§ MR. SOTHERON ESTCOURT
said, he was compelled by the pressure of public business to avail himself of the only opportunity afforded to him as an independent Member to bring forward a Motion which, in his opinion, was one of great national importance. He should, therefore, conclude by moving the adjournment of the House till Monday next. In endeavouring to bring forward the question in which he took so deep an interest he had met with great and frequent disappointments. Twice when he had precedence on the list the days were converted from a Motion day into an Order day, and on another occasion he had been prevented from proceeding by the unavoidable absence of the noble Lord at the head of the Government. But now at last he had the opportunity for which he had long wished, and he trusted the House would pardon him if he took the somewhat irregular course of bringing forward so great a question on a formal Motion for adjournment. Considering how their time had been employed for the previous forty-eight hours, he was inclined to hope that the House would not be very angry if he interposed a rather more agreeable topic, and would not object to follow him from the dreary waste of domestic grievances into the pleasant and classic groves of Daphne. Before, however, he came to the subject matter, there were two preliminary 1653 matters upon which he wished to set himself right with the House. The first concerned himself. If any hon. Gentleman had taken notice of the range of subjects with which during the many years he had enjoyed the honour of a seat in that House he had occupied himself, he would find them to have been of a very limited and ordinary kind, referring for the most part to the every-day habits, and, as he believed, the comforts and well-being of his fellow subjects. It might, perhaps, be therefore considered presumptuous in him at that time to venture on so great a task as that of endeavouring to advocate in Parliament the question of a new alternative line or highway to our possessions in the East. But he had one excuse. A dear brother of his, who had since lost his life in the service of his country in the Crimea, was one our body of men which was sent out some twenty years ago to explore the; line of country through which this alternative line must pass. He (Mr. Estcourt) could not avoid learning from his brother something of the locality, and the main points of the question, and when his brother's old commander, General Chesney, some six weeks ago applied to him to bring forward the question, he did not feel that he had a right to refuse. That was, simply the reason why the House had then this question laid before it by a person who had hitherto taken a comparatively humble part in its debates, instead of by such a man as the right hon. Member for Oxford University, or some one of the right hon. Gentlemen on the bench below him. So much for himself. With respect to the next point, he dared say there were many persons in that House—he knew there were in the country—who took an interest in what was called the Suez question. Now, before he said a word in favour of the Euphrates Railway, he wished emphatically to declare that, in as far as he could understand, the line through the valley of the Euphrates was not a competing one with that across the Isthmus of Suez. Let them look at the map. Suez was the natural route to the lower part of India with Ceylon and China, and would have full employment in the immense traffic which could be collected in the Red Sea, whereas the line he was then endeavouring to advocate would pass in an almost straight course to the northern parts of India, and then, it would be his business to show, that, whether looked at from a commercial point of view, or from the political point, 1654 which was his, there would be found ample reason for establishing this alternative northern line, as well as that across the Isthmus of Suez. There were two propositions connected with the subject which could not be disputed. One was that it was the interest of Great Britain to furnish to her own people at home and in India the straightest and most direct means of access one to the other. The second proposition was, that the line through the Euphrates Valley offered the straightest and most direct means of access. In the observations he was about to make, he should confine himself mainly to the second proposition. Let any man draw a straight line from Bombay to London, and he would find it pass along the banks of the Euphrates. Now, when he compared the Euphrates with the Suez route, it was not with a view of disparaging the latter, but merely as a means of contrast. Comparing, then, the Euphrates with the Suez route, it would be found that there was a distance of 900 miles in favour of the former; that was to say, an actual saving of from four to five days in point of time. But that was not all. During six months of the year the wind blew directly in the teeth of any one who sailed from Bombay to the Red Sea, and the strait through which they passed was well called "Babel-Mandeb." In the Red Sea itself the wind was still more directly opposed, and to avoid it, ships were obliged to take a course which further lengthened their distance by 600 or 700 miles. Therefore, in one half the year there were four or five days, in the other half from five to ten days of direct geographical difference. Ten years ago a difference of four or five to ten days might not be considered to be of much importance, but at the present moment, when many an aching heart was watching hour after hour for despatches from India, could any man say that five or ten days were not a matter of consequence. But it was not merely a question of the anxiety of private individuals. He was speaking to the council of the nation, and he would not press the material interest which great Britain had in rapid communication with Bombay. Not to dwell then on the physical parts of the question, he would put it in a moral point of view, and he said that it was the duty of this country, having millions of subjects in India—and India must soon become an integral part of our dominions—it was a, moral duty to give to 1655 our subjects in India every facility of access to the mother country. He thought then that there would not be much dissent to the proposition, first that it was our duty to establish direct communication with India, and second, that the Euphrates Valley was the most direct route. He came now to the main point of the question—could it be done? He trusted he should not weary hon. Members by taking them along the route. Coasting along Syria they would find the river Orontes, with a harbour at its mouth, called Seleucia, which would not cost this country one farthing, because the Turkish Government had undertaken to fit it for their purpose, and he should add that it had already been surveyed by eminent engineers. They would then go by the Orontes to Antioch, and to that point he would say there were no difficulties of which an engineer would make anything. You would have to pass five or six times across the river, but that was not difficult, and now it was expected that you would easily be able to complete the works in twelve months. From Antioch you would then have before you a long range of level country, and pass over the lowest spur of Mount Lebanon at a height of only 1,100 feet above the level of the sea. Then you would debouch into the great plain of Mesopotamia, where the soil was hard and level, and the territory divided between the Sultan and the independent Sheiks. In short, he believed that on the whole surface of the globe they would not find so many miles as favourable for engineering purposes. The present proposition was to rest content with carrying the line to the banks of the Euphrates, a distance of 150 miles from the Mediterranean Sea. The Euphrates had been thoroughly surveyed, and found favourable for navigation. English iron ships were now plying upon it, and it had been navigated by English vessels for a period, more or less, for twenty years. No doubt the river was in some parts shallow, and he had seen it in a recent publication represented as a series of pools. Well, that might be so; but if there was a stream sufficient to admit ships of traffic, that was all that would be required, He had seen the Report of an engineer, who stated that, even at the periods of the year when the river was shallowest there was sufficient draught for vessels of tonnage capable of carrying passengers and light goods. From the point where the railway would stop the route would proceed to Koornah, 1656 in the Persian Gulf; at Koornah there was an Indian flotilla, he might almost say an actual navy. Arrived at the Persian Gulf we entered an almost inland sea, nearly land-locked, and exposed to none of the difficulties which we usually encountered in the Red Sea. It was, in fact, almost a lake. After passing the Persian Gulf, they had within an easy distance the port of Kurrachee, which those acquainted with the East believed would, before many years, become the great emporium and entrepôt of British commerce and traffic to India. It had deep water, and was situated in the Delta of the Indus, that wonderful river which, rushing down from the mountains at Cabul and the Himalaya, was navigable for a distance of a 1,000 miles, and seemed to be designed for the great highway of commerce in that region. The Minister who should be so fortunate to have it in his power to found the greatness of Kurrachee by encouraging this railway, would deserve for himself a niche in the temple of fame, as worthily as Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, or as Alexander the Great, the conqueror of the world. From Kurrachee the line was already settled, and every arrangement made for the formation of the route. Indeed they were actually laying down the railway from that point up to the deep waters of the Indus, where a flotilla would be provided to carry on the traffic to Moultan, and thence to Lahore, Now what position did Lahore occupy? Why it was the apex of a triangle, with one foot resting on Kurrachee and the other upon Calcutta. From Lahore to Calcutta a railway was already made, and from Lahore to Kurrachee railway communication had been commenced. By that triangle communication would be established between Calcutta and Kurrachee, which seemed destined hereafter to become the capital of India. He could assure the House that he did not advocate this undertaking as a commercial or private speculation, but as a national and political object. But, viewed in the former light the enterprise promised to be successful, since within the last five years the exports of Kurrachee had increased twelve-fold. But he ventured to advocate this railway not as a private speculation, for he had no shares or pecuniary interest in it, but as a great national object. If he could not satisfy the House that it was such an undertaking, he would admit that he would not have a leg to stand upon. It was absurd 1657 to ask for a Government guarantee for a railway through this country, but the proposed line ran through Turkey, and the projectors could not be expected to spend their private means in carrying it out unless the Government said they would make it a national concern, and would undertake that, when it was completed, the projectors should not be deprived of the fruits of their industry by any diplomatic parchment, or by any incident which might naturally be expected to arise in a foreign country. He was told that the real obstacle in the way of the Government giving such an undertaking, arose out of the circumstances of the railway passing for sixty miles through a country inhabited by the Arabs, and where there was no security against the predatory incursions of those hereditary freebooters. The Arabs had a prescription of 4,000 years in favour of their predatory habits, and it was not to be expected that they could be overcome all at once: but 100 years ago the Scotch Highlanders were just as great freebooters. How were they dealt with? They were paid subsidies, or what was called black mail, and then there was no fear of their annoyance. Could not the Arabs be treated in the same way? Those who had lived amongst them declared that they possessed this quality in common with the rest of the human family, namely, that if you could make it plain to their understandings that it would be better worth their while to be guardians than robbers, they would become the former, and adopt that course which would bring most grist to the mill. A large part of the sixty miles was the property of native chiefs, and there would be no difficulty in obtaining their permission to pass through, when they were made sensible of the advantages of the railway, and backed up by the argument of the breeches pocket. At the cost of only a small annual expenditure such terms might be offered to the Arabs as would induce them greedily to crowd round and tender their services to act as guardians of the railway. He made that statement upon the strength of such authorities as Captain Lynch, Mr. Ainsworth, and Sir Justin Sheil, who had lived amongst them, and who spoke of them as being trustworthy to a high degree. An English doctor at Bagdad said he treated the apprehension that was felt respecting the Arabs as a mere bugbear. General Chesney, who lived among them many years, employed them frequently in carrying treasures, and never lost a farthing. 1658 His testimony was, that although an ordinary stranger travelling among them without any particular object would be liable to be robbed, yet that any one who went to them with a public character and as a benefactor would find them to be trusted. His hon. Friend the gallant defender of Kars also knew the Arabs well, and he hoped before the discussion closed, he would give the House the benefit of his experience with regard to them. But granted that it was desirable to make the railway, he might be asked what specific proposition he intended to bring forward. Well, he had been in communication with the parties, who had taken up the question in a commercial point of view, and the real position of affairs was this. A contract had been entered into to make the railway from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates, a distance of 150 miles, for £1,100,000 in round numbers. The sum required to be raised by the promoters was £1,400,000, the additional £300,000 being for interest accruing in the three years during which the railway would be under construction, for engines, rolling stock, and other expenses, which must be incurred prior to working the railway. The Turkish Government had already given the promoters a guarantee of six per cent on their outlay. There were some hon. Members in the House who knew whether Turkey could be depended upon to fulfil her promise; he was himself assured by those who were well acquainted with Turkey that she was to be trusted; but supposing she were not, or supposing the state of affairs at Constantinople did not admit of paying £70,000 a year, there would then be the security of the customs duties of the Porte which were payable at Aleppo, to be received by the railway company, which would realise more than £70,000 a year. Moneyed men, however, were very distrustful, and might say that this was all very well so long as we were friends with Turkey, but supposing political events should interrupt the harmony at present subsisting between England and Turkey, what then would become of the guarantee? That was precisely the reason why he made this appeal to the House; it was to guard against the consequences of such an event that he now brought the question forward. He did not ask for any specific sum; he did not ask for a guarantee, but what he wanted was an undertaking that if this private enterprise were carried out, it should be assisted by the State in the early stages of its 1659 existence, so that it should not be overpowered or done up, if he might so use the expression, for want of a little encouragement and support from the mother country. He found, by a memorial of Sir Justin Shell, that the expenditure upon the line would be spread over three years, and what he wanted the Government to do was to promise assistance if the means of the company should be found to be deficient: the expenditure in the first year would be £200,000; in the second £300,000, and in the third £800.000. When the three years were passed the railway would be completed, and the customs duties to be received by the railway would pay the interest on the capital. Now, what he asked the Government was this: if in the course of making the line, or perhaps a year or two beyond that, it should be found that the means of the company were insufficient to supply the interest, would they make, up the deficiency, not exceeding a certain sum? According to the calculation of Sir Justin Sheil, under any circumstances the deficiency, if any should arise during the progress of the railway, could not exceed £100,000. When this trifling sum was compared with the amount now being expended to provide transport to India, it seemed as if the two charges could not refer to the same subject. Had this railroad been established five years ago, we should, within thirty days of receiving information of the mutiny, have been able to pour 5,000 men from the garrisons of Gibraltar, Malta, and Corfu, into the heart of India. Rapidity of communication was everything in dealing with a mutiny or a revolt, and 5,000 men arriving within a month would, probably, have immediately turned the tide of events in our favour, while 30,000 reaching India at the end of three months might—he hoped that such would not be the case—arrive only in time to grace the triumph of an insurgent population. Then, let them also observe what an effect the construction of this railway would have upon our relations with foreign countries; what support it would give to our old ally, Turkey. The Sultan was now the nominal sovereign of Central Asia, but from the distant Pashas of Bagdad and Mosul he could scarcely exact more than a small tribute and an unwilling submission. Let this railway be constructed, and these chiefs must entirely submit to the Government at Constantinople. Look at Persia. There was no reason for our 1660 being at loggerheads with Persia; but every eight or ten years we found, almost without explanation, that our Minister was turned out of the capital, and that we had to go to war without knowing anything of the enemy we had to contend with. Why was that? Why, because England was at a distance, and Russia was close at hand. It then would give us a stronger hold upon Turkey; it would bring us into closer vicinity with Persia, and avert wars which were got up solely because Russia was near at hand, while England was at a distance; but, above all, it would enable us to counteract easily any of the designs which Russia was supposed to have upon India. For take the case with regard to Russia, and suppose that Russia ever had the power of sending an armament from the Caspian Sea to the frontiers of India, why this railway would furnish the means of conveying troops with greater rapidity even from London, and more easily still from Malta or Corfu, to Lahore and Mooltan, which commanded the two gates of India. Therefore, he said that in a political point of view it was of the first consequence to us that we should adopt this railway. But did this railway pass through a country with which we had no present connection? Had not this country kept up a line of agents along this valley of the Euphrates for years? Had we not at this moment a chain of consular agents right through the valley at Bagdad, at Aleppo, at Antioch, and elsewhere, and would not the influence of these be strengthened by making this railway? It was well said by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, in a speech which he delivered at Manchester last autumn, that it was by means of railways that the arts and civilization of the western world would be extended to the East; and this railway in particular would be the chief agent by which Great Britain would bind herself to the populous and fertile nations of the East. There was a vast difference between a communication established for military purposes only, and a railway established by private individuals with a commercial object, but made subservient to military ends. If the railway were to be established for military purposes alone, all the world would look upon us with distrust; but this was to be a commercial speculation alone, established by private individuals for trading purposes. He had thus endeavoured to put before the House the principal reasons which induced him 1661 to press this subject upon the attention of the Government; and in doing so he had abstained from making a comparison between the character of the countries through which the respective lines would run. He might be allowed, however, to say this much, that looking at the relative value and productive powers of the two countries through which the lines passed it would be found that the advantages were greatly in favour of the Euphrates Valley line. From the Isthmus of Suez to the Red Sea the land was totally unproductive, whereas the land through which this line passed was proverbially the richest in the world. It was the land where vast granaries had been established for centuries. In England not a single railway had ever been made in which the actual traffic had not been double the quantity of the original estimate; no doubt the same would turn out to be the case with this railway, but to a greater degree, because hitherto the country through which it passed had been without all means of communication, except the miserable camel caravans. In order to show the House the extent to which commerce was carried on he might mention that Sir J. M'Neill had observed that the average number of laden camels entering Aleppo every working day was 1,000, while the value of the exports and imports of that town amounted in one year to £2,000,000 sterling, and Aleppo was only one of the points through which this line would pass. He did not, however, bring forward this question as a commercial speculation alone, but as one which, from its general bearings, was well worthy the consideration of the House, and he thought that it would be a gross neglect of duty to the country and to succeeding generations, if a misguided economy prevented the Government from giving a promise to support this railway when once formed. He knew that it might be said that the present moment was inopportune; that every shilling of the resources of Great Britain was required to put down the rebellion in India, and that the work was one which ought not to be undertaken except in a time of peace and tranquillity; but if he knew anything of his countrymen, or of the spirit of the Members of that House, he was sure they would agree with him that this was precisely the moment for undertaking such a work. England was at the present moment an object of interest and anxiety to the world. It was said by some that 1662 the glory of the country was gone, that the brightest gem of the British Crown had been attacked, and that the force of England would not be sufficient to restore her to the position which she had occupied. Surely such was a proper time to give the world a proof of pluck and constancy; and what better proof could be given them than by commencing a work which would give this country the firmest grasp upon India which it was possible for her to hold? and he hoped, therefore, that the present Session would not pass without the Government giving their sanction to the scheme. He begged pardon of the House for having occupied their attention at such length, but he begged to assure them that it was only his deep sense of the importance of the subject which had induced him to trespass so long upon their attention.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, that as he possessed some acquaintance with the facts, upon which depended the merits of the case brought before the House by the hon. Member who had just sat down—an acquaintance founded upon a long commercial connection with India—he trusted he might be permitted to obtrude some observations upon the House. In the first place he must remark, that while the House had been favoured at much length with a dissertation on the merits of a very chimerical railway scheme, no allusion had been made to that which he thought at the present moment was of far greater public interest than the connection of this country by railway with India. He alluded to the establishment of telegraphic communications with India, a subject possessing for us at this moment immense interest. The hon. Gentleman had alluded to the great importance of establishing our communications with India on a more perfect system than at present. It would be an idle waste of time if he (Mr. Crawford) were to dwell upon the importance of such a topic; but he was sure there was not an individual in this country who would not readily appreciate on the one hand the great political advantage of railway communication with India, and on the other the comfort of being enabled to receive, instead of the present spasmodic scraps of news, intelligence every morning of what was going on in that country. He should venture to make this remark, that communication of that character was an undertaking which ought not to fall into the hands of the Government, but should be 1663 taken up and carried out by private agency; but, on the other hand, that the State should in some measure assist in the establishment of such an enterprise. He would venture to suggest, in that view, that the experience of railways in India was well worthy of being followed upon the present occasion; and that it was the duty of the Government to give facilities for telegraphic communication with India on the same grounds as those afforded by the East India Company for the formation of railways in India—that is to say, that the Government should undertake a certain portion of the risk which must necessarily accompany an enterprise of such a character, and that they must take a recompense for that risk by a priority of communication on all occasions; and in order to prevent any misuse of the telegraph, that the Government should be represented at the Board of Management. There were at the present moment before the public, the Government, and the East India Company, two proposals for telegraphic communication with India; one was for a telegraphic line by the valley of the Euphrates; the other proposal was for a line by Suez. The two projects were identical in this respect, that they both professed to take their departure from Alexandria, and bring their communication into India from Kurrachee. He had no interest in saying that he believed the Red Sea line would be the best. Having stated his opinion in very general terms, he should not detain the House. He should, however, remark that he thought there was rather a covert attempt made to elicit an expression of opinion from the House in favour of the Euphrates line; and having said that much, he should ask the House to draw their own conclusions by comparison as to the respective value of the two lines. If Government should see fit—or rather, if Parliament should see fit—to authorise the Government to concede that assistance to the company engaged in forming telegraphic communication by the Red Sea—private individuals being ready with the whole of the money for that purpose—the company would be prepared to lay down within a very brief period—perhaps less than twelve months—a line throughout to Alexandria. There might be some curiosity to know in what way the service was to be carried on between Alexandria and this country. A company had been formed for the purpose of constructing, under a firman from the Turkish 1664 Government, a line of telegraph from the Hellespont to Alexandria, which would complete the proposed line of communication to this country. He felt it to be his duty to make these observations to the House so that they might see it was not only possible but practicable to put this country in telegraphic communication with India; and that there were parties who were ready and willing to carry it out.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said, he had watched with great interest the vicissitudes which had attended the Motion of his hon. Friend opposite, because it seemed desirable to discuss on one and the same occasion all the subjects germane to the question which he wished to raise. Although, therefore, the course which his hon. Friend had taken, in bringing on his Motion at last, was somewhat irregular, he (Mr. Gladstone) could not but admit that he was perfectly justified by the circumstances of the case; and at the same time he would say, that the ability and clearness which the hon. Gentleman had displayed in putting the matter before the House showed that a more judicious choice of an advocate could not have been made by those interested in the Euphrates Valley Railway. He must confess, however, he had listened with something like apprehension to the statements of his hon. Friend—an apprehension which was increased by the statements of the hon. Gentleman who had preceded him, and who seemed to take it as pretty nearly a settled question that the nation was to give money or money's worth in this matter. Now, he did think the House of Commons should regard with very great jealousy the use, by Members of Parliament, of the advantages which their Parliamentary position gave them, for the purpose of urging in their places and recommending to Government and the country undertakings which, however beneficial they might be in a philanthropic, or however useful in a political point of view, yet were substantially commercial undertakings, and ought to be left to stand or fall as such. With respect to the statement of the hon. Member for Wiltshire (Mr. S. Estcourt), he was thoroughly glad that, whatever his hon. Friend asked for, he did not demand a guarantee. His hon. Friend asked for cash down, and though it was, perhaps, to be wished that he had, as the Scotch said, more distinctly condescended upon the amount, still one could understand a request for cash, while he (Mr. Gladstone) 1665 viewed a guarantee with an instinctive aversion and almost horror. He repeated that the request for cash would have been more acceptable had it been more definite. His hon. Friend had drawn a distinction between the prudent and wary capitalists who had taken the whole of the shares and were ready to execute and to manage the whole line, but who had not authorized him to state any particular sum, and Sir Justin Sheil, who said that the whole cost would not exceed £100,000. Now, it was satisfactory to know Sir Justin Sheil's opinion; but he must say he was disposed to ask whether that gentleman advanced the capital, or was prepared to be responsible if his calculation broke down?
§ MR. SOTHERON ESTCOURT
It was not Sir Justin Sheil's calculation; I should have said Sir John M'Neill.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
observed, that both gentlemen were worthy of the greatest respect; but whatever might be the abilities and the character of Sir John M'Neill, it was quite impossible that he could make a responsible statement to the House on this subject. After all, however, this was not the point. The House was not called upon at the present moment to declare that it would never, under any circumstances, advance money for an undertaking of this kind. Hon. Gentlemen were not called upon to pronounce absolutely in the negative, but he was quite sure they were not in a condition to pronounce in the affirmative; and, although the appeal of his hon. Friend was naturally made to the Government, yet he knew the Government incurred unpopularity by the rejection of philanthropic undertakings, and he thought independent Members ought likewise to give their judgment where they saw cause. However, let the proposal, when it assumed a definite form, come before the House in a regular manner,—for he did think it would be a safer course if those who felt an interest in such subjects were to make their wishes known to the Government, and then be prepared to defend any proposal the Government might make, instead of themselves venturing to recommend commercial undertakings by Motions in this House. He would do both the hon. Gentlemen who had introduced this question the justice to say that they dwelt much upon its political aspect. But the whole plan was essentially commercial, and must be so dealt with. That led him to a consideration of the principles upon 1666 which it appeared to him that prudence absolutely demanded they should proceed in regulating the political relations of this country with the East. His hon. Friend had gone very far in describing the political advantages which his plan would entail. By it, he contended, they would not only have a most rapid communication with India, but easy access to Persia, proximity to Russia, control over all the country traversed; and his hon. Friend even went so far, in what might be termed his philanthropic enthusiasm, as to describe this railway down the Valley of the Euphrates by an expressive and well-known English household phrase, as a portion of the Queen's highway. It was to be remembered, however, that the Queen kept order in, and had control over, the Queen's highway; and the great difficulty about such a plan as this was, that when the purse of the English nation was bled to find funds for the purpose of promoting, directly or indirectly, commercial undertakings in foreign countries, you then at once laid a distinct ground for the political interference of the British Government with the Government of those countries. With respect to the policy of this country in the East, there were three rules which, as far as he could see, it ought to be the study of Her Majesty's Government always to observe. The first—and perhaps the most essential of all—was, not to give a handle to other nations for alleging that we are setting an example of interference with their government and domestic affairs. That was exactly the rule against which he was afraid we should offend, if we were led to support by a pecuniary grant, but especially by a guarantee, the construction of a line of railway through the Turkish empire. It was impossible to deny that, by connecting themselves with such an undertaking, the Government created an interest on the part of the taxpayers of this country, who, if they were called upon to contribute to a scheme of this sort, had a right to know what had become of their money, and to call upon the Government to take every measure in their power, even by resorting to force, for the purpose of preventing mismanagement or misgovernment, and of seeing that this railway was properly dealt with. The bad example thus set to other nations, whose policy it might be to make a dishonest use of this plea, would be extremely mischievous. The Government, therefore, ought not to entertain a proposal of this kind, as 1667 long at least as it remained in a vague and shadowy shape. If the time should ever arrive when the House was called for such grants of money, those grants should on no account be permitted to carry after them political rights or the presumption of such rights. Another rule which should guide our policy in the East was, that we ought to endeavour to maintain that union and concord of European opinion on the subject of Eastern policy which were so happily established during the late war. When the subject of the Suez line in connection with the Suez Canal was lately brought forward in the shape of a question in that House, the answer of his noble Friend at the head of the Government was represented to have been—first, that the project was impracticable, and a bad commercial speculation; and next, that it ought to be opposed by British influence on political grounds, with a view to the retention of our Indian empire. The opinion of eminent engineers, he believed, upheld the first part of this answer. The House ought to deal with this project, as well as with the Euphrates Railway and the telegraphic scheme, mainly as a commercial question, and they might rely upon it that the best judges of the merits of a commercial speculation were the private individuals who were invited to invest their capital in it. If this project were turned by the Government into a political question, there would be the greatest danger of breaking up that European concert and concord which were of paramount importance in regard to our Eastern policy. He (Mr. Gladstone) was not, perhaps, qualified to give an opinion as to whether the Suez Canal would be advantageous to this country; but no man, however, could look at the map of the globe, and deny that a canal through the Isthmus of Suez, if practicable, would be a great stroke for the benefit of mankind. It had the assent and goodwill of every Government in Europe, and especially of France, our great ally. Could anything, then, be more unfortunate than that we should have squabbles at Constantinople between the British and the French ambassadors on this subject? With respect to our Indian possessions, it was to be hoped that the whole strength and vigour of this country would never be wanting to make the requisite efforts for their maintenance, and that as long as we had duties to perform to mankind in those regions, sacrifices would never be grudged, or even counted of importance. 1668 in the fulfilment of such obligations. But let us not create in Europe an opinion that the possession of India by Great Britain was something to be upheld by opposition to measures that were beneficial to the general interests of Europe. Let us not create that fatal antithesis and contradiction, because it would do more to weaken our hold upon Hindostan than ten such mutinies as that which had just occurred. When he gave notice, some hours ago, of his intention to put a question to the Government relative to the Danubian Principalities, he was not aware that that subject had been touched upon in another place last evening; for he confessed that his close attendance in the House had left him no time for the discharge of that first duty—if it was not, indeed, the whole duty of man—that of expending a couple of hours in the perusal of the daily journals, He had already referred to the two cardinal rules which should govern our Eastern policy; but there was a third, of not less importance. It was, that where England had an influence to exercise on the affairs of the East, she should not repose her entire, or even her principal confidence, on armed intervention to prevent the aggressions of Russia upon Turkey, but should endeavour to raise up such living barriers as might effectually interpose between Constantinople and the Russian empire. The question he was about to put to his noble Friend was, whether it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to produce, at a very early period, papers respecting the subject of the Principalities? There were reasons why the noble Lord, if it was in his power, should strain a point to furnish the House with authentic information on this question. Nearly two years and a half had elapsed since the restoration of peace, and very great delay had occurred with respect to the settlement of the Principalities. The causes of that delay had been mainly beyond the control of Her Majesty's Government, and he did not make it a ground for censure. But a lively interest was felt in this country and in the House on this subject. It was impossible that England could regard with indifference the fate of two provinces which had vindicated for themselves political freedom, not indeed in its perfection, but to a considerable degree, amid surrounding slavery; and which had, at all events, laid within their own borders a foundation on which we might hope to see Christian institutions and Christian liberty 1669 flourishing and setting an example to less favoured countries in that quarter. In connection with this question, he could not help mentioning some portion of the London press with honour. One journal in particular—the Daily News (and probably the same remark applied to others)—had striven zealously and consistently to foster the growth of the feeling in this country to look with anxiety and interest to the settlement of the Principalities. As long as his noble Friend was not at liberty to supply them with authentic information on this question, they were of course reduced to depend upon—perhaps to be the victims of—intelligence at best but partial, and, it might be, not wholly trustworthy. And unfavourable impressions with respect to the views of England were likely to gain currency, until Her Majesty's Government had had an opportunity to correct them by an exposition of their policy. What has recently happened?—The elections have recently taken place in Moldavia for the purpose of giving effect to these provisions in the Treaty of Paris with respect to the Principalities, for which both my noble Friend the Member for the City of London and likewise my noble Friend the Earl of Clarendon deserve the greatest credit—those provisions under which it is stipulated that the will of the population itself shall be ascertained, and that that will, when ascertained, shall, subject to the suzerain rights of Turkey, be made the basis of their institutions. Well, what does the world know of these elections? It knows that they have taken place by virtue of that treaty in Moldavia, and that the majority of the Powers of Europe, including France, have protested against them; that England (and when I use the word "knows" I should rather use the word "supposes") has been engaged in supporting these elections, that it has finally been decided that these elections should be quashed, and that that decision has been come to in consequence of the influence of the Emperor Napoleon. Now, Sir, I earnestly hope that it will be in the power of my noble Friend when the time comes to alter and correct impressions such as these. But we are liable to be supplied with information of a partial character. I hold in my hand a volume of documents which has been forwarded to me, and which indicates the way in which these Moldavian elections, now happily crushed, have been conducted. I will just point out to the House in a very few words the statements 1670 that these documents embody as to the proceedings which have been going on in Moldavia. Now, the first of these is the declaration of a certain Monsieur Frimo, who had been the head of the police in the city of Niamtzo. He says that he was named in December, 1856, prefect of the district of Niamtzo, and that he received this order from head-quarters when he was named prefect:—By virtue of your office I order you to labour without ceasing against the foolish idea of the union of the Principalities, and to use all your efforts in order that the inhabitants of your town may become adversaries of the union.He then goes on to say,—He enjoined me to exert myself, in concert with two other persons who knew all the Unionists and anti-Unionists of the place, to menace and caress, per fas et nefas, in order that there might not remain a single partisan of the union among the inhabitants of the city from first to last, for otherwise I should be dismissed from my office.Now, if that be true, that indicates a most scandalous and shameful course of proceeding. It is a scandal if that temporary machinery which was set up under the Treaty of Paris, in order to give free scope to the will of the Moldavian people, has been employed for the purpose of unduly influencing the elections in favour of the views of Austria, which was opposed to the union of the Principalities. I have quoted that from the 98th page of the book. Nearly in the next page I find another document, from an official person named Palladi, who writes to the Minister of the Interior, at Jassy. He says,—Bazile Popovitz, in passing by Bakeo, has commenced to harangue in favour of the union in public places and afterwards betook himself to the arrondissement of Upper Tazleon.He then goes on thus:—The undersigned, acting in conformity with the instructions he has received, has taken the measures which are necessary, and has put him under arrest.So that a man whose political opinion is in favour of the union—and that was the question that was to be tried—is by an official person laid hold of and put under arrest, if this information be true. Well, then, what says another gentleman, who is deputy of the Bishop of Roman? The deputy of the Bishop of Roman, on the 14th of April, 1857, in writing to the Rev. Father George Dimitrio, Archpriest of Decutsch, says—and I hope the Liberal Members of this House will listen—it was the duty of those who discharged public functions to maintain themselves dans une ligne de condulte conservatrice. He then goes on,— 1671You, on the contrary, express yourself without the least reserve and in all freedom of conduct, which gives rise to combination. We, therefore, give you to understand that from the present date you are liberated from the functions of arch-priest.I will only trouble the House with one more case. In page 103 of the same book I find that Etienne Dascalescon, a boyard and proprietor of Fokschani, describes the conduct of a certain Monsieur 1'Ispravnick, an official person in his neighbourhood. The declaration of this Etienne Dascalescon is dated the 28th of March, 1857. He says on Tuesday, the 26th of March, Monsieur 1'Ispravnick invited to his own house the most considerable of those merchants whom he supposed to be favourable to the Unionist party, and after having held forth to them against the union, he finished the conversation by advising them to mind their own business— that is, in the strict sense of the word, their own commercial affairs, and not to mix themselves up in politics, for that was no affair of theirs; he recalled to their recollection the events of 1848 and their consequences, in order that he might not be put under the necessity of paying out of his own pocket for the cords by which he would have to strangle them. Now, my noble Friend must admit that the circulation of documents of this kind must affect the character of England. I think that Englishmen are in favour of a union of the Principalities. If you want to create strength there, I think that almost common sense would lead one to do so by their union. But if there be successful arguments the other way, it is most important that my noble Friend should furnish the House with those arguments. At any rate, it is important that he should at the earliest moment do something to dissipate the injurious impressions that must be entertained as to the policy of England while these statements remain uncontradicted. I have often had occasion to differ from the foreign policy of my noble Friend, but of one thing I am perfectly convinced, and that is, that in his heart he is a lover of British freedom, and that he will not willingly or intentionally be found, on a question of foreign policy, upon the side which is antagonistic to British freedom. The presumption in this case, as they have been stated in the newspapers, and as they now appear, are not in keeping with what I think we may fairly anticipate from my noble Friend. It is all very well that these elections should have been quashed, but if these elections have been a source 1672 of jobbery and wicked oppression, why, then, it was to England we ought to have looked to quash them, and that task ought not to have been left to the absolute Sovereign of France. At any rate, I am quite sure that what I have said is enough to convince the House that there is much gravity in the circumstances, and that it is most desirable that my noble Friend should at the earliest period that the circumstances will permit lay upon the table of the House that authentic information which will enable the House to form a fair and candid judgment, which at present it cannot possibly form upon the policy and even upon the intentions of the Government with respect to the great question in what way the destinies of the inhabitants of the Principalities are to be moulded under the hands of the Powers of Europe, inasmuch as if we are to look to the erection of permanent barriers against Russia, then it is of importance that we should endeavour to bring these Principalities into a state of strength and vigour which will afford the best hope of their real and substantial improvement.
§ SIR FITZROY KELLY
said, he hoped he might detain the House a short, time in putting a question to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, which had some connection with the subject under discussion. It was not his intention to arraign the conduct of the Government on this occasion. It had been his fortune upon more than one occasion, during the last Session or two, to animadvert upon the conduct of the Government of India with regard to their treatment of the Native Princes of India, but he had ever found the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control and Her Majesty's Government not only disposed to adhere to the first principles of justice in their dealings with the Princes of India, but always anxious to consult their feelings and interests. He might observe that since intelligence reached this country of the outbreak in India, the royal Princes of Oude, and every member of the royal family, bad strictly forborne from urging their case upon the Houses of Parliament and the Government; but had been content, whatever their sufferings might be, to await with patience the time when those unhappy events which now occupied the attention of the country should have passed away, and they could, with confidence, appeal to the justice of the British Parliament. They had followed that course from the 1673 time when the events passing in India were first known in England, and no other steps had been taken excepting that of presenting, through him, a petition to that House, in which they had referred to their former position, and had begged to be informed of the events which had taken place in India, and of which news bad reached this country. It was their wish that he, (Sir F. Kelley) would not, at present, refer to their case. But he would now merely state that from the time of the occurrence of these events no communication had reached—he presumed it had not been permitted to reach—the royal family of Oude, and they only learnt what had taken place in India in the same way in which hon. Members learnt it. They had seen that their Sovereign was actually a. prisoner in Fort William, and that no one member of his family had any means of communicating with him, or of receiving a communication from him, in consequence of it being supposed that he was concerned in the outbreak in India. In the meantime the royal family of Oude stated in their petition their perfect and profound conviction, founded upon their knowledge of the whole life and conduct of the deposed King of Oude, that he was utterly incapable of having done any act whatever in opposition to his own fidelity to British interests and his loyalty to the British Crown and people, which feelings he had exhibited when he was King, reigning over a wealthy people, and since he had been deposed and was an exile and prisoner in the hands of the East India Company. The royal family expressed their entire belief that no charge could be brought against their sovereign and relative. The questions which he (Sir F. Kelly) wished to ask were, whether the King of Oude was still in custody or under restraint? and, whether the noble Lord at the head of the Government was prepared to state the charge, or the nature of the charge, against the King of Oude, and upon which he had been deprived of his liberty? If it were compatible with British interests and the line which the Government had thought it their duty to pursue in placing the King of Oude under restraint, it would certainly be doing an act of great kindness, charity, and justice, if the Government would inform the Queen of Oude and the other members of her family of the charge against the King of Oude. The answer of the noble Lord might, in some degree, restore peace of mind to the royal family, and confidence in British justice.
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, that as his noble Friend at the head of the Government would have to reply to the questions that had been raised relative to the Euphrates Railway and the Danubian Principalities, the House would perhaps allow him to answer the questions whether the King of Oude was still under duress, and under what charges he had been arrested. He believed from the letters that had arrived by the present mail, that the King of Oude was still under arrest, and that the charge upon which he had been arrested was complicity in the revolt that had taken place at Delhi. That charge was made by a person who was to be examined hereafter. No doubt, an investigation into the facts would take place as shortly as possible, and if it should appear that the King and Court of Oude had bad nothing to do with the revolt, it would be the duty of the Governor General to liberate him. But the hon. and learned Gentleman had rather overstated the case when he said that the King of Oude was undergoing a harsh imprisonment. The King of Oude was certainly removed from his residence to Fort William, but there every species of attention that could be paid to a royal prisoner was manifested to him. He was arrested under Regulation 3 of the Province of Bengal, which set forth:—Whereas reasons of state, embracing the due maintenance of the alliances formed by the British Government with foreign Powers, the preservation of tranquillity in the territories of Native Princes, entitled to its protection, and the security of the British dominions from foreign hostility and from internal commotion, occasionally render it necessary to place under personal restraint individuals against whom there may not be sufficient ground to institute any judicial proceeding, or when such proceeding may not be adapted to the nature of the case, or may, for other reasons, be unadvisable or improper.That was the authority under which his Majesty had been confined, and he would now read the letter which the Governor General wrote to the King of Oude upon the occasion of his arrest:—Fort William, June 15th.Sir,—It is with pain that I find myself compelled to require that your Majesty's person should, for a season, be removed to within the precincts of Fort William. The name of your Majesty and the authority of your Court are used by persons who seek, to excite resistance to the British Government, and it is necessary that this should cease. Your Majesty knows, that from the day when it pleased you to fix your residence near Calcutta to the present time, yourself and those about your Majesty have been entirely free and uncontrolled. Your Majesty may be assured, then, that is not the desire of the Governor General 1675 in Council to interfere needlessly with your movements and actions. Your Majesty may be equally certain that the respect due to your Majesty's high position will never be forgotten by the Government or its officers, and that every possible provision will be made for your Majesty's convenience and comfort.There was no symptom of harshness in this letter. It was his (Mr. Vernon Smith's) desire to treat the Native Princes with the utmost consideration and courtesy, and his noble Friend the Governor General was animated by the same desire. No restraint had been put upon the King of Oude's family in this country, and it was not quite correct to say that no communication had taken place between them, because a communication had been brought to him from the King of Oude to his relatives in this country, which he desired should be immediately forwarded to the Queen of Oude. It was obvious that, as the King of Oude was in confinement at Calcutta, for the purpose of restraining any correspondence in which he might be engaged with the supposed conspiracy, it was impossible to allow any communication to take place between him and his friends. His family in this country would, for the present, be cut off from that communication, but there would be no desire, after the trial, to continue that restraint. The arrest of the King of Oude was a measure of precautionary policy, of which the House must approve. He trusted it would turn out that the King of Oude was perfectly innocent of any implication in the conspiracy, and he had no doubt that if his name had been used without his authority, he would be acquitted. So long, however, as the Governor General had reason to believe that either the King of Oude or his courtiers were acting in complicity with the revolt, his noble Friend would be justified in confining him.
§ SIR FITZROY KELLY
said, it was true that a paper, purporting to have come from the King of Oude, had been brought to the Royal Family of Oude, but they did not know how it had reached this country.
§ MR. GRIFFITH
said, he should be happy to give his assistance towards carrying out the Euphrates Railway, but should consider it unfortunate if other means of communication with the East should be thrown into the shade, or looked upon with prejudice by the Government. For example, how great an advantage it would be if we were able to send our large steamers filled with troops to India through the Red Sea. Concurring with the noble Lord 1676 at the head of the Government, as to the physical difficulties which lay in the way of the construction of the proposed Suez Canal, he was yet of opinion that we ought not to manifest any unreasonable jealousy of the prosecution of the scheme. At any rate, it should not be made a stalking horse, under the cover of which we were to gratify our national animosities.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wiltshire (Mr. Sotheron Estcourt), who began this discusssion, need have made no excuse for the course which he has adopted, because no Member of this House, owing to the part which he has taken in our deliberations, is better entitled to draw our attention to any subject with respect to which he may deem it to be his duty to offer an opinion, and I can assure him that the Government are not the less disposed to entertain the question because it has been brought forward by him. The subjects upon which he has this evening touched, relate to questions which are unquestionably of very great interest to the country. There can be no doubt that if railway communication were established along the route which he has indicated— that is to say, from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates—then a further communication, either by railway or by water, along that river to the Persian Gulf, and so on to India, a considerably increased facility in the conduct of our commercial and political intercourse with that empire must be the result. We should also have the advantage of an alternative route in competition with the line of railway from Alexandria to Cairo, thence to Suez, and down by the Red Sea. I am not, however, by any means sure that the line in which the hon. Gentleman seems to take so great an interest is that which, if we were about to enter upon any project of the kind, the Government would most desire to see adopted; because, if railway communication should be established—as I have no doubt it will be at no distant period—with Constantinople, and if a line should be constructed from the other side of the Bosphorus to the Persian Gulf, it is perfectly plain a much shorter and better means of communication with India will be secured than that which the hon. Gentleman proposes, and which would involve a sea passage either from Marseilles, Toulon, or Trieste, to the further end of the Mediterranean. All these projects, however, are, in my opinion, schemes in reference 1677 to which Her Majesty's Government ought to be deliberate spectators. I entirely concur with my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford in the sentiments to which he gave expression in that portion of his speech in which he so well and so ably pointed out the inexpediency of the Government of this country meddling directly in enterprises, such as that to which our attention has this evening been drawn, and which are to be carried into execution in a foreign State. My right hon. Friend dwelt so forcibly on the political consequences which would be likely to result from a direct connection with such schemes that it is unnecessary for me to say more upon that head, except that, upon the grounds to which he has adverted, Her Majesty's Ministers would be indisposed to mix themselves up with projects of the nature of that which is now under discussion. To pursue a different policy would indeed be to take a course at variance with that which has in similar cases been adopted. Applications were made, for instance, to the English Government upon the part of our West Indian Colonies of Demerara and of our North American Provinces for pecuniary assistance, and with those applications the Government deemed it to be their duty to refuse to comply. The only case, I may observe, in which direct pecuniary aid was afforded was that of a great and important railway in Ireland, but in that instance the Exchequer Bill Commissioners merely advanced as a loan a certain amount to carry on the construction of the necessary works, and security was obtained by Act of Parliament for the repayment of that sum by means of the rates of the counties through which the railway passed. That the House will see is not an instance at all applicable to the case in point; and with reference to the Euphrates Valley Railway I can only assure my hon. Friend who brought forward this question, that, however glad we should be to see that project completed, we cannot hold out the slightest encouragement that we should be disposed, either directly or indirectly, to advance any money for the attainment of that end. With respect to the question of the establishment of a telegraphic communication, I can only say that it is one which appears to me to stand in a light somewhat different from that to which I have just been referring. A telegraphic line of communication is somewhat similar to that postal communication;—to 1678 speak in modern jargon—which has been established with distant countries beyond the seas. If a telegraphic line were laid down by the Euphrates Valley, or by the Red Sea to India, Her Majesty's Government would, as I think, very wisely and properly, pay for the use of that line. The subject is one which is open to consideration, and I must say that in my opinion a communication of that description would be found to be of the utmost importance to the interests of the country. I believe that the company now engaged in establishing the telegraphic line down the Valley of the Euphrates—a company distinct, as I am informed, from that which has been alluded to as concerned in the project for a railway—will succeed in the attempt, and that unless some unexpected difficulties arise we may look forward to the completion of the telegraphic line in question within a definite period. The accomplishment of that object would no doubt be productive of great advantage, inasmuch as it would place us in communication with India by the construction of a telegraphic line to Kurrachee. Having said thus much in reference to the projects of a railway and a telegraphic line, I may be permitted to advert to an entirely different topic, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford has drawn our attention; I allude to the proceedings which have lately taken place in the Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. My right hon. Friend has got possession of a pamphlet, of which a copy has been sent to me, but at which I had not time to look; and upon the statements made in that pamphlet grounds his appeal to Her Majesty's Government to lay the papers connected with the recent transactions in the Principalities upon the table of the House. Now, it is my opinion that if all the pamphlets which have been written by well-meaning Moldavians and Wallachians within the last few years upon questions connected with the Principalities could be collected together, they would occupy the greater portion if not the entire of that table, and I cannot help thinking that statements made in publications of that description can scarcely with justice be held to furnish any conclusive reasons upon which to found a claim for the production of a diplomatic correspondence. There may be proper demands upon other grounds; but I do not think it fair to make upon the Government a demand for the production of documents founded upon 1679 chance statements in pamphlets. I apprehend that my right hon. Friend could not have been in the House a few days ago when, in answer to the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, I explained the state of affairs with regard to the Moldavian Principalities. I will repeat the statement I then made. The Treaty of Paris was concluded about a year ago—in April last year, and not two years ago, as the right hon. Gentleman stated. [Mr. GLADSTONE: I beg pardon for committing such an error.] The treaty of Paris stipulated that after the limitation of Bessarabia, a portion of which now forms part of Moldavia should have been completed, and after the territory so transferred to Moldavia should have been actually handed over to Moldavia, the Moldavian and Wallachian Principalities should proceed to the election of two representative bodies, to be called divans; that these bodies should take into consideration the wants and wishes of the people in regard to the future internal organization of the Principalities; that during their deliberations there should be in the Provinces Commissioners representing each of the contracting powers; that when the assemblies had considered all the matters submitted to them, and when the Commissioners had made their Reports upon what they had observed, the determination of the assemblies and the Reports of the Commissioners should be transmitted to the Congress of Paris, which was to be re-assembled for the purpose of considering the subject; and that then the Congress—in concert with the Sultan, who would be represented in it—should come to an understanding with the Sultan as to what should be the future internal organization of the two Provinces. There was—for reasons of which it is unnecessary for me to remind the House—great delay in the regulation of the Bessarabian frontier. The delay occasioned delay with regard to other matters; and, in consequence, it was not until some little time ago that the firman or decree of the Porte, determining in what manner the elections should take place, was settled in concert by the representatives of the Six Powers and the representatives of the Porte at Constantinople. The firman was sent to the Provinces; but the Provinces differ in some respects with regard to their internal arrangements. The firman was sent to Bucharest, in Wallachia, where the Commissioners were stationed, but it was found not to be clear in its application, with respect 1680 to certain details. Reference was made to Constantinople, and on the 30th of May the representatives of all the Powers, in concert with the Minister of the Porte, gave answers to the questions which arose upon these doubts, and the answers were sent to Bucharest. The same interpretation of the doubtful points was to be acted upon both in Wallachia and Moldavia in as far as the internal differences of the two Principalities might admit. There were still misunderstandings. The Kaimaikan of Moldavia did not think that the doubts which had been started with regard to Wallachia applied to Moldavia. The election took place; and then representations were made that from the manner in which the elections had been conducted certain classes who were properly entitled to vote had been excluded from voting. These representations led to discussions at Constantinople. The representatives of four Powers entertained one opinion as to the amount of irregularity; the representatives of England, Austria, and the Porte took a different view. The representatives of the four Powers called upon the Porte to annul the elections. The Porte declined to do so, not deeming it a matter which the representatives of the four Powers were competent to decide; but considering that as the question had been discussed by the Six Powers, who were parties to the treaty of Paris, such an application should proceed from the representatives of all those Powers. Differences arose; and, as I stated before, the late visit of the Emperor of the French at Osborne, bringing the two Governments into personal contact and direct explanation, enabled us to come to an agreement with the French Government that we would unite with France—and trusted Austria would do so also—to remove all suspicion of irregularity with regard to the elections, and that we would represent to the Sultan that it was for his own interest that there should be no imputation what ever as to the constitution of the body whose wishes were to be taken into consideration at the Congress of Paris. That matter, therefore, I now consider as settled, especially as we have reason to know that the Government of Austria is willing to take the same course which we have adopted. My right hon. Friend has amused the House by reading passages describing the different irregularities which took place at the elections. Those statements may or may not be true; and it is very well for 1681 us, who have determined—especially in the case of the last general election—to have our elections carried on in a manner pretty free from imputation, to think it extraordinary that other countries do not conduct the election of representative bodies with equal regularity; but when we recollect that these Moldavians and Wallachians are totally unused to such proceedings,—that the authorities wish to attain one result, while other parties desire another,—that the political questions at issue are debated with the utmost vehemence by the opposite factions,—and that the people are not accustomed to that obedience to the law with which we are familiar,—it cannot be surprising that such irregularities as are detailed in the pamphlet quoted by my right hon. Friend should have occurred. I can only assure my right hon. Friend that if he was acquainted with what takes place in the kingdom of Greece—in which a system of representative Government has been established for a considerable period—he would find occurrences far exceeding, not only in gravity, but in absurdity, the cases he has referred to as occurring in the Principalities. The result is, however, that there is now no difference of opinion, among the Six Powers as to the propriety of annulling the elections, and having the lists upon which the elections are made revised in such a manner as to insure the strict and proper application of the firman of the Porte. My right hon. Friend has introduced the much-debated question of the projected canal at Suez. I have no doubt that a great deal of that persuasive eloquence by which M. de Lesseps is now endeavouring in all our large commercial cities to enlist people in favour of the scheme he recommends has been brought to bear upon my right hon. Friend. I was asked some time ago what was the opinion of the Government with regard to that scheme. I stated, as I deemed it my duty to do—speaking as an unprofessional lay man—that I consider the scheme physically chimerical; that I thought it would not be remunerative commercially, and that I also regarded it as open to strong political objections. These objections have, indeed, been constantly urged at Constantinople within the last fifteen years. The main objection upon which our opposition to that scheme was founded was that it was, as we considered, the first step towards the separation of Egypt from Turkey, and that it would thus tend to the disintegration of that Turkish monarchy for the 1682 maintenance of which Europe took up arms three years ago. My right hon. Friend thinks it was very unbecoming of the English Government to oppose a scheme which was approved by other countries simply because it was considered injurious to British interests. Now, I must really beg to dissent from that principle. It seems to me that if the British. Government are of opinion that any scheme is injurious to British interests, it is their duty to oppose it, however much their opposition to such scheme may thwart the political and commercial wishes of any other country. The first duty of a Government is to look to the interests of the country; and if those interests are in conflict with any scheme which is proposed, they would be neglecting their duty if they sacrificed the interests of England for the purpose of accommodating themselves to the wishes or fancies of any other Power. The strong ground, and the only ground, upon which we have represented to the Government of Turkey the inexpediency of concurring in the plan is not the injury of England, but of Turkey,—the danger with which it would be attended to the integrity of the Turkish empire. Therefore, when the apostle of the Suez canal is preaching all over England in order to induce English capitalists to give him those means which he is unable to obtain from the rest of the world, for the purpose of constructing this canal, it does not seem to me that I, as an English Minister, took an improper course in explaining to British capitalists that in affording money for the construction of such a work they would be aiding a scheme which was fraught with injury to the interests of England itself.