§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER,
having brought up to the table, by command of Her Majesty, copies of treaties political and territorial, relative to the Italian States, said,—Sir, in moving that these papers be laid upon the table I shall redeem the pledge I have given to the House, and shall afford an opportunity to hon. Gentlemen who may follow me to make any observations they may wish on this subject, and I am sure that in so doing they will make those remarks with all the reserve that is in their opinion consistent with the exercise of a public duty. I promised, Sir, that I would to-day 1864 place before the House the state of the negotiations which are now being carried on by Her Majesty's Government respecting the affairs of Italy. I think it was towards the close of the last year that Her Majesty's Government became aware that there was a considerable sense of irritation between France and Austria. Her Majesty's Government instructed the Queen's Ministers at the Courts of Paris and Vienna to take every practicable opportunity to soften that acerbity of feeling, and to remove the misconception that existed between those two Powers. At the beginning of the year—indeed on the very first day of the year—circumstances occurred which I am sure are fresh in the recollection of the House, which rendered that misunderstanding between France and Austria a matter of public notoriety. Her Majesty's Government then felt that they were placed in a position which entitled them to ask for more direct explanations than previously they had thought themselves authorized to demand. France was an intimate ally of this country, with whom we were acting with cordiality on many important questions, and between Austria and England a good understanding had existed from an ancient date, and founded on feelings of deep and cordial sympathy. It appeared to us, therefore, that it was an occasion when her Majesty might interfere and the exercise of her influence and her good offices might tend to maintain that general peace in which the world at large is so much interested. Our position was at that moment, and, indeed, is at present, very favourable to an undertaking of the kind. I think, Sir, at the beginning of this year we may say that which perhaps in the nature of things it has very rarely been in the power of any Minister to say—I do not claim any merit to the Government for it, but it is the fact—that neither with the Powers of the first class nor with the Powers of the second class, nor, indeed, with any portion of the political and monarchical hierarchy, was there any misunderstanding with this country. There was, Sir, I repeat, no question of controversy with any of the Powers of Europe existing at that moment, and therefore our position was one extremely favourable to our assuming the part of mediator. Under these circumstances, Sir, the Queen's Ambassador at Paris and Her Minister at Vienna received instructions to inform themselves to the utmost of their ability as to the actual character of the views and feelings both of 1865 France and Austria, and as to what were the probable motives of that general want of cordiality which had too evidently arisen between those two great powers. Several causes were supposed to be in existence which contributed to that unfortunate misunderstanding. What was occurring on the Danube, and other causes, were alleged, but some of these were happily removed and redressed by diplomatic management, and I think it soon became very evident that the real and more permanent cause of misapprehension was to be found in the unsatisfactory state of Italy. Her Majesty's Government accordingly instructed Earl Cowley to take all possible means for ascertaining the views of the Emperor of the French upon that subject; and Earl Cowley, who was responded to with the same frankness which he himself exhibited informed us that he believed he was in possession of the general views and feelings of the Emperor of the French upon the position of affairs in Italy. Now, I may perhaps be allowed to make an observation upon what were the views of Her Majesty's Government at that time upon that question. I believe I may say that, gene rally speaking those views were such as have always been expressed in this and the other House of Parliament by eminent statesmen of all schools and parties. We could not for a moment maintain that the general condition of Italy was a satisfactory one. Her Majesty's Government, during the Conferences of Paris, had assented to the propriety of inquiring into the causes of the discontent which then prevailed in some parts of Italy. We were of opinion—an opinion shared in, I should think, by all persons who have deeply reflected upon this subject—that it would be most unwise to disturb the settlement which had been made by the treaties of 1815. The position which Austria took in Italy at the time of the settlement in 1815 was rather recommended to her by the great statesmen upon whom then devolved the settlement of Europe, than sought by Austria herself. It was said then to be a matter of very great importance in the maintenance of the balance of power throughout Europe that Austria should exercise a preponderating influence in Italy. It was also then considered that the kingdom of Sardinia, which during the revolutionary struggles had not shown the power which was thought expedient, should be extended, and that her strength and authority should not only be confirmed, but greatly increased. These 1866 were the two principal objects of the settlement of 1815, so far as Italy is concerned; nor is there any greater error than to suppose that when we speak of the settlement of 1815 with respect to Italy, it is the interest of Austria that alone is concerned. Before that settlement of 1815 Sardinia herself was comparatively a Power of very inferior magnitude. It was the settlement of 1815 that added greatly to the territory of Sardinia, and to her purely Italian character, and converted her into, so far as Italy is concerned, a power of considerable importance. But it was impossible for us to deny, nor did we wish to deny, that the occupation of the central States of Italy by a foreign army, and the exercise of Austrian influence over States which were acknowledged to be independent by the Congress of Vienna, and by the Act of that Congress, was a condition of things extremely unsatisfactory, and one which it was desirable should be mitigated, and, if possible, removed. Generally speaking, however, whatever changes we thought desirable in Italy, it was our opinion that it was not wise to seek the removal of the evils complained of by war and by revolution, but rather by the influence of public opinion, which every year is becoming more powerful, and by the good offices of those Sovereigns whose general influence in Europe enabled them to make their advice effective. Earl Cowley having been apprised by the Government of the views upon which I have touched, and having reported that his interviews and conversation with the Emperor of the French were satisfactory, we requested him to repair to London, where we had the advantage of conferring with him, and shortly afterwards Her Majesty directed that he should proceed to Vienna. Earl Cowley did not go to Vienna in what is called an official capacity, and he did not receive formal instructions, but he had conferred amply with Her Majesty's Government, and the object of his mission was that having been placed in possession—and that he had been there is no doubt—of the intentions and views of the Emperor of the French, he should ascertain how far it was practicable for Austria to meet the policy indicated by the Emperor, and in so meeting it lay the basis of a settlement for Italy more satisfactory than the existing one, and more tending to the preservation of peace. I ought to have observed that before Earl Cowley undertook that, duty as it was considered that it might lead to some mis- 1867 understanding if the Emperor of the French found the Ambassador accredited to his own Court selected on a mission of this kind, a communication was made to his Imperial Majesty on the subject; and I am bound to say that the Emperor approved with the utmost cordiality of the choice we had made in Earl Cowley, as one who entirely possessed his views on the subject, and who was likely also to possess the confidence of the Court of Vienna. Now, Sir, I believe I am using expressions which are perfectly justified when I say that the mission of Earl Cowley was eminently, and not merely eminently, but entirely, successful. It was a mission of mediation. The Emperor of Austria responded to it in the spirit in which it was originated and conducted; all the points that had been suggested for consideration by the Emperor of the French were candidly and cordially considered; and when Earl Cowley returned to London on his immediate way to Paris there was not a doubt on his mind, or on the mind of the Government, that the mediation had been successful, and that we should be able completely to arrange those points of controversy which had unfortunately arisen with regard to Italy between France and Austria. Before, however, Earl Cowley could arrive at Paris, the Court of St. Petersburg, animated, I make no doubt, by the best feelings—the same feelings which inspired us—namely, the desire to prevent war—had through its Ambassador proposed to the Emperor of the French that these subjects of controversy with respect to Italy should be submitted to the consideration of a Conference. And His Majesty had accepted that proposal, the Congress, according to the suggestion made, to be composed of the five great Powers. Sir, when we wore informed of this overture we were at the same time apprized that in due course an official offer of the same kind would he made to Her Majesty's Government. Now, however fortunate we might have been in the scheme of mediation which had been thus far conducted, and so successfully conducted at Vienna, we had to consider what chance we should have of completing those arrangements when another plan, which had the sanction and acceptance of the Emperor of the French, was already, not in intentional rivalry—I don't mean to say that—but in actual emulation with our own. We therefore thought, in order that time, which was precious under such circumstances, should not be lost, that it would be wise to accent the scheme of 1868 the Congress, instead of the plan of mediation which we had hitherto promoted; and before the formal proposal of a Congress was made to Her Majesty's Government, we had communicated with the Court of St. Petersburgh, notifying our willingness to agree to the Congress, provided it was formed upon the four conditions with which, I have no doubt, the House, from many sources, may be familiar, but which it is proper I should put authentically before it. Subject to a general condition that the Congress was not to interfere with the settlement of 1815 and which was universally admitted. The four objects on which it was proposed that the Congress should seek to effect were—firstly, the evacuation of the Roman States by foreign troops; secondly, the reform of the administration of the Roman States; thirdly, the best means of preventing a war breaking out between Austria and Sardinia; and, fourthly, the providing a substitute for the separate treaties which had been entered into between Austria and the Central States of Italy. Now, Sir, these four conditions were accepted by France, by Russia, and by Prussia. They were also accepted by Austria with a fifth condition, which was really nothing more than a fair interpretation of the third, which, as I said before, involved the consideration of the best means of preserving peace between Austria and Sardinia. This fifth condition was, I repeat, nothing more than an interpretation of the third, for it simply furnished a definition of of the best means of preserving peace which, in the opinion of Austria, were to be found in the disarmament of Sardinia. Now, when Austria made that proposition to Her Majesty's Government we did not approve of any course being taken which should humiliate Sardinia, which should have that tendency, or which should weaken her power. We said, therefore, that we could not approve a condition which would secure the disarmament of Sardinia as a preliminary to any consideration of the general affairs which would be submitted to the notice of the Congress. But as it was a matter of great importance that this difficulty should be removed, and that the Congress should, if possible, assemble, we offered to France, that if Sardinia should disarm, we and France should guarantee her against any attack from Austria for a certain period, Austria entering into a solemn engagement not; to attack Sardinia. That proposition, however, was not accepted. At that moment, 1869 therefore, the proposition for a Congress was not accepted by the five great Powers of which it was to be constituted in accordance with the original proposition. Well, we had, under these circumstances, to bring the question again before the Court of Vienna, and Austria, I am bound to say, in that spirit of dignified conciliation which she, upon the whole, exhibited throughout these negotiations, consented to waive the invidious condition of the disarmament of Sardinia, and proposed that there should be a general disarmament of the European Powers. Now, Sir, that was a proposition which was received with favour by Her Majesty's Government, and we submitted it to the Court of the Tuileries. It was just after we had done so, and before we had received any reply on the subject, that the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton gave notice that it was his intention to bring forward the general question of the state of these negotiations, and it was because we had not received the reply that I felt it my duty to ask the noble Lord some few evenings ago not to press the question. Since then an answer has come to us from France, and she has accepted the proposition of Austria that there should be a general disarmament. Whether that general disarmament should take place before the meeting of the Congress, or whether when the Congress meets it should be the first subject taken into its consideration, is a point which is not settled. There are two opinions with respect to it. Austria is in favour of a general disarmament taking place before the assembling of the Congress; France would prefer that, when the Congress met, the question of a general disarmament should be that which should be first brought under discussion. Her Majesty's Government would approve very much of the suggestion of Austria, if all the other Powers wore equally favourable to it; but, unfortunately, the proposition of a general disarmament has not as yet been accepted by Sardinia, and therefore it is useless to go into matters of detail when the principle has not been accepted. Whether the disarmament should be entered into before the Congress meets, or whether the condition of a general disarmament should be the first subject discussed by the Congress, are matters which really sink into secondary importance when there is a Power so much interested in those affairs as Sardinia, which has not accepted the very principle of disarmament itself. Now, it is understood that Sardinia 1870 has not accepted this principle of disarmament, because she has not been invited to be present in the Congress, and upon that point, Sir, I would, with the permission of the House, make one or two observations. There is no doubt that in this country great sympathy has been enlisted in favour of Sardinia, and notwithstanding there has been some change in the strength of those sentiments as compared with what they were some little time ago, and notwithstanding that there has been much that is embarrassing, perplexing, and even ambiguous, in the conduct of Sardinia, I am bound to say I believe, on the whole, the feeling of this country is not wanting either in justice or kindness towards her. On the part of Her Majesty's Government also, I am quite sure I may state that we are willing and prepared to place the most generous interpretation on her conduct, looking at the difficulties which she has had to encounter and the exploits which she has accomplished. I need not, therefore, say that we have considered the question of the presence of Sardinia at the Congress without prejudice and with no jealous feeling, but I would remind the House, that the proposition to which I have referred, was one for a Congress of the Five Great Powers, and that it was made by a Power supposed to be very favourable to Sardinia, to a Power known to be very friendly to Sardinia. The proposition being such as I have stated it to be, it was difficult to know how Sardinia could appear as a member of the Congress. It has, indeed, been said, that Sardinia was represented at the Congress of Paris, and no doubt that was so. But Sardinia won her place in that Congress by the performance of deeds which reflected great glory and reputation on the people of that country as well as upon her rulers and Ministers. She had taken a very spirited part in the Crimean war. She had made great exertions and endured great sacrifices. She was, therefore, fairly entitled, when the settlement of the struggle in which she was engaged was being completed, to take her place in the council by which that settlement was effected. But in the present instance, hon. Gentlemen will feel in a moment that the difficulty by which we are met cannot be easily surmounted. A Congress is proposed by Powers friendly to Sardinia, and it is to consist of the great Powers of Europe. Sardinia is not a great Power. Is she to attend at the Congress as a secondary Power? If so, what superior claim to 1871 any other secondary Power has she to that privilege? Why should Sardinia be represented at the Congress any more than Sweden, or Portugal, or Holland? But then it may be said, that Sardinia is interested as an Italian State, and that as such she is entitled to take part in the proceedings of the Congress. But if Sardinia is to sit in the Congress as an Italian State, surely other Italian States have an equal right to do so. Have they not something more than an equal right? The Congress which it is proposed should meet will have to deal with the interests of other Italian States, but cannot touch Sardinia or her interests. They depend on the settlement of 1815, and Sardinia cannot be influenced in any way by any arrangement that may be recommended by the Congress; for whatever decision it may arrive at can only take the form of a recommendation. There was, in our opinion, a means by which, from the commencement, the sentiments of the Italian States might be consulted without their being members of the Congress. We might have followed the precedent which was pursued in the case of the Conferences which were held in London when Holland and Belgium, although not members of it, appeared before the Conference and stated their opinions. We might have followed the precedent, still more analogous, of the Congress of Laybach, in which the affairs of Italy were taken into consideration by the great Powers, and in which I believe almost all the States of Italy took a part, sometimes sitting in the Congress themselves. This, at all events, I may say, that Her Majesty's Government, so far from opposing the appearance of Sardinia in the Congress if it were practicable, urged on the other great Powers of Europe their desire that the precedents furnished by the Conferences of London and Laybach should be followed, and that means should be found by which the interests and wishes of the Italian States should be set forth and represented by themselves. Well, this is the condition of affairs. I have now stated the facts of the case to the House. I have pointed out what has been the course of these negotiations. I have shown the House that the original scheme of Her Majesty's Government was that of mediation between France and Austria. I have also shown that there was every prospect that that mediation would be successful, and how, in consequence of a counter proposition, it assumed the form of an intended Congress. I have 1872 pointed out to the House that her Majesty's Government have done everything in their power to facilitate the assembling of that Congress, and to bring about a satisfactory state of affairs. We are, therefore, Sir, in this condition at the present moment:—France and Austria have alike accepted the principle of a general disarmament, although, on the immediate manner in which that disarmament should be carried into effect they are not absolutely agreed. Sardinia has not agreed to the disarmament, on account, it is understood, of her not having been summoned in person to the Congress. It might be hoped, under these circumstances, that the difficulty on the part of Sardinia would, at least, not prove insurmountable; and I have the satisfaction to inform the House that this morning the Marquis d'Azeglio arrived in this country on a special mission from Turin. He has had an interview with my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs already, and I augur from it beneficial effects. The Sardinian Minister is a man of enlightened and temperate opinions, and I cannot but believe that under his guidance Sardinia will take that course which, in my opinion, will be the one most conducive, not only to her advantage, but to her reputation. I cannot believe that in the present circumstances of the case there is any power in Europe which would wantonly provoke a war. There is a Power which may not be present at this Congress when it takes place, but which is greater than emperors and congresses, and that is the power of public opinion. I do not believe that in this day that is a power which can be wantonly outraged. Sir, I should think it a gross outrage of public opinion if, under the circumstances in which we now find ourselves with respect to the Italian question, no solution should be found but that of the sword. On the contrary, it appears to me that the elements of a settlement are in existence; and, although I know it is disheartening in conducting negotiations to find that you do not rapidly arrive at the result you desire, still, on the whole, I cannot but trace in all that has occurred a predominant wish that the solution should be one of peace. I do not wish to conceal from this house and the country that the issue is no mean one. A war in Italy is not a war in a corner. An Italian War may be, and probably will be, an European war. The waters of the Adriatic cannot be disturbed without agitating the waters of the Rhine. The port of Trieste is not 1873 merely an Italian port; it is a port which belongs to the Germanic Confederation, and an attack on the port of Trieste is not an attack on Austria merely, but on Germany. If, then, a war spread beyond the precincts of Italy, England is interested, not only from those principles—those enlightened principles of civilization which make her look with an adverse eye on any attempt to disturb the peace of the world, but England may be interested from material considerations of the most urgent and momentous character. Sir, under these circumstances I am sure the House will treat with all the temperateness that is desirable the question that is brought before them at this moment. I have placed before them without reserve a statement of the position of these negotiations, and, Sir, I will express more than my hope—I will express still my belief, that with firmness and conciliation the peace of the world may be maintained.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I trust, Sir, that in the very few observations I may feel it my duty to make on the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has just addressed to the House, or on the matters to which it relates, nothing will fall from my lips which shall tend in any degree to add to the difficulties which Her Majesty's Government and the other Powers concerned may have in the settlement of the negotiations to which the statement of the right hon. Gentleman refers. I am sure, Sir, everybody will agree that Her Majesty's Government acted from a proper sense of their duties, and from a due regard for the general interests of Europe, in undertaking that informal mediation between France and Austria to which the mission of Lord Cowley to Vienna related. I might, perhaps, think that if something more of a formal and official character had been given to that endeavour, and if Her Majesty's Government had obtained from the French Government and the Government of Austria some formal acceptance of the good offices of Great Britain and Prussia — if she would have joined Great Britain with a view to an arrangement with the different States perhaps that course of negotiation would not have been interrupted by any other proceeding, and might have tended to a successful issue. I do not blame Russia for having interposed her proposal of a Congress. It was natural enough that, with the best intentions, a great Power like Russia should desire that in the set- 1874 tlement of a great European transaction she should take an adequate part. She could have had no part in a mediation if conducted singly by Great Britain or by Great Britain and Prussia. She necessarily forms part of a Congress, and therefore the moment the mode of proceeding by Congress is adopted, Russia naturally steps in, and has her proper part in the negotiations which this Congress is about to undertake. Now, undoubtedly, it might be natural that Austria should have wished that the negotiations should be cither preceded or accompanied by a general disarmament, although that would be inverting the usual course of things; for Governments disarm when negotiations have ended in peaceful arrangements, but do not disarm as a preliminary to negotiations, of which the issue may be doubtful. It was quite unreasonable, however, in Austria to make the proposal she has made—namely, that as a preliminary Sardinia should disarm, and that she should not — because, according to that note we saw published the other day from Count Buol to Lord Augustus Loftus, the proposition was that Sardinia should disarm immediately, and that the only engagement Austria was to enter into in return was, that pending negotiations she would not attack Sardinia unless Sardinia did something—I forget what—in violation of her duties towards Austria. The result of that would have been, if the negotiations had been broken off—which might have been done at any time by Austria herself—that Sardinia, still further weakened by disarmament, would have been left entirely at the mercy of Austria. Her Majesty's Government were therefore perfectly right in objecting to that condition, and Austria was quite right in waving so unreasonable a proposition. I am glad to hear that both France and Austria have agreed to the principle of disarmament; because, when these two great Powers admit that principle, it seems to me that we are not too sanguine in hoping that the negotiations following must eventually tend towards a continuance of the peace of Europe. But, Sir, I must say it appears to me that going into a long discussion on the question of disarmament, instead of going at once into Congress to consider the real question at issue, is somewhat of a waste of time. If the Powers are really willing to adopt those four propositions which the right hon. Gentleman has stated to the House, the main and principal one of which is the evacua- 1875 tion of Central Italy by foreign troops—implying, I presume, an engagement that these troops should not at any future time return—why should the Congress not meet at once and settle that point, for that point once settled everything else would follow; and that point not settled everything else would be nugatory with the view to the establishment of peace in Europe? The expression of "a general disarmament" is one the ordinary meaning of which is well understood; but the particular application of it is excessively vague. If you tell me you are going to disarm a single man or a regiment I understand what you mean—the thing is plain, and when it is done the fact of its being done is easily perceived. But when we are told that France, Austria, and Sardinia are to disarm, we ought first of all to establish to what that operation refers—as, its date and limit. It means, I assume, the assimilation of the number of their troops to that at which it stood at some previous period, and that the troops are to return to the positions which they occupied at some previous period. But in that case you must fix upon some previous period as a standard; you must have an inspection of returns by a commission and an inspection of positions; you must have operations performed which must require a long space of time. It is not a thing that can be done in a week or a month even; and until it is done to the satisfaction of all parties — if this is to be a preliminary part of the negotiations — your negotiations will be indefinitely postponed, and in the meantime all the existing apprehensions and jealousies will be still permitted to operate. Now, why should the Congress not meet at once? and why should they not agree that there should be a disarmament operating in the course of time, and then proceed to discuss the real question on which the peace of Europe depends? I am not going to suggest the details of an arrangement because it is not the office of a Member of this House to do so; but no man who has looked at the state of the Continent can shut his eyes to the fact that it is the disturbed, restless, and uneasy condition of the Italian States which endangers the peace of Europe, and that that restless and uneasy condition results from bad government in the countries to the south of the Po; and that this bad government is fostered by the confidence on which the rulers of the different States in that part of Italy rest, that, in the event of any resistance on 1876 the part of their subjects against their oppression and tyranny, Austrian troops will come to their aid and quell the disturbance. Well then, I say, let France and Austria agree immediately to withdraw the troops that now occupy Central Italy, and let them come to a formal and public engagement that, under no circumstances, and at no future time will they re-occupy those countries; and then the Congress may, if they think it desirable, go into the questions connected with the amelioration of Italy in general. But I am inclined to believe that this single agreement, when it was once made publicly known, would lay the foundation of a progressive improvement in every State south of the Po. It cannot be supposed that the people of Italy are now in that disturbed and excited condition in which they were in 1848. The minds of men are more reasonable now than they were then, and there is a much better understanding among the nations of Italy as to the means by which an improvement in their administrative systems can be obtained. There is also much less disposition to acts of violence than there was in 1848. I therefore am of opinion that if the Governments and nations were once firmly convinced that they would be left to themselves to settle their reciprocal differences, there would be laid the sure and certain foundation of progressive improvement throughout the Italian peninsula. I can easily suppose that a Congress if it goes into the question of what specific reforms are desirable for Rome, what for Tuscany, what for Parma, and what for Modena, what in each other State of Italy—changes which must differ in degree in each of those States—would be undertaking a task which it would not be in the power of the wisest men, not belonging to those countries, to perform. Therefore, I am not urging any particular steps in regard to these matters. I do not say anything against the general encouragement which would, I doubt not, be felt if this exhortation as one of the conditions preliminary to the Congress, should be proposed to these Governments. Now, it seems to me from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that the present difficulty arises from the indisposition on the part of Sardinia to consent to the principle of disarmament unless she is admitted as a member of the Congress. With regard to that, it might be said that, considering that the army of Sardinia is numerically much smaller and weaker than that of Austria, the latter Power cannot seriously 1877 entertain any alarm of invasion on the part of Sardinia. If, however, that probability were seriously contemplated, England and Franco could require, and doubtless obtain, from Sardinia such assurances as would set the mind of the Austrian Government at ease from any apprehension of danger of that kind. And I should not have supposed, and it would be hard to suppose, that if Austria retired from the Sardinian frontier and it were seen that Austria really meant to reduce her establishments, any sensible Government of Sardinia would continue to impose upon the people of that country the serious burdens entailed upon them by the present extent of their armaments. Therefore, I must take it for granted that the principle of disarmament having been admitted, and Congress having met to discuss the Italian question, Sardinia would follow the example of France and Austria, and would cease to place herself in a position that would excite any apprehension. With regard to the application made by Sardinia to be a member of the Congress, I will not express any opinion of my own—this is a question which it rests with the responsibility of the Government to determine; but I will state one or two points which have occurred to my own mind. No doubt, it may be said on the one hand, as it has been said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that Sardinia has not hitherto been considered one of the great Powers of Europe; and the proposition of Russia being that the five great Powers which have hitherto taken a part in European questions should meet in Congress, that proposition does not in its terms include Sardinia. But, on the other hand, the example quoted by the right hon. Gentleman has, in some degree, an analogy of a different kind. Sardinia, was a Member of the Congress of Paris? And why? Because, as the right hon. Gentleman stated, Sardinia had been one of the belligerents. Sardinia had taken part in the war against Russia, and she could not therefore re-establish her relations with Russia except by a treaty of peace; and if that treaty were to be negotiated, it was but fair and just that Sardinia, who was expected to sign it, should also have a voice in the negotiation of it. But Sardinia may be said at present to occupy a somewhat analogous position to that which she occupied before the Congress at Paris. There has been no war in this case, and Sardinia therefore is not a belligerent; 1878 but all these questions and this Congress arise out of the apprehensions of the different States, in consequence of the armies which have been maintained and put in a threatening position, and from the apprehensions of conflict arising there from. Sardinia is one of the parties with regard to whom these apprehensions exist, and Sardinia is also one of the parties called upon to disarm. Sardinia might, therefore say, "If you call upon me to disarm in common with France and Austria, and if that question is to be discussed in the Congress, I ought to be allowed to be present there as well as France and Austria." I do not see, under these circumstances, any derogation from the position and dignity of the Five Powers, if Sardinia were admitted to consider that question on the specific ground, that what she is called on to do, she will have to do in common with France and Austria, and that it is therefore fair she should be present at a discussion upon this question of disarmament. If, on the other hand, it should be found that there are invincible objections to Sardinia being admitted as a Member of the Congress, I think you ought not to impose upon her a disarmament, which does not apply to the other two Powers who are to be Members of the Congress. One of these two courses you ought to adopt—either admit Sardinia to the Congress, and require her to be a party to a general disarmament; or say, that as she is not a Member of the Congress, you trust to her good sense to follow the example of France and Austria to disarm. With regard to the general subject, I think that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman gives us well-founded hopes that the peace of Europe will not be disturbed. It is impossible to see any ground on which war could now legitimately take place. I apprehend there is no pretence for the violation of existing treaties by the infringement of the Austrian possessions in Northern Italy. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman of the position of Austria, as established in 1815, is perfectly correct. No doubt, the settlement of 1815 is not the settlement which now, as regards Italy, it would be desirable to adopt. At that time people acted as they mostly do — they thought of the last danger that had threatened to overwhelm them, and that last danger was the preponderating power of France, and her wide and expanding aggressions. The arrangements made with regard to the north of Italy were made 1879 to provide against the recurrence of that danger, and I presume that men at that time did not so much consider what effect those arrangements might have upon the general welfare of the States of Italy. However, that which was done was done by treaty, and that treaty is the charter by which Europe holds its present political distribution of territory. There can be on the part of no one a desire to violate that treaty. These arrangements which it is desirable to make for relieving Central Italy from foreign interference are arrangements to be made between France and Austria, and these two Powers are too much enlightened, and must be too desirous to promote peace, not willingly to agree to them; and if that be done, any legitimate cause of war seems entirely to disappear. There may be, and there are occasions when war is necessary; and, when war is necessary, it becomes just. But to enter upon war without necessity—without a strong necessity—is an act of injustice which, reversing the well-known saying of the old diplomatist, is "not only a fault, but a crime." And I trust that no Government will be so blind to the duties they owe to themselves, to their subjects, to Europe, and to mankind, as to enter now upon a war for which there is not only no necessity, but no legitimate or even plausible pretext. The House has received, and I have received, with satisfaction, the general outline given by the right hon. Gentleman of the present state of the negotiations; and I will only fervently hope, that the efforts of those Powers who are endeavouring to smooth down these difficulties and maintain the peace of Europe will be crowned with that success which such endeavours most justly deserve.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
said, that on a former occasion when the House was going to discuss the state of Italy, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer told them, and told them almost confidentially, that the French and Austrian armies were about to evacuate the Roman States. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, and the noble Lord the Member for London, then congratulated the Government on the statement, and concurred in the suggestion that in such a position of things, not one word should be said on the subject. Now, however, it turned out that the right hon. Gentleman bamboozled those noble Lords, who in their turn gagged the House, on that occasion, and now things 1880 were coming to a crisis. It was quite time they should come to a crisis, for the present state of Italy was a disgrace to continental Europe. He wanted to know what hope there was for Italy from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. They were told that there was to be a Congress. Sardinia claimed a place in that Congress, and why did she claim it? The right hon. Gentleman had not told them those reasons, and he (Mr. T. Duncombe) said, that if that House, speaking on the part of the people of England, did not say that Sardinia was entitled to a place in the Congress it would disappoint the people of this country. In a letter to the British Government Count Cavour not long ago gave reasons for wishing that Sardinia should be represented in the Congress:—But the Cabinet of Turin believes at the same time that Piedmont ought to be represented at this Congress, and it is persuaded that its intervention would be useful, not to say indispensable, if the Powers which show a proved sympathy for Italy, and those which desire to obviate the danger of the abnormal state of the Peninsula, think that they can render prevalent a system more conformable to justice by obtaining concessions and guarantees of a nature to calm the public mind. Sardinia enjoys the confidence of the unhappy populations whose fate is about to be decided."Sardinia enjoys the confidence of the unhappy populations whose fate is about to be decided," and yet the five great Powers, as they were called, in the exercise of a tyrannical Act, said that Sardinia should not appear to plead the cause of Italy before the Congress. The British Government, in his judgment, would disgrace itself unless it insisted on Sardinia having a seat, and Sardinia was quite right not to disarm unless she had a seat in the Congress, conceded to her. For the five great Powers to make her disarm and not give her a seat would be the greatest act of oppression and tyranny which had ever been committed. He did not know what view the noble Lord the Member for the City took of it, but the view which he had stated was certainly consistent with former expressions of the noble Lord. The state of Italy, he would repeat, was a disgrace to civilized Europe. He believed that nothing short of the independence and unity of Italy would before long satisfy Italy. Austria was the curse of Italy. She had been so for a long time; and it was believed that the British Government were playing into the hands of Austria. They must get rid of Austria altoge- 1881 ther from Italy before they could secure the peace of Italy. They might stave it off by this Congress; they might exclude Sardinia; but they would never promote peace and happiness in Italy so long as Austria dare set foot in Italy. England could do much. She need not go to war. She need only use her moral influence, and say to Austria, "The manner in which you have governed and do govern the Italian people is a disgrace to you. Give them a constitution if it is your determination to remain, but it is much better for you to withdraw altogether and leave the Italian people to settle their own affairs." He believed it would be wise to give that advice, but if the Government went on in the half-and-half way they were doing, war was inevitable, and that would be the consequence of the policy which the Government was pursuing. He did not think that the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) had spoken out in the manner which the people of this country would expect he should on this occasion. He hoped to hear the noble Lord the Member for the City of London say something on this subject. He had not intended to rise at the moment when he did, but he should have been sorry to see the discussion close without raising his voice, and expressing his opinion in favour of a much more liberal policy than Her Majesty's Government seemed inclined to pursue towards the unhappy people of Italy.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
Sir, I cannot help expressing my regret that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury should have said that which, as I am afraid the event will prove, will tend greatly and inconveniently to widen the field of this discussion. He has complained of the remarks made by the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton, but, so far as it appears to me, the great merit of those remarks lies in the sedulous avoidance of whatever could tend to irrelevant, and in the strict adherence to the immediate, matter in debate. I am sure the hon. Member for Finsbury (whose goodwill towards the suffering people of Italy cannot be doubted) can hardly be of opinion that he contributes to a satisfactory solution of the existing difficulties, by urging in this House upon the Government that no remedy can be effectual short of the expulsion of Austria from Italy and a great alteration in the treaties of 1815, and going one step further and complaining that the policy of Her Majesty's Go- 1882 vernment is not adapted to promote the general interests of Europe or the maintenance of peace. With respect to the policy of Her Majesty's Government, it is certainly the very last thing I should think it wise to do—to assume that that policy has taken a wrong direction until I am aware that such is the case. I should think I was injuring the very cause I might desire to serve by complaining and adopting a tone of accusation. But I do venture to make one remark on the expressions which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I know well that he speaks, as all speak on a question of this kind, under difficulty, and feeling the necessity of self-restraint. But there were two observations which the right hon. Gentleman made, with regard to which I am unwilling to put a construction which I confess they appear to bear. He must be aware that even very light words used by him on an occasion of this kind will be rigidly construed, and construed by the respective parties in the sense which they severally wish to affix to them. Now, in one portion of his speech the right hon. Gentleman stated that the conduct of Austria throughout these complications had been marked, if I heard aright, by a tone and spirit of dignified conciliation. In another part of his speech the right hon. Gentleman stated that the conduct of Sardinia presented many things which were embarrassing, perplexing, and ambiguous. I must say that if we are to infer the temper of the two Governments from the rigid construction of those expressions, and putting on them, perhaps, a stronger sense than they themselves wear, we may be inclined to come to one or two conclusions—either that there is unknown to us much meritorious conduct on the part of Austria, and much questionable conduct on the part of Sardinia, or else that the spirit of Her Majesty's Government is not one of entire partiality. I do not adopt that conclusion, and therefore I am sure my right hon. Friend will excuse my calling his attention to what seems to me the natural bearing of what he uttered. I am bound to say, so far as the facts of the case are known to the public, I can see nothing to justify the drawing such a distinction. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has given us an instance of the conduct of the Cabinet of Vienna, which, if it is a specimen of that conduct, hardly appears to me to justify the description of dignified conciliation, because he says it 1883 was the proposal of the Cabinet of Vienna that, while the great Powers of Europe met in Congress, in which Congress Sardinia was not to have a place, France and England were to insist that Sardinia, and Sardinia alone, as a condition anterior to the meeting of that Congress, should proceed to disarm. I can only say that I see no dignified conciliation in mailing such a proposition, and I must further say, that the withdrawing such a pro- position was nothing more than merely a concession to the obvious demands of decency, propriety, and necessity. On the other hand, with regard to the conduct of Sardinia, it is not easy to find in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman any support for the somewhat accusatory expression which he has used, because he has told us nothing excepting that Sardinia has demanded either a place in the Congress, or else to be exempted from the condition of disarming. As respects the question of a place in the Congress of Sardinia, I fully grant that it is a question surrounded with the gravest and most serious difficulties. She has much to urge, as has been said by my noble Friend opposite (Viscount Palmerston), for the purpose of showing why she should be admitted there; but, on the other hand, one cannot deny that if the Congress is to occupy itself, as seems likely to be the case, with the internal affairs of other States of Italy, you would draw a distinction unfavourable and inequitable as respects them if you were to grant to Sardinia a place which they are not entitled to take. I frankly own that I do not see any objection to the alternative proposed by the noble Viscount. Granted that the difficulties to conceding a place in the Congress to Sardinia be too great. But if Sardinia is not to have a place in the Congress, then why is it necessary to call on her to disarm? It is not altogether a question of abstract right. It is not merely a question whether you will enforce this disarming on Sardinia. The questions are these:—Will there be any danger to the peace of Europe if Sardinia does not disarm before the Congress meets, or is it to be supposed that any danger to that peace can arise from her sole and unsupported action? Sir, that is a question which I confess appears to me scarcely to require an answer. It is not to be supposed that any man intrusted with the responsibility of governing a country—even a despotic country, and especially a free country— 1884 it is not to be supposed that any man holding the position of Minister of the King of Sardinia would for one moment, under the eye of Europe, and while the Powers of Europe were on the eve of being called together to determine the great conditions of a settlement of the Italian question, wish, or if he wished, would dare to attempt any measure that could possibly interfere with the continuance of peace. Is it prudent, then, as has been asked by the noble Viscount, to prolong these discussions about disarming, and is not the prolongation and continuance of the present state of things in itself attended not only with immense cost, not only with great evils in the general uncertainty in the mind of Europe, but with the greatest possible risk? Is it not, too, likely, in the condition in which armed men stand, almost within rifle shot of one another, that some accident may happen—some pure casualty having no relation to the policy or intention of any Power concerned, which may have the effect of lighting up the conflagration which, once lighted up, cannot be extinguished? If this be so, I humbly urge it on the Government as a strong reason why they should not allow themselves to be kept back from the commencement of negotiations by any difficulty of a formal or ceremonial character, but should, on the contrary, accelerate to the best of their power the commencement of these discussions, from which alone, as far as we can see, there is an expectation of any general settlement likely to lead to the permanent maintenance of peace. There was another passage in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer with respect to which I should, if he had not himself already used the epithet with respect to Sardinia, have said it was ambiguous, or, at least, capable of a construction which I do not think the right hon. Gentleman wished to be put on it. The right hon. Gentleman said—and these two things were stated in connection with one another—that the port of Trieste was not an Italian port, but belonged to the German Confederation; and the second was—and in this I hope I misunderstood or misapprehended him—that if this war should commence, and if it should extend beyond the bounds of Italy, there were material and substantial interests which in that case might have the effect of making England a party to it. [Cries of "No!"] I do not know whether I represent inaccurately the statement of the Chancellor of the Ex- 1885 chequer, but certainly there appeared to me to be a connection between the two things as they stood in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. First of all, that Trieste was not an Italian port; and, secondly, that if the war went beyond the borders of Italy, then the question might assume a new aspect for England. Now, it may be that if we were to go beyond the borders of Italy, it would assume a new aspect; but I am not at all sure that it would be an aspect which England would be bound to recognize. I do not think it possible for any one, not even the right hon. Gentleman, at this moment, to define what may be the duties of England in respect to those complications, if they should unhappily break out into war. I am far from putting on what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman any construction which would imply that the Government were about rashly and hastily, under any circumstances, to involve this country in participation in such a war. There may be many difficulties, and the solution of the Italian difficulties is, I fear, not to be attained by any one measure which may be said to be easily within the reach even of a Congress. The people of England are, without doubt, greatly impeded by the nature of the obstacles on the continent of Europe with respect to any wish or expectations they may have formed in regard to the future; but, Sir, I do believe that there are two circumstances in respect to which the mind of the nation is perfectly clear. First, that the peace of Europe may be maintained; and, secondly, if peace is maintained, that it may be maintained by arrangements which shall have some tendency to a mitigation of the evils which afflict the Italian peninsula, because no peace could be substantial or permanent which, resting on the deliberations and decisions of the great European Powers, does not affirm and effect something in the interests of suffering humanity.
§ MR. CONINGHAM
said he did not think that the observations of the hon. Member for Finsbury were justly obnoxious to the censure of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford. Those observations were in accordance with the sentiments of the English people, who had seen with the deepest concern the frightful misgovernment which prevailed in the Italian peninsula, and which was created and prolonged by the direct inter position and constant pressure of Austria. He did not think that the explanation of 1886 the Chancellor of the Exchequer was so satisfactory as that right hon. Gentleman seemed to assume it to be, for it only came to this,—that Austria and France had agreed, not to a virtual disarming, but to make that the first point of discussion in the approaching Congress. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been able to give the House an assurance that owing to the diplomatic interference of the British Government Austria had consented to evacuate the Italian provinces, and that France had also consented to evacuate Rome, and that the Papal Government and the various dynasties of Italy were left to square their accounts with their own populations, there would then have been some ground for satisfaction. The only conclusion however which he (Mr. Coningham) could draw from the explanation given that night was, that war had been only temporarily postponed, that the designs of the Emperor of the French were palpable, and that the influence which he exercised over the Government of Sardinia was such as to make it clear that the views and opinions expressed by that Government were those of the Government of France. He had ventured to address these observations to the House, as he could not allow the discussion to close without declaring how warmly the English people sympathize with the sufferings of Italy.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, if I did not immediately follow the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, as the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. T. Duncombe) seemed to expect I should, it was, in the first place, because I concurred so completely in all his observations that I did not wish to trouble the House with any statement which would have been a mere repetition of the observations of the noble Lord; but, in the second place, I will say that I feel so deeply the responsibility which attaches to any statement that can be made in this House that I fear, though it may be as far as possible from my intentions in speaking on this subject, lest I might drop words which might tend to impair in the smallest degree the prospect of maintaining peace in Europe. I have felt during all these discussions that not only was there that danger to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer alluded—the danger that any war which began in Italy might spread and cause Europe to be engaged in a general war, but also that for the cause of Italy herself it was most desirable—I may say essential—that peace should not be broken. 1887 I say this not merely in respect to her material prosperity, which would be trampled under the tread of armies, but also in respect to that constitutional government which has been established but for a few years in Piedmont. That experiment has hitherto succeeded beyond all the hopes of the friends of freedom, and bids fair to extend, sooner or later, to the whole of Italy the benefits of representative government; but it might be unable to withstand the strain of Piedmont being engaged in war with enemies more powerful than herself, and allies more powerful than herself, and of being obliged to impose burdens on the people which might make them weary and impatient of what they might suppose the evils of constitutional forms of government. It was for this reason that I had not wished to be called on to address the House, and I shall now add but a few words to what my noble Friend has stated, on two points mainly arising out of the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. These points have reference, first, to the admission of Sardinia to the Conference or Congress, and, secondly, to a matter nearly connected with that—namely, the previous disarming. With respect to the first point I quite agree that the Government may now feel embarrassed under the circumstances in proposing a departure from the proposition of the Government of Russia, acceded to, as it has been, by the Government of France. At the same time, this only gives me occasion to lament, among various other provisions made at the time of the Congress of Vienna, the change then introduced in what had theretofore been the general practice of Europe—namely, that whenever any Congress or Conference took place that Congress consisted of all the Powers concerned, whether large or small, and was not confined to what are now called the five great Powers. In old times we find that Sweden and Holland were engaged in the meetings of national representatives, and took as much part in them as any of the other Powers; but, unfortunately, these five Powers, having extensive military and naval forces at their command, created at Vienna a sort of monopoly to themselves of meeting to consider the affairs of Europe. It is a great misfortune if that precedent cannot be departed from, for the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has fairly quoted two precedents the other way; and I think that in this case it would be most conducive to the maintenance of 1888 peace that Sardinia should appear by her representative at the proposed Congress. Then comes the next question. Austria demands that in the first instance there should be a general disarmament, and I cannot wonder that Sardinia should say, "If there is to be a general disarmament, let us be represented at the Congress, and let us also know the grounds upon which that disarmament is proposed." I confess it appears to me that there is something new and very inconvenient in the manner in which this proposal has been made by Austria. There have been in Europe instances without number of different Powers, having causes of dispute, making preparations for war; and when these preparations have been made, there has always been some treaty, some convention, or some declaration, by which the Powers, having first agreed upon the points in dispute, then went on to provide that they should severally disarm. That appears to me to be the convenient mode of proceeding, because, if you insist upon a disarmament, in the first instance, it is impossible, as my noble Friend has said, unless there has been a special number of troops added to the army, or of vessels of war to the navy, to say exactly how far that disarmament shall extend. But, in the next place, it is the interest of the different Powers which are going to enter into the discussion of the question in dispute not to disarm until those questions are settled, because they will naturally say, "The Congress may end in peace, but it may unfortunately end in war, and we cannot deprive ourselves of the means of carrying on war until we know that war can be averted." It seems to me, therefore, that the former practice of Europe is by far the best—namely, that you should consider what are the causes of quarrel; that, although you need not of course be agreed upon every point of detail, you should agree upon the great points to be settled; that you should see your way clearly to the maintenance of peace, and that then you should say, "Now we have agreed let us disarm." If disarmament is proposed in the first instance, it is the interest of each Power not to disarm in good faith, but to keep up the armaments they profess to diminish; while, when the Powers are agreed, these armaments are a mere burden upon the States which maintain them, and it is evidently their interest to carry into effect immediately and in good faith the provisions of treaty or convention for disarmament. I must own, 1889 therefore, that, in my opinion, preliminaries of peace ought to be settled before Sardinia is called upon to disarm. With regard to the points in dispute in this case, Her Majesty's Government have not communicated to us, nor have the public organs of intelligence informed us, what are exactly the demands made by any of the Powers, for what reason the Emperor of the French declared that he was not upon good terms with Austria, or what are precisely the demands of Sardinia. We have read a paper signed by Count Cavour, but we have no certain knowledge that it represents the demands of Sardinia, and I cannot think that the demands it contains are such as would all be insisted upon. It cannot be said, therefore, that we know exactly what are the causes of the danger of war which at present impends over Europe. Her Majesty's Government not having communicated to us the nature of the demands which have been made, it would, I think, be very imprudent on our part to endeavour to go into the question, and we can only leave it for the present to the consideration of the Government. It will, of course, be for Parliament when they have before them, not such a brief statement as has been made to-night, but all the papers bearing upon the subject, and when the whole question is submitted to their consideration, to form a judgment with regard to the course which Her Majesty's Government have pursued. At present we can only express a hope that the Government—as I think must be their intention—will enter into no engagements that may be inconvenient and burdensome to the people of this country unless Parliament is sitting and can be a party to such engagements. I think, as Parliament is now about to be separated for what, in the present condition of affairs, is a considerable time, it is not too much to ask and to expect that no such engagements should be entered into. If Her Majesty's Government, from the favourable position which, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer truly says, they occupy — being themselves impartial, and equally desirous of the welfare of France, Austria, and Sardinia—can find means by which existing differences can be reconciled, they will perform a great service to Europe, and I shall heartily rejoice in their success.
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
said, he thought that in this case disarmament—the mere diminution of the material force of armies—was not what was required, but 1890 the withdrawal of the armies from the localities in which they were stationed. That withdrawal would, he believed, effect all the objects which were proposed to be attained by a general disarmament. It seemed to him that there was no necessity that the Emperor of Austria should diminish his army, but merely that he should withdraw from the Lombardo-Venetian provinces the large body of troops he had assembled there. The question of disarmament with regard to Sardinia was totally different. The army of Sardinia consisted of an aggregate not only of the national troops, but of volunteers assembled from all parts of Italy, who were animated by strong political fervour and excitement, and the very proposal for its disarmament would in all probability occasion one of those popular commotions which, at the present moment, it was most desirable to avoid. It was not then the question of disarmament that could be brought before the proposed Congress. That Congress, to be of any service, must proceed upon a sincere desire on the part of the great Powers of Europe to ameliorate in some degree the condition of the Italian people. Without that the Congress would only lead to delay, and our interference in that Congress could be nothing but a source of danger to this country, without any probability whatever of effecting any practical good. The part England might take in the coming struggle, if she had to take any part at all, was at present so undecided that her position with regard to the other Powers was most difficult and perplexing, and he had heard with dismay the announcement that she was the mediator between two powerful European monarchies, because he knew well from the teachings of history that when a Government attempted to mediate between two great States it was very difficult to bring the mediation to a close without some serious rupture between the mediator and one or other of the contending Powers. He hoped, therefore, that our interference in this matter would at present be confined within the very narrowest limits, and that the utmost caution would be exercised to avoid giving any pretence for the supposition that England inclined one way or the other with regard to the increase of the moral influence of France or the diminution of the moral influence of Austria. It seemed to him that all the Government of this country had to do at that moment was to bring before the statesmen of Europe the fact that the condition of Italy was one of great peril to 1891 the public peace, and that a commotion in a single town might at once remove the question from the hands of diplomatists, and bring it into the arena of absolute war. As he had before observed, if the Congress should meet together for the real purpose of benefiting the Italian people some good might come out of; but if it met merely for the purpose of exhibiting a conflict of ambition, he believed that no good whatever could result from it. He had been a witness for many years of the disastrous government of Austria in Italy, and he was bound to say that the dissatisfaction which existed in the north of Italy had not arisen from any desire on the part of that Power to oppress the Italian people, but was attributable to an unfortunate political system according to which her rulers were endeavouring to concentrate all the different nationalities of Austria in one homogeneous body. Thus it was that from the first moment of the Austrian occupation of Italy a spirit of Italian nationality had been fostered, which up to that time had hardly any existence; and the question which the Congress would have to decide was how far that spirit of independence and nationality among the Italians might justly be gratified consistently with the faith of treaties and the public order of Europe. He believed that the best commencement of any measure of that kind would be a realization on the part of the Austrians of the totally unnational character of the present Government of Lombardy and Venice. If an attempt were made to govern the Lombardo-Venetian provinces of the Austrian empire as they were governed by the French under the dynasty of the First Napoleon—namely, by the employment of Italians in public offices and by the presence of an Italian army,—he did not say that such a project would succeed—he did not say that the estrangement might not have gone too far—he did not say that at the present moment it would be possible to retain the Austrian rule; but for the future the Austrian Government would, at all events, be able to say to posterity that they had done what it would have been well to have done before,—that they had attempted to govern the Italians as an independent people ought to be governed, and not in that spirit of cruel conquest which had for so many years obtained. That at least was all we had a right to suggest to the Court of Vienna with regard to the government of Lombarby and Venice. Having been parties to the treaty of Vienna, we had no right to en- 1892 force any more than this; for it should be remembered that in 1815 the English Government were the most urgent in pressing upon Austria the annexation of Lombardy and Venice. The British Commissioner to the north of Italy at that time informed him (Mr. Monckton Milnes) that the late Emperor of Austria said to him,—"I positively refuse to take one inch of ground beyond the Alps. You might just as well propose to restore to us the Low Countries, which, thank God! have gone away from us altogether. I am convinced that the possession of these Italian provinces will be nothing but a source of trouble and expense to us, that it will exhaust our resources, and that we shall never, by our mode of government, be able to maintain Lombardy and Venice as a prosperous portion of the Austrian empire." It would have been well if this wise policy had been adhered to, and if some arrangement had been made by which these provinces had been rendered Italian. The great disaster which now threatened Europe might then have been avoided; but, at the present moment, he thought no English statesman should attempt to ignore Italian nationality—a feeling the gradual and steady growth of which in the peninsula proved it to be most true and sincere. It was not now a question of dynasties or particular forms of government,—there was nothing radical or revolutionary to be apprehended; but it was a question in which, perhaps, the nobles were more interested than the people, and men of property than those who had none. Unless, therefore, this feeling was recognized, and it was understood that the Congress could do no good unless it regulated and organized that feeling, he believed the deliberations of the five Powers, aided even by Sardinia, would be totally useless. With regard to the admission of Sardinia, he felt bound to say that without it the discussion of these questions would prove nugatory, for the people of Italy would look upon the Congress as a set of strangers meeting together to dispose of their lives and property, or—what was still dearer to them—of their nationality and their liberties. In such a case they would not in any degree submit to the decision arrived at, unless forced to do so. The object of the Congress should be to contrive some means by which Italy should no longer be submitted to the régime of force, but should be enabled so to develope its national resources and its national feeling as to be for the future a security to 1893 the peace of Europe, instead of, as heretofore, the source of tumult, of discontent, and of discord.
§ GENERAL THOMPSON
said, what he wished to ask was, whether there was any fear that Sardinia would attack anybody. It was as though the persons inside a post-chaise should be called upon to disarm by those outside. Sardinia was the man inside. Was it Austria or Sardinia, that ought in reason to be asked to disarm? The relative position of the two Powers showed the extreme impropriety of calling upon the weaker to do it. It was most unreasonable that a Power so deeply interested in the question as Sardinia, should be refused admission to the Congress. Nothing analogous to such a proposal could be found in municipal law, or in the relations between individuals; and that which was repugnant to justice in the case of individuals, could not be right in the case of nations. It was by public consent that peace was to be maintained among nations; and war would never be prevented unless by cultivating the natural dispositions of mankind, which were as prominent in nations as in individuals.
§ SIR JOHN WALSH
said, he had listened with apprehension and regret to the speeches which had been made following the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It appeared to him that in the present state of Europe, the interests of civilization, of Europe, of Italy itself, and of our own country, the most pressing necessity was to arrest the imminent risk of war. Let them get rid, if they could, of this danger which threatened Europe, and then let them apply their efforts to the improvement of the state of Italy. No such improvement could be effected, as the noble Lord had observed, by the ravages of war or by the collision of these great military monarchies, and yet he feared that the whole course of the observations made by those who followed in the debate rather tended to remove the last chance of peace. What was the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? That on this great question of disarmament, after Austria had put forward a proposition which he perfectly acknowledged was somewhat unreasonable, namely, that Sardinia alone should disarm as a preliminary to the Congress—that Austria withdrew that proposition, and substituted for it one for a general disarmament. France acquiesced in that proposition, and was willing that it 1894 should be entertained at the first meeting of the Congress. But the right hon. Gentleman went on to state that the great hitch in the negotiations arose from the fact that up to the present time Sardinia had positively refused to entertain the question at all. But the right hon. Gentleman added that a statesman had just arrived in this country of European reputation; that his general character for moderation and firmness was well known; and the right hon. Gentleman appeared to anticipate that he was the bearer of favourable propositions on this point. Now what had almost all the speakers who followed in the debate urged in favour of Sardinia? Not that she should not be called upon to disarm alone—which he admitted would be unreasonable—but that she should be allowed to remain armed—allowed to remain in her present state of menace and aggression towards Austria, and that, though both France and Austria had agreed to disarm. It appeared to him, considering the great interest France had in this question, that this was as unreasonable on the one side as the first proposition of Austria, that Sardinia should be called on to disarm alone, was on the other. When the Congress met it should be understood that the object was to unite all the great Powers of Europe in the endeavour to find a pacific solution of the question. But to argue that Sardinia, which had been the most menacing and most aggressive in its attitude of all the powers, should continue to preserve that menacing attitude, and that for the various reasons which hon. Gentlemen had stated the disarmament was not to be enforced against Sardinia, which was to be enforced against Austria and France, was most unreasonable; and if the Marquis d'Azeglio were encouraged by the observations that had been made to insist that Sardinia should remain armed it would destroy the last chance that remained for the peace of Europe. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton had put the question upon a footing which was not very flattering to Sardinia. He considered that Sardinia was so weak a power and one so little calculated to be formidable to Austria, that her insignificance ought to protect her from being called on to disarm. In taking that view the noble Viscount was treating the military power of Sardinia too cheaply. The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. M. Milnes) had told them of what that army was composed—partly, no doubt, of the regular troops of the country, but having 1895 also a large portion of volunteers from all the States of Italy; and they were animated, the hon. Gentleman said, to the highest pitch of patriotic fervour. Surely, an army like that was not to be despised. It was not contemptible, even in its numerical force; but it was still more formidable from the presence of those volunteers which were in a state of high political exultation, and, probably, not very amenable to strict discipline. Such an army in the heart of Italy was fraught with danger, not only to Austria but to the peace of Europe. All in that House, he believed, were anxious to promote the prosperity and improvement of Italy; but they all agreed, he thought—and he knew that public opinion in England was agreed—that those objects were best served by peaceful means, and not by war. And so sure as Sardinia, or any of the unquiet spirits in that country, succeeded in lighting the flames of war in Europe, the result would be, not the triumph of the Italian cause, not the improvement of Italy, but the annihilation of the hopes of those who desired the establishment of constitutional government in that country, and the advantage only of those who were influenced by objects of personal ambition or territorial aggrandisement. He hoped the House and the Government of England would consider well the lesson they were endeavouring to read to Italy and to Europe, by impressing upon them that the legitimate hopes of the rational and moderate friends of the Italian cause were bound up with the continuance of peace, and would be fatally prejudiced and endangered by the calamities of war.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
said, he thought that the demand which had been made on Piedmont by Austria to disarm was but too well calculated to produce a hostile feeling in the case of the latter. If Piedmont were not admitted to the Conference as one of the Powers most interested, he did not see how that Congress would lead to a pacific result. It must not be forgotten that, in making this demand, Piedmont did not represent herself only, but was the representative and mouthpiece, as it were, of all those States over whom Austria had for many years exercised an influence which was injurious to their progress and to liberty. The misgovernment of these States arose from the fear, that if they made any effort for liberty, Austrian troops would be poured down upon them. The interference of Austria in those States was not justified by the treaty of Vienna, 1896 and this had naturally excited the Italian people against her. There was, no doubt, that volunteers had joined the Piedmontese army from the first families in Modena, Verona, Florence, and even Rome, because they felt that their only chance of expelling the Austrians was by force of arms. He was afraid, however, that even if that did occur, poor Italy would only exchange one master for another, for he did not believe that the different States would ever unite into one Italian power. If the Lombard troops were to unite with the Piedmontese in driving the Austrians out, then he feared that the Lombards would become jealous of the Sardinians and the Sardinians of the Lombards, and that the long-cherished dream of a free Italian Republic would not be realized. He sincerely hoped that those who were about to proceed from this country to take part in the Congress would be successful; but he must say, that their chance of success was lessened in consequence of what he must call the unpatriotic and reckless measure of Government in dissolving the Parliament. The Earl of Malmesbury and Earl Cowley could not speak in the name of England with that influence and authority which the representatives of England ought to exercise, when it was not known whether the Parliament which was about to be summoned would be favourable or unfavourable to the Government they represented.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he thought the House had very slender materials for a discussion on the statements made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and therefore he would only make this observation, that while it was impossible for them not to take an interest in the constitutional kingdom of Piedmont, still if the Congress did meet, three, and probably four, of the five Powers who were to compose it—that was to say, England, Russia, Prussia, and France—would be found to take a deep interest in the welfare of Piedmont. He hoped their endeavours to avert war would be successful, as it was perfectly clear that the first hostile cannon fired would be fatal to the welfare of Piedmont. It mattered not, whether she was successful in the war or unsuccessful. If Austria were to succeed, the consequence to her would be disaster and ruin. But if she, with the assistance of France, were to succeed in driving out the Austrians, the consequences would be scarcely less disas- 1897 trous. Her finances would be wholly disorganized. He therefore trusted that the Piedmontese Government would choose a wise and sagacious course, and that by every means in their power they would promote the meeting of a Congress where they would have so many friends.
§ Return to lie on the table.