§ ADJOUBNED DEBATE. [SECOND NIGHT.]
Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [4th July],
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty to thank Her Majesty for directing the Correspondence on Denmark and Germany, and the Protocols of the Conference recently held in London, to be laid before Parliament:
To assure Her Majesty, that we have heard with deep concern, that the sittings of that Conference have been brought to a close without accomplishing the important purposes for which it was convened:
To express to Her Majesty our great regret, that, while the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government has failed to maintain their avowed policy of upholding the integrity and independence of Denmark, it has lowered the just influence of this Country in the counsels of Europe, and thereby diminished the securities for peace."—(Mr. Disraeli,)
And which Amendment was, to leave out the second paragraph of the proposed Question, in order to insert the words "To submit to Her Majesty the opinion of this House, that the independence of Denmark and the possessions of that Kingdom, on the terms proposed by the Representatives of the Neutral Powers in the recent Conference, ought to be guaranteed,"—(Mr. Newdegate,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. COBDEN
We are indebted to the two hon. Gentlemen who have put Amendments on the paper for having enlarged the scope of our deliberations. The hon. Member for Bridgwater has proposed to move an Amendment to the effect that the approval of this House is due to Her Majesty's Government for the course which they have taken in avoiding war for the defence of Denmark. I think that is an Amendment which, without endorsing the proceedings by which that result has been arrived at, the House will be pretty generally inclined to accept. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire has moved an Amendment recommending that this country should guarantee to Denmark the disputed possessions of Schleswig-Holstein—possessions left in dispute after the Conference, thus raising the issue, "Aye," or "No," whether this country shall adopt the policy of intervention and war in the case of Schleswig-Holstein.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
explained that the meaning of his Amendment was, that the proposals of the neutral Powers in the Conference should be supported by the House.
§ MR. COBDEN
I apprehend that the hon. Gentleman means to support that policy by war. That is all I meant to infer, and the hon. Gentleman does not contradict me. The right hon. Gentleman who brought forward the original Motion has not confined himself to a declaration of fact, or to a statement of the judgment of this House on the conduct of the Government, as he would, I think, have been wise in doing, but he has rather sought to lead us into what I may call the region of prophecy, for he has proposed for our assent a declaration that the course which the Government has pursued has had the effect of lowering us in the councils of nations, and has diminished the securities 828 for peace. Now, whether we have been lowered, or are to be lowered in the councils of nations, will depend on our future conduct; for at the present moment I am constrained to admit that, as far as the conduct of our Foreign Office is concerned, we do not stand in a very satisfactory position. But with respect to the declaration that the course which has been taken will have the effect of diminishing the securities for peace, I join issue distinctly with the right hon. Gentleman. I am of opinion that what has happened—I mean the exposure of the utter futility of our foreign policy—the complete breakdown of our diplomacy—will have the effect of extracting these foreign questions from this time henceforth, from the dark recesses of the Foreign Office to the publicity of this House, and will therefore afford, probably, a better guarantee for peace than anything else that could have occurred. But while I say this, do not let it be understood that I am prepared to endorse or excuse the course which the Foreign Department took in the late negotiations. I consider it to have been deplorable—most unsatisfactory. I do not speak with censure or harshness of any attempt made by the Government to promote peace. I would not even quarrel with them for hawking about in every capital of Europe their useless importunities for peace. But what has struck me in reading these voluminous despatches is the great want of sagacity on the part of our Foreign Minister—that is to say, the want of knowledge and appreciation of the forces and motives, and even the passions, which were guiding and controlling foreign nations in these matters—motives and forces that appeared to me to be so transparent that even a child might perceive them. In the absence of that knowledge our Foreign Department has, I think, needlessly and perseveringly exposed itself to rejections and rebuffs, and, I must say, as far as that department is concerned, to humiliation from all parts of the world. So much for the question, which lies very much between the front bench on the other side of the House, and the front bench on this side. There are, however, matters which go much beyond the opposite interests of those in power and the aspirants for office, and if it were not so, I should not take part in the debate. There grows out of this debate a question of principle as affects our foreign policy. With this 829 question of Denmark and Germany, two issues are brought clearly before us—I mean the question as to the dynastic, secret, irresponsible, engagements of our Foreign Office, and also the question which is not ancient but new, and which must be taken into consideration in all our foreign policy from this time—the question of nationalities—by which I mean the instinct, now so powerful, leading communities to seek to live together, because they are of the same race, language, and religion. Now, what is the Treaty of 1852, of which we have heard so much, and which forms the pivot and basis of this discussion? Eight gentlemen met in London about the celebrated round table to settle the destinies of a million of people, who were never consulted on the matter at issue. Let us take note of this event. It is the last page in the long history of past diplomatic action. It will not be repeated again. I mean that there will never again, in all probability, be a Conference meeting together to dispose for dynastic purposes of a population whose wishes they do not take into account. Let it be borne in mind that it is on that policy of secret, irresponsible diplomacy, and on the question of nationalities that our debate turns, and that our troubles—so far as they are wound up in this affair—are concerned. We all know what followed the attempt to force a population to live under conditions not acceptable to themselves, The Government of Denmark, it is now admitted on all hands, not merely failed in their obligations, but violated their engagements towards Schleswig-Holstein, which was virtually consigned to the rule of the Danish dynasty by the Treaty of 1852. The Danes troubled and annoyed the population of Sehleswig-Holstein in a way most peculiarly painful and affecting a people most sensibly. I mean the Danes interfered with the use of their language. Denmark annoyed that population with functionaries speaking the Danish language, and sought to constrain the youth of Schleswig-Holstein to learn the Danish language, whether they wished or not, and to give privileges and advantages to the Danish Universities as against the Schleswig-Holstein Universities. They tried again precisely the same thing which was so futile in the case of Holland, when that country tried to force her language on the unwilling population of Belgium. In both cases there were the same features.
830 There were two decaying and almost obsolete languages contending against languages which have acquired a supremacy in Europe. The consequence was that the Germans, sympathizing with their; own race, and those who spoke their own; language in Schleswig-Holstein, took up the cry raised in those provinces. Now there is not one of us who, for the last; ten or twelve years, have occupied any prominence before the public, who has not been assailed with pamphlets and lectures emanating from learned professors in Germany, and having reference to the grievances of the German population in Schleswig-Holstein. I have received these; publications, and I may speak of them: almost by the cubic yard, though I am afraid that I have not been a very attentive reader of them. But we must not forget I that at the very foundation of this question, which we seemed disposed to treat so summarily, there lies a real grievance. Well, this agitation in Germany on the Schleswig-Holstein question continued for nearly ten or twelve years, and at length culminated in such a state of excitement and, indeed, we might almost say frenzy, that the Diet of Germany, feeling that, there might be a revolutionary movement in favour of the Schleswig-Holstein population, assembled with the view of taking the matter into their own hands. The Diet is a slow body, having an imperfect organization, and before they could act, two great Powers—Austria and Prussia—in-tervened in the affair between the Schleswig-Holstein people and the German people, and invaded Schleswig Holstein at the head of their standing armies, which are the standing evil of Europe at this time. Now, do not let us suppose when we arrive at this point, that because the absolute Governments of Austria and Prussia entered into this contest that circumstance at all obliterates the original merits of the case. It is very difficult, I own, to conceive for a moment that such a cause is just; at least to conceive that liberty and nationality are on the side of a cause of which the Austrian and Prussian Governments are the champions. Our very gorge rises at the idea of the Austrian Government sending Hungarian, Croatian, Bohemian, perhaps Italian troops, into Schleswig-Holstein to fight the battle of nationality and freedom. The fact is that these two Governments have been playing the demagogue to the German people, and there are none so subservient to the passions of [Second Night 831 the people as your sceptred demagogues. Now, I am not going to trouble the House with a single quotation from the blue-books, and I hope to propitiate the favour of the audience by removing all dread of that infliction from them. But in order to mark the change which has taken place in the progress of society in Europe, in order to show to what a degree democratic principles, or, if that be offensive to you, popular sovereignty in Europe has progressed during the last thirty or forty years, let me read, in connection with this invasion of Schleswig-Holstein by the two Powers, doing the behests of the German people, an extract from the manifesto of the Sovereigns of Austria, Prussia, and Prussia, at Laybach, May 12, 1821, the epoch of the Holy Alliance—Useful or necessary changes in legislation, and in the administration of States, ought only to emanate from the free will and the intelligent and well-weighed conviction of those whom God has rendered responsible for power. All that deviates from this line necessarily leads to disorder, commotions, and evils far more insufferable than those which they pretend to remedy. Penetrated with this eternal truth, the Sovereigns have not hesitated to proclaim it with frankness and vigour; they have declared that, in respecting the rights and independence of all legitimate power, they regarded as legally null and as disavowed by the principles which constitute the public right of Europe all pretended reform operated by revolt and open hostility.That was the doctrine of these absolute Sovereigns in 1821, and now we are told on the authority, not only of our own representatives, but of the representatives of Austria and Prussia themselves, that they are constrained in the course that they are now following by the necessity they are under by the pressure, to use the words of the noble Lord the Foreign Minister, put upon them by the German population. I have mentioned this most significant and pregnant fact, because it shows how completely the state of Europe has changed, how little you need be under any apprehension in future of a Holy Alliance of Sovereigns—there may be a Holy Alliance of the people, though that does not seem very likely as yet—and because it shows to what a degree everything is altered in Europe with which we have now to deal, and that your foreign policy will require to be adjusted from time to time in accordance with these changes. Now I come to our own course in these proceedings. What were we to do when these two great military Powers invaded Schleswig-Holstein? We 832 were right, I think, in offering our mediation. There can be no office more dignified, there ought to be no office more safe, than that of a mediator. If there be blessings on any one, we are told they are for the peacemakers, or for those who attempt to make peace. There has been, unfortunately, in this country a tendency—I will not stop to inquire by which party it has been promoted; but there has been a tendency when assuming the office of mediator to pass the boundary line which separates the mediator from the partisan. No sooner had we entered into the Schleswig Holstein question, professedly with a view to attempt to keep the peace, than public speakers, public writers—probably there are some among my audience now—instantly assumed the attitude of partisans; and finding they could not carry their own views by counsel were disposed to become belligerents at once. Nothing could be more unfortunate for the cause of peace than that such a principle should be recognized. When you attempt to fill the post of mediator, you ought not to run the risk of being dragged into the position of principal. Why, even under the old system of duelling, except in the most barbarous times of the Ireland of the last century, it was deemed very sharp practice if a gentleman, because he went out as a second, was obliged to play the part of principal with the other second. I am now going to say what one who spoke for the mere sake of popularity would not care to say. The great fault Ave commit is that we allow ourselves to be betrayed into something like threats, without duly measuring the powder we have to carry out our menaces. There is, I say, a policy of menace in this country. It is familiar to those who read certain journals, who hear certain questions put in this House—such questions as those about where, our channel fleet is. In another place men who ought to know better, and whose voices ought to be heard in other accents than those of the incendiary, have been talking about sending our fleet to the Baltic. We are bound to treat this question in the same way as other countries treat it, and we should be the veriest Chinese if we did not look the matter fairly in the face ourselves. Have those who talk about entering into these continental quarrels, and settling them in a spirit of dictation, ever considered what is our ability to 833 carry out our will in any way on the Continent of Europe? For our own defence at home our powers are, if I may speak it without irreverence, all but omnipotent. All the world could not assail us with success in our island home. But when we talk of our power to coerce military nations on the Continent, we should remember it is very limited indeed. "Send a fleet to the Baltic" was the utterance we heard in another place. What would a fleet do in the Baltic? Blockade the Prussian ports? Why, the railways have practically rendered blockades innocuous. I will tell you all the difference a blockade of the Prussian ports would make. We got 1,200,000 qrs. of wheat from Prussia last year. If there were a blockade, it would come by railway, at a few shillings additional expense, through Holland, Belgium, or Prance, and the same thing would happen in regard to the other exports and imports. Practically, blockades have lost their former power as an instrument of war, excepting in an extraordinary case, such as we may see in America, where the blockading party also commands the internal communications of the country. I must not forget to mention that our commerce is also liable to attack. Recent experience has shown that you cannot localize a war, and we should be exposed to retaliation on the ocean. What could we do in the case of war with Prussia? Our war would be with the whole German people; for, as I said before, the Austrian and Prussian Governments are merely doing the behests of the German population. The latter have an honest sympathy with the Schleswig-Holsteiners. They are actuated, I believe, by generous motives; and I dare say a large portion of them are heartily ashamed of the champions who forced themselves into their service. What could you do in a war with 40,000,000 of Germans to carry out your own will in regard to this question? I am now speaking in answer to the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire. What could you do to maintain that slice of land in Schleswig for the Danes? We should have to fight the whole German people, in a frenzy of excitement, thoroughly in earnest, imbued with convictions which are the growth of ten or twelve years' constant pamphleteering, lecturing, and newspaper reading. You might attack Austria. You might dismember Austria from her outlying provinces, but would 834 the German population greatly grieve to see the extra-Teutonic limbs of Austria cut away? You would not be attacking the German race there, and it is against them that you think you have a grievance. Your navy would do little. Is it proposed to send an army either to Germany or elsewhere to contend in the field against a great military nation? Your army is already engaged in other fields. You have at this moment upwards of 70,000 troops in India and 9,000 men for the depots at home, making about 80,000 troops for India alone. You have two little armies in China, separated from each other by 1,000 miles of country. For the first time you have this year placed a detachment of troops in Japan. You have 10,000 men fighting somebody's battle—I will not say whose battle—in New Zealand; you have from 10,000 to 15,000 troops in British North America committed as a point of honour to the task of defending a frontier line of 1,500 miles against a nation which can keep 700,000 men in the field. You have, besides, other detachments at the Cape of Good Hope and the West Indies, and you are just emerging from a war with Ashantee, to say nothing of your garrisons in Malta, Gibraltar, and elsewhere. The world never saw such a dispersion of forces as that. It is a received maxim in war that concentration gives strength, and dispersion entails weakness. I do not say a word as to the policy of keeping these troops distributed all over the world. I merely state the fact, and I ask you whether you think the circumstance of your having these troops scattered abroad in these remote fields is not duly taken into account, and is not employed in discounting your force in the eyes of any nation in Europe to whom you use menacing language. I say that it would be folly and that it would be childish if we were to conceal from ourselves these facts. I do not quote them to disparage your power at home. I began by saying that you are all but omnipotent at home; but when your newspapers are telling us that it is with difficulty that you can find recruits to serve in your army you surely cannot expect foreign Governments to be intimidated at the prospect of your going to war with them on land. These, I am afraid, are the circumstances under which we not only resort too much to threats, but they are circumstances under which our Government has actually proposed within the last six months to unite with other countries 835 on the continent in going to war with Germany. If there is any country in the world with which we ought to be able to live at peace, it is with the German population, for on that principle of nationality which has now become the loadstone of peoples we are by race and religion more allied to the Germans than any other people. [An hon. MEMBER: The Danes.] No, I do not except the Danes. It was in the winter of last year, according to a revelation now made to us, that our Government proposed, in conjunction with Prance, to go to war with Germany, or, at least, to give material aid—that is the language in which diplomatists express their readiness to go to war—to give material aid to Denmark; and we are saved from a war, not by the discretion of our own Government, but by the wisdom of the Emperor of the French. Nay, more, we were willing to have joined Russia in this crusade against Germany. That, of course, was one of those propositions which on its face must be abortive, and it is one of those proofs of the weakness of our foreign diplomacy to which I have referred. Russia was not likely in conjunction with England to go to war with Germany. It was only last autumn that our foreign Minister, speaking on the Polish question at Blairgowrie, denounced Russia in terms which amounted to a declaration of outlawry, and yet within four months, I believe, from that time we were sending proposals to Russia to join us in going to war with Germany. Call that a policy It is diplomaticanarchy. Suppose Prance had joined us in going to war with Germany, what would have followed next? Are we quite agreed and united with Prance in all our continental objects? I maintain that there is no country on the continent with which we could fitly join in a continental war, for this reason—there is no great nation on the continent that stands on the same footing with regard to the continent as we do. There is no great country there which either has not something to lose or something to gain by a war. We have neither. We have no territorial connection at all with the continent, and while I am as anxious as most people—you will all give me credit for that—to see this country united with Prance, yet I think it would be a very questionable policy for the Governments of those two countries to join together in any war against Germany. We can fight our own battles in a good cause against all who are 836 our aggressors, but the danger of joining with any other country in going to war is this—that you are no longer masters of your own movements, and you will never have it in your power to make peace. Bear in mind that in the month of January these negotiations were going on, and they might at any moment have culminated in a war for this country. Recollect the unsuspecting state of this great commercial community, and recollect to what extent all our manifold enterprises have been developed. If a war had broken out, or had been announced at the opening of Parliament, what might have been the consequences to this community? What would have been the condition of Parliament? That is the material question for consideration, for I look to this House as the administrator of the wishes and the will of the country with regard to these questions. I have seen lately a very remarkable manifestation of the opinion of this House and its divergence—its discordance not only with what I believe to have been the tendency of the Cabinet, but what was to a large extent out of doors the popular feeling on the subject of war. We heard a fortnight ago that there was a talk of the country being likely to be plunged into a war for Schleswig-Holstein. You know what many of the papers—some of them supposed to be under the inspiration of certain parties who were writing up war at that time, but those who had the opportunity of mixing with Members of this House on both sides of the House felt that war on the part of the Government for Schleswig-Holstein would not have been supported by a majority of this House. I believe that those Members of this House who represent the great interests of the country, who come here from the great centres of the mining, manufacturing, commercial, shipowning, and agricultural interests, and who are in constant and almost, you may say, mesmeric communication with the more intelligent minds of their own localities—I have no doubt that they felt an unseen power pressing upon them the necessity of avoiding war on this most trivial and almost incomprehensible question. It was the feeling of the Members of this House that prevented the possibility of the Cabinet, or of any section of the Cabinet, taking a single step of a hostile kind that might have led us into war. But let us not forget that we were in great danger before Parliament met of being involved in a war by a secret alliance from 837 which this House could not possibly have disentangled itself? I say deliberately, and I challenge any one to contradict me, that there are not fifty men in this House now who would vote for a war with Germany for Schleswig Holstein on any issue that has been presented to us. If I am not speaking the truth, let me be contradicted. Indeed, I almost doubt if there are five Members in this House who would take such a course. I think the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Newdegate) found some difficulty yesterday in finding a seconder. [Cries of "Whalley," and laughter] Well, it was the hon. Member for Peterborough who seconded the Motion. And we know that there is a strong and a friendly sympathy on certain topics which draws those two hon. Gentlemen together. I put it to hon. Gentlemen in this House—to you on this side who support the Government, and to you on the other side who may very shortly have to take upon yourselves the responsibilities of office, I put it to both sides of the House,—is it not high time that there was some mode devised by which the Government should know the wish of this House upon these and kindred questions, because we do not know to what extent this very war which is now raging may extend? It may spread over Europe, and the question that we have to ask of ourselves is whether we ought to take part in it. I have told you for two years that I attach no importance to the question whether the noble Lord here is in office or Lord Derby. I think you are very wrong in trying to remove the noble Lord. He does your work better than Lord Derby would. He throws discredit on Reform; he derides the 220 Gentlemen who are pledged to vote for the Ballot; as the right hon. and gallant Officer the Member for Huntingdon (General Peel) said yesterday, he spends more money, and is far more extravagant than we would allow you to be if you were in office. Besides all this, if you will give him time; if, instead of challenging him, or, to recur to the simile of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if instead of killing him, and thus lessening the pain of his dissolution, you will allow him to die a natural death, speaking officially, I have always been of the impression, that after he has thoroughly demoralized his own party, he intends when he makes his political will to hand over office to you as his residuary legatee. You see that I understand what our French neighbours call 838 "the situation." But I want you, irrespective of party, which is long since dead in this House, to consider the importance and gravity of these foreign questions. They will trouble you when you come into power. Recollect there are only two classes of questions on which Governments when in office fall:—the one class is foreign questions, the other is financial. [An hon. MEMBER: How about Reform?] Oh, no, we do not go out upon Reform. It is only you (the Opposition) who do that; and you will know better another time. Is it not worth your while, then, at the only time when you can draw serious attention to questions of foreign policy, to try and enunciate a better principle for our guidance in future? What is the ground of our foreign policy? Why do we interfere in these affairs abroad? I hardly know of one treaty which binds us to go to war on the continent. There was only one treaty of the kind in the settlement, as it was called, of Vienna, and it was entered into by England, Russia, Austria, and Prussia, by which those Powers bound themselves solemnly, in the name of the Holy Trinity, by force of arms if necessary, to prevent for ever any member of the Bonaparte family from sitting on the throne of France. I am not aware of any other treaty—[An hon. MEMBER: Belgium]—by which we bound ourselves to go to war. That, is the exception. Well, why do we trouble ourselves with these continental politics? We have no territorial interest on the continent. We gain nothing there by our diplomatic meddling. Our general excuse is—and it is a phrase that is stereotyped in the despatches of the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary—that we have a policy founded on what is called "the balance of power"—a thing I never could understand; but I believe the present balance is a figment that was supposed to have grown out of what is termed the great settlement of Vienna, but which I term the great unsettlement of Vienna. But can we, in the face of these growing popular interests, and longer base our foreign policy on that Treaty of Vienna? Recollect that we are not bound to do anything by force to maintain that treaty. All we are bound to do is not to violate its undertakings. What has that Treaty of Vienna done for Europe? I have in my hand a short extract—and it is my only one—from the writings of a great Italian, one of the noblest and most disinterested, one 839 of the most accomplished and bravest of the patriots of modern times, and who in the struggle for the independence of his country bore the heat and burden of the day, but who has not been so prominently before the world of late as he was formerly. I mean the Marquis Massimo d'Azeglio. Writing in 1847 he says—We believe that all the disturbances which have agitated Europe from 1815 to the present time, all the discontent and revolutions of these thirty-two years, and the moral inquietude which more or less agitates society have been caused by the unnatural and forced partition of Europe by the Congress of Vienna. Its measures for the establishment of peace and tranquillity in Europe have proved the germ of all the wars and revolutions which have since occurred, because the only interests there cared for were those of dynasties, families, and privileged classes, without any consideration of national feeling, or of the inevitable wants of that new state of society which the Revolution had created.Now, that is the character of the Treaty of Vienna; these are its consequences as traced by the hand of one of the most distinguished members of that community which suffered so much from it; that was written in 1847, and you had a period that convulsed all Europe, full of dynastic change and fearful revolution, two years afterwards, and I ask is it not necessary that we should discard the idea of ever troubling ourselves again, of ever diplomatizing or entering into negotiations abroad, with the view of maintaining what is called the balance of power as settled by the Treaty of Vienna? Now, what in common parlance is the reason why we are invited to interfere in continental quarrels? We frequently hear it said that we must protect the weak against the strong. But, supposing we were gifted with such supreme wisdom and justice that we were entitled to take the office of universal judge, I have shown you that we have not the material force at our disposal for the purpose. Besides, I sometimes hear it stated in this House, when we are complaining of the conduct of our Government towards Brazil and other small Powers, that it is the small Powers which presume upon their weakness; and if we are always to take up the cause of the weak because they are weak, we shall certainly be for ever troubled with the quarrels of half the world. Then we are told that we must fight for the right. But there is a right and a wrong in every case, and if we are always to choose one side 840 or the other because it is thought to be the right, how is it possible we can ever enjoy any peace or quietness in this country? The truth is, we all have our pet projects for interference abroad. One party among us wishes to interfere for Poland, another wishes to interfere for Hungary, another would interfere for Italy. Some would even go to America and interfere in that terrible struggle. Now, if we are to take up a line of foreign policy which is to be for the redress of great wrongs, and if I were called upon to say what should be my project, I should say that Venice has the first claim on this country, because Venice had a glorious history of a thousand years; she was a commercial Power, with a career somewhat analogous to our own—a Power which, if her annals were fairly written, giving a comparison between her and other countries at the time when she flourished, would be seen to have certainly the best title to existence of any country on the continent, and to existence especially at our hands as a commercial people. Yet the sign and seal of England is attached to that treaty which assigned Venice to Austria. Now I do not myself speak in public on the question of the wrongs of the continent, because I do not feel that I should be justified in invoking the aid of my countrymen to fight the battles of other States; yet, if there is one country which has more claim than another upon us, it is the country I have named. But then, to undo the wrong we did at Vienna towards Venice we should have to fight against our own engagements, and, in fact, against our own signature. Moreover, our own country requires peace. Some people think it is very degrading, very base, that an Englishman should speak of his own country as requiring peace, and as being entitled to enjoy its blessings; and if we allude to our enormous commercial and industrial engagements as a reason why we should avoid these petty embroilments we are told that we are selfish and grovelling in our politics. But I say we were very wrong to take such measures as were calculated to extend our commerce unless we were prepared to use prudential precautions to keep our varied manufacturing and mercantile operations free from the mischiefs of unnecessary war. You have in this country engagements of the most extensive and complicated kind. You have extended your operations during the last 841 twenty-five years to such a degree that you are now actually exporting three times as much as you did twenty-five years ago—that is, your foreign commerce and the manufactures on which it depends have grown in a quarter of a century twice as much as they grew in a thousand years previously. Is not all this a motive for at least taking all reasonable precautions to avoid these continental quarrels? And, as we have had a narrow escape now, I hold that I am justified in making this calm statement to the House, in hopes that outside of this party conflict—of which I offer no complaints—something may come calculated to place us upon a better footing in regard to our continental relations. I do not know when I could have an opportunity of saying so much on this subject—as it is always regarded as an abstract question—except on this occasion. I have taken very little interest in the mere party question at issue between the two sides of the House. I think the greater question is the effect which this dilemma of both parties, and particularly of the Government, should have upon our foreign policy for the future. I maintain that we must have a change in the foreign relations of this country, or a change in our Foreign Office. The present system of diplomacy has broken down. Our Foreign Office has lost its credit with foreign countries, You cannot from this time approach a foreign country on any question of foreign politics, in which you will not be looked upon with want of consideration, and, indeed, with mistrust. And why? Because foreign countries feel that when they are dealing with the Foreign Office the Foreign Office is not, in fact, a power; the power is here; and foreign Governments more than suspect that your Foreign Minister is often playing a game with them from time to time merely to suit his policy and his prospects in this House Such being the case, I maintain—and I know I have spoken outside of your party-contest in a way, perhaps, that entitles you to my thanks for having listened to me so well—I maintain that it behaves us to adopt a different policy, to let it be known that it is our policy, and to let the Government feel that it is necessary they should act up to it. The present system cannot go on. It requires a change not only in the interest of this country, but in the interest of other countries allied to us by neighbourhood or commerce; nay, it requires a change on higher grounds—in 842 the interest of peace, civilization, and humanity.
§ LORD ROBERT CECIL
Sir, I have some difficulty in following the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rochdale, because this Motion is an attack on Her Majesty's Government, and it appears to me that although he spoke as their advocate his enthusiasm in their favour does not rise to a very high temperature. In fact, the hon. Gentleman seems to me to be about as good a friend of Her Majesty's Government as Her Majesty's Government have been of the Kingdom of Denmark. But there is this remarkable difference between the two cases—that whereas Her Majesty's Government gave to Denmark abundance of good words and no material aid, the hon. Gentleman is about to give to the Government all his material aid, while he accompanies it with a full dose of what certainly cannot be called fair words. I listened with much pleasure to the greater part of the speech of the hon. Gentleman as a straightforward expression of the opinions which he is known to hold; but there was one portion of it which I heard with regret. I regret that considering the position in which the country stands towards Denmark—no matter from what cause—one holding so prominent a position in this House should have thought it right to fling upon that unhappy country reproaches for what has passed. Denmark has not much to thank us for; but we have steadily maintained her right upon the points to which the hon. Gentleman has touched; and I think it would only be fair that we should not now attempt to re-open these unhappy discussions, and to cover with reproaches a country which has too much reason to complain of our acts. I cannot, of course, agree with the doctrines of foreign policy laid down by the hon. Gentleman. But I will say this—that if the hon. Gentleman had been Foreign Secretary instead of Lord Russell, I fully believe this country would occupy a position proud and noble compared to that which she occupies at this moment. He would at least have been entitled to the credit of having acted from the first on fixed and definite principles, of holding out in the name of England no hopes which she did not intend to fulfil, of entering into no engagements from which she was ready to recede; it would be felt that, whatever might be her course, she had acted from high motives and upon a distinct policy, and not 843 from a desire to obtain influence by words while she was afraid when the moment for action came to second it by deeds. My complaint of the policy of Her Majesty's Government is, that it is founded upon no definite principle, that it is oscillating, vague, and fluctuating in its course. If you look at that policy for the last two years you will, I think, be struck by the fact—indeed, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has acknowledged it—that it divides itself into two parts, and that the dividing point of these parts coincides, curiously enough, with the date at which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ash ton (Mr. Milner Gibson) began to interest himself in this question. We know that up to a certain period the right hon. Gentleman kept himself studiously aloof from the question; he knew nothing about it; and it is not improbable that other Members of the Cabinet were in a similar position blessed with a like ignorance. But from the moment the right hon. Member for Ashton, and those who agree with him, began their studies on the Danish question, there was a complete turn in the policy of Her Majesty's Government. Before it was all war; and since it has been, with some slight exceptions, all peace. In fact, to adopt a scientific nomenclature, there has been in that matter what may be called a pre-Gibsonian and post Gibsonian epoch. It is impossible, in a discussion of this kind, to avoid committing the great offence of quoting despatches, and I shall have to refer to the blue-book for the purpose of showing that at the pre-Gibsonian period the policy of Her Majesty's Government was so warlike that not only did they utter threats but they neglected all the ordinary pacific means of settling the dispute. We know that the hon. Member for Rochdale would suggest, as the best mode of dealing with the difficulty, arbitration, or mediation, or a Congress. But the curious thing is, that Her Majesty's Government had an opportunity of resorting to that pacific mode of settling the question, but that they were so warlike and so resolute that they treated that opportunity with contempt. The House will remember what was the state of things in the month of October last. Ring Frederick VII. was not then dead, and the difference with the German Powers had, therefore, not risen into anything like an insoluble difficulty. On the 23rd of October Sir Andrew Buchanan wrote 844 to Earl Russell a despatch which has not yet been quoted, and which is, I think, well deserving of the attention of the House. In it he states—I may mention here that M. Bismarck asked me some days ago, whether it might not be possible to effect an arrangement by arbitration; and I replied that, as countries did not submit questions affecting their independence to the arbitration of the Governments of other States, Her Majesty's Government were not likely to ask Denmark to do so." No. 3, 174.Here was an offer to refer the dispute to arbitration coming from the man who had showed how powerful he was upon this question, who had dragged Austria in his train, and who made the German States to do his bidding. No doubt, therefore, any solution to which he had given his adhesion would have been effectual and complete. But that offer was treated by the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary with absolute contempt. He left the despatch in question wholly unnoticed: he did not even acknowledge its receipt; and it appears not to have entered into his contemplation, that he had there an opportunity of terminating the difficulty and of preventing all the bloodshed and all the misery to which it has since given rise. If the hon. Member for Rochdale had been in office and had received such a despatch he would have seized the opportunity at once, lest it should not occur again, of settling a contest which threatened to be bloody and exercising the influence of England in a really peaceful mariner. There was another mode of settling the question, namely, mediation; and that mode too had been placed within the reach of the Government. But the Government had a remarkable facility for doing everything at the wrong time. They offered a mediation in October, and it was rejected. On the 5th of November—still before the death of King Frederick VII.—Sir Andrew Buchanan wrote to Earl Russell as follows:—Such being the circumstances, he (M. de Bismarck) said he would ask whether I thought Her Majesty's Government might not be disposed to address a fuller despatch to Sir Alexander Malet, stating that the Danish Government had I expressed their readiness to submit the international differences between Denmark and Germany to the mediation of Great Britain; and that Her Majesty's Government, convinced that the Diet were equally desirous with Denmark to bring their international differences to an amicable solution, now offered their mediation to the Diet." No. 3,197845 They had thus an offer of mediation from the most powerful Minister in this dispute; but for one unfortunate moment in their official career Her Majesty's Government were seized with a fit of dignity—it was their first offence of the kind and apparently their last. On the 9th of November Lord Russell wrote as follows to Sir Andrew Buchanan:—As matters now stand, Her Majesty's Government have come to the conclusion that it is inexpedient for them, at all events for the present, to make any further proposal to the Diet." No.3, 199.What reply did M. de Bismarck give to that declaration? On the 14th of November Sir Andrew Buchanan states to Lord Russell—All he (M. de Bismarck) could say was that if your Lordship had complied with the suggestion in my despatch of the 5th inst., and if you had written to Sir Alexander Malet in the exact terms of that despatch, so as to bring the matter anew before the Diet in a form which, in his opinion, would have met the objections which they had raised to the previous communication made to them from Copenhagen, through M. de Tydow, the Prussian Government was prepared to give their vote in favour of the proposal which it was hoped Her Majesty's Government would have made, and to have supported it with all their influence; and he begged me to say that if Her Majesty's Government would re-consider their decision, and still act upon his suggestion, their offer of mediation would be supported by Prussia, if she stood alone, which he hoped she would not do, as he felt assured she would carry a majority of the Diet with her." No. 3. 204.That was M. de Bismarck's opinion of what would have happened if Her Majesty's Government had accepted the proposal. But they dawdled with the matter; they did not seem to know their own minds, and, as it frequently happens with people in such a position, something occurred which made repentance too late On this occasion that something was a very important event—the death of Frederick VII. Before Her Majesty's Government could make up their dilatory minds the death of Frederick VII. presented an insurmountable barrier to all projects of that kind. But what would probably have been the success of that mediation, if the offer had been accepted, we may learn from the communication of the Austrian Plenipotentiary. On the 27th of November Sir Alexander Malet wrote to Earl Russell as follows:—This communication, confidentially made to me by Baron de Kubeck, was accompanied by an expression of great regret that our offer had not been made during the lifetime of the late King of Denmark, when Austria would readily have accepted the friendly proposal." No. 3, 280.846 There was another chance irrevocably lost. There had been opportunities for arbitration and mediation. There was yet another means of settling the question pacifically, and that was by the holding of a Congress. I do not think it has come generally to the knowledge of the House that the proposal was made by the Emperor of the French for the first time. On a May 30, 1863, M. de Bismarck suggested a Conference as the best mode of settling this question. Sir Andrew Buchanan wrote at that date that M. Von Bismarck suggested that a Conference would be the best mode of settling the question. The Danish Minister would be found making the same suggestion, and you will find that the difficulty lay in the blank refusal, or in the unaccountable delay, of Her Majesty's Government. I can only attribute this to the fact that Her Majesty's Government had made up their minds to war—if they took no pains to obtain a peaceable solution of the difficulty, we can only suppose that they had made up their minds to a settlement by the sword. We were told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there were no threats used by Lord Russell which were not in con-fortuity with the language used by Prussia and France. I confess I was astounded by that statement. I should like, at a later period of the debate, to hear this assertion justified by some of the right hon. Gentleman's Colleagues on the Ministerial bench—justify that assertion by a comparison of the language held by the two Powers. The language of Prussia and France had been as studiously restrained and dignified as that of Lord Russell was immoderate. Will the right hon. Gentleman give us any parallel instances to such phrases as this?—Should Federal troops enter Holstein on purely Federal grounds, Her Majesty's Government would not interfere; but should it appear that Federal troops had entered the Duchy on international grounds, Her Majesty's Government may be obliged to interfere.Was there any language held on the part of France or Russia which conveyed a threat like this? Again, Earl Russell, writing to Sir Andrew Buchanan, on December 24, 1863, said—It would be no less impossible for Her Majesty's Government to enter into any engagement, that if the Federal troops should not limit their operations to the Duchy of Holstein, but should on some pretence or other extend their operations to the Duchy of Sehleswig, Her Majesty's Government would maintain an attitude of neutrality between Germany and Denmark." No. 4, 413.847 There is a material difference between that and the statement of the French and Russian Governments. I will give the right hon. Gentleman one more opportunity for comparison. On January 4, 1864, Earl Russell writes to Sir Andrew Buchanan—In reply to your Excellency's despatch of the 2nd instant, which was received on the 4th, I have to inform you that Her Majesty's Government consider you were right in stating to the Prussian Secretary for Foreign Affairs that they had not said that the relations between England and Prussia might be endangered by an invasion of Schleswig, although they considered that such an invasion might do so if due time were not given to the Danish Government to grant the concession which they were required to make." No. 4, 488.This was as distinct a threat as ever was made. There was not a word in any of the French or Russian Despatches which amounted to such a threat. But we are told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that all the efforts of Lord Russell were prompted by the belief that we should have the assistance of France, and that he never offered any threat except upon that hypothesis. I think the right hon. Gentleman must have forgotten part of a conversation which took place between Count Bernstorff and Lord Russell towards the close of that period, which I have denominated the warlike period of the policy of the Government. Here is what Earl Russell said to Count Bernstorff, and the House will judge from it whether Earl Russell was then thinking of the single action of England, or of a European combination. Earl Russell, writing to Lord Bloomfield on January 14, 1864, says—It is to be observed that in speaking to Count Bernstorff on the occasion alluded to, I had expressly declared that I could not say what the decision of the Government might be, as the Cabinet had not yet deliberated, and, consequently, not submitted any opinion to the Queen; but that, judging from the general current of feeling in Parliament and in the nation, I thought an invasion of Schleswig by Germany might lead to assistance to Denmark on the part of this country." No. 4, 534.There was no thought of a European combination in that statement—that was assistance to be given to Denmark by this country alone. I believe the noble Earl had been able meantime to consult the right hon. Member for Ashton (Mr. Milner Gibson), after he and his Colleagues had commenced their study of the Danish question, and perhaps that might have had an influence in causing some modification of that opinion. These despatches are dry to read and hear, but the House will feel 848 that changes of this kind, so derogatory to the honour of those attacked, ought to be supported by proofs. I want to call the attention of the House to one more passage, in proof that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not a shadow of foundation for saying that the policy of Lord Russell went on the supposition of assistance from France. Does the House remember the conversation between Lord Napier and Prince Gortschakoff, when Lord Napier pressed upon Prince Gortschakoff the necessity of arresting the march of the German Powers, and said—I represented to him the pressing necessity of arresting warlike preparations, and combining the Powers least directly interested to prevent the attack on Schleswig which seemed imminent, or that it might be possible that the Germans might find themselves confronted with the armed intervention of Great Britain.I presume that Lord Napier, in thus speaking of the armed intervention of Great Britain, did not speak without authority, and that he knew what he had a right to threaten or to promise. Anyhow his statement has not been disavowed, and I take this despatch as substantial and irrefragable proof that Lord Russell at that moment meditated resisting the Germans by the efforts of England alone, and that he was so confident in the course that he intended to take that he did not shrink from expressing it in promises and threats. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer made so strong a statement that I took his words down. The right hon. Gentleman said—I am not aware of a single word having been said by his noble Friend by way of menace to the German Powers after it was found that a European combination in support of the treaty was no longer obtainable.I believe the date is put about the 24th of January—I mean the date when it was thought that a European combination was impossible. I should have thought the declaration of the Prime Minister afforded a sufficient refutation of that statement. But we have something more distinct. We have a despatch from Lord Russell, dated February 20, 1864, along time after the Government were assured that a combination of the European Powers was almost impossible, in which he says—The intelligence of the entrance of German troops into Jutland has been received by Her Majesty's Government with surprise, for no previous intimation had been conveyed to them of such an extension of the field of hostilities being contemplated by the Austrian and Prussian Governments. You will not disguise from M. 849 Bismarck that this proceeding is looked upon a very serious light by Her Majesty's Government." No. 5, 710.["Hear!"] I gather from these cheers that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not think this a threat. But it is difficult to know what hon. Gentlemen would regard as a threat. I remember a story of a naval officer who once endeavoured to justify the use of the profane habit of swearing, by saying that the men would never think him in earnest if he did not swear; and it seems as though hon. Gentlemen opposite thought that, unless the Foreign Secretary did not proceed to diplomatic execrations, no expressions of his, however strong, amounted to threats. But I think it is a fair principle of interpretation to examine a man's language in a particular case by the light of his other works. Now, we have a large literature of threats in the handwriting of Lord Russell, and by examination and collation we may arrive at the meaning of the noble Earl. No doubt hon. Gentlemen remember a dispute with Brazil in the spring of last year. Some of the officers of the Forte went out to dinner, came home afterwards very happy, got into trouble with a sentry, and were put into a Brazilian prison, but were released as soon as it was discovered that they were naval officers, and were sent back on board their ship. This outrage excited the deepest indignation on the part of Her Majesty's Government, and Lord Russell wrote a despatch to the style of which they had since become more accustomed, demanding that the authors of the alleged outrage should be punished, that an apology should be given, and directing our representative in Brazil to inform the Government of that country of the serious light in which the matter was viewed by the British Government What followed? The Brazilian Government did not accede to the demand. Did Earl Russell wait for further information to guide his future course? Not a bit. The next thing we heard was that the British fleet had seized a number of Brazilian ships. I do not know whether the Prussian Government are students of English blue-books; but if they are, and if they did not know the judicious distinction which the noble Earl always drew between the strong and the weak, they would have come to the conclusion that these words about "the serious light in which the matter was viewed" meant that if the advance into Jutland were continued 850 any further reprisals would be executed upon Prussian ships. I think that after that despatch it was too much for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that after any European combination had become hopeless no threats were made to Germany. What did the House hear the other night at the close of the speech of the noble Viscount? Was it a threat or was it not? I have conversed with many Members on both sides of the House about that speech, and the general feeling appears to be that it was the most melancholy exhibition which any Prime Minister of this country had ever made before the House of Commons. After all our threats had been despised—after the independence and integrity of Denmark which we had asserted in the face of the world was the object of our highest interest, after we had failed in every attempt at pacification or to maintain that independence and integrity—the noble Lord came down to the House and told us that if Copenhagen were taken, if the people were slaughtered, and if the King was taken prisoner of war, then we would not fight—but the time would then have come when the Government would re-consider their determination. I think that since the time when Ancient Pistol swallowed the leek, saying that he did so for revenge, such an exhibition has never been presented to the world. We have been told by the hon. Member for Rochdale, of the dangers that might accrue to this country through war, especially to our mercantile marine. Earl Russell has said the same things and told us of the hostility of America, and of the antagonism of Russia, of our enormous commerce and our great interests in India, and we have been reminded of the magnificent Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Admitting this, still it might have been found out in the autumn of last year. If these considerations are sufficient to keep England from striking now, they should have been sufficient to keep England from threatening them. Look at the difficulty of your situation now. You cannot by any form of words you can use persuade Foreign Powers that you are in earnest. In any future European complications that may arise, you may tell them that your interests are greatly concerned, that you are not indifferent to a question, that you view the matter in a very serious light, that the aggressors might be met by armed intervention; but until you have 851 committed yourselves to irrevocable war, you will not be able to make those listen to whom you address yourselves. This loss of dignity and honour is not a sentiment; it is a loss of actual power. It is a loss of power which will have to be brought back at some future day by the blood and treasure of England. The conduct of France in this matter has been spoken of, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has denied that there were any promises made by us to Denmark, which could be considered in any way as a slur upon the honour of England if they were disregarded; and he went through the statements of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, and seemed to satisfy himself that he had confuted them. I shall confine myself to one of them—but one promise is as good as a hundred, and one disregarded promise casts upon the escutcheon of a country disgrace which is only increased in degree by multiplied repetitions. The one case to which I refer, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer passed over adroitly, was the conversation of Lord Wodehouse with M. Hall, respecting the November Constitution. Sow mark—we are told that the Government, with respect to any promises or threats which they made, acted always upon the assumption of the co-operation of France. Now, let the House mark what Lord "Wode house reported himself to have said to M. Hall—I entreated his Excellency to weigh well the gravity of the dangers which threatened Denmark, General Floury had informed M. d'Ewers and me that he was instructed to tell the Danish Government that France would not go to war to support Denmark against Germany. It was my duty to declare to him that if the Danish Government rejected our advice, Her Majesty's Government must leave Denmark to encounter Germany upon her own responsibility.Let the House observe the passage in which the contrast between France and England is strikingly drawn. France had distinctly and positively stated through General Fleury that she could not support Denmark against Germany by arms. Lord Wodehouse, on the part of England, stated nothing of the kind. He spoke conditionally, "If you do not withdraw the Constitution, we will leave you to encounter Germany." But did not Lord Wodehouse thereby imply that if Denmark did what he demanded then England would not leave Denmark to encounter Germany upon her own responsibility? I know that in the ordinary events of life 852 neither Lord Wodehouse nor Lord Russell nor any Member of the Government in dealing as man with man would leave a person in a difficulty from which he had promised to extricate him if he did certain things, and those things were done. But, then, it is said that Denmark delayed to do what we asked. But when the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to this point had he forgotten another portion of the same despatch of Lord Wodehouse which went far to diminish, if not entirely to destroy, the weight of that objection? Lord Wodehouse writes—I said that the Danish Government were the best judges of the manner in which the law could be changed, but of course he would understand that Her Majesty's Government would never advise recourse to unconstitutional means.The Constitution could not have been repealed at that moment except by unconstitutional means. The Rigsraad then sitting was, by its own constitution, dissolved upon the following day, and a new Rigsraad could not have been summoned without a certain delay; but long before that period of delay had elapsed the Danish Government signified to Her Majesty's Government that they were ready to adopt the advice that had been given to them and to withdraw the November Constitution. M. Hall was compelled to resign because he refused to carry out the policy which the King of Denmark saw by the promise of Lord Wodehouse was the only policy which Denmark could safely adopt at that time. M. Hall was sacrificed in order that the help of Great Britain, as promised by Lord Wodehouse, might be obtained. The King parted with his Minister, adopted an unpopular policy, repealed the Constitution which had only just been passed, and submitted to the indignity of acting at the bidding of a foreign Power, all upon the faith of the promise that if that were done England would not leave Denmark to encounter Germany alone, and upon her own responsibility. I may be asked what policy with regard to the future I recommend to be adopted. As to the immediate future, it is absurd to ask a Member of the House of Commons, who has no knowledge of the information which is in the possession of the Foreign Office, to offer an opinion upon that point. As to the ultimate future, I confess I agree very much with what has been said by two hon. Gentlemen, holding very diverse sentiments on many subjects—.the right hon. and gallant 853 Member for Huntingdon (General Peel) and the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden). If we did not mean to fight we ought not to interfere. If we did not intend to carry out by arms our threats and measures, we must abstain from the luxury of indulging in them. That is the only policy for the future which I believe is involved in the censure of the Government for the past. As to the immediate matter of Denmark, I am told by all my Danish friends that it is too late to do any good. Whether that be so or not, and whether or not any good would accrue to Denmark from the passing of this Motion, at all events one thing remains—if we cannot save Denmark, we may at least rescue England from the danger of suffering similar dishonour for the future. We can record upon the Journals of the House a condemnation of the offence of those who had betrayed Denmark and brought England into contempt; and we can rescue the country from the danger to which she is exposed during every hour that a Ministry which has shown so low an appreciation of the national honour is suffered to continue in office.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that he had listened with great interest and attention to the able speech of the noble Lord the Member for Stamford, but he had heard no answer to the question which he had put to himself throughout this debate. What would be the immediate policy of the Opposition if it succeeded to power? He knew what the feelings of the noble Lord were upon this subject, and bow well informed he was, but still the noble Lord gave no intimation of the direction in which his influence would be exerted whether it would be for immediate war, or for such steps as would lead to immediate war, or whether it would be in an opposite direction. He trusted the House would go back to the real question before it. The question at issue really was whether the present Vote of Censure should be treated with the view of placing the Gentlemen opposite in power and displacing the present Ministers. Surely, then, those who desired to promote the interests of the country must be informed before they were asked to vote with the Opposition what, if they came into office, they themselves would do in this particular crisis. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, in his long and eloquent speech, inveighed against the past conduct of the Government; but when he came to 854 the policy which ought at the present moment to be adopted, he only indulged in vague generalities and statements, and said it was not his business to inform them what he would do if he had to guide the destinies of the country. ["Hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite appeared to cheer that statement; but, their respective constituents would like' to know, before they gave their vote for any set of men, what: line of policy they meant to adopt if they obtained office. If they explained their policy, hon. Members would know why they supported them, and could meet their several constituents with a clear vindication of their votes, inasmuch as they gave them in favour of a set of men who had distinctly declared the precise policy they intended to puisne. Whereas, if their constituents now demanded of them their reasons for; not supporting this Vote of Censure, their simple answer would be because the party who were moving it, and who sought to displace the Government, declined to tell the House what they would do in the event of their acceding to office. The hon. Gentlemen opposite declared that they would enter office, if at all, fettered by no conditions, and therefore they would not in-form the House what line they intended; to take. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks said, indeed, "My policy is the honour of England and the: peace of Europe." But that, after all, was vague and puerile language. Surely it was not come to that, that the chief of any party in that House should think it necessary to say those were the principles of his policy. Even a school-girl, if asked upon the subject, would naturally reply that such ought to be the policy of England. But Parliament wanted to know in what manner the right hon. Gentleman opposite and his friends meant to secure "the; honour of England and the peace of Europe." He (Mr. Forster) had heard with great pleasure last night the excellent; speeches of the right hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon (General Peel), and of the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley.) He entirely agreed with almost every word uttered by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. But at the end of his extremely talented and straightforward speech he left the House; somewhat in the dark, and if he gave them any information as to his own views of what his policy would be, that information appeared to him (Mr. Forster) to be contrary to that which they gathered from 855 what had fallen from him in the beginning of his speech. The right hon. Gentleman said that the time was past for England to threaten unless she was prepared to carry out her threats—that she must not play the "game of brag" any longer, and that we could no longer trade on the prestige we had gained by the French war. But at the end of his speech the right hon. and gallant Gentleman gave the House some little light as to the policy that would be undertaken by the Opposition if they succeeded to power. He said—I emphatically declare that you have tarnished the honour of the country; but I appeal to every Englishman, let his policy be what it may, whether he has not felt a sense of the deepest humiliation at seeing a small country whom we had promised to protect by treaty overwhelmed by a stronger force.Now, he (Mr. Forster) did not believe that we did promise to protect Denmark by treaty. But if a Ministry came into power, a prominent member of which believed that we had promised by treaty to protect Denmark, it would be very difficult for that Ministry at once to secure the peace of Europe and the honour of England. It would be necessary for a Minister who felt that, to fulfil our treaty engagements at whatever danger to our peace or the peace of Europe. He now came to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn. The noble Lord made an able speech, with every word of which he entirely agreed. The noble Lord seemed to throw some light as to what his policy would be, but not a single sentence fell from him which would even imply that, in his opinion, a promise had been given by this country or by any of our Governments to protect Denmark by treaty. If there were such a promise given, he (Mr. Forster) need not say that war would be inevitable. These being the facts, it was necessary that hon. Members should make up their minds whether they would place confidence in the hon. Gentleman opposite. The Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman opposite was neither more nor less than a Vote of Censure upon the Government for the past, and a Vote of Confidence in the right hon. Gentleman and his party for the future; and in giving their vote upon it, they must make up their minds whether they had confidence in the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) came forward, as he generally did, the champion of a bad principle, which might 856 have been powerful some time ago, but was no longer so. He came forward on behalf of war—a principle which he (Mr. Forster) had hoped had died away. The Amendment of the hon. Gentleman was certainly one which would lead us inevitably into war. The first question would be whether the words of the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) "stand part of the Question,"—that was to say, whether or not that was the proper time to give any opinion respecting the past conduct of Ministers. It was desirable that this Question should be plainly put. For himself he was not disposed to approve of every step which had been taken by Her Majesty's Ministers. On the contrary, he felt that they were deserving of blame for the course they pursued in misleading Denmark. But in justice he must say, that in taking the vacillating course they had done, the Ministers had but too much reflected the state of feeling in the country; and that if they were to blame, the right hon. Gentlemen opposite were also liable to censure. But at a time when we had before us a most critical present, and a serious and important future, they should not indulge in idle Votes of Censure on what had happened, but rather consider what they should do now, and to what hands they should confide the administration of affairs and the future policy of the country. He did not agree with the right hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon that any promise had been held out to Denmark by treaty; but he did think that there had been in the conduct of the negotiations be the Foreign Office, still more in the speeches made by Members on both sides of the House, and still more in the writings constantly published in the organs of public opinion, a sympathy expressed for Denmark that might well have led that gallant people to suppose that we should not leave them alone in this struggle. That being the case, he thought it was the imperative duty of that House not to do anything that would increase that misunderstanding, if it really did exist, and not to allow any feelings of party, or any natural desire of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite to take the place of the present Ministry, to bring about such a result. Now, he asked whether the passing of this Vote of Censure would not increase that misunderstanding? We could not expect the citizens and politicians of the Continent, and still less those who were engaged in the present struggle, 857 to understand exactly the way in which party fights were conducted in that House. They could not comprehend how that great Assembly, in adopting the Resolution before them, intended only to consider the past policy of the Ministers, and not to provide for the future. The Government having declared after some hesitation that they would not directly interfere on behalf of Denmark, and that no British fleet should go to the Baltic—should that declaration be followed by a Vote of Want of Confidence in Her Majesty's Ministers, he said it was impossible for the people of Denmark to suppose otherwise than that England did intend to come forward and help them. Now, it was the duty of that House to prevent any such misunderstanding arising. It was impossible not to consider on general grounds what the result of a change of Government under such circumstances would be. He, himself, had very little choice as to whether the present Ministers should continue in office or the right hon. Gentlemen opposite should replace them. It appeared to him that if we were to have a Conservative Government—and it seemed we were likely to have one for some time—he would rather see it conducted by avowed Conservatives, It was impossible to deny that the hopes of many Gentlemen on his side of the House who were in favour of the cause of progress and true Reform, had been a little damped by the conduct of the noble Lord at the head of the Government Only a short time ago an influential states man appeared to have been won over to the cause of real progress and Reform. Their hopes had, however, been somewhat damped on a late occasion, when a critical question had been lost by the vote of that right hon. Gentleman, from whose conversion they had expected so much. There were therefore no particular grounds why he and those hon. Gentlemen who sat around him should wish for a change from one Government to another. But it was important for them to be enabled to tell their constituencies that they had taken that course which was best calculated to preserve the country at peace, to maintain its honour untarnished, and to prevent any misunderstanding arising in the minds of foreign Powers. The hon. Member for Rochdale had read a salutary lesson to the House as to what ought to be the policy of this Government in reference to foreign struggles; but his hon. Friend had not touched very much upon this question— 858 namely, that whatever might be the interests or the power of England, they must still consider the duty of England. He (Mr. Forster) believed that we had a great lesson taught us by the Schleswig-Hol-stein affair. It behoved them to consider very narrowly whether, in fulfilling their duty to other nations, it was not their business to make the principle of nonintervention their rule. Now, supposing that they had left this question alone, was there; any Member on either side of the House who did not believe that there would have been less bloodshed? We had got the credit of having originated the Treaty of 1852, and of thus having handed over the people of Schleswig-Hol-stein to Denmark without their consent. But it was now generally admitted that we were instigated to that treaty by Russia. If, then, when the difficulties arose between the King of Denmark and his subjects, we had said that they must settle them amongst themselves as best they could, could it be supposed that, strengthened though his subjects were by the sympathies of a kindred German race, he would not have come to some agreement with them long ago? But the Ministry only stopped short of war, He did not doubt when Her Majesty's Ministers declined to interfere in the war that they were influenced by the feeling that such an interference would inflict the most serious injury upon our commercial interests. They must also have felt that though we had a strong fleet we had not a large army, and that we could not carry on such a war without subsidizing foreign armies. But they probably felt more than this—they probably hesitated to plunge into a war of this kind because they knew that they would be applying the torch to the most combustible materials, which, if ignited, would probably involve in flames the whole of Europe, But it was said that a war would certainly burst out, either sooner or later, in which we should be involved. It would then be our fault if we got involved in this war, for there was no valid reason why we should plunge into it. Forces on the Continent were too equally matched for any one of them to threaten us. Let us consider on one side the old despotisms of Europe, with large standing armies, still endeavouring to keep down the spirit of nationality and of freedom struggling throughout Europe. Behind those despotisms there was the revolu- 859 tionary party endeavouring to remodel Europe and to rise against their rulers. And all this time was the Emperor of the French narrowly watching the movements that were going on, and considering what advantages might arise out of them for himself and France. His noble Friend (Lord Robert Cecil), who was a member of the old aristocracy of England and of the Conservative party in this country, and who some months ago had a strong feeling in favour of war, had himself felt that we could not come to the aid of Denmark without the help of the revolutionary element in Europe. With regard to the balance of power in Europe, there never was a time when there was less danger than at present of Europe being mastered by one Power or one dynasty. All this showed that—thank Providence !—we were so placed we need not interfere in the struggle. But they were told that the just influence of England was lowered by the policy which had been pursued. Now, what was the meaning of that language? He could not but suppose from what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks, that he had no intention of carrying out the views of the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn, or even of the right hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon; but rather that he looked forward to keeping our just influence by what, perhaps, he would call the adroit manœuvre of hooking England on some foreign country, and of helping the French Emperor in his views and designs to obtain greater power and influence by diplomacy, and, if we were driven to carry that diplomacy into war, of being no longer left alone. Surely that, above all things, was the least the country desired. It was not our business to assist the French Emperor in his designs to re-model the map of Europe. Surely, if it be really necessary, for the preservation of our just influence, to have entente cordiale with France, we were not called upon to join with the Emperor of the French in all his designs. If so, he (Mr. Forster) would say it would be much better for us to remain aloof altogether, and hold no cordial communication with France. He trusted that the result of this debate would be to convince us that the time had arrived for effecting a change in our foreign policy, and for replacing that meddling, dishonest system of apparent intervention, but which was really nonintervention, which had been the policy 860 not only of the present Government, but of every Government for some years past, by an honest, dignified, and plain spoken system of non-intervention. But in order that they should learn that lesson and practise it, he for one did not feel it necessary' to vote with the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who at this critical juncture refused to reveal his policy. The only hint he dropped before them, as showing how he would maintain the just influence of the country if he were intrusted with the direction of its foreign affairs, was in favour of the principle than which none could be less palatable to English feeling—namely, subserviency to the Emperor of the French in his designs for remodelling the map of Europe.
§ MR. BUTLER-JOHNSTONE
said, that the question before the House was not whether our policy should be one of intervention or non-intervention, whether we were to make use of the influence which we possessed as one of the great Powers for the welfare of Europe and the interests and honour of England, or whether we were to take refuge in that other policy of not meddling—minding our own business, as it was called; but the question was how the Government in their late diplomatic negotiations had dealt with the interests and honour of this country. By the vote which they were called upon to give they were asked to protest against the foreign policy of the Government which had brought them into this dilemma—either that they were obliged to abandon a weak ally whom they had taught to look up to us for assistance, or to reverse the traditional policy of this country, and engage in an impolitic war. It was for having reduced the country to this miserable alternative that they were called upon to give their support to what he believed to be a thoroughly honest Vote of Censure upon Ministers. Some hon. Members had found fault with the Resolution because it was not strong enough. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had asked why was an insidious vote of that kind to be proposed rather than a direct censure. Now, to his mind he had never read a stronger or more direct Vote of Censure than that proposed by his right hon. Friend. What they maintained was that the policy of the present Government for the last eighteen months had been, to say the best, a perfect fiasco. It had been said that it was only on "the ribald trash" of a foreign 861 press that the Resolution was founded. But when they found that such papers as the Réoue des Deux, Mondes and the Journal des Débats, which held the highest position among the press on the Continent, and which had always been favourable to England, used the same language with regard to our foreign policy, was it not rather too much to talk of the "ribald trash" of the Continental press? He recollected that on a debate on some Bill—he thought it was the Indian Reform Bill—the noble Lord now at the head of the Government said that if two men were seen laughing together they might be sure they were laughing either at Don Quixote or the Indian Reform Bill. Now, he (Mr. Butler-Johnstone) would say that if; they found two men laughing together in any coterie of politicians on the Continent they might be sure they were laughing and sneering at the foreign policy of the British Government. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in defending the Government, had said, in the first place, that we had not taken any other position before Europe except what had been taken by other neutral Powers, and the whole gist of his argument was that we stood in the same relative position as regarded Den-mark, as Russia and France; but he afterwards claimed credit for having taken up a more prominent position, because he said we were more anxious to keep to our engagements. According to the right hon. Gentleman, then, in the first place, we had not taken a more prominent position before Europe; and in the next place, we had. He might be allowed to say that the defence of the Government seemed to be made in the spirit of Shylock; but though their obligations were such as would not bind a Jewish usurer, they were obligations which were generally considered binding upon gentlemen. "I cannot find it; 'tis not so nominated in the bond," was the tenour of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. "We did not promise you material assistance" was, in fact, the substance of; his statement; but, certainly, the impression from the whole tenour of our negotiations on Europe, and especially on the minds of the people of Denmark, was that it implied the giving of material aid. He found from the correspondence published in The Times that the people of Copenhagen could scarcely believe even now but that a Queen's messenger was on the high road with the information that this coun- 862 try intended to interfere between them and their spoilers. "Sister Anne, do you see any help coming?" but the reply was still, "Nothing but a little dust, nothing but another despatch." The truth was that the people of Denmark had acted in a certain way upon the faith of implicit promises made to them by this country; for when a great Power like England stepped forward and took the matter out of the hands of a small Power like Denmark it involved an implied obligation on the part of the Government not to leave Denmark in the lurch if she accepted the advice which was given her. Denmark withdrew her Patent of March at our suggestion, and took measures to revoke the Constitution of November; she retired from Holstein and allowed the Federal Execution to take place as she would not otherwise have done, and at last she consented to the cession of a large amount of territory. All this Denmark had done at our suggestion—and yet it was said that we remained in the same position as France. If the Government had determined to announce to the King of Denmark that he could not expect to receive material assistance from England, it was their duty to have done so at the time when General Henry made a similar declaration. Their very silence upon the point seemed to imply a different intention. He remembered very well that, thinking at the beginning of the Session that the question was not one which should be allowed to drag this country into war, he had asked the noble Lord at the bead of the Government why he did not issue a proclamation of neutrality. His desire was to obtain from the Government something more than mere Sibylline utterances, so that, if necessary, a Resolution upon the subject might be proposed to the House. He was answered by the hon. and learned Attorney General who said—The hon. Member has proposed to the Government a question so unusual that I cannot think he is serious in asking it. … At the same time, the respect we feel for the hon. Member makes us think it right to give some answer to the hon. Member; and the answer is simply this. It has never been the custom to issue proclamations of neutrality in any case in which Her Majesty's Government have felt that they have a deep interest involved pending negotiations which may or may not have the result of calling for action on the part of Her Majesty's Government. … It is absolutely necessary that Her Majesty's Government should reserve to themselves the power of taking any course which the honour of Great Britain and Europe may require. Therefore, to issue a pro- 863 clamation of neutrality, which is a declaration that you will remain neutral during the course of a war, whatever eventualities that war may involve, would be a most undignified and inconsistent course."—[3 Hansard, clxxiii. 1941.]Now it was not this or that suggestion or declaration that was so important—it was the sum of all those declarations and des-patches put together. It was the whole tenour of the conduct, the declarations, and despatches of the Government which showed that there was some justice in the reproach of the "trash" of the Continental press that England had abandoned her ally. The question was not one between the Opposition and the Ministerial benches, but between the people of England and those who had had the management of our for reign affairs. He had most certainly felt that this was not a subject upon which the country ought to go to war, nor did he stand there for the purpose of defending the conduct of Germany throughout these negotiations. He was quite willing to admit that her conduct had been marked by undue violence, overbearance, and highhandedness. He thought that every Gorman must feel the sting of the reflection, that the aggression of his country was directed against one of the very smallest of the independent Powers of Europe. "What, however, took away from the sting of that reflection and lent to German aggression the only dignity it possessed was the fact that that aggression had been perpetrated in the very teeth of England's power, in the face of the declarations of her Foreign Minister, and in spite of the menacing attitude of her diplomacy. The Government had talked of "moral influence and support" until those terms had become a by-word and proverb among nations, but the real moral support which we have afforded in this quarrel has been the moral dignity which we have lent to German aggression. It was for those reasons that he felt that we had been brought to the terrible alternative of waging an impolitic and unnecessary war or abandoning an ally. It might be asked what the Government should have done? and though, perhaps, his opinion might be of little value, he would state what course he thought they should have pursued. He thought that two years ago, when the matter really assumed an important aspect, the Government ought to have seriously considered whether or not it was necessary for this country to interfere seriously in this dispute. If, after consideration, 864 they came to the conclusion that it was not necessary to interfere in the question, he believed the best thing for them to have done would have been to have left it entirely alone. If they believed that reasons of State policy, reasons of European policy, impelled them to a different conclusion, they should have reminded Denmark that she had failed in the fulfilment of her stipulations and engagements, and that she had therefore put herself in a wrong position. They should have told her that unless she fulfilled those stipulations and engagements in the letter and the spirit they would wash their hands of the affair entirely; but that if she would follow the advice they gave her they would defend her against the whole of Europe. If the Government had come to that conclusion there would not, in all probability, have been a Dano-Ger-manic war now. He confessed he was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer invoke a comparison between the foreign policy of Her Majesty's present Government and the foreign policy of Mr. Canning. To his mind there never was so great a contrast. What was the policy of Mr. Canning with reference to Spain? Mr. Canning said that the war was one in which it was not absolutely necessary for this country to engage, and that although our feeling might be one of regret that foreign Powers should be putting such a pressure upon Spain, we could not regard the question as one which should involve Europe in war. He went on, however, to say there were two limitations that if any attack were made upon our faithful ally, Portugal, we should render her every assistance in our power; and that if the new Government of Spain should attempt to coerce and re-conquer the almost independent provinces of South America we would not allow such a course to be adopted. What was the consequence of that policy? Portugal was threatened by Spain. The news arrived, he believed, on Friday, the 8th of March; a Cabinet Council was held on Saturday, and it was determined to send assistance; the course of the Government received the assent of the Sovereign on Sunday, and on Monday the troops were on their march for embarkation. That was the conduct of Mr. Canning. He thought that the critical error of the Government consisted in this—that at no epoch of those negotiations had they come to any deliberate 865 and definite Resolution as to their conduct in the event of certain specific contingencies. It had been said by a living author that want of success arose often not from any neglect of the right method of attaining our ends, but because we did not in reality know what aims and ends we had in view. So it was with the Government, for he believed that they had never yet deliberately made up their minds as to the nature of their ultimate aims. They said their object was to keep the peace of Europe. Of course the peace of Europe was the aim of all Governments, and the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) had complained that the statements from his side of the House were too vague, and demanded some specific statement of the means by which it was intended to bring about that desirable result. There were obvious reasons why it was impossible to satisfy that demand. It was only the other day that the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had said in another place that he had received important proposals from Paris. How could they on his side of the House, in ignorance of the despatches which had been received by the Foreign Office (except those laid on the table), undertake to specify the means which they would adopt? It would be perfectly preposterous for them to say what they would do under certain circumstances without, being aware of the nature of those circum stances. The Lord Advocate and the hon. Member for Bradford had attempted to fix a war policy upon his side of the House. He repudiated such an attempt. If the honour of the nation demanded it they were perfectly willing to face Europe in arms; but if it were possible to save the country from entering upon a war in which those on his side of the House had no part or parcel in bringing about, that was a policy which they would pursue The Resolution moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckingham shire (Mr. Disraeli) had been moved in the interests of peace, for it was felt that to go to war at the present moment would be impolitic and suicidal. There could be no question as to the policy which the leaders of the Opposition would act upon. But Parliament could not leave the foreign affairs of this country in the hands of men who for the last eighteen months had been blundering, blundering, and blundering, till they had become involved in a tissue of difficulties of their own construction, 866 They had menaced Russia, and the consequence had been to bring upon unfortunate Poland deeper calamities than she would otherwise have suffered. What was it which had rallied the people of Russia round the Russian Government on the Polish question, except the fact that foreign Powers were interfering? That it was which had made the Russians rally round their Government in a way they had never done from 1812 up to that time. Our Government had pursued a system of notes and joint notes and threats and warnings and menaces. If he was asked to describe in one word what their policy really was, he would say that it was what Mr. Canning would have called areopagitical; and the means which they had adopted to carry out that policy were impotent menaces. They had gone from court to court in Europe with propositions—with menaces—and the result had been that these impotent menaces, which it was never intended to carry out, had left their sting with those who had dared to use them. When he spoke of the noble Earl at the head of the Foreign Office, he did so with all due humility. He knew the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire had said that the history of the noble Earl was a part of the traditions of that House and the country; but, though he concurred with the right hon. Gentleman, he would say this—he did not think there was any official post in which the noble Lord would be more sure to distinguish himself by failure than he was in that of Foreign Minister. He did not believe it would be possible to find anywhere else so square a man in so round a hole. He further thought that one of the chief faults of his administration was the spirit of discussing foreign questions as if he were dealing with merely speculative matter—as if European questions were questions which only required the application of speculative talents—as if the whole, difficulty was not in the collision of hostile wills and adverse forces. The noble Earl asked the French Government to leave Rome, and France told him to mind his own business. He went to Russia and lectured her about the Poles. He was told to hold his tongue. He went to Germany and lectured them on the obligations of the Treaty of 1852. In effect he got the same answer—to hold his tongue and do his worst. The areopagitical spirit of the noble Earl's policy, wanting as it 867 did all force and energy, was destructive of the foreign policy of this country. But the House had been told by the learned Lord Advocate of the industry and indefatigability of the noble Earl. Of course, all Foreign Secretaries were industrious and indefatigable. Indeed, so indefatigable had been the noble Earl that he had completely knocked up his permanent Under Secretary, and but for the herculean frame and capacity of the Parliamentary Under Secretary, the political capacity of the staff of the Foreign Office would have been exhausted. The supporters of the Resolution before the House were warned to take care; they were told that we might not do better by changing Ministers. Well, though the consolation was only a poor one, he might observe that they could not possibly do worse. There appeared to be a sort of constitutional compensation in these matters, and they found that when a Ministry broke down in a particular department, the Ministry who succeeded were particularly strong in that department, but broke down in some other. Lord Derby's Government broke down because, from the peculiar difficulties of their political position, they failed to make their finances acceptable to the country. It was succeeded by a Government which was considered to be particularly strong on finance, but broke down in consequence of the inefficiency of its war administration. It was followed by a Government, in which the War Minister was a noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), who, from his policy during half a century, was supposed to be, of all others, fitted for the post. The country then got a Government which did not break down through failure in any particular department, and therefore it was no exception to the rule; it broke down because it was not tenacious of the honour of the country. He might refer to a right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench (Mr. Milnor Gibson) to bear out his assertion that it fell because it did not answer a despatch which the honour of the country required should be answered. It was his belief that the people of England would insist that any Foreign Minister who might succeed the noble Earl should act in a different way from that in which he (Earl Russell) had acted. Sitting where he did, he confessed he could view any change of Government with great complacency. He did not think the present Government possessed the confidence 868 of the country. That very night the Secretary of the Admiralty had told them that we had not yet got a serviceable gun; the War Department itself had not been very successful in avoiding public scandals; the Home Department had been outwitted by a country attorney—he alluded, of course, to the Townley case; and the Colonial Office had not satisfied the House and the country in respect of the New Zealand war. Whatever might be the talents of the individuals comprising the Administration, the Government as a whole could not be said to have been successful. It was urged that it would be a disgrace to enter on the records of the House a Resolution stating that the influence of this country had been diminished; but, for his part, he feared that that was the only thing the people and Parliament of England could do—namely, to enter their solemn protest against the manner in which the foreign policy of England had been conducted by the present advisers of Her Majesty; and it was for this reason he gave his hearty support to the Resolution which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire had placed in the hands of the Speaker.
§ LORD HARRY VANE
said, that having on former occasions expressed opinions favourable to the Danes, without retracting these he wished to explain his present views. He now felt that the Treaty of 1852 could not be carried out. He thought the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had hardly been consistent in the course of his speech. He had avoided naturally—as all on the other side had avoided—expressing any definite view as to the course which he would recommend to be adopted at the present crisis of things. He did not altogether blame them for that. It was the part of an Opposition to criticize, not to prescribe. Therefore, as a general rule, he did not find fault with an Opposition for not stating what its policy would be on every question that might arise; but on a question which agitated Europe, and respecting which they proposed an Address to Her Majesty expressing censure of the policy of Her Majesty's Government, he did think it was in fairness and justice incumbent on the Opposition to state what would be their policy. He did not mean to say they should go into details, but they should state in broad terms what their policy was. The 869 hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House said there were certain particulars in respect of which the Opposition were not informed; but was not that also a reason for not expressing so strong an opinion in the Resolution before the House? Fault had been found with Her Majesty's Government for recommending that certain concessions should be made by Denmark. He, on the contrary, quite agreed with the hon. Member for Bridg-water (Mr. Kinglake) that the concessions recommended did not place Denmark in a worse position, but, on the contrary, they placed her in a stronger position before the world. He contended that the German Powers put themselves in the wrong-when they were not content with the offer of the British Government to enter into a diplomatic engagement for the revocation of the obnoxious constitution, and undertook an invasion, first of Schleswig, and subsequently of Jutland; but he believed they had undertaken the war in consequence of pressure put upon them by the smaller German States and the German people, and could not stop. They had proceeded against Denmark in order to avert disturbances at home. He could not, therefore, find fault with the Government for any concessions which they recommended to be made by Denmark, and which, indeed, were equally recommended by Russia and France, for the moral position, if not the material position, of the Danes was thereby strengthened. Though parts of the correspondence might be considered to offer expressions which might be construed into menaces, he did not find that England made any promises to Denmark of material aid. The people of this country sympathized with the Danes, but it was never supposed by Denmark that England would undertake a great war alone for her sake. The British Government acted as mediators, for the people of England would have been discontented with any Ministers who held themselves entirely aloof. The only question was whether we had held out an unconditional promise of assistance. He maintained that we had not. It was not until the latter part of January that this country made a direct proposition to France to offer material aid. We made the same proposition to Russia, who in her peculiar condition with regard to Poland, and not feeling under obligation to render material aid, also declined it. Was 870 it, then, possible for this country, under the circumstances, to do anything more than remonstrate with the German Powers? He did not agree with the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden), and the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster), in their views of foreign policy; but, at the same time, he admitted that on an occasion when the honour and the interests of this country were not concerned it would be extremely Quixotic to enter single-handed on a contest with Germany. It was difficult to say where a war, once began, would end. It would be impossible to give material aid to remove the German armies from the continental possessions of Denmark. Undoubtedly this country might render assistance by sea, and the noble Lord at the head of the Government did, in his speech the other night, hint at certain contingencies in which this country might act; but he trusted that the German Powers would not push their successes so far as to attack Zealand or Copenhagen. With regard to Austria we might undoubtedly act against her in the Adriatic; but he regarded her as an unhappy instrument carrying on a reluctant war, and he was told that at Vienna the war was extremely unpopular. Austria was carrying on a war in contradiction to her own principles, and though for the sake of "hegemony" she might think it necessary to preserve her position in Germany against Prussia, and to conciliate the opinions of Germany in case of attacks from without, she still must feel her own participation in the war to be most inconsistent; for the result of it must be to give Prussia increased influence in the north of Germany, and Austria cannot by possibility gain by it. It was preposterous that Austria, whose empire was made up of many different nationalities, should go to I war ostensibly for nationality. It was just I now very much the fashion to criticize I the Treaty of 1852; but that treaty should I be read by the light of the past, not of the present. It could not have been anticipated at the time the treaty was entered into by any of the statesmen concerned in its preparation, that such a change would take place in the opinions and circumstances of Europe to impede its execution and cancel its operation. It appeared from a despatch of Count Rechberg, the Austrian Foreign Minister, that even in the beginning of 1863 there was no very strong disinclination on the part of the German population of the Duchies to re- 871 main under Danish rule. It was not till some of the German Princes took up the matter, and German agitators began to labour, that the complexion of affairs was altered. There were faults also, he was bound to admit, on the part of the late King and his Government which tended to estrange the Germans in the Duchies. Experience, moreover, proved that although an absolute monarch might hold sway over two rival nationalities, that task was beyond the power of a democratic assembly such as prevailed at Copenhagen. An example of the insuperable difficulty attending the Government of two several nationalities, might be found in the late Kingdom of the Netherlands. It might have been supposed that a great manufacturing and a great commercial county like Belgium and Holland would have united amicably; but the antagonism of language and race asserted itself, and a separation ensued. Again, it had been found impossible to maintain two independent Legislatures in England and Ireland, and the smaller country was, therefore, joined in representation to the larger, which by its ascendency governed the whole. It was true that between Norway and Sweden the only connection was that of the Sovereign; but there were peculiar circumstances in that case. He entertained warm feelings of sympathy for the Danes, but he thought that brave and gallant people had carried their resistance to the advice given to them too far. It was a misfortune that they did not revoke the obnoxious Constitution of November before the dissolution of the Chambers which had voted it. As to the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman, he regarded it simply as a Vote of Censure—as a party move. The fact was, that this Question was being used merely as the stalking-horse of party. Of course, if the right hon. Gentleman thought he could displace the Government he was quite right to make use of the occasion; but he must not flatter himself with the idea that the case was not very transparent. Up to the present moment they were quite at a loss to know what would be the course taken by the other side if they were in power. The Gentlemen opposite contended that the country had been humiliated; but they did not point out how. It seemed to him that the Government had done all that under the circumstances they could fairly be called on to do; and although he regretted that they had failed in this ob- 872 ject, he would not admit that there was any humiliation involved in that failure; and how it had lowered the influence of England in the councils of Europe he could not perceive. No doubt the Germans were just now extremely indignant at England for the part she had played; but why was that? It was because England was the only Power that had endeavoured to fulfil the engagements into which she had entered; and there was surely no dishonour in occupying that position? As to peace, he could not see any increased securities for it in the line indicated by the other side. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (General Peel) began by repudiating all party feeling, and then launched forth into one of the most vehement party speeches which have characterized the debate. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman, however, took care not to say anything definite as to the policy he would recommend; and, in fact, his remarks had very little to do with the Danish Question at all. Taking the right hon. and gallant Gentleman at his word, they would, perhaps, come to the conclusion that the policy of the hon. Member for Rochdale was that which ought to be pursued; but he did not understand how such views could be reconciled with those of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks, with whom the right hon. and gallant Gentleman no doubt hoped some day to find himself in office. For his own part, he felt bound to express deep regret at what had occurred. Having at one time been much interested in Scandinavia, and acquainted with many Danes, he cherished profound sympathy for the misfortunes of the gallant little kingdom of Denmark. It was impossible not to feel sympathy for the condition into which that country had fallen; but that feeling would not induce him to consent to a vote which would be of no service, and was intended to be of no service to Denmark. They had heard the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley) declare that he would be no party to armed interference on behalf of Denmark. What, then, would Denmark gain by the accession to office of hon. Gentlemen opposite? It was said that advice had been tendered to the Danes, leading them to retire from strong positions; but if these had not been abandoned they would only have been driven from them with greater slaughter in the earlier stages of the conflict. Looking at the overwhelming 873 force which Germany could bring into the field, it was impossible that Denmark could offer effectual resistance. Believing that there had been no substantial difference of opinion between the neutral Powers, and that the influence of England had not been in any way lessened, he should vote against the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. He could not help regretting that another issue not germane to the question, and not involved in the question, should have been raised in the Amendment placed on the paper by the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King-lake.) The original Motion was not of a warlike tendency, and the different paragraphs had no warlike meaning; they; were vague and colourless, and though; conveying a Vote of Censure, were not intended to mean anything or to bind to I any policy. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced it fully concurred that it would be unadvisable to enter single-handed upon a war in favour of Denmark, and simply sought for an expression of opinion upon the conduct of the Government. It was, therefore, to be regretted! that any independent Member should I have interfered to prevent a vote being taken on the direct issue of whether a change of Government was or was not expedient, and he trusted the hon. Member would withdraw it.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, it was almost refreshing to hear from the other side of the House a speech professing to support the policy of the Government, for up to that point the difficulty of an attentive listener would have been to discover on which side of the House their policy had been; most impugned. He did not think the noble Lord who had just spoken had made out any case in support of the vote he intended to give. The issue raised was clear and distinct—it was that the influence of England had been lessened by the conduct of the Government in the course of the late proceedings. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had accused Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House of ungenerous and unpatriotic conduct in the Motion they had put forward. A reproach less merited, or proceeding from one less entitled to make it, he hardly remembered. Not once, but scores of times, Members of the Opposition had rescued from defeat the Government of which he was so great an ornament, and while the Cabinet were engaged in conducting difficult negotiations 874 the Opposition left them entirely unmolested. The great argument used at the other side of the House was that the Opposition had no policy. But that was an unfortunate taunt for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because it was his great prototype, the late Sir Robert Peel, who, in reply to a challenge by the Government of the day, replied that it formed no part of the functions of an Opposition to declare a policy. He rejoiced that the good sense of the House had chosen the present topic for discussion, as it afforded a legitimate opportunity for considering the policy of interference by one nation, however powerful, in the conduct by another of its own affairs. He was glad that the subject had fallen into such able hands as those of the right hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon (General Peel) and the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden), and he believed that the policy had received its death-blow in the course of the present debate. The production of these papers showed, and it was admitted by the Government, how completely this policy had failed. In the present instance, a policy of isolation was impossible; and though he did not contend that England should assume that attitude of isolation from Continental affairs for which her position, geographically speaking, fitted her better than any other of the European nations, yet it was the duty of her statesmen gradually to relieve themselves from the trammels imposed on the nation by the web of negotiations, guarantees, and treaties bequeathed by the diplomacy of former ages. Diplomatists, like lawyers, created the contests by which they lived. It had always been a matter of surprise to him that the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary should voluntarily have plunged into a dispute surrounded by so many difficulties and intricacies as this Dano-German question. He remembered that, in giving evidence before a Committee some two or three years ago, Mr. Hammond, of the Foreign Office, speaking of negotiations for the removal of commercial restrictions, said, "The more you press a reluctant Government, the more likely you are to encourage that Government in its reluctance." He wished that maxim had been borne in mind by the noble Lord during the late negotiations. If he wanted a proof of the impolicy and inutility of interference by nations in matters not concerning them he should find it in the Treaty of 1852. That treaty professed to 875 provide for the integrity of the Kingdom of Denmark, and to maintain its independence in perpetuity; but, instead of doing so, it sowed the seeds of its dissolution, threw down an apple of discord, and placed Denmark in the grasp of those Powers which were now engaged in her extermination. The treaty dealt with the question of the right of succession; but Frederick VII., who might, perhaps, in conjunction with his Diet, have a right to dispose of the succession to the Crown of Denmark, had no right to confer the succession to the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein on one who was not the rightful inheritor. Under no circumstances had he the right to do that without consulting the Duchies; and, being a member of the Diet, he had no right to do so without consulting the Diet. That was the question which was now felt by Germany, and which agitated the Duchies in connection with the further question of the protection of German interests. Now, the protection of German interests was as much the duty of Germany as the protection of English interests in any part of the world was of England. The question of right did not arise until the death of the late King, and then a settlement became absolutely necessary. No doubt the King had a good motive at heart when he designated the present King as his successor; but the Government of Denmark had pursued a policy of irritating oppression, which had the effect of disuniting Schleswig from Denmark, and causing her rapidly to gravitate towards Germany. When the death of the late King occurred, Austria and Prussia found themselves unable to control the feeling of Germany in favour of the independence of their countrymen in Schleswig and Holstein, and they were obliged to choose between abandoning the treaty or finding themselves in the midst of a revolution. They chose the first course, and placed themselves at the head of the movement, and had by so doing probably prevented greater evils than those that had actually occurred. It was only fair to Germany that these things should be remembered, and he did not think that he had overstated the case. As to foreign interference, all that it had done had been to make Germany more aggressive than she would otherwise have been, for the Germans were a proud people and resented foreign interference with their affairs. More than that—it had rendered Denmark from the beginning more obstinate, less willing to 876 admit her obligations to Germany, and had induced her to resist the efforts of Germany to obtain for German subjects those rights which unquestionably belonged to them. According to the statement made last night by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, up to January last the Government had done all in their power to invite concert and co-operation in maintaining the provisions of the treaty. Happily they failed in obtaining that concert and co-operation, or we should long ago have been engaged in an European war. It is true that in that case war might have been prevented in Denmark; but it would inevitably have been aroused in Italy, and we should have found the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs adding fuel to the fire. If a war had been excited in Italy new combinations would have arisen, and a conflict might have been commenced of which no man was wise enough or bold enough to predict the end. It had been argued that they on that side the House ought not to attack the Treaty of 1852, because it was Lord Malmesbury who concluded it. But in that lay exactly the objection he entertained to the policy which had prevailed for so many years at the Foreign Office—namely, that it necessarily runs in one channel. With regard to the Conference, he thought the position occupied in it by Germany had been mistaken. She entered the Conference as a victor, and it was impossible to deny the right of the strong to make the most of the chances of war. Germany had conquered and was holding Schleswig. She was, therefore, in a position to dictate her own terms for the arrangement of peace, and was not in a position to be dictated to. In the Conference, a boundary was proposed by Ger-many; and he was one of those who believed that Germany was sincere in the proposal she made to secure the independence of Denmark for ever, and at the same time to afford due protection to German interests. As far as the independence of Denmark went, so long as there was any German leaven left in Denmark it would remain to disturb the whole. As a necessary consequence, a nationality represented by 40,000,000 would have a tendency to absorb a portion of that nationality represented by 1,200,000. The mistake made by Denmark was that she tried to absorb that nationality which naturally gravitated towards a larger Power. In the Conference, a boundary line was proposed, not by Denmark, but by England, which would 877 have cut off the southern or wholly German districts of Schleswig, but left the mixed districts, which Germany had as much right to protect as the purely German ones united to Denmark. The German Powers proposed a line which would have included the mixed districts, but they did not obstinately adhere to that line, although Denmark, supported by England, did to hers. The Germans did I not officially propose a line further south; but Counts Bernstorff and Apponyi gave the Plenipotentiaries to understand that they were prepared to consider such a line. England persuaded Denmark, and Russia backed her up in it, not to consent to that line; and he firmly believed that, had it not been for the presence of those great Powers, the question of frontier would have been settled there and then between Germany and Denmark in such a way that the independence of Denmark would have been preserved and adequate protection would have been secured for the Germans. The negotiations failed. That failure did not affect us; but it would affect Denmark, which must inevitably be crushed by the great Powers with whom she was at war. He hoped that neither the Conference nor those debates would be entirely without effect in moderating the excitement and anger of those Powers; but at any rate foreign interference had as yet done little for Denmark. Perhaps he had already detained the House too long; but he felt strongly, not only on the Danish Question, but on other questions which occupied the attention of the House, how mischievous had been our policy of interference. It was perhaps not desirable to enlarge the area of debate, but this policy of interference had been pursued both in China and in Africa. In both cases it had failed, and in both it had been reversed within the last couple of months by the very Government which adopted it. In condemning the foreign policy of the Government, the House ought to include their policy in those parts of the world in the condemnation. He desired to condemn this vacillation, and to see established something consistent, some basis upon which our foreign policy was to proceed, so that foreign nations and the people of England might understand one another. The only country with which the Government had not interfered was America; and why had they not interfered there? Because they were afraid. They were afraid to interfere there because the foreign policy of 878 America was an intelligible, honest, and bold policy. The Americans said, "We will not meddle with you, and you shall not interfere with us." Interference in America meant war; and that judging by their acts in other parts of the world, was the only reason why the Government had not interfered in America. He applauded them for not doing so, but his satisfaction did not arise from any want of interest in the American contest, in which he believed that the majority of the people of this country felt more interest than they did in the war in Denmark. He should give his vote to-night—["Not to-night"]—not to-night, but whenever it was required, with satisfaction, and he should be prepared to justify it before the country at any moment at which the Government might give him the opportunity of doing so. That was the feeling of hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House. They had been accused of being unpatriotic and ungenerous. He had proved that they had shown no want of generosity towards the Government during the course of these transactions. The Government said that they had been sincere and had done all that they could; but they had left Denmark in a scrape. That was plain; and that was what they were called upon to declare by their votes. He only hoped that the House of Commons would be sincere, because he wanted to know whether they could trust the evidence of their senses. Could they trust "the man in the street," or "the man in the lobby?" Was there any value to be attached to their interviews with their relatives, friends, and acquaintances out of doors? Because, if there was, there was a common opinion that the policy of the Government had been mistaken and mischievous. He only wished that they could vote in secret on this Motion; not because they on that side of the House desired to conceal their votes—because they were proud of and prepared to justify them—but to spare the feelings of many friends of his who were about to vote to save the Government at the sacrifice of their own opinions.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
Sir, if the policy advocated by the Opposition were really a war policy, as has already been hinted by hon. Members in this debate, I certainly could not consent, upon such an occasion, to give them my support. Their policy however is, I conceive, of a very different character. It is founded 879 upon a principle which certainly ought to be always enforced—a principle which has rendered the country prosperous as long as it has been followed; and the abandonment of which has always brought evils on the land. Those who have sought to fix on us the stigma of a war policy, must have been sorely puzzled and disappointed when they heard the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Stamford. That noble Lord, whose warlike tendencies are so well known, and whose sympathy with the Danes has been so notorious, had not a word to offer in favour of war. It is true that he endeavoured to make out some apology for the conduct of the Danes. He said, for instance, that they had not neglected the advice which we gave them on so many occasions, and which they as often repudiated. He also took upon him to assert that we asked them to withdraw a constitution which had become the law of the land, and to perform an act which would clearly have been unconstitutional. I think that the noble Lord was in error. The Danes have on every occasion rejected our advice; at least, they have never followed it until the time was long past when it could be of the slightest avail. The noble Lord must also remember that although M. Hall, the Danish Minister, agreed to withdraw the obnoxious decree of March, he did not do so until after that decree had been carried out, and had become law, by the passing of the act which established the constitution of November. M. Hall himself said, when he withdrew the decree, that he did so because it had become nothing but a worthless piece of paper, since the substance had already been secured by an act of the Rigsraad. Thus he threw scorn and contumely in our faces, at the very time that he professed to grant the request which we had so long urged in vain. Nay, he openly declared that he had dissolved the Rigsraad which passed the act, in order that no new Rigsraad could be called together except by putting in force the very law which we had demanded that he should revoke. Clearly, then, we are not bound in honour to go to war for the Danes. Moreover, nothing which we have ever said or intimated, or hinted, has led the Danes to believe that we would go to war for them. Despatches of September and October have been profusely quoted, in order to make out a contrary proposition. But what did Sir Augustus Paget write on December 22, in relating a conversa- 880 tion with M. Hall? "M. Hall replied that … there was no promise of support if Germany continued her aggressions." We cannot go beyond that statement. It is conclusive up to the end of last year at least. The Opposition can, therefore, not believe that we have given Denmark any grounds for believing that England would go to war for Denmark. What, then, is the policy which the Opposition are seeking to enforce on Her Majesty's Government, and which I trust will be always successfully enforced? It has been much alluded to since the speech of the gallant Member for Huntingdon (General Peel). I can, indeed, add but little to that speech. He argued in favour of non-interference; and, certainly, there is no question in which the evils of interference or meddling protection have become more apparent than in that which is now under consideration. This whole crisis has sprung from that mistaken policy of intervention on both sides. We interfered in Denmark; Germany protected the Duchies; and both Denmark and the Duchies have now good reason to exclaim, "save me from my protectors." The Germans said that the Duchies were oppressed by the Danes; they therefore invaded the Duchies, and devoured their crops like a flight of locusts, in order that the Duchies might be oppressed by Germans. We have been as bad. We did not respect local rights; we did not allow a people to govern themselves and manage their own affairs, but stepped in to interfere. Both in 1850 and in 1863 we favoured the attempts of a Copenhagen mob, which forced on the King a centralizing policy, like that of the Czar in regard to Poland, or of Austria in regard to Hungary, or of Prussia in regard to Posen. What is the Treaty of 1852? It is either a mere promise that we would offer no resistance if the King of Denmark changed the succession to his Crown—in which case, we are now bound by our pledge not to interfere. Or else that treaty binds all the contracting Powers to render their assistance in bringing about that change in the succession. In that case the treaty is a flagrant instance of the policy of interference. In the late Conferences, Lord Clarendon was induced to admit that if the treaty was a contract between each of the Powers singly with Denmark, then it has been annulled by war. While, on the other hand, if in spite of the want of mutual ratifications the treaty binds all 881 the parties by a common engagement to each other, then it amounts to a guarantee. Treaties are always the result of interference; and they prolong that meddling policy into after years. But treaties settle nothing. The Treaty of 1852 has not availed to settle anything. France said it was a foolish piece of bungling, and long-ago declared it to be a nullity. The German Powers have declared themselves free from its restrictions. The neutral Powers, by what was termed "the English proposal," have virtually set it aside. For the treaty proposed to bind the Duchies to Denmark by a personal union; while the neutral Powers proposed to separate the greater part of the Duchies and place them under another Sovereign. Russia. too, as it appears from some secret des-patches, regards the treaty as an old horse which has done its work, and seen its best day, and is fit only for the knack-er's yard. No more did the Congress of Paris of 1856 avail to settle anything. At that Congress a declaration was formally agreed to in favour of arbitration, and against privateering and paper blockades. How does it work? At the Conference Lord Clarendon appealed to that declaration in order to enforce arbitration; whereupon one of the Plenipotentiaries asserted that mediation only had been intended "No," said Lord Clarendon, "the term 'good offices' includes both mediation and arbitration." "By no means," cried M. Balan, "I was at the Congress of Paris, and remember well that the term 'good offices' was chosen because we found it impossible to agree to anything definite or to fix upon any precise term." Here, then, it was openly avowed that the language of treaties has no definite meaning. As to blockades, all the Plenipotentiaries agreed that a Prize Court alone can decide whether a blockade is effective or not. This part also of the declaration has, therefore, been declared valueless. With regard to the prohibition from privateering, what occurred? Prussia declared her intention, much to the alarm of Russia, to employ privateers if the war should continue; and a few pages of the Conference Papers are full of the expressions of alarm which were uttered by Baron Brunnow at such a declaration. The fact alluded to by the hon. Member for Rochdale is another instance of the worth-lessness of treaties. By the Treaty of Vienna, of November 20th, 1815, all the great Powers bound themselves to pre- 882 vent a Buonaparte from ever occupying the Throne of France, and engaged to use all the forces at their disposal to carry out this common object. Why have we not observed this treaty? "Because it was not convenient," I shall be told. Precisely! Convenience is of more weight than treaties. If a treaty suits our convenience we appeal to it; if not, we cast it to the winds. Treaties then can never be stable; they continually bow to convenience; they are fluctuating and uncertain. International Law alone can be appealed to. This is like a wall in the plain, which may be passed with case, but ever remains to mark the boundary; while treaties are like the long herbage which grows on the top of the wall, and which waves and sways in the wind, ever presenting a different appearance to the eye.
I used, Sir, to complain of the expenditure of the country, and move various Resolutions in favour of reduction. But I have now made entry of this in my list of illusions. It is futile to attack the symptom while the cause of disease is there, while the virus still infects the blood. The cause of expenditure is this meddling interference. To make, this more intelligible, let us take an analogous case. The various landowners in a county do not invade each other's property, and meddle in each other's affairs. If they did, there would be constant litigation and expensive law suits. In order that they might live as neighbours should do, and preserve amicable relations and enjoy the amenities of life, they carefully abstain from meddling, either by word or act, in each others affairs. So it is with States. It is meddling which costs money, and necessitates armaments. This is apparent from the evidence given before the Committee of Public Accounts. Sir Richard Bromley, the Accountant General of the Navy, said—149—"The last ten years have been a race for building, a race for getting in stores, and a race for getting men into the service.The Duke of Somerset said—1408.—"There are demands made upon the Admiralty for naval force by the Foreign Office, and by the Colonial Office in different parts of the world. Ill those demands lead to expense.Mr. Gladstone said—1543.—"A considerable change has taken place in the practical working of our system of late years. Until 1853–4 the expenditure of the army and navy ran within certain accustomed channels; the amount of it varied but little from year to year, 883 and the application of it did not vary much.…Of course I speak of a period before the operations of the Russian war had arisen, which entirely altered their character.…For the last three years, either military operations, or political operations approximating to a military character have been in progress.To return to our analogy: if a landowner meddles, even if he be so rich and powerful that he can carry his lawsuit, by appeals, from one court to another, and so weary out his opponents, yet he is hated and shunned by the rest, and loses all his influence in the county. It is the same among nations. Nay; Lord Russell himself seems to have had a misgiving at the Conferences, and to have felt that the honour of England was gone; for we read in the Conference papers—It appears to Earl Russell that it would agree but little with the honour of the European Powers not to succeed in finding a solution for the difficulties which remain to be settled, without a recommencement of the war.Therefore I say that we should live like neighbours with foreign States, and leave them to settle their affairs, and then our expenditure would speedily be reduced. Some one may say, however, that this would be a selfish policy ["Hear, hear."] That cheer informs me that this objection has been lying before the minds of hon. Members. The term selfish relates to an individual man only. It is the duty of a Government to do whatever is best for the governed. To do what is most advantageous for the nation is therefore not a "selfish policy," but is the duty of Government. "Selfish" and "isolated policy" are clap-traps, which are meant to catch the unwary and bewilder the unconscious. A state which is isolated, that is to say, which has no ambition, becomes the refuge of all weak States, and, therefore, the arbiter of the destinies of Europe.
Our grand meddling, I have said, was in 1852. What have been the results of it? What, in the first place, was the object of this interference? At page 81 of the Protocols of the Conference we read—The Treaty of 1852 was concluded with the object of consolidating the peace of the North.And the very next page, (p. 82), contains these words—The political and administrative independence of the Duchies [that, namely, which had been debarred by the Treaty]; this was the motive for which the German Powers made war.And what are the results? The Holy Alliance has been again formed on one side; while the Scandinavian Trefoil is ranged 884 on the other. The absolute and despotic character of the Alliance has been well depicted by the hon. Member for Rochdale. It is also apparent in the Conference papers. There we find Baron Brunnow asserting that a King may alienate a portion of his territory, imposing or not imposing conditions on that alienation, just as he chooses; and that he may do this without consulting the wishes of the inhabitants, but merely "in virtue of his own rights of sovereignty."
In the Conference, things went most favourably for Germany. The German Powers might have secured the independence of Schleswig and Holstein, together with the personal union with Denmark which the treaty provided for. But they repudiated the treaty entirely, unsettled everything, and preferred to renew the war with Denmark. Austria, Prussia and Russia had by this time shaken hands over the grave of Poland. Or, rather, Russia proceeded to use Austria and Prussia to put down the rebellion in Poland, to stir up rebellions in the Danubian Principalities, and to restrain projected aggressions in Finland. With Russia at their back, of course Austria and Prussia can advance as far as they choose. Besides, the alliance covers half the globe; it extends from the Rhine through Europe and Asia into North America; and comprises two millions of men under arms. De Broglie wrote long ago that Sweden has everything to fear from Russia and Prussia in alliance, and Denmark in subjection. The only set-off to this power is that France may be thus forced to draw nearer to England. It is time, therefore, that we should ask ourselves what we mean by foreign policy; or at least we should know what are the objects to be attained by diplomacy. The rank or weight of a power is necessarily founded on three bases; namely, military power, wealth, and alliances. Setting apart all sentimental foreign policy (these not being the days of chivalry), there can only be three objects in a foreign policy: the increase of naval and military power; the increase of wealth; and the strengthening and multiplying of alliances. With regard to the first; the more the military power is increased, the more you take from the wealth of the country. The military power should therefore be of a merely passive character; it should be for defence only. Aggression weakens States. The Dutch increased in power by persistently abstaining from med- 885 dling, and by studying only the augmentation of their commerce and wealth. They carried grain for other nations, who wasted themselves by war. This policy they pursued until they entered upon the war of succession; then their power declined, and their commerce and wealth crossed over the sea to our shores. As to the power which results from alliances, let us consider the present state of affairs in Europe. let us observe the result of our negotiations. There is the Holy Alliance on one side, and the Scandinavian Union on the other. And what allies have we? Italy? France is her protector and ally. And France is falling into alliance with the liberals of Germany, against the German Courts and the Holy Alliance. But we have affronted the people of Germany, and they hale us Would Scandinavia be our ally? Denmark, one leaf of the "Trefoil," we have disgusted. While we were using tall talk, doubtless France whispered to the descendant of Bemadotte, that if he would only wait quietly, Denmark would fall into his lap. France inspired him, and he is the ally of France. But I may be asked what I mean by the term alliance. It means self-interest. It is like friendship between men. There is no such thing as real friendship, such as is imagined by poets and philosophers. [A laugh.] The hon. Member for Honiton laughs, in order to remind us that he has acquired the title of poet. In spite of his sneer, however, I maintain that you are friendly with one man because he is amusing, and with another because he gives you information or assistance. Where interests coincide there States are in alliance, and individuals are friendly. This condition lasts, until the interests diverge; and no longer. It may, however, be destroyed by jealousy. But since the French Treaty has been ratified, the interests of the French and ours have been the same; and they have now no jealousy, I presume, of our maritime power. How is it then that France is estranged from us? The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that all their animosities and hatred towards us have ceased. Yes; because they have ceased to fear, not because they have begun to love. And why have they ceased to fear? because they have seen our weakness. Lord Bus-sell sought the co-operation of others in all he did: he sued to France, he knocked humbly at the door of Russia. A State is weak only when it plays a subordinate part. When it fears to take a line of its 886 own, it can never be sure what part it will have to play. Then it must dig and sow, for some other State to reap the fruits. The result is that smaller States will no longer seek your alliance, because of your weakness, but will ally themselves with your master, because he is strong. For hope and fear play their parts in the actions of States. In conclusion I will quote some memorable words from Sègur, merely substituting Denmark for Poland, England for France, and so forth. Mutatis mutandis he wrote—England should at the first have declared boldly and firmly that she would support the weak against the strong, and always strengthen the cause of justice. Then all the weaker States would have looked up to England, and all the strong which had no ambitious schemes would have allied themselves with her. If Lord Palmerston had done this, France would have joined her; and Denmark would never have been partitioned. As he did not do this, the weaker States learnt, from the example of Denmark, that the timidity of England cut off all hopes of succour from her; so they ranged themselves either under Germany or France; and the credit of England is destroyed.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he had failed to hear in the course of the discussion any practical course, other than that which they had pursued, pointed out as that which the Government ought to have adopted in relation to Denmark. As to the increase in our armaments, to which the noble Lord who had just spoken (Lord Robert Montagu) had alluded, they were in a great measure occasioned by the uncertainty which prevailed with regard to the policy of France, and until the key to that policy was discovered we should be more or less compelled to proceed in the same direction. The key to the policy of France was to be found in the fact that she wielded the power of the Pontifical Empire, and would have to pay the penalty of maintaining the brigand rule of Rome. Never had the French flag been so disgraced, so degraded and dragged in the mire as it had been in maintaining that brigand rule [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh, but was it altogether, he would ask, without precedent that the Emperor of the French might think there were other means of invading this country than by force of arms? ["Question," "Oh, oh!"] Had the extraordinary development of that most remarkable aggression of Cardinal Wiseman been forgotten? That aggression took place in 1851, and from that time up to the present there had been a constant endeavour 887 to extend the Popish influence in this country. ["Oh, oh!"] The Ecclesiastical Titles Bill and the laws which had been passed prohibiting the settlement here of the Jesuits had been disregarded, and we had now no less than fifty-six monasteries and about 137 nunneries, and, if what he read were true, every priest belonging to the Church of Rome in England was under the control of the Pontifical authority, while that authority was under the control of the French Emperor. That was the key to the policy of the Emperor of the French. Upon former occasions he had told the Government that if they would grant him a Committee he would be able to show good grounds for alarm and apprehension. The outbreak of pub-lie indignation in 1851 was but the echo of our statute-book; and when they had before their eyes the mystery of the hest relations with the French Emperor being accompanied by a large increase in our naval and military armaments he hoped he was under a delusion when he thought that some hon. Members showed surprise at the circumstance. As it was understood that the division upon the present occasion might be seriously affected by the passing over to the other side of certain Gentlemen who believed in the dictum of the Earl of Derby that the Conservative party were the natural allies of the Pope, he would remind them of a speech attributed to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks, in which the fatal effects of the Papal policy upon this country were pointed out. That right hon. Gentleman now proposed a Motion upon a question of policy, but refused to give any opinion of his own, or even to say that if he had been in office he would have pursued a different course from that pursued by the Government.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
Sir, I will endeavour to recall the House to the subject which we are here to consider; and at the commencement I must say that I feel almost terror when I approach this great subject. I feel that every word—every word of common sense I mean—I feel that every word uttered in this House may have its echo outside, may fright the nations, and may be productive of most serious consequences. But amid the multitude of words that have been published upon this matter, I have felt that there was a very small quantity of truth. A Conference has met together; a great ceremony has been performed; but every man has seemed to 888 wear a mask. Every man were the same sort of mask; it had a simpering smile of courtesy while deadly hatred was in the hearts of most of those who were thus met together. But although I have heard almost every word that has been spoken in this debate, I cannot but think that there exists a desire to avoid the real matter in dispute—men seem to shrink from touching the real question. I can understand the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman. It is a Motion directed against the front bench opposite, the real meaning being, "Get you out, and let us come in." It is a very natural Motion to make; I do not at all question the object, nor do I find fault with the Motion; although I may not think much of the wisdom of the proceeding. But still I would ask the House to consider whether the real question has been put before them. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden) came very near it, but even he seemed to shrink from a statement of the real matter at issue. We are all wonderfully courteous; we speak ill apparently of no one but our political opponents, and the real culprits upon this occasion seem to escape animadversion. For my part, thoroughly understanding the responsibility under which I speak, that responsibility not being official but merely that of a Member of this House—I, feeling that responsibility, believe that I shall best act up to it by saying what I believe to be the truth upon this matter. What is this debate about? First and foremost, I will state the parties whom I conceive to be concerned in the matter. I take them to be five in number. There is first Denmark; next, the people of the small German States; then the Princes of those States; next Prussia, and then Austria. I leave out of consideration Schleswig and Holstein and the Duke of Augustenburg, because I take them to be merely pretexts in this matter. The real question is this—the people of the small States of Germany have gone mad upon the feeling of nationality. The people of Denmark, with the King at their head, have endeavoured to maintain what, for want of a better word, I will call their autonomy. They have endeavoured to hold together a nation composed of separate peoples; the people of the smaller German States have been impelled by the principle most mischievous in politics, the principle of nationality, to invade the rights of the Danish people. Their Princes, fearing that their people 889 might turn against them, have been glad to divert the feelings and wishes of their people into a channel which would not affect their own interest and power. Then comes Prussia, and she has three objects in view. First, she wishes to obtain territorial aggrandizement—she wishes to get a port in the Baltic. Next, the Government of Prussia wish to divert the consideration of the people from their own internal affairs. And thirdly, their object is to fight for what the Germans, talking Greek, call the "hegemony"—the headship of Germany. These are the three objects which the Prussian Government pursue. On the other hand, Austria, fighting for one of these things, the headship of Germany, sees Prussia pursuing her own political aggrandizement, feels that she cannot allow Prussia to take that course without following her and enters therefore into the contest. Now, the character of Prussia is a precious compound. It is a compound of a pedagogue, a drill-sergeant, and a highwayman. That has been her character from the beginning—from the very time that she became a kingdom, and during the reign of her next monarch whom some silly people call great. They have been robbers from the beginning, and they are only acting up to their original character now, when they are endeavouring to acquire from weak Denmark that port upon the Baltic which some day or other shall rise up to create what they call a German navy. Now, some months ago, when at Vienna, I talked with an illustrious statesman there about this matter of Denmark; and I said to him, "How can you, an Austrian Minister, take a lead in this crusade for nationalities? Had you no recollection of Hungary, of Transylvania, of Bohemia, and of Italy?" He looked at me and said, "What you say is true; but the Germans have gone mad." And he added, "I will tell you a saying that we have. When a Frenchman goes mad we say he becomes mischievous; when a German goes mad he becomes silly." I bowed to him, and said, "Sir, I think upon the present occasion Germany has succeeded in combining both characters." Well, then, the real matter in hand is this—that Prussia and Austria and the other States of Germany have interfered in the internal affairs of an independent nation. It is all very well for Gentlemen here to take what is called the German side of the question and talk 890 about the oppression of Holstein and Schles-wig by Denmark. But I want to know if there be a kingdom in Europe that is not composed of different, nay, of hostile nationalities. Look at our own country. We conquered Wales, and Welshmen hate Englishmen now. ["No!"] Yes, it is quite true. We conquered Ireland; we injured Ireland almost continuously from that time until 1830; and let me say, with all courtesy towards hon. Gentlemen from that country, that Ireland hates us now, and that if we were to adopt there what the Emperor of the French wishes to adopt now—namely, a plébiscite—we should be turned out of Ireland to-morrow. Now, I desire that the rule for ourselves should be the rule for others. When Napoleon interfered with the Irish people, what words in the language were strong enough to express our indignation r Did he not say, too, that England oppressed Ireland, and was it not true? I will go still further back. When England chose to get rid of the Stuarts, and to drive James II. from the throne, what happened in Ireland? Did we not by the strong hand put down the Irish people who wished to continue under the rule of that King? England, I say, has conquered Ireland, and has behaved unjustly towards her; but what should we say if anybody interfered between us and Ireland because of our injustice? Now, I will assume for a moment that Denmark was unjust to the Duchies? I do not believe it, but I will assume it. Denmark was an independent nation; and I want to know what right the German people had to interfere? I put it broadly—what right had they to interfere? The fact is that there is a great principle at the bottom of all this, and that I to interfere with the internal concerns of a nation is to forfeit one of the great guarantees for the peace of the world. That is my rule, and I say that the German nation, headed by Austria and Prussia, have done a great deed of wrong by interfering with an independent nation, what ever may have been the conduct of that nation to any part of its dominions. I want somebody to answer me on this point. You talk of united nationalities. Look the world over, and if you find a nationality united I will give up the point at once. Take Germany. Where is the unity of Germany? I find every State struggling with every other State, and I find also that precious pretence of a Government, the Diet. What is the meaning of all 891 that? The Germans do not go and wail over Strasburg. Why don't they? Because they are afraid. And then their great feeling for Fatherland bursts forth and is poured out upon the little nation of Denmark. Do the Germans say anything to Austria? Would they dare say anything to Austria, supposing that Austria to-morrow were to annihilate the constitution that the Emperor has given to his subjects? Would the Diet at Frankfort in that case dare to whisper one single word of disapprobation? The fact is it is all a farce—a mischievous farce—beginning in farce and ending in tragedy. These are what I call the real facts of the case. I will not now pretend to discuss what Denmark has done in Schleswig or Holstein. My own belief is that the Danes intended to do what every wise nation would attempt to do—unite the separate parts of that country into one. In the same way Scotland became united with this country, not by a merely personal connection through the Sovereign, but by a union of the people. We got Ireland to do the same; and will any man tell me that in the matter of the Union Mr. Pitt and his Government appealed to the Irish people? Was there any pretence for such a thing? Were the people of Ireland consulted? And yet I hear people talk as though we had done nothing like what the Danes have done! And what did Denmark do? She gave what I believe to be a really good constitution to Schleswig, and then you tell us that she endeavoured to change the language. If she did I think she did a very wise thing. There are silly people in this country who wish to continue the language of Wales. But any wise man would at once say, "If we can, let us put out that wonderful light called the Welsh language." A nation ought to be as much as possible homogeneous, and one of the great means of effecting this object is to make the language the same. I do not, therefore, blame the Danish Government for endeavouring to spread the Danish language over the whole kingdom. So much for the doings of Denmark. Then Germany steps in where she had no right to step in; and now I ask what ought England to do? We are told that we ought not to interfere. Now, I want to know, whether, in the history of Europe, from the time that Europe was a combination of States, it has been possible for us to insulate ourselves and declare we will take no care for what is going on? We are 892 not here to talk about this in a huckster-like way, but as statesmen ought to talk about it. I am not going to take my statesmanship from those whose object is merely to make money. I do not think a counting-house the proper portico for a statesman. If, I. say, we are to consider what the communities of Europe are, is there a more dangerous thing for us to permit than that a strong nation should interfere in the domestic concerns of a weak nation? I know it has been done; but it has been done in spite of the feelings of the English people. We have at times opposed it. We have done many silly things, but I think we did not do a silly thing in preventing Spain from overrunning Portugal. That was a case exactly analogous to the present. The hon. Member for Rochdale says it is impossible, with a great nationality like that of Germany, by the side of a small nationality like that of Denmark, to prevent the one from gravitating towards the other, until at last the great nationality overflows and overbears the small one. Again, I appeal for a parallel to our own country. Is the disproportion between the Danish and German nationalities greater than that between the nationalities of England and Wales? We have also what Germany has—a wonderful literature—we have a fine, comprehensive, and powerful language, we have a courageous and intelligent people; but from the time of Edward II. downwards have we been able to put down the nationality of Wales? No, we have not. And I say what has happened here may happen with regard to Denmark, and we have every right to suppose the nationality of Denmark will not be overrun by the greater nationality of Germany. Moreover, remember this, the Danes are only part of a large nationality—the Scandinavian—and in the multitude of the nationalities of Europe, who shall say which is to be predominant? The only wise rule is for each nation to make itself one, and for other nations to abstain from mingling in its domestic affairs. And it is the duty and interest of England to maintain as much as possible the adherence of all other nations to this great principle of peace. None of the words I have heard uttered in this House are too strong to express my utter disapprobation of the manner in which the foreign policy of this country has been conducted by Lord Russell. The noble Lord seems to me to have mistaken his vocation. Nature intended him for a school- 893 master; and Fortune made him a statesman. His great object seems to have been to read lectures to all Europe, and Europe very properly has said, "We don't intend to be lectured by you." I believe there is nobody feels that more than the noble Viscount opposite. [Viscount PALMERSTON intimated dissent.] Yes, I see the noble Lord shakes his head, but I know better. Lord Russell seems to me to have been like the Old Man of the Sea, sitting on the noble Lord's back. I have no doubt myself that if the foreign policy of the Government had been conducted according to the wishes of the noble Viscount, we should never have been in the position in which we now find ourselves. But there are exigencies in all parties. There may be people who are very disagreeable, but of whom it is impossible to get rid. That, I believe, is the exact state of the noble Lord's opinion on this matter. If Lord Russell had been sent to the other place with his Earldom only and nothing to do, I am sure the noble Viscount would have fancied himself a very happy man. That is my opinion with regard to Lord Russell. But then comes the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman. It is not enough to say that because I find fault with you I must love him. I honestly say that with all the fault I have to find with the present Administration, I prefer them to those who seek to supplant them. That is a plain and simple statement. I do not expect that it will be satisfactory to hon. Gentlemen on this (the Opposition) side of the House, but that is a fact. That is my feeling on the matter, and that is the reason why I mean to vote with the noble Viscount. I shall vote thus, not because I believe the present is the best Administration the country can afford, but because I think it is better than the one which will take its place if this Resolution is carried. That is a statement which all the world can understand. I find fault with much the present Government have done. I think they have come short in many things of what they might have done both in home and foreign policy, but I prefer them to those who wish to succeed them. I can see that I do not please hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, and I certainly have not pleased hon. Gentlemen opposite, but still I feel that my country will go with me in what I have uttered. I feel that many things might have been done which would have pre-vented bloodshed in this matter. If the 894 noble Lord had had power to do as he wished—if we had taken a firm stand at the beginning—we might have put an end to the arrogance and injustice of the German Confederation. I have heard a great deal said about peace, but those do not always maintain peace who say they will never go to war. My belief is, that if the Government had told the German people that the moment they attacked Denmark they must expect to have England for a foe, and if they had steadfastly acted on that principle, and sent a fleet to the Baltic, there would have been no trouble with Germany. You may talk about the effects of railroads, but is there any people, more especially the Germans, who can maintain themselves without foreign commerce? Our fleet would have swept from the sea the whole mercantile navy of Germany, and with that threat before them the Germans would have been wise in time, and they would have abstained from those acts of injustice which they are now perpetrating, and which they may live to deplore.
§ MR. HORSMAN
Sir, the House has now placed before it the case against the Government and the defence, in speeches of rare ability, which have left the partisans on either side little to desire as to the manner in which their respective champions have opened the battle on their behalf. With those who address themselves to this question merely in a spirit of partisanship—determined, as the right hon. Member for Bucks, to censure and eject a Government which has done nothing right; or, on the other hand, persuaded by the glowing speech of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to applaud and support a Government which he has shown to have done nothing wrong—there may be little difficulty in deciding into which lobby they shall go. But, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale truly stated at the beginning of this evening, there is a large section in this House, and I am sure there is a large section in the country, who are sufficiently impressed with the gravity of our position to be determined not to allow this to be made merely a question of the Treasury Bench; who are not so satisfied either of the entire justice of the attack on one side or with the sufficiency of the defence on the other, as to join upon this occasion in in-discrimate censure or any indiscriminate approval, and who are desirous, therefore, of looking further and deeper into the 895 causes of a situation for which—painful and in many respects discreditable as it is—it is idle to say that Ministers alone are to blame. The Motion of the right hon. Gentleman may be said to affirm two propositions—first, that the policy of the Government has been a failure; secondly, that that failure has been so injurious to the national influence and the interests of peace that the Government ought to be censured and ejected. As to the first of these propositions, I believe there will be little difference of opinion among us. The policy of the Government has certainly failed to preserve peace between Denmark and Germany, and it has also failed to save Denmark from conquest and dismemberment. We have all watched with painful anxiety the unequal contest waged by a free, gallant, and virtuous little State, shedding its best blood drop by drop, against two gigantic Powers, who have been repeating in Denmark their robbers' crime of Poland. Twelve months ago we respected the Germans as our friends and allies; but now, such is the infamy with which they stand self-branded, that he would be a bold Minister who would come to the House of Commons to ask us to vote one shilling or one man to save them from any affliction which might threaten them. My hon. and learned Friend who has just sat down (Mr. Roebuck) has favoured us with a portrait of these two Powers, and he has enlarged rather more fully upon Prussia than upon Austria, which he has thrown somewhat in the background. The only distinction I can draw between the two Powers is this. It appears to me that, of the two, Prussia has been the greater madman and Austria the greater hypocrite. Prussia by its late audacious repudiation of the Treaty of Paris with respect to privateers has almost put herself without the pale of civilized nations; and Austria, the partner of her counsels and her crimes, must also, when the time arrives, be the partner of her punishment and disgrace. A day of reckoning is most certainly in store for both; and when the day does fall cruelly and crushingly upon them, the whole of civilized Europe, with one voice, will acknowledge that the heaviest calamities that can befall them will be but a righteous retribution for the blood of slaughtered Danes—blood that is even now crying to Heaven for vengeance. We have witnessed with indignation the perpetration of this crime, so revolting to humanity and justice, in Denmark, and we have felt 896 humiliated by the contempt which has been shown towards England. Her counsels have been slighted, her warnings disregarded, her menaces derided, until Prussia, flushed with impunity, has mocked, bearded, and almost threatened us with an insolence which has left us almost cowering from the shame of misleading and abandoning a small and kindred State, which we were bound by the most solemn obligations to protect. ["Oh, oh!] All this is true. It is sad enough to reflect upon, and it insures for the first proposition of the right hon. Gentleman a pretty general and ready assent. But when he goes on to tell us that the Ministers are alone to blame for all this—that the House of Commons has been so mindful of its duty, to imply that it has been so far-sighted in its policy, so vigilant, so right-minded, so earnest, that it is justified—nay, more, that according to the right hon. Gentleman, it is bound to inflict justice on a delinquent Government that has not acted up to its standard of conduct and requirement, I venture to say that he has invited us to accept a conclusion which the facts will not bear out. Do not let us, in our desire to make a scapegoat of the Government, blink this fact—that for two years we have, one and all of us, on both sides of the House, been acquiescing in the policy we are now called upon to condemn. There are certain Parliamentary forms—there is a certain Parliamentary practice—by which the public outside these walls becomes acquainted with the opinions of the Members of the House of Commons. What is the record of our proceedings during these two years? Not only to the public of this country but to Europe have we shown our acquiescence in the policy of the Government. And I will say that not only have we been endorsing, but that we have also been directing that policy. Well, now the right hon. Gentleman and his friends have drawn up a long bill of indictment against the Government; but let me ask them and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon (General Peel)—when did the perils attending the policy of the Government first strike them? Was it only lately that they forced themselves upon his conviction? No. Then I gather from the right hon. Gentleman that he has long felt and long foreseen the perils into which the weakness and incapacity of Government were hurrying us. Then why is it he has so long held his peace? Is it not 897 in the very essence of Parliamentary Government that the Ministry should be watched and controlled? Is it not the first duty of my right hon. Friend as a national representative to raise the cry of alarm and save us from the abyss towards which he saw we were hurrying? "No," says my right hon. Friend, "that rule does not apply to foreign policy. The relations between Parliament and the Foreign Office are altogether exceptional." It is an entirely new and a strange doctrine that he has revived and promulgated, that the House of Commons has no alternative between giving to the Government free licence, unchecked and uncontrolled, to injure and disgrace the country, and punishing them when they have so injured and disgraced us. "But," says my right hon. Friend in this new and strange exposition of Parliamentary law, "Parliament must never prevent. That would be very wrong. It can only punish There is no intermediate power. We must trust implicitly or eject penally and ignominiously; but we have no power to check, control, or restrain." Now this new and strange doctrine I utterly repudiate. I say it is as false as it is new. It may be well suited to the atmosphere of a despotism, but is utterly alien to the nature of a constitutional Government Our Constitution knows no difference between Parliamentary supervision admimstered for our home and our foreign policy. It is our duty to scrutinize severely all the clauses of a Bill introduced by the Home Office; and it is equally our duty, in a case such as Gentlemen opposite have shown this to be, where they have the strongest misapprehension and distrust of the Government, without positive evidence to convict it—it is equally their duty in such a case, to watch vigilantly the tendency of every despatch as they would the clauses of every Bill. I say it is not true that the Government are raised above the capacity of the House and its control-ling and correcting power by the possession of exclusive knowledge; and we know, moreover, that in these days they have little exclusive knowledge. Even in connection with the late Conference, we have seen that the transactions of that body have been telegraphed to Germany and telegraphed back to London almost before the Plenipotentiaries have had time to sit down to dinner; and the excuse is, therefore, too transparent to be urged as an excuse for the non-performance of duty. 898 But admitting for the moment that the Government is exclusively informed of the details of current information, it argues a very superficial attention to the subject to imagine that great international questions turn upon details. There are great historical facts and high moral principles which dictate the policy of nations. The text and construction of treaties, the traditional designs of aggressive Powers, the judgment with which our foreign alliances have been cemented or dissolved, the means by which national influence abroad and its decline are brought about:—these are subjects upon which any educated man is as capable of forming an opinion as a Government. These are the rudiments of political knowledge, and therefore every Member of this House who, like my hon. Friend, has mistrusted the Government, and has yet either designedly or timidly held his peace, has shared in the blame attaching to every act of the Government, and partakes of the responsibility, in consequence of his culpable acquiescence, which has rendered him one of the promoters of the very acts which he now censures. Well, Sir, that is my theory of the duty and responsibility of Parliament, which I confidently place before the House in antagonism to that brought for- ward by the other side. I say that the policy of the Government is exclusively Ministerial only until the materials for forming a judgment upon that policy have been given to the world. But I say the moment those materials have been made public property, then if the policy developed in them is not repudiated but is accepted by all sides in the House, if public mischief subsequently arise, that mischief lies not at the door of the Government but at the door of Parliament; and if the country has been dishonoured and humiliated, the result is not brought about by the Ministry but by Parliament itself.
Now, Sir, I will come to the facts upon which this discussion has been based; and I say that the principle which I have endeavoured to establish most peculiarly and forcibly applies to the case of Poland, to which the right hon. Gentleman had devoted so large a portion of his speech last night. The right hon. Gentleman very truly told us that our Danish difficulties did not begin with Denmark, and he drew our attention back to their true source. The Government did not come fresh to the Danish Question. The Danish Question came upon them when they were 899 exhausted, debilitated, dissociated from every Continental ally, owing to that rash advance and ignominious retreat in connection with our Polish diplomacy of last year? Are the Ministry to be blamed for that? What are the facts? The right hon. Gentleman said last night that he would not weary the House by referring to details which were fresh in the recollection of all of us. But those facts were not fresh in the recollection of the House, and I will trouble the House by referring to them. Those facts bear a precious moral at the present moment, when our morality in foreign affairs is going astray, and the experience of their bitter fruits may serve as a salutary and much needed warning for the future. The right hon. Gentleman said last night there had been many revolts in Poland, that we had found our intervention had invariably increased the misfortunes of Poland; that the two Ministers who were in office at the time were fortunately aware of the calamitous results which had ensued upon our interference; and he left it to be inferred that, if the Government had resolved to intervene, he and his friends would have objected to such a course. Now, what are the facts? In February last year the hon. and learned Member for the King's County (Mr. Hennessy) set forth in elaborate details, and in terms exceedingly offensive to the Emperor of Russia, many instances of cruelty and bad conduct which had attended the conduct of that monarch towards Poland. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving those words, which I can accurately repeat—That these facts call for the interposition of England in vindication of her own public faith and solemn engagements.Now, Sir, these were very strong words, and I wish the House to particularly attend to them, because the Resolution was one embarrassing to the Government, and it owed its success to the support of the right hon. Gentleman the member for Buckinghamshire. I beg the House to remember the words, "That these facts call for the interposition of England in vindication of her own public faith and solemn engagements." That was a very strong Motion, and the debate upon it was a very remarkable debate. The other side of the House absolutely ran not on it, with the exception of my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. New-degate), who repudiated any share in it. With this exception every hon. Gentleman 900 on that side of the House was in favour of interposition. On the Government side of the House there was not the same unanimity. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter) was the first to raise the sound of alarm. My hon. Friend said the terms of that Motion meant war. What said the right hon. Gentleman opposite? "The terms of the Motion don't frighten me." And so said the hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham (Mr. S. Fitzgerald). Both those Gentlemen threw their whole influence, exertions, and eloquence into a support of the Motion, and with such effect that the Polish current ran so high as to draw my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole) into the enthusiasm. He appealed to the Government to respond to the strong feeling of the House, and advised the hon. Member for the King's County not to divide, but only on the condition that the First Minister of the Crown should promise to give effect to the strongly expressed wishes of the House in favour of intervention. Therefore it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire and his friends who committed the House, the Government, and the country to intervention in the affairs of Poland. They were far in advance of the noble Lord, whose language on that occasion was as guarded, and whose reluctance to move in the matter was as apparent as was consistent with the avoidance of a division which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire made very formidable and most embarrassing. But the sequel is still more surprising. The Government, in obedience to the will of the House of Commons, addressed themselves to the Powers of Europe with great skill, great courage, and great success, and formed a combination so complete that the Emperor of Russia, isolated and paralyzed by the combination, was absolutely at our mercy. If England only said one word, without moving a soldier or a ship, the independence of Poland was re-established. Why did England not say the word? Did the Gentlemen opposite ask the Government to say the word? Did they support the appeals which they themselves had directed to be made r Did they offer the noble Lord support when he was committed to intervention, in vindication of the public faith and the solemn engagements of England? No such thing. Putting forth that policy in February, they abandoned 901 it in July; goading the Government to intervention in February, they thwarted them in July by proclaiming themselves the disciples of non-intervention. They started with intervention, and closed with non-intervention. And then followed the embarrassments and dangers of the intervention which had been undertaken at their request. And what is the real meaning of this principle of non-intervention which we have heard again laid down with so much zeal, ability, and earnestness tonight by my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale? How do we define this principle, which has now become almost a stereotyped phrase in our debates? I always thought that, as applied by statesmen, the well understood and well defined meaning of "non-intervention" is noninterference in the internal concerns—in the domestic affairs—of another State. The principle of non-intervention in that sense is a sound, right, and just principle. It is a principle first enunciated by England, to the honour of England, for the absolute exclusion of foreign influences must be the best security for the internal repose and good government of States. To the principle of non-intervention as so defined I am ready, and I believe every Gentleman in this House is ready, to give an unqualified acceptance. But that did not satisfy my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale. As developed in his speech to-night, his idea of non-intervention would go much further, and would require that England should be withdrawn from all concern whatever in the international affairs of Europe—retiring in seclusion—continually abandoning her position, repudiating her obligations—absolving herself, as far as I understand, from obligations imposed upon her by treaties already entered into; refusing to enter into treaties hereafter; abjuring for the future all external duties and responsibilities. England would then have no further mission—since, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon observed, she is too rich to be shot at—except to stand behind the shop-counter and serve all customers alike, enabling the shopkeeper to increase his gains and the taxpayer to save his pocket. That is a principle of non-intervention to which I cannot assent. I think it is a mistaken, mean, and mischievous doctrine. But there is another kind, a third form of non-intervention, which I think still more mistaken, mean, and mischievous. That 902 is a policy which seeks to disturb by words, but shrinks from the responsibility of acts; which advances boldly, to retreat ignominiously—which signs treaties only to abandon them—which preaches morality that it tramples in the mire—which becomes the champion of the weak only to betray them—which lectures and threatens the wrongdoer, only to fall back and crouch before his defiant enmity. That is a species of non-intervention the most senseless and mischievous of all. Such an intervention exposes the Minister of a great nation to the character of a scold and an impostor at once. It incenses the strong Powers which it endeavours to control, and aggravates twenty fold every misery and mischief which it sets out with a pretended mission to remove. But that is the nonintervention forced on the Government last year by those who obliged them to advance at the beginning of the Session, and compelled them to retreat at the end. Your fever heat of February cooled to a very low temperature in July. When the critical moment arrived for determined action to be taken, then it was the changed mind of Parliament was perceived, and could not be mistaken by those who watched it. Then it was that Austria, always double-faced, combined in Poland then, as in Denmark now, with an hypocritical moderation, an ill-grounded sympathy towards every crime and cruelty of despotism—then it was that Austria, assured of the protection of one large party in this House, felt secure in carrying out her enterprise, and the Government of this country were forced to escape from an untenable position. They shrunk, and naturally and properly shrunk, from beginning an European war with an ally whom they could not control, and with a Parliament which they could not trust. And, Sir, the events now passing in Denmark, and the humiliation of England arising from those events, are naturally and logically the results of the inconsistency and crookedness of our proceedings last Session with respect to Poland. We failed to rescue one Poland from Russia, and our loss of influence has made another Poland of Denmark. What are the changes which have occurred since? This time last year we were the moving and guiding Power of Europe—the central Power in favour of liberty, We had entered into a great combination then. We were stronger in alliances than in recent times we had ever been; and we were stronger still in that 903 moral influence derived from character. How is it that all is changed? Why is it that the Danish Question finds us without an ally? We had incensed Russia by our policy on the Polish Question; we had alienated France by abandoning that policy; and therefore Germany, having learnt to estimate our policy at its worth, knew that' in this Danish Question we could not act. There is not now in Europe, in Asia, in the West, or in the East, one single Power, great or small, in which the lowered position and the lost influence of England is not painfully demonstrated to every English traveller—is not a cause of sorrow, derision, or contempt. In this position—this most dangerous position of our own creation, but for the creation of which I have shown the Government were not responsible ["Hear, hear!"]—I am only repeating now the same opinion that I expressed at the close of the Session in the month of July last—in this unfavourable state of things we had to rouse ourselves afresh to deal with the Danish difficulty. The question arising out of the Treaty of London divides itself into two parts. Those were the engagements contracted by the Treaty of London in 1852, and renewed by the present Cabinet in 1863 and 1864. By that treaty the Powers who were parties to it engaged themselves to one another to regulate the succession to the Danish Crown, to maintain the integrity of the kingdom and the peace of Europe, which might be endangered if no such regulation had taken place before the then existing dynasty became extinct. England, pledged with all the other Powers, undertook to uphold the succession of the present King of Denmark. The contingency to which the treaty referred occurred last year. The reigning branch of the Oldenburg dynasty became extinct, the succession was disputed, and the parties were called upon to act. Here was an occasion demanding the utmost circumspection on the part of the British Government. The Schleswig-Holstein Question was not a new one—it had not come upon them unawares. The differences between Denmark and Germany had been growing ever since the present Ministry was formed, and the death of the King of Denmark only aggravated the difficulty. The duty of England then came to be considered, and the task of the British Government was one of no ordinary difficulty. England could no longer be a friendly 904 counsellor. She was called upon to act, and she could not act without a policy. To plunge into interference without due consideration was to plunge into difficulty and disaster; for, if the first step were a false one, every succeeding step would only increase the difficulty. Now, under these circumstances, what was the policy which Her Majesty's Government undertook to adopt? I think it was a fatal policy. With a want of caution and foresight which must now astonish themselves, they plunged into difficulties in which they have been floundering ever since. They, in a rash and unreflecting moment, hastened to adopt, without qualification or modification, the Treaty of 1852, which my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Cobden) has shown to be a bad treaty. It was a treaty unsound in principle, vicious in policy, and at variance with every English notion of justice and morality. This was their first blunder, and it has since been proved to have been an irreparable one. They undertook to set aside the hereditary succession to the throne of Denmark. They chose to treat the heir presumptive of the Danish Crown as if he had an absolute right of property, and they allowed him to make merchandise of his title to the succession. I do not know whether the Danish Constitution allows that to be done any more than our Act of Settlement would allow the Prince of Wales to change the order of succession here. But I did not know that he had any succession to sell until the noble Lord stated he had forfeited it by rebellion and treason. The contracting parties, however, chose to treat with him as if he were the absolute owner in fee, and they bought him out for a smaller sum than we have seen given for an estate in England. In that respect it was an immoral transaction. A portion of his subjects came into a state of war with the King of Denmark, and the rebellion was successful until they were invaded and overpowered by a foreign army. They continued subjects of the King of Denmark, and also subjects of the Germanic Confederation, and thus they owned a divided allegiance, which is always a cause of quarrel. So that this treaty, by which Foreign Powers undertook to regulate the succession of the Danish Crown without consulting the people of Denmark, and the settlement of the Government of the Duchies without listening to the voice of the people of the Duchies, became the cause of injustice to Denmark, of reproach 905 to England, and sooner or later of embroilment and war in Europe. What, then, ought the Government to have done? Ought we to have repudiated that treaty? By no means. They should have examined the obligations of that treaty, not to evade it, but to rectify and enlarge. Eleven years have passed since that treaty was framed. Since then England's objections to war, and to engagements that might lead to war, were continually increasing. We had engaged to regard the principle of non-intervention, and it was the duty of the Government to have said that the Treaty of London was a mistake—in the first place, because England was only remotely affected by the affairs of Denmark; and secondly, because the Danish succession was a matter which the Princes and people of Denmark should have been left to settle with themselves. It ought, therefore, to have been proposed to the contracting Powers, by common consent, to annul that treaty and to substitute for it a general declaration binding ourselves not to interfere in the internal affairs of Denmark, and to defend Denmark against all external aggression. If that proposal had been rejected, which was by no means certain, then Lord Russell might have said, "We have loyally fulfilled the obligations of the treaty since you hold us to them; I we will carry them out; but England will; decline to take a prominent part in a question that immediately affects Continental States." That declaration would have combined fidelity to engagements with the assertion of the soundest principles, and it would have left the peace of Europe not at the mercy of foreign dictation, but founded on the wise and valuable acceptance of the principle of non-intervention. Unfortunately the Government did not take that course. They took their stand on the treaty, and plunged headlong into intervention; and as the London Protocol and treaty were concocted in Downing Street, the English Minister undertook to mediate between Germany and Denmark. Hastily, unfortunately, and rashly setting the other Powers aside, he assumed the almost exclusive task of adjudicating upon these differences, and made England primarily and peculiarly responsible for the miscarriage of diplomacy that was equally unskilful and unsuccessful. I have said that the Danish Question is not a new one, and piles of papers have been laid before us. I shall only refer to the despatch read by the right hon. Gentleman the 906 Member for Buckinghamshire, written in September, 1862, and written at Gotha, although dated from the Foreign Office. Everything which we are now discussing took its rise from that despatch. It gave judgment on all the questions that had been in dispute between Denmark and Germany, and decided every one of them against Denmark. By so doing Earl Russell reversed the judgment that had been given by the noble Lord at the head of the Government some time previously. That despatch was too good to be kept secret. It was instantly published in the German papers. The aggressive spirit of Germany took fire. It was the torch applied to a pile of combustibles. The petty Sovereigns of Germany were full of laudations of the English Foreign Secretary. Count Platen spoke of the noble Earl as a perspicuous statesman. Count Rechberg said that Lord Russell's was the first master mind that had conquered the question. A reference to that despatch was inserted in a preamble at a meeting of the German Diet. It gave the whole weight and authority of England to the dismemberment of Denmark. What was the effect of that despatch in Denmark? It created a feeling of despair Sir Augustus Paget, our Minister at Copenhagen, writing a description of the scene to the Foreign Office, said that M. Hall, the Danish Prime Minister, was visibly agitated while he was reading it. He said he never had expected to receive such a despatch at the hands of the British Government, that it was the most disastrous blow that could be inflicted on Denmark, and was likely to lead to the dismemberment of the Danish monarchy. Why, Sir, that language of M. Hall is prophetic. The mistake that Earl Russell made in that despatch was made in the blindness, perhaps I may call it the extraordinary, and in a Foreign Secretary the almost incredible, ignorance which he showed of the real designs of Germany upon Denmark; and his treating the complaints of the Germans as to the grievances about population as the real and sole cause of quarrel. He ignored the notorious determination of the Germans to wrest the Duchies from Denmark, to get Kiel as a German port, and the views which M. Bismark so candidly stated to Lord Wodehouse when he said that the Germans would never be good friends with Denmark as long as the democratic institutions of Denmark were maintained. Not seeing that the German claims were only means 907 to an end, Lord Russell gave that judgment, which was looked upon in Germany as making the attainment of the end the more certain, and as carrying with it a sure conviction that the writer of that despatch would never take up arms for Denmark. There was immediately a furore among the German nation, which could no longer be restrained; an invasion of Denmark was determined on; the nation of professors was, by one stroke of Earl Russell's pen, changed into an army of filibusters, and they marched into Holstein. Now, this invasion of the Danish territories by the German troops, made under various pretences, but with one common object—that of spoliation, formed a great crisis for Denmark, and in that crisis the English Minister again steps in to undertake fresh responsibility as a protector and guide of Denmark. Lord Wodehouse is sent on a special mission to Copenhagen, with instructions how to advise the Government. His arrival is welcomed warmly and gratefully as a carrying out of the promise that when their territory was attacked they would not be left without an ally. The revocation of the Patent of March was demanded. "Revoke it by all means," was the advice of the English Minister; and the revocation was, though reluctantly, conceded. Holstein had been invaded. "Withdraw your troops," said Lord Wodehouse; and the troops were withdrawn, burning, as we are told, with shame and mortification. "Cancel the Constitution" was the next advice. "Do what is right before the world. Do what England advises you, and you will see what England will do for you." The King consented to this act of humiliation, but his Ministers resisted and resigned. The King asks for time in order to cancel the Constitution in the only legal way, by the consent of the Chambers; but Austria and Prussia refuse that most reasonable request, and go forth to invade and seize Schleswig. The occupation of Schleswig is followed by the invasion of Denmark. The very existence of Denmark is now at stake, and the question can no longer be evaded, "What will England do now?" And in that critical and exciting moment, with that question in every mouth, the British Parliament assembles on 4th of February. Then came the proceedings of the present Session, and I am sorry to say the contributions of both sides of the House to the embarrassing position in which we now 908 stand. Now I come to the events of the present Session. That meeting of Parliament was, for good or for evil, a great event for Denmark. All eyes both at home and abroad were turned to the British Parliament. As the policy of England was uncertain the counsels of foreign Cabinets were suspended, and even the march of German armies was in part arrested until the first utterances of the British Parliament were heard. But all parties except the Germans were doomed to bitter disappointment. The Government met us in the Queen's Speech, as it was said, in the posture of a mendicant asking us for Heaven's sake for a policy. "You have no policy," said the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire—"we are exactly in the same pitiable plight. We have no policy either." ["No, no!"] Yes, such was the meaning of the right hon. Gentleman's language. And so the House of Commons made no sign. The leaders on both sides manœuvred; the followers on both sides shirked the question. ["No, no!"] I say "Yes." ["No!"] Yes, Sir, and all of us confess it now with shame and with remorse [No, no!"], for England is now reaping the humiliation which we then sowed. If Prussia no longer condescending to hypocrisy is waxing more insolent, and sets no bounds to her aggression, it is because, if before she had to do with a weak Government, she was now assured of impunity by a spiritless Parliament and by a faithless ally and fallen people. ["Oh, oh!"] But it turned out that the Government at that time had a policy, although there were peculiar reasons—painful reasons of peculiar delicacy—which made the sympathy and support of their opponents at the time, not against foreign Cabinets, but against other influences nearer home, indispensable for its secure development and success. On the 26th of February, Lord Russell wrote to Lord Cowley at Paris, that the plan which was in contemplation by the German Powers would amount to the dismemberment of the Danish monarchy, and he asked for the concert and cooperation of France, Russia, and Sweden, in order to give material assistance to Denmark in resisting such a dismemberment; and two days afterwards he sent another similar despatch to St. Petersburg. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale criticized those despatches in language which was perfectly consistent in him, 909 as it was consistent with the creed which he has always professed, and with the principles of the party with which he has always acted; and, therefore, I was prepared for his criticism. But I was not prepared for the condemnation which was expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire Inst night, when he fixed upon those despatches the blame of embroiling us in a long enduring European war. But a war against Germany, with France, Russia, and Sweden for our allies—was that an enterprise so immoral, so rash, and so Quixotic, that this House would be ready to condemn it? Sir, in my opinion, those two despatches are the redeeming features in this blue-book. Remember, that when these despatches were written the Eider was not crossed, and if France and Russia had responded as they ought, it never would have been crossed. There is not a political authority in Europe that docs not think so; and we were reminded of it last night by the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn when he said, that as the Crimean war would never have broken out if the late Emperor of Russia had been informed beforehand that the passage of the Pruth by his troops would have been a casus belli with England, so the Danish war would never have broken out if the Germans had been warned that the moment their army crossed the Eider they should have to measure strength, not with Denmark alone, but with all the neutral Powers of Europe ranged by her side. I believe if such a warning had been given that the free soil of Denmark would never have been polluted by a German hoof, would never have been deluged as it has been by Danish blood, No doubt it might have been thought very weak—nay, even shabby, by some, to ask us in the Queen's Speech for a policy; but assuredly it was more weak and shabby in us not to have responded to that appeal. We knew that Denmark had acted upon the advice of England, because she felt that that advice would be supported by-arms; we knew that we were bound by a solemn treaty to Denmark; and, I would ask, what call to war could be more urgent or more moral than a war to uphold the sanctity of treaties? The treaties of Europe are the public law of Europe; they test the morality of States; they are framed to restrain the strong and to protect the weak, to uphold justice, to promote peace; and as long as it is known 910 that there is one great Power in Europe ready to put all at stake rather than participate in the crime and scandal of preferring material interest to moral obligation, so long will the work of demolition be incomplete and the ascendancy of wrong less certain. I think, therefore, that these despatches of the 24th and 26th of February were most creditable to the Government, and that they ought to have been supported by the House. They were known to the Cabinets both of Denmark and Germany, and they must have been known to parties in this House. ["No, no!"] I do not say they were known to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, because he told us last night that they were not; but they must have been known to other hon. Members. [" No, no!"] I say, therefore, that the policy indicated in those despatches ought to have been supported. But the House shrank from any expression of opinion at that time: and the public, feeling that they had to deal with a Parliament that shrank from that expression of opinion, hung back; and thus a policy which ought to have been supported by a united Parliament and approved by the nation, was dropped, and instead of sending a fleet to the Baltic, Her Majesty's Government only sent round invitations to the European Powers to a Conference. Now, it must be admitted that the moment was singularly ill-chosen for England to propose a Conference. The success of a Conference must depend on France, and we had just rejected with some discourtesy the French Emperor's invitation to form a Congress, by which he endeavoured to cover the failure of his diplomacy in respect to Poland. The Emperor of the French cannot afford failures. In England they only damage the Government, but in France they imperil the dynasty. We did not, however, help him to cover his retreat, but with discourtesy rejected his invitation, though in the same despatch Lord Russell admitted that the state of Europe was very unsatisfactory; and we know that it is so unsatisfactory that it must come at least to a Congress or a general war. We said to the Emperor of the French in effect that we would not go to war, or to a Congress; that we would not fight or deliberate; but we would instruct our envoys; to continue the task of intermeddling, by which we have become a nuisance to Cabinets and a bane to populations. On the first night of the Session the right hon. 911 Gentleman lost no time in actually applauding the error of the Government in rejecting that Congress. On the subject of the Congress, the Emperor of the French had very little to thank his uncourteous ally for—but he could not but be much interested in the mistake we made. He saw that Germany's folly was France's opportunity. If the Ministers of Austria and Prussia had been in the pay of the Emperor of the French they could not have played his game better than they have done. The two most unpopular and conservative of all the despotisms of Europe, at a time when his domestic difficulties were beginning to threaten, opened for him a safety-valve by setting the example that treaties on which the existence of nations depended were not to be regarded. This was a piece of good fortune which he could not have anticipated in his wildest dreams. Their excuse for invading Denmark was the rottenness of their own thrones. He saw the amount of odium which Austria and Prussia were bringing on themselves, and, assuming an action of indifference, but burnishing his arms and "keeping his powder dry," he left to England the hopeless task of terminating a state of things of which he did not complain, because it made him master of the situation. The Conference met and separated, and now we are told by Gentle men who have brought forward this Motion that it was a failure. But did they not always know that it would be a failure? Did not they say formerly, as now, that the Conference was only proposed as a Ministerial device to put off the Parliamentary reckoning? Would it not, then, have been better to expose and denounce it at a previous time; to have taken the sense of Parliament on the subject, even to have courted a defeat in discharging courageously an indispensable and undeniable public service? The Conference ought never to have met; it was a failure before it met. The Ministers proposed an armistice and were refused. And entering on the business of a Conference without a basis, without an armistice, and without an ally, it was patent to all the world that they courted a succession of defeats which could only end in the mortification of England and the dismemberment of Denmark. I must say that I have perceived with regret a disposition to throw the failure of the Conference on Denmark. I think it impossible but that the case of the Government—though the attempt has not been 912 made by them—must be seriously prejudiced by any such unworthy and ungenerous proceeding. It is impossible to speak too highly of the conduct of the Danes throughout all these nefarious transactions. Their moderation has been equal to their courage, and they have shown a spirit of concession and conciliation which is the more dignified because we know that it is not the result of fear. They have gone on from concession to concession at the urgent instance of the British Government, until it appeared that nothing was left to concede; and, then, when at last Lord Russell advised them to take one step more and accept the line of dismemberment, which he proposed as a final settlement, they accepted even that. Prussia, however, refused it; and then—only when another proposal was made for arbitration, from which the Danes would gain little but lose much, and when they had conclusive eidence that England would abide by nothing which she had herself proposed, and that the German Powers would be satisfied with nothing that was conceded—then, and then only, did they, in their despair, exclaim, "Murder us, if you are determined to do so; but do not under the guise of friendship ask us to be our own executioners, to save you from the shame and guilt of the crime which we see you are determined to uphold." That any attempt should be made to twist that answer of Denmark, dictated by common sense and a generous spirit, to the prejudice of Denmark, and into an apology for our Government, is so ungenerous, that it ought to be met with general reprobation. But though you all said that the Conference was likely to be a failure, and that humiliation was likely to accompany it, yet the right hon. Gentleman opposite not only originated no discussion on the subject, but he would not allow a discussion to be originated by others. When that Conference which we now stigmatize as a delusion was about to meet, the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Bernal Osborne) gave notice of a Motion which would have raised the whole Question and given the House an opportunity to comment on the contemptuous demeanour of the German Powers in refusing to enter the Conference until the Plenipotentiary of the Diet, should be prepared to enter it. That was the moment to begin the discussion. It would then have been a seasonable discussion if it only brought to the 913 attention of Parliament the indignity of allowing itself to be the willing victim or the accomplice of a transparent delusion. I do not think that the consequences of such a discussion could be overrated in warning to the German Powers, and strengthening the hands of the British Plenipotentiaries, and showing that there was a Power behind which would not be trifled with, and could not be ignored. But, "No," said the right hon. Gentleman opposite, "we will not allow discussion. The Government and the German Plenipotentiaries must be left alone to fight it out; and when the fight is over, and if the British Ministers are right well punished, I will come forward and ask you to punish them again;" and so in rather a marked and obstructive manner, the right hon. Gentleman gave notice that; when the Motion of the hon. Member for Liskeard should be brought on, he, the leader of the Opposition, would strangle it with the "previous Question," I have no doubt that that course of proceeding was acceptable to the German Plenipotentiaries; but what was the position of the English Plenipotentiaries? They sat I there the only representatives of a Constitutional Power, possessing the first and freest deliberative assembly in the world, but which had renounced its functions, and I left the Government and their representatives at the Conference in the lurch, at a crisis when a discussion in Parliament would have tended to strengthen their hands. The commencement of that. Conference was a mistake, and its termination was a failure. I have now brought the question to this point—that between the Government and their opponents there was previous to the Conference but little to choose. The Government had made some mistakes which their opponents had invariably endorsed. ["No, no!"] Well, I will enumerate them. The intervention in Poland last year was a mistake—but that was forced on them by the other side of the House. Their rejection of the French Emperor's invitation to a Congress was a mistake—but that was approved on the other side of the House. The determination to uphold the Treaty of 1852 in all its strictness was a mistake—but that course was concurred in by the other side—and the Conference now admitted to be a failure was acquiesced in without a murmur on the other side. I fear the Government and their opponents are pretty much on an equality; but, in one respect, the 914 balance must be admitted to be in favour of the Government. The position of the Government throughout has been one of great responsibility and difficulty; while the Opposition, with more freedom and fuller opportunities, have in the suppression of debate, and in the early and ill-timed deprecation of war with Germany, perpetrated some blunders peculiarly their own. I will dismiss the past and come to the practical question of the present and the future. Our present situation is, as all admit, very bad. By what policy is it to be amended? Down to the termination of the Conference, the policy of the Government was the policy of Parliament and of the nation; but the failure of the Conference opened new ground for a clear, direct, and unmistakeable issue between the two sides of the House. At the close of the Conference there was one practical question—What is England now to do? Are we to accept that which you very properly brand as a dishonourable defeat, or are we to turn to the alternative of war? That is to say, are we to abandon Denmark to the designs of Germany, or are we to send material aid to Denmark to save her from destruction? That is the only question which the nation cares to ask; but on that question neither in his speech nor in his Motion does the right hon. Gentleman shed a ray of light. Therefore, I say that it is a Motion utterly unsuitable to the occasion, and its double purpose is so apparent that its success will be little short of an affront to the country. On the face of it the Motion bears what I have no doubt is a well-considered determination, to keep two objects inseparably connected, because the success of the one would be embarrassing without the success of the other; it is intended to condemn the Government as much as possible, and to commit the Opposition as little as possible. It aims, therefore—and in this it succeeds—at affirming no principle, it commits its supporters to no policy, it is meant to enable them to obtain power unaccompanied by responsibility. I say that betrays a lamentable and fatal misconception of the very first principle of our political life. Responsibility is the first duty of a statesman, and no political party can ever achieve anything great which shrinks from a declaration of its views. Therefore, I say, the Motion is below the occasion and unworthy of a great party. The time has come when on both sides ambiguous policy should be discarded. 915 We have been too long given over to dexterous phrases and ambiguities. The time has come when we must look our duty and position fairly in the face. What is to be the foreign policy of England? That is the issue raised—or rather evaded—by the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman. I put it to the candour of any man here, whether such a question should be evaded at such a moment as this? Do we not see the clouds gathering over Europe? The war of the nationalities may not be long delayed. The contest in Denmark is but a skirmish of outposts. The Holy Alliance revived is on the one side sounding the trumpet of alarm; while, on the other, the cry of the nationalities, which the German despots so madly roused, will before long be echoed to their destruction. How is England to prepare for the coming-storm? At such a crisis we cannot endorse a vague Motion ingeniously framed so as to keep the country in the dark. This is, apart from all political considerations, a plain, business question affecting the country, and the considerations which should guide us in voting are very simple. We have to consider the position, first, of the Government that is, and next of the Government that claims to be, and then to perform the duty of adjudicating between them. As to the existing Government it was impossible to say that, during these transactions, they have not exhibited a weakness, blindness, and ill-success, that I do not think any one remembers to have seen surpassed. They have established no claim on our confidence, and not very much even on our forbearance. Indeed, had the Motion of the other side combined censure with sound policy, I do not think there would have been any very great difficulty in inflicting on the Government the condemnation which many on this side of the House, and myself among the number, believe they have deserved. On the other hand, what is the position of the Opposition? I must subject to the same ordeal the aspirants to as well as the occupants of office. If the Government have merited censure, where have they merited reward? If the Government have been weak, when have they shown strength? If the Government have been "intensely incapable," where have the Opposition proved their intense capacity? Hitherto, it has been the safety of England that she had a choice of Ministers and of parties, so that if she were threatened with ruin by one, she could always be saved by another. It 916 was impossible, therefore, that any one set of men could inflict on her more than a certain amount of degradation. But the very abyss into which, according to the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, we are engulfed, proves that there must have been two contending parties. But there is now no preference. For the mistakes of the Government there is always some excuse. Every step in the path is beset with thorns, and at times a sense of overwhelming responsibility may unsettle the firmest nerves and obscure the clearest judgment. The Opposition, however, with heavy responsibility too, have a far lighter duty to discharge. Their duty is to sound the alarm, to proclaim dangers, to rouse the nation, and to arrest the mischief. The right hon. Gentleman need not have devoted so large a portion of his speech to refuting what no man here would seriously allege, and which the noble Lord at the head of the Government has never alleged, except to amuse the House—that the Opposition are not bound to provide the country with a policy. The nation does not expect the Opposition to proclaim a policy. No; but it does demand, and it has a right to demand, that you should exhibit the qualities by which a policy should be constructed—enunciation of principles, display of knowledge, proofs of earnestness, the acknowledgment and acceptance of responsibility. And you cannot ride off on that plea of forbearance by which a good deal of capital has been made during the past and present Sessions. Are we to be told that forbearance to a weak and mischievous Government is a virtue in an Opposition? I have always understood that it was the nation, and not the Ministry, that had the first claim to a statesman's consideration. After all, what does this forbearance amount to? There are different kinds of forbearance. There is the forbearance which arises from a hope which hon. Gentlemen opposite may candidly own they never entertained, that the Government might be able to extricate themselves from their difficulties, and that any intermeddling would only increase them. There is the forbearance which is the main strength of a constitutional Government—the guiding and supporting voice of Parliament, which when speaking earnestly to Europe never speaks in vain. There is a third, kind of forbearance which cannot be too highly applauded. We do not much praise the forbearance of the man who will not pluck a pear because he thinks it is not quite 917 ripe, for we know his forbearance arises from his love of the fruit, and that he means to snatch at it when it is more mature.
In conclusion, I will state the grounds of the vote I intend to give. We have had in this country many instances of weak Governments; but we have never in the history of Parliament had an instance before, and I trust we shall never see one again, of an Opposition who from year to year have disapproved the whole policy of the Government, and yet, without resistance, or even remonstrance, have suffered the country to go on from disaster to disgrace, raising no warning voice, and outstretching no helping hand. That is bad enough; but surely it is far worse when the catastrophe had arrived, that those who tell us they foresaw but did nothing to avert should seek to use it as a steppingstone to power, and turn the misfortunes of the nation into the triumph of party. Even to this moment the right hon. Gentleman has not pronounced on the DanoGerman question. Even after his comprehensive and exhausting speech, we are left in doubt whether he is a Dane or a German—whether he is for peace or for war. Under such circumstances, and with a European crisis impending, to transfer the destinies of England to the hands of men who have yet a policy to seek would be a gambler's throw. This is not a question of confidence in the Government or in their opponents. Smarting as we do from the mistakes of both, there is no large section of the House overflowing with confidence in either side. My confidence is that the honesty, the good sense, and the judgment of this country will enable it to right itself at last. In the meantime we must deal with plain practical questions as practical men, and accept this not as a question of confidence, but, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) put it, as a question of preference. Some even have placed it on the low ground, until we can see our way out of our difficulties, as a question of endurance. On whatever ground it. may be put, I have no hesitation in affirming that, in my opinion, public policy does not require that, at this critical moment, a Government which has laboured so earnestly and constitutionally, though unsuccessfully, to preserve peace in a mariner compatible with the national honour, should be displaced to make way for those who have shown more weakness 918 and less courage during the prolonged and painful crisis, and who have in a manner equally unprecedented and un-constitutional abdicated the highest functions of Opposition and stifled the voice of Parliament.
§ MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
Sir, late as the hour is, I trust the House, after the somewhat personal allusions of the right hon. Gentleman, will permit me to address a few words to them this evening. I must confess that among the many remarkable speeches I have heard the right hon. Gentleman deliver, that which he has made to-night has been the most extraordinary. For nearly two hours he has addressed the House, and until the last concluding sentences of his speech there must have been many Members who were perfectly in doubt as to the nature of the vote which the right hon. Gentleman was about to give; because, with singular impartiality, he first blamed the Government, told them their Administration was disastrous, and that their conduct had humiliated England; and then he turned round on the Opposition and said, "True, you have no responsibilities; but you are just as bad, and I have no confidence in you." But if the right hon. Gentleman's speech was singular in this respect, it was even more so by reason of the very novel theory which he broached as to the conduct of the foreign policy of the country. He told us—and I paid particular attention to his words—that in questions of foreign politics the office of the Government was merely Ministerial, until the House of Commons was possessed of the facts with which the Government had to deal. In seeking thus to convert the House of Commons into a Foreign Office, and to transfer to it the conduct of foreign affairs, I think the right hon. Gentleman, as well as the hon. and learned Gentleman the hon. Member for Sheffield, who went before him, have shown what the effect of such a transfer would be. What according to the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Roebuck) is to be the nature of the diplomatic language of this country: The hon. and learned Gentleman thinks that in transacting business of such a character in this House we should best conciliate Foreign Powers, and best consult the dignity of this country by applying to other nations such terms as "highwaymen" and "swindlers," while the right hon. Gentleman designated the parties with whom we had to deal as 919 "robbers," and either as "hypocrites" or "filibusters." The right hon. Gentleman's theory of the administration of foreign politics is both novel and unconstitutional; and I venture to think that an Administration such as he would like to see established would be most unsatisfactory, and dangerous to the interests of this country. Before coming to the question more directly under our consideration, I should also like to set the right hon. Gentleman right as to the course attributed by him to this side of the House on the question of Poland last year. The right hon. Gentleman says the course pursued by the Government was forced on them by the Opposition. Is that so? The dates prove that he is wrong. And when the right hon. Gentleman assumes to be the censor and Mentor of the whole House of Commons, he ought at least to make himself acquainted with the facts and dates necessary to his discourses. First, as to dates. The Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for the King's County took place on the 27th of February. [Mr. HORSMAN: I said so.] But what was the date of Lord Russell's condemnation of the conduct of Russia? Why, the 21st of February. What was the date of the letter which has been so much complained of with reference to the conduct of Prussia? The 18th of February. What was the date of Lord Russell's despatch seeking for concert and harmonious action with the Emperor of the French? The 27th of February—the very day of the debate. When the right hon. Gentleman again attempts to defend a Government on the ground that a course of policy has been forced upon them by the Opposition, I hope he will take care to be more accurate in his dates. The right hon. Gentleman is equally wrong as to the course that was taken by the Opposition. He says that I, as one of those who spoke, forced on the Government the line of conduct which afterwards proved so disastrous and unsuccessful. I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I certainly spoke in the debate, and I hope I shall never hold my tongue in this House when I think I am called on to speak. I did speak my true and honest sentiments with reference to the cause of Poland, and I urged the House strongly to adopt the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for the King's County, thinking that while it offered one mode of avoiding war, it might lead to a movement in favour of Poland, and possibly to 920 successful diplomatic action on the part of Austria, France, and England. But, because we recommended a particular course to the Government, are we to be held responsible for the bungling and incapable manner in which they carried out that policy? The fault that we find with the Government is not that they gave expression to the honest sentiments of the country in favour of Poland, not that they induced foreign countries to join in their representations, but it is that, having used language more violent than that of France, more violent than that of Austria, in the very middle of the negotiation, and before that language was allowed to have its weight, the announcement was suddenly made by the Foreign Secretary, that whatever happened England would never draw the sword. I do not find fault with the decision which the noble Earl thus expressed; but I do complain that having used language so violent and so extravagant, having induced allies to join with him, he should, in the middle of the transaction, suddenly paralyze all their efforts. Turning now to the more immediate subject of debate, I must say that in some respects the discussion has been instructive. I have often known Members to denounce a Government, and afterwards be found voting with and supporting it; but this is the first time in a debate of such length that, with the single exception of the noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord Harry Vane)—and he spoke in very faltering and hesitating tones—I have heard hon. Members from both sides of the House get up and make speeches, not a single one of them, except official Members of the Government, venturing to say one word in defence of its policy. From one and all of them there has been a chorus of censure, and it seemed to me as if hon. Members were trying to rival one another in applying the strongest language of censure to a Government which at the same time many of them meant to support. I beg the House to remark that this question on the footing put by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has regard not merely to the conduct of a particular negotiation, but is one of confidence in the general foreign policy of the Government. And what astonishes me is, not that those who are the regular supporters of the Government, but that Members calling themselves independent, who are often the first to denounce the Government, and who on this occasion, when a question is brought forward in- 921 volving the question of confidence in the Government, make speeches, saying that they have not the slightest confidence in the Government, and that there is no reason why they should feel confidence in men who have disgraced and humiliated the country, and brought us to the very point of war, should yet be the men, headed by the hon. Member for Rochdale, to give a general Vote of Confidence in the Government. Well, I see opposite the hon. Member for Bridgewater (Mr. Kinglake), who assumes, and I believe justly, the position of an independent Member, and he would have the House believe that he has given notice of his Motion solely to express his own individual opinions. He blames the Resolution of my right hon. Friend, because he says that it is full of reserve; but what is the Amendment of the hon. Member for Bridgewater? It is one by which he asks the House to maintain the most remarkable reserve, because it passes by the whole of the transactions of the last few months, and when the decision of the House is challenged in reference to those transactions, he says the House is not to give an opinion upon them at all. [Mr. KINGLAKE: I object to censure.] I will not say that the object of the hon. Gentleman's Amendment is to save the Government, but the effect of it will be to enable the hon. Gentleman to catch votes on both sides of the House from hon. Members who are diametrically opposed to each other on the question of peace and war. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden) says, "I will not vote with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, because I can adopt the words of the hon. Member for Bridgewater. They announce peace, and I am sure that that is an object which we all desire." But behind us is the hon. Member for North Warwickshire; and that hon, Gentleman tells us that he intends to vote against the Resolution of my right hon. Friend. And why? Not on the ground of peace, but because the noble Lord opposite has still—as the hon. Member for Warwickshire says—left the door open for war. He justifies that vote upon the speech which the noble Lord made the other night, although I believe there is scarcely a man in the country, whether he be a friend or opponent, who does not regret that the noble Lord ever made such a speech. And thus it is that the hon. Member for Bridgewater will perhaps be 922 able to obtain from both sides of the House some support, or rather that he will induce a few hon. Members to oppose the third paragraph of my right hon. Friend's Resolution.
Sir, perhaps among the many speeches which have been delivered in the course of this debate there is none more remarkable than the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I must confess that in nine cases out of ten, when the right hon. Gentleman addresses the House, he fairly puzzles it. Let the right hon. Gentleman address us upon a question of finance or commercial interest and all will admit the lucidity and ability of his arguments; but if he addresses us upon any other question, whether it be of foreign or domestic policy, the mind of the right hon. Gentleman seems to be so subtle, and he is able to draw such fine distinctions, that I am always in doubt whether he is deceiving himself, or whether he believes that the ingenious arguments he advances will deceive others. We have had no more remarkable instance of that faculty than in the speech which the right hon. Gentleman addressed to us last night. He took objection to portions of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bucks, because he said that it did not put before the House the real and correct state of the case, and using language somewhat more forceable than courteous, he said that he found fault with the right hon. Gentleman because his quotations were not true. [Mr. LAYARD: Hear, hear!] The hon. Member for Southwark endorses that opinion, and, taking the obvious part he does in cheering that sentiment, we may naturally conceive that he also endorses the temper and style in which it was conveyed. The right hon. Gentleman commenced his speech by an attempt to explain away the famous words used by the noble Lord in the answer he gave to a question from me at the end of last July. The right hon. Gentleman said that up to that time France and Russia were in accord in opinion with us, and he tried to explain the words that "Germany would find that Denmark did not stand alone," by stating that the noble Lord meant to tell Denmark that France and Russia held the same sentiments that we did. Does the hon. Member for Southwark, as a candid man, mean to say for one moment that that was the sense in which the words were used. [Mr. LAYARD: Yes. I will undertake to say that if those words were put before any number of plain-spoken 923 Englishmen they would not interpret them in the same non-natural sense of the right hon. Gentleman and his Friend the Under Secretary. On the contrary, I believe they were spoken in that spirit which has always distinguished the noble Lord—a spirit leading him to express generous feelings towards the weak when beaten down by the strong, and that that spirit could only be beaten down by events over which he had no control. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer charged my right hon. Friend the Member for Bucks with omitting to quote, or not quoting correctly, Mr. Grey's despatch as to his conversation with M. Drouyn de Lhuys. My right hon. Friend said that he omitted that part of the despatch in which M. Drouyn de Lhuys said, that in declining to accede to the proposals which had been made, it was from no indifference to the cause of Denmark. My right hon. Friend also said, that after the experience which France had had in the case of Poland, she declined to take the course suggested. The right hon. Gentleman opposite does not see that that part which he says my right hon. Friend omitted, makes the case much stronger against the Government. What M. Drouyn de Lhuys said was—Notwithstanding my opinions being so strong in favour of such a course as you suggest, if I take it, I will take it alone. I will not accede to your suggestion that I should act with you, because you have already led the French Government into embarrassment, and placed the Emperor in a position incompatible with his dignity.Therefore, when my right hon. Friend referred to that despatch, the part which he refrained from quoting was the part which made the refusal of France to act in accord with Her Majesty's Government a more remarkable and stronger case against the Government. There is another point which I wish to refer to. The right hon. Gentleman has said that in everything that was done we acted cordially with the neutral Powers, and he went so far as to say that we had held exactly that position which my right hon. Friend had declared, in reference to the French Government, to be a position of dignity. He said that at the earliest moment we gave notice to Denmark that she was not to expect material assistance from us, and he quoted a despatch of Lord Wodehouse in confirmation of that, in which Lord Wodehouse writes—General Fleury had informed M. d'Ewers and 924 me that he was instructed to tell the Danish Government that France would not go to war to support Denmark against Germany. It was my duty to declare to him, that if the Danish Government rejected our advice, Her Majesty's Government must leave Denmark to encounter Germany on her own responsibility.The right hon. Gentleman tries to make out that these two declarations are conceived in the same spirit, and that they must have had the same effect upon the Danish Government; whereas France says, "Under no circumstances will I give you material assistance;" while the English Government says, "If you do not follow our advice we will not give you assistance," which was equivalent to saying, "If you do follow our advice, we are prepared to lend you assistance." There are several other points on which the right hon. Gentleman misrepresented my right hon. Friend and the real state of the case; but I am aware that at this hour of the night it would be irksome to the House if I were to follow him through all of them. There is, however, one which it is desirable to notice. Through the whole course of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman took this line—"True, we have failed; true, we have interfered in season and out of season: we have given advice that has not been taken; we have given advice that, when taken by Denmark, has proved to be disastrous. But, for all this, we have only to bear our share of the blame, because everything that we have done we have done in concert with the other neutral Powers." Is that so? Is our position with reference to Denmark the same as that of France or Russia? Did Prince Gortschakoff and M. Drouyn de Lhuys ever tell Denmark that she would not stand alone? Did the French or Russian Minister ever make such a promise as I say was made by Lord Wodehouse to the Danish Government when he was at Copenhagen? Did the Russian or French Minister ever tell the Prussian Minister, as Lord Russell did, that he thought it highly probable that this country might be called upon to interfere? Or did the Russian or French Minister, speaking for the other neutral Powers, ever tell the Prussian Minister, as Lord Russell told the Prussian Minister here, that he thought it highly probable that the other Powers of Europe would interfere for Denmark? No, Sir; from the beginning to the end it was our treaty, these were our promises, it was our Conference, and I will presently take leave to show that during the whole 925 course of the Conference, although the neutral Powers might assent to the various propositions that were made, they were English propositions; and, consequently, I say that Denmark having acted upon our advice, having made the concessions which we suggested, it is idle to attempt to put the responsibility upon the other neutral Powers, and it is us that Denmark must thank for the position in which she is now placed. This is the inaccuracy which I must point out. The right hon. Gentleman said that the proposal of the line of the Schlei and the Dannewerke as brought forward by Lord Russell was in every respect the proposal of the neutral Powers. He cannot have read the papers. It is true that with reference to this as to other propositions communications passed between the neutral Powers; but when the proposal was made Russia refused to give her opinion upon it. And yet the right hon. Gentleman says that it was as much the line of Russia as of England. But more than that. What was the conduct of Sweden, another neutral Power, whom the right hon. Gentleman would make as much responsible for this proposition as England? Sweden certainly gave her assent to it when it was made, but she said that she did not think that the line of the Schlei was the best that could be proposed, and that she would rather have the line of the Eider. And now, take the second proposal, which I suppose the right hon. Gentleman would equally attribute to the neutral Powers. And here I must say, as regards that second proposal, that I do not think that any one who has read the statement made by the Prime Minister of Denmark in his place, and who has heard the statement made by the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs in his place in the other House of Parliament, can look back to the course pursued by our Plenipotentiaries in that Conference without feeling that they were guilty of a great breach of faith, and that they betrayed the Danish Plenipotentiaries into the most unfavourable position possible, in consequence of their not having kept their engagements with them. What was the position of affairs? The Danish Plenipotentiaries, according to the statement of the noble Lord, informed him that they were willing to accept the line of the Schlei and the Dannewerke without qualification, but that they were not willing to accede to the prolongation of the suspension of hostilities unless Lord Russell un- 926 dertook, on the part of the English Government, that he would not either himself propose or support any other line of frontier whatever. Well, how was that engagement evaded? The noble Lord says, "I did not propose another line; but what I did propose was, that somebody else should be named who should fix another line." Now, I ask any Gentleman who listens to this statement, whether that was in accordance with the spirit of the engagement entered into by Lord Russell with the Danish Plenipotentiaries? And what is the consequence? Why, at the time the Danish Plenipotentiaries made that arrangement the position of affairs was this—that the English Government had made a proposition and that the Danish Plenipotentiaries had accepted it without any modification, and if the Conference then broke up who was to blame? Why, clearly the German Powers, who refused to accept the line proposed by the British Government. But that would not have suited Her Majesty's Government. They wanted to have it in their power to say, "Oh, we can't assist the Danes, because it is owing to their obstinacy and their refusal of this new line that these negotiations have fallen through;" when the fact was that the British Government had distinctly pledged themselves that no other line of frontier should be proposed by them, and that if one was proposed by any one else they would not support it. But that proposition was not agreed to by Prussia; and therefore the right hon. Gentleman's statement, that the English Government are not more responsible for these proposals than the neutral Powers, and that through the whole course of the negotiations we have only gone hand in hand with those Powers, who are therefore as much to blame for the failure as we are, is totally devoid of foundation, and the right hon. Gentleman has—unintentionally I do not doubt—misled the House. The right hon. Gentleman has made a curious objection to the Resolution of my right hon. Friend. He says that it is an unpatriotic Resolution; and I was struck to hear how, immediately he made that statement, some of the Members who occupy the bench behind him began to cheer. Even in the depth of their abasement they were glad to find something like an excuse which they thought would appeal to English hearts and English pride, and therefore as soon as they heard the charge—though there is not the slightest 927 foundation for it—that the Motion of my right hon. Friend is unpatriotic, they began to cheer. But how does the matter stand? I have yet to learn that a statement by this House, that the conduct of the Government has injured the influence of this country, is one that we are to be debarred from making. I doubt very much whether if you refer to the annals of Parliament in the great and glorious days of Parliament you will not find language much stronger than that. But I beg to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend's Resolution is not confined to the statement that the influence of this country has been lowered. It also calls upon Parliament to censure and condemn those who have reduced the country to that position. It is at the very earliest minute to separate the Parliament of England from the conduct of the Government, and to brand as far as we can with our censure the action of those who have contributed to lower the influence of England, and thereby to diminish the chances of peace. But it seems to me that the conduct of those who object to this Resolution is far more open to the charge of want of patriotism than is the Resolution itself. What is the proposition of the hon. Member for Bridgewater? It is that although, as is the opinion of nearly all who have spoken in this debate, the Government have lowered the influence of England, have injured our position, and humiliated us before Europe, that is a thing which the House of Commons should pass over in silence and which is not worthy of their discussion or censure. Certainly, Sir, if anything is unpatriotic, I think it would be when the influence of England has been diminished and her position humiliated; and when that is stated in the House of Commons, that this House should not have the spirit to condemn the conduct of those who have produced such results. That would be a want of patriotism of which I hope in this case as in others the House of Commons will not be guilty.
There is only one other subject upon which I wish to address the House. When notice was first given of this Resolution there were Friends of mine on the other side of the House who said pleasantly, "You won't carry their Motion; and even if you do you won't have any chance when you go to the constituencies, because we shall easily fix upon you a desire for war, and to take to ourselves the credit of peace." My answer to that was that I 928 did not think that when they came to hear the discussion they would find that so easy, and that I thought that such a cry would be objectionable, in the first place, because it would be false, and in the next because it would be intended to mislead. I also said that if the cry was to be "Palmerston and peace," I did not think that the noble Lord would thank those who should couple those two words. But what I want to know is—are you a peace Government, and on what grounds are you to claim that title? Why, three several times you have invited foreign countries to join you in going to war. Is that the mark of a peace Government? In the course of these very discussions the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary in another place has told us that within even these few days he has again renewed that application to the Government of France. ["No!"] I beg to say that I myself hoard the speech in which the noble Lord said, that within twenty-four hours he had received from the Government of France the reasons why France would not join us in going to war, and it is trifling with the matter to suppose that such a communication is made to this country by the French Government, except in reply to such an application on our part. But, moreover, in the course of all these discussions, what has been the principal excuse of the Government? Is it that they love peace—is it that from the beginning they have never meditated war? They have never made any excuse of the kind; but they urge that, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, they are so utterly devoid of any sympathy and alliance abroad, that they dare not go to war. And yet we are to accept that as a peace Government, which, having done its best to induce other Powers to go to war along with it, now candidly tells us that it would go to war in a minute if it could only get an ally to join it! But I come to the other alternative—that, namely, of those who calculated on going to the hustings attempting to fix on us the character of a war Opposition. What did the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last say? Why, that he could not get anything out of us—not that we had done anything to encourage the war feeling of the country, but that, on the contrary, we had held our peace. What is there that would justify the imputation against this side of the House of being more anxious for war than those on the other side? The 929 hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) did his best, as the learned Lord Advocate had done, to follow out this line of argument. The hon. Gentleman said he had listened with the greatest pleasure to the speeches made on this side last night by the right hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon (General Peel), and the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley). He agreed, he said, with every syllable that fell from the gallant General, who, however, used two words which he did not like, because he gathered from them that the gallant General thought we were bound by treaty to defend Denmark! And that is really the only ground on which the hon. Member for Bradford sought to fasten a war policy on my right hon. and gallant Friend. Why, it is ridiculous to imagine that that is an accurate inference from what my right hon. and gallant Friend said; for not a single man who has addressed this House, and not a single man that I have heard elsewhere, expresses the opinion that we are bound by treaty to defend Denmark. It was distinctly repudiated last night by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli); it has not been asserted by any hon. Gentleman who has spoken in this debate; and yet, in sheer despair, the hon. Member for Bradford, approving of my right hon. and gallant Friend's speech, deduces from these two horrible words that the Opposition have bound themselves to a war policy. But see how that hon. Gentleman dealt with the speech of the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn. Two single words from my right hon. and gallant Friend made him suspect that the Opposition were committed to war; but he said he had listened also with pleasure to the speech of my noble Friend, and that he agreed in every syllable of it, being unable even to find two words in it to object to. Well, is any statement of opinion on the part of my noble Friend, who would hold in any future Government that position which his abilities and past services entitle him to, to be wholly passed by by the hon. Gentleman as of no weight or importance in indicating the policy of the Opposition? I say, then, that neither do the Government deserve the character of a peace Government, nor can you for a moment pretend to fix on the Opposition the character of a war party. We are told that this Resolution ought to have pointed out a policy. I think that has been suffi- 930 ciently answered by those who have preceded me; and it might have been tolerably well answered by the last speaker, who joined in that accusation. He said—You are without a policy. Here, at the meeting of Parliament, you had the opportunity of challenging the conduct of the Government. A very few days before the Government had made overtures to the French Government to go to war, and yet, on the assembling of Parliament, you, the Opposition, did not dare to challenge the policy of the Government and say whether you were for war or not.But although overtures were made to France in January, it was not till the end of March that any single Member on this side of the House was in possession of the information. And is that not the best proof that although we may exercise our strictly constitutional function of criticizing the conduct of the Government, and of asking the opinion of the House if we think they have failed in their duty to the country, it is not and never has been, the practice, and would be an unconstitutional proceeding on the part of the Opposition, to indicate a line of policy even if they could, beyond the existence of the fact which I have pointed out—that weeks and even months must have elapsed before we were in possession of the information that would enable us even to form an opinion on the past conduct of the Government, and it was utterly out of our power to indicate what the future policy of the country ought to be? I think, then, that we have strictly performed our duty in challenging the verdict of the House upon the conduct of the Government. I believe that nine out of ten men in this House cordially agree in the words of the Resolution. But of this I am sure, that if we go to the hustings, as is threatened, to appear before our constituents, they will say that we have only discharged our duty in inviting the verdict of the House of Commons, and in asking its censure upon those whom we believe to have lowered the influence of England and diminished the chances of peace.
§ MR. LAYARD moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Debate further adjourned till Thursday.