructions, or, rather, what was the result of them? On the 17th of April Prince Gortchakoff at the conference of that date said—
That his Court, though fully appreciating the reasons which had prompted the members of the Conference to surrender to the Cabinet of St. Petersburg the initiative of the proposals respecting the third point, did not feel it incumbent on itself to take advantage of the initiative which had been offered to it.
And must now beg the allies to take the initiative, feeling of course confident that what the allies had laid down by the mouth of the noble Lord, "that the best and only admissible conditions of peace would be those which were in harmony with the honour of Russia," must be conceived in a spirit much more agreeable to Russia than Russia herself could possibly devise. Is there a doubt about it? To prove that such was the case, let me refer to the recent circular note of Count Nesselrode, and let me see how that most experienced of living Statesmen treats this subject. That Statesman has produced a diplomatic paper of great ability, in which he takes a survey of the transactions at the Vienna Conferences, and examines with critical eye the conduct of European Statesmen; and on whose conduct did he fix? Upon that of the English Minister, and more especially upon the fatal admission of the 26th of March. Count Nesselrode refers to what he terms la definition fort remarquable of the noble Lord which was to serve as a solution of the problem, and in that circular note he says:—
Lord John Russell, recalling the declaration made at the opening of the negotiation by Prince Gortchakoff, that he would consent to no condition incompatible with the honour of Russia, maintained that, in the eyes of England and her allies, the best and only admissible conditions of peace would be those which, being the most in harmony with the honour of Russia, should at the same time be sufficient for the security of Europe, and for preventing a return of complications such as that the settlement of which is now in question. After this declaration, made formally in the Conference of the 26th of March, Lord John Russell cannot be surprised that the propositions made on the 19th of April were not judged by the Imperial Cabinet as 'the best and only admissible ones,' to quote the words of the English Plenipotentiary.
And what were the propositions made by the noble Lord? I have already told the
House of great feats of history and diplomacy in connexion with that celebrated despatch to which I have already referred, and here the noble Lord fully sustains the character and position he had exhibited in connexion with that famous despatch at the commencement of the proceedings. He made as fatal an admission as he had made in his despatch respecting the protectorate, and the noble Lord supported his position by a historical illustration equally infelicitous, but much more insulting. Here is the noble Lord uselessly going out of his way to announce that the best and only possible conditions of peace, in the opinion of England, were those most compatible with the honour of Russia, and at the same time sufficient for the security of Europe. Having made that admission, the noble Lord proceeds, on the 17th of April, to do—what? To propose the most humiliating condition that could be made to any Government, and that humiliating condition he supported by a precedent which appears to me the most unhappy that could possibly have been brought forward. The noble Lord appeals to the treaty of Utretcht and the destruction of the fortifications of Dunkirk. Now, under what circumstances were the treaty of Utretcht and the negotiations for the destruction of the fortifications of Dunkirk made? After a series of splendid victories achieved by the arms of Marlborough and Eugene—after a series of the most humiliating reverses on the part of a once great King—at the end of a long reign, when her resources were exhausted, France—high-spirited France—submitted to the greatest humiliation that her history records. And this is the precedent which is produced by the noble Lord, who commences with an admission which makes the honour of Russia an essential qualification in any conditions of peace that may be made. I ask again, who made the noble Lord the judge of the honour of Russia? What business had he to think of the honour of Russia? The noble Lord had to think of the honour and interests of his own country; and surely Prince Gortchakoff and M. de Titoff were capable enough of attending to the honour of Russia. The admission made by the noble Lord was the real cause of these conferences being broken off. That I consider a very minor evil, according to my view of the nature and character of the conferences; but that admission—was such as may embarrass this country, and involve it in a position from which it will
require all the patriotism of this House and the high spirit of this country to extricate it. The noble Lord himself confessed that the admission he had made was the cause of the rupture of the negotiations. That is actually the admission of the noble Lord at the time when he professes his regret at Russia not taking the initiative. On the 17th of April, after the extraordinary illustration to which I have referred had been repudiated by Prince Gortchakoff, he himself adds—
Since the Court of Russia has declined to take the initiative on this subject, the chances of success attending the negotiations for peace appeared in his eyes much diminished.
It was, therefore, in consequence of the noble Lord's conduct, by his own avowal, that the chances of peace were much diminished. I say, therefore, that the noble Lord has placed the possibility of peace by negotiation almost out of the question by his conduct at the conferences at Vienna. The noble Lord allowed the Conference for a considerable period to waste its energies in settling matters which required no arrangement; and when Russia had the appearance of conciliating public opinion by apparently considerable concessions about nothing at all—when he had placed Russia in a position to obtain the favourable opinion of the Congress, the noble Lord then came to the point, and so managed the conference that it appears that, because Russia would not consent to one single point, we had, in fact, been deprived of that peace which otherwise might have been attained. What a handle does the noble Lord give to any Peace Society or to any doubtful ally when he allows Russia to say, "Here are twenty points which we concede, and the only one point we insisted on is not conceded by England, so that the horrors of war are in consequence to continue." And what is that one point? The English Minister proposes that Russia shall consent to that which must, in his opinion, be a most humiliating act, because he illustrates it by a reference to the most humiliating occurrence in the history of France. Is the noble Lord justified in visiting Russia with this humiliation after he has laid it down as a principle of negotiation that she "is not to be humiliated?" I say, then, that the third point, according to all rules of diplomacy, inasmuch as it contained the real business of the question, ought to have been taken first. If the negotiators had met and said, "We all know that the
difficulty is on the third point; let us solve that difficulty, and, if we solve it, all the rest is plain sailing," that would have been a wise and intelligible proceeding. But you carried on your negotiations day after day with dissimulating courtesy, and because you put off to the last the real business, that dissimulating courtesy becomes a source of increased irritation. Under these circumstances I cannot look at the conduct of the noble Lord, as Her Majesty's Plenipotentiary at Vienna, with that satisfaction with which it has been spoken of by the First Minister. I think I have shown to the House some reason to hesitate before they agree that the noble Lord has shown great ability in these negotiations. I think the noble Lord, instead of showing great ability in the conduct of these negotiations, has committed every blunder which a negotiator could possibly accomplish. I think he made fatal admissions at the commencement, and that he had recourse to dangerous illustrations to support his position. I think he dealt with the wrong part of his material first, and that he has so managed the really important element that, so far as negotiation is concerned, it is my solemn opinion diplomacy can no longer solve the knot. The noble Lord has proceeded in these Conferences at Vienna in the same manner in which he proceeded as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, with reference to the confidential communications of Russia. He met them by a diplomatic and historical move conjoined, and, guided by history he has made a diplomatic mistake.
§ Sir, at last the protocols so anxiously looked for and so long sought were laid on the table. The First Minister declines to address the Queen. We read those protocols; and the language of the Plenipotentiary seemed to be as ambiguous as his conduct was uncertain in the conduct of the negotiations, for exactly opposite conclusions were drawn by different parties in the House. The Member for Manchester says, the negotiations authorised peace. That is also the opinion of the Member for Carlisle, and his Friends. Another party thinks they necessarily conclude in war. We are, therefore, extremely anxious to obtain the opinion of the Ministry upon the question, so that the country, in a state of great perplexity and Borne discontent, may be guided in their opinion by Her Majesty's Government. What is the position of the country? Is 998 there to be peace, or is there to be war? Do you wish there should be peace, or that there should be war? On what conditions do you wish to have peace? In what spirit are you going to carry on war? We do not ask the noble Lord to let us know the precise and actual conditions on which peace ought to be obtained, as the noble Lord the other night, with his usual happy power of perversion, seemed to represent, no man is so silly as to entertain such an idea. We know well that we must trust to the discretion of the Government in such matters, and especially as we are connected with an ally whom we love and respect. But what we want from Her Majesty's Ministers is some general, though explicit, statement as to our position; and it is my object to-night to obtain it. It is my object to do more than that—it is my object to show what is the cause of this perplexity—to show Her Majesty's Ministers how ambiguous has been their language, and how much more ambiguous has been the conduct of their negotiations, in first stating the honour of Russia to be an element in the conditions of peace, and then in proposing conditions of peace which the strongest advocates of war could not suppose, in the present position of affairs, Russia would accept. Is not that ambiguity of language and uncertainty of conduct? If the noble Lord was sincere when he said that, above all, the honour of Russia was to be one of the principal elements in the conditions of peace, his language, in my opinion, was feeble and incautious. If the noble Lord was not sincere, and did not mean what he said, then I think his language is liable to the charge impliedly made against it by Count Nesselrode—that of duplicity. The noble Lord must choose between these two qualities.
Well, the protocols being here, the First Minister of the Crown not fulfilling his duty by moving an Address to the Sovereign in respect to them; and a right hon. Gentleman who attempts to do that giving notice of a Motion, which is suppressed, we, the Members of this House, endeavour to extract some opinion from the Government; and what is the answer we receive? I am told that there has been no ambiguity of language and no uncertainty of conduct. Now, this is a grave question, and we must fully and completely enter into it. Therefore, let me call the attention of the House to the words of the First Minister of the Crown, recently delivered. He said:—
With respect to the question whether negotiations are entirely broken off, my answer must be the same as I gave on a former evening—namely, that the elements of conference permanently exist at Vienna, there being in that capital the representatives of the British, French, Turkish, Russian, and, of course, Austrian Governments. If, therefore, at any time any proposition should be made by Russia, or by Austria, on behalf of Russia, which might appear to offer a fair prospect of prosecuting negotiations to a successful issue, there are means and elements in Vienna for resuming the negotiations."—[See 3 Hansard, cxxxviii. 301.]
Is it not quite clear that there are, in every capital in Europe almost, the representatives of the British, French, Turkish, Russian and Austrian Governments? and, therefore, if at any time any propositions should be contemplated, they could be made in any European capital. But there is no proof whatever of any special negotiations going on, or of any reason why we should not investigate the conduct of Her Majesty's Government, and give our opinion upon these records of our unsuccessful Plenipotentiary. What was the language used in another place by another Minister (Lord Granville), on May 22? That noble Lord said:—
With regard to the question which has been put by the noble and learned Lord, my noble Friend (Earl Grey), as a spectator of the scene which has been described as having taken place in the other House, would be able to give almost as ample an answer as I can give myself. With regard to the state of negotiations at Vienna, it is not true, as has been supposed, that they have been finally closed. The Government are ready to receive any propositions that may lead to a safe and honourable peace, and they also leave themselves open to decline any terms which may lead to a contrary result. Certainly, the conferences are not closed, and, under the circumstances of the case, it is for the noble Earl himself to consider what course he ought to adopt."—[3 Hansard, cxxxviii. 866.]
I gave my comment on the language of the First Minister about a week ago, and I will now communicate to the House the comment of Lord Lyndhurst on the language of Lord Granville, for the purpose of showing that I do not stand alone in the opinion that the language of the Government is vague and ambiguous. Lord Lyndhurst said—
The noble Earl says the negotiations are not closed; but are they going on? They may remain open for a twelvemonth. Have any propositions been made which are still under consideration, or have they been rejected? Is there any probability of any further propositions being made, and, if so, within what time? or have the Government made up their minds as to the period at which there is any probability of the conferences being concluded? I never heard anything more vague."—[Ibid.]
Are we, then, with these statements, made in this and the other House of Parliament, to be told that there is nothing vague, uncertain, or ambiguous in the language and conduct of Ministers in reference to the great question of peace or war? Let me now recall your attention to a statement made by the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell), the unsuccessful negotiator, totally contrary to everything said by both his colleagues in the passages I have just quoted. On May 21, that noble Lord said—
Certainly my opinion is that, whether the propositions lead to peace or not—because upon that question I feel myself incompetent to give an opinion—the Austrian Government will, before the conferences are finally closed, make some proposition to the members of those conferences. I imagine that proposition must have one of two results; either it will be rejected by one—perhaps by both—of the belligerent Powers, and then the conferences are broken off, and no doubt it will be perfectly competent for any Member of Parliament to ask this House to declare its opinion of these negotiations; or, on the other hand, if that should not be the case, then, again, negotiations will be resumed, and there will be a greater prospect than there has been of peace being established."—[See 3 Hansard, cxxxviii. 853.]
That is a totally different statement from the statements made by the First Minister and by Lord Granville. The latter tell you that there are the representatives of the Four Powers in Vienna (though, as I told you before, they may be found also in other capitals), and if any proposition is made it will be received; but here the noble Lord tells us most positively that the Austrian Government has some other proposition to make, and that it is expected by Her Majesty's Government. The noble Lord distinctly stated that one more attempt at negotiation was to be made; which is quite a different account from that given by the First Minister and by Lord Granville. Well, is this the case, and is another attempt to be made? The inconsistencies are considerable. Here we have the statement of the First Minister that there is a permanent condition of congress, and then we have from the noble Lord opposite a statement that there is going to be a final proposition, and then the conferences are to be closed. Which is the true statement? Is another proposition expected, has it been made, and what are the general expectations of the Government as to its character? But this is not all. I am told that the language of the Government on this subject is not ambiguous. Why, what did Lord Clarendon, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, say?
The noble Lord opposite having returned from his unsuccessful mission, Lord Clarendon said that he should lay before Parliament the official papers as soon as possible, and went on to say that, for his part, he very much disapproved conferences or negotiations being carried on where there was no real business to conclude; that, he said, was the present state of things, though the Government would be prepared to answer any distinct proposition on the part of Russia. That was a very proper tone to take, but it was totally different from the ambiguous language held by other Ministers, which had something in it like "leaving the door open," which I do not understand. I am against this principle of "leaving the door open;" I say—shut the door, and let those who want to come in knock at the door, and then let us endeavour to secure a safe and honourable peace.
§ Then, Sir, arrived the night for the Motion of the Member for Manchester, to which I need not now advert, as I have before alluded to it; and I refer to it only to notice the strange position taken up by the First Minister of the Crown on that occasion. That noble Lord told us that he was not going to make an ignominious peace; and that the man who would do so would be a degraded outcast. I admired the tone of the noble Lord. "The captain is a brave man;" but we want something more than the assertion of the noble Lord as to whether he is going to make an ignominious peace or not. The noble Lord can advise the Crown to make peace without first asking this House. Let us, therefore, be well acquainted with the real character of his policy before he makes peace, and let us, above all, have a clear and explicit explanation of the real position of affairs. There is a sarcastic note, which I have no doubt hon. Gentlemen will recollect, in one of Mr. Gibbon's volumes, in which he quotes an Arabic author named Abu-raaf, who stated that he was witness of a certain marvellous incident. But who, asked Mr. Gibbon, will be witness for Abu-raaf? The noble Lord says, he is not going to make an ignominious peace. The noble Lord is witness for himself, but who will be witness for the noble Lord? It is in the power of the Minister to advise the Crown to make peace, without asking the opinion of Parliament. Far be it from me to interfere with the prerogative of the Crown; but what other safeguard is there, when Parliament has 1002 adjourned, against an unwise exercise of that prerogative, but a discussion in Parliament on the state of affairs, by which we may become well acquainted with the feelings and views of Ministers? The noble Lord the other night said, he would not be forced by me into making the House acquainted with the confidential communications which were passing between Her Majesty's Government and our allies; but no one asks the noble Lord for that—no one ever asked the noble Lord on what terms he intends to make peace. It would be the height of imprudence for any man to ask the noble Lord to tell us the precise terms on which he proposes to make peace. He must act upon his own responsibility, in conjunction, of course, with our cherished ally; but that is no reason why the noble Lord should take a course which, in my opinion, must lead either to an ignominious peace or to a lingering and fruitless war. That is why I press the noble Lord. We have a right, I maintain—without trenching on the prerogative of the Crown, and without circumscribing the Government's liberty of action along with our ally—to interfere if we think that the noble Lord and his colleagues are pursuing a course of policy which will either lead to the conclusion of an unsatisfactory peace; or else, which I think even more probable, to a lingering, fruitless, and inglorious war. The noble Lord told me the other night that, while I was objecting to the negotiations which were going on, I seemed to forget altogether the fact that the Government at the same time were carrying on war—effectively carrying it on; and he insisted on this point with great vigour, apparently very ranch to his own satisfaction. Now, there I join issue altogether with the noble Lord. I deny that you can carry on war effectively with this chronic state of negotiation. Here, I think, lies the whole fallacy of the noble Lord's policy. The cause of all the ill-success which has attended his efforts, and of the discontent and dissatisfaction now so prevalent in the country may be traced to this principle on which the noble Lord, and the Government which preceded him, of which he was a Member, have acted—that it is possible at the same time to make war and to negotiate for peace. It is pretty apparent, I think, that the noble Lord has a false and limited idea of the manner of making war. I deny that all you have to do in order to make war is to levy taxes and to fit out expeditions. 1003 There is something else equally—and perhaps I might say—though it may seem extravagant—more important, even, than raising money and recruiting troops. If you want to carry on war with vigour and efficiency you must keep up the spirit of the people. Now, Sir, I deny that you can keep up the spirit of the nation, in a struggle such as that which we carried on with Napoleon, and such as that which we may have to carry on with the Emperor of Russia, if you are perpetually impressing on the country that peace is impending, and if you are perpetually showing the people that the point of difference between ourselves and our opponents is, after all, comparatively speaking, of a petty character. Men will endure great sacrifices if they think they are encountering an enemy of colossal power and resources. A nation will not count the sacrifices which it makes, if it supposes that it is engaged in a struggle for its fame, its influence, and its existence. But when you come to a doubled and tripled income tax—when you come to draw men away from their homes for military service—when you darken the hearths of England with ensanguined calamities—when you do all this, men must not be told that this is merely a question whether the Emperor of Russia shall have four frigates or eight. I say the principle upon which the Government of the noble Lord and the Government which preceded him have acted—that of keeping up a state of war and a state of negotiation simultaneously in action—is a fatal principle, and that in it may be traced the real cause of our disappointment and partly of our disaster. What effect has it had upon your militia? Why, I remember when the militia was first embodied there was aroused, even in the humblest cottage, that military spirit which, I think, is natural to the British people, but which had certainly not been shown for half a century. But what is the feeling now? The people understand the question now; they have read of the Conferences of Vienna; they believe that, after all, the difference between the contending parties is no very great one—that it is not a difference for which their blood should be lavished, or for which the country should appeal to their patriotism. Is there a murmur against increased taxation in the country? Do you think you would ever have heard a murmur against increased taxation if, at the same time you were calling for those increased sacrifices, you had not striven to 1004 impress on the public mind that you were not engaged in a struggle for an object worthy of the sacrifice? Moreover, if you would carry on war effectively it is necessary not merely to keep up the spirit of the nation, but also to keep up the spirit of foreign Powers. You may rest assured that so long as you appeal to a foreign Power as a mediator that foreign Power will never be your ally. I do not say this with any want of respect for Austria. I think that the Court of Vienna has acted throughout these transactions with wisdom, with sagacity, and with prudence, and I am not surprised that its councils have been guided with so great ability when I remember that the Minister of that country is a pupil of the greatest statesman which this age has produced. The genius of Metternich still guides the country which he has more than once saved; and if the policy of that great statesman be pursued I am persuaded that in a struggle with Russia he is not the man, nor are those who have sat at his feet the men, to counsel base humiliation to that Power. If in 1828 the opinion of Prince Metternich had prevailed—if the policy which he recommended had been adopted by the English Cabinet—this House in all probability would not at this moment have been called on to discuss the all-important question of a war with Russia. Therefore it was with no disrespect to Austria that I made that remark. It is in human nature that the moment you ask a person to occupy the position of a mediator he will necessarily not fulfil the duties of an ally. I say, then, Sir, that so far as the general policy of the noble Lord is concerned, I trace its want of energy and its unfortunate consequence—I trace the discontent and the dissatisfaction which are prevalent in all quarters—to this continued alliance between diplomacy and war. As a general principle I think that alliance objectionable; but in the present case I think I can show the House that there are peculiar objections to this double service—that there are peculiar reasons why, if now followed it must, I believe, in my conscience, lead to great public disaster. There are two modes in which you may make war on Russia. In one case you may invade her provinces, despoil her of her territories, push her back to the north; reconstruct, in short, the map of Europe, and solve the knot you are now trying to untie by the rudest and most determined means. If there were a young Minister full of genius 1005 and energy, backed by the enthusiasm of a people, unembarrassed by any public debt, and fortunate enough to possess as a colleague a general, as young, as energetic, and as able as himself, I do not say that that is not a career which I should recommend to his attention. I do not presume to predict what the result of such a struggle would be, but I think few will deny that the hair of the youngest Member present might grow grey before its termination. There is another mode of waging war with Russia—an essentially protective mode. In adopting that mode your object would be to protect your ally, to take care that his territory should not be violated, that his fortresses should be secure, and to check the preponderance of Russia in every quarter, not so much by reducing the influence of Russia, as by increasing the power of Turkey. That was the war in which, from your declarations at its commencement, I thought we had embarked. But what have you done? Having embarked in a war to protect the Turkish empire, you suddenly resolved to invade the Russian dominions, and all this time you were engaged in diplomatic transactions which were to carry out a protective policy. You have thus combined, therefore, an aggressive war with a protective diplomacy; and to this incoherent, inconsistent union I trace and attribute the dangers which are surrounding us, and which, in my opinion, unless you terminate that union, must increase until they, perhaps, overwhelm you. A Conference at Vienna may cope with such questions as the government of Danubian Principalities, as the course and free navigation of a river, or the rights of the Christian subjects of the Porte. But Conferences at Vienna cannot cope with such subjects as the invasion of Russian provinces, the destruction of Russian fortresses, or the fortunes of accumulated hosts on the impatient territory of a proud foe. Wasting your time at Vienna in this protective diplomacy, all that you can do is to devise schemes which will apply to the objects of protective war. But the evil consequences upon the objects of aggressive war are daily traceable, because, by this chronic diplomacy, you not only check and destroy the spirit of the nation, upon which, after all, you must rely, but by these very conferences you are paralysing your allies, and preventing that energy and exertion on the part of the European Powers which may be necessary 1006 to enable you to carry on your aggressive warfare, and to extricate you from the dangers which you must meet. Sir, it may have been a great error, as I frankly confess I believe it has been, to depart from the protection of the Turkish Empire to undertake that invasion of Russia which you most rashly, and, as I think, thoughtlessly, decided upon; but, having once entered upon that course, you must now meet the consequences of the policy you have pursued; and you cannot extricate yourselves from these consequences by Vienna Conferences. You will only increase your difficulties and augment your dangers if you trust to diplomacy. Your position is one that is entirely deceptive; and you never can carry on an aggressive war with success unless, on the one hand, you are supported by an enthusiastic people, and unless, on the other, you can count upon allies, who know that you are determined to be victorious.
§ I have said, Sir, that there was at least one object in my making this Motion—not a solitary, but a main object—namely, that I want the House of Commons, by its vote to-night—I want even those most favourable to peace, provided, I suppose, that it is made upon honourable terms, and is likely to be permanent—for I trust that no hon. Member would advocate any other kind of peace—I want this House, by its decision, to put an end to that vicious double system by which we have so long carried on an aggressive war and a protective diplomacy. I want the House of Commons, to-night, to say in distinct language that the time for negotiation has passed. No man, I think, will be inclined to deny that proposition who has read Count Nesselrode's circular. If negotiations could bring us an honourable peace, and extricate the country from the dangers that surround it—if I thought that there was even a chance of obtaining such results by means of negotiation, I might still have the weakness to cling to it; but I am convinced that further negotiations, instead of securing peace, will only aggravate the dangers and distresses of war. I am confident that, if negotiations are continued, the Government may be prevented, indeed, from making a disgraceful peace by the still latent spirit of England; but the Government, if it persists in its present policy, will only substitute for such a peace, a lingering, fruitless, and inglorious war. I ask the House, therefore, to support this Motion, because 1007 one of its main objects is to put an end to this fatal union between diplomacy and aggressive war.
Sir, it has been said that the Motion which I am about to make expresses distrust of Her Majesty's Government. Be it so. Is there any man out of this House who does not feel distrust of Her Majesty's Government? I beg the noble Lord to understand that I do not say this by way of taunt. I know full well—and it is a most sorrowful thing—that this distrust is not limited to Her Majesty's Government; and that it has been occasioned by the policy of this country for the last two years. That distrust reaches our generals, although they are victorious; it reaches our officers, although during this war they have achieved deeds of unprecedented valour, and maintained among their troops unexampled discipline; it reaches our aristocracy, although they have poured out their blood like water in the conflict; lastly, and this is the worst of all among the dark suspicions that have, alas, been rife, that distrust has reached even the practical working of our representative institutions. And will you, then, hesitate to support me to-night in this the first effort to breathe some feeling of life in this House, in the dangerous circumstances in which, believe me, the House of Commons is placed? Further forbearance on our part cannot be submitted to by our constituents. I speak frankly; I say that silence is by them considered to be an abnegation of our functions. You must say, "Aye," or "No," to the Motion I am about to propose. I cannot believe that you will allow any miserable Amendments to evade the issue which I am going to place before the House of Commons. That issue is this—"Will you put an end to this diplomatic subterfuge, and this Ministerial trifling?" It is a simple issue, and it will be so looked upon, I believe, here and elsewhere. I am told that I am to be met by an Amendment. I find, Sir, that a right hon. Gentleman has done me the honour of adopting five lines of my composition. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir F. Baring) is a miles emeritus in the great struggles of political life. I must congratulate the present Ministry upon its good fortune in always having a Privy Councillor to rush to its aid; and certainly it ought to be a wise Government that has so many amateur and veteran colleagues. I read that Sir F. Baring
is to move an Amendment to my Motion in these terms—
That this House having seen with regret that the Conferences of Vienna have not led to a termination of hostilities, feels it to be 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 latter portion of this Amendment is taken from the words of my Motion. Is this Amendment which Sir Francis Baring is to move the Amendment of the Ministry? If it is their Amendment, it is an act on the part of the Ministry which vindicates to a certain degree the course I have taken, and in every sense condemns themselves. If the noble Lord and his colleagues think that this House ought, in the present state of affairs, in consequence of the failure of these negotiations, to express their determination to support Her Majesty in the manner I have described, how can the noble Lord reconcile it to himself that he did not himself, like a loyal Minister of the Crown, come forward and propose an Address thanking Her Majesty for the papers which she has so graciously placed on our table? I can hardly recall the passage, but I remember reading of an example in the history of this country which the noble Lord the First Minister might well study in regard to communications of this nature proceeding from the Sovereign. It is to be found in Cox's Life of Sir Robert Walpole, where it is stated that the Duke of Newcastle, then Secretary of State, brought down papers relating to the threatened invasion of England, and laid them on the table of the House of Lords, by Royal command. In consequence of some papers on the same subject having been previously laid on the table, and the Crown having been addressed in regard to them, the Duke of Newcastle said that it would not be necessary a second time to address the Sovereign. I can remember the spirit if I cannot repeat the words of Sir Robert Walpole on that occasion, when he made the only speech he ever delivered as Earl of Orford:—"My Lords," I think he said, "is the English language so barren that we cannot find words to express our gratitude to His Majesty for every act of grace and condescension to this assembly?" And, continuing in this strain of flowing and indignant eloquence, he so shamed the Ministry that, although
the Government party had a great majority in the House of Peers, that august assembly rose almost in a body and decided that it should address the monarch; while the Prince of Wales, who was then in opposition, although he had not for some time been on speaking terms with the Earl of Orford, crossed the House and warmly embraced that nobleman, and, addressing him, exclaimed, "From this moment we are Friends. I feel that you have vindicated the honour of the Crown and represented the feeling of the country." Well, then, here is the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir F. Baring). Is it the Amendment of the Government. Will they have courage to support this Amendment? If they have, it is possible they may yet take Sebastopol, for a more audacious act was never perpetrated by any Minister. It is not—it cannot be. It is an amateur performance. I make this remark with regard not to this Amendment only, but also to some others of which I have heard; I wish to impress upon the House the difference between my Motion and the shabby Amendment that has been cribbed from my thoughts and clothed in my stolen language. What is the difference between them? It is this—both the Motion and the Amendment contain the assurance, which I am certain hon. Gentlemen on all sides will feel it their duty to proffer to the Crown, of their determination to support Her Majesty in the war in which we are engaged; but in the Amendment there is an omission of those words which, if they be adopted, will ring through England to-morrow, and will gladden the heart of many a patriot who is now discontented, but who will rejoice when he finds that the House of Commons have come to the issue I have just described, and have decided by their vote to-night that there shall be an end to diplomatic subterfuge and Ministerial trifling. The right hon Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.
§ MR. BARROW
, in seconding the Motion, expressed his concurrence with the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire in the opinion that the negotiations in progress at Vienna were inconsistent with the continuance of the war, and his belief that a large majority of the people of this country were anxious that the suspense existing with respect to those negotiations should be terminated. He was fully alive to the deplorable consequences of war—to the misery which it inflicted upon private families, 1010 and to its injurious effect upon the commerce and the general interests of the country; but it was because he entertained this feeling so strongly that he was anxious to impress upon the House the necessity of a vigorous prosecution of the war as the only means of obtaining a secure and honourable peace. He was satisfied that such a war as was now waged between great and powerful nations would not be brought to a satisfactory termination so long as any irresolution was exhibited on the part of Her Majesty's Government. He remembered the hollow truce—the Peace of Amiens—which for a short period interrupted the war that was carried on at the commencement of the present century, and he had no desire to see such an experiment repeated.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That this House cannot adjourn for the Recess without expressing its dissatisfaction with the ambiguous language and uncertain conduct of Her Majesty's Government in reference to the great question of Peace or War; and that, under these circumstances, this House 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.
SIR FRANCIS BARING
said, that notwithstanding the formidable language of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, he was not at all inclined to shrink from proposing the Amendment of which he had given notice:—Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman's speech had convinced him of the propriety of submitting such an Amendment to the House, for the right hon. Gentleman had in his speech plainly stated the intention which he believed had lurked under his Motion. He (Sir F. Baring) would, in the first place, state the reasons which had induced him to steal a portion of the language of the right hon. Gentleman. He had concurred in the views expressed in that House by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, that until the final and formal close of the Conferences of Vienna there was no necessity for the expression of any opinion on the part of the House with reference to the negotiations. But the state of affairs was entirely altered when the right hon. Gentleman's notice appeared upon the paper—the House was then compelled to pronounce an opinion of some kind or other. The right hon. Gentleman, with his usual dexterity, had combined a Motion for an Address to the Crown 1011 with an attack upon the Government. After the right hon. Gentleman had laid upon the table a proposal to address Her Majesty, stating, in proper terms and language, that Parliament was prepared to support Her Majesty until a just and honourable peace had been obtained, it was impossible to meet such a proposition with a direct negative. Hon. Gentlemen must remember that their discussions were not merely for England, but for Europe, and if the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman for an Address to the Crown had been met with a direct negative such a course might have been liable to misconstruction, and it might have been supposed out of doors—at all events in other countries—that that House was not prepared to support Her Majesty in carrying on the war. Well, he admitted that he had appropriated some of the right hon. Gentleman's words, and he committed that larceny because he was anxious it should go forth to Europe that there was no doubt or difficulty whatever in that House with respect to the proposal for an Address, but that hon. Gentleman on both sides were ready to concur in addressing Her Majesty in the same words. He freely owned that the language of the right hon. Gentleman with respect to the Address seemed to him the most convenient he could adopt, for it was free from any ambiguity; but the right hon. Gentleman was mistaken if he supposed that he (Sir F. Baring) was not prepared to meet the remaining and essential part of his Motion directly and frankly. The right hon. Gentleman bad gone into a long narrative of the history of these transactions, into which it was impossible to follow him. The right hon. Gentleman had attacked acts and negotiations of the Government, with reference to which papers had already been laid upon the table; such attacks would doubtless be met by those who had been engaged in the transactions, and who alone were able to meet some of the right hon. Gentleman's assertions. But if the right hon. Gentleman believed there was reason for such grave charges against Her Majesty's Government, he was surprised the right hon. Gentleman had not frankly and distinctly brought those charges before the House, instead of mixing them up with what appeared to him—to steal the right hon. Gentleman's own expression—to be a very "shabby" Resolution. A great part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech consisted of an attack upon the course 1012 adopted by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) in the Vienna Conferences. That was undoubtedly a fair subject for discussion; but why did not the right hon. Gentleman, instead of contenting himself with attacking the noble Lord's conduct in his speech, in what appeared to him (Sir F. Baring) ambiguous and unsatisfactory terms, bring the question fairly before the House by a specific resolution? The right hon. Gentleman had charged the Government with unsatisfactory conduct and with using ambiguous language with regard to negotiations which were actually going on, but which were then not quite completed; and he (Sir F. Baring) thought that was a point to which the attention of the House ought to be directed, for it involved a very considerable constitutional question, and one which was of importance with reference to the transaction of the great diplomatic business of the country. As he read the constitution of the country, it was to the executive of the Crown that the negotiations for peace were intrusted; and while perfectly admitting the entire right of Parliament to censure the Ministry when the transactions had closed—while admitting the entire right of the House to withdraw its confidence from a Ministry while negotiations were in progress—and while admitting it was also the duty of the Ministry to give to the House such information from time to time as could be given without injury to the public service, yet he thought it of the utmost importance that the House should not, either by any direct or indirect Resolution, state that the Ministry that did not, from day to day, inform them of what was goin on—was using ambiguous language, or that their conduct was unsatisfactory. What was really the case as it now stood? The negotiations had been some time in progress; they bad taken different shapes according to the circumstances of the times; they had changed from day to day: had there been any ambiguous language or unnecessary concealment on the part of those who were aware of the different forms those negotiations had assumed. The answer of the Government, as he understood them were, that the conference was suspended, but though suspended was not closed, and that the Austrian Government did not consider that every effort was exhausted, but was of opinion that means might still be found of meeting the difficulty which had caused the temporary suspension of the sittings, and his noble Friend told them that the 1013 conference was suspended, but that negotiations were still in progress, and that of course, while in progress, it was not possible for that House to ask and to be told of everything respecting those negotiations. Was it possible, even while negotiations were going forward on a matter in private life, to carry them on with any hope of success if from day to day their adversaries and all the world were made acquainted with what was taking place? Precisely the same principle, he contended, was applicable to the negotiations now under consideration. Was it possible they could ask to be told the terms on which the Government were willing to make a treaty? The right hon. Gentleman had asked, and he had repeatedly heard hon. Gentlemen say, let us know the conditions on which you will consent to make peace; but he did not think it was in accordance either with the principles of the constitution or the good conduct of affairs that that House should ask for information on everything that was going forward. In the first place, Austria was prepared to make a proposal, and, therefore, it was hardly possible to make any such statement to the House before that proposal should have been received. He (Sir F. Baring) could not understand how, if they were negotiating alone, it could be consistent with good conduct of affairs, if the House were to insist from day to day upon information about everything that was going forward. When, however, they came to consider that they were not negotiating alone, but with allies with whom they were by arrangements bound to communicate, and not, he apprehended, to propound an ultimate decision without such a communication with the Government of France, with which they were on most intimate terms, fighting the same battles and acting on the same principles, he would ask, was it fair and just to their allies that everyday—for to that it would come—the Government of this country should expose the wishes and confidential communications which must be made to it? Under these circumstances, therefore, he conceived that his noble Friend had given the House and the country all the information upon the pending negotiation that could fairly and reasonably be expected of him. He (Sir F. Baring) apprehended that communications with reference to these negotiations were still going on with France and Austria, with the view of meeting, if possible, the difficulties which had arisen. When 1014 these were over, and when they had either come to a satisfactory conclusion, or, on the other hand, had abandoned all hopes of peace, then it would be the duty of Ministers to lay on the table full information, and then would be the proper time for the House to interfere and declare its opinion upon the course the Government had pursued; but until that time arrived, he believed that, both as regarded the good of the country and the interests of peace, nothing could be so unfortunate as this constant meddling and pressing anxiety to get news; he was going to say for the amusement of hon. Members, but certainly to gratify a spirit of impatience which should not, on such an occasion, be displayed. Having thus stated my objections to the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman as far as related to the complaints that the Government had not afforded fair and full information, he might be allowed to turn a little to what the Resolution really was. The right hon. Gentleman did not attempt to deny what would be the effect of his Resolution. He said it was not technically a vote of want of confidence, for if he had so intended it, he would not have given such a short notice of it. If it were not so intended, he (Sir F. Baring) must say that he never heard a Motion introduced in a speech where there was so palpable an intention to damage the Government, or more full of bitter invectives against particular Members of the Administration. He was not disposed to follow the right hon. Gentleman through those charges; it was not difficult to recriminate in such cases; but he confessed that he considered those questions far too important to treat them as mere party matters. He could not but see, as everybody must, that whether the vote was or was not intended as one of want of confidence, it was a vote that was intended to, and which would, if it succeeded, change the Government, and would place the right hon. Gentleman on the Ministerial side of the House. There could be no concealment of such an intention, for everybody knew what it meant, and he could not help considering the right hon. Gentleman's repudiation of want of confidence as in the highest degree absurd. He (Sir F. Baring) must appeal to the House against a course which seemed to him most improper and unworthy of the leader of a great party—against a course which would combine in an Address to Her Majesty a declaration of the readiness of the House to 1015 assist in a vigorous prosecution of the war and an attack upon the chief Minister of the Crown. It appeared to him that if hon. Gentlemen opposite considered the advantage and real good of the country, they would have avoided, in an Address to Her Majesty expressing support and confidence, any topic that would raise party questions and tend to bring about a party struggle. It would be far better, he thought, if they could have met and joined in a united address, not expressing the opinions of one side or the other, but declaratory of the firm resolve of all parties to assist in the vigorous prosecution of the war in which Her Majesty is at present engaged. The right hon. Gentleman had thought differently, and had taken the present opportunity—he thought a most unfortunate one—of attaching a party vote and a party struggle to an expression of the anxiety of the House to support Her Majesty in the war—a course which he believed had never been taken before by any party in that House, however reckless that party might have been. The right hon. Gentleman had fairly stated the issue. His anxiety was to shut the door against any further negotiation. That was the object of the Motion—that was the view which the right hon. Gentleman had, time after time, pressed upon the consideration of the House in the course of his speech, and that was the point upon which he now wished to have the opinion of the House. He (Sir F. Baring), on the contrary, wished the House to declare that the door to all further negotiation was not shut for ever; he desired that while there was a hope, however small that hope might be, that the negotiations not yet concluded might be brought to a successful issue, that the House should not interfere for the purpose of preventing the attainment of a just and honourable peace—while these negotiations were still unconcluded, while a proposal from Austria was still under confidential consideration, or while such a proposal was expected, that the House should not declare that the door for all settlement should be closed; and with that view mainly he ventured to propose his Amendment to the right hon. Gentleman's Resolution. He would not detain the House upon the matter longer; but he might be allowed to ask hon. Members opposite what course they were about to pursue, with regard to their allies, if they adopted the Resolution in the sense put upon it by the eight hon. Gentleman? Austria—with 1016 whom we had been in alliance, though not in active warlike operation—was anxious for, and believed she could propose, terms for the relief of the difficulties which at present existed; France was not unwilling to consider the case; and communications of a confidential nature were now passing between the two countries in reference to the proposals of Austria. This, then, was a moment of the deepest importance, upon which the blood of many of our fellow-subjects, upon which the peace of Europe might depend. The right right hon. Gentleman said he had been too cowardly in shrinking from bringing forward this question at an earlier period; and he (Sir F. Baring) must say that he was surprised at, though he could not admire, the courage which the right hon. Gentleman had now shown; he could not understand how men of humanity and wisdom could at a moment, when Government said that negotiations were still unsettled, support a Resolution which the mover boldly and unhesitatingly avowed was for the purpose of preventing further negotiations and to shut the door against them for ever. In the Amendment he had proposed he had endeavoured, as far as possible, to avoid party feeling, for, as he had before stated, these matters were too important to be considered in connection with mere party interests. He believed that there were upon the benches opposite, men as anxious for peace, and as desirous to secure the honour of their country as any of those who sat near him, and to them he appealed whether they were prepared, while the Government still told them that communications were going forward, to take upon their shoulders the responsibility of stepping in and interfering with the prerogatives of the Crown, and of interfering with their allies, by declaring in their wisdom that they would shut the door to further negotiation? The Amendment he had proposed would express to Her Majesty the regret of the House that the negotiations at Vienna had not been successful, and it would then proceed to inform Her Majesty of a determination on the part of the House vigorously to carry on the war with a view to an honourable peace. The Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) shut the door to peace—it interfered with the prerogative of the Crown—it interfered with the frank, and fair, and confidential communications which had gone on so well with our allies. It would take into the hands of the House a subject 1017 that ought to be discussed with France confidentially and freely—it declared that the House of Commons and the country, in spite of France and Austria, was determined not to go on with the negotiations; but then the right hon. Gentleman would have the satisfaction, if it were carried, of upsetting the Government, which probably was not the least reason why the Motion had been brought forward.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the first word "House" to the word "feels," in line 5, in order to add the words, "having seen with regret that the Conferences of Vienna have not led to a termination of hostilities," instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR WILLIAM HEATHCOTE
said, that although he could not at that time move the Amendment on the Motion of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth of which he had given notice, it would be convenient to the House that he should then state the reasons which would induce him to bring it forward at the proper time. There were two Resolutions, to one of which he was required to give his assent. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, by the terms of his Resolution, to a great extent, and entirely by his speech, had made it impossible that he (Sir W, Heathcote) should vote with him, because, far from desiring to shut the door to future negotiations, he (Sir W. H.) was most anxious to see the thread taken up again; and his quarrel with the hon. Gentlemen opposite was that that thread had been too abruptly broken. He then had to consider whether the Resolution of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth expressed his opinion. He gathered from the right hon. Baronet's speech that he intended to express very much the same meaning as he (Sir W. Heathcote) wished to see embodied in the Resolution, and he therefore hoped the right hon. Baronet would not object to the introduction of his Amendment; but, as the Resolution stood, it seemed to him to be somewhat open to the charge of ambiguity and uncertainty which had been brought against the Government. In order to get rid of that objection, he should propose to insert after the word "hostilities," "and still cherishing the desire that the communications which are in progress may arrive at a successful issue," &c.; of the concluding sentence, which was common 1018 to the Resolutions of both the right hon. Gentlemen, he entirely approved, because it was highly important that it should go forth to Europe that, notwithstanding the negotiations in progress, the House was prepared to support the Queen in the vigorous prosecution of the war. Their declaration upon that head ought not to be open to misapprehension, and he felt it was a great objection to the Motion of which the right hon. Member for Manchester had given notice, that it did not conclude with some such expression of opinion. He believed that if it should ever appear to Europe, by any Resolution of the House of Commons, that a faintness was coming over the heart of the people of this country in reference to the war, or that there was a desire to shrink from the side of their allies or from the face of their enemy, the strength of the country would, to a certain degree, be paralysed at home and abroad; and that therefore some Resolution expressive of a determination to carry on the war with vigour, if peace be unattainable, should be come to by the House. But this was not the only aspect of their responsibility; nor were they without dangers on the side opposite to those which he had indicated, equally real and more imminent. If any chance of peace should be thrown away; if the war should be unnecessarily prolonged after the objects for which it was undertaken had been attained, if the Ministers of the Crown were left to act under pressure from without, and their House did not interpose to correct popular mistakes, and to moderate popular expectations, he thought that no small part of the responsibility of blood would rest upon the Members of that House. He put that as a hypothetical case; but whether they were not upon the brink of that danger was a question to which every individual Member of that House would do well to address himself. Before, however, they could solve that question there were three others which must be considered—namely, what were the original objects of the war; how far those objects had been obtained; and of what remained how much ought to satisfy us? When he spoke of the objects of the war he meant such only as were tangible, definite, and avowed, without making reference to any feelings whether of sympathy for Turkey or animosity against Russia—for it was clear such feelings afforded no justification for any warfare on any principles of a Christian or a statesman. 1019 The definite and avowed objects of the war were, first, to arrest and repel an actual aggression on Turkey on the part of Russia—an aggression not only in itself unjust, but such as to involve an European necessity of self-defence, in order to prevent Constantinople from falling into the hands of Russia; and, secondly, to establish such a system, by treaty, in lieu of the former treaties, superseded by the war, as should make such aggressions less likely to occur in future, and less likely to succeed if they did occur. The first of these objects had been already insured. Constantinople was safe. No Russian fleet was able to menace it, and not a Russian soldier was left in the Principalities. It was the second of those objects, therefore, that formed the problem which the Vienna Conferences were intended to solve, and they endeavoured to solve it in two ways. In the first place, they endeavoured to get rid, as far as possible, of all points of contact, fertile in quarrel, between Russia and the Porte, and especially of the exclusive protectorate assumed by Russia over the Principalities, and over the Sultan's Christian subjects of the Greek Church, so fruitful of dispute between Russia and Turkey—the protectorate of the Principalities, and the protectorate of the Greek Christian subjects of the Sultan; and, in the next, to strengthen Turkey if, notwithstanding these precautions, an aggression should take place. The modes in which they endeavoured to strengthen Turkey and put her in a position of greater security were, firstly, by introducing her into the family of European nations, and connecting her with the balance of power; and, secondly, by putting an end to the preponderance of the power of Russia in the Black Sea.
These means of attaining the desired object were embodied in the Four Points of which so much had been heard; and of which the first and fourth related to the protectorates of the Principalities and of the Christians of the Greek Church; and the third embraced both the annexation of Turkey to the European system, and the reduction of Russian preponderance in the Black Sea; while the second was intended to secure the opening of the Danube—an important object no doubt, and intimately connected with the Turkish case, by treaties and otherwise, but hardly so much an essential part of that case as it was important to Austria and Germany.
Let the House, then, consider how much 1020 of this projected arrangement had met with general consent; and how much, or rather, it should be said, how little, remained unsettled when the negotiations were broken off.
The question of the Danube, in the second point, was quite settled.
The precaution against future opportunities of dispute in respect of the protectorate was completed, so far as the Principalities, by the agreement on the first point. The case of the Greek Christians, as embodied in the fourth point, was not opened, for reasons given by the English and French Plenipotentiaries, of which he was unable to see the force, and which would, at any rate, have applied equally to the analogous case of the Principalities, on which they did enter. It appeared, however, sufficiently clear, in other parts of these transactions, that no difficulty would, in fact, have occurred in settling this point also.
There remained, therefore, for consideration, only the mode of providing for the future security of Turkey, which formed the third point of the Vienna negotiations; and when this had developed itself into its two branches there was agreement on the most important—namely, that by which Turkey was to be annexed to the European family of nations; while, even on the other—namely, that by which the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea was to be reduced, there was agreement, so far as the admission that it ought to be reduced, although there was a difference, which unfortunately proved to be irreconcilable, as to the mode by which the reduction should be effected.
It appeared, therefore, that when the negotiations were closed there remained unsettled, out of all this complication, but one part of one point, and that the propriety of so closing the negotiations turned upon the difference between the opposite suggestions for correcting the Russian preponderance in the Black Sea, and upon the question whether the Russian scheme proceeded on so vicious a principle as that it was unfit, not only for adoption, but even for consideration and discussion.
Now, what were the principles of the two proposals respectively?
The principle of the suggestion made by the allies was to reduce the fleets of Russia and Turkey to an equal, and not very large force, so that neither might have an excess over the other; while the principle of the Russian suggestion was, that each 1021 Power might develope its own fleet to whatever amount they pleased, but that facilities should be given to Turkey to invite the fleets of her allies to pass to any extent through the Straits without waiting for actual war, or affording a pretext for it. He was bound to confess that, though the Russian principle was not in his opinion sufficiently developed, and though sufficient concession had not been made in the actual proposition of the Russian Plenipotentiaries, yet it afforded the elements for further discussion; he did not say it was the only mode capable of affording a solution of the difficulty, but he went the length of thinking that it would afford a better solution than the mode suggested on the other side. Supposing that they restricted the fleet of Russia to the same number of vessels as that of Turkey, they did not thereby diminish her power or her resources, but left her with all the means she possessed of raising a fleet or any other force whenever opportunities served, and they would only create a rankling sense of indignity in a great Power, which would infallibly find or make such opportunities, and indemnify herself for present mortification by future attempts at conquest. And this, even if in the meantime the restrictions were faithfully observed; but how could they ascertain this, and how enforce it? Did they mean to have a roving commission, looking into every dockyard in Russia, to see whether one ship was built more than was stipulated? Was this country to go to war when it was found that Russia had a frigate or two laid up in ordinary more than the number which was fixed upon? He thought, on the contrary, that the power given to Turkey to call in the fleets of her allies, which were overwhelming in comparison with the fleet of Russia, would give her much more efficient protection than the limitation of the fleet of Russia. At all events, it was not a suggestion which was incapable, or was even now incapable, of being further discussed, and it was utterly unintelligible to him that the instructions of the Plenipotentiaries should have been exhausted when one solution of the difficulty remained. He could not help thinking that the people of England had shut their eyes to what had been already achieved in this Russian war. He was not speaking of how far they had succeeded in their negotiations, though he thought he had shown that a great deal had been done in that direction; but the 1022 gallant defence of Sebastopol had so arrested the public eye that they forgot how much Russia had been foiled in other matters—how she had been repelled from every part of European Turkey—and how she had been obliged to recede step by step from, and at length abandon altogether, pretensions which she had been setting up for years and years. There was a good deal for us to rejoice at, and if they left off at this moment and without any further success, his belief was, that they had thrown back Russia to a point from which she was far less dangerous than she had been for many years. The defence of Sebastopol, no doubt, was a proof of what they were told before—that Russia was a formidable enemy on her own soil; and if they went on with the war with the insane; object of dismembering her, he agreed with the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, that the head of the youngest man in that House would be grey before they accomplished their object; and he believed that they would soon find formidable allies on the side of Russia in such a war. But if they were content with knowing that Russia had been already repelled from her attempted advance to a position far behind that for which she lately started; that the free navigation of the Danube—the abolition of the late treaties with the Porte—the substitution of joint, in lieu of exclusive protectorates—the admission of Turkey to the family of European nations—and the concession, in whichever way it may be effected, of her exclusive preponderance in the Black Sea, were enough to lower her prestige in the East of Europe, and to diminish her actual power of aggression, there would remain so little of difference between the contending parties as to render the conclusion of an honourable, secure, and lasting peace by no means difficult, and to throw on either side which shall wantonly persevere in unnecessary war a grievous weight of responsibility, or rather of actual crime. His desire, therefore, was, that the right hon. Member for Portsmouth should consent to the introduction of a few words into his Amendment, in order to make it more definite and less like a Resolution, constructed so as to catch the votes of Members acting from different motives. Such was not the intention either of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for; Portsmouth or of the Government, and he trusted that they would consent to insert words which would only represent 1023 what hon. Members wished. He should have no difficulty in voting against the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), or in favour of that of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth (Sir F. T. Baring), if the latter would amend it to the extent he recommended. The House was, no doubt, unanimous in pledging itself to carry on the war with vigour until a safe and honourable peace could be obtained, and he rejoiced that this sentiment was expressed in both the Resolutions; but he also earnestly desired to introduce those few words which would serve, not to impede preparations for war; not to excite suspicion in allies, or arrogance in enemies, but only to intimate the opinion of Christian statesmen that negotiations ought to be encouraged which seem likely to attain the objects of the war, and ought not to be put aside on the plea that however we may have attained those objects it still remains for us to gratify our pride.
§ MR. KER SEYMER
thought that the duty of answering the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for the University (Sir W. Heathcote) devolved upon the Government, who stated the other night that they were prepared to meet the proposition of the right hon. Member for Manchester with a direct negative. He was one of those who regretted the withdrawal of that Motion; not that he thought the discussion free from danger, but the danger arose, not from its effect upon the Vienna Conferences, for he had no faith in them, but in its probable effect upon the vigorous prosecution of the war, if a large number of hon. Members had assented to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman. He regretted the withdrawal of the Motion, because the advantage of that debate would have been to show who were on the side of England and who were on the side of Russia. The House, then, had before them the proposition of the right hon. Member for Bucks; and, at first, he (Mr. Seymer) felt some doubt in joining in the Resolution of his right hon. Friend, and, perhaps, in a party point of view he had not chosen a very good moment for it. The pear was not yet ripe, although the proceedings of last Monday had hastened its maturity. The question was one, however, far above party considerations. The greatest danger was lest a large portion of our population should feel that they had ground for discontent against the Government and Parliament of this country. A 1024 feeling of dissatisfaction with Parliament had undoubtedly arisen, and he could conceive nothing so dangerous as for the whole people of England to be very much in earnest on the war, and, at the same time, to believe that the Government was trifling with it. As an independent Member, he therefore thanked his right hon. Friend for giving the opportunity to Parliament to express an opinion on the great question that engrossed the public mind. His right hon. Friend had not proposed an Address to the Crown, as the right hon. Member for Portsmouth had represented, and the Resolution he had moved was a Resolution of the House of Commons, and, as such was not liable to the objections urged against it. When people heard that the Vienna Conferences were broken up, and when the Government laid the papers on the table, it was natural to suppose the time had come when Parliament might take some cognisance of the proceedings at the Conference. He thought there was something in the language of the noble Lord at the head of the Government that required animadversion, when he stated the other night that he was ready to meet the Motion of the right hon. Member, the Member for Manchester, either by moving the previous question or by a direct negative, or by anything the House liked. The noble Lord would have stood well with the House if he had declared in favour of a direct negative, but it seemed as if the noble Lord were perfectly indifferent in what way the Motion was met, so long as he got a majority. Austria, he admitted, had a difficult game to play; but the policy of England and France ought not to be tied to the policy of Austria. That Power appeared to him to be, in the interest of peace, no doubt, oppressing the Danubian Principalities; and it appeared to him that it would have been better for the allies if Austria were taking no part at all, because, if war were going on between Turkey and Russia in the Principalities and on the Danube, while there would be no danger that the Russians would take Constantinople as long as the allied fleets commanded the Black Sea, a Russian army would be required to fight with the Turks in the Principalities and to guard the Russian frontier. The main difference between hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House and hon. Gentlemen opposite was, that whereas his party and the people of England felt that we could only win a safe and honourable peace by the bravery 1025 of our army, the hon. Gentlemen opposite thought we could only obtain peace through the Conferences at Vienna. It was asked whether our army were always to remain at Sebastopol? Certainly not; but Sebastopol rebuilt would be a very different thing from Sebastopol unconquered and believed to be impregnable. He would assert that the bugle that sounded the recall of the French and English troops would re-echo to the very confines of India. In the East opinion had the greatest weight, and if we desisted from the attempt to take Sebastopol no treaty with Russia upon paper would have any effect in binding that Power. Her prestige in the East, in Turkey, Greece, and in Central Asia to the borders of India would be so great that no treaty would be so effectual to cripple her as the failure to take Sebastopol would add to her aggressive power in the eastern parts of Europe and in Asia. He was very much struck with some observations of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) in a very remarkable speech which he delivered last year. The hon. Member in the course of it, spoke of the evils of war and the misgovernment of Turkey, about which they were all agreed, and then told them what he thought ought to be done. He said Turkey should have accepted the Vienna Note, which the sagacity of the Turkish diplomatists discovered placed Turkey, with regard to her Christian subjects, entirely in the power of Russia, or that Turkey and Russia should be left to fight it out; and if, at the end of the war, they found Turkey had got the worst of it, then they should interfere to insist upon the maintenance of the balance of power. Those were two valuable concessions. The hon. Member admitted that there was a balance of power, and that it was worth fighting for, because, by insisting, he presumed the hon. Member meant to fight Russia if she refused, unless the hon. Member meant that France and England, at the end of the war, should say to Russia, "Now, let us share the inheritance of the 'sick man.'" He did not agree with the hon. Member who opened the debate that there was nothing in the first two points. By conceding those points Russia gained the neutrality of Germany. Russia granted what was important to Germany to secure her neutrality, but showed no disposition to meet the views of the Western Powers on the third point. She was constantly offered to take the initiative. She declined, 1026 to take it, and would not allow the other Powers to consult, but called upon each to bring in a separate note, perhaps, judging from experience, that in one of those ten there would be most probably some great blunder of which she could take advantage. He would not say in which note the blunder was most likely to occur, but he had his own suspicions on that matter. England then made a proposal which, of course, Russia would not accept, and he was quite surprised that the noble Lord the Member for the City of London could have supposed for a moment that the acutest men of the age would be deceived by a false analogy, which it had been said would not do even for the House of Commons. Russia then proposed her own scheme. He did not agree with the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Heath-cote) that anything could be made of it; and it appeared to him there was no reason to think that any tinkering on the part of Austria would induce Russia to propose anything more favourable until the result of a resort to arms was decided in favour of the Western Powers. During the whole war, next to the behaviour of the soldiers and sailors, nothing was more gratifying than the attitude assumed by the people of this country. There had been no bravado except within the walls of the Reform Club; there had been no boasting except in the post-prandial orations of Cabinet Ministers; but, on the part of the people, there had been a steady determination to uphold the Government in the vigorous prosecution of the war. This determination had been more particularly remarkable among the manufacturing and commercial classes, who must be suffering from the pressure of that war, and he believed that the hon. Member for Manchester did not represent the feelings of those classes. He knew it would be said, "It is all very well for you to talk about war; your constituents are farmers, and the farmers are profiting by it." He knew something of the feelings of the farmers, and the farmers did not desire a continuance of the war on account of high prices. The farmers knew that continued war meant increased expenditure, that increased expenditure meant increased taxation, and that a very large share of increased taxation was pretty sure to fall upon the land. The farmers shared also, in common with all good men, those feelings of humanity which induced them to object on principle to war. He should be sorry to be thought to undervalue the advantages 1027 of peace or to underrate the evils of war. He respected very much the motives of those who would altogether prevent war, the only fault he found with them was, that they put the cart before the horse. If all the world were governed by strictly Christian principles, and there was neither inordinate ambition, cruelty, nor oppression, wars would cease from off the earth, because they would be no longer necessary; but, while those vices prevailed, to put an end to war was simply to hand over the weak to the tender mercies of the strong. While he respected those amiable enthusiasts, he could not say so much for those who objected to war on purely commercial principles. He believed they were ably represented in the House; he believed there were some men who would sacrifice every ally and abandon every treaty rather than diminish to any extent the sale of cotton goods. For those Gentlemen he had no great sympathy. In other words, he had no belief in a calico millennium. It was said the Power with whom we were allied was Mahometan, and the enemy with whom we were contending was Christian. Still, on Christian principles, he was prepared to support the weak against the strong, the faithful ally against the unscrupulous and perfidious enemy, and, therefore, to support Turkey against Russia. Upon these grounds he was prepared, without hesitation, to give his vote in favour of the Resolution submitted to the House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire.
§ MR. WILKINSON
objected to the assumption which ran through the speeches of the hon. Member for Manchester and hit Friends, that all who were in favour of the prosecution of the war were opposed to the obtaining peace; because, he believed, the surest way to obtain peace was vigorously to prosecute the war. There were, no doubt two or three causes for the state of affair in which they found themselves, but he attributed the war, in a great measure, to the conduct of a certain party in this country who were the strenuous advocates of peace upon any terms. He did not say that the erroneous supposition, that there was no chance of an intimate alliance between England and France, had not had its effect, because the Emperor of the French had just committed an act which, however necessary it might have been, was abhor rent to the lovers of constitutional Government, and all Englishmen were such; but the late Emperor of Russia had likewise 1028 formed an erroneous idea of the importance of the peace party, because he saw that certain Gentlemen who represented the peace party had, upon the question of free trade, and by the support of the people of England, been strong enough to defeat the banded arristocracy of the landed interest; he concluded they were equally followed on the present occasion, and hence his fatal Resolution. In a despatch from Sir Hamilton Seymour to Lord John Russell, dated the 11th of January, 1853, he found this passage—Since this despatch was written I have heard from the Austrian Minister that the Emperor has spoken to him of the conversation which he had held with me. I told Sir Hamilton Seymour—His Majesty said—that the new Ministry appears to me to be strong, and that I am anxious for its duration—although, to say the truth, as regards England, I have learnt that it is the country with which we must be allied. We must not lean to this or that party.The Emperor Nicholas saw that those gentlemen who had been backed by the people on one question would upon no consideration assent to war, and he naturally supposed that, if they were similarly backed upon this question, England would never be induced to go to war by any attempt which he might make on Turkey. Therefore those Gentlemen were in some measure the cause of the war. He agreed with the hon. Member (Mr. K. Seymer) that it was a great misfortune that the right hon. Member for Manchester did not press his Motion. He believed more mischievous Resolutions were never placed upon the papers of the House, and that the expression of opinion, by an adverse division upon them, would have been more calculated than anything to bring about a satisfactory and honourable peace—the only, peace, in fact, which the country desired. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks had, indeed, given an opportunity for testing the opinion of the House upon the subject; but, unfortunately, the right hon. Gentleman had something else to do than to elicit the opinion of the country as to the justice of the war—he had to damage the present Ministry. He (Mr. Wilkinson) could not see his way to charge upon the Ministry a want of candour or a desire to equivocate. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had stated, that so long as he and his colleagues remained in their posts the House might be assured that none but an honourable and successful peace would; be made. After such a declaration, he could not refuse his support to Ministers, 1029 and it was to be regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had marred the discussion of the matter by the words he had introduced in the latter portion of his Resolution. Under the circumstances, he should have no hesitation in voting for the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth.
THE MARQUESS OF GRANBY
observed, that before deciding the question whether we should consent to a peace or remain at war, it was essential to consider the intentions of Russia, the danger to be apprehended from that Power, and whether she meditated aggression or not. On a former occasion he had ventured to tell the House that by the admission of Lord Aberdeen, ever since the Treaty of Adrianople, twenty-six years ago, Russia had had it in her power to march on Teheran on the one hand, or on Constantinople on the other, whenever she might choose. He had met with no reply in the House; but people out of doors were ready with the obvious answer, that the time of Russia had not arrived. It was not until 1853 that Russia found her opportunity for making her descent on Constantinople. He found, however, in The Times the other day the following passage:—If the Russian vessels had sailed for Constantinople with 20,000 men on the day after Prince Menchikoff's return from his mission, the Emperor Nicholas would have realised his predictions of making Constantinople his southern capital.And why had the Emperor of Russia not realised his predictions? Was it from any want of capacity that the Emperor missed this golden opportunity? Was it because he had not 20,000 men at command? No such thing—he had nothing to do but to put 20,000 men on board his transports and he would have taken Constantinople. Sir Hamilton Seymour said, in one of his letters, that the Russian army in Moldavia amounted to 60,000l., and in Odessa and Bessarabia to the same number; and thus, if he had been so inclined he could have done the thing. If the House required the reason why that descent was not made, it would be found in the following passage of a note, addressed by Count Nesselrode to Reschid Pacha, on the 31st of May. Prince Menchikoff left Constantinople on the 21st:—Within a few weeks his (the Emperor's) troops will receive orders to pass the frontiers of the empire, not in order to make war upon the Sultan—a war which it is repugnant to his Majesty to 1030 undertake against a Sovereign whom he has always had pleasure in looking upon as a sincere ally, and as a well-disposed neighbour; but in order that he may possess material guarantees, &c.On the 1st June Count Nesselrode writes to Baron Brunnow:—It is not without extreme and profound regret that the Emperor finds himself forced into adopting such a measure. Even whilst adopting it, he still intends to remain faithful to the fundamental principles of his policy, that of not wishing to subvert the Ottoman empire.Russia had said that she was willing to guarantee the independence of the Porte, but that she was not ready to promise on all occasions to send an army for that purpose. Now on September 10,1853, Lord Clarendon, writing to Lord Stratford, used these words:—As regards the solid guarantee expected by the Porte, Reschid Pacha must well know that it is utterly impossible for the Four Powers to enter into any such engagements.The third point in the late Conferences had reference to the limitation of the preponderance of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea. The plenipotentiaries of the allies insisted on the reduction of the number of Russian ships in the Black Sea to four men-of-war, four frigates, and a proportionate number of other ships. Now, in the language of Lord John Russell, he (the Marquess of Granby) thought such a proposal degrading to the honour of Russia. We had no right to tell Russia what number of ships she should build in her ports. To do so would not be more impertinent than for Russia to dictate to us what ships we ought to construct at Portsmouth or Sheerness. But Russia offered to open the Dardanelles to the ships of all nations, permitting the Sultan to close the Black Sea in case of danger. It was the Turkish Minister who objected to that arrangement, saying that it was contrary to the whole policy of Turkey. Russia then said, "So anxious are we for peace, that we will make a further proposal;" but, unfortunately, the noble Lord had departed from Vienna. The second proposal was, that the Dardanelles should be closed against all ships of war, the Sultan being empowered to call in the ships of the allied Powers in case of danger. What was Austria's opinion of this? Why, that there were elements for a successful issue of the conferences. If Austria thought there were the elements for negotiation, he wanted to know why it was we were not to consider Austria's propositions? He understood the 1031 noble Lord the other night to say that Austria had actually made a proposition he did not know what it was, but he hoped to hear it stated before the House came to a division—for the settlement of the question whether we were to have peace or not. He was anxious for a just and honourable peace, and he protested against the language heard in the House that night, that of stigmatising men by saying that certain Members of that House were willing to make peace with Russia on terms inadequate to the honour of the country. He said he believed there was not one individual in the House who would consent to make peace on terms that were dishonourable to the country. They were told by some hon. Members that they were for peace at any price. His answer to that was a direct negative. He said they were not for peace at any price or for anything but a just and honourable peace—not for a degrading peace. They were not those cravens some people appeared to think; and allow him to observe, that he thought England was a great deal too great, and the country a great deal too powerful, morally and materially, to allow any considerations to influence their decision except those they believed to be essentially just and right; that what we believed to be just and right we would maintain, but we would never allow derogatory considerations to weigh with them. It was stated by some that we had entered upon an aggressive war; that we were determined to take Sebastopol, and to drive the Russians from the Crimea; and that we could not make peace until we had done all we said we would do, and until we had fulfilled every word we had uttered. He denied the necessity for that. Our armies had been invariably victorious in the Crimea, whether in attack or defence—whether scaling the heights of Alma, or defending ourselves against overpowering numbers on the heights of Inkerman; let us recollect we had, and would do so again, beaten the enemy. But if defeated—an event he did not for a moment suppose to be likely—the only effect of such defeat would be to inspire us to fresh exertions—to make us consent to greater sacrifices than we had already made, and to make us more determined to carry our point, believing what we sought was both just and right. If victorious, we could do no more. That one point was what we ought to arrive at; and what he wanted was for the House of Commons to 1032 say what they thought was just and right. But he protested against the idea that because we had laid siege to Sebastopol, and had sent an army into the Crimea, we were to have no peace until we had taken Sebastopol and driven the Russians from the Crimea. He would now come to the Motion; and he must be allowed to say he was not able to agree in the Motion, or in what the right hon. Gentleman stated in his speech. The right hon. Gentleman said he was desirous of shutting the door upon further negotiations at Vienna. He could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman in his wish to close the door on negotiations which he believed might yet end in a just and honourable peace. One of two things must happen. Either that negotiations were going on, and the prospect of successful negotiations at Vienna encouraging, or else there was no hope of peace being restored. But if he consented to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman, that Motion, coupled with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, would render impossible the peaceable solution of the question he desired to see. On the other hand, he said that not to consent to the Motion did not preclude him from desiring to carry on the war with vigour. There was no measure that could be proposed which he would not consent to, if the negotiations failed, in order to enable Her Majesty's Government to carry on the war with vigour; but if the Motion was carried, he feared the effect would be to weaken our power, not only in this, but in foreign countries. And it might lead Austria and Prussia to say, England was not united, because for party purposes the opponents of Government were willing to pass a Motion which would have the effect of weakening the power of Government. For those reasons he could not support the Motion.
§ MR. ROBERT PHILLIMORE
said, that it was his intention to vote for the Amendment of the hon. Baronet his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford, and he was anxious to be allowed to explain the reasons for seconding a vote which he was well aware would be unpopular. He was one of those who had always been of opinion that this country had never embarked in a war which, in its origin, was more just, more necessary, or more honourable to her, than the one in which she was at present engaged. The hon. Member for Lambeth had said that because he was for a vigorous prosecution 1033 of the war, he desired not to be represented as being averse to peace; and so, on his part, he (Mr. R. Phillimore) claimed not to be represented, because he thought that propositions for peace ought to be entertained, as being averse, until peace was made, to a vigorous prosecution of the war. He (Mr. R. Phillimore) did not agree with the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Granby) who had spoken last, that Russia had from the first intended to deal fairly with Turkey. It seemed to him impossible to make that supposition consist with the conversation about the disposing of the sick man's inheritance while he was yet alive, and while, indeed, be had showed that, like the sick man in Horace, he was capable of expelling his physician—Ut lethargicus hic, cumFit pugil, et medicum urget.He had, however, conceived that the war was urged by Great Britain for well-defined and certain objects. The question for the consideration of the House was whether these objects had not been in a great measure obtained, or whether, at least, the refusal on the part of Russia to accept the terms offered by the allies respecting what was called the third point, justified the breaking off the Conference at Vienna. Now, if it should appear, upon examination, that such was the case, then he protested altogether, and with all the force of which he was capable, against the continuance of the war upon the grounds which he had heard without the walls of this House, and, he regretted to say, within these walls this evening. The impression which he had derived from the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks, and from his hon. Friend the Member for Dorsetshire, was, that they were prepared to disregard the original object of the war, and to carry it on for reasons, and upon grounds which, in the outset, had never been contemplated. It had been begun to secure the independence of an ally, to preserve the liberties of Europe; it was to be continued for the glory of England, and the humiliation of Russia. He denounced that doctrine as unchristian, unlawful, and contrary to the first principles of international justice. Never mind, it was said, whether Turkey be secure or not, England will lose her character if she does not win a victory. She has suffered disgrace—such was the expression he had actually heard in this House—she must retrieve herself, or she would descend from her proud position 1034 among nations. To this he had two answers. In the first place, the statement was altogether unfounded—the facts belied it. Our navy had swept the commercial marine of Russia from every sea on which it had ever ridden, and had only not destroyed her fleet because it had been impossible to find it. Our army, now encamped in the enemy's country, had achieved exploits of valour not surpassed in their previous history, and had never met their enemy in battle without obtaining over him a signal victory. It was untrue, in fact, then, to say that the war must be continued for the purpose of re-establishing the reputation of this country. But, were it otherwise—had we not sustained our ancient renown, and yet had obtained from Russia concessions upon those points which secured the independence of our ally, and for the attainment of which war alone had been resorted to—even were this so, he emphatically denied that such a state of things justified a further prosecution of the war; he said, without the slightest hesitation, that to continue the shedding of blood for the purpose of adding another laurel to the already glorious brow of England was unjust, indefensible, and unrighteous. The House really appeared to have forgotten the causes for which the war had been originally undertaken; but let it consider what had been obtained from, and what had been refused by, Russia. No one knew better than the right hon. Member for Bucks the importance of the concessions which he had thought proper to pass over so lightly in his dexterous speech. Mr. R. Phillimore then proceeded to point out the value of the concession with respect to the Danubian Principalities, and said that a denial of the value of these concessions could only be founded upon an entire ignorance of the history of Turkey. Of the advances of Russia from the Neva to the Pruth in the period between 1711 and 1800, and of the treaties—especially those of Balta Liman—by which Russia had practically secured to herself, before the breaking out of the present war, an authority in those provinces, with respect to the election of the Hospodars, the representative assemblies which govern had, in fact, a predominance in those Principalities fatal to their national liberties. Mr. R. Phillimore then commented upon the character and history of these provinces and their inhabitants, observing that they had appeared destined by Providence to bar the 1035 progress of the Scythian upon Constantinople. The first fruit of this war was, that Russia had abandoned her exclusive privilege, and had consented to place these provinces under the joint protectorate of the Christian Powers of Europe. Was that nothing? What should we have said to such a concession at any time before the commencement of this war? Then, with respect to the free navigation of the Danube, Mr. R. Phillimore reminded the House of the answer of Lord Palmerston to the Member for Northumberland two years ago; how Lord Palmerston had dwelt upon the advantages which would result to Europe and to this country from the opening of the Danube—how Russia, availing herself of the Treaty of Adrianople, always prevented the free navigation of the Danube by one artifice or another—and how it appeared impossible to compel Russia to adopt a more liberal course. Was it, again, nothing, he asked, that the opening of this great artery of Europe was now secured, and placed on the same footing as the Rhine, and under the guarantee of the Powers most interested in maintaining its free navigation? Let not the House forget what had been practically concluded as to the fourth point, for they all knew that though the point itself was not formally discussed, that Russia did not oppose the concession demanded by the Allies. What was that? No less than the placing of the Christian subjects of the Porte under the joint protectorate of the European Powers. What remained? The third point—the limitation of the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea Were the terms which the Allies had offered on this point indispensable? Were they such as ought to have been proposed? Were they such as we could expect Russia to assent to? Upon the answer much depended, for though he could not acquit Russia of having caused this war by her own wicked ambition—and she must have foreseen the terrible consequences of it—For never two such nations did contendWithout much fall of blood; whose guiltless dropsAre every one a woe, and sore complaint'Gainst him whose wrongs give edge unto the swordWhich makes such waste in brief mortality"—Yet, God forbid that we should now, by unjustly continuing a war lawfully begun, make ourselves for the first time participators in this guilt. Mr. Phillimore then proceeded to argue that the proposition of 1036 limiting her fleet to a definite number of ships ought never to have been made to Russia—that it was unworthy of this great country to have made it. He altogether dissented from the doctrine that it was our duty to propose terms of humiliation to Russia incompatible with her honour, which we would not accept ourselves, and which we should despise her for accepting. Should we submit to limit our fleets in the West Indies or at Malta at the suggestion of Russia that they were only kept there for the purpose of overawing other Powers? When, after a quarter of a century of war with France, provoked by her aggressions upon every country in Europe, we had subdued our enemy—when we were actually in possession of Paris, after a series of triumphs by land and sea—did we ever propose to her to limit her fleet in the Channel, from which we had actually been in just fear of the invasion of our shores? He thought the hon. Member for Bucks had unjustly censured the noble Lord the Member for London for expressing at the Conference his regard for the honour of Russia. He thought such conduct was in accordance with the wisest principle of our greatest statesmen, who had always laid it down as a maxim that in negotiating with a powerful State you were bound to avoid, as much as possible, all propositions offensive to her honour. This had been often said at the last Treaty of Vienna. Could anybody who had listened to the speeches of his hon. Friend the Member for Dorsetshire and of the right hon. Member for Bucks, say that he had the slightest idea upon what terms these gentlemen thought peace ought to be made? What was their avowed end for continuing the war? The honour and glory of England. He hoped he was not insensible to that appeal; but he looked, also, to the justice of England, and he saw in the maintenance of that attribute her true honour and glory, and thought it was never more incumbent upon her to observe that justice than when she was, as now—whatever might be said she was—triumphant both by sea and land.
* Sir, although I believe I can adopt, without exception, all the sentiments and the arguments of my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. R. Phillimore) who has just addressed the House, yet, considering the very limited time which remains at our command before the Whitsuntide recess for the discussion of this question, a question as it is of the widest extent and of the deepest moment, 1037 it may be for the convenience of the House that I should at once follow my learned Friend in the debate, rather than wait until a later hour.
Now, Sir, whatever else may be thought of the state, and of the difficulties, of the subject before us, it will at least be admitted on all hands that we have a liberal bill of fare. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) has tendered to us a Motion which amounts firstly to a distinct and intelligible vote of want of confidence in the Government, and secondly to a somewhat indistinct and feeble declaration of our willingness to support Her Majesty in the prosecution of the war. Upon this Motion the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth (Sir F. Baring) has moved an Amendment, which adverts to the negotiations at Vienna, but adverts to them in language which I for one do not profess to understand. My hon. Friend and colleague in the representation of the University of Oxford (Sir W. Heathcote) has proposed to amend this Amendment by the insertion of words which would give it a tendency decidedly pacific, without weakening the pledge to support the Crown in the actual prosecution of the war, and has supported his proposal by what appeared to me an admirably reasoned speech. Lastly, we have my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe) who, feeling apparently much as I do with respect to the language of the Member for Portsmouth, completes the party by proposing to alter his Amendment in such a manner as to give it a decidedly warlike instead of a decidedly pacific aspect.
For my own part, Sir, I feel no difficulty in making my own choice among the numerous alternatives thus placed before us. The right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire calls on us to censure the Government because of its ambiguous language and uncertain conduct. I cannot obey his call, because it seems to me that, up to this time, and so far as we are yet informed, the ambiguity of language and the uncertainty of conduct which may be imputed to the Ministry are appearances mainly due to the peculiar state and conditions of the negotiation in which they are engaged; and that it would have been a violation of public duty on their part, if, in order to obviate a censure such as that proposed, they had hazarded any of the great interests committed to their charge, by seeking to supply us with full and clear 1038 explanations before the time had arrived at which, in their judgment, such explanations might be given with perfect safety. I am bound to add that, although I could conscientiously, as far as the mere words are concerned, join the right hon. Gentleman in lamenting some ambiguity of language and uncertainty of conduct on the part of the Government, no Member of which I may observe has yet spoken in this debate, and though I should wish to see a more decisive direction given to both their language and their conduct, yet it would not be the kind of impulse which the right hon. Gentleman desires to impart to them; because with reference to the negotiations at Vienna, he is satisfied that the proper time has come for this House to declare its opinion that the season for their prosecution has passed away, while I, on the other hand, feel that, according to the latest information before us, these negotiations have afforded, and if rightly handled, may yet afford us, probably, at least, if not certainly, an admirable opportunity for putting an end to the dangers, horrors, and miseries of war. At the same time, I must not quit the subject of the right hon. Gentleman's Motion without expressing, in the strongest terms, the gratification with which I have listened to several most important declarations that have fallen from his lips; declarations which, representing as he does no inconsiderable section of opinion in this House, may come to exercise hereafter a weighty and a highly beneficial influence on the course of our proceedings with respect to this great subject.
As respects the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth, I confess it appears to me to be fairly open to the charge which the Member for Buckinghamshire brings against the Government, that of ambiguity. It expresses regret that the negotiations have not led to a termination of hostilities, but it leaves wholly untouched the real questions—namely, through whose fault it is that the case so stands, and whether we ought still to desire and recommend that they may be prosecuted with a view to bringing about that result. Considering, what no one will for a moment question, the frankness and straightforwardness of the character of the right hon. Gentleman, I could not for a moment suppose that he had framed his Amendment in the most loose and uncertain language in order to combine in a deceitful show of unity persons 1039 holding the most irreconcilable opinions; but if the Amendment had been framed with that object, it could not have been better calculated to attain it; and if it should be adopted by the House, such and such only will be its effect. In the speech indeed of the right hon. Gentleman—and I must here say that with his speech I have very little fault to find—he expressed his wish that the House should give utterance to its regret that the negotiations had not yet led to a termination of hostilities. Sir, I confess that the little monosyllable "yet" has for me a most harmonious and soothing effect, and, if the right hon. Gentleman will only transplant those three letters from his speech into his Motion, there will not be much cause of difference between us. But if he will not do so, I must object to his Amendment because its sense is equivocal; because it speaks of the negotiations and communications respecting peace as matters that have passed away, and because difficult or even impossible as I own I find it to attach a definite signification to the mere terms which he employs, yet I should look upon the act of its adoption by the House as a proceeding subject indeed to much doubt upon its construction, yet practically tending rather to permit an improper prolongation of the war than to promote the return of peace.
Next, I have to consider the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe), and with respect to his proposal I must say, that it is at any rate clear and explicit, and that a clear and explicit declaration of its views is the only declaration that this House ought to make; assuming of course that the time has come when it is necessary that the sentiments of the House should be declared. It is well to postpone until the latest moment anything that savours of interference with the functions of the Executive Government. But whether it be in support of, or in opposition to, the course of the Government, you will only detract from your dignity, and diminish also your influence, if, from whatever cause, you consent in the vote to which you may come to use doubtful or hesitating language. I am glad, therefore, that my hon. Friend makes a proposal which is so perfectly clear and explicit; but on many other grounds I must object to his Motion. I object to it, firstly, because it purports to recite as a fact what I take to be no fact at all; for it asserts without qualification that Russia 1040 has refused to admit of any limitation of her naval force in the Black Sea. Now, even if I go too far in considering this to be untrue, it is at any rate highly disputable, and nothing that is disputable ought to be recited in a vote of this House as if it were indisputable. And I find that, on the 17th of April, Prince Gortchakoff stated to the conference, that "Russia would not consent to the strength of her navy being restricted to any fixed number either by treaty or in any other manner." I admit that that passage, if it stood alone, would fairly bear the construction which my hon. Friend has put upon it. But it does not stand alone. On the contrary, the same record informs us that, at the same conference, Prince Gortchakoff went on to say—At the same time, he did not pretend to exclude peremptorily the consideration of every proposal tending to the point of limitation:which, standing thus in the English version, seems to be but a feeble rendering of the original French, which says—"se rattachant au principe de la limitation." But, the Russian Plenipotentiary added—"He reserved to himself the right of refusing his adhesion."—[Protocols of the Conferences at Vienna, p. 54.]
It may be said that under cover of this very obvious and proper reservation, he intended to refuse any proposal that might be made involving limitation: but this, which we may suspect or may suppose, we are not entitled to assert; much less, then, are we entitled to say that Russia actually has refused to consent to limitation upon any terms. I therefore object to this Amendment as not consistent with the facts, and I must add, without entering upon other matters of exception, that I also object to it because, while removing the ambiguity of the Amendment which it amends, it substitutes a warlike, under circumstances which in my judgment call for a peaceful declaration.
It remains, therefore, for me to say that I shall support the Amendment of my hon. Friend (Sir W. Heathcote), as it expresses, and likewise expresses in the mildest and most prudent form, the just desire of this House to make the present negotiations, or communications, whichever they may be called, the means of leading to a settlement of this unhappy question.
And, Sir, I apprehend it is impossible to conceive a graver issue than that which is now raised. It is a grave issue for all 1041 Gentlemen, without exception, who sit in this House. It is most of all grave, after the present Ministers of the Crown, for those who have recently stood in the position of responsible advisers of Her Majesty, and who were among the official authors of the present war. For them to give any opinion whatever in this House varying in any degree from that of the Executive Government on this question—to exhibit in the face of the world and of the country anything like divisions in the councils of this country—is a proceeding which, I am well aware, can only be justified by the strongest conviction, and by obligation of the highest order. But that which justifies in such a case also requires and constrains; and I do not for a moment hesitate, while I own my responsibility, to admit that I must either be engaging in the performance of a great duty or in the perpetration of a great crime, or, at the very least, in the commission of a great error.
Now, Sir, the proposition I am prepared to maintain is this—and strange enough I might expect that it would sound in the ears of hon. Gentlemen, if I were to take my impressions of the settled opinions of this House from the current language of society, or from the tone of the public press generally, which, on the whole, is probably at the present moment not an unfaithful mirror of the state of public opinion in regard to the war—the proposition I hold is this, that your war was just, that you have gained the objects of your war, and that if war was just while those objects were unattained, it becomes unjust if you continue to prosecute it after their attainment. I hold that you are now in danger of forfeiting and losing altogether the righteous and elevated character in which you have waged this war. I shall contend that England and Prance did not enter into it as particular Powers having only separate and particular interests to defend, and meeting on a footing of moral and, so to speak, juridical equality the Power against which they were to fight. While, perhaps, you think only of meeting the general opinion of the public, you are in danger of being forced altogether to descend from that lofty elevation at which you commenced this contest, and of having to take up a position both practically and morally isolated. Above all, my object in this discussion is to get at that which is the real knot of our debate; I want to 1042 show what it is that, lying under the surface, is really in our minds and in our hearts—why it is, that having what, primâ facie, amounts to an offer of peace, we are not going to accept it. Is it a question of terms, or is it not a question of terms? Is it a question of something broader, deeper, higher, and larger than any of the terms before us? If it is, indeed, no question of this or that stipulation, but of the adoption of a policy or the realisation of an idea, I want to know what that policy and what that idea are?
To me it seems that there are two courses that may be followed, either of which has precedents in history, and may under given suppositions be made good at least in abstract reasoning. One of them is, after having taken stipulations such as the circumstances may seem to require, to bind the Power with which you have been at war to their observance by treaty. The other is to destroy, if you can, the strength of that Power, to dismember its territory, and to grind it to pieces. Either of these plans is consistent and intelligible; but there is one plan, and I am afraid it is the plan that my hon. Friend the Member for Dorsetshire recommends—there is a plan that is neither consistent nor intelligible. That plan may be stated in words such as these—Do not dismember Russia; do not involve yourselves in territorial enterprise; do not attempt to tear that great empire to pieces, because it is an object beyond your power to attain. On the other hand, refuse to trust Russia—refuse to rely on treaty stipulations—but do what? Insult her. Offer her indignities; strike her in the face, and, having done so, then leave her with all her strength unimpaired to meditate and to watch for an opportunity of revenge. That is the policy of those who say, "We refuse to argue upon a mere question of particular terms given and refused, for the difference between them is scarcely perceptible; but what we are determined to have is a military success." This, Sir, is a rude outline of the views with which I shall support the Amendment of my hon. Friend.
And now, Sir, in the first place, let us look at the precise state of the facts before us. Four Points have been proposed as the bases of negotiation. The first of these relates to the Protectorate over the Principalities, and upon that subject I will not waste words after the statement of my hon. and learned Friend behind me (Mr. 1043 Phillimore)—but I certainly should have thought it was plain on the very face of the case, that if there could me a mode of procedure happily adapted to meet the exigencies of this great question, it was to substitute for the exclusive rights of Russia, acquired to her by virtue of her aggressions, rights which she would really have to exercise only as duties, not alone, not of her own arbitrary will, but in conjunction with the other great Powers of Europe; and which, as far as the Danubian Principalities are concerned, would place something as like as circumstances will permit to a free and independent Power between the arms of Russia and the territories under the actual Government of Turkey.
We come next to the free navigation of the Danube, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire has said to-night—I think in strange forgetfulness of what has passed on former occasions—that the first and second points were matters totally insignificant—matters about which Russia did not care, and concessions—I forget whether this sentiment was uttered by the right hon. Member or by another hon. Gentleman—concessions of no moment made by Russia, in order to secure the neutrality of Austria and Germany. Well, but, many months ago, was not Russia desirous of securing the neutrality of Austria and Germany? Was she not then, has she not all along been anxious to bid high for that neutrality; and yet, until a very recent date, did she not refuse you the slightest concession on either of these points? And what is the view of the right hon. Gentleman? Surely, he is the last man who has a right to attach a character of insignificance to the concessions of Russia in opening the mouth of the Danube; because I remember, in an able speech made by the right hon. Gentleman before the war actually began, and at a time when for the most part we contented ourselves with the discussion of much more limited views, that the right hon. Gentleman pointed to the liberation of the mouth of the Danbe as one among the great but remote and little foreseen results that might follow upon bringing the war to a satisfactory conclusion.
§ MR. DISRAELI
; I did not treat the concession as insignificant, but I only said that I did not think there was any difficulty in it.
I accept, not only with willingness but with pleasure, the 1044 explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, and I understand from him now that it is not disputed that this point was a point of capital importance. It stands, then, that upon the first two of the Four Points you had in view as the necessary bases of negotiation, your demands were actually conceded.
And what, Sir, shall we say next, with regard to the fourth point? Has that been agreed to or not? In point of fact, we cannot say that it has been conceded, or that it has not; for this plain reason—that it has not been discussed. It was proposed by Russia, and urged by Austria, that this fourth point should be discussed pending the settlement of the third, but the Western Powers objected to enter into the discussion. What was the reason of this refusal? Did they object to enter into the discussion because they thought it would be so thorny and difficult that it would tend to frustrate the entire purpose of the conferences; or did they object because they had good reason to believe that the point would be conceded, and because they apprehended that they would find Russia—to whom, if such were her intentions, I give no other credit than that of great sagacity and a well-considered calculation of her own interests—ready to keep up with, and, perhaps, to outstrip, them in what they might desire with respect to the fourth point? I assume, then, without fear of raising a disputable question, that, with regard to the fourth point, which involves the rights of the Greek Christians, the original cause of the war, we, the Members of the House of Commons, are not under the impression that it is to be considered as being at this moment the cause of difficulties or of the prolongation of the war.
I now come to the third point, and that divides itself into two questions for consideration—namely, the territorial guarantee to be given to Turkey, and the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea. I set aside the question of the territorial guarantee to be given to Turkey, because the negotiators have arrived at an agreement on the subject with regard to the terms on which this question might be adjusted. Therefore, in point of fact, the only question that remains unsettled is the question of the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea. It has been admitted on all sides that this preponderance is to cease. The principle, 1045 then, is not in dispute, but the form in which it is to be applied. The allied Powers proposed a particular method of putting an end to that preponderance, and Russia proposed another method. Her proposal being judged unsatisfactory by England, France, and Austria, she proposed a second method of putting an end to that preponderance; and the question of the difference between these various methods of putting an end to the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea is the question, and in truth the only question, which is now properly before the House, if we are to vote on the transactions as we find them.
My hon. Friend, indeed, the Member for Dorsetshire does not confine himself to the point at issue, or to opposing the Motion of my hon. Friend and colleague; his objections do not in truth apply to it, more than they do to the entire policy, so far as we know it, of Her Majesty's Government. Now, Her Majesty's Government have not told us that military success is necessary, and that the question is not a question of terms. They have not told us that the fall of Sebastopol is necessary for peace; naturally enough, because the destruction of Sebastopol has never been so much as mentioned in the negotiations. And let me remind the House that, whatever hon. Gentlemen may individually think, their private opinions cannot affect our position as a Power actually engaged in negotiations, nor can we in reference to these negotiations annul the effect of the declarations which have been made and of the principles which have been laid down in the course of them. At Vienna, we have been dealing with this question as a question of terms; I am therefore entitled to assume that it is such, and as such I shall therefore now proceed to consider it.
I regret deeply what seems to me to have been the premature departure of my noble Friend the Member for London from the conferences. It was, as it appears to me, owing to a conflict of duties, which belonged severally to the two distinct spheres which he occupied, and which were manifestly incompatible with each other. At the same time I the cherish hope that that circumstance, together with the departure of M. Drouyn de Lhuys, as it had the effect of practically disabling the conference from action before the last proposition of Russia was laid before it, will leave Her Majesty's Government more free to deal with the question in a spirit at 1046 once wise and comprehensive than if they had already given a binding answer to the proposal on the spur of the moment.
While I shall argue that this proposal ought to have been entertained as a point of departure, I am not about to disavow or to shrink from the responsibilities connected with the origin of the war. In my opinion it is difficult to overstate the weight of those responsibilities. The amount of physical and moral evil brought about by a war of this character, and the amount of moral and physical good intercepted and prevented by it, are on the one side and on the other so gigantic that it is impossible to exaggerate that responsibility. Nevertheless, I confess it appeared to me at the time, and it still appears to me, that we had in this instance, a cause of war, not only in itself just, but also sufficient to warrant our embarking in it. I will endeavour to explain shortly what this cause of war in my view was. How does the position of Russia in reference to Turkey differ from many of those critical and dangerous cases of neighbourhood among States, where it happens that a very strong Power is placed in immediate contiguity with a weak one? Russia had contrived to make her advances alternately by treaty and by violence, so that every step she took was founded on and related to some previous step; and when each new act of violence was committed it was difficult to exhibit it to the world in that light, as it had acquired the character of an approximation to a right; or, at least, of something that was easily to be confounded with a right. In this way Russia established throughout a long course of time relations between herself and the Ottoman empire, which more and more threatened the independence and integrity of that Power. And, perhaps, as I have just used a phrase which is at the present day constantly employed, but little examined or understood, I ought here simply to state that without any reference to the internal state or institutions of Turkey, I conceive we are endeavouring to maintain its integrity and independence simply as against foreign, and of course in particular as against Russian aggression.
Now, Sir, the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Colonies has been greatly blamed for a passage in a despatch which he wrote as Foreign Minister in 1853, and in which he admitted that the treaty of Kainardji gave to the Emperor of Russia a right or claim to interference in the 1047 internal affairs of the Turkish Empire—an interference having reference to the religious concerns of a number approaching 12,000,000 of Turkish subjects. It appears to me that he has been very unjustly blamed on that score. It is not to be denied, in my opinion—if plain words can convey a plain meaning—that, however justly you may say that the treaty of Kainardji is dangerous, there can be no doubt that it really imports what my noble Friend admitted. When two Powers enter into an engagement together, and one of them promises by treaty to protect the Christian religion and the Christian churches within its boundaries, it is liable to the other Power for the fulfilment of the engagement. I do not mean to say that it is liable in all modes and in all circumstances; but the general principle of liability cannot be got rid of—and I understand that it was the general principle alone that my noble Friend ever intended to admit. It is quite clear that the treaty of Kainardji was a most dangerous treaty in this particular, for the Emperor of Russia was placed by it in a condition, with some colour, and perhaps, more than colour, of right, to build on it a claim to intervention in the internal concerns of the Turkish empire. In 1853 a material extension was attempted to be given, by what was called in the protocols an erroneous interpretation, to that treaty; and it was sought to confirm, by definitions and developments, which really amounted to the acquisition of new privileges, the perilous hold which the Emperor of Russia had obtained over Turkey. Was it material in the interest of European peace to prevent these aggressions? and was it possible to prevent them, if we allowed one extension after another of these menacing rights, or claims put forward as rights, to be accomplished by the Emperor of Russia? In consequence of the previous results of her diplomacy, Russia was enabled to ask for more than a neighbour ought to obtain by diplomacy from a separate Power; and she was likewise in a condition to resort to the use of material force, and to enter upon a particular portion of the Turkish territory without being liable to a charge of violence and wrong, in the same sense and degree as if she had not been shielded and masked by the peculiar nature of her treaty relations with Turkey. Of this fact there can be no doubt. The numerous instances of the occupation of the Principalities by Russia at different 1048 times, and for different causes, with or without the partial assent of Turkey, do not prove the right of Russia in that respect, but they do prove the anomalous character of the Emperor of Russia's treaty rights over the Principalities and the cover which he thus obtained for acts of wrongful force, while his diplomatic interference was covered by the treaty of Kainardji. I recur then to my inquiry: were these aggressions of Russia compatible with the security of Europe? That was the point raised in the time of the late Government by the great Eastern question.
Next let me consider what were the objects originally contemplated by way of defence and security for Turkey against Russia, for we thought it too much to attempt the total eradication of the evil by diplomatic means, and for a long time the efforts of the Four Great Powers were confined merely to narrowing its limits, and effectually hemming it in. It is very well to say at this time of day that we ought to have sent a fleet into the Black Sea at the time when the Emperor of Russia occupied the Principalities. This is one of the delusions which arise from a total forgetfulness, under circumstances of present excitement, of the former state of things. I do not hesitate to say, that in June, 1853, no Government, and not merely the one to which I belonged, would have ventured to take a step so rash and reckless with respect to the state of opinions, even in our own country. But was the state of opinion in England all that we had to take into view? If we had at that time thought of such a scheme, we must at once have given up all idea of the co-operation of Austria, of Prussia, or of France. It was wholly out of the question then to proceed by the method which some are now so prompt to set up as having been the only proper one. Well, then, Sir, in concert with all the great Powers we negotiated. And what were the points then chiefly in discussion? They were these:—The Emperor of Russia asked for a certain amount, not only of ratification, but of extension for the general right granted by the treaty of Kainardji. The Porte, on the other hand, was ready, up to a certain point, both to recognise and to define that right; and the questions at that time chiefly in debate were, whether the temporal as well as the spiritual privileges of the Greek Christians were to be guaranteed; whether the Greek Christians 1049 were to enjoy all the privileges granted to other Christians being Ottoman subjects, or all the privileges granted to any Christians, even although foreigners within the Ottoman Empire; and, lastly, whether this should be guaranteed by a separate engagement with Russia, or by a general engagement with the Five Powers. I am not very far from the mark, if I even say that in 1853, these questions were the only questions in dispute between the allied Powers and the Russian Government, and I most certainly shall not be contradicted if I add that every one of these objects has now long ago and completely vanished from view. There is now no question of a separate treaty, no question of the temporal privileges of Christian subjects of the Porte, and no question of claiming anything for the Greeks except what may be enjoyed by other Christians being Ottoman subjects. I beg the House to record these the first assemblage of results obtained in this controversy.
I will not detain the House with the particulars of the long, intricate, and wearisome negotiations; but I will pass at once to the critical and decisive point. After much that was unsatisfactory in the conduct of Turkey as well as of Russia, before the close of the year 1853, a change took place in the posture of affairs. Under the presiding influence of Lord Stratford a plan was adopted at Constantinople, which obtained the preference over another plan, simultaneously framed at Vienna, and became the actual basis of the proposal formally made to the Emperor of Russia. By that proposal the Four Powers agreed to a full and perfect concession of all that Russia had any right to demand. It stipulated that the evacuation of the Principalities was to take place as rapidly as possible; that the ancient treaties dissolved at the moment by war, including the treaties of Kainardji and Adrianople, were to be renewed; and the third term was, that the Sultan of Turkey should communicate not to Russia alone, but to each of the Five Great Powers, the firman which it was to issue, and which was to guarantee to the Greek Christians of Turkey all the privileges enjoyed by other non-Mussulman subjects of the Porte. I am quite sure there are many who must listen to this statement with surprise; I am certain it comes upon many as a revelation when they hear stated, what nevertheless is unquestionable, that these, and these only, were the matters then disputed, 1050 and that with these concessions the Governments of France, England, and Turkey, would at that time have been well contented. So far we have floated down the stream, such has been the rapid train of events, so remote is our position at this moment from what it then was, that now, under the circumstances of an European war, we even forget what were the points in which we were at that time interested; there seems to be a change in the scale and measure of our judgment, and we are too ready, I think, to adopt ideas wholly novel and dangerous, with regard to the settlement of this question. Well, these were the terms proposed in the end of the year 1853. I might, I am quite sure, appeal to Her Majesty's Government, who are in possession of the knowledge which at that time I shared with them, to bear me out when I state that these terms, so professed before Europe, so published to the world, might, if it were prudent to carry still further the disclosures of the Government to Parliament, receive the most important and conclusive confirmation from documents which passed between the Powers engaged in this great struggle and between their agents. I might support by the most weighty testimonies the statement I now make, but I will not pause to do so.
Well, Sir, what was the manner in which these proposals were received by Russia? And here, fortunately, it is not necessary to do more than state the heads of what occurred in the shortest manner to the House. The terms I have now read, after transmission from Constantinople, were embodied in a protocol signed at Vienna, and bearing date the 13th of January, 1854. This protocol was met, not by a direct answer on the part of Russia, but by the mission of Count Orloff, who, on his arrival at Vienna, submitted the counter-demands of the Emperor of Russia. And now, having enabled you to appreciate the demands made by the allied Powers, let us proceed to observe what is not less remarkable—the tone then held, and the terms then required by Russia—and with these in your view you will have another fixed point from which you will be able to judge whether it is true, as some have said, that the objects of this war remain as yet wholly unattained, that you have had no success in your operations, and that if you retire now from the prosecution of the war you retire as a baffled, a humbled, and a degraded nation. These 1051 which I am about to state are the terms of Russia submitted on the 2nd of February, 1854, and I think I may say this was the proceeding on the part of Russia upon which the resolution was taken by France and England, and taken under the direct recommendation of Austria and Prussia, to send that summons to the Emperor for the evacuation of the Principalities, which, if unheeded, was to be immediately followed, and which, as it proved, actually was followed, by a declaration of war.
There were, as I have said, three propositions offered to the Emperor of Russia, and these were his demands in reply:—In the first place, it was to be a condition essentielle et irrévocable that any negotiation which was to take place on the subject matter then at issue should not be at Vienna, but at a different place, and that it should be conducted, not between the five or six Powers concerned, but between Russia and Turkey alone. And what was the place where it was to be conducted? A choice was given to Turkey; the choice between conducting that negotiation either at St. Petersburg, under the frown of the Emperor, or else conducting it at the headquarters of the Russian army. That was the very first condition, announced, too, as a condition essentielle et irrévocable. The second condition was the confirmation full and entire of the old treaties from Kainardji onwards, including all the stipulations which affected the Principalities and Servia. The third was a definition of the protectorate over the Greek Christians; the fourth was the evacuation of the Principalities; the fifth, the restoration of the status quo in the Principalities; and the sixth, that Turkey should make a new set of restrictive arrangements with respect to the reception of refugees and strangers within her territory. These were the absolute demands constituting the ultimatum of Russia before the war. Was there or was there not cause for war in these demands? The old claims which threatened the independence of the Turkish empire were maintained and extended; to them were added other larger and more galling demands, for new and odious restrictions were to be placed upon the free action of the Turkish Government in respect to the reception within the Ottoman empire of those who might be fugitives from other countries. Such was our position before the war, and such were the terms which at that time Russia rigidly demanded; terms pregnant with danger to the security of 1052 Europe, for they enlarged the claims and riveted the grasp of Russia upon Turkey, and greatly aggravated the dangers of a position already menacing enough.
I need now only dwell upon what may be called the salient points of after occurrences. When the war broke out, by degrees our objects were considerably enlarged. Under the circumstances of this case, I am perfectly ready to avow my responsibility in what then took place, and to maintain the justice, propriety, and wisdom, of that enlargement; but, I apprehend, I shall be borne out by ordinary observation in saying that a nation does not, as a general rule, when it draws the sword, resolve to enlarge the demands it has made before. Take, for instance, the case of the revolutionary war in 1793. It commenced purporting to be on defensive grounds, and Mr. Pitt, after the war was begun, did not declare that, though it had been commenced on defensive grounds, he would then pursue it until the restoration of the Bourbons was secured. On the contrary, the war continued to be pursued on these defensive grounds until the colossal power of Napoleon had given to it a character altogether new, and had involved this country in a struggle for nothing less than its independent existence against a force which threatened to swallow up the whole of European Christendom, and which left you no choice but to put down a power that could exist on no terms compatible with our security. Such is the general rule. But in this case we extended our demands after the outbreak of the war. Accordingly a letter was written by Lord Clarendon on the 22nd of July, in which, instead of continuing to recognise the status quo, he used these words—Her Majesty's Government have no hesitation in stating the guarantees which, in their opinion, and that of the French Government, are essential to secure the tranquillity of Europe from future disturbances. These guarantees are naturally suggested by the dangers to guard against which they are required. Thus, Russia has taken advantage of the exclusive right which she had acquired, by treaty, to watch over the relations of Wallachia and Moldavia with the suzerain power, to enter those provinces as if they were part of her own territory. Again, the privileged frontier of Russia in the Black Sea has enabled her to establish in those waters a naval power which, in the absence of any counter-balancing force, is a standing menace to the Ottoman empire. The uncontrolled possession by Russia of the principal mouth of the Danube has created obstacles to the navigation of that great river which seriously affect the general commerce of Europe. Finally, the stipulations of the Treaty of Koutchouk-Kainardji 1053 relative to the protection of the Christians have become, by a wrongful interpretation, the principal cause of the present struggle. Upon all these points the status quo ante bellum must undergo important modifications.Now, the House will see that in this communication three new heads of demand, relating to the Principalities, to the attitude of Russia in the Black Sea, and to the Danube, are added to the original question of the Greek Christians, and that the statement I have read substantially opens out into the Four Points which were the bases of the recent negotiations. It was, however, by several progressive steps that they assumed their final form. I need not now trouble the House with quotations upon that subject. I have shown the first stage in which they appear in the diplomatic correspondence; and now how does it appear that we have stood in respect to this important change in the objects of the war? Before the war broke out it was thought wise—and the House generally, I think, appeared disposed to acquiesce in the policy—to content ourselves with endeavouring to limit and restrain within bounds the dangerous rights asserted by Russia. After the war, however, our language was changed, and it became this—"We will not be content with limiting and restraining these rights, but will abolish them altogether. The treaties are gone; we have a right to require that they shall not be renewed, and we will demand those further concessions which seem to be necessary for the permanent peace of Europe." It seems to me that that was a wise proceeding. It rested upon the principle that these treaty-rights or treaty-claims were a cover and a cloak for both fraud and violence, that by abolishing them you got rid of that cover and cloak, and, instead of leaving to Russia the power of working out in the dark, and with the protection of colourable pleas, any schemes of self-aggrandisement at the expense of Turkey, you put her in the same position in which any other strong Power is put with regard to a weaker neighbour—namely, that you give her two alternatives—either on the one hand to discharge the duties of loyal and peaceful neighbourship, or on the other to resort to open violence, but that there should no longer be a middle system of complex relations, under which hostile aggression might wear the mask of right, and Russia with peace and moderation on her lips might securely pursue the accomplishment of sinister designs. The 1054 changes made in our demands were justified, I think, by this important principle.
But, again, it is not our own position only that we must consider; we must take also into view the position of Russia, if we wish to arrive at a sound judgment upon this question. I have shown you the six demands of Russia in February, 1854. What has since been the conduct of that then haughty Power? When the first sketch of the Four Points was sent to Russia, in August of last year, permission was given to Count Buol, on the part of Austria, to refer them to St. Petersburg. Lord Clarendon writes on the 15th of August that he does not object to their transmission to St. Petersburg, upon the clear understanding, first that we were not parties to the proceeding, and, secondly, that an armistice should not take place until preliminaries of peace were signed. How were they received at St. Petersburg in August last?
And here, Sir, I must touch for a moment on a most important, but collateral question. I am not now about to enter into any detailed argument in reference to the expedition to Sebastopol, but I do not shrink from my full share of responsibility in regard to that expedition. I admit the gravity of the question. I hope the time will come for its full discussion, and I am ready to defend the policy of the Government, but in the meantime I would ask of those who say with a certain outward show of reason that that expedition has been rash and ill-considered, and that it has entirely failed—I would call upon them to observe the facts I am now going to lay before them—to note the language of Russia in August, 1854, before the expedition to the Crimea, and to note the acts and language of that same Power in December, 1854, after that expedition. I holding that military expeditions in time of war are not to be regarded as ends, but as means for the attainment of ends, am ready to defend the expedition to the Crimea, nay, more, I am ready to defend it, not upon the grounds of antecedent reason only, but I do not hesitate to say, even by its results.
On the 26th of August, 1854, the Russian reply was received to the communication of Count Buol, and what was that reply? It was a reply which I will not quote in extenso, but the effect of it was that the Four Points were terms to which Russia could not consent except at the end of a desperate struggle and a long 1055 series of defeats. That was the language of Russia in August, 1854. You will say that these are proofs of her temerity, her arrogance, and her aggressive spirit; and I agree with the reproof; in my opinion, it is impossible to censure too severely the tone and policy of that Court in the year 1854; but it is the marked change in that policy, and the adoption of a different language and a different spirit—it is the disposition which she has more recently shown to meet you, if you will not fly from her advances and refuse to meet her—these are the facts which I want to verify; and depend upon it if we do not verify them now, and adopt the conclusions which ought to arise out of their verification, we may yet have to do so hereafter, under circumstances, too, probably, of a far less favourable nature. Well, Sir, the answer of Russia in the month of August, 1854, to the four proposals, was an answer of prompt, decided, and even haughty rejection. In December, 1854, only four months after that answer, and nothing in the meantime having intervened, that I am aware of, that could act on the mind of the Emperor of Russia except the expedition to the Crimea, the battle of Alma, the battle of Inkerman, and the general circumstances of that memorable campaign—in December, 1854, the Emperor promised an unreserved acceptance of those very terms which in the preceding August he had somewhat contemptuously and contumeliously rejected. It was upon the 7th of January that the Russian plenipotentiary announced to the three Ministers of the allied Courts at Vienna that he was authorised to declare that the Emperor of Russia had unreservedly accepted the four bases of negotiation in the terms laid down by the British and French Governments. That is the state of the facts so far; and although I have drawn largely upon the patience of hon. Members, I hope they will see that I have endeavoured to lay these facts before them in such a way as that they may assist our discussions, for it is impossible to overrate the gravity and solemnity of the question that they raise.
And now, Sir, I think it only remains for me to consider the one main point with respect to the terms asked by us, and refused by Russia, because I am proceeding upon the assumption that, as we are a Power engaged in solemn negotiations, we are bound—whatever the feelings of some among us may be—to treat the negotiation seriously, and to regard the question simply 1056 as a question of terms. So viewing it then, how do we stand? You have got your first point, you have got your second point, you expect and believe that, whenever you choose, you may get your fourth point, and you have got the first moiety of the third point; but you are quarrelling about the last moiety. What is it, then, that forms the subject of our quarrel? We are quarrelling because the Western Powers, in conjunction with and supported by Austria—and I have not the least wish to weaken the force and value of that support—have proposed to Russia that she shall come under an European engagement to limit the number of her ships in the Black Sea. Now that proposal is no part of the essence of the third point—let that be borne clearly in mind. The third point lays down a principle, but it leaves entirely open the mode of its application, and even states broadly a reason why the mode of application could not but be left open. The principle which it lays down is that the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea shall cease. It requires that in some manner a relation shall be established between the naval force of Russia in the Black Sea and other naval forces, which shall be such as not only to diminish, but to destroy, Russian preponderance. The mode of applying the principle, however, is perfectly open, and, therefore, I understated my own case when I said that you were quarrelling for half of the third point—in fact, you are not doing so, but in reality upon the mode of construing one portion of the third point. Now let us look closely at the two modes of construing that moiety of the third point; for that is the most grave and serious question upon which, reduced apparently within such narrow dimensions, nothing less depends than the effusion wholesale of blood and treasure, and the happiness or misery of multitudes of men.
Russia has given to us a certain proposal, I mean her second, not her first; she speaks in substance as follows:—"Let the law of Europe, with regard to closing the Black Sea, remain as it is in all respects but one; and let that one be that Turkey, instead of having no discretion whatever with reference to the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, shall be perfect mistress in the case, and shall have absolute discretion to open them or close them precisely as she chooses from time to time, according to her own estimate of what her safety upon any occasion may require." 1057 That is the Russian proposal—a proposal capable, of course, of discussion and improvement; a proposal which Austria says we ought not to have rejected, but to have discussed with a view to a settlement. What is the other? It is that the Russian fleet shall be cut down to four sail of the line in the Black Sea; that the Turkish fleet shall be limited to four sail of the line inside the Black Sea, but that Turkey may have outside as many as she chooses; that the other Powers shall be at liberty to have two sail of the line each within the limits of the Black Sea; and, in fact, that there shall be established something like an ostensible or pretended equality of force, although, I fear, that it might prove to be nothing more than pretended. Now, I begin by making a preliminary statement. I think that it is obviously desirable to establish an arrangement with respect to the naval power in the Black Sea, and I do not shrink from my share of responsibility in the language of Lord Clarendon, which I quoted just now, when he said that, in his opinion, the military and naval establishments of Russia, in the absence of any counterbalancing force, must be looked upon as a standing menace to Turkey. But, upon the other hand—for though gusts of passion may sometimes find their way here, yet I well know that an appeal can always be made with safety to the calm and dispassionate reflection of the House—upon the other hand, I think that we must all perceive that this question of the Black Sea is one of great and, in fact, of insurmountable difficulty. It is not, I think, in the wit of man—at least, I have heard of no suggestion which has proceeded from the wit of man, and which furnishes a perfectly satisfactory arrangement with respect to the Black Sea. If the Black Sea were a perfectly open sea, like the Mediterranean, you would know what to do. If it were a perfectly close water, like the American lakes, then, also, you would know what to do. You need have had no difficulty if you had been dealing with Powers that shared the possession of the coasts of this sea had it been entirely shut in, and not accessible to vessels of great draught of water; but, unless we could, by some miracle of engineering skill, contrive to convert the straits of the Black Sea into a mere canal, which can be navigated by small vessels only, we cannot completely dispose of the political difficulty upon that side; and, upon the other side, I fully grant that to treat the 1058 Black Sea as an open sea, in consequence of its accessibility to vessels of all draughts, would be equally dangerous, because of the situation of Constantinople upon the shores of the Straits, because of the weakness of the Turkish Government, and its inability to maintain its position by its own resources, and because of the importance to Europe of preventing aggressions upon the Ottoman Empire. That is, I hope, a fair statement of the case, and it is manifestly one surrounded with difficulties. You may adopt one suggestion or another, but I do not think that any suggestion can be made which is not open to a very great deal of objection, and with respect to which you will not be compelled to admit that it affords but an imperfect remedy for the past, imperfect justice as between the parties, and an imperfect security or guarantee for the future.
Thus, Sir, we have to take our choice between several plans, all of which are imperfect. Sir, so far as Parliament is aware, my right hon. Friends near me, together with myself, left office pledged to nothing except to the principle of destroying Russian preponderance; but, for my part—and I am sure that in this point I speak the sentiments of my right hon. Friends who sit near me—I do not for a moment shrink from avowing the fact that our responsibility proceeds beyond the strict letter of the papers which have been presented to Parliament, and that, whether right or wrong, we are responsible, in conjunction with my noble Friend at the head of the Government and our other colleagues under the Earl of Aberdeen, for having proposed to Russia a limitation of her fleet in the Black Sea. Now, Sir, if I am asked what I think of that plan, I shall say, that I always thought it a defective plan, but that I became a party to proposing it because I was aware of no other. In becoming parties to the proposal of that plan, however, I apprehend that we did not preclude ourselves from profiting by experience, and by the discussions into which we were about to enter, and that it was perfectly free to us in common with our colleagues, had we continued in the Government, either to persevere in that plan of limitation, or to adopt any other plan which in the course of the negotiations we might think equally good, or preferable, for accomplishing the end we had in view, and bringing about a satisfactory peace. Now, what has been the reception of the plan of limitation in this House upon the 1059 very first night on which it has been discussed? I am bound to say that I think the Government will feel that its reception here has been most unfavourable. I have heard several Gentlemen rise in this House to defend the war. My hon. and chivalrous Friend the Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Ker Seymer) I am sure is ready to go all lengths in this sense, and others have spoken in terms similar to his; but it is a most extraordinary fact, that I have not yet heard one Member of the House say, "I am determined to continue the war if the limitation is refused; I am prepared to make peace if the limitation is granted." I may be wrong, but I do not believe that in this crowded House there are twenty Gentlemen who are ready to hold that language. There are many who think that you ought to ask a great deal more than a limitation, or a closing or opening of the Straits, or anything else of the sort, but that is not the question raised in the conferences—that is not the ground upon which you stand before Europe in the responsible position of carrying on a war. The ground upon which you stand, that is, upon which your Government and your negotiator have placed you, before Europe is this; that you are ready to make every concession which ought to be made, and to refuse everything which ought not to be accepted, and that the dividing line ought, in your judgment, to be between limitation of the Russian fleet to a certain number of vessels on the one hand, and the discretional power of opening the Straits upon the other. If the House of Commons gives a vote in the sense of the right hon. Member for Portsmouth, and adopts the Motion which he proposes, I say that that, unless in so far as it may be qualified by the rejection of the Amendment of the Member for Kidderminster, is the legitimate Parliamentary sense of the vote, because when we vote upon papers before us, which have been presented to us by the Crown, we cannot escape the responsibility of the knowledge which those papers convey to us. If the Government had chosen to keep those papers in their own possession, our hands might have been free, and we might have retained our private convictions; but we have now become cognisant of the fact that conferences were held, that they were pursued to a certain point, that no insuperable difficulty arose except one, that that one was limitation upon the one hand, and the discretional power of Turkey over the Straits upon the other—that upon 1060 that point, and that point alone, the conferences are in danger of becoming a total failure, and that that is the issue upon which, for this great juncture, everything depends.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire has recorded upon this subject declarations which, in my judgment, are most important; and, if I refer to them, it is with no invidious motive, but because I think that they are as historical facts worthy to be recorded, that they will be heard of in future discussions, and that, considering that he may well be presumed to speak for others besides himself—they may probably exercise a sensible influence hereafter upon the course of affairs. What was the language of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the doctrine of limitation? It was that of unmeasured condemnation. He found fault with my noble Friend for having recognised the honour of Russia as something which it was well to keep in view, if not as a primary, still as a secondary consideration; and then he said that, after thus recognising the honour of Russia—which was a superfluous, and indeed spurious, act of benevolence—"you proceeded to propose to her terms that were nothing less than most outrageous;" and he then went on in language varied and diversified, but no less strong, to say that these were terms which the noble Lord ought to have known "it was impossible for Russia to accede to." The chastisement of the right hon. Gentleman is certainly severe—I think he denounced the plan of limitation in terms which are too strong, but I own I feel myself in some degree justly reproved. The more I have considered the plan of limitation, the more I feel the enormous difficulties of carrying it into anything like real or full effect, the more I despair of the ends at which limitation aims being gained by forcing it upon Russia, and the more I feel the extreme indignity which, if so forced, it inflicts upon her; and there is no policy, I think, which is so false and dangerous as to inflict upon Russia indignity without taking away strength.
Let us suppose for argument's sake that we had obtained limitation, although at this time appearances here and elsewhere are such as to make it very questionable whether it will be attained; but if it were, what, what good or what evil, should we have accomplished? We should, in the first place, have recorded against the Russian Government, in the face of the Russian 1061 people, a standing insult to that Government—a standing deprivation of its own natural powers of defence—the first and most essential powers which belong to a Government as such. Sir, I must confess I feel that it is impossible for us to insist upon treating the Black Sea as if it were a lake. Suppose France had a quarrel with Russia, suppose England had a quarrel with Russia, and the Baltic were frozen, so that we could not carry on operations in that quarter, do you think we should not find our way through the Straits into the Black Sea, in order to get at Odessa and destroy it, or for any other purpose of injury which we thought fit? [An Opposition MEMBER: "Why, have we not done so already?"] I really want a reply to this question. How am I to answer the Russian when he says to me, "Turkey, by your own confession, is weak; she has not sufficient power to close the Straits without foreign assistance; and how, therefore, is it to be supposed, if it suits your purpose at any time, or you think you have a legitimate cause of quarrel with, and you obtain admission into the Black Sea—as you would by force or otherwise—that Russia is to consent to meet you there under a treaty stipulation only to keep up four ships of the line? It may be said that war would dissolve this stipulation; but would war create for us upon the instant twenty ships of the line? Although I should have rejoiced if, therefore, acceptances of limitation by Russia had given us peace, I must own it is a proposition which I scruple to enforce at the point of the sword.
Nor has any satisfactory answer been made at the conferences to the argument of the Russian Plenipotentiaries, who showed that in one and the same breath they were required to guarantee the integrity of Turkey, and to limit to four ships of the line the means of affording her naval aid. Russia, however, has made known to us another arrangement; and perhaps it may be asked, why did you not yourselves propose that other arrangement to Russia? Speaking for myself, I can give a frank answer to that question—because that other arrangement is one so entirely in favour of Turkey, it so manifestly relaxes the law of Europe in her favour, giving her a control practically absolute over the Straits, and allowing her a perfect command of them for any purpose relating to her security, that I think any Power which had proposed that arrangement to Russia 1062 would have been liable to be met by unanswerable objections to it, founded upon its patent and singular inequality. But I own that those objections lose very much of their force the moment that plan is adopted and proposed by Russia herself. If Russia chooses to propose that plan as the best mode of settling the differences which exist, then arise these two questions—first of all, is there, or is there not, any reason to believe that the Russian plan may be upon the whole even a better basis than the plan proposed in opposition to it? and, secondly, if it is not the better but the worse basis, is there such a difference between it and our plan as to justify us in the position which we may soon hold in the eyes of Europe—that of a Power which has broken off negotiations for peace because the principle of limitation was refused to us, and nothing but the principle of a discretionary power over the Straits, vested in Turkey, proposed in its stead? I can have no hesitation as to the answer to be made to those questions, and if I understand aright the language of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, he can have as little. He has denounced this principle of limitation in the strongest terms, as the ground of the very difficulties which all must see in the liabilities it offers to evasion, in its effectiveness, and in the derogatory character which an independent Power is perhaps justified in attaching to it. Again, I hope the House will bear this in mind, that the Russian agents have in these conferences pointed out, and this with no small appearance of fairness, that the plan of limitation, if Russia had only aggressive objects in view, would fall in better with those aggressive objects than the discretionary powers which she would confer on Turkey. At page 88 of these papers, I find that M. de Titoff remarked that "this double object," (namely, putting an end to the maritime preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea, and strengthening the independence and power of Turkey) "seemed to him better secured by the Russian project, than by the principle of limitation maintained by the opposite party; so that Russia, if she had the ambitious plans which are imputed to her would even have reason to prefer a certain limitation resulting practically" (perhaps it ought rather to be rendered, resulting independently of express stipulation), "from the state of things, to a combination which opens the Black Sea to foreign fleets as soon as the Sublime Porte should 1063 consider herself menaced." This is a sentiment well deserving of consideration upon its own merits, and with regard to which, without being able to give a positive opinion on it, I am disposed to think—though in some degree modifying a former opinion in that respect—that there is, at least, very much to be said in its behalf.
That then, Sir, is the state of the question with regard to the negotiations—that is the state of the question, if it be a question of terms at all. But is it a question of terms? I certainly have seen words imputed to my noble Friend at the head of the Government, according to which, if they had been rigorously interpreted, it is not a question of terms at all, and that, I believe, is the sentiment of some Gentlemen in this House who think that these negotiations have been wrong from the first, and who are too glad to find an opportunity of escape from them. But I maintain that, whatever individuals may think, it is a question of terms for England; and that if this House were to give a vote which by implication would declare that it is not a question of terms, then, after what has taken place at Vienna, it would go far to involve the country in a breach of faith before the eyes of Europe. Again, suppose it is not a question of terms; what are you to do? This is a most grave and serious question. This is the first time that the House of Commons has been called upon to express a solemn judgment upon the rights of the great cause of peace or war, and therefore I say it is of the most vital importance that you should consider what course you are to adopt if you decide that this is not a question of particular terms. In that case you must devise a policy afresh. Are you to resort to the extreme designs which have been recommended in one quarter or another? Are you to think of dismembering Russia? The first objection to that is, that it is impossible. I would only add one word to the strong language used by the right hon. Gentleman opposite on this point. Not only do I think that the hair of the youngest Member among us would become grey before the termination of such an undertaking, but I believe that the consequences of such a scheme would recoil on those who framed it, and that it would be more likely to end in the discomfiture and ruin of the empires concerned in the prosecution of it, than in that of the empire against which it was directed, for human extravagance has ever a tendency to generate 1064 violent reaction. Will you have recourse, then, to a war of nationalities? Is that to be the policy to be adopted? The first observation to be made upon that scheme is, that if you intend to make a war of nationalities it will be well for you to consider whether you will not have to make that war alone. I apprehend that Austria is not very likely to enter with you into a war of nationalities. That proposition, at least, is one which requires very little argument to sustain it. Neither the internal composition of the Austrian Empire nor its external relations render it in the slightest degree probable that she will embark in any such struggle. Then, is France likely to enter into such a war? I may be wrong, but I contend with respect to France as confidently as with respect to Austria, that she will not—that in her present position she cannot—enter into a war of nationalities. And if any man in this House entertains an opposite opinion, I ask him how that war of nationalities is to operate within the precincts of the city of Rome? Can you have any war of nationalities which shall not embrace Italy? Can France, I will not say, but would France, enter into that war of nationalities? Sir, I will not attempt at this moment to enter upon the questions connected with the present state of Italy, and especially with the present condition of the States of the Church, but I must confess I view the present condition of those States with the deepest grief and shame. I will, however, say this, the condition of that country offers a pretty plain proof that you build your expectations upon sand and not upon a rock if you conceive that France is likely to engage with you in a war of nationalities. A war of dismemberment, then, you cannot entertain—the war of nationalities you must pursue, if you pursue it at all, entirely alone. Therefore, you will not pursue it at all. What, after this, remains? It is not a question of terms, we are told by some. Recollect, Russia has completely altered her tone; she has given up everything which twelve months ago she refused; she was then totally and grossly wrong; with great sagacity and with great wisdom, of course, I shall assume from no motives of enthusiastic generosity or self-sacrifice, but from the sound application of the principles of common sense, and in this case, I hope, also of our common Christianity, she has surrendered all her dangerous and inadmissible claims. ["No, 1065 no!" from several Members.] I cannot contend with opposition of that kind; I am physically incapable of doing so; but I beg it to be understood that I mean she has abandoned the untenable claims which she at first put forward, and this, after the facts I have stated and the quotations have made, is a proposition not to be denied. From the whole of these pretensions she has now receded, and she has thus a least gone far towards putting herself in the right.
So much then, Sir, as to the terms of negotiation between this country and Russia. To me, I confess, it appears that if we now continue the war, the objects for which we so continue it are upon our own showing inadequate, and must therefore fail to justify our proceeding in such a course. But then I hear one Gentleman say that if we stay our hand we shall lose our prestige; and another, that Russia is only playing a game of brag, and that if she has conceded so much under the pressure we have already applied, she will under further pressure make further concessions; and another, that war is after all only a trial of strength; and others, in language alike untrue and unwarrantable, that it is necessary we should keep Europe involved in the present war with a view to the security of British power in India. Sir, I confess I have a mode of looking at these questions which is altogether different. I believe that, in war, as well as in peace, the greatest matter is that you should be just; and I frankly own that I shudder and tremble when I hear Gentlemen of humanity and of high principle and character say that more blood must be shed—more human souls must be dismissed from the light of day—more desolation must be carried throughout Christian families and Christian lands in order to satisfy the demands of military fame. But, Sir, do those demands, even if admitted to be paramount, exact so cruel a sacrifice? Is it really true that England stands in the face of the world at this moment as a degraded nation? I ask you in what war it has ever happened that the successes of your troops were so uniform and so brilliant? It seems never to have mattered in what they were put to the proof, whether it was in the nightly sortie or in the casual skirmish—whether it was in scaling heights that were defended—or in defending heights that were attacked—or whether it was in rushing, under an unhappy error of command, upon clear and inevitable death—in 1066 every case the gallant and indomitable spirit displayed has been the same—in every case they not only have proved that they are worthy of the race to which they belong, but have shown that never before did the flame of martial valour burn among our gallant soldiers either brighter or more pure than now. I do not deny that in certain respects there has been matter for regret, I do not deny that ideas have gone abroad on the continent of Europe—a portion of which may have had foundation—that some of the civil departments connected with the army are in a most defective state—that we have gone into the war less provided and prepared than other nations that had more than ourselves made the arts and means of war their study during peace, and that, consequently, many important and essential services have been less efficiently performed than they should and might have been. But if there has been truth in these ideas there also has been greater and more prevailing falsehood. They have mainly had the exaggerated representations made in this country and in this House as their foundation. What were we told, Sir, in the month of February? I referred before to the words which were then employed by different speakers. One hon. Gentleman said that your army had perished; another said that your army was destroyed; and—the ample vocabulary not being yet exhausted—a third proclaimed that your army was annihilated. These statements, incessantly made, repeated through the newspapers, obtaining credit by force of iteration, and carrying likewise the semblance of authority from being uttered within the walls of his House, were of course believed abroad; and the discredit which has fallen upon England on the Continent, as far as it exists, is at this moment little else than the echo and the reflected image of our own exaggerations. Just to show practically the channel in which these things run, I may mention that I have lately read with great interest the debates that occurred in the Sardinian Chamber upon the question of the subsidy—or rather the loan, I am happy to say, and not the subsidy—from England. In the course of these debates great objection was taken by a considerable section of the members of the Sardinian Chamber to entering into a treaty with this country; and one ground of the objection actually was that England was in so wretched a condition in respect to its military affairs that the Sardinian troops 1067 could not be safely trusted in our company, for it was stated (so ran the report of the discussion) in all the English journals, that even the nominal force of the British army was reduced to 12,000 men, and that only 2,000 out of that number were really effective. How, then, can you wonder at such discredit falling upon this country elsewhere when it has grown out of these statements, which we all remember perfectly well to have heard made in this House? But whatever we may think or say of discredit such as this, do not let us avenge it upon human kind; do not let us wipe it out in blood; let us rather seek to dispel the falsehood by sending abroad what is more true. These misrepresentations are but as insects that live for a day and then disappear; truer notions already prevail. In the month of January I ventured myself to make a statement in this House founded upon returns relating to the force of the Crimean army, which even at that dark era was over 28,000 men. I did not speak of it as though it were an army in the full health and spirits of its first embarkation from England, but as the actual amount of force not being in hospital and being in the discharge of military duties. And as I said just now that I did not believe that there were more than twenty Members in this House, if so many, who would attach much value to the questions raised between the limitation of the Russian fleet, and the modified opening of the Straits, in connection with the continuance of the war; so I much doubt whether more than twenty hon. Members, if so many, credited at the time the statement which I made about the force of the army. But that subject came in its due course before the Select Committee, and no doubt in respect to it stands recorded in the evidence; it rested upon detailed and indisputable figures, and this misapprehension ranks along with all the others which have rapidly disappeared. In truth, as regards military glory, this I, at least, venture to say, that there is no example—go to what period of history you will—in which your army has more nobly performed its duty, or has given more convincing testimony to all those who have been cognisant of the facts, that it is as ready as ever, and also as able as ever, either to defend your shores or to carry your flag wherever honour can be won. But, if I am still to be told that we are to prolong this war for glory, let me put to you one test in respect to this doctrine, because, 1068 after all, this is the real difficulty that we are contending with. It is not the argument in this case that is the difficulty, neither is it the difference between the various plans that are proposed for a specific solution. It is the appeal to feeling, to passion, and to pride. It is, that we cannot now afford to make peace—we must first have a success. The original questions in controversy have been banished out of sight, or, at least, they are now so remote as to be no more than specks in the distance; all the terms that we demanded have, since the war began, been substantially conceded, unless we are to stand upon the at best trivial and paltry difference between the plan of limitation and the plan of a discretion reposed in Turkey to open the Straits when she may think herself menaced. It is no longer a matter of terms; this is the language which we have seen held openly in the public journals, and which I was sorry to find held openly to-night by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorsetshire, that it has become simply a question of the necessity for a military success. I grant that my hon. Friend did not appear to embrace this idea simply; he rather put it in this shape, that we must obtain a success in order that we may secure better terms; but that is not the public and popular sentiment; the popular feeling is, that as to terms there is no great matter at issue, but that what you want is more military success. Now, I venture to say with deep respect, and without imputing any motives to hon. Gentlemen who allow such a sentiment to find place within their breasts, that, if they will put down passion and look at that sentiment with the calm eye of reason, they will see that it is not only indefensible—it is hideous, it is anti-Christian, it is immoral, it is inhuman; and you have no right to make war simply for what you call success. If, when you have obtained the objects of the war, you continue it in order to obtain military glory—observe the broad distinction that subsists between the objects of the war and success in your military operations—if you persist in the war for the sake of mere military glory, I say you tempt the justice of Him in whose hands the fates of armies are as absolutely lodged as the fate of the infant slumbering in its cradle; you tempt Him to launch upon you His wrath; and if this be courage, I, for one, have no courage to enter upon such a course. I believe it to be alike guilty and unwise; but let me 1069 without more delay bring it to the test. I ask, are there any Governments in or out of Europe that would be—I will not say courageous enough, but rash enough, to issue a manifesto framed on this principle—that "whereas we, the Governments of France and England, in the year 1853, proposed to Russia certain terms of accommodation, and whereas upon the breaking out of war we extended those terms and included in them everything that we thought necessary and useful to guarantee the future peace of Europe; and whereas those terms have now been substantially conceded, but the issue of a military operation undertaken in the Crimea still remains doubtful, and it is necessary for us that we should have more military glory before we will accept the terms which we have believed and have solemnly declared to be sufficient; therefore, be it known to all men that we will continue the war until we have obtained what we may think sufficient for us of military glory." The moral sense of mankind would not permit the promulgation by authority of such a doctrine; and yet we suffer the idea that we must not avow to lurk within us, and suffer ourselves to be governed by it.
My noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Lord J. Russell) has been censured for the doctrine he laid down at the conferences with respect to the honour of Russia; but it appears to me that he deserves credit rather than blame for his declaration. Had my noble Friend said that the honour of Russia was to be your primary object, or that of anybody except the Russian negotiators, I grant he would have been open to censure; but he said, on the contrary, that the security of Europe was to be the primary and paramount object, and that, subject to that consideration, the terms most in conformity with the honour of Russia would be the best terms of arrangement. I heartily approve and subscribe to that doctrine; but, depend upon it, whether you approve it or not, from that doctrine you cannot escape. My noble Friend spoke those memorable words, as the organ of England, before assembled Europe; they were regarded as declaring the principle of your proceedings in negotiating for peace; and by those words, and by their legitimate consequences, you will have ultimately to abide. And now, Sir, I will venture to quote one authority which always commands respect in this House, on the subject of the necessity of a success. Do not let it be forgotten that I 1070 distinguish most broadly between the necessity of success in military operations and the obtaining those objects for which you entered upon the war. Military operations are not the objects of war; they are its means and instruments. Now, I have been fortunate enough to see a letter of the Duke of Wellington, in which he expresses pretty intelligibly his opinion on the doctrine of the necessity of success in war after its objects are attained. I will not quote names or dates; but the letter had reference to the commander of a military expedition of which the objects had been gained, but who contemplated further operations because he thought it necessary for the honour of his country that he should have a success. The Duke of Wellington used these emphatic words:—The idea of the general is that of the newspapers of his country, and that is what I apprehend in all these concerns. Complete success in the attainment of the object will not satisfy that people. Somebody must be humiliated. I cannot bear to be a party to such transactions.Such were the sentiments of the Duke of Wellington: and I yet hope there are among us many who with him will say that they cannot bear to be parties to such transactions.
Now, Sir, I have said it appeared to me that you were in danger not only of placing yourselves in the position of being wrong after you had been right, but of forfeiting the high and special character in which you commenced this war. I think I am justified in asserting that we did not commence this war as mere antagonists of Russia, and, as in ordinary cases, upon a footing of equality with our foe. It was not merely a case in which upon the one side stood a single Power, and on the other side two Powers; it was not a mere combination of numbers against a single empire. The combination represented a principle. It represented that which I may almost call a sort of European law which has prevailed, and has been variously administered, sometimes with advantage, often with great credit and advantage, since the peace of 1815; under which the great Powers of Europe, or some among them, have regulated many minor and local differences, and have frequently preserved the general peace from serious dangers. We entered into this quarrel in combination with France, with Prussia, and with Austria; and I will venture to say that two years ago there was very little difference in the political position of 1071 France, of Great Britain, of Austria, and of Prussia, with respect to the question at issue between Turkey and Russia. By degrees France and Great Britain got in advance; Austria—I do not speak in the way of censure or complaint, for her position was peculiar—lagged somewhat behind; Prussia lagged yet more; but it is important, and it has now become also curious, to remember that so lately as in the spring of 1854 Prussia distinctly contemplated the contingency of aggressive operations against Russia, and on behalf of Turkey. I want to bring it back to the mind of the House how completely this was, not an arbitrary combination, but a representation of the great European combination of Powers, acting against Russia, to vindicate and enforce against her the public law of Europe. It was the summons of France and England to Russia that immediately led to war. That summons was sent in, it is true, only by France and England, but it was sent upon the recommendation of Austria, and was expressly supported at St. Petersburg both by Austria and Prussia. In a protocol agreed upon at Vienna on the 9th of April, 1854, that support is distinctly recorded. In a short time afterwards, a treaty was contracted between Austria and Prussia, which provided for a mutual offensive and defensive alliance in the event—first, of the incorporation of the Principalities with Russia; and, secondly, of an attack on, or the passage of the Balkan by Russia. The passage of the Balkan now seems a visionary event, its possibility is so remote. Then it was far otherwise, it was a near and pressing danger; and you had a treaty between Austria and Prussia providing for their taking part in the offensive proceedings against Russia in the event of the passage of the Balkan. The consequence of this was, that on the 22nd of July, 1854, Lord Clarendon, when writing to Lord Westmorland a despatch which, I think, was probably intended to find its way to the eyes of the Russian Government, felt himself justly entitled to hold this lofty language:—"The opinion of Europe has been pronounced in favour of the course pursued by England and France, and it is needless that they should defend themselves against the accusations of Russia." Now, Sir, I am afraid, that if we withdraw from negotiation, if we continue war upon grounds in which no other Power except France alone participates, we shall find that the 1072 moral authority of our position is greatly weakened and undermined. Besides moral authority, we have to consider material aid. There are some Gentlemen who think we have derived no benefit whatever from Austria in this struggle, but to them I must say, that I am not at all prepared to see with satisfaction the expectant attitude which Austria has hitherto, and, as I think, not dishonourably maintained, with her hand upon the hilt of her sword, with above 300,000 men ranged along her Russian and Polish frontiers and in the Principalities, exchanged for a state of things in which Austria, being dissociated from our objects and purposes, and Russia having made the concessions which Austria thinks vital and necessary, she would become by degrees a mere neutral, and even something less than a merely neutral Power, and would be gradually estranged from the movements of England and France. I apprehend there is not the least doubt that while these 300,000 Austrian troops have been thus placed, something like an equal number of Russians have been detained in a corresponding attitude in their own country; and I think it an event not to be contemplated with any satisfaction that that large proportion of the military force of Russia should be liberated from the present manner of their employment to engage in operations against France and England in the Crimea. But great as will be the material loss which in this way we may suffer, far greater, in my judgment, will be the moral disadvantage if we shall unhappily find that we have lost our title to be the assertors of the public justice of Europe, have descended to a level with our antagonists, and have become involved in an isolated war.
But, then, have the objects of the war been obtained? To those who say they have not, I venture to reply by a challenge. I ask them to show me a case in modern European history in which the political objects of a war have been so completely gained, and in so short a time. without the entire military prostration of the adverse party. You may find cases in which wars have been short and sharp. We may, for instance, take the cases of Spain at the commencement of the revolutionary war, and Prussia in its course, and we may find numerous cases in which, by the complete victory of one Power, and the certain prostration of its antagonist, the objects of a war have been gained with great rapidity. In the present instance, 1073 I think I have shown that those objects have been gained, although it has been without the military prostration of Russia. You have gained immense advantages against Russia; but those advantages and your victories—brilliant as they have been, yet have not placed her in such a state of military prostration as to cover her with disgrace; nor do I think that even now you will venture to assume, if you cast the die, that success will be the certain issue of you perseverance. But, I ask, if you attain that success, will you be nearer to your object? Suppose the Russians attempt another Inkerman; suppose in that attempt they fail, as they failed before; suppose 10,000 more Russian troops are laid low by the side of their departed companions; or suppose any still more signal event should occur, do you believe, do you feel entitled to be certain, that the Russian Government either would or could offer you better terms? I may be wrong, but my conscientious belief is that such events might in all likelihood immensely increase their difficulties. It is quite evident that there is no country in which the action of the Government is more dependent upon what may be called national feeling—and such national feeling is ever strongest when it is allied with religious zeal—than Russia. Now, do you seriously believe that we can intimidate and drive Russia into peace upon any terms we may choose to dictate by killing 10,000, or 20,000, or 30,000 more of her troops, or by taking Sebastopol? Do you think a nation whose enthusiasm was not only not extinguished, but was raised to the highest pitch by the flames of Moscow, when 1,000,000 of men, under, perhaps, the greatest general of modern times, occupied their country, are to be driven into shameful or disastrous terms of peace by mere military successes—be they what they may—gained in the remotest corner of their territory? I confess it seems to me that the present state of things has been providentially adapted to the attainment of peace. If you were to suffer a disaster—which, God forbid—you would find your difficulties increased in making reasonable terms. The spirit of the people would rise against you, and your difficulties would be increased. If, on the other hand, Russia were to suffer such disasters, it is no strained supposition to imagine that the difficulties of her Government might, in like manner, be augmented, and that that which you maintain to be a necessary condition of peace would, 1074 if attained, place you infinitely further from the attainment of your object. Now, Sir, for one, I feel with the greatest force the pressure of all those moral considerations which are involved in the unnecessary continuance of the war. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester, on an occasion which is, doubtless, fresh in the memory of this House, when, like my right hon. Friends near me, I sat on the Treasury bench, made a solemn appeal to us with a force of which no man could be insensible, and with an earnestness which did him the highest honour, and charged us with the guilt of shedding blood in an unnecessary war. I did not wince under that charge, for, whether right or wrong in my conviction, I believed that that war was not unnecessary; that it was one of the class of wars which are carried on at a distance in order that we may not have to wage them nearer home. We made war in the Black Sea, at the extremity of Europe, in order that we might not have to make it in the heart of Europe—as the most celebrated orator of Greece, or perhaps of any country, urged upon the Athenian people that they should make war in Thessaly in order that they might not have to carry it on in Attica. But when I see that Russia has conceded the substance of what was asked—that we are breaking up that association of Powers which gave us at once dignity, security, and strength—when I see the scales of justice so tremulously balanced as though they even verged towards placing those in the wrong who had been in the right, and, perhaps, likewise those in the right who had been grossly in the wrong, I feel deeply the responsibility which I should incur if I did not beseech the House to pause in the course that is opened before them. We have seen with our own eyes, but a few days ago, and with the deepest interest, some of the fainter traces of the desolation of war written upon the forms of those heroic men who received from the hands of majesty itself not the reward, indeed, but yet the acknowledgment of their glorious deeds. We rejoice to see that many of those noble forms were again erect, and that they had regained the elastic step of health and youth. But what shall we say of the thousands of our countrymen who sleep beside the waters of the Bosphorus and under the rocks of Balaklava? What are we to say of our gallant allies, side by side, with whom we have been fighting these battles, and whose losses there is 1075 every reason to believe have been fearfully severe?
If, for our own share, we have been deprived of the precious lives of from 12,000 to 15,000 of our countrymen—if, of the brave sons of France double that number, or more than double, have fallen by war and by the diseases in its train—if we reckon the havoc made among the poor Turks, again we rise in the fearful scale, for of them a far greater multitude have sunk, little heeded, into their homely graves. I saw, not long ago, in the public prints, a detailed account, which had all the indications of correctness, and, according to which, the loss of life in the Turkish army since the war broke out had been 120,000. [A VOICE: The Russians.] No, Sir, that was the work of war among the Turks. Nor is there for me any consolation whatever in the yet more dismal tale which has been told us, that against the 50,000 French and English, and the 120,000 Turks, not fewer than 250,000 Russians have been numbered among the dead. The terrible sum total must by this date have come near to half a million; so that by the havoc of this war, for the time that it has lasted, the lives of almost 1,000 of our fellow—men have been extinguished daily. If, indeed, we are making war for a just and sufficient cause, for a cause that will bear examination in our hearts and in our consciences, in the face of man and before the eye of God, we must bear the hard necessity, nor need we shrink even from the terrible slaughter it involves; but if this be not so, if, from whatever cause, yon allow this war to be prolonged for no object at all, or for secondary and petty objects, or for any purposes, however brilliant they may seem, which we dare not avow in a solemn public declaration or make known through the Government, the organ of the country, and dare scarcely avow even in the freedom of conversation with our fellow-men, let us, while there is time, do all that in us lies, by taking an initial step, towards putting an end to the desolation of this awful scourge; let us, by the adoption of terms so just and plain, so moderate and circumspect as those which are proposed to us by my hon. Friend, do what for the moment depends upon us towards giving back to Christendom the hope, at least, of happiness and repose.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, although there are many parts of the speech of my right hon. Friend in which I cannot possibly 1076 concur, yet I willingly yield to him the acknowledgment that he has discussed the question in a manner worthy of himself and of this House; that he has considered that which was of most importance—the continuance or the cessation of this war; that he has fairly brought before us the arguments which weigh upon his mind, and led him to the conclusion to which he bad arrived—a conclusion to which, if convinced by his argument, any Member of this House or any one in this country might subscribe. So far the spirit of my right hon. Friend's speech has been totally different from that of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who seemed to lose sight entirely of the great question which ought to occupy us; who gave us no clear and intelligible account why he would continue the war—who used, to borrow a phrase of his own, the most "ambiguous language" on the subject, and who entertained us for two hours and a half with party attacks and ingenious sarcasms. But, Sir, before I speak of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and attempt to defend myself from the attacks which he has made upon my conduct as a Member of the Government, I must revert, while they are fresh in my memory, to some of the arguments and topics urged by my right hon. Friend who has just sat down. My right hon. Friend says most truly that the terms already assented to by Russia go far beyond those which were originally asked by the allies, I am surprised, however, that this very obvious consideration did not present itself to my right hon. Friend, that, if such be the blessed state of peace that Sovereigns and people, are most unwilling to exchange it for a state of war, that which will give an immediate remedy for an immediate danger suffices them to maintain that state. But when once the rubicon has been passed—when once you have been compelled to resort to war—when once two Powers are engaged in conflict, then it becomes you to consider not what would have been sufficient before the contest commenced, but to consider how you can obtain a peace which has in it the elements of safety and of duration. I cannot, therefore, attach the value which my right hon. Friend attaches to the change which has taken place in the terms of peace; and I say so because I think that it is in consequence of Russia having felt the power of the allied belligerents—the pressure of Austria concentrating her forces and threatening hostilities until Russia gave way—and the 1077 influence of the expedition to the Crimea, that she has given way. But the question is, whether or not, the immediate danger is warded off—whether you are to seek security for the future, and, if so, in what that security shall consist. There is one danger with regard to the Principalities. The first point proposed in adequate terms to dispose of that danger. The second point has not reference to any immediate danger to the Principalities from Russia, or any immediate protection to Turkey. But the third point did contain a declaration that it was necessary to revise the treaty of 1841—in the first place with a view to attach Turkey to the balance of power, and, in the next place, to put an end to the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea. Now, my right hon. Friend thinks he sees in the propositions of Russia a fulfilment of that condition. But on hearing the propositions made by the Plenipotentiary of Russia, I cannot see how any one should think that the fulfilment is contained in those propositions. The danger is that Russia, having a preponderance in the Black Sea—having twenty sail of the line in her harbour at Sebastopol—may, as has been shown by a scientific and military authority—by Marshal Marmont and others—take advantage of the possession of that fleet and get possession of the Bosphorus, or land an array in its immediate vicinity. Now, what does Russia say to that? Russia says that she will consent that the fleets of other Powers may come into the Black Sea, provided always that the fleets of Russia may at any time pass through the Bosphorus. What would be the consequence of accepting such a condition? The fleets of England and France would seldom go into the Bosphorus, and not in any considerable force in time of peace; but these twenty sail of the line might at any time present themselves at Constantinople, before the gates of the Sultan's palace, and impose upon him what terms they please; that which was forbidden by the treaty of 1841 would then become possible and easy to Russia—and this is what the Russian Plenipotentiaries call a compliance with the terms proposed! Then, after I had left Vienna, another proposal was made, in which my right hon. Friend seems to see a security; and it was this—to leave the treaty of 1841 as it now stands, the Sultan declaring, as he has a right to declare, that he wishes to maintain the principle of closing the Straits, but that if Turkey was menaced, she might 1078 call the fleet of her allies to her assistance. I own I can see but very little, very scanty security in that proposal. Does any one deny that, leaving the treaty of 1841 as it was before the commencement of the war, in case of a menace of invasion, of violence on the part of Russia, the Sultan would have the right which every independent Sovereign can exercise of calling his allies to his assistance, and to that point where they could most easily assist him. Marshal Marmont observes, and I think very justly, that in this case everything consists in priority; and the fleets of the allies being at a distance, and a large fleet of the Russians in the near neighbourhood, it is probable that the menace would be carried into execution before the Sultan could call the fleets of his allies to his assistance. If we had consented to such terms, I think it would have been right to say—we do not propose the fulfilment of that part of the third point. It is said that the third point is fulfilled. I think that to have said that the third point was fulfilled by the acceptance of a proposal so nugatory and meagre as either the first or second of the alternatives offered by Russia would have been an attempt to deceive Europe in a manner quite unworthy of two such nations as England and France. It would have been far better to have said at once, "We are unable to put at end to the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea—it must be built up again as soon as Russia can launch a fresh fleet; and, therefore, that part of the security we wished for must be abandoned." But, then, consider that this scheme against the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea is one of the main securities which, having gone to war for, we have attempted to obtain. That to Turkey, of Russian preponderance in the Black Sea, is next to the danger of Russia occupying the Principalities and a march through the Balkan; and to finish the war without any security against that danger would indeed be to confess that we had been defeated. My right hon. Friend dwelt much upon the doctrine that you must have military successes independently of all terms of peace. I agree generally in what my right hon. Friend has stated upon that subject, and I doubt whether any one will assert that independently of all terms of peace, and independently of the security of Turkey, it was necessary to gain military successes. I quite agree with my right hon. Friend that never has the valour of the English soldier been 1079 brighter; never has the power of endurance, the hardihood, and the fortitude of the British soldier stood so high as it has done during the present war—and, therefore, it would not be for military success that I would continue the war. But if the objects are not effected by which we can be certain of having securities for peace—if the want of success at Sebastopol should lead to our failure in obtaining a secure peace, the danger to Turkey for the future would be greatly aggravated. If it should be said that not only had England and France. relinquished the terms they had advanced—and terms which Austria had said were just and fair, while she said that the Russian propositions did not at all comply with them—but in addition to that had withdrawn 150,000 or 200,000 men from the Crimea, without success, that would be a great addition, not only to the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea, but to the preponderance of Russia all over the world. If you had that which all men would acknowledge to be a security for peace and a safeguard for Turkey—I am not now arguing as to the terms of that security—you might then with all honour withdraw from the Crimea; but if, in addition to a failure in your terms of peace you admitted a failure of military success, and withdrew your armies, then Russia would immensely increase her power over the civilised world.
And now, Sir, having said this much with regard to the later topics in the speech of my right hon. Friend, I come to the question of the negotiations with which I was charged at Vienna. But let me state, in the first place, that although I thought success in that negotiation came within the range of possibility, that at no time was I sanguine that success was probable. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I felt I had no habits of diplomacy, and that being more accustomed to Parliamentary life than to intercourse with those who carry on negotiations, I felt that I was not the fittest person to undertake the duty of Plenipotentiary. But when Lord Clarendon told me that he wished me to undertake that mission—and my noble Friend (Lord Palmerston) likewise concurred in that wish—and when I found that Her Majesty had been pleased to express her approbation of such an appointment, I felt I could not honourably decline it, especially when it was said that peace was possible, and that strengthening our alliance with Austria was within the range of 1080 possibility. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) says I ought to have begun with the third point. That was not a question for me to decide; I was only acting as one of the servants of the two Governments of France and Great Britain. France, Great Britain and Austria had maturely considered the question; and when I was in Paris I was informed by a despatch from my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that the Governments had resolved that the points should be taken in the order in which they stood. It was, therefore, my first duty to consider of the first point and the question of the Principalities. I believe that the concessions that have been made by Russia with regard to these Principalities are of the greatest importance. The right hon. Gentleman confounding two things which are essentially distinct, speaks of the protection of the Christians, to which I had referred in a despatch when I was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and in which it was stated that it was prescribed to the Emperor of Russia as a duty, and that it had been sanctioned by treaty as such. Now there can be no doubt whatever that, with regard to Wallachia and Moldavia, not only by the Treaty of Kainardji, but by other treaties—by the Treaties of Bucharest and Adrianople—the Emperor of Russia had an engagement from the Sultan to protect the Christian subjects in the Principalities; and if a congregation were subject to outrage, murder, or pillage, I conceive it was the duty of the Emperor of; Russia to ask for some redress for such grievances. I know that, without any such treaty, our Ambassador at Constantinople, on receiving an account from a consul that a Christian church had been destroyed, or a Christian murdered, thinks it his duty to I bring the fact under the notice of the Sultan, and generally obtains redress. But the treaties to which I allude are express upon that point, and it is impossible for me, or for any man, to deny that Russia had those rights by treaties. But the right hon. Gentleman confounded these treaties with the proposals that were made by Prince Menchikoff, and asked how I could make such a dangerous admission as that there was this right of protection, and at the same time protest against it in the case of Prince Menchikoff? Why, the right of protecting those churches has been clearly sanctioned over and over again by treaties; but what Prince Menchikoff demanded was a claim of protection going 1081 beyond those treaties, and arose, as is very justly said in one of Lord Clarendon's despatches and in one of the "Four Points," from an erroneous interpretation of the Treaty of Kainardji. I am the more confirmed that it arose from an erroneous interpretation of that treaty when I recollect a fact that occurred during the negotiations between Sir Hamilton Seymour and the late Emperor Nicholas. Sir H. Seymour said to the Emperor, "Have the goodness to point out on what part of the treaty of Kainardji the right you claim is founded;" and his Imperial Majesty said—as an Imperial Majesty is likely to say—"I will not point out to you the particular article of the treaty; go to Count Nesselrode, and he will point out the article of the treaty." Sir Hamilton Seymour, as he was bid, went to Count Nesselrode, and said, "Will your Excellency have the goodness to point out to me the particular part of the treaty of Kainardji on which your master's claim is founded." Count Nesselrode said, "I am not very conversant with those treaties; but Baron Brunow is conversant with them; tell your Government to apply to him, and he will point out the part of the treaty which gives the Emperor the right he claims." But as Baron Brunow never attempted the task, I conclude that it was not any part of the treaty of Kainardji that gave such a power to the Emperor. The right hon. Gentleman therefore makes utter confusion, when he confounds the claim which was then put forward, with the undoubted rights claimed by the Emperor of Russia for the protection of the Christians in Moldavia and Wallachia.
Now, Sir, with regard to the Four Points. I will not at this late hour enter into any kind of disquisition about the navigation of the Danube; but I may say, that on that point likewise we have gained pretty considerable advantage. But we have to consider the whole question, and a most important question it is, which has occupied us for these two years past, and which I think may occupy the Parliament of this country even for future generations—namely, whether it is not necessary to put some bounds to the progress of Russia, and in what manner that object is to be effected. Far be it from me to say that I could pretend, from any reflections or lights of my own, to solve that great problem. I consulted others not only in England and France—not only the Members of my own Government and the Members of the 1082 French Government—and I may venture to say, since he did me the honour to admit me to an audience, the Emperor of the French—but likewise several statesmen of the Continent of Europe, not engaged with either Power, but whose well known wisdom and authority, and whose long experience in political matters entitle their opinions to the utmost attention. Now what is the position of Russia? It might not be such as would have justified us in making war, or have excited us to make it; but, being at war, it behoves us all—and my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford as much as any man—most seriously to consider. Russia has, since the commencement of the century, increased her power more than any other Power of Europe. She has upwards of 60,000,000 of inhabitants, and has an army of 800,000 men—I speak of a time of peace, and before the outbreak of the war. After a considerable struggle, and much resistance by Lord Castlereagh, the representative of this country, and by Prince Talleyrand, the representative of France, she was allowed to acquire, and retains, Poland. The only limitation was, that Poland was united to Russia by a constitution; but that link, which gave to Poland a separate representation, a separate army, and as it were a separate existence—was totally broken, and a new and hard fetter of iron was employed to bind her to Russia after the insurrection of 1831. In Poland she has erected six or seven fortresses, of at least equal strength with Sebastopol. She has conciliated the peasantry to a very great extent by a policy artfully adapted for that purpose. At the same time the young men of Poland of rank and intelligence, who might be filled with historic recollections and patriotic ardour, and who might be suspected of an inclination some day to rise up against the policy of Russia, are carefully marked and selected, and sent to a distance in the interior provinces of Russia, there to meet with no sympathy, where their names are unknown, and their fate is forgotten by all except the relatives and friends they have left behind. In the Baltic we find from the discoveries made last year—since the commencement of the war—that a great plan of fortifications had been undertaken, which Sir Charles Napier sent home, and which he said would, if undertaken, have given Russia a complete predominance over the Baltic; because, when those fortifications were completed, neither Denmark, nor 1083 Sweden, nor any other Power, could have held up a finger against Russia in the Baltic. In Germany she has connected herself with many of the smaller Princes by marriage. Many of the Princes of Germany, I am sorry to say, live in great fear of what they think is the revolutionary disposition of their subjects, and they rely upon their armed forces for protection. But what are those armed forces? The officers of those forces are seduced and corrupted by the Russian Court. Rewards, orders, and distinctions are distributed amongst them—even the receipt of money to pay debts will be accepted by them, and that money is liberally given by the Russian Court; so that Germany, which ought to be the seat of independence—Germany, which should stand forward for the protection of Europe against Russia—has been for years undermined in its vital strength and independence by Russian arts and Russian means.
Well, Sir, I have not hitherto spoken of the immediate danger with which we have had to deal. The immediate danger with which we have bad to deal was this—that after a long course of violence and aggression, Russia had signed a treaty, at Adrianople which gave her new powers, and confirmed many of the old. The dangers arising from that treaty to Turkey are admirably pointed out in the despatch of Lord Aberdeen; but neither Lord Aberdeen nor the Duke of Wellington, who was at the head of the Ministry at the time, thought it right to go to war on account of those dangers. I believe they acted wisely in so abstaining. But now that we are at war we are not to forget the lesson Lord Aberdeen gave, or keep out of sight the dangers that were pointed out in that despatch. Russia had therefore great means of influence in Turkey—such means of influence that, I believe, if she had been wise and prudent, it was quite sufficient to enable her to gain a permanent control over the councils of the Sultan. But in an hour of imprudence—I will not say more of the great Sovereign that ruled her—he is dead, and the time for severe comment is passed by—she insisted upon what Turkey thought a degradation; she made an aggression, and Turkey resolved to resist, and judging from the offers of sympathy and support she had received from France and Great Britain that she Would be supported in the struggle, she had recourse to arms in her defence. Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, a 1084 man well acquainted with the whole subject, had some time before said, "I think the time is come when Turkey's position must be entirely changed. Either she will fall into a state of total dependence upon Russia, or she must get rid of those manacles and shackles with which for years past she has been fettered." We had to choose, then, between leaving her completely under the sway of Russia as a subject, or endeavouring to raise her to something higher. As I have already stated, we chose the latter part of the alternative, and it became us therefore first to consider the immediate danger. The immediate danger was warded off. The gallant defence of Silistria is still remembered with pride; but had it not been for the presence of the allied forces, it would have been renewed in the same manner that the struggle of 1828 was renewed in 1829, and the Russian forces would have been at the Balkan. But the presence of the allied forces prevented that danger, and the Russians retired across the Danube. Austria then said that unless the Principalities were evacuated she should declare war with Russia, and upon her forces being assembled Russia evacuated them. Now, it was because these Principalities were placed under the safeguard of Austria, because any attempt to invade Turkey or to cross the Balkan and reach Constantinople was thus prevented, that we felt ourselves enabled to send to the Crimea the expedition which, like my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone), I still think we were right in sending, but the discussion of which I will, like him, reserve for some future occasion. There is, however, this fact, that in consequence of the pressure at Sebastopol the Russian fleet has been sunk by the Russians themselves; it is no longer the eighteen or nineteen sail of the line that menaced Constantinople and were the constant terror of the Sultan's Government. The question then upon the third point was this, how we could diminish the power of Russia and put an end to her preponderance in the Black Sea. I am not at all ashamed of the manner in which I agreed with Count Buol to invite the Russian Plenipotentiaries to take what is termed the initiative of the proposition for effecting that object. Count Buol represented to us that it might be hurtful to the dignity of Russia to have terms imposed upon her for the limitation of her power in the Black Sea; but that in consideration of the security of Europe she might make 1085 a proposition to that effect to Turkey; and he asked us, the Plenipotentiaries of France and England, not to bring forward our propositions until he had made the proposal. He made the proposal, and I followed it up—answering for England, and not for Russia, as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) supposes—with these words—In the eyes of England and of her allies, the best and only admissible conditions of peace would be those which, being most in harmony with the honour of Russia, should at the same time be sufficient for the security of Europe, and for preventing the return of complications such as that the settlement of which is now in question.I wish to ask, provided the security of Europe was attained and the return of what is called a complication, what is in fact dreadful war, was prevented, was it not desirable that the terms should be compatible with the honour of Russia, and should be such as to make her satisfied with the arrangement? Therefore I am quite willing to abide, and I believe my colleagues are ready to abide by that declaration which I then made. The answer to that proposition of Count Buol was a considerable time in arriving—eighteen days elapsed before it reached the conference, and I believe that the Russian Government were about a week in deliberation, between the time of receiving the proposition and adopting their answer. That answer was to the effect that the Russian Plenipotentiaries were desired not to make any propositions; and we are told in the Russian circular just issued that that was in conformity with the instructions which had been given by the Emperor Nicholas. I think that was a very unwise decision. I have always understood that Russians of great sagacity and experience in public affairs always considered that the Emperor Nicholas paid too much attention to his marine, and that his fleets at Sebastopol and Cronstadt, though they might make a parade in time of peace, would not be able to compete with those of the maritime Powers in time of war. I believe that to be a very sound opinion, and therefore I thought it possible that they would have made this concession, thus giving up something the cession of which would not really diminish the power of Russia as a great Power—though it would diminish her power in the Black Sea—and that the Russian Plenipotentiaries might have said that they were instructed 1086 to propose that there should be only a limited force of each nation in the Black Sea, and that the rule of closing the Bosphorus should be maintained, so that there should be no danger to Russia from that quarter. I hear it said that if the force of Russia in the Black Sea were limited, the fleets of England and France might come in at any time and insult the coasts of Russia in the Black Sea. How would she be worse off then than she has been in the present war, when we have seen that her fleet has been no security at all? What has been the use of the eighteen or nineteen sail of the line which Russia possessed at Sebastopol? They cannot be restored for some years, and when they are restored what security can Russia have greater than that which she had two years ago? The fact was that they were no security at all, for no sooner have the fleets of England and France appeared in the Black Sea than her ships have skulked into Sebastopol, and several of them have been destroyed. I told one of those persons to whom I have alluded, whose name I must not mention, that we intended to propose the limitation of the Russian fleet, but that I was told Russia would object to it. He said, "If that is so, it is a proof that she means aggression." I thought that observation perfectly just. I cannot conceive why Russia should hesitate to make peace in order that she may have eighteen or twenty sail of the line at Sebastopol, unless she meditates some future aggression upon Turkey; and that I now believe, still more than I did last year, still more than I did before I went to Vienna, to be in the contemplation of Russia. The Russian point of view is that Turkey cannot endure, that site must decay, and that her fall cannot be long delayed. This view was borrowed from the late Emperor, whose abilities and powers naturally made him an object of veneration to the Russians. They believe that when Turkey breaks up, England and France will hasten to seize Constantinople, and thus menace her empire, and thus feel it necessary to be beforehand with these Powers, and make herself mistress of that commanding position. Put it, however, which way you will—as an act either of aggression or of self-defence—it comes to the same thing, that it is the intention of Russia at some future time—and, it may be, in no remote future—to possess herself of Constantinople. Now, Sir, believing that to be the case, are the Governments 1087 of France and England to close with the proposition of Russia, that they should have no security except that, in case of menace, the Sultan might call up the fleets of his allies? I admit all the imperfections of the security we have proposed; but let the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) and the House recollect that we are, by a stipulation with Austria and by our then position in the war, precluded from asking for any territorial cession from Russia. No doubt, the return of some of the provinces which Russia has wrested from Turkey would be a better security, and a material guarantee, than the limitation of the fleet; but it is certain that if we had proposed such a course, Austria would have opposed it, and the Russian Plenipotentiaries would have left the conference. We were, therefore, compelled to resort to other securities; and, after all that I have heard against that project of limitation, in the position of affairs in which we were placed, I see no better security than that limitation, or the plan to which Russia was still more opposed—that of making the Black Sea a commercial sea altogether, and not admitting any ships of war in that sea. Such, therefore, is my defence with reference to this point. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli)—and his language seemed to me to be extremely ambiguous—said, "What does it signify whether Russia has four or eight ships, more or less?" And then he went on to say, "You ought, in fact, to carry on the war defensively; you ought to defend Turkey when Russia is prepared to attack her." Now, this brings us to one of two conclusions—the right hon. Gentleman has not told us which—either that we must be there perpetually to defend Turkey, and thus to make an eternal war, or, having defended Turkey against the immediate aggression, and Russia having consented to say, for the hundredth time, that she will respect the integrity and independence of Turkey, that we should withdraw our forces and make peace, baring no security whatever beyond those to which Russia had already consented. That is the plan of my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford. But my right hon. Friend fairly and manfully avowed that plan. He brought it before the House of Commons of England, and declared that these were terms upon which he thought that we should be secure. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), however said, "Put 1088 an end"—not to war, but—"to the negotiations;" therefore, at once proposing that we should have no success in war, no security for peace, and, at the same time, proposing the continuance of the war. Can anything be more inconsistent or more extravagant than such a proposal? Now, it has been said that Austria has not given us all the support which she might do. As far as the support to be given in conferences is concerned, she has fully given us that support; and, with regard to this last proposition of calling up the forces of the allies when Turkey should be in danger, she said "that is no security—that is leaving the preponderance of Russia unlimited till the moment when the danger becomes intolerable." I must say, Sir, I do not expect, however, that Austria is prepared, in the present state of the question, to take an immediate part in the war against Russia. I believe that she would have consulted her own interest and dignity better if she had some time ago joined us in that war; but at the same time there are considerable motives—there are very powerful motives—to influence her in maintaining peace with Russia. In the first place, she has not her capital in the situation of either London or Paris, which are free from any danger of incursion by the Russian army. She has no fortresses in Gallicia to prevent the Russian army, if it should gain but one victory, marching at once to Vienna. She has no secure alliance on this subject with Prussia, and this I hold to be one of the main motives which have deterred her from taking an active part in the war. Prussia, her great rival, not only opposes her on this question, but is constantly canvassing the smaller States of Germany against her upon the question, so that the Austrian Government feel that, unless they can show that there is some predominant and necessary motive to induce her to go to war, she would not be justified in calling upon the population of Germany to support her in it. I tell this openly to the House, because I think that not only ought justice to be done to Austria, but, likewise, because I do not wish to hold out any hope that she will take an immediate part in the war. I do think, however, that her position is such—that her treaty engagements with us are such, that, if the war continues, she will find it necessary, in order to meet and vanquish that preponderance of Russia to take part in the war. But of this I feel sure, that the part Austria 1089 has played in not taking a share of the spoils of Turkey, which Russia had confidently expected, and in joining us in all measures and proposals we have thought necessary, will never be forgiven by Russia; and, therefore, that her only safety is in building up such alliances as shall secure Turkey and Europe against the aggression of Russia. Sir, for that reason I shall be ready to vote against the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. This, Sir, is a great national question—perhaps the greatest national question that has ever engaged the counsels of the House or called forth the resources of the country—and yet the right hon. Gentleman seeks to degrade it into not merely a party question—for a party question may be a very great question—but into a very limited and narrow party question with respect to particular conduct at a particular moment, and particular language held in debates in this House. I never knew a great national question—perhaps one of the greatest national questions which has ever been debated in this House—which has ever engaged the councils of this House—which has ever called for the exercise of the arms of this country—and probably so great a question never has been so degraded as this has been by the language of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the mistrust which he says prevails in the present Government. I do not deny—I wish I could deny—that there is great foundation for his observation. But I do not believe any cure will be found in the substitution of the right hon. Gentleman for my noble Friend and those who sit on this side of the House. I do not believe that mistrust will be removed, or that general satisfaction and confidence will take the place of uneasiness and anxiety by such a change. I hear much said of administrative reform, and I think it an object in itself most desirable. But I want to know why it should be presumed that there are other men, either those who are well known on the opposite side of the House, or some others who are totally unknown, who would carry out administrative reform better than those who are at present in the possession of power? I believe that we can hardly have a better measure than that which has been proposed by my noble Friend Lord Panmure on the subject of reform in the army departments. It is with respect to the army department establishment that defects have been discovered. 1090 They were felt at the breaking out of the war. My noble Friend proposes to place all the civil branches of the army under the superintendence of a single Secretary of State. I believe that having one man's eye to watch and one man's hands to guide will lead to the improved working of the whole machinery of the department, and we shall be in a way to remedy the evils which have been complained of. But, as to other improvements, I own I do not find—although much may be said—that there is any special accusations as to other departments. I do not find, with regard to the Finance, with regard to the Home Department, or with regard to that department over which I have the honour to preside, that there has been any complaint made of inefficiency. I believe, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman, while he has not well founded his proposal as regards the particular question, has not better founded it with regard to the remedy he proposes for what he calls general disgust. I am convinced the party which sits opposite would not gain in credit by having it said, as it would surely be said, that, on a great crisis of the fortunes of the country, the great Conservative party, which for upwards of a year had with the greatest patriotism come forward in support of the Crown and to maintain the honour of the country by every vote it was in their power to give—after little more than a year had tired of the exercise of that virtue, and sought an opportunity for slipping into office in place of those who now fill the offices; and, having lost an occasion which seemed to them to be an inviting one, coming from what is termed an independent Member, comes forward with a Motion of their own to gain the prize for which they were so anxious. I believe the right hon. Gentleman, and those who act with him, would gain no credit by such a step. Whatever may be the division in this House, I think this has been a false move on the part of the hon. Gentleman opposite. If he can censure any act of ours, if he can put his finger on any one act of the Government, and censure that act, of course we are open to that censure—liable to any criticism which the House may think fit to make; but to bring forward vague words merely to catch up what seems to be a feeling of the moment, and which may not last above a day or two, to be so impatient as not to wait even over the Whitsuntide holidays to know if negotiations are concluded, is a falling off in that patriotism 1091 and virtue which I must say hon. Gentlemen opposite have hitherto evinced, and I think they will add nothing to their fame or reputation by the course they are now taking.
§ MR. WHITESIDE moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ The House adjourned at a quarter before Two o'clock.