§ MR. BYNG
Sir, In rising to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, in reply to the gracious Speech which we have this day heard read from the Throne, I feel that it would ill befit the respect due to this House, and the importance of the occasion on which Parliament re-assembles, were I not to solicit the kind attention and favourable consi- 51 deration of hon. Members, not only on account of my own inexperience in addressing this assembly, but also for the sake of those momentous topics to which I shall have occasion to refer. The events of the last five months are so pregnant with recollections of pride, gratification, and sorrow, that the pen of the historian, and the calm and dispassionate judgment of posterity, can alone render them that meed of praise which is their due. But, while on many subjects connected with the past, differences of opinion and diversities of criticism may fairly be supposed to exist among us, there is one point on which I would fearlessly appeal to the judgment of the House, feeling convinced that upon that head nothing hut the most perfect unanimity will be found to prevail in this assembly. It is that we, the British House of Commons, in the joint name of the British people, while humbly acknowledging the mercy of Him from whom alone come victory and defeat, are anxious to tender our grateful thanks to those brave men who, having for upwards of eleven months endured the perils and fatigues of an arduous siege, with no more cheering alternations in their round of duty than the duties of the trenches, and the sufferings of the hospitals, who having endured cold and hunger, and exposure to an extent almost unparalleled in the annals of modern warfare, have finally obtained the reward of their patient heroism and endurance by the capture of one of the strongest fortresses that ever defied attack. Associated with the recollections of the heroes of our own army are the recollections of those gallant Allies who for upwards of two years have vied with us, not alone in feats of arms and personal daring, but in the more gentle and agreeable offices of mutual kindness, friendship, and cordiality. At the same time it would be invidious to make no mention of an alliance of a more recent date with a Sovereign who, surrounded by difficulties of no ordinary magnitude, and in the midst of a series of domestic sorrows, has won not only the affection of his own subjects, but the respect of strangers, by his constitutional sway, and by his love of freedom, and who, thinking it right to throw his influence into the scale of justice against wrong, has on the fields of the Crimea cemented his alliance with the Western Powers by the blood of the hardy and chivalrous people over whom he rules. While, however, upon 52 these subjects, we have, doubtless, good reason for mutual pride and congratulation, there is a sad reverse of shade in this otherwise bright picture of the past. We have to recollect the many gallant lives that have been sacrificed in this contest; we have to remember the many happy homes now darkened by irreparable losses; and we have to regret that it has not pleased an all-wise Providence to permit that brave and gallant old man, who died as he had lived in the discharge of what he believed to be his duty, to witness the final triumph of that army which he loved, and by which he was so deservedly beloved in return. There must also be a feeling of regret among many of us that but scanty justice has been done to one who, having earned by personal merits in Eastern warfare the reputation of a distinguished soldier, accepted a command which he neither solicited nor wished for, and which command he felt compelled to resign under an accusation of incompetency—a verdict, however, which, pronounced by so many of his contemporaries, the calmer judgment of the future will, I think, hardly ratify. I allude to one who was justly termed the right arm of the late Sir Charles Napier in his Eastern campaigns—to one who owed his high position in the army neither to political patronage, nor aristocratic influence, nor Court favour; and, although in any future war, it is possible that a more fortunate commander may be found, I doubt whether an English army will ever be led by a more high-minded, a more upright, and conscientious officer than Sir James Simpson. If, however, in the vicissitudes and trials incidental to a state of warfare, we have to deplore the loss of the good and the brave—if we have to regret errors committed or opportunities thrown away—how much is there also to remind us that the people of this country, both high and low, both rich and poor, have been tried alike for no common or unworthy purpose. If ever there was a war which was entered into, not for any scheme of national aggrandisement, and only after the failure of a long and patient series of negotiations had proved to us that there was no other course which we could adopt in equity or in honour, this war has been that one. If ever there was a time when the people of this country cheerfully and cordially supported the Executive in the belief that we were one and all embarked in a cause which admitted of no abandonment or drawing 53 back—if ever there was a time when private munificence endeavoured to administer to the comforts of our troops abroad, and to alleviate the poverty and the sufferings of those who wore necessarily left behind by their natural protectors—if ever there was a time when woman appeared a ministering angel, cheerfully resigning the luxuries and comforts of home, braving discomfort, sickness, and death, in soothing the agonies of our stricken national defenders, that time has been the period of this war; and the history of the last twelve months will testify how much good has been mercifully associated with some great and undeniable evils. Turning, then, thankfully, from the past, I hope I shall not be considered presumptuous if I venture to say that we may look to the future hopefully and confidently. A proposal, containing certain elements for negotiations, having been adopted by France and England on the one hand, has been submitted, on the other, by a great Germanic Power, to the consideration of Russia, and has been accepted by that country unconditionally and unreservedly, as we have every reason to believe. I am aware that in cases of this kind it is difficult to preserve the just line between over-confident exultation and unnecessary mistrust. We should, no doubt, temper the great joy and thankfulness with which we hear that the hand of the Destroying Angel seems to have been stayed, and that we may hope to return to those peaceful occupations and pursuits in which we were engaged for a period of nearly forty years previously to the breaking out of the war—we should temper that joy and thankfulness with the recollection of former unsuccessful negotiations, and the conviction of the great uncertainty that must prevail wherever diplomatic deliberations are concerned. If, however, we now calmly consider the relative chances of peace and war, and the consequences which may result to us from either the one or the other, so far as human foresight will permit, I venture to think that there is no cause among us either for despondency or for fear; for we have this day heard from the Throne the gratifying intelligence, that, notwithstanding the pressure and the burdens incidental to a state of war, the finances of the country are in a satisfactory condition, and that the revenue presents a favourable aspect. Should the details of the proposed treaty of peace correspond with the outline that has been 54 submitted to our consideration, and with the sense which the English people are disposed to put upon them, I think that the objects of the war will thereby have been honourably and satisfactorily obtained, and that reasonable precautions will have been taken for the security of the future. If we could see the independence of the Principalities established—if we could see the protectorate which Russia has arrogantly usurped over the Christian subjects of the Porte abolished—if the freedom of the mouths of the Danube were ensured by a rectification of territory in that quarter, where it is so much needed—if we could effect a neutralisation of the Black Sea to the armed vessels of all nations—and if we could remove the standing menace which the armaments in that sea formerly presented to the integrity, not only of Turkey but also of Europe—I think we should all then admit that we have not fought in vain. If any conditions should be imposed on Russia beyond those specially named in the preliminary terms of peace, every one must hold that the safety and independence of the maritime Powers in the north of Europe is a subject which deserves the best consideration of the Western Powers, and that for that safety they are now more than ever bound to provide. Let us recollect how recently the interests of England, both commercially and politically, were identified with those of Sweden and of Norway, and we shall be the better prepared to see how desirable it is such a standing menace to the independence of neighbouring States which recently existed in the Black Sea should not be permitted to exist in the Baltic, to the detriment of the maritime Powers in that quarter. But should the preliminary outline submitted to the consideration of the Western Powers contain these bases of peace—although there is doubtless much that may be modified, altered, and improved upon in a complete series of negotiations—yet what I should wish to see recognised by the deliberate judgment of the House and the country is, that we have in them the elements of a safe and honourable peace. We must not, in the full flush of the successes that have attended the allied arms, forget the cause for which we originally took them up. We I must remember that we did not take them up for the sake of obtaining any addition to our territory—it was not for the purpose of annihilating Russia—it was not for the purpose of effecting a repartition of the soil of 55 Europe, nor for any idle visions of fame—but we took them up to provide, as far as in us lay, for the independence and integrity of our Ally Turkey, and to stop the further advance of Russia in her path of ambition and conquest, by endeavouring to demonstrate, not only by the force of arms, but by an appeal to the judgment of the civilised world, that the verdict of the more right-thinking portion of Europe was against her. In any Conferences for peace which may be held, I trust that we may approach them in the same spirit as all must hope our antagonist will approach them. If we believe the terms proposed to be just, honourable, and indispensable, do not let us depart one iota from them, or shrink from maintaining a stedfast resolution to see the negotiations accelerated, and the terms finally adopted. On the other hand, do not let us be decoyed from the strict path of honour and moderation by any thirst for revenge, or dreams of further conquest. The moment that justice ceases to preside over our councils in this matter, shall we not have reason to fear that the same Nemesis which followed that mighty Sovereign who died in the midst of the struggle which he had so wantonly provoked might follow also upon our track? At the present moment it is difficult, if not impossible, to particularise the several negotiations that must ensue. We are told that the Conferences will be held in the capital of our august Ally; but their duration must necessarily be uncertain; but if, as we have every reason to hope, they are opened in all good faith and honesty of purpose on each side, I hope that during their progress Her Majesty's Ministers will meet from this House and from the country with that amount of patience and forbearance which is absolutely requisite under such circumstances. I would say, bear with them while the political horizon is obscure, and do not forestall that verdict which sooner or later the people of this country always pass upon those into whose hands they have committed great power and trust; but the moment that their task is accomplished, let the country, through its representatives here, pass upon them its formal judgment of approval or of condemnation. Should peace be happily restored—as God grant it may—on a firm and lasting foundation—let us hope that the judgment of this age, and the verdict of posterity, will severally record their approval of the course which England has adopted throughout this event- 56 ful contest, and that those whose fate it may be to chronicle the past will be able to say, and to say truly, that in the year 1853 Europe, through the weakness of a member of its body, Turkey, was menaced with a sudden and crushing danger; but that England, forgetting for awhile its labours, suspending those multifarious industrial occupations which had been the source of her pride and her wealth for so many years, addressed herself to arms, and united with her ancient enemy, France, to repel this dangerous and insidious adversary; and that sparing no pains, shrinking from no expense, contributing her best blood and her costliest treasure in support of her Allies, she persevered in her generous course, until, at the end of two years, when her warlike energies, long dormant, were beginning to be freely developed, and when those who were best able to pass an opinion upon the subject, ventured to predict for her arms further triumphs and greater victories, both by sea and by land, news came that the justice of her cause had been recognised, that her adversary was disposed to treat upon fair and reasonable grounds—and that England then, mindful of the objects for which she had done and suffered so much, presented to the world an aspect of equity and moderation, accepted with the same earnestness and sincerity terms of peace which she believed to be indispensable, as she had manifested in refusing others which those conducting her affairs believed would have proved nothing but a mockery, a delusion, and a snare, and that, under Providence, she was finally instrumental in restoring to the civilised world the blessings of peace. This, Sir, would, in my opinion, be a verdict worth striving for; but it is possible that so wished-for a consummation is as yet premature, and that upon entering into a narrower acquaintance with the questions at issue, we may find that it is intended to cheat us by diplomatic intrigue out of what we have won by the sword at the cost of so much precious treasure and yet more precious blood. Should such unhappily be the case, there is but one course which I should wish to see adopted; let us show to the world that, however sincerely, honestly, and anxiously desirous we were to stop the further progress of the war, and its consequent horrors and bloodshed, this country considers it absolutely necessary to continue the struggle till the object for which the war was commenced had been 57 fully attained. Let the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) appeal to the patriotism of this House and to the good sense of the country, let us rely, as I know we may rely justly, and with the greatest confidence, upon that great branch of the service which, for want of a fair opportunity of distinguishing itself, has not yet fully brought into play all those multiform powers which it now possesses. Let us appeal again to that army, now inured to the dangers and hardships of war—and which, in point of numbers, discipline, courage, and enthusiasm may well vie with any force that has ever been despatched from these shores—that army which has the memories of such good and brave men as Raglan, Cathcart, Campbell, Shadforth, Egerton, and Yea, to cheer them on in the path of duty—while there will be the consciousness that in any future hour of danger and difficulty there will not be wanting men as self-devoted and heroic as those gallant spirits who have passed away in the midst of their duty. It is possible that, should the contest be prolonged, it may become arduous and eventful; but, under Providence, I do not think the issue can be doubtful; and if it should happen that the same Minister who was called to power in the moment of doubt and gloom be permitted to put an honourable termination to a war which, under his tenure of office, has been successfully conducted, I do not think it will form one of the least pleasurable or satisfactory reminiscences of a long life, so much of which has been passed in the public service. Difficult as it no doubt is to withdraw our thoughts from the one great subject which engrosses the attention of all classes in this kingdom, there are two paragraphs contained in Her Majesty's gracious Speech which I have heard read with great satisfaction, and I trust that the promises contained in them will, during the present Session, bear much valuable fruit. I would wish earnestly to see the law so simplified and amended as to render justice easy of access to persons of all ranks, and that its vexatious and iniquitous delays should no longer exist, and I hope that the good work commenced last Session with respect to the law of partnership and limited liability will be perfected, and be followed by measures that will be hailed with gratitude by thousands of persons in this country, who will through its agency find safe opportunities for the employment of their capital, so that by this 58 means enterprise will be fostered and industry augmented. Gratifying as it is to hear so satisfactory an account of the condition of the country, I think we should do well to remember that it is possible that we maybe called upon to endure further taxation and heavier burdens, to suffer the loss of further treasure and more life. It is for this reason therefore that I deem it impossible to overrate the importance of the present moment, big as it is with incident of incalculable importance to the welfare of the State. The peace of the civilised world, the progress or decay of those institutions which have humanised and ameliorated mankind—the future destinies of Turkey, the possible regeneration of Russia, the lives of thousands—I would almost add the happiness of every individual Member of this House—are trembling in the balance; and I earnestly trust that a higher hand, and a greater mind than ours—may guide our councils with wisdom, strengthen them with firmness, temper them with moderation, and, finally, in its own good time crown them with success. The hon. Member concluded by moving to resolve—
"That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to convey to Her Majesty the thanks of this House for Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech from the Throne:
"Humbly to congratulate Her Majesty upon the signal and important success which since the close of the last Session of Parliament the Arms of the Allies have achieved, and upon Sebastopol, the great stronghold of Russia in the Black Sea, having yielded to the persevering constancy and to the daring bravery of the Allied Forces:
"To thank Her Majesty for informing us that the Naval and Military Preparations for the ensuing year have occupied Her serious attention; but that, while determined to omit no effort which could give vigour to the operations of the War, Her Majesty has deemed it Her duly not to decline any overtures which might reasonably afford a prospect of a safe and honourable Peace:
"That accordingly, when the Emperor of Austria lately offered to Her Majesty, 59 and to Her august Ally the Emperor of the French, to employ His good offices with the Emperor of Russia, with a view to endeavour to bring about an amicable adjustment of the matters at issue between the contending Powers, Her Majesty consented, in concert with Her Allies, to accept the offer thus made:
"To assure Her Majesty, that we participate in the satisfaction which Her Majesty expresses in informing us that certain conditions have been agreed upon which Her Majesty hopes may prove the foundation of a general Treaty of Peace, and that Negotiations for such a Treaty will shortly be opened at Paris:
"To thank Her Majesty for acquainting us that in conducting those Negotiations Her Majesty will be careful not to lose sight of the objects for which the War was undertaken, and will deem it right in no degree to relax Her Naval and Military Preparations until a satisfactory Treaty of Peace shall have been concluded:
"To thank Her Majesty for informing us that although the War in which Her Majesty is engaged was brought on by events in the South of Europe, Her Majesty's attention has not been withdrawn from the state of things in the North; and that, in conjunction with the Emperor of the French, Her Majesty has concluded with the King of Sweden and Norway a Treaty containing defensive engagements applicable to His Dominions, and tending to the preservation of the Balance of Power in that part of Europe:
"Humbly to thank Her Majesty for acquainting us that Her Majesty baa also concluded a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation with the Republic of Chili, and to convey to Her Majesty our thanks for having directed that these Treaties shall be laid before us:
"To thank Her Majesty for informing us that the Estimates for the ensuing year will be laid before us, and that we shall find them framed in such a manner as to provide for the exigencies of War, if 60 Peace should unfortunately not be concluded:
"Humbly to acquaint Her Majesty, that we participate in the gratification expressed by Her Majesty at finding that notwithstanding the pressure of the War, and the burthens and sacrifices which it has unavoidably imposed upon Her people, the resources of the Empire remain unimpaired:
"To thank Her Majesty for the confidence with which Her Majesty relies on the manly spirit and enlightened patriotism of Her loyal subjects for a continuance of that support which they have so nobly afforded Her, and for the assurance that Her Majesty will not call upon them for exertions beyond what may be required by a due regard for the great interests, the honour, and the dignity of the Empire:
"To assure Her Majesty that we will give our best attention to the several subjects connected with internal improvement which Her Majesty has recommended to our consideration:
"To thank Her Majesty for informing us that measures will be proposed for applying a remedy to the inconvenience which a large portion of Her Majesty's subjects engaged in Trade have experienced from the difference which in several important particulars exists between the Commercial Laws of Scotland and those of the other parts of the United Kingdom:
"To thank Her Majesty for acquainting us that measures will also be proposed for our consideration for improving the Laws relating to Partnership, by simplifying those Laws, and thus rendering more easy the employment of capital in Commerce:
"To express our humble thanks to Her Majesty for informing us, that the system under which Merchant Shipping is liable to pay Local Dues and Passing Tolls, having been the subject of much complaint, measures will be proposed to us for affording relief in regard to those matters:
61 "Humbly to assure Her Majesty that the other important measures for improving the Law in Great Britain and in Ireland, which Her Majesty informs us will be proposed to us, shall receive our attentive consideration:
"To assure Her Majesty that we unite with Her in fervently praying, that in these, and all other matters upon which we may deliberate, the blessing of Divine Providence may favour our Councils, and may guide them to the promotion of the great object of Her Majesty's unvarying solicitude, the welfare and the happiness of Her people."
§ MR. BAXTER,
said, it was not necessary for him to request, on the present occasion, the indulgence of the House, since the observations he should have to make in seconding the Address just moved by his hon. Friend would be brief—more especially as some of the remarks he intended to have made had been anticipated in the able speech which had been listened to with such attention by the House. The internal condition of the country was at present so prosperous, and within the last week or two our foreign relations had so changed for the better, that his task had been rendered a comparatively easy one. There had been periods in the history of Great Britain when, at the commencement of the Session, hon. Members had differed so irreconcilably upon matters of the gravest importance, as to have found it extremely difficult to agree upon the tenour or the precise phraseology of the Address to be carried to the foot of the Throne. He felt confident that upon this occasion no such difficulty would arise, and no such contrariety would be displayed; for Her Majesty had been able to meet Her Parliament with better tidings than might have been anticipated, in circumstances which afforded room for congratulation, reason for hope. However momentous and pressing might be some of the domestic topics on which they might hereafter be called to legislate, it was needless for him to say that public interest undoubtedly centred at the present moment upon the war—a war which, like that waged by this country 150 years ago against Louis XIV., might emphatically and justly be styled the war of the people of England. The people knew its origin, sanctioned its policy, watched its progress, 62 and thanks to the efforts of the press had been made acquainted, day by day, with the most minute events; and had made up their minds thoroughly as to its objects; and if he should not be too much trespassing on the prophetic province of the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), he would venture to say that the courage, manliness, and unflinching perseverance of the people were about to be rewarded in a manner that would give a great impulse to the cause of freedom, and "teach presumptuous kings." It was not at all surprising that there should exist, in a country of free discussion like this, a small party opposed to international contest; it was to be deplored that some persons, eminent for their moral worth and their great ability, should have been disposed last year to advocate peace on what the great bulk of the nation believed to be insufficient terms; but they were but as a drop in the ocean of public opinion—opinion founded, not as the hon. Member for Manchester averred, on popular ignorance, but upon popular intelligence, and embracing all grades of society from the peer of the realm to the artisan at his loom. Hon. Members might not be aware that almost the entire of the population of the four neighbouring counties to that in which he resided were engaged in the linen manufacture, a trade dependent for the supply of the raw material upon Russia. When war was declared they had therefore but a gloomy prospect before them, a prospect of ports deserted, of mills and factories closed, and thousands of operatives reduced to destitution; and yet even there so great was the sympathy of the people with the great bulk of the nation in their resolution to begin, and afterwards to carry on the war with vigour, and so strong was the manifestation of that sympathy, both by contributions to the Patriotic Fund and in other ways, that had any member of the Peace Society gone among them to promulgate his views, very few gentlemen would have been bold enough to have given him a safe conduct. They relied upon the justice of their cause. They were accustomed to count the cost in the first instance, and had counted it on this occasion; and great indeed would have been the sacrifices they would have made, or the calamities and suffering which they would have endured, before they would have agreed to proposals for peace of an unsatisfactory or dishonourable character. 63 It must be extremely gratifying to every British patriot, and to every man who not only looks back to the history of his country with pride, but forward wish hope for the future, to observe the fortitude, the unanimity, and the noble spirit of self-sacrifice and devotion which had characterised the British nation at every step of this great contest. He felt that he was not going too far when he asserted that the conduct of Englishmen at the present time afforded a parallel to that of the Romans in the days of Horatius Cocles—When none was for a party,But all were for the state:—for if ever the inhabitants of these three kingdoms had stood shoulder to shoulder, firm and united, it had been in their determination to resist the aggression of Russia, and relieve Eastern Europe and Western Asia from the constant fear and the constant attacks of a vast military despotism, which, founded on popular ignorance, on the serfdom of millions, and on official peculation, had been graphically described by the hon. Member for the West Riding in 1849, as "the most gigantic political imposture in all Europe." This unanimity of sentiment had displayed itself in harmony of action throughout the nation; and no one could have witnessed the proceedings in Parliament last Session, or throughout the country since the war began—no one could have read the speeches delivered during the past recess by various hon. Members opposite, without perceiving that Her Majesty's Opposition were prepared to give to Her Majesty's Government a high-spirited, patriotic, and single-minded support in carrying on this war. In this respect they had proved faithful to the traditions of a great party, they had acted on the advice left us as a legacy by the great Lord Chatham, and they had afforded a remarkable practical illustration of the magnanimous diction of the ancient Roman, Non me impedient privatœ dissensiones, quo minus pro reipublicœ salute etiam cum inimicissimo consentiam. It appeared to him that they had not any reason to feel a want of confidence in the firmness, the patriotism, and the public spirit, either of the nation or of the Government. In a trying and difficult moment, the nation had manifested a substantial and unhesitating confidence in the noble Lord at the head of the Government, who had served it in such a manner, that it was superfluous on his (Mr. Baxter's) part to say that those services 64 had met with the ready acknowledgment and appreciation of his countrymen, and he trusted, therefore, that no efforts of party would be made at the present time to detract from them. He need scarcely remind the House of Commons that the same unanimity and harmony of action which had hitherto characterised the proceedings of Parliament, and the effect of which had been to enable Her Majesty's Government to carry on the war with vigour and success, were required as much, if not more, in the present posture of affairs. Russia had commenced the present war under the most favourable auspices. She was intimately acquainted with the country which was about to become the theatre of operations; she possessed a military system well organised in all its branches, and ready for immediate action; and yet, according to the opinion of those intimately acquainted with the country, she already begins to feel the ground fall away beneath her feet. The sufferings that had been endured by her soldiers in encampment and on march—by her agricultural labourers, deprived in many instances of the animals and the implements necessary for the cultivation of the soil—by her landowners, unable to extract their rents from a suffering peasantry—by her merchants, with their ports blockaded and their commerce ruined—were known only to Him who knew all things; but he thought he was not far wrong in his conclusion that the Czar, considering the losses he had sustained from the present war, added to that caused by the enormous quantity of land thrown out of cultivation, the cost incurred in transporting large bodies of armed men over barren wastes, having to meet at every point the combined naval and military attack of France and England, pressed on the one hand by an aristocracy which had no confidence in the stability of the social system under which they dwelt, and on the other by the representations of those who knew that Russia had far more to fear from the continuance of this war, and the consequent uprising of European nationalities, than from the arms of France and England; looking, he said, at all those circumstances, there was little doubt that the Cabinet of St. Petersburgh had been driven into a sincere desire for the establishment of peace. Russia, in fact, was in the same position as France found herself in 1693, one marshal victorious in Catalonia, another victorious in Piedmont, her commanders issuing their orders in the 65 Palatinate, her ambassadors assuring every Court of Europe that Louis never would make peace on the terms offered, and at the same time so exhausted by previous efforts that she was able to provide neither men nor money to carry on another campaign. With regard to the negotiations for peace, two things he thought would be required of Her Majesty's Ministers at the present crisis;—the first, a resolution to treat only as far as details were concerned, and not to deviate one jot or tittle from the principles laid down as the bases of negotiation; and further, not to submit to any delay, either in the assembling of the representatives of the various Powers, or the carrying on of the proceedings of the Conference. One thing was tolerably certain—namely, that the people did not want to see a repetition of what took place at Vienna last year. They wished to know, without any diplomatic subterfuge or reservation, and as soon as possible, whether or not Russia was prepared to accept the terms that bad been offered to her—yes or no. The second thing which he thought the people of this country would require of Her Majesty's Ministers was, that, while they treated with their adversary for peace, they would omit no single preparation for carrying on the war with renewed vigour. Unless every means were taken to administer with vigour the affairs of the army and navy, and unless these peace proposals were not permitted to interfere with the conduct of the war, the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government must understand that he would have to encounter not only a powerful enemy abroad, but a dissatisfied people at home. In illustration of that point, the House would perhaps permit him to read an extract from Macaulay's recently-published volumes, describing a speech made by William III. to the House of Commons on the 20th of October, 1696, on the occasion of negotiations for a peace with France:—Overtures tending to peace had been made; what might be the result of the overtures was uncertain; but this was certain, that there could be no safe and honourable peace for a nation which was not prepared to wage a vigorous war. I am sure (and here the historian quotes the ipsissima verba of William) we shall all agree in opinion, that the only way of treating with France is with our swords in our hands.Adopting that view, and assuming this attitude towards Russia, he thought we should obtain a treaty as satisfactory as that of Ryswick—he thought there would be signed a second treaty of Paris, a treaty 66 honourable to all parties, because founded on the eternal principles of truth and justice—a treaty which might—and God grant that it would—preserve the tranquillity of Europe during the lifetime of the youngest Member in that great assembly. On the other hand, by showing an over anxiety to bring about a pacification by omitting preparations for another campaign, by giving way at the council table on points which the people of this country considered of vital importance, by placing too great faith on promises which might be broken, and engagements which might be explained away, they would only delay a lasting peace, and render more deadly the war. If, as he had said, the people of Great Britain had given very striking evidence of their sense of justice and their firmness during the present contest, none the less conspicuous, it appeared to him, was the intelligence and moderation which they now displayed in regard to the terms of peace. Last year not all the eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) could persuade them to agree to the terms of peace offered by the Russian agents at Vienna, or restrain their efforts as long as the objects of the war remained unaccomplished. Now, he was equally persuaded that all the threats and harangues of foreign refugees and of agitators at home would fail to keep alive the flame of war when the people felt that as reasonable and honest men they had nothing left to fight for. The House would not expect him to examine at any length the conditions agreed to preparatory to the commencement of negotiations. Those articles had already found their way into all the newspapers from John o' Groat's to Cornwall, and formed the topic of conversation at every social hearth; it sufficed for him to say (and he believed he only echoed the sentiments of the great majority of his countrymen) when he said that the terms were honourable and creditable to their arms, and worthy of the Allies, commensurate with the efforts they had made. They afforded most ample recompense to France, England, and Sardinia for the sacrifices they had made. They opened up fresh fields to commercial enterprise; they marked a new era in the history of Europe and the world, an era when might would not be permitted to ride roughshod over right, and even when the most powerful and despotic of emperors would quail at the bar of public opinion. It would be very 67 easy for him, as a commercial man, to expatiate upon other topics connected with the mercantile and commercial interests alluded to in Her Majesty's most gracious Speech; but the fact was, that even to men of business the war at the present moment was more absorbing than the ledger, and they thought more about Paris and St. Petersburgh, the mouths of the Danube, the Black Sea, the Baltic, and Sebastopol, than they did about shipping and commerce. There was no man, therefore, in such an assembly and upon such an occasion as this, who could expect to be listened to with patience, who did not confine himself exclusively to the great topic which agitated the nation. He would, therefore, at once conclude by most cordially seconding the Motion for the presentation of an humble Address to Her Majesty, in reply to Her Majesty's gracious Speech from the Throne.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That," &c. [See p. 58.]
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I feel confident that I am only expressing the unanimous opinion of the House when I say that we must all agree with the hon. Mover of the Address, who has spoken to-night with conspicuous ability, in expressing the satisfaction and the gratitude which we feel towards Her Majesty for informing us this day from the Throne that She has acceded to conditions which, She hopes, may prove "the foundation of a safe and honourable peace." I think, too, I am not misrepresenting the feelings of the House when I venture further to say that it is with no less satisfaction that we have heard, in the gracious Speech from the Throne, that Her Majesty, in conducting the negotiations which must be the consequences of Her having acceded to those conditions, will not lose sight of the objects for which the war was undertaken. Sir, I do not feel that I am at liberty at present to attempt to enter into any criticism of the conditions which are referred to in the gracious Speech. We have indeed—notwithstanding the slight intimation which has been, given us of their nature by the hon. Mover of the Address—no authentic information before us at the present moment on the subject of those conditions. There certainly has transpired in an irregular manner some information which no doubt has excited great interest; but, at the same time, we have been told that the conditions there stated are imperfect, and that much is intended which is not there communicated. 68 Under those circumstances, therefore, it would be not only indiscreet, but it would be impossible, even if expedient, to enter into any criticism of what, after all, is only a political hypothesis. I am not intending by these remarks in any way to impugn the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in not communicating to the country in an official, authentic, and complete manner the nature of the conditions upon which they intend to insist, in order to secure the objects for which the war was undertaken. I take it for granted that they have acted, in the position in which they are placed, with the wisdom which becomes so great a responsibility. For my own part, Sir, I must express a hope that the House of Commons will, under these circumstances, exercise that prudent but high-spirited reserve, which, while it shrinks from embarrassing a Minister on whom is about to devolve the fulfilment of so difficult a duty, will at the same time watch with the utmost vigilance—I will not say suspicion—the course of all his proceedings. And, Sir, though it may be at the present moment impolitic, and, perhaps, impossible for the House of Commons to enter into a protracted discussion of the impending negotiations, yet I think no little advantage will be gained in the prosecution of these negotiations from the fact that the Parliament of England is in session. Although we may feel it our duty not to enter at this moment into a discussion of the terms which it may be the duty of the Allies to insist upon, I cannot but feel that the fact that Parliament is assembled will exercise a salutary moral influence on the Conferences; and I am sure that no Minister either in this or in any other country will, if we be silent, mistake our forbearance for indifference. There is another reason why I feel much satisfaction at the gracious assurance which we have this day received from the Throne, that in the attempt to conclude a peace the carrying out of the purposes for which the war was undertaken will be the object which Her Majesty's Government will seek to attain. We have on that subject had so many statements of a different character, and in a different spirit from individuals in office—and some of them the highest office—that it is a source of great satisfaction that, when Conferences are about to be opened under auspicious circumstances, we have in a document of such august authority as that 69 which I have before me a definition of the business which will be conducted at those Conferences, more tending to the satisfaction of sober-minded persons than many of the statements which have heretofore been made by persons high in authority. It is but a short time ago—it was in the late Session of Parliament, but that is no long period when we are considering matters of such grave importance—it is but a short time since that in another place a noble Lord made a speech the professed object of which was to set forth the objects of the war, and that noble Lord assured the other House of Parliament that one of the objects of the war was to "vindicate the cause of the oppressed nationalities of Europe." What happened then? In a few days that noble Lord was invited to take one of the highest places in Her Majesty's councils. Of course, it is now obvious that the object of the Minister in giving that invitation to the noble Lord was that he should have his too-fervent enthusiasm subjected to the cooler atmosphere of Cabinet society; but, unfortunately, the people of England, and, I fear, those oppressed nationalities of which the noble orator was the advocate on that occasion, drew a different inference from his high promotion; and a misapprehension which might have led to very serious calamities has been prevalent throughout a great part of Europe. Sir, I shall make no reference to more recent statements respecting the objects and purposes of the war which have been made by other Members of the Government not occupying so exalted and responsible a position, except to say that I deeply regret them; and I think that those who have been so rash and inadvertent as to make such declarations will, after listening to the Speech which has been graciously delivered to-day, if they ever find themselves in similar circumstances, in future perhaps be induced to take a more temperate and moderate course. Sir, I regret that there are some gentlemen, both in and out of Parliament, for whom I have the greatest respect, who, after having taken a sound and satisfactory view of what should be the conditions of peace—namely, the accomplishment of the objects for which the war was undertaken—have still been induced, by what I cannot but feel to be a deplorable hallucination, to regret, while confessing that the objects of the war may be accomplished, that war should cease to proceed; and this, too, on a ground which 70 appears to me to be scarcely one which can recommend itself to the sober consideration of any public assembly. We are told, that although we may have attained the objects for which we embarked in war, still it is expedient that the war should be continued in order to sustain or to increase the lustre of the arms of England; or rather, perhaps, because in the struggle that may, and which I trust will, soon cease, we have not achieved exploits so striking as those which illustrate some portions of our history. Now, Sir, the abstract principle that we ought to continue a war after having attained its objects, merely to gratify the vanity or to support the reputation of a community, is, in my opinion, one of a very questionable character; but I deny that in our present circumstances any application of that principle is possible. I, for one, will never admit that the lustre of our arms has been tarnished. It is not easy to find words to express the admiration which all must feel for the great qualities which have been exhibited by our troops throughout this struggle. It is not easy to describe the vast resources which we have at our disposal, and the energy which we have already displayed. I lay down as a principle, that the leading Powers of Europe should never engage in a war unless they are certain and predetermined to achieve victories, which may figure among what are called the decisive battles of the world, is really one of the most monstrous propositions that was ever addressed to the intelligence of a nation. To suppose, for example, that France or England is never to go to war unless she can be certain of achieving victories like Rocroi or Blenheim, Austerlitz or Waterloo, is totally to misunderstand the object for which great States should go to war. Instead of their being the vindicators of public law and the conservators of public order, you degrade them into the gladiators of history, and their brilliant achievements would only be crimes which might accomplish the ruin of this country. Therefore, Sir, I cannot at all admit that the principle that we ought to continue this war in order to obtain extraordinary results is one which we ought at all to sanction; and I am afraid that those in this country who fall into this fallacy are too much induced to do so by the taunts of foreign critics. But the very persons who indulge in those taunts are themselves the persons most persuaded of the substan- 71 tial increase of the power of England. If you look to the authors of these statements respecting the decline of the prestige of England—I will not inquire who or where they may be—whether they are journalists who have become statesmen, or statesmen who have become journalists—you will generally find that they are the persons who are most competent to estimate the importance of England, and who are really the least inclined to undervalue it. They play upon the too easily excited susceptibility of the people of this country, and I will say of them, as was said of a great sceptic, that when they attempt to depreciate our achievements and our resources they really "tremble while they sneer." Sir, there is one paragraph in the Speech which I am sure will meet with the unanimous approval of the House. It is that to which the hon. Mover of the Address adverted with much eloquence, in which we express to Her Majesty our admiration of the "persevering constancy and the daring bravery" by which the stronghold of Russia in the Black Sea was reduced. I hope, Sir, that whatever may be our political differences, there will never in this House be any difference as to the sentiments of admiration with which we view the achievements and the exertions of our fellow-countrymen when they are supporting the honour and the interests of Her Majesty's realm. I think, however, that there is another siege not less distinguished by persevering constancy, and by daring bravery, although that constancy and that courage did not reap the reward which the assailants of Sebastopol have been so fortunate as to secure—I think, there is another siege which, on a night like the present, it would ill become the House of Commons to pass unnoticed and unnamed. I am not anxious on this occasion to call upon the Government for that explanation which of course will hereafter be demanded as to the circumstances which led to the mysterious catastrophe of Kars, but I hope they fully understand that that is a subject upon which this country and this House will expect and will require the most ample explanation. Let us at least, whether there be peace or whether there be war—let us express our admiration of those who, although they may have been unfortunate, were not subdued—let us express our sympathy for an energy, which was, perhaps, betrayed, and for a courage which we know was unsup- 72 ported, and at a moment when we are called upon, and rightly called upon, to express our admiration of the great achievement which has rendered the names of the Allies illustrious in the Black Sea—let us vindicate the conduct of those who have so well deserved—if they have not attained—success in another quarter, and let us make our absent countrymen understand that it is not merely the man who achieves but the man who deserves success, who in this House is honoured. Sir, after the Address from the Throne to-day—after the grave expression on the part of Her Majesty with regard to the impending negotiation, it is impossible to resist the conviction that the prospects of peace are most favourable. It is true we may be disappointed; it is true that on this, as on previous occasions in our history, we may find that when the cup has reached the lip, the draught may yet not be quaffed. All this I admit, but we have at least the satisfaction of knowing that if Her Majesty fails in the negotiations which are now about to be carried on—if the conditions of peace of which the noble Lord is cognisant, but with which we are unacquainted, may not effect that great result which is now generally expected, and generally desired—we have the satisfaction of knowing that Her Majesty may appeal with confidence to Her Parliament to support Her in a renewed struggle, and that there is no sum which Parliament will not cheerfully vote, or Her people cheerfully raise, to vindicate Her honour and maintain the independence and interests of Her kingdom. It is with this conviction that our negotiators will enter upon their important duties. After the intimation from the Throne, the prospect of peace is one which I trust will not be dissolved. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Address referred most justly to the exhaustion of Russia as the best security for peace at this moment. Under these circumstances, I cannot but hope that we shall soon have it, upon authority, announced that a general treaty of peace has I been successfully negotiated; and that it will prove to be a treaty that will accomplish the objects for which the war was undertaken.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I have waited, Sir, to the last moment before rising, being of course anxious, if any other hon. Member wished to express his opinions upon the subject under discussion, to reserve myself till I had learnt what 73 might fall from him, that I might be in a position to reply to any observations which might be made. I must, in the first place, beg to express my thanks to my hon. Friends the Mover and Seconder of the Address for that strain of eloquence and good feeling, and, above all, for the ample consideration they have bestowed on the subject of that Address, a display of talent which, while it did honour to them, must, I am sure, have been particularly gratifying to the House. I hope that the specimens which they have just given us of their powers both of oratory and argument will only be the prelude to many other addresses in those debates that will hereafter take place in this House. I am bound also to say that nothing could be more becoming the position which the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down fills in this House than the course which he has taken on the present occasion. I entirely agree with him, whatever may have been said or thought to the contrary, that, when great national questions are pending between the Government of this country and the Governments of other Powers, so far from the presence of Parliament being inconvenient or hurtful to the public service, it, on the contrary, gives strength and support to the Government while that Government is pursuing a proper and right course; and, on the other hand, it is a check upon any Government which may at any time entertain a wish to deviate from their duty. Therefore, though rumours were spread abroad that it was the intention of the Government to propose an adjournment of Parliament for a certain period, no such intention ever passed through our minds. On the contrary, I think it advantageous to the best interests of the country that it should have so happened that when the great question of peace or war was pending there should have been assembled the great council of the nation to give to the Government that support and strength which the welfare of the country may require to receive from it. The right hon. Gentleman has very properly pointed out to the House the course which he recommends it to pursue. In the present state of these matters it is not fitting that the Government should enter into any public explanation of the particular position in which the negotiation now stands. As soon as any step has been taken which shall place Her Majesty's Government in a position in which, consistently with their duty, they can lay be- 74 fore Parliament any statement of propositions actually agreed to, it will be their duty to give this House every information which the public interest will allow them to give. At the present moment this is not in our power. Sir, I concur entirely with those who have said that it would not be our duty to urge this country to continue the efforts and sacrifices of war if we are able to obtain now the accomplishment of those objects for which the war was undertaken. No doubt the resources of the country are unimpaired. No doubt the naval and military preparations which we have been making during the past twelve months, which are now going on, and which will be completed in the spring, will place this country in a position, as regards the continuance of hostilities, in which it has not stood since the commencement of the war. We should, therefore, be justified in expecting that another campaign—should another campaign unhappily be forced upon us—would result in successes which might perhaps entitle us to require—perhaps enable us to obtain—even better conditions of peace than those which have now been offered to us, and have been accepted by us. But if the conditions which we now hope to obtain are such as will properly attain the objects for which we are contending—if they are conditions which we think it is our duty to accept, and with which we believe the country will be satisfied—then undoubtedly we should be wanting in our duty, and should not justify the confidence which the country and this House has reposed in us, if we rejected terms of this description merely for the chance of obtaining greater successes in another campaign. These, Sir, were the feelings which actuated Her Majesty's Government. We felt, like many others in this country, that the future chances of the war were in our favour—we felt, like many others in this country, that the available resources of the enemy with whom we are contending were daily diminishing, while our resources, our preparations, and our means of carrying on the war were continually increasing. But, Sir, we felt that we should not be justified in rejecting overtures which promised the possibility of a safe and honourable peace merely for the prospect of obtaining even greater successes in another year of war. Sir, I think the country will approve the course which we have pursued. The country is in this position—if we succeed in obtaining a peace which will be satisfactory 75 and safe, we shall reap the fruits of the efforts which we have made and the sacrifices we have endured. If, on the other hand, that end cannot be accomplished—if we can show to the country that there has been no fault on the part of those who had the conduct of the negotiations—I know there is in this country strength for continuing the war, spirit and determination to carry it on in a just cause until its full accomplishment. I feel convinced that that strength, when put forth, that spirit when aroused, will in the end accomplish those objects which we might have failed to accomplish by other means. Sir, it is impossible to speak or to think too highly of the brave men whose gallant exploits, patient sufferings, and unflinching courage and perseverance have had justice done to them by those who have taken part in this discussion. I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that we have reason to be proud of the gallantry, the courage, and the daring exploits of our brave troops in the course of this war, and that we have no need to continue the contest to gain glory for our arms. The fight at Alma, the ridges of Inkerman, ay, and Balaklava and the Redan, too, are exploits which do the highest honour to the courage and bravery of our troops, and which prove that our soldiers of the present day are equal to any of those who have been crowned with laurels in former wars. Therefore, Sir, it is not for glory or for victories that this country need continue hostilities, if the objects for which we began the contest can be obtained by other means. The right hon. Gentleman has alluded to an event which undoubtedly excites feelings of regret mingled with admiration—the fall of Kars. A greater display of courage or ability, of perseverance under difficulties, inexhaustible resources of mind, than was evinced by General Williams, never was exhibited in the course of our military history. When that event comes to be discussed I think we shall be able to show that no effort of Her Majesty's Government was wanting to prevent that unfortunate calamity—a calamity, however, which was not attended by anything like defeat on the part of our gallant countryman or the garrison which he commanded, for it was the victors who were compelled to surrender, not by the force of the enemy's arms, but by the unfortunate want of those resources which were necessary to enable a city to endure a siege. It was a defeat most honourable to those who surrendered 76 —more honourable than many successful resistances recorded in history. I can assure the House that Her Majesty's Government have taken all the measures in their power to obtain the exchange of General Williams and his brave companions for Russian prisoners at present in our hands, and I hope, whether hostilities continue or not, that such exchange in the regular course of such transactions will be effected. I shall not enter now upon those other questions of domestic interest upon which measures will be proposed to the House. I trust the House will give Her Majesty's Government credit for a determination not to overlook domestic improvement, although their exertions have been mainly directed towards preparations for war. The two subjects can proceed together, and I trust the measures which we shall feel it our duty to introduce in relation to the matters indicated in Her Majesty's Speech, will be found by the House to be conducive to the improvement and prosperity of the country, and as such will receive the early and favourable consideration of the House. It is stated in Her Majesty's Speech that the Estimates will be presented to you framed in a manner to provide for the exigencies of war in the unfortunate event of a peace not being concluded. It is our intention to lay on the table those Estimates framed upon a war basis, but we shall only ask for a portion of the sums to be voted—that is, only provision for a short period—so that, should peace be re-established, the Government and the House may come to an understanding as to what diminutions an altered state of circumstances may render proper. I should have wished to delay anything which I might have to say until I was quite sure that no further observations would be made which might require a reply, and I hope the House will adopt the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) has addressed it on the present occasion by acting unanimously, and by abstaining from those more detailed criticisms which, although perfectly justifiable upon all great public matters, might in the present case lead to misconception and misrepresentation in other quarters—I mean, of course, abroad. I hope, therefore, that the House, by following the course which the right hon. Gentleman has so honourably pursued, will show to the world that, while the people of England are desirous of restoring to Europe that peace which, both from principle and 77 from national interest, they feel to be essential to their welfare, they are determined so far to place confidence in those who for the moment are responsible for the conduct of the national affairs that they will not impede or embarrass negotiations by premature discussions, but reserve to themselves the right which Parliament and the people of this country undeniably and inherently possess to call to strict account those who are intrusted with the conduct of public affairs—to confirm those acts which have been done in conformity with duty, and to manifest their displeasure if their confidence has been misplaced. It is with that feeling that we are prepared to undertake these negotiations. We trust that we shall be able to show that in the course of those negotiations we do not abandon any principle, or forego any object which the country has a right to expect us to stand by; and, on the other hand, we shall be found to have shown that spirit of conciliation which the country is entitled to expect, and that we are not actuated by any spirit inconsistent with that which should animate the representatives of a great country when entering upon an important negotiation like that which is about to commence.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, the noble Lord had just stated that the assistance of Parliament during negotiations was a matter of very great importance, but that Parliament was not to express any opinion with regard to them. He (Mr. Roebuck) wanted to know what the noble Lord meant? The noble Lord had told the House that they were to put confidence in him, and trustingly rely upon his protecting the interests of the country; and that if he should deceive them, Parliament might punish him by way of revenge. In other words, the Ministers of the Crown offered themselves to Parliament as a recompense for the loss of the nation's interest and honour. The loss of the Ministers' heads was to be regarded as an equivalent for the loss of our honour and interest. It was his opinion that Parliament was there assembled to watch over the interest and honour of England; and although the details of the negotiations had not been presented to them by the Ministers, yet, in their deliberative capacity, hon. Gentlemen, knowing what the honour and interest of their country demanded, had a right to chalk out to Ministers the course that they ought to pursue. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, had said 78 that he would not enter into a disquisition on the subject of these negotiations, and for that abstinence he gave a very good reason. He (Mr. Disraeli) said he did not know the principles on which the negotiations were about to be entered into. Now, he (Mr. Roebuck) was in exactly the same state of darkness as that right hon. Gentleman; but he did know, or he fancied that he knew, that England's interest demanded, and he thought it was the duty of that House to require, that the course which Ministers ought to pursue with reference thereto should be pointed out to them by Parliament. The noble Lord had not in the least told them what they were to expect, but he concluded by saying that, as the representatives of the people had placed him in power, they ought to repose confidingly in his wisdom, prudence, and honour. But he (Mr. Roebuck) had not that confidence in the noble Lord, nor did he believe that the people in this country had. They had seen a great country brought imprudently into a great war. They had seen that war inefficiently conducted—and it became their duty to say that the country must not be permitted to come out of that war with disgrace. The noble Lord had talked of the objects for which we entered into war, but he had not told them frankly, honestly, and candidly, as he ought to have done, for what we really did enter into war. But feeble and humble as he (Mr. Roebuck) was, he would attempt to supply the place of the noble Lord in that respect. He would tell the House what he firmly believed we entered into that war to gain. He would then discuss the mode in which we conducted that war, and then he would endeavour to show—and the House would appreciate—what sort of confidence the noble Lord was entitled to with respect to these negotiations. It appeared to him (Mr. Roebuck) that we entered into the present war for the interests of humanity. He might be accused of using large terms unworthily, and of using language that was not called for; nevertheless, he would persist in maintaining that we entered into war in defence of the interests of humanity. Russia, ever since the reign of Peter, who was miscalled the Great, had pursued one course of aggression. She had, by fraud and by force, extended her power and dominion. We had stood by—we had looked on—we had shamefully allowed her to pursue her course without let or hindrance. But the cup that was thus being 79 filled became full to overflowing, and what was the last drop that made it overflow? In the cast of Europe there was a Power whose existence was of importance to England, and that Power was Turkey. The dominions of Turkey were situate between the acquisitions of Russia and our dominions in Asia. Once in Constantinople—once in possession of the Asiatic territories of Turkey—Russia would be formidable to England in India. Do not let them fancy that Russia was not aware of that. Russia knew very well why we entered into the present war, and it did not become us to be the only people blind in the matter, for the world was well aware of what we were fighting for. Russia, in pursuance of her system of aggrandisement, at length threatened the very existence of Turkey. She not only thrice threatened, but she actually violated the rules of international law, and crossed the Pruth. Then it was that England, taking fright, at last saw that this tremendous Power was becoming dangerous to England. We allied ourselves with France. With that alliance we imagined that we should be able to cope with this great Power in the north of Europe. Therefore he contended that our object in entering into the war was to prevent Russia from acquiring such a preponderance in Europe as would enable her to override both France and England. England, more especially, was bound up with the civilisation of mankind. Her interests were the interests of humanity. Anything that militated against her interests, militated likewise against the interests of humanity. And what did we do to prevent Russia from acquiring the dreaded preponderance in Europe? We entered into war at a moment when we were totally unprovided with the means of carrying it on. We sent a fleet to the Baltic that was truly magnificent, but at the same time it unhappily was wholly unfit for the purpose for which it was sent forth. We sent an army to the East, as if we intended the destruction of that army, for we landed it upon a most pestilential spot, with respect to which we had already been warned. We then, without any preparation, threw our army upon the shores of the Crimea. But for the press of this country, whose statements were confirmed by hon. Members of that House, that army would have dwindled away, and not a single soldier would have survived. The army of England would have been as a thing that had disappeared from the face of the earth, and then we 80 should have had the noble Lord's head to have compensated us for the loss of our army. He (Mr. Roebuck) was now going to touch upon a delicate matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire had alluded to certain observations which had not been made in public—which he (Mr. Roebuck), at least, had never heard in public or read in the press. There could be no doubt, however, that these observations were frequently made in private. We were told that we must enter into this peace because our Ally—our great Ally—our "big brother," as he was called—chooses to lead the way. He (Mr. Roebuck) denied that that was the truth. Time had been when this country stood alone. When the greatest warrior that the world ever saw—the Great Napoleon—made Europe resound with his conquering legions, England stood alone, and she conquered. Shall it be said that now, with all the appliances which modern science had given us—with a fleet that the world never saw equalled, with an army greater than any English general ever commanded—shall it be said that we are not able to cope with Russia when we coped with Napoleon? If such had been the language held by our Administration—if they had held up their heads and exhibited a front which England demanded of them, could any one suppose that we should now have been driven into peace, when, as the noble Lord himself acknowledged, if we had fought the next campaign, we should most probably be in a much bettor position? For let us understand the position in which we now stand. We were suing for peace. He used the word "suing" advisedly. Kars had fallen. Before the Redan the English army had been repulsed. An English navy had come a second time from the Baltic without a single act accomplished. Our arms had been tarnished. Let not hon. Members suppose that he was speaking disparagingly of the gallantry of our army. He recollected what had been said of it—that it was an army of lions, led by jackasses. That expression, he thought, accurately described our army. And that was the state of things in which we wore seeking for peace, and if peace be obtained now with all these sacrifices, will not Russia, he asked, have reason to rejoice? There had been arrayed against her the greatest nations in the world, but what conquests had they achieved? Not only two but four nations were arrayed in battle against her, and yet the whole of 81 those four armies were cooped up in a corner in the Peninsula, and held at bay there; and, in fact, was not Sebastopol as much out of our reach now as it was the year before? Could it be said, then, that our arras had achieved triumphs sufficient to compensate us for all our labour and cost in the war? If peace were now agreed to, would it redound to England's glory? He did not like to take upon himself the character of a prophet, but he thought that if peace, preluded by such a war, were entered into, Russia would be in Constantinople in ten years; and when she is there the Black Sea is hers, Asia Minor would be hers, then Persia. Affghanistan would follow, and then she touches on India. That is what we are afraid of—that is what she is looking to, for the aggrandisement of Russia tends to the acquisition of the Indian peninsula. Well, then, shall it be said that when this northern avalanche threatens destruction we shall enter upon such a peace as we are told we are about to conclude? And now he would ask what protection it would give against the aggression of Russia? We have coined a new word—the "neutralisation" of the Black Sea. Last year we were told, when the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord John Russell) was made the scapegoat—when the Four Points were derided—when the Conferences of Vienna were laughed at, and when the noble Lord retired, he might almost say ignominiously, from the Administration of the noble Viscount—that the terms of Russia with regard to the Black Sea could not be listened to. But he wanted to know what difference there was between those terms and the proposed neutralisation of the Black Sea? Did it mean that the forts in the possession of Russia in the Black Sea are to be razed, that Nicholaieff was to be abolished as a fortress, and that we mean the Sea of Azoff to be considered a part of the Black Sea? Suppose Russia chooses to build gun-boats at Nicholaieff. Is that to be a casus belli? and, if so, shall we get our grand Ally again? Those gunboats would come into the Black Sea; they would get under the guns of Sebastopol and beyond our reach, and in twenty-four hours they would be in Constantinople. Now, what was to prevent it? Why, we are to have consuls in the Black Sea to tell us what is to happen. Negotiations are to take place, protocols are to follow; but meanwhile the 82 gunboats are to be built and brought under the guns of Sebastopol, and we shall be laughed at for our pains. He wanted to know if we were to have another campaign, if we drove Russia out of the Crimea, and if, discarding that pretended liberality which says we are not going to take any territory from Russia, we were to take the Crimea from her, and erect the Principalities, including Bessarabia, into a kingdom,—he would ask, if we did that, should we not then have some protection against Russia? But for all those things we have now no guarantee. As it is, the power of Russia is as intact in Constantinople, as it was at the beginning of the war. It is true that Russia has now no fleet in the Black Sea, but she may begin to build a fleet of gunboats, and where shall we be then? The honour and interests of England are now in the keeping of that House, and it becomes the duty of hon. Members to watch over the negotiations, to know every step that is taken and every proposition that is made. It has been said that Paris is a desirable place for the Conferences, because it is so near; but that is an additional reason why we should now interfere, in order that we may not only stop the perpetration of any mischief, but interfere for purposes of good. Parliament will best watch over the interests of England by calling for explanations at every step of the proceedings, and by giving blame where blame is deserved. We must ever remember that we are dealing with a Power in which we can have no confidence—which has schemes of aggrandisement propounded a century ago, and ever since steadily pursued by her rulers. He therefore called upon the House to watch carefully over the negotiators and the negotiations of Paris.
said, that since the House had separated, he had visited all the hospitals in the East to which our brave troops were sent, from the fine hospital of Renkioi to the furthest hospital in the Crimea; but sanguine as his expectations were of the improvements made in them, they were surpassed by the reality. Not only were the patients in those hospitals supplied with every necessary and comfort, but he might even say with every luxury which they could wish for. In answer to his inquiries, he heard nothing but expressions of satisfaction and gratitude to the country that cared so well for her soldiers. He could also bear the same 83 testimony to the improvement which had taken place in the transport service. He could speak from experience, because, having come from Balaklava in a transport ship, with a cargo of sick and wounded, he could say that nothing could be better than the ventilation, diet, and medical attendance of the patients. Such a state of things was highly gratifying to him as a spectator, and could not be less so to the noble Lord who had brought it about, and to those Members of the last Government under whom so many of these reforms were organised and commenced. Whether we had now war or peace, we could say to every recruit and every regiment—"All the miseries and evils of war that can be mitigated shall be mitigated by the solicitude of your country." If peace came, there would be some consolation in reflecting that, whatever errors and mistakes might have been made at the commencement of the war, at its conclusion we should leave both our hospitals and our transports worthy of the imitation of every civilised and humane Government.
§ SIR DE LACY EVANS
said, that while agreeing with much that had fallen from his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Roebuck), he could not agree with him in thinking that we felt any alarm for our territory in India from Russian aggression. It would be prejudicial to the interests of this country, if foreign nations and governments supposed that to be the case. It would also be unjust to the enlightened spirit and patriotism of the people of this country to suppose that we had entered into war from any such motive. It might be that the Russian Government had designs of possessing itself of the countries bordering upon our Indian territory, but if she pursued that ambitious policy we had great powers and means of resistance. For himself, he did not see the slightest ground for being alarmed at Russian projects in that quarter. The country had entered upon the war with the desire of protecting the rights of nations, of defending civilisation, and protecting the principles of international law, and more with regard to Europe generally than on her own account. The subversion of our power in India would not be by any means an immediate result of the acquisition of Constantinople by Russia, but the people of this country thought such an acquisition by Russia would be most dangerous to the independence of every nation of the world. 84 France also had a far greater interest than England in preventing the establishment of Russia in the Dardanelles; for, if she succeeded in effecting that establishment, her power would become great in the Mediterranean, from which, although we certainly possessed a few rocks there, it was more important to France than to England that she should be excluded. England, with her great commerce and powerful navy, would be the last Power in Europe to feel the influence of the aggrandising policy of Russia, and therefore it was much to her credit that she had so steadily and with such determination maintained the general interests of humanity, and greatly to her honour to be one of the most forward nations in fighting the battle of Europe in this war. He was rather surprised at the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Opposition. It certainly was proper for the right hon. Gentleman, as a possible future Minister of State, to exercise great discretion upon the topic of negotiations, but he thought the right hon. Gentleman had carried his complaisance to his opponents a little further than was required by the interests of the country. That part of the noble Lord's (Viscount Palmerston's) speech to which his hon. and learned Friend had referred, with regard to the convenience of the negotiations going on during the session of Parliament, was not easy of explanation. He believed the country looked upon the conditions of peace which had been offered as the very minimum which could be accepted by us, and it was important that Europe should know that the people of England, although the prospect of peace was very dear to them, were perfectly prepared to proceed with the war with still greater vigour than they had yet displayed, and that the resources of England, instead of being exhausted, were only now about to be fully developed. Those resources had hitherto been most inadequately and incapably developed, but if the war were carried on they would display themselves to far greater advantage than they had yet done. The military service had not been at all adequately brought forward; it was marvellous how bungling had been the efforts of the present Government to bring it forward. Their performances with regard to the army and the militia had certainly been miserably deficient in comparison with the Estimates they had presented to the House 85 last Session. He believed that the number of our forces, independent of those in India, was now about 200,000 men, of whom not more than about one-fourth were engaged in the East. Where, he wished to ask, were the rest? They were either not employed at all, owing to the extreme mismanagement of the military departments, or they were dispersed in different parts of our dominions. Many thousands were in the Colonies, doing nothing but police duty, and from which service they could be well spared. It was desirable to let the world know that this country had not yet displayed its force, and that if an inadequate peace were accepted, it would not be because it had not the power of insisting upon better terms. He would not, however, enter into the conduct of the military departments at greater length, because he should have a more legitimate opportunity of doing so when the Estimates were laid before the House. He knew nothing of the conditions upon which the negotiations for peace were to be opened, except through the usual public channels of information; but he must avow that, judging from what he had there seen, he could not perceive in those conditions any guarantee for a secure peace. He did not mean to say there was not some little concession, but there was not sufficient, nor could he see that Austria had done much besides her offer of mediation, for she had not actively engaged in hostilities, and shed no blood, and spent but little money. As regarded affairs in Asia, he must declare his opinion that there the prestige of England had been materially injured. ["Hear, hear! and no, no!"] Yes, he repeated, in Asia the prestige of Great Britain had been materially injured—and he would deeply lament if some advantages in regard to Asia could not be obtained. He had no wish for the acquisition of territory, but it was not because he disclaimed that, that he would not be anxious to compel a Power which had wrongfully taken so much from her neighbours to give back a little of the spoil. They ought not to be content with a slice of Bessarabia when they saw how much Russia had taken from Turkey during the last thirty or forty years. He thought it was impossible to impress too strongly upon those engaged in the negotiations about to open, that England, at all events, did not desire peace from any want of power, even if she 86 were alone, to prosecute and carry on the war. His hon. and learned Friend had called attention to a period when England met the greatest warrior of all time in defence of public right and public law; and, as at that day, should any unforeseen or unexpected cause induce our great Ally to be more desirous than we wore for a speedy peace, in his (Sir De L. Evans) opinion our naval and military resources were amply sufficient to carry on the contest with, he believed, final success and great advantage to civilisation.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he felt that the circumstance of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) having spoken, entirely precluded him from saying one word in the way of criticism, either on the conduct of the war, or in regard to that diplomacy which was expected to issue at the present juncture. On that subject he quite concurred in the remark of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli). The hon. Mover of the Address, who had expressed himself with so much force and ability, said, with regard to the Five Points which had been under discussion, not only that he was himself in favour of them, but that he believed the great majority of the people of this country would be perfectly satisfied with a peace concluded on that basis. Now, while he (Lord J. Manners) did not, as he had already intimated, wish to enter into any discussion whatever as to the nature of those proposals, he must guard himself against being supposed to consider them as fulfilling the objects for which the country entered into the war. If it turned out that those proposals secured the independence and integrity of the Turkish Empire in Asia as well as in Europe; if it turned out that they secured the independence of the eastern littoral of the Black Sea, as well as of the western; if it turned out that they would restore the prestige which this country had unquestionably lost in Asia; if it turned out that they would bar the march of Russia to Constantinople through Asia as well as through the Danubian Principalities, then, indeed, should he concur in the eulogy which had been passed upon them by the hon. Gentleman, and he should rejoice from the bottom of his heart that a peace of that nature were the result. But if, on the other hand, the great object for which this country entered into the war were not secured by a peace based on those proposals—if Russian pres- 87 tige were not diminished in Asia; if Constantinople would still be open to Russia by the same route that Marshal Diebitch took in 1827–28, and General Mouravieff might take now; if Turkey were not secured in her eastern as well as in her western territory; all he could say was, that he would express no opinion in favour of such a termination of the war—should feel no gratification at a peace which was concluded on so inefficient and unsatisfactory a basis.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he was anxious to call the attention of the House to a single point, which appeared to him to involve a constitutional principle. He understood the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) to say that there was an advantage in that House sitting while the negotiations were going on. Now, he had always understood that the entire responsibility of such negotiations rested with the Executive, and that that House ought not to meddle with them. It should therefore he thought, be distinctly stated, what were the intentions of the Government with regard to the matter. Did they mean to place on the table of the House, from time to time, the various documents relating to the negotiations, or did they mean to conduct the negotiations on their own responsibility, in accordance with the principle which had hitherto regulated the negotiations of this country with foreign Powers? If a new principle was to be adopted, the sooner that was understood the better; but, for his own part, he believed it would not be safe to abandon the old rule, that the Executive must carry on the negotiations on its own responsibility. Of course after the negotiations had terminated, the House would take whatever course it might consider best for the interests of the country.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
What I said appears to have been entirely misunderstood. What I meant to say, and what I think I did say was, that it would be a great matter for the Government in carrying on these difficult negotiations to have the support of Parliament—to have Parliament sitting and employed at the time—so that if the Government want the support of Parliament they may apply to it immediately. What I said was, that, under such circumstances, the Government would derive great support from the great Councils of the nation. But I also stated distinctly that it is the duty, and that 88 it was the intention of the Government, not to shrink from the full responsibility imposed upon them to conduct the negotiations with which they are charged. I never meant at all to throw on the House of Commons that responsibility which properly belongs to the Queen's Ministers. I repeat, I only said it would be a great advantage to the Government, if they wanted the support of Parliament, to be able at once to obtain it if Parliament thought the Government deserving of it.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, he hoped that in the important negotiations which were about to be carried on, the commercial interests of the country would not be neglected. After all the sacrifices which the country had made there did not appear as yet to be a single stipulation with reference to those interests, and as it was by means of the commerce of the country that such great contests as the present one were maintained, he thought that commerce was entitled to great consideration. Attention to such matters would do more than anything else to prevent the recurrence of war, and to secure prosperity, not only to themselves, but even to their enemies, by promoting "peace and good will" among nations.
§ MR. V. SCULLY
said, he wished to call the attention of the noble Lord at the head of the Government to the fact, that while Her Majesty's Speech had adverted to important points in connection with England and Scotland, nothing was said about Ireland. Notice had been given of three Bills having reference to Ireland, but nothing had been said upon the great question which excited so much interest throughout that country.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Committee appointed, "to draw up an Address to be presented to Her Majesty upon the said Resolution:"—
§ Mr. BYNG, Mr. BAXTER, Viscount PALMERSTON, The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, Sir GEORGE GREY, Sir CHARLES WOOD, Mr. VERNON SMITH, Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Mr. SOLICITOR GENERAL, Mr. HORSMAN, Mr. LOWE, Mr. BOUVERIE, The JUDGE ADVOCATE, Mr. COWPER, Mr. WILSON, Mr. HAYTER, and Mr. FITZROY, or any Five of them.
§ Queen's Speech referred.
§ House adjourned at half after Seven o'clock.