Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to be made to Question [24th May]—
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 which Amendment was, to leave out from the first word "House" to the word "feels," in line 6, in order to insert the words, "having seen with regret that the Conferences of Vienna have not led to a termination of hostilities," instead thereof.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, that he rose to support the Resolution moved by his right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire. The best justification of the notice given by his right hon. Friend was afforded by the discussion which occurred last night. But for that notice they would never have heard the profound views of the noble Lord the Member for London, nor the able speech of the right hon. Member for the University, which would have resembled the celebrated oration for Milo that Cicero carefully elaborated, but never delivered. But for that notice the hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford University could not have expressed the hopes which he still cherished of the successful termination of negotiations which did not exist; neither would the hon. Member for Kidderminster have had the opportunity of framing his magnanimous Amendment, which it was to be hoped he would push to a magnanimous conclusion. Hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House were displeased with what took place on Monday night, and, if the First Minister of the Crown was a party to what then transpired, the House of Commons would fail in its duty to the public did it not unequivocally express its indignation at such a proceeding. When a Resolution of great importance—involving the momentous question of peace or war—was laid on the table, and hon. Gentlemen came down at considerable personal inconvenience to conduct its solemn discussion, that House would sink rapidly in the public estimation if it allowed such a matter to be got rid of on the flimsiest pretexts, and the country would justly consider that the House preferred a sham to a reality. They had had the advantage of listening to the noble Lord the Member for London, and the right hon. Member for the University—each of whom expounded his views with great ability, but with the most marked contrariety. Indeed, any impartial hearer of those two eminent men must have been struck with the proofs of inconsistency of opinion and uncertainty of conduct, not 1195 upon a minor subject, but upon the weightiest matters that could occupy the minds of statesmen, which were exhibited in their speeches. And one could not help asking himself, when he listened to the strange evidences of discrepancy between them, "Did these two Gentlemen sit so lately in the same Cabinet? Did they meet and deliberate together on the awful questions of peace and war, and on the negotiations which might affect the one or the other? Did they guide the destinies of the nation at a moment when it was above all things indispensable that a united and powerful combination of statesmen, acting on a common principle, should direct the energies of this country in a manner correspondent with its duties and obligations as a first-rate Power?" A Ministry whose individual opinions in such a crisis were diametrically opposed, contradictory, and discordant, could not fail to bring about the signal misfortunes which had recently befallen our country. Let the House not be fascinated by the eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman, or misled by the high authority of the noble Lord, but attentively examine the substance and tenour of their arguments. The noble Lord's views appeared to be bent on war, but the right hon. Gentleman's thoughts were turned on peace. The right hon. Gentleman said, the terms conceded by Russia would give us a safe and durable peace; while the noble Lord—the negotiator in person—maintained that those terms would give us a mockery. According to the right hon. Gentleman, a treaty with Russia might be sufficient; according to the noble Lord, we ought to have substantial guarantees. The revision of the treaty of 1841, said the right hon. Gentleman, would be of much value in the settlement of this vital question. That revision would amount to nothing, said the noble Lord, because (he added very truly) without any fresh treaty the Sultan might cry out for help when assailed. The right hon. Gentleman held that, should we accept the terms proposed, England would have been successful in the result of the struggle in which her blood had been profusely shed and her treasure lavished. The noble Lord, with a little more patriotism and truth, maintained that, if we acceded to those terms, we should be confessing in the eyes of the world that we and our chivalrous ally, France, had been defeated. The right hon. Gentleman said that by the adoption of the terms proposed the safety 1196 of Turkey would be secured, and the noble Lord that the danger to Turkey would be thereby increased. The right hon. Gentleman insisted that England and France would have gained their end, and established a European peace; the noble Lord insisted that the preponderance of Russia would be greatly augmented, not only over Turkey, but over Europe. Such were the discordant opinions, on a grave question, of two able and thoughtful men, who expected from the Parliament of England an unanimous conclusion upon their conjoint counsels. Thus, then, the argument, in its general bearings, stood between the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman. But in a more advanced portion of his speech the noble Lord let fall an important sentence; and when he expressed his belief as to a matter of fact, the noble Lord, from his position in this country, was entitled to implicit respect. The noble Lord said, "As to the negotiations with which I was charged at Vienna, let me say, in the first place, that, although I thought success in that negotiation came within the range of possibility, I felt at no time sanguine that it was probable." Consider for a moment that important avowal of the noble Lord in connection with all that had been heretofore absurdly stated as to the danger of disturbing pending negotiations—a point, however, which, thanks to the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield's question, bad been set at rest that night. The chief negotiator, in fact, described himself as the leader of the forlorn hope in diplomacy; he went to Vienna, according to his own confession, dispirited, and returned from it defeated. He expected nothing, and the result exactly tallied with his anticipations. And yet some hon. Members of that House said they would not vote for this Motion, because it might interfere with the prospect of a happy issue to negotiations, which, according to the noble Lord's frank admission, never had a real beginning! Now, his right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) proposed that they should take the direct, the honest, and also the English course of asserting, that the language of the Ministry being equivocal and its conduct uncertain, they had no alternative but to address the Crown, stating that, because negotiations were impossible, or, if possible, were improbable, because they were futile and abortive, therefore nothing remained for the Members of that House, as men of honour and of spirit, but to declare their 1197 determination to carry on the war with energy and vigour, until it resulted in an honourable and lasting peace. But the noble Lord has destroyed politically his colleague beside him by the statement he made, that he never expected or believed that the negotiations would end in anything satisfactory or useful. The noble Lord had also returned to this country acting under that belief, for in a subsequent passage of his speech he said that he left Vienna more firmly convinced of the intention of Russia to assail Turkey than when he went there. He (Mr. Whiteside) could quite understand the noble Lord's entertaining that opinion; but if so, what did the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) mean by his answer to the question put by the right hon. Member for Wiltshire and the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire—what was the meaning of his answer? Did it not prove that his language was uncertain and his political conduct equivocal, when they had it from the lips of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), one who had never willingly erred in a matter of truth, that he believed the negotiations would be futile and abortive; and that though he went, as in duty bound to the Crown and to the Ministry to which he had given the weight of his name, influence, and authority, yet he did not believe that he would effect anything by those negotiations, and that he left Vienna neither surprised nor disappointed; and having communicated the result to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, he, when the House came to discuss the question raised by the right hon. Member for Manchester, made a statement that negotiations might be going on—that there was a chance, a possibility, of negotiations being successful? He (Mr. Whiteside) considered that there was no such possibility, and believed that they might freely and frankly discuss the question on the belief that there was not. With respect to the remarks made by the noble Lord on the Four Points, he must be permitted to observe that whenever any body of gentlemen attempted to come to a decision on the third point, the discussion of it was sure to create confusion; and he thought that those who sent the noble Lord to Vienna embarrassed with that third point were more to be censured than the noble Lord himself. He had made the best of a very bad case, but the noble Lord in the progress of the negotiations made an admission with respect to the necessity of 1198 preserving the honour of Russia which the crafty special pleader employed against him turned to his disadvantage at the very next meeting, for he told the noble Lord that he had made an admission previously which stopped him from making the demands which he subsequently put forward. What was the reason of his (Mr. Whiteside's) right hon. Friend saying what he had as to the propriety of the conference commencing with this third point? The right hon. Member for the University of Oxford had dwelt at great length on the vast concessions proposed to be made by Russia, but the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire had said that this was scarcely a question deserving of formal investigation, and that the conference might have begun with the third point. Why had he said this? Now came the authority of the Prime Minister, who about a year and a half ago, in answer to the hon. Member for Liverpool, gave an admirable exposition of the then existing treaties, by which Russia was bound to have the navigation of the Danube kept clear and open—a pleasanter speech the noble Lord had never made—and that was no inconsiderable commendation. He said that he had made many representations to Russia, and that it had never for a moment disputed its obligation to keep the navigation of the Danube free, and that he trusted that Russia would break through the trammels which had impeded its proper action; and he had also pleasantly insinuated that he did not believe in the value of the treaties, that Russia had always broken them, and would do so until the end of the chapter. But when they had been so assured that Russia was bound by friendly treaties to preserve the free navigation of the Danube, and that not to do so was an insult to the public law of Europe, was this proposed and pretended concession a point which required to be dwelt upon at any great length? There was an observation made by the noble Lord, in which he had fallen into a slight mistake. He insisted that the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, in reading an extract from a former despatch of the noble Lord with reference to the protectorate claimed by Russia, was not correct, because the noble Lord said that he only had referred to the protectorate over the Principalities, and that the right hon. Member had confounded with this the general protectorate over the Christian subjects of the Porte. With 1199 deference to the noble Lord the Member for London, he (Mr. Whiteside) considered that the argument used by his right hon. Friend was clear and satisfactory, and was founded on treaties, on the language of the despatch of the noble Lord, and on the admitted facts of the case. The noble Lord then proceeded to a more important subject, and gave them a sketch—and a truthful one—of the encroaching and insatiable ambition of Russia, ending in her attainment of colossal power. He showed—as it seemed his object was boldly and manfully to prove—that Russia was as corrupt as she was ambitious, and that where she could not obtain territorial power, filch provinces, or plunder kingdoms, she corrupted officials, and endeavoured to stir up the feelings of subjects against their Sovereigns, and to establish an interest in every country which she might afterwards turn to her advantage. All this the noble Lord had boldly and frankly told them, and he (Mr. Whiteside) trusted that his description would be placed in the Chancellery of Russia, if they desired to lodge there a sketch of her policy, and he hoped that if Count Nesselrode wanted a text for another elaborate political essay he would take the noble Lord's sketch for his text, and answer it truthfully if he could. But when the noble Lord finished this remarkable description of Russia, he (Mr. Whiteside) asked himself: What is all this done for—what is its object? for he thought it the most terrible description of an existing European Power which had ever yet been given by any Member on either side of the House. If this Power was such as the noble Lord had described, would it be bound by any treaties? And if its object was to establish its supremacy by such means as the noble Lord had delineated, did they want any other argument in favour of the Motion of his right hon. Friend? Was not the bold statement made by the noble Lord the best corroboration of the argument that it was necessary that some Member should come forward with such a motion and declare their intention to carry on a just war against a Power so ambitious and so colossal? The noble Lord, having laid down his premises, drew his conclusion. A fearful Power in Europe, becoming greater and greater every day, was to be repressed, and what was the statesman's remedy for the prodigious evil to be dealt with? Why, it was best described by the mountain and the mouse. What was the remedy 1200 recommended by the political physician? Why, nothing in particular. He had listened to the noble Lord with attention, and when the noble Lord sat down he was as wise as when he commenced in reference to the policy of the Government with regard to Russia. He had been fired by the noble Lord's speech, which clearly proved the necessity of abating the monstrous evil he had described. But what measure did the noble Lord suggest for that purpose? All he could find out was that the noble Lord did say when he was in Vienna that something must be done—a very safe opinion to propound. What that something should be was the practical question; but the only suggestion he could find with respect to the abatement of Russian preponderance was this: The noble Lord said it was the opinion of some eminent men that the Emperors of Russia make a great mistake in attending to their marine; their ships will not fight, their naval power is next to nothing, and therefore, as the colossal power of Russia must be dealt with, reduce the number of their worthless ships. He found no other suggestion, and then the noble Lord told the Opposition they were inconsistent because they were in favour of reducing the power of Russia, and when he showed them how it might be diminished they would not agree with him. The political sagacity of the noble Lord and his colleagues was exhausted when they had framed the great project of reducing the number of Russian ships in the Black Sea. Could anything be more pigmy than the remedy which had been proposed for a colossal evil? The inconsistency charged against the Opposition was this. The noble Lord said, "Why do you not tell us what we are to do?" Well, they would do so if the Government would change places with them. The noble Lord said, "I have exhausted my stock; have you nothing to propose?" But was it ever the duty of an Opposition to do more than criticise the proceedings of the Government? It was certainly difficult to criticise the proceedings of diplomatists, but then they were not ordinary mortals. He wanted to know from the noble Lord, who was an adroit and expert party leader, when it had ever been the duty of an Opposition to perform the duties of Her Majesty's Administration. They might ask the noble Lord, as a Plenipotentiary, whether he had nothing more to say for himself. The noble Lord had never told them what was to be the 1201 policy of the Government. He forgot that cardinal point of the whole question, and he (Mr. Whiteside) appealed to the hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were going to vote against the Resolution of his right hon. Friend, to say whether the noble Lord, in his argument on behalf of this ricketty Administration, had satisfactorily explained to them what was the policy of which they were going to approve. The charge against the Ministry was that their conduct had been evasive and unsatisfactory, and their language equivocal. In answer to that accusation had the noble Lord satisfactorily explained what was the meaning of the noble Lord the Premier? He had not, for the best reason in the world—he did not know what the Premier meant; and he ventured to say that the Premier did not know himself what he meant, if he might judge from the little speech he had made the other night. The noble Lord at the head of the Government then said—Austria is charged by her own voluntary assumption, with the consent of course of the allies, with the task of endeavouring to discover the means of bringing about an accommodation between the contending parties.Here we have a summons from the political Atlas of the day. He did not object merely to the wording of the speech, but to the fact that a Prime Minister had nothing more to say upon the great question of peace or war, than that a Power like Austria was charged with the task of endeavouring to find out some means of settling the contest which Her Majesty's Ministers had been unable to discover. Austria was to find out for them a means of solving this great difficulty. There was a statesman of this country still living who had written most ably upon the laws and constitutions of the European States, and these were the words which that statesman (Lord Brougham) had uttered fifteen or eighteen months ago with regard to Austria:—His apprehensions, he confessed, were for the period when he should hear that a movement had been made by the enemy for quitting the Principalities and to return to his own territory. He could not help fearing that there would arise embarrassments to us and to our ally, France; that great embarrassment of Russia having probably made some concession to Austria, and Austria then calling on us to enter into negotiations—of that he had more dread than of the war itself—because, if we were drawn into negotiations, the long series of diplomatic acts and protocols might be continued, with all the resources of Russian diplomacy, dragging us perhaps through the whole 1202 summer and autumn to the time when the Black Sea and the Baltic would be in very different circumstances from those in which they happily now were. He trusted that the opinion expressed the other night, and now repeated by the noble Earl, that the Western Powers were not committed by anything which had been done at Vienna or Berlin, would be shared by our great, magnanimous, and most honourable ally, France. He had no distrust of Austria—he should say nothing of Prussia; he had perfect confidence in the wisdom and sag councils of the advisers of the Emperor of Austria, and in the character of the young Emperor himself; but certainly a proposition was supposed to have been made by Austria to the Czar which, if it were to lead to negotiations, it would be for the Western Powers to say whether they should bear a part in them or not, and if they were to bear a part in them, he trusted that a certain time—and that not a very long time—would be fixed, within which those negotiations must terminate or cease, and then the war be prosecuted with energy as before."—[3 Hansard, cxxxiv. 670.]It was thus pointed out by Lord Brougham, that one of the most unfortunate things a Minister could do was to embark in perilous diplomacy under Austrian influences, and yet this was what the Government had done. They had charged our ally "to a certain extent"—who agreed with us in "moral sentiment," which was certainly a most important consideration—with a task of finding out something they could not find out, and then the noble Lord coolly asked the House why it should venture to proceed to discuss questions touching the pending negotiations. Why, the House ought to have voted the noble Lord out of office after that speech. The noble Lord the Member for London said, the shipping of Russia was the thing to be cut down; but what was the answer of Russia to that proposition at the close of the conference? The argument of the Government was, that the preponderating power of Russia in the Black Sea was to be diminished by the reduction of her fleet, but if she said she would not reduce it they had nothing more to say. Prince Gortchakoff stated, that a security against Russian preponderance would be gained by the exercise of the power of the Sultan to call foreign fleets to his assistance, that this would be a solid guarantee for the independence of Turkey, and that the existence of a formidable Russian fleet in the Black Sea was a condition essential to the balance of power in Europe and to the independence of the Sultan and the Porte. This was the result of the negotiations. The Russian diplomatists said the whole matter had been mistaken, as their object was to maintain the independence of the Sultan. 1203 He would do the noble Lord the justice to say, that he thought he understood Prince Gortchakoff, although Prince Gortchakoff was too many for him. Russia was told, "If you reduce your fleet in the Black Sea, all will be well." The reply of Prince Gortchakoff was, "It is necessary to have a formidable fleet." Formidable to whom? Let the massacre of Sinope answer. Formidable to what? To the unfortunate Power they were pretending to protect. The Russian Ambassador said, "I will not give up the rights of sovereignty or the honour of my master; and what touches more nearly honour and sovereignty than the strength of an army or the number of ships in a fleet? You therefore ask me to consent that the Emperor of Russia shall make a bargain with you to reduce his fleet. My answer is, that Russia will keep a fleet and a formidable fleet." But there was balm in Gilead and hope for Turkey. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) had this peculiarity, that he saw what no other man could see, and that which might be visionary to common eyes in his assumed substance, shape, and form. There was the security of the electric telegraph, concerning which the Russian Plenipotentiary said, that if the Russian fleet did sail out upon Constantinople, Turkey had the wires, and before the Russians could despoil them, Turkey could inform her friends the Western Powers, and they would thus be enabled to bear down to the rescue. Well, if that did not satisfy the noble Lord, a more obstinate diplomatist never existed. The Russian Plenipotentiary seemed to have read our books of law, for he said on one occasion—"Oh! but you allowed that to Austria in a particular case, and reciprocity is equity." It must be admitted that more ability than that displayed by the Russian Plenipotentiary it was impossible to find, and he must do him the justice to say, that from beginning to end he offered nothing. Why did he offer nothing? He thought he found the reason yesterday in the instructive despatch of Count Nesselrode, and this seemed to him to be the solution of the Russian diplomacy:—Doubtless, according to the calculations of the Cabinets of London and Paris, the military operations in the Crimea, going hand in hand with diplomatic deliberations, were to influence the issue of the Vienna Conference. When they opened, the anticipation was not justified by events, and therefore the name of Sebastopol was never uttered. Russia is indebted for this silence to the heroic resistance of her brave generals, 1204 officers, sailors, and soldiers. Their noble devotion has been the most victorious means of negotiation.If the English and French Plenipotentiaries could have used the same argument of military success, they might have better influenced the negotiation. The noble Lord at the conference instanced the cession of Dunkirk by Louis XIV. "Ah !" said the Russian Plenipotentiary, "but we have met with none of his disasters, and the case does not apply." If our arms had been conducted in a more efficient manner, the noble Lord might have been able to use the argument that victorious armies are the best negotiators. The debate of last night began in the hope of finding out something, but when the noble Lord sat down he had acquainted the House with nothing. Was there a hope of peace? The noble Lord did not know; and if he did not know how should the House know? It was impossible to find out what the Ministry meant. What, indeed, must be the unhappy condition of that Administration which, after due deliberation, after the expectation of a debate, with the protocols before them, had given to an expectant nation, listening through its representatives, no better account of its policy and no better idea of its plans than those given last night by the noble Lord, who, telling the House nothing which it required to know, yet called upon it to oppose the proposition of his right hon. Friend. The policy of the Government was so uncertain, and their conduct so ambiguous and equivocal, that the noble Lord could not venture to define, specify, and explain it; yet he called upon the House to proceed with them in the dark, and knowing not whither the Government might lead them. The right hon. Member (Mr. Gladstone) appeared to him to be now the chief of the Peace Party. He was at first, as might be expected, in some difficulty. It was a criticism of Lord Bacon on the speech of one of the ancients that it consisted from beginning to end of distinctions. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman seemed, in like manner, to him to be one of close and subtle distinctions; and what was he in such doubt and difficulty about? He said he could understand—and this was important testimony in its favour—the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) which others said was ambiguous, but he could not understand the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir F. Baring). The right hon. 1205 Gentleman said he could not quite comprehend the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kidderminster, but he was prepared to support the milk-and-water Amendment of his hon. colleague, and he cherished hopes of a successful result to negotiations which were begun to end in nothing, and did end in nothing. The right hon. Gentleman would vote for the peace Amendment of his colleague, because that was the widest of the mark of all the Motions before the House, and because there could be found the fewest people to believe in it in England, Scotland, and Ireland. Yet the right hon. Gentleman, with a political fidelity that did him honour, pinned his faith upon that Amendment and staked his character as a statesman on that all-important Amendment of his hon. colleague. The first part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was a defence of the old Ministers, but their misconduct seemed to him to be not exactly the question before the House. The right hon. Gentleman was one of the few speakers of whom he could say that he always regretted when he sat down, but all that could be said of the first part of his speech last night was that he had made a dextrous and artful defence for that Ministry which the House had been obliged to condemn, but which it had not yet been able to punish. Common sense seemed to point out that those moderate terms which might have been considered sufficient before the event ought not be adopted after the war broke out. For himself, he avowed that he placed no dependence upon a treaty with Russia. He would very shortly say why, and the facts might be useful to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester. He placed no faith in Russian treaties because it was part of the history of Russia that she had never kept a treaty when it was her interest to break it. Russia had promised by treaty to respect the rights and feelings of the Tartar population, and had invoked God to aid her in the observance of the Crimean treaty. Allusion to the Divine power was always made by a tyrant, a hypocrite, or a bigot when about to lay the foundation for the commission of a great crime against his laws. He asked the right hon. Gentleman, did Russia keep that treaty? Did she falsely, perfidiously, and wickedly, when it suited her purpose, violate the treaty she had called Heaven to witness? Did she trample on the rights, and spoliate the territories of an unoffending people? She did. She 1206 committed that crime. What was the conduct of Russia afterwards? It was an instructive lesson which the hon. Member for Manchester had sadly misunderstood. Russia, in the reign of Catherine, made a favourable commercial treaty with England, and commercial men thought it would be beneficial to their pockets, and esteemed Russia accordingly. England got into trouble with her American colonies. Russia then formed a confederacy against England to reduce her maritime pretensions, to cut down the maritime law as practised and enforced by England, at the very moment when she believed England could not effectually resist. Russia encroached on Turkey, provoked Turkey to war in every way, combined with Austria, and formed a formidable confederacy to accomplish what was then her object. Russia was favoured by a section of the mercantile community in England, and he deeply regretted to say, for the sake of his fame, that party was headed by Charles James Fox and the Whigs. When Mr. Pitt wished to rescue Sweden from the Danish allies of Russia, and had laid the foundation of a powerful confederacy against Russia, Charles James Fox insisted, and it was a stain upon the political sagacity of that matchless orator and eminent man, that the maintenance of Turkey itself was of no use to Europe. Mr. Pitt said he would not condescend to argue with a man who thought it was of no consequence to England if Russia possessed Turkey; and Mr. Fox told Mr. Pitt he was insolent; they used plain speaking at that time to one another. Mr. Fox prevailed—clamour prevailed—the peace party prevailed; Mr. Pitt reasoned and argued that it was for the permanent advantage of England to maintain the confederacy he had formed for the purpose of controlling Russia and upholding the balance of power, but to no purpose; he was coerced to abandon that great object, the confederacy was broken up, and excellent reflections upon that unhappy event were made by Dr. Miller, who had published a book on the Philsosophy of History. What followed? The Empress Catherine received Mr. Adair, the friend of Charles James Fox, with unusual courtesy and kindness, thanked him for the services of his Whig patron, and placed the bust of that patron in her favourite retreat by the side of that of Voltaire. There might be a niche now vacant for the bust of a modern English statesman. Having done that the Empress Catherine, 1207 as the philosophical historian pointed out for our instruction, proceeded straightway to the partition of Poland. The second partition of Poland took place in 1793. The confederacy of the great Powers formed by Pitt against Russia was in 1791. That confederacy was broken up, and what said the writer to whom he had referred, and who was a very learned and accomplished man? He said:—"The late Lord Redesdale informed him that, when he called on Mr. Pitt a short time before his death, Mr. Pitt said there was one part of his political life which he lamented, and that was the having yielded to popular clamour and having given up the confederacy against Russia, which led to the perpetration of the blackest crime that stained the annals of Russia, namely, the partition of Poland." Such was the effect of a small party led by eminent men. And now they had as able, perhaps as influential a party, led by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford and the intellectual coterie to which he belonged, arguing that the alliance formed with chivalrous France should, perhaps, be put an end to, that Russia might recover her strength, recruit her armies, and finally accomplish that design, the partition of Turkey, which there was no doubt the Empress Catherine proposed to the Emperor Joseph of Germany. It should be remembered how that crime, the partition of Poland, was perpetrated. Russia saw Europe in confusion, and, having got rid of the confederacy formed by the wisdom of Mr. Pitt, there was no Power able to resist her. Perfidiously trampling on all treaties and all laws, she sent her emissaries to Poland to accomplish her object; they fomented disturbances, created confusion, seized on the country, and by that act of rapine and injustice sowed the seeds of confusion which had grown upon Europe from that hour to this. Such being the facts recorded upon the page of history, he placed no dependence in the faith of Russia, and Edmund Burke prophesied truly when he said, in allusion to the partition of Poland, "Europe will feel the effects of that dreadful crime for many, many years to come." They had had rebellions and revolutions; Vienna had been taken; Berlin had been taken; Russia had been invaded—he did not speak of this invasion, but of the former invasion—and all these things could be traced up to that Black crime, and were only fresh proofs of the moral 1208 government of God. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) confessed that, as regarded the present war, being then a Minister of the Crown, he felt himself coerced to go to war. Common sense pointed out that, if you ought to go to war, you ought not to have a peace unless you can prevent the necessity of going to war again. Otherwise the description given so powerfully of the horrors of war by the right hon. Gentleman told against himself, because the effect of an inglorious and insecure peace would be a repetition of those horrors. He wished to say a word with reference to the third of these Four Points. This was the hinge upon which the negotiation turned:—The revision of the treaty of July 13, 1841, must have for its object to connect the existence of the Ottoman empire more completely with the European equilibrium and to put an end to the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea. As to the arrangements to be taken in this respect, they depend too directly on the events of the war for it to be possible at present to determine the basis; it is sufficient to point out the principle.As well as he understood it, that amounted to saying they would negotiate on an arrangement which could not be pointed out by any of the parties, because it depended on the events of the war, and no one knew what those events would be; therefore they would begin a negotiation without being able to define any arrangement or to determine the basis of negotiation. After such an extraordinary diplomatic effort he congratulated the noble Lord upon having made so much of the negotiations as he did. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) separated the first part of that third point, and the second part, and a portion of another part, and said, everything was happily concluded save one small point, and that small point was only this,—how to put an end to the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea. He could not do justice to the classic language and the admirable delivery of the right hon. Gentleman, but after the vehement appeal of last night, what was the idea clearly left upon the mind but that everything was satisfactorily concluded save the only great question necessary to be determined? The right hon. Gentleman said it was a question of terms. The noble Lord, he said, "has his terms, and I too have mine." The noble Lord attempted to carry his and failed, his terms being to reduce the number of Russian ships in the Black Sea if 1209 we could only find the ships. He said we had tried to find them, but that many of them were sunk in the Black Sea, and the rest were worth nothing. The right hon. Gentleman told them that fleets could go to the Black Sea whenever they were sent for, and the noble Lord said it might happen that fleets would go there without being sent for. The right hon. Gentleman laboured to make the vision or phantom he had raised assume the appearance of reality. But what was that reality? It was a shadow that no man could grasp. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean to argue that the Sultan, when attacked in his own territory by a hostile Power, could not, without an additional treaty, invite, by means of the electric telegraph, his friends the Western Powers to come to his assistance? The right hon. entleman's powers of imagination were far superior to his powers of argumentation. He spoke of something that would place matters in the East on a sound and stable basis; but what security did the right hon. Gentleman offer to the House for the realisation of his hopes? After listening to the right hon. Gentleman, he was reminded of a circumstance that not long ago occurred in Ireland. A gentleman, a friend of his, had been to a public meeting, where, he said, he heard a very fine speech. He asked him if he liked the speech? To which he replied in the negative. On his expressing some surprise at this, the gentleman rejoined, "Oh, it was a mouthful of moonshine after all." Where was the reality of the right hon. Gentleman's statements? He wanted to lay his hands on them, but could find nothing tangible. It will not do—continued the hon. and learned Gentleman—to make an able and sophistical speech, and tell us that the noble Lord is wrong. Why, we all agree in that. What we want to find out is how to be in the right. The right hon. Gentleman was lately a Minister of the Crown, and we want to learn from his lips what security he has to offer for the good working of his plan. If I can at all understand the right hon. Gentleman, his security is just this—that if ships are sent for by the Sultan they may come through the Straits, which, he says, they cannot do at present so conveniently as they will do when they have the united advantage of the electric telegraph and a treaty. "We will thus," says the right hon. Gentleman, "take care of the sick man." No doubt: and it will be, meanwhile, the care of Russia to secure his eternal repose. The 1210 right hon. Gentleman criticised with consummate ability the application of the third point. He pointed out the difficulties inherent in the composition, and criticised and commented on the language and conduct of the noble Lord in reference to that third point, and dwelt on these with inimitable power and effect; but I am nevertheless told that the right hon. Gentleman is himself the author of this third point. I understand that he—one of the great statesmen of the age—himself composed this third point, the application of which, he says, is so absurd, so imaginative, and which is practically so difficult of adjustment, and that having constructed this piece of statesmanship he now demolishes it with unsparing vigour. I do the right hon. Gentleman the justice to admit that he is convinced in his heart and soul that the application of this point is absurd, and that the application of it may be difficult if not impossible, and I only regret that he gave his own consent to it. He is in the same predicament as the noble Lord and his colleagues, and they are all alike responsible. They get the country into difficulties from which they want the virtue or the power to extricate it. They make war, and they cannot make war. They endeavour to make peace, and they cannot make peace. They draw up protocols which the very author of them cannot well understand, and to apply which, he says, is an impossibility. I confess I am not able to find anything more substantial in the course of the right hon. Gentleman's able speech than that appeal which he made when he counselled you on the grounds of Christianity, religion, and humanity, to terminate this war; but let me ask the right hon. Gentleman one question with reference to that eloquent appeal. He is a moralist and a philosopher—when did that new light break in upon his mind? When did the right hon. Gentleman feel the promptings of conscience so strongly as to be compelled to make that speech which left its sting so sharp behind it? Had he that speech in his mind on Monday evening last? If blood has been shed that should have been stayed, was it his duty to religion, to Christianity, and to God, to come forward on that occasion, and by an exhibition of his policy, and by his eloquent appeals to your feelings and understandings, to stop that discussion, which had for its object to stem the effusion of blood? Was it for him at such a time to stifle discussion, and prevent the 1211 free expression of opinion in this House, instead of giving utterance to those feelings and eloquent ideas to which he has now given birth, and which being then expressed by him, might have tended to stop the effusion of blood? The right hon. Gentleman has described to us, in fervid eloquence, the horrors of war, and he has expatiated, with no common power, on the blessings of peace. But, I ask, who advised the invasion of Russia? Who made war upon the territory of Russia? The right hon. Gentleman. Who advised the expedition to the Crimea and the attack on Sebastopol? The right hon. Gentleman. Who plunged this country into the horrors which he so pathetically described? The right hon. Gentleman. And if there has been an effusion of blood at which every humane man must shudder, that bloodshed was counselled and the invasion which led to it was undertaken on the advice tendered by the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues; and now we see that they are eager to denounce and lament the consequences of their fatal policy. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues sent forth those gallant men who were now fighting our battles, and what was their conduct subsequent to that ill-fated expedition? Those brave men had nothing to sustain them but their bone and sinew—there was evinced for them no counsel, no foresight, no judgment, no adequate preparation. A large number of them fell not by the enemy, but were the victims of disgraceful and criminal neglect. The late Ministry exhibited in every department the most deplorable incompetence, and we, in this House, have had, as yet, no opportunity to express our sense of their awful mismanagement. Having done all this, what did the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues next do? When an indignant nation, through their representatives, demanded inquiry, up started the right hon. Gentleman, and told us that, on constitutional grounds, all inquiry ought to be stifled. That argument was disregarded, and 230 Gentlemen at this side of the House, true to their constituents and to their country, voted for inquiry into the horrors that had taken place, and are now ready to carry that inquiry to its legitimate consequences. I therefore deny the right of a Member of the late Ministry to argue as the right hon. Gentleman has done, and to make the appeal which he has addressed to us. The right hon. Gentleman, last night, quoted a passage from 1212 Virgil, but he did not venture to finish his quotation, an omission which I shall now take the liberty to correct—Cur indecores in limine primo Deficimus? cur ante tubam tremor occupat artus?Those inspiring words follow, happily, the lines he quoted. If they did not follow in his thoughts they now follow in my speech; and I add, moreover, that if it be even as he said, should that lessen the courage of our people? But the question we have now before us is, what are we fighting for? Is this a just war or is it not? If it is not a just war, let us end it quietly, and, on our bended knees, implore forgiveness from Russia even on any terms; but if it be a just war, what ought to be our language? Let me, in answering this, refer you to what passed one hundred years ago, when, in time of war, a Chancellor of the Exchequer came forward with a proposal to address the Crown. We were then fighting a great Power; the Exchequer was low, our people were divided, our King was brave, and there was a demand for a delusive, false, fraudulent peace. On that occasion the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed what I repeat, for the adoption of Parliament—This is the eighth year in which your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons in Parliament assembled, have assisted your Majesty with large supplies for carrying on a just and necessary war.Afterwards, in this manner—To show to your Majesty and all Christendom that the Commons of England will not be amused or diverted from their firm resolutions of obtaining by war a safe and honourable peace, we do, in the name of those we represent, renew our assurances to support your Majesty and your Government against all your enemies at home and abroad; and that we will effectually assist you in carrying on the war against France.How did the House of Lords speak? As follows—We assure your Majesty of our hearty and sincere assistance, not doubting but whenever your Majesty shall be obliged to be engaged for the defence of your allies and securing the liberty and quiet of Europe, Almighty God will protect your sacred person in so righteous a cause; and that the unanimity, wealth, and courage of your subjects will carry your Majesty with honour and success through all the difficulties of a just war.Such is the language we ought to use now. There should be no ambiguous speeches and no delusive schemes of peace. If the management of the war had been in the hands of men capable 1213 of conducting it to the honour and advantage of this mighty nation, what might not have been the results. Behold the difference between the Ministry and the nation. On the one hand, timid negotiations, feeble policy, and divided councils. What a contrast with the energy, enterprise, courage, and enthusiasm of a gallant people! For what are we fighting? For the supremacy and greatness of England, a cause which cannot be deserted or betrayed. You are not fighting for the mere interests of commerce, though I wish not to be understood as undervaluing the advantages of commerce, for it spreads civilisation and gathers wealth, but you are fighting for something higher, nobler, grander—the greatness, the supremacy, and glory of the country—for something nobler than the interests of commerce, or the acquisition of territory. I believe that the object of this great contest is to establish the authority of eternal justice, to vindicate the outraged laws of nations, and to promote and advance, I ardently hope, the liberties of the world.
§ MR. LOWE
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down had quoted a most patriotic and soul-stirring passage, and said that was the language which ought to be used now. Then, why was it not used? Why did not his party use it? He heartily wished such language had been used; and it was because it had not been used, and because hon. Gentlemen opposite kept their patriotism for their speeches and put their party spirit into their Motions, that he had felt it his duty to place before the House and the country something which would really raise the question that the House had to address itself to, and to which the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman might properly have applied. It was his duty to recall the House, if in his power to do so, after the wonderful burst of eloquence they had just heard, to the question before it. He had given notice of an Amendment to the Motion of the right hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir F. Baring), and what he had to show the House was, that the Amendment was called for, true, and expedient; and with that view he would just recapitulate how the matter stood. The right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) gave notice the other night of a series of Resolutions relating to the proceedings of the Vienna Conferences; but when he was going to move them, a question was asked of the head of the Government 1214 as to what state the negotiations were in. The noble Lord made an answer calculated to deceive no one, being a true statement of the fact. The noble Lord said that the negotiations were suspended, but that Austria was looking about and waiting, like Mr. Micawber, for something to turn up. Then the right hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Gladstone) put it in his own peculiar forcible manner to-the right hon. Member for Manchester that it was impossible, under the circumstances, for him to go on with his Motion, the question of peace and war being undecided; and yet the right hon. Member for Oxford University had only last night gone fully into the circumstances connected with the Vienna Conferences. He (Mr. Lowe) felt dissatisfied with the proceeding to which he had alluded, thinking that the House would be disgraced in the eyes of Europe and the country if they abstained from pronouncing an opinion on the subject. Therefore he was pleased to hear the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) express sentiments on that point similar to his own, signifying an intention to lay on the table a Resolution which should fairly raise the question. He was, however, disappointed, when he found what was the tenour of the right hon. Gentleman's Resolution. What he had expected from the right hon. Gentleman, was an explicit opinion on the questions raised by the Conferences, and whether the negotiations should proceed or be stopped. Ho could not help thinking that, if the right hon. Gentleman had followed the inspiration of his own mind, and had not been obliged to conform to the opinions of others, the House would have had a Resolution, from him more in accordance with the sentiments he had expressed. As it was, however, he might ask————"Amphora cœpit Institui; currente rotâ cur urceus exit?The right hon. Gentleman began in partriotism, but ended in party. The right hon. Gentleman, when he came forward to accuse the Government, should be in his language clear and definite; so that the House might distinctly understand on what it voted, and the Government might be sure against what it had to defend itself. When the right hon. Gentleman censured the ambiguity of the Government, he would have done well to avoid ambiguity himself. And vague and unmeaning as was the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman, the debate which he raised upon it was 1215 still more objectionable:—the right hon. Gentleman said little or nothing in favour of his Motion, and following his example, those who had spoken on the other side had said little against it. Then, again, he would not have anticipated that a speech on a Motion censuring the Government would have been so entirely taken up with invectives against the noble Lord the Member for London, for things not done by that noble Lord in his capacity as Secretary of State and Member of the Government, but in his diplomatic capacity as servant of the Crown—as representative not of any particular party in that House, but of the whole nation—in which capacity the noble Lord was entitled to that generous consideration which that House was in the habit of always extending to public servants who did their best to discharge any public duty. His (Mr. Lowe's) view of this matter was, that it was a great deal too serious to be made a party quarrel, and he thought that if the House only came to a vote affirming or negativing the right hon. Gentleman's mere party Motion, by which the right hon. Gentleman sought to displace the present occupiers of the Treasury bench and put himself and his friends in their position, without any pledge as to the line of policy he intended to pursue—if the House came to such a vote without having some assurance what line of policy was to be pursued, such a course would be discreditable to that assembly. But if it would be discreditable for the House to consent to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, it would be anything but creditable for it to agree to the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth. The House would remember that the question of the Conferences at Vienna was now distinctly before it, and, therefore, if they did consider that question at all, they ought to pronounce some decided and specific opinion upon them. Certainly, no course could be imagined more undesirable than that the House should pronounce an ambiguous verdict upon them—a verdict having three or four distinct meanings—and at the same time to leave the country in the dark as to which of those meanings it meant to adopt. That, however, was what the House would do if it adopted the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth. That Amendment began thus:—"This House sees with regret that the Conferences at Vienna have not led to the termination 1216 of hostilities." Now, in official language, the word "regret" was often used to express censure, and, therefore, in this place, it might either be meant in its abstract sense of expressing a simple sorrow that the war had not been brought to a close, or it might be taken to convey a censure on the Plenipotentiaries for not having brought the negotiations to a successful termination, or on the Government for having given the Plenipotentiaries such limited powers; or—as he hoped was the case—it might be meant as a censure on the Russian Government for having entered into the negotiations without any sincere desire to bring them to a successful end, but merely in order that she might secure the neutrality of the German States and obtain popularity with the Ottoman Christians. Before the House adopted the Amendment, it certainly ought to be made clearly to understand which of those four meanings was to be attached to the word "regret." Finding the question in this dilemma, it had occurred to him that what was wanted was to propose some Amendment on the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth, which would really raise the question which should have been raised on Monday night by the right hon. Member for Manchester—whether there was left, after the rejection by the Russian Plenipotentiaries of our proposition, anything which could be made a legitimate ground of negotiation for peace. That was his view in placing his Amendment on the paper, and that was the question which he intended it to raise, and upon which he desired to extract from the House a plain unmistakable opinion, without reference either to the objects of those gentlemen who wished to retain their offices or those who wished to turn them out and seat themselves in their places. If his Amendment were adopted it would have the effect of recording a clear, distinct opinion on the part of the House of Commons with reference to these negotiations, and it would also plainly point out that the word "regret" was intended to apply to the conduct of the Russian Government. Incorporating his Amendment with that of the right hon. Baronet, it would run thus:—"That this House, having seen with regret, 'owing to the refusal of Russia to restrict the strength of her navy in the Black Sea,' that the Conferences at Vienna have not led to a termination of hostilities, feels it to be a duty to declare that 'the means of coming to an 1217 agreement on the third basis of negotiation being by that refusal exhausted,' it will continue to give every support to Her Majesty in the prosecution of the war, until Her Majesty shall, in conjunction with her allies, obtain for this country a safe and honourable peace." In arguing in favour of this particular Amendment he was prepared to take his stand, not upon any of those grounds stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, but simply on the grounds which had been agreed to by Russia herself. He would not presume to say what ought to have been the basis of the negotiations. That, of course, had been settled in conjunction with our great ally, and no advantage to the common cause would be gained by canvassing it in the House of Commons; but at least he had a right to argue that England was entitled to as much as Russia herself had admitted she ought to have. Now, twice during the present year—once on the 7th of January, and again on the first day on which the Vienna Conferences were opened—Russia had admitted that we were entitled to stipulate that her preponderance in the Black Sea should be put an end to. That was the point, then, from which he started, and all he asked the House to declare was, that what Russia herself said was a reasonable condition of peace should be fully and carefully carried out, and that when the prospect of carrying that out fully and fairly had ceased, it was not for the dignity of the nation, for the interests of Europe, for the success of the war we were carrying on, and the security of Turkey that negotiations should any longer be continued. The question, therefore, was whether the terms proposed by the Western Powers to Prince Gortchakoff and M. de Titoff at Vienna were or were not equivalent substantially to the third basis, as agreed to by Russia herself? Were these two positions—that the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea should be put an end to, and that a limitation should be put on the Russian navy in the Black Sea—equivalent? He maintained that they were, and that any man who said that the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea could be destroyed without limiting her fleet there, was guilty of as great a verbal absurdity as he who would say that Russia could put an end to her preponderance without limiting it, or destroy her fleet without diminishing its strength. There was no difference between the two propositions. 1218 If he were to argue the question on the ground of authority, he might first refer to the authority of Her Majesty's Government, who evidently were of that opinion, because the instruction they gave to their Plenipotentiaries at Vienna was to propose the limitation of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea as the means of putting an end to her preponderance there, and, when the Russian agent refused that proposition, left them nothing further to do but to declare their instructions exhausted. Then he might also bring Count Nesselrode into court in support of this opinion; for in the circular which had lately been published that astute diplomatist did not venture to say that Russia had agreed to such a modification of the treaty of 1841 as would put an end to the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea. He suppressed that article altogether, because he knew that if he had stated it, and then had afterwards gone on to state that Russia had refused any limitation of her fleet there, it would have been a contradiction in terms; and the breach of good faith would have been apparent to all the world. He, therefore, suppressed the fact of that admission having been made by Russia, and merely spoke generally of the revision of the treaty of 1841. Russia, however, refused to go into the negotiation on these terms of limitation, and the ingenuity of the Conference was directed to frame a substitute. Russia herself proposed two substitutes, which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford said were Russian "methods" of applying the third point. He denied altogether that they were methods of carrying out the principle of the third point, for the mare apertum tended to increase, and the mare clausum to perpetuate, the predominance of Russia in the Black Sea. By opening the Black Sea to all nations Turkey gained nothing, because she had already the power of navigating the Black Sea and the Mediterranean; but Russia would gain immense facilities of developing her naval power, because she would then have the privilege of passing into the Mediterranean. Therefore, while no advantage whatever was to be given to the Power to be protected, and an immense increase of power would accrue to that Power whose predominance was to be curbed—this certainly could be no method of carrying out the principle of the third point. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford had laid great stress on 1219 the immense advantage which the Sultan would obtain by being able to call for the naval assistance of his allies even in time of peace, if the predominance of Russia should press too heavily on him. But he did not advert to what it is now competent for the Sultan to do without violating any treaty, and what he has done—namely, to call foreign ships to the very confines of the Dardanelles, so that in a few hours they might advance to Constantinople to his aid. Thus the point on which the right hon. Gentleman laid such stress turned out to be merely illusory. But the stipulation for putting an end to the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea would not really put an end to it; it was, indeed, based on the assumption that that preponderance would continue, and would again become intolerable and insufferable, and when it became so it provided for the tardy assistance of the Western Powers being afforded to Turkey. Now, it might be right, when we had drawn the sword for the security of Turkey, and after we had spent millions of treasure, and sacrificed thousands of lives in a spirit of tardy humanity, to draw back from our proceedings, and leave Turkey to her fate; but, if so, let us at once boldly declare that there was an end altogether of the third point in the negotiation, instead of affecting nominally to reduce the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea, and then assenting to that condition being made illusory by expedients, one of which would actually increase her preponderance, and the other admitted that it would continue to exist utterly undiminished. Therefore, it was pretty clear that there was no means of carrying out the third basis of negotiation, except by limiting the naval force of Russia in the Black Sea. Though Russia had been willing to sign the same form of words as the other Powers with regard to the other moiety of the third basis, and to say that she would respect the independence of Turkey, yet, when pressed upon the matter, her Plenipotentiaries stated that they did not mean by that to join in a territorial guarantee, as all the other Powers wished. So that, when Russia made a proposition that would increase her own naval preponderance, or, at least, make it permanent, and at the same time would give no guarantee to Turkey for the rights which she intended to invade, it was obvious that there only existed the worst possible basis for negotiation. This was no matter of arithmetical calculation as 1220 between the points that were conceded and those that were refused. The legal maxim applied in this case, "Sententiæ ponderantur, non numerantur;" they must look at the weight and importance of the points in dispute, and not merely at their number; and it might be that Russia might concede to us fifty-nine points out of sixty, and yet we might be justified in going on with the war, à l'outrance, for the sixtieth. Upon this point of destroying the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea depended all the others; and it would be most unwise if, with the experience that we had had of the dealings of Russia with the Porte, and with every one of her neighbours, we allowed her to retain all the power she possessed in war of menacing Turkey, and that, too, without obtaining from her a territorial guarantee for the dominions of the Sultan, which she refused on the flimsy pretext that she did not know the boundaries of the Turkish empire, the fact being that every such boundary that was likely to be attacked was a boundary which Russia herself had fixed by seizing some one Turkish provinces or another. As to Russia reserving to herself the right of judging when she should shed the blood of her own people, she was pouring forth that blood now like water in a much worse cause than in guaranteeing Turkey against attacks that might proceed from any other quarter. On these grounds, then, the refusal of Russia to restrict the strength of her navy in the Black Sea was plainly equivalent to a refusal to put an end to her preponderance in that sea; and, if that were so, the conclusion was inevitable that negotiation on the third point was exhausted, and it would only be below the dignity of this country, and trifling with a great subject, to continue further negotiations on that subject. The right hon. Member for the University had stated that it was not true that the conference came to a termination owing to the refusal of Russia to restrict the strength of her navy in the Black Sea, and he quoted a highly diplomatic phrase of Prince Gortchakoff to the effect that he did not exclude everything that had a tendency towards such a limitation, though he reserved to himself the right of rejecting or negativing it altogether. God forbid that any man should snatch at a mere expression of this kind, apart from its real meaning; but this declaration was made on the 17th of April, and on the 21st, when Prince Gortchakoff and M. de Titoff were 1221 making a substantive proposition to the conference, they employed this language—The propositions which have been made to them, namely, the limitation of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea, being, in their eyes, derogatory to the sovereign rights of the Emperor, their master, contrary to the European equilibrium, and dangerous to the independence of the Ottoman empire, they cannot but decline them.From this statement the Russian Plenipotentiaries never wavered, and since it was made there had been no real negotiation, because the Plenipotentiaries of the Western Powers said that their instructions were entirely exhausted. Russia, therefore, having repudiated her own basis of negotiation, any man of plain commonsense must see that any further negotiation on this point would be futile and abortive; and, therefore, he was strictly and rigidly correct in saying that it was owing to the refusal of Russia to restrict the strength of her navy in the Black Sea that the Conferences at Vienna came to an end. To one who had a due sense of the responsibility attaching to every word used in that House, and who was endeavouring, as he was, to lift this matter out of the slough of party in which it had been wallowing, it was a grievous thing to be charged, even by implication, with a wish to perpetuate the misery of the human race—the frightful and terrible slaughter that was now going on—the devastation of provinces, the ruin of countries, and the retardation of civilisation. He admitted that these were things not lightly to be incurred; but, having entered into this struggle, having laid down bases of negotiation, having got great and powerful allies who concurred in these bases, we should be unworthy of our forefathers, unworthy of our country, unworthy of the name of Englishmen, if we were to retrograde before we were forced by overpowering necessity from the position which we had taken up, and to allow barbaric might and violence to trample upon rights which we had, in a spirit of honest and just indignation, taken upon ourselves to defend. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) having read several of the terms proposed, and which had been acceded to, said that we had attained the objects of the war, and should, therefore, now make peace; but their end was to secure Turkey from the aggressive spirit of Russia. and unless they had accomplished that, they could not consistently or safely abandon the struggle. Were peace made upon the 1222 terms suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, what would become of Turkey? In her present state, deserted by her allies, diminished in her prestige and character, could she maintain her place as an independent Power for a single year in the face of Russia, whose prestige would be enormously increased by the result of the siege of Sebastopol? If we now retired from the contest, Turkey would, therefore, be delivered over to Russia, bound hand and foot; and the empire of that colossal Power would overshadow the Northern Powers; Germany would be at her feet, independent Tartary would be at her mercy, Persia would become a Russian province, and the Russian empire would extend itself until it brought within its gigantic span all the free nations which were conterminous to it. What was her dominion? Her dominion had worked out a principle which was the converse of the doctrine of Bentham—its aim and end were the greatest misery of the greatest number. Everybody in Russia was miserable—the serfs, the nobility, and every other class. Such was the uniform and melancholy testimony borne by every traveller. There was something plaintive even in the songs and dances of the peasants. The Emperor was miserable because he was overborne with toil and anxiety, and held his life by a tenure more precarious than did the meanest of his subjects. The nobility, amid all their pride and luxury, because they knew how slight a partition divided the pride and luxury from the horrors of the copper mines of Netkhin, from which no man who descended into them ever returned to the light of day, or the dreary miseries of Siberia. The peasant was miserable because his land was not his own, because his labour was not his own, because his family and blood were not his own, and because he knew not how long it might be before a ukase might be despatched from his tyrant to snatch him from his home and to condemn him to long military service and years of banishment from which none were hardly ever known to return. The country was miserable because there was no development for intellect, for art, or for science, because this degrading Power ground everything to powder under its iron heel, and comminuted all intellect, all manhood, to the same minute particles until every one was as good as, and no one better than, another. That was the state of Russia. That was the system, fruitful in misery and degradation, 1223 which was now maintained over sixty or seventy millions of people, and which, if this country faltered in its purpose and suffered itself to be tricked out of what it had demanded, must inevitably be extended to a still larger portion of the human race. The politics of Western Europe might appear to be distinct from these questions, but they would immediately be brought into contact with them. The frontiers of Russia would advance at a bound from the Vistula to the Rhine. In England and France you would have armies returning discontented, and recriminations as to the causes of these calamities. In England you would have discontent which might find vent in some organic change in our institutions. In France you would have discontent which would be not unlikely to find vent in a change of dynasty; and whether the new dynasty were Bourbon or Orleanist the sovereign must be one who owed obligations to this country which it would be impossible to forget or to forgive. With such a sovereign, and with the people discontented, and the army burning to vindicate its valour, you must expect things to tend to something very different from the cordial alliance now existing between the two countries. This was the time to say these things plainly, and not to wait until the calamities had arrived. He did not ask those gentlemen who made this great question of peace or war a mere party struggle to adopt his Amendment; but he did ask its adoption by those who thought it was time for the House of Commons to show that it went for something in the affairs of the country, that it had some duty to discharge, and some opinion to express—that it was sensible of the responsibility which rested upon it, and was good for something more than to vote million after million and address after address. He asked such gentlemen to join him in this attempt to defeat the measure by which an unmeaning Resolution was to be met by an unmeaning Amendment, and to lay down a principle by which the country might see that the House repudiated the system of keeping up these eternal negotiations, and admitting, as a mediator of a Power which ought to be our ally, and which only obtained the superiority of position because she dared not maintain that which, with us, she had avowed. He asked those who were weary of this half and hall system, who wanted to lay down clearly the terms on which we would or would not 1224 negotiate, who wished to throw into the hands of the Government the strength which was always given to it, when it was supported by the voice of a popular assembly—he asked such gentlemen to assist him in defeating both the Resolution and the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet.
§ MR. CAYLEY
said, that the question before the House was one of such importance, that it was impossible to approach it without a sense of its magnitude; neither was it a party question, and he should not approach it in any such spirit. He thought that the House was much indebted to the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire for reintroducing this question. He was, however, bound to say that, although he had heard the speech of the right hon. Member with admiration, and agreed with many of the sentiments which had fallen from him, yet he did not think that the terms of the Motion were consistent with the terms in which the right hon. Gentleman had given notice of it, nor with the speech which he had delivered. His right hon. Friend had raised two issues—the late conferences, and whether the Government meant negotiation or war. For his (Mr. Cayley's) part, he would vote for whoever spoke out plainest. What the country desired was, to receive not only from the Ministry but from the House of Commons a declaration of opinion on this subject, and he trusted that to-night the House would make an explicit declaration of its opinion in order that the country, which was ready to do its part in this war, might know that in the House of Commons was a faithful representation of its feelings. He had looked for the declaration of the Ministers with great anxiety, and had determined not to come to a decision in his own mind until the noble Lord the Member for London had spoken. He had not heard the noble Lord's speech, but had possessed himself of its tenour through the usual channels of information; and, as it was one of the privileges of his high position that scarcely a word spoken by the noble Lord was lost, he (Mr. Cayley) had become fully acquainted with the noble Lord's sentiments. He had experienced a most painful sensation at the rumour that the noble Lord had turned from the sentiments he had formerly expressed some time since on this subject; but he was glad to find that the noble Lord had still penetration to see through the wiles of Russian diplomacy. He was glad to find that the noble Lord saw that 1225 it was impossible to come to a solution of this question without some material guarantee for the security of peace. Austria, in his (Mr. Cayley's) opinion, in spite of all that had been said of her, appeared to have acted with great loyalty at the conferences, and had, throughout all these transactions, acted with a wise prudence as to her own interest. He meant her mere self-interest. He had never expected more of her. Near a year ago he had written the same opinion to a friend in Vienna who had congratulated himself that Austria was won over to the Western Powers. His reply was, "her object is gained in the Principalities and on the Danube; in principle she may be with the Western Powers to a certain extent, but she will not engage in active operations against Russia. It will be sufficient for us, and all we can expect, to keep her strictly neutral, and it is from her self-interest alone—and that a limited view of it only—on which we can depend even for that." With regard to the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea, the opinion of Austria was clear; for, on two several occasions during the negotiations, so far as we know of them from the papers before us, Count Buol had declared that it was necessary that a limitation should be put to the naval power of Russia in the Black Sea. He thought that the House ought to support the French Plenipotentiary in the terms which he had proposed on this subject, and that nothing less could be accepted by England and France. He did not know that the treaty of Adrianople had ever received the sanction of this country, but the closing of the gates of the Black Sea was not derived originally from the Treaty of Adrianople, it was derived from the secret article of the Treaty of Unkiar 'Skelessi. Turkey was reduced in 1833 to ask for the assistance of Russia, and was obliged to make the humiliating concession of allowing her to have one of the keys of the gates of the Black Sea; but, as he understood international law, all these treaties were abrogated by the war, and the possessor of the Strait of the Bosphorus had the exclusive command of the entrance to and the exit from the Black Sea; and yet this was all that Russia virtually offered in the way of concession at Vienna. He was glad to find from the noble Lord's speech last night that he adhered to the sentiments he had expressed on the 21st of April, and he hoped those sentiments would be 1226 sanctioned by the First Lord of the Treasury. If these were the sentiments of the Government, it followed as a natural corollary that they must support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kidderminster, which was but a free translation of the declarations made by the noble Lord at Vienna and in his speech. Russia had even objected, in relation to the 2nd of the Four Points, to the proposition that Turkey, Austria, and Russia should each station a ship at the mouths of the Danube to insure the free navigation of the river, because she wished to have the exclusive monopoly of the Black Sea, which was one of the highways to Turkey. What was her motive for that wish? But that she secretly intended again to make an aggression upon Turkey, as she had so often done in former times. Russia had at the outset refused to limit her navy, and when she repeated that refusal, was not the noble Lord the Member for London justified in taking up his hat and returning home? No one wished for peace more than he did, but petty attempts at negotiations, when negotiations had proved to be utterly fruitless, would not tend to bring about a just and honourable peace. It had been negotiation too long protracted which betrayed us originally into the war, which had encouraged the Czar to hold language from which he could not subsequently withdraw. Had our language to Russia been as firm in January and March, 1853, as in January and March, 1854, the Pruth would never have been crossed. If it was the wish of the right hon. Gentleman, in moving this Resolution, to obtain an explicit declaration of the opinions of the Government, he hoped that if the noble Lord at the head of the Government spoke as plainly as the noble Lord the Colonial Secretary had spoken, and promised to vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Kidderminster, the right hon. Gentleman would withdraw his Motion, in order that they might have a unanimous declaration of the House of Commons that they would support Her Majesty in the vigorous prosecution of the war. He believed that those who voted ostensibly in favour of peace at this moment were those who would do most to prolong war. A vacillating Ministry indeed brought on the war, but a vacillating House of Commons could never end it. The hon. Member (Mr. Cayley) then addressed himself to the speech of Mr. Gladstone of the previous evening. He had heard the right hon. Gentleman with 1227 admiration for his great power over the instrument by which men usually communicate their ideas to each other. What a glory and a credit to this assembly, he (Mr. Cayley) could not help saying to himself, was such a Member—but what a discredit and a shame to the country it might be to have such a Minister at a crisis like this. In that speech he (Mr. Cayley) found an explanation of the conduct of the Aberdeen Government in 1853. Hoodwinked in March, cajoled in April, they doubted in May, truckled in June, vacillated in July, and after a year of ambiguity finally floundered into this untoward war, taking few or no measures, all this while, to prepare for the dread alternative; and having by their want of preparation and their mismanagement produced the most disastrous results to our army, the Ministers of that Cabinet would now leave the country sprawling in the mire of an ignominious peace. The objects of the war, argued the right hon. Gentleman, are obtained, and more than obtained, if we remember what those objects were at the outset. Objects gained! What objects? The first and second points which have been yielded to by Russia were no concessions. First, they were no longer hers to yield, and secondly, if they were, and yielded, they are mere cessations of usurpation. The treaty of Kainardji never gave them the Protectorate, and the obstructions to the free navigation of the Danube were clear violations of the Treaty of Vienna. And he (Mr. Cayley) was not aware that the Treaty of Adrianople had ever been sanctioned by this country which gave the pretext for these obstructions. But how were the objects gained? The object was, at least certainly had become, to protect Turkey permanently from Russian aggression. Is there no road to Constantinople but by the Principalities? Is there no other road to Asia Minor? The Black Sea is the great highway by which the lurking ambition of Russia intends to gratify itself on the provinces of the Ottoman power. How did Marshal Diebitch obtain his supplies on his way to Adrianople in 1829? How did Prince Paskiewitch carry on his masterly campaign in Armenia in the same year, but by means of the Black Sea? Nothing would cripple the aggressive policy of Russia in the East so much as her preponderance in the Black Sea being annihilated. The Western Powers were now in possession, and ought to retain it till means were discovered for that subversion, and until 1228 Turkey possessed, in fact, what the law of nations gave her in right, namely, the exclusive key of the gates of the Euxine, to admit or deny entrance to any warlike flag she pleased; only material guarantees would secure this. The destruction of Sebastopol and its fleet were the necessary means to this end. He (Mr. Cayley) might not have counselled that expedition at the time it went, but, being there, Sebastopol could be ours, and by God's blessing, it would. It was to his mind an affair of time, and not of doubt—of fighting in the field, rather than of assault. When the plough had turned the furrow over the site of Sebastopol, and the western flags had floated in its harbour, the great material guarantee would have been obtained. He (Mr. Cayley) for one did not desire to retain possession of the Crimea, or to make aggression on Russia's European territory. His view from the outset had been, if we went to war, to establish a real check to Russian aggression in the East. He thought Ismail and Keni should both have been early dismantled to secure the free navigation of the Danube, and that some effective aid should have been given to the Turks to drive the Russian boundary back to the Kuban and the Terek. As matters stood, after Sebastopol is reduced, and the Danube really free, and a check put upon Russia in TransCaucasia, a small allied army of occupation in Bulgaria, and a few war steamers as inspectors of the Black Sea, and the war expedition of France and England might be greatly reduced, being then confined to blockading the White Sea, the Baltic, and the Euxine. Such a course, by crippling the commercial resources of Russia, would bring her to terms, at a cost cheap to us, but ruinous to her, and meanwhile destroy her prestige in the East. But he did not think it worthy of the European Powers, circumstanced as they now were, to overlook the case of Circassia. In one of his conversations with Sir Hamilton Seymour in 1853, the Emperor Nicholas expressed strong sympathy for the way in which the people of Montenegro had preserved their independence against the Turks; and Europe, situated as it now was as regarded Russia, could scarcely do less for the noble people of Circassia, who had so long and against such gigantic odds struggled against the encroachments of their great northern neighbour. So much, then, for the limitation of the navy of the Russians in the 1229 Black Sea, for maintaining which at its present size she had no plea, as we had. Where were her colonies to defend? At the same time, although resolved to take every precaution in his power against the tortuous policy and diplomatic subterfuges of Russia, and to prevent, if it were in human power to prevent, her disturbance of the peace of Europe, he still sympathised strongly with his hon. Friend behind him (Sir W. Heathcote) in his desire for peace. He would not call his hon. Friend bloodthirsty, but he felt assured that those who now pressed upon Government the acceptance of Russian terms would in the end be the cause of an increased amount of bloodshed besides being responsible for the profuse and profligate waste of blood and treasure which had already taken place. We had indeed shillyshallied into war, but depend upon it we could never dilly-dally into peace—except a most disastrous one. No one could deprecate war in the abstract more than himself (Mr. Cayley)—its horrors, or the passions to which it gave rise,—and yet we must not forget that for some mysterious purpose war seemed in the councils of the Most High indispensable to His great plan. As in the outward world of nature storms and hurricanes seem required to purify the atmosphere; as in the inner life of the individual it is only through the tempests of the soul that even the good man is permitted to agonise his way to peace—so in the outer world of nations, from some inscrutable cause, it seems only from time to time by steering their bark through an ocean of blood that they may enter a haven of permanent rest. Inscrutable as such things may be to us (however visible to the eye of faith), the day will arrive when these ways of Providence will be surely vindicated, as emanations of completest wisdom and of purest love. Nevertheless, let us not conclude that this war, how grievous soever in many of its aspects, has been productive of evil alone. He under whose Government we live has even for the bitterest cup still in store some drops of merciful compensation. It is something that through its instrumentality this war has been the means of cementing a close alliance between two neighbouring nations, who stand in the vanguard of civilisation—of closing the wounds of a strife of centuries. Happy for us that in this Syracusan expedition Sparta is our ally—that Gylippus fights by our side. Happier still it would be did 1230 we remember that Athens, drained of her bravest for that distant expedition, became a prey to invaders at home. Is it nothing that this struggle has been the means of eliciting in our beloved Queen, not alone the graciousness of the Sovereign, but the yearning tenderness of her large mother's heart for the sufferings of her gallant troops? We daily pray that Heaven will preserve her in health and prosperity, and that she may be defended from all her enemies; let us pray that she may be preserved from what is worse than external enemies—from distracted councils and from incompetent administrations—that she may be protected against losses threefold greater than those in the field, occasioned by utter absence of preparation, management, and foresight. Oh! let us pray that that beloved lady may never again have to renew the reiterated wail of Augustus, "Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!" Now that every one who has studied the antecedents of Russia must see through her wiles—her wiles which are more dangerous than her arms—what language alone ought to be held by the Minister of this country—the valour of whose sons, never disputed, has again in this generation been proved before our eyes—a valour which mounts to heroism, and whose endurance and devotion rise to the spirit of martyrdom? What, I repeat, should be the language of the Minister of the Crown at a crisis like this? "Ours is a just and a righteous cause—with such an army, such a navy, such allies as ours, who can doubt of success? Those terms we have failed to obtain by the pen, we now will win by the sword." But human means will not suffice, as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) truly remarked last night; we must still and always seek counsel and aid from Him whose fiat alone decrees the trumpet shout of victory or the bitter howl of defeat. Yet "let the nations rejoice and be glad, for he shall judge the folk righteously, and govern the nations upon earth."
§ MR. ROUNDELL PALMER
said, in this debate, involving the most important subject ever discussed in our time, if there were no other point on which they were all agreed, he trusted and believed they were all agreed in a desire to preserve the honour, the glory, and the greatness of the country. There might be those out of doors who thought it a justifiable method of seeking to recommend their views, to cast unworthy aspersions on persons who differed from them, and to say they were 1231 the craven advocates of an ignominious peace; but there were none in that House who were the advocates of anything which would bring ignominy or disgrace upon the country which they loved and were bound to serve. Only two short years ago any one who had inquired what constituted the greatness and glory of England would have been referred to the deeds of philanthropic benevolence of which she was the instrument throughout the world—to her flag which carried Christianity, civilisation, and liberty over every sea, to the arts which flourished under her kindly culture, and to the glorious constitution under which her people lived; and, although all Englishmen felt proud of the great actions of their ancestors at Waterloo and Blenheim, they experienced a deeper satisfaction in thinking they had changed those days of blood-stained glory for the nobler and yet more renowned victories of peace. Many then believed the world had advanced so far in improved civilisation that wars had ceased, at least among nations bound together by the ties of religion and of treaties. It must, therefore, be a subject of deep regret to all, a portentous fact of disastrous significance, that the minds of most men were now so possessed with the passions to which the war had given rise, that they looked even with contempt on those who invited the Government to milder counsels and to act in a more moderate and more philanthropic spirit. Appeals were now made, in the spirit of the vehement and exciting declamation which they had just heard from the hon. Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside), to every consideration that could stimulate the pride, the passions, and the susceptibilities of the people, and lead them to forget the arguments of reason, to turn with impatience from the investigation of facts, in order that their eyes might be fixed upon those vainglorious and unreal notions of national honour which prompted them to persevere in enterprises of war, not for the sake of practical or definite ends, but for visionary objects, about which no two men could agree. He did not mean to say that they should never go to war, or that there never could be an occasion which would justify a nation great in the arts of peace, and devoted to the duties of humanity, in entering upon an enterprise of a martial character. He wished to separate himself from the assertion of such a doctrine, because he thought undoubtedly there might be cases of aggression when violence from without 1232 could only be met by measures of defence from within. Nor would he restrict the justification of war to an attack upon our own shores; but he took his stand upon this principle—that, in some genuine and honest sense, war must be defensive in order to be justifiable. The moment defence was turned into aggression, war was no longer honourable or justifiable; and upon that subject he must declare he had heard with great surprise some parts of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), who seemed to censure the departure from a defensive, and the adoption of an aggressive policy, when the Crimea was invaded; and yet added, that we must accept the consequences of that fatal mistake, and must go on, because we had once entered upon a course which he himself considered erroneous. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman represented, in that respect, the general opinion of those who held that the war ought to be persevered in; he believed a majority of those persons thought the same principle of defence which originally justified the war might be pleaded as a justification for persevering in it now.
He (Mr. R. Palmer) did not propose to enter into the question, long since practically superseded by the course of events, whether the war was originally justifiable; but, beyond all doubt, it was represented, and was justified by those who entered into it, as a war which was necessary to repel an unjust aggression upon an ally whom we were bound to protect, and its objects were limited by the necessities considered to arise out of that occasion. What was the nature of those necessities and those objects? To state it shortly, the object was, if possible, to maintain the integrity of Turkey against the aggressions of Russia. That was an undertaking beyond all doubt impossible to be carried into effect, so far as the integrity of Turkey was concerned, unless we could secure such conditions and such arrangements as would give us some hope of restoring life and intrinsic energy to the Power whose independence we wished to maintain. There was only one possible way in which Turkey could be supported against aggression, whether it came from Russia or from any other quarter, and that was by the reconstitution of its internal institutions, and by insisting that justice should be done to the Christian portion of its population. We could not reanimate a corpse, but we could educate into powerful 1233 life a great people who had long been kept down by a degrading state of slavery. In that way alone could we accomplish the object. There was no doubt whatever that the Christian population of Turkey had no particular desire to fall under the dominion of Russia, and he believed they required nothing but such protection from us and the other Christian Powers as would relieve them from the necessity of looking to the protection of Russia. The work to be done was not merely the exclusion of Russia, but the raising up and civilisation of depressed races, and with them the Turkish Empire. Russia, if aggression was her purpose during the diplomatic contests which preceded the present war, had found the opportunity for that aggression in her peculiar relations to the Christian population of Turkey; the same relations led to the war of 1829, when she crossed the Balkan, and dictated terms of peace at Adrianople; the same relations led to the occupation of the Principalities in 1849, and to every other complication which, during the last half century, had kept alive the jealousy and alarm of the other European Powers. In Wallachia, Moldavia and Servia, by the express terms of the treatise of Kainardji and Adrianople, Russia enjoyed more than the powers of a protectorate over the Christian inhabitants of those provinces; she possessed a preponderating influence over their Government, notwithstanding the nominal supremacy of the Sultan; and, beyond the limits of those provinces, although the treaty engagements of the Porte did not exceed a vague and general promise to protect the Christian religion and its churches. Russia notoriously enjoyed in practice a virtual protectorate over all the Christians of the Greek rite, who naturally looked to her for that protection, in consequence of their community of religious feelings and interests with her Emperors and her people. The great object of our policy had been the exclusion of Russia from this Greek protectorate, and also from the Principalities; and we had now carried the war so far as to have secured that exclusion; but with this, it appeared, we were not to rest satisfied.
He (Mr. R. Palmer) wished, for a few moments, to point attention to some remarkable passages in the despatches of Lord Stratford and Lord Clarendon, tending, as they did, to show the greatness of the success we had already achieved, and the perils we should have to encounter if 1234 we were not satisfied with that success. In a letter written by Lord Stratford to Lord Clarendon on the 4th of July, 1853—the letter, in fact, in which Lord Stratford first virtually recommended war to the Government. His Lordship said—If the ultimate exclusion of Russia, as well from the Greek protectorate as from the Principalities, be really that important object which has been hitherto presumed, success will never be obtained, according to every reasonable calculation, without a previous understanding between France and England to stop at no sacrifice which is to secure it.His Lordship continued—Henceforward the extensive empire, of which Constantinople is the capital, must in all likelihood either take colour with Russia, or be assimilated to Europe. In the latter case, British influence and interests may be expected to find a widening field for their development; in the former they may be tolerated for a time, but they will probably decline by degrees, and be finally excluded. I can hardly doubt that the notion of Reschid Pasha and his friends, if fully supported from without, is, in failure of negotiation, to settle accounts with Russia once for all, and to carry out a system of internal improvements calculated to raise the condition of the Porte's Christian subjects and to place the Turkish Empire on a footing of close connection with the leading, and particularly with the Western Powers of Europe. The idea is no less brilliant than benevolent; but to realise it is difficult, though far from impossible.Now, would not this idea, which Lord Stratford considered so brilliant but so difficult of realisation, would it not have been realised if we had made peace on the terms which we had rejected? Would not Turkey have settled accounts with Russia once for all, and have struck off the fetters of Kainardji and Adrianople? What was the answer which Lord Clarendon wrote to that letter on the 28th July? He said—It is from England and France alone that Turkey can look for sympathy and support; in the event of a struggle all other Powers would be found neutral, or would become hostile; and if England and France were now prepared to run the risks of a European war, and to disregard the commercial, the social, and the political disasters it would entail; if they were prepared, in short, as your Excellency says, to stop at no sacrifice for attaining the object they have in view, there is little doubt they would cripple the resources of Russia, and on the signature of peace it is more than probable that the exclusion of that Power from the Greek protectorate, and from the Principalities, would be secured. Russia would be effectually repelled; but Turkey would, in the meantime, be irretrievably ruined; and we might then find it impossible to restore her integrity or to maintain her independence.1235 Such, in Lord Clarendon's judgment were the almost inevitable consequences of even a successful war, waged by Turkey against Russia, though with France and England for her allies; and yet, when we had now got the substantial objects within our grasp, without paying half the expected price for them. when we might have secured the exclusion of Russia from the Greek protectorate and from the Principalities, although Turkey had not yet been irretrievably ruined, we wished to prolong the duration and extend the circle of the war, as if on purpose that all those disasters which Lord Clarendon apprehended might fall upon Turkey, and the Power which we meant to protect might be effectually ruined. Again, after the war had actually broken out between Russia and Turkey, Lord Stratford wrote thus on the 24th November, 1853. After referring to the warlike spirit then evoked at Constantinople by the strength and unexpected successes of the Sultan's armies upon the frontier, and by the presence of England and France in the Bosphorus, and the moral support of the general feeling of Europe, he proceeded, in terms strikingly applicable to the present state of public feeling in this country—It may be alleged with truth, and I have striven to impress the truth in every form of language on their minds, that, however natural such sentiments may be, their indulgence on the present occasion is neither just, nor wise, nor humane; seeing that the original difference can now be settled on safe and honourable grounds—this was while the negotiations consequent upon the Vienna Note were in progress—with every moral and political advantage on the Sultan's side; while an unnecessary continuance of hostilities would involve the most perilous hazards, the most exhausting sacrifices, a vast effusion of blood, and, more than possibly, the horrors of a general war. Unfortunately, the motives to forbearance are thrown into the shade by the dazzling illusions of hope; and passion is in league with occasion to merge all fears of danger, and all considerations of prudence, in a wild, though attractive, speculation, difficult at best to realise, and of which even the accomplishment would not be unattended with formidable drawbacks.Although at that time Turkey saw that the Western Powers must support her if she went to war, and that they had no alternative, yet, even for the sake of the object in view, Lord Stratford felt that if any peaceable means existed for attaining that object, those brilliant illusions ought then to have been foregone. We had, indeed, suffered much, but we had not yet arrived at the horrors of a general war. The war had hitherto been confined to one 1236 corner of Europe, and we had both the opportunity and the means of making peace without running the risk of spreading the flame throughout the world. Was not that an advantage greater than we ever anticipated?
It might be said—indeed, it had been said—that a treaty with Russia would be without value—that Russia was a perfidious power, which broke through all treaties. and could not be trusted to perform any engagement. But how was peace ever to be made, if we were never to make a treaty with Russia? Against such language, which had often before been directed, in time of war, against other nations as well as Russia, argument was useless; for his own part, he had no sympathy with those who heaped outrage and insult upon our foe. He admitted that it might not be enough to negotiate a peace upon honourable terms, unless those terms were also likely to be observed; that we ought to have something like security, "To be thus, is nothing; but to be safely thus." No doubt, what we wanted was a "safe" peace; but that word must be understood in a rational sense, as meaning such a peace as, upon a prudent calculation of the balance of good and evil, might be considered to afford reasonable guarantees for permanence. Now, what was the point upon which the Vienna negotiations broke off? It was the naval strength of Russia in the Black Sea. In the despatches of Lord Stratford, down to a late period, there was no allusion to that point at all. That was not surprising; for, though Russia had possessed Sebastopol and the greater part of the shores of the Black Sea, and the whole of those of the Sea of Azoff, for considerably more than fifty years, she had never yet made a sudden descent upon Constantinople. Whatever fraud and treachery we might lay to her charge, Russia had never yet, in the middle of peace, without regard to those principles which had always regulated the intercourse of nations, suddenly attempted to make a descent upon any portion of the Turkish Empire; and if we considered the consequences of such an action—the declaration of European outlawry which would instantly follow it—the total and perpetual forfeiture, not only of the position of Russia as a member of the European league, but of all credit and character even in the eyes of her own people—we must admit that the imputation of such a design to 1237 Russia, and the fear of its accomplishment, was one of the wildest chimeras which had ever entered into the brain of man. All the aggressions of Russia had been made on the Danube, or in Asia, by means of her military forces; but if she was as fraudulent and perfidious, and as determined to seize Constantinople as some imagined, and if it was so practicable for her to come down with her fleet suddenly from Sebastopol, he wanted to know when it was supposed that she first conceived the design, and why she did not do so during all those years, while we were still giving the Emperor Nicholas credit for being one of the wisest and most pacific sovereigns in Europe? Why did she not effect her purpose in the years 1848 and 1849? If Russia had the design now, she had it then. But her fleet did not sail from Sebastopol, and although she did occupy the Principalities in consequence of their then state of disturbance, yet most people gave her credit for conduct of a commendable nature upon that occasion. If ever there existed an opportunity for the purpose it was then. So, also, a favourable opportunity for accomplishing such a design existed in 1833, when Ibrahim Pasha invaded Turkey, and Russian troops came to Constantinople, not to attack the Sultan, but to assist him against his enemies. No doubt the Russians gained treaty advantages on that occasion; but that was a very different thing from coming down with her fleet without notice upon Constantinople. What did he infer? Either that she had not the power, or that she had not the will. He believed, for his own part, that she had not the power, and he cared not to inquire whether she had the will. The very idea was preposterous; but, even supposing that Russia had such a design—that she would like to use any opportunity of surprising Constantinople with her fleet—she must know that all the armies of Europe would march, as soon as possible, to the rescue of that city, and that her enterprise would prove as disastrous in its results as perfidious and treacherous in its conception. Hence it was never proposed to limit the power of Russia in the Black Sea until after the war began, and after the disaster at Sinope. The terms in which Lord Clarendon, in a letter addressed to Lord Westmorland, mentioned the proposition for the first time, pointed much more to such a solution as Russia had suggested than at the solution proposed by us by means of the 1238 limitation of the naval force of Russia in the Black Sea. His words were—The privileged frontier of Russia in the Black Sea has enabled her to establish a naval power which, in the absence of any counter-balancing force, is a standing menace to the Ottoman Empire.And the same meaning attached to the language of the third point, which expressly referred to a modification of the treaty of 1841, for closing the straits. Neither the language employed by Lord Clarendon nor that of the third point implied a limitation of the number of Russian ships of war in the Black Sea; it merely required that the frontier of Russia should not be allowed to continue so privileged by the treaty of 1841 as that there should be no counterbalancing power to her naval force in the Black Sea. That was exactly the nature of the second proposition made by Russia herself—namely, that Turkey should have the power to admit into the Black Sea as many of the ships of her allies from the Mediterranean as she pleased, whenever she should consider her security menaced. It had been said that she could do so now, but that statement implied that the third point was nonsense, and that the treaty of 1841, which closed the Straits to ships of war, required no revision at all, inasmuch as it gave no privilege to Russia, or offered no obstacle to the introduction by the Porte of the fleets of her allies into the Black Sea. But all who had read the treaty were aware that it bound the Porte not to admit into the Straits any ships of war whatever, even though she might consider her security menaced, in the absence of anything which she and her allies could treat as an act of war; and, surely, it was no slight thing that Russia should say—Let the Straits remain closed against me; I give up all pretence of having a reciprocal right to go through them; and, at the same time, I am willing that the Porte should have the power, whenever she considers her security menaced, to admit as many ships of war as she pleases.That, he believed, would be a sufficient and satisfactory security against the supposed naval danger from the port of Sebastopol, because any preparations at that place adequate for the seizure of Constantinople must necessarily be known at Constantinople, and to our consuls in the Black Sea and elsewhere, in time enough to enable the Porte to form an opinion as to whether her security was menaced or not; and the moment she heard that more ships were being built at Sebastopol, or that 1239 troops were under orders to assemble there in extraordinary numbers, she would at once admit the fleets of her allies, which were always close at hand in the Mediterranean, into the Black Sea. What, on the other hand, did we propose to do? We made a proposition which, under the pretence of limiting the naval force of Russia, created so extraordinary a preponderance against her that nothing but the salvation of the empire would bring her to think of accepting it. Russia was to have in the Black Sea only four ships of war; Turkey was to have as many; and any one of her allies might bring in as many more. Besides these, the fleet of Turkey within the Bosphorus, and the fleets of her allies in the Mediterranean, were to be without any limit of number. It was impossible not to see that if Sebastopol was a standing menace to Turkey, such a condition of things would be a standing menace to Russia. The real question for consideration was, of these propositions which would be the more likely to secure a safe and permanent peace? He apprehended that proposition of the two which, being as useful to us, would be less degrading to Russia. He was told that Russia was perfidious. Would she be more likely to adhere to an ignominious treaty? Would she not rather be always endeavouring, at Sebastopol or elsewhere, secretly to collect a navy of greater force than she was bound by treaty to keep, and plotting and contriving to sow dissension among the allies, in order that she might have an opportunity of striking off her fetters, in the very same spirit in which Turkey had striven to strike off the fetters of Kainardji and Adrianople? But Russia rejected our proposals as ignominious to herself; and were they not so? Should we, had we been in the position of Russia, have been ready to accept such terms? It was wise policy when we negotiated for peace with a powerful adversary to consider his honour as well as our own.
But he was told that we should compromise our honour if we left the Crimea without taking Sebastopol. That he believed to be an idea utterly without foundation in truth. Our troops had throughout the war sustained, and even increased, the military reputation of the British army. Though we had not yet taken Sebastopol, he was inclined to share the opinion of those who believed that we should if we persevered a little longer; and how then 1240 could there be loss of honour in withdrawing from an enterprise in which we were nearly certain to succeed if we persevered, simply because we had in another way accomplished, during its progress, the very political objects for the sake of which that enterprise was undertaken? An army which had won all the battles in which it had been engaged, and which had been reinforced as ours had been, could not with any truth be represented, either in the East or in the West, as a defeated army, or an army which had capitulated—for that phrase had, forsooth, been used—merely because it was withdrawn at the conclusion of a just and an honourable peace. Again, when hon. Gentlemen talked of our yielding to Russia and truckling to that Power, one would think that we had been making concessions, whereas all the concessions that had been made were made by Russia, instead of to her. A peace upon the terms now offered could not be otherwise regarded than as an admission on the part of Russia of her own inferiority and of our success in the prosecution of the war. But the alternative was, that we must take Sebastopol. Well, would that facilitate the negotiation of a peace? Would not such a defeat render it almost a political necessity for the rulers of Russia to endeavour to remove their disgrace; and, looking to our own side, would not those who were now clamorous for the prosecution of the war then reject with disdain the notion of concluding a peace on the basis of the Four Points? We should be told that the Crimea was once a dependency of our faithful ally, Turkey—that Russia took it from the Tartars—and that the diminution of the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea required that the Crimea should be either given back to the Porte or placed in safe custody. Who could tell what would come next? Inflated by success, the appetite for war would be likely to grow instead of diminishing, and the circle of objects to be sought for, and terms to be insisted upon, would be liable constantly to enlarge, under the guidance of those who aimed at nothing less than to strike a mortal blow at the life of the Russian Empire. Some very distinguished persons had already been heard to mention the name of Poland in ominous tones, and it was said that the present constitution of that country was a standing menace to Germany; but surely it would be most unwise to plunge Europe in a war of which no man could foresee the 1241 end, for the sake of disturbing existing territorial arrangements in that quarter.
Again, we were told that our interests in India were involved, and that the progress of Russia in Asia was so formidable, that, in order to check it, we must carry on our military operations in that continent also. Depend upon it that if we once adopted the principle of changing what was originally intended as a defensive war into a war of aggression, we should be putting Russia in the right, and making the struggle she is now waging, a struggle pro aris et focis, which must be most protracted in its duration, and lead to countless disasters and misfortunes. We saw the beginning now; but no man could tell what might be the end. No man could tell how the British constitution itself might work under such a war; what a pressure might be laid by it upon our system of domestic government; what burdens and privations our happy and industrious people might have to endure. Such a contest might also produce the most deplorable effects on our foreign alliances; for, in our own times, we had seen those who had been our best friends become our bitter enemies, while those who had once been our foes had become our closest allies. We should therefore take warning from the past, and not adopt a course which might estrange those on whose support we now counted. If the cause were one of duty or necessity, all these risks ought to be patiently endured; but the objects we fought for in an aggressive war were purely imaginary, not real, and could never be reconciled with the interests or the true honour of a civilised and Christian nation.
Sir, I know well the difficulty which any private and ordinary Member of this House has to face, when he attempts to occupy your attention, however briefly, after such displays of eloquence and debating power as those which on the present and preceding night have so well and worthily sustained the reputation of the English Parliament. At such a time, and on such a question, I speak only from a deep sense of responsibility and of duty: I do so because, long as this war and the negotiations precedent to it have lasted, the present is the first occasion on which it has been possible for this House to express, with any prospect of a practical result, its opinion on the course of policy to which we as a nation stand committed. I accept, therefore, the Motion of my right hon. Friend—a Motion which 1242 I mean to support—less on account of the censure which it carries against the Government, well deserved though I hold that censure to be—than because of the opportunity which it affords of ascertaining more clearly and distinctly, in terms more definite than have been hitherto employed, what are the real objects of the war, what the prospects, if any, and what the conditions of peace. I say that we are discussing these subjects for the first time. In 1853 Parliament separated, thinking war indeed probable but not certain; the recess was occupied in negotiations; those negotiations were secret (I do not complain that they were so, it is the practice, I am merely calling attention to the fact); they were necessarily left altogether in the hands of Government; they were unsuccessful, and at the commencement of 1854 Ministers came down to the House and told us, "All has been done that can be done: our efforts to prolong a state of peace have failed; diplomatic resources are exhausted, and war has become inevitable." They appealed to us for aid to carry on the war; we admitted it to be inevitable, we submitted to necessity, and we supplied, as we were bound to do, the means which Government declared to be necessary for the efficient carrying on of operations. But no opinion was then asked, none was expressed as to whether, by a better mode of conducting negotiations, war might not have been avoided. That was not, for the moment, a practical question. It would have been idle, at the very moment of commencing hostilities, to talk about terms of peace; for that it was necessary to wait until both sides were willing to negotiate; but the case is different now. A year has elapsed, a campaign has been gone through, great battles have been fought, negotiations are reopened, conferences have been held (whether now broken off or only suspended I know not), and surely now, if ever, the time has arrived when we ought to ascertain clearly and specifically what are the objects of the war. Those objects cannot be defined until we settle in our own minds what we believe to be the causes of the war. On that subject two different, and even opposite theories are entertained. There are some who think that—England and Russia standing forward as the types respectively of constitutional and despotic government—this contest, though by diplomatic skill it might have been for a while deferred, was yet in its nature inevitable, 1243 and must have come sooner or later. To those who hold that doctrine it is comparatively immaterial whether our diplomacy was well or ill conducted, since, in their view, its failure merely precipitated by a little an inevitable result; but my belief, and that of most impartial persons who have studied the evidence before them, is, that the war was not inevitable; that it was not a war deliberately foreseen, and entered upon by either country in consequence of a predetermined purpose; but that it was a war whose origin was most accurately described by the Foreign Secretary, when he said that we had "drifted" into it. Can it be said that Russia has forced it on? Look at the Memorandum of 1844; look at the secret correspondence of 1853; in both you find expressed the same desire—a desire the sincerity of which there is no reasonable cause to dispute—a desire to stand well with England, whatever might be the relations of Russia with other Powers. Why do I mention this? Because, in my judgment, at least, it affects the whole nature and character of the contest. If this war be, what many desire to make it, a war of principles; if the antagonism between the two countries be the necessary result of their political position, then, indeed, it is useless to negotiate, idle to talk of peace, and all we have to do is to reconcile ourselves as best we may to the situation of affairs, and carry on the struggle with all our energies, until one or other of the combatants shall be destroyed. But if, as I believe, the war was brought about merely by the accident of diplomatic mismanagement, then it assumes a very different character, and the question may reasonably be asked, "Are we fighting only to protect our ally, or with any ulterior object?" There are but two objects which it is possible to propose to yourselves; one is the protection of Turkey, the other the humiliation of Russia and the destruction of her power. If you aim at the latter, if you really seek to humble Russia, and to destroy her preponderance in the scale of nations, then, I say, the means you are employing are utterly, even ludicrously, inadequate. That object is not to be accomplished by a siege of Sebastopol, by a Crimean campaign, or a blockade of the Baltic and Black Sea: you must be prepared to expect from the nature of the people, and of the country with which you have to contend, an obstinate and long-protracted resistance. What is Russia? She is a Power weak for offence, 1244 strong for defence: her aggressive strength is not great, because her navy is worthless, and her armies, from want of an efficient Commissariat, suffer more than those of any other nation, when engaged in distant operations; but at home she is protected by her climate, by the immense space which an invading army must traverse, by the military spirit of the people, and by the low state of her civilisation, which war scarcely disturbs. In such a war—a defensive war, a national war, a war for her independence and for her very existence—she is powerful enough to occupy us for many years. Well, then, what are the means by which, and who are the allies by whose aid, we are to carry on such a struggle? It will not be argued that the Turkish armies can give us much help beyond the frontiers of their own country, nor yet that we can reckon on the co-operation of Austria and Prussia. Fortunate will it be if we can even reckon on their neutrality. We stand then alone, fighting by the side of France. Is it the interest of France—is it the interest of that dynasty which now fills the throne of France, to protract indefinitely a struggle of this kind, and to crush that Power which has always been held the firmest support of absolute government in Europe? For remember that in such a contest as you now propose, mere force of arms will not be sufficient. You may say now, and you may sincerely desire and intend it, that this shall be a war of Governments only; but ere long you will be driven to employ other means and to fight with other weapons. An internecine war with Russia must in its nature become a war of principle; you must raise against her Poland, Finland, Circassia, all the various countries on whose freedom she has from time to time trampled, and which she has incorporated with her empire; you will have to sow dissension and discord in the empire of Russia herself. But let the House recollect that if once they embark in a revolutionary war, that is an enterprise from which there is no possibility of receding with honour. Its influence will not be confined to those countries in which it originates. It is more than probable that Italy and Hungary will have something to say to such a quarrel. If they do, you have at once raised against you every despotic Government in Europe. There may, indeed, be some persons (I have not heard such language held in this House, but it is held frequently out of doors) who, foreseeing these results, and 1245 being prepared to face these risks, think that a war on this principle ought to be undertaken, and that it is the duty of England to stand forward and support the principle of nationalities. But is it in the power of England consistently and reasonably to do this? What does the principle of nationalities mean? If it has any meaning, it means this—that no State, however small its area, however numerically feeble its inhabitants, or however low their state of civilisation, shall be forcibly subjugated by any other and stronger race. I say, Sir, that against that principle the existence of the British Empire at the present day is a living and a standing protest. How can we, who maintain in India the most widespread military despotism that the world has ever seen—how can we, of whose colonial dominion one-half has been forcibly torn from other Powers, nay, who even here at home have united at least three distinct nationalities in one single empire—affirm that we are too free, too pure, too liberal, to tolerate the existence in any other part of the world of a despotism consolidated by conquest? Why, the assertion by us of such a principle will be received with ridicule throughout Europe. In nations, as well as individuals, the power of self-deception is immense: yet, allowing for its influence, other nations will find it hard to believe in our sincerity, and will regard us with a natural distrust. But I pass over that consideration; nor do I stop to compare (though it is a momentous question) the evils caused by despotism with those which a state of revolutionary anarchy may produce: but I ask of this House, responsible as it is for the interests of the empire—I ask of you, trustees not only for the present generation, but for posterity, whether you have a right, for the sake of any vague and remote results to be produced upon the future of the human race, to enter on a course which must inevitably be productive of great financial injury—perhaps of financial ruin—to this country? Setting aside, for argument's sake—though it is a consideration which you have no right to set aside—the claims of patriotism—I deny that the world at large, I deny that the human race, will be gainers. I believe that by crippling the resources and lessening the influence of this country, you will inflict upon the civilisation of mankind a deeper wound and a graver injury than can be compensated by the benefits, ten times 1246 told, of Polish nationality re-established, or Hungarian independence restored.
I may be asked, of what use is it to argue thus, when on all sides there exists a perfect agreement that we are fighting only for the protection of Turkey. That such an agreement of opinion exists in his House I allow, and I rejoice in the fact: but that is far from being the case out of doors. If the nation once thoroughly understood that the sole purpose of this war was the protection of our ally, and that no ulterior object was aimed at, I believe that the violence of popular feeling, the unreasoning desire to fight for mere fighting's sake, the unwillingness to listen to any moderate proposal of reconciliation, which now throws so many obstacles in the way of diplomatic proceedings, would be, if not at an end, at least greatly mitigated. There are not many persons who will come forward boldly, and say, "Your object in this war is to crush the power of Russia;" but there are many who, not taking the trouble exactly to understand their own meaning, but using a vague word which may mean anything, will tell you, "It is not necessary to crush Russia; but it is our business to humble her." Others contend only, that, having entered on the war, we are bound to proceed with it, until at least we secure some considerable military advantage. On that latter subject I shall say nothing: a right hon. Gentleman who spoke last night has sufficiently disposed of the theory of fighting, not for terms of peace, but for glory: but this I do affirm, that of all the impolitic ideas which ever entered the brain of man, none can equal in impolicy that of humbling an enemy whom you do not intend to crush. I do not speak the language of the Peace Society—I will give you the opinion of one who was no squeamish politician, no sentimental philanthropist, but one of the profoundest students of human nature and of political science that the world has yet produced. Macchiavelli, in his Prince, has said—We must never lose sight of this maxim—either make a man your friend, or put it out of his power to be your enemy. He may revenge a slight injury, but a great one deprives him of the power of revenge. Hence the injury should be so great, that we should have nothing to dread from his vengeance.These are wise words; and they apply to nations as well as to individuals. They clearly indicate the only alternative which you have before you: either to settle this 1247 quarrel on fair and equal terms, respecting the honour of Russia as your own; or else to make up your minds to an internecine war. Between the two there is no middle course: if for the last alternative you are not prepared, you have no choice except to abide by the former. It is argued, "We must have Russia weak, not that we desire to injure her, but for the safety of Turkey." Sir, I doubt whether the state of the Turkish Empire can in any case be a state of safety. Her chief dangers are internal. A feeble Government, a corrupt system of administration, and a barbarous people, expose her to continual peril. But if it be meant that a security is required for the maintenance of the integrity of Turkey against foreign aggression—in that theory I agree. But then the question arises, what is a security? The only point of difference between the terms offered on one side and those which will be accepted on the other—the only condition which the Allied Governments seek to impose, and which Russia refuses to concede—is the limitation of the Russian fleet.
Suppose that concession made, what then? No material guarantee for the security of Turkey will have been gained. The Russian armies in Georgia will remain still unreduced—there is no principle of limitation there applied—and what security have you if, while you guard Constantinople from the sea, a Russian army can at any moment sweep through Asia Minor, occupy the most fertile half of the empire, cut off the Persian trade, and encamp within fifty miles of the capital? That is of the two the more real and the more imminent danger. Russia is formidable, not as a great naval, but as a great military Power; yet, while you insist on the principle of limitation, you apply it only to her navy. I have shown that your third point contains no safeguard against an invasion of Turkey by land; but it does not even protect her against invasion by sea. The distance from Odessa or Sebastopol to the Turkish territory is short: a surprise is easy: there is no limitation of the number of transports which Russia may have in the Black Sea; nor can you prevent any number of troops being concentrated in those seaport towns. It is transports, not men of war, that are needed to carry over an invading force. Your security, therefore, even if you enforce it, secures nothing; but what guarantee have you for the observance of the terms imposed? You say, 1248 the limitation of the Russian fleet is a security for Turkey. Yes; but where is the security for the continued limitation of the fleet? No stipulation is so easily evaded as one which limits a naval force. To say nothing of ships which may be built ostensibly for trading purposes, and which will require only a little change to turn them into men of war, nor yet of the difficulty of ascertaining accurately what is passing in Russian dockyards, would England go to war because one ship had been added beyond the number agreed on? How easy the excuse, that that ship had been built to replace one which was decayed, and would be immediately withdrawn! When once peace has been made, when the military spirit has subsided, and when the nations are again disarmed, very large infringements of such a stipulation as the Government propose will be tolerated in preference to recommencing hostilities. What, then, is the use of this paper guarantee? You must rely, after all, on one of two things—either on the good faith of Russia, or on her fear of being involved in war by a breach of the treaty; but those same circumstances act already as securities for the integrity of Turkey. If Russia will not be bound either by good faith or by fear, the condition which you impose is useless; if either of those motives will influence her conduct, then that same condition becomes needless and superfluous. If Russia will abstain from increasing her fleet, lest by so doing she should provoke an European war, surely you have precisely the same reason to suppose—you have an equal moral security for it—that the same fear of war will restrain her from violating the independence of a European State. The condition, therefore, is valueless as a safeguard: it has no practical meaning, except as a defiance and an insult.
Precedents, no doubt, have been urged, and parallels cited, where terms limiting naval force have been submitted to by nations not less powerful than Russia. But it is easy to show that none of those precedents apply to the present case—that nowhere has the expedient answered its purpose, except in the single instance of the American lakes, where both England and the United States bound themselves to maintain no ships of war. But here the case was wholly different, because no ships except those of the two contracting Powers navigated, or could navigate, those lakes, so that danger from the interference of a third party could not exist. But with 1249 the Black Sea it is otherwise; there is there a free communication with the Mediterranean, and no material obstacle exists to the entrance of ships of all nations.
It is contended by many, and among them by persons well qualified to judge, were not their passions sometimes stronger than their reason, "We care little about terms of peace; only let us not make peace without taking Sebastopol, or achieving some decided military success." Is the House prepared to accept that theory? Is it prepared to affirm that peace shall never be made except after decisive victory? Because if so, understand it clearly, you are declaring that there shall be one law for England and another for all other Powers. If you allow that what is necessary for the honour of this country may be necessary also for that of Russia, if she too is to lay down the same principle and abide by it, then peace at any time becomes impossible, and the war is rendered interminable. But it is absurd that two great nations should continue to fight when little or no difference exists between them as regards terms of peace, merely because it is necessary that the honour of one or the other shall be satisfied by some signal success. Further, it is easy to say now that if you can only conquer in the field you will be content with moderate terms; but will it be so? Will not the expectations and demands of the country rise in proportion as the power of enforcing them increases? Will it not be argued plausibly, that those conditions of peace, with which, when victory seemed doubtful, we might have been well content, are below our acceptance now when our enemy lies prostrate at our feet? And will not the prospect of peace recede further and further, as every battle gained gives strength and encouragement to the party of war?
There is, I am aware, a feeling of disappointment in the public mind that more has not been effected by our armies; and there are those who think that England has not in this contest sustained her military reputation. But the best way to come to a fair conclusion on that point, is to reverse the relative positions of the two contending parties, and suppose the enemy's case our own. Suppose, then, that we had invaded a neighbouring State. Suppose that our invasion had been repelled with a vast loss of life—that our territory had been invaded in return—that our navy had been swept from the sea, 1250 shut up in our harbours, or sunk as a defence, that a strict blockade had been established along all our coasts, that in three pitched battles we had been defeated, should we, because the enemy had undertaken the siege of one place which he had not yet succeeded in capturing, contend that such a state of things redounded to our military honour? Compare, then, what we have done and suffered with what has been done and suffered by the enemy, and it will be plain that in the eyes of Europe we have lost nothing of our reputation. It may he asked, "If you are for peace, why not name your terms of peace?" To that question I answer, first, that to fix the precise conditions of a treaty belongs to the Executive; next, that in this struggle we do not stand alone. We are fighting by the side of an ally: it is not enough that the terms offered should satisfy us, they must satisfy him also; and all that Parliament can do is to mark generally its readiness to acquiesce in any honourable peace. But this at least is certain, that if we are to entertain any hope for the future, we must mark our sense of what is past. The Resolution of my right hon. Friend declares that the conduct of Government has been vacillating, and their language equivocal. I believe that to be the truth. If two years ago the language of Ministers had been plain and their conduct decided, I believe in my conscience that war would not have broken out. If you had told Russia that any aggression on Turkey would be held a casus belli, she would have taken the hint, and the Pruth would never have been passed; if, taking an opposite course, you had warned Turkey that it was not your intention to interfere in her behalf, she would have accepted the Russian interpretation of the Vienna Note, and peace might still have been preserved. But instead of taking either of these decided and intelligible lines of conduct, you lured on the Government of Russia by the ambiguity of your speech, and the vacillation of your purpose—you led them to believe that they had no opposition from you to expect—and then turned upon them at the moment when they had committed themselves to an aggressive policy, and when it was too late to recede with honour. That is the fault I find with the earlier stages of these proceedings; and as regards what has been done at Vienna, I find this grave fault—that the only point on which the British Government insisted was one which 1251 Russia could not be expected to concede, and which, if conceded, would have been utterly without value. Yet on that point the conferences were broken off, as if there were no other means of guarding Turkey against aggression, and of counterbalancing the power of Russia in the East, besides that one expedient of limiting her fleet. On these grounds I acquiesce in the Resolution of my right hon. Friend, regarding it as, and avowing it to be, a vote of censure. I do so in the interests of peace. I have little confidence in those Gentlemen, who, occupying the opposite bench, are by courtesy styled a Government. I can scarcely hope that the First Minister, whom I respect, but who in his half-century of public life has always seemed to aim at the show and semblance rather than at the reality of success, and who has never scrupled to court the popularity of the moment, will, in these his last days of administrative existence, pursue a more exalted object, and aspire to a more enduring fame. But I have confidence in the clear perception, the dispassionate judgment, and the resolute will of England's Imperial ally. I have confidence, too, in the people of England. They may be misled for a moment by passion, or duped by political intrigue; they may, and it is their greatest political failing, allow a small and clamorous minority to usurp their name and to misrepresent their wishes; but ere long the sound practical common sense of the nation reasserts itself, and I believe that a year will not pass before the country with one Voice will ask, "Tell us for what we are fighting—tell us, if we are victorious, what will be the results of victory—tell us what recompense we may expect, save only some barren wreaths of glory, for the sacrifice of uncounted treasure, and for mourning and misery entailed upon a hundred thousand English homes?"
§ MR. LAYARD
trusted the House would bear with him while he addressed them very shortly upon this important question. Before entering upon it he begged to thank the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) for the courteous notice he had taken of him and the kind advice which he had offered. The account which the right hon. Gentleman had given of what passed between them was strictly correct; for before entering the House he had no idea of the Resolution which the right hon. Gentleman was about to submit; but the moment he heard of the intention of the right 1252 hon. Gentleman to raise this discussion he at once ceded his right of preaudience. He had refused the request of hon. Friends on that side of the House to postpone his Motion, but he thought this question one of so much importance that everything else, however in itself important, should give way to it; he wished the House, however, distinctly to understand that his Motion was only withdrawn for a time, and that it was his intention to bring it forward upon the first Motion for going in to Supply after the Whitsuntide recess. He was also obliged to allude to what took place yesterday, lest he should be liable to some misrepresentation. He certainly did attend a meeting, called by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and had the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) invited him to a meeting he should probably have thought it his duty to attend to that also. He was no party man; he desired to hear what every one had to say; and when the noble Lord invited him, he went to hear what would be announced to his supporters on that occasion. As the hour was already late, he should endeavour to confine himself strictly to the subject before the House, and he ventured humbly to think he could throw some light upon it. He would recall attention to the origin of the war—for we were fast forgetting what we went to war about—and he thought he should demolish some of those splendid fallacies which had been advocated with so much eloquence by the right hon. Gentleman who sat behind him. What was the origin of the war? The Christians of Turkey were a population gradually increasing in wealth and prosperity; of their progress there was daily evidence; and the Sultan, a benign and beneficent ruler, was anxious to give protection to all his subjects. He did not mean to say that acts of oppression had not been perpetrated in the provinces; he had himself witnessed and protested against them; but those acts did not proceed from the central Government, and the central Government was no more responsible for them than was the Government of this country for any act of tyranny or outrage which occurred in a poor-house or other public establishment. He believed it was the main object of Russia in this war with Turkey to check that prosperity and put an end to that intelligence which was spreading among the Christians in Turkey. That it was so was no longer an opinion of his; it was an opinion which was warranted 1253 by the manifestoes of the late Emperor of Russia and the circulars of Count Nesselrode. The House would remember Prince Menchikoff's mission and its attendant circumstances. The mission ended with a Vote which, as an ultimatum, included all the demands which Prince Menchikoff made upon the Porte. That ultimatum stated that Russia desired to have those privileges granted to the Christian subjects of the Porte, professing the Greek religion, which were enjoyed by all members of foreign legations in Turkey. That was as much as if a foreign Power called upon this country to give to its Roman Catholic subjects all the privileges which were enjoyed by foreign missions in this country. After giving that ultimatum, Prince Menchikoff left Constantinople. The Sultan then issued a firman, which was communicated to the representatives of the Powers in Constantinople, and which guaranteed to the Christians all religious privileges and immunities, and confirmed any treaty in existence affecting them. Prince Menchikoff, when he heard of that firman, wrote a letter to the Grand Vizier, stating that he considered it an insult to the Emperor, his master, who did not want for the Christians religious but political privileges; so that that matter, he believed, was placed beyond all dispute. In consequence of the withdrawal of Prince Menchikoff, a conference was opened at Vienna, and that conference resulted in the celebrated Vienna Note. The modifications which the Turkish Government suggested in that Note were at first rejected both by England and France; but afterwards, when Count Nesselrode admitted that the interpretation which the Turkish Government had placed upon the Note was the interpretation Russia intended the Note should bear, there was not one Power in Europe, Prussia included, which did not declare that the Note could not be accepted by the Porte—that if the Porte accepted the Note with the interpretation placed upon it by Russia, she would forfeit her independence and place her Christian subjects at the mercy of Russia. It was upon the rejection of the Vienna Note that war broke out. He would not now stop to consider how far they were likely to obtain privileges for the Greeks, commensurate with the privileges which Russia insisted they should have, and how far the "Four Points" gave them those privileges. It had been said that, after all, there were no sufficient objects 1254 for this war; but would Russia, he asked, have gone to war if there had not been some great objects which she wished to attain? Surely, if the difference were so small and the modifications so trifling as was attempted to be proved, Russia would not have rejected the Vienna Note or gone to war, in order to insist upon the interpretation which she had placed upon it. He should always think, like the noble Lord (Lord Stanley), that if at that time we had held a dignified tone Russia would not have gone to war. He attributed this war to two things:—First, to the uncertain and ambiguous tone assumed by Her Majesty's then Government; and next, he regretted to say, to the tone adopted by the hon. Gentlemen behind him (Mr. M. Gibson and Mr. Bright). He did not mean to cast blame upon them, but unintentionally they were the main cause of the war. Having through ambiguity and uncertainty of conduct and language gone to war, we commenced with some capital mistakes. He thought the greatest of those mistakes was, the declaration that it was not intended to make any territorial changes in Russia, because such a declaration solemnly made was giving a premium to Russia to carry on the war, and preventing the Western Powers reaping any positive benefit from it. With respect to the conferences held at Vienna, to which the noble Lord was sent as negotiator, it was said by many Members that the first two points were insignificant, but that the third point was of great importance. He totally differed from hon. Members upon that subject, and he thought he should show that in the first and second points—in the first more particularly, but in the second also—we committed a most capital error. As usual, we went to Vienna and placed ourselves in the hands of Austria. The first proposal on the first point emanated from Austria. Austria proposed the mixing up of the three principalities, Wallachia, Moldavia, and Servia; she said that the decree to regulate the government of these provinces was to be referred to the European Powers, that no armed interference should take place on the part of the Porte without a corresponding interference on the part of the protecting Powers, and she finished by a declaration that it would be an act of criminality for the inhabitants to interfere in the management of their own affairs. Those terms were not accepted exactly, but with very slight modifications. Why were the affairs of the three Principalities, 1255 which were perfectly distinct, mixed up together? The treaties which affected Moldavia and Wallachia were perfectly distinct from those which affected Servia. But Austria wanted to have the right of interference in Servia, and that was her object in making it appear that those three Principalities stood upon the same footing. But Prince Gortchakoff, that able diplomatist, saw through the scheme of Austria, and he pointed out that Servia did not stand on the same ground as the other Principalities. He knew that Austria by establishing a protectorate there would have the power of exercising great influence over the Slavonic population of Turkey. Prince Gortchakoff knew—though our Plenipotentiaries, probably, scarcely knew anything of Servia, or whether it was inhabited by Slavonians or by any one else—he knew that Austria, if she once got a footing there, might so use her power as to overthrow Russian influence in Turkey in Europe. But the point was not settled, for he suggested, as he always did on any question of importance, that it should remain over till the treaty was signed. It would be found that, whenever a question of great importance was raised, Prince Gortchakoff always got quit of the difficulty by putting off the discussion of it till after the treaty was signed, knowing very well that rather than go to war again we should probably accede to his views on the subject. Much had been said as to attending to the wishes of the Principalities with reference to their government; but how, in present circumstances, was this possible? The Principalities were now under Austrian bayonets; and here he must say it appeared to him extraordinary that the noble Lord, our Plenipotentiary, the leader of the constitutional party in this country, should have put his name to the protocol determining the first point at the conference. What did that first point decide? The article stated that, in the event of the internal tranquillity of the Principalities being compromised, no armed interference should take place without being the subject of agreement between the high contracting parties; and it was stipulated at the close not to allow the inhabitants to meddle with matters dangerous to the tranquillity of their own country and of neighbouring States. What did that mean? It meant that no change whatever should take place in the Principalities; that, however liberal in feeling and however remarkable for intelligence 1256 the inhabitants might be, no change whatever should take place in their circumstances. It was astounding that the noble Lord, who was always the advocate if constitutional doctrines in this country, and the representative of the great constitutional party, should have affixed his name to a protocol which had in it such an article as this. If hon. Gentlemen knew the state of these provinces, they would see that this article extinguished every hope that might arise of a Christian nationality in Turkey, crushed every chance of liberal government in that country, and put an end to the progress of civilisation in those provinces. Did the House recollect the protest of the Servian Senate, which was laid on the table some time ago? That protest was drawn up with an energy, a dignity, and an independence that reflected the greatest credit on the Servian nation; it contained an indignant remonstrance against the interference of Austria, stating that, whatever Injuries they might have received from Russia, they feared Austria still more, and should be prepared to oppose her interference, if necessary, by force of arms. To Austria, however, by the concession of their first point, was given the right and power to interfere directly in the affairs of the Principalities. Let him next ask, had the Porte ever interfered with Wallachia and Moldavia? These were not provinces conquered by the Porte, and had never been treated as such. They became annexed to the Sultan's dominions by treaty, under which the Porte was bound to observe certain conditions, which she had invariably kept. It was Russia that had interfered in the affairs of the Principalities. From claiming the right to speak to the Porte, on behalf of her Christian subjects in Wallachia and Moldavia, Russia had gone on to assume the right of protection over them. When the revolution in Servia took place in 1853, and a new and a liberal Government was established, did the Porte interfere to put an end to it? No, it was Russia that interfered—the Porte it was that afforded an asylum to the Members of the new Government, and enabled them afterwards to return to their own country. It was the same in the other Principalities. In 1848 Russia interfered to drive out the liberal party from those Principalities, and the Porte afforded them an asylum and enabled them subsequently to return. But, if we sanctioned this proposed protectorate—if this protocol 1257 were to be carried into effect—we should sanction the interference of both Austria and Russia, and of them alone, for to talk of the interference of the other Powers was absurd, in all the internal affairs of those countries. England and France were too distant to take a practical interest in their concerns. He repeated that it was to him astounding that a man like the noble Lord should ever have put his name to such an article. The next point referred to the navigation of the Danube. Great credit was claimed for the concessions that had been obtained from Russia in this matter; but were they really concessions? By the Treaty of Vienna, Russia admitted the free navigation of the Danube; but we were told that she now consented to build no fortifications on the left bank of the Danube. This, however, she had agreed to in the Treaty of Adrianople; so that here Russia made no concession whatever. Well, but there was a concession in the stipulation that she was not to have a quarantine station there any longer. But what was the use of the quarantine? It was established in consequence of the prevalence of the plague; but there was no plague in the East now, consequently there was no longer any necessity for the quarantine. Could this then be regarded as any concession? But Lord Westmorland raised a question of great importance, which, however, appeared to have entirely escaped the notice of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell). This related to the boundary caused by the stream. Supposing the stream of the Danube should vary—as streams were ever ready to do when running over a marshy soil—and, instead of passing through the Sulina mouth, should pass through St. George's mouth, was the stream so changed to form the boundary? The question was important, because if the stream did vary, Russia might have the power to vary the boundary, and in the case supposed the whole mouths of the river would be in the hands of the Russians; yet this point seemed to have escaped the notice of the noble Lord. Then, by the treaty of Adrianople, the Turks were to withdraw to a certain distance from the Danube, and it became a question whether or not they should now be allowed to build establishments on the river's bank. To that proposal it appeared that Prince Gortchakoff replied that as the Turks were becoming more civilised than they were, there might be no objection to their doing so, but he added "we 1258 will reserve that point also until the treaty is signed." He asked what then had we gained by the second point? Russia had made concessions that were no concessions at all; she had merely conceded that which she was bound to by the double treaties of Vienna and Adrianople. The next point was the preponderance of Russia by sea. A great deal had been said of our courtesy in allowing Russia to take the initiative; but he would ask any one who had been attached to an embassy whether he could conceive it possible for a Power to make the first offer in such a case as this. A skilful diplomatist like Prince Gortchakoff would be careful not to make the first offer, and he accordingly said he would see what the other Powers would offer first. At this the diplomatists expressed their surprise, and then they made their offer. Count Buol made the first proposition, that the Turkish and Russian fleets should be limited; but his terms were so ambiguous that it did not plainly appear whether the fleet was only to be limited in the Black Sea, or limited altogether. There were two propositions—first, that of the allies, limiting the Turkish fleet; and, second, that of Russia, which in the first place opened the Dardanelles altogether, and in the second closed the Dardanelles, unless on extraordinary occasions, when the Porte might call for the fleets of its allies to come up. Now, with regard to the limitation of the fleet, he quite agreed with those who said that it was most difficult to have a limitation; it was a matter so difficult that it could never be carried out, for they certainly could not go to war if Russia should have one or two ships more than she was entitled to. How then could you enforce the stipulation? It would be impossible. There were a thousand different ways to escape from it. Therefore he put the limitation clause on one side.
The House would recollect that some time ago there was a considerable discussion in that House as to the meaning of certain words which fell from the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies; but that the noble Lord did say that Sebastopol and the Russian fleet should be destroyed was now pretty evident. In the evidence before the Sebastopol Committee there were produced two remarkable despatches from the Duke of Newcastle to Lord Raglan, written about the time when the noble Lord made the declaration he now referred to in that House; and, if 1259 there was any ambiguity in the words of the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, there certainly was none in these despatches. In the second despatch, the Duke of Newcastle directed Lord Raglan to make a careful inquiry into the amount and condition of the enemy's force in the Crimea; the difficulties of the siege, the despatch stated appeared to the Government more likely to increase than diminish by delay, and, as there was no prospect of a safe and honourable peace until the fortress of Sebastopol was reduced, and the Russian fleet taken or destroyed, nothing but insuperable impediments should prevent that being done. Therefore, whatever meaning the noble Lord might have wished to give to his words, the intentions of the Government were, at any rate, openly avowed in that despatch.
Now, with respect to the opening of the Dardanelles, would any one tell him that that was not a Turkish question altogether? By an article in the treaty of 1841, His Highness the Sultan declared that he was firmly resolved to maintain the principle invariably established as the ancient rule of his empire, in virtue of which ships of war belonging to foreign Powers were at all times prohibited from entering the Straits in time of peace. That article had been very much misrepresented. Russia had insisted on that article as solely made in her favour; but the fact was, that it was made in favour not of Russia but of Turkey. If the Dardanelles had been opened, Russia would have brought her ships into the Bosphorus upon Constantinople in the recent dispute. But the Dardanelles being closed by treaty against her ships, Menchikoff would not risk a war by bringing down the Russian fleet to back his demands. He believed had the Dardanelles been open, Constantinople would have been in the hands of Russia at this moment. Well, as a great concession, Turkey was to be allowed to call in the fleets of her allies should she be in danger. The right hon. Member for Oxford University had said that if you brought your fleets to Beshika Bay you insulted Russia, and war was inevitable. [Mr. GLADSTONE: I never said that.] He thought it was said by the right hon. Gentleman, but at all events the argument had been used in the debate. But suppose Turkey had the right to call up the fleets of her allies to her aid considering herself in danger, would not Russia look upon that as a declaration of war on the part of those allies? On that 1260 point, therefore, he did not consider that my concession had been made; and if any, it was by Turkey and not by Russia. Now, let the House consider the fourth point, relating to the quintuple protectorate, and inquire whether Russia in reality conceded anything in reference to that. It was not a treaty which gave Russia a protectorate over persons of the Greek faith in Turkey. The article in the Treaty of Kainardji was the only pretence for that protectorate, though it merely declared that the Sublime Porte promised to protect the Christian religion and the Christian churches, and permitted the representative of the Imperial Court of Russia to make representations in favour of the new church at Constantinople and of those who ministered to it. That provision gave Russia no right to make representations in favour of the Christians generally; but, by a misrepresentation of the treaty, Russia had assumed the protection of the Christian subjects of the Sultan, though the Porte had never admitted the right of Russia in that respect. But now, by the fourth point, the allies were going to concede to Russia that power; and, though other nations were to share in the protectorate, Russia, by a community of religion, would have entire influence over the 12,000,000 of Christian subjects of the Porte professing the Greek religion. If you gave the right to the other Powers the Christians of the Greek Church would still go to Russia. If anything in Bosnia happened they would appeal to Austria; and if anything in Syria, they would appeal to France. This united protection would ruin the Christians in the East. It would create constant dispute and constant interference. If complaint was made by the English consul and a pacha favourable to English views, the other Power would complain, and it would be the same if the interference were in favour of the views of the French, the Austrian, or the Prussian consul. There would always be four against one, and the poor Porte would not know what to do. It was this conflict of protectorates—this conflict of influence and interference that Russia wanted. She knew that the Greek Christians were the great majority of the Christian population of Turkey, and they would go to her—and she would use her influence, aided by them, to overturn every Minister who desired to improve the state of the country and of the people. Thus Russia would confirm her influence on Turkey, would undermine 1261 the Porte, and render the establishment of any independent Christian power in Turkey impossible. It had been said that he only advocated the cause of the Turks; but he told his hon. Friends behind him that the Christians in Turkey would be ruined if things there went on in the way they desired. They were told that it was a capital thing that the Christians in Turkey should be subject to conscription, as that would give them strength, and enable them to upset the Turks. Nothing, however, could be better contrived for the destruction of the Christians, for wherever there was a wealthy Christian, the conscription would always fall on him. During the last few years an immense change had taken place in Turkey. Leave the Christians alone, and the time might come when the Ottoman Christians would take that position in the East which every liberalminded man and every zealous Christian would desire to see them occupy; but he was convinced that injudicious interference would retard that consummation. But to return to the Four Points. He had drawn up a sort of balance-sheet, showing what each of the five Powers had gained and lost during these transactions, and he would read to the House how he made the accounts stand. First of all with Turkey—what had she gained? It was said that she would perhaps be able to advance to the right bank of the Danube, but that was hardly settled yet, and could not yet be called a concession; and she had also gained this, that Russia was no longer to have quarantine. But what did she lose? She lost all that he had just described by the establishment of a protectorate of five Powers, instead of one; she had lost already an immense portion of her army, and a large part of her fleet; she had greatly embarrassed her finances, and she had been obliged to have recourse to a loan; and she would lose in this, that we had confirmed, or were about to confirm, to Russia the possession of Circassia and of those provinces which, though actually already in her hands, had never yet, as was stated by the noble Lord in this House, been acknowledged to be hers; but which now, by the abolition of all former treaties and the admission of the status quo, would be conceded to her. Then, again, from the want of principle in conducting this war, another loss had been inflicted on Turkey by our refusal to support her in her demand for an indemnity from Greece for the invasion of 1262 Thessaly and Epirus, and the acts of brigandage which had been committed there by the Greek invaders. That was the loss of Turkey. And now for Russia. She had lost a vast number of men, and no doubt she had had to submit to great financial sacrifices; but what was the loss of men and money to a despot in comparison with the loss of prestige—and had she lost that? But what had been her gain? She had given up the sole acknowledged protectorate, in exchange for a conjoint protectorate, but one which she would exercise with our sanction; she gained the extension of her protectorate to Servia, and she gained also the acknowledged possession of Circassia and those other provinces which she had hitherto held, but her right to which had not been admitted. She gained, moreover, an enormous prestige in the East and in central Europe—a prestige which might be fatal to the liberty and civilisation of the world, and which might be a great step to the ruin of Turkey. What had France and England gained? England had gained a glorious battle, had made a glorious charge, and a glorious defence when attacked, and we had raised higher than ever the military reputation of our soldiers. France had made the same gain. But what had we lost? We had shown the world corruption and rottenness within; we had shown that our institutions were far from being as they should be; we had proved that we could mismanage a great war; and we had given the world to believe that, after all, constitutional Government might not be so good as it appeared to be. Thus we had gained nothing but the reputation of our soldiers. France had gained and lost pretty much as we had done. But what had Austria gained? And really, on looking back to the whole course of the transactions, it would appear that, after all, Austria was the only Power which really had gained; but turning to inquire what she had lost, on the contrary, the account was a beggarly row of zeros. She had gained through us the navigation of the Danube; she had gained a right to interfere in Servia and the Principalities—a right the significance and extent of which few hon. Gentlemen were acquainted with; she had strengthened her own position at home; and all this she had gained without the loss of a single man. She had strengthened her position at home; hers had been all gain and no loss. Yet she was still holding aloof, and allowing us to 1263 fight her battles. It was quite time that the House should know how soon this state of things was to end. He would like to know what was taking place now at Vienna in the conferences, and how long Austria was to keep out of the war? The difficulties of Austria had been explained by the noble Lord; but what he said was not new, and those difficulties had existed for the last two years, and when she signed the treaty of December. The main article of that treaty said that, on the re-establishment of peace on the terms indicated in Article No. 1, France and England could deliberate on the effectual means of obtaining an alliance with Austria, and that was meant to apply to last year. But it was well known that there was a secret article in that treaty. The time had been exhausted in which we were to have her active assistance, to which she was bound by the treaty. How long was that state of things to last? How long was Austria to play off her allies? The whole thing was preposterous. Look at all she had done against us by her occupation of the Principalities. She had enabled Russia to pour her troops into the Crimea. What had Austria done in the Principalities? He had seen a report in the newspapers, drawn up by Mr. Doria, of the Embassy at Constantinople, which showed what Austria had been doing in the Principalities, and how great was the hatred and horror of the inhabitants entertained of Austria. Martial law was proclaimed in the Principalities, villages plundered, the taxes raised 25 per cent, the Principalities were made to pay for the Austrian occupation; and yet we were to sanction and protect Austria in this occupation, Such was the result of the balance sheet.
He now wished to say a few words on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University (Mr. Gladstone). The right hon. Gentleman had last night, with his unrivalled power of eloquence, built up a superstructure of magnificent and alluring proportions, but on a foundation of sand. The principal argument of the right hon. Gentleman was, that Russia has gradually made concessions until she came now to the minimum, and that it was unwise of us to press her any further, but that we ought to endeavour to meet her. Never was there such an enormous fallacy. What were the concessions that Russia had made? Russia had begun this war by making the most preposterous demands and now that she chose to recede from 1264 those demands, it was said that we ought to meet her half way; so that for the future, if any Power chose to go to war with another Power, it might make sure of gaining all that it wanted by commencing with the most preposterous demands, and then giving way gently and gently until it got down to its real objects, which then, by comparison, would only seem slight and easy to be granted. Thus it was, in this instance, that, according to the right hon. Gentleman's argument, we must give up something to which we had a perfect right, in exchange for demands for which there was not the slightest foundation. That was the sum total of the right hon. Gentleman's argument. The right hon. Gentleman had asked, what was prestige? Not long ago the noble Lord at the head of the Government was asking what was merit? Certainly there were things which could not be accurately defined, but still it was impossible that any statesman should not know what the prestige of Russia meant, and in what it consisted. But if it could not be defined, it could be felt. It had been admitted that Russia had gained ground by treachery and by fraud; that she had incorporated kingdoms and provinces without the shadow of a claim—and this showed more forcibly than anything else the fallacy of that doctrine which had been laid down in the course of the debate, that we were not to invade the territories of Russia. Russia incorporated a province to which she had no right; we did not admit her right to hold it, though we did not choose to go to war with her on account of it; but when a war did come that stolen province was called part of her territory, and it was said that we were not to invade it. But her prestige was no less an instrument for the extension of her power than fraud and violence. Suppose that England and France were to retire defeated from this contest, did any one doubt that Germany would not at once fall almost under the complete dominion of Russia? With what success had we been endeavouring to induce the minor States of Germany to join us; and why did they not come to our side? Because they feared Russia. Was there no prestige in the East? If we withdrew our troops from Sebastopol, it was all very well for hon. Gentlemen to say that the people of Europe would be able to judge whether we had succeeded in our object or not; but what would be the feeling of the people of the East, who were influenced by appearances, and who knew 1265 that we started with attempting to take Sebastopol, and that we would have taken it if we could? They, at least, could not be made to think that our troops sat down there to carry out a mere sham, and if they saw our army retire they would conclude that it had failed, and they would not stay to inquire the why or the wherefore. The prestige of England in that case would be ruined, and would no longer be felt in Asia Minor, in Persia, and even on the confines of India. It was asked, what is that prestige? It was that which enabled Englishmen and English merchants to travel in security in Central Asia, and pursue in safety the largest commercial avocations in all parts of the world. It was the name and honour of England which alone had secured these advantages. Let that prestige but vanish and England would sink like ruined Venice, like deserted Genoa, and the mercantile cities of the middle ages. But the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) said our original demands upon Russia were enough; that they were now for the most part conceded; and why, therefore, should we raise them? To that the answer was, that having already succeeded by our efforts in making Russia reduce her pretensions, we had only to proceed further with the contest to secure from her still better terms and conditions more commensurate with the requirements of Europe. But it was said, we must not seek to humble or humiliate Russia. Now, they need not desire to do that; but certainly great Powers of Europe had before this been deprived of territory which they once possessed. The dominions of France once extended to the Rhine, and included Savoy; and, at all events, when we embarked in a war for a great object we must carry it out, and not set out by declaring that we would make no territorial changes. The right hon. Gentleman finished his speech with one of the finest perorations he had ever heard in that House, in which he dwelt on the horrors of war. Really, to hear hon. Gentlemen behind him, one would fancy that those who advocated his (Mr. Layard's) views gloated in war, and wished to make war for its own sake. It was astonishing that right hon. Gentlemen who had lately seceded from the Cabinet should have been so contaminated after sitting a few nights near the representatives of the school in whose close neighbourhood they had taken their places. This unfortunate contamination had been ably pointed out in the very 1266 eloquent speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who opened the discussion that night (Mr. Whiteside).
His (Mr. Layard's) own views on this question were, perhaps, more extensive than those entertained by many Members of that House. He did think that this war might have afforded this country a glorious opportunity of doing great good. England might have sustained the ancient reputation which made her great as she was. When Cromwell interposed in behalf of the oppressed Vaudois, he did not ask if our trade would be benefited by such an intervention. He said, "Here is a miserable people of the same religion as ourselves—they shall not be trampled upon, and taking her stand on principle, England will step forward and defend them,"—and they knew what was the result. [An hon. MEMBER here observed, that this was what Russia did in Turkey.] Now he (Mr. Layard) had had some little experience in Turkey, and begged to tell the hon. Gentleman that he had never yet known the Russians interfere to repress a real case of oppression, and he had seen a Greek bishop a suppliant at the British embassy; Russia only interfered when she thought the Greeks were becoming too intelligent and prosperous, and he challenged hon. Gentlemen acquainted with Turkey to contradict that statement if they could. Putting aside his individual views, the Government might have done more even acting upon its own. The protocols admitted that the declaration of war put an end to the pre-existing treaties. Then why revive those treaties? He would not now criticise the expedition to Sebastopol, though he thought it had been undertaken without the exercise of prudence or foresight. Still, the Government might have had information after all, warranting such an enterprise. But the treaties being at an end, why did we not stand on the defensive, and tell Russia that we would have no further protectorate? Neither Servia nor the Principalities required a protectorate. Their inhabitants, if examined at the bar of that House, would tell them that they dreaded Austria and Russia, but had no fear whatever of the Porte. The Sultan was far too humane, and had no disposition to interfere with the rights of his own Christian subjects; and, besides, public opinion was too strong to admit of his doing it even if he were so inclined. He (Mr. Layard) would answer for the disposition of the Porte, and he 1267 would assert that the Turkish Government would never oppress the Christians, and acts of that kind were never committed with its knowledge or authority. The whole of the protectorates might therefore have been safely abolished. But, if it were thought necessary still to maintain such a protectorate, let it be in the hands of a Sardinian mission or some agency of that kind, which should have authority to carry grievances when they occurred before the notice of the Turkish authorities, in which case they would be almost certain to be followed by redress. The next point to be considered was the proposal for a union of the Principalities. It must be remembered that the Moldavians and Wallachians were of different races, and almost of different religions; and that these provinces separated the two great Slavonian races of the world. It was said that we could not carry on a campaign in Bessarabia; and, of course, without medicine, transport, and other requisites of an army, we could not;—but had not the Russians carried on campaigns in Bessarabia; and could not we, with a properly equipped army, have done the same? The Wallachians, too, might have given us 60,000 effective troops, and afforded us important assistance, if the Austrians had not been allowed to enter the Principalities and prevent it. Russia might have been forced to maintain the defensive, and would not have dared to cross the frontier, while Turkey would have been enabled to husband her resources.
He had entered that House as an independent Member, and had laid on the table repeated Motions, the discussion of which had been stopped from circumstances which he could not control, and in spite of his own conviction of the immense importance of their being fully debated. He had thereby incurred much unmerited odium; but he had felt that a strong expression of opinion in that House might have prevented much of the complications that had arisen. But let him now refer for a few moments to the speech of the noble Lord last night. The noble Lord had said that the fortifications of Bomarsund threatened Sweden, Denmark, and the Northern Powers; and if all the noble Lord had said of Bomarsund was true, it would have deserved a war to destroy it. But, on looking at the protocols, no mention could be found of it. But were they to understand that the Four Points had been thrown to the winds? The noble Lord 1268 had, on a former occasion, said that they were not fighting for the Four Points, but for great principles. If this were so, he (Mr. Layard) would go with the noble Lord heart and soul, and vote for him night after night. He supposed that Bomarsund was not to be rebuilt, and he saw that the inhabitants of the Aland Islands were to be treated with consideration by Russia; but did any one suppose that these people would not be exterminated? The noble Lord had given them a picture of the corruption that was going on in the German Courts. But what were they going to do with reference to these courts? They were but going to strengthen the bands of their servitude, for there was no mention of them in the protocols. They had heard something of Polish nationality. Were they going to have a new Poland? If so, they ought to have spared the hon. and learned Member who had accepted some unknown office one more night at least to have witnessed his triumph. But, to finish all this, the noble Lord said that he would put himself at the head of administrative reform; but would the Secretary to the Admiralty get up and say that we were to have no more Bomarsunds, that we were to have Germany on our side, and Poland re-established, and have administrative reform also? If so, his (Mr. Layard's) vote was the Government's. But was this only the prelude to something like that which had happened before, when the Cabinet was not warlike enough for the noble Lord, and were they to find him some day again addressing the House from some remote corner of the benches? He wished for an explanation of the speech of the noble Lord. If those which he had expressed were the principles of the noble Lord, the whole country would be with him. Were they the principles of the Government. They had had from the noble Lord last year the same kind of speeches and statements, that the whole Government was with him; and yet, when there was a break up, it was found that half of them were for war, and half for peace. He (Mr. Layard) would say, let there be either peace or war. Where great principles were at stake, you could not go on with these half-and-half measures. If we were to have to war for a mere difference between what we proposed and what Russia proposed, then he said, with his right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, that it would be a wicked War, and the man who carried it on incurred 1269 a guilt which few would be willing to incur. Last year there was no getting the peace party in the Cabinet to state their opinions in the House. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) never spoke on the subject, and those members of the Government most strictly guarded themselves in the matter; but they had now had a declaration from those members of the late Government who were suspected of being of the peace party. What else would the speeches of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) be, if they were not what had been called to-night mouthfuls of moonshine? It would be only deluding the country. What had been the result of such proceedings? Though he did not like to use the word, the result had been disgrace, and there was no use in disguising it. If we had had a united Cabinet should we have gone on as we had? Should we have seen preparations for war put off to the last moment, and a great expedition undertaken in the manner in which it was undertaken? No. We should not have seen such things. What course was the House to take? As an independent Member of the House, he knew not what way to turn. The country did not know whom to trust. When the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) said he would make a definite Motion, he (Mr. Layard) willingly gave way to him, and he regretted to say that he had been deceived in that Motion. It was, perhaps, not the fault of the right hon. Gentleman; perhaps the pressure on him was too great for him? But, under these circumstances, could he (Mr. Layard) trust the right hon. Gentleman and his friends? He was no party man. He would trust any one who could maintain the honour and dignity of the country. There was only one way to get out of the difficulty in which they were now placed. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe) had proposed an Amendment which appeared to him (Mr. Layard) to be consistent with the honour and dignity of the country. It was a test of the feelings of Gentlemen opposite, and, if they voted for it, and carried it, there would be some hope of them; but as to their own Motion, it was a mere nothing. There was a feeling of distrust gaining ground in the country, and you could not be playing more dextrously into the hands of the Gentlemen who sat behind him than you now were. Those Gentlemen knew that that feeling was to their advantage. He entreated Gentlemen on both sides of 1270 the House to express themselves definitely, and to let the country know what they really meant. All that the country wanted was the adoption of a definite principle. No minister that ever came into power in this country ever possessed such a prestige as the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston). He (Mr. Layard) did not wish to say much of that noble Lord, for he had not treated him with much courtesy; but there were greater considerations involved than mere personal considerations, and he would ask how had the noble Lord treated the country? Had the manner in which he had treated the country been creditable to that House or to the man who, placed at the head of a great country, might have led it on to glory and honour? He would not refer to scenes which had occurred in that House, for the recurrence to them was too painful. These were great times, and he called on the noble Lord to prove himself worthy of the position in which he was placed. The country was sick at heart, not sick of the war, for they would willingly go to a much greater extent than they had in its prosecution, for they believed it to be just, and that great things would yet come out of it; they were not sick of the war, but they were sick, heartily sick, of those who had the conduct of the war.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has truly said that this is a great country, that we are at present in a great emergency, and that the country will follow any leader who will lead it to honour and to glory. Sir, in spite of what has been said by the hon. Member, or by any hon. Member, on either side of the House, or by those out of it, who have found fault with the conduct of the Government, I venture to affirm that those now intrusted with the conduct of affairs will, as far as human powers will permit, lead the country through this struggle to honour and glory. I cannot say, I think that the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman on which we are now to decide is one befitting the greatness of this occasion or the magnitude of the subject. I could perfectly understand that a great party, which thought that power ought to be transferred to themselves, because those in whose hands it was placed were unequal to their task, should call on the House to pronounce a verdict of a transfer of power from those who hold it to those who wish to possess it; but, if that was the course 1271 that the party opposite were prepared to take, I must state that I think that this Motion is not suited to the object to which it is directed. I hardly like to descend to these verbal criticisms; but, if you wanted to find fault with the Government, you should have said what you disapproved of, and have called upon the House to express its dissatisfaction. You should have said, that you disapprove of certain conduct. But what is it, in regard to which the House is now called upon to express its dissatisfaction? Its dissatisfaction is invoked for the "ambiguous language and uncertain conduct" of the Government. Well, Sir, I deny that our language has been ambiguous—I deny that our conduct has been uncertain. I say, that if the party opposite are prepared to call down on us the censure of the House they ought to have had a better ground for doing so than that stated in the Resolution. However, I pass that by, and I accept their challenge. They call on the House to express dissatisfaction with our conduct; and, although they are not able to point out those courses to which dissatisfaction may apply, I care not for that, and I am willing to accept the challenge they have given us.
Sir, I heard the speech of my right hon. Friend who spoke last night (Mr. Gladstone) with admiration, no doubt, but also with considerable pain, because it appeared to me, taking the whole of the speech, especially the concluding part, that his opinions were adverse to the war, were adverse to the expedition to the Crimea, were adverse to the terms of peace on which we proposed to conclude the war; and yet my right hon. Friend was a party to all those courses; and I regret that any circumstances should have occurred since he quitted the Government to have so entirely altered his opinions. Now, it appears to me that among the supporters of the various Addresses and Amendments we have to discuss there are those who think, on the one hand, that we have not been sufficiently vigorous in the prosecution of the war, while there are those who wish, on the other hand, to drive the country to a peace upon terms which I think are not consistent with its honour, dignity, and interests. With regard to the origin of the war, it is, I think, unnecessary for me to go into any details or arguments as to its justice and necessity. That justice and that necessity have been admitted by all, except a small number of Members of 1272 this House. The necessity for the war arose not simply from the particular events which occasioned the rupture. For a long period of time it has been the standing policy of Russia to endeavour to weaken and crumble down, and ultimately to appropriate Turkey as her own possession. As has been openly avowed of late, this was the policy of Peter, of Catherine, of Alexander, and of Nicholas; and it was this settled policy of Russia which, breaking out on a particular occasion in a manner which rendered further passiveness impossible, drove this country into a war for just and necessary results. I am not now required to stand up to defend the justice and policy of the war, for the nation is unanimous upon that subject; and I quite agree with the hon. Member who has just spoken that the nation feels, being engaged in the war in a cause which is adequate, and for motives and objects which are worthy the exertions of a great country, that we are bound to carry it on with energy and vigour, and to close it by a peace which will not only be honourable to the country, but which will accomplish the purposes for which it was undertaken. That purpose is the protection and defence of Turkey, not simply on account of any sympathy which we may feel for Turkey as an independent state, but because the balance of power in Europe—an expression which involves the greatest interests of the civilised world—is concerned in preventing the colossal power of Russia from extending over those wide and important territories.
Sir, we have been told that the war has been misconducted. We are ready to admit, that, beginning on a sudden, with a peace establishment, a war with a great antagonist, after a forty years' peace, it could not but be expected that there should be in the administration of the different departments connected with the war mischances and mistakes, which were the cause of great evils at the commencement of our operations. But it has been said that we made a great mistake in going to the Crimea. I contend that that was precisely the expedition we ought to have undertaken, if we meant to bring the war to a successful and speedy termination. It is said, you ought to have sent your armies to Bessarabia, to have given your hand to Austria, to have gone into the Principalities, and to have fought side by side with your Austrian allies. Why, if our armies had gone into Bessarabia, if they had entered 1273 the Principalities, if they had gone into the interior of Russia, they would have been fighting far away from their communications, they would have had no basis of operations, they would have been far from any supplies and reinforcements, and there was no point which, when achieved, would have produced any important result, or led to any decisive issue of the contest. We went to the Crimea to endeavour to take the fortress of Sebastopol and to capture the Russian fleet, because it was in the Black Sea that the danger to Turkey principally lay; because if we had succeeded in taking Sebastopol and capturing the fleet we should have given Turkey the greatest security from the greatest impending danger. That being our object, it was most important to aim a blow which, once struck, would best accomplish the purpose of the protection of Turkey on the one hand, and, on the other hand, would deprive the Russians of those means of aggression which were most to be apprehended; and, therefore, I say, the Crimea was the place to which our troops could most advantageously have been sent. Then it is said that we put ourselves too much in the hands of Austria, that we trusted to negotiations, and did not, therefore, prosecute the war with sufficient vigour. That statement is utterly unfounded. I think it was sound policy for this country to accept to the utmost the good offices of Austria; it was sound policy for us to endeavour as far as possible to get Austria on our side—in the field if we could—but if she were not prepared to take arms to fight with us, it was at all events of the utmost importance to have her friendly to us, and to obtain her concurrence in policy with England and France—that we have accomplished. It has not suited the policy of Austria to declare herself an active ally; but we have her good offices, we have secured her neutrality; nor let the House imagine that the neutrality of Austria, the armed position in which she has been standing, has not been a powerful military diversion in favour of the operations of England and France. If, instead of engaging by treaty with Turkey to defend the Principalities, she had stood by and allowed the Russian armies to advance towards Turkey in that direction, Turkey would have been obliged to keep a large army on her frontier in order to protect her capital, and we might have been obliged to afford her military assistance for the defence of the heart of her empire. The 1274 treaty of Austria with Turkey has shut the door to an invasion of Turkey, and has enabled Omer Pasha, with the whole of his valiant army, which prevented the Russian forces from crossing the Danube, to go to the Crimea and co-operate with the troops of England, France, and Sardinia, in whatever operation they may be called on to perform. But, more than that, the Russian Government have been obliged to place a considerable army on the frontier of Gallicia, in order to watch the proceedings of Austria, which army might otherwise have been directed against our operations. It is, therefore, untrue to say that the position of Austria, has been of no advantage to the allies. Then, with regard to the negotiations—would it have been politic or right for England and France to refuse the offers and good offices of Austria in order to obtain, if possible, the consent of Russia to those terms of peace which had been settled between the three Governments. I say that if we had so refused the good offices of Austria, I think we should have exposed ourselves to the severe censure of this House and the disapprobation of the country. We might, indeed, have been blamed if, trusting to the chances of negotiations, we had abstained from taking measures for the vigorous prosecution of the war. But that has not been the case—although we have been negotiating at Vienna, we have omitted nothing that could possibly advance the prosecution of the war, and have acted, in that respect, as if no negotiations had taken place. We have adopted every measure which was calculated, in our opinion, to place our army and navy in a fit state to commence operations in the campaign now about to open. And what has been the result? We have in the Baltic a fleet which is blockading the Russian fleet, and as soon as the ice disappears, and an opening is made for the Russian fleet to come out, the British fleet will prevent it from leaving its ports. We blockade this year as we did last year, the whole of the Russian fleet in its ports in the Baltic, and we have in the Black Sea a fleet fully equal to any services it may be called on to perform. It is quite true that that army during the winter, from various circumstances—from the climate it had to endure, from the labours it had to perform, from the difficulties that it had to contend with—it is quite true that that army was exposed to great and lamentable sufferings. But this is now over, and that army is now in 1275 a state of perfect efficiency. It is provided with everything that can render it effectual for service in the field; its health is good, its equipment is complete; it is furnished with all the materials of war; the Commissariat arrangements are good, the hospital arrangements are excellent, and nothing has been omitted to render that army fitted to render any service that it may have to perform. Our allies in the Crimea are strengthened. The French army has been reinforced, the Sardinian contingent is arriving, and there is now a large Turkish army in the Crimea. The allies, have, I take it, at the present moment, not less than 200,000 men in the Crimea, and I say, therefore, that so far from having relaxed in our preparations for war owing to our negotiations for peace, we have done everything that, humanly speaking, it has been possible to do to carry on the war, notwithstanding the negotiations in which we have been engaged.
And now, Sir, with regard to those negotiations, I deny that the language we have used has been ambiguous or uncertain. When we have been questioned in this House what we have stated has been exactly the truth—namely, that the conferences were suspended, but that the elements of the conferences have remained; the answers given were invariably in perfect consonance with the existing state of things at the time. Much criticism has been lavished on the conditions in regard to which we have been negotiating. I will not go into the first point or the second point; they relate to the arrangements for the Principalities and the mouths of the Danube. But proceeding to the third point, which is more material, I must remark upon the manner in which my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) has been pleased to put the question. He said we had come to an agreement, either actual or prospective, upon three out of the four points and the half of the third point; and that therefore we have got three and a-half out of the four, and were only disputing about half a point out of four points. Why, Sir, that may be a very convenient method of getting out of the difficulty. But suppose that the remaining half of the fourth point referred to the possession of St. Petersburg; suppose it referred to the separation of Poland; suppose it referred to a great diminution of Russian territory, it might then equally have been said, you have got three and a half points conceded out of four, and it is a shame to go on 1276 negotiating and haggling for the remaining half. Sir, it is not the arithmetical computation that determines the question, but the political value of that half-point. What is that half-point? The third point is divided into two portions, one being that there was to be a revision of the treaty of 1841 for two purposes, one of which was to attach more closely the Turkish empire to the balance of power in Europe. That, I admit, might have been treated with comparative lightness, because there is more of appearance than of comparative value in such a statement. The Turkish empire has in form by the preamble of the treaty of 1841, been recognised as a portion of the European family of nations, and as belonging to the balance of power in Europe. But do you preserve a country from aggression by saying that it forms part of the European system? That clause would not preserve it from conquest by any other Power of Europe, for there is no country in Europe which has been attacked by a stronger Power that has not at the time constituted a portion of the balance of power in Europe. It is, indeed, the admission of a principle, but the practical value of such an assertion affords very little security to Turkey against the aggression of Russia. But the second point is of real value; and to that the Russian Government agreed—namely, that the preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea should be made to cease. That preponderance, no doubt, was the source of great danger to Turkey, and its cessation would afford the greatest practicable security to Turkey against the aggression of Russia. So long as Russia had the great harbour of Sebastopol, from which a powerful fleet of eighteen or twenty ships were ready to sally forth at a moment's notice, and carrying a large army, which fleet was within forty-eight hours' distance from Constantinople, it is evident that Turkey is exposed, as my noble Friend (Lord John Russell) has said, to a standing danger, and the existence of that fortress and that fleet is a standing menace to Turkey. Then, Sir, it is obvious that, to give security to Turkey, there must be a reduction in the naval preponderance of Russia in the Black Sea. But I understand my right hon. Friend to say, that to insist upon a dimunition of her naval preponderance in the Black Sea is such a humiliation to Russia that it is unwise and impolitic to propose it. But why should it be a humiliation to Russia? Any condition 1277 by which a Power binds itself not to do that which it has a right to do, and which it desires to do, may be called humiliation; but if Russia is sincere in declaring that she has no intention to invade Turkey or to possess herself of Turkish territory, or to make any attempt against the independence or integrity of Turkey—to say that it would be a humiliation to Russia to prove by her engagements and conduct that her professions were sincere, and that the intentions she has avowed are those she really entertains—is, I think, unwarranted by the facts. But then it is said there is danger to Russia from that proposal, and that Turkey not being limited in the number of her ships in the Black Sea, she might bring in a large fleet from the Bosphorus and the Mediterranean into the Black Sea, with which she might threaten the Russian ports in that sea. This is the first time I ever heard that any security was necessary to be taken from the lamb against the wolf. That Russia should require security against the probability of an attack from Turkey, I own, appears to me to be absurd, and nothing but the most exuberant fancy could induce any person to put that argument forward. But then, on the other hand, we are told that the best security to Turkey would be the opening of the Straits to the ships of all the Powers, and the ability of the Sultan to call in his allies to his aid if his territories were attacked. Why, if Turkey should open the Straits, if we expose the Sultan to have before the windows of his palace any amount of foreign force, we should expose him to the greatest possible danger, and no individual placed in his position would give his consent to such an arrangement, since it would be a source of perpetual danger to the Sultan. But, then, it is said that Russia made a very fair proposal, because, when she claimed the right of having any amount of force she pleased in the Black Sea—twenty sail of the line or any other number—her Plenipotentiaries said that the Sultan might call to his assistance the fleets of his allies. Why, "Thank you for nothing for that," might be the language of Turkey, for the right to appeal to his allies if his territory were attacked is a right inherent in the Sultan as an independent Sovereign. By the treaty of 1841 the Straits were declared to be closed while Turkey was at peace; but will any man tell me that it is not a mere mockery to say that if Russia threatened the territory of Turkey—if a 1278 Russian fleet were collected and an army were ready to embark to invade the Turkish territory, any treaty would deprive the Sultan of the power of calling to his aid the fleet of any nation that may be ready to assist him to ward off the danger that is impending over him? The Sultan, without any concessions on the part of Russia, would be at full liberty at any moment to call the fleets of England and of France to his aid, if they were near enough, and strong enough to render it. No doubt, with sufficient notice, and with our armaments on a war establishment, the fleets of the allied Powers are sufficient to cope with the Russian fleets either in the Baltic or in the Black Sea. But we are contemplating in this arrangement not a period like the present; the danger is that, on the contrary, at a period of peace, when we have peace establishments, but when Russia, pursuing a system of her own in time of peace, maintains a standing army and fleet of enormous proportions, that an advantage may be gained by Russia when the allied fleets may be weak and at home, far away from the danger that threatened the Sultan, when not a voice can be heard by his allies until the danger has burst over his head, and when their voice cannot be heard in his defence until the blow has been struck. This is the very state of things that we are guarding against. It is all very well for Russia to say that when the Sultan is in danger he may call on you, and you can come to his assistance. That argument, as it was pointed out by M. Drouyn de Lhuys, implies that there is to be aggression on the part of Russia, and that she contemplates it; whereas, says the Russian Plenipotentiary, it is essential to the balance of power that Russia should always have a very large and respectable force in the Black Sea. Yes, "respectable" is the word. Whereas she contemplates that she will keep a force of that amount constantly in the Black Sea, she contemplates also its becoming a hostile fleet; and in that case Turkey has no resource but in France and England to support her. I remember some years ago, when the armies of the Continent were swelled to an enormous amount, and all Europe felt that such large forces could not be maintained in presence of each other without danger of conflict, a proposal was made that France, Austria, Prussia, and Russia should disarm and reduce their armies to a peace establishment. That was agreed to by France, 1279 Austria, and Prussia, and proposed to Russia. What was the answer? She said, "We think the proposal excellent. France is maintaining an army much larger than is necessary for any defensive operations. Austria is crippling her finances by a ruinous expenditure. Prussia is withdrawing her population from the pursuits of industry by having too large a number of men serving in her ranks. We think a general reduction of force excellent; but it does not apply to Russia. We have only the 800,000 men, which is our regular peace establishment. We have nothing to do to carry the proposal into execution." So it is with her fleet. She has regularly 30 sail of the line in the Baltic; she has from 18 to 20 sail of the line in the Black Sea; and I ask any man what degree of security could Turkey feel she lived in, if, far away from England and France, with England and France reducing their navies to a peace establishment, there were almost within sight of her capital that large Russian force, ready at any given moment to repeat with much more effect, and in a much more skilful, manner, that which a year and a half ago Prince Menchikoff threatened and afterwards carried into effect. You may depend upon it Russia never will commit the mistake again of invading Turkey on the land side. Never again will she commit the mistake of going into the Principalities, exposing her armies to the losses by long marches and to the difficulties on the Danube. It is a much shorter cut from Sebastopol to Constantinople, and with a fleet of sufficient amount the operation is easy and the result does not admit of much doubt. That which appeared to France and to Austria the best security against that danger was to call upon Russia to renounce those local means of attack which predicated at all times danger to Turkey, with which she pretended she had no desire to interfere. For her own defence a fleet in the Black Sea is proved to be utterly unavailing. That which is now passing is a sufficient proof that for the defence of her coast and of her ports any amount of fleet which she can have must be unavailing, and must retire before the fleets of England and France. Against Turkey she needs no defence; against England and France the defence is unavailing. Therefore, in my opinion, there is no pretence on which Russia can refuse to give to Europe a pledge of the honesty of her intentions and her friendly disposition, by consenting 1280 to limit her naval forces in the Black Sea. I say the right hon. Gentleman has totally misrepresented the value of what he is pleased to call half of the third article, and instead of that being of little value, it contains the very substance of the provision for the security of Turkey.
The hon. Gentleman who spoke last, and others, have extended their views to a wider range. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) seems to imagine that any of those points falls short of what is required to reduce the preponderance of Russia. Nothing can be more unbecoming to a Government than to hold out expectations or boasting intentions beyond what they see their way to accomplish. We are engaged in a great operation in the Black Sea. We trust and hope that we shall be successful in that operation. We think success in that operation will lead to the obtaining those conditions which, in conjunction with France, we have thought, in the present state of the conflict, we have a right to demand. If, unfortunately, the war should take a wider range, and other Powers should take part in it, we have not tied our hands; on the contrary, we have recorded in the protocols our claim to make any additions to the proposals which the events of the war, or special reasons may render right and necessary for the general interests of Europe. Nothing can be more unworthy of a great country, when engaged in a war so important as this, than to hold out expectations which may mislead. I think our duty is to confine ourselves to that to which we see our way, and we do see our way to the success of the operations in which we are now engaged—in spite of all the difficulties which we have had to surmount, in spite of all the mischances which have happened, I think we have turned the point; and with respect to the Government with whom we are contending, I think that Russia, having refused those fair conditions which, in conjunction with France and the approbation of Austria, we have proposed, we are now in a position in which in full confidence we can carry on the operations of the war with a fair prospect of that success which England and France must, and are bound to obtain. I say "must, and are bound to obtain," because I say it is impossible for England and France, when engaged in a great contest, to fail in the accomplishment of that object. It will not be the simple disappointment; it will be the abdication of the proud position which those countries fill, 1281 and we shall sink into the condition of second-rate Powers. We have heard the right hon. Gentleman dwell upon the miseries and calamities of war. No man can be blind to those miseries. No man can be insensible to the calamities which war entails. But I say there are things worse than war. Dishonour to a country is worse than war. I do not mean worse only as respects reputation; but I say the physical evils which befall a country that descends to a lower rank, and permits herself to be worsted in a conflict, are far greater than the immediate results of war; and, therefore, I say that that party, be they who they may, that would induce this country to depart from the line of conduct which the general opinion of the public points out—the party who would induce the country to abandon the contest in which it is engaged, by making peace on insufficient grounds—grounds neither satisfactory to the country nor securing tranquillity for the future—that party, be they who they may, is one whose opinions, if they could prevail, would be most fatal to the best interests of this country.
I say, then, that this House is called upon to-night to pronounce an opinion upon two great and important questions. It is called upon, first of all, to pronounce an opinion upon the existence of a Ministry. If it turned upon a question of timber or sugar tax, the existence of the Ministry might be a matter of very slight importance, concerning which Parliament might decide simply on personal grounds, without much embarrassing itself as to the consequences. But there is a far greater question which this House has to determine this evening, and that is the policy of the country, the condition in which we are to stand among the nations of the world, our alliances with foreign Governments—I may also say the future reputation and honour, and the deepest interests of England. The obvious object of the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) is, that this House shall pronounce that the Government is incompetent, and, therefore, remove us from office. Well, then, Sir, who are to succeed us? We are told we have not shown administrative ability or united ranks. I deny both the one and the other. Is it in the opposite ranks that we are to look for that perfection and unanimity which is to insure a Government which would answer the wishes of the people? Is that a party which possesses those administrative abilities which you would substitute for the 1282 Government which sits here? Is that the party—[The noble Lord was here suddenly arrested by the call of "Black Rod," who appeared at the bar to summon the House to hear the Royal assent given to certain Bills. On the return of the House the noble Lord resumed.]—I think I have some reason to complain of the impatience of the other House in not waiting for the censure which the right hon. Gentleman opposite is desirous of inflicting, but in prematurely administering the Rod. I was proceeding to say that the question which the right hon. Gentleman opposite has called upon this House to determine is, that the present Government does not possess its confidence, and is unworthy of its support. The inference naturally to be drawn therefrom, is that some other party is entitled to the confidence of the House and of the country. One reproach made against those who now form the Government is a supposed want of unity of opinion and a supposed disinclination to administrative reform. I was proceeding to ask the House whether they saw on the benches opposite greater unanimity of opinion than they see on those which are occupied by my Friends? If one were to take, for instance, domestic affairs, I ask whether the opinions which would be followed on matters of the highest importance by Gentlemen on the other side of the House, namely, with regard to the education of the people, would be taken from the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), or from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley). If we are to judge them by our information of their foreign policy, I would ask whether the foreign policy that would be followed by them, especially with respect to the matters now under consideration, would be such as might be inferred from the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside), or from the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord Stanley)—whether it would be the policy of war with vigour, or of peace on any terms. Then, with regard to administrative reform. Let people be judged by themselves. It is but a very little while ago since the head of that party opposite had a commission to form an Administration. Well, the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby), putting the good of his country above all questions of personal ambition or of individual feeling, to his own credit confessed that he had not in the party with 1283 which he is allied the elements from which he could form a Government suited to the exigencies of the times. That was but a short time ago; and what has happened since which enables those Gentlemen to present themselves with more confidence now, and induces them to declare their readiness to take charge of the great interests of the country? I will leave it to the House and the country to determine the question of preference between them and the present Government. This I will at least admit in their favour, that, judging from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who made this Motion, and also from the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen, and notwithstanding the very different opinion expressed by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, still judging from the speeches to which I have referred, and from the Resolution now proposed, I am bound to say that, if this House and the country were to transfer the conduct of the Government from our hands to theirs, we have a pledge that to the best of their ability they would carry on the war with as much vigour and for the same objects as we are contending for. I see no difference in that respect. Therefore the appeal they make to the House to transfer power from us to them is not founded on any censure which they pass on the principles of this Government, but simply on the assertion they make that they think they have more capacity than we to carry on the same system of policy, which in fact they approve of, for their Resolution, setting aside some ambiguous and uncertain language, is a vote of approbation in favour of the Government—it being in the usual form in which Parliament affirms approbation of the Government. There are two alternatives for the House to choose. They may transfer by a majority to-night the Government from those who sit here (the Ministerial side) to those who sit opposite. There is another choice presented to them by the speech of the right hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Gladstone), and by the sentiments of those who are going to vote for the Amendment of his hon. colleague. That is a party, who may repudiate the denomination of a party of peace at any price, but who would be ready to accept peace on conditions which I think and the country thinks dishonourable—dishonourable and dangerous to the future interests of this country and of Europe. Without meaning any disrespect to those hon. Gentlemen, 1284 some of whom I have good reason to hold in the highest regard, and whose talents are well known to the House, I will venture to say that, if a new Government were to be composed of them, it would be a very great chance if any of them were re-elected to sit in this House. The choice then really lies between the two sides of the House; and I contend that we have done nothing to forfeit the good opinion which the hon. Member for Aylesbury was pleased to say was formed of this Government when first constituted. We were supported by the good opinion of the country because the country thought we were going to prosecute with vigour the war which the country has unanimously determined to be necessary and just. I say we have been taking every possible measure to prosecute that war with vigour, and I confidently expect that the result will show we are not undeserving of the confidence with which the country hailed our advent, and that we shall be enabled to realise the just expectations which were formed of our policy. The fate of battles is in the hands of a higher Power. It is not in our power to command success, but it is enough for us to do all in our power to obtain it. That we have done. In a cause which we consider to be just, necessary, and honourable, we confidently place our trust in a higher Power. I say that, if we succeed, we shall have the satisfaction of reflecting that our success has been brought about by perseverance; and, without boasting—without proclaiming from day to day the different steps we have taken, we shall be justified in believing that that success is, humanly speaking, owing to our exertions to secure it. If, on the other hand, we fail—a contingency I will not permit myself to anticipate—we shall, at least, have the right to feel that the failure was not owing to any want of diligence or exertion on our part. I am persuaded that whatever may be the decision of the House this night as to the relative merits of parties here—whatever may be the decision of this House as to where the executive power of the Government shall reside—this country is in earnest in the war, and that the people of England will give their support to any Government which honestly and vigorously executes the will of the British nation. On the other hand, I am confident that they will never sanction any Government which, abandoning our allies, and deserting the policy which has been pursued up to this moment, not merely in deference to 1285 the principles of justice and a sense of national interest and national honour, but because it is in accordance with the will and feelings of the country. Therefore, so far as the interests of the country are concerned, I look with comparative indifference to the result of the present Motion. I feel that, in whatever hands the Government is placed, the will of the country must and will be obeyed. I know that that will is, that England, having engaged in a war necessary and just, in concert with our great ally and neighbour, France, must and shall succeed. I am confident that this nation will never permit any Government, composed of whomever it might be, to be false to the trust reposed in them; and, though it may be the duty of the Government to exhaust the means of negotiation as far as those means can be pursued with honour, the country would call to a strict account any Government which should, in expectation of the success of those negotiations, abandon the performance of its duty in preparing the means of war. We have not shrunk from that duty; and I defy any man to accuse us, with justice, of a dereliction of duty in that respect. I am persuaded that events, at no distant period, will show that in claiming a verdict of approbation for the manner in which we have performed our duty we have not overstepped the limits of justice, and that without reason we have been accused of shrinking from the exertions which the country expected at our hands.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, if I felt any necessity of calling evidence to vindicate the propriety of the conduct which I have pursued, and the justice and policy of the course which I have taken, it would be the speech which I have just heard from the noble Lord, who has positively warned us, in the way of the fulfilment of his duty to carry on the war with effect, not to be influenced by any hope or prospect of any further negotiation for peace. Is this the Minister who only on Monday last evaded every inquiry? Is this the Minister who, to every question that was urged upon him—I will not say shuffled, for that would not be a Parliamentary word, and I certainly will not use it, although it rose to my lips in the heat of debate—but who certainly used every artifice to prevent the House of Commons from obtaining a single expression which would give an indication of the policy of the Government or of the resolution at which they had arrived on the great question of peace or war? Is this the 1286 Minister who only on Monday last would not sanction a motion that was to be brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester, (Mr. M. Gibson), and which would have given an opportunity to the House to express, after a proper discussion, an opinion on the practical result of the negotiations, an account of which had been placed on the table? Is this the Minister who has declined over and over again to move an address to his Sovereign—which it was his duty as First Minister of the Crown, and as one who pretends to lead the opinion of the country, to have done, but who has most seduously opposed all expression of opinion on the great question that now agitates the minds of the people? Is this the Minister who for the last—I will not say weeks, but months, has been the object of suspicion and distrust to the country, because no one could for a moment believe that there was any earnestness in the intention of Government to carry on the war; and who deprecated in this House in every instance that inquiry—even inquiries—should be made upon the subject, on the ground that even inquiries might interfere with the course of that delicate negotiation that was pending? Is this the Minister who, only on Monday last, prevented a discussion (one which he himself had fixed for that very day), on the ground that negotiations might possibly be taking place even at that moment, or might occur at any moment, and who this night has assured us that negotiations cannot take place, although his own colleague but a few days before told us that the Minister he left behind him at Vienna was thoroughly authorized to negotiate? I say, then, that from what has occurred in this debate, not merely on the part of the colleagues of the noble Lord, but by the speech of the noble Lord himself, the course which I have taken has been fully vindicated, and the Motion I have made has been justified in the eyes of the country. Only so late as Monday last there was to be no discussion in the House of Commons on this absorbing subject. I give this notice, and there is not a shade of opinion in the House that does not immediately, in the form of an Amendment, offer multiplied evidence that every person, of every section of opinion, wishes and feels it his duty to express that opinion on the momentous question before us. Those who believed that peace might have been obtained 1287 under the offers that have been made; those who believe that the war has not been prosecuted with sufficient energy; those who have, I was going to say, confidence in the Government, but there is no such section, but those who wish to have confidence in the Government—all these representatives of opinion in this House have proffered Amendments which are to be placed in the hands of the Speaker. Every Amendment, I say, that has been proposed only goes further to justify my Resolution. Whatever may be the fate of that Resolution it has at least elicited this good—that we have something definite at last from Her Majesty's Government. The noble Lord for some time, in addressing the House on the subject of the war, has pursued his customary habit of making no allusion to the future, scrupulously shrinking from any expression of his own views, but carefully enumerating all the more the incidents of the past. "We have a fleet," says the noble Lord, "in the Baltic, we have a fleet in the Black Sea, we have a medical department, a commissariat staff, and many other establishments, of which we may be proud." The noble Lord reminds me always in this elaborate catalogue which he gives us so frequently, of the parvenu in one of Foote's farces, who used to recommend himself to his mistress's good graces by enumerating his possessions. "I have a house in the country, a house in town, a gallery of pictures, a fine cellar of wines," and so on. In that way the noble Lord for some time has been in the habit of informing us that he has a fleet in the Black Sea and a fleet in the Baltic, that he has a Sardinian contingent to assist his army in the Crimea; that he has a medical department established on the best footing—and those various other things which he has so often recounted—but at last he has felt that the time was come when this was no longer sufficient—when he must speak explicitly respecting the intentions of the Government on the question of peace or war. He remembered the engagement into which he entered at that meeting which had been referred to in this debate by one of his followers, and to which I am therefore justified in alluding, and he has at last made a declaration which he refused to make on every other occasion; he has made a declaration perfectly inconsistent with all the declarations which he has made on all previous days. The noble Lord now stands forward as a War Minister, 1288 who will be satisfied with nothing less than an achievement, the obtaining of which is perfectly inconsistent with the negotiations which he has been carrying on.
And then, Sir, I am told that ambiguity of language and uncertainty of conduct are expressions which it would be difficult for me to prove. Why, the whole course of this debate has entirely established the accuracy of those expressions; not a speech has been delivered by any Member who has risen all through this debate, whatever his views and whatever the policy which he recommends—whether united now in council with the noble Lord or severed from former connection—in which use has not been made of these very words—every remark and argument which have been elicited throughout this discussion, prove how accurately I selected the phrases which described the language of the Government as "ambiguous" and their conduct as "uncertain." I need not go further for evidence than to that which has recently passed before us, and to the declarations which are still ringing in our ears. What language can be more opposite to that which the noble Lord used only on Monday night than that which he has just now addressed to us? What line of conduct can be more contrasted to that which the noble Lord gave us reason to believe he was going to pursue only a week ago than that which he now tolls us is to be the future rule of his policy? "Ambiguity of language and uncertainty of conduct" not proved? Why, Sir, not a Gentleman has addressed you during this debate who has not used those phrases—they have already become household words. A year ago when discussions occurred on this subject—partial but always interesting—it was urged against the Government that their councils were divided on the question of peace or war. This was felt to be a great calamity at that difficult period. We all knew that we had men of great ability at the head of affairs; but there was more than a suspicion that their councils were not in unison upon a question of such vital importance. But how were we met then? We were told that these suspicions were without foundation—that these were imputations which the imagination of faction alone could suggest. But what has not occurred since to demonstrate their accuracy? What light has not even this debate thrown upon the distracted councils of twelve months ago. 1289 And who can refuse to ascribe to that want of union the feeble, uncertain, and ambiguous conduct of this war, and a great share of the calamities which have befallen us in consequence? It has been objected to the Motion that I have placed in your hand, that it is not in accordance with the speech I have made, and that it does not, in an unmistakeable manner, express the policy we propose to follow and are prepared to recommend. Having been some time in this House, and seen much of the conduct of its affairs, I have had some experience with respect to Motions that have been submitted to its consideration, and I can truly say that, although I have been called upon, as a Member of Parliament, to give my opinion upon Motions that have been drawn up by men of unrivalled sagacity and experience in Parliament, I never yet knew a Motion proposed which was not most critically received, and in which great errors were not discovered by those who had previously resolved to vote against it.
Sir, I am prepared to maintain, in every respect, the propriety of the Resolution I have laid upon the table. I am prepared to maintain not only its propriety, but its frankness and precision. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe), following in this respect some hon. Gentlemen who have preceded him, intimated that it was my duty to have expressed clearly the terms upon which we thought peace ought to be obtained, or the objects for which the war ought to be prosecuted. There is, indeed, upon the paper, an Amendment of the hon. Member for Kidderminster which, as coming from him, I have conned more than once, for he is a man who does not write without thought, and I am bound to say that I see, with respect to Amendments of that kind, very grave objections which I think upon reflection a Gentleman of the hon. Member's ingenuity will find not altogether unworthy of his attention. He must feel that of the last things the House of Commons should do, by any Motion proposed for its adoption, is to interfere with the terms upon which peace or war ought to be proclaimed. If I had brought forward a Motion stating what we considered the sine quâ non upon which peace was to be granted—if I had declared what were the precise objects for which the war ought to be waged—if, more particularly, I had pointed out the subjects to be attended to by Her Majesty's representative at a conference or a congress—I have no doubt 1290 the noble Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell), who has still some respect for the constitution of the country, and who is always a powerful defender of the just prerogatives of the Crown, would at once have risen, and by the exercise of his rhetoric and the expression of his constitutional convictions would have carried with him even the support of my hon. Friends on this side of the House. I deny that it was possible for me to have expressed in any other manner than I have done the feelings which influenced us on this side. We were dissatisfied with the language and the proceedings of the Government, especially with reference to recent negotiations and with the conduct of affairs as affecting the great question of peace or war. We were precluded from definitely expressing what we might consider the terms on which peace ought to be negotiated, or the objects for which the war ought to be pursued, and we wished to guard ourselves carefully from any interference with the exercise of the prerogative. Therefore all we could do was to ask the House, if we proved our case, to declare that there were ambiguous language and uncertain conduct on the part of Her Majesty's Ministers, not vaguely and abstractedly, but with reference to the great question of peace or war; and if the House were of that opinion—which it would be if it were to adopt the Resolution—we asked it also to show that there was no ambiguity in its language, no uncertainty in its conduct, but under these circumstances, in order to prevent any misconception on such a subject, to affirm that it was still determined to continue to support Her Majesty with all its means, in the same spirit as when it first addressed the Crown in answer to the gracious Message of the Sovereign announcing that war had been declared. Sir, I say again that the Resolution which I placed in your hands is one that is proper in its tone, loyal in its language, perfectly adapted to the contingency, and a Resolution which every Member of this House who wishes to terminate the unsatisfactory state of things which has too long prevailed, and which has produced a general feeling of distrust throughout the country, ought to support. But, if the noble Lord disapproves this Resolution, because it is a vote of want of confidence in the Government, why does he not simplify the question at issue, and allow one of his Friends to propose a vote of confidence in the Ministry? 1291 For what can be more inconvenient than the position in which the leader of this House has now placed, not only this assembly, but Her Majesty's Government themselves. You may negative this Motion; but will you find that any one of the Amendments that have been offered to your notice, if you choose to adopt it, is equivalent to an expression of confidence in the Ministry? If, then, this Motion is tantamount to a vote of want of confidence, I say the noble Lord must meet it with a direct negative, or he does not clear himself from what he represents as an attack upon his position. The noble Lord, placing this interpretation upon this vote, is bound to meet it with a vote expressing an exactly contrary opinion. Now, let me ask the House, fairly and candidly once more, whether what has occurred within the last two nights has not perfectly justified the course which we have taken? Have we not had an expression of feeling from the noble Lord which only a week ago no one could for a moment have anticipated from him? Were we not going to adjourn for the Whitsun holidays, and would not the whole country have been subject to the same suspicion and acted upon by the same distrust which prevailed until the last moment, had the noble Lord not felt it his duty to rise and make the declaration that he has made, a declaration utterly inconsistent with the entire conduct of the Government, because utterly inconsistent with the negotiations that have been proceeding? And here I may say that I have obtained the very object for which I was working. What did I venture to say yesterday was the great point to which we ought to address ourselves? It was to prevent the prosecution of war and the carrying on of negotiations simultaneously. The noble Lord has reiterated to-night the commonplace observation that, while he was carrying on his negotiations, he was also carrying on his war. But the noble Lord never answered the remarks which I made yesterday on that subject. I repeat that you cannot carry on negotiations permanently and conduct war at the same time effectively—that by attempting to do so you depress the spirit of your own people, and also damp the ardour of your allies. The noble Lord has to-night made a declaration of views and principles of conduct which, if they animated him only last Monday, did not justify him in the course he then took. He was not warranted in the observations that he then 1292 made, and by his conduct on that occasion he has, in my opinion, incurred a serious responsibility. The noble Lord has treated this as a vote of want of confidence, and has adverted to his possible successors if he be displaced from office. Now, I do not know what the right hon. Gentlemen who sit below the gangway, and who were recently colleagues of the noble Lord, may think of the noble Lord's estimate of their electioneering prospects. I perceive from the public prints, that some of those right hon. Gentlemen attended the meeting at the noble Lord's mansion or office, and they are paraded as the most distinguished followers of the noble Lord. Could they have been conscious, when he was addressing them in that animated harangue which at certain moments leaders of parties feel it necessary to address to the flagging courage of their supporters, that the noble Lord had calculated their career and the duration of their Parliamentary existence? Why, at the very time the right hon. Gentlemen were paraded as the principal ornaments of this assembly and the most distinguished adherents of this strong and united Government—all that time those useful but less celebrated Members who are supposed to be intimately acquainted with all the chances of political existence had, in fact, numbered these great lights of our assembly as dead men in their books.
The noble Lord did us the honour of assuming that we may be the coming men; but the noble Lord thinks that there is some difficulty in that arrangement, owing to our divided opinions. The noble Lord has particularly impressed upon the House the great inconvenience Her Majesty might experience if she were to find among Her intimate councillors my two right hon. Friends who differ on the subject of education. Well, Sir, I should have thought that even in the strife of party rhetoric no one would have thrown any discouragement on the efforts of any Member of this House, whatever may be his opinions or connections, with regard to that all-important subject. All I can say is, that, though I hope I may keep the privilege of taunting my political opponents on their divided opinions as freely as the noble Lord—that would be a subject upon which I should scarcely be tempted to indulge; for I should feel, as I am sure the majority of the House would feel, only too grateful to those who might attempt to 1293 solve a knot which has been hitherto indissoluble. But when I hear of the dangers of a coming Government with divided opinions, what am I to think of the right hon. Gentlemen and the noble Lords before me? The church-rate, I suppose, is a question on which the followers of the noble Lord, so distinguished for their numbers and influence, are united. On the ballot, of course, they are all agreed. The debate on the consular branch of the diplomatic service, the other night, showed what a powerful Government an united Government is. Some of their followers, particularly the Secretary of the Admiralty, of course, are bound to the Government by every tie, since the Cabinet have acceded to their all necessary views on army reform. To take them altogether, there never yet was a body of Gentlemen less remarkable for their union of opinion than the present Ministers; and all that is required to show how admirably they agree is that the noble Lord the Member for London, when he has recovered from the great exertions of his exhausted; instructions, should introduce a Reform Bill, or some small measure of that kind, to prove how compact is the alliance of these united colleagues.
The noble Lord has treated us with a stale taunt about the inability of Lord Derby to form a Government, and has said that Lord Derby was unable to form a Government because he had not political Friends competent to sustain a Ministry. If that were the case I should leave the observations of the noble Lord unnoticed; but, inasmuch as there is no man in this House who is more cognisant that the statement which he has made is, inadvertently of course, utterly erroneous, the noble Lord must permit me to say that he has not the slightest authority for that assertion. Lord Derby refused to form a Government, because it was his opinion, constitutionally expressed to his Royal Mistress, that England was in such a condition that the gratification of individual ambition was no longer to be thought of; but that the formation of a strong Government was a public necessity for which every sacrifice should be made. Lord Derby or his friends might have sat on that (the Ministerial) bench, or upon a similar bench in another place, if they had chosen to take the Government without being assured of that commanding majority which he believed was necessary to carry on affairs in the present state of the country. The noble Lord knows something 1294 about it, because he had some conversation with Lord Derby at that time. The noble Lord, however, has elected to carry on affairs with a very weak Government. By his meeting of yesterday, by his speech of this night—utterly inconsistent with his opinion as expressed last Monday—by suddenly adopting views and a policy utterly inconsistent with the instructions given to his own diplomatic administrators—by suddenly taking a course which we all know from his own expressions he could not a week ago have meditated; by the pledges he has given in this House to-night that he intends not only to prosecute the war, but to prosecute it for objects which only last Monday either he did not anticipate pursuing or which he veiled from this House, and the confession of which, therefore, this Motion has extorted from him—by such means as these the noble Lord may possibly defeat the Motion which I have submitted to the House. But that is only the first of many Motions which the noble Lord will have to meet, now that the policy of the Government has, by this discussion, become more precise. He may rest assured that though the month of May is far advanced, he is but at the beginning of his Parliamentary campaign. He will find that, from the very language he has used, and from the position which he has taken to-night, such consequences will ensue that it will become him to marshal his legions; and it will be well for him if he can give evidence to England that he has that strong Government which Lord Derby thought essential to the interests of the country.
Sir, I would sit down here, were it not that observations have been made in this debate which I must notice, not only because it is due to myself, but because it is due to others to do so. An hon. Gentleman has noticed the remarks which I made upon the conduct of the recent Plenipotentiary at Vienna. I think it was the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe) who said that these observations were not fair, that they would not have been made had not the person employed been in this House and a Minister of the Crown, and that had Lord Westmorland, for example, committed all the mistakes which were laid to the door of the noble Lord the Colonial Secretary they would have passed unnoticed. Well, I make this admission to the hon. Gentleman, that it is always more agreeable for me to make remarks of that kind upon those who are present 1295 than upon those who are away. So far I agree with the hon. Member for Kidderminster. I would much sooner criticise the conduct of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) than that of Lord Westmorland, who is not in his place. But does the hon. Member for Kidderminster, or any one else, for a moment pretend to deny that if a Member of Parliament believes that a Plenipotentiary of the Queen, to whom has been intrusted an important and delicate duty, has ill-discharged that duty—that his conduct has been pernicious to the public welfare—that he has committed gross errors, leading to the abrupt termination of important negotiations—I say, in such a case, is the hon. Member for a moment prepared to deny, as I was astonished to hear that he did deny, that it is not merely the right, but the duty of a Member of Parliament to bring that conduct before the House and ask the opinion of the House upon it? Was I to be stopped because, in the language of the Member for Kidderminster, such a person was the servant of his Sovereign, and engaged on duties of the highest importance? I always thought that this House was the assembly which was to exercise a control over the highest servants of the Sovereign. If an Ambassador does take a course which is detrimental to the interests of his country, or has not the qualities necessary for a proper discharge of his duties, then I say it is incumbent on this House to bring his conduct under consideration, and to ask the opinion of the House upon the subject. If it be true that when the noble Lord was Secretary of State he did acknowledge that Russia had the right of protectorate over the Christian subjects of the Porte—(which she had not)—if it be true that in the principal act of the Conference the false interpretation of those treaties by the noble Lord has been alleged as the principal cause of this war, was it not my duty to bring this before the House, or am I to be stopped by such observations as have been made? The noble Lord knows that there are not two kinds of protectorates, and his objections to my observations were contradictory and inconsistent. He knows that he amply and completely acknowledged that Russia had a protectorate over the Christian subjects of the Porte.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Well, the word I find is protection;—where is the difference? 1296 —and I say that in these treaties there is no such protection granted to Russia; and is the noble Lord, by this quibbling as to the difference between protectorate and protection to free himself from so grave a charge? I assert that the noble Lord's despatch to which I have alluded gave the form and colour to the fortunes of England with respect to this question. When Russia found that its protectorate was sanctioned by that despatch her course was clear. I say, this was a fatal admission made by the noble Lord as Secretary of State, and that, when he subsequently went to carry on negotiations, he made another admission equally detrimental to the interests of this country. I maintain that the noble Lord has not, in the slightest degree, invalidated the truth of any observations I have made on this part of the question. The noble Lord says, because I criticised his conduct as a Minister Plenipotentiary employed in the most awful service that a man could be engaged in, and in which he showed his utter incompetency, that I degraded this debate—degraded a debate on a question of peace or war, involving the lives of thousands, and the expenditure of millions of taxation. I will not quarrel with the noble Lord as to this; I will leave it for the country to decide whether, in exposing the conduct of the noble Lord—conduct on which further sacrifices of taxation and of the lives of other thousands of Her Majesty's subjects were dependent—I did my duty or not. The noble Lord says I degraded the debate; but, whatever I have done, I have done this—I have tried to prevent the noble Lord from degrading the country.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 219; Noes 319: Majority 100.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Bennet, P.|
|Alexander, J.||Bentinck, G. W. P.|
|Annesley, Earl of||Beresford, rt. hon. W.|
|Arbuthnott, hon. Gen.||Bignold, Sir S.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Blackburn, P.|
|Arkwright, G.||Blake, M. J.|
|Bagge, W.||Boldero, Col.|
|Bailey, C.||Booth, Sir R. G.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Bowyer, G.|
|Baldock, E. H.||Bramley-Moore, J.|
|Bankes, rt. hon. G.||Bruce, C. L. C.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Buck, L. W.|
|Barrow, W. H.||Buck, G. S.|
|Bateson, T.||Buller, Sir J. Y.|
|Bective, Earl of||Bunbury, W. B. M'C.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Herbert, Sir T.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Hill, Lord A.|
|Burrowes, R.||Horsfall, T. B.|
|Butt, G. M.||Hudson, G.|
|Butt, I.||Hume, W. F.|
|Cabbell, B. B.||Jones, Adm.|
|Cairns, H. M'C.||Kelly, Sir F.|
|Campbell, Sir A. I.||Kendall, N.|
|Chandos, Marq. of||Kennedy, T.|
|Chelsea, Visct.||Ker, D. S.|
|Child, S.||King, J. K.|
|Christopher, rt. hn. R. A.||Knatchbull, W. F.|
|Christie, S.||Knight, F. W.|
|Clinton, Lord C. P.||Knightley, R.|
|Clive, R.||Knox, Col.|
|Cobbold, J. C.||Knox, hon. W. S.|
|Cocks, T. S.||Lacon, Sir E.|
|Colvile, C. R.||Langton, W. G.|
|Conolly, T.||Lennox, Lord A. F.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H. L.||Lennox, Lord H. G.|
|Cotton, hon. W. H. S.||Leslie, C. P.|
|Davies, D. A. S.||Liddell, hon. H. G.|
|Davies, J. L.||Lindsay, hon. Col.|
|Dering, Sir E.||Lisburne, Earl of|
|Disraeli, rt. hon. B.||Lockhart, W.|
|Dod, J. W.||Lowther, hon. Col.|
|Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.||Lowther, Capt.|
|Duffy, C. G.||Lucas, F.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Lushington, C. M.|
|Duncombe, hon. O.||Lytton, Sir G. E. L. B.|
|Duncombe, hon. W. E.||Macartney, G.|
|Dundas, G.||MacGregor, Jas.|
|Dunne, Col.||MacGregor, John|
|Du Pre, C. G.||M'Mahon, P.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Maddock, Sir H.|
|Egerton, E. C.||Maguire, J. F.|
|Elmley, Visct.||Malins, R.|
|Farnham, E. B.||Mandeville, Visct.|
|Farrer, J.||March, Earl of|
|Fellowes, E.||Maunsell, T. P.|
|Fergusson, Sir J.||Maxwell, hon. J. P.|
|Filmer, Sir E.||Meux, Sir H.|
|Fitzgerald, W. R. S.||Miles, W.|
|Follett, B. S.||Michell, W.|
|Forester, rt. hon. Col.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Forster, Sir G.||Morgan, O.|
|Franklyn, G.||Mowbray, J. R.|
|French, F.||Mullings, J. R.|
|Freshfield, J. W.||Mundy, W.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Naas, Lord|
|Fuller, A. E.||Napier, rt. hon. J.|
|Gallwey, Sir W. P.||Neeld, John|
|Galway, Visct.||Neeld, Joseph|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Newark, Visct.|
|George, J.||Newport, Visct.|
|Gilpin, Col.||Noel, hon. G. J.|
|Gladstone, Capt.||North, Col.|
|Goddard, A. L.||Northcote, Sir S. H.|
|Gooch, Sir E. S.||Oakes, J. H. P.|
|Graham, Lord M. W.||Ossulston, Lord|
|Greaves, E.||Packe, C. W.|
|Greenall, G.||Pakenham, T. H.|
|Grogan, E.||Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J|
|Guernsey, Lord||Palk, L.|
|Guinness, R. S.||Palmer, R.|
|Gwyn, H.||Parker, R.|
|Hale, R. B.||Peacocke, G. M. W.|
|Halford, Sir H.||Peel, Gen.|
|Hall, Gen.||Percy, hon. J. W.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Portal, M.|
|Hanbury, hon. C. S. B.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Hayes, Sir E.||Robertson, P. F.|
|Henley, rt. hon. J. W.||Rushout, G.|
|Scott, hon. F.||Vernon, L. V.|
|Seymer, H. K.||Vivian, J. E.|
|Shirley, E. P.||Vyvyan, Sir R. R.|
|Smith, W. M.||Vyse, Col.|
|Smith, A.||Waddington, D.|
|Sotheron, T. H. S.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Spooner, R.||Walcott, Adm.|
|Stafford, A.||Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.|
|Stanhope, J. B.||Welby, Sir G. E.|
|Stanley, Lord||Whiteside, J.|
|Stirling, W.||Whitmore, H.|
|Stuart, W.||Wigram, L. T.|
|Sturt, H. G.||Williams, T. P.|
|Swift, R.||Woodd, B. T.|
|Thesiger, Sir F.||Wyndham, Gen.|
|Tollemache, J.||Wyndham, H.|
|Trollope, rt. hon. Sir J.||Wynn, Lt.-Col.|
|Tudway, R. C.||Wynn, Sir W. W.|
|Tyler, Sir G.||Wynne, W. W. E.|
|Tyrell, Sir J. T.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Vansittart, G. H.||Taylor, Col.|
|Verner, Sir W.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Cayley, E. S.|
|Acton, J.||Challis, Mr. A.|
|Adair, H. E.||Chambers, M.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Chambers, T.|
|Alcock, T.||Chaplin, W. J.|
|Anderson, Sir J.||Cheetham, J.|
|Antrobus, E.||Clay, Sir W.|
|Atherton, W.||Clifford, H. M.|
|Baines, rt. hon. M. T.||Clinton, Lord R.|
|Ball, J.||Cobbett, J. M.|
|Baring, H. B.||Cockburn, Sir A. J. E.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T.||Coffin, W.|
|Baring, T.||Cogan, W. H. F.|
|Barnes, T.||Collier, R. P.|
|Bass, M. T.||Coote, Sir C. H.|
|Baxter, W. E.||Cowan, C.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||Cowper, hon. W. F.|
|Beckett, W.||Craufurd, E. H. J.|
|Bell, J.||Crook, J.|
|Bellew, T. A.||Crossley, F.|
|Berkeley, A.||Currie, R.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Berkeley, C. L. G.||Dalrymple, Visct.|
|Bethell, Sir R.||Dashwood, Sir G. H.|
|Biddulph, R. M.||Davie, Sir H. R. F.|
|Biggs, W.||Deedes, W.|
|Bland, L. H.||Denison, E.|
|Bonham-Carter, J.||Denison, J. E.|
|Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.||Dent, J. D.|
|Bramston, T. W.||De Vere, S. E.|
|Brand, hon. H.||Dillwyn, L. L.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Divett, E.|
|Brockman, E. D.||Drumlanrig, Visct.|
|Brotherton, J.||Drummond, H.|
|Brown, H.||Duff, G. S.|
|Brown, W.||Duff, J.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Duke, Sir J.|
|Bruce, H. A.||Duncan, Visct.|
|Bulkeley, Sir R. B. W.||Duncan, G.|
|Burke, Sir T. J.||Duncombe, T.|
|Butler, C. S.||Dundas, F.|
|Byng, hon. G. H. C.||Dungarvan, Visct.|
|Cardwell, rt. hon. E.||East, Sir J. B.|
|Castlerosse, Visct.||Ebrington, Visct.|
|Caulfield, Col. J. M.||Egerton, Sir P.|
|Cavendish, hon. C. C.||Elcho, Lord|
|Cavendish, hon. G.||Ellice, rt. hon. E.|
|Ellice, E.||Keating, R.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Keating, H. S.|
|Emlyn, Visct.||Keogh, rt. hon. W.|
|Esmonde, J.||Kershaw, J.|
|Evelyn, W. J.||King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Ewart, W.||Kinnaird, hon. A. F.|
|Ewart, J. C.||Kirk, W.|
|Feilden, M. J.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Fenwick, H.||Laing, S.|
|Fergus, J.||Langston, J. H.|
|Ferguson, Sir R.||Langton, H. G.|
|Ferguson, J.||Layard, A. H.|
|FitzGerald, Sir J.||Lee, W.|
|FitzGerald, J. D.||Lemon, Sir C.|
|FitzRoy, rt. hon. H.||Lewis, rt. hon. Sir G. C.|
|Fitzwilliam. hn. C. W. W.||Lindsay, W. S.|
|Fitzwilliam, hon. G. W.||Littleton, hon. E. R.|
|Foley, J. H. H.||Lockhart, A. E.|
|Forster, C.||Lowe, R.|
|Forster, J.||Luce, T.|
|Fortescue, C. S.||Mackie, J.|
|Fox, W. J.||Mackinnon, W. A.|
|Freestun, Col.||M'Cann, J.|
|Gardner, R.||M'Taggart, Sir J.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Mangles, R. D.|
|Gladstone, rt. hon. W.||Marjoribanks, D. C.|
|Glyn, G. C.||Marshall, W.|
|Goderich, Visct.||Martin, J.|
|Goodman, Sir G.||Massey, W. N.|
|Gordon, hon. A.||Matheson, A.|
|Gower, hon. F. L.||Matheson, Sir J.|
|Grace, O. D. J.||Miall, E.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Mills, T.|
|Greene, J.||Milner, Sir W. M. E.|
|Greene, T.||Milnes, R. E.|
|Gregson, S.||Milton, Visct.|
|Grenfell, C. W.||Moffatt, G.|
|Greville, Col. F.||Molesworth, rt. hn. Sir W.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Monck, Visct.|
|Grey, R. W.||Moncrieff, J.|
|Grosvenor, Lord R.||Monsell, W.|
|Grosvenor, Earl||Morris, D.|
|Gurney, J. H.||Mostyn, hon. T. E. L. M.|
|Hadfield, G.||Mowatt, F.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Hankey, T.||Murrough, J. P.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Harcourt, G. G.||North, F.|
|Harcourt, Col.||O'Brien, P.|
|Hardinge, hon. C. S.||O'Brien, C.|
|Hastie, Alexander||O'Brien, J.|
|Hastie, Archibald||O'Connell, D.|
|Headlam, T. E.||O'Flaherty, A.|
|Heard, J. I.||Oliveira, B.|
|Heathcote, Sir G. J.||Osborne, R.|
|Heathcote, G. H.||Otway, A. J.|
|Heathcote, Sir W.||Owen, Sir J.|
|Heneage, G. F.||Paget, Lord A.|
|Herbert, H. A.||Palmer, R.|
|Herbert, rt. hon. S.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Hervey, Lord A.||Patten, J. W.|
|Heywood, J.||Paxton, Sir J.|
|Higgins, G. G. O.||Pechell, Sir G. B.|
|Hindley, C.||Peel, Sir R.|
|Hogg, Sir J. W.||Peel, F.|
|Horsman, rt. hon. E.||Pellatt, A.|
|Howard, hon. C. W. G.||Perry, Sir T. E.|
|Howard, Lord E.||Phillips, J. H.|
|Hutt, W.||Phillimore, R. J.|
|Ingham, R.||Pilkington, J.|
|Jackson, W.||Pollard-Urquhart, W.|
|Jermyn, Earl||Portman, hon. W. H. B.|
|Johnstone, Sir J.||Powlett, Lord W.|
|Price, Sir R.||Steel, J.|
|Price, W. P.||Stephenson, R.|
|Pritchard, J.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Ramsden, Sir J. W.||Strutt, rt. hon. E.|
|Reed, J. H.||Stewart, Sir M. R. S.|
|Ricardo, J. L.||Sutton, J. H. M.|
|Ricardo, O.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Ricardo, S.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Rice, E. R.||Thompson, G.|
|Rich, H.||Thornely, T.|
|Robartes, T. J. A.||Thornhill, W. P.|
|Roebuck, J. A.||Tomline, G.|
|Rumbold, C. E.||Townshend, Capt.|
|Russell, Lord J.||Traill, G.|
|Russell, F. C. H.||Tynte, Col. C. J. K.|
|Russell, F. W.||Uxbridge, Earl of|
|Sadleir, James||Vane, Lord H.|
|Sadleir, John||Vernon, G. E. H.|
|Sawle, C. B. G.||Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.|
|Scholefield, W.||Vivian, H. H.|
|Scobell, Capt.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Scrope, G. P.||Walter, J.|
|Scully, F.||Warner, E.|
|Scully, V.||Waterpark, Lord|
|Seymour, Lord||Watkins, Col. L.|
|Seymour, H. D.||Watson, W. H.|
|Seymour, W. D.||Wells, W.|
|Shafto, R. D.||Whatman, J.|
|Shee, W.||Whitbread, S.|
|Shelburne, Earl of||Wickham, H. W.|
|Shelley, Sir J. V.||Wilkinson, W. A.|
|Sheridan, R. B.||Williams, W.|
|Smith, J. A.||Wilson, J.|
|Smith, J. B.||Wise, A.|
|Smith, M. T.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Smith, rt. hon. R. V.||Wortley, rt. hon. J. S.|
|Smyth, J. G.||Wyndham, W.|
|Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W.||Wyvill, M.|
|Stafford, Marq. of||TELLERS.|
|Stanley, hon. W. O.||Hayter, W. G.|
|Starkie, Le G. N.||Mulgrave, Earl of|
§ Question proposed, "That the word "having seen with regret that the Conferences of Vienna have not led to a termination of hostilities,' be inserted, instead thereof."
§ Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, by inserting after the words "regret that," the words "owing to the refusal of Russia to restrict the strength of her navy in the Black Sea."
§ Question proposed, "That those word be there inserted."
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
Sir, I move that the further consideration of this question be adjourned until Monday week—[Loud calls for a division on the Opposition benches.]
§ VISCOUNT GODERICH
protested against the adjournment of the discussion. I was highly objectionable that the House should separate for so unusually long a period at that season, for their private 1301 purposes and amusement, in the midst of a great debate like that. For himself, he would say that had he any idea that the decision of the whole question would be attempted to be postponed he should certainly have opposed the adjournment for the holidays. To adjourn without coming to a decision would be to lay themselves open to great public censure.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I think, considering the importance of the subject which has been brought under our notice, and considering, moreover, the ground upon which the present debate is raised, namely, that the House ought not to separate for the Whitsuntide holidays without expressing its opinion relative to the position of affairs—I think the House, although the hour certainly is very late, might proceed to dispose of the Amendments. For my part, I have no objection to accepting the first section of my hon. Friend's (Mr. Lowe) Amendment, as it merely recites a fact which cannot be denied; but to the second, I am decidedly opposed, for the same reason that I have opposed that of the right hon. Member for Bucks, namely, because it contains a principle of interference with the prerogative of the Crown. While, as regards the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, I am also opposed to it.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
I voted against the Resolution which was proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks, because it appeared to me that it would not raise the question of peace or war, but more directly raised the question of confidence in Her Majesty's Government; and I thought that at this moment a change in the Ministry was not advisable, and would not be conducive to the welfare of the State. That was a question implying censure on the Government, and it seemed to me that, although the debate, from the House having determined to adjourn over the holidays from this morning, was necessarily comprised within the compass of a few hours, quite inadequate to the ample discussion of the entire subject—it seemed to me, on the whole, only fair that the decision of the House should be taken to-night on the question whether a change in the Administration should take place. The House by a decisive majority, has pronounced its decision that that change at 1302 this moment is inexpedient; but the great question raised by the hon. Member for Kidderminster, namely, whether the Conferences of Vienna having now ceased on the ground that the limitation of the Russian force in the Black Sea cannot be accepted by Russia, other means cannot be found which would be acceptable—that question, I say, is not yet fully debated. The noble Lord the First Minister has threatened me—though I have not yet had an opportunity of expressing my opinion on the subject—and the Gentlemen who sit near me with the censure of our constituents. I think it right that we should have the opportunity of stating what is the opinion we entertain, and what are the reasons by which we sustain that opinion. That opportunity has not been afforded us, and I think it only conducive to the public good that the adjournment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester should be agreed to. The question now is fairly before us, frankly put by the hon. Member for Kidderminster in the most convenient shape. If we go to a division I shall certainly vote for the adjournment. I know not what may be the decision of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but the course of the debate has entirely changed the circumstances under which it commenced. As I understand the speech of the noble Lord at the head of the Government all negotiations are at an end. I have heard that statement for the first time; and I must say that the speech of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London delivered last night does place the state of our relations with Russia on a footing which would appear to me to lead to an interminable war—at least to the commencement of a war of thirty years' duration—and although I am not satisfied with the declaration of Gentlemen opposite as to the policy they would recommend, and making every allowance for their position in opposition, as not imposing on them the necessity of declaring such a policy, yet I am bound to say that the speech delivered by the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire in the opening of this discussion, did lay down principles, with reference to the war in which we are engaged, which appeared to me to afford a prospect of a fairer settlement than that announced by the Government. The right hon. Gentleman declared that, in his opinion, there were only two modes in which the war could be conducted against Russia. One of them was the revision of the territorial 1303 arrangements of Europe—an attack upon the extended frontier of Russia throughout its enormous extent—in point of fact, that a war of nationalities should be raised; and he expressed an opinion, in which I concur, that a war of that description would be interminable, if not hopeless. He then proceeded to point out the second mode of giving effect to the objects avowed by this country—namely, that the war should be conducted upon the principle of protection to Turkey, so that her independence and integrity should be preserved, and that that operation should be effected without the invasion of the territory of Russia. It would be superfluous for me at this moment to enter on the question of why was not adherence given to that principle, and why was the Crimea attacked. I am ready, on a fitting occasion, to defend the steps which were taken by the Government of which I was Member in attacking the Crimea; but I repeat that, with respect to the future policy of this country, I am convinced that the view taken by the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire is a view which, if steadily pursued, does not exclude the hope of peace; whereas the doctrine laid down by Her Majesty's Government—that negotiation or the principles on which it has hitherto been conducted being abandoned, and the ground of the war being changed, it is no longer a question of terms; but that terms being abandoned the question becomes reduced to a war of nationalities—I say that a more serious question was never raised in the British Parliament, and I feel that an opportunity must be given for the discussion of the question.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
No doubt a very important question has been raised by the right hon. Baronet; but in the first place I must, before saying anything on the question immediately before the House, utterly and entirely deny the meaning which he has in some manner or other extracted from my words and the words of my noble Friend. I said the object of the war should be beyond the immediate defence of Turkey from the aggression which was committed by Russia—security for Turkey for the future. I said we should endeavour to obtain that security. I have never gone beyond that declaration. I said nothing of nationalities. I said that we were precluded at Vienna from entering into the question of diminishing the territory of Russia; and neither with regard to territory nor with regard to nationalities 1304 did I give expression to any opinion whatever. I conceive that when security for Turkey is obtained—that when we are able to say, if we make peace on these terms, Turkey will not be attacked in the course of the next six months nor in the course of the next eighteen months by Russia, and on more unfavourable terms to Turkey than those on which she was attacked lately—that when you can obtain terms of that kind, which will give security to Turkey, you ought not to hesitate to make peace. With regard to what the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) has said, that we cannot at the same time carry on negotiations and conduct the war—I say it is for him to choose which of these two things he would do, and he declared that negotiations ought to be broken off, and that war should continue. That was the decision to which he came. How out of that state of things he was to evolve a state of peace hereafter, I know not. But, with regard to the question immediately before the House, I beg to observe that there are four declarations by hon. Members entertaining different opinions, all agreeing that the House will give every support to Her Majesty in the prosecution of the war, until Her Majesty shall be able to obtain a safe and honourable peace. I do think that before we adjourn for the holidays we ought to agree to some declaration—to some terms which shall contain these words—a declaration in which all parties are agreed—a declaration of great importance both in this country and in Europe. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) thinks it strange that my noble Friend's language to-night does not agree with what was said by him on Monday evening. But the fact is, that from day to day and from hour to hour changes take place. I should say if the House would agree to words containing the declaration to which I have alluded, it would be far better for the right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) to bring on a discussion on the views which he entertains on the earliest day after the recess, and we shall then be able to give a complete and definite answer as to the result of the conference, and we shall now be in a condition to carry the declaration which has been proposed.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I congratulate the supporters of the noble Lord upon his present tone. The majority is obtained, and the noble Lord has risen to recant the speech which most legitimately called for 1305 the observations of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle. It was only yesterday that we had a picture drawn, not of the power only, but of the policy of Russia, which rivalled the spirit and pencil of a Dante. The House was terrified at a description, which following up the views of the noble Lord, proved that this kingdom was in danger from the aggressive policy, increasing power, and systematic aggrandisement of Russia. It was received with cheers—it was received with enthusiasm by those peculiar benches which particularly represent the war feeling of the country; and no sooner is the majority obtained—a majority, allow me to say, which has expressed no confidence in the Government—than the noble Lord, when his attention is called to his remarkable statement by a Member of this House who is not apt to make mistakes, rises and, in fact, recants his views—withdraws from our discussion that powerful picture which influenced the debate, and which is at this moment influencing the people of England. It is a second edition of the Sebastopol speech. It is the very same circumstance. There is no difference, except that in the case of the Sebastopol speech the noble Lord recanted it the same night on which it was delivered. And yet I am told this is a Government whose language is not ambiguous! I congratulate the triumphant majority who represent a policy so lucid and politic, and which must end in consequences so succesful and triumphant for the country. And now the noble Lord tries to do something still more remarkable than the recantation of his own speech. Last Monday night the First Minister declined the necessity of expressing any opinion on the subject. What do the Government want to do now? They want to pass without discussion a vote of this House—an unanimous vote of this House—that we are determined to support Her Majesty in carrying on the war. Who is the leader of this House? Is the First Minister the leader of this House? Or is the noble Lord the leader of this House? When on a point no less important than a Resolution of the House of Commons to support Her Majesty in carrying on the war, the Ministry hold two opinions on the subject? One night they tell us it is not necessary, or not expedient; and then suddenly finding out that three or four Members are of a different opinion, these profound statesmen immediately feel 1306 that it is the duty of the House of Commons not only to do it, but to do it without discussion. I told the First Minister, before the division, not to plume himself on the vote, which I knew must be in his favour. I told him he was but at the beginning; of prolonged and protracted discussions, which would end probably in consequences different from what he anticipates. I say now it would be most indecent and impolitic to hurry on a vote of this description. I am against further discussion at this moment. You have come to a conclusion upon the Resolution which I myself proposed. I knew when I introduced it that there was not sufficient time to give it as much discussion as it required; but we did everything we could to facilitate that discussion. But as to approaching a subject so important as that which the noble Lord proposes to settle, I am sure it is the feeling of the House that no further debate shall at present take place. They had now to come to a decision of ten thousand times more importance than anything that had been decided by the vote which had just been given. They had a question to decide not between parties in that House, but one which affected the whole of Europe. He for one was not prepared precipitately, and without discussion, to come to a decision upon a subject of the most vital importance that has ever been submitted to Parliament since he had the honour of a seat in the House. He appealed to the Government and to the House not to allow their own convenience, or a desire to go for a few days' holidays into the country, to interfere with the due discussion of this question, when the civilized nations of Europe were looking for the grounds upon which they were entering on this new war. They could not arrive at that decision until they knew what were or what were not the opinions of the Government. The question was now raised for the first time, and he hoped the House would insist upon debating it before they pretended to arrive at a decision upon it.
§ MR. SIDNEY HERBERT
thought the House had been perfectly right in deciding at once upon the Resolution, which was one of great importance to be settled, and declaring the opinion of the House as to whose hands the Government should be intrusted. But now that it had decided a great question as between parties, it was called upon to decide upon a question affecting the country—to dispose of, without 1307 discussing, two Motions on which the meaning of words required to be minutely weighed. He was not now prepared to come to a decision upon those Resolutions which related to a subject the most important which had occurred since he had had the honour of a seat in that House. It would be indecent and destructive to their character to allow such questions to be treated as mere postscripts to a party debate. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had complained of having been misrepresented by his right hon. Friend (Sir J. Graham), and surely the accuracy of that complaint was a matter of importance. Now that the country was called upon to enter upon a new Russian war, when the prospect of other interference was held out, he (Mr. Herbert) called upon the House to vindicate its privileges, and not to allow the convenience of a few days' holidays to interfere with their duties at this important moment. He for one would not consent to dispose of the matter until he knew the opinions of the Government upon this new Russian war.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
thought the House must be conscious that they had acted injudiciously in consenting to adjourn for the holidays, and he appealed to the House to get itself out of the difficulty. Could the Speaker inform them whether it would not be competent to adjourn for a shorter period than ten days?
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that it was not competent for the House to rescind a Resolution which it had come to the same night.
§ MR. BARROW
thought a fair opportunity ought to be afforded for discussing the Amendment, although he had already made up his mind on it.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, that at this hour, and in the present state of the House, he could not resist the proposal to adjourn the debate.
§ Debate adjourned till Monday 4th June.
§ The House adjourned at a quarter after Three o'clock till Monday 4th June.