§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Orders of the Day be postponed till after the Notice of Motion on the affairs of Poland."—(Viscount Palmerston.)
MR. SOMERSET BEAUMONT
appealed to the hon. Member for the King's County (Mr. Hennessy), to consider whether it was a prudent or reasonable opporunity, in the present extraordinary con- 1254 dition of the diplomatic negotiations, to bring on a debate about Poland. Notes had been sent to the Russian Government from all the Powers, and the answers returned by Russia were of a conciliatory nature, which induced further communications to be made on the part of the Western Powers. On Friday night, the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs stated in his place in Parliament, that on last Wednesday despatches nearly identical in character had been sent to the Russian Government by three great Powers, and that as soon as an answer should be obtained, the noble Lord would lay it before Parliament; and so anxious was the Foreign Minister to comply with the natural impatience of the House, that he further stated that if an early answer did not arrive from the Russian Government, a copy of the note sent from the English Government would be presented to Parliament without further delay. He therefore, being as solicitous as the hon. Member for the King's County for the interests of the country whose cause the hon. Member had so frequently and ably advocated, asked whether the present occasion was not premature for the discussion. They knew nothing of the six points mentioned in the foreign journals, and described as sufficient, when developed, to place Poland in a position of lasting peace; and while those transactions were lending, discussions in that House might prevent further negotiations of that character. He therefore appealed to the hon. Member to postpone, until a later period, the bringing on of his Motion.
rose to support the re-pest of the hon. Member for Northumberland. He thought that the House was not in a position to discuss these transactions, and the mode in which the Government had conducted them, when the House was in absolute ignorance of the last step taken by the Government. Under such circumstances, they could neither criticise nor advise, He knew that the Government was under a sort of obligation to move that the Orders of the Day be postponed until after the Motion on Poland; but the promise of the Government on that point did not in any way bind the House, and he submitted that the present was not the occasion when they ought to discuss the question of Poland. They ought to know what they were discussing. It bad been his lot on other occasions to interpose discussions in the midst of pending negotiations, but he had always done so when he knew what 1255 those negotiations were and was well acquainted with the last step of the Government. On the present occasion he must acknowledge his entire ignorance of what were the contents of the document called the "Preliminaries" submitted by the Government to Russia. If there was one feature more conspicuous than another in Earl Russell's administration of Foreign Affairs, it was his great readiness to lay before Parliament all important papers; and the noble Earl had been so forward on the present occasion as to declare not only that he would lay all those papers connected with the affairs of Poland before Parliament the moment an answer arrived from Russia, but he had gone the extraordinary length of stating, that if the Russian Government delayed the answer, then, without waiting for it, all the papers should be presented to Parliament. When they knew that the papers were within forty-eight hours of being before them, why ought they to conduct the discussion in the dark? They ought to wait until the papers were produced, and they could then apply their criticisms to the real facts of the case, instead of to hypothetical notions concerning them. It was possible that the interest of one of the high Powers would lead her to take a step in the direction desired by England, and that before the papers were ready they might hear of a forward movement on the Galician frontier. That would afford them a subject which they could usefully discuss; but, at the present, he was at a loss to see how the proposed discussion could be of any value. Mere declamation in favour of Poland they had had already, and, in his opinion, they had produced a very ill effect on the cause of that country. Animated by that zeal which they all felt for a people suffering such injuries as the Poles, they had pressed the Government to speak out as to their intentions, and to say whether they intended to act or not; and the result was that Lord Russell had elsewhere been driven to say that England, for the sake of Poland, would not go to war. From that moment the power of the Government on behalf of Poland was limited. The debate now pressed on the House of Commons would have the same effect, and, so far from strengthening, would weaken, as the phrase was, the hands of the Government, as the result of the discussion in the House of Lords had weakened them. It was an unpleasant thing, no doubt, to look forward dubiously and tremulously, as it were, into the 1256 future, and to go without light; but to go without light, when they knew that the Government were ready to supply them with the light they wanted within a few hours, would be wilfully and intentionally to take a step in the dark, and was quite inconsistent with the accustomed wisdom of the House of Commons.
§ VISCOUNT ENFIELD
said, he could not refrain from saying how cordially he endorsed every word that had fallen from the lips of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgwater. The question of Poland was one of immense magnitude and importance, whether with regard to the present or to the future; but during the ten years that he had been a Member of the House he remembered how careful the House had ever been, when negotiations were pending or in progress, to refrain from uttering any expression that could fetter the hands of the Executive. When, however, the negotiations had been completed, the House had always been ready to pronounce a fearless opinion. He could not help thinking that a delay of some weeks in regard to the proposed discussion would not be unfavourable to the cause of Poland. He could not help saying, with all respect and deference to the hon. Gentleman opposite, that it would reflect credit on the House if, at a moment like the present, of great difficulty and danger and delicacy, it refrained from uttering what he must call a premature opinion.
§ Question put, "That the Orders of the Day be postponed till after the Notice of Motion on the Affairs of Poland;" and Mr. SPEAKER declared that "The Noes have it."
§ Whereon several hon. Members (among whom the hon. Member for the King's County was emphatically audible) cried "The Ayes have it." Mr. SPEAKER again put the Question, and declared that in his judgment "The Noes have it;" but many hon. Members crying "The Ayes have it," and demanding a division:—The House divided:—Ayes 110; Noes 165: Majority 55.
§ MR. HORSMAN
What has just taken place is something so new, so unusual, and so irregular in our Parliamentary proceedings, that I really think, for the character of the House, it ought not to pass without notice. To put myself right as a question of Order, it is my intention to conclude with a Motion. The hon. Member for the King's County gives a notice on the question 1257 Poland. On Monday last he has the power of bringing it on; but he is requested by the Government to postpone it, and the Government in the face of the House makes a compact with him—in the name of the House, with the assent of the House, without a single dissentient voice—that if he gives up that right, he shall have the opportunity of bringing forward the question to-day. In consequence of that compact, he foregoes his opportunity; and to-day, when the noble Lord at the head of the Government, who is the best judge whether a discussion will embarrass the Government, comes forward to fulfil his pro raise, hon. Gentlemen get up without notice, take the House by surprise, and propose that that understanding with the House shall be violated. I say that is a surprise upon the House—it is a breach of faith with the House—it is a violation of the com pact with the hon. Member for the King's County. There is no notice that any such objection will be taken. But the objection itself rests upon an ignorance of Parliamentary law and usage which surprises one in the very youngest Member of the House. We all know that when there are delicate negotiations going on, and when the Government tell us that a Parliamentary debate would he injurious to the public interests, nothing is so unwise, nothing so mischievous, as to raise a desultory discussion involving no issue. But the usage of Parliament is very different when the Government themselves lay papers on the table and invite discussion. Are we not to read those papers? If we read them, are we not to form an opinion on them? If we form an opinion on them, are we not to express it? Is it not a fact that the diplomatic power of the Government is multiplied a hundred-fold by its being known that there is a unanimous and earnest public opinion at their back? On the present occasion the Government have with unusual promptitude laid papers on the table; and, so far from deprecating discussion, the noble Lord at the head of the Government takes a course which I think is as politic as it is manly—he even facilitates discussion by offering the hon. Member for the King's County a day. What do the Gentlemen behind him now say? They exclaim, We will not accept the noble Lord's invitation to discuss—we will not criticise—we will not commend—we will not counsel—and we will not confirm. We wash our hands of all responsibility, costing it upon the Government. If they fail in what they 1258 are doing, then we will censure and punish them. If they succeed, then we will praise them. But, in the mean time, we will suffer them to drift without that Parliamentary helm and compass which would assist them." I say such language is an abnegation of our public duty, as cowardly as it is unpatriotic. It is unfair to the Government, and it is treasonable to the public interests. Even foreign Governments have a right to know what is the public opinion of England on this question. Some Governments have been referred to which, it is said, are rather disposed to go forward too fast. Others are irresolute and hanging back, and there are hon. Gentlemen in this House who wish to screen thorn. But I say Governments abroad as well as Government at home have a right to know how far the public opinion of England goes with their policy. I have a strong opinion that if at the time of the Crimean and Italian wars this House had not abdicated its functions, some of those results we have since deplored might have been avoided. I say that now, when the Government themselves, who are the best judges of what is or is not convenient to discuss, do not deprecate discussion, when they invite discussion and facilitate it, and when in order to facilitate it they make a compact for giving a day, it is not much for the character of the House that that compact should be broken by such a surprise as we have witnessed to-night. I think we should understand exactly what is to be the course taken on this question. I apprehend the hon. Member for the King's County will not indefinitely postpone his Motion. I apprehend the Government themselves will not depart from the understanding upon which they got him to postpone it last week. Although by a surprise the Motion has been postponed for the present, I, for one, protest against any long postponement. I trust the hon. Member will take the first opportunity of bringing it forward. Nay, more; what has just taken place has been such a surprise, without notice, that I think the noble Lord at the head of the Government will probably feel it right to facilitate the discussion by giving another day to the hon. Member for the King's County, when I nope the opinion of the House will be taken more deliberately and after further notice than has been the case to-night. With a view to put myself right as a matter of Order I conclude by moving the adjournment of the House,
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ VISCOUNT ENFIELD
I entirely deny the assumption contained in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman), that any Member of this House is not at liberty to take any course he thinks fit. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I do not yield even to him in my sincere hope that, through the medium of negotiation, Poland may become free. At the same time, I think that to discuss the subject prematurely would be unwise and impolitic. The right hon. Gentleman says that within his recollection he does not think any interruption of public business such as that of to-night has taken place. Allow me to remind him of two occasions within my own memory on which precisely the same thing happened; with this exception—that on both occasions the appeals made by independent Members were listened to by the hon. Gentleman who proposed to submit Motions to the House on questions connected with foreign policy. In 1855 the right hon. Baronet the Member for Herts (Sir E. Bulwer-Lytton) had a Motion of considerable importance on the subject of the Crimean war and the negotiations then going on. An appeal was made to him on the very day the Motion was to come on, and he at once withdrew it. [Mr. HORSMAN: Lord Russell resigned, did he not?] Again, either last year or the year before, on, I think, two occasions—certainly on one occasion—the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory) consented to waive an important discussion with regard to the Northern and Southern States of America, in deference to the generally expressed opinion of the House that it would be ill-advised to discuss American affairs at that time. I contend, that when a crisis like this in Poland takes place, it is the duty of every Member who thinks discussion will be ill-advised to adopt the course which the hon. Members for Newcastle and Bridgwater have pursued to-night. The best confirmation of that policy is to be found in the votes of the 165 Members who constituted the majority.
§ MR. HORSMAN
I did not say it was not common for hon. Gentlemen to give way when appealed to when negotiations are pending. I said, on the contrary, it was the invariable usage of the House to do so. What I added was this—that there was no instance, when the Government themselves had raised no objection, when 1260 they were even willing to facilitate discussion, of private Members taking the question out of the hands of the Government and objecting to a discussion which the Government was prepared to permit.
§ LORD ROBERT CECIL
It seems to me that the two cases cited by the noble Lord fail in this—that they take no cognizance of the contract entered into with the hon. Member for the King's County. The noble Lord might as well say that because a man has consented to forego a debt, therefore you are not bound to discharge any debt you have promised to pay. On Monday last the hon. Member for the King's County had a right, of which no one could have deprived him, to bring the question of Poland before the House. He was requested by the leader of the House, speaking in the name of the party behind him, to give up that opportunity. On the faith of the noble Lord's statement that he would give him another night, the hon. Member yielded to the request. The noble Lord is bound in honour, and everybody who supports him is equally bound, to carry out that agreement. Well, if this precedent is to be established, it will be impossible henceforth to place any reliance on a word the noble Lord says with regard to the conduct of public business. I do not, of course, make any imputation upon the noble Lord, who is doubtless anxious to redeem his pledge; but it has always been understood that the leader of the House has the management of business in his hands, and I never heard of any exception being taken to that rule. I do not want to go into the question whether it is desirable to discuss the affairs of Poland or not. That is a small matter, compared to a precedent which will utterly destroy the value of promises made by the leader of the House with respect to the conduct of public business. But I have a suggestion to make to the noble Lord. His honourable pledge is not loosened by the division which has just taken place. He is bound to give every facility in his power to the progress of the Motion of the hon. Member for the King's County to-night. There are several Orders of the Day on the paper; they will be put successively; but I maintain the noble Lord is bound in honour not to go on with one of them. We shall thus soon get to the Motion respecting Poland. Unless the noble Lord takes that course, his pledge is forfeited, and it will be impossible henceforth to have any confidence in his promises to the House.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that having, on a previous occasion, urged the House not to be betrayed into taking the manage meat of foreign affairs out of the hands of the Government, he rejoiced most sincerely at the decision at which the House had arrived. They had decided against discussing a question, not because it might be inconvenient to hon. Members, but because they would not permit the Government to evade the great responsibility which attached to those whose duty it was to conduct the foreign affairs of the country. It was known to the House that negotiations were in progress, and that the settlement of this question depended not exclusively on Her Majesty's Government, but on the Government of Russia and the other Powers in conjunction with whom the negotiations were conducted. Now, would it be becoming on the part of the House to step in and interrupt those negotiations by any expression of opinion, when they were in total ignorance of the circumstances? He thought the House had only vindicated its high character by refusing to listen to a speech on one side, when it seemed impossible that it should receive a sufficient answer. The House was not a mere debating club. Hon. Members were the representatives of the people; it was their duty to advise the Government, but, above all, not to pronounce an opinion on the performance of those functions which attached to them in their policy with regard to foreign Powers, until informed of the real position of affairs. He thought that the House, so far from having done anything derogatory to its high character, had by its vote pronounced this decision—that it would not be led to interfere in the conduct of that business which was the duty of Her Majesty's Government to perform, and thus invalidate the responsibility which rested upon them.
§ MR. CONINGHAM
said, he did not know the extent of the control the noble Lord the First Minister exercised over his followers; but he (Mr. Coningham) could speak from his experience the other night as to the noble Lord's attempting to suppress free discussion when a serious grievance was brought before the House by an independent Member. The noble Lord attempted to suppress that free discussion which, as an independent Member, he claimed as a right, and thought fit to administer to him (Mr. Coningham) a most severe rebuke, which, he ventured to say, 1262 was most uncalled for and most unnecessary. He would remind the House that the Government had been obliged to yield to the demand which he had made. ["Question!"] he was speaking to the Question; and he wanted to know whether it was the function of the Prime Minister to check free discussion, and to crush independent Members of that House? Hid the noble Lord imagine that he was placed there for that purpose by the Liberal party? ["Question!"] When the Question related to a Court job at Kensington, the noble Lord was ready enough to postpone most important business in order to carry on that discussion; but when he (Mr. Coningham) as an independent Member brought forward a subject of vital interest, the conduct of the noble Lord to him had been most unjustifiable and unwarrantable. He thought it was high time that they should know whether the Horse Guards—[Loud cries of Order!]—and the War Office were to be made really responsible to Parliament, and whether their responsibility was to be a reality and not a sham. He thought the hon. Member for the King's County had good cause to complain of the conduct of the Government; because he would not he persuaded that if they had endeavoured strenuously to fulfil their pledge, they would not have been able to secure a majority in favour of going on with the discussion on Poland.
§ MR. BENTINCK
thought the debate was getting into a rather confused state. He agreed with the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) in what he had said with respect to the Motion of the hon. Member for the King's County; and had the discussion gone on, he (Mr. Bentinck) should have been prepared to state the grounds on which he thought it would have been better not to bring it forward. But that seemed to have been lost sight of in the much larger question raised by the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Lord Robert Cecil). He agreed with the noble Lord, that unless some steps were taken by the noble Lord at the head of the Government to relieve the House from the awkward—he might almost say painful—position in which it was placed, it would be hard to say what the effect might be with regard to their future proceedings. If they could not place reliance upon the promises of the distinguished Member who was, for the time, recognised as the leader of the House, there would be an end of all regularity in their proceedings. 1263 In what position was the hon. Member for the King's County? Much as he objected to the Motion of the hon. Member, yet having waived it on a former occasion, his right to bring it forward was undisputed; and if the pledge given by the noble Lord was not redeemed, little credit would be reflected on the House, and great inconvenience might be experienced in future. The noble Lord ought in the quickest and readiest way to redeem the pledge which he had given to the hon. Member for the King's County.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
congratulated the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Viscount Enfield) on his entire independence of party ties, because he had declared that he was no longer a follower of the noble Lord at the head of the Government. They had heard a good deal about the mischief of governing by a minority. The noble Lord was often head of a small minority, but the Members on his (Lord Robert Montagu's) side of the House had often rendered assistance—as they had done on this occasion—to enable the noble Lord to redeem his pledge. But that evening the noble Lord had shown not only that he was in a small minority, but that he could not even govern his own followers. Unless the noble Lord in some manner redeemed his pledge, he would stand before the country in the very awkward light not only of breaking his promise, but attempting to govern by a very small minority of that House.
MR. SOMERSET BEAUMONT
said, that he made his appeal to the hon. Member for the King's County without previous communication with any Member of the Government, and without having made up his own mind to any particular course. He had only spoken to his hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater and one or two others upon the subject before he came down to the House, and he had not in the least made up his mind to divide the House. To his great surprise—though he attributed it to no want of courtesy—when he made his appeal to the hon. Member for the King's County, he received no answer. He had frequently heard appeals of a similar character made to hon. Members, and he bad always heard those to whom they were addressed, if they did not yield to them, give some cogent reason for not doing so. When he came into the House, he did not know what would be the feeling of hon. Members around him; but when he mentioned the subject, he was assured by many of them that he was perfectly 1264 warranted in the course which he proposed to take, and that there was ample reason for the adjournment of the discussion. He was not aware, either as a matter of honour or of Parliamentary usage, that Members of that House were bound by arrangements which were made by Members of the Government, and therefore he did not think himself in the least controlled by the engagement into which the noble Lord had entered with the hon. Member for the King's County.
§ MR. PEACOCKE
hoped that the noble Lord at the head of the Government would not yield to the appeal which had been made to him by his noble Friend the Member for Stamford (Lord Robert Cecil). Did he do so, it would be a great discouragement to those gentlemen who formed the majority. He had himself voted in the majority, because he thought that no compact made between the noble Lord and the hon. Member for the King's County was binding upon that House, and he thought that this was a most inopportune moment for the discussion of this question. He candidly confessed that in giving that vote he intended it to have a further significance. He desired it to be understood as protesting against the intention which many hon. Gentleman seemed to exhibit, to take the conduct of foreign affairs out of the hands of Her Majesty's Government. He wished to ask the noble Lord a question with reference to a statement made by the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Layard). That hon. Gentleman had got up, as the French said, à propos des bottes, and stated that Her Majesty's Government had received a contradiction of the statement that the Polish Government had ordered the knout to be applied to Polish ladies who wore black; but he went on to say that the accounts which the Government received of the barbarities committed by the Russians amply warranted the rumours that were in circulation. He wished to know whether this was merely an indiscretion on the part of the hon. Gentleman himself, or whether the statement had received the sanction of Her Majesty's Government?
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
hoped the House was not going to censure the expression which had been used by the hon. Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. He did not think it right for the hon. and learned Member for Maldon (Mr. Peacocke) to attempt to muzzle the hon. Under Secretary, and that in giving an answer respecting certain outrages he was restricted from giving information on any other part of the 1265 subject. Such a doctrine as that, if carried out, would reduce hon. Members on the Ministerial bench to perfect nonentities. The Russian Government were ready to give official denials; but let it not be sup posed that the denial given was an answer to all the atrocities of the Russian Government. Hon. Members might give what credence they chose to the Russian statement, but he confessed he must reserve his own opinion on the subject, for he knew what Russian denials were.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I can assure the House I was taken by surprise both by the Motion made by my hon. Friend and by the decision which the House came to. The only desire of Her Majesty's Government was to show that courtesy to the hon. Member for the King's County which he had shown to us by postponing his Motion; but, of course, it must be obvious to everybody that no Government can answer for the House. All they can do is to engage to give those facilities which, in the conduct of the business of this House, they are able to afford; and I shall be quite ready, as far as I am concerned, to adopt the proposal which the noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil), has made for putting off the Orders of the Day, so as to allow the House to hear the hon. Member for the King's County at a not very late period of the evening. There are, however, several Orders belonging to private Members over which the Government can have no control; and, at the same time, I hardly think such a course would be respectful to the majority which has affirmed by a large preponderance of votes that in the opinion of those hon. Members it is not advisable, tonight at least and in the present circumstances, that a discussion should take place of the affairs of Poland. If I had thought that injury to the public service would arise from that discussion, I should have felt it my duty to state so; and I am convinced, from the manner in which he has performed his duties in this House, that the hon. Member for the King's County would have yielded to any suggestion of that kind. I cannot say that such a discussion would, in my opinion, be injurious to the public service. I think, however, the carrying of any one of the Addresses of which notice has been given would be injurious to the public service, and I should have felt it my duty to-night, and shall feel it my duty when these Motions are made, to oppose them, because I think they would render further negotiation utterly impossible, Although, 1266 therefore, the discussion might not have been injurious—I hope it would not—I think the Motion, if carried, would have shut the door against all amicable interference in favour of Poland, As the discussion is not, I presume, to come on tonight, I think it would be satisfactory to the House that they should know shortly the substance of the communication which, on the 17th of the month, was sent to St. Petersburg in relation to the affairs of Poland. I may add that a communication, very nearly identical in its terms, was made by the Government of Franco, and a similar communication also by the Government of Austria, and that all three would probably reach St. Petersburg about the same time. We should be perfectly ready to lay on the table of the House the despatch to which I allude, but obviously it would be more courteous to the Government of Russia to wait till a suitable time has been afforded for them to make their reply. There can, however, be no impropriety in stating to the House the substance of the communication which we, in concert with France and with Austria, submit for the consideration of Russia. These suggestions or recommendations are comprised in six points. The first is a general and complete amnesty. The next is a national representation according to the Constitution granted by Alexander I, in 1815. It is fair to say that the Austrian Government take a somewhat modified view of that proposal; but our opinion is that to comply with the just expectations of the Polish nation the Parliament should be on the footing of the charter granted by Alexander. This is the third point—that Poles alone shall be appointed to public offices, in such a manner as to form a distinct national Administration, such as will command the confidence of the country. The fourth is full and entire liberty of conscience, and repeal of the restrictions imposed on Catholic worship, Fifthly, that the Polish language shall be acknowledged in the kingdom as the official language, and used as such in the administration of the law, and in education. And sixthly, that a regular and legal system of recruiting shall be established, so as to prevent the recurrence of proceedings such as those which immediately heralded the insurrection, In addition to those points, we recommend and strongly urge that there shall be a cessation of hostilities—because, in our opinion, unless the contests between the insurgents on the one hand, and the Rus- 1267 sian troops on the other, be put an end to, negotiations cannot rest on any stable or satisfactory basis. The Austrian Government do not actually concur in all these views, but they urge the Emperor somewhat to the same effect. I trust that when we are able to lay the despatch containing these six points on the table of the House, the House will be of opinion that Her Majesty's Government has done everything that is likely to be attended with success. Because in these matters not only must we consider what might be desirable, but what can be obtained. I am asked by an hon. Member (Mr. Peacocke), on what grounds my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, stated that General Mouravieff had not issued an order that ladies wearing mourning were to subjected to corporeal suffering, and on what grounds he stated that other atrocities had been committed by the Russian troops. The first statement was founded on a telegraphic communication forwarded at the desire of the Russian Government, who, having learnt the imputation, were anxious to have it contradicted. The second statement was made on the authority of a despatch received by Her Majesty's Government, in which, among other things, this transaction is reported—that at a place not far from Wilna, a body of Polish insurgents, consisting, I believe, of about 300, were surrounded by a superior force; that they laid down their arms, and after they had surrendered, by order of the commanding officer, who was referred to to know what should be done, the Russian troops rushed upon them with their bayonets, and killed upon the spot forty of those who so surrendered, and twenty others whom they severely wounded died afterwards in hospital. That is a statement made, I believe, on good authority; and that, among other things, was what my hon. Friend alluded to as instancing the barbarity of the Russian troops. At the same time, truth compels me to say that we also have statements of proceedings on both sides which make humanity shudder, and the prevalence of which is the strong reason which induces us to urge upon the Russian Government that there should be a suspension of hostilities, that these atrocities which are disgraceful to human nature, which desolate the country, lay waste the products of industry, and are attended with immense loss of life on both sides without any apparent result, should cease, 1268 and that tranquillity may be restored to that unhappy country. That is the statement which I have to make. I hardly think that it would be of much use, or that it would be very respectful to the majority to press on this Motion, because those who are averse to its coming on before the Orders, might, of course, carry a Motion of Adjournment. I shall, undoubtedly, feel it my duty to give to the hon. Gentleman the Member for the King's County, every facility for bringing on his Motion on another day. I am bound to say, that when appeals were made to me by my hon. Friends, I sat waiting for the hon. Member to rise. I thought, till the division was called for, that he would cither give the reasons why he thought the Motion should come on, or else say he would accede to the postponement. But, of course, I voted in accordance with my pledge, and it is not my fault if the House has decided otherwise.
§ MR. DISRAELI
The House is in some embarrassment notwithstanding the observations of the noble Lord. I myself thought that this was hardly a convenient opportunity for discussing the Polish question. But the noble Lord, the leader of the House, and the First Minister, being of a contrary opinion, I could not demur to the arrangement which he had made. And when afterwards the House had to decide whether they thought it was a convenient occasion or not, I left the House feeling that it was duo to the hon. Member for the King's County that I should not vote against the compact. The noble Lord says that he waited with some expectation to hear what the hon. Member For the King's County had to say on the question of adjournment. But surely, if the noble Lord had risen after the three hon. Gentlemen who sit behind him had made their appeals, and said, "The Government feel no inconvenience in having the Polish question discussed tonight," all opposition would have ceased, and the House would not have been placed in the difficult position in which it now is. It is easy for us to make appeals to the noble Lord to give the hon. Member for the King's County another opportunity to bring forward this question; but what security can the hon. Member have that he will enjoy the opportunity, if granted; and what assurance ha3 the noble Lord, if he enters into an engagement of the rind, that he may not be defeated by his own supporters? I think that what has happened to-night will add considerably 1269 to the difficulty of leading the business of this House. After this point had arisen, and been discussed, to the surprise of the House, the noble Lord rises in his seat and makes a very important communication. Really I cannot understand, if the noble Lord was prepared to make a communication of that kind, what inconvenience could have occurred if the debate had taken its natural course, and if that communication had been made at the close of the debate. It was impossible to listen to the noble Lord without a thousand considerations occurring to hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, suggested by that communication—points upon which we naturally wish to have some information. On this, for example:—The noble Lord lays great stress upon the advice which Her Majesty's Government have tendered to the Government of Russia, that they should grant a cessation of hostilities. No doubt a cessation of hostilities is greatly to be desired, not only in order to put an end to those mutual massacres of which we have heard so much, but also because every one feels a cessation of hostilities is the best basis of diplomatic action. But I should like to have information as to the means by which the Russian Government can attain a cessation of hostilities. Is the Government of Russia in communication with the Government established by the insurgents? Where is that Government? If it be, as we have been led to believe, a secret Government, how is the Russian Government to take measures to obtain a cessation of hostilities? I shall be glad to know from the noble Lord what information is in his possession as to the existence of the insurrectionary Government, and the means by which the two Governments in Poland can be placed in communication with each other These are points which naturally arise after the unexpected communication made by the noble Lord. I must refrain from giving any opinion in detail upon the probable results of the propositions of Her Majesty's Government. One thing is quite clear:—if those propositions are accepted, and if they be practicable, they will only bring about a state of things very similar to that which existed before, and which must be considered essentially of a provisional character. They do not, as it seems to me, offer any solution of the difficulty. In my opinion, there are only two solutions—the unity of the Russian empire, or the indepen- 1270 dence of Poland. These are two intelligible policies. No doubt, in discussion much may he said on both sides. The propositions of Her Majesty's Government partake entirely of the character of mere diplomatic interference. They can do nothing—they can produce no effect whatever on the circumstances with which Her Majesty's Government have to deal. I cannot say that the policy which Her Majesty's Government has shadowed forth to-night is one which is at all distinguished by prescience, by sagacity, or by the firmness which leads to results. He must be a very sanguine politician who can suppose the propositions of Her Majesty's Government will be accepted by Russia. If adopted, they can only raise a phantom of Polish independence which, in due course, must lead again to a conjuncture such as we have to contend with at present; and no solution of the state of affairs which has periodically disturbed Europe appears to me to be indicated in the policy of Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. MONSELL
trusted that after the division which had taken place the House would not now allow itself to drift into a Polish debate. He would, however, ask the noble Lord to clear up one point. The noble Lord said that Her Majesty's Government, in accord with the Governments of France and Austria, had made certain propositions in regard to Poland. But the noble Lord had not explained to the House what he meant by Poland—whether he meant the Grand Duchy of Warsaw only, or whether he meant to include Lithuania, Volhynia, and Podolia. He believed that the other portions of Poland had too much nobility of spirit to abandon their fellow-countrymen who were now struggling for their independence, for the sake of obtaining any advantage for themselves.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, that a discussion seemed to him extremely undesirable; and if he wanted a proof of it, he found it in the fact that the House had compelled the noble Lord to make a statement communicating the substance of a despatch to which no answer had been received. Could anything be more unlike true diplomacy, more impracticable, and more likely to defeat its own ends than writing important despatches, and discussing them in the House before they were answered? He believed that these discussions were attended with unhappy results to the independence of Poland, and he, for one, deprecated them.
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, he bowed to the decision to which the House had come. With reference to the proposal of the noble Lord below him (Lord Robert Cecil), he could assure the House that nothing could be further from his wish than to do anything opposed to the feelings of the majority of the House. He believed that both the majority and minority in the recent division were in favour of Poland, and anxious that something should be done for Poland, and he therefore did not regard the division as having anything whatever to do with the merits of the case. With reference to the arrangements made between her Majesty's Government and himself, he could only say that nothing could be fairer than the noble Lord's offer to afford him every facility to bring on the discussion; he cordially accepted the offer; and, instead of venturing to press the debate, he would, with the permission of the noble Lord, fix it for Thursday. He agreed, that until the propositions which the Government had announced that night were officially before them, it would be injudicious to debate them; and he could assure the hon. Member for Bridgwater and the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex, that he had never had any intention to raise a debate upon the proposals of the Government. He should have confined his speech solely to the Correspondence which had been laid upon the table, and upon which therefore Her Majesty's Ministers had invited discussion. The hon. Member (Mr. Kinglake) said that the propositions of the Government would probably in a few hours be made public; and the hon. Member's prediction had certainly proved accurate, for within a few minutes they were announced by the noble Lord. He believed that the question was now ripe for discussion, and he hoped that on Thursday, with the consent of the House, he might be permitted to bring the subject forward.
§ MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
In reference to what has fallen from the hon. Member for the King's County, I think he ought to consider what was really the guiding motive of the majority of the House in the division which has taken place. Their object was not to dismiss altogether the discussion of the Polish question. The House was aware that certain propositions had been made by Her Majesty's Government, although they did not know exactly in what form they had been made, and they thought it desirable 1272 that discussion should not go on until some kind of answer had been given to those propositions. Now, I am as anxious as any one to have a discussion on this question of Poland; but I put it to my hon. Friend whether, when the majority has expressed its desire that the discussion should not go on until some answer has been received from Russia, it will be possible for him to bring it on so early as Thursday. At the same time, I do hope that at the earliest possible moment of the receipt of the answer of the Russian Government the noble Lord the leader of this House will give the hon. Member for the King's County that to which he is entitled—namely, an opportunity of raising this question. Then I think the House will be in a position to come to such a decision as, I believe, will most materially strengthen the hands of Her Majesty's Government in their negotiations. In reference to what has fallen from the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), I should like to ask two questions. It has been known for some time past that the Austrian Government has submitted six propositions to the Government of England and the Government of France—propositions which evidently have been accepted by the English Government with certain modifications. Now, the noble Lord said that the Austrian Government rather adhered to the idea that the future constitution of Poland should be something in the nature of that accorded by themselves to Galicia. I wish to know from the noble Lord whether we are to understand, although that is the opinion of the Austrian Government, yet that they have entirely agreed to the proposition of France and England that there should be a national representation accorded to Poland. There is another difference between the propositions originally made by Austria and those which the noble Lord has announced to us to-night. The Austrian proposition was, that the Poles should be in a large measure employed in the administration of Poland. The noble Lord has told us to-night that the proposition of the English Government is that Poles only should be employed in administering the government of their country. I wish to know whether that modification has been assented to by the Austrian Government; I wish to know, in fact, whether the six propositions which the noble Lord has, in substance, submitted to us, have the support of both the Government of France and the Government of Austria? With refer- 1273 ence to the answer that has been given by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, I presume he will lose no time in laying on the table those communications which are the foundation of the announcement he made this evening.
§ MR. SCULLY
said, he hoped a reply would be given to the question whether the six propositions referred to all Russian Poland, or merely to that portion of it with which the Treaty of Vienna dealt. It would be necessary to know that before the six points came on for discussion. In fact, the whole affair was merely deluding the Poles, who would be the greatest fools in the world to lay down their arms until a treaty was concluded. It was equally absurd to suppose that the Russian Government would agree to place the Poles in the highest situations in the kingdom, If any foreign Power were to ask Her Majesty's Government to place Irishmen in that position in Ireland, they would be told to mind their own affairs. He had had Polish gentlemen coming to him to get him to raise the question of Poland in the House; but he always told them that it would be only deluding them if he were to do so, as they never would get anything from the English House of Commons, but tall talk. He was much obliged to the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs for having communicated to the House the telegram which he had received about that hideous rumour that women were to be flogged; but if that was not to be done, other atrocities almost as bad were perpetrated. He had seen it stated about a month ago that a proclamation had been found in the pockets of the Russian soldiers calling upon them for the love of God and the Czar to butcher every Catholic Pole that might fall into their hands. He had received a letter from a Polish gentleman, which said—The Czar now offers us his forgiveness. My countrymen have done nothing for which they ought to receive pardon. But they have a long score of wrongs against him, for which they will make him go upon his knees.The writer added in a postscript, "Two thousand Minié rifles from Ireland would be most acceptable." The gentleman did not know, thought he ought to have known, there were no rifles in Ireland. Ireland was an unarmed nation. It seemed to him that the hon. Member for the King's County was in the position of the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. B. Osborne) the other night, when he confessed himself to have been "a miserable dupe;" but he 1274 would not lend him the least aid in bringing on the subject of Poland. He was satisfied that it would lead to nothing but mere vapouring, and would do Poland no good. Besides, there was no atrocity which the Russians had perpetrated which could not be matched by the atrocities committed by English soldiers in Ireland.
§ MR. WYLD
said, that as far as they could gather, the basis of the propositions made by the allied Powers was the constitution granted to the Poles in 1815. He wished to know whether the propositions submitted to the Russian Government went to this extent—that the officials who were to have the administration of Poland were to be Poles, and also that that part of the constitution granted by the Emperor Alexander at Vienna—namely, a national army officered by Poles—was to be carried into effect.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
With regard to the questions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Limerick (Mr. Monsell). I have to say that "a complete amnesty" must of course apply to all who have been in arms against the Russian Government, whether within the Kingdom of Poland or the other provinces. The other arrangements relate, of course, only to the Kingdom of Poland, as described in the Treaty of Vienna. With regard to the question of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. S. Fitzgerald), I have to state that the six points which we have proposed were prepared by my noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Office, and agreed to by the Government of Franco, and, with some slight modifications, by the Government of Austria. But although it is my duty to state to the House what we have done, I am sure they will see it is not fitting I should enter into detailed explanations as to communications made to us by other Governments, and of which we are officially in possession. I have to state, generally speaking, the communications of France and of Austria are to the same effect as ours. I omit to give the names of other Governments who have made representations to the Government of Russia on the same subject. With regard to the question put by the hon. Member (Mr. Wyld), I think it would be rather a strong proposal to make to Russia, that she should organize a Polish army, to be officered by Poles.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
hoped that the hon. Member for the King's County would not bring on a discussion so early as Thursday; and he did so for the reason 1275 that they were in a position different from that they occupied at the commencement of the evening, inasmuch as they had the propositions made to Russia by the Government, but they were not in possession of the reply of Russia. After what had passed, he felt sure that the noble Lord would give the hon. Member a day for the discussion, and that with the assent of the House—first, because of the original compact between the noble Lord and the hon. Member; and secondly, because, if the noble Lord's statement had been made before the division, a long discussion would have taken place that night. The House would be in a very false position if it attempted to enter into a debate on this question previous to Her Majesty's Government receiving an answer to the propositions they had made. He hoped, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman would wait a few days for that answer.
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, he should be most happy to do whatever the House might direct. He believed that it was the opinion of the House, that until the reply of the Russian Government was laid on the table, the debate on Poland should be postponed; and he presumed that at the proper period the Government would give him an opportunity for bringing it on.
§ Question, "That this House do now adjourn,"—(Mr. Horsman,)—put, and negatived.