HC Deb 01 February 1856 vol 140 cc105-10

said, he rose to direct the attention of the House to certain opinions expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) in the course of his speech last night. Anything which fell from an hon. Gentleman of his talents and experience would naturally be diffused widely throughout the country, and command great attention; and it was on that account that he was unwilling to allow those opinions to go forth to the world without some correction. The hon. and learned Gentleman stated his conviction that the people of this country in going to war with Russia had been actuated rather by selfish motives than by any desire for the preservation of Turkey, or the maintenance of the balance of power in Europe. He further stated, too, that in his opinion this country was unable to cope with Russia without the assistance of our great Ally. [Mr. ROEBUCK: I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I said just the reverse.] He was glad to be contradicted on that point at least. The hon. and learned Gentleman also expressed his belief that the result of concluding peace on the terms on which negotiations were now supposed to be going forward would be to put Russia in possession of Constantinople in the course of a certain number of years, and consequently to endanger the security of our Indian possessions. He (Mr. Bentinck) must at once express his decided dissent from those views, and most especially from the latter opinions. He was prepared to pay the fullest tribute of praise to our gallant Ally, during the present war, and he referred with pride to the glorious successes which had attended their combined exertions. But he was disposed to think it was not altogether to those glorious successes the present prospect of peace was to be attributed, and he further contended that England, unaided by any other Power, was able to coerce Russia and compel her to submit to terms of peace. He had had occasion, during the recess, to address his constituents, and he then stated that the vulnerable part of Russia was her foreign commerce, and yet that no attack had been made to put a stop to the resources of Russia in that direction. He contended that the only way to make Russia feel the blow was to enforce the right of search, and take immediate and decisive steps to put an end to that neutrality which had been so profitably turned into account by Prussia during the war. That speech had found its way into the newspapers, and since then he had received a variety of communications, from mercantile and other quarters, in which the writers took the same views as he did, and enforced their adoption by very strong arguments. He might especially allude to an article which appeared in a morning organ, which was supposed to express the opinions of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and to which, consequently, official importance might be attached. The following was an extract from a leading article in The Morning Post, of the 9th of January, in the present year. Russia is essentially an agricultural country; her exports consist mainly of raw material supplied to manufacturing nations, and her imports largely of articles of luxury. Her export trade, judging from the quotations of her produce in the markets of Memel, Konigsberg, and other places, and from the extraordinary activity exhibited in the yards of the Prussian shipbuilders, we suspect has not been materially checked; and even if the imports have suffered in larger degree, their nature is not such that the want of them will produce ruin, although it may, and probably does, create discontent. An agricultural country is not so capable for active aggression as a commercial one, but it possesses greater ability to maintain dogged resistance. We do not, therefore, look so much to commercial prostration or monetary pressure for the means of bringing Russia to reason as to downright military and naval attack, threatening her territories with ravage, and her splendid cities, her fine harbours and her strong places, with destruction. It is fear of military, not commercial, results which will bring Russia to assent to terms that will satisfy the Allied Powers, and secure Europe from a revival of aggression. We may thank an energetic and sagacious Administration that we enter upon the new year with our hands full of every means that can be devised to carry the next campaign to a triumphant issue. The remarks of this journal had much weight attached to them; and it was worthy of notice that a very short time after the leading article appeared from which he had read an extract to the House, the world was astonished by the sudden resolution on the part of the Russian Government to enter into terms of negotiation; and it was declared in all the journals of Europe that that resolution was caused by the intention of the British Government to put a stop to the trade of Russia. That placed the question in a very different position. The delay to exercise the right of search and power of blockade had been one of the main charges against the "Coalition Government." Happily that Government now no longer existed; and the councils of the Crown were no longer labouring under the incubus of association with a certain knot of men whose conduct had connected them indelibly with political tergiversation at home, and public disaster abroad. He (Mr. Bentinck) trusted, therefore, that if the present negotiations did not end in the attainment of peace, it was the intention of the Government to carry out the operations which had been declared in the article to which he had referred.


Sir, I rose immediately after my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, to correct a piece of misapprehension on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington). The right hon. Gentleman seems to suppose that I intend to move certain Resolutions, and that, should these be adopted and placed upon the books, then no further proceedings shall be taken; and the right hon. Gentleman having got that notion into his head, adds, very justly, that Resolutions will not educate the people of this country. But if the right hon. Gentleman had reverted both to the ancient precedents of the House, and those of very recent times, he could not but have seen that Resolutions have been very often introduced into this House as preparatory and introductory to measures which have afterwards been adopted by Parliament. It was rather, then, with a view of introducing a subject to Parliament which might hereafter be partly controlled by administration and partly by enactment of Parliament, that I proposed to put it in the form of Resolutions. I am further induced to take this course by what happened in the last Session of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman introduced a Bill upon the subject of education in a most able speech; discussion afterwards followed for several nights; the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) also, in a most appropriate speech, pointing out the objections to the Bill, threw so many obstacles in his way that if we had given up the whole Session to the right hon. Gentleman's Bill it would have occupied every night, and scarcely then could this House have succeeded in passing it. If I were to take that course, continuing the discussion from Wednesday to Wednesday, as opportunity might afford during the present Session, I should be little more likely than the right hon. Gentleman to succeed in legislating on the subject. But if the House should devote, perhaps, two nights to the discussion of Resolutions, and were then to say what general principles on the subject they would approve of, I think it would then become the business of the Government to take care that measures were prepared on the principles which the House had approved of, and that these measures should pass with as little delay as possible. I will take this opportunity of saying that I rejoice at the statement which has just been made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department. I am very glad that the Government are to make the Lord President of the Council, or some Member of the Cabinet, or a Privy Councillor, the responsible Minister of Education, with a seat in this House; it is an arrangement calculated to advance the progress of education, and will give satisfaction to all who concerned themselves with the subject throughout the country. I believe that great progress has already been made in the country in connection with this subject, and the new arrangement proposed will tend very much to accelerate the work which still remains to be done. As I rose to address the House upon this subject, on bringing up the Report upon the Address, I may be allowed to say, in connection with it, that I am very much gratified at the tone of the discussion of last evening. It appears to me that however arduous the situation may be of public affairs, never was there a time when the feeling of the House of Commons was more pleasing than at the present time. We must wait for the event of the negotiations, of which Her Majesty has been pleased to give us information; but at the same time we ought to omit no preparation necessary for the effectual carlying on of the war until these negotiations are terminated. Let me say, further, that I will only hope that those operations at Sebastopol which at one time were attended with so much privation, and at another with so much glory, but at all times with the highest qualities of human nature,—I do trust that the exertions made in the capture of that fortress will be noticed by us in some regular manner, and that we shall hear before long my noble Friend the First Minister of the Crown, or some Member of the Government, giving notice of his intention to move a Vote of Thanks on the part of this House in acknowledgment of those exploits. I need not say more. The House have in their mind how great and how noble have been those exertions; many of them were splendid, but many others were performed in the midst of the dark and snowy nights of winter, and can have no other reward than such as might convey the feelings and sympathy of the country with such noble devotion on the part of the army.


said the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bentinck) had been pleased to direct his attention to him. He (Mr. Roebuck) would remind him of a Scotch proverb, which is to the effect that "his bark is far waur than his bite." The hon. Gentleman began by stating that he (Mr. Roebuck) had said that England of herself was unable to cope with Russia. It seemed to him that the hon. Gentleman was too much occupied with his own speech to attend to his (Mr. Roebuck's); for he thought it was one of the most salient points of what he had said to aver the contrary of that which the hon. Gentleman had attributed to him. He had said that at all times, and more especially at this time, was England able to cope by herself with Russia; and in proof of that, he had adduced the case of the Great Napoleon, under whose conquering legions the very earth trembled as they trod, and whose armies extended from Italy to the Niemen—with him even we were able to cope single-handed, and conquered him; "and shall it be said," he (Mr. Roebuck) asked, "that we cannot now cope with Russia?" And after that the hon. Gentleman turned to him as if he would depreciate the power of this country. He thought he had sufficiently shown how without foundation was that accusation.

The Report on the Address agreed to.